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Wanderlust – February 2018

For the background on this project, read January’s Post.

February’s Wanderlust theme was Castles. I got pretty excited and broke out the paints, washi tape, ink pens, and markers and drew a castle from my mind in the ol’ art journal.

Prague Castle was my inspiration…

I was thinking of these photos when I did the drawing above. It’s the view I had of Prague Castle from my hotel’s parking lot when I visited Prague in 2011.

I walked out of a Clarion and there’s a castle!
™See, I was really in the parking lot. Modern meets old.

With the Roads and Paths project, I did some thumbnail drawings first. I didn’t with this one. I had another foggy photo of the castle that I used to do this drawing. One of my latest favorite artists is Marc Taro Holmes…he makes me think I could be an urban sketcher too!

The paint was added later. I had extra paint to put somewhere…

I broke out the ol’ permanent marker and did a preliminary sketch on the canvas from the drawing above and got all excited and was ready to go. Until I thought about it and decided I didn’t know what the bottom of the castle should look like. I was just going to concentrate on the tower, so I coated that sucker with gesso and started again.

Still using my drawing, I drew the detailed part of the towers on the canvas with the marker and started to paint. That wasn’t working out so well, because I could kind of see the old lines and I was covering the new lines and I forgot about putting in the sky first…

…so I coated that sucker with gesso again. A nice thick coat of gesso with some yellow/orange/hot pink (love Opera) and got the brilliant idea to carve the castle out of the wet gesso so I wouldn’t have to draw it again. Genius!

If that’s what the full canvas looked like, I might’ve stopped here.

This was such a cool idea. I wiped yellow fluid acrylic all over it and started painting in the castle in shades of purple. I was so excited.

Until I looked at it. All I had was sky and castle. And the castle was practically dead center (not the most interesting composition) so I tried darkening half the castle, and yeah. I had this.

Can you say, “Big bucket of nope”?

I actually liked the castle. But I couldn’t just “move” it because someone had etched it into the gesso. D’oh!

Fine. I gesso’ed that sucker again, and I could see the etching slightly. Ok, I’ll just add another set of towers.

It was a small improvement…

Too bad they’re not straight. *sigh* Guess what I did? I gesso’ed the snot out of that canvas. It was starting to look like a block. That was a cool effect. Fine. I’ll make it look like a stone block.

And I’m going to change the composition. I’m going with the hotel parking lot. That’s pretty interesting, right?

I used pencil this time. Marker or pencil, it doesn’t make a difference.

By this time, I knew I had really screwed this one up. I should’ve made thumbnails to figure out my composition and focal point. It really would’ve made my life a lot easier. I also would’ve saved myself a lot of gesso. And talk about thinking I knew nothing about art. Nothing. I was taking hack to a whole new level.

I blocked in the colors, and ran into a new problem…how can the castle be my focal point when it’s in the fog in the background? I used a fine point marker to add details. Not horrible, but how am I going to do the damn sky? D’oh!

I kinda liked this. It was closer to what I had in my head.

I tried to paint over the people (the dark purple was hard to hide) and I started detailing things and it was going sideways on me again. As I was coating it with gesso again, my boyfriend just shook his head and said, “Again?” as he walked by.

Out of a ton of frustration, I took a palette knife and started scraping. And adding water. And scraping more. Something really interesting happened with all the layers of paint and gesso. It had this rustic kind of look. I don’t know what happened, but I started detailing things again and ended up with this:

Castle. Acrylic on Canvas. 8×10.

I don’t know what happened between this and the photo before. I think it was the paint filling in the old texture that made it look interesting. The old orange/pink started popping through and it looked alive instead of flat.

I’m actually really happy with the final result. It paid to hang in there and persist. I’m so happy I didn’t have to gesso it again! It was a very trying and frustrating process. I hope future paintings go easier than this one. You might want to invest in gesso stock. At the rate I’m going…*laughs*

Have you ever struggled to make art? Have you ever just wanted to throw in the towel and declare that you’ll never do this again? Have you ever thought it was a total waste of your time? Let me know below!

Wanderlust – January 2018

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve been seeing posts about paintings and Wanderlust 2018. Wanderlust is a year-long art journaling class that I was so excited to sign up for. I haven’t gotten into journaling yet, but I decided I’d do one painting a month using the techniques I’ve been learning. I thought that’d be better than just watching art videos every Friday night. 😉

This has been a challenge for me. I struggle with painting. I kind of struggle with art in general. I have a hard time translating ideas in my head into a finished piece. I thought I’d share my art journey with you guys so you can see how sometimes things work out and why I think they don’t.

When I got the idea to do twelve paintings, I went into the studio and played with gesso and paint and misters and literally just played.

I felt like I painted the Universe by the time I was done.

January’s theme was Roads and Paths. I spend a lot of time on the highway commuting to my day job and I have a fascination with the views I have from the driver’s seat (Lee Friedlander really reinforced this). I took this photo for a school project and I just love the road scene.

I zoomed in for the detail. My vision isn’t *that* good!

I broke out a black marker and sketched knowing I’d be painting over the lines.

Preliminary sketch

One of the keys to making good art is having contrast. I blocked in the darks and lights using watered down black and white acrylic paint. The car in the upper left is my focal point.

It’s starting to become a thing!

All excited, I copied the reference photo to my phone and started painting. And I came up with crap. I suppose this is ok. It looks kinda like the photo. But it wasn’t the look I was after. I wanted something that had some vibrancy to it. Some life. Some bam!

There is no bam here.

I lost my enthusiasm for this project when I saw what I had done. I went from painting the universe to painting an exit ramp. I did not feel like I was a real artist. Maybe this is not for me.

The next day, I started thinking about the things I’ve learned in the art classes I’ve taken (thank you Tom Lynch and Robert Burridge). I started focusing on the focal point area (you’ll note it’s brighter than everything else) and setting the color of everything else to shades of blue.

They’re kind of odd looking cars, but it’s got some life now!

After some refining (the cars look a little more normal), this is the final piece.

Heavy Traffic. Acrylic on Canvas. 8×10.

I was feeling pretty good about myself after I finished it. I used techniques from classes I took over the last 10 or so years and I didn’t flat out copy the photograph or someone else’s style. I feel like I made this one my own. I felt like I really accomplished something.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the series when I’m done. I will likely offer the originals for sale, but prints could be an option too. I’d love to hear what you think. Is this something you’d like to have hanging in your home? Comment and let me know!

Little Bits of Fiber – Part 2

I had so much fun making the last post (I hope you enjoyed reading it!) that I thought maybe you’d like to see what I do with fluffies.

Apparently, I really like turquoise and orange…I found a fluffy that was similar to an upcoming fluffy for the 40 Days of Fluffies so I decided to play with it. 🙂 This was also an idea I came up with while I was getting ready for work, so that’s why the photos have a little to be desired.

The raw fluffy

When I’m spinning up batts I’ve made, I like to start by splitting them in half (or whatever fraction I’m spinning…thirds, quarters, etc.) I don’t know what possessed me to split the batt in this direction. Normally I split lengthwise, but never fear. I got basically the same result had I split it the other direction.

Oops. I was so excited about writing this post I ripped it in half!

Regardless of the direction the batt is split, I grab one end of it and pull the other end to pull it apart, basically pre-drafting the fiber. I like doing this because it makes it easier to spin and the color is more even. Personally, I don’t care for coarsely blended batts where I get huge blobs of colors while I’m spinning. I probably overcompensate by over blending my batts, but I’m ok with that.

The secret is finding the right spacing between your hands. Too far and you’re holding two pieces, too close and you’re wondering if you should have your Wheaties for breakfast.

Here are the two pre-drafted halves. They look like roving. I find it hard to keep the fiber even when I’m pulling, but I don’t worry about it much. There’s thicker and thinner spots, but I’ll roll it into a loose ball and start spinning.

See how the color blended a little more? It also got soft and airy!

Now you go to work and come home and spin it into yarn. While that was part of this process, it’s not required. (This is an awful attempt at humor, isn’t it?)

In all seriousness, each bobbin contains one of the pre-drafts from above. I spun closer to my default, which resulted in a fingering weight instead of a lace weight.

I was fairly even in my splitting and spinning so both bobbins were almost equal. When I run out on one bobbin, I’ll wind the remaining single  into a loose pull out skein and overlap the ball’s end to the short end on the wheel for 2’ish inches and let lots of twist get in that area. It probably isn’t the strongest join in the world, but I like it better than a knot and I think it’ll be invisible and a non-issue in a knitted or crocheted piece. I figure worst case, I’ll have to go back and knot just that ply.

I normally have a lot more on one bobbin than the other. Not this time!

Here’s the finished yarn. I like to let it soak in super hot tap water for 15-30 minutes (it depends on if I’m in hurry or if I forgot I was washing yarn). I’m actually super naughty and I wring the yarn hard before blotting the excess water out with a towel. I haven’t had a problem (yet) but you’re not supposed to do that with wool. 😉 Then I hang it over a hanger and let it dry.

I really like this yarn. I don’t know what to do with it…

This one was around 14 grams in weight and it yielded 96 yards of yarn. Not bad. It was an instant gratification spinning project that I really enjoyed. It was my third skein of the week and it made me feel like I accomplished something.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear from you. Let me know what you think below!

Little Bits of Fiber – Part 1

As I’ve been setting up the 40 Days of Fluffies, I’ve been thinking that maybe I should give you some ideas of what to do with them other than the obvious of collecting and petting them. 🙂

Somewhere along the line I got this little chunk of rainbow wool, and this stripey gray wool. I love both of them and I didn’t really want to blend them in with other fibers, especially the rainbow. I was afraid that was going to become a muddy color in a hurry. Each chunk was approximately 8 grams (or .28 of an ounce)…not a lot of fiber, and a quite a bit less than the average 40 Days of Fluffy size.

The inspiration for this test
I loved this little chunk of gray…glad I found a use for it!

I set out to spin as fine as I comfortably could. I wasn’t interested in making something the weight of sewing thread. This is pretty fine, and a little finer than I spin by default, but it was comfortable. As you can see in the photo, very few fibers are being drafted into the yarn.

And something I learned while doing this…it’s a lot easier to spin fine if you pre-draft your fiber before spinning. Pull it out or rip it into narrow strips before you spin it. It makes drafting so much easier and you spend far less time fighting your fiber.

There’s not a lot of fiber going in there…

The finished bobbins. It doesn’t look like much, does it? I thought it would be a quick spin, but it took me a lot longer than I thought. I was stretching that fiber out!

The two finished bobbins of approximately 8 grams each

Here’s a photo of the plying process with a quarter for scale. It does get a little plumper when you take the tension off it.

The two plies becoming one yarn

The finished yarn. Would you believe there’s a 175 yards there?! It’s feels like it’s fragile, but the yarn is quite strong and so, so soft. I just want to hold it and pet it…

The finished yarn

And for grins, the yarn on my postage scale so you can see that it’s really only 16 grams. I guess I’m still kinda amazed myself!

This is one time I liked a scale…

So now what? I mean, it’s awesome that I got 175 yards of fine yarn, but what do you do  with it? This scarf is quite lovely.  I’ve been really fascinated by miniatures and Orenburg lace for years, so this yarn would be perfect. I’m not sure what I’ll do with this yarn, but it would be fun to make it up into something for another fun demo.

Do you feel inspired? Post your ideas below!

The Week in Projects: October 22, 2017

It’s been kind of a crazy few weeks over in the studio. I finally got over my cold, so that meant I had to take care of all the house stuff I wasn’t able to do while I was sick (i.e. mowing, cleaning, that fun adulting stuff). That took up a lot of time, so I haven’t posted much here, but I did make some things.

On October 1st, I started working on Inktober. It’s a challenge to do an ink drawing every day for the month of October. I did it last year and had a lot of fun (you can find those drawings here). This year has been a bigger challenge to keep up, but I’m having fun with it. Water based, glitter, and metallic markers have been my favorite, along with acrylic paints and highlighters. Follow me on Instagram or Facebook to see them as I go, else scroll to see a sampling of what I’ve done so far…

I really love Day 1’s drawing…it was fun to do!

My first Inktober drawing of 2017. Swift.

A few days later, I made this goofy little cartoon.

This one was just kinda stupid fun. The inspiration word was “long”.

I didn’t know what to do one night, so I just started doodling. I kept drawing the flowers over and over each other with different pens and markers and got this:

I started doodling while watching TV…

Then I was playing with acrylic paint and making backgrounds, and it seemed perfect to draw on.

I did this one during my lunch break…

This one started as one of last year’s backgrounds that got the paint treatment. I love that it subtly says “first class guilt trip”. The color was enhanced with highlighters.

I did this over a few lunch breaks…

Last weekend I finally finished the weaving for Unicorn Vomit! It’s drying after its bath, then I’ll complete the finishing. I really love how it came out.

The weaving for Unicorn Vomit is done!

We even took a time out and saw Steely Dan. It was my boyfriend’s treat, and even though I’m not a Steely Dan fan, I really enjoyed the show. It was a nice night out.

Steely Dan in Grand Rapids, MI

And finally, I got the idea to try to make my own washcloths on the loom. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out, so I used my least favorite colors to experiment.

A color experiment…

They didn’t come out too bad! I wish I had planned it better color and size wise, but at least I know more for next time.

I made washcloths!

Whew! That was kind of a whirlwind of photos and projects. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them! We’ll see what this week brings!