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.