Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ready, Set, Go: Traveling Art Supplies

Here is what I want to bring!
I need to made a new portfolio,
though. My old one, upper left,
is worn out. 
It's time to decide what I can realistically bring with me, and what I cannot. I want to bring my large, daily journal, but it's too big and heavy, so I pulled out the smaller one, shown in the picture at the bottom. Even that one is too thick, and takes up too much room. Instead, I am bringing my "circus" book to use as a daily journal, and for collage. It is an altered book my dear friend Lois gave me years ago, and I have traveled with it previously. Time to finish it. It is the perfect venue for journaling now, since I feel like a plate spinner in the circus!

Now, to make a new portfolio. How, you ask? Decide if you want a square or rectangular one, mark off the dimensions on a nice, thick stock or, as I used, watercolor paper, and grab a metal ruler and a bone folder.

On my hand-painted watercolor paper, I marked a 7" square, then, using a compass (you can use a large bowl, too!), I marked 3.5" scallops. Next, I added lines for an additional 1/4" outside of the 7" square. That gives the portfolio some thickness for holding the papers I will pack.

Mark the dimensions, trim and fold using a
metal ruler and a bone folder. I added a set
of double lines, 1/4" apart, for depth.
You can close this type of portfolio by just overlapping the scallops, but I decided to recycle the tabs and ribbons from my old portfolio and use those. Since I have a grommet tool and a ton of pretty, colored grommets, I pulled those out and picked a pretty blue color to match.
This tool punches and attaches a grommet all at once.
I don't even know where I got it, but have had it
forever. It is a handy-dandy tool!

Squeeze and attach the grommets. Insert knotted ribbons through my hand-painted tabs. Choose loose drawing papers and some collage scraps to put inside. I'm not on vacation; this is a serious, personal trip, and isn't about making art. I'm packing light compared to what I normally would bring.

Hurrah, they all fit!

All set! My selected art supplies and new portfolio of papers all fit in this nifty bag my friend Gail gave to me. That, in turn, will take up little space in my luggage. Sometimes being limited in what you have to use forces creative responses. I'm counting on it!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Artist Travels

Don't forget your journal! This is
one of my refillable matchbox 
journals, made entirely of recycled
As I prepare to be on the road, I am reminded of one of the workshops I teach called Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Techniques for Traveling Collages. When you are traveling, you cannot possibly bring all of your art supplies with you. I have perfected a little traveling kit that I like to use, and have found over the decades, that both the familiarity of what I pack combined with the limitations of what I am able to pack combine for some fun inspiration. If you only bring one thing, though, make sure you bring a journal / sketchbook!

I made this collage while sitting at the beach.

With just a few supplies, you can observe and respond to your environment through your artwork, and have a special record of your travels at the same time!

So, what to bring? Do: Grab a journal that is a convenient size. Drill, hole-punch, stitch, pre-paint or fold pocket pages into some of the pages. Don't: try to bring large or heavy tools. Do: Make a checklist of what you are packing. This will make it easier next time. Don't: bring any potential "weapons" on the plane, if you are flying. Pack scissors, needles or anything else like that in your checked luggage. Do: Use the zipper pouch in your suitcase for art supplies.

In my workshop, I show students how to make a petal-fold portfolio in any size to hold their art papers. Any little travel bag will work, however. You can add a place to hold pencils, pens, brushes and markers by stitching or super-gluing rubber bands, hair elastics or sewing elastic. If you use buttonhole elastic, you can fill all those little holes with different tools and supplies.

I will take some pictures as I pack my materials to show you what I bring along. If I can, I always bring a strip of self-adhesive photo corners, a few brass brads, some folded waxed paper, small scraps of matboard, a small container of Yes! glue, a few brushes, pencils and pens, a tin of watercolor crayons or pencils, a tin of oil pastels, a sewing needle, including one I can use to poke holes, colored embroidery floss, some Tear Away, a bone folder, a glue stick, a pair of small paper scissors, 1 small container of white paint, 2 mini-spray bottles, one for water and one for rubbing alcohol, a xylene colorless blender with a small metal spoon, some black and white photocopies for transfer, some throw-away pictures and, finally, a few small strips of fine grade sandpaper. It all fits in a tiny little bag, and fits, next to my portfolio of collage papers, right into my zipper pouch of checked baggage. I am good to go!

I applied oil pastels over part of an old painting on
canvas board that I had cut up to bring along on a trip. I
made my collage right on top while I was out on the road.

Friday, April 10, 2015

And Another Thing

This is an acrylic medium transfer
onto painted canvas of an old black
and white photograph.
I have been diligently cleaning both my office and my studio (yes, I am lucky to have two separate rooms!) As I sort files and fabrics, I am focused on what type of work I want to concentrate on as I go forward. By framing my sorting that way, I am able to acknowledge, for example, a techniques book that I have loved and re-read numerous times over the years, but that, realistically, is not something I plan to work with moving forward.

It is empowering to focus my energies and claim the many unfinished pieces and exciting work I plan to create, while also letting go of pieces I will never finish (they sometimes get upcycled into another form), and passing along books or fabric to someone else who is passionate to use them right now!
The throw-away remainder of a Polaroid transfer

In sorting through my stack of Polaroid transfers that I was preparing with mats to list on etsy, I found the image at left, me in France many moons ago. This print is what remains on the Polaroid film after the image has been transferred to another surface. Much of the color is gone, often leaving a faded looking and intriguing after image. I mention it because, in my last post, I was showing you how I alter old photographs by scratching them up and adding color back to the surface.

This image has been altered by scratching with a sharp, thin awl, which you can see best if you look at the edge around the right-hand shoulder and head area. The background was altered using a Q-tip dipped in bleach, spread over the area to be changed, then rinsed off. Bleach can be used with a spray bottle, as well, or in the form of a bleach gel as found in many cleaning products. Just make sure you have good ventilation, gloves and an area that is easy to wipe down. Better yet, do it outside when the weather is nice!

To complete the image for use in collage, I peel away the thick paper backing from photographs. By removing the extra paper, the photograph becomes more pliable, like a piece of fabric. It is easier to keep flat if you are using glue to adhere it, fun to machine stitch in place onto another surface, and thin enough not to make your fingers bleed if you are hand stitching it down.

Now, go immediately to your studio and play! Can't wait to hear what you've done with these ideas. I'll be in touch when I find more altered images in my cleaning.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Using Throw-Away Pictures in Collage, Part 2

Wipe off the grit from the sandpaper before adding color
 In my last post, we had sand-papered the throw-away photo of clouds. Next, take a slightly damp paper towel and wipe away the powdery grit, see how the lines from the sandpaper look, and add more if you want to. If not, you are ready to add color.

Add colors wherever you want, but especially over the lines.

I usually use oil pastels, my go-to art supply, but you can try inks, for example, or other supplies you have on hand that can be rubbed into the scratches. Keep in mind if you use anything powdery, like soft pastels, you'll have to use a fixative on them later. Here, you can see that I have added various oil pastel colors to my scratched photograph. On the table in the upper right is a blender, another handy tool for use with oil pastels. It mixes colors without changing their intensity.

I use my fingers to blend, wipe off, and push the color into the scratches, and adding more color if I feel like it. If you are one of those people who doesn't like to get your hands dirty, use a make up sponge to blend.

A group of altered photographs ready to use. On the far left, the
photo of my hands tore as I peeled it. All the better!
That's really all there is to it. It's easy to use throw-away pictures or glossy magazine images to create your own collage papers. All that remains now is to peel the paper backing off the back of the photo. I do this because it makes the photo more like paper, making it easier to glue or stitch it in place on your collage. Just pick a corner, and start to peel. If it's an old picture, you might need to mist it a little bit with water to pick the backing off. Once it is peeled, you can dampen and crumple it, adding further lines to the surface. That's how I treated the Eiffel Tower photo, below. I then tore it up to fit the mat that I had.
La Tour Eiffel, in Paris. This collage was created with an altered, sand-papered photo.
This collage, and others, are available in my etsy shop, NoMoonNight.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Using Throw-away Pictures in Collage, Part 1

I love making collages, and I have a little secret for you: even though I am known as a fiber artist, I consider everything I do to be collage. I absolutely love the gathering and sorting of snippets, whether they are pieces of fabric, found objects or paper ephemera. Old pictures are no exception.

I have an entire box full of what I call throw-away photographs: you know, the ones that used to come in a pack of printed film (yes, pre-digital era!). When film was developed, they didn't just print the good images; you got them all, and it was up to you to throw them away. I started saving them for use in my workshops so that I could pass them out to all the students to try our techniques. Over the years, I have made some amazing work with these throw-away pictures, so I thought I would show you how I alter them.

A recent grouping of pictures pulled from my box
First, you'll need an old, crappy picture to practice on. You will also need very fine grade sandpaper and a damp paper towel. Down the road in this process you'll see how the little spray mister is used, and how I added color. But for today: first things first!
This black and white picture of clouds is a good one to use. It has little character by itself, but also has a lot of areas ready for scratching up with the sandpaper. Don't get bogged down picking an image. Just grab one. Even a magazine image or a page from an old book will work, as long as the paper isn't too fragile.

I usually fold up a small piece of the sandpaper, then use it to scrub, scratch and draw on the surface. The direction of the scratch marks as well as their length will become visible later, so have fun with this part.

Next time: adding color

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stir Crazy and Wanting Spring

A page from my sketchbook, and a
reminder of spring, even in black
and white!
After weeks of slogging through the end-of-winter doldrums, the latest snowstorm stopped me dead in my tracks. I admit it. It the time of year in Ohio when I can no longer wait for spring to arrive, and I have officially gone stir crazy.

I was productive for weeks, doing my sunprinting and working on several new art pieces while also finishing up some pieces I have had laying around in my studio for quite awhile, including Bluebell / First Place.

No, I haven't forgotten about my Grandma prints. Did I mention that I have been housebound by the weather? On the desk by the front door is everything I need to get the images of Grandma enlarged, so I can make a giant collage that I will then print from. I just haven't been motivated to run across town in this horrible weather.

Bluebell / First Place was started as a collage made
during a playday with artist friends. Time to finish it!

So, I am reassured, as signs of spring appear under melting snow. Here's hoping!

My husband experiencing the end of winter blues.
I, for one, can't take much more.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunprinting, Chapter 3

A sunprint made from a negative transparency
of platic fencing. I am using this print in my
new quilt, below, Turtle Spirit
 Despite the winter weather, I have dreams of summer and sunshine, and cyan printing helps me remember that warm weather is coming again.
My last post promised to show you how to turn a cyan toned sunprint into a sepia toned one. Why would you want to change it? Well, because you may need a different color for what you are doing. If you tone to sepia, the print will be lighter in tone, and you can also paint or otherwise add color to it, if you want to. Alternatively, you could use setacolor paints, which allow you to print in every color of the rainbow. In my case, I am printing several sizes of my grandmother using various techniques, then sewing them onto a quilt she made that I recently repaired and recreated.

For sepia toning, everything you need is in your kitchen.
While there are other ways, this is how I turn a cyan print into a sepia toned print:
You will need 1 - 2 T. of baking soda
2 C. hot (but not boiling) water
Glass or plastic pan to fit your image (size matters only if you're working with watercolor paper; fabric can be scrunched)
8 - 10 teabags (black tea, orange pekoe, Lipton's)
Wooden spoon
What to do:
Dissolve 1 T. of baking soda in hot water in a glass or plastic pan. Let the water cool slightly, then agitate your sunprint in the mixture until the color begins to fade. Quickly remove and rinse in clear water. This happens very quickly. You now have a yellow print, the interim stage. You might want to try a test print before you do more. Let dry. Iron flat, unless you are working with a paper print.
Note: You may need up to 2 T. of baking soda, depending on how many prints you are working with, and how large the pieces are. Multiple prints will begin to exhaust the baking soda chemical reaction, and you will need to add fresh water and baking soda.
Yellow print, the interim stage: it looks like
nothing is there, especially before it dries.
Make a tea dye bath:
While your print is drying, bring the tea kettle to a boil, and steep 8 - 10 teabags in 2 C. of water for 10 minutes. You can adjust the color by adding more or less water, more or fewer teabags. After 10 minutes, remove the teabags and discard.
Pour the tea dye bath into your tray or pan, and submerge your yellow print. Leave it there at least 10 minutes or until it is the color you want. Play around with determining the color tone you want in your test print. Also, if there is any sediment in your tea dye bath, or if you are scrunching a large piece of fabric, the color may be uneven. Stirring while the yellow print is submerged will help keep the color more even if you are concerned about that.

Sepia-grandma and cyan-grandma. Now I have more color options.
I will make a series of these prints in various sizes to create a collage composition for my piece. More to come! In the meantime, I am finishing the composition on Turtle Spirit, which also incorporates sunprints.
This is a detail shot of my design wall showing my newest piece,
Turtle Spirit, in progress. The side panels both have sunprints
appliqued in place. The turtle, though blue, is an indigo dye, and
not a sunprint.