Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

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.

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

I’m going to switch to Art History mode for a few posts.  Although at one point I earned an MA in the subject from the University of Michigan, I never pursued a career in it, and thus lost a lot of the knowledge I’d gained. But I never really lost my interest.

In preparation for a recent trip to Rome, Florence and Venice, I read the following books (in addition to 5 guide books): The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone, Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon, The Medici: Power, Money and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance by Paul Strathern, The Venetians: A New History from Marco Polo to Casanova by Paul Strathern, Pax Romana: War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World, Adrian Goldsworthy, How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower by Adrian Goldsworthy, and The Feud that Sparked the Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World by Paul Robert Walker. I used Audible.com for all of them, so I could continue with my art work while listening.  I loved the performances by the readers almost as much as I enjoyed the books.

Although the Renaissance is definitely the star of the show in a tour of Italy, I want to highlight a couple of pieces from the Middle Ages today.

Andrea Pisano, a sculptor and architect (c. 1290-1348) executed panels for the Campanile (bell tower) of the Duomo (Cathedral) in Florence.  These included artisans and workers at work, such as ploughing, building, weaving, painting and forging metal. I loved these little panels.  The originals have been removed from the Companile and installed in the Cathedral Museum. They are thus being preserved, and also are easier to see.

A second thing that fascinated me were the inlaid marble floors, especially in the Duomo (Cathedral) in Siena. Although the cathedral itself was completed 1215 – 1263, the work on the floors continued in the 14th through 16th Century.  About 40 artists worked on the 56 floor panels.

The earliest method they used was “graffito,” scratching lines in the marble that were filled with pitch. (yes the term graffiti comes from this word.) The effect is of drawing.

Later they used the “intarsia” method, which had been perfected in Islamic North Africa. It was use to create intricately fitted different colored stones into elaborate pictures.  Actually “intarsia” mostly refers to wood inlay.  For stone it is called “pietra dura.”

Even though I sort of understand how this was done, I can’t imagine how the accuracy in fitting together the stone was achieved.  Today it is carried on in Agra, India.  And a workshop still exists in Florence.  I want to follow up on this in the future.

Just as I head off to Italy (today!) for vacation #2, I finished my first piece based on our trip to South Africa last month.

I made the linoleum blocks based on my quick sketches in the back of the open “safari-mobile” in which we traversed the bushvelt, on the lookout for the “Big 5.” This is a term widely used in Africa.  It’s origin was in hunting.  The “Big 5” were the hardest and most dangerous animals to hunt: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Cape Buffalo. Now their images grace the South African currency (with Nelson Mandela on the obverse.) And seeing them is a benchmark of success for your photo safari.

We didn’t get to see a Leopard.  They are the one animal which has the ability to cross in and out of the huge, fenced reserve.  Nor the Cape Buffalo.  It is nocturnal, and our brief 3 day visit did not include night time drives.

The Rhino here is a White Rhinoceros. They feed on grass, and their heads are always down.  The Black Rhino feeds on leaves of trees, and their heads are up.  They are more dangerous, as they can charge any time for virtually no reason.  Both are endangered. They are killed for their horn which is mistakenly said to have aphrodisiac powers.

This little piece will be a donation to the “Spotlight” Auction which is an annual tradition at the SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) conference. This year it is in Lincoln, NE, and I will be attending.

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