Category Archives: pen and ink

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.

Zero Armadillo

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!

 

 

Take heed

This guy (why do we always assume that bare bones folks are all guys?) didn’t quite make it in time to be the Halloween greeting I was counting on, but he was fun to whip up.

The vintage skeleton image came from The Graphics Fairy‘s wonderful blog. You want treasures? She’s got you covered–free vintage and antique images (copyright free!) of everything you can imagine. So that’s that part.

The background is a page from a discarded book on which I’d done some brush paintings of a tea bowl. The painting didn’t really work out, so it went into the scrap pile. At the wonderful ATC party I attended a couple of weeks ago, the pieces all came together.

Art lessons

I spent last weekend in Vermont with some folks from my dojo at the home of our teacher (a gorgeous cabin he and his family built with their own hands). It was a great weekend. We ate (a lot), drank (more or less moderately), roasted a whole pig, hiked around in the woods marveling at things like the beaver pond, the requisite fall foliage, the dark dark skies (enabling us to see many falling stars–or alien scout ships, depending on who’s doing the telling). We even squeezed in a tiny bit of karate.

One of my fellow students, an artist by inclination and training, has been helping me with my kata and my art. He believes there is a connection, so I packed amongst my weekend gear two cheap sketch pads and a box of conte crayons–relics of the one pathetic art class I took in college (not saying that was a long time ago, but the sponge sheets between the two tiers of the crayons turned instantly to dust the moment I picked them up).

I got these things out during a quiet part of one afternoon when the nine of us were just sitting around telling karate stories (and tales of a few alien encounters) My fellow student/teacher set me to doing quick motion sketches, and when he decided the crayons were slowing me down (“Faster! Bigger! No thinking!”) he had me swap them for a little pot of black ink and a brush.

Now, I’m untaught and awkward. And I think too much. But I had a blast doing these and have kept it up a little since getting home. Not saying that anything I did was “good” (or, in most cases, even recognizable as human beings), but it was soooo much fun.

And I’m not completely convinced it helped my kata. But in class last night I got the kumite set I’ve been laboring over right all the way through. Nobody said perfect, okay? But at least I’ve got the basic choreography down right.

Hee, hee. Where did I put that sketch pad?

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?