Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wood carving gets under way

I had planned on trying wine cork carving too, but I found some small blocks of cedar from a carpentry project I hired done a while back, in the course of tracking down my tools.  That "hired done" weird construction is, I now realize, exactly like the Greek middle voice.  In classical Greek there's active, passive and middle, in case you were anxious to know this. No? oh well, moving on..

I wasn't able to lay hands on the penknife I'd hoped for, in Handsome Son's "longterm storage" his term, translation: can't find it.  He lent me a couple of small tools instead, and that reminded me that I had a set of them myself.  

I unearthed a cigar box full of useful tools, xacto handles, blades, gouges, and my old engraver, and my beloved old ballpeen hammer.  And some emery boards, just the ticket for sanding in very narrow areas, no need for emery paper.

This wasn't an attempt at an artwork, just practice in carving and a bit of gouging, and some lovely hitting with the hammer.  Very satisfying.  My hands aren't up to doing this for long, but I was happy with what I'd learned anyway.  Corks will be easier, but now I have embarked on this.

Long time since I did any carving, and the old memories came back of how to do it and what might work, and what definitely won't. And just messing about with no particular goal for the piece is a good thing to do.  As you see, I didn't draw a design first or anything like that.  I rarely do, preferring the alla prima approach, posh term meaning you let the materials tell you what to do, instead of telling them what you plan.

Listened to an ancient radio serial on YouTube, a Temple detective series, which would have been better if some of the episodes hadn't been missing, including the last ones!  Probably lost long ago by the BBC.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Loose ends before the new year, mine, that is

I just heard about the snow forecast for Houston, really unusual for them, and it reminded me that I knitted a lot of pieces for use by Warm Up America, which is also based in Texas.  Right, that's been on my mind.  Enough for a small afghan already knitted.  And still sitting in the studio, waiting to go.

So I looked them up here and found that they currently have a need for knitted pieces for Hurricane Harvey survivors.  No sooner said than did.  Found the package of knitted parts, wrapped, trip to PO and now it's on its way to Carrollton, Texas, where they tell me volunteers will assemble the parts into what's needed. Arriving Monday.  If you check on that link, there are other current needs you might want to think about, too.

And while I'm at loose ends, I'm actually the opposite of those people who have many wips at any one time, can't tolerate it for long, where was I, yes,  right next to the Warm Up bag was the first of yet another pair of Aunt Maggie's slippers, which I now realize, has a destination. The yarn is from Shepherd Susie's flock, spun and hand dyed, and knits up a treat. And it now has a deadline.

All this is a way of clearing out a bit before I embark on my winter pursuits.  And my personal new year. The fall pursuit, of the Chinese ink calligraphy, is now a modest skill in my repertoire, and enabled me to do a fleet of cards and envelopes and artists' books for friends for the season.  I  learned what I needed, and now I'm looking at other artforms.

Marbling, which I did, and taught, years ago, is a re emerging interest, and I invested in a set of suitable inks.  That will be useful for art, for images on all sorts of surfaces, including wood.

Which brings me to my next adventure, whittling.  I have done a small amount of this, when I was a miniaturist, creating cabriole legs from solid blogs of balsa wood, for furniture.  But I fancy collecting fallen wild cherry branches from around here, seasoned and dry, and use them for carving with an xacto blade.  And possibly marbling, we'll see.  Always fancied carving myself a spoon, for some reason.  Or other useful objects. I'm aware that cherry is a tricky wood wrt food, though, cyanide, you know. It's why you don't give it to little birds for perches.  Some other wood probably better for a spoon.

But first I have to study a couple of books written for kids, on wood carving and whittling.  I always go first to kids' texts, because they take nothing for granted, and with an adult learner what you take for granted is often what does you in.

So here's to a good winter of content and making stuff. I should stop and give a shoutout to  Cathy Cawley, long gone on her adventures, and not now in touch, a wonderful person I used to work with.  She always liked to have a project for the summer, and I've taken on that great notion. I wonder if she still does it?  If not, she can consider it safely delegated.

Speaking of seasons, I was nabbed to be a presenter at next March's Maker's Day at the library where I had my artist books.  They're hoping for an artist book make and take, so I'll see what's easy enough for all ages, and doable in one session.  I can think back to my Artist in Residence stint last spring, where I did a different artist book every week, and see what went down well.

It's all go around here, even when I mean to just sit with my hands folded.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

oil sticks and leather bits

So the Shiva oil sticks arrived, and I had a shot at playing with them, using the leather/ette scraps from Judy, which I'd squared up a bit, thinking future little key tags or scissor tags, or phone purses, or book covers or something.

The oil sticks are a cool invention, self sealing, so  they develop a waxy skin between uses, and never dry out.  The hitch is that the skin when you first get them is pretty resistant to being rubbed or scraped off, but I did manage it.  Not as neatly as the man did on YouTube, but okay. 

I got metallics, gold, copper, blue and green with a purple that might or might not  be saturated enough. And I tried a playtime with bits of leather, just experimenting.  

The black, on the suede side, is by far the best background, no surprise there.  And I wonder if acrylic is at least as good as oilstick on this surface. Might be.  Tried a bit on watercolor paper, but not worth continuing.  Wood might be good, though.  What shows here as a kind of red is copper in rl. And the iridescence doesn't come though on pix.

I also found I'm a little bit allergic to the outgassing.  Sniffing and coughing and generally a bit sensitive, so that's an issue you might want to be aware of.  On the other hand, I am sensitive to simple white glue, too, so there's that.

Nice bit of fun here. When the paint is totally dry, I'll see what I might make with the decorated bits. This is more a decorative than a fine art kind of adventure, like decorating fabric.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Plainsboro Artist meeting

Regular meeting of the Plainsboro Artists group, large turnout last night, and a lot of art shown.  

Just a few glances here. Many more artworks in progress shown, in media ranging from modeling, to printmaking, to encaustic, to abstraction, to watercolor, to ink drawing.

 For a small town, we really have a great reservoir of art talent.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Ceramic exhibit, J. Marion Simmons, Plainsboro Library Gallery

Reception today for ceramic artist J. Marion Simmons, a great technician in the art of ceramics, and in explaining it to the group. She's a member of the Plainsboro Artist Group, but this was a chance to see her work in much more depth than at the meetings. 

The artworks ranged from low to high relief monochrome wall pieces, freestanding large egg shapes with intriguing glazes, and  brightly colored glazed works.  Some are portraits from life, some refer to early art.  A real tour de force of what the ceramic artist can do.

Here's the artist talking about her art and approaches

And artist Art Lee caught in the act of photographing her in front of the outer wall of the gallery

Here she's discussing this beautiful egg-shaped piece and explaining the processes on the way to this result

And here are some of her other works

This is only a sampling, my own faves, but there are many more in
this satisfying exhibit. It will be up till late November, so if you're local, do go.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

We're Open! Exhibit all up and waiting for visitors and feedback!

This morning, I organized the artist book display in the glass case in the lobby of West Windsor Library, NJ, do visit if you're local. Anyone who wants to meet me there and get a personal artchat let me know.  I offered to do one for the library staff, and we'll see if they take me up.  It will be there for the month of November 2017.

Anyway, with the help of library employee Mrinanini, who opened the case, cautioned me about the sheer weight of the glass top, and closed it safely again once set up, here's the process.

At home, the crate of goods.  

Smallest amount of material I ever had to take out to show.  And even then one large book didn't make it into the show.

Here's the case, which I windexed, though it was clean, and lined with a piece of figured fabric to soften the base a bit.  Fabric a gift of a stitcher, by the way.  Thank you Ginny. Then I fiddled about for ages deciding on placement, how to make it visible, interesting, coherent.  And finally decided it was Done.  Otherwise I'd be there still, not quite content.  Usual situation.

So here are views of the open case 

And the closed case, ready for its closeup.
 Do come!  Most of the display is for sale, including all the handmade paper books.  The portfolios are there for ideas, rather than sale, since they contain years of my paintings and drawings.  Likewise the accordion books.

As always a lot of people were involved in this project.  Mrinanini at the sharp end, helping me safely navigate the case, and securing it again, Girija who gave me her red onionskins, Gary donated flowers, Helen more flowers, Ginny gave me the fabric I used as a base, Liane who long ago gave me the book of mulberry paper from which I created a lot of the drawings in here. And endlessly encouraging Jody, who creates poems for me as part of her support.  Art is a cooperative work in progress!

Now to kick back a bit!  but I have a lot of other ideas, not book related,  that now have room to this space.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Artist book, junior division

Just came across this crayon artwork, created by Handsome Son, aged about eight.  He used to make a lot of artwork at home, just his own ideas, nothing to do with school.  And this is a form of book -- note the faux spine drawn down the back.

Back view

Front view

Better grasp of perspective than many adults I've taught, and good color balance, too.  All in all, a mom gives it a thumbs up!  Just thought you'd like to see it.   I had never talked with him about artist books, anything like that.  This is just what he fancied doing, and there's a narrative behind it which I don't know, since he also did long serial comics about various toys doing various adventures, and this is probably part of one of them.

Just a little tangent off the usual mad dash of this blog.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

More adventures with donated materials

Today's practice used some lovely grey card stock, or heavy paper, between the two, donated by Kate H., and the pens donated by Judy T.  Between them they created a great combo of materials to use.

These are sized for greeting cards, and I have envelopes, not matching, just appealing Kraft ones, on the way.  I may yet get back into my mailbag.  Look out!

Anyway, I tried some faintly remembered Chinese strokes from years ago, three strokes, a Buddha's eye in there, thrown ink for the effect of blowing leaves or petals.  All different.  Newly ground ink, nice and dark, and I used all three pens.  All at different angles, different pressures.  I really love the line and shape that result.

This is the kind of thing you keep doing, like weaving stars or something.  And blogistas may see more of these at some point. 

They can also be the covers for small notebooks.  Stitched.  Hm. Must get onto that.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ink practice

Today's hour was about process and experience, rather than output.  Though in fact I did get a couple of bits of work that I can go on and use elsewhere, but that's a bonus.  The picture is just a fraction of my practice sheets for today.

I ground my ink, and tried all four pens, and several brushes, in turns, on rice paper, tracing paper, very nice glassy surface that, and newsprint.  Just to get practice in how all the tools feel and work in my hand.  I'm getting bolder with the pens now that I have a feel for how they flex.  And it's good to swop out with brushes, just change the pressure as practice in being sensitive to the tools. Interesting that the more delicate lines and shapes are done with the pens, not with the brushes.

And, whatever I do, honesty keeps breaking through, this is all a bit of displacement activity.  I got a note this morning asking me to set up the book exhibit Wednesday of next week. I was think there were weeks more before November,but noooo.  So now I have to do the bit I don't like at all, labeling, planning, writing a blurb. 
Interesting how my ink practice was better when it was an escape from something else..this fits in with that Messy book I was talking about

where sometimes good stuff comes when you're supposed to be doing something else.  I can definitely attest to that.

I wonder if Tolstoy was supposed to be painting baseboards when he was writing War and Peace. Or if George Eliot was supposed to be pruning the roses when Middlemarch happened.. always like to put myself in good company.  And I'll bet Leonardo was thinking about a new traction engine design while he was painting The Virgin of the Rocks.  

Art is not about planning and executing and concentrating on One Thing Till It's Done.  Hard for beginners to accept, really, since the virtue of hard work is instilled in us at an early age, and it doesn't always apply in this context.

On the subject of Messy, he does make some good points, rather drowned in a sea of detail about workplaces, one of them being that it's good to be in a situation, or to find a situation, in which you come across unexpected ideas or objects.  Your mind tends to carom off them into great new work. 

Long ago, friend Stefi and I wanted to see if we could make a couple of gadgets we had work together to make art. I had the Gocco printer, she had a thing that if I remember correctly, transformed slides into something else.  

Anyway, we never did solve that question, but in the course of trying, came up with a couple of years' worth of really good collaborative art as Unified Field.  Got into some very good juried venues, exhibited together, sold pieces, generally did very well, without having actually planned any of it.  We developed a terrific, and very unusual, art partnership.  Very different artists, but the work Unified did was different from either of us.  Very mystical, really.   Nobody directed the other, we just decided on what materials, and went from there.  All done by intuition.

After a few years we were ready to move on with our own work, which had been going on all along, but we both needed to give it more attention, and we were both teaching, so Unified became a nice bit of history.  Tim Harford would probably say told ya!

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Divine Miss J does it again

Another exciting parcel from my New England friend Judy T., and here's the latest, all sorts of goodies related to rug making, also some suede and leatherette fabric, which will definitely have a use chez Boud, and in a lovely tin, too.  Two jewelry pieces intended for presenting to Handsome Son, who's always making stuff.

Not wasting a moment, after she advised me that some of these items, not shown here, see below, were calligraphy pens, and where to see more info about them, I got right into grinding more ink, to do more play with pens. 

These are brass pens, in four sizes, and I tried them all, to see how flexible the nibs are, how to hold them, how to lean in on them and so on.  They're like the posh version of carpenter's pencils, in a way, in that there's a wide flat face and corners you can use.  The reservoir behind the nibs holds a surprising amount of ink, considering how big a stroke you make with it.  They're a lot easier to clean than brushes, as an aside.

Then I went on to try an actual image

There are many flaws in this, just showing you a bit of playtime.  I went from knowing zero about what these even were, this morning, before the mail came, to playing with them in a very short time.  I love this!  I know more than I knew this morning.  This is why I keep getting up each day..

More will happen with this new set of toys.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Positively the final stage for the silk book and the exhibit selection

So finally, I think the last book I'm doing for the nonce is finally done.  After the pix I showed you recently, I added in the beading I'd been thinking about, an Indian necklace.  

And liked it a lot for about three seconds.  Then realized the color balance was all off. Shape fine, color too heavy. And went back and painted the beads with a metallic gold.  

And liked it a lot better.

In rl, not seen so well in pix, the gold has echoes all over the place in this piece. And the texture works nicely, the heavier beading sort of holding down the flyaway perception of the cover. There are some threads coming out of the edge of the cover, the way silk wants to, a bit rebellious.  The shape of the beaded necklace also offsets the masses of curves and anchors them.

Pleased with this.  It's got hand dyeing, using various colorings including natural ones I made, drawing with a needle, stitching, beading, papermaking, who knows what else.  A lot of fun enclosed in this little artwork.

I'm now thinking I should name the books, since they are artworks, based on the concept of the book.  And literal books do have titles anyway.  So I'll think about that before I have to make labels.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Beaded, dyed silk posh book, iris pages

I guess this book is pretty much high end.  It's silk I dyed and beaded, with iris pages.  Currently the pages and cover are under pressure to dry the glue holding the spine edges together, and there will be a bit more stitching and maybe beaded, at the spine after that. Meanwhile just wanted you to see a work in progress. 

Front cover

Back cover

The clips on the far side are holding the spine together, but will be gone once the adhering and more stitching is done. Here you can see the pages in place.

The new iron is doing okay, managed to adhere the stiffening stuff without melting anything, a real concern with a new iron in contact with stuff such as silk and beads.  Though glass, they're tiny, and might just collapse under heat and pressure.  Like the artist, in fact.  But all was well.

Thanks to all the lovely blogistas who have been in touch lately with encouraging words, and cards and tokens of friendship.  Can't tell you how much it means. Especially you, Asha.  And do get your own blog up and running again.  When you do, I'll give you a shout out in here, with a link.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

StItched and beaded pages in progress

Showed some stitcher friends a couple of artists' books at a meeting last night, and while I was doing that, I realized that the beaded, dyed silk things I've been working on at stitch ins were actually pages-to-be for another artist book I've had in mind, with fabric pages and covers.

I plan to incorporate various stitchings, dyed silk, dyed cotton, and interesting items like that into it.  So, pausing only to order and await a new iron since my 25 year old one up and died this week, today I've been ironing that stiffening stuff, name escapes me, onto a couple of silk pieces.

Here you see a few of the items I've been assembling.  If you see a bit on the left of the top one, of a stitched fish, I can not claim that as my work, it's by dogonart, my sister Irene, and has been used in various incarnations for years.  Now on the side of a bag, now on the back of a jacket, and possibly has a future in a book!  I have several of her small artworks, the Canadian doll, a little pursy thing, other dolls, artist trading cards, all carefully out where I can see them.

The black stitching is of a line drawing I made in ink on mulberry, of a tiny weed I saw at the labyrinth.  The drawing is small, but is still several times lifesize.  Then I stitched it, using the drawing just as a guide, but still freehand.  Stitching, after all, is drawing with a needle.

The larger piece is a monotype, in silver ink, of a half cabbage (!),  and printed on a dyed cotton square then stitched.  The interior of a cabbage looks very much like the branching form of a tree, which is what it became in the stitching.

And on the back of the black and white stitched piece, the trail of white glue, making an accidental art piece in itself. 

But now it's brayered down onto the backing, a piece of stamped and dyed cotton.  This is likely to be a book cover.   If I can find the original line drawing, I'll include it in the book.  Note to self: rent backhoe to excavate moraine of old drawings.

One of my stitcher friends asked where I get all these ideas, and I vaguely said, oh they're in here somewhere.  But really that's not a good answer.  Every artwork you make opens the door to the next, and if you keep on opening doors, the supply of ideas is just about infinite.  But you have to open the doors!  I can show you where they are, as I do a lot in this blog, but still, you're the Opener in Chief for your own art. I've been opening doors for well over 70 years, so ideas are available all over the place.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Chinese calligraphy goes on, tiny steps

So today was a good time for an hour's calligraphy practice.  I found another really good guide, which I have out from the libe as an ebook, and once again my policy of looking for books for kids proves useful.

This is Chinese Brush Painting by  Caroline Self.  Really written for children, it's just about at the level I need right now.  I'm not selling this book, just mentioning it. Very approachable, with cultural and historical info woven in, and an approach that really brings you along.  My other book is fine, but I need to work a bit before I get into it further.

So, Self is not too rigid about what brushes, ink, and so on, and I find that my Western brushes are actually not so bad after all.  And she encourages beginners to mix a series of shades of the grayscale.

She says eight, but I thought, hm, three will about do it for me right now.  Especially since I'm grinding the ink, not pouring from a bottle. I really like the grinding, to get into the frame of mind for the brushwork.  But it's labor intensive to make more than a small amount.

And she recommends three containers of water, for brush cleaning. So I made my setup, ink: blackest in the stone, less black in one saucer, even less black in the other.  This is really a color range, since brush painting, and calligraphy, are not all one solid color of black.  And I set up my water, clean, inkier, inkiest.

Duncan liked the setup pretty well, sampling all the waters in turn, just checking.

And today I worked on several shapes, which turn out to be useful to write the word for eternity.  Several pages of tries. Now I'm not sure if the writer was being ironic, but in my case, yes, it could take an eternity to get this word looking like anything a Chinese reader might recognize.  

I'm guessing at best it looks like murbleflop, or bangcrash, but here and there I'm getting the feel of the brush.  I tried three different brushes in the course of this session, and three different shades of ink.  Here's the cleaner, inky and inkier water, behind the blackest, blacker, and black ink supplies.

It's a great way to regulate your breathing, and calm down, and just be in the present.  In fact, she does explain how you breathe as you work, it's part of it.  All in all, when the student is ready, the teacher appears, and she seems to have appeared just right for this student. 

And my leftover ink is now in a little jar, waste not want not. After that I went and swept leaves off the deck, feeling like a good Chinese artist, attending to life as well as art.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Miniature artist's books, many media

Just doing some foraging in the studio, because I had an idea for  miniature artists' books, and had just the things to use.

Here's a group of prints, which I ran off on my Gocco printer, long ago, said printer now being in possession of another artist, and which I printed on needlepoint canvas. 

I'm showing you the exploded book, pages all separated, and the the beadweaving which will be used to secure it all.  I wove the beads on a little cardboard loom I made.  Sold a few pieces of this sort of weaving, usually for jewelry, but had several hanging on the wall until I found a home for them.  Which I now have.

And then the assembled book, about three by three inches.


And this is a set of four image transfers on sheer nylon, pix of studio interior and artworks, shot with old Polaroid, and the emulsion lifted off the resulting pix and transferred and reshaped, onto the nylon.  

Other parts of this adventure found homes in mixed media artworks, a number of which are in buyers' collections in various parts of the country.  But there's always a supply which needs a home, as here.  

The cover, on the left,  is an image transfer onto silk of a mixed media stitched piece, now in a buyer's collection, the original, that is.  These pages are all about three by three inches. I have to decide how to assemble them, and what sort of back cover will support without overwhelming the pages.

 Other small books I already had in my collection, like these little notebooks, saddle stitched or assembled using paper fasteners. I painted the middle one, a landscape rendered in marbling, and the others are adaptations, one of a program from a historical sampler exhibit, the other a greeting card.  

These are more functional, useful to go into your purse, and I make notes for people all the time in them. Lot of low tech friends who want me to Write it Down, not email it to them.  The book with the paper fasteners is easy to refill, just pop out the fasteners, cut paper to fit, poke little hole, slip fasteners back in. Done.  I'm including them in the exhibit to encourage people to try it out.

Then there's the bigger book, here the red onionskin paper, bound with a red beadweaving.  Onionskins largely donated by Girija J, who cooks with them a lot.  I may add a stamping or a stenciling, not sure yet.  It's still drying and pressing.

Just as well I made a lot of paper in the summer.  It's coming in handy now.

These are all going into my November exhibit, if there's room in the case, it's getting a bit full, with my ambitious progress.  And I have to write up a little something, explaining the art form. More fun for people to get the gist of what they're seeing. 

With the exception of an accordion book, most of my show is about signature books, left bound or stitched, because the materials, rather than the form, are what interest me at the moment.

I have a binder with samples of my handmade paper explaining what the materials were, iris, daylily, oriental lily flower and so on.  I'm wondering if it will be a good idea to make an actual artist's sample book, too. That could work nicely.

And there may be a book created from those transfer images I made earlier in the year, some of which have been exhibited, but not all.  It carries on that earlier interest in image transfer, this time using electronic rather than physical means to do it.

With the exception of the little notebooks I write in, all these artworks are for sale, and I'll be glad to quote to anyone who wants to own one.  Or more.  You know the old joke about fund raising: we will accept any donation, however large!