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

Buying Arty Stuff From Artists

Dear Liza,

One of the nicest things about having artists in my life, besides knowing the lovely artists themselves, is getting pretty stuff!

My friend Ruth Inman is an artist who lives in Illinois. She does delightful, pretty, quirky art, with lots of purples, golds, dragonflies, and doodles.

Me and my nifty new scarf

She has gone into business with a company called Redbubble that puts her art onto scarves, purses, face masks, and even shower curtains. You can order these online, which is very nice for these days of not-going-out.

The scarf itself

I have been having art classes with Ruth online, and in one of these classes, she made a beautiful piece of art. I liked it so much, I bought it on a scarf from Redbubble. And yesterday, it arrived!

She can be found at Ruth Inman.redbubble.com

Care directions: Do not eat hats!

It is so soft and pretty, and huge. The colors are blue and a golden brown, which will make it useful for summer and fall, and it feels like a cloud. I am so pleased!

Even a nifty zip-seal bag

If you have arty stuff needs go visit Redbubble, just for fun.

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

Mixing It Up a Little

Dear Liza,

Human beings are creatures of habit, they say, but I have always disagreed. I like to go on adventures…walking eight miles to Sellwood, bussing across town for a hike, taking the train to Vancouver and biking around the city. But as we go along in the quarantine, I realize how much I am leaning on my habits. Especially in uncertain times, we feel the need to do normal things in the normal way.

Starting simple

Here, that means morning coffee with news on the sofa, writing blogs, then crossword puzzles, then French practice on Duolingo.

The recent addition of online watercolor classes with Ruth Inman in Illinois has helped fill Tuesday and Thursday mornings with art and conversation. It has also given me courage to make more art.

Little flowers are less daunting

The other day I painted my first sunflower. I had been doing little daisies and simple roses, which feel less daunting. Sunflowers are imposing. They are flower royalty that literally looks down on everyone. They have gravitas.

Floral royalty

And when I got it done, I felt pretty good about it. I asked Auntie Bridgett. “It’s not bad,” she said kindly. “But you could use some colored pencils to bring it out more, to make it pop.”

My first thought was, “What if I screw it up?” But I slapped that thought down, stepped over it, and moved on. We walked to Collage down on Division Street and bought me some Vera Thin pencils along with more watercolor paper.

Painted, penciled, and almost done

I started playing. Painting like before, but with the knowledge that some parts would be enhanced or shaded with pencils. I learned about complementary colors and how to use them for emphasis, that shadows are never black, and that short lines can make lovely curves. It is another tiny step outside my comfort zone.

Back to daisies, but with more oomph

This using of paints and pencils, or pastels and collage, or crayons and paint, is called mixed media. You mix bits that you already know, some you don’t, and come up with something new. This is an interior adventuring, and one I am enjoying very much.

Maybe it will keep my adventurous muscles strong for when I can go adventuring outside again.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Still Growing

Dear Liza,

Ruth Inman

I have been telling you about how life has changed during the corona virus shut down, including re-connecting with my old friend Ruth Inman. She is now an artist, and she lives in Illinois. She does a lot of different kinds of art, and her website is called Brush with Many Colors. You should go have a look sometime.

One of Ruth’s beautiful paintings!

Ruth has started an on-line art group using ZOOM, and I have been attending two times a week. At first I thought I would just watch and chat, because I have never had much confidence in my art skills. I have a tremor that makes my right hand unreliable at times, which makes it even more frustrating.

What my cards looked like before…

But Ruth is such an easy going teacher! She gives good directions but then adds, “But if it does this instead, you can make it work by doing this..” and knowing there are lots of ways to do it right has let me feel more confident. I started painting.

I am using the watercolors we found on the sidewalk years ago, so there’s not much of an investment, except time, which I have plenty of.

Getting better…..

This art class has happened just when I wanted to start making cards and writing letters for the elderly residents at Laurelhurst Village Home nearby, and I have started using the flowers I paint with Ruth and her friends for the cards!

My latest batch of cards

Voila, as the French say.

I have someone to teach me, a way to practice, and a place for my pictures to go and make people smile. It’s a very nice combination.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Zooming Along

Dear Liza,

It is ironic that being unable to get out and about here in town has gotten me closer to friends far away.

Ruth Inman

My friend from high school, Ruth Inman, now lives in Illinois. She is an artist who makes all sorts of cute cards and mixed media pieces, and the other day she invited me to an art group she hosts in an online program called ZOOM. She does a lot of these meetings, and even runs classes online.

This group of women all live near Ruth in Illinois. Some of them are professional artists and, since everyone is staying home, are doing art in their basements or extra bedrooms instead of their studios. I did mine in the dining room, because my office desk is too tiny to allow art supplies and messes.

My art from the session (I’m still not sure if it is finished)

It was so much fun! It was run less formally than a class, and was more like coloring with Cousin Kestrel. Ruth gave us a supply list and ideas, and we’d play with it while she worked in hers.

Ruth’s piece from the same session!

We chatted about other things as we went along, of course: Dogs, friends, and news of the virus. Illinois has extended its stay-at-home orders into June even as Georgia is lifting theirs, which none of us think is a good idea. Everyone has a very conservative attitude about physical exposure. “Why would I shake your hand?” One of them said, “I don’t know where it’s been.”

Lori Lee Bowles Sampson, a professional artist, did this one

By the end of the session, we all had really different looking art using cardboard, tissue paper, water colors, and sharpies. And that’s okay, because it is ART! And there is no wrong.

Love,

Grandma Judy