Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Elements of Design - Line

The last week, as part of my course work with Lisa Call, I have been looking at the use of line in design a little more closely and a little more deeply. As part of this exercise, I took a short walk this afternoon  around the neighborhood of Kilburnie in Wellington, New Zealand. I arrived here to visit my daughter and her husband, and my 22 month old grandson yesterday, and as often seems to happen when you visit unfamiliar places, I had new eyes for seeing here and soon found numerous examples of line. First there were the yellow broken lines running down the middle of the road,
and letters painted on a fence, each one made of other broken lines, and of complementary colours in order that stand out unmistakably to passersby.
Fences are everywhere, each composed of lines formatted in hundreds of ways. Here a wide line is followed by two thinner lines, all the lines being cut to the same length, and attached top and bottom to two (almost) horizontal lines.
As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that the three examples above are all lines in things that are man-made, and contrast hugely with the organic trunk lines of pohutakawa trees planted outside a nearby school. Maybe the trunks are even more dramatic because they're juxtaposed with the lines of the street and the school.
The pleasing lines of these windows are more complex. Straight lines and curved lines. Lines that enclose rectangles and lines that enclose diamonds. Beautiful.
But straight lines can be found in nature, as well as in windows and fences and as street markings. Parts of this palm tree look like spiked lines radiating out from a centre, perhaps from a branch. Each one widest at the base and thinning until it ends with a point.
For some reason I find this sign particularly pleasing, warning drivers that they are approaching a pedestian crossing. Something about the perspective, I think.
This photo of the side of nearby house was the most complex of all, with horizontal lines formed by the wooden siding, cross-hatching on the climbing frame, simple straight lines and one single diamond in the stained glass windows, diagonal roof lines and vertical fence lines. Together they are in perfect balance.
And of course written letters and numbers are all made up of lines too. With hundreds of varieties of fonts available for use, or our own unique hand gestures forming them.
Griffin is showing me where I can find a lemon, just beside his home. It wasn't until I was choosing which photo I'd load onto this blogpost that I noticed the lovely contrast between the outside almost-but-not-quite round of the lemon and the check of his jacket. And then there are the horizontal stripes of his shoes and the vertical lines of the fence. Even the diagonal line of the sidewalk plays an important role in this shot. This was a most interesting exercise, and I will be following it up by looking at which lines I most like to use in my own work, among other things. I have a feeling I might be dreaming about lines tonight.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Three Art Quilts Move to Their New Homes


It is a real joy when someone sees something you have made, the end results of taking many, many bits of fabric and combining them in your own way, and responds to it favorably. I mean, it's really quite a risk, putting your heart and soul into something and then showing it to others. It never seems to get any easier. But when someone also pays you the compliment of wanting it to move out of your home and into their own, that joy is multiplied. So it has been with these three pieces. The blue and green piece is called "Majesty" and has been years in the making. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many years. In fact it was only as I was being admitted to Emergency some months ago that I panicked and thought "I absolutely cannot have a heart attack now - "Majesty" hasn't been made!" It's modeled after a watercolor painting by Dianne Bersea, called by the same name, and has been used with her permission. On Saturday I delivered it to its new home in Victoria, and I can tell you that I was enormously pleased, and they seemed to be too.
This photo of "Under the African Sun" was sent to me by its new owner, and I am honoured to see it hanging above the fireplace in his new home in Vancouver. This has long been a favourite of mine, but it's time to part with many of my Africa-inspired quilts, and a pleasure to see it being enjoyed now by someone else.
And this little bird flew away to its new home in Winnipeg, where I understand it's very happy. Which leads me to a bit of news I want to share with you. Next July - July 22-29/18 - I am going to be having a solo show at the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery, called "A Sense of Colour". It's really the story of my progression from a user of subtle and greyed tones to a love of the bold and bright. And it's also an opportunity for me to say goodbye to some old friends and to give viewers a look at what I'm working on now, with the added bonus that 30% of all sales will go to the Widows Gardens Project in Southern Uganda. I will let you know more about this as the time gets closer, but if you're anywhere near Vancouver Island on those dates, I hope to see you there. And if you live farther afield, and would like to know more about which pieces will be for sale, please email me, and I'll be happy to fill you in on the details. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fibre Art Network Retreat 2017 - Lac Le Jeune

Way up the Coquihalla Highway, almost as far as Kamloops, is Lac Le Jeune. This gem of a place was the location for this year's Fibre Art Network annual retreat. Forty-four of us arrived at the well-appointed cabins on Wednesday of last week, and left again on Sunday, having made new friends and become reacquainted with old friends, and having shared our creative journeys with one another and talked textile art and visited galleries and discussed where we go next as an organization committed to promoting fibre art and each other as artists.
The trees and the colours and the light are all different at this elevation, from what we see at the coast. And we had time between various presentations to feast our eyes on it all. But what I enjoyed most of all, what stimulated me beyond belief, was seeing what art this group of creative individuals is making. I was blown away by the different techniques that were used and the subject matter of the works, and the adventurous spirit in which each person is pushing the textile art form in new directions.
We had the opportunity to visit two separate FAN exhibits - one in Merritt and one in Kamloops. The first was called Ekphrastic, and gave each of us who entered the opportunity to respond to a poem by a Canadian poet. The interpretations were so diverse, so interesting.
Here, Bonnie Rozander and Janet Harper are having a closer look at the piece by Terry Phillips. "Just how did she manage to do that", they're wondering. 
The artists here are Leah Gravells and Sara Judith, each of them responding to the same poem.
Linda and Judy take time to discuss their own current work. The retreat was such a great time of connecting with like-minded people. Other women whose lives are taken up with expressing who they are and what they make of this crazy world through the medium of textiles.
We're a motley group, many of us non-conformists who have balked at the prescribed roles for women of our generation, and who boldly keep on making the work that speaks of who we are and 
what we know of the world, and think to ourselves, "damn the torpedoes". It is an honour to belong to such a group.
By the time I came home yesterday, I was full to bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. I couldn't wait to get back to my studio, to keep on making my art. One spends much time on one's own as an artist - a necessary thing - but how good it is to gather with like-minded crazies on a regular basis, to get into a conversation with someone and realize that they too are compelled to create.
Yesterday we said goodbye to one another, but the nuggets of wisdom and vision we were given during the last four days will remain with us for a good long time to come. I'm writing it all down as fast as I can, before the memories leave me.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Back at Home in the Studio

Summer and holidays and family gatherings are indeed wonderful, but I must confess that I was glad to be able to return to the studio this past week. My found objects and African fabrics were already out on the tables, so it was relatively easy to get back into gear and work on my latest African Collage piece. This one is called Murrum Roads, and references the red soil that is so prevalent in so many African countries. This rapidly becomes red dust, with which one is heavily coated at the end of any long journey. Driving around potholes, swinging from one side of the road to the other, passing people of all sorts as well as school children in their uniforms and goats and cattle and boda-bodas (motorcycles), hanging onto those grab bars for all you're worth - it makes for many memorable journeys, and it was these I was thinking of as I worked.
Another undertaking was completing the journal quilt I will be taking to this year's Fibre Art Network retreat, to be held near Kamloops. We will each arrive with one of these, and present them by way of introduction on the first evening. The theme this year is Into the Wilderness, and my piece. worked around a cyanotype print of a New Zealand fern in boro-like patchwork and stitching, is called Hiking in Abel Tasman. This is a magnificent park on the south island of New Zealand, and the place we holidayed with our daughter, son-in-law and grandson in February of this year. Oh so beautiful, and while perhaps not wilderness in the Canadian sense of the word, it was still wild and almost uninhabited, with tracks climbing up and down along the coastline.
This last weekend saw us over at our cabin on Hornby Island, where the loft becomes my studio, and where I dug out my scrap bag. (I had forgotten my current hand-stitching project at home.) I began by cutting strips of these fabrics no particular width, and sewing some of them together into strip units. So satisfying.
I then cut these into uniform widths and sewed them around 4 1/2" squares. A little too predictable, I thought. Could be quite boring, my Sweetie added. Back to the loft and I made another attempt.

This time I varied the width of the strips from one end to the other, and added strip unit sections as part of one or more borders. Much better, my Sweetie said. Much more interesting. And so I made a few more, and a few more, and a new quilt is underway. I DO love to sew bright colours together, and it may not be quite what I had intended to work on this week, but it made me happy, and that has got to be a good thing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Workshop Experience on Whidbey Island

I have been an admirer of Carol Nelson's work with acrylics for some time, so when I found out she was teaching a workshop at the Pacific Northwest School of Art on Whidbey Island, I signed up right away. It was time to learn something new, I thought. My friend Dale MacEwan was keen to take the class too, so we drove down to Coupeville on Wednesday, and then proceeded to immerse ourselves in an alternate universe (acrylic paints instead of textiles), for the next two days. 
I had been drawn to the rich and intense colours of Carol's painting, especially in her depiction of trees, and to her description of the class, which gave me the sense that it would be relaxed and freeing. Which it was. Except that I was working in a medium totally new to me. The colours mixed together quite unpredictably, and there was an art to getting just the right amount of paint on a brush but not too much, and using just the right amount of water. The paints were transparent, but I learned that adding white made them opaque. Even the wrist movement in making brush strokes was new to me. I was most definitely out of my comfort zone. A humbling experience, to say the least.
Dale's piece seemed to come together quite well, and I drew strength from watching her patient working of the surface. "This is a practice piece", she reminded me. I knew that on some level, but had still expected that I would take to this new way of working with  more ease. I finished my piece, except for a little bushy bit of foliage that I forgot to glue in place. But I was less than delighted with my outcome.
I admired other student work around the room, and experienced a longing to start all over again. Only I didn't really want to do that. What I really wanted to do was to get back home to my fabric, where a colour is what it is unless you put it up against another bit of fabric that changes it a bit. Where there are no sticky fingers. And yes, where I feel more comfortable.
Am I glad I took part in this class? Yes. It's only by trying new things from time to time that I learn where I truly belong and have firmed up deep inside me what I want to do and how I want to spend my time. And it's good to recognize that skill in any medium doesn't come easily, that it doesn't arrive in a neatly wrapped bundle that you simply unwrap and then produce work just like the people whose work you admire. It all takes time, and practice, and commitment, and the making of many, many not-so-great pieces, before some level of success is achieved. So what did I do when I got home? I finished my latest African collage piece, and I dreamed about creating more trees from my fabrics.


Monday, September 11, 2017

How I Spent my Summer Holidays - Part 2



This need to sum up what happened over the summer must date back to those after-the-holidays essays we were required to write every September in elementary school. Or maybe it's that the summer goes by so quickly that I want to capture the memories of those blissfully sunny days before they disappear entirely. Yesterday morning I had to put on my fleece-lined slippers in the coolness of the day, and sitting in my comfy chair, I could hear a flock of Canada geese trying out flying in formation overhead.  Certain signs of the change in season. But the summer was a good one - the last week especially, spent at our family cabin on Hornby Island. Two of our four children pictured here,
and two of our three grandchildren.
We had hikes through Helliwell (Nora and Molly are climbing on one of Helliwell's big maple trees in this pic), and BBQ's, and many beach days with lots of water activities, and all the good things that go into a summer holiday.
The Hornby Quilt Show is always a highlight, and once again I was invited too set up a table there and o sell items made by the Bitengye Designers, with all proceeds going to the Widows' Gardens Project that David is involved with in Southern Uganda.
This quilt, with the inner blocks embroidered by two of the women, and borders added by a third was for sale, but hasn't found a home yet. Soon I hope.
And I was able to attend a number of exhibits in other mediums during the summer months. This tapestry comes from one on at present at The Old Schoolhouse Gallery in Qualicum Beach. Unfortunately I didn't record the name of the artist, but it was magnificent.
Grant Leier and his wife Nixie Barton also had an exhibit there. The colour and layering and joy of Grant's work is particularly appealing to me, but I also love Nixie's treatment of fields in her landscapes below. Sometimes I forget how important it is (as well as a great pleasure) to take oneself on an "artist's date", as Julia Cameron calls it. Once a week is what she recommends, and I'm going to try to heed those words of wisdom in the coming months.
But for now I am returning to my own work. A fourth "African Collage", as I've come to call them, is almost finished, and now I'm off to a Mixed Media workshop with Carol Nelson at the Pacific Northwest Art School on Whidbey Island for the rest of the week. Life is good.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Fine Line - at the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery

This week saw the opening of the Fibre Art Voices (FAV) exhibit at Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery. I have been a member of this small local group of fibre artists for some years, and we've had small exhibits in the past, but this was our first big show. The main focus of the exhibit were the pieces we made for A Fine Line - each of us making one larger piece and two smaller complementary pieces, in which we interpreted the theme in our own individual ways. Here are some of them:
 Karrie Phelps
 June Boyle
 Gayle Lobban
 Gail Tellett
 Hennie Aikman, Margaret Kelly, Pippa Moore
And a closer view of mine. I realize now that I am missing a closer photo of Margaret and Hennie's work, and the images I have of Gladys's pieces don't do them justice, but his gives you a sense of the flow around the walls. While the themes varied, the line was continuous - a concept borrowed from a SAQA exhibit whose catalogue had fallen into our hands.
A Fine Line filled two walls of this large and light-filled gallery, while the two remaining walls held work that responded to the theme, Indigo. A few pics of these:
 Hennie Aikman, Margaret Kelly, Karrie Phelps, June Boyle, Pippa Moore
 Gail Tellett, June Boyle
 Gayle Lobban, June Boyle
Pippa Moore
It was terrific to meet those of you who were able to come to our opening reception yesterday afternoon, but not too late for more of you to visit us in person during this coming week. It's been a terrific experience to mount this exhibition, as well as to share it with the public.