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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ask and it shall be given unto you. Seek and ye shall find. --Luke 11:9

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Paints and quilts

Busy week. Started a new watercolor class on Monday with sixteen returning students and one newbie. I love this class. They're like family. Most of them are regulars; a few come several times a year when they're not traveling or otherwise too busy. The best part is that even when I'm not in town, some of them meet and paint together, which is a great way to keep moving forward. Practice, practice, practice. On Wednesday we went into week four of the Exploring Color class: color mixing. Up till now we've covered color theory basics and pigment characteristics. They're beginning to see temperature differences and recognize transparency, as well as other paint qualities.

Between classes I've been completely re-doing tomorrow's art quilt color workshop for a more advanced level. Instead of going through all the color theory basics, we're going to jump right into color design, color contrasts and color schemes. There's so much to do that a one-day workshop is frustrating to plan, especially when you don't know the students. We'll see how it goes. This will more than likely be my last one-day workshop. It takes just as much work to develop as a longer one, but you're in and out so fast that it isn't very satisfying for me. The students seem to feel they've learned a lot, but it's much better when they have a couple of days to absorb it and try it out in the workshop. Sort of like explaining to someone how to drive a car and then letting them go off on their own to drive it. Well, maybe that's an extreme example, but you know what I mean.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Popular art always moves me. There is no cheating or faking about it. It goes straight to the point. -Joan Miró

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Knitters and art quilters

The knitting workshop group was fun and enthusiastic. Around twenty registered but only 15 showed up. What a lack of consideration for the sponsors. It was in a nice location and a delightful, friendly group. They brought in food and had a potluck luncheon. They shared ideas and projects, worked out color schemes, and we critiqued color combinations on finished and new work. My problem with these workshops is that they're only one day. There simply isn't time to get anything done. I'd like to have participants knit swatches of color schemes they want to try and start a collection for future reference.

Some of the knitters needed basic color concepts and the confidence to use creative color. The art quilters next Friday are a more advanced group, so my challenge will be to get them to generate as many new color schemes as possible in the time allotted. We'll start right off the bat and I hope by the end of the day they'll have a collection of color schemes to refer to, as well as the start of a small quilt with a unique color scheme that they'll enjoy completing after the workshop.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites. --W. H. Auden

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More on fiber arts

Everything is ready for the Dayton Knitting Guild color workshop on Saturday, so I've been working on the Art Quilt Network retreat workshop a week from Friday. I found some fabulous web sites for contemporary art quilts, linked them to my web site under Fiber Arts and added a list to the bibliography and other handouts for the workshop. All this fiber business is making me want to knit and sew again, which I've done very little since I started painting in 1970. Now I hardly have time to paint, so I don't see how I could ever get into knitting and quilting. I'm bedazzled by the color and creativity of fiber artists who do original quilt and knitting designs. JoAnn Fabrics is having a big sale, merging two of their stores, so I bought some pieces called "quarter fats"--18" x 22" pieces of colored quilting fabric. They'll be fun to create color schemes with in the workshop. I have 24 pieces including all the colors of the spectrum and more, some with nifty patterns. I also went to Half-Price Books to look for knitting and quilting books on color, but I guess no one ever gets rid of the good ones.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

You see things and say, "Why?" but I dream things that never were and say, "Why not?" --George Bernard Shaw

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The art of knitting

Yesterday I gave two lectures on color for the Dayton Knitting Guild. The group meets monthly, with 60-70 gathering in the morning and another 20-30 in the evening. Vendors are available between meetings with yarns, patterns and books on knitting. I soon got used to the fact that nearly everyone knits while the program is going on, because the questions were good ones throughout the talks. I learned before the program that the group has two worthwhile community projects. They knit preemie caps for the neo-natal unit at Miami Valley Hospital and lap blankets for residents of the Veteran's Hospital in Dayton. There was a pile of caps that grew higher and higher as members came into the meeting and a box containing more than thirty blankets for the veterans. Last year guild members knitted more than 130 blankets and who knows how many caps. The hospitals says it needs around fifty per month for their preemies. (Patterns for these and other community projects may be printed from the website.) Following the program there is a show-and-tell. Nearly everyone had an offering, from socks to vests to sweaters and felted purses and baskets. One woman is knitting a lacy valance for her living room window. After spending most of the day with these knitters, I'm convinced that knitting is an art. Even though most of them start with patterns, their adaptations are often ingenious. Their works are luminous with color. The yarns are equally creative, combining many different fibers, ribbons, and such. In leafing through some of the knitting books I found several with good sections on using color theory and color schemes. Check out Kaffe Fassett for the ultimate experience of color in fiber arts. A young woman and her mother from Brazil were knitting the Wong-way, a method that makes knitting easier for arthritic hands and carpal syndrome sufferers.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

To be whole doesn't mean we have to be perfect. --Sue Bender

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Updating web site links

I'm just about wiped out after adding dozens of art links to my web site. It's so easy to click the Favorites button when you see something you want to add later, but they sure do pile up. I also get a lot of emails from artists who want to be linked to my site. Those have been on hold, too, while I finished my book. I visit each site before linking to it and this takes a lot of time. I'm not wild about sites that feature hand-painted original van Goghs or your choice of Rembrandts and Vermeers. Then, there are the coupon sites, the marketing sites and the gallery sites where an artist can post work for a fee and hope to sell something without making a personal web site. I try to avoid those, but I've probably been suckered and have a couple on my links. I hope not. Let me know if you catch one. And speaking of being suckered, I hope you haven't fallen for the scams that are targeting artists now. You get an email that a guy just loves your art. Sometimes he names specific pieces. He sends you a money order, usually for a greater amount than the sale, and you're supposed to send him the balance when you ship the paintings. Of course, the money order bounces and if you've shipped the paintings, they're gone forever. One artist emailed a scammer to pay by PayPal and that made him disappear. I'm done ranting for now. Tomorrow I'm doing two lectures on color for a knitting guild in Dayton, always fun. I love fiber artists.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

to be nobody-but-yourself--in a world which is doing its best, night and day,
to make you everybody else--means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight;
and never stop fighting.
--e e cummings

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Exploring options in color

I'm always amused when I'm teaching a new class, whether in watercolor, color, collage or design, to find students who firmly avow that they do things in a certain way and aren't about to change. This isn't typical of every class, but now and then one shows up. All I can do is think to myself, "So, why are you here?" I try to be flexible and help them do what they want to do. Sometimes they come around to trying something different and sometimes they don't. We'll see how this plays out in my current color class. Most of the students are working on pigment studies and learning a lot about paint characteristics. A couple have skipped lightly over these, one saying she already knows all that and the other insisting that she is happy with her limited palette and doesn't like all the bright colors, which hurt her eyes. The first I gave an assignment to paint the four seasons using a different set of primaries for each one to better express the qualities of the season through color. She said, "I always use the same colors for all my paintings." Period. End of discussion. I asked her to try it, showing how Phthalo Blue makes a cooler, more wintry sky than French Ultramarine; how Lemon Yellow with Phthalo Blue makes a spring-ier green for trees. She agreed to try it, but I didn't feel she was happy about it. I looked at her sketches about halfway through and could see the seasons revealed in her colors. She finished them off beautifully and I think she was pleased, albeit a little grudgingly. I found the second student looking at pure-hue color wheels in my workbook and holding her head, as if in pain. She says she just wants to learn to use the colors she has. She doesn't think she needs more colors, because she can do what she wants with what she has to mix naturalistic landscape colors. I turned the workbook to a page where six color wheels show different combinations of primaries, including earth hues. In about two seconds she decided she had to have Indigo and maybe a couple other colors on those wheels. I think both are on the way to opening their minds about exploring color options to get more excitement in their work. We'll see in a couple of weeks what the next challenge brings.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. --Norman Vincent Peale

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What do you know about your paints?

It's astounding how many artists reply, "Nothing" or "No more than I have to know." It isn't that hard to learn the composition of your paints, their handling characteristics, and how different brands compare, but it can sure save you a lot of grief in your painting (and a few dollars in your wallet) if you take the time to do it. Most people accept printed brochures from paint companies as their guides, without realizing how much difference there is between a printed color and a painted swatch. That's why I wrote Exploring Color --to offer a method for learning about paints and using them creatively. I'm teaching an eight-week class how to explore their colors. The main benefit of such a class is having scheduled time to do the charts and comparisons. I'm seeing a lot of "aha!" expressions as the students work their way through the colors and charts. They have homework, too, because the class falls a few hours short of my five-day workshops and I want to give them the full program. At the end they'll know how NOT to make mud, how to test their paints, and how to use many different palettes for expressive painting.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure--which is: Try to please everybody. --Herbert Bayard Swope

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Spring has sprung in the quarter-acre woods

It was sunny and cold today, but the wind wasn't blowing, so I took a walk through my woods. I found two brave little snowdrops blooming, the first flowers of the season. They're the same ones that bloomed last year, only a bit later. If you haven't been to my web site, you wouldn't know hard I've worked to restore my little quarter-acre woods, reclaiming it from the grasp of invasive honeysuckle and garlic mustard. Every little flower is like a magic blossom to me, after years of no wildflowers in the woods. Check out the pages on my woodland restoration.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. --Gertrude Stein

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Friday, March 03, 2006

The reward of energy, enterprise and thrift is taxes. --William Feather

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No fun today

My euphoria has swiftly drained away as I sort my records for the tax collector. I've tried the happy playlist with Nickel Creek, Beau Soleil Cajun dance music, Alan Jackson, O Brother Where Art Thou--nothing works. Well, almost finished, so tomorrow will be better.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment. --Claude Monet

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Exploring basic color theory

split-primary color wheelI can tell this is going to be a good class. Aside from the fact that four people arrived late (sigh!) and three were on vacation (a given in Ohio in the winter), the orientation went well. Lots of good questions, several aha! moments and a few jaw-dropping, I-had-no-idea reactions to color facts and theories. Great fun for me! I showed slides on the history of color in art because I think it's very helpful to see where color started (30,000 or more years ago) and how it evolved from decorative and symbolic to representational and expressive. I wound up the session with the split-primary color-mixing system from my book, Exploring Color, showed them how to mix the wheel, explaining the theory behind it. They have homework (groan!). Everyone must study the properties of color and do the charts and color wheel. It will be interesting to see how many get it done. Next week we're going to learn all about paint--characteristics of pigments, paint quality, differences in brands, and more. I love this workshop.

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