Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thread Sketching

I got the idea that I'd like to 'draw' on canvas with my sewing machine, and then experiment with the effect of oil pastels on the tactile surface of the stitched thread. I started with 4 primed canvases, each 6"x6" and 1.75" deep. I removed the canvas from the stretcher frame, and ironed them flat from the back. Using fabric and charcoal coloured thread, I created a simple birch tree motif on each one:

Using oil pastel, I created background colour for each. The four separate canvases represent the four seasons, so each one was coloured accordingly. The stitching was highlighted by charcoal:

The canvases were then stretched on their wooden frames. I wanted to add some figures, so I made digital prints of myself wearing a white nightgown. The printing was done on sepia-toned paper, and I hand-coloured the figures using pencil crayon. The figures were cut out and glued to each canvas. To prevent smearing of the oil pastel, I finished each one by brushing with clear acrylic:

The finished series is titled "Just Passing Through", and is meant to suggest individual migration and the passage of time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Messes Made in the Name of Art

I am not a 'planner' by nature. I do not approach art-making from a conceptual perspective, rather I let an idea cook in my subconscious until my tiny (figurative) oven-timer goes off: *DING*! I then maniacally spew forth a plethora of ideas and emotions in a relatively short period of time.
I have never been a devoted keeper of journals; ever since the privacy of "My Diary" was breeched at the tender age of ten by two of my brother's friends (oh, the mortification!) who cackled and hooted at my bad poetry and adolescent ramblings, I have been hesitant to articulate my true feelings to paper. Funny how times have changed. Reality TV and the internet have forever metamorphosed humankind's approach to privacy. I'm sure that somewhere on "Google Earth", there's a picture of me scratching my rear-end whilst wearing a torn T-shirt and aged knickers.
Therefore, imagine my surprise that my rather organic, higgelty-piggelty approach to creativity has led me in this direction. Normally a textile artist, I have decided to work with a paper a little and see what happens. Well, a mess for one thing.....but also, I have always believed that trying things with many different techniques can tap into something important and useful.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Signs Of Spring

I've been snooping around. I'm looking for the signs that winter is behind us and we can move
forward (with gusto!) into longer days, green grass, higher temperatures and yes, seasonal allergies.
Last month, I saw a robin on my lawn. The starlings have begun their noisy gossip as they unearth sleepy worms from the boggy grass. The crows bossily move in and stab their shining beaks into the sod, pulling up worms like rubber bands *SNAP*!
The lilac trees which line our driveway have begun to swell with buds, with a promise of delicate perfumed blossoms and the fine yellow dust of pollen which will make my eyes itch and water.
The rivers have been rising and moving more swiftly, carrying with them the old, the dead, the discarded. Darkly, they rush and roil, threatening to intrude the basements of low-lying houses. Later, they will recede, swirling lazily and benignly. From a distance, they will be blue, but when looking down from a bridge, I will see clear through the bottom water the colour of flat beer and speckled trout.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the perfect green, smooth noses of crocuses pointing upwards through the winter detritus of litter and old leaves. They were unconcerned with me, and continued to unfurl purple petals in defiance of the nasty weather. This morning, I pulled on my rubber boots (the only things I bought on a trip to NYC a couple of years ago- not hard to tell I'm a baygirl) and trudged through my mucky garden to take a few pictures. (Naturally, I accidentally stepped in one of the many piles of dog poop revealed from the melted snow!)
Some winters seem longer than others, so we cling to these signs of spring like a life raft, bouying us up and steering us through the minor annoyances: dirty doggie paws, squishy sucking mud, garbage, hidden landmine turds, rain rain rain, spring cleaning (which sounds more fun and energetic than it is), sick and cranky babies, empty oil tanks needing to be filled, endless renovations, car inspections, car repair, rust, dirt, decay....
March marches into April, which drizzles into May, which whispers into June.
Summer, with bright blue mornings, eating breakfast with the windows open to the serenade of backyard birds, tiny tufts of clouds, red geraniums, the thrum of buzzing bees, fluttering butterflies, and if you're lucky, the wink of a hummingbird shyly flitting by. Summer, with the sting of sunscreen in your eyes, the smell of barbeque, the dazzle of a thunderstorm relieving the accumulated humidity, the gentle lap of water on sand, nights of fireflies, fireworks, bonfires on the beach under the dome of a deep turquoise sky jeweled with a thousand shimmering stars. It IS coming...and will be gone again before you know it. So enjoy every sign, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jesus Of The Studio

Jesus lives behind glass in a frame. Patiently, he stands on a table in the corner of my studio. As I work, he watches serenely while His Sacred Heart burns it's eternal flame.
Legend has it that Jesus once presided over the bedroom of my husband's Great-Aunt and Uncle; He watched impassively as Great-Aunt Kathleen passed into the Great Hereafter of brain cancer. He was then shunted from place to place, spending most of his time under the beds of various relatives like a genie in a bottle, no longer needed when requested wishes failed to materialize. Was he lonely all those years, staring meekly into the dark while his keepers turned in their sleep above him?
Jesus has seen better days. Dusty and disproportionately large silk flowers sprout on either side of his red and gold robes, yellowed cardboard keeps him firmly imprisoned in his little coffin. He has long since wandered out of fashion; I imagine him in that room in my mind, that tiny parlour with doilies and a ticking clock. A room rarely entered, except for special occasions when one wears white gloves while sipping tea from china cups.
There is dust in this room, but it is good, clean, dignified dust. Dust which lightly films the plastic furniture covers, and which serves to signify just how rare and special one's visit would be.
I was not raised Catholic, nor am I a practicing Christian. Yet Jesus and His Sacred Heart seem content to live in my Holy Place, my "room-of-one's-own". At times, I pause and look up; His pale blue eyes seem be watching me. His gentle, benign tackiness lends a shabby grace to my room, my Saviour of spattered paint and Redeemer of torn fabrics. Blessed is the working mind, the busy hands, the eternal burning heart.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Imperial Princess

I've begun working with a new sewing machine- a retro 'Imperial' Model 676. Somewhat feline in disposition, she's a little temperamental , but sleek and well-built. At least she isn't high-strung; she stitches loosely, with all parts moving freely except when she decides to halt suddenly. At this point, she refuses to go further until I tighten the balance wheel. She then runs happily as if nothing has happened at all; as long as I realize who's really in control we get along just fine. We both have our limitations, but are beginning to come to an understanding. I never was a cat person.