Monday, April 29, 2019

Calligraphy update -- my new pen 1

It's been a while since I wrote about my daily calligraphy, except in passing.  Recently I bought myself some new pen nibs, spiffy ones from Japan whose packaging I can't read, except to see that these are G nibs.  I searched them out because I wanted the pen to spread apart under pressure, making a much thicker line.  These are quite springy and give a good contrast between thick and thin strokes.

This feature is most dramatic on swoopy curves, but other letters can also be attractive if you put wide strokes in some places and hairlines in others.  I have watched some videos on copperplate writing, which would use this kind of pen, but I don't think that's a direction I want to go.  I'm happier continuing with writing-as-drawing, in which the words take a back seat to the overall visual image.

Here's the full view of that composition: the writing makes right turns every time it gets to the end of the space, and spirals in to the middle.

I like that effect and need to explore it more.  The problem, of course, is how to deal with the absolute finite amount of space left as you get to the center.  Do you write smaller to make sure you finish your phrase (as I did in this sample) or just stop writing when you run out of space?  Does it matter?

The learning on this one: watch your hand while you're turning the book around so it doesn't smudge.

I am so happy with this new pen!  Its only drawback, I was warned by the people in the art supply store, is a tendency to drop blobs of ink.  Yes, that is true.

For purposes of my daily art, I don't care at all.  The blobs add character, I tell myself.  If I were addressing wedding invitations for a living, or making a piece of actual Art, maybe I would have to start over (or at least learn how to control the ink flow better) but for now I'll embrace the blobs.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Calligraphy update -- adding collage

As the second quarter began I thought maybe it was time to shake it up and add a new element to my daily calligraphy -- collage.  My first experiment was to cut up one of the "home song" pages that didn't make it into my artist book, paste the bits down in my sketchbook and then write over the top.  Unfortunately the card stock was so tall that the brush stuttered when it went over the edge.

I found a piece of thin paper on the work table and tore it into strips.  The pen hardly noticed the difference in height so the writing continued seamlessly over the collage, more what I had in mind.

I also tried laying down blue painters tape in strips, writing over it and then removing the tape.  I thought the composition was more interesting before I took the tape off, so maybe this approach is a dead end.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

All those rejected homes 2

Even though I didn't use them for the "home" show at PYRO Gallery, I thought my three machine-stitched pink houses were worth finishing.  Like the postage stamp quilt I abandoned early on, they're kind of cutesy, but maybe they will be OK for low-price gift items or impulse purchases.  I took the three finished houses to one of my art support groups and asked what to do with them.  I showed them against a plain wood panel, against a black canvas, and against some plain blue fabric I had grabbed from the work table.  Not much enthusiasm for any of these approaches.

Then I noticed a blue batik napkin on the lap of the woman sitting next to me, grabbed it and wrapped it around the wood panel and plopped one of the houses on it.  YES!

I did show restraint in not begging to take the napkin home with me, because I have a full drawer of batiks at home and it was easy to find suitable candidates.  Wrapped them around the wood panels, with one layer of thin batting underneath to make the fabric fit tighter, stapled them down, then nailed the stitched panels to the wood.

I also added doorknobs of bronze and silver metallic beads, and done a bit of hand stitching to make greetings for anyone who opens the doors.

I think these three may be the entire series of pink houses -- there doesn't seem to be much room for further exploration.  But I am happy to have them finished.  What I like: the way the shapes distort under heavy stitching, the way you can put bits of thread or fabric down on the background as you start stitching and they become little hints of color, the contrast between the wonky stitched panel and the neat, firm, taut batik background.  Maybe these qualities can come back again with a different shape in the future.

Here's what they look like all done:

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

The mailman brought a surprise: the catalog for Forced to Flee, the SAQA exhibit about refugees.  The designer had a good idea in getting rid of the gray background in my photo, so the refugee quilt people are floating on the white page. 

It's a classy catalog and I found the juror's statement interesting. She said she "found the attempts at abstraction less successful" than the figurative images that dominate the exhibit.

That's understandable, because so much of the world's attention to the various refugee crises stems from the dramatic images that photographers have captured of people in distress. Think of the little girl crying as her mother is frisked by U.S. Border Patrol agents, of the dead five-year-old on a beach in Turkey, of a crowded raft almost engulfed by waves on the Mediterranean.  Indeed, the latter two images were translated into quilts for the SAQA exhibit.

I've always thought of myself as the queen of abstraction, having made all of two figurative quilts in my whole life, but I too went figurative for this exhibit.  And it's probably good that so many of us did; when you think of a problem like refugees as an abstraction, it's easy to be dismissive and cruel.  When you think of it as people, perhaps you get closer to a solution.

Tiger Woods has always been our favorite golfer.  We got to watch in person on the pivotal hole when he won the 2000 PGA tournament in Louisville, and in 2012 I noted each of his tournament victories in my daily stitching.  So to mark his Masters victory on Sunday, here's my favorite miniature of the week:

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

All those rejected homes 1

I've complained at length over the last several months about how hard it was for me to settle on what to make for the "home" show at PYRO Gallery.  Now that the show has opened, I decided it was time to revisit some of the rejected ideas -- many of which had considerable work put into them before I pulled the plug -- and see if they could be remodeled.

First was a project that I rejected early on, without even writing about it in the blog -- a postage stamp quilt with little houses.  I thought I would whip out this quilt far more efficiently than I have done many postage stamp quilts by choosing a stiffer bottom layer, thus enabling construction without a bothersome middle.  There was some gray felt lying on the work table and I thought that might be a great support. Then I could simply layer a background and a house on top, and get right on to the stitching.

I cut out a bunch of 2-inch squares from the felt and started composing little houses.  It didn't take very long before I realized what a dumb idea the felt was.  It was so squishy that it oozed ahead of the needle as the presser foot squeezed down.  I had all those squares cut out, and a whole lot of bits and pieces to make houses, and didn't want to throw them out, so I sewed them up anyway.  But this turned into a small quilt rather than a much larger one as I had envisioned.

While I was sewing them up anyway I realized that not only was felt a bad choice for the bottom layer, the little houses were turning out way too cutesy.  So after I finished this first (and last) batch of postage stamp pieces, I stuck the quilt in a corner and went on to my next idea.

But now I have gone back to the cutesy little houses and finished the small quilt.

It's still too cutesy and I'm glad I abandoned the idea for the home show, but there is a place in the world for cutesy things and maybe this guy will find an appropriate moment and venue in the future. Maybe a gift for a child?  At least he's finished.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

I treated myself to a pile of pen nibs from a sidewalk sale at the local art supply store, cleaning out merchandise that has obviously been around for a long time.  At 12 for $5, how could I resist buying a dozen different Speedball nibs in different shapes and sizes.  I remember my dad using Speedball pens, back in the day when store signs, diplomas, certificates and other ceremonial documents were almost always hand-lettered.  Speedball labeled its pens A, B, C, D and LC for the different configurations of the nib.  A is square, B is round, C is flat for calligraphy, D is oval and LC is a calligraphy flat beveled for lefties.

Apparently the D nibs aren't even being made any more; on the internet they're called "vintage."  Had I known that, I would have bought a whole box.

I bought one each of different shapes and sizes, and have started testing them out on my daily calligraphy.  Didn't buy any C nibs, because I inherited lots from my dad and besides I don't like that style.  So far I have learned that I don't like the square nib either -- too clunky.

Here's my favorite miniature of the week, a little rock with just enough surface roughness that the wrapped thread doesn't just slide off:

You can check out all my daily art, both calligraphy and miniatures, here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Remembering Enid -- the show!

Last week I got off on a tangent telling you about Enid Yandell, an excellent sculptor from Louisville who had a hard way to go a century ago because of her gender.  Now I'll get back to the show that got me onto this subject in the first place.  Several women sculptors in the region have banded together in a group called "Enid" and to commemorate Enid's 150th birthday, they have a small show at 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville.

My dear friend and art pal Bette Levy had two large pieces in the show, both of them dramatic combinations of ancient farm equipment and new crocheted pieces to complement them.

Bette Levy, Scythe (detail below)

Bette finds doily patterns in old needlework books, executes them huge (this one is probably five feet across) and then stiffens them so they retain their shape when mounted on the wall. 

Bette Levy, Infinity (detail below)

Here the rusty metal pieces are tines from an old hay rake, which would have been pulled behind a tractor.

I sometimes find long curator explanations at museums to be pretentious and artspeaky, but the remarks about Bette's work struck me as worth reading.  The sign said:

"Farm and domestic labor are the focus of Levy's series that combines doilies crocheted in historic patterns with aged farm tools, previously used to reap sustenance from the land, but long since abandoned for larger, mechanized production.  The scale of the crocheted doilies is enlarged to visually challenge the dominance of the tools, subverting the traditional gender division of labor and power, creating a more balanced pairing."

The exhibit continues at 21C Museum Hotel, 700 West Main Street in Louisville, through October.  If you've never visited a 21C, you should -- a combination of hotel, restaurant and world-class gallery, welcoming walk-in visitors as well as paying guests.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

You may have noticed that I'm posting found poetry only once a month instead of once a week as I did in 2018.  I've noticed that after I have been doing a particular form of daily or weekly art it's hard to let go.  For instance, I used to post a "photo suite" -- five or six photos on a single theme -- once a week, for four years.  Finally I decided it was time to stop, but couldn't bring myself to go cold turkey, so I dropped back to once a month for another year before I was able to let go.

After a year of weekly found poetry, following a year of daily text, I didn't want to put in that much time every week -- but I still owned (own) a huge pile of poetry bits, painstakingly searched out and cut out and filed, and the thought of abandoning those dozens of hours of work was more than I could bear.  So I'm doing found poetry once a month.

Sonja left a comment:  "Love the words inspired by your art, or was it the other way?"  Almost always, words first, then a big search for an appropriate image to go along with it.  Fortunately in addition to a huge pile of poetry bits, I have a huge box full of pictures left over from three years of daily collage, so after I have composed the poem I look through my box of pictures to find one that goes with the words.

Here's my favorite miniature of the week:

Whenever I go to the beach I look for shells with holes in them, and this shell had been lying on my counter for a long time.  The iridescent blue beads seemed like sea treasures, nestled in the shell.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Remembering Enid

A small but lovely show opened at 21C Museum Hotel this week, featuring work by members of Enid, a group of Louisville-area female artists who work in sculpture and 3-D.  Enid is named for Enid Yandell, born 150 years ago in Louisville, who studied with Rodin and whose sculptures were highly renowned.  One of her huge statues, of Athena, 25 feet tall, made for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exhibition in Nashville, was the largest statue ever made by a woman (what a back-handed accolade).

Enid Yandell and Pallas Athena (in pieces)

As a fan of Enid, my favorite statue is one that was never made.  In 1894 the Kentucky Woman's Confederate Monument Association held a big design competition to choose the sculptor of a monument in Louisville.  Enid won the contest, but it was just too forward for a woman to be given such a prestigious commission, and the members of the association overruled their selection committee and let a local gravestone company build the statue instead.  In a huge slap in the face to Enid, the monument was topped by a statue of a generic soldier, sculpted by a German artist -- anybody with money could order a cast for their cemetery or street corner.

But in the long run, it was probably better for Enid's reputation to not have gotten the commission.  Louisville's Confederate monument was one of hundreds built around the beginning of the last century in a concerted effort to romanticize the "Lost Cause" of the Civil War and reinforce Jim Crow laws and customs in the U.S. South.  It coincided with the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in many states, even outside the South.  As time passed, many cities decided that their Confederate monuments were nothing to be proud of; in 2016 the Louisville monument was taken down (not without much outrage from those who still refuse to admit that the Confederacy lost the war).

Well, here I've gone on and on about Enid and not even touched on the show.  I'll do that in another post!