Friday, October 28, 2011

They Say It's Your Birthday!

Today we celebrate our arrival at a full year on "The Journey." What a great year it has been. Yes! Yes! If you weren't here with us, you can check out where we began.

Sunrise on October 28, 2011
 A fresh new day in a fresh new year of art and journaling

Technically the journey started about ten years ago when I realized with great certainty that a change was required. That something important and necessary on the road to fulfillment had been left behind, that I'd been languishing on the wrong path.

By the time 2010 was halfway through, and many false starts abandoned, we reached the point of heeding advise from a fellow traveler on the creative quest: quit waiting for "retirement" to begin studying and making art, do it now! And so, I discovered my first online class, a very beginning exercise in color theory. There was very little interaction with fellow students or the instructor, a well know and talented quilt artist who paints whole cloth quilts, but still and all there was paint on paper, a fine text to reference, some "aha" moments, and a first step down the road.

Just in time for this new resolve, a brand new mixed media retreat was fashioned and brought to Chicago, "Create" by the magazine, "Cloth, Paper, Scissors." Knowing nothing of visual journals or mixed media, I was drawn to attend by the promise of something different than a quilt show, and the perky personality and designs of crossover artist, Melanie Testa, I signed up for a full day class in visual journaling. This was my breakthrough. I felt an instant connection and camaraderie with Melly and the type of art she did. I could understand how all my years of textile art experience could only be enhanced by learning to draw and express my own visions on paper first.

Pokey Bolton captured this photo of me making my first ever mixed media journal page in Melly's class. I later discovered I was the "poster girl" for the registration page for a number of Create retreats.
Melly offered her help as mentor to my next step in the process: using the blogging world to find my community and record my journey. Her ready assistance and support made it possible for me to begin attending a stream of online drawing and design classes in both textiles and mixed media, while starting this diary to chronicle the trip. It has been not only a way to reach out to others, but an invaluable reference tool for myself: to see how far I've come.

My earliest and most favorite drawing and painting explorations have been with my furry friends as inspiration.
So what has this year of blogging and art brought forth?

 A record of my travels so far.

 An appreciation for my own abilities (a bit of the self love I was lacking.) 

Expanding the skills to record what I see, create and share a story (visually and verbally), connect with strangers and through that connection become friends.

A link with the broader world of creativity and exposure to new artists and ideas every day.

Connections with lovely people from all corners of the world, from the next town over to places like Australia, Finland and Tunisia.

My growing stack of journals and sketchbooks, including handmade storage boxes and folders.
Some statistics will wrap up the activity of my year--

The blog by the numbers:

32 blog posts hit over 7700 times
65 public followers

A visual record on flikr:

a photostream with 23 sets, 297 images, and over 19,000 page views

The formal study of art and design:

at least 20 classes and workshops with 8 different artists

The media in which I record my art:

8 different journals/sketchbooks started

2 recycled paper storybooks created

2 collections of small watercolor paintings (totaling 32 pcs.)

2 boxes, 1 folder, and 1 journal cover from painted canvas 

2 lutrador hippo themed story books

Some of my favorite projects have involved drawing in my handmade journals and books.
 Textile art:

3 machine technique quilts (in progress)

3 embroidered panels (ongoing)

4 mixed media pieces (ongoing)

9 hand technique textile panels (woven-based, embroidered and quilted) (two completed and sewn to jackets)

My most recent painting, using a never-ending inspiration: my garden.

Looking back on all this mountain of productivity has both amazed and delighted me. It has shown what I am capable of, what I want yet to do, and where my next year is likely to go. And yet, if you asked me a year ago where I thought I'd be at this moment, my modest answer would have been that I hoped I'd be able to draw passably well. But life has brough me so much more than that. I wouldn't want to jinx anything by trying to define the future. I'd rather embrace it with anticipation and delight in all its surprises. I'll see you there, my friends!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Today's Forecast: Warming toward life, but chance of scattered brain activity.

The Man got called into work in the middle of the night last evening. For us, one a.m. is the middle, since he usually rises at 4. I was worried about this emergency, because I hate when he misses sleep, and there was a wind and rain "event" going on outside where he had to drive and also face the "crisis." Finally asleep again, I was awakened by his alarm at 4. This time a pill to help me under, and when finally resurfacing this morning, way past my usual rising time, of course there was dizziness and discombobulation of brain waves. I tell you all of this to illustrate my general state of mind lately. I'm the one who has the good fortune to go back to bed, yet I am the one who always seems out of focus.

Part of this loss of a direct path to goals lately is due to the usual up and down of the change of seasons. One week above normal, one below. Autumn this year had been a see-saw from summer to winter temps. I even caught the newscasters on the Chicago station saying that we were expecting the first storm of winter. Well, not really! It's hardly winter yet! But I can see I am not alone in my confusion.

The slightly out of focus view of my busy breakfast space. (The CD cover is actually in focus.)
Yesterday, David brought in two gorgeous purple clematis blooms that thought spring had arrived. This morning I was dithering over sitting down to paint them, or to write the blog, or to return to crocheting a metal bead bracelet I have wanted for at least two years now, or maybe take up my promise to myself to work out indoors since the day is definitely not one for walking outside.

Of course, there is also the new stuff to study. In our household My Guy is generally the one to research and buy new mechanical and electronic gear, and I am usually the recipient who must learn how to use it. Often these things arrive before I am ready to study them. Take for example the new car I got last May. It replaced the same type of car I had, but came with all the updated features that seven years of development will bring. Sure, I can drive it, but can I run it's computer system? Heck no! I got a smart phone almost a year ago, and that too, is still a mystery to me most days. Everything we purchase these days is a computer unto itself, only it wants to connect to all our other computers and they don't necessarily play nicely together. I hit the wrong button on my steering wheel the other day and the car told me it couldn't find my phone! I didn't want my car using my phone. Who was it going to call, the Camaro down the block?

The new Sony camera, pictured above, is another example. I haven't even taken the tag off the carrying case. David is one of the most excellent price shoppers you will find. He has a knack for finding the "returned but never used," and "display model ready to be changed out," and getting them at a fraction of their current retail price. I treasure all this opportunity to have updated technology, and yet, again, there is that manual to study, that system to learn. I think I will be giving up on ever learning how to use my "older" digital SLR. Why bother? This one pretty much does the same thing, but better.

There's also the Paul Simon CD I bought two weeks ago, loaded on the computer and pod, that I haven't listened to. When I was a kid, my brain was such a busy place that if I didn't distract some part of it with music all the time, I couldn't concentrate on reading and studying. Now I pretty much need total quiet to pay attention to really creative pursuits.

Meanwhile, I think the statute of limitations has run out on telling you about my summer vacation. I had planned to go into some more detail about our trip around my favorite Oregon places, but for now I just want to share these two journal ink and watercolor sketches from our stay at TuTuTun Lodge. It's the most beautiful and relaxing corner of "nowhere" I can imagine.

I have been somewhat preoccupied with fabric and stitching lately, but I did complete three pages in the last month, sort of closing up summer and beginning autumn.

Playing with greys and using a selective sprig to represent the entire plant in the planter of her head.

Sheer layering of the vine over the arbor. Again, just a detail of a very large and dense growth.

One day after shopping at Costco, this little leaf was waiting on my car door for a ride. I took it home, painted it, then sat in my garage and painted the reflections on the car door and handle. A lot fun to do.

A friend who admired my Junk Mail book wanted me to show her how to transform junk into drawing paper. I used the "good" gouache paints I bought nearly a year ago, and got some beautiful results. Can't wait to draw a second book.
I am currently taking a class in embroidery with a favorite textile artist, Arlee Barr. Her class is called "Frankenstitch," and she is teaching us how to work big, bold, and chunky, to achieve texture and tell a story through simple embroidery stitches stretched to their creative limits. It is very freeing, and fits my "design as you go" personality. I have no plan or pre-design. I am making what I am calling samplers, although they have potential to be finished pieces.

Here is an example of running stitch gone interesting.

This piece is using various silks I have dyed, dye-painted or stencilled with a strip off a "boro-class" weaving. It will be an all buttonhole stitch sampler.

Here is a little sample of "Frankenstiched" buttonhole as I got started.

One of my creative friends called me this week to say she wanted to stop by with a gift of Indian Corn she had grown this year that took on a creative twist of its own. Some of the ears had gone all "rainbowy" with soft pastels of every hue. In all her years of farming she had never seen this happen. It was a fun surprise, and I think I will make a simple wreath out it for the front porch.

Of course, I could paint it while it's still in the warm house. Nah, I'd better read that car manual first, before my "MAXI" starts dating behind my back. Who said she could use my phone!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Top Ten Reasons Why...

Regular readers of my blog will already know that The Man and I are looking forward to retiring within the next few years. He's had more than enough time working for the steel industry, and a job that gets him up at 4:00 in the morning and not home until 5:30 pm on a good day. But beyond the need to stop slaving for big industry is the soul's cry (his and mine) for something more fulfilling: we crave a new adventure. We are long past due for a big change. Change can be scary, change can intimidate. But it also beckons with the promise of new riches, new inspiration. Places to go, people to meet, ideas to hear, new colors and textures to life. Who is satisfied with waiting for change to come and get you? That sort usually involves something unpleasant, something out of control, maybe something on the road to breakdown. 

We want to choose our highway, and so we are planning. We are seeking this big move in both attitude, and in longitude and latitude. We have explored our options and have settled on the Rose City, Portland, Oregon. What could possibly be bad about a place that celebrates the fabled flower of romance? So why else Portland? (It rains a lot, you know? Yes, we've heard. But in reality no more than it rains where we live now. Have you ever lived with the extravagant weather of the South Shore of Lake Michigan? Wind, rain, ice, snow, humidity, tornadoes, oh, and of course, sunshine, which Portland has, too.)

But why this spot in the Pacific Northwest above anywhere else in this broad and varied county? I could go on for days about the positive experiences we've had on our three trips to the frontier, but let's just say: when you know, you know. There is a personality to a place. It either embraces you or it doesn't. And this one welcomes us more broadly every time we return.

So in no particular order of rank, how about my top ten list of why I'm sooo ready to move to Portland:

1. Size Matters. I have always wanted to live in a downtown neighborhood of a chosen city, be surrounded by the the culture, just walk out my door and fall into life, yet not get lost in the noise, the dark of the high rise canyons, the overwhelming energy of the larger metropolis, like our current closest, Chicago. Portland is sized to human scale. (And we love how close the airport is.)

Sampling fresh baked croissants and more. Hairnets required.

Portland Walking Tours: Epicurean Excursion

We attended cooking school for local farmers market cuisine.

A favorite deli from past trips has a new outpost.

Silk, a Vietnamese restaurant in the Pearl District.

2. Feed Me. Now that I'm here, I need places to eat. Interesting and varied cuisines abound, farmer's markets pretty much every day of the week, cooking classes, micro breweries, wineries, chocolatiers. Artisan is a word with integrity here.
Drinking "Fresh Laundry" at McCormick and Schmick's

A Latin beat, and couples are up dancing.

3. Party Hearty. We appreciate that that when people have places to gather and a town with civic pride, all sorts of gatherings for the purpose of a good time will arise. And this is not only for the young. Families and singles, young and older, locals and tourists, all find planned and spontaneous entertainment around every corner.

4. Hitchin' a Ride (on public transit).I have lived in and visited cities all my life, and used subways, trains and buses from Toronto to Philly to DC. Where I live now, they pretty much don't understand the concept; Portland, outstanding transit system.

Outside the Portland Art Museum 

The Oregon Symphony prepares to play a free concert in the river front park.

Just fun!

Saturday Market

5. Cultcha'. All sorts, from free symphony that we happened on in the Tom McCall waterfront park, to Latin quartet on a public plaza in the middle of town, to fantasy auto shows at the art museum, quilts at the Japanese gardens, Saturday market crafters, Voodoo Donuts (a touristy but wonderfully fun institution of sugary badness.)


to kayaks...

to Segways!

6. River and Bridges. The romance of water and a way to cross over. In Chicago it's a lake that looks like the ocean. Here a river called the Willamette fits the scale of the city. I grew up in Philly and the gritty industrial areas and rail yards are a part of what defines city for me. But here they decided to move the road and make that waterfront accessible for recreation. A big loop of exercise and possibilities.

View of downtown from the East bank.

View of downtown from the West Hills.

7. Hills and Views. It's a little like San Fran, built on hills. Mt. Hood watches over, and if you are located on higher ground, you can see all the way past Mt. St. Helen's to Mt. Rainer. Now that's a view you can boast about! So many wonderful attractions on the West Hills--zoo, rose gardens, forested parks.

8. Fit, Active and Attractive. The population that is. Almost seem like another species when compared to home. Oh, and way more laid back. The airport experience alone tells the tale before you even set foot out the door. And when you do, the air will be sweeter and feel cleaner. No lie.


9. Ideas into Action. Fitness here is more than a personal philosophy. It also pertains to making society a better place. Civic involvement in creating a positive future is on display around every corner. It's like a workshop for the rest of the country to get a taste of the possibilities. Watch us, we're willing to try the grand experiments. The excitement is palpable.

The Columbia River Gorge at Crown Point

Multnomah Falls

Mount Hood

Wine Country in the Willamette Valley

The Oregon Coast near Yachats

10. It's in Oregon! One of the most beautiful states in the nation, with  an embarrassment of riches, it boggles the mind--mountains, rivers, oceans, fertile valleys, wildlife. A retirement playground with abundant variety.

I'm going to need a little extra income to support that city lifestyle. Do you think the tourism board needs any help?