I was tearing some large sheets of Arches 300 lb. watercolor paper to work with next week and remembered a little sketch book I made with that paper several years ago. It’s a simple accordion structure and I wanted to have it to sketch things in my garden. Wanted heavy paper so I could work on both sides of the accordion pages. I hadn’t worked with paper that heavy and my watercolor didn’t take to the paper very well. It made an interesting texture but wouldn’t do what I wanted. I was busy and set it aside.
Today I remembered reading (John Pike’s book, “Watercolor” that had belonged to my mom) about heavy watercolor paper having a sizing on it that might be washed off, so… I washed my paper. Just a simple run through with slightly warm water and then gently sponged off with a clean soft sponge. When the water first hit the paper it beaded up like crazy but after the sponging, nothing! No rubbing or soaking, just a gentle sponging to remove the excess water. Then laid on paper towels to dry.
Also did a quick test strip—just rinsed and sponged half the strip. When dry I took a brush full of watercolor and swooshed over both washed and unwashed areas. On the blue sample I also did a dab of color on each side.
Mystery solved! Now I need to rinse my book without making a mess or messing up the existing sketches. A job for another day. But I did wash my prepared papers today!
Thought I’d share this as others might run into the same thing. I’ve studied watercolor formally years ago in school but then I used lighter weight paper that I stretched on a board. Since then I’ve used water color blocks of about 140 lbs. as I mostly take them for quick sketching. Other than my early work I’ve been mainly self taught in this media and missed this bit of the watercolor world! Always something…
Just came back from a wonderful week long painting retreat with Michael Chesley Johnson in Maine—way Downeast in Lubec Maine and in Campobello Island in Canada. I took a workshop with Michael years ago. It was good to see him again!
Michael Chesley Johnson demo and Quoddy Head State Park
Finally unpacked, wash is done, house reclaimed and grass is cut. Now to think about all that happened. On the way north we spent two days on Monhegan Island with Holly and Stig—one takes the ferry—no cars—lots of hiking—lots and lots of hiking—beautiful forest and coast line—good food and beautiful music by a woman composer (whose name I’m sorry I didn’t get). She practices on the piano in the little church next to our hotel.
Monhegan Island—view from hike and a new friend
Then Sunday, back to rt 1 and north. We stayed at West Quoddy Station in a little cabin called “the Camp”. West Quoddy Station is a repurposed life guard station that is now lodging in one of the most beautiful locations in Maine. About a mile from there is the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse and Quoddy Head State Park which pride them selves as being the most eastern point in the US—the sun does rise early! We met Sunday evening with Michael and the other artists for orientation. Our plan was for me to paint as part of the retreat and Bob would go off and photograph—both happy!
Light house and our home away from home!
Michael mainly is a plain air painter as were most of the others but as this was a “retreat” as opposed to a workshop or class we were free to pursue our own directions. People worked in oils, watercolors or pastels. They came from all over the US and Canada. Days began with a sharing/critique of the previous days work and then we all headed to a specified location to paint. Some days Michael demoed and others he painted with us. Quoddy Head State Park, the fishing village of Lubec and Campobello Island all offered a wealth of locations—the weather was perfect—perhaps too perfect—post card days. Afternoons were free to continue painting, visit other locations, hike or just veg and soak up everything. Many peopled worked as long as there was light! On the third day I just sketched and photographed and took it all in.
Something around every turn!
I realize that I’m not a plein air painter but rather a painter who enjoys plein air painting as a resource for studio work. It was hot in the sun and working with warm oils was a relatively new experience—didn’t master that this week but I learned a lot. But I did bring back lots to work on and think about during cold winter days in PA.
Two of my quick plein air paintings.
Last week I was invited to join my friend, Jane, at Needlers Camp—a group of women who meet to share their fiber projects, good food and good company. They meet during the year but one week in summer they meet every morning and call it camp! So many talented people, so many inspiring projects, so much skill and love of their work. I was asked to bring my “Stitches, not Words” project, “Fiber Book” and “Bridges” project for show and tell.
I wanted to take something to work on but the bridges project is solitary as I need it to speak to me for direction so I need something else. When I was finishing “Stitches not Words” I had made one base that had been dyed with madder in addition to the rust and tea that the others had been. I had grown the madder and harvested it a number of years ago.
The piece is rectangular (9.25″ x 7.5″) and assembled in triangles, not squares. I wanted to stitch on it in triangles and add some text. I have some ideas but will wait and see what it says it needs.
So that’s what I worked on while having a lovely morning chatting and nibbling away. Thank you Jane and thank you Needlers!
Been working this spring on a series of landscape paintings, concentrating on my mark making with palette knives etc. They are not finished and will post about them when they are.
I like to work in different media at the same time. Clears my head, yet keeps me working—that accounted for the book project in the last post and as an extension of working with fiber and “slow stitching”* I’ve begun a new project involving bridges—combining fiber, photography, and painting—not all in the same piece.
I love bridges, how they connect different places and allow people to interact in ways they couldn’t before. Previously I’ve painted older bridges over the Wissahckon Creek and some will be included in this series. Recently I hiked in Deleware, along the C&D Canal and photographed several bridges that cross it. I’ve ridden over them on my way south to VA before but never walked slowly under them, photographing and sketching both the man made and nature’s response.
My plan currently is to print my images on rusty dyed fabric and combine them in slow stitched collages which also include stitches depicting the plant life under the bridge.
It’s a start.
The second part of this project is to create paintings of the bridges. Planing on studies of at least three bridges—love that number three! Should keep me busy and out of trouble this summer.
* Slow Stitching is a way of working, on this case stitching, that is slow and allows for contemplation and a release from the other wise busy things todays life so often demands. It is almost zen like and I find it complements my other work which tends to be more hurried and frantic.
Spring has come, all of a sudden everything is green… and magenta and yellow and violet—Philadelphia has a very wild burst of color when spring arrives. I’ve been busy working on a new set of paintings but I spell it with stitching.
My latest “rabbit hole” is a fiber book based on my grandmother, her mother, and her mother. Using many bits and pieces from their collections of saved fabric, lace and trims—my grandmother was the youngest and as all this was passed down it ended up with her and then to me—I descend from savers or some might say pack rats. All three women sewed so there is a wealth of scraps.
Slowly the pages have been taking shape as things are rearranged and reassembled. I learned to print photo’s on fabric—that was a big break through… my dyed fabrics make an appearance as does my stitching. And finally I made a commitment on a cover. So here is the cover and the pages for each woman.
The cover is piece of canvas dyed with tea and rusty bits. It is stitched and has self ties. When untied it reveals a pocket with a photo of me with what I thought was a most wonderful hat when I was four years old.
Three generations of women, all “Stitchers”, although I don’t think they would have used that title.
Other pages and spreads consist of fabric and buttons and feathers and prints and lace and … some are still in the works…
These women have inspired this book but it isn’t necessarily about them but rather about women in general, things that were important to them in their time and that belonged to them in their time.
Been exploring mixed media (currently oil pastels, charcoal, ink and acrylic) on paper. Trying hard not to begin with a direction but rather prepare my state of mind by reading or a walk for example, and see where it leads me. It’s difficult for me once I see a direction not let my thinking mind take over and to become literal. I am also trying with this work, to not dwell on the dark forces that occupy the world today as they take up too much of my life as it is but rather use these explorations to examine hope. Here are two recent results. Different days- different images.
I’m interested to see how these studies affect my other work.