Arty Leaves, Leafy Art

Dear Liza,

I love learning new things! Last week, my friend and art teacher Ruth Inman showed me a way to put the beauty of Fall leaves on paper so I can keep them, send them to friends, or even scan them into my computer to use later.

First, of course, you have to collect the leaves. This gets you out of the house and noticing things, which is always good. If the leaves are wet, lay them between paper towels with something heavy on top for an hour or so.

Place dry leaves between the pages of a heavy book for a few days.

Once your leaves are flat and dry, they are ready. You will need acrylic paints, a brush, watercolor paper, and extra paper to paint and press on.


Paint your choice of colors on the back of the leaf, then carefully lay it, wet side UP, on a clean sheet of newspaper. Lay a piece of watercolor paper over it and rub to get lots of paint from the leaf to the paper. Then carefully peel the leaf off and set the paper aside to dry.

You will learn as you go how much is too little or too much. Be prepared to make a few that you don’t like until you get the hang of it.

TOO MUCH, DARLING…
NOT ENOUGH!

Putting Fall colors on randomly, you can get good effects. Sometimes, a single dot of pure yellow or blue makes the whole thing pop.

JUST RIGHT

Once your prints are dry, you can trim them and glue them onto cards. If you have a scanner, you can scan the prints into your computer and make dozens more.

I enjoyed leaf printing so much, I did a bunch more this morning!

Thanks, Ruthie!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Kawandi News

Dear Liza,

A few weeks ago I told you about discovering the art of Kawandi quilting, and how the Siddi people of southwest Africa brought it to India hundreds of years ago. I posted about my first try, then my second quilt made with Ruth Andresen’s tie silk.

And then something wonderful happened! I got a message from Irmgard Jacob, a lady who who lives in Ontario, Canada, and we wrote back and forth about Kawandi. “Isn’t it nice we can connect and work together like this across so many miles?” She said. She has even visited India and has family there.

This is the second time my blog has led to connections with friendly, interesting strangers, and it is like opening another door to the world.

Six colors, cut in more regular shapes….

I took time off from Kawandi to do another project (which I will tell you about when the time is right) and then wanted to do another one. Auntie Bridgett found this old piece of Christmas decoration that she wasn’t happy with, and offered it as a backing for my next piece. Thanks, Bridgett!

Since I would rather use what I have than go buy something at a shop, I dug into my fabric box and came up with six colors that go together.

This time, instead of random squares and rectangles, I cut most of the pieces the same size, about a 2×4” rectangle. That allowed for easier overlapping and fewer stray corners. It also made for some very thick overlaps, so next time I will use thinner fabrics.

Since this was my third Kawandi, it went a lot faster. I had the hang of the long stitches and the more regular lines of color.

Almost done!

I got it done and am mostly happy with it. I don’t think I will do any more for a while, because I need to sit at the work table to do it and my back gets tired of being hunched over. I do enjoy playing with the colors and how quickly a piece comes together.

I think my next piece, whatever kind of needlework it is, will be of brighter colors. The rich reds and blacks of the Kawandi, and the dark greys and greens of my other project, are lovely. But I want to use some hot yellows and oranges, I think, to celebrate the summer.

And I’ ll show you that one when it happens!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Garden Journal Update

Dear Liza,

Last year, my friend Ruth Inman taught me how to make art journals from scratch, out of boxes and glue and scraps. She was so enthusiastic and clear in her directions, and the the supplies so cheap, I couldn’t NOT do it.

So I made one. A saltine cracker box, some art papers from Auntie Bridgett, and voila, a journal. I decided to use it to write (and maybe even paint) about our new garden plot.


And I have been working in it ever since. Some days I just write what’s happening, but I usually will go back and add some water color, to make it prettier. It also lets me show the weather and plants better.

And I have really enjoyed it. Since the Journal is not for anyone but me, I am not intimidated about not being perfect. I work in pencil from my photos of the things in the garden, Watercolor, then ink with a waterproof Micron pen.

As it turns out, this is going to be an accurate record of my garden! It will be useful next year, when I am deciding what to plant and where to put it. It will remind me of the little details that are easily forgotten. And I will get to enjoy my pictures, as well!

I am happy to be Art-ing, gardening, and eating.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Another Art Challenge

Dear Liza,

My friend Ruth Inman gave us another challenge this week. It was to use text as a background for a piece of art. She offered some pieces of text to use, but I wanted to do my own. I used some stencils that I just got last week and went over the letters in waterproof ink.

I got my acrylic paints and an old credit card and scraped some color over the words.


The greens and yellows are a good start….


One thing I really like about art, and the artistic process, is that you learn as you go along. If something isn’t right, you work on it until it is. In this case, the pink made it even more Spring-y, but was way too intense. The letters were fighting with the colors! Help!

Auntie Bridgett suggested I put some white outlines around the letters, which helped a bit, but not enough. So I darkened the letters with some watercolor pencil and lightened the red bits up with tiny dots of Posca marker. It was better!

I still need to work on getting my stencils letters straight, but that will come with practice.

Have fun with your art!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Trying Something New with Something Old

Dear Liza,

I always like trying something new.


I have been making Art Journals with Ruth Inman for a while, using cracker boxes and other leftovers for covers. But the other day when I found this really old, falling-apart literature book, I thought …. Why not use ITS cover as a cover?


First, I helped the book finish falling apart, trimming the cover and selected pages with an Exacto knife. I saved the very old 2nd place ribbon I found inside. The handwritten inventory numbers and check-out pocket touched my librarian’s heart, so I made sure they were safe. I found one of my favorite poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The Rhodora”, among the anthologized works, and saved it, as well as old illustrations.


Lovely, historic insides

I grabbed a yellow printed fabric from my box, thinking the texture looked like old alligator skin. Once I had it glued onto the cover, however, it became clear that I had mis-judged. It was too light. I resisted the urge to tear it off and decided to highlight the texture and darken the effect with some acrylic paint. It was better.

Improving the spine fabric

Sewing the signatures in

I stiffened the spine with some card stock, then laid in the inside fabric. I made four ‘signatures’ (sets of pages) and pierced the spine carefully to sew the signatures in.

A new book from an old book!

Since the book was printed in 1932, I plan to use it as a journal for my research and ponderings on history. I have been researching English and French history, and am now looking into the many places where they intersect. I am also curious about how they interacted with the Holy Roman Empire and, further away, the many dynasties of the Chinese Empire.

This historic, hand-made journal will give me a place, and an inspiration, to collect these thoughts, as well and other brain bits that pop up.

The Inspiration….

“Tell them dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,

Then beauty is its own excuse for being.”

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hopeful Collage

Dear Liza,

I have been having so much fun experimenting with mixed media! Putting watercolors, other paints, and collage together to tell about a feeling, or a day, just makes so much sense to me.

This piece is from Easter weekend. When I was out walking, I thought about how all springs are new beginnings. But THIS spring, with vaccines making us safer, we are being released from Covid captivity in addition to our cold winter isolation. This spring feels especially free-ing.

I collected some bits from my collage box, including candy wrappers and the little paper sleeve that was wrapped around my ice cream cone from the new Dairy Hill Creamery, down on Hawthorne.


I knew I wanted the ‘sad’ side on the left and the ‘happy’ side on the right, so I put some watercolors down for a first layer.

To show more clearly what made the sad side so sad, I stenciled and collaged some Covid-looking circles, and even spelled ‘Covid’ out in letters. Moving on from the sad, I laid down an ice cream cone wrapper bridge over a river made from a chocolate-wrapper bit of tinfoil.

I needed a happy side to be bright, so I stenciled a sun in a variety of yellows. The city is cut from an on-sale art paper from Collage art supplies. The bird was on a birthday card. The ‘JOY’ balloons are also from the ice cream wrapper.

To finish it off, I outlined the balloons and letters, and gave some detail to the sun. And to remember that this happened on Easter, I put some pretty eggs by the bridge.

Giving it a critical look, I realize that I made the water under the bridge wrong. But overall, I am pleased with the piece. It captures how I was feeling and incorporates bits of the day. I hope you have fun doing art this week!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Busy Easter

Dear Liza,

Easter Sunday wasn’t as warm or sunny as the day before had been, but it was still nice enough to get out for some fun.

After French practice and crosswords, Auntie Bridgett and I walked by our allotment to see how the seeds are doing. We have sprouts! The radishes and lettuces are sending up tiny green baby bits and I am so excited! I will come by tomorrow with the watering can to make sure they stay nice and moist.

We continued through the neighborhood, past pink drifts and blizzards of cherry blossoms, to the Pix-O-Matic on Burnside. Pix is a fancy French style patisserie. Due to Covid, they have installed high end vending machines to sell their pastries, but also Candy, toys, and odd bits of niftiness. We got a small collection of Easter candies and a pastry called a Shazam to have after dinner. Noticing that Kopi coffee was open, we stopped by and had interesting and delicious Ginger and cardamom coffees, and a blueberry scone. We sat at a tiny table on the sidewalk, watching and listening to all the humanity…..conversations, buses going by, car radios. It was nice to be OUT.

We got home and put the goodies away, did some art, and had lunch. Then Grandpa Nelson joined us and we walked way up into the Laurelhurst neighborhood, loving the spring flowers and blossoms on the hundred year old trees.

We got back in mid-afternoon and it was time to start dinner. I was cooking lamb shanks for the first time, and wanted to give myself time to do it right. Shanks tend to be tough, and need low and slow cooking. I used a recipe from The Spruce Eats online, and they turned out wonderfully! Tender, rich and yummy. I made mint sauce out of our mint from the garden, and it made the lamb even better! Hooray! I love learning how to make new delicious things!

Lamb shanks on the table, decorated with Pam Ferraschi’s ceramics

We remembered to save room for the Pix desserts, however. Shazam is an almond cake with caramel and mousse under a paper thin chocolate wrapping. Delicious!

And THEN it was time for my zoom visit with you, Liza. We chatted, giggled, and drew Easter eggs and bunnies. I showed you the collage I’ve been working on (more about that tomorrow) and visited with your mommy and daddy.

We finished off the busy day with “Escape from the Chateau” and working on a new jigsaw puzzle, and headed for bed.

Not bad for an ‘isolated’ Easter.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Still Growing, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Last summer, a few months after the Covid shutdown, I started painting with an online group organized by Ruth Inman. It made sense that we should start painting with flowers…. who doesn’t like flowers?

Step by step watercolor Cornflowers

My skills weren’t very good, and I was scared of making mistakes, but being with an old friend put me at ease. The tremor in my hand got in the way a bit, but I’d just power through, realizing that the wiggly lines could be just part of the picture. Flowers don’t have straight lines, anyway.


Wacky candy wrapper collage

As the year passed, Ruth would give us challenges to use different materials, like candy wrappers or other recycled papers. These let me realize that ART didn’t have to mean making a perfect painting every time. The making, the process, was the main thing. If other people liked it when you were done, that was a bonus. But it was not the main goal.

Fun with Acrylics

Realizing that, I got more confident. I also came to understand that different media work in different ways. Watercolors always show through, so planning is crucial. Acrylics are more forgiving and will cover up mistakes. Collage needs a careful hand but is amazingly freeing. And all of these can be used in the same piece, if you like!


This is my new favorite, a remembering of a drive along the Willamette. As I sat on a bench looking at Mt. Hood far away across the river, I planned out how I would construct it. Watercolors for the sky and ground, THEN the distant mountain (out of a bit of Kleenex box), THEN the flowers/ trees in front of it, then the river and dogs. I found the note in the sky folded up in our picnic table, and wanted to include it.

Close up!

I built up from the background to the foreground, and was pleased with how it turned out. The snow on the mountain is a tiny bit of Posca marker.

I’ve learned a lot this year. Mostly, I learned that I am still learning, which is a good thing.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Layers and Layers (Part 2)

Dear Liza,

The other day I decided to see just how loosely I could start a picture. The only decision I made was ‘blue’ and ‘circles’.

I swished these down and and left them to dry. An hour later when I came back, they looked pale and flat. I gave them some darker swooshes, and, while they were damp, some splatters of plain water.

Seeing that my scheme was working, I headed to the kitchen and collected my circular implements of art…. a shot glass, a tiny bowl, a bit of Tupperware…. and a tube of chapstick.

Once the paper was completely dry, I started tracing circles in dark blue water color pencil. I wanted to lay down colors in layers, so no black. Yet.

The tracing needs a steady hand, and I did a lot of drawing, stopping, and staring. I wanted it to be interesting but not chaotic, balanced but not symmetrical. I wasn’t trying to make planets, or wheels, or anything, really. Just interesting and pleasing to my eye.

I added a few more circles, the. realized it needed contrast, so some pink and fuchsia came out of the pencil box.

It was going in a good direction. But it was still too pale. Now was the time to get the black out. Auntie Bridgett gave me a size 005 micron pen, and I used it for details.

I think I am almost there…. some more black and maybe some white to pop out a bit, maybe.

I love art! After thirty years of classroom teaching and having to be absolutely sure about everything, it is nice to say “ I don’t know how that’s going to turn out” and be okay with it.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Layers and Layers (Part 1)

Dear Liza,

As I typed that title, I thought of how I am dressing nowadays, and making the bed: Layers and layers. We have had very cold nights and may even get snow tomorrow! But that’ s not what I’m writing about today.

Cool diagonal lines at the beach…

I am still learning about how to make pictures look like I want. I will usually start with some idea or shape I am inspired by.

Plus circles!

Or sometimes I just throw down some color or lines, and go from there.

One of last week’s Art Journal challenges was “Circles”, which I love. I took the diagonal lines of the abstract photo from The Coast last week and added pinkish circles. I liked it!

Better…

But when I looked again a few days later, it looked unfinished. It needed contrast. So I filled in the spaces with blue and black, and I like it better now. It might be done. Maybe. Are the planets dark enough, or should they be filled in?

I’ll let you know when I know. More about layers tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy