Thursday, December 25, 2014

Do you hear what I hear?

So ... right off the top, this is not about Christmas music. *Really* not about Christmas music. Christmas music is why I stay out of stores this time of year so I won't have to tear my ears off or hit anyone. Just sayin'.

So, what is this about? Podcasts, audiobooks and stuff. Ever since I got my ipad (which Mr. B. declared to be the "modern 25th anniversary present"), I've been up to my ears ~ literally ~ in good listening. Funny how it turns out that I'm not using the ipad for the things I thought I would, but it's become indispensable in other, mostly audible, ways. And so much of what I listen to makes me so very happy ... gives me hope, educates me, engages my brain ... all that good stuff. I thought I'd share a few of my favourites:

Podcastly, two of my favourites from the very beginning have been Good Job, Brain! and Books on the Nightstand.

Good Job, Brain! is like sitting around with a couple (okay, four) good friends and just having fun with trivia and quizzes. Not sure how I found them, but I eventually went back and listened to their entire archive. Initially I thought they were "young folks", but I'm starting to think they might be older than they sound, but it makes me feel young to listen. Oh, and every fifth podcast is an "all quiz" ... those are my favourite episodes. Makes me feel *so* smart when I know stuff.

Books on the Nightstand is the private project of Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman. They both work in the publishing industry, so they've often got the inside scoop on new books, but they're not afraid to go back a few years and talk about their favourites as well. It's a half hour of booky goodness. And if you're on Goodreads, there's a Books on the Nightstand group there, too, so it's easy to keep track of what they've talked about.

Now we get serious. When I want something meaty to chew on, it's usually Radiolab or 99% Invisible.

I heard about Radiolab in a weird way: one day I was browsing at Regional Assembly of Text, and I gradually became aware the "music" in the background was not music at all but this seriously interesting discussion of ... ideas, culture, humour ... with a soundtrack and comments. I had to sit and listen for a few minutes. Eventually I asked at the front counter: "Um ... what radio station IS this?", and was told it was the Radiolab podcast. Made immediate note to myself: get some kind of device that could listen to podcasts. Done.

Not sure how I heard about 99% Invisible ... I think it turned up on the ipad's recommended list once I started listening to Radiolab. Got addicted to "99PI" (as they call themselves) really quickly. Theoretically it's about design, but it's a pretty broad ranging definition. This week's episode is about the birth of the octothorpe, or as you might know it: the hashtag. They really pack a lot of interesting stuff into their usual 15-20 minute episodes.

I've backed 99PI twice now through Kickstarter - once to help them go from a monthly podcast to a weekly (so worth it!), and the next time to help them add more similar podcasts to Radiotopia, their new venture ~ and I pretty much love all those podcasts, too. Strangers just had a riveting 4-part series "Love Hurts" on the host's failed relationships (so much more positive than that sounds, I promise). The Truth (Movies for Your Ears) just had a great Christmas story about an elf really not adjusting to his job of judging children naughty or nice at Santa, Corp. There's more, but let's start with those two.

And (of course), there's The Moth. Which is all about storytelling. As in: people get up on stage in front of a live audience, and without notes, tell a story from their lives. Three people, three stories, linked by a common theme. Absolutely riveting. 

One of the other audio treats I've discovered is BBC4 Extra Online Radio. I'm finally getting a university education ~ the easy way! They serialize wonderful classic books as radioplays. I'm currently listening to Wilkie Collins' No Name, something I'd never heard of before, but really enjoying. Last week, it was George Elliot's Adam Bede, and earlier this fall it was Thomas Hardy's Two on a Tower. Not that it's all serious stuff ... the first series I listened to this summer was Charles Chilton's Journey Into Space, a highly *improbable* tale of pseudo-science fiction manliness from the 1950's. They're currently also running Doctor Who, Adrian Mole and Master and Commander. The episodes run every day, and they recently extended the listening period from 7 days to 21 days (yay!). Great companion in the studio.

Audiobook-wise, I'm taking full advantage of Overdrive, the electronic app that delivers the Vancouver Public Library's ebooks and audiobooks to my ipad. There's a 21-day borrowing limit, which certainly helps keep me focused. Currently listening to Kerouac's On the Road, and David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames ~ how's that for variety?

Not sure how many people know this, but there are full audiobooks posted on YouTube as well. Discovered Andy Weir's The Martian on YouTube and could not *wait* to find out what happened next and listened obsessively. I've also listened to the *entire* Game of Thrones series on YouTube because the waitlist through Overdrive was *too long*.

And when I'm exhausted by all that reading? I tune my ipad to Songza, choose a soothing playlist, set the timer to 30 minutes and drift off to sleep ...

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.