Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 18 - 24, 2011 Turtle Art Camp

The sun came back out this week, during our second Turtle Art Camp of May, 2011, again with only one student, feisty Pauline Salzman from Treasure Island, FL.  Here's the front yard, as you look through the Moon Garden, showing the wisteria that doesn't always bloom. It's blooming like crazy right now!

Pauline arrived with a bang, and soon we were walking Libby, as Pauline said she could cure our nine month old pup of pulling on the leash.  And sure enough, she DID!!  The trick is to give Libby a slack leash, hanging down a bit like a "J," so that when you have to correct her with a strong jerk of the leash, she notices.  When I took the leash, it worked for me, too!  I'd been giving her a very short leash, and she was always pulling on it, and my arms were ready to fall off!  Bliss, bliss, bliss, and Libby's been walking well with us ever since.  Pauline continues to help us learn to control our very friendly, energetic Libby, so we can walk her without having her jump up on people, etc. Life is good! Above is my library time sketchbook drawing of Libby walking ever so sweetly, for the first time without any pulling!

So here we are in the studio, doing our first Library Time, after a Libby walk. Library time is my term for just ten minutes of being quiet and seeing what naturally comes out of you, any mixture of writing and drawing.

Then, after we made up a list of themes for our week together, Pauline and I chose the theme Superstition for our first painting and went back to our sketchbooks, to work something out for that.  I settled on my personal thing of empowering a Magic Penny (any shiny penny will do) and flipping it once only, when I can't make a decision.  To illustrate this, I decided to sketch how I had to make a final choice between two Double Doodle puppies, to pick Libby.  (I had picked another puppy, when we'd visited the kennel, Yesteryear Acres in Heath, Ohio, but later realized that Blue Collar Girl would shed, because she had straight, silky hair. And we'd chosen to get a Double Doodle because of their non-shedding quality.)  So I flipped and Turquoise Collar Girl won, and Renee told me she thought that was my best choice, since that puppy loved to explore, so she'd love my long walks.  And Turquoise Collar Girl became Libby.

Pauline did a bunch of online research about superstitions and ended up making this sketchbook drawing.  We were ready to go!

Here's my Rub-a-Dub permanent marker drawing on a fat quarter size piece of Kona. I  only use the sketching process to get my ideas clear in my head, for who's going to be in the painting, what they're going to be doing, and where they'll be in the composition.  I tell my students to only glance at their favorite sketch, not copy from it.  This keeps the painting's imagery fresh and full of movement. It won't be the same composition, but will be its own thing, probably with some changes you decide to make, and with some additions.

Pauline's off and running, having dealt with her freak-out that I wouldn't let her sketch with or draw on cloth with a pencil first. The permanent marker makes you have to accept what comes out the first time, and she did a great job.

Here we're ready to start painting on our drawings on cloth, with our Jacquard Textile Colors paints and boar bristle brushes. The drawings with Rub-a-Dub marker (ink) have been heat set, which is what we do after each step of making paintings this way

I put yellow into my painting first, because it's the weakest pigment, and anything you put over it will change it. Think watercolor. With yellow I also demonstrate at least four ways of applying fabric paint and discuss the advantages and problems with each of these methods.

I prefer using my paint with a lot of water, because it flows on so nicely, and because I like the blending the paints do while they're wet.  You can follow yellow with any color, but moving to orange next is a nice way to be able to keep using the same paint water and not clean out your brush between colors. 

Pauline tries my methods and chooses working more with colors as they come out of the bottles, not watered down. This allows you to put wet paints next to each other without bleeding. Also the colors will pretty much stay the same value of light to dark that you see at the start.  Watered down paints dry a few shades lighter.

My piece is REALLY wet, and I move it to a dry place on the big table, so it'll dry faster on the dry dropcloth. You can't hang these wet paintings on the clothesline to dry, because all the paint will just run off, onto the floor.

Pauline's Superstition theme piece takes place in the Garden of Eden, with lots of superstitions surrounding Adam and Eve.

While our paints dry, we go over to Jimmy's studio and he gives Pauline a little tour of his leather making. You can see what he does in making fine art cases for fly fishing equipment at James Acord's Leather.

Jimmy's showing Pauline some small artworks he made, which aren't functional. Every image he makes is all hand carved into the wet, softened tanned leather, before he ever paints it.  So the texture is all there, carefully applied with his swivel knife and little tools he's custom made to fit his needs.

You turn your painting face down to heat set it.  In this case, my painting was drying too slowly (due to lots of humidity), so I first put the painting between layers of cotton cloth to iron it, to dry it out. Then I removed the top layer and continued ironing with my hot, dry iron, to heat set it.  I've got the exhaust fan running, opposite me.

After heat setting the paint, I drew over my Rub-a-Dub lines with a Painters paint marker (acrylic paint) and added more details and a few large words. This Magic Penny piece is ready to start airpen writing on next.  I've changed the title from Magic Penny to Flippin' for Libby, I think.

Pauline's got all the colors into her piece now and is ready to start going over her lines, too.

Libby and Pauline have a good snuggle, and the first full day of Turtle Art Camp is overwith.

On Friday, after our library time, it was introducing airpen lessons time: getting to know what it's for, what the parts do, and how to use and then clean and fill it. Here Pauline's trying it out on scrap fabric, before moving over to write on her Superstition piece.

And pretty soon, she's jumped over to her painting, to start using the airpen to write on it. Note the rare and beautiful Ruth Reynolds mug of Riva, that we're using to hold the airpen.  Ruth gave me two of those years ago, when Jimmy and I stayed at her house in Joliet, IL, when we taught for her quilt group.  Ruth Reynolds is an amazing artist and big hearted force of nature!  Thank you again, Ruth!

Here I had most of my airpen writing on my Superstition piece, too.

We've got two airpens running off of a power strip, so we can easily turn them off with the switch on it. There are no on-off switches on the air pumps for airpens themselves, since they are really fish tank air pumps.

We spent most of Friday in the studio, except when we were on our Libby walks, but had to take time to admire the Wisteria, whcih was almost in full bloom at this point. This super-wet spring was great for all the flowering trees!

So that's Friday, a long day of writing and writing and writing, with some research thrown in, for Pauline, who looked up all kinds of superstitions to record about on her piece.  

Saturday was our downtown tour and airbrush lesson day.  After eating a tasty breakfast at The Parlor, our favorite diner, we mozied over to Uptown Downtown, Early Weigandt's antique store.  I bought this pillowcase for Pauline, who sez her doggie will just carry it off.  :)

Check out the lovely hand embroidery on this pillowcase. The cotton is much whiter than it looks here, too.  Early works hard to bring back the crispy white cleanness and elegance of antique linens, using a secret formula for washing them.  Sets of two really nice ones make lovely wedding presents, too.

Next we went to the really nice yarn store, Calla Lily, where Pauline met the owner Donna, and we touched and swooned over many, many beautiful yarns.  Pauline's an avid sock knitter (gave me a beautiful pair she made just for me!) and I used to knit a lot, in the old days.  This store and Uptown Downtown are two of my favorites in town, along with Wooster Natural Foods, where we went next, before going home to do airbrush.

 Back to work!  Our theme for Saturday's work was Allergies,  so I decided to make my airbrush painting be about Jimmy, who's allergic to Libby's hair (much less of a problem since I started trimming her coat) and Libby, who's allergic to all grains and anything greasy or spicy.

I drew in my sketchbook a piece about how Jimmy sometimes still holds Libby on his lap in his big green Archie Bunker chair, when we come up to the livingroom around 11 PM, to watch part of a movie or the news and/or some late night stuff like CNN, the Colbert Report, or Letterman.  Of course, SNL.   We have a glass of wine, and eventually we give in to hedonism and have a little snack, too.  The cats gather around, and by that time, Libby's on the floor, waiting for little snacks of her kibble.

I didn't look at my sketch at all, when I drew this, since my sketch had Jimmy and Libby facing the other way, and I wanted to show them from my view on the couch. I have a good memory of what they look like, after so many months of them modeling for me.  :)  After painting Jimmy and Libby, I added Otis and Ome to the arm of the chair, and thought about what else would go in, while I got Pauline started on her painting.

Here's Pauline's Allergy theme sketch.

And here's Pauline, taking her first brave airbrush strokes on her fabric piece. We're using a double action Aztek airbrush and Createx airbrush paint.

Working away, focusing on how to regulate the air and paint ratio, already Pauline's linework is looking good!

I added myself to Jimmy and Libby and the cats, and have put in one wine glass so far.  I'll soon add Jimmy's studio cat Marigold and the other glass of wine.

I added Eva, because while staring at the picture, I suddenly heard her ask me how come she wasn't being included!  She has her peanut and nut allergies, after all, AND she LOVES the cats and especially Libby, whom she considers herself to be part owner of!  So here she is!

i had studied these drawings Eva had made of herself a couple of weeks ago, in my sketchbook, and honestly, my drawing of her is so much less interesting and so much less Eva!  I have a lot to learn from my granddaughter!

Now we're into painting in the colors, after heat setting our black line airbrush work. Actually now it's Sunday morning, too.  Time flies! We've begun with yellow and are moving through the warm colors.  Airbrushing in color areas is so much easier than making controlled lines.  And working on cloth is so much more forgiving than working on any hard surface. Paintings for quilts, and for that matter, quilts instead of stretched canvases, are SOOOO much more user friendly all round!

Here's the extent of my warm color painting, before we clean out the airbrush again and move on to the cool colors.

Pauline gets pretty fancy here, with her varied shades of green grasses!  Lots of very careful work goes on, to paint around all these small objects of allergy causes!

Pauline started adding blue and got a little blob, but it soon became a lovely field of blue dots in the sky. Hurray for being flexible!

So that was a long day, Sunday, and we were both pretty worn out after hours of living in our respirators, but it was all worth it.  Now the only time we need to wear our masks again is when we heat set.  And our health is still good, having escaped the crappy stuff that we'd be breathing from the paint, if we hadn't worn our masks.

Then we were back to airpen work, with Pauline handling it like a pro now, focusing her thoughts on the notes she'd made about various allergies.

Then we went back to our first paintings, of the Superstitions, and got them ready to quilt.  Here I've got straight pins holding the backing fabric / border fabric (that's folded to the front and tucked under the painting) to the painting, which I'll be sewing down first.  I've also got bent safety pins holding the painting, Nature-fil bamboo and cotton batting, and backing (a rare and lovely Lunn Fabrics hand dye) together.

Here's Pauline's allergy piece pinned together, too.  I forgot to get any pix of us sewing, but she chose my little Pfaff 1473, and I used my Janome 6600, and we quilted those pieces til bedtime on Sunday night.  We got those smaller pieces all quilted and Monday morning we got the perle cotton hand sewing done around their outside edges. Pauline even got a casing sewn onto hers, while I did airpen writing on my big Jimmy and Libby piece.

Pauline got a second wind on airpen writing and I got into making really large words on some of the forms in my paintting, so they'd stand out against their backgrounds and each other. I think this is the wave of my future!  i really like how Libby stayed light and separated from the rest of the piece, with her big-lettering words.  Monday was mostly airpen work, I guess, along with the astrology lesson, which Pauline picked up on really fast.  I do each student's birth chart, if they want me to, and then I teach them how a chart works, what the different parts of it mean, etc, and have them find a few of their planets, and tell me what degree of what sign, in what house they are.

Here are all the pieces we made this week in camp.  The fat-quarter sized  pieces at the bottom are pretty much done. The larger ones are still just paintings.

Now it's Tuesday morning, end of our May 18 - 24, 2011 Turtle Art Camp.  Libby had to pose with Pauline and me, since Pauline had worked so very hard to help us learn to walk easily with each other.  What a great gift that was of her!

My larger allergy-theme piece is all written on and ready to quilt, when I get the time.  It's called "Twilight Time: 4 of Pyrex Cups in the Kitchen Tarot." It's still just a painting right now.

Pauline's larger piece, also the allergy-theme piece, will get more airpen writing on it. She has an airpen at home, and now she knows what to do with it.

Oops, this is blurry. But at least you can SENSE that it's all quilted now!

Pauline used my techniques for quilting, but her grids are much more even and angular, on purpose. Mine are uneven and a little wonky, also on purpose.  We agree that with my crazy grids methods, each artist can express herself well.

This morning, before Pauline left, I pulled out some of my old sketchbooks from college and grad school.  Here's the 1982 complete lunar eclipse happening at Allerton Apartments in Kent, with my friends Alex, Deborah, and Skaidrite, and her Erin.  We went out way late at night, camped out with snacks and incense, and watched the magic happen.

Here's another drawing from my big hardbound sketchbooks, this time of Skaidrite again and our other Allerton neighbor, Chris. This drawing is done with Prismacolors colored pencils, and the eclipse piece above was in pen and Prang watercolors.  I consider the sketchbooks from that time to be my most important work in grad school, and when I look at those drawings and writings, I tell myself I need to be making more finished drawings again.  But I'm too busy making paintings that I write on and sew on now!

Here's a drawing from back then, of a neighbor in Wooster, Marlisa, and my daughter Gretchen - with her cat Vikki.

Jimmy's been working on a rod case while Pauline was here, so before she left, we checked in on his progress.  Gettin' there! This one goes to England pretty soon.  All of Jimmy's pieces are custom orders, made to someone's request for fly fishing cases. Usually they have his hand carved and painted images on them, but this one is plain, a rod case that will hold both a rod and an attached reel. Check out James Acord's Leather.

Now we're outside in the pretty morning air, walking Pauline to her rental car.

Gotta pose one time in front of the garage door mural.

So Libby gives her new teacher a goodbye kiss, and off we go!

Next Turtle Art Camp will be July 6 - 12, then July 26 - Aug 1 (the returning students' class), then Aug 31 - Sept 6, and finally Oct 5 - 11.  All camps this year are 10% off, for $900 for the week, including art supplies, room, and partial board.  Plenty of openings left, so please email or call me about signing up!  We'd love to have you here!

I hope you enjoyed this long, rambling blog entry.  Not sure when I'll be writing again.  I'm off to Quilt National on Friday with my dear friend Quatty tArt (Gayle Pritchard).  Maybe I'll have a chance to put a few pix up after that, or put them on my Facebook page.  

Thanks a lot. Have a good one!   Lucky


  1. Hi Susan,

    Wow Pauline seems to be on a roll with her drawing. Can't wait to see the results of her's and yours.

  2. Hi Susan - it is so interesting to see how you work, what a fun retreat that must have been. I love both of your pieces, especially the Four of Pyrex Cups. Pauline's work is also wonderful, a great demonstration of two talented artists at work.
    Charlie Petersen
    Port Townsend WA

  3. It looks like you all had a great time dear lady and Miss Libby is such a beautiful lady now. Have a great time in Athens and be careful for the multitudes of deer roaming the back woods. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  4. HI Susan! I first "met" you via Rice Freeman Zachery. I keep looking at your work and I am just so amazed! It is unique and fun and full of life and stories. I am thinking that I really want an airbrush pen! Your blog is so much fun to read and i WILL be back!'

  5. Greetings from Tunisia! This is a marvelous post. I lost track of your work for many years, then happened upon your blog while surfing the net and trying to beat the heat. It's very interesting to see the turn your work has taken.
    best, nadia