Jun 222017

Paintings completed on lunch break, not paintings of lunch

I mentioned previously that I’ve been painting on my lunch hour, but haven’t shared much of it. Since I recently started a new sketchbook for this, AND managed to share the first two paintings, I’m going to keep it up. At some point I’ll go back and photo/scan all the first sketchbook, but that is a later project.

Slick named this creature a Slork. I was explaining my snippet of dialogue as a thing to do if you meet a strange creature on your morning constitutional. Be reasonably friendly, introduce them to good things in your world, like coffee. This led to an interesting discussion about the addictive nature of coffee combined with the eventual potential for 30 Slorks waiting for you every morning and how expensive that much coffee would be over time compared against the natural benefits of being generous to appreciative recipients and potential supernatural benefits that might come to you from the tribe of Slorks.
We have silly discussions with non-silly connotations sometimes.

This one was inspired by two very active rabbits I could see from the window during this morning’s (over-long) meeting. I knew I couldn’t capture their speed and frolicking, but maybe what they’re doing in their downtime. They’ve put up a sign in their borrowed burrow (did you know cottontails don’t make burrows? They make above ground nests, but will reuse abandoned burrows or cubbies) to make it more cozy.

Foxes in the coffee shop, yawning.
Sleepy foxes, starting their day. Free rodent with triple shot.

Painting from my poem.
Poison Pie, a summer special. Inspired by one of my poems I stumbled across again this morning.

One day I’m going to make a book/booklet/zine/some sort of collection of my poems with my art together. One day.

Jun 162017

All people, artists or not, have moods about creative focus and things you don’t want to do. Infrequently, I will have an aversion to a project that I think needs progress. Sometimes I can push through that feeling and get some good things done, but if it is a strong aversion, I listen to it.

Years ago, when I was building the workshop, I had a few hours in the evening after getting back from work and felt that I HAD to get some more drywall up, even though I really did not want to. I mustered all my available willpower and went down and got to cutting the drywall and by the time I was done with one sheet I was in tears with frustration and unhappiness and had to quit. Tears would soak into the drywall and leave little bubbles, after all. Hah. Plus, my cuts were imperfect, meaning I was going to have to do more work later to clean it up. But, that experience ratified my personal truth of having a limit when it comes to moods, projects, and sucking it up and getting on with it. Very occasionally, I simply cannot force myself to do certain things. That is okay. There is always something to be done in the workshop, like winding bobbins, cleaning up and organizing, or doing some other, different project.

Last night I entered the workshop with the plan to work on the dyed fabric quilt, but I simply didn’t want to. At this point in the quilt’s creation, I need to feel some drive and inspiration to move forward, because it is okay as it is, but I’m not excited about it. And those fabrics deserve some excitement. Thus, I did not work on the quilt.

With no quilt work going on, I instead thought about what I would like to do, (because I was also not looking forward to cleaning the workshop – I try to do that on weekends) and thought I’d like to make a Scrappy Cat – I haven’t done one for a while. But, the full figure was too much, a Flat Cat would be better and after the cat head cards, maybe it would be nice to do a cat head portrait in fabric. I didn’t want them to be cutesy, nor weird, so (after a coincidental video of Snoop Dogg) I thought I’d make Angry Cat portraits. That idea went fucking wild in my head and now I have about six interesting ideas for this incidental new series. I got one started, but then realized it was going somewhere I couldn’t see the full concept of, so I started a second and MAN! It is coming together! I like it a lot! I’d show photos, but they are still so unfinished that I don’t think the idea comes through yet, it remains in my head. Soon.

Now I have a new problem. A few weeks ago I bought three foam boards to use as project-in-progress boards. The Ganesh quilts are on them and now I have a new series of at least five Angry Cat portraits that need project boards. My choices are to finish the Ganesh quilts to recover the boards, or to buy more project boards. They don’t take much space, they’re always useful, and I have a current need for them. The Ganesh pieces only need a backing and hanger, but I don’t want to do that yet. I think I will wait for a “finishing” mood to come along, and in the meantime buy more foam boards.

This is how my workshop gets overfilled.

Jun 152017

Many months ago, I noticed I was working through most of my lunches. That, of course, it a bad idea! My working time includes an hour of lunchtime, I should NOT be working for it. It took a few weeks to break the habit, but I’m taking that hour to do something creative, which is very good for nullifying work stress. My two “at desk” projects are a small hand stitching piece, and watercolor paintings in sketchbooks. Here are two of those.

I like opossums and wanted to portray one in a “pretty” setting to help counteract the negative opinion that many people seem to have about them. This was my first shot at it. I liked it a lot, but I saw that my lines were messy and (for some dumbass reason) thought I should do better. This is a dumb thought because these paintings are quick sketches, fast and loose. The lines SHOULD be all over the place. This is a larger size (new sketchbook) and more detail and color than I normally use for a less-than-one-hour piece.


The next day I did the same painting again. I spent more time on the layout planning and line work preparation. I don’t normally do much or any linework – generally a couple marks here and there to remember where to put what color paint. That alone took most of a lunch hour. Most of the painting had to wait for the second day.

It is more controlled, cleaner lines, but the same general idea of painting. This is fine, but I think I have a miniscule preference for the first, loose and fast style.

So, there you go. Two paintings, almost the same, but different.

Jun 142017

I didn’t feel like working on the quilt last night, so I pulled out one of my many unfinished projects and got it done.

This is the largest of my fabric shag pieces. Now it is a clutch, or very large zip pouch. I love this shag!

A teal lining with a little pocket for chapstick or whatever small item.

An almost full sized back pocket. I find these types of pockets useful on bags; they’re handy for flat things you get handed, like receipts, flyers, business cards, coupons, restraining orders, whatever.

Leaning for the dimensional view. It is interfaced fully so that it will hold its shape.

I put it in my Etsy shop, too. My Etsy gets used as an available item show room. I don’t worry about not selling many things; I like the idea that some of my work is able to be seen and purchased, if someone wants it. The possibility exists, and that is my level of “selling” commitment. Sort of a personal gallery.

Tangent, someone thought I was making a full size quilt when they first saw a picture of my fabric shag. My reaction was No, no way. It would be an insane amount of work and result in a shortened-life item since the shaggy bits would continue to unravel over time. That idea has stayed with me, though. I like the idea, crazy though it might be. The big pouch is fun to pet and a quilt would be even better for the tactile satisfaction. Now I am considering it.

Jun 062017

Over the weekend, someone ordered a bunch of pins from my Etsy shop, including both sets of cat heads. That gave me a little burst of good mood and I decided I should paint another cat head to make into a thank you card for the order. After I did that, I realized I wanted to do more, so I spent a whole evening painting. I ended up with enough for a card four pack.

Makes a nice set!

I gave them all metallic painted eyes and noses, although you can’t tell from the photos. In person, they sparkle and shine brilliantly! I have to paint those bits all by hand after they’re printed as cards, but it is worth it. I think they’re striking. Goes well with the metallic envelopes, too.

Of course, they’re listed in my Etsy shop, if you want them for yourself.

May 262017

Went down to the workshop last night and was facing over an hour of paintbrush line work and I only had 1.5h before bedtime. Then I recalled that I had a squeeze bottle with a needle tip that would dispense the paint in a line much more efficiently, but where did I put it? I just straightened up a couple weeks ago, it couldn’t have gone far. The more I failed to find it, the more determined I became to find it. After an hour, I gave up the search and sat down with the paintbrush. Ended up being over an hour past bedtime to finish at that point.

In this morning’s hindsight, the paint would have beaded up on the fabric and not worked well. The paintbrush was needed to coerce the paint into the fibers, so the bottle would have been useless.

May 232017

Made this zip pouch a few weeks back. In case you’ve noticed the number of zip pouches this year, that is my fallback. Last year was quilts. This year is zip pouches. I still make quilts … and everything .. but if I want a project, this year I’m aiming towards zip pouches.

I have a nice, wide format printer dedicated to artwork. However, you have to print something once or twice a week to keep the heads clear (less ink than cleaning cycles), so I printed out this watercolor of mine onto cotton, then heat set it and bathed it in fixative. Then made a zip pouch from it. All about these little opportunities.

The finished product. 8″x 7.5″ flat.

Fully lined in matching cotton and has an interior pocket for small bits.

Attached a bead to the zip pull for ease of grabbing. Loop on the side for attaching.

The creature.

This item has been listed in my Etsy shop, if you want it for yourself.

Sometimes I ride the wave of creativity and throw paint on a page as it speaks to me and move on. Then, hours, days, months later I’ll go back and see more to be had with it. This is such. I like his fuzzy, amorphous existence.

May 182017

After the dye party, I was looking at the fabrics and thinking about the amount and distribution of ice and how it influences the end result. My hypothesis was that more ice would both dilute the dye and create greater melt patterns with the dye. So, I did a little experiment and this is the result.

The piece on the left had about twice as much ice applied as the piece on the right, but about the same amount of powder dye. As expected, the additional ice did wash out more dye, and also produced more variance spots (once you account for the less dye). Good to know.

This is not one of those things I’m going to test a lot. A large part of the charm of this process is the unpredictable results and I want it to keep that with me. Also, I’m a bit tired of dying fabric now. I have a line of things to finish up and am itching to get stitching. Although, we are right now at the start of a huge spring snowstorm that could mire the entire town in heavy, wet, snow, so perhaps I will get another piece or two in yet.

May 172017

This post took a while, but I wanted to wait until the fabric was done so it could be seen at the same time.

Everyone was warned to wear old clothes and showed up on a Sunday. It rained the two days before, so I was concerned, but without cause. Sunday was the brightest, sunniest day yet! In fact, it was so warm and sunny that the ice ended up melting much faster than I anticipated. That worked out. We gathered inside beforehand to discuss the process, dye blending, and to chose colors combinations.

This is one of my two sample dye combination boards. The two together show all the fiber reactive dyes I have, minus the black dyes (since they vary so much with handling) and some Jacquard brand little jars that I’m not going to buy again. Everyone looked over the colors, picked out their combinations and away we went.

I handed out the fabric to all, fresh from its chemical bath preparation (soda ash, urea, salt). Everyone got a large piece (42″ sq) and a quarter piece (22″ sq) and cotton embroidery thread, if desired.

Here is everyone arranging their ice onto the scrunched up fabrics. Slick helped out greatly by running out to get ice, then loading it into a wheelbarrow in the shade for us at exactly the right time. I know that sounds like a little thing, but when your whole process depends on ice on a sunny day, it becomes a big deal.

Everyone applied powder as desired. The little squares were placed on grids below the big ones, so as to catch the runoff dye. Dye dispersion results varied wildly for those pieces.

Once that was done, we all went inside and had some lunch. I put out a spread of finger foods and many gals brought foods, too. No cooking today! We had a whole table full of deliciousness and sat around talking for a few hours, which was quite nice. Afterwards, we went back out to see the progress.

A lot of the ice was melted. The gal on the back left there wanted extra blendy, muted colors, so she piled some more leftover ice onto hers. Now it is largely waiting. Everyone departed.

A few hours later, when it was getting darker in preparation for rain, I went out and checked on the pieces. The little bits were getting dry around the edges, so I put some of the chemical bath in a spray bottle and dampened them, then moved all the grids together for ease of covering.

All condensed and covered in plastic. I used rocks to keep the edges down, but I also went in with a staple gun when the wind began picking up to keep it all secure.

Then, the hard part, waiting two days. So impatient! At about 52 hours, I processed the fabrics: rinse in cool water, fixative in warm water, rinse, wash in Synthrapol and hot water, rinse for finish. With this many pieces to be washed at once, I was able to toss them in the machine and save myself some work! Nice. It was raining again, so I used the dryer. I did give all the pieces a quick trim with the scissors to remove threads that had washed loose. There weren’t many since I’d hemmed the fabrics before hand. I was tempted to iron them, to completely bring out their beauty, but I calmed the hell down instead.

I highly recommend clicking on the photos to see a bigger version. There are wonderful depths to all the pieces.

This gal had a plan. This piece could easily come live in my stash and join a future quilt. Rich and deep.

I love all these bold, intense, twisting colors. There is so much movement and drama.

Hers looked like rainbow candy sherbert. It looks so tasty on a sunny spring day!

This is an unusual color combination, but she had a theme.

This is the gal that added more ice.

I have to say that after having all these beautiful and vibrant dyed fabrics in my workshop, waiting for their delivery day, it was sad to see them delivered to their artist-creator-owners. They are so pretty I don’t know how they’ll have the heart to cut into them. If they were my pieces, I’d have to simply seam the edges and leave them as one of two pieces, tops.

May 102017

Last week we had one more bit of snow and I took advantage again.

This is: Bright Green (Jacquard – all others Dharma), New Emerald Green, and Mermaid’s Dream on snow, already partly melted.

Wet on the clothesline in the bright afternoon sun.

Four hours later, dry on the line in the dappled sunset. The light has changed the look, but the fabric is still quite vibrant when dry and I am happy with it.

It took me a while to get these photos up because I was busy getting ready for the dying party, which happened on Sunday successfully. The fabrics were complete last night and I’ll share about it as soon as I get photos of the pieces done by guests. They are all wonderful.

May 092017

That title is wordy, but it was the best title for this quilt.

The Cats Ate the Jam Last Night Quilt
43 x 58″
This poor little quilt was started last year when I picked up a sample log cabin block I’d made when designing a quilt for my niece. Her quilt went a completely different way and this block was sitting in the extras pile for months. I had so many pink scraps leftover from that quilt, I figured I could use them to round out some more log cabin blocks to go along with the lonely single. I added purples and grays to the existing scraps to make it more interesting. The off cuts while working became the Tintamarre Quilt, which I loved so much that I finished it first. Then I got busy the end/beginning of the year and I finally got around to finishing this one this spring. Then it sat for two weeks waiting for a load of laundry to add to, then another week while the weather was bad for photography anytime I was at home. Then add one more week that was too busy at work and home for me to get around to editing and uploading photos. It’s done now.

Each of the edge blocks is oriented so that it is facing up if you are looking at it from the edge nearest you. Not sure if that description makes sense, but it is omni-directional. This is simultaneous with the alignment of pink/purple color corners and gray/black non-color corners of the overall quilt. That took some arrangement fiddling when putting them all together.

That skull glows in the dark.

One of the cooler, more purple blocks.

The back is a simple stacked coin stripe of the leftovers.

While there are multiple cats in these fabrics, there are as many rabbits, and there are foxes and crows – BUT this quilt came to life because it sprang from the creation of the niece’s cat quilt (much the way Greek gods would spring from the blood of other gods in battle) the cats get the title inspiration priority.

A shot of the quilt on our new couch. It is a good size.

This one is also going into the Etsy shop once in the next day or two.

May 042017

For my birthday this year, I did another pottery party.

Here’s a shot of us all at the table eating, before starting clay work. At the front right you can see one of the zip pouches (birthday favor bags) I made this year. I should share pictures of those; I think they’re pretty cool. Things got hectic the beginning of this year.

Here are all the finished items. We were the first to go in to pick up items and it was great to see everyone’s pieces. They are all so creative and interesting! I have imaginative and clever friends.

May 022017

More spring snows mean more snow-dying!

I wanted darker colors, bolder and stronger than I got even last time and those from last time looked pretty good. I did a few things to accomplish this:
1. Pretreat fabric with soda ash, urea, and salt.
2. Leave wet dye on fabric for about 22 hours.
3. Used a dye fixative after batching.
4. Used only Dharma Procion dyes (instead of Jacquard Procion MX dyes, brand difference only) *
5. Used bolder, deeper color dyes.

If you know me, you know that when I really want to succeed in something, I will take every extra step even remotely reasonable. That is what I did here, and got total success.

Snow, plus dye. This blob is a combination of Deep Space blue, Mermaid’s Dream blue, and Imperial Purple. I’m trying a new setup with the racks over wood studs so that I can both stand instead of squatting while working and have room to put another rack with fabric underneath this one. This process is inefficient and wasteful, so I thought I’d recoup some of that runoff dye with a second piece. For the group dying session coming up I’ll use saw horses to hold three or four studs so that multiple racks can go side by side with space. Raising them up like this should also allow easy placement of more runoff fabric catchers.

After a few hours, much melt. Those studs are now the most colorful wood we own. Slick said we should open an artisanal stud shop. That would be neat, to have things made of artist-dyed woods.

The next day, after setting, fixing, washing, these are wet on the line. There was a lot of wind that day, so this was the best shot I could get. I had to untangle the pieces from themselves, each other and the line itself a number of times over the hours as they got whipped about.

And completely dry. Good, bold colors, and that runoff recoup piece is pretty, too. My stash of hand dyed fabrics is growing.

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I’m trying to show process photos not only for people who might decide to try this themselves, but for people coming to the group session soon that might want an idea of what will happen. Stepped out photos help when you’re trying to achieve results using an unfamiliar process.

* About list item #4, I don’t think there is much, or possibly any, difference in the brand of procion fiber reactive dye. However, I have had slightly better results with Dharma brand than Jacquard brand dyes, there is a bit more in Dharma containers (which are also larger), they are a smidge cheaper, and there are more color choices with Dharma. Any differences are most likely due to my novice mistakes instead of the brand, but like I said, I’ll take any reasonable efforts for advantages.

I’m going to have to buy more PFD fabric – all these spring snows and prepping for the group session are depleting my supply. Oh darn, I have to buy more fabric! HAHAHA!

Apr 262017

Finally did another tablet sketch. Kept a very limited palette so I could focus on my line and control work, without the delightful distractions of color. All green, with a kinda violet highlight.
My biggest problem is that my preferred program is REALLY finicky when it comes to touching the screen. If you finger slide to zoom and/or move, about half the time it selects a different layer or different tool. This is something difficult to notice, so I have to keep checking that nothing has off-selected which seriously interrupts workflow. Checking constantly is the only option, though, because it is detrimental to suddenly be on the airbrush or eraser tool, or on your line layer instead of color. That is the largest frustration.
Second is control; the stylus tip is hard, the screen is hard, so everything is very slick – no friction like traditional drawing or painting to provide tactile feedback to assist the line control.
I’m learning, but it is slow. This whole thing took an entire lunch break, plus a smoke break (Obvs not mine, but if my coworkers go out to smoke, I take a break while they’re gone). I’m a few pages away from filling a watercolor sketchbook, which is a rare occurrence (partly because I’m not a full time artist, partly because I have SO MANY – really, SO FUCKING MANY sketchbooks and I have many going at the same time). The call of the nearly completed book is like a siren song so I drift to it instead of the tablet, the stitching, or the pencils.

I chose green because I want to make an all green quilt, but I have a lot of other projects I need to finish and get out of the way first, plus I would end up buying more fabric, which I am trying (TRYING) not to do, since I have so much already.

Apr 242017

Last summer I tried ice dying some failed fabric with ice from our fridge. It was fun, but the end fabric was paler than I’d have liked, probably because it was previously-dyed and not chemically prepared for dying again. My mistake. I still made use of it in this quilt:

The pinks all over, and the greens and blues in the border sashing (mostly) are that fabric.

Last Friday we had a snowstorm, possibly our last for the season. Every year I have pictures of my stubborn tulips covered in snow. Here is this year’s, from Friday morning:

Only that single red bud so far. It snowed most of the day; heavy, wet, slushy snow that made driving that same old cautionary tale we’ve had all winter. By the end of the day it had stopped snowing and started melting.

I haven’t dyed fabric for a while, so I thought this snow would be a good opportunity. On Saturday morning, I had an early morning errand to run, but I was concerned the warm, sunny day would completely melt all the snow before I got back home, so I quickly ripped off a stretch of PFD (Prepared For Dye) fabric and grabbed some jars of Dharma dye. Outside, I began piece one:

Fabric scrunched onto a cookie cooling rack and covered in wet snow.

Powedered dye sprinkled atop the snow. I put down a layer of purple first almost everywhere, then added a secondary of scarlet red, a couple pops of golden yellow. After that, I saw that the black I’d grabbed had chunks of powder, so instead of breaking it up and sifting it, I dropped a couple of the chunks directly on top. I was hoping for a lot of boldness and interest.

This is how it looked when I got back home. At this time I started piece two.

I’m skipping the before picture (you now know what snow on fabric looks like – you get the idea). At this point the sun was going strong and I had to scavenge in every dark corner of the yard to get enough snow to cover the fabric. This is the powdered dye on top of snow picture. So bright. I used a total bottom layer of golden yellow, then added Chinese red and scarlet red on top. I may have gotten carried away with the reds; you can barely see any yellow left.

Click the link to see the rest, there’s a bunch more and I didn’t want to eat my whole front page with one post.
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