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.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Empowerment Paper Doll

This post from a couple months ago somehow got deleted from my idea how, but I love this little paper doll so here it is...

Lately, my personal challenge has been to use up what I have on hand before buying new art materials. I have boxes and boxes of paper scraps, unfinished projects and things that just didn’t turn out quite right. On Sunday mornings my husband watches all the news shows for hours, so I have a window of undisturbed art time to putter and sip my coffee.

This Sunday, I pulled out my boxes of little bits and pieces to see what I could do. As I was sorting, I came upon a little brown cardstock figure that I purchased from Retro Café Art. It was smaller than I was comfortable with, and I had put it together with little star brads just to see what it looked like, and then put it aside.

I decided that one of the problems was that the star brads were too big, especially since they had points sticking, out so I took the doll apart. Next, I sifted through my piles of scraps to find something just right to cover the body parts. For the face, I thought I might use a mini-self-portrait from an old business card. The template had a teeny tiny head, so I cut mine a little bigger. I found some old ATCs that weren’t quite right, and used the sections I liked for the arms, legs and body.

With matte medium, I glued some vintage advertising typography from the Graphics Fairy to the arms. The legs are floral sections of cast-off ATCs, and the upper body has printed tea bags with a snippet of sheer lace. The bottom torso has a stamp of the OM symbol—also from a section of an imperfect ATC—and some beaded trim at the bottom edge for the suggestion of a skirt.
This time, I put the parts together with tiny mini brads in pastel colors, which worked better than the stars. Any points that were sticking out from the backside were snipped shorter with a jewelry wire cutter.

One of the fun parts of art paper doll making is putting it together—you never quite know what the doll will look like, and what kind of “personality” it will have until all the parts are connected. I often switch out faces or clothing until it seems right. I didn’t like the face as much as I thought I would, so I rummaged through my baggie of faces and found one I had made a few months before. I made a bunch of heads when I tested some Dina Wakely face stamps, using Artistcellar's black ink pad and Derwent blocks for spots of color. (Non-water soluble ink works best if you are planning to add color after the stamped image dries.)
The new head was oversized for the body, but it added to the eccentricity of the doll. It also wasn’t a happy, beautiful face—it is actually kind of sullen—but then, who is always happy and beautiful?
For pizzazz, I added a pair of vintage boots, also from the Graphics Fairy. Somehow my dolls don’t seem complete without wings and a hat, so I added a bowler hat and my favorite Graphics Fairy butterfly (cut in half and glued to the upper arm with matte medium, carefully avoiding gluing the brads, so that the doll will still be poseable.) The finishing touch was a saying from a Yogi tea bag: You are unlimited.

The doll reminded me of an angst-filled teenager who doesn’t fit in anywhere. It seemed that she needed the extra oomph of the inspirational words from the tea tag, the OM symbol and the butterfly wings, to empower her and know she is okay just the way she is.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tutorial: Faux Lace from Recycled Tea Bags

-ATC Box with paisley stamped tea bag faux-lace,
lace trim and gold dotted accents-
Tired of spending a lot of money on art supplies? Here’s a frugal way to recycle and make some cool art and craft.
1)      Save your used teabags. Pull them out of the water BEFORE you add milk, sugar, honey, lemon or any other flavor-enhancer.
-figure A-
2)      When the bags are completely dry, carefully open them and remove the dried leaves. (The paper is very delicate.) [A]

3)      Flatten out the paper. You will see mottling/staining—that’s part of the fun. Paper will be different colors depending on what kind of tea you use and how long you steep it. [B]
-figure B-
4)      Choose a variety of stamps—I prefer lacey feminine ones with good detail. You will need to experiment to see what you like best. You can also use hand-carved stamps and/or wooden stamps. [C1, C2]
-figure C1, hand carved stamps-
-figure C2, commercial stamps-
5)      Apply white printmaking paint to the stamp. You can brush it on or use a brayer. (Printmaking paint stays wet longer than other paints.) [D]
-figure D-
6)      Drape the teabag over the stamp and gently press it down all over. [E]
-figure E-
7)      Gently pull the paper off the stamp. If it didn’t print perfectly, don’t worry…it can often add textural interest to have an imperfect stamp. (I use the imperfect ones for collage and the “perfect ones” for ATCs and tags.) [F1, F2]
-figure F1 shows the printed tea bag as it is pulled away from the stamp-

-figure F2-
8)      Drape the empty sections of the teabag over the stamp and press. (You will probably get paint on your fingertips. I keep a wet paper towel or rag nearby to wipe my fingers as I work.) I usually reapply paint every other time.

9)      Keep filling in sections until the whole teabag is covered. You can also mix stamps—you don’t have to use the same stamp on each teabag. [G1]

10)   Once the painted bags are dry, you can make all kinds of things with them:

a.       Collage them into one big piece and use it as a journal page or background for other artwork [G1, G2]
-figure G1-

-figure G2 has a tea bag lace background overlaid with a
vintage wedding photo printed on sheer silk, with lace and
button trim-
b.      Cover a small box with it and decorate with lace (atc box). Be sure to cover box with white gesso first (and let dry) so that the nuances of the printed tea bags show up. [H]. I often use recycled boxes but this one was purchased from Retro Café Arts.
c.       Wrap it around an ATC or tag for a base. You can also layer it over a colored paper or fabric background [I1-I5]
-figure I1-

-figure I2-

-figure I3-

-figure I4-
-figure I5-
d.      Scan the design into a photo editing program and manipulate or mix with other images to create very personal art or background papers. [J1-J4]
-figure J1-

-figure J2-
-figure J3-

-figure J4-

e.      Use it as “skin” or a base of a Santos cage on an arty paper doll [K1-K6]

-figure K1-
-figure K2-
-figure K3 used a Dina Wakley stamp face,
Graphics Fairy shoes and tea bag lace arms-


-figure K4 uses faux tea bag lace on a large paper doll template from
Retro Café Arts-
-figure K5 has a tea bag faux lace base and arms
with Graphics Fairy wings and face-
-figure K6 has faux lace arms and legs, an original face
hat made from a recycled, painted coffee filter and
Graphics Fairy butterflies -