Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The times we live in


We got our vaccines awhile ago and I felt like crying with gratitude with the first one. We are looking forward to being with friends, traveling and mostly just knowing that the bad dream that was 2020 is ending and everyone can, literally, breathe easier. Maybe. I thought everyone was eagerly awaiting the vaccine, but now that it’s here, that doesn’t seem to be universally true. It surprises me, but I guess it shouldn’t. I got into a little dispute with a family member a few days ago and it still has me shaking my head. “We need to respect all opinions about the vaccine,” she said, clearly in defense of her own decision not to be vaccinated. I agreed that I respect her right to an opinion, but I feel no obligation to respect that opinion, if it seems uninformed and selfish. I think the word “selfish” got to her. She unfriended me. I guess she didn’t respect my opinion. Oh well. 

I know I’m opinionated and maybe have too much to say sometimes, but, as Albert Einstein said, “Silence is complicity.” In my opinion, now is not a good time to be complicit, in this case, to lending support to the enemy (the virus) by agreeing that it’s fine to assist it in flourishing and evolving in new and even more dangerous ways and assuring that this AWFUL, STUPID, HORRIBLE, DEADLY PANDEMIC NEVER ENDS!  And that is how I feel about that! OK, glad I got that off my chest. Sorry if I alarmed you. 

So we, and all but the youngest in our immediate family, are vaccinated and feeling a degree of true freedom. Summer seems like a shiny prize waiting just over the horizon, after a year spent indoors. Yesterday I scouted outdoor locations for a July meeting of our local art quilt group after more than a year of Zooming. I am envisioning all of us, in lawn chairs, visiting and sharing our current projects in some lovely spot. Maybe this one...?

I mentioned, awhile back, how much I enjoyed the presentation by Austin Kleon that was part of our SAQA conference so I ordered his book. 

It is a small book, quick to read and filled with the kind of things we all should know, but maybe don’t, or maybe need to be reminded of. I loved it, then I laughed out loud when I got to this page, near the end.

Are you talking to me?  

OK, then.  I’m leaving the internet and going to the studio...

Monday, May 10, 2021

Why am I doing this?


This is the door to my studio, which has truly been my refuge during the pandemic. I have spent a lot of time out here this past year and I’ve done a lot of work and I’ve had a lot of time to think, and I’ve asked myself, several times “why am I doing this?”  Oddly, I think that’s a question most us don’t ask frequently enough and it’s an important question.  As I get older the answer changes. Honestly, I like to work. I see friends, who like me, retired from full time, paid jobs years ago and who spend their days puttering around their houses and gardens, reading, occasionally going out to play cards or visit friends. They seem content to do that, and good for them, but that’s not for me. I want to keep working and so the studio continues to call to me.  But lately I’m feeling the need to simplify my studio time. I’m suddenly wondering why I’m juggling so many projects at once. It’s become exhausting. Why am I doing that?

Right now I am a part of the Cloth in Common group. We produce a quilt, made to a theme, every two months on a set schedule. So that’s a repeating deadline. I belong to High Fiber Diet, a local group that meets monthly and puts together a themed exhibit once a year. I also show work at a local gallery and need to continue to produce work for that. And now I have been selected to produce a piece for a regional SAQA book and exhibit, and I am doing the design and layout of the book. Suddenly it’s more than enough. Why am I doing that? Maybe it’s an age issue, but I just don’t multi-task with the ease that I once did.

Behind that orange door today you will find my Cloth in Common piece under construction on my work table,

And my High Fiber Diet piece at my sewing machine. 

And I would be going back and forth, fretting about my progress and deadline for each. 

So, why am I doing all this? Well, I do just love making art—but less and less on a deadline, and less and less to a prescribed theme and size. I do love sharing my work, so I appreciate the opportunity to see it exhibited and published, but I don’t need the exposure. I’m not trying to sell my skills as a teacher or lecturer. I’m not writing a book and I’m not depending on sales to feed myself. I just love the making. So after asking myself that question I’ve decided that after this month’s reveal for Cloth in Common, which is the final one of the current “round,” that I will be leaving that group. It has been a great couple of years with a group of wonderful people, who have become friends I will continue to stay in contact with, but, from the beginning, it was stressful to keep up and I haven’t always done my best work in that context. I think that will relieve some of the stress I’ve been feeling and give me space to enjoy the other work I am doing, since Cloth in Common was so ever present as a looming deadline. It is with gratitude and affection, along with a sense of relief, that I made this decision. 

I’ll keep asking myself why I’m doing this thing that I don’t need to do. And since, at this stage of my life I have the luxury of not needing, I will continue to do what I want to do and what makes me happy.  Maybe this is a gift of the pandemic. 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Digital drawing

 I started drawing as a child and I have always thought of drawing as something fundamental to making art. Some people make drawings as their primary artwork and the beauty of their drawings is awe-inspiring. For me I mostly draw as a way of thinking and envisioning something. It’s a tool and a means toward another end. I remember my dad, who was a mechanical engineer, always had a mechanical pencil in his pocket and any time he was describing or explaining how something worked, he’d grab a notepad, or a scrap of paper and he’d draw a little picture of it. I think I learned from him, to do that. And I wish I had thought to keep some of those little drawings of his. They were great. 

So I draw. Always have. Pen or pencil to paper, mostly. Then, twenty something, or so, years ago I learned about drawing with a mouse on the computer using pixels or vectors and what a revelation! I still draw on paper, but I am also in love with digital drawing. It is so useful and so flexible! For awhile I was drawing very precise and detailed vector drawings, using Adobe Illustrator, and enlarging and printing actual size patterns to work from in making my art quilts. Now I take a more casual approach. I make sloppy drawings on my iPad, getting the basic composition, colors and proportions worked out on the small screen, where I can easily move things around, erase and redo elements, try out different colors and crop to a pleasing aspect. Then I enlarge it by hand, introducing more of my style and personal elements into the final work. This is hard to explain, but working, by hand, at the actual size makes me consider line and detail more thoughtfully. An example: here’s my digital sketch, working from my own photos, of the Basilica of Quito. 

Here’s the finished quilt

Nowadays I no longer use a mouse with my computer. I use an Apple Pencil with my iPad. There are a lots of good drawing apps available. I’ve used Sketch Club, a very good, inexpensive drawing app for a long time. Currently I’m really liking Procreate, more expensive, but more features.  If I have an idea for something I can make a quick sketch, save it and come back to it later to further develop, or sometimes not. Here’s one that I saved a while back. I think it has possibilities. I might get back to it again and I’ll know where to find it, unlike those little scraps of paper I used to sketch ideas on and lose...

I found a whole new use for digital drawing  when I bought a Silhouette cutting machine to use for my art quilts. I can make a digital drawing of the thing I want to cut, refine it digitally and then transfer it to the cutting software, scale it to the exact size I want and cut an exact replica of my drawing, retaining the variations in line and distinctive marks of my hand drawing. I cut fabric, mostly painted, non woven fabrics, that I can incorporate into the stitched work. 

Over the years I’ve drawn, on paper, many pinecones—they are one of my favorite subjects. The first image is one of my pen and ink drawings from my sketchbook, then my digital interpretation of the drawing and finally the pinecone cut from fabric and sewn to a little banner I hung outside my studio. 

I am drawing more than ever, mostly on my iPad. I think about my dad, who loved computers and all technology and I know he would have loved all this. Here are some more examples of how I’m using my drawing tools these days. 

A new sketch, waiting for further inspiration....