Monday, September 28, 2009

Digital photo class.

Well that nine weeks flew by! Only more more lesson and we're finished. This weeks online digital class lesson was definitely timely. A dragonfly kept buzzing me while I was watering the potted plants last evening. After it landed over and over again on a metal tower in the garden I got the idea. It seems that it was posing me! I zoomed in but couldn't focus as well at I would have liked so I clicked on the macro mode and was thrilled that this particular dragonfly had coaxed me to photograph it.

Tip: if you can't focus the zoom lens on the focal point, the dragonfly, try adding macro to it. Macro added to zoom, who knew?

Look at the face on it. Almost cute. I bought the tower it is sitting for a huge discount at a home decor shop, the ornament had fallen off. Last spring sweet peas twined themselves around it; presently it's just decorative and is the perfect landing place for hummingbirds and insects.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Las Vegas

Where else can you go and see so such incredible architecture? We love the visuals of LV as much as we enjoy the shows. The creative teams that design each hotel are to be applauded. Yes, they're fake, no, they're not to scale, but the details make up for any and all descrepancies. You are instantly transported each time you walk into a hotel to an imaginative place that often takes my breath away, or makes me want to leave fast, such was the MGM Grand. It's interior is just too dark, they love the color black, and I felt claustrophobic until I saw the lions. I had to get some photos before escaping into sunlight.

This magnificent King ignored his audience and posed regally. (I'll straighten out the photo when I use it in some artwork, thanks to PSE.) The lighting on him was only good from one spot and lots of us were fighting for that spot. I got three shots before being nudged out of the space. Two turned out great.

The third and last night of our Las Vegas weekend we got tickets to see "Love," Cirque du Soleil's tribute to the Beatles. What a feast for the eyes!
Everywhere you looked something was going on and once again we were blown away by the performers. But, I don't think we need to see this show again.

After the show at the Mirage we grabbed a taxi, just too far to walk back to the Bellagio where we seem to gravitate at least once a day even though we stayed at the Paris this time. It was 11pm and I wanted to get a couple more photos of the water show in the Bellagio lake. Well, the traffic was stalled due to the construction going on next to the Bellagio. We had paid under $8 to get from the Paris to the Mirage and $29 to get from the Mirage to the Bellagio. Same mileage but obviously a longer commute time. We arrived at the entrance to the Bellagio just in time for the next to the last show and I aimed the camera and got this amazing shot! The water had just shot up for the final chords of the song, I don't remember the song, and happily everything worked! The photo that I posted two posts ago was taken after this one when we moved to a better spot. The water show ends every night at midnight.

Quote: Fret little, laugh more, dance often, and you'll smile forever. Sally Huss

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Las Vegas Continued

At night the Las Vegas strip is at its best; in mid-day sunlight it's raw, crowded, and this time of year hot. This shot was taken from the pedestrian bridge between the MGM and New York. The tower in the middle is nearing its lower level completion with an opening date of December and is causing traffic jams both on foot and vehicle. It's next to the Bellagio and we were told by a taxi driver that 600 shops have been slotted for the ground level with offices and condos on the upper levels. I was able to get some photos of reflections in the windows while walking past that building.

If you're wondering what my reaction to the Cher show was all I can say is that I wasn't disappointed. From the minute she dropped onto the stage via a swinging platform in a beaded highly designed gown with a headdress that threatened to topple her over to her last song we were mesmerized. A costume change for every song, I thought, might become tedious, but in between each song the acts by amazing performers or clips of the Sonny and Cher show or movies she'd been in provided a 45 year history of her diva life. The couple sitting next to us turned to us after the show and said, "So, same time, same place next year?" We nodded our heads. Hopefully, we'll be able to see the show again before her engagement at Caesar's ends in 2011.

The night before the Cher show we wandered around Caesar's scouting out the theater. The shops were closed, after all it was after midnight,  which provided a perfect opportunity to photograph some of the sculptures.

The change/coins at the feet of the angel on the right had been tossed in by visitors, obviously, some of them missed the fountain.
Quote: I'm not the best at anyhing that I do. I'm not the best singer, I'm not the best performer, I'm not the best actor. All I know is that there is something about me that people like. Cher, 1991 (touche!!)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Las Vegas

The drive to Las Vegas on Sept 18th was gorgeous; I guess that the desert has grown on me. It does amaze me though, that the Mojave is vastly different from the Coachella Valley. We don't have miles of Joshua trees. As we whizzed by I tried to capture some photos of them. Not as many successes as I had hoped for.
We got to the Paris hotel just as the sun was setting and when the desk clerk asked if we'd like to change our room, on the backside without much of a view, for one on the front overlooking the Bellagio for a much lower rate we didn't hesitate. When we stayed at the Bellagio last year we had a view out the backside of the Rio Hotel and of the desert. How grand is it to see the Bellagio water show at night from our room? Very! We were on the 29th floor of the 32 floor hotel. The photo on the left is the view out of the window. The Bellagio lake is in the middle with the hotel directly behind it. Just under the Eiffel Tower is a restaurant that we ate at on our last night there. We sat on the left side and had a window seat of the Bellagio lake, perfect for watching more of the water show.

The night shot was taken from the front of the Bellagio with the Paris hotel in the background. Happily we discovered that the second performance of "O" at the Bellagio was at 10:30, unhappily it was sold out, but if we came back at 9pm and put our name on the stand-by list we might get in. A fast dinner at Noodles, the only lousy meal we had, and a quick race back to stand in line. We were 9th in line would we get in? They started calling the standby people at 9:30 and by 10:45 we were sitting in the 10th row back dead center! Last year we were in the first Mezzanine. We remembered the show as being outstanding and it didn't disappoint! No wonder I was so inspired the first time by the colors, sound, and  amazing talent of the performers! It is very magical.

Quote: ". . .  I also felt a new sense of possibility: If these artists could contort their bodies into such impossible shapes, if they could leap from such astonishing heights, if they could make me feel a spark of something I hadn't felt in years, what was I capable of accomplishing in my own life?" From "Spark" Cirque du Soleil by John U. Bacon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

#52 - Fini!

The Big-O has arrived and with it the last of the 52 projects. I wanted fire-works or streamers but settled for Shiva Paintstiks rubbed over a texture plate to provide the design. The O is silver and gold paints that were stenciled on and then hand-stitched around with silver embroidery floss.

When I started the 52 projects I had every intention of experimenting with different techniques and while some of them may not appear to have been experiments they all were in the sense that I discovered that working with two sizes, 4x6 and 5x7 inches, is restrictive. Working with those sizes became challenging especially after I had just started working larger. I had planned to do a lot more machine felting than I did so I hope that future projects include machine felting. I had also had hoped to explore machine stippling, but that hasn't happened yet. To that end a friend just gave me a link (do a google search) so I'm now armed with some great tutorials. I did explore hand-dyed fabrics, deconstructed printing, machine applique, painted fabric, glue resists, inkjet printed photos, and some other techniques that presently escape my memory bank. A couple of things that I learned while working on the 52 is that it I do indeed love to work on a series such as horses, pears, white-on-white, photographs, and layers of texture. But then I already knew that so I suppose that I should say that working on a series has become paramount to me. I also learned that I need to find more ways to finish a piece than edge stitching which I still loathe doing! Once in a blue moon I nearly do it perfectly but the majority of the time I want to toss the finished piece because the edges are wonky. And even if I got off track over the months I worked on this project it was the challenge of finishing that often brought me back from the brink of insanity. With that in mind I know that I need art challenges to keep me interested in learning new techniques and to keep me from falling off the precarious cliff I often stand on the edge of.

I've loved reading the comments some of you have left here or emailed me privately; your encouragement kept me going. I think that everyone should partake in a challenge like this at least once in order to achieve a personal goal. Actually, my personal goal is secret and will remain so, but I did achieve it.

To see all of the 52 projects go here:

I'm off to Las Vegas to celebrate this Big-O birthday with Cher and maybe see another Cirque du Soleil performance. In April of 2008 the Cirque performance of "O" at the Bellagio was the impetus of my abstract work in acrylics. What will this trip to Vegas initiate?

Quotes: Life is a celebration of awakenings, of new beginnings, and wonderful surprises that enlighten the soul. Cielo

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How to say thanks

When I see the doctor who performed Stacy's kidney transplant I use this universal sign. He's a remarkable man from Nigeria who has gorgeous intelligent eyes and a smile that lights up the room and instantly calmed me when I was near hysterics after arriving at Loma Linda hospital. We were met by a transplant team of seven who surrounded Stacy's hospital bed and pelted me with questions that raised my anxiety to such a high level I nearly grabbed Stacy up and made a run for it! Dr. O simply patted everyone on the shoulder and took charge; his arm was around my quivering shoulders when he said, "It'll be okay." And so it was.

Thanks to Nancy Neva for emailing me this link to Georgia O'keeffe videos.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

#51, Many, many moons ago

Many, many moons ago in a Galaxy far, far away, well it does feel that way sometimes! I remember reading "Passages" by Gail Sheehy way back when I was interested in such things. I didn't understand how life could change so much but after all I hadn't lived as long as I have now. My life at times feels alien to me; kid, student, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, ex-wife, new in-laws, working at jobs I loathed, ex-wife again, and then finding my way back to art first through off-loom weaving, photography, and finally to where I am now which I like to think of as abstract experimentation in a variety of mediums. It's a good thing that we can't see too far down the road, well actually, we can't see down the road of life at all. We leave a trail of events behind us that shape who we become on any given day. If only I'd known that with age comes some wisdom that wasn't afforded to me when I was younger. What wisdom you may ask? One thing I know for certain is that nothing stays static long enough to give up our happiness for. Now if I could just remember that on a daily basis perhaps I wouldn't drive myself so crazy with anxiety.

While looking back at the 52 projects I am shocked that so much has happened in a span of a short time. One year can seem so long when entering it and so short at the other end. This time last year we had just gotten word that Stacy was on a kidney transplant list something that we'd worked toward for nine months of physical and endless lab tests. She'll celebrate her first year with her new kidney, an awesome gift from a donor, on Oct. 28th. We went through Melanoma and the scare of the unknown and came out of that experience with a second miracle, no spreading of it anywhere surrounding the eradicated area. Mom on the other hand continues to disappear into the Alzheimer's abyss and I continue to daily mourn the loss of my mother and try to gracefully take care of the stranger she has become. The gift of a trip to Italy was a much needed respite and visually/culturing exciting seven days, I was blown away when I left mom and Stacy in the capable hands of my youngest daughter and her husband; I was overcome with pride, I had raised a marvelous young woman who continues to astound me. It was truly a remarkable year.

Components: hand-painted fabric base, water-downed black fabric paint. Using a hand-made stencil three colors of paint were applied with texture tools including hand-made stamps. Haphazard machine stitching around the circles in the hopes that the moons would stand out from the background.

Quotes: Buckminster Fuller: When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

Carl Sagan:
If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


If you're a fan of Georgia's work, or if you aren't familiar with her work you might want to tune in to see this:

I saw an exhibit of her work back in the 80's and didn't expect to be so blown away. Her paintings
seemed so enormous to me in the books that I have of her work, but in reality many of them are small. It's the impact of them that leaves the impression of being larger than life. I used to read Portrait of an Artist every year, must be time to read it again.

Quote: One day, playing with a camera, I tried to photograph the road and to get it all in I had to turn the camera at a very odd angle. My drawing--or painting--call it what you will--comes from the photograph. Winter Road, Georgia O'keeffe, 1963 (thinking outside of the box was her forte!)

#50 of 52 projects

Two more to go! I haven't decided yet, but I'm considering working on monthly projects rather than another 52. This week nearly did me and during the moments of intense insanity it occurred to me that I need to even lighten the creative side of my life. The pressure, though manufactured, to finish this project has added some stress to an already overwhelming stressful month. Too many appointments where the outcome has defeated me and not only am I slightly depressed but in dire physical pain. I need time to repair the mental and physical damage and that won't come for awhile. More appointments are looming on the horizon. But today I can say that I finished the week standing; that was a feat in itself! DMV, Social Security and, a diagnosis from a doctor can be put behind me now; there isn't anything I can do about any of the F** things, so the best thing is move on. They are what they are.

Fall is in the air! Even though it's about 108 today the lighting is softer and the garden is glowing under the softness; no hard edges. The random clouds that were in the sky earlier never did gather in formation and are presently gently hanging out near the mountain tops. The view through the bay window is restful.

Components: Hand dyed fabric background. This particular piece was dye painted by using a spatula to apply alginate paste/dye to muslin. A photo of pears in a cardboard box was manipulated with PSE. The single pear shape on the right was painted on using a stencil for the shape. Machine stitching and the 5x7 inch piece came to fruition.

Quote: By forgiving and choosing to move on, one takes the power back to morph it into positive energy. Eugenia Tripputi

Friday, September 11, 2009

Give Away

The recipients, Penny here, and Julie here, have received Postcards from the last Give Away so I can now reveal them. The current Give Away ends on the day before my birthday, Thursday the 17th. Leave a comment for a chance to be chosen. I don't know what I will Give Away yet. The photos on these two are of Portofino and are machine stitched onto hand dyed fabric.

Monday, September 07, 2009

#49 of 52 projects

I was looking through the ideas journal for the 52 projects and realized that I hadn't used postage stamps on any of the pieces.
Components: The turquoise painted background fabric was first rust dyed, a few of the markings are still evident. Two muslin patches, painted and marked with black ink. Three postage stamps, machine stitched in a haphazard manner, and found object circle stamp complete this 4x6 mail art piece.

Quote: Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly. Lanston Hughes.

Question: do any of you know of an online tutorial for making fabric books. I ran across one a few weeks and didn't bookmark it. The pages were created from painted muslin and machine stitched together. Thanks!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

#48 of 52 projects and a Storm

When I started dyeing and painting fabric this is the sort of piece I envisioned creating; whole cloth where nothing has been sewn or added on. The 4x6 inch piece is adhered to a 5x7 inch painted Peltex that has the thickness of mat board.
It's been such a long time since I've seen rain that when it happened yesterday the novelty of it was an event. If it hadn't been for a guava tree that required re-staking after the monsoonal wind raced through the area on the tail of the rain I would never have seen the cloud formation that was to the north of us. The windows face south. Truly a break from the mundane sunshine endless hot days. Sweet! I blogged a little more about it on the photography blog.

Quote: Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is emergency. Nothing is that important. Just Lie down. Natalie Goldberg

Saturday, September 05, 2009

#47 of 52 project

On of the ideas for the 52 projects was to use scraps from some of the pieces and create a new one, thus this one was born.

Components: Black painted Peltex background, numerous scraps, and 3 squares of copper with a rich patina on them. Machine stitched in place.
I'm starting to see the end in sight for this project which brings up the question, do I do another year of 52 projects? I have a couple of ideas brewing, one of which is to work on muslin pieces no larger than 8.5 x 11.5 inches. Books maybe? To that end I started messing around with muslin, paints, and a variety of textures. First copper fabric paint was brushed over the entire surface and while it was still damp black black mixed with water was misted on from a spray bottle. Before the black dried a texture tool was scraped through various areas. Bubble wrap was then painted with Red Iron Oxide and randomly stamped on the piece. The depth of the textures aren't evident in this photo.

Quote: It is difficult to commit to living where we are, how we are. It is difficult and necessary. In order to make art, we must first make an artful life, a life rich enough and diverse enough to give us fuel. Julia Cameron from "The Sound of Paper."

Friday, September 04, 2009

#46 of 52 projects

Crooked? Yes. The hand-torn fabrics decided they wanted to be crooked, so why not go with it? Besides, I did have in mind a fragment effect which is often achieved by loose threads, uneven and raw edges and haphazard sewing; that's my story.

Components: Manipulated photo printed on Bubble Jet Set fabric. B/W stripe remnant. Backed with black fabric.

Quote: A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves - strong, powerful, beautiful - and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence. Pam Brown.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Last hours in Italy

Exhausted and feeling vulnerable after the theft we barely remember entering the magnificent city of Florence. We had been in such a rush to leave the city a mere week before, Italy awaited, so returning to its embrace was met with relief and confusion. The city made no sense to us but we knew one thing for certain, we needed a hotel near the airport for the early morning flight. It took quite a bit of doing but we found Hotel Franchi of which the only redeeming feature was that it was close to the airport. But we were to discover not close enough to the areas of interest in Florence. We left he car in the parking lot and after more misdirections than we could believe finally boarded the last bus going into the center of Florence. What had we been thinking when we left the car behind? Too exhausted to sort out the city, that's what we had been thinking. I was certain that my feet couldn't manage one more step, but after giving up the walking shoes for sandals I was able to persevere enough to completely enjoy the balmy evening. The daylight remained just long enough for me to photograph some of the Cathedral, baptistery door, building, windows, signs, and statues. Some how we stumbled into the Piazza della Signoria where copies of Michelangelo's David reside. The Piazza was the perfect setting for dinner at Cavallino where we sat next to two couples from England. The waiter decided that we should all become friends being that we spoke the same language. It couldn't have been a more delightful last meal in Italy.

Ponte Vecchio is best seen in daylight but when that isn't possible its best to enjoy the experience no matter what the conditions are. So, these are a couple of the night shots including a manipulated one at the bottom.

We had been told by the waiter that a taxi stand was near Ponte Vecchico and when we tired of listening to street musicians we were dismayed to discover that wasn't true. Okay, enough walking! Roger went into a hotel and asked the desk clerk if he could phone for a taxi. Within minutes one picked us up and 25 minutes later we were back in the hotel with the worst AC in the world. None of the cool air nosily leaving the decrepit machine reached us. The night was short though and the flight from Florence to Frankfurt was quick as was the 2 hour wait for the 13 hour flight back to Los Angeles where we were met by my son-in-law, thus ending the adventure to Italy. Is Germany next? We had German beer, German Franks, and German potato salad in the airport terminal in Frankfurt; Roger is now reading Rick Steves' book on Germany.

I can just hear the sighs of relief that I've finally posted the last of the trip.

Quote: The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't. ~Henry Ward Beecher

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Last day in Italy

June 13, the last day in Italy. I could have stayed in bed all day; fatigue and FM flare-up at all time high, but the flight home out of Florence was the next day so we needed to move ourselves in that direction. We had hoped to see some of Tuscany, but time ran out so Orvieto in the Umbria region would have to suffice. The village on the Rock, as it's often referred to met all of our expectations and more. It was market day and we arrived in time to wander through one at the north end of town, that is after we parked the car and walked and walked. I stopped quite often to photograph and try to gather some strength to carry on. It seems that when one is absorbed in the surroundings energy can be mustered. Whatever it was I was able to fully enjoy the village even if the day was near stifling. I can't imagine traveling any later in the summer as humid as it was starting to get. Happily there was a pharmacy in the square where the market was and I was able to get band aids, never travel without them! for the blisters that ended up taking over a month to heal once we were back home.
Orvieto might not have been as colorful if it weren't for the banners, colorful window displays and planters full of plants. Obviously the residents have a flair and playful side and take great pride in their village. We ate lunch, outdoors of course, sat in front of the duomo that refused to be photographed; the light was too bright and the design defies being photogenic and bought touch-stones at Yolanda's before heading back to the car. The village had literally rolled itself up tight, shops were closed, the market had disappeared and the locals must have all gone home, we felt like we were trespassing. Siesta time?

I had started reading books by Marlena de Blasi before the trip and read "The Lady in the Palazzo" at home in Umbria a few weeks afterwards. The book is about Orvieto. Had we been drawn to the village for the reason of experiencing it further through Marlena's words? We like to think so.

Leaving Orvieto we had a sense of completion to our trip. On to Florence for the night, but first we stopped a few hours out of Orvieto for a rest stop at an autogrill that nearly ruined the trip. We needed some water and while standing in a long line make even longer by a woman who seemed to be conducting all sorts of business that required a number of cashiers to assist the transaction suddenly the group of four behind us bolted. Why suddenly get out of line and yell at the one person remaining to follow, in Italian, but the meaning was clear. A few minutes later we knew what the rush to leave had been about. Roger's wallet was gone. Until you've had the experience of being robbed you can't even imagine the shock and instant mixed emotions that come flooding in. We decided to not bother reporting it, they were long gone, so we paid for the water with money I had, got to the car and pulled out the cell phone and immediately phoned the credit card company. The pick-pockets didn't get much in the way of money, we were down to a few bucks, but what they got took weeks to recover driver's license, Medicare Card, Insurance cards and on an on including the usual bits of info like appointments and a calendar with addresses and important dates in it. I had the passports, extra credit cards, and money in my purse that I always wore diagonally across my body. Good tip! We had make copies of everything we carried with us which made making the phone call to the credit card company very easy.

A couple of hours later we entered Florence and our last night. It wasn't easy dropping our despair over the theft, but seeing how there wasn't anything we could do about it and nothing major had been taken we had to let it go. We did laugh weeks later over what the fools didn't get!
They couldn't very far on what they discovered in the wallet.

Quote: We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them. Kahlil Gibran.