January 20, 2017

I finished my Liberty of London Quilt!

This is huge!!! 

In 2006 my daughter and her husband moved to London, taking our only two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3.  To console myself, I decided to keep a daily travel sketchbook during our many visits, and to make a quilt for myself using only scraps of Liberty of London Lawn print fabrics that I had.  I was finishing a wedding quilt for one of my sons' wedding, and then had a new baby quilt to finish for our grandson who was born prematurely in London.  I like to hand piece and hand quilt - and because I made 5 more grandchildren baby quilts over the next few years, my "Liberty" Quilt was perpetually abandoned. 

Six of our grandchildren were here overnight Sunday and when I told them it was started in 2006 and IT WAS FINALLY FINISHED, my 11 year old grandson reminded me that the quilt was already as old as he is!


January 17, 2017

Picabia and Calder and Faces

I saw two art exhibits that inspired me to draw more faces.  There is a huge retrospective exhibit on Francis Picabia at the Museum of Modern Art:  Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction.  I learned that he was from a very wealthy family and rarely stayed with one specific type of art - making it more difficult to be well known in the art world. 

This is a wall photo of Francis Picabia at the entrance to the exhibit, playfully sitting on a child's toy. 

Link to Museum Website:  https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1670?locale=en  


I was immediately attracted to the set of paintings that he called "Transparencies."  He appropriated existing art for the layers in these large paintings - incorporating images from mythology, religion, and even other artists.  It is hard to imagine how he created the layers in oil paint.  In Salome, the painting below, it is speculated that there is the body of a contemporary nude dancer, a Boticelli head, John the Baptist's head on a platter, and figures, columns, and ceramics from the Greeks.


I walked through the Gallery of "Transparencies" and sketched various faces, and then added the black head from one of the paintings that I think was part of his "Monster" series.


Several days later, we joined friends at the Whitney Museum.  This is the best photo I was able to take of the architecture of the new building.  It was a cold, windy day, so I'm surprised to see any people out on the balconies.


The main exhibit was "Portraits" from their collection. 


I loved it because there was a very loose definition of portraits - and many were collections of symbols or favorite things of the artist. 

As soon as I saw the Calder wire head of Varese, I knew that I had to draw it from the front and side. 



January 12, 2017

My Figure Drawing Artist Book

I love having a January special project for the cold days spent indoors.  Last year I didn't do anything with my figure drawings, as I had hoped, so that became my 2017 January project.  I had a $4.00 used accordion book with black paper which was perfect for my idea - with a full spread of 80 inches.  Each "page" of the accordion was 8" high by 10" wide.  I selected drawings that I did between July 2012 and October 2016, resized them, printed them out, and then carefully cut them out.  They were collaged to the book using a UHU glue stick.


The Cover:  This was a large drawing that I did during a figure drawing class at FIT - my first semester there in the Senior Learner program.  I still need to add a title.


Here are the 8 pages - scanned and uploaded.  I'm thrilled to have completed this project and have so many memories of the figure drawing sessions.  All of the clothed models, except two, were drawn during the last 3 years at the Adult Art Program at Battery Park City. And those two models were sketched at the National Art Club and MoMA. The nude models were sketched at the Society of Illustrators, Drawing New York Meet Up, or FIT.  All of the poses were 5, 10, or 20 minute poses.









January 10, 2017

National Gallery of Art and a Cow

We returned our grand daughter Annabelle to Washington DC on January 2nd and while we were there we made a visit to the National Gallery specifically to see the newly renovated East Building.  When we walked through the underground connector from the West Building and went up the stairs, nothing looked different.  But they added 12,250 square Feet of new gallery space within the existing footprint, including two "soaring tower galleries" and a rooftop space.  An employee also told me that elevators were installed to move up and down in the corner spaces by the towers.  There appears to be a much bigger collection of Modern Art and I loved the collection.  

There was an Alexander Calder exhibit at the top of Tower 2, and I drew my favorite wire cow!  Someday I'll sketch his Josephine Baker Wire Sculpture when there is more time. 



As I went through the galleries I took photos of art that I know Pat and Benedicte, my artist friends, would love and I'm posting them here so they can see them before we meet again for Master Drawing Week.

Another Max Beckmann Triptyck:  The Argonauts  1949-50.  This one wasn't in the recent Beckmann exhibit at the Met in NYC. 


Jean Dubuffet:  Building Facades 1946  This is very similar to the painting the 3 of us LOVE at the Met.  


Another Dubuffet - crazy with color!  La Ronde Des Images  1977 


A William Kentridge Accordion Book:  Portage 2000  Torn Black Paper on Encyclopedia Pages



Pat and Benedicte - hope you enjoyed the small virtual exhibit of some of our favorite artists!  Hurry home from France Benedicte.  We need to go on our annual Master Drawing Pilgrimage here at the end of January. 

January 6, 2017

Deliberate Practice: Drawing Hands

Deliberate Practice:  I know that I need to practice drawing hands, and over the last several years I've drawn many hands from photos, even from an American Sign Language website.  When drawing models, few of the poses are long enough to spend much time drawing hands, but occasionally I can now do it!

"To learn any new skill or gain expertise you need to practice, practice, practice. There isn’t much debate about that.

But here’s what you might not know: scientific research shows that the quality of your practice is just as important as the quantity.

And, more interestingly, these scientists also believe that expert-level performance is primarily the result of expert-level practice NOT due to innate talent.

This concept is known as deliberate practice, and it’s incredibly powerful."  This is the introduction to a good article describing deliberate practice.  http://expertenough.com/1423/deliberate-practice

These hands were drawn with a Caran d'Ache mahogany watercolor colored pencil, using the New York Times Style magazine advertisements for inspiration.  I recently started selecting photos with two hands, instead of one. 




January 1, 2017

Blog Anniversary and Art Goals for 2017


Art Goals for 2017:  January 4th is the 11th anniversary for my blog - and it remains an important part of my creative life.

My main goal is to develop better drawing and painting skills on paper and with dye-painting and surface design on fabric. At the beginning of each year, I like to define new projects which will help me progress and then remain open to new opportunities. Beginning in childhood, I was a person who needed "to make things" and I always made time in my life to fulfill this need. Now, after retirement, I have much more free time and I added "Art on Paper" to my other passions.

1. Take Classes: Current plans, but I hope to add additional opportunities as they arise. Sketchbook Skool Semester 7?: I think Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene have created a wonderful model for art education and a committed community of artists, new and old. Latest word from them - Semester 7 will be announced early in 2017. And I would love one more Semester this year from them!

Craftsy: I have a few more Craftsy classes on my wish list. Loved the ones by Marc Taro Holmes and Shari Blaukopf - both Montrealers.

Battery Park City Conservancy "Winter Figure Drawing" with Marla Lipkin, another 9 session class being offered in February and March. Last year I explored Lower Manhattan indoors as I found ways to get from my subway line all the way over to River Terrace indoors!

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT): Registration for Spring isn't until the first week in February, but I don’t think there are any more Fine Arts classes I can take next semester. I need to wait until registration day to find out what classes have openings for Seniors.

2. Maintain a Community of Artist Friends: These two goals shape my days and weeks, and make me so happy. All of the activities listed below provide my sketching opportunities and content for my blog.

It is impossible to attend all of the art activities scheduled in New York City, so my goal is to attend a minimum of one activity/week - Meetup Drawing New York and Central Park Sketching and Art, Urban Sketchers NYC, Battery Park City Figure Al Fresco(May-Oct), Society of Illustrators Figure Drawing, and other museum and gallery visits with my friends. I will also continue to post new entries to my blog twice each week to continue my interaction with and inspiration from artists online.

3. Deliberate Practice: When I started sketching/drawing a decade ago, my goal was to sketch every day and many of the days I sketched everyday objects in my life. I now sketch more when I’m out of the apartment, or doing homework for classes. But I also try to fit in "deliberate practice."

I keep a special sketchbook just to draw hands, feet, and faces from photographs and VERY SLOWLY I am improving.

After taking Shari Blaukopf’s Craftsy course, I’d like to practice drawing "crowds" in my urban sketching drawings. Until now I’ve sketched people up close, or left them out completely.

4. Bookbinding: Continue to make my own sketchbooks - for daily drawings and for travel.

Make another annual Remains of the Day book to collect images and ephemera from NYC Art Adventures with friends. This will be #6!

Create another batch of paste paper for my stash - still haven’t used up my stash, so I didn’t make more last year.

5. Special Project:

I also like to have one separate project each year. Several winters ago I sketched elephants for a whole month using every medium I had. Another year I studied different methods for making books and made a different book structure each month for 8 months. In 2016 I wanted to use some of the figure drawings I've accumulated during the years. I already transferred images to fabric using a different method for 7 Quilt Journal Pages (8.5 X 11") I created and in 2015 I made a small book of the Figures I drew in the Toulouse-Lautrec Café Society sessions at MoMA. But it wasn’t until the end of October that I formulated an approach to this project and outlined the goals. So this is now a 2017 project. My plans are to transfer figure drawings from paper to an accordion book with black paper, and to fabric in a long, horizontal quilted piece.

December 30, 2016

Another Day, Another Grand Daughter for Sewing Lessons

I bought quilted placemats for my young children in 1981 in Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco, and then designed and made more using the same concept.  Each placemat has an animal head, paws or legs and tail, and the originals were a lion, a dog, and a monkey.   My addition was a rabbit, bear, cat, raccoon, and dragon.  Our family used and washed those placemats almost daily for years.  I brought the 8 of them with us to NYC in 1993, as patterns and prototypes to make more, but my grandchildren saw the originals and loved using them for all of their meals here with us.  Since then I've helped them make specific animals for themselves and many more animals have been made.  It is great to set the table using their own specific "animal" and then seeing them find and sit in their place immediately when called to eat.  On Christmas Eve, all 8 had their own placemat and seat!

Here is my oldest grand daughter Sydney during early sewing lessons when she made two - one for herself and one for her brother.  This was the beginning of the new NYC animal placemats.


Annabelle, my younger grand daughter lives in DC and she has another animal placemat made by Sydney, that she uses when she is here.  But she is staying with us this week and finally had more sewing lessons and made an animal of her choice. She is 8 and is getting more and more comfortable using my machine with my help.




She wanted to make a leopard, and found me a great photo online to make the pattern.  But we never figured out how to make the spots, and she decided that her animal looked more like a lioness anyway.


Very proud!  She also put together a 9-patch for her brother and we made it into a quiltlet for his animals.


December 27, 2016

Art Progress for 2016


January 4th is the 11th anniversary of my blog and during December I love reflecting on my progress with drawing, painting, and dying fabric in the previous year. This is really my note to myself for inspiration. It may be too long for anyone else to read!

Long Term Goals: When I retired from Medicine I decided that I wanted to add another passion to my lifelong passions of sewing and quilting. I discovered a book called Decorated Page and a magazine called Sketchbook Artist (now discontinued) and was immediately attracted to Sketchbook Art based on drawing and watercolor painting. My primary long term goal remains: To develop better drawing and painting skills on paper and with dye-painting and surface design on fabric.

1. Goal: To sketch and paint every week, and to blog twice each week. These activities give my retirement life some structure and provide enormous inspiration to me within an artist community.

Progress: I no longer do quick sketches every day. In the last few years I concentrated on two goals. These two goals give structure to my retirement life and I’ve developed a terrific group of fellow artists that I see regularly.

To schedule at least one art adventure per week - this year I had at least 1, usually 2, and even 4 during each week!

To blog two times each week.

Art Adventures: in galleries, museums, art classes, Urban Sketchers NYC, and Meetup with Drawing Central Park and Art group: I filled 3 watercolor sketchbooks that I made for use in my daily life (~150 pages), a summer sketchbook for our visits to the beach in the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard, and a recycled book as a sketchbook for Barcelona in October. I also added ink drawings with watercolor in an accordion watercolor sketchbook for "Urban Sketchers NYC" days, almost 40 imaginary drawings in ink, and 10 pages of "hand" drawings in colored pencil. Non-sketchbook art included figure drawings at Society of Illustrators and Battery Park City Figure Al Fresco and my 6 paintings in two semesters of acrylic painting at Fashion Institute of Technology.

Blog Posts: Maintaining my blog is a powerful incentive to keep art a major part of my life. This year I missed only 2 posts - each when away on vacation.

2. Goal: Take more classes online and in person to remain inspired:

Progress: My most fun online classes this year were Sketchbook Skool Semesters 5 and 6. I didn’t take Semester 1 when Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene first developed Sketchbook Skool. But I was eager to meet the artists in Semester 2 and took every semester since then. The artist videos are inspirational and the homework assignments are so varied that I learn something every single time! I also took Liz Steel’s "Buildings" online course and "Sketching the City in Pen, Ink, and Watercolor" by Shari Blaukopf on Craftsy.  But I didn't get the homework done yet!  These assignments will make great projects when the weather warms up and I can go outside to draw.

Each semester, for 14 weeks, I took a class at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and this year I took Abstract and Still Life/Figure painting, one each semester. It was my first introduction to acrylic painting and learning something new is always challenging and liberating. Battery Park City also offered a Winter extension of the May-Oct outdoor Figure Al Fresco weekly session during February and March, and it was a wonderful weekly event to get me moving during the cold weather.

3. Goal: Continue to draw and paint locally:

Progress: In addition to the Urban Sketchers and Art Meetup Group mentioned above, I love the ad hoc days I spend with my artist friends Benedicte, Pat, with occasional visits from Teri and Eunice. These days are planned for us to see the new gallery and museum exhibits, in addition to Christies and Sothebys preview days for their big auctions. We look at the whole exhibit, and each of us selects one piece to draw - for the challenge of copying a master. I would feel very isolated without these special friends and would have many fewer good laughs!

My favorite local art "experience" this year was at MoMA - in monotype sessions in association with the huge Degas monotype exhibit. They set up a printing shop on the second floor and the first 20-25 people on line could make and print their own monotypes. I went to 3 of the sessions and loved every minute of it, but this was a way to expand my knowledge and not create a new goal in art.

4. Goal: Make watercolor sketchbooks, for daily drawing and painting and travel:

Progress: I made cased-in watercolor books for my daily sketchbooks, accordion journals for our outdoor Urban Sketchers sessions, a new Remains of the Day book, and recycled travel sketchbooks for our vacation in Barcelona and summer beach vacations. All of these are discussed and photographed in daily blog posts in my bookbinding category on the blog. http://www.paperandthreads.com/bookbinding/

A 4-part tutorial on my blog on How to Make a Recycled Book with watercolor paper, was used as a basis for two full day sessions with friends from Urban Sketching to teach them how to make one.


When I reach this point in my review, I'm always so happy that Sketchbook Art became my goal for retirement.   It keeps me happy and busy!


December 23, 2016

Sydney Makes Two Mermaids

My grand daughter Sydney sewed with me this week.  She slowly learned how to use my sewing machine over the last few years, and when she has time we do a project together.  On Monday we made two Mermaid dolls and she was thrilled.  We split the activities, but she is quite amazing with her skills on the sewing machine, and does more of the construction each time.  When we finished the first one, she said, "we have two more hours, let's make another." 


Marking the fabric in my 6 X 9' studio - our happy place:



At the sewing machine: 



Both Mermaids when done:


A happy girl - one day before her 12th birthday. 


Happy Holidays from our family to yours!  And May 2017 be a wonderful year! 


Shirley Parker Levine
New York City

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