Thursday, June 1, 2017

Intentional Summer

I love summer, I always have.  The sweet smell of honeysuckle on the breeze, sitting on the porch swing and watching fireflies at night, barbecues and sleeping in under summer quilts that have just enough weight to keep the boogie man away, but aren't so heavy that you roast under them.

Each summer since my kids were little, I tried to have some sort of summer plan.  One year we made tie dye shirts.  Another year we had a water balloon fight.  As they grew, my plans changed as they started finding their own fun with friends and family.  I painted fabric under the trees, and worked on art journal pages, or just spent the summer reading books and dreaming dreams I couldn't find time for during the school year.

This year my final baby graduated high school, and things are finally sorted after a hard few years after my mother passed away and my own diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.  It has been hard to find my way back to myself, but I can feel my hope and joy and enthusiasm returning, with the help and support of family and friends, and a few creative communities online.

One of those communities has been Creative Bug, where I have followed art journal and sketching classes by Lisa Congdon, Pam Garrison and Dawn DeVries Sokol, among others.  Creative Bug's app really made it convenient for me to watch the classes even on days when recovery had me laying on the sofa with low energy.  And it got me back to playing with my art supplies.

Another community is the Get Messy Art Journal Community.  I had signed up last year but wasn't able to keep up (ie I kept forgetting I had a membership and didn't use it).  This year I learned about Seasons, and I just finished playing along with Season 14: Contrast.  I didn't really follow along strictly, just used the community as a place to touch base and see that other people out there were also playing with supplies and color.

As summer approached, I was searching for this year's summer project, and Get Messy's Season 15: Color sounded like the perfect fit.  I have been enjoying playing with the rainbow, and I think this season mixes with summer's ease and joy for me in the perfect timing.  I plan to post my experiments here as a form of accountability and as a way to get back into this blogging thing.  I welcome you to come along for the ride!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nature's Mandalas

I don't know about where you live, but here in Ohio we have already had several snowfalls, and the forecast is that a white Christmas could actually happen this year. When I was a child,  I remember being disappointed every year when we would get a snowfall and by the next morning all the pretty white snow would be grey and slushy (or so it seemed).  This was just what I apparently noticed.  I even named our (grey) kitten Snowflake.  Ah, the joys of suburban life.

I did enjoy making paper snowflakes, and loved the rainbow of colors I could use from the stacks of construction paper. 

Now with the internet you can even make snowflakes on your computer, pick up an app for your phone, and enjoy some amazing macro photography of individual snowflakes.  They truly are nature's mandala.  If you are lost for inspiration, or just need something to keep your hands busy before the next project begins, here are some wonderful snowflake resources.  (And if you're in a warmer climate this time of year, you can always look at snowflake pictures to help cool yourself down.  This is a scientific fact.*)

Make virtual snowflakes at :
Make a Flake

Get snowflake making apps for your iPhone:
Happy Snowflake
Paper Snow 2

Snowflake patterns:
Star Wars snowflakes
Game of Thrones snowflakes

Snowmen need love, too:
Snowman Builder HD for iPad
Crayola Snowman Builder

And finally, nothing like the real thing:

Let it snow!

*Not really.  Unless it is.  Anyone here a scientist?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When You Don't Have A Hot Hunky Assistant

I keep a few things at hand to make it easier to open my paints and mediums when I need them.  I find a hot hunky studio assistant works the best, but even the best assistant needs to go home occasionally, so here are a few less sexy but equally as helpful tools I've found work for me.

1.  The most obvious way to make sure your supply is easy to open next time is to wipe down the opening/mouth of the jar after each use.  Hardware stores sell bags of cotton rags for just such an occasion (these also come in handy for other uses, which I will explore in a future art tip post).  Of course you may not want to take the time to do this, I know I get so excited by the colors and the action of painting that pausing to wipe down my supplies is at the bottom of the list.

2.  The next tool that can help in your quest for color is an old fashioned paint can opener.  These are sold to open house paint, but the end can be slid between the lid and jar to loosen dried paint.

3.  A great accessory for those with smaller hands or stiff fingers is a pair of grippy gloves.  I find these a lot easier to handle than those grippy circular jar openers because they are on your whole hand instead of just in your palm.  I use these for kitchen as well as studio, though not the same pair.  I bought the ones in the photo above at Harbor Freight, at a ridiculously low price.  (If you machine quilt, these are also helpful for holding the quilt sandwich as you work).

4. Pliers are great for paint tubes.

5.  Another strategy, similar to the "just clean it off" method, is to rub a small amount of petroleum jelly on the screwtop part of the lid.  This is good for tubes of paint, but I am not sure how the jelly would mix with a water based paint or medium.  The excess would help keep your fingertips moist though (hey, as Alton Brown says, multi-taskers are a good thing).

6.  One last method I've employed is to use a sheet of plastic wrap between the mouth of the jar and the lid.  This worked really well, especially with the plastic wrap that had the dots on one side.  I'm not sure if they make that style any more.  Plus, keeping a roll of plastic wrap around is kind of hard with a cat in the studio.  However, if you choose this method, plastic wrap is useful for other art applications, such as texturizing and putting over paint on the palette to help keep it damp between painting sessions.  And you can wrap damp brushes in them and store in the refrigerator between uses (that one comes from Martha Stewart; she was referring to house painting brushes, but I bet it would work for art brushes too).

These are the strategies I've used to make it easier to get at the art supplies when I need them RIGHT NOW.  If you have any methods that work for you, please share in the comments.  Maybe I'll find a new favorite.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Coming Soon

I am really excited about offering these patterns at my Etsy shop.  They will be available as an instant download so you can start stitching as soon as your order is processed.  All you'll need is some transfer paper (available at art and craft stores), embroidery needle, threads (I use DMC floss and Kreinik metallic braids), some fabric and a hoop.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Zen Garden: Working Through Grief

My mother had been sick since the beginning of the year.  In April, she took a severe turn for the worse, and on May 7, she was diagnosed with cancer on her liver.  On May 31, I was at her bedside as she left this world.  In between those 24 days, I was also dealing with a nasty sinus infection which kept me home (I did not want to transmit the infection to her, in the middle of the month we still thought chemo was a possibility), and the marriage of my oldest daughter on May 25.

When I returned home after the funeral, I spent the next two weeks just cleaning the house.  I didn't want to stop, because I didn't want to let the pain sink in.  But I also knew I needed to make something.  I just wasn't sure what.

Finally I gave myself permission to just play, to return to familiar motions, and I picked up needle and thread.

Buddha's Kiss  36"H x 27"W  hand and machine embroidery, Mom's crochet
I started with the image in the center, and it grew from there.  I had brought Mom's crochet home with me, a bedspread she had not finished, and I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my work at some point.  I just didn't realize it would be so soon.  I trimmed a strip of motifs from the unfinished spread, and put it in a dye bath, and you can see the result at the top of this piece.

Lotus Pink, 16"H x 13"W (framed)  NeoColorII crayon on paper

This is the drawing that I made the machine embroidery from on Buddha's Kiss.  I liked it enough to frame it as its own work.

Since I was already working, I looked at the requirements for an upcoming show (Women of Appalachia).  This year the request was for a body of work (6-10 pieces), with a common theme.  I decided the theme for these works would be "Zen Garden".

Sea of Tranquility, 39 1/2"H x 27"W, hand and machine embroidery, Kreinik thread, Mickey Lawler Skydyes
I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.  And I really love the way the lotus turned out in this piece.

Jewel of the Lotus, 33"H x 22 1/2"W  applique, Mom's jacket, silk
I also brought some of Mom's clothing home to use for art.  The gold background is from one of her jackets.  It was hard to tear it down, I had to keep reminding myself that she didn't need it any more, and I have a photo of her wearing it.  I know she'd be happy with how pretty it turned out.

Inner Light, 25 1/2"H x 33 1/2"W  Hand dyed silk, Dutch wax batik, beading

After spending the better part of a month working with the subdued palette of the first works, my brain apparently had had enough and was ready for some color.  This started as another embroidery on the blue silk, but the contrast was a little too low for my liking.  I had pulled a pile of fabrics from my stash when I'd decided to make a series of work, and the orange silk was part of that pile.  I was really delighted with how it turned out when I added the reverse applique.  I also knew this piece needed some extra shine, and that's how the beading ended up on the piece.  The deep blue fabric on the border is a piece from my dear friend Diane Eyerman.

Now it is almost fall, and Mom's birthday is coming up.  I can feel the anxiety building already.  She would have been 67 this year.  Some days I just want to hide under the bed, but having this goal and deadline has helped me make it through the summer.  Friends keep telling me the pain will lessen over time, and I know life goes on.  I just want to make sure it would be one that would make Mom proud.