Sunday, December 30, 2012

Post #38 for 2012! Sneak Peek...

At the beginning of December, I told you my goal was to blog at least 5 times this month.  Well then I saw that my blog posts from 2011 added up to 37, so in my head, I changed that goal to 8 times, and today marks my 38th post of 2012.  A record number of annual posts since starting this blog!

I wanted to share with you a sneak peek of what I'm hoping to work on a lot in 2013.  This is the beginning of a children's book idea I've had for a long while.  Finally just this week, I had the mental space and time to put the concept to the test.  The story will star these two characters, Martin (age 8) and his little sister Hannah (age 5 going on 6). The first image is my sketches of them, and the second image is of the same characters collaged (with finer details yet to be added):
I was inspired by two things to move forward on this project: my friend in art, Franklin, said when I mentioned my idea to him, that kids would really like the collage component, since much of kids' first works of art are collage!  Also, another Fort Collins artist, Gale Whitman,  recently illustrated (and published!) a story by a local author, and I've seen her original paintings.  They are all hung up in her studio, each one a complete work of art in itself. She says it was a ton ton ton of work, but she just took it one illustration at a time.  And so, that is what I'm telling myself.  Just one page at a time, Heather!
(Looking at this comparison makes me think Martin's feet in the collage version need to be made a little bigger.)
Thanks for your support and enthusiasm in this year 2012!  I'm looking forward to another great year of art and community in 2013.
Love to you,

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Christmas Card

Happy End of Year to you!  Here is the "reveal" of my handmade Christmas card this year. Earlier this year I was playing around with this "cut-and-fold" technique for these cards (scroll down to see them).  One of my "accidents" created a tree form, and voila! my idea was born! 

I had a friend over for an art date a couple weeks ago who marveled at the detail work, but this card was actually pretty straight-forward.  The card has just 4 pieces: the turquoise rectangle, the gray rectangle, the white tree and the red button.  The work was in individually cutting out the trees, and then sewing on the button. But, as I've said before, assembly-line production makes it efficient (if not boring).  

I made a little stencil so that making the trees would be as easy as possible.  The hardest part was erasing my pencil marks!  To save time and paper resources, I decided to keep it just a postcard style, so there is no folded part.  I wrote my messages on the back of the card.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another Advent II

You may remember back in October, I wrote about a new kind of advent calendar that I'd designed for some friends as a wedding gift, and yet I didn't have any photos!  Well today I finally get to show you what I made!

This advent calendar was made to be a functional, interactive, aesthetically pleasing art piece. Something I love about my friend Jenn is that she finds meaning in a lot of things: solstices/equinoxes, certain numbers, the moon phases, etc.  Besides just being something beautiful to hang in her and her new husband's home, the calendar is meant to count down to whatever they want it to count down to.  It was designed to rotate, so that whatever it is that the countdown is for should hang at the top.  For example: Jenn's birthday.  The calendar would be rotated so that Jenn's name reads the easiest, straight across the middle and from left to right.  Or, if a New Moon is just a week away and she wants to be deliberate about its advent.  Or, the fall equinox and their anniversary fall on the same day (coincidence? Nah!) and they want to celebrate.

As I was making it I had the song "Full Moonlight Dance" in my head the whole time.  It is a spiritual (pagan?) song that I learned in my childhood that can be sung in a round, something I do all the time whenever I'm with my family.  The song has been part of our repertoire for years.  I loved the idea of incorporating music into the art piece, so I painted the words of the song around the circle.  The music and words are pasted on the back of the calendar in case anyone wanted to know how it goes.

Other words: I thought of a word to represent what one might think of (or look forward to, in the spirit of a countdown) as each season turns.  Spring = growth, Summer = warmth, Fall = balance, Winter = light.  The names of the couple are painted in curves so that they turn into each other.  They're connected with two 'ands' so that neither one of them is first.  The couple is united by ands.  Additionally, words that come to mind when I think of what goes into marriage are written along the circle that forms the base of the trees.  You can't see them very well in this photo, but they include things like patience, friendship, and compassion.  Another thing is that if you look really close, you can see that the dictionary definitions of the words 'wedding' and 'love' are randomly highlighted (the base of the circle is painted on a dictionary page).  Finally, the word 'celebrate' is written in a swirl right in the middle, to remind the couple to celebrate themselves, the passing of time, and certain events, in an effort to ritualize simple things and create traditions for their officially new family of two. 

The number seven is a lucky number in many cultures, and it also happens to be the number of days in a week--perfect for an advent.  Jenn could tell you all the other inspiring things that come in the number seven (years ago, when our book club of six made the decision to allow one more person into the group, she outlined them all in an email to the rest of us).  So the little white rectangular papers are tucked into 7 holders, meant to be written on by one person for the other.  If they both want to countdown toward something, they can divide up the papers and each write a few, to alternate turns pulling a paper each day.

And yet, if they don't want to do the work of planning ahead to use the calendar part of it, they can just hang it up in whatever way inspires them to enjoy having on the wall.  :)

Finally, here is a view of the back.  This is how it is able to rotate on a single nail.

The piece was made on a piece of plywood, using acrylic paint.  The wood is the remnant of the hole that was cut to make the sink in my art room.  The metal piece on the back is something we found in the ducts/pipes area of the hardware store--I think it helps brace malleable ducting to the wall or to other ducts or something.  And my handy husband even found just the right rounded-top screws to secure the metal circle in place.

I was so proud of this piece and wish so much that you could see it in person.  I am proud of the idea, the artwork, the functionality, the personalization of it, and the depth of thought that went into it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Highlights-style Story Gift

I bought these cute felted animals at a garage sale last summer, brand new and still in their package.  Who knows what they were intended for, but I thought they were inspiring.

Did you read Highlights magazine as a kid? I did for many years (indeed, I still look forward to seeing it at the dentist's office!), and there is a regular feature in the magazine for young readers in which a short story is illustrated with tiny pictures of the nouns in the story.  When I saw these felted animals, I thought of a young person I know whose birthday was coming up, and I thought of those stories. Wouldn't it be great to have a story like that but also have tangible characters to act out the story too?

Here is my crack at the story, with help from friends at a present-wrapping party I attended last week. (Click on the image for the larger view.) 

It's so freakin' cute!!! I love how it turned out and i can't wait for it to be received.  I think I will make some of my own felt characters and make more of these for other young people, then sell them on Etsy!

Speaking of Etsy, I've just posted a bunch of new items on there!  Come on by for a look!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Another Advent I

I haven't had a chance yet to blog much about the new advent calendar I designed this fall, one that is easy to teach others how to make, and that I can sell for less because it is a lot less work!  This is the only one I have photos of because they've flown off the shelves as I've made them!  I made this one for my sister, who took these lovely photos of it.  And of course, she's halfway through it, as there are just 9 days left till Christmas.

I really let the beautiful paper do a lot of the work for me on these.  There is so much lovely paper in the world, why always cover it up?  I simply added all the words with acrylic paint, and glossed the whole thing up with gloss medium.

The double-sided paper works the best for sure, to make the back side of the doors aesthetically pleasing too.

The doors are secured down by little strips of vellum, on which I wrote the days' numbers.

The insides of this one have sized-down photos that I printed on label paper of me and my sister and our family or other visuals of happy memories (one of her fine food photos from my Summer Soiree three years ago, for example).  She and my mom are together this week, and my mom opened a door that turned out to be of her!  Other calendars have had simple Christmas-related drawings, the great stand-by of Christmas jokes, and thanks to my friend Haley, 24 simple ways to celebrate the season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Design Wonders

Here's a photo of what I made in the art room today.  Haha, right!  No no, this is a photo of a church/cathedral/mosque/museum called Hagia Sophia that I recently discovered in a 3-inch thick art history book borrowed from the library.  The church is located in Istanbul.  I can't get the architecture out of my mind, and it certainly wasn't completed in a day. It took years and probably a thousand craftsmen to make this thing, back in the 500s (Byzantine era--are you impressed?).  It's HUGE.  Look it up on the internet! Here is what fascinates me most--the pendentive:

Hagia Sophia is the first known example of this type of construction, which was a big technological advancement from previous church architecture. The dome, which is circular, is built on this base, which converts the weight of the dome onto the four corners, which coincidentally creates a square shape.  Then, other walls or other half domes can be built under the arches and don't have to hold any of the dome weight. 

If you don't know this yet, I'll be taking an art history class starting in January, and so I'm preparing myself by studying a little now.  So far, this is my fave thing that I've seen.

Here is all I can show you of my day's work in actuality: failed Christmas card designs. These either didn't work the way I imagined them, or were just too plain boring and not cute.  Well the bottom left one is not bad in regards to cuteness, but I'm still bored. I did finally come up with a design I love, which I of course am not showing here--that would ruin the surprise! 

The other stuff I worked on today is part of Santa's elves' workshop.  You'll see photos in January!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weekend Projects

Hooley is for sure a project.  He is actually a pretty good dog, and yet we all are adjusting.  Getting new routines down, learning rules, forming rules, and figuring out what a dog even needs!  Since dog beds at the pet store cost something ridiculous like $60 and up, we thought we'd go ahead and skip that. So I made him one today, for half that!  You can see how thrilled he is:

Ha ha. Actually, he just hasn't woken up long enough for me to whisk our deck chair cushion out from under him.  This was a neat project.  Pretty simple & quick in the end, but something I've never done before, and on such a big scale!  In actuality, it is really just a large pillow case with a funny-shaped pillow inside (flat and with edges).  I made a little tag in the corner with some of the extra fabric so that he could chew on it if he is inspired.

Other weekend projects: an apron to finish off my order for my Portland friend (on its way tomorrow, Vanessa!) and a series of cards that was kind of like this one.  The others were all even cuter than this one, but I mailed them off before I got them memorialized in my camera.

The paper did all the work for me, it is so lovely!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Butterfly & Dog

A few years ago, I went to the desert of Utah in late November.  The objective of the trip was to hike, canyoneer, see what it's like to camp in the winter and wear a wet suit in a wet/icy canyon, and maybe forge a few new friendships. On the first day, the group I was with decided to hike to the end of a canyon, most of which would be a hike, but there would be some ropes involved toward the end.

About halfway along the way, I realized that the group's values were a little different than mine.  They were maybe a little more fit, so they all walked fast, and they were keen on making it all the way to the end.  They also knew each other well, so conversation with me was that "getting to know you" type small talk, not that deep or meaningful yet.  Eventually, I was bringing up the rear, with a large distance between me and the rest of them.  At one point, I wanted a short break, so I stopped and the group carried on without me.  I was feeling pretty alone and sorry for myself.  But then, out of nowhere, a Monarch butterfly appeared, and landed on a rock right in front of me. Remember, this was the desert in the winter.  Living things were not in great abundance, especially things that were not plants.

This butterfly made me feel a lot better. I felt like it was a reminder from the universe that I wasn't alone after all. It was exactly what I needed to stand up and carry on after the group, although the rest of the day was spent mostly with myself.  Ever since then, I've had the image in my head, and I've wanted to paint that butterfly.  Above is my first ever attempt.

Here is an action shot of me putting the finishing touches on it!  Besides the back story, there is more to this project than what you can see.  My friend Marilee, who wouldn't call herself an artist, was recently inspired to paint.  One day she just went to the store and bought oil paints and canvasses, and declared one summer afternoon an art day. She invited some people over and of course, I went.  Not only did I see this as a good opportunity to spend time with my friend (who incidentally, was on that trip a few years ago--a friendship that has definitely flourished), but to try out a medium I've had no success with in the past: oil paints.  What a great chance!  Over the course of three art dates, Marilee and I each made a painting.  I learned lots about brush strokes, the shape of a butterfly, paint layers, and how little I know about how to paint!  Nevertheless, I feel very satisfied with the final outcome and I think there's a chance I might try this painting again, once I learn some more.

Go back up to the top photo and have a second look (click on it for a better view).  My favorite part of the painting: paw prints from Marilee's cat as it was drying after our second layer of paint, down the left side!  Hooray for texture!

Speaking of paws, we now own a dog.  This is Hooley.  He is 3½ and we got him Monday from a local shelter.  Those of you who know me well know that this is a HUGE deal and adjustment.  Indeed, today's art day has proven to be distracted, but so far, that is ok. He is calm and doesn't bark and is pretty sweet.