Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending June 15

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Happy Art Week to all.

Saturday, June 9 – After a walk in Norristown Farm Park, my husband and I stopped by the Ceramic Shop in Norristown to pick up an order I had placed earlier in the week.

I am very lucky to have this resource so close to my house – clay supply outlets are not plentiful and shipping is very expensive for clay (for example, I only bought 100 pounds, and shipping of $60 was more than the clay itself cost). Even better for me, this store used to be located in Philadelphia in a warehouse-type spot on one of those smallish city streets, and no parking. They moved here about a year or so ago and I was thrilled.

We parked in the lot:

AD 6-9 #2001

and went inside.

AD 6-9 #3002

You can buy just about any clay-related item here, from kilns to wheels to clay to tools to glazes. I have learned it is better to order on the internet and then go in a few days later to pick up – your order is all ready for you to take right away. I will show you some of the things clay people find in this store:

AD 6-9 #4003

Tools galore.

AD 6-9 #5004

This is the Velvet underglaze display, these being the products I use. Notice the sample board above the jars. It shows each color, fired at the correct range for the product, and how it will look with or without glaze. This type of display is found with each coloring product so that you can get an idea of what it will look like when fired. It’s especially necessary with glazes, as how they look in the jar is not how they will look when fired. At all.

AD 6-9 #6005

Underglaze pencils. They “write” on the clay like a colored pencil (you can see the samples on the mugs holding the pencils). I have used a similar thing, underglaze pastels, in my work, and I like the crayony look they offer.

AD 6-9 #7006

Whisks – Or you could just get the one out of your kitchen…

These  whisks can be used for stirring large buckets of glaze mixture. In large production studios, glazes are often mixed from powders and chemicals with water added. Production work requires large quantities of glaze so it’s more economical to do this, plus it ensures color matching for all items glazed from a particular session.

A bucket-load of glaze is literally what is needed – production work is usually dipped in the glaze rather than brushed on. Saves time and ensures a very even coat of glaze.

AD 6-9 #8007

Kiln furniture. These items are all used for glazed items that have a glaze coat on the bottom or otherwise can’t be set on the kiln shelf. Remember, a glazed piece will glue itself permanently to a kiln shelf if any glaze is on its bottom, ruining the piece and the shelf. These furnitures are set on the shelf with the nails up – the glazed piece rests on the little pinpoints of the nails and does not stick.

I wandered around for a while and treated myself to a couple of small jars of underglaze – new colors to try. I never can resist. When I had paid for them, we drove around to the street side of the building and they brought out our clay to us.

AD 6-9 #1008

I had chosen a couple of tile-cutting tools I carried out separately on my own. I’ll show them later on when I try them out in a new session of clay work.

Sunday, June 10 – Calendar note – I graduated from high school 42 years ago today. Just saying.

Last night and today I spent some time working on a project I mentioned some weeks back – I want to make a print book of my Minuscule story/poem combinations (read an example here) and illustrate it. The writing part of the endeavor moves along apace. I think I need about 100 entries to make a nice book and I’m maybe halfway there.

Illustrating a book is not new to me, but – I’ve always done the pictures first and fit the words to them later. This is a different slant – words first, pictures second. I have been wondering if I can do it. I decided to take the plunge right now and start to find out.

I printed out the writing done so far. I bought paper. I bought India ink (my idea is to do  B/W pictures, very simple, using the ink and my Chinese brushes).

AD 5-5 #4

I got to work. Now, I am a newborn baby as far as this kind of thing goes. I have no idea how to illustrate anything. Be literal? Allude to some element of the story? Sketch something out first? Remember, these stories are only 2 sentences long. Imagine if I had a full-length work to illustrate!

All right. I decided to read over each entry and whatever came to me, that is what I would do.

AD 6-10 # 4002

All right, after some false starts, in fact, many false starts, I got more of an idea of how to proceed. For me, it’s best to just read – close my eyes and imagine -draw. That’s it.

OK. I made a good start.

I feel sure I will be replacing or amending some of these images. Well, that is fine. I can see that by the end of this project I will be much more proficient and confident in my drawing skills as well as my ability to illustrate something. Plus, it was fun to work in this manner.

Some of the failures, well, I cut out parts that I liked. I am sure they will come in handy for some other project down the line.

AD 6-10 # 2004

Monday, June 11 – I spent a lot of the day doing poetry work, so I had just about an hour to fit in some art time. I had this half-hearted attempt at a tree painting (6″ x 6″) that was really more of an excuse to use up paint from earlier projects.

AD 6-11 #4001

Suddenly I saw a man in my tree.

AD 6-11 #1005

And another one in that ATC. OK, now I’m going somewhere. To be continued…

I also did a couple of drawings for my Minuscule book project. I’ll say one thing – I anticipate using up a lot of paper. I try to remember – relax, and just work quickly and without thought. Secondly, not to try to be realistic in my depictions – it’s not in my nature. And last, the brush has its way of doing things, don’t fight it.

I did a couple of new images (one with two different versions; I’ll pick one later on) and re-did one from the other day I was not satisfied with. I have the feeling there will be many re-dos but you know, I don’t mind it. I’m in no hurry. And setting myself this kind of assignment, to illustrate this book, well, it will build my skills.

Wednesday, June 13 – Today I thought I’d get into some clay – just sort of play around with it. I got out my 25 pounds of terracotta:

AD 6-13 #1001

It’s very fresh and wet. I rolled out a couple of slabs.

AD 6-13 #2002

I had only a short time before I was going to leave the house, so I made a few cylinders, wrapping a slab around and joining the edges.

I worked on a figurine or two.

Then I loosely covered the works with plastic (dry-cleaning plastic, the workhouse material of clay artists everywhere) and went off to the gym. In the summer, my basement is very cool and while not damp, it dries items slowly (in winter, the heater and the drier air make a difference in this room). I probably did not need the plastic but it is better to be safe. You cannot un-dry clay.

In the afternoon, I refined my earlier pieces and added some more. Individual shots:

and a group shot.

AD 6-13 #8008

Notice in the background of the previous photo the clay cylinder with a dowel running through it supported at each end. I have set this contraption up so that the cylinder can semi-hang from the dowel (it just touches the table) and maintain a more rounded shape until it stiffens a little. I can’t make anything with it until it can stand up on its own.

OK. I left these guys to their own devices and I got out new tools I bought on Saturday.

AD 6-13 #14001

What are they? They are tile cutters. You roll them through the slab, then cross the slab, to make the tiles. I read up on their use before I tried them. Interesting thing – you can use them on the clay, straight, to make tiles with sharp angled sides, or you can roll over plastic to make rounded edges. I thought I’d try the plastic option.

AD 6-13 #15002

I got some nice results right off the bat. I learned a couple of things. One, things work better when the clay is just not so fresh – let it dry a little and firm up. This reduces the distortion that can happen when the criss-crossing is done.

Two, move slowly and make sure you follow the previous track carefully so as not to double-cut an edge. Three, make sure you take off at a 90-degree angle when you criss-cross, to make certain of square tiles.

I’ll let these firm up a little and tap their edges to re-square them, but I really like the look of them.

Interesting note – if you roll the rollers directly on the clay, it sticks. The recommended treatment is cooking spray on the roller. I will try that next time.

Once I finished up with clay, I went back to painting black edges on paintings…

AD 6-13 #19001

Friday, June 15 – This morning I set out all my paintings for review, for two reasons. One, I’ll be at a show this weekend, and I needed to decide which ones to take.

The show will be held in a park and my booth will have all sides available for display, but the car can only fit so much work. So, I had to make some decisions.

Second, I needed to make an inventory of paintings that I will take to my upcoming gallery exhibit in July so that the organizers can make price cards and so on. Not all my work will be hanging but this way, they can make choices what to display without saying – Oh no, we have no information for this piece so it sits out the game!

AD 6-15 #1003

My clay work is drying very slowly in the basement. I plan to work on it a little, if time permits. In that case I will show what happens in next week’s Diary. I thought I’d get this one done early today because I have a variety of non-art things to get out of the way. So that’s it for this week!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

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14 thoughts on “Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending June 15

  1. Laura (PA Pict)

    I think that store looks like fun to explore and I am not even a clay artist. I like the look of those pencils for marking on the clay and I cannot even say why and I always like charts of colours. That is really fortunate that you have such a store close by given how expensive the shipping would be and it also means you can be inspired to try new things by exploring the shelves. I was actually thinking of you and your clay work while I was working last week. I introduced my preschool students (it’s summer camp) to clay by having them make moons (our theme was outer space). I got them to roll clay into spheres, splat it down a bit to give it a flat back, and then they pressed circular found objects into the clay to make craters. It was air dry clay so, after a couple of days, they then got to paint their moons with sparkling blue-grey paint. They loved the experience. Maybe it will plant the seed in a couple of them who will become future clay artists. You never know.

  2. memadtwo

    Fabulous post! What a store. And as always I love seeing your work (I’ve been pretty bad at keeping up with WordPress, glad I caught this post. N.

  3. As much cake as you want

    This was fascinating from beginning to end. I love the writing sample on your poetry blog – and the idea that you’re doing an illustrated book . It was interesting to read how you decided to approach illustrating and how you work at keeping things loose and relaxed.

  4. tierneycreates

    The Ceramic Shop looks like it would be your “toy store”! It must be like when I go to a cool quilt/craft supply shop! I love the pieces you have in progress. I loved seeing the images of the wet clay and slab work, I studied ceramics/pottery for a brief time when we lived in Texas and I loved working with clay. However I had no skill with clay!

  5. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. The Diary entries are really helping me examine my work and why I do what I do and so on, encourage myself, etc. I am glad other people seem to be finding them interesting, too. Illustration, the idea of following a plan kind of makes me tense, and I know I do best when I just let things go and be kind of unplanned, so, the challenge is good for me and I hope to figure out a way of working that I can do much more work like this (because I include sketching from life in the same category, following what I see rather than just making things up as a way to get out of a mess!). I hope to build up my skills.

  6. Claudia McGill Post author

    Yes, that store, you can come away with things you don’t even need just because they are so interesting and I love how every clay situation seems to have its tool and items to work with it. As for skill with clay, it takes time, more than some other things I’ve tried, I think. A lot more time, I think – I have seen very accomplished wheel throwers, for instance, do awful handbuilt work. Don’t give up if you liked it. Practice really helps.

  7. As much cake as you want

    I love this approach … I have a few writing/illustrating projects in mind, but haven’t even put pencil to paper to play with ideas. I’ve just started to play with ATCs – inspired, again, by your practice – and am finding my “relax and see what comes out” muscle needs work!

  8. Diane

    So I was wondering what happened to West Park and when you said you had a good show I thought it might be that! It seems a bit later than usual to me, wasn’t always more the beginning of June? Also, I don’t remember what post it was when you said about bringing spare clothes but this was the show where you gave me a shirt because I got soaked. Remember we ended up in that garage??? I always felt bad I ruined your shirt! XO

  9. Claudia McGill Post author

    No, this is when it usually is, Father’s Day weekend. And I remember the parking garage year so well and I forgot all about that shirt! Which I did not care about, never think of it again. But spare clothes, well, we cannot stress that enough, can we? Strange thing but I’d put it at the top of the list for show essential behaviors!

  10. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. It’s restful to have more than one activity to do, keeps me a little more fresh in my thinking, plus, this time of year, well, clay is great, the basement is nice and cool…

  11. Pingback: Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending July 6 | Claudia McGill and Her Art World

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