Monday, April 29, 2019

Get Out Your Saw, Part II

Measuring the wood strip to cut for framing the sides of the
In my previous post, I showed you part 1 of my framing experiment. This time, I want to show you how I finished framing the piece. Top and bottom, the wood framing strips were cut and attached. To do the sides, I measured the length needed by laying the canvas on top of the wood strip and marking it. I'm going to cut two pieces that same length, one for each side, measured as shown in the picture to the left and below.

Lay the canvas on top of the length of wood. Measure, marks and cut with your saw.
I used very small nails to attach the strips of wood. Even then, I found it easiest to make a starting hole with an awl to get the nail started. At first I did only top and bottom, but the canvas wasn't completely square, so I added a nail in the middle to eliminate any gaps.

When you cut the side pieces, top and bottom or side and side, remember to cut them the same size. Measure twice, cut once, but make them the same. Lightly sand the cut edges, mark your nail holes, and hammer the wood strips in place. Make sure you are hammering the nails into the wood edge of the canvas. I may use a drill and even smaller nails next time, as I did end up cracking the on one end of the framing strip as I hammered it into the adjacent piece.

After all the wood framing pieces were nailed in place, I painted them with transparent acrylic airbrush paint. It's very thin, so it's easy to paint on in layers to achieve the color you want. I used a golden yellow color to match the artwork without distracting from it. After the paint dried, I wired the canvas for hanging.

Hurrah, May Queen is ready to show!

May Queen by Gayle Pritchard. The frame is attached
and ready to paint to match. The last step will be
wiring the canvas for hanging. 
Wired to hang
May Queen by Gayle Pritchard
Notice how the painted color of the frame doesn't
detract from the artwork. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Get Your Saw Out: A Framing Experiment, part 1

My  handy-dandy miter saw
It's been a busy few months, and now it's time to start preparing for my next three-woman exhibition, Conversations With Women, which will be in March 2020. More on that later, but...hurrah!

A few posts back, I was pulling out some unfinished work, and showed you my piece May Queen, in progress. I finished the collage, which I had created on a painted canvas, and now needed a way to frame it for a finished look. Because of the depth of the 3-D elements in the piece, it wasn't going to be popped into a regular frame, and I didn't want it inside a shadow box. So, off to Lowe's I went in search of wood suitable for my purposes.

My canvas was only 3/4" deep, and I was looking for something a little wider than that. I ended up with 1 1/2" maple, that would do the job, and bought enough of it to allow for the entire perimeter of the canvas, plus extra for mistakes. I bought two 5' lengths.

Mark the wood in pencil so you can see
where to cut.
I got my miter saw for my birthday one year, and it's perfect for these kind of projects. I use it a lot for my artwork. The saw sits in a groove, and the pegs are movable so you can lock them in place around the wood you are cutting. The blade is replaceable, too, if it gets dull. I have my saw, wood strip, my artwork and my pencil, and first off I'm going to mark the first cut. I line up the wood edge to edge with the canvas, and mark it. I started with the short sides, and made sure the mark worked on both ends. 

Make a hole with an awl, and push
the nail in before hammering.

Saw, saw, saw, and the wood is cut. I used a bit of fine-grained sandpaper to smooth the cut edges. I picked up some really small finishing nails at the hardware store. I used an awl to mark a hole to hold the nail while I hammer it in place.  
I attached both the top and bottom frame
pieces. Voila, I'm halfway home!

Measure and pre-mark all the nail hoes with an awl
before trying to hammer the finishing nails in place.
I ended up adding another nail in the center of each side,
since the canvas was not perfectly straight. The extra
nail eliminated tiny gaps.

May Queen by Gayle Pritchard, half way framed!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Making Marks is the Start

"Mexico" by Gayle Pritchard, oil pastel with collage and
image transfers on mat board
I have never met a kid who, at a certain age, did not like to draw. Somewhere along the line, most of them end up abandoning the skill, because they are taught, often by an untrained "art" teacher, that their drawings aren't up to snuff. They aren't taught that drawing is a lifelong skill and one that, no matter how good you naturally are at it, can become rusty or greatly improved, depending on how often you practice.

So, making marks: It's the key to it all, and my hands long to create them. Whenever I travel, even if for a few days away from home, I always bring along a little travel kit which includes drawing supplies. I especially love the marks that soft pastels or conte crayons make, but I adore using the less messy oil pastels.

I am fortunate to have two women artists in my life with whom I meet almost weekly: my art group. When we have play days, Jill, the experienced sketcher and painter in the group, often creates opportunities for us to sketch and draw in new ways. Her massive stack of filled sketchbooks regularly inspires us to keep drawing. As further incentive, she even gave both of us a set of Prismacolor pencils and a brand new sketchbook for Christmas. Get crackin', ladies!
Landscape drawing on two pages, oil pastel, by Jill Milenski
Inspired by both Jill Milenski and Gail Crum and their drawing practice, I have returned to a drawing series I started several years ago. For one of our groups' two major shows over the past two years, I began making house drawings that went along with the theme of our show, Circling Back Home.
Two of my house drawings in oil pastel, bottom,
along with Gail Crum's framed collage, top. From
our Circling Back Home exhibition.

I have also been inspired for many years by two other landscape painters: Wolf Kahn and Sheep Jones. Their use of marks and color combined create a deep longing in me, and I absolutely love their paintings. I am especially moved by Jones' imagery, the evocative houses standing in landscapes that she captures in her marks. 

Now that the New Year is well underway, I am happy to have entered back into my art studio routine. This month began with the need to clear off my work space, which always leads to the discovery of some forgotten sketch, background painting, or fabric or collage snippet. I found all of these, and since several were already in progress, still in the thrall of the original idea, I just picked them up to finish them.

House Drawing #3, Gayle Pritchard, 4 x 6
House Drawing #3 was made on a background painting I had made with a marked gesso surface painted with various acrylics, including interference paint. It creates a nice shimmer behind the oil pastels. It's attached with brass brads to one of a giant stash of vintage boxes that I have. It's a good use for the boxes, and a nice way to finish an artwork, especially these little 4" x 6" ones.

House Drawing #4 isn't finished yet. It is larger, and I am going to mount it on the piece of wood shown. It has also turned into an assemblage, with a shelf at the bottom and found wood, metal and glass pieces added. The wood background, salvaged from an old dresser drawer, has oil pastel marks, and I will probably add some more. The house drawing, just started, is also being created on a background prepared with gesso that has been drawn into before being left to dry. When the oil pastels are added to the surface, they can be pushed down into the grooves in the gesso, creating an interesting, textured surface.

House Drawing #4 by Gayle Pritchard, in progress. Found wooden blocks, beach sticks,
altered photographs, glass and metal will be attached to a piece of wood
salvaged from an old dresser drawer.
Making marks is the start of creating for me. I use a mark to "open" a surface, even if I'm working in fiber. Making marks gives a start. It's a beginning of a new idea about to come to life.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Inspiring Mentors and Faithful Friends

Lois with one of her scarves, made in
her late eighties.
I am such a lucky woman. Throughout my life as an artist, I have been surrounded by amazing friends, several of whom are or were my mentors. Lois Carroll was one of those people, both a best friend, partner in crime, and mentor. She died this past week, right after her 91st birthday. 

I moved back to Ohio in 1988 after living in Europe and then on the east coast for several years. My husband and I and our two little children decided to move back "home" with plans of raising our kids surrounded by grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. 

An angora scarf, my birthday present from
Lois that year.
Having been part of the quilting community in Philadelphia, I knew that connecting with other fiber artists in my new home would be a great place to make friends. I jumped right in. 
Detail of her hand-knit scarf as well as the
art jacket she is wearing. With the hands of
an accomplished seamstress and artist,
Lois still almost always had her nails painted.

Lois was the first artist I met. She had been hired to present a program at a local quilting guild. Vibrant and funny, she was easy to approach after the meeting to talk to about her presentation. We hit it off right away, and it wasn't long before she became my best friend. 

She introduced me to all the other fiber artists in the area, and to the many groups she was active in. In my personal life, she was there through thick and thin. When times were turbulent, she was a steady friend with good advice, and she was never judgmental. In good times, we team-taught classes and workshops in venues all over the region. When a new gallery opened or the art museum installed a new show, one of us would call the other, and off we would go. She was there at every important family event from birthday parties to graduations. 
Lois with her giant cat tote.

When we had to move to Florida for a few years, I remember the sad phone calls back and forth, me walking the beach, and she surrounded by a Cleveland snowstorm. In the last years of her life, when she was in trouble, I did everything I could to support her. I was sad when she had to move out of the area. And now she is gone. I will never forget her, and will treasure the impact her friendship had on my life. Rest in peace, dear friend.

At our last visit

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Bluebell: First Prize

Bluebell: First Prize; collage by Gayle Pritchard
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest during the 1960s. Like most kids who grew up then, I had the freedom to roam. The post-World War II neighborhoods were designed for kids and stay-at-home moms, and featured large picture windows in both the front and the back of the house. So, even though my mom worked full time, there were other moms in houses up and down the street watching through wide windows as the pack of neighborhood kids roamed from one unfenced yard to another all day long and well into the long summer nights.

There were a ton of kids to play with. I had many siblings, walked to the local school, received a great education, had a fantastic and progressive art teacher, and a high school guidance counselor who saved my life.

Detail of Pink House, an assemblage by Gayle Pritchard
The imagery from that time period still figures prominently in my artwork. Because my work arises from personal musings, that's no surprise. You can see and read more about that on my website.

I think part of the pull for me is also my interest in family history. My parents died when I and they were relatively young. Feeling orphaned, even in my thirties, diving into genealogy research helped me to feel connected to the greater history of my family. I felt part of something larger. It was comforting. It still is. Decades ago, I wrote this poem, Voices From the Past about that feeling:

                                              Voices from the past call out to me;

They are my roots and my beginning,
but they are gone.

I see them in misty vapors,
in clouds which I cannot touch;
deep inside, I feel them.

Their voices echo in the woods,
Calling out from distant places,
yet they are near, within.

Faded smiles in aged photographs whisper;
Glinting eyes, which hold secrets not revealed,
will not be silent.

Our voices join in the chorus of remembrance,
together harmonizing in the deep unknown
before stillness falls.

Pink House, assemblage by Gayle Pritchard

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Loose Ends, New Beginnings

From the book, I Hope You Dance, by
Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers.
It's that funny time between Christmas and the New Year. Today, against all odds in northern Ohio, the sun is brilliant in the sky; even though I slept in, it's the kind of sunshine that makes you want to jump out of bed on a winters' day and greet the world. It makes you want to dance.

I haven't put the Christmas tree ornaments away yet. In fact, I just finished clearing off the dining room table yesterday, finally removing the soiled tablecloth and taking it outside for a good shake before putting it in the laundry pile. I haven't done much in the way of "necessary" work this week: laundry, grocery shopping and the like. I'm on vacation.

Thanksgiving builds its' crescendo to Christmas Eve dinner, the big day at our house, I rise to the occasion, making plans, decorating, preparing pies and special dishes, shopping in local boutiques, trying to find just the right gift at the right price. After the family dinner on Christmas Eve, everyone opens their sleigh gift, and the night dissolves into family stories over dessert, talks, conversations in the corner, and mellow holiday punch. After that, my vacation begins.

I used the time this past week to tie up loose ends. This gets me ready for the new year. I like to start out with a clean slate, or at least a good start on one. I worked on my genealogy piles, scanning pictures and documents, following up on correspondences that have winked at me for weeks when I was too busy to form a reply. I got a good start on thank you notes, returned phone calls, organized my recipe books, returning the loose pages pulled out for the holidays. I gathered stacks of cardboard boxes for the next recycling truck, made a bag of donations, scanned my pile of new books into Goodreads to add to my "want to read" list. I even started reading one of my new books, Michelle Obama's "Becoming."

May Queen, a collage in progress by
Gayle Pritchard
There are plenty of loose ends in my studio, as well. Because my attic access is through the closet in that room, it gets piled up with Christmas boxes, wrapping paper, gift bags and the like. When I'm not working, the table gets covered with piles of collage papers I haven't put away yet, mending projects, and large pieces of artwork that have been moved to make room for a visiting guest or two. I didn't get the table cleared off completely, but I did pull out a few things to finish up.

This collage, I call it May Queen, was started back in July in a play-day with my art group. I made several pieces that day, but I really liked this one. I pulled it out this week and finished gluing the three dimensional elements in place. I plan to darken the blue botanical drawing in the bottom right corner, and maybe add a line of nice blue oil pastel, melted to a lip-sticky consistency, along the curve of the woman's back on the left. I think that will do it. The collage was created on stretched canvas, so I will either frame it with found wood pieces, or find a box or frame to pop it into.

As the new year approaches, I wish you peace and happiness. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance. I plan to. Happy New Year.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

About Thankfulness

Bye, Bye Daddy: putting together the pieces of an idea
It was Black Friday, 1992, though I don't think we called the day after Thanksgiving "Black Friday" back then, or, if we did, it wasn't such a crazy big deal as it is now. In any case, my family celebrated Thanksgiving day with my in-laws when they were still hosting the family feast. We had done this since we were first married. It was the one holiday in my husband's family where everyone, no matter where they were and what they were doing, made a huge effort to travel to Ohio to join the Thanksgiving day feast. Our family stories for years were measured in yearly Thanksgiving day beats.
As was also usual, I called my Dad on Friday to see how his holiday went, to touch base, to chat, to hear his voice. It was evening time, and when he picked up the phone, his voice sounded funny. We had a short and sweet conversation, and when I said goodbye, he replied with an uncharacteristic "bye, bye." I hadn't told him I loved him. By the next morning he was dead; Saturday, November 28, 1992. I am thankful we had spoken the night before.

Fast-forward twenty-six years, another Thanksgiving weekend, and here I sit, like I do every post-Thanksgiving weekend, remembering and still loving and missing my Dad. That part never goes away. I had lost my mom the year before Daddy died, in 1991. Her death was sudden, too, and shocked me to the core, because I had never experienced a loss like that before. Dad's sudden death numbed me somewhere deep inside, where a part of me would move forward permanently broken.
Part of my dad's shirt holds together the other bits
and pieces pulled together to tell the story.
Luckily for me, I am an artist. I have a place to put those feelings, to let them birth out of me into the world where I (and other viewers) can contemplate the expression. It wasn't long after Dad died that I started this piece using bits of his clothing, a photo-transfer I made of an old Army picture, rubbings made in Mexico, hand dyed fabrics, and Depression-era ration tickets for food and gas transferred onto fabric. I got to tell my story and begin to heal my soul.
I have made several artworks about my Dad over the decades since he died, each time reprocessing my thoughts and feelings onto another surface, something I can hold up and examine. I call this group of artwork  my Hero Series. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to show the pieces in numerous venues, and thankful for the chance to touch and connect with a new audience each time.
I became obsessed with genealogy research after my Dad died. On a shelf in his bedroom closet, there was a stack of photographs that I had never seen. Dad's sister Carole, the genealogist on that side of the family, had sent them. He hadn't shown them to me or my siblings. That was a the beginning of a new way to heal for me. Instead of feeling like an orphan, I could literally connect myself to a larger family.
Hero 4: Bye Bye, Daddy by Gayle Pritchard. An ancient Tibetan prayer box anchors the top,
and my story is written in on the fabric as well as hung onto embellishments that hang down
or are stitched onto the surface. Over dad's Army picture, juxtaposed in strips with the
statue of David, there is a sheer veil, my representation of death.
With a chance to do some lazy-day, Thanksgiving holiday digging around on my computer, a moment of serendipity occurred. I was adding photos and scanned documents to my Ancestry family tree, when I ran across a 1949 clipping my sister had found online during a newspaper search. It had the simple heading: Airport News.
Neil Vickery, my dad, landed at this airport.
At that time, 1949, he was a barnstormer,
doing air shows around the area. 
"Hmmm, interesting", I thought. I have vivid memories of barnstormers who flew into my small hometown. We would stand in our backyard and watch in amazement as they performed tricks in the sky. I could now put my dad's face on those brave flyers.
Then I ran across a picture of dad from 1949. It is actually a photocopy of a picture of dad, and I wish I knew who has the original. In the photograph, he is standing next to his biplane. He's wearing a flight suit and, instead of his flashy Army aviation sunglasses, he has flight goggles pushed up onto his leather flying cap.
For a moment in time, I am connected to my dad in the year 1949, eight years before I was born. Two moments in time, a newspaper clipping and a photograph taken of the young flyer, fell into my lap as a gift. Both had been sitting in my computer, but I had never put them together before. Now, a little piece of my dad had been returned to me. I am so thankful.

My dad, the flyer, the barnstormer, in a picture dated 1949.