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