Sunday, August 14, 2016

Do You Have An Art Skill That You Shy Away From?

Is there an art activity that you feel that you just aren't good at? I always feel like I balk when it comes to making collages. I may start with an idea or start with a good color palette, but when it's finished, it never looks like a good composition. And when I look at other artists' collages, they always look so together. I study theirs vs mine to try to learn, but still haven't mastered the tricks.
My summer camp creative assignment this week was "Paint the News". Basically to take the newspaper and paint over it, then cut it up, and make a collage. When I saw that the basic assignment was to make a collage, I had two thoughts: One was "Oh no. I'm not good at this." The other thought was. "Oh good. I can try again. And at least there are directions for a starting point."
So I decided to use my favorite colors of blue greens. I painted over a newspaper page, a cut up some pages from a magazine. I really disliked my first attempt and threw it away. The next day, I decided to try again.
attempt #2
I liked this one better, but it still wasn't good enough, so I threw it away, also and I decided that wouldn't participate in this week's activity. The collages that the other artists were sharing online were very impressive, and I was too embarrassed by my attempts to share mine.
Then, one of the artists wrote by hers that she "let the chaos happen." That phrase really hit home with me. So I took my last attempt out of the trash and cut it up and rearranged it.

Balance The News

My response was to counteract the news of violence, stories of bigotry, and people ignoring facts. So I painted over the words on the paper almost completely. For symbolism, I added pages from a crossword puzzle book that could be filled in with more upbeat words. I used cool colors wishing everyone would just calm down and step back to think before they speak and act. And I incorporated one of my favorite themes.
Maybe I am getting the hang of collage. Let the chaos happen. I like that. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on the artists' posts so that they know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Do You Have Tricks For Choosing Colors?

     When you are creating artwork, are you picky about the colors you choose? Do they have to be exactly the right hue? For me, they didn't used to have to be. But now, I have a homework assignment that requires me to work in one color family with only 3-4 hues. And another assignment with complimentary colors. So I'm being very choosy with my colors right now. I'm sure there are many ways to go about it, but I've come up with a way that is working for me.
     I go to one of the big box home improvement stores and pick up paint chips in the color family I want. I hold them up to my background fabric and choose the few that look the best with it. Then I get out my fabric paints and mix up the colors to match the paint chips. I mix them up on an acrylic palette and paint out a square on a piece of white cotton muslin. I also take that original color and add white and paint out a square of that on the muslin, too. I label the muslin with a number for the color like "2A".  The one with white added gets labeled "2B.  I sew the muslin pieces onto card stock and write the recipe for making the color on the card stock so that I can make it again.
Painted muslin pieces
For colors E and F above, I forgot to make their white counterparts. This way, I can remove the card stock from my notebook and hold it up or pin it to a background on my design board and stand back and see how it looks.
     Another trick I've been using is adding colorless extender to my textile paint to get a more transparent look in places when using stencils and thermofaxes. I try it out in different dilutions and keep a record in my notebook, too.
A thermofax print tested with a 1:4 dilution
Here are some prints on my art cloth at two different dilutions.
Two leaf prints at two different dilutions
By the way, the leaves are very special to me. My mother picked the leaves for me about ten years ago when she was still alive and living up in Chicago. I asked her to send me some autumn leaves. A few weeks ago, I needed to make a thermofax of leaves. Since I'm in the way of using what you have, I went through my things and found the bag of leaves she had sent.
     Last night, I needed an image of a leaf in decay so I mixed up paint, got out my gelli plate, and printed away to get an image for a new thermofax screen.
my printing table in full gear
     I ended up using one of the negative prints and inverting the black and white to get a good image to send off for my  thermofax. So, now that I have structured assignments, I'm developing structured ways of looking at color and I'm finding it actually more liberating.
I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts so that the artists know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Do You Use Store-Bought Art Tools Or Do You Make Your Own?

     When you need a new tool for making your art, do you go out and buy it, or do you try to make it? Lately, I try to use what I have. Partly to be economical and partly to be gentle on the environment. Now that I'm dyeing fabric, which is new to me and using thermofax screens, which I only did rarely before, I'm finding that I need tools that I didn't have before. I know that I can order them online and they will be delivered in about 2-3 days, but it is rewarding to find things in my studio or the garage that have been sitting there collecting dust and spider webs and finding that they are perfect for the job.
     I love the flag fold pattern on dyed cloth and I wanted something similar with a criss-cross pattern on a narrow long piece. I looked around on Pinterest and other places and experimented with folding paper and figured out a fold that would give me what I wanted. If I used rubber bands to hold it together, though, the bands would leave a mark that I didn't want.
When you need a new tool for making your art, do you go out and buy it, or do you try to make it? 
      My husband had a couple of transparent sheer acrylic sheets in the garage that I could cut with some shears we have, so I cut two rectangles from it and then covered the sharp edges of it with duct tape. I put my folded fabric between the rectangles and put the rubber bands around them to hold them tight so that the dye would only penetrate through the folds and create the pattern. 
shears and folded fabric in acrylic sheets
      The first time I did it, I got the pattern I wanted. You see it here on a close-up photo with some stencils and thermofaxes printed on top. 
fabric is on the left
     The second time I did it, I didn't put enough rubber bands on top of the rectangle shapes, and too much dye seeped in. You see it here in this photo. 
dye bled too much
I'll probably over dye this fabric some time in the future because I don't like how it turned out. But anyway, that is one tool that I made instead of buying. I know that you can buy acrylic shapes for dye resists.
     The second tool I made is for thermofax printing. I have a store-bought rubber squeegie for regular screen printing, but for a thermofax screen, you need to use a much thinner tool or you get too much paint onto the fabric and ruin the hand of the fabric. Usually I just use an old credit card or gift card. But I have some images that are wider than those cards and if I use one of those cards to print them and run the card across them multiple times with the paint to get the whole image, I get a line or lines on the image on the fabric. So what I need is a card that is as wide as the image. Well, there is no card that wide. So I was scrounging around the studio for something stiff enough, waterproof, and wide enough that could be used over and over.
     I came across an acrylic sheet that I use occasionally as a surface for monoprinting. It came from a department store and was given to me by a friend. I have several of them.
acrylic sheet used to advertise cosmetics
     I took one of them and cut a strip off, covered the ends in several layers of duct tape to stiffen it up more, and it works great as a thin squeegie.
new tool
I just put the paint on one end of the thermofax screen and run my home made squeegie across the image once and I get a nice, sharp image without affecting the hand of the fabric very much at all. (Note: I usually mix my textile paint with textile colorless extender.)
How to use the new tool
     Plus, when I use my hand-made tools, somehow, my art feels more original to me, too. I know tools don't make it so, but it's more satisfying to me to know where it all comes from and to know that I thought of how to do it. It somehow makes it more fun, too. Especially if the tools are quirky and wonky as mine will always be ... I don't specialize in engineering.
     I'm very late in posting this particular blogpost. As I was writing it on Friday, a storm came up and lightning struck about 5 times a minute and it went on for an hour! The power went out. When all was said and done, we lost our phone, Internet connection, water pump, and OMG my blow dryer. I had unplugged my sewing machine so it was safe. It took until Monday to get the Internet and phone back. So that's why I'm so late posting this. But I can't complain. So much of the world lives without running water all the time. And our house didn't get hit by the lightning. It was close and it several places in the yard. We do live in the lightning capital of the world. (I'm in error. I meant United States.) That's about the 8th time our water pump took a direct hit. The power company already installed deep rods to ground the lightning. Too bad I can't make a tool to do better than that. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts so that the artists know you stopped by.

Friday, July 8, 2016

What Do You Do When You Need To Sooth Your Soul?

     Do you have an art activity that helps sooth your soul? I've found two things that give me some relief when things are bothering me. One is to repair torn or old cloth items and put them back into good use. The other is to sit down, listen to natural sounds of birds and wind rustling leaves or turn on music while I hand sew free-style embroidery stitches. I learned this peaceful type of meditation when I took an online class with Jude Hill. Until then I only did machine sewing. Now I love doing both. I find that each has its place in my artwork.
     Awhile back I posted here about how one of my favorite shirts got ruined by bleach.
My "boyfriend" shirt
In that post, I showed how I put some patches of cotton fabrics on it and started to boro stitch to give it character. I've been so busy working on my dyeing projects, that I haven't had time to work on the shirt much. But this week, I needed some calm time and I sat down with it and stitched away and it's finished.
Better than Ever
     Now I like it better than before. It actually belonged to my husband and I borrowed it to wear it.
detail of the stitches
I stitched a floral motif in the upper right because that was on the fabric and it was fun. I chose not to cover all the bleach  with fabric because when I auditioned fabric in those places, it looked too much like a bib. So now, I have to wait until at least late October to wear it. The temperatures here are in the high 90's (Fahrenheit) and will be until then. I doubt my husband will want to wear the shirt anymore with its new style. 
     There are things we can all do to get involved in fixing ills of our ailing society and we should, but  we also need to take care of our own mental well being while all this craziness is going on. When I can fix one small thing in an artful way, it is soothing and satisfying. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts to let the artists know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Are Creative Prompts Actually Useful?

     Have you wondered if creative prompts are actually helpful or just a temporary entertainment? These past two weeks I participated in Jane Dunnewold's Creative Strength Training Summer Camp. It's an ongoing summer activity to promote her marvelous book, Creative Strength Training and her  Creative Strength Training Prompt Cards.
     For the first prompt, we were basically supposed to collect sticks and do something with them. I painted mine black and then dropped them onto a dyed cloth to see if I could get a nice arrangement of black lines. I did that because I often like to sew black lines onto my art quilts.
sticks thrown on cloth
While I like the zen-like feel of this arrangement, I may or may not ever use this particular design. But I can see that this method is a good one. I chose sticks with similar curves and I chose one that was much longer than the others and when I dropped them, I dropped them in groups. So the design isn't completely random. The other thing I noticed is the shadows produced by the sticks also contribute to the design. So if I'm looking to add prominent stitching lines to an artwork, this could work as a starting point for designing them. 
     The second prompt involved choosing a page from a book and highlighting at least eight words and writing a poem using those words. Right now, I'm liking the concept of life working in cycles and people's lives getting caught up in eddies of the rivers of life. So I got out my gigantic old dictionary and looked up the word "eddy". The words on that page that I used were: eddy, edge, fringe, golden, Eden, balance, mystical, and spiritual. (Some of those words were in the definition of Ecuador.) 
     After I wrote my poem, I pulled out a watercolor painting I did about a year ago that fit the poem and digitally put my poem on top. 
Eddy of Life
     And I think this method is a way to explore a concept more deeply. To help get more images for your artwork. Another way to mind map. So I will definitely do this again, too. 
     To answer the original question then... for me, the creative prompts can be incredibly useful in creating my art if I use them with my art in mind. (They are also entertaining.)
I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts so that the artists know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Are Some Weeks Busier Than Others In The Studio?

Or, in my case are some weeks busier than others in the laundry room? I've been working on my research project for my Art Cloth Mastery Class with  Jane Dunnewold. It involved lots and lots of dyeing cloth and getting dyeing recipes perfected for me and for the other students. I prefer cloths with texture and mottling, but in this study, I needed to get solid-colored cloths so that I can cut them up into swatches and each student in the class gets the same color and value on their piece as everyone else. I'm going to prepare the samples on cardstock with the recipes for all the other students and for Jane and give it to them at our next session. I got to choose my topic. I like to work with pastels, so I chose to find the recipes to get lighter colors of each of the 12 colors on a standard color wheel plus gray plus brown. (Brown isn't shown here.) I did the standard color plus 4 tints.
Whew! That's a lot of dyeing.
     I got quite tired of making solids only so I occasionally did a scrumble with leftover dye to see if the mixed colors would split at all. I did a scrumble of the blue-green and washed it out during a thunder storm. Here's the result.

Some lightning bolts?
And of course, Opus and Andy played their part in all of this. One of days, they were wildly running and chasing each other all through the house while I was in the laundry room measuring out dye. I was glad of that because it kept them out of my way. But then it got very quiet. Quiet is not good. I went into the studio to find this...
Is that a look of guilt or contrition? NOT
There is no way I can be angry at them. I love them way too much. And there is no way I can keep them out of any room. I love their company way too much for that, too. I only keep them out when there is paint or dye involved for their own safety. 
So the last two weeks have been very labor intensive. But the hard work is done. I've learned a lot about dyeing and have a wonderful resource. Now I can get to the creative and fun part of the homework. So looking forward to it. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on the artists' blogs so that they know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Passing It On

     One of the things I love to do is spend time each week at our local Boys and Girls Club teaching a small group of girls (and now one boy) how to sew. I started last summer by having them write stories in sketch books I got them and then lay down a background in fabric and baste it. Then we planned a foreground in fabric to fit each story and began to stitch it in top. Well, those were taking too long for them so we put those aside and began making smaller works to eventually sew together into small books. They got very excited about sewing their "pages" since they could get each one done in a relatively short period of time. Each page could tell a little story, too. All the sewing is done by hand and I have a huge collection of embroidery threads in every color imaginable that they call the treasure box.
     Here is a small sample of some pages of one of the girls.
book page 1

book page 2

book page 3
I love her free style. She composed all these without my help. Her mother says she just wants to sew all the time. It's such a joy to pass this skill on to another generation. This particular girl even wants to teach some of the other girls in the club how to sew when I'm not there.  She's hoping to start a little club on her own soon. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts so that they know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.