Saturday, November 21, 2009

In Memory of Professor Harington

I was so saddened to hear last week of the death of Professor Donald Harington, a former teacher of Art History at the U of A, Fayetteville, AR, and also a very well-known author. He was the most influential and fascinating teacher I've ever had, but I'm only one of countless others who feel the same way. I'm constantly reminded when looking at art or architecture of just how much I learned from this great man, and will always treasure my memories of his teachings about art and life.

To learn more about Professor Donald Harington, and the service to be held at the U of A, Fayetteville, I've listed some sites below:

Memorial Service, U of A, Fayetteville
Fayetteville Flyer
NY Times
Books by Donald Harington , Last book published, Enduring, Special tribute by his editor at Toby Press
His official website
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture
Interview with C. L. Bledsoe, Ghoti Fish
Trailer for Brian Walter's future documentary on Donald Harington

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Peel Mansion, Pratt Place Inn, Plein Aire...

Peel Mansion
Watercolor, 12 1/2" x 9"
S. Waterford, cold press, rough

Well, I finally got around to photographing these paintings. The painting above is the viewpoint I had while participating in the first annual Peel Mansion Paint-out held in Bentonville, AR, (click on 'Peel Mansion' in the archives for details). My original plein air painting was pitiful. But I try not to let that discourage me. I know from what I read by noted plein air artists that I should look at my plein airs as a 'study', to be finished in the studio. That relieves me from the burden of thinking every painting must be finished on site or must be a success. I'm then able to relax and enjoy the painting process and also not even mind if someone is looking over my shoulder, expecting a decent painting (well actually, this still bothers me somewhat), or wants to see my painting after I finish (most of the time I throw them in the car before anyone can see them!). I myself know, that over time and with much much practice, my 'got luckys' will come with more frequency and that it will ultimately take years before I will be doing the majority of my 'keepers' entirely on site. This painting was produced using my sketches and original, plus photo references. Notice the possum in the cage at the lower right. I couldn't resist putting him in (I think I spoke of him in my original post on the Peel Mansion Paint-out). I kept glancing at him the whole time I was painting. Then the groundskeepers came and took him away, hopefully to release him in a new safe location. I think the scale is off on my figure. Need to work on this - it's something I've always had problems with.

Pratt Place Inn
Watercolor, 10" x 13 3/4"
Saunders Waterford,
300 gms (140 lb.) cold press, rough

This was my viewpoint at Pratt Place Inn. As for the 'imaginary' figures I placed in the painting (sorry they're hard to see in this image-I placed them in the furniture on the porch), I think here I was more successful with them being in scale than the Peel Mansion figure. My struggle with this painting was the foreground shadows on the flagstone. I really wanted to capture the dappled sunlight among the shadow area, but after three attempts, I thought I'd give it a rest and try again later. I don't use projectors to sketch my preliminary drawings, so it can be time consuming (at least for me) for an architectural drawing such as this one. Sketching and re-sketching allows me to become more intimate with the subject, while also giving me the opportunity to improve my drawing skills, which is something I feel that one never achieves, much like art in general. As for intimacy, it always amazes me how much sketching refreshes my memory, it puts me 'there' again, as well as sparking new ideas regarding my approach to the painting.

Pratt Place Inn was a fun place to paint. I was immediately intrigued by the old dead tree shown in my painting. Other than its obvious sculptural interest, I thought, this must be one of the original, if not the only, tree left from the time this house was built back in the late l800's. I also wondered what the house itself must have looked like before it was refurbished.

Another subject which I was very interested in was the small cottage on the grounds as one drives up the private drive to the inn. It had a mysterious European quality as it sat half-hidden among the trees that reminded me of all my old Daphne Du Maurier and Victoria Holt Gothic romance novels. I took some reference pics of it for a future painting.

I'll probably attempt this painting again, because I'm not satisfied with it totally (are we ever??), but other painting subjects are piling up so I feel the need to move on for the time being.

Yesterday, PAPO (Plein Air Painters of the Ozarks) painted at West Fork park and can I say IT WAS FREEZING!! I did not dress warm enough and chose to paint by the river's bank, which of course was all the more chilly. I had fun though and really needed the practice of painting rushing water. The wind gusts were threatening to send my painting and easel airborne into the river, so I held it down with my knees as I painted.
There were good subjects to paint - walkers, bluffs, the distant mountains (which seem to have passed their peak with the fall foliage by the way), a bridge, some mini waterfalls on the bluffs, and even a couple of horseback riders paid a visit. They brought back memories of my riding days...aah, the countryside is sure grand. It does a sole good to visit, if only for a short time.

I heard that the Ft. Smith Arts Center's Plein Air Competition was a success. That's good to hear. Plein Air competitions seem to be catching on in the area. I heard there was some really good work produced in the competition. Well, that's all for now, until next time, hang in there, set goals, take care and enjoy your art...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

End of Summer Update

This is the longest I've gone between posts since beginning my blog back in January, but I needed a break from my computer, especially from blogging! It's sooo time consuming but it sure has helped me in the discipline department. I've just been enjoying the summer, or what there was of it, considering it was such an unusually rainy and cool one. I've not painted near as much as I planned to - gotta get that in check! I just got back from a visit with my mother who turned 85 and we had a great Bday - just the girls. Mother said it was one of her best birthdays ever.

Roaring River State Park

My husband and I went a few weeks ago over to Roaring River in Missouri. It's a trout hatchery which is fed by an underground spring.

The hatchery was quite fascinating. It would be interesting to take one of the tours which are offered a few times daily, I think. Never saw so many trout!

When the hatchery announces they're releasing fish, people come from all around, lining up along the river trying to catch their dinner. It's almost comical to see; you'd think those poor trout don't stand a chance, but not too many were getting caught compared to how many were released that day, which if I remember correctly, were around

Although I only took reference photos that day, it's a good site to paint, as there are plenty of subjects i.e. shallow rapids, people fly fishing with their waders on, families swimming in the sun, and campers at the campsites.

You'll have to look hard to see two waders fly fishing way upstream...

PAPO (Plein Air Painters of the Ozarks) had painted there earlier this summer, but I chose to go with my hubby as he has been wanting to see it for a while but has not had the chance to get away from work. It was a pretty river and would make for a nice fall destination when the leaves are turning (for more info click on the ' Roaring River State Park' title above).

We also finally went on a weekend vacation to Vegas to see two shows: Cirque Du Soleil's Love and Carlos Santana's concert. Both were great and it was good to get away (1st real vacation in years) if only for a weekend.

I've been into pastoral paintings lately, fields, cows, and such. Probably due to reading so much about tonalism and looking at Zbukvic paintings. Anyway, below is a painting I made of a field behind Battlefield Park in Prairie Grove, AR:

I painted the field en plein air but was not satisfied with it. After taking a couple of snapshots of my subject, I attempted it again from my original plein air painting, reference snapshots, memory, and a value sketch. My goal in my landscape paintings is to achieve better atmospheric perspective and tonal (value) relationship/contrast. In the first painting, below, I'm satisfied with the background hills, but not so in the second studio painting. I think I should have made the two hills in the background a little more distinct from each other as I did in the first. Funny, the first one I'm happy with the background; the second one, only happy with the foreground. Good Grief!!

Studio painting I:
Study I: Battlefield 2, Prairie Grove
9 3/4 x 13 1/2,
Arches, 300 lb., cold press

Studio painting II:
Study II: Battlefield 2, Prairie Grove
9 1/2 x 13 1/4,
Watercolor, Sanders Waterford, 140 lb. (300 gms)
cold press, rough

Some cows:

This is another studio painting from photo references. Sometimes I just drive around taking photos of anything I think would be good reference material or has the potential for a good painting. The original photo didn't have the cows in it. I sketched them in from photos taken 'just down the road' from this same location.

Morning, off Goosecreek
watercolor, 9 3/4 x 13 1/2
Arches, 300 lb. cold press

Well, that's all for now. I can't believe it took me half the day just to get this posted, because of the photoshopping of these images, etc. Until next time, happy painting, and I hope to post (and paint) more frequently now that I'm back from my summer hiatus!

Monday, July 27, 2009

War Eagle Paint-Out, another Learning Experience...

Last Wednesday I painted with the PAPO (Plein Air Painters of the Ozarks) at War Eagle Mill. It was a gorgeous day, a cool front had rolled in and the skies were a crisp cerulean blue. The sounds of the falls and waterwheel were refreshing on a mid-summer's day!

The photo above shows my viewpoint. This is the exact spot from where I viewed the mill some 10 years ago and vowed to some day capture it from that bank along War Eagle Creek. I just thought it would make a great spot to paint from, so it was a no-brainer for me upon my arrival to just go ahead and set up there.

As I began my climb over the fallen trunk of a huge tree that had succumbed either to the ice storm (most likely, as it looked recently fallen) or a flash flood, my eyes zoomed in on what I felt sure to be poison ivy creeping across the very spot I needed to cross over. Great. A fellow painter was saying to me as I spied it, "there's a trail that goes around if you don't want to climb over that big trunk." Well, I was anxious to get set up, as I was already running late in getting to the site, so I decided to take my chances. However, I made a point to take the short trail around the suspicious ivy when I returned to my car that day. Needless to say, now I know that I can positively I.D. poison ivy, as I've broken out precisely where it brushed against my hand and ankle. Anyway, back to the fun part...

The below photo shows what I decided to depict in my painting:

It was a beautiful scene I thought, but my painting was pathetic. I need so much practice when it comes to plein air painting (painting period actually). But hey, there are no failures, just learning experiences, right? That is what I tell myself every time I paint out, and believe me, I say it a lot. My perspective on the mill house was off (need to sketch buildings more), my colors were drab, or dead, as Joseph Zbukvic describes it. It was also too high key- not enough tonal range (although I ran out of time before putting in all my 'darks', and had planned to put those in at the studio). However, I made some copies of my photos and plan to do some studies, so when I return maybe these things will have been corrected in my mind and on paper to save time.

As I was painting, I couldn't get over how many people and tourists were arriving at War Eagle Mill on a Wednesday morning. I thought it would be pretty much just us, the painters, but people were coming by the carloads, along with a couple of bikers, just during the couple of hours I was there. It looked like families which included generations - grandparents, kids, and even great grandchildren. The poor guys running 'The Bean Palace' upstairs in the Mill were a bit overwhelmed during lunch. But things settled down after a few minutes and everyone got their plate. I ordered a chef salad and was pleased to see that it wasn't just 'iceberg lettuce' but instead select dark green leaf lettuces, which I enjoyed (picky about my salads!). I mentioned to a painter that I was surprised to see so many folks there during the middle of the week and he asked me if I had seen 'War Eagle, Arkansas' the movie. I said, "No," but after he described it to me, it seemed vaguely familiar. Another said, "That probably explains all the tourists." I hear the movie is getting good reviews.  War Eagle Mill is a beautiful place. If you're ever in the area, you really should check it out.

Even though my painting was not a 'keeper', I enjoyed every minute of it, and that's what it's all about for me, the learning experience and ultimately, the experience itself of painting outdoors. While painting, there's suddenly that realization that comes over me of being in the moment of painting outdoors. The same feeling that I have experienced all my life when in nature. Experiencing nature while painting adds a whole other dimension to painting for me. And even though it's often frustrating, I love the challenge watercolor offers in plein air and honestly, I do learn a lot with every painting, as I'm sure you do too. It's all part of the creative process, don't you think? It would be a huge mistake to think I didn't learn a thing from that experience, which is something I've heard people say before. Well, I'll bet if they really sat down and thought about it, they would find a number of things they DID learn from that experience!

I'm getting a small amount of clay and a new kiln shelf today from Flint Hills, so I really need to get back soon to working with my pottery. Oh, and photos to archive(so what else is new?). 'Til next time, keep on creating and remember, NO FAILURES, just learning experiences...

Monday, June 29, 2009

A quick note to say that I finally was able to adjust the strap on my 'Packer' by Guerilla. It took a good wrestling with it though before I could force it through the adjustment loop but I managed, so thought I'd put in that word since I complained about it when first purchased.

I've been so busy working in my yard the past couple of weeks that I've not spent much time painting. I did however, paint the 2 paintings below en plein air early one morning of the hollow:

Study 1: Sunrise in the Hollow

Study 2: Sunrise in the Hollow

I was pleased with these two paintings for several reasons:
  • I have really been striving to be consciously aware, while painting, of what Joseph Zbukvic refers to as 'visual language', otherwise I get too caught up in 'technicalities' and lose focus of what it is that I'm trying to capture in the first place which is mainly the mood of the scene. I feel I succeeded in capturing the mood of the hollow as I viewed it that morning. And this was accomplished I think, because I was able to capture the atmosphere as I explain below.
  • I was able to paint them without the struggles that I usually have when plein air painting and I think it shows that I enjoyed the process.
  • I was able to make use my new tripod easel without frustration. Just my second time to use it but I'm getting familiar with it.
  • This is HUGE for me: I think I was able to capture the atmosphere of the woods (thus creating the mood) which is so hard for me when working in a woodland setting. I've been struggling with this goal [of atmosphere in] painting a woodland 'landscape' of the hollow for a long time, several years off and on, not just of a single tree, or small group of plants, but a true landscape scene. This can be daunting, because in the deep woods there's not the obvious common backdrops to use as reference for atmospheric perspective. No distant hills, mountains, fields, etc. All I have to work with are layers of the same objects - not too distant foliage and trees with sometimes a touch of sky. So I have to rely on color choice - cool vs. warm, soft and hard edges, texture, and all the other 'tricks' of artistic license to create depth all while trying to be decisive about each brush stroke as I near the end - watercolor doesn't wait. That's what I love about the medium. It forces me to think on the fly, make a judicial move - just do it!
I only had to make one little correction (of course you may think I need more) and that was with the first study. After I got it in the studio and stuck it on the wall as I always do to catch any mistakes, right off the bat I noticed I had slapped a very dark limb smack in the middle of the painting. I pulled it out carefully with a barely dampened brush, dabbing with tissue after each stroke, and replaced it with the more of the 'blue' that was just beneath it to add more of that initial [blue] color placement.

The first painting has a 'softer' look to it that the second. That's because the paper was not as rough as the paper used in the second study. It creates a different mood than the second; however, I like doing plein air paintings on a rougher paper because you can get that 'sparkle' as your brush skims across it, imitating sunlight.

The best thing about these plein air paintings was that I did it from the comfort of my back yard, no worries about copperheads, deer ticks, mosquitoes, or chiggers. It was wonderful! I plan on doing many more this summer from various spots in the yard. Overall, I'm pleased with the results of these paintings mainly because my goals were accomplished, but to each his own. I'm never completely satisfied with my paintings, or any art that I do. I can always find something that could have been executed better. Comments or questions are welcomed. Until next time, happy painting, potting, gardening, or whatever...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Looking over my last post, I can see that I must have been in a really energetic mood at the time! Well, it's been over two weeks since that post and I can at least say that 3 of the 5 goals have been either fully met or at least begun:

  1. Love that the Packer fits all my gear, including the tray that goes with my Sun-Eden tripod along with watercolor paper (quarter sheets), and I use the 'back pack' straps to hold my gatorboard. It has straps underneath to hold my tripod and the 'travel adaptor' (the canvas/waterboard holder) or a fold-up chair or waterever.
  2. What I don't love is that the shoulder strap is poorly designed as well as the flap that folds over the bag. The strap is adjustable but the shoulder 'pad' is not wide enough to slide over the part that adjusts the strap, so what's the use of shortening it if I can't slide the pad? The flap for the bag is connected by two zippers, just another thing (or 2) to break in my opinion, which one of them almost did the first time I tried to zip it closed because it 'snagged', you know like zippers do. It would be better if it had been either Velcro or buckles; then I could tuck my canvas holder, because it's plastic, or the folding chair underneath the top of the flap and secure it without worrying about it getting damaged when sitting the bag down. They really didn't think that through!
  • As for the tripod, I'm not yet sure how satisfied I am. Things like switching around my water container to get it within easy reach, adjusting the 'quick release' for the tripod adapter, etc. will take a few paint outs before I'll know for sure if I like it or not.
  • I have gotten SO many things done in the yard!! Wow, what a difference working the equivalent of an hour a day makes. Of course that will slow down once the summer heats up and it's just too hot to work. And I really should cut my goal down to maybe 5 hrs. a week - that's much more practical and attainable.
  • I have prepared some pots for glazing, so now I need to get them glazed!
  • After spending way too many hours on my website trying out different styles, I've decided not to touch my website for now. It's just way too time consuming and I have too many other things I'd rather be doing!
  • I painted out last week. It was a painting of a small koi pond with a waterfall. Well, I 'learned a lot'. I'll leave it at that.
Not sure what my immediate goals are for now. Of course to paint out. That's a given, whether I reach it or not! As for other goals, we're about to have new flooring installed, so not sure when that will begin nor when it will be completed. I just know we'll be busy moving furniture for now!

Good luck with your endeavors. Until next time, stay positive!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thoughts on Popularity of Plein Air, Updates posted (by others) on Peel Mansion Paint-out, Goals, Sun-Eden Watercolor Tripod

Well, unfortunately I never made it to Phoenix as I was not yet over my illness, but now am better and ready to re-group and get back to work. Was so sorry not to make it to my great-niece's graduation, but was able to talk to her that night and sounds like everyone had a great time. Hope you had a nice Memorial Day weekend. The weather was rainy here. My hubby finally got to grill his steaks yesterday but it started raining on him again just as he was finishing up. Umm, they were delish!

As for an update on the Peel Mansion Paint-out, I've posted a couple of links in the column on the left side of this blog under 'Recent and Upcoming Events in Arkansas' regarding how it went. Looks like it was very successful and I'm so happy as that means it will surely become an annual event. Hopefully, Heart of American Artists' Assoc. (founded by John Lasater and Todd Williams) and Peel Mansion have started the ball rolling as far as getting other organizations interested in sponsoring plein air events.

I don't know if it's just that I'm so aware of everything 'Plein Aire', but am I wrong in feeling lately that in the U.S., and maybe worldwide, Plein Air painting may be experiencing a renaissance similar to what happened with the popularity of gardening over the last 10-20 years? I know personally, I started my fascination with plein air back in the late '70's, but there was no internet to search the subject. Also, I was busy working and mothering at the time so my only connection to the art world was via books. But there weren't many on Plein Air painting like there are today, and certainly not the number of videos currently being made! Anyway, if it's truly going through a 'rebirth' I'm thrilled. I do feel that, as in gardening's comeback, it can be related to one's desire to get back in touch with our earth and with nature, especially in such times as being so disconnected due to technology, with global warming, and from a strictly artistic POV, that our greatest teacher is Mother Nature herself. What's your take on this thought?

I received my new Sun-Eden easel and I can't wait to try it out! The one I purchased was the 'Heavy-duty Plein Air Tripod'. I was concerned about the 'travel adaptor' (the part that holds your canvas/watercolor board) being plastic; not to worry, it seems strong enough to hold up even to pretty windy conditions. I am concerned though about the tripod. It's a bit bulky when folded up and at first I could have sworn it was heavier than my old tripod. But I went back and re-read the specs on both and even weighed each one on my postal scale and sure enough, the Sun-Eden tripod is slightly (every ounce is being counted!) lighter than my old one. I guess, because of it's bulkiness when folded, it visually appears heavier. Anyway, the bulkiness makes it a bit cumbersome so I'll just have to see. The plastic tray that holds one's palette, etc. is very nice too. I'll give an update on it after I use it.

My goals for this week:

  • Do some plein air painting with my new easel!
  • Prepare some pots for glazing; I've ordered some more ^6 'Buff' clay from Flint Hills Clay works.
  • I want to make some changes to my website i.e. colors, etc.
  • I've made a new goal to dedicate the equivalent of at least one hour a DAY in my yard / gardens. It's the only way I'm ever going to get my yard looking half-way decent or the way it should!
  • Although it's very time consuming, and I probably won't get the time to do it (such negativity, I should strike this!), I want to make a new 'winter to spring' video to replace the 'March' one for my blog.
Until my next post, happy painting, gardening, photographing, or whatever!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Peel Mansion Paint-Out

I was so excited about going to the Peel Mansion and Heart of America Artists' Assoc.'s Plein Air Rendevous, but became sick that first morning and had to miss the rest of the event! What are the odds? Bummer. Anyway, it looked like they had a great turn-out for their 1st one. I know there were 40 people pre-registered a few days before the event and people could also register the morning of the 1st day. It was a beautiful thing to see all the artists scattered across the lawn in front of the old house with their easels, going to work on their paintings. There were also other historical landmarks in Bentonville including Compton Gardens participating, so artists were in different areas. This was the first time for me to attend a plein air event so I was very disappointed to have to miss out, but just being there for that short time was very productive for me. I really enjoyed it while I was there and in that very short span of time, it's amazing how much I learned via my mistakes while painting that morning. My favorite quote for years has been "The more you know, the more you know you don't know" (Aristotle). My painting was a disaster, but I learned a LOT from every mistake I made like:

  • Don't for one second on my first attempt at a paint-out think I'm going to finish within the time allotted for myself. Mainly because people are everywhere; coming up to you to introduce themselves, take photos, etc., and being intimidated because painting around 'others' is so new to me, and not accustom to having someone/people looking over my shoulder, I would STOP, visit with them, and wait for them to meander on before swinging back into gear. Lost a lot of time, not to mention focused energy on the task at hand doing this, but closer to the end, I wasn't even looking at the person speaking to me; was so into my painting (and becoming aware of a sunburn) that I kept painting furiously, realizing I had gone over the 2 hours I had allowed myself by almost an hour. I should be used to this as it happened all the time in the studio classroom. But that's just the thing, it was a classroom, everyone knew each other, we were all in the same boat, and were not being viewed by the 'outside'. Now I AM on the outside and this very issue has been another hurdle for me to overcome painting en plein air. But now I've done it, it wasn't so bad, I can't worry what by-standers may say or think about my painting and I'm ready to move on!
  • Yes, I know what you were thinking when I mentioned 'sunburn'. Why did you set up where the sun would hit you? Don't you know to set up in the shade if you don't have an umbrella? And don't you want to take advantage of the cast shadows that would enhance the structure of the focal point? Well, my reason in doing so is because I wanted to paint the 'backlit' side of the house, like Zbukvic suggests, and I found a great view that no one else had chosen (can't imagine why). All the other painters were out on the front lawn. There were only three of us in the back, a guy over in a shaded corner, a very sweet looking older lady with an umbrella along the sidewalk, who looked like she had done this many times before; her painting of a water pump among the flowers was coming along nicely, and me, just outside a shaded area wishing it was closer. Oh yeah, along with a possum that had been captured overnight in a trap. A guy told me they were having 'squirrel problems', but of course they caught a possum instead. Felt sorry for the little guy, wanted to let him go. He looked sleepy, and he was in the nice cool shade of the house...I digress, anyway, I'll know next time that I'm too much of a novice to think I can paint faster than the sun. Actually, just so you don't think I'm a total idiot, several people that came by thought I had chosen a great view, even though it was eventually in the blazing sun. One lady that came by close to the end of my venture, when the sun was beating down on me said "Oh my, you out there in the full sun!" Then after coming over to my side and turning around to see my subject matter implied "I see now why you're here. This is a great view!" This was the view I chose to paint:
The dappled sunlight on the walkway and foreground grass was really nice, and the white of the banister patterns, columns, and porch ceiling was casting some beautiful pale blue shadows. The weather was perfect, nice and cool, until I was in the sun. I was planning to just make the corner of the banister and porch the focal point until the artist came along later and set up her easel. It made for a great painting. Will have to re-do this one for sure, but place the artist a little to the left. She's too dead-center don't you think? Actually, I think she looks best right where she is, think I'll leave her there. I definitely plan on returning to get in practice with my plein air painting.
  • As far as my actual painting went, I over-worked it, crossed the line of no return in watercolor, was getting sick, physically and emotionally, was sunburned and frustrated that I ruined a potentially decent painting (nothing new, I do that a lot), but I learned so much as I painted and have mentally gone over what I need to do differently next time I paint this scene.
And even more importantly, I met some new artists (another thing, I really need to get out more). There was also a group of painters from Ft. Smith there, and most importantly, got some new information on a Plein Air group in the area. That was probably the most productive thing I could have achieved for the whole event. I do wish I had taken some photos of the artists on the lawn, as one day that would have been a significant photo, being the 1st annual Plein Air Rendezous for Peel Mansion. And it would have been a great photo. I had planned on getting photos later, as I thought I would be back the next morning, however, I felt so bad by Fri. morning, went straight to the doctor, then home to bed where I stayed all weekend. Thanks to some strong antibiotics, I'm feeling much better now, and looking forward to more paint-outs in the near future. As soon as I find an update on the Peel Mansion/Mid-American Artist's Assoc. Paint-out with the winners etc., I'll post a link to it. I'll be out-of-pocket for a couple of weeks. I'm supposed to leave next week to Arizona for my great niece's high school graduation. CONGRATS SHANTE, and best wishes to a bright future (see you soon) !!!

Until then, the following is something dedicated to all mothers out there, with a special note to Shante's mother, Felicia, a great Mom indeed. Gertrude Kasebier is one of my favorite Master Artists and the first time I saw this photo, it had a profound affect on me. My youngest daughter had left the nest, and this photo said it all. It also reminded me of my oldest daughter's 1st day of school...

To Felicia, and all Mothers, I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Blessed Art Thou Among Women,
Gertrude Kasebier, c1899

Monday, May 4, 2009

Painting in the Hollow: The Pines, Zbukvic, and Results from the Cone 6 Glaze Fire

I'm later than usual with my posting, but I wanted to wait 'til I finished and photographed my painting of the Pines in the hollow as I had said I would in my last post. Also wanted to give a report on how my glaze firing went, so here it is:

Painted our pine tree logs that I allowed the 'tree guys' to roll down into a small ravine directly behind the house. Silly me, I was running around after the guys felled the pines hauling them to a place in the back yard to save so that I can later do 'something' with them, what just yet I don't know. And with each one I would pass up, it was as if it were saying 'pick me, I don't want to go!' (I'm weird like that). Well, as it turned out, the guys were having a problem with the city (a place has been designated for disposal of trees from the ice storm damage) accepting the pine lumber (so they said). So I was very content to allow the men to leave all the pine with us. I really did not want those beautiful logs hauled away. Pine breaks down quickly and it just seemed right that they stay here. Oh, and the oak trees? Well, we've got enough fire wood for years to come!

I touched up the pines and added some highlights here and there in the studio.

The Pines, wc, 9 1/8" x 12 7/8"
I was so frustrated with it while painting in the woods, but kept reminding myself of what Joseph Zbukvic says, to 'keep going' when painting your subject outdoors and 'never lose faith' because as soon as you do, you'll fail at your attempt. He is so right! I kept painting, and although I wasn't satisfied, I did feel the painting had some potential. After about an hour, I was getting stiff from sitting on the ground, and also felt I may be getting a tick or two (which I later discovered was true) so I lumbered back to to studio, untaped my painting, threw it around here and there trying to decide what to do with it. Toss it to the done that pile, or keep going? The logs were only partially painted, but that was really the only thing left unfinished, aside from adding a little detail to the foreground trees. I just didn't want to give up on this painting. It held a lot of meaning for me. The hollow represented the final resting place for Daddy's pines. They represent 30 years of our life here, the lives of our girls, our pets, and a constant reminder of my father and his love for nature...nope, it was worth trying to save because as I looked at it, I could feel the emotion I had while painting them. It may not be the greatest painting, but it enabled me to work through the emotional and physical process of losing 'the pines', and hopefully viewers can be reminded of similar things that matter to them also.
Well, unfortunately, I was not so satisfied with my glaze fire. None of my cups turned out like I wanted, as the patterns I slipped on them barely show. The firing also went to cone 7 on the middle shelf and probably on the bottom shelf too (didn't use a witness cone on the bottom). However, that only seemed to compromise the brightness of the blue slip on one of my jars, but it may also be the reason for my slip decoration not showing up on the cups. I really think though, that [the slip doesn't show up] because my glaze application was too thick and my slip was too thin.
But I did have a couple of pieces turn out pretty good, such as the blue and white facetted 'safe jar' seen in this picture. The one in the foreground is the one that the blue slip did not come out on. The blue slip used on the inside however, did fine (fired it with the lid on). I may re-fire this piece later, as I've had success with the blue colors working on re-fires. Don't like to re-fire though. Always afraid the piece will break and create a mess in the kiln. Luckily, this has not yet happened to me. If I do decide to refire, I will only take it to about cone 5.

And my 'grass' cups turned out good:

These are some of my pendants. I'm have fun making them. I love making small clay things because of the portability. I can just sit anywhere and work on them. I carry everything I need around in a little shallow cardboard box and put a small amount of clay in a ziplock bag to keep it moist as it dries out quickly and will lose it 'malleable' texture if exposed to the air too long. I use food freezer paper, the waxed side as my surface to work on (sometimes getting a shape started by using the palm of my hand) as it leaves no marks on the clay. I draw out my patterns 1st on newspaper, then trace them using a felt-tip/sharpy pen on plastic tops of margarine and 'Cool Whip' bowls. These become my templates.

One final note for all you die-hard Joseph Zbukvic fans (like me) out there. He FINALLY got an official website, and also his new video, Watercolour Impressions with Joseph Zbukvic, is now available in the US via The Artists' Place. I bought it and very pleased with it. I could watch that guy paint all day. Maybe, just maybe one of these days I'll be able to take one of his workshops.

Well, that's all for now. I'll be posting again next week on a paint-out. Oh, and I've ordered the Sun-Eden watercolor tripod set. Will let you know what I think of it. I just can't keep lugging that 11 lb. french easel around; and so much wasted space, not to mention it's killing me. My shoulders, back, and knees, Oh my! Now I'll have one less excuse for plein air painting, as every time I'd think about all that weight, I would talk myself out of going somewhere to paint. I also plan on posting about my new macro lens (was my Christmas present from Santa) sometime in the near future. Until, then, happy painting, potting, photographing, or whatever makes you happy!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Watercolor, Pastels

With the winding down of winter and the last bit of snow we had recently, I've wanted to re-visit an idea to paint from a photo of some snow-covered echinaceas that I made last winter.

This is the photo I chose to work from. I had painted them once or twice before, but was unhappy with the results.

The first watercolor I did, I was so disgusted with it that after a few days (battling the saying, keep all your paintings, you can sometimes salvage them or at least have them to learn from or assess your progress), I could stand it no longer and covered it up with gesso. I had tried some maskit on the stems and snow and did not like the results, but then I never do. I have to agree with others that it takes practice and using [maskit] is an art in itself. I think my main mistake was trying to stay too close to the composition of the photo and not using my artist's license to create a more interesting composition (one of the pitfalls of painting from photos). A horizontal format, it had more flowers plus too much detail (same as the photo) in the background, resulting in a very busy painting - not at all the mood I was after. I know you're probably thinking 'why didn't you show us the first painting so we could see for ourselves?' Ha! Too late, already painted over it. Besides, I thought I would spare your eyes and my embarrassment.

I sometimes think about things for a very long time before making my next move. If you read my post about 'artistic thinking', you'll understand me when I say that I've had this on the back burner since the day I took the photo. That would be over a year, maybe longer. So, at times I would think that just a triad (is that the word? I forget my art history sometimes) composition of flowers would be best. I have to work through my thinking/creating process, putting the pieces of my ideas together, before getting to the end result. So that's why I first tried the horizontal format which was similar to the photo. Then I can say okay, been there done that, got it out of my mind, now on to the next step.

I knew then that I needed to return to my early thoughts of focusing on only a few flowers to make a more interesting painting. I made a few rough sketches (in my mind as well), before drawing this detailed pencil sketch on tinted paper.

This time, I did away completely with the background, and only used three flowers, the main one in the center that attracted me in the first place because of its interesting stem shape, and placed the ones on either side to balance the composition and lead the eye up to the center flower and back around to the center stem. And since I was only using three flowers, I changed the format from horizontal to vertical. Just for fun, I added some colored pencil to the sketch.

Here's my second attempt, a watercolor on a quarter sheet of Waterford 140 lb. cold press paper (the flip-side of the gessoed 1st painting). For the background, I chose to abstractly use the colors, wet-in-wet, that were actually there to compliment the warmth of the flowers' stem colors. And oh yes, I tried masking fluid again on this painting, and still was not satisfied with the results. I need to go in and soften up some of the edges of the snow and also some of the stem edges, before I chuck this one to the done that pile.

Pastel, 9.5" x 13"

Here's my third redo, using pastels and I'm much happier with the results. Did this on Fabriano Tiziano drawing/pastel paper, a small sheet approx. 9.5"x 13" with a gray ground, which gave the 'cold and quiet' feel I was after.

Using the blue-gray paper also saved on pastels and time. Pastels are so expensive! I absolutely love the medium, and for a long time have wanted to get into them more, but the investment in the sticks, good grief. And then there's the problem of archiving and framing; guess I need to purchase some glassine - suggestions anyone?

Let me know your experiences with your creative process, and your opinions. Let's have an 'art to art' talk!

Tuesday, I painted in the hollow and am itching as I type this from a couple of tick bites received on that outing. I'll let you know how that went on my next post.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Farewell to Old Friends

It's been a busy but also a melancholy week here
at home. The 'tree guys' finally removed all of our beloved pine trees (the ones my father gave me 28 yrs ago, just before he passed away) that were severely damaged from the Feb. ice storm. I've been dreading this day for several years. Funny, but I almost had these trees removed before the Christmas holidays, and backed out. As I hung up the phone with the tree service, telling them NOT to come, that I had changed my mind, I had a sinking feeling and thought, I hope I haven't jinxed us. This will probably be the year we get a bad ice storm. My husband and I continued to halfheartedly joke about that, saying we were certainly 'due' one as it had been several years since the last big ice storm. Well, as it so happened, it couldn't have worked out better, because the storm did just enough damage to make the decision easier without taking out our home. We're so lucky they didn't come crashing down on the house during the night. This week, just feeling the deep, vibrating 'thud' as each gigantic trunk hit the ground was enough to reassure us that we made the right decision to get rid of them before they take us down in the next storm. They would easily have split the house right in two.

You can see in the photo on the right how 'thinned out' the pines were from the ice damage. Of course I think they would have recouped fine, but they were just getting way too tall and were too close to the house, as were several of our oaks (notice in 3rd photo on right, the 2 oaks standing, now stripped of their limbs, trunks shortened, and ready to fall, how close they were to the house) . The old oak tree on the side of the house was the last to go. So sad, as it was a gorgeous tree, but it pounded our roof all night during the ice storm and if that tree had snapped, well, it was right up against our house. It's the one that kept me running all during the night of the storm as each limb that snapped crashed to the roof. We would grab our flashlights and cautiously peek into the bedroom to see if any limbs were protruding through the ceiling. Luckily, they never did. As much as I hate to see all these beautiful trees go, I know we'll rest easier, especially at night when a storm's coming. We lost a total of 15 trees in our yard, 7 of which fell from the weight of the ice, but fortunately, we were able to save many, or at least give them a few more years, by pruning the damaged limbs.

One good ending to all this though - knowing that this day would come, I have been saving seedlings from my Dad's pines and should continue having some for a few seasons, as I've also been collecting the pine cones and I know the yard is still full of seeds. I have been transplanting the seedlings in the hollow (they're not too happy there though-too much competition for sun). I'm trying to find some good sunny spots to plant some along the back yard at the wood's edge - well away from the house! Hopefully, I'll be able to continue my father's imprint on our property (which, regrettably he never got to see) and his love for southern pines.

My goals for tomorrow:

  • Finish mixing up some glaze recipes - had to order some more chemicals before I could finish up.
  • Play around with some new water-based oils I purchased a while back.
  • Maybe make some more clay pendants. I'm having fun with these, but have no idea how they are going to turn out.
  • And I'm STILL archiving photos - been doing this all week!
As I'm posting this, a tornado warning has just been issued in parts of Oklahoma, and probably headed this way. Hey, that's okay, at least we've taken care of the tree issue, now we just have to worry about the house...

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Special Thank You

I'm posting this as a special 'thank you' to Robin Roberts, who was the first brave soul to 'follow' me (see my google 'followers' widget to the right) via the 'Google Follow' widget. I started following Robin's blog recently. She is a great artist and although we are ALL kindred spirits, we artists and lovers of art, I always feel a little extra connection when I find another artist on the web who is a lover of nature, the out-of-doors, and animals, as these are all things that have also influenced me as an artist. On her website, she describes her process, which I personally think is always of importance to other artists, and even non-artist. Visit her site, follow her blog on Google, you'll be glad you did.

I don't know about other bloggers, but for me, getting that first person to 'kickstart' my little google 'followers' widget is a great incentive to keep on keepin' on with my efforts as a blogger. So thanks again, Robin, I really enjoy your art, your blog posts, and website!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Re-designed my Blog, XML Note-Taking Tips101

Well, as you can see, I've been busy the past couple of days re-designing my blog site. The dark background and colors made it seem just to 'doom 'n gloom' so I decided to spruce it up a bit by lightening everything up, especially the background color. I've also wanted a 3-column design since the beginning but just now found a site's tip/instructions that actually worked for me. I use Google's 'Denim' template. If you're wondering where I found the instructions for how to change that template from 2 to 3 column, go to Computer Consultant's blog site. I'm trying to think if there are any tips I need to give you before you try it.

[March 23rd: I'm adding this advise a few days later to this post - did not see the sense in putting a whole new 'addendum' post separate from this one - I forgot to mention the most important thing I discovered to make these instructions work! After you follow the instructions Computer Consultant gives you for your 3-column blog and try to preview your blog, you may get a message from blogger like I did, that says something like 'can't load your template, this 'widget' is not loadable' (can't remember the exact wording). I then went back to view the html template, and where Comp. C. had me put in the info for my 'Profile' widget, I removed that from the html. Then blogger allowed me to view my template, but wait! It did not look 3-column - it just looked the same except my 'body content' was shifted to the left of the screen. Well, here's where you need to go to 'Layout' and there you will see that indeed you DO have a left column 'add a gadget' there. Yes! Now go ahead and add a widget using the left-column's 'add a gadget'. It doesn't matter what you add, it can be anything for now. This will get your left-column started. Then you must add your following gadgets BETWEEN the 'add a gadget' widget and your first widget or else it will 'jump' over to the right-column. After you've added a few widgets using that column's 'add a gadget', you can go back and remove the first widget if you want. You have to use the left-column 'gadget adder' because you'll notice that at first, you're not able to move widgets from the right-column to the left. However, after I added a couple of widgets, I was then able to move them from left to right and vice-versa; however, you'll notice that doing so is a bit tricky for the last widget in both L. and R. columns, because of the html coding, they don't want to stay put if you try to add them to the end of either column, so you have to 'lock' them in place by first putting them 'between' widgets on whichever side you want, and then you can move them up or down anywhere within that column. Hope this tip helps - it's key to making these instructions work! My apologies for failing to mention it the first time I posted this.]

Note: These tips are for those of you who are into customizing your blogsite, in this particular case, a 'google' template. However, the tips I give below can be applied to any xml/html file.

Of course you want to be sure:

  • To first save your current template using the prompt within your google blogger account before making any changes. Go to 'Layout', 'Edit Html', and click on 'Download Full Template'.
  • I printed off Computer Consultant's instructions prior to making any changes. Just makes it more convenient, also nice to have in case I forget (senior moments are comin' faster these days) where I got these instructions.
  • I keep a notebook of my css/xml/html tips and info for my website and blogsite.I jotted down beside each 'change' on this printed off sheet, what I initially had in my css, so that I would know what my original dimensions were in case I see that I need to tweak it a bit before saving. Of course if you don't like the result or it doesn't work, you have your saved template (I hope!) you can just reload that, but this is a habit I started a long time ago, and it comes in handy sometimes for re-adjusting widths, etc., so I continue to do it.

TIPS: You can also make note of what you are doing within your html editor by preceding your note with a bracket (<) followed by an exclamation (!) and two dashes (--) and ending it with 2 dashes (--) and a closing bracket (>). Do not space between the bracket, exclamation, nor the dashes; however, you can space anywhere between these note tags. As long as you do this within the body of your html document, it will not show up on your site. It's only for you're own benefit or to explain to others what you have done. Sort of like 'note taking'. I use this puppy a lot to remind myself of what I did and why. I'm quickly learning with blogging, there are SO many gadgets that require embedding code into the body of my blog, that there is no way on earth I can remember why I put it there (sometimes I can't tell what it is just by reading it) unless I make note of it, so I use this tag to do so.

For making notes in the 'css' part of your html (that's the listing of 'div' elements or 'styling elements' given above the 'body' part of your html document), you can use /* before your note and end it with */ which is great for noting details of what, why, and where that particular Div element will show on your site.

If you want to see how I use these 'note' tags:

Go to my website (really, I'm NOT trying to plug my site, just want to show an example of how I use this tip, yeah right) and do a 'view page source' by placing your mouse on the site; right-click your mouse and choose 'view page source'. If you can't do it that way, go to your 'view' tab at the top of your browser screen, click on it, and choose 'Page Source' from there.

This shows you the html document for that site (BTW, you can do this on virtually ANY site, a great way to learn mark-up language!) You can see where I have used the beginning (< ! --) and ending (-- >) brackets (I'm only spacing between the dashes, exclamation, and brackets here so you can 'see' them) and /*note tags*/ to serve as a reminder of what I did. (you can only see the /*note tags*/ on this line because they are within the 'body' of this page-that's why I had to put the css note tags in parenthesis, so they would be visible to you - hope this isn't too confusing!).

On the html 'view page source' for my website, look near the top, ABOVE the 'body' tag (the /*tag*/ only works ABOVE the body tag of your html file) along the left side of the page, and you'll see where I noted the end of my meta tags with:

/*end of my meta content*/

You would have to go to my 'style sheet' or css document to see all of my css notes, but if you use Firefox (may I count the ways of how much I love Firefox...)Web Developer, you should have that option when you right-click your mouse.

Let me know if you have any questions, and I'll certainly try to answer them. I only do html/xml/css as a hobby. I learned html back in the 90's when I was designated as the 'web person' for my department. Then I had to learn css on my own while creating my website. I enjoy learning css and web development, so this is just '101' stuff mostly that I'll be giving tips on. Hope it helps you if you're into customizing your site(s). Again, let me know if I can help, if you have tips to add to this post, or if I've mis-informed with incorrect advise/tips by leaving a comment. And please let me know if you like the new design of my blog site. Thanks for reading my rambling mind's post today, and have a great one!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are You an 'Artistic' Thinker?

This is a question that I ponder often because I'm intrigued by the subject. I am reminded sometimes, when experiencing something, that I'm processing the information in an 'artistic' way. And that's where I feel there's more to the meaning of the word 'art' than just aesthetics, 'creating', or the various definitions offered for art. However, I realize I'm certainly not the first to think this as I'm sure there are many other artists who share this thought regarding art.

There is a famous quote by Andrew Wyeth, "...I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious",. Joseph Zbukvic says in his book Mastering Atmosphere & Mood in Watercolor, "you start painting the moment you look at the subject, not with the first brushstroke." Do you think art more than you actually do it? I know I do! That's why I was excited to read these quotes, especially Wyeth's. I've come to realize in recent years that not all people think this way, and personally feel it's part of an artist's personality, literally the way an artist processes his/her thoughts.

I think art is an innate makeup of the human species, but for artists, they are just 'wired' differently. They see and translate the world around them with a deep desire to validate (perhaps, at least for me, enhanced by aging/mortality) what they've experienced. They may or may not (as in Wyeth's quote above) actually 'leave a mark' via some form of creative outlet. In other words, I think artists process life experiences differently than non-artists. But I do think we ALL have art inside us, in varying degrees, it's just hasn't been tapped into as deeply by some as by artists, because they have this desire to 'search' for answers or to validate their experiences. This, to me, is what makes art so exciting, and creates such diverse reactions among those that view or experience it. Take my husband for instance, he'll be the first to tell you he has no desire what-so-ever to create art, nor to do anything creative artistically, and he certainly does not 'think' artistically (opposites do attract!) . However, he does appreciate some genre of art, but no, he makes no claims to being an 'artist', or even 'art-minded'.

So, are you an artistic thinker? Let's have an 'Art to Art' talk! Even if you, like my husband, don't 'think' artistically, let's hear your take on the subject! Have you ever thought about how you process the world around you? This inquiring [artistic] mind wants to know!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Too much time on the internet...

and not enough time creating art!!! Time to get back to reality and produce something. After spending the last 2 days on the internet, I feel that I've wasted a lot of valuable time that could have been spent much more productively.

Anyway, I did manage to make some jewelry during the week. Yep, that's right, I'm all about jewelry now, and I don't even wear much jewelry to speak of. But I've been wondering how I could express my love of nature in more 'portable' ways, and pendants, bracelets, and such have been on my mind for a while. I've made about 8 pendants this week, but won't know 'til after firing if I made them too thin. Crazy how my mind wonders! Let me know if you tend to do the same. I think it's just part of the 'creative process' I get hellbent on something and there is no stopping me. Just like the internet, I think I've been to the end and back 3 times already this week, seriously!

Something else I did today, I threw all those liner test tiles in the oven at 200 degrs., brought the heat up to 300 for 30 mins., just like I talked about in my last post, and guess what, they look fine from what I can see. Have to repeat the process 2 more times though. Crossing my fingers!

Crazy weather we're having; our newest member to the family enjoyed eating and playing in his first snow. He comes running when we're getting ice from the fridge to grab any pieces that fall to the floor. Guess he thought snow was the next best thing!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Second Thought...

As an afterthought regarding my last post, I'm thinking one of the main reasons I started this blog was to share with others how I do things as a way for us to help each other work through problems with our art. So I'll tell what I've read so far on how to do the simple, at-home test, for ceramic durability, suggested by other potters.

But 1st(to CMA) a small disclaimer:

The following information is NOT instructions and should not be interpreted as such - I, in no way will be responsible for injury to anyone due to their following of my tips, ideas, steps, or any other information regarding the way that I performed, or will perform tests, or anything else, on my pottery or art. It is the responsibility of the reader/viewer/commenter of this information to use his/her own judgment, and do his/her own research on the testing of ceramics for durability, or performing any other procedure discussed on this site prior to doing his or her own testing.

Safety Tip: I would suggest wearing a long-sleeve shirt, hand mitten potholders, and safety glasses when performing these tests.

So far, I've performed the boiling/plunging test, whereby I:

  1. Placed my liner test tiles in a zip-lock bag, placed them in the freezer for up to 24 hours (it's suggested to freeze for 24 hrs., but I don't think I froze my tiles every time for this long.

  2. Then I carefully emptied them from the bag into a large pan (I used a dutch oven/a large sauce pan with handles on the sides) with just enough boiling water to cover the tiles. Moved them around with a spoon to make sure they were all covered in the water, then removed the pan the heating element on my cook-top (electric oven) and left the tiles alone to cool for a few minutes. I was attempting to simulate, as closely as possible, the action of one pouring a boiling liquid into a cup - once the liquid is in the cup, it would stop boiling and begin cooling.

  3. I removed the tiles, using a slotted spoon, from the water and placed them on a towel to dry. After they were completely cooled, I checked each tile for crazing (small hairline cracks in the glaze which has a 'tiled' pattern to it), under a magnified light that I have in my studio. If your glaze is white like many of mine are, these cracks are sometimes very hard to see with the naked eye. See other ways for checking for craze lines below.

  4. I repeated this freezing/plunging process 2 more times for a total of 3 times, which is suggested, and so far, none of the pieces have crazed. Now through my reading up on this, I understand that crazing can still take place, anywhere from a few days to months later. In other words, there's no guarantees when performing these types of 'home tests'.

Another way I discovered by accident to check for crazing is to dab some of the water from my 'throwing bucket' (stirred a little to kick up the silica from its bottom) onto the surface of a pot or tile. If the piece is crazed, the water will evaporate or seep into the cracks leaving the silica behind in the cracks, forming a pattern which is easy to see with the naked eye. Other potters' suggestions involve using water-soluble pens (use a color that will show up on your piece) to mark the surface which will show the crazed pattern, but I don't like the idea of messing up my test tiles using any kind of ink because I'm sure, even though it's water-soluble, once it's in the cracks, it would be hard to remove, as it is sunken into the clay body, which is exposed via these cracks. Another suggestion is to use a cheap microscope for viewing. Ron Roy suggested at a workshop that Radio Shack had (note, it's been several years since I attended that workshop) one at a reasonable price.

So that's how I did my first test for crazing. I'm sure it would have been better to perform this test using cups instead of tiles, but I just wanted to get an idea of how stable these glazes are before making larger batches of them and also, I didn't have enough cups to test and was anxious to go ahead and start testing.

I do however, plan to use cups for the second test, which involves heating in the oven, then 'quenching' in room temperature water. As you can see, this must be done with caution also, as anything can happen. Talk about thermal shock! What I've read so far (again, I'd suggest that you read up on this yourself, as I could be wrong in my interpretation of this information) involves placing the cup to be tested in the oven, beginning at 250 degrs. F. and 'progressing' up to 300 degrs. F. and staying at that temp. for 30 minutes. Here is where I'm not sure how fast one should raise the temp. From what I've read, it seems it should be done slowly, but how slowly? Let the oven come up to 300 degrs. F. at it's default rate? That would be pretty fast. This inquiring mind wants to know, if you do, please leave a comment, or let me know via e-mail!

Anyway, the cup(s) is heated at 300 degrs. F. for 30 minutes, then removed (I'll wear hand mittens and safety glasses for this test!) from the oven and placed into room temperature water (it's suggested to do this step in the sink for obvious safety reasons).

This is a harsh test and one that should be done with caution, as anything can happen, which I explained in my last post. I plan to try to use my studio sink for this, as it's a deep janitorial-type fiberglass sink. First, I'll place the dutch-oven I used for my test with the tiles in the bottom of this sink, fill it with enough water to cover the cup, and give it plenty of time to reach room temp. before heating the cup (I assume this is important, as too cold (yikes!) or too warm would not give an accurate result).

I've read (NOT from the ASTM site) that the ASTM says that a piece that passes this second test 3 times should be considered stable enough for 'normal' (to some, 'normal' may be what I or others would consider 'abnormal') use. As I mentioned in my last post, I never could find on ASTM's site where they explain this test and how to do it. It looked to me like they are wanting to charge a fee for their information, but maybe I was not doing a good enough search for the ASTM C 554-93 test. Now I have read enough to know that they are NOT talking about using these pots for 'flame ware' or on the cook-top. This is the industry-level stuff you see in department stores and even most of those ceramics are not made nor intended for cook-top or even oven use. I'm also, not particularly interested in making 'ovenproof' pots, as I understand one should use a stoneware clay which is specifically formulated for ovenware use. But I guess this second test would, if my pot passed the tests, make those pieces 'ovenproof' wouldn't it? I'm just not into making casseroles, etc. at this time, but who knows, I could certainly change course at any time! I'm just mainly interested in my functional ware being microwaveable (yet another test to be performed) and have a good 'clay/glaze fit', hence the thermal shock tests. Later...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Testing, Throwing, Painting

I've spent the past few days throwing a few cups in order to test my liner glazes. If you're interested in 'how' to test your funtional ware for stability, I would suggest going over to Clayart's forum or for the detailed how-to's. I have completed the 'freezing/plunging in boiling water' method and so-far-so-good - no crazing!

A word of caution - Be careful when doing any type of 'shock' testing on your ware. Any number of things can happen i.e. popping, shivering (when sharp slivers of glazes literally fall off the clay-body), exploding, or whatever.

Because I consider myself a novice in ceramics, and most certainly a novice in the science of glazing, I don't think I should go into 'details' of how I tested. I would not want, in any way, to be responsible for someone's misinterpretation of my testing procedure (yeah, that's right, I'm chicken - Wuh Oh, this is sounding like the subject of my last post!). Instead, I would encourage anyone interested in the subject to go to the above sites. You can get enough info from the forum on how to test. And if you need more info, you can always join their listserve and ask for help. Ron Roy is a regular contributor to Clayart's listserve and I see John H.'s posts on there often also. A lot of times potters will specifically ask for Ron or John's help on a technical problem they're having. These 2 guys, as well as the entire listserve community are a sea of information. Have to admit, I quit subscribing to the listserve a few years ago, because I didn't like getting so many e-mails from them, even if only weekly. Once I got the e-mail I felt obligated, or just too curious, to run through it to see if there was anything I may be interested in - one more thing (like the WWW) to get side-tracked by. For me, it is much more convenient to go there for any particular subject I'm interested in. Saves time and uneccessary e-mails/reading. I go to that site for anything and everything concerning a problem/question I may have regarding ceramics.

Also, the potters there mention how the American Society for Testing and Materials ASTM (ASTM C 554-93) suggests testing for thermal shock, which will be my next step. I could not find on their site exactly where they explain the procedure on how to perform this test, but was able to pick up enough info in my Mastering Cone 6 book AND at to do the test; but I'll perform that test using cups, not test tiles. It involves heating the ware in the oven to a certain degree, then quenching in room temp. water, which is a more rigorous test than the first (again, be sure you research how to do this test before actually doing it and proceed with caution!).

And alas, on painting, just playing around with a mini watercolor (4.5" x 5") of a fallen oak leaf. I really want to get back to painting. Gotta make the time...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Raisingmaine-shy about blogging

I recently came across this interesting post regarding a blogger's concerns about becoming an overly cautious writer on her site(click on her link to read entire story):

I am becoming a shy blogger. Words that used to flow freely from my head onto paper and off to you are now being edited to destruction and my final thoughts just before I post are, ”Yeah So?” thus I post nothing.

It reminds me of when I was in 7th grade and my family moved from the suburbs of Boston to our summer home on Cape Cod.

I wrote a great blog about my niece’s wedding. How I danced so much my thighs still hurt, how very very blessed I am to have nine brothers and sisters and mostly that my children chose to go with me. My overly cautious editing killed it.
I think I need a trip to the woods Raye. I am not sure this venue is the place for my boldness or the place to show slivers of myself, but I struggle writing in any other way.

i don't even blog, and STILL i edit and carefully choose every single word that i say on this site. i have admitted that there are things i won't talk about because i'm never sure who is reading [this was a comment in response to her post/rjd].

I enjoyed reading her thoughts on becoming shy about blogging and over-editing her posts. I could really identify with it. Being new to blogging, I tend to hold back on revealing too much of myself, although for artists, that comes with the territory. Expression requires 'exposure' to some degree. It's the act of exposing via one's posts to the entire world that can be intimidating, at least for me. I'm curious to know how you feel about this. She seemed concerned about remaining authentic to her readers if she holds back too much. But how much is too much? Are you new to blogging and find yourself continuously re-editing your posts? If your a seasoned veteran, do you still do the same, or do you even think about it? Let me know what you think! I hope this clipmark post works this time. I originally had a much better post and lost it. See, there I go, having to re-write and edit again!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Now Where was I...

Oh yeah, when last posting, I was going down into the hollow to take some pics and assess the damage from the ice storm. Actually, it wasn't as bad as I first thought, given all the damage to people's yards and our streets. This is a pic of some trees on top of the slope that uprooted.
Surprisingly, many of the oaks that completely uprooted were fairly young trees, maybe because of their limited spread of roots. Some of the oldest trees took the storm much better. This image shows what a limited root system the young trees had compared to what a much older tree would have.

Many trees just split multiple times right down the middle of their trunks. This was especially true in town. Lawns look like they're landscaped with bouquets of 'toothpicks'.

Scenes of the bottom of the hollow:

Okay, enough pics of trees already! As I'm posting this, my husband is outside with the chainsaw cleaning up the mess and I need to go help. Back in a bit...

Cleaned up in the yard all day, now it's time to get back to art! I did accomplish one major goal over the past two weeks and that was getting my Etsy Shop set up. This is truly a milestone for me in goal-setting. Although I only have a few things listed so far, I feel that I can get things going now that I'm finally set up to sell on-line. Tomorrow I'll start testing my liner glaze tiles for durability. Will let you know how that goes.