Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An Introvert's Retreat

My art group has been going on art retreats twice a year for ten years now.  We go to the beautiful Menucha Retreat Center in the Columbia River Gorge for a weekend in May and again in Oct.  This weekend, Menucha was in its May glory with freshly budded trees, huge rhododendrons, irises and lilacs.  The grounds are reason enough to attend.

The company though is even better.  18 creative artists in one room, each working on her own project and sharing her expertise and new discoveries.  The room is full of a huge variety of media and tools.  There are new books and websites to explore.  People volunteer to lead mini-workshops.  This time Suzie took us through some very fresh approaches to making paste papers, and Paula taught us a fun little journal made out of file folders.  The room is full of individual interpretations, ideas, recommendations, and lots of laughter.

And the introvert in me is completely overwhelmed.  Over the years I have found myself taking fewer and fewer art supplies.  Only this time did I finally realize that that's my way of controlling an over-stimulating environment.  Some people crank out all sorts of different projects over the course of the weekend.  I sit and do a straight running stitch, over and over.  I work slowly.  I have one simple bag of materials.  And I'm perfectly happy.  I enjoy absorbing what others are doing, but that leaves me with very little energy or focus for my own projects.  I can't even dream of ever painting in that environment.

So slow stitching it is.  Calm and meditative.

I finished a journal for an upcoming trip to Scandanavia.  I started this at the last Menucha and just needed to add the inside pages and the perfect little vintage button from my aunt.

Inside there are pockets and lots of blank watercolor paper.

Most of the weekend was devoted to the slow kantha stitching on the beginnings of this new journal cover.

On this one, I used my hand-dyed variegated cotton threads, and I like the flickers of color they give.

I never get much done, but I do come home in a whirl of inspiration and possibilities.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Blob Paintings

I love blob paintings!  Maybe there's a more elegant term for them, but I don't know what it is. They're paintings that look like like paint was poured on the page and some scribbles quickly added.  They are fresh, playful and spontaneous.

I adore Heather Day's work.  I always wondered how she got such loose, fluid paintings.  Don't miss the video on her site that shows her process.  She works large and very wet using buckets even.

Heather Day

Heather Day
I also love Therese Murdza's work.  Again they are so playful and free.

Therese Murdza
This piece of multiples is especially fabulous.  Such gorgeous colors and I love the added bowl-shaped lines.

Therese Murdza
While I had my pinks and oranges out, I decided to do a little brush cleaning and play around with some blobs.  I also used charcoal which mainly left a mess.  Mine still leave a lot to be desired, but it's a fun way to loosen up and use the bits left on the palette.  I'll keep playing with it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mark Making Blitz

This has been my week for mark making.  I wanted to freshen up my mark making vocabulary, and this week gave me plenty of new ideas.

I've been taking an online class with Dionne Swift called Drawing for Textiles.  The first week is focused on abstract drawing and the second on interpreting those drawings into textiles, which I haven't done yet.

Without giving away too much of her class, here are some of my drawings from week one.  We were instructed to choose about six items that are meaningful to us and use them for a different approach in each drawing. I chose some of my favorite jewelry to use, not that you would know it from the drawings.  We were instructed to scale everything up as large as we could, so I did all of these on big pieces of newsprint.

First came blind contour drawings switching media along the way.

Shadow drawings.

Straight line drawings using only 12 " lines.  Oh my!  I don't know that I got this assignment at all.  I found myself so unable to draw anything resembling the objects that I started paying more attention to density of placement.

Finally drawing from 4 ft. away.

I think it's fabulous practice to take the same objects and rework them so drastically.  It's a really fun way to get some fresh marks.  We will now isolate small areas to work in fiber.

Dionne's class happened to coincide with a Mark Making class I had already signed up for at Oregon College of Arts and Craft with Jason Berlin.

The day got off to a fun start.  We explored all sorts of fountain pens, bamboo pens, and quills with ink.

My favorite assignment of the day was a layered charcoal drawing in which we explored different weights of charcoal and different erasers.  I could do that all day.

Unfortunately, the afternoon exercises were more about exploring mixed media and drifted away from mark making.  Not as inspiring but it's always nice to spend the day in OCAC's beautiful drawing and painting studio.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Last in a Series

This is the last painting in my Nia series, at least for now.  I am drawn to the idea of joyful moments suddenly appearing out of the darkness, so I have a feeling I'll be returning to this.  I'm keeping up a list of more titles from bits of Nia songs that I may want to use in the future.  Dancing in Nia class always lifts me out of any funk I'm having.  Even on days when I have to drag myself to class, I never leave in a bad mood.  In painting I often like to start off with dark underpinnings and then do some brightening on top to shift the mood from darkness to light playfulness.  In this case, I even added a little neon pink on top, which really popped up the cheer.

"In the Land of My Dreams", acrylic on paper, 11x14"

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rhododendrons Bursting

And lilacs, and wisteria, and dogwoods.  Spring has come full force to Portland after all our rain, so my May stitching project is starting out with loads of bright color.

One of the good things about this daily stitching project is it forces me to work with colors that I normally wouldn't touch.  Spring is challenging for me with all those pinks and lavendars, and sunshine and happiness.  I'm much more comfortable in the somber tones of fall and winter.  But a little cheerfulness is probably good now and then.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Nia Series

My pink and orange paintings are now officially my Nia series.  Title of this one is from another Nia song--Happiness Floats.

"Happiness Floats", acrylic on paper, 11x14"

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

April Daily Stitching

Finishing up my daily stitching for April and still been wrestling a bit with this project. I think I was trying to make it head in too many different directions.  I wasn't sure if it was a daily journal, a daily recording of the shifting seasons, or a collection of marks.  I knew I wanted to start with a small bag of scraps and threads for each month to keep it focused and portable, but that meant it really didn't represent everything I wanted to include.  My fabric choices for the month were the yellows, greens and pinks which are the beginnings of the blooming season in Portland, but when I spent a week at the beach, the blues and grays all around me looked nothing like the fabric I was stitching on.

Walks on the beach helped me discover my focus.  I'll still pull a bag of scraps and threads for each month to help the piece hold together, and my marks can be inspired by whatever is around me that day.  This piece, while still looking like April in Portland, has marks inspired by sea stones, shells, and eucalyptus pods.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Series Develops

It's been really interesting to see how series develop for me.  I started this one in response to posting all the blue and gray pieces of my "Breathing Space" series.  All I knew in the beginning was that I wanted some fresh, cheerful colors and wanted to set them against gray or black.  

I was in my Nia dance class one day and heard a happy song that seemed to fit the mood of my painting.  After that I started to pay attention to the lyrics in class, and a phrase would jump out at me that fit a painting perfectly.  This series is very much about those cheerful moments that rise up out of the bleaker times.  When I'm in a dark mood, I almost always get pulled out of it instantly when I start dancing in Nia.  

One of my favorite, and one of the most uplifting songs we dance to, has these lyrics:
"Everything's gonna be all right now
How do I know?
Because that's the seed I sow."  (It sounds much better set to music!)
There's my title.

"That's the Seed I Sow", acrylic on paper, 11x14"

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.