Category Archives: painting

Stillness

Time for some actual art around here.  Working on an assignment (not the paying kind!) again–it’s that time of year.

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That thing that I made you that you don’t know what it is–I don’t know what it is either, but isn’t it awesome?

About this time last year I bought a gigantic plastic storage container at Goodwill. It was filled to the brim with those wonderful plain wooden building blocks for kids.  The old school kind that last forever. Rectangles, squares, cylinders, arches, and those cool wedge-of-cheese shaped blocks. I stowed them in the way-back of my 14 year old Subaru wagon, and didn’t really think of them again until the fates decided about 6 weeks ago that the Subaru’s time had come (I can’t complain: it hit the 250,000 thousand mile mark in June and had never, but never let me down). But it had to be cleaned out in preparation for moving to its new home, and the blocks came to light again and started nagging at me.

And then I needed a present for someone special.  And this was born:

Inspired by a number of different projects, I pulled together various tools and decorated papers–monoprinted, stamped, brush painted, watercolored and so on.  You can actually get a better look at the kind of things that ended up papering the block in these shots. I quite like the little green bit of paper with the fish and tadpoles on it–it has a wonderful (IIDSSM) 3-D look to it, but I assure you, it’s perfectly flat.

And these–the stamp of the little person in the hat was made for another project, but it makes a credible appearance here, I think.

On this block printed strip, which ended up on the front of the bridge, a recently carved fish stamp and a poem by Issa:

fish frolicking
on foot…
chrysanthemums

I assembled it all with Golden semigloss gel, let it dry (hurrying it along a bit with a heat gun) then covered the whole with a layer of natural colored encaustic medium.  Then I sat watching Top Gear (British version, of course) while I buffed all the surfaces to a nice low-level gloss, kissed it goodbye, and packed it for shipping to the birthday girl.

It’s called Chrysanthemum bridge, but I  still don’t know what it us. Maybe she will.

My not so hidden agenda sort of tutorial

Last June my computer had a little snit and ate my calendar. For the second time. Not all of it–I could still access most of the years on it, but not all. But that was it. I could no longer trust it. I still keep a calendar on my computer, but my main computer is kept on stone tablets now. I sat down the day after the Palm betrayed me and made a paper agenda. It has served me well.

On Saturday of this past weekend, though, I realized I’d come to the last page of my year, which, just because of what happened when, now runs from mid-June to mid-June. Time was up. I spent the rest of the weekend making a new one. I started with this:

And took these steps. More pictures here than words, and I apologize for the fact that the shadow of my head is in some of the photos–it was a dark stormy weekend and the lighting was just weird.

Soft Kut from Dick Blick:

The carved block and the printed page:

After flirting briefly with hand-cutting and block printing the name of each month and each numerical date, I came to my senses and wrote them in by hand with Sharpie markers matching the color of the ink I’d used on each page:

Cutting scraps (they look like the homemade noodles First Child and I made a couple of weeks ago). I’m so cheap that I spent a ridiculous amount of time pawing at and trying to figure out how to reconstitute and reuse these. Common sense prevailed and they went into the trash, but it took a while and was fairly wrenching. Seriously, think there’s gotta be a use for these somewhere:

A little cover decoration was in order:

And then, maybe, a little color:

Second child likes the black and white prints better. I left a few like that. And I don’t know why I printed so many, but it’s just as easy to do a run of quite a few prints and I’m already thinking up some good uses for them (stay tuned).

I’m always seriously in love with the blocks from which I print. Would it be weird to mount and hang them somewhere? They’d have to be accessible for repeated use. I also have among my treasures some woodcut (actual wood) blocks that my dad carved many years ago. Some of them were commissioned for the covers of a magazine for which he was the art director back in the 60s and 70s. My sister has some of them, too. Hmm . . . I might actually have to print some of them in the near future.

For now, though, these are just mine.  And this, finally, is my new calendar, complete with its own sunflowery cover, its nice tabs (scavenged from some monoprints that didn’t completely work out), and its important back pocket (everything should have pockets). I’m happy to have a nice place to keep track of what day it is.

Semi-tutorial: Spiffy quick birthday banner

Second child celebrated a birthday recently, and invited 46,342 45 friends to her party (ok, not even quite that many, but several brought dates and possibly several wandered in off the street, so that’s more or less the actual head count). Given the square footage of our house, that’s . . . well, by my calculation, that was about 5 teenagers per square foot.

Happily, they were all reasonably well behaved, and polite, and most of them brought something yummy to eat to add to what we’d prepared (I’d show you pictures, but . . . 46,342 kids versus a number of pans of pasta and chili and ravioli and mac and cheese and pie and cookies and cupcakes and so on, not to mention an ocean of soda and enough chips and candies to pave the way to the moon and . . .the math will clearly demonstrate why there’s nothing left to photograph).

Anyway, about 2 hours before the party I got it into my head that there should be some kind of birthday souvenir for the guest of honor to keep, so I whipped up the banner you see above–neatly hung across the stone face of the kitchen fireplace. Yeah, it gets a little messy over to the right, when it has to pass by and over a hanging bag of onions and a big box of cat food.

I grabbed a yard of lightweight canvas and laid it out across the washer and dryer in the mud room (after pinning a note on the door warning her highness to keep out). I folded it as you see here, so that there would be two fold edges from which to cut pennant shapes.

I quickly gathered up some gesso and several tubes of cheap watercolor, a brayer, a big old paintbrush, and some odds and ends (soda bottle caps, some of those fake credit cards they send you in the mail, a paper plate) and set about painting the canvas in broad strokes, adding some imprints in contrasting colors of the bottle caps and making lines and squiggles with the cards. This is what I got–you can see it here having a quick dry on the clothesline (hint: a windy day is a boon)

Now back to the cutting table (aka the washer and dryer), where I cut the canvas into pennants. The more geometry savvy among you will have figured out that this left me with a bunch of triangles with an edge fold that would drape nicely over the 5 yards of cotton cording I bought for hanging them up but also with some pizza slice shaped pieces with no backs, and some backs with no painted fronts.

Remember, though, this was a quick-and-dirty operation–a few deft moves with a stapler connected the pizza slices to their backs, and I was able to drape all of the pennant shapes over the line. Where they looked like the top photo above.

I brought out markers and pens and crayons and interrupted the din merriment several times to ask everyone to–at some point in the evening–come and leave their mark–a message, a piece of art, a scribbled birthday greeting–and spread the banner on the kitchen table. Kids wandered in and out all night and had a great time signing and drawing and writing poems and advice and loving words, and the birthday girl had a great time the next morning reading and oohing and ahhing over all that love.

I knew I would not be allowed to photograph the thus-embellished banner after it was done, so I was glad I got a few detail shots of the painted fabric before I cut it up. Here are a couple–you can see more (and slightly more detail about making the banner) on my flickr site.

Now, what can we celebrate next so I have an excuse to make another one?

Floating into another year

Wow.

Something happened about ten days into November–I blinked once and suddenly everything was coming at me at light speed. This didn’t really stop until a good week after Christmas. It was a little bit like being picked up by a big wave, then letting go and just riding it until it dumped me rather unceremoniously me on the shore.

I’m still sort of picking sand out of my teeth, but, you know . . . in a good way.

Now I’m riding the waves again, three or four of them at once as I try to focus on some big projects that should keep me occupied well into the new year, and, if I’m lucky, beyond.

Shutting up now and leaving you with a few images from the intervening weeks. I’m especially fond of the first few, taken in an abandoned swimming pool halfway up the side of a mountain in the Catskills. Yeah, I know, right?

Art and updates to follow soon!

 

 

And a wee bit of Christmas, including a million pans of cinnamon rolls packaged up and delivered, and a few moments of stillness.

 

 

(Note clever use of turned off outdoor grill as a temporary fridge to keep rolls from rising before they could be delivered.)

With many thanks to Santa for–among other lovely things–replacing my grew-legs-and-walked-off copy of Seven Samurai!

Back soon with projects and plans–happy new year!

 

 

Pen and watercolor

Another set of quickies–scribbles using up the last paint in the watercolor box mixing wells.

If you watercolor paint your watercolor paints, how long before you disappear up your own . . . um . . . watercolor paints?

Linen covered book

Since I raided the local odd lots store last month for about 2 dozen of the linen and cotton kitchen towels they were selling for 50 cents each, I’ve been trying to use them in as many different ways as possible (I haven’t yet used them as actual dish towels, but it may come to that).

This one became the cover fabric for a coptic stitched blank journal I made for a milestone birthday for my sister. The linen was a little on the thick side–great for wiping dishes, not as great for book cloth–but I’m tickled with how it came out. The art on the cover is a watercolored print from one of my hand-carved stamps. The interior pages, which are a creamy white, are from a block of Sennelier “Le Maxi” sketching paper that I snagged on sale (the cellophane wrapper of the block was torn, but the paper was perfect) from my local Dick Blick store a while back.

I made a similar one with a kraft paper cover, red enameled eyelets for the waxed linen thread to go through and a handpainted, hand-carved stamp of a bird for a friend whose birthday was last week, but that one didn’t get photographed. In fact, I was so late in finishing it that I sat at the table in the tea shop where some friends and I were celebrating her birthday and finished the coptic stitching as we chatted over our iced teas on a hot afternoon. She was pleased–said it was like getting a present and a show.

(At least) one more to go, for yet another friend with an August birthday. Jeez, you’d think that December was a cold month or something.