Friday, November 21, 2014

The evolution of a project ...

Last September I wrote about the evolution of an idea. Today's post is about how a project grew from seeing something that piqued my creative curiosity to hosting a collaborative project inspired by it and eventually developing a teachable class.

It started with this: London, A Three-Dimensional Expanding City Skyline by Sarah McMenemy. I found this book (surprise!) in London. There was something so lovely about it  - how it folded out so big (over three feet long when extended) and condensed to something so small (just over 4" x 4.5"). And then there's the colours, the sights featured (been there! done that!), the die cut skyline, the extra pop-up bits - yum! Looking this up on Amazon I see she's done other locations as well: Paris, New York, Berlin, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (oh my!).

When I got  home I put it away, as one often does with the little treasures of travel, but it popped into my mind 6 months ago while looking for the next collaborative for the Vancouver Artist Card Group (of which I am the humble organizer). I organize 2-3 collaboratives a year for the group ~ I think it would be shame to have a group of creatives together and not *do* something. So I took out the expanding London and tried to condense it (if you will pardon the pun) into something a group could manage, and something I could create instructions for. Then I created a prototype, which looked like this:

I thought it looked like a fun and do-able group project. I particularly enjoyed creating the backs of the houses with bicycles and recycling bins, as you can see above. So ... I created a set of instructions, a set of templates for possible house shapes and went off to the next ATC group meeting with sign-up sheet in hand. I had a good response from the group, and (as I was hoping) they got creative in a whole bunch of ways ~ from houses with onion-shaped roofs, to cars in the driveway and lots of other little details. Here's the collaborative village ...

One day, I was chatting with Sue Farrant, who hosts the Paper Angels Art Retreat twice a year, and she asked me what I'd been up to and I dug out the Accordion Village collaborative and she got this twinkle in her eye and said: How would you feel about developing this into a class for the next retreat? She told me Stampin' Up had a new set of stamps and dies in house shapes that would be perfect for this. I hesitated a little. It's been awhile since I taught an actual "class". I mean, I teach *all the time* at the ATC group, but it's just chatting with friends, so there's not much pressure. Then she showed me the paper she had in mind for the project and it was so deliciously wintery without being Christmassy (long story) that I pretty much had to go for it. And so I did (how's that for condensing a very long story into a very short one? Lol).

And here's the result ...
I taught the class at the November Paper Angels Retreat, and I'm very pleased to say that all ten students left with something looking very much like the prototype ... each with their own individual twist on decoration, mind you, which is another concern I had ... I'm all about everyone finding their voice and while I knew the important thing was to teach the structure (accordion book), I *really* wanted them to see how flexible this project is when it comes to personal taste. The stamp set itself is *very* flexible. In fact, the weekend before the retreat, on Hallowe'en night (we have zero trick-or-treaters in our neighbourhood, so I was completely undisturbed) I made a Hallowe'en version:
The stamp set not only has wintery and Christmassy things, it also has bats, a ghost and spidery cobweb.  A simple change of paper colours, and the whole thing looks completely different. For the Hallowe'en village I made backs for the houses using what I call my "brayer layers" ~ the leftovers where I clean my brayer on Reader's Digest text pages while playing with my Gelli plate. In my studio nothing goes to waste! And the die cuts made it easy to do ~ no fussy cutting of shapes ~ bonus!

So, there you are ... from inspiration to collaboration to instruction in three steps. And for those of you who're interested ... I created a 12-page full-colour step-by-step instruction book for the project, and I've also got Winter Village kits using the same papers we used in the class (as shown in the Winter Village photos above). The kits have everything pre-stamped and pre-cut, and include all the trimmings so you can make your own winter village. The books by themselves are $10 and the totally ready-to-go kits (including a book) are $25, postage included. Just send me an email and let me know if you're interested.

And that whole teaching thing? Yep ... guess I'll be doing more of that ... there's another Paper Angels retreat coming up in the spring, and if Sue asks me ... I've already got ideas dancing in my head ... you might want to watch this blog for more info ...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sketchbooks revisited ... part two: cover stories

Ever have those days when you're attracted to a particular colour palette? Brown kraft + black + white has always been my thing anyway, and it certainly doesn't hurt that the original covers on the Sketchbook Project Sketchbooks are that nice earthy brown to start with. In my own contributions to The Sketchbook Project, I've never been able to resist covering up everything with colour, but I find all the above covers unspeakably beautiful and oh so wish that I'd come up with them myself.

Left to right on the top row we have: Simple Beautiful Things by Staci Adman, Atlas of Turning 50 by Robin Matthews and Fox + Owl by Shawna Handke
Left to right on the bottom there's: i no longer feel the need to ask permission by kelly letky, untitled by therese murdza and untitled by artist unknown (sorry!).

Staci Adman's Simple Beautiful Things is all it says it is. I highly encourage you to look at the whole book online. I posted one of it's pages, Fall vs. Summer Honey, in my previous post, but truly every single page is quite, quite amazing and made me want to rush home immediately and journal all my little treasures with a similar care and magic. And notice the lovely little beads along the spine - simple AND beautiful!

Fox + Owl is a lovely work of torn text page collage and paint by Shawna Handke. Some pages are breathtakingly beautiful and it would be a tragedy if they weren't seen by more people, so go there now.

Kelly Letky's i no longer feel the need to ask permission is a great example of how to marry striking natural images with deep personal poetry. I felt like I was reading a work that ought to be published for a wider audience.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it barely begins to cover the tactile satisfaction of therese murdza's untitled. omg. I *so* did not want to let this book go. The combination of crunchy gesso, text page collages and simple mark making had me envious at first sight. Why oh why do I fill my sketchbooks with complex cerebral ideas when something like this is so gobsmackingly delicious?

I feel bad about not getting the info on the last book. Up to this point in the day I'd been studiously taking pictures of the back cover of each book, and noting whether or not it was digitized for your viewing pleasure, but I guess the sketchbooks were flying thick and fast and I didn't make a note of the author's name on this one, for which I am truly sorry. I tried finding it on the Sketchbook Project website, but either it wasn't digitized, or wasn't tagged with a searchable word. The book was a touching story of a woman whose mother chose medical denial for what was (by the author's judgement) a 98% treatable kind of cancer. It was a hard read in some ways ... but unable to talk to her mother about her hopes and frustrations, I like to think by telling all of us, she was letting go of things in her own beautiful way. I'll keep looking and see if I can find it online, but (ironically?) the odds aren't good.

Okey, dokey ... time for a little colour! Top left: Encyclopedia of Sharks - Part XI by Pascal Lecocq. Okay ... so Part XI isn't digitized, but some of his previous shark encyclopedias are. If sharks are your thing, I'd start with the first one, and then you can work your way through Parts 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. You don't have to, and of course they're about more than sharks. I just loved his cover, so blue blue blue in a sea of brown (if you'll pardon the pun).

Top right is Atlas of My Dreams by Sonja NYC. I was immediately amazed by the use of thread on the Australian coast on the cover. I pretty much love anything that incorporates fiber in unexpected ways and this was beautifully done. The inner content never mentions Australia, instead it features Alice in Wonderland and sea creatures. Mysterious ...

Bottom left is Greetings from South Africa by Mieke van der Merwe ~ a cover (and book) that shouts it's beautiful detail from start to finish. I know very little about South Africa but this book's lovely colourful  line drawings and paintings of buildings, people, cameras and condiments (condiments?!) makes me want to go there.

Lastly, bottom right, is Map of the Table by Bonnie Hull. Now this is truly a case of not judging a book by its cover. I loved the cover right off ... triangular duct-tape snow-covered mountains, running along a duct-tape road, looking up to a fabulous blue duct-tape sky ... wonderful and tactile ... and absolutely no hint on the cover that inside there's a quirky string of simple line drawings of ... stuff on tables. A sense of the everyday  captured on various tables at various times ... tax time, breakfast time, meeting time, dinner time. I almost saved this one for my next post on fabulous inspiring line drawings, but since this post is about covers, the cover won out.

More next time ...

Monday, July 28, 2014

One for the bees ...

Just a brief little postette ... a bit of art I created over the weekend prompted by a challenge created by Effy Wild for her ning group. Say what you will, but sometimes having a jumping off point can be really satisfying when you're feeling creative but don't really have anything specific in mind.

I thought about "finding" a good bee quote to use as inspiration, but (as usual) the act of reading a bunch of bee quotes and not seeing one that grabbed me generated some writing of my own. When in doubt, use your own stuff, I always say.

The background is blueprint paper that's been gelli printed using my 6x6" gelli plate on Impression Obsession's plexiglass Mega Mount designed for their 6x6 Cover-a-Card rubber stamps. It's a cool quick way to get multiple layers of paint and texture on a big sheet of paper, and I just keep stamping and stamping till I figure that paper's had enough.

The bees are acetone image transfers. They come from Clipart, Etc, my favourite online resource for black and white images (historical, biological, etc etc). The flowers are from Stampin Up. There are a few random bits of collage and washi tape here and there.

The poem was created ransom-note style on scraps of paper using miscellaneous rubber stamp letters, rub-on letters and the ever-so-handy (but impossible to find at the moment?) Tim Holtz Label Letters. If I don't find more of these soon, I may need to make my own, which is a shame since I love the font (Dymo labeler!) and how each letter is already pre-cut. I created each word separately and then figured out the word spacing on the finished piece afterward.

Nothing too grand, but for some reason I really like it. It's funny (at least to me) that I'm always trying for "casual primitive" and wind up with "neatly organized". Think I'll just blame it on my Virgoness and learn to live with it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sketchbooks revisited ... part one ...

I know, I know ... haven't blogged in ages. Sorry 'bout that. I blame Pinterest. Or something. Actually Pinterest totally changed the way I record my thoughts, curate images of stuff I want to remember and do. I haven't journalled *properly* since I started doing Pinterest. I miss journalling the way I used to. Oh wait ... you mean I can go back to it? Cool.

Now ... on to the sketchbooks!

As some of you know, every year I participate in the The Brooklyn Art Library's annual Sketchbook Project. I've done 4 books already and I'm already working on my 2015 submission. I like trying to get enough coherent thoughts and ideas in a single location to make a book. I like sharing. I really like having a deadline. And I always always always look forward to when their annual tour hits Vancouver, which it did this past Sunday, July 13th, on Granville Island.

Sunday promised to be very hot, maybe a little hotter than we're used to, but I couldn't imagine not being there. The idea of a little trailer packed with 4000+ sketchbooks from artists all over the world, not to mention hanging out with a bunch of like-minded Vancouverites, is just too good to miss.

Thanks to limited computer access we weren't issued the usual library cards, or able to do that whole digital scan checkout/checkin process. I say "thanks" because this meant we just walked up to the counter and they handed us a pile of books. Be still my beating heart. At my table we very quickly developed a rotation system, handing them off to others as we finished reading till the books made the circuit, and then someone would return some books and get more. There were just SO MANY sketchbooks to look at, and only 4 hours to do it in, but I think I looked at twice as many books as last year. Thank you very much, limits of technology!

I don't want to get too talky here ... mostly want to show you some of the great sketchbooks I looked at, some of which you can view in their entirety on the Sketchbook Project's Digital Library. Don't worry ... I'll give you links at the bottom of this post so you can zip right to them if you want to see the whole book ... here goes:

An appropriate beginning, the first sketchbook I looked at ... Robin Matthews' Atlas of Turning 50.


Two pages from Kathryn Lynn Buncik's Many Compositions.

The delightfully quirky line, thread, way by Hilda Richers-Kieseritzky.
The delightfully colourful Sky Sandwiches by Sinead Hanley
The deliciously rendered "Fall vs. Summer Honey" from Staci Adman's Simple Beautiful Things.
And here are the links if you want to see these books in full at the Sketchbook Project's Digital Library:
Robin Matthews, Waynesville, NC - Atlas of Turning 50 - not available online yet ... sorry!
Kathryn Lynn Buncik, Jackson, TN - Many Compositions 
Hilda Richers-Kieseritzky, Nienburg, Niedersachsen, Germany - line, thread, way 
Sinead Hanley, Melbourne, Australia - sky sandwiches
Staci Adman, Kenmore, WA - Simple Beautiful Things 

I took *a lot* of photos, and I'll be back in a day or two to show you some of my favourites and talk about them a bit more ... lovely covers, amazing line drawings and texture, texture, texture. You're coming back, right?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just a little Wes-obsessed at the moment ...

I realize it's been ages since I posted anything here. Not that I haven't been creating, I've just haven't been talking about it. I've been creating plenty, including this page, which is one of my submissions for Owen Clements wonderful kickstarter project: Wes Anderzine!

I'm a relative newcomer to Wes Anderson movies, but I'm just a teeny bit obsessed with them at the moment. I think that might be normal if you like his movies. I never quite know how to describe them to people who haven't seen them. Quirky is apt, but it barely scratches the surface. They're like quirky to the nth degree. They satisfy on so many levels it's almost an overload on the senses. You can watch the first time for the story, then again for the characters, then again for the dialogue, then again for the colours, then again for the design details, and documents, and aerial views, and camera pans, and music, and well, you get the drift ... it's like trying to pick your favourite part of a kaleidoscope as it changes before your eyes.

The artwork above is inspired by Suzi in Moonrise Kingdom, my favourite Wes Anderson movie so far. Suzi and Sam are perhaps the sweetest, quasi-tragic pair of star-crossed not-quite-old-enough-to-be lovers I've seen on screen since Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (but with a happier ending). I could go on about the movie for awhile, but it's like trying to pin down mercury - so I won't. But any movie that features a library book obsessed, binocular wearing, scissor wielding, misunderstood preteen heroine is already leaps and bounds ahead of most Hollywood-generated blockbusters as far as I'm concerned.

Like Suzi, I'm a little book-obsessed myself, and one of my favourite non-parts of Moonrise Kingdom is this little gem of a video book review with The Narrator. Do you like to read?

As a kickstarter backer, as well as a contributor, I'm eagerly awaiting my very own copy of Wes Anderzine, Volume 2 to arrive from England. Congrats to Owen for hosting such an amazing project and for letting all us wesandergeeks contribute. I heart collaboratives, and the quirkier, the better. Looking forward to seeing more Wes Anderson movies so I can contribute to Volume 3.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Evolution of an Idea ...

Sometimes in the creative process your brain finds something interesting ~ an image, a process, a juxtaposition ~ and then one day you realize its been showing up in your work in different ways over a period of time without any apparent conscious decision on your part. I thought I might present a series of works I've done over the last year to illustrate this point ...

The first (known) occurrence of what I've decided to call "little tree" syndrome happened at a retreat I attended last October called Faith and the Arts, hosted by Jill Cardwell, organizer of the Creativitea meetup group. Some of you may be surprised to find me at a retreat called Faith and the Arts. So was I. One of the things I've said about my strict religious upbringing is that it acted more as an immunization against religion rather than an indoctrination. But setting that aside, I think the creative experience is also a spiritual one and when presented with an opportunity to "be present" with whatever drives my creativity, and to share that time with other people considering the same question, I attended with an open mind and an open heart.

At the retreat we were given a blank journal, and over the course of the 3 days I filled it with collages, writing and drawings. One day we began our creative exploration with a simple, elegant prayer, which I later collaged into the journal spread below. Something about the earthiness of the magazine imagery I found and the way I tore the top edge created a kind of hillside and made me think of the main part of the page as "subterranean", so I decided to reinforce that by drawing little trees along the hill's top edge ...

A few months later I went away to my regular art journalling retreat (I know, I know ~ how lucky am I to have all these retreats to go to?) and I was playing around in one of my ongoing projects La Musee d'une Vie Inventee (The Museum of an Invented Life), and I found myself again creating a page with that same subterranean dark hillside feel. And again, a tree just seemed like the thing that was needed. This time I added some roots, perhaps to show that the character exiting on the right was not only leaving the landscape behind, but also her roots ...

A few months later, I was working on my submission for The Sketchbook Project. I'd decided to illustrate a  short story I'd written in my journal a few years ago, and (since I can't draw) I thought it might be fun to do it using torn paper collage. At one point I realized I wanted tall trees, and realizing the limitation of fine detail with torn collage, I decided to draw them. The little trees in my previous work came to the rescue, although I'm not sure my attempt was completely successful, at least they *do* look like trees ...

A few months ago my art journalling group had an Art Journal Zine Exchange ~ something we do from time to time to share our work with each other, and I wanted to include some of the pages from the Faith and the Arts retreat, but the page size was a completely different shape and size. I photocopied the original pages to a smaller size and then shortened them as well. The prayer seemed out of context with the rest of the zine, so I replaced it with inspiring quotes, something my art journal group also shares with each other on a regular basis ...

Okay .. we're almost up to the present ... a few weeks ago I bought a LARGE jar of black gesso. Like a lifetime supply. I started painting some more background pages in La Musee d'une Vie Inventee, and had a bit left over (you know how it is) ... I grabbed some blank ATCs so that nothing would go to waste. And the first swipe across my card was (you guessed it) ... that hillside shape again. So I painted a bunch of them. Like 30. I had to get more black gesso, but when a good idea strikes I feel it would be just rude to ignore it. After the ATCs dried,  I started drawing (you guessed it) ... little trees. Which were shortly joined by fences (as in the page above with the person leaving the landscape). As I was drawing I was thinking about human-scaled objects that might be seen in silhouette on hilltops, and I thought of parks, park benches and bicycles, so I threw a couple of those in as well. And when I'd drawn all the little pictures, I remembered the quotes I'd added to the zine pages, and started looking through some random text pages that I keep on my desktop for cleaning my brayer when I'm using the gelli plate, and little stories started to appear ...


I'm calling them "momentaries", as in commentaries on little moments, maybe? Well, anyway ... yesterday while working on the last of the momentaries to prepare for my ATC group trading session this upcoming Sunday, one story surfaced that seemed to be particularly meaningful and made me stop and think of all sorts of other moments. I'm not sure what it might mean for anyone else, but it felt like it wanted to be shared and it felt like the right thing to follow that instinct ...

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Recent adventures in art : giving books the eyeball ...

Left: "Temptation". Right "Dragon Watch"
One evening last week my friend Tammy dropped by with some new fun art material to play with. She'd recently taken a class creating "eyeball" books and thought I might enjoy making one for myself. She was oh so right.

In my opinion, you can always tell a good art material by how much it bends to the artist's vision. And in this case, I didn't so much have a vision as a hunch. Well, actually not so much a hunch as a willingness to see what popped up when I started playing. The base books are quite small and very very cheap. Like dollar store cheap. The sculpting material is apoxie clay ~ the jar A + jar B = hardens in air over the course of a couple of hours kind of clay. Not cheap, but definitely worth it.

"Dragon Watch" on the right measures 3.75" x 5.4" and was the first book I made. Wish I'd had the forethought to take pictures before I started, but I'm a *little* impatient when I get an idea. The original cover was matte black with big bright glossy flowers. You'd never know that now, of course.

After mixing A+B, I spread a thin layer completely over the front of the book, paying particular attention to those glossy flowers. I wasn't sure the apoxie would stick to them, but it held on marvelously. The focal point (no pun intended) is the eye. I dug through my random art supplies and found this beautiful clear sea green marble, and started layering bits of apoxie around it to form the eyelids and brow ridge. Almost immediately the marble seemed to turn black (no light shining through anymore - d'uh!). Ah well, live and learn, I figured. Once I had the eyeball in place, I began rolling small balls of apoxie clay and layering them around the eye in what seemed like a "natural" way. I resisted the urge to google lizards to see what I should be doing. I'm stubborn that way. As time passed, the apoxie was getting stiffer and stiffer, so it's a good thing my "hunch" wasn't too ambitious. The interesting thing for me was how lifelike it all turned out. Even before it was painted the eye just sort of looks at you. It's a little creepy, but in a good way, I guess.

The next day I (again!) didn't take a picture before painting. Just too impatient to get started. I decided to gesso the whole thing (front and back cover) to cover up the rest of the bright glossy flowers on the back, then I gave the whole thing an undercoat of purple. I know. Dragons aren't purple. But I wanted to get some layers in there and, following another hunch, purple seemed like the right colour. When that was dry I overpainted with Chromium Green, then rubbed off some of it to let some purple show through, and then lightly brushed the high areas with iridescent turquoise. The last step (which I have yet to do) is to find a nice bit of red ribbon to replace the current bookmark, so Dragon Watch will have a tongue! And the thing about the green-marble-now-turned-black is that in certain lights, you get a reflection from deep in the eye that makes you *really* feel like the book is looking back. Cool.

I had a bit of leftover apoxie mixed up (once you've mixed A+B together, there's no going back and apparently creating a dragon takes less clay than you think) so I decided to use it up on a second book.

The second book, "Temptation" (on the left) is a mere 3" x 4.25". I loved the little fabric circle on the front so much that I didn't want to cover it, and as I was rolling out the remaining apoxie into a "snake" of clay it occurred to me that I could indeed make a snake and have it curl around the circle. I'll confess right now that at this point I should have googled snakes to see what they look like (I'm pretty sure their heads look *nothing* like what I made), but the apoxie was getting stiffer by the minute and I just went for it. I had just the teeniest bit of leftover after I made the snake, so I thought I'd add one more little detail ... which turned out to be an apple. I wish I could say I'm clever enough to think of these things ahead of time ... oh yeah, I *totally* planned for a snake and an apple, but no ... I just wung it. (Wung it, as in past tense of "to wing it").

When the snake was down I was seriously impressed with how firmly the whole thing was stuck to the book. Even before it was dry I simply could not budge it. I made a diamond back pattern with my book-making awl (don't tell my book binding kit!), and then poked a series of holes that I thought I would glue beads into after painting, and a hole in the top of the apple for a stem of twisted wire, and a leaf of painted text paper sandwiched around some strong baling wire. The next morning I painted the snake with iridescent green and turquoise, and the apple in quinacridone red. Getting the beads in the holes was easy. Keeping them there was a whole other deal. You try sticking sticky beads in sticky holes with sticky fingers and get back to me. I eventually wound up using a pair of toothpicks as chopsticks, and then overpainted the whole thing with a layer of glue just to be safe. I was worried the glue would dull the iridescent paints, but it looks fine, and the beads are well and truly stuck. Phew!