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.

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.
The shaded satin stitch is the one in the middle of the hoop.
My studies are coming together.  More slowly than I would like, but they are happening.  My husband says I need to give myself some grace.  I just read an article about how artists produce better work if they take their time and do other things that they enjoy, so I need to remember that.

Yesterday we watched an Art:21.  The theme was humor.  All four artists used an element of humor in their work.  They weren't necessarily laugh-out-loud funny (although sometimes they were) but humor was a starting point.  My favorite artist in the episode did beautiful paintings of Audobon-style scenes of wildlife, but with something disastrous going on.  One painting featured a branch full of passenger pigeons, stealing each other's eggs and mating and stuff.  But the branch had fallen off the tree and was about to crash into the ground.  That sort of thing.  My favorite quote from him was "I just want to paint a sexy monkey."

I listened to an Art Biz Blog podcast the other day, and it was about taking out things from your workday that weren't working anymore so that you could add something else in.  I was dismissive of the idea when I first heard it but now I think it's something to pay attention to.  We really only have so much time, and sometimes things take a lot longer than we think they will.  So we need to allow ourselves the time to do the most important work in.

I watched another podcast today.  It was a lecture by an artist who works in very small, detailed embroidery.  His "patches" were usually about 3 inches squared.  His work was very high quality.  It must take a lot of time and practice to learn how to embroider that well.  He said that in a very productive year he could produce 10 of them, but it was usually less than that.  He did scenes from his life, such as things that inspired him about his backyard (I don't know many people who love their backyards as much as this man did!), or a reflection on his grandmother, things like that.  It's kind of nice to see artists celebrating the mundane, the everyday, as a blessing.

I got a book on spinning out from the library.  I spin a little but I'm not very good, probably because I haven't done very much.  Also, I have a spindle rather than a wheel, and most spinning books are about using a wheel.  I don't have the money or space for a wheel at this point in my life, so I'd rather use a spindle.  Anyway, this book, Respect the Spindle, by Abby Franquemont, is about just that.  I have been reading about the author's spinning journey and about different types of spindles.  I learned why I have trouble getting thin yarn: my spindle is too heavy and the yarn will break if I make it too thin.  So I might want to pick up a lighter spindle eventually.

I have been working on drawing from imagination for the past few days.  It's an exercise from Burt Dodson's Keys to Drawing with Imagination.  I got this book and his original Keys to Drawing from the library.  The exercise I'm working on is called doodling and noodling.  First you doodle a shape, quickly and spontaneously.  Then you fill in the shape with some kind of decoration which is some kind of meticulous pattern.  I spent a few hours on this.  I thought it would be a fifteen minute exercise, but I listened to three albums' worth of music while doing it.
From left to right: patches, shading, and dots.
From left to right: cactus, pinwheels, and concentric.
A rare photo of me working.
I think my next drawing assignment will be from the observation book.  It will take a half hour of sitting still so I need to block out some time to do that.

I haven't done any work on surface design in the past few days because I'm running out of supplies and don't have the chance to replenish them quite yet.  I have a bit more to do before I'm totally out though, so I'm hoping to get back to that tomorrow.

Also, I'm helping another artist who is doing a project on illness.  I'm going to write my illness (bipolar disorder) on some vellum tags with my thumbprint on them.  Then I'm going to tell a story about overcoming my illness.  She's going to collect these tags from many people and put them in glass bottles, I believe.  In any case I'm glad that I'm helping another artist.

I'm also continuing work on the panel for a blanket that I'm knitting that will end up being sewn with other panels and distributed to the homeless.  It'll be a scramble trying to finish it on time but I'm working as hard as I can on it.