Try, Try Again

For the past month I’ve been working on the three small pieces I dyed in September.

Mug

Sidekick     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

It was relatively smooth-going on the first two, but the third has proven to be a real challenge. I mistakenly thought that working smaller would be quicker and easier (the image area of each is around 3.5″ x 4″). Yet it didn’t exactly work out that way. This has been one of those instances when I have been grateful for the ease with which stitches can be undone.

Scissors

Yin Yang     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Of the dozen pieces in this on-going series, this latest one has definitely been the trickiest, with many false starts. The saucer was killing me until I finally decided to just dive in and keep stitching to see what would happen.

Stage 1

In Process     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Although there are technical elements of the earlier iterations that I like a lot and will likely pursue in the future, that darn spoon needed to be grounded.

Stage 2

In Process     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

The experience is best equated to matching up the threads of a screw-on lid — while sometimes the top seems to be closed, you know it’s not quite right.

Saucer & Spoon

Prone to Wait     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

There’s nothing to be done but undo and retry, sometimes several times. Keeping in mind Adrianna Huffington’s quote: “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success”, it’s a sweet feeling once everything is settled properly into the grooves at last.

Saucer & Spoon Detial

Prone to Wait, detail     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

On a Different Note________________________________________________________________________________________

Decoding the Creative Genius of Leonardo da Vinci: This week Tom Ashbrook of NPR’s On Point interviewed  biographer Walter Isaacson about his latest book ‘Leonardo Da VInci’. Fascinating! I’m adding it to my “to-be-read” list.

The Universal Language

“There are two kinds of borders: borders in the minds and physical borders. And often it is art and artists who cross these borders and exchange, way more easily than most.”                                                                                                                                                              Kiff Slemmens

Have you watched Borders and Neighbors, the two latest episodes of Craft in America? If not, you have a treat in store for you. Highlighting the ongoing cultural exchange between the US and Mexico, both episodes feature master artists whose work addresses contemporary issues while continuing to honor and embed layers of tradition within their processes.

Quinn

Quinn     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                                            My daughter recently gave me a set of .003 (.15mm) Micron pens. I love the quality of the extra, extra fine lines they make, especially when drawing my snoozing pal!

It cannot be coincidence that these shows have surfaced this fall.
And while I can’t say for sure they were created in response to the divisive rhetoric that has become so prevalent in our country, their message offers hope that the arts are, and will remain, a universally inspirational and reassuring means toward building and maintaining connections between people and nations.

Snooze

Snooze     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I hope you find the programs to be as rich as I did, and if you are lucky enough to be in Los Angeles between November 16, 2017 and February 25, 2018, there will be an accompanying exhibit, Borders and Neighbors: Craft Connectivity Between the U.S. and Mexico, that “honor(s) the spirit of creativity that transcends physical and cultural barriers and that unifies our cultures”.

I wish it weren’t so far away; I’d love to go.

“Art is the most profound human expression. Art creates bonds even if we don’t speak the same language. We communicate through art and have a universal language.”                                                                                                                                 Carlomagno Pedro Martinez

Along the same line of thinking…

Catalogue Cover

Last week I received an envelope from the State Department that contained three copies of the beautiful catalogue they produced illustrating the Art in Embassies exhibition I am participating in at the U.S. Embassy in Riga, Latvia. The following is a quote from the introduction:

…the U.S. Department of State’s office of Art in Embassies (AIE) plays a vital role in our nation’s public diplomacy…selecting and commissioning contemporary art from the U.S. and the host countries. These exhibitions provide international audiences with a sense of the quality, scope, and diversity of both countries’ art and culture. …AIE exhibitions allow foreign citizens, many of whom might never travel to the United States, to personally experience the depth and breadth of our artistic heritage…

Catalogue Page

It is so important to acknowledge and honor art as a powerful voice, speaking a universal tongue that underlines our human similarities more than our differences, especially at this point in history when nationalism seems to be rearing its ugly head.  You can read more about Art in Embassies in this post.

Need a Nudge?

October = Inktober…the perfect time for anyone to dive in and follow through on a goal to draw more regularly.

Table Scape

Table-scape     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                                 The path of least resistance is my saving grace. I often finish breakfast and then draw whatever’s in front of me on the dining room table. It’s proven to be a wonderful no-brainer for getting a daily drawing under my belt before the rest of the day begins. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) this surface is rarely entirely clear of stuff… so source material is plentiful. And with a few adjustments, there is a never-exhausted supply of still lifes at the ready.

Created in 2009 by illustrator Jake Parker as a way to jump-start his own drawing habit, Inktober is a challenge to artists everywhere to pull out their pens and commit to making a drawing every day this month. It’s also a powerful nudge for getting a drawing habit underway.

Orchid

Orchid     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                   We are lucky in VT that our public TV often has shows highlighting Vermont artists. This wonderful quote is from a recent program featuring Peter Huntoon. ” A quick snapshot gives you nothing but facts, but sketching gives you an experience that doesn’t go away; it’s a memory that’s imprinted. It’s the difference between a glance and a warm embrace.”

This short YouTube video gives the skinny on how to get started. And if you fear you’ll struggle with what to draw each day for 31 days in a row, Parker has provided a list of 31 prompts. For those who don’t like the list this year, previous years’ lists with additional ideas are a short Google search away.

3 Houses

3 Houses     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                   I am a sucker for little houses. Last spring I took advantage of a sale at a local gardening center to buy these three ceramic houses that can also serve as votives. They have become regulars in my daily sketches.

The public-minded can upload their drawings to Instagram with the hashtags #inktober and #inktober2017. Prefer not to work on such a public scale? It’s just as easy to follow those hashtags to lurk in private for inspiration. Regardless, there is still a lot to be gained by taking the challenge independently, or even better, with a couple of close artist buddies.

Silver Pitcher

Silver Pitcher     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                           A treasured hand-me-down offers great shapes and reflections, off-set by the stripes of placemats and the slats in the chair behind it.

I see that JetPens has a special offer through October 15th in honor of Inktober. Their site is a lot of fun to visit for the sheer volume of all-things-pen-and-ink they offer — even if you decide not to take them up on their Inktober special.

Hydrangeas

Hydrangea     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                                     I have a lot yet to learn in portraying this lovely mass of blooms from a friend’s garden. I’m grateful they are such long-lasting flowers so I have time to keep trying before they fade.

And for further support, check out my post “Seasonal Change as Incentive” from last May, which discusses in detail Charles Duhigg’s wonderful book The Power of Habit and an enlightening video by Ingrid Sundberg that provides a step-by-step outline of how to begin a creative habit.

Good luck!

Flowers

Flowers     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                   Let’s end this on a colorful note…

An Eye to the North

As promised, this week’s post is a taste of the some of the art we experienced in the Atlantic Provinces a couple of weeks ago. Three exhibits in particular stood out, making for a wonderful combination of textiles and drawing.
I could almost pretend they knew I was coming.

But first…
I think this public sculpture is worth sharing.

Migration Pathways #2

Migration Pathway #2 ©Giorgia Volpe                                                                                               Suspended over the St. Lawrence River near the Quebec Public Market, “th(is) piece ties together past and present in notion of migration, a seminal influence shaping our society and evolving territory. Migration Pathway #2 shows the vulnerability and endurance inherent in human and animal migratory and nomadic lives. Woven canoes rise in the air approaching the banks of the St. Lawrence in a surprising parade-like movement. The work pays tribute to Quebec folk traditions, the beliefs of early sailors, and First Nations traditional knowledge, and occupies a traditional site of meeting and dialogue for all these communities.”

Migration 2

 

The Museum of Civilization in Quebec City was a very happy discovery. With exhibits involving history, science, art and culture, there was way more than we could absorb in one visit. However, two concurrent shows stood out.

The first, an extensive retrospective on the work of Hergé, the Belgian cartoonist and creator of The Adventures of Tintin. It’s a show that would be appealing to any age, and certainly inspiring to young drawers.

 

 

It was fascinating to study the extensive display of his working drawings up close, then to follow his progression through gouache color proofs, and onto final finished prints. You can’t help but admire in his ability to capture and express so much through a judicious economy of line that is all one weight and lacks crosshatching, a style he pioneered that became known as “ligne claire” (clear line).

Captain Haddock

The following appeared on one of the museum labels:    “Although comics have long been regarded as a minor art, figures like Hergé have propelled them to unrivaled artistic heights. Certain lead pencil sketches of Captain Haddock, Tintin, or Professor Calculus, for instance, are exercises in style with enough complexity, astute turbulence, and accuracy of tone to rival works by such masters as Dürer, Holbein, da Vinci, Ingres and others.”

 

 

Next, in a neighboring gallery, Carole Simard-Laflamme’s installation Dress of Nations is a work at once ethereal and imposing. Created to evoke every stage of life, from birth to death, this work is made of 6,000 “seed dresses” — textile miniatures made from pieces of recovered garments, threaded together and suspended from the ceiling in rows, composing the bodies of two large dress forms.

Dress of Nations, ©Carole Simard-Laflamme                                            Statement: “Our garments tell our stories. They reveal our identities and present the symbols of our cultures. With this work, I wish to underscore our differences and our uniqueness…”

 

Over 400 people from different cultures sent the artist a piece of clothing along with a testimonial. The garments were cut, mixed, reassembled, and stitched together on wires, each seed-dress bearing a golden stamp. The overall effect was quite moving.

 

 

 

Finally, it was pure luck that Zachari Logan’s exhibit Topiary opened at the Anna Leonowens Gallery of the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design the day before we arrived in Halifax. What a great bonus that we were able to attend his lunchtime talk, a part of their visiting artist series.

Logan

Green Man, Natural Drag series     ©2012 Zachari Logan, pastel on paper, 50 x 100 inches.

Logan’s detailed pastel and pencil drawings explore the intersection between “masculinity, identity, memory, and place”. He discussed in detail the parallels between his subject matter and the way he sees himself within society as a queer man.

Zachari Logan, blue pencil on mylar

His highly skilled draughtsmanship is mind-blowing, but the depth and intelligence in the metaphors he constructs based across a spectrum of art history, interlaced with an unflinching confrontation of some of the more poignant challenges many face within our world today, completely swept me away. I am still thinking about his work due to his seamless pairing of concept with execution.

Although this exhibition had none on display, ceramics are another component of Logan’s overall practice and the statements he makes through his art. Obviously I was intrigued by his marriage of the two disciplines in light of my own quest to coherently bring my drawing and textile work together.

Visit this page on his website to see more of his art and for a greater understanding of the ideas behind these and other works in his various series.

Datura, from Eunich Tapestries series     ©2013 Zachari Logan, pastel on paper, 10 x 5 feet        I was quite moved by Logan’s discussion of his portrayal of “ditches” and the plants that appear there. Having grown up in Saskatchewan, ditches were a familiar part of the landscape for him, filled with plants that are scorned as weeds. But he asked us to consider the term “weed” and how classifying certain plants as undesirable with that epithet can be equated with the words we use to label people who, for whatever reason, society rejects as well.

Our trips north never disappoint. Because art seems to be such a valued and public part of Canadian life, I’ve been seeking information about their dedication to investing in culture as a nation. This 2016 article from the Washington Post is quite an eye-opener. Considering the ever-precarious state of the arts in the US, I’m tempted to say: read it and weep.

Road Trip

If you haven’t had an opportunity to travel through the Atlantic Provinces of Canada, add them to your destination list.

Peggy's Point Light

Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, Nova Scotia     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Last week we carved a fun & relaxing loop by driving up to Quebec City, skirting the top of Maine, then descending to bisect New Brunswick while making our way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. We hopped onto the ferry in Yarmouth for the last leg, bringing us back to the US via Portland, Maine.

Sidewalk Cafe

SIdewalk Cafe, Quebec City     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

It was a week of beautiful scenery, non-existent traffic, and delicious farm-to-table food and microbrews accented with abundant fresh seafood — all fused with local civic appreciation for the arts, walking trails and lovely gardens at every stop.

Public Garden

The Public Garden, Halifax     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Opportunities to draw have become a treasured part of vacationing for me, my sketchbooks being the most enduring and powerful of souvenirs.

High Roller

High Roller, Yarmouth     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

It was a happy discovery to notice that Canadians don’t seem to be surgically connected to their cellphones as is so ubiquitous here. I feel like we hardly ever saw anyone walking and talking or texting, and restaurants seemed to be virtually mobile-free.

Breakfast Coffee and Fruit

Breakfast Fruit and Coffee, Halifax     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

While it made sketching people a bit more challenging, it was lovely not to have the same bend of the neck and hand placement on each and every subject, not to mention avoiding being a captive third party in a conversation you want no part of.

Alexander Keith's

Alexander Keith’s, Halifax     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                           Don’t let this sketch fool you. We didn’t really have a Dr. Bunsen Honeydew sighting.

In addition to the omnipresent public art that Canadians apparently and appropriately feel is an important investment in their quality of life, we caught several wonderful exhibitions that I will share next week; I hope you’ll return to read about them.

Ferry Line

In the Ferry Line, 6:30am, Yarmouth     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

On A Different Note______________________________________________________________________________

My piece “Dichotomy” will be showing on home turf through the end of November in the upcoming exhibit Fabric of Our Lives at the Grange Hall Cultural Center here in Waterbury Center. The opening is Sunday, October 1 from 3-5pm. I would love to see you there!

Fabric of our lives postcard

If you are local, keep your eyes and ears peeled for future offerings at The Grange. Our community is very lucky to have a creative venue that offers something for everyone: theater, music, exhibitions, workshops, yoga classes, etc.

And finally, I just discovered the 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop podcast. The name says it all, each episode is a short and sweet glimpse into the process of a wide variety of well-known writers. The ideas are valuable for writers and readers alike. You can find it on iTunes.

Shibori x3

Working in tandem with my 3 jalapeño sketches last week, I stitched my way through the waiting period between watercolor washes.

stitched-resist

Stitched-resist

When I was a college student, I spent a Winter Term in Seattle working with and learning from watercolorist Karen Guzak. At that time her studio was in her home and she counseled the value of such an arrangement in allowing one to multi-task — a term I’m not sure we were using yet in the late 70’s. At 20, I couldn’t relate to being able to throw in a load of laundry while a different kind of wash dried, but her words stayed with me and have served me well. Always having a home studio is what has allowed me to work continuously around the privilege of being home with two kids.

shibori 2

Stitching drawn up and dyed

Just as I mentioned last week, there is much to be learned through repetition and variation, and that fact is perhaps most salient when pieces are made in close succession.

shibori 3

I usually set up at least 3 different colors of dye to use at once. These pieces gently progressed through variations of those colors so that they are each in the same family while remaining different. Thread choice will eventually highlight those distinctions.

On a Different Note________________________________________________________________________________________

What I’m reading now: A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline — “a fictional memoir of the woman in the famed Wyeth painting Christina’s World” – Erik Larson.
So far, so good – there is much that resonates considering its Maine setting.

3 Jalapeños

I’ve been seeking a change from the black and white of ink drawings — perhaps inspired by all the late season color in the garden? …but also knowing I’ve let watercolor sketching slide for a while. I have mountains to scale in learning about color and before I will feel comfortable; to say it’s humbling is an understatement.  Yet the pure beauty of transparent color is irresistible and, for the moment anyway, I’m enjoying having such a steep challenge to sink my teeth into.

Jalapeños1

3 Jalapeños, 1     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

What I think I appreciate most is the aspect of walking the very thin line between an illusion of control and recognition that, especially at this early point, results are more reliant upon serendipity than skill. Right now I would say I’m at 25% control, 75% serendipity – and that may be overly generous. But I trust with time and practice I can begin to see the numbers move in the opposite direction.

Jalapeños 2

3 Jalapeños, 2     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Charles Reid continues to be my go-to guide. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my mother-in-law for introducing me to his work years ago.
What living artist has taught you the most?

Jalapeños, 3

3 Jalapeños, 3     © 2017 Elizabeth Fram

These 3 sketches were from yesterday. I learn a lot through repetition and variation. And it’s interesting to see how my feelings about each has changed with a bit of distance and a good night’s sleep. Converting to black and white in Photoshop is also a good learning tool.

While the washes were drying I did the Shibori stitching for 3 small new pieces. Stay tuned for the dyeing results next week.

Marking the Change

As we move into September the days are becoming noticeably shorter and our evening temps here in Vermont have already dipped into the 40’s, making for great sleeping weather.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I know that many bemoan the last days of August, perhaps more so than the end of any other season, but I am happy for the change. I find comfort, not just in the reminder of natural rhythms and cycles beyond my control, but also in welcoming the chance to get back to activities I enjoy without the guilt of feeling I ought to be outside taking advantage of summer’s fleeting sun and warmth.

Garden

It’s time to bring in the harvest in earnest and to start putting some of the bounty up for winter enjoyment. It’s been a great year in my garden for garlic, blueberries, carrots, beans, herbs, and greens. My tomatoes, on the other hand, are slow to ripen and have had a relatively weak showing — a result, I’m sure, of all the rain and relatively cool days we’ve had on our hill this year. I’ve come to accept the fluctuation between what does well from one year to the next, and look to that variation as an opportunity to explore new recipes and to evade any sense of being caught in a rut.

Bookended tools

Bookended     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

When summer arrives, I’m ready for a break from the kitchen and try to avoid too much time cooking. But when we begin to see signs that the transition to fall is taking hold, it feels good to pull out my pots for “putting food by” and to get back in the swing of creating with food. It doesn’t hurt that there are endless opportunities for happenstance still-lives along the way, making sketching just another gratifying perk of the job.

Balanced

Balanced     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

These drawings mark the beans that were blanched, the batches of pesto mixed up, the turkey broth simmered & flavored with fresh herbs, carrots, and garlic…and of course the resulting piles of dishes, before and after washing.

Years ago my mother gave me a copy of the book Putting Food By. It’s a keeper; a trusty resource that never goes out of date. This link is to the most recent edition.

Also, for a bit of meaty reading, artist Anne Sherwood Pundyk recently contributed an essay entitled The Beholder’s Share to the online magazine artcritical. Pundyk discusses the neuroscience of abstraction and figuration, drawing on personal and professional experience in conjunction with consideration of two books on recent scientific findings: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (2006) and Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric R. Kandel (2016). Fascinating! …I found it particularly resonating bearing in mind my ongoing interest in straddling a line between the two (abstraction and figuration) through composition and values.

Finally, a bit of gratifying news and shameless self-promotion: my piece “It Isn’t That Simple” was picked-up and used by the Surface Design Association to illustrate their Friday Fibers Roundup blog last week.

Perennial Inspiration

I don’t remember exactly when it was I bought Sara Midda’s 1981 book In and Out of the Garden, but it must not have been too long after it came out. Years before I was able to have a garden of my own, that little book has graced my bookshelf in all our many homes, serving as an inspiration and a reminder of the universal beauty and solace to be found in the magic that results from adding seeds to soil.

Scissors Detail 1

Stitching in progress, detail      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                    The idea of including and concentrating on an area of tone-on-tone cropped up while working on the piece previous to this one.

The main draw for me is Midda’s tiny watercolor images, luminescent and charming. Paired with her hand-lettered text of quotes, historical facts, poetry, and recipes, I have always found a gentle delight in reading and rereading this book that underscores much of the way the world of horticulture captures the imaginations of those of us inclined to garden.

Scissors Detail 2

Detail      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                  The scissors remain more sketchily defined as a foil to the heavily stitched areas above and below them.

In 1990 she followed up with Sara Midda’s South of France – A Sketchbook, and in 2014 A Bowl of Olives: On Food and Memory was released. I was quick to buy copies of each as soon as I learned it was out, happy to become re-immersed in Midda’s eye for the details that honor the essence of the unsung elements that surround us, things we tend to take for granted but which give such a strong sense of place and moment. All three books are meditations of a sort, quiet picture books with “more”. To some degree I am sure appreciation for her observations have had some lasting sway on my own choice of subjects.

Scissors Detail 3

Detail      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                  In the end, I think it’s the “conversation” between the diversity of pattern, evident in both the stitching and the stitched-resist pattern, that pulls the piece together, making it whole.

Despite looking, I haven’t had much luck learning more about Sara Midda. There is relatively little information about her on the web other than a few promotional articles and blog posts marking the release of each book. Disappointingly, she doesn’t seem to have ever had a website. So I was thrilled to discover that Danny Gregory* conducted a 40 minute video interview with her on his Sketchbook Club blog last week. How lovely it is to hear her talk about her process and the history of these books. Outwardly quiet and gentle, just like her art, it was one of those rare occasions when all elements seemed to add up.

Scissors Unframed

Divide and Conquer, unframed     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                  Stitched-resist dye and embroidery on silk

Have you had a similar experience with a book that has had a lasting impact on you? Please fill us in…

*I credit Danny Gregory’s book Everyday Matters and his original blog of the same name as being the instigation behind spurring me to commit to drawing regularly. I have no doubt his welcoming and encouraging approach, pointing out the huge benefits to be gleaned from drawing, regardless of ability or experience, has been one of the main driving forces behind awakening or reinvigorating the desire to draw for thousands of people. If you aren’t familiar with him, check out his site.

Dog Days of Summer

I find Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast to be something of a mixed bag, but Episode #204 – “Who Gets To Decide Whether You Are A Legitimate Artist?” took my breath away.

Quinn1

©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I think we can all agree that rejection, criticism, and even intentional disregard come with the territory of what we do, but it doesn’t seem to stop us, does it?

Quinn 2

©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Whether you are at the height of your success or have never shared your work beyond your own eyes or ears, if you are someone who is called to make art of whatever discipline, take some time to listen to this episode.

Quinn 4

©2017 Elizabeth Fram

It will only underline that you are on the right path.

On a Different Note___________________________________________________________________________________________

Did you see Colossal this week?
As the saying goes, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. So it is with Laurel Roth Hope’s wonderful work that offers a touch of humor and beauty while “exploring environmental harm, extinction, and consumerism”. Check out her Biodiversity Reclamation Suits for Urban Pigeons and Peacocks on her website – beautifully constructed and so smart.