Islands in Stitches

Dear Liza,

The funny thing about making art is that you never know exactly what a piece is going to be before you finish it, and you don’t know when it will be done until it suddenly is. The artistic process, if you let it, causes you to make choices about ‘what comes next’ that are surprising.

Splodges to paintings….

My ‘ Islands’ are a case in point. They started with watercolor splodges, and evolved into painted, intentional pieces. “Tim’s Island” , for my fishing-loving brother, was one of these.

Paintings to embroidery…

Then, because of a misunderstood suggestion from Elaine, I painted Hawaii’s Big Island on fabric. I liked it, but needed a little something more, so I embroidered a bit. I liked it even more.

Tom Sawyer’s Island in topo form

My next island, Tom Sawyer’s, also got painted on fabric, but in a more abstract, topographical style. Besides the stitches to show trees and peaks, it also needed something extra, so I added waves.

When will it stop?

I think my next island will be bigger, so I can show more detail. I am hoping to paint Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, complete with Billy Bones’s hideout.

The next project….

Stay tuned to see what madness comes next!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Watercolor vs Gouache

Dear Liza,

I have been telling you about painting with watercolors for a few months now. I have been using this little MALA set we found in one of the teeny tiny libraries years ago, and enjoying it very much.

My freebie paint set!

And, as it so often turns out lately, I was wrong…. just a little bit. Since I don’t know much about how watercolors acts or looks, I assumed that the matte finish and slightly chalky feel of my finished pictures was ‘just how watercolors work’ and my slightly muted colors were because I wasn’t applying them properly.

Pretty, but not what I was expecting…

Nope.

I have been using gouache! Gouache (you say it ‘go-wash’) is a watercolor that has ground up chalk in it, so of course it feels a little chalky and looks more matte, and less transparent, than regular watercolor.

This realization came about when I re-worked of one of my fantasy islands from this…

To this….

“You shouldn’t have been able to cover that blue with the brown,” Auntie Bridgett said. “Watercolors are too translucent.” Her eyes lit up. “This is gouache!”

And suddenly, the chalky texture and soft colors of my flower vase made sense. My frustration with my non-shimmery dragonfly wings was explained. I was never going to get the transparency of watercolor using gouache.

I felt better, knowing it wasn’t ‘just me’ and that there were benefits of using gouache, not the least of which was, ‘Hey, it was free.’ But artist Auntie Bridgett, who has been very supportive of my painting, realized that she has a very nice watercolor set, and let me use it.

Starting to use actual watercolors!

This set has tubes, instead of cakes, of paint. The texture of the diluted paint is smoother and silkier. I really notice the transparency, even getting frustrated because I have gotten so used to the gouache! And it still has the “Hey, it was free” feature.

First real watercolor trial…

So now I am on a new learning curve and having fun with it. And while parts of me are in lockdown and stuck inside, other parts are just a happy seven year old with a new toy.

Love,

Grandma Judy