Rest & Return

After a week off to rest the hands and another to celebrate my birthday, it’s back to “Lindsay With Dogs.”  Even without the above excuses, I’ve been dragging my feet on the project, content to enjoy things as they are and afraid of where they might end up.   If only there were a way to receive credit for doing nothing!

Doing the dogs has been fraught with more anxiety than this sixty-six year old lady would care to admit, but there you have it.  Nothing has ever come easy for this one.

As suspected, the dog on the left is taking a solid week of daily effort.


“Lindsay With Dogs” by Lynda McClanahan In Process

At this stage, the dog is almost there with the exception of highlights, tightening some lines and cleaning up mistakes.   I’m a bit concerned I’ve made the poor pooch look more like porcupine on a bad hair day than a dog, but it’s probably the best I can do.   I always hope my weaknesses will read as charming eccentricity, but you never know.  Onward and upward, whatever the results.  Here’s to perserverance and the hoped-for rewards of a long, slow slog.



Making a Dress From a Cotton Saree

As a sort of love-gift to myself, for the last couple of years I’ve taken to making a dress right around my birthday in July.   This year’s model is cut from a perfectly preserved old cotton saree.  If you’ve never made an outfit from a saree, here is how you do it.

Sarees usually have a decorative border running along both sides of their six-yard length plus a fancy part on the end designed to show when you throw the end piece over your shoulder.   This presents a challenge when laying out your pattern.  The first thing to decide is whether you’re going to incorporate the borders and end-piece into your garment or just cut around them.  I always choose the former.  Experience has taught that it is imperative to choose a pattern which highlights the design of the original saree, not fight it.  Why waste all that beautiful weaving?


Fancy End-piece Incorporated Into Bodice

It took a lot of trial and error and creativity before I succeeded in laying out the bodice, but things came right in the end.  I was able to cut the pattern pieces in two different directions which visually strengthens the three-piece bodice front.   A bit of ribbon languishing in the sewing drawer accentuates the design.


Pocket Cut from Scraps of Fancy End-piece

There was just enough fancy end-piece material to squeeze out a couple of pockets.  This forms a nice contrast to the field of the saree, which is mainly composed of checks (the Indian way of saying “plaid”).


Lynda McClanahan Wearing a Dress Made From a Cotton Saree

Here is the final product, worn to a birthday dinner.   I was able to get just a bit more style by laying out the skirt so that part of a border could be seen.   The main interest in the piece lies in the material and I wanted to show it off to full advantage.  The fabric turned out to be more sheer than I had anticipated, a problem solved by wearing an old fashioned cotton slip.  I made the necklace too (haven’t figured out how to make shoes).

All sewing projects force the sewer to slow down and concentrate for long periods of time, which is inherently relaxing.    Making something for your birthday is a good way to send love to the person you have been as well as to the person you hope to become.  I go forth into my 66th year literally arrayed in new garments.  All is well.





Week One of a New Project

What a difference a week makes.   The new project is steadily inching forward, without fuss.   Covering more area than usual means larger blocks of time must be allotted for each work session, but more is accomplished at the end of each day.  I can see where the piece is headed and feel good about doing something so decidedly different from what I’ve been doing lately.  The dogs will probably take at least one week a piece and, given my skill level, will be the hardest part of the project.  I’m taking the weekend off to give the hands a rest and think things over.


“Lindsay With Dogs” in Progress



The hardest part of any project is having the fortitude to start at all.    Before lift-off, the mind is fearful of failure and the body longs to be left alone.  After lift-off, things unfold quietly and naturally according to the internal logic of the project itself.    Nothing matters except for the nuts and bolts grunt work of working the idea through.

I almost always transfer imagery from the sketch to the board via home-made carbon paper.  This means covering the entire back of the original drawing with pencil, once for each diagonal and once more up and down.


Pencil Carbon on Reverse of Sketch

On a piece as big as this (30″x36″), just making the carbon is a lot of work.   Sometimes I fall in love with this part though.   If I were strictly process oriented, I might stop right here and frame the thing up.

Once the pencil carbon is finished, I tape the sketch to the board and go over every line with a ballpoint pen, rendering a perfect copy of the original.


Sketch With Ballpoint Pen

Pencil marks routinely smudge and mix with paint in unpleasant ways, so sealing the graphite, though laborious, saves time in the end.  Everything must be gone over one more time with either black paint and a fine brush, or an oil enamel Sharpie pen.   If anyone tries this method, be sure to stick to oil enamel.   Other pens bleed into the paint, causing untold headaches.

Here is the finished sketch-on-board with a bit of progress on the background.


“Lindsay With Dogs” In Progress

Just as mutations over time lead to the evolution of a species, subtle changes occur each time an image is copied.   I tried giving the trees and grass a more naturalistic treatment, to see as the camera sees, but am incapable of this.  Instead, the background looks like dyed fabric and the grass is a monolithic, psychedelic shimmering carpet of green.   Allowing the entire depth of field to be in sharp focus automatically shifts a piece into interesting philosophical territory.  Without a distorting lens, only a hyper awareness of every single point remains.  I’ve only just begun the project and already it’s going its own way.  We have lift-off.


Working Through a Block

For the first time ever, I’ve found myself empty of both  vision and will.    For the last few weeks, there’s been a huge hole in my life where art used to be.    A few ideas have wafted up but nothing engaging enough to be worth the trouble.  I’ve been bored, listless and lazy.

In the absence of inspiration, I’ve decided to push on and just do something.  A friend posted a picture of his wife on Facebook a while back and I’m using it as inspiration for a new project.  Here is the initial sketch for “Leopard Coat With Dogs.”


Initial sketch for “Leopard Coat With Dogs” by Lynda McClanahan

This is another big (for me) painting and will most likely showcase all my weaknesses as a painter, but so be it.  Maybe I’ve just gotten used to the grid-organized pieces I’ve done lately but to heck with it.   Why stay blocked when you can do something (anything!) to blast free?



Throwing Caution to the Wind

I’ve taken a week off to put in a vegetable garden and host Becky Sterrett, Arun Satgunasingam and their new-to-the-planet-four-month-old daughter, Kavya.  The guests are gone, the garden is mostly in and “Toilets With Snakes” is back from the photographer.


“Toilets With Snakes” by Lynda McClanahan

“Toilets” was painted in response to a call for entries for an upcoming show at the Vanderelli Room entitled F***Art.


Jay Mueller, Columbus artist and curator of “F***Art Show

The show is curated by Jay Mueller, a local art luminary known for his participation in the Artist’s Wrestling League, a performance art tongue-in-cheek rehash of the old Big Time Wrestling shows of my youth.  Jay also happens to work at the neighborhood art store where I get my supplies, which is where I heard about the show.  I had the idea for this work many, many years ago but never did it due to shyness, embarrassment and fear of having yet another unmarketable piece kicking around the garage.  Jay’s call was just what I needed to crank the thing out.  I love to show.  Even if I don’t get in, there will never be a better audience for psychedelic snakes bursting forth from a bunch of toilets than Jay Mueller.  Throwing caution to the wind feels good.



Snakes and Ladders Project complete

After two and a half months of intense labor, “Snakes and Ladders” is finally complete.

"Snakes and Ladders:   the Game of Life" by Lynda McClanahan

“Snakes and Ladders: the Game of Life” by Lynda McClanahan

So much thought and grunt work went into this thing, yet now that it’s done, I’m not quite sure who did it or why.

Unbidden projects which are full of challenges and arrive straight from the subconscious mind often turn out the best.