At this point in my self-study program, I am losing a lot of steam.  I no longer have the money to buy supplies or run my business, so the amount that I have to do has decreased significantly.  When I started this project I was working on it for 9 hours a day.  Now I'm down to about half an hour, when I get around to it.  As I run out of supplies I run out of things that I can do, and it's really frustrating, which makes me avoid it even more.

On the other hand, I've discovered a really cool opportunity that I hope I will be able to pursue in the future.  PNCA has a Pattern Design and Printing Endorsement Program.  This is a continuing education program that helps with professional training, rather than taking classes for interest.  It must be completed in a year and includes a self-directed project, sort of a thesis.  Having deadlines will likely encourage me to keep working.  I actually was fairly motivated in college and university, in spite of the fact that lecturing is a really inefficient way to teach and learn.  So I think I would benefit from this kind of outside structure.

I have been doing some things lately.  I listened to two art history podcasts in the last little while.  The first was on The Embarkation of Cythera.  That was a lousy podcast.  The narrator swooned the whole time about how whimsical the painting was rather than discuss what was going on in the painting.  The second one that I listened to was about the famous painting, Maids of Honor by Valezquez.  This narration was considerably better.  It described the moment in time caught in the painting.  The royals had just been sitting for a portrait, with the king and queen looking on (they can be seen in the mirror).  A court gentleman is opening the door for the party to exit and is awaiting further instructions.  The princess is thirsty and is being given a little cup of water.  There was a ceremony that was to be performed whenever the princess was given water: her maids were supposed to hand it to her and kneel while she drank.  She had a dwarf and a little boy go everywhere with her to amuse her, and in this painting the boy is trying to wake up the dog to get a rise out of him.  The painter can be seen finishing off his painting.  The canvas takes up the entire height of the painting.  The cross on his chest was painted after he died to make him seem suited to this royal scene.

I've progressed a bit on my embroidery and finished the last two circles.  I need to fill in the grid now.  These are the last two.
These are square filling stitch (on the left) and overcast stitch.

I managed to make a bit of progress on my spinning before running out of fiber.  Instead of flicking the spindle and pulling on the fiber to thin it out as I went, I learned to take the spun part and pinch right at the top, spin the spindle as much as I could, pinch the top of the spun part with the other hand, pull on the fiber with my first hand, pinch the top of that, and let go of the bottom pinch and watch the twist work its way up my pulled fiber.  It worked out really well.  On the left is my yarn spun with my previous method, and on the spindle is the yarn spun with the new method.  The new method produces thinner, more consistent yarn.

Finally, I've been doing a few more drawings.  I like this book because the drawing assignments usually take only about 20-30 minutes.  When I work on something longer than that I start to hate drawing.  Even the 30 minutes is a bit of a stretch for me.  I used to loooooove drawing, so I don't know what's up with me.  The first assignment I did was a 3/4 view of my eyes, which weren't that hard to draw but gave me eyestrain.  The second one is a glass bottle.  I was to capture the shapes that I saw in the bottle.  I started out that way but with the finishing I don't know if you can see that that's how I did it.
 
 
I did a number of tasks to educate myself today.  The first was that I listened to an art history podcast about the painting "The Gleaners".  It was just a short synopsis of the painting.  The podcast first described what gleaning is (when a landowner doesn't completely clear the field after the harvest, but leaves a bit of the field untilled, or at least not picked up, so that the poor can gather some food).  Then it described the painting itself.  It noted that the lines of the women mirrored that of the hay mounds in the background, and that the women represented maiden, mother and crone.  It talked about how the woman on the left (the maiden) was the most fashionable for a peasant, and held her wheat so that she didn't have to stand up and bend down again; the woman in the middle (mother) had a practical method of holding her wheat in her apron, although it meant that she would have to stand up and bend down again to get the wheat and put it in her apron; and the woman on the right (crone) was having difficulty bending down.  There is also the repetition of square shapes around the figures' heads (their kerchiefs) and in the stance of the middle woman.

After that I drew.  I had to return the drawing from imagination book to the library, so I focused on the drawing from observation book.  The assignment was to draw a green pepper, first from memory, and then from observation.  I didn't have a green pepper so I used an apple.  It was hard not to look at the author's drawing of an apple (probably why he assigned a green pepper) when I was drawing from memory.  As you can imagine, my drawing from memory was not terribly impressive, but my drawing from observation was significantly better.

Picture
It was a pretty lumpy apple.
Next I studied the spinning book.  The next chapter will actually involve spinning, but this one weighed the pros and cons of spinning with a spindle vs. a spinning wheel.  Some types of spinning wheels allow you to draft the fibers in different ways, so that you can make a wide variety of yarns.  Some are faster than spinning on a spindle.  Spindles are better for very fine yarn, are easier on the hands, and are more portable, so you can spin just about anywhere.  I think my spindle's great (although I'm planning on buying a smaller one for finer yarns) but I don't have any plans to buy a spinning wheel right now.  They're not bad, they just aren't what's going to work for me right now.

Finally, I worked on my embroidery.  I'm almost finished my sampler, and I worked on a particularly tricky stitch today: shaded satin stitch.  I didn't get the shading quite right so it still looks like I did the darker color in a straight line (it was actually jagged).  But I'm just learning so I'm not going to sweat it.  Here is a photo, and you can see some of the other circles with other stitches that I've done.
Picture
The shaded satin stitch is the one in the middle of the hoop.
 
 
I have completed my first semester of my UnBFA, and it totally didn't go how I expected.  But that might be a good thing.

I set out an educational plan at the beginning of the semester.  First, I wanted to teach myself surface design.  I am proud to announce that I have achieved my goals in that regard.  My work is very much improved, and people seem genuinely impressed when I show it to them.  I get a lot of joy out of what I make.  Through practice, I have grown so much as an artist.  It's really weird for me to be tooting my own horn like this, but damn, I'm getting better!  I can't wait to see what the next few months will hold as I continue to grow.

I finished my design book.  There weren't as many practice opportunities as I would have liked, but I am starting to see the principles being applied to my work.  My skills have improved enough that I can actually explore different ideas, particularly in form and color.  So that didn't quite go how I thought, but it certainly has changed my work, and I think it's for the best.

I didn't get to work on drawing as much as I would have liked.  However, my drawing did improve.  This is partly due to the study of value in my design book, and partly due to having the tool of a blending stump.  I did not learn to draw from imagination (something I am currently weak at) but I will continue to work on my drawing from observation, at least for a little while.

I didn't get to Art History at all!  Fortunately I studied it a bit in high school, so I'm not completely clueless.

I didn't finish those business books that I intended to read.  I had to actually run a business, though.  I watched several Art of Photography podcasts, which did improve my photography a little.  I listened to Art Biz Blog podcasts and read some of the website.  This site is tremendously helpful and I hope to continue to study it.  I learn something every podcast or blog post.  Also, I am happy to announce my latest development in my business: I'm going to be in the Crafty Underdog craft fair!  It will be January 8th.  It's not a lot of time to prepare and I'm going to be scrambling trying to come up with displays and business cards and stuff, but it's a start.  I'm also working on three large commissions that are consuming my time and energy.  They are sort of like term-end projects.  Very exciting.  Furthermore, I am working on my first series that is intended to be more on the art side of the continuum and less on the craft side.  I am hoping to get into a show, somewhere, sometime.  So this business thing is going somewhere.

I did not get to go out to galleries and see as much art as I would have liked.  Practicalities of life made this difficult.  I did make it to one excellent lecture and one mediocre one (albeit with great art) and am keeping my eyes peeled for more.  I have gotten to volunteer at the Museum of Contemporary Craft a few times now, and I'm making great connections there and learning some of what it takes to run a museum (it takes a whole lot!).  One of the advantages of volunteering is that I also get to see the exhibits.

I am also taking it upon myself to improve my hand embroidery and am looking for a way to learn tatting.  I'm not yet sure how I will incorporate these things into my work, but I am sure that they are important!

I am starting to form plans for next semester.  I will have to continue to study surface design and am going to try my hand at some small shibori projects.  These will involve stitching a design, pulling the thread tight to bunch the fabric, dyeing it, and then undoing the thread to reveal a pattern.  I will have to do this on small pieces at first because it will take me a year if I try to do it on a tablecloth or something.  Additionally, I'd like to work on my weaving a bit.  I've only woven one project on my loom (due to lack of funds for suitable yarn) and would like to continue to practice.  I need to learn to dress the loom by myself, which is a little daunting but I've done it twice now with supervision.  So I will try to hunt down some yarn that will work.

In drawing, I need to actually get that drawing book out of the library and practice more.  I might continue to work on drawing from observation for the time being and learn to draw from imagination in a future semester.  Hopefully I will also be able to study art history this semester, but my focus will probably be on other things and I might have to let this slide a little longer.

Business study will continue unabated as I learn to run my business.  I think it will be much the same, bopping around finding what I need and then implementing that.

I will also be taking my first "continuing education" class this semester.  Really, it's just an hour or so class that cost me five dollars, and it's not even fiber-related, but there you go.  It's something and it's getting me out meeting people.  I will continue to listen to various podcasts (I probably have hundreds of hours of podcasts now) to learn more about the art world.  My husband has also tracked down episodes of Art:21 online, which is a great series and very educational in contemporary art.

So, that's my end of semester report!