Sold!

As I mentioned earlier, at the FibreArts schools they have two charity auctions for which you can donate artworks of 15 x 15 cm and 10 x 10 cm. I was stitching figures from an old book on line drawing for architectural elevations. This is the piece I did for the 10 x 10 ironed and mounted on card:

I finished the first of the two rows of men and women in bathing suits (or underwear), but by then I badly wanted to keep them both. So I went looking for something else to do for the 15 x 15 in the time left. I looked through finished piece of embroidery and among them was the rather boring grey bargello sampler.

It just happened to be very close to 15 x 15. I got thinking on how could I make this something that someone might want to buy. The design looked like mountains. Perhaps I could stitch on some mountain climbers. Or skiers. Or both…

I almost decided to keep it, too, but I made myself let it go. And I’m glad I did as the friend who told me about FibreArts, Jane, was delighted when she managed to buy it. The architectural figures went to Jillian in my class, who almost lost out but for the generosity of another FibreArts attendee who heard her lamenting that she’d missed out and let her buy it instead.

Selling both was a nice surprise. I really had no idea if the school attendees would like this sort of thing, but it turned out they did very much – especially the four figures. I know what to make next time!

Weaving in Ballarat

A few weeks back I headed to Ballarat to attend the FibreArts Winter School @ Ballarat I mentioned a few post back.

It being my first one, I was given a ‘duckling’ card to pin next to my name card to alert others that I might need guidance, but my friend, Jane, had told me almost everything I needed to know. The workshop I did was Kay Faulkner’s ‘Play +1’ weaving class, which was challenging and definitely fulfilled my aim of learning something new.

I picked doubleweave as my main structure and summer and winter as the +1 element, but we went way beyond those two options, including a bit of basketweave, hand-manipulated weave (leno, in my case), replacing warp ends with new colours, adding a supplementary warp or weft, tying on a dowel as an extra shaft at the front or the back. By the end I had quite a few extra ends weighted at the back of my loom.

I finished up with a sampler using many kinds of combinations. As I said to Kay, her class should be more truthfully called ‘Play + Ninety Billionty’.

The other weavers, Di, Jeanette, Jillian, Elizabeth and Michael made up an inspiring group, each trying different main and additional structures.

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There was a lot of mutual cursing at mistakes or loom problems, and excitement at the result of our experimenting.

The Winter School was held at Ballarat Grammar. I took the single residential package, with all meals and access to tutor talks included. The room was comfortable (student rooms vacated for the holidays), the food reasonable (the sticky date pudding was delicious!) and the location was conveniently across the road from a supermarket (and five op shops!). I managed to see all but one talk, and they ranged from interesting to inspiring.

I’d like to attend a School again. There’s a workshop that I’m kinda interested in at each of the three next Schools at Ballarat, but I’m hesitating because I’m not sure how well I’d fit them into my schedule once I start writing again. None are weaving workshops, for which I’d probably book and go regardless. And having tried two new hobbies this year, I don’t really need any more taking up my spare time. At least, not for a while!

A Proper Holiday

A few weeks back we went to Central Australia for a fortnight. We’d chosen the destination because: a) I wanted a proper holiday not sightseeing tacked onto a work trip, b) we wanted to see the Field of Lights, and c) travelling locally appealed more than venturing into an increasingly crazy world.

Since we don’t enjoy hot weather, timing it for winter seemed wise. It was colder than I expected, though. While it was 19 – 22 degrees during the day, it took a while to get there when it was windy or shady there was a definite chill in the air. Still, I’d rather that than 46 degrees in mid-summer!

Because my back can’t cope with long hours in a car, we flew there rather than drive, and took ‘hop on hop off’ and tour buses to Uluru, Kata Tjuta, King’s Canyon Resort and the canyon itself, then to Alice Springs. Once in Alice we hired a car to explore the MacDonnell Ranges.

It was a great little trip and though we never restricted our meal choices all the walking meant that, for once, I returned lighter than I left. As I said to Paul, we could eat whatever we wanted normally so long as we did this much exercise… which simply isn’t possible when you have to spend time working.

I always do a bit of sketching when on holidays – just some watercolour and ink in a book. This time I wanted to get a bit more serious. What I really wanted to do was take my portable oil painting box. However, it’s made of wood and we were doing to be doing a lot of walking. There were also the issues of not being able to take turps on a plane, and oils needing a long time to dry.

To deal with the weight issue, I hit on the idea of using unstretched canvas you can buy in pads rather than boards. I went shopping for a plastic container, and found the perfect one in Daiso, with a compartment the right size for brushes and spatula, and room in the lid (once I’d carved the compartment dividers flat) to hold a painting in place without it touching anything. It just required a piece of card to support the painting, and two cable clips to keep it in place.

The turps and drying time problem was solved when I had a brainwave and remembered that you can get water-soluble oil paints. No need for turps, and they dry faster – and even more rapidly if you use “fast drying medium”.

When everying arrived from Senior’s Art, I squeezed paint into a pill dispenser (also from Daiso) that just happened to fit into one of the smaller compartments, and decanted some of the medium into a squeezy bottle from my silk painting days.

Here’s the complete kit:

For a palette I took a pad of tracing paper that fit into the other small compartment, thinking I’d just rip off a page when I’d finished a painting. This was the major failing of the kit. I simply didn’t have enough room to mix the colours I needed. Eventually I replaced it with a fast food container lit about the same size as the kit, and painting instantly became much easier.

The first painting was quite simple, to allow me to get used to a newish medium and the local light and colours. I wasn’t all that happy with a painting until I got to the fourth, and I realised that if I was to do a trip with the sole intention of painting I needed to allow myself time to familiarise myself with a location.

I’d also take a seat or at least a pillow. A sunhat is not barrier enough between my butt and icy cold rocks at 7:30 in the morning!

I could have done another painting on the last day of the trip, but I decided not to because I was too tired, and a little tired of painting to be honest. Overall I enjoyed the challenge and I’m glad I did it, and happy my lightweight painting kit performed so well. It would be great to take it on more holidays, or on day trips.

Which will probably be within Australia. It was so nice not to have to deal with long flights, jet lag, customs and security queues, adapting to very different languages and customs, carrying passports and power point adaptors. I’m keen to organise another trip, and see more of this great country.

I’d Do It Differently (and Better)!

I’ve not read many biographies in my life, but one of the few I have is an art book on Van Gogh. Such an interesting man, who had a beautiful way with words as well as a great love of experimentation and expression in art. So I was looking forward to going to the Van Gogh: the Seasons exhibition at the NGV.

I didn’t get there until the Wednesday before the end of the school holidays, and it was full of people rushing to see it before the holidays and school groups keeping the kids occupied during the last week of term. Even so, I don’t think the timing make a lot of difference. I’d heard about the long queues since the day it opened, and doubt there was ever going to be a quiet day.

We bought out tickets online, so at least we missed that queue, and we probably waited half and hour to 45 mins to get in. It was what it was like after we entered that really appalled me. It had to be the worst laid out exhibition I’ve ever been to, here and overseas – and I’ve seen some pretty badly designed ones. It seemed designed to have people cross paths constantly, squish them together in front of paintings, and be unable to see signage unless they stood right in front of it. And this was so much worse for people in wheelchairs.

It would have been a struggle with half the amount of people in there, but to make things worse they were letting so many people in it was uncomfortably crowded. Afterwards I got to wondering if I was just bothered by being around so many people, and I realised it wasn’t only that, but it felt dangerous to be in there. Maybe they had an effective evacuation plan, but the general impression of incompetence with floor layout didn’t inspire confidence.

When we got to the end, Paul asked if I wanted to go back and have another look at anything. I looked around and decided that, while I might have ordinarily, I just wanted to get out. So we emerged into the gift shop. Where I bought these:

Why buy two bags? Well, they were only $10 each. As I said before, Vincent had a great way with words as well as with the paintbrush. One bag had quotes, the other two had artwork. Which to choose?

No. I will not choose. I will have the best of both worlds! I cut them apart and brought out the sewing machine.

I’m going to use the tote bag to carry my mat and easel into classes rather than juggling them, and the satchel (lined with the back of the painting bag) is a gift for the teacher.

Celebration of Wool

Recently we flew to Canberra for a couple of nights so I could photograph a portrait subject. Not only did I get some great shots for the intended sitter, but found another one willing to pose for me. With it taking at least five months to finish a portrait, I’ll be happily occupied for nearly a year.

While I was there, the friend I was staying with took me to the Old Bus Depot Markets where they were holding a Celebration of Wool. I certainly know how to time my weekends away! We fondled lots of lovely yarn and grew dizzy on yarn fumes. But we were both admirably restrained in our shopping choices – me keeping in mind I only had a tote bag rather than a suitcase. I bought some skeins of cotton chenille, a cone of fine alpaca, two skeins of hand dyed alpaca, and some cat buttons.

Architecturally Inspired

Back in April a friend told me about FibreArts workshops. They’re like a school camp for fibre artists, held at a couple of locations in country Victoria and NSW throughout the year. She said there would be one at Easter, so when I looked it up and saw there was a basketry workshop, I got too excited and signed up.

I say too excited, because I realised too late that it wasn’t on at Easter, but the weekend before, and I had a dinner party on that weekend. So it was with great disappointment that I cancelled. However, I would lose the deposit if I didn’t book into another workshop, so I looked at what other workshops were coming up later in the year and found a weaving one that would suit me very well.

Several workshops happen at the same time, and there are general events for all participants including a couple of charity raising art shows which everyone is encouraged to donate a piece to. So I got thinking about what I could make that would suit, and my mind turned to an embroidery design I’ve been wanting to do.

I have an instruction book on architectural drawing from the 1960s, and it contains examples of figures of different sizes. They’re very kitsch. I particularly wanted to do the strips of men and women in underwear/bathing suits. I’d already photographed them and some other examples, so all I had to do was print and transfer them to some calico with orange based cleaner. Then I got stitching.

I’m really liking those strips of men and women. So much that I want to keep them. They’re slow work though – I get one figure done in half an hour, and can’t work on them every night or my back objects. I’ll wait until they’re done, then see if I have the time and inspiration to do a fourth.

Portrait of George

I’ve finally finished another portrait.

The most difficult parts were the shirt and arm. While the shirt design was fiddly, it was getting the ‘white’ background of it right that was trickier. I painted it three times before I was happy.

I’ve started my next one. Here’s the underpainting done:

I kinda love how weird it looks at this stage.

Wobbly

A month or two ago I bought this book:

It’s a fun idea, making art materials from scratch. It’s also amusing to see where the author goes in the pursuit of creating them ‘from nature’. Some of the tools used to make them are modern (drills, carving knife), and yet it suggests making glue by melting down animal hoofs, etc.

A friend cut me some of her bamboo so I could try making pens. It was easy enough to carve them. However, the book doesn’t say whether to use fresh or dry bamboo, or what kind. My pens shrivelled out as they dried out:

I don’t think I’ll be getting any nice lines out of these!

I’d like to try making my own paint brush and black ink. Hopefully they won’t be as great a failure as my bamboo pens!

Wednesday Art Evenings

Fro the last two Wednesdays, I’ve held my arty evenings in the studio. The first was a great success. Despite the awkwardness of people meeting for the first time, everyone settled down to make art and chat and were happy with what they produced.

Six friends joined me that first Wednesday. One was the mother of one of the artists, so not doing any art herself. A wide variety of mediums were used: pastel, brush and ink, watercolour, pencil, Copic markers and oils. Subjects included landscape, people, fish and feathers. Most of the artists worked at the folding table we’d set up, so I was the only one using an easel.

I managed to get over an hour’s painting done, which was less than what I’d hoped but more than I expected, when there were introductions to make and friends to catch up with. Afterwards I was all inspired, and took a long time to get to sleep.

The following Wednesday everyone was to busy to come or away on holidays, so I painted alone. I was determined to do it even if nobody joined me, and I was glad I did because the progress I made was good. But I don’t think I’ll be alone every time. Those who came the first week had such a good time they want to come again, and they’ve attracted the interest of a few more friends, too. I won’t really know if the idea has legs until school holidays are over and people get into a more ‘normal’ routine.

Posted in art

Spring Painting

I’ve started going to two art classes a week recently – painting and life drawing. My teacher is retiring at the end of the year, so I’m absorbing as much of her wisdom as possible. Fortunately, her niece will be taking over the class next year. Annie has been working alongside Carol for the last few months, so she will be familiar with all the students once she goes it alone. Her teaching style is bound to be different, but we get along well so I’m looking forward to working with her.

I finished Jane’s portrait a month or so back.

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Though I did a photo shoot with a writer friend, the only photos that came out well were in a pose too close to a previous portrait. So I revisited him and did another shoot, and came up with two more choices. Here it is with underpainting and one session of oils applied:

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Because I had to do a second shoot, I had one class with no portrait ready to start on. So I stole some photos of cats from friends’ Facebook feed and painted a mini portraits on a 10cm x 10cm canvas. I did one of Peri Peri years ago. They’re fun and quick to paint, and I’d like to do a whole lot more of them.

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