Archive for the ‘Artsy Craftsy’ Category

Thoughts from some meditative knitting…

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

In between the work I have to do today, I have been knitting a few stitches here and there on a scarf that I have knit a time or eight before, the Traveling Woman, by Liz Abinante. I don’t know what it is about this pattern, but there is something very soothing about knitting it that turns me toward total relaxation. My brain engages, but it isn’t terribly complex. There is a palpable rhythm to it that is pleasing and brings calm. As I said, I have knit it eight times before.

The one I am currently knitting is from some of my early handspun. I had been spinning a few months when I went to  a week-long retreat with Judith MacKenzie (Judith’s bio from one of her teaching gigs). It was at this retreat that I was first exposed to drum carding as a means of blending fibers to spin more unique yarns. I carded up several small batches from the fibers available to us, and got to spinning. I was pleased to be learning new things and delighted with the yarn I had made.

now that I am knitting with it, more than a year later, let me say, this particular yarn is crap. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine blend of lovely merino and mohair and some silk and who knows what other luxurious fibers. but my spinning is total crap. It could be equally true that my first attempts at carding were crap. Yet I continue to knit with it because I can feel myself learning something. Whether I am learning about the feel of fiber too tightly spun or plied, or the optical blending of color and how that is successful or not for various reasons, or that it is sometimes not possible to count past five, I can’t say. but I am learning something, that much is clear.

Whether I am learning something about my spinning or my knitting, I can’t quite grasp. But it is very likely something about both of these, and how they can and do work together. As I knit, the pattern is totally familiar in a muscle memory sort of fashion. just another layer of soothing going on during the process. The thought that continually comes to the forefront of my brain is that it is time to again read The Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice, by Susan Gordon Lydon. It’s a book that will have something new to tell me each time I read it.

SS week 2001 loresAlso going on around these parts, is some sketching. I am taking an online class called Sketchbook Skool. Totally worth the time and dollars. I can’t speak highly enough about it and I feel that there is something there for everyone.  I learned about it because I follow Danny Gregory’s blog  (linked right) and decided to jump in. the next semester begins in July and there is room enough for everyone, so c’mon…let’s do this! This spread was done a few weeks ago at Barnaby’s. The first semester group has well over 1000 people enrolled and there is a range of abilities from beginner to expert. There is a classroom and fb group to post work in and discuss (or not, no pressure), and plenty of people beyond the instructors to learn from. The art that is being made in sketchbooks globally is something pretty amazing to be a part of via this class.

Okay, enough jabbering on. I feel like there is more to say, but I also feel the grasp I have on exactly what is slipping away. More soon…


Gratitude Project progress

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

russiandolls005I have been working on some of my gratitude projects. I have 10 this year, five from an offer I made via fb, anf 5 via an offer I accepted from my neice (also via fb and a slightly different offer. Technically I only had 4 responses to the first offer, so I went and chose a fifth to be grateful for. I will do much the same for the second offer, given that ir received no response, but I can certainly find gratitude for five more peeps.

I can’t say that this is the beginning of one of those projects because I just don’t know yet. My dear wife was recently in Chicago without me and since he had been to Knot Just Knits on our previous visit to Oak Park, she knew exactly where to go to soothe her loneliness. She bought me the kit for Leftie which included a base yarn and an assortment pack of leaf colors and the pattern. I got the pattern delivered via email as soon as she bought it. I can imagine the conversation:

E: Hi! I want to get my wife a present because she couldn’t come with me on this trip and I mimss her terribly and she is a knitter and will love this!
Clerk: What does she like to knit?

E: yarn!
Clerk: okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay…what colors does she like?

E: yes! she likes colors…

The conversation I imagine just goes on and on, and really, E should just give the clerk a dollar amount and tell her to pick a project out.

russiandolls004I also got this lovely Russian doll box style project bag. It all fits nice and neat insode and I have been a good girl about putting it away when i am done for the night because we have more than one dog (umm, three) with a history of hosting yarn parties. It’s great stuff and I am sure they just can’t help themselves.

So I will be knitting away on the Leftie shawl (so named for its fun use of leftovers, not for left-handedness, which I posess) and see where it ends up, whether as a keeper or a gifter.


Fundraiser art

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

adogandhisbone004My friend Patti Digh announced a fundraiser for the Richmond Animal League because her friend Amy McCracken asked for her help. She is doing this for her friend, I am doing this for my friend…who knows why my brain makes the connections it does, but it did, and I emailed to be included and forgot about it. I know instantly I would use this photo of my dad from the collection I have, but then I pretty much forgot about it.

Soon enough, the small five inch canvas came in the mail and I left it on my desk so I wouldn’t forget it, and promptly forgot about it. Sometimes I think I work better under the gun, but I wanted to give this more time than I did. I wanted to make a little rubber stamp of a bone to embellish this further. I wanted to seal some mini milkbones (the one inch ones) with something and glue them around the edge to make a frame. All in all, I am pleased with what I did, and like all the pieces I have made using my dad’s images, I want to keep it, but it is off in the mail, scheduled to arrive before deadline.

I reason with myself that I don’t have to keep these pieces because I can recreate them, but I never do. I consider it lucky when I remember to at the very least take a photograph to securely file away, but even on this piece I forgot that, but remembered to scan it before sealing it away in it’s package. I hope Arnold is amused.

Etsy store, coming soon, and other stuff…

Friday, July 12th, 2013

I was all set to post, and got distracted by a blurb in the latest Food & Wine magazine about Shrubs. I have added a link on the sidebar to a now defunct blog about them so I can read more, and so can you if you are so inclined.

One such previous recent distraction was breaking Wilton’s icing food color when dyeing fiber. In this case, wool and mohair were my victims. Digital StillCameraI started with the Wilton’s purple. The fiber on the left is Gulf coast Native from a fleece I got earlier this year. The fiber on the right is Pin drafted lamb’s wool roving from Catawampus Farms in Maine.

The underside of the fleece has more of the pink and is somewhat darker as it was at the bottom of the pot. I find it interesting that this totally broke, as in there was no dye left in the pot and there is no purple in this fiber anywhere. The dye breaking is a result of the different base colors absorbing at different rates and has little if anything to do with the fiber used. The blue roving took the dye more consistently and it could be that I have some lanolin left on the fleece I processed which is acting as a resist.

Digital StillCameraI was going to wait to try the second experiment, but the first one only took about 20 minutes, so I went on. This is the Wilton’s delphinium blue. The fiber on the left is the same roving as above (a different batch of it) as is the fiber on the right the same fleece (again different amount). In the middle is a sample I got of some  grey mohair. The color of the two wools seems pretty spot on, much more intense then the first effort, likely because I added more dye this time. The purple that resulted on the roving(this time at the bottom of the pot) is interesting since none showed up from the dye that actually was purple. The color of the mohair in reality, is more green-bordering-on-teal than it appears in this photo. I am going to spin some of this up this weekend and see what happens. Stay tuned for that. (I know, you really can’t wait…)

So the etsy store…We have been talking about it forever and in a recent conversation with Weese and MAW via skype, we were pushed over the edge to get it together somehow. LilliMins Artopia will be up and running before the end of the weekend. Elizabeth and I will both be contributing to this effort with our various artistic pursuits. There will be paintings, various mixed media pieces and of course, knitting, weaving, and all sorts of fiber craft stuff. Please, check us out!

Lilli, it’s time for your closeup…

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

The second session of my painting workshop started last week and as part of forcing myself to show up and just do it, I am blogging about it. It adds a layer of accountability that really pushed me forward in some way. If you read any of my previous posts about it, you’ll know I don’t in any way consider myself a painter. My day job is not going anywhere.

Last week was all about finding a devotion in the mix of it all. It seems like authenticity and equanimity seem to be the current recurring themes in my life so rather than fight it, I squoze out some paint and jumped in the deep end.

This is a pretty crappy picture. I don’t know why I have such a hard time with an autofocus camera. My first pass at this was just swiping some color on the page.  If I remember correctly, it’s 28×40. That’s a lot of color swiping. Pink, lime green, grape and yellow. I am not sure why those colors, I just went with what seemed to grab me.

The next morning, I was walking by and saw the swirly arms of a starfish, so I picked up the jumbo Sharpie paint pen and just drew it in before I walked out the door. I think it was a day or so later that I got to painting again and defined the star a little further with the butter color and embellished with the burnt umber and turquoise.

When my energy strayed from the painting, I tried to nudge it back and made an effort to remain present. I wanted to be equanimous about using all of the pain I squoze out. I didn’t want to favor one color over another. I then was also equanimous in not making any judgements about what or why this painting is, but rather thinking that it just is…

This week we were challenged to play. Here’s where Lilli Munster rocks the house.

I think Lilli was less than a year old in this picture, but she remains pretty much unchanged at six. She gets a short hair cut about every 3 months to not become a matted mess because princess that she is, she’s not having any part of the grooming required for her to have long silky Yorkie hair.

As I got ready to paint last night, she was scratching at my leg for some mamaa time. I picked her up but she was restless so I gave her a treat and she settled down for her portrait, facing away from me, of course.

Meet Muppet Lilli Munster. Elizabeth declared that it shall be framed and installed over the toilet in the main bathroom. It’s cracking her up that any male guests we have over will have her staring at them when they pee. I think she looks none too pleased.

Still painting FEARLESSly…

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

This is the last painting for my BIG class. class is officially over, but I am not quite done with this painting. For the final installment we were challenged to paint creative juicy BIG by taping 4 of our regular BIG papers together. I jumped right in.

Meet Max. He is my grandfather and he died while my mom was pregnant with me. Max and Anna came to the US in the 1920s from Poland if I have the story right. The only thing I have of him is a pocket watch that doesn’t keep time. I am sure I could have it restored, but I am not ready to part with it yet so it sits either on my bedside table or sometimes in my pocket. I go for long stretches of time where I just put it in my pocket when I get dressed in the morning without any formal thought, just as if it were something I did every day, or as if it actually kept time in a useful manner.

Besided the watch, a have about a dozen pictures my dad took of Max in the 50s. In almost all of them, Max is standing holding the day’s catch, most off a large flounder (or some other large flat fish). In one of them my grandmother is holding up a tape measure that is at least 3 feet long, maybe longer. When I started to paint this, it was from the memory of the photos.

One of these days I will figure out why the automatic setting on my camera doesn’t take a good picture. I take full responsibility in this and I am not at all blaming the camera. This is a camera my dad used a lot in his final years and he took awesome pictures with it. Much in the same way I am not a painter, I am not a photographer and I usually leave that to Elizabeth because she takes some groovy awesome pictures. I know my artistic strengths lie elsewhere. but for the purposes of blogging or sharing online, my crappy pictures will do just fine.

This painting is 58×80. If that is creative juicy BIG, I don’t know what is. I am not sure
Max is a finished painting, but I might be finished with Max. The point of the class is painting for process, not product, and since this painting isn’t going anywhere beyond maybe the garage wall, I might just call it finished. I don’t want to sell myself short and not finished, but I might rather get on with it and be painting something else. Maybe. I will knit a few more rows and ponder…

In other artsy news, I have started keeping a sketch book on my desk at work and am trying to do a page a day. I might post those here and I might not. What would the world do without these updates?

let’s pretend we can draw…

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Yesterday, I went to Dr Sketchy. I had read about it not too long ago, and when Kat asked if we wanted to go, I said yes right away. June was a knitting theme and I figured I could knit if the drawing wasn’t quite working out. Elizabeth went too, and we had a fun time. There was a variety of timed poses from 2 to thirty minutes and a few short breaks here and there. I didn’t think we would stay the entire time, but the time passed rather quickly and all of a sudden the last pose was being announced.

This was my first time at any sort of legitimate life drawing class. I have only been attempting to draw in the last year and I enjoy relaxing into it. We got there a little late and the tables (which were small) were all taken. The sketch book I brought was too heavy for me to work without it distracting me, but I might sorta actually like this effort. I also had my Moleskine watercolor journal with me and did a few in there.

After Dr Sketchy, we went to Brasil for dinner. I am addicted to their spinach couscous salad. Yes. Spinach. Who knew? There is spinach and couscous, of course, some feta, sundried tomato, marinated artichoke hearts and toasted sliced almonds. Yes, I am going to try recreating this at home, and I even think it will be a pretty easy task.

continuing on a theme…

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

I was really curious about the water connection. The memory painting which is crap, leading to the lighthouse painting which I like well enough to put up out in the studio. Why so BIG? What inspired taping two sheets together? Should I really put it into the Big Show?

I decided to not enter it for a couple of reasons. Getting it there will be a challenge. I don’t want the boy (22) to feel obligated to say yes, and I know that going across town in a different direction than work or school, and from necessity, it would be on the way  (but not at all on the way) to one of those. I also know that if I get it ready to  hang, my friend who I know would do it, would not fit it in her car thus leading to someone else’s stress…it just isn’t meant to be at this time. The idea of it was enough fun, and I know that my decision to not enter it has nothing to do with the gremlin, and nothing to do with being tied to an idea of validation (or fear of no validation if the piece wasn’t chosen). I like it and that is all that matters really.

But as curiosity has it, there was another water painting floating in my path. The water is red…red…red…or at least red is what I am seeing…

I put out five different reds, well one was really magenta and one was really orange…I slopped it all up there and got to blending again with the brush and the spray bottle. What tells me to do that? Why 2 pieces taped together?  The background blending on that size is exhausting but on the bright side, calories are burned!!

I had a fan going because it was early in the day and a little warm in the house, but that was making the paint dry faster, and blending just a little more challenging, but it was a background and I could feel myself just not caring, but rather doing.

I was tempted to paint this as an inverse of the lighthouse painting, but then all of a sudden before I could be curious about that, red (in my brain) started giving way for lily pads and lotuses. Frogs, too, but I decided to not add frogs.

I was very tempted to google lily pad images, but I didn’t let myself do that. I just got out some greens and went at it. Heartlike and not heartlike was what I kept thinking. I really wanted to have a lot more lily pads, and have them all overlapping each other, but I didn’t want to lose the red so I stopped. If the label said green it was on my palette. At first I rinsed my brush between colors, but then I said fuck that…it’s all green…what’s it gonna hurt? Nothing…process…not product…just do it…

So I was off and painting my lily pads and started thinking about lotus flowers. I am never going to be able to paint those…maybe just one or two as highlights here and there at random. Right. And maybe a frog while you are at it. I was saved from the frog today in chat. That is what I drew for my exercise and boy do I embrace it’s suckiness. I love it because i learned to not care, but also because I used the oil pastels again. Still have no idea what to really do with them, but I like how smooth they are and will use them more in my sketch book.

Using them in the exercise inspired me to se them on the painting. I went and used a purple one to line all the red swipes in the red water, and then I used them to draw the flower petals inside my blob of a lotus flower.

I stepped back from it , tripping over the dog laying on the floor behind me (nice save on my part, no injury) and I heard someone mentioning they wanted something sparkly on their painting. I thought about nail polish, but that was more work than I wanted to do. Then I took the copper paint I had and mixed in some yellow. Id I was in my art journal, I would get out the gold paint pen and line some stuff with it. I found a smaller brush and added some dots and slashes of gold and voila, again I am liking the painting.

BIG x2

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011
The following is an excerpt from a class blog I did from my FEARLESS painting class.
I got curious about my painting from week two. Water was flooding my consciousness so much so that  I could have drowned in the possibility of it. Then this song started playing in my head. It was stuck there and needed an exorcism. Honestly, The Water by Feist plays in my head a lot. I have listened to that cd obsessively and I always end up back there when I am feeling somewhat introspective. So I set up the painting area and queued it up on iTunes.  I  needed to get the water out of my head.

First there was a watery background layer to contend with. I squoze out some of all the blues I have and set to it. Actually, first I was compelled to tape two pieces of paper together and honestly I didn’t question it. I just did it. I was being FEARLESS!

So the blues were out there and I got the brush slinging paint up onto the paper. Just big splotches of blue all over. This is going to take forever, I thought, then I thought for a minute howI have been dipping into the water when I want to fill an area and had an idea. I went and got my water spray bottle I use when I cut hair and once I got a lot of paint up there, I proceeded with the spray bottle in my right hand and paint brush in my left. At this time, the roofing was pretty furious and I was actually starting to feel the banging in my chest in a manic and furious sort of way. Tension was building and the white paper was disappearing. As the last bit of white was gone, so was the mania. I went and got a big glass of water and sat down at the computer to do some work. My painting, at this point, needed to dry.

The song is still looping in my head and I always get stuck on the lyric about the light in the house keeping the harbor safe. So lighthouse, here we come. I was painting and not stopping to think about it, just letting it out onto the paper. There was a lot of freedom in it, and notonce did I think about is this right? Will I ruin it? For me, that is bigger than BIG, it’s huge.

After the lighthouse dried, I wanted to see some movement in the water. I wanted it splashy and juicy. but I didn’t really know how to do that, so I pretended. The result isn’t quite what I was looking for, but I am pleased with it.

Elizabeth suggested entering it into the Big Show. It’s a juried show for artists within 100 miles of Houston and the Lawndale Art Center hosts it every year. for $30, you can enter up to three pieces. They are rather particular about the rules and we are out of town on the drop off days. If Thomas can drop it off for me, I am going to enter. The other requirement is that it be ready to hang. I am not about to spend the dollars required to frame this in a conventional manner, but we will go to Lowes tonight to look at some plywood veneer and plexiglass and see if it is doable. The coincidence of the class being called BIG and the show being the Big Show is too serendipitous for me to resist. I try to listen when the Universe speaks.

Plodding on FEARLESSly

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

This is how it started out. I was really just trying to get paint onto the page and not think too much. I decided to limit myself to three colors and I do love me some pink and orange. I was going to go with lime for the third, but then the yellow caught my eye.

I was feeling I might need to don my sunglasses, and then the idea of ocean waves hit me so I painted on a few…okay, it was working so I added a few more…they were a turquoise sort of color and really, I should have kept it to the minimum. It was all starting to look a little barf cam-y…If we’re ruining, lets commit to ruining and go all the way.

Since I didn’t like it anymore, I painted three heavy dark blue bars down the length of  the paper. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I added three horizontal bars across the paper. At that point it was time to get in the car and drive to Kathy’s house for some pool time with the fam and steaks on the grill. I figured I would get back to it later, or declare it dead and finished.

Later turned into the next day and I got the idea to paint poppies. Connie keeps telling us there are no mistakes, so I painted the poppy outlines with a dark purple matte color. They look black, but they aren’t. Dark purple baby…and then I thought about the poppies and painted them a mixture of three different reds I have. Three. I have three reds! Who knew?

I am totally digging my finished poppy painting. What does one do with something like this when one is digging it? Add it to the less than digging it pile, because it’s all about the process so there is only one pile…I will likely make journals out of the papers once class is done, but this one might be used for covers…or it might have some as yet undecided fate…

It’s all good…