Friday, June 26, 2020

Four More!

(Above:  Window CXCI.  Inventory # 4838. Layers of metallic and "shiny" polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork: 14 1/2" x 10 1/2"; Framed 26" x 22". $325.)

Recently I created four Window Series pieces to go into the mats and frames that once housed older work.  That was the "halfway mark".  I had four more mats and frames to fill.  These are the pieces that I made for the four additional presentations!  I'm especially happy with the moon motif.  I challenged myself to use only metallic and other "shiny" polyester stretch velvets ... copper, silver, gold, and shiny light and dark blue.  It worked!

 (Above:  Window CLXXXIX. Inventory # 4836. Layers of polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork: 14 1/2" x 10 1/2"; Framed 26" x 22". $325.)

 (Above:  Window CLXXXVIII. Inventory # 4835. Layers of polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork: 14 1/2" x 10 1/2"; Framed 26" x 22". $325.)

 (Above:  Window CXC. Inventory # 4837. Layers of polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork: 14 1/2" x 10 1/2"; Framed 26" x 22". $325.)

Thursday, June 25, 2020

In the meantime

 (Above:  Newspaper Rock, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

While making work that squarely falls into a series, I am also working on other projects.  Many others call them "one-offs" but I don't really like that term.  There's something about it that sounds a touch negative.  Likely, that comes from the "off" part of the term.  Something that is "off" doesn't sound quite "on"!  These "in the meantime" pieces are important to me.  They prevent me from getting bored with the regular series under construction.  They seem to keep me fresh, involved, and motivated.  They seem to keep me engaged in my studio practice and even entertained.  They are this things that provide a "high" feeling of starting something new and different and the happy/accomplished/satisfied feeling when finished.  So, this post shows a few of these recently stitched pieces!

(Above:  Newspaper Rock, 33 1/2" x 24 1/2" framed; 27" x 18" unframed.  Framed: $450. My digital images printed on fabric with free-motion machine and seed stitching by hand, combined on handmade paper with beading.)

It took several evenings to hand stitch the background area on these two pieces of fabric.  Dull burgundy thread was intentionally used in order to combine the two with pieces of handmade paper.  The images came from photographs I took in 2018 when Steve and I visited Newspaper Rock in Utah.

(Above:  Newspaper Rock.)

The place was amazing!  Stories from the past seemed to come alive.  I shot dozens of images.  The website includes plenty of other shots and more information.  CLICK HERE to access.  It was wonderful to think about the trip while stitching the piece.

 (Above:  Remains, in a green dyed burl wood frame.  Artwork:  5 1/2" x 3 3/4"; framed 10 1/4" x 8 1/4". $60 framed.)

Another thing I enjoy doing "in the meantime" is to use scraps from other projects.  When I trimmed/ripped apart the stitched work that became Nike's Advice Triptych and four, square pieces, I took the scraps and made to little works.  I call them "remains".
 (Above:  Remains.  Artwork 3 5/8" x 3 1/8"; framed 7 1/4" x 6 3/4". $40 framed.)

During the past few weeks, I've been pouring artist-grade, UV filtering epoxy over artwork ... and some of the time, I didn't quite have enough epoxy to cover a few, small pieces including ...

Tessera VIII.  This one is 14" x 10" and $95.

And, Tessera IX.  This one is 7" x 7" and $60.  I like having these "in the meantime" pieces going while working on other things.  It keeps me happy!

Monday, June 22, 2020

If you hate it, rip it to pieces!

(Above:  Nike's Advice Triptych.  Individually from left to right:  Nike's Advice XLII, XLIII, and XLIV.  Each panel 16" x 9 1/4", paint and pastels on canvas with free-motion stitching that has been mounted to gold painted stretcher bars with copper roofing nails.  Artist-grade, UV filtering epoxy covers the surface.  Each one is $240 or the triptych for $575.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This is the very last of the canvas that was painted during a public art performance piece called Nike's Advice.  I found the last, large section a week or so ago.  I ripped it into four pieces.  One section became Capital on Gold.  Two other pieces became Rococo I and II.  On the very last piece, I thought I'd paint another capital, up close, detailed ... but ...

 (Above:  The painted canvas before ripping it apart.)

... I hated the results ... just couldn't stand the idea of stitching it but also feeling guilty that the last piece was a total disaster.  To me, it looked like a waste of time and materials.  Still, I couldn't bring myself to simply throw it away.  What's an artist to do? 

(Above, top to bottom and left to right:  Nike's Advice XXXIX, XXXVIII, XL, and XLI.  Each one is 8" x 8" and $150.  Discounts for multiples.)

With nothing to lose, I ripped it apart.  My idea was to end up with pieces that would be 16" x 10" like many other pieces made last month, but that didn't work out either.  No matter how I tried to create pleasing compositions from the whole, the colors weren't arranged nicely because the blues were all "in the middle".  I continued to tear and place smaller pieces on top of larger ones until I had seven works that looked good.  

(Above:  The new work hanging under one of the first Nike's Advice pieces over which I poured epoxy.  This is the wall behind my mat cutter.)

Stitching these pieces was fun and fast.  Soon, I had them nailed to stretcher bars with gold-painted sides.  Epoxy was poured over all of them.  They are now hanging behind my mat cutter.  Below are a few detail shots!  This is now the end of Nike's Advice.  I guess I heeded the wise words:  Just Do It!

 (Above:  Detail of the triptych.)

 (Above:  Detail of Nike's Advice XLI.)

(Above:  Detail of Nike's Advice XL.)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Rococo I and II

(Above:  Rococo Diptych.  Each panel is 32" x 26", paint, pastels, and artificial gold leaf on unprimed canvas with self-guided free-motion stitching, mounted to gold painted stretcher bars using 3/4" copper roofing nails, and coated with artist grade UV filtering epoxy. Click on any image to enlarge.)

This diptych started several years ago during a public art performance called Nike's Advice. I painted 130 feet of unprimed canvas with the public, but if you click that link above and watch the short video, you will notice that much of the time found me painting alone.  It was scary!  I don't consider myself a painter.  I was having to accept Nike's Advice myself ... as in "Just Do It".  While most of the resulting artwork was rather hideous and later scrapped, some of it was saved.  The saved sections have become artwork.  Recently, I thought I'd used the last of it.  Then, I found one, large section ... hidden in a corner of my studio.  I ripped that piece into four equal parts.

(Above:  One of the four sections of the last piece of canvas painted during the public art performance.)

It was obvious that I did this last section without public assistance.  It was also apparent that I was tapping into decorative motifs from architectural details. (After all, when forced to "just do it", one will generally gravitate to what one's subconscious knows and likes!) For years, I've made a practice of drawing and then using little patterns and ornamentation when stitching the individual units in my In Box Series. It only makes sense that I'd automatically revert to architectural details, things I love and know well. 

So ... here was a large piece of canvas that I'd drawn as if a four-sectioned panel in a Rococo interior.  The asymmetrical scroll work and decorative undulations almost suggested a white-and-gold room with a ceiling painted in springtime pastels. 

 (Above:  Detail.)

The first of the ripped sections became Capital on Gold.  I really enjoyed transforming the previously painted surface.  This time, I went for more transparent washes of color in order to keep the existing designs alive and well.  I worked on two sections, hoping for a diptych.  When finally pleased with the colors and shapes, I drew a vine down the center.  Artificial gold leaf was used for the leaves. Next, both pieces were stitched with 100% black cotton thread ... free-motion ... which is a lot like drawing!  

The front and back of both pieces were stiffened with Golden's GAC 400, trimmed to size, and mounted to gold-painted stretcher bars with 3/4" copper roofing nails.  Last came the epoxy.

I use artist grade, UV filtering epoxy.  The reflective surface belies the mixed media approach.  I like that fact!  It doesn't matter whether viewers think this is a painting or an art quilt.  It's just ART!  Because of the shiny epoxy, I snap photos in my studio.  There, the track lighting is pointed directly downward.  This eliminates the glossy glare generally captured in a photograph.

If you've been following along, you already know that there was one remaining section from this last piece of canvas.  I tried to paint another capital on it, a close up view.  It looked awful.  That piece was ripped into smaller sections and is now in progress.  Stop by later to see what is happening now in my studio!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020


(Above:  In Box CCLXXIX, reworked older piece.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet, stiffened with Golden's GAC 400, hammered onto black painted stretcher bars using galvanized roofing nails, and coated with UV filtering epoxy.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Recently I blogged about pieces picked up from a local art gallery that was supposed to be representing me but was really just storing older work.  Most of the pieces were reworked but a few remained ... including In Box CCLXXIX.   This piece was always a departure from the series.  I never did any melting.  Instead, the space between the rectangular shapes was densely machine embroidered.

Well ... I decided to remove it from its frame, stiffen it with Golden's GAC 400, and mount it on black-painted stretcher bars using galvanized roofing nails.  Finally, I poured UV filtering epoxy over the entire surface ... twice.  Why twice?  Well, the stiffener doesn't work as well on the porous fabrics and doesn't level perfectly because the surface isn't particularly flat.  Two coats, however, worked.

(Above:  In Box CCLXXIX, being photographed.)

I photographed it in my studio, under the color correcting track lighting that is aimed straight downward.  This situation eliminates most of the reflective glare off the epoxy.  I really like the photo above, however, because the angle shows just enough of the reflection ... which doesn't really show when looking straight and through the camera's lens.

(Above:  In Box CCLXXIX, detail.)

I didn't change the inventory number for this piece but I did stitch over the original date that was free-motioned in one corner.
(Above:  Topography in Paper, assorted decorative and handmade paper with free motion stitching and hand beading.  Inventory # 4813. Unframed: 17" x 12; framed: 22 3/4" x 16 1/2". $125.)

Lately, I've been in a mood to rework older pieces but also to use some of the "things laying around" that have been collecting dust.  One of those things was this rustic red frame.  I composed this arrangement of papers, stitched, and beaded it ... to fit into the existing frame. 

(Above: Topography in Paper, detail.)

I really like stitching through handmade paper.  I like the texture of it.  Once the machine stitching was done, the piece reminded my of topographical maps and hence the title.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Capital on Blue and Capital on Gold

(Above:  Capital on Blue and Capital on Gold.  Each piece is 32" x 26".  Paint, ink, and pastels on canvas with self-guided, free-motion machine stitching, mounted to white-painted stretcher bars using galvanized roofing nails, and coated with artist grade, UV filtering epoxy.  $900 each.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I had leftover acrylic paint from a recent commission and decided to put it to use.  There was more blue paint than yellow, so I dedicated the blue to the larger background area.  At the time, I had no intention of making two pieces and I had no idea just how far my paint would go either.

 (Above:  Capital on Blue, in progress.)

I just swirled paint, slung droplets, and sponged "blobs" around the central motif until I liked what I saw.  Then, I put another piece of canvas under the painting and started stitching.

 (Above:  Capital on Blue, in progress.  This is the reverse side which shows the stitching.)

I truly enjoy self-guided, free-motion stitching.  It really is like drawing with thread.  The image comes alive with the addition of this thin, black line.  While I stitched, I was thinking about the fact that I had just run out of the canvas I've been using.  There had once been so much of it that I thought I'd never run out!  I was also thinking about how much paint I still had left, especially gold and yellow paint. 

(Above:  One of the last pieces of canvas painted during my Artista Vista 2016 public performance art projects.)

Even before finishing Capital on Blue, I was ready to start another piece which would be lighter, brighter, and use more gold and yellow paint.  I went to the corner in my studio where the bolt of canvas had been ... hoping for a second bolt ... but finding (crumpled up and hiding in the very back of the corner) a large section of the canvas that had been painted during my Artista Vista 2016 public performance project.  I ripped the large section into four smaller pieces.  The image above shows one of those four.

Although my public performance was all about painting WITH the public, there were plenty of times when no one was around.  That's when I just doodled.  It was obvious that this last section was done only by me ... doodles.  It was also obvious that I would need to work on the canvas to turn it into the desired yellow and gold background.  For two days, applied layers of transparent yellow and more opaque gold over the surface, allowing the washes to dry between coats but still following the suggestion of ornamental details originally drawn.

 (Above:  Capital on Gold.  Stitch and ready to be stiffened with GAC 400).

Finally, I painted the column with its composite capital in mostly light blue, acid yellow, and silver.  Because I ran out of the canvas, I simply put some dark green fabric behind it.  Yes, I found this bolt of dark green where the other bolt of canvas had been.  I won't be using it for long.  There's not much left already.  I stitched this piece while thinking about how the gold and swirls seemed to have me channeling Gustav Klimt.

(Above:  Hammering 3/4" galvanized roofing nails through the fabric and into the white-painted stretcher bars.)

When both pieces were stitched and stiffened, I mounted them to white-painted stretcher bars using 3/4" galvanized roofing nails.  Finally, each one went into the garage ... one day after the other ... and artist-grade, UV filtering epoxy was poured over the surface.

 (Above:  The two finished pieces in front of my Wall of Keys.)

I'm really pleased how they turned out.  They were each photographed in my studio.  The track lighting is aimed straight downward.  By blocking out any other light, the reflections from the epoxy are reduced.

(Above:  The two finished pieces, showing the sides and the reflections.)

Ideal lighting is necessary but it does have a significant disadvantage.  It eliminates the unusual surface which is the reason for using the epoxy in the first place.  In the photo above, I've shown the sides of these pieces but also the reflective nature of the epoxy.  The black-and-white floor is perfectly seen ... as if a continuation right onto the artwork!

 (Above:  Capital on Blue, detail.)

The rest of the images are simply detail shots.  Please enjoy them ... and note that I added touches of artificial gold leafing to the yellow piece ... just to enhance the feel of richness that only gold can add!

  (Above:  Capital on Blue, detail.)

  (Above:  Capital on Gold, detail.)

   (Above:  Capital on Gold, detail.)
  (Above:  Capital on Gold, detail.)

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Re-working old pieces and old presentations

(Above:  Three Tessera ... "new" pieces made after pouring UV filtering epoxy over "old" pieces.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

2017 isn't really that far into the past but it seemed that way when I received a text message ten days ago from a local gallery asking me to pick up artwork that has been there since that time.  None of the work was actually on display.  I'd totally forgotten just how many of my pieces this gallery actually had.  They were supposed to be representing me but what they were really doing was providing "storage".

Please don't read any negativity into this.  It's just a simple truth, one I'd heard about from my creative mentor years beforehand.  Back in July 2001 (before I'd actually made anything ... when I forty-two years old and first declared that I wanted to "be an artist when I grew up"), I went to Stephen Chesley for advise. (He is still my creative mentor.)  He told me many important things. One of these simple truths was about storage.  He said that there would come a time when storage would become a problem.  I thought he was nuts.  I assumed that starting out at my "advanced age" would spare me from this seemingly distant problem.  It didn't.  Storage is most assuredly a problem now and has been for a couple years.  Looking back, Chesley was right ... again ... as usual ... always.

Well, Stephen Chesley told me other truths too.  Some of these were about gallery representation.  He said that a good relationship was one that included an active part on both sides of the artwork. Obviously, an artist actively creates and provides the artwork.  Not so obvious is the active part an gallery is supposed to do.  They are supposed to be working to sell the work and promote the artist.  Chesley said that galleries didn't "get" a commission; they EARN it.  He said that 50% is a fair commission.  I quite agree.

Yet, Stephen Chesley went further with his explanations.  He said that a gallery that wasn't working was simply providing storage for the artwork.  He said there would come a time when provided storage wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing either.  Storage outside one's studio/house has certain advantages.  Well ... Chesley was right ... again ... as usual ... always.  My artwork had been "in storage" in this gallery for three years and I didn't even think about it.

The gallery might have continued storing my artwork but COVID-19 provided time to address their storage problem! Who really knows how many artists' works were "in storage" there?  When picking up my work, I had a perfectly nice conversation with the gallerist.  I was told that the flurry of text messages sent to artists was initiated after someone claimed their gallery "was a place for artwork to go to die".  That's a bit harsh ... but only because picking up my artwork meant some sort of resurrection was possible.

(Above:  Photo of framed Artifacts from 2017.)

So, about ten days ago I had more than a dozen pieces back at Mouse House, my business, which I hadn't seen in three years.  Even though the conversation was pleasant enough and the pick-up went smoothly, I had an "icky feeling" about it.  After all, I had tried to interest the gallery in other work, tried to interest them in "switching things out", and tried to be a "good artist" ... but I also knew that just last November a person contacted me and bought a piece of my artwork after she'd been to this gallery and couldn't find anyone to help her.  (The gallery also doubles as an event venue. They were too busy setting up for a private party to assist with a sale.)  Even with this knowledge, I did nothing.  I was too intimidated, too busy, too worried about "losing representation" even though it was obvious that I really didn't have representation.  Looking at the returned artwork meant staring at a failure on so many levels.  There was only one thing for me to do ... change EVERYTHING!

(Above:  Former Artifacts removed from their frames and backed with 2-ply metallic cardboard ... then a support frame was glued to the back.  UV filtering epoxy was poured over each one. Hanging wire and a label were then attached to the back.  These "old pieces" became Tessera, a new series!)

Eight of the returned pieces were called Artifacts.  I removed them from their mats and frames ... keeping the mats and frames for other work.  Each piece was backed with 2-ply metallic cardboard and stiffened with GAC 200.  Small frames were glued to the reverse.  Each one got a coating of UV filtering epoxy.  Finally, I attached a hanging wire and a new label.  These "old" pieces are now new Tessera.

 (Above:  Two Tessera being photographed.)

I selected this new name because the word tessera means a small block of stone, tile, glass, or other material used in the construction of a mosaic.  With the shiny, hard, reflected surface of epoxy, these pieces remind me of mosaic, the individual and hard components that make up an interconnected whole.  They are, however, difficult to photograph.  I have to use a wall in my studio, directly under my color-correcting track lighting that is aimed perfectly downward.  All other light sources have been blocked in order to reduce reflections.  It is a pain, but it works! 

   (Above:  One of the Tessera showing the reflective nature of the UV filtering epoxy.)

Some comments on Facebook have questioned my use of epoxy, wondering why I bother to use it.  Well, the reflective nature of epoxy is hard to photograph but it is also a unique surface that belies the fact that this is a fiber artwork.  The finished piece is more "object" than "art quilt" or even fabric.  It is truly an example of mixed media ... when the approach and materials and even the process become secondary to the end result.  I am pleased that these "artifacts" from "storage" have a new and completely different look and feel. 

(Above:  Two of the "new" Tessera.  Each one is approximately 14' x 10". Layers of polyester stretch velvet with lots of metallic foiling, free-motion embroidery, melted holes, and UV filtering epoxy. $95 each.)

Once these were finished, I cleared a wall at Mouse House and hung the Tessera with a selection of small pieces in the Nike's Advice series. 

(Above:  Nike's Advice pieces and Tessera on a wall ... near furniture used for my Anonymous Ancestors installation.)

I'm frequently changing my wall arrangements.  I don't want my own shop to look filled with "old artwork".  I don't want Mouse House to look like it is only my "storage area" even though it basically is just that.  I think I learned something important from this recent gallery experience.  I know I had to address the problem, and I'm pleased with this part of my solution.

 (Above:  Two of the "new" Tessera.)

Of course, this only solved part of my dilemma.  After taking the work out of their mats and frames, I still had the mats and frames.  Thus, I decided to make new Window Series pieces to fill those presentations.  So far, I've made the following five pieces!  I'm on a roll but I do have more work needing attention.

(Above:  Window CLXXIV.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork approximately 15 1/2" x 11 1/2".  Framed:  26" x 22". $325.)

Even though I own my frame shop, I don't have enough wall space to hang everything!  My future will be a continual battle against "storage", a continual quest to find permanent homes for at least some of my creations, and a continual fight to keep "newer" work on display instead of being content with "older" pieces.  

 (Above:  Window CLXXV.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork approximately 15 1/2" x 11 1/2".  Framed:  26" x 22". $325.)

I do hope to find additional gallery representation, a place with people who really want to sell artwork and promote their artists, a place that wants to EARN their 50% commission. With COVID-19 and the "new normal" that is hopefully coming, it will be hard to find such a place.  Yet, the unknown should never stop an artist from making more artwork.  It is what I am supposed to do.  Making art is more than my outlet for self expression.  It is my habit, my chosen career, and my passion.

(Above:  Window CLXXVI.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork approximately 14 1/2" x 10 1/2".  Framed:  26" x 22". $325.)

I'm very please with the "new work" in the old presentations. After shuffling the walls here at Mouse House to hang the Tessera, I don't have another place for these new pieces.  For now, they are stacked in a corner ... but none of this work reminds me of the "icky feeling" when I brought then home. They are all fresh and new and look terrific!

 (Above:  New work in old mats and frames.)

I will be making more, of course.  That's what I do.  Now ... back to the studio!

 (Above:  Window CLXXVII.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork approximately 14 1/2" x 10 1/2".  Framed:  26" x 22". $325.)

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXIII.  Artwork approximately 14 1/2" x 10 1/2". Framed:  26: x 22:.  $325.)