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Posts from the ‘Artwork’ Category

Serious Series Work

What did you do last summer? Always a good essay for back to school and I still think of summer as time off and September as the start of the working year–even though it has been a few years since I have been in school. And now we can add—what have you done during the pandemic to stay creatively active and to survive the isolation?

After the initial random restlessness of figuring out what I could/should be doing combined with a canceled long anticipated surgery to repair my back, I hung around the internet scanning for something interesting. Besides the new challenge of figuring out what we would have for supper and what series we would watch on Netflix, I decided I would clean up my photo site, revamp my website, and learn more about blogging. I wanted to do a series of ‘something’ but could not really settle on anything. In the past, I had put together a series of farm buildings–barn, milk-house, grainery, corn crib, farm-house, windmill—and that was absorbing–and fun.

My blog is still what it is. And my website is still not up-dated. I’ve done half of the lessons in WordPress and worked on re-organizing my photos—i have a lot—so many!  I’ve tried setting up schedules for the mundane in my life–cleaning the kitchen, workouts at the gym, art time–and so forth but it quickly falls to the wayside as someone calls me and asks me to work somewhere or it is raining that day and I can’t mow or it isn’t raining and so a good day to mow. And then there was the endless search for vaccinations coupled with the challenges of weather–floods, winds, and our big freeze a couple of months ago.

But all of that is not particularly news-worthy or interesting–other than as a historical notation.

I have always kept a file of images that appeal to me–color, shapes, lines, repetition–and now they mostly live on my photo site–but privately held as they are not meant to be good photos–but inspirational. My first series was farm buildings based on my photographs—finding an old fashioned corn-crib meant driving around rural Wisconsin and stopping at a farm, chatting with the farmer who gave permission for photography. While  I’ve worked on some pieces that I would consider sequential—a study of color or design and composition exercises, the next real series was the Stations of the Cross.

 

After completing a big project, there is always a sense of restlessness—wondering what should come next–a time of being not focused but aimless…..until the next challenge or inspiration occurs.

While I am waiting for that to happen, I can sort through more photos–do I really need ten photos of azaleas? I can sort through my sketchbooks, put bindings on quilts, and if really desperate–clean the kitchen and do the laundry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

farm buildings

Stations of the Cross

This project was challenging both in content and time. The call for the artwork to be organized into a virtual gallery gave me not much more than three weeks to complete the work.

I don’t work fast and usually I work on just one piece at a time until it is complete. This series seemed to need all fourteen pieces worked on nearly simultaneously—as well as the time frame crunch.

I used a somber palette of cream, brown, and black with just a few colors in three pieces. The subject matter is somber and calling for reflection. When I had finished them, the series did not seem complete and so like many other artists, I added a Fifteenth piece Risen.

The pieces are mounted on 11 by 14 stretched canvas panels and are accompanied by some thoughts I had about each Station. A small booklet will be available sometime in the future but in the meantime here is the link to the gallery for your perusal and consideration.

https://www.smugmug.com/app/organize/Art/Stations-of-the-Cross

Series Work Continued

Working on this particular series has been an incredibly intense. It has been a time of self doubt, of wondering if I am not just up to the task, can I complete it, are my skills enough to do what I envision.

Working on so many pieces at one time presents its own set of challenges; the number seemed impossibly un-do-able.

Here is a view of my design wall about half way through the project.

Please note the mis-spelling of the word ‘naked’. All the pieces were complete, I had photographed them all, cropped them to size and then realized–one night while lying awake in bed thinking of what to do with these pieces—I realized the error.

I was able to fix the error and re-photograph.

I also made a cover page; struggled to do the copyright verbage finally copying it from a book by another artist.

Today I collated all the photos, the verbage on a thumb drive—it will be heading to the printer tomorrow. The folks there are magical and are able to put together my photos and words and make me look so elegant.

Last year at this time I was finishing up my book honoring my mother-in-law and her imagined pet armadillo that lived in her closet. This year—the Stations of the Cross.

Both efforts have required thought, and considerable anxiety—but now the work is done. The pieces are intended to be mounted gallery style on stretched canvases but until there is a place for them to be shown other than on my website, they will remain flat as you see them above.

Later this week, I’ll post the entire series. Maundy Thursday is two days away—an appropriate time to start.

More photos of my working process are here on Smugmug;https://www.smugmug.com/app/organize/Art/Working-in-a-series-July

Working on a Series

I am still working away on the Stations of the Cross. I tend to work on one piece until it is completed to my satisfaction but with a series like this, I think it better to work on each piece and then rework or add or subtract as needed for coherence, I don’t really like to show pieces until they are completed and ready for display but I thought I would discuss my manner of working.

There has been some controversy over pieces made that are essentially a copy of a famous painting. This might be considered part of art history tradition as learning occurs when studying and copying a previous work; it might be considered laziness in not taking the time to develop a composition; it might be a homage to previous artists; or it might be copyright infringement. While it is probably true there is little that is new, still each artist brings their own life experiences into each piece—if they are confident and dare to do so.

My work is based on my photographs; although I have used two others–one by my daughter-in-law and the other by my niece—of family members. I usually find a model to pose for me; sometimes a friend’s family member, sometimes one of mine, and sometimes I mine my store of photographs I have taken over the years. But this series required a specific set of photographs. With the pandemic in full swing, vaccines still a rare commodity and contemplating the series, I chose to use my hands.

This was not an easy process. Taking a photo of my left hand was easy enough, but the right hand was a bit more challenging. I set up the camera with the viewfinder facing me, set a piece of foam board on my chair, positioned my hand and pressed the button; repeated for the other hand.

Here are a few shots:

this is my working area
not so easy to take a photo of your right hand
converted to black and white image in photoshop elements
reference photo on the left and drawing on the right
this is where I write about my concept for the series and yes it is in my sketchbook. it took me several years to realize I could write in my sketchbook as well as draw.

Next I download the photos, do some cropping in Photoshop Elements, convert to black and white, posterize and use a filter–usually either graphic pen or stamp (thanks to PIxelladies for their class in teaching me how to do this), I print the image, trace around the image with my pencil or pen and then draw the image in my sketchbook. This image is traced onto tracing paper and then transferred to a stable applique substrate with the markings of the fingers noted on the back.

I choose the fabric—for this particular series all the fabric has been dyed with various wood sawdust from a generous wood-turner. The raw edges are turned under, the markings of the fingers transferred by hand embroidery to the front; finally the piece is placed on the background and machine stitching to emphasize the creases and skin lines.

Now all of this is fairly technical and maybe your eyes are glazing over at this point—-but I am still working away at this project; tomorrow will be an overall view of all fourteen pieces in their current status at the end of today.

Series No 2

Developing thought processes and imagery for a series like this seems to be a hodge-podge of ideas and thoughts. I had no particular order in which I thought about the various pieces. Using a way to illustrate them in a new and different manner without being quite literal is a challenge. I’m not sure my pieces qualify.

I worked on No. 13 next–this is the one in which Jesus dies. The curtain in the temple is ripped apart symbolizing no longer a separation between man and God. Most of the imagery I could find for this station was both macabre and gruesome. I decided to focus on the curtain ripping—I wasn’t sure how I could depict an earthquake or the sun turning dark.

The curtains in the temple must have been gorgeous pieces of artistry. The people were asked to donate purple, blue, and scarlet threads for embroidery on the fine linen background. Seraphim were embroidered on these curtains with these beautiful fibers. I doubt there was a lovely crocheted edging but I imagined these curtains as being finely crafted gorgeous pieces; the altar society which cares for the church linens in our times would have been aghast at their destruction.

no 13 cropped

This linen from my mother-in-law’s closet was embellished with threads and the two seraphim–they have six wings. After embroidery, I tore the fabric roughly down the center and stitched it to the background.

As in the first piece, it has not been mounted–in case I decide to add or alter something after I complete all fourteen pieces.

station no 13 Jesus dies

Serious Series Work

About a month ago, a call from Webster Presbyterian Church was issued for a virtual Fourteen Stations of the Cross. The church has a beautiful space for exhibiting art and I have had two pieces in two different shows there. I was surprised to read about this particular call as it seems more in keeping with the Catholic faith but it did sound intriguing

My first step was to do research on the various interpretations. Webster kindly provided links to two disparate collections–one from the Smithsonian Art Museum featuring a variety of artists, media, cultures, and time periods. The other featured a series by Barnett Newman, all very abstract but contemplative. Since most churches are closed to limited visitors, I knew there was an outdoor example at St. Anthony’s Cathedral here in Beaumont.

I re-read the stories, studied the various interpretations and began to design my series.

Posting the beginning of a series is a scary thing—will I finish it? is my work good enough? Will the work meet my vision? And will I finish?

And so here is my start.

Fiber and fabric and thread and stitches are my media of choice. I chose a set of fabrics I had dyed using walnut husks collected from my farm in Wisconsin along with samples of fabrics dyed with sawdust generously contributed by a friend who was a wood-turner.

Usually I find a model, do photographs and then do my drawings, convert them into thread and fabric. But the pandemic limited my access to models–no doubt college students in the art department could be convinced into a few photographs—or some of my friends—but knocking on doors and standing outside to take a few photos of their hands seemed rather rude and just not right.

Then I read the story again in each of the four gospels and began to wonder if the behavior exhibited by each person was a part of my persona—and so I am using my own hands as the models for my work.

This is not so easy—as taking a photo of the right hand while holding a camera steady and pressing the button is awkward at best—but the photos do not have to be wonderful to work.

Over the next few days I’ll be considerably less wordy and show my progress as I go.

Here is the start of No. 1. This is the Garden of Gethsemane. The background fabric had the faint image of what appeared to be a figure kneeling.

faint image of kneeling praying

I use a fine wale corduroy as a stabilizer for my stitching; and here is the figure emphasized by an outline from the back.

sitching kneeling

Next I added the trees. These are cut from black cotton organdy backed with a fusible.

adding trees

The trees were stitched down and some hand embroidery added to the figure. The piece is not mounted yet and so I will have some time to consider adding more embroidery to emphasize the figure.

But I must keep moving. Thirteen pieces remain for inspiration and implementation.

Bella and Biscuit

Last November, I spent a weekend in Longview doing disability exams for Social Security. The days are very long and hard—with applicants scheduled every fifteen minutes. In that time I am expected to review medical records, do a brief history and physical exam, document in writing and dictation the results addressing each of their medical problems. Some are there looking for a handout while others are in desperate straits—some by their own doings; others by misfortune.

The pandemic was still in full swing; the hotel offered no dining capabilities and even the vending machine was nearly empty.

The owner of the clinic where the exams were conducted owned two dogs–both rescues. One was named Biscuit–obvious from the color of her fur and the other was Bella, a rambunctious puppy of just 14 months. Biscuit spent much of the time I was sitting to review records and dictate with her chin on my knee looking up at me; while Bella when she had a chance would take a flying leap and land all 80 plus pounds of herself in my lap. The owner kept apologizing but for me it was much like the come-back party for the Neonatial Intensive Care Unit I attended one Christmas as a resident—the children were squealing, laughing, throwing cake, spilling punch–and in gneneral being active busy two and three year olds—a far cry from the tiny helpless infants lying on the Ohio beds with tubes and oxygen.

Bella and Biscuit made those two very long days tolerable.

In appreciation, I made two artwork pieces. The bases were a fine cotton embroidered towel from my mother-in-law’s linen closet,

Here are Biscuit and Bella

I converted them to black and white in Elements.

I selected fabrics, appliqued with needle turn applique on two matching tea towels.

They are presented on stretcher bars 11 by 18 inches. I mount the artwork on a larger piece of fabric usually either black or cream colored linen and put a piece of archival foam core behind the artwork.

It was a fun project. Using linens as a background has proven to be both challenging and inspiring. The quality of these linens is wonderful and it is a joy to work with such fine fabrics.

Not staying busy

I’d like to say I have taken advantage of this pandemic and the stay at home (mostly) recommendations and produced gobs of new work to dazzle everyone.

But I haven’t.

What I have done is quilted all the tops and bound nearly all of them–just two left to bind–and one new one on the frame now.

I have kept up with the Quilt Show’s Block of the Month until October when I just could not get to Kinko’s to enlarge the applique pattern for the month (just two and I didn’t want to go to a store for just two) and then November and suddenly they released all the remaining blocks and I had TWELVE to do. Off to Kinko’s I went; enlarged the blocks—I have not mastered sizing on my printer–easy at Kinkos and their copiers and less than $2 to do so for all twelve.

and then there was a project I took on as a thank you to some folks who were so generous and kind to me while working out of town—I’ll post more about that much later, when I get them done—-but for now, here are those blocks ready for hand-stitching.

Journaling

There is a large stack of covered marble notebooks behind my desk; and a stack of sketchbooks on another shelf. Then there is a pile of patterns for my artwork along with more covered marble notebooks containing notes from workshops and my working through some of the composition/construction/color challenges of both my artwork and what the weaving instructor called ‘utiliarian’ pieces.

And now there is a very small stack of hand-made books on another set of shelves in my sewing room—I refuse to call it a studio—that sounds pretentious and suggests a level of accomplishment not allowing failure.

In the past, I made several fiber books–and those were fun. Several were projects made in a round robin fashion with each person adding to the story and the accompanying illustration. But these are books made of paper with signatures and end-papers.

I have had to learn new vocabulary words along with new technical terms and doings. I have learned a lot along the way, some by doing, others by reading and looking and following the excellent instructions by an expert. The group on social media has been very generous in their praise of my work–humble as it is.

And now, I have blathered on long enough. Here is my hand-made journal.

the cover is a paper towel used to clean brushes in a workshop
and the end paper is marbled paper from another workshop in the distant past

Have I written in any of my books?

No, I still use a covered marble notebook to write about the past day and plan the next day or three.

Waiting with Bated Breath

I am sure everyone is eager to see the results of my batik experiment.

I used one of the tjaps I bought several years ago and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to use. I thought the handle would get hot and I would need a hot pad to hold it—also that one dip in the wax would yield just one print—but I could get four out of each dip. I already knew I had to let the tjap sit in the hot wax for awhile to be hot enough to hold onto the wax and not just have the wax coat the tjap.

Getting the wax out is always a challenge but I put all the fabrics into a large dye pot, add some detergent and boil away for an hour or more—then put it in my washing machine with more detergent and two rinses.

The dye I used was quite old and had been through several seasons of hot and cold—and so I was surprised to see my results.

This is the hemp/cotton blend. This fabric is really nice to work it–it is crisp yet soft.

The next piece is the hemp/silk piece. This is glossy on one side and matte on the other. I haven’t worked with any of it yet but it promises to be equally lovely.

And then here is pure silk.

and finally here is just hemp. This is a coarse weave that raveled deliciously around the edges and took the dye beautifully.

As you may guess, I used some potato mashers as my tjaps on these pieces. Overlapping them is fun too, but I ran out of wax…..my bees will have to be busy this next spring.