Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Closures and Jewelry-Making

While going through paintings to create a 2010 CD calendar, I realize I did not create many new ones this year. My focus has zig-zagged from taking two bookmaking classes and making different book forms, to sketching a fake journal, to my current interest in book closures and embellishments, which has extended to metal and jewelry making.

Recently making this journal for my sister (below), I considered using red lace, a red leather dog collar, or an Art Nouveau button for the closure. After using my New Mexico journal, I learned the closure is best when it is out of the way of the pages! I’ve had to un-screw the conch while working in the book. This got me thinking about the many ways a simple leather book could be adorned. I’ve begun sketching the possibilities as they pop into my mind.

Like other things, jewelry-making seemed mysterious to me. Of course, painting once did too, before I actually began playing with paint. After sketching various ways to close leather books, I got interested in using charms and symbols.

Having just received “Wire & Bead Celtic Jewelry” by Linda Jones, with many lovely Celtic spirals, makes me realize I can make my own charms that have more meaning than anything I could buy. “The things I want to know are in books,” Abraham Lincoln said and I have been reading several that can teach me much. The once-mysterious ways of jewelry-making is becoming something I can actually do!

Isn’t it interesting how the Muse can pull you in certain directions? Often, my logical mind resists and does not wish to venture into a new art field. But, wire and metal have been calling and I have no choice but to follow.

Where has your Muse led you lately? Did you listen or did you hesitate? What were the results?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Original photo altered

May everyone enjoy a happy holiday season!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Autumn Leaves

'Tis fall and seems only natural to collect leaves on the ground and roll them into acrylic paint. All are 9" x 12" on cold-press watercolor paper.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pulled toward Leather

As much as I love painting, there are times I need to work on three dimensional projects. A few times, I have combined a painted canvas with some assemblage attached. Other times, I like to play with assemblage, bookbinding, themed art journals, shrines, painting glass and ceramics, and such.

Since last year, I’ve taken baby steps learning about leather, making little leather purses for gift cards using using random leather scraps. Online, I found instructions for simple things like setting a snap. Here is the practice one I kept:

The next ones, I measured with a ruler and an awl to get evenly spaced holes for the lacing.

Leather art caught my eye at my very first Renaissance fair many years ago. One vendor had leather journals, checkbook wallets, belts, mostly in a Celtic theme. I was overwhelmed by the choices and finally settled on a refillable Celtic journal in turquoise. The intricacy and details of
Oberon Design reminds me of that craftsmanship.

When I saw these unique wallet and handbags in a GaelSong catalog recently, I was very intrigued.

Thanks to the wonderful Internet, I discovered C. L. Whiting. Since I love using leaves in my own work, I am drawn to these designs. This artist’s works are amazing, exquisite, and fabulous!

Curiosity about this tough, flexible material intensified after discovering it could be used as both the support and cover for handmade books. Having made a few books now, I am fascinated with color combinations, detailing of spine stitches, and closure styles (buttons, leather strips, buckles, latches, etc.).

From the little I’ve researched, you can stamp emboss, carve, paint, dye, and even brand leather. I have one of those multi-function heat tool that can burn leather but haven’t tried it yet. You could really get creative and use your own designs on untreated leather ovals, squares, rectangles, and bookmarks.

It’s odd that leather isn’t more prominent in mixed-media books and magazines, isn’t it? Does it still have connotations of being a craft that only the boy scouts or summer camp kids use? Are there any leather crafters out there? Tell us about your experiences.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Art Surrounds Us

Last week, while serving on a jury downtown, I discovered art and architectural gems around every corner. Although it was overcast and I was using an unfamiliar camera, I had fun!

What have you discovered recently?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Experimenting with Collagraphs

Celtic Horse
acrylic on computer paper
8.50” x 11”

Have you ever tried making a collagraph? It is a type of printmaking where you build up the surface, rather than subtracting (as in making a stamp). You can use any kind of firm material for the base (cardboard, mat board scraps, canvas board, etc.) with various glued down flat objects (leaves, fabric, coins, etc.). With such a range of ingredients, it can be very creative.

Long wanting to make a collagraph, I could not settle down and decide on a premeditated design so I looked on my shelves, thinking about what size to use and found an unfinished painting on Gessobord. It had been an experiment—the first time I had tried using an acrylic medium called string gel. Dipping a palette knife in the jar, I then lifted it and swirled it over a section of the rigid surface.

Now, I was curious—would it make a good collagraph? Since it already had a raised design on the surface, I wouldn’t have to wait for everything to dry overnight (or longer). Bonus--I could play now!

Trying various papers and full-body acrylic paints on hand, I first tried rolling paint on a brayer and transferring it to the raised design. It didn’t work very well, so I switched, using a brush to put paint on the hardened string gel. This yielded much better results.

Limiting myself to just three colors (blue, teal, brown), I began to see a horse’s eye, a muzzle, and then an abstract body. The swirls reminded me of Celtic knots and spirals. Cool!

I tried other variations, using Cotman 140 lb. w/c paper, inkjet translucent vellum, and beige cardstock. Surprisingly, the plain computer paper showed the most details.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy Weekend

9" x 12"
acrylic on paper

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Another Landscape

Way Home
9” x 12”
acrylic on paper

Switching from quick brayer paintings to lingering brush paintings, I played with abstracts this week. Then, a mountain scene from my imagination wanted to be painted, a river/road wished to appear, trees grew up in the distance, and lovely La Luna rose in east. Do you sometimes feel you are just a conduit for what paper and brush and paint want? I love it!

While taking an online class at work, I discovered
something about Picasa that might be helpful to other artists using Blogger. Also learned how to post Flickr photos directly to your blog. If you are at all interested in learning more about high technology, these 12 Steps are easy to understand with great visuals. Highly recommended.

Tell me, are fall temperatures encouraging your art? Are more fall colors popping up in your journals? What are you working on?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Mexico Frame of Mind

New Mexico Enchantment
9" x 12"
acrylic on paper

The above new painting is the result of thinking and dreaming of New Mexico lately. 20 years ago next month I first visited the Land of Enchantment, staying in B&Bs, renting a car, and driving around to pueblos, museums, hot-air ballooning events, and national parks. It was the first time I had ever done that for a vacation and it was immensely liberating and enjoyable. I’ve been in love with New Mexico since.

Did you see the Lifetime movie about Georgia O'Keeffe recently? What did you think of it? It has me heading to book shelves to dig out "Portrait of An Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe" to re-read.

I've viewed her paintings at the local McNay museum, the Santa Fe museum devoted to her, and the Art Institute of Chicago (where I took the above photo). Although she hated being called a woman artist, she did blaze the trail for gender-breaking acceptance.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Voyage of Discovery

Each time I play with acrylics I am reminded how much I love them! Especially on watercolor paper, and most especially on hot press. There is just something magical I cannot touch with other media. I might get intrigued with other art or craft forms, as I have with bookbinding lately, but oh, to work in my new journal!

On my last post, Leslie asked what I was going to put in my new journal. This is my New Mexico Journal, which will chronicle all my visits to the state next door which I adore. Using the bold colors I love, I realize these are also New Mexico colors. In my heart, I know I am destined to live there one fine day.

For me, playing with a few tools (brayer, plastic cards, palette knife, paper towels, water bottle, putty knife, scraps of fabric) begins a mini vacation, a holiday of artistic proportions, a voyage of discovery. Layering acrylic colors onto hot-press watercolor paper and then impressing, scraping, spritzing, and wiping back to earlier, lighter colors ignites shadowy forms to emerge, patterns to appear, stories to whisper.

As well as continuing brayer paintings, I am trying all manner of things on these pages—petroglyph stamps, watercolor crayons, gel transfers, journaling, and collage.

I have also discovered some lessons. One is to protect the inside leather cover while doing page spreads involving water using wax or freezer paper. Another is to perhaps save the closure decision until you finish working in the book. I had to remove the large southwestern concho on the cover because it interfered with the left-sided pages lying completely flat.

What voyages of discovery have you found in your art? What media ignites your excitement? Did you have to alter a technique to make a page or piece work? And, what is your favorite place, the one that speaks to your soul?

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Journal

Here’s the new leather travel journal I completed yesterday. The thick leather cover comes from a distressed leather journal kit from Volcano Arts. But, I modified it by setting aside the brown thread, button, and paper and substituted Fabrino Artistico hot-press watercolor paper, a different spinal sewing design, a concho, turquoise beads, an eyelet, and four corners. Six signatures of four folios each needed trimming on three edges to fit this cover and I toned down the shiny silver-finish corners by rubbing some black acrylic paint into the grooved etchings so it would match the Southwestern screw concho.

Overall, I’m thrilled to have finally finished this project. Although I see some flaws to correct on future book, such as centering the signatures better and spacing them closer together, the latter problem may be solved once the pages expand with paint, collage, transfers, and layers.

Since I have become enthusiastic about limp leather bindings with long stitch spine sewing, I researched types of leather and wasn’t sure about purchasing bookbinding leather as it was too thin and needed to be glued around boards. The good news is I found a local source for leather and embellishments. There is a Tandy Leather Factory in town and upon my first visit last week I was pleased by the helpful staff and abundance of materials. Pulling out my yet-unworked piece of leather as well as another commercially-made leather journal as examples, I told one staff member what I was looking for and he showed me different choices in full hides, adding the owner might be willing to cut them in half.

It was small but fascinating place to see all the various colors and thicknesses and finishes, to hear Texas-accented customers asking for project materials, to smell intoxicating leather in every aisle. There were leather scraps, kits, and rolls, and hardware such as conchos, buckles, belts, rivets, tacks, clips, eyelets…it was dizzying. They carried every kind of leather, from hair-still-on-the-hide pieces to untreated hides ready for tooling and leather burning, to dyed and treated leather suede, upholstery, and rawhide. There were also scrap bins, some with exotic skins mottling such as ostrich and crocodile (or merely tooled sections? I couldn’t tell). Perhaps they could function as straps or tapes to sew on for future projects?

Selecting a stoned oil cowhide in a neutral brown, I asked if I could buy half of it. With such a large piece I could cut up various rectangles to fit my torn-down papers. The owner obliged, spread out the hide atop a table piled high with others, folded it, drew out a sharp knife from his belted leather knife holder (naturally!), and neatly sliced it into two as if he was cutting butter. Wow, what a display!

Along with my rolled up cowhide piece, I also bought Southwestern and Celtic conchos. Now I can really play!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Journal Painting & 'Fraid of Fractions

acrylic on paper
8 1/4" x 5"

Dad was right—you’ve got to spend more time on those subjects that are tough, like math. He told me that at a very young age, when I was baffled and perplexed by “Modern Math” as well as basics such as fractions. Math never came easy for me, ever. It wasn’t like history or English, which I loved and got good grades in. No, math was like studying a foreign language from another planet; it never made sense in my brain. A lot of it still doesn’t! Did I miss those sections in elementary school? Am I forever doomed to not understand fractions?

Because I’m so enamored with bookbinding right now, I have to force myself to learn something about those wily fractions I so detest! Baffled and perplexed when instructors in two bookbinding classes said to measure 3/16” or 18/32”, I looked in vain on the standard ruler. Yikes! Ugly fractions rear their nasty head again! Shall I give in and learn fractions? Or shall I cheat and turn the ruler over to the metric system? Much more logical, really. Or shall I remain blissfully ignorant and get some of those brass measuring rulers I’ve seen advertised on vendor’s sites?

Although numbers rule, I don’t find them very fun nor creative. But, in order to finish some books a-waiting, in order to create other books, in order to keep the door open to bookbinding, I must get past this obstacle. Seems the more I try to fight it, the more I put up a sign inside my mind: "This doesn’t make sense!! I HATE Math!!"

Sigh. OK. First, I remove the sign and leave my mind open. Check. Now, I do a Google search about easy way of learning fractions and how to use a ruler measurements. Check. Ohhhh…. It’s beginning to make sense. Check. I think I got it. Allright!

Do you have math horror stories to relate? Have they interfered with you creating? How have you worked around your problems?

The above brayer painting is the result of needing a purely creative and color break from altered book collage and bookbinding. Testing a new watercolor Moleskine notebook, I like the paper and how acrylics work on them but not thrilled with the landscape size.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Books on My Mind

It was bound to happen. I have always love books. I work in a library.

And now I have been bitten by the bookbinding bug. Re-reading Gwen Diehn’s The Decorated Journal recently, with Dorothy Simpson Krause’s Book + Art always at hand, referencing Alisa Golden’s creative series, I am now leafing through Jeannie Stein’s Re-Bound.

Waiting for some ordered supplies--Irish linen thread, sewing needles, an awl, two book kits from two different vendors, 5 different kinds of paper--I’ve been thinking and sketching and researching what kind of books to make. Any and all ideas for book structure, book themes, book combinations, and book closures get jotted down. I even made a signature-punching cradle out of some chip board.

So, it’s possible I have book fever, don’t you think?!

Do I blame it on incessant heat and drought this summer? Sure is a good excuse to stay inside on weekends, drool over wonderful blogs featuring bookbinding, and join Yahoo groups that discuss book arts. Am I taking a break from painting? Or perhaps waiting to splash into tomes where I decide the paper choice? And dreaming how much fun it will be to play, paint, sketch, write, or collage in those books?

Waiting for supplies and time to devote to bookbinding, I have altered a photography book of Ireland using only two methods: cutting and collage. With several sharp tools and a glue stick, I have changed the shape of pages, introduced new elements, as well as collaged over them entirely. Materials are culled from Celtic and Irish art books, calendars, and magazines. A lot can be learned about book structure by removing pages and adding thicker elements.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Something New, Something Recycled Journal Cover

Don't you love being able to re-use something?

While auditioning pieces of fabric to dress up my journal cover, I happened upon this combination--a wonderful fabric that is iridescent and a recycled piece of leather. Can you guess what it once was?

Give up?

Straps from a beloved pair of sandals. Not sure why I cut and kept them, but it makes a handsome latching on an otherwise plain black hardcover blank book.

How do you like to decorate your journal covers?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hero Brothers Shrine

The Hero Brothers Shrine
11" x 7.75" x 5.50"
mixed media

I enjoy seeing shrines other artists make and realize I have not written or shown any of mine. Here’s a mixed-media shrine I sporadically work on. It’s a tribute to the Kennedy brothers, my childhood heroes.

When I first saw the center wooden piece with two shelves on a clearance at Michael's, I automatically thought of creating a Kennedy shrine holding a small ceramic bust of JFK my Dad gave me decades ago.

At another craft store, I found wooden pieces shaped like a book having a drawer at the spine. I attached two to each end, acting as bookends. Auditioning other wooden pieces, I thought of using a door that could swing open at the bottom.

On wooden 1 ½” blocks, I found photos fitting that size from my collection of old books and magazine articles, brushing each side with clear acrylic medium.

Plastic glow-in-the dark stars were transformed with patina metal pieces and topped with copper foil. Carpet tacks loosely hold two coin medallions of Robert and John Kennedy.

This is what it currently looks like. A Kennedy coat-of-arms is draped between the two coins. Two purple candles sit on the bottom back shelf. Not happy with the painted back arch and first shelf, I attached blue velvet fabric instead.

Celtic knot and font designs were embossed on copper strips and painted with black acrylic paint. They are attached with small copper nails on the side as well on the first shelf where the words “The Hero Brothers” appear.

Since I have learned how to do acrylic medium transfers, I plan to make mini-books to fit inside the book drawers, filled with speech quotes and photos. For now, they hold pictures.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recycling Clutter

acrylic on paper
9" x 12"

I've not been creating as much as I’ve been destroying! After cleaning up my desk at work, de-cluttering has continued at home.

Isn’t it amazing how much stuff we accumulate? For a reader, it is magazines and books, for the mixed-media artist it is interesting items, for the archivist it is newspaper or magazine articles. Since I am a little of all the above, I am amazed at things I’ve hung on to for years.

Do any of you remember old scrapbooks? Those large books from the dime store with dull gray or brown paper, held together with either screw posts or heavy thread? You could get refills and make very thick books. They were pretty ugly specimens. Unfortunately, it was long before the current scrapbooking craze introduced acid-free materials.

I still have some of these dinosaurs, including my first one started 40 years ago celebrating the historic 1969 moon landing. I continued the format, making other scrapbooks—current events, favorite television shows, the space program, etc.

Being in that saving and preserving mentality, I continued clipping interesting articles. But as I got older and busier, I never put them into anything but large folders.

Other forgotten folders held chapter drafts of my first novel. Why did I keep so many drafts, I wonder? Fear of losing the originals or to prove my ideas? I excavated first drafts written in longhand, second drafts typewritten, third drafts from my dedicated word processor, and succeeding drafts from my first computer. Historically, it shows how long I’ve worked on the still-unfinished novel and how technology has changed; even electronic back-ups range from 3.5 floppy discs to a USB drive.

Having a reverence for paper made me think it is too precious to part with. Yet, so much I saved was never looked at again. It ceased to be precious and became clutter. Now, if I decide to clip something it is going into my current journal or other book project.

To that end, bags of shredded drafts will help mulch a few gardens this fall. Old catalogs and magazines are being recycled with some images re-birthed in two book forms. One is an altered book of Irish photos with collage and cuttings. The other is the black page album, where collage mixes with drawings and affirmations.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Four Classes & Three Books

In a recent class on basic bookbinding, we made three books in four class sessions.

This one has six signatures, with an envelope as the last “page.” Even though I had to complete it outside class, I think it’s my favorite. The cover is handmade paper, flax I think, with thin leather tapes we sewed over (at the spine) and on (the "X"s on the covers). The flax cover has tough texture and strength, but folded beautifully with a bone folder. I like the cut squares on the spine showing the sewing and the slits where the tapes are woven through and then sewn on the cover.

The second book we made is a Moleskine-type travel journal with a ribbon bookmark, a folding envelope, and a piece of elastic to close it. We sewed the signatures and then attached it to Davey boards, cutting a tip off the ends and sanding them to round the pages. Those rounding paper punches would do a better job than I did!

The last is an album with a sewn concertina, making it expandable for photos, collage, or other thick items. We used paste papers provided (we didn’t make them).

I’ve learned a lot from both book binding classes I’ve taken this year. Although I’m not destined to be a book binder, I do love the book form to put art in and to make artists books around. After returning to painting, I’m also altering a photography book using cuttings (scissors and a cutting tool) and collage.

An inspirational book, Book + Art: Handcrafting Artists' Books by Dorothy Simpson Krause, will keep me on the book-making path. It is a very artistic, classy, upscale guide to making art within the book form. I’m impressed with the muted palette she uses—brown, black, and red. It transforms her work with a dramatic, chic, old-fashioned, aged, timeless, wise, and somber tone. The style is far elevated from common crafty-cute styles and a departure from my own love of wild colors. You get a definite aura of being in a rich, private library, sitting in a deep leather chair, classic leather-bound books spilling over solid wood shelves--a comfortable but elegant room for serious studies. She also picks serious subjects for her artist’s books, probably prompted by her international travel and academic background. Highly recommended!