Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I WANT My Crayons!

This morning on Facebook I saw the following:
"Everyone is born creative.  Everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.  Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc.  Being suddenly hit years later with the "creative bug" is just a wee voice telling you, 'I'd like my crayons back, please.'"  Hugh MacLeod

Oh my goodness, did this resonate with me.  And, no, I am not saying that there is not place for algebra or history and that these studies are necessarily dry and dull.  What I am saying is that I recognize that some one took away my crayons and left me with the notion that I should be spending my time studying exclusively and not following my urge to create.

Many years later I did heed the 'wee voice' asking for my crayons back.  And I got them.  And paint.  And printing ink.  And more mediums and papers and canvases than you can shake a paint brush at!

And now I follow where my creative urge leads me.  I explore different methods of making art and different media.  I take classes.  When I am not practicing art I am reading about art, or thinking about making art.

I am reaching for my 'crayons' all the time now.

And guess what?  I feel better!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

It's Sprung!

Everywhere I look, spring has sprung!  Everywhere there are bulbs blooming, trees flowering, seeds
exploding from the ground.  It's a riot of color and growth and exuberance.  It is SPRING.

I'd never really noticed before how the seeds I start really do spring from the soil.  I made the little seed starter pots out of newspaper, filled them with potting mix, added the seeds, some water....then light and a little time and the little plants just sprang from the soil.  A yearly miracle.

I love how beans just bully their way to the surface and how the leaves unfurl.  Eye catching and amazing, no matter how many times I've observed it before.

Daffodils with sunlight streaming through the delicate cups glow with such a happy, sunny yellow.
And they smell so sweetly.

I don't remember the name of this primrose.  I do remember I first saw it in an English garden magazine and had to have it.  It took some time to track it down here in the U.S., but I finally found it.  And it's done very well in my yard.  I love the white edges to each petal.

This cherry tree is in the parking strip in front of my house.  It's just opened up its blossoms and soon the petals will litter the ground like a late pink snow.  The bumble bees are having a wild time in this tree.  It actually sounds like it's buzzing when the sun is bright and the temperature is warm.

I love how a few branches of the cherry tree have intermingled with my flowering quince.  The colors are so bright and cheery.

This particular flowering quince is so bright it almost looks like it would be hot to the touch.

Has spring sprung for you?

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Gentle Beauty and Yellow Ribbons

Cicero Bridge with yellow ribbons, a few miles downstream from the Oso land slide disaster

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful weekend getaway on the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, not too far downstream from the site of the horrific mud slide at Oso, Washington.  The devastation has been well documented in the press and television news media, and I won't rehash the crushingly sad facts here.  I do want to say a little about the effect of this disaster on the town of Arlington.  I shop in Arlington for my weekend groceries and have lunch on Saturdays at the Blue Bird Cafe.  I frequent the Quilt Shoppe and look forward to my chats with the owner.  I buy salt at the Co-Op for my water system and I am always in the hardware store for something.  I've seen some of the victims of the slide around town, not that I knew any of them, but I do recognize some faces in the roll call of the dead.  These missing people have left an aching hole in the heart of the community here.  Arlington is hurting.  Oso is hurting.  Darrington is hurting.  The whole of the Stillaguamish Valley is hurting.  We are all, those who were born here and have lived here their whole lives and those of us who are sometimes residents, we are hurting.  What happened is beyond my understanding.  I just know it is as bad as it gets.
The people who lost everything need help.  Really need help.  

There is so much need.  If you are looking for somewhere to offer help, to donate, may I suggest the Cascade Hospital Foundation Disaster Fund?  100% of the donations will go towards assistance of those most in need.  You can check them out here and make up your own mind.  You could, of course, instead make a donation to United Way or the American Red Cross.  At the very least, please hold these people gently in  your hearts and send them strength and care.

As I wandered around the grounds at the cabin this weekend I was struck by the soft, quiet beauty of early spring in the foothills.  My cherry tree, the lovely cherry tree above, is blooming for the first time.  I never understood why it didn't bloom in years past, but as it seemed healthy, I just let it be.  And now, when my heart is hurting for all the victims, it bursts into beautiful bloom, as if to offer what is has to give.

It is a beautiful sight.  It filled me up with the scent of spring and hope for brighter, happier seasons.

The drops of morning rain really did look like diamonds on my beauty berry shrub.  They glistened and twinkled in the breeze.

The daffodils were a riot of yellow under the maple in the drive.  The sun shone.  The air was washed clean by the rain overnight---but the helicopters go back and forth from the slide site, ferrying those who come to help and those who are found, too late, in the mud.

Please, if you can help, do so.  

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Moku Hanga Printing Class

I recently took a two day class at the Schack Art Center in moku hanga, Japanese woodblock printing using water-based pigments rather than inks.  Betsy Best-Spadaro was the instructor.  I've taken classes from Betsy before and I always have a great time.  She's an excellent teacher, organized and logical in her instruction, and she is also very encouraging.  Betsy studied moku hanga in Japan and while she claims she in not an expert, to my eyes, she most certainly is.

Each color in the print, except for the white of the paper, requires its own woodblock.  Each color is printed individually.

I did a simple design of an old-fashioned bathing costume which required only two blocks as I only needed to print the suit itself and the background.  In the photo above you can see the block I used to print the red of the suit.  The carved out stripes at the bottom used the white of the printing paper to add another 'color.'

This block, for the background, shows how the water-based pigment has been dabbed on.  If you look closely you'll see small white blobs.  That's the nori paste that is used to mix with the pigment.  The nori helps the pigment to stick and actually bind with the fiber in the paper.  You scrub the two (the pigment and the nori) together with a brush to create the printing medium.

Here is my first test print. I was pleased with how the print turned out, although there are areas on the block that need more carving to make for a cleaner print.

The nori is in the small plastic container at the top of the photo above and the round object in the foreground is the baren used to rub, or print, the design.  The brown paper is placed over the print paper (that has been placed on the woodblock using the registration (kento).  This sort of baren is a Japanese style and is made of bamboo.  It works really well for printing the blocks, with firm but not excessive pressure.  For those of us without a big printing press, this is a wonderfully useful tool.

Here are the finished (most of them are finished) prints from all the printers in the class.  I enjoyed the group as they were all very focused and asked great questions of Betsy.  I always learn so much from questions others ask that I don't think of asking myself.

I loved this class and have plans to do more bathing costume prints so I'll have a series.  Lots more woodblock carving in my future!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Friday Fun at John's

My friend John invited me for lunch and art time at his home last Friday.  It was a spectacularly fun day.  John suggested that we play the "prompt game" that he has used before with other art journal friends.  John would give us each a prompt to do in our journal and set a time limit for working.  Then I would come up with something and a time limit.  Back and forth we went.  By the end I was using a list of prompts that John has compiled as I ran out of ideas.  It was great fun and very freeing to work that way and with a time limit.  I felt free to try things I would not ordinarily do.  John, as always, did a wonderful spread, which he didn't think he'd finished when we finally decided to stop.

It was surprisingly tiring, this having all this fun!  By 4 PM I was done in (and I'm sure John was more than ready to get rid of me!).  I like what I've done in my journal.  I think it's finished....but maybe not.

Partial List of Prompts:

  1. add gesso and use a roller with a design carved into it to make texture on the page (I used black gesso) on a page I had previously preprinted yellow
  2. write in black Sharpie on your spread---either just words of a haiku (5/7/5)
  3. stencil a border around the spread
  4. use metal tape (the sort used in heating ducts---I have no idea what it's called but it is adhesive backed and you can get it at your local hardware store)---and tear out shapes to use on your page, then use black paint to antique them
  5. use a credit card to spread two colors on your spread
  6. use fiber paste on one side in three places, then fold your spread in half so the fiber paste spreads onto both sides of the spread---when dry, sand and then color with a spray ink
  7. find three photos or three words, or a combination of both, from a magazine and paste onto your spread
  8. stamp a repetitive design with a stamp or your fingers onto your spread
  9. use an image of an animal
  10. tear shapes from wallpaper and use
  11. thin gesso and then pour onto the spread, turn the spread and allow the gesso to drip---do this in more than one place
  12. use graphite pencil 
  13. use a white pen to follow shapes
  14. use a postage stamp
  15. add something to be the focal point(s) to the spread
I highly recommend trying this to free yourself to trying new methods in your journal or sketchbook. I learned a lot by doing this (and watching John work!).  

Thanks, John!  I had a wonderful time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An Artful Journey Retreat

The Presentation Center
 I was lucky enough to attend the 2014 An Artful Journey retreat at the Presentation Center in the mountains near Los Gatos, California.  This is the second time I have been able to attend and it was, again, a wonderful weekend.  Lots of familiar faces, great teachers, beautifully organized by Cindy Woods, this retreat is among  my most favorite art workshop experiences.

my little, light-filled cozy room in Lower Saint Anthony
 Once again I took a journal class from one of my favorite instructors, D.J. Pettitt.  D.J. is one of those incredible people who can take something quite complicated and time consuming and teach you how to accomplish it in short time, with wonderful results!  How does she do it?

D. J. Pettitt explaining how she paints nests for our projects

She had wonderful photos of birds for us to use for our covers, but I had to use my own photos (of course....never pick the easier way, oh, no!  Not me!!!).  Besides being a truly talented painter, D. J. is also an amazing photographer.  The photos of the raven and the hummingbird that she generously shared with us were beautiful.

front cover, Indian fish eagle
Back cover, African wader of some ilk

I managed to create this journal in three days.  I finished at 3:54 PM on the last day, just six minutes short of the end of the class.  Of course, I had returned after dinner the night before and did several more hours of work on day two to make it possible for me to meet that deadline.

There is quite a lot of sewing involved in the construction of a journal ala D. J.'s style.  You sew your pages to a fabric hinge and then build the signature with these fabric hinged double pages.  You can wrap your signatures in what D. J. calls a "signature wrap", which is just added fabric pages that you collage together and then wrap around one signature or all of them.  You could make signature wraps for each signature, if that was your choice.  I also made fabric collages for the inside of both my covers.

Some pages have added fabric detail, some just have stitching to add texture.

All my pages were gessoed and then were washed with thinned acrylic paint, textured, combed, distressed....all sorts of various techniques were used to make the pages more interesting.

The spine of the journal is made of fabric and the signatures are sewn onto it and secured with buttons.  These are Victorian brass buttons I found on eBay or etsy.

detail of the front inside signature "wrap" and the first page of the journal
detail of the inside front cover and the outside of the front signature "wrap," which is cut from a piece of vintage quilt
D. J. Pettitt photograph, filched from her blog
Here I am in a photo from D. J.'s post on her class at An Artful Journey.  You can read her entire post here.
hallway in lower Saint Anthony cabin
 I loved every minute I spent in class, but to be totally honest, it was the camaraderie with friends old and new that made my weekend at the Presentation Center so remarkable.  My "roomies" in lower Saint Anthony, Jenny Messerle and Glenda Hoagland are women I already knew and loved.  Being assigned to the same cabin with them was the extra special frosting on the cake.  Both are delightful souls---kind, generous, open, wise and beautiful.  Besides, they are both amazing artists and I find being around them and their art truly inspiring.

Tres amigas
It was a magical weekend, from start to finish.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Results from Encaustic Printing Class

I took another printing class today at the Schack Art Center in Everett.  The instructor this time was Deborah Kapoor, who regularly teaches at Bellevue College.  It was a great class and I had a great time experimenting with encaustics and mark making on paper.  I have only done a very little work with encaustics and what little experience I have was with cold wax encaustic.  Working with hot wax today was a totally new thing for me and lots of fun.

I am not sure how I feel about any of the pieces I did today.  The one thing I am sure of is that it was fun!  I expect I will be trying encaustics with print making again soon.