Saturday, January 31, 2015

Making faces using paint and thread!

     Family and friends have asked me to get back to painting. When I saw Paula Pitman Brown was offering a course at the MFA Boston, I signed up. Every Thursday I drag in my Masterson Stay-Wet palette, simple canvas, brushes and paint up to the third floor. Each student is to paint a theme...and I ended up with self-portraits, after courting sunflowers, portraits of the grandchildren and animals. I have gessoed many old cardboard legal pad backs and am painting with acrylics that dry too fast. However, I don't want to be running in and out of the MFA with oil paint all over me when I try to be grown up there. The fast drying acrylics are a challenge, but I can get back to oils at home. To think I once painted 9 to 9 daily.

     Just as I had to learn crochet over again (I just down loaded a beanie pattern), I think the same goes for painting. I do find it helps to paint a bright or dark coat of paint like green, blue, orange or red on the "canvas" before starting and half the work is done! It helps unify and gives you something to work against. I have a little water spray bottle to periodically wet my paint on the palette. Today I took a break and have been playing with STITCHing some portraits.

      I did some experimentation and I believe that free-motion quilting such as in these quickie portraits require old artist sticktoitiveness. What works depends on the sewing machine. For some machines you lower the feed dogs and others you do not. On some machines,  you put the stitch length on zero and others you don't change. Most need an embroidery foot. Experiment and don't give up, if it interests you. These are my first two attempts. In the future I will use a little blue water soluble pen to draw my design. That will make me slow down. I want to read Stitch Draw by Rosie James. Remember, if you can write your name, you can draw.  It is a learned skill. As for ideas, Picasso said that painting was but keeping a diary.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Warming up by beginning over: a crocheted scarf

     Do you think the people who moved to Florida and Phoenix can appreciate the warmth when they are missing the contrast of this cold weather? I love cozying up to a fire with a book or some craft in my hands. It hasn't happened. I have been on the road for the holiday season. When Joe was driving, I crocheted, sometimes evenings with a light in the car.


    At a meeting, I had seen Donna Jean crocheting an alpaca silk georgette scarf for her sister for Christmas and thought it pretty for crochet, a doable size. Usually I prefer knitting. Hadn't I, years ago in the 60s, crocheted Peruvian hats that Adrienne inspired? We singled crocheted, starting at the top, working down. More recently, hadn't I crocheted beaded bracelets that Anna taught me, the most difficult craft ever? Wouldn't it be cool to be like those ladies who effortlessly knit or crochet projects in meetings.

     A beginner again, I went to the LionBrand store in Chelsea, NYC, and showed the free Draft Dodger Scarf pattern I found online at Cobbler's Cabin.  A store helper picked out Superwash Merino and I had my H hook. I only used half the skein, but got two since I could not decide on a color. All I had to do was Google how to slipstitch, single and double crochet, videos on line. Let me tell you, the stitches were not so difficult as remembering to switch from single to double crochet to single to double over and over. I took out rows and rows and rows. How difficult could it be? How can I teach a grandchild if I can't conquer it myself, so I persisted. It does look like a beginner's scarf but Hannah wants it. I can't wait to start another, maybe with a bigger crochet hook.


    Google "Draft Dodger Scarf" or "Cobbler's Cabin" to look over the pattern that people in offices off-time were making for presents this season. Perhaps even a simple pattern such as this, from long ago, revived online, is good mental exercise. I start my painting class this week, but won't forget the frustrating fun of climbing this mountain. Click to enlarge photos.

P.S.  I found an inexpensive Leisure Arts book in a knitting store with instructions for the right and left handed.  I am thinking one should crochet a bit looser than I did. Still learning!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Puppet Cookies make a come-back

    About 40 years ago my creative friend Adrienne Robinson passed on a recipe for puppet cookies. I made them up and Estelle Guralnik wrote up the activity in the Boston Globe magazine and Better Homes and Gardens. Back then, my children were the age of my grandchildren today. Last week, a holiday luncheon request for a recipe made me remember puppet cookies.  I could share these animated magical cookies with the grandchildren and the recipe wouldn't be lost to the Internet! Perhaps I should have let sleeping recipes lie! That was exhausting; and it was easier in my youth.

     I made up the dough, put it
wrapped in the refrigerator overnight and sketched possible designs. You can use gingerbread dough, surely; but I combined 6 C flour, 1 C butter, 2 C light brown sugar, 1 C milk, 1 t vanilla, 1 t salt, 1 t baking powder and 1 t baking soda. I took from the fridge a handful of dough at a time to roll out on floured marble and looking at my designs, drew with a toothpick and cut out with a pointed knife shapes to place on foil-lined cookie sheet. I used a toothpick to poke holes where appendages are attached. I baked for 8 - 10 minutes in 400 degrees. After a break and cooling of the cookies, I made up a decorator frosting or royal icing of 3 healthy egg whites, 1/4 t cream of tartar and 1 lb confectioner's sugar. This dries quickly, so I put it in several small bowls with coloring and covered with a plastic wrap.

    When it was time to paint, I gathered brushes and a bowl of water to keep the brushes damp. After the icing was dry, I cut pipe cleaners about 2.5 inches long, twisting one end for the back of the cookie to go through the holes to be secured on top with gumdrops. Before securing, I carefully put a toothpick through all holes, entering from the back of the cookies, to make certain the opening was big enough.

    Once Joe and I made a gingerbread two-story with wrap around decks to celebrate son's get-away mansion in the Bahamas. We were up past midnight securing walls. For gingerbread houses, I have decided to stick with a simple kit as I did this year. Let me tell you, this is the last time I will make puppet cookies...although I can't wait for Erika to finish up Spiderman, Santa and the family dogs, painting at random, attaching appendages anywhere, when she comes tomorrow to see her treats. She broke her arm so will miss the family ski trip. "Art" will certainly lift her spirits.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Drawing Joe at LindaDrawingTime

      What do you blog about when you have a series of failures? Something else. However, although I still have hope for the botched quilt, I have been getting used to my new computer. I had to exchange the new one and start over. Since my last posting, I did find I could project old Super 8 movies onto a screen, film the old reels with iPhone or Flip, then digitize and edit on the computer. The results were good but not great since the old projector is deficient. I finally took two movies, rolls of The Ram (live action) and Beowulf (claymation) made by son (he just turned 50) when he was in junior high, to Costco to have the short movies put on a DVD. Theoretically, in a month, I can take the .VOB files and raw footage off the DVD to put on my computer for better results, music and more. Do we see hope, or more failures.  And I like visuals in my blog.


      In the meantime, I must not delay a posting. Thinking NYC would be fun for the holidays or sometime soon, I enjoyed reading Deborah Soloman's article in the New York Times on the paintings that the great artist Cezanne made of his wife Hortense, many of which are at the Metropolitan Museum. According to Soloman, Hortense "sat for 29 paintings by her husband and smiles in none of them." Hortense has suffered verbal abuse by critics and artists but Soloman is glad Cezanne's wife and mother of his son is having her day with drawings, watercolors and 24 paintings from over a period of 20 years. "Aha!" thought I. To get into the zeitgeist, I will show a few paintings and sketches that I have done of Joe. I seldom paint anyone smiling and certainly not myself as you may know from my website (which may go by the way with the new computer since Apple no longer supports iWeb). It was great to get back to my wild sketchbooks. Enjoy my favorite model who mostly smiles in real life. Click to enlarge the photos, I hope!







Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kantha has me IN STITCHES...all unfinished

    Simplify is my temporary mantra! In the car on trips or errands, I love to hand-stitch while Joe drives ~ from improvisation to Sashiko (see my April 22, 2012 post). Friend Donna Jean spent time at Quilting on the Lake and returned with ideas on Kantha stitchery from South Asia and Black Embroidery of Elizabethan times. I had to try my hand. When I could not do a stitch, I tried another. You could draw with white pencil, but inventing was more fun. I felt creative! Everyone feels they can do Kantha. Up and down with a needle and thread. I sew with two fabrics together.



    From pockets to pocket books! What to keep my needle, thread and scissors in on a trip for easy access? I happened on Abigail Adams' pockets at the RISD Museum in Rhode Island. I took this photo and sketched a similar pattern about 14" long. These pockets were worn inside and outside skirts. I don't have to unzip  or unsnap anything, and the pocket holds my tools and fabric as I run out the door, am in the car or at a meeting. I used an upholstery remnant, crewel needle and #5 or #8 thread. I am regularly amazed these days that what excites me is of little interest to others; but I wanted to share. At least Hannah (10) wanted the floral effort, and Erika (8) started on skeletons.

     While in NYC last week, we saw the fabulous Matisse Cut-out show. I had, just before leaving, spontaneously cut out fabric for a Boston slice quilt (that is as far as I got)...now what to do? Fix the goose's head for one. I just read in my novel about "coincidence's being a messenger of truth." And again...in NJ we saw Yvonne Well's contemporary narrative quilt cut-outs at the Montclair Art Museum, a magnetic board of fabrics for children/adults to make and quilt and Rayna Gillman. That is half the story, a wonderful experience. I am not mentioning Shiele portraits, The Boys in the Boat, the New Haven museums, Roz Chast in Greenwich, CT. Click on photos to enlarge.





   
Yvonne Wells'

Monday, September 22, 2014

Family Stars

     Before my baby brother Steve and wife Lynn arrived from Texas, I needed to make our house habitable. I found lots of treasures. One was unused fabric from The City Quilter showing the constellations in NYC's Grand Central ceiling. I took off an afternoon to make sausage pillowcases. I made three regular size pillowcases which fit perfectly across the top of a king size bed welcoming one to heavenly sleep. Not only do I LOVE homemade pillow cases, but I have three grandchildren that might enjoy them on sleepovers. Also, the stars remind me of my Amarillo reunion in NYC where one day we toured the Grand Central. I love reunions.


     
      I have blogged on these pillowcases before, but I still made mistakes after watching two excellent YouTube tutorials and taking notes.Never give up! I cut the body of the fabric 23 or 24 inches by whatever the width of the fabric is (approximately 45"). I cut the accent strip 2 inches by the width of the fabric. The cuff is cut 12 or 13 inches x 45. Google "sausage pillow cases" or click on these links https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAomYjHzUQk
Note how rested Steve and Lynn look!

        Last summer their children came from Texas and I sketched them on the Summer Shack paper table cloths. Lynn reminded me of other sketches I had made with Alan: See my blog archives, March 23 2010, August 6, 2013. This month and last year went by fast!

     

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Organizing and discovering old crafts

     Although Joe and I moved far away from Texas and Arkansas, thankfully our relatives drop in to see us. To make the house more habitable for brother Steve and wife Lynn, we are trying to clear a path and organize after 25 years. One makes discoveries. As you may know, people who craft and paint fill the house with materials and creations.

     More than 25 years ago we moved to London; but before we left, I asked friend Catherine who came to America from London as a youngster during WWII to tell me what she knew. She put me in touch with her sister Judith who with her husband invited us to the country for a weekend at their beautiful Nettlestead. I took photos and with more eagerness than training decided to paint the hosts for a surprise gift. This week I just found those two old oil  portraits. Years ago, I probably decided they were not good enough to send.

     The other day, I phoned Catherine and told her about the portraits, that I wanted to give them to her and she could do what she wished with them. I also passed on the photos. A special treat was finding that Catherine has been making beautiful quilts which I should have photographed to show you. 

     First is the photo of Catherine's visit to see me in London. I found this place on Royal Avenue for the law firm and designed the pattern we are standing on after wandering the neighborhood to crib ideas. Judith, at Nettlestead, was such a dynamo in the kitchen I gave her three bodies in action, faces taken from the several photos. I placed Tony in front of the home with his cap and coat, our car in the driveway. Click on the photos to enlarge.