Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coffee Break

Finished this today: ink and gouache, 6" square.
Coffee Break
The ink came out a bit heavier than I had originally envisioned, particularly on the orange border. But it didn't look finished with just the paint. In the top photo, you can't see the gold is metallic and the red looks a touch more gaudy than real life.

Here is the initial sketch, for anyone who cares.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Not the Hat You Were Looking For

Life is too short to drink delicious homebrew labeled crudely with only a Sharpie. It also looks a bit more classy if we give a bottle to a friend.  This beer is not new, but has entered the window where it is fully carbonated and drinkable and was, embarrassingly, one of three batches on the shelf without proper labels.  It's a clone of Magic Hat #9. So if someone asks us if it is Magic Hat, we can answer, "Nein."

It's supposed to be a rabbit puckering a bit (as the beer is an apricot sour) but my daughter thinks it looks like a skull, with the necklace as teeth. I need to brush up on my rabbit drawing skills.  Done in ink and gouache. All of our beer labels have a character wearing an eyepatch, a long-running inside joke from our first batch.

And on the bottles it looks nice and cheery.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Squirrel Zombies

Did you ever notice how much a walnut resembles a little tiny brain?
If a squirrel were to become infected with the Zombie virus, or afflicted by a Zombie curse, or whatever mechanism you attribute to zombification, would it be adequate for it to continue feasting on walnuts? Would my dog continue to chase squirrels or would they chase him?

The squirrels are always busy planting walnut trees in my yard, but we usually pull them up before they become large enough to require implements of destruction for their removal.  I don't even know where the nearest walnut tree is, but the squirrels do.  I found a recipe online to make ink for dip pens using black walnut husks. Rather than wait until one of my squirrelly gardner's sapling reaches the twenty feet of height usual before a walnut will starts setting fruit, I turned to friends to get a supply of husks.

I probably undertook this project at the wrong time of year, because the husks had dried and became integral with the shells. All I could do was separate the nut meats from the not-nut meat bits.  And this is where the recipe gets fun. It says to add the hulls to water and basically let it mold and ferment for a few months. If only all recipes were that easy to follow! The water got dark immediately, so it must be doing something in there. To be continued...

Future Ink
Meanwhile, it has become apparent that I really need to properly label all of the these things I have brewing in the back bathroom.  I wouldn't want to drink the ink, or try to write with the beer.
The "Other" brown liquid staged while chemistry does it's thing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Holiday Needles

It's time to get serious and dust off those needles for the holidays. I wish I knew better what all of my friends and family wanted for holiday gifts, but in the absence of specific guidance I will do my best to churn out random crap of my choosing. If you think you are on that short list that gets a handmade something, feel free to cry out "MINE" if you see the ideal thing posted or to drop me a line with a thought on what you would like. I am not psychic; I simply play one on tv.

Totoro Mittens. Lovely, but too small for Hannah. Note: will only be gifted to a true Totoro fan.

Hat, in cream, reds, brown and green wool. Can't have too many hats, now can we.

Flannel lounge pants of comfiness, an idea suggested by Alan, who liked the pair I made him last year and thought everybody should be so comfy. Light blue with fishing/boat motif.

I apparently have a strong need for everyone I know to be warm. :-D

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life's a Beach

Then you have to go home. Actually it is quite nice to be home. I was on the road three times in September and I missed being at home with the family.  I did enjoy our little beach house stitching retreat last weekend.  We had about 25 ladies rent a house in Lincoln City, Oregon for a few days.
This was the third year I've gone with this group, so there was much catching up to do with old friends (and my Mum), but also meeting some new folks.  Much food, wine, and chocolate was consumed. The weather was fantastic, so long walks on the beach were almost mandatory. Some of us actually got a little stitching done. I got to see a lot of Ink Circles projects in the works, including about five versions of Cirque des Coeurs.  We had a special viewing/fondling/sale of Carrie's Threads Limited Edition silks.  I can't use any limited edition things in my regular charts, but that does not stop me from collecting them for personal use. Mwah hah hah.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Oregon Flock and Fiber

Road trip last weekend with my son to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. Woot.  Have finally gotten my car unpacked and the laundry working its way through the machines, although I have yet to hide put away all of my new fluff. Started with a little detour through Portland to hook up with a friend and drop off the new cross stitch models at Acorns & Threads. Very nice! The weather couldn't have been more pleasant, which was also true of all the people we met.

Turns out that Paul is a spinner too. He was particularly fascinated with all of the different custom wheels and their mechanisms for converting and transferring power. He was also helping a few folks calculate various drive ratios for different wheels & settings.  (Reminder: math is everywhere!)  He chose some brightly colored wool to continue practicing at home. At this point he says he has no desire to learn to knit or to wear anything knitted. We will have to see where this all goes.
Paul's selection of rovings. His first "stash."
It is hard to not get caught up with all the lovely fluff and stuff. Met a very amazing fellow John Beard who was demonstrating a Native American style of handweaving called Ravenstail Weaving. Saw all sorts of inspiring projects. Numerous things came home with me, including a full raw fleece (which Toaster, our dog, thinks smells just aMAZing.)

Bamboo&Silk whorls, silk hankies to spin
Did I really need another sock book? 
John Beard and my Mum
Silken eye candy
If I spin my Silk&Bamboo right I can make something like this.
Sheep and Goat's eyes creep me out. Those big rectangular pupils look better on octopi!
I have 5.5 lb of this now.

On the way home, we took a much enjoyed break and hiked up Multnomah Falls. Spectacular! It was totally worth circling the parking lot three and a half times waiting for a parking space.

As much as I'd like to jump in and start playing with the new fluff, it seems I have a long list of things that actually need to be done. 


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Twelve Divided by Eight

Working on a new drawing.  The last one had such a boring border, that I have perhaps overcompensated by making this one almost all border. I'm excited to get to the inking part.  He'll look so much better by the end of the weekend.
Yeah, I love octopi.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Celtic Hex Mandala

Blue ink and colored pencils on this one. I can't believe how boooo-ring I made the border. Must get more twisted next time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yellow Dog

New drawing finished today. I've had this one in some stage of completion since last fall, but didn't get to the coloring until this long weekend. It is ink with colored pencils, a first for me!
Yellow Dog (if you can call it a dog)
 Well, actually, that was the second knot that I did with colored pencils, as I did this one first to see how it would come out. I had recently discovered the "colorless blender" pencil and had to play with it.  If you like to use colored pencils but do not like the white areas left behind where the paper has texture, you will love how the blender fills in and smooths those areas. It almost looks like you are using markers or something else.

It reminds me of a drafting job I had part-time during high school when I was instructed to use mineral spirits on some maps we were making.  The spirits sure made a beautiful smoothing effect, but I was always worried that the whole building was going to go up in flames or that I would spill the crap all over the desk.  Blender pencils are so much easier!!!!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mandala Finished

Mandala I painted using Turner Acryl Gouache and ink

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oranges in the Desert

This morning's walk was brought to you by the color orange and by the number 3.  It's so nice to see the beautiful colors as spring unfolds into summer.

Checkerspot butterfly - it looks like someone munched on him a bit.
Desert Globe Mallow
Common Valve Assemblies- (not indigenous to this area.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday play

Trying to work more with these gouache paints. I definitely need more practice before any magic might occur.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Four of Wands

And today's card is the Four of Wands, actually drawn (from the deck) a few days ago but drawn (on the paper) today.  When I started the deck, I had intended on using beetles primarily for the figures but hadn't really thought through all of the imagery.  As I mulled over the weekend on how to present this card, the wands (staves, sticks, etc.) just HAD to become stick insects.

Four of Wands

The four wands/sticks support a festive garland.  The card represents excitement and joy coming your way.  Again, I used the Rider-Waite deck as inspiration, but as the four stick bugs looked joyous enough, I left out the two happy figures in the middle. They were going to be beetles, but there just wasn't enough room without pushing the busy-ness envelope. You can read more about the card's meaning here.

So far, the only surprise I've had since drawing this card was finding a wasp in the mail I retrieved from the mailbox.  It stung me right between the fingers and boy did it hurt.  I screamed and threw the mail up in the air and it landed all over the street. I was smart enough to take my ring off before my hand started ballooning. I don't think that was the event the Tarot foretold.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Time for a shift in gears.  Miss Hannah's graduation is in a few weeks.  She's done very well at school and is finishing up with a perfect 4.0 and a Valedictorian title.  This week, after much hemming and hawing, she has made that big choice and selected Whitman College in Walla Walla as the place she wants to be next.  We spent a non-trivial amount of time these last months making visits to potential schools, touring, spending overnights, researching options. In some ways she is much relieved to have made the choice.  In other ways, it served only to have made the fact that she will be leaving home all the more real.  We all think it is an excellent choice for her and that she will do just smashing there. And for those not familiar with our area, Walla Walla is only an hour's drive away. BTW, she's currently focused on Mathematics as a major, but is most excited about the Japanese she'll be taking.

I think the gears are rolling around to a new position for me too. Of all the things that Whitman College is, inexpensive is NOT on the list, even with some great scholarships. Seven years ago I took a voluntary layoff so that my kids could spend their high school and middle school years with support and supervision rather than with a latchkey. It's been a good run playing chauffeur for all the music lessons, play practices, volleyball and softball games, and the other hundred things she's been involved in. Not that I won't still have opportunities to shuttle her brother around, but a big chunk of my life will be different.  I'm excited to see what directions Paul will want to explore as he becomes the only kid at home and steps out from what I'm sure he perceives to be a big shadow.

It's probably one of the crappiest times to try to get back in the workforce here - more layoffs seem to be announced everyday in the paper.  I've still got good contacts and I've got a good background, so I am optimistic as I officially announce my intent to get back to work.  I've actually committed this twice during the seven years and was named on contracts, but the money dried up or the contract was lost before I even showed up.  I have to admit that I really miss working daily with people and having technical things to discuss and problems to solve.  It's time for me emotionally, and facing kids in college for the next 7+ years it's time financially too.

I've no intentions at this time of shutting down the Ink Circles business, but there may be some changes to how things get done.  Let's face it though, I'm not going to be able to put two kids through college selling cross stitch charts.  Fortunately my husband continues to be gainfully employed and this has allowed us to have the wonderful chance to be there while the kids needed us so much.

Toaster's poor little world is going to be rocked also by both Hannah leaving and me going to work.  Hopefully we will all adapt.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Five of Cups

I'm not sure whether I have the stamina to do the entire deck, but here is one (selected randomly from a shuffled pile.)
Five of Cups

The Five of Cups: Loss and bereavement, but not all is gone. There is still some hope, as represented by two cups that are not spilled out. Not sure if this means bad news is in store for me personally.

Inspiration comes loosely from the Rider-Waite Tarot, below. You can read about the full meaning here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting ink done

Perhaps you were hoping for a 13, but I drew this 31...

I couldn't decide whether to draw a dog or a lion so you get this hybrid.
You may recognize this as the pencil drawing from a few posts back. It's been in the works for way too long, but has now at least progressed to the next state.  I'm anxious to get color on it, but I haven't decided what medium to use, and I'm out of time for art today anyway. I'm particularly glad his head came out well (at least I think so.)

Monday, April 23, 2012


If you pardon the crappy photos, I'll share a peek at the drawing I'm currently working on.  I say "the" drawing to imply only the most recent session. I seem to have about as many unfinished drawings as I do pads.  I need to bring myself to finishing some rather than starting new ones.  I have been procrastinating and wandering, not sure where all of this is going, if in fact it is going anywhere. Kind of like the paths in the picture.
I'm hoping a theme gels as I continue inking.

Detail of the knotwork

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New toy

I meant tool. I much prefer using a dedicated eraser over the little smudgy excuse they usually mount on the end of a pencil. Now that I've already invested in a gross of refills for my standard Pentel click eraser, I've discovered what I like even better.

When I make Celtic drawings, I do a lot of erasing. Not because I am inaccurate, fickle, or sketchy, but due to the nature of construction. I don't weave those paths around in my head ahead of time. I lay everything out then establish what is over and what goes beneath. Consequently, I have many lines and crossings to adjust, and I've learned not to tempt fate and make them as I'm inking.

I found this gem in a Japanese market in Portland. It's a Tombow mono knock 3.8 and it's absolutely perfect for getting in those tiny spots without destroying all the lines in a two inch radius. I'm in love.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Enter the Dragon (fruit)

Not having spent any appreciable time vacationing or living in the tropics, we considered this quite the novelty when we heard that the local grocery store was selling dragon fruit.

This be the outside
This be the insides
Interestingly, it turns out these are fruit from a cactus rather than a tree. Also interesting how the outside pink skin peels off easily to reveal a pulpy seed-mass. The flesh was mild yet rather tasty - NOTHING like our adventure with the durian.  We all agreed we would have them again, preferably on location somewhere tropical and preferably not at $3.50 a pop.

We've saved a bit of the seeds with thoughts of sprouting them. It's unlikely we could grow a plant big enough to bear fruit as we live in a place that freezes and they do require multiple plants for cross-pollination by bats and moths.  However, it might make an interesting potted plant.

Mmmm, vitamin C and lots of fiber

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Red Letter Day

I got my wider Parallel pen inked up today in prep for a new project. My narrower one is still soaking (after nearly losing a part down the sink.)

Apparently my camera only speaks "landscape" to Blogger. Bah!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Swamp: Illustration Friday

And you were worried about the alligators.