Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Patrick McDonnell

This is a little scene on the wall of my workroom. I am posting this in honor of Patrick McDonnell, the creator of of my favorite comic strip, Mutts. http://muttscomics.com/ The picture in the right center of this collage is a rendition of his character Millie as Gertrude Stein by Picasso. McDonnell has often paid homage to other artists of all kinds in this way in the intro panel of his Sunday strip. If you are not familiar with the strip it is about companion animals - dogs and cats mostly. You also get to know their owners (Millie belongs to Mooch the cat, here seen peeking over the back of her chair), the local butcher, vet, neighborhood kid and squirrels and more.

I simply love Mutts (and Patrick McDonnell as a consequence). I have almost all the books and I've raised my kids on them. There is such warmth, sharp humor, wholesome cultural references, especially in the first 10 years of his work on Mutts. I've been so glad to be able to raise my kids on this strip. So many wonderful values come across. Not just the obvious ones like don't put pesticides on your lawn - bad for doggies and kitties, and if you want a pet go to the Humane Society, but also wonderful embedded messages about friendship, community, love of and connection to nature - even if you live in the Jersey suburbs where the strip takes place. (He has single-handedly changed my image of New Jersey.) They have been very comforting books when I have the blues.
On the right: Mooch the cat and Earl the dog napping together in yin/yang. Below them is a contemplative kingfisher on a flowering tree branch. Below: they hang in my workroom with Georgia O'Keeffe, Walt Whitman, some old quilts and a folk drawing depicting a Siberian fishing village scene.

So last Saturday I had the very rare opportunity to meet one of my favorite artists. Patrick McDonnell was giving the commencement address to the inaugural class at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction (see my previous post). His speech was warm, humble and wise. I got to meet him at the reception afterwards in the midst of the wonderful eclectic creative work of the graduating class (link). I readily admit I was quite star struck. I was glad to get to tell him how much I appreciate his work and the values that come across, "..like, it's good to be friends with eccentric people." At least I got a laugh out of him and his wife with that one. I was really gushing. It was kind of embarrassing but not something I was able to control at the moment. He and his wife were very gracious and though I was not really capable of much normal conversation, we did get through how was your drive? are you from the area? are you staying at the Hotel Coolidge? http://www.hotelcoolidge.com Eventually he said, "Do you have a piece of paper? I could make you a drawing." I am sure he was thinking, I've got to put this woman out of her misery. I pulled out the notebook that I keep all my ideas and notes for my business and found a blank page and this is the result. He said, "You can color in the leaves green if you want." *Swoon*

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Half aprons at BML

Remember my exhibit at the Blake Memorial Library? (see previous post) Well, it's still going on (until June 1st) and the pillows have been selling especially. I ducked in quickly to return some books Friday last and Marie McAndrew-Taylor, the librarian, jumped to tell me, "Sarah, you need to replenish!" Well, I don't have any other pillows right now, but I've been having a lot of fun making these new half aprons so the day before Mother's Day I took my mother-in-law and my daughter to the library to look around and keep each other company while I put up 8 new aprons above the book cases.
Stay tuned for a post that will basically be a gallery of aprons that I've finished in the past week: Vintage fabrics provided by my neighbor Betty Brown, designer reproduction vintage fabs, button-down shirt collars, and nice pig patch pockets.
In the mean time, I hope you enjoy these pix.

Cone Editions workshop

Have I introduced my mascot? The HotHolder below partly inspired the slogan,

"Because you're not the only thing in the kitchen that's hot."

The polka dot fabric is vintage - from a big dirndl style skirt I got at a thrift store in Brunswick, Maine when I was in college in the mid-80's. I wore it as Minnie Mouse for Halloween and then stashed it for years before I started cutting off pieces to include in various projects. It is great sturdy woven cotton with black outlining the white dots and a crescent of black edging each dot. Now it's essentially all gone. I might have a few tiny scraps left.

But that's not what this post is about. The reason the pictures of these four HotHolders look so nice and bright

and sharp is because I took a workshop "...For Novices and Beginners" at Cone Editions Press which is a world class digital art printing studio and it's right in my own town of Topsham, Vermont!
So in this workshop taught by their super duper technician Larry I learned how to set up Photoshop and my printer to make really nice prints. My hp officejet all-in-one was making terrible prints until Larry at spelled out all the setting for us. Now they look great! And I bought an Epson scanner per his recommendation. I can put the HotHolders right on the bed and make really high quality scans, instead of trying to photograph them with my sub-professional lighting. These four were scanned at Cone Editions.

After I cleaned them up in Photoshop I got to print them BIG on one of their printers. And, As Cathy cone says, "They look so cool."

When the 6" HH scanned at very high resolution are printed 3-4 times their original size the texture of the fabric really comes out. You can clearly see each strand. Some of the fabrics that have been paired together have different thread-per-inch counts and it looks really interesting to see the difference so obviously. Also the quilting stitches end up looking like embroidery, which is exactly the effect I have in mind when I construct them. Basically the result is just what I see with my eyes when I make a HotHolder. I am very interested in and am seeing the texture of the fabrics and the quilting stitches are a very important decorative element to me.
I try to choose thread colors that will enhance the fabric combination.

So now, what to do with these big prints? If the HH contains new designer fabric there is a copyright so I can't produce a print of it as an item for sale. I might be able to have them as part of my display at shows though. We'll see. I don't know what about some of the really old vintage fabrics I have. Meanwhile I am really appreciating my new printing skills as I prepare mailings to stores and applications for other vending opportunities.

Here's Larry in the room full of big Iris printers that he oversees at Cone Editions Press. There may be other kinds of printers here, too. I don't know. Sabra Field's Iris prints are made here. Many other big wig and exciting artists have their work printed here by Larry also.

And here is my friend Cathy Cone who runs the workshops, with Larry and the big prints of my HotHolders. These two are wonderful artists outside of their work at Cone Editions. You can see some of Cathy's work at http://artbarkgallery.com/portfolio.php?mfgid=7

Larry, let me know when your work is online or email me a file and I'll post it here.

"They look so cool."