Friday, February 16, 2018


My word for the year is "Simplify."  That mainly means a lot of long overdue decluttering and cleaning up, but it's also about mental focus.  Trying to narrow down the things I do to those that are really important to me.

Last year I was catching up with posting my 2016 stitch components, along with showing how they were joining together, and also showing my 2017 daily stitch project.  I needed stitching to have a separate post each week, but this year I'm going to mix my stitching in with painting in one weekly post.  The stitching is coming along slowly.  When I do it, I enjoy it, but I am not feeling compelled to stitch everyday, so I'm letting this project evolve as it will.  Here's one I did over the course of a week.  I am already thinking that I might like to join them together and do more in the white background area.

I seem to be more absorbed with painting than stitching this year. I thought I was going to do the 30-in-30 painting project this month, a painting a day for 30 days.  That didn't last long before I simplified it to 30 paintings in a month, since I often work for days without finishing one, then might finish 3 on the same day.  And then I decided to simplify that even more to just painting for 30 days straight.  That now fits me.  I am a slow painter and often have to work on a piece for at least 5 days before it's done.  Even when it looks loose and random, it takes days for me to get it that way.

I seem to always be reacting to what I just did.  I was painting dark, heavier paintings for quite a few days, then wanted to switch over to much lighter ones.

The thing I come back to over and over is my love of mark making.  That's definitely my favorite part of stitching or painting.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Lots of Painting

I'm feeling deeply immersed in painting these days, and that's just the way I like it.  I'm continuing with Nancy Hillis's online Studio Journey class, which gives some structure to the month.  For Feb. we will be focusing on color contrast.

I also decided to participate for the first time in Leslie Saeta's Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days challenge.  I thought it would be good for me to try to finish a small painting a day since I usually am slow and ponderous with them. But I quickly realized that that's not how I work.  I need to have a bunch going at one time, then finish them as it happens, which doesn't really lend itself to a painting a day.  I decided to skip posting on Leslie's site and aim at completing 30 paintings in 30 days, rather than getting caught up in one a day.  The main objective is to try to keep moving and get things done.
My constraints for the project will be 12" square pieces, and I want to try to experiment with something a little new to me in each one.

I started working with a different palette for me.  I was taking a walk at sunset on a crisp winter's night, and was attracted to all the pastel colors in the sky.  I think I've spent my life avoiding pastels, so thought they would be fun to play with.

The first one a little heavier on marks.

Then the second one simplified a bit.

 I'll be posting more of my paintings on Instagram and am planning to do a weekly summary of how it's going here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Improvisational Art

Happy New Year to me!  My health is settled, my family is settled, at least for now, so I'm ready to start my delayed new year and seem to have that fresh-start boost of enthusiasm.   I've started working on my word of the year "Simplify" by doing some much needed studio clean out.  Now to begin my new projects.

One thing that has become increasingly clear to me over the years is that I'm not too interested in doing anything but intuitive art.  I remember taking early quilting classes and being very excited to see the first 8 or so blocks join together and discovering the secondary patterns that formed.  Then once I had a good idea what the final quilt would look like, it became mechanical and boring.

Same with realistic painting classes.  I liked the challenge of learning the techniques to make something look realistic, but as soon as it did, and I knew what the finished painting would look like, I lost interest.

I really like doing improvisational work where all decisions are formed in the moment, when one stroke informs the next, when one shape determines what needs to go next to it, and without any idea what the finished product will look like.  It feels a little dangerous since you never know where you are going, and there are many things that don't work out along the way, but it keeps me feeling alive, and that's the whole point of doing art for me.

This approach works well with painting because I can easily cover something up or move it, but the approach is much harder to apply to stitching.  I really don't want to rip out a week's worth of handstitching to move a piece over 1/2" when it's throwing off a composition.  Still, I've decided my stitch project for this year is going to focus entirely on intuitive stitching and responding to what is already there.

I'm starting with 7" neutral background blocks and am stitching on the same one everyday for a week without any, or at least much, of a preconceived idea what they will look like.  I'm sure this will produce plenty of horrendous looking, ill-composed blocks, but maybe they'll highlight the good blocks when they are all joined together?  Or maybe they will end up in the trash.  I'm starting with a fairly neutral palette, but will take it where ever it wants to go.  Just to give myself a little grounding point, I'm going to start with my favorite shapes of X's and O's in mind.

That's the plan for my 2018 stitching project, but in a true improvisational nature, I'm allowing for the possibility that I'll abandon it all together after a pile of ugly blocks.  We'll see how it goes.

First week started with a scrappy X:

Second one with a blobby circle:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Painting Large

In Studio Journeys, our art bundle, or monthly lesson plan, for Jan. has been scale.  Those who tend to paint small are encouraged to paint large, and those who already paint large are encouraged to try very small paintings.  My challenge has been to go bigger.  I've gotten pretty comfortable with the 12" square or the 16x20".  This painting is not huge, but it is a step up at 24x30".  I'd like to try some really big paintings like 5 ft. x 6 ft, but that seems impossible until weather warms up and I can use the garage.  There is quite a challenge to keep the same loose energy going as you go bigger, a whole new set of tools required, but it is exciting and I'm eager to experiment a lot more.

For this painting I used the Zorn Palette which I've fallen in love with--cadmium red medium, yellow ochre, black and white.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Need a Do-Over!

I've decided I'm starting the new year all over in Feb.  Things are not getting off to a good start.

I lost my 13 year old bulldog, and trusty studio companion, Jack.  He was constantly by my side, and his favorite place was my studio.  I always felt like he probably picked up happy vibes from me when we were working in there.  He often got there first and barked to let me know it was time to join him.  The studio is very empty without him, and I'll be grieving that loss for quite a while.

My energy level is very low as I struggle with a cold.  I'll be heading to CA to help my mom recover from foot surgery for a few weeks, so everything will be on hold for a while.  But February!  Time for a fresh start!

I have only begun a few stitches toward my new daily stitch project.  Maybe I'll get it off to a serious start in Feb.  I know the direction I want to go now--lots of spontaneous stitching.  Here are some of the inspirations behind it.

The stunningly gorgeous stitching of Lisa Smirnova.  Her version of Frida takes my breath away.  I love the rawness of her stitching combined with her delicate touch.  Wow!

The playful heavy stitching and recurring motifs of Junko Oki.

 These wonderful chunky stitched pieces from The Nui Project, a stitching program for developmentally disabled adults in Japan.

And the very spontaneous stitching of Rieko Koga.

I so love all of this work, and hope that I can somehow capture that free, spontaneous feeling in my new project.  My posting will be sporadic until I get settled back in in Feb, but maybe by then I'll have lots of wild stitching to show.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Deep Experimentation

More experiments with the Zorn palette.  I wanted to explore the range of colors and moods I could get with those same 4 colors--black, white, Cadmium Red med. and Yellow Ochre.  I'm also trying to be even more raw in painting, not polishing them up so much.  Nancy Hillis has a phrase--deep experimentation--that is always in my mind.  I think that will be my word(s) for the year.  To me it's about showing up, listening deeply to intuition, trying the uncomfortable, and hardest of all, doing a lot of paintings that I end up not even liking.  There's a lot of letting go to work on this year, but I think that's where the more exciting work is.

I love this time of year, reviewing what worked and didn't work last year and planning for the new one.   To set a direction for painting, I've been using these questions from Donna Zagotta's blog a few years ago.  I've probably paraphrased them, but they are basically what she asks.

1.  In the next 12 months, I want to accomplish--

2.  To achieve my goals, I will have to--

3.  My current interests are--

4.  Some things I would like to explore in my work--

5.  Words I want to have describe my work--

6.  3 artists I want to have as mentors--

7.  One specific thing I like about each of these artist's work--

8.  I can incorporate some of these ideas into my own by--

9.   If I could paint only one subject--

10.  I love painting this subject because--

11.  I can create a series on this subject by--

12.  I will love my paintings when--

I've answered them for painting, but I think I'll now go back and see how they apply to my stitching.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Out With the Old

While I was somewhat sad to finish up my 2016 stitch project, I am nothing but happy to have the 2017 one done.  I struggled with this one more, mainly because of the silk thread I used throughout it.  It tangled and snagged, and I spent way too much time trying to smooth it back down.  Lesson learned.  I also felt restricted by the composition in this one and started getting bored with it towards the end.  But I am happy I stuck with it and finished it.

Here's the December part.  I was not planning on using red and green as that seemed so...Christmasy, but it wanted to appear anyway.

I did feel good when I finally laid each month out together and got to see the whole thing.  Things always look better in lots of multiples.  I was surprised it turned out so colorful.  I thought I had a lot more neutrals in it.

I like the idea of it joining together in a long piece that somehow is displayed on spools, but for now I have to put both of these projects away and look at them fresh later.

Now I'm pondering the next stitch project.  I've been having such a hard time coming up with something for 2018 that I'm wondering if it means I don't want another year long project.  But I do like having something I do daily.  I showed this in my art group meeting, and one of the members, who also happens to be a therapist, asked me an interesting question-- "How has it changed you to work on something daily like this?"  I do think it changes you.  Partly it's having just a wee bit of structure, deadline, commitment to myself everyday.  It's almost like a little bit of self-care and a way of honoring my quiet time each day.  It also was very useful for keeping me present and aware of all the marks and lines around me as the seasons shift.

I do have ideas now for more handstitching in 2018, so I think I will just start something and see if it evolves into a yearlong project or not.

My new guidelines are:
1.  No silk thread!
2.  Room for compositional experimentation.
3.  Easily portable.  It has to fit into a ziplock bag.
4.  Not too many choices, limited materials.
5.  Only recycled materials or things I already have.

Happy New Year!