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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Gaining Inspiration from a Good Read

I was given an art book by my brother-in-law that had me intrigued. It is called "Painting the Ontario Landscape" and is written by artist Jane Champagne. Jane was born in Toronto in 1930 and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Toronto.

Jane was a "plein air" painter meaning she painted outside on location. She loved to paint the Ontario Landscape especially and she painted primarily with watercolour.

I am an artist who believes there is beauty to be found wherever you are and you don't have to fly to exotic destinations to find it. I also love our Canadian landscape and Ontario has such a variety. I have done numerous sketches and paintings of this landscape but mostly from photos I have taken. I am interested in what Jane has to say about "plain air" painting.

Here's a little excerpt from her book. It really speaks to me.

"It is, as the environmentalists say, the 'primary experience' that counts. For the painter and consequently, for the viewer. Primary experience? Yes. What happens when you get out of your car, stretch, look around, and see, really see, what you're looking at, a landscape stretching out limitlessly, there, bright or overcast, the smell of the fields, trees, the hot earth or cold snow, the feel of the breeze against your face and hair...the total, sensuous, breathtaking experience of being in the middle of a never-painted vista, at a country-dusty crossroads or by a limpid pond, surrounded by autumn colour, or anchored in an escarpment snowdrift, ready to capture on paper in a way that no one else can... that wondrous first impression.
That's what you're after. You look forward to living the experience fully -- and you want other people to see what you're looking at, grasp it, feel the elation, love it, cherish and want to keep whole this piece of earth, this corner of Ontario that next month may be paved, subdivided, turned into a dump, or otherwise taken from you."

I feel like this urge lives inside of me sometimes. I just want to get out there! I just don't, at the moment, have the luxury of dropping everything and escaping outdoors with my art gear.

Currently, I am on vacation in Ontario's North Country and am trying to accomplish that "primary experience". My art gear is here with me and I am doing my best to use it to capture my surroundings.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Sun Printing Continued

Last Friday started out cloudy and cool but by 3:00 pm the sun was intermittently shining between fluffy white clouds. So I decided to try the sun printing. Working quickly, I saturated a few pieces of fabric with dye solution and brought them outside. Because it was windy, I had to utilize a couple of pieces of glass to sandwich my fabric and toppings in between so they wouldn't blow away.
As I was beginning on the second piece of fabric, the sun was already starting to develop the dye in the first one. It had begun to turn pink and then purple and the longer the fabric was exposed to the sun the darker it became. It was really neat to watch.
On the first piece I placed buttons and safety pins, the second piece was covered with feathers and the third with plant material.
You can see that the top left was placed first by the
different grades of colour on each piece.
 I did three sets of fabric that took me about 1.5 hours to develop.

Plant material

Lace, stencils, string
Once the fabric was developed well enough the glass top was removed as well as the toppings of plant material, lace, buttons etc. The fabric was taken out of the sun and placed in the washer and washed to remove the left over unexposed dye and set the dye in the fibers. As you can see below the finished colour is blue.

Most of the toppings worked well. The feathers didn't work.
I think this was due to the fact that the feathers were not flat
against the fabric and didn't block the sun's rays effectively.

 I love the designs the plants left behind. I learned that if the plants are moved during the development stage you get little shadow-like shapes. I kind of like that effect. I will most certainly try this technique again.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Sun-inspired Fabric Printing

For a long time I have wanted to try "Cyanotype printing". This is a method of printing or dying fabric with sunlight. The effect is quite unique and I think it would be a really interesting background for some of my fabric cards.
I found some of the dye chemical in an art store not long ago and it looked like an easy, mess-free way to try this method. The brand of dye I bought is called Inkodye and is a water-based formula, designed for household use. What I liked about it was that it doesn't use PVC, toxic solvents, iron or silver in its formula.
Basically, Inkodye is a range of mixable, water-based photosensitive dyes that develops when exposed to the sun.
So, naturally, I needed a sunny day to do this. This method works best on natural fabric such as cotton so I prepared some white cotton I had by washing it in a soda ash bath which helps to accept the dye and bind it to the fibers of the fabric.
Then I gathered some items that I could place on the fabric which is saturated with dye solution. These items include feathers, plant material, buttons, ribbon - anything that can be laid across the fabric to create a shadow. Where the items cover the fabric, the sun cannot expose the dye so those areas remain the colour of the original fabric.

Much to my dismay, the sun has disappeared and I am not able to try my sun printing today. Hopefully, tomorrow will be sunnier and I can try it then. Stay tuned for the results of my experiment.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Passing on Inspiration

My children and grandchildren all know that my studio is never off-limits. I love to have company in there and I love them all to take an interest in what I do in there. My grandchildren have a special drawer in the studio that holds their paper, paint, playdoh, markers, craft items. I will soon have to give them another drawer because this one is overflowing. I also have an easel set up for them so they can paint and this is what they most love to do when they visit me.

I love the carefree way they paint. They don't worry about which colours look well together. They just plaster the paint on the paper. Sometimes the paintings end up rather dark and muddy but most times they are colourful and playful. I love to photograph their paintings and use the computer to print the designs on fabric or I will cut the paintings and use them as background in the journals I am making for them.

When they join me in the studio, there is stuff everywhere and paint in places it shouldn't be but we have a great time. It is amazing that they often inspire me!

I am introducing them to creativity and I hope they will continue to be creative throughout their lives. They are still very young but I can't wait until I can teach them to draw and sketch.