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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Trash or Treasure

When my son was young he often arrived home from school with his pockets loaded with what I would call "trash" and I would admonish him about picking things up off the ground because they were dirty and germ laden or they could be dangerous. To him they were "treasures".

I was thinking about this and chuckling to myself as I was walking home from the grocery store one day after having picked up the milk that I had forgotten to purchase earlier in the day when I was grocery shopping. Instead of looking at the neighbourhood yards and landscape and enjoying the change of the seasons as I would normally do, my eyes were glued to the pavement beneath my feet. Why? I was searching for "treasures" or more correctly "trash". I've come to see the value in my son's homebound pastime. I've been using found items in my art recently. Found items are interesting things like rusty metal washers, flattened bottle tops, pop can tabs, or interesting seed pods, small stones etc. I've even added these things to my Christmas list of wants.

I no longer see these things as "trash" but I see the potential for them to liven up a piece of art. Now I am kicking myself for having made my son get rid of his "treasures".

Some of my "treasures"
 I had the opportunity to work on my Algonquin Park painting again and have filled in the foreground and continued work on the water and the reflections. Reflections always appear darker in the water than the actual thing they are reflecting. I will also have to darken the water slightly.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Inspiration in a Southern Locale

I have been away from my blog for a few weeks due to the fact that there are a lot of things to prepare for Christmas and I was away on a week's vacation. Our vacation, which was booked last minute found us on the island of Jamaica a week after the super storm Sandy blew through. We had been in Jamaica 30 years ago and found it to be wealthier than when we were there last. There is still poverty but there seemed to be more of a middle class presently and the airport and roads have improved drastically. Ocho Rios, which is where we were headed, sustained the most damage from the hurricane but the damage was mostly to trees. Staff were everywhere cleaning things up to make resorts and golf courses look pristine again. While in Jamaica we golfed several very nice golf courses but also enjoyed the ocean and the beach. As I have mentioned before, I rarely go anywhere without some art equipment with me. When I fly, I usually have a sketch book, pencils, watercolour pencils and a pencil sharpener with me. I also take a small paintbrush with me but had forgotten one. Fortunately I found a makeup brush in my makeup bag and I used that to complete my sketches. So while I am sitting relaxing, I make small colour sketches of my surroundings. Below, I share them with you.

I've also included an update on my Algonquin Park painting. I've strengthened some of the colours and tweeked some things that I thought didn't look right.

Friday, 2 November 2012

This One's for Me

I have completed most of the artwork that I had planned for others. The wedding gifts are done and shower gifts as well. Ever since arriving back from my canoe trip this summer I have been percolating ideas in my brain for a painting of Algonquin Park. I recently went back to my photographs and picked out a subject, did some sketches and decided that I wanted to do a rather large painting in acrylic. I bought a canvas that was 3 feet by 2 feet.  You saw these sketches in my last blog and at first I thought I'd use the bottom one -- and I did for the most part -- but as I was drawing it out on the canvas, I felt it needed the little tree on the bottom right of the top sketch, so I added it.

I drew the basic plan on my canvas with an ochre coloured watercolour pencil. As I paint the pencil will disolve into the acrylic paint without staining the canvas. Eventually the acrylic paint will cover the drawing completely.

Detail of the canoes. You may think that canoes are easy to draw but to get the proportions right and the foreshortening looking realistic, I had to adjust things quite a bit.

Above is the very beginning of paint. I am planning on making this an early morning scene with some pinks in the sky reflecting into the water and perhaps also showing some mist coming off the water. There is not much colour here yet but I've blocked in the areas that will be the darkest and grayest due to their distance.
Stay posted for updates on the progress.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Value of the Sketch

I love to start right into my art, that is to say that I want to start right into the final product. However, most times I have to plan what I want to do. I use the sketch to do that. It would be a shame to start right into the final product with expensive materials and find that it doesn't work. A sketch will tell me where to position things, what my focal point will be, how to enhance my focal point, what values will look like. It will generally tell me if my plan will work and if it will be pleasing to the eye, a good composition.

I take a small sketch book along with me to most of the places I visit. I have several sketch books that document places I have been and I often leaf through these books seeking inspiration for paintings or other artwork. Many of my fabric cards were inspired by some of these sketches.

A colour sketch of the Humber River Valley near my house.
This sketch was done in a 5"X7" book.

I will also sketch ordinary everyday things.

I also sketch to keep up my drawing skills. If you want to draw well, you need to practice and the sketch is good for that. A sketch helps me to observe my subject and observation tells me things about how something is put together, about the colour, about the values. It helps me to draw the illusion of 3-dimensions on a 2-dimensional piece of paper.

Sketches can be very quick and linear with very little detail or they can be very detailed depending on what your goal is. I have sketched with pencil primarily but I also use fine point permanent ink pens if my goal is to record value or watercolour pencils if I want to record the colours I am observing.

A quick pencil sketch to determine composition.

A sketch of a rural Ontario farm, many of which are slowly
disappearing from the countryside.

A more detailed sketch of the Northern wilderness.

This sketch was one of many, each was a different
view of this house that I later painted with watercolour for the owners.

This sketch was done by combining two photographs
I had taken. The final product ended up a little different
than the sketch due to the fact that as I was painting it,
I felt the left side drew my eye right out of the picture. So
I added a dark tree to that side to keep the attention inside
the painting.

These last two sketches were done in permanent ink pen
so I could determine the values of the overal work and the placing of the canoes.

They are slightly different but I get a different feel from
each of them. The top sketch makes me feel like getting
into a canoe and exploring the large expanse of lake
behind them and this second one gives me the feeling
that someone has just returned from a paddle and is now
resting by the fire overlooking the beautiful and quiet

Sketches are not meant to be finished pieces of art but I love the look of sketches and feel that they could be framed and displayed. The fact that they are done quickly gives them a spontaneous feel that appeals to me.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Thread Painting

In past blogs I've used the term "thread painting" a few times. What is thread painting? Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. Painting with thread. Thread painting is done with various colours of thread and can be used to outline an image or fill an image in with colour. It is done with a regular sewing machine but instead of using a regular presser foot, I use a darning foot. With the darning foot, I can free-motion stitch which means I can move my fabric in any direction under the needle. I use the thread to show value or I'll mix threads to make other colours or tones.

I have a full pallette of thread colours and types. I have some embroidery threads, regular threads, varigated threads as well as some metalic threads to give a bit of glitter.

Closeup of a thread painted tulip. Here I filled in the entire flower with colour that goes from burgundy to red to orange with a tinge of yellow on the tips.

In this Peony I outlined the petals and then thread painted only sections of the petals with yellow, pink and rose.

In this Pansy I layered a dark fabric over some of the petals for the deep purple heart and then thread painted most of the rest of the flower leaving the edges of the petals without stitching.

Thread painting takes more time than actually painting but I find it adds interest to my quilts and fabric cards and so the time spend is well worth it for me.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Inspiration that Grandchildren are.

I have gained another source of inspiration for my art in the last 18 months and that is my grandchildren. New life never ceases to amaze me. When they are born, they are so small, and it is a miracle when all their parts are there and everything works the way it should. I didn't have the joy of knowing and having a relationship with my grandparents due to the fact that I immigrated to Canada with my parents at a year of age. Initially I didn't really miss those relationships because I knew nothing else, however, when my children were born, they did have relationships with my parents and my mother-in-law. My father-in-law passed away when our oldest son was 5 months old. They loved their grandparents and those relationships brought a richness into all of their lives. We know all too well that illness and accident or other circumstances can cut those relationships short and so when my grandchildren were born, I decided that they were going to know how precious they were to me from day one. I am attempting to do this the best way I know how and the most enjoyable way and that is through my art. Each newborn in our family, and not only my own grandchildren but also the children of my nieces and nephews receive a graphite drawing of themselves at a few days old.

This is our youngest grandchild, born just over a month ago.
I have also started small sketchbook/journals for each of my grandchildren in which I make note of my feelings for them, milestones, special dates, sketches of them as they grow. When they are older they will receive these books from me as a keepsake and witness of their uniqueness and preciousness to us and to God.

A spread out of our first granddaughter's journal

A spread out of our first grandson's journal
When our children and grandchildren know they are loved unconditionally and are special in their own way, they can go into the world and its experiences with confidence. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Scarf Wall Quilt

In my last post, I described a wall quilt I wanted to make using one of my mother-in-law's discarded scarves. As I told you, this project evolved as I was working on it, adding beads, stitching, cord and designs. This quilt was made with someone in mind so that also played into the kinds of embellishment I would use.

Finished Wall Quilt
This quilt is entitled "A Cord of Three Strands" which comes from Ecclesiates 4:12 stating that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Detail of a section of the wall quilt

As you can see here I also embellished with some natural items, such as a piece of birch bark I found during my canoe trip this summer and also some small twigs.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Finishing a Project and Moving On to Another

Well, my Zentangle landscape quilt is finished and I picked it up from the framer this morning. I am really pleased with the way it turned out. It measures 16" X 24" and I think the new owner will be very happy with it.  

Lone Pine
 As soon as the last project was finished, I began immediately on the next one. I have so many ideas backed up in my brain at the moment that I'm afraid if I don't get a jump on them, they'll disappear! So this next project is also a fabric piece. I recently received a box of scarves from my mother-in-law who was doing some cleaning up at home. I decided to use one of these scarves as the basis of an embellished wall quilt. What inspired me was the lightness of the fabric, the design, the size and shape and the colours of the scarf. Below is a photo of the scarf attached to a black background. It has as yet no stitching or embellishment on it. I do not have a finished product in mind such that I don't know how exactly I will embellish it but I'm counting on those details coming to me as I work on it. I have several items laid out on my work table that might become part of the piece but this time I'm going to let intuition guide me. It should be interesting.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Dyeing Experiment

I was able to get away to a Provincial Park in Northern Ontario last week for a few days and usually I take my sketching supplies with me. However, this time I took a tie dye kit that I bought at Walmart and various fabrics that I had pre-washed. It was great to dye fabric outside. The dyeing took several hours and then the fabric had to rest for 12 hours to cure the dye. I only mixed up 3 of the 6 colours but I was really pleased with the results. I used silk and cotton fabrics cut into smaller sized pieces.

A card I made with some of my hand dyed fabric.

                            Also here is a glimpse of my Zentangle quilt as it nears completion.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Inspired by a Zentangle

Do you remember my post on Zentangles? Well, I decided to do an art quilt of one of my zentangles. I thought it would be really nice to do a piece in just black and white...or as it turns out....a creamy white and black. It will be a piece that is not as large as one of my wall quilts but more of a picture size that you could hang on the wall. When it's completed, I plan to have it stretched and framed just like a painting.

Fabric selections for the Zentangle Piece

Pattern for the piece

Some completed sections

Thought you might also be interested in the finished and framed Day Lily painting I was busy with.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Canoe Trip Sketches

Well, it has been almost a month since I put something down on these pages. That is not because I haven't been creating, however. The day after my last blog, we went on a 4 day canoe trip with 10 women into the interior of Algonquin Provincial Park. What a wonderful time we had! To commemorate that time, I spent this month doing sketches from some of my on location sketches and also from some of the photographs we brought back. The sketches were done on watercolour paper with a fine liner and watercolour pencils, which were easier to take along on a canoe trip than watercolour paint. I will give one to each of the women who were on the trip as a reminder of what a great time we had. I'm also thinking of using one of these sketches to make my Summer Art Quilt. Does anyone have any suggestions as to which one?

Joe Lake

Burnt Island Lake

Bartlett Lake

East Arm

Tom Thomson Lake

Tom Thomson Lake

East Arm

Willow Lake

Canoe Lake