Monday, April 13, 2015

Everyday Inspiration : Blue Light Abstract and Ponderings

 Blue Light Abstract (1)

This was a broken glass bowl that shattered on the kitchen counter recently.  
I purposely moved the camera as I took the shots to blur and streak the color.

This one kind of looks like a school of flying fish jumping and leaping --
like in the fountain at the Detroit airport. (Gosh I love that fountain!)

As I get older (into bifocals now, so maybe it's just harder to focus), I have more and more appreciation for abstract art -- especially textures.   Color, texture, movement, even a mood.  They can be quite complex with many layers incorporated.  And yes, they can have an emotional impact, too.  But sometimes, I just want to settle down and enjoy the abstract -- the colors and the textures without a big important and heavy message to change the world.  I don't have to DO anything with abstract textures.  I can just enjoy them.  Sometimes, I just want the Calm. 

I used to think -- What's the point of abstract art?  What's it's trying to tell me?  What's the hidden meaning?  Maybe there isn't any -- maybe it is just a feeling -- calm or chaos, or something else ... 

I've been thinking about the emotional impact of my photography -- or rather, how to get it?  What makes some pics get so many likes, and others barely get any?  Not just mine ...  In some of the photography groups I'm in, some of the posts are really wonderful--well composed, well-executed, well done--a complete package, yet they hardly seem to get noticed.  Some are just blah, and they still get lots of likes.  Maybe it's who you know, or how you market it?  It's all in the networking and connections these days, right?  Maybe this Like-economy isn't all it's cracked up to be?  It's not really a popularity contest, or is it? 

There are times when I've really done it well--gotten that emotional impact that connects with other people.  The barns seem to do it -- Is that because people get sentimental with a past that is no more.  With barns falling down around us, they are no longer the center of most rural families' livelihoods. When I do manage to hit that holy grail of emotional connection in my art, either I know it and love it myself, or it looks and feels so foreign, I barely recognize it.  

Other times, I make something, and I absolutely love it, and no one else seems to notice or care.   Maybe those are the times that I myself may know the emotional impact of a piece which is why it's so powerful in my own personal mythology, but doesn't quite connect with other people who don't know the full story.

Other times, an image or symbol is so iconic, it connects with people because the myth or stories about it are so well known, it's almost a cliche.   Those are things that need no introduction, as everyone knows the context. 

I do know that I don't hit that home run of great art and emotional connection every time I finish a piece.   In reality, no one does.  Maybe I just need to do more work to hone my skills in whatever medium I'm working in?  Ira Glass, Patty Smith, and Neil Gaiman [Sheila -- Pay attention to the NG link.  There are some gold nuggets for you there, too.]  say : Do the work.  Keep putting your stuff out there.  Hone your skills.  Make good Art--with a capital A. You'll only get better ....  It just takes time to master these skills.  It's not a contest.  I only have to be better than I was.  And I see the progress I've made over the years -- just look back at all the stuff in over 700 posts on this blog.  I am always learning, developing a sense of composition, and what works, and what doesn't (I don't post the disasters too often--I'll spare you that!)  Good taste.

And I have to ask myself : Why am I doing this?  I'm not seeking to make a living from my art.  I do it because I have to ...  If I didn't make stuff, I'd go crazy (Been there, done that in post partum days.  Not a happy place--and not a good place for my family, either.)  It brings me great satisfaction to know I've brought something beautiful into the world--my work.  My process.  My journey to make it real--whatever it is.  And in the end, the only one who needs to like what I see, is ME. If someone else likes my stuff, that's just icing on the cake.  But not expected.  Just me in my own little world.

Then again, part of the point of Liberate Your Art is to put your stuff out into the world and to share it with other people.  Kat had another project called The Photo-Heart Connection --- those photos were not necessarily great art, but they did require a heart connection.   Two very different things.

There's a skill to putting out what people will like (and be willing to purchase) vs. just doing what pleases me.  I'm not about to start posting LOL Cats or Hey Kitty-type cutesie stuff, so it's good I'm not counting on my art to make a living.   I don't do cutesie.  Still finding my voice ...  and I don't think it's in still lifes either -- at least not at the moment.  

Maybe my work just hasn't found it's audience yet?  Kind of an ugly duckling scenario (Weren't we talking about personal mythologies a little bit ago?)

Blue Light Abstract (2)

Although the texture pieces can be layered into other photos, sometimes it's just nice to look at them on their own merits.  They hold their own.  This one is kind of like shooting stars, or a meteor shower.

I do know that I'm feeling more comfortable sharing my abstract texture pieces.   It's a chance to just BE and not have to DO.  Breathe and enjoy these quiet moments, and quit talking so much!  That feels like HOME these days, so come on in, sit down and have a cuppa tea with me ... We don't even have to talk -- just bask in the blue and golden light of these new textures.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Texture Class by 2 Lil Owls

 Coffee Stain on Blue
Beautiful grunge.

I just started a new online class by Denise Love at 2 Lil Owls.  It's called the Art of Texture-Making Workshop.

I just finished the first watercolor  lesson and I am blown away!  So much content to her classes -- so much practical info along with the video demonstrations of the various techniques.  Worth every penny!  In the images below, I'm listing the technique so I can keep it straight in my own mind, but I am consciously NOT explaining each technique here as that would steal the thunder from Denise's class.  Sign up for the class if you want to know more.  ;-)

Here's a sampling of what we learned so far :

Tap Technique in Gold

Tap and Drag Technique in Blue

Spatter Technique

Salt Resist

 Blotted with a Paper Towel

 Blotted with Paper Towel

Blotted with crumpled Saran Wrap

Impressionist Sponge Painting

 Blotted with Sponge

(Dry) Tea Stain

Of course, just because I'm learning how to make some of my own textures (again--I've long been studying various surface design techniques), it won't stop me from buying Denise's beautiful textures.  Sometimes I just like to go to her site, and watch the textures roll through ...  If I've had a rough day, her beautiful texture abstracts have the power to settle me down and re-ground me : Calming Art Therapy.  See for yourself ...

These are two of Denise's texture sets that used the techniques taught in Lesson 1 :

Speckled Garden by 2 Lil Owls (Denise Love)

Watercolor Impressions by 2 Lil Owls (Denise Love)

If you'd like to join the class, sign-up info is here : Art of Making Textures Online Workshop.

A few more tips for my readers and classmates ...


1)  I tend to keep a few extra watercolor cards as "sop cloths."  This one was made entirely by picking up the excess paint on my work surface.  I simply press the card face down in the color, and pull it off -- kind of like pulling from a glass or a gelli plate.  This one came out very similar to spatter painting, in this case--probably because I used the spray bottle on my work surface.  I just keep these going until I have something I like.  I do stay aware of what colors will make mud, so I may decide to keep a "warm" and "cool" set going.

 2) I also have a journal specifically for cleaning off my brushes, sponges, and utensils.  [The cover of the journal above was a sop cloth from my dye studio.  It's actually much more vibrant than the photo shows.]    I've started calling it my Waste-Not/Want Not Journal.   This way, I don't waste any of that valuable color and paint.   The following resulting textures are pretty subtle -- remember I was trying to clean off my tools.  It's enough color and texture to use one way or another ...  sometimes subtle is just the thing!

 Over time, the journal fills up with nice backgrounds that I can use for warm-up pieces-- or even textures if I bother to photograph them.  I learned this from a mixed media artist named Dina Wakely

3) I like to use Viva paper towels as sop cloths.  They are THICK -- almost like fabric.  (You could also use cotton rags, too--sometimes it depends on the color medium.  Some things do better on fabric than paper.) The sop cloths are truly works of serendipity.  I keep them around as I work, and wipe up the surface to start a new piece.  Meanwhile, all that residual color is (again) not wasted.  I learned this a long time ago from my days hand-dying fabric.  You'll come up with color combinations that you probably wouldn't put together otherwise.  And they usually "work" by the time the sop cloth / serendipity cloth is finished.   This one is still a work in progress. 

 4) I now have a nice deck of watercolor texture cards after this first lesson (and looking forward to the rest of the class!).  I've been trying to write a few notes on the back of each one so I can re-create it in future, if I so desire.   It would also be cool to shuffle the deck and randomly pull out a texture card and then let that guide a future (post-class) texture-making session.

5)   I worked out this nifty technique for photographing the texture cards.  The watercolor paper tends to curl a bit after color has been applied and dried.  To alleviate this, I use a pane of glass to hold the texture card flat for photographing.  Works great!    Although I have a scanner at home now, it's easier for me to simply photograph the textures and work with them this way.   Maybe I'll learn something new in that regard, too. 

On to the next lesson ....

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Texture Tuesday : Hope in Winter

This lone tree stands in the park near my house.  The plain white/gray background needed some dressing up.  What better chance to use my new coffee textures?!?

I picked one with the salty stars because they kind of look like snow flakes falling--or blooming trees.   What can I say?  I love winter!

Photo Processing in PhotoShop Elements :
Layer 1 ) My Coffee Texture 4958 - Background image
Layer 2) Kim Klassen's Be Still Texture - Soft Light 100%
Layer 3) Kim Klassen's Hope Filled - Soft Light 100%
Layer 4) Copy Layer 1 - Normal 47%
Layer 5) Hue Saturation Adjustment - to dampen yellows and pinks
Layer 6) My Coffee Texture 4958 - shifted - Soft Light 43%
Layer 7) My Coffee Texture 4934 - Soft Light 51%
Layer 8) The Tree image - Color Burn - 100%
           (This treatment blurred out some of the houses and clutter in the horizon line)

With spring coming and the promise of gorgeous pink and white trees, I couldn't resist playing with some girly colors for a spring version :

For this version, I played with a few filters in Picassa (I know--heresy to the LightRoom crowd.)
     Graduated Tint (Pink from the top down)
     and Glow

There it is!

Sharing with Texture Artists Facebook Group and Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday.

Kim Klassen dot com

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mama Let You Lick the Spoon : Quilt Finished : The 2015 Challenge with Idaho Beauty Part 1


 The full quilt.

Several years ago (2009?), I took an online class with Terri  Stegmiller called Faces on Fabric.  She taught us to paint the faces and add shading and highlights.  I'd done an entirely appliqued face with The Oliver quilt, but didn't want this sweet little girl to look like Frankenstein with all the stitching required with applique.  I am so pleased with this result!

Did I mention : I dyed the fabric for the gray background and her skin?  
Her hair is entirely commercial fabrics.
The antique bowl is a piece of a wide ribbon folded over on itself.
The spoon is completely free-motioned embroidered.

My friend Sheila over at Idaho Beauty and I have begun a tradition of challenging each other to go beyond our normal paces, to try something new, or to finish something ...  Last year, I tried a few new techniques on a Journal, and Sheila did the same with a padfolio.  This year, she's working on some thread sketches (a new technique that I think will work nicely with her sketch book sketches).   I can't wait to see what she comes up with!

For my part of the challenge, I'm committed to finishing the John Hiatt Quilt that I started many years ago.  I kind of lost steam when my Art Quilt Group fell apart, and I no longer had the influence and ideas of those creative ladies to keep  me moving on the project--to get me unstuck when problems came up.   Now Mr. Hiatt is on tour again, and coming to my neck of the woods with an acoustic show (my favorite), I can't think of better inspiration to kick start this project back into being!  I had originally wanted to do 6 or 7 blocks, but I think at this point, I'll be happy to finish the  3 I started (more may come later ... I have ideas ...).   John Hiatt's songs and lyrics are wonderfully VISUAL.  They easily lend themselves to visual interpretations again and again.

Here's where I left the Spoon Girl, aka Sienna, aka "Mama Let You Lick the Spoon."  Just didn't have the heart to continue--until now.  I've missed her--truthfully!  She's been around so long, she's like my own little girl who never grows up. (Actually, I think that's sorta the point of the song ... )

I hung her (along with the other two unfinished blocks) on my design wall early in the new year--just waiting for inspiration to strike.    In my disaster of a sewing studio, I was delighted to be able to find the John Hiatt Quilt folder easily and effortlessly amid the clutter.  Does this mean the time is right?  the stars are aligning?

Design Question 1)  Do I try to piece them together into a single wall quilt?  Or do I work them up as individual pieces?  The original idea was to do a compilation piece -- in the style of McKenna Ryan's picture quilts with  7 blocks.  Each one could easily stand on it's own, but they would also work well together as a tribute to Mr Hiatt's wonderful body of work.  I decided that I should quilt them individually, and not try to put them together in one single quilt.  If I work on the blocks as individuals, then I can tie them together--maybe that means "working in a series" rather than putting them together in a single quilt.   Each individual block is too big to put them all together.  Best to treat them as individual wall hangings.

 Auditioning borders.  The dark one in the middle is a flange.  In the end, I decided to go with a darker green than this gray.  It was the obvious choice since it made everything else "pop."

This where I left her on Saturday.  Still need to quilt the outer border and bind it.

You can really see the quilting on the gray background here.

Design Question 2) How to quilt the backgrounds?   My signature bumblebee meander works for  the gray background behind her.  What about the borders?  I wanted to include the lyric that inspired this portrait quilt : John Hiatt's Angel :

Y'all put that hammer down and drove through Love's angel food cake
Tastin' every spongy layer and lickin' frosting off the moon
Wild-eyed with excitement but childishly disappointed
Maybe even tasted better when mama let you lick the spoon

This one shows the quilted words a little better.  It's subtle.  I didn't want to hit anyone over the head with it.  Those who know John Hiatt may want to dig deeper, and smile with recognition.  I thread-sketched the words in cursive writing  : That will be a secret code that many young people today don't know how to read, nor write. He-He!

Around the words in the outer border, I used a leafy vine (aka vine heart).  I was doodling that pattern way back in high school.  Been with me a long time!

Design Question 3) Do I add beads and embellishments? Yes--where that treatment works.  It doesn't fit on Spoon Girl. 

We have tickets for the Hiatt concert in Green Bay, WI, later this month.  What do you think are the chances to actually meet John Hiatt, show him the quilt, and ask for an autograph?  Do you think he'll recognize which songs I'm trying to illustrate?  He probably gets quilters all across the country who show up at his concerts with the same idea!  ;-)   I left the lower right corner "open" for John Hiatt's autograph should we manage to meet him on Friday.  "Cross My Fingers!" (That's yet another John Hiatt song!)

50 Shades of Red and the Wolf

 50 Shades of Red and the Wolf

This is my belated visual response to 50 Shades of Gray.  I don't quite understand the appeal of this movie--a gray wolf takes advantage of an innocent young woman.  It's essentially a Little Red Riding Hood story--or Blue Beard.

I keep a Little Red & the Wolf Board over at Pinterest.  I've been interested in this story for years.  The beauty of these old stories in the public domain is that people can take them, reclaim them, re-tell them to fit their own times (ex : Ruby on ABC's Once Upon a Time).  I really enjoy the versions where Little Red is in charge, not a victim, and not rescued by the Woodsman, or anyone else.  That's what I wanted to say with this piece.  Violence against women is so ubiquitous in this world.  Even I, in my insulated circle of post-modern America, get so tired of it, I have to say something.

I used 2 of my very own textures, including an adire alabere (stitched resist) from Nigeria that I've always thought would make a great woods, or forest.   And then, the beautiful face of Audrey Hepburn as Little Red--innocent, but not a victim.  And of course, the wolf.  She's in charge, and in command of her wolf-y nature.  More of a partnership than a power play.

50 Shades could also be a Blue Beard Story (Who knows -- maybe I'll work up a 50 Shades of Blue Beard next?).  That story has terrified me for as long as I've known it.  Here, Clarissa Pinkola Estes shares her way of sharing it with young people.

Photo Processing in Photoshop Elements

Layer 1) Background Image - My Iron Gall Ink Wash

Layer 2) Adire Trees Texture - from a stitched resist tie dye) - Multiply 70%
Layer 3) Copy Layer 2 (trees again - turned and shifted) - Overlay 52%
Layer 4) Copy Layer 1 (Iron Gall Ink Wash) - Soft Light 100%
Layer 5) Copy Layer 4 - Overlay 100%
Layer 6) Audrey Hepburn Face - Darken 65%
Layer 7) Howling Wolf - Darken 64%
Layer 8) Copy Layer 7 (another howling wolf) - Darken 39%
Layer 9) Grunge Brush to soften the wolf layers - Screen 64%
Layer 10) Maroon Color Fill - Color 87% (changes the blue to maroon --It is Little Red, after all)

Sharing with Texture Artists FaceBook Group.

Liberate Your Art Postcard Exchange and Blog Hop 2015 April 16

For the past 3 years, I've participated in Kat Sloma's Liberate Your Art Post Card Exchange, where she encourages us to print our art to postcards, and then share them with other creatives around the world.  This year, I sent off my new batch of postcards in good faith with plenty of time to meet the due date.  And then the day before the swap, Kat kindly emailed me to say she received my empty envelope, but no postcards, and no stamps, no labels.  ???   Apparently lost in the mail on the way to Milwaukee.  Hmmmmh ...  Funny the post office delivered an empty envelope, and didn't return it to me.  I was pretty bummed, thinking I wouldn't be able to participate this year after all ...   

But this is such a wonderful community that Kat is fostering.   I am honored and humbled by it all :
Back in January, I posted a collage of the images I was considering printing to postcards for the 2015 exchange.   Through the FaceBook Group, several people liked my work so much that they offered to do an extra swap with me.  Some of them were new people, and some I'd met in previous years.  So even though I didn't get to participate in the official swap this year, I still got to be part of it all--liberated my art (again), and met some new people around the world.  Things worked out just fine!

Here are the cards I received this year all of them EXTRA Swaps since my P/Cs got lost on the way to Oregon :

Tulips in Paris from Janice Darby in California -- next to my leafy green teapot.

Welcome burst of color from Sara Calhoun in Atlanta, Georgia.  Our spring hasn't started yet!
From Snap Lane in Houston, TX. 

Still cold enough to have a fire burning here.  
Only Frost Fairies so far, but they do beautiful work, too!
These are my husband's big ol' feet sitting next to me.

From Amy Irwen in Minnesota.  A beautiful mixed media piece.

From Juana Almaguer in Langley, WA
Just wanted to show you, Juana, that your rocks and shells and corals landed someplace where they are appreciated.  I dug out my Olokun Head (aka Shell Head Lady), cleaned her up, packed her up in a backpack and trekked her down to the still frozen shores of Lake Winnebago as the sun was setting tonight.

 2nd card from Kat van Rooyen in Tazwell, VA.

 This is the postcard Kat Sloma (OR) sent to all participants in the 2015 LYA Postcard Exchange.  Even though my envelope arrived empty, with no stamps, Kat still sent me a postcard.  Thank you so much, Kat!  It's beautiful--pictured here on my art desk in the porch.

Here are my Postcards I sent out into the world (wherever they landed -- At some point, you just have to let go and send them out into the world, and trust they will play their part in making the world a more beautiful place, whether they end up where I sent them, or if they landed where they were needed most (at least, that is what' I'm choosing to believe).  All of these have previously appeared here on Sweet Leaf Notebook :

Grunge Horse  (Landed in Idaho)


A Dream is a Wish ... (Landed in California)

October Moon (Landed in Georgia)

Sandy - (Landed in Sweden)

Indigo Moon (Landed in Virginia and Minnesota)

Storm Coming (Landed in Texas)

Pick More Daisies (Landed in North Central Wisconsin)

Topaz Tulips (Landed in Virginia and Washington)

2015 Liberate Your Art Video, compiled by Kat Sloma.  Participating Artists contributed 1 image of their work for this year's video.  Enjoy!

Blog Hop