20 February 2014

Inspired by an orange teapot...


This month's color for the ROY G BIV photo challenge is orange. All week long, sun was predicted for today, so I planned my orange-themed activities/photos around the forecast—& then woke to pouring rain. As I went about my day, I continued to hold out hope that the fairly constant drizzle would eventually give way to the sunshine that was supposedly still a possibility.

I went to the plant market in search of orange freesias, but came home instead with primroses in a delightful new shade of fuchsia-y/orangish-red, an orange ranunculus & yet another clutch of Paperwhite bulbs...probably the last of the season. I baked scones (recipe here), worked on my latest letters for ALaW (described in the last post), then prepared afternoon tea (which included a custardy orange curd-cream I made yesterday). Because, you see, the plan for the orange edition of ROY G BIV all started with my new teapot—a "terracotta" Le Creuset 1.3L (which turned out to be a much sunnier shade of orange that gradually deepens to red toward the base).

I have a number of favorite tea cups & mugs, including one that's a sort of taupe color. The other day I noticed what I thought was a lovely juxtaposition with the new teapot, so I decided I would contrast orange & a touch of red with warm, deep neutrals as my starting point for the "orange"-inspired photos. Unfortunately I wasn't able to realize all that this idea entailed because of the lack of sun (my experience is that every time I take photos without sunshine I will be inclined to retake them, so I generally don't bother).

Fortunately, though, I found another path. Orange played a big role in my most recent ALaW letters (the design for the one at the top of this post, 'S', was inspired by the teapot-&-mug palette), so at least there was something to "build" from. I had also photographed a beautiful pile of clementines with leaves one sunny day earlier in the week, & then serendipitously came across a photo of some orange tulips today. I put these together with a couple of photos I took on my way home from the plant marketit turns out that Ferragamo's shop windows featured backdrops in varying shades of orange that went remarkably well with the tulips & clementines. I am always amazed how little things like this end up working out...

Scattered among the photos I've mentioned are also a couple from this drizzly, gray afternoon, which at least was cozy & cheerful in the studio. When she heard me cursing the bad lighting, my daughter suggested I post them as black & white images. In the right situation this could have been an option, but of course orange was the whole point today. In fact, considering how much orange surrounds us, orange pretty much feels like the point of every day! I can't imagine a life without orange.





In the last post I had wondered about what I might use the little ALaW boxes for; I found that several of my lovely organza tea bags fit perfectly in the orange, red & taupe box (below). You can also see the Blood Orange & Strawberry Spread in the glass beaker in the background—& on the scone—though it came out more of a lemon-y color, which is made even more so due to the lighting.


The design above was inspired by 'B'.
{More details about this project in the previous post.}




And here's the recipe for the Blood Orange & Strawberry Spread (click to enlarge). It began as a blood orange version of lemon curdwe have six kilos of tarocchi at the moment!but because I used some whole eggs (instead of all yolks) & no lemon juice (but added strawberries), it's sweeter & more custard-y.





The ROY G BIV photo challenge was conceived by artists Jennifer Coyne Qudeen
& Julie Booth in 2012. Guidelines are here if you'd like to play along in future; March's color will be YELLOW (followed by GREEN, BLUE, INDIGO, etc.).


06 February 2014

Beginning/A Letter a Week


A new year - > new projects! A new year is also the perfect excuse for a new arrangement in the studio. While things are constantly changing places in our apartment, the studio desk has remained in the same spot for well over a year. This feels like an unusually long time to me...I am a wholehearted proponent of that principal of feng shui that says moving twenty-seven objects brings new energy to a space (I swear it's true!). The desk is now at an angle to the window, & I'm enjoying the new view from my stool, as well as the easier access to the window. Space has also opened up for my easel to go next to the window, & I am excited to resume painting with oils; I've had too many unrealized ideas floating around for far too long.

You don't really get a sense of it from the photo above, but when I sit at my desk at the moment I feel as though I am in a garden of Paperwhites, & it's lovely. The only thing missing these days is sunlight—though the sun did stop in for a nice visit today& we're now up to a generous ten hours & five minutes between sunrise & sunset...

One project that has started up again is A Letter a Week 2014, edition five. Begun in 2010 by Australian artist Fiona Dempster, ALaW involves creating a letter each week of the year, for a total of two alphabets by year's end. The brief always includes an alphabet that is to be inspired by a particular theme (this year it's "place"), & the other one is open to the artist's interpretation. In both cases the letters must each fit within a 7x7-cm square & ultimately be brought together into a final piece...this can be a book, a wall piece, a quilt, a set of cards, etc. Last year Fiona organized a lovely collective exhibition of the three previous years' work. (More about the guidelines on the blog for this year's ALaW.)

While I completed both alphabets in 2012 (my first year participating) I did not fare so well with ALaW 2013. In fact, I am still working on my "Peace" alphabet, & will likely not manage the second one in the interest of completing both of this year's alphabets. It was not for lack of inspiration or time at the studio table that I struggled with ALaW in 2013, but rather that I had a hard time settling down & committing to a concrete direction...I tend to get carried away with the "process" sometimes, & enjoy playing with/stretching ideas—unfortunately sometimes at the expense of bringing them to a conclusion. If anything, ALaW has been useful in making me understand this; hopefully by the end of 2014 I will be able to say that indeed I did manage to apply what I learned from 2013's attempts.

The structure of this first set of letters, my "free" alphabet, borrows from an idea I was developing for one of the alphabets last year; it will consist of twenty-six "sleeves" that each slide over a 7x7x2.75-centimeter box made of Canson Mi-Teintes paper in a variety of colors. Here are a few shotswith a glorious slice of sunshinefollowed by images of the files...


The concept for these "letters" came to me as I was creating a gift card for my parents' seventieth birthdays. I started playing with a couple of letters, trying to conceal their identities, but allowing them to guide the design. At first I experimented with blocky, sans serif fonts, but decided to see what would happen with the more flowing English Vivace. Through a series of manipulations—duplicate, flip, group, rotate, repeatI then grouped the resulting elements into a new object, duplicated it & altered its dimensions (which changed the amount of space between the individual letters that comprised the object). I transformed them further by applying different colors & then began layering the designs (sometimes with a further rotation of the original). This likely doesn't make much sense, but I will try to record the steps of one of the letters at some point to clarify the process.


The alphabet in English Vivace



Here are some of the letter arrangements in a more basic form; you may remember them from my Christmas greeting in this post. The first one was made from 16 "P's," the second from 32 "J's," & the third from 16 "L's" (inspired by "peace," "joy" & "love").

Next are some screenshots of the files for the tops of the sleeves for the ALaW project, i.e. the "official" 7x7 cm squares...






Most sleeves will likely just have a design on the top, but these next two images are screenshots of the print files for those with designs on the sides/bottom as well (the lines at top/bottom are guides for the scoring-lines).

Now I just need to decide what will go in the boxes!

I didn't photograph the original card before sending it off to my parents, but here are some of the others that have helped along/further inspired my AlaW alphabet. The first, a birthday card for my sister-in-law, is  based on "A" (the colors are a little off as there wasn't much light the day I sent it off/took the photo). The next two are cards I made for my daughter's birthday, variations on the "E" theme. I'm looking forward to discovering other ways to use these designs...



And, on a completely unrelated note, to conclude this post here's a song by the original Journey, circa 1975—a song either new to me or that I had forgotten about for the last couple of decades—Of a Lifetime. Enjoy...

02 February 2014

paper + white + blossoms


As promised, here are some images of the Paperwhites in bloom. The rain has continued over the last several days, but I thought I'd try photographing them anyway since the forecast predicts rain, rain & more rain for the week ahead. I don't remember a January in Florence as wet as this one has been—even more reason to be grateful for Paperwhites brightening up the studio! And that scent—oh my...

I find it fascinating to compare these photos to the ones in the previous post—the palette of light is so utterly different that it feels as though they were taken in a different season altogether. These shots are in fact more in keeping with winter. I do hold out hope that I may still capture the sweet little blossoms basking in the sunat the very least those from the second batch of bulbs, which I have just "planted." (I am merely setting the bulbs in a tray with a few millimeters of water, so that only the roots make contact with it, then transferring them to glass containers in order to contain the wayward stems as they grow taller. Talk about easy gardening!)

I continue to be astounded by how much joy these bulbs & their blooms have given me, but I suppose part of it is simply the awe of watching something grow...and at a rate that is at once fast enough to actually take note of, yet also so fast that you can scarcely believe it: the "small" miracles of every day...

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