Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Chinese calligraphy, more or less

The brushes arrived, and the rice paper, and the book.  So I have no further excuses for not getting on with this.  

I did study some youtube videos to see how to use the inkstick better, and with much greater success than years ago, when I first tried it.

I had way too much water going then, and now I find it's one drop at a time..very calming, actually, and you get a tiny amount of precious ink in the well.  I did the ceremonial Opening of the Brushes, which is all about soaking the tips to remove the gummy stuff they're fixed with, so that the hairs are released to work.

And I tried, with very little success, early days, to use them with the wrist and or elbow movements prescribed.  I did get a decent black color in the ink, but my shapes leave a whole lot to be desired yet.  My hand movements are way too fast for this art form, so I need to watch that.

I think I have an ingrained inhibition against using the very tip of the brush, required in Chinese work, and pretty much banned in Western painting.  You never butt the tip of the brush into the surface in Western style, and it's only this morning I realized how I internalized that as a law of nature, when it's only a way of working.

So, great adventure continues...and you need to keep your spirits up by doing something you can actually do, after an hour of this, hence the little free strokes officially to help clean the brush, actually to play a bit.   Little grasses, often see this stroke in Western watercolor work.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Calligraphy practice is getting under way

Still awaiting the arrival of my Chinese calligraphy brushes and paper, and my own copy of the instruction book, but in the meantime I figured why not get a regular calligraphy book out and review the strokes of Western style calligraphy.

Which I did, and realized I had a couple of carpenter's pencils in my drawing supplies, perfect for this.  They're flat, so as not to roll off the roof, and you can get them in different hardnesses.  They're very comfortable to hold, at various angles, which you can experiment with.

I used to teach people to use them, because they're all kinds of experiences in one.  The lead is flat and you can sharpen it with knife, for many adult students the first time they'd used an xacto blade to sharpen a pencil,  then emery board to get a squared off end, giving you four points, to draw fine lines.  And you can use the side of the lead for a wide stroke.  And move it as you work to vary the width.  Great experience in using your hand as well as the pencil, as well as in adapting the tool to suit yourself.

So I thought I'd press them into service, with my handy giant post-its, which I ruled into big squares to work in. 

 I used a 6B, the softer one, then a 2B, harder, and more tiring for your wrist.  The softer one suits me better.  So today's output, before my wrist gave out, is on the fridge, and I can already see where to do better.

A lot of the skills from years ago started returning, though still pretty wobbly and far from elegant.  But for now, nice.

Already ideas are starting up, since I'm still in the throes of artists' books, as to how to use these shapes and forms in my upcoming books.  I'm interested in them as art shapes rather than meaningful bits of words.

The paper I used to catch the graphite as it rubbed off the pencil with the emery board created its own little artwork.  I took the picture quickly, and since it was loose dust, it no longer exists, really.  The mulberry paper caught it very well, so it didn't get everywhere. 

If I'd had a hairspray handy, I could have fixed it, made it permanent, but next time maybe.  You don't need to buy expensive art fixative spray, when the cheapest hairspray does the same job.  Use it for chalk, pastel, graphite, drawings, anything that might rub off or migrate onto the glass in the frame.

You might also want to try out carpenter's pencils for yourselves. Best buy them at the hardware store.  Usually once something is labeled art material, the price goes up.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Artist book capers continue, with the Daylily Book

Here's another artist's book, getting ready for November exhibit.  

This is where I used those laminated (layered) pieces I made, with the daylily dried stems enclosed in them.  I have one extra piece, which I showed the other way up so you can see the copper exterior.

the six pages are made from daylily flowers, not foliage.  That's why they're more of a golden color than the bronzy green you get with foliage.

Inside the covers is metallic gold paint, outside is copper.  Stitched with a gold thread.  And called, oddly enough, Daylily.

Posed here with the plants I got the raw materials from.  

This is the second growth of the daylilies, since all the first growth went into paper, and the flowers and stems likewise. 

This is a kind of thank you to the daylilies as well as a demo to you of what went into making this book. 

Helping a neighbor groom a houseplant today, and the big leaves we cut off came home with me to make paper eventually, once they dry.   Art sources never end.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Thanksgiving prep and giant cauliflower

Since the years of the farmshare, when I got enough corn to feed a herd in my shares, I have been very sparing in my use of it.  Like squash, of which I got waaaay too much, this year I have not touched it at all.  Lost total interest in eating it.  Maybe it will return. And this is the best corn, freshpicked at the farm a mile away, home to eat, all that.

So, since Handsome Son needs his corn at Thanksgiving, I bought a few ears and prepped them for the freezer, thereby fulfilling the charge laid on me at his birth, to be Perfect.  

I don't like prepping corn, all sticky, and that.  And I remove the kernels my own way, not by cutting vertically, which I think it a fast route to the bandaid box, but horizontally.  You get them off just fine cutting down with the ear laid flat, and you can swipe off any missed kernels afterwards.  So four ears, or their kernels, are now lying in a bag pressed flat on a plexi board, in the freezer, so when they freeze, I can shake them loose to separate, and they'll be easier to use.

And there was the first cauliflower of the season, fresh out today, absolutely enormous, and expensive.  However, it smelled wonderful, and before this picture, I'd swiped Duncan off the counter because he was enjoying the leaves, green salad for him.

I cut it into medium florets so that when I want to use it, it will be interesting as cheese cauliflower, or cauliflower cheese, and if I want soup, easy to reduce.  So it's now in the freezer, which is having trouble getting the lid down.  Cheese cauliflower is when you have the whole head or sizeable chunks of it, and baked it with a cheese sauce over.  Cauliflower cheese is when you make a sort of casserole of cheese sauce with much smaller bits of cauliflower.  Technical point there, very important, write it down.

I'm not fond of prepping, but when I come to cook I'm always glad I did, having ingredients sorted ahead of time.

Thinking maybe cheese cauliflower with roast chicken next time Handsome Son comes calling. Possibly next week.

It's a Hindu nine day festival, starting yesterday, and one of the neighbors gave me a dish of a very sweet food, with noodles and maybe condensed milk, not sure, but very sweet, and I gather it's a feast before the fasting of the nine days. It seems to coincide with the Jewish High Holy Days this year, wonder if they both do the same astronomical math to arrive at their dates. Good wishes to my Hindu readers and Jewish readers and blogistas!

One of my Indian friends remarked that they have tons of holidays in India, but people don't get scheduled vacations, so they seize on this sort of partying time to visit relatives and generally live it up.

 The odd thing is that it's the same reason the medieval Christian year in Europe had so many church festivals, since it was the working folks' only time off, and they made the most of it.  Especially the time between Christmas and the Epiphany.  No crops at that time, so once animals were cared for, you could stoke up the fire and get out the mead, I suppose.  And a lot of the festivals were centered around the agricultural year anyway.

 And while I'm sending wishes, back to the present, many thoughts to the people who are struggling with earthquakes and hurricanes, seems to be a season of disaster for so many people.  Remember, best help is money!  send if we can.  And remember them in the months to come.  This sort of cataclysm isn't over in a few days.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Little tribute to an old friend in art

I found out by chance yesterday, that Maureen Jordan, an old friend in art and adventures, and keen follower of this blog, had died last winter.  In her last few years, her healthy declining sharply, she had preferred to be among family, and I had respected that wish, so I wasn't aware that her life had ended.

Here she is, on the right, one of her last outings, in 2012, at a fiberarts opening at the library gallery, good naturedly holding a Dolliver, she picked Blondie Firstborn, along with four other special friends on Dolliver duty.  

Left to right Shabnam, Girija, humble blogista, Stefi, Donna and Maureen.  Good friends don't mind posing with dolls!  All artists, the two on the left artists in food, they all had a good time fooling about.  I like to remember this party and how the rest of the crowd stood back to let us get on with it.

There are wonderful memories of her, exhibiting in groups together, taking part in the traveling artist book for the Plainsboro Artist Group, loyally encouraging and supporting each other's work.  She has a paper collage in the local Town Hall,  did exciting collages with mulberry paper, when she wasn't painting in watercolor.

We would go into Manhattan to museums, one wonderful day at the Frick where we spent hours studying Old Master drawings, a once in a lifetime collection.  We spent time at her shore house, and went out drawing and painting together.  And went to drawing groups in a nearby town, as long as she had the stamina to be up and about that long.  She was the best fun to be out and about with.

As her health declined, it was more about visiting her at home, as long as she wanted that, and taking her little baked items -- we had cooperative teas, where I brought the baked goods, she had her husband set up the tea.  

She was a great fan of anything lemon, so I always brought extra when I made lemon bars, so as to leave her a couple for the next day.  She had three daughters, all local, each with a family of her own, so there were a lot of grandchildren, but she was a tactful grandparent, only giving me the Cliff notes version of their activities!  I did look at their art, though.

All in all, some lovely memories of a lovely person.  A lot of these were already memories even during her lifetime, as she was less and less able to take part, and we did a lot of reminiscing then.

So glad to have known her, and how lucky to have had her in my life.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Moss painting followup

A while back, I made up some moss paint, and decorated my planter boxes on the fence with it,  for added interest there, they being ordinary cedar boxes, weathering slowly.

For weeks and weeks there was no sign of anything! it dried, and seemed to have vanished.  Then, in the last couple of days, signs of life.  The moss appears to be starting to take hold.

Just a shadow now, but this means they are starting to grow. And that the torrential rains we've had since the painting was done didn't, as I feared, wash all the moss off to land on the ground.

So I took a couple of pix, and you see the irregular shapes I painted in.  This sort of environment is better with more random markings than over-organized ones.

This being the case, I took out the rest of the paint from the freezer, thawed it and chucked it at the other fence, to form a freeform backdrop to the bare twigs of the yellow roses, anyway, that's the plan. 

 So now again, all I have to do is wait and see if it takes.  Spectator art.

You can click on the label at the bottom of this post, if I've done it right, to see the blogpost where I talked about the recipe for this paint, which I used right away after making it.  We'll see if the fungi survive the freezer.  I'm guessing they will since they are long lived in this climate where it freezes every year anyway. 

This is the intersection of art and gardening. Fun, too.  I believe you can use this paint to decorate pots, too, but mossy pots are not really my cup of tea.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chinese calligraphy, diy style

Just to show that food is not the overriding issue in my life at the moment, though Field and Fen might lead you to suppose otherwise, go there to find out why!, I decided on a new art adventure this winter.

Last winter was about spinning and improving my yarn output, which I did pretty successfully, and added new skills to my life. Spring and summer was about papermaking and transparency work. But I always need a new horizon, since mixed media is an endless quest, and the local rec. department offerings finally had something I'd like to try.

At least that was the plan.  I signed up weeks ago, got the course title, time, date, location, etc., couldn't find any description anywhere, but never mind.  

Then I got a mysterious email to me and a list of others, all but two with Chinese names, all written in Chinese, with attachments of beautiful calligraphy in chinese...I wrote to the rec lady asking if this course was being offered in English, otherwise I wouldn't be able to make use of it.  And if the email I received actually related to it, couldn't even figure out that much.

She got back, assuring me that knowledge of Chinese was not necessary to attend the course.  I wonder now if she meant I could come, but wouldn't understand anything, including the directions on what supplies to buy.

Then another email, more lovely enclosures, and this time I wrote back to the writer as well as the rec lady explaining that unless I heard from them in English, I was very disappointed to say I couldn't use this class.  

We do have a sizeable Chinese population, so it would be popular for them, however, I didn't think they had intended to shut out nonspeakers.  I wonder if they never expected a Westerner to be interested, too.  Anyway, I have heard to date, and the class is this evening, nothing, crickets.

Soooo, nothing daunted, they got me interested for which I'm grateful, I proceeded to check out the library and the internet and to see what supplies I already had in the studio from long ago.

I did manage to get a great beginner's book, and to unearth my ink block and stick, and one brush which will do till I get more appropriate ones.  And I thought it would be fun to work on a giant post-it pad I was given ages ago.  

You see the back of the ink stone here.  Years ago I was doing block printing on fabric, and used it as one of my blocks, because the size and shape were just right.  Then I realized I really liked the design I'd created accidentally, and turned it into an artwork by just hanging it face-in.  It appeared in a show of mine years ago!

Then here's the ink block right side up, so you see the well the water goes in, and the slope the inkstick is rubbed on to create a well of ink.  That's the stick resting on it.  The outside is lacquered so you don't get inky fingers in the process.

Everything comes in handy sooner or later. I will need more appropriate paper for a beginner, but I already have the newsprint to protect my surroundings..

The book gives supply houses, so I can get my brushes, using the advice of the writer, and I think I'm getting set for my winter adventure.  It does take a long time to get any good at this, and it's a meditative pursuit, so that's fine.  Even grinding the ink stick down to make the ink to use is part of the meditation, not to be rushed. 

So now to study Rebecca Yue and send off for the brushes she suggests for beginning work, and look forward to some serious learning.  My goal is to incorporate the strokes into other works, to create small artworks that might get into my mailbag, which has been totally neglected for quite a while, and generally to enlarge my repertoire of art skills.  Of which patience is definitely one that needs work. 

I suspect that "easy" in this context may be a bit optimistic.  Engrossing perhaps, ready for that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It's all go on the arts front this week

Monday I unexpectedly gave a gallery walk and talk on the current exhibit of Joy Saville's fabric constructions, My Journey Into Abstraction, at a gallery in the retirement community where the embroiderers hold their meetings.  

Up to the day before we thought, we being the embroiderers' guild, that we had a different presenter up for this, found we didn't after all, and I was asked if I could just you know, step in...good thing I knew her art and was able to say a few things.

Here's Helen H., our president doing the intro to Joy, not to me, because they already know me too well to need any info.

Some of our officers are there in the front of the audience. They are great embroiderers, from way back in their families.

If you're unfamiliar with Joy's work, go here 
to see a video of her opening in New York City last year, she's seen seated there, and many of the same pieces are in the current show for which  I did the gallery walk.  

I had never met her, despite attempts by mentor Maggi Johnson who wanted us to meet, but great surprise, she did stop in briefly before our chat, and I got to meet her finally.  I didn't do a pic, felt she might not want that at this point, a bit frail now.  She now lives in the community where the gallery is, which is how we got lucky with this show.

Then onward to the Plainsboro Artists 2017 Annual Exhibit, which I blogged about a few days ago, see here and we do try to make good food to bring.  Anyone in the show brings something edible, and I thought ah, here's a chance to make shortbread. 

Easy to eat standing up, always welcome.  The cook got to eat the edge bits. leaving the proper squares for the artists' dining pleasure. Not many of them came home.

And it took its place among a wonderful array of exotic offerings. We have a number of cultures in our group, and this mosaic of food is really part of what we're about, come to think of it. This was taken before the table was filled up as people arrived and added their dishes. 

then  some pix of artists and their work

Vimala on left, busy discussing her work, partly visible in the middle, with the painter of the moonlit scene on the left. The gentleman on the right didn't show this time but brought in a lovely painting on cedar to show us. That's what they're examining there.

one of Donna S., the gallery curator who hung the show with great expertise, and whose felted scene is in the show, next to Art Lee, whose big fabric collage is behind them, but I did pic it earlier.

and here's Annette N., a wonderful watercolor painter who has exhibited all over the region, very successfully

This is one opening where a lot of talk is about art, and people make a big point of finding each other to ask about their work, and give feedback.  Openings in general are not my cup of tea, since so often the art is ignored, but this one is a shining exception, great fun with me mates.  And there are spouses I only get to see at this event where they loyally show up, so that's a bonus.

This show is up to late September, so if you're local, stop in to Plainsboro Library -- any hour it's open, the gallery is too.  It's a strong show, well worth your trip.  Your humble blogwriter has a piece in there, too.  Just sayin.