Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Fun

I said I was going to do more sketching this summer but I hadn't really planned to have the produce aisle of the local supermarket be my locale.

It all started with this new online course I was taking with my friend Deb, Sketching Foundations with Liz Steel. If you ever want a good grounding in drawing presented in a user friendly way go check this out. Liz and Sketchbook Skool have figured out how to "do" the online thing and many of us are hooked.

Week 1 had us heading out in public to draw with confidence 2 or 3 objects and do it twice, sort of a get to know your materials exercise. My daughter thought I needed to raise the bar and challenged me to head to the produce department of Hyvee Supermarket here in Madison.

Naturally I packed my bag and took off. I settled on the squash and cheese display, an interesting pairing. Maybe I wouldn't get in the way of too many shoppers.

I set up the scene with a micro pen. Notice I do have a jar of marmalade and muffin mix to purchase just in case the management begins to wonder.

I might have scared that lady away though.

I even got the paints out and still nobody questioned my actions, most likely they thought I was "someone famous". Liz wanted us to paint using only one color to keep it simple.

I headed off to pay for my items, placing the wet painting by the scanner in the express lane. Still no comments.

So if you are hesitant to draw in public, go ahead - apparently no one even notices you.

Most of all, have fun.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Landscape Feelings

How do you feel about the place you live?

I have begun to think more about this question as I look forward to the workshop I'm teaching at Sievers School this September. Washington Island, located on Lake Michigan, is a unique setting and I'm hoping we can spend time exploring what that location means to us individually.

Which is why I started thinking about Madison, Wisconsin. My roots are not deep, I've just completed year 4, so what could I explore to give my students an idea of what I'm asking?

I decided to focus on the isthmus. Madison is uniquely positioned on an isthmus between two lakes and there are many ways to access views. One of my favorite is Olin Park at Turville Point, so I headed out early one morning in a light rain with sketchbook and camera. Rain has been our constant companion in WI this spring.

Quiet and solitude is an important part of this place, knowing you are still a part of the city. Although I don't like to work from photos, I will take a few as reference for later. They could help remind me of the mood or a shape I had forgotten.

I sketched an outline of the horizon from one side to the other, broken into three parts. The motor boats were pretty cool too.

Then I completed a quick sketch of the elements I liked the most in this space. You'll notice the dome building on the horizon, the Wisconsin Capitol is a big deal here, as it should be, an amazing piece of architecture inside and out.

It was a restful morning. Aside from the fishermen, there were a few joggers and a couple having their pictures taken. I spent most of my time just looking and trying to remember.

I've begun the tapestry which, I'm happy to say, will not be an accurate rendering of the area.

It's more how I feel about it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Summer Freedom

I realize summer solstice hasn't occurred, but when you substitute teach tonight is the equivalent of Friday night. The last day is done and possibilities abound, take it slow.

Yes indeed, the school year has ended and I have the freedom to make some choices. Most of my focus is on developing ideas for future tapestries, after all WI winters are so well suited for wood stoves and weaving. Not that I won't start my day with the usual ritual of an hour of weaving, it's just a change of focus.

So here we are, the three freedoms of summer 2015.

1. More Sketching, whenever I can. Look, observe, draw....the foundation of everything.
Noah's Ark Water Park, Middle School Field Trip

2. Women with Fruit. I have decided to do a theme-based collection of my woven lady friends based on fruit.

Step 1, buy fruit and draw it.
Step 2, eat the fruit.
Step 3, weave when the cold weather arrives.

3. Dye Yarn. Now that I have all the tools once again, yarn dyeing makes its debut shortly and colors will be hanging on the clothesline. I have some wonderful marled handspun waiting in the wings.

And yes, I need more yarn.

What is your summer freedom, what passion have you been putting off for another day?

You may not share my release from substitute duty, but let summer get hold of you and take some time. Make a sketch, read a book, stare into space.

It's fleeting, take advantage.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Into the Woods

Into the Woods  10 x 10 inches

That's the name of a piece I recently had accepted into Contemporary Portraits at the Water Street Gallery in Batavia, Illinois. Roughly a two hour drive from Madison, I decided I would go to the opening. I'm glad I did.

Main Street, Batavia, Illinois

It was a lengthy enough day trip I could declare it a sketchbook day, the best way for me to see a new area. Batavia is on the Fox River, west of Chicago and has some history with windmills and Conestoga wagons, so how could it not be a good day?

The Gallery, along the Fox River

I was so proud to be in this show, the only tapestry piece among 54 superb and diverse portraits. I enjoyed looking at each piece for the hour I was there, each artist's approach gave me much food for thought.

The gallery staff did a wonderful job of hanging the show in a nifty limestone wall venue. Snacks were plentiful.

I've been in several shows that I've never's so much better to see your baby in person. Not to mention I had ice cream for dinner...caramel no less.

Ice Cream for Dinner

Sunday, May 3, 2015


This portrait I'm finishing reminds me how distinctive the language of tapestry weaving can be. Working at this large scale, 6 ends in an inch rather than 10, truly makes every pass of the weft yarns count. A weaver's "highs and lows" become critical and this time I'm not talking about our mood. Although that might enter into it after all.

If you have followed the design development of this piece you know it all started with a cookie platter in a Martha Stewart Christmas issue and moved on from there to what you see today. The core idea is still in place but changes happen many times along the way. I spent several days working on the eyes, weaving and unweaving many times over the course of a week. The eyebrows are done and I've moved on to finish the hair piece.

I hope she's not too sad, she's not meant to be, but expressions are tricky and subtle. We'll see what her attitude is when the warps are cut.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sketching Faces

If you have read this blog before you know that portraits and the stories of people's lives never ceases to interest me. There is an endless amount of material out there, the key is to get out and notice it. No better way to do that than to sit down and draw.

Madison winters take me to mall food courts and coffee shops, but occasionally I look at photographs. The ones I used this month were found in a pile at a flea market, so no family ties to confuse things.

I used ink pen to avoid the erasing temptation and spent more time looking at the photo than the paper though they aren't completely blind contour. I didn't worry about resemblance, only gesture. These people are a mystery to me anyway.

In my final drawing I picked 4 photos randomly from the pile and drew one person from each drawing left to right. I like the potential for story telling here and hope to do more.

Tomorrow I'll be back to observing, this time the Earth Day gathering down at the park. The farmers market is opening up too, no problem filling up the sketchbook now that spring is here.

Social Graces continues to grow. Yarns are finally set, time to sit down and do it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Social Graces Moves On

Last month I shared the beginning of my new tapestry with the working title Social Graces. The title fits so well I may not have to change it. This month I thought I'd tell you a bit more about how the idea came about.

I was flipping through a Martha Stewart mag from the library give-aways, tearing out shapes and objects. It may not be my style, but you can't deny the high quality of the pics. When I'm trying to get ideas I will glue random shapes in my sketchbook without much thought and see what shows up. One of her fancy serving platters intrigued me. It looked like a hairpiece so I painted a face in the spot where the cookies had been.

This is a tiny idea, the sketchbook is about 3 x 5 inches. I lived with the idea for a long time and enlarged it with a watercolor sketch. Then I came across the cotton gloves my mother bought me when I was 13. I needed them because I was signed up for an etiquette class in town, you did things like that back in the early 1960's. Another class confronted me at  boarding school a few years later, but by then it was 1966 and social graces were disappearing. It was mostly unpleasant so I find it interesting that I enjoy having the gloves.

The colors for this tapestry are very unplanned and grow from what has been woven before, I have picked up the drop spindle fairly often and still wonder what the colors around her face will be.