Sunday, February 28, 2021

Learning by Immersion

I signed up for a seminar on Color that began five weeks ago, and I have learned a lot about color and remembered a lot about color that I knew and had forgotten about.  

Most surprising of all, I found that studying and absorbing all of the material and getting the homework done is a lot harder than it was when I was in my 20s, even in a subject matter that I really care about.

Coincidentally, at the end of January the local museum announced that there would be an exhibit of original works by Monet, Degas and Pissaro as well as some lithographs each of them did in collaboration with George William Thornley.  I was really excited by the idea of getting to see some art in person after months of confinement (and having missed the big Monet exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art that was in place this time last year).

Yesterday my daughter and I donned our masks and went in at our assigned time to see the exhibit. 

 At first impression I have only two words:  Oh, WOW!!!!

This piece, titled "River and Mill Near Giverny" was painted by Claude Monet in 1885.  It has  the same soft atmospheric colors that many of his paintings from that year that were painted in Giverny have.  It almost feels like there was fog from the river that made him actually see the colors this way.

This piece is a pastel by Edgar Degas from 1896, titled "Seated Dancer".  I had seen several oil paintings of dancers done by Degas, but this was the first time I became aware that he had done so many pieces in pastels or charcoals.  The color is a bit different from his oils -- almost more intense, especially the backgrounds.


"The House in the Woods", painted by Camille Pissaro in 1872.  I had never seen one of his pieces other than as a photograph.  His colors are very realistic, like a slightly blurry photograph, but without the soft "foggy" look of Monet's pieces.  I also noticed that each of Pissaro's landscapes also includes figures, almost as if the human beings had to be part of the story of each piece, while Monet's pieces were all about the landscape.


Of course I had heard of all three of these Impressionist artists, and before this exhibit had previously see some original pieces by Monet and Degas, but just who was George William Thornley, and why would three painters agree to work with someone doing lithographs?

The closest equivalent I can think of would be silk screens or block prints, but each of this approaches creates a different "look" than the original painting or pastel, just as the lithograph is different.

 Turns out that George William Thornley was an awarded painter at the Salon on his own, and my guess is that the idea of working in a different media was intellectually interesting.  Artists are a continually curious bunch, after all.

The result of the collaborative efforts were successful enough that each of the artists involved signed the lithographs along with Thornley.

"Sheltered by the Haystack" is the work of Pissarro with Thornley.  It has the soft sepia tones of an old photograph, but still all the great detail of Pissarro's paintings and the boy asleep making the human being the focal point.



One of the collaborations with Degas produced this piece titled "Dancers".  I was again reminded of a photographic technique as the color reminds me of a cyanotype , but it is without a doubt instantly recognizable as Degas' style and subject matter.


 "The Wild Coast" was my favorite of the lithographic collaborations in the exhibit.  Not only is it unmistakably Monet's minimalist landscape style, the choice of a blue paper with the black ink just feels like the wild, rocky and stormy coast line.

While Monet had not previously had any interest in making prints (unlike Dega and Pissarro who had worked with copper plates themselves), this collaboration was very successful.


After spending an hour and a half in the museum, my "art brain" was just buzzing and energized with new excitement to make more art!

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter brought me a large glass vase of tulip bulbs that were just beginning to have buds.  This picture shows what they looked like yesterday as they have all bloomed and are beginning to get a bit blowsy.

At some point in the last five weeks in the color seminar there has been some discussion about color derived from natural substances, and I remembered a project my very first art mentor had done a number of years ago with flower pounding.

I thought it might be a fun project to do, just to see what might happen, having no preconceived notion of what the results might be.  (Having done some natural dying of wool yarn about 40 years ago, I'm well aware of the fact that what you see can definitely NOT be what you get.)

So I pulled out a stack of old newspapers, a piece of cardboard from the back of a drawing tablet, some parchment paper, painters tape and a small hammer that I normally use to put nails in the wall to hang pictures.  I had some white fabric pieces that seemed like just the thing to use for this experiment, and so I set to work.

Let me say that the dog was unimpressed by the "banging", and immediately asked to go outside to hang out in the sun on the deck.


This is the result of my efforts.  I used only two leaves, and I bent one of them because I wanted a bit of variety in the placement in the finished piece.  And this is one tulip.  I removed the stem and the base where the petals were attached because I thought it was too thick to make a tidy pounding.  There were six petals, so I divided them into two groups of three so it looks like two flowers.

The color of the leaves was not a surprise -- very much the chlorophyll green I thought it would be.  The petals, however, were the expected surprise.  Although on the plant they look orange, the pounding is pinker, with some very purple tones in some places -- pretty exciting.  The really dark long oval shapes in the pounding are where the anthers of the bloom fell onto the fabric and I decided to leave them there just to see what would happen.

I plan to do a considerable amount of stitching to add detail to this and probably mount it on either a canvas or a cradle board.

 Now I'll be on the look out for anything that's blooming, just to do a few more of these to see what happens.

I'm feeling good about this weekend's art projects, and I'm ready to get back to work in class and in the studio.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

because it's about the journey, not just the destination

 it snowed all day yesterday, and this morning there was a lot of fog

one of my jobs now days is to make sure Mr Cute gets to school on time, so today we set off a bit early that we usually do

for one short stretch, we came out of the fog bank into a little patch of weak sunlight, which we right away called "our own little sun ray", and his instruction?  "pull over and take a picture"!

so we did

it makes my heart sing that he is inspired by some of the same beauty around us that I am

as I drove back home after dropping him off at school, I was thinking about the times that I have driven someplace and arrived realizing that I hardly remembered getting there -- in a way it makes me a little sad that I might have missed something as spectacular as having my own little sun ray -- but I also realize there is a time for each season -- and I think this is my season to really see those little bits of joy and to share them with such a special young man

I'm actually working on a couple of pieces in the studio

this one is titled "Transformation" -- and is based on a photo of a sunrise from late August

right now I'm doing the needle turn applique to create the big (40x54) sky that has only a very small strip of land at the bottom --- I'm past half way now, so I'm already in the "are we there?" feeling -- just chugging along

my artist group ( has a current challenge for a piece on the theme of "Heat"

this piece is titled "What Icarus Saw"

based on manipulation of colors from a paint pour in PhotoShop and printed by Spoonflower on organic cotton sateen -- I am now doing the quilting with a variety of cotton, rayon and metallic threads and have done some painting -- more to follow -- with metallic pearl paint

this piece is totally different than anything else I have ever done -- very much an experiment!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

There's so much to be thankful for...

 it's been a wild ride to Thanksgiving from August

Covid 19 continues to run wild, so my plan to have Thanksgiving with an almost traditional dinner (chicken not turkey but otherwise really close) here at my house with my sister and her family here too was put to the way side a couple of weeks ago -- not without some unhappy muttering on both sides

It would have been nice to have our family, small though it is all together, but we're not risking that

 So there will be four of us for dinner tomorrow -- my daughter, her husband, their son and me, and that being the case it will be a very "non-traditional" dinner -- there's a large shrimp ring in the refrigerator along with pickles, peppers and olives for a relish tray as well as a sweet potato praline topped cassarole and a pumpkin pie to go with the gumbo that they are bringing, and there will be fresh, warm corn muffins -- and the traditional sparkling cider to accompany the whole "feast"

 As I was cooking today  I was thinking about the many "non-traditional" Thanksgivings when my daughter was younger.  Any family that moves seven times in four years has a good shot at hitting a Thanksgiving holiday as a move day.  That occasioned a meal in a small, mostly empty neighborhood diner where we were all so tired we didn't care what we ate.

And there was the year we were driving from Utah to California in a rental truck and I managed to lock the key inside -- and in that little town the kid working for the only AAA towing company in the area had no idea how to use a slim jim to get into the truck so we could get the key out and be on our way -- but we finally did.  That was the Thanksgiving of hamburgers from whatever fast food place was open on the highway.

Along the way on our adventure of life I learned a lesson that I think my daughter knows too.

It ends up that where the table is, or what's on it is not nearly as important as who is around that table.  Because it is the who that I am the most grateful for.

And especially this year, even though it has been a rough year, and there are fewer of us around that table than there were last year, I know that things could be so much worse.  And I am indeed grateful for the friends I have, and my own continued ability to do for myself and for others.

Been playing a song that Josh Groban sings this week -- it's called "Thankful"

Part of the lyrics are:

Even with our differences
There is a place we're all connected
Each of us can find each others light
So for tonight, we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day, we hope for
What we still can't see
It's up to us, to be the change
And even though this world needs so much more
There's so much to be thankful for

I hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving 


Monday, September 14, 2020

what's happening in the studio


this piece began a few months ago, created out of the t shirts I had been collecting and saving from our various athletic activities, community involvement and our daughter's school productions

these two photos were taken before it was backed and quilted, but they show just how big this quilt is

 I had finished the quilt top on August 14, at least the DH got to see it

and now it will go on the bed -- it's not really cold enough to sleep under it yet as the temperatures here are back up in the 80s, but it won't be long before I'll need it


this is a piece for my Women's Work series -- right now I'm calling it "Ironing Day" -- started working on the background yesterday afternoon


I'm spending some time almost every day doing some deep cleaning, doing some paperwork and working on some kind of art


working toward creating a new sense of "normal"

Thursday, September 10, 2020

the upside of just doing the work


earlier this year I finished this piece which is titled "Out to Pasture" 

it seemed a natural to enter in a show titled "Pieces of the Past"

 this popped up in my email yesterday --- at some point in the future a picture of this piece may show up in a quilting magazine

how cool is that!?


 clearly I'm on a bit of a roll here --- this piece, which is titled "Caribou Porch" had been entered in a local art association's annual show

over the weekend, it was awarded an Artistic Achievement ribbon, which also included a small check

woo hoo!


I am always pleased when the pieces speak well at a show or competition


yesterday I received the annual call for entries from the Loveland Library district (where I have had several of my smaller pieces on exhibit in the past)

my plan this year is to enter several pieces from the "Women's Work" series -- maybe these three

I do have two more pieces for this series in process, and I do have until the end of October before the entry is due, I might have a couple more to enter as well

we'll see

moving along in the studio on pieces that were already in the planning is helping me find a new sense of purpose

meantime --- more tomatoes got put up

last weekend I stripped the garden because we were going from 90 degree heat to snow within about 36 hours, and I didn't spend all summer tending those plants to loose those tomatoes!!

these 8 pints bring the count for the season to 25, and there are still 3 baskets full ripening on the counter that I will either can or turn into basic pasta sauce that I can put in the freezer 

tomorrow will be a day off --- I will have my grandson here while his mother takes care of some things in her office that can't be handled from home, so I will be "supervising" his school work in the morning then we can do a project or two in the afternoon --- should be fun

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

the third act

 It's been a very long time between postings

For a while, I thought I might have reached the end of blogging -- so little uninterrupted time

 And now I need to (briefly) explain the absence for the last year and a half

 When I  last posted in February, 2019, I had just brought the DH home from over a month in the hospital and then rehab.  He came home needing more day to day care -- he could no longer see well enough to handle his blood sugar testing and insulin injections -- he needed higher levels of oxygen making it a lot harder for him to go anywhere -- and he took blood thinners twice a day because his heart was not beating in a regular rhythm

Despite all that we had only two choices -- assisted living, which he hated the whole idea of and refused to even discuss -- or I could take care of him at home -- so he came home and we found a new normal

We had a big family gathering for his birthday where he got to see all of his grandchildren and his great grandchildren -- and we did it again at Christmas -- and he did love Christmas -- all the planning and the decorating and the cooking and the wrapping -- it was his favorite time of year

Then in March, 2020, the world around us went crazy -- COVID 19 shut down everything -- and his already limited world became a lot more limited -- and he was slipping away into his memories about playing baseball as a young boy -- and exploring caves when he was away at school in Missouri in his teen years -- and he was sometimes angry because I wouldn't let him go out into the garage and work with the power tools unless I was right there to guide (and protect) him so he wouldn't get hurt

And of course, in the end, I couldn't protect him from the inevitable

So on August 14 we decided we were going to stay up past our usual bedtime and watch the PBS recording of "The Sound of Music", a stage production that we hadn't seen before -- and at it's end, I said "it's time to go to bed" -- he started to answer and then he was unconscious -- and I was dialing 911

The paramedics and the ambulance were here really quickly and they tried for an hour doing CPR, giving medications -- creating an emergency room in the middle of our family room -- trying everything that an emergency room would do -- but at 12:15 in the morning of August 15 he slipped away and was no longer bound by medications and leg braces and oxygen tanks -- he was free

 Parts of the last three weeks are a blur -- talking to the coroner at 3:00 a.m. -- picking a spot at the cemetery -- asking for mass with the parish priest -- being able to have only a small group standing in the cemetery to say goodbye 

And now life of a whole other kind moves on for those of us left behind -- moving forward -- moving sideways -- some days just trying to stand still -- time doesn't let us do that

On now to that third act --

Sunday, February 03, 2019

where to even begin

there is a lot to catch up on here since I haven't managed to post here since mid-October

do I post chronologically? in order of importance? stream of consciousness?

perhaps to just begin --- so hold on, this is likely to be a long (and possibly confusing!) post

Word of the Year

for a number of years I have selected a word to be a guideline for the year to come, having decided that resolutions are not as useful for me

last year my word was "Open", with the idea being to be open to new ideas, new opportunities, new solutions

as the year rolled out I was able to be open to things:
     accepting and completing a large commission
     spending a long weekend as Artist in Residence alone in the middle of a meadow
     saying good bye to a teacher and mentor as she moved away from the area
     continuing to apply to have my work shown all over the country and sometimes succeeding

I have decided that the word for this year is "Acceptance", and I am considering this word in a couple of different ways

for one, I will continue to submit my work for display to galleries, libraries, museums, on line exhibits - in short just about any place that I think it might be accepted

but I also need to use this word to deal with issues that are out of my control  in the day to day issues in my life (more about that presently)

Christmas Reveal

I work on Christmas presents all year long (in fact, I'm about half way through the first of the presents for Christmas 2019 right now)

but that means there are a lot of things I can't talk about along the way because I don't want to spoil the Christmas surprise

now that all the gift giving is over, I can show you what all those projects were

off the knitting sticks:

cowl scarves in blue tones for my sister and in rust and blue for my daughter

the annual cardigan sweater for my daughter in black and a cardigan for my mother in a color called "Peacock"
socks for my daughter to wear with her hiking boots

a pony tail hat for my daughter, ear warmers for my grandson and all of the great grand kids

and from the crochet hook

an odd flock of birds:  a blue footed booby chick, a conure, a humming bird, a parrot and a peacock

and an equally odd group of other animals:  a bison, a dragon, a malamute and an octopus

the sewing machine did some work too

10 pair of pj pants (for all the great grand kids, my grandson, my daughter and son in law) and a new lap quilt for my daughter

Work in the Studio

 this piece, titled "Charlie" has been delivered to the Boulder County Parks and Rec building and will appear in several county buildings during the next year

it is based on photos that I took while I was Artist in Residence at Caribou Ranch Open Spaces last July

this piece, titled "Seasons of the Moon" is a triptych of 7" by 9" pieces mounted on stretcher bars that was finished in late December

"On the Beach" is being quilted

the water tower piece is ready to be quilted

and this piece, which is the latest in my Parched Earth series, is being appliqued

as usual, I'm also working on the patterns for the next pieces that I plan to make -- "The Road Not Taken" which is based on photos taken at Caribou Ranch, and another piece in the Family Ties series "The Singer"

A word more about acceptance

the biggest reason I didn't get a blog post done since October is that the DH was hospitalized twice 

in November he had a blocked bile duct (wherein we learned that gall stones don't necessarily go away if you don't have a gallbladder!)

and in December he had an allergic reaction to a medication he had taken for years --- he spent a week in ICU, then additional days in the hospital followed by time in rehab so he could get strong enough to come home

along the way we also learned he has an irregular heart beat that is now controlled with medications, and even more seriously that he is in the beginning stages of dementia

this last thing has been both difficult to accept and at the same time good to know what is happening so the right adjustments and changes could be made

going forward I will be handling all of his diabetic testing and injections to be sure he gets the proper monitoring and dosing of his insulin

there has been a certain amount of emotional upheaval for me as I come to grips with the changes and the finality of what this means, so I truly need to incorporate that word for the year

A final note 

Mr Benson is my partner in looking after "dad"

he's a great emotional support dog for both of us, and does a very nice "Timmy's down the well" bark if he thinks I need to know something dad is doing

it was wonderful that he was here while dad was in the hospital -- gave me a sense of "normal" every day