22 August 2014

Growth Happens . . .

New Oak Moon art journal spread
This abstract oak tree is the result of an art journaling exercise facilitated by Effy Wild's Moonshine 2014 course.  We are making art inspired by the seasons and cycles of the moon all year long. She provided the course content in June, but it took me a while to get started. And then it took me weeks to finish. This is the most intricate art journal spread I've ever undertaken, but I'm really pleased with my results.

While I was working on it, I never thought it would look cohesive. There are many layers to this page. The very first is a background layer of color painted onto the paper with Gelato pigments, giving the whole page a softer, nearly pastel feel.
New Oak Moon - detail
Effy's lesson recommended a collage layer next that would create a mosaic feel. I was skeptical about how mine would turn out, but there are enough greens and earth tones to off-set that energetic paint layer with Summer colors of oranges and reds.  Next came the tree, painted in acrylic and then detailed with "bark" lines of Black Pitt pen and Sakura metallic gold ink.  Then I drew in each oak leaf and filled them in with various gel inks. The metallic just jump off the page. Finally, I used a paint pen to make all of the green circles with the final touch of outlines around them in black ink.

I worked on this piece off and on between other projects over a period of three weeks. I had to practice drawing the tree a number of times to get a trunk and branches that I liked. I also had to teach myself to draw abstract oak leaves, so I filled an entire sketchbook page with them drawing slow at first and then speeding up. It was time-consuming to create all of tree's detail, but the detail is what brought together the living-tree shape.

I used to prefer to keep backgrounds very simple if the main focus of the piece was going to be an illustration (rather than pure abstract collage). But now I think that this tree would look very different on a plain background. The effect was worth the effort.

In the meantime, I have devised several ways to recycle my own art.

I shared a page of watercolor lines in my last blog post.  I have several of these pages of watercolor lines because I practiced the same blending exercise several times.  I took giant hole punches yesterday and punched out 2" inch and 1 3/4" inch circles from one of the practice pages. It's very likely that these circles will begin to appear in different collage pieces I create in the near future.

Collage circles punched out from a watercolor practice page.
Each circle has its own character. I like how some have more curvy lines than others. The colors (even in the page made with cheap watercolor paints from a classroom set) are cheery and take on a whole new appearance when they are liberated from the rectangular parent-page.

Finally, I had been debating what to do about the cover for my recently-begun art journal. The book is an 11 3/8" inch by 8 1/4" inch bound Dylusions journal book specifically made for mixed media creating. I love the size of it and the fact that the pages are bound to open completely flat, making painting and drawing easier.  The cover is just craft-paper brown, and it kept staring at me asking, "when are you going to cover me with art?" But I could not decide what to do.

I debated for days. Maybe I should just paint it a color so it's not blank. No, maybe I should collage it. Then it hit me, I had a favorite 4x6 index card piece of the full moon in July.
Brand new cover for my art journal.

I used the book cover as a frame for my index card art, by painting around it in acrylic and ink layers. I taped a starry-night washi tape border along the book's spine so that it matched the night sky theme. And I glued on mylar stars surrounding the picture and an arrow with my title and the date to remind me of when I created the hand-moon picture.

Now it is happily situated on the front cover of my journal so that I can look at it and let it inspire me all of the time.

11 August 2014

Training for the Big Leagues

"Blend" experiment from Tammy Garcia's "Watercolor Playground" Class
I've had some wonderful opportunities lately to learn art techniques from different teachers. I recently decided that I wanted to focus on art journaling. I am becoming fairly comfortable with acrylic paining, but my watercolor technique is fairly amateurish. Watercolor -- for those of you who have not played with it since art class in a K-12 environment -- is a very difficult medium. Just how much water to use or not use is always tricky. And you cannot truly control watercolor, so you have to practice to understand its limitations and benefits. This I know from my brief Intro to Art 101 in college where I got to experiment with new art media every two weeks. I really want to get to know watercolor at a whole new level, so I chose to enroll in Tammy Garcia's online course called Watercolor Playground.  

My first project was Blend, or an experiment in blending pigments painted adjacent to each other in a whole page of lines. I am posting the most successful of my Blend painting so far. This one was done with my very first set of professional grade watercolors which I purchased for taking this class. It was amazing to me how vivid these paints are, after years of using a cheap set that can be bought at any craft store for under $10.  You really get what you pay for when purchasing paints.  While I can see that I still need more practice with blending, I'm definitely improving.  I plan to cut up the practice pages for collages or backgrounds for other artwork.

I also had the good fortune to take a live class taught by Kass Hall, who is an amazing art journal guru hailing from Down Under. What a treat to take two workshops in a day from an artist who lives on the other side of the Globe at my favorite local paper-obsession store, The Queen's Ink. Truly a privilege. What I loved most about taking Kass' workshops is that she did not dictate what the final product should be. She gave us some very good layering techniques to build an effective art journal spread and taught us her secrets of making legible lettering.

Desert Rose, left page, made in Kass Hall's "Lyrically Speaking" class
Kass asked the class to find lyrics to a song or lines from a poem that really inspired us for the first workshop of the day. I chose Sting's "Desert Rose," because it's a favorite of mine and also because Sting's words evoke so many images for me. I brought some collage papers with me that I knew I would want to use, and found elements among those Kass passed out -- clip art from websites and swatches from her own art journal pages scanned at high res. I am pretty pleased with how these turned out.
Desert Rose, right page, made in Kass Hall's "Lyrically Speaking" class
I also took an afternoon workshop with Kass, where she included her technique for drawing faces. I am still working on that spread and will post photos when I feel it's in a more finished state. I am so pleased with my results. I had been avoiding painting in an art journal in favor of separate pages, concerned that I'd mess up a page. I am beginning to feel more confident about what I'm doing after a whole year of concentrated mixed media practice. And if I come up with really ugly pages, I'll just paint over them. I'm okay with that.

So now I have an art journal that will travel with me throughout the next phase of my artistic journey. I hope that it becomes a more frequent practice. I am making plans to incorporate my journaling into my daily life, so stay tuned for more.

Even when I'm away from home, I am still thinking about art. My husband and I visited New York City last weekend to catch the fabulous exhibition on the Italian Futurists at the Guggenheim.  I admired the brash and colorful Futurist paintings when I was taking art history classes, but I had never heard about women being involved in the Futurist movement. In fact the Futurist Manifesto of 1909 is decidedly anti-feminist. Apparently that did not deter Italian women artists from participating in the movement. Benedetta Cappa's work is featured in the Guggenheim's exhibit, and her massive mural scheme for a Post Office in Palermo, Sicily (1933-1934) was the capstone of the whole exhibit.  There's a New York Times article interviewing the show's curator who talks about the work of this amazing artist.

Studio of Andrew Wyeth, Chadd's Ford, PA, Brandywine River Museum
Then, in contrast, we switched from the bombastic Futurist expressions to the more pastoral scenes of days of yore and country life painted by the various artists of the Wyeth family in their studios near Chadd's Ford, PA. The Brandywine River Museum preserves the homes and studios of the Wyeths and offers guided tours. Given how spartan Andrew Wyeth's paintings often are, I was amazed by the chaos in which he enjoyed working. The museum has recreated the whole ambiance with copies. I'm including a photograph of his studio that I took since our tour guide allowed us to take photographs. Apparently he drew many sketches for major works, but then let them fall to the floor of his studio and did not consult them much while he was working. He had already drawn the subject, you see, so the drawings were only the means to his end product.

His father's, N.C. Wyeth's studio was filled with props befitting a practitioner of swashbuckling illustration art: canoes, costumes, marble busts, weaponry and arms, helmets, etc. There is a copy of his final, unfinished illustration of George Washington on his easel, much has he must have left it on the day he died in 1945. I loved N.C. Wyeth's study for a mural of his whole family that the Museum is featuring in the Wyeths' large parlor. It must have been a small space for such a large family, but given how many creative people lived and were raised there it could not have been too distracting.

It is always so interesting to see how other artists work. Studios are a product of the individual who works in them.

01 August 2014

Grand Finale!

Solstice Heat, June 21, 2014

I am very nostalgic and emotional about fireworks.  I associate them with happy memories of Summer evenings.

Do you know that moment in a fireworks display when you can hear the the swizzle sound of many rockets rising into the sky at once?

There is excitement, yes, anticipation, but also a nanosecond of wistfulness. Because you know you've reached the final minute of the display. Soon it will be over. 

I am feeling a bit that way tonight. Sixty-one days of thinking about and making art as part of Tammy Garcia's ICAD 2014 challenge are drawing to a close. I am looking back on the small, yet powerful set index cards that I've drawn on, painted on, glued on, and experimented on during the past two months.

I really made some serious attempts to use the challenge as an opportunity to try new things. I tested the waters on some new media. At the beginning, I worked very hard to stay on the daily prompt. After a while, I made up my own prompts or more often found sources of inspiration out around me.

When I created something that I thought was ugly or messy or not what was in my head, I tried to rework it or recycle it into something I did like.
Super Moon, July 11, 2014
My Super Moon card turned out exactly the way I had intended, but getting the ink spray background right took quite a few tries. My first few spray ink attempts were downright ugly. One of my glimmer misters doesn't seem to be working the way it should and the ink comes out in giant drips. I kept the card anyway thinking that I would eventually cut it apart for collage.

Turquoise Dragonflies, July 27, 2014
Later in the challenge, I found that the messy glimmer mist drips card actually made the perfect "landscape" for my dragonflies.  I gessoed over the ink to tone down the background. The other collage elements are glued on top of the gesso layer.

Golden Mushroom, stamp on Gelli plate print, July 23, 2013
The challenge also encouraged me to attempt some media that I had been admiring for a while. I first learned about Gelli Arts plates last year, and saw videos of the technique back in the Spring. I kept meaning to get the supplies and try it.

Finally, I bought myself a 5 x 7 Gelli plate and began printing acrylic backgrounds. My Golden Mushroom card made use of monoprints for the background and frame. The rubber stamp (embellished with ink) is one that I traced from a printed design and cut myself with a carving tool and Speedball printing plate.  I hadn't carved my own stamp since I was a teenager!

Any Route Permitted July 8, 2014
I love the layering effects that you can easily obtain by printing more than one Gelli plate background.  I know this is a media that I will work on again and again, and I've only printed in two sessions with my plate.  I made a dozen different layered prints each time.

Other days, I enjoyed recycling bits of ephemera from my trip to England this summer. I could not help including tickets, cut-outs from Time Out Magazine and other papers in my daily collages.

Now the ICAD 2014 Challenge is drawing to a close, but the effects are lingering. 

I am grateful for the support of other artists out there like me who are part of the Daisy Yellow community.  I was inspired by your work and I hope you found something interesting about mine in exchange. It's wonderful to send a tiny bit of art out into the world and receive a trickle of "likes" and comments almost instantaneously. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in wanting to make art a part of my busy life. 

Well, the last crackles and shimmers of fireworks are fading away tonight. Tomorrow's a new day. I'm feeling motivated and excited. I have a number of other art classes and projects out there waiting for me just over the horizon. 

Grand Finale, July 31, 2014, sari silk, collage, and ink on paper