Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Celestial Navigation ...

This evening I'm finishing up another art project ... this time an international postcard swap I read about at Artists in Blogland. It seemed like a nice quick little swap, and a good exercise between some larger projects I'm working on.

As well as the three people in the swap I'm sending to, I've also done as the instructions suggestions, I've sent one off to FEATURING Magazine for possible inclusion in an article on mail art, so who knows .. maybe it'll surface again.

For those who know my work, the celestial theme will be familiar, as will the colour scheme. I'm tempted to tell you way too much about all the bits and pieces that went into its creation, but I'll keep this post short and  not get carried away ... let's just say mixed media and leave it at that, shall we?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A rose by any other name ...

Today I finished another project I've been working on, helping a friend who is creating some theatrical costumes. She's divided the project up into bits and solicited help from a large group of friends and colleagues, so I've only a rough idea how the bit I've done will fit into the final costumes. My mission was to needle-felt a pair of twining roses onto a linen panel which (theoretically) will become part of an apron over a long folk-art style skirt.

This is the first time I've actually tried to accomplish something with needle-felting and it turned out to be easier than I thought. I think needle felting is one of those activities where you learn the basics in minutes: Step 1: stab felting needle into wool rovings. Step 2: don't stab yourself*. Step 3 to infinity: repeat steps 1 and 2 till the wool is felted into a shape you like. Learning how to manipulate the rovings and where and what angle to do your stabbing is where the mastery comes in. (* Really - don't stab yourself! Those felting needles are *wickedly* sharp. I have proof, but didn't think that would be a picture worth sharing).

For this project I was pleasantly surprised to find that wool yarn can be basted onto a linen background with only a few minimal stabs, essentially drawing on the fabric with yarn. I mixed the yarn colours together for some variety. Once the lines were drawn, a little persistent stabbing has them felted down in practically no time at all. Well, okay, a little time, but not nearly as long as you'd think.

I made a happy discovery while attaching the felted leaves. I was stabbing along the leaf center line and - hey presto! - the edges folded up in a very leaflike way, which gave me a clue about how to make roses. My instincts told me to "build" a rose from the outside to the center using separate circular petals to get a more realistic look, and it worked out well I think. I had an "uh-oh what next" moment as I neared the center, then realized that by pinching one quarter of the innermost and smallest felted circle I could create a bud with the rest of the circle forming a petal around it.

There are 2 roses on the apron front, both about 6 inches across (remember: they need to be seen clearly as roses by the audience). But even at such a large size they're not very heavy since wool rovings are quite light and airy, even after felting. I also had a hand in one of the other costumes so I'm looking forward to how all the costumes come together and seeing the finished production.  

I had no idea how easy it was to "draw" with wool on fabric ... now that I know how *not* to stab myself, I've got all sorts of wooly sketchiness ideas going through my mind. Cool. Or is that ... warm?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sketchbook Project time again ...

So here's what I've created as this year's contribution to the digital library at the Sketchbook Project. Even though I've had my blank journal since the 2012 tour came to Vancouver, it took me *forever* to decide what to do. I suppose there are worse predicaments than having *too* many ideas ...

It came down to two ideas. The first was an abecedarian of sorts, an A to Z where the pages of the journal had been cut and folded to form the letters. I actually got a pretty good start on this one ... until I realized that I needed to tweak the binding in order to keep the pages together so they could survive shipping and multiple people reading it. I haven't abandoned this idea, but I need to (ugh) do more math.

The second idea was to take a very very very short story I'd written in my journal that I thought might be interesting to illustrate using torn paper collages. And in one those weird accidental forethought situations, it turns out that I went through an unexplained photography phase last summer taking pictures of pebbles, stones, rock walls, sand, water and other natural surfaces. So it was a mere matter of printing out my photos, making a bunch of photocopies and tearing them up. Oh yeah ... like illustrating a book is a mere matter of anything!

The only problem is I'm pretty bad at drawing people ... and there is actually a person in the story, and eventually she has to appear in some form or other ... and no amount of torn rocks and water will pass for a person. I thought I might get away with only showing a hand or an arm, so I did a few drawings. They were ... passable ... but instead of helping the story I felt they were more of a distraction and a let-down.

So there I sat .. staring at my own hand in the position I wanted to draw it and wishing I could transfer it just as it was onto the page. Then I remembered I'd recently I read about a young artist, Sara Lando in Italy, who was crowd-sourcing the funding to have her Magpies book published. Her book was made by photographing herself (and other people, objects, etc), then printing out the photos, cutting everything out and placing them in 3D paper diaramas. She'd then re-photograph them and use the photographs as panels in a graphic novel. What I needed to do was simple ... photograph my hand, print out the photo and glue it into the book. Et voila ... !

The gist of the story is that a woman goes every day to the edge of the river and places a stone till she can build a bridge to the other side. Even as I wrote the story years ago it seemed to me that this was an allegory of sorts, that the bridge was more than a literal bridge ... it was a bridge between more than two physical places ... so I decided to represent the stones as torn text rather than just as ordinary stones.

A few other tidbits ... the sleeve in the photo above is actually the wrong side of some black quilted satin I received in a fabric swap about 15 years ago. Another one of those beautiful little things I've hung onto thinking it might come in handy one day ... and again ~ voila! As usual I've made two copies of this journal ... one for myself and another to be permanently added to the digital library at the Sketchbook Project.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Back in the saddle ...

You may (or may not) have noticed I haven't blogged in awhile. Not sure why ... just got busy with life ... and it was sort of a "last thing in, first thing out" kinda deal and blogging was the thing that got neglected. I didn't stop making art or anything ... I just didn't blog about it. But recently I've been feeling the itch to share what I've been up to, so thought I'd start today while it's snowing outside (what? how did *that* happen?).

So I won't talk much and I'll just get on with sharing artwork I've made in the last 6 months. Yep ... it really  was six months ... in the words of Pink Floyd .. is there anybody out there?

Today's collage was something from a little retreat I attended last October. We had a short amount of time, limited materials, and a specific writing exercise which preceded making the collage. Which obviously worked for me since this little gem emerged very intuitively. It's way simpler than my usual collages - funny how putting a limit on time and materials can force you to be creative in new and rewarding ways. This one was made with only 3 items: a sheet of 70's stationery (aqua ovals), a page from a magazine (girl + title) and a postcard of Italian doorknockers. I used the symmetry of the photograph as my cue for the composition, and also balanced the ovals in the stationery on the top with the ovalness of the doorknockers on the bottom. But I think my favourite bit is the single golden doorknocker which forms a halo over her head.

I enjoy writing exercises but lack the self-discipline to make myself do them on my own, which is why I love  art retreats, collaborating with others, taking art classes and joining time-limited projects where I expect myself to produce something worth sharing at the end. Whether it's a brief time of contemplation, writing and collage (as this one was) or multiple months with the Sketchbook Project, give me an external deadline, a direction to head into and I *will* create something I wouldn't have created on my own, and probably surprise myself with some kind of useful insight to boot.