Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pray Love Dream

With 2016 still unwritten, just into the month of January, I got thinking about where I am and what I want. Really want. I know what I don’t want: a show, a gallery, a gig teaching online, or an Esty shop. My artwork is too personal to sell. I do give it away to people that I know will appreciate it, but I really have trouble parting with original work. It usually comes out of a place deep inside me, and has a lot of meaning. It is like giving birth. Each piece of art, each journal page is special, different, and definitely not perfect. I also don’t have time to make a bunch of little items just to sell. They would have to be good enough that someone would buy then, but not so good that they were too special to part with.
As a child I dreamed not of being famous, being the next Picasso or Monet. I dreamed of being a commercial artist. I dreamed of seeing my designs printed on walls and cloth and brochures and posters. And that is what I have been. Over the years I have been a textile designer and print stylist, and then newspaper and magazine layout artist.
A couple weekends ago I asked myself “what do you really want?” I meant art-wise. Of course I want world peace. I want the sick healed, the hungry fed, the lost found. So, I made a list in my journal of what I want, then I painted on top of it with my new watercolor set. Just a little color to pretty up the white page. Just enough to enhance, but not enough to cover the words. I said them aloud. I prayed on it.
A couple days later my name was on the short list of finalists for the Cloth Paper Scissors “design your own stencil” contest. With luck, my design, and stencil, will be in the May/June issue. I felt like my prayer had been answered. I know not everything people pray for happens. But this time, I really felt the universe was answering my call.
So, later in the weekend I finished an unfinished page. It started with a Jane Davenport stencil (called the ¾ stencil) that I tested out using an ordinary ballpoint pen on a white page. It was blah. So, I added some watercolor. And a little more. Then some colored pencil and some scribbles with marker. It started to shape up. Still, it was missing something, so I added words. First I added the big ones. Then I filled in with thoughts about going after your dreams, about how saying them out loud and writing them down helps make them real. I wrote about failing and not being afraid to fail.
As a little kid I dreamed of being an artist. That dream was not supported by my parents. After I got a degree in another field, I went back to school and did what I REALLY wanted to do. I knew couldn’t spend my life in the wrong field, wondering what if I went New York, what if I had tried to have an art career. So, I listened to my inner voice—not my inner critic—and never looked back.

Monday, January 18, 2016

"You Can't Always Be Pretty" Paper Doll

Paper doll with Dina Wakley stamp head
The head of this doll had been sitting around in my doll part box for months...maybe years. Of the set of four Dina Wakley heads that I purchased at the Ink Pad, it was the one that I used the least. There were two problems: the expression looked really sad, and when I stamped it onto yellow cardstock, the face image came out sketchy and uneven. Last night I challenged myself to use up some items that had been hanging around the doll box and make a new piece out of them.

The dress/body had been cut from a stamping experiment that was unsuccessful. It was blurry, and the splashed on paint didn't work with the purple ink and light green cardstock. I dressed it up a little with some punched out flowers, and attached them with mini brads. The legs are from a 1960s "go-go girl" paper doll, and I added a curlicue stamp to the bottom of the legs to give a look of boots. The arms are from a Victorian child paper doll, and are a little too short and fat to go with the long thin legs, but since people often have their limbs out of proportion, it seemed okay.

The "fix" for the face was easy, and I should have thought of it ages ago--I simply went over the sketchy parts and darkened it with a marker. The arms got a partial stencil to simulate a "sleeve" of tattoos. The doll seems to say, "I am not beautiful, I am unique and interesting." She looks like an urban hipster intellectual who shops in thrift stores and spends her money--instead of on clothes--on books...and probably art supplies. She is the anti-fashion doll, and is a reminder that it is okay to be serious and that you don't always have to be perky and smiling.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Journal Collage with Random Elements

Journal Spread using mail art and random elements from my art stash
Artists collect, reuse and recycle. For many, their studios are full of boxes and bins and shelves of  tidbits that are too interesting to throw away, but somehow have not yet found a place in their art.

These two journal pages use up the outside of an envelope that arrived from New Zealand, a face that started with a stamp, and vintage paper doll parts from the Graphics Fairy. I added doodles, washi tape and marker.

There is no hidden meaning. The white writing on the black background are words that came to me after I finished gluing the big face to the page; they are what she might say or what people might say about her for having a big head and tiny arms and legs. Around the head are words that were printed on silk. The words go alphabetically from A-Z and are leftover from a project that I did about two years ago about ABCs of Life for an artist.

Making these pages did not make too much of a dent in my hoard of arty bits and pieces. I still find myself buying new supplies. Some women can't resist shoes, some are always trying new recipies, some can't walk by the makeup counter without buying something new. My addiction is art...but it keeps me sane and happy.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hands Project

Finished right hand
Several years ago I traded small artwork regularly with a small group of artists. With life and career changes, we have not been in regular touch, but recently my friend Karen suggested an art trade based on our own hands.

The concept was to make a left hand that would be a shared project, and mailed around, with each person adding something to it, then mailing to the next person, then back to the original artist. For the right side, we would make three finished hands and mail them to each participant.
The hard part was deciding how to decorate my hands…bright and wild and graphic? Soft and subtle and girly? Earth tones? What kind of base? Textured or smooth?
I decided to go with some of my favorite colors and techniques, so I traced my hand on some hot press watercolor paper and got to work. I was thinking of two things: the henna hands that are painted on women from India for special occasions, and my favorite color (well, one of my favorite colors) turquoise.  For the shared project, I started with a stencil that was similar to the Indian henna designs and used molding paste through it to get texture and dimension. I painted it about ¾ with a light turquoise acrylic paint.
three finished hands
The idea for making the right hands did not come as easily. First, I set about covering the hot press watercolor paper with tea bags that I had dyed a delicious yellow, using skins from fresh turmeric, and then printed with assorted stamps using white printmaking paint. I experimented in my journal first, and it is a good thing I did: the UHU glue stick changed the color of the yellow to an orangey shade….whoops! I tried using gel medium, and that worked fine, with no color shift. The tea bags were smaller than the hand, so I had to piece them together and overlap, which left lines where I didn’t really want them.

Rather than try to disguise the join marks, I opted to enhance them. With the Japanese pottery technique called kintsugi/kintsukuroi, where broken items are mended by using gold to fill the cracks, thus enhancing the item’s beauty, I tried a twist on the method. Using painter’s tape, I carefully taped above and below the join mark, leaving it exposed. Then I painted the line turquoise, let it dry, and removed the tape. The blue line was a little too stark, so I used a white pen and added dots on the blue line.
Using the same stencil that I used on the left hand, along with part of an Artistcellar lace doily stencil, I applied copper InkaGold paint with a cosmetic sponge, then carefully removed the stencil. Voila, faux henna!
Each artist will add something to the left hand
The next addition was words, small words from Dina Wakely stamps, and my own words applied using tiny wooden alphabet stamps and a henna colored ink pad. The large, inspirational words are from Artistcellar’s pocketstencils. I outlined the word with a black ink pen, then carefully sponged chalk ink through the stencil. For the fingernails, a cheery sun spiral mini stamp, and just for fun and texture, a few copper-colored square metal brads. The finishing touch was edging the whole hand with a sepia ink.



Sunday, January 3, 2016

Wondering About Life and the Road Not Taken

"Wondering" journal page with words added
The recent holidays were kind of a dry spell artistically. My few journal pages that I had time for looked blah. Looked safe. Looked okay. But they lacked the spark, the feeling that you get in a creative moment, or creative streak, when you feel inspired, when you try new things, when experiments work beautifully and even the messes are kind of good.

A few new supplies from The Ink Pad were just what I needed to kick-start my 2016 art journaling. Some Julie Fei-Fan Balzer stamps caught my eye, so they came home with me. A stamp of eyes from a famous painting spoke to me, and they too came home. Some paint, some stamp pads and a new white signo pen, and I was revved up and ready to experiment.

I started by testing the stamps on brown paper bags to see how they looked, and rotating them to form patterns--well, I am, at heart, a textile designer so making repeating patterns is second nature. The Balzer stamps are kind of like what I would carve if I had time, a big studio, and an undamaged shoulder. And of course skill at detailed carving...which I kind of don't have.

I ended up with 4 or 5 new pages in my journal. On the last page, I combined a stamp of the eyes, and added part of a Jane Davenport stencil for the rest of the face. I pulled out my watercolors and randomly added color. At the bottom, I used leftover strips of painted deli paper and some of the experiments with the new Balzer stamps, along with some recycled washi tape (from an envelope).

"Wondering" before the words were added
I thought I was done, but the page seemed to be missing something. The next day I added words that came to me as I looked at the page. It made me wonder what my life would have been like if, at any point, I had taken an different fork in the road. I realized that I probably would have ended up at the same place. Art, and wanting to be an artist--more than  anything--drove me. New York was like a magnet, and I couldn't imaging living anywhere else. I couldn't live with myself if I had never tried to be an artist, and never come to New York.

Probably some details would have been different. I might have gone to a different college. I might have taken different classes, had different teachers, different friends. But the big things I needed to do, the big life lessons that needed to be learned and experience...I am guessing would have been the same. We don't get a do over in life. In art, sometimes. The beauty of doing digital design is that you can save something, duplicate it, and then experiment of the copy. If you don't like it, you can delete it. Life has no command Z. Journaling is more like life--you can paste over, repaint, cut out something you don't like, even cut up the whole design. But you still never get back to the blank page exactly as it was. It stops some people from experimenting. Sometimes it stops me, but when something is really important, when an idea is really driving me, I work through the fear of failure and push ahead.

New stamps that sparked my creativity

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Previous New Years have been filled with grand plans. With a lot of uncertainty looming ahead for 2016, I decided not to go crazy trying to plan, but I did give some thought to my word of the year. There is an online, inspirational, year-long art series that many mixed media artists take and one of the elements is to decide on one word that will represent what you want to focus on in the calendar year.

Due to time constraints, I am not taking the online course, but last year I did embrace the one word aspect of the course. Last year my word was "BE". It reminded me to just be me, do my own thing, not worry about judging myself or being judged or doing any judging. It reminded me that just existing is enough, reminded me to be calm.

After some thought, I settled on the word "BREATHE" for 2016. Breathing is usually overlooked. It is automatic and for the most part, involuntary. But the right kind of breathing can be calming and healing, so that is why I chose it. There are some things in my life that I can't control. The company I work for is undergoing a major restructuring. People are retiring, leaving for greener pastures, and wondering if they will be transferred or their jobs phased out. There are some family health issues that I have no control over. I just have to wait and see what happens for both these major issues.

What I CAN do is breathe. Of course I will do my best to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and do art. But even if I feel I am exhausted or stressed, I will always have enough energy to breathe through it all.

As a secondary symbol for 2016, I chose the color pink to go with my word breathe. I love pink. It is girly and happy and pretty and hopeful, and the two seemed to go together. My first journal page of 2016 isn't the most fabulous art I have ever done. But, it served it's got me rolling for 2016, it solidified my focus, and it is an expression of myself that was done to just let out feelings and emotion and thoughts and help me accept that not everything I do is beautiful or perfect, and that's okay.