Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another One Up at Etsy

Here's another new mixed media piece just listed at my Etsy shop entitled "Singing Soul." It is on a 9 by 12-inch wood panel. I work in all different styles depending on my mood so this piece is a soothing, peaceful departure from all the saturated, bold colors that usually dominate my work. Every so often, I have to soak my sensibilities in cool blues, greens and purples, just to make sure I stay a tiny bit grounded. All that color can get more than a little wild around the edges...

Friday, April 24, 2009

New on My Etsy

Added a few new pieces to my Etsy shop and this is one of them, an original mixed media work on an 8x10-inch canvas board. It's ready to frame, lean up on a bookshelf, or place on a mini easel. This piece is what I call a "hard copy" journal page; same types of techniques, images, and themes as in my personal journals but on a sturdy, "to go" substrate.
I'm gradually building my Etsy shop inventory as I get back into the swing of things after a long absence so check back periodically to catch all the new stuff...just a little bit of this and that from my studio...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Anatomy of a Page: Part 3 of 3

Now we get to the meat of the journal page: focal images and subject matter. At this point, step seven or so, I'm still not sure what my "journaling" will be about or if I'll even have any journaling in the first place. Remember that art journals aren't required to be a combination of words and art. Sometimes a page can be a purely visual experience; sometimes, it's all about the writing. If I really have something to write about, I typically reserve a space on the page once the background is complete. Sometimes, I simply journal around all my images. These particular journal pages have been more visual in focus so for this piece, I started scouting my supplies for images that seem to speak to me.

I had this stencil of a girl in a dress and chose a cream color for her. Ooops! My sponge picked up some of the pumpkin orange I had used earlier so she turned out more peachy than cream. Perfect case of a fortuitous flop as I liked the peach color with the background colors I had chosen. At this point, I also chose to stamp the dictionary definition of art through the stencil once the paint had dried. Hmmm...finally the glimmer of an idea appears on the horizon..."the art inside." So I stencil on the word "ART" and use words clipped from a magazine to complete the phrase. I use a white gel pen to circle it once I'm done.
I also decide to mess with the background some more to help marry the girl to the page. I glop (technical term) some paint on a lid and make some circle marks in cream. I also drip some blue paint down from the top of the page and let it wander down onto the girl's skirt.
This page is almost done. Looking at the phrase "the art inside" triggers the thought that such things need to be released, set free, so the word "Release" gets added to the page. I add this in near the top of the page to form a
sort of visual triangle between "Release," the circled phrase, and the girl. I also decide that the girl stencil needs a bit of definition. I add a shadow with a water-soluble colored pencil to make her stand out some more. Viola! A completed journal page! If you toughed it out through all nine steps, go have yourself a cookie, some coffee or tea, and by all means, journal!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Anatomy of a Page: Part 2 of 3

Well, here we are, back to a journal page in-the-making, and at the fourth step in the process. I don't really count the steps as I progress but I'd estimate that each page takes on about 10 to 12 layers and/or elements during the transformation from blank paper to completed page. Sometimes, I start with an image and create a background environment to suit that image but in the case of these stenciled journal pages, I generally work "blind," playing first, pondering later. At this point, I seem to have a nicely integrated background but I decide to stencil in some swirly lines using a light-colored Staz-On ink (Vibrant Violet.) This color is just dark enough to show up but not so dark as to suddenly become a focal point. Imagine if I had stenciled the swirls in black! The ink is also transparent so it shows the texture underneath, much as if I had used a light-colored spray paint.
Next, I start to finally think about composition and theme. I dig out a piece of handmade paper that echoes the colors I've already laid down and glue that down to the lefthand side of the page. To avoid that "stuck on" look, I go back in with the sequin scrim and paint colors I used earlier and once again, blend the edges into one another. I also decide that I need to start mixing up the values (the page is all one value at this point) and that I need to add some hard-edged texture to counter all the softness going on. Using Staz-On permanent ink again, I stamp a mesh pattern in a couple of places.

You want to have a nice balance of the darkest darks and lightest lights in your piece to be most appealing to the eye. Flat, one-value pages are boring pages because the eye doesn't know where to land; it'll just keep circling around, looking for something to focus on. If you notice your page leaning too heavily in one direction or another, too dark or too light, keep adding the value you're missing until you get a pleasant balance. Trust yourself; you'll know when to stop.

Now I add in a Heidi Swapp mask of some flowers and using purple paint and a makeup sponge, add this image to the lefthand side of the page. When stenciling with acrylic paint, don't glob (technical term) the paint on the sponge or stencil brush. Use very sheer, thin layers and extend your stenciling past the margins of the mask or stencil. In a way, you are trying to mimic the blow-out you might get when using spray paint.
At this point, I am changing my focus from the background to the imagery. The flowers are bold enough in contrast to the background to be considered a focal point and their rank as a focal point (primary, secondary etc) will change based on the images I add next.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Anatomy of a Page: Part 1 of 3

When people look at my journal pages, I am often asked how I do what I do: it's nothing special...just a lot of layering...but this answer still mystifies some people so I thought I might break down my process into a series of steps. During the creation of this page, I took scans as I progressed so I could show what I started with and how I got from point A to point Z. Loading multiple photos into a single Blogger post is pretty tedious so I'm going to break this process up into three separate posts.

I started with a piece of 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper, and over a piece of lace, misted the page with sprays I've made with water and dye ink. I ended up with a soft print of the lace that needed a bit more color so I sprayed some more ink in spots.

Next, I collaged on some torn pieces of a city map of Melbourne, Australia. The map has some cool red letters and numbers around the edge but the pieces were a little too stark white for my taste. I sponged on a tad of yellow dye ink to soften the white of the map.

Right now the map pieces look simply stuck onto the page (since they are) and the next few steps are aimed at integrating layers together so they appear as a cohesive unit. Think of it as knitting or weaving...layer intertwines with layer...the artist weaves back and forth between the intial layer and the next and the one after that.

To start knitting the layers together, I picked up some sequin scrim in a couple of different sizes and chose some acrylic paints in colors that coordinated with the spray inks I used earlier. I began stenciling on lots of spots, paying particular attention to the edges of the map, trying to soften the transition between the collage item and the intial sprayed background. It is important not to get too attached to something on your page, at least at first, as often, most of what you layer in will get covered up by subsequent layers. Notice how the edges of the map pieces are starting to get lost as the spot pattern blurs the boundary between the background and the first layer. Cool! Tomorrow, I post the next three steps (there's nine in all). During this entire process, I don't have a final product in mind. I'm just playing at this point, although one could say I am playing with a direction in mind: to create a unified and interesting background for focal imagery and journaling.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blooming Soul

Here are two more pages that grew out of my experiments in stenciling. The weather has turned sunny but it is really still too windy to spray paint. The paint just billows up around me in a toxic, colored fog, regardless of how close I get the nozzle to the paper. I treasure my brain cells so I am indoors, playing with mister bottles of ink and puddles of acrylic paint instead. In some respects it is disappointing (I really wanted to experiment with spray paint) but on the other hand, the circumstances are forcing me to get much more creative with the process of layering images.

Spray painting can create such sheer layers that it is easy to stack many textures and images on top of one another. Acrylics are much more opaque; I need to use a light hand when stenciling and really stop to think about how each color will work (or not work) over or under another color.

I especially like the crow and city page, featuring a poetic snippet from Emily Dickinson: "The Soul selects Her own society..." I wanted to get the effect of looking through some trees to a city beyond. Dealing with perspective meant I had to carefully position images but at the same time, aim for mimicing the serendipitious look of spray painting. In the end, it was a pleasant dance. So, I'll continue merrily along, perhaps even looking forward to the windy days so that I may dance back and forth between Intent and Accident some more.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My Etsy Open for Business

Finally, after a three year hiatus, my Etsy shop, Hand & Soul Studios, is back up and running. I've just a few things to relaunch the site but they are either pretty and useful or decorative and whimiscal. First up, I added a couple of my handmade, chain stitched journals: covers and endpapers of rich handmade papers, nice sturdy card stock pages with pretty coordinating patterned scrapbook papers to wrap each signature, 8 signatures in all. And finally, a decorative ribbon to tie it all closed.

I've also added five small bird paintings to my Etsy store, ready to fly to your home and grace the walls. Each little bird is perched on a 5-inch square stretched canvas and just for fun, I finished off the canvas edges in a playful checkerboard pattern.

Check out the link to the right if you're interested in taking a peek...tomorrow, this blog will be back to our regularly scheduled programming: journals and loads of art play. Until then, adieu.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hopeful Magic

Here's a couple more loose leaf journal pages that I completed since yesterday. I'm actually starting to feel a tad grateful for the sucky weather as it is allowing me to rediscover a love for stenciling. Back when I did more "crafty" things than art, I used to stencil a lot but the tools were pretty limited. Since those days, the selction of pre-cut stencils has improved dramatically and I have many other skills and tools in my bag of tricks.

These pages are grand fun to work on and if I "mess up," I just layer in some more paint or paper and keep right on movin'. Better still, I just let it go (although that is the more difficult option.) Having loose pages is also refreshing as I get oh, so tired of having to deal with the !#$@& wire on spiral bound journals! I don't think I'll try to bind these pages in any way...I'll either simply keep them in the portfolio I already made for class or make another, smaller portfolio...hmmm...the second option sounds like more fun...and I'm all about fun these days. These pages are still pretty precise in layout but I am learning that there can be a happy marriage between precision and sloppy, planned and unplanned, perfection and serendipity. I used to think I wanted to become a "messy" journaler because if I couldn't let go, I wasn't being authentic but it is dawning on me that these pages are a reflection of the real me, someone who loves to play but who also craves order. As I progress in my journaling, I am hopeful that the magic inside will bubble forth just exactly as it was intended all along.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stencil Play

The weather has been wildly uncooperative for any sort of outdoor art work: it either has been raining in icy torrents or bitterly blustery, dashing my dreams of playing with stencils and spray paint. I am determined to persevere however, and so I have been stenciling the old-fashioned way - inside my cozy, climate-controlled studio with acrylic paint, stubby stencil brushes in all sizes, and makeup sponges. I tore up some watercolor paper, used spray dye inks and created a few vivid backgrounds. In comparison to stenciling with spray paint, inks are just too watery to create sharp edges but I did get some nice shadowy, diffuse background patterns on which to continue mark-making. These are my first two journal pages that I have created for my oh, so fabulous online class. I have plenty of journals in progress but I am using this new loose leaf journal to simply practice and deep thoughts here. Once I gathered my stencils all together, I discovered that I have quite a collection. Cutting my own, except on a very simplistic level, may prove to be a bit too much for my tender hands so I am happy that I have plenty of pre-cut stencils to use. One advantage to stenciling with paint is that I can easily use multiple colors on one stencil without a lot of masking. I think the mandala turned out nice on top of the lace pattern I achieved with the spray inks.
Note: If you have a hankering to join me in stencil play, check out Dispatch from L.A. It's $40 for 4 lessons and I think I got my money's worth with lesson 1 which featured 8 demo videos and a 24 page PDF document...Miss Mary Ann obviously loves what she does and knows her stuff, inside and out. I really think this class could turn my journal style upside down...

Monday, April 13, 2009


The painting is going well as I try to settle on show themes and content for this fall. I have five shows scheduled in four months starting in September! What was I thinking?! And, as if things weren't crazy enough, I am intent on relaunching my Etsy site and/or opening an Artfire store as well as throwing in an open studio before Mother's Day....uh, huh...
This little painting was inspired my studio kitty who, of course, isn't blue but is frequently wide-eyed and ever so dangerously curious. In truth, she is the world's worst studio cat as she has a taste for paintbrushes and knack for standing in exactly the most inconvienent spot. Still, she makes for inspiring subject matter and this piece practically flowed off the brush onto the canvas. Love it when that happens!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dreaming of Stencils

Last Friday, I started an online art class taught by the incredibly talented Mary Ann Moss of Dispatch from L.A. The class is called "Stencilry: Pure Experimentation" and I am definitely getting my money's worth. Miss Moss has poured her heart, soul, time, and energy into this class and I know I will be discovering (or recovering) an entirely fresh way of approaching art journaling. I've been trying to shake the perfection urge for years, even if it is just for one journal. I want to really play, not just play at playing and so far so good. The weather has been completely uncooperative (rain, rain go away!) but I managed to sneak outside in the early morning hours and complete my first assignment...the first picture shows my cover, the next picture is of the back cover and lastly, the inside of my portfolio. I used some lovely red duct tape for the spine and wrapped the edges with black electrical tape. Forgive the shine in the pictures: that silver spray paint is quite enchanting in real life but the camera lens isn't so fond of it. For this class, I've decided to work entirely in black, white (or cream), red, silver, and gold. This is a departure from my fuschia, pumpkin orange, turquoise obsession and yay! for that. I started a red, white, and black journal now as well...just needed another option when I get tired of the color saturation (which isn't too often.) I have many, many journals "in progress" right now and I work in two to three a day, depending on my mood and needs. Whew!
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