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Before trees

March 19, 2016

Working on the sampler for Jude Hill’s online course I’m following (well, dipping into) is giving me insights into how I work generally.  The idea here is to weave some fabric strips together as a base, and then work on the grid formed by the strips of cloth.

spiritclothsampler2

spiritcloth sampler, in progress

I chose the circle as a uniting theme, but the tree wanted to be there in the middle, and when it appeared, the work stopped being an exercise and connected with my heart.

Someone once commented that I should stop working in all those little rectangles in my art. But this way of working speaks to me, is actually a part of my personal visual vocabulary. I realise I feel most comfortable within defined spaces where I can play with edges, defining them, letting them fade, overlapping. And each square a little story of its own. If you look at Jude’s work, you see her breaking out of the grid repeatedly, but it is there as a strong basis to the design, holding all the separate parts together.

You can see in the next images, how I like to work. I used an old painting(shown upside down) below.

background painting before trees

old painting used as background for Before trees

On the painting below, you can still see part of the neck of the greenish bottle (far right) showing if you look carefully. And other areas have been painted over letting parts of the background show through. Using an old painting as the background determines the palette a bit, and some of the movement.

before trees

Before trees

But I got stuck fairly quickly on this one. It was too familiar and I wasn’t learning much  by continuing with it. Using prompts from Flora Bowley’s book, mentioned in several previous posts, I decided to risk ruining/losing what I had in order to find something new. So I turned it upside down and treated it like a background.

Ah, trees again, they just wanted to be there. To orient between the old and new versions, look for the yellow sun on the painting above, and now you’ll see it peeking through behind the big tree on the left.

before trees2

Before trees, worked on further

Here is a later stage.
So, for me, the textile work at teh top of the page,  and painting are intimately related. They are both about layering, not planning overmuch, following where the work seems to want to go, and being patient with all the twists and turns on the way.

before trees1

Before trees, more definition

Cherry wood music stand made by Rende Zoutewelle

Cherry wood music stand made by Rende Zoutewelle

This summer, my fine woodworker husband has been working on some music stands. The one pictured above is made from solid cherry. We designed it together early on in our marriage (which is also often a working partnership) and two previous ones have been made and sold, one in mahogany, and a lighter coloured one in beech.

Rende’s workshop is next to the house, so I get to see from close by the magical transformation of planks of wood into works of art. I thought it would be nice to record and share the creation process since most people aren’t familiar with the different skills and the amount of patience involved.

The project is imagined, designed, and drawn and the wood is selected. It needs to be seasoned – dry enough to cut and plane without warping with changes in humidity. Some wood lays for months/years in humidity controlled environments before it can be used.

Rende started with the more labour intensive top- the surface that holds the music. The design was traced on the cherry plank and holes were drilled in the parts needing to be cut out so that the saw blade could be inserted. Note all the hard edges at this stage, it looks like a flat cut-out. Later it will be carefully shaped into the softly rounded, sculpted form you see in the finished version above.

The top is set aside while the base is glued together. It starts out square, and the moveable middle part for adjustable height is already planned in and placed.

Working on the base

Working on the base

Then, the body is mounted on the lathe and turned using razor sharp chisels and gouges.

In this next series of photos, the joints for the legs are made. Slots are routed out of both the leg and base, pins are inserted, and legs are fitted and glued. Like everything else in this process it is precision work. Being even millimetres off at any step will result in something looking crooked or not standing straight.

Once the base is ready, it is time to do the finicky finishing on the top piece. This is where a lot of the patience comes in. The curves are painstakingly carved and smoothed to look like curling branches and leaves. Deadly sharp- (you could shave with them) chisels and knives are used. The forms are sculpted and worked until the craftsman is satisfied. Then they are worked to a still greater degree of perfection, until you really couldn’t find a nick or scratch or chisel mark.

Next comes the laborious hand sanding process. Rende uses strips of sandpaper in a low grade (rough) to get between the tight curves of the design. After having gone over the front,back, and sides, the insides and outsides of all the curls, he sands it all over again with the next finer grade. And finally, when it looks smooth to me, he goes over the entire surface again with the finest grade of paper which is so fine, it almost polishes the wood.

Using narrow strips of sand paper to finish the rounding process

Using narrow strips of sand paper to finish the rounding process

Note all the used strips of sandpaper on the workbench

Note all the used strips of sandpaper on the workbench

Finally, the top is glued onto a support attached to the slender middle column running down the centre of the base. The little knob on the side for adjusting the height is turned on the lathe and slipped into one of the holes on the side.  Then everything is oiled with several coats of Danish oil- a mix of natural oils and varnish. The light looking raw wood warms up into a deep honey coloured shine.

The process takes about two weeks of steady work. Whoever buys it will have a beautiful functional music stand to grace a music room or living room, but also an heirloom that will be in the family for generations.

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Daffodil art- the mobile

March 26, 2015

daffodil mobile

daffodil mobile                photo Rende Zoutewelle

This mobile was created from dried out daffodil flowers and their still green stems. It was near impossible to photograph since the air currents in the house kept moving it. And because it was against a window with a lot going on visually in the background, the photographer had to wait until evening to shoot it- and of course there is less light, necessitating a longer exposure. This in turn makes it a challenge to get something so prone to movement in focus, so thanks to my woodworker husband whom, luck has it, is also a professional photographer.

Below is reminder of the separate components before I strung them up (see post before this, Nature art). And below that are a few similar projects using natural materials, from previous posts, either here or on my other blog, tending time

spiral 1

spiral 1

grass ring from Pieterpad walk

grass ring from Pieterpad walk

feathers and grasses from Pieterpad walk

feathers and grasses from Pieterpad walk

 

 

Nature art

March 24, 2015

Starting at the end of January, we’ve had a continual oasis of blooming spring bulbs on the dining room table. As one pot reaches its peak and fades, we replace it with a fresh new one.

winter bulb garden and micro greens

winter bulb garden and micro greens

Rende got fascinated with the dried up mini daffodils (in background), and made some great photos of them awhile back.

I was idly sitting at the table a few nights ago and picked some of the dried out flowers and stems and started playing with them. The results are below. They eventually inspired a mobile, which I’ll post soon.

 

flock of felt birdies

flock of felt birdies

Crafty corner time! (Goodness, however will I keep up my image as a professional designer and serious painter by showing my small handmades?) Well, not my problem, I don’t see them as separate from my other work.

This group is sold out. I’ve found that selling works for me if it is to my immediate friends and other small local circles, like classes etc.

I wanted to share part of the process of making these little sweeties because it is something that evolved while working on these and might be fun or helpful for others.

During all my hand work projects I always felt bad about the waste of little bits of pure wool felt, silken embroidery threads and snippets of wool and acrylic yarns. I kept as many scraps as possible, but inevitably the tiniest pieces would get thrown away. Well, I just started putting them in a jar because the colours made me feel happy. And when they accumulated, the penny dropped, and whoopee, I discovered I  had ready-made stuffing for my brooches.

Here is my worktable surface, it pleases me how harmonious the colours of the washi tapes, scraps and Papaya mailing stickers are, oh and the crochet work in the background. I tend to stick to these kinds of warm pastels. Far left you can see my scrap collection jar.

tabletop

tabletop

work surface

Here is bluebird in the process of getting his innards.

getting filled

getting filled

And here he is ready to send to Sandy, my dear friend in Canada who will be his new mom.

‘Tweet’ (remember when that used to mean, bird word)!?

Bluebird with fancy toes

Bluebird with fancy toes

Paper houses

June 27, 2013

paper houses 1

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.

Housing stories

September 6, 2012

Tiny paper houses

little collages with a house and vessel

Sometimes when other work has stranded, I make little collages out of discarded oil pastel drawings.

Yesterday I woke up with an irresistible urge to make tiny paper houses. I wanted them specifically to place on a miniature spice shelf ( a new addition to my studio, purchased for 60 cents at a second hand store).

I hadn’t intended to decorate them, but now I see that they are my oil pastels in 3D.

The image ontop of this page is inspired directly by Camillan Engman’s tabletop collections, and is also cut from discarded oil pastel drawings.

I love the shapes of houses and vessels, jars, bowls. It occured to me that houses are vessels, too. They contain our lives and loves and everyday rituals. They contain each of our stories.

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

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Photos of the museum by Rende. Other photo credits: de Ploeg paintings – Groninger Museum. Fashion photos- site of Iris van Herpen

I spent yesterday morning in the Groningen Museum.  It is an edgy, internationally acclaimed building and collection. It is very competitively positioned and run as a status symbol for this northern city, which is considered inferior by the culture gurus in Amsterdam. Maybe that is why most of the exhibitions, chosen for the wrong reasons (commercial and status)  in my mind, rarely speak to me.

But Thursday, I went especially to see the Jan Altink paintings, he is a member of the ‘Ploeg’ which was mentioned in a previous post.

While there I also saw two other featured shows, both having to do with fashion. I wouldn’t have normally gone out of my way to see these, but they were both inspiring. This vimeo of  the opening of the Azzedine Alaia show gives an impression of this fashion artist’s mastery. He designs, cuts and sews each piece. The craftsmanship is to die for, and the details, materials, and ingeneious handling of materials were so inspiring.

The entry into this show was in a dimly lit room, showing off his black evening dresses on a round platform. You can see this in the above mentioned vimeo. They were all body hugging exquisitely feminine pieces in luxurious velvets and silks, shown on nearly invisible plexiglass forms, and draped impeccably.

The other show was of a young designer very much in the picture here and internationally, Iris van Herpen. Her work is more sculptural than wearable, in my opinion. I like it as art, it is fresh, and as exquisitely crafted as Alaia’s. She uses all kinds of materials and techniques from 3D printing to casting. She thinks alot about things and each collection is based on an issue that is up for her. It was impressive to see this work in real life.

Finally, I spent the rest of the time with the Altink paintings. Ate luch at the beautiful museum café overlooking the large canal, and went back for another hour to see a selection of the Ploeg collection.

The paintings are so messy!! Not just the tossed off strokes, but the surfaces! They look like they’d been dragged through the dirt, or at least as if the brushes with paint had. Close up all you could see was gritty colours, step back and there was a reasonably harmonious whole. Totally not my way of perceiving or working, but intriguing all the same.

Holland is kind of progressive in some areas. (The Dutch tend to think of themselves as very progressive, to some extent they are, but not as much as they would like to think. How progressive is a society that is cutting the art budgets to suicidal levels and at the same time elevating the sales tax on art from 6% to 19%, and in 2013 to 21%!!) later: as of July 2012, this has luckily been reversed. Praised be!

Anyway, there is a new feature in the museum I really like. You get a memory stick type thing on a key ring when you get your admission card. Every exhibition has selected works with an electronic box beside it. If you want to ‘collect’ that work, you just put the stick up to it and a little green led flashes on the box to show that piece has been added to your images. When you are ready to leave, you just go to a computer and send your collected images home via e-mail and turn in the stick.  You can see mine here . My collection starts with the dresses in the banner across the top of the page. Just click on each image to see a larger version.

Journey in paint

May 2, 2012

First stage, roughly indicating the colors

Almost there

A good stopping point

I’m fairly pleased with this result. One can go on endlessly refining, but for me it is a discipline to stop before that point.
It is acrylic, by the way, I wanted to work fast adding layers while the other oil painting I started was drying.

I like the looser brush strokes and thicker application of paint.  I’m pushing myself out of the familiar territory of just rendering because I love how some of the painters capture objects in a few thick strokes. When seen up close, they look purely abstract, and when you step back, wow- an onion (lemon, face, hand, etc).

What I worked on, among other things, between stage 2 (middle photo) and stage 3(above),  were the bottoms of the bulb shaped bottle on the left and the squarish one on the right.  I really liked the thick, painterly strokes on the right one.

When a painting is at a stage where it looks good, it is always a risk to continue developing it and risk ruining what you have. This is a constant decision process in painting, you’ve put down a spontaneous series of strokes you like, but when you change something in another area of the painting they no longer work. It is difficult to bring yourself to paint over these.

In this case, I decided to change the rest of the painting to accommodate the spontaneous strokes. 🙂

I’m now working on the oil painting I started a while back and let dry so I could work on it further. This one is getting exciting, new stuff happening, looking forward to showing new developments in the next few days.