Clean Out Stash, (Re)Start a Sweater

This weekend was a very busy one as we cleaned out things, such as old computers (taken to an e-waste recycling place), sold a bunch of books, and finally hit the stash of yarn and spinning fleece in the garage.  From 45 boxes, I am down to 22 with yarn and fleece.  Some things were thrown out – such as a bag with a big, black spider, most likely a black widow.  Other things were boxed up so my MIL could come and take what she wanted.  The rest is going to be delivered to a local senior center where they use donated yarn for charity work, or they can just take yarn home for fun – not everyone has a big income, and yarn can be a luxury.

Oddly enough, going through everything didn’t take that long.  I think I spent about 6 hours at the most.  It was easy to choose, too.  Nearly anything that was unfinished was cut off the ball of yarn, discarded, and the yarn ball put into the “to be donated” bin(s).  Tacky or sticky or scratchy fleece was discarded as not worthwhile.  All balls of handspun yarn were saved, regardless as to length, unless they didn’t feel good to touch.

And in the middle of this, I have a sweater that has been sitting in the knitting pile for some time.  It is a cardigan, but I decided to try steeking with it.  Well, that fell by the wayside.  I ripped out the entire sweater, re-balled the yarn, and started over.  Much happier, even though purling is not my favorite knitting stitch.

I restarted the sweater, an Icelandic pattern, and have done a few inches.  I think this will be my night knitting, when we are watching TV.  The lower edge, as with most Icelandic sweaters, is a patterned border, but the main body a plain color.  Instead of using Icelandic wool roving, which pills and is too itchy for me, I am using an acrylic yarn with a bit of halo.  Yeah, not the most sophisticated of yarn choices in a “natural” world, but for me, right now, it is perfect.  I need a cardigan – and one with as little sewing as possible!  I hate sewing things together, and never finish anything that requires too much of it.

It feels good to have a knitting project on hand again.


Working with Contrast, or, A Day Without Mud

Today, my little Meetup group was really little.  Initially there were to be 4 of us, but one cancelled, and then the third unfortunately got very lost using her GPS.  She wrote she was 3/4 of an hour late . . . and we waited 10 minutes, too.  Next time I post a Meetup meeting, I’ll spell out directions, so hopefully that won’t happen again.

So, contrast.  I am dreadful with it.  And with painting things so that they look like things rather than blobs of color.  However, that is probably something that time and experience will cure.  Today, though, I did manage to not turn everything into mud – a major accomplishment, let me tell you!

We went to a local place, the trail by the Chumash Museum nearby my house.  (The Chumash are a California tribe.)  We were there for about an hour.  I began with a pencil sketch, and then, color.  We were settled in a small oak grove, with dark and light contrast about as contrasty as you can get.  At the end of the hour, this is what I had painted, knowing full well I would look at it and work it a bit once home.

As you can see, I did leave areas of white!  Another first . . . As I was painting I made a monumental decision, too:  paint long horizontal stripes to represent the grasses under the trees, and the shadows crossing the foreground.  I sat there and painted stripes.  It was nerve wracking.  The blobby white areas were deliberately left for consideration later.

And once home, I looked at the painting.  Still a need for contrast, and a bit more detail.  More pen, more ink brush, more colors, and some warmth.

Overall, the one above came out okay, but if you look on the mid-right, to the left of the furthest trunk, there is a bit of an odd space, so I went in and worked it a bit with ink to try to mitigate it.  I found it very distracting.  Here is the final image below.

The area has a few more lines in it, a bit busier, but somehow more in keeping with similar areas of the painting.

My palette was somewhat unknown!  That is, I was not really sure the names of the colors as I was using them, but I do have a list of how they are laid out on the palette, which is why I can tell you now!  I used Koi watercolor brushes and the following paints:  Quinacridone Gold, Naples Yellow, Hansa Yellow Medium, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Teal, Ultramarine Blue, Indanthrene Blue, Phthalo Green, and Burnt Sienna.  I used a Stillman & Birn Beta Series 8×10 inch softcover notebook, and scanned the images using my trusty, not rusty, Epson V600.

Remembrance of Things Past

If I want to be honest – which sometimes I don’t want to be! – I never realized that in watercolor, as in sumi-e painting (which I haven’t done for a few years), the brush is important.  In sumi-e, brushwork is important as it expresses what color cannot – color is not found in sumi-e, only shades of blacks and greys and white, with the subject hinted at, not indicated in boldface!  Playing with leaves made me remember this . . .

Because my chronic struggle in watercolor always seems to be overworking and mixing too many colors together, I decided to pick up a book called Everyday Watercolor:  Learn to Paint Watercolor in 30 Days, by Jenna Rainey.  I figured some kind of disciplined plan could work.  Her style of painting is not necessarily my style of painting, but that was not important as far as I am concerned.  My concern was to stop making mud and to relearn what I have forgotten over the years.  The examples in Rainey’s book are pretty basic, pretty straightforward, and actually, a lot of fun to do.  It has helped me drop that little, nagging, nasty perfectionist who always criticizes.  Rather, it is far better to just do, and quit the role of critic.   She does studies such as shapes, allowing colors to bleed into one another; she discusses design in the abstract exercises with squares and circles.  There are simple exercises in drawing and painting trees with foliage in shadow, and depth, with lighter pine trees in the distance, and darker ones in front.

What do I find the most valuable in this book?  Crazily simple lessons.  Step 1.  Step 2.  Step 3.  Limited palettes of color.  Most how-to-watercolor books are wonderfully full of tantalizing pictures, but few that I have seen really drill down to making it simple.  I enjoy the work of watercolorists such as Winslow Homer – people with a loose, free style which I would love to emulate.  I am not a contained person in the sense of wanting to fill in the lines, like in a coloring book, but I also appreciate the disciplined approach of people like Birgit O’Connor, who paints huge flowers, beach debris, and so on.  I am still struggling with watercolors enough to have no style of my own – I am still attempting to master the brushwork, water, and colors.

Currently, I have just finished Day 11, which is wet-into-wet and some dry brush.  Like in dry-into-wet.  Something like that.  It’s a papaya.

I’m looking forward to 19 more days … sort of a diet!  And to date, no mud!


Book Larnin’

I did some watercolor studies, derived from David Dewey’s The Watercolor Book.  This is the edition my local library has – there is a newer edition, but I have no idea how much different it is from this one.

Dewey’s book came highly recommended from one of my favorite sites,  There are others, too, but this one is the one at the local library.  Packed full of text and pictures, demos and a plethora of information, at first it seems like a rather intimidating book.  It is.  There is a ton of information, and to me, it was hard to sit down to look and to read.  However, once I started, I decided my best approach is to begin with some exercises.  Other parts can be read for information – I wanted to get into actual painting!  What really draws my eye to Dewey’s work is the beauty of his washes – clean, simple, expressive.  You can see his more recent work on his website.  Given my usual propensity to messy, muddy stuff, his work is simply elegant – not splashy and spontaneous like Charles Reid, but serene and calm.

Okay, so here is what I did.  This is the first exercise I did.  I used glazes and mixed colors.  This was a drawing from one of Dewey’s exercises in warm and cool colors.

Not an especially inspiring image – and poor photography as well!  However, what I did learn was a bit about glazes and managed to leave some planned white, some bleeding, some patience, and how certain colors mixed.  I did an overall underglaze of Quin Gold.  The sky was laid in with a glaze of cerulean blue, while the ocean was a layer of ultramarine.  I mixed some alizarin and viridian (complementary colors to tone down the red of the alizarin), along with some burnt sienna to create the float of the shack.  The islands were my favorite part – carbazole violet and burnt sienna.  I’ve never used the violet, so it was a fun mish-mash.

Next, water studies, which I feel were more successful than the washes and glazes, but I was also warmed up.  These are also from demos in Dewey’s book.  Here, an underlying wash of ultramarine with a touch of cerulean.  Once dried, ripples in cerulean with a bit of permanent rose.  Finally, the greenish color is a combo of phthalo blue and burnt umber, a blend I’ve never done before.  I really like the colors!

This next image is done in essentially the same way with the same colors, only the ripples are circular.  The photo is crummy, but the results are rather clear.

Certainly no works of art, but successful exercises in a few areas.  First, getting reacquainted with watercolor is rather painful.  Glazing and washes take a bit of patience.  Finally, there is the real pleasure of learning new color blends, as well as having a sense of derived satisfaction with a study fairly well executed.

I am excited to be painting again.  During the week, it won’t likely happen because of work, but I hope that some drawing might occur.  Weekends are likely to be very much taken up with painting . . . yay!

Sketching Class

Deciding to take the bull by the proverbial horns, I enrolled in a few online classes.  I have used them for a number of other courses, such as sewing or photography, and really enjoy their format.  Demonstrations which are practical, well presented, and make sense are worthwhile.  Online streaming format, without limitation (once bought), is another advantage – you can watch, play, replay, go away, and revisit.

For my online sketching class, I sit out on the patio surrounded by pencils and paper, my chrome book, headphones, coffee, and dogs.  I listen and watch the demonstrations, and replay, and practice the exercises for sketching.  I’ve doodled with drawing throughout the years, but never really focused on drawing as presented by the online teacher.  She uses 3 pencils – 6H, 4B, and HB and also explains the differences between willow and vine charcoal, which I never thought about.  Contrast and value are considered, gestural drawing, shading and how to do it.  I’ve learned a lot.


My problem is a lack of time.  Work and life get in the way.  Still, it’s wonderful to feel the focus of drawing and think I could possibly get good at it.  I like some of my other drawings I’ve done while listening to an audiobook or just chillaxing.