I have many painter friends, and I am active in the local art world as well as the community of Art Quilters.  So when Plein Air West Reading loosened its rules this year, I decided to take up the challenge.

This is the second year of the event. For 2017 only 80% of your piece has to be completed outdoors.  The rest can be in the studio.

Here’s what I did: limited my palate to blacks, whites and grays, and pre-fused some workable size pieces to take with me. I packed a scissors, tracing paper, parchment paper, drawing paper, muslin and pencil and set up a small table near an outlet so I could plug in my iron.

I started as any Plein Air artist would: made a sketch.  For me, the sketch had to be the same size as the finished piece would be.  And I worked as I always do: traced the shapes in the drawing from the sketch (the buildings, the sky etc) and cut them out in fabric.

Honestly the experience did me more good than I thought it would.  As in all plein air work, the values are higher keyed (brighter — more white) than when translated through a photograph.  Since values are my most difficult artistic component, it was a useful adjustment to work outside. Also, of course, you can walk around and better see what you are trying to depict than when working from a photo.

The most difficult part was trying to keep the pieces from moving in the slightest breeze.  A pin or two helped here. And I don’t know how I could do this without an extension cord and iron fairly handy. I used it by heating it up, unplugging and bringing over to my work — still hot enough to activate the fusing and hold the fabric pieces down. But I couldn’t be too very far from it.

Of course I finished the pieces in my studio: using my sewing machine for the quilting and binding. I also took photos, printed them on cloth, and places them in key spots.  Those I printed in color, so the works were desaturated with bits of color.

These will be shown June 17 at Art of the Avenue in West Reading.  Just look for the Art Quilts in the Plein Air display.  I doubt there will be any others.  But maybe next year!

I would like to take a moment to celebrate the conclusion of my most recent class: Raw Edge Applique at The Arts Barn in Schuylkill Haven, PA. First of all, owner Deb Cooper and Education Director Joanne Cosentino were so gracious and accommodating from beginning to end, even providing snacks for the students during class. I am very grateful to them.

There were 4 students.  Even that small number kept me busy every moment. They were good humored, smart, and cooperative. I loved to see when they “got it!” Some examples of comments, this from an experienced traditional quilter, “This is so much more freeing than making all the little squares!”  “Wow, what a difference it makes when you’ve quilted the piece”

I provided little thumbnail sketches they could use for composition ideas.  Two used them, one made her own composition, and one took hers from my Quilt National 2015 Catalog. She said she kept coming back to “Infinity” by Elena Stokes, and ended up nearly copying that. (on a much smaller scale, with different fabrics.) I hope Elena takes that as a compliment!

The one composition “rule” I impart to beginning students is to avoid the center of a piece. You are trying to keep the eye moving. Use the “rule of thirds,” or at least don’t put an eye catcher in the center!

I brought in two sewing machines, one set up with a walking foot for straight line quilting, and one for free motion.  I didn’t want them to get hung up on fancy quilting techniques for an introductory class.  We only had two 3-hour sessions. Near the end I changed the free motion machine to straight stitch so they could finish the bindings.

They worked in small sizes.  I cut muslin for the substrates approximately 12 x 16″ with batting to match. I had two ironing stations set up, which also worked well. I teach using Mistyfuse, and each student got about 2 yards of it to work with.

I began the class by showing pictures of Art Quilts, and also explaining the relationship between traditional quilts and art quilts, and where raw edge applique fits into the later category. I brought in some of my own pieces, and gave brief demonstrations at various points: how to start, squaring and trimming, quilting, and binding.  I had instructions available for both “facing to the back” and quarter inch binding.  Everyone chose to use the “facing to the back” method.

I also gave color suggestions, using a color wheel.  You can’t go wrong with complimentary colors!

My own take-away is that two 3-hour classes is the very least time needed to start to learn this method. More time would have been better.  But everyone almost finished their work, or is prepared to finish it at home.

 

 

 

At this time of year I am so grateful to live in a Northern clime.  The “change of seasons” we all claim we love can work against us in February.  But in April and May watching the leaves burst forth in their yellow-green bounty is pure joy.  My studio looks out onto our garden, filled with flowers and birds, and from there to the wildflower meadow and treeline beyond. Yes, it calls to me to come out and weed and plant.  But it also demands its story be told in art quilts.

All of these are from talking walks near my house.  In the case of “North Mountain,” I only have to walk out of my front door.

I’ve been working on smaller scale pieces, getting ready for the many art fairs coming up this year.

My husband Jay has been making the frames to float these pieces.  Inside each is a 5 x 7 fully finished little art quilt. They are poplar, routed, sanded, cut and oil stained, then hand rubbed wax finish.

Here are some of them.

How does every other artist cope with this time of year — Tax day is looming.  For my husband and myself, who together form “ResslerArt,” it is nerve-wracking.

Our income has pretty straightforward categories: Consignment sales (galleries who themselves take care of sales tax, and we only report the income) Studio and art fair sales (we report and pay sales tax and income tax), teaching, awards, and reimbursements (which are not taxable.)

Somehow it seemed like a good idea to me, at a certain point during 2016, to stop keeping the detailed ledger of expenses I had been keeping.

Bad idea.

We ended up having to re-create it, painstakingly, receipt by receipt for the year.

The expense ledger columns heads are from IRS categories: “Materials,” “Supplies” (yes they are different.  You use “supplies” on “materials.” Supplies get used up faster. For us the number one item is ink for our printers.)  “Office Expenses” and “Office Supplies” (again — they are different.  Office Expenses are like computers and printers.  Supplies are like paper clips.)

There are many categories that we never fill up — wage labor for example. But I have columns for them anyway.  You never know!

I set up a temporary table near Jay’s computer, with my laptop, big notebooks of paper records, and my laptop with ledgers.  Luckily we have always worked well together, so as frustrating as the process is, we never once struck or harmed the other person.

Swearing at the language of the tax forms is another matter. (Thank goodness for Google.  I was constantly looking up the difference between one thing and another). But I fear our verbal abuses fell on deaf ears.

Anyway, we came out about even on our business income and expenses, and overall get a refund this year.

Now I’m happy!

taxes

I’m looking forward to April 22-23 for the first ever Art Plus Gallery home studio tour.  Jay and I will open up our studio on those days to visitors.  We are planning demonstrations, refreshments, door prizes, and are hoping the garden is in bloom.

Studio Tour in Wyomissing Neighbors

Tickets can be purchased at the Gallery, 604 Penn Ave, West Reading, PA 19611, on line, or at any of the studios on the tour. The address of ours is 15 Rocktown Road, Hamburg, PA, 19526. The tour is from 10 AM to 4 PM both days.

The attached article is from Wyomissing Neighbors.

If you are anywhere close, come on by!

We’d love to see you.

 

There is a piece that I am still thinking about from our recent trip to Italy.

It is the Penitent Magdalene by Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi 1386-1466), a late work into which he poured his anguish.

Donatello was trained as a goldsmith, but has achieved his fame for his full size sculptures.A defining moment was the trip he took to Rome with Filippo Brunelleschi around 1404-1407.  Filippo studied buildings, especially the Pantheon, the domed Roman building which still today is the best preserved example of Roman architecture. It was later to serve him well in coming up with his original design for how to finish the dome on the giant cathedral in Florence.

Donatello studied Roman sculpture, thus helping to ignite the Renaissance sculptural masterpieces of the following two centuries.He himself then made masterpieces such as his David, St. Mark and many others.

He carved his Penitent Magdalene out of wood in his 60’s. Although it seems at first that wood would be easier than stone to carve, in fact it is very difficult as it can splinter at any time. Donatello’s vision is uncompromising. Mary is aged and gaunt. She has spent decades fasting in the desert. The bloom of youth is long gone, to say the least.

Donatello’s life-long friend Brunelleschi died in 1446. The two had quarreled and not reconciled before Filippo’s death. I believe he poured his grief into this work. The date of the work  is not known precisely, but are roughly 1453-1455.

It is currently housed in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence.

Mary magdalene by Donatello

Ever since I read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone when I was a teenager, I have been in awe of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). I re-read the book before we ventured to Italy last month and it ignited my admiration all over again. It is possible (I suppose) for another artist in history to have burned with such single minded devotion to art, but I can’t imagine that they have done so with as much success as Michelangelo during his long and often tortured life.

Two of his earliest works are housed in the Casa Buonarroti Museum in Florence. These are the Madonna of the Stairs (1490-92) and the Battle of the Centaurs (1491-92) Michelangelo was thus about 16 at the time. They are very different.  The Madonna is almost tentative.  The bas relief does not reach far into the marble. But the young artist’s natural ability to draw is seen clearly

Madonna of the Stairs Michelangelo 1490-92

In the Battle of the Centaurs Michelangelo bursts forth with all his love of sweaty male bodies, bone and muscle already well defined.

battle-of-the-centaurs MA 1492

David, 17 feet high, is one of his clear masterpieces, sculpted when Michelangelo was  29 years old. David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath in Judeo-Christian lore, is caught at the moment when hope hardened into dead determination in David’s mind. Yes his right hand is over sized, the penis uncircumcised (according to Renaissance artistic custom, not Jewish practice), the sling resting on his left shoulder of uncertain function. But you can feel the tension in his neck muscles, the focus in his eyes, the strong muscles of his calves and abdomen. There is feeling here as well as mastery of the human form.

David 1

Consider the story of this large, misshapen marble block.  It had been worked on previously and gouged (front to back) to such a great extent that sculptors feared to try to work with it. But Michaelangelo saw a way.  By throwing David’s weight onto his right leg, the forward knee of the left leg (which also slides to the left, allowing the knee to protrude forward less) and the raised left arm (note they are on the same plane — not far from the body) gave the illusion of movement while working within the narrowness of the block.

David from side.jpg

 

I  want to touch on one more, the Deposition, started when Michelangelo was 72.  It was an un-commissioned piece that he meant for his own tomb, but never completed it. Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus are supporting the dead Christ, with his mother Mary to the right, and Mary Magdalene to the left. The face of latter was worked on by a pupil after Michelangelo’s death, basically turning it into a saccharine mask. It is understood that the face of  Joseph (or Nicodemus) belongs to Michelangelo himself.

It is not of particular interest to me that this scene is not depicted in the Bible. It is, rather, the raw emotion and conflict in it that gets to me.  The body of Christ is too large, very awkward, and undoubtedly a dead weight. The head lolls, the legs are in rigor mortise or broken.  The Virgin has not the sweet teenager’s face that Michelangelo used in the famous Pieta that resides in St. Peters in Rome. It is instead grief drawn with a few blows of the chisel,as she  holds the body of her dead son.

 

Deposition Michelangelo