Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mining for Inspiration

This time last year, after having discovered the world of online art education, I was embarking on my first real creative endeavors to draw and paint. I had joined the Yahoo "Everyday Matters" group, was enrolled in the first Strathmore Artist Papers workshop with Pam Carriker, and was learning for the first time how to work with basic art materials and how to mine my own life and art for even more art inspiration. I had made a first journal page based on the experience of staying in a favorite hotel (go here), and another about dinner at a favorite restaurant (here), and then in Pam's workshop I had learned to combine those elements into something much richer, layered and more fascinating (then here.) Since then my drawing time has produced somewhat more literal interpretations of the favorite bits of my life, but as with my blog, there tends to be a story to bind up the parts.

This January I have been fortunate to spend some quality time under the excellent creative coaching of Traci Bautista. (The first four week class of Strathmore Online Workshops is over in real time, but you can still sign up and work the lessons on your own.) I included the results of week one doodling last time, and now I'd like to show off the rich results of the last three weeks' joyous play.

In week two, we moved into all water based media, and I was able to learn about layering not only with brushed-on paint, but watercolor crayon, pencil and markers as well. The result is a painting that is sheer and glows, and when mined for closeup detail images, displays every bit of the energy and inspiration that went into three non-stop hours of fun.

"We Drank all the Limoncino" is 18 x 24 inches
(all the images from this and last year's class may be found in
 this flikr set.) 

When my Designing Women met for our January creative play day, I decided to take some of the mined detail shots and turn them into something 3-D and practical, and created a pattern for a lidded box inspired by a self-closing tea box I was getting ready to discard. Lined with a coordinated calico print, my art is now ready for gifting or selling.  

Next up was the need for something suitable to inspire a series of pieced and embroidered panels for my ongoing class with Arlee Barr, and her highly textured techniques in surface embellishment. I have been collecting fabric forever, but most recently have started acquiring OOAK hand dyed linen bits from Jackson Art Fabrics and Deb Lacativa. Of course the colorways were highly suitable to the inspiration of my painting, since I long ago learned that my intuitive sense of color mixing will generally yield a consistent palette without much conscious thought. Color is the one area in which I am most confident and happy to experiment.

Nothing purchased. Just pulled from the closet.

This photo shows a detail inspiration shot on the right, and the design starting to form in fabric on the left.
Moving on to a new assignment for workshop weeks three and four, we returned to the use of acrylics and various found items of a household nature to use as texture plates. We were creating backgrounds for what would be fanciful "girly glam" faces a la Traci's style in week four. Here are the three pieces I made in quick succession. Much of the work was done in a finger painting style. My favorite textures came from the sequin waste and the dry walling mesh, although some other useful materials were the cut off end of a plastic basket and a stamp made from rubber bands adhered to sticky back craft foam.

Everything I used minus the hose connector used to stamp
 the large circles above.

We also doodled on newsprint in India ink and a script liner (skinny brush).

Last week we faced the hardest part of the doodle challenge: faces! Although I did an intensive week of faces with Carla Sonheim last summer, well, that was last summer, and I haven't done any since. This was supposed to be totally simple and stylized, but I needed some real glam inspiration. I opened W Magazine to the first ad I saw and this was perfect.

The face and hair area laid in, and several ink doodles secured with  matte gel to use as line inspiration.

After Session I: The facial features were done in watercolor pencil and some overlay of paint, and the rest in basic craft acrylics with various small flat and round brushes. (The colors appear a bit more golden due to the ambient lighting.)

The finished painting (minus varnishing, done later.) The colors were read very true by the scanner. Although Traci's style was to add detail in various markers and pens, and colored pencils, I stayed with the paint and brushes for all of the layering. I did use some metallic gold paint for shimmer.

This happy accident is how the painting scanned when I mistakenly hit "color correct". I love this blue based palette as well, and I expect I will mine this image for all sorts of details to be used down the line in other art and projects. And so goes the inspiration.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Full Speed Ahead

Since last we spoke, the holidays came and went, the new year slipped in on little cat's feet (maybe not my cat, cause he usually enters howling), and the whirlwind of my plans and expectations for continuing at the "University of Cheryl and Her Internet" became a new semester.

We're paddling as fast as we can, fueled by enthusiasm and caffeine.

 In December I celebrated the shortest days by frequently photographing the night in it colorful raiment from the perspective of my cozy living room. I especially loved the beautiful sunsets framed by the icicle lights around my living room window. Sometimes I painted with the blur of their movement and I was sad to see them go back to storage so soon.

Dispensed with a tree this year and just added enough
 twinkly lights to warm the night.

White icicle lights are so passe!
Intentional blur is fun to do.

Let's not forget the most meaningful lights of the season.

 The weather has been unnaturally warm and clear to end and start the years, and it seems a sign that winter expects us to just continue with whatever we were doing before the distraction of spending and eating disturbed the creative flow. The last of these wreaked havoc all through 2011, as I quite forgot in the midst of my studies and practice of drawing and stitching that eating was not one of the skills I needed to learn anymore. In fact, moving enough and eating properly became my first refresher course of the New Year. Let's hope I get an "A" in that one.

Most of what drives me from waking to sleeping these days is ongoing from all I started in 2011. Once experienced it is hard to say "no!" to an interesting challenge. I may not be an athlete, but I am a team player in my Internet world of art, and so I've been completing some races, prepping for others, and standing in great expectation of the starting gun of the new challenges.

One of my long time real world commitments is to my local quilt guild. While I haven't been active with the monthly goings on for some time now, every two years I become immersed in the group show. I am working to finish quilts that may have been started last summer or as long ago as 1999!

Last summer I was still completing the embroidered ribbon.

Perseverance payed off. After a mere 12 years, the quilt is finished and hanging, and ready to be my star entry at the quilt show in March.

My association with Australian embroidery teacher extraordinaire, Sharon Boggon, has led me to join many hundreds of other fans worldwide to participate in a weekly lesson/challenge to learn or practice 52 different stitches and their variations this year. Everyone involved comes from a different background of skill and interest, so we are all completing our projects to suit our own needs. I am following the lead of a small group blog where members are doing color themed monthly pages to contain all the stitches from that month. At the end of the year, my pages will be sewn into a (hopefully) beautiful fabric reference book.

Two facing pages ready for the first week's challenge stitch. The completed size of each will be 9x12.

On the Aida cloth side I will be practicing a row of the four or five stitches in basic forms.

On the right side will be a collage of interesting fabrics to encourage stitch variation and exploration.

I am a newbie to any kind of drawn and painted art, but last year I was especially taken by the fun of mixed media explorations. I took a class with Jane LaFazio in mixed media for textile arts, and I also participated in two of the Strathmore Online Workshops. Currently we are in week two of the four free lessons with artist, Traci Bautista. Having spent last year collecting many drawing and painting supplies, I am having a ball learning to actually use them effectively. What I am loving about this workshop is that there is no pressure to do anything but have fun, and that is why I am in this game at all!

The first layer of media set up basic lines and forms to work with by using liquid acrylics sprayed over stencils and other resists.

This is the left side of the page as seen above. I stopped layering the media and designs after the paint layers.

This is the right side. Here I continued with several more layers of markers and inks.

In my ongoing lessons with fiber artist, Jude Hill, I am currently playing catch up with a course she taught in 2010, before I knew how wonderful it was to learn this way. So I am working at my own pace to learn to develop story with characters of my own design in her Patchwork Beasts class.

This photo collage (not to scale) shows the various bases I made in my first two lessons to use for the development of the beasts.

Finally, I am spending some time adding to my "Frankenstitch" class samplers from the fall, so that I will be up to speed when the advanced class begins this weekend. Can't wait to begin, since we will have the opportunity to create textile art for three dimensional formats.
In this photo of the buttonhole sampler you can see I have concentrated on the upper left quadrant, adding padding and woven stitches.

A closeup of the plain weave and raised buttonhole.

Encasing the padded ridges in buttonhole lace and a woven cap.
Have I tired you out yet? Not me. I'm just getting going. Let's see: which pile is calling me with the loudest voice this afternoon? Maybe lesson two of the mixed media (we're doing watercolor backgrounds this week), or my week two stitch for the January page? No, I think it's that hunky Beto Perez and my Zumba DVDs. After all, we have our priorities.