August 31, 2015

Work in Progress – Raccoon and Apple, Update 2

After making the skull prints, I turned my attention to the apple tree.  I planted it decades ago; it’s a variety called Freedom, and Starks Nursery advertises it thusly: “Exceptional disease resistance! Easy-care tree ideal for areas with apple scab, powdery mildew, and fire blight issues. This vigorous tree has a lovely spreading nature. Large bright-red fruit with a juicy tender flesh great for fresh-eating, cider, juicing, and cooking. Cold-hardy. Ripens from late September to early October.”

Which is all true.  It’s disease free, and very prolific, although it tends to bear more heavily every other year.  It is not, however, insect free. As a strictly organic grower, I used to muck about with traps and organic sprays and so forth, but the tree got huge and I got distracted.  The crop of semi-damaged apples is now a huge boon for all the local wildlife, including raccoons, so I get a lot of satisfaction out of that.
Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP7
But I digress.  I made cyanotype prints of apple branches, including one when it was in flower, and started to play around with possible color palettes and image placement:Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP8   Here I continued to audition the design:
Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP9

August 28, 2015

52 Ways to Look at the River, Update 2

It’s time to check in with my latest project, 52 Ways to Look at the River.  I finished the first 8 panels, and collectively they look like this pinned up on a design board:
Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Weeks 1 - 8 I’m really enjoying the challenge and the outcome, and judging from the comments I’m getting,  many of you are as well! Here’s how it works—every week I travel to the Susquehanna River and take a photo to use as my inspiration.  Back in the studio, I use the photo as a reference to create a needlefelted and stitched 4” x 6” panel.  It’s a simple concept, but one that is proving to have a lot of depth.  Each week I need to decide where to go, perhaps a favorite spot nearby, perhaps a road trip. Then I need to frame the view for the photo. Back in the studio, I get to choose what elements to focus on, and make it all work on a small canvas.

Because I want each one to feel a bit like a sketch, I set a time limit of 90 minutes for the actual felting and stitching.  Fiber art is very time-consuming, so I can’t dither. I start each one in a state of mild panic, which subsides as each design decision leads to the next one.  It’s very exciting and gratifying.

Below are the first 8 panels individually.  It’s going to be fun to see what happens as fall advances and the landscape color palette changes.

Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 1 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 2 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 3 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 4 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 5 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 6 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 7 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 8 Panel This next bit is for everyone who loves reading about process.  The only way I can complete a panel in 90 minutes is by being very organized in the studio.  I have my pieces of rayon/wool felt for the base precut.  The base color may or may not show through, depending on how I felt it, so each week I choose accordingly.
Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 1
I have bins of wool roving in various colors, and lots of medium sized silk scraps I’ve been saving.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 2
If I need something specific that’s not in the scrap bin, like the plaid for the railroad tracks in the week 9 panel, I can go to the stash of silk yardage.  I have a fairly complete mental inventory of everything, so it doesn’t take me long to find what I need.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 3
I also have wool yardage and scraps to work with.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 4
And for finer details and spots of color, I have a bin of silk snippets, and the threads that pull off in the pre-wash, that I’ve been saving for years.  A lot of the silks were hand carried back from India, so I’m loath to waste any of it.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 5
I begin with my felt panel laid out on a piece of dense foam, where I block out the basic shapes and colors.  I use a hand felting punch to take things in place before taking it over to the needlefelting machine and doing a thorough job of it.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 6
Different hues of wool roving and silk snippets are blended and layered up on the base.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 7 Once the felting is done, I add detail with machine stitching.
Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 8 Panel
Here’s the fisheye image I started with for the week 8 panel:Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 8 Image 
I’m posting the weekly pieces to my Facebook page:
My Twitter feed:
My Tumblr:
and Instagram: sue_reno_studio

I also post each week’s inspiration photo. Pick a platform and follow along!

As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

August 26, 2015

Watt & Shand #3 at the PA Governor’s Residence

Sue Reno, Watt & Shand #3  I am a long time member of the Pennsylvania Arts Experience, a non-profit arts organization promoting the arts along the scenic river valleys of southeastern Pennsylvania. Thanks to the generous support of PA First Lady Frances Donnelley Wolfe, the PAE has been invited to present a exhibition of member artist works at the Governor’s Residence, 2035 N. Front St, Harrisburg, PA in Harrisburg from September 13th through February 2016.  The exhibit will fill the mansion on the main level, and will be up for a number of special events being held at the mansion starting with the annual Gallery Walk in Harrisburg on September 13th.  More information on the Gallery Walk here.
Sue Reno, Watt & Shand #3, detail
I am pleased that my Watt & Shand #3 will one of the 60+ artworks in this exhibit.  It’s from my series The Structures, where I focus on historic local architecture, and seems like a fitting choice to be displayed in the residence. 

September 13th is also the last date for the Art of the State exhibit at the Pennsylvania State Museum, so if you are in town stop by and visit my In Dreams I Flew Over the River and all the other fine works there as well.

See works by these Pennsylvania Arts Experience Member Artists:
Benjamin Ahlgrim
Robert Armetta
Joan McAvoy Austin
Jack Bingham
Glenn E. Blue
Adrienne Brenner
Barbara A. Pillette Buchanan
Robert E. Buchanan
William Chambers
Ophelia Chambliss
Matthew Clay-Robison
Jeff Crystal
Peter Danko
Gerald Davidson
Ann DeLaurentis
Renee Evans
Rob Evans
Jonathan Frazier
Phyllis Disher Fredericks
Carol Galligan
Claire Giblin
Susan Gottlieb
Steven Alvin Heffner
Maryel Henderson
Jerome Hershey
Tim Hirneisen
Mary B. Hochendoner
Richard Chandler Hoff
Lauren Litwa Holden
Joe Jacobs
Lorann Jacobs
Gale Jamieson
Rhoda Kahler
Paul Kicklighter
Phyllis Koster
Greg Layton
Sylvia Eisenbise Lehman
Cliff Maier
Stephen March
Jo Margolis
Carol Oldenburg
Robert Oughton
Robert Patierno
Kelly Pedersen
Fran Polk
Catherine Prescott
Theodore Prescott
Pete Quarracino
Sue Reno
Linda Mylin Ross
Kerry Sacco
Dillon Samuelson
Lou Schellenberg
Mimi Shapiro
Ellen Slupe
Tanya Snyder
Linda Sommer
David M. Stallings
Marion Stephenson
Reuben Swartz
Jason Tako
Geoffrey Thulin
Mary Todenhoft
Janette Toth-Musser
Kree Weide
Rita King Whitney
Brenda Wintermyer
JD Wissler
Frances Donnelly Wolf

August 21, 2015

New Work in Progress – Raccoon and Apple

Raccoon and Apple is part of my Flora and Fauna series, where I work with the skulls of native wildlife and reflect on my interactions with them and their place in my microcosm. It is perhaps a bit of a stretch to call this a “new” work in progress, as I’ve been working on it in fits and spurts since 2010.  But I realized that I hadn’t yet documented it here, so it’s time to share.

Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP1

With raccoons as the subject, I had a lot to drawn on, as I spot them fairly regularly.  The three juveniles, above, were rambling about where my yard transitions into the woods, near the apple tree.  And adults sometimes make night raids on the food bowl I have out for the semi-feral cats.

Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP2

I’ve seen their distinctive footprints down by the lake.  And, sadly but inevitably, I also find their carcasses.  I have a firm policy against bringing road kill home, but I did stop to photograph the cool patterning of this one’s tail. 

Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP3   To start on this work, I took macro photographs of a generously loaned skull.  I shot it from the top, and in profile, but it was this shot of the underside of the jaw, showing the tooth sockets and sinus cavities, that ultimately made it into the work.

Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP4

From that image I made a negative and printed it on a transparency sheet.Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP5 

The transparency sheet was used to make cyanotype prints onto cotton.  I love this process so much, and these prints did not disappoint.Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP6
Stay tuned!

July 22, 2015

The Longest Day – New Work in Progress

At the last minute I wanted a hand stitching project to take along on our recent vacation to Reno NV and Berkeley CA. I still had several of the small needlefelted pieces I started as step outs for the Quilting Arts video shoot last year. I took one of them and added some borders, pulled some likely embroidery thread colors, and packed it up and stuck it in my carry on.
Sue Reno, The Longest Day, Work in Progress Image 1
I worked on it a bit on vacation, and spent a lot more time thinking about it. We began our trip on the summer solstice, which was also our wedding anniversary. A few days prior we had been to the Susquehanna River in Columbia to take pictures in the clear soft light of late afternoon.  The mood of the piece was trending towards an early summer colorway, so  I decided to embrace the theme.
Sue Reno, The Longest Day, Work in Progress Image 2
I used a simple running stitch to add line and flow to the river portion.  I’m calling it simple, because it’s just a running stitch, in and out of the fabric in a line. But as I worked on it I realized that it was reflective of years and years spent hand stitching and hand quilting. I’ve gone through countless spools of thread and hanks of embroidery floss.  I’ve literally worn out many needles over time.  My stitch at this point is definitely an expression of “the hand of the maker”, where I strive not only for technical excellence but also for a unique signature.

I used a variety of other simple stitches to add to the “fields” and “woods” surrounding it. I enjoyed the slow pace and improvisational spirit of stitching process very much. I then layered it and added some quilting. I am now contemplating adding beadwork.
Sue Reno, The Longest Day, Work in Progress Image 3
As is it measures about 24” square. I am planning to use it as a center panel for a larger quilt, like some of my other recent river pieces. (See Ice Jam and In Dreams I Learned to Swim.) I’m still thinking about what that will look like.

I have a lot of works in progress right now.On the one hand I think I should focus and finish a few of them before proceeding. On the other hand, I am grateful that the inspiration and ideas are flowing freely, and feel like I need to go with that flow. 

July 19, 2015

Art of the State, and the Susquehanna at Harrisburg

Sue Reno, Art of the State, In Dreams I Learned to Swim, Image 1
I went to Harrisburg, PA today to visit the State Museum of Pennsylvania and see the Art of the State exhibit, where my In Dreams I Learned to Swim is on display through September 13. I had missed the opening because I was traveling, so I didn’t have the thrill of the crowd, but it was nice to have the time and space to view the exhibit at my leisure.
Sue Reno, Art of the State, In Dreams I Learned to Swim, Image 2 This is a large art quilt, 60” x 80”, and it was such a pleasure to see it so well displayed and properly lit.  It had room to breath.
Sue Reno, Art of the State, In Dreams I Learned to Swim, Image 3 I hadn’t had the chance to view it from a distance before, and I was gratified to see that it held up well and commanded attention from afar. 
Sue Reno, Art of the State, In Dreams I Learned to Swim, Image 4 Even from the other side of the gallery it caught the eye.

As always it’s an excellent and interesting exhibit—do go if you are in the area.  One nice feature is in addition to the complete paper catalog, there are kiosks where it is easy to bring up an artist and read their statement.  The images are also available online here.

Sue Reno, Art of the State, Catalog Afterwards we went to The Millworks for a late lunch. It’s a new restaurant, with an emphasis on local, sustainable food and craft beverages, combined with artist’s studios in a remodeled/repurposed industrial space.  Both the food and the ambiance were very good, and I plan to return.  On the way out I stopped in the communal gallery/gift shop, and bought a bag of roving to use in needlefelting.. I grew up near Halifax, and I was charmed by the mention by name of her angora bunny. 
Kara Frech, roving
We then went over to Front St., parked, and took the pedestrian bridge to City Island.  It was oppressively hot and humid, but I wanted to take photos for my new project, 52 Ways to Look at the River.  (Read about its inception here.)  The architecture of the bridge is wonderful through the fisheye lens:
Sue Reno, City Island, Image 2 And I liked the archways on the nearby bridges:
Sue Reno, City Island, Image 3
But for this week's inspiration photo I chose this shot, looking across from City Island to the city of Harrisburg:
Sue Reno, City Island, Image 1 I came home, cooled down, and used my new roving in the panel inspired by the photo.  The panel is 6” x 12”, on a base of rayon/wool felt.  I am trying to keep them simple, a sort of sketch in fiber, and not overwork them.  Even so, each one so far has taken about 90 minutes to make.  Fiber is a slow medium. 
Sue Reno, 52 Ways, Panel 3
A good day!

July 5, 2015

On Creative Practice, and a New Project

Week 1 Panel
I am interested in how creativity works. I am especially fascinated by creative practice, both my own and that of other artists, and have written and given lectures on the subject. For many artists, the state of being “in the flow” alternates with creative slumps and blocks. I find that these highs and lows can be better managed with a sustained creative routine.

That routine varies greatly, of course, in accordance with individual proclivities. For myself, part of my routine since 2012 has been taking daily photos, using either a macro or a fisheye lens on my iPhone, and posting them to social media. It gave focus to my day, helped train my eye, and gave me a glimpse into corners of the natural world I might otherwise miss. The habit has been exciting and fulfilling, and helped inform my primary artistic practice of textile based art. I’ve also enjoyed and greatly appreciated the many lovely and enthusiastic responses I’ve received when I posted photos.

It was all great, until all of a sudden it wasn’t. I had been struggling a bit in the spring to find subjects that engaged me, and one day I realized that it had turned from a delight into a chore. So I stopped. I put the project on hiatus and just stopped.  If I had been struggling with my primary work in fiber I would have powered through it, but this is an adjunct practice, meant to be fun. While I may still take and post the occasional nature picture, the daily part will remain on hiatus until/if I feel like reviving it. I suspect it may have served its purpose, and it is time to move on.

Which raises the question of what moving on looks like.  I feel like to some extent the photos were a dead end. I’m not a professional photographer, even thought I play one on TV. I’m going to move my repetitive creative practice into my true area of expertise, working with fiber.

After a lot of thought and false starts, I’ve devised a project involving the Susquehanna River, a never ending source of inspiration for me.  My plan is to get out and observe the river somewhere on its course on a weekly basis for the next year, and then make a small fiber piece in response to what I’ve just seen.  Further details and parameters will be worked out as I go along, as part of the appeal is that the project be open-ended and exploratory.  I’m calling it “52 Ways to Look at the River”.

Today I cut 52 pieces of rayon/wool felt into 6” x 12” blanks, and will be using them as the foundation for each weekly piece.  I anticipate it will be primarily needlefelting work but I’m not locked into that. The idea is that each piece will be the fiber equivalent of a quick sketch, and in the end the sum will be greater than the parts. 

Above is my first panel, and below is the picture I took of the river, in Columbia, PA, under the Veterans Memorial Bridge.  There’s been a lot of rain lately, and the river is very high and muddy.
Week 1 Image I’ll be posting the weekly pieces to my Facebook page:
My Twitter feed:
My Tumblr:
and Instagram: sue_reno_studio

So pick a platform and join me as I work my way through some imagery!

As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

June 18, 2015

New Work – In Dreams I Learned to Swim

In Dreams I Learned to Swim, by Sue Reno
At last, the reveal of my latest work, In Dreams I Learned to SwimIn Dreams I Learned to Swim, by Sue Reno, detail 1
It’s a large quilt, at 60” high x 80” wide, so it has a lot of presence when seen in person.  For anyone living or traveling near Harrisburg, PA this summer, you can see it in a marvelous setting at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.  It’s part of the prestigious Art of the State exhibit, opening on June 28th and running through September 13th.    It’s an all-media show, and I’m very pleased to be a part of it again this year.
In Dreams I Learned to Swim, by Sue Reno, detail 2
This work incorporates needlefelting with silk and wool on a separate, attached panel.In Dreams I Learned to Swim, by Sue Reno, detail 3
I made collagraph plates and printed them in a variety of colorways for the surrounding quilt.In Dreams I Learned to Swim, by Sue Reno, detail 4
The borders are also handpainted, and the entire work is heavily stitched to add texture and movement.In Dreams I Learned to Swim, by Sue Reno, detail 5
I hope you have enjoyed following along as I detailed this work in progress—you can review it by clicking “In Dreams I Learned to Swim” on the right sidebar, or by clicking here.

As always, thank you for reading and commenting.