review of 2021

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.

Quirky Collections designed by Helen Godden.

That is my round up for 2021. Now onward to 2022 with even more success than last year!

Gaomon Pan tablet M106K Pro and Krita meet Bob Ross

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.

The final result after 18 lessons. Only one booboo!

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!