Painting Islands…. On Fabric?

Dear Liza,

Since I retired from teaching, my brain is like a kid in kindergarten, always finding something new. I opened a cupboard and found things to write about, so I wrote… for months and months.

Writing and writing..

Then I opened another cupboard and there was fabric, so I sewed.

Sewing and sewing…..

And now I have found the paint cupboard. First gouache, then watercolors. And, like a kindergartener, I have friends with ideas that feed my ideas. “Come join my painting group,” said Ruthie. I did, and it has been wonderful. Art, silliness, and learning all come together in the magic proportions that teachers strive for.

Painting little crabby friends….

I posted the islands I was painting and dear Elaine said, “I’ll bet you could put those islands on fabric, and maybe even quilt them.” Well, it turns out that you can paint on fabric with regular acrylic paints if you add a bit of “gac” paint medium. Auntie Bridgett had some, because of course she did.

I spent a day looking at maps of all the islands I love. The Big Island of Hawaii. Tom Sawyer’s Island at Disneyland. Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson. Tiny Gabriola Island in the Strait of Georgia. Neverland. Sketch, reconsider, sketch.

Pencils first….

And finally I started painting my first fabric island. After smooth gouache and watercolors, the acrylic and muslin felt heavy and clumsy, but I kept at it.

The Big Island of Hawaii, as I have it so far…

I am still not totally happy with it, but I will get better if I just keep practicing. It seems a bit flat. Hmmmmm… Maybe I can add embroidery or even some beads. Maybe my friends will give me some good ideas.

Love,

Grandma Judy

On-line Happy Hour and the Go-Gos

Dear Liza,

Friday was a very warm day. Eighty-eight degrees, with a dry, bright sky. The heat of July has let us know it’s not done yet.

Newest bunch of flowers…

It was a good day, though. I got to practice with watercolors some more, painting a vase of flowers similar to my first one in gouache. Flower arrangements are good subjects. They remind me of my Momma, your great grandma Billie, so painting them is like having a long visit with her.

We met our new neighbors across the way. They are nice people, and the lady has a wonderful “Ramona the Pest” tattoo (from the original 1968 Louis Darling illustrations of that Beverly Cleary Classic) on her arm. I think we may be kindred spirits.

From Ramona the Pest

Ruth Inman, long-time friend and artist, had her first “Last Friday” Open House on-line, and we attended with cocktails in hand. It was great to see her studio and all her good work. She has such a whimsical touch and color sense. You can see her stuff at “ruthinmanart.com” .

Some of Ruth Inman’s beautiful work

We had dinner out at the newly re-opened for social distancing Suzette, our local Creperie. It was yummy and fun to see their bright new decor.

Suzette’s new interior

We watched the Giants beat the Texas Rangers at Oracle Park, in front of ‘cheering’ cut-outs of fans. A bit weird, (especially since the Giants usually don’t play the Rangers) but better than no baseball at all.

Still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…

And for the finale of the evening, we watched a new documentary on The Go-Gos, a music group that Auntie Bridgett likes. I had barely even heard of them, so I learned a lot!

They started in 1979 as an all-girl punk rock band, and matured into fine musicians and the first all girl group that wrote and performed their own material to get a Number 1 debut album. They were incredibly successful in an industry that didn’t want them to be. It was very interesting, and I got to hear some fun new music.

And then, when it was cool enough for sleep, we all crashed and said good-bye to July. What will August bring? Hold on tight!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sketchbook Islands

Dear Liza,

I am now spending a few hours everyday painting! It is giving the creative part of my brain a place to play while our days are just too hot to go outside. I started with flowers, but am branching out, so to speak.

Perfectly Imperfect

Auntie Bridgett forwarded me a video from her friend Jennifer Coile, called “Sketchbook Islands”. Jennifer had found the video and thought we would enjoy it. And boy, was she right!

The video can be found on YouTube.com, or you can follow this link. It shows the work of Hitoshi Shigeta, who creates beautiful, mysterious maps of islands that don’t exist.

https://youtu.be/v-AL7EqAkoghttps://youtu.be/v-AL7EqAkog.

The technique looked so simple, I had to try. And then it was so fun, I kept at it. You start with watercolor paper and two or three colors of very wet watercolor paint. Drop a few fat drops of paint onto the paper, then quickly cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. Give it a soft rub to move the paint around, then peel off the plastic.

Add some details…

You will have an irregularly shaped blob with really interesting edges and shadings. This will dry quickly. When it does, repeat with a different color, extending your ‘island’ and partially overlapping your first layer.

Odd colors, tin foil, then plastic!

Once I had it figured out, I began to experiment. I put down a quick wash of blue for the sea, then let it dry before creating my island. I played with bizarre colors and different materials. Flattening the paint with wrinkled tin foil gives a very different, ‘rockier’ island, and a combination of tin foil and plastic wrap is good, too. I tried ‘blobbing’ the wet paint on before flattening it, to give me more control and less splatter.

My getaway of the day

Once you are happy with how your island looks, you can make it more map-like by tracing the shoreline with a pen and putting in waves, sea monsters, and other details like mountains, buildings, or bridges.

This technique feels perfect for these difficult times. First, it is non-threatening and hard to mess up. Second, you are creating another world, and you get to name it. You can be as silly as you like. Silly is very good for mental health, I have found.

Finally, creating these islands lets your mind SEE these mysterious islands, and maybe, for a little while, BE there, far away from Corona virus and political turmoil. You can imagine standing on a mountain crag looking out at the sea, or walk across a grassy plain towards the beach. Feel the wind coming up the slope. Hear the gulls swooping over the waves.

A creation for a pessimistic friend

The only weakness of this technique, for me, is the lettering. I do not have a good hand for such detail work, but I am working at it. Maybe I can use stamps or collage to overcome my shortcomings. Meanwhile, I get to visit these wonderful islands.

Love,

Grandma Judy

…And more Flowers!

Dear Liza,

I am sorry if all my taking about painting is boring you, but I feel as though I have discovered a new super power, and I just love it!

Starting from single daisies to sunflowers and coneflowers, I have graduated to vases. Using a full, whole sheet of watercolor paper for the first time, I was nervous. I wanted to get it right. So I sketched, erased, and sketched some more.

Getting coneflowers, lupines and daisies in their places

Remembering my lessons from Ruth Inman and Auntie Bridgett Spicer, I started light so I could add darker colors later.

It’s like a ghost, beginning to materialize….

As I got more confident as to what the picture should look like, I put in more colors, the vase, and tabletop.

Almost there….

Once I had put in the shadows between the flowers, I let the paint dry before moving on to colored pencils.

Ready for pencils!

This is the longest part of making the painting. There are hundreds of tiny lines and dots of a dozen different colors to put in, and you never know where until you stare at it a long time. Sometimes you need some grey to make a shadow deeper, sometimes a yellow to bring a flower forward.

Well, that’s better!

And, of course, it was only then that I realized….. I had forgotten the background. Big, happy sigh. And back to work.

Background!

Then, more pencils…

And … done!

And now I’m on to the next one! Wheeee!

Love,

Grandma Judy