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"Arrogance invites ruin; humility receives benefits."  --  Chinese Proverb

There I was in French class sitting in my 39 year old body with a 9 year old mindset.  The last event for the evening was dictation.  My heart froze.  I have hated dictation ever since Mrs. Rose's fourth grade class.  Something gets lost in the translation from aural to written word.  I want to do it, but it is so incredibly difficult that frustration over rides the desire to learn. 

The dictation difficulties are similar to my inability to cut a straight line.  I received a "needs improvement" in kindergarten and have been cutting diagonals ever since.   When working for a yarn company, a boss once asked me to trim sample cards that were soon to be distributed.  I informed him of my scissor handicap and he told me to get over myself.  I tried and tried and tried.  The result was a set of 30 butchered sample cards and one ticked off boss. 

When I can't master a particular skill, I tend to master the inability to complete it.  I actually do have a slight hearing disability, but that isn't what impedes me from dictation.  After innumerable C's and D's in the subject, I gave up and mastered the inability to succeed at it.  This mindset is exactly what I battle against when teaching art to children and adults.  If they can't master a realistic portrait, they believe they can't draw.  Arrogance and pride are what impede me.  My students don't need to be  cloned Leonardo da Vincis to enjoy drawing and I don't need an A+ to learn from dictation.  It's time to try in earnest.



A cyanotype photogram I made today of some hostas I picked.

"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air...."  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I didn't swim the sea (or even the lake) and I am not sure whether I would categorize Chicago's air as wild (depends on perspective), but I certainly lived today in the sunshine.  I woke at my crazy early of 5:30am before the sun had even made an appearance, but by 7:30 I was in and out all day making cyanotype photograms.  The process is fun and very simple with a certain measure of alchemy tossed in for good measure. 

I followed the sun around my garden and into the alley to guarantee maximum exposure. My next door neighbor thought I was a bit crazy at first until I showed her the results.  I don't speak any Polish and she speaks little English, but we manage.  Art and gardens are common denominators worldwide.  She was so taken with what I was doing that she picked a variety from her garden for me to use.   It was a very nice gesture as my flower bed is a sad sight given the lack of attention it received this summer.  Few of my treasured annuals were planted, so the garden lacks color and texture.  But with her addition I was able to make a whopping 30 photograms, each one unique and different. 

Now I just have to figure out how to assemble them......  That's tomorrow's project. 

black and white

Colorado State University Trial Garden
Same image reduced to greyscale and inverted.

A cyanotype photogram is made with an object placed directly on the treated surface.  A ghostly trace of the object remains.  I managed to make a few interesting photograms before the sun set.  Meanwhile I have been experimenting with the conversion of my collection of garden photographs.  Images are digitized, reduced to grayscale and then inverted.  I love the results.  They take on an analytical, xray quality. 

I first experimented with cyanotype 14 years ago.  It was this very xray quality of the image that drew me to the process.
Death Mask - I made it in 1993.  Other processes are embroidery and beadwork.

The process of inverting photographs to negatives and back again can be a bit confusing.  A lab technician once called me in a panic when making a black and white print of "Death Mask."  He couldn't get a positive image, only the negative.  I reassured him that there was nothing wrong with his equipment, the cyanotype was a negative of a positive which when photographed once again became a positive negative.  Did you follow that??? 

Anyway, since that time, I have been hooked on looking at the world around me through this inverted lense.  Try it yourself and tell me about your results.


Image taken at the Colorado State University Trial Gardens.
Same image altered by Photoshop to replicate cyanotype.

"Blueness doth express trueness."  -- Ben Johnson

I have been working crazy, wonderful 14 hour days for over a month and needed time to putter.  The weather was perfect for gardening.  Snip back a few roses.  Drink some coffee.  Trim the Japanese yews.  Read a mystery.  Pull out some weeds. Eat lunch.  And so my day developed. 

My early work was landscape based, and now 20 years later, I return to this theme.  I was certified a Master Gardener two years ago and am developing a series of banners for display outside our plant clinic at the Garfield Park Conservatory.  Every weekend a couple of us volunteer at the office to answer any and all questions pertaining to gardening.  The banners are designed to educate those visiting the conservatory while also advertising the clinic's services. 

Cyanotype is a photographic process dating back to the mid-1800's.    I love its rich blue tones and appreciate its historical use in botanical research.  So, as I puttered about in my garden I collected materials to use in the project.  Given that my garden had taken on the look of a jungle over the past month, I had plenty of seeds, leaves, stems, and flowers from which to choose. 

hey you!

Hey You!  I was in Fort Collins, Colorado this past week soaking up all the art being made by the incredibly talented folks at Colorado State University.  That's me (on the right) with Mary Ann Kokoska, professor, SOVA sponsor, and my hostess with the mostess.  She's also the one responsible for the sign in the main hallway of the visual arts building.  Too funny! 

I was asked to give a series of lectures and workshops in conjunction with my exhibition "Woman's Work" at the CSU Curfman Gallery,  and as always, I wonder who learns more - me or the students.  While discussing a technical challenge in my own work, a student suggested the possibility of a parade as performance.  I am still mulling over that idea.  And what a compliment to learn that my Red Thread Project was the highlight for two other students when attending Convergence. 

A personal highlight was meeting Tom Lundberg, professor of Fibers at CSU.  I know he thought I was kidding, but I have long considered him to be one of my gurus.   He merges images from everyday life with those of memory in the painstakingly slow technique of embroidery.   These pieces are color saturated, physically and emotionally dense.  I can drop myself into one for hours on end. 

It's going to take a few days to process all I saw and learned.  I have been working long hours for over a month in preparation for this exhibtion, as well as those soon opening at the Bedford Gallery and H.F. Johnson Gallery.  For now, I am going to enjoy breakfast and whack back my garden jungle.