Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another month gone...

I'll finish up the month with some of the inspirational titles I've been reading. The first, pictured on the right, was written by Brenda Ueland in 1938. According to the bio in the book, "Brenda Ueland spent many years living in New York, where she was part of the Greenwich Village bohemian crowd that included John Reed, Louise Bryant, and Eugene O'Neill." She spent most of her life as a writer, editor, and teacher of writing. I've seen quotes of hers in books like The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and thought I'd go right to the source. Her first chapter is "Everybody is Talented, Original, and Has Something to Say" and a later one is "Why Women Who do Too Much Housework Should Neglect it for Their Writing." Doesn't she sound like the little angel you want sitting on your shoulder? She continues in this very positive and funny, straightforward way for the entire book. She is a big advocate for "dreamy idleness" because "the imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering." She uses quotes from William Blake and Vincent VanGogh as examples to support her theories on truthfulness in art. Some inspirational quotes from the book: "the only way to find your true self is by recklessness and freedom" and "think of yourself as incandescent power, illuminated perhaps and forever talked to by God and his messengers. Remember how wonderful you are, what a miracle!... since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable." I borrowed this one from the library, but it may be one worth owning and rereading when you're feeling discouraged!
The next two books I dipped into were both written by Barbara Sher. I saw her speak a long time ago on Public Television and I found her to be not only INspirational, but also very MOTivational. In the first title, pictured below, there were three writing exercises she wanted the reader to do to get things going. I always balk at those little exercises - I never seem to get much out of them. So I skipped the first two, but did the third, which was describing "the job from heaven." Sometimes I answer these things automatically, from habit, but maybe not totally truthfully and from the heart. But I think this time, I came closer to what I'd really love to do with the rest of my life. (I'll share more about that later...)

Without reading any further into the first book, I dipped into the second one, pictured on the right. This book is geared towards people the author has dubbed as "scanners." She describes them like this: 'To Scanners, the world is like a big candy store full of fascinating opportunities, and all they want is to reach out and stuff their pockets." I do seem to have so many interests and hobbies that it can be daunting trying to focus on just one. This book promises to provide guidance and tools for using all your interests in talents in your life and career. I'll keep you posted. Barbara Sher has so many interesting titles to her credit, after I peruse these two, I may have to seek out some of her others. So many books, so little time!

Meanwhile, I'll share is a shot of my work table last week, where I had a few projects going at once (as usual). I can't give away too many details about the larger pink project in the picture - it's for a challenge we're doing in the Fiber Arts NE group. At our June meeting, we randomly chose partners and then pulled a word out of some the group had brainstormed. My partner and I got the word "facetious" and our challenge was to make a quilt to illustrate it! We were not allowed to discuss anything other than the size of the piece. We're sharing our work at our meeting this Thursday and mine is almost finished - still a few details to tie up. I'll post it soon after the meeting.

The other project I decided to have a little fun with was making lavender sachets (remember I did that in the fall of 2008?). I recently cut this summer's crop of lavender, and realized I still haven't done anything with last year's crop, which still smells as good as the day I cut it! I didn't want to use the same process I used last time (see samples here) so I opted to make little bags. I can still use several different fabrics and trim them up with ribbons, lace, and fancy stitches to make each one different. Today I had the rare chance to visit JoAnn's fabric's and pick up some new lavender fabrics and notions. I'm looking forward to making a whole bunch more of these little sachets to give away come holiday time. I do love the smell of lavender!
Now tomorrow we begin a new month and a new school year. I'll take my daughter's to their respective schools to find their classrooms, try out their locker combinations, and maybe meet their teachers. School officially starts next Tuesday, so we still have the long weekend to enjoy and pretend it's still summer! But I do secretly enjoy the fresh start September always brings, the invigorating crisp breezes that clear the head, and the sales on school supplies which taunt me with the possibilities of new things to learn and new things to create!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Stonecrop Gardens

Yesterday was such a gorgeous day here in the northeast, after a long hot summer followed by several very rainy days (I think we got all the summer's rain at once!).
Yesterday was the kind of day that it's a shame to spend anywhere but outdoors, so I took my daughters to visit a local private garden called Stonecrop Gardens. (If you have access to the Taconic Parkway, it's easy to get to!) The thing about gardens, and about this one in particular, is that they are a delight to the senses. This garden is beautiful visually, and I suspect the beauty changes with the seasons and even the time of day. But as you're gazing at ponds and lush shade plants and flowers, in the background is often the sound of water tinkling or splashing, the songs of birds, and the humming of insects. There are the smells of flowers and the earth and the touch of various leaves and plants, even the cool breeze and the warmth of the sunlight. I took 82 photos in just over an hour and it was hard to winnow them down to the many I've posted here. Enjoy your virtual visit!
This first picture shows the conservatory, the first building you see when you come in.
Here is one of the many rock waterfalls.

A spectacular view of the hillside garden and the waterfall in the previous picture.
Everywhere you look there is a gorgeous view! Here is one framed by the wisteria pagoda. It must look incredible when the wisteria is in bloom!

This is a stone bridge over one of the ponds.

Throughout the garden, there are thoughtfully placed resting spots, like this little room off the conservatory, and this bench with a whimsical frog sculpture in the wisteria pagoda.

This little room can be found in the walled flower garden.

Here is a little stone seat in the bamboo path.

Even the potting shed has a nice visual display!
Little plants grow amid the cracks in this rock wall.

There are some interesting and unusual plantings, like this spiky sample...

And these Dawn Redwoods imported from China.

My daughters amused themselves by looking for little creatures everywhere. Here is my youngest admiring some goldfish.
Here is one of the many frogs you see everywhere.

Can you find the hidden bullfrog and turtle in the picture above?

Stonecrop also has a resident cat, Ginger. Here she is exploring the rocks and crevices around a pond in the Woodland Garden. Those are pitcher plants near her feet.

There were many flowers to see, even this late in the summer.

Here are some miniature water lilies...

...and some bright dahlias.

These autumn-toned black-eyed susans caught my eye.
I couldn't resist snapping a shot of the graceful lines of this hosta leaf.

This interesting striped leaf was backlit by the sun and just glowed!

I love the texture of these hosta specimens.
Another ground-cover shade plant. I love that silver tone contrasted by that dark veining.

Finally, here is a little heart-shaped leaf for you. Hope your weekend is filled with beauty too!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Caribbean Sketch

I'm back from a wonderful vacation and getting back into the swing of things here at home, but as you can see, I still have that mystical Caribbean undersea world on my mind! As I mentioned in my last post, I brought along a little art kit with me and started this piece while we were away. I had already painted the background with some watercolor paints before I left, but touched it up with neocolor crayons in that lovely turquoise on a quiet morning last week. I then added the corals, sea fan, and fish which I cut out of some pre-fused fabric scraps I brought along. When I got home I added the hand and machine stitching and the beads for the eyes.
My original plan for this piece was to include it in my sketchbook project because it is my fabric version of a sketch, meaning it was quick and stitched, but not quilted (no layers). I think I want to remove the original paper in the book, and stitch in several pieces about this size (maybe I could complete ten or fifteen by January). Each piece would have to be folded down the middle to fit into the book, and when people pick it up to read it they would have to unfold each page to see it in full.
But now I'm liking this so much, I think it could actually be framed as is! Do I want to send it off where it will be folded and unfolded by many (potentially dirty) hands? I'm not sure... For a long time, I've admired the work of a children's book illustrator named Clare Beaton who works mostly with felt, but also with other fabrics. She cleverly simplifys a scene and recreates it with her chosen materials, adding stitching, beads, and lace in all the right places. She has illustrated several books this way, and I'm always impressed, not just with her work, but with the fact that each book contains upwards of 15 of these lovely, cleverly simple illustrations. How does she do it so quickly? With the piece above, I feel like I'm on the right track for creating something simple and quick, that contains enough texture and variety to make it visually interesting. Now I want to do more!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hello from the Caribbean!

Here is the view from the balcony of our villa room at the Westin on St. John, USVI.

As I am typing this, I am sitting in the shade and enjoying the breeze off Great Cruz Bay here on the island of St. John! (I am still in awe of laptops, wireless networks, USB cables and other modern marvels!). My family and I are lucky to have a second vacation this year, and since all the girls want to do is swim, we thought we'd try the caribbean. So far, we have done lots of swimming, both in the pools here and all around the island. Here are a few of the many shots we've taken. We also used a disposable underwater camera, but it's not digital, so I'll have to wait to post those shots. Meanwhile...

here are a few of the local island inhabitants: these little lizards...

and some of these giant iguanas! This one crawled out from under my lounge chair at the pool the other day. Those are my husband's size 11 sandals, to give you an idea of how big he is! These guys are all over the place - in the trees, on the lawns, and near the beach and pool!

This is a view of Coral Bay, close to where we took an eco-tour, kayaking and snorkeling.
This is a sample of what the driving is like - on the left, over narrow windy hilly roads, in this case in a little rain shower.

Here is the local herd of wild goats we saw wandering around near Coral Bay yesterday. We first saw them sitting in the shade at the local bus stop, then here they were at the gas station!

Here are a few shots of some local color on the island...

I'll leave you with a shot my husband took of the sunset off of Cruz Bay last night. This is really an amazing place, full of colorful contrasts. I'm soaking up the sun and the inspiration and have already started a few new collages with the little art kit I brought along. See you back home!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My Latest...

Here's my latest masterpiece. I call it "Portrait of the Viewer as an Art Quilt, with Found Objects." Quite a departure from my usual flowers, gardens, and undersea scenes, isn't it? I started thinking about doing something like this after the June meeting of the FiberArts Northeast (FANE) group I belong to. Jane Davila was enlightening us about "conceptual art" and inviting us to create a piece for ourselves. Here is a quote by Sol LeWitt describing conceptual art, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.

You can read more of the article here.) I'm not sure this piece really qualifies as conceptual art, but I made it because I started thinking about the importance of how the viewer responds to and interacts with a piece. I wanted the viewer to have an impact on this piece, and see him/herself in it, just as the reader interjects his or herself into a novel or story. This way, the piece will change depending on who is standing in front of it, and what colors they are wearing (can you see a little of me and my camera?). In order to make the piece reflective, but with an imperfect reflection, I chose to include the shiny cardstock. Most of the other materials were found objects, from the dark, woven building material (I think it's Tyvek) to the metal mesh and the squashed bottle cap. It certainly has an industrial, gritty sort of look to it, doesn't it? I want to run it by the members of FANE at our meeting this Thursday (along with the last two pieces I finished) but I have about 3 places to be at the same time and my other half is out of town for the week! If only I had a clone!
Anyway, with the (near) completion of this piece (I still have to figure out how to mount it - maybe on a canvas), I feel like the month is off to a good start. All my scheduled library programs are finished for the summer, so my day can be much more flexible and less rushed. I can spend the afternoons with my two younger daughters doing fun summer things, and playing with my ideas for the sketchbook. Happy August!