Friday, July 06, 2012

It's Papergirl time again ...

Yes, it's that time again ... time to create something interesting to give away to complete strangers on the street. After mulling over no less than 5 different ideas in my journal, I found myself drawn back (pardon the pun) to these organic plant-type thingies I've been creating lately. They popped up last month just in time to become Artist Trading Cards (see my post on the Vancouver ATC blog if you want the whole story) and I guess I'm not done with them yet. Pictured below are two incarnations they've had lately ... first as ATCs (as mentioned) and since I had some left over after our ATC session, the leftovers are being turned into book covers that I can give away as part of Michael DeMeng's Art Abandonment project.

For the Papergirl project I'm all about quantity (share the love, right?) ... so my plan was to create a simple black and white artwork and then print a 100 or so of them for Papergirl Vancouver to distribute. I love organizing things on a grid, so I made 4 variations of each of the 4 designs, drawn on text pages from an interesting (and damaged) German book I found years ago.

Here's the full grid of drawings ... I'm calling it Botanical Studies, but that might be a bit of leap, since it's more like Botanical Imaginings, what with me not actually looking at anything while I drew them. I'm terribly terribly tempted to paint one panel on each print when they're printed ... but there's something simple and beautiful in the black and white by itself, and what with the time crunch ~ the deadline for Papergirl submissions is July 18 ~ I may leave them as they are ... any thoughts?

The funny thing is that I was completely unable to decide between my 5 other ideas ... all very interesting and they may see the light of day some other day, but when these popped back into my head this morning I knew where I was headed, and I had the whole thing completed before lunch. Oh, and in case you were wondering what I did last year for Papergirl ... here's a little reminder.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Postcard Love ...

Just thought I'd post a quickie pic of the postcards I made for a recent International Postcard Swap I participated in ... they're on the way to their various recipients, all of whom are new art contacts for me, so there's very little chance they're reading my blog (yet!), so they won't see what's headed their way ... but I thought you folks might like a look. If you detect a certain "bantockishness" to them you'd be right ... I'm getting in the groove for an upcoming class with Nick Bantock.

Gotta say not only is this one of my favourite colour schemes ~ gold + blue (notice how it matches my blog background?), it's also one of my favourite themes (celestial). Now if only I could have worked a map in there somewhere, my life would be complete. Well, maybe not ... but you know ... some things just make you happy, and even looking at these postcards all spread out on my worktable was deeply satisfying. Now ... off to make more art!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Caran d'Ache, Watercolours and Other Stuff ...

In my last post I mentioned that I'd discovered a new way to use Caran d'Ache water-soluble crayons as watercolours, so I thought while I'm at it, I might as well show you my *new* portable art kit that I've put together. As my friends have heard me say (perhaps a little too often?), if I'd known how much I was going to love these crayons I would've bought the big box. I bought a set of 30 while at Artfest a few years back, and even though they were on sale, and the store was giving Artfest attendees a further discount, I still hesitated. It's not that I didn't think they were worth it, but I already have way too many art supplies that "other people love" only to find that I can't make them do interesting things in my hands. My problem, not theirs. Anywho ...

For the first three years of their lives, my Caran d'Ache sat in a neatly spectrumized row in their original tin, and then one day I needed to do a background, and the most efficient way to do it was by breaking a crayon  (gasp!) and using it on its side. I paused, thought about it, and then, ceremoniously, broke my first crayon. And then I broke them all, one after one. And I lived. I know that might sound weird, but I'm funny about keeping things pristine in the package, just in case, oh I don't know, I get audited by the Art Police or something (I didn't say it was logical). Two things happened after that ... every trip to Port Townsend and Akamai Arts led me to buying more Caran d'Ache, and I moved my little half-crayons to a lovely thin little tin (less prone to coming open and spilling and all that sort of un-Virgo stuff). But (and you saw this coming, didn't you?) one day, even broken in half, I'd bought so many new colours that they could no longer fit in the lovely little tin. Uh oh. I graduated to a larger tin, and the new tin had room for Other Stuff. This is the story of the Other Stuff, and how, at our last retreat, I discovered I might actually *like* watercolour painting, something which has mystified (and possibly terrified) me for years. 

So ... left to right in the photo ... elastic hairband (more about that later), Mini Mister, scribbles of Caran d'Ache on label backing sheet, bit of old t-shirt (don't tell Mr. B.), dollar store paintbrush (cut to fit in tin), pop bottle cap, the Caran d'Ache I scribbled with, and the traveling tin. Oh, and the artwork? More on that later. It's taken about a year to perfect this little traveling kit. All packed up it measures 6.5" x 4.5" by 1", and is in fact, an old Maya Road tin I got years ago, its contents long gone. I've never been one of those people who likes BIG containers of water when I paint ~ too many opportunities for tragedy to my mind (hmmm ... must be the Virgo thing again). I prefer pouring a little water from the Mini Mister into a pop bottle cap, and cleaning my brush on the t-shirt scrap, or (truth be told) on the back of my hand (I know, I know, I'm a symphony of contradictions). But then I've never been the kind of person who slathers on acres of acrylic paint either, which would require the large pot of water and the Big Brushes.

Finding out that certain label backing sheets make excellent palettes was another bonus. Oh yes, I know, it *sounds* logical, but I discovered that not all label backing sheets are equal. Some are so slick that you can't scribble the crayons on them and that's no good either. Also (and quite coincidentally), a standard label backing sheet folded (or cut) in quarters, neatly fits in the Maya tin, too. Double bonus. The elastic headband holds the whole tin together because heaven knows it was *no good* at keeping my hair in place when I wore it. I think I must have a spherical head. But that's a discussion for another day.

Here's everything packed up to go ... the bit of damp T-shirt is rolled and tucked away so the wet is well away from the water-soluble crayons and the now dry bottle cap and the mini mister make sure it stays that way. The label backing sheet has been wiped clean of any residue and is folded in quarters ready to lay on top of the crayons and the little brushes, and the elastic headband waits to wrap it all up. The headband goes around the tin twice by the way, which is perfect when I want to elastic the tin to my journal for traveling.
Well, that's about it ... unless you were hanging around to see the artwork, in which case ...

These are my first attempts at illustrating somebody else's words ... in this case, the song "Parkette" by Bob Snider. I could rave on here about Bob Snider for awhile, and you'd probably understand him better by listening to him, but he's amazingly elusive online, which fits somehow with his persona. My first encounter with him was years ago when I was volunteering on the Admin Committee at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. A couple of us spent some time trying to track him down for a scheduled performance only to discover later that he'd been busking in the downtown eastside. I'm no musical expert, but I don't think I would describe his playing as dazzling or virtuoso. In fact, his style of playing and his banter are so warm and casual and understated that it's only about halfway through the song you realize your heart has been sucker-punched (in the best way possible) by his lyrics. "Parkette" is one of my favourite little nuggets of his work, a brief 1 minute and 40 seconds. The pages are not in order in my painting, in case you're wondering why it doesn't make sense ~ and I'm only show you half, since the final project will be printed back-to-back. When I say "printed" I'm being optimistic. I thought when I got inspired to paint his lyrics that it'd be an easy thing to contact him and get permission to create and print my little book, but as I say, he's darned elusive online, and I've yet to get through to someone who can ask him if it's cool with him that I've created this. But when I do get through, and if he gives the okay, there may be a minizine in the making. But, in the meantime, I've definitely gotten over my irrational fear of watercolours.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Home from another wonderful retreat ...

Just back from another art retreat and thought I'd share a few photos ... clockwise, from top left: a freshly-minted muslin Gypsy King enjoys the "reading" table ... a fun little stamped banner was hung over a vintage photo by the front door... a *very* cool set of thin alphabet stamps ... an aerial view of my caran d'ache crayons and my washi tape collection ... the "paint table" was in full swing ... even the "freebie" table looks beautiful without trying ... and in the center, someone's well-loved and well-used palette.

At midnight the day before we left, I was literally sitting in my studio without a clue what I would take with me to work on. Having just finished two sketchbooks for the Sketchbook Project, and a few other big projects, my head was unusually empty of inspiration and ideas. I've learned in times like those to go lay down on the bed with a notebook nearby and breathe deep for a few minutes - imagining the future stretching out like a prairie road in front of me and see what looks like it might be coming over the horizon. A half hour later I had near-enough to a brainwave to start packing ... and things went much faster after that.

And (of course) what happens is that when I get there and start seeing what everyone else is up to, the creative gears start turning. I spent the first evening bringing the Gypsy King to life. I discovered him on the "freebie" table with just enough paint in just enough places that he wasn't a blank slate, so to speak. His hair was already half orange/half blue, his eyes were drawn on and he had a heart. Somehow the presence of these merest of markings were enough to set me going. Throw in my recent readings on the history of Gypsies and Travelers, and I soon enough found his character taking shape and colour. I wish I'd had the smarts to take a before picture, but you'll just have to take my word for it that he was nothing like he is now.

In lieu of paints, I used sharpies and caran d'ache crayons to add all the colour and pattern. That's the funny thing about *not* having a plan ... if you don't have a plan, you can't not be following it, if you catch my drift. But I quickly discovered that drawing on a soft muslin doll with hard crayons is not so easy, and this led me serendipitously to a new way to use caran d'ache crayons like watercolours by scribbling a "puddle" of colour on glossy card and using a wet paintbrush to soak up the pigment and paint the muslin. Not only did I get the full range of colours I already had, but by scribbling two colours together, I could really control the palette. I went on to use this technique to do some "real watercolours" later during the weekend (which I'll share in another post) and I have the unplanned Gypsy King to thank for it.

After having spent a few good hours bringing him to life, he looked a little bored when I perched him on the windowsill behind me ~ yes, I know, he's not real ~ but I still felt compelled to give him something to keep him occupied while I continued on with my creative weekend, so I tore out some pages from an old stamp catalog and made him a book filled with postage stamps of places he can dream of visiting. And once he had a book, the reading table was the logical place to be. Happily, he also joins a growing list of "interesting things I didn't know I was going to make when I got there". I love these retreats. I wish everyone in the world could go off and do what we go off and do ~ be creative, supportive and spontaneous. It's really amazing what comes out of it.

Friday, May 04, 2012

And here's a little more from the Science of Story ...

 Here are two more spreads from The Science of Story. As you can imagine, I had quite a bit of fun combining scientific charts, graphs and diagrams with text about writing. I've always been fascinated with "infographics". Not sure why that is, although I've heard that women are strong visual learners, and we very much like to see the relationships between things rather than just absorbing masses of information. I'm no expert, but I do know I often feel a bit at sea learning something new till I have a visual framework to hang all the info on, so it makes sense to me.

The Science of Story is part of the Sketchbook Project - Limited Edition, which means that at least one of my pages will be chosen for publication in a series of books the Brooklyn Art Library plans to publish. When I signed up I saw that the range of topics for the Limited Edition was quite a bit shorter than  previous projects they've launched. I'm hoping this means they'll be publishing a book for each topic and someday I can look forward to seeing an entire book on The Science of Story through many different artists' eyes. And wouldn't that be fun? Oh yes ...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Story of Science of Story continues ...

Just popping in to post two more page spreads from my current project on deadline for Monday (eek!). Okay, not eek, because I'm *nearly* done ... just looking for an old photo of me in a lab coat for the About the Author page at the back. Did I mention I'm trying to make it look like an old textbook? Okay, not a *real* textbook, but you know, an artist's interpretation of a textbook on the science of stories as if stories were a science. Okay ... I'm gonna stop talking now ...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Working on a new set of twins ...

 I can't believe it's been almost a month since Artfest. I keep hoping I'll get time to post some Artfest stuff ... but time marches on, and art deadlines march right along with it.

Just at the moment I have two big projects in the works .. both with April 30th deadlines, which goes a long way to explaining my recent absence from blog-world.

Here are two little teasers on one of the projects: The Sketchbook Project (Limited Edition). The first thing I did when I got my blank sketchbook was take out *their* pages and replace them with some blueprints I've gathered from various sources. I knew from the beginning that I'd be working with my theme (The Science of Story,  cover as shown) by diagramming the writing process as it might be portrayed in a science textbook.

As usual I started with a massive amount of notes, ideas and scribblings that I hoped would turn into coherent pages when the time came. Well, the time has come and yep - all those notes are coming in *very* handy, and by the end of the week I should have all 16 (!) spreads finished. Here's one I finished this evening ... first I drew the circle's edge and lightly gessoed the circle. Then I divvied up the circle as a pie chart and wrote out some of the places where story ideas come from. By the way, I'm not claiming ANY scientific accuracy in any of the diagrams in the book ... I'm just having a little fun thinking about the Science of Story and what that textbook might look like.

As usual, I'm making two books at once so I'll have one to keep. I'll post more page spreads over the next little while ... and when the Science of Story is on it's way, maybe then I'll have time to show you what I did at Artfest ... till then, this'll have to do  ...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oooooo .... pretty ...

Sorry ... couldn't resist showing you the rainbow of painted buttons I finished today to trade at Artfest. Is it just me or do they look like giant, shiny, tasty smarties? They look so pretty all spread out together, I've been running them through my fingers like a colour-demented Scrooge McDuck, enjoying how they feel and sound ... oh, and trying to figure out how to keep them all for myself. Mwah-hah-hah.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Whoosh! Say ... wasn't that a deadline?

This year's trades: Books, Mini-Zines, Buttons & Tags

Time tends to speed up as Artfest approaches, and this is especially true when it's time to make all those items to trade with other attending artists. I decided to make a variety of items since this'll be the last Artfest (insert moment of silence here).

The largest (and most collaborative!) trade item is the Book of Faces (top left). I posted an invite on the Artfest Yahoo group for people to send black and white line drawings of faces to add to my ongoing collection ~ an attempt to encourage myself to draw more faces. I'm pleased to say the finished book contains more than 150 drawings, as well as additional sections on tracing and clipart, as well as blank pages so people can continue to add their own faces.

Also included (by kind permission of Kathy Barbro) is a section I'm calling "Art Projects for (Big) Kids", which features some of the face-themed projects over on her Art Projects for Kids website. Her site  has *way* more than face-related art projects, and I highly encourage you to surf over and have a look, particularly if you have children or, what the heck, if you've ever been a child. The full-size version of my Book of Faces will be traded with people who submitted drawings, and I've made four mini-zine excerpts of the book (the blue covers along the right-hand side of the photo) to trade with other attendees. I'm so pleased with how they all turned out ~ and relieved to have them all done in time!

I'm also making some laminated luggage tags with some cool thread "dribbles" on the back. Mr B. wanted to know how exactly you "dribble" thread ...he insisted it's not really possible ... of course, when I showed him what I was doing, he agreed that dribbling was as good a word as any he could think of.

Artfest-wise, I'm also making some fun 1" buttons, as well as participating in the Artfest ATC book AND the 4x4 chunky book, but thank heavens all those bits and pieces were sent to their respective organizers long ago. I might even manage to get a few more ATCs made when all is said and done. Whoosh, indeed!

For any of you who've been to Artfest, I don't need to tell you how wonderful and rare an experience it is. So, here's a shout out to Lelainia for taking me to my first Artfest years ago, and bunches and bunches of appreciation for all the fabulous teachers and like-minded friends who've grown out of my Artfest connection. I know this last Artfest will be amazing and bittersweet and I plan to soak up every little bit of it ~ hence the overkill in my participation this year. I wish Teesha and Tracy and their whole gang all the best as they set their sails for other projects and artistic horizons.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Map of Heaven ...

Over on Jill Berry's Personal Geographies blog, she's talking journal maps and such, and I thought I'd share an early map I made ... it was one of those odd collaboratives I often get invited to.

The instructions from the organizer went something like this:  Make a map of Heaven / Nirvana / the Great Beyond. Make it literal, figurative, spiritual, scientific, historic, tragic, comic or from a great height, but take it and run with it. Make a huge map that can't be refolded, make a laminated pocket map for heavenly tourists. Make an X marks the spot map for pirates. Make a bus map for the Always-Standing-in-Line thinking: "Where in Hell is my bus?". Make a map of the stars in another Universe. Make a map of the Galactic Railway. Make a "How Things Work" map with woolly mammoths. Make a map of Atheist's Heaven. The possibilities are endless. After your map is made, make it interesting to handle ... hexagonal, circular, dodecahedronal, make Buckminster Fuller proud! Just think, if only Lucifer had a map, maybe that whole Heaven/Hell divide never would have happened. Send me enough copies of your map to give everybody one. Deadline: All Saints Day (Ahem!).

Wish I could remember who organized this one ... it was years ago through (which, to this DAY, I still miss, although swapbot is a pretty good replacement).

My "plan" was an aerial view of Heaven as a labyrinth in greenery ... and the basic layout was slightly eccentric concentric ovals with breaks between the hedges ... so it would be fingerprintish in nature. The idea being that Heaven is as individual as You Are (as noted in the lower right corner). I had a lot of fun filling in what you would find as you got closer and closer to the center of the maze.

Meanwhile, over on Jill's blog, she's asking people to post maps on our blogs and link over to hers for a giveaway, and while you're there, be sure to listen to her being interviewed by Rice in the Voodoo Lounge. I love all the questions about research ... I do a WHACK of research for all my art projects as well, even if only 10% of what I discover makes it into my final creation, so I could certainly identify with Jill's process. I finally got a copy of Jill's Personal Geographies book as well ... so I am definitely *steeped* in maps at the moment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Time Traveling Twins ...

As quoted from Wikipedia: "In physics, the twin paradox is a thought experiment in special relativity, in which a twin makes a journey into space in a high-speed rocket and returns home to find he has aged less than his identical twin who stayed on Earth."

You Are Here ...
In my case, these twins are books I created for the Sketchbook Project. And before you ask, Yes, it was twice as much work to make two, but given my personal rule ("Always Make Two") when it comes to artwork, I couldn't *not* make two.

Since the Sketchbook Project people encourage participants to be creative, to think outside the book if you will, the first thing I did was disassemble the book as supplied and create my own internal pages, as well as creating my own blank book to keep. The books are divided in three sections: (predictably) The Past, the Present and The Future. The Present is a single page, while the Past accordions out to the left, and The Future accordions out to the right, each filled with stuff I've thought about, written about and imagined about time travel, the passage of time and the effects of time on the human experience.

The Past  ... how far back do you want to go?
I've been reading Science Fiction since I was a kid, which wasn't really typical of girls where I grew up. I'd like to point out that I was reading Science Fiction, not Fantasy. As soon as a story introduced a Wizard, a Dwarf or Magic I was OUT OF THERE. I attribute this to reading Dune before Lord of the Rings .. in fact, I never got even made it through LotR, or any of its many brothers.

The Future ... how do you prepare for the unknown?
Anywho ... when I saw Time Travel as an option for a theme on the Sketchbook Project, I knew it was for me. I spent a few months re-reading my favourite SF books on the theme, and making notes and diagrams. I think I probably have enough material in my notes to *actually* time travel when the technology finally gets invented. I even attended a lecture on "The Art and Science of Time Travel" at the British Library while on vacation in London last summer. I was in heaven ... 5 fabulous panelists (including Audrey Niffennegger!), a packed audience (250+) and 2 hours of all the Time Travel you can handle ... one of the best nights of my life. I obviously need to get out more ...

PS ~ I've only shown you a bit of the final books here ... but the twin that's part of the Sketchbook Project's touring exhibit will also be digitized in their online library ... not sure how they're going to deal with the whole accordioning thing ... but, hey, they said be creative ... I assume they'll let me know when the images are online and I'll post the link here on my blog. Now ... off you go, into *your* futures ... :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Steampunk Tarot Cards are ready to go ...

Since my cards are on their way to the organizer of the Steampunk Tarot project, I think it's safe to reveal them. I worked simultaneously on both the Page of Gears (gears replacing pentacles/coins in this deck) and the Seven of Daggers. Whenever I got stuck on some design quibble for one (or the paint needed to dry), I shifted over to the other card to keep things moving. Just as I finished my cards, the organizer asked me if I'd like to take on another one to cover for someone who had to drop out, so I took on Strength as well.

I enjoy the process of creating these cards. I like to do a fair bit of research before I start because many of the participants actually use them for readings, so it's important to get the perfect blend of maintaining some connection with Tarot decks past, while keeping in touch with the theme of the deck. The first thing I did is find as many different visual references as possible from previous decks and look for A) things I have half a chance of being able to draw and B) things that can be tweaked to fit the current Steampunk theme. Part of the project included writing the text for the card, so a lot of reading on past Tarot decks is useful too ~ again because people will be using our cards for more than artistic appreciation.

My cards are a blend of: A) images I CAN draw, B) textures I can create, C) printed papers, D) clipart and E) stamped images. For instance the backgrounds on all three cards were created using background photos or printed paper .... on the Strength card the city seen through the porthole is a photo of old Budapest ... for the Seven of Daggers I printed the text and clipart lanterns straight onto an old map ... on the Page of Gears the background is a skymap of the Milky Way.

One of the fun 'hidden' things on each card for me is some paper I made when I was playing with layered paint. I'm a big chicken when it comes to layering paint. I almost always hate what I make ~ and this time was no exception. I painted a couple of sheets of cardstock with gesso and then layered on black paint, red paint, more gesso, more paint, splodging with sponges ... uh oh ... seriously ugly paper and I chucked it aside ... till I started this project. While scrounging around my piles of papers for something I realized my Ugly Paper had Great Texture, it was just the Wrong Colour. I took out my Caran D'Ache crayons and had a go at it ... and hey ... this has potential.

On the Strength card, the texture became the perfect 'hammered' metal for the wall and floor of the dirigible she's riding in. On the Seven of Daggers, I divided the walkway into bricks and accented the brick edges ... et voila ... a stone floor. For the Page of Gears, I redrew the Page (remember my drawing from my last post?) onto the textured page, and then Caran D'Ache'd the coat red, the pants blue, the hat and boots brown. I could never get the face light enough so I gesso'd over those sections and added skin colour. I guess the moral of the story is: save the ugly stuff, you'll never know when it'll be just what you're looking for.

I can hardly wait to see the rest of the cards in this deck. This is the first project I've been involved in where we've done the WHOLE deck ~ a rare treat, and a theme I really like, too.