Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A good day's work

My mother-in-law has commissioned me to create a piece using black, white and red as my palette.  My job transition has kept me from creating much of anything, but over the past few weeks I've been going through my paper files and pulling out any and all black/white/red scraps. 

I ended up with a huge pile, and a nice mix of hand-painted papers, commercial papers, security envelopes, and bits of advertising.  One brain-dead evening last week I coated all of these papers in polymer medium while watching some mindless TV.


 Yesterday was a paid holiday for me, and I found myself with a surprisingly unscheduled stretch of time.  With all of my collage fodder prepped and ready to go, I was able to sit down and start.


I wasn't sure where I was going, but as with most things, once I started I couldn't stop.  (and I'm continuing my love affair with the polymer medium/tack iron collage technique.  Not a single glue-fail or buckled paper in sight!) I have six finished pieces, a few more in progress, and a couple of silly postcards for good measure.


Each of these pieces is created on heavy 8"x10" watercolor paper.  I used drafting tape to create a 1.5" border, so the collage itself is 5"x7".


I keep changing my mind about which is my favorite.  There's only one I don't like, but I include it here (without telling which one) because I'm often surprised by what people respond to.  


What do you think?  Which one is your favorite?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Found poetry challenge

Phillip sent me a self-addressed, stamped postcard that looked like this:

It's a simple 4"x6" card with a lot of text on it.  
On the back of the card he offered a challenge - Obscure as much text as I want, in any way I want, creating a"found poem" from the text I leave visible.   He sent this same card to lots of people on his mailing list, and I instantly loved the idea of this project.  I sat down with the text and a notebook and started finding possible "poems" in the text.  

For the phrase "telepathic music guides the people" I knew I wanted to use this picture of WACs in gas masks, but the picture was much too big for the 4"x6" format.  After some thinking, I decided I would cover the chosen words with clear contact paper, paint the entire card white, scan the picture, crop it to the right size, run my postcard through my printer, then peel off the contact paper to reveal the "poem."
Here's the result:

But I was nervous the technique wouldn't work.  So I scanned Phillip's text and re-printed it on white card stock so I could have a practice run.  I needn't have feared, my idea worked perfectly.  But now I still had Phillip's original pre-stamped postcard on my desk.  I didn't want it to go to waste, so I set out to find another poem.  This time instead of using my printer, I made a monoprint for the background and added some collage elements: 

 This was fun.  Back in my notebook, I had all kinds of possible phrases, and now I had the scanned text on my hard drive.  Nothing was stopping me from making another card....

 And another....

I was on a roll, so I kept making more.
I used the same technique as the starting point for each of them - covering selected words with contact paper, painting the background white, and creating some type of accompanying art on that white surface.  The tiny contact paper rectangles get encrusted with paint and ink, but peel off pretty easily to cleanly reveal the hidden words.

I've made eleven different cards (so far) with each phrase extracted from that same original piece of text Phillip sent.  It's probably more accurate to call my cards "found captions" than found poetry, but that's the way my mind works.  I can't wait to see how other people interpreted this challenge.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

someone else's palette

(alternate title: it all started with a piece of scrapbook paper)

Even though I much prefer to use my own painted papers in my collages, sometimes I just can't resist a pretty pattern.

Walking through Michael's, looking for more polymer medium, I was stopped in my tracks by this paper.

I don't use purple very often, but this practically jumped into my shopping basket all on it's own.

Here are the two collages that sprung from that inspiring source.

and then there's this:

This represents just a portion of the art supplies that have been loaded into my car, because in about 5 hours I'm heading here:

To make art in this lovely beach-side rental house for four straight days with 7 artsy friends.
I cannot think of any better cure for what ails me than the three kinds of therapy that come from the ocean, art and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New art for a new office

The big news in my life right now is that I have accepted a new job.  I realize this type of thing happens to people all the time, and for many it’s not a big deal, but I tend to find a place and dig in and never leave.  The only reason I left my last job is because the company closed.  The job before that I left to have a baby.  The job before that was because my husband finished grad school and we moved 3,000 miles.  I’ve only had 4 jobs in my adult life.  I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t gone to college if I’d still be working in the town library (my much-beloved high school job.)

All this to say, this is the first time in my life I am voluntarily leaving a place I love to go work somewhere else. It is rocking me to my core in all sorts of ways.

Let me back up.

Many of you know, I am currently the director of a school age child care program in a town about 15 miles from my house.  I've been there five years and really like it.  I had no intention of going anywhere. 
Then back in July, I was reading email from the superintendent of schools in the town where I live - one of those general mid-summer updates to all the parents in the district, talking about progress on various goals.  In this email, he announces that the long-standing director of the after-school program has retired, and that the position is being totally re-vamped into a much larger leadership position for the district. Intrigued, I clicked through to the details of the job posting, and immediately realized, they are looking for ME.

So I applied, and then spent the next two months worrying and feeling guilty and conflicted, while waiting to get called for an interview.  (My family might point out that “worry” is a bit of an understatement. I was a wreck.) The interview process kept getting delayed due to more pressing school district issues.  My nerves got increasingly frayed.  Finally, two weeks ago I got the call, and then very quickly proceeded through a series of increasingly demanding interviews, until at last, I was offered the job last Thursday.

I will be doing very similar work – coordinating before-and-after school care within public school buildings – but on a much larger scale.  My current company is a small non-profit who holds a contract with a school district.  In my new job, I’ll be a school district employee, and I’ll have many new responsibilities in terms of community outreach, collaborating with other town programs, and innovating new ideas for learning that takes place outside of traditional school hours.  It’s a fantastic job, and wonderful opportunity for personal and professional growth.  The best part of all this?  It’s my home town.  The town in which I grew up and was educated. The town I moved back to ten years ago so that we could raise Max here.  The town I love. This is a dream job, and a perfect fit.  It feels like every choice I’ve made in my career up to this point has led me to this place. I’m incredibly excited.

BUT….I have to say goodbye to a community of people I’ve grown to love, and I’m terrible at letting go. 

I’ve got four weeks to tie up all the loose ends in my current job, and jump through all the pre-employment hoops in my new job.  I spent all day last Friday telling my staff and my board members.  Monday was a day full of strategy meetings, planning how to conduct the search for my replacement.  Yesterday was the email announcement to all the parents of the kids in the program.  The predictable pattern of response to this news has been shock, followed by disappointment, followed by “but I am so happy for you” followed by “but I’m so sad for us.”  I dance between grief and gratitude all day long.  I remind myself how boring and empty life would be if I didn’t feel and care so much.

There will be lots to do in the next four weeks, and I expect my days will be long.  It feels great, after nearly 3 months of worry and secrecy, to be able to move forward.  I’m much better when I have a plan.  It’s hard to predict what role art will play in this.  The weeks of not-knowing paralyzed me creatively.  I drew inward, and took comfort in books and movies.  It’s no surprise that I finally got my art mojo back the day I completed the interview cycle.  I still didn’t know if I had the job, but I had given it everything I had, and I finally had room for something else.   

Meanwhile, I bought frames for two of my favorite pieces, with the intention of hanging them in my new office.  Whether or not I have much time for art in the next four weeks, the pieces are leaning against the wall, ready to go, and reminding me that my creative and professional lives are both a big part of who I am, and are not mutually exclusive. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

More muted collage

There's definitely a similarity of tone to last weekend's collages.  I was working on "pushing back" different layers, and partially obscuring others, so most of the pieces have a hazy muted kind of look to them.  It's a departure from my usual color frenzy and it was fun to explore.

(Terrie, you were asking about how effective the polymer medium/tack iron technique was with deli papers:  both the aqua dots above and the yellow rays below were bits of painted deli paper.)

Thanks to Leslie for the vintage ephemera in this one:

 The scan of this one didn't really pick up on the blue-ish nature of the the papers and paint. 

This next one was done a piece of corrugated cardboard.  The tack iron process didn't work as well on this surface.  It didn't provide as firm a surface for ironing, and the pieces didn't stick as well as first.  I had to apply more pressure with the iron, which then compressed the cardboard a bit and emphasized the ridges.  (You can see the faint horizontal lines running throughout that no amount of paint can cover) Perhaps it wouldn't have mattered so much if collage papers had complete covered the base.

This next one kind of got away from me.  I finally just had to stop.

This is the only piece in the bunch without any paint on top.
Guess I was just in a neutral kind of mood.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Collaging with polymer medium and a tacking iron

So after watching all of Laura's tutorials, and seeing the technique she uses to adhere her collage papers, I went right out and bought myself a tacking iron.

I'm in love with this process.  

Here's how it works.
You coat your substrate and both sides of your collage papers with polymer medium.  You let them dry.  You assemble your collage layers in a pleasing manner.  The slight stickyness of the polymer medium makes it really easy to stick papers down temporarily.  I don't know about you, but when I compose with untreated papers, they are constantly sliding around, blowing off or curling up and it's really hard to plan a composition.  These papers are kind of like colorforms.  You can stick them down and peel them up again until you're happy with the arrangement.  And once you are?  You cover the collage with a piece of parchment paper and iron the whole thing down with your nifty little tack iron.
All your papers are perfectly adhered without wrinkles or bubbles and without spontaneously deciding to fall off after the glue has dried.
I've done 20 collages this way so far, and they are smooth and flat and permanent.  I may never use glue again.

I spent a great deal of time over the weekend prepping favorite bits of collage fodder with polymer medium so I'll be ready to collage at a moments notice.

Contrary to the above caption, I'm feeling pretty smart.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Before last weekend's total collage immersion, I was working slowly and steadily on two different round robin books.

Carroll's book is a spiral-bound weekly planner from 1976.
The original owner kept incredibly detailed notes about her life, and the pages are covered in her handwriting.
On the page below, she had written an appointment with Dr. Southall, then circled it and written "no!" next to it.  I adapted my page around that.

I didn't do much to this next page other than glue down and old library pocket and slip an ATC inside. I'm the fourth person to work in this book.  Gina is the last stop before it goes back home to Carroll.  I'm pretty sure we've all agreed to give the books another go around the circle since we all have plenty of blank pages and spaces left for additions.


The book is a collaborative effort, where we are encouraged to add to each other's pages.  The page below came to me with the yellow paint.  I added the architectural image transfer.  It's nothing close to a "finished" page.  It will be fun to see what others add.

This rather busy two-page spread is all me.  If these were postcards I'd consider them done and mail them off, but one of my talented friends might see a way to take this to a whole new level.

 Talk about minimalist...
This page came to me with the two scraps of painted paper.  I added the big letters. (and cracked myself up.)

OH, and speaking of cracking myself up...
The voice balloon says "I don't know if you're my role model, per se, but I have long wanted to be a member of the pants-wearing elite."

 Carroll drew this marvelous bunny, and left an inviting smear of blue on the opposite page.  All I did was add the invitation to come out an play.

Another minimal contribution from me - all I added was the voice balloon.  (many thanks to Max for sacrificing some old comic books.)
"Why'd you bring me to this boring, stinky old swamp?"

Then there's this hot mess.  There was a some purple and white on the pages when I started, and it seems everything I added made it worse.  The one thing I like about this spread is that the dark squiggly lines are done on a transparency that has been taped into the book as a separate page.  (see the tiny polka dots on the right side of the spine?  it's a wash-tape hinge.)  this way the transparency flips back and forth and you can incorporate the lines into either page.

Finally, I got to use four different elements that have been hanging around my collage folder for ages.

At the same time I was working on Carroll's book, I was also working on Amy's book for my other round robin.  The disadvantage of working in books is that you have to leave them open to dry so you can't start working on another page right away.  It was nice to have two books going at once so that I could work in one while the other was drying.  I didn't do as much in Amy's book because it's smaller and fuller and I wanted to make sure there were plenty of pages for the remaining two artists to work on.

My typical silliness was in high-gear for these pages.

Peggy left a comment recently asking for more info regarding altered books, because she's considering doing a round robin of her own.
I'll be back soon with some more thoughts, links and pictures.