Exercising My Creative Chops

In an effort to keep myself in the creative habit, I bought the book Creating Art at the Speed of Life: 30 Days of Mixed-Media Exploration. It’s 30 exercises for 30 days to just create. Will I do them all in a row? I doubt it – I have noticed not only distinct lack of routine in my life but also a distinct lack of being able to create any! (Well, I do feed my cat wet food twice a day so I guess it’s a start.)

I also struggle with ‘playing’. Just sitting down and doing something for no other reason than to do it and see what comes of it. I find it interesting that someone who has created art in fits and starts her whole life has trouble playing. But then that might be why it’s in fits and starts. I think so much about how something will be before I even do anything which can really cause issues when something doesn’t go the way you want. Like the first exercise in the book…

Exercise 1: Color Wheel
Exercise 1: Color Wheel

First, just sitting down and getting started was (as usual) a process. I looked at the exercise, this is stupid. Why am I even going to do these? I probably won’t even like them.I looked at my journal. It wasn’t the right journal. Did I want to do basic exercises in this journal and ‘ruin’ it? (You know – ruin the book with this and this) Slide over to computer. Is Michael’s still open, to get a new sketch book? Ponder. Sigh. Really? We’re still doing this? I go get the coffee filter and sit down. Was going well… until violet. Ugh. Mud. I mean I made 4 or 5 attempts at this. Well, this is why we are practicing so I painted the violet slot the violet I got to and that was that.

The page background started out a nice soft yellow but I had all this paint from the violet violence and I started using it on a different page just to use it while the wheel dried but still had so much paint! So I slapped it on the page I was using for the wheel and was a little disappointed at my rash decision: now the PAGE was muddy! Ugh. I had some blue that hadn’t been used so I through some white in and slapped it on the page to try to help out the situation (did I just play?!). Better.

In the book, the author had just written ‘color wheel’ around the wheel but never really liking to do things exactly the way it says to do it or suggests doing it, I looked up quotes on color and found the one by Francis Bacon that I used.


Do I love it? No. I find it a little embarrassing actually that I couldn’t make purple. But is it done? Yes. 1 down, 29 to go.

A Certain Shade of Lipstick

I was so excited when I received the most recent Anthropologie catalog. The cover was perfect for a poem I had been saving from a magazine that I didn’t want to get rid of but didn’t know what to do with, either.

Ink Outlines
The poem starts out “I like a certain shade of lipstick…” and goes on with references to war, cabaret and far away places covered in snow. I felt that the lighting in this catalog cover image conveyed that feeling of another time and place. And of course she is putting on that certain shade of lipstick!

I started out with a sponged layer of gray paint and then mixed red and black to deepen the tone. I really like the pops of red because it pulls in that distant war that is going on the background. When I first glued the image of the woman down, she didn’t stand out against the strong paint so using a black outline technique I read about recently, I outlined her and the mirror and even added some lines to the image itself to give it some movement.

close up of lantern
For the text, the paper was so new looking and even with the edges torn, it still stood out too much. I took a Prismacolor Marker in 10% Cool Grey and colored over the paper and then, with a Pigment Pen wrote over the typed letters to soften the it and make it feel like the woman in the image had written it herself. I ran the marker over the text again once I was done writing. Once the glue was on the paper, it thinned it out even more allowing some of the bumps from the paint underneath to texture the paper and with a few more dabs of paint, the paper blended in really well. I then used some of the thick, leftover paint to really add some depth under the lanterns.

Poem is ‘Instant Past’ by Elaine Equi, featured in the 2008 issue of Pool poetry magazine.

Photo Gallery
Clicking on the photos will open a full-size version.

Art Journal Week Four: All Because of Tea!

Did you know that January was National Hot Tea Month? I saw this in the window of the the grocery store so had to be true!

In racking my brain for an inspiration for this week’s art journal, I kept coming back to the tea. I do have a couple of other ideas that will show up in the next few weeks but this is the one that stuck for this week.

I had originally though of doing two facing scenes for two different types of tea drinkers – maybe old world vs. modern or Asian vs. English, something like that. And/Or to use actual tea bags – sans the tea – as the background but couldn’t quite get it to work.

In my quest for teapots and cups, I rediscovered a particular Anthropologie catalog. It had a kind of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme so one would assume there had to be something related to tea in there (hello mad hatter!) though not as much as I thought there would. They focused more on the fantastical elements of down the rabbit hole and the large and small element of  the story. All of the elements in the collage are from Anthropologie catalogs, though. I save them because they are always so arty and different from any other catalogs I get. The photographers and stylists have to love their jobs at least a little!

Photo Gallery
Clicking on the photos will open them in a full-size slideshow.

Art Journal: Week Three

So I bought the Winter 2010 issue of Interweave Knits specifically for a tutorial about using zippers with knitting, making them basically another knitted element to flow into your piece. The video demonstration is on YouTube here but the article does have a few more details about the technique that make it clearer.

In this issue, there was an article about Aimee Lee, a multi-talented artist who, among her many projects, “knits books that tell intimate stories of loss, intimacy, and vulnerability” (Interweave, 2010).  She knits the pages and then sews paper with poems or thoughts to the pages. They are really very lovely. My journal this week borrows the sewing and paper concept in a very simple form.

The red frame was part of a bunch of blank card I have just hanging around waiting for their turn in a project. On the backside of the card frame I drew straight lines using a ruler, measured out the holes so they were evenly spaced and then poked them threw with a yarn needle. The flower is from a magazine – actually it’s from Real Simple’s ‘Get it Together in 2011’ issue which is really what I am trying to do this year. Once I had the flower and frame placed, I pushed the needle through again to mark similar holes in the paper so I wouldn’t have stabs everywhere.

I really like the flower – it’s so big and detailed, I didn’t want to hide the whole thing behind the frame. I cut around some of the petal shapes and gently folded it and overlapped the frame. I like how it turned out. I considered putting a quote or something else on the page but after letting it sit for a while, I decided I like the simplicity of it.

While I was working on it I thought – isn’t that really what framed photos are like? You frame them because the memory was great or the image is beautiful and they are confined to that little rectangle area but they are bigger than that.

Art Journal: Week Two

This week’s art journal inspiration: Black Swan. What an intense movie. Natalie Portman did such a phenomenal job and Barbara Hershey was the perfect overbearing mother. Natalie’s character, Nina, was probably 20 or so and her mother would still undress her – even taking her earrings out!

The dancers in the movie were dancing Swan Lake. It is a love story of the white swan who loves a prince but he falls for the black swan so comes the black and white halves of the page with feathers and rhinestones that feel like dance costumes.

Slightly different angle on the black half. I over-exposed a little bit to, hopefully, show a little more of the texture and the feather. The black feather with the rhinestone is my favorite part.

Art Journal: Week One

I decided this year to keep a weekly art journal. I’ve always kept a journal – I have a storage container full of them probably from when I was 8 or 9. I tend to doodle a little bit in them but mostly it’s just writing and taped in mementos like movie tickets, funny notes, things like that. In my aim to incorporate more creative elements into my life in general I thought this might be fun, easy way to do that every week. (We’ll see about easy!!) Daily journaling would be a guaranteed wash – it’s too much pressure and you just don’t know what the days have in store. Weekly is a nice way to sum up a week and move on to a new one.

You can see in this first one I’ve got New Year on the brain. LOL! Seeing it now on the computer, after not being around it for a few hours, it seems warm overall. I guess I’m in a pretty good mood.

Journal Full Page

The top left is my quiet goal of being healthier and losing weight. While probably one of the biggest clichéd resolutions, it is my only one. That’s it. It is the biggest thing about me that I am unhappy with and it’s certainly one I can do something about. The quote I chose is to remind myself, and anyone else that reads this, that one day falling off the healthy wagon doesn’t mean the end. Tomorrow is a new day and you just try it again. It takes a while to really change habits and lifestyles. The top right, as you can see, is about the monthly gift. That may seem really personal but it has plagued me since high school with horrible pain and emotional upset. Alleve is the only thing I’ve found that can at least tackle the pain.

Journal Top Half

On the bottom left, money. I’m sure this is on a lot of people’s minds right now. I have to laugh – for once those annoying subscription cards that fall out of magazines came in handy for all the dollar signs. When I saw the ‘bill me later’ lines it was an unexpected funny injection into something that just makes me nuts! In the lower right, there is the Happy New Year tribute. It actually wasn’t easy to find an image like that in the magazines that I have!

Journal Bottom Half

All in all, I am looking forward to my new year and hope that it brings good things for me and for you!