Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Color Intensifies

As April went on in my 2016 daily stitch project, the colors started to pop.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Nothing Wrong With Being Happy

Another in my pink and orange meets charcoal series.

"Nothing Wrong With Being Happy", acrylic on paper, 11x14"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


I really admire those artists who have a solid focus.  Every time you visit their blogs, you know what you will find as they make progress on their painting or stitching or sketching.  They dig in deep and develop their ideas fully.

I, on the other hand, find it impossible to focus.  I've come to realize that I need to both stitch and paint.  They occupy different areas of my brain.  They take entirely different energies and fit my mood at different times of the day.  It's not like if I wasn't stitching in the evening, I'd be painting.  They aren't interchangeable.

When I was away at my artist retreat last year, I had all the time I always dreamed of to work on my art.  I thought I'd get in a good 8 hours of painting every day, then maybe stitch a bit in the evening.  But I soon found out that I can only paint for about 2 hours straight before I hit a wall.

I loved the set up of the residency where I lived and worked in one open room.  After I finished painting, I would sit in a chair by the window stitching, but was always able to glance up and see my painting on the easel.  Maybe it's like taking a walk, or taking a shower, when you are trying to solve a problem, and the answer comes to you without effort.  While I was sitting there stitching, I often found what I needed to do next on my painting.

But sometimes I seem to just enjoy the diversion of an entirely new project.  When I saw the wonderful work by Rosemary Hoffenberg,  I was off in a new direction.  This piece in particular grabbed me.

 I couldn't figure out how she made those wonderful circle and oval shapes, especially after I read that they were pieced!  Fused I could see, even some applique, but pieced!  I had to experiment just to try to see how she did it.  I had some randomly pieced scraps lying around that I used as a starting point and started joining and cutting and repiecing.  I don't have much practice with curved piecing, and that was a huge challenge.  My experiments are very clunky compared to Rosemary's, but I did have fun with the randomness of the circles.

Will I ever do anything with them?  Doubtful.  But I did enjoy the afternoon diversion.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lesson Plan 2

One of the nice things about doing 100 5x7" pieces is I then have a set of flashcards to study.  I find marks and textures I forgot about that I can revisit.  I especially like to lay them all out and see what grabs me and what doesn't, and try to figure out why.

As I mentioned last time, out of 100 little pieces, there are about 10 that I really like.  Here are my favorites.

 I like the irregular shape of the circle, the soft edges, and the splashy texture.
The delicate, busy texture contrasted with black and white solid areas.

I love a vessel shape.  This piece symetrical but I think the texture varies enough to keep it interesting.

I love the texture of the white square with black charcoal dots.  I smeared them slightly and it made them look 3-D.  I couldn't help but name this "Egg Salad."

I use cruciform compositions a lot.  I like the simplicity of this one and the almost masculine quality of it.  It feels like a graffiti wall.

Always like an abstract landscape, and I especially like the moody atmosphere of this one.  I would like to raise the horizon line about 1/2" though to make it more dramatic.

Just like the playful movement of this one. 

I like the movement and the way the very thin white lines add to that.

I'm really surprised to see this is my fifth symetrical composition here!  I didn't think I usually like those.  

I like the feeling that it is just balancing but could easily tip over.

I probably learn even more from studying the ones that don't quite work, and there are many of those to choose from.  Here are three.
I think it's the lack of dominance of any one thing that bothers me here.  3  similar size shapes piled up in the center.

Same thing here.  Similar size shapes, nothing emphasized, and the page divides down the middle.

And a "what was I thinking?"  I like a calligraphic line, but this one isn't appealing.  This looks like a start that I would then work on top of with more layers.

Overall I like simpler, cleaner compositions with sharp value contrasts.  I like the pieces that have strong emphasis, whether it's on one shape, or movement, or a cluster of texture.  I like rich layering, but also need quiet areas.  And I guess I like symmetrical compositions way more than I thought.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Pop of Pink

"April makes promises that May keeps."

That feels very true right now as I post on a gray, rainy day.  But on my walk this weekend, I saw my first burst of rhododendron, meaning full color must be right around the corner.

Here's my daily stitch project so far in April.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lesson Plan

Whether it's the former teacher in me, or the desire to be a lifelong student, I love a good assignment.  I like to give myself challenges to work through ideas and to keep myself accountable.  A while ago, I decided to do 100 small black and white studies.

I cut 100 5x7" pieces of watercolor paper and worked on 8 at a time on my table because that was the number that comfortably fit.  Some came together quickly, others took quite a bit of reworking. When I felt that one was finished, I moved it on and put a new one in its place.

I tried to stay loose and experimental with them, not doing too much judging, just taking them to a point where they felt done.   I like seeing them all in a grid together.  One of the most valuable lessons for me was that it took doing 100 to get about 10 I really like.  A good reminder that the more I paint, the better the odds I'll get some paintings I like.

I set a few parameters for my assignment.  I worked with black, white, and neutral paints.  I collaged on some.  And I used any tool I have for marks and texture, as long as it was black or white.

I've really been enjoying going back through them now because they contain all sorts of bits and ideas I can incorporate into paintings.  They also help me see my recurring marks and compositions.  Going through the pile of them, I can easily spot what works for me and what doesn't.  I may do this type of assignment again, with different parameters, to loosen up and experiment more.  It really takes the pressure off to work in bulk like this without all the focus on completing one polished painting.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Hint of Spring

My April 2016 daily stitch project began with just a hint of color as the month started to warm up.

Friday, March 31, 2017

When You're Smiling

After posting all those blues and grays from my Breathing Space series, I was ready to play with a new palette.  I am exploring some of the ideas from Breathing Space, but with bright, cheery colors.  To keep them from getting too sweet, I am tempering them with black or charcoal.

I started this one to work on that open center composition again.  I was in my Nia class and Louis Armstrong's "When You're Smiling" was one of the songs we danced to.  It immediately made me feel happy, and I knew it was the title for this painting.

"When You're Smiling" acrylic on paper, 11x14"

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March Daily Stitch

Working on my long, skinny daily stitch project.  March was a month of moving back and forth between barely there neutrals and pops of yellows and greens as the month moved between our foggy, rainy days and clear ones.  I used some dyed gauzes and chiffons in this piece, trying to capture that feeling of when you can just see a hint of green to trees even though the buds aren't quite there.

 Colors intensified at the end of the month.

Plenty of daffodils popped out in March, and I caught my first sight of red tulips at the end of the month, so April should be lots of fun.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Breathing Space

The last in my Breathing Space series is called "Wandering Elsewhere."

"Wandering Elsewhere" acrylic on paper, 11x14"
 It is so helpful for me to work in a series.  First because I don't have to come up with something new to work on everyday.  Second, it feels good to have something to anchor me when I'm painting abstractly.  It keeps me coming back to my initial intent.

It also lets me see what patterns emerge and see what things I want to explore further.

"Wandering Elsewhere" is similar to "Traveling Alone" in that they both have lots of empty space and rely on small clusters of marks for composition.  In this series, I really wanted to explore how far I could push that empty space without having it become boring, and these have a lot of it.

"Traveling Alone"
 I'm really fascinated by compositions that hug the edge of the page, as in "Edge of Night" and "Secret Ravine" and would like to explore that more.  It's very tricky to take things out of the center of the painting without ending up with a dead hole.

"Edge of Night"

"Secret Ravine"
 I like what the bright pops of color do to the grayed down cools in "Commencement" and "Morning Caravan."

"Morning Caravan"
 Finally, I'm interested in playing with some harder edged blocks of opaque color as in "Night Light."

"Night Light"
Just some notes to myself, so I remember what I learn along the way.
And I just learned how to resize my photos so they appear larger on the blog.  I'm very happy about that!