Saturday, June 24, 2017

Back to My Roots

When people don't know what to draw or paint, I usually ask, "What did you love when you were about 10 years old?" Then I tell them to start with that. Going back to what you loved as a child--be it coloring books, finger paint, Play-Doh, mud pies, dandelion bracelets or any other child-like artistic expression--is good for the soul.

Folding ATC doll for PaperTraders "Winner Take All" June 2017 art lottery
I have been through a difficult time in my business life lately, and it put a big strain on my emotional state. So, I took my own advice and backpedaled to my childhood for some art fun. My favorite childhood thing to play with? Paper dolls. For the folding ATC doll above, I used royalty-free reprints of vintage paper doll parts from The Graphics Fairy. The 2.5" x 3.5" base (ATC, or Artist Trading Card) is made of a piece of vintage magazine text that was painted and stamped. The limbs are put together with mini brads, which allows the pieces to be posed and even interchanged with other dolls.

The face is an original that I made using the method from Jane Davenport's Beautiful Faces DVD. I scanned it, reduced it, printed it on card stock, and cut it out. Here's my step-by-step blogpost on how I created the face.

For a folding ATC doll, the rule is that all the extra pieces must tuck behind the base card. Here's what the doll looks like folded up:

ATC doll folded up to 2.5" x 3.5"
Continuing my "back to my roots" art theme, I used an old McCalls pattern piece as a base for a journal collage. As a young girl, teen, and into my 30s, I made many of my own clothes. I still have my favorite patterns from the early 1970s!  After applying (with matte medium) an old pattern as a base on my journal pages, I added some pretty ribbon, printed teabags, a handmade soy batik fabric strip and a mini piece of fiber-art for this two page spread in my art journal.

Art journal left and right spread with old sewing pattern as a base.
The third part of my latest "back to my roots" artistic journey was rediscovering my inner textile designer. In my early 20s, I studied textile/surface design at FIT and worked as a print stylist in New York's Garment Center for nearly 10 years. I "retired" for motherhood, then went into graphic design and writing as a career.

About five or six years ago, I took part in a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) project called "Visioning" and designed and printed my own line of fabric. Many of them are available on

While recently cleaning my bins and boxes of papers and art supplies, I stumbled on some prints of vintage French textiles that I had ripped from an interior design magazine. I was startled at how similar they were to some of the fabrics from my own line. It really had me wondering about reincarnation. The designs are dated 1941, and I wasn't born yet, so who knows?

I used the magazine print on the right side of my journal, and added strips of my fabrics as borders at the sides and top. On the left side, I created a fabric collage of scraps of my own fabrics that struck me as similar.
On my worktable: vintage textile designs on right, collage of my designs on the left.
Reproduction of textile designs dated 1941
My original fabrics, printed on cotton, bear a striking similarity to the vintage 1941 designs.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Finding My Inner Warrior

Inner Warrior Priestess
The last two weeks have been awful. No one died. I am healthy. And I have many blessings. I spent a lot of time counting those blessings while my heart broke and my eyes overflowed with tears, while I tossed and turned and my mind re-lived the trauma of the corporate axe. In the big scheme of things I was fortunate. Very fortunate and blessed. I used my art to work through my many emotions, my angry times, my sleepless nights.

The backstory is that the company I worked for terminated nearly 400 executives two weeks ago. Maybe I saw it coming...but I didn't want to see the handwriting on the wall. I felt like a woman whose boyfriend was cheating on her with a brainless floozie. My boss could barely make eye contact with me. Our meetings were rushed. He acted weird. I thought, naively, "Oh, it's the stress of the coming layoffs, it's not personal, it's what he has to do on Friday." But then the phone rang about noon. I nearly collapsed on the walk from my office to the other side of the hospital to the firing room. I did my breathing exercises, blowing out for more counts than I was breathing in so I didn't hyperventilate or have a panic attack. He talked, I breathed out like a woman in labor as the rhetoric swirled around. "It has nothing to do with your job performance...we are eliminating executive staff with no direct patient contact...yadda, yadda, yadda."

I went back to my office and packed up. My work friends gathered around for support. Gave me hugs. Helped me pack. I didn't cry. They did. I finally cried two days later. I got angry. I painted. I cried. I painted. I cried some more. I updated and honed my resume. I bumped up my LinkedIn profile. I applied for jobs. I went to post-employment seminars and a jobs fair. Thankfully I was offered a new position at another location, this time with direct patient contact. I took a big, big hit on the salary. I am reinventing myself in the business world, tightening up the family budget, and hanging on to my pension fund and healthcare. So I am blessed. I am looking ahead, not behind. I am trying to let go of anger and hurt and resentment. I am channeling my anger into emotional and spiritual power. And I am painting.

The Inner Warrior Priestess journal page started with a Jane Davenport face stencil. I outlined it lightly in pencil, then added my own lines for the body, hair and background. I used Portfolio water soluble oil pastels for the face and background colors, blended them with a wet paintbrush, then added watercolor pencils, TomBow brush tipped markers and other accents. When it was dry, I placed Artistcellar mini chakra pocket stencils on the appropriate place for the third eye, throat and heart chakras and used black Archival ink with a mini dabber to create the stenciled shape.

I revisited my Jane Davenport beautiful faces CD to get the eyes and cheek color the way I envisioned it in my mind. The words came to me at the very end, and I added them with a black sharpie marker.

Prior to creating the Warrior Priestess page, I worked through my various emotions with an assortment of techniques.

Page from my mini journal. Words were added while in the waiting area of Post Employment.
This is a mini journal page. The words and shapes were doodled while in the waiting room of the Post Employment office.
The words on this mini-journal page were added during a long, long wait in the Post Employment office.
The words "I am resilient, I am the phoenix" kept playing in my head to the tune of the Beatle's "I am The Walrus" so I painted it. The marker was not water-resistant so it ran, but the runny words echoed my teary eyes.
My friend (who was terminated in the first round of layoffs) was amazed at how resilient I was, so I painted the words "I am resilient" as a mantra. I didn't like the sloppy look when the markers ran and the words blurred, but it did echo my emotional state.
This scribbly floral journal page has many layers of paint, markers and gesso and was a way to channel my anger and emotions.
After I was offered a new job, I was so relieved and thankful, and I came home and painted the "Joy" journal page.
The day after I accepted my new job offer, I created a romantic, sepia-toned journal collage expressing my gratefulness for all that I DO have. The little angel photo was a gift from an artist friend, and seemed especially appropriate. I stamped the word "trust" with sepia ink and added "the universe" with a sepia pen.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Am the Phoenix

Life has thrown me a pretty big curve ball, but one result is that I am discovering how resilient I am. I am channeling my mixed emotions into my artwork, so my living room (aka art studio) has a lot of paint splatters, tools, brushes and paper scattered around.

"I Am the Phoenix"
 I Am the Phoenix is an art journal spread with collage, layers of gelli-plate printed deli paper, stencils, stamps, printed teabags and a Sharpie handwritten message. There is a lot of craziness in my life, but I used a Jane Davenport stencil--Tilted Up, from the series ArtistCellar used to carry--because I felt like I was a mermaid swimming up through the chaos to meet the surface. I used some of my favorite stencils for hair and the body and gave her wings to fly.

"Trust the Universe"
 Trust the Universe is another journal page. I used my favorite shade of turquoise (plus a spot of yellow and lime here and there) to cover the page, then sponged on black ink through some of my favorite stencils. The word Trust is an ArtistCellar pocket stencil, and I hand-wrote "the universe" with a sharpie.

"Frida" Journal Inside Cover
 When I saw the Crafters Workshop "Frida" stencil at the Ink Pad NYC during a class I took with the fabulous Nathalie Kalbach, I knew I had to snap it up before they sold out. (Frida and Georgia O'Keefe are my favorite painters.) I had a new journal that just seemed so big and new and empty, so what a better way to initiate the journal than with a Frida stencil? I used some Nat Kalbach art foamie stamps for Frida's body and also for the left edges. It was too neat and boring, so I added paint strokes and scribbles and words as well as some handwritten thoughts.

It was a thrill and honor this morning to see that the Crafters Workshop had reposted my Instagram from a couple days ago!
Crafters Workshop repost of Instagram post

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Altered 1969 Diary

Finished front of altered diary, covered with painted deli paper

Finished back of altered diary
A few weeks ago, I met up with some old friends in the Catskills. One of the women, who is dealing with an aging, ill mother, had been cleaning out the family home, and brought along some old diaries from her teenage years. She had a vision of burning them in the stone fireplace, but before destroying them, we took a look through. Surprisingly, there were very few written memories of wild was more about what she had for dinner and how hard the math test was and what she was going to wear to the school dance and what favorite 1960s song was playing on the pop AM radio station at that moment in time.

As she was about to toss them in the fire, the "art light bulb" went off in my head--they would make great little altered books! I had been meaning to try making one, and had read about the process, so I rescued them from a flaming end.

Diary with painted and handwritten deli paper covering front and back
Rather than starting with the pretty red one that most caught my eye, I decided to use the ugliest one since it would matter less if I made mistakes on the ugly one. I tore out every other page, plus a few more, then used matte medium, spread on with a credit card, to stick two pages together. The ink ran and smeared, which was a surprise since the ballpoint pen had been on the market quite a few years. I later discovered that she preferred an old-fashioned ink pen. The runny ink created quite a nice indigo mushy effect, so I embraced that happy accident.

I also decided to try covering the diary with painted deli paper. While in the Catskills, I did several paintings and journal pages, and had used up excess paint by randomly wiping it on deli paper that I also written on about our weekend adventures. I covered the brass locks with washi tape for protection from the paint, gesso and glue.

After the inner glued pages had dried, I painted some with gesso, and added leftover scraps of paper, printed teabags, plain teabags and a little washi tape here and there.

I had an old photo of the diary owner and another mutual friend that was taken in a Woolworth photo booth in the early '70s. It seemed appropriate to use that on the first page of the inside.

A whimsical photo of two silly teens, taken in a Woolworth photo booth series
is on the right page of the altered diary, after the inside front cover
The diary is still a work in progress, and it may take years to finish all four of them. I am looking forward to seeing how this ongoing project develops in the months to come.

Second set of pages of the altered diary
Inside back cover (left) and last page of diary, with dried teabag over runny ink