Saturday, June 29, 2013

Copying the Master: a Tree of Life

    There is a long tradition of painting from the Old Masters. You have seen artists standing in front of a painting in a museum doing a creditable job on a different scale from the original. I am happiest when I am working from a painting I find meaningful; because I see the painting in so much more detail and insights come to me. This time, I am neither so serious nor so careful. I needed a fabric that didn't exist for a quilt challenge, so I had to paint one...paint my own novelty panel.

     Painting on fabric is a blast. I have foam core that I have covered with clear Contact paper. I tape the sketch down and over it I use masking tape to secure the edges of a piece of muslin. I can see the sketch through the muslin and can trace any image with my Sharpie Rub a Dub Laundry Marker. I got out my Lumiere metallic gold and bronze paints (numbers 561 and 565) and started painting with Princeton brushes within the lines. I don't believe Gustav Klimt was so heavy handed in defining things in his Stoclet Frieze where one views, left to right, Hope, the Tree of Life, and Fulfillment. I painted and painted so happily, often redefining lines with the marker. I had to get out a few other colors for the plants at the bottom of the tree, and the cells, mosaics and other symbols of life and death within the top of the tree.

     After quilting along the lines to a piece of batting, I auditioned the squares and the dashes for the binding and backing. Black and white are always good to absorb color. In this case they remind of the architecture, furniture and clothes in fin-de-siecle Vienna, Austria,  Klimt's time. Klimt's portrait of Emilie Floge uses the dashes effectively. I cut batting and the dashes fabric to 12" x 12".  I cut the checkerboard into a long strip to sew around the edges, finishing by hand on a car trip.

      Science and art were in strong communication in the late 19th Century. Klimt painted the cells he viewed under microscopes and learned about at lectures. He painted in nature and from the nude. Sexual references abound as do flowers and jewels. He merged the decorative arts with painting and was a revolutionary with his spell binding works. Hundertwasser admitted that when he was artistically blocked, he would go to Klimt's works to enlarge parts to his canvas to "take off." Be sure to Google both artists and Images, and perhaps hit the libraries and museums. I love Neue Gallery in NYC and the Minuteman Network of Libraries.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Plein Air Painting Indoors with Fabric: a journal quilt

    If summer officially begins June 21 and ends September 22, it is time to prepare the portable paints for some plein air painting. I have made pochade boxes so I can walk out the front door to paint...but now with all the rain, I made a landscape in fabric. I sewed my landscape indoors.

    While studying Gustav Klimt's portraits and landscapes I thought I would create one in fabric. I have lots of birch fabrics and love Maine and NH. If you want to look at Klimt's landscapes, Google Klimt landscapes and click on Images. Scroll down to view his Birch Forest.

Click on photo to see supplies.

    I have plenty of birches in my novelty fabric stash! I cut a 12" x 12" square of sky or water and sprayed some 505 (a temporary spray glue) red and orange "leaves" to the bottom three fourths of the square. Next, I cut out strip after strip of birch trees. A little late in the game I cut skinny strips of fusible webbing (Wonder Under) and ironed the trees loosely down. I must look into Steam A Seam which is not permanent but holds until ironed. (see Susan's Comments below)

   Next, I got out my Jacquard fabric paints which leave the fabric soft, not stiff as you would get with straight acrylics. I thinned the blue paint with water and dragged a glaze over all the birch trees, leaving the paint thicker to darken the tree bases as one must do to ground them. I painted more orange and red leaves on the field.

   I got out Angelina fibers and a Teflon pressing sheet to hint at branches in the sky and darken the field at the bottom. I spread it thin. Then to the sewing machine to wildly quilt my block to 12" x 12" batting with invisible thread, up the sides of the trees. I found a blue painter's cloth print to back the piece and pull over the sides to bind the edges with blue since the sky was a bit shallow.
      This accidental journal quilt will remind me of my Klimt quest, the taking up of painting again to do the grandchildren's portraits, and some important lessons I learned this week.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Corralling kids with crafts

     A long rainy weekend sitting three youngsters meant clearing quilting goodies which have taken over the extra bedrooms. Joe took them to see their new empty house where they romped and found nooks and hiding places. He stopped off at Ben Franklin for fill-in crafts. We watched A Dog of Flanders, wonderful movie with a Rubens connection.

      The girls seem to love their portraits. Joe had made and painted 2 1/2" deep frames. They got busy with their bracelet makers:  a Rainbow Loom that uses rubber bands and a Native American bead loom. David zoomed his airplane but joined the girls for a painting session. Joe took them to the park and to feed the bird next door. Tonight we have a pizza candlelight dinner on the deck : o )

       I chose to string the Native American bead loom for Hannah. There is a certain brand of children's toys/crafts that is annoying for using inadequate materials. However, it was a good lesson in teaching that artists never give up. Not only was the enclosed string knotted up, but the bead loom was braced only by lots of scotch tape. I persisted. Hannah had fun weaving a bead bracelet and taught Erika as well. Erika made the rubber band bracelets on the Rainbow Loom. You can see that Hannah has quite a collection of those rainbow bracelets as well, if you click on the photo to enlarge.

        Then off to the studio. There I accidentally came upon old T-shirts Joe had saved for me to cut up into oil painting wipe rags. They made super comfy smocks. I have always been a sucker for cute little artist smocks but the children love these best. I turned them loose with my acrylics from the Klimt kit, a tube of gold paint,  good brushes, and three canvases each. Hannah and Erika also painted wooden book boxes. I can almost stand up straight. Only one more day and they visit their new schools before returning home to pack.

 P. S. A super painter's tip is find large disposable bed pads and lay the waterproof blue side on the table or across the lap. They  keep the surface clean or waterproof and brushes can be wiped on the white absorbant side! One served three children working at this table in the studio.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Back to Painting...a new start

     Friday before last, Joe and I drove into the MFA to see the colorful quilted 6" x 8" flags sent in from six continents to celebrate Boston. Ahead of me, I had the quilt challenge of "CELL" by my Material Maven international art quilt group. Synergistically, Joe and I had just returned from a stop at the Neue Gallerie in NYC where we viewed "Adele Bloch-Bauer" which is always on permanent display. I happened on a movie of Klimt's life via Netflix and found an unread book in my library titled The Kiss about a Klimt painting. As it turns out, Klimt viewed a lot of cells under microscope which appeared in many paintings. The power of Klimt's paintings inspired me to pick up the brush again.

       Just at the hero and heroine in a romance novel are at odds before they fall in love, I had never liked Klimt's paintings as much as my other favorite painters. Absorbed in his work, I became semi-obsessed.

       At Costco, I saw a painting kit, a little more challenging than paint by numbers, and I painted Klimt's "Tree of Life" to get a feel for his cells or signets (an excuse to be a child again). I found some ideas for getting the grands to create their own trees at YouTube. Back into painting, I set up two portable easels to oil paint (alkyds) the grandchildren from photos. I prefer painting from life, but distance is a problem. Whereas I once painted 9 am to 9 pm, after two hours, I had had enough. The next day I realized I needed my BIG easel so I could brace my arm and Joe got me a tall stool. Painting became fun again.  I am looking forward to painting less traditional portraits inspired by Klimt, my teachers at the SMFA Boston and art that I rediscovered my old, but bigger, easel.

       Here are the first day and the second day...MORE TO GO on both. Hannah begins to look like herself, I think; but Erika's is a major miss. But I won't give up! Try, try again, now that I am comfortable. I will save those portable easels for painting landscapes in the open aire, also inspired by Klimt and art history. Click photos to enlarge.