Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Baby Birds - But What Kind Are They???

While birdwatching has long been a hobby of mine, identifying baby birds seems to be somewhat beyond me today. I awoke to a constant chirp coming from outside my window and discovered this little fellow squawking for his/her mommy - or rather for food... Here are several shots - please let me know if you can identify it for me!

This is from a different view - so you can't really see that pale yellow breast. And this photo makes me think perhaps it's some sort of black bird or crow...look at that wing! It looks huge on this little one. But do they have a pale yellow breast when they're young? I doubt it... but what do I know???

Later in the day, I saw this little one - as scruffy as the one from this morning, but with a dark beak, dark feet, and a fully grown tail. Any help with this one would also be appreciated!

And as I'm writing this, there's a screech owl out back sounding as though he/she is sitting right on our deck...

A great birding day!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Own Website - the Process to Completion...

My new website is up and running at last, with the help of web designer, artist, photographer and poet, David Walker. I've been wanting a site for years, but couldn't justify the expense, since my sales were only for smaller items. Then I decided that if I didn't start to think big, nothing big would happen. So I set aside the money and scheduled time with David to create my very own website. It's been a roller coaster ride for me, much to my surprise. I thought that scheduling and sending in the deposit would be the tough part, but NOT. The tough part was only just beginning.

WOODLAND WALK - (c)Pat Dolan 2007 32"w x 44"h
Featured on the Home Page of my new website.

I had no idea that this would be such an intensely personal experience - it seemed like a good business decision, nothing more! But I had to determine what my site would say about me, about my work, and about my life. I had to select from well over 50 pieces those works that best exemplified my personal artistic style and would also be appealing for a wide audience. Some of those choices were relatively easy, others were not.

What would people want to know about me? Why? To answer that, I looked at many fellow fiber artists' websites to see how they had handled that issue. Some chose a very personal introduction, including info and photos about family members, hobbies, and pets. Others were quite discreet, saying very little about their personal lives and singularly addressing their lives as artists. I ended up opting for a mix of the two styles.

Selecting the work was difficult at first because I wanted to share EVERYTHING. It became apparent that too much work, too little organization, and too scattered a presentation would not serve me well. So I selected what I consider to be my best work and photographed them very carefully at the highest setting my Panasonic Lumix, 8 megapixel, 12x zoom would allow - and believe me, that created some huge jpeg files! I chose to include very few detailed images - only those which really highlighted something that was missing from the full shot.

When David asked me if I had a symbol or a theme or favorite colors, I had to stop and think. Now you'd think as an artist I'd know the answers to those questions immediately! And I did. I just didn't know that I did... I selected a feather for my symbol for many reasons - I am a bird watcher, bird photographer, feather collector, and extremely interested in the Native American perspectives on the symbolism of animals, plants, and specifically birds. I also have a business name of "Firebird Creations," which I seldom use since in the field of art, the artist's name is generally the most important feature the artist owns. David asked me to send him a few drawings of some feathers, which I did and which he used very well. As to color scheme, while I thought I wanted a very bland background for my work so the work would stand out, I did indicate that I prefer warmer colors and hues, but certainly not to exclusivity.

One of my feather drawings - from a Red-tailed Hawk feather

Then it was time to wait... During that two day time period while David was dreaming up my home page, I became quite depressed. I also became aware that my art was now being objectified by being put on the web. And I felt as though I, myself, were also being objectified in the process. While my rational self realized how ridiculous my emotional/mental state was becoming, I couldn't help but notice myself falling into a fear-based "reality" of sorts.

Then it was time to see David's impression of me/my work on the Home page... As it turns out, David (while he claims to not collaborate well - and what artist does?) is an excellent collaborator. He is quiet and respectful, asking questions about the web page and eliciting authentic reactions/responses.

My first reaction - and it was a reaction - was, "Oh my goodness, is that how he sees me??? Is this how others see me? see my work?" The page was so bold, so strong, so I really like that? Perhaps I am on the outside, at least. Not so on the inside, I confess. I really hated the color yellow he had selected to go behind the quote and artwork. It was rather "dirty" in my opinion - to the purist/watercolorist, it was a muddy yellow. So the yellow was modified. And a few other tiny details were "tweaked," as David calls it. And then it was OK - fine, even. I happen to really like the work he selected for the home page, it is one of my most recently completed piece. I've detailed some of it's creation in past blog postings under the "Challenge Quilt" which has now been named "Woodland Walk." And so he went forward to create the two gallery pages.

Each day I would approach the internet with excitement and trepidation - wondering "How will it look today?" And each day I was pleasantly surprised, truth be told. I'm not sure now what I had expected, but "success" probably wasn't high on the list. And while I kept looking for what might be "wrong" with things, everything seemed to look really great! What a happy surprise!

Then we came to the Personal Page, the "expose" of an artists' web page. He wanted a photo, so Frank was drafted to take some photos of me so we could choose one that might be good enough. As it turns out, the night we did our little photo shoot was the 42nd anniversary of our engagement - so a little wine and a lot of celebration are behind the image you see on that page. The additional photos are a mix of art, nature, and photos from Ireland taken in the past few months. And I love how he brought it altogether. I only hope I have remembered to include on the links page all the wonderful artist/friends that I know. If not, I'll add them eventually, to be sure.

As of today, the website is complete and my mood has returned to normal. Who would have thought I'd go into deep depression over such a wonderful thing as designing a personal web page? O well, it was worth every bit of time, energy, moodiness, and money plus more. I'm thrilled, to say the least!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Weather + Moods

My moods of the past week have been mirrored by the weather. This, too, shall pass...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

How Creative Are You? Quizlet for Fun

You Are 82% Creative

You are an incredibly creative person. For you, there are no bounds or limits to your creativity.
Your next creation could be something very great... Or at least very cool!

Actually, the questions are a tad weird, but it was fast, easy & fun. Try it for yourself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Germaine Greer's Critique of Art Quilts...

First off, you may want to go read this article by Germaine Greer reviewing an exhibition of Edrica Huws' art quilts in The Guardian, a British journal/newspaper. To say that it's a tad biased would be a mild comment. But it IS very interesting and thought provoking, to be sure. The QuiltArt mailing list is certainly having a great time bashing Greer and defending patchwork, whether it's piecing patterns or making pictures or creating art.

Greer makes a point that sewing has always been women's work - often for "frittering away" their time... Here's a quote - and I hope I'm not violating copyright laws by putting it here. If I am, I'm sure someone will inform me quickly!

"What could be the point of such an exercise in futility? The work of art is supposed to defy time but fabric is bound to fade and rot, even when it is kept in between layers of tissue paper and shut away from sight. There's nothing new in this kind of heroic pointlessness; women have frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand ever since vicarious leisure was invented. Mrs Delaney was spending hours of concentration making effigies of flowers out of bits of coloured paper mounted on black card as long ago as 1771. Why didn't she just paint them? You can see her paper mosaics in the Enlightenment gallery of the British Museum, if you insist, but be warned. You could end up profoundly depressed by yet more evidence that, for centuries, women have been kept busy wasting their time."

I presume Greer's politics is feminist in the extreme, although I may be wrong. For many more centuries than not, sewing was an essential task - not to be compared with "vicarious leisure" time in any way. That sort of time has actually involved so few women over such a small portion of history that it's a wonder to me that Greer is so hostile about it.

Perhaps I will draw the wrath of artists everywhere by saying, in my own personal experience, I often feel that I am frittering my time away for no real cause. I love to create, design, sew, paint, etc. but I make no money at it - much as I'd like to. I don't even manage to pay for all my supplies with any earnings made from my art. I am totally supported by my loving husband and considered by many to be somewhat of a self-centered, unbalanced, and/or lazy woman for not accompanying him in the work force to make our retirement easier on both of us. After all, I have a BA and an MA, yet I am a stay-at-home wife, doing normal housekeeping chores (as seldom as possible), cooking (again, as little as possible), and creating, reading or otherwise "spending time" whatever way I wish.

I am a somewhat unique woman in this narrow window of history where women CAN fritter away time, are independent enough to do what they want if they have the courage to do so, and am treated by my spouse as a true partner. And, to be totally honest, there are times when I feel as though I am among those who "have frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand" - has no one else ever felt that niggling sense of guilt? That we should somehow be doing more, better, best at anything except what we are presently choosing to do?

We were talking about the "unexamined life" just the other day - my husband doubts that the examined life is one that many people take part in. I disagree. I think anyone who has time to think eventually examines his/her life to some degree. In psychotherapy, that examination is often into the minutia, which may or may not be helpful. A spiritual person often examines his/her life - that's one of the ways to explore different options from the old patterns that essentially rule one's life. The degree and type of spiritual and/or psychological self-exploration can provide one with totally different experiences from very good to very bad, but such explorations do offer one opportunities for growth and change.

To say I've never questioned the value of my activities would be to say that I have never explored the paradox of life. Oh, I've explored them, alright, but I haven't come to any firm conclusions about whether or not I am wasting my life/time/energy/money on artistic pursuits. As long as I create, I maintain a sense of meaning, purpose, enjoyment, pleasure, and essential value for my life. When I stop creating, I begin to die by process of a slow and painful surrender into depression.

Did Greer's article anger me? She aroused lots of feelings, which included anger, but mostly because her own hostility was so palpable in the article. I felt lots of other things, too. And my conclusions are that I need not defend myself to Greer or others, I only need to be clear with myself what is right for me.

Morning Walk

The hot, dry conditions have made for fewer flowers, but I did manage to find these on my morning walk. The one below manages the best in this kind of weather!

Sunday, August 12, 2007


House Wren in early July singing his/her heart out...

It's nearly mid-August and it's easy to tell - the sounds have changed from a few short weeks ago. The mornings are more quiet - the bird songs have dropped off dramatically. No more romancing songs, now mostly chirps and cheeps with occasional warning calls to punctuate the atmosphere.

And a month ago, the crickets and cicadas were still mostly silent. Now the sounds of crickets singing are a constant, both day and night. And the hazy, hot, humid summer days are often punctuated with the long, loud, drawn out calls of the cicadas. Our cats have always enjoyed playing with them - they are so big and somewhat ugly and ungainly. Their noise seems to suit them perfectly, now that I think about it!

Growing up, we called these hot August days the "dog days of summer." I never quite understood why - do dogs like hot, humid weather any more than humans? I doubt it - after all, they're covered with hair, unless their people decided they should be shaved to better endure the heat. It seems to me that a shaved dog would be quite prone to sunburn, not to mention feeling naked and/or terribly undignified...

When our daughter was a bio major in undergrad school, she had a project on duck weed. That's the green scum that covers bodies of water that have little by way of inlets or outlets for continuous water flow. August seems to be their most fertile month, and in my memory at least, I have the green swampy waters and dog days of summer intertwined.

Such are my rambling thoughts on this August afternoon. Even though it's still summer on the calendar and summer heat surrounds us, changes are taking place reminding us that fall isn't far behind... Enjoy what is.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

D is for Deadlines...

I'm one of those folks who works best when I have time constraints. Deadlines are both a blessing and a curse, of course, like most of life. Still, deadlines get me going or keep me going when the going is somewhere I want to go.

Today's deadline was for me to have all my jpegs and written info completed, put on a CD and in the mail to David Walker, who will be designing my web page. While having a web page has been a dream for several years, my courage and self confidence were somewhat lacking. Instead, I put my work up on a number of sites by joining different organizations. That was an important step for me - to go public on the internet. It's one thing to be "known" in one's own area and quite another thing to be "known" to the outer world.

I once thought I was extremely talented - that was until I saw the work of a freshman Drawing 101 class at Southern Illinois University where my husband was a grad student. I had my BA in fine art and was proud of it. But the drawings from this class were superb and seemed ever so much better than the drawings of all the students in my graduating class. At least that's what I thought at the time. Mind you, there were a total of 6 art majors the year I graduated - one of the largest classes ever! So I was a big pebble in a puddle at my college and I discovered a huge lake full of rocks in the "outer" world. It was a tough lesson, but a good one. Humility never hurts anyone!

Anyway, now that the CD is done I can breathe a sigh of relief. My next major project is partially completed - a CD for the Fiber Revolution exhibit entitled "Quilts As Art" at the Museum of the American Quilter's Society in Paducah, KY late this year (November 9, 2007 - January 22, 2008). The museum plans to sell a CD of our work at their museum shop, so I am collecting the images and creating the presentation for the CD.

Now that I can pause for a moment, I'm allowing my imagination to run wild with some ideas that have been fermenting within me for several months - even prior to our wonderful trip to Ireland. Some of it involves using my rusty fabrics and some of it involves experimenting with blueprinting fabrics. I have no idea if or how any of my notions will manifest in reality, but I'm anxious to begin playing again with my stuff!

Meanwhile, here are a few photos that were taken within the past few days.

Below: Jewel Weed aka Touch-Me-Not

Below: Admiral Butterfly

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Fiber Art Cards - Finally Framed!

Remember the first year Virginia Spiegel had her FAC's for Cancer drive? Well, I purchased several cards with the intention of framing them. And I bought/traded or was given a few more. I even found a lovely 9-slot white frame for my favorites! Well, yesterday, I finally got around to framing my 9 favorites:

Left Row: top to bottom
Debra Roby - Woven Works I
Virginia A. Spiegel - Octavio
Virginia A. Spiegel - Dream Weaver #4

Center Row: top to bottom
Anne Dovel - Taffeta Texture
Beate Knapp - Wedding
Mary Manahan - Dance

Right Row: top to bottom
Frances Holliday Alford - African Sun
Sue Reno - Ice Strom #8
Rayna Gillman - untitled

My office furniture is all white, so these colorful artworks, framed in white, look fantastic above my computer desk!