Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two Book Reviews

Since I love creative books and have collected and read so many over the years, I tried cutting back this year. After all, there is only so much shelf space. Yes, I tried reading art and craft ebooks but was very disappointed—so many juicy photographs and layouts left out—and these type of tomes need to be held, taken down from shelves, consulted, propped open when doing exercises. Beginning to feel malnourished, I recently ordered “Personal Geographies” and "Artist's Journal Workshop". Turns out I made good choices!

I have not gotten too far into “Personal Geographies” and already it has provided me with incredible inspiration and ideas. Jill K. Berry has a unique angle of creating personal maps in this mixed-media technique guide that stretches your mind, whether or not you actually do the projects. Reading a little at a time, I already have topics for journal spreads as well as larger pieces. Ms. Berry gives you a broad outline of what she did and why but since you tailor-fit the exercises to your own life, the possibilities are endless. Not only are Ms. Berry’s finished pieces insightful but the other contributing artists have additional ideas.

Usually I focus on one art technique book at a time. But, I couldn’t help it—I started reading “Artist’s Journal Workshop” by Cathy Johnson, as well. Her segment on the 2012 Strathmore online workshops earlier this year was one of my top favorites from the last two years. As a testament to her gentle and encouraging teaching style, I almost wanted to dive into watercolors--her chosen media-- even though I do not use them.

Instead of reviewing which materials to use in your artist journal, she begins asking three thoughtful questions that may define your approach. Ms. Johnson draws and paints exquisitely. I love reading her journal spreads as well as the other invited artists. Even though the focus is on realism, not my usual approach, I do not feel intimidated. I go through periods of wanting to sketch. My drawing is usually confined to small notebooks, working out bookbinding choices about covers, papers, closures or designing 3-D projects and assemblages. But sometimes I want to stretch, illustrating photographs I have taken or exploring memories or dreams. Ms. Johnson gives you courage, guidance, and advice.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Meeting Yourself, Coming & Going and Wandering

Meeting Yourself, Coming & Going
14" x 20"
acrylic on paper

These started out to be pockets for journals but they wanted to be paintings instead.

14" x 20"
acrylic on paper

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gelatin Printmaking 303

Mexican Sycamore leaf on cardstock

Why can an artist sometimes be like a fretful dog, pacing around and around, until finally settling down? That's what I felt last Sunday wanting to play with my new Gelli Arts plate--I kept putting it off even though I wanted to experiment.

Mexican sycamore leaf and other small leaf inside, on 140 lb. HP Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper

Finally, I cleared space. Got out some paints, papers, fresh leaves, stencils and masks, brayers, spray bottle. And just started. Although I have done printing on gelatin before (here and here), this time I didn't have to destroy the gelatin.

Mexican sycamore leaf, BFK Rives tan paper

Working on this new re-usable plate is much different than working on unflavored gelatin. Here are some positive things I found from my first experiments with it:

  • I could make monoprints with great results by not lifting the paper completely off the plate (I’d be hopeless trying to put the paper back in the exact same location or register
  • I could take the plate out anytime you want to play and not have to make the gelatin hours or even the night before
  • I was surprised and pleased fluid acrylics worked well (if done quickly and in small areas)
  • I could make prints on watercolor paper pages in my handmade and bound journal

Oak leaves, Coventry rag paper
There are also some negative results from the plate:  
  • I couldn’t pull multiple prints as I could with regular gelatin; the plate seems to suck in paint and transfer it all on the first print
  • I found my acrylics dried very fast on the plate (I used artists heavy body Liquitex in tube form and Golden fluid acrylics in small bottles); I know this often depends on weather conditions
  • I had to stop and clean the plate more frequently because ghost prints on computer paper with a spritz of water did not lift off already-dried acrylics
  • I found any ghost prints quite abysmal to non-existent
leaves, triple spiral handmade stamp, BFK Rives paper

Trying several types of paper, of course, yielded different results. I used 104 lb. BFK Rives printingmaking paper in a tan color, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico Hot Press watercolor paper, and regular 65 lb. white cardstock.

These are just a few links to more information (some with YouTube videos) about playing with either gelatin or the Gelli Arts plate: 

Do a Google search and I’m sure you can find a bunch more.

leaves, triple spiral handmade stamp, fluid acrylics, 140 lb. HP Fabriano Artistico w/c paper

So, I’m wondering if using an acrylic retarder--in either a medium or paint form--would help with the very quick drying I experienced.

leaves, triple spiral handmade stamp, fluid acrylics on cardstock

mountain and figure masks, BFK Rives

mountain and figure masks, 140 lb. HP Fabriano Artistico

Even with prints that didn't quite work, I see possibilities for re-working later. With a new tool, you can never know how things are going to turn out. But, that's also the fun of experimenting.

ghost print, 140 lb. HP Fabriano Artistico

ghost print on cardstock
note excess paint from figure mask that stuck