Easel Adaption

There’s a fabulous shop called Resource Rescue in Bayswater that sells all kinds of leftover bits and pieces from wood scraps to craft supplies to old shop mannequins. The foam pieces I used to carve grooves for canvasses in the wet panel carrier were from there. A few weeks back the shop announced on its Facebook page that it had taken leftover stock from a closed art and craft warehouse, so a friend and I headed over to check it out.

The first thing I saw was an easel full of art supplies. The art supplies were very much at the low end of quality, but the easel – a French style box – was pretty sturdy.

The design had a few flaws, but I figured I could fix those. The drawers were on the wrong side of the easel, for a start. The canvas clamps onto the lid of French easels, but that means that when the lid is open and in position to paint, the main part of the easel is behind the lid, out of reach. To get around this there is usually a drawer or two on the lid hinge side, but on this easel the drawers were on the opposite end side.

At home, after much rumination, I came up with a plan.

First I set about creating a way for a canvas to be attached to the inside of the lid instead of the outside. A pair of L-shaped metal corner supports on the lid struts provided something for a canvas to rest on, or be clamped onto if there’s a bit of wind. I also made a divider for the top section because every time I picked up the easel the contents would slide down into a muddle.

The drawers took up a lot of space and added weight to the easel so I removed them and screwed on a little door.

One cavity holds a brush carrier and some other bits and pieces, the other holds a palette I made that fits onto the top of the open easel and has beading that keep the paint from touching the inside of the cavity when stored.

The last amendment was to add a foot plate for a tripod and bigger rubber feet to accomodate the thickness of it.

I mostly use canvas paper taped to a board thesedays as it is light and takes up very little room. It can also be any size or shape so long as it fits on the board. I’ve made a board the same size as the drawer cavity, and a smaller one just because I had a scrap left over.

I’ve used the easel several times now, in life drawing workshops and to a plein air meet. And I took it with me on a recent two week slow drive to Adelaide and back. I’m pretty happy with it.

Holes

I’ve been sewing a dress. Progress has been a bit slow due to a non-flu illness that stole a week, and doing the construction in small steps due to the pattern being rather fussy. On the weekend I decided I would finish it. I picked up a skirt front and moved to the window for better light, so I could see which was the right side and instead saw little spots of white. Then I looked closer.

Holes. Tiny holes.

So I picked up the other skirt pieces. One had holes, the others were fine. The bodice with the finicky instructions… a hole in a complicated front panel.

Ok, I had bought the fabric cheap. Clearly this was why it had been discounted. The main reason I’d bought the fabric was to test patterns with since I wasn’t all that keen on the colour. So not a huge disaster. But I would have skipped some of the fussy sewing instructions if I’d known. Too fussy to unpick the bodice and replace the holey piece if I could cut another from a hole-free section of the fabric. I was tempted to pack it away for a while, but I pushed ahead and sewed the seams so I could at least try it on and see if the pattern needed adjustment – which it did.

So this is not the blog post I was planning. There’s not been a lot of blog-worthy activity here lately. I’ve made serviceable but unattractive things like a brush holder and sleeve protectors for painting. I’ve reorganised art supplies and given away most of my macrame materials to a friend.

It feels like many months since I did any weaving, but it’s only been about five weeks. I had a strong feeling I needed a break when the 8-shaft course was done. Since then I’ve occasionally looked at my looms and all I can think is I have too many woven items needing homes. I don’t have the energy to sort out selling them though the Guild, let lone on my own. Maybe I should only weave items I need. Well, that wouldn’t be much, and how could I then justify having an entire room dedicated to weaving? Especially when I’m doing more art now and need more space for that.

Such are my thoughts, but then I remind myself that only five weeks have passed and I probably just need more time to regain my enthusiasm.

Un-Hampered

The itch to do plein air painting is back, and that’s led me to tackle a few related projects. The YouTuber artists I watch use box style wet-panel carriers made from wood or corrugated plastic, but I have yet to find a shop selling them in Australia. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to make one, so I went looking for materials and found hamper box and a shoulder strap.

The hamper box closes with magnets, so all I needed to do was add a corrugated plastic inner to strengthen the sides. I bought the plastic edgings in the photo in the hopes it would make good dividers for the panels, but it was too deep for the job. Instead, I used a kind of dense black foam that I could carve grooves into. I drilled holes into the sides to for strong cord loops to hook the shoulder strap on.

Finally, I covered the hamper label with my own.

I’ll only be able to store canvas boards or the thinner style of stretched canvasses in it, and only ones that are 10″ on one side and a max of 14″ on the other, but there’s a good range of options available.

Of course I won’t know if it works well until I try it.

But hey, I was right that most of the materials in it would come in handy one day!

Daily Art: Accessories

The image in my mind of what this month’s daily art would look like has changed twice. At first I imagined realistic paintings like the toys theme, then cartoony black painted outlines with bright ink wash. But knowing that the final project and notes for the weaving course were due late July meant I needed something fast.

I settled on pen and ink. When looking for a suitable paper to use, I found two pads of calligraphy ‘parchment’ I inherited from Paul’s dad. The ochrey toned colour and interesting texture appealed, especially after a month of drawing on a mid-brown cardboard.

The drawings were super-quick and fun. Toward the middle of the month I started experimenting with coloured ink, and one is drawn with white gouache. Friends offered accessories to me to draw (thank you to KRin and Avril for the fish earrings, cow Swatch, tiara and white beaded gloves) and I borrowed the top hat, cuff links and bow tie from Paul’s wardrobe. The interlocking ovals hair clip and spiral star brooch were Mum’s, I wore the four-leaf clover bangle as a child and the locket was a present from my teens. There are holiday purchases and vintage buys and the straw hat and green bead necklace were made by me.

After calculating how much would be involved in having an exhibition to show all the daily art pieces, I decided I didn’t have the time or energy. That frees me to give the pet drawings to their owners and sell things in smaller batches or whenever anyone shows an interest.

Posted in art

Sew & sew

Lately my morning routine has been: daily art, morning tea, final project for the 8-shaft course. After lunch it varies depending on how much energy I have left, from ‘adulting’ matters like wrangling tradies to a bit of sewing or gardening. The sewing is easy because I’ve made the items many times now – skivvies and leggings – and don’t have to think my way around fit and alteration, though I did halve the height of the skivvy collar for a bit of variety.

I also made a chocolate brown skivvy one but it looks like I didn’t take a photo. Just look at the green one and imagine it brown instead.

A few months ago I saw a woman wearing a denim dress and decided I rather fancied wearing something like that. So I searched for patterns and landed on the PatternReview website, where I found one that had been picked as the best pattern of the year of its type. I ordered a copy.

Then a little while later I picked up a large amount of pinky-red cotton knit, and figured this was a good opportunity to try another kind of dress I’d been thinking of making for a while – the wrap dress. This time I went straight to the website and found a pattern that had also been awarded best pattern.

I haven’t made either yet, but they are next in line. Probably the wrap dress while I’m familiar with the behaviour of stretchy fabric.

Daily Art: Pets

In contrast to May, June’s daily art theme was a delight. I put the word out to friends on Facebook that I needed reference photos of pets and received a good variety. Most were cats – no surprise to me – so I aimed for half the subjects to be feline and the rest to be a variety of other kinds of pets.

I chose conte pastel as the medium. Though I’ve been avoiding mediums that create dust because I have asthma, conte is really well compacted so possibly the least dusty. I intended to restrict myself to black and white, but pretty soon I was adding a little brown and grey, and then yellow, green and pink for eyes and ears, and the frog really needed to be green…

The brown card was an ideal ground, providing the perfect mid-tone and just the right amount of tooth. Each drawing came out better than I expected, making me question whether the results of using conte are worth the down sides. I could always wear a mask. It’s not like I don’t have a heap of cloth masks now.

I was sad when the month ended, but consoled by eagerness for the next theme: accessories.

Posted in art

Daily Art: Chairs

In May I struggled with this challenge. I started off drawing chairs on graph paper in line and dot rendering with the intention of painting colourful 50s style brush strokes and squares in ink as a background. But the tracing paper was too absorbent so the ink came out very dark and obscured the fine drawing lines.

By the fourth day I knew I had to change what I was doing. I tried tracing the chairs onto tracing paper then arranging that on top of rectangles of graph and colour paper on top of a black card, and I liked the result. A bit of double sided tape and some black sticky dots to fix everything in place, and I now had “collage” as the ground. Then to that I added my signature and the date, and punched holes in the tracing paper for repetition of the circle element.

Partway through the month I had a big flare up of neck pain and didn’t draw for two days, so the next day I got back to it I drew a stack of three chairs. That means I have 29 collages. I want to frame them in groups.

Posted in art

Is this the New Normal?

All through the pandemic so far I’ve heard people say they want everything to go back to normal. I doubted everything would, and predicted that some things would change permanently for good and for ill. Because that’s what happens over time anyway, even without a catalyst to speed up the process.

Twenty years ago I was broke and living alone. I barely drove anywhere and could only afford an hour a day of internet, which was mostly spent dealing with emails. A few years passed and when my income improved and I could get about again, online and in real life, it was like I’d been living on the moon. So much had changed I scrambled to grasp some of it.

Three years ago I knew I was heading into a new phase of my life. There’d be good changes (more time to explore hobbies), bad (the stress of my parents’ declining heath), and a lot of questioning of identity and purpose. I was ready to embrace change… but I couldn’t have predicted the pandemic.

“Evolve and Simplify” is my motto for this year. Now, nearing the halfway point, do I feel like I’m managing either?

Evolving:
Definitely! Until October 2019 it was always writing first, then art and craft equally in importance, but it has shift to art first, craft a close second, then writing a distant third. Socially, I’ve become much less tolerant of selfish people. More recently I’m contemplating what it would mean to be considered ‘disabled’, whether by myself or by others.

Simplifying:
A little. I’m changing parts of the garden to make maintenance easier. All social media has been relegated to one session a week, on the desktop not the phone. I’m resisting the lure of new hobbies, wanting to consolidate knowledge and skills in existing interests instead.

In the second half of the year life will get much simpler when I finish the 8-shaft weaving course and the daily art challenge. In their place I hope to weave some of the structures I’ve learned but at a lazy pace, and increase the amount of art I do. I’d like to try some weekly workshops or joining a plein air group, and go back to always having at least one painting on the go.

Simplification can go too far, and evolution doesn’t always go in good directions, but I’m hoping that, overall, I can embrace and benefit from the changes to come.

Daily Art: Faces

At the end of March, after a month of painting, my back needed a rest. So for April I chose a theme and medium that would allow me to do quick sketches while watching tv. Faces seemed easy enough but I still wanted a challenge, so I chose a medium I hadn’t even contemplated up until then: biro.

I’ve always hated biro. I hate how the ink blobs when you write. I hate how the point presses into and distorts the paper. I hate how it can fade out unexpectedly. But that was all to do with writing, not drawing.

Now and then I see art work in biro and it both blows me away and fills me with puzzlement. Do these artists know of some special brand of biro that doesn’t blob or distort or fade? Nothing I read suggested that, so I decided to just embrace the inconsistency.

Since this was the tool of doodles, I picked an equally humble surface to draw on: a notebook I made during my bookbinding days out of old envelopes. This turned out to be a very good pick, because something about drawing on the patterned side of the paper added an extra magic.

It did take me a few goes to get a feel for it, and straight away it was clear that bad references make for bad drawings. I started off drawing a model in a craft magazine, but those kinds of pics tend to have very even, uninspiring lighting. I didn’t want photoshopped perfection, either. And I wanted a diverse range of faces. The internet came to the rescue with free photo websites.

In the end it was the first month in which I wasn’t eager to finish. There was an appealing ease to the theme and medium that made me think I could easily make tv time drawing an ongoing habit.

But not yet.

Posted in art

50/50 Again

The fabric stash has been growing lately, both due to a few destashes and me buying knits online in order to make basics to replace those that had worn out. I haven’t made the basics yet, but did whip up two new 50/50 skirts.

The first has some destash material on the front. I’ve been craving colour, and it certainly fit the bill.

The second recycles fabric from one of Late Lucy’s old skirts.

Now I just need to get around to making those basics, because they’ll go very well with these skirts.