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Posts from the ‘Artwork’ Category

Charcoal from a Forest Fire

Fire has an odd fascination and while I trained as a chemical plant/refinery firefighter, participated in numerous drills at school and in the dorm, watched with horror as fire consumed houses and acres of trees, my plan always was to exit quickly and wait for someone to bring the injured to me.

However, I viewed the remains of the forest fire that swept over Colorado some years ago, the beauty of the starkness of the blackened tree trunks against the snow on the mountains. While wandering about, I found some smallish twigs turned into charcoal, picked them up and brought them home. I had used vine charcoal in some of my drawing classes and thought these bits might work in a similar fashion.

My plan was always to use fabric as the base for the drawings; I used a relatively coarsely woven fabric, spread some gesso on until it was just barely damp and then attempt to use the twigs. I found it was easier to dip the twig in the gesso and draw—but still the lines were very faint.

I decided to embroider over the lines.

Then while reading about book-cloth, I wondered why I couldn’t use a decorative paper as the paper layer.

I’m gathering up courage to finish this book–I must glue it to the cover; everything is done but this very last step— and now that I’ve written about it here, I may be compelled to complete this project.

Rounding the Curve

I had long wanted to take a workshop with Patricia Balyea from Okan Arts from the Northwest, signed up for a class in late March 2020 in HOuston—that was cancelled, thought about a class that August in northern Wisconsin that was also cancelled, and thought about a class in May 2021 but thought back surgery might make it difficult—but was pleased to sign up for a class via Zoom this July.

Our first class was to draw three curved lines and construct a block. I chose a design, made it and then made another switching the colors around a bit, and then made another block in a smaller size, repeated it and sewed them all together. I cut out the borders…..there is just enough for the borders and a binding.

I am now working on the second assignment curves plus straight lines. I thought I would begin with an embroidered square from a dish towel my mother embroidered along with some feed sacks my grandmother used as tablecloths and to cover the plate of slice bread and butter dish between meals.

Scraps and just fooling around

Sometimes there is a pile of smallish pieces left over from other projects and then sometimes you happen to inherit your mother’s fabric bits and bobs and starts and unfinishes.

Mom loved boxes—as did her mother—they both saved ‘really good boxes’ including the boxes replacement checks came in, greeting card boxes, and then the occasional cigar box harvested from the local grocery store. I”m sure they would have both loved the plethora of boxes from Amazon that seem to multiply themselves like rabbits when I am not looking.

Sorting through Mom’s sewing room was a chore—not unpleasant–who can really not like playing with fabric? But it was also challenging. What did she intend to do with all these tiny pink squares? Or these diamonds?

Some of her projects have her written notes and you might think that would be helpful but most of them are calculations with no idea of what they were meant to become.

I’ve put this little group together.

And since I’ve begun making hand-made books and book cloth–they might become that—-or they might just become my usual Marble notebook covers.

Fluttering By

June’s project is a flutter book. Apparently you pick up the book by its covers and the pages flutter out and down. I’m not sure I really like this–maybe I relish organization and this feels rather loose.

I decided to write a small story about the Monarch butterflies and their life cycle. We live on the edge of the Big Thicket, an interestingly diverse ecosystem. I wrote one story about a flying armadillo and plan to write more stories about the creatures that live here.

Today’s story was not as fanciful as a flying armadillo—but it goes through the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly.

Fiber and Fabric have always fascinated me–and I thought I would try making a cover of fabric scraps. I sewed some fairly small pieces together, backed it with a foundation but then wanted it larger and added strips to all sides—that left a ridge!

Traditionally wheat paste is used to adhere a thin paper layer to the back of cloth to make book cloth—but I used a fusible and mulberry paper. The paper crinkles as the book is handled.

I also discovered I am capable of gluing my fingers together even with double sided tape–or a glue stick.

I did not count the number of pages for my story and my book–important to have them match up.

But the book is done—and I will continue to experiment with a variety of methods to used fabric as the cover.

Here are a few photos of the book.

Five Buckets of Kelly Green

Five Buckets of Kelly Green. two buckets of Purple and Sky blue and a quart jar of Yellow

I was not particularly familiar with David Hockney’s work. I had read about his work with an ipad but had never viewed any of his paintings.

However, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston hosted a Hockney-Van Gogh exhibit and as I have a membership and given the seclusion of the past year or more, I was eager to see some art.

I usually park in the Herman Park Zoo parking lot, walk across the park enjoying the ducks and the turtles and the little train and the fountain in the middle of the pond and all the little children darting about. However, EVERYONE was at the zoo this morning—-the parking lot was FULL and dozens of cars drove around aimlessly hoping for a vacant spot. I ended up parking in a church lot with a bit of a hike to the museum.

Fortunately I was able to use my timed ticket although I was fifteen minutes late.

Hockney likes kelly green—buckets and buckets of the stuff; sometimes he contrasts it with a purple—both colors seem to come directly out of their buckets with no mixing.

Interspersed were some lovely small paintings of Van Gogh’s—he certainly delighted in color, mixing it on the canvas–and favoring a variety of greens, yellows and a turquoise-y blue. The only commonality I could see was that all the paintings reflected landscape—Hockney painted the same bit of road in many seasons and in many lights–but always with that dreadful kelly green.

There were some lovely charcoal drawings of wooded scenes and a series of watercolors–that seemed random landscapes–but perhaps that was the curator who placed them in such a fashion.

Of interest, though, one of Van Gogh’s drawings of a wooded scene was done in reed pen and ink over pencil with a wash over the top—interesting combination of media.

I did pick up a few postcards as reminders of the day—I have decided to not get catalogs–they are heavy to carry and I rarely look at them again–postcards are lightweight–easy on the wallet and reminiscent enough of the day.

The exhibit closes on June 27 and from what I could tell about ticket availability next Saturday the 19th is the last available day to view the exhibit. Next up is Monet to Matisse—one I’m sure to find more to my liking and aesthetics. However, it is always good to see art, analyze it for content and appeal, and see what I might use in my own work.

But it will not be huge doses of kelly green.

Caught Up and Moving On

Today I finished sewing on the outer road. It is pressed and ready to be put away awaiting the final ring. I’ve printed off the pattern, still need to enlarge it to appropriate size and sew the next pieces. I am not a paper-piecing fan and have altered the directions to accommodate my sewing style. I’ve had a lot of fun pulling from my large collection of novelty prints and will continue to do so.

but now it is time for me to move on.

This is the start of my SAQA donation piece. I thought I’d try something a bit different this time.

The background is pieced from remnants of a quilt top I bought several years ago—meticulously pieced with 1/8 inch seams. After making a quilted jacket and matching purse, I saved the bits and pieces, put them together and heavily stitched in lines.

On one of our trips to the Cat-Tail Reed Marsh, I captured these three boat-tail grackles on the walkway. Instead of using just a fusible I chose to use a fusible interfacing.

I have yet to do the stitching—but small pieces are great for experimentation.

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.

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;

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.