Sunday, April 8, 2018

Weaving

I have spent so much time at the fiber's studio these last few months, I thought I'd show you what all I've been doing--mostly weaving but some other things too.

Right now I am completely obsessed with a weaving structure called doubleweave. Every time I get to start a new project, I ask: could this be a doubleweave project?  I am not sure I'll ever not be obsessed with it.

I had this little stool in my house, nestled under my coffee table. I wanted to make a cushion for it. YES, this could be a doubleweave project!


I dyed some white yarn in indigo dye, and wound that into the warp along with some white and black. I didn't like the contrast of the white at all, so I decided to paint the warp once it got onto the loom. You can see in this photo that the warp is white on the left side of the photo and purple on the right side!



I dyed some weft yarn and this detail shows that there are actually two purples, one more burgundy and one a little bluer, which I love. This structure is called doubleweave block.


I didn't have enough woven cloth to make the entire cushion, so I used some luxurious purple corduroy that I'd gotten at a garage sale some time ago. Here is a late-night in-progress photo.


And, the final outcome!




Won't you sit down?


Next, I attended an amazing workshop through the Northern Colorado Weaver's Guild with the queen of doubleweave, Jennifer Moore, an artist based in Santa Fe. Here are a few photos of the workshop and my loom in progress. I still haven't done much more than this. The weaving workshop was so so fun! I left with new friends and tons of new knowledge and inspiration.

Here is a table full of doubleweave samples that Jennifer made:


The Queen of Doubleweave


 Showing us doubleweave pick-up:




The room we worked in (my loom is the one right in front)


My doubleweave rainbow work in progress:



Last but not least, I had to put my rainbow piece on the back burner because my next art school assignment took over my life!  I have long wanted to try to bring my love for figure drawing into my love for weaving. I had a grand plan that I wanted to do with a dynamic, crouching pose. So I dived in.

I turned photos of my model's pose into graphic 2- and 3-tone drawn pieces and used tracing paper to experiment with color:


I used the same motif in a 2 in. x 2 in. embroidery sample.


The larger drawing turned into a screen for screen printing, and I used thickened dye to print it onto an 18x24 in. piece of cloth I wove.




I used another version of the print to make this 2-tone print:


Here it is wrapped around a bolt:


The embroidered patch took many hours. Again, this is 2x2 inches!


 Here they all are together, variations on a theme.



I'm not done yet! Here is the current state of my loom, and I intend to use doubleweave pick-up to bring the motif into this. That may take some hours though. Stay tuned!



Sunday, February 18, 2018

100% Artist

re·treat
/rəˈtrēt/

noun

1. to withdraw to a quiet or secluded place.

I have gone "on retreat" twice in my life. Once in 2009ish, when I was working through some personal history, trying to reconcile that with the adult I was becoming. My counselor suggested it, and so I went.

I stayed with some nuns at a nearby abbey, who prepared meals for us retreaters and otherwise left us alone. It was quiet, it lacked distraction and there was no to-do list. 

I was astonished at how productive it was just to be with myself. Just to have the space to intentionally think about certain topics. It was wonderful to be removed from everyday life, just for a couple of days.

The second time I went on retreat was in 2012ish, this time solo, at Christmas. For three days, I kept myself company in a cabin in the mountains. 

decked the place with Christmas decor, listened to music (or not), discovered Brené Brown, read, wrote long hand-written letters, crafted a little, cooked, and just stared out the window.

There wasn't much intention besides wanting to think quietly, wanting to strip my world of its noise, wanting to care for myself as I usually care for everyone else. It was extremely restorative.

This year, I took my third retreat. Again, a cabin in the woods, solo. 5 days. But this time, the intention was art.


I prepared by bringing about half my art studio with me.


I'll admit that I was nervous. Yes, nervous. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to be focused for so long. Nervous that I'd get lonely. Nervous that I might not like what I made, or that I might not make anything at all. Nervous that I'd lose my inspiration, or want to go hang out in the wilderness, or spend too much time online or on the phone with my family.


I rearranged the furniture in the place I was staying, to better serve my needs and help keep the place from getting trashed. This is the before photo:




In many ways, it was like the other retreats had been: quiet, away from my life and all the to-dos and caring for others. But there was no staring out the window this time, no whiling away. 

Turns out that I worked my butt off. I had so much creative energy flowing that I hardly slept, and when I was awake, I hardly noticed my tiredness. I had THE. BEST. time.

I resolved to do at least a page in my sketch book each day. The first photo, above, was my "intro" to that project.

I reveled in the time I could take to actually LOOK and SPEND TIME with the art books I brought with me...


I wanted to really look at some figurative work--who in the past had done it, and how? I found myself completely inspired by Josef Albers, who was not at all famous for his figures. Surprisingly, a book of his drawings included many figures, which is what moved me. Egon Schiele is a famous artist who drew men in vulnerable poses, and Gustav Klimt loved to draw figures. In a NYC exhibit the Neue Galerie did in fall 2016, it was noted that he would take breaks from painting his subjects just so he could go in the room next door to draw figures.


To focus my creative energy, I decided to focus on a self-portrait from life, something I had never done, and also to make something for the upcoming Fort Collins Open Hang show.


I spent about 5-6 hours in this position. Drawing from life is much harder than drawing from a photograph, but this is how the artists-of-yore did it. I wanted to see what it was like to focus on the details of myself so intently. It was pretty fun. Challenging but fun.
Something that never occurred to me before doing this exercise was that actually, I drew a mirror image of myself! Before artists could take photos of themselves, when they only had mirrors to utilize, they painted the mirror images of themselves. Every self-portrait ever made is actually a mirror image of the artist. That seemed particularly mind-boggling in the moment.

Work-in-progress photo (using editing to flip it), for comparison:



Here's how she's ended up, for now.


Then I got to work on whatever it was I was going to put in the Open Hang. I had taken photos of models past, and a long-ago pose kept bouncing around in my head. Plus, I was inspired by a sketch book exercise I'd done over a collage, inspired by Gustav Klimt. So I got to work collaging a big'ol piece of construction paper with tons of long-collected 2-D ephemera.



I ate, I drank tea, I went outside and walked around to get some fresh air and movement for half an hour each day. But otherwise, this is what I did. You can see my inspiration wall between the windows. The space's natural light was heavenly.

Here's me at the end of that fervent day (rosy-cheeked, elated), and you can see the collaged piece on the easel in the background.





Before I finished my retreat, I manage to get some blue paint on it, but alas! My time had come to an end. Time to pack up and head home, back to the real world. I cleaned up, re-packed the car (which hadn't been driven the whole time), and moved the furniture back.

To end, a small story:

I was in no rush to get home after the designated "check out" time, so I decided to drive to Denver to visit the art museum. I've been there several times since I became a member three years ago and it feels like home every single time.

As and end to my retreat, I decided to "do what the artists do" when they go to museums: draw. I grabbed a stool, took out my sketchbook and pencils, and plopped right down in front of one of DAM's most beloved paintings in their permanent collection, Childhood Idyll, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1900.

I'd never done this before but had always wanted to. Turns out it was SO cool. I focused intently on the face of one of the figures and very much enjoyed the simple act of drawing, but to my surprise, i found that I also enjoyed bearing witness to other people's experience of the painting.

"Oh honey, this is the painting I wanted you to see..."

"This piece reminds me of..."

"Isn't that just lovely?"

For the most part, people let me be, respectful or bemused by my presence and my intentions, interested in my drawing nearly as much as they were in the painting itself. It occurred to me that here, in an art museum, is one of the few places in our culture where it is 100% acceptable (and even revered) to be an artist. 

After having spent 5 days on my own and arting like there was no tomorrow, doing this seemed like the normal thing to do. I felt so much like the artist I am, 100%. I was accepted, not judged. The question didn't occur to anyone there that this wasn't a perfectly good way for an adult to be spending her time on a Thursday afternoon.

I rarely get this. While my dream is to make art all the time, I am distracted by the routine of daily life, the relationships I hold so dear and work hard to nurture, and the fact that I need/want money in order to fund all my other zillion interests. 

And there is judgment. Society doesn't hold "the artist" as an acceptable occupation. As Brené Brown once joked, lamenting the way creativity gets squashed out of young people as they advance through school, "You go on and do your A-R-T. I'll just get on with my J-O-B."

In the last twenty minutes spent in front of the Bouguereau painting, I heard a timid, "You're a really good drawler."

I looked up to find a little girl, roughly ten years old, with a striped gray t-shirt dress and braids of red hair looking at me. As I'd been drawing, I'd noticed her little shoes through the crook of my elbow while she hovered near me for at least ten minutes.

I said, "Thanks. I practice a lot."

I found myself utterly delighted to get to engage with her, so happy to "talk shop." We discussed the painting itself and how my drawing might improve. She was shy but curious, which had bolstered her courage to say something to me. 

She reminded me of me. I myself had always had an admiration and reverence for people who made art.

Well, look at me now.

Here's Male Figure, Twisted, as it hung in the Open Hang show a week later.
 







Friday, August 11, 2017

Relief Printing: Color and Meaning


In my last post I concluded that I don't think printmaking is quite for me in the long run. But if you read that post to the very end, you were left hanging, and with an * no less! There was one thing I really loved: relief printing




I found the the complex process of relief to be something I really enjoyed thinking about. There was also more instant gratification than I'd had in intaglio printing. The lino cut piece took just one week, much of it in class! 



Even though it took a month to complete the woodblock design (and that was working on it what felt like day and night), the steps throughout were highly rewarding, and it was great to finally use some color ink.


Woodblock print after the
second of eight colors
I think the aspect of it that I liked most was that even though it was hard physical work (and there was some noise too, when I broke out the Dremel), linoleum and wood were softer, generally quieter materials and the only chemical required was ink.



For the woodblock story, let me start at the beginning.

Our assignment: to somehow use animal imagery in a way that meaningfully connected with our heritage or background.



Hooley the Dog is the only animal I've ever loved in my life, and it turns out that Paul and I happen to own chickens and bees too! So that's where I started, along with a sense of humor (all we need is a goat!), inspired by vintage dishtowels and other chicken art I've made in the last year, and with the desire to integrate text into this project somehow.

While developing my idea with my instructor Johnny, I got to thinking about how chicken farming was what sustained my mom's family as she was growing up in the 50s and 60s. So I texted my aunt, who was really involved on the chicken farm as a kid, and who has taken the concept of farming to a different level on her own large California acreage.

There seemed to be a thread of farming, for various reasons and in various ways, in my very own family.



I drew the above image onto an 18"x30" piece of plywood, and once it was finalized, covered it in shellac to use as a guide throughout the carving and printing process. The first task was to cut away the parts that I wanted to be the color of the paper, white.



Then I covered it in cream-colored ink and printed 7 prints, five on cotton paper and two on cotton fabric (dishtowel theme).




Then I wiped off the cream-colored ink from the wood and started carving away all the stuff I wanted to remain cream on the final print. This meant carving away most of the background, which took several hours. I managed to listen to the entirety of the excellent podcast S-Town over the course of a week while carving, carving, carving. 





I was thinking ahead to the next color: yellow. Looking at my original drawing, there are only a few things I wanted to be yellow: the chicken's legs, the bees wings, and the flowers dotting the background. 

Between each color stage it was more about carving the right stuff off while advancing through my color palette. I had to think ahead and behind at the same time.




Between each layer of ink, the prints had to dry overnight. A perfect time to carve more of the woodblock!


Starting to show some depth with 4 colors:
cream, yellow, light green, dark green.




As the colors progressed the plywood board became less and less recognizable.




Our minimum color requirement was 3 colors. Of course I overachieved. No less than eight colors for me, including light and dark brown, orange, and red.

And here is the final piece (click on it to get a closer view):



The biggest successes are the orange tree and the border (reminiscent of this blanket project I did two years ago in Fibers), and the fact that I managed to keep all the words in tact while carving (hand slippage is very common--you'll notice the dates were scrapped).

I loved that this was the last part of our class, a high note for me to end on. Not only did woodblock relief printing boost my art confidence back up, but it redeemed printmaking overall for me in a meaningful way. I excelled at this process, my professor and TA were very encouraging, and I felt like I spiritually connected my grandfather (note the carving on the tree), aunt, and husband through the common interests we all had/have: the life and work and fun of a farm.

I thought, as a final nod to this topic on my blog, here are some of the other students' prints from this project. Post a comment or send me an email if you'd like to know who made these.