Saturday, November 21, 2015

International Mail Art Journal Collage

Journal collage page using mostly recycled pieces
from mail-art packages and ephemera.
Sometimes I lament the fact that I don't have the time or space to do big, "important" art work. With full time job and a small apartment, my work has to stay small and flat, and be completed fairly quickly. So, being part of mail art exchanges of small items like ATC, tags, and postcards with other artists, and working in my journal are pretty much all I do, other than the commercial art that I do at work.

There are quite a few positive aspects of exchanging artwork: first, you receive some gorgeous small pieces in the mail. Additionally, you learn new techniques, "meet" new cyber friends, and accumulate a lot of interesting tidbits and ephemera. Those tidbits are papers or fibers that are tucked into a package or wrapped around the artwork that comes in the mail, as well as international stamps and gorgeous mail art envelopes.

Today's collage uses mostly items that came in the mail from people in the yahoo group Paper Traders. (Here's a link to their blog.) The top right corner was part of a hand-decorated envelope from an artist in Northern Ireland, the clock and French butterfly napkin were tucked in with ATCs. The checkerboard tape was recycled from an envelope. On the bottom right is a corner of an envelope, with the cancelled stamps from Australia.

The ticket in the center was from a recent event at work--everyone who came received a ticket, which was entered into a raffle to win exciting prizes...well, maybe not so exciting...they were tee shirts and umbrellas, but at least the prizes were useful.

Following the Kelly Kilmer collage technique, I added a stencil, using one of my favorites from Artistcellar. I added the little dots in the center with a marker. The last step was my addition of washi tape and hand written words that popped into my head as I was working on the collage.

Here's a few other journal collages made from mail art and ephemera that was tucked into envelopes form other small art traders.
Mail-art envelope on bottom of collage, including
Maya Angelou stamp; vintage ephemera mainspring
envelope; doodles, stamping and vintage royalty free images.

Paris-inspired napkin section, stencils, stamping,
stamp from Australian envelope indicating
photographs inside.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ricola Wrapper Nesting Doll ATCs

The wrappers on Ricola candies are almost too pretty to throw away. The little delicate flowers on the original flavor remind me of edelweiss and the Sound of Music. The cherries on the cherry flavored Ricola are even more striking. So, I started saving them and incorporating them into my ATCs.

When Paper Traders yahoo group announced a nesting doll swap, it seemed a perfect fit for me. I love dolls, especially traditional Russian nesting dolls. I set about cutting and pasting to create a unique and original design.

I combined an original design of my own, a tile design (you can see the fabric I made from my tile design here) with some gingham paper and a zetti-ish diamond pattern.

The cherry Ricola wrapper had a nice color and feel to it, so I made sure to use it in the biggest doll and also in the background, near the hidden quote.

Here are links to some of my other ATCs than incorporate the Ricola wrappers:
Splatter House ATCs
Fly Free ATC

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Metal and Paper ATCs

Printed tea bag background, copper mesh,
brass mesh, copper foil, metal brads, turquoise
scrapbook paper. Number is cut from Lumiere painted,
heat-distressed Tyvek.
The Paper Traders yahoo group is celebrating their 10th anniversary. So, the latest exchange will be ATCs that include the number 10, and also include tin or some other kind of metal, since tin is the traditional 10th anniversary gift.

I decided to go bold for this project. Sometimes I feel subtle. Sometimes I like girly, lacey, pink themes. But sometimes I like to go bold and graphic and simple. Lacking a fancy machine for embossing metal, or tools to weld little pieces, the only way to really incorporate metal into my atcs was to use big chunky sections.

Using heavy gel medium, I adhered the number to the rusted heart. The number 10 was carefully cut from a piece of painted Tyvek. I used Lumiere acrylic paint and heat distressed it with a hot iron.

The background is my old favorite: printed teabags. The strips of copper and brass mesh were attached with mini brads in metallic colors. The mesh is sewable, but sadly, I discovered that my sewing machine was broken. The broken sewing machine forced me to think of another solution, and the metal brads not only kept the metal on the card, but also added some texture and visual interest.

The little copper strip on the bottom is a stick on tape made of real copper; I found it at the Ink Pad. The turquoise strip is scrapbooking paper that I was gifted with from one of my art friends.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Try Something New, But Do What You Do

The doll body is from a vintage thread advertisement.
Dina Wakley stamp head, stencils, washi tape,
watercolor, acrylic paint, marker, glue stick.
The art and craft worlds are full of gorgeous magazines and books, many touting the latest gizmo and technique, bombarding you with offers for in-person on online classes where you can learn to use all the new products and techniques. Hot new artists come and go, and electronic media, with the multitude of posts and tweets and websites and blogs, can be overwhelming.

Being part of some online art/craft communities keeps me connected, and making small art pieces and trading with other artists keeps me sane and gives me exposure to new ideas.

The question is, where do you draw the line between trying a new technique and product and ignoring it and staying true to your own style? Well, it seems to be a pretty wavy line, and varies with the expansion of--or shrinking of--my time and budget.

When in doubt, I pull out my little journal and collage a page, pull out my favorite art supplies and get to work doing what I DO know. I recently started puttering with some molding paste, stencils and acrylic paint, trying to understand an artist that my group was doing an homage to. I just couldn't wrap my head around the project. Not that it was outside my comfort zone entirely, but there was a fine balance of texture and monochromatic color, mixed with a suggestion of steampunk, that wasn't working for me.

Artistcellar stencils, molding paste on deli
paper, chalk inks, newsprint, and colored cardstock.
So, I quit. I pulled out my journal and did a few pages. I used the soft colors and paste and stencils in my own way, which was much better for my mental health than attempting to imitate another artist. My chalk inks and favorite colors, combined with some cool Artistcellar stencils, deli paper and newsprint felt, felt healthier than me doing an imitation of somebody else.

Vintage advertising paper doll parts from the Graphics Fairy, with stenciled deli and scrapbook paper, a partial cover from a freebie magazine, accented with an old favorite stencil (plastic rectangles from on old touch tone phone!) made me feel like me, made me feel lighter and happier. It made me remember that my journal is a place to try new things, perhaps to fail, to take something that looks like a mess, cut it or rip it and make something new. It is a place to hone my techniques, and to write.

So, I wrote the words that popped into my head. Maybe they were inspired by the antique body with the oversized Dina Wakley stamp I used for a head. It looked a little freaky, but it looked a little cool. So, "fly your freak flag" popped into my head. The words remind me to be true to myself, not to try to imitate someone else.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Beauty is Relative

What is beauty? If you are selling beauty, that is especially an important question. It varies from day to day, year to year, culture to culture. On one of my daily dog walks, I picked up a brochure from a small local beauty salon that uses only organic products. The top right image is from that brochure, and it got me thinking about why the model has super pale skin and lips and very dark eyebrows. The flowers in the hair made sense, but the pale, elongated face didn't, at least to me.

I started this unplanned journal page with a strip of painted paper that had the two black Dina Wakley face stamps, and using a glue stick, adhered it to the bottom of the page. At the top of the page, I used a tea bag that had been stamped with white paint. The center strip is one of my fabric designs, but printed on paper. I added a few small torn strips of antique music, a snipped with a book page number and some Chinese newsprint.

The central figure, the organic model, reminded me of a geisha, so I used an Artistcellar stencil at the top with a purple VersaMagic chalk ink to play up the Japanese undertone. The purple dots were added with marker, and  the words about beauty were added with a fine line black gel pen.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Unplanned Stamping

Usually my work table is covered with bright color splashes. Today, for unknown reasons, I was in a sepiaish, black and white, earth tones mood. I started puttering around yesterday, using assorted favorite stamps with white printmaking paint, and printing a bunch of teabags for future use.

Some of the smaller teabags were printed using a Julie Fei-Fan Balzer geometric stamp. Once dry, I adhered them to ATC blanks with a gluestick. My favorite whimsical girl stamp called to me today, and I used her on top of the printed teabags. I added some tiny words that I had previously output from a laser printer onto clear Avery mailing labels. I made a total of seven ATCs, each a little different. The one above will be traded in the October Paper Traders Winner Take All, where group members submit any type of ATC...the group leader pulls a name randomly and that person wins all the cards for the month.

I used up the leftover white paint from my ATC-making by painting broad, uneven strokes onto a black page in my journal. Once dry, I used an assortment of Julie's stamps with the little girl, which became today's journal page. The photo is a little blurry, but I liked the way it came out. It was totally unplanned. I really was just cleaning my brush on the black page. One thought led to another, and I started grabbing stamps and printing, and the page just emerged. Sometimes art is planned, sketched, thought out, and measured. Sometimes, as with this page, it just flows out unplanned.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Halloween Bad Boy ATC

A Dover royalty free image of a vintage Halloween wizard was the inspiration for my series of Halloween 2015 ATCs. This one was my favorite of the four I made, and will trade with the Yahoo Paper Traders group.
The background on the right is from some wrapping paper with Day of the Dead skulls that I received as a gift from a fellow artist. The little boy reminded me of one of those little guys who pretends to be sweet when adults are around, but is really a little terror to all the other kids, so it seemed appropriate to have the skull lurking in the background to really scare him.
The orangey, flowered background is a collage I created in Photoshop using Day of the Dead skulls (which are partially hidden) and traditional flowers used for Day of the Dead. On top, I stamped a variety of images using white printmaking paint. The final touch was some scary words that were stamped on using tiny alphabet stamps and a black ink pad.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Art in a Small Space

Back in the old days, there was a big studio in the country filled with sunlight and beautiful shelves teeming with art supplies, books, magazines, fabric and recycled materials waiting to become some kind of art. It was even pretty well organized. There was a sink for messy projects, a nice Mac computer, scanner and camera. Nearby there was a lovely deck for working outdoors in the sunshine, and I could experiment with—wearing a mask of course—some of the really smelly products.
Life changed, and now we’re in a midtown New York apartment, and my space is limited. Accordingly, my design scale has been downsized too. A chronic shoulder problem made me shift from art quilting to working on paper—using soft supplies like paint, stamps and stencils. Repetitive stitching, free-motion quilting and cutting through layers of fabric and batting with a rotary cutter are out of the question. And of course using NevrDull or CitraSolv and melting painted Tyvek is out of the question.
I have become a pretty faithful art journalist. I’ve been making, and working in, these really cool art journals that I learned about in a Kelly Kilmer class. They have accordion fold signature pages, so a lot of artwork can be packed into a little book. Best of all, they don’t take up much space.
I also make and trade ATCs and other small paper items. My closet and shelves have clothes and accessories, but only the things I really use…the iffy items…have been purged to make way for art supplies.
Did I mention I am also working 9-5, five days a week…which is really 8 to 6 when you figure in travel time? I really like my job, it is creative and fun, but of course I live for my personal art time on evenings and weekends. I have even started painting on my lunch hour, which creates a nice break in the day. On the weekends, the half-round table in the living/dining/office room become my little studio space.
The homage to Diebenkorn journal page made me think about someday having a big studio again and how magical it would be to work on huge canvases. The “Ugly” page used up some ephemera that was just…ugly…but somehow it worked, and made me realize the ugly is a relative term. The Victorian vintage winged angel was leftover from making ATCs a few weeks ago. But it made me wonder…is someone/something listening to our prayers, watching over us? On the last journal page I used scraps from the ephemera box, and added a royalty free Dover clip art image that I printed and transferred with the packing tape method.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jane Davenport Inspired Paper Dolls

Artistcellar's Jane Davenport Face Stencil with Julie Fei-Fan Balzer stamps, shrunk to doll size
The other day on my lunch hour, which has now become--after quickly scarfing down my mid-day meal--my art hour, I realized that my love of making quirky grown up paper dolls was not unrelated to my love of faces. In fact, it suddenly made complete sense.

I had been studying Jane Davenport's Whimsical Faces DVD and teaching myself her method of painting faces on my lunch hour. It occurred to me that I could take the paintings, shrink them down to the size of the doll head on my template, and really kick my dolls up a notch. I had been using a variety of faces--some from magazines, some from my own small drawings, and some from vintage royalty free clipart.

This face is from my own design, based on Jane Davenport's method
I also decided to try making my own template for the body parts. I found the vintage paper dolls a little sexist, with ridiculously tiny waists and contemporary templates rather blah. My own template is a work in progress.

The papers are my own design. I printed my doll template on cardstock, back to back with my paper/fabric designs. The butterfly wings, shoes and crown are royalty free images from The Graphics Fairy.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Flower Fairies and Abstract Art

The Yahoo group Paper Traders is having two art exchanges that are very different, but both called to me. One is a Flower Fairy themed ATC trade. I started with some Graphics Fairy royalty free vintage images. Some I combined in Photoshop and printed ATC sized, others I printed individually and used for backgrounds or "fancy cut" and layered onto my ATC blank. One requirement was to add something dimensional, so each has a vintage paper sticker that I was gifted with along with my favorite sheer lace. Below are the six I made; I traded the top three and kept the bottom three.
The other trade was a 4" x 6" (postcard size) abstract art challenge. I used watercolor pencils, colored pencil and Derwent watercolor blocks on cardstock. I used mostly my left hand (I am right handed) to give both my brain and my hand a rest. I also gave the pieces a slightly different vibe, since I made the strokes sometimes from top left to bottom right...with the right hand my strokes would have been in the opposite direction.



Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Reiki Master Said to Go Home and Paint Yellow

Embracing yellow, musing about ideas running through the inside of the brain, experimenting. That’s what is going on during my lunch hour. Trying to learn how to make drawings and paintings of people look kind of realistic by using Jane Davenport’s techniques, and trying to make them kind of pretty but unique, quirky and interesting.
This piece started out as a randomly painted piece of deli paper…mostly yellow acrylic with strokes of red, orange and white. Twelve years ago, when I was having some serious health issues, I went for reiki treatments since conventional medicine wasn't helping much.  My reiki master told me to “go home and paint yellow.” I did go home and paint yellow then, and found it very freeing and healing.
I never forgot about the simple truth of the reiki master giving me "permission" to use my favorite color. I had been trying to stay away from colors right out of the tube, trying to be more urban and sophisticated in my color choices. I later realized, in the line made famous by Popeye, that "I yam what I yam" and that I should embrace my artistic instincts. Once again, I am following her instructions and using lots of yellow.

First, I sketched a face outline using an Artistcellar JaneDavenport face stencil and a prismacolor pencil. Next, following the advice on Jane's DVD about Whimsical Faces, I painted the face with a flesh-tone acrylic and added some pinks on the cheekbone and lips.
Then I brightened up the features with more pronounced cheeks, lips and eyes and added white accent strokes and added flowing lines to indicate hair. I debated about stopping here, but decided to push on and see what developed.
I wanted to make the hair more interesting so I painted it white and added some dots—somehow I always feel inclined to add dots. I also am inclined to make swirly spiral lines. These shapes probably have some deep-rooted psychological meaning, but I have no idea what it would be. Again, I considered stopping at this point, but felt the need to push on and fill in the empty spaces.
The piece called out for words, so I used the negative space between the hair to write—first with a pencil and then with a sharpie—the thoughts that were going through my mind. Random thoughts…some big, some small. Some heavy, some light. Things I wonder about daily and wonder about occasionally. And mostly things that have no answer.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Drawing with Jane Davenport

Jane Davenport has a wonderful CD about how to draw whimsical portraits. I first became aware of her work when I tried out some of the stencils she created for Artistcellar. They were really fun and easy to use.
I am all about recycling and downsizing and trying NOT to purchase too many unnecessary art supplies. Kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it? With my art addiction, supplies are always necessary. But I try not to splurge on every new tool or supply that catches my eye. However, I DO love faces. And looking at my published work…well, it is pretty much all faces.
Back in the 80s I took a class in pastel portraits where I learned the basic mathematics of drawing a face and how to mix the pastel colors to get a nice flesh-tone. But, Jane’s faces were so enticing that I decided to break down and order the DVD from Cloth Paper Scissors so that I could learn her secrets. 
Jane’s step-by-step DVD kicked my face drawing talents up a notch. I learned how to do “pretty” which was a big change—I usually have abstract or ugly or disturbed looking faces…and I probably will return to doing weird faces, but I may be using Jane’s method—which is practically foolproof.
In the first photo, I drew the basic shapes with colored pencil, then used a flesh-colored acrylic over it.
In the second, I added more detail and lines with colored pencil.
The final photo has more color, blending, and white accents. A few strokes of Tim Holtz’s distress stain in antique linen, with a couple strokes of white gesso was all I needed to give a blonde hair effect. I think she looks a little like Morgan Fairchild, but my daughter says she resembles Elsa from Frozen.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Turning Marker Doodles into Stenciled Crackle Paste ATCs

The background for these ATCs started out as a random art therapy drawing one evening. As my husband watched TV, I sat next to him with a sketchbook full of thick white paper, my collection of TomBow brush tipped markers, a koi paintbrush and jar of water.

First, I made random doodles with some of my favorite shades of blue and green. Next I added a little more color and more doodles, and then added water with the koi brush to make the colors bleed together. 

Pretty, and if it were a silk scarf, I would surely have worn it. But since it was paper, what was I to do with it?
My new motto, learned from Kelly Kilmer, is “when in doubt, add a stencil or a stamp.” So I took a gorgeous Retro Café Art large flourish stencil and pushed white Crackle Paste through it. I was impatient, so I used some small Artistcellar stencils with crackle paste to fill in the empty spaces, being careful not to smear the flourish section—the mini virtue Tudor Rose hope pocket stencil worked with the flourish stencil perfectly.
When it dried and the solid white paste turned to a nice crackled design, I loved it, but still…what was I going to do with it?
The idea lightbulb went off inside my brain…ATCs, of course! So, using an Artiscellar pocket stencil as a template, I selected the areas I liked best, traced around the template, and made six colorful, textural ATCs. After I cut them out, I glued them to an ATC blank with rubber cement. The final touch was edging them with some purple Ranger Archival Ink.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Beauty's Only Skin Deep


For years I have made art paper dolls, so after I made an collaged journal background, I decided to see how my doll parts would work in collage. I chose a few interesting, unrelated leftover body parts (mostly printouts of royalty-free vintage graphics from The Graphics Fairy) and, using a glue-stick, stuck them to the page without over thinking it. I ended up with two unrelated pages side by side. the background has charred baking parchment, printed tea bags, painted deli paper and other assorted papers.


The left side has a face that I just didn't know what to do with. It started with a small square stamp of a face, but the face had a black border around it which made it awkward to use. I enlarged it added color, a neck and hair and turned it into something that looked like Chrissie Hynde on a really bad day. It sat in my doll part box for years looking kind of sad.

The pear is a not very subtle reference to the pear shaped body type, and the little face at the bottom of the pear is a salute to pregnancy and motherhood. I liked being able to have the boot unattached to the body--it suggests a young woman who is rushing and barely has time to get dressed, maybe juggling motherhood and family and a career.

The right side is a face from a New York Times Magazine fashion spread and body parts from a vintage paper doll. I didn't intend to do a two page journal spread, but I had so much fun with the left side I decided to keep going and do two doll pages.

As I looked at it and decided what to do next, words came into my head: "beauty's only skin deep." Using mini alphabet stamps and a permanent black ink pad, I wrote out those words on the left, and on the right, the "model" joins in to the musical refrain of the Temptations hit song with "yeah yeah yeah."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lefty Art: Painting With the Other Hand

If there is enough time on my lunch hour, sometimes I pull out a few art supplies and paint, or draw, or doodle. The other day I did a lot of typing and graphic design in the morning, and my shoulder was aching. But I still wanted to relax and do some art to clear my head. So, I decided to use my left hand—since I am a righty, it was a little tricky. With the left brain/right brain idea in mind, I thought that switching hands would help clear my head.

I used some watercolor pencils on standard white cardstock and scribbled, then used a brush and water to pull the color around. I also dipped the pencils in water and drew with them and then wet the page and drew on the wet surface. It not a masterpiece, but it was therapeutic, and the colors were pretty and soothing.

I took the scribble piece home, then selected a 4” x 6” section that I liked, and trimmed it. I enhanced it a little with a Scribe-All White Marking Pencil and a little Faber-Castell: Stampers Big White Brush Pen. The Vonnegut quote was printed on Avery clear mailing labels. The quote seemed to go along with a piece that was created left handed. The Avery labels have a sticky back so the quote adhered nicely.  I ran the edges over a sepia distress ink pad to give an aged look, and also added some gloss medium over the whole thing because I didn’t want to take a chance on the quote falling off when it traveled across the country to its destination.
To strengthen the postcard, I used a reject/unfinished piece of watercolor paper for the back, decorating it with washi tape and zetti-ish harlequin paper.