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Category Archives: ideas

>Tutorial : Our (Green)House

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Last year I made a set of house collages using materials at hand rather than going out and buying new supplies.  Granted, I spent many of the years between 2000-2006 making many “Mr. Toad” (wild ride) trips to Columbus to acquire supplies, so my studio is as well stocked as a small art supply store, but I didn’t look any further than the recycling bin for the base of this project.  (One admission: the frames and spray adhesive needed to be purchased new, and I had to make color copies of my family photos to do this project).

To make your own house collage, you will need:

1 cereal box, emptied and flattened

Gesso and acrylic paint (the $0.89 bottles work just as well as the fancy art store brands for this project)

Paint brushes, water cups, rags for cleanup, putty knife

Template (see sidebar or download the house template here)

XActo, or other craft knife

Scrapbook paper, preferably solid or tone on tone (12” x 12” sheet, plus smaller pieces of other paper, or pre-paint your own paper )

Color copies of family photos, landscapes, whatever catches your eye.  You can also get some great images for collage at ArtChix Studio .

Found objects (I’ve used things like bottle caps, doily pieces, embroidered appliques and small rubber animals)

Acrylic gel medium

Rubber stamps, stencils, bubble wrap, sequin waste, anything that will make a repeating pattern on your base

Dollar store picture frame (with glass) approximately 8” x 10”

Spray adhesive

Pencil or other marking tool, masking tape

1.  First, paint your flattened cereal box with the gesso, letting each side dry completely before adding the first coat of paint.  Let each layer dry, adding texture and details using rubber stamps, stencils, or sequin waste.  I paint both sides on my cereal boxes, using different colors on each side so I have more choices when creating my design.  Waiting for the pieces to dry takes patience, but end result of the funky layers makes the process worth it.  Don’t worry if some of the original cereal box ends up showing through, that just contributes to the charm of the project (or maybe the Lucky Charm; sorry, couldn’t resist).

house collage paint and embellish

2. When you are happy with the way your cereal box looks, trace the house template onto it, and cut out, using the craft knife or a sturdy pair of scissors.

3.  Cut a smaller triangle out of the opposite color/side of the cereal box, and place in the gable, for contrast.

house collage choosing elements

Here you can see the various images I could choose from.  I love making copies of old artwork and resizing the image to fit these little collages.  It really expands my options.

4.  Choose your images and arrange them onto the house.  When you get an arrangement that pleases you, glue the components down using the acrylic medium.  I press larger pieces down using a heavy object such as a big jar of acrylic medium or fabric paint.  Let dry.

house collage arranging elements

Here I chose a piece of paper I had painted last summer using a fish design that I turned into a silkscreen.

house collage gluing the elements

Gluing the elements using the gel medium and the putty knife.

house collage with embellishments

I found some commercial embroidered appliques to add to the image.  I really like how it appears that my daughter is studying her garden.

5. Measure the inside perimeter of your picture frame.  Cut a piece from the 12” x 12” scrapbook paper to fit the area.  Don’t worry if it’s a little larger than your measurement.  It’s easier to trim excess paper than make a piece that is too small fit correctly.

6. Mask off the frame using the masking tape.  Clean the glass in the frame and let dry.  Then spray the glass with the adhesive and stick  the scrapbook paper in place, using a bone folder or old gift card to smooth out any bubbles.  If there is too much paper, try sliding the excess under the edges of the frame with the gift card, then trim any leftover.  Let dry.

7.  Using a putty knife, slather the back of the house with a layer of gel medium (I use  Golden’s Extra Heavy Gel on my pieces.  It’s very thick and stays where I put it).  You will have some ooze, so put a lighter coat near the edges than in the middle.

8.  Place the house, gel side down, centered on the scrapbook paper in the picture frame.  Weigh down with heavy jars as needed.  Let dry.

house collage pressing the collage

 

9. Remove weights and voila!  Hang your beautiful collage in its new home.

house collage on the frame too

This is a great way to make a simple piece of artwork for your home or office.  Use copies of pecial photos and give as gifts.  The possibilities are endless.  To see some of the work I’ve made using this method, look at my Etsy shop.  Have fun!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2011 in collage, house, ideas, inspiration, mixed media, play, tutorial

 

>You’re My Inspiration

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I was recently watching an episode of The Avengers on Netflix.  In this episode, high ranking members of the English military were given a child’s ball which had a hallucinogenic effect on them.  The sets of the playroom they saw while under the influence were graphic and colorful.  I used to watch The Avengers with my dad, and clearly, when looking at my work, I can see the influence of colors from tv shows such as this and Batman, as well as others (Laugh In, anyone?).

But one of the most obvious influences on my choice of colors and occasional fantastic imagery is the wonderful Peter Max.  His bold colorful images and detail filled work made my heart sing.  Imagine my surprise when I read in the 10th Anniversary issue of Veg News that he had been approached to create the Yellow Submarine film, but had turned it down.  The director hired another artist to work in Mr. Max’s style.  That explained so much about that movie.

I went searching for images to share with you and found this wonderful cake , inspired by the movie.  I think I know what I’m making for my birthday in April 😉

And now, some Yellow Submarine inspired artwork, from my work in a Moleskine Cahier notebook:

sketchbook project inside front cover

Pen and ink.

sketchbook project spread one

Collage from an old AAA travel guide, india ink, rubber stamp, acrylic and gouache.

sketchbook project spread one detail

Detail.

sketchbook project spread two

View out the submarine’s porthole.

sketchbook project july one

I decided to colorize this one.  I used Inktense pencils by Derwent.

sketchbook project july two

Here you can see the detail of the pencil lines from the coloring.  I used to hate those, I wanted the image as smooth as possible, but as I’ve grown as an artist I can see the value in letting the process be seen in the lines.  If I did want this image more smooth, I could take a wet watercolor brush into it and dissolve the colors.  I may try that with a future iteration of this piece, drawn with a waterproof pen.  (I used a Pilot V7 on this one, and they most definitely aren’t waterproof).

sketchbook project july three

Then I imagined the submarine and the views from it as a necklace, with a sea urchin as a background.

sketchbook project july four

Most of the time I freehand the drawings, but for this one I used a light pencil sketch first.  You can see the faint lines if you look closely.  If I were doing this for reproduction, I would use a non-photo blue pencil next time.

sketchbook project july five

These are what I imagine the really deep sea submarines would look like.  Or perhaps the fish have evolved to take on some of the characteristics of the submarines they see daily.

sketchbook project july six

I had a lot of fun with the scales on this one. 🙂

What inspires you?  Are there images or colors you can trace directly to an outside influence? Or is your inspiration more subtle?  It’s always interesting to hear how other artists get their ideas.  How do you work?  Feel free to download the free worksheet from the sidebar and go wild!

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2011 in ideas, inspiration, play

 

>Time Travel

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Twenty years ago when I was in graduate school, I wanted to do a series on water towers.

I took reference photographs.

water tower route 33

Water towers on Route 33 near The Plains, OH.

andrews water tower master copy

Water tower on the grounds of Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

I took my two toddlers out and parked in the parking lot of the local credit union and drew in the back seat of the car.

water tower drawing one

Water towers, Route 33, Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons on Arches Cover Black paper.

water tower drawing two

Water towers, Route 33, Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons on Arches Cover Black paper.

And I drew from reference photos, in my studio.

Gaffney SC drawing one

Gaffney, SC, Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons on Arches Cover Black paper, 40” x 30”.

(I couldn’t find my reference photo to put in this post.  Ironic, isn’t it?)

That’s as far as it got at the time.  There were a few false starts at paintings that ended up covered over, but these images were all that I had for a very long time.  Then I decided to revisit the imagery in my quilts (blog posts here and here).

And, while searching for a way to make some images that fit the parameters of a show calling for pieces no larger than 5”  in any direction, I remembered a technique described in the book Freestyle Machine Embroidery by Carol Shinn.

Carol took her source image and printed it out onto transfer paper.  She then ironed it onto a stiff fabric and filled in the image using machine embroidery.

Which I decided to do with the old drawings.

route 33 autumn afternoon

Route 33, Autumn Afternoon  Machine embroidery and photo transfer on twill.  5” x 5”

route 33 summer afternoon detail one

Detail, showing the layers used to create the feeling of the undergrowth.

gaffney sc embroidery one - Copy

Gaffney SC II, still in process.  You can see the twill on the borders.  I also use several layers of interfacing to stabilize the fabric and minimize distortion during stitching.

gaffney sc embroidery detail one - Copy

Here you can really see the texture of the stitches and of the twill underneath the iron-on.

I am using Golden Extra Heavy Body Gel to adhere the finished stitching to the canvas, pressing the work between two boards weighted down with paint jars.   Once the gel is dry, I trim the image close to the canvas and then paint the edges of the canvas with a coordinating color of acrylic paint.  In the future I may experiment with making the edges of the canvas covered in machine embroidery as well.

I really enjoyed working this way, and am eager to make new source drawings (of various subjects) to work from.  What treasures do you have in your studio that could provide a springboard for new creativity?

 

>How Do Your Ideas Grow?

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One question I get a lot is “Where do you get your ideas?”  My initial thought upon hearing that question is “Where don’t I get ideas?” because ideas seem to come from all directions, at any time.  Of course it is because I also do a lot of what Julia Cameron calls “filling the well.”  This can include the activities listed in her book “The Artist’s Way” (morning pages, artist dates, regular activity), but I also find that other things also fill the well and help nurture baby ideas.

growing ideas my sample one

With that question in mind, I went to the local coffee shop with my journal and markers on hand.  This is the image that came to me.  Creativity as a garden, with all the elements that help to fertilize the process and help in the development of ideas. 

As a child I remember reading the story of Squanto, and how he taught the Pilgrims to fertilize their crops using fish, so that is why the fish are in the image (that I like drawing fish is a happy plus).  Each fish and mineral underground contains an element of what feeds my idea plant.  You can see here that my fertilizer includes reading, movies and dreams.

Actually putting the ideas down in some form grows from this fertile ground, including blog posts and working in my personal journal.  The harvest includes finished work, which can also be used as fertilizer to start the process all over again.

I also feel that self care, symbolized by the sun in this drawing, is of utmost importance in developing ideas.  If we are tired and depleted our bodies and minds can’t help but divert all our energy into just surviving.  My self care includes such things as rest, yoga, friends and good food.  Play is also an important part of the process.  Allowing some time to just goof off can help more than anything sometimes.

What nurtures your ideas?  I have put a link in the sidebar to a blank copy of this worksheet  (How Do Your Ideas Grow) that you can print out and play with on your own.  Feel free to share it with your friends (please link back to this post, thanks!) , and I would love to see what your garden looks like.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in ideas, journal, play, worksheet