Sunday, January 31, 2016

Alice's Caterpillar: Step-By-Step

Many of you have asked to see more step-by-step or how-to posts so here you go! Heads-up: This blog entry is really, really long and image heavy so pace yourselves; I personally recommend accompanying this post with the hot, comforting beverage of your choice.

This is another page in my Tribe storybooking journal. If the the previous four pages were signposts, this is the "X Marks the Spot" page, the one where the light bulb finally went off. While I broke this page into 10 steps, you'll see that each step actually represents several actions. I work in "technique clusters," applying a set of techniques/colors and then falling back on the previous set of actions to continually integrate each action into the whole so the page is cohesive. Read on...I think you'll see what I mean...

STEP 1: I'm working in an old children's encyclopedia. This page began with a layer of pink acrylic paint, topped with a collage of torn wrapping paper. I used a foam brush to scrub on some white acrylic to tame the brightness and busyness of all the color & pattern. This helps integrate the layers. I have no idea the end game...just playing at this point.

STEP 2: Turquoise acrylic rubbed in by hand plus brush marks; red acrylic scraped on with a palette knife; yellow stencilled on as well as applied with a flat brush; little "X's" made with a black ballpoint pen. I push and pull with these colors and techniques until I end up with something I like.

STEP 3: Lots of mark-making - small gold paint pen circles; tiny, repetitive turquoise marks made with a round brush; concentric circles made by dipping a potato masher in grey acrylic; stamping with grey Staz-On ink. Again, I push/pull with these marks as well as the colors/techniques I used previously.

STEP 4: Taming all that pattern with finger-applied white acrylic. I make more "Xs" and journal in ballpoint pen, apply more white and even make marks in the wet paint with the end of my brush. The ballpoint pen and Staz-On ink bleeds through subsequent paint layers, an effect I love.

STEP 5: I drip watered down quinacridone magenta over the entire page and let dry overnight. When I finish working in the studio for the day, I still have no idea what this page is going to be about...I let my subconscious work on that puzzle while I sleep.

STEP 6: Wake up, look at this page and think "Wonderland" and more specifically, Alice's encounter with the caterpillar. I do a quick sketch (that's the actual sketch in the photo) and then cut shapes (freehand) from scrapbook paper, book paper, and an old how-to painting book. Glue everything in place.

STEP 7: Scrub on a very light layer of acrylics in the appropriate colors. Dig through my collage stash and find a magazine photo of a rose that I shape to make the caterpillar's turban. Lightly draw in and then gesso his hands. Gesso his face. Add some long, yellow marks with a wood skewer dipped in paint.

STEP 8: Detail the caterpillar with paint pens, colored pencils, and permanent black pen. This adds shading and volume to the character.

STEP 9: More detailing: Subtle contour lines on the turban; red paint pen dots on the mushroom and lines for gills under the cap; shading on the stem.

STEP 10: Time to bring the character and the background together. Add pieces of washi tape; repeat previous mark-making and color applications; add "bumps" to the mushroom to make it more interesting; add a vintage ad that happened to slip out of my collage stash when I was digging for that rose turban (love serendipity!)

THE FINAL PAGE: To bring this page all together, I added a found phrase, "hung" some map paper stars, and shadowed under the caterpillar's rear. In the future, I may try and integrate that vintage ad a bit more; it feels stuck on to me. I often go back and tweak pages in small ways if the inspiration strikes. For now, I'm calling this page done.


As a final note, I wanted to point out a little virtual wave to reader Özge in Izmir, Turkey. When I pulled out map paper to punch out the stars for my page, I saw her hometown and decided to have it shine over the caterpillar. See her there in the uppermost star?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Am My Own Sanctuary

After its creation, this Tribe page proved the hardest to decipher and yet the most significant. This is the arrow my subconscious put in my path to point me in the right direction. It has been a while since I created this page (first week in December) but I do remember being compelled to write "I am my own sanctuary" over and over before I began work on the tree woman. That sentence ultimately became the anchoring principle of the page.

At the same time, I was struggling with the name for this journal. The word "tribe" had emerged immediately - before the paint on the first page was even dry - but I had no idea why that word had surfaced. I shoved it aside half a dozen times but I hadn't been able to come up with a suitable replacement title. "Tribe" just felt right. I thought maybe my brain meant something along the lines of that cliché "Find your tribe." It wasn't until I had completed the next page - one I'll show in some detail next week - that I understood I was meant to embrace and nurture the tribe inside me.

Note: The whites in this photo are a bit blown out, a factor of over-correcting the color in Photoshop. However, I notice that this gives the impression that the little nest in the tree's arms is glowing, reflecting onto her face...so...unintentional but sort of cool.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sometimes When You Fall...

Whatever respiratory bug I'm dealing with continues its rampage unabated...except for now I'm coughing. I've missed some work and really, really miss breathing through my nose and not having to sleep sitting up. I have a doctor's appointment this week at which time I'm sure I'll get the inevitable "It's a virus...suck it up" speech. Fun times. The news isn't all bad; The X-Files is back so there's that...and that can get me pretty far.

I'm still doing art most days, what I call "soft focus" stuff that is low pressure, leisurely, open-ended, slow-moving, easy to pick up and put down wherever. Things that are dearest to my heart, complicated, multi-faceted, and intensely absorbing - the "hard focus" projects - get shifted aside a lot during the school year; I just don't have the time and energy to split between a lot of big tasks. (It's why I begin prep for a show the minute teaching ends in mid-June.) However, I do try to get a bit of hard focus time in each week so those passion projects don't die of neglect. I also avoid slipping into despair over the fact that I can't devote every minute of every day to the art that makes my world spin.


My Tribe journal is one of the hard focus projects currently residing in my studio and in my heart. It developed rather innocently late last November as just another experiment with loosening up but after four pages, I knew I had hit a nerve I needed to excavate from my subconscious. It took me those four pages to know exactly which nerve I had tickled and to realize it was an idea that has been running in and out of my work for years.  This is another of those first, formative pages that helped point me in the right direction. (Page one is here and page two is here.) I believe firmly that many journal pages are really messages written by your subconscious self to your conscious self. I don't see (or even look for) those "notes to self" until after the fact but then...wow! It often feels as if those messages were crafted in neon. If the first page encouraged me to seek the light within and the second pleaded with me to see what's right in front of me, then this page is all about letting go and making the leap. It must seem obvious but remember that the meaning and direction of Tribe was still a mystery at this point; the idea of "storybooking" hadn't yet become a blip on my awareness. I was just playing, making pages, asking yes/no questions and following the answers to the next inquiry. By this page, I was beginning to have an inkling that I was on to something but I had no idea what that something was. All I had was a building sense of excitement and delight, a notion that I was falling, much like Alice, toward a new world or perhaps, that I was soaring to a unknown previously out of reach. It depends on how I choose to perceive it but either way, the landing (and subsequent exploration) has been beyond fantastic. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Life is Beautiful

This spread in my small "Unexpected Convergence" journal is an unadulterated love note to Tammy of Daisy Yellow: nothing more, nothing less....totally and utterly inspired by her work and I wanted to create a visual tip-o-the-hat, a standing ovation in collage. Bravo and thank you!

Monday, January 18, 2016

*sniffle, art, cough, repeat*

I'm on the tail end of four days off which I've spent hacking, snorting, and sniffling. After two years of drought, California is getting socked with endless rain. The weather prognosticators say we're now on the "deluge-a-day" plan until at least the end of March. This means every mold spore within a hundred mile radius is doing the happy, "let's spread our evil" dance. This, combined with my increased teaching schedule, equals my body breaking down. If only I could walk around with hot compresses taped to my face, I'd be O.K. (that's about the only thing that seems to ease the sinus pressure.) I could also use an I.V. drip of migraine meds; I've taken something for headaches every single day for three weeks now.

However, since I can't do any of the above, I guess I'll keep plugging along, husky-voiced and nasal-sounding until my immune system can regroup. Amazingly, I am slowly - very slowly - progressing on art projects. Some days, I only have fifteen or thirty minutes of quality studio time before I need to prep something for work or go pass out on the couch under the influence of decongestant. I've been trying to make those precious moments count. For a while, you'll be seeing work here that I completed in December, prior to "The Great Allergy Bloom of 2016." It doesn't mean I haven't been making art but rather that there isn't enough sunlight to photograph it by.

The pages in this post are from my mini "Unexpected Convergences" journal that I mentioned the post before last. It's a fun little book, a place I can push materials around aimlessly until something captures my attention. My big, dear-to-my-heart projects are going to have to wait until time and health turn in my favor. Hopefully, I won't have to wait much longer.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Dollhouse for Samantha

This is a craft project that I worked on the first week of winter break. While out gift-hunting, I saw this unfinished wood dollhouse and seized by the fever that is the Christmas spirit, I instantly thought "I could paint that!" This was not intended to be painted, the plain wood furniture that came with it was sort of weird, and my son bought a different set of little dolls to be gifted with the final creation. However, I knew when I saw it that I could transform it into something fun for my sweet four year-old niece, Samantha.

Here's the front of the dollhouse...before:

And the unfinished inside:

Here's how it turned out! Taken as they were on my studio table with twinkling Christmas lights in the background, the colors in these pictures aren't great. (I had started wrapping when I remembered to take some quick "after" photos.) The outside paint job featured bright turquoise, with hot pink trim and a purple roof. As you can see, I sawed off that solid wood piece on the front porch and added a piece of picket fence. That made the front a bit more cute and welcoming as well as made my painting task easier. I also added a doorknob because...of course a door needs a knob!

I painted inside as well and added scrapbook paper to the floors. It was fun to try and decide the decorating schemes for each room. Everything, inside and out, is coated in a gloss varnish to (hopefully) make it last a bit longer.

I also painted the raw wood furniture that came with the house. A few of the pieces were strangely out-of-scale (the kitchen table looms over the couch) but I knew it wouldn't be a problem to a four year-old girl with a big imagination.

I am especially proud of how I managed to transform the oddball wood blocks that were supposed to be a stove and sink into pieces that actually look like a stove and sink! Check out those faux screw brads I used to simulate faucet handles! A little piece of bent wire and presto! Sink faucet!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Unexpected Convergences Part Deux

A few years ago, I completed altering a large (8-1/2x11-inch) Dylusions journal into a book I called "Unexpected Convergences." In case you missed it, here's the link to my Flickr album with all the pages. I really love the Dylusions journals, especially now that the entire book contains that terrific, thick cream-colored cardstock. (It used to contain a mixture of cardstock and a white drawing paper that I loathed and immediately ripped out.) That cardstock though holds up under a lot of mediums and techniques, all piled on top of one another. These journals come in an 8x8-inch size now and I have one of those waiting in the wings for just the right project. (There's also an 8x8 journal with black paper but since I haven't seen or used it, I'm not including a link...I only provide affiliate links to products I use and love!)

In the meantime, I've been working in the small Dylusions journal and it felt natural to name it "Convergences Part Deux."  While I loved the final results, the first Convergences journal felt like one of those projects that went on forever and the pages felt huge, overwhelming. This mini Convergences feels just right. I load its pages up with paint leftover from any painting project and later, in small bits of time here and there, I pull those pages together with collage and doodling. It's a nice, easy book to work in even when I'm distracted or tired. Nothing earth-shattering...just a little journaling sandbox for experimentation and play.

Note: That white on black wave doodle is pulled directly from a Lisa Congdon lesson on Creativebug. I practiced on a separate piece of cardstock and then cut it out and glued it down onto the page. Instant contrast!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Muddling Through

I'm still here. Having some trouble adjusting to a new, temporarily-intensified schedule at work that began with the onset of the new year. I feel exhausted every minute of every day. I'm trying to squeeze in some art but I'm not making much progress on any one thing, just tiny bits and pieces on a dozen different projects. Throw in a sick cat, migraines, and the glimmer of tremor in my right hand and 2016 is not off to a great start. Ah well...there's not much to be done about any of it so onward it is.

I completed four pages in this journal I'm calling "Tribe" before it revealed what it needed to become. Each of those four pages, however, has a little message to lend to the overall narrative. The opening page encourages me to delight in the light (as I described at the end of this post) while this next page seems to foretell the unexpected discovery of many small wonders. I love how this character looks so surprised by all those little flowers at her feet, as if she was just wandering along and found herself in a field of happiness. I didn't do any of this analysis as I was making the page; I just followed any creative whims that smacked me upside the head along the way. Later, when my epiphany about "Tribe" surfaced, I looked back at these initial pages to see how my subconscious had led me forward, each one an encouraging nudge in the direction I needed to pursue. Hopefully, I'll make it through to the end of February when I get some semblance of a life back so I can really dig in to this new adventure.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A New Year Arrives

Happy 2016 everyone! Lost Coast Post is reopen for business: art pics, random ramblings, wondering aloud, the occasional whine mixed in into a generally upbeat outlook no matter the obstacle, and a smattering of self-promotion. I expect this new year to be full of challenges (good and bad) and exciting explorations. There's a slow but steady shift in my art life happening and those changes will surely be reflected in this blog.

The Year of Story:
Every year, I choose a guiding theme for my art. Sometimes I blog about it and sometimes not. I've actually used "story" as a quiet touchstone in the studio for about three years now, something I just kept in the back of my mind while I was working or trying to decide what to focus on. It's time to bring "story" right up front and time to let this theme permeate my year and my life. I'm ready and my heart is open to all the possibilities. 2016 will be all about bringing stories and characters to life in a wide variety of mediums. My subconscious has been pushing for this for quite a while; it is time to listen to my own fondest wishes.

New Year, New Media:
I anticipate some changes in how I communicate my art life to the wide world. I'm continuing to work on video production. The learning curve is tremendously steep and riddled with potholes but I'm bumping along fairly gleefully as I've wanted to bring videos to Lost Coast Post for a really long time. In addition, I received a very nice microphone/pop filter setup for Christmas along with the suggestion of doing a podcast. I'm giving it some serious consideration. Oddly enough, most of my non-art related work experience is in radio and television broadcasting (both civilian and military.) However, things have changed radically since I last spun vinyl records at a radio station; hence, my hesitant and awkward inroads into modern day audio and visual production. However, I am willing to keep practicing and playing. I don't think I'll ever gain the technical prowess of some art bloggers out there but hopefully, I can pick up enough tricks to add some different types of media to this site. 

About the Included Photo:
This is the first page I did on a project (started late November) that I'm calling "Tribe." That was the first word that came to mind and I've decided to stick with it. This is the beginning of my exploration of "storybooking," highlighting the tribe of characters that saw me through childhood and formalizing new characters that arise from my own imagination. The word "light" is part of a sticker that actually reads "delight." There is such symbolism in the interplay of those two words. This book is part deliberate act and part serendipity, a dance between acute awareness and the subconscious. Whether I've proceeded carefully or recklessly, I have been completely delighted with the results on these pages. Lots more from this journal coming soon... 
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