Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dec Book Club - Education of a Wandering Man

Education of a Wandering Man
by Louis L'Amour
December's book for the Blue Twig Studio book club was Education of a Wandering Man, an autobiography by Louis L'Amour. L'Amour is an interesting character and lived an interesting life. He dropped out of school at the age of 15, as he felt he could not learn what he needed to learn through the public school system. He started wandering the country and the globe, working various jobs, all while reading avidly to continue his education.

L'Amour always knew he wanted to write - as he was a storyteller. His early years of traveling, he worked various jobs like mining, being a hobo, being a seaman, along with other jobs, as well as fighting as a boxer to improve his education and to learn stories and backgrounds for stories he would later write. I found the stories he included of hobos interesting, as the original hobos in the 1920s and 30s were a far different man than today. Hobos in L'Amour's time were hard-working men traveling the country by catching the rails to work any job that needed to be done before traveling to the next job. L'Amour would stay in one location long enough to earn  money to travel to the next location, and have time to frequent local taverns, eateries, and other places men would gather to learn the local stories from the men who lived them. He also spent much time in local libraries and bookstores to continue reading. He read any book he could get his hands on, from popular stories, poetry, history, politics, economics, obscure titles and so on. He also wrote when he had time, but this was infrequent during his wandering years. This was all part of his education.

After moving his parents to Oklahoma, his life took a different direction and he started writing more, researching anything that interested him, which was mainly people - how they lived, what they did, their culture, and history, especially those on the frontier - any frontier - not necessarily the West, although he is most well-known for his stories of the Western frontier.  L'Amour also researched other successful writers to learn how to improve his writing. He submitted his writings from poetry, short stories, and novels to many publishers and magazines, not waiting to hear back before submitting another manuscript. He didn't take rejections personally, but as a tool to continue to improve his storytelling.

Even after L'Amour became a successful writer, he still strove to continue to improve his writing, doing his own research, reading, and building his library of books. He feels that anyone can get an education by reading. He kept a list of books he read, which is very extensive, as he read 100 or more books every year. He built a library collection of those books that most interested him, especially those that talked of man's history and people's cultures.

I have read several of L'Amour's books and enjoyed every single one. I have also enjoyed many of the movies that were created from his books.  One interesting tidbit I really found fascinating is that L'Amour was at Camp Hood, Texas for training for WWII at the same time my father was at Camp Hood, Texas doing his infantry training for WWII. That helped put L'Amour's life in more perspective for me, realizing that he and my father are of the same generation.

I admire L'Amour's artistry as a writer. He persevered through many rejections, he continually strove to improve, and he never stopped learning. I think these are qualities that any artist would do well to model - learn from other successful artists, never stop learning about our chosen area of art, keep improving, and continually submit work for shows or publications, in spite of any rejections.

I think this was a book worth reading and would recommend it to others. Also, I would like to read some of the books included in L'Amour's list of books he read.

Next month's book is Frida: a biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera.

Keep creating!
Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dec ATC Challenge - Winter Wonderland

This month's theme for the ATC Challenge by Blue Twig Studio is "Winter Wonderland."  I made two cards this month.

For the first one, "Let it Snow!", I painted the background of a 140lb watercolor paper in pale blue watercolor. I cut out white snowflakes on a dark blue background from a postcard that came a couple days ago. I glued these to the edges of the ATC card with matte medium. Then using a Sakura Moonlight gel pen in blue, I wrote "Let it Snow" three times. Finally, I added a few AB and clear sequins to the card for embellishment.

Let It Snow ATC Card, 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" on 140 lb watercolor paper.

For the second ATC card, I cut out a scene of the AZ desert. Using matte medium, I attached it to a Bristol paper ATC card. Using a Sakura Moonlight gel pen in white, as well as white acrylic paint, I added snow highlights to the cactus, ground cover, and mountains in the background. This is what the Arizona desert looks like in winter. It's rare to get snow, but when it does, it creates a beautiful landscape. Then I added AB and white sequins to simulate large snowflakes falling for embellishment.

Winter in the Desert ATC card, 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" on Bristol paper.
I hope you've had a wonderful holiday filled with laughter, happiness and family time!

Happy New Year!!

Keep creating!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Week 51 of 365 Days of Art Challenge

The year is almost over!! It's week 51of the 365 Day of Art Challenge weekly Sketch Challenge issued by Deb Prewitt of Blue Twig Studio! Trying to sketch during the holidays has been a real challenge for me.  I had started my sketch early, but didn't get to finish it until after Christmas. So I'm late again this week with posting!

I have been working through J. "Neon Dragon" Peffer's DragonArt Evolution: How to Draw Everything Dragon for most of this year (see previous posts). I have almost completed all of her exercises for drawing dragons that are in the book. 

This week I completed her Feathered Dragon exercise. Peffer states that not all dragons are leather and scales - fur and feathers can also be a part of their design. A dragon can be fully feathered, partially feathered, or simply have feathered wings - each resulting in a different type of dragon. The feathers can be patterned and colored like a bird, or have their own unique design.

Feathered Dragon, 7" x 10", Sakura black 0.005 micron pen, Prismacolor 0.005 micron
colored pens, Prismacolor colored pencils and pencil on mixed-media paper.
This feathered dragon reminds me more of a phoenix, as it is not only breathing fire, but has fire coming off both the top and bottom of its partially feathered wings. I like dragon, but I'm not as happy with the setting. I liked how the dragon looked by itself (with the flames) before adding the background. The dragon looked funny on a white background, since I chose to color it in, so I added the background quickly and didn't take the time to blend the colors properly. Another lesson learned - don't rush things!!!  

One more week to go!! I have two more exercises in the book to complete. Not sure if I can do both in one week to finish the book by the end of the year! However,  I'm very happy to have gotten through as much of the book as I have and it's only been possible by taking up the weekly sketch challenge! It helped push me, where I might not have pushed myself otherwise. Thanks, Deb!

Keep creating!


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Week 50 of 365 Days of Art Challenge

I missed the last couple of weeks of the 365 Days of Art Weekly Sketch Challenge by Blue Twig Studio.  My husband and I went to Ohio for the past couple weeks, where we both grew up. We were surprising my mother for her 80th birthday. Our daughter who is 7 months pregnant with her first child also went with us and a surprise baby shower was given for her just prior to Mom's surprise birthday party. Both were very surprised and Dad was so pleased with himself for keeping Mom in the dark.  It was a real whirlwind and I never got any time for sketching. By the time the days were over, I just wanted to go to bed. I thought I'd sketch on the plane, but that didn't work out either.

The trip also made me late with this week's sketch. After returning home, I needed a day to recoup and then we've been babysitting our grandchildren the last 2 days. Our 7 month old grandson has gone from learning to crawl to zooming everywhere and getting into everything!! Lol! He's adorable to watch, but how does he find the dog's water bowl and the doggy door first thing?! Then the almost 3-yr old was having meltdowns both days. Finally got him to take a nap today! Whew!! Thank goodness the older 2 children are old enough to entertain themselves and are a piece of cake to watch!  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

So even though I got this week's sketch done, it's taken me until today to photograph it and get it posted!!  If you've been following my blog this year, you know I'm trying to finish all the exercises in J. "Neon Dragon" Peffer's book: DragonArt Evolution: How to Draw Everything Dragon by the end of the year. I've been working out of it most of the year and learning much about drawing dragons. I'm excited to finish the last couple dragon studies.

This week I worked on a sea dragon, which can take many forms. They can be huge leviathans that are too large to fly or crawl onto land. They can be sinuous serpents, like the giant sea serpents that crush unfortunate ships that skim the surfaces of the oceans, or they can be more fish than reptile. "Underwater" is a broad term. It could refer to a dragon that lives in the depths of the ocean, or one that dwells in tropical reefs, or even in the icy waters of the Arctic. These will all effect what adaptations the sea dragons have and how they appear.

My sea dragon lives on a tropical reef, and has similarities to some reef fish, with a fancy tail, and sheer wings that he uses to propel himself through the water.

Sea Dragon, 7" x 10", pencil, Prismacolor 0.005 green and blue pens, Sakura 0.005 black micron pen on mixed-media paper.
I like the spines on the back of the head and top of the spine that are similar to a lionfish, but yet he has crests on either side of his head and under his arms. The wings and fancy tail have markings like a butterfly. He has a bright, colorfully striped body like many reef fish. I added a few seaweeds and bubbles to help the illusion that he is hovering in the water.

I'm pleased with my drawing this week. I wasn't sure I could get all the shading correct with pencils and the black pen, but I think it turned out well. It was difficult to make the wings look transparent. This might have been easier to show if I had used colored-pencils. I hope you enjoy my sea dragon.

Keep creating!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Origin Quilt for Mavericks Quilt Guild Challenge

The quilt guild I belong to, The Mavericks, finished up their challenge this month. The theme is "States of Mine", with two quilts - one depicting the Nature of Arizona (where we all currently reside) and the other depicting our Origins or something about the state (city, country, etc) where we grew up. I posted my Arizona quilt last month (see post dated Nov 20).

I was late with my origins quilt, as my Arizona quilt took me much longer than I expected. The show they are currently hung in was delayed, so I had the opportunity to finish it and get it in the show.

I'm originally from Ohio. I had a difficult time deciding what to do for this quilt. I originally wanted to do something with my grandparents farm, as I spent so much time there as a child. I took a photo a of the fall colors of my grandparents shed, where my grandfather always sat outside - no matter the weather. This is the image that always comes to mind, as I always saw Grandpa in that green metal chair in the opening of the shed whenever we pulled in the driveway. However, the challenge stated the quilt had to be 18" wide by 48" high. No matter how I played with the photo, it just didn't work in that format.

The second image I thought about using to make a quilt was one of the pond towards the back of the woods on my grandparent's farm. We played there year round - swimming and fishing in the summer, fishing in the spring and fall, and ice skating in the winter with bonfires and cookouts year-round. The pond and woods were my favorite playground as a child. However, the photo looked much better in a horizontal format, instead of a vertical format. No matter how I cropped it, I just wasn't happy with the composition.

I love looking at the moon, stars and constellations, which are much more difficult to see well in the city. My Dad gave me a love of astronomy by getting us (my siblings and I) up many nights at 2 or 3 am to look at the moon or stars in a telescope built by a great-Uncle. I remember watching Neil Armstrong orbit the moon through the telescope before they made history by landing on the moon. Neil Armstrong was from a town 20 miles from where I grew up. I had it - I'd paint the Milky Way for my Origin's Quilt.

I started with a piece of black batik cotton fabric to paint. I roughly sketched the Milky Way with an iron-out white fabric marker. Using Jacquard's white textile acrylic paint, I started painting in the background for the Milky Way.
Milky Way, 18"x48". I started painting the
background with Jacquard White Textile paint.

I tried several acrylic and watercolor paints on the black batik, but most of them did not show up. I finally had to use Shiva Oil Paintsticks to achieve the desired color I wanted for the starry background of the Milky Way. I no longer use the Shiva paintsticks as much, because of the strong odor. But they do look lovely on black fabric!
I used Shiva Oil Paintsticks to add color for the
background of the Milk Way to the black fabric.
 I continued with the white textile paint and the Shiva paintsticks to paint in the rest of the Milky Way and the background space for the stars.
Painting the Milky Way with Jacquard white
textile paint and Shiva Oil Paintsticks.
I started dotting in stars using the point of a paintbrush.  I used a toothbrush to splatter white paint to create hundreds of stars. Unfortunately, these weren't large enough. My husband found me a wire brush for removing rust on metal and this made lovely size stars when splattering paint on the fabric. With several sizes for stars between the toothbrush and the wire brush, the quilt had lovely depth to the Milky Way Galaxy.
Stars added to the Milky Way galaxy by splattering with a toothbrush and a wire brush.
 I left a black silhouette of a couple of small trees and a person (myself) standing with arms raised looking up at the Milky Way Galaxy. After waiting a couple days, for the oil paint to dry, it was ready to quilt. I found some patterns that created a "windy" effect on Pinterest. I combined a couple to free-motion quilt wind and clouds in my Milky Way quilt.
"Astronomy Lessons with Dad" - 18" x 48". My
Origin Quilt for the Maverick's 2014 quilt challenge. 
Close up to show some of the quilting details. 

I finished the edges using facing and added a sleeve and label on the back. People that saw my quilt asked me where I found such a wonderful panel -  that was high praise!! Others that saw only my photos asked me how I took pictures of the Milky Way. They were surprised to find out it was a quilt that I hand-painted. I'm very pleased!

It feels good to get both quilts completed and have them in the show in Scottsdale, AZ! Now I need to go see it. It hangs until the beginning of March, so I have time. Then it will go to the Arizona Quilt Guild's Annual Spring Show the end of March and to a show in Georgia sometime later in the year.

Keep creating!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Blue Twig Studio - Dec Review of Products and Project Step-Outs

As part of Blue Twig Studio's Design Team, I will be reviewing products and doing at least one project each month. For the month of December, I am reviewing the November Fabric Club Kit.

Products  Reviewed and Used for Project:
Blue Twig Studio's November Fabric Club Kit. 

Included in the November Fabric Club Kit:
  1. Five fat quarters (18" x 22") of Tim Holtz's Eclectic Elements fabric line. 
    • Two are a snakeskin design, one in blacks and the other in brown shades. 
    • The third has various streets, such as 179 Times Square, P'kway Queens Plaza, Metropolitan Av, 8th Coney Island, Kings Highway in shades of browns and tans.
    • The fourth piece are logos of various hotels around the world in tans, grays, and browns. Examples are the Ritz Barcelona, Hotel Barker in Seattle Washington, Hotel Merkur in Nurnberg, Hotel Mount Everest in Darjeeling, India, Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and so forth., 
    • The last piece has various numbers and fractions, going in different directions in shades of tans and browns.
  2. Two 125 yard spools of Heavy Dual Duty XP Coats and Clark polyester thread in chocolate brown and black. 
  3. Three 1 1/2" four-hole wood buttons with mottled shading of tans, rusts, and browns. 
Other products that I used to create my project (a 8" x 10" wall hanging) include:

     *  Jacquard Textile Paint in 123 White. You could use gesso or any other paint brand. I used the Jacquard, as I had been using it for another project and already had it out and easily available.

     *  The shimmering gold acrylic ink from a Daler-Rowney FW Shimmering Colours Set of Acrylic Artists Ink.  (Could use another brand of shimmering or glittery paint.)

     *  Other fabrics including gold lame, silver lacy tulle, and brown tulle. These add texture and interest. (Any fabrics could be added.)

     *  Wine and yellow silk threads fibers(Any fibers could be use , i.e. Angelina fibers, fancy yarns, wool felt… Also could add hand-stitching to for texture and interest.)

      *  Timtex interfacing.  Timtex is 100% polyester for consistent thickness and texture. It's firm yet flexible. It's perfect for shaping into 3-D craft projects. It's easy to cut, mark and sew. Machine wash and dry. It can be bought in packages or by the yard. (Could use any interfacing, batting, a piece of flannel, or canvas.)

Project Step-Out:

I first cut a piece of Timtex interfacing to size (8" x 10"). Then I used the street name fabric to cover the back of the timtex. I folded the edges around to the front and stitched them down with the black Coats and Clark thread included in the kit. Next I added a label that I hand-wrote with a black 0.03 micron. Sakura pen and stitched that into the lower right-hand corner of the back of the wall hanging.

Back of 8" x 10" wall hanging with "Faces" label.
Now I was ready to create my wall hanging. I laid out pieces of all five fabrics in various sizes to create a collage and stitched these to the front. I didn't put the fabrics in any particular order. I added part of the selvage edges to show they were Tim Holtz's fabrics, and also, just for fun.

Step 1. Collage of all five fabrics stitched randomly to the front.
I fused a piece of the lacy silver tulle and three flame-shaped strips of gold lame to the collage. Then, I stenciled the three-quarter view face stencil using Jacquard textile white paint. I added the hair with more white paint and a brush.

Step 2. Add gold lame and silver tulle. Stencil face and paint hair.
 She needed some more color, so I chose the shimmering gold DR acrylic artists ink to add gold eye shadow and gold to her hair. It looks better in the collage, as you can see the gold shimmer, which the camera did not pick up well.
Step 3. Painted gold shimmering acrylic ink to the eyelids and hair.
I sewed on the buttons for a necklace. Then I added metallic beads in various sizes (6, 8, 11) on either side of a large raku face bead for a barrette in her hair. Finally, I laid out various strands of a variety of neutral colors of pearl cotton and couched them with three small Chinese coins and size 11 beads.

Step 4. Attach buttons, beads, pearl cotton and Chinese coins.
 Finally, I used an awl to punch 3 holes in the top, attaching a small 10" mesquite branch (about 1/2" in diameter) with gold ribbon for the hanger of the wall hanging.

Final mixed-media, collaged wall hanging, 8" x 10". 

Product Review:

I was thrilled to receive the November Fabric Club Kit, as I love Tim Holtz's Eclectic Element fabric line and haven't had a chance to buy any of his fabrics, as I could not find them at any local quilt stores in the Phoenix, AZ area. I think fabrics with words and numbers are such fun to create tote bags, messenger bags, and/or purses. But better yet, they work well for collage quilts, modern quilts, backgrounds for pictorial quilts, and/or mixed-media art work. I created an 8" x 10" mixed-media wall hanging with the kit. I have enough fabric left to make a small quilt or a small purse. I'll let you know what I create when I get to it. (With upcoming holidays, it will be a few months.)

I had a problem with the buttons that you need to be aware of. They can NOT be sewn on by machine, as the hole spacing is wider than the industry standard for buttons. I'm glad I always check the hole spacing before I just hit sew, or I would have broken a needle and possibly thrown off the machine's timing. A note with the buttons stating that they have a wider hole spacing than the industry standard for buttons would have been nice. So beware when buying buttons to check the hole spacing before just stitching on your sewing machine! 

The thread states "heavy", but I could not find the size (30wt, 40wt, 50wt?) on the spool anywhere. My 80/12 needle worked, but the 90/14 was better. To hand-sew the buttons, I had to use a larger hand-needle than I normally use for hand-stitching, as well. A size 9 worked well.  Again, it would be nice to have the size of thread put on the label, so you are not guessing what size needles (machine or hand) to use with it. (I did use both the brown and black threads for sewing the project.)

This wall hanging can be seen at Blue Twig Studio after Dec 3rd. I hope these step-outs give you some direction to take for your own  mixed-media, collaged wall-hanging.

Keep creating!