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Steve Lets Out His Inner Artist

T shirt 3

This is my husband Steve.
He is a right-brained mechanical engineer and he is very, very smart.  He knows lots of math and science things, but he also knows history and the arts.  He can name any rock guitarist in 6 measures.   He doesn’t think he has any artistic talent and, about this, he is dead wrong.

Steve's sketchbook

This is one of his sketchbooks.  Yes, it is a piece of shim with equations written in Sharpie.  He has lots of ideas–but that’s another story.  When I saw some of his designs, I  said YOU SHOULD DO SOME T-SHIRTS.  Ands he did.
Golden ratio

Recognize this formula?  Me, neither.  It is the Golden Ratio, or Mean, or Spiral.  It defines the perfect composition for an artwork.  Ask Leonardo.  It says a lot about Steve that this would be his first piece.  And that he would not label it and make it easy for the rest of us.

Here are some more of his early ones:
Avogadro's (Avocado') Number
Avogadro’s number. As an avocado. Pun. They get better.


Log of natural e
This defines the log of the natural e. Well, both daughters recognized it and it was a gift for Erice–E, get it? The white paint was not satisfactory. Already he is looking to improve his materials.

Kekule-benzine ring


This is his shirt from the first picture. Kekule discovered the Benzine ring. Turns out he was having a hard time figuring out how to visually represent it until he had a dream about a snake swallowing his tail. Hmmmmm.

Planck's constant
Another gift for Erica. Planck’s constant. So he drew a plank. Erica fell down laughing.

These were my Christmas presents.

Dali's iPhone


I love art that makes me stop and then maybe laugh. Salvadore Dali’s melting clocks fits
the bill in spite of its deeper meaning. Only for me I got a melting iPhone.

Chrysler Building
My favorite building in the world is the Chrysler building in New York City. Lots of Art Deco and gargoyles. Beautiful. He cut the stencil out of freezer paper. Lots of little pieces. I love it.

He, too, has been experimenting with art supplies.  He started with fabric paint from the craft store.  For Christmas I gave him Shiva Paintstiks.  He is having a great time.

Here are the new ones:

Sagitarius A (black hole)
This is the black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. I love the effect on the black sweatshirt.

Leo Szilard
This is Leo Szilard, the guy that discovered nuclear chain reactions.

The Shiva Paintstiks leave the fabric unchanged. No stiffness. And they can be mixed like oil paints. We both like them.

I’m so proud.

Grey Matters–Tonal Paper

One of the things I most like to do in my Art Adventures is to experiment. I read an article recommending tonal papers for watercolor, grey or tan papers, or even colored papers. I said “H-m-m-m-m-m-m-m.”

Then I bought a pad of Strathmore papers which had white, light grey, grey, dark grey, and black paper. Clearly I could now discover how the color of the paper affected the finished work.

I drew a funky bird sitting in a nest. Then I colored the back of that drawing with pencil and transferred the drawing to the white, lt. grey, and grey paper. Pencil won’t show up on my dark grey and black paper. That was my first problem to solve. Aha! I finally have found out what the white charcoal pencil is for. I had to trace a new copy of my test drawing and cover the back of it with white charcoal and transfer it to the darker papers.

Finally, I traced over the drawings with pen (1-3) and a Sakura white glaze pen (4-5). Now I could paint.1
I began the process of painting the birds using my Derwent Inktense artbars. They are like watercolors except the pigment is ink. They are brighter and I’m all about that. First I painted the blue bodies (1000-ultramarine) and the orange dots (300). First lesson–Ultramarine doesn’t show well on darker papers. I overpainted the two darkest with a lighter shade (900) and this was better.  Immediately I noticed that the ultramarine did not show well on the darkest papers.

I overpainted the two darkest with a lighter shade (900) and this was better.



Step 2: Painted the breast and head of each with a medium green (1300). The black paper got two coats.  Then I painted the beaks yellow—oops—-


I next spilled my water over the two darkest colors. I was testing the waterproofness of the dried paint. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.



Step 4: Using a dark brown (2000) I painted the inner nest and some “twiggy” lines on the outer nest.

Step 5: I painted the outer nest with a three lighter colors: 1900-a chocolate, 1800-burnt sienna, and 1700-a mustard gold. As I added these three layers, it became harder and harder to get the paper to accept the color. Perhaps the paper had absorbed all the wet media it could. I really don’t know. I rechecked the tablet notes and saw the paper was designed for “dry” media. Such statements never stop me from trying. You never know . . .
I did note that the resulting nests were painted with different amounts of dark and light colors.


The final details were added with Prismacolor pencils which are waxy. They are more intense that my regular pencils and are easy to use. I added shading and some highlights with some pens. Finally I was satisfied I had done all I could do.

Ideas to take forward–
1. Lighter areas\colors have more impact on darker backgrounds.
2. Shading can be deeper tones (values), greys, or complimentary colors.
3. Dark paper does not always indicate gloom and doom.
4. Unexpected benefit—-By using my favorite colors, this project helps me see the effects of the value of the background and can be a reference for the future.
5—12. These will dawn on me later when I am working on something else.

Hope you learned something or got an idea for an experiment of your own.

More later–

Embellishments for fabrics

Favorite t-shirt with food stain covered.

Favorite t-shirt with food stain covered.

Those of you who know me are aware that I cannot eat without staining my clothes.  This is why I always take a busy scarf to restaurants.  So much more attractive than a bib.  Some years ago, in a moment of genius, I combined some of my bits of freeform knit and crochet with my stained T-shirts.

This new challenge to alter Erica’s jacket (here) has sent me a different way.  Paint and thread, but embroidery.  Since I know little about painting cloth, I experimented.  (Not knowing what I am doing has never inconvenienced me in any way.)

Acrylic paint with stencils on muslin and flannel

Acrylic paint with stencils on muslin and flannel

Painted Cloth2

Acrylic paint with stencils and stamps on cotton gauze and a medium weight cotton.

Painted Cloth3

Acrylics with stamps and other stencils and some embroidery on a linen/cotton blend.

Painted Cloth4

My favorite after I change the pink thread on the right–A light weight cotton, with paint smudged on and actually used to wipe up a spill. The birdcage is stamped using acrylic paint.

These samples are made without a textile medium to change the paint from regular paint to fabric paint.  Fabric paint has additives that increase its ability to be soft and flexible even after washing and drying.  Tulip makes a good product available at Michael’s.  I haven’t played with mixing my own colors using that paint.  Crayola makes an awesome fabric marker and they are cheap.  Still I have the color problem.

Yes, I have dyes–lots of them, but they involve measuring and not breathing powder and it is sort of like cooking.  I don’t do that.

I even have a bottle of Golden’s textile medium (GAC-900, I think), but in my excitement I forgot all about it.

I kept the paints sheer  and thin except for a few stamps.  This makes if very easy to handsew on it.  The handsewing was important to me because I wanted this to be a portable project.  I have avoided beads and plastic buttons only because I don’t think they fit with my “vision.”

Next time, I will also drag out and paint bits of shiny cloth and some upholstery things buried somewhere in the attic.  I have already washed some dark pieces to try, but who knows when.

My next decision is whether or not to just deconstruct the whole jacket so I don’t have to wrestle so much as I try to add pieces.  If I do that, I can also trace the pieces and make some other jackets.  Yeah, right.  Too many ideas, too little time.

If you have any advice, please don’t hesitate.

More later–


My new deck

foreman logo

Call Today for a Free Quote!                                                                                                        http://www.foremanspainting.com/

foremanspaint@windstream.net 704-844-0717

Be sure to ask for Derek, a master creative carpenter.

If you don’t know about my journey through H#LL to a new deck, check out this and this.

Thanks to Janis (See blog)  and the guys from Foreman’s, I am going to have a nice deck.  I am now able to sit outside in a rainstorm and listen to water hit the metal arbor roof. I don’t have mosquito problems because the ceiling fan blows them–and the heat–away.  There are new windows that actually fit the wall openings and the den is again filled with light.  The dogs have a nice exit that doesn’t include the human side of the deck.  Nothing leaks and nothing will rot.  In fact, some rotten wood has been replaced.  I only need some paint on the windows and wall and it is finished.

Here’s the story.

First we had to remove the abomination created by the first contractor and assess the damage he did.  That wasn’t cheap.

Flashing on original exterior, not on tyvek. Increases prep work.

Flashing on original exterior, not on tyvek. Increases prep work.

Cedar shakes removed carefully, one at a time, then sorted, wrapped, and stored.  Huge amount of nail holes to be filled.

Cedar shakes removed carefully, one at a time, then sorted, wrapped, and stored. Huge amount of nail holes to be filled.

Arbor rebuild deconstructed.  Must start from scratch.

Arbor rebuild deconstructed. Must start from scratch.

Leaky windows have to stay until new ones come in.  Carpenters are stunned at the amount of shimming and the leaks.  Just wait til them remove the exterior boards!

So far, the costs incurred were repair of damage from original construction.  Now to rebuild.

Foreman’s showed up with tools and materials.  A welcome change.

Three trucks like this arrived the first day with tools and materials.  Professional!

Three truck like this arrived the first day with tools and materials. Professional!

The rebuild of the arbor roof.

The rebuild of the arbor roof.

The two guys that built this and the palette were perfectionists.  They measured many times and then cut and then assessed, yet they were pretty fast.  They were also very polite.

The Palette BF designed for me to display my work.

The Palette BF designed for me to display my work.


A short rain chain to replace downspout.

A short rain chain to replace downspout.



A 12 foot rain chain of real copper.  Love it.

A 12 foot rain chain of real copper. Love it.

Finished. Didn’t like my first fan choice. Replaced it later.

And here it is stained.



The palette with prayer flags

The palette with prayer flags

The corner where you can really see the color.

The corner where you can really see the color.

The arbor where all kinds of things will go on under the fan.

The arbor where all kinds of things will go on under the fan.

Just need to repair the damage to the back wall and paint it and the new windows.

Oh, and find something that will allow two dogs and one adult to sit comfortably.

More later–


Meanwhile . . . Some finishing and learning.

Prayer flags hung

Finally hung some of the Prayer flags on the deck.

Fearless women

Layered paint and some collage. Like the white lettering outlined with black.


Glazed Teacup

Bought Chris Cozen’s video workshop on glazing with acrylics and tried it on this background. Found teacup design on Pinterest and -sorry-can’t find credit. I drew this and may make a stencil of it.

Dumb Luck

Collage of original drawings of mine. I just love the look on this bird’s face. It just happened.


Grand Challenge 2: Finding a Palette

First choices mostly new purchases

Now that I love the color of Erica’s jacket, I need to plan the fabric and do-dahs for embellishing it.

No problem. I bought some nice pieces in Athens and I own batik in many colorways. The piece at about 1:00 in this pic has great colors and Erica loved it. But it is shiny, silky. This is an unstructured linen jacket and the shiny, silky stuff I bought just don’t fit the rustic texture of the linen. The leftover turquoise gauze is nice, and she has fallen in love with turquoise. Ribbon and buttons are okay, but. . . None of the solid color batiks excite me, but the block printed batik is awesome. Turquoise yarn could be couched in some kind of pattern. Just need to play.

Best option so far--not good.

Best option so far–not good.

Cut—Fold—Pin. Try it forty ways. Looking for vertical effect and asymmetry. Just looks dumb. Too matchy-matchy.

some knit and crochet

some knit and crochet

I need to temper my wild side with Erica’s more traditional taste. (Think English country garden and dainty calico prints.) If it is too out there, she won’t feel comfortable wearing it.

BUT—it must be colorful. She looks so good with clear, intense color near her face.

Just the kind of problem I like. But this is not the right palette. Something is missing.

Off to the attic and closets.

Everything in the house that is possible--and some that isn't.

Everything in the house that is possible–and some that isn’t.

Threads, yarns, beads, buttons, ribbons and fabrics. Most of this pile has been pinned on or arranged in some way. Arr-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-gh. My design process is always so slow.

Nothing works. Time to walk away and work on another project for a while. Decided to work on the batik skirt I am adding to a knit vest.

lightning bolt


     SHAZAM!   Green!


 The skirt batik and a bit of turquoise cotton. I kinda like.
The skirt batik and a bit of turquoise cotton. I kinda like.
A different strip of the batik—love the mottled black stripe—and a touch of the first batik. Almost there.
A different strip of the batik—love the mottled black stripe—and a touch of the first batik. Almost there.
Add the block print batik from the first try and I am in love. This is the palette.
Add the block print batik from the first try and I am in love. This is the palette.

Now to decide on reshaping the jacket. I think I can make it hang better, and I know I don’t like the neckline. Also need to consider what she can wear with it.

More later–







The Grand Challenge

Spent time in Georgia last week with my lovely older daughter. She is starting a new phase in her life and I wanted to be there to cheerlead. We had a great time. The first night we, at my insistence, attacked her closet.

Erica greeted me that day wearing a really nice maxi skirt. She bought it sometime before 1994. The girl takes good care of her stuff—and hasn’t changed sizes. I can change sizes in a week, so this impresses me.

During the process, Libby of likemymamasays came by to check in and stayed to play. See this  blogpost for her review of the evening. She was blown away by the 1994 skirt.

I made piles.

  1. You look phenomenal in this.
  2. This died years ago.
  3. Brown! You can’t wear brown.
  4. To be fixed.
  5. Mom hates this but I’m keeping it anyway.
  6. A bit snug, but will fit soon.
  7. Just plain ugly.
  8. Give to someone else.

I’m sorry I didn’t photograph the closet before we started. It was two rows of a double closet jam packed. No one really knew what was in there.

When we finished, Erica could see what she really had that she wears. I made two rules.

  1. She can only buy skirts that flip and flounce because these make her happy.
  2. No more blouses. Too many fit issues and they are too stiff. Drape is everything.

Well, fit is really everything, but that is another blog.

To make a long story short—too late, I know—-Erica's original jacket

We found an unstructured linen jacket that is never worn. Mama doesn’t ever throw away linen—too great a fabric. It had two major problems: the shoulders drooped down the upper arms and it was a dull plum color. (We had a discussion about color theory and that plum is not purple and has a brown tone to it. At least this one did.)

Then Libby piped up with The Challenge. (I love Libby’s creative mind.) She challenged me to take the jacket and make it a statement piece for Erica. Embellish it and make it unique. I accepted readily. Then I gulped. My taste and Erica’s are so different. We talked and looked at pictures. I shopped and bought fabrics and trims to brighten the piece and bring light and color near her face.

My first thought was turquoise, a color she has become obsessed with since moving into her new home. A color I also love. I bought perle cotton threads and practiced some new stitches. I considered fabric paints. A major consideration is that it should be wearable with different colors, so that problem negated some ideas.

When I tried things, nothing worked. Nothing brightened it. It just refused to look like a happy jacket.

The wonky shoulder seam that I will handstitch later.

The wonky shoulder seam that I will handstitch later.

Fit is my passion so I attacked the shoulder. I didn’t really want to take it apart, and I don’t have her body her with which to work, so I abandoned proper techniques and just went with changing the armhole with the sleeve still attached. I basted the heck out of it and sewed the seam. (I wish it had been as easy as that sounds.) I did not trim and finish the seam. I’ll do that after I see that it fits. I felt pretty clever. A nice treat for me.

Wonky shoulder seam I will hand stitch later.

Wonky shoulder seam I will hand stitch later.

Back to the color problem.

After dyeing--

After dyeing–

I bought some Rit. Purple Rit. A synthrapol bath and Steve’s top loader in the basement (another blog–) and success.

Thread dyed purpleI even dyed some embroidery thread with it.

Now this is a palette I can work with. I may be on a roll.

I’ll keep you posted as it goes along. Feel free to weigh in with opinions. I want this to be special.

More later–

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