End of Year round up of my work for 2020

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.

Shelbie and Alan on their wedding day.
Such a bright beautiful smile, hiding the darkness that finally took you. My ex daughter in law took her own life on April 15 2020. See her poetry at Instagram @sjaires91

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.

Pat Sloan’s winter fun quilt top.

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.πŸ˜₯

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.πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

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.

A portrait of my Dad that I made during my foundation year at Camberwell.
Juniper with my Dad when she about 11 months old. Mum and Dad were living in France at the time.

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 πŸ˜₯ 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 πŸ˜‚πŸ€£ 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 sewerπŸ˜‰ 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.

Going forward

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.

Spiral Fabric Collage

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.

WIP

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!