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Paper houses

June 27, 2013

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paper houses          photo Rende Zoutewelle

I had the painting on the landing outside my studio, and when I cleaned up my drawing table, I put the little paper houses there temporarily for lack of a better place.

I kept passing this little composition enjoying how the painting and sculptures complemented each other, meaning to take a picture.

Evidently Rende had been thinking the same thing. I’m so glad he did it. His photo has all the poetry I’d imagined, and I doubt I would have been able to capture it as well as he has.

More about paper houses here.

Hands-on and happy

July 22, 2012

I’ve had some time this summer to play with materials and do a small wall painting I’d been planning.

After painting all those flowers on harpsichords, I thought our home deserved a little bit of that decorative cheer. More on that further down.

First, though, here is a sheepy button I found at a textile fair: the little feet dangle free on tiny ropes.

Happy sheep button

Actually, I couldn’t resist making him wearable, so I made a brooch:

Needle-felted hill with embroidered heather, and a needle felted cloud on a wool felt blue sky

I like to think of someone smiling as they put this on and discover the flower on the back

Next I decided to tackle two ugly oil stains on a favorite pair of workpants. Ok they are work pants, but still.
I’d bought a scarf for 50 cents at a rummage sale and cut out some designs from it. I sewed them on, wrong side up, which made the colours more muted and matched the faded trousers better.

Cutting up the scarf

Patched

Happy black drawstrings

And finally, there was a small, neglected bit of wall just inside our back door, outside the bathroom (WC for our UK readers).  I’d been wanting to jazz it up for a long while.

Unjazzed

Voila, a piece of summer garden to welcome

Sweet pea detail

This was done with tempera on wall paint, which worked like watercolours.  I was ok with it when I stopped trying to get the deep rich colours of tempera on beautifully prepared sound board wood.

The work, by the way, was back-breaking, it took about 8 sittings, painting over parts several times where I didn’t like the curves.

I’ll choose a wall where I can stand and sit normally next time.

For photos of a mural I did years ago, on a slightly different scale, see below and click here .

Starting the waterfall for Jeroen’s Jungle

Bead feed

May 18, 2012

When I’m at ease, free of deadlines,  then before too long, the craft supplies come out.

The annual bead and jewelry fair was in Groningen last weekend, I thought I held back fairly well.  In one stall, there were about 400 (!)colours of size 11 seed beads to choose from! Here is a portion of my purchases, filling in the pink, hot red colurways. And a beautiful range of sage greens, metallic and frosted forest greens, as well as some misty greys and pearls.

fun at the bead fair

And below is a part of my existing seed bead collection.

Mostly tending towards blues, purples and aubergines

And what do I do when I’m let loose on all these gorgeous materials? Below, Evelyn’s necklace in progress.

Multi-strand necklace in progress

My aunt wears a lot of beiges and pastels. My sense of the colours was an antique, cameo feeling, soft golds and ochres, and shell purple and dusty pinks. I finished the multi-strand, then including some hand blown glass beads from Eastern Europe, made a separate strand to wear with it or separately.

Finished necklaces

Here below is my current project, inspired by bracelets I saw at the stall where I got my seed beads, for Dutch readers, Monique’s website is definitely worth a visit. I purchased the directions from her, I”ve never done this particular type of beadwork before and am enjoying the meditative work of threading this (late) mother’s day gift for my mother-in-law.

Some of the bracelets on display were fairly bling bling qua colour, I chose smokey blues, greys and irridescent blacks instead.

Tanny’s bracelet in progress

Detail

Well, the painting of the song board is completed. Johan came to pick it up this past week.

The etalage is incredibly empty. It was like having a friend there, a real presence,  waiting every morning. I’d look at the work of the past day and plan what the steps for today would be- and by some miracle, flower by flower by flower, it all got done.

It took close to 80 hours spread over 8 weeks, not counting the planning and design. Those hours aren’t all painting time, they also include drawing, transferring, some research,  and reworking some flower drawings.

I always have a bit of resistance to adding the final blue arabesques, those clumps of curls and swirls around the edges. I’d prefer a more streamlined look. But the blue decorations are trademarks of these Ruckers Flemish instruments from around this time (1638), so they are not optional. They are fun to do, and the artist can hide all kinds of inside jokes in the complicated strokes. You may be able to spot a few that are not just designs but contain figurative elements. Once I hid a bike, a mermaid, and even a boxer (dog).

The lines, scallops and arabesques are done with an applicator so that they will be raised in relief. Originally this was done with a mixture of cobalt glass and casein binder. I use gouache and casein with a smidge of acylic gel for elasticity.

Here are Johan and I, Johan has just finished playing air harpsichord, Bach’s flower concerto I think.

And now the instrument is back with its creator, Matthias, who will add strings, keyboard and base, several layers of paint (on the outside!!!) and  other finishing touches. All of us involved with the birth of this instrument are enjoying seeing it come alive as each person does his/her part. It is one of the most rewarding (and intense) projects  I’ve worked on. I’m so grateful it is safely back in Germany in Matthias’ workshop.

Harpsichord 6-flower by flower

September 15, 2007

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Decorated harpsichord sound board completed, photo Rende Zoutewelle

It was truly a delightful process, perhaps because there was such a warm contact with the clients and instrument maker. It is always a pleasure to work for/with someone rather than deliver a finished work to an anonymous buyer. (One of the reasons I stopped being a gallery artist).

Also, my husband documented the whole process on his photo site and there was a lot of wonderful feedback and encouragement from that group (thanks folks!).

So my studio is gloriously empty, but more importantly, after an intense 6 week involvement with a project like this, so is my head. 

Although I must say that having a concrete project to do was a welcome break from my current focus; getting a new idea off the ground (in this case creating work for myself as an artist in healthcare) involves so much headwork. And all the planning, following up contacts, writing proposals is so abstract and up until now has not led to anything structural. While painting the sound board flower by flower eventually led to tangible results and a FINISHED PROJECT! 
Well, for me anyway. Herwil now has to do his magician’s work and conjure the painted wood into a singing instrument.
 

Harpsichord 5

August 31, 2007

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The sound board is nearing completion.  The harpsichord itself, all 2 meters of it, is on my long worktable and the reference material is spread out all over the room. Most of my materials are on a rolling table.  I am enjoying the work but I’ll be glad to get my studio space back when it is done. Also, the instrument builder is waiting for it in order to continue construction. It has meant putting on a final push this week, and there were days where it seemed like the work needing to be done was never-ending. There are 40 hours invested in it so far.

At the end of a project like this there is an extra burst of energy that carries you through to completion. I do find, though, that being in the grip of it eclipses everything else.  It is a mixed feeling giving in to the drive to finish something; on one hand you are carried by the momentum built up over the weeks of concentration, on the other hand there is very little room for anything else (for instance, the rest of life…husband, puppy, other commissions, social life…. etc.).  

It is a great feeling though, after focusing on minute details for all those hours, to look out over the decorated board and see it as a whole. The painting process has been sensually pleasurable as well, I love working on the warm, live surface of wood, I can use drybrush technique to finish and blend colour layers subtly, and for instance, the peacock feather works particularly well using this method.

Harpsichord 4

August 26, 2007

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Photo by Rende Zoutewelle

Working on some details now. It is nice to paint songboards in the spring and summer, I can use ‘live’ models from my garden. This is lobelia.

Harpsichord 3

August 21, 2007

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photo Rende Zoutewelle

The positions of the flowers are laid out on pieces of tracing paper. One by one I transfer them onto the board, then block in the main colours.

According to some historians, Flemish harpsichords of the 17 th century were painted exclusively in water-based pigments. This made the songboard exceedingly fragile, but when it comes to water, the whole instrument is vulnerable anyway.

I worked with gouache for the first 2 instruments I painted. Then one night, when I had a songboard in process, it rained and there was a leak in my studio. Fortunately, water only splattered near the board, but that was the deciding point for me. The next intrument I did was painted in egg-based tempera. It  looks like gouache, but it dries hard and mostly waterproof. Luckily it is available ready-made in tubes here in Holland.

So the painting has begun, it is very enjoyable work. My sable brushes are sharp and flexible, the colors used are vibrant, and flowers are such accommodating subjects.
Pictured is the underpainting of the rosette wreath around the sound hole of the instrument. The flowers and leaves are first painted quickly in approximate colours. Then when I’ve worked sketchily across the whole board, I’ll start to pull the colours together and work on details.

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Harpsichord 2

August 12, 2007

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Applying the blue lines and scallops

Making the very first marks on a virgin sound board is always a little bit intimidating. The plain lines are the most difficult  because every little wobble stands out starkly. When the scallops are added, though, the imperfections seem to diminish. And by the time the board is completely painted, the whole effect is actually made more charming by the small irregularities.  

I read on another harpsichord decorator’s site not to get too perfectionistic, because after all, the strings will be added above the board, and then most likely over the months, a thin layer of dust will cover it all. And the whole effect from a distance is more important than the separate details. 

I remember working hard to make my first sound board painting as beautiful and perfect as possible. Then the instrument builder and I went to The Hague to see an original instrument upon which the replica we were working on was based.  IT WAS WILD! The blue lines were drunkenly weaving up and down, the scallops sometimes touched the line and often didn’t. The paint was just thrown on there, I couldn’t believe my eyes!  And yet, standing back, the whole effect was stunning.

It stands to reason that it was hastily done; I read that in the heyday of harpsichord production, a team of painters would complete a soundboard painting in 3 winter days or 2 summer days.

It takes me about  30-40 hours spread over a month, although it would probably go faster if I did more than one every 4 years!

Harpsichord 1

August 7, 2007

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Photo by Rende Zoutewelle

This case with soundboard is on its way to becoming a musical instrument. My job is to decorate the soundboard in the tradition of the 17th century Flemish Ruckers’ instruments. 
This is the 5th harpsichord decoration job I’ve done; the first one was in 1993.

The instrument’s builder is Herwil van Gelder and he lives just down the road. The customer is also coincidentally from the village, so it feels like a community kind of project.

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After determining which flowers will be painted on, the next step is mixing the classic blue for the blue lines, scallops and arabesques.  I’ve opted for a cobalt-blue based mixture. The original material used was ‘smalt’- cobalt glass in a casein suspension.  After experimenting a bit I’ve arrived at a mix of gel medium, designers colour and casein. This goop is applied with a fabric painting applicator and is like decorating a cake.