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!

Still life with wine bottle Jar

Yesterday as promised I started a new still life.  I like the background fabric on the last still life so much I decided to reuse it in this painting and then I coordinated the rest of the still life to complement the fabric.  I feel I am going to struggle with the base fabric as it also has a pattern on it and at the moment, I am not sure how I am going to deal with it.   It not a bold pattern and it’s not striped like the orange fabric.  The pattern is actually leaves which are textured stripes and blackish, so not solid and reflecting light.

So I managed to get the basics done on this painting before the light faded completely. As I was drawing it in I wasn’t too concerned about the light but it actually turned out to be quite a bright afternoon, after the morning fog and showers. Looks like today might be the same but I will working this afternoon so the light will be fading by the time I finish, so will probably continue tomorrow when I know the weather will be sunny.

altered

Today I think I will try to draw something as my drawing skill definitely need brushing up. When I was Camberwell, I constantly used my sketchbook, even for the Saturday morning classes and was actually a requirement in my foundation year. I sort of kept it up at Bath but with the lack of encouragement from the staff, it wasn’t a high priority (in the painting dept anyway.), it soon became an infrequent habit. So really my sketchbook has not been a priority since I was about 20, so its time it regained its importance, if only to reinforce the habit of looking, rather than roaming with my eye.

That is one thing I was always doing in my painting, redrawing, you can sort of see it with the wine bottle as I reaslised when I was working on the background fabric, that it was much taller than I had originally drawn it.  The little red vase is also a little more squat and fatter than I have it here, so  that will be altered  as will the some of the small satsumas. Still I have plenty of time as next week the weather is returning to the normal TX sunshine so I am not going panic.

So far, I am happy with what I have on the painting board.  Materials used so far, Daler Canvas board 16×12  Golden acrylic paint and some primsacolour pencil.

Better coloured in this photo

So I looked at the original photo and this is closer to the painting.

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So the last 2 days have been non painting days. Yesterday, I just had to kick in  to the filing as tax year is beckoning and much as I dislike that task, it has to be done!  Still needs to be done but half way there.

Today, was a unusal day for us, Scottish dreich weather ( dark, mild and drizzly) and by the time I had arranged the next still life, the life was way too dark. However, I will draw in the structure before I start work at 7 pm tonight (only 2 hrs) and tomorrow I will be ready for the dull weather. Will need to do it in next 2 days as the weather will be the usual winter sunny day on Saturday.  The best time for the room I am working in, is about 3 hrs after sunrise as its  east facing with only the east wall having windows. So once the sun is high enough above the horizon, the light is pretty steady until about 2 hrs before sunset.

Anyway, time to make dinner. Looking forward to starting the new painting tomorrow.

On a roll, finished

well, this one is for now. I can see areas (lots of them) for improvements but time to move on another still life.

Today, I was looking after my young grand-daughter and normally that would be an excuse not to paint. However, I determined that housework, cooking etc could be deferred whilst Juniper slept and I could work on this during that brief window of opportunity. Wow, a break through for me!  To be honest, it was not that brief as she is still at the longer nap stage at the moment.

The one thing that I had been struggling with was the stripped material the still life was sitting on.  As can be seen in the previous stages of this work I had been painting in the stronger colour and then attempting to put on the yellow/mustard colour. Totally the wrong way to do it and in sudden flash, decided to cover the red/orange completely with  a yellow pastel and using a prismacolor pencil, drew in the stripes.  I just drew them as I saw them, the perspective is all wrong I know but somehow it works.

I worked on the problem area at the top of the painting, scrubbing in white, greys, reds, blues with pastels and pencils. It looks better but it still not quite right. looking at it at the moment, it definitely the large green area to the left that is the issue, more than that area. It lacks substance, maybe that is something I could work on.

I also work on the flower arrangement itself and the material immediately below the still life. The flower arrangement is better but I could never get the shadows on the material to work. I just ended up with a rather ill-defined shape with no real body, it just float very badly.

I added a few touches to the boldly patterned material in the background but not much as it seems to work apart from the odd triangle in the far right.

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Wow, looking this image on the screen and its way too bright. My camera really doesn’t capture reds well. Safe to say it’s not as bright as this image. Think I will need to invest in learning to use my husband’s DSLR. Photography is not my skill.

Anyway, tomorrow, another life to create. This one is finished (maybe work on the bottom material) as the flowers are now too dead!

 

 

Ochil Hills

So I have been slowly but surely working on the last painting I was begun in the mixed media class. I did think I was going to use the acrylic media images I had created and some of the skins I had created in the 2nd class.  In the end I have stuck to soft pastels and I think it will stay this way. I might work on it a bit but I don’t think it really needs much more.  If I put paint on it, I might lose some of the colour blends I have got.

For the next week though I am doing a little embroidery for Christmas and if my afternoons are free, I might just take the car to the Hill country and sketch.  After living here for 13 yrs, the landscape is finally beginning to click with me and I want to explore it more. and now is the time to do it with the cooler weather. After March, it’s all downhill and time to stick to the studio. Hopefully by then I will have plenty of images to work from.

 

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Mixed Media class

So much is going on  the house at the moment, I decided that as I want to return to painting as my focus, I need some space and time to do it. Not going to rent a studio when I have ample room in my house so the next best option was to do an art class at the Austin Contemporary at Laguna Gloria.

Although I have been working in acrylics for all of my art life (allergic to oils) I really don’t know that much about the mediums that are available to artists now. I was hoping this class might have helped in that area but so far I have been disappointed as we have only used techniques I was already aware of. However I am enjoying the actual act of painting which is the main point.  I might sign up with the next class as apparently that is the advanced class.

The first week the instructor (Linda Montignani) demonstrated the different applications of acrylic paint and why it is the most versatile of mediums. She also show us a few mediums and gels available  to extend that versatility. She then show us how blotting, using shapes, salt and mineral spirits could affect the  surface of the paint.  We were then instructed to cover our chosen painting surface with paint and use a few of the techniques described above. Once we had done that and while we were waiting for the paint to dry, she show us how to use drawing ink and straws. Back to the paintings in progress.  The last part of the exercise was to make our random actions into something.

I must admit I was a little stumped at this point and it was a bit like doing an art therapy exercise. However, below is what evolve. Looking at it later, I realise it kind of encompassed my art work over the last 35+ yrs, harking back to my interest in graffiti on walls and children’s art while I was in college and then right up to the mixed media project I did for the Sketchbook project.

doodle

So last night was the 2nd class and I must admit I was not happy on entering the class to see a very elaborate still life set up in the middle of the room.  I love modern still painting but still not a fan of doing them myself, even though that has been my main output for the last few years. Mainly I think it because I have no idea how to approach it in the free and easy way I see a lot of UK artists do this kind of subject

still life with charcoal, pastel and  acrylic paint

the still life set up.

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So the beginning of the class started with us trying to peer over the shoulder of Linda to see the minute screen of her apple laptop to see examples of the type of work we would be doing in the class. I didn’t even bother to look as the glare off the screen meant I couldn’t see anything and the screen was so small, even if I had been able to see something, it wouldn’t have really shown the pastel and charcoal techniques she was going to demonstrate.

So after about 15 minutes of the others peering over her shoulder, Linda then demonstrated to the class how to abstract from the still life in front of us, using a charcoal drawing as a base and how that would blend into the acrylics.  Once we had worked on that part of the technique, she should us how pastels could be worked into the painting.

Neither techniques were new to me  but I eventually got to enjoy the actual painting part of the class. Maybe that is the reason why I didn’t hear a very important instruction as I switched off. Naughty girl!

I had stop at one point because the classical music on the radio was driving me nuts. It wasn’t particularly loud but the rhythm was fairly fast. When you are trying to concentrate on painting, you don’t particular want  your brain racing along with the music!  So I went outside for a while, calmed down and asked for the sound to be lowered. Linda was very accommodating about this and even said the station could be changed but lowering it so it was barely heard was enough. Next week I will follow the example of another of the students and bring in my MP3 player.

As to the actual painting, I was fairly pleased with the way it came out, given that I started on the wrong foot. At Camberwell, we didn’t really do that much in the way of still life but if we did, it was staged towards a wall with no distractions from the setup and the class would cluster around in a semi-circle. This was set in the middle of the room with lots of other distractions.

Linda had asked us to block in the background very loosely. To me that meant looking at the background of the piece, looking at the edges and painting those objects in loosely. Actually what she meant was to pick a fairly arbitrary colour or colours and block in the paper. So once the background had been blocked in and dried, then we were to abstract only part of the still life display. Of course, that is when the issue with my background came into play, as suddenly where there had been an empty easel and a clear view of the table in the background, there was now a person with their canvas on the easel, blocking the table.

In the end it worked out well for me as my view was now completely over the place and not much related to the background. It actually made me much freer with my work than I am typically. It still had the tendency to tighten up if I looked too closely but the music annoying me helped in that regard. As I felt myself getting angry with the music and probably with the painting I stopped and walked away from it.  Anyway below is the image I produced.

Pastel, Charcoal and Acrylics

Pastel, Charcoal and Acrylics

Next week we are doing self portraits with charcoal, pastels, wax crayons and drawing ink. That should be fun  😀