Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cloth Paper Scissors Stencil Challenge

My original stencil design that appeared in Cloth Paper Scissors May/June 2016 issue
In the fall of 2015, Cloth Paper Scissors magazine announced a "make your own stencil" challenge, which was right up my alley. I sat down on Halloween with some heavy cardstock and came up with a 6" x 6" stencil, which I then experimented to try and come up an interesting art piece. The easy part was designing the stencil--I have a lot of swirly shapes that I constantly doodle, so I just let the design flow from my subconscious to my pencil, then carefully cut it out.

Once the stencil was cut, I tried making some art using a few of my old favorite techniques, and they were pretty underwhelming. Not really bad, but lackluster.

Hand-cut, original design stencil
Tea bags stamped with white printmaking paint, pencil, white acrylic and lace
were used for this interpretation of the stencil design. 
The background was done with watercolor and water-soluble colored pencils.
The stencil was printed using white crackle paint.
Feeling really disappointed, I grabbed my journal and decided to just do any old thing in it to let out my frustration. I opened to a piece of dark turquoise paper, and angrily grabbed a purple marker and the stencil, traced around the outline with the fine tip of the marker, then used the fat end to fill in the shapes. I also accidentally used the stencil upside-down from the way I had designed it.

On my table were some pretty scraps from other projects, so I pulled a few pieces, glue-sticked them on. It started shaping up into something kind of interesting. I used painted newsprint, tea bags with white paint stamped on, and washi tape. Next, I used one of my favorite stencils--a piece of an old touch-tone phone pad, and made scribbly squares with a white signo pen. I added some extra splashes of white paint with a dry-brush technique. The words, about following your instincts and written with a ballpoint pen, came to me as I was working. I really liked my journal page, so I decided to do something similar in a 6" x 6" format for the reader's challenge.

An experimental journal page led to the creation of the 6" x 6" piece
that appeared in Cloth Paper Scissors.
On the 6" x 6" piece, the purple marker was a little lighter and redder, and I added some black dots with a Sharpie to mimic stitching. I also added some brass-colored mini brads to repeat the dot idea and add texture.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I saw my name on the list of finalists on the Cloth Paper Scissors blog. It is especially gratifying to have my work selected for publication because I switched from being a mostly fiber artist/art quilter to doing mostly mixed media--and on a much smaller scale--a few years ago. My a/c joint and shoulder are damaged, and it is painful to cut and sew through layers of fabric, batting, and backing. It is also painful to draw or paint directly on cloth, so now I use soft paints, pencils and pens and avoid cutting through heavy paper. While art is art and design is design, the learning curve is, and was, steep for mixed media. There are so many products and techniques to try, to test, and to explore, so I have years of fun ahead of me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Muse-Scribe-Angel Painting Tutorial

The idea of painting some kind of angelic being that hints at a past life has been in my mind for a while. For years I have thought that if we have lived past lives, I would have been one of the monks in a Medieval castle or monastery who drew the big letters and decorative items in the pages of illuminated manuscripts. I always pictured myself the artist, but lately I think I was also a scribe. Not the writer of the manuscript...that would have been some kind of monk or holy leader, but I may have been the one who took down the words. Why? It's what I do. In my heart, I am an artist. I love paint, and color and design. But on a daily basis, at work, I am appreciate for my gift of language, for writing, editing, and proofreading, along with the design work. So, on my art staycation, I decided to paint. Of course, the picture in my head looks nothing like what came out. No one can see that image except me.

step 1, sketching the face

step 2, adding a little color and blocking out white spaces for the wings and body
step 3, more color and shading
step 4, more face details

I started with printouts of my Jane Davenport DVD on painting whimsical faces and did the face step by step. It looks a lot like the faces I have done in the past using her method. Here is the first Davenport-esque face.  Here is my yellow Davenport-inspired face.  But then I added wings, and a body and some background.
step 5, face is almost finished and wash of antique linen Tim Holtz distress stain in background

I thought about stopping at step 5 or 6. But, I wanted to add text to express my feelings about a past life.
step 6, a wash of pink acrylic was added to give femininity

I thought since the mood was about illuminated manuscripts, some gold was needed. I put it mostly on the top to hint at a halo effect.
step 7

step 8

I put some deli paper over the painting, deciding on the shape and placement of the words. Next, I used some old fashioned carbon paper in between the deli paper and the watercolor paper and transferred the words onto the painting. Finally, I used a calligraphy tipped indelible marker and wrote them on the design. 
step 9

The words seemed too bold so I added washes of color to tone them down and try to visually separate the wings from the body. It still seemed stark, so I decided to add my favorite stencils. Using a foam roller, I applied thick white acrylic to two of my favorite commercial stamps that had a bit of a Medieval feel to them. I also added some distress inks in golden brown, dark brown and sepia shades.
step 10

With brown distress ink, I added a hand-carved heart in the throat space, where there might be a dip in the neckline or a hint of cleavage. I also added the heart in the top left corner and in the middle of the right edge. A little indigo color was added at the bottom left and some brown tones to the space between the head and right wing. I thought I was done at this point, but hung it on the wall (with tape) temporarily to live with it and see if it felt finished.
step 11-final
After a while, it seemed that the words were too bold still. I wanted to be able to read then, but then I thought, "What the heck, who cares if someone else can't read them? This is for me, and I know what it says." So, I used thick white acrylic paint and a flat thick brush and pulled long strokes down the front of the dress under the heart, and also here and there on the sleeves and wings, intentionally achieving a dry-brush effect so that some of the words would still be visible. The question with art, for me, is often: "Am I done? Is it finished?" If I can't think of anything else it needs, and I like it, it is done. It was starting to get a little "muddy" so rather than risk unintended muddy sections, I called her finished.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Printmaking and Painting and My Art Staycation

Today officially starts my week-long  ART STAYCATION! Unofficially, it started Saturday morning. I pulled out most of my art supplies and scattered them around the living room in organized chaos. Saturdays seem to be the day when I just create a mess, painting backgrounds that don't look like much, pulling prints off my new gelli plate, cutting, measuring, mixing and splattering. On Sundays, I am more rested and often manage to figure out a way to pull the unrelated art bits into some kind of unified piece. Sometimes it is just a little edge of a print that becomes an ATC or a tag.

Collage with Gelli printed deli paper and stencils, assorted papers,
vintage royalty free images and printout of original drawing

Collage using vintage magazine ad, stenciled
Gelli printed deli paper and assorted papers

For my staycation, I have a few plans. One is to work on my faces using the Jane Davenport method. I have a vision of doing something bigger than an ATC, incorporating angels and wings and Medieval illuminated writing on it. I have sketchbooks and journals full of ideas that I scribbled down in moments of inspiration, so I will pull them out and see if anything turns into a solid idea.

Layers of Gelli-stencil deli paper prints, thermofax prints and assorted papers
I hope to pull my 6x6 series from the Julie Balzer workshop into one piece, maybe even hang it on the wall. Strangely, our walls are kind of empty, and my husband keeps saying: "Why don't you hang some of your work up?" Why indeed? Well, much of it is in art journals--can't hang them very easily. Some pieces are too personal, too in-your-face and I don't want to look at them every day. Some of them remind me of where I have been, emotionally, and looking at them evokes feelings I don't really want to revisit.

There's a couple unfinished projects on the horizon: my finishing the hand-quilting on my grand-niece's handmade fabric piece, repairing broken jewelry--some commercial and some handmade. Then there's the canvases...I made a "junque journal" in a Julie Balzer class, which is now so fat it will hardly close. So, I need a new one. I had some painted canvases that were intended to be covers for the first journal, but they weren't quite right. So, yesterday I gessoed over them. I had used some fiber paste through a stencil, and the gesso didn't cover it, so I used molding paste on top. Still didn't cover it. So that's a back-burner project in two parts...making the canvases look okay, and putting them together into a new journal.

Here's the 2"x3" printmaking experiments from yesterday. Two will be traded, one is a "keeper" and the rest will go in the nowhere land storage bin and either be reworked, added to another project, or used for an emergency greeting card.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

She Always Knew She Could Fly Doll and Scribe-Muse Journal Page

She Always Knew She Could Fly
This little paper doll's body was made with a Retro CafĂ© Art template and commercial scrapbook paper. I had already used the doll for my Empowerment Paper Doll a while back, but I cleverly saved the paper it was punched out from, and used it as a template, carefully tracing the shapes onto some pretty pink scrapbooking paper.

The skirt is a little piece of a paper towel that had been used to wipe up the overflow from some spray dyes. A section of paper towel, about five or six inches long by three inches tall, was gathered at the top, then tied to the back. It is secured with a paper flower cut with a punch and a floral mini-brad center. The wings were stamped on white paper. The shoes and crown are Graphics Fairy royalty free images, printed on cardstock, and the face is mine--from my kindergarten photo. The background is painted deli paper.

It reminded me of the innocence of childhood, before there was anyone telling you what you could and couldn't do, believing anything is possible, exploring the world. The crown represents the feeling of magic, of believing you have special talents, and the wings represent the freedom to fly and soar and be your best self.
I was the scribe, I was the muse journal page exploring past lives
In a similar vein, I have been thinking of past lives, what I would have been, and who I would have been there with. Of course there is no way to prove my theory, but I have always felt a connection to Illuminated Manuscripts and wondered if I were one of the monks or scribes that helped create some of the beautifully illustrated pages. This journal page is the beginning of my exploration of that thought. The doll parts, face and butterfly wings are from the Graphics Fairy. The crown/halo didn't work out the way I intended. It is a piece of a pink Gelli Print on deli paper, done with a lacy stencil. Journals are the place to allow yourself to be imperfect. The page is not exactly what I visualized, but I hope to do a series of paintings in this theme on my upcoming art "stay-cation."

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Journaling, Deli Paper and Gelli Plates

If I love art journaling, does that make me a journalist? Is there a special name for someone who combines their artistic experiments and random thoughts in a journal? Jane Davenport coined the terms Artomology and Artomologist. Mostly I love art, but I also love to write. Sometimes I get so busy doing art that I forget to post to my blog. And sometimes I get immersed in writing and forget to paint.

Glancing through my newest journal, I realized I was waaay behind in posts. So, here are a bunch of photos of what I have been doing over the last few weeks. Topping of the list of what I have been doing lately is that I took a great course at the Ink Pad with Julie Balzer. (Here's the link to my blogpost and photos of the art I made in the all-day workshop.) So many people in the class loved printing with Gelli Plates that I broke down and bought one. I didn't go all "cray-cray" as Julie would say...I just got a little one for about 10 bucks. I have been playing with it with mixed results. Mostly the prints are sloppy because I am sloppy. Kind people say I have a loose hand, and I deeply admire people with great control and the ability to make fine, detailed paintings and drawings. But, in the spirit of embracing my own skills, I need to let go of the need for control and perfection and roll with my sloppy side.

These journal pages use a lot of Artistcellar stencils, especially Jane Davenport's faces, some of my favorite Julie Fei-Fan Balzer stamps, markers, inks, acrylic paint, newsprint and paper scraps. The group of ATCs were made using the Ink Pad's exclusive NYC stencils, designed by Michelle Ward.

I created a little pocket to tuck in small items that I want to be sure to use in future journal pages.

Experiments with deli prints, stencils and stamps
Experiments (on left) with tweaking my handwriting, and (on right) with layering deli paper and gelli prints
ATCs created with layering gelli prints, acrylic paint, papers and
Michelle Ward's NYC stencils, exclusive to The Ink Pad
Collage of candle packaging and Artistcellar's small and large chakra stencils
Unfinished journal pages. Orange tabs of deli paper were added to
handmade journal for strength and stability.
Journal collage with random thoughts and random elements
Experimental page using Jane Davenport's tilted up stencil, Artistcellar
pocket stencil flower, chalk, white pen and washi tape on black cardstock
Experimental page with stamped eyes, Jane Davenport face stencil,
Julie Fei-Fan Balzer stamps and random thoughts

Thursday, March 10, 2016

And the Winner of the Sacred Geometry 2 Stencils is...

...tada, drumroll...Congratulations to Shay Stone, who is the lucky winner! Shay was very excited to find out that she had won the set of 4 Artistcellar Sacred Geometry 2 stencils, and I hope she has great fun playing with them. I wish there could have been more winners.

So, here are the experiments I did in my journal with the new stencil set. Some of the effects were interesting, so I may explore them further. I especially like the rainbow/flower effect with the little white spirals. I used a white Signo pen--my very favorite white writing instrument. You can also see the notes I scribbled--and that I wasn't all that impressed with the idea of deli paper 60s flowers. But after the lightbulb went off in my head late one night, I made the idea work. If you missed my Flower Power Shoebox, just click the link.

Quick sketches with Tombow brush tipped markers and a white signo pen

White ink and white signo pen on red paper, over-stamped with a black lace style stamp

Multicolored soft inks stamped through stencil,
with black lines and stream of consciousness words

Bottom corner was stenciled with turquoise acrylic on deli paper
 and added to journal page of random collage elements 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Flower Power Box

About a year ago, I developed a love for painting, stamping and stenciling on deli paper when I took a course with Julie Fei-Fan Balzer at the Ink Pad in New York City. Deli paper is thin, inexpensive, strong, and layers beautifully. It also dries amazingly fast.

A mixture of acrylic paint and molding paste worked great when I printed the Artistcellar Sacred Geometry 2 stencils on both heavy watercolor paper and lightweight deli paper. My particular favorite of the new stencil set is the Seed of Life stencil. I made print after print with my new stencils in my favorite shades of aqua, ended up with a big pile of beautiful geometric designs, and then asked myself: “What the heck are you going to do with these prints now?”

Seed of Life stencil, printed on deli paper with acrylic paint and molding paste
 The answer came to me late that night as I was lying in bed—the Seed of Life medallions looked like the geometric flowers that were so popular in the late 60s and early 70s! Songs about going to San Francisco and wearing a flower in my hair, and flower children in the park on a rainy day ran through my head. I knew just what to do, and could hardly wait for morning to get back to my art table.

Part of the printed Seed of Life stencil was cut away
to create a flower shape

As I sipped my morning coffee, I cut away parts of the round stencil prints to turn them into flowers, still humming the Summer of Love songs. I decided to use the flowers to beautify an old, beat-up shoe box that had been home to my marker collection.

I love newsprint as a background, so I grabbed my husband’s New York Times (after he read it of course!) and adhered the newsprint to the box top with matte medium. I gave the whole box a coat of white gesso and mended a few tears on the box corners before I started.

Shoebox top covered with newsprint
Once it was dryish, I auditioned the flower heads on the shoebox top until I got an arrangement that I liked, then used a UHU gluestick to secure them. I loved the way the newsprint showed through the unpainted sections of the flowers. For the sides, instead of covering the whole thing with newsprint, I kept the white background of the box and glued torn horizontal strips of newsprint to create a stripe, and then glued a flower on each side. Extra newsprint may have made the bottom just a little too thick, and the box top might not have fit the box bottom quite right.

I looked at the newsprint and flower covered box and it occurred to me that something was missing. The box bottom and box top still didn't quite say Flower Power. It looked a little dull. A lightbulb went off in my head. That missing "something" was music. I couldn’t make the box sing or play, but I could add song lyrics. So, I pulled out my mini alphabet stamps and my black archival ink, and let the song lyrics flow as I hummed the tunes and stamped the words that I remembered.

I added Artistcellar pocket stencil inspirational words on three sides of the box using the same pale aqua acrylic/molding paste blend, and a large flower head to the fourth side.

I intentionally used a mix of alphabet font styles and
also mixed upper and lower case to make the box more whimsical.

The finished Flower Power box top

Short side of the box, with lyrics from "Sunshine Superman"

Finished box side
 Now my markers have a new, happy much better than a beat-up old shoebox!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Working in a Series: 6x6x6 With Julie Balzer at the Ink Pad

Yesterday, I was in art heaven at a Julie Fei-Fan Balzer workshop, sponsored by The Ink Pad, which was held at the Westbeth community art center in New York's West Village. What could be better than an entire day being creative, playing with paints, stamps, stencils and collage? And of course, being surrounded by like-minded artists is inspiring, with the exchange of ideas and tips.
I didn't know what to expect, all I knew was that we were to bring six pieces of 6" x 6" watercolor paper and a whole bunch of art supplies. We all showed up looking like we were about to take a flight to Paris, with rolling suitcases full of paint brushes and supplies rather than clothing and accessories ... but just in case we needed that one special item that was accidentally left home, we had to bring almost everything, right?
Unlike many classes where the instructor shows you a finished product and says: "This is what you will have at the end of the class," Julie purposely did not bring samples so we would create without a plan or vision in mind.
This piece was held out, and did not get the final layer of paint, stencils and stamps.
We worked in layers, having no idea what was coming next, working on all six at the same time. Well, I am a notorious over-achiever, so I worked on nine. After about the third step of the lesson, I decided I liked one of the pieces too much to go on, so I tucked it in my bag. I often wonder "what if" so I held it out to compare to the finished pieces and see which I liked more.
Julie is a terrific instructor. She is really funny and fun-loving, but also serious and real, and is able to be direct, in control, non-judgmental, and make everyone feel special and talented.
I used my favorite acrylic paint colors, some of my favorite stamps--commercial ones and hand-carved originals too. I also used some of my favorite stencils, mostly from Artistcellar. After the painting was done, we added collage materials. I had all kinds of papers, including some imperfect vintage magazine pages gifted to me from Susan Morgan Hoth.
I was deeply engrossed in my own process, but at one point, I looked at what the woman across the table from me was doing and saw an awesome stencil, which really called my name. I loooove urban industrial design, especially NYC manhole covers, doorknobs, and architectural grill work.  The manhole cover stencil she had used was from a set of designs by Michelle Ward, which are exclusive to the Ink Pad. Fortunately the Ink Pad had a mini shop set up and I ran across the room and snagged a set.
My last layer uses Michelle's stencils. It was late in the day, I was a little tired, and my artwork was a little damp (even after blasting it with a heat gun) so a few of the images came out imperfect, but the workshop was all about allowing yourself to be imperfect and pushing ahead anyway.
In the photo of the nine pieces, the one in the center is the piece that I held out and tucked in my bag. It is very "me" and a little too safe, a little too much of what I usually do. The eight pieces that have additional paint, stamps and  Michelle's stencils are a less safe, less predictable, but still have my style and feel.
In case anyone is wondering why I chose the words that are in to collages, especially the Heinz Baked Beans, it was pretty random. I like to use text--especially in foreign languages and assorted fonts--as a design element. I was tearing some of the vintage magazine ads and that text was the size and style that felt right at the moment. Not that I don't like Heinz Baked Beans...they were a staple of my childhood diet...but now my taste buds prefer the organic, homemade varieties.