About a week after I wrote my last blog, I felt a sharp stinging in the palm of my hand when I reached for my coffee cup in the morning. As the day when on, it became apparent that I had an issue developing in my right hand, probably carpal tunnel. As I am not a doctor, I arranged to see my family doctor, who confirmed my suspicions. Another appointment was made to see another doctor who did nerve and stimulation tests. Yes, definitely have carpal tunnel syndrome. Yet another doctor appointment (the hand doctor in chief)coming up but not until May 11, where hopefully it can be resolved simply by steroid shots and bracing. The best brace is at night when your hand is put into a fixed flexed position; apparently, most cases of carpal tunnel are made worse by how we sleep.
This injury has restricted my quilting quite a bit. I had high hopes of finishing the quilt as you go t-shirt quilt I was doing, and I am still working on it 😢
I wrote the above about 3 weeks ago, and I swear I am about off my head with frustration at the moment.
I finished the t-shirt quilt I was doing apart from the binding and started the Linus quilt despite my bad hand. It had actually improved on its own just by splinting my wrist for sleeping at night. Now I just have some numbness in my palm, which the specialist said might actually be a cervical nerve injury rather than the median and Ulnar nerve damage, which causes carpal tunnel (I have both). That would require an additional specialist!
At first, the Linus quilt was going well. I actually made a mock-up quilt top to make sure it would work. They have precise measurements for these quilts. Mine wasn’t quite big enough. So I had to scrimp around with my scraps to make another row and column, but I managed it. Then I had to combine all the blocks and found some black fabric that was OK, although it was a shade lighter than the Robert Kaufman strips I had used to make the blocks. It was pretty flimsy and floppy. It was the black fabric that I had used for the Quirkie Creatures quilt I had made in 2020. That quilt had been painted, so the material didn’t need to be so robust as quilting fabric. That was a big mistake!
It might have been that if I had thought of using heavy starch, my problems might not have been so bad. However, I was running out of time to complete the darn thing and not thinking straight, so I never even applied a light coating of starch on it🤦♀️. Then because time was short, I decided not to pin the quilt cover when I made the quilt sandwich. Instead, I used a spray basting product called 505. I have used it on smaller projects before, but other people use it for their quilt projects. I did add a few pins just to give it more stability before I started to quilt.
At first, everything was fine. The batik blocks with the black strips were a little baggier than I would like due to using the spray baste, but I was only going to do minimal quilting as it was already a busy pattern. The problems became evident when I went to quilt the joining strips along the horizontal directions. As soon as I started sewing, I could see I was going to have issues with puckering. I was going to quilt straight lines close together. It didn’t work as the puckering was too much, making the lines go all over the place🤬. I decided to unpick all the stitching I had done and make curving lines that twisted into each other. That took a long time, and I had, by that time, not finished in time for our quilt meeting when the quilts were to be handed in. The puckering continued as I did the joining strips, but I was OK with it. It would work with the theme of the stain glass design. It would look like a battered wood frame that supported the structure. The back of the quilt was OK. Because of the issue with puckering on the front and not being able to keep a straight line, it’s not really to the standard I like.
Yesterday, I finally finished with the main quilting and started quilting the borders. It was horrendous! so much so that I decided to stop as it was distressing me so much. Since then, I have spray starched one border very heavily. I am waiting for it to dry before starting again. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this will help.
I will admit I am taking a break from quilting for a month after this. This is because I need to do some drawing and painting, plus yet again my room needs a big clear up as it always does when I have finished a project. In other words, I need a breather!
Giving myself a deadline is definitely a good move for me.
For the past 2 weeks, I have been working on the Shelbie quilts and nothing else. Now the deadline is looming and I realise I will not get them all done by the date I set myself. That’s OK, as I will have completed at least 3 by then and hopefully started on the last 2! For the last three, I have decided to use the quilt as you go method as 1. It’s easier to manoeuvre a block than a large quilt through the throat of my machine and 2. if I decide to use templates for quilting, they are easier to use on one block. Once mid-April comes, I will give the Shelbie quilts a break (I am assuming I will still be doing them) as I have another charity quilt I have committed to that needs to be finished Mid May.
I started the month off doing Zentangles but realised that it took away valuable time from quilting. I will be back doing them as I know they help my creative progress, stinted by my obsession with reading or watching anything to do with politics or world affairs. I particularly like the top three in this gallery block!
I barely started the #the100dayproject, but once my commitment to quilting has eased up, I will restart it to finish the sketchbook by the end of the year. I have a clearer idea of what I want to do now, making it a better challenge and they will relate to all my creative outlets, not just painting! My last piece was associated with the current Ukraine crisis and, to be honest, seemed a bit pointless when millions of people’s lives are being destroyed. Unfortunately, the one war that is being totally ignored is the one in Yemen. From what I can tell, it is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the poor population of Yemen stuck in the middle, suffering the most (dirt poor, back to the dark ages poor🤬). It’s all too much for my brain to comprehend, and I cannot do justice to either conflict with my rather feeble attempts through art, so I won’t be doing anymore.
That about sums up the last 5 weeks. Next month will be even more different, no doubt. A good chunk of my time (2 afternoons) during the week is taken up by trips to the Swim Center in Cedar Park, where my granddaughter trains. I love it as it takes me back to my days with my kids, who all swam when we lived in Scotland. This is the last week my husband is a WFH worker after 2 long years. I will miss the regularity his schedule has given me for the past 2 yrs. I will miss his company at lunchtime and just popping into his office for a chat if he wasn’t busy with a meeting (which he has endlessly!) Fortunately, he will not have to go in full-time. He will be one of those lucky workers who can choose to WFH for 2 days a week. It will be a nice easement into retirement in a couple of years.
My brain is all over the place. I need to focus on one thing, but that seems impossible.
I have continued with the Zentangles; these seem to keep me calm and focused even though my desk where I do them is constantly a mess. My whole art room is a mess at the moment. When isn’t it?
I have also started Shelbie’s T-shirt quilts, and I plan to do 5 in total. They will be wall-hangings (about 50″ x 50″) for her Mum to give to close family in memory of Shelbie. They are not that difficult to make (so far) but time-consuming as the t-shirts have to be cut up, and then interfacing has to be ironed on to stabilise the fabric. The panels are all different sizes, so I am using the remnants of the cut-up t-shirts to make the blocks the same height in each row. I have finished one quilt top and I should finish the 2nd one tomorrow. I have not thought about how to quilt them yet, but I should start to plan. I am going to quilt one as I make another quilt top. I aim to finish them by the end of March, so I have about 6 weeks to do all 5 quilts. Phew!
I was looking at some posts on Instagram and I saw something called #the100dayproject. So, much as I enjoy the Zentangles, I am basically copying someone else’s work. With the t-shirt quilts plus the zentangles, I felt I wasn’t really being that creative. I have a large sketchbook I purchased for the Susan Shie workshop and apart from a couple additional sketches, it has been largely abandoned. So, in my weird wisdom, I thought this looked like something I could do and challenge myself to keep up a regular drawing/painting schedule. I always feel bad that I don’t use my sketchbooks. I have a ton of them! Plus, I have a lot of supplies that need to be used. Already I have discovered that leaving your gouache paints for months is not a great idea as they just dry up in their tubes. I solved that problem simply enough by cutting open them with a craft knife and using them like pan paints. I haven’t started off well. Today would be day 7 and I have done 3 with the 4th in progress. I will catch up! Changing bad habits doesn’t happen overnight, as I keep telling myself to stop beating myself up about not doing it.
Then there are 2 other things pulling me in different directions. First, last night I attended our quilt guild meeting and I signed up for their annual charity quilt project with the Linus connection. They had been given hundreds of Batik samples and they want 35 quilts which are given to children in crisis within Central Texas. They have to be completed, pieced and quilted by the middle of May. I already have ideas of how I am going to do mine.
Lastly, I have a friend who is a fantastic sewist. She has been making bags, pouches and wallets for the last year or so. One particular wallet she made using her circuit cutting machine. This got me thinking that is precisely the sort of thing I should try on my Brother Scan n Cut. I don’t plan to do it in the next month or so, but it is on my increasing list of things to do this year. I might even make a bag!
Last year started off well (creatively) as I signed up for a drawing class with Susan Shie called Lucky Drawing # 000. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how much of a benefit this class was to me. It really kick-started me into working solidly on something, rather than wandering around my head, ‘should I or should I not do this?” It definitely pushed me into directions I wasn’t used to or tended to fight against. I used the sketchbook one time after that to record my feelings about the big Freeze in Texas last February. It was brutal. I need to get that sketchbook out again!
Quilting was my main focus last year, as it was in 2020. However, I have got to the stage where I know I don’t want to do traditional quilting, but where do I go next? I started off the year by finishing a UFO, which dated back to when I started to quilt in 2018, my Oops quilt. After that, I did a bit of exploring, beginning with a class curated by Lisa Walton called Aurora. I liked it so much, I did another class with her called Fantastic fusion. It was very similar to another course I had taken at the end of 2020 with Susan Carlson. I did a couple of other small quilts after these classes, and then I did a deep dive into Ruler work quilting. I am an OK free motion quilter. I think my ability to draw makes it easier for me than a lot of quilters. I am not a good piecer which is why I have decided I will not be doing traditional quilts, as they cause me too much stress which takes out the enjoyment for me. Given my recent obsession, it is really no surprise that I was drawn to the preciseness and patterns of ruler work. Ruler work, as the name implies, uses a ‘ruler’ or “template’ so you have more control over the shape and size as you sew. With free-motion sewing, it’s harder to keep the stitching regular and the shapes uniform. Well, that is the theory but both methods require a lot of practice. That is what I ended up doing much of the year! By the end of October, after spending too much money on templates after watching videos on YouTube, I came to the realisation that maybe ruler work quilting wasn’t for me unless (pause) I could find a way of using it in my freeform work which is what I did with 2 of the small quilts I made, Solar and Standing stones on a wall. My breaking point came with a set of placemats and a table runner. They are still waiting to be finished and the truth is, it could be done in a day or so; I am that close. But I hate them! So, where am I going to go with my quilting in 2022? More freeform and mixed media. I have an idea which, given how slow I work, will take me until we move in 2024, at least! It will be a series of smaller wall quilts that could be hung separately or together. I want to explore painting my own fabric and printing on that fabric. I will use all the skills I have gathered over the last decade with beads and embroidery. It will be exciting and nerve-wracking. It will be FUN!
My very 1st project of the year, which I have already started, is a t-shirt quilt. It’s a practice piece before I tackle the main project, making three wall hangings from the t-shirts of my former daughter-in-law. Her mother gave them to me late last year to share among her family in her memory. This is one project I need to get right!
In November, to drive me out of my now familiar funk (I think it must be a seasonal thing), I began trying out my hand with Zentangles and drawing on the digital drawing tablet my son got me last Christmas. I began my foray into the digital drawing world by downloading Krita, a professional drawing website. The 1st page was daunting enough, without the thought of drawing, although my nine-year-old granddaughter uses a drawing app all the time! Youtube to the rescue again. One particular video channel was very useful. ‘Learn Krita with Bob Ross’ on the Age of Asparagus channel. It was great fun as well as being a good learning experience.
I do a regular countdown to Christmas project on Instagram, and originally I intended to practice my digital drawing by drawing a day up to the 24th of December. I quickly realised that was way beyond my abilities. The tablet has been put away for now but I fully intend to get back to it once I am back into my routine.
At the same time I was delving into the world of digital drawing/painting, I decided to look at Zentangles. I had some experience of them as I was given an instructional book by one of my kids, a few years ago. I tried it out but the book wasn’t overly inspiring. I noticed that one of my long-time Facebook friends was exploring them and posting the results. I knew it had an aspect of mindfulness that I thought might help with my current state of mind (it helped me stop using sleeping tablets after nearly a decade!). I was only going to do it for a week or so. Yet again, Youtube came up trumps! I have found a few very useful channels and have used them with my drawings. However, they take a long time to complete and on some days, I had to stop or end up frustrated. The opposite of the intended effect! I am doing them in a bullet journal which I have never used dued to the pandemic. Not much to plan when there is so little to do!
My Christmas project turned out particularly well, although I never quite completed all 24 days as normal! Next year, I will start a few days ahead of December. Then I might complete all 24 days.
That about sums up my year of work. I did forget one period and that was when I signed up to do a free course by Louise Fletcher called finding your joy. Sometimes I feel guilty about not painting anymore. It was an effort to rediscover the love I have for painting. Maybe I will find it again when, or if we move back to Scotland, I hope so. This course did not help in that regard. You can read my posts about my feelings on this program. In my head, it’s forgotten. It’s the art world’s pryamid scheme basically. The highlight of this dull year (apart from my art, of course) was receiving the people’s choice award at our local quilt guild’s annual show. I loved making this quilt, and yes, I painted it and quilted it on a domestic machine, but the real credit should go to Helen Godden, who designed it.
That is my round up for 2021. Now onward to 2022 with even more success than last year!
Last Christmas, my son bought me a graphic drawing tablet. I mentioned it briefly in my 1st blog post in 2021, and I found that all the software programs are difficult to learn. I have had a version of Adobe Photoshop elements since the 2011 edition. I am currently using the 2018 edition. This year, I have learnt to use more than the essential functions, mainly because I took lessons with other quilters who use photography extensively. That has spurred my interest in exploring these mediums with more intent, as I could probably use them in my mixed media work.
My biggest issue is finding a way of learning. I work best with demonstration videos. I find reading text to explain a creative process counter-intuitive and a big turn off. Fortunately, with the advent of Youtube and Vimeo, there are a lot of choices for most craft base arts (that includes painting as it’s a craft, after all). However, I have found that it is often difficult to find a competent video with photography and digital painting programs. They go too fast and assume that the viewer is more knowledgeable than they are. I have sat through a lot of videos to find the right one. Also, the content is often a turn off as I am not into anime or cartoons, which is a lot of digital content.
Krita has a good Youtube channel, but it’s primarily aimed at people knowledgeable about the subject and very enthusiastic. I can’t say I am that inclined towards digital painting. I see it more as a means to an end. I would rather see an actual artwork made with a brush, rag, etc., paint, clay or other materials. They have a list of beginner videos that are OK but don’t go far enough. I need step by step guidance, and I found it on a channel hosted by “Age of Asparagus”. Over 18 videos, he goes through with a lot of detail on how to create a digital painting in a similar style as the TV artist Bob Ross.
I saw episodes of Bob Ross in the UK and I thought of him as the USA’s Rolf Harris without the humour and other less fortunate foibles. But, instead, he has a very mellow voice that apparently was a deliberate choice after spending years in the army shouting at recruits. I never thought of emulating his work before but it was perfect for this digital painting lesson. In the classes, I learnt how to create new brushes, make new layers and generally a lot of functions that you need to know to develop as a digital artist. So I wouldn’t say I was confident yet but I am willing to try with a different image. Unfortunately, there are no other videos to practise with on this Youtube channel, so I am on the hunt for more tutorials that are as in-depth and easy-going as these were. I saw a copy of this class by another person on Youtube which was condensed down to one video and basically sped through the whole exercise. It was terrible! So I think I might be searching for a while. I am very particular when I am researching something. Sometimes, a person voice will upset me! I am a demanding customer!
Not much has changed since I last wrote. I am still in a fog about my ongoing work, so I am not focusing on that. If I continue to narrow in on my shortcomings, I tend to stop doing anything creative, which makes me even more depressed. So I have decided to try something else that is distracting, but I know it is not my focus. I know I will be back on track, hopefully, sooner rather than later, but I will get there.
I am following the video tutorials of Melinda Barlow CTZ Inkidoddles on Youtube, and I find they keep my mind occupied. I know I need to draw more, as that is what inspires most of my work. Zentangles are a controlled way of drawing and doodling at the same time, I used to randomly draw patterns when I was on the phone or watching a movie when I was younger, but as I lost that inner child, that ability faded. So we will see where this leads.
I am still practising my ruler working quilting and I plan to use it extensively on the T-shirt quilt I am making for Shelbie’s Mum. I need to get started on it soon as I want to give it (or them) to her on what would have been Shelbie’s birthday in January. I am planning to make at least three wall hangings using a quilt as you go method. That will allow for different size T-shirts using the backs as fill-ins. I have never made a T-shirt quilt so it will be a challenge.
Despite the fact I am having a Meh period in my work, I am keeping myself busy creatively, which will eventually lead to a more productive period for my work.
I have come to the conclusion I definitely going in the wrong direction with my work at the moment. If something is taking me forever to complete, its usually because I am not happy with what I am doing. The Jakarta placemat project is not going very far at the moment. I have found other things where I can block out any creative decisions. At the moment, its is trying to organise my google photos so I can print them out and create a scrapbook of memories, instead of them lingering aimless in some cloud. Life is very blah at the moment. We don’t eat out, we don’t really do anything and has been 3 yrs since I was able to visit London. I am
Even Instagram is not interesting me at the moment and that is my favourite app! That’s it really, just an update.
I really haven’t done a lot since I last wrote in September. I had lots of good intentions but life got in the way. I did make 75 koozies for daughter’s wedding using my Brother scan n cut. I also made a centre piece and a cake topper for her bridal shower.
I am now following a course by Shannon Rendon using the Jakarta placemat and table runner design by June Tailor. The instructor, as I indicated in my previous blog, is using 12 different templates, a bit excessive! I will be using about 4 or 5 templates, maybe just 3 as that is all I have of the ones she is using. In a an effort to use the templates I do have that will fit as 2″ wide space, I have been using my Westalee stitching discs to draw out designs. These discs are so useful as they act like the quarter inch ruler foot on my sewing machine. This way the designs will be exactly the same size as you would sew. It’s just a practice piece so I am not overly concerned about how it turns out. If it does work out, I will donate it to my quilt guild for their fundraiser at the local craft fair in November.
Once I have finished the placemats I will make a start on the three t-shirt wall hangings for my late daughter-in-law’s mother. I have never made a t-shirt quilt so I will be even slower than normal as these will be very special.
In between times I will work on my own art work. I feel I am dragging my feet a bit in that area.
I decided to add some more pages to my website and change up the design. Unfortunately, it has proved more difficult than I anticipated! I have used WordPress for more years than I care to remember, and I have toyed with the idea of changing to Wix or Squarespace. Then I try them out and hate the thought of starting anew. My main driver in the quest for change is that we (my husband) will be downsizing our house in two years, and I look around my art room, sigh, and think, what am I going to do with all this stuff! I have no idea, but making a huge bonfire out of it might be one solution!
I was definitely in a funk after my disastrous venture with ‘finding my joy’ I did a lot of practising with the Westalee rulers. I watch a lot of their videos, and I would get excited about another template. They are expensive, though. More than paint and canvas! I signed up for one of their free classes for a set of placemat designs. I totted up the cost of the templates (I have a couple), and if I brought the whole lot, I would be out of pocket to the tune of $305. However, you are better off getting their sets with the complete size range, which would be a staggering $990. Fortunately, most of the instructors only use one or two rulers for each project
My 1st actual project after that debacle was a piece based on a NASA picture featuring the birth of a star. I started it while I was doing the painting practice:
I used Mistyfuse to create a painterly collage of fabric.
I used a couple of Westalee templates to enhance the spiral effect of the collage. After that, I embellished it with some thicker embroidery thread and bobbly yarn.
I added some beads.
Once I finished that, I signed up for a free class from the grandly titled Westalee Design University. It is excellent, and the projects are well priced. The designer I chose to do a course with was Angela Attwood, and it was a templee quilt, a form of reverse applique. It used precisely one template, the 12″ Arc. It was a great practice piece, and I was pleased with the result.
I also did some practising on paper with the templates. Because you are using a ruler foot ( designed to be used with templates) when you are quilting, you have to consider the quarter of an inch that the foot uses. To get around this, you used stitching discs designed for use with a variety of drawing implements. It seems simple enough, but they do tend to slip under the template at times!
Finally, I created another fabric collage with Mistyfuse. I got the idea from a photograph I had taken when we were in Scotland last of some small stones on a wall looking over the sea. It is the direction I am going to continue going forward. I used foil for the first time, plus some paint, beads, quilting, the whole gamut, in other words.
While I wait for a set of templates to arrive, I will continue to redesign this site with additional pages showcasing my past work.
I never did get back to the ‘finding your joy’ taster course. It wasn’t exactly a scam as the instructor was very upfront about this being a marketing exercise, but it felt like one. Reading the Facebook discussion which followed as she announced each practice exercise was very distressing. Lots of people became convinced they couldn’t paint as instructed, which made them feel like failures. Who wants to deliberately make an ugly painting, which is what the 2nd exercise was. However, I hung on to the bitter end as I wanted to see the last video call where Louise talked about the 10-week course. Of course, it was about money like anything these days, £895 or $1230 for an 8-week study with two catch up weeks. Last year she had more than 900 people sign up (that might be a marketing ploy, an exaggeration, but given the number of members of this group, it might be even more!). That would add up to a whooping £805,500 for eight weeks! No wonder she has managed to build a beautiful fancy studio in the few years since she started these courses. Since I did this taster course, my Facebook feed has (predictably) been filled with similar adverts, so now I wonder if it is a pyramid scheme like the make-up companies such as Younique or Fields and Rodan. Above is just my opinion. However, I did come across someone else who felt the same way. As I didn’t continue with that course, I worked with the Westalee rulers I have recently purchased. I signed up for a class on their University page at Sewsteady.com which featured just one ruler, the 12″ arc template. I will write a separate post about that next.
I haven’t done much in the past month, although I have watched numerous Youtube videos on Westalee template designs and reacquainted myself briefly with painting.
From having no Westalee templates for quilting at the beginning of May, I now have several! I have done several practice swatches with the first set I got on 6th May. The rulers themselves don’t come with many instructions, so Youtube is an excellent resource for teaching you how to use them.
My sewing machine was due for its tune-up and would be missing in action for what I thought it would be a while. It turned out to be just a couple of days. However, I invested in some ‘stitching’ discs made by the same company, Westalee. They enable you to draw out designs on paper with the required quarter-inch taken up by the sewing foot used for ruler work. Working on paper is also less expensive than just randomly quilting on a fabric sandwich. There is quite a learning curve like any form of quilting, but I am enjoying what I am doing so far. I am not gripping the template so much, and I can unclench my teeth occasionally.
Although my primary focus, at the moment, is quilting, I haven’t entirely given up on painting. Apart from watching mainly art history videos, I have also dipped in the videos by Louise Fletcher. As I was getting my sewing machine ready for the shop, I saw that she was doing a brief seven-day free taster course on Facebook. I thought, why not? So I joined up. It seems that was similar thought to a lot of people. There are 12,031 members in the group! It’s actually way too big to be instructive. The group is named ‘Find your joy taster 2021″ and is a very effective advertising plug for the 12-week course that follows, also led by Louise and her assistants.
I have no intentions of doing the following course, but the exercise I have done so far was OK. I didn’t quite get into my inner child. The 1st painting was very random, and I didn’t know what to make of it. You start by sectioning off the paper with tape, in this instance, into six. You begin to paint, using any medium you liked, over the whole sheet of paper (or whatever support you are using) and ignoring the sections. It was a timed piece, and although you could finish after five minutes, you must complete it in thirty minutes. Once you had finished, you removed the tape to reveal the six mini paintings. I didn’t feel any ‘joy’ in these small paintings. I did realise I am not fond of black. It was just too chaotic for my liking. It reminded me of some pictures I had seen in the Blanton museum by Joan Mitchell, which I never understood or liked!
I attempted the exercise again, and although I enjoyed the process more this time, I didn’t exactly keep within the exercise parameters. It was very obviously a flower painting, and on the reveal, it became a window with some flowers. I liked the individual sections more this time, and I enjoyed the marks made by the various tools I used.
I have yet to do the 2nd exercise. I keep putting it off. I have distracted myself by working with some new templates I received on Friday, made up a quilt sandwich to work on, and wrote this. I will admit I am a bit stuck. Fortunately, I didn’t pay for this ‘taster’; otherwise, I might have been a little disappointed, but hopefully, I will get something out of it. The instructor, Louise, is very good with her enthusiasm for playing with paint, which is why it has been so popular. Its a free week of painting exercises and for that I am grateful. I might or might not do the other exercises.
I must stop doing these courses and just trust my own instincts on where I am going.
I am not a good planner and I procrastinate a lot. Now we have decided to move back to Scotland; we need to downsize considerably! Although it will tug at our hearts to get rid of our book collection, that is relatively easy. We did that to come here and I still miss some of those books 20 yrs later. Art on the wall (not my work), equally easy. Just take the originals or get the kids to chose which ones they want. Two pieces might be an issue as they are both large and are artworks by my two daughters. I don’t think they want them. My biggest headache will be my artwork. I have stuff from high school, my foundation course and my degree course. Then I have the work I have made in 40 yrs since then! As I have never sold anything, I have been hoarding a lot of work, and I don’t want to get rid of it! But I will have to been strict with myself and burn work that really should have been gone a long time ago. It’s not as if I don’t have a record of my artwork; I have photographed (poorly) most of it already. Plus, I don’t think people will be clambering to get hold of them once I am dead and buried, much as I like to delude myself. Ah well, I have about 30- 34 months to get my sh## together
On the creative side, I have had a more productive month. I finished both of the Lisa Walton courses.
I was very happy with the outcome of this quilted piece. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed bead embroidery as I have been concentrating on teaching myself various quilting techniques over the last few years.
I also dyed my own fabric on this course, using it like paint, rather than immerse the cloth. I plan on doing more this month plus some indigo dyeing. I tried out bobbin work in some places. It was fine but I think I prefer to hand embroider to get a similar effect. Obviously its quicker, so I won’t say, never again. Finished size 19.75 x 14.5 inches (50 x 37 cm)
The next project was based more on a traditional quilt. By fusing the fabric before I cut it, the design became more flexible. As there were no seams, it wasn’t bulky and using Mistyfuse as the base made the result more like making your own fabric. I decided to free motion quilt the surface as if I was doodling on a page. There was only one area that didn’t work after I quilted it. I promptly unpicked it! Hopefully, not a mistake I will make again but I probably will. This piece ended up measuring 17.5 x 20.75 inches (44.5 X 53 cm) I finished it by facing the design, rather than do a traditional binding that is generally used in quilting. I also added hanging triangles so it could be hung on a wall. I also faced the Aurora piece like this, as seen above the Fantastic Fusion image.
I loved using Mistyfuse as a way of creating a design. I will continue to use it in conjunction with the painting of the fabric. I am feeling much more optimistic about this direction my work is going. I have already started another piece. As I listened to Kate Bryan’s podcast “How to be an artist”, I was mulling other ideas that were percolating in my brain.
Now I need to get the sketchbook out and work on those ideas. Yes, sketchbook, something I don’t use much. After Susan Shie’s class, I realised that although I couldn’t continue with that way of working, I need to use my sketchbook more to ramble around my brain.
I think I am suffering from Covid fatigue. I can’t get myself motivated even though I have ideas and plans. It all seems a little pointless. Why have I hit this wall? Things are looking up. Both Gordon and I had our 1st Covid vaccinations. In six weeks, we will be able to go to a restaurant to eat. We will be able to walk outside without our masks. I should be feeling good, but I am not!
I should be happy as we have finally decided to move back to the UK once Gordon is retired. I have been pushing to do it for quite a few years, but after the election of T####, I became pretty depressed about staying in the USA. Gordon was not so sure about returning as all the family would still be here. Then this election came around. It should have made us feel better, but with the riots and the Republicans declaring themselves die-hard T#####rs, it just made us more dispirited. Feb was the breaking point with the winter storm that left us with no power for several days. It’s not as if things are going well in the UK. The Tories are dismantling the NHS bit by bit and the SNP is collapsing in on itself while still retaining power. No-one is even considering Labour, at the moment, in either country (England or Scotland). The difference is that I know this is just yet another turbulent time in UK history and we will get through it, even if Scotland does become independent. Who knows where the USA is heading?
I haven’t done much creatively. I finally finished my Oops quilt. This quilt started as my very 1st attempt at quilting about 2.5 yrs ago. It was a design from a book which was for beginners. I am hopeless at understanding or looking at processes in books. One of the reasons I am not a clothes makers is because I cannot fathom the pattern! I love the videos that are on YouTube and other platforms, as I can rewind them until I learn the correct way or alternative methods. After all the cutting of the fabric and grouping the pieces together, it is evident that it wouldn’t work. I put it aside and went to a class. A couple of quilts later, I decided to pull the Oops quilt apart and start over. It was never going to be a good quilt, but it looks better than it was.
The only thing that remains of the original quilt design is the three rail blocks which as you can see, are all higgle Piggly. It is relatively small, but after not machine quilting for a while, I found it quite an effort pushing it through the machine’s throat and my lines are all over the place!
Tomorrow, I am determined to get over this wall of lethargy that has enveloped me these past few weeks. I have signed up for two online classes with Lisa Walton. The first one is called Aurora, which will include Fabric painting, beading, and bobbin work with different threads. The second class is called Fantastic Fusion. With the dyed fabrics plus batik cloth, we will design a quilt using fusible interfacing. My biggest issue is dyeing fabric. It scares the bejesus out of me! I am a messy painter, so I can only imagine how shambolic I will be with dyes. The one thing I have been able to concentrate on during this period of inertia is discovering my family roots. I started it years ago but never really got that far. A family relative recently told me a story about the background of one of my very close relatives that didn’t ring true. I have been like a dog with a bone. The weird thing that has happened is that I have discovered a lot about that side of the family dating right back to the 1800s, but I cannot find more recent family information. I am going to give it a break for now as I can’t take any more Jones (on at least two branches of my family), Barkers, Florence, William, Edward etc.
Okay, I would have written a longer post about this image, but it would have just come across as whiny. That would have been wrong as I enjoyed the class, but by this time, I knew it wasn’t a direction I wanted to follow.
Nixon was something that happened when I was a teenager. I was aware of him and Vietnam; however, it was not something that concerned me at the time. I was enjoying life, as many teenagers would. That was my focus, not some misbehaving politician in a country I would never visit. Also, at the time, our nation was going through a tumultuous time, with a miner strike, a three day week while having rolling blackouts, two elections and I needed to learn the square dance to Tiger Feet performed by the pop group Mud.
How to deal with this subject? I decided to relate what was happening in the UK as the Watergate saga played out, leading to Nixon’s resignation in August. I turned 17 that month.
On the sketchbook’s left side, I drew about the miner’s strike and the rolling blackouts that occurred due to the strike. 1973 saw the start of an intensive IRA campaign about the presence of the UK in Northern Island. I remember hearing the bomb that went off in Chelsea Barracks, where several of my school friends lived. Fortunately, none of my friends were injured in that attack, but the continuous attacks left a mark on me for a long time. 1st January 1974 was the first time New Year’s day was a public holiday in the UK. In Scotland, where New Year’s day (Hogmanay) had been a National holiday for a while, Boxing day (26th December) became a National holiday for the 1st time. I also found an article by the Observer on the British viewpoint on the Nixon resignation.
On the right side, I drew about the research I made on the Nixon resignation which I will be honest about, wasn’t much. I also included two cultural things I knew about America at the time. One was a film of a book written by Stephen King. The other was the all-time classic show, Happy Days. Apart from the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s resignation, I also researched that he was the primary force behind establishing international relations between China and the world.
In the end, I completed the assignment but to me, it looked like one of those information sheets you get at museums. I wasn’t happy with it. It was all over the place and had no real structure.
This was the 2nd assignment of the Susan Shie drawing group I joined in January 2021.
Looking at my journal, I see we had snow the day this theme was created. Thought that would be the last of it!
I am glad I wrote down some thoughts about this drawing as 5 weeks is a long time ago, or so it seems now. The theme comes from the song ‘ America, my country, Tis of thee’ I wrote, ‘I refuse to get wrapped up in the patriotism of that slogan.’ I am not happy about any flag wrapping patriotism as I just see a lot of damage in this country and in my own homeland. So I had to think of ways to describe Freedom without the Liberty Bell or the USA flag, which others in the group picked on and made it a broader issue.
In light of the previous administration, which had just expired and was open to the path of hate speech, I began an internet search on the notion of Freedom. Actually, no one is ‘free’, but there are moral boundaries that help to make us feel as if we are ‘free’. Morality seems to be one of the things that seem to be disappearing as more and more of us think of just ourselves and not the community at large; by that, I mean worldwide. I am just as guilty as most people of this as I sit in my safe house and my safe life, but I am aware it’s a precarious state. I could fall ill with Covid and suddenly, that safety net is exposed to the corporate nature of health care in this county. How would I feel if that happened? I would definitely be angry but I would also feel defeated, I suspect. I could go on about the unsafe castle we have created for ourselves (my husband and I) but that just feeds in the paranoia that produces the groups that Trump encourages. I was quite sickened and disturbed by the hate symbols and signs I saw as I researched this subject.
The next day, I added the bells because I listened to the Waldy and Bendy Podcast. They finished with Shane McGowan’s ‘ Fairy Tale of New York”, which ends with the joyous last lines “And the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day” I would not count myself as religious but I just love that song. As I walked with my dog, I suddenly felt happy and free and couldn’t stop myself from grinning like mad and adding an extra skip to my step. Further on, I wrote: It was quite distressing working on the hate sign/symbols. It was even more so looking up the stuff on the internet. On seeing the NF symbol, I remembered I had drawn some graffiti in my large sketchbook when I was a student, so I included that in the drawing. There are strange parallels to the ’70s.
On the 3rd day, Trump was impeached for the 2nd time. I added squiggly lines to indicate the sound waves/ vibrations to show how we are bombarded each day by the internet, TV and radio. I also added positive words like hug, health, love, hello and words I associate with negativity, Fox News, Trump, Farage, Parler, hate etc.
This is the description of my drawing on the group page:
Yet, again, a difficult assignment, so different from the way I usually work. I am British and American (been here almost 21 years), so I was sort of stuck in the middle. I found it very difficult to relate to this slogan, as it is so American. So first, I looked up the dictionary meaning of the word Freedom and then ring. From that, my drawing grew. Originally I had a yin yang symbol where the handbells are but out on my walk, yesterday I was listening to the Waldy and Bendy podcast. They finished with the Pogues, Fairytale of New York, one of my all-time favourite Christmas songs. It concludes with the following lines, ‘And the bells ring out for Christmas Day.’ it’s such a joyous song and reminded me that bells are rung mostly at times of celebration. I loved the bells ringing out at a wedding.
I think the hate symbols are apparent. I pick up the notion that a circlet of gold plus precious stones was placed on a king or queen to provide protection. So I wanted to protect all the people of the world, the world itself and the right to be who you are regardless of your sexuality. Without that protection, my nephew would be hiding in the shadows. It’s always been there but not out in the open. Both my grand Dad and my Dad loved what were called topsy turvy contests or parties. They loved dressing up in women’s clothing. Today, I added wavy lines to the drawing, sound waves, vibrations, which are all around us. Finally, I drew protest banners for the 4 figures not in the circle to show you have the freedom to protest, just not hate speech. The people in the trash can only want to take away that right.
The one element I left out in my description was the cuffed hands. Slavery in America is considered something that is in history and only affects African Americans. In truth, slavery is still very much alive worldwide and not just in the poorer countries. It could be argued that having to work on minimum wage and doing 3 or more jobs to provide food for your family without access to affordable health care is a form of slavery.
It was interesting to see the other 14 contributions to this theme. A lot of them focused on the Liberty Bell, Lady Liberty and the capitol riots. There was a lot of anger towards the then President. Others referred to the concept of America being a melting pot striving towards equality for all. One person mentioned the way Covid has taken away our freedom to act as we normally do. That person drew several maze-like stairways, which each led to a freedom of choice. The national parks were another subject and were very apt as the song that this theme is taken from was written by a woman who was travelling across America. As she travelled by train, she marvelled at the beauty of this country.
I did the following drawing as part of the PIO group which was 10 volunteers who drew on the inspiration of the previous drawing. A bit like pass the message game from childhood. Unfortunately I can’t show the drawing I received but this was my response.
In the drawing I received, there was a large black bird sitting on a fence, a stylised sun rising with a decorative tree and some lines from favourite hymns the artist’s like. It was very peaceful.
Prior to getting this I had see an article about the missing Queen of the Ravens at the Tower of London. The black bird in the received drawing became a raven in mine.
I did a lot of research before I started the drawing, mainly on the myth side of the raven. In the Native American tradition there are many traditions associated with the Raven. He is considered part of the creation story but he is also consider as a trickster. A lot of the stories are similar to stories from other parts of the world, such as once he was white before he stole the sun. In a lot of tribes, he is consider the bringer of thunder, lightening and the wind.
In Greek legends, he was the messenger of Apollo. Apollo’s raven was pure white and he was sent to guard Apollo’s lover, Coronius. Although she was pregnant with Apollo’s child, she fell in love with another man who she slept with. The raven came back to tell Apollo this news who in turned became so enraged the bird hadn’t pecked out the lover’s eyes, that the raven was scorched black by Apollo’s solar flames. After that ravens were always black and were considered messengers of bad news.
In Norse stories they were the companions of the God, Odin. Each day they would go out and travel the world, observing all the comings and goings of the world. In the Evening they would return and tell Odin all the things they had observed which Odin used to keep one step ahead of his enemies. They were called Huginn, (Thought) and Muninn, (Memory.)
No-one is really sure where the myth of the London Ravens comes from but it is considered largely a Victorian story although Charles II was also apparently told that if the ravens in the Tower of London were killed, the kingdom would fall. Another very early myth dates back to the Welsh King Brân who had the head of his rival, Matholwch, who mistreated his sister, buried on the White hill where the Tower of London stands, facing France, to protect the county from being invaded. All good tourist money.
Merlina, was the current Queen of the Ravens and although in the past, the ravens wings have been clipped so they didn’t fly away , they are not now. Unfortunately, she flew away and was never seen again. Her keeper thinks she died as she was quite elderly for a raven at 14 yrs old. Ravens are very intelligent birds and Merlina’s favourite party trick was to lie on her back with her feet up and pretend to be dead. Eventually, someone would notice and a tourist or 2 would start to shout, a raven is dead! A raven is dead! And soon a crowd would gather around whereupon Merlina would suddenly become very much alive!
Ravens are like several breeds of birds that mate for life. Before that they will crowd together and form gangs that are called ‘unkindness’ and behave like normal teenagers, creating a nuisance of themselves.
The large area behind the 2 birds came about because I had included a globe and ravens are often thought of as portents of bad news. Climate change mainly in form of devastating fires fills our nightly news. Sometimes, like this week, it come in the form of severe arctic cold like it did in Texas this week. Yet, people still disbelieve it isn’t happening and it something we can’t control.
Observations from my journal regarding this drawing:
I overworked in places and didn’t do enough in others.
Watercolour really isn’t my thing (I might have revised that opinion since.)
It is very different from the drawing I received which was very calm and serene. Mine is a frantic rush.
This was the first drawing assignment given by Susan Shie for her Facebook drawing challenge group.
This is what I wrote about the drawing on the Facebook group, amended slightly:
I was nervous about this, like other newbies. It pretty much out of my comfort zone but that is why I joined the group. So I decided to put a confident face on it! The drawing just drew itself in the end. In September, I hope to fly to London and attend my niece’s wedding. 3 weeks later, my youngest daughter is getting married While I was in bed one day, I was looking at the accumulation of ornaments on the top of our bookcases. I thought its a shame, that unless I tell my family, their stories would be lost. Some of them, the story is already lost as I have forgotten. So I decided I will get back to still life painting but not like I have in the past with nice objects I have found but with objects that I can relate to and hopefully convey to a broader audience. Since lockdown, my husband and I have forgone our weekly visit to restaurants and going to the cinema. We haven’t even had a takeaway! At the beginning of lockdown, there was just myself and my husband plus my son in the house. In April my eldest daughter moved in with her daughter. They briefly went up to NM to see my grand-daughter’s Dad but since August, we have had a full house. My poor grand-daughter has basically been stuck in doors for most of the last 10.5 months as I have auto immune issues plus I am in just in age risk category . So I am looking forward to having the vaccine so life can get back to normal.
On Instagram I wrote, again amended for some spelling mistakes🤣:
Completed the Ist drawing of my drawing class. This is different from the way I normally work but I enjoying it. For a start the sketch pad is enormous! 11×14 and we are draw(ing) across the 2 page spread. I am use to doing tiny little reference sketches, if I sketch at all! Next up ‘let Freedom ring’ Have some ideas but still formulating them into some coherent
I had decided to join this drawing challenge (class) as I had seen a video on Youtube where Lisa Walton interview Susan Shie. I had seen Susan’s quilts and drawings in the past and thought it was amazing. So when she mentioned she runs these month long sessions on Facebook, I didn’t hesitate to join.
It has been a great experience and a big learning curve for me. Unlike my comment above, I am not sure that I will be doing the still life themes, at least not as paintings. I might make them as fabric collages. I am missing working on my sewing machine but that is also one of the reasons why I thought I would take part in this group as I am terrible at doing research and using a sketch book. As a student at Camberwell, I had a sketch book in my bag all the time and would draw as I was on the bus, waiting for a bus, in the bar etc. By the time I moved to Bath,(Corsham) I was trying my hand at more imaginative drawing , like you do as a child. I was never very successful at it. I don’t see pictures in my head as, I think, narrative artists do. I know it just a matter of freeing up the brain and retraining it. I think I am better with at doing narrative themes when I am working in textiles for some reason.
An example of one of my earlier textile pieces.
At the time, I basically responded to a question that keep popping up in my head at the time, “Why” I think it was in response to T***** and his supporters at the time. Part of the reason I don’t remember how I came about with this idea is because I didn’t use a sketchbook or write down what I was thinking. It was quite spontaneous and I used scraps of paper to work it out. They are now lost.
Well, this was going to be my last post of 2020 but it has taken so long, its now my 1st post of 2021. Happy New Year, everyone and good riddance to 2020. It got to be better this year, hasn’t it?
I have been quite active this year in my creative work. I have explored stitch mediation and various forms of quilting. I joined in with the first portrait artist of the week season. I painted a quilt! And I joined a zoom class for life drawing. It’s also been a year of heartbreak with the deaths of my Uncle in March from Covid, my ex daughter in law, Shelbie and my Dad in Oct. Also a world of heartbreak for so many reasons due to a virus that has felled so many as it thrives on our lack of respect for the world that is other than us.
There was no hint on the 1st Jan what lay ahead of us in the year to come.
Stitch Mediation Jan 17
I posted my 1st Instagram post for the year. I had been struggling to get back into my creativity after the holiday season. I usually find it difficult to find my rhythm after all the hectic pace of Christmas and New Year. Then I discovered a tag, #stitchmediation. So I gathered up a tote with odds and ends of scraps of material and thread. I posted my 1st one on 17th January and that got my year on the go.
I continued with these while doing other work up until April 19th when I couldn’t continue as it was too emotional. On 15th April, my ex daughter in law committed suicide in the most brutal of ways, by shooting herself in the head. I always knew she has issues but I never expected this. The torment she must had been feeling to do such a thing, is still incomprehensible to me. You would have never known the deep anguish she was suffering underneath her beautiful stunning eyes and amazing smile. Her death was the one that hurt the most this year and still does. She was so young, only 29.
Sunflower collage Jan 18
I took, what turned out to be my 1st and only class, at the Honeybees Fabric store. It wasn’t a success as it wasn’t what I expected. But I hate to give up something. I didn’t do much with it again until September 19th. It just didn’t resonate with me. I attached it to a painted background and tried some embroidery on it. Still nothing! Then I decided to clear some of stuff in my art room that I would never use again and came across some large hexies I had started probably about 2 yrs ago. I was never going to do anything with them. So I had the idea of attaching them to the cloth. There were about 8 of them and I used 6 in the end. I also added some tulle and some indigo dyed cotton at the top to cover the paint I had there. Then I stitched them all to the fabric. Still zilch! it was a disaster. That when I decided to chop it up randomly. I ended up with a very thick square that I quite liked. I tried to machine quilt it but that was a mistake as it was too thick even with a walking foot. By that point, the Christmas season was about to start, so it is still unquilted but I will hand quilt it in the New Year.
Finished Pat Sloan Winter Fun quilt top Jan 21
I finished this quilt top and that is exactly as it is now as I although I have a backing fabric, it was not yet been quilted. Another task to finish and I will do it early in the new Year.
Started quilting Happy Blocks Feb 2
I had made this quilt top in a class at Honeybees in June/July 2019. It was quite a daunting challenge to quilt as it was by the far the biggest I had quilted. I decided to used it as a sampler quilt so each block combination (12 x 2) had it own design and I was going to do it using a walking foot only. I even drew out some of the designs. Others were freeform. I finally finished it on July 3rd. I was very pleased with it.
Made 1st Mask Mar 21
News of a new contagious type of flu in China, started to filtered through to the world towards the end of Jan. By the end of February, it was apparent this was a very serious illness and I was getting worried about my trip to the UK, that I had been planning since before Christmas 2019. By now, people in Italy was were dying in ever increasing numbers and it was only a matter of time before it got here or the UK. Unbeknownst to us, it had been circulating around the world for several months before Christmas 2019. It is generally assumed that it came from China but who really knows. Yes, it was discovered in Wuhan when it became widespread but it had been out in the wild for several months by then, it will be difficult to trace the real origins of it. Much like the so called “Spanish” flu in 1918 which was attributed to Spain because they were 1st to identify the flu because they were not part of the war in 1917. Now they think it came from a farm in Kansas and soldiers from the USA spread it amongst the battle fields of WW1
The Chinese government had been monitoring pneumonia outbreaks with the help of the US for several years due to the SARS virus a few years back. The Trump government decided pull out of that agreement in July 2019. But the Chinese government kept up with their research which is why this virus was discovered. Yes, they tried to hide the fact, which they should be held accountable for but they shared the DNA fairly quickly which is why we now have several potentially successful vaccines. They also did what western countries couldn’t do, shut down a whole city full of millions of people.
I was due to fly to London with Juniper on 12th March. I was going to surprise my Dad for his 84th Birthday but nursing homes residents were already locked down by the beginning of March, so I wouldn’t have been able to see him. On March 7th, it was obvious, this was a bad idea with people dying worldwide by now of this new virus, so I cancelled my trip. The day I was due to arrived , London went into lockdown. Juniper finished school on 11th March and has never been back in person since. On the 26th March, my Uncle Lew passed away from Covid. He was 90 yrs old. On the 30th April, my eldest daughter was laid off from her State job due to cuts in government spending. Of course, this being TX the environmental groups and the agency that implements those rules, would be one of the first departments to be cut. She is still unemployed despite applying for too many jobs to count but fortunately she and Juniper are living with us, so she won’t become homeless like millions of others will in the coming months. This virus has been devastating in all respects of life.
I made a few masks at the beginning of the pandemic, mainly because I was asked by my future son-in-law, who works in the pharmacy of one of the bigger hospitals in Austin. I soon realised I was better off with the paper surgical masks as cloth masks in the Texas heat are unbearable. The paper ones are not much better but its better than dying.
Covid drawing April 14
My one and only covid drawing. It was done in my journal which has become sort of redundant since we have been stuck in the house of the last 9 months. I am looking forward to going to restaurants and going to the movies once its safe.
Finished “Why” an improv Quilt Aprl 19
I started in July 2019 and I finally put on a binding on it.
Joined an online Zoom Life drawing class April 23
In April I was invited by my friend to join a life drawing group run by Hackney Wick Life drawing group (Instagram @hwlifedrawing) which was doing zoom sessions for the duration of the pandemic. Little did they know it would be still be going right up to Christmas and probably well into 2021. I stopped around August as I get too flustered and anxiety ridden when I can’t move around a room and examine the model from different aspects. Its poor excuse I know.😥
Sky arts Started their Portrait of the week April 28
By the end of April, people were getting more inventive about ways of doing things that couldn’t be done in the normal way. Sky artist of the Year, had been due to start as their normal yearly contest but obviously with the continuing lockdown, that wasn’t possible. So they moved it to Facebook where one of the previous winners would paint a famous personality over a 4 hour period via a live stream. Viewers were invited to paint along and submit their paintings to be judged. They had additional 4 days when the Judges would chose the best ones submitted via Instagram. I was never picked😭, not even for their honourable mention wall and a top 3 were chosen by the judges. The standard of painting was amazing, to be honest. By the end of the 9 weeks, there were 1000’s of artists, professional, amateurs and children participating from all over the world. It must have been challenging to look at so many paintings of the same person! They did do another season but I decided not to take part this time around, I was busy doing the Quirky Creatures quilt by then. Maybe the next time, once my wounded pride has healed.😂🤣
Started Quirky Collections Quilt July 9
I had come across the work of Helen Godden on YouTube a while ago and I thought this would an easy project. No piecing, you simply paint the design with Lumiere paints and then quilt each block as you go. I really didn’t appreciate how big this quilt was. Not quite as big as the Building blocks but very large for a wall hanging! I am rapidly running out of wall space. But I really enjoyed this project and it made me look at fabric collage again. I finished in record time for me by Sept 2. But at the end of it, I resolved not to make any more large quilted pieces.
Made my first project using the project provided by Brother scan n cut
On July 16 I got my Brother scan and cut for my birthday which was not really until August but it was the last machine available locally. I had seen it in a local store just before the pandemic started and thought at the time, this would be great for future mixed media projects. I have not yet used it to its full potential but I am looking forward to experimenting with it in 2021.
My Dad died Oct 12
I had been due to see my Dad in March 2020 for his 84th birthday and for him to meet, Juniper, his great-grand-daughter. He has met her before but Juniper was too young to remember. I knew this would probably be my last chance to see him as he had deteriorated a lot since my Mum died in Sept 2018. He had lived with my sister for the past 3 yrs but he could no longer manage the stairs to get to his bedroom or toilet, so he moved into the nursing home in Jan 2020. After 5 months of being locked in his room due to Covid, his health had deteriorated even more quickly. So I wasn’t surprised when my sister let us know he had been taken to hospital with a chest infection which then turned in pneumonia. Fortunately he was surrounded by the love of my 2 sisters, Sarah and Julie as he passed away from this life, never ever gaining consciousness again. Of course, due to covid I wasn’t able to attend his funeral but I was able to watch and grieve with my sisters via video. He was 84, an age we never thought he would achieve as he retired with ill health on his 59th birthday. He was determined to be with my Mum right to the end after she was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)and he was there for her all the time. I think seeing his youngest great grand-daughter Ava who was born just before my Mum died, was the factor that kept him going much longer than expected afterwards. Family was always very important to him. Losing that contact at the beginning of March was probably the last straw.
Started spiral collage Nov 5
I have seen Susan Carlson work on the Quilting Arts program which is show on PBS on Saturday morning and it was the sort of painterly way I wanted to approach fabric collage, not the applique way I had been shown in Feb. I also had the book where she has this exercise but I tend to work better if I see it in action. On her site, she had some short videos to guide you through the process. Going through my fabric stash, I realised I don’t have lot of textural fabrics or large flowery prints, so I was finding it hard to do the spiral when out of the blue, a friend offered me a huge bag of exactly those type of fabrics. It took longer than I expected but I loved the outcome, unlike the sunflower 😥 In the end it took me about 3 weeks although I still have to bind it yet. I plan to do another as you can never have enough spirals.
Started advent drawings Dec 2
For the past few years, I have counted down the days to Christmas by posting Christmas themed work on Instagram. The aim is post each day but I rarely managed that as I would try to do something that was too big or complex to finish in one day. At first I wasn’t going to do it this year, but then I came across one of drawings from a previous year. It was late on Dec 1, so rather than rush a drawing, I used that one (Santa with UK/USA flag). After that I decided to stick to one small sketch book and only use the materials on my drawing/sketch table. Also they had to very simple drawings. I managed to do 22.5 drawings. I ran out of time on Christmas eve, too many things to do. So I used a painting I did in 2010! The half done drawing is still on my table!
I think next year, I will do one for each Sunday of Advent
Christmas sacks and other things.
My scan n cut came into use in December when I decided to make Christmas sacks for everyone. First I practised on a t shirt for my grand-daughter as I hadn’t really used the heat transfer vinyl that much.
I got the idea from the software Brother provides. Instead of just using the symbols , I though I would place them down the t-shirt with the corresponding word beside. As you can see from the photo, I got the words the wrong way around. I don’t play the game, in my defence 😂🤣 Anyway it gave me practice of layering on top of my mistake. My grand-daughter was delighted with the result.
Then I got a request to make a stocking for a friend’s baby’s 1st Christmas. I had made one for her daughter when she was a baby but it was in the style I had made for year’s. This year I decided to change up the style as I could use HTV for his name for the name instead of cross stitch as I have done in the past. I was very happy with the result.
Finished all sacks on Dec 19
My final task before Christmas was to make Christmas sacks as the stockings, which are like the one’s above are just too small to cope with the ‘big’ small gifts we give to each other after Christmas dinner. Even with the sacks, there were 2 large gifts that were too big for the sacks. 🤨 I did some YouTube searching and adapted a couple of ideas to suit my needs. I even learn how to make boxed corners, some day I will be a sewer😉 I was very pleased with the end result!
1st Digital drawing 27th Dec
Finally Christmas arrived and my gift from my son was digital drawing tablet, a Gaomon M106K Pro with pen. I have tried out digital drawing several times over the years. My old Samsung tablet has a touch sensitive drawing pen but I found all the drawing software programs very daunting with all their brushes, icon etc. I even had one of the first Wacom tablet about 15 yrs ago. At that time, it seem to be directed many towards people who drew Manga type paintings which is definitely not my thing.
Anyway I am determine to crack this nut this year and have downloaded Krita which is a free open source program and recommended for beginners. If I get the hang of it, I might be tempted to try out Corel Paint again. Its still overwhelming when you first dive in. Fortunately, they have quite a few Youtube videos for beginners.
I am going to teach myself the digital drawing by daily practice, much like you would if you were using any other drawing/painting media.
I am starting a drawing class with quilt artist Susan Shie ( http://www.turtlemoon.com) called Lucky drawing 149 on Sunday. I want to get back into the habit of drawing but not from life necessarily. I want to spread my wings. The class description is :
Class format: Freehand drawing class, taught in a very radical style: guidance and inspiration without how-to’s, step-by-steps, or judgment. All assignments can be done, changed, or ignored. Positive feedback discussions of drawings posted by all. Drawings done in large, hardbound sketchbooks, with any freehand drawing supplies.
So I am not really sure what I am I letting myself in for but if it anything like her own work, it will be inspiring. I have been a fan of her work for a long long time so when I saw this class was available I decided throw caution to the wind and signed up.
I will continue my exploration of quilts but more small size art quilts like “Why” which I did in 2019 and the spiral collage in Nov. I am going to make a book or books of the stitch mediations I did early on in the year. At the moment, they are just in pile on my drawing table. I might get back to them at some point. Especially if I have an artistic block which I tend to suffer from a lot! It definitely kickstarted me back into action last year.
I might do some painting but its not a high priority at the moment, although I always enjoy painting when I do it. Basically I will be doing what I do best, go where the wind goes and trust my instincts.
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Apologies for such a long post. Apologies for such a long post.
The end of the year is looming and it time to list the things that have got me through this year of crisis. To be honest, I would normally be doing these activities anyway but over this past 9 months, they have been more important.
At the beginning of the year, I was listening to a few political podcasts as both this country and my home country, were going through a bit of a crisis (understatement of the year). Then Covid struck and although, politics still remained important, my mental well being needed to escape from it all as it was so overwhelming. I still listened to the nightly news and if I was in the car, I would listen to KUT, the local PBS news channel but I felt powerless to do anything. Taking care of my own mental health was something I could control.
No particular order as I listen to them when I am walking or either doing things in the art room and depending on my mood. I have discovered if I am trying to do something creative, I cannot listen to a podcast at the same time. Cutting fabric, cleaning up my space is fine.
The Graham Norton Podcast. a chat show with a agony aunt section with Maria McErlane. This is an easy on the ears shows with lots of laughter. I particularly like the agony aunt bit where Graham and Maria give advice on the issue chosen and always ends with remember “we are not professionals 😂😃🤣 I will miss him when he does his last podcast this week.
Something Rhymes with Purple. Susie Dent and Gyles Brandreth discuss the origins of words or phrases. Very light hearted and lots of laughter. I am noticing a theme here.
Desert Island Discs – A celebrity guest get to choose 8 musical track (sometimes vocal) , a book and a luxury. They can take the luxury and book plus one musical track with them when they are stranded on a deserted island. Sometimes I see the guest name, occupation and think, hmm, not that interesting but more often than not, they are.
The Lonely Palette – Tamar Avishai normally picks one painting from her place of work, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She starts by asking visitors to the museum what they think about a particular painting, the one she is about to discuss. Her voice is so soothing and her narrative is very informative. Unfortunately since August 2019, episode 40, due to maternity leave and then Covid, the podcasts have be very infrequent. Now I am about to start listening to all 50 again.
Quilt and Tell. Traci, Lori and Ginger from Quilting daily have an easy conversation about……quilting. They also interview a celebrity quilter each episode and end the show with tips. Good for the experienced and novice quilter. Very easy going conversation between friends and guests. Lots of laughs.
Quilting Arts. Presented by Susan Brubaker Knapp and Vivika Hansen. This is a fairly new podcast and an off shoot of the PBS show of the same name. Its all about art quilts, which are different from the quilts people normally think of and are more akin to fine arts. Now they are on episode 14, they are beginning to relax a bit and enjoy themselves.
Stitchery Stories hosted by Susan Weeks, who describes herself as an embroidery enthusiast and textile art dabbler. She interviews people in the textile world that have sparked her interests via instagram or their blogs. She started off with UK artists but as her show has taken off in the US and Canada, more and more of the artists are international. Its just a friendly conversation about their art/craft and how they came about their practice. Very easy listening and lots of laughs.
I am always on the look out for interesting art podcasts. Most are way too serious and full of ART SPEAK 😴 that way of talking about art is just turgid and a put off. I soon get bored with it and the podcast. So I was delighted when I came across
Talk Art. Presented by actor Russell Tovey and gallerist Robert Diament, 2 guys who are great friends and both avid art collectors. Robert has a art history back ground but he doesn’t claim to be an expert at all. He started off in a little know UK rock band before moving into the art world. He is now the director for the Carl Freedman Gallery, Margate UK. Robert is the shy one and I think, sometimes surprises himself with his observations in his conversations with their artist of the week. Russell, on the other hand, is fully into all the psycho babble that surrounds art these days. Its hilarious sometimes, when the artist comes back and says, really? in so many words. Of course, then there are artists that swallow it whole. I love both of them! In their 1st few episodes, they would normally talk for about for an hour but now they can go on an hour and 30 mins or more. That can be a bit wearing, so it probably not my favourite podcast now but I still listen to it regularly. I also find American artists for some reason, irritating even if I like their work. Through this show, I am now more aware of lot more modern living artists than I have been. Even become a fan of Tracey Emin😮
My most recent find and delight has been
Waldy and Bendy – hosted by Waldemar Januszczak and Bendor Grosvenor. I could listen to these 2 of hours, I will be honest. Their dynamic is not unlike Tovey and Diament but both of them are professional art historians.
Once of my favourite podcasts use to the Jealous curator but it became a sort of a collective and with that became very insular and cliquey. Also like Art Talk, they became very long. I think its mainly because the presenter is now concentrating on her own work. These podcasts take up a lot of time and energy to make. However, looking at the new episodes that are posted , it looks like back to just Danielle Krysa and the artist. I will give it another try.
I have plenty of others podcasts I listen to but these ones I will listen to a new episode as soon as it appears.
As Covid as gone on and on, youtube has been become my refuge from nothing on TV.
My favourite theme is art History or history.
In the past 9 months, I think I have seen most of the Waldemar Januszczak documentaries that are available and that is a lot of video time!
His documentary of Gauguin Gauguin: The Full Story has to be the best so far.
I need to find another entertaining but informative art historian!
Lucy Worsley is another of my favourite historians She has a strange lisp (I think or it might be my hearing) but somehow it makes her more engaging.
Fit to Rule, Tudor to Stuarts from Gods to men
I have watched too many craft and painting videos to list but I have learnt a lot from them. I have long list of subscriptions but I find after a few videos that I get bored with them. Or they post videos that are too short, like the Royal Academy of Art. I don’t want to watch a 5 min video, I need at least 10 mins! I love the National gallery in London’s curator presentations. They can be as short as 10 mins or as long as 30 mins but each packs in a lot information. The National gallery happens to be my favourite museum.
According to Spotify
my top decade was 1970’s
My top artist was David Bowie
I listened to 1241 artists
Top Genre was Rock
Top song was Wacht op Mij which I apparently listened to more than a dozen time
During the day I will tend to listen to vibrant music and yes, I do like older music rather than todays but I think that is because I don’t listen to music radio anymore. If I am needing to get up and move, like I do now, I chose a dance option. In the evening when I am trying to wind down I will put on some music for mediation.
Back to Christmas now and the run down to the New Year. Hopefully 2021 will be better but I suspect it will be long hard journey. In the meantime, I will continue with my Youtube watching, Spotify listening and podcast explorations.
For several years now, I have posted a creative piece on Instagram each day at the beginning of December and ending on 24th December. I begin well but alway end up struggling to post each day as I am too ambitious in my goal. It’s my way of getting into the festive season as I don’t have Christmas parties to attend or any other of the festivities that happen during December. This year, it is even harder to get into the Christmas spirit. Normally at this time of year, my grand-daughter would be singing Christmas carols in anticipation of the Christmas concert at school but no school this year.😢
I lowered my ambitions this year and so far it’s working! My goal this year was to create a very simple drawing of our tree ornaments and use just pens of various types. No pencil, that way I had to commit to the drawing and a time limit. The last hour or less before I sit with my husband to watch TV before going to bed. Last night I broke one of those rules by using some lumiere paint for the background because I had left only 20 mins to do the drawing. Its surprising how long it takes to colour in an image!
I was so immersed in sorting through the photos, December sort of crept up on me which is why the first drawing of December comes from 2010 when I did a similar project but for Christmas cards. This was one of about 4 that I made. Only 12 drawings for this countdown left!
I did actually cut up the sunflower and I quite like it but its not yet quilted as other things came up. Plus it’s very thick so I might have to hand quilt it. I tried on the machine once but it was a disaster.
Then I got a request to make a Christmas stocking from a friend in the UK. We got our first stocking gifted to us. It was for our eldest daughter from a friend in Massachusetts. The following year, she send us another 4 for the rest of the family.
When the family started to expand about 10 yrs, with the kids new partners coming for Christmas dinner, I started to make my own Christmas stockings, following my friends design. For the first ones I bought quilted Christmas fabric as I wasn’t doing quilting at the time. Then came one Christmas when there was no quilted fabric available. So I had to make my own. Now I have it down to fine art but this time I wanted to change the design slightly and use my Brother cut n scan machine. It worked out exactly as I wanted it to.
Now I am making Christmas sacks for everyone who is coming to Christmas Dinner this year. The stocking were proving to be difficult to fill as although we have a price limit, the gifts can often be large. They are meant to be small jokey gifts from each other which we all open in turn, after Christmas dinner. Which is why I am making Christmas sacks in the hope they will hold the no so small gifts. I already know that someone has bought a gift that is too large but I am promised it is funny and relevant to the person receiving the present. 🤦🏻♀️😂🤣
After Christmas I will be back to my photo project and making the pet portrait.
I am having one of my regular artistic blocks which isn’t helped by this pandemic. Each day rolls into the next, so I have to mark a cross on the calendar to check which day it is.
I am also trying to sort out all the thousands of digital photos I have on various hard drives. It’s very confusing. I have used photoshop elements for years but only recently took a course on how to use and manage it. The first thing I did was disable the watch files which are linked to Onedrive and Amazon. Before that I would see a pop up downloading from such and such app and stop it but not until several photos were downloaded. I have ended up with so many duplicates. PSE has got a program for duplicates but its not very smart, to be honest. I think mainly because the file names have changed, so it uses visually similar comparisons. You can’t beat a human eye in those circumstances. None of the online cloud programs seem to have a solution for duplicate images either. So far I have deleted about 4000 images because they were duplicates or other reasons ie a photo of your meal for instagram. I don’t do that anymore. I am planning on having it complete by 12/31/2020, to start the year afresh! Then I have sort through all the old photos that we have and the ones from my parents. Unfortunately a lot of them lack names, dates or location. This is why I decide to sort out my digital disaster. That way, in the distance future, my kids will have a reasonable record to wade through. Not until 2021 though!
A while back, I decided I wanted to explore fabric collage. Much as I have enjoyed the quilt making, there are limits such how many quilts can a person have. I am not good enough to sell them and my family is small, so sharing is not an option. Even before I started doing traditional quilts, I wanted to make art quilts/wall hangings. Fabric collage seems to fit into my broad spectrum of art work. I did attend a workshop at the beginning of the year, oh that seems like another age ago but I wasn’t happy with the result. I am currently working on it and I am still not happy with it! It was too basic and was basically applique with scraps of fabric. I want to create a whole image.
I had seen the work of Susan Carlson. Unlike my work, it is monumental in scale but seems to be more inline with my way of seeing things. On her website, I saw she had a eworkshop where she explained her process by using a simple spiral. I signed up and started the Spiral Eworkshop. It was much harder than I expected! I realised my fabric collection which I thought was reasonable was not. It was lacking in lots of respects, in its variety, pattern, colour and tone. As I was about to go fabric shopping, a friend step up with a huge bag of scraps. She is much more adventurous with her choice of colours and patterns. I still had to shop for some tulle for quilting. Within days, I had finished the project. I plan to make another spiral before I progress further.
Now I have to figure out what I will do with the original sunflower collage which doesn’t look much like a sunflower. I am going to chop it up and rearrange it. I don’t like it, so I might as well experiment. Here is how it looks at the moment.
I am also going to work on a pet portrait. I signed up for a workshop by Lea McComas. Her style is very different from Susan Carlson and uses digital imagery. Susan Carlson does also but in different way. Lea McComas uses fusible backing rather than glue to place the fabric and her fabric choices are not bright or patterned because she uses different threads, colours and weight, on a sewing machine to enhance the image. As I am wading through my 20 yrs of photos I am trying to find a suitable photo of any of our pets. Again, harder than you think, especially if you have a black or grey cat. Once I have selected the photo, resized and posterized, I will need to get it printed. With the pandemic getting worse by the day, I will get it done online to reduce my risk of catching covid. By the New Year, I should have the enlarged posterized photo and the fabric I want to use.
At end of 2021, I will be doing my own fabric collage, using my photos. I have collected scores of photos over the years, on visits to Scotland,France, London and Texas. Once I have sorted out my catalogue, I will finally be able to use them for what they were intended for. In the meantime, I have a lot of learning to embrace. Until a few years back, I didn’t know a thread had a weight!
but learning new skills is a way of keeping your brain healthy. I decided to move my domain to WordPress where my blog resided before a brief dalliance with Wix. Everything was going fine until I saw the theme I was using had been ‘retired’. Easy enough, I thought, change the theme. I wanted something like I already had. I tried one or 2 but they weren’t quite right. Kept searching until I came across this one. Its bit more complex than I thought with hidden pages I can’t see from my dashboard. I have brain (just) and I will work it out.
I am also still teaching myself how to use my Brother Scan n cut SDX 225. The actual machine is very easy but I am not use to designing on a vector program. Other Scan n cut users say the design program by Brother called Canvas Workspace is a bit chunky and slow. There are other vector programs such as Inkscape or Sure Cuts a lot (SCaL) which are easier to use . I checked out the other design programs and they looked as confusing to me as Canvas Workspace. More so, to be honest. I decided I am going to use the program provided as I am new to this type of program. Even that is a steep learning path for me as I have never used vectors. Once I have mastered that I will venture into the world of Inkscape which is a free open source program.
Despite having both 2011,and 2018 suites for several years. I have never mastered Photoshop/Premiere elements. I can resize photos, lighten, darken and use one basic level. I am trying out Udemy at the moment. I did a short course on the scan n cut for the basics and I am currently doing a fundamentals of Math(s) course. In the UK we add an ‘s’. It has long been a gripe of mine that I was never taught maths in school. I will see how it goes. Anyway, they have photoshop elements course and I will do it. Yes, there are plenty of Youtube videos, I know, but I like to follow a progression and not random information. That is where I have become unstuck with the Scan n Cut, there is so much information on Youtube, you get befuddled.
Creativity wise, I have been a bit stymied. I finished my last project Quirkie Creatures Quilt by Helen Godden last month. I had seen a few of her videos on Youtube and thought, why not try my hand at that. As I am a painter, I wanted to use paint rather than piece the quilt blocks. I am not great at piecing yet. Also I could practice my free motion quilting. It’s a great design and nothing like my own personal work which tends to be a big messy. I liked the clear simple shapes she used based, on some ‘quirkie’ objects she owns. I realised by the end of it, I am not a “colour in” kind of person, it’s a bit tedious and repetitive. Of course, I could have deviated from her colour palette but I would still have been colouring in. I loved the free motion quilting. She used some very interesting patterns. I only used one different pattern as I tired of doing a basic meandering stitch. I will be honest, I wasn’t thinking about the size of the finished quilt. I was somewhat surprised at how big it became once all the squares,borders and sashing were sewn on. I had said I wouldn’t do another large quilt and this is for the wall. The question then came up, where the heck do I put it. With all my paintings, beaded pictures and other people’s work, I am running out of wall space!
At the beginning of the covid isolation, I was working on my stitch mediations. I had seen a post by another instagram poster which tagged stitch mediation and slow stitch. I had come across slow stitch before as I have a couple of books on it. With Slow stitch, you use all natural fabrics, wool or cotton. You use a limited number of types of stitches. Running or back stitch which can be used in numerous way like for darning. Stitch mediation takes it a step further. There is no limit on the fabrics but generally there is a time limit. From the artist who is 1st attributed to the phrase, stitch mediation, the following:
We often use vintage fabrics and linens that we overdye to give them a new life. Then we add fibers, paper and other bits for fun. There are just a few rules for your stitch meditation practice: 1. Do not take stitches out. Honor the perfection of imperfection. 2. Keep your stitches simple. 3. Don’t think about composition and design. Let your intuition lead you to your next stitch. 4. Feel free to cut or alter the fabrics in your kit and add other papers and fabrics. 5. Most importantly, remember to breathe.
Well, I don’t have vintage fabrics but I do have a lot of scraps. In the beginning I kept them simple and only used simple stitches. As I went along they became more complex and I introduced more types of stitches. I also began to use things like paper flowers or beads. I designated a time and put on music for meditation to aid the mindfulness of the exercise.
I finished in April as I was becoming overwhelmed by my response to the suicide of my ex daughter-in-law. She was only 29.
I have recently started doing them again. I saw as way to get back my creativeness as I have finished a project which wasn’t my design. It had sapped my energy although I enjoyed process.
The pandemic has seen a huge push by artists and organisations to get more people involved in the arts. I have already mentioned Youtube as galleries have introduced guided tours of exhibitions. These were ones that were due to open before the covid crisis. Production companies seem to be pushing out more documentaries on Youtube.
One of the best projects which Sky Arts TV produced. They make a programme called Sky Artist of the Year. Because of the pandemic, they had to put off filming this year’s contest. In place of the normal show, they came up with the idea of Sky Artist of the week. Using Facebook live, they invited famous people to sit via zoom. Each week a former winner from the show, then did a live portrait painting of the person. In turn, the viewers on Facebook live, would also paint a portrait. The viewers were then invited to submit their work via Instagram. The work was then judged by the show’s presenters. 3 paintings out of thousands were chosen and featured on the following week’s show.
I loved setting aside a few hours a week for this. Not sure I would make it as a portrait artist but I made a good stab at it. The standard of work on Instagram was amazing and made me feel inadequate. The main thing was that I enjoyed doing the paintings although one I gave up on one as I couldn’t get the likeness at all.
It must have been nerve wracking for all the sitters. Especially if they checked out Instagram with 1000’s of portraits of them. There were portraits done by professional artists, amateur painters and children.
Up to now I have been active in a creative sense. With my husband working from home, I don’t like to do housework while he is working other than the basics. That suits me fine as I hate housework. So while the house disintegrates around me from lack of attention, I have been been playing in the art room. Sometimes, I forget about even the basic stuff! Unfortunately, I have now hit a bump in the road. I am struggling to work out what to do. Instead I am writing this blog post, in the hope it might jog my brain back into shape. I am sure I was brimming with ideas in the middle of all this chaos.
Above are a couple of the quilted blocks and the completed quilt called Happy Blocks. I started the quilt at the HoneyBees Quilt stores in 2019. I decided to quilt it all with a walking foot. Although I had used a walking foot, I hadn’t completely explored this way of quilting before . I got ideas from 2 books.
Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day. Walk: Master machine Quilting with your walking foot by Jacquie Gering. Both are excellent guides but I found the Jacquie Gering, the most useful.
It was definitely a challenge getting a large quilt through my machine throat, a Juki DX7 but I did it!
I have not done life drawing for several years because there isn’t much available in the area. Also, the one place where they have regular sessions has no natural light. Artificial lights flatten out the shadows and forms I find, plus, I like real light. I should add I am very reluctant to go out most days and the older I get, the worse I get. Regardless, I am always up to a challenge!
Through a friend on Instagram, I was able to join a zoom group for life drawing. It was hosted by the Hackney Wick Life drawing group based in London (@hwlifedrawing ). I enjoyed it most of the time. I am not the best student for life drawing. I get very frustrated with my lack of ability. The models were very patient with all the instructions as they posed. Some could keep very still and others couldn’t stop moving! I am not good with moving subjects, so that was a challenge. Also the models were based in their own space which were either cramped or the light was poor. In one instance, the model almost completely disappeared as the sun when down.
The other things have been exploring are videos on Youtube. Many have been how to videos but I have also been enjoying all the art history videos that are available. At the moment, I am watching a series of videos called Perspective. These written and led by British art historian Waldemar Januszczak. He makes me dizzy with all his rushing around from one painting to another. His presentation though is very informative and absorbing.
I have also watched lectures by the National Gallery in London done before the pandemic hit. “Travels with a curator”, led by Chief Curator Xavier F. Salomon of the Frick Collection is also very informative and interesting.
By time the pandemic finished, my art history should be pretty well rounded if I can remember any of it!
Post from my Wix website which I could never really get going. Decided to transfer back to this website. Posted on May 20th 2020.
I will admit I have been avoiding working on this new site as it scares me as it seems more professional than WordPress. With this lockdown, I have no excuse not to learn how to use it! As the numbers in Texas are still rising, I will not be socialising for while yet. Today I listened to a podcast for quilters which was on the subject of whether you are an artist or a quilter? Podcast is “Quilt and Tell”. In most cases, that would be considered a simple answer as most quilters,I know, follow a pattern to make the quilt top and then pass it on to a person to quilt the top on a specialty quilting machine called a long arm quilting machine which can do free motion stitching or computer created stitching . However, there are is whole army of people who quilt who I would call artists. They tend to make wall hangings and are just as varied in their subject matter as any other art form. I went to the Modern Quilt convention held in Austin Feb 2020 and was blown away by the amount of art I saw there. It was inspiring and to be honest, quite daunting.
Where to now by Rima Trew.About the Zimbabwe elections in 2018 where 6 people were shot dead by government troops. The 7th dot represents the death of democracy.
Our House is on Fire by the Field Trip Quilters This about climate change and inspired by Greta Thunberg.
No-one is Free by the Portland Modern Quilt Guild.This was in response to the Trump era of locking up and deporting children seeking asylum in the USA. The words are by MLK.
Gateway by Debbie Grifken, Ann Arbor MI.This was inspired by a photograph of some rustic fencing at the Palace of Versailles. I love the fact that with all the gaudy beauty of this enormous palace, the artist was inspired by some old fencing that surrounded the ‘outdoor’ rooms in the garden. A gateway to mystery and intrigue.
I started quilting a brief year ago after going to quilts shows since I first moved to Texas in 2000 and I have a long way to go before I am at that level of professional work. At the moment I am working on a quilt top I made in a class last year. It sort of follows a pattern in that you take 2 x 12″ squares, cut them up , make them into 2 different blocks. Repeat for however many blocks you want to make. Mine is 4 blocks a row x 6 and is called Happy Blocks.
And that is the beauty of quilting, you may be working on the same design concept as the person next to you but it will never be the same as the fabric and size of block choice comes into play. Below is a quilt made in the same way as mine above. Chalk and cheese!
Do I consider it art though, no, its definitely a craft unlike the art quilts I saw at Quiltcon. Definition of craft: skill in making things especially with the hands. 2 : an occupation or trade requiring skill with the hands or as an artist. So a painter could technically be called a craft person but I suspect most would reject that definition. I have made a few small wall hanging over the year as I progressed with learning to quilt. This is the reason I got into quilts as I saw it as way of displaying some work I had made a few years back. These I would consider art, not craft, as they are all individual and unique but then each quilt I have made has also been individual and unique to me, so where is the divide? In my mind, basically! Definition of an artist:
1a: one who professes and practices an imaginative art
b: a person skilled in one of the fine arts
So what am I? An artist or a quilter? Apparently one of the presenters was told if they hadn’t sold anything, then they weren’t an artist. That seems like a pretty narrow definition and would mean that Van Gogh wasn’t an artist. I liked the end of the discussion where one of the guests said they were neither a quilter or artist but a creative! I would add the word Hobbyist as well. Definition: an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation: I might well come into that category as I swing from painting, embroidery, bead embroidery and now quilting, next year I might try my hand at sculpting again! Anything that will convey what I want to express artistically, but it has never been my main occupation. That has been Mother, trailing spouse, Grandmother and wife. However, I strive to be recognised for my work without success as I have regularly posted images of my work on various social media sites like Instagram and Facebook. I have my own domain name and write infrequent blogs on my art work So I am a CREATIVE!
Just before I left Greycoats I started to go to the Saturday morning classes provided by Camberwell School of Art and Crafts. I began in the life drawing class and in the final 6 months, I did a sculpture class. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the portrait head I made but for years my parents proudly had it on display in their house. It really was not that good but at least my parents’ like it 😊
The above drawing is the one that made me decide I was good enough to try to get onto the foundation course at Camberwell, if I could somehow persuade my parents. By that point, I was already in a secure office job as a statistical clerk with Watneys. I was also doing my ‘A’ levels at night school after work. A new Principal had been appointed to the college, Ian Tregarthen Jenkins. He was doing a tour of the Saturday morning classes and he actually spoke to me. He asked me how I had decided to deal with the heater in front of the the model. I forget what I told him but he congratulated me on the way I dealt with it and hope I would apply to the foundation course in the future. Oh wow, to be singled out by the new Principal was amazing to me. My confidence soared!
Looking at it now, it wasn’t that great a drawing but it will always be special for just that reason.
The Saturday morning classes were great for me. I had never really considered a career in art before I started attending these. I was the eldest in the family and neither of my parents went to college, so they didn’t really know that much about college or university, other than it cost a lot of money, (not as much as now). Actually it was wasn’t that onerous, as the cost was nothing and I got a small grant to live on with the addition of £5 a week from my parents. Plus once I got to art college, I was entitle to a certain sum for materials. I would never have gone to art college if those things weren’t available.😒
I also started to sketch at home and my sister, Debra was a willing model for me.
I should have stopped going to the classes when I was made to leave school and start work but fortunately, for reasons I don’t remember, I was able to continue. When it came to the time to apply for the foundation course, my tutors at Camberwell came to my parents and persuaded them that I had a good chance of being accepted and going on for a degree. My parents quite rightly were worried that I would be forever unemployed if I went to Art college. My parents weren’t far off the mark to be honest as I never made a career out of my art but I am forever grateful that they listened to my tutors.
As promised I am posting some images from my earliest days which happens to be from when I was at secondary school in London.
I first started to become interested in art when I was at St Michael’s Church of England school. I joined the school in 1970 when we moved back to London from Ashford Kent. As I hadn’t passed the 11 plus exam, I had the choice of the brand new school, Pimlico Comprehensive or a much smaller school. Comprehensives weren’t getting any good publicity at the time so Mum chose the C of E school. Big mistake as it was one of the schools which were later referred to as a ‘sink school’, massively underachieving.
I had come from a really good secondary school in Kent (also brand new) where science and art were treated equally. Unfortunately, the lower ratings of school became which was the way St Michael’s was going, the less money was expended on it, so science went by the way. By the time I left in 1973, we had one science teacher for the whole school and his special subject was physics. To do physics, you need a good basic math background. Unfortunately, we ended up with a teacher who didn’t want to teach maths but torment kids, especially boys. So while he would humiliate them, we would chat, play and copy the answers from the back of the workbook. To be honest I would have preferred a career in science and even visited the lab at a hospital as I was interested in becoming a Medical Laboratory Assistant. It was not to be. I got a grade 5 in Physics and a 3 in Maths (if I remember correctly). There was no fail in CSEs (certificate in secondary education). Pointless piece of paper!
Instead I fell into art. Even then, as the school only offered CSE, the consolation prize in school exams, the standard wasn’t that high. Due to some timetable conflict, I ended up doing a class with lower year. So I was in a corner, quietly getting on with my work while the class was creating havoc with the art teacher who was an ex military person and had no idea how to control riotous teenagers. I remember him one time, getting so angry he threw something out of the school window. His basic standard was to yell at them as if they were soldiers.
At least, he just let me just get on with my work. My big project was about abortion and the sanctity of life. I created a Plasticine model of the lower part of a woman with the area where the baby was situated, craved out and then I created a fetus.
I was very confused at the time as I had just learnt my mother had another child before me and had him adopted. She made it clear she blamed me for that event. I would later learn the truth of the situation and it was somewhat different from the story I had been given. She had also revealed when she was pregnant with my sister, who is 13 months younger than me, she tried to abort her several times That was going to lead to years of anguish on my part and my sister. Now in reflection, I can see how much my mother suffered. 3 pregnancies in 3 yrs, she was must have been going out of her mind. My Dad was in the navy and his family was not very supportive at the time, although they later became very close. This was well before the pill and her own Mother was going through her own issues with a husband who was suffering from PTSD although it wasn’t known as that then and terminal TB, so was of no help to her. If Mum had been born a decade later, I am not sure she would have gone on to have 2 more kids as she was much more career minded than I ever was. I suspect for most of her 20’s she was suffering from some form of post natal depression. Of course, yet again, that wasn’t known about for many years after that.
Abortion, although legal by 1973, was still a controversial option especially with the publication of photos of the fetus in the womb in the late 60’s. I am not sure what the art teacher thought of my ‘sculpture’ but he never stopped me. I am not sure what I was trying to convey now as I am not against abortion, far from it but maybe at that time I was. I definitely a confused 15 yr old. For my efforts I got a grade 2. So not a prodigy!😂🤣
I don’t have any pictures of my grand project but I do have these from that year.
Sewing was my nightmare subject at school plus music. Both for different reasons. Music lessons were just a period where everyone ignored the teacher, walked in and out at will and basically we did anything but music. The teacher in sewing however was no walkover and most of us were scared of her. Not sure why I never learnt to sew given it one of my passions now but I still cannot understand patterns or those diagrams we get in the instruction booklets. Just had to take my sewing machine to the repairs because I misread a diagram in the instruction booklet.😯 Much better with videos. I was also scared of the sewing machine. Most machines scare me, especially power tools, even now. Fortunately, I have got over my fear of the sewing machine.
However, I did learn to embroider in her class. I had seen a magazine with the design and that was my project in my last year of sewing which was 1972 as I didn’t do the CSE in that. As the rest of the class got on with making various useful items like a blouse or a skirt, I concentrated on my embroidery. I must have been proud of it as I still have have it in the bottom of my stash.
Never thought 47 yrs later, one of my passions would be embroidery.
In August 1973, I started at Greycoats Hospital, the local grammar school in the hope I would get my O levels and maybe A levels. It was obvious from day one, my previous education had been woefully inadequate. As as consequent, no math or science classes as I was so far behind in even the basics. English was a struggle as grammar was not taught at St Michaels , my spelling was appalling (still is) and I suspect I was the first person in the school to fail my oral exam! However the English teacher, Miss Lloyd had great faith in me and encouraged my ramblings, a couple of which I still have in one of my many boxes.
I was put in the secretarial class, so at least I learnt to type properly however as I had no idea how phonetics worked, Pittman’s shorthand was a non starter for me. I was also put in the sewing class. I was useless at it! Art was my one bright spot. 😊😍
The art department had an arrangement with Camberwell school of art where promising students could attend classes on Saturday morning. That was the beginning of my life in art. In the next blog I will post work from the Saturday morning classes and my some of my work from my Foundation year at Camberwell.
In the meantime, some of the work from Greycoats.
I was a huge David Bowie fan at the time and this was the based on a poster I had. My sister was a T Rex fan. I thought they were rubbish at the time. Now I like both.
Just a quick post to say I will be back in the New Year after an 18 month break.
My plans for the blog are that I will continue to add what I am working on as I do them but in the main it will become focused on my life as as artist, beginning with my first embroidery which, in a sense, makes a full circle of my work so far. A biography in other words as no one else is going to write it. I will be honest, its only recently that I have used the word ‘artist’ for myself as I make no attempt to sell my work or show my work other than via this blog and Instagram. It seemed too grand a title for what has been a rather stop start stop approach to my work. There were years, especially when my kids were younger that I didn’t do anything creative other than paint kids faces or make birthday cakes. Art has always been part of my life though, so I thought I should record its progress from its earliest days when I didn’t even know that being an artist was possible, through the college years, etc to present day. Turning 60 in August 2017, really was a turning point, although life does intrude, as it always will. Now though, I am accepting that and hoping I can get another good 20 yr or so, just enjoying what I do.
2018 was productive in the sense I realised that I needed to stop putting on pressure on myself for not being ‘productive’. ie not painting. I took an almost complete break from painting and plein air painting. Instead I focused on what I enjoyed doing which at the moment,is learning to quilt and free motion quilting. I am sure it will eventually tie in with my other creative practices. Until I actually learn how to do it properly though, quilting is what I am focused on. I am also going to do a class (with actual people) on how to dye my own fabric in March. I did a bit of that when I attempted the online course in 2016 and did some mono printing. From that I learnt online courses are not really my ‘thing’ and that I enjoyed making my own cloth. Youtube, however, is a great way of learning all sorts of stuff! I am also going to do a couple of quilting classes from the experts at one of the local quilting stores.
Keep tuned. Hoping to make this a regular thing this year.
learning to free motion quilt via Leah Day’s Building Blocks Quilt-As-You-Go Sampler Quilt which you can find on Youtube.
Many people seem to think that anxiety, depression and art go together as an artist and that aids the creative process. For me, that is not the case. My mind comes to a grinding halt! As a life long sufferer of depression and anxiety, I can now feel when a period like that is coming along and usually I can mange to side swerve the worse of it by doing very routine things by just plodding along. Not this time! It has taken almost 8 months to get pass this stage and it is still a struggle but one that is getting better. Unfortunately, I am not yet back to painting. For the last 2 weeks my body has also decided to rebel against me as I battle a vicious allergic reaction which has left me with nasty welts all over my body and clothing being my enemy. As we are also going through a heatwave at the moment, so any movement causes sweating which in turns makes the itching even worse. So plenty of cool soothing baths, showers and just keeping still has been the order of the day. Today temperature is meant to top 105F/40c. the joys of living in central Texas!
However, I have finally been making process with the online embroidery course I decided to take in December. It took me 6 months to get the first stage complete! I have almost finished the 2nd part in less than a month so signs of progress only stopped this week by incessant itching.
Below are some of the work I have done on this. Part one exploring stem stitch , chain stitch and fern stitch beginning with mark making exercises.
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Part 2 has been been exploring line though using cut, torn and folding paper.
Finally line in paint through mono printing which amazingly I have never tried before. Not sure I have achieved this so well but I enjoyed the playfulness of this method of working and can see using this again.
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Unfortunately I think this is where I acquired up my current allergic reaction as I pick up some plant matter and I suspect I touched some poison ivy in the process, stupid me!
Next step is explore the composite stitches of whipped stem stitch, Pekinese stitch and raised chain band. I have completed the samples so they should come along quite quickly but we have a short stay in Mexico City to enjoy before then. Really looking forward to the Frida Kahlo Museum and obviously I will be looking at any needlework/textile work I get my greedy eyes on.
Painting is also on my agenda but not a priority as it will come along when it is needed but it has not been abandoned. It will always be part of my life in some form or another.
I have done one drawing in the past month or so. I got a sheet of A1 cartridge paper and painted it with acrylic gesso with no real idea of what I was going to do with it, other than I didn’t want it to be the tight smaller drawings I was doing last year as I wanted to get rid of the inhibitions to drawing that I have developed. For the one drawing it worked out quite well and I planned to do more ( I already have several prepared with gesso) but then the embroidery came along. As I have about 500 or more sheets (send to me by mistake by the supplier and they let me keep them several years ago, nice 🙂 ) , it is definitely something to explore in the coming months.
I re-joined Instagram last year and posted a countdown to Christmas, a digital advent calendar. So I thought I would do a repeat performance this year. I was going to try to do an original piece of art for each day but I failed on the first day. The simple felt angel expanded into a piece that was at least 3 times bigger, sparkling with sequins, lace and beads. In my mind’s eye, I would have liked to have made it huge but in practice, a lap size was achievable. The 2nd piece was simpler but just as big. I did find out that my ability with the sewing machine was seriously lacking with not a single non wiggling line. With the third and last piece, I just went overboard with the sequins, beads and collage. In my head, I saw a Christmas tree competing with the stars of the Universe as I remembered my feelings from childhood. Again I would love to have made it HUGE but even this size took several days to complete. The Christmas tree and the Angels WERE Christmas to me plus the nativity scene at the school play. I always wanted to be an angel but alas it was never to be. I was going to do a nativity scene but failed miserably but I know what I want to achieve so maybe that will be big one next year! Below are the pictures I posted each day. It was surprisingly hard to post every day.
In the end, December wasn’t as productive as I would have like it. October and November flew by in haze of non activity or nearly. I managed to attend 4 paint out events and 1 open competition in San Angelo. I wasn’t planning to paint at San Angelo as I am not really in the competitions as I know I am unlikely to win anything. I realised quite late in life that one of the reasons I fail to do a lot of things is because I hate being a loser. I know you should just enjoy joining in but doesn’t help with the disappointment as you are passed over again 😦 I will do it again next year.
There was an entry submitted competition which lasted a week and an open quick draw competition on the closing Saturday for other artists. It was really interesting to see the work of the accepted artists and the quick draw contestants which made me realise how far I have to go with plein air painting. The only issue I had with the competition is that it was judged by one artist, rather than a panel. Also after a morning of painting the lure of cooked food was torture as it was only for the accepted competition artists, not us lowly plebs (we had paid $10, so it not as if we just turned up). We had to wait for the lone judge to make up his mind before we could eat, so it was the middle of the afternoon before we ate. I was starving!
Apart from my Advent project and the plein air I haven’t really done much. I had started a still life (which I mentioned in my last post) but quickly abandoned it. Currently I am working on and hoping to complete the following still life painting I found the hand-made rag doll in a junk shop in San Angelo.
This will be the last painting for a while as I decided to sign up for an online embroidery course organised by The Embroiderers’ Guild UK. I am going to start with the beginners course as although I have embroidered and beaded for several years, I am basically working in the dark as I do it (much as I am with painting to be honest, not a lot of teaching done in college in the late 70’s). I thought going through a structured course I might be able to extend my range to fuller extend. Life is a little distracting at home at the moment but come 6th Jan, my time is pretty much going to be working full-time in this new direction.
I also got 2 books from Gordon this Christmas which I might work through as it should complement the embroidery course.
I already read Liz Steel’s blog ( my husband didn’t know this 🙂 )
Well this is my last post of this year. I hope I will be more frequent next year with regular updates on my progress on the new course.
So the end of the year is fast approaching and its been 3 months since I wrote on here. Unfortunately that depression just got worse as the months went by as it became apparent and then confirmed that Donald Trump was going to win the Presidency 😦
I will admit that shook me to my core. I have lived in the US for nearly 17 yrs now but I have very little contact with other Americans but listening to the folks I do know, it seemed that although they wouldn’t vote for Clinton, they wouldn’t vote for Trump either. Living in Texas, you know most people will vote republican and they would vote down ballot as republican but Trump was just a step too far. They would leave that blank. So I thought it would be close and Clinton might squeak in. I wasn’t convinced she was well, health wise (even before her collapse) , so although she was a flawed candidate who would be subject to intense house battles, if she died in office, they had an OK VP in Tim Kaine. In the last weeks of the campaign it seemed to reverse, Trump might sneak at least a tie in the electoral college . But it was not a tie or even just a small electoral college win but a large win 😦 although he massively lost the popular vote. Since then his actions via twitter and his cabinet picks have done nothing to allay my fears for the future.
Unfortunately, the Democrats still don’t seem to realise they lost because of Clinton, who for some reason the American public don’t like ( its been a hateful relationship since before she was even first Lady it seems and nothing she did was right for some reason, I don’t understand it myself). However, for an outsider (I was in the UK during the Clinton yrs) it was pretty obvious Clinton was not liked even during the non campaigning years ( 2012 -2014) or she would have beaten Obama 8 yrs ago but the DNC seemed to think it was her ‘turn’ by rights. There are no options like that in politics, Gordon Brown found that out in the UK. You are a winner or a loser but not an heir apparent. Obviously the FBI actions and the Russians had a hand in it but she had lost months before when it was revealed the DNC had contrived to have her win the nomination, making it obvious to any other candidates they would not get their support regardless of how good they might have been. In re-electing Nancy Pelosi minority leader of the House of Representatives, its obvious they don’t know what to do still and will now probably follow the path of the UK Labour party’s downfall in the UK, where they seem to be in complete disarray despite a very weak Tory party.
Of course my personal bug bear, is Julian Assange. I hope he is happy because he will most definitely be stuck in that room for the next 4 yrs because Trump will definitely have him arrested if he leaves that building. He is a despicable human being in my eyes and deserves everything he gets. He might have started out with admirable intent (not convinced of that) but he has definitely warped into something else now.
My biggest disappointment is that someone like Trump got elected in the first place. Although he didn’t win the popular vote, a sizable number people did believe in his overwhelmingly hateful message, there was nothing positive about his platform. I felt the same about the Brexit vote although I could see why British people felt overwhelm by the immigration issue. This country is based on immigration! Trump’s parents were the result of that policy! His mother was Scottish for heaven’s sake and his both of his grandparents were German! Of course, his campaign has revealed the not too underground current of racism in this country.
Anyway, that view from here. To be honest, the UK doesn’t look any better and its dog eat dog time in the world. Very depressing. I would like to bury my head in the sand for the next few years but that would be irresponsible. I will just keep my fingers crossed that things aren’t as bleak as they currently look.
My next blog will be pictures (that had been my intention) I promise and I will be more upbeat!
This is not going to be long post as basically I have not done much in the 2 month since I last wrote – exactly 2 months wow!
There is a paint out today in Austin but there is no way I am facing rush hour traffic plus my allergies have been really bad recently. However, apart from the allergies problem, which has plaguing me about 4 weeks now, I seem to have entered one of my depression periods where nothing interests me.
So I am glad we have these paint outs as I generally push myself to go along even I don’t feel that creative. I also try to find other ways to work my way through these periods as I recognise they are part of my life and they are not going away. This time I have rediscovered crocheting and I am currently on block 18 of a 63 block blanket. I am also still attending the lace making group even though I have not really laced for weeks, as one of my issues is a total lack of social interaction. Nothing like being on your own 15 hrs of a day to feed this introspection/depression.
It might never get finished (I have tried it before and got to 9 squares) as I am also working getting out of this inaction. I am again trying mediation and I am already feeling more positive. I am also rereading Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales and stories. Its a massive book! I don’t plan to actually depict any of the stories but when I was training as art therapist, I had a series of children’s story tapes which I used to get clients to describe by drawing or painting how the story affected them.I didn’t want a literal interpretation of the story.
I am also sort of working on a still life painting except I haven’t worked on it for a few weeks which probably indicates that I should reconsider or start over with a different set up.
Depression is a routine part of my life but I don’t want to be painting about it! So hopefully the light begins to rise above the dark soon.
Has taken over my creative juices it seems which means I haven’t actually been painting as I intended this month. Its already 21st July and I have done exactly 1 painting plus started a fabric/paper collage to cover a painting that went no-where in June. Like the painting, that has been on my easel for a good 2 weeks waiting for inspiration!
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above are my bobbin lacing efforts for the last month. The pink and cream one took for ever with numerous unpickings. However since that one, I seem to have at least mastered the basic stitches.One of the things that made it easier was actually learning to understand the pattern diagram which is to the left of bookmarks. However most patterns/prickings apparently are not as detailed with most being a series of dots and squiggles to indicate the pattern. If I can master that I will be an expert! My next one is a fan edge in one colour which will be a challenge as it will not be so easy to see the mistakes.
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This is what I aiming for, particularly freeform bobbin lace like the dog above.Examples from the lacing group I attend.
These are my two efforts for the month when I was not lacing. I really want to master water colour but I think I need to get the lacing bug out of my system for the time being.
I haven’t done any plein air work recently. Due to grass watering and dog walking, its about 11am before I am even ready to consider painting and the weather the last month has just been too hot by that time to be outside. Although there have only been 11 days of 100f/38c so far, the heat index due to the humidity has be well above 100f since the middle of June. It currently 12.10 pm and already at 100 but feels like 107f (42c)We have another month or so of these temps so I don’t see me going out to paint in the near future. By then, I am sure my current enthusiasm for bobbin lace will have dissipated a little and I will welcome the chance to paint out in the cool below 80f temps.
Well, not much has changed since I last wrote other than I have started to learn how to make bobbin lace. For something that has two basic moves Full stitch and half stitch, its surprisingly difficult. Not sure where it going to take me, if anywhere, yet but I am enjoying learning how to do it, even if it frustrating how slow my brain is these days.
This has taken up most of my time and to be honest, I am still suffering from a creativity block . So I have decided to take it by the horns and make myself produce something everyday for July. I am planning to use the paintings I have done recen