Monday, May 23, 2016

Steps in setting up an oil painting of vintage thread

I've been trying to come up with a title for this painting since I started playing with the spools. Lots of ideas to do with threading and unraveling, but nothing quite fit. So I set that thought aside and focused on the work. And there was plenty to think about.

Setting this up was like playing chess with spools and boxes. Pieces were moved, stacked, rearranged - and you wouldn't believe how many times the measuring tape loops were adjusted.

Then a thorough drawing is made of the set up. Painting is hard enough without having to make decisions about angles and shapes. Drawing is where the forms and perspective get nailed down. 
sketch, spools, threadd

The drawing is transferred with a neutral earth tone like burnt umber (the process is explained in this previous post). The board is basically masonite prepared with several coats of gesso toned a mid-value grey to contrast with both darks and lights.
burnt umber transfer

In the first pass of color (below) I start with an area of high contrast - the tape measure against the background, in this case. That sets the parameters for value range throughout the composition.
oil colors, still life, spools, thread

Here, just about all areas have a first layer of color. Except I'm avoiding the spool on the upper right, for fear of making it too bright. Which I eventually did. Too bright. It needs work.
WIP oil painting, still life, vintage

In this version, more details have been added and the lights and darks have been differentiated further. Always the Goldilocks syndrome: "this spool is too light, this spool is too dark..." Shooting for "just right."
first pass of color, still life, oil painting

I need a better photo, but here is the final painting. Check out the numbers on the tape measure (!) and the lettering on the pin cube - that's the little box-shaped-thingy. Apparently they used to sell dressmakers pins with their tiny, black glass pin heads sticking out of a cardboard cube. That was fun to paint!
oild sewing supplies, vintage painting.
Taking Measure, Following Threads ©2016 Dorothy Lorenze
So those are the steps. It took a week... and a few days more. All the while, mentally struggling with the title and enlisting help from family and Facebook-mates. There were plenty of interesting ideas but nothing felt exactly right. Then, while describing the steps, this title evolved: "Taking Measure, Following Threads". Which felt like what I was doing while painting as well as during the writing process. Must be the right one.

Thanks for joining me on my art journey.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A mother's creative legacy

When I was growing up life was all about the practical things. With seven kids, my mom didn't have time for anything more than what "needed" to be done. There was no car-pooling or shuttling to and from sports. If we were interested in an activity it had to be after school - with a late bus to get back home. Seven kids. It's always busy.

Our Mom was keeping us fed, clothed and on task with schoolwork. Not so much "entertained." There really wasn't time or energy for hobbies and extracurricular activity. But in all her busy-ness, Mom managed to make some time to be creative. At night.

As a child, that seemed pretty mysterious. We'd go to bed with Mom folding laundry and in the morning there was a slip-painted pottery dish drying in the kitchen. Or a skirt, sewn overnight. There were even a few oil paintings - copies of masterworks from a mail-away course. And it was never discussed. No talk about how fulfilling it felt to be creative or wistfulness about not having more time for oneself. It just happened.

So here's the thing I learned: if it's important, you get it done.

When I was young I'm sure I never saw my mother sleep. I kind of imagined she had these evenings of "making" and in the morning - there was her latest creation. Sort of magical. But I knew it wasn't easy to find that time. And I think I knew it took dedication to realize whatever her artistic creation  du jour might have been. My mother kept her fingers dipped in a creative pool as much as her busy life allowed. And that was quite a lesson in commitment for me.

(Can't find a photo of the 7 of us, but, here's the line up of 19/20 cousins... Olivia stepped behind Jordan and missing Emily, yet to be born)
Byers cousins 1993
All of our lives are complicated - regardless of the number of little feet running around - and it can be hard to set priorities. But it's always worthwhile, and important, to make time for personal growth.
I'm grateful to my mom for quietly setting that example.

I wish I had one of the oil paintings my mother did back in the day. They may not have been technically wonderful but they were wonderfully inspirational to me. Once we were no longer underfoot Mom's creative talents turned to stained glass and I will treasure forever the beautiful stained glass window she made for my home.

Apple Branch stained glass by Veronica Byers

I hope all you Moms out there have a wonderful day and remember to take care of yourself as well as you care for your family. (Well... let's be honest, shoot for half as well)

Happy Mother's Day!

Thanks for joining me on my personal, creative and self-fulfilling journey!
(PS - thanks, Mom!)