Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Falling Leaves" Hand-painted Silk Scarf

"Falling Leaves",  hand-painted silk scarf
     It's spring, but I recently completed a hand-painted silk scarf with an autumn theme and wanted to show it to you. "Falling Leaves" took several months because I was not happy with the way it was turning out and put it away for a time. Once the French silk dye is in the fabric, radical change is not possible--partial modification is the best one can do.

Musings on "failure" in an art project
     To be honest, the finished product is still not to my taste. However, I know that it could still be the perfect addition to the right outfit for the right person. 

Close up detail
Close up detail
     So, I refuse to count this scarf as a failure or even to be disappointed in it. For one thing, every art project is a learning experience, and sometimes what can feel like failure has more learning value than a "success". I am still quite new to French silk dye techniques and welcome any opportunity to learn and grow in the art. 

     A second reason comes from the wise words of my acrylic painting mentor, Linda Blondheim. Once, when she was advising me on improving a landscape painting, I had done all that we could think of, and we both still concluded that we didn't like the results. I told her I'd just gesso over it and reuse the canvas. "Oh no, Mary," she said. "This is not an intrinsically bad painting; it's just one you and I don't like a lot. Someone will love it; you wait and see." I've told this story before; that painting sold in a local shop long before others I like much better.

     Oh, in case you are wondering, here's why this scarf will never be a personal favorite (what a ridiculous sales pitch this is turning out to be! not a sales pitch at all--just sharing my thoughts): I had planned the leaf shapes and layout quite carefully and still like them. The background came last, working carefully around the leaves, which had been outlined in a gutta resist to prevent dye flow in or out of the shapes. For some reason, I thought using a couple of colors would look nice and increase the versatility of the scarf as an accessory. Maybe a good idea for some scarves, but for this design, it made for too much going on. In my opinion, that is; others may feel differently, as Linda has taught me to realize

Question of the day: When have you been disappointed in the results of a project only to discover that others like (or even love) the results?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Landscape Painting -- "On the Jones Creek Trail"

"On the Jones Creek Trail"
 My newest acrylic landscape painting, "On the Jones Creek Trail", on 16" x 20" gallery-wrapped canvas, was inspired by lovely walks in the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens with my husband and little Shih Tzu dog. The memories and photos used as reference material (one of them shown below) span several visits, and this painting is a composite of scenes along one of the trails, which weaves in and out of a woodsy area, with many views of Jones Creek. Here in coastal North Florida, natural vegetation can grow so thick that I need to "clear out some underbrush" to create a pleasing, balanced composition for painting. However, what is included in the painting is truly growing near the creek in this amazing park within Jacksonville, Florida. 

     Our city is blessed with a wealth of parks, preserves, and nature trails. The arboretum was rescued from unused land owned by the city (which had acquired it after a mining company had strip-mined it for materials used to make titanium). Although illegal dumping and the residue of mining had compromised the area, some citizens could envision its future as an arboretum and natural recreational site. You can read more about the delightful park it has become and see photos here. My husband, a master gardener and member of the North Florida Native Plant Society, worked on clearing and planting projects with many other volunteers. My previous posts about visiting the arboretum also show its uniquely North Florida beauty.
One of the reference photos used in painting
     I used a mostly cool palette for this painting because it represents a transitional season toward the end of winter, when vegetation here is more subdued in hue than in spring and summer. The acrylic paints used include cobalt, cerulean, Payne's grey, lemon yellow, yellow ochre, burnt umber, and titanium white with a few touches of naphthol red to temper and vary the greens.

     I hope you enjoy taking a walk in the arboretum with me.

Question of the day: What kinds of natural environments have been restored and preserved in your area?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

River Cruise in Southern France, Part III

Distinctive rock formation in Beaujolais region
     We had looked forward to our last full day of touring in France and the only optional tour we had chosen to add to the itinerary, a tour of the ruins of the Abbey of Cluny, the most influential church in the Christian faith in the 11th century. But our morning started with one more delightful included tour, a scenic ride through the rolling hills of the Beaujolais district and a visit to a a beautiful family owned (for many generations) winery, including a tasting with a wine expert.
Winery Entrance

     I'll let a few photos tell the story of the winery and the lovely countryside where we enjoyed strolling at a stop along the way (Viking seems to give careful thought to making the necessary rest stops on longer day tours pleasant).


Our group at the winery

     The Abbey of Cluny was originally founded in 910 AD and grew until it became the mother house for over 1,000 monasteries in the 12th century. Our local guide was charming and exceptionally well-informed--clearly a true admirer of this remarkable medieval abbey and a devoted student of its history. Some of the majestic buildings still stand and are used for, among other things, an architectural school. Eager students dash here and there, adding life and creativity to the mix of impressive old buildings and ruins.

     Sometimes on journeys, I prefer to fully take in the beauty and history of a place rather than to work at capturing multiple photos. The abbey was one such experience: inspiring and moving. So, I have a few photos to show you, but often just listened, watched, and marveled. In addition to the photos of that day, I often savor the many lovely images I have in my memory of our tour of the Abbey of Cluny.
13th century food storehouse for abbey and village
Inside the abbey's Gothic chapel, built around 1460

Courtyard outside the cloisters
     My two previous posts from our Viking River Cruise in Southern France are here. I've enjoyed reliving the journey with you.

Question of the day: How do you prefer to balance experiencing and taking photos when you travel?

Friday, January 27, 2017

River Cruise in Southern France, Part II

Medieval era fortifications and tower in Viviers
     Two more posts will show you some of my favorite scenes on our Viking River Cruise in southern France; today some sights in a medieval village and in a large conservation area and next time, the remarkable last day of touring, when we enjoyed a morning at a historic, family-owned winery in the Beaujolais region and then visited the inspirational site of the Abbey of Cluny. One earlier post from our river cruise is here.

     One of our favorite shore excursions was a morning in Viviers, a small village with a remarkably intact medieval city center. Our delightful, funny, amazing story teller guide made the visit extra special. She lives in one of the old homes--she showed us the location--where an aunt had participated in the French Resistance during World War II and where Jewish people had sheltered as they were being guided out of the country by brave French citizens. 
Renaissance era house in Viviers, Maison des Chevaliers
View from Medieval wall, Viviers



 A steam train ride deep into a protected river gorge by steam train (the area is not accessible by car) on a beautiful day made another morning memorable. The Doux Valley is a protected conservation area--a pristine wilderness area a short ride from the charming city of Tournon. The three photos below are just a few tastes of the serene, yet dramatic views we enjoyed during this scenic ride.