Friday, June 14, 2019

Silk Painting 101 - Off the Wall Friday

The painting Studio

So I decided to not take a quilting class at John C. Campbell Folk School.  Okay, in my defense when I signed up last November for Silk Painting with Vicky Luffman, I really had no idea what it was.  I mean I thought I knew what it was.  You paint on silk right?!?  But gosh I've been in the surface design quilt world for so long that I thought we would go in and put some paint on silk and then it would be made into something else. But no!!  Apparently, people actually paint on silk - with brushes - paintings on actual silk.  And she wanted me to do THAT!

I don't paint.  No really, I don't paint ever.

On Monday morning, I was thinking what did I get myself into!!   I swear to God if I had my sewing machine I would have changed to the doll making class going on in the quilt studio in a hot minute.  And I would have missed an amazing experience.

My Sketch from a Photo Inspiration
After a Monday night dinner bemoaning that I don't paint to my husband and anybody else that would listen, I put on my big girl pants and gave it my all.  It really is a versatile  medium full of so many surprises and nuances.

Stretching the silk and adding Resist

You first  start out with inspiration and a sketch.  Vicky brought many sketches to trace for those of us who don't draw.  She asked me if I wanted to trace one of hers or maybe she could draw what I wanted but after the look I gave her, I think she figured out that I wasn't that kind of girl. I figured if I was going to go down, I was going to go down with my own work.

Learning how to dry brush  -obviously its an acquired skill

We took 10 mm habotai silk and stretched it onto bars tacking it down with push pins.  Then our sketch was traced onto the lightly with a pencil.  Painting on silk is not like painting on canvas.  First of all, we weren't using paint.  We were using acid dyes.  Secondly, that dye will migrate through the silk like a hot knife through butter if you don't stop it with something.  We used a water based resist method which formed lines through our work and kept each color where it should go.  Now if you put the resist down on the white silk - it will leave a white line.  If you paint underneath it (called dry painting), it will leave that color line you painted.  Of course, I decided to do a lot of dry painting which doubled my work.

Sometime Tuesday morning, I realized that although I didn't know how to paint, I did know a lot about composition, value and color.  That was when it clicked.  I just started thinking of the dyes as fabric and started using them as such in my piece.  My life became much easier.  As I worked on my one little painting over 3 days though, my classmates were doing two, three or four of them.  Still the rule at John C. Campbell's is that this is NOT a competition.  There were only a couple of people in the class who had painted before so I wasn't the only beginner!

Sunshine at John C. Campbell's, Nina-Marie Sayre, 2019

Once the initial painting was done, it needed to dry thoroughly, then placed in a steam bath for two hours to set.  The resist is then washed off and you iron it dry.  And Wha- La.....You have a painting.  I did two others but this was my main piece.  I was so glad I chose a piece that I could play with how the dye hit the silk and how the colors mixed together.

Talking to my whole class, I think everyone had fun.  We were tired....I painted till 8 or 9 every night but I learned so much.  We also learned how to dye scarves.  Well my class learned how to dye scarves!  Apparently silk scarves are dyed just like cotton (even in their own version of the Red Solo Cup Dyeing method).  This I knew how to do so I just kept learning how to use a brush.  To paint.  An actual picture.

Peaking in on Paul

Where was my husband  during all of this???  Well he took a Windsor chair class.  Now Paul is an accomplished woodworker.  He tends to do artisan functional pieces.  This one, however, was all done by hand.  When I would mention to people that Paul was in that class, they all laughed and said don't plan on seeing him much.  And they were right.  We met up for meals and 11 pm for bed where he was snoring in 30 seconds.  Still his whole class managed to make a Windsor chair in less
than 5 days.  Now he just needs to make 5 more....grin

Tired Paul sitting on his new chair

Looking back at the class as a newly retired painter, I can highly recommend Vicky as a teacher.  She was ridiculously energetic and generous with her time.  She stayed every night to teach till 9 pm.  She came early to clean the gorgeous studio and she was our biggest cheerleader.   Really all the teachers were top notch at the school.  I didn't hear one bad comment about any of them and several - like Vicki - had taught there for several years.  I like how they made even the very beginning beginner feel successful  by the end of the week.

Some of my Classes Work

So did I find a new passion....ahhhhh no.......truth be told I missed fabric terribly the whole week.  But now I totally learned what I originally set out to do.  I can now surface design and paint on silk proficiently to be used in my own work.  I even came home with enough supplies to play with this summer.
My Class' Selfie , That is Vicky on the far right with gorgeous white hair

I love, love, love this Picture - It makes me smile!

If anybody has any questions about the school, or class or silk painting method please leave them in the comment section and I'll answer them there.  

So What You Been Up to Creatively?

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Friday, June 7, 2019

John C. Campbell Folk School ... A Review Off the Wall Friday

Well I found it!  The perfect vacation.  I'm thinkin' after a week at John C. Campbell Folk School that I need not go anywhere else to get away and have fun.  Now I know the average jane would rather see exotic places or relax on a quiet beach somewhere, but not me.   I like a nice low maintenance locale where they feed me well and I learn something.....and I found that at John C. Campbell.

This all began when my husband and I started looking for our next adventure.  With a little research for this blog, I thought that maybe John C. Campbell fit the bill.  Little did I know how well.  Between the gorgeous HUGE campus (with plenty of places to roam and explore), the well equipped studios, the over 800 classes offer year round, the yummy food and the good company....I mean what more could a girl want.

The School's Community Room
With the campus offering a wide range of places to stay, you can totally immerse yourself in the atmosphere of school.  We literally parked our car on the first day and didn't move it until the last day of classes.  We stayed at the picturesque Mill House which although very rustic was comfortable enough for us since we aren't too fussy.  Our double bed was comfortable, the towels were fluffy
Mill House
enough and it had it own bathroom with good water pressure.  The downside of the house was that it was the farthest of all houses from the main campus and the walls were thin.  I mean VERY thin.  Our housemates weren't at all noisy and we still could hear everything every one said.Of course, my class was the farthest from our house...half a fitbit loved it!! Since it was so far away usually we left at 7:30 am and didn't return till after 9 pm every night so it wasn't a big deal.

My Husband in a drop in Jam session with the guitar class
And yes, our days were that busy!!  Not only does the school offer classes from 9:00-4:30 (with a break for lunch) but there is a whole schedule of activities that you can choose to join in with.  Between early walks, morning song, lectures on crafts, folk dancing and music jam sessions there is never a shortage of things you might want to try!  Because, as usual, I was pretty immerse with my class I didn't do a whole lot of extra things but I did manage to get in a solitary walk in the mornings and join in the morning song.  I really loved that!  Each morning a new person would entertain the early birds in 45 min of songs and stories.  It always seem to start my day off right!

My Favorite building on Campus...The Blacksmith Studio

The food had mixed reviews for the week but since I'm not super fussy I thought it was fine.  I surely never went hungry!!  Meals were served family style to tables of 8 and you were encouraged to sit with a new group meal. Although the crowd was mostly over 50, there was a wide range of classmates to meet.  So many different backgrounds ... So many reasons to come and learn. Sometimes this was fun but to tell you the truth, I would have liked to sit with a group of friends and get to know them better throughout the week.  Menus were very healthy and mostly homecooked with provision for special dietary needs.  There was pretty much always fresh baked bread around and a yummy desert which I only tried one meal.  Did I mention that between the walking and the healthy eating I lost 3 lbs?  Like I said perfect vaca!

So now for the Pro's and Con's

  • Gorgeous safe campus that you can roam till your hearts content
  • Friendly staff & Well chosen teachers
  • Well organized itinerary with plenty of activities
  • Its all inclusive (I never did spend any money there)
  • WiFi throughout/Air Conditioning throughout
  • Quiet hours 10pm  - 7 am  in a wide range of quarters from dorms to single rooms with baths
  • A huge selection of classes in a huge range of media in well equipped classrooms & studios
  • Beginners are welcome (MANY people had never tried their chosen class before!)
  • Healthy family style served meals
  • Class size is limited to 12 or fewer most with assistants
  • Plenty of quiet places to sit and reflect or have a chat with your interesting school mates
  • The campus is pretty remote for the North East or MidAtlantic States (but under a 4 hr drive from Lexington, Asheville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Knoxville)
  • Campus can be pretty physical with a lot of walking and hills (there is parking at every building but you would need a school golf carts to help)
  • Meals  only offer one entree/side 
  • Trails throughout campus could be better lit and better marked
  • Some found the food not to their liking (but that was NOT the case for me)
Honestly, I'm having a hard time coming up with cons for this review.  I really did love it.  The School's catalog comes out twice a year and I can't wait to choose my  next class.  When I came home I was tired but so rejuvenated at the same time.

My next post will be about my class!!
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Friday, May 31, 2019

Friday, May 24, 2019

Its All About a Grid - Off The Wall Fridays

Fall II, Nina-Marie Sayre
Do you ever get the feeling that there isn't enough hours in the day?  Well, that's the kind of week I've had.  Between working full time, mowing the lawn, trying to get my Abstract homework done andddd getting ready for my vacation.....well, let's just say that I wish Gemini's literally had two of me to get it all done!!  So glad I woke up from my funk!!

Fall I, Nina-Marie Sayre

So this week our studies of Abstracts brought us into a new organizational tool....the grid.  Once I started thinking about it, it all seemed very familiar.  That was because I had already hit upon this device with my Seasons Series.  A few years back, I got it into my head that I was going to make a series of 8 abstract  quilts to represent the seasons.  I needed them to flank the door in my family room and I thought if I changed them seasonally, I wouldn't get sick of them!  So I sat down and started sketching them out. I finished two of them ...Fall...and then I was onto another idea.  I swear I have the attention span of a SQUIRREL.

With this lesson of Elizabeth's, it brought the seasons idea back to mind.  They were a fun project....I really should finish it up.  What I liked about it was not only was it a nice, easy way to explore the world of abstract but it also was a good way to play with form, scale, and value.  Geesh...yeah I really need to finish that series!!

Maybe its because I started out a traditional quilter but I found organizing  an abstract quilt this way very familiar.  Each was its own little block and the blocks went together as a family to form the quilt at the end.  Just because the blocks had abstracted motifs in them instead of Ohio stars meant nothing.  

So here are the beginning of my new grids.  I still have a TON to do on this lesson.  So glad I got the extended version of this class!!


This Saturday we head south to North Carolina for a week at the John Campbell's Folk Art School.  I'm taking a class in silk painting (which I've never done) and my husband is making a Windsor chair which he's never done (he's made a ton of chairs - just not particular chair - grin).  There is limited WiFi at the school, but I'll be setting up a  "Quote" post just in case I don't get my own post done.  That way Off the Wall Friday will run as usual!!

Hope Everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday.  I sure love Summer!
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Friday, May 17, 2019

Tension on Off the Wall Friday

So you know I've been a bit lost creatively in the last year and it seems like I'm just starting to find myself again.  In that vain, I, on an impulse, signed up for an Elizabeth Barton's class on Abstract Design.  I had taken the first one at Arrowmont and I thought it was time to get back to the basics with her help.  So as in most cases with Elizabeth, we started with paper and scissors and glue composing simple abstract compositions using one shape.

Doing them I felt I still felt creatively lost.  It was like walking  through mud trying to come up with interesting compositions.  Finally in the end I handed the best ones in.


#1 and  #2 are too symmetrical and there for a bit predictable.  #3 is the strongest because it has movement and its not  so symmetrical.  Elizabeth suggested I go back to the drawing board and create tension in the compositions by using asymmetry.

No Problem.  wait.....

What's tension????

Apparently, tension in art isn't that much difference then tension in your love life.  Its the  balance maintained in the composition between opposing forces.  So its the give and pull between elements in your design.  So what about asymmetry??  Well just like your love life it seems like there is always one element that is stronger pulling harder - taking more space than the other element.

For instance in Wassily Kandinsky, Delicate Tension, you can see how the lower element is dominates the design with the diagonal line moving up to the smaller element and taking your eye with it.  (By the way, this piece was done in 1923 so it is now in public domain!)
Delicate Tension #85, Wassily Kandinsky, 1923

In this photo you can see where dark beach shack holds a lot weight in the composition due to its size and value.  Your eye is bounces to the next most interesting - the barrel to the left - the lighter background adds interest without interfering with the tension between the two darkest values.

Okay, so now I get it!!  All I have to do is create it.  I'll work on them later and hopefully will post them here.

P.S.  Here are my new  pieces that should show some tension!!

So What Have You Been Up to Creatively?
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Friday, May 10, 2019

May's Mentally Strong Women on Off the Wall Friday

So May brings us to the end of my series inspired by Amy Morin's book 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do.  I'm kinda sorry that its ending.  I've enjoyed really thinking about each point and seeing how it applies to one's creative journey. You can find the previous installments  Here and Here and Here. Maybe I'll continue on with  the theme by generating my own ideas!

So Here We Go....Mentally Strong Women.....

Don't Stay Silent

Funny I've never had trouble with this one.  In fact my whole life I'm quite sure that I've been too outspoken.  Luckily with age, I've learned not to give voice to every, little opinion that pops into my head.  That said (pun intended), this is also about giving your art your true voice not just the one that
is popular at the moment or the one that your mentor thinks it should have or whatever peanut gallery member is present at the moment.  For me this is harder. Every artist wants to have some kind of validation with each new piece and its a lot easier to get if you are jumping the bandwagon of the latest trend.  So what do you have to remind yourself????

Your voice is uniquely yours
Your voice has intrinsic value
What You have to say is just as
important as Anybody else.

 hmmmmmm...maybe I should print that out and put it on my design board!

Don't Hesitate to Reinvent Themselves

A lifetime is a long time....a very long you want to be the same person that you were at 20 or 45 or 60??  Each new stage brings new growth, new wisdom.  You can take those and put them to good use doing what makes you happy. I have a personal rule..."If it doesn't make you happy in the long run, then don't do it!"  As we age what makes us happy is bound to change.  Use that as inspiration for a reinvention!  For instance since I was a very little girl, I thought I wanted to be STEM chick.  So that's what I did ...went to college and became an engineer.  It took me 10 years to realize that I was not having fun.  So I reinvented myself and I'm much happier for it.... MUCH!  Remember although a lifetime is a long time, its still too short to  be spending it doing something that you don't love.

They Don't Fear Owning Their Success

If I may stereotype for a moment, taking pride in their achievements is hard for women.  We're taught to be humble, unassuming, modest and actually those aren't moderation.  The problem starts when they are so consuming that your light can not shine through.  Being an artist is hard and not everyone can do what we do.  So when someone gives you a compliment don't immediately fluff it off by saying, "Ohhhh its not that good"  "Anybody can do it"  yada, yada, yada.  I repeat - Not Everyone Can Do It.  You put a lot of hard work into that piece....sooooo....Smile back and say "Thank you".  And if you're like me, I tend to say "Thank You, I love it too"  

I hope these give you things to think about.  I really think that becoming mentally stronger can only help your creative journey by giving you the confidence to continue.
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Friday, May 3, 2019

It's all About Value...Off the Wall Friday

I'm not ashamed that I'm stumped.  I've been diligently working on the pinwheels and it's getting to place where I really do need some kind of loose value sketch on where I want to put the dang things!  I kinda sketched out some ideas but honestly, I didn't like one more than the other.  They all kind of were just ....well....blah.

So I reached to my favorite teacher, Jeannette Meyer to ask if she had any good hints (she always knows what to say to get me moving in the right direction) and she suggested I take two things into consideration...

How do I want the viewer’s eyes to move? 
Where do I want the areas of highest contrast?

Good advice (as always)....but with this piece really I had no set visual path in mind, no focal point to least not yet! 

What I thought this needed was some inspiration.  So I thought I would take a look at how other artists handled value in their pieces.  One that instantly came to mind was  Edvard Munch, The Scream One of the great things about this painting is how he uses value to direct the eye right to where he wants you to look.  The grayscale version of it really shows how masterful the placement of value is!

I could even look for inspiration in paintings that are more abstract like Gerhard Richter's #9 Abstrakte Bilder Series.  I love this painting mostly because of the mystery it holds. Still, I never thought about how the wonderful colors really disguised how well the underlying value was working.  Its really is an interesting placement of lights, medium, and darks.

But no matter how great these were they still didn't seem right for my piece.  Then I started to look at my old blog posts because not only is it a great place for quilt, fiber artists to meet every Friday but its also acts as my creative journal.  I mean, come on, this isn't the first time I've wrestled with value!  So I popped back to my post here and it gave me the idea to look at my pinterest boards!  Not to mention it reminded me how much I liked LunaPic and how easy it was to use.

And finally.....FINALLY.... a value layout I like!!

So I used this......
To get this.....

I'm thinking this one is a KEEPER!!  Now I just gotta get the pinwheels done!!  This weekend I got about 30 of them done listening to The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone which I'm enjoying quite a bit.  It starts out a bit slow and then you can't stop listening!!

Well, that's one more thing I can check off my THINGS TO DO list!!

What Have You Been Up to Creatively?

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