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Colours For Cameron, 24L x 8H x 6D inches, mixed media on quilted muslin over cardboard pages
“Colours For Cameron” (Canadian spelling!) is composed over five deconstructed heavy-duty cardboard children’s books bought at a dollar store. The Monte head-templates were covered with inexpensive everyday items, so I splurged on unique notions like the $10 monkey button sewn on the ‘Brown’ page, and the cute little cars and tractors that Cameron loves. Some of the fabrics were fairly expensive, but there are enough remnants to make other similar-style projects in the future.
Each page is a quilted muslin sleeve pulled over the cardboard, and colored fabrics divide each page at the base, where they are all sewn and glued together. Rubber letters were covered with various fabrics, and each page has stuffed colored pockets on the outer edge, inviting chubby little fingers to open them..
Monte rocks! Who is he?
“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
Oak Leaf bedside tables, 24H x 12D with a 20 inch glass top, crinkled brown craft paper over heavy cardboard tubes. The tubes are available in a variety of dimensions, sold in hardware stores as use for cement-pouring re: fence building.
I’ve had this idea to make bedside tables for a few years now, and selling the house has motivated me to finally make them. I have not been able to find any in the stores that I like. Faux suede effects were the intention here, but whether or not that was successful, I’m pleased with the results. A brown circular woven mat was purchased for $2, finishing the look.
These bedside tables coordinate the oak leaves on the oak headboard that was carved and given to us by my Dad.
Zen Garden 10, 40 x 60 x 3 inches mixed media on canvas.
The final stages of paintings are often finished as they hang on a wall. As seen in a realistic room setting, it will be easier to spot a clearer path for the eyes to follow and make the composition more interesting. Some colors need to be re-enhanced to add more depth and definition. The texture continues around all 3″D edges. All paintings in the Zen garden series are wired to hang in any of 4 orientations; vertically or horizontally. Below: details of left central portion as seen in the above .
Zen Garden 09 work in progress, 48 x 21 x 2 inches Mixed Media on canvas
The perfect painting in a room can elevate the atmosphere of the whole floor, and sets the tone for showing off the entire house. With selling the house in mind, I’m trying to choose a decent painting for our living room, but the only one that really looked good there was Zen Garden #2. It sold, so I decided it’s worthwhile to make two more for the series - even though painting walls is the order of the day.
Zen Garden 10 outline, 40 x 60 x 3 inches Mixed Media on canvas
Painting is always meditative, but I find it especially so when creating pieces in the Zen Garden series. This kind of work does not present the same kind of emotional concentration or intellectual challenges that other paintings do. There are few struggles and hardly any decisions to make, except to find cooperative materials. Once the outline is accomplished it’s pretty straightforward compared to other forms of painting. The outstanding difference is that each stage in these 3D paintings requires time and patience to allow areas to dry before proceeding. The Zen Gardens can be drying in stages while other work gets done too, and the multi-tasker in me is quite happy to be accomplishing many things at once!
Art supplies are expensive. Most will last long enough to justify purchases, and much of the time you get what you pay for, but some items are ridiculously overpriced. Keeping material costs down is essential so they aren’t reflected in the final price, but quality should never be compromised. Still, there are ways to get around any dilemma, and there are alternatives for everything.
When I started the Zen Garden series ten years ago using modeling paste and textured gels, jars were about $15 for 250 ml. Since then I’ve experimented with various unusual materials, and shopped everywhere to compare prices. It’s still more economical to purchase brand-name products in larger quantities – if you can find them. There are some fun mediums available now too, like gel with tiny glass beads in it. Prices for art supplies do not seem to waver over time in either Canada or the U.S., so I reserve the brand-name mediums to sculpt the rocks and highest quality paints do the finishing touches. Here I’ll share a few of the trade secrets I’ve discovered over the years, and you can create your own Zen garden painting.
As a base for the raked sand mixture, it’s worth purchasing a large 2 gallon (7.58 L) pail of textured paint. I purchased Behrs at Home Depot in Canada, and it looks like Ralph Loren has the market cornered in the States. Watered-down drywall plaster can be used also, but I recommend attention to how heavy the piece may be when it’s finished. Mix in copious quantities of white glue, large containers of white or light-colored acrylic craft paints, and anything water-based that will extend the liquid mixture and bind well with the dry ingredients. Sand, even popcorn kernals and/or rice can be added for texture. Other objects can be incorporated too…just use your imagination. For example, and this is my most valuable secret, unscented kitty litter from the dollar store, the non-absorbant kind, looks exactly like tiny stones and is light in weight.
Zen Garden 09 details: applying mixture with a knife, sculpting rows
The mixture can be put in a ziplock bag with one corner cut out, but I discovered that it’s more efficient – however messy – to spread small portions out onto the surface with a knife and hand-mold it. Keep a wet cloth handy to wipe your hands and the utensil often.
Drywall plaster makes nice-looking rocks, plus it cracks well for a parched-earth look, use sparingly because of added weight. Wood filler is a lighter alternative, much less expensive than professional brand gels and mediums. Modeling pastes do not lend well to sanding or carving when dry, but wood filler can be sanded and re-shaped. Also, if it dries out completely, chop it up, add water then seal the container for a day or so. This is where you can experiment with whatever helps acheive 3D effects. Art, craft, hardware, department stores and dollar stores carry generic brand basics, so it’s worth researching and shopping around.
When it’s all dry, rocks and other details are outlined and painted with pure colors, then all covered with a coat of primer. The colors are all reapplied to further enhance rocks, then brushed white, skimming across the entire surface. This process is repeated until you are pleased with the results by a final coat of white with remnants of the layers of colors poking through underneath. As far as acrylic paints, you do get what you pay for, but price differences are mostly due to pigment quality and viscosity, which, until final stages is not really an issue. Inexpensive acrylic craft paints are perfect as a filler (only).
Zen Garden #10 (above and left) is already quite heavy, so about 1/4 of it will be painted rocks, keeping the sand patterns to a minimum. There is enough mixture that could dry out if it’s not used right away, plus it’s great to make multiples while all the mess, materials and utensils and are out, so I’m doing two simultaneously. There may even be enough for 3!
The neccessity of work, especially if it’s at home, seems less like a chore if you dangle some kind of carrot for yourself every day. Sometimes having too much to do is more exhillerating than exhausting. Each day, though work as an artist can be considered by others as play, the energy, motivation and circumstances are unpredictable.. It takes self-discipline to find a way to go with the flow and still get work done. The good thing about this occupation is that it is flexible in every way. The creative compulsion seeps into every other activity, and there is almost no way to not add a little something extra.
“This could be your last chance, Sweets. I’m moving on up to Oregon.”
That’s right, me and all the skeletons in my closet are moving to Oregon, so the painting now is all about walls. I’ve bought a small 4 x 6 sketchbook, hoping to sneak in some time to do a few thumbnail drawings of my travels this year.
The past six months: starting with driving up to Madison, Wisconsin at the end of April to set up the Dancing With Trees Exhibition, after the show opening, it was back to Dallas then shortly afterward to Singapore for 3 weeks (amazing!). Two days after returning from Singapore I drove up to Ottawa, Ontario. At the end of June, the drive back down through Michegan.to meet my internet artist-friend, Virginia Wieringa (triple amazing!) then across to Wisconsin to pick up the DWT show, then down through Chicago to drop off Morning Light 01, through the U.S. midwest back to Dallas.
Two weeks later I drove up through OK and North Dakota into Saskatchewan,. then into Alberta. I took so many photos (that still need sorting) on the drive across Canada through the prairies two weeks later, and the Great Lakes region back to Ontario, where I stayed for another 2 weeks. Back down to Dallas! During September we found out that my husband is transferred to Portland, OR for work. So here we go again. The first week of October we both drove west in separate cars, across the Continental Divide, the red rocks and incredible geography in Utah, finally reaching our future home just outside of the Columbia River Gorge, and on the other side: the Pacific Ocean shores and the Sequoia and Redwood forests. I drove back to Dallas with a truck and trailer to refill, and will make the trip across only one more time before winter – hopefully the weather holds up. I’m excited to get to work again after the move..
“Oh well, maybe she still needs more time… guess I’ll jus’ hang around here for a while.”
…well, just a twist of waxed paper actually. The leaf-shaped cookie dough was laid gently over twisted pieces of waxed paper. After the cookies baked and cooled the waxed paper was removed, so they’re a little more interesting than flat cookies. The Sugar Cookies recipe is the same as used for Culture Cookies. Browse down to the end of the article, then go back and read the article while you’re munching on the cookies you bake.
Norway Maple in Madison, Wisconsin, 36 x 48 x 2 inches acrylics and modeling gel on canvas, gallery wrapped sides painted, narrow frame, finished April 9th
March 9th: Subtle changes since last post…have been working more on tones in the background, which weren’t planned initially; I had hoped to use only pure colors without the usual layering, but it’s otherwise too hard to look at. Also am connecting a few shapes horizontally, and it’s almost “there”, but 2D Pinecone was started in the meantime to avoid overworking this.
Cycad Fossil Chair, Salish NW Pacific culture wooden whorl replica Chair, and Ancient Mayan bowl replica refurbished vintage chair, 29 x 29 x 29 inches mixed media. Read the feature article.
On exhibit and available for purchase February 11th – 27th at Visual Image Fine Art Puiblishing and Gallery Juried Show, 14320 Midway Road, Suite 300, Dallas, Texas. Come and meet all the Artists at the Opening Reception this coming Saturday, Feb. 13th, 3 – 9 p.m.
Good Artist Pals also come in threes
Some friendships will last forever, and how fortunate that three of mine also happen to be artists! Listed in no particular order of favoritism, each are miles apart geographically speaking and personality-wise, but they all have one thing in common: they’ll tell it like it is if you ever need a good critique, and on the flip side of the coin: a smile, a boost of energy; encouragement. I’ve posted my favorite works created by each, and highly recommend browsing each of their websites..
a) Chris Bolmeier: Happy Pigs, Oil on canvas I met Chris on the internet three years ago through Robert Genn’s Painter’s Keys newsletters. Formerly an actress and professional singer, she’s not through yet with entertaining you through humour, song and paint. She often posts mini-videos of herself singing, and her artwork is pure, straight from the gut, and some of the funniest, most original material ever. I chose this piece to share as an absolute favorite, portraying fanatically goofy pigs because it makes me laugh…not just smile, but laugh Christerically every time I look at it. In my opinion her best work is of childhood memories, and some of the baffling stuff that originates from who knows where in the infinite canvas of her mind!
b) Karen Xarchos: Restaurant mural in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Karen and I were neighbors many years ago. We designed and painted murals together in the Ottawa area for a couple of years. Thank goodness for the internet, we’re able to keep in touch when either of us needs a good eye and some honest advice. Karen’s style and mine are vastly different; our pace, the style, the manner and we continue to learn so much from each other. She reminds me to slow down and smell the paint; her blending techniques are amazing.
Karen accepts commissions for canvas pieces like wall borders painted at home, then cleverly installs them with wallpaper paste so home owners can remove the work and take it with them when they relocate. My favorite work of Karen’s are the murals depicting work of the Masters, which are enjoyed by customers dining in many of the Greek and Italian restaurants in the Ottawa area.
c) Virginia Wieringa: Prayer, mixed media collage Virginia and I met about four years ago on an Artists’ interactive website, wetcanvas.com, and I think she still participates there under the avatar name ”Veedubya”. I’m positive she’d love to meet you there too. Virginia has well-developed drawing and painting abilities and currently experiments intuitively with mixed media collage. Her work, no matter what the media, reflects her open-mindedness and strong sense of spirituality. Formerly an Art teacher, she’s fun to write to because she puts up with my inner-most silly self and doesn’t hold back her own. My favorite work of Virginia’s are the subtly symbolic collages, and some of the more vivid, energetic paintings that are about two phases pre-Realism.
In honor of my French Canadian mother-in-law who used to bake the best pies every year at Christmas time, and who is now in the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s, I decided to bake Tourtiere. I only tried making crust once before, but it was more like an edible jigsaw puzzle. TV ads for brand-name shortening imply that flaky crust is a good thing, but it should probably stay on your fork long enough to reach your mouth. Making pie crust is not for sissies! Well, don’t despair my fellow bakers…as long as it ends up tasting good (using a tablespoon to get the job done) it’s the thought that truly counts.« Previous Entries