Saturday, May 18, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

It's been a quiet week as I try to get myself back on Eastern time, restock the groceries, catch up with the laundry and get all the suitcases put away after our trip.  I'm wondering whether I need to deliberately try something new with my daily calligraphy (am I getting into a rut just making beautiful letters with my fancy new pen?). 

I'm getting my work tables cleared off so I could (theoretically) get started on a new quilt.  Maybe next week!

Here's my favorite miniature of the week.  We found a box of junk in the back of the closet at the gallery that included a little cylinder lock -- apparently dug out of its original site in a desk or box, and without a key.  It made the perfect base into which I could make an elaborate knotted construction.

Friday, May 17, 2019

A glimpse of Van Gogh

Although our brief visit to Amsterdam last week was well before the high season for tourists, there were plenty on hand in the rock-star sections of the Rijksmuseum.  As usual, as many of the people were looking at their phones as looking at the Van Goghs.  I mostly stood back and looked at the people.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Daily art on the road

I've always believed that a successful daily art project depends on setting rules that you can live with, so for instance if you spend lots of time at your wilderness cabin where you can't get a cell or internet signal, don't choose a project requiring a daily Instagram post.  Since traveling is a big part of our lives, I need daily art that's portable.

My calligraphy project is easy to take along -- just a sketchbook plus a pen or two.  For this trip, knowing that I would mostly be in a ship cabin with a nice desk, I decided to bring along two dip pens and a bottle of ink, wrapped carefully to avoid spills and packed in carry-on luggage so it wouldn't have to endure pressure changes.  I also brought along a wire brush to clean the pen after writing.

My miniatures required a bit more thought.  Decided to bring a scissors, a glue stick, a needle and one spool of thread and a pair of tweezers.  From that point in, I had to forage for raw materials each day, a process that I find exciting.

When you go ashore from a cruise ship, which we did occasionally, you can always look for native plant life or rusty nuts and washers, but on board you generally find neither category of stuff.  So I worked mostly with paper, and that spool of thread.  One day I made paper beads, the kind where you cut a very long, skinny triangle of paper, put glue on the back and roll it up around a skewer.

Once I made a little book out of teabag tags, with quite an elaborate sewed signature binding (if something less than an inch long can be called elaborate).

Once I made a collage depicting the beautiful sunset, finding a range of blues and purples in the newspaper I had brought aboard.

Toward the end of the voyage I was getting sick of red thread so I saved some strings from teabags,  using them in their natural white and dunking them in my ink to dye them gray.

I also used the bamboo picks that held martini olives, the manufacturing dates from breakfast cereal boxes, the little card that reminded us to set our clocks forward (six times during the trip).  I only used the needle twice, once to sew my little book together and once to do kantha stitching on the fancy plastic that wrapped our silverware on the plane coming home.

Back home, it's already a thrill to use a thread color other than red!  But the fun of finding art materials in a foreign environment always gives me a creativity boost.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

Actually, it's the last three weeks...

After I showed pictures of my heavily stitched houses mounted onto batik-covered panels, Sylvia commented, "They need something -- maybe a key? or some lettering?  I do like the batik background but they look unfinished to me."  And Sandy wrote, "Reading Sylvia's comment makes me think.  I agree.  Perhaps what they need is just a dark line of stitching like you did for the windows.  Sort of visually to stop the house from blending into the sky.  Or something?"

I have to say that I agree too.  The houses still look a little insipid.  But the joy of fiber art is that you never have to be finished until you want to.  I'll probably think about it and do something more, and write about it when that happens.  Thanks for your comments -- they reinforced my original gut feeling that these are not masterpieces yet.

After I wrote about my new calligraphy pen, which is prone to leaving blobs while it gracefully swells from thin to thick, my namesake Kathy wrote, "Definitely embrace the blobs!"  We share not only a name but an opinion.  I'm blobbing away (although the more I use the pen the less frequently I get blobs -- maybe practice is starting to pay off).

Mckittycat wondered if I an familiar with the calligraphy of Denise Lach.  Yes, in fact my dear friend Uta Lenk gave me a copy of Lach's book a couple of years ago, and that was part of the reason I decided to do calligraphy as my daily art this year.  I have not been rigorously going through the book and using her work as prompts, but I plan to start doing that soon.  Again, I'll keep you posted.

And finally, my friend and former student Mieke wrote that she hopes I enjoyed Amsterdam, right in her backyard.  Yes, I did!  It's a wonderful city, if you can avoid being run over by bicycles.  But in its favor, unlike in the U.S. the cyclists (a) stop at red lights and (b) don't wear spandex.  Next week I'll be writing about some of the art we saw.

Here's my favorite miniature from this week:

As always, you can check out all my daily art here.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Airport surprise

I haven't posted in a week because I have been busy!  After a two-week sea voyage from Florida to Amsterdam, and a couple of days doing museums there, and a marathon trip home yesterday, we're home.  I will have lots to share, but here's a quick one.  As you walk through the Amsterdam Airport (and you'd better bring your hiking boots, because it's about a half-hour stroll from where we checked in to where we got on the plane) what do you see but a sign that says "Rijksmuseum."  And it's not a billboard advertising the museum, but an actual tiny museum set up in the middle of a concourse.

Inside, two large rooms with pictures.

No Rembrandts, but real pictures, giving you a birds'-eye view of the great moments in Dutch art: rich burghers, landscapes and seascapes, still lifes, a big sea scene painted on blue-and-white Delft tiles.

And of course a little gift shop.  Impress your friends and loved ones; make them think you spent your time in Amsterdam at the art museums instead of at the Museum of Hemp & Marijuana or a Red-Light District Tour.

I thought this was a fine idea.  Surely the Rijksmuseum must have thousands of artworks good enough to be in its collection but not good enough, by comparison, to make it onto the main gallery walls.  Surely it's better to have them on view than in crates in the basement.  And how many frazzled travelers will benefit from a few minutes of peace and beauty before they hit the road again.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Calligraphy update -- my new pen 2

I have been playing with my new calligraphy pen, enjoying the way the two halves of the nib spread apart under pressure to make thick-and-thin strokes.  Then I saw this photo on Instagram, posted my my friend Jane Lloyd:

and knew I had to try it.

I've always loved the elaborate calligraphy that Andy Warhol used so much in his advertising and art directing career.  He had his mom in Pittsburgh do the writing and send it to him to paste into the layouts.  Later she moved to New York which sped up the production time.  Here's Andy's business card/letterhead, which Mom wrote for him:

So armed with my new G nib pen, I am now trying to channel Julia Warhola.