Sunday, June 27, 2010

Collage Workshop with Randel Plowman

What could be more fun than learning new techniques from collage artist Randel Plowman?  You're right- nothing!  I had the privilege and pleasure of attending Randel's collage workshop at Northern Kentucky University yesterday.  The time flew by as we learned about possibilities for collage materials, various types of glues and mediums (I love glue!), image transfers, and lots of other cool stuff. 

Our first project was a series of 2 1/2" by 4" five-minute collages, using materials given to us in a little plastic bag- yikes!  Just the thought of having to do anything in five minutes is scary for me, as I am normally a perfectionist with two speeds: slow as molasses in January, and slower than molasses in January. This was a great loosening-up exercise, and I actually started to enjoy it, because who expects greatness in five minutes?  Here are some of my results:

We also learned an interesting technique for making collages using heat from an iron.  It was kind of labor-intensive, but I liked the results because the pieces turn out so nice and flat.

Then we tried some image transfers.  The piece below was my best attempt; I call it "Happy Rooster" because I was so happy with how it turned out!

Randel was extremely generous with both his knowledge and materials, and gave us lots of freedom to play and explore.  I also enjoyed meeting and interacting with the other artists at the workshop.  There were graphic designers, teachers, print makers, hobbyists, writers and who knows what else, all there to learn about collage.  What a great way to spend a hot, humid Saturday!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Product of Matter Times Light...

The product of matter times light
 equals something far beyond the sum 
of their parts (if we knew what those were)

a question incandescently answered 
by selected sudden instants
of time,

and written in unnamed colors
so unexpectedly right
you can forget to breathe;

 a random unraveling
of particles or waves,
science has no name for what this is

it's a synergy of secrets
beyond parameters of ordinary sight,

it's a matter of mystery
when you multiply by light.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Baby Step and More Possibilties

I've been engaged in some artistic explorations lately, in hopes of stumbling onto a new artistic path, which I discussed in more detail in a previous post. I feel like I've been hopping willy-nilly from one idea to another, but I guess that's okay for now.  Here's the result of my last couple of days of exploration.

I was just looking at some scraps I had laying around; this was a piece that I cut off the original piece that became the Buddha "Paradox" piece.  I'm not sure if that made sense, but I can't think of a better way to put it.  As I was thinking, "should I pitch this scrap or keep it?", I suddenly began to see a strange sort of landscape image in it.  So, why not?  I scribbled a bit here, liked it, and scribbled a bit there; I glued on some bits of map and other papers, and added some more color, and... a kind of semi-abstract imaginary landscape emerged.

It seems to be an amalgamation of all the ideas I've been playing with over the past year or so:  the collages made from more collage-y things (as opposed to just my monotypes); the maps from my "Traveler's Tale" series (which isn't finished yet, btw); the landscapiness from my monotype collages; and a bit more of an abstract quality.  Also, it occurs to me that my trip to the Rocky mountains last summer has impressed itself  on my subconscious more strongly than I realized; I can see the shapes of the Rockies in some of these landscape elements, for sure.

I'm intrigued, and could maybe see myself doing a series of these.  If I do, I think they would need to be larger, with more saturated colors, and perhaps pushed even more toward abstraction.  What do you think?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

BloggersUnite for The Gulf & Save Our Planet // Bloggers Unite

I have always tried to keep politics out of my blog as much as possible, but I feel this is the time to make (sort of) an exception to my rule.  I'm not going to give you my political opinions, or try to persuade you to adopt my views; I am only doing this because I think there are others out there who might be wondering how they can help in any possible way.

 The horrendous and unimaginable disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has left me feeling helpless, and at a complete loss for what to do.  Yet I so desperately want to do something.  So I have joined Bloggers Unite in their efforts to do what they can to help.  If you want to join, and/or send an email to your legislators, click here:
BloggersUnite for The Gulf & Save Our Planet // Bloggers Unite

 Another thing you can do is to donate to the Sierra Club.  Apparently, Rush Limbaugh asked his listeners, "When do we ask the Sierra Club to pick up the tab for this leak?" and blamed "the greeniacs" for driving oil drilling offshore.  So Sierra Club started a campaign to collect at least $125,000 for the cleanup in his name:
Help Rush Limbaugh Become Sierra Club's Top Fundraiser

You can also sign this petition to let our lawmakers know you're in favor of finding alternative energy sources NOW.
Let's Move Beyond Oil

The Audubon Society's Action Page also gives good information on ways you can help.  To volunteer, sign a petition, donate, or help in other ways, click here.

Thanks for indulging me; I'm just trying to help.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two of My Favorite Things (revisited and updated)

While working on my new website, I've discovered that old blog posts are an invaluable source of content. I've even found myself re-reading some of the posts because they're - well - interesting. So I've decided to update and re-publish some of the good ones, since I don't having a lot of time for blogging right now, and a lot of people, especially on facebook, never read them before anyway. So, here goes!

No, it's not raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, not that either one of those is bad.  It's paper and books!  These have probably been two of my favorite things almost all of my life.  Of course, they are closely related, since books are made primarily of paper.  Also, I recently got two great books about paper, which I'll review in this post.

One of my earliest memories is of kneeling at a coffee table, drawing on a piece of paper.  My grandmother, who cared for me while my mom was at work, tells me that I was about two years old at the time. What I remember most is that as long as I had paper and a pencil, I was happy.

Photo from Analyzing Children's Art, by Rhoda Kellogg

Paper!  I love everything about it: the way it feels, whether rough or smooth; the flexible ease of folding or manipulating it; the emptiness of a fresh sheet of paper, waiting to contain the world of my imagination.  The smell of a fresh sketch pad is inspiring to me.  As a child, I was delighted by the discovery of construction paper- so heavy it held its shape when folded, and all those colors!  Little did I know that it was only the tip of the iceberg.

It wasn't until much later in life that I realized the extent of the huge variety of papers that are available.  In each of my college classes, I was gradually introduced to different types of paper: non-bleed layout paper for graphic design, cotton rag watercolor paper, and printmaking papers such as Hosho and Rives BFK.  When my printmaking instructor gave me a Daniel Smith catalog, the wide world of paper was suddenly opened.  I had never dreamed there were so many kinds, and I wanted all of them!  Now, even far more exotic papers are available to us because of the internet and an expanded import market.

These are some of the papers I purchased recently from PaperArts.Com, a great source of handmade and decorative papers as well as other cool collage stuff.  Many of these yummy papers are beautiful works of art in their own right.

Closeup: Most of these are handmade, with wonderful textures and inclusions.

 An assortment from Blue Sky Pink, one of my favorite sites for ordering paper ephemera.

* Addendum: I have just found out that, sadly, Blue Sky Pink is closing down. Everything they have left is on sale super cheap, if you feel the need to rush over there and grab something - I did!

Books are another of my favorite things, and I can't remember a time when I didn't love them.  I was never bored if I had a book; they transported me to unknown worlds, and opened my mind to new ideas and possibilities.  I used to get in trouble in school because I'd finish my assignments before everyone else, start reading a book, and become so absorbed that I didn't notice that the teacher had gone on to the next lesson!

Of course, books about art are my favorites, and I'm always adding to my already vast collection.  I recently bought two books featuring art that's constructed strictly from paper. The first is Paper: Tear, Fold, Rip, Crease, Cut by Raven Smith, published by Black Dog Publishing.

This isn't a how-to book, but rather "shines a light on the beautiful world of paper in art, fashion, and design"  (from book jacket).  The first section deals with the history of paper, giving an overview of how it was invented and made, and the evolution of its various uses and methods of manipulation.  (Did you know that papyrus is not really paper, even though that's the origin of the name?)

 Studio Glow by Riki Moss

Icosahedron by Richard Sweeney

The rest of the book showcases a wide array of work by 44 artists working in every imaginable style and genre that could possibly be constructed from paper, including but not limited to sculpture, advertising design, installation, book arts, fashion, and furniture.  Some of it is unbelievable, all of it is beautifully crafted.  The photos are gorgeous, really a joy to look at; each artist's section is accompanied by text interpreting the work and giving us a glimpse into their processes.

Papercraft: Design and Art with Paper by R. Klanten (author, editor), S. Ehmann (editor), and B. Meyer (editor), published by Gestalten, is my other brilliant purchase.  The text in this book is pretty much limited to the preface and introduction, both written by R. Klanten.  The premise of the book is best described by these excerpts:
"Faced with the deceptive freedom of digital creation, the "anything goes" promise of virtual tools, many designers, artists, and illustrators have (re-)discovered tangible means to convey information... In this spirit of DYI and discovery, the artists and designers assembled in this publication re-translate their skills, styles and stories to a huge range of 2D and 3D paper creations that transcend their material's humble origins.  With just a few folds or drops of glue, the basic sheet morphs from flat plane into an actual body that represents and defines its occupied space."  

The rest of the book's 249 pages are jam-packed with photo after photo depicting every kind of art and craft made of paper by 70 talented artists.  Some of the artists push the applications of paper beyond anything I would have previously imagined- for example, a paper forest and even paper shelters!

Newspaper House by Sumer Erek

This book also comes with a DVD/DVDROM which features 17 very cool paper animations/videos, as well as templates for making some of the paper objects. Here's a sampling of one by Javan Ivey.

I cannot understand how anyone could look at either of these books and not be inspired.  I highly recommend both.

* Addendum 2: I also feel I would be remiss if I didn't recommend one of my favorite ever documentaries. It's called Between the Folds, and it may not sound interesting, but believe me, you'll be surprised at how utterly mesmerizing and mind-blowing it is. It treads the boundary of art and science, which is exactly where I like to live!

Here is the trailer:

You can watch the entire film on YouTube here.  I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Baby Steps and Being Brave

I think I've come one step further in my quest to make a more collage-y collage.  To quote Richard Dreyfuss from the movie What About Bob, I'm taking "baby steps".  I am rarely able to just make a quantum leap from one style or medium to another; it generally happens as a progression of experiments, adjusting one variable at a time.  It sounds pretty scientific, but to me, it feels more like wandering around in the dark until I bump into something- a bit scary.

Trying to make a change in your work, or embark on a new series, seems to be a difficult transition for all of us at times.  I was reading someone's blog recently, late at night, and found these words, which for me, summed up exactly what I'm going through:
... "feeling a bit uninspired, like I'm treading the same ground over and over while itching to try something new.  The challenge is this: anything new and different takes time, time to experiment and make mistakes and try again.  That means time away from [making the easy things]. But fear doesn't produce anything interesting and beautiful- one must be brave.  So I'm going to try to be brave, and make something new and thrilling to me and trust that it's the right thing to do even if it might seem impractical."   - Black-Eyed Susie

So well said! Susie makes makes amazing art dolls; please visit her blog.

So, I'm being brave, and going where I haven't gone before, on my way to who-knows-where.  Here is my newest baby step:

 Paradox, 8" x 8"
ingredients: Arches watercolor paper, acrylic ink, book pages, joss paper, image transfer, watercolor pencils, Caran D'Ache crayons, magazine cut-outs, acrylic gel medium

 This was also my first attempt at image transfer, and I couldn't believe it actually worked!  I used acrylic gel medium to transfer the Buddha image from a photocopy onto the collage.  I don't think I quite got all the paper off of it, but the transfer was starting to tear, so I left well enough alone.  I should probably also mention that the two areas that look white, near the Buddha's left shoulder and right of his head are in fact metallic silver, so it looks much better in person.  The scanner doesn't pick up metallic colors very well.

All in all, I consider this experiment a success, because I learned from it.  It's not easy to be brave in the dark, because you might bump into things- if you're lucky.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Other Stuff

I've been out of the blogger loop lately.  Please accept my apologies for not commenting on your posts (though I may have read them), and for not responding to comments you've made on mine.  I truly enjoy and appreciate each and every comment, and am so very happy that you come by to check out my ramblings!  I assure you that I don't mean to be rude, and it doesn't mean I don't love you all.  It's just that, well, I've been busy doing ... other stuff.

The end of the school year gets especially hectic for those of us who are teachers, and to be honest, our brains are pretty well fried by now.  If you're a middle school teacher, you can double the mental crispiness, and if you're an 8th-grade teacher, you can double that again, and if you're an 8th-grade teacher of kids with learning and behavioral disorders, well, you get the picture.

Some other "other stuff" I've been doing includes...

... working in my flower gardens,

                                                           ... helping to build a new deck,

 and, of course, going out to our home-away-from-home in the country, which we did yesterday.

Still working on the log cabin...

 There's been a huge amount of rain in Lewis County, and the Kinneyconnick has surged far over its banks, haphazardly rearranging the surrounding landscape.
For instance, our little rock beach, which you can see on the right side of this photo, is now gone...

 ... having been replaced by a big pile of sticks.

Parts of the island have been scoured clean of vegetation...

... while massive mountains of flotsam and jetsam have been deposited here and there.  (What's the difference between flotsam and jetsam, anyway?)

Luckily, we left just in time to catch...

... the annual Lewis County Tractor Ride,

which is basically where everyone gets on their tractors,

and rides around Lewis County.  Who says there's no entertainment in the country?

All of this stuff  +s  up to  < time for artwork or blogging, but I hope to get going again soon.  Aren't you impressed with my awesome math skills?