Thursday, February 28, 2008

Please Let Me Know

I've spent the last two days compiling all of the information received from bloggers on their favorite art supplies.

Yes, that is just a smidge of sarcasm. I got no responses. I know you people are out there. Hope you are happy with your art tools.

I played with my MagicStamp moldable foam stamps (see post below) for a couple of days. Yesterday evening, I went back to my old hand-carved stamps. By the way, I use SpeedBall Speedy-Cut carving blocks. The white stripes on the left side of the photo are done with the carving blocks. The stripes on the right are done with the MagicStamps. The paint is Jacquard Neopaque white. If there are better fabric paints, please let me know.

I assumed that since these foam blocks were so thick that I could get a very deep impression. Yet, it seems that only the top 1/4" will mold. Perhaps I am not heating the block up enough. I got an anonymous post the other day about household heat guns being way too hot. I used mine on low. Didn't seem to destroy anthing (yet, anyway). Perhaps it is an inferior household heat gun. When my husband used it to strip paint, it took three days to remove paint from 10 feet of baseboard. I don't think I need to worry about it getting too hot.

If anyone has any good advice on using the MagicStamps please let me know.

For my last piece, I changed sewing machine needles. I ordered Schmetz Microtex sharp needles. These seem to work far better than those cheap Singer needles I used to buy from that Big Box fabric store. If there are better needles out there, please let me know.

Well, I'm off to sit at the doctor's office for a while. Catch up on Brad and Angelina, or cull recipes from Family Circle. Since I'm going to the gynocologist, at least I don't have to worry about a tall stack of Field and Stream. If there are better magazines out there, please let me know.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Some Kind of Magic

Woohoo! My MagicStamp moldable foam stamps came yesterday. I've been waiting about a month for these things and, boy, am I excited. In just a while, I'm gonna whip out my heat gun and run around the house looking for things to imprint my stamps with. But first, I must locate the fire extinguishers and make sure they are at the ready. I do hope that these stamps are as amazing as I was lead to believe.

I am rather frightened of the heat gun. It has been sitting in its box for the past nine years. We purchased it when my husband was going to remove white paint from our baseboards to match them to the rest of the dark woodwork in the house. He managed to remove about 10 feet of paint. Then I had the nerve to suggest that the house was too dark for me and that I would like all of the woodwork to be white. I would never have done this if some of the woodwork hadn't already been painted. In the end, it was a good idea.

I have purchased a few new art tools lately. I am trying out some new fabric paint. ProFab I think it is called, from Pro Chemical and Dye. Large bottles -- much larger than the Jacquard Neopaque I have been using for years. I will need to find some space to store these new, large bottles. This paint seems to work much differently than the Neopaque. When using Neopaque, the color is brighter when wet & mellows out when it dries. Not so with the ProFab --- much brighter when it dries. I'm sure there are many artists out there that experiment thoroughly before applying any new product to their artwork. I am impatient. I tried the paint on a teeny sample, then did some stamping on my newest piece -- after it had been "finished." Foolhardy! Yet I loved the results.

It is time for other new products and experiments, yet I fear doing it all on my own. I would love it if some of you blogging artists would let me know what tools and products are your favorites. I'm looking to buy several new things.

1. Fabric paints and easy to use dyes. I am somewhat on the careless side and don't need to be working with any toxic materials. Hence my fear of the heat gun.

2. Sewing maching needles -- I've been using Singer needles forever & have had too many break lately. The last one broke during some speedy sewing and struck me 1/2" from my eye.

3. Sewing machine -- I have only used bottom of the line machines so far. Looking to move up (somewhat). My current machine will not let me do any freehand quilting. I have to drag out my primitive Kenmore for that.

4. Photograpy equipment & lighting. I would like to photograph my own work & would like to locate the best equipment for the job.

5. Compact stereo system.

What are your favorite art-making supplies?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Blog Apathy?

Sorry for the lack of posting.

Last Thursday we went on a semi-spontaneous trip to New York City. I got to see the city in the snow! Central Park was stunning; however, I can't say too much about the rest of the city. Snow only looks fresh in the city for a couple of minutes.

I did get to see the Lion King, finally. Wow!! I'm not much for those singing and dancing spectaculars, but this is an exception. I may have to find a way to combine orange, purple and green into a new piece.

Returned home Saturday evening to that barren, brown and gray central PA landscape. I crawled into my mental cave and would not have come out today if the sun hadn't appeared.

After an update of my favorite blogs I will head to the studio. Hopefully, the bright piece shown below will inspire me to get going.

Only 2.5 months until spring! I do not go by the calendar. I must see a fresh green leaf before I consider it to be spring.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Break from the Bleak

I'm not sure if this thing is as bright in real life as it is in this photo. It's pretty close, though.

This is my newest response to our bleak Pennsylvania winter. I have put a white board over the brown and black piece I have been working on. Covered it up. Pretended it does not exist.

This is a 24"x24" inch piece created from a mental photograph. I should really carry a camera wherever I go, but I don't. I never think I will see something spectacular on my one-block walk to the bus stop, but that is where I come across the most fascinating visuals.

Last fall, on a walk to the bus stop, my daughter and I were enjoying the colors of the leaves that had completely covered the sidewalk. My neighbor's pink impatiens had finally let go of their brilliant pink petals on top of the leaves. I loved the "clashing" colors and told myself to go and create a quilt with those colors. And now I have.

But what to add to it? Stitching, yes. But doodads? More paint? Should I leave it be?

Monday, February 18, 2008

How Did I Get Here? Where Am I Going? Part III

This is not my Mother's fridge. This is my big, beautiful art-covered ice box.

When my kitchen was brand new 10 years ago, I envisioned clean expanses of counter space, beautifully arranged open shelving (that I have achieved YAY), and a pristine white fridge.

This is what I have. And I do love it. I love it when my daughter comes in from kindergarten with a backpack brimming with the products of her creative mind. As far as I'm concerned, she is a genius and I must let the world (or anyone who ventures into my kitchen) know that. She takes great pride in putting up her newest work and rearranging her older works. Perhaps we are letting that little ego grow too large, but so what. The world will cut her down in time. She needs to shine now. Perhaps this fridge display will help her to shine in the future.

This in not my Mother's fridge. Hers was (and still is) a Harvest Gold Void. I know that magnets existed 40 years ago. My mother just didn't believe in them. I do not recall what I created back in kindergarten (or up to 8th grade for that matter). I'm assuming these artworks went into the garbage. Perhaps they went into the "special" garbage can. My childhood bedroom was in the upstairs of a Cape Cod house. Lots of nooks and crannies. One little storage room attached to my bedroom had loads of family wonders hidden in its dark depths. One of these wonders was (still is?) an old metal trash can. This is where the family treasures were "stored". Family photos - toss 'em in the can. A corsage - throw it in the can. Enchanting childhood memories - pitch 'em in the can.

I do remember drawing in my room. I remember presenting colorful works to my Mother. Whatever happened to them once they were placed in my Mother's hands I do not know. Could this be the reason for the lack of confidence I frequently feel in my work? Am I making it easy on myself to feel inadequate as an artist? Should I just get over it? Finally? Should I make some room on my fridge for my own work?

Actually, I have a magnet on my fridge that is one of my own pieces. Have a look at my Cafe Press site. For a small handful of bucks you could own a copy of one of my favorite pieces.


Friday, February 15, 2008

My Favorite Things, Part II

Here is the complete series of The Valley. My favorite series of last year. I have yet to start a series this year. I will be patient and see what comes to me.
My husband and I spend several weekends a year traveling between State College, PA, and Roanoke, VA, where my family lives. The trip can be a bit monotonous (when done frequently). That's when I take in just a bit of scenery and break it down and try to recreate that bit into a piece of fiber art. The trip begins in Happy Valley (Home of Penn State), goes through the Blue Ridge Valley and into Roanoke Valley.
Winter used to be the most challenging time to get ideas for art. Or so I thought. There is something to be said for the late afternoon sun touching on a grove of leafless birch trees, framed by a hillside of gold and brown grasses. When the landscape of central Pennsylvania gives you a bunch of lemons, you've got to make some lemonade.
I have a new appreciation for murky, muddy colors. Soil and mineral colors. Today, however, is an exception. The sky is a dirty gray. The snow on the ground is already a dirty gray. Somehow my car is a dirty gray. My skin has become a dirty gray. I need a fabric fix.
When the dog bites, when the bees stings, when I feeling sad. I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad. Yes, I remember. I have fabric in my studio. I'm going to go drag it out and throw it together. I will pull out some orange. Some murky, muddy orange, no doubt.
p.s. Why does Blogger frequently remove the spaces between paragraphs? Does anybody have a solution for this?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ready, Aim, Fire

On Sunday evening, I am probably one of a few that are looking forward to Monday. I look forward to a week where I can (mostly) do what I want. Sure, there are a few errands to run & one or two other things that cannot wait until the evening. Yet, most of my weekdays (from 8:30 until 2:30), I can go into my studio and create, draw, experiment, twiddle my thumbs, whatever.
I jumped out of bed this Monday & went into my daughter's room after my shower to wake her up for school. Horrible noises came from her nose and mouth. She was sick. So she stayed home from school and we made valentines, worked puzzles, played cards, had tickle fights. We had fun. I missed my studio (since I hadn't been in it since last Thursday), but I enjoyed having time alone with her and not having to run errands or arrange playdates. Then Tuesday it snowed. And school was closed. Then this morning it is sleeting. And school is closed again.
My week is shot. It resembles the diagram above. Full of holes. Bullet holes, Cannonball holes. There's not a lot of it left.
I hear some of you asking yourselves "Why doesn't she take her daughter to her studio with her?" I've tried. Really tried. It's hard to work when you are answering questions about the Lion King, Mary Poppins, Annie, naughty words, animals (including the reproductive system), seasons, etc. I excused myself yesterday to use the bathroom. She stood outside the door asking questions (or was she relating the plot of a movie). I really need quiet to work.
I wish I had a work update for everyone. You'll get to hear about it when I get to do it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

How Did I Get Here? Where Am I Going? Part II

I recently realized that I never called my grandparents by those names that grandchildren normally call their grandparents. There was Maw and Paul (Paul being my step-grandfather. We called my father’s father "Daddy’s Daddy" and pretty much left it at that. We didn’t talk about him too often. Any art inspired by him would be fairly grim). Then there was Teddy (short for Theresa) and Guy.

A trip to Teddy and Guy’s house was a bit more subdued than a trip to Maw and Paul’s house (as described in last Monday’s post). However, there was plenty there to interest a young child. I was pretty much allowed to play anywhere, except my Grandfather’s room.

In the attic was an old coal-burning stove, recently out of commission and replaced. It featured in my nightmares for years to come. It was a large, black, multi-armed (a couple of pipes sticking out) monster. I loved it and feared it at the same time. My sister and I used to dare each other to go in the little slanted room and touch it.

My Grandmother’s closet was filled with water-colored 1960’s grandmotherly dresses. I loved to trace the patterns on them. My Grandmother thought I was a bit odd, as she often caught me fondling her dresses. Her top dresser drawer was filled with dozens of bars of guest soaps from all kinds of exotic sounding hotels from far-flung lands such as Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. Needless to say, I spent hours arranging these soaps into different patterns.

I loved to visit the bathroom. My Grandfather thought I was a bit odd, as I was caught a couple of times arranging his bottles of shaving cream and aftershave. Once again, busted for experimenting with color. I loved those shades of amber and aqua.

My Grandfather’s TV chair was covered with an old striped beach towel. It was probably my favorite textile as a child. Yes, I had limited exposure to finer textiles. I’m sure the towel was there to prevent the chair from being stained from my Grandfather’s hair cream (Fop? Dapper Dan?). I always saw it as a design statement.

Then there was the kitchen with its vivid red Formica table. That thing would be worth a fortune today! I loved to arrange the (pretty much unused) bottles of orange, ochre, rust, and brown spices against the red table.

The property was a graphic delight for me. Hidden stepping stones. Pink Sweet Peas. The yellow house viewed against the huge green barn or the mysterious orange shed.

The photo above is an acrylic painting called "Mysterious Orange Shed." When I decided to experiment with paint last spring, I painted memories of my Grandmother’s yard. I think I was only allowed into the mysterious orange shed once. Filled with jars, broken chairs & Heaven knows what). The crows represent all of my strange relatives. My Grandmother’s sister and her children. They would gather at my Grandparent’s house each Christmas. Once they all got to talking, they sounded like a yard full of crows.

All of this just to let you know that inspiration is truly everywhere.

Tune in next Monday to learn how I was scarred from not having my artwork on the fridge.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Round 'em Up, Clear 'em Out

My past days of cleaning up have really been inspirational. The mental laxatives have been working.

And now for even more cleanup.

I have thousands of fabrics. I use only about 30% of these fabrics. There are some fabrics I KNOW I will never use again. I need to purge!!!

I'm wondering about selling them through the blog. Would anybody be interested?

I need to make space - physically and mentally.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mental Laxative

Could this mess be the reason for my latest mental blockage? I don't think this mess could possibly help!
I returned to the studio after lunch yesterday. I paced and paced. What to do with that new piece I'm working on for that juried show (top left in photo)? Why is this thing irritating me so much? Should I put on some Dave Brubeck and Belly and work on it some more?
I cleaned out the cd carousel and put in the most "motivating" music I could find. I chose a Soundgarden CD and the rest of my choices made Soundgarden sound like the Vienna Boys Choir.
Fifteen years ago, my husband and I lived outside of Washington D.C. where there was little in the way of music. We frequently traveled to Baltimore, MD, home of dozens of hard-driving garage-style bands. Liquor Bike, Blank, Third Harmonic Distortion, Juice, Onespot Fringehead. Music that makes your ears bleed. Just wonderful stuff. Perhaps you can find them somewhere on the internet. Look them up. You should know what kind of music inspires quilters.
After thrashing around in the studio for a while, I managed to clean up my work table (except for the mountainous ridge of scraps). This included dismantling the piece I was working on for the juried show. Aaaaahh. Much better. After the frenzy, I realized the trashcan was full, a jar of paint had been knocked over, and I felt far better.
This photo shows the blockage around my sewing machine. What would the Feng Shui experts have to say about this? It has been cleaned up also. I especially love the large box under the table. It is covered in dust and cords and it says "Harmony."
In the next few minutes I will return to the studio. I can do no experimenting today. Our sewer line is being replaced and I have no plumbing. Therefore, no water to clean up any messes. I shall go and play with color. And possibly load up the cd player with Jazz and Norah Jones. The mental laxative has done its job. Back to work. Back to a more mellow lifestyle. I'm over 40 now. I can't do all of that thrashing around anymore.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bad Art Day

Sorry, there are no stunning photos of my recent experiments. The last several have gone wrong. Terribly wrong. They are in the trash and the trash has been taken out to the curb. Usually, if something is not to my liking, I will turn the piece over and work on the other side. Not this time.

I feel that I must always be working on something. I do not consider playing with new ideas working. I MUST get over this. Play is necessary.

There is a juried show coming up that I would like to enter. The "theme" is elemental. Fire, air, water, earth. I began laying out ideas immediately for an "earth" piece. Then everything came to a dead halt. I don't know why. Did I not have enough play time? Is the studio too messy (always)? Do I stink at what I do? Has the well run dry?

I probably walked a mile in my studio yesterday. Pace, pace, pace. Then I would stop to look at quilting and art books for inspiration. I was not inspired. I fear going into the studio this morning. I have performance anxiety.

Should I take a bit of time off? I feel I take too much time off already. Errands, trips to see family, a bit of volunteering at my daughter's school.

I am not a fun person today.

I should have a look at my post from Monday. Just one look at those pants in the photo should cheer me right up.

Monday, February 4, 2008

How Did I Get Here, Where am I Going? A Serial

I was born July 14, 1963. I really don’t remember much of my early years. I do remember intentionally crawling under a moving swing – one of those two-seater jobs. It knocked me out. Other memories are hard to come by until I was 4 years old. Then I remember pre-school, where we drove around in little pedal cars and took naps. I think I will begin with the memories of a 5-year-old.

I was always obsessed with blocks. Lincoln Logs, Legos, Tinker Toys, and any other building toys that never caught on. While I loved to build with these toys, I was happy just to lay them out on the ground and design with them that way. As I got older, I got all kinds of games for Christmas and Birthdays, yet instead of reading directions and inviting other kids over to play these games with me, I would just use the parts and make designs with them. I was quite a fan of Spirograph, too.

In the photo shown, I have just turned eight and I don’t look too happy about it. I don’t know why. I am at my Grandmother’s house, one of my favorite places in the entire world to be. Lord knows what I would give up just to have a day to play in her house right now.

There was very little that was off limits in that house – only my Grandfather’s closet and underwear drawer. Everywhere else was like a fantasy land for me.

Of all of my Grandmother’s belongings, my favorite "toys" were her beautiful handkerchiefs. I don’t recall how many she owned, it felt like dozens. I will never forget one with an ivory Dogwood blossom on a dark brown background. I used to lay out these hankies in all sorts of patterns: light to dark, pinks and purples, pastels, primary colors. Then I would arrange them much as I would arrange a quilt now.

Then there was the drawer of costume jewelry. I loved to match the rhinestone brooches up with the hankies. I was dizzy with color!

Even the candy drawer kept me mesmerized. How beautiful those nasty orange Circus Peanuts were placed against the even nastier chalky pink peppermint tablets.

Another day, I would pull out all of her bitty fabric samples. My Grandmother was a large woman who found it difficult to find clothing in stores and who probably was at her most comfortable in stretchy polyester clothes. Every few weeks, my Grandmother would receive catalogs and fabric samples from companies that manufactured highly unattractive dresses and pantsuits. My Grandmother saved all of these swatches for me, and I would spend hours rearranging these bits into "quilts". All of these fabrics were singularly ugly, but once the herringbones were placed next to the limes and fuschias, they all became beautiful.

Perhaps it was on Fridays, that I pulled out the greeting card collection. My Grandmother bought the things in bulk. Twenty-five or 30 to a box, these things covered weddings, deaths, birthdays, Easter, Mother’s Day, etc. What do you think I did with the cards?

Next Monday, we will take a trip to my other Grandmother’s house.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Art Experimentation Month

It is Black History Month, Vision Awareness Month, and I also proclaim February to be Art Experimentation Month.

I purchased the Feb/Mar issue of Quilting Arts earlier this week and I have been inspired.

My most recent commission is completed (awaiting framing) and I want to do something different. February is usually a quiet month for me & this year is no exception. However, instead of coming up with new quilts using my old methods, I am going to come up with some new methods. This issue of Quilting Arts is full of methods I have not tried before.

My first experiement was with monoprinting. The two pieces shown are using monoprints. The top piece had added stamping. I often do not know when to quit.

Yesterday I ran to to get a few new supplies to play with. I purchased some little squeeze bottle with teeny writing tips. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with those. I need to run out again and get some teeny funnels to fill up the bottles with paint. I did not buy any of those yesterday & I attempted to fill one of the bottles without a funnel. I lost a lot of paint that way. Unfortunately, I cleaned up immediately. I should have thought to experiment with handprints and finger prints first. Oh well.

I am anxious to try Jane Dunnewold's flour paste resist method. I will have to purchase even more equipment. I have yet to use a squeegee in my work. I will also have to construct a padded printing surface. At least I already have flour, measuring cups and mixing bowls.

I have a chunk of rough styrofoam sitting in the studio. I'm wondering what I can do with it. Can I use bits of it as stamps? Hmmmm.

I would love to purchase some MagicStamp foam and a heat gun to make some stamps. Has anyone used this method before? I would love some information before shelling out the money for a heat gun.

I also need to see if I can get my sewing machine to do free motion quilting. So far (after 5 years) I have not been able to get it to perform correctly. I have a presser foot for the job. The feed dogs seems to drop away, but I just can't get the pressure correct -- the fabric does not move under the presser foot. I do not know if this is my problem or the machine's problem. In the past, I have just pulled out my old (and primitive) machine for this job. However, it is no longer making happy noises & I know that I have to take it for a check up.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to leave the house today for more supplies. We are in the middle of another ice storm. I'm just hoping to get some experiments done before the electricity goes out. The hubby, however, is hoping for power loss so he can drag his generator out . . .