Friday, May 30, 2008

Club Night

Emma and Bryan left for Hong Kong this morning and as I write this, they are still in the air somewhere over the Pacific. It’s a fifteen and a half hour flight and I’m going to stay up and keep checking Air Canada until they arrive. (Then they change planes and fly to Bangkok).
Yesterday I took a picture of Emma wearing the reading glasses we had to alter for this month’s club challenge. Since I used an enlarged photo of her eyes for the project, I wanted to see what they would look like on her. Emma told me the glasses really freaked her out, and I got a lot of laughs tonight when I modeled them myself at our meeting.
I’ll admit that I didn’t have a clue what to do with the glasses until this week, but it seems that necessity is the mother of invention. Hopefully this will apply to our next challenge, too, which is a particularly heinous set of bamboo wind chimes. What I’d like to do is encase all those dangling bits and pieces in plaster and turn them into a piñata.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jen Worden’s Monthly Challenge

It’s amazing what you can get done when you’re busy. At the beginning of May, Jen Worden posted this month’s challenge to her blog. I thought for sure I’d have no time to do it by the 31st. But last night I thought I’d take a crack at it because I feel more connected to myself when I’m doing something creative. My problem is that I’m such a slow poke I’ll often forgo doing something I want to do simply because I don’t think I’ll be able to finish it. But I managed to complete this challenge in one night.
There were four requirements: (1) use any kind of tape; (2) choose something at random from your stash; (3) pick a word; (4) And finally, put it all together in a triptych.
I cut my shrine out of heavy cardboard and then covered it with colored masking tape and aluminum tape, which I embossed with a stylus. Then from my drafting table I picked up a square of glass I’d covered with alcohol inks and used white tape on the back to make it stand out. For the word—or in this case: words—I choose letters at random from my collection and went with the first complete ones I came up with. Finally, I covered the outside with marbled cardstock and added some Mary bling to the top. (For more of Mary’s embellishments, check out her Etsy store).

All in all, this was a very satisfying experience. Now I have to help Emma with her packing and finish altering some reading glasses for our club meeting tomorrow night.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Driveway Graffiti

When Emma arrived home with her belongings and fish Fred on Monday night, all the kids in the neighborhood suddenly materialized—along with their chalk. They were so excited to see Emma that they decorated our driveway. Soon several adults showed up too, and it took ages to unload the van because we were so busy having an impromptu street party.
Emma finished articling last week and has three months off until she starts work at the beginning of September. On Friday she leaves for Asia with her boyfriend Bryan. They are going to Hong King, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam, and will be back at the beginning of July. Then Emma will have to start looking for a place to live. David has rented an apartment closer to work so he won’t have to spend so much time commuting. The two of them got on so well during their year of living together that I’m sure they’re really going to miss each other. In the meantime, we have custody of Fred and the orchid, and are looking forward to spending a few weeks with Emma before she is tossed headfirst into adult life.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Moo challenge #9

I had every intention of starting my new journal tonight and got out a ton of stamps to use. But then I thought: why not do this week’s moos? The theme at Make a Moo or Two is dots and stripes, and fortunately I actually had stamps for this challenge.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have quite a few images you've never used. But instead of christening them, you keep returning to ones you've already used (like I did here). The B-Line stamp of the woman and the Acey Deucy image are two of my favorites. I stamped on scrapbooking paper with Black Versafine ink and then added some colored pencil.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A fun time-waster

David turned me onto Google Earth recently, and it’s hard not to become totally obsessed with zeroing in on places of interest—especially when you want to escape from everything else you know you should be doing.
I haven’t seen the house where I grew up since the 70s, so when my brother Keith told me today that it had been torn down and replaced with a monster house, I just had to Google Earth it. You can see it in the photo on the left in the upper right hand corner. Next to it is one of the few holdouts in this now swanky area. It’s hard to believe that six of us fit into a house this size, but I don’t recall that it felt that crowded.
The picture to the right shows where John and I live now. Our house is the one with the red car in the driveway, and you can even see our deck. Freaky.
If you want to waste time too, go to this link and you can download Google Earth for free.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Acrylic Revolution

It’s frustrating that bookstores don’t carry the stock they once did. For instance, there are dozens of books available on painting with acrylics but it’s hard to know which ones might be helpful without taking a look at them first. One book I can personally recommend is Nancy Reyner’s Acrylic Revolution: New Tricks & Techniques for Working With the World's Most Versatile Medium.
I’ve learned a lot from reading this book mainly because the focus is on technique rather than eye candy. Not that I have anything against eye candy, but all too often you don’t really understand how an artist has achieved a particular effect and this is frustrating. However, it’s apparent from the get-go that Reyner has put a lot of time and care into her book because the material is easy to grasp, comprehensive and inspiring. In all, she presents 101 different techniques (plus variations) and each one is illustrated with plenty of how-to photographs.
Not all of the techniques grabbed me of course, but there are many I could see incorporating into my own work like embedding stickers into acrylics, creating atmospheric techniques with a spray bottle, and using a brayer to make gradients. Reyner also has a section on doing transfers and another on achieving a crackle effect. I liked the information on using palette knives too. Even though I’ve been working with acrylics for years, I never realized their potential until reading Reyner’s book. Now all I have to do is get off my you-know-what and actually do something with the cornucopia of ideas she shares with us.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Finishing a Jornal

Last night I finished the eighth journal in my Moleskine series, and I was relieved to be done with it. Aside from a number of drawings I like, I won’t be looking at this one again any time soon. It’s like a 192-page primer on everything you shouldn’t do if your intention is to share your thoughts and creativity with other people—in other words: taking all the angst in your life and turning into something that’s totally cool.
My problem is that I started keeping a journal in the ninth grade when it was strictly lock-and-key stuff. A typical entry then (and now) runs something like this: Dear Diary: I’m really upset about such-and-such, so please bear with me while I analyze the situation to death—piece by agonizing piece. This is not a cathartic process, however; it’s compulsive. And probably one of the reasons why I worked myself into a depression after devoting myself to Julia Cameron’s morning pages for six consecutive months.
Admittedly there are finished journals I do hold close to my heart. They reflect those periods in my life where I’m focused on ideas rather than navel-gazing. The second installment in my Moleskine series is an example of this. I attempted to do something colorful, experimental and less personal. But it’s the only journal I haven’t finished yet. There are fourteen pages left and I don’t know if I’ll ever complete them.

I’m looking forward to a fresh start with journal number nine though. My plan is to start stamping in it randomly while watching the finale of American Idol tonight.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The latest Moo challenge

When I took a look at the challenge on the Make a Moo or Two blog this week, I wasn’t sure if I could participate. The theme is beach and sea, and I couldn’t think of any images I had that would suit. But since I’d already participated in seven consecutive challenges, I didn’t want to break my Moo streak.
So I had a think about what the theme means to me. Even though I love swimming, it’s basically all about picking up stuff from the beach for me. I remembered that I’d taken some photographs of my “finds” a couple of summers ago, and decided I’d Photoshop them to see what would happen. I don’t know how sea-and-beachy they really are, but it was interesting to try something different for a change because I usually incorporate people into my work.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Holiday Weekend

I love long weekends because I always feel that a holiday—Victoria Day in this case—gives me an excuse to take time off to do things I enjoy …like celebrating David’s birthday and going for walks with John. Today I’ve been answering email, playing in Photoshop and reading.
One of the books Emma gave me for Mother’s Day was From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by David Olen Butler, which Sandra Gulland had mentioned on her blog. Although it’s aimed at writers, Butler’s book appealed to the art part of my nature, too, mainly because he asks us to dreamstorm instead of brainstorm, the idea being that you have to get past your tendency to analyze so you can get to—and then create from—that place where your art really happens. In other words, expressing your creativity is an experience not an intellectual exercise.

This advice was helpful to me because I know I usually over think things. I don’t know whether or not I agree with Butler that it shows in the finished product, but it’s certainly more enjoyable to act from your dreamspace than your brain.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Scent of Lilacs

It’s still coolish here, but the lilacs are in full bloom and it’s so pleasant to sit outside on the deck inhaling their scent. Lilacs always remind me of my mother because I know she loves them, and last Sunday I gave her a bunch for Mother’s Day.
Over the years the trees have grown up so much in our back yard that it’s too shady to grow much, and our grass is in terrible shape. But the spring flowers are always great: crocus, violets, hyacinths, tulips, snowdrops, daffodils—and this year, even a few irises.

I feel guilty that I don’t have the time or inclination to garden any more. For several years in the early 90s, I grew everything from tomatoes to hollyhocks, and I remember David throwing his arms around me one day and saying: “I love how you smell Mom. You smell like the earth.”

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Moo Challenge #7

I’m probably just squeaking in under the wire on this one—or should I say two? The Make a Moo or Two challenge this week was Mother’s Day and I wanted to do something that illustrates what simple, motherly-like behavior can do to enrich a child’s life, like holding a shell up to a little girl’s ear so she can listen to the sea, or waking her up in the middle of the night to show her the stars.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reading Magazines

I don’t read as many magazines as I once did, but it’s not really a time or money issue. I think I’m looking for an info/visual experience that dovetails with my own interests, and these are more specific than they used to be.
I always look forward to reading Art & Life because Teesha Moore often journals about what’s going on in her life, and it’s like being right there with her. RubberStampMadness is another magazine I read regularly. There’s more writing in this publication than many others, and the focus on scenic and classic stamping appeals to me personally. Plus I also collect the covers. Brenda Beene Shackleford did the latest one (shown above) and I think it will probably end up becoming one of my favorites.
Photoshop Creative and Advanced Photoshop are a couple of pricey U.K. mags I usually spring for. They come with a CD that contains new fonts, brushes and other creative resources that you can download to use in your work.

Today I received Cloth Paper Scissors' special issue on Artist Studios, and I have to admit I’m disappointed. What I didn’t realize when I ordered it was that the emphasis would mainly be on the workspaces of fabric artists. Not that I have anything against fabric art, but since I don’t do it myself, I didn’t find most of the studios that interesting—aside from Jayne Ann Wynn’s and one in a converted hayloft. There were also twenty or so pages of decorative projects to try, but I would have preferred to see the studios of more mixed media artists or painters instead.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Having a Busy Time

December and May are the two busiest times of year for me …December for obvious reasons, and May because of birthdays, work and other commitments. For example, in the last few days I’ve been helping my sister Pam pack up her house, the Red Hat Stampers came over for lunch and dinner on Saturday, and yesterday was Mother’s Day. All good stuff, but I’m really in the mood to spend the whole day in bed reading trashy novels, drinking tea and writing in my journal. When Emma and David were small, John would look after them occasionally while I did just that, and I always really enjoyed it.
According to the Myers Briggs personality test, I’m an introvert, and introverts need to recharge by being on their own. Extroverts, on the other hand, restore their energy best by some heavy duty partying. As I get older, though, I’m discovering that I’m a lot more sociable than I thought I was. I put this down to expressing my creativity on a regular basis, so now when I spend time with other people I seem to have a lot more fun. Hmm …maybe I’m really a closet extrovert.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


On Monday night I had dinner with my oldest friend—well, not literally the oldest because Mary Geo is younger than me, but we’ve been friends since she was two and I was three. Because our families were close, we spent a lot of time together. And part of the reason our friendship worked so well was that we never really felt the need to entertain each other. When we had a sleepover, Mary Geo would play with her dolls while I read, and this seemed to suit both of us just fine.
Mary Geo moved to England in the 70s, so we don’t see each other that often now. Aside from my trip to London in 1976, I realized that this was the first time we’d spent time together without our families or spouses around. It was amazing how we easily we slipped into our lifelong habit of laughing together and confiding in each other. I’ve come to the conclusion that we never really grow up—we just pretend to.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Moo Challenge #6

I didn’t think I’d be able to meet the Make a Moo or Two challenge this week because I’m so busy, but I persevered. The theme is Gold, and I used a scrap of wrapping paper from my sister Pam’s garbage for the background. However, if I thought doing my design in Photoshop would speed the process along, I was dead wrong. I dithered around for ages before finally settling on something I could live with.

Monday, May 05, 2008

David's Visit

David came to stay on the weekend, and Lily was thrilled. Here they are watching TV, or rather David is stretched out on the sofa and Lily is keeping an eye on him from her perch on top of the cushions. Yes, I am one of those people owned by a dog who allows them to relax just about anywhere …except on my pillow.
Besides some extensive dog bonding, one of the reasons David came to visit was to get some Photoshop help from me. He’s designing a postcard for a one-man show of his kiln-fired glass bricks at a gallery in West Virginia this summer. You can see a section from one of his bricks shown to the right above.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Up until recently, all the drawings I’ve been doing have been from life—if you can call rendering inanimate objects “life.” But I suppose they’re an extension of it, aren’t they?
Anyway, a few nights ago, I decided to draw some glass vases from a postcard of Jeff Goodman’s art that David had given me because I really liked the flowing shapes. This turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought it would be mainly because I didn’t have a real sense of their dimension or texture. I felt much happier with the vases after I’d scanned them and added some gradients in Photoshop.
Somehow this drawing of my handbag was more satisfying to do. Even though it’s not in proportion, it’s more realistic simply because it was actually there.