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.
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.
Artist, Susan Abbott, is teaching a “Traveling with your Sketchbook” workshop in DC and posted about it. I took a workshop with Susan in VT this past summer and I can attest that one gets their money’s worth from her. She covers so much and caters it to each person’s level. Susan’s blog post asked for comments/thoughts on personal experiences and I wrote the folllowing”
“For years I took new sketchbooks on trips and returned with them as new as when I left. All the things you mention in the post. Then one year friends gave us some tulips at the airport on a trip to France and the French let me take them with me… So I sketched them in our room once each morning until they dropped and then I kept sketching on that day. I realized I had given myself permission to sketch. After that I started making one quick sketch from my window each am on trips – sometimes an incredible view, some times a parking lot… but once I did that I would continue to sketch for the rest of the trip. Now I can’t imagine travel with out sketching. Perhaps the favorite thing to do in my life.”
It got me thinking about how important sketching is to me and I thought I’d share my thoughts here. I dug out that old sketchbook and below are some of my sketches from that trip”
First quick sketch of tulips – I was tired but wanted a record for our friends
After this I warmed to the task.
from left: hotel window, Saint Malo, FR; Stravinsky Fountain, Paris, FR; Schloss, Baden Baden, GR
…and finally, I just sat down and drew. This sketch book became a wonderful journal of out trip – drawings, ephemera, notes.
Unfortunately, I used a pen with ink that bled through the page to the image on the other side. Didn’t do that again!
As I said in my comment, once I make that first sketch on a trip it is as though I have given myself permission to continue. Don’t know if this works for everyone but it sure works for me. Sketching when traveling has become one of my favorite experiences. It allows me to slow down and see things that I would have missed and gives me wonderful sources of memories – how I felt when I saw these things and as I sketched.
Off to Virginia to stay with Fletcher and Cooper while their parents were away and I took my Hokett Loom, yarns and design materials. I knew the boys would have their noses in the World Cup and I would have time to indulge in weaving.
I pack my weaving supplies in translucent bags that all fit into a larger bag. One for my Hokett with the tray I use it on, one for a selection of yarns and one for little bits of equipment. My design supplies go in a small shoulder bag with watercolors, sketchbooks etc. With these two bags I could set up a little studio space and was set!
Got out my sketchbook and watercolors and came up with my design. I’ve been sketching trees and leaves lately so decided on stylized leaves. Next to warp my little loom and prepare my weft yarns. I did bring the little spinner thing that I got from Rebecca Mezoff to un ply my Harrisville yarns. BUT… my design called for black and I forgot that while I needed to un ply the blue and green yarn, I needed to double the black and didn’t bring enough… You can see where I ran out of black yarn in the image above!!! Always something!!!!
I did have more black at home and was able to finish!!! So all is well with one part of my world, at least…
Been tied up with weaving for a while and felt I needed to get back to sketching. These tulips (from a super market, not my garden) were on their last legs (stems) and I loved their nearly spent – never give up enthusiasm.
Watercolor and ink
Well, I’ve taken the little looms class and attended the little looms workshop in the mountains of Colorado- both with Rebecca Mezoff. I’ve done a number of small tapestries on my Hokett looms and felt I knew what I was doing enough to sign up for the Unjuried Small Format Tapestry Exhibition through the American Tapestry Alliance. I worked on my design, did some samples on my 8 epi Hokett and ordered yarns from Harrisville. I thought I had simplified my design and thought Harrisville would be good as I do know I’m a beginner. WELL, the real world works to keep me humble. I still like my design, but should have explored more ways to do the veins in the leaves. There are slits all over the place to the point of making it unstable. I’ll try stitching them but…
Anyway, here’s my process – I do still like my design and will rework it after I pick my self up… I may do a series – I like the simple concept of friendship and nature. I call this one, “Have a Cup of Tea with Me”.
I had a watercolor sketch that I had done of leaves in a jar and liked it’s spring like quality and colors. I selected my colors based on it and ordered them – it was exciting when they arrived!!! Much of my work is with low chroma colors so these bright hues were a big deal for me!
I knew the watercolor was beyond my abilities as this was my first real tapestry so I redrew it, cropping in and eventually cropped in a lot more. I wanted this to be a friendly, cosy, spring like design, so the jar changed to the suggestion of a cup of tea. I then scanned the color sketch and redrew it in Illustrator to flatten it and to simplify it even more. Once sized, that became my cartoon.
I made samples. First, testing how yarns could mix to extend the colors I have, then adjusting the values of the greens to get the feeling of the tea cup under the leaves and finally exploring various angles I could achieve. I considered weaving this side ways, and perhaps I should have but I thought I could get away with a vertical design as I wanted the texture to be vertical and not horizontal.
Finally I got started. I had warped my new loom when I got it to make sure I understood how. I didn’t use the shedding device as I used my fingers and it doesn’t seem to make a very large shed anyway. Also when I attached the cartoon to the back it made the shedding device unusable. I attached it with some bag clips from my kitchen – need to research how others do this. I re did section after section as I began to understand how the weft packed down – think I might be packing too hard??? My main problem was the vein lines in the leaves. My original design didn’t have them but I felt they were important to describe the leaves. I tried different blues (limited to the blues I have) and eccentric lines, and wrapping a single warp yarn. I ended up using anything that seemed to work – resulting is a fabric with too many slits. I thought I could stitch the slits but there is a problem with the wrapped warps – perhaps if I had stitched as I went along…but I didn’t. When it lies flat the problem doesn’t show but when I took it off the loom…
So, I have a lot to learn and I learned a lot.