Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Does nothing last???

I've been using fabric paints for decades and have accumulated 25 or 30 bottles of Setacolor, my favorite brand.  They never seemed to go bad, and have been my go-to stuff for printing my wood and metal type, either onto fabric or onto paper.  I haven't used any in years, but they're still there at the ready.  Last week I wanted to use some type in my daily calligraphy, and grabbed the first couple of bottles from my stash.

And much to my surprise, two out of the three bottles had broken apart in exactly the same way!

I can't imagine why this would happen.  If I had just screwed the tops on too tight, surely I would have noticed them breaking in my hands.  Maybe it was a gremlin.

I peeked inside and the paint still seems to be viscous; I will experiment to see if it's still usable.  Meanwhile the third bottle seemed a bit thicker in consistency than the paints were to begin with, but it worked just fine.

The two busted bottles didn't have dates, but the third one did -- 2003.  Here's a shout-out to the folks at Pebeo -- you make one long-lasting product!!! 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

It was not a good week for Art With a Needle's proprietor.  I fell on a busted-up patch of sidewalk and broke my ankle in two places, fortunately not enough to require surgery but unfortunately with enough collateral tendon and ligament damage to make for a long recovery.  Here's my moon boot, complete with an air pump that inflates bladders around my heel and ankle to hold everything rigid inside.  I can walk on it and there's no pain, just aches after a long day.  (Liquor helps.)

Last week I showed you my cascading-letters calligraphy and asked whether it's a good idea to just keep doing something that you love to do and looks good, or whether you should move on to something else if you can't think of a new twist.

My readers came to my rescue.  Artquilter left a comment: "You have lots of letters from  your dad's collection and your own, maybe it's time to "draw" some of those."  And that got me to thinking...

What if I used some of my metal type to print onto the page, then added the cascade of hand-drawn letters?  (After all, it is a daily calligraphy project.)  (And yes, to the readers who couldn't believe the letters are drawn by hand -- after all, it is a daily calligraphy project.)

Here's my favorite miniature of the week:

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Calligraphy update -- sea songs

I wrote earlier in the year about a project I did with calligraphy for the "home" show at PYRO Gallery.  I found a bunch of songs that had the word "home" somewhere in their lyrics, and wrote them into a book that was illustrated by photos of front steps.  I thought I might try to do another book along the same lines, except this time using the word "sea."  Now I need to go through my bazillion photos from our various ocean voyages and find the best ones for the book.

As with "home," it wasn't too hard to find lots of songs with the magic word.  What surprised me was how much overlap there is with songs containing both "home" and "sea."

Maybe I need to make a book about "home" and "sea."  Will have to keep on the lookout for houseboats to take pictures of.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Calligraphy update -- lotsa letters

I don't remember how I got this idea, to make individual letters that would start as dense collections and then fall apart as they tumbled downward on the page.  The first few I made were with a bunch of new polymer-tip pens in bright, cheery colors.

I loved the effect, and the bright colors, except that these pens were relatively thin-line, and I found it hard to get a uniform wash of color on the larger letters with so much drawing back-and-forth.   Also it took quite a while to draw these letters.

So I started making these compositions with a dip pen.  I used my springiest nib, one that effortlessly gives you swoopy lines that go from thin to thick with just a bit of extra pressure.  For most of the letters, I could draw thick lines with just one pass, and the curved letters like S and B looked beautiful as they swelled and ebbed.

It was faster to make these letters, but it also took a while for the ink to dry, so I had to do the day's page in several different sittings.  Particularly nice when I started in the morning, did one color for a bit, went away and came back later for a bit more writing.

My ink supply is all dark colors, so these compositions aren't as light and bright as the first ones, but I think they're more sophisticated.  Now I'm at the same point that I was a couple of years ago when I was making tangles in my daily drawing.  Namely, is it a good plan to keep making the same drawing over and over again, day after day, even if you think it's beautiful and it's fun to do?  Are you losing the opportunity to try something new if you just repeat your favorite theme?

Certainly when you're perfecting a new approach, and certainly when you have ideas for a new frisson in your new approach, it's good to keep going day after day.  But when you have no new idea and just want to make another one like the ones you did before, maybe it's better to move on.

What do you think?

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

I discovered -- and bought -- a new product at the fabric store this week, a thin non-woven polypropylene.  I asked the clerk what people were doing with this and she said the bottoms of upholstered furniture, or as background for fancy bulletin board displays.  I used it to cover stretcher bars and mount a small quilt.

I sewed the quilt to the poly fabric all along the top edge and a ways down each side.  I have not tested the tearing properties of the poly and hope I haven't overloaded its capacity; I did make a point of using large stitches.  The quilt is only 26 inches square, so it isn't terribly heavy.  I will hope for the best.

I wrote last week about my so-far unsatisfying attempts to use Arabic script in my daily calligraphy.  Irene commented that I should try flipping the letters and writing left-to-right (among other things, it would keep my hand out of the wet ink).  Good idea, and I will try it.  Thanks! 

I also wrote last week about my new haul of air-drying clay and showed you the first little guy made from it.  Monica left a comment:  "I really like your miniature.  It brings a smile to my face, so I have saved it in my photos (I hope that is fine with you.)"  It certainly is, Monica.  In general I'm happy to let any of my readers use stuff from my blog, as long as you mention my name! 

I made all my miniatures for this week from the clay, experimenting with inserting stuff into the clay and adding paint to the dry figures.  I guess my favorite is Monday, the little guy in the hooded cloak with the shepherd's staff.   Already I'm learning how the material works and how to get a better finish, without cracks or burrs.  This is a lot of fun! 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Calligraphy update -- Arabic experiments

I've been faithfully doing my daily calligraphy, on two different tracks these days.  I'm still copying a passage from each book I read, either the day I finish reading it or the next day.  But on the other track I'm trying to find a style or styles of calligraphy that are less about writing and more about art.

I wrote about this a couple of months ago and some readers suggested that I try writing Arabic script, because it's beautiful and because I couldn't get distracted by meaning, focusing solely on the visual appeal.  So I did dutifully try Arabic for a while.  I found that writing from right to left was interesting and seemed to fire different neurons than when I write in European languages.  But I also found that right to left doesn't work very well with a dip pen and ink that takes a while to dry.  (New sympathy for lefties.)

More important, I had a hard time finding exemplars to work from.  The Arabic alphabet sites that I found online showed individual letters but little help in how to combine them into longer "words" -- using that term loosely, because of course I had no idea of what I was putting together.  I realized only after more research that all these letters, when written into words, emanate from a baseline, and the letter charts don't tell you whether a given letter goes up or down. 

I had better luck with sites in which Arabic writers posted samples of their own handwriting.  A great deal of variation, as you might imagine, and I enjoyed copying from them.  But I never did develop any comfort level that would let me "write" several characters in a row -- even if I permitted myself to write Arabic-like squiggles that weren't exactly correct letters.  In other words, I never could get myself into a rhythm that approximated the writing I saw on screen.  I felt like an impostor and I think the writing looked awkward as a result.

I abandoned this approach, even though there were aspects of it that appealed to me.  In particular, I liked the down-and-left stroke that resembles a fat J, but have found it difficult to incorporate into my left-to-right writing.  So, an experiment that did not pay off.  Maybe I quit too soon; maybe I should go back and try again.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Fiberart International 4 -- knitting and crochet

There were several intriguing knitted and crocheted pieces at Fiberart International, which was on display all summer in Pittsburgh.

Adrienne Sloane, Marking Time (details below)

This piece is knitted over wire, which is bent to make the script.  I liked the strong graphic quality of the "lines".  (Wished they had put the gallery tag somewhere other than smack in the middle of the pencil-drawn hash marks on the wall!)

Nicole Benner, Comfort/Confine II

Crocheted with metallic yarn and displayed over a mannequin, although in the past it has been worn by a person as performance art.  Can't you just imagine what it would be like to wear a garment like this?  Would you feel slinky and flashy as all get-out, or imprisoned, or both?

Marianne Moore, Financial Ruin (detail below)

A real knockout, knitted out of shredded US currency.  I had to wonder -- did she first have to glue a bazillion six-inch shreds into long yarns?  Sounds like a labor of love.

Rachel Hefferan, Woven/Crochet Transition (details below)

Here's a piece that starts off as weaving and ends up as crochet.  A clever idea, but since the transition between the two techniques seems to be the subject of the work -- see the title -- I wished that she had started crocheting on some of those long warp threads to more seamlessly join the two parts instead of just draping them on top.

Carol Milne, You Can Leave Your Hat On, Doll

And this one gets the originality award: "lead crystal knitted glass hat on mold-blown glass head."  I wish I knew more about glass to understand how this got made -- probably not with asbestos gloves holding knitting needles in the furnace.