Sunday, February 26, 2017

Finished Quilt

Times have been difficult of late.  My postings will continue to be erratic for the time being,but when I can, I will.

Today I was able to finish the modern baby quilt by attaching the binding.  Definitely not my favorite part of quilting, but it's done.

While you've seen this before, today you can sort of see the binding if you enlarge the photo by tapping the image.  I made the binding using strips of the various blues using withing the quilt.  I think if provides a better border than the white would which I think would be the only possible alternative.  A solid blue also would not have been as effective as this variegated version.  It mimics the random placement of color within the quilt providing a border that complements without taking attention away from the main design.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Special Coleection

My studio is the place where you will find me nearly every day.  Usually I am engaged in either sewing/quilting activities or in painting/drawing.  Today I spent time cutting fabric for a quilt I started in late fall and for which I have made only eight blocks.  To me that cutting was a huge step towards getting more blocks made in this complex, labor intensive pattern.  I also cut out fabric I had purchased specifically for pillowcase because that's a really good sewing project for spare moments if  the fabrics are ready.  I still need to do the second cuts on the fabrics for the complex pattern and pin the pillowcase fabrics, but what I did is move ahead with things that had simply been piled up.

Then I turned my attention to ironing some cloth napkins used at Christmas time.  Once those were done, I thought of other - what my mother would call "flat work" that also awaited ironing.  So out came my piles of unironed hankies.  This is an easy task that I - if I have the time - truly enjoy.  It's a soothing, mindless task, and my collection of vintage hankies is large.  I have hankies for specific holidays and specific seasons.  I have genre hankies: art, hobbies, travel, dietary and etiquette reminders, souvenirs, etc. There are some that have special handwork: crocheted, tatted, and hemstitched edges, embroidered and appliqued surfaces.  And you know I have left some out.

Many of my hankies I bought myself, a few came from my mother, and many more have been gifts - especially from my SiLs N and A.

Here's a photo of a few of my hankies. You will see different piles because I was sorting them into groups by color, season, holiday, etc.  The little white pieces of paper tells me the category and the number in that category - so far.

The photo shows only a very small number of the hankies; some were so wrinkled by being pushed around in the drawer as I searched for a particular one that I decided to put them in the laundry and start fresh with them.

There are days when taking time for this sort of activity, the kind of task that brings with it memories both happy and sad, is well worth both the time and the energy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Was I surprised when I looked outside at one point today and saw that snow was coming heavily. "Wait a minute," I thought,"this is supposed to over!"  But I realized that it was truly beautiful so I grabbed my phone (think about that!) and headed outside on the run.  In my slippers.

Rather amazing snow in our backyard, don't you think?

This one is a close up of the above scene complete with our red bird house from Rochester (a real favorite as our grandson had seen it on his bus home from school, told our daughter, and made sure we were taken to see the birdhouses.  Of course, we had to buy one, and this one shows up so nicely during winter.

It was so pretty it was (almost) worth my cold feet (remember my slippers?)!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sunrise not Sunset

While in class today, I realized that my painting depicts a sunrise not a sunset.  That decision was reached after another student came over to see what I was doing (she has been away for a few weeks), and excitedly said, "Oh, I have similar photos that I want to paint, but mine are sunsets."  She showed me a few and the lightbulb in my memory room went on.  There is a difference between the two in the colors in the sky, and her photos reminded me of those similar sunset pictures I had taken.

Today was only the second day on this particular version of the "study", but I think I am not only close to finishing it but also close to calling it a finished work rather than study.  Having said that I may have thoroughly jinxed myself, but only time will tell.

The colors were accented in the sky and water during class after Sharon reminded me that I should put in my darks now so I could work on balance before I went too far one way or another.  Also, the clump of mangrove in the water, the bit of land that juts out from the right, and the glimmerings of more foliage on the left were added today.  

It's closer to finished.

Monday, February 13, 2017

In the Deep Mid-Winter

We are truly experiencing winter as it was when some of us were small.  At least there is snow on the ground, and it's been there for a couple of days.  Today we did not have the snow that had been forecast; instead we had a day of glorious sunshine.

By the time I had finished playing with some laundry, the sun had already rid the trees of a bit of their snow mantles. Even so, the back yard looked lovely, and if you look closely enough, you'll be able to see a splash of red in the shrub between the birdhouse in the middle and the arbor on the left.  That red is one of at least three cardinal couples who live in our yard.

The next one shows off both the amount of snow and our collection of watering cans - all lying on their sides.  We really shouldn't keep them outside all the time; we've already lost a couple to rust and old age.  But I don't really have a place for them inside, and I like to see them in all weather conditions.

And in case that's simply too much sun and shadow and snow, here's a sign of spring (even though it is indoors right now):

This is our third grafted miniature pussy-willow tree, and it is by far the healthiest one we've had.  Look at the number of catkins!  They are covered with the yellow pollen right now, and it's the best time to prune the "tree" before the leaves are out.  D plans to do that soon and start to shape this tree.  He'll have some fun, and we'll both try to keep this one going - water, water, water - that's the key.  Another good reason for having it on our kitchen table!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Monk's Face

Why I had such difficulty last time seeing the Tibetan Monk's face as I was painting became a wee bit more understandable today when I decided to measure the face in question.  Of course, I decided to measure it after I had done some work on it so I couldn't put the ruler directly on his head.  Even so, the closest I could figure is the face is 7/16th of an inch.  

Anyway, it finally occurred to me to use a magnifying glass in order to improve the previous work.  I think it's better, but you can judge for yourself.  Below is last week's work:

And here he is again after his face lift:

Blown up this much makes it possible to see that it may not be an improvement.  Now he has mumps on one side of his face and a skin graft on the other!

Here is the everything-in-perspective view:

 At least I was sort-of able to see!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What a Day!

First of all - the snow!  By the end of the day, we had 16.3 inches, and I feel personally acquainted with each and every inch.  I went out twice to shovel the plough's pile of snow in front of the mailbox and the various walkways; thank Heavens it was light, fluffy snow!  Because it was easy snow, I was able to enjoy the beauty while working.  And hallelujah for the benefit the snow gives our gardens and trees.

Then I was able to spend some time in my studio working on the oil painting of the Tibetan monk.  Excitement was in the air because I had purchased not only new but also a new kind of oil brushes and today was the first day I used them.  So far, I like them much better than my old bristle brushes, but that really isn't saying much as I really dislike those.  These are synthetic (which makes clean up ever so much easier) but still quite stiff.  I did think they'd be a bit softer and was a trifle disappointed. However, this was the first day I used them so I'll withhold judgment for a while.

Today I worked a bit on finishing touches on the chickens, a lot on the monk, as well as the roof.  My phone was not feeling well (had to turn it off and then on again to make it feel better) so the photos are "off" a bit:

Here's a closer look at the lower half.  I really like the way the corn/grain is dropping down from his hand, and I've scattered a bit on the sidewalk near the chickens to make it look as though he started feeding them in one place and then just kept walking.

I had a hard time with his face.  It was partly the brush and partly not being able to see what I was doing; it's a very small area for very fine detail.  It isn't finished but -

So he has no eyes yet, poor man, the application of paint is blotchy in a bad way as it makes no sense in relation to the contours of the face.  

And oh, those eyebrows!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Play Day

Today I had a "play date"with ME.  We had arranged to go to the movies if she didn't have to work, and fortunately, she didn't.  We met at Barnes and Noble so we could have a coffee (ME) and a latte (moi) and spend some time looking at books and magazines.  I figured that since I am now more than halfway through the alphabet (letter "M" was Henry and Clara a historical novel about the two non-Lincolns in the box at Ford's theater the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, we had no "N's" left after the book purge, and the next book is the Quincunx, a "Dickensian novel" by Charles Palliser), I could allow myself a couple of quick-reads in paperback which I will then pass on to my friends.  We thumbed our way - very gently - through several magazines, bought only a few to share, and left in time to get to the theater but not until our coffees were finished!

We went to see LaLa Land.   The opening chorus and dance was thoroughly delightful, but after that for a while I found both story and song and dance numbers only moderately entertaining.  The dance  sequences were nothing flashy but were adequate and were still able to make me wish I could dance.  On the other hand, the singing was not strong.

However, I found Emma Stone really good in her role of aspiring actress.  Each time she tried to get a part, her auditions were, to me, fabulous, but she didn't get the nod until . . .  I won't give anything away.  

It became more engaging as time went on, and I left the theater feeling I had been entertained but not blown away.  And that's okay!  

But honestly, the sound level was the loudest I think I have ever had to sit through; it was downright painful!  

If you go, take earplugs!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Florida Keys Studies - Comparison of . . .

Today I had to come to terms with an odd kick in my gallop.  Again.  Although the title of this entry may make you think I'm going to compare the studies I've done so far,  I'm not.  Keep reading and you'll see what the issue is.

First a reminder of the second (first was the pencil sketch with notes at the bottom of the paper) study done while blind (forgot my glasses).  I commented on the fact that I was using the back of the paper which really makes a difference and not a good one.

Since it was a busy week followed by being away over the weekend, there were no painting days until today.  So here is study #3 which was started in class today.  This one is hard to see so I will describe what is going on.  I will say that it is one the correct side of the paper and the paint flowed much better than on the back, but . . .   Do you see all the dark places that look like shadows or smudges? Those are places that are warped from water.  First, what medium am I using? watercolor.  What paper was a painting on? watercolor paper.  So why is it buckling?  It isn't very good paper.  

Sharon finally said that I absolutely have to do my studies on good paper.  The point is that in addition to practice, a study is supposed to inform the final paper.  It's awfully hard if one is constantly distracted by lumps and bumps and by paper that even on the good side doesn't allow the paint to glide through the water.  Of course, if I had taped the paper to the surface the water wouldn't have caused such bad buckles.  Still humps and bumps but not as bad.

So I took out my bound pad (all edges are glued down) and started over.

By the time I started on this one, I didn't have a great deal of time.  But given that and the practice, I was able to get the first washes down quickly.  No grainy-ness, no buckling, and the painting flowed like a dream.  Now I'm really looking forward to going on with this one.

If one, i.e., read Noël, is going to get the best results, that one needs to use the best materials that she can afford.  I have to stop trying to penny-pinch with things that will affect my work.  I bought really good artist quality paints and sable brushes for the studies so it doesn't make any sense to save the best paper until the end.

After all, I need all the help I can get!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Baby Quilt Finished

It's been a busy seven or more days, but it's been busy in a successful way.  For example, the little baby quilt I've been working on was finished.  Last year American Quilter's Society's society had a kit for a pillow featuring Star Wars fabrics complete with a decent photo of the finished pillow.  I liked the pattern and figured it would be easy enough to figure the pattern out.  It is, as you can see, mostly half-square triangle blocks and solid blocks of white.  

The bedroom for the baby this quilt is going to is painted blue hence the color scheme (very pale blue to very dark navy blue) I chose.  The difficult part was making sure my color choices would make the zigzag pattern.  

After putting this where I could easily photograph it, I left it there for a while which meant I walked by it several times.  That one triangle of blue half way up the right hand side stuck out like a sore thumb.  I tried to ignore it, but that never really works.  I tried to rationalize the fact that the quilt is for a baby not an art critic.  That worked even less.  Then I told myself the quilt was finished so why mess with it (I could destroy it, I thought).  Really???  Pathetic!  Finally I snatched up the quilt and cut out the offending block.

Much better, and now it's really ready for the quilter!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Special Thank-You

Many different, positive activities today, but I'm going to tell you about a very young, very gifted young relative of mine.  For the past several year, David and I have sent brother DJ's grandchildren (my great-nieces and great-nephew) pop-up books for Christmas.  I tend to select the work of Robert Sabuda, a great paper engineer but have at times chosen the works of other artists due to the accompanying stories.  Anyway, I admit I love really fine pop-up books because they frequently combine excellent stories and amazing "illustrations".

So, we spent time with these same young relatives this past September during our family reunion in Florida.  Our great-nephew (henceforth known as "GN" because I'm too lazy ((make that too poor a typist)) to keep on calling him by that awkward word combo) celebrated his birthday while we were there and had asked for art supplies.  BINGO!  I could hardly have had more fun than I did with that request; GN received the kind of art supply kit I would have loved having as a child.

Then for Christmas I sent GN a pop-up book on Hokusai's Wave* - a double whammy - art and paper engineering.


And I have to admit as the years have gone on, I have wondered if any of the Greats would wind up trying to engineer their own pop-up art.

Today that question was answered.

Here is the thank you letter we received from GN:

Don't you just love the way children take in information and then turn it around and filter it through their own minds and talents.  Our young, seven-year-old GN is a in a gifted program in school so I find the way he uses information fascinating.

*The photograph of the book was found on:

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sewing Woe

A day of errand running followed by a less than productive time sewing.  The baby blanket on which I am working was finally ready to sew together.  Or so I thought. The quilt blocks are simple half-square triangle which form a zig-zag line when assembled.  But in order to make the zig-zag as sharp as sharp as they should be, the color values have to be really right.  Several blocks weren't as accurate I wanted so they had to be re-done.  

After I did that and laid the whole quilt out again, I was excited to be at the sewing point.  The end, I thought, is near (read that out loud with lots verve and enthusiasm!).  So I sewed the first row together.  Hmm, the points of two triangles didn't match as well as I like, but they weren't too bad.  On to the second row.  Sew one block, second block, third, fourth . . . . what?, keep going and sew the fifth . . . . uh-oh.  Light bulb goes on.  "Drat," I muttered to myself.  "I forgot to square up the blocks!!!"  

My brain didn't want to hear that.  "Go on," it whispered in my ear, "you know you can fudge it when you have to sew it all together.  No one will notice."  Smirk.

I listened to my satanic-side and sewed the rest of the blocks in that row. Then I took both of them to the ironing board, ironed the seams in both rows, then went to the cutting board where I laid them out with edges touching.

No way.  I have to correct it.

So guess what I'll be doing tomorrow!