Category Archives: Creative Process

At A Crossroads…

At  a crossroads…to be at a point where two or more roads meet. a point of decision or a critical juncture.  And consider…Overlap, convergence, intersection…

I have found myself in school again after many years.  It is a privilege and a pleasure. Now my identity as an artist is undergoing deep change.  And my silk work is as well.  I truly don’t know where this road will lead…

I believe there is meaning in the work itself.  So- I am continuing to practice.  Here is a beginning in a series of daily meditations on silk.    Meditation on silk

At Play

sketches on my workbenchI’m playing- experimenting with collage, drawing,  and dyeing on silk chiffon.  It’s GREAT… though I don’t know where this is leading me…Stitching  as a drawing line

paper and fiber sketches

fiber sketches

Winter Tree Series- Can salt resolve a problem?

I’ve identified a  problem with my Winter Tree series. I need to keep the backgrounds simple, but I don’t like them as flat as they are.  So, let me try to add texture, while keeping it simple.  Now, I am remembering a resist technique done with salt on silk… If I can reproduce it, that might do the trick.  Here’s one of the paintings, with a too flat background. Silk Dye over Drawing

So the technique I remember involves dipping the silk into a bath of water and LOTS of salt.  Next dry it, press it, and use a mist of dye to saturate the fabric.  The effect of the salt crystals is that it resists the dye, keeps it from flowing, and preserves tiny white or un-dyed spots wherever the salt crystals are, giving a pointillist effect.

The salt to water ratio I used was roughly 8 cups of water to 3/4 lbs of plain table salt.  I boiled the water on the stovetop, dissolved the salt as much as possible, and removed the pan from the heat.   I dropped in three of my winter tree painting series (they are small paintings).  I let the salt water infuse the silk for 20 minutes or so, and then removed the paintings to the sink and let them cool.  Oh!  I burned myself at this stage! They were so hot!  Next time I’ll make sure to use a wooden spoon to remove them…Drawing Stencil at the Window

Don’t rinse them!  When they are cool, gently squeeze out the excess and hang the silk to dry.  The next day they were dry- and I could see the salt crystals evenly distributed, encrusting the silk.  I pressed the silk with a warm iron, to get a nice drawing surface.  Ready to make a stencil

I taped the paintings to the window- so I could trace a stencil using recycled paper.  I traced the trees, then cut the stencils for each of the three paintings.

After cutting the stencil, I stretched the painting back on the frame, and placed the stencil on top.  Then I sprayed the painting with dye in a mist bottle,  to get some background color.  Cut Paper Stencil

Finally I ended up with a softer background for each of the paintings.   Now I will need to steam set it, and only then rinse out the salt.  A vinegar rinse  after that should make them soft and luminous again.  I’m not quite at that stage- the last painting is still drying on the frame…

After Spray Dyeing using Stencil

“Erasing” with Alcohol

I am in the midst of a series of paintings I call my “Winter Tree Series.”  On this particular drawing, I made a big blotch with some dark  green dye, right where I did NOT want it.  Before the dye dried, I attacked it with some rubbing alcohol.  Erasing dye spot with alcohol

The alcohol loosened the dye spot, and dispersed it.  The dye moved to the edges of the alcohol spot, mostly, though it did lightly dye the whole area.   In order to gain a lightening of the  distracting  dye blotch, I did have to sacrifice control over this portion of the painting.

Drying spot with lightened dye blotch

The area with the alcohol is drying- it will be a darker portion than the rest of the painting in progress.  I will probably choose to paint the sky area a medium grey blue now!  Still, the unwanted dye blotch is gone.  Victory!

New Favorite, Almost Didn’t Make It

Ever had a painting you started, and somewhere along the way something goes wrong?  What about getting it right again?  Saving a painting seems rare enough that I’m ready to celebrate.

Applying Color after Magic Sizing

Here it is, stage one.  I applied Magic Sizing, let it dry, and then blocked out my dominant shape.  Notice… after this moment, there are no more photographs of the painting in stages.  Yes, it went south right after this.

I added some bold green in diagonals, and a soft grey background.  The idea was to capture the shapes of the spring daffodils I had seen, in a graphic simple way.  Well, graphic and simple I got.  But the colors fought, the shapes had no rhythm, and try as I might, I couldn’t blend anything together.

I tried the usual tricks.  The muted colors floating over  a too-flat area.  The texture added in small doses.  Then in desperately large doses.  And my emergency re-boot… flipping it to use the opposite side hoping the composition will be more dynamic reading the opposite way (the benefits of dye on fabric- it goes all the way through…).  Didn’t work.  Reader, I HATED it.

It sat on a shelf for almost a year.  I got stubborn and started reworking it again, without a great deal of hope.  Actually, with no hope.  Just stubbornness.  But for some reason, it came to life again.

Daffodils in Moonlight



Working in a Series

What is more enjoyable than being outdoors on a beautiful day sketchbook in hand?  Sketching in my garden last summer proved to be very motivating.  I enjoyed the process, and felt that some of the work I did had enough creative energy to fuel a number of paintings.  Here’s the sketch that fueled my creative path this fall…Lily Sketch

Here are some of the paintings produced this fall, inspired my my sketch…

Yellow Lillies

I found working in a series a challenge, and I did love it.  The down side seemed to be that some paintings lost spontaneity.  Honestly, I would say that is the case with the one above!

Lillies Bursting

This one turned out better, I think!

The up side seemed to be the link I felt between my drawing skill and what is showing up in my finished paintings is getting stronger.  I recognize my joy in linear play, and as I became more familiar with the shapes I had created, I strengthened them a bit as I went along.

Lillies in the Rain

In this one, I tried to retain the sketch feeling…Sketch Garden View

Green Garden Lillies I never felt like I had the “final say” with any of these paintings, or captured quite what I had imagined.  Still, one summer sketch occupied most of my creative output this fall.   I still feel there is  lot of learning to do from these paintings before I put this series totally behind me.  I’d love to hear from others working in a series- the pittfalls, the upsides, and all.

Inspired to Risk, A Textile Story

Do you ever have a project that starts with great creative force and then for some reason you stall out?  I certainly have.  This particular project has been quite a journey for me, one of the biggest creative challenges I can ever remember.

Silk quilt in beginning stages

Inspired by Sherri Lynn Wood’s remarkable textile work (specifically her Mod Mood Improvisational Quilts), I embarked on my own improvisational quilt.  Without any money to spend on a new project, and with many many scraps of hand painted silk at my disposal, I gave myself the challenge of creating if from throwoff pieces I already had.

I should have known that to follow Wood down the brave and thoughtful path she takes with her artwork, more thinking, feeling, and understanding world be demanded of my creative process that I have ever delivered before.

After much work, I reached a point with my quilt where I simple could not proceed.  It asked for something from me- but what?

Instead of the warm creative wholeness I would normally feel as I worked on a project, I began to dwell on troubling thoughts, dark emotions, and the persistent question “WHY?”

I put it aside for quilt a while, puzzled and a bit troubled.  Inspiration arrived through Denise Burg ‘s textile work, as I had described in my last post.   Her use of color inspired and moved me in an immediate emotional way.

Anyway- I realized that my quilt needed black- against the bright and joyful colors.  Not just as a cold and formal technical solution.  But as an emotional necessity.  The deeper darker questions that have come up in a creative pursuit- had nowhere to go in this quilt.  Now- they do.

Well, this is not the end of the journey.  Only a step along the way.  Technical issues abound with my quilt!   But I feel that I have been true to the creative process- even as I let go of the probability of a beautiful or worthy conclusion.  Many feelings have come up following this creative path.  I think the worst fear is that of looking foolish.  Or is there another fear underneath?!  This process has been incredible demanding.

In a timely coincidence, Sherri Lynn Wood posted some writings on her blog to exactly this point, even as I have been struggling to understand this process in my version of her Mod Mood quilt.

Thank you, Sherri!

Inspiration from Textile Artists at Asheville Art Museum

Thank you, Asheville Art  Museum, for providing such a thought provoking exhibit.  Art/Sewn, an exhibit featuring textile arts ranging from art quilts to sculpture, has given me food for thought and creativity. I have been able to view it several times and am very grateful for the  opportunity.

One of the creative ideas haunting me lately is the pursuit of meaning behind creative works.  The question  “WHY” haunts me lately,  as I examine my creative life.  Honestly I have not always asked this or any question of my creative life, content to simply enjoy it.  Not so now, though.  A certain restlessness seems to be stirring in me, my work…

The same question seems to have been asked by the artists in this show.   Or at least I felt so.  I suppose that the unconventional use of traditional materials, and the willingness to follow a creative path to something original and strange, is a material sign of  an artist  challenging traditional forms and meaning.  That is not new, of course.  But it has resonance for me.
One artist in particular inspired me with her work.  Denise Burg’s quilt “Machination” hung close to the entrance, commanding my attention.  The quilt depicts an emotional scene of fuel being taken form a mountaintop, despoiling the environment in this local area.  Of course I connected to her emotions on this subject.  Her techniques and use of color spoke to me beyond just this subject.

In a field of vibrant bright colors, deep black anchors the composition and gives it weight.  Beyond the technical demands of composition, though, the black has a mystery.  It alone contains a place for the darker and sadder questions I have been asking- I understood the power of her combination of vibrant colors and black when I felt that resonance.

Denise Burg’s quilt may been seen on her website  Her site had a wealth of inspiration for me; her work speaks to me very strongly.  All of the textile works in her Images category moved me; the quilt I saw in Art/Sewn is the last one in her gallery.

Her work has given me much food for thought, and spurred me on with a struggling project.