It’s time to reboot my blog after a really long hiatus. Life happens. Once you get out of the writing habit, it’s hard to get back on track until a friend tells you that she misses it. In this case, it took the encouragement of a faithful reader. I had no idea anyone cared. Thank you, Ann.
So here we are at the beginning of 2023. Where have I been creatively speaking? One place I’ve been spending time is at my sewing machine. I love it. It’s a beauty with all the bells and whistles. I’ve been making baby quilts to give away. It’s a good use of legacy fabric from my Mom.
Last fall I was invited to a quilt retreat with my cousin, Emily and her quilting buddies from Pennsylvania. A few days of fun in Amish country I thought! And that’s exactly what it was. We stayed in a refurbished old house next to a quilt shop in the little hamlet of Charm, Ohio. The first snow of the season added to the atmosphere.
I worked on some projects I needed to finish for Christmas and my fellow campers brought projects of their choice- a huge quilt, some knitting, paper piecing, a table runner, etc. We filled in the gaps with good food and a mystery jigsaw puzzle.
There were still grapes on the vines below the windows. Noelle, one of the quilters, captured a photo of a cardinal who stopped by. I was inspired to turn it into a piece of fiber art (below) for a mixed media textile class and then a watercolor (shown above). I hope you enjoy it.
Sometime last fall I tried to compose a painting by creating an abstract value pattern to paint some wildflowers. I did a value sketch and a little study in watercolor so I thought I was well prepared for an oil painting. It just never came together. I kept going far beyond the time when I should have thrown in the painting rag. I left that painting on the easel . I took me a while to realize that its ugliness was keeping me me from starting a new painting.
I was doing very little art work and that’s never a good thing for my spirit. In order to keep an art practice going during the winter I started to draw a face each day. Some days I found a famous face online. Some days I copied pictures of family.
I focused on value and shape without really caring as much about likeness. I just wanted to improve my ability to see and reproduce accurately. It was relaxing because there were no expectations. In my reading about creativity I’ve come across the idea of doing just one small thing. Some people call it micro-moves. What’s the smallest action you can take to get moving on something you need or want to do? Sketching faces was my micro-move.
Here is a sampling of the work. Names have not been included to protect privacy and to add plausible deniability if the person or their family member doesn’t think I’ve captured the likeness. So let’s just say these are studies of faces.
The micro-moves had done their work. They kept me active and eventually inspired me to get back into painting. I found the girl in the straw hat particularly interesting, so I decided I needed to paint her portrait in oils. I liked the shadows caused by the hat. I also found her features very pleasing.
I started with an underpainting and intended to build up layers by glazing. I did that with the blue shadows and some yellow, but I kind of lost my way so I went to more direct painting.
As usually happens, I start to lose some of the information that was included in the underpainting. You can see changes in the shape of the eyes as I added highlights. I spent small amounts of time over a number of days getting more specific with shape and color.
I’m in the middle of another painting, but here’s a glimpse. This little girl has tormented me for years. She’s a cutie but I can never quite capture what makes her the delightful little creature that she is. Here’s my latest attempt from a picture that’s several years old. Maybe this time…
I’ve always adored the arts. Could have had a career in the theater if casting directors were smart enough to recognize real talent. They go for the fluffy types, I guess. Maybe I needed an agent.
Instead I chose a life out of the spotlight – studio dog to a would-be artist. I start the day with a good thump on the side of the bed to get her up and moving. If that doesn’t work I just breath in her face. Like magic her eyes open.
Then I click into personal trainer mode. If I didn’t get her out the door, pounding the pavement, she’d sit with breakfast and the paper until lunch.
Once she’s showered and dressed in her grubbies, it’s up the steps to the studio. “Studio” is a pretentious word for a spare bedroom with art supplies and stacks of paintings. It has my favorite window where I can patrol the street from higher ground. Yeh, I do some guard duty just to keep up my skills.
Basically I just lay up against the office chair or under the table. She’s got an eclectic taste in music and podcasts. I usually doze. If she gets really involved with the paint I can sneak out for a drink or some kibble.
I keep my comments to myself. I know where my chow comes from and critiquing her efforts does not work to my advantage. Some people think dogs are color blind. Still I know a tint from a shade. I’d tell her it’s all about the values, but my vocabulary is limited. She’s learning.
I’m definitely not going to be like the farm dog who told her that her plein air painting stunk. Well, he didn’t actually tell her, he just left a little token of his disdain right in front of the easel.
It’s a good life as a studio dog. If I worked any harder she’d have to pay me.