Why I love vultures!

October 22nd, 2018

The Vulture is Landing!

When we lived in Camden, I learned to love vultures.  At some point in March, they would arrive, heralding spring.   Eventually I learned that they ride the thermals, which carry the scent of supper up to them.  If it isn’t warm enough, not enough scent.   So that means when they arrive, winter is indeed ENDING.   Also, they are FUNNY–they may be a bit on the ugly side, but gosh they are just comical.  They are gregarious, live in tight family groups (the ones that roosted at the end of our driveway numbered around 30!), are large, squabble like most families, and when you hear them flap in the pitch dark when you are walking the dog late at night they sound REALLY REALLY BIG!  But they are just under-appreciated (anyone else ever felt that way?).

So for this weeks Journey Through the Natural Year lesson–well ok, the lesson from two weeks ago, I’m behind–I decided to NOT do the pileated woodpecker teacher Val Webb selected and see if I could do a passable job on something else dark with a red head, my much-adored funny vultures.  I’m rather pleased–I can now see a couple small areas where I didn’t get it quite right:  beak a tad too long, curve on the upper wing needs a couple of bends in it, but I am really pleased.  Well, I was until the blotch.

I used this photo, which is part of the WikiCommons meaning I can use it as long as I give credit–Thanks Peter K. Burian! https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eastern_Turkey_Vulture_in_flight,_Canada.jpg#/media/File:Eastern_Turkey_Vulture_in_flight,_Canada.jpg
turkey vulture By Peter K Burian – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63275338

Here is the sequence…and the remedy to the blotch:

Step one: pencil things in. I am sketching in a Daler-Rowney dry media sketchbook that has paper that I really dislike. It is good for pencil and not a whole lot more!

Getting the face and eye in helps so much. I used a crow quill dip pen and deAtramentis Archive Black Ink.

Progress. You kinda get lost in the feathers, but I’m pretty pleased with the shadowing through the long wing tips and the value changes.

Then karma smacked me upside the face: BLOT. After 4+ hours of work, a BLOT. And with this miserable paper NO chance of scraping etc. I was so proud of what I’d managed to do. But I kept going. And asked sketching friends and teacher Val Webb for possible solutions.

SOB!   I got lots of good suggestions, and (gee imagine that) had pretty much all of the suggested art supplies.  The only thing I didn’t try was Val’s suggestion to use gel medium to glue down a piece of paper over the blotch, because this paper is so awful I knew it would have been futile.

Finished, with blot.

Being an impatient sort and loving my Signo Uniball white pen, I added some of that and it helped…a LOT.  That and other suggestions I received were

  • Gouache (tried both Talens white and Schminke Titanium White, the Schminke worked better)
  • Prismacolor white pencil (too weak)
  • Signo pen (worked perhaps best, but is tricky to manage as it is a rollerball and sometimes leaves a track or blank space in the center of a line)
  • Watercolor ground
  • Acrylic ink in white–had both Liquitex and Daler Rowney; applied with both dip pen and brush

My test-drive page. The colors are from watercolor–this paper precluded using it–and colored pencil. I ended up using a combination of the Carmine and Crimson and a colorless blender.

The left side, close up. I made a blot of ink, then some squiggles to approximate where I blotched on the vulture.

The right side. Definitely like the way the Signo pen worked, and also the Daler Rowney FW acrylic ink…look at the right side where I dotted it on with a dip pen. The one on the far right is my untouched for comparison.

Observations:

–Both the white gouaches and the Daniel Smith watercolor ground looked yellower than the bright white paper when wet, but when dry that tint disappeared.  In fact, the Schminke titanium, which seemed to work the best of the two, is even brighter white than the paper–a tiny drop of something to match the color of the paper would make it work.

–The Signo pen worked best, but you kinda need to add it in dots because the pen itself can “railroad” meaning you get edges of white and not much in the center due to the rollerball tip.  However, a couple coats worked well.

–The Daler Rowney FW acrylic ink worked better than the Liquitex Ink! .  It took a couple coats, but it could be a viable option.

I’d like to try a controlled test of my favorites, the Signo pen, Schminke Titanium White gouache, and the Daler Rowney FW white acrylic ink, on a few watercolor papers to see how it looks AND what happens if you then ink or watercolor OVER the “fix.”

Here’s the offending splotch after touch up with both Signo and the Acrylic Ink in white:

The splotch is visible on close inspection, but really I’m delighted with the result.

And once again, here’s the final result–not bad at all!   I’ve always said that the difference between a beginner and the advanced/pro is knowing how to fix your mistakes.  I’m moving out of beginner range!

The Vulture is Landing!

 

 

Call me a Shannon Cuddle fan!

October 14th, 2018

A heavenly combination: my studio, my Janome 9400 and Shannon Fabrics cuddle fabric–I’m ready for winter!  This fabric is so soft you just want to pet it, snuggle under it, and not give it away as a gift!

Last May, Janome America had its first ever Janome Education Summit, and one of the presenters was Shannon Fabrics.  From the kit they provided, I made the lovely summery top in this blogpost.  But they also shared samples of their fabrics, including these two.  True confession:  I have this Elmer Fudd-esque love affair with red and black buffalo check.  When I got home from the Janome event, I searched for the cuddle buffalo check on the internet wanting to buy multiple yards of it it but couldn’t find it anywhere, so contacted the presenter from Shannon Fabrics, who told me it wasn’t available until summer for the new fall season.  I ordered some other Shannon Cuddle and Luxe Fur from Fabric.com (still waiting to make that up, stay tuned in December).  Mid summer I still couldn’t find it, so I wrote to her again, and she SENT ME a big box to make not one but TWO projects.   This throw is SO fast and easy and it would make an awesome holiday gift. Literally, I made it in a short afternoon!

Me by the fireplace, wrapped in my jumbo throw. This is big enough for two people on a sofa. Or one person a cat and a pug in a chair. Ahem (photo below).

 Here’s what and how:

The two fabrics pictured are available at Fabric.com here/minky buffalo check and here/Studio minky forest park, both in the scarlet color way.  It is also available in a blue version, and there is a lovely silvery gray and white buffalo check too.  I used two yards of each, but had a little of the print leftover–gonna make a hat out of that!  You’ll also need some thread–color doesn’t really matter as it disappears into the pile, but I did use red. If I had found the Shannon free pattern and video (keep reading) I would have ordered 2 1/3 yards of the check since you need a little extra to wrap.  Instead, I trimmed down my white print to work.

A blogpost with lots of pictures is better. Here is the throw on the love seat / reading zone in my basement studio. You can see how large it is!

TIPS and HINTS for working with Cuddle, Minky and Luxe Fur:

  1.  The BEST tip for minimizing lint came from Ellen of Shannon Fabrics in May:  you know you when you cut Minky and similar fabrics you end up with little bits of fluff EVERYwhere forever?  Not any more!   First, especially with the long fur-like fabrics (in my upcoming December project), cut your fleece from the back cutting only through the knit backing.  This minimizes the snipped bits of fluff.  You can also do as I did with the regular pile cuddle (what I used here) and use a rotary cutter.  Then scoop up ALL the pieces (including leftovers if you keep them for small projects later), perhaps into a basket or large plastic bag, and take them to your DRYER.  Yes, the clothes dryer.  Tumble on no-heat for about ten minutes, then CLEAN THE LINT FILTER. About 80+ percent of that fluff will end up in the lint filter and not all over your sewing space and house.  OMG it really worked!
  2. There is no stretch on the lengthwise grain.  At all.  If you make a garment (my next project) make sure you keep grainline in mind when fitting the garment.
  3. The fabric DOES NOT RAVEL.  At ALL.  That means you don’t have to turn under edges!!!!!!  That means these projects are FAST!
  4. Stitch length:  The fleece will hide your stitches.  That means it will be challenging if you decide you need to remove any of the stitches, so pin carefully to avoid ripping out!   Also, it is good to use a slightly longer stitch length.  I used a 3.0.
  5. Best stitch for seams on knits: For garments, using a zigzag or “lightning” zigzag will at a 1.0 width will look like a straight stitch seam from the outside, but adds a little bit of flexibility and therefore helps avoid popping stitches in the seam.

Shannon Fabrics has many free patterns available.  I used this one for my throw, a youTube video called Cuddle Self-Binding Blanket from Shannon and FleeceFun.com.  I hadn’t found this video when I requested my fabric.  If I had, I would have ordered 2 1/3 yard of the buffalo check and 2 yards of the forest park print and had a slightly larger (better!) throw.  WATCH the video before you order fabric…it is only 7 minutes long and will help you.

I used a serpentine stitch on my Janome 9400, an “S” shaped stitch to sew down the edges. You could also use a blanket stitch or a 3-step zigzag (the one that takes three stitches in one direction, then three stitches the other way).  I mean, you can’t even SEE the stitches.

Here’s what the serpentine stitch looks like from the back. I used red thread and you can’t even SEE the red on the black square!

I have been a Janome Fan-Girl for 15+years now.  I am now a Shannon Fan-Girl too! I’m finishing up a winter jacket with more of the buffalo check and a cream cuddle fleece lining, and will share something else that will be a gift for Christmas–perhaps in late November which is plenty of time for you to whip up a few of them in time for holiday giving.  Or keeping.  Ahem!

This is what I expect to look like most evenings in winter: in my chair in the living room, me and pug under the throw, cat checking things out, ready to make a dent in my pile of reading!

And because it is boring, this photo is last, but it shows the throw out flat.

THANK YOU SHANNON FABRICS for this fabric which I was totally prepared to order!   I have purchased more of their fabrics own my own and know I will be using it again.  If they ever make their “Spa” line in some bold colors (not pastel, not purple) I am so gonna make a bathrobe…..in the meantime, I have more snuggle quilts and gifts to make to keep me plenty busy.  And as always, Thank You Janome America for making the best machines EVER!

laid out flat on my studio floor (cement painted green!)…big, warm, SOFT. And did I mention, SOFT!

 

Dinner@8 interview

October 13th, 2018

Hi all!  Popping in for a quick post:  An interview with yours truly about my work and my submission for this year, Pink Oyster Mushrooms, is now live on the Dinner@8 blog, here.

Here’s what I wrote on my entry: Beneath the Surface of the Edges of the pink oyster mushrooms, the Space Between the gills forms rhythmic Patterns of shadow and light. My Affinity for fungi and lichen extends to the inspiration I find in the world around me in Maine, even at at the Belfast Farmer’s Market. Dyeing and painting white cloth is part of my artistic voice, my Personal Iconography.

International Quilt Festival Houston is approaching, which means for the 10th year there will be a Dinner@8 exhibit, a juried invitational, which has showcased some of the best art quilts being made in the past decade.  I have been fortunate to be invited to participate for 9 of those years and was accepted in all but one (and I totally agree with the curators…I would have picked other quilts than mine, too!).  I am THRILLED to be in what is the final exhibit because, sadly, all good things come to an end. From the quilts I have seen, this may be the best exhibit yet.

Conceived and curated by Jamie Fingal and Leslie Tucker Jenison (click on their names for link to their personal websites), each year they selected a theme and a size for the exhibit.   The size was in place for three years, then the next three years a different size, etc.  This last year, the size was 30×50, and we were asked to choose one of the themes from the past nine years.  Honestly, my quilt could fit under many of the themes.

The way it works is in November (or thereabouts), Jamie and Leslie sent out a theme to a group of invited artists.  You them made a quilt, only one, to fit the theme and size and submitted it by the due date.  Then you waited to see if you made it in to the exhibit.  I am beyond honored to have had my works next to so many spectacular works—truly, go browse the exhibits for each year and even go buy the catalogs (links on the Dinner@8 site).

THANK YOU Jamie and Leslie:  you have created through these exhibits a body of the best of the best, and I am beyond gobsmacked that I have been able to be a part of these exhibits.

To see all the interviews this year and those from past years, click on the Dinner@8 Blog link.

Watercolor–a nifty little palette

September 28th, 2018

You know you’re tetched in the head (old phrase from my mother and aunts, meaning a few bricks short of a full load a.k.a. crazy) when you like your paper towel swipes LOL!   I’ve signed up and am actually doing the lessons in a couple of online classes:  Journey Through the Natural Year with Val Webb and SketchbookSkool’s Watercolor Rules (are made to be broken).  So I’ve been playing.

Wiping my brush off may be one of my best watercolors to date LOL!

I’ll share some of my exercises as the classes go on, but I wanted to share this tiny palette I found at least a year ago but haven’t used.  I bought it solely for the tin–the Schminke ones cost a fortune.  This one may not be quite as sturdy, but it is mighty nice!

This little black palette has a ring on the bottom to help hold it if you are sketching in the field. The center portion lifts out (it’s between the box and the tin in this photo) for more mixing area. I am pretty sure these are standard half-pans so could swap them out for higher end watercolors (or just empty these and re-use).  The item is still available on Amazon for about $19, here.  There are other colorways but I liked this one and it was cheapest.  Closed it is just under 3 x 5 inches! 

Here’s a paintout of the colors. The quality of the colors is better than I expected. Definitely not Daniel Smith or M. Graham, but adequate for a quick color in a sketchbook. But as I said, I bought this for the tin, not the paints.

Looks what came in the mail from Shannon Fabrics! Soft and pettable!

September 27th, 2018

Luxe print cuddle and velvet cuddle (the solid red) from ShannonFabrics.com

Oh I can’t WAIT to start sewing this.  At the Janome Education Summit in May we had a program from Shannon Fabrics using their double gauze and Cuddle (minkee).   I saw these three fabrics in swatches and NOW I have some!  They are part of the Fall line, and I can’t wait!  SQUEE…just checked and these are now available at Fabric.com–go here.

The white with buffalo-plaid moose will be backed/edged with the big buffalo-check (each square is about 2 inches) for a ginormous throw, almost twin sized (I think it will be about 54×66 inches when done.  The red will line the buffalo check for a new winter coat or wrap to snuggle in.  This stuff is SO SOFT!

Learned a fantabulous trick from the ladies at Shannon Fabrics at the Education Summit:  when cutting Cuddle and other hairy fabrics (like minkee and similar), cut the pieces, then carefully roll them up and put them in the drier on air/no heat for a while.  About 80 percent of those stray hairs will gather in the lint filter (remember to EMPTY IT), leading to a billion times less clean-up in the studio.

Stay tuned–I should have the throw done by early next week.  The coat will take longer!  THANK YOU Janome America for that fabulous summit and Shannon Fabrics for these snuggly fabrics.  For all of you, I had already ordered some blue for a different throw, and some other fabric for Christmas gifts which obviously I can’t tell you about—yet!