Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A collaged little nest of envies...

Main envelope front - "Incognito" with collaged bits on rusted paper, burned holes...and the dragonfly has crazy eyes...
 
Collage...sounds simple, right?  Just slap some things down with glue and call it art.  Not so easy for a type 4 introverted perfectionist!  Or maybe it really is the gift I received from KCAI...sitting through critique after critique, picking art apart and having mine picked apart as well.  The experience helped me to really look at what I was doing, to consider craftsmanship and to think about how it will be visually received by others.  And that sort of "work ethic" can make collage a challenge.  (As a side note I'd like to add that I really learned minimal "skill" there...but I did learn how to use the ones I had a little better.)

Back of main envelope, rusted paper with buttons sewn on...

But my "ways" started even farther back than art school...my dad was a hard worker and things had to be tight and good and flush.  Anything worth doing was worth doing right, the first time and with the correct tools! And so I invest myself...into everything.  I once pondered making artsy zines with a friend so what did I do?   I searched around for the best bindery stapler made and purchased it before we'd even made a zine!  Just like dad taught me.  When I started playing volleyball in high school, albeit briefly, he bought an Olympic grade net and welded custom poles to hold it up.  But being so "intense" can take it's toll.

 Envelope inside with printed brayer marks, collage bits...and the queen has crazy eyes...

It was impossible for me to just slap these collages together.  As with everything I do, I got serious about it and wanted them to be interesting, somewhat coherent and tight, good, and flush. After choosing bits and pieces that I liked, I started moving them around.  I happened upon a piece of dictionary page that said "incognito" and started thinking about disguises and unreality.  As the pieces fell together, they got odder...and odder...and odder.

 Envelope inside of the last...rusted paper with caterpillar with marionette legs.  He's toting a collaged spirograph bit stitched onto his hand and note he has a crazzzzy eye...

After I got things how I wanted them, I did my thematic stitching and called it art.  Then...just when I thought I was done I realized...they all need to have the same eyes.  Why?!  I don't know! It made sense at midnight.  But adding the crazy painted eyes on each face sealed the deal for me and I finally felt like I'd completed the project.

The final collaged card in the last envelope was based on a piece of paper I'd used as a catchall for other painted projects...then I added flower parts, a dignified man with crazy eyes and a boney hand emerging through a spirograph "portal"...why not?!
 
Collage is a funny thing because unless you have a clear idea of what the end project will be and hunt for the parts, the parts will otherwise choose each other and dictate the "meaning".  I'm not sure I want to hunt for meaning in these pieces beyond the obvious...I'm tired...I'm sleep deprived...and I need a vacation.  If I try to start making sense out of these pieces...I might just go off the deep end, or realize that I already have?!

The next art project...metal, rivers and quotes. 
And last will be...typography, pop-ups and washi tape.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Entomology in our backyard...

Today was a beautiful day and we (but mostly I...) spent it outside...catching bugs!   I'm working on getting my kids used to the bugs they can and can't touch.  I'm sure some moms would say not to touch any of them, but I find it to be a delight of childhood and a way to gain appreciation for all the cools things that God makes.  I can't make a butterfly or a tree, I can only help them grow or kill them...but I can't create them.

The kids have a plastic place mat that feature BUGS of all kinds.  There are dragonflies, cicadas, fireflies, earthworms, on and on...and I noticed that out of the twenty creepy crawlies on there, we are only missing about 3 in our yard.  Thankfully, no tarantulas, ticks or scorpions.  That I know of!!  

After my mom sent me a picture of a monarch coccoon with the beautiful gold dots...we went outside and saw this beauty drying it's wings in the sun.  The kids had it cornered and begged me to catch it...so I obliged!  I cupped it in my hands as to not destroy all the dust on it's wings, and we passed it back and forth until it was ready to fly off on it's own.

Cicadas are probably my top favorite bug.  They're big, simple, are lovely in color, and of course they emit that attractive SHRIEKING noise, especially when squeezed ever so lightly.  Yesterday we were out with a neighbor who is admittadly afraid of bugs.  A cicada buzzed around our heads and landed on a tree in our yard.  I called out "MINE!" (as if dibs were necessary) and snatched the cicada off the tree and it began to buzz loudly.  Our neighbor learned a little more about me at that point.  I did get her to "high five" a grasshopper.  Maybe I should start a "bug appreciation 101" class for adults!  Full of ideas...right?

Grasshoppers...a classic favorite.  But unlike cicadas, these will bite you.  Or rather, a katydid will bite you, a grasshopper just works up a nasty brown "tobacco juice" and spits upon you.  Eh...it's no big deal.  You just have to know where to grab.  And it's also "polite" to grab them just right so they don't rip off their own leg.  Here is where my mom would insert story upon story of my childhood invention..."The Grasshopper Olympics".  There was swimming, wrestling, and of course...long jump.  But things happen.  Life is rough.  You lose a leg?  No problem, that's when I invented the..."Grasshopper Special Olympics"!  Ahem....next!

And here is one bug that I will not touch.  They have quite a reputation as it is, but there's something about the way they tilt their head and look right into your very SOUL.  I will touch it's back, but I've never grabbed one.   A few years back, I was getting a better look at a praying mantis on a tree branch.  As I got in close, my roommate at the time who was a outdoorsy nature girl said, "Ooh...he's sizing up the jump..."  And as soon as I said, "Huh?!"  It jumped onto my hair!  Imagine here...the scream of a real girl!!...Loud and hysterical and swatting at my hair, "Get it off!  Get it off!  Dear Lord save meeeeeee!!!!"

Good times.

But I do love bugs...and I love our yard.  All 1/5th acre of it!


Friday, September 5, 2014

Playing with rust...

And then there was rust...

Have you ever done something peculiar for a very long time and you thought you knew why but later realized for REAL why you do this thing?  So for years, I've collected rusty objects.  What am I saying?!  For many, many years I have collected all sorts of objects!  A friend once teased me saying, "You will pick up anything shiny...like a crow!"  I responded, "It doesn't HAVE to be shiny!" In art school, we had little cubby holes for mail and friends would leave rusted nails in there for me as gifts.

I've bent over in the middle of the street to pick up a rusty bit of metal, and I once jumped out of my truck in the middle of an intersection to pick up a flattened, rusty muffler pipe.  It was beautiful, and I had to have it.  It hangs over the doorway of my kitchen, like the severed arm of Grendel hanging above the mead hall door, an oxidized trophy.
Currently, I've been reading India Flint's "Eco Colour" book on natural dye processes.  It's a wonderful mix of artistic eye candy and fascinating chemistry.  I now understand why red wine turns blue when you wash your glass out in the sink...the pH of the water. 

The pictures above and below represent some of the experiments I've been doing with watercolor paper or muslin, vinegar and ferrous bits such as washers and steel wool.  Finally, a real purpose for all those rusty things I've collected over the years that I just couldn't part with.  Every *dangerous* stop in the middle of the road...validated!

No longer do I compost red cabbage bits either...they make excellent blue streaks.  After I allowed my paper to rust, I "overdyed" it with the red cabbage.  Now my mind wonders...what else can I do this to?  My sheets...my muslin tablecloth...my clothes...

And black tea...the lovely dark speckles above are from some really old decaf English Breakfast tea that didn't taste that great, but made a rich dye.   Basically, the possibilities are endless.  Too bad my time to play is not.  Maybe I'll have more time now that it's cold and rainy...my tomatoes will probably just crack and *explode* and I won't be making sauce or salsa!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thinking of dad today...

11 years ago today my one and only left this earth...and I wanted to take some time today, as I do often, to look at pictures and remember all the neat things about him.

 
Although I've never met anyone alive today that is quite like my dad...I've found particular traits of his in others here and there, and certainly complimentary greatness in my husband!  We all possess good and not-so-good traits, and I like to try and keep the good and shuck the rest...when we bring the bad parts of people into the present and let it sit with us at every meal, that's our own fault.

Anyway, my handsome dad was a total hipster and very active and athletic for someone who had polio as a child!  And look at those white pants.  He was always riding motorcycles and bicycles...pulling weeds, mowing grass...swimming, playing tennis...not to mention his very physical jobs throughout life.  He was a dancer, Ice Capades skater, stagehand.  No computers for this man...he could certainly turn a wrench and one of the greatest things he taught me was to love work and to get things done every day.  Although I didn't love it at the time, I see it as a gift now!

Another thing that was awesome about my dad was he was *almost* always smiling, especially when he was up to something!  He would even smile when you would wake him up.  The only time he wasn't smiling was when he was concentrating or upset at someone.  Sometimes that was me and well, that was probably my fault! 

Always the life of the party!  A real extrovert and entertainer, he loved to make people laugh and was always making funny faces and strange noises...and boy could he "strike a pose"!  A showman his entire life.  When I was a kid, he would have his nightly "tea and ice cream"...he would jump around with excitement and do all sorts of ballet moves, namely a pirouette, which he would then end facing you in a perfect stance...and of course with a big proud smile which said, "See...this old man can still dance!"

Did I mention he made funny faces and was always up to something?  Oh yes, I did.  He was also a food lover and was always snacking on nuts, named Beer Nuts...remember those?!  Here he's downing a pizza with his brother...another really funny man, is humor genetic?   Speaking of genes, thank you dad, for your Cherokee olive skin which tans easily and doesn't burn...unless you fall asleep face down on a raft while floating on a nasty cattle pond, but hey...we're not really talking about me here today!  (yuk...I can't believe some of the things I used to do...)

Stepping out in the 70's with my mom...they were both stylin' to the max.  If it wasn't pre-cellular days here I would swear that mom is checking her phone for email, or playing Words with Friends!  And I'd pay big money to see her with that hairdo again...what do you think, mom?  Retro is in these days!

Handsome, and knew it!  And what a beard...he always had facial hair, not always a beard...but always a mustache.  The one time I saw him without one, I started crying because I didn't recognize him!

Hey dad...1974 called, they want their headband back!  What an animal lover, an animal "whisperer" if you will.  And wasps, what a master.  Have you ever seen anyone tie fabric around a hockey stick, douse it in kerosene and ignite a wasp nest with it?  I have....briefly, right before I would run screaming in the opposite direction!  When they would come off the nest (half barbequed) to get him he didn't run, he would start mumbling, scowling and swatting at them.  A true highlight of my childhood!

Champale, how vintage!  Another gift my parents gave me was, and this may sound funny, was the gift of having a drink now and then!  Alcohol was no big mystery, and I never felt like I needed to run off with friends and drink.  Especially when we had better stuff at home!

There are a million other things I could write about today...but this last pic reminds me that I have my own kids now, and they need me to spend time with them in the same way that my dad spent time with me.  I'm so fortunate to have had such a cool dad that took me everywhere he went, did fun things with me and kept me close to his life in all ways.   He gave me the gift of time well spent, and I plan to pass that on to my children.  I love you dad!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pen and Ink Trees...

When someone says to me..."Draw something...", the first thing that comes to mind is...trees.  (second place being tornadoes) So when the "pen and ink trees" theme came up as my monthly art group assignment, I already had in mind what I wanted to do and was able to execute it as planned!  How often does that happen?

I love trees...they're are a lot like people in many ways.  And I can, as I'm sure you can, find similarities between people in general, and specific loved ones.  In general, they're a living breathing entity that eventually dies.  The different types have their pro's and con's which I won't go into in great detail, but the sweet gum tree makes me think that even though it has all those spiky, annoying seed pods...it makes up for it with interesting leaves which are beautifully colored in the fall.

Sometimes everything lines up just right for a tree...location, nourishment, genetics (or epigenetics) and they live to be a ripe old age and people marvel at them!  Sometimes they get taken out as wee sprigs...whether through disease or catastrophe...or even as a casualty of our modern way of life.  There are a million similarities.  If I could compare myself to a tree or at least borrow some qualities, what kind of tree would I be?  Would I be strong and weather storms?  Could I shade and comfort those beneath me?   Do I bear sweet or bitter fruit?  Will someone..someday...decide to make a million toothpicks out of me?  I joke...it was getting too deep in here!

Anyway, these pages were a joy for me to do.  They started as simple watercolors which I allowed to dry and then flicked with water.  Ever set a glass of water on an inkjet print?  It makes an interesting painting, right?!  Same thing with watercolors.  To keep with my stitching theme, I sewed one edge closed with white thread, but I thought it would distract from the art to sew all the way around...this art was not about sewing, but pure, unadulterated...TREE!

I love painting trees in silhouette, but I wanted to do another with detailed tree bark and a clear shot of the silvery moon.  And why not give the moon a hug?  Trees get hugged all the time, but the moon...not so much!  The moon deserves a hug.

This tree was one that didn't make the cut.  It was my first "tree hugging the moon" sketch and it wasn't quite what I had in mind.  Plus, the watercolor paper was too "toothy" and didn't allow for good pen and ink action.  Alas, it will make a nice birthday card for someone. 

This month's theme is collage and envelopes...two more things I love!  My art group picked lovely themes this year and I'm pleased as punch that I've had the good fortune to be able to tackle (and enjoy) doing the projects with everything that I've got going on right now.  Some days I can barely keep pants on my toddler....ya know?!

Today while my sugar blossoms are snoozing, I'm hoping to take the quiet time to step outside and play with...fabric....vinegar....steel wool.  Pictures coming soon!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bunbun wants my tomatoes...

Italian heirlooms...1 pound each!  Atticus the bunny is stalking them...can you say, hasenpfeffer?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

1950's Altered Edges...

Well, it certainly has been a while!  Two months?  More has happened in this last two months than I could even go into...let's just say life is FULL.  But I've been making time for art.  I've learned (or rather I forget, and then remember...) that I need to do creative, artistic things every day, or I sorta get, well...mean?  Not fun to be around?  A little sad?  Moody?  I just don't feel like myself.

Art is more than just a selfish hobby for me.  There really is no time for selfish hobbies when you have 3 small children.  A day without art is like a day without oxygen...maybe not THAT dramatic, but close!  Lately, we have been spending days lavishly watercoloring (will post some of those later) since we were given a huge box of watercolors from an Aunt who teaches art.  It's funny how some of the boxes are hardly touched...like that child didn't like to paint or was timid with them.  Some are wiped out...like the child loved art or was a heavy handed painter.  Some are just missing one color, and usually it's BLUE! 

Since it's been months since I've updated, I've got to back track a bit.  This is the page that was due back in June for my art group.  The theme is "1950's altered edges", and this friend is a fellow sewing lover, so it worked well with my goal of doing some sort of sewing on all the pages this year.  The background has a 50's kitchen Formica table top theme, and the thin black lines are thread sewn across the lime green ovals.

I love vintage 50's housewives, so I went with a blue circle skirt and crazy plaid apron...because we all know she baked an enormous angel food cake today in her turquoise blue Hotpoint!
On the other side of the page, I did a reverse applique (love for Alabama Chanin!) with horn rimmed glasses...jewel adorned!

An added fun surprise on this page is...the beads are vintage...they're from a coveted stash of bugle beads I have from our Ice Capades days.  They're from the 70's...not quite the 1950's, but alas, still vintage!

Stay tuned for July's page...Pen and Ink Trees!


Friday, May 9, 2014

Weaving and Travel...and more sewing...

This month's art project was a page that combined travel with weaving.  It took me a little thinking to figure out how to mesh these two together.  Finally, inspired by my rusting and sewing, I came up with this.

 
The front page is a sweet little vintage camper propped up on a red rock.  It's parked on the bank of a lake, with red dirt on the shore...hmm, probably Lake Powell, AZ!  I would love to sell it all and buy a little Airstream to live in...and of course no camper is complete without party lights!

 

The base is watercolor paper with various fabrics (of course, some rusted) stitched and woven for the bank.  The sky is painted with fluffy clouds.


The back is woven out of rusted fabrics and hand stitched into place.  The map painted is mostly the Southwest, imagine that?!  Various towns are marked with yellow French knots and connected by a line of red hand stitching, and the road trip finally arrives at a destination, Zion Park, UT.   Zion Park has no real significance other than it is beautiful, I haven't been there in years and would like to go back.  The other locations are places I've been and loved including Flagstaff, Phoenix, Taos, Santa Fe...all the usual loves.

My next page is 1950's with altered edges...I've already finished it but am saving the debut until the recipient receives the page as to not ruin the surprise!  I've also been plugging away on some reverse applique.  This is the Alabama Chanin rose stencil that I printed and cut, then stenciled onto the shirt.


I backed it with an old favorite shirt and stitched around it with turquoise thread.   Then I cut out the center of each shape.  It took a while!  And I'll probably never do it on an actual t-shirt again as it was more working getting my hand in and out of the shirt to find the needle than it was to sew in general.


My next adventure is to start replacing all my commercial clothing with handmade things, mostly simple pieces with a few ornate pieces, made entirely out of organic cotton.  I found a good source for organic cotton jersey at $9 a yard that I've been happy with, Cotton Plus.  Of Course, Alabama Chanin jersey is primo, as it's grown, made, and dyed in the USA...but at $26 a yard, I'm not going to get very far into this new wardrobe adventure!  But I will splurge on it when I can for special things.  :)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sewing and purging...and more sewing...

Something got into me yesterday which caused me to start tossing things into trash and giveaway bins.  Some might call it "nesting", or possibly "spring cleaning fever"...or it could just be the spider that crawled over my arm as I was falling asleep the night before!  

If the spiders are thriving, there are too many good places for them to hide.  And the reclusive brown kind adore piles, boxes and undisturbed corners.  Maybe that's why we get 1-2 bats in our house every year...all the FOOD!

Also, I've been chomping at the bit to start on my Alabama Chanin tied wrap embellished with "random ruffles", but my drafting board work table which is conveniently covered with Vyco (vinyl covering that is very similar to an Olfa rotary cutting mat) has been covered with things forever.  I use one little foot of space to work on projects, the rest is covered with supplies, books, tools...and other projects!  I cleared it off completely, put things in their proper places, wiped it down (twice) and in the past two days I've gotten so many projects going that now I want my whole house to be empty like that!  

I cut all the 1/2" strips I needed for my wrap, 48!  And much art was made by the kiddies today too...

I stenciled a shirt that I'll be doing reverse appliqué upon (and started sewing already) in addition to starting to cut rectangles for another shawl project.  

And, I cut and hand-sewed a bib as well.  It's recycled fabric from a crazy ugly 4th of July themed jacket I acquired last summer.  

It took a long time, as I'm still learning the technique, but I got ONE STRIP sewn onto my wrap, only 47 to go!  Maybe this fall I'll be finished with it?!

It's an easy choice to stay inside and sew all day when the sky looks ominous like this.  But hopefully the warm and sunny muggy parts of spring are coming soon...as I've got tomato plants to get into the ground!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Bird in distress...

The theme that I worked on for this months art group meeting was "distressed or vintage birds"...right up my alley.  There's one thing you learn well by painting opera...and that's to make things look old! You buy a new wooden bathroom towel ring, slather on some "goop", and paint until you achieve "Rusted 1800's Dungeon Ring"!  And so it goes...

Here are the two sides to the page I finished...

On the front, I distressed watercolor paper by using gel medium to attach some text, and then promptly pulled it off.  It left some texture on the top, and then naturally distressed the page of text which I collaged onto the bottom.  I found a robin illustration out of an old encyclopedia and added plant life which I stitched and painted.  Afterwards, I aged the edges and added some pieces of dress pattern paper to areas I thought needed it.

On the back, I went with something a little simpler by using some fabric that I'd rusted as a base for hand sewing on another piece of fabric that I had painted with a feather.  Overall, a very fun and satisfying piece to work on!