Wednesday, February 29, 2012

composition class

So I'm taking Jane Davies' class "Keys to Dynamic Composition" and lesson 3 was just posted today and I've only just begun to explore lessson 1.
sigh.
and I've been avoiding the class blog because I didn't want to be influenced by other people's work, but I finally popped over there today and holy crap there's some great stuff going on.  great art, great conversation, great feedback and instruction.  
what the hell have I been doing?
sometimes the social aspect of online classes is just too much for me, but I think I've been missing out this time.

So there's my first attempt at lesson 1, which had us focusing on repeated shapes and creating both variety and unity in our composition.

It's finally snowing here in Massachusetts after the mildest winter in a billion years. (that's the official meteorological statistic, by the way).
I'm really really hoping for a snow day tomorrow so I can dig into this class.

The local kids say that if you wear your pajamas inside out when you go to bed, schools will be cancelled in the morning.

Guess what I'm doing tonight.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

marbled paper

You probably know by now that I am completely obsessed with painting papers.
This will be the third (and final) installment in my "painted love" series and I saved my favorite for last.
I've tried a number of different techniques for marbling paper, but this one is my favorite.  It's cheap, easy and (relatively) not messy.

I start by pouring about an inch of liquid starch into an old 9"x12" pan.
(The only place I can find my liquid starch is Walmart - in the laundry aisle. It's dirt cheap and comes in a big bottle)
I mix cheap acrylic craft paints with water to make it drippy. How much water? It depends -this is a trial and error kind of thing because every paint has a different consistency.  The goal is to get the paint to float on top of the liquid starch.  If it's too thick it won't come off your brush in the first place, and if it comes off your brush but immediately sinks to the bottom of the pan it means you need more water.  Here are two colors floating on top:
I gently stir them with a chopstick:
I move the chopstick up and down until it looks like this:
I drag my handmade comb lightly across the surface to feather the paint.
(the comb is made from toothpicks sandwiched between 2 pieces of cardboard.  I think I learned it from Martha but can't find a link)
Now the surface of the water looks like this:
I lay a piece of card stock on top of the water and gently press it down to make sure the whole surface of the paper touches the paint:
I quickly peel it up. (this picture was from a different experiment, hence the orange paint)
Then I dunk it in a bucket of water.  You can also run it under the faucet, but I don't have a sink in my studio and I hate working in the kitchen.  This bucket works just fine.  I swish the paper around to get all the gloppy starch off the surface.  The paint stays on the paper.
Here's the finished piece:
If you're continuing with the same color palette, you can reuse the starch for many many pieces of paper. You can drag scrap paper or a paper towel over the surface to pick up any paint you didn't catch on your print, or you can leave it there and just add more paint for your next print.  Eventually you'll find your prints aren't as crisp or the colors are muddying - rinse out your pan and start over!  The big bottle of starch will get you through several sessions.

As much as I like the traditional feathered look, I absolutely adore the abstract "blobby" look, like this one:
Same technique, only this time leave the paint floating on the surface without stirring or feathering.  you might want to gently tip the pan or blow on the surface just to get the paint to spread, but leave it loose.
You can see a whole bunch more of my papers in this old post.
And here are some recent projects using my papers.
I used this one as a background for a poppy painting:
I used this one more traditionally - as endpapers in an altered book.
and check out the book - it has little DRAWERS in it.  I learned this trick from Amy in her awesome (free) altered book class on Flutterbye.
I've also been using them to decorate Altoid tins:
Big fun.
Try it.

Kitty gestures

I've been long intrigued/intimidated by Carla Sonheim's book "Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists"

It claims to be "52 creative exercises to make drawing fun" and I eagerly checked it out of the library expecting to be transformed into a confident whimsical illustrator overnight.  But I browsed it and immediately said "I can't do this" and returned it without trying even one of the exercises.

Enter Cameron, from Paint Myself Pretty.  She has decided to tackle one exercise a week and blog about it, and has begged encouraged other bloggers to do the same.  And since I like Cam, and I want to be able to draw better, I've decided to play along.  I ordered the book and it finally arrived and I'm catching up on lessons 1-3.

Lab 1 - "Cats in Bed"
The idea was to draw lots and lots of cats from your imagination, while drawing on a soft surface (such as bed) to keep your lines loose.  Here are my bed kitties.  I tried and tried to make a different shaped cat (without going to google and looking at other people's cat drawings).  My brain seems to know ONE way to draw a cat (and not a very good one at that).



Lab 2: blind contour giraffes
Okay, so it's not a giraffe.  It's another cat.  And in fact I skipped this exercise in the interest of catching up with assignments, and pulled out a blind contour drawing I made of Jake 6 months ago.  I'll go back and do some giraffes.   I swear.

Lab 3:  Pet gesture drawings.  The mission was to make a series of quick loose gesture drawings of your pet in action.  It was challenging because one cat would't stop moving and the other sat like a lump.  But I kept at it throughout the day and captured quite a few poses.  I even like a few of them:

 Phyllis, (who has been quiet for such a long time now) has threatened to rear her ugly head over these sketches.  I have to keep reminding myself that I will not wake up one day magically knowing how to draw.  I actually have to draw and draw and draw some more if I want to learn.  I'm hoping that Cam's good example will keep me working on these exercises all year.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I can't stop carving stamps.

 I was so happy with the results of my face stamp, I wanted to keep experimenting with more elaborate designs.  I figured out two things that have radically improved the way I stamp.  First I discovered I could do a gel transfer of my image directly onto the surface of the carving block. (I use Speedball Speedy-Carve - it comes in a 4x6 inch block and it's really smooth and easy to carve.)

 I had printed a bunch of copyright free clip art images.
(I was always told you must use toner-based images, such as photo copies, for image transfers, but I've had good luck with technique using my regular old ink-jet printer.)

 I spread the paper will gel medium, stuck it down to the carving block, burnished it and let it sit.   
 Once it was dry, I spritzed the paper with water and peeled it all away - leaving an amazingly clear and detailed image on the stamp.
The second thing that helped, was carving with a magnifying glass.  It allows me to carve away the tiniest little bits, leaving a lot of detail.
Here's the finished product and the corresponding stamped image.
Other recent creations include:

This fly stamp

 This bee stamp

These hand stamps
This chicken stamp
I asked my son to draw one of his signature "guys" for me, and I turned it into a stamp.
And since I've been obsessed with mid-century fabrics lately, I carved these simpler shapes and used them on this postcard:
It's been a productive few days.
When I close my eyes at night I'm still carving.


Update:
A few people have asked what I use to carve my stamps.  It's a Speedball linoleum cutter - readily available at craft stores and on-line for not a lot of money.  It comes with five different tips (which are nicely stored inside the handle).