Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Frog or Prince

February always sneaks up on me each year and I suddenly realize I need to come up with something to slide under the dinner plate of my life partner on Feb. 14, as I have done for so many years past. I have been itching to use more digitally printed fabric in my work and, since I use this opportunity to try something a little new or to revisit a technique I haven't used in a while, I began searching photographs for some inspiration and soon came upon what I thought had some possibility.

Photoshop drained it of color and enhanced its textural qualities. The color was going to come from the funky hand-dyed fabric I would print it on, flipping the usual process of foregrounding the photo on a blank or neutral background. I found the print intriguing enough to keep going, adding two kinds of hand stitching and letting the the straight rows run off the bottom of the piece.

By Valentine's Day all was done, except for sewing the facing down in the back and adding a sleeve. These pieces are always small, this one 10 x 8", so I can actually get it reasonably finished in between my bigger projects. And so Tom opened the folder that protected it, looked at it for a minute and said, "Oh, I like this. Do you want to tell me about it?" 

Now I have confronted enough drawings from young grandchildren who proudly present me with something that I have no idea what I am looking at, and that question is always how I begin. So I knew there was a problem here until I realized he was looking at it sideways. On the third turn he had it right side up and began commenting on the design. There was still a problem. The piece was remaining abstract for him and not resolving into a bullfrog (actually one of the many bullfrogs in our pond last summer). 

Were you able to see it? I can see it immediately but I started with the original that was very clear and I knew it was there. So far I have shown this to three other people, all of whom had varying degrees of difficulty seeing the frog but then see it clearly after it is pointed out. I wanted to obscure the frog's presence a bit, as it is in the pond world, and I did succeed in doing that. But I am now trying to decide if I was too successful. Tom, on the other hand, has convinced me he likes it.

The title of this is Centered, something that may be as difficult to achieve as seeing a frog among the duckweed.

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

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Live Frugally. . .

"Live frugally on surprise," said Alice Walker, in one of my favorite poems. Today I went out looking for a little peace and found some on the Plum Island dunes:

But I found something else -- one of those moments of connection, of Wow! as I stood just a short walk away from a sleeping barred owl. I had never seen one before and it is a real presence in the woods.

The picture doesn't do the moment justice as I had come unprepared for this surprise and had to rely on the limitations of an Iphone camera. But the primary importance of this moment was not the recording of it but the feelings of wonder and awe it generated. Those terms were fresh in my head from reading an article in Orion by Christopher Norment, who teaches Environmental Science at SUNY Brockport and feels the most important element of his students' education is that they somehow experience a sense of wonder in their interactions with nature.

And that sense of wonder was certainly there a couple of weeks ago in a Massachusetts Audubon class I was taking as I held a just-banded blue jay in my hand until it decided to seize its freedom and fly.

But wonder and awe aren't just for nature. I have felt them strongly as I stand before a piece of art that makes me see just a little deeper or a little more clearly. I once thought that this should be a goal to strive for in my own work, but then I realized that, just as setting out to experience wonder is a fool's errand, so it is to try to create it. 

So I return to living frugally on surprise and know that when it happens, it has been a good day.