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Friday, September 15, 2017

Flies That You Don't Want to Swat

I have had even more reason not to be keeping up with my insect journey since I have been on a different journey--to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where I renewed my spirit with scenes like these:



But I did manage to put the finishing touches on a few insect squares. The first was inspired by a Longlegged Fly that caught my eye on the bottom of Tom's kayak:


This guy gleams iridescent green with even more gold highlights than the camera picked up. There are many, many species of these flies that survive by eating other smaller insects (yay!) so I couldn't identify it more specifically, but the wing patterns are distinctive. So I took the opportunity to put some gilt foil on some fabric, something I haven't done in a while, and then tried to capture that rather Celtic-looking pattern on the wings.

 

And then another fly showed up serendipitously as we were eating breakfast on our deck one morning. It was unsuccessfully trying to hide under the top of the railing--a Summer Fishfly. These are quite common around ponds but I had never seen one before because they are nocturnal and usually more successful in finding a good spot big enough to accommodate their three inches during the day.


The larvae of these guys live several years in the water eating little bugs and even tadpoles. But look at the patterning on the veins of the wings. I thought at first its antennae were feathered but that would have meant it was a moth of some kind. Instead on closer inspection I discovered the antennae were pectinate (a new word for me, and obviously for my spell checker, since it is objecting)--like the teeth of a comb.


And now back to unpacking and catching up on things in Massachusetts.

I am linking to Off the Wall Friday.







Friday, September 1, 2017

Under Milkweed

I was searching the milkweed plants in front of the Joppa Flats Mass Audubon Education Center for any critters to show families on a Meet the Insects event when I happened upon this guy, who has a lot of visual impact, as they say in the art world.


This is a Red Milkweed Beetle so he was definitely in the right place. He belongs to the family of long-horned beetles, for obvious reasons. I was fascinated by those antennae and by the patterning those matching legs created.




I had to add that bright orangy-red color (which is actually closer to his true color than my photo) that advertises to potential predators that this guy has been feeding on the same thing that monarch do and might not taste so good.

And I am linking, while it is still Friday, to Off the Wall Friday.

Friday, August 25, 2017

More Winged Things

I didn't quite get a 5-inch square finished last week and I can blame the wonderful distraction of having old friends visit for much of the week. But they renewed my spirit, which was much more important than keeping to a schedule.

Luckily, I am way behind in posting about my already completed insect squares, so I have plenty to write about. I chose the next in the series not because of its beauty or complexity but because of its simplicity and ubiquity. The Cabbage White Butterfly is one of the most easily recognized, but I found myself having a problem creating an interesting block. The Cabbage White is not pure white (it can even have a yellow glow to its hindwing) but sports one (male) or two (female) smudgy black spots on the upper wing along with a black smudge on the top corner of that wing. Easy, I thought.

I just didn't like this. So a couple of weeks later I went back and added a black line for that black body that separates the wings.


This is still not my favorite block but I like it better. Perhaps it is echoing my feelings for the butterfly itself--not my favorite and it even caused me to think some destructive thoughts when I was growing a lot of vegetables, but I enjoy seeing it now.

My next block was also somewhat common around here but is new to me and is quite dramatic when you see one.

This is a Common Whitetail Dragonfly, a large member of this family. And perhaps I was overcompensating for the plainness of the previous week with the glittery overlay on this block, but I think it does capture what I wanted to capture.


So if you are still reading, thanks for the company--and hope you, too, have enjoyed the company of well loved friends this summer.

I am linking with Nina Marie. Check out what other fiber artists are doing!



Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Good Way to Spend an Afternoon

Yesterday I got a surprise. I went to the opening of the Contemporary Art Quilts Show at the Whistler House Museum of Art in Lowell (MA)--a beautiful show that I was honored to be juried into. And here are a few of the impressive works:
Channeling Ernst Haeckel 3 by Sandy Gregg

Three Figures by Valerie Maser-Flanagan
Growth Factor by Betty Busby

I was enjoying catching up with some other artists I had not seen in a bit--particularly an old friend who I had not seen in several years when it was announced that awards were to be presented: a juror's award from Wen Redmond that went to Poseidon by Marilyn Belford, and two Whistler awards, given by the director of the gallery, one of which went to Queen Bee by Nancy Turbitt and the other to my piece, Insight! Congratulations to my fellow award winners!

Poseidon by Marilyn Belford

Queen Bee by Nancy Turbitt


Insight (my piece)

It was quite a day!








Friday, July 28, 2017

Insect beauties

No creepy crawlies posted this week--just a butterfly and a moth that are both easy to love. As part of an overnight adventure at our house, I took my granddaughter to the Butterfly Place in Westford, MA, in the late spring, a magical place where colors and shapes flutter around you and sometimes land on your arm. Although I have been trying to keep my insect project limited to those that live around here, I couldn't resist adding just one, even though its home is in the tropics.


This is a Common Birdwing that had a distinctive design on its hind wing, which became the basis of my block a couple of weeks ago.


In early April I took a quiet walk in Maudslay Park, a 400+ acre estate formerly owned and enjoyed by a very few people, now owned by a forward-thinking state so that many can walk its winding paths. The spring frogs were vocalizing but I saw few insects until a bit of orange caught my eye among the leaf litter. It was a moth, quite active for the daylight hours. On investigating further at home, I discovered it to be Archiearis infans, also called The Infant, one of the first moths to show up in the spring. 

And so I had to celebrate it in some way.



I am realizing now that the orange in the photo of my block is reading a bit redder than the actual fabric. So just imagine the orange triangle as closer in color to the moth's hind wings.

And, if you are still reading about my adventures with the six-legged creatures, thanks for the company!

Linked with Off the Wall Fridays.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Looking Back

It's Friday and I am reflecting on a busy week--that is not over yet. The beginning of the week involved a successful artists' reception for Untitled, an annual exhibit at the Newburyport (MA) Art Association Galleries of works by members of the Abstract Artists Group of New England, which includes me. This year 23 artists were involved, working in a wide range of media, although oils and acrylics tend to predominate. It is show I am proud that four of my pieces are part of.

"It Is What It Is," one of my heavily textured pieces

I am always pleased when I see how well the fiber art integrates with the other works. 

"Elusive" on right, a work by Tricia Jones in center and works by Jennifer Burnham on left



Working on and at the exhibit plus some wonderful days spent with my favorite eight-year-old means that I am running behind again on my insect project, but luckily I am running behind in recording my little 5x5s. So here is my focus from a couple of weeks ago:



An Eastern Pondhawk, one of the more dramatic dragonflies, was flitting aAndround our front garden and then landed on the neighbors' house. And no, it does not have eight wings, just a clever shadow. This guy loves ponds, so she more than likely spent her early days in the pond behind our house, and I am labelling it a female, since the females are this lovely green and black, although immature males are also this color until they turn a solid powdery blue. The piece I made honors both the genders:




I'm linking with NinaMarie's Off the Wall Fridays!



Saturday, July 1, 2017

Of Winged Things

I was walking down our driveway one morning when I saw this little beautiful little guy clinging to the clapboard on our house. I had never seen one before, but he looked a little like a crane fly--one of those giant mosquito-like insects that frighten many people who don't know that these creatures have no interest in human blood. So I began my search in the crane fly family and there it was: a Phantom Crane Fly, called a phantom because in the shadowy spaces under heavily leaved branches where it likes to hang out, all the black parts disappear and it looks a giant snowflake hovering in the shade.


And here is my rendition:



It has tiny wings, which it hardly uses because those enlarged black areas on the tarsi (toes) are a kind of air sack that makes it very light and able to catch the slightest wind so that it moves by being blown from place to place.


This is one cool insect!

The next week continued with more muted tones as I tried to suggest the patterns on a moth's wing (an ironically named Colorful Zale).




More colors will return next week. 

And I am linking to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Experiencing Art

I did not post last week because I was getting ready for this:


As part of Amesbury Days, an annual event in our town, the Cultural Council now hosts a juried art show and I decided to participate this year. I, along with over twenty other artists, found myself in an unconditioned City Hall on an unusually steamy day for June with not too many people out and about looking at art. But I did have some good conversations with some of the few who ventured out, got to know three other artists a bit better, met six very interesting people, who I hope to know better, and I sold two pieces! 


Earlier in the week I took my favorite five-year-old on an adventure at The Butterfly Place, and we became lost in the experience of intense colors and patterns swirling and landing around us.



And now I begin a week where the art gods may allow me to do some work. We shall see. . . 



Friday, June 16, 2017

More Insects

As I was working on another project in my studio, the object of week 8 fell onto the windowsill beside me. Popping the little beetle into a magnifying box, I saw that two sides of the wing cover were a rich red, and the blackish triangle in the middle revealed itself to be an iridescent green as I carried the beetle outside to better photograph it. But even more interesting was its face--a pale tan which meant that its two little black eyes really stood out. I got the feeling that this little guy was staring back at me and I could see him trying to solve the problem of how to get out of this enclosed space with all the sense and senses available to him.

This turned out to be a Scarlet Malachite Beetle and it appears such insects eat other insects, particularly those that eat our cereal grains.


And here is my tribute to this little creature, who is endangered in the British Isles:


Terra and I took a walk a couple of weeks ago in one of my favorite nearby parks, Maudslay State Park, the one-time grounds of a mansion that no longer exists, and wandered down a new path, often a good thing to do. I began to see those tiny blue Spring-is-here butterflies flitting in the sunlight. I was lucky enough to have one land right in front of me so I could grab some photos and here are my thoughts on a Spring Azure (a female because of the black cap on its forewings):



One exciting discovery about these simple beauties is that their antennae and legs are striped black and white.


I have fallen behind in my recording of my weekly squares (not in making them, however!!), partly because of a couple of bigger projects I am working on, partly because of all the other parts of my life that keep filling my days, and partly because of this: 


Finally, after three years of making do with various floor lights as well as light from the windows, I have track lights in my studio! This meant a significant cleaning and rearranging of the studio so that the electrician could actually get a large ladder into the space but it is done, except for one more head that must be added--and, at the flip of a switch (actually two switches), I have wonderful LED light not too blue and not too yellow! I am very pleased--and my aging eyes are thanking me.

And, if you are still reading, thanks for the company!

I am linking with Nina and Off the Wall Friday. Check out what's happening there.



Friday, May 26, 2017

More Insect Inspiration


Over the course of several years I have managed to collect several butterfly, moth, dragonfly specimens that met their demise due to natural causes of one sort or another. And I decided to take a look at these hoping for some inspiration for the sixth in my weekly series. These are all showing their age and lack of professional preservation techniques so, as I moved one butterfly aside, its tightly curled proboscis detached. There was my image for the week: a lovely, simple spiral shape. But I had to complicate it a bit with some research that reminded me that, under an electron microscope you can clearly see that this is a hollow tube (sometimes a double tube) and that the spiral is not a neatly rounded shape but curves tightly in on itself so much so it almost knots at times. 


The proboscis comes in many lengths as well, sometimes very short, sometimes extremely long, reaching far into a flower. What an amazing little tool to have attached to one's face!

That same week I was whining about the coolness of the spring that meant few insects were out and about and so I sought to literally uncover some under last year's leaves. And there, of course, were the ubiquitous roly-poly bugs. I chose one unlucky specimen to be examined more closely and discovered, with research, that it was neither roly-poly nor a bug. 


It looked exactly like a roly-poly to my uneducated eye but it didn't seem to want to roll up as those bugs from my childhood had always done. It was instead an entirely different species that goes by the exceedingly unsexy name of woodlouse or European Sowbug (Oniscus asellus). And it is not an insect at all but one of the few crustaceans that live on land. I had already suspected something amiss in this area when my guy did not stop at the requisite three pairs of legs for insectdom and instead wiggled seven pairs at me when I turned him over.

So technically this woodlouse does not qualify for my series but, since I am making the rules and most folk think it is a bug, I created a block in its honor:


One of the aspects that intrigued me about this creature was how its shiny shell became almost translucent at the edges and so I fused shiny strips of organza over the gray that do not show up so well in a photo. I also paid homage to those seven pairs of legs, but one of the most fascinating aspects of this woodlouse is the antennae that are never still and that are jointed in two places like the legs. 

These guys, who originally came from Britain, are actually of benefit, unlike many other of the imported species.They help plant materials decompose, adding to the fertility of the soil. They do not bite, they do not spread disease and they even lay their eggs in a pouch like a kangaroo's and carry them around until they are "born"--an all around pleasant non-bug.

I am linking this to Nina's Off the Wall Friday.




Friday, May 12, 2017

Of Dog's Ears and Seascapes

In looking back at my now-and-then postings over the last year or so, I noticed that I was under the misapprehension that I had written about the pieces I had completed. I live with them for so long as unfinished processes that I feel I must have told their story. So today I am taking a step back in time to remedy the situation.

In 2016 I finished this piece in the series I have been working on using raw-edged applique, hand sewn to a background.

It began with a piece of snow-dyed fabric that hung on my design wall for a while until I saw a direction to take. Perhaps all my weekly walks on the beach help me see water everywhere and led me to add some water to it, and playing with various orientations brought me to the What If moment of trying to change the traditional landscape orientation from horizontal to vertical. I had also been reminded that being able to change perspectives is a great gift that was only reinforced by trying to see the world through the eyes of a then six-year-old grandchild. And changing perspectives can also help you see the essence of things, and sometimes the truth of things. 

So I dyed and printed the fabrics and began happily stitching those undulations in the middle. When I got to the lighter blue on the right (perhaps the sky) and the light brown on the left I felt the need for more texture and so the stitching became a bit more complicated.



Both of these fabrics were printed with oatmeal resist and I wanted some subtle texture--and it is indeed subtle. I wondered whether it was worth the effort but I have finally decided that it adds just a touch of shadow texture that is enough.

I also fused some brown shadowy pieces to the main curved piece to give it a bit more definition and finally added beading for a touch of that water/sand sparkle. The piece (28 x 20") is called "Seascape."

As I write this, I am also thinking of those of my artist friends who believe you should never explain anything about your work, even or especially the process, that the viewer should be allowed to approach it fresh with no preconceived notions or limitations. And this is indeed what happens when a piece like this hangs in a gallery (and it did make it into the Regional Juried Exhibit at the Newburyport Art Association in Newburyport, MA!). But I often find it enlightening to hear a bit of the story behind a work. And, as I read over my comments here, I realize that even more is happening in this piece for me that I have not discussed, so there is still plenty of room for each viewer to connect with it in his/her own way.

Oh, and the title of this post: I had been meaning to write this all week but there was no time and this morning when I finally had a morning at home I was procrastinating with a variety of tasks that got more frivolous until I found myself brushing the dog's ears and realized I was looking for ANY excuse to not sit down at the computer. 

And if you are still reading--and not off brushing your dog's ears, thanks for the company!

I am linking this to Nina's Off the Wall Fridays.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Of Birthdays and Butterflies, Part 2

And now to begin at the beginning of my birthday project (a weekly 5-inch square on a tan/brown background somehow related to my insect investigations).

Week 1
Ever since I discovered a Brown-hooded Owlet caterpillar on the golden rod in our field in PA, I wanted to translate those colors onto fabric. The moth it becomes is basically all tans and rusty browns but the caterpillar has visual impact, as the art jurors would say:


 And here is my first attempt at translating the insect world into fabric and thread:

And whether or not this piece succeeds artistically, it did accomplish another of my goals--to spend some time carefully looking at a creature and then translate my discoveries into something tactile, using my hands as a way into my aging brain.

Week 2
Displaying the end result of this week is an exercise in humility.  The Horned Spanworm has quite a distinctively shaped caterpillar but is a very quietly colored moth that got more beautiful the more time I spent with it.

Being short on designing time, I decided to just do a sort of crop of the wing. I wanted to include part of that brown splotch at the bottom that looks like the wings were dipped in mud, a contrast to the web-like patterning that becomes like some ancient writing moving from deep brown to a ruddy gold that almost shimmers in the background.


Perhaps I will like this better in a few weeks.


Week 3
So I moved on to another moth that has a hidden surprise as so many moths do. The Modest Sphinx--I love the names (here the juxtaposition of a mythical beast known for its strength and even viciousness with modesty is a surprise in itself)--is a somewhat unassuming gray moth until it spreads its upper wings a bit revealing regal purple under wings.



Since my goal had never been to reproduce the insects realistically and I felt the problems with the Horned Spanworm may have been from my following the photo too closely, I moved toward the abstract, toward trying to capture an element I found significant. 

Week 4
While I was working on the Modest Sphinx, I happened upon what looked like a lightning bug on the back of our house that puzzled me as it seemed to have arrived much too early. Since it was content not to move around much in the cold temperature of the day, I got to look very closely at it. Later I identified it as a Winter Firefly, a species of firefly that is around all year, is active in the daytime and does not flash. But what interested me most was its tiny feet that ended in what looked like heart- shaped toes. Sure enough those heart shapes are one of the characteristics of fireflies.

But all this investigating got me interested in insect legs and the proper names of each part that end up being similar to ours. The largest and often strongest part at the top is the femur, the lower leg that is sometimes the longest is the tibia, and the "foot" is the tarsus, made up of varying numbers (usually 4 or 5--but the numbers and their variations between the three pairs of legs is significant in identification) of tarsomeres, the last of which is heart-shaped in fireflies. And I could go on--the top of the leg attaches to a hip joint called a trochanter which fits into the coxa.

The legs can be the ickiest part of insects for insect avoiders so I wanted to de-icky them somehow.



And there is a month of my life laid out in the space of a blog post. Thanks for sharing the month with me!


I'm linking this with Off the Wall Fridays--Take a look!