And Now for Something Completely Different

If you are a Monty Python fan, you may recognize that title.  If not, sorry, you’ve missed out on kooky British comedy from the 70’s, though I imagine some quick web searches will put you in touch with their surreal and somewhat stream-of-consciousness act.

They often stopped their sketches with the catch-phrase: And Now for Something Completely Different.  So, here I go again, stopping my “ART” blog for something else.  Though, to be fair, it’s art in a different form.  Most likely inspired by writing this blog, and then definitely inspired by my Library and REI lecture series on the Wilderness Of Women, a lovely Powerpoint presentation I whipped up and delivered from Portland to Medford.  The feedback I received was very positive and it inspired me to start writing a book.  A book I’d been writing for over 30 years.  A book about my trail life and my off trail life, how they intersect and influence each other.  When my shoulder got hurt and grounded me from hiking last year, I took advantage of my in-firmed circumstances and used the time to write.

My book has morphed into something else, however, and just like all the best of my art, it took on a life of it’s own.  Part memoir, part trail journal, part coffee table art book, part philosohical and spiritual exploration, The Spiral Trail is heading for parts unknown.  Like it’s title, it spirals around and comes back to lessons learned, growing and developing into a story about a life lived on the trails and woods and translated into paint, guided by source.

I’m still working on it, and I’m still painting and hiking and doing all the things that need to be done.  I’ll try to pop into the blog from time to time to say hello and share a new piece.  For now, here’s an excerpt from  The Spiral Trail  to start my literary exploration into the writing of a book.  I hope you find it enjoyable and interesting.  Wanting more is good!  So, come with me and lets take a walk in the woods…

 

Chapter 21

Mushrooming

I took the dogs out on another gold hunting excursion. As I understand it, there are places where one can still pan for gold, actual gold nuggets that wash down from creeks and rivers, but that’s not the gold I am looking for.  I’m looking for Chanterelle mushrooms, a gloriously school-bus-yellow fungus that litters the deep woods of the Pacific Northwest each year when it gets cold and wet. They are delicious, meaty and mild tasting mushrooms, sought by gourmet chefs as well as poor college students because, for those of us who have access and knowledge, they are free. I was taught how to find Chanterelles by a couple of Dead Heads (fans of the Grateful Dead), both of who were deep into their respective studies at Oregon State University at the time.  One in Forestry, and the other in Mycology, the study of fungi, so they knew what to look for as well as where to look for them. My first taste of a Chanterelle had me rolling my eyes upward in delight, they are that good. I paid attention to the where’s and what’s of Chanterelle hunting and I learned my lesson well.

I began hunting for Chanterelles by myself the moment we landed in Alpine and found them at low elevations in those early days.  But the craze for Chanterelles took off and the economy did not, spurring hundreds of mushroom hunters to take to our local woods in search of quick cash.  Which in turn spurred another form of industry, the mushroom buyer, one of which put up a sign on their driveway and gave the hunters an easy stop on their way out of the hills to cash in on their gains.  I’d like to say “ill gotten gains” as they tromped over public and private lands alike and yanked up the mushrooms without regard to keeping the root system in tact and leaving a few to grow and spread their spores for future mushrooms. Chanterelles will return year after year if you treat their ground gently, but that was not to be.  Our woods were inundated with groups of hunters, they’d park their beat-up cars along the mountain roads and carry in white 5-gallon buckets intent on finding a large haul.

I felt a twinge of disgust at these interlopers, these were my woods they were bustling about in, yelling back and forth, disturbing the quiet as they raped the forests of their delicious yellow fungi fruit.  They pulled up every one and left nothing behind but beer cans, candy wrappers and toilet paper.  I frowned every time I saw them out there, failing to see the irony that I, myself was heading out for a mushroom hunt. Their presence was forcing me to range farther from home and I was irritable about the idea I couldn’t prowl about in what I considered “my woods”, which of course, weren’t.

I learned early on to keep quiet about my mushrooming grounds, having once taken a friend out and kindly taught him how to identify and find Chanterelles only to learn he later took a group of his friends back to my spot where they cleaned out the entire hillside. I never quite trusted him after that and our friendship suffered. But such is the nature of gold fever, it changes one’s ethics when you are in the midst of a find.

Since then, I’ve sworn friends to secrecy before taking them to known places but as the hunter hoards continued patrolling my local hills, those known places became found and decimated.  We had dry falls and late rains and some of my best spots were clear-cut, spelling the end of any nearby Chanterelles.  They need deep mature forests, cool weather and rain. I found myself travelling farther from home to find my gold.

Still, every year I’d get a few for dinner.  And sometimes I’d stumble across a new patch and manage to put up some for later, though really, frozen Chanterelles are never as good as freshly picked.  There were some good years before the big local clear-cut happened, I’d bring home bags of them and then spend hours cleaning them all.  But after they cut the hills directly behind us, it got harder on everyone.  Even the hunters began to range along the Alsea river drainage, the backside of our local hills and my last-ditch effort at mushrooming.  It seemed as if all the best spots were picked over, my hunts became hikes.  Those were lean years, it was lucky if I’d find one or two and that would be it for the season.

But still I tried, I felt as if I was missing something… there had to be a place I’d looked over, some patch of woods I’d yet to explore.  I’ve been riding and hiking my local section of the coast range mountains, keeping to about 5 or 6 square miles and had come to learn this land pretty well over 30 years.  But I hadn’t been everywhere between the roads.  Between the roads is lots of brush and the mature woods needed to cruise about without risking life and limb, or at the least, a few scratches from the dense understory, was getting harder to find.  But there were still a few patches of them, it’s just that I had transitioned from being a deer path following bush-whacking hiker to a road follower.  I could take my horses on the road, either an abandoned logging road or an active one, and had cut a few trails to link up roads so I could make a big loop rather than backtrack, so I hadn’t been doing much off road hiking.  Not even when I decided to return to backpacking and was planning and prepping for the PCT.  I was after miles and conditioning exercise and you can’t get a work out pushing your way through the underbrush.  That kind of hiking is slow and meticulous as I wander about, carefully taking note of the terrain and topography, making sure I do not get lost in the “it all looks the same” woodland.  My deep wood exploring days seemed to be behind me, and with it, my lack of mushrooming luck.

Until last week.

I took a friend on another excursion, hoping the old places would have some kind of nostalgic luck, but no luck was to be found.  Doreen is somewhat new to me as a friend, but we get along well and she was game for hiking about, looking for mushrooms. We drove further out to an old patch I knew of and when that panned out, I took her off trail and off road, but again, nothing. We did not go far from the road as I am reluctant to drag tourists along on these kinds of bush-whacking hikes. I’m quite concerned about becoming lost in the woods, so I work hard paying attention to the hundreds of details that will allow me to back-track my way to safety in the event I’m not sure where I am.  After my jumpy nerves at finding the staircase on the “moonlit” beach, I’ve had some concerns about my state of mind in an unknown situation where no map is at hand to guide me.  The woods beyond my woods are just the same kind of unknown situation as I am not nearly so well acquainted with their topographical peccadillos as I am for my own side of the mountain. This emotional state does not blend well with chatting with friends as we prowl the woods.  I have to concentrate out there and so, I have not been exploring as I mushroom hunt.

Needless to say, Doreen and I got skunked.  I found two mushrooms in the old patch, one for her and one for me.  We shrugged, it was a nice day and the dogs were having a joyous time racing about the forest, it was fun just to watch them and hike about.  We didn’t care all that much so we started back for the car which was parked about a half mile away. I guided us back to the road and took an alternate road, making a loop of our hike.  I always make a loop if I can, there’s something about a circle that makes me feel like my hike is complete, even if it’s a small circle at the end of a straight out and straight back trail.  I call those keyhole loops, and they serve the purpose of “not backtracking” that I like.

We were on this loop when I spotted an opening in the trees off the road.  Something about it said “check it out!” to me, so check it out we did.  I led Doreen off the road and onto a deer trail that disappeared through a brush tunnel and into a deep and open patch of mature forest.  It didn’t look like a deep wood from the road, choked by brush on both sides, I had assumed it was a young stand of trees.  These young stands are usually so thick with underbrush you can’t get through without serious effort, frequently jungle hacking your way through isn’t even worth the pain.

I was surprised and delighted by this find and after picking our way over the old dumped trash at the entrance (I will never understand why people uses the forest as their personal dump) immediately saw scores of mushrooms all along the game trail. There were pink ones and slimy brown ones, some yellow boletus and white death cap kind of mushrooms, not what I was after but still, there were mushrooms here and there were quite a lot of them!  I was encouraged to follow the deer path as it hugged the side of the hill just below the roadway, my boots cutting into the soft needle strewn soil as if I was marching across a snowy mountain field.  Continuing on, I came across our first white Chanterelle, a rare variety, but not that unusual for this area. I’d found white Chanterelles near where we parked the car once, even though, and it’s hard to believe this, but that was 25 years before and before the woods had been selectively cut.

A selective cut will only take say, every other tree, and even though it preserves the forest as a forest, it’s harder to do. I like them, but once the forest is opened up, more brush will fill in between the trees and the Chanterelles won’t return.  It’s too light and airy for them. Seeing this white Chanterelle here gave me hope.  I bent down, carefully pushing aside the fir needles and debris, I cut it gently at the base. Doreen came over to see the mushroom and exclaimed, “Here’s another one!” and she set to the task of cutting that one for herself.  Again, we had found two, one for me and one for her.  But this time, the conditions were better.  No brush and a swath of deep woods.  I followed the path as it paralleled the road above and came across another scattered patch of Chanterelles.

“I found some more!  Yes!”  I picked a few and left a few for her to take before moving down the trail to another scattered patch.  We were ecstatic at finding them, and I was happy to find them in such an easy place.  I didn’t need to worry about getting lost or loosing sight of Doreen as we fought our way through dense underbrush.  This hillside was open and the road was a laidback climb out. We left behind the small ones to grow and talked about coming back for them later.  I pushed on ahead of her and went from patch to patch, finding them and then calling for her to take the ones I’d left for her to harvest.  Sometimes she saw a few I’d missed entirely and her bag began to fill up with a good haul.  As she was delicately brushing off needles and dirt, I wandered down a draw to see if there were more downhill but came back empty handed, unwilling to get beyond earshot of Doreen leaving her alone in the deep woods.  Bringing her out here was my responsibility and I take that seriously. I seem to have been the pathfinder in most of my hiking relationships, it’s not like I tried to take that role, but that’s just how it worked out.  Jane once called me the “human GPS” and I laughed.  I may be good in the woods, however, don’t trust me in the city.  I get all turned around when confronted with streets and buildings.  There’s too much data for me to process.

I don’t think of myself as a confidant pathfinder, more like a nervous pathfinder, I’m worried about getting lost.  I try to remember Daniel Boone, that great Kentucky backwoods explorer who was supposedly quoted as saying he’d never been lost, he just didn’t know where he was for a couple of days.

But still, Pathfinder is my trail name and so, I have a reputation to live up to; regardless of my nervousness in the woods, I also know I have the skills and abilities to untangle myself from a backwoods mishap. What I don’t have, on this day, is an actual map of the area, which, without a compass would be useless as the woods are so deep, dark and topographically convoluted it renders a map useless without the means of pointing one in the right direction. I also don’t have a compass.  Just my faith and skill and backwoods prowess, somewhat like Daniel Boone! I also have my nervousness which keeps me close to the road and checking to make sure we haven’t wandered away from it as we go from patch of gold to patch of gold.

Eventually, we run out of mushrooms and of the deep woods as we get closer to an old overgrown cut which is full of brush. I suggest we climb out and head back.  We’ve managed to find about a couple of dozen mushrooms a piece, so we turn for the road.  Doreen takes the time to pick the ones we come across on our way out and I let her have my share as my bag is full and I’m content with my haul.

I’m content with all of it as I feel I’ve broken the Chanterelle curse that seems to have been hanging over my head the past few years.  I didn’t know if pickings were scarce because of the buyer (but I have noticed they aren’t in business anymore so that’s good news) the dry fall seasons and the new clear cuts or just my inability to get off trail and take the time to find a new place to hunt.  Probably a combination of it all, but the dry spell is over and now I have a new patch of woods to check out… the draw that leads away from the road has me intrigued.

 

The following week, after a solid week of rain, we get a gap between storms and I decide to take the dogs back to the woods and explore the draw.  I figured to look and see if I missed a mushroom or maybe two and then work the hill below this new spot with the hopes there are more Chanterelles to be found.  I go by myself, because I need to explore and not worry about another person.  I don’t have any confidence that the dogs will help me in any way, they are too busy sniffing and digging and running about doing their doggy thing.  I’ve never lost a dog but one time, though like Daniel Boone, she wasn’t unsure of her location more than a couple of days. I hunted all over for that dog, called through the woods and then knocked on any doors in the vicinity. She must have followed something deep into the forest and got turned around because it did take her two days to come home whereupon after much tail wagging and famished eating, she fell asleep for a good 12 hour stretch.

Needless to say, I don’t trust dogs to get me out of the woods.

I parked in the same spot and walked down the road to our exit spot.  I followed our line of mushroom stumps and only saw one seedling mushroom that had grown enough to make it worthwhile harvesting.  I put the Chanterelle in my little orange Osprey daypack, then after getting it back on again (not as easy of a task given my less than 100% shoulder range) I picked up my hiking sticks and headed down the draw.  I began to note the changes in terrain, the hill on my right covered in moss, the hill on my left covered in shrub. I went down, threading my way through small trees, ducking under and stepping over dead branches.  I came across a dry creek bed, noting the stump next to the bed was covered in small, translucently white, spindly mushrooms. I marked this as my landmark and stepped over the bed, forgetting to look behind me to see the path as it would look if I was returning the same way.  My plan had been to follow the draw down to a logging road that I knew was below me, but the hills had folds and contours I was unfamiliar with, I wasn’t sure exactly how far down the road lay and I was anticipating mucking about as I was hunting, crisscrossing the terrain as I went.  It’s easy to get turned around in these coast range hills, distances become hard to judge so I was expecting a long haul across and down slope before hitting the road.

On the other side of the creek, a hillside of tall timber opened up into what I thought was prime mushrooming grounds, so I began traversing the curve of the hill over to a set point before reversing my path and coming back to the creek.  I zig-zagged twice before getting all the way to the creek but instead of a dry bed, I now came across a flowing stream of water.  I guessed it was the same creek bed but that where I had crossed, the water had gone underground.  It was a significant amount of water and I followed it uphill until I came to a series of ponds, obviously springs tucked away in this fold of woods.  It was a lovely find, very private and nestled into the woodland like a love note hidden in a drawer.  Precious and sweet, I wondered how many animals used it as their personal drinking pool.  I looked over my shoulder quickly, I had come across a cougar kill the previous day and my neighbor had seen a big one crossing the road.  The odds were small that cougar even knew about this pond, but still, I glanced around before chiding myself for unfounded fears.  My two terriers would be thrilled to take on a cougar, or at least bark at one anyway.  They also were more likely to be a cougar’s lunch than I was, but since that’s a story I’ve never heard or believe, it doesn’t bother me to let the dogs have the run of the woods.

I wandered about the pond, checking its size and considering if would be a viable personal swimming hole in the summer, or if it would turn into a mush of mud once the rains were gone.  The dogs drank from the edge and we turned back to the creek, following it downhill.  But when I got to where I thought I had crossed the creek, everything looked different.  The hill on my left had changed direction, opening out into a wide flat spot with scattered grass.  There was a stand of alder trees I didn’t recognize and a bank of moss that hadn’t been there before.  I stopped, frozen.  How did this happen… in my checking out the pond, did I forget about a fold in the hillside, did I follow the wrong creek?  Is there another creek I missed? Nothing looked familiar and I began to cast about, returning to the creek bed, looking for my marker, the stump full of tiny mushroom.  There was no stump.  I stared at the creek.  How can there not be a stump?  Where is the stump?!  I crossed the creek anyway and looked at it from the other side.  Now it too looked unfamiliar.  I hadn’t crossed here, I must have gone downhill too far.

I took a deep breath, I wasn’t scared, not yet, I just needed to look about a little more.  I crossed the stream again and walked back towards the hillside where I had been hunting mushrooms looking for anything that looked familiar. I thought back to a movie I’d watched last week, On Golden Pond.  There is a scene where one of the main characters, an 80-year-old man, gets lost in the woods around his summer home.  He’s scared because nothing looks familiar, he can’t remember his surroundings and he begins to run through the woods looking for something, anything he can recall to place him in the world of known things again.

It’s a bit of a fear of mine, to be lost in the woods.  And it’s another one to lose my faculties.  My mother had dementia when she died, and before it became severe, she had these episodes of getting lost.  Once going out into the woods in the middle of a snowy New Hampshire winter and falling, laying in a snowbank for hours before she was found.  It was a chilling story for me to hear as I clutched the phone to my ear, 3000 miles away and a day after the event.  She wasn’t allowed to be alone after that, but now I’ve inherited the fear for myself.  What if I too forget where I am?  What if I forget what the woods look like?  It would be just like me to wander off alone as an 80-year-old and then turn left at the tree that looks like an owl’s head when I should have turned right. It’s not like my trails and paths have actual signs.  My hikes are full of personal knowledge, I know where to go because I’ve gone there before.  But not right now… right now I don’t know where I am because I can’t find my way back.

And so, I tell myself, I’m not going anywhere until I can find the way back and when I find my way back I am going back!  I had made all sorts of mental notes along the way, so I knew I should be able to find them again, I usually do. I took out my mental list and went over it in order.  The stump of mushrooms, the hill of moss, the hill of shrub, the pink flag left by a surveyor, the dented can, the narrow draw all the way up to where I found my last Chanterelle and then up and out to the road.  I walk a large circle, get back to where the stream still has water in it, before it goes underground.  I notice where the water actually becomes submerged, flowing between sticks and rocks and disappearing into the moist soil, dirt so fertile it looks almost black.  I look up stream and down, here there is water, and there, just a dry creek bed that shows where overflowing winter rains carve a funnel that opens out into a flat trench.  I take 5 steps to my right and suddenly, from where I’m standing, I see the mushroom stump. I take a deep breath and am relieved.  I had overshot the creek crossing by about 20 feet and continued on until the terrain had changed and I was unexpectedly surrounded by a scene that was unfamiliar both backwards and forwards. The whole incident feels like I’m reading a book where I’ve accidentally turned two pages and now the narration makes no sense until I find my missing page and the story line falls back into place.  I step back across and walk my path out but I only go about 10 yards before I turn back to the creek.

There’s no need to run back for the car.  I’m back in the land of the known.  I wasn’t lost at all, I just didn’t know where I was for a couple of minutes. It was disorienting and a touch disquieting but am I going to let this stop me?  Of course not.  I head back down the hill.

But this time, I do leave a few more markers, scraped boot prints in the duff, a couple of crossed sticks and I try not to veer off my trajectory by sticking to as straight a line as possible. It’s easier to see the way back that way.  I come upon an old skid track from the original cut of this forest, it’s barely perceptible as time has eroded away it’s clean lines and random trees have grown inside it’s borders.  It’s still clearly a flat place in the hillside, so I follow it down until I can see a road below me.  The dogs run ahead and are running up and down the road, maybe showing me that it was here all along, maybe sniffing the path of a wild animal.  Whatever their motivation, between the trunks of trees, I see their white bodies zipping up and down a horizontal line about 200 feet below me.  I’m still carefully edging my way down across the soft needle strewn duff, my boots sink in and I watch for slick branches as I’ve already slid down one that lay like a trap just a fraction of an inch under the carpet of forest debris.  I used to wonder why older people fell as if they were children again, but now that I am a little older myself, I get it.  We aren’t as flexible or fit or even as balanced as we used to be.  It’s easy and faster to get out of condition from hiking then when I was younger, my muscles don’t catch me and correct imbalances as fast as they used to.  And so, sometimes now, I fall and slip and when I do, it’s startling and strange.  I never used to fall.  But I never used to be 56, so I take it easy and use trekking poles, they’ve become a part of my new high tech hiking world, just like bringing a cell phone and a personal locater beacon (which I hope to never need).

I drop down onto the road, glad that I reached my goal and surprised that it was closer than I thought it would be.  Instead of hiking out, I make some side trips into the woods, continuing my search for gold.  I notice that every time I wriggle out of my pack, pick a mushroom, then look about for more, I will not find one until I put my pack back on and head out.  Then, sure enough, another mushroom!  I struggle out of the pack, my not-yet-unfrozen shoulder is somewhat uncooperative with all this on again off again gyrations.  But, if I only find one at a time, still, I am finding them, so I resign myself to fussing with the pack.  On my way out, I find one last group and decide I’m done for the day.  I have plenty for dinner and then some, so I hop on the road and climb up out of the draw.

The road is steeper than I remembered, I haven’t been on it for some time and can’t recall a time I ever actually walked it.  I’m usually on this road with my horse and they do all the hard work for me.  It’s good to get a feel of the road from their perspective, I gain a little empathy every time I walk a trail that I usually ride. I stop to catch my breath from time to time, glad that I am not the kind of rider that pushes a horse too hard, I let them stop and breathe as well. Hiking with a heavy pack helps me to relate to how hard they actually work.  Just when I’m about to reach the car, I see an opening in the trees that looks inviting.  Without thinking too much about it, I wander in for a last chance hunt for mushrooms.  What the hell, why not?

I find another old skid track, it’s faint and mostly gone, covered with moss and underbrush like huckleberry, salal, ocean spray and young alders who are trying to take advantage of the sunlight provided by the logging road I’ve just left.  I weave my way through the thicket but stick to the flat ground. The brush thins out a little further in, and I’m walking in a mossy fairy forest of tall timber and soft earth. There are sword-tail ferns, their ostrich plume like fronds are still, no breeze can reach them down here even though the tops of the firs sing with the winds that touch the canopy up above. I follow the line across a curve of hillside, sometimes stepping over downed logs and limbs, sometimes ducking under them.  I marvel in this hidden gem of a forest, surrounded by thinned timber stands and clear cuts.  Most of these forest lands are considered a crop and are usually homogeneously full of Douglas Fir, but there are bits and pieces of more diverse forest and it’s always fun to be inside a stand of trees that feel somewhat wild in nature.

I walk until I come to some remnants of old growth, stumps from trees that must have been 100’s of years old, these stumps litter the woods near my home.  They are as large as couches, rotted remnants of their former selves, they still fill me with a sense of wonder and awe at their immense size.  At the bottom of the stump I find more chanterelles, they ripple out of the duff, golden flowers with wavy fungus arms.  They push up the moss and the fir needles and curl around clumps of debris, hanging onto it like a baby’s fist.  There is one large one in front of me, then one to the side, one above on a ledge of dirt and as I look, I see them everywhere.  I’ve struck the motherload.

I carefully pull back the carpet of needles and cut my mushrooms, filling my bag, then another.  I’ve picked more in 5 minutes than I found in the past hour or so.  It’s lovely to find a place like this, a place where no one has discovered and disturbed.  I have such a plethora to choose from, I get choosey and only pick the best ones, leaving some to continue rotting or to grow up into adults.  I harvest so many, I run out of space in my bag.  Any more and I will crush them, so I settle my pack carefully on my shoulders and collect my trekking poles from where I planted them in the ground.

Before heading out, I take one last walk down my personal yellow brick road.  I want to see how much farther this streak runs and consider if I can return later for another go at it.  I also want to see if I can resist the “gold fever” that grips me when I find a patch.  Can I resist the temptation of taking more?  I see a few scattered here and there, but I don’t feel the need to add to my harvest.  The forest has been kind to me and provided a feast of mushrooms. I move deeper into the forest and come across a pristine patch of chanterelles in a bowl of moss.  They look almost staged, they are that perfect.  A shaft of sunlight streaks down between the trees and lights up their small golden glade, I can almost hear the fairy’s dancing about this sylvan fantasy.

I pause before getting closer to the patch, I don’t want to disturb the scene or be tempted by their beauty.  But I do walk over, just to appreciate and marvel at how lovely a fungus can be.  I usually see “delicious!” when I see a chanterelle, but this time, I’m thankful for their presence in the forest.  It says, “I’m healthy” and “I feel good, all is right in the world.”  Just seeing them makes me feel the same and I’m grateful for the bounty I’ve lovingly placed in my pack.

 

That night for dinner, I prepare my mushrooms in a wine cream sauce with garlic and pour it over white bean noodles.  And once more, I touch heaven on my plate and my eyes roll back in joy.  Yeah, they are that good.

 

 

 

 

My Three Sisters

I love the Three Sisters Wilderness.  It’s my home base wilderness.  It’s where I go to reconnect to the divine in a very deep and real and magical way. I’ve been hiking there for the past 32 years, so I call them “my girls”.  They are so beautiful, with their lava flows and cinder strewn meadows of wildflowers, an oasis of magnificence in central Oregon. For those who don’t know, they are named North, Middle and South Sister; AKA Faith, Hope and Charity.  Three characteristics that are well worth some effort.

I like that the girls have AKA’s, because I do too!  I rarely use my birth name and  since I’ve had three different last names in my lifetime, I don’t have a deep connection to the names given to me. I’ve chosen my name and my place in the world.  And I’ve chosen my totem mountains.

Which, by the way, are one of the very few mountains (named by the white man) with a feminine name.  Interestingly enough, they are rarely called by their “proper names” but are instead referred to by their relationship: The Sisters. Why do you think that is?  What does that say about our culture, or, our culture of the past, that a mountain could not have a woman’s name, nor be named after one?  Or if they did, it was best that we reference them by their family associations. Was it, that in the old days, men liked to label things that stuck up and out of the landscape as masculine? By that line of reasoning, then all canyons should be named for women, right?  Well, I’m doubtful as to that kind of reason, but that’s research left for another day.

Through my Facebook group, Women of the PCT, a sister hiker contacted me a year ago to buy the painting of Charity (South Sister) but the email was lost in cyber-space until I unearthed it and replied.  Did she still want the painting?  She did, but alas it was too small.  So, we negotiated a larger version to be commissioned and off I went, happy to oblige! I was thrilled to have an opportunity to paint my darling girls. To paint for a “hiker chick” was a bonus.  This is yet another trail painting in my series, The Wilderness of Women, only this time, it was a personal request and that made it even more special.

I chose several photos and compiled an image that doesn’t exactly exist in reality, to get them in this order, I had to squish them together a little bit.  I’ve used my “artist’s license”. You may not see this exact scene from a spot on the trail, but it exists in my heart.  An appropriate sentiment as that is where “my girls” will live forever. And when I am gone, please spread my ashes here, so I can be a part of them as they are for me.

Now, here we have it, My Three Sisters:

My Three Sisters
Oil on Canvas
2′ x 3′

Wait?! Summer’s over already?

Hello everyone!

I was going to title this How I Spent My Summer Vacation, but after seeing the title of my last post… well, I just had to go with the theme. Quite the span of time, from late June thru to mid Sept, and while I may have committed the blogging sin of allowing too much time!! to go between posts and losing readership… well, consider me a sinner then. The weather was beautiful and there was just too much to do outside than sit inside hunched over my laptop. As it was,  I barely got around to paying the bills and keeping our financial world afloat. What I did do, was pay homage to my love of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder by making jams, juices, canning and drying assorted veggies/fruits, pickling and other homey pioneer type chores.

We rebuilt the pump house, upgraded our water system, fenced the garden.  I fixed gutter, gate and shed as well as replacing porch boards and molding around doors and windows.  In between the myriad of chores and duties of the small farm owner, there were the half a dozen or so camping trips (with horse and without), visits with friends and family, a new puppy and the 24 chicks in my coop that are growing up to be our new layers and fryers.  All amidst the crushing drought and crazy ass wildfires of the Pacific Northwest.

We are not out of the woods yet with that, major fires in Northern California and Washington are devastating lives and homes.  We escaped a lightning strike fire just last week as fast acting neighbors and the local fire department put out the flames on a 100 foot tall Douglas Fir tree a mile from our home!  We are all looking forward to the rain these days and hoping for cool weather that won’t bring thunderstorms our way.  While careless people do start fires, the majority of fires out here are started by electrical storms.  Hot summers, drought and thunderstorms are a bad combination.

Storm clouds roll in on my camp... this was taken moments before a storm hit my tent. Scary!

Storm clouds roll in on my camp… this was taken minutes before a severe thunderstorm hit my tent. Scary!

And so, my art has taken a back seat.  The painting I started in June became a thorn in my side, so it was removed from the easel and is awaiting a time when I can look at it objectively as opposed to the sneer I give it now.  However, good news on the muse front!  Inspiration was found on a wonderful 4 day solo backpacking trip to the Pacific Crest Trail.  After painting visions of other women’s journeys, I have found my own while traversing the famous PCT.

campPainting

My backpacking art kit got some use!

It’s funny, I knew I was on a mission to take photos of the trail so I could add my own image to the Wilderness of Women series, but the one I picked to paint wasn’t what I had planned.  Well, life doesn’t work according to plan sometimes.  The second I took the shot, I knew what I was going to do.

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It was time to put my studio dog, Scout, into another painting.  Dogs have been a big part of my backpacking experience and she especially has been an integral part of my studio life.  It all just made sense.

Scout on the PCT

Scout on the PCT

The balance needed for my painting however, is different from the snap shots I take in the field.  Sometimes a photo is perfectly put together and I don’t have to do much manipulation, but that day, in that place, I couldn’t get the exact image.  The painting is a compilation of 4 images, strung together and overlapped into a panoramic view.  It captures my actual view while Scout and I sat at an elevation of 6850 feet and had a well earned lunch. It was a beautiful day and as I studied my position, I realized that by climbing up to this pass, I had hiked every bit of the PCT, from top to bottom on my map.  It was a very good feeling, which must have made my muse happy because as soon as there was a lull in all my food preservation activities, she gave me this: (click on image for a full view)

Lunch with Scout on the PCT

Lunch with Scout on the PCT

The Wilderness of Women

This winter I’ve been collecting images from the wilderness; photos taken by women.  I’ve made some wonderful connections with women hikers (good old Facebook!) and this has fueled my desire to get back to the back country.  I don’t have much to say about it other than I noticed a trend in these paintings.  That is, I seem to be recreating these images with intense, vibrant colors.  Far exceeding the photos sent to me, the hues are saturated, brilliant, strong and deep.  I suppose I am expressing my own personal intensity when it comes to these remote places even though I have not been to these specific locations.  Yet.

Anyway, it all came together without the fuss and drama I had experienced with Spectacle Lake.  I have no idea why!  Maybe I was just in a better “head space” when I got into it… seems like life is on track right now and my own personal dramas have been smoothed out.  So without much fanfare, musings or stray thoughts, here it is, Mile 2330 on the PCT.  It’s the fourth in the series, based on the photo from “thru hiker” Jocelyn (Patches) Songer.  Thank you my fellow Yankee!

Mile2330onThePCT

Mile 2330 on the PCT Oil on canvas 12 x 16

 

North of Walker Pass

With all the recent attention given to the Pacific Crest Trail because of Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, and the movie, and the Oscar nominations, there seem to be some who worry that their beloved trail is going to see a huge spike in activity. While most hikers are generous, caring, helpful and kind, there is a seedy underbelly of fear that has prompted a few on social media to be… well, less than kind in their criticism.

From what I can see, it’s all just a tempest in a teacup.  Twenty six hundred miles of trail is a long, long haul and the dedication and hard work involved in just getting to the PCT will thin the herd.  The trail will not be loved to death, there is still plenty of long, lonely miles to cover.  If anything, more attention to the PCT will ensure it’s protection in the future.  Sure, there may be some growing pains, but time marches on and interest will ebb and flow.  There are many other trails out there and new ones to blaze.

3FJack

I myself have trod more than  a few of those miles and will continue to visit the wilderness for its beauty, solitude and the replenishment of my soul.  I love it out there and always have.  I was the girl who  played in the woods, and I grew up to be the woman who dives deep into the forest.  Spending an afternoon following a deer path almost always sounds like a good idea to me.  When I die, I’d like to curl up under a tree on the edge of a meadow with a view of the mountains and let my soul escape to the wilderness.  My idea of heaven has craggy peaks, moraine lakes and clear blue water.

Fishes and Wishes Oil on Canvas 12"x16"

Fishes and Wishes
Oil on Canvas
12″x16″

The older I get, the more all the facets of my life appear to converge into one vanishing point.  That point seems to be focused in a small cedar sheathed studio in my backyard.  As I painted Hope Pass (https://skyevans.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/hope-pass/) I was struck by how easily this landscape came to me.  I hadn’t done a landscape that I felt so moved by until Hope Pass. It spoke to me and brought life to a seed that I had forgotten.  That seed was my favorite place and I found myself longing to see it again.

Three Sisters Oil on Canvas 22"x28"

Three Sisters
Oil on Canvas
22″x28″

So I am returning to the wilderness, but this time, I am returning to be inspired.  Because it seems as if images of the trail inspire me in that lightning bolt way that I am yearning for.  That bolt struck me last week as I was flipping through Facebook, reading posts by women hikers.  I came across another image I had to paint; thank you Jennie Norris for taking that wonderful photo and generously allowing me to use it.  That is the spirit of the hiking community, a heart that is so full of joy from the trail that they just want to share it with the world. It’s not the trail itself, the hardships, the gritty, dirt, sweat, heart pounding work that we want to share.  It’s the joy and the feeling and the emotion of wonder.  That’s something that can’t be boxed or quantified.  You can get out there and experience it for yourself or you can find someone to recreate that feeling.  Someone to move you.

Moving tools

Moving tools

It takes poets and writers, musicians and artists to do that.  Which is why Ms. Strayed’s book is so powerful.  That’s what great writers do, they move you to feel something.  If she didn’t move you, well that’s ok, she’s not for everyone.  But she DID move thousands and maybe eventually, millions.  And that, my friend, is powerful stuff.

I hope my art can move you too.  Because it is moving me.  Tremendously.

North of Walker Pass on the PCT

North of Walker Pass on the PCT

The Inspirational Stretch

Where does inspiration come from?  One can never tell, really.  I like to think of it as weather… a storm that blows in strong and unexpected or a misty rain that slowly seeps into everything.  Sometimes you see it coming and can shape it to bond and meld with your own will.  Sometimes however, there are bolts of lightning that make the hair stand up on your head and scare the bejeezus out of you.  I like those moments of inspiration, they are electrifying, thrilling and exciting.  But I also love the slow seep, where an idea builds and builds and before you know it, you’ve created something magical out of nothing.

Inspiration is where you find it.  this frozen puddle makes a cool fractal!

Inspiration is where you find it. This frozen puddle makes a cool fractal!

But lately, I’ve been all over the weather map.  It’s been raining, sunny, stormy, foggy.  And since our Western Oregon weather pattern has been matching my inspirational mood, I’ve been spending a great deal of time outside.  I’ve been hiking and testing equipment and getting ready for a return to backpacking.

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That’s me in the corner… getting in touch with my hiker self.

Maybe it’s all the hiking… or all the thinking and research I’ve been doing, but my muse has kinda skipped out on me.  It seems as if I didn’t have a single idea.   Well, that’s not exactly right… I have ideas but what I want is lightning  bolts.

So, when in doubt, clean.  I straightened the studio, scraped off the old paint on my palette and checked my inventory.  That’s  when it hit me… I was out of canvas!  How did that happen?!

Ok, so I know how it happened.  I’ve been painting.  Duh.   I thought about getting on line and ordering a new batch but I came across some stretcher bars I bought on sale and decided to do something I hadn’t done in quite some time.  Stretch my own canvas.

What’s that you say?  Stretch… canvas??  Well, well, children, gather round.  Way back when granny was poor as… well, a starving artist, she learned how to stretch her own canvas so she could paint.  Nowadays, she usually buys pre-stretched but she still knows how!  All you need is canvas, a wood frame and a staple gun.  I used to grip my canvas like a mad demon, but then I discovered canvas pliers which made all the difference in the world.

Tools of the trade... so to speak.

Tools of the trade… so to speak.

You can use regular duck canvas you buy at a fabric store (if you can find a heavy enough weight for the job) or you can order specialty artists canvas.  They even make pre-gessoed canvas.  Gesso is the sizing that is painted on a raw canvas to prime the surface for paint.  More about that later.

First things first, the frame.  You can build your own, or buy the premade and ready to put together “in whatever size configuration you like” kind.  These slip together at the ends with some clever tongue in groove joints… a couple of taps with the hammer and you are good to go.  Cut the canvas to size, (larger than you need, obviously) then, starting in the middle, staple to the frame.

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Canvas pliers doing their job.

Canvas pliers have a nice wide mouth and a foot to pry along the edge of a frame or stretcher bar. They grip the canvas, you roll them over the edge of the bar and pulling tight, staple the snot out of it! I couldn’t hold the camera, the canvas and the staple gun all at the same time, so you’ll have to use your imagination.  I staple each middle section, turning the canvas as I go, then work the corners in turn.  To get an even stretch, you need to put in a few staples, turn the canvas, do a few more and so on.  Rotation is the key to an even stretch.

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All finished stapling and trimming the excess canvas. I like to wrap my canvas around the edge of the frame and then paint the edges of my work. Eliminates the need for frames.

Probably the trickiest part besides the stretch is how to fold the corners.  How?  Trial and error, my friend, trial and error.  Just do the same thing on each corner, and make your folds as even as possible.  If you are not handy enough to make a neat corner fold, then canvas stretching may not be for you.  No worries though… it is kinda a pain in the ass to stretch canvas.  There is a reason why I don’t usually do this anymore!

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Next step, Gesso!

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Gesso… two types. Cheap and the not so cheap.

Gesso is just fancy primer. You can use regular wall primer but it is usually very thin unless you buy a top of the line product like Benjamin Moore which has some nice primers. Artist quality gesso is made with high quality materials such as titanium, plaster, clay, gypsum and marble dust suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion.  They will be thicker, cover better, and have the ability to be tinted.  But several coats of the cheaper stuff will most likely do the job.

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I use a wide brush that is dedicated to primers as the thick material is hard to wash out and will ruin my finer brushes.

If I had ironed the canvas before stretching I probably wouldn’t have this fold shadow in my fabric.  I thought I could stretch it out, but alas, it is still there.  The Gesso process will eliminate it, since as it dries, the sizing (glues and acrylic polymers) will shrink, further tightening the canvas.

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I paint several coats in perpendicular strokes. Even though this image shows a diagonal stroke, it was just to lay down the Gesso before smoothing it left to right. You can see how thick it is.

As I was writing this post, I stopped to do a little online research on Gesso and was surprised to find a number of YouTube sites that showed how to make homemade gesso with white glue, titanium paint, plaster and of all things, baby powder.  You can save $$ by making your own gesso, but I wouldn’t  suggest following unreputable sources.  Some of the videographers couldn’t even read the label on the Plaster of Paris box, which threw all credibility out the window for me.  However, they are on the right track.  Gesso in it’s most simple terms is white stuff and glue… painted on a surface so you can then paint on something white.  Done poorly, it will flake off and ruin your work.  Done well and it will last hundreds of years.  Keep in mind those old masters of yesteryear didn’t have access to the wealth of materials we can find in our local home improvement store.  So, really, in all probability you are going to be ok no matter what you use!

Finished canvas ready to rock and roll!

Finished canvas ready to rock and roll!

Best part of stretching my own canvas… I can make a non standard shape (this one is about 16″ by 34″ something you cannot find anywhere) as well as the satisfaction of DIY.  And I saved about $35.  Ten paintings later, that’s $350 so not too bad in the savings department. Oh yeah, and I also found my inspiration for my next piece! That lightning bolt was lurking about waiting for me to stroll by. So stay tuned!

Getting back to work… the lifesaver!

What do you get when you mix one month of intensive novel writing with a “holiday” that requires extensive cooking by moi, (all self imposed slavery, I assure you) another upcoming “holiday” that requires more extensive shopping, cooking, as well as decorating and even some furniture rearranging, and an online workshop, and 10 acres of land with livestock to maintain as well as a new obsession that requires tons of research and gear trial?  You get an artist who can’t get into her studio to save her life.

Last night I realized that working in the studio is a life saver in many, many ways.  Mental health being first and foremost, creating art allows me to unravel and unwind my mind from the things that don’t matter and channel that energy into something productive and beautiful.

So I managed to get lost in the studio for a few hours where I made a mandala to get my brain back on track for creating art.  After finishing that last painting of Hope Pass, I wasn’t sure what I was on to next.  Drawing a mandala helped me focus and voila!  This morning I knew what I wanted to paint.

last_mandala

Here’s the magic mandala for now; and off I go, back to work!

Back to work!

Summer is winding down and for the first time in my life I am looking forward to some rainy days.  All the lovely sunshine has kept me busy outside with chores and fun.  The horses are sleek and fit, the pasture is mowed and the garden is having it’s last gasp at producing heirloom tomatoes.  I’m caught up and full up with camping but the studio has grown some cobwebs and a fine layer of dust.  The rain will keep me indoors and back to the business of being creative.

I did manage to spend a day whipping out an idea (which will be in the post, but not until the end, so stick around) as well as sorting through some old art I wanted to share. I used to love pen and ink, prior to discovering oil paints, it was probably my medium of choice.  Before there were rapidograph and Stabilo pens (which I love) I learned to use India Ink and a crow quill pen. Crow quill refers to the nib, a very small tip that doesn’t hold much ink but makes thin, sharp lines.  All the following pieces were done with the old dip and scratch method.  Very messy and time consuming.  I’m not sure what the attraction was… haven’t used that technique in years.  Perhaps it was the ink itself…  India ink is very very black and opaque.  I always liked my blacks to be deep and dark.

pen and ink supplies

Thank you Smithsonian for this image.  Want to know more about pen and ink?  Go to http://paleobiology.si.edu/paleoart/prentice/pages/pen_and_ink.html

 

I’ve done so many pen and ink drawings, I really should sort them all together.  But instead they are scattered in several portfolio cases and inhabit odd corners here and there.  I like to think I’m organized until I see my work helter skelter.  Maybe this winter I’ll get on it, but for now, here are a few that caught my eye for posting:

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

If you are clever, and have a good computer you will see my name from my youth.  I prefer Sky, but wasn’t born with that name. Changing my name may be the subject for another post… it’s personal and somewhat of a story, but the short version is, I didn’t like it, so I changed it when I got married since I was changing my  last name anyway.  You can be who you want to be as far as I’m concerned.

Next on the hit parade:

Mother Tiger

Mother Tiger

Boodhound

Bloodhound for Joe

The Chipmunk. (Cute little sucker!)

The Chipmunk

And for some fantasy fun:

Hypocampi

Hippocampi

As I was sorting through the Pen and Inks, I came across some designs I did for a T-shirt company.  My first job out of college was for a screen printing company and I have hundreds of designs that were printed on shirts.  But some of the best were freelanced while I was in grad school.  Here are some personal favorites that were printed by the Goldsmith Company in Portland, OR.  I don’t believe they are in business anymore, but it was fun to be one of their “stringer artists”.

Here are most of the floral designs I did for them.  The ones on black are actual screen prints.

Here are most of the floral designs I did for them. The ones on black are actual screen prints.

Close up of a proposed design.

Close up of a proposed design.

I always thought these kaleidoscope designs were fun for a shirt.  Not high art, but still, not everything has to be mind blowing and thought provoking.  Sometimes art is just fun.  And now that we are talking about fun… I started this post with the title, Back to Work. I did “go back to work” and finished a new painting.  My plan was to do a 2-D version of my “Winged Chair” so I outlined it (in orange as usual) then began filling it in with color.  It was awful.  I hated it and left the studio to work in the yard.

We had a day in August where the rain blew in so I made my way into the studio to finish or destroy the hated painting.  Destruction was on my mind, but instead I began to embellish and before I knew it, the painting went from staid, awful and cartoon-y to something wild and awesome.  So, as promised… the one new piece:

Wild Chair Oil on Canvas

Wild Chair
Oil on Canvas

I think I would be a little apprehensive about sitting in this particular chair.  It doesn’t look tame…  and maybe even a little scary. I still kinda like it.  It makes me feel dangerous!

The Doldrums

Well well well, it’s been about 3 weeks and still no work to post.  Every week rolls by and I think, I’ll get there!  I’ll finally get a painting finished and then I can post it!  Ok, today! Oh wait, I have to do this…, so, not today.   Ok, tomorrow!  Ok, well, not tomorrow either.  Something has got in the way every…  single…  day.  It’s disheartening and has really taken the wind out of my sails.  The really shitty thing is, that I actually have a painting on my easel.  But it’s a few hours from being done.  And I don’t want to post it until it’s finished.

This isn’t like my wings projects… those were lengthy and time consuming and absorbing.  They were interesting and a new process and there just seemed to be loads to actually talk about.

Fun in the sun.

Fun in the sun.

This painting is small.  And unobtrusive.  And somewhat mundane.  But that is exactly what I like about it.  Even though I am currently wasting time in my dining room, typing my uninspired thoughts instead of finishing the damn thing.  So, I like it, and I can’t get up the gumption to finish it.

Like a sailor on the sea, I am stuck in the doldrums waiting for a fresh breeze.

To be fair, I have been off doing the other things I do… keeping busy with summertime social obligations and activities.  I am coming to see the ebb and flow of the creative process that seems (for me) to be very weather dependent.  Rainy days are good for getting inside work done.  I am not a plein air painter.  If you read my last post, you know why I need to be outside.  So, needless to say, the horses have been getting a good work out and so has my social skills.  Seems like everyone wants to throw a potluck or a barbeque or a wine tasting party.  Which is what summer is all about.

But I sure am jonesing for the rain to come back so I can hole up in the studio with a good book on CD, a sleepy dog, a blank canvas and a fresh palette.

Must I finish this little experimental painting?  Sigh, I must.  Here’s why:  It speaks to me.  It’s all about the mundane.  It’s about elevating the mundane into art.  You see, a few weeks ago I was doing a chore I find tedious.  The laundry.  I know, some folks love it.  I find it boring and dull and insipid and all sorts of bland little adjectives.  But I was doing it because I have to.  Just like most everyone in the world.  Unlike many, I am lucky to have my own washing machine and a nice one at that.  Unlike some, I am unlucky in that I don’t have someone to do it for me.  Dang it.

Anyway, long rambling aside, I was standing there staring at the washer when it occurred to me that the machine itself was actually a lovely bit of design work and I really should be more appreciative of it’s lines and what it can do for me.  So I took a picture of it with my phone, went to the studio and using the digital image I sketched out some rough lines and got to work.  A total departure from my usual pattern, but I was on a roll.  Here’s where I left off:

NOT finished... why is this taking so long???

NOT finished… why is this taking so long???

I thought about it quite a bit while I was off doing other things in between whining to myself about NOT working on it and drinking another glass of wine.   But then there was tonight.  It rained  a little bit… I sat down to waste some time drafting my post.  No intention of actually posting since I didn’t have a finished piece.  Went out to take a picture of the unfinished project and you know what happened?  I picked up the brushes and got busy.  SO, after much ado… and lots of silly ramblings… here it is:  The Washer.  A Thing of Beauty.

The color cycle.

The color cycle.

Winged Chair #2

With the studio finally re-sided, I could get back to work.  I can’t believe how many delays got in my way on this particular project, but I’m in the home stretch now!  I was so excited when I found the “new to me” fabric store in Junction City.  Remains of the Day is a store full of scraps.  Literally!  Ok, they have some bolts too, but mostly what they specialize in are the remnants from the local RV manufacturing businesses that kept Junction City booming before the economic down turn.  Though some of these big RV builders went out of business long before the housing bubble burst, their fabrics remain all cut up and ready for resale at this little hole in the wall store.

 

Remains of the Day

Remains of the Day

Remains of the Day

Goes on and on…

It’s quiet storefront did not prepare me for the Aladdin’s cave of wonders that seemed to go on  and on!  I was pleased to find such a local treasure and the owner, Jeff, was very helpful!  Facebook link here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Remains-of-the-Day-Fabrics/485790398146044

I had a great time choosing many fabrics for the next set of wings.  Once again I walked out with more than I could use on the project, but it was hard to say no to all those fabulous colors and textures.

Helpful Mike! Take note of the fabric he's holding for me.  You'll see it again in a minute.

Helpful Jeff! Take note of the fabric he’s holding for me. You’ll see it again in a minute.

When I finally got a chance to work on the wings, rather than re-use the pattern from Winged Chair #1, I opted to create a different set of wings.  I perused some of my notes, looked at wings on the internet and sketched out some  ideas.  Then I made a pattern out of butcher paper and cut it out.  I traced the top side on one board, flipped it over and traced out the other wing for a perfect symmetrical set.

New set, all cut out and ready to go!

New pattern, all cut out and ready to go!

A woodworker friend suggested a new glue for me to try… the hot glue was ok, but not the best solution for long term integrity, so I gave the 3M formula 77 a whirl.  I was skeptical at first as it seemed like a sketchy hold, but by the next day, the fabric I tested was holding solid and tight!  It took me a few days to hunt down a dealer for this stuff.  Some on-line outlets wanted $25 a can plus shipping and you had to order 10.  Criminy!  Then, while shopping for re-siding supplies at Jerry’s, (our locally owned DIY home improvement store) I found it for the much more reasonable price of $10.  There is no accounting for this difference, but it does serve to prove that it pays to shop around.  It also mystically “proves” that I had to side the studio before I could finish this project.  Hmmmm.

3M magic!

3M magic!

Well the wonder glue has it’s own issues… while it holds well, it comes in a spray can.  I couldn’t have worked with it indoors, but with the weather nice, it wasn’t too hard to step out when it came time to spray.  Of course, now that means we have another problem… overspray.  Sigh.  I really don’t like being so meticulous with my work.  It slows down my ju ju.

Figuring out what goes where.

Figuring out what goes where.

I started to lay down some fabric but was making a mess with all the spray business.  I thought about my handy little glue gun, but damn it, the spray glue works… and it works really well.  So I knuckled under and took the time to cut out and apply an intricate series of masks to each portion of the wing. Then did it again for the other side.  All with a one time use.  Most tedious.

Masking off areas I don't want glue all over.

Masking off areas I don’t want glue all over.

Am I suffering for my art?  YES!

Am I suffering for my art? YES!

I really disliked that part, but adopted a “Que sera sera” approach and just did what I had to do.  Through it all, I was listening to an awesome book on CD, so after a chapter or two, I didn’t even notice the wretched task.  Once the fabric started getting layered, the wings began to take shape!  I was still using the brayer to smooth the fabric, but without the bulky hot glue oozing everywhere, (not to mention burning my fingers from time to time) the profile of the wings were sleek and flat.

Smoooooth!

Smoooooth!

As I began hot burnishing the edges, I remembered that I forgot to paint the wood.  Oops.  It worked out ok, I just painted them later… though much more carefully.

Hot burnish.

Hot burnish.

I propped the finished wings on my easel and took a look.  Hmmm…. something missing.  I didn’t want to add bric a brac, though I did think about sequins or stones or some other fun application.  But ultimately, I am a painter, so out came the paints.

Not exactly fabric paints, but that never stopped me before.

Not exactly fabric paints, but that never stopped me before.

I began letting loose a bit more than the first set of wings.  I’m pretty happy with the results so far.

Dots?  Why not?

Dots? Why not?

The chair itself is waiting for a thorough going over, and I’ll have to make some decisions to paint or not… but until then, here’s where the wings are for now.  Consider this “Stage 1”.  Next post: “Stage 2”.

Snazzy!!

Snazzy!!