Monday, January 27, 2014

Hip Deep in Robot Guts & Other Messy Business

Things may seem quiet here at Lost Coast Post but behind the scenes, it is as crazy and chaotic as it gets.  Since the last week in December, my life has revolved around getting my son Daniel transitioned from community college to a four-year university.  He lives at home while attending school so thankfully, no moving was involved but there has been an endless circus of hoops to jump through to make this shift happen.  And then, no sooner had he completed his first week than he was struck down by a very bad case of the flu (make that pneumonia) complicated by asthma.  Attendance is critical in the first couple of weeks since there are more students than seats (professors drop students who don't show up) but I'm not sure I'll even be able to get him on his feet today.  I might have to go in and talk to his teachers so they know Daniel isn't just being neglectful of his school responsibilities.

With all this life business stuff going on, I've had little to zero time for art for almost three weeks.  I'm going a wee bit mad.  So yesterday, I planted my rear in the studio and in between caring for my patient, started work on some new robot sculptures.  I have a show debuting next month (yikes!) called "For the Love of Robots" and I think I have exactly two weeks to construct an entire fleet of mechanical men.  Nothing like a bit of pressure to get the ball rolling...So if it continues to be a bit slow here at the blog, please know I am working myself to the bone, all the while hoping I can escape the viral wickedness that is waiting like a coiled cobra in my son's room.  Wish me luck... 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Trying to Finish Up So I Can Start Something New

The end of this "Scraps" journal is dragging on a bit as my studio time gets squeezed by other art projects (homework for an online class and prep for an upcoming show) and general everyday life business.  In my experience, it actually isn't that uncommon for the beginning work in a new journal to progress like wildfire and by the end, for that same work to feel like swimming in quicksand.  However, I already have enough unfinished journals on my shelves; I am determined not to add another to the stack. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wake Up Call

How many of you out there have done some or all of the following?  Sit quietly for a moment in your studio space, consider carefully, and be honest...
  •  Purchased a new book or art supply, read a few pages, maybe did an exercise or two, or completed a few swatches/experiments and then stashed the new goodie away and forgot it existed...
  •  Went searching for something you knew you had only to discover something else that you had forgot about...
  •  Tore out all the articles you loved from your favorite magazines with the intention of getting back to those fantastic, "must make" projects and yet never did...
  •  Fell in lust with a new art supply, purchased it in every color imaginable and then only ever used the same five or six colors...
  •  Discovered a new technique or craft, collected all the tools and supplies for that craft, dabbled for a while, and then abandoned all that stuff in favor of the next big idea...and then the next...and the next...
  •  Spent more time lusting after, hunting, gathering, and organizing supplies than actually making something... 
  • Spent time learning the techniques of (and perhaps purchasing the products promoted by) a well-known artist only to feel like you can't make stuff that feels representative of you...
  • Felt a little bit embarrassed when a stranger (or even a family member) sees your art supply stash and comments on its size (perhaps even making a reference to the show "Hoarders"?)...
  • Wished you could make more art and followed that wish with the phrases "If only I had..." or "If only I could..."
  • Spent money you didn't really have for something you didn't really need...
  • Accumulated a vast stash of art supplies and reference materials that will constitute a big clean-up and clear out chore for your loved ones when you pass on...
For my part, I've done all of the above and frankly, it is hurting my creativity, the expression of my unique vision, and of course, my wallet.  This isn't a new topic here at Lost Coast Post; about this time each year, I revisit this theme.  Well, I think it is time to pay real attention to a reoccurring thought.  There's so much at stake.  I'm changing things up in 2014, curling inward.  However, instead of sleeping in my hoard like Smaug the dragon, I'm going to start actively appreciating and using what I have.  I'm not going to waste any more time in search of more "treasure" I don't need; the treasure I really need to unearth lies within.  More to come in future posts...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Let the Year of the Fairy Tale Begin!

One of my primary goals for 2014 is to focus my time in the studio.  I love to dabble and dance around the studio, doing a bit of this and a touch of that.  It is a lot of fun to be sure but often, I either don't complete a project or I just skim the surface of a technique, theme, or art supply.  So much possibility is left untapped!  As much as I can, I want to interlock my reading, education, and studio time so I can dive deeper into fewer things.

At the top of my list is continued illustration practice with the ultimate goal of writing and illustrating a children's book (even if it is just for private consumption.)  So late last year, when I learned that Carla Sonheim was cooking up a yearlong exploration of fairy tale illustration, I jumped in immediately!  I can intensify my focus on illustration by taking an in-depth class that does just that.  "The Year of the Fairy Tale" is my one big class for 2014 and I am so excited for it to begin!  We get our first assignment on January 20th so I'm in the hunting, gathering, and preparing stage.  As for you, my dear readers, prepare to see lots of fairy tale-related art!

Note:  Carla is an amazing teacher: her classes feature a very warm & welcoming creative energy that gently encourages exploration of open-ended activities.  It is very easy to adapt her lessons to reflect your own personal style and interests (something I think is extremely important when choosing where to spend my limited funds.) I encourage you to check out the "Fairy Tale" class or any of her other fantastic offerings. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Discover Morning

Here's another spread in my "Scraps" journal.  As you might know, I've been painting a lot of flowers in this journal but I'm ready to start branching out into other things.  I think I might do an entire journal of bird portraits...oh, there are some many journal ideas and so little time!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Product Review: Dura-Lar Wet Media FIlm

Since late December, I've been playing with a new (to me) art supply called Dura-Lar Wet Media Film.  The best description of this product comes right from the package: it is a clear acetate that has been treated on both sides to accept water-based mediums without the beading up, chipping, and running you get with traditional acetate. The affiliate links* you see in this post will take you right to the product on Amazon but if you are shopping for this stuff elsewhere, be aware that you'll also find "Dura-Lar Clear (or Matte) Film" on the shelves.  It's made by the same company (Grafix) but not the same thing.  Look for "Wet Media" on the package to ensure you're getting the specially-treated acetate.  Some other properties: Dura-Lar Wet Media film lays flat, doesn't tear, is heat resistant and archival.  (Remember that's "archival" right out of the package.  What you add to it will change that...someday I might detail my thoughts on industry use of "archival" to draw in buyers.  It's a word sort of like "organic": sounds great but not always all that true.)

So what can you do with this stuff?  I've been using it to create uber-layered art journal pages.  I bought a couple of sheets at my local art supply store just to experiment and I fell instantly in love!  You can use acrylics, watercolors, markers, stamping inks (such as Staz-On), and sumi ink right on the film without those afore-mentioned problems of beading and chipping.  Be aware that since the film is not porous, it takes a bit for wet media to dry (via evaporation.)  Acrylics dry pretty fast as per usual but watercolors take much longer.  I typically start with a layer of watercolors, let it dry overnight, and begin the serious playing in the morning.  This product also accepts collage materials quite nicely.  I just use decoupage glue to adhere papers.  You definitely want an adhesive that dries clear.

The pages you see here are drowning in layers!  I painted, stamped, and collaged on the page itself and on the back of the Dura-Lar.  When I finally got to a look I liked, I simply glued the embellished Dura-Lar into my journal with more decoupage glue.  Then I added a sumi ink sketch, more painting, stamping, washi tape, and stickers to the top of the Dura-Lar. 

So what if you paint or stamp onto the film and hate the results?  Just wipe it clean with a baby wipe or damp cloth, make sure it is completely dry, and start again.  You can even wipe off Staz-On permanent stamping ink if you don't like something you've stamped or you want to reposition an image.  Remember, once the wet media is dry, it won't rub off on your fingers.  It only reactivates with the application of more wetness.  (Note:  When you brush more wetness [such as glue] over the top of dried stuff, you need to use a gentle hand so as not to reactivate and push around what you've already placed on the film.)

You could use this product like I have to create layers on top of existing journal pages or you could embellish some Dura-Lar and tip it onto a page stub to create a whole new page.  Make your own custom transparencies!  There are lots of possibilities!

CONS:

  • Thick layers of paint will scratch off if you dig at it with a sharp object or your fingernails.  I used gouache to paint my flowers and had to keep the layer pretty thin.  (Gouache is famous for cracking anyway in thick applications.)  It is also important to keep your layers thin so you can glue the film flat to your journal page or other substrate.  Generally speaking, once dry, I found the wet media applications very durable with normal touching and rubbing.  When a piece of this stuff is glued down into a journal, it isn't really going to get roughed up unless directly across from something scratchy like say a brad or eyelet.  And certainly, this issue is not a problem if all your paint work is trapped between the page and the back of the film.
  • You can't use colored pencils or crayons directly on this stuff, even water-activated ones.  You can paint first, let that dry, and apply pencil over the dry paint.  If you look close, that's how I got the shading in my flower portraits.
  • Dura-Lar is also a bit more expensive than standard clear acetate.  However, I find that this is a product where a little bit goes a long way and if I really want to experiment with transparent layers, the non-beading property of Dura-Lar expands the range of materials that can be used on the surface.
  • Another possible downside is the "shiny-ness."  I don't mind how this looks in my journal but some might.  It might be possible to blunt the shiny finish with a final layer of matte medium but I haven't tried this yet.  I'll do some experimenting and edit this post with my results.  There is so much I look forward to trying with this product!
This special acetate comes in a package of 12, 9x12-inch sheets or a package of 12, 11x14-inch sheets or a roll that's 25 inches high by 12 feet long.  I've purchased the 9x12-inch sheets and cut them in half to fit into my journal.  Each sheet is interleaved with a piece of tissue.  I mark my desired measurement on the tissue and then cut both tissue and film with my paper trimmer.

Well, this post is reaching epic proportions so I will close for now.  However, I will update this review as I continue to play. 

* I am a Amazon affiliate which means that if you click on a product link at my blog and ultimately purchase something with that link, Amazon lets a bit of change tinkle my way.  Please know that I only include links to books & products I have personally read and/or tested and that I can recommend. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Lessons from "Scraps"

My "Scraps" journal is nearing its end...just about ten pages left to complete.  This book has been an adventure, a place where I've explored techniques I hadn't tackled before: no dates, extremely few words, gouache & colored pencil flowers, virtually no collaged imagery (from sources other than my own work) as focal points.  I've learned quite a few things from this journal:
  1. I miss having a place to record my daily thoughts, observations, and events.  I've kept a "daily diary" of sorts on & off for many years and I stopped once again in July 2013.  I often get tired of writing a little blurb every morning but every time I decide to give up on the practice, I discover that I miss it.  It is a valuable, grounding morning ritual.  I need to restart my diary-style journal for 2014.
  2. I love slow journaling!  I have thrown out the notion that when I sit down to journal, I have to complete a page or spread from beginning to end in a fevered marathon session.  First of all, I simply don't have the time or energy to work like that anymore but more importantly, journaling accomplished at a leisurely pace feels more holistic and genuine.  The pages develop of their own accord rather than being so deliberately crafted.  The downside to this way of working is that I have less material to illustrate blog posts.
  3. I am head over heels in love with gouache!  Seriously smitten!  I also adore bright colors (duh!), simple layouts, and heavily-worked backgrounds.  In the latest pages, I've also discovered a passion for working with Dura-Lar, a material I'll discuss in a future post.
  4. Finally, I realized that I can indeed generate enough of my own personal imagery to fill an entire journal.  Between my own paintings, drawings and photos, hand-lettering, carved stamps, color copies of prior journal pages, and copyright-free or "generic" images, I think I can eliminate *predetermined* imagery almost completely.  I've been working towards this for several years and I finally feel like I've arrived...
I am so excited to see how my journaling continues to evolve and grow over the next year!

*Predetermined* Imagery:  Commercial rubber stamps (such as specialized "art" stamps), purchased collage fodder/scrapbooking notions, and magazine clippings that come to your journal with someone else's recognizable style attached.  Copyright questions aside, I feel that heavily predetermined imagery, used with little to no alteration, detracts from my unique voice by screaming out the name of another popular designer or artist.  I seek to keep those sorts of intrusions to a minimum in the majority of my journal work.  Exceptions to this rule include inspiration "gluebooks" (analog pin boards) and my daily diary which I love to fill up with all manner of scrapbook supplies and found clippings.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Picking Up in 2014 Where I Left Off in 2013

So here we are...three days into a new year.  I have very complex emotions intermingled with my reflections on 2013.  On the one hand, I feel like I made tremendous strides in my art but on the other, there were the unrelenting health struggles.  In April 2013, I officially "welcomed" Parkinson's Disease into my litany of medical challenges so I move into 2014 determined to make the most of every moment while also allowing time to rest and take care of myself.  Every January, I write up a complex list of things I'd like to accomplish and this year is no different.  I won't burden you with the complete details but here's a brief snapshot of where I hope to head in the days & months to come: 

Artistically, I want to continue my exploration of mediums that require fairly stable fine motor control.  Let's be real for a moment: Parkinson's guarantees that the clock is ticking on that particular skill-set (and there's no way to predict when the alarm will go off) so I want to really push myself while I'm not that shaky.  Last year, I threw myself into my illustration practice and I intend to just keep on that track and see where it takes me.  I'd also like to continue my more in-depth exploration of watercolor and gouache.  As far as journaling is concerned, I'd like to keep working in my unfinished books while perhaps playing in a couple of new formats.  A fabric journal perhaps?  It is hard for me to set many specific goals for my journaling practice because I already like where I'm at and where I'm headed.  Journaling is what it is and what will be will be.  I'm going to just keep playing around in my journals and either be happy with the status quo or be surprised by new developments.

Personally, I've declared 2014 my "Year of Self-Care"...no more putting my needs off in favor of errands, chores, and other demands.  I want to do at least one little thing every day that nurtures my body, mind, and/or spirit.  I am a professional "busy bee" and it is well past time to take a breath and just "be."  I have many, more specific health goals but if I manage nothing more than making "taking care of myself" a priority, I will deem 2014 a rousing success.

And of course, I will be blogging.  I thought perhaps, during my year-end hiatus, that I would map out where I'm taking the blog but instead I spent my time relaxing and living in the moment.  Any special planning for Lost Coast Post simply didn't happen so you and I will both be surprised at what this space holds throughout the next twelve months.  I'd be tickled if you continue to show up here and climb aboard for the ride.  Blogging is so much more fabulous when accomplished in the company of friends.   
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