Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bleaching old tshirts to liven them up

I had two older tshirts, plain, and some bleach available, so the inevitable happened and I did a bit of freeform bleaching on them.  Just regular strength household bleach.  There may later be stitching into these designs, I'll see how I like them in action.




As you probably know, when you bleach designs like this, you stop the process as soon as it has done what you want, by rinsing.  Otherwise the bleach is liable not only to spread further and further, but to eat through the fabric here and there, which might not be what you meant.

This is just one of those things you idly do when you're considering a load of laundry and thinking you should be socially conscious and not put the machine on till off-peak hours, considering we're in the midst of a heatwave.  But meanwhile..

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Transparency's the word of the day

While I was at the plein air session yesterday, I got a lot of thinking in, including some design ideas.  And today I realized that I could print out the pix of the wildflowers and of the lichen on the tree, onto fine silk, to create a transparent image.

You can get this silk, mounted on paper, to run through your inkjet printer, from Dharma Trading, my go-to place, and I had a couple of six packs of assorted silks.  So I used the very finest ones, for maximum see through.  Silk charmeuse, chiffon, crepe de chine and organza.
 
After I did the two natural images I realized this could also be applied to other artwork, so I did a couple of the daylily paper works the same way.  They may end up being framed on top of the original paper, don't know yet.  But it was fun doing this.  Talk about one extreme to the other!  handmade paper from natural fibers, to comparatively high tech printing.


 Here are all four sheets taped to the window, to show you the degree of transparency.



And here are, upper, the lichen image, and lower, the wildflower image.  As you see, in my attempt to show you the transparency, I've created a new image of them plus their background.  I love this confused and dreamy effect.

This is still raw material, the ultimate destination not yet decided.  But in the course of doing this, I realized that the double images  can be printed out in their turn. And then the transformation continues.  Just shows why it's a good idea to do plein air once in a while.  Being out of doors really gets your ideas moving. And why it's good to let the ideas lead the way.

 This is great fun, and you can easily do it, if you get the paper- -mounted silk, which comes in 8x11 usual printing paper size, and remember to insert it the right way up in the printer...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Plein Air has started up again.

This morning, I initiated the first meeting of our plein air group for this year.  It's a Creative Collective adventure, but anyone may come join us to make art out of doors, if you're local.  Email me at my personal yahoo address for location information.  There's shade, and a covered pavilion, and views of trees, grass, parkland, canal water, houses, plenty of interest.  And runners and canoeists if action drawing and painting is your joy, too.

Anyway, I got it underway with a solo performance -- it takes a couple of weeks before people start to schedule it and fit it in and come, so it's good to launch it anyway.

Very hot today, so an hour and a half was about it for this heat avoiding artist, but it was productive and one of the great pleasures of life, as plein air drawing always is.  I brought painting gear too, but ended up just getting my hand and eye back in with a couple of drawings, and pix for future study for design purposes. 

Model maple leaf sitting on the drawing book

My interpretation seen without the model
 
The view, and, below,  how the eye edits as you draw


How I saw that view   





Picnic table, and below, the abstraction it suggested


When you slow down and just let yourself look and breathe, you see all kinds of interesting phenomena.  Many dragonflies out this morning, three different species, some small butterflies, late dandelions, one of which I sampled, not bad, banks of wildflowers, interesting lichen designs on trees, no end of nature to see and experience. 






 If you can join us or some other group to make art out of doors in the summer, or if you have no group, do it anyway.  You'll be part of a long history of artists making the outdoors in their studio, in a conversation with nature.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Daylily paper now made into art

There's now a series of  pieces, using the daylily paper,  pressed and painted and stamped, and here's the preview.   

This paper tends to curl and crimp, so I took advantage of that to paint the raised parts and stamp into it, then press it again under a heavy sheet of glass.  If you want very flat paper, you would leave the sheets on the felts, press them until totally dry, then probably leave them on the felts till you're ready to use them. This stuff has a will of its own, though and I like the effect of beaten metal you get with this approach, just working with its nature.








One of these is to go into a group show, the others may make their debut later.  There's a lot more paper to use, and many small scraps wonderful for making monotone collages, along with scraps of white paper I made earlier.  These pieces are to be framed in a plain wood frame, floated on a white background.  Not yet titled, but suggestions welcomed as always.

It looks as if I have plenty of work to be getting on with. And I plan on making onionskin paper too, probably would be more translucent, but we'll see.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Daylily papermaking complete

Perfect weather to complete the daylily foliage papermaking caper.  I cooked the foliage, which I'd cut down to small pieces, in a big enamel pot, with some washing soda to help break down the fibers.  


The cooking, with testing every now and then to see if the fibers were broken down enough to work as pulp, took about three hours. You test by getting a strand of foliage out, rinsing, then gently pulling to see if it comes apart between your thumbs without a struggle.

Then I rinsed the pulp thoroughly to make sure the washing soda was gone, so that it wouldn't go on weakening the fibers, and used my blender for the beating sequence, ending with a nice vat of pulp. This vat is just a kitchen dish washing pan, kept for paper only.


 This is a sheet of paper on the mold, draining a bit before I turn it onto a felt and use the mold for the next sheet. As you see, the pulp's a rich brown, but it won't be that color when the paper is dry. I made the mold from an old picture frame, stapled with screening, simple tool.  The deckle is the other bit of the frame, which sits on the mold.  When you scoop up pulp onto the mold, you have to have the screening side uppermost, as you see here, or the pulp won't release.

Then I used a mold, but didn't use a deckle this time, wanted a freer edge to the sheets, and couched a post of paper on felts. The felts, which is a technical term, doesn't mean they're made of felt, are Pellon interfacing, great stuff, releases the paper nicely, washes up easily ready for the next adventure.

The water left in the vat after all the pulp is used up should never go down the sink.  Papermaking fiber can clog up your plumbing before you know it.  Always toss it outdoors.  It's harmless if you don't use toxic dyes and additives, which I don't. Live plants don't mind it.  And when you rinse the pulp, best do it in a big strainer lined with cheesecloth, so you don't lose pulp down the sink as you rinse.

Then, the post of paper done, I took the tray of dripping pulp and felts outside, squeezed a lot of the water out by standing on the post (that's the term for a series of sheets) of paper, and letting the water run out on the deck.  Harmless since it's only daylily fiber and water. This is why it's nice to do this on a hot summer day when you don't mind a bit of water around.

Then I set the sheets out separately to dry slightly on the felts. The tray you see bottom left is what I used to collect the felts as I worked, then to carry the lot outside.  There's a lot of water involved, and you don't want it all over, so this roasting pan, used only for paper, is just the thing. It's turned over to dry out here.




Then I slapped off the sheets onto the outside of the patio window. This is like the old trick of ironing small items by putting them wet on the mirrors. The paper dries nice and flat, and you can peel it off once dry. It won't fall off the glass though, so it stays until you remember to take it off. Picture taken from inside to show the translucence starting to happen.



I've been wanting to make paper this summer, and this sort of crept up on me, but really happy to have used up old dead foliage instead of discarding it.  Also the place looks neater now. I  cleaned up the daylilies I planted years ago by the dumpster, and they now look a lot better, just the live foliage and blossoms, no dead stuff there. It's all on my window now.

So a post of about a dozen sheets took about an armload of foliage, roughly.  As you see from the color around the edges of the drying sheets, it will be more of a gold than the dark brown in the vat. This is paper you use as art material, unsized so you wouldn't paint on it, or it would probably dissolve.  It's art in itself, though, not intended for writing on like commercial paper.  You can size your own paper if you like, but I usually don't since I need to use it other ways.

This is loads of fun to do with kids, if you do the cooking part for them. They can help gather foliage, and they can definitely learn to form sheets and they love slapping off onto the windows! ask me how I know this..

These pieces have a destination, at least a couple of them, in an upcoming group exhibit.  At least once dry and made into  actual artworks, and framed and all that.

I still have loads of iris foliage to play with, once I recover from this session.  The true frugal artist at work.   Very labor intensive, but the process is as important as the product to the maker.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Papermaking with Plants

When the day's lovely, hot, not too humid, sunny, some people think ah, the shore (what we call the beach in NJ), some people think ah, the garden, and some of us think, ah, wave Handsome Son off to the shore, then clean up the garden and use the foliage resulting to make paper!

So here is some of today's haul.  




Iris leaves (there's now a large bag of them in the freezer awaiting the papermaker's pleasure, this is why I had to buy a chest freezer), green and ripe, and daylily foliage, dried and papery.  



It's labor intensive to make paper from plant material, but great fun to have the raw materials right there in the yard waiting.

The daylily leaves are now all cut up ready to cook for quite a while with washing soda, which helps break down the fibers to a useful level. Then they'll be beaten in the blender, and with any luck I'll have pulp to make a sheet or two of paper with them. You need tons of plant material, since it cooks down, and I probably should have thought of this before I took an armload of daylily foliage out to scatter in the woods.

Same process with the iris leaves.  These are both pretty good for papermaking, and you can mix other fibers with them, such as abaca fiber or cotton linters, both of which I have, but may or may not use this time.

If you like the idea of doing this, here's a beautiful book, lovely to handle and browse through even if you never actually make any paper! I love everything about this book, from the fonts they chose, to the colors, the layout and the friendly text.  It gets technical here and there, but not too much for the non chemists among us, which would be me.




This is what you do after you recover from the emotional down that comes with the end of an exhibit.  Except that I've been invited into a couple of others, so that's nice.  And I have a firm sale and a couple more possible sales from the exhibit, always a cheering note. But anyway, this is very different from the work I've been doing for a while.

Papermaking involves a lot of water and messing about with pulp, great fun, best done out on the patio in good weather. In fact you can do it in the rain, paper doesn't care, but the maker might get a bit wet in the process.

I learned papermaking many years ago,in a great course with Joan Needham, and built my own mold and deckle, use pretty simple stuff for a vat and a cooking pot.  I've taught it to various groups, too, loads of fun. You can't do it wrong.

And I can probably use some of those natural dyes I've had in the freezer all this time, to color the pulp.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finally made it to the Newcomb Pottery exhibition

Boiling hot day, but I decided before I forgot about it yet again, to get to Princeton Art Museum to see the Newcomb Pottery exhibit. It's a small and wonderful museum, with great connections resulting in great acquisitions and loans, and this exhibit is typically very good, and compact, too.

Slightly daunted to find that the entire street on which I usually park was dug up, requiring several blocks' more hot walking from the nearest spot, where a nice lady stopped me from feeding the meter, no need on Sunday, I pressed on.



And I was happy to find that in addition to the art pottery I expected to see, there were some lovely examples of embroidery on fine linen and crash.  One of the things I noticed as I studied the ceramics was the Japanese influence in the style, the design and color choice, simplicity with sophistication.  

The best of the pottery was created in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when Japonisme was sweeping Europe, and the Japanese woodblock print was influencing European painting dramatically. So when I found that one of the early teachers at Newcomb was in favor of studying Japanese style, not surprising.

But here's the other exciting thing: though the coverage in the accompanying material talked about the branching out into art embroidery as a respectable way for a woman to earn a living at that time, they did not mention that the stitching itself is in fact sashiko!  This is a Japanese running stitch form, which can be used for wonderfully complex and beautiful designs.  This gave me a number of ideas, even though officially I'm not working on stitching at the moment.

So stitchers, it's worth going for the whole exhibit, but particularly to honor the Newcomb stitchers.  There's also handmade precious metal jewelry and table objects. 



It's all in the spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement, in the midst of the industrial revolution, trying to secure a place in the world for handmade and beautiful items, when the trend was toward mass production and the wonders of the new machinery to do it with.  Newcomb also honored its own local southern history and depicted their scenery and local trees and flowers in their work.

The whole show is so good, and it's there till early July, so there's time to get over there if you are in the central NJ region. There are always several other displays happening, but I usually can only manage to see one exhibit before I'm all looked out. You might have more stamina, and take in several areas in a visit.

Monday, June 13, 2016

After the party, spice music







The reception yesterday went well, nice group for the chat part of it, with some really interesting questions and couple of great suggestions, which I will put into action asap.  No pix of the whole group, since I was talking at the time, so these are the last people to leave!



This is really the best part of this sort of event, not the leaving, the talking and discussing, where you learn from other people what their thoughts are, what they want to know, what general effect your work has had on them. It's very important for your next steps in art to get that face to face exposure.  And it was interesting to me to note that practically nobody got the Planet Suite musical reference at all, so that was instructive.

And the cookies went over okay, too!  Anyone who wants to make them: they're Martha Stewart's Citrus Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies.

Two personal tours are on the menu, too, one happened already, with a friend who couldn't get there Sunday, and one's scheduled for tomorrow, similar situation, different friend.  This is always so fun, because people feel freer to say things when there's no group there

Then today, time to regroup, all stitched and painted and drawn out just for the moment.  But, since I had pressed a spice container into service as the airtight tin needed for the reception cookies, I noticed today that all the little spice containers that fitted snugly into it,  and their serving spoon, might serve another purpose.



No sooner said than hit.  I played on them with their own metal spoon, then with a wooden spoon, and found that though they look identical, they play a range of tones, great fun. 

Then I did the usual thing, added water as you do with glasses,  to see if they would change tone, and if so how, and they did.  And then, most fun of all, when I tipped out the water, leaving the containers just a bit damp, they resonated far more than either dry or waterfilled.  

So that's the sound adventure for the day.  I recommend this for a fun art thing, means very little, but it's just interesting to do.  And the spice set, an Indian kitchen classic,  hitherto unused, since I don't use spices in that quantity, now has a new life!  You might call this a spice harmonica, along the lines of glass harmonica, come to think of it.

I'm leaving the cups out in the kitchen so I can bing and bang on them at will, just in those spare moments you get waiting for a kettle to boil or an unwatched pan to burn..unless Handsome Son presses them into service as percussion instruments for his drum-circle events.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Drawing and painting out of doors

The current challenge on Twitter in the art area is growing items, drawing, painting, any art form to convey them.  I'm seizing on the better weather to get out and work on the patio, drawing or painting whatever is in front of me.  My plein air group hasn't started up yet, but I hope we will before long.

I find that my focus holds up for a couple of drawings or drawing/paintings, then it's done.  I have to remind myself every time that it's not length of time, it's power of focus that matters.

In fact it's tiring to do modified contour drawing, which is the style I like a lot, because it needs such total concentration, and I think I have to work my focus back up. This drawing style looks rather casual to the observer, a loose, relaxed form, but it's totally engrossing. I'm working on not feeling impelled to make new drawing and painting every day, no particular virtue in filling every minute, better to just enjoy each work as it comes.

So here are a couple of recent works. 



One is the rapidly growing potato foliage in a pot, drawn in pilot pen on white watercolor paper, which looks bluish in pix, no idea why.  This pot will yield me a plate of new potatoes once the foliage dies back.  




The other is a painting, very loose, in watercolor, with a drawing superimposed. Shrubs, wildflowers, fungi.

While I was in the middle of this, the postie arrived with a little package of new watercolor tube paints, so I tried a couple of them out right away.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Leap information and today's adventures, it's all go..

Just to be clear: the Leap and the Net Will Appear show is in the gallery inside the Plainsboro Public Library.  It gets confusing when you see a pic of the entry to the show and it looks as if it's somewhere else!  Nooooo, I think that title has to do with funding or something, some sort of official designation,  but  the show is in the libe.

It's up till June 22, open all the hours the library is open, seven days a week, go here to see all the hours on the libe website.

Then next Sunday, June 12, from 2-4 will be a reception, all local readers warmly invited to come.  At 3 I will give a talk and a sort of guided tour of the exhibit, and bang on about letting art happen.

Local people who can't get to the reception but want to visit the gallery and have a private tour, just get in touch, and we can set that up.  Glad to do that.  But if you just want to stop in and enjoy and sign the visitor's book, please do that.  It's all good.

Meanwhile, back at the patio, I broke out the paints and crayons and paper for the first time this year, to do some outdoor work, just a lovely time in the warm sun, listening to birds shouting and bees zuzzing about, and my flowers coming up nicely.  And though my skills were rusty I had a fine time.  It's one of the great pleasures of life, sitting outside to draw and maybe paint and let the sun dry the work for you.

White Iris

White Chrysanthemum

So here's the result, for what it's worth!  it's more about process than getting stuff done, though.  These are small, about 8 x 6 in. Pilot pen in black, plus Caran d'Ache watercolor crayon, and tube watercolor, using my trusty one inch sponge brush.  Nice to be doing something that's not about fibre.

I'm taking the liberty of sending this blogpost to the embroiderers' guild list as well as my own bloglist, since I've had requests to make sure they know times and dates and so on. So here you are!

I'll see some stitchers tomorrow at our annual picnic, and my other blog, Field and Fen, http://fieldfen.blogspot.com shows you the cooking I got up to today in their honor.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Many adventures, physical and techie, later, here's Leap and the Net Will Appear

And if ever I needed that net, it was in the course of navigating a mass of pix and watermarking and transferring and you don't need to know...

So here's the exhibit.  I'm very happy with the way it's looking, and I'll just list and title and let you be the judges! 




 





                        Towering Figures, Maggi and Oliver


                                  Open Field, Evening


                                          Open Field, Day

                                        Open Field, Night


                                     Landscape with Clouds


                                Anonymous was a Woman

                                            Gone Nova

              Weaving One, Landscape and Weaving Two, Seascape



                                        Wildflowers



                                            Wheatsheaf
  


                                               Acorns

                                      Planet Suite White



Planet Suite Turquoise




                                    Planet Suite Copper

 
Planet Suite Silver


                                  Holding up the Sky
 
Butterfly Habitat

                                   Sawblade, Bright Planet

                                  Sawblade, Dark Planet


                                     
                                     Doorway Series Four
 
                                     Doorway Series Brass
 
                                  Doorway Series Copper
 

Doorway Series Silver
 
                                Dusk Flowers with Butterfly
 

                                     Linen and Metal, Gold
 

                                 Linen and Metal, Copper
 




                                    Linen and Metal, Silver
 
                                               Flower Drift