My latest portrait is coming along well enough that I’m not ashamed to post a photo:
My latest portrait is coming along well enough that I’m not ashamed to post a photo:
I’ve finished Sam’s portrait:
I’m now letting it sit on the mantlepiece for a while to see if anything starts to bother me. Like with writing, sometimes it takes a while to stop being precious and pleased with yourself to see the flaws.
In the meantime, I’ve started another:
Cat, a fellow writer who was visiting from Sydney on the weekend. Being a graphic designer and artist as well, she had scouted out a great location before I’d got there. Just as with Sam, the last photo was the best.
I might not have a lot of craft mojo happening right now, except for a bit of embroidery while watching tv, but my painting mojo is going just fine.
I’ve been working on this portrait all year so far. Technically, it’s my second painting. I did a smaller version as a warm up after a long break from oils, and to work out an approach. There’s a tattoo, tshirt design and wall art still to be added.
Painting portraits is something I’ve wanted to do since I painted one of my ex many years ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of it before we split up, but I got such a feeling of satisfaction and fun from it that I wanted to do more.
But it takes confidence and courage to ask someone if you can paint their image. I haven’t had that until recently. In fact, this one will be finished soon, so I need to start looking for someone to be my second subject.
Portraiture might be a good Plan B for future middle-aged me. There’s a lot of uncertainty in publishing and bookselling right now. Nobody can predict what it will look like in five years, let alone ten. If it all goes belly up then, thinking in the terms of my last post, having an identity as an artist would soften the loss of an identity as a writer.
I also like the fact that, unlike with books, an original painting still has more value than copies. And the incentive to copy portraits is… well, unless it’s a portrait of a celebrity, only close friends and family of the subject might be tempted. Sure, people can paint fakes, but I’m never going to be famous enough that anyone would bother.
On Friday, after writing the last post, I got stuck into a few side projects I’d started then put aside. I made good progress on making map coasters and turning some embroidery hoops into frames, then opened a template I created ages ago for a portable rigid heddle loom that could be laser cut from an A4 sheet of acrylic, and I tweaked it and managed to fit in a heddle.
I also made these cookies:
That night I gathered all my inkle looms and The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory around the tv armchairs so I could dabble and read. Like other kinds of weaving, it always seems there’s a mountain of techniques still to learn. I decided I wanted to at least get the pick-up band done and off the loom so I can try a few new methods.
Saturday was Craft Day, and we had a lovely, relaxing afternoon. At the end of a long, chatty lunch I brought out a quilt project, then after a rather bad attempt to teach crochet to the host’s daughter (I was trying to reverse everything because she’s left-handed and I’m not and, well, I just find knitting easier to explain) I moved on to a test portrait of a friend. Here is an in-progress shot:
When it got too dark I switched to the pick-up inkle band. I made a right mess of it and had to unweave half of what I’d done. Pick-up requires focus, which is frustrating as inkle band weaving is the most portable and could replace sock knitting as my out-and-about craft. I kept thinking there must be an easier way to do pick-up. My head spun with ideas of additional overlapping heddles and such…
On Sunday I finished the map coasters, continued with the embroidery hoop frames, and spent a few hours on the pick-up inkle band. I also followed a link I found on Pinterest to a wood turner who makes inkle looms and found a curious heddle with extra slots designed to make pick-up bands easier.
Well, that made me sit up and take notice. I followed a link to the weaver, Susan Foulkes, who designed it, then watched a Youtube demo video. In the video the heddles are plastic and called the ‘Sunna’, so I googled them and found they were made in Sweeden by STOORSTÅLKA.
Needless to say, one of these is now winging its way to me. I’m wondering if this means inkle weaving is my next temporary obsession. My fixations on the Bond and sewing both involved me coming up with modifications and new tools. Perhaps I’ll finally get around to making a tape loom out a wooden magazine file, and there’s that laser cut acrylic loom template sitting on my hard drive.
Have I mentioned how much easier it is to work on my duct tape dress model? Well, it is, and it’s much kinder on the back than bending over a table.
Working in short breaks and bits of spare time, I’ve refashioned the jacket ready for painting. First I attacked it with red chalk, then I snipped and unpicked until it was the shape I wanted.
With the shoulder pads gone, those weird shoulders still looked weird. It actually had a seam along the top of the sleeve, so I tried it on to see if I could pinch it flatter. Unfortunately, this revealed a problem I hadn’t noticed in the store:
The designer obviously didn’t expect the wearer to ever raise their arms above their head. Or even out to the side.
So I gave it a more critical look. The weirdness was more than just the shape of the shoulders. The sleeves, instead of being set at an angle to the body to allow a little room for movement, actually went straight down. Have another look at the first photo, and you’ll see what I mean.
Painting the fabric would only make it stiffer, which would turn it into a pretty straightjacket. So the sleeves had to go. I consoled myself that it was less fabric to paint, and painting under the arms would have been a challenge anyway.
So, a little machine sewing and hand sewing later, the Painted
Jacket Vest was ready.
And the sleeves gave me something to test combinations of gesso, acrylic mediums and paint on.
Here’s the jacket I bought for my crazy ‘jacket that looks like it was made from a painting’ project:
The fabric is like a very light linen canvas. However, those shoulder pads look ridiculous and have to go. And double breasted jackets don’t suit me, so I’ll be changing it to a simple v-neck style.
Knitting: Well, you saw the socks. I’ve started another pair. Can’t show these, either. River Tweed is chugging along slowly. By the time it’s done it’ll be too warm to wear it.
Weaving: Looms still empty.
The Big Project: The sewing is done but for hand stitching the hems of a pair of pants. You can find more details here at my author blog. The pants I made to test the pattern turned out nicer than I expected, so I’ve been wearing them around the house:
The Sketchbook Project: I haven’t touched it. I keep waiting for some genius idea to pop into my head. Trouble is, my head has been full of Paul’s birthday, writing, selling paintings, the Big Project, the Garage Project and my nearly 19 old cat reaching the end of his days.
Canvas Re-stretching: I got the two smallest ones done when I remembered that I had a few scraps that might be big enough. Still waiting for the canvas blanket to arrive so I can stretch the rest.
Selling Paintings: So far I’ve sold three and have a home for two more. I got three more framed including this one:
And re-stretched this one to a better shape:
Go to my Painting Gallery for prices.
The Garage Project: We like looking at house pron. That is, r*al estat* sites. (It’s amazing the amount of spam you attract if you spell that out properly.) Mostly it’s an interesting exercise in ways we’d alter a place to suit us. It got me thinking about how we don’t need more living space, we need more working space. And that I don’t need it, Paul does, because when we renovated his employment situation was different. So we wrote a wish list and did some brainstorming, and came up with a rather brilliant solution (if I do say so myself): replace the car port with a slightly larger garage and turn the existing garage into Paul’s studio. Which would be like adding a room without adding a room, and fixes lots of little problems like dust getting into the house under the garage door.
Looking through my painting, and what needs updating on my Painting Gallery, I did a quick count of what’s sold, been gifted, I’ve kept and want to sell, and the results were kind of interesting. Look at these numbers:
Landscapes & seascapes: sold/gifted 7, keeping 3, looking for homes for 2
Wildlife: sold/gifted 1, keeping 2, looking for homes for 5
Still life (mainly fruit): sold/gifted 1, keeping 6, looking for homes for 4
Nudes: sold/gifted 3, keeping 3, looking for homes for 2
Looking at this list, you’d think I’d be better off painting landscapes if selling was my aim. But I reckon I’d have sold many more of the fruit paintings if they’d been framed and I was willing to let the six I’m keeping go. Out of the paintings I’m having framed, I reckon the four fruit paintings are most saleable.
The nudes have been found homes far easier than I’d have expected, considering the subject and their size. The biggest sold to a friend along with another, but they sold it back to me after a few years when they wanted to redecorate – which was what we’d agreed to do. The two paintings I cut off their frames to sew into bags were nudes, so this category has the highest reject rate, too. That spate of paintings was quite varied – big successes as well as failures – probably because it was more experimental.
Some of my animal paintings might have sold if I’d had them framed, but I’m not as confident about that because the ones I did have framed never attracted a buyer and not as many people have expressed a desire for one. I suspect there are far fewer people attracted to wildlife art. Also, cute furry animals will always sell better than wet or scaly ones.
None of this pushes me toward deciding what to paint next, though it probably means I’m even less likely to revisit the wildlife art – at least in oils. I suspect what I do next is going to be completely different to what I’ve done before.
I’m picking up the first and biggest lot of freshly framed paintings tomorrow, and hopefully will have them photographed and added to my Painting Gallery on Sunday.
The trouble with being an artist, is people want all your good paintings, so you get stuck with all the bad ones.
Well that’s not entirely true (and it’s not the only troublesome thing about being an artist!) The ratio of paintings I have is more like 20% bad or so-so, 50% good, 30% I-can’t-believe-how-good-they-turned-out-fabulous.
The good ones that aren’t snapped up by friends and family are the troublesome ones. They’re the ones that hang about, taking up space, because they’re too good to toss out. The ones I always think I should try to sell but never get around to because, honestly, selling art is a pain in the *rse. To sell them, you’ve go to get them framed, too, and then hope they’re saleable enough to at least recoup the frame price. Now that makes you reconsider how good you think a painting is.
(You can probably tell that the mood that’s had me review my to-read pile and rearrange the studio has found another target.)
I’ve come to a few decisions:
Firstly, I’ve taken a pile of paintings to a framing shop. Four are ones I want to keep, seven are ones I want to find homes for. Most of them I never got framed at the time because, well, that was back when I was a starving illustrator and I couldn’t afford framing.
Secondly, I’ve dealt with the bad ones. If they were on canvas, I’ve ripped it off the frame and are putting new canvas on. If they’re on board, I’m taking them out of the frame so I can use it for something else. (There are a couple of interesting uses old painted canvas can be put to, like these bags by Swarm. I’ve always wanted to buy some kitschy old oil paintings from op shops and sew them into a jacket, too, but for now I’m thinking I’ll try a considerably less ambitious tote bag.)
Thirdly, I’m adding hanging wires, signing those I forgot to sign, and getting them all hang-ready as well as updating my Painting Gallery.
Fourthly, I’m putting them up on the mantle piece, so friends have a last chance to adopt one.
Fifthly, I’m looking for community art shows to put them in.
I’m hoping that a little of the ‘out with the old’ will lead to some ‘in with the new’ when it comes to inspiration and ideas. But at a basic level, it’ll be nice to not always have the excuse of ‘why paint more paintings when I don’t have room for what I’ve already got?’.
This blog’s former incarnation was a knitting blog, and at this time of year I used to do a bit of an overview of the projects I’d finished the previous year. I thought it might be interesting to do an overview of everything I completed last year, not just the knitwear.
First, for old times sake, the knitting (and crochet):
Knitting & Crochet:
Josh Socks (gift)
Cherie Amour (op shopped)
Bean’s Monkeys (gift)
Beky’s Socks (gift)
Argyle Vest (winner)
Bramblewood (op shop)
Emma’s Socks (gift)
Mossy Mobius Scarf (winner)
Donna’s Socks (gift)
Possum Mobius Scarf (winner)
Lion Jacket (winner)
Alison’s Socks (gift)
Dad’s Socks (gift)
Glitzy Mobius Scarf
Argyle Vest #2 (winner)
Touch Yarn Socks
Sideways Stripe Vest (op shop)
Loom ends scarf (gift)
Dad’s brown socks (gift)
Owls Hat (gift)
Navy Crochet Hat (gift)
I did a second Socks For Others Club last year. That, for new visitors, was a sock ‘club’ in which I knit socks for other people rather than myself, because I now have not just an overflowing sock drawer but a growing stockpile. It was great fun and by having people put their hands up for socks I ensured my knitting had an appreciative recipient. A win for everyone!
The other challenge I set myself was the Bernardathon. I love the designs of Wendy Bernard, but though I’d had her first book, Custom Knits, for a while, I hadn’t knit anything from it. So I picked three projects and spent the winter knitting them. The Lion Jacket was a real winner – I wore it many, many times.
It was also a year of unintended stash reduction. I hadn’t put myself on a stash diet, but found I didn’t want to buy more. At first I just wanted to reduce the yarn so it all fit in the storage I have for it. And then I just kept going, only buying yarn late in the year when I had to buy some for a gift. I also culled the stash a few times, giving kilos of it away. The stash is now about 2/3 the size it was at the start of the year, and though I do now feel the occasional twinge of yarn acquisition temptation, I still want to continue using up what I’ve got.
Mt Pisa woven scarf (gift)
Red & White hand towels (winner)
Black & Grey ruffle scarf (gift)
Bamboo Scarf #1 (gift)
Twill Blanket #1 (gift) (winner)
Bamboo Scarf #2 (gift)
Twill Blanket #2
Denim Floor Rug #2 (winner)
I hadn’t noticed how much of my weaving I’ve given away this year. I don’t mind the giving, but I am noticing that a lot of my weaving is done to use up leftover yarn, in particular because I found it unsuitable to knit or crochet. The weaving yarn stash is growing, mainly because of this occasional overflow from the yarn stash. I don’t mind this too much, except that I’d like to be weaving yarn I selected for a weaving project more often. Or, in the case of rag rugs, weaving with something other than yarn.
Book Binding & Paper Craft:
Concertina Badge Booklet (winner)
Chain Stitch Sketch Book
Panorama Sketch Book
Bookbinding Class Book
Matchbook Notebooks (winner)
Doodle Book #1
Birthday Album (winner)
Test Book (now diary)
Fused Plastic Book
Palm Leaf Holiday Memory Book (winner)
Coptic Bound Travel Journal (gift) (winner)
Podcast Journal (art journal)
Denim Notebook (winner)
NZ Photo Album (winner)
Apple & Pear Book Sculptures (winner)
Dimensional Circle Ornaments (winner)
Underground Book (winner)
Doodle Book #2
Book Pages Paper Jewellery (winner)
Security Envelope Paper Jewellery
Masquerade Book Mask
Brown Paper Sketchbook
Map Cards & Envelopes
Shopping Bag Booklet
Marbled Paper book
Discovery Channel Book
Oh, I had so much fun with book binding, paper craft and repurposing books this year! I particularly had fun using recycled materials in these projects. However, I’ve been doing less of it lately, mainly because I got all inspired by refashioning clothes.
Russian Book Bags (winner)
Mannequin Legs plant stand (winner)
Solar Dyed singlet top
Rusty Nail Dyed T-shirt (winner)
Mirror Frames from Junk (winner)
Portable Oil Painting Kit
Homemade Paint Box (winner)
London Tea Towel Pillows (winner)
Impromptu Skirt (op shop)
Blue Motto Top
Gauzy Motto Top
Doodle Shoes #1 (winner)
Not-Boring iPhone Cover
Motto dress to a top (winner)
Red skirt to a top
Black & grey skivvies to tops
Black skirt slim down
Black skirt to a top (winner)
Fob Watch Necklace
Doodle Shoes #2
Denim shorts into skirt
Striped shorts into miniskirt
Oversized Shirt into Sleeveless Top (winner)
T-shirt into skirt (winner)
T-shirts into tube headscarves
Man’s shirt into a dress (winner)
Painted iPhone cover
Dress Form (winner)
2010 was a year of recycling and refashioning for me. Many of the projects I finished used recycled materials, or supplies I already had, or involved sprucing up something new. Even the duct tape dress form was stuffed with bubble wrap left over from mail-order parcels. I became addicted to New Dress A Day and went from tweaking a few garments I already had to buying them from the op shop or giving new life to Paul’s culled shirts.
It was also a year for sketching. I tried to do a sketch a week and succeeded (with a few catch-ups), posting them under the Sketch Sunday category. Looking over the year’s sketches, I’ve moved from pencil and charcoal to pen and watercolour as my preferred medium.
I finished the year with a growing interest in simple printing methods and painting. This year I have plans to return to art classes. Looking back on last year, I’m pretty chuffed at how much I made and all the new paths of creativity I discovered and explored. Who knows what other creative inspirations will come my way this year!
The Shadowed Sun N. K. Jemesin
The Way of Shadows Brent Weeks
White Tiger Kylie Chan
Kevin McCloud's Principles of Home
My Cool Shed
The Final Empire Brandon Sanderson
Last of the Gaderene Mark Gatiss
The Deep Tom Taylor
Dead Ever After Charlaine Harris
Star Wars: Blood Ties Tom Taylor
Gamer's Rebellion George Ivanoff
Through Splintered Walls Kaaren Warren
Salt Mark Kurlansky
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl
The Path of Anger Antoine Rouaud
At Home Bill Bryson
Crandolin Anna Tambour
The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie
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