Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Holidays everyone!!!

I am not sure I'll have the opportunity to post again before Santa arrives, so I am wishing everyone a very happy holiday weekend. My husband and I will be headed to my mom's family in the Catskills on Christmas Eve, and then to his family's home on Christmas day...then the following week, up north to my sister's for a holiday cousins reunion, and the next day to my dad's where we celebrate Christmas a week late (back down to the Catskills.) Phewf, I'm already tired.

I hope that all of you have a few moments amidst the hustle and bustle to experience the magical, wondrous spirit of the season. That is my holiday wish for all of you (and me too!)

I leave you all with a picture of my darling Max, who posed for me in front of the fireplace last week...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

This and that...

With the support and encouragement of my creative coach, and my amazing friend Debbie, I completed one of my big intentions for 2006 - I wanted to write and submit an article to one of my favorite art-related magazines. Until I hear from them, I will not name which one, but even if the article is not published, I am really glad that I wrote it. For me, the worst thing is for the new year to roll around and to look at my intentions for the year and realized that I did not make steps to achieve them. I have no control over the outcome, but if I don't show up and do the work, it won't ever happen!! I am also busy planning my first classes for 2007. I work at three venues, and it's a constant challenge to come up with new ideas every quarter, but I love the give and take of teaching and spending creative energy with like-minded individuals.
The photo that accompanies this post is a project that I completed at Art Connection, during our holiday ATC/little fat book party. It's a house with transparency pockets to display ATC or LFB pages. My favorite part is the pom pom fringe. It's one of my latest favorite embellishments. Although my usual color palette gravitates toward earth tones, my mood has been very pink & orange lately, so this house reflects a new direction for me and my art. I hope to post again this week, but if not, I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

How to put air in your tires...

I have a brand new Suzuki SX4, and the "check tire pressure" light keeps going on in my car. On Friday, I was going to visit my friend Debbie for an artist's date about an hour away in the country, and I didn't want to find myself broken down in the zero-degree wind chill with a flat tire, so I took the car to the Mobil station to get gas & add air to the tires. Only one tire looked really low, so after getting gas, I asked the attendant if they had an air pressure thingy. She said, "yes, it's on the air pump." Okay, so really I meant to ask, "Where is the air pump?" I found it around the side of the station and parked next to it. Believe it or not, if you're not a customer, YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR AIR. I had just purchased gas, so I knew the air would be free- lucky me - but I had to return to tell the same attendant that I needed her to turn on the air pump. She did. I returned to my car, and proceeded to do what I had seen done by various men. I detached the hose and unscrewed the valve on my tire, and connected the two. In less than a minute, my tire was almost completely flat, because in all the years of watching others use the air thingy, I had never noticed that they TURN ON THE AIR. So I was actually letting air out of my tire. Fortunately, a man waiting to ADD air to is tire came to my rescue, and I asked him to show me how it's done. I am posting these instructions for any woman who, after years of driving, still doesn't know how to do this. I think we should know some of the most basic skills if we're going to operate motor vehicles...

Let's assume that the air is free...
1. Look on the side of your tire for the number that indicates how many pounds of air your tire is supposed to have. Mine is 51 pounds. You don't want to go over this number or you can explode your tire.
2. Push the big black ON button. You'll hear a compressor turn on.
3. Remove the cap on your tire valve.
4. Press the compressor hose to the tire valve, and press the handle next to the nozzle of the hose.
5. To check the pressure, release the nozzle handle, and look at the number that pops up on the gauge. Keep checking until you have a pound or two under the maximum allowance.
6. Screw the valve cap back on your tire.
Leave with more dignity than I did on Friday.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cleaning Catharsis

I am off this week. Taking a week in early Dec. has become my own personal holiday tradition, so that I can take my time decorating and making art before the holidays. I like to ease into the spirit of the season, which is also why I am not doing any shopping this week.

But before I could decorate, I had to clean my house - desperately. I love a clean house, but I truly hate house cleaning. I mean, I do the perfunctory vacuuming, mopping and surface dusting on a regular basis, but you know how it is when you start to really notice all the nooks and crannies - yuck! I began with my utensil drawer in the kitchen, which is a depository for every crumb and food particle that falls off my counter. That led me to every other drawer in the kitchen, and then the refrigerator, which was coated in soup spills, and contained a collection of vintage condiments - maybe I could auction them on Ebay?

Anyway, I continued this micro-cleaning from room to room & closet to closet, and endedd the day with a sense of immense satisfaction, even if it will only last a little while.

And that gives me the rest of the week to make art, plan classes, and perhaps make some gifts for friends and family. Just a note to my readers, my digital camera hub is at work, so I will post pictures of my art & class plans when I return.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I wish I'd thought of this t-shirt first!!!

While visiting one of my favorite artist's blogs (Luann Udell - her link is at the right in my list of faves), I learned of this t-shirt, available from this online store. I wish they made a v-neck, or a more girly style shirt.

If I find this in a bumper sticker, I'm definitely going to get it!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The little fat book club...

Hello my faithful readership! Yup, that means both of you. Sorry I've been so lax in posting to my blog. The holiday season is upon us and I am busy - although, I haven't done a single thing for the holidays so that's a pretty flimsy excuse. Mostly I've been making art in my spare time, while watching the housework accumulate. I am on vacation next week, so I plan to catch up on both housework and holiday planning, and more art at that time!

I've been busy making pages for my little fat book and writing a draft for an article I plan to submit to one of the major mixed media magazines - I should really be working on that now, but I need to let it rest a bit!

So last week, I attended my first 'little fat book' club gathering at my friend Mel's studio/store, Art Connection... and it was, not surprisingly, a blast. Once a month, the group gets together for a two-hour art making/sharing session Pages measure 4 x 4 inches, and eventually get bound with rings into a little fat book. I only made one page during the evening - I spent a good deal of time looking through other people's books - but I made more pages over the weekend. Much like the artist trading cards, I like the small format for experimenting with ideas. Here are a few of my pages. The holiday page is for a secret Santa swap at Art Connection this weekend. I made 3 of the same/similar page so that I could keep one, swap one, and give one to my friend Debbie. It's a fabric transfer, along with paint, rubberstamping and collage.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Time to make art!

As I've mentioned in some previous blogs, I participate in a monthly artist's trading card (ATC) swap at one of the stores where I teach, and I am still amazed at how much I love this artistic forum. This month's theme is party hats & beads. Here are my submissions. If you zoom in and look closely, the background of each card is made up of tiny microbeads. I used Artgirlz charms for the faces, and of course they're each wearing party hats and party dresses adorned with various seed beads etc. I only need three for the swap, but I make six every month -- 3 for the swap, 1 for Marilyn, the swap host (visit her picturetrail site in my links at right), 1 for my friend Debbie, who so often encourages and inspires me -- Oh, and one for me, so I can keep a sample of the techniques that I use! The silver one (if you look really close, she has a martini with a beaded olive)-just my kind of party girl- is the one I am keeping. I would let my friend Debbie choose her own, but she is off jet-setting around Scotland, so I am going to pick one of the brightly colored ones for her, as she is a very colorful woman!
I had a rare opportunity to make art for almost three full days straight this weekend, and it was pure joy. I am always stealing time for my art these days, and this weekend I just ignored the remainder of leaves that fell onto my lawn, ignored the dust bunnies that swirled about on my floors, and made art. One of the things I was reminded of is that an artistic body and mind in motion stays in motion - creation fuels creation. Sometimes it takes me hours, after I've been out of my studio for awhile, to get back into the swing. Not the ideas so much as the rhythm, for me, takes some time to recapture. So that by the end of a weekend like this, I am brimming with ideas, and I just want to hole up in my studio for days on end. It reminded me how much I love the process, as much as the finished pieces.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Studio Friday - Interconnected

This week's topic for Friday November 3rd suggested by Nancy Bea: I AM INTERCONNECTED!
" I am not thinking of connections one might feel to other "great artists" of the past or inspiring, high-profile contemporaries, but the connections that help keep you happy in the studio. Artist friends you get together with for critiques or just coffee and supportive conversation.
For instance I am in a group of four women who get together for all of that, plus find venues to occasionally show together, and we encourage each other in every possible way. Maybe you are part of a class or group that gets together to try out new techniques once a month...We are all interconnected and honoring and recognizing that is an immense comfort and inspiration and source of strength for me, and I am sure for others too."

Oh, Nancy Bea, you hit such a chord. Yes, yes, yes. (And you know that you are one of the artist's with whom I've connected recently. Thank you!!)

I have too much that I could write for this, so for the sake of brevity, I will just make a list of some of the most important art connections in my life right now...

1. Debbie Wachel - My most enthusiastic supporter and one of my dearest friends, artistic or otherwise. We get together for artist dates every month or two, which consist of talking, eating, laughing, shopping, critiquing and oh yeah, making art. In between artist dates, we email, at least several times a week, often about art, but also about life and keeping art in life!

2. The Studio Friday artists!! - and all of my online contacts - I have found the internet to be one of the most amazing ways to connect with other artists all over the globe, and I'm sure I won't be the only one to mention this. Through this connection, I have corresponded with artists whose work I've seen in magazines, I've recently purchased a print for my niece from Hungary (from an artist I might never have discovered otherwise), and I've received (and given) more encouraging words and support that I could ever have imagined possible.

3. My teaching venues - Ironically Art Connection is the name of one of the stores at which I teach, and it lives up to the name in so many amazing ways. I love the connections that I make with the students I teach. Their enthusiasm feeds me, and they always have creative ideas that help me improve my methods. It's a totally rewarding exchange and I would feel lost as an artist without it.

4. My creative coach. I've had the opportunity (thanks to my friend Debbie!!) to work with Sheri Gaynor, of Feisty Females, and this connection has helped me to remove obstacles that I continually seem to put in the way of my artistic goals.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Myth Grows in Brooklyn...

In a previous post, I mentioned that Grammy Mac had a funny "Brooklyn Story." Fellow blogger Gabi inquired, so here it is...

Grammy Mac passed away in 1989, and Grandpa Mac passed away several years earlier, in NYC, where he had returned after they had split up, sometime in the early 70s. I think he returned to the general area of their original apartment in New York, which I'm not sure was ever in Brooklyn - one of my aunts or my mom could confirm this.

When my dad retired, about 6 years ago, his party included a number of people who had not seen our family in years, including Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Mr. Brown had worked with my dad early in his career, and the Browns' had been my grandparents' neighbors when we were young children. The Browns' had four daughters around the same age as me and my two sisters. One daughter, Marybeth, (Beth) accompanied her parents to my dad's party.

During the cocktail hour, Beth spilled a glass of Cabernet down the front of her ivory suit, so my sister Cheryl offered her hotel room for Beth to clean up. She accompanied Beth to her room, and Mrs. Brown joined them, seeing a good opportunity to catch up with our family. Shortly into their conversation, Mrs. Brown asked, "And how are your grandparents doing?"

My sister was taken completely off guard that the Browns', having moved so far away so long ago, did not know that my grandparents were long dead -- and in a split-second, she decided that she could not deliver this news to Mrs. Brown in the middle of my dad's retirement party. So instead, my sister said the first thing that popped into her head, which was "They're great!" And Mrs. Brown said, "Oh, wonderful. Where are they living now?" And my sister said, "Brooklyn!"

Of course, my sister immediately regretted what she'd said, but it was too late to take it back. So she fled from their company before Mrs. Brown had a chance to ask her any more questions and she was forced to concoct an entire life in Brooklyn for our long-deceased grandparents.

When Cheryl returned to our table and told us what she'd done, we got a great chuckle out of it, and I spent the night avoiding the Browns' as well, afraid that I'd be obligated to perpetuate my sister's story. As far as we know, the Browns' still think my grandparents are happily retired in Brooklyn, so Brooklyn has become the metaphorical heavenly resting place of Grammy & Grandpa McElroy.

And there are two funny sidebars to this story -- The first is that my Aunt Mary (one of Grammy's daughters) had not heard the Brooklyn story, and months after it had happened, we were at a family gathering where we were jokingly wondering what Grammy was doing in Brooklyn, and my Aunt choked on a glass of wine and nearly fell off the sofa since this was the first she had heard that Grammy was "alive." (You might also notice that glasses of wine are a recurring theme in my family stories.)

The second is that the Browns,' were known for one eccentricity -- Mrs. Brown's given name is Mary Lee, and they named their daughters Mary Beth, Mary Ann, Mary Lynn, and Mary Kristen. (Their father's name was Jerry, and at work they used to call him Mary Jerry, according to my dad.) - Tell that to George Foreman!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Studio Friday - Collections...

Ooh, collections!! I would certainly be remiss if I didn't mention my accumulation of rubber stamps, which certainly qualifies as a collection due to its sheer size -but as much as I love them, today I prefer to highlight my collection of CHOPSTICKS!
My love affair began as a young adult, when I decided that I would learn to eat with chopsticks as a method of weight control. My logic was that I would eat slower and feel full sooner. Instead, I just became very adept at eating with chopsticks. I love Asian influences in design, and I love Chinese food, and I can speak fluently with a fake-Chinese accent. (My famiry insists that I ras Chinese in anover rife.) I love both the simplicity and decoration of chopsticks, and my collection includes inexpensive but colorful plastic chopsticks, handcrafted and inlaid wood versions, and even a set made of china!

And speaking of collections, today my husband Scott and I celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary, so in keeping with the Studio Friday theme, it's the perfect time to think of all the memories we've collected in 17 years. Like many collections, my collection of memories includes ones that I take out and admire; some memories that I use more than others; some that would be better given away; some that make me laugh out loud, and some that I keep to myself and don't show others. In all, it's a cherished collection like no other. Happy Anniversary, bsm!! Thank you for the priceless collection of memories. Love.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Remembering Grammy Mac - 1922-1989

Several of my previous blog posts have included tributes to my paternal grandmother, "Dambi," and it occurred to me that I had yet to mention that I was fortunate to have two wonderful grandmothers for most of my life. My maternal grandmother, Velma Josephine (DeWitt) McElroy or "Grammy Mac," could not have been more different from Dambi, but she taught me just as much, in entirely different ways. And today would have been her 84th birthday, had we not lost her in 1989 to a heart attack at the age of 66, so I thought I'd remember Grammy today, in this post.

I was her first grandchild, just as I was Dambi's, a position which brought with it certain privileges, not the least of which was her undivided attention until my sisters arrived on the scene, as well as an (inaccurate) assumption on her part that I was more mature than I actually was, so that I was always given more freedom (a.k.a. lack of supervision) during frequent overnights at Grammy's when I was a child. My mom's youngest sister (Roberta) was only 4 when I was born, which may have accounted for my grandmother's lack of keen attention to my behavior. I was treated more like her fifth child when I was around, rather than her first grandchild. And those late life kids always get by on benign neglect, which suited me fine, because as the first child of very young parents, I was smothered with attention and overprotection at home. On a typical sleepover when I was about 7 or 8, "Aunt" Roberta (I called her Bert as we were so close in age) would go roller skating in the evening, so I was left to my own devices. Grammy would pull out the sofa bed, and I'd stay up late (anytime past 8 pm when I was a kid) and watch M.A.S.H., Bob Newhart, and the Mary Tyler Moore show. I felt totally grown up watching these shows by myself. When Roberta returned home, we'd burn a batch of Jiffy Pop on the gas stove, and then go to bed. On Saturday morning, Grammy would let me bake my own cheese on toast in the toaster oven, while she fried up an entire pound of bacon.

In addition to giving me my first taste of independence, Grammy taught me how to dress stylishly (albeit, it took me many years to catch on - we won't talk about the 80s). In spite of her humble beginnings -- she was born to a very poor family in Augusta, Georgia -- and struggled financially most of her life, she was a brilliant bargain shopper and could look gorgeous on a shoestring budget. I accompanied her on countless shopping trips before it became un-cool for me to hang out with her, and then my sister Jennifer stepped in where I left off. She bought me my first grown-up trench coat, and my first pair of lined trousers - both inexpensive but classic, so that I owned them for more than a dozen years before I finally stopped wearing them. I am the only person in my family who can find a decent shirt or dress at the likes of WalMart or JC Penney, thanks to Grammy.

This photo of Grammy was taken in 1963, at my parents' wedding. Incidentally, I cropped my grandfather out of this photo, as I'm sure Grammy would have wanted me to - but that's a story for another time.

I have a million more memories of Grammy that all came flooding back as I began writing this, but I will save them to post from time to time on days when Grammy Mac is foremost on my mind - there's a turkey story that begs telling, so perhaps I'll post another Grammy Mac story on Thanksgiving.

Happy Birthday Grammy!
Hope you're enjoying Brooklyn!! (this is a family joke - a whole blog post for another day)

Note: I actually made a collage on canvas with this photo, but I my digital camera hub is at work so I can't post the collage until Monday.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Studio Friday - Autumn Inspiration

"Autumn inspiration - According to my calendar, today (Sept 22) is the "Autumnal Equinox," and it's my favorite season, so show me what you love about the fall - the colors?... the leaves?...etc." - ME
When I suggested this topic a few weeks ago, I thought this would be an easy one for most, because I love the fall and its many inspirations are so obvious to me, but since then, I've heard from lots of people in my day to day travels who (gasp) "hate the fall," so I will be interested to see what everyone has to say on this topic. (Incidentally, those who told me they hate it usually cite that it's because winter is not far behind, but I refuse to blame the autumn for the winter.)

My love of autumn engages all of the senses...
I love to watch the leaves change from green to shades of yellow and red and rust and brown. I love to watch them tossed about by the wind and collected in piles along the edges of my garden. I love the sound and feel as they crunch beneath my feet. I love to see wagon loads of pumpkins, fat and orange, round and oblong, big and small, at farms and roadside stands. I love to see them adorning the porches and stairways of the homes in my neighborhood. I love to see them carved into jack-o-lanterns, grinning wildly at me as I walk my dog. I love their heft, and their smooth surface and prickly stems, as I choose the ones that will sit on my porch. I love that I am not sweating bullets, as I walk my dog. I love the smell of autumn, sometimes crisp, sometimes loamy, as the leaves begin to mulch. I love to feel the cool air on my face. I love a cozy fall sweater, a hot cup of apple cider. I love to pick apples at an orchard with my husband and maybe stumble upon an antique store or junk shop on our trip down a winding road on a cool fall day. I love our wedding anniversary - October 27 - a wonderful fall day 17 years ago. I love to see pots of mums in yellow and rust and burgandy, lined up in rows at the farm market, waiting to be sold. I love gourds in all their odd shapes and colors. I love my mom's recipe for acorn squash, baked in halves with butter and brown sugar. I love warm soup on a cool autumn day. I love the last burst of warmth and color before the winter comes.

A few weeks ago, when the inspiration hit me, I designed this scrapbook paper to give to the students in my fall faeries class...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Studio Friday - FEAR!!!

This week's topic for Friday October 13th suggested by Casey: FEAR!
"I have been away from Studio Friday for a while, and I really struggled with the toot your own horn topic. It actually made me do some free-writing and I thought of another topic that might be helpful for some of the studio friday artists: Fear.

On the lighter side, I am afraid that my studio will never be big enough, and I fear I will eventually run out of paper or gel medium or glue dots, which is totally unrealistic given all the stuff in my crowded room.

I could also talk about fear of the blank page or artist's block but right now, it's about so much more than that for me. It's a topic I am grappling with all the time these days. Being in my 40s has been a real turning point in how I spend my time - an awakening of sorts, to how fast life is flying by. I truly can't believe I'm in my 40s. Just yesterday, I was in my 20s with time to waste, and then, where did my 30s go? In my 40s, I am impatient. I am much less tolerant of chores and things and people who waste my time. This may sound cruel, but it's not meant to be. It's really just prioritizing.
I just finished a book entitled "The Moth Diaries" by Rachel Klein. It's the story of a diary kept by a teenage girl at boarding school, and in one passage a character says "You wake up one day and you're just like them -- amazed not to have lived the life you imagined you would. Do you think anyone is satisfied at the end?"
...and that is my biggest fear... that I will wake up one day, much older, having spent 21,900 hours doing laundry, and 6,240 hours cleaning house, and 63,000 hours at the wrong job, and I will regret that I didn't spend all those hours more meaningfully, .. and that's assuming I am lucky enough to grow old....
And then I iimmediately feel miserably ungrateful, because I really do have a great life - a wonderful husband, a beautiful little home, a great job, good friends and family, my health. But still, I fear not spending the time I have from this point forward on the really important things - my family, friends, creativity, health, community.
For those of you with children, you may feel differently. Raising a child, putting another human being on this planet, is to me the ultimate sacrifice and also the ultimate gift to humanity (well, sometimes.) But I chose not to take that path, and while I don't regret it, I wonder, then -- what is my purpose, and is what I do ever enough?
...Incidentally, I didn't really have any artwork in my studio that illustrates this theme, so I am posting a note that a friend slipped under my door at work one day when I was talking to my creative coach on the phone. She's really a very supportive friend with a scathing wit.

I also love the website, which plays fun at those motivational posters with de-motivational products. I love this kind of humor and these things never cease to amuse me... I tried to post a few of my favorite posters, but they must have it blocked, or I am an idiot... (entirely possible, and I'm sure they have a poster for it!)... so here are the links to my favorites, related to this theme...




Tuesday, October 10, 2006

ATC Exchange #3 - Fall Colors

Fall colors - reds, golds, greens & browns, are by far my favorie and most familiar palette as an artist, so the hardest part of this artist-trading-card swap was deciding on the subject matter. I didn't want to do a traditional fall subject with the fall colors, but I wanted it to be fall-like, which was a challenge.
After the disappointing turnout at my seniors class, I had lots of pre-conditioned polymer clay left over, so I began by tinting and stamping clay tiles, which I cut into little house pieces. Using mat board, I painted a fall colored background with twinkling H20s and added the clay houses with a swirly stamp that looks like smoke coming from a chimney on a blustery fall day. I had lots of tiles, so I made six of the same card this time, with minor variations. I almost never make two of the same, but I really loved this design. It's a bit dimensional, with the clay tiles, and the colors are rich and warm. And the house shape is such a warm and inviting icon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Studio Friday... Stick it...


" It would be interesting to see the variety of bulletin/memory boards in our studios. What is pinned to them? Photos? Notes? Reminders? Ideas for future projects?"

Well, here's my bulletin board, which, like just about every other square inch of my studio, is used for the storage of "stuff" rather than a place to tack memories and ideas. Although I do have lots of storage bins and drawers, I like some of my materials to remain in plain view -- to spark ideas and to remind me of what I have. If this looks too neat and organized to be believable, it's because I spent last weekend cleaning up my studio, as is necessary every few months so that the clutter doesn't swallow me!!! But never fear, I'll mess this up in no time! I also attach more memories and photos and chatchkas to my lamp, with magnets. Essentially, any surface is game!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

autumn inspiration...

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am teaching a class on Saturday at Art Connection called Fall Faeries. As a gift to everyone who takes the class, I have designed this fall-inspired decorative paper sheet. I am a graphic designer by trade, and though I prefer the tactile arts, I do love to design computer generated art like this... and it usually begins with tactile art, as this one did ... I've created a digital library of found objects that I scan and turn to line art... like the torn edge paper & the leaf that appear in this sheet. I've been known to scan acorns, milkweed, buttons, bobbins, thread spools, my hand (I had to do that one one-handed!), etc... I then work in Photoshop to turn them into black & white line art and adjust the brightness/contrast until it highlights the best silhouette of an image. Then when I want to create a collage, I use either Photoshop or Pagemaker to colorize, layer and collage the pieces. I am interested in feedback on this design - are you a scrapbooker, stamper, mixed media artist - non-artist? - and would you/could you use such a sheet? or not? All constructive comments - or outright flattery welcome!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Studio Friday - toot your own horn!

This week's topic for Friday September 22nd suggested by Gabi: TOOT YOUR OWN HORN... LOUD! "Studio Friday, for me, is a network of artists from all over the world. It's a fabulous way to communicate ...I would love to see a showcase of what YOUR art is. ...I'd love to see a piece that you have created that you are most proud of. SHOW off your STUFF!!" ~Gabi
This is hard, particularly for women, I think, because many of us were taught from an early age to be modest, but as working artists, I think a certain amount of horn-tooting is necessary (so thank you Gabi for the suggetion)... and my blog is definitely a place where I want to show my art - not just for exposure, but also for inspiration and feedback, and to allow me to feel that I am a part of a larger artistic community.
This is an altered book that I created last year, as a featured piece in a juried gallery show that I was fortunate to be able to do along with my friend, Debbie. The show was entitled "Facing Pages" and included swap journals, individual journals, handmade books and altered books. Although my personal journals are a treasured source of inspiration and therapy for me, this altered book was my favorite piece in the show. It tells a rather sad story, however...
A year after my husband and I bought our first house, we found a bird's nest in a large hanging pot of impatiens on our front porch. Every day, for five days, when I would take the pot down to water it, a new egg appeared in the nest. I very carefully watered around the nest to keep it dry, and I patiently awaited the arrival of the little birds who would be born among my flowers. I was so pleased that mama bird had chosen my porch as a safe spot for building the nest, and that my daily watering had not deterred her. I saw this as a symbol that this was indeed a wonderful home in which to live. One morning after watering, I returned to my kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. Moments later I heard a dull thud outside. I looked out toward our mailbox and driveway, thinking it might be a car door, or our mailman.
I saw nothing and forgot about it. About an hour later I went out to run some errands and saw what had made the sound. Because of the very hot summer day, I made sure to really water my impatiens pot well, so that the flowers that hid the birds' nest would not wilt. The pot was so heavy from the giant blooms and water that it crashed onto my porch, tossing all of the eggs onto the pavement. I was (and still am) heartbroken. I felt so sad for the bird who had so carefully crafted this perfect nest, and had so patiently sat on her precious eggs day after day. The nest was still sitting perfectly among the flowers.
I left it for a few days, hoping that perhaps mama bird would forgive me and return to start again, but she did not. So instead, I decided to memorialize the nest in an altered book that I hope tells a story of the importance of a home, and the simple perfect beauty of nature.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Studio Friday - on the outside...

"I'm curious to see what is just outside everyone's studio. I face a wall so I don't have a view but I have the desert to inspire me if I need it." ~ Lilie

My studio currently has two windows facing equally uninteresting views. One faces a chain link fence on the border of our neighbor's yard, and from the other window you can see our Rubbermaid shed. So I'm going to venture a little beyond the windows of my studio to some of my favorite views of late.

These are some pictures I just took last weekend at the town park, where I've been hiking with Max on weekend mornings. For the first 15 years that I've lived here, I never ventured beyond the park pool, but I've recently discovered (thanks to Max) wonderful hiking trails through the woods and along the river. No matter how often we follow the paths, there are always new things to see and hear.
Nature is never boring. Last week, I took pictures of tree man during our walk.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fabric ATCs etc.

This is my second round of ATCs for the one swap I am participating in. I am loving the ability to try new techniques in a small format, and also then giving away my creations. I like that they're 'out there' for someone else to enjoy (at least I hope they're enjoyed.) The first swap was themeless. For this swap, the theme was FABRIC! (ooh, such fun.) I created these using Judikins new Tranz It transfer medium. Very much like gel medium except that it seems to work with a larger variety of originals - everything from color copies, to b/w copies, to color lasers - which never worked for me with gel medium. I created the transfers on muslin and then hand-sewed the muslin and embellishments to pieces of wool felt.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Studio Friday - A Floral Treat!

Thanks Leslie for this fun topic - I love flowers (who doesn't?) I originally hoped that I would have an opportunity to paint or otherwise create a piece of floral art, but this is my busiest month at work, and was busy in a thousand other ways I won't bore you with, so I snapped a few pictures of these magestic sunflowers that have grown in the community garden down at the grade school where I walk Max.
The garden was created by the sixth grade class two years ago, and now each year, grade school students, their families, and volunteers from the community tend it and watch it grow. The garden is still quite new and not yet very artistically laid out, but each year the sunflowers grow to eight feet tall, and I never cease to be amazed by them. I had a little Photoshop fun with these pictures, but they are actual shots that I took, about a week ago. This phrase came to me as I was playing, but I probably stole it from someplace else. Does anyone else do that? - make something up, and then discover later that they really saw it or read it or heard it somewhere else before? I do it rather frequently, and I'm always annoyed when I discover that I'm not as clever as I'd imagined.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Polymer clay tile cards...

Once a month, I teach a class at the local senior center, for a lively and energetic group of women who could run circles around me, and usually do. I take summers off, so last night was my first night back since June. We've been meeting for about a year, making greeting cards, and assorted small crafts that involve painting, rubber stamping, and other mixed media techniques. After our summer hiatus, I thought it would be fun to do something different, so we created polymer clay tiles to make a jewelry pin and several greeting cards. Unfortunately, my class was left off the weekly newsletter, and only three of the twelve women scheduled to attend remembered that we set this date back in June. Of course, the four of us had a great class, but I am really bummed that the majority of our regular attendees missed learning about stamping on clay, because it was a cool technique that I would like to work into future classes, and now I'll have to do the intro all over again -- not to mention that I conditioned and prepped clay sheets for 12 people - can you say CARPAL TUNNEL?! I do have a pasta machine, but the clay still requires hand-kneading before it will even go through the machine. Ugh. Anyway, I'm just venting.
On a completely different topic, for those of you who want a tiny glimpse into where I came from, read the comments associated with my previous blog (A walk in the woods with Max). These are my family members - mother and two sisters, all of whom I adore, by the way - who are vacationing right now on Martha's Vineyard. Apparently, after a few glasses of wine - and more than a few for my mom, it seems, they visited my blog and left comments. I am sorry that I am not there, but this is my busiest month at work, so I want to believe that's why I was not invited :>) - love you mommy & sissers & Avery!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A walk in the woods with Max, etc.

Max and I went to the town park again on Sunday, and enjoyed a crisp fall-like morning walking through the woods. I tried to take lots of pictures of the sights along the trails, but my camera needed to be recharged and it was kind of dark, so many did not turn out very well. Still, I wanted to post what I saw...
fungi-covered tree stumps and "tree-man" a big dead tree with a face on it and his branch arms open wide - see? It's really so beautiful at the park in the early morning. There are very few people - mostly dog-walkers, and it it so quiet... just the sounds of geese and crickets and nature minding its business. This is only our second visit to the park, because we usually go to the local school grounds, which are much closer. But it's so much more peaceful and there's so much more to see (for both of us) on the hiking trails and along the river, that we're going to start to go more often. Rumor has it that they even plow the trails in winter for cross country skiers and crazy winter dog walkers like me.

I got back to basics last weekend and made some simple greeting cards. Before I began to pursue mixed media art, I was an avid handmade greeting card designer, and I still love to make cards, though I don't spend enough time doing it anymore... these are simply stamped & punched...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Extreme makeover...

Due to an overwhelming number of requests to see my new hairdo (okay - one request, and I'm not even sure who it was, except that they obviously know me), I am postponing my previously scheduled blog and posting some photos here. After taking (and deleting) about 60 pictures with my digital camera, I am now sitting here asking myself - when did my nose get so big... (okay sisser, don't answer that) and my lips get so small... and where did that extra chin come from.. and have I always had buck teeth...and those circles under my eyes???? AND why did I bother having my hair cut and then coloring it when it's framing THAT face!!! Of course, I am colossally cheap when it comes to self-maintenance, so the total cost of cut & color -- with a tip for the hairdresser -- was only $30, but maybe investing in a giant hat & a pair of sunglasses would have been better.
So these are the best of the pictures, taken just moments ago. Last week, the color was what I call "blackish-red," in spite of the fact that Clairol Natural Instincts calls the color nutmeg. Upon hearing the name, my husband said it should have been called "nutjob." In addition, I had blow-dried it and styled it in a flip-under, which looked utterly ridiculous.
My husband's keen and unfortunately accurate comment when he saw me was that I looked like Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp version), sans top hat. So now I have opted not to dry & style my hair, but to scrunch & spritz instead... and since this is a wash-out color, it has mellowed a bit over the past week. Still this is why you will be seeing more photos of artwork and fewer photos of me as the years go by. To my online artist bloggers who participate in self portrait challenge - you're all very brave & more beautiful than I fully appreciated before.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A shrine to Dambi

Anyone who reads my blog with any regularity (that would be both of you :>), will be familiar with Dambi, the name I gave my paternal grandmother (before I could say Grammy) that all of the grandchildren were then forced to perpetuate. Well, this shrine is a tribute to her, and was made almost entirely with items of meaning that came from Dambi or that remind me of her for special reasons.

I found these wooden house boxes at a local dollar store, and they've been sitting in my studio for weeks -- sometimes it takes months, or even years before things get used so this was not so bad!! (the box in the background is what they look like unembellished). They probably would have sat longer, but I was making gift tins for a class and I had to wait for paint to dry. I decided to give a quick coat of paint to one of the little houses, and I could see immediately just what I wanted to fill it with. So I gathered small items from my sewing box - a box made by Dambi and passed on to me, and I began to place them in the little compartments. Once my tins dried, I abandoned this project for awhile, but over the weekend I felt compelled to finish it. It's simple, and quaint, and encompasses so many memories of my creative grandmother...
The backs of the compartments & roof shingles are pieces of an old fabric that covered a small vanity bench in Dambi's bedroom. I inherited the bench, but could not bear to throw away the fabric when I reupholstered it. I loved the burgandys, & pinks & browns in the floral pattern, and the texture of a good upholstery fabric. It was extremely faded on top, where exposure to sunshine & derierres wore it out, but underneath, the fabric was still bold and beautiful, and small pieces have made it into several of my works.
In the triangular roof cubby is a manufactured label that says "Fashioned & handmade by Lillian." That was Dambi's given name, and I have a packet of these labels that she used inside of items she crocheted for her six grandchildren SIDEBAR: anyone else familiar with headhuggers? These were little granny squares sewn together into ridiculous little potholder hats that we thought wer just wonderful when we were little dorky kids.
Other items of note include, in the lower left box, a garter fastener, as Dambi always wore stockings - never pantyhose - "your privates need to breathe", and a bobbin from the old Singer sewing machine with foot pedal in a flip-up cabinet and wrought iron legs that I also inherited - and altered(a later feature).
And for some reason my sisters and my cousins used to refer to Dambi as "Lilliana Rosebud" - I don't remember the story behind this, but it always made Dambi laugh, so the addition of a dried rosebud seemed appropriate as well. All of the other items - thimble, old measuring tapes, buttons, wooden thread spools, came from her sewing box - a treasure trove of collage materials & usable sewing supplies. And in the top center compartment sits a tiny copy of an old photo of my grandmother, when she was still Lillian VonKampen, not yet Dambi.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

End of summer blues...

It goes by so

This is a favorite summer photo from about 35 years ago. I'm on the left, then my cousin Susan, my sister Cheryl, and my cousin Bonnie, seated in age order. I think I was about 7 years old in this picture, so I am guessing that somewhere in the background is my sister Jennifer, age 1, too young to sit by the pool in her navy & white sailor bathing suit with the red belt... and my cousin Frank, who would never have a navy and white sailor bathing suit (thankfully), was not yet born. There are days when it feels like that was a million years ago, and other times when I feel like it was yesterday that we were at my grandmother's pool, spending endless summer days swimming, eating homemade chocolate chips - that my grandmother (Dambi) baked in her hot kitchen while we were swimming! My grandfather (Opa)would stand in the low end of the pool and toss a ball to each of us to catch as we flew off the diving board.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Studio Friday - Artist's Block

"You've heard of 'writer's block'. Well as an artist, I sometimes suffer from "Artist's block". What is this you ask? It's when you sit and sit and can't come up with anything. This can go on for hours, days, weeks even months sometimes. --I want to know how you break free of Artist's block! " ~ Gabi

These days, I don't seem to ever have artist's block - mostly from having so little time to get into my studio, so that when I do, I have little notes and sketches that have accumulated in my pockets and my purse and my journals,of all the projects I want to create... but even so, I do find that certain activities make my juices flow better...

One is making art in one of my art journals. Since they're meant for experimentation rather than a finished project, it's easy to just say "what if" and to put the paints, etc. to paper.

Other sources of artistic inspiration that always work for me:
1. taking a walk - I get more ideas just walking than almost any other way;
2. flipping through my favorite art/decorating/food magazines;
3. making an artist's date with my friend Debbie. When we commit to one another and bounce ideas off of each other, we never leave without having made some art;
4. re-organizing my art room. This always sparks ideas, as I rediscover items that I forgot I had.
...and on this topic, there are also things that cripple my creativity, even if I have ideas, so I try not to do them too often, such as:
1. compare my work to that of other artists - particularly with the accessibility of online sources, there are days when I surf a few of my favorite artist sites, and instead of becoming inspired, I get the "Oh, God, I'll never be as good as that," blues;
2. deadlines & commitments - this is tough for me, because I do make my living as a graphic artist, and I also teach classes, so I have lots of deadlines & commitments. But there's nothing like a looming deadline to make me feel like, "I don't want to make that today, I'd rather do this other thing." So essentially, I'm very immature. In this case, I try to achieve balance, by allowing myself some real play time within my work time -- and I remind my childish self that I am so lucky to be making a living at something I love!
3. Rules. This is another curious problem, because this works both as an inspiration & a paralyzer for me. If I am participating in an ATC swap, for example, I like having a theme or some rules/limitations to work within, as long as the subject matter is open. When I am planning a class, however, I don't like being limited to a particular set of materials or a limited list of companies- I mention this because I teach at retail stores, and sometimes this is a very real dilemma for me, since they have to be able to purchase materials for sale. My problem in this case is that I inevitably find the perfect embellishment, or final touch that is very difficult to find, or that comes from a retail vendor who is slow, etc., and I hate compromising my final design because of some vendor who can't deliver.
Wow, so much to say on this topic! - I can't wait to see what others have to say.
And to my few but faithful regular readers, I am in the throws of our convention season at work, so my hours are long and my blogging time is short. I apologize for not posting more often. Hopefully my schedule will slow down again to normal pace in a few weeks and I'll be able to post at least a few times a week.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tin-tastic gift tins...

That's the name of the newest class I'll be teaching at Stampassion in the fall. My inspiration came from Lisa Kaus, whose "tinnies" were featured in recent issues of Somerset Studio and Somerset Home. It was love at first sight for me, and I made a few small tinnies at Easter for family and friends. I think they make wonderful gift tins for the holidays, so I've adapted them for Christmastime. We're also doing a generic all-year style tin as well. I envision these filled with holiday baked goods, or even small gifts - like candles & lotions & coffees & teas.
Fortunately I have a friend who works at a school and is able to get the large tin cans for me, so that I don't have to go 'dumpster diving' or eat 4,000 pounds of canned peaches in order to supply these for class.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fall Faeries...

These little (3x5) matboard hangings are for my upcoming Fall Faeries class at Art Connection in October. I made them this weekend, and was very pleased with the results. I wish I could say that this was entirely my design, but I actually adapted them from a sample featured in a recent issue of Somerset Studio. I believe the original artist's name is Lori Lundy - so whereever you are, Lori, thank you for the inspiration! In addition to the matboard, they include vintage collage faces, glass beads, scrapbook papers, shipping tags, wire, fabric/satin leaves, fibers, eyelets, etc.
Because they can be used as miniature window hangers, I decorated the backs with collage papers and rubber stamps. If you're local, Art Connection is located in Socha Plaza, Scotia New York - call 518-384-0550 to reserve a spot in class.

I am also doing a new spontaneous collage mosaic class at Stampassion, in Latham, New York this fall. I forgot to scan the samples before dropping them at the store, but they're pretty wonderful, if I do say so myself. See the link at the right for Stampassion phone number and class schedule.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

eek! I've caught the ATC bug!!

I've resisted it for a really long time, but I was recently invited by my talented friend Marilyn, to join a newly organized artist's trading card swap, and I had great fun making my first three trading cards. The scan isn't the best, because I decided to make the cards from transparency film, and the reflection doesn't photograph well. I'm teaching a class using plain & preprinted transparencies, so it was a natural transition for me to tackle my first cards as transparencies, and I also wanted to try something a little unique.
The small format is a lot fun of when you want to create something, but don't have lots of time, or when you want to try a new technique in a small way...and swapping them means that you get to share your ideas and techniques, while receiving someone else's ideas & techniques in return.
For those who may not be familiar with artist's trading cards (ATCs), they are miniature pieces of art, always 2.5 x 3.5", but can be created of virtually any material, and they are typically swapped with other artists. They're a great way to show off your work and share new techniques with like-minded individuals.
In other news, I am struggling mightily these days with time management issues. I want to do so much, but there are only so many hours in the day, so every day, every week, I end up feeling stressed and frazzled. I really need to re-order my priorities and eliminate the things that just fall way at the bottom of the list (housework perhaps? I'd eliminate sleep if I didn't require so much of it!) - I am just so bad at figuring out what is most important when it ALL seems important. AAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaahhhh.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Illustration Friday- Play

I love to incorporate play into my work; in fact, I think that play is an essential part of being a creative person, whether it's playing with techniques, or just maintaining a playful attitude. I actually made this shadow box a couple of years ago, and it sits on a ledge outside of my office, to remind my co-workers of my mantra. It was made with acrylic paints, old news clippings and old game pieces.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Studio Friday- desert island

...if I was stranded on a desert island, what 3 art studio supplies would I bring with me?

This was like the Sophie's choice of art supplies - which beloved items can I leave behind and live without?? As you'll see from the photo, I chose my paintbrushes, watercolors, and colored pencils to accompany me to paradise. My logic was that I could paint or color on native items, or somehow manage to make paper out of the elements I found there. Watercolors would be very good on an island -surrounded by water- but I forgot my pencil sharpener, so hopefully I'd meet some friendly natives with sharp tools. This really was very difficult. I wanted to bring many, many other items - rubber stamps, ink pads, acrylic paints, decorative and watercolor papers, collage materials and other ephemera, to name a few!!!

...but I have often found that when I limit the number of items I allow myself to create with, I become very creative with what I have, so I'm sure I'd be able to make art without all of the stuff in my studio - but I should not have admitted that in writing!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Inspire me Thursday... on Tuesday

I've never participated in this before, but wanted to give it a try. I'm a graphic artist by day, so I chose to do a digital collage since that format lends itself well to black & white. This is just a fun little circus collage. I used a free online translation program to translate the french headlines, so they may be somewhat incorrect, but everything sounds better in french.

Note for those who've been following my blog: (especially Debbie)... Mozilla conquers Explorer... I downloaded the Mozilla browser this morning and like magic, no more photo posting problems, so hopefully, I'll be blogging more regularly again.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Artist's date last Friday...

Finally, I am able to post a picture!! I do not know what the problem is/was, and at this moment, I don't care! I am still unable to post the two pictures that accompany my Studio Friday blog, but I will do it eventually because the my mom's stick people are not to be missed!
This is the mixed media collage that I created on Friday, at my friend Debbie's house, during our kinda-monthly artist's date. It's my second attempt at Misty Mawn's background and collage techniques, as published in the spring-summer edition of Cloth Paper Scissors. My first attempt was very colorful, but more harsh, and lacked the number of layers that make Misty's pieces so rich and engaging. This is an improvement, but I still have to work on technique. I cannot exclaim enough how satisfying it is to create all of these subtle layers and watch what emerges.