Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Art Journalling.......

A true art journal page - photographed both with and without the flash What a different it makes, n'est ce pas?).

Begun with a 6" x 9" sheet of watercolor paper washed with several shades of blue, green and a bit of purple.  I make these background papers for fun just to see how the colors will blend.  Sometimes I add salt while the paint is still wet, or use my fingertips to flick some plain rubbing alcohol onto the wet color washed paper.  

I totally LOVED journalling on the wavy lines using all capital letters.  The rainbow haiku surfaced all by itself (YES!!)

please click to view larger

please click to view larger

Several on my online blog pals (a couple of whom I've had the joy of meeting in real time and space!) are creating art journals.  bohemiannie,  creative lenna, and friedaquilter.

Not being a 'real' artist (whatever that is...) I have long puzzled over the ability to express one's feelings in visual form.  Yes, I can make a pretty quilt and some of my photographs are pleasing to the eye, but the emphasis is on the technique and the form, rather than the function of expressing feeling.  Or maybe I'm just so dense about myself that feelings and art have been mutually imcompatible up to now.

In the two immediately previous posts, I've featured two small traditional quilts.  Pretty though they are, and as much as I enjoyed the detail process of applique, beading, couching fiber, and thread painting, and a form of art though they may be, they are not at all reflective of who I am.  Or, if they are, they reflect a detail oriented person wedded to technique and a narrow range of skills that produce a predictable result.

In retirement, after the usual hectic 40+ years of home keeping, kid raising, a profession, civic and church responsibilities, I find myself not having a clue about how to go about translating feelings into some sort of visual record.  For many years, I have kept a diary of sorts - all written - often following Julia Cameron's advice to write the three daily pages.  When I read back through these stacks and stacks of spiral notebooks, however, there is a repetitive dullness to my words.  The pages lack color and variety.  Yes, from time to time I've kept my diary on blank pages, adding a sketch or two, but not having much talent for drawing, the sketches seem as flat as the paper they are drawn on.

In addition, I have created a fairly extensive collection of elaborate scrapbook pages.  Made primarily with decorative store-bought elements and ephemera, in addition to all the photographs I've taken along the way, this visual record is far more about family and scenery than it is about me.

Speaking of 'me', does anybody really care?  We live in the era of 'me'!!  Because it is primarily women who are creating the art journals in progress, I can only assume that unfortunate feelings of invisibility and second-classness are alive and well.   Feminism and major cracks in the glass ceiling aside, it is women who seem to be feeling the need to increase their visibility and validate their lives through art journaling.  At the age of 65, why am I suddenly so entranced with myself????? This is a topic worthy of other essays at another time......

Previous attempts at creating an art journal are now history (though I respect the lessons I learned while trying).  As usual, my focus was on the art rather than on my own interior.  The art seldom pleased me, so my perception of failure was built in.  Books on journaling, re-visiting Julia Cameron and SARK, even the free Strathmore® Visual Journal online classes failed to create the right climate for me to merge art and being.  Perhaps the "problem" was the bound book format.....?

By chance (or, more likely,  some cosmic Blessing), yesterday I came across the following blog daisy yellow.

All I can say is WOW!!!!!!!  The saying, "when the student is ready the teacher will appear" couldn't be more applicable.  Can't quite put my finger on just what sort of trip wire this blog has activated, but I suddenly believe I understand the ability to merge art and life.

Away with the bound book and it's linear progression of pages (although a friend of mine always starts her books somewhere in the middle, going forward and backward as the mood strikes her.)  Loose sheets are better for me because I can sew on them.  And in this instance, size really doesn't matter - I'll go to my local craft store and pick up a storage box that will accommodate pages of several dimensions.

See you, later.......  ;-D

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Flower Power II - Daylily

Another small (16" x 19") quilt in a series.

please click on image for larger view

please click on image for larger view
Not especially innovative artistically, but the precision pleases me.

Friday, August 26, 2011

New quilt

It's been a warm couple of weeks here in Sunny Florida - too hot and humid to be outside much in the afternoon, so I've been sewing.  Just when I thought I had all the books a crafter could possibly need, I found a fabulous applique techniques book at my local big-box fabric store.  Since happily I also had a coupon good for 50% off any one item, the book came home with me ;-0  The book is Applique: the Basics and Beyond by Janet Pittman.  The perfect book for an applique "virgin" like me!!  Ms. Pittman's instructions are wonderfully clear and are backed up with outstanding color photography.

This is a small jewel only 14 1/2" x 16 3/4".  Made entirely with scraps from my stash, too!  One of my gal pals loves pink, so it will make its way to her for an un-birthday gifty surprise.........

Please click on image for more detail

Please click  on image for more detail 

Monday, August 22, 2011


The Sarasota Surface Design Guild I belong to has switched from ATC's to 4"x6" postcards for our monthly member swap.  The postcards can be either fabric or paper (or a combination!!)  This is a new size format for me so I've been playing.........  four very different styles..........

Please click for a larger view.....

The card in the upper right is on paper I cut from a larger sheet of a water color 'experiment.'  I placed a transparent overlay that has writing on it next, and then positioned the two dark strips behind it.  A second overlay of the woman's image is a tape transfer.  For embellishment I added three vintage mother-of-pearl buttons and some decorative machine stitching.  A little twist of fancy fibers finishes the look I was aiming for.

"Beach Summer" was composed on a piece of pearlized peach colored card stock, stamped multiple times with a flower image, and then I applied the three tape transfers (can you tell I've been having fun with tape transfers???) and the lettering stickers.  

"Pisces" is a combo of  color stamped background (the little 'Brilliance" teardrops), an embossed peacock feather, a bit of sparkle in the swirly stickers and hand lettering which tells of the attributes of Pisces folk.  I made it specifically to give to a Pisces pal of mine ;-0

"bloom" is circles of fabric appliqued onto a pieced background and is a direct copy of one of Tom Russel's styles of design.  The two largest circles and the leaves were also pieced before being cut out.  A few shiny black beads in the center of the smallest circles seemed called for, so I added them.  I backed the fabric with a piece of light blue cardstock and zig-zagged around all the edges to hold it all together.

Each of the postcards has a hand lettered designation of 'postcard' on the back and a little drawing of a stamp (2 cents, if anyone can remember back that far.......!!) with a wiggly line down the middle to separate the address section from the message section.  I know there are rubber stamps available in postcard format, but at JoAnn's and also at my local art store, they are $12.95, and I have better things to do with that amount of cash!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Faint Praise

I seem to be in "rant mode' .........  Try as I might not to let personal opinion creep into the experience of art, sometimes my feelings create a wonderful kind of energy I can't ignore.   After 2 1/2 months of getting settled in a new home, I'm finally able to find my art and sewing supplies and have been on a binge of making - ATC's, postcards, a mini-quilt, a bracelet made with vintage buttons, and trying a few new techniques with paper and paint.  All this activity has unleashed a few thoughts.......

I belong to a surface design guild and our regular monthly meeting was the other evening.  In addition to the business of the meeting, the membership brings items they have been working on to share.  Obviously, in any group, some of us are more talented than others.  Some are 'real' artists in that they regularly sell their work, exhibit in galleries, and have a presence on ETSY.  Others of us have less native talent perhaps (or are just less ego-driven) but are not less creative in our own way.

I am in the latter category, definitely!!!  But, I love what I do, and do not consider myself to be a dilettante.  I work hard at my small crafts and occasionally produce a work which can hold its own in any but the most august company.

All through the formative years (childhood, in an old-fashioned parlance) my mother used the expression "Damned by faint praise." Find a bit of explanation here. 

Several years ago, I was the media specialist (school librarian in an old-fashioned parlance) in an inner city school.  The children had so little and were mostly unloved by just about everybody.  I had a wonderful teacher's aide named Cindy, and together, we vowed to find something positive to say about each child who visited the media center.  Today, Jamal might have the brightest stripes on his shirt, and tomorrow, Carmenita the cutest little curl on the nape of her neck.  We praised pink plastic barrettes, well-tied shoe laces, clean fingernails, and a thousand other unique details about these youngsters. We stretched our observational skills, our vocabulary of adjectives, and our  hearts, while finding something special about each of these precious babies.  In school system training workshops, we learned to make academic praise specific.  Even a mediocre effort has something good in it.  Even the neat use of glue, an improvement in scissor skills, a tidier column of numbers in an addition problem, and so forth.

This training echoed the lesson my mother taught me and has stood me in good stead to this day.

When I attend the guild meetings, it is easy to wax ecstatic and gush over the artistry of the truly talented, but even the most humble contributor in the group has worked to create whatever it is she has brought to share.  It is her best effort and deserves more than a cursory glance and a quick, "That's nice."  Such empty praise is no praise at all!  Since I fall into that latter group of the minimally talented, it is disheartening to hear my offerings damned by faint praise.

In almost all cases, the maxim, "if you can't find something nice to say, don't say anything at all' is true.  In the case of commenting on the artwork of others, however, I would add that it is imperative to find one special thing to praise - something that lets the artist know that you have really looked at her work.

I'm not sure if I will continue to bring my creations to share with the group because I come away from meetings feeling inadequate.  I will, however, continue the practice of observation so that I can contribute a specific bit of praise, ask a question about technique, and in general let the artist know that I am interested in her effort whether it is a show-stopper or not.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Invasive Species aka Noxious Weeds

One of my casual acquaintances is on the landscape committee of her condominium association.  The condo complex is a relatively small one that was developed about four miles from the Gulf of Mexico in Manatee County, Florida, in the early 1980's.  At the time of development,  the Carrotwood was a popular landscape choice.

Sadly, it was discovered too late that Carrotwoods are invasive, difficult to eradicate, and are generally a danger to already fragile coastal ecosystems.  Many areas in Florida have city/county ordinances against planting them.

This acquaintance of mine is generally considered to be a nice woman.  She and her husband are pillars of their church, and are well-loved neighbors of the condominium residents.  She is also what I call a hyper-Christian.  Prayer chains and Bible studies, as well as frequent church attendance, feature regularly in her daily life, and references to God and "his" blessings abound in her speech.  God causes the weather, the joys and heartaches we experience, and "his" will is evident all around us.

Being on the landscape committee has thrust this acquaintance into a battle with the Carrotwood trees that were planted in her condo complex and she has successfully lobbied to have many of them removed.  (No easy task, as they continue to sprout from the roots unless quite drastic action with toxic chemicals is taken.)

It has occurred to me that it is this woman's lack of control over this particular species that galls her.  Broadly speaking, she has selected the invasive Carrotwood as a touchstone for all that is beyond her ability to understand.  Her hatred of the trees in her complex is evident in the frown lines that develop between her brows, the down-turn of her mouth, and the nasty little twist in her tongue when she says 'invasive species.'  Several weeks ago, I cheerfully allowed as how God created the Carrotwood in addition to all the other trees.  For a moment, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop.  A strange look crossed her face.  That man imported and planted the trees in Florida to begin with, and that ignorant birds tend to carry the seeds for dispersion is of little account.  It is the wayward and incorrigible nature of these trees that is the entire focus of her interest in them.

If you follow the link in the first paragraph and read about the Carrotwood, you will notice similarities to the behaviors and spread of human habitation.  We too, are an invasive species, noxious weeds able to be eradicated only by the drastic action of toxic chemicals.  The degradation of the coastal areas of southwest Florida is far more likely to have been caused by intentional human greed and the desire to own water-side property.  There are not miles and miles of Carrotwood trees consuming vast acreage, but there are miles and miles of high-rise vacation rentals.  We require air-conditioning, strip malls, automobiles, a complex electric grid and miles of paving.   Our use of dwindling fresh water resources verges on the criminal.

Although they are, indeed, a threat to mangrove and other coastal habitats, the Carrotwoods provide shade, food and nesting safety for birds, and are a visually attractive tree.  Highly salt tolerant, they thrive in semi-tropical where other shade trees can't.  They are clueless bystanders in a strange war not at all of their own making.  To blame the trees themselves, is like blaming the winter snow for a flood in June.

Like human beings and snow and even flooding or thunderstorms, the Carrotwood is neither all good nor all bad.  And the small and rather interfering God of my acquaintance, probably has little or nothing to do with any of these mysteries!