Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Make it Mondays - quotations

Here is my entry for Make it Mondays latest theme - "quotations"! I used two images from ten two studios - from their colour themed collage sheets - in my new favorite colour - that aqua blue.
By combining a vintage poster of Niagara falls with an image of a couple in embrace, it evokes the mood of a bygone era when a visit to the falls was a common honeymoon for people on the east coast.
The collage is done on mini 5" square canvas with some dictionary background paper, an old receipt with some nice handwriting and the quote itself - from Lord Byron:
"Like music on the waters, is thy sweet voice to me".

Please check out the other submissions at

Monday, April 28, 2008

Altered Book Swap

Yesterday was my monthly meeting to swap altered books with a group of friends. I had Shanna's book: Americana. Sadly she was not able to attend to see the spreads i did in her book but i have them here to show her a sneak peak!

She used a large book - America - the Jon Stewart/Daily show book spoofing the history of the US of A and the political structure here and around the world. As you can see she took the book and created a veritable RIOT of red white and blue.
I created the first spread using a full page of stamps from the post office i had on hand, depicting all the superlative places and things in the states - like the deepest lake (Crater), the tallest monument (the arch in St. Louis), the fastest bird (peregrine falcon), etc.
I scanned it, enlarged and printed the stamps. ("Is that a federal offense? I am Canadian so i plead ignorance, your honour".) Then added some fun fibers around one edge with the letters t-h-e-b-e-s-t.
For my second spread i wanted to do something with an american icon - i almost used Miss Piggy. I thought about having her on a bed of rose petals a la Mena Suvari in the movie American Beauty. Alas, i could not locate high enough resolution images on line to carry it off.
So to plan B - the Beach Boys! You can't get much more Americana than that! I actually cut an original image out of a Beach Boys book that my husband has in his collection of musical literature. He'll be mega pissed if he finds out - so SSSHH!!! They were just perfect for a pop up - so i added a beachy background and there you have it. Since Shanna likes things to sparkle, i added stripes of silver glass glitter to the white stripes on their shirts. To complete the spread i had my husband call out song titles from the other room until i heard the perfect one! Surfin' USA. You betcha.

Emulating Stephanie Lee

I took a workshop with Stephanie Lee at Asilomar's Art and Soul retreat which you may have read about in a previous post. We did a technique she called "plaster meets wax". Well anytime i learn something new i want to share it with my friends. But i did NOT want to make a gigantic mess, as we did at Asilomar. If you image the mess 20 students could make mixing plaster, pouring it into boxes and then carving into the dried plaster - wow - lots of white dust EVERYWHERE. But still i wanted to recreate the "essence" of those pieces, but how to do it in a 1 1/2 hour workshop? I decided to cut out the "plaster" and just do "wax". I think you'll agree the results were quite interesting.

For my altered book gathering yesterday, after doing a massive show and tell (all my Asilmar goodies!) and swapping our books we got to work. We took 8x10" stretched canvases and used these as our substrates - only backwards. So the BACK of the canvas was where we created our collage. The wooden frame becomes, well, the frame. duh. These were SUPER cheap canvases actually bought at the dollar store in Montreal last summer and carried home by me. I think i got a full suitcase full of them. These were stapled on the edges, not the back - so that made it nicer i think.
I started by coating the canvas (the back - inside the frame) with several coats of melted wax to build up the thickness. fyi i use thrift store crock pots to melt beeswax pellets. Stephanie used an electric frying pan and a large block of wax. Both work great - the frying pan definitely melts faster - more surface area. I selected several images from books and magazines for the gals to pick from. I tried to find edgy dark imagery that would evoke the more contemporary art that Stephanie had as samples. The one she is holding above, i created in her class. I passed around the images to our small group of altered book swappers, but as you can see, two of them chose to go with more traditional female forms.
After we placed our images on the canvas, and added a thin coat of wax to seal, we just carved grooves. First a horizon line - which based on Stephanie's work - helps to ground the piece. Then just continued carving around the image, around the background - whatever. I added fine grooves for grass, Shelley added a spiritual aura around hers. On the advice from Stephanie, about how you are NOT supposed to be able to paint on wax, well but you can, although not too thick, we painted on the wax. You need a nice runny fluid acrylic to get into those grooves. Then just lightly brush paint onto the wax - adding extra to the frame surround as you go. Portfolio oil pastels were used to richen the colour and intensify the look. It was interesting how you could take something and really turn it into something else. Shelley's didn't start out looking angelic - but it really became that way. There is so much depth to her piece that came from layering paint on the wax.
Carol took a very normal looking farm house/barn and the water trough and creating a very hauting piece. By separating the images with the wax - it really had a profound effect. Adding the water spout handle was a great final touch. Dorothy took her image and added many more collage elements - stacks of books, a watch face and then feather butterfly wings. Dorothy is a master at adding words to create a narrative - so a phrase clipped out of a typewritten script Shelley brought to share, completed her piece.
Since my staircase and window from Asilomar was so successful, i tried to do the same thing with the wax. I cut and trimmed some stairs from a decorating magazine and included the candleabra at the top. Unfortunatly the candles were too finely detailed for this method and later morphed into a brass birds nest and a bird - with a branch sticking out of it. Well, that's creativity for you - if you screw up - just go in a different direction.
Thanks Stephanie for the inspiration....! Check out her latest techniques in this month's Somerset Studio. She tells us how to create wire bird's cages - i sense a new project idea to share....

Beeswax Collage Students Rule!

We had a whirlwind class on Sunday with a group of 7 lovely women. One i had previously met at Asilomar, who took the Ann Baldwin class with me. One was the assistant to the owner of the studio where the class was held, the Nova Studio, in Point Richmond, CA. Then a group of three friends, and two "singles". There's my sample in the lower right corner of this pic.

We started with a quick demo of coating the canvas board with a thin coat of wax, and layering on background paper. Next i applied the focal point image, in my case a bevy of bathing beauties. The images were all cut out of the matte photo paper, this allows the image to "live" on the new background created by the papers used on the canvas board. A coat of wax on top initially obsure the images, but a few strokes with the small quilt iron smooths the wax leaving the image clearer on the collage.
I next applied some mulberry paper with gives a hint of color and texture, without obscuring the background, in my case a bit of dictionary paper. Then i added a piece of seam binding lace - allowing the wax to build up in the holes. I demonstrated how you can add colour by melting a crayon on the canvas and moving the wax around with the quilt iron. A heat gun is also used to remove excess wax. I added some shells and beach glass along the bottom and the word PLAGE (beach in French) to the top. I kept things pretty linear and simple - since sometimes trying too hard to make things complicated is not any more interesting! A few beads strung on some copper wire added to the top and voila, a beach themed beeswax collage wall hanging.

The students did a fine job creating two canvases. Some chose to do lively bright pieces, some chose simple understated elements. But everyone created artwork to take home they can be proud to display!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Beeswax Collage Class Prep

The day before the Beeswax Collage workshop at the Nova Studio, and as always i am rushing to get ready for class. I decided i wanted to go with bright cheerful colours this time. So much of what i have (and therefore what i teach) is vintage sepia (SEE-pia or SEPP-ia??)using ephemera and neutral colours. But today i am feeling happy and therefore the kits reflect my mood. Sure - i always include some basic backrounds - dictionary paper, some pages from a poetry book and the never fail sheet music. But i also included a lot of clear colurs - checks, florals and solids in pink, lavender, lime and aqua.

We are going with two themes - the first is Vintage Multiples - ie a class photo, family or friends. The reason for the multiples is that usually we use 5x7" canvas boards for this class - but i ordered 4x6 by mistake. Which are just too darn small. Therefore instead we'll use 6x8" boards, which thankfully i have on hand. So a bigger board means room for a larger picture! And a great excuse to use these fun group photos. I know it is a bit passe, but these would look adorable with the pointy party hats that we're all sick of in the paper arts world!
We'll embellish with ribbon and rickrack and lace and buttons - all in cheerful colours. If the students are not feeling particularly "happy" they can certainly somber down the tones of the collage with crayons and portfolio oil pastels!!

The other theme is Beach. I guess the sunny weather is just making me feel good all around! And i am starting to think about my own beach vacation, in May we are going to Cabo to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary....!
The beach theme has some fun backgrounds - water and sky and sand and some super chunky embellishments - shells and beach glass. The pics are fun too - all those icky scratchy wool bathing costumes.
I'll be sure to bring my camera to class to take some shots of what the students end up creating. And we'll see if they have the same HAPPY CHEERFUL outlook i have this fine weekend....!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beeswax Collage Workshop

There are still places left for my Beeswax Collage class this Sunday, April 27th at the Nova Studio in Point Richmond, CA. Point Richmond sits at end of the San Raphael Richmond bridge and is easy to get to from anywhere in the Bay area. We have students from Sacramento, San Jose and Sonoma in addition to the closer cities Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.
Please click on the Nova Studio link on the left to see all the cool classes offered there. It is primarily a soap and beauty supplies making studio, but they let me in to teach paper arts classes along with Angela Silva who teaches some intensive image transfer classes.
Please come and learn the fundamentals of beeswax collage, where no additional glues or adhesives are required to create mixed media collage. We use canvas boards that are further embellished with wire and beads for a funky look. All supplies and tools are provided - so no need to bring anything besides yourself and a creative outlook!
I'll give you background papers, ephemera, copies of vintage photos, and embellishments like lace and beads and shells to create two 5"x7" wall hangings. If you would like - you can certainly bring some personal touches. But as far as photos - you need to make copies on matte paper. Be careful - they must be heat proof! Some copies will fade away when exposed to the heat of the melted wax.

This is a fun class for beginners and experienced collage artists alike. Working with melted beeswax is fun and gosh darn it, it smells great too!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Asilomar Vendor Night

Art and Soul is not just about meeting people and learning new techniques. It is also about SHOPPING. And i know how much you altered book mixed media collage assemblage ATC people love shopping. OR as i like to justify it - adding to your collection of treasured objects. At Art and Soul there is a night dedicated to this very pursuit. I thought it was going to be primarily the artist instructors selling their original artwork, but it was much more than that. Here is the view from the balcony of the Merrill Hall.
Here are all my purchases:

First booth visited was my dear friend Aileen's Outside the Margins table. Decorated in the wild bright colours that are her signature were many must have items. With my current obsession with birds, i just had to have the little pack of resin birds and the bird themed tissue paper. But mostly she is featuring her Color Mists - water colour sprays that she sells in brights, neutrals and metallics. they are very versatile and fun to use. I chose the special edition "beach set" to add to my collection.
The next booth i dropped a few bucks at was selling all manner of vintage pics, letters, documents and other treasures. If you wanted to spend $150 bucks on a bona fide victorian photo album this was the place to do it. It was like i had died and gone to heaven. I actually said that out loud! However frugality kicked in just in time and i managed to just purchase a lovely vintage photo, a stack of love letters, and an official document with those notary stamps i don't really understand but they look cool. Sorry I didn't catch her name! If she sells on line and reads this - please let me know.
NOTE: Chris at Boulder Creek Antiques will be opening an etsy shop this week - stay tuned!

Next was _Kit Davey____ (need to verify who!) where i purchased the awesome book person or whatever you want to call it - very cool idea. You can see in the image above how she took a vintage book and wired on found objects (she actually told me most of it was FOUND as in on the road!)
The sun was setting outside the vendor night venue - so i had to stop shopping long enough to grab a few shots of the yellow sun fading into the ocean.

Next up was marianne letierri where i bought the great book about - guess what? BUYING STUFF. No actually it is about artists and their collections and obsessions - just like i have have! One of the the students at this event, marianne has a spread in the book about her art. If you like flea markets and eye candy to you means a stack of vintage suitcases - then you'll love this book.

I also bought some clown doll heads from one guy and some precut mica from another - but didn't catch their names and the products weren't labelled. But you'd know them if you saw them. I bought some fun gold paper wire or whatever they call it from ____ (i have to remember her name goshdarnit).

And finally i couldn't NOT buy a pendant charm from Sally Jean, the solder queen. Her booth was probably the busiest all night - so maybe by the time i got there all the good stuff was gone. If you have seen Faulty Towers, then maybe you'll get the significance of this phrase, "it's always the bottom with you". Well that's what i thought about when i saw it - so i bought it!

Lastly the vendor night was also about the silent auction. There were pieces to bid on from several of the artist instructors. But most notably was one of the fat books for bid - the windswept themed little book with 30 artists pages all spiral bound together. Would you believe it sold for $80! The money went to a good cause, the Salvation Army. I never felt so proud....!

Ann Baldwin: The Palimsest - the Magic and Mystery of Text

My third workshop was with Ann Baldwin - a delightfully charming British artist with a wonderful sense of humour. Her class was very educational - combining art instruction, critiques, demos and hands on.
The first exercise was to create a collage with words torn out of magazines. Using the colours and the fonts, but not the words themselves, we were to create a quick collage on black paper in whatever style we liked. There was no right way or wrong way to do it. Since i had mostly black and white words and letters - i chose to do something quite linear and graphic. Per Ann's suggestion, i cut the words in half lengthwise to eliminate their meaning. Some people did torn collage, some wavy, but mine was all straight and angular. When held up for critique it was said the person who did my collage must be a type A personality and very organized!! What a hoot. My husband would love hearing that!
After a lesson in layering glazes, we were asked to create our own samples. We were given 6 Golden paints for this purpose.
After lunch Ann demonstrated how she creates her artwork. She starts with a few pieces of collage (in our case text) glued to the heavy water colour paper with matte medium. She then applies the paints mixed with medium sort of randomly over the paper, patially obscuring some of the text and highlighting others.
Once we were ready to dive in and create our own peices i new i wanted it to be predominantly blue. But we were not given blue paint. I tried to mix Payne's grey with the dark green - but that produced a hideous teal colour. So the riot of colour on my piece is trying to camoflage the teal. Later in the class the teacher offered some additional colours - so the cerulean blue was added to great effect.
I used an image of a greek arch and columns to give something to my collage as i found it lacked a focal point. Ann's collages had a mix of text size and scale, whereas mine were all pretty much small printed text, albeit a mix of script, print and language. I did use a stencil to add some larger letters. encorporating her earlier lesson of removing the meaning from the words, i stencilled the letters backwards. It makes it more interesting and looks like a russian or greek word, rather that what it is - CDEFG backwards!
The final collage has the addition of some handwriting - using Caran D'ache crayons. I have heard much said about these and man are they great. they write fine lines right on top of the painted finishes. I even mixed it up a bit, using Traci Bautista type scribbles that look like something but really aren't!
This last piece was just something i did quickly at the end of the class. It isn't quite finished - needs a few more elements and that great depth Ann taught us my layering the paints and glazes.

Stephanie Lee: Art Excavation

Here are the pieces i made in Stephanie's class:

We created artwork in wooden boxes or frames, or using canvas boards. The first step was to mix up some plaster of Paris in a small cup and pour it into the box. A few good taps to level it out. Let dry for i don't know, maybe an hour?

Next i selected the collage materials i wanted to use - once a main focal point was chosen, i laid it on the plaster and started to carve around it. I did a few different things. On one i carved INTO the plaster under the image so that it would sit lower than the rest of the piece. On another i carved away the background so that the image sat on top of the background.

Next the collage image is placed on the plaster and the background is painted. Then the whole thing is coated with beeswax. You are not supposed to be able to paint on top of the wax - but i guess if it isn't too thick, it will accept some colour. I also used Portfolio oil pastels, which blend in wonderfully with the wax.

Traci Bautista : Fiber Fusion Art Journal

My first class at Asilomar was with Traci Bautista. Here are some of her colourful journals she brought for inspiration.
I'll write more about this class later! But here are the pics from the class and the journal I made:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Art and Soul Trades...

Check out my Loot!!

One of the really special things about the art retreats is the chance to meet so many like minded people. You are not the only one hording art supplies and ephemera and more types of glue than they stock at Michaels or Joann's combined. One of the ways to meet all these people is by swapping your own art projects with theirs. Sunday night at Asilomar was meet and greet and swap night. I situated myself at a table with Aileen and Carol and the trading period was officially opened. As a newbie - i was not sure what to expect. Here is how it works:
1. You arrange what you have to swap on the table.
2. People approach you and say - do you want to trade?
3. You say yes.
4. They give you something they made - or offer you a choice.
5. You give them something YOU made - or offer them a choice.
...or - if you prefer - you can be the one going around from table to table offering your trades!

It is that simple! I had heard about art retreats with snobbish people shunning the trades on inferior artists. That certainly was NOT the case at Asilomar. Nobody once took a look at what i had to offer and decided NOT to swap with me. Some people were unsure if there trades were worthy - but i was delighted with whatever i received. It is like christmas and your birthday all wrapped up in one beautiful two hour period!
I ended up with 36 really cool things. I guess I brought about 40 things to swap - 25 of the little dictionary book-laces described in an earlier post, and about 15 ATC's. I also had some beeswax collage wall hangings on standby, to swap in case there was a "second tier" of more elaborate trades - but there really wasn't. I ended up trading a couple of those on the last night when i ran out of mini books.

The trades fall into four broad categories:
1. ATC's - surely the most common trade - there were some really detailed and elaborate cards - some quite simple. Most followed the "by the sea" theme as established by Art and Soul for their 2008 retreats.
2. Goody bags - the most self deprecating trades - as in - "i just have a bag of stuff" - but you know what? I LOVE getting these! It is like a little bag of treats - you never know what you are going to get - but there is bound to be something fun inside.
3. Cards - hand made cards- or larger sized collages were fun to get. Each of the ladies trading these offered me a stack to choose from - oh man it was really hard to pick - they were so beautiful.

4. Non paper hand made stuff - this was the most surprising category. In included some pins, some beaded charms, a lavender sachet, a felt purse, some vintage button magnets, and from a lovely lady, a little glass ball filled with fibers in a little box. Included were some inspirational words you can sit on top of the ball and set it on your desk. I was amazed at the work people put into their trades - and the originality and clever way things were packaged.
All in all it was one of the best aspects of the art and soul experience for me. I have no idea what i will do with all these little treasures. I do tend to hoard things. Perhaps they will find their way into other art projects. Like the sourdough bread starter they say has been growing for over a hundred years, these little pieces of art will sow the seeds for art to come.

One last note for anyone planning to attend an event like this and plans to offer trades - PLEASE include your name and contact info on the back. And if our paths cross again - please let me know if you have one of my trades and whether or not you added images to the little book to complete your visual dictionary.

Tormented Trees and Windswept Dunes....

The one thing that will stick with me from my visit to Asilomar is the tormented trees. These Cypress pines are beaten by the wind and the salt sea air and are beautifully mangled. I used a pic from Mendocino for my 4x4 swap page described earlier. I also created some ATC's from the same image. I also used these trees on the picture my mermaid painted for the altered fish project.

Here are some pics of the grounds at Asilomar. It is quite beautiful and natural. There are deer roaming the grounds - got quite close to this one - clearly they are used to people sharing the property.

Here are the trees at Lover's Point in Pacific Grove, which is right next to Asilomar, just south of Monterey. We had a lovely much at Lattitudes - right opposite this view, before checking into art and soul. I had read the food was terrible - so i wanted one last decent meal. It was very tasty.

The meals at Asilomar are not as bad as i read, but pretty basic and institutional. They ring a bell at 7:30am, 12 noon and 7:00pm to summon you to the Crocker dining hall. You can hear the bell from around the facility and everyone makes there way to eat. One day i took a detour to the beach - just across the road. They have done a lot to restore and now preserve the dunes. People are asked to stay on the boardwalks and not risk damaging the wild flowers.

Happy Birthday Erica!

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