Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My class at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops March 21 - 27, 2010

Above is the beautiful Greenville Arms 1889 Inn where I taught a class last week, at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops in Greenville, NY in the Catskills. I had five wonderful students, and we worked really hard and had a great time together. Many thanks to them and to our hosts, Director and art quilter Kim LaPolla and her husband, Chef Mark LaPolla.

Here's Joan Ludwig, starting to use the Jacquard Textile Colors fabric paints on the first day of class, in the big and comfy Carriage House studio.

Nancy Roberto, best friends with Joan, started her first painting in the class, planning out her favorite colors

Karen Maru jumped right in and made a very complex drawing, then painting, which she later chopped up and reassembled with some of her favorite fabrics.

Suzy Miles, best friend with Karen, finished her line drawing and was heatsetting it, smiling away, thinking about what she'll do to it next.

Adina Klein started working on some very autobiographical works, right from the first drawing. She also brought an after-class hours project along: a quilt she's making for her grandmother's 95th birthday in April.  More on that epic happening later here!

Above you see us all working away, having lots of elbow room, and enjoying our first day's theme, which was Doorways (suggested as part of a many-words theme list we made together, and voted in by majority rule.)

In my classes, we all start with fat quarter size white kona cotton fabric, to make our paintings on, and this is the start of my Doorways piece, which is the Quinceañera Challenge piece for the Quilt Art listserv's 15th anniversary. Only I had to break the only rule the challenge has: that the piece will be 15" x 15," because I needed to work the same size as my students did.  So my piece was instantly self-disqualified, as it's already 18"h x 22"w, before I put a border on it and quilted it.  So here you see the start of my self-acknowledged Quinceañera reject!  :)

This is the start of Karen's first piece, before she chopped it up. Karen has lots of images from her visits to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and is making a body of work using this theme.

In my classes, we do lots of group interaction, including show and tells and discussion of our sketchbook "library time" results - of our intuitive writing and drawing. At Hudson River Valley Art Workshops, we had two great wicker couches in the middle of the studio, besides great padded office chairs for everyone. We lounged together while talking about our work in progress, and everyone had plenty of time to say their piece.

You can see that those soft couches put us in the mood for creative thinking!

Back to work!  Here Joan's learning how to fill the airpen cartridge (a modified medical syringe) with black Jacquard Textile Colors fabric paint, which has been slightly thinned, to the consistency of heavy whipping cream (before it's whipped.)  Any student who plans to go home and buy their own airpen needs to learn to clean and refill it, in my class

Suzy starts her one-on-one airpen lesson, getting used to how to hold the pen, how to control the airflow by putting your finger over the airhole, and how to keep the paint from making blobs when you start writing or drawing.  Lots to learn!

Karen really got into her painting, as you can see.

Here's my Quinceañera piece with most of the airpen writing on it, tho I later added words on the hat or pincushion or nebulus, or whatever that is around Judy Smith's head. Judy started Quilt Art 15 years ago, and remains the QA listserv's steadfast and hard working owner. Quilt Art has around 3,500 members, around the world now!

Here's Adina, starting her Time theme piece. She later added 12 little plastic babies where the numbers go on the big watch, and will put a clockworks motor and hands into the middle of the watch soon!

Working time out came when President Obama signed the Health Care bill into law, during our class. He moved me to tears when he said he was signing this law "on behalf of my mother." I think lots of us were crying with joy, thinking of people we know who've struggled so hard with their medical bills and insurance companies.

 I wouldn't have turned the TV on, if the class had contained any student who opposed the bill.  I think the fact that my own artwork has become very political resulted in me getting all students who are on the same side of the aisle this time.  So we got to openly celebrate the historic event of Health Care Reform passing, right there in our classroom!

After choosing Houses for our Tuesday theme, the group of us voted in Time for our Wednesday paintings. This kicked in my thoughts about the above painting, which I'd made in a class in March, 1997, and then promptly buried in a heap in my studio til last Fall! I had called it "Turtle Moon Gothic" and had made it as a class demo with airbrush and brush painting.  Now I wanted to make a remake of the same compositioin, using brushed on everything.

So here's the start of the new version, which I began with brush lines of orange paint on my Kona cotton.  I don't take airbrush to classes I teach away from home. (Stopped offering airbrush "out" when Jimmy stopped teaching with me in the early 2000s. But I still teach it here at home at my art camps.)

I've added colors with brushes. Both this and the 1997 piece are a little larger paintings, around 3 feet tall, I think.  In the 1997 painting, we'd been married 7 years and together for 21 years.  Now, for my new piece, it's going to be a 20th anniversary piece (together for 34 years.)

And made black outlines with smaller brushes, by now really missing my airbrush, which I love to use, especially on my larger pieces.

Up in the top right corner of the new painting, I added GEM - Gretchen, Eva, and Mike, where I'd thought I'd put the Sun, like in the 1997 painting. I drew GEM off the top of my head, and they worked out pretty well.  Later, when I was airpening the writing on this piece, I drew outlines and details on their faces with the airpen, since I was unwilling to use a heavier brush line on this more realistic rendering.

Then there was the fieldtrip to Woodstock, NY, where Suzy and Karen found Bob Dylan to hang out with ...

And I found more old friends: Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon! None of us coming from our class, had ever been to Woodstock before, so it was something that just had to happen that week. There used to be a fabric store there, but it's gone now.  So we wandered around old hippie shops and had a nice lunch at the little Mexican restaurant, Juan's (the place with the bright yellow metal roof.) We also visited the art center there, which was showing a bunch of local artists, and we wished we could stay longer, but we had a class to get back to! Yikes!

I used my Quinceañera piece to demo the way of quilting a piece, that I invented, in which you lay the painting on the batting, cut the batting to the size you want the border to be, lay that on a backing fabric and cut that to be able to come up and tuck under the painting. You make folded corners that are more butted, not mitered. You pin the thing, so that its layers are totally flat and unpuckered, and then you pin it like crazy. Then you sew the painting to the border, before you start sewing unmarked grid lines across and up and down the piece. At the end, you need to sew a line around the border edge, which I prefer to do by hand with perle cotton, as a running stitch. This keeps the edge nice and flat on the wall, and this little bit of hand sewing is a  nice thing to do while sitting around, watching Rachel Maddow on late class nights!

Joan quickly took the leap to quilt her Doorways piece from the first day, which she had completely filled with airpen writing.

Adina was busy making her first try at my Lucky School of Quilting method of bringing the backing fabric around the front and tucking it under the raw edge of the painting, before you start quilting anything.

Karen used one of her underpaintings on dropcloth to become a patterned painting of flowers from her pictures of carved stone skirts from Angkor Wat. She was developing her own style here, moving into the concept of making her own fabric textures with pens and brushwork. Meanwhile, Suzy was busy making a piece in which she drew many hand stitches, and was embroidering over some of them, but not others. (I don't have a photo of her doing this or of the piece itself, I'm sorry to say.)

I made this drawing of Suzy, Nancy, and Karen, lounging on the wicker couch, one morning, when we were picking a theme for the day.

Nancy was working away on the Thursday theme of Cats, making a memorial to two of her pets who'd passed away.

Here's my Happy Family at lunch one day at the Inn. Mark and Kim and their staff fed us delicious full breakfasts, light lunches, and glorious dinners each day. Even a cookie break at 2:30 PM - with freshly baked huge cookies!!!!  We were food-pampered!

Kim took this picture in the parlor of the Inn, of all of us together. This is where we came to do our internet work, as the Inn is the wifi hotspot. We had 24 hour access, too, which really helped

Karen and Suzy left after lunch, so our little group became smaller, but then my friend Michele came, so we still had a fun group. Still, it's amazing how attached you get to each other in a weeklong class, and seeing them leave was very sad for the rest of us!

Kim and Mark have a wonderful second business: Life by Chocolate, for which they make fresh gourmet chocolates daily and sell them here and online. They also wholesale their candies. This was quite a delight, you can imagine!!!  They even have special vegan chocolates, and some made with organic and fair trade ingredients.

This is the view coming to the Inn from the Carriage House, where our rooms and the classroom are.

And this is the view of the Carriage House, as you come to the little bridge over the creek, coming back from the Inn. The big windows are of the studio.

Here's LaPolla Creek.  :)

Another view of the Carriage House. All of our bedrooms were very close to the studio, which was very convenient. And the Inn was only across the parking lot. We got a little fresh air every time we went back and forth, which was really good for all of us!

Back in the studio on Friday, our theme was Fortune, so I used that chance to work out the project I'd had in mind for a week.  At home in Wooster, we're raising money to keep our main city swimming pool open, in spite of budget cuts of the recession.  I made a painting on fabric that I could turn into a big pocket on the flap of a bag I'd brought along for this purpose. On the Facebook page for Christmas Run Pool, we have a challenge project called the Pool Purse Posse, and this is my purse project. The idea is that we carry our purses around town, with the donation flyers stashed in them, and when people ask us about the purses, we engage in talking up the pool and donations, and give them some flyers.  We have to raise $100,000, so we can't fool around! Every encounter has the potential of moving us closer to our goal!

Since I've used fortune cookies in my art for many, many years, the Fortune theme kicked this image into my plans: a big fortune cookie hovering over Christmas Run Pool, with a good fortune coming out of it:
"You will enjoy the pool all your life!"  I sewed some blue tie dye fabric onto the painting, to reinforce it, and then sewed it onto my bag's flap, and there you have it!

Friday afternoon Kim finally found time in her busy schedule to try my airpen, and she was a real natural. She'd been in and out of the studio all week, taking pictures for her blog about our class, and Thursday night, giving us a wonderful presentation of the 2010 and 2011 class offerings, which are very impressive for who the teachers are, what they're teaching, and how very many classes are there each year! Check it out!  And I'll be teaching there again, starting on April 22, 2012. Hurray!

Mark also came and tried the airpen Friday afternoon. I guess they were both taking a break from their busy Easter candy making, and their meal prep, etc, etc. This is one very active couple!

My dear friend Michele Merges Martens lives near Albany, and she was so generous, she took me both from the airport to the class and then back to the airport again. So she attended the class a little bit both on Monday and Friday, and here she's starting her own show and tell, of her very unique art quilts, full of mixed media, her own dyed fabrics, and her knitting. Michele is also a poet and incorporates some of her writings into her art quilts.

I met Michele back in late 1989, when she volunteered to help with the newsletter for my Green Quilts project, back when most of us didn't know anything about computers, but she did! She stayed with me and Robin Schwalb on the project til we closed it 15 years later in 2004.

Michele has a funky mixed media Etsy store and an equally funky blog.  This description as "funky" means I really love what Michele does!  :)  Check them out!

Here are Nancy's pieces made in class, minus her "Fortune Cat" painting she was working on Friday. The piece at the top right honors her mother, who was into genealogy, and thus the cemetery in the painting. The top left piece depicts a letter Nancy owns, written long ago from an aunt to a younger cousin.

Here's some relaxing around the studio, the last night, before we cleaned up. Some pretty cool things happened here that week, including two nights of watching a movie, "Strictly Ballroom," while working on our art; watching Project Runway, while working on our art, and the work on Granny's Quilt (on the floor here, see below.)

Here are Joan's pieces from the week, and as you can see, she also got a LOT done in five days. Her Time theme piece, above right, is about an actress doing the final prep for her curtain call, and it's kind of autobiographical, since Joan's an actress, besides being an artist.

This is Adina's Doorways piece, about her dog Super Roxie, who can eat through doors.

OK, ta-da! Here it is: Friday night Adina and Nancy sat on the floor, in front of the seemingly impossible: They've managed to completely piece the four-patches for Adina's Kaffe Fassett prints quilt for her grandmother. They scrounged fabrics from what Nancy had brought, found some in the Inn's mini fabric store, bought a little on the excursion to Log Cabin Quilting, and were able to complete the patchwork that Adina had brought with her, which was really a lot to start with.

They worked every night on it, piecing, placing, connecting, and the last thing I saw was Adina making sashing to connect the top and all the side panels, with the white textured print fabric.  It was pretty stunning, all that they accomplished, and Adina dubbed Nancy "Four Patch Pelosi" for all her ability to move the work along, in tandem with Nancy Pelosi's achievement of getting the House to pass the final Health Care Reform bill during the same timeframe!

Here are Michele and me with my 20th anniversary piece, with some of the airpen stories on it. I want to finish that writing and get both this and the 1997 piece "Turtle Moon Gothic" quilted, to hang together, tho I don't know if I'll join them or keep them separated.

Here you can see the two paintings together.  My 1997 painting is 38.5"h x 32.5"w, and my new painting is 40.5"h x 33"w.  I sure hope I have time to finish them both for our 20th anniversary!  Not that we're going to do anything fancy to celebrate.  Robin gave us an anniversary card once that tells all the things the different anniversary years stand for.  20th is Straw, according to this card. My Google research today has raised its association to being China, not Straw.  However, since it'll be time to mulch the garden around our June 30th anniversary, Straw may be more useful to Jimmy and me.  :)

Saturday morning we all said goodbye after our delicious breakfast, and I got to visit Michele's home and studio, before hopping my plane back to Ohio.

And then Jimmy and I went up to Lakewood, to see GEM, before heading down to Wooster. Eva greeted us with a fine specimen from her collection of five years of Easter bunnies: The Easter Groundhog. (If you've followed this blog, you know that Jimmy and Eva have a groundhog thing going, which started when Gretchen was little, and Jimmy told her and her friend Heather that he was grilling groundhog burgers for Groundhog Day ... )

This Easter Groundhog is really a teddy bear in a bunny suit, and you can pull down the hood and ears, to reveal the teddy. I think it's a teddy.  Could it really be a groundhog? You can see how extremely funny we all think this idea is. Sheer genius, Eva!!!!!!  :)

I leave you with a picture of a drawing Eva made for her teacher.  I really love to draw and paint with my granddaughter, and our adventures together remind me so much of the fun Gretchen and I had, when she was my little girl at home. We have a big drawing Gretchen made of Jimmy and us in his Barnfire Leather shop, when she was little, and this drawing of Eva's reminds me of that composition. I'll see if I can get a good picture of it and add it here.

OK, here's Gretchen's drawing of Jimmy, herself, and me, from 1978, I think, when she was 7 and we had Barnfire Leather in a remodeled garage behind our second location of The Needle's Eye, our little commune in Wooster. Our first black lab, Lucy, is on the left. Jimmy's standing by his leather tooling table, which was a big butcher block. Gretchen's in front of our big rain barrel, where we kept our leather scraps, and I'm by a nice purple sewing machine. Lots of cats and one mouse on the floor. Gretchen's saying "Ou la la!"

This is a drawing I made in my sketchbook Saturday evening at GEM's, and Eva added some Easter Bunnies to it.

And here's the Easter drawing Eva made for Jimmy and me. I think the little pink bunny in the bottom right corner looks like Eva! Oh, it's time to make a nice Easter card to send up to GEM now!

Happy Passover, Happy Easter, Happy Springtime! Love, Susan