Dear Liza,

I am finding new ways to make maps into art for my Art Journal. Since we have loved our travels in France and hope to return someday, I have been looking at maps of that wonderful chunk of Europe.

I am not the first to notice that the map of France resembles a hexagon. In fact, people have been using the nickname ”L’hexagon” since 1949 and French school children are taught to draw the map of their country by using a hexagon as the basic shape.

So I thought I would make my map of France out of an actual, geometric hexagon. First, I had to figure out how to make one without a zillion math calculations, which would mess with my art joy.

Fortunately, I found the youtube channels of both Jenny W. Chan and a fellow named Sam. They both taught me what I needed to know. I was able to fold a sheet, cut it to fit, and then sketch in the map. Than I used that map as a pattern for my real one.

Since this is a personal map, I wanted to show the places we have visited. But I also wanted to show the feel of the place, of the geography. The French understand about ’terroir’, the importance of a sense of place.

I decided that I wanted to show what was grown where, so cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens got inked in with the orchards and vineyards.

And that’s how it looks for now. I may add some shading in the mountains, but I’ll leave that for tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

Filling the New Art Journal

Dear Liza,

I showed you the new kind of Art Journal I was starting. It has fabric hinges and a binding you stitch up with the pages at the very end. Besides being something new for me to learn, it has a few advantages.

First, all the pages are made and decorated before they are put into the book. This means that when you are working on a page, it isn’t attached to the book yet. So if you mess it up, you haven’t got a big blot in your book, you simply set that page aside and try again. For nervous artists like me, this is very freeing.

Also, there is not a given number of pages to fill, with awkward blank bits if you run out of story or art. This flexibility is nice.

As to the content of the book, I have been thinking about the places I have lived and how I felt about them, and the places I may live in the future and the hopes I have for them.

Yep, it’s going to be a map book. Maps of houses, neighborhoods, bus routes, and imaginary places. This should come as no surprise. I love maps!

I have my first few pages finished. One is a collage of the world map, made from colored pencils, florist tissue and bits of the Portland map. I’m not sure if it will end up being Page 1 of the book, but it is the first one finished.

The second one is a watercolor of the neighborhood between our house and your favorite, the Slappycakes make-your-own-pancake restaurant.

The next page I am working on will use the Real Estate developer map of our old neighborhood in Salinas. When it is finished, it will get put in a folder and wait for the rest of the pages.

I will keep you posted!


Grandma Judy

Alberta in the Autumn Sunshine

Dear Liza,

More businesses are figuring out, after many long months, how to open up and still keep folks safe from the corona virus. And I am glad, because I am starting to run out of things.

A close-up of my latest weirdness…

My new projects take both paint and embroidery floss, since I am painting maps on fabric and then sewing over them.

Last week we walked the mile to Collage in Division Street. It is a small and nicely stocked shop, using very strict hygiene and social distancing rules. I got basic colors of acrylic paint so I can mix whatever I need.

Not even close…

But I also needed thread, and their selection leaned toward the neon. Not what I needed. Well, the good news is, there is another Collage! The only wrinkle is that it is four miles away, too far for a comfortable walk.

Can’t miss it!

So Auntie Bridgett and I got the car out and drove to Alberta, a funky, artsy neighborhood north of us. We found the Collage Annex, with its 95% off sale, and then the shop itself. Auntie Bridgett was in her happy place, visiting all the paints, pens, and markers.

I am more goal oriented, and found my floss quickly. But it was fun wandering around, anyway. We each chose a few things, paid the happy, helpful fellow, and headed down the street. Alberta is always a lively neighborhood, with lots of street art, music, and folks out and about.

Ever a dull wall in Alberta

We drove up Alberta Street, happy to see that so many of the shops and cafes we like are still open. We headed for groceries and then home, so I could start using my new toys!

Now, that’s better!

I don’t know where this painting and sewing thing will lead next. The time I spend sewing (and it is a slow process) lets my mind wander. But I will keep you posted.


Grandma Judy

Remembering Islands

Dear Liza,

Well, I finally got the Big Island of Hawaii the way I liked it. Using paint, embroidery and quilting, I found the texture and shapes I wanted to remember.

The Big Island, as remembered

Yes, I know I didn’t give enough room to the emergent volcano in the south east corner, and little red sparkly beads, to denote flowing lava, have been suggested. But for now, I am happy with it.

And now my mind has wandered to another island. This one is located inside a certain theme park in Southern California, and is named after title character in Mark Twain’s most popular book.

Sketches for my next island

I started with sketches from my memory, then went on websites to see the lovely hand drawn maps from 1955. I realized the three-quarter view that showed the buildings skewed things a bit.

Photo credit, Disneyland and Walt Disney Corporation

So I cheated. I went to Google maps, found Anaheim, and zoomed in. The satellite setting shows right where everything is, and it isn’t as I remember it. The cove we crossed on the pontoon and suspension bridges are tiny compared to my memories.

Satellite view…

The “fort” that sold pickles from a barrel felt and as though it was at the end of the world, alas, was not. But my memories of joy and adventures are intact. The feeling of rocks under my sneakers and dust in my nose is there, waiting to be called up.

My version of this island will be a compromise between my childhood adventures and the actual place they happened, between the illusion and the reality. And that’s okay, too. Off to paint now!


Grandma Judy

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.


Grandma Judy

More Sketchbook Islands

Dear Liza,

Besides being shutdown because of the Corona Virus, Portland is now dealing with Federal troops in our downtown streets every evening. It is also about 100 degrees by noon these hot July days. So I am staying inside.

My first, ‘accidental‘ map

I have taken Hitoshi Shigeta’s sketchbook islands, sent to us by Jennifer Coile, and run with it! I made a few islands in the original drip-and-spread method, but wanted the features to stand out more. I gave the accidentally created features more contrast with my paintbrush.

As I worked, I began to see where the snow would accumulate, how the melt would flow, and what the topography of the island would be. It became a very real, very happy place for me. I named it Welcome Home.

Making it real….

I realized that my calligraphy skills were not up to labeling the features on my map, so Auntie Bridgett suggested using cut-out letters and words in a sort of collage technique, and I am really enjoying it. Years of Portland Monthly, Better Homes and Gardens, and Sunset Magazines, and all our old maps are getting harvested.

Having gotten my island to this point, I am not sure what to do with it next. But my Dad always said that if you can’t decide what to do, maybe it isn’t time to make that decision yet. So I will put my maps in a safe place and figure it out later.

And what will I do next? Who knows?


Grandma Judy

Sewing for… Just Me

Dear Liza,

Isaac’s second quilt

I learned to sew back in college, when I needed inexpensive clothes to work in, and since then sewing has been a useful, interesting hobby. I sewed prom dresses for Auntie Katie, baby quilts for friends and family, and clothes for dolls and stuffties.

Tani with Naio’s quilt

Sewing has been a gift I can give to those I love.

And now, I’m doing some just for me. It may not turn out to be anything, but since I’m stuck inside and my story is on hold for a while, what have I got to lose?

Our neighborhood in Salinas…University Park School on the left

I love maps, as you know, and have spent some time trying to combine quilting and map making. I made you this map of our Salinas neighborhood, and this More abstract one of where the Salinas River flows into the ocean near Castroville.

Where the Salinas River meets the sea
Promising fabric….

A few years ago, I found this map-printed fabric. It looked perfect, like scenery from an airplane… what wonderful things could I do with it? Well, as it turns out, not what I had planned. The sections are TINY and not suitable for the appliqué I wanted.

Frustrated, I decided the printed lines were not the boss of me.
So this is my new project, where it is now. It looks pretty clunky, but we will see.

Some promises are harder to keep…

And since this project has not been promised to anyone, I can proceed into the unknown without fear of disappointing them. It is for me, and I know the risks.


Grandma Judy