Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Walk

It's been a lovely day for a walk.  The inversion is gone (for now); the sun is out; the sky is blue and the temperature is in the upper 40's.  Nice.  It almost feels like spring.

As I was walking through the field, it was nice to hear the many birds twittering and chattering in the bushes.  When Anna was in elementary school, we use to walk through the field everyday.  When we heard all the birds in the bushes, we would say they were holding "birdie council."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Workshop with Abigail Kokai

Surel's Place is a non-profit artist in residency program.  Artists work and live in a house in Garden City near the river.  This month, Abigail Kokai is the residence artist.  She hosted several workshops, building fabric collages, these past two weekends in conjunction with her residency.

The workshops were free, but you had to register.  I went to one this past Saturday to find out what kind of techniques she uses in her work.  Kokai is a young artist who has lived in several different places.  Her work captures the sense of place through her "everyday stories."

Kokai will be talking about and showing her work completed during this residency this Thursday, Jan. 29, at Surel's Place, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

She spoke a little of her process during the workshop and her impression of the area in Garden City. Kokai told her own stories of how some of the artworks came to be.

Here are a few sketches and works in progress she had on the walls.

Workshop participants with works in progress on the wall.

Detail of a truck.  The black outline of the truck was done with painting or drawing on a sheer fabric then layering it over a gray fabric. In the background on the left, you can see where Kokai stamped an image on the background fabric.  Her method of working is very collage-like, attaching the elements, sometimes with glue, sometimes with fusing and then going back with stitching later.  She incorporates both machine stitching and hand stitching in her works.  She also uses all different kinds of fabrics.

Here is the fabric stash she had for the workshop students to use.

The workshop was very informal, with not much instruction. She showed us, through slides, the progression of steps for one of her pieces.  Then, we were just free to make up our own fabric collage based on our own "everyday story" (or not).  She would help if you had questions.

I just played with the fabrics to put together some small abstract piece.  I glued the pieces down and brought it home.  I don't know if I will finish it or not.

If you want to learn more about her process and the artwork she's done for the residency, attend her talk on Thursday.  I think you will find it very interesting.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Collecting and Pay What You Want

I am a collector.  When I was a child, I collected mice (not real ones).  I think I started collecting postcards in college when I participated in summer school in Vienna, Austria and we traveled to different places on the weekend.  It might have started earlier than that, but the collection grew significantly during that summer.

I also have a collection of art books I keep as my "reference library."  We have shells and rocks around the house from different places and even a sand collection.

Anyone who has visited my house knows I have quite a collection of other artists' work.  Here is one of my latest acquired pieces, a print by John Smith of Chartwell Print.

John Smith
Canoes II
(photo posted with permission of artist)

The collection of my own artwork is growing and overflowing our storage spaces!  Thinking about this storage issue, I came up with an idea.  The idea is to sell some of my older works on a pay-what-you-want basis.

I tried this with a couple of artworks offered to my newsletter subscribers.  I had several offers and was happy for the artwork to have a new home.  I am planning to do this again, offering to my newsletter subscribers first.   If you would like a chance to pay-what-you-want for some of my artwork, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter.  

I will only make the offer public if none of my subscribers purchases the art.  This time both pieces sold before they could be made public.

Here's an explanation of how it works:

"In an effort to share my art with the world, instead of having it hidden away in a closet, I am offering select pieces for purchase for the price you want to pay. That's right, you get to pick what you want to pay to have an original fabric artwork to enjoy in your home or office (or maybe somewhere else)!

My newsletter subscribers receive first chance at the artwork. They will receive the link in my monthly newsletter. After 24 hours, if nobody offers a price, then I will make the link public to others. The page will then be up for another 24 hours. If this works well, I will do this once a month for the rest of the year.

If you see a piece you would like to buy, just send me an email. I am asking that you pay for the shipping costs, in addition to your price offer. I can calculate that amount after I have your address. For Idaho folks, I also have to charge sales tax on the price you offer (tax is 6%).

You will have 24 hours to email me. After the 24 hours is up, I will send an email to all who respond to let you know the results. If more than one person requests the same artwork, then the person with the higher price will receive the piece at that price.

It's a win-win. You get an original work of art at a price you can afford, and my art goes out into the world to be enjoyed (and I free up some storage space, too.)"

My next newsletter will go out at the beginning of February with a few more artworks available at the pay-what-you-want (PWYW) price.  Please sign up if you are interested in seeing the pieces and making an offer.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thought of the Day

"Some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles."
-Washington Irving

Friday, January 16, 2015

The 11 Year Quilt

I don't make functional quilts anymore.  I made a few functional quilts before I realized I could make artwork using fabric (and some of those quilting techniques).

Before Christmas, my friend mentioned that she was planning to make bed quilts for her sons.  It got me thinking that I had started a quilt for Anna when she was probably around 6 or 7 years old.  I had followed a pattern and had all the blocks made.  What had stopped me from actually finishing it was the border.  In the pattern, the border was made up of triangles on their side with appliqué flowers in between.

Since my daughter is graduating from high school this year, I thought maybe I should dig out those blocks and finally finish them into a useful quilt.  I had made her a baby quilt and a Pokemon wall quilt for her, but none she could actually use to keep warm.  The few bed quilts I had made were given to other family members. I do not even have one for my own bed.

I dug out the squares which were made from flannel.  I had kept the extra fabric with the squares so I could finish the border.  I decided to go with a simple border instead of the what the pattern showed. Since I had started the quilt when Anna was very young, the pattern is of doll-like figures. Also, when I had made the blocks, I changed the colors of the pattern so that the "dolls" had different skin tones instead of just black.

The pattern is not very appropriate for a college-bound student, but she doesn't have to take it to college.  And I know she would have much preferred a Dr. Who quilt.  But it was time to finish this one. My husband and Anna were away visiting colleges just before Christmas and this gave me the time to work on it without having to keep putting it away.

Here are the blocks and border up on the wall before I sewed them together.

And here is Anna wrapped up in it.

Another project completed and out of the closet.  However, I had made a lot of blocks and I did not use them all in this one.  There are enough to make another lap-size or smaller quilt.  They are back in the closet.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


This past weekend, I took a bookmaking workshop with local artist, Lisa Cheney.  It was all day Saturday and Sunday and at the end, we had a very nice, hefty, handmade book.

We brought our own papers to use.  Originally, I thought about bringing some of my fabric.  But decided to use paper since this was my first attempt.

Here is my finished book.

The paper I used for the cover was a piece of brown wrapping paper that I had, at some time, painted on (probably to clean off a brush).  Then I crinkled it up, flattened it back out and ran a brown ink pad over it.  It made a nice texture.

I have tons of scrapbooking papers, from when I use to do that, and picked out some in the same color scheme to use as embellishment and on the spine of the signatures.

From Lisa's image that was along with the description of the workshop, I saw we would be using some ribbon (even though it wasn't on the supply list).  I have a few ribbons and went through to find some in the same color scheme.

Lisa had a selection of ribbons, waxed thread and beads for us to use.  I went with a ribbon I had brought.

But I did use some of her letter beads on the spine, and was able to spell out "art."  I also used her burnt orange waxed thread to do the stitching on the cover.

It took the full two days to make the book.  And now I have a nice, one-of-a-kind, homemade book with nice Stonehenge paper inside to use.  For what?  I'm not sure yet. Lisa uses hers for beautiful visual journals.

Lisa demonstrating.

Here are some of the other books made by people in the workshop.

Jodena's book.

Jodena used the paper from a fancy gift bag she bought at Cost Plus.  Smart idea.

Marianne's book.

Marianne's paper reminded me of fabric.

Zella's book.

Zella also used some painted paper for her cover and added this little embellishment.

Now, my daughter wants one!

The End (literally).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Field Study Questions

Thank you for all the comments on my last post on the making of Field Study (K1).  Ellen wanted to know how I "went from a round undulating line of bushes to rectangular shapes."  I thought I would answer that here, instead of in the comments.

There are actually several answers I will give to the question of how did the undulating line of bushes get turned into rectangular shapes.

One answer is that, in general, I seem to prefer square shapes more than round.  I really don't know why that is.  I have heard that straight lines (and I am going to attach square/rectangular shapes to that as well) are more masculine and curves (circles) more feminine.  As a friend said to me one time, maybe I am expressing my masculine side.  It would make sense.  I am definitely not a "girly-girl."    That doesn't mean I will never use curves or circles, it just means that I seem to prefer the other.  

(Just as an aside, I cut all the seams free-hand on this piece so they aren't ruler straight.  I am really trying to get away from that because then the line is more like a drawn line.)

Another answer to the question is that sometimes when I see something, like the scene in the photo, an abstracted image pops into my head.  And if it is persistent, then I need to get it out of my head and onto paper. Many times it is already a fully formed image.

The last answer is that sometimes there is a progression through the sketching process.  It can be like brain storming - just trying out different ideas, or working through one particular idea in different ways.

I didn't actually show you every single step in the process.  What I left out in the last post were the sketches that came before I decided on that final one I showed you.

For Field Study (K1), the branch colors are what stood out the most to me and then it was the grouping of them against the background.  Maybe this will help with envisioning where the rectangles might have come from.

I hope that answered the question.  If you have more let me know.

(Also, if you do leave a comment, but don't have a Blogger account, then I can't reply to you directly with an email, but will do so here in the comments.  So you might need to check back.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Walk through the Field (Study)

I have finished my first artwork of the new year!  O.k., o.k. it was actually started last year and I didn't get it done before the end of the year.  So now it is the first of 2015.

Field Study
48-1/4" x 37"
©2015 Lisa Flowers Ross

Since most of my artwork is abstract, I thought for this piece I would walk you through the thought process from start to finish.

The first step comes when I see something that inspires me.  That is easy because I see things around me all the time, especially in nature, that inspire me.  What I saw for this piece were the bare branches of dogwood bushes as I drove back and forth to Ketchum.

Here is a picture I took somewhere along the road.  It's hard when you see something while driving. (Yes, I stopped and pulled over to take the picture.  Even got out to walk along the highway to get the view I wanted. The things we do for art!)

What inspired me were the colors of the bushes that stood out so brightly in the winter landscape.

The next step was to go to my sketch book and draw out some designs.  I did several thumbnails and this was the one I went with for the piece.  The numbers and dotted lines were added later while I was working on the piece.

After I had my sketch, I went to my fabric stash to pick colors. I really wanted a deep red burgundy color, but I just didn't have that color in my dyed fabrics.  These lean more toward purple.  That is one of the hard things about dyeing fabric only once a year.  You have to make do with what you have.  It's also a good challenge.

I pulled out a bunch of fabrics I thought would work to represent the branch colors.  I also pulled out some golds/tans to represent the grasses.  Do they match the photo colors?  No, they don't have to.  That was just the inspirational start.

When I had chosen the colors, then I went back to the sketch to figure out how I was going to piece it together.  It looks simple but the order is a little different than what you might think.  That's what all the numbers on the sketch are for, the order to put sections together.  The dotted lines are the seam lines for the sections.

From that point, I just cut the pieces within each section free-hand and sewed them together. Then, sewed the sections in order of the numbers.

Once everything was sewn together, then I had to make a decision about how to do the quilted stitches.  I had several ideas.  Here is one of them where I have more of a free-motion scribble stitch in the top section.  This would represent the scrubby sage brush in the background and would also be denser stitching to help "push" that section back to create a small amount of depth.

Although I liked that concept, there is more energy in those scribbles and I wanted to stay with the more gentle, flowing vertical lines of the seams.  And that is what I did, I stitched gently curving, vertical lines.

The thread color was another choice that needed to be made.  I wanted to use a variegated thread to create a little variation.  I used the same thread in the orange section as I did on the bottom section.  It looks completely different on different backgrounds.  I used a similar but slightly brighter color of thread in the gold section, although it actually looks darker than the other.  That is some of the fun of playing with threads, or anything.  Colors will change depending on what colors they are next to.

Even though you might not be able to tell from the picture of the finished piece, I trimmed the edges free-hand with slight curves (maybe a little too slight).  All that is left to do is sew on the sleeve and put on a label (and cut a hanging rod), which brings me to the last step - the title.

In my mind as I was working on this, I was just referring to this piece as Field Study.  But when I found out the type of bush was a dogwood, I did some research online about the scientific name or any other information that would suggest a different title (like the word "dagger" came up in my searches, I think it was the meaning of a latin name for the bush).

I didn't really like any of the things that I found with my search.  For now, I think it is going to be Field Study (K1).  "Field study" because the bushes were out in the field.  And "K1" for Ketchum and the first in what I hope will be a series.  I can continue with the dogwood bush inspiration or I also envision using some of the many other pictures I have of fields for inspiration, in which case the letters would change to something like "B1".   That could be the first of a Boise field inspiration.

Now you know how this artwork came into being.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Is Bigger Better?

It seems to me that in the art world, in general, people seem to think bigger artwork is better.  If you have been to a Quilt National exhibition, you may have noticed that there are very few small works.

In the past, I have also seen submission requirements for an exhibition that list the piece can be no smaller than a certain size.

Even at the Boise Art Museum, the Collectors Forum group will, more often than not, pick the largest piece from a selection of artworks to purchase for the museum, much to the chagrin of me and the curatorial staff who have to, then, figure out a way to shuffle artwork in an already packed to the gills vault to store another large piece.  And the big artwork is not always the best artwork or the one that will get "the most bang for their buck," so to speak.

Why does bigger seem better?  Obviously, a big piece has more impact, even if it is not the greatest, because it is so "in your face."  Someone is going to notice it right away when they walk into an exhibition just because of it's size.  It can be seen from very far away.

I am not saying that all large artwork is not great.  There are amazing, fantastic large works.  What I am saying is that it often seems to me that there is a general bias that bigger artwork is better. But just because it is big, doesn't necessarily make it good.

I think that sometimes smaller artworks get overlooked, and well, it's easy to do that because they are small.  In the right settings, small artworks can have a big impact as well.  The viewer has to get closer to view them.  This draws one in and creates a more intimate setting for exploring the work.

Recently, I added a new artwork to my collection which is very small.

This is a wood engraving by artist, Andy English, who lives in England.  I discovered his work on the internet, probably through some link leading to another link, etc.  As a wood engraver, most of his works are on a small scale.  I really like his work and when I saw he had some of these small Christmas cards in his Etsy shop, I bought one.  The detail is amazing and hard to believe, even when I am holding this right up to my face. This is an original print, just not a limited edition one.

I have some other small works in my collection, too.  I have lots of small original prints from the years I have been participating in the Leftovers Print Exchange (where the maximum size of the paper for the print is 5" x 7").

Years ago, I also was lucky enough to have the winning bid on an artwork by local artist, Lisa Pisano.  It is an amazing piece of a bird that is made up of minuscule pieces of dried leaves that have been cut into tiny rectangles and put together like a mosaic.  This isn't a very good picture but, hopefully, it will give you an idea of what I am describing.

Local artist, Rachel Teannalach, works everyday on a small 3"x 3" painting in her  tinyExpanse 365 work.  When displayed all together, they have a great impact, but also that intimacy that comes from having to get up close to see the individual images (go to her website to see an image of them all together).

Here is one of Rachel's tiny Expanses for this current 365.  You can follow along with her everyday painting on her Facebook page.

#22/365 by Rachel Teannalach
(picture re-posted with permission of artist)

Another local artist I know that works small is Marilyn Cosho.  She makes whimsical tiny fairy chairs from twigs and other items.

Do you know any artists that work on a small scale?  Please share links in the comments.  I would love to see them.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 in Review

At the end of the year, I do a review of my art business.  I look to see if I met the goals I set out at the beginning of the year.  Throughout the year, I also do weekly and monthly reviews which help make the yearly review easier.

Every year for the past few years, I have set a goal to average 20 hours a week working in my studio. I have yet to hit that goal.  This past year I averaged around 14-15 hours and that is just for the time working on my art or developing ideas/sketching for future work.  I don't know know why I can't hit that 20 hour time, but here are some reasons I can come up with.

One is that the time I actually spend on the business side of art is not included in that.  In 2014, I spent more time on this. I averaged around 7-8 hours a week working on business, that is in addition to the studio time.

Also, I averaged about one "art date" a week.   What is an "art date"?  That is the general term I use for an event that I go to that is art related.  For example, it could be an art opening, a visit to a museum, getting together with other artists to experiment with different techniques, visiting galleries on First Thursday, etc.

Another activity that I spend some time on is exercise.  That's so that I can ensure I stay healthy so I can keep making art!

For the list of goals I set out for 2014, I achieved around half or more.  In my opinion, I think that is pretty good considering I had a two page list.  Of course, other opportunities came up throughout the year which weren't on the list.

I don't beat myself up if I don't check everything off the list.  It is just a motivator to help keep me going in a positive, forward direction toward what I would like my art career to look like.

My goals and focus for this year have been laid out.  And I am looking forward to what the year may bring.

What about you?  Do you set specific goals or intentions?  How do you achieve them? Do you have any tips or techniques you use to achieve your goals?  (If you have written a blog post about it, please leave a link in the comments.)

The sun sets on one year and rises on the next.