Sunday, April 22, 2018

Back Again

Finally!  A while ago I ran into problems with my computer that resulting in my inability to open my mail or write this blog.  You can imagine both my dismay and my frustration as I spent days trying to figure out what I had done so I could un-do it and hours trying to get into my blog and mail.  Nothing worked so I finally made an appointment with Geek Squad.  It took a while, but he was finally able to get me in to both by "taking a different road".  My usual way still seems blocked, but this will do as far as I'm concerned.

I am tired from yard work so I will close this for today, but I will pick this up again tomorrow with some updates and some news.

For those who have asked what was going on with this blog, thank you!  Knowing people read and care about this helps keep me going.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Another Attempt

After reading the entry on the first peony painting, two of my most faithful readers wrote to tell me that they liked the painting and to ask what all the fuss (in my mind) was about.  Bless them for always finding the good in things!  

I have spent some time on three separate days on this subject.  Day one was during class, and days two and three were at home.  As is often the case, the first day's work was too pale to photograph.  Day two may have been dark enough, but I just didn't get to it.  

Today, after painting, I was feeling that sense of "darn, blew it again".  I've been trying to get the "bowl" look of a peony, and I don't think I've got it yet.  So I walked away and still didn't pull out my camera.  But writing this entry has made me decide that I need to make a record of what I've done so far.  If it turns out to be the wrong way to go about capturing this flower, I should keep a record of it so I won't repeat the mistake.  If it's all right but something else goes wrong, I need to be able to replicate it.  So here it is:

 One thing that I just did was look at two other peony photos taken from the same bouquet.  The first one is a pink peony that definitely has a bowl shape with petals clustered around the middle.

The second one is the same flower I'm painting (you can just make out the pinkish-blush on the outer petals and a few petal tips).  It's taken from a different view; if you scroll back an entry or two, you can see the photo I am using.  This bloom is probably a bit older than the true pink flower (above).  Notice how the petals at the bottom of the flower are drooping down?  You can see the rounded clustering of petals at the top of the flower, but that effect is lost at the bottom where the petals are giving in to gravity.  

By the way, I am deliberately overemphasizing the blush on the white peony in my painting. 

 We'll hear what Teacher says tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Being right can be great, but sometimes it really isn't.  That's the way I felt today today in painting when Sharon agreed with my assessment of the peony painting shown in last night's entry.  I thought it was overworked and beyond repair, but when she agreed with me, I have to admit I sighed.  She did tell me what I might try (believing, I think, that I had to try and discover for myself that the painting was doomed). 

I did what she suggested, and as she thought, it didn't work.  I had to admit to my self that she was right; the painting was a good lesson but not worth much more.

My feelings were initially that I shouldn't have begun the painting as I had: tracing the photo on paper, painting each petal, each section, separately - almost like a paint-by-number piece, and going dark far too soon (almost impossible to retreat back to pale colors once the darks are in place), and basically not using a loose, watercolor approach.

While all that was basically true, what I came to realize that I almost had to paint as I did to understand how the peony was constructed.  Here is the photo:

and the original painting (keep in mind that I do like bold colors, and deliberately chose the deep reds and purples to add drama):


By painting almost petal by petal, I feel that maybe now I can paint in loose water-color style, using the water as the medium, not the paint. The flower doesn't work - check the photo again.  The typical bowl shape isn't there.  The flower isn't cupped; it looks flat and wide as though all the petal were limp and had opened wide.  

There are other problems,of course, but there are a couple of decent things, too.  The background is very water color-ish, and the leaf mid-way up on the right is fine.

Not much to crow about, is there!

However, that did not deter me from taking what I learned by painting the above and starting over without the tracing and with using a looser approach.  Right now the new attempt is too pale to show up well in a photo, but in a couple of days (I hope), I may have something a bit better to show.  Even if I don't, learning took place (as D, the educator, would say).

Monday, February 19, 2018

New Subject - Flowers

Last Tuesday, I started a new painting with a subject I haven't tackled before - flowers. There have been flowers in some of my landscapes, but until now I haven't focused specifically on them.  One of my photographs has been whispering my name so I decided to risk failure and try it.  Since Tuesday I have spent time almost everyday working on it.  My reaction as I worked has gone from "it might have promise (last Tuesday in class), to "it's okay", to "oh no, it's horrible", and now it's back to "well, maybe it's not a total failure".

Peonies aren't easy.  I'll let you know what my teacher thinks.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

February List - Finally!

Last week I managed (finally!) to write out my list for the month of February. Already I am concerned about getting everything on it finished.  It isn't because it is unusually long or difficult; it's because I find myself distracted. 

First I'll just post the list.  Then I'll explain what's going on with each item, and by doing that, I may figure out what the difficulties are.  If I can do that, I may be able to alleviate my concerns.

  1. Special Project 
  2. Put away Christmas decorations - Done!!!
  3. Make quilt binding
  4. Sew on quilt binding
  5. Work on Farmer's Wife
  6. Start Kim Diehl project

Okay, already I see one issue.  These are only the sewing projects, and my painting has also been taking time.  Fortunately, I've gotten to a point where I can slow down on my current project so that should no longer be a problem.

The first one - well, I'm dragging my feet.

The second  on the list - well, that's finally done.

Third and fourth - haven't even started.  Since they don't take too much time, the problem is clearly just getting on with it.  It's really an easy task so I think it will be finished this month.

Number five?  Hoo-boy.  Now there's a huge project that will take more than one month to complete.   And if that weren't enough, it's difficult.  More than likely that's why so far I have merely moved it from one place to another.   However, it must also receive some attention even if it's only cutting the set-in triangles I need (far too many of them if you ask me!).

The sixth task has been cut out, and by doing that I realize that it will take several days of careful sewing.  Many, many tiny pieces that because they are so small will need special attention during stitching.  However, since this is a new project, I need to take care of numbers 1, 3, and 4 first before I go any farther on this.

Okay, I think I get it.  I'm really, really good at procrastination, but I'm also pretty good at self-discipline.

Some times.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Brief but Unspectacular Look

Painting class was both quite successful and equally enjoyable as always.  I am working on a subject that had bedeviled me before, and if I'd had enough intelligence I wouldn't have started it again.  However, I did, and it seems to be going well.

She said after the first day.

Notice there are no photos.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Today's Achievements - Uh hunh, Uh-hunh

Oh my, well, yes . . . uh-huh.  Today I did pretty nearly nothing.

Oh, wait a minute.  the laundry is done. 

And I actually went through my knitting tools, sorting and dividing until I had two zipper pouches of identical tools for my two knitting projects in their separate bags.  There is almost enough of the necessary and/or merely occasionally useful tools for a third project bag.  That third bag is currently slated for a dead-easy project that can go with me when my attention is distracted by family or friends - or both!

So if it's dead-easy, does it really need to have a fully-outfitted tool kit?

Then I watched two DVR'ed episodes of Victoria.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Merlin Photos

Finally, both my camera and me were ready this afternoon when a Merlin decided to hunt in our back yard.  Granted, the photos were taken through the window (never the best choice), but it was either that or try to get outside with camera without scaring off my quarry.  

He was hunting the small birds that come to our feeders (the downside of having them), and it was seeing him swoop down and miss that alerted me to his presence.  I saw him attempt to catch his prey two more times without a capture.  The fourth time, he flew after his prey into the evergreen trees in the back of our yard, and I wasn't able to see what happened.  In the past, I have twice seen Merlin drop like a bomb from above down to an unsuspecting bird on the ground.  That seems to be their preferred method of hunting.

Here he is:

Magnificent, isn't he!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

New Painting with Photo

It seems that my phone is overwhelmed with "stuff" (probably photos), and I can't figure out how to upload those photos to my computer (possibly because after several updates my computer is quite cranky).  What I did differently today was take a photo with my camera (as opposed to my phone).  That I can still upload without any problems.

Last week I shared the beginning of a new painting.  It is a study of winter and of a nearby site to which I return time and again.  The latest trip to take photos was not successful in the way I had hoped.  Instead of direct sunshine on a winter scene, I had to accept that at this time of year, the sun won't shine where I want it to.  Really? and just who does the sun think he is?  Harrumph!

Oh well, stamping my boots didn't get me anywhere so I took photos anyway.  It's a good thing I did because I wound up with a photo that I was impelled to paint.

Here is "Zero Degrees" in its finished form:

Using a limited palette, made this a dramatic scene.  Snow covered rocks, a pool of water frozen at the edges and lightly iced over to the center, and a frozen water fall with a snow-covered, iced pond in the background.

This is one with which I am currently satisfied.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Michelangelo's Drawings

If you're a Facebook follower, you may have seen this photograph already.  Last Friday D and I took the train to NYC.  He had a meeting to attend, and I had a date with my sister-in-law to view the exhibit of Michelangelo's drawings at the Metropolitan Museum.  It was a fabulous time!

The drawings were amazing; that was the first thing I noticed, of course.  Anatomy almost always perfectly represented.  I would have been thrilled to have drawn one of the less than perfect ones.  Heck, I would have thrilled to have drawn one of the apprentice's drawings.

My second impression was about the paper and how valuable it was.  Pieces or mere scraps of paper both sides crowded with legs, torso, backs, arms, or feet: right-side up legs with a sideways or upside down hand or hand-written notes.  Paper was valuable - not something to waste.  

I took photos (which were, surprisingly, permitted) of the pieces that were most striking for me, but for some reason they're not uploading.  Maybe tomorrow; I am sorry!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Another Completion: Painting this Time

Great day for me today though it won't sound like it.  Remember, "completion" is my word for the year (thank you again, SiL A, for this great idea!) so here's why today was that kind of day.

Years ago, I painted a series of Southwest paintings in oil.  Eventually we decided to keep them unframed, and in that way, save a bit of money.  That meant that I would have to paint all sides of each painting.  It took a while because I dragged my feet on doing that painting; one doesn't get the kick of creating while doing that kind of work.  I would have to recreate the colors used near the edges in order to make the edge look like a continuation of the painting itself.  It's a chore that eats up "real" painting time.  

D has been asking me time and again to get that work done.  Today I counted the sides left to paint on those three paintings.  

Four sides.  That's all.  "Well, darn," I thought.  "I can get that done!"

And I did!

Then I allowed myself to work on the new watercolor painting (another winter scene) which is coming along nicely.  It's only the second day, but I'm liking it. 

All you can really make out at this point is the rock in the background and the pool of water in the foreground.  The rest will be pretty much snow and ice with small rocks here and there.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Birds in the Snow

Yesterday I posted a photo of the "Snow Days" quilt, and my friend said that was probably the reason we had snow today.  She may be right!

Anyway, I am writing this early today because we will be busy this evening.  A little while ago, camera around my neck, I headed out to dump the compost which is in the wooded section of our back yard.  I figured that I might have some luck getting bird photographs because I'd be less conspicuous back there than standing in the middle of the back yard.  Here are a few of the photos.

The first one is of the Hairy Woodpecker.  He is larger than the almost identical Downy who is smaller by three inches.  Since I have rarely see the two of them together so I could compare them, I look at their bills.  The Hairy has a longer one and that's about the only way I can distinguish between the two despite the significant size difference.

Of course, this is a Chickadee with a seed in its bill.

It surprises me how brownish-gray the Junco looks when seen relatively close up.

Junco and male Goldfinch sharing space on the feeder.

Until the Goldfinch takes off with head turned to the left (as seen in the photo) and wings on the downward beat.

The Tufted Titmouse seems to be leaning forward to get a better sense of what I am doing, doesn't he?

I might have been able to stay still long enough to entice some more birds into camera range, but my gloveless hands were uncomfortably cold, and I wimped out.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Quilt Completed!

Today the "Reunion Quilt" came off the bed and was replaced by "Snow Days".  I finished the binding this afternoon, and boy, did that feel good!  The fabric for this quilt was purchased 7 or 8 years ago, and when I found it in my stash, I still enjoyed its whimsical folk art.  That obviously didn't mean that I went right to work on it.

Here it is on our bed complete with coordinating pillow cases:

There is one problem with this set.  The pillow cases were made before we bought new pillows, and now even pillows are made larger.  Hence the pillow cases don't fit in length or width.  Sigh.

Another problem to solve.  Wish I had more of the coordinating fabric.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Basic Black Sweater vs the Sweater Stone

Several years ago I finally knit myself a "basic black" sweater that was really black.  Well, almost really black.  Maybe more charcoal gray.  But anyway, I bought the yarn because of that color and because of the texture of the yarn.  It was soooo soft!

And therein lay the rub.  The softness means that the garment doesn't hold a shape; it is lovely but in an amoeba-like way.  Soft and warm though it is, that yarn will not show up in my stash again.  Using the "Large" option was no help either.  What was I thinking?

Also, I should have known when the owner of the store suggested I buy a sweater stone.  A what?  Here's what the back of the box says, "A natural pumice like stone that . . . pull(s) and remove(s) those irritating pills and balls . . ."  As I said, I should have known.  Never has my closet been inhabited by a garment with such a collection of "pills and balls".

Here's the sweater now after Sweater Stone treatment (the puff ball on the right is the result of the treatment):

I rest my case.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Finally I am feeling better and may be back to a normal diet tomorrow.  What ever bit me gave me a mild case so I'm not going to complain about it.  However, I will say that I hope everyone stays healthy; illness of any kind is not enjoyable.

I made mention of Hill-Stead, a wonderful museum in Connecticut where D and I spent a wonderful time.  Unfortunately, no photography is allowed once inside the home so all I can show you are photos I took outside, starting with information just inside the entrance which can explain the museum better than I can:

Here are a few photos from near the house (it was too cold to wander around):

These photos were taken as we walked from the entrance building

to the house proper.  I love the tight view of the countryside around the site and then the focused shot of that view.

On the left is the walk from the entrance building; that beautiful stone wall - one of many, many throughout the site.  The photo of the house doesn't do it justice.  Which leads me to tell you that the entire house with all it's furnishings was designed by a woman - a very extraordinary woman - Theodate Pope Riddle.  Possibly more about her at a future date.
The site is beautiful - even on a frigid day, but house is a jewel.  In fact, of all the houses of the wealthy and privileged we have toured, this is the only one in which I wouldn't mind living - for a while!  It was "... a bequest. . . . as a museum and memorial to her parents, stipulating that everything must be kept intact. The art collection can never be moved, sold, or loaned for exhibition elsewhere."  It is that last sentence on which you should focus because there are artworks by masters in this museum that a visitor (meaning me, of course) has never seen before!  We're talking about Degas, Monet, Manet, Cassatt, Whistler and other fabulous Impressionists.  We were agog at the works we saw.

Another unusual aspect is that the rooms and their furnishings (wallpaper, rugs, furniture, etc) were designed and custom made to complement the art instead of either the other way around or simply hanging a painting where ever it fit.

Obviously, we plan to return to visit this place in more clement weather!

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Brief Stint as a Sports Writer

I'm back again.  After my last entry D and I went to see a UCONN women's basketball game.  Given their history, you won't be surprised to read that UCONN won.  What you will be surprised to read is that they played what our group thought was a very sloppy, uncharacteristically bad game.  SiL A. with whom we went to the game voiced her concerns first.  After only a minute or two, D & I agreed with her.  Their upperclasswomen who are among their first string players were missing shots and passes, making fouls, playing defense in a way viewers are not used to seeing, and a number of other out-of-character problems.  

All that said, the University of Central Florida team played amazing defense!  They were glued to their assigned UCONN players and during most of the first half, they kept UCONN from scoring with ease.  I do think they were hampered by their coach's (a former UAlbany coach) habit of whistling at her players which caused several on the team to stop in their tracks, turn to their coach, get her instructions, and then return to play.  They earned three shot-clock violations by the end of the game so I hope she can train them to make some good play decisions on their own.

However, despite my "oh-so-professional-assessment ", UCONN won by almost 40 points (80 - 44).

The next day we took D's sister's advice and went to visit a wonderful museum about which I will write more next time.

On our way home, I fell victim to a stomach ailment which is why I haven't written since we returned,

Monday, January 8, 2018

Slow Start on a Cold Day

Already off to a slow start but for a good and enjoyable reason.  Today instead of working on a current project (making needle "books" - those are very small fabric cases for holding needles), I went out to lunch with a teacher friend.  And I don't regret it one bit!
We went to an almost deserted shopping center (the cold weather is certainly keeping people at home!) where we went to our favorite restaurant. While the lunch was delicious, the conversation was even better.  

It meant that when I came home, I had to throw the laundry in and hustle up to my studio to try and get at least a little work done.  

Completion is still the word for the year, and those needle books will be finished!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

One Word

We were fortunate to have SiL A with us for New Year's Eve and Day, and at one point, the subject of resolutions came up.  If you've read this blog for a while, you know that my ability to keep resolutions is dismal at best.  It isn't even so much that I decide not to keep them as it is that I forget them.  And that means - they aren't important to me.

Anyway, A said she gave up on making resolutions long ago as "they are doomed to failure".  Instead she said she finds a significant word and lets that guide her through the year.  As this year of her retirement will see her moving from the cold to a warmer climate and closer to another sibling, her word for this year is "Adventure".  Wow, perfect word!  First there's the move, and second, she and her sister have a big trip planned. 

I stood there for a moment after commenting on the appropriateness of her choice, and then a word popped into my head.  "Completion".

This is my year to complete some of the things I have started.  I'd already started on that when my friend and I started sharing a monthly list of projects.  So far I've done pretty well on that even though I discovered that a list in December doesn't work.  I'd like to continue the monthly list and focus on completion.

Here's January's list which was developed last week.  This month there is no special order even though I number them:

  1. Put the binding on "Snow Days" quilt
  2. Finish "Farmer's Wife" quilt
  3. Work on Barbara's crazy quilt block
  4. Work on Migration sweater
  5. Sort two more bins

That will keep me busy this month, and even if I don't finish everything, I will have brought these projects closer to Completion!