Monday, 30 April 2012

Quotes: Rainer Maria Rilke

"What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours – that is what you must be able to attain." – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Friday, 27 April 2012

Week 16: Adobe Illustrator

Crossed ©Karen Thiessen 2012
The "expand" button on the pathfinder is my new current delight. Hey, small things bring me joy! Still mulling over my wonky family Easter, crosses infiltrated my design thinking this week. The pattern was fun to make since the "expand" button simplified each cross, allowing for clean outlines. Curiosity has done my Adobe Illustrator self-education a great service, but it means that progress through the book is glacial because once I learn a cool new technique, I may spend the next week exploring all its permutations and combinations. The learning is slow but fun!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Peter Dykhuis: Radar paintings

Peter Dykhuis, Mar 06 21:55Z, encaustic, enamel paint on panel, 48" X 48"
Peter Dykhuis and I were both represented by the now defunct YHZ Gallery in Halifax. At the time, Peter was the director of NSCAD's Anna Leonowens Art Gallery and I had just graduated from NSCAD. At one of the YHZ openings, I learned more about Peter's paintings. First off, Peter is Dutch and way back, so am I. In my experience, Dutch people are frugal and inventive – a good combination for artists. Living in Halifax, the edge of mainland Canada, I found myself shipping my quilts in sonotubes to far-flung destinations and was aware of the expense. Peter created award-winning Radar paintings and when he told me that he could ship a large work in a cereal box, and a show in a Rubbermaid tote, I was all ears. Peter painted his modular work on foamcore, which is very light. Light, modular work that can fit into a cereal box when dismantled is much cheaper to ship than a sonotube.

Peter's ability to make large work that could be dismantled stuck with me. Inspired by the possibilities, this led me to make my own modular work. I'm still working out the details of presenting my tags, but I love a challenge and if I stick with it, I am confident that my Eureka! moment will come.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Studio Series: Tangents quilt

Tangents quilt ©Karen Thiessen 2012
Tangents quilt detail ©Karen Thiessen 2012
And now for something completely different from my usual textile work. Does this quilt look slightly familiar? It should – the header of this blog is a repeat pattern of it. A few years ago I had just finished a huge studio commitment and felt a little lost and restless. This is normal for me: I experienced this when I graduated from Sheridan, from NSCAD, and when I finished my Harbourfront residency. After my Sheridan and NSCAD graduations, I made quilt squares to pass the time while my brain figured things out. More than 300 squares later I knew what I needed to do, so I put them away. After Harbourfront, I decided to piece the squares into quilt tops thinking that I might get 5 large quilts out of the deal. Nope. I ended up with 15 bed-sized quilts and another 7 wall quilts. Given my tendency to stitch densely, I decided to hire local machine quilter Jacqueline Harris to machine quilt the quilts for me with patterns that I designed: loop-de-loop, wandering grid, wonky grid, and a plain grid. Jacqueline was great to work with – every few weeks she dropped off a batch of quilts and picked up a pile of quilt tops and backs. I decided to trim and bind them all myself, plus I added a few areas of hand-stitching.


In case you are wondering, Tangents is 52.5” wide X 69.5” long (133.5 cm X 176.5 cm).

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Postcards: Cypress Gardens

Grandma was known as "boss" and Grandpa always got the last word by saying "yes boss." Had Grandma been born in another time, she could easily have been the President of a multinational corporation, or, at the minimum, the Prime Minister of Canada. Yes, really. In their retirement years, Grandpa and Grandma wintered in Florida and had season passes to Cypress Gardens where they took their visiting children, grandchildren, and friends. For Grandma, the Gardens were a perfect combination of botanical gardens (she loved flowers) and attractions that would entertain adults and children alike. Grandma had the timing all worked out: if you left the parrot show four minutes early, you could make it to the water show on time. If you didn't set some healthy boundaries, she would plan your entire vacation for you, down to 15 minute intervals. In October 2011 Cypress Gardens reopened as LEGOLAND. Had she lived to see this, Grandma, a future-oriented person, would have taken her great-grandchildren and their parents to it, after all, the Lego Southern belles were still surrounded by real flowers.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Quotes: Max Lucado

"Go to the effort. Invest the time. Write the letter. Make the apology. Take the trip. Purchase the gift. Do it. The seized opportunity renders joy. The neglected brings regret." – Max Lucado

Friday, 20 April 2012

Week 15: Adobe Illustrator

Hexagons and Dots © Karen Thiessen 2012
In January I shared what I thought was the replication of the design from this Japanese bowl. It took countless approaches (and failures) to create the bottom design and I was certain of my success until I looked at the design a few weeks later and realized that the spaces were uneven. Now that I've had an extra twelve weeks of Adobe Illustrator self-education under my belt, I decided to give it another go and take yet another approach. This time I know for certain that I am successful. Persistence pays off! Don't you agree that the top image is much better than the bottom image?
Japanese bowl; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2010


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Demian Conrad & WROP


Chladni Singing from meara o'reilly on Vimeo.

By chance I saw Demian Conrad's designs of sound visualized for Camerata de Lausanne while flipping through a magazine. Initially just the patterns drew me in and then when I learned how they had been created, I was intrigued. The patterns look like they have been made using the photogram technique. Demian invented a random print technique called WROP that I intend to investigate further. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Studio Series: Infinity Tags

Tags Installation: Infinity shape
Tags Installation: Infinity shape detail
Figuring out a configuration for my tags is my current problem child. Consider the above images a quick sketch of a possible solution. The shape works for me but the tags aren't yet arranged in a way that sings Hallelujah! The good thing is that I am frustrated. Yes, this is good. Frustration means that I actually have something to work with – a real concrete problem to solve, a new problem. I think it's time for a long, boring ride on my exercise bike to contemplate infinity and its options. The bike faces the wall where infinity is installed, but we've had such great walking weather that the bike has been neglected this year. Another new problem. Hurray!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Postcards: Barbara Klunder

Nine years. That's how long this postcard has been paired with a Tom Thomson postcard on my studio wall. The duo are like a sister and brother – similar in tonal range but very different: a chair next to a phone juxtaposed next to a wilderness scene in Northern Ontario. The painting is called Waiting and is from Barbara Klunder: 12 Recent Oil Paintings, October 2-25, 2003 at Prime Gallery. Prime Gallery closed and David Kaye Gallery opened in its wake. Barbara Klunder now shows at David's gallery and her genius has turned to paper cuts. Do you feel the tension of the empty chair next to the phone? I sure do.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Quotes: Richard Brereton

"Collage is a reflection of what is around us. So much of what is around us is absorbed without even being recognized." – Richard Brereton, "The New Collage Movement," Elephant, Issue No. 1 Winter 2009-10:28.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Week 14: Adobe Illustrator

Drunken Squares © Karen Thiessen 2012
My mom reads my blog every morning and recently she asked me where I get all my ideas. Her question took me by surprise because part of me assumed that everyone had an endless fountain of ideas. I guess not. "Well," I told my mom, "I get my idea-generating abilities from you and dad." My mom does not follow recipes. She can take a shrivelled turnip and make soup for ten unexpected guests in the middle of a snowstorm (she did). Mom regularly makes "clean-out-the-fridge" chili. It's mostly all good. Once in a while, she'll have a culinary disaster, but that makes a great story (like the turnip soup story). Long before the vintage craze, mom refurbished cast-off furniture to furnish our home. She also sewed her clothes and mine. Dad, on the other hand, will bring home the carcass of an old car from the junk yard and in time will restore it to its former glory. His most recent restoration involved bringing a 1956 Ford F-100 "big window" pickup back to life. It took him more than 20 years to source the parts and pull it all together. He's still tinkering with it. In the meantime, he just bought a 1933 Chevrolet to restore. My parents are both creative folks and I am grateful for their positive influence.


My idea for the Drunken Squares pattern came from seeing a Jeanne Beker Edit dress with a dot pattern in The Bay flyer. My pattern looks nothing like the Beker pattern, but it got my mental gears moving. I had to make this pattern a few times before I achieved the desired looseness.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Dave Newman at Xanadu Gallery

Dave Newman, Road Works, Mixed Media, 60" X 60," $7500.
Dave Newman, Red Dot Special and O 2 B Free 
This blog is composed of words and images. Often I get both wrong– pictures with poor lighting, text with grammatical and punctuation errors. On occasion, words get in the way or leave me when I am gobsmacked by an artist's work. The collages and sculptures of Lance Letscher, Judith Scott and Hannelore Baron have knocked the words right out of me. Now I can add Dave Newman's assemblages to the list. I saw Dave Newman's solo show Taking the Scenic Route at Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona in March and was immediately blown away. Do you see the Red Dot Special guitar on the left in the lower image? I seriously want that guitar! Why? It reminds me of my Opa who loved a game or three of chinese checkers. Dave Newman's work does that: it evokes memories of times past. Thankfully Newman knows his way around vintage materials and makes work that is refreshing instead of twee or sentimental. Newman's show ended on March 17 but Xanadu still has a few unsold pieces (like Red Dot Special). Check out their website or Dave Newman's for more information.


*Elaine Horejs, director of Xanadu gave me permission to photograph Dave Newman's work.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Studio: potholders & moiré effect

Recently I taught a beginner quilting class at Needlework in Hamilton. In three hours I showed students how to piece fabric, iron (believe it or not, the ironing part is important!), machine-quilt, hand-quilt, make quilt binding (on the bias) from scratch and sew it on. The students were amazing and I learned as much from them as they did from me. 


For the class, I made a few sample potholders in various stages of completion. The shop wanted an image of the potholder, so I photographed it. That's when I noticed the moiré effect. Aack! Naturally, it's hard to detect in the top image, since the resolution is low. Anyways, I went over to eHow and learned how to remove it. It was as easy as pie! The bottom image shows the moiré effect removed.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Postcards: Artists and Fleas

Five years have passed since my first and only trip to New York City and Brooklyn. I picked up this postcard during that visit. The font made me do it. Doesn't this font remind you of quilt squares or geometric patterns nestled together? Five years is enough. It's time to return to the Big Apple.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Quotes: Henri Matisse

"Much of the beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium." – Henri Matisse

Friday, 6 April 2012

Week 13: Adobe Illustrator

Optimism © Karen Thiessen 2012
Now that Spring is officially here and the tulips are in bloom, I thought I'd add another jolt of optimism to my pattern-making process. Just looking at this Optimism pattern makes me happy. Once again, I'm playing with multiple units, trying to create a pattern that is less predictable.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Arizona: Historic Yuma Theater

The Historic Yuma Theatre was another good reason to visit Old Town. It is connected to the Yuma Art Center: old is linked to new. The Theatre turned 100 this year and it's a beauty. I could have spent an hour in the theatre, just looking at all the gorgeous details. Look at the mural, the air vent, and the light fixtures!!! New buildings are rarely designed and built with such care, attention to detail, and quality. Nowadays, here in Canada, sturdy old buildings oozing with character are thoughtlessly torn down to make way for bland stucco edifices that will look shabby within a decade. So often, we don't appreciate how old buildings humanize a city or town until they are gone.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Adobe Illustrator: Lounge act

Lounge Act © Karen Thiessen 2012
Like I said on Friday, I can't get enough of this alien lounge shape. Doesn't this design look like a cross between Can Can dancing girls and a Hawaiian quilt? The ugly alien shape continues to surprise me.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Arizona: Yuma text

My trip to Arizona, Mexico, and Niland, California certainly provided a lot of inspiration despite the fact that they weren't places that I'd ordinarily choose to visit. Travel shakes us from our complacent lives, it shakes up our routines, makes us uncomfortable, and forces us to see new things. 

As newlyweds, my husband and I "played tourist" in Toronto. We lived there and thought we knew the city well, but pretending to be tourists forced us to see the city with fresh eyes. If you can't get away, explore your space with fresh eyes. Whether you live in the country, a city, town, or suburb, opportunities to explore and see new sights are everywhere. Try this in your own home: pretend that you are a visitor and are seeing your living room or kitchen for the very first time. What do you see? What have your senses filtered out from being in the space on a daily basis? Pretend you are blind. What do you feel, smell, or hear? What textures feel good? 

For more about exploring, read Keri Smith's How to Be an Explorer of the World.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Drawing Apparatus


Drawing Apparatus from Robert Howsare on Vimeo.
via CBC Radio 2 Drive Thursday March 29, 2012

Speaking Drawing from Michael T. Bullock on Vimeo.
via Keri Smith

As a fan of Martin Venezky and his drawing assignments, the drawing apparatus* of Robert Howsare and Michael T. Bullock caught my eye. Serendipity was working overtime because I learned about them on the same day. Now I want two turntables!! 

*I looked up the plural of apparatus and the consensus was that apparatuses was clunky and that apparatus can be singular or plural.

Quotes: Anne Lamott

"Half of creativity is taking stuff out." – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird with Annie: A Portrait of Writer Anne Lamott documentary, 1998.