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!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Recent adventures in art : Flower Pounding with Magpie's Nest

It's been a month since I posted anything here, but that doesn't mean my hands have been idle. Today, for instance, I made my way over to Britannia Community Centre for a Flower Pounding free pop-up art workshop hosted by the Magpie's Nest Community Art Space.

I've never done flower pounding before, but the concept is almost as simple as it sounds ... put a layer of flower blossoms, leaves, etc., between a sheet of watercolour paper and a piece of fabric, and then whack at it with a small hammer in a determined sort of way. My favourite method was using the rounded head of a ball peen hammer, and work my way pointilistically over the surface of the bloom or leaf.

I decided to create a sort of "impossible botanical sampler" ~ a plant with a variety of blooms and leaves. I wanted to see what kind of result I'd get from each blossom. I began with whole flowers and leaves at the top, but by the time I reached the bottom I'd learned that placing each petal individually gave me more satisfactory results. On the left-hand side is the muslin "print" of the flowers, with the paper "print" on the right. The magpies had brought a massive amount of flowers and leaves to choose from, as well as a big stack of prepared fabrics and paper, but I thought I better keep my project small and manageable.

I'm not sure how permanent the colours will be, but they're very lovely and soft at the moment. I found it interesting how the colours changed even while I worked on it. The three-petaled brown-yellow flower on center outside edge was actually three petals from a large orange lily. The yellow inner edges very not much different in colour from the petals initially, but retain their yellowness even now. But while pounding the outer edge of the petals, each strike of the hammer would result in a vivid orange dot on the fabric, but it quickly (within seconds) changed to purple/brown you see above. Oddly beautiful transition that only the person pounding would ever see.

This was Day 2 of the flower pounding workshop, and (judging by the noise level) well attended! Some people who'd been in on Saturday for Day 1 came back with friends, so it was a bit deafening at some points ~ probably one of their noisier workshops. But as someone across the table said to me today: "Funny how the noise doesn't bother you when it's you doing the hammering!". Perhaps this act of creativity would be a good form of stress relief as well ...

Big thanks to all the lovely Magpies at Magpie's Nest Community Art Space. Their events are always well organized and welcoming, and fully stocked for whatever diverse art activity they have planned. If you live in Vancouver (or nearby), I highly encourage you to sign up for one of their meetups. Their events are creative, free and kid-friendly. As a person who's usually on the organizing end of this sort of thing, it's a real treat for me to just drop in and enjoy the atmosphere when these talented and dedicated people bring their unique events to the community. Well done!