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Monday, 28 February 2022

Re-making The Sandwiches

Learning curves and challenges are a part of life and for the most part they're good... except when they're not. For the past few weeks, rejection has been coming at me in all kinds of ways and I can only conclude that there's a lesson to learn - one that I haven't already learned - a lesson at a higher level - because rejection has been hanging around in one form or another for most of my life.

It was a trigger in the melt down that led to the middle of the night studio purge and I have to say while the melt down wasn't fun, the purge was a good thing. The switch to painting has been engaging in the way that I wish I'd started sooner even as I acknowledge that we only start when the time is right. For me, now is finally the right time.

Although all that I knew about design came with me into this new medium, I'm still surprised to see visible progress in such a short time. Yesterday, I was talking to my friend who is learning drawing and water colour painting and she said the same thing. It reinforces my point that we learn to do by doing and that a little bit each day is all it takes to build skills over time. 

Finding and staying with the right thing is what I'm praying for heading toward my birthday. I've tried a lot of new and different directions over the past decade and going forward into the next one, I want to be focused. Thinking about that while researching mixed media sculpture and debating the textile component of the upcoming retreat, I know I do not want to go in either of those directions. I want to continue to sew basic clothing while learning to sew increasingly more creative clothing while learning about painting and being open to revisiting my decision around painting on fabric. I quit. I might un-quit. 

Honesty is one of my core values so I hate when I say that I'm going to do X and then say that I'm never going to do X again, only to say that well, actually, yes, I'm going to do X again after all. It feels like I'm falling apart in public so the lesson may be to never say never because reality is that we make those decisions in the moment to the best of our ability with the information we have and when that information changes and our abilities shift, the decision may as well.

I hadn't realized how invasive rejection was in my life to the point that it was keeping me from pursuing teaching. I love teaching and I would love to teach again, in real life, beyond the blog, so I'm being open and putting it out to the universe. I will stop protecting myself from rejection by saying I don't want to teach or that it can't happen for this or that reason and we'll see what actually happens. For now, I'll focus on learning what I want to learn without being pulled away by shiny objects. No sculpture shaped shiny object. No textile art shaped shiny object. Clothes. Creative clothing. Abstract painting. Maybe on fabric.

To that end, I remade the sandwiches using light and dark denim scraps with the idea that they could become part of the coat I'm planning to make in the clothing portion of the retreat. It'll allow me to combine learning from both instructors in a way that works for me without the wall art overtone. 

I peeled off the light/dark cotton squares from the batting and substituted light/dark denim squares. The dark ones are from two men's shirts and a pair of jeans. The light ones are the reverse side of one of the men's shirts, a fabric remnant, and fragments collaged together. In some, you can see the seams. I like the potential of these and I know that if they don't become part of a garment, they can become a bag. 

On Saturday, I talked to Diane (one of the instructors) about how could I best prepare for her part of the workshop and after our discussion started making parts. Above left, these are serged strips made by serging the fabric and cutting beside the stitching. The pile at right is serger slices, the little strips that get cut off when you're serging a seam. I'll use both of these piles to create fragmented fabrics. 

The pieces above are made from serging together strips with the seams on the wrong side and top stitching on the right side. They are starts that may or may not end up in the finished coat partly because they might not work out and partly because I'm taking enough denim scraps for more than one garment and it could be that I change directions. I want to leave room for magic to happen. I do like that I'm sticking to a tight palette and the freedom that boundary creates.

THIS is the learning that I really want to bring home from the retreat. Diane's fabric from fabric has fascinated me since the first time I attended in 2012. I've done a lot of patchwork but what she does is more than ordinary patchwork. It's vibrant. It doesn't lay flat and is instead composed of curving and flowing lines and a combination of bias and straight edges. I'll work on doing better at the retreat and then come home and practice and make it my own because not only do I want that energy and flow for my own work, it's also the type of class I'd love to teach. This type of patchwork has the components of mystery I enjoy with the journey of the unknown and it uses scraps, reduces waste, incorporates refashioning, and maximizes remnants as well as other attributes that are both creatively challenging and good for the earth. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - feeling focused

Friday, 25 February 2022

Narrowed To Black & White

When I'm learning something new, the fact that I don't know how to do whatever it is I want to do makes the curve delightfully challenging. If I know how, there's nothing to explore but since I don't know how there are new videos to watch, magazines to read, artists to follow, books to buy, and exercises to try. It's energizing and also, since it is all new, overwhelming as well.

Last week, I decided not to paint resolved pieces and to only paint starts. That's hugely calming. It takes the pressure off and allows me to try things, see what happens, and move on. Later, once I've finished the initial one hundred, I can repeat the process by working my way through the pieces again and I'm already looking forward to that. Meanwhile, knowing that I'll be revisiting the piece at some point in the future helps me to move on.  

The contrast between the lightest light and the darkest dark tells the viewer to look here. It's a way of showing them what you think is important... perhaps like a statement necklace against a black t-shirt... she says... of her signature style.

Several of the artists I've been watching on YouTube have studied with Nicholas Wilton who talks about the loud conversation as the darks and the quiet conversation as the lights. Where they meet is the place of greatest interest. With the two pieces above, I was experimenting with high contrast to see if I could direct the viewer's eye. 

In some of his videos, Bob Burridge talks about different compositional forms as shown is his chart above. Design knowledge is important but only so important in my opinion. I think it's far better to paint and to learn to paint by painting then to spend a lot of time studying and talking about it.

First with textile art and now with painting, I don't consciously set out to produce a specific compositional form. I simply start and respond to the developing piece until it settles into something that works. That said, my favourite form is second from the bottom in the right hand column - tension - working with a focal point and a secondary focal point. You can see that developing in the first piece top left. 


Several of the artists suggested working in one colour in order to focus on composition and on contrast especially. Another suggestion was to make each piece with only one brush to see what that brush could do and to learn how to use your tools. I've learned that boundaries can be very freeing in the past so I'm always open to that idea and narrowed my colours to black and white and chose four brushes - small, medium, large, and stipple - that are suitable to the size of my paper. It's funny because although I only eliminated red, yellow, and blue, this feels so much more doable, less to think about, less likelihood of making mud. Just black, white, and shades of grey which - LOL - I guess is mud of a sorts. 

This is abstract 11 of 100. Above left, it began with some torn strips of a previous palette paper and at right, I began drawing shapes into it with black paint and then attempted to create interest, balance, and a focal point. The image below is where...

... it's at now. The question that seems to be asked most often of the artists in the videos is how to know when to stop from the perspective of not going too far. Because my knowledge, skills, and tool box are so minimal right now, my question of when to stop is from the perspective of not going far enough and missing out on what could have happened. I think I'll be more comfortable with finding the stopping point when I go through the pieces for the second time and so I'm not worrying about pushing it further right now. Instead, I'm stopping when I either like what's happening or don't know what to do next. As I learn more, I'll be able to do more. 

The two images above and the two below are of the developing stages of abstract 10 of 100. Above left is the start and next to it an attempt to define where to look except it's not at all interesting. I kept creating a black/white distinction and then erasing it into grey only to repeat it again. To move forward, I had to do something different. 

Above left, I added some stenciled collage papers and then walked away, watched a video, came back, and added some shapes. Maybe I was waiting for a focal to appear as opposed to creating one. Those horizontal black and white lines were made with a pastry blender and I used the end of a thread spool to make the smaller circles. I think this is my most resolved piece to date. I like the focal and secondary focal elements, the texture, and the mix of values. 

With my wardrobe, I dress in the medium to dark range, typically monochromatic. I can see that same medium-ness showing up in the paintings and am working to add a broader range of values. I can also see that I'm drawn to soft edges and curving lines and will want to add sharp edges and straight lines to bring in more contrast and energy. Writing that, I can also see how much I've learned already and what I'm able to observe in my own work. This is good. 

Wardrobe-wise, I'm also working with black making a spring/fall coat using a very soft corduroy that must be a polyester blend because it has beautiful drape that is not common with cotton. Out of print Vogue 8934 is a raincoat designed by Marcy Tilton that I've sewn several times and have adapted to be a fully lined winter coat. I combined my developed bodice - above the underarm - with the skirt - below the underarm - of - also out of print - Sandra Betzina's Vogue 1598 to get that swing shape with a straight button band and collar options.

Apparently, Vogue 1598 is a blouse. I bought the pattern in the discount bin not through the catalogue so I didn't know that until I read the back of the envelope. Neither of these images looks like a blouse to me and definitely not in the line drawings either. Using the bodice from Marcy's pattern makes Sandra's coat-able. I know the shoulder width and underarm depth are correct and since it's a swing shape, the hips will be fine as well. Yesterday, I started quilting the lining pieces. It will be a longer project but hopefully done in time to take on my trip. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - fun with black and white

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Necklines, Necklaces, and the Ugly Bracelet Finished

When you figure out what you like to wear - both emotionally and physically - it can become far too easy to get stuck in that rut. A mentor once told me that as you get older, it's harder and harder to find fresh. I've found that to be true in many areas of life. With clothing, I have to push myself just outside the comfort zone of knowing what works but not so far over the edge that there's no hope of whatever this thing is that I'm trying actually working out. 

Take t-shirts. Because I'm bottom heavy, my preference is for a shaped hemline, typically shirt tail, rather than a straight across horizontal line. It makes sense but if you looked in my wardrobe, you could figure out my favourite pattern right away by all the repeats. The same with neckline shapes. Rounded or a softened V. And with colour. Most often black. And with sleeves. Almost always three-quarter length. There is far too much of a good thing going on. 

My latest t-shirt has a ballerina neckline. My friend and I were discussing what is a ballerina versus a boat neckline and neither of us were sure of the difference. When I looked them up on Google, some of the same pictures came up for both. If they are the same thing, ballerina makes me think soft, graceful, and feminine. Boat does not. Therefore, mine is a ballerina neckline! 

For me, the main thing with the neckline is not just that it flatters my face shape but it absolutely has to show off my necklace. A statement necklace is my signature thing and I can't see that changing... just the actual necklace. I noticed recently that my necklines have edged up. I think it's because some necklaces weren't showing as well due to the way they sat overlapped with the neckband and the bodice. I want to look at that again just in case I'm edging into prissy or frumpy. That's the wrong direction.

Instead of a three-quarter length sleeve, this one has a long sleeve with a flounce that I'm not sure is flouncy enough. In the picture, it looks like a stretched out cuff but on my hand, it has a softer presentation. When I tried the t-shirt on, I didn't want to rip it off right away so I'll take that tiny step away from my comfort zone, wear it for a day at the retreat, and see what I think. Right now - LOL - what I think will likely happen is that the ballerina neckline stays and the flounce goes, probably replaced by a three-quarter length sleeve. 

This is the last outfit for my retreat wardrobe. I've sewn fewer garments than expected and am taking pieces sewn recently so I can wear them a few more times before completely shrinking out of them. Nearly new is a white t-shirt with black polka dots that was too tight and never worn but now fits wonderfully. Completely new is the floral t-shirt, this black t-shirt, and the grey one with the bishop sleeves as well as a pair of black pants with a white bicycle motif. And from my existing wardrobe, one dress, one t-shirt, two skirts, two pairs of pants, fun shoes, and - of course - necklaces. 

When I started sewing the black t-shirt, I just about didn't use this spool of thread because I thought it was going to run out right away. I was wrong. I completed the entire t-shirt, hemming and all, with what was there - barely - but I did it. It reminds me to just try and see what happens which is...

... the same approach I used with the ugly bracelet. I knew if I kept working with it I could get somewhere acceptable if not beautiful. The last time you saw it, it had a coat of white primer. 

Next, I painted it with a mix of dark purple and blue and then added highlights with bronze and silver. I don't think it's amazing and I don't think it's ugly anymore. I think that I made the best of what I had to work with at the time. 


It's been a week since I tore apart the studio, put away all the jewelry making supplies, and switched to one hundred days of painting abstract starts. Today is day 10/100 and the switch has been good. I'll talk more about that in the next post. I'm enjoying that my aim is not finished pieces, just starts that may or may not go somewhere else down the line. It's less stressful and more fun. I find myself wandering over to the painting table and adding a dab of this or that... and that's a good thing. It's fresh!

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - my outgoing email issues have been fixed

Monday, 21 February 2022

Completely Unresolved

When I sign up for a workshop, the date is usually a long way off. Originally, I intended to go to the retreat in Taos, New Mexico in June and only shifted to Ashland, Oregon in March after buying (expensive) hearing aids mostly because it's far less expensive for me to drive than to fly and rent a car and a machine and all that. However, March is sooner than June - although considering how excited I am, that's probably a good thing. In terms of savings, three months is a lot less than six and therefore a tighter budget which is not a bad thing, it just is. Getting organized in advance and using what I have as much as possible are two ways of limiting expenses. This past weekend, I started on the prep work. 

For the creative clothing component, Diane suggested bringing a collection of fabrics that work together and stitching a small piece of fabric-from-fabric that could be used for a pocket or collar. This is big enough for a large pocket and uses medium-weight denim scraps. The lighter shape top right is from a pair of pants and the light vertical line is a dart. The two horizontal white lines are selvage edges. I'll take the rest of these scraps, some denim yardage, and a couple patterns to harvest shapes from and I know from experience that it'll be more than enough. 

For the textile art component, Paula asked us to bring 14 x 14" quilt sandwiches in black and white with colourful backings. I didn't want solid colours so these are molted and less stark. We are also to bring black thread, white thread, and a black to white variegated thread. I had a lighter and a darker variegated thread but not one that did the entire spectrum. Oh well. Again, even though it's not exactly what she asked for, I know I will find a way to make it work. 

Speaking of thread. It's been over ten years since I've done any textile wall art. In the past, I used a lot of rayon threads. Not anymore. If they don't last in the jar, what happens with the piece? Do the threads start snapping? With all of these spools, when I pulled on the thread, it snapped - useless - only that's a significant amount of money and gorgeous thread that I didn't want to waste so I unrolled the spools and put the loose threads back in the jar to make lace with. This is the second jar of thread with many more spools to check and unroll. At some point, I'll need to make the lace. 

My youngest son came on Saturday and painted with me for a while. All three of my children are creative in different ways and none of them are what I'd describe as makers... yet... I live in hope. One of my biggest regrets from when they were younger was that we didn't play together in the studio very much since I was running a business, working from home, and single parenting with their Dad constantly out of town for work. On multiple levels, I couldn't afford for my projects to get sidelined. Knowing what I know now, we'd have made a mess, had way too much fun, and used the good "china" so I'm grateful when I get that opportunity and I definitely make messes with my grandsons. 

The image at left is abstract 7 of 100. It's not intended to be a resolved work. It is - as I told my son - nothing serious like an attempt to answer questions such as am I creative or do I have artist ability. Yes and yes. It is simply about putting paint on paper and seeing what happens, trying this and trying that, and seeing if there's enough energy in the playing to call me deeper into painting.

With this piece, I wanted to pull in lighter values since I tend to work in the medium to dark range and I used a grasshopper stencil to see how a realistic image would go with the abstract shapes. I also incorporated some of a previous palette on deli paper that I'd allowed to dry and turned into collage materials. Above right, I deliberately created a stenciled collage paper with left over paint to use in a future piece. 

For week two of the 100 day project, days eight to fifteen, I prepped all seven papers with the same tinted gesso. In the past, I've done textile projects that all began with the same starting point and found it really fun and stretching to follow the same start to different conclusions. So far, I've been getting ready to start the next day by transferring something from the current one to tomorrow's paper. In this case, I used the same stencil and paint colour as well as rubbed the remaining paint onto the surface of the eighth piece. This morning, this is the one I'm working on and I'll only be playing, no resolving. At the end of the 100 abstracts, it would be fun to take all that learning, go back through the pieces, and take them forward again. 

Something else that is completely unresolved is this sweater. The cotton blend yarn was bought at Webs in Ashland in 2019 - I think - but it could have been earlier. I've started numerous projects with it and have always unraveled them including several attempts in the last month. I think the reason why is obvious in this image. Cotton is heavy and stretches. I did not expect the neckline to be that deep in the front. I thought it would be about the depth of the back. That said, even though this isn't the look I was going for, I've decided to work with it, add a neck band using a smaller needle and tighter stitch, and then add the sleeves. They're knit up to the cap and I'll determine the final length once I see where the shoulder seam ends. I may work on that today or...

... do some sewing. On the weekend, I traced several patterns that went nowhere except folded up and back into the envelope. I didn't end up sewing the skirt I mentioned in Friday's post because I noticed the skirt I was wearing looked fabulous with the floral t-shirt and decided to take it instead. To complete my holiday wardrobe, I have one more top to make and I'm debating a corduroy swing coat. First, the top. 

Talk soon - Myrna

- painting, a walk, lunch with my son

Friday, 18 February 2022

Direction Or Distraction

The last time I was at the Fabricland in Vernon, I found this soft grey knit with a floral design in the bargain section. There was only 1.20 meters left which was enough for a simple t-shirt so I bought it because...

... I'd previously been looking at it at the regular price and couldn't decide if the print worked for me or not. At bargain prices, in a size I'm shrinking out of, it seemed a good time to try something different. The 1" gridded pressing surface helps to see the scale of the print.

I used a striped fabric for the neck binding to tone down any potential prissy-ness as well as denim blue top stitching. I'd like to pair it with...

... a skirt using Burda 6506 in the longer length. I haven't worn a pencil skirt since I fell down the stairs and permanently altered the shape of my right hip but I'm ready to try again and I think the diagonal line of this skirt will help draw attention away from the hip. I won't be wearing a top tucked in either.

What isn't helpful is that the pattern only goes up to a finished hip size of 45 1/4" which is my hip size and I'm smaller than the average North American woman. SO FRUSTRATING especially in such a relatively simple design that would be excellent for a beginner. Since I have to re-size the pattern, I'll make a muslin to see if it does or does not flatter my figure before using the fabric I have in mind, bought years ago, and distinctive, with only enough for one skirt. 

In terms of keeping things contained, I organized the painting area even more. On the shelf underneath are three containers. The far left is for the finished pieces, the middle is for the deli paper palettes, and the far right is for collage bits. Since pattern tissue has such lovely lines on it, there are some pieces in there already. And this is it. These are my 100 day project containers and I'm not collecting beyond them. I am avoiding overwhelm which looks and feels different for everyone but for me, a huge trigger is too much stuff whether it's supplies or finished product.  

This is the 4th of 100 abstract paintings. I am working with heavy cardstock, cheap brushes from the dollar store, folk art paints in only white, black, red, blue, and yellow as well as easily available collage materials like junk mail, old magazines, or pattern tissue. I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos and re-reading the painting books in my library. Thankfully, I didn't give those away. 


Last weekend, I did some more work on the piece for over my fireplace. The image on left is how you saw it last and it has now evolved to the one on the right. It's still not finished and the only thing I know about...

... where it is headed is that I want that smaller circle on the lower left, just on the edge of the white area, to be the focal point. That will mean balancing everything else against it which will be a lot of fun. The textile piece below is called Transference and was made over ten years ago. In it, you can see the larger focal point and the tension created by the secondary focal point of the small dots. I really enjoyed putting this piece together.

It was sold through the Aspha Naira Gallery in Vernon, the same one that took the jewelry pieces recently. When I had lunch last week with Carolina, the gallery owner, we talked about the workshop I'm going to and about my creative growth as a result of attending it numerous times over the past ten years. She wondered how that growth would affect my composition skills with textile pieces since she thought they were excellent before. It's an interesting question. 

On Wednesday, the curator from the art gallery came to see the pieces I made for the upcoming exhibit. We also talked about my work in general and I explained that I'd put the jewelry making supplies away for now. She asked if I'd ever considered making sculptures because she thought the beads would be an intriguing element and that I had the composition skills to do sculpture well. WHAT a lovely compliment and an interesting coincidence - two comments about my composition skills in two weeks.

No, I have never considered making sculptures. I am giving it some thought now but I'm not jumping at it for several reasons. The first is the question of direction or distraction. I have been praying for sign posts along the path I am meant to follow, for doors to close that I am not meant to go through, and for others to open where I am meant to explore. This does not feel like an open door. If I were to add sculpture to the creative mix, it would mean less time for what I'm already doing, another learning curve, more supplies, and a body of work with pieces even larger than a necklace that would need to go somewhere. Right now, I do not want making art to require selling art on any level nor do I want to stockpile a (physically) large body of work or within a short time, I could easily be back in overwhelm. 

Second, the guest instructor at the workshop is a textile artist. When I first signed up, my assumption was that textile art was in my past and I intended to very politely ignore her for the most part and incorporate what I could into clothing. And I still will incorporate but it's a really short move from abstracts on paper to abstracts with fabric and I have to wonder if I may actually feel drawn toward making textile wall art again. If so, what a coming full circle moment that would be! We'll see what happens. Sewing clothes is the constant I always come back to but other mediums come and go. 

I only signed up a few months ago and look at the shifts that have happened in such a short time. Another prayer is that before I turn sixty at the beginning of June, I would like to feel settled and focused with a clear sense of direction that I can lean into over the next decade. There have been so many ideas and mediums come and go over the past ten years that it's enough to make my head spin never mind anyone following along. It would be fabulous to let that go too. I like the concept of painting on paper, painting on fabric, and sewing with the fabric. It feels connected and contained yet with enough variety and potential for growth and could work well... and it feels like I'm changing my mind, back, again, and that's the frustrating part. Is it direction or distraction?  

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - composition compliments