Friday, January 12, 2018

Vintage Circus Journal Page

Sometimes I have a concept, sketch it in my idea journal, then work to create a piece of artwork based on the idea in my mind and sketches in my journal. Sometimes I just start painting and--without a plan--go down the path that unfolds.
The Vintage Circus Journal page emerged without a vision or plan--I just took out my journal, paints, stencils and craft bits and pieces and let my imagination wander. I also was working in two or three journals and a few sheets of watercolor paper at the same time...while one section dried I started another page because I am really impatient. When I get in the "zone" my studio space (aka my living room!) looks like an assembly line with papers and journals all over, in various stages of development.

About a year ago, I took a class at the Westbeth Community Room, sponsored by Ink Pad NYC, with the fabulous Dina Wakley. Among the many tips she kept repeating was to never, ever, waste paint. She recommended cleaning your brushes on blank journal page or painting a page with the leftover puddles of paint. (Dina even cleans her brushes on her apron!)

On the page below, I had cleaned up leftover ochre and green paint on a page in my khadi journal. Since it was just a cleanup page, I decided to test Gwen's Decorative Medallion stencil to see how it worked with molding paste for texture. I loved it. So, on the other paintings and journal scattered around my table, I added the same stencil/paste combination.
The Decorative Medallion stencil, with molding paste, on a "clean up" journal page
I loooooved the stencil so much that I started testing it in turquoise and white acrylic paint around the page. I especially wanted to tone down the bright lime green corner and unite the page. In my mind, it was still a test page, so I decided to play with my stencil/mask duo, Gwen's Ornamental Compass Mask. I am new to using a mask with a stencil, so it took some practice to get the effect I wanted. I used an ochre shade for the mask, then, using a wedge cosmetic sponge and tiny dabber tool, stenciled over it with a brown chalk ink. It was looking like more than just a test page, but I didn't know what to add as a focal point or quite where to go next.
The brownish-ochre compass blobs seemed too dark and overshadowed the central textured stencil shape, so I softened the whole page by adding another stencil here and there. I used portions of the Decorative Medallion stencil with white acrylic over the compass to soften and unite the page. I loved it--I was finally getting the "Lafluerish" effect I admire in Gwen's work. But the question remained: what should I DO with the page?
The finished background was beautiful, but needed a central focus
I rummaged through my boxes of ephemera and tried out a couple items to place on the page. I considered a sepia-toned vintage family photo and some inspirational words written on a see-through paper. Nothing was quite right. Then I found a quirky reproduction of a vintage French Circus poster which was kind of odd, but kind of worked. It had been gifted to me in a trade of small artwork, and had been hiding in one of my paper scrap boxes.

Quite a few images were auditioned for use as the central focus on the journal page
After much deliberation, I decided on a strip of green paper and a
small reproduction of a vintage circus poster
A strip of greenish India-inspired commercial scrapbook paper, placed behind the circus poster, seemed to work. I trimmed the mini poster and used my brown chalk ink pad to darken the edges of it as well as the edges of the green paper strip. I still wanted to add something special, something three dimensional--however, I didn't want something lumpy that would prevent the journal from closing.

 It occurred to me that if I had a dangly piece at the bottom, instead of directly on the page, the journal would still close. I set to work auditioning my collection of jewelry parts from Gwen's website and my own boxes of jewelry components.

I chose some Turkmen Jewelry parts, and used some lime-green grommets to strengthen the hole where the dangly pieces would be attached. I used a decorative headpin that had a turn-of-the-20th century feeling, put it through the grommet, then created a loop with my jewelry pliers, and attached the Turkmen pieces. Next, I attached the circus image to the page (with dangly pieces attached) by using mini brads on each corner.

The dangly pieces can swing and pivot, which echos the trapeze artists movements in the mini poster focal point. Best of all, the journal closes flat, yet the little dangly silver Turkmen jewels invite you to open the journal and see what else is inside.

In case you were wondering what else was created while the circus page was drying, here's some of the other unfinished journal pages that I puttered with that day.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Courage to Flourish

In late December 2016, I chose the word "courage" for my 2017 word of the year. My beloved pet, Coco, had just died and we were devastated. (Here's the link to my "courage" blogpost.) There were also some serious health issues among family members, and I knew courage would be required. Little did I know that six months later I would need even more courage to face sudden unemployment when the corporation I work for reorganized and decided that they didn't need someone to write, edit, do graphic design, gather news and perform public affairs duties. I was devastated. (Here's my link to my post about the corporate downsizing axe.) But, when one door closes another opens and I found a new job. A very, very different job, but a decent job with healthcare and a pension and a degree of security, so I counted my blessings, put one foot in front of the other, and forged ahead.

For 2018, I want to do more than survive. More than endure. More than count the days until I can retire--which is quite far away. I feel like a delicate plant that was accidentally ripped out of a garden and tossed to the side like a weed. I decided to be the weed, to let myself take root where I have landed, and bloom. So, my word of the year is "flourish."

To celebrate my word of the year, I wanted to use it on the cover of the blank handmade journal that Gwen Lafleur gifted me with for Christmas. Being part of Gwen's Artist Tribe creative design team helped me get through the rough patches of 2017, so the new journal seemed an appropriate place for my new word of the year.

I decided to use some of my favorite stencils from artists Jessica Sporn, Tim Holtz and of course, Gwen. I pulled out my favorite colors of paint, some molding paste for texture, and got to work. It started off okay--a little messy, but okay. Then the colors got ugly and muddy and I was discouraged. I painted over it. And painted over it all again. And yet again until I had just a textured black page.

Here's the process I went through:

A wash of yellow ochre muddied up the design

I tried wiping off the yellow ochre with a baby wipe

I tried adding a mask/stencil combination to fix the design

Even with the addition of the mask/stencil, I wasn't happy with the design
I refit the first stencils, and tried adding a darker blue accent
Still messy, and not at all what I envisioned, and the black word is too harsh.
White gesso fixes everything, right?
Or does lime green fix everything?
I gave up and decided to paint over it with lime green. It was hideous. So, as a last resort, I covered it all with black paint. Once dry, I added a few stencils with white acrylic. When the white was dry, I covered any smears and smudges with a black textile marker.

Instead of using the handwritten word "flourish" that I had intended, I used circular mini alphabet stamps for the word, which I applied carefully to a piece of cardstock, then attached with metal brads. I liked the contrast between the feminine stencil shapes, the geometric lettering, and the metal brads. I also embraced the imperfection of both my stenciling and stamping techniques. The flip side of having a "loose hand" is that it is really hard for me to be neat and tidy.

While the black was drying, I had smeared the leftover aqua texture paste on a piece of deli paper. Once it dried, I used the leftover white paint to randomly stencil designs onto it. I liked the result. It also reinforced that I am, at my roots, a textile designer. Can't you just see this on fabric or wallpaper or as gift wrap? I used the same Gwen Lafluer, Jessica Sporn and Tim Holtz stencils I had been working with all afternoon.

With the tiny bit of blue textured paste that remained, I stenciled one of Gwen's Art Deco designs onto my new bullet journal. It fit perfectly!

  I covered the imperfections (because I am not a perfect stenciler!) with a black textile marker, then with a fine tip sharpie, added 2018 into the center circle.