Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Missing Artfest ...

As spring gets closer a part of my creative self is remembering this is the time of year (in past years) I'd  be getting ready for Artfest, which was hosted by Teesha and Tracy Moore and a crowd of volunteers. I'd be reading supply lists and gathering materials and thinking about how wonderful it is to gather with hundreds of like-minded artists for 5 intense days of learning and sharing. But (alas) Artfest is no more, so for this part of the process memories will have to do.

Oddly, what I miss most of all is making the trades. Given the population of Artfest (500+ artists), I took real pleasure in making small arty items to share with as many people as possible, and would often make something like 150 of whatever I'd decided to make, usually small books (quelle surprise!). I mean, how often in one's life (unless you're in manufacturing), do you get to sit down and make 150 of anything, particularly a small token of your creative self. Even now I find my fingers twitching to buy some little twiddle I've found in bulk with the idea that it would make an excellent start for trades at Artfest.

Fortunately for me, Artfest has brought some deep and wonderful friendships with other artists and I continue to meet (and retreat!) with them on a regular basis. It also introduced me to some fabulous teachers who I otherwise would only have known through their blogs. Like Roxanne Padgett for instance. It was in her class that I overcame almost all my colour fears. In fact, just looking at her artwork before I went to Artfest led me to Be Brave with Colour while making my Artfest Journal to take with me (as you can see by the front cover above).

And it was in her class more colour fears fell by the wayside as I created the portrait above. It's so completely different from anything I'd done before that I still can't believe I made it myself. I enjoyed her class immensely ~ from the warm up exercises that loosened us up, to the actual techniques of creation (this portrait was developed front to back on a sheet of plexiglass), to seeing the amazing variety of the work by all the other students. I've been eagerly awaiting her book "Acrylic Techniques in Mixed Media: Layer, Scribble, Stencil, Stamp coming out soon, and I'm *so* looking forward to it, although it won't be the same as having her right there encouraging me to *explore*, but it'll have to do.

My experience in her class, and in other Artfest classes have continued to feed and nurture my creative courage even today. So colour me bittersweet - missing Artfest, but loving where it got me.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Gelli Plate Surprise ...

Yesterday I decided to have a little fun with my newly-acquired 8x10 Gelli Printing Plate. This may come as a surprise to some of my creative friends, but I'm a bit of a doofus around new tools. I've watched other people magically creating amazing stuff with ease, then I've rushed out enthusiastically to buy whatever miracle toy they were playing with ... only to find the stuff I create is ... a hopeless muddle.

I'm very happy to report that my experience with the Gelli Plate is *not* one of those times. As near as I can tell it may well be idiot proof (Exhibit A: the collage above). With a minimum of tools, a variety of acrylic paints (some new and luscious, some old and cranky), some leftover divider tab sheets and about an hour, I created a generous stack of deliberate experiments and gorgeous happy accidents.

So ... what did I love? Each print doesn't need much paint, so it's very economical. Think that "clean up" is a drag? Don't clean up till the end! Yes, you can change colours as you go. See that collage above? I only cleaned up at putting away time. Don't like the first print you pull? That's okay, set it aside and print over it a second, third or fourth time till it can't take it anymore and decides to be gorgeous for you. Think you hate the final result? Not so fast. See that mottled green on the bottom row? I really hated it when I pulled it, but looking closely at it later I decided it was very nice indeed. And did I mention the no clean up till the end thing? Oh yeah ...

So ... paints ... I used whatever I had on hand. Mostly random acrylics, although my friend Rose recently gave me some super sparkly Dick Blick Glitter Watercolours, and while their pigment wasn't strong, the sparkle is very cool (and that's from a person who usually shuns glitter). The more liquid your paint the more prints you'll get from each inking and the easier it is to spread it around, but even my less liquid paints were fine, just took a bit more time to brayer them on evenly. Whatever the paint is, the first pull is usually fine, and if the paint seems too dry for a second pull, just lightly mist the plate. The green dots on the middle square in the collage were from a misted pull, and I love how they turned out.

Tools I used: stencils, foam stamps, a little graining tool, the core from a roll of skotch tape, a rubber brayer and a spritzy water bottle. I also taped a length of freezer paper to my table before I started - the Gelli Plate contains mineral oil, so it needs to be on something so you don't mark your table. Some people use a piece of glass or a teflon sheet. This also helps you if you want to rotate the plate while you're using it.

My other essential item (gleaned from watching various gelli vids on the net) is something to roll your brayer on after you've inked the plate. My choice of was an outdated copy of Leonard Maltin's movie guide. Let's face it, there's nothing more out of a date than a 20-year-old book of movie reviews. I suppose I could have torn out the pages and rolled on them, but I decided to just roll and turn the page. I figure I can throw it in my bag and take it to collage parties.

The table (post clean up). Poor Leonard! His reviews were never this colourful.

Well ... that's about it ... I just signed up for Carolyn Dube's Colorful Gelli Printing Workshop. I've been watching all the wonderful videos on her blog and I love her enthusiasm. In her last post she gelli'd her freakin' shoes (!). I'm looking forward to learning a ton more fun stuff to do with my Gelli Plate. I mean, if this is what I can create in an hour with *no real* knowledge, just imagine how far from a hopeless muddle I'll be with a little more practice.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Looking back at our shadow selves ...

Today's post is a page from the Time Traveler book I contributed to the Sketchbook Project back in 2012. I was thinking the other day about how long an idea can stay with you before it finally surfaces in the form of art and/or writing.

The first time I thought about shadow selves was about 30 years ago ... my 22-year-old self was having lunch with a group of friends in a hotel restaurant in the town I grew up in, but where I hadn't lived since I was 12. We'd driven 125 miles, from the town we all currently lived in, to consider renting a house together in this new location, and I hadn't told anyone that I'd once lived here.

Through the restaurant window I could see the elementary school my 8-year-old self had attended. Since it was lunch time, the school field was alive with active, noisy children playing games that probably hadn't changed much since I'd been out on that field myself. It was like looking back in time, and what came to mind was a particular sports day when (not being athletic) my 8-year-old self volunteered to help the teachers organizing and handing out ribbons and water and bandaids. I remembered the day very well, and at lunch time on that day, I'd been sitting at a table putting ribbons in order, facing the very restaurant my 22-year-old self would someday be sitting in.

And if that wasn't odd enough, my 12-year-old self had taken music lessons in one of the hotel meeting rooms, so now there were three of my shadow selves, all within easy reach of each other. Even at 22, my awareness of this overlapping of shadow selves made an impression on me.

The second time I thought about shadow selves was while traveling in New Brunswick in my mid-30's. I'd made a trip back east to meet my parents' families, and at one point was traveling by bus from one small town to another. I was dropped off at the pickup point (a gas station) to wait for a bus that might be along in anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. It was a pleasant sunny day, and the gas station had provided a comfy, sheltered bench outside for waiting passengers. I did what I always do in times like these ~ I took out my journal. I started writing about the people and places I'd seen so far, and a half hour later the bus came and I got on board. If there's one thing I learned 'back east', it's that hurry is not in the vocabulary. The bus was not in a hurry to get on the road ~ we were there for at least another half hour. In that time, other people arrived and boarded, and I continued writing. From my seat in the bus I could see the bench I'd been waiting on, and I saw myself there, on the bench writing, and I was now, on the bus writing. I was thinking how unlikely it was that I was there at all (so far from home in BC) about how insubstantial all these past selves are, and since I was writing, I wrote about it, mentioning not only that current experience, but looking back on my 22-year-old awareness of it as well.

Fast forward another 20 years, and in my journal I'm making page after page of notes for the Time Traveler project, realizing we all travel in time, we just do it one day at a time. And in every second we leave ghost imprints of ourselves wherever we go. I was thinking about this: where are we most solid and what does this tell us about ourselves? What can we learn from where my shadow selves have been? Can we go back there and relive our experiences in other times? Of course we can ...