omg. Am I screwing this up?

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I only sewed two lines of quilting on my straight stitch machine and it’s coming out all LUMPY! Should I continue? Or should I rip it out and take it to a real quilter? If I continue like this the quilt will be lumpy all over.  I can’t decide what to do with it.IMG_2098

Or is it really not that bad after all? Maybe I should continue. What do you think?

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a quilt my Mom started and I’m finishing

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Did you ever say you’d finish a project for someone else then procrastinate for about ten years? I did.

Mom did most of the piecing of the two inch squares then stopped because she had cataract surgery and after that she had double vision and now is practically blind. She was working on this for my daughter and she called it an around the world quilt because my daughter loves to travel. I told her I’d finish it and when Sarah gets married it could be a wedding present from the both of us. I was off the hook for a long time because Sarah was concentrating on her career and didn’t get married. Now she’s engaged and time is running out so I had to put the art supplies away and sew.

I don’t have much quilting experience and I thought it would be time consuming and difficult. Also, I don’t have a big work table so I have to move furniture out of the way and spread it out on the floor to work on it. I had to cut around 50 of the squares to finish the piecing and the first hurdle was picking colors that would go with the ones Mom used. I procrastinated even more waiting for coupons to come in the mail and made a few trips to the fabric store for fabrics to finish the piecing then more fabrics for the wide border, polyester batting and backing.

The first time I tried to make the border it looked real bad. It was all lumpy when I laid it out on the floor and I knew I could do better. I think it came out lumpy because the pieced squares stretched as I was sewing. I had to rip all the way around and rip gently so as not to ruin the piecing. It took hours to fix it. The second time I sewed the border I had the piecing on the bottom and the border on top and the squares didn’t stretch. That white on the edge is the batting extending past the top of the quilt. I’ll trim it off when I finish the edges.

Now on to the next step. I’m going to try to quilt it on my singer 191. I’m hoping I can do a decent job of it and save a couple hundred dollars instead of taking the job to a professional quilter. First I’ll have to loosely tack it by hand while it’s still on the floor to keep all the layers from sliding out of place. If I tack it in 25 places, that should do it. Then I won’t need to put in as many pins and hopefully I can roll it up small enough to get it through my machine without scratching myself up on pins.

I’ll be glad when it’s over. Finishing a job for another person isn’t as much fun as your own project. I’m sure Mom will be excited to see it finished after all these years and Sarah will love it too. Wish me luck, friends. I’m kind of worried about the quilting part.

Lotuses / oil / some tips on composition I remember from art school

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They said the mind seeks balance but we shouldn’t make a balanced composition because when the viewer’s eye sees balance it’s instantly bored and moves on to the next thing.

The way to create imbalance is with focal points. An odd number of focal points is more interesting than an even number because the viewer’s eye will keep going around the canvas. If there’s only one focal point the viewer’s eye will go to it and stop right there. Also, don’t put a focal point dead center on the canvas. That makes a static composition.

Focal points can be created in different ways by using contrast such as complimentary colors or value contrasts, or by making sharp detail on an otherwise blurry painting.

I find composition to be a difficult part of painting and cutting my shapes out of paper and arranging them like Matisse helped me plan this painting. I’m getting a lot of inspiring ideas from Matisse this summer.

About this painting : The path through the Japanese garden is too narrow for me to stand up my easel. I’d have been blocking the other visitors so I took a few pastels and did my sketches on my small sketchbook because I don’t need my easel to hold it and I can easily back out of the way if people want to walk through. I did the painting at home using Matisse’s method of taping my paintbrush onto a yardstick and standing back from the canvas to paint. I’ve tried the brush on a stick method a few times and it still seems awkward. It’s hard to control the brush. I have to hover the brush over the canvas and when I make contact with the canvas in the right general area I want to paint, I kind of roll it. After I get the general shape I’m trying to do, I can get some brush strokes on it. I want to keep practicing this brush on a stick thing. Maybe it will get easier if I practice.

background for painting of lotuses / stealing ideas from Matisse

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The paint is thick so I’ll have to wait till later this week to paint the flowers. I’m not sure what Matisse’s oil painting technique was. He liked to put his paintbrush on the end of a long pole and stand way back from his canvas so I’m practicing that. It’s hard to control the brush. I think the practice is supposed to make the artist “loosen up”.

The other times I tried to paint with my brush on a yardstick I didn’t use medium. I painted on a dry tinted canvas and I’m not used to the brush having so much drag on the canvas. That, plus the brush on a stick made it a strange experience. I guessed Matisse probably didn’t paint in the couch like I was taught to do, so I didn’t use my Maroget medium. Painting in the couch is when you paint a thin layer of medium on the dry canvas and paint your colors on top of the medium. It makes a slick surface for your brush and it’s easy to use glazes or paint with thick texture. This time I decided to use my Maroget medium and paint in the couch to make it a little easier to control my brush on a stick. To use medium or not to use medium, that is the question.

I doubt if I’ll be able to stay true to any one style. There’s so many that I like and I only steal the good ideas. Plus, I don’t have all the info on Matisse’s technique. It doesn’t matter. Rules don’t apply to me.IMG_2090

These are my sketches for the lotus painting. The eight smaller papers are my pastel sketches from the Japanese garden at Norfolk botanical where I hung around on eight different days for a couple hours. The three larger papers are my enlargements of my leaf sketches done by taping a sharpie on a yardstick like Matisse. You can see my scribbles where the sharpie went off on it’s own.

Then I cut out the leaf shapes and arranged them on my canvas different ways to decide the composition. That’s something Matisse enjoyed doing. He cut shapes out of colored paper and arranged them. The arranging part is where I got hung up for a while.

I have to sketch my flowers again on tracing paper and figure out how many I can fit on the painting. I don’t want to crowd them because they’re not crowded in nature. Maybe only three on my 18 x 24 canvas. I did a lot of sketches I won’t use and will never frame but that’s ok. It isn’t about the finished piece, it’s about the process. The questions answered, the new experience, the practice. Know what I mean?

pastel studies of lotus flowers

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The weather was so nice this morning. I stayed in the garden for a couple hours and wasn’t even hot!

I want to do one more sketch in plein air then I can paint at home. I’m getting set up to try again painting with my brush taped to a yardstick like Matisse. First I need to do charcoal sketches of my flowers and leaves larger with my charcoal on a stick. After I get some larger looser sketches I’ll be able to plan a composition of flowers, buds and leaves.IMG_2088

This lotus is wilting. They move a lot in the wind and sun. They’re never the same from one day to the next.

Lotus flower / pastel

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This is the tall kind of lotus with the big leaves. I should make this leaf twice this size if I do it in oil paint. I didn’t take the right color pastels. It’s a narrow path and I took some pastels in a baggie instead of my whole pastel collection.

It’s getting too hot for me to enjoy standing around outside to draw. I have to get to the botanical garden when they open at 9 or forget about it because I’m not going out to draw when it’s over 85. At least I can get the zen vibe of drawing in for an hour or so in the morning if I get out early enough. Today the heat didn’t get to me until I was ready to do the leaf. It becomes impossible to concentrate when you get too hot.

I’d like to do more lotus studies and try to paint like Matisse again with the paintbrush on a yardstick. That was fun.

lotus flower and pelican on piling / charcoal sketches

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What luck! I just happened to walk through the Japanese garden and saw lotuses are blooming! Sometimes I’m too late to see them. This one was especially nice because there’s a reflection in the water. I’ll go back with my pastels.IMG_2085

A few months ago I started a painting of the beach. My underpainting wasn’t working so I painted over it with gray. I want to try again with a beach painting. In this sketch you can see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in the background. Left is heading South through the first tunnel.. This might be part of my beach painting if I can get a good plan worked out but the waves there are small and the beach is narrower than the ocean front so I might not paint sand or breakers. I could use my sketch of the wind surfer in the painting.

A lot of birds were on the pilings but I only drew the pelican. I need more sketches before I can make up my mind how to go about the painting.

Diana fauve / try try again

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That painting I did last week was sooooo bad. How bad was it? Matisse rolled over. I tossed it.

They don’t give any information about technique in my Matisse book. It’s trial and error here. At least no one will ever say I fear failure. I’m learning something about fauvism by trying to copy the style. This is what I got so far.

Fauve means wild animal so my painting should be bold. Last week I was hesitant so I daubed. Matisse would h8 that. This time I was more deliberate with my brush strokes.

In fauvism you’re supposed to convey an emotion with your color choices. I hope I can do that. Imagine Diana, goddess of the hunt. She represents the feminine ideals of independence and chastity. She can kill her own food so she doesn’t need to rely on some god to bring dinner home and she’s better off without being in a relationship with some god because those guys cause all kinds of mischief fooling around with mortals and chasing nymphs etc. She’s alert and at peace with nature. She’s strong.  I hope I can capture her attitude.

Trying to paint in a style I’m not used to is challenging. I’ll try again. If you know anything about it please advise me. Thanks for the likes on that last post which was a really horrible painting. I appreciate the support.

Diana Fauve / oil

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It seems a little ironic that my first subject to try fauvism is Diana because she’s the goddess of the hunt and fauve means wild animal.

Matisse said you should use color to express emotion and I thought he!!, I’m not emotional. Then I remembered the plaque at the museum said Diana represents the feminine ideals of independence and chastity so I thought about those things when I was working on it and picked colors I like to work with.IMG_2078

Yesterday when I got home from sketching at the museum I knew my sketch wasn’t right. I wanted to correct it but not go back to the museum so I taped my sketch to the wall and taped a piece of charcoal to a yardstick so I could stand back and do it again. The first try I taped a sharpie to the yardstick and that sketch looked real bad. Almost human. So I tried charcoal and got this sketch which looked better than the sketch from the museum. You can see places where my charcoal on a stick went somewhere on it’s own.

I tried two more but this one was the best so I used it for my painting. I’ll do the charcoal on a stick practice again. I’m pretty sure Matisse did it thousands of times. It’s good to stand back from what you’re working on and you can’t really focus on any certain little thing too well. It seems like you have to draw a bunch of lines and pick the one you want. IMG_2081.jpg

Here’s a few fauve portraits for you. The one on the left is Matisse, Madame Matisse. Then portrait of Matisse by Andre Derain. Then portrait of Derain by Maurice Vlaminck. On the right is portrait of Vlaminck bu Andre Derain.

It looks like your sketch doesn’t have to be 100% accurate. That’s a nice thing about fauvism. I don’t know if mine fits in with this fauvism thing but it was kind of fun and easy to do. I’ll probably do another one from a marble bust.

An interesting story about Matisse is that he cofounded an art school with some other artists but he didn’t want to be paid because he didn’t want it to be an obligation. He went on Sat. and did the critiques. He must have been a harsh critic because another teacher said it took him all week to build up the confidence of the students and on Sat. Matisse would destroy it.

On the first day of school the students were so excited to do fauvism they hung all their bright fauve paintings in the room and when Matisse came in he was mad and told them to take all that garbage down. Then he made them sketch busts! The students were not happy.

Diana after Powers / charcoal

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Yesterday was too hot to draw outside so I went to the Chrysler Museum to sketch. I worked on it for a little over an hour and went back today and was there  for another hour or so. I can’t tell if this looks like the marble bust or not.

I’d like to try to paint a portrait but I don’t want to pay a model. I could do a self portrait but I don’t enjoy looking at my reflection. So I’ll see if I can paint Diana like a fauve. If it comes out ugly she won’t be offended.

I don’t care too much if I mess it up. I’ll do my best, but no guarantees. I have practically no ego for an artist. Should I blame my parents for that or thank them?

My art school was a trade school but I learned to draw and paint in the traditional ways. That doesn’t mean I don’t like modern art.  Is it really important to stick to a certain style? I don’t think so, but there are people who tell an artist to pick a medium or style and stick to it. I heard a juror say, “Don’t mix two different styles.” I didn’t ask for the reason and I don’t know the styles well enough to know if I’m doing that, but I thought she was talking to me.

I like looking at photography even though I don’t do it. I like a lot of modern art even though my attempts to do it don’t usually work out. Most artists try different things and go through their phases. Matisse, who I always liked, tried fauvism so I want to try it too. I’ll use this sketch.

No Camera Needed