Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

At some point as my husband and I planned our year, we decided it would be a good idea to participate in 10 art fairs in a row, August, Sept and into October.

I’m not sure what we were thinking!

Maybe I thought some little elves would create more of my inventory in the few days between unpacking the car and packing it again to head off to another art fair.

I’m new really working flat out hard to try to keep up.

But, that being said, there is a lot of good that has come from this intensive experience.

We’ve both made an effort to ask advice from other artists we trust on how to show our art to its best advantage.

My sales have been much better this year than last.  I attribute that primarily to having started to frame my art quilts. It not only shows off each piece to its best advantage, but lends a more unified look to the booth. Plus I’m making a number of small art quilts: 5 x 7, framed to 7 x 9.  They sell well in an art fair setting.

Customers are now clear about how to hang the art quilts. I was always trying to explain about the “hanging sleeve,” the “slat,” etc. and it was going over heads.

My husband, Jay Ressler, is making my frames.  They are hand crafted from either re-purposed barn wood or hardwoods, stained and oil rubbed. I then cover a piece of foam core with black linen fabric, and sew the finished quilt to that.  Then I complete the frame with a backing and wire.  No glass of course!

I’m also beginning to weigh whether I want to continue making my craft items: Friendship Wine Totes and “Hot Spots,” that is, hot pads. Both carry through a constant in my work: using re-purposed fabrics and objects. For now, I plan to keep making them.

Compare the show on the left, this year’s booth shot, with last years’ booth shot of the same event.  They are similar, but the framing, on the left, unifies the work.

 

 

 

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Here is a little video of me working on a piece that I eventually call “Reading Blues.”  It was a photo I took of some interesting graffiti on a wall in Reading, PA. After printing the photo on fabric I embellished it with stitching, found objects and some fabric pieces.

And the finished piece.

Reading Blues version 2

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.

 

 

 

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

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.

my-first-safari-6-x-8