Posted in colorwork, painting

Decorating the Patio – WIP

While rooting through the garage this week, I found this frame.

I decided that I could make a decor item for my patio, which also could hold various gardening implements on a row of hooks. But what I really wanted was to fill the opening with an abstract painting of geraniums. Something like this:

I picked up a remnant of solid white cotton twill. It seemed to be sturdy enough to stand up to outside conditions. After I washed and dried the fabric, I cut a piece approximately 3 inches wider and longer than the frame opening. Now the fun starts.

My fabric paint choices included green, emerald, red, and yellow. I mixed some violet into the yellow to make a gold color. After about twenty minutes of messing around I had a nice background painted.

To give a little variety to the patches of color, I scrunched up the fabric.

And here is my panel, fully dry and ready for further paint layers.

I’m excited by this result, and keen to work on this fiber object some more.

Posted in painting

Friday Finish: Time for Cranes

When I returned from Wisconsin last month, I made a vague suggestion about painting a watercolor of sand hill cranes. They are very impressive birds. In Madison the cranes are so acclimated to humans that they are not bothered with our presence. We even saw a couple with a dog on the leash approach resting cranes, and the birds never budged.

Because I think this will be a difficult painting, I decided to start with a simple close-up of a sandhill. This photograph was snapped by Bill. I zoomed in when did my edits.

After making a quick pencil sketch, I used the printing technique learned on Wednesday. This time I stamped the background with bubble wrap and some rug grips using three earthy colors: yellow ochre, burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.

Once that was sorted, I painted the subject. It was a simple matter to follow the lines and colors of the photograph. I was careful to leave a little white. Masking fluid allowed me to represent the wispiness of the feathers.

After a few relaxing hours I was finished.

Time for a Crane

I wish all my watercolor attempts would go this smoothly.

In addition to the ochre, sienna and blue, I used alizarin crimson, carbazole violet and a little quinacridone gold and white gouache to bring out the eye. Painted on Arches hot press paper.

5/08 2022: Happy Mother’s Day all. I’ve been mulling about this painting for the past two days, not satisfied. It seems to me a little flat and unfinished.

So today I addressed the bits that bothered me. In the photograph, the light is strong, making crisp dark shadows and bright highlights. The light in the painting was too subtle. To fix this, I brightened areas around the face and beak with lifting and then applying white gouache. Once the highlights were as light as I could get them, I moved to increase the depth and complexity of the shadows. In particular, the gradation of the shadow along the bird’s body was inadequate. I added another layer, feathering the shadowed area over a larger section of the torso.

Finally, I looked over the background, deciding that the bright white section on top of the head just drew the viewer’s eye up and out of the picture plane. I painted it out with a wash of light tan paint that blended into the existing background color.

These adjustments may seem like not-so-much. Perhaps a big to-do about nothing.

I feel that the changes made the difference between a bland copy of a photograph and an interesting portrait with shadow, light, texture and all the compositional elements working together. To me, my crane is now more vibrant, existing in three dimensions instead of two.

Posted in painting

Open Studio: Printing with Watercolor

Yesterday at art association weekly open studio, we had a lesson incorporating printing into a watercolor painting. We gathered various leaves from our yards. I chose some fern leaves and the soft fuzzy leaves of lamb’s ear.

There are just a few steps. First, lightly pencil in your subject. I chose to draw a vase of flowers based on my memories. The paper is wet over the background and allowed to dry to the “low gloss” stage. Next, choose a leaf and paint a few colors on it. I started with yellow, then added stripes of blue. Then the leaf is pressed onto the paper, held in place briefly and removed. In addition to pressing the two shapes of leaves wherever I wanted leaves, I used a paper doily as a stencil, painting through the holes to make a pattern in the foreground. Next, I painted on some small tulips

Here is my painting after the paint had dried, showing these steps completed.

Today I finished the painting. This involved building up color and adding some details to the leaves, the vase and the flowers.

While it is a very simple style, I will call this experiment a success.

Painted on Arches cold press paper with yellow ocher, Winsor yellow, ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, carbazole violet, transparent orange, and viridian. A little white gouache played up the highlights.

Posted in embellishing, hand embroidery

More Improvised Embroidery

Today I wanted another shot at embroidery on a watercolor painting.

I came up with a fantasy-like, pre-historic plant form.

Here are the stages of the work.

Tentative shapes, in two colors of thread.
Expanding on the theme.
Completed the thought. Added a few underlines.

Am I done now?

Just had to add a little more paint.

What do you think? Did I go too far? Or not far enough.

It could have been worse. I considered adding beads.

At least the activity was relaxing and restorative.

Posted in embellishing

Embroidery Experiment

Today I have for you two little paintings with a little something extra. After the paint dried, I worked some embroidery stitches into the design

Two Pansies:

Two Pansies with embroidered faces.

Test paper with additional glazes added. Semi-abstract.

Same painting embroidered with fly stitch.

The second painting was extra fun. I used a variegated cotton thread by Sulky. The thread was held double.

What fun stuff are you making today?

Posted in hand embroidery, quilting

WIP Wednesday: Hand Embroidery

It’s been a while since I shared progress on the Howard Wabi-Sabi quilt. For this Work In Progress post, I’m showing how I hand-quilted a few of the vintage weaves that were used in this object.

After much consideration, I decided that it was OK to sew on (aka deface) someone else’s work. This change of heart came after I was in Madison recently, where I asked my daughter to show me more samples of Margaret Howard’s work.

Oh my. There was so much of it. Huge plastic bins filled to overflowing. Several samples were woven with the same motifs found in the pieces I was using in my quilt. Perhaps each piece was not that precious to the maker. They were woven, perhaps for practice, perhaps for auditioning alternative color choices.

When I picked up my quilt blocks again, it was clear to me that my stitching could accomplish its task of quilting down the batting and backing while also reinforcing the existing weave patterns. To my mind, this is enough to honor the maker.

Today I am showing two blocks with embroidery finished.

Center Block before:

Center Block after

Fire Block before:

Fire Block after:

I’m aware that the differences appear subtle in the photographs. But in person, the embroidery stitches bring some color variation and texture that was lacking.

Thanks to Amanda for adding her embroidery to the work, which jump-started my own efforts.

Posted in colorwork, painting

Glazed and Diffused

While tidying up my studio the other day, I came across several of my watercolor test swatches. I have three samples, each no bigger than 4 x 6 inches, that were made as I prepared to paint the geometric abstract of the Belize lagoon.

Looking at them with fresh eyes I got the idea of framing the paintings as a group. But first, I would want to work on them some more.

In the language of watercolor, a wash that is painted over existing washes is called a glaze. The term emphasizes the sheer characteristic of this medium. Today I got busy adding some glazes. When the paint had dried, I added a little line work.

Here is what I have so far.

I like the fresh and bright colors and the variety of shapes. But I am wondering if these tiny paintings are finished now. I’m toying with the idea of sewing on them with embroidery thread.

Rather than ending up Dazed and Confused, I believe that I will put this project aside and see how I feel about it tomorrow.

Posted in drawing

Sunday Sketching: Blue Jay Study

We’ve been enjoying lots of birds in our backyard. Because it has been such a dry and cold spring, the birds seem to be spending lots of time perched on the birdbath.

Male cardinal, photo taken last year

All the interest in the little blue birdbath reminded me that I had started a series of watercolor paintings of various creatures that stop here to drink or bath. In particular, I want to make a large-scale painting of an imaginary scene.

In my imagination, a bird and a squirrel are having an argument over which of them gets to drink first. I had done some small sketches and paintings of squirrels. Today I am sketching a blue jay perched here, right about where the cardinal is sitting.

To get started, I turned to David Sibley’s book, What it’s like to be a bird.

One of the things I love about this guide is the watercolor paintings, done to scale, of each bird featured. I knew Sibley was a great naturalist and now I know him as a fine illustrator. Turning to his image of blue jays, I traced the life-size head of the blue jay.

Eventually, I ended up scaling it down to about 90% of life size. I then transferred the tracing to my sketchbook. Then I looked at several photographs of the blue jay, some from the internet and some from Bill’s archives. Since I couldn’t find exactly the posture I want to represent, I just took bits and pieces of different images. This could have turned into a disastrous Frankenstein of a drawing, but it didn’t.

Love this guy’s attitude!

This took about an hour and a half, the but the time was well worth it. I learned a lot by studying each part of the bird as I worked on it.

In the future, I will do a few watercolor studies of the jay and also draw a squirrel to this same scale, before combining all the pieces together in one painting.

Posted in knitting

Cast-on Monday: I-Cord Fun

Last week I was recruited to teach a class at my local art association. I said yes, but I was at a loss on what to present. The introductory knitting classes which I taught last year were very lightly attended. I had to do some recruiting just to get a minimum number of students.

Thinking about possible roadblocks to knitting, I came face to face with certain inalienable facts about the craft:

  1. The learning curve is steep.
  2. Projects take a long time to finish.

What if I narrowed the number of skills required to a minimum, and what if I used these few techniques to make quick-to-complete projects? ……………..

The answer is I-Cord! This little add-on is used for strings for tying knitted hats and other decorative frou-frou. All it takes is a few yards, a cast-on, and repeated knit stitches over a very short row.

So today I am researching and stitching up all kinds of I-cord accessories. These projects will include jewelry so I will need a selection of beads.

The two strings in the left of the photo were purchased today. All the others I had acquired in the past 3 or 4 four years.

I also perused my stash for left-over fingering weight yarn. (No shortage here.)

To kick things off I worked up this 18-necklace using tonally dyed merino wool and some porcelain beads.

My version is made with just one strand because I had only 24 beads. I love how each bead dangles below the cord. I am wearing it over a shirt, but this necklace would also be soft against bare skin.

A bracelet is next.

I sewed one end of the three strands together, braided them and then sewed the other end. The crimping finial is designed for holding ribbons so that they don’t fray.

For my third item, I switched to worsted weight yarn and move up to a size 5 needle. I was so happy to use up the left-overs of this lovely variegated Malibrigo merino.

This necklace doesn’t use a pattern. It will be made to my own specifications.

And here are my three I cord samples as of dinner time.

This should be enough material to work up a class proposal. I will also try making a headband and a multi-strand necklace.