Monday, March 31, 2008

Back to reality

I spent a busy weekend socializing with various art buddies, and now I’m sorry it’s over.
Saturday I went to Debbie Smith Doyle’s house for a day of eating, stamping and yakking with the Red Hat Stampers. I feel fortunate that they adopted me into their group three years ago. They’ve been together since 1995 and are still stamping up a storm (although I didn’t do any of this myself at our get-together).
At the moment I’m on a colored pencil jag, and spent most of the day meticulously coloring in ATCs I’d already stamped the night before. I find this a therapeutic activity—kind of like the way I felt about coloring books as a child, or jazzing up maps in high school geography.
Then last night I went to Cherri’s Moote’s house for dinner. She had some of her friends over to meet book artist Beth McKee who has created this amazing 44-foot long accordion book based on a speech about women given by Stephen Lewis. You can read about Beth’s project and see a picture on
her website. To make the figures that run along the bottom of each page, Beth carved stamps out of foam and then collaged on their clothes. After she had shown us how to do this, we tried it ourselves. It was like a grown up version of paper dolls.
But now it’s time to retreat back into the work zone. I wish I was preparing to enter the Battistero in Florence looking all floaty and voluptuous like the Victorian maiden above. In reality, I’ll be in sweatpants wading through the mess my inner sanctum has become.

Friday, March 28, 2008

My Prize Arrives

As I mentioned here last week, I won the random draw for Jen Worden’s tenth creative challenge. Well, my prize—a polymer clay encased heart—arrived today and I’m just thrilled with it. Not only is it beautifully made, but it’s so holdable too. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Jen. I will always treasure it.
Jen is off to Artfest next week and I’m excited for her. I had a wonderful time when I went a couple of years ago. There’s something about being in the Artfest environment that makes you feel like you’re at the center of things creatively. I had thought all the amazing artists I met there would intimidate me, but instead I came away inspired and rejuvenated (when I caught up on my sleep that is).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Instant Card Stand

Recently John showed me this nifty way of making an instant display stand for a card or photo. He picked the idea up somewhere online and I thought I’d share it with you. All you need are a couple of small binder clips and you’re good to go.
The heart card by my friend Paul Foster is one of my favorites. He uses foam stamps and acrylic paint layered on watercolor paper that he decorates first. Yet another thing I’d like to try but haven’t!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wishing I could travel

It’s been snowing again here and I’m dreaming of going somewhere warmish — anywhere really, as long as it’s no longer winter. I made a list up today of places I’d like to visit that I haven’t seen yet: The Big Sur, San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Spain, Italy, South Africa, India, Bali, China, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. Actually, when I think about it, it’s pointless making a list because I’d be happy to go anywhere … even Antarctica, although there’s always ice and snow there as I recall.
My two top picks, though, would have to be New Zealand (I even dream about it) and Firenze, Italy. Simonetta in the ATC above is looking across Il Portico degli Uffizi e Palazzo Vecchio, which I think roughly translates into The Porch of the Uffizi and Old Palace. (If I’d known how interested I’d be in Renaissance Art one day, I wouldn’t have slept through those two years of Italian in university, but when you’re 20 years old, 9 a.m. is the crack of dawn).).
Now my third choice would have to be Hawaii, so tonight I did what I could. I visited Leslie’s blog, listened to Elvis sing Blue Hawaii while I looked at her pictures and pretended I was there.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Taking a break

Mary came over for lunch today and we had a great time gabbing about art. She brought over some of the bling that she’s going to be selling in her Etsy shop, and I showed her the new collage sheets I’ve been working on. We had pooled our vintage photos of European cities and I’ve been madly scanning away, fixing them up, then creating layouts. I’ve also been doing the same thing with Mary’s 1920 tool catalogue.
For the ATC shown above, I used an image of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice and a protractor so it’s nice to have new images to work with. But I think I need to take a break from doing this for a couple of days because I'm bug-eyed.
I told John tonight that making collage sheets reminds me of knitting. Once you get into the rhythm of doing it, you can’t seem to stop. Then when you finally go to bed, you feel like you’re making sweaters all night—or even worse, doing the same one over and over and over again

Friday, March 21, 2008

On Drawing

Every time I check out Ronna’s blog, I want to start drawing again and I keep promising myself that I will. So on March 12th, I finally took a deep breath and decided I’d just go for it. Basically I’ve been doing a drawing a day since then. I’ve sketched various dead plants, a teacup, shells, a doohicky I found in the parking lot outside David’s work, a scrunchie and a pair of socks that don’t look like socks at all ... at least the way I've interpreted them.
I thought it would be harder to get back into drawing than it’s actually been. It was never my strong point (if I do have one) but I’ve never been afraid of it either. Danny Gregory says there are no bad drawings and I think this is a healthy approach to the process. The interesting thing is that all the work I’ve done in Photoshop is helping me. Not because I’ve become more observant over time but rather I’ve finally learned that if you want to become better at something you just have to keep plugging away at it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Carmi at One of a Kind

I forgot to mention that Carmi is at the One of a Kind Show until Monday selling her fantastic cards. If you can make the show, it's well worth going to Toronto see see all the amazing things she comes up with to brighten a special occassion, or just because. After all, who needs an excuse to send an original card? For more information, check out Carmi's blog.

In the Mail

When you work at home, receiving mail is always a high point—whether it appears in your email inbox or through the door. Zanne sent me a couple of beautiful spring cards recently and Jennifer Pearson Vanier, some of her unique ATCs. You can see a sample of their work above. It occurred to me this morning that when I receive something handmade, I’m not only hearing from a friend but I’m also adding to my art collection because I save and treasure everything that comes my way.
Speaking of another kind of mail, I went to a printing seminar today and the audience consisted of fourteen men and me. I couldn’t help thinking that it would be a good place to meet a man if you were looking for one. The material was way over my head though. No wonder people get discouraged and overwhelmed with all the technicalities involved in running a computer program. But I resisted the urge to bolt and hung in until I was able to find out what printer to buy next. At one point, the guy next to me leaned over and whispered: “How much of this do you really understand?” “Oh, about five percent,” I replied, and then the two of us giggled like a couple of kids failing tenth grade math.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's Outside?

For this week’s challenge, Jen Worden asked us to look out our window and represent what we see in a piece of art. Fortunately she added the words literally or figuratively because I’m not in the mood for literality (probably not a word but then again, it’s been a long winter).
All I can see out my window at the moment is a maze of dog/squirrel/raccoon and rabbit paw prints. I know there’s an interesting candle holder rusting out there somewhere too, but since showing you this would involve digging it out of a snowdrift, I’ll pass on it for now.
This project ended up turning into a looking through my inner window kind of thing done in Photoshop because frankly, I’d like to ignore reality. I’d prefer to be leaning against a balustrade overlooking the Mediterranean like this faux Greek goddess is doing here, and looking fabulous while I’m at it. But really, I can’t complain. For one thing, I won Jen’s random draw last week and I’ll be receiving one of her polymer clay encased hearts soon. Being a big fan of all things heart-related, I can’t wait to see it and hold it—and I’ll be sure to post a picture when it arrives.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Elephant Thoughts

I rarely work with animal images in Photoshop so I thought I’d play around with this photo of an elephant. There’s something about elephant skin that fascinates me. Because of the texture it reminds me of living tree bark. Then again, bark is alive too isn’t it?
When I finished this digital collage I called it Elephant Thoughts. It seems to me that an elephant must have plenty to think about, and that these thoughts probably wouldn’t involve doing his or her taxes or emptying the Dustbuster.
Then just a few minutes ago I came across this great quote from Aristotle. Apparently he once said that the elephant was “the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind.” (I’m not sure whether or not Aristotle considered human beings to be beasts but it’s certainly something to ponder).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Front and Back

When I do an ATC, I usually make a tag to go on the back. But while I was playing around with the color on my doll, I wondered what it would look like in high-contrast black and white. In some ways I liked the result better so I turned it into the tag and just added my name, date and edition number in pen.
A couple of people asked me on Friday night where I got the image of the doll, and the answer is that I bought it from istock royalty-free images. The original was a black and white photo that I added color to digitally by incorporating other layers including a map of the solar system. I also worked on the eyes to make them stand out more.
When I first started experimenting with Photoshop, I didn’t find much to inspire me online, but there are plenty of people doing digital collage now and some of them are fantastic. If you’re interested, you can check out my two favorites: Maggie Taylor and Alicia Buelow.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Our Doll Challenge

As you can see, we all really loved the ATC doll challenge. For example, Martha sewed a little doll, Mary used one of her own hand-carved stamps and Sandy—well Sandy went above and beyond the call of duty by constructing a paper doll that folds up into an ATC. I’d actually considered doing this myself, and then abandoned the idea when I realized how much work it would be for a slow poke like me.
What always happens at these meeting is that you see things you just know you want to try.
Marissa painted an acrylic background and then stamped on it. Daniza cut up a doll magazine so we all got something different. And Colette used a zigzag stitch to attach a doll’s head to her ATC. I may be the only female in North America without a sewing machine, but I want to do this too. Does anyone know if those tiny machines really work? (I’m afraid I’d end up sewing my own hand to the paper with a full-sized one).
P.S. While I was looking at our ATCs and writing about some of them just now, I realized that I forgot to photograph my own, so I’ll post it next time.

Friday, March 14, 2008

ATC Meeting Tonight

I always look forward to trading ATCs with my friends in “The Hive. We meet the second Friday of every month and have a wide variety of themes. This month it’s dolls, and I’ll post the results after our meeting. But while I’m on the subject of ATCs, I thought I’d post this one—the latest Photoshop volley between Jeanne and me. Jeanne is in the process of moving to England right now so our volleying is on hold, but when I was reading ATC Quarterly this morning, lo and behold there were three ATCs by Jeanne on page 22. It’s always exciting to me to see a friend’s work in print. And speaking of my favorite zine, Ronna has produced another great issue. I really liked the centerfold—rabbits, not bunnies—and how to make Salt Dough ATCs. By the way, the next centerfold theme is Polka Dots and the deadline is May 15th.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Meeting the Challenge

I didn’t know if I could complete Jen Worden’s weekly challenge in one evening, but I managed to which was good because the challenge was to finish something that had been hanging around for a while. It feels satisfying to be able to move on to a new idea now—or maybe even to finish off another project that’s taking up mental space.
This assemblage basically pays homage to the letter “E” for no other reason than I liked the type block. I also used a drawer from a piece of doll’s furniture, a red glass pebble, a burnt out light bulb John gave me and a protractor. Mathematical instruments fascinate me even though I was never any good at geometry at school.
I’m often surprised at what I end up with when I do assemblage. Everything sort of progresses in a haphazard manner and then finally comes together into something I doubt I would have pursued if I’d had a clear picture to begin with. It’s always a voyage of discovery—of what I’m not really sure—but I’m usually glad I decided to take the trip.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bindo Altoviti

This portrait of Bindo Altoviti has always appealed me, but when I set out to turn him into an ATC, I didn’t know anything about his background. For some reason I’d always assumed he was a lover of the artist Bronzino who decided to immortalize this beautiful young man in paint.
However, it was Raphael who did this portrait of twenty-year-old Bindo—and he turned out to be anything but a love object. Shrewd, canny, and heir to a large fortune, Bindo became the powerful banker to the papacy, and a major opponent of the Medici family who dominated Italy in the 16th century. He was also a patron of the arts and friends with many important Renaissance artists, including Michelangelo, Cellini and Vasari (who painted frescoes in Bindo’s Roman homes, as well as an altarpiece for the family church in Florence). Makes you wonder what happened to that cute guy you had a crush on in high school, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jen’s Finish-It Challenge

This week on Jen Worden’s blog the challenge is to finish a project that’s been sitting around for a while. I immediately thought of this doohickey I bought on one of my forays to Active Surplus in Toronto with Mary. I think it’s something electrical—probably space for two outlets—but to me it looks like a shrine. Every day it stares up at me from my art table, and every day, I wonder what to do with it—then I simply put off the creative confrontation. Well, it’s not a confrontation exactly; it’s more like releasing whatever-it-is that the shrine wants me to do. Now that I’m committed to finishing, I guess I’ll actually have to start listening.

Monday, March 10, 2008

On keeping a blog

One of the things I like about keeping a blog is the accountability factor. You want to write about things and post images that other people find interesting. Naturally I don’t always succeed at this, but I know that the process of keeping a blog—for over two years now—has certainly helped me in a number of ways. Like improving my Photoshop skills for instance.
When I was debating about what to say this morning, I wondered if I should write about the bad fall I took on the ice over a week ago, and how long it is taking me to recover. But I’m really not comfortable talking about things like that. I am fascinated when other people write about it, though, because most of the time, they don’t sound like they’re whining which I know for a fact I would.

So my entry today is simply a digital take on a cabinet card that I bought in Seattle when I went to Artfest in 2006. Did you know that millions of cabinet cards and carte de visites were produced in the U.S. alone? I think that’s an interesting figure because while the photographic means of presentation was common, each image is unique because it’s a record of someone who actually existed. I often wonder if descendants of these people would like to have these photos, but obviously I have no way of knowing. Nevertheless, I think that’s the main reason I don’t like to tamper with the actual image—just in case.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Tinkerbell's New Family

Emma sent me this link today and I just had to share it with you. Tinkerbell is a 4-pound teacup Yorkshire terrier who gave birth on February 10th to seven puppies (six by caesarean section). I just can’t get over how together she looks—and she’s nursing them all too. For more pictures visit The Toronto Star website.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bird Business Card

When I was working on the wallet challenge, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to design a business for the group of birds on this sticker I liked. But how would a flock of birds come up with a “brand” for themselves? I’m sure they couldn’t care less about crafting an individual or group identity because they just do what they do and enjoy it.
P.S. Someone told me recently that one of the reasons a bird finds it easy to attain lift off is because it gets rid of its waste first. We humans could learn something from this, I think.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What I've been reading

We’re in the middle of another snowstorm yet again. It’s the kind of day where you just want to stay in bed and read. That won’t be happening, of course, because I’ve got too much to do. But I have managed to read some really good books lately, so I thought I’d share them with you.
All That Once Was Will Be Again was written by Alex Mogelon and beautifully illustrated by his daughter Ronna (the editor of ATC Quarterly). What I loved about this book was that I became so engrossed in reading about the Iroquois girl and boy—and their culture—that I had to read it straight through in one sitting. I felt like I was right there, and when I finally came up for air, I realized I’d learned a lot too. It has what I’m always looking for in a novel: a good story and great writing. Sample: when Uncle Ohne focuses on one bright star and hopes he will "be taken up to it and become a part of its brightness."
Emma thought I’d enjoy Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert—and she was right. After a painful divorce and an unhappy love affair, Gilbert goes on a yearlong voyage of healing. She eats heartily (and learns the language) in Italy; spends time in an Indian ashram; and then finds true love in Bali, where she also raises funds to buy a single mother her own house. This book is full of metaphysical and personal insights. But make sandwiches before you start reading. All I wanted to do was eat during the first section where Gilbert rhapsodizes over Italian food.
Emma also thought I’d like Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. The title gives you a good idea of how intense the writing is in this coming of age novel about a sixteen-year old called Blue. Each chapter is named after a classic novel, and Pessl quotes freely from all sorts of books—some real and others imaginary. It’s impossible to do this book justice in a few words, but it has a terrific ending … something you don’t usually get with literary novels, and why I usually avoid them.

Thanks Emma! What have you got for me to read next?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Inside My Head

I’m not sure what this ATC really signifies, but it’s a graphic representation of what seems to be going on inside my head at the moment. Even though it’s been a super busy day, my mind is still teeming with creative schemes and ideas.
I spent some time tonight looking at our next club challenge—a calendar made from blocks of wood housed in a small cabinet. Carmi warned us that we might not like it, but I was delighted because I’d already picked up one from the dollar store months ago with a view to altering it. However, as I was playing around with the one Carmi gave me, I realized that I would like to start working larger. This means actually using my tools and constructing things from scratch. I think I’ll dig out my copy of Crafting Personal Shrines by Carol Owen and see if I can pick up some tips.

Monday, March 03, 2008

What's in my wallet?

I decided to post some of the mini collages I included in my wallet today too.
The ones on the upper left and lower right have embossing powder backgrounds. I smooshed on pigment inks, then tossed on different embossing powders that appealed to me to see what would happen.

The doll is made was made from a large jigsaw puzzle piece with scrapbook paper glued on over it. Her head is an eye that opens and closes holographically, although it’s hard to tell from the photo. Then I gave her a tulle scarf and a hat made from a paper clip.
I also did a mini collage with a heart and map of New Zealand since that’s one place I’ve always wanted to go, and right beside it is a mini playing card with layered papers and a bird sticker. The little picture in the upper right hand corner is made from a round slide mount.

Our Club Meeting

Despite the snowstorm, we all managed to make our club meeting on Friday night. It actually took me almost four hours to get there, but it was worth all the hassle in the end because we had a great time.
It was amazing what people did with the wallet challenge. For instance, Sharon used it to form the roof of a house and then added shingles made from stale gum she’d painted. Now if that isn’t creative, I don’t know what is!
It was my turn to do the demo and we made a little ATC box that I’d designed to hold cards. I also took some organic chocolate for everyone to try.
John’s friend Fred Jene makes his own from scratch grinding and roasting cocoa beans and then sweetening it with maple syrup or agava from a cactus plant. Apparently chocolate contains lots of magnesium so you don’t have to feel guilty about eating it because it’s good for you! For more information, visit Fred’s web page at