Monday, February 25, 2008


I finally finished my Windswept themed 4x4 swap pages. They'll go in the mail tomorrow. Provided i don't decide to further embellish. I hope the work that went into these comes across. I took strips of 12 different printed deli papers and arranged them on a page to sort of represent the sky, the sea, the sunset, maybe a mountain range - what do you see?

Deli paper is just what is sounds like - it is the thin paper they use to wrap sandwiches at a deli counter. You can buy it cheap at places like Smart and Final. Like 1000 12"x12" sheets for about $10. I even saw they had 14"x14" sheets! That would be fun to paint. But why? Why paint deli paper? Because it accepts the paint so well and you can do some interesting techniques. Once you have a stack of painted deli paper you can use it in your art. Torn in strips like i used, or whole as a background in an altered book. It is much easier to paint on this thin paper and glue it into the book, than to try to paint directly in the book without causing a big mess.

Here is a sample of deli paper that was painted, stamped and glazed.
But i digress.... Over the top of the deli paper strips is a transparency image of the those Mendocino windswept trees. Along with a verse from a song called The Wayward Wind, sung by many artists, it just seemed to fit the image. I don't have Photo Shop or anything fancy in terms of graphic software so i spent HOURS trying to shrink and resize everything to fit. I just could not get the proportions right. Since the 4x4 pages will be spiral bound on the left - you have to leave a margin. To squeeze in the trees and the verse was hard. Then i got a brainstorm (insert lightbulb here). Why not use power point to figure out the placement? I have used it at work, but never in my crafting. It worked great! I was able to layer the trees and the text and rearrange until it fit.

Next came the challenge to print the thing in the 4x4 size. Previously i was working in an 8x8 page. Well it is just as darn simple as copying it at 50% reduction. I actually reduced in 47% so i had some wiggle room when i trimmed it.
Once i printed them all, (squeezing 4 into a single sheet of 8x10 matte photo paper) i cut them out using a pro rotary trimmer. I had already designed the backs using a vintage postcard image of tortured looking trees along the Carmel coastline. Left them a bit big, glued them onto the back, and trimmed to fit. Nothing is harder than trying to glue two equal sized squares together perfectly.
A bit of cat's eye ink around the edges and I am calling this done. Or am I? Gee, maybe a bird flying in those trees? Maybe some fibers along the edge? Since i ran out of glue stick, i'll have to finish them up tomorrow before I can mail them anyway - so i have time to think this through. But not much! They have to be received my March 1st to be included in the book!! Yikes - don't fail me now, US postal service.....!

I am not sure these little 4x4 squares are representative of my efforts, such as they are at this late date, but i am proud of them and hope they will be appreciated in the group of 31. We'll meet each other and receive our books at Art and Soul's Asilomar retreat in April. More on that later...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A New Round Robin Begins.....!

I just finished my newest altered book. I will be swapping tomorrow with a group of friends that have been meeting for about two years. I don't how these things come to me, but i decided that the book will be called "Things I Suck At". I would illustrate things i, you know, suck at, and ask my arty friends to do the same.
I started with an interesting book from the Library Used Book Store in Novato. Other than estate sales it is my main source for cheap old books. I just loved the shape - a bit taller than normal for a novel, and it has a nice stencil-y printed modified fleurs de lis on the cover. It is actually titled Candide, Voltaire's satire on religion and government. It had the most delightfully naughty illustrations which i removed for future use.
When removing those pages i discovered that the pages are VERY brittle. Instead of turning - they kind of tear off in your hand. YIKES. Not cool for an altered book that will require some man-handling. I glued some pages together to add strength and decided it was ok to continue.
I stamped some thesaurus words for "sucked" on the cover, then added letters and stickers for the title. I used dictionary pages for the inside covers, front and back, adding some red ink from an ink pad for colour. Since i had to apply tape to prevent more pages from falling out, tape became the embellishment for this otherwise minimalist book. I used red on the binding and to outline the illustrations front and back. I used silver metallic tape form the simple sign in page pockets and also on the driving page. I used even more tape as the background for the straws page.

In the intro page i instruct the artists to visually depict something they suck at. And you are not allowed to SAY what it is! You must use pictures to illustrate your failures!!

So tell me, can you tell what it is I suck at?? Please leave a comment with your guesses. I'll send a goodie bag to the person closest to the sad truth.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Crunch Time.....!

Ok - here i am at work taking a break to express my concerns about all the stuff i have to do in the next three days. It is weighing heavily on my mind. I am starting a new altered book round robin swap on Sunday and i only have the cover partially done. I mean it isn't really even started. I have the book and the theme, but that's it! And it isn't like it is something normal and sweet with vintage pictures and lovely collage. No, I plan it to be edgy and modern and new and will require me to push myself creatively.
I also have 31 4"x4" pages to do for a swap with a group who'll be meeting at Asilomar in April. The theme is Windswept. I have never done a 4x4 swap and i HATE HATE HATE working with small dimensions. Oh and did i mention the pages have to arrive my March 1st. So yeah, like I better get cracking. I do have the concept and spent a few hours last night brianstorming. And well, i want them to be fabulous. Not something easy. I know I will be using the image at the top somehow. It is a picture i took a few years ago in Mendocino, or maybe Fort Bragg. How about that - my own copyright free picture of windswept trees - perfect!

The Carmel coastline was a postcard i picked up at an estate sale last weekend - perfect again - i'll use this image for the backs.
I also have to prepare for my advanced altered book workshop on Sunday. Almost full at 9 students, it just means i have to work harder at making sure i have all the supplies i need, put the kits together and make sure i don't forget anything. Then after the class is my AB workshop, the group i will be swapping the new book with. Luckily that is something i cleverly did in advance - the Kelly Rae Roberts collage discussed in a previous post. See - I can do SOMETHING in ADVANCE. But sadly most things, will be squeeked through at the last minute!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Altered Book Collage Themes

For my Altered Book Class on Sunday, i prepared the wonderful kits described below, I packed up the car with ALL the materials, tools and supplies the students would need to create their own altered books. I even include vintage books! It is always a stressful time to get prepped and to make sure i remember EVERYTHING. So did I forget anything? YES...... my Camera!

So all I have to show for the magical creativity my students displayed in class, is the work I did. Rushed as it was, just to illustrate some of the options.

Here are the scans:
I think the bird theme a la Anna Corba was my favorite. The simplicity of the layout - using mirror image symmetry, creates a very pleasing collage.
Looking at the travel theme in the scan, it jumps out at me how i did not carry the colour on the left page over to the right - something i could easily correct. The sewn pocket is cool- but it is harder to balance the composition. But i do love how the bonus element turned out. I showed the class how to take a basic computer print out of a postcard and transform it into a vintage looking original, by mounting it on cardboard, and adding a few simple altering tricks.
The Asian theme was done on a spread with two triangle flaps. There is a secret pocket on the left hidden under the flap. The Asian printed papers are conducive to a geometric colour blocked collage, with a few added elements to create interest, like the butterfly sticker and the ribbons.
I really wish i could show you the work the students did. It was exceptional. It is especially interesting to see how 10 people can create such variety of art with the same materials! Each one adds their own personal touch, their own flavour.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

It's an Altered Book Factory Assembly Line....!

Getting ready for the big class tomorrow. I put together the last two of three kits for the students. The third is the Asian theme pictured in an earlier post.
For the Travel Theme i chose European maps, pages from foreign books - French, Italian and Spanish,some travel images from wrapping paper, some solid mulberry paper in bright tones to match, a tag and a reproduction shipping tag printed on sticker paper, an old postcard image, and some euro postage stamps, a blank slide mount, some yarn and a old key.
The second kit is the bird theme i talked about below - in the spirit of Anna Corba. It includes pages from a floral encyclopedia with lovely plant illustrations, pages from a poetry book. (yeah - nothing is sacred with me - i'll rip apart anything) Some bird illustrations from wrapping paper, some florentine style printed paper, solid brown and gold speckled mulberry paper, some fibers, ribbon and vintage buttons.

I can't wait to see what the students make with these treasures!

Check out my Slide Show!

Well, this is quite a thrill ride -this blogging business. Everytime i look around the blogsphere i find new and creative ways to waste time. Last week it was creating a celebrity morph. This week it is creating a slide show. I chose to use really bad crooked pictures of paintings i have around the house. I painted most of these about 5-10 years ago. I rarely if ever get out my paints these days. All these paintings are copies of other paintings. I am pretty good at that. Not so good at painting my own things from scratch.
Anyway - it was fun and easy and there are all sorts of cool options if you want to try one yourself. I loved this "paint dripping" theme - i just love the big globs of paint. There is a old silent movie option that would be really cool with family photos. Even if the pics are colour and modern - they will look old and scratched, and of course black and white.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

When I saw these adorable cupcakes on the cover of Country Living magazine i just knew i had to make them. I just love the combination of the dreamy pink frosting with the sparkly pipe cleaner handles and the vintage mercury glass beads.
I made them last night and brought them to work to share with my team. I used plain old craft store beads and silver pipe cleaners - not these lovely vintage ones - but the effect was the same - a delight for everyone to find on their desks this morning. Hope your day is sweet!

Here is what my cupcakes looked like. Pretty cute - and yes - delicious!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More AB Class Prep

Well I just heard my altered book class this Sunday is full with 10 students, one TA and 3 on the waiting list. I have no idea if it has anything to do with this blog - but if this is helping me share the word about the fun you can have altering books -then great!
In addition to the Asian theme kit described below, we will be creating multiple structures in our books and creating two additional spreads. I am working on a bird themed kit and need a few more elements to pull it together. It will be inspired by my love of the work of Anna Corba. She is a talented artist living in the north bay area and i had the good fortune to visit her studio last year. She works in a converted coach house in the hills of Sonoma County. She has an eviable array of pretty ribbons and papers and ephemera all lovingly displayed on antique tables and shelves. I'd post a picture - but well, that would probably cause a copywrite stir i'd rather avoid. But you can check our her website and see her studio in the book "Where Women Create":
Or check out her artwork in "Vintage Paper Crafts":
I am sure there is a cuter way to post links - but for now you can just click and see what i am talking about. Anyway - i am inspired by her simple but clever collage. Often using vintage ledger paper, some sheet music and a focal point image - she makes an evocative statement about the past.
Often we try too hard to clutter up our work when an uncomplicated approach yields better results. You know, less is more?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Inspired by Kelly Rae Roberts

For my next workshop session i wanted to try a technique i saw in the Sept/Oct issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. I absolutely LOVE that magazine. I tell my students to subscribe RIGHT NOW and to buy ALL the back issues. Seriously - it is just that great. It is full of wonderful lessons by such artists as Leslie Riley, one of my favs.

But this month i wanted to try Kelly Rae Roberts mixed media collage. I interpreted what i saw in the magazine and on her website. I hope this is perceived as flattering, to try to emulate a wonderfully creative artist, and not as "copying".
I started with a brand new pad of scrapbook paper from K&Company. It is reminiscent of old textiles and wallpapers in the faded tones of yellow, aqua, red, green and brown.
I took a page of each pattern and cut them into 3x3 and 3x4 squares. (yes i know 3x4 isn't technically a square)I spent a few minutes composing the squares until i felt i had a good balance of color and pattern. Essentially you are creating a paper quilt. Then I glued them onto a sheet of 9x12 water colour paper using a glue stick.
Next i applied some random items to add some interest to the pages, such as stickers, stamps and words cut from a book.
Next i applied some gesso (white paint) with a old credit card. Save all the ones you get in the mail soliciting for new accounts! I just scraped it on the page allowing it to build up a bit where the squares meet. Don't apply too much or it will completely hide the pattern on the quilt squares.
Next i applied some misty blue acrylic paint using the same credit card application. Using glaze instead of paint might give you better control. If you wanted to make sure some elements stay clear of paint, apply some gel medium, like to the words. That way you can wipe the paint off before it dries.
Next i used water soluble oil pastels, Portfolio brand to create a female figure. If like me you only have basic painting skills, then avoid complicated body parts like hands and eyes. I used black for the outline then smoothed it with my finger. You know what is cool? If you mess up you can wipe it away with a wet nap or moistened paper towel and start over! I did simple features for the face (eyes closed) and simple hair. The dress is also very simple with the arms behind the back - see no hands to paint! I smudged away most of the black and used navy blue for a softer look. Then filled in with other colours. A combination of white, pink and yellow for skin, pink and blue for the dress. Once you have the image complete you can add further elements, but i love the randomness of the collage and embellishments. It looks less "arranged". As a final touch i added some simple flowers to balance the composition.
See links to the left for Kelly's work and to subscribe to Cloth Paper Scissors.

Friday, February 8, 2008

My Celebrity Look Alike!


Who knew i could almost look this good!

I am really feeling sorry for Kate Bosworth. This would be a nightmare for her if she sees what she'll look like if she gains a thousand pounds and turns 46...!

The Heart of My Studio

This week I stumbled across the blog called Studio Friday. I thought it had something to do with San Francisco at first - with multiple references to SF (which is what the locals call this town).

Turns out it is in Canada, eh?! Land of my birth. So every Friday, bloggers can post links to something connected to the topic of the week. So here I am playing along.

The topic this week is the Heart of Your Studio. Well i'd have to say that is my pretty desk. It is where all the action happens and from where i create some beautiful things. Here is a genuine unretouched photo of my desk - the center of the altered art action. As always piled high with crap, er, um, I mean, precious treasures.
Here is the same desk in the "before" picture - from when my craft studio was a tidy adorable guest room and the desk served as a vanity table. Too few visitors rendered it a waste of precious space and thus began the conversion to full fledged art studio, with wall to wall shelving and storage. I'll post some pictures of the space as soon as I clean up. Whenever that is.....!
Here is the link to the SF Blog:

Monday, February 4, 2008

Altered Book Prep: Asian Style

What i love about preparing for an altered book class is putting together the kits for the collage spreads we do in the class. Here is an Asian themed kit.
I spend a lot of time on this - probably way more than necessary - but it is one of my favorite parts of the class. Seeing the delight in the eyes of the students as they open the packet and see the treasures inside. This one contains a page from a Chinese text book, two pieces of mulberry paper printed with asian characters, some gold printed fish, some printed origami paper, and a piece of Chinese joss paper. For embellishments i included a Japanese printed sticker from Dover. Those cute little sticker books - gotta lov'em. Also a butterfly (thank you dollar store) and a little chinese coin. I'll finish it off with some fun fibres.

I have heard about other altered book classes where they dump a box of scraps on the table and say, "Go for it." I think that is fun when you are more experienced, but in a beginner class, i want the students to focus on composition and style, and less on the materials. I will put together a selection of interesting printed papers, ephemera and doo-dads that i guarantee are going to look great collaged together. I want each student to take the time to play with each element and learn how to put it all into a cohesive altered book spread.
I'll be sure to take pics to show off what we create in class - stay tuned!