Trying Something New

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This summer I created a lesson plan for my kids art camp which featured wax resist.  Here’s a reminder of the project we did:

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We applied very heavy crayon, folding and creasing of  paper and acrylic paint to fill in the creases.  I was truly in love with the finished product.  It has stuck with me for the past couple months.  For the camp, we used cheap Crayola crayons and construction paper, but what if I could find a high-quality light-fast product to replace the school crayons?  What if I could use a high quality paper?  Could I make artwork using this technique that could be considered legit?

I have had a couple failed attempts.  There is a product called Carandache Neo Color II wax crayons.  They apply like a classic crayon, but guess what?  They are water soluble. So, when I applied a wash of acrylic paint, instead of resisting the paint, it absorbed and turned my image into a massive mud pool.

I obviously needed to think about this concept a little more….

Here are some of the products I eventually came up with:crayons

These Stockmar crayons are from Germany and are pure beeswax.

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Faber Castell also has a high-quality beeswax crayon.

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and thirdly, I found Carandache NeoColor 1 crayons.  Above, I mentioned  the Neocolor II crayons being a personal disaster for this project (they are like runny watercolor sticks). But, the Neocolor 1 are full wax resist crayons. So the NeoColor 1 is going to give me the water resistance I am looking for.

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This is what my image looked like when it was only crayon.

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This is what it looked like after I folded, creased and distressed the paper.  Plus I added a wash of acrylic paint to get into all those creases.

I love how it looks weathered.  It also tones down the brightness of the colors. Up close it is soft like a piece of antique waxed furniture.  The only down-side is working with the crayons.  They are so clumsy and do not have a fine point.  Do any of you artists out there have any recommendations for a high quality wax resist product with a finer tip?  Oil pastels are no good because they smudge.  Whatever I use, needs to stay in place and repel water.  If you think of anything, that would make my day!

So, this was my first sample/experiment with the technique.  I have made a few more artworks as well.  They are in a sort of naive folk style.  I am not sure if they come off like folk art or simple child’s play.  They are challenging and anything but, but I still have to make sure they look sophisticated enough to be taken seriously.  I will add a few to show you and I would welcome your critique on what improvements I could make.

 Yep. pretty much, I am right back at it. Wondering what the hell I’m doing? thinking… I need to just hunker down….  Paint some traditional landscapes… maybe some happy little still lives…  But instead I am going off the rails again into weird-town.  As usual I am not making a good living because I am constantly experimenting and not focusing, I’m not honing my skills into a  specialty.  When do I cut myself off and tell myself to get a “real” job???

I know, I know….. but I just have to try it out …. just one more thing… one more idea… one more concept… 

  ….just one more!  I promise… Then. Then , after that I will try to grow up and be a little more dependable and predictable…

Here’s to another year of art making :)

 

 

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Getting Ready for Pottery

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I recently made over 75 new pottery stamps.  They are just leaving the kiln now and are ready for me to play with.

This past spring, I felt a tremendous gratification from the pottery pieces that bared my own designs.  They felt really personal.  Taking what I learned from then, I have a better idea of what I want now. This time I created a lot more stamps of larger leaves and petals, insects and butterflies as well as a bunch of different kinds of fish.

I look forward to creating my very own wonderlands!

Remember Me?

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Do you remember me?

Last, I was working on this painting.  That was June 20th.  The last day of school for my kids.

Guess what?

That painting is sitting exactly where I left it on June 20th.  Maybe, just maybe I will get to finish it now that the kids are back in school!

So much happened over the summer that I didn’t have the opportunity to blog.  My last post was dated August 2nd!  Subsequent to that post, I taught 3 weeks of pottery camp and then marched right into teaching adult painting classes this fall.  I feel like the universe is spinning so fast, I am desperately holding on by my pinky fingers!

Here’s a summary of the projects we did with over 60 pottery campers:

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Just because the three weeks of teaching pottery camp were over, didn’t mean pottery camp was over for us instructors.  We had to fire and glaze over 600 of their pots.  Needless to say, that took the following three weeks moving us right into Labor Day.

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If that wasn’t enough, I was invited to my first member’s invitational.  What an honor to have my art displayed in such a beautiful gallery (The show is running until October 13th)!

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I also carved out some time to devote to my own art-making.  Hopefully now that I summed up the past month, I can start posting on a more regular basis!

Here’s to the slower winter months!  Please dear Lord!  ;)

UNICORNS, RAINBOWS & CATS – OH MY

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The kids got a quick lesson on Mexican Milagros and Nichos.

The discussion started with Europeans invading an existing culture.  With them, they brought their religion, Catholicism. Objects such as  statues, alters, incense and gold were introduced to the native people.  What happened was a little influence rubbed off on the natives, but a little native culture remained too.  Nichos were influenced by Catholic alters, but generally depicted local traditions.  Somehow even pop-culture made its way into these works.  From there, these little pop-alters were considered more folk-art than religious icons.

I asked the kids if they were to encounter Roman Catholic alters and not know much about their significance, how would they make an alter of their own?  What would be important to them?  What would they fill it with? I told them for me, I’d choose my pet. Mi gato Willow.  I made a Nicho depicting my kitty cat because I love her and she brings me joy.

They were each given a cigar box and two giant tables of tons and tons of materials.  I also showed them how to create some aspects in 3-D.  This is what they came up with:

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I accidentally started the pet theme, but some diverged.  Oh and there was GLITTER EVERYWHERE!!! By far this was the most involved project.  I assigned this the first day and allowed them to add to it for the rest of the week whenever they had free time.  I think they all came out with something significant to themselves.  I know I was pretty stoked to bring my own home ;)

Apples at ArtLab

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EVERYTHING HAS A SHADOW.

This watercolor project is a terrific way to teach this principle.

Do you see the black arrow attached with tape in the image above?   Each kid had to choose where the sunlight would be coming from in their picture and then make sure every single object in the picture plane reacted with a shadow accordingly.

First, we talked about why we block our paper.  This is the act of taping watercolor paper to a board, wetting the paper and then letting the paper dry.  Blocking stretches and shrinks the paper.  When working with watercolor, a tremendous amount of water gets applied to the paper.  The paper absorbs the water and stretches itself to its max.  This causes waving and rippling. Normally, a piece of paper would stay in this state but a blocked paper has already encountered water in a controlled setting. It’s taped down tight with no room to warp and has been forced to stretch tight preventing the rippling. It’s a great artist practice and there’s even a little science behind it.

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Next, we started with the backgrounds. I had the kids take their pencil, follow their arrow and run it across the paper pretending it was a flashlight.  What part of the bowl will the flashlight hit first?  Following your arrow of light, where will the flashlight hit each apple? The rule of a shadow is that the shadow falls in the complete opposite direction of the light. So, the pencil pretending to be a flashlight really hits home the front and back of each object.  Many people do not notice that every single item be it a nose on a face or a pencil on a desk, has a shadow.

The third step was creating shadows in the bowl.  The deepest part of something with depth is the darkest. The shallowest part of a bowl has access to light, therefore its lighter.  The kids worked from a very dark center to a light outer ring. Hoping to convey depth.

 

 

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The finale culminated with the painting of the apples.  We filled each apple with clean water on the paper and then allowed the colors of an apple to bleed into one another.  Red, green and yellow were used and a little bit of purple to denote the shadow of the apple itself.

Watercolor is a tough medium to learn.  You are always adding paint and water as well as trying to take away paint and water.  It’s a tricky balance.

The only bummer is that I couldn’t show the kids the difference between expensive paints and cheap ones. Boy is there a big difference!  Of course we had the “affordable” paints.  With them, red looks like pink, green a faded yellow and black a light grey.  Cheap paint just doesn’t posses the pigments needed to obtain gorgeous colors.  Yeah, the kids catch the gist, but not the magic of amazing paints…

I guess that’s the prize of keeping with the arts and investing as you go along… I know my first watercolors were Crayola.  It was enough to wet my appetite for more.  I hope the same for this new generation coming up!

 

Something’s Fishy at ArtLab Camp

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This is an excellent kid art lesson in tint vs shade.

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For all of you grown-ups that forever get it wrong here is the definition :)

Tint:  A color with white added     Shade: A color with black added

Everyone calls everything a shade, but if you go further into painting, it helps to know what you need (black or white) to create certain colors from paint.

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We created the backgrounds by treating it like a game. We talked about math ratios.  To make a Chartreuse green you might use 5 dabs of yellow paint to one dab of blue.  To create a navy color, you might use 5 dabs of blue to one dab of black.  Powder blue would be 5 dabs white one dab blue.  Suffice to say, by the end of the project, each kid could tell me the difference between tints and shades and had a pretty good idea of how to create the colors they were interested in.

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Next, I wanted to make it a little fun.  I found this product online and was able to give each kid 5 sheets of rainbow scratch paper.  Like scratching off a Lotto ticket, you just can’t help but enjoy playing with these boards.  For my sample I created different patterns like checkerboard, parallel lines, dots, scales…ect.  You know, throw a little more education into it…. Here are the kids take on the assignment:

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I also printed out reference photos of different sea grasses for inspiration and all sorts of fish.  From there, I backed away and let them choose for themselves how realistic vs. imaginative they wanted their work to be.

There was a great mix of both.

Art Lab – Art Camp for Kids

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Good Morning.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve created a blog post. That’s because it’s been summer camp time!!!

One week was devoted to creating lesson plans and the subsequent two weeks were all about kids ranging in age from 7-14 making all kinds of art.  This week I will show you my example of what we were doing for the day and the amazing work the kids turned out.

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This project begins with studying tons of leaves of all shapes, sizes and textures. From there we discuss layout on our paper.  Maybe putting one leave dead center is not as interesting as creating a path of leaves around your paper for people’s eyes to travel?

Next, the entire sheet of paper must be covered in very heavy wax.  What is the most affordable way to provide wax to kids?  CRAYONS.  you bet!

Before we started working heavy with our crayons, the kids needed to understand the difference between warm and cool colors.  If the kids simply colored their paper using any old color, there may not be enough contrast to tell the difference between the foreground and background.  So they had to pick warm for one and cool for the other.

Now this is where some kids may have told you the true name of this place was “Mary’s Torture Camp”  because kids started moaning, trying to quit and complaining that they couldn’t “color-hard”, another stinking minute!

But very soon after, a few campers finished filling their entire sheets with wax.  Next they were told to fold and crease their paper as much as the possibly could.  Each time they made a crease, it made a crack in the wax.  When their papers were fully crinkled, I let them apply a watered-down black acrylic paint to their work.  The black paint only absorbed into the cracks, leaving their images intact.  We wiped off the excess paint revealing some truly fabulous art pieces.  This batik-style process brings so much visual interest to the art work.

The kids that finished their work became totally giddy and began to show the complainers their finished pieces and this turned everything around.  Not another moan was heard.  They all broke out into a frenzy to work harder and finish the project. And for good reason.  These wax resist artworks are amazing! Check them out:

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 I was truly inspired. I am going to try to incorporate this technique into my own work in the fall. I loved this project!

I look forward to posting some more projects as I get them off my camera ;)

My Favorite Time of the Year

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My first jug has come out of the kiln and I am IN LOVE.

The flowers find their place in it perfectly.

Both pieces above feature my hand-crafted stamps. I keep gushing about this, but it really makes it feel so personal. LOVE.

No faster than I could park my car, was I in my garden finding the perfect buds.  This is my absolutely favorite time of the year, especially as a potter.  I get to take my pots from form to function.  I get to bring the beauty of the outdoors – in.  It is simply delightful!

Here’s a few more pots out of the kiln:

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Seriously though, the jug below here is my FAVORITE.  I generally don’t keep much that I make because my darling cherubs break them all, but this one might be a keeper.  I’m holding off though, I have two more coming out… you never know ;)  They might be winners too.

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I’m crossing my fingers!

#I SURVIVED – I Thought this Painting was Going to Kill Me!

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I think I may have overdone the amount of objects in my still life because this one seriously almost killed me!  It took me practically 4 weeks to finish.  I don’t even want to count how many hours that would be… (Don’t think… don’t think…don’t think about that!)

Here is a progression of photos depicting how I chose to tackle it.

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Fruits of My Gardenwatercolor 22×30

Here are some of my favorite areas of the painting.  In a way it’s like 4 different paintings in one.

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I think half the reason the painting took so long is because the paper was terrible.

It is totally my fault.  I went to the RISD store to buy some good paper and when I saw the beautiful pieces for $20-$50 each, I cheaped-out and bought the $5 sheets.  YES.  YES. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.  A good sheet of paper is like cotton.  You drip some watercolor onto it and it sucks it up and spreads like a plant drinking water.  A crap piece of paper is a whole ‘nother ballgame.  You puddle some water on it, add the paint and the paint goes – um… NOWHERE.  It just sits on the surface never becoming one with the paper.

Another horrible feature of this paper comes from the fact that a big part of water-coloring is the ability to lift, blot, rub and remove paint from the surface.  This is how you get the areas of reflection and sunlight.  When I rubbed the surface of the cheap paper, it literally crumbled and created holes.  A quality paper is tough like fabric.  It can take everything you throw at it. Look back at how many areas of sunlight there are in this painting and just consider how many battles I had with deteriorating paper. Oh yeah, I got what I paid for all right.  A complete and total nightmare! 

And I’m just too darn stubborn to walk away.  I did work with the crappy paper and I have a few more sheets of it too.   I’ll probably cheap out and use it “because I already paid for it” even though what I should really do is THROW IT IN MY CAMPFIRE!

What I really need to do is hand my credit card over to a trusted love one, have them enter the store without me, ask for the best paper in the joint, buy it and promise to never tell me how much it cost.  Hmm… I should take this advice! Mom? Husband?

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On the pottery front I just started making these jugs.  I will have to admit that most of my good ideas come from 100% selfish motives.   I hope these will be out in time to fill them with all the flowers about to burst in my garden. I’ll keep you posted on how they turn out.

OK. When I hit the publish button on this post, I will have officially earned my “clean slate”.  Now, to figure out what I want to do next…

woo-hoo.

Bowled Over

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I have quite a few good-sized bowls coming out. Thought I’d share.

I’m also plugging away at another big watercolor.  They take a ridiculous amount of time…I’m trying not to ask the question if they are quantifiably “worth it”.  If I were to be paid by the hour, these paintings would be incredibly expensive (like Trump might hang them up next to his golden toilet expensive).  Whether I get paid at all is the hard part of justifying why I do what I do -ever.

I just have to quiet my mind and say “don’t think… don’t quit… this was the gift God gave you.  God didn’t give you accounting skills, corporate feistiness or amazing memorization… All you can do is show up everyday and use what God gave you… have faith… have faith… Listen to your inner voice… there has to be a reason you intuitively know how to do all things artsy… don’t quit… don’t quit…

Yes. Yes I do.  I talk to myself all day.  You don’t?

I also tell myself to shut-up all day too…  What, you don’t?

Ha.  OK.  On with the show…

Here are some pieces that came out of the kiln this week.

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As I look at these, I am reminded I should make some more of my own stamps.  I like how soft and non-mechanized they look.  They make my work more personal. Note to self – make more stamps…

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Here is the new painting I am working on.  I challenged myself to quite a funky perspective.  I am looking down on the subject matter.  I hope I can pull it off… still so much to fill in/block off… boy that’s going to take A LOT of time…

It’s been cold and wet for well over a week.  I find it so hard to motivate myself. I am going to have  to revert back to talking to myself just to get myself out of this chair.

…Get up.  You don’t have that much time…If you don’t work on this thing you’ll never finish it…   No.  sitting on the couch wrapped up in a blanket bingeing Netflix is totally out of the question…You’re an adult right?  Adults do responsible things all day?  Go do something “responsible”…

What? Oh come on. You do talk to yourself too right?

I thought so. Totally normal ;)