January Gray and Red

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Yesterday and today we had blue, blue skies, but that has so not been true of the rest of the month.  It is likely to end tomorrow evening, with a return to gray and gloomy.  I could not live in the Pacific Northwest, as I’ve found my energy levels are very much affected by the lack of sun.  But even in the gray days there has been some spots of color, the last of the leaves on my oak tree, the winter cardinal visiting my feeder. 

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I’ve been busy getting All Dolls Are Art faculty profiles written and scheduled on the ADAA blog.  It’s fun to see what people who teach and create for a living have to say about their process and inspiration, but it’s very tiring putting together all of the posts.  I’ve got three done so far and four more to go if I’m counting correctly.

I took a break from that this evening to play with the kittens.  They have a new favorite toy:  small, very bouncy, rubber balls.  I can get one started in the hall and they both take off after it, sliding across the wood floor to avoid running into the walls or door.  When they wear themselves out, Calla drops in and takes up a post in between the laptop and the printer where she entertains herself playing with the cursor on the screen.

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I didn’t do much creatively this weekend as I spent Saturday looking at venues with the Etsy Local ATX Artisans team leaders and then Sunday was spent cleaning the house.  But now that my floors are clean, and a blog post is done, I started a new spread in my art journal.

First I scribbled on the ungessoed pages with Caran D’ache Neocolor II crayons. 

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Then I applied gesso over the crayon.  While that dried, I was actually working on my blog posts. 

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The next step was digging through some of my collection of papers and I found several in the teal/turquoise/navy range that seemed to work with my right hand page color.  So, I tore, arranged, tore, rearranged and have pasted this arrangement down.  I’m letting the matt medium dry overnight before trying anything else!

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Enjoying My Flowers

My life tends to be full of tasks and I don’t often slow down enough to notice small stuff.  This spring however, I’ve been taking the time to inspect the new flowers I planted this spring; a variety of rudebekia, daisies and coneflowers; and the birds and bugs that have visited me.  I have hopes that my observations will help me in artistic endeavors in future!  But I am certainly enjoying the opportunity to slow down and see the daily changes.

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This Rudebekia has been opening slowly and the petals have been lengthening.  Here is a photo of it from this weekend, approximately 1 week later:

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You can see the center becoming fuzzier the longer it is open.

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This is another Rudebekia of a different variety.  This plant is covered in blooms right now.

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This is the last of the Rudebekia varieties to bloom.  This plant has only put up one flower stalk and has been progressing very slowly.

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My orange coneflower keeps adding on new blooms.  It’s really striking!

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I had a parsley plant that not only survived the winter, but thrived – growing into a 4’ tall bush.  These guys have been munching on it and making a dent in the seed heads by a small bit.  More of them show up each day and I guess the mature ones are dropping off to form their cocoons.

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I’ve never seen a green fly before, but this guy has been hanging around my rudebekia and I managed to catch him on the rock lily bloom with a Micro lens.

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I noticed this spider hanging in thin air.  It took me quite a while to find its web and even longer to get it in the frame in focus.

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This nice lady, a black crested nuthatch, has babies in one of the birdhouses on my back patio.  I noticed her eralier in the year scoping it out, but enver heard babies in it so didn’t realize she’d laid eggs in the nest I discovered there.  The wren family is in another birdhouse on the patio so it makes for interesting listening when both mom’s are delivering meals.

A New Adventure: Art-Xscape, plus some gardening

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In the culmination of 6 months of work, I launched the Art-Xscape Retreat, a new mixed media retreat coming to ATX in 2014 this weekend.  There was a bit of a scramble at the end as my tech support on the web side of things (my dear brother) had to take shelter to avoid the second batch of tornados to accost the OKC area, just after closing on his new house!  All’s well that ends well, though.  He and the family are safe and sound, as is their new house, and the website made it up!  Please visit it and comment if you see anything of interest!  I’m pleased as punch with the line-up of classes and instructors! 

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We have been the beneficiaries of some of the wet stuff – to the tune of 5 inches at my house!  That has led to largess in my garden and flower beds.  I donated 5 tomatoes, darn it, to the local mocking bird this week before I got my bird netting up.  Hopefully, I won’t donate any more!  I’ve been harvesting green beans and cucumbers for a few weeks now, in addition to cherry tomatoes, but this week saw the first large tomatoes.  Marley has fallen way down on the job of patrolling the garden!  He’s been enjoying laying in the grass instead.

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I planted a bunch of dill in the hopes of having dill to go with the cucumbers for pickles.  Unfortunately for me, I’ve had swallowtail caterpillars chowing down.  I’m down to 3 out of the original 8 plants. 

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I managed to catch what I think is a baby dragon fly visiting my lemon tree.  He kept climbing up into the blossoms and curling his tail around them, but I got this shot where he’s extended out straight and his wings are just visible.

I had a visitor to the mist flower at the other end of the garden a couple of weeks ago, just as I was wrapping up in the back garden before heading out of town.

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He swung from the flower heads for quite a while.  I managed to get several really good shots before heading back inside the house.

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Happy June!

Spring Fever and Imagine!

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I fully planned to write this post last weekend, but I wore myself out, then got hold of some bad shrimp which resulted in food poisoning.  On top of that, work has been a time-consuming affair since I came back from San Fran.  But that’s enough excuses.

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Last Saturday, I dug in 5 more bags of compost into the low bed in front of my sewing room.  I say dug in, but the ground was soooo hard, there wasn’t much digging.  I planted more plants in the berm and the raised bed next to the driveway, some santolina in the berm, some daylillies and verbina in the raised bed. 

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I added Oxallis and Dianthas to the low bed and then I went back in and planted thyme to start creeping along the raised bed.  I built a walk way with some of the left over stone from my patio between the raised bed and the bird bath. 

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And last, but certainly not least, I hauled 1/2 a yard of mulch over the low bed and got the other 1/2 yard out of my Dad’s pickup.  I worked from 8:30 to 4pm on Saturday and completely wore myself out.  My front beds are almost done, though!

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The cats really enjoyed working in the yard with me.

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Prior to all of the yardwork over the weekend, I did my Imagine entry in Susanne’s Word’s Journal.  I wasn’t sure were I was going initially, but I really liked how it turned out.

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The two page spread doesn’t appear to be tied together, but I used the same colors in the Imagine page (right) that I used in the Excavation page (left).  I added a bunch more colors on the Imagine page though.  I used very different techniques between the two pages.

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I started with Excavation, applying a very thick layer of gesso to the page.  I stamped into it with a gothic calligraphy stamp, then stamped off on the Imagine page.  I wiped my gesso brush off on the Image page center. 

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Once the gesso was dry, I used a wash of Bone Black fluid acrylic over the texture on the Excavation page, which I then wiped off the raised parts.  I used successive layers of fluid acrylic in Permanent Violet, Quin Gold, Bright Copper, and a bit of Quin Burnt Orange.  I used some of these same colors in washes on the Imagine page.

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As I got color down on the Imagine page, I decided I wanted to use a stencil of dragon flies and butterflies spiraling up concentric circles in the center.  I needed a way to set it off, so I used very light washes of Naples Yellow, Quin Crimson, and Permanent Violet in the opening I’d left from stamping off.  I laid the stencil down and misted Pthalo Turquoise over the stencil.

Imagine_top I went back in with white to highlight the circles.  About this time, I figured out that I was creating a sunset and added clouds in Dioxazine Purple and Anthroquinone Blue, highlight with white.  I added a sun using Bright Copper, painted over with Quin Burnt Orange and Permanent Violet.  I used a white crayon to write Imagine and then wiped paint off so it showed.

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Next up is Debbie’s Journal and “Believe”.  I didn’t realize that I knew anyone in the RR besides Naomi, the organizer, but Debbie is my friend Debbie G from St. Louis!  She comes to All Dolls Are Art and silk screened my bags last year.  Her journal is lovely.  I’m going to get it photographed and will post on that later in the weekend.

A New Project for Valentine’s Day

I have been working on a very late birthday present up until Friday, when I decided to do my end of year (yeah, I do the end of year stuff in January) filing, which was preceded by needing desperately to clean.   This urge was, of course, precipitated by my inability to find something….  I need a better organizational system.  The archeological method isn’t working for me.  So, Saturday was devoted to a few errands and cleaning and watching the playoff’s.  The weather was beautiful, the way it is rarely before we get the next cold front blowing through.  I know, Texas doesn’t really get cold, cold fronts, but this one was supposedly an arctic blast.  Whenever one of these fronts starts dipping down, it drags moisture up from the gulf, which, IF WE ARE VERY LUCKY, results in a little bit of rain.  The big thing it does, is make everything cloudy and gloomy.  So, Saturday was a great picture day, if I hadn’t been cleaning that is.  I did take a few minutes to snap these wise guys on my tree.  I can almost see them “Hey, you!  You wanna piece of me?  Huh?  You wanna piece of me?”.  I think that obscure reference is from the Animaniacs, but I honestly can’t remember.

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Sunday morning, I woke up with a very sore throat and a head-cold.  That’s what I get for telling the girl at the hospital (long story short, sat in the ER with my Dad for a loose screw – his) that I never get sick….  I’m not getting the last laugh…  So, not working on the present, because I’m not giving the recipient his germs back… Yeah, he was out Friday sick; so I’m guessing he’s the donor of the germs.  Anyway, I slowly poked through cleaning up the paint studio.  Again, watched the playoffs, but the first game was so bad that I spent more time in the studio than out. 

I finally got space cleared enough that I could work and decided to try out a vague idea for a pin doll.  Even in my mentally challenged state, I came up with this pretty little girl.

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I’m trying her out as an idea for a class, but am also thinking of listing her in my Etsy shop.  She was a lot of fun, especially as I got to play with the Sizzix die-cuts and embossing folders.

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She is made from some small wood pieces, grunge board, copper wire and copper sheet metal, fibers, beads, pearls and is backed with felt and has a pin attached.  She’s almost 7” from wing tip to wing tip and is 5” tall.  I’m really happy with how she turned out!  I was thinking V-day when I came up with the color scheme, but I really like copper with reddish tones.  Of course, I love turquoise with copper too.  May have to make another one with turquoise!