Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016/17 Part IV

So, what of 2016/17? Well, 2016 was so blah I don't remember long stretches after Mom's exhibition.  (That was pretty special.) I did weave some in the first half, I did a lot of paper stuff in the second, I didn't garden much.

For 2017, the top priority is Ben's diabetes, our diet and health; if my weight comes down as well, great. (I've been thinking what I call "premature" aging, especially the multitudinous forgetting, is connected to my weight.) If not, I'll have to have a separate plan. (Exercising more helps. Just saying.)

I want to get back into the garden and try to make it nice for once. We're now progressing towards the end of summer, (March/April?) and I'm so looking forward to the cool season even though the task is monumental, again, and come spring it'll get too hot and sunny and hay-fevery and I'll have to give up for a weedy summer, again, but cool season gardening is now on mental calendar. Besides, the hellebore seeds I bought from the Northern hemisphere took a year and a half to germinate but have been ready to go into into the ground. So I'd love a early, cool, and long autumn/winter, and a late, rainy spring, please. If I can clean the house thoroughly and declutter, in small doses, it'll be so good for my mental health but I need Ben's help and... it's a long shot coordinating when we get motivated. (Ruby is threatening to come see me again; she, who was trained as a landscape architect. Her first question when we met was how my garden is doing, which told me, crikey, she reads my blog!!)

I can't go to Japan this Feb because friends are visiting Nelson, among them my philosophy professor from college, whom I last saw, we established, in Dec '81/Jan '82. I love Feb in Japan because it's so cold and sometime it snows and outdoor places aren't crowded. For Japan. This year, if I can manage, I might go in November because it's cool enough, some years, and big art exhibitions happen around then. It'd be nice if Ben and I could travel somewhere together, even just to Wellington, but the November earthquake has put paid to that for now. Either trip will invigorate my making mojo.

Yes, the making. I'm not stopping the mixed media and Letter Journals. These are fun, reasonably challenging but not soul-crushingly, which is why I find them accessible. And collaboration is good. Here are some recent pics:
A rather bright background on my Letter Journal for potentially three others to add on. I tend to cover the entire spread to make a color field for backgrounds, (usually with fewer hues and less saturated pieces,) but leaving gaps or just pasting a few shapes would work, too.
A finished spread; Tess worked on it up to twice, me, up to three times. I discovered one key to working in layers is not to cover completely the previous; I sometimes collage big or too much to obscure them; worse yet, apply colors over the entire spread tidily, leaving no gaps. It's good to unite the hue/value variation, but especially with a dark wash, it obscures/obliterates interest. I'm kicking myself for having ruined one of the nicest spreads that way, after two layers of successful wash.

I am the worst person to commit to something-everyday projects; I consider it a major achievement if I last a week, and some years I don't even remember I forgot. This year, I thought it would be nice if I drew a lot of face/portrait, and I've been trying to do one a night. If I forget, do two the next day, or do seven on the weekend, just because I like looking at them later. Although I forgot on Jan 2, yeah, I have done 21 so far.

By copying, I don't mean "copying" like aspiring artists do carefully, but just having an image in front of me. My efforts include crude line drawings, some colored, some in with outrageous colors, but most often with my non-dominant hand or blind contours. Many don't take five minutes.
I first copied portraits by van Gogh, of course, but also Gauguin's earlier French, Matisse, Modigliani, and Chagall's circus acrobats. Then I really got into German Expressionist woodcuts for a while, (I know I'll go back to them,) but because I want to eventually draw in my own "style", I've done a few of Congressman John Lewis and I intend to do several more until I can get the shape of his head/face right and, oh, his eyes. It doesn't bother me that I don't do it well, but it'd be nice to see some kind of an improvement, or better yet, an ease with which I take on drawing.
I am learning to see better in fits and starts. My greatest discovery is what a superb draftsman Matisse was/is. I sensed it when I tried to copy a couple of his simplest drawings in Brisbane, but I didn't have the vocabulary to express it. He express so much with the slightest twist of a line, and he's been the hardest to copy to get to the essence of the portraits. All very steep learning cliffs.

And weaving. I hope to get back to it, but I'm not pushing it. Meeting Ruby has been a big incentive, but all in good time. As I always say, I would like to surprise myself, to make something that doesn't look like things I've woven before. Bright and multi-colors are still popular at the Suter; I still like monochrome and analogous. Still, it's a undeservedly cushy life. And with that said, my 2017 can start properly.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2016/17 Part III - Diabetes in the 14th Year - Long

Ben was diagnosed with diabetes on February 5, 2003. Diabetes is a progressive illness, and I always understood it to mean, "It will get worse." Around the time he's turned 50 it started to mean: what he did and how he ate back in 2003 are, 14 years later, not good enough to keep the numbers down. Plus we have been plenty complacent; my bad I trusted what he said, too; I was tired of nagging after the 10th anniversary.

Long story shorter, his numbers were so that his doc, (my old,) wanted to put Ben on diabetes and cholesterol meds. Ben's the kind of guy who prefers to suffer rather than take pain meds for a splitting headache. (His dentist told Ben he has an unusually high tolerance for pain, and we're fixing problems over two years which already presented problems in 2003 for which we had to run into a dental practice in Elgin, Scotland.) It's hard to get information from this doc, even when we ask gazillion question, so Ben negotiated and got only on cholesterol meds and an reprieve of three months to get tested again, and reassess the diabetes med. (Not to mention the head nurse who gave him the annual diabetes check knew little about diabetes but treated us like idiots.) This was on the first day of his month-long holiday.

New Zealand's diabetes policies changed in the last decade; when he was diagnosed frequent checking of blood-sugar levels by the patient was encouraged, but now they prefer to put folks on medication early, relying on HbA1c, (average blood sugar of three months leading to a test,) which is checked only annually. But as the patient and wife of a patient, that's too chancy so we've been buying test strips ourselves, (may not be so common in NZ,) and also not exactly following the officially recommended diet, but cutting way back on carbohydrate and filling up on veg. Coincidentally Ben won a Fitbit from the Diabetes organization not long ago, and the data/record appearing/kept on his laptop intrigues so much he started exercising. Quite a lot.

The doc had to change his cholesterol meds three times but the side effects were bad, (one night he told me his brain was boiling!) he took himself off. He exercised day and night and we checked blood sugar several times a day. We read more about diabetes, talked about food, cooked healthily and ate well. But in retrospect I think he was a little depressed, caught unawares, (while I thought, he could have been on meds a few years ago,) he thought a lot and didn't do much else.

On the very last day of holiday, he switched to my doc and we made an extra long appointment. Karl prefers to, if possible, solve problems with foods/nutrients and he wanted us to research one of two diets, ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting, both of which burn accumulated fat and lighten the load on the kidney and pancreas, among other organs. The latter is what he recommended me two years ago when I switched to Karl, but I I couldn't do it while cooking for Ben as well. He also gave Ben another cholesterol med, (to which Ben reacted badly, so he took himself off.) But the sane news is, Ben's on a one month parole, to be tested early Feb and we'll go from there.

The last two weeks we've been reading even more, while following the kitogenic Blood Sugar Diet loosely, because I already had the book. (I got it a while ago meaning to go ask Karl if this would work for me, because this I could do with Ben after I convinced him he needed it.) It allows protein and veg except potatoes, some full fat cheese, milk, and yogurt, but very little fruits and no carbohydrate. And we love it because the science makes so much sense to us, and because protein is allowed, Ben got over his initial resistance. And it's not a hard diet to follow; eat less energy so stored fat is used.

Ben's lost 4kg, his body is better-toned, he is motivated, and his numbers have been consistently better than anything in the last, at least, four to six years. Me? I may have lost 500g. Or not. It's like when I reacted to chicken and had nothing but water for seven days and gained 500g, or when we went gluten-free and Ben quickly lost a few kilos while I did not. My gym staff said I was an enigma, but I fill up faster, eat less, and don't get cravings.) I'm looking forward to his Feb numbers.

Karl's very knowledgeable and it's hard to take in everything he says, but I did take notes and got the important bits. It annoys me Ben remembered bits just listening, but it's great he is taking this seriously. Additionally, we got one supplement each, Ben's got new shoes and those sporty sandals, and both of us, Swiss ball cushions. And we're recording everything that goes into our mouths in... prepare to laugh... matching notebooks!
At Saturday lunch at the Suter with JB and Ali, Ben shot his food with his phone, and it dawned on me I could do the same with mine rather than try to memorize and write at home.

No gardening, no big clean up of any room, no long drives, no movies in the cinema, one lunch in town in a whole month of holiday. We didn't even ring JB and Ali in spite of my warning before the holiday started. All life is good; it's good to reassess periodically. And if you're curious, eggs are good again, and salt may not be as bad as previously thought. And caffeine isn't great.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Call Me Sentimental

Two days after I met Ruby and Ken, I went back to Nicola's and sat at the same table and ate the same Ceviche and basked in the glow of the memory. Ben and I had such a good time with JB and Ali on Saturday, even though we never rang them in the month Ben was home, we will probably get together a couple of more times this summer. And the former student I met for morning coffee, she told me it had been six years since they came to our house; her 3-year-old baby with much bijou had turned into a 9-year-old who could monopolize a conversation and go on a "find the picture" hunt by herself at the Suter, while grownups blah-blahed. Big Sister who starts middle school in Feb is a little more pensive, and prefers to address me in Japanese even when I speak to her in English. And I've been spending a lot of time at Volume; Stella and Thomas are a couple who enjoy working together and every time I see them I miss Ben, even though he's busy earning a living not one kilometer away as I ... er.... shoot the breeze and eat ice cream with Stella and Thomas. And Lloyd reminded me to not leave it so long before I visited him again.

I've been learning the difference between introvert vs shy; I was surprised some years ago when an Internet friend called me outright an introvert when, at least online, I thought I was a try-hard life of the party. According to what I've found online, I am (or have become?) an introvert, although by no means shy. Put me in front of a hundred people and ask me to talk about something I know and no problem, but before and after, give me a few days to get rid of the words out of my head.

And so we return to the tenuous relationship between anxiety/depression and withdrawal. Weaving is slow and I need all the time. Mixed media is fiddly and I need space. I have an extremely needy garden. I don't have a lot of money to spend eating out. I spend long hours in my PJ/work clothes. I read. I was the only kid for 7 years and I've learned to entertain myself early on and I like it. I'm fat and in summer I sweat and I'm embarrassed. And I am a homebody. And, you know, I don't drive so in Nelson I have to coordinate my act with Ben and/or walk 18 minutes to the hourly bus. But I think the worst part is I spend so much time questioning, "Why did I say that?" or "Why couldn't I have been kinder?" or "Why couldn't I have thought before I spoke?" or "Why did I talk so much?" So it's easier not to create these opportunities.

"They" say people, especially those with depression, should not isolate them/ourselves. I think interactions are meant to (re)position ourselves in our environment, locating our position on the map and (re)confirming where North is. I know some people don't need maps because they can organize the environment to suit them. I know some people who don't care where they are on the map or which direction they are facing. Some, like me, worry so much about the size, color and style of buildings, angles and width and right-of-way of/on roads, and even though north is clearly signposted, we cannot proceed because we worry about walking with the wrong footwear or with too big/small steps. So I'd rather sit in the middle of a white sheet of paper and concentrate on what's inside me rather than outside.

I know it's all about balance and I thought going into town as little as I can get away with was suited me very well, but now I'm not really sure. I do love good company, and adore learning. So the wondering/wandering continues.
Stella and Thomas' bikes outside their Volume bookshop.

No plans to leave home for the whole week! Grin.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2016/17 Part II

Due to strange-headedness, vertigo, bad sitting arrangements and world news addiction, I've done no gardening this spring and summer; (in places the weeds were thigh-high but the summer wind and dryness killed some of the surface stuff last week,) no weaving, but some van Gogh reading and mixed media. I'm enjoying mixed media because they are immediate, but have started to struggle, too, because I've developed "intent" in some cases, and like weaving, I see much technical weakness that hinders my expression. I love building from scratch, especially collages with my painted paper, so I'm not coveting products, but the work takes more time. Like the way weavers used to talk on each other's blogs and offline, (perhaps some of you still do?) I so enjoy the frequent communication in group, both technical and mundane.
Oh, the "not weaving" part. The multi-colored cashmere warp was straight-forward and painless, until I eventually got to wash them. OMG! Even though this time I made sure I used only 100% and not the silk/cashmere mix, and even though this product's shinkage differ depending on the color, there is no denying this is bad. After some time in purgatory, (both me and them,) the weaver's need for income won over integrity, and Husband was asked to deliver them to the Suter. And I tried not to think about them and I wasn't going to show them to you here.

In July, when the temporary Suter was closing and the whole lot moving to their old/new home, I went to say a temporary "bye" to Andrea, who said in the kindest, mildest way of joking, (I think, but didn't ask,) if I were still in a guild I'd be outski pronto. While I had hoped, to be honest, the color combos and softness/weight/hand still had some appeal to non-weavers. So I withdrew them.

I wasn't disappointed. I don't mind anything Andrea says; I often ask for her critique. It wasn't a sudden loss of confidence; I'm used my technical weaknesses. The feeling, which wasn't strong or at the forefront but perhaps always there, was, how many years/warps do I have to weave to get better, and/or have I passed my prime, didn't know it, and henceforth I'm going to weave rubbish only. Is/was my efforts worthwhile? I didn't think any of this, but the feeling gestated on its on.

I didn't make a conscious decision to stop weaving; I only threw myself into mixed media. I haven't even washed the five pieces I wove between April and July and I have a long-awaited warp for two commission pieces on the loom. Every week we Skyped Mom asked me if I'm giving up weaving and the honest answer was, I didn't know. And I was fine with that. And for a time I totally lost interest in textiles.

But then I met people and went to arty places and life looked like a little while ago and twice since August I saw textile-y dreams and the Suter sold two pieces in one month, so my thinking is heading back towards weaving. Plus, the next couple of months is going to be hot and my basement is cool. But I'll never apologize for the time and energy I spent on mixed media, and I'll never stop, even if it doesn't contribute to any un/subconscious design skills.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016/17 Part I

I keep having to edit this post as I never seem to be able to finish it. But today, if you have not heard, it appears Randy Darwall has passed away. (He's my weaving hero, non-weavers, and famous.)  I say, "it appears" because I've only seen it only on FB, no MA newspaper, for e.g., and I don't recognize organizational names/acronyms, so I'm hoping against hopes it's a hoax. Details I can find are that it was after a short struggle with cancer and there will be a memorial in spring. Dianne kindly rang me this morning to alert me. It's probably true, you know. He had cancer some years ago.  (Even the year he was born is in dispute. Oh, please let this be a hoax.)

I had planned for months to do something for my tenth anniversary of meeting Randy and Brian this past October 1; write them an old-fashioned letter, a special post, or a group post here, (you know, you post also and then we all link to each other,) but being on head meds and not weaving wasn't condusive to looking back on my last ten years so I deferred. I don't know if anything is forthcoming in the near future, but we shall see. Joie de vivre is what I took home from his workshop, so I try to have some of that in my weaving and my life.

And then, hey, happy new year! If 2016 was an especially weird year for you, here is to a new start. When the world looks a little bleak to you, let's look at our cones, our equipment, and our creations to recall what lovely thing we do.

My memory is getting worse and I can't recall things I've done, names, words in general, (not that I'm less talkative,) but let me give this a go.

Just after midnight on the day I posted the second last post, I experienced the biggest and longest earthquake in my life. Yup, I'm from Japan and I've been in a few, but it was scary. Earthquakes are scarier when they happen when dark and/or when you're stationary. I was reading in bed, Ben was asleep, and I asked Ben if it was his legs, (he has that shaky leg thing,) and he was immediately alert and said, "No, this is a big one." (Although later he said it wasn't the biggest he's been in, but the longest.) It was a strange, clockwise rolling motion, rather than horizontal or vertical shaking I'm used to. To make things worse, our neighborhood lost power, so no phone, no internet, just Ben's cell.

Long story short, damage to Nelson was minimum, but the whale-watch capital of NZ, Kaikoura, and State Highway 1 to/from there was worst hit, as well as many towns south of Blenhiem and our capital Wellington. The road connecting Picton and the ferry to Kaikoura is still not passable, and there is an alternative route inland. From memory, there were in fact two shakes, somewhere around Kaikoura/Seddon and somewhere closer to Wellington, which explains the circular rolling motion. But, yikes.

I spent the week that followed reorganizing our emergency pack first packed in 2011 and occasionally updated but never thoroughly, and spent a fortune at three pharmacies. We were going to move on to reorganizing emergency food/water/TP bit, started pre-Millenium crash and then used up one by one, but I got sick of thinking of disasters we haven't done it. Maybe soon.

After the quake I quipped on FB perhaps I should get a smartphone so I can get on to the Internet without Wifi, and Warwick, a bestest guy and Ben's colleague, gave me one. Like that. He has two sons and the three menfolks love technology but not the Mrs so one sat in a drawer. I resisted, but I know how grateful for even the small amount of info Ben got off the Internet that night, and a quake could happen when he's not home, so I adopted it. I can ring someone, I can sure ring folks by mistake, and sometimes I can even answer calls without immediately hanging up. (Warwick said he's going to teach me to drive next, but that's never gonna happen, mate!)

Usually with anybody's phone, the camera is the first thing I figure out and it was the same with this one.
Then Ruby came to town and she made a lovely picture talking to Nelson personality Mike Ward, and I suddenly forgot how to take pictures and kept aiming and pushing the power button!! The screen went black and I waited forever to see the picture. What's the deal with that?? There's been a little too much of forgetting things I used to not pay any attention to of late. Early onset?? Of course the next day it was again a no brainer and I took shots of our carpet and my feet just to see it wasn't the phone's fault. Yikes.

Just before the phone, Ben's iPod broke so he got a new one, then fixed his old one, so I inherited his tiny job. We got three of Adele's CDs from those spend-money-accumulate-points programs, so I asked him to load those. He even gave me a very nice headphone for Christmas, (a dark red version of his,) but I've been busy with the phone and... my head is too wide for the headphone!! So I'm placing the headphone around our biggest cushion hoping it'll stretch a little. At this old age, we've come to like matching things, which we so despised when we were first married. (You know, Japanese honeymooners? We were so not them.)

Andrea left the Suter after, I think, 15 years, which means she should have loads of time for me, but I haven't bothered her yet. She's savoring her gardening and serious cooking time and she so deserves them. Stella left the bookshop which was a double-whammy at the time but she and husband now has their own shop, the loveliest new space in Nelson called Volume. If in Nelson, you must visit it. Stella and Thomas are not only nice, but they know as much about books and authors. And you're allowed to buy coffee at any of the three places within 30 seconds of Volume and bring it in. OK, so I brought in ice cream, but then I'm special, yes?

To be continued.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ruby (and Ken and Mary)

Heyho, it's been a while. I'll hope to post about this summer so far soon, but I want to tell you what I did yesterday; I met Vermont, USA, weaver Ruby Leslie. And her husband Ken and his colleague Mary; Ken and Mary teach art at Johnson State College, soon to be renamed Northern Vermont University, and they've brought a group of students to New Zealand for an Art and Culture tour. Ken's a painter and a book artist; Mary teaches where art meets law; I would have loved to pick her brains on cultural appropriation. They had one day in Nelson so I tagged along as on a walking tour of Nelson's art-related places of interest.

When Ruby contacted me, I had to think carefully as a few galleries have closed and a couple have opened; many artists studios in town have either closed or moved out of the center of town; and most crucially, I haven't been into town often enough to keep up with the latest. But between my memory and recommendations from the Suter, we managed: the Suter, a new jewelry studio, farmer's market, Nelson icon Mike Ward's jewelry studio, Craig Potton Gallery, lunch at Nicola's Cantina (Mexican), Jens Hansen (Jens who made TLOTR rings has passed but the studio/shop is open), Flame Daisy (glass blowing), South Street Gallery (Nelson pottery), Parker Gallery (contemporary art, newest gallery in the old sheepskin shop), Red Gallery and Refinery Art Space. I wished I had a pedometer.

Mary asked for a New Zealand green stone carver to visit, but sadly nobody is carving in town, even though there are plenty working with gold, silver and other precious material. Even outside of town, Lloyd and Stella, (she now has her own bookshop) and I only think of three, one being Japanese. Though we have a few contemporary jewelry artists who make nice things, their work has a more universal look that doesn't necessarily appeal to visitors.

I went to the Refinery for the first time since they rang artists to pick up work from the shop; that was also the last time I saw Lloyd. The gallery, still called the Refinery, is now operated by Lloyd's Arts Council, under contract with the city council. It no longer has a shop, but is showing some edgy works as well as community art. I promised Lloyd I'll come help hang the textile art exhibition this year.

I noticed a strange behavior on my part that tells me I probably should hang around humans a little more; I kept using the wrong words. Most noticeable was I knew the ring maker's name, Jens Hansen, and yet I kept calling the shop, "Jensen". A few other words I misused consistently, like I do when I'm tired but I wasn't. It could be part of aging, but it felt more as if I'm out of practice talking to living human beings other than Ben, at long stretches. (Mistaking "cultural appropriation" with "cultural acquisition" happens all the time, though.)

It was the hottest day so far. I was naughty because I knew they were tired and I should excuse myself, but they were such wonderful people and the conversation delightful I dragged them around from one spot to the next in the sun and the heat. It was lovely to be with university people again, too; brought back memories of my Dad. Ruby and Ken are such wonderful parents, I almost wanted them to adopt me.

Tomorrow I'm having coffee with a former polytechnic student; Saturday we're having lunch with JB and Ali. Later this month my Philosophy professor from Minnesota is coming to visit. (I think we last saw each other at the end of the Fall term, 1981!) This summer is putting a real damper on my reputation as a recluse.
Ruby and Meg, after walking around in the heat all day. I took nice pictures of Ruby speaking with Mike Ward on my new phone-with-a-camera, (more on this in another post,) but was I meant to save the after shooting?? I can't find them. Bummer, it would have been a nice souvenir. I forgot to shoot her Frieda socks, too.

PS. If you ever meet Ruby, you must ask her how she got started weaving. It almost didn't happen!

PPS. They are from Vermont! Guess whom we talked about? Although we probably talked more about Mr. Elect. Pffffft....

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fun with Paper

I drew on and painted postcards. (The colors are less nuanced and more childlike. The red is saturated blue-red, and overall feel is more vibrant. The pic below is a better indicator.)
I painted these (and this many more) to use in collages. I needed orange bits.
And I used up orange in my tiny travel watercolor set, and nearly finished red. I know nothing about conventional watercolor use, but I love the idea of using my tiny kit; it makes one feel artist-y. It's silly to try to paint inside the line in more or less even saturation, like gouache, but these paints are wonderfully saturated and this is what I've been doing. I practiced on scrap paper so I can learn a little more about the paint, but it's oh-so delicate. And just when I thought I could make pale, watery areas, I'd find "mistakes", and you know, with watercolor, you can't have do-overs.
And then my paint set; it's made by a reputable Japanese company with a website and prices for all sets and replacements, (a third cheaper than most brands,) except I can't buy online, and they don't state an email address nor a fax number as their contact. I might try one of the vendors at, the price doubles as I haven't found a way to combine orders, and I'm only asking them to send to Mom. So until I go home next I'll have to mix with my student-grade watercolor and gouache, but that's OK, I'm still practicing. I'm glad I experienced something I've only read about; good paint is really full of pigment with not a lot of binder.

I like making up my own flowers, but what really interests me are faces and figures that tells a story; the reason why I love gesture drawings. I'm hoping I'll move on to those this summer. For now, though, I really get a kick out of making small books: these are my latest watercolor-practice books; I used other sketch pad covers because I wanted to include the word "(S)tudents".

I'm still struggling with layers and when I try to do second and third layers with paint I seem to obliterate previous layers. When I add colors as unintentionally as possible, I pick the least attractive to destroy any kind of harmony, almost as a challenge to myself. Although sometimes I find in them old-fashioned Kimono color combos, even.

I've been enjoying the Art & Artists blog's series on American Folk Art, especially portraits. They're devastatingly folksy/outsider and encouraging for me to give people doodles a go.

This is how I survived the months leading up to and following The Election. I'm trying to wean myself off of news feed. I'm finding the notion of liberal prejudice interesting, as I probably am guilty of it.

Monday, October 31, 2016


By which I mean I am interested in mixed media at the moment and this is what I'm doing.
Doodling: I learned to doodle flowers from Tessa. (I received the first pic she posted, but she gets inundated with requests, she posted her process in detail in a previous post if you are interested.)
I wanted to move on to fish but they weren't as interesting as flowers so they're now the back pond.
As a kid, I was fascinated by illuminated manuscripts, and wondered if I could do something with my flowers. Mine turned out more like... what... names to go on embossed cards??
I also colored in Tessa-drawn flowers with watercolor.
On a whim, I started drawing tiny Christmas stockings decorated with flowers and painting them in.

Image Transfers - acetate. Since I read about image transfers ages ago I've always been interested in incorporating it in mixed media. This technique requires printing on acetate, (e.g. plastic document covers or old OHP films.)  Printing can mean printing a file, or copying on a copy machine or printer, and of course print files/copy options can be manipulated. Moisten paper to print, place acetate on top with image side down, rub while the ink on the acetate is still wet. Very simple yet effective. The hardest parts for me have been moistening the paper evenly, and not moving the acetate while I rub. This produces less-saturated-than-original, pixelated, softer/ghostly image.
Image transfer - acrylic media. There are more Youtube vids on this technique, but I found it excruciatingly tricky. Print/copy image on printer paper; slather 3mm or 1/8" acrylic medium evenly, let dry completely, soak in water and rub the paper gently off the back of the dried medium. With Vincent on the left I followed a composite of these instructions: I threw away four or five others which didn't dry properly, tore, or otherwise behaved badly.

It's hard to brush gooey medium evenly, (it's runnier than icing); despite all the taping, printer paper wrinkles when placed under goody medium and the medium does not sit evenly on wrinkles; vids say to wait a 8-12 hours but my medium could have waited over 48 hours; Tessa suggests applying the medium in multiple stages to let it dry in between; rubbing the paper off is delicate work because the medium tears easily, especially where the medium was thin over the wrinkles. And the film curls while drying. I put weight on both, but Vincent, in particular, curled further after removing the weight before it was completely dry.  The resultant image is not as sharp as the original; I'm not sure if it's meant to be soft-ish or brittle.

This is my compromise; Ben in the left. I printed a file of a quick drawing on a glossy photo paper; applied a thinner layer of medium and let it dry for a day, then soaked it for another day. Photo paper has a protective layer on the print side and back; soaking the second day allowed me to peel off the back layer, and after more soaking, I could rub off some of the paper as in the above method. The front layer (and some paper?) could not be totally removed but the medium+front-layer made the film less delicate and easier to work with. The image is sharp this way.

More practice will make me at least understand the process better, but working with wet PVA might have given me a tingle in my mouth despite good ventilation, so maybe later.
Layers: it's the same as texture-rich weaving; I love layers when others do it well but I often feel I've destroyed harmony when I add layers. To combat this, I've been making layered background. Watercolor and acetate doodle transfer.
Watercolor, acetate doodle transfer, acetate image transfer of a negative of Vincent's self portrait, conté.
Collage using torn, leftover watercolor background paper.  
Like weaving, I can try different color combinations including quite a bit of complementary, but I still like analogous the best. Acrylic paint and gloss varnish.

With practice, my basic book binding skills are getting a bit better. Cutting paper straight doesn't happen automatically, but punching holes all the way without the sheets moving around, and sewing without distorting the holes have become easier.

Techniques to investigate/experiment in the future include:

* Simpler, (dare I say, unlayered?) collage composition, and/or in combination with other techniques. Collage has been on the back burner, but I've become more interested in making better-thought-out pieces, and have been looking at Dada/Surrealist although they're not styles I like.

* Printed photo manipulation. I bought Seth Apter's video on the technique and it is as attractive to me as image transfer as it alleviates the need for drawing.

* Monoprints. I made a homemade jelly plate. I now know one big attraction of this technique is the delicious texture of the jelly plate; I want to carry a small piece with me at all times.

* Drawing. I want to draw as lightheartedly as I now doodle. I couldn't even when I was taking drawing lessons but because I like my quick/loose drawings best, they don't have to be good/accurate, but only interesting to me. I joined a FB group by Tina with lovely prompt/tutorial videos; for now I only watch the vids and study others' work.

I wonder where I'll get to next.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

One More on Letter Journals

This one is about serial collaboration in absentia, as it were. I worked on Sue Maher's journal in the group working on "Patterns". I was second in line; that is, she made her journal, sent it to me, I worked on it, and it will go to three more collaborators before returning to her to keep. It was supposed to be a test of my control-freakery control. (I scanned rather than photographed images and they look duller than in real life.)
All the paint work was done by Sue. For me, it was hard to see harmony or connection if the two pages were to be treated as one spread. Without any plan, I first made a few rows of different shapes with gold gel pen on the right page, but I liked the red and orange circles too much to reduce their presence/effect I didn't cover the whole page with gold shapes.

Looking at the left, blue/pink-lavender page, again without a strategy for the spread but aiming to harmonize colors, I drew squares in a copper gel pen much like the fifth picture in the previous post. I chose bronze because depending on light/angle the shapes are hard to see, sort of like weft and warp in the same color and size but with different sheen; or they shine. I had in mind a map of an invisible/lost city.

This is what surprised me. After this much detail, I might have been expected to sign and finish the spread, at least the left page, but I didn't because I was immensely eager to see what others would do. Even if someone painted or collaged over so the shapes were obscured, I wanted to see it. Isn't that so strange, me? I hope others aren't annoyed I left it unsigned.
This page worked in the opposite direction. This is the correct orientation and Sue had some paint on the right page, but not on the left, Richard Scarry page. I came up with a plan when I couldn't sleep a few nights ago and thought it was going to be easy I didn't even take a before pic.

I had this drawdown printed, (with colors slightly altered,) for my own journal. The colors matched but I also wanted to use Clare Plug's collage techniques or my version of them: I cut the draft in different-width vertical strips, turned one upside down, and staggered the positions to make it like the original draft but with a little more quirk. I added some brown music strips Sue gave me to pull some of the brown on the Scarry page. I thought I was nearly done and scanned at this stage as reference for developping a draft like this.
I stamped the five days of the week and a round, "hello, weekend" stamp in four different colors pulled from the background, and where the words were hard to read, traced the outline of the letters diligently with different colored pens. This was my plan, but the spread didn't look harmonious. So I drew vertical lines in different width with felt-tips, again picking out the colors from the background. Well!! The lines were too saturated, the color progression too rainbow-y, and because there was no focal point, the result looked like a complicated background! (And you can't see the drawdown!!)

I wanted to draw a shape repeated several times in white, but we have always had problems with white gel pens clogging up, and sure enough, the latest, with almost a full tank, wouldn't work. When in doubt, I turn to collage, so I hunted for something smallish and white.
Alas, I had a focal point, larger than I imagined, but quirky; I think the addition makes the background interesting/complex albeit still too rainbow-y, and the spread a little sparse. And Sue likes butterflies. And the collage looks "mine".  So, worth it.

This is why I find paper work fascinating. I can rework, (fix?) without making a new warp or rethreading; there is much I can add/amend/improve (or ruin) before "wet-finishing", as it were. The way I work is time-consuming, and perhaps I exercise my own but different-from-usual kind of control-freakery. The process/experience teaches me about design, composition, which I know will help when I start the freeform weaving.
And I get enjoyment and friendships out of it.

And I got two different white acrylic pens today. Take that, four wonky white gel pens!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Letter Journal - Newbie's Thoughts

Over the last two weekends, I spent some time working on the aforementioned Letter Journals, one each weekend. It's that thing where we make small booklets, work on a bit of mixed media, pass it on to another person, and when we get our own back the book will have been worked on by around four people. I wanted to record my thoughts before I forget them.

Material/Media: I'm unfamiliar with too many. In drawing classes, we used mostly dry media: pencils, charcoals, conté, pastel and graphite; occasionally crayons and felt-tip pens; wet media and other techniques like collage and print less often. We also used inexpensive drawing paper, (for me, the larger the better,) and I chose to always use a easel and work standing up.

In these journals, for whatever reason, I tried to use what others appear to be using to achieve the mixed-media-y look. Most of what I own are the cheapest and/or student grade; I live in a small town where that is what is readily available, and it's never hindered my enjoyment. Alternatively I could shop online or in Japan, but even then I tend to buy the cheapest or whatever is on sale, because I don't take my paper play seriously. That's not a bad thing, is it?

I don't have many fancy mixed media "products", but I have enough stuff, and once or twice "products" disappointed big time. (It probably would have been a different story had I gotten better-quality brands.) As I said, I have enough, but what I do have, I need to spend time with, play with, learn characteristics and workable combinations. (I am the weaver who wove nothing but plain weave for seven years. I like learning.)

Because of the postal weight restrictions of many countries, (NZ Post allows 200g for a DL envelope as opposed to some countries' 50!!) we're recommended to use copy/cartridge and other light-weight paper. Papers I chose didn't like water at all and in some cases even iron didn't remedy the warped shapes. I've more light-weight paper to experiment with, like onion-skin typing paper, (remember them? I still have some!) coloring book pages, accounting and music notebooks, thin graph papers, etc., but familiarizing myself with material/media is urgent. I will probably start making my own collage material, too, as I use glossy mags in the main but they really add to the weight. Collage being my go-to technique, this is important.

Drawing: I never learned to paint, except to make backgrounds/washes, so that's a totally different kettle of whales, but I did take drawing lessons for six years and I loved it, so I should be less reluctant to draw. But I am. So I started copying tiny drawings and photographs, but it's not going well and sitting down at the coffee table and drawing in A4 or smaller sketchbooks is a completely different activity to what I did in class. I could get my easel out, I suppose, but I couldn't work on my journal this way, can I?

Layers: This is like texture in weaving: I love it when others do it well but I like to make simpler, "thinner" end-product. With collage postcards, I've become less reluctant to to create layers on paper, but my preference is still less/fewer, and I may be doing too little backgrounds.

Originality: As with my drawing, I want to eventually make my journal contributions look different from other folks', (or that's what I thought about my drawing but it may not be the case,) to claim I'm not a paper/mixed media person but I'm a weaver, (beyond pasting tiny cut-up drafts,) and a bit weird. (Which is one reason I don't want to accumulate "products".) To that end, drawings has got to be at the top of the list; I also want to try stamp-making and small prints; even turn my drawings into stamps and prints.

Collaboration: We are meant to complete a couple of spreads in every journal so nobody else works on them, and create/add to backgrounds on other pages. So far I've not worried about originality on my or anyone else's because I'm too busy "doing", but I worry about layers of backgrounds I see posted in our Facebook group. Some, to me, look much too much from the start, and at least in the thumbnail pictures I see no way of my adding anything further. On the other hand, I wonder if my background contributions will look less-than-half-hearted for their sparsity, although at least three others are going to pile on stuff, so I don't think it's a big problem. Maybe there're folks who love to pile on stuff.

We'll see. Experience will help, but in the end I think what others in a particular swap like/make will tell me what to do. Fingers crossed.

The first theme I signed up for was "patterns". What weaver wouldn't. I made the cover paper with acrylic two years ago post-Seth's workshop. It's actually more saturated and has purples, oranges and quite a few blues you can't see in the scan, and I thought it was regular but not identical, my kind of a pattern.
This is my one satisfying background page. On other pages, I sort of cheated, pasting one or a few big pictures showing patterns. I had printed/cut out some weaving drafts but they never found a place in this journal; perhaps they will on others' on the same theme.
This is my "finished" page, which turned out completely different from how I imagined. For one thing, cheap paint is less intense! I signed it to signal "finished", but I didn't spray the top coat because I want to work some more in the bottom purple part when it comes back. (Not sure if you can see the original painting on the top half of the right page; I used the colors and extrapolated the lines.)
Jade is in Oz and there are a lot of Oz members, and because their postal weight limit is 50g, there are a lot of calls for Australia-only swaps; the group has been going for a while so some are by-invite only. But the group is kind to newbies, to everybody, so no worries. After I sent off my first journal, I was itching to join another, and waited for another International swap with a not-too challenging theme. Not finding any, I went called my own, with a Mail/Post/Letter-theme.

Not thrilling when I don't like the cover, but live and learn. It's a recycled envelope. And though it's a theme/motif I liked since I was little, somehow it wasn't as encouraging as I thought it would be. Maybe I have to many preconceived images.
This is a spread where I used wax and water-soluble crayons. The wash was so pale and crinkly I worked over with more crayons, which made it worse. I thought of gessoing over, or at least sponge-rolling with gouache, but gazing at a totally different example on Facebook, I started making shapes with gel pens. What I really wanted to do was to draw a woman writing and reading letters, and I practiced about eight times each, when it came to drawing on the page, they turned out weird. I'd like to blame the crayon build-up underneath, but that would be untrue. The hands on the cover didn't have crayon underneath. I thought of going over the drawings with a thicker pen, but whenever I try to remedy things I made them worse so I left them. Finished.
The small page is a postcard I "wrote" to Dad; the picture side is blank. The text side is finished.
This is how I feel every time I finish a journal. And just when I gave the envelope to Ben to post, he remembered I had received someone else's! But I think I'd like to work on twill drafts now.

If you are interested in joining the Letter Journal group, contact Jade.

* * * * *

Ben's back at work this week. We only gardened that one afternoon, but he smoked a big piece of pork, and beef (?) sausages one day, chicken drumsticks and salmon another day, and chicken breasts, and pork sausages another day, and we had bread from the best bakery in town, so every single day we had healthy open sandwiches laden with lettuce, tomatoes, gherkins and smoked protein. Which reminds me, we ate the last of the chicken last night so I have to cook dinner tonight.

I finished threading the white warp on Monday just so I don't have to tell mom I hadn't, again, on our weekly Skype.

Dad would have been 89 today. He's gone 3.5 years but I don't miss him any less, so it's a big fat lie it gets easier with time. The good part for me is, it's darn hard to remember his bad bits.