Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Moment of Truth: Why be afraid of Y-seams?

I really REALLY really DO want to make this hexagon quilt (a simple mock-up I did using EQ6):
using this pile of fabrics
but something has kept me from doing it. I think it's my hesitation due to my lack of technical skill with Y-seams. That I recall, the only real Y-seams I've done were for the tail insertions in these stuffed animals (step 33 in the tutorial). Generally I avoid them with dread.

But how hard can it be? Seriously? I found these two great tutorials from bloggers that illustrate how easy it can be: Katie at From the Blue Chair shows how to cut hexagons without a template, which is fantastic in my book! And Jacquie at Tallgrass Prairie Studio shows how to sew hexagons together without marking the 1/4" lines. That sounds ideal to me, especially if it works! So here goes! (I'm doing this as a blog-as-you-go post, so I'll keep adding photos as I make this quilt, all in the same post.)

I chose the 6.5" x 7.5" rectangle in Kati's list and cut out a bunch to start with. Then I sewed a strip together following Jacquie's instruction:
Then, eager to overcome my hesitation and become a hexagon master, I started with the first hexagon of the second row... (Note: right at this point, I got up and wandered around looking for things to do around the house that absolutely HAD to be done right this moment, such as putting away the dishes, changing the laundry, picking up stray threads, sorting my sock drawer, transferring gesso from a jar to a bottle, etc.). Meanwhile, awhile later, I came back and read and re-read Jacquie's instructions, then dove in. Here is the first seam, pinned and waiting to be stitched:
 The finished seam - not the most perfect, but I'm certainly not going to pick it out:
Setting up the second seam:
The second seam stitched:
Here is the finished Y-seam of the 1st and 2nd stitch.
Yippee! The first hexagon Y-seam is done. It's all downhill from here! Now I need to decide how to address the borders. I busted out the markers since I didn't want to take time in EQ6 to figure out how to make the border I wanted. Here is a blank sheet of hexagons which I exported from EQ6:
Filled in with markers, with the idea of a border - I don't like the idea of a flat top/bottom border like in the image at the top of this post. But I'm still not sure what to do...
I really don't want the quilt to end up looking like a soccer ball. I do like this example of a hexagon quilt which has quite a large number of hexagons, way more than I plan to do. It just has a straight/flat border, which looks pleasing in this example. I also like the ends of this one where two ends stick out. I imagine the binding on that is a bit tricky... then there is this one by Malka Dubrawsky where all the sides are bound like that with no borders. Hmmm...

So maybe I'll do it this way (scissors came in handy):
I will do light binding on the dark side, and dark binding on the light side, with medium binding, perhaps, on the top and bottom... And now onto the selection of fabrics - I counted the number of hexagons for this design and I needed to eliminate more than half of my 100 fabrics. I started pulling some out of the pile and lined up ones I liked according to light, medium and dark value, to ensure I had a good spread across all values.
I put a light, medium and dark strip of fabric beneath each pile to help:
Now I'm cutting out the hexagons and throwing them up on the design wall:
Later on... more pieces on the wall - I really like the look of the white space in between the pieces on the right. I could add a thin sash of white in between the dark pieces and a sash of dark in between the light pieces- that would look awesome! (But I'm not going to do it for THIS project.)
All the hexagons cut out - this is a really small design wall so they don't all fit. They're overlapped:
I'll spend a bit of time switching around the pieces until I get to something I find pleasing. But I'm committed to not spending more than a week on swapping pieces. My goal is to have this finished (quilted and bound) before the end of April.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Study for "What is North, Anyway?" acrylic painting

I was thinking the other day about the seemingly arbitrary nature of 'North' and 'South' - someone at some point in time picked those concepts to orient us to the magnetic poles of the Earth and maybe to relate to the orbit of the Earth and moon around the Sun. What is North, really, but one end of a magnetic pole? But we're constantly orienting ourselves in relation to 'North' - when we drive in our cars, when we're hiking in the mountains, when we're looking out the window of an airplane.

I was thinking about the idea of drawing a map with the freeways as thick lines and coloring the surrounding areas with blocks of color. I've seen some really interesting map-art in the last few years, including Paula Scher's maps. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with a map-painting, but I primed a wood board and pulled out a scrap gelli print on bristol paper to use as a study. I drew a basic outline of the main freeways around Los Angeles on the paper using a green marker:
Then I filled in the areas with color.
Then I thought about rotating the painting and continuing from there, which is when I started thinking again about the idea 'What is North, Anyway" and how I could use that as another way to get art ideas flowing when I can't think of something to paint. It doesn't have to be freeways - it could be an outline of a familiar object, like a chair or a strange building across the street. Like Carla Sonheim's sidewalk cracks. Sketch the outline, then turn it sideways and see what other ideas come to mind.
When I turned this painting, I saw the idea of thick blue lines, so I painted what I thought should be there.
I'm pleased with the result so far. It seems very abstract. I'm not sure what I'll do with it next, or what I'll do with the wood board - I did add some pink lines to the board representing freeways.
Speaking of magnetic fields, look at this funny article about dogs and magnetic fields.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Work in progress: Cupcake Tray

I made this three-tier cupcake tray for an exercise in Carla Sonheim's Watercolor Transfer Paintings online class. I was cutting out random shapes from these Avery transfer sheets (I added the watercolor and marks previously) and saw something that looked like a colorful cupcake (the one at the top of the tray was the first one I saw - you can see it in the first sheet below, on the left) - then I saw some more and kept cutting and it made me smile!


Then I decided to make a tray to hold the cupcakes and pulled out the purple/blue sheet made during a previous gelatin printing session - this was a 'waste' page where I brayered excess paint. I love the way it looks cut into strips.
This is still in progress, I'm still going to add paint and marks and finish it up.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Abstract painting "Spastic Colon" 12"x12" acrylic on board

Work in progress (or maybe it's done, I haven't decided) for Exercise 4 of Karine Swenson's online class, intro to abstract painting. 12"x12" on board, primed with gesso. I used Golden Acrylics for this.

On this piece, I keep being pulled from light to dark values. First I add light lines, then I add dark lines, then I cover them back up with gesso and add light again. My favorite part about these are the dots of color on the sides. That was made by covering everything except the exposed color with gesso. The paint underneath was still slightly wet so after brushing through it several times, the color came up into the gesso to make a lightly colored gesso. I like that part a lot.

This started off as a bright yellow swoop with some dark blue lines and light pink around it. This is several layers later. The top circle had bright orange next to yellow (like the squares) and the contrast of that bothered me - it looked too bright, too much like candy corn... So I painted over it and I might add a bit of white paint mixed with gel medium to tone down the boldness of the orange and yellow squares on the side.

Maybe this is weird, but I feel like calling it "Spastic Colon" because of the curving shape and the various 'appendages' coming off it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Intro to Abstract Painting: charcoal and color sketches

I'm taking another online class, Intro to Abstract Painting with Karine Swenson. Here are my charcoal sketches from the first exercise:
This is my favorite one of the bunch, which I did with charcoal, then erased some lines from it. I really like the texture created by the erased areas.
For the second exercise, I made these watercolor sketches:
Some are more abstract than others...
This was my favorite one. I like the dark part on the bottom left where the brush was really dry. Also, the pink part on the right, how the pigment separated out when it dried. I added some little dots with a pen.
I also really liked this one, with the dry brushed blue paint on the bottom and the payne's gray + yellow ochre on the top (and some of the lovely effects of that mix on the page), plus the dark blue drip going right to left.:
And I've played around some more with the gelatin plate. Here are some recent prints. This one was made by dripping paint on the plate then blowing it around with a straw:
 This was also made by blowing paint around with a straw. First I brayered a pretty blue/purple color on the plate, then splattered water droplets on the top. I painted two lines of silver paint then blew the paint upward across the plate. There was some pink and yellow showing through from the previous pull.
This was made by brayering on a layer of pink, then dropping some magenta and yellow paint on the surface and dripping water spots on it, blotching with a paper towel, then blowing the remaining paint around with a straw. I placed a triangle stencil over part of it, then pulled the print.
The little splotches in this one are drops of spritzed alcohol. I like the colors and the effect on the top half of this, and the bottom half isn't bad either.
I've been brayering from an acetate sheet (thick plastic). Some of the paint dries before I can wash it off. That leaves some lovely color behind:
Also, I really like the colorful marks and remnants on the newsprint on my work table:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Color Bubbles, 6"x9", acrylic painting

I love this painting. I made a series of gelli prints today, and the underpainting for this was the 'waste paper' where I brayered excess paint. I decided to paint circles on it with white paint and gessor, then go around the outside with blue paint and a bit of black. I love it!

Here are the gelli prints:
Aren't the white florets in the below lovely? They were an artifact of the gelli plate - I think there must have been some moisture on there from the last time I used it. After the paint was applied with the brayer, the dots kept spreading outward.
 This was another trash page to collect excess paint:
 The dots of white on the left side are from spritzed alcohol. I'm not sure if it's good to put alcohol on the gelli plate, but it causes some really cool effects:
 I brayered a bit of yellow over the dots after removing the dots stencil. The yellow barely shows through and I like it:
 The white splotches on the right after from alcohol spritz as well as some sea salt sprinkled on there:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Brought To You By The Letter E, 9"x9", acrylic painting. Art Idea Brainstorm exercise

I've been thinking a lot about white space lately and wanting to use it more in my art. I do tend to cover up a lot of the page, if not all, with color and marks. But I can see how white space is visually pleasing.
I made this quick five-minute painting to get an idea out of my head onto paper. I used masking tape to mask off the letter E and the lines on the right for the black 'piano keys' or whatever they are. Initially I had the idea for a yellow letter E floating above a background of something. It turned into this. So thinking about the letter E, check out all these different words that could be used as inspiration for a piece of art - these are just off the top of my head:

Elephant
Exotic
Essential
Every
Each
Estimate
Envelope
Egg
Ebb
Eddy (like the eddies of ocean currents)
Egress (okay, now I'm really just pulling words out of nowhere - but seriously, wouldn't it be interesting to illustrate egress?)
Egregious
Erstwhile (Have I been watching British period dramas or what?)
Evening
Even
Eeek! (I'm thinking of a picture of a mouse inside it's little hideaway, tucked in bed with a piece of cheese)
Easter
Eleven
Echo
Elemental
Errand
Error
Ear
Egads!
Epiphany (that would be a fun one to illustrate)
Euphemism
Ewe (that makes me think of a song I heard as a child, goats eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy, but I thought the lyrics were 'Goes ee dotes and dose ee dotes and little lambsy divey')

Look how interesting just a short one letter brainstorm can be! You can come up with all kinds of words and images and ideas to use for art.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Create circular text in GIMP for use in a collage or painting

I wanted to make circular text for my painting, and decided to use some titles of songs I'm listening to lately. I googled "How to make circular text on Gimp" and came across this awesome tutorial - it's very easy to understand/follow. It's nice that you can pause the video step by step and follow the steps in Gimp. Plus Gimp is free!
I made this circular text - keep in mind I didn't care too much about the placement, because I knew I was going to cut it out for my painting, but the tutorial shows how to line it up or make the bottom half text go in the other direction. It also shows how to make wavy text!
I did two more and changed the text direction on the bottom half: Think about all the fun things you could do with this, and add images in the middle and change the color and put it onto a background or make it into a clear/beveled 'stamp' to add to the corner of any photo, like embossing!

Then I cut out the circles and cut holes in the middle so my underpainting could show through. Here was my underpainting before adding circles- you can see the little white outlines of possible flowers on the right side. I had painted on some pink and magenta, then used a brayer and stencils with black paint and paynes gray to stencil on some dots. Then I used the gelli plate and brayered a layer of copper color and painted white flowers on top of the copper, then pressed the paper to the plate. I wasn't too pleased with the result and decided to go in a different direction, hence the circular text.
I added the circles using a matte gel medium:
Then I decided to make three different 'flowers' out of the circles:
And used gesso to make the color in the flowers stand out from the background:
Then I painted on it for awhile and added some black pen marks to get the final painting, which I'm calling The Playlist, 9"x9", acrylic, gesso, pen and gouache.
Here are the song titles from my playlist:
We Built This City by Starship
This Is Not The End by Fieldwork
Recover by CHVRCHES
Daylight by Maroon 5
Chocolate by The 1975
Oblivion by M83 (feat Susanne Sundfor)