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After the Floods

Living on the Gulf coast means hurricanes and tropical storms. Preparing for hurricanes is much like preparing for a blizzard in the Midwest,…stock up on nonperishable items, make sure you have all your medications and are prepared to stay in your home for at least a week without any outside resources …..or leaving with same to parts unknown.

We have evacuated twice—once with two vehicles–I had three little boys and a cat along with a few snacks and a few extra clothes; once to position myself for work with husband in a small hospital. It was nerve wracking to see the same videos posted by the national networks, the newspapers working on printing human interest stories instead of information.

Then came Rita, Humberto, and Ike—the loss of many of our wonderful old live oak trees and the slow recovery efforts despite hordes of swamp mosquitoes requiring the Air Force to spray and so many helicopters flying overhead.

And then the flooding with the torrential rains from tropical storm Harvey and now Imelda, Laura, and the two Greek storms. Although Harvey was in the fall of 2017, people are still not back in their homes, money for recovery is slowly trickling in—-and the same houses that some people just repaired have flooded again. Blue tarped roofs are everywhere and with the pandemic and its isolation, recovery has been difficult.

The local grocery store took on a foot of water, a car dealership the same or more. One business had the air conditioner fall through the flat roof–destroying everything inside.

This week has brought cool weather and rain—thunder and lightening. Toby hides under the knee hole of my desk, needs to be on a leash to go outside for her bathroom break, and we have been asked to reduce our energy usage due to power shortages. After our February freeze and our ‘rolling blackouts’ that lasted for hours here but days elsewhere, we were all more than a bit apprehensive.

While ‘climate change’ is a popular media topic subject to scare tactics, hurricane season is approaching. I begin to stock up in May—cases/gallons of bottled water, canned goods requiring little preparation other than reheating on the gas cook-top and a fresh cannister of ground coffee—-if there is coffee in the morning—life is good.

Self Portrait

This piece was completed as part of a challenge for our small group. My hair was quite short then having it cut for a donation for cancer patient wigs. That baby is now in school and my hair is quite long.

self20protrait20with20great20neice20ella-m

The original was taken by my husband as I sat on the floor of my nephew’s home and held Ella–his daughter—Eli her twin being sound asleep

I have never liked having my photograph taken and while self-portraits are something artists do—is it because they need a model and the one that is readily available is themselves?

I thought it might be interesting to make a self portrait that was not traditional. As I thought about it, I decided that everything around us reflected who we were as people—the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the books we read, the color of our living room, the holidays we celebrate.

I have now completed all the components and am thinking of how I want to display them—as words and books are perhaps as important as visual and auditory experiences, I think it needs to be a book—not a memoir.

Here are two ‘pages’— perhaps you can guess what they represent.

Obviously these are in the working stage—but the first one is my name and the second one is my birthday.

The finished pages/book won’t be complete for awhile—so please do not be holding your breath. I work slowly but think about the project while I am dealing with other tasks. When I figure out how I am going to put this together, I will post photos–and it might be a video—if our internet cooperates.

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

Mom’s UFO’s

There may be one or two quilters who can claim no UFO’s. I certainly have my share—and I’m not divulging exactly how many that is—I will admit to working on shrinking that stack–they seem to glare at me with accusing eyes demanding to know when I will get to them.

Some of the quilt group I have belonged to have issued UFO completion challenges. We have traded UFO’s–I think that is fun—but I’m not volunteering to take on more. Some require a commitment at the beginning of each year writing down the names of the projects, some involve a random selection by drawing a number each month. Most require visible proof of completion–and that is always fun to see the line-up of the finished projects and the dates started.

Starting a new project is always exciting and fun—but then there are those accusing piles of bags and boxes—not to mention boxes of scraps demanding attention.

Most of us have found extra time on our hands–with no visiting or trips to museums, movies, restaurants, family gatherings, or even the grocery store or doctor’s office. I’ve worked on a couple of new projects but also worked on finishing up—including some of my mother’s unfinished pieces.

One thing I tried was quilting two pieces at one time. I am limited by the size of my frame; I can comfortably quilt a 72 inch wide piece…but using the wide backing fabric means i have about a hundred inches of length to work with—so that means several small pieces will fit.

I finished Mom’s little quilt top—it was a variation of a New York beauty and then worked on something I made featuring baskets and a variety of blocks combining it with some batik fabric I made with some tjaps from Thailand–and then a very old UFO of mine along with another new piece. They are quilted but not bound—good evening television projects.

Mom’s New York Beauty Variation
working on two at a time with one pantograph and the other custom
my birdhouse quilt meant to suggest looking out my kitchen window on a snowy wintery day
I think this is probably my oldest UFO dating from my life in Georgia
tthis is the basket quilt

If this last one makes you feel a bit dizzy–I rotated it in WordPress—usually I upload from my Smugmug account where I can manipulate the photos with greater ease–but to avoid neck strain on all of you I turned it. The plainish blue squares are from a length of fabric I batiked—and yes I like to use a lot of color in the quilting thread–it is a dark variegated blue/purple thread.

Revisiting the past

At some point in life, we tend to rely on our memories–some good and others more fun to remember than to live through.

One of my nieces dealt with a home renovation while they lived in a camper outside the house—and the weather at that time of year–was chilly at best. Water froze in the teakettle and they dressed like a cross between the Michelin man and Pillsbury Dough boy. We once lived in a trailer so cold at night we had to leave the faucet dripping with a pot placed under the drip to be sure the drain didn’t freeze.

But then I wanted a photo for a project. I remembered taking the photo but then I had to find it—-at one time my husband and I both shared a photo site. His interests are a bit different than mine and it took me some time to find my photos.

Next project was figuring out how to transfer all these photos to my smugmug account—and of course in the process review them all and relive the memories.

I have copied just one gallery–there are more to go.

Some think there is an end in sight to the pandemic. Like the events of 9/11, our lives will never be the same—and while others may post pictures of what might be considered vintage tools or a time when life was simpler and better—I still remember putting the pan in the sink so our drain wouldn’t freeze.

and this is the piece I made from the photo of the blurry windows outside my hotel room in Denver Colorado

Freezing Sunshine and Pink Snow

In February this part of Texas endured what seemed like a century of cold weather and limited power. My laptop has a battery and I was able to write some–but never posted it to my blog. As it is now time to ‘spring clean’ I thought I would clean up some of my drafts; adding to them in some cases.

I wandered around our yard this morning and took a few photos. It is once again the time of the pink snowfall; the azalea blossoms of pink and white falling to the ground and resembling small drifts of snow. It is later this year than previous years–probably because of the interlude of cold, stopping everything in its tracks.

pink snow

And here is one of those valiant pansies–we have purple and yellow–so cheery.

How can anyone not smile and be joyful when you see these pansies?

And then there is the amaryllis—we have two bulbs–both in full bloom with another flower stalk on one.

And now—here is what I wrote in late February. It is hard to believe we are wondering if we should turn on the AC; but we are all hunting up replacements for all our frozen shrubbery and citrus. We have not pulled up our satsuma or Meyer’s lemon–still hoping but fairly certain they did not survive.

February 2021

The sun is out today and the temperature outside is pleasant enough for folks to resume their daily walks. The chicken has been returned to her chicken coop although I must say she was not a particularly tidy house guest. Toby and Dora were curious about the closed downstairs bathroom door–as that was their favorite place to sleep. Although they both have nice thick fur, neither one wanted to stay outside for very long.

Our jonquils are sad wilted green leaves, the satsuma and lemon tree have brown crispy leaves and branches–we will have major pruning occurring soon. The arugula and peas also are sad wilted greenery.

But the pansies hiding securely under a dog-food bag and a hive body survived and are still blooming—a ray of hope for us all.

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

An unexpected visitor

With the pandemic we have not had many household visitors. We have chatted with a few neighbors and workmen outside—fence repair, roof repair. Our two dogs are somewhat diversionary—and of course there is social media and the internet—such as we have here.

Flat Stanley arrived in a small envelope with a return address of my grade/high school in Wisconsin. After some investigation we determined it was from a great-niece—but not before we had planned all sorts of grand adventures for Stanley.

For anyone reading this who does not know, Flat Stanley is based on a book and is the focus of what is called the longest running literary project. Flat Stanley has been to war, with the Senate, and I think perhaps to astronaut training. His website is full of adventure.

Flat Stanley will be staying here for about two weeks; he is an ideal guest–no complaints about the food or his bed or how long it takes to go somewhere.

Here he is arriving

The Cat Tail Marsh is part of the sanitary system for the city. It is a great place to walk around the levees.
Besides ducks and other water birds there are alligators.
This alligator was on the far side of one of the ponds–too far away for a personal up-close photo.

Today’s weather is forecast for rainy misty–not the best day for photos but we will find someplace fun for Stanley to visit.

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.