I have been so busy with family duties and other pursuits the first half of this year that I didn't get around to uploading the final pictures of my wren bird tapestry so here they are just before the year closes.
The second half of my year was spent learning the clarinet (something I have always wanted to do), my sister visiting from Britain and a trip to Portugal with my better half right before Christmas. There we re-united with six of our oldest and dearest friends from the UK. My painting took second place this year and the easel has stood empty but 2018 will be art - and music - filled I hope.
After knotting the lower warp threads I really had some fun. I think I must have been channeling my hippy self from the seventies! I wrapped the warp with different coloured yarns that were used in the tapestry, threaded on wooden beads and tied on feathers.
I was happy with the overall look in the finished bird tapestry. For a first attempt at designing and weaving a tapestry I was quite pleased. More importantly my grand daughter Wren loves her wren tapestry!
I learned so much making this and will approach the next one in a more thoughtful way on the technical front shall we say. I was just enjoying the 'doing of' and seeing my design take shape with this one.
Time to improve my method and have less wobbly sides on the finished tapestry. Less wobbly sides? sounds like a new year's resolution to get fit, lol. Here's wishing you all a fit and healthy 2018 dear Readers!
Somebody forgot the date! A visitor in my backyard sprucing up the morning after my birthday party! What a treat, this hawk landed on the bird bath (simple arrangement of pot and saucers) and stayed for a good twenty minutes. I even had time to grab my camera. You will have to excuse the poor quality of the photos taken through an upstairs window as I was trying to steady a long lens in my hands; no time for set up.
You might not believe this but after the hawk, I think it's a Cooper's Hawk, landed a small squirrel ran down the tree next to the bath running up and down the trunk several times. Being so bold as to run out within a foot or so of the hawk who watched it with interest until the squirrel's departure. The Cooper's Hawk was obviously more interested in bathing that day! Enjoy Coop's antics in the slide show below.
The Cooper's Hawk having a last preen high up in another tree further back in the garden before flying out.
Just in case you don't believe the tale about the squirrel you will find some really grainy photos taken with a phone camera below. The squirrel with the frisky tail who survived in this tale!
#coopershawk #birdbath #hawkbath #hawkandsquirrel
Roosted and fell asleep I think - well the artist has as far as painting goes if not the owl. This is the next stage in the painting and I did this well over a month ago. Not sure where I'm going with it as the artist's brush is a little rusty since the muse fled.
Oh well my break from painting lasted a little longer than anticipated, life and all that. Want to finish the owl in a more relaxed mode and painterly way than some of my detail infused animals! Let's see.
Yesterday taking advantage of the warm weather (finally) in Michigan I went for a walk with my artist friend Sue Nimlin along the Polly Ann Trail. We didn't have to travel far to find local flora and fauna waking up from the long winter. It does happen though that spring in SE Michigan seems to arrive and then leave in a blink jumping straight into summer. Yes, the spring is late and short compared to my native Britain.
The Polly Ann trail by our local library runs alongside small lakes and wetlands. Yesterday we watched a huge turtle swimming towards us, it must have been a good twelve to eighteen inches long. Not sure but think it is a Snapping Turtle. The photos are not very good due to distance from my camera phone. But if any reader can confirm or knows what species of turtle it is please leave a comment at the end of this post. The shrubs and plants at the start of the trail were starting to bud, pussy willow well on its way producing yellow pollen.
We took our art journals intending to sketch and paint but only sketched a Red Winged Blackbird that obligingly stayed a while on a tree close by. Blue Jays and Cardinals flew in and out the undergrowth while Black-capped Chickadees landed on branches above our heads calling what sounded like "hello lady". We declined to sit and sketch alongside water when we realised we would be sitting on ant hills - lots of them! We saw a couple of Swifts or Martins flying low over a lake. Dragonflies and butterflies were out too, along with a garter snake that hurried across our path on approach and slithered away into the undergrowth.
One sound I thought was made by birds Susan informed me it was actually frogs singing! They really did sound birdlike. Well, after about three hours enjoying spring make an entrance in all her plumage of feathers, scales and buds, we headed back to the library for coffee and planning our next nature journaling walk now we had "done a reccy" of the area and know not to sit prior to checking for ant hills!
In January, after my first play with my new loom, I started my first tapestry! I could hardly wait to try 'making art' with fibre. I had so many ideas to try but I thought I would start off with a simple wall hanging tapestry.
As I had done with my first attempt at weaving I ran some waste yarn through the warp to give a firm straight base to weave the body of my tapestry up from. This project was a big exercise in learning and I did learn so much. Next time I will weave in a hem edge. Also I will set the warp threads better - I hope! Well I did say it was a big learning process.
In the image above you can see one of my stick shuttles loaded with blue wool. There is also a 'butterfly' of brown wool I introduced later. I used the rigid heddle to separate the shed into up and down positions of alternate warp threads. A lot of tapestry looms are simple frame looms without a heddle.
Also there is a hair comb that I used to pull down the weft tightly. Only the weft yarns are seen in tapestry weaving the warp are not. The heddle would not have 'banged down' the weft tightly enough.
Apart from my brush with fibre, weaving my first tapestry, I have been taking a break from art. Sometimes life just overtakes the space carved out for creating and painting. I have also had a review and clear out of my older artwork. Actually slashed and binned about twenty paintings. Coinciding with the vernal equinox one could call it spring cleaning.
It isn't the first time I have 'cleared the decks' to move forward. Perhaps after I have painted (and possibly slashed) a few hundred paintings I will have something to say. Each canvas/surface is a learning process. I did save one or two canvasses suitable to be painted over and reused/recycled.
I found this unfinished painting of an owl sitting on my easel. I am thinking of finishing this one. The eye already has character and I like the curve of the beak.
As well as painting and drawing on canvas I have always loved all forms of creating art be it on wood, glass or metal. I have painted on silk to make a decorative scarf, upholstery, curtains and furniture. I am very much a fan of the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau.
One craft I have always wanted to try is tapestry weaving, telling a story or making art with fibre. A few years ago I found a book in the local library 'Tapestry Weaving' by Kirsten Glasbrook that I found very inspiring. Now I decided was the time to see if I could weave. I bought a copy of Glasbrook's book and started looking at simple frame looms to experiment with tapestry weaving.
Well this Christmas, much to my delight and surprise, my husband bought me a little loom; a Schacht 15" Cricket rigid heddle weaving loom. At first I was a little thrown by the presence of a heddle and the complexity as I thought, of learning to weave with one.
Nothing could be further from the truth - it's fun! As I soon learned with my first practice weaving. I used yarn won in one of those mystery gift exchanges about a year ago. I had almost forgotten about the what I considered 'ugly' yarn. So I pulled it out thinking it would be less wasteful than buying new.
So after warping the loom with my husband's help I was ready to weave, it didn't really matter what, just learning to set up, weave the weft evenly and have good edges. The ugly wool actually wove up a nice tweedy pattern, almost a 70's look.
The process of weaving cloth and watching it grow is quite relaxing and exciting at the same time. I can see that I will want to experiment with different warps and wefts to make different patterned cloth. Not just tapestry art with fiber.
Eventually I finished the sample piece when it was about 18'' long and tied off the warp leaving a 1.5" fringe each end. Approximately 7"" wide it made a small runner for the top of a bookcase/storage unit.
The actual yarn used here is possibly an acrylic or wool/acrylic mix. There were no labels on any of the balls. I think I might make some table mats with the rest of the yarn.
After completing my first project of getting to know the loom I could hardly wait to start my first tapestry my head full of ideas for different designs and playing with colour! A different technique to learn as with tapestry weaving only the weft threads show. More of that in my next post on making my first tapestry wall hanging.
The midway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox - Imbolc - derived from old Gaelic meaning "in the belly" referring to ewe's milk and the first lambs of spring. Originally a pagan festival when people celebrated the stirring of life rising from the ground or out of Mother Earth's belly.
The goddess and the sun god returning for their first flirtations bringing life to the Earth. A time for spring cleaning and celebrating with bonfires the first glimmerings of spring. Also a time for renewal in clearing out the old, letting go of old grievances too. A time to look forward to new beginnings.
Well the snow still blankets the Earth in this part of Michigan but the sun is shining with the promise of light after the dark of winter. My backyard is full of birds around the feeder and the brush pile is alive with them!
Though originating with the early Celts, Imbolc has been celebrated in one form or another by other cultures and religions around the world. How are you planning to celebrate Imbolc?
A couple of weeks later than planned I finally had time to finish the second stag painting. A small 9x12 canvas painted in acrylic. I had planned to paint a third stag and may have time to start it over the next couple of weeks. At the moment I'm working on an owl.
The source photos for the stag paintings and the owl are from photographers on the "Paint my Photo" site I belong to; a great source for copyright free images.
Anyway I think this stag definitely looks like he is lord of this loch! what do you think?
Autumn is in the air - just. The Stags Horn are ruddy coloured, the leaves are starting to turn - just. The spider webs looking beautiful in the early morning sun. Ghostly tendrils pulling at your face as we walked along the trails in Bald Mountain early this morning.
Molly in pensive mood this morning. Trying to ignore me taking yet another photo of her as my other half and I walk the woods with her. Her gaze off to the lake scanning for Herons, squirrels on the bank or any other threat that might be out there.
A beautiful morning to be out and enjoy Mother Nature's artistry up close and personal. Have a great weekend and a fruitful week dear readers!
Above is my next stag painting during the early stages. The main shapes blocked in with work on the antlers and riverbank behind. Below is the painting so far:
Starting to come alive now I have the eye painted. Once the face, especially the eyes, in portraits are on the canvas it seems to me the subject starts to come to life.
My love of animals and Celtic stories woven around them is the inspiration behind this new series of paintings. Just a few small canvasses (9x12ins) of deer. The stag was associated with Cernnunos horned antler god of all wild animals, hunting and fertility.
This painting shows the stag resting in the wood half hidden by foliage, inspired by a majestic willow tree near to my home. More deer to follow; well they travel in a herd ☺
As promised in an earlier post here are my comments on using Aquabord (clay board) for painting with watercolours compared to paper as the substrate. Above is a photo of a view of Harlech castle on an 11x14 inch Aquabord.
Before starting to paint I prepared the board by "flushing" the surface with clean water using a large flat brush; this is recommended to remove any trapped air. I allowed the board to dry before re-wetting prior to painting.
The paint does handle differently to the cold pressed paper I normally use when painting wet into wet. The "feel" of the texture was obvious to me in stroking the brush across the surface. Not very clear sorry - you will just have to try it.
The colours pool and blend in a way that they sit on the surface more rather than "sinking in" as with paper. Colours stay quite vibrant, but are better mixed in strong washes. When wanting to lift paint you have laid down it is easier than with paper. Colours may be lifted out while wet and quite easily when dry. In fact the board can be scrubbed clean.
One advantage of Aquabord is that you can seal your painting with an acrylic matte fixative and there is no need to put it behind glass in a frame. Unlike with watercolors on paper. So if you don't like your paintings behind glass due to reflections or colour change with UV glass it might be you will like painting on Aquabord.
The medium needs more experimenting with I think. My initial reaction after a couple of paintings was that I prefer the handling and effect obtained with watercolours on cold pressed paper. What are your feelings about Aquabord?
The final painting - mixed media flower painting on an 18x24 inch canvas. One of my artist friends thought that when I first started the roses in the middle they were collaged, ie from a magazine image or similar. But no, all the flowers are painted in acrylic. The gold sections are cut from fiber/paper that my bouquet of roses and lilies were wrapped in.
I used acrylic gel medium, fiber paste for the textured lines around the geometric spaces and painted it gold with acrylic paint. I also coated the edges of the canvas with gold painted fiber paste so no need to frame.
So a painting celebrating a Ruby Wedding Anniversary - the Red one. What do you think?
This morning I snapped some pictures of roadside wildflowers on my usual route walking Molly my German Shepherd. There used to be more green areas when we first moved here to the suburbs, but gradually over the last fifteen years more and more "breathing space" for the wildlife has been eroded. What beautiful colours nature has dipped her paintbrush in above. Deep, dark reds, lavender, green, gold and snowy white lace.
Such architecture, line and form are found by the roadside. These pods are just bursting with life - literally in a month or so!
One of my favourites the chicory flower. I look for their appearance every year, love that beautiful blue. Across the road from here new apartments have been built on wetland where no longer herons alight on the homes so named for them.
With all the abandoned homes, brown sites and firms that build new stores leaving old ones empty to decay would it be too much to ask that sites already developed are reused? Let's have some wild space left in the next fifteen years. What do you think?
It has been a while since I last posted due to a vacation in Portugal - lots of material there for painting! Though I didn't have much time to get out my paint box and sketch book I did take a few photos. Can't wait to try and capture the atmosphere with my brush.
This is my mixed media flower painting a little further on in the process before I left. Some of the other sections started with more roses, the lily and foliage. The green fibre-paper I fixed with acrylic soft gel gloss medium.
Working on it again and nearly finished -will post soon. What do you think so far?
One of the surfaces I tried during Mike's classes was of course watercolour paper. For this painting of the seahorses I used Arches 300lb cold pressed (Not) paper. The paper was a delight to paint on and took wet into wet washes without having to be stretched.
Yes that's right, for the first time I didn't have to wet and stretch the paper with tape to a board before painting as I have had to with 140lb paper in the past. Guess who went out and purchased Arches 300lb Not paper for future use? Really?
I love the way colours mix and blend, granulate and just generally get exciting on watercolour paper. I gave the Aquabord another try too, what a different handling of colour that was.
Yesterday found me enjoying the "not too hot" weather with artist friends Carolyn and Sue at Carolyn's house (we're the Arty Girls) in the shade of the garage entrance. Sheltered from a brief summer shower but open to the garden and enjoying the birds flying past and the squirrels squabbling, running around trees a few feet away.
On my easel is a flower painting that will be in mixed media that I started a little while ago. So far I am working in acrylic paints on the central roses and background. The canvas is divided into different geometric shapes. Eventually some of the sections will have paper/fibre pieces and acrylic medium in gold. The flowers are sketches from the bouquet my other half gave me earlier this year for our ruby wedding anniversary.
I love red roses and big blousey pink roses! A lovely day painting alongside my arty girls catching up on art news and news in general. Out to dinner and a glass of red cabernet to finish a relaxing but industrious day. Certainly a red letter day!
Where best to start a new blog than at the start of a new (old) enterprise. Over 15 years ago back in Britain I picked up the brush at a painting watercolour for beginners class. I then became busy moving house and family (several times) ending up here in Michigan.
After a couple more years I joined a painting in acrylic for beginners class. Sadly to say that I didn't get to do much painting over the following years besides burning and painting wood boxes with my Celtic influence. Eventually I found time for painting; acrylic, pastel and oil pastel mainly.
This year I joined a class by artist Mike Monville to explore different surfaces and techniques for watercolour painting and started playing again.
I tried the Aquabord (a textured clay surface) for the first time. The surface certainly responds differently than paper. Above is my first attempt, a small 5x7ins Aquabord. A lose watercolour of exotic birds coming in to land. More about response and preparation of the board to follow.