Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Watercolor Portraits

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I have signed up for a watercolor portrait workshop with Fealing Lin to be held in Boone, N.C., this fall.  I couldn't wait to get started, so I spent the afternoon experimenting.

There are very brief instructions in her June 2012 Watercolor Artist article, along with lots of examples of her portraits.  Using two of my favorite photographs, I traced the outlines and got started.

This one of my dog, Kasey, with her paw on my lap, is just about finished.

You build up layers of transparent color until you achieve the desired effect.
Here is the sketch, with some masked areas to preserve the white paper, and a light watercolor wash for the background.
Then you start adding your darker backgrounds and the shadows.  Pretty scary-looking at this point.  Can you say Cujo?
You keep building up the background, then remove the mask and start working on the details of the face.
Here it is, maybe finished, maybe needs a little more work.  Charlie says the right ear doesn't look right. It might be too late to fix that!
I found the other project much more difficult.  It is a picture of my granddaughter, Lily, playing in a field of daisies up in the mountains.
I think it's okay, but see some things I would do differently.  This one definitely is not finished.  But I don't think it's too bad for a first attempt.
Both of these are very small in size, about 6" x 9", so maybe they are "studies."
Tomorrow is my day to go to Cary and see the new baby.  I have been going at least once a week.  I always offer to stay and let Emily get out of the house.  So far she has never been gone more than about 45 minutes.  The last time I went, a friend of my son's came over to do some baby photography for her professional portfolio.  This is the only one I have seen so far.
Baby Charlotte, photo by Anna Sledge

What an angel!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Machine-Quilting Done

I decided to go ahead and try machine-quilting my latest project on my domestic sewing machine, a Janome 6600.  I really had not done much quilting on it except for postcards and bookmarks.  Because everything bigger than that, I just put it on my Gammill.  But since it is on loan to someone who is storing it for me at their house...

I decided to spray baste the batting and backing...but must have packed my basting spray into the POD during my massive reorganization.  No problem...I'll use safety pins.

Same problem...packed the safety pins, too!

I found some fusible batting, and ironed it to the quilt top.  Then, I pinned the top two layers to the backing with regular quilting pins.  Not the best solution, but it got me going.  It's hard not to run over them when you're quilting.

Had to get out the Janome manual to figure out the settings for free-motion quilting.

It went pretty well.  I decided to use the swirls of steam from the coffee as my quilting motif.

I used black thread for the whole thing.  I went around the outline of the cups.  I just had to add a little humor.  Since the quilt will be named Picasso's Coffee Cups, I put his first name on the brown coffee cup!
I picked a beautiful hand-dyed fabric for the back.
I have a few places of visible starts and stops, which I am working on tonight.  Everything went pretty well, except I got some of the extra backing fabric caught up in the quilting stitches.
The needle did not want to go through the heavily painted text areas.  Note:  next time I will use inks or fabric paint, not acrylic, if I plan to quilt it.
In Pamela Allen's method of art quilt-making, the next step after quilting is embellishing.  She has been know to sew or attach all kinds of objects to her quilts.  I thought about sewing on a Spork to stir the coffee, but don't think that would really add anything!  I might get a little paint and go over the name quilted into the mug so it shows up better.
Just a little left to go on this project.  Binding, sleeve, and label.  Then done!

Ready to Quilt

It has been a busy few days.  Our son Bryson and his wife Melissa came up on Thursday, and we went to Durham to a concert by legendary country singer Don Williams.  It was fabulous!  Don sits on his stool, says, "I don't talk much," and then launches into a program of all his most adored hits from the past four decades or so.  No stories, just an evening of wonderful mellow music.

On Saturday we went to see the movie Lincoln, which we enjoyed tremendously.  It is the only one of the Academy Award nominees that we have seen.  I also want to see Life of Pi, which I have read, and Charlie wants to see Zero Dark Thirty.

It snowed and iced off and on this weekend, but we still had a showing on our house on Sunday.  Cleaning up and having the house ready to show is time-consuming...and then you have to clear out for awhile.  So far we have not had any offers, but the showings have picked up.

I have been doing some handwork off and on.  I have an art quilt top that is hand-stitched and ready to quilt.  It is from one of my five or six online workshops with Pamela Allen.  I think this one was from About Style.  It was meant to be in the style of  Cubism...think Picasso and his idea of breaking down objects into shapes and seeing multiple views of the object in space at the same time.  Pamela said the Cubists would often use fractured, positive and negative shapes, collage, and text.  Voila:  I give you Picasso's Coffee Cups.

I used stick-on scrapbook letters on cloth, then painted over them and removed them to make the text.  The letters will be the color of the back ground fabric.  The large brownish fabric behind the orange negative cup was hand-dyed, then stamped with black acrylic paint.  I have had a fat quarter set of the coffee bean fabric for many years, having won it as a door prize at Capital Quilters' Guild.  

Each shape is arranged and glue-basted, then stitched with either embroidery floss or Perle Cotton thread.  Next step is to machine quilt.  I can't decide whether to try this on my Janome, or wait until I visit my Gammill's foster mother next week and quilt it on the frame.  The whole thing is only about 16" x 18".

I have enough of these Pamela Allen UFO's to stitch that it could take me the rest of my life!  I will probably start hand-stitching another one tonight.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I have been re-organizing my painting studio over the past few days.  It has been a good thing, but also a difficult thing.

After my father died in December, I brought home his drawing table.  Although he worked in a commercial art studio for most of his life, he always maintained a space at home where he could work.  He had his drafting table and a "tabaret" where he could set up his palette, lay out his brushes and supplies.  Who could count how many hours he spent at home, slaving away over an illustration that was due at an art director's office by a deadline.  We almost never went on a family vacation without Dad pulling an all-nighter to finish a job the night before.

Now I have set up his table in my home.  In fact, I did my last two paintings on it, but did not have it set up to the correct height, and did not have it set up right with my palette, paints, and water supply.  The tabaret that we gave him in Christmas 2011 was here, but I had to wait for my boys to come home to move it up to my studio on the third floor last weekend.

I had to go through everything he had stashed in there, move out some of his stuff, and make room for my stuff.   Very hard.
Since I moved this all this new furniture in, I had to re-arrange what I had.  My bookcase got moved to the landing on the third floor.
The long desk that used to be under the studio window got moved across the room where the bookcase used to be. 
Do you see the old wooden drafting board?  My father had that hanging on the wall in his studio, and drew on it when he used his opaque projector.  But, I think he told me that it was HIS father's drafting table.  My grandfather was an architect, but sadly, there was not much call for his profession during the Great Depression. 
So, I have a lot of history in my painting studio to live up to.  I have to admit, the first time I sat at the drawing table, I had a few "I'm Not Worthy" moments.
In that little room under the attic, I have the drawing table, tabaret, desk, and this triple dresser full of supplies (and my new easel and my iPod player).  The palette labeled "David" was a gift from my dad to his grandson in 1989.  It contained watercolor paints.  I recently found this and and sprayed the old paints to see if they could be re-activated after all these years.  All that color on the top is from me using it as a palette for mixing acrylic paints and never cleaning it.  :(
I also have my old cutting table from when this was my sewing room, and it holds my watercolor paper (which comes in 22" x 30" sheets that don't fit well in any cabinets).  Some of my unframed artwork is stashed on top of it.

If I get chilly when I am working up there in my finished attic space (and we did have a snow and ice storm this weekend), I can grab this sweatshirt that my father painted, put it on, and keep warm.

You can see why my studio now contains so many memories of my father.  Maybe he will be looking down on me and inspiring me from above.

I miss him so much!

It helps to have my sweet new little granddaughter to hold and love.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Painted Papers

After I finished the last two watercolor paintings, I just wanted to have some fun in the studio and do some easy splashing around of color.  I am working on pages for a watercolor paper journal and a Trash-to-Treasure journal.  The last is inspired by the book Stash and Smash by Cindy Shepherd.

It is really fun to take magazine pages and junk mail and turn them into colorful journal pages.

Mostly I use watered-down acrylic paints and just spread it on the page to cover any parts I don't want.  Sometimes I like to leave some of the pictures or text visible. 

It's also fun to collage some napkins or tissue paper on top of the painted papers.

We had a big family gathering last weekend.  All of our kids and grandkids came to visit.  It was the first time Bryson and Melissa's children had met their new cousin Charlotte.  Here are my two granddaughters.

And here is the whole family (including our dogs) gathered on our front porch.

For some reason, it seems very quiet around the house today!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Gift of Watercolor

Last summer, my son Bryson got married on the deck of the cottage that we have rented every summer for more than twenty years at Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

The owners keep a guest book which I write in at the end of our beach week.  Of course I mentioned the family wedding at the cottage.

The owners' daughter, Brenda Butka, is an artist whose work is represented at  the Sunset River Marketplace in Calabash, NC.  Apparently she went to the beach cottage in November and read the journal.  Sometime around Thanksgiving I received a package from her in the mail.  It was a watercolor painting of the view from the deck!  It faces the marsh and Bird Island.  I had the picture framed and gave it to Bryson and Melissa for Christmas.

Wasn't that a lovely surprise!  I had a hard time giving this away.

Speaking of gifts of art, Charlie hung his two Christmas presents from me behind his desk at work, along with last year's watercolor.

I have done two more paintings in the past week.  Both are from lessons in a book by my teacher from Art of the Carolinas, Tom Jones.

The first one represents a scene by a mountain lake.

I altered the subject of the second one, which in the lesson had a group of buffalo gathered by a lake.  I did not want to paint buffalo, so I painted in a monster buck instead.

I am having a lot of fun with watercolor painting.  I signed up for a portrait class at Cheap Joe's in Boone with portrait artist Fealing Lin in October.  I  had seen an article about her technique in Watercolor Artist magazine, and fell in love with her loose, translucent portraits such as this one.

Isn't it beautiful?  And October in the North Carolina mountains for a whole week is not too bad, either.  I can stay at our cabin in Laurel Springs and commute back and forth for the classes.

I also looked into local art classes, and saw that the watercolor class that was canceled last year at the Wake Forest Parks and Recreation is being offered again.  So I signed up for it and also a drawing class with Mary Benejam O'Connell.  These will run from February to May on Wednesday afternoons.

When I was registering for the Wake Forest classes, I got re-acquainted with a former school guidance counselor that I had worked with earlier in my teaching career.  She is also a quilter, and invited me to come and speak about art quilts at the Wake Forest Friends quilt bee.  I think I have enough projects that are not packed up that I can bring for show-and-tell.  The Pamela Allen workshop projects alone take up a large Rubbermaid container!  Speaking of which, I am almost finished stitching one of them from several years ago, and it will be ready for machine-quilting soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Easel

I requested and received a new tabletop easel for Christmas.  It is a small, easy- to- handle wooden easel by Trio.

You can change the height and angle with a simple twist of a knob.

I will probably use this for painting, as well as for displaying unframed art in my studio.  Here is a reworked version of a hollyhocks painting that I have done about four times.  I redid the background on this one.

Here is what it used to look like.  Much better, yes?

I have been painting some background pages for journals, trying different combinations of gel medium, stamping, watercolor, collage, and acrylics.  Might be something worth following up on here.
gel medium mixed with black acrylic paint and applied with stamps and stencils; collaged papers

gel medium stamps with acrylic paint

gel medium drizzled on page with watercolor dripped on
It was so nice and warm outside yesterday that I sat out in the yard after walking Kasey.   She loves getting "Furminated" which removes excess  undercoats of fur.  Puts her right in a zen kind of mode.  "Do me again!"

Last night we went to DPAC in Durham to see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as part of the Broadway South series.  It starred Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox.

What a powerful production!  Great voices and very dramatic scenes.  We don't watch American Idol much, and were not familiar with former finalist Maroulis.  We were very impressed!  Definitely recommend this show.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Surface Design Round Robin Update

In previous posts, I have shown pictures of the plain white fabric being transformed by members of my Anything Art Bee in our surface design round robin.  At yesterday's meeting, I actually got to see my own fabric for the first time!

This is mine after the first three rounds.  Wow!  

We had no rules for this exchange, so some people just worked on a section of the cloth, and others tried to relate what they did to the previous work.  I think mine all relates, although each section is unique.

Peg's is actually finished!  She has some blank area to work on. 

Toni's keeps getting more and more luscious.  

Peg added some twin-needle stitching to make curvy stems, and then some folded fabric blooms.

Here is a new one that looks like those candy dots on paper.

It was really fun to get together with my art quilt girlfriends for lunch and a day of catching up.  I was very touched by a special gift from Tama.  She made a flower quilt block and an Artist Trading Card for me in remembrance of my father.

The front has a message in Morse code, because in my father's Army Air Corps service in WWII, he was a Morse Code translator and air traffic controller.  I have not yet translated the message!

And the back is lovely.

Toni showed us a traditional quilt that she made for her daughter, with quotations about dogs.  It was quilted with hearts by Cathy Kirk.

And Marion had an art quilt that she made for her husband using a stencil for Year of the Dragon.

We had planned for Marion to do a little group "toot" on fusing plastic bags to make quilts, based on an article by Cathleen Bradley in Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine.  (Instructions free to subscribers on their website.)

We did not get around to it since we spent so long on Show-and-Tell and just catching up.  But I brought a little piece of a plastic bag project that I did in an online workshop with amazing stitcher  Shelagh Folgate.

Isn't that cool?  I can't remember exactly how we did it, but we started with a base of a black trash bag, needle-felted strips of  heavy plastic bags, fused with an iron, covered with organza, machine-stitched like crazy, did reverse applique with gold lame, and who knows what else?

I made a clutch purse out of some of this fabric.  It sold at the "Purse-onality" auction at the 2009 North Carolina Quilt Symposium.

Okay, that's it...I have been putting off going to the gym for the first time in about a month.  Not looking forward to it!