Sunday, December 28, 2008

Almost Time

With a new calendar year approaching, my fancy turns to calendars. I love to buy them, I love to make them. After hot summer months I begin thinking about them in the fall, wondering what kind to make. This year, I am way behind.

Here’s the last month of my recycled art calendar (profiled here ( Its pages of hot press watercolor held up pretty good. Yes, that’s a rubber band holding the previous months together--the nail hole did get overwhelmed by all the collage and the thickness of 8 folded pages and, of course, 12 months on the job!

In addition to the one mentioned above, I also created my first 2008 CD calendars. You flip a thicker CD holder and it becomes the calendar holder. I matched 12 of my photos with moon-phase months. It’s a neat design idea but a crazy size. For printing, I could only fit 2 months on regular size paper.

The easiest ones I’ve made are printed out on white card stock. It’s thick enough to be sturdy and not too thick to fold and hang on a wall.

This year ought to be easier since I now have Microsoft Publisher where before I used a really, really old program called Print Shop. I had to figure out how to lay it out for printing on both sides. And, I just can’t use ordinary pre-made calendar software programs provide, either. Oh, no, I have to fiddle around and change elements and put my own art or photos in it and alter or abandon their color scheme. But, it all seems worth it when you can look at it 365 days and really enjoy your little handmade work.

How about you? What are your ideas? Have you ever made your own calendar?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Quest for the Perfect Little Notebook

With a nice, long holiday approaching, I have been gearing up to make a little notebook. I must have a dozen books about book binding and book making crowding my shelves. Since I’ve long loved books, the fact I could make one myself has long appealed to me.

For a few years, I’ve used little notebooks to jot art ideas down. You know the kind—cheapies from grocery or office supply stores. I disliked their lined and bleed-through pages and their flimsy construction. But I love their size! So small, so slim, so easy to slip into a pocket and make notes; no big, bulky, beautiful book. I tried finding 3 ¼” x 4 ½” sketchbooks through online art supply companies and even Etsy. If it came close to the right size, it was too thick.

So, last week, after looking through all my books, checking one out at the library, and reading numerous art blogs and web instructions, I realized I’d have to make exactly what I wanted. After thinking about it most the weekend, I finally took action and conducted an experiment. Do you do that, too—think way too much about a problem? But, have you found you can let yourself off the hook when you declare you’ll just play around or make a model or do an experiment? Your Perfectionist slinks away and the Muses clap their hands in joy, coming to your side to assist.

There are two kinds of notebooks I’ve used: 1) a mass of signatures all folded together and sewed down the middle into a substantial cover, taped on the outside spine and 2) cut single pages, not signatures, glued at the spine with tape and a not-so-thick cover. The later is much more fragile and pages can be easily torn out, like a note pad.

So, I took the best elements of each design, folding signatures together, adding a 65 lb. cardstock cover, punching holes through pages and cover every ½”, sewing the pages and cover together, tying the tails outside with tape, trimming excess paper and cover (I made it larger than final size so everything would line up), and creating a cover from a gelatin print I did on velum. I didn’t add end papers, but could have.

I’m pleased my “experiment” turned out so well—I absolutely love my little notebook! Encouraged with such stunning results, I have enrolled in a four-session bookbinding class beginning in January.

Next up? The Quest for the Perfect Art Journal.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Holidays

At this time of year
While we await the return of the light
I wish you a very happy winter holiday season!

acrylic gelatin print
9" x 12"

Playing with Initial Images

Having read books and blogs from artists who do wonderful journals, I looked at my daily brayer paintings with new eyes and decided to take an initial image and extend it. Here is the original which I think came out too dark.

Ginkgo Leaves in December

acrylic on paper

7 1/2" x 8"

After scanning, printing, and gluing it in a journal page, I used some metallic gel pens in gold, copper and red to outline the faint yellow leaves, drew some veins, emphasize some wiggles and marks, trying to bring shapes to the surface.

I wonder, did it became too shimmery and unnatural with the introduction of metalic pens? Tilting the journal, the altered version looks like I used interference paints. It was fun altering my own image, knowing I could continue changing it with another print-out!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Leafing Around

Three Nestled Leaves, Afire
acrylic on paper
9" x 7"

The last few weeks I returned making some leaf brayer paintings. Collecting fresh leaves downed by a recent storm, I remembered how much I enjoyed using them in my art.

Red Oak, Green Oak
acrylic on paper
8" x 9"

I tried some different things: nestling three leaves of different sizes together,
Nestled Leaves
acrylic on paper
8.75" x 7"
using different, contrasting leaves,
I Heart Leaves
acylic on paper
8" x 7"
and playing with design.
acrylic on paper
9" x 12"
Some themes continue to resurface, including brayer ghost-images.

The Leaf Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree
acrylic on paper
9" x 12"

Another return is to the church where my husband and I were once very active. There is a new minister who has “re-energized the church,” in the words of a friend and former member. This is the one place where I felt I belonged and both David and I got those same feelings again these last two Sundays.

Contrasting Views
acrylic on paper
9" x 12"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Day of Sharing Song

Wild Irish Coast

L. K. Ludwig has inspired art bloggers to post a song today that moved them. I love music so much, it was hard to narrow it down. But here is an old favorite, an early music video that first enthralled me when it aired—I love the sun, the snow, the horses, the white flag, the earnestness.

New Year’s Day
To see what other's have chosen, go to L. K. Ludwig's site:

Sunday, November 30, 2008


8" x 7"
acrylic on paper

Out my studio window there's a unique alignment of the crescent moon, Venus, and Jupiter. November is turning into December in a matter of hours. The long Thanksgiving holiday is winding down and the work week looms.

Inspired by watching the art DVD of Virginia Cobb called Acrylic Abstract Painting: The Evolving Image, I set out to try some of her techniques. The funny thing is that my piece, a full-sheet of 300 lb. watercolor paper, didn't want to become an abstract but a landscape set in the Southwest, requiring a lot more work.

In the meantime, here are some quick brayer paintings I did last week.

Windows of Opportunity
8 1/2" x 7"
acrylic on paper

8" x 7"
acrylic on paper

Sacred Chambers
8 1/2" x 7"
acrylic on paper

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some New Brayer Paintings

Recently, I've thrown some new colors into my quick brayer paintings. A few years ago, I ordered a book on color theory and, as suggested, ordered a selection of professional artist paints. Problem was that I started but never completed the workbook and just dove in experimenting with colors that appealed to me.

My first experiments weren't pretty but I began seeing colors that played nicely with each other. Favoring several layers of warm transparent colors and adding a few cool opaque ones, I filled watercolor sketchbooks using a limited palette, occasionally adding a new color.

Now, I am trying out some opaques I hadn't really liked before--Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Light, Naples Yellow Hue, Turner's Yellow--a transparent I hadn't played with before--Acra Blue Violet--and one gorgeous semi-transparent--Deep Magenta.

So much more fun to lay color down with a brayer than to do those color swatches!

Peering Out
9" x 12"
acrylic on paper

Starry Desert Night at the Reservoir
7" x 8"
acrylic on paper

7 1/2" x 7"
acrylic on paper

Witness to Unraveling
8" x 7"
acrylic on paper

Becoming Whole
8" x 7"
acrylic on paper

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Friend's Art Exhibit

Nancy Elliott has an exhibit near where we both work. It's a wonderful and inventive showcase of her art and it's good to see pieces once only described now on display. Since she will soon move to Missouri, I'm glad she is sharing her vision.

Artist Statement

Mark (above)

UnMark (below)


Nidus (close-up)

Neither Here Nor There

A Bad Penny...

A Bad Penny... (close-up)


Obscure (with black fabric lifted)


Landscape (close-up)

Faces Found

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More Mixed-Media Ideas

After experimenting recently with bits of leather, suede, and velvet, I was in a resale/vintage store Friday looking at the clothing in a different light. Some leather and suede skirts could be re-purposed as a journal cover, key chain fob, or eyeglass holder. Similar thoughts occurred when I looked at purses. It was exciting to imagine the already-broken-in leather recycled in some new art form.

But, I refrained from buying anything since I lack skills, knowledge, and tools for working extensively in leather. It seems when mixed-media calls to me, I often have to turn a deaf ear!

Since I don’t know how to sew and don’t plan to learn, I only use fabric remnants in paintings and books. Recycling some painted fragments onto watercolor pages evolved into a book called “Touch”.

"Touch" cover
7 1/2" x 6 1/2"
screw post book
painted fabric pieces on watercolor paper
One page in "Touch"
6" x 6"
2-page spread in "Touch"
12" x 6"
A single page in "Touch"
6" x 6"
I love the texture elements as well as tactile interaction in mixed-media pieces, though. That’s a big appeal in creating books, shrines, 3-D calendars, and dream boxes because how often can you or do you run your hand over texture in a painting?

As I said in my last post, I greatly admire mixed-media artist that have the techniques, tools, time, and tenacity to turn out a successful project using more than one medium. I’ve had this discussion before with my art friend Nancy, especially with all the tempting things to learn out there—precious metal clay, fiber arts, jewelry-making, etc. But since we both have full-time jobs and so little free time, it seems wiser to limit our energy and focus.

Until we can’t resist just trying something!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Painter or Mixed-Media Artist?

Loughcrew Hillside, Ireland
computer-altered photo

Inspired by an exhibit of computer-manipulated photos, I spent one weekend last month altering some of my travel photos (see above).

This weekend, however, I experimented with materials quite unfamiliar to me, just because it sounded like a challenge. Some were complete failures, some not-so-bad.

Which brings me to a question I often ask myself—am I a painter or a mixed media artist?

Whenever I venture in more “crafty” things, I feel like I’m floundering. I greatly admire those artists who work in mixed media. Not only do they have to know techniques with one material, but several. And have to know how to blend them together to make a satisfying whole. Not an easy accomplishment!

One of my favorite art magazines is actually a mixed-media craft magazine. Some suggestion in a book or article can spark an idea in a different direction. I get a lot of inspiration from crafts and most ideas in my notebook do not involve sketches for paintings.

But I wonder if mixed-media informs or dilutes my art? It can take a long time away from painting. I remember how long I struggled to create a workable design for an everlasting, hand-made calendar I envisioned. Countless sketches and notes and experiments and failures occurred until I wood-burned some cubes and wire-bound a set of my paintings to flip weekly.

Often, I am intrigued by and challenged to create in 3-D. Yet, for me, such art requires planning and sorting and preparing whereas painting is more spontaneous and joyful and experimental. Mixed media, or anything other than painting, often feels too detailed, too regimented, reminding me too much of my daytime job. Since I have to be so precise and logical at work, I embrace being wild and intuitive in my paintings. If a project gets too bogged down, I can loose interest quickly.

So, I’m back where I started. Still fascinated by switching media and still somewhat baffled and frustrated with it. How do you resolve being pulled away from your primary art form? How do you limit yourself-- or do you?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Traveler, Return!

The grass is always greener on the other side, the old saying goes. This Oklahoma City horse believes it, willing to stick his neck through the wire fence separating his homestead from the stretch of our motel. Actual grass to eat, unlike the shrub and brush in back of him, made it worth the chance of getting tangled or cut.

How often can you look out your motel room and find an oasis in the city, horse walking past your window, surreal juxtaposition of a country home and encroaching city?

Just returned from an over 3,000 mile road trip, the most difficult journey I’ve embarked on. Along the way, I've learned and experienced a great deal. And was lucky to visit with my favorite Minnesota Four.

For all book binders/printers/book lovers, you’ll be interested to note I visited the Minnesota Center for Book Arts []. Wandering through the gift shop and spaces where workshops are held, I saw book presses, wide work tables, drawers of old-fashioned type, boxes of tools, walls of exhibits, but not Dean Ebben--scheduled to teach workshops that weekend and this--who included some of my gelatin prints as examples. Just being in the downtown recycled building, walls several feet wide, fired up my love of books, my dabble in book binding, my creative juices. “Welcome to your environment,” my step-son Steve said, a former art major himself, as he guided his father and me into the center.

While on the road, I began an altered book, painting pages and creating poems appropriated from removed text. For a book lover, it seems somewhat sacrilegious to destroy a tome, but it keeps the landfill free of dollar remainders and births a brand new art form.

While I unpack, I'll leave you with my favorite summing up from the television program "No Reservations."

"As you probably noticed, I am not an expert on the places I visit. I'm not an authority, I'm a visitor, a traveler, an enthusiast. Is it possible to feel enriched and hollowed out at the same time? Travel isn't always pretty, it isn't always comfortable. Sometimes, it hurts; it even breaks your heart. But, that's OK. The journey changes you. It should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, in your heart and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully you leave something good behind."

Anthony Bourdain, “No Reservations”, Malaysia (Into the Jungle), first aired 08/22/2005