I can’t believe I’ve been away from my blog for three months@ I was in the US all of June, July and August, and am now back overseas and hoping to get back into the rhythm of things. So I am planning to get some writing and pictures of what I’m working on this week. Hopefully by saying that I will find the self-discipline to make that happen.
I am on vacation, so have not been keeping up with my art or my blog. I need to be better about making time for art, but have not developed a rhythm. I am at my US home, and have been working more on my space for creating than on creating. Plus I have other things, like broken sump pumps, that have distracted me…
Angels have become a recurring theme of my life/ thought in the last six months, starting from my use of photos of an angel statue here in Vilnius in my art journal for a weekly web-class called Wanderlust 2017 organized by a British-Polish couple at http://www.everythingart.com. I like the little statue and my photos, but also feel I should develop my own angel to use in my art. I used that inspiration to make photograph of a distant relative into an mixed media journal page, but have not yet created my own angel “from scratch.”
I’ve gotten a few weeks behind on the Wanderlust class (http://www.everything-art.com/) and so last week started getting myself caught up, and on Sunday I watched the class for week 15 presented by Mindy Lacefield (http://www.mindylacefieldart.com/). The primary “learning” task of the class was making a person part of the journal page, and the example was of a mermaid sitting on a rock. I realized the position the mermaid was in was similar to that of my vilnius angel photo below, and decided to change the angel in to a mermaid but basically use the procedure from the class to work on developing my angel. I decided to have my angel talking to some flowers, similar to an this page.
The quote is special to me, because I was looking for something fitting for this page, and found this idea that wild flowers are the alphabet of angels, and that nature’s flowers are a form of mysterious truths written by the angels. I first saw the quote attributed to Ben Franklin, and wondered why he was writing about this, so wanted to look at the original source. Although it was attributed to Benjamin Franklin in several places, it had no date or source supporting that attribution. I searched further for it, and eventually got to the original source, which was NOT Benjamin Franklin, but instead the author of a novel called “The Rebels” (1825) and also of the song “Over the River and Through the Woods”: Lydia Maria Child. She was only 23 when she published “The Rebels”, but had an active minds and life, and is described on Wikipedia as “an American abolitionist, women’s rights activist, Native American rights activist, novelist, journalist, and opponent of American expansionism.” I was happy to add her quotation to my work and be able to source it accurately–a small piece of Herstory restored.
I ended up working for about six hours straight on “my” angel, partly because it took me several attempts to get her facial features the way I wanted them. I have been drawing straight on portraits, but this face was at a slight angel so it took some painting and repainting to get her features located correctly. At one point I was using a heat gun to dry her face so I could continue working, and got the paint too hot and caused a little bubbling! In addition to extra work on the face, I had to use gesso to start over on the flowers as I was not happy with the shape or color I started with. In the end I am content with her, though she came out looking unintentionally like my younger daughter! I guess my two daughters are the faces I see when I picture female beauty. One has long blond wavy hair, one has dark hair that has been a variety of shades, so almost any face with big eyes and full lips will look like one or the other of them to me…
I am calling this picture “Telling the flowers a bedtime story.” In addition to using the flowers to write mysterious truths, my angel also communicates with them.
Painted with acrylics in a Dylusions Large Creative Journal (https://www.amazon.com/Ranger-Dylusions-Reaveleys-Creative-8-25-Inch/dp/B009MRLEJI),
So now I have my cat-person Katya and my angel who are the beginnings of my own “characters” or creations. My angel is unnamed for the moment, but my sister said this looks like a book illustration. Maybe she will become the star of a picture book…Or maybe not! I don’t know yet where my art is taking me…
I have not been making any “finished” pieces in the last week, but have been trying some different skills. I am still playing with pen and ink and watercolor, and did my first “travel” sketching with watercolors on a trip to Medininkai, a small castle in Lithuania. I also have been playing with my dip pen and faces. And I watched a webinar for a class called “Get Messy” by one of my “art mentors” Amy Maricle and made a couple of backgrounds.
I was trying out the “green gold” paint that I saw someone online recommend. I do like the color, and the way the white gesso on top came out so fluffy looking and such a range of color from pure white to a pastel of the green gold. The dots are metallic blue paint (from Target’s kids craft paints) on a background of Indanthrene blue Liquitex, which is one of my current favorite colors because it is so rich. The photo makes the dots look gold instead of light blue though–I assume it’s the lighting of my iphone picture.
I have been reading a book on making an “artist’s journal” vs. an art journal–so more sketches, influences, remembering things rather than finished “pictures”. I am thinking my smaller “travel” journal will be more in that style. I also learned about people doing “virtual” travel journals, where they “travel” online places and make sketches based on what they find that way. I am wondering if I should start doing that as I will never travel in real life to all the places that fascinate me, so I fired up Google Earth again and started armchair exploring. It might be a way for me combine my love of maps and travel with art, and maybe even throw some genealogy into it if I “visit” places related to family history…
Also today thinking about micrographs, and how I maybe should have done a science career that involved looking at things in microscopes. I have a lot of micrograph pictures saved on Pinterest, and realized that what I like about them is often the idea of patterns. I already knew I was in love with color and texture, but texture is related to pattern. So I think I want to spend some more time with micrographs and patterns and that inspiration.
Good news is that I am feeling slightly more inspired/ energetic than I was. For a few days I was struggling with not “wanting” or being interested in things. Today I am feeling a little more interested in a few things, which will hopefully make my brain have more ideas and I will feel mentally more alert and positive.
One of my loves other than making art is genealogy, and one of my big “discoveries” has been that my grandfather Stanley Thomas had parents and siblings in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania that my father never knew about. Grandpa Stanislaw Tomaszewski came from Poland, but until I started piecing things together, I didn’t know that he came with a sister to join his father in 1899, who was already here with Stan’s brother Leo. From ship records I think Grandpa Stan went back to Poland and returned to the US with his brother John and his mother in 1901.
John and Stan both enlisted in the army in April of 1905 (so 112 years ago!). John was killed in action in fighting with guerrillas in the Philippines in 1906 during the Spanish-American war, and is buried in a military cemetery in San Francisco. Leo become a bartender/ owner. He led a “colorful” life, and showed up in the local paper for various reasons. One of those reasons was his marriage to Cecilia Paszkiewicz, who was also a Polish emigre from a big family in the neighborhood of Kingston. From looking at her family records, I feel Celia and her sisters considered having an easier to pronounce name an important gain in marriage. Or maybe it’s that most names are easier to spell and pronounce than “Paszkiewicz,” and Leon changing his name to “Thomas” was certainly less noticeably ethnic.
I recently connected with my second cousin Ruth Thomas Sachs, who is the granddaughter of Leo and Celia, daughter of their son Ralph. Ruth remembers Celia’s sister Thekla, whom she knew as Aunt Kitty, a glamorous woman with an exciting life who had lived in New York City and was married to a wealthy businessman. Kitty’s life, which I am still researching, was untraditional, but I will omit all the details for now, and pause with a photo of her that I found on another genealogy site where Paszkiewicz descendants have been sharing information. It’s a professional portrait of young Kitty wearing a turban and strapless dress, posed in side silhouette holding an urn, like a modern Greek Goddess.
I love this picture, and I love what I know of the story of Thekla Matilda Kitty Paszkiewicz Reardon Weston.
At this point I will turn back to my own recent work to say that I have been using photos of an angel statue in Vilnius in several pages of my art journal for a “webinar” I am taking called Wanderlust 2017. Vilnius has become known for its multiple angel statues sprinkled around town, and this angel is fairly well-known. He shows up in multiple places in the city. Here is one of my pages spreads using the angel.
This angel is both cute and ugly, and I find him quite endearing, but I also feel like I need to have my OWN angel and not use a photo of another artist’s angel all the time. So I think that Kitty is going to be the genesis of my “art design angel” as my sister described it. Since I did not know her, and only know a partial version of her life, I cannot say Thekla Weston is “my angel” but visually she is definitely the beginning of that symbol for me. Using her portrait, I created my own initial image of Kitty, my art design angel…
I have been feeling kind of flat and uninspired the last few days, which is not surprising since it has been only a week since my father died. I have spent some time in my studio, but not been able to “lose myself” in creation, which is when I make things I am pleased with. Instead I have felt more like I’m pushing a car, trying to jump start it, but it’s not starting.
Two days ago my friend S and I took a walk to the local art supply store. I am really lucky to have a GOOD art supply store only about 10 minutes walk away, and yet I still find it takes days of thinking about going before I finally GO, so I was glad to have S say she would go with me. I bought some green-gold Liquitex heavy body paint, because an artist on a video tutorial I watched once raved about that color. I don’t remember what tutorial or artist, but have been meaning to try that color paint. I also needed some more india ink. My “indulgence” was a set of 12 half-pan watercolors from Sennelier, which I am calling a birthday gift from my DH. I also got a pen you can fill with water, and a small watercolor pad, and a new small art journal.
When I got home I tried out the watercolors. I had read some reviews online that were complimentary about the transparency and brightness of Sennelier colors, and I was pleased with my test page.
The biggest surprise for me was how strong the purple is–I was trying to fade to very pale as I went down the page and still had quite a bit of purple color at the bottom. So I will have to be careful mixing it because it will dominate anything I mix it with. I was very happy with how clear and transparent the colors are though.
Yesterday I got an inexpensive fountain pen and some black ink cartridges from Faber Castell that say they are permanent, because I want to be able to sketch and use watercolor over the sketched lines. I love my dip pen when I’m in the studio, but I wanted something I could take with me when traveling and use when out in the city. I am hoping to try some “urban sketching” and other ink and watercolor wash sketches.
I also have been attracted to trying some faces. Last year I did multiple studies of faces using my dip pen and india ink when I first got it, but I have not used faces on any of my art journal pages. Since I have been feeling stuck at times trying to think of what I want to make be the point of interest on a page, getting more comfortable with creating faces seems like a good addition to my range of choices. I started reading a book on creating characters/ faces on my Kindle, and decided to try my hand at making some in pencil. Then I tried using my fountain pen on a few of those, and finally started adding some watercolor to those.
I’m not entirely sure my “permanent” ink is waterproof, but it’s not as watersoluble as other fountain pen ink I’ve used. I will have to see if letting sketches sit a while before makes them more resistant to watercolor wash. The most complete sketch I did was on small watercolor paper, maybe A-5 European size. I used one of the smaller face studies for a model, and painted a cat-woman person. I’m not sure what to call her, because Catwoman is already a well-known character. Maybe I will name her Katya, which is a nickname for the Russian form of Catherine “Ekaterina.” I think I will work on her some more and maybe use her character in some art journal pages. I’d like to get more “furriness” in her coat, and perhaps narrow her eyes a bit, and adjust her mouth. But overall I am still pleased with the paints. I do think the black ink was spreading a little, but it wasn’t washing away, and I don’t mind the lines widening a bit with the watercolor wash. But for her initial portrait, I’m satisfied.
This week I have been less productive than I’d like, partly because I have been wrestling with logistical issues about upcoming travel. My father has been having health struggles, so I have been debating going back to the US, but because of my own health issues with multiple sclerosis I was reluctant to travel again when I feel run down from traveling recently so much already. I had some issues with prescription refills taking a while to get to me, and have been feeling MS fatigue and muscle pain due to stress and cold weather. I had finally settled on going to the US again next week after a Passover seder DH and I are hosting, but sadly my father passed away two days ago. I am grateful to my sisters who live near him, who had found a comfortable nursing facility for him to go to after his last hospitalization, and glad that his passing was peaceful, but of course will be grieving his loss indefinitely. I am still grieving for my mother, gone almost 18 years now. The siblings have settled on having a memorial gathering for Dad at the end of May, when DH and I were already planning on traveling to the US for younger daughter’s graduation. Hopefully I will be feeling better myself with spring weather and sunshine by the time of that journey, and I will spend the summer in Michigan with my younger daughter before she heads off to art school.
One of the treats I bought myself at an art supply store in London last month was a cartridge ink pen with a brush. I have been doodling and experimenting with it so much I used up one entire ink cartridge already! I am hoping it will be secure enough (as regards leaking) to travel with. I have not used it for more than doodling yet, but once I feel more sure of the marks I can make with it, I will.
I have been continuing to work on journal pages–trying to make many of my page starts into more finished pieces. I used matte medium to add some torn paper and deli paper that was gelatin printed on top of the gelatin print base (I believe the teal connected circles is part of the base layer). I also used a few hexagons from another gelatin print to add some contrast in line and color. I am calling this one “Red Door” because the red shape reminded me of a door, and I’ve used white acrylic and india ink to create highlights and shadows. I may still need to add some, because when looking at it on the screen version it does not have as much “door on the side of a hill” feeling as I want it to have. I am not sure who lives behind that little red door, but some whimsical creature, I am sure.
Another page I did is for a “challenge” task on the Wanderlust 2017 e-workshop on art journaling that a UK couple is running in the Everything Art community they founded (https://www.eajoin.us/). There are weekly video classes three weeks a month, and one week has prompts/ ideas/ challenges. This challenge is to use four different mediums/ substances, keeping track of the order, then use the same four in the same order again, finishing after eight layers. On this page I used white gesso through a stencil, then sprinkled the gesso with Pearl-Ex powder while still wet. Pearl-Ex is almost like micr-glitter, much finer than glitter but with sheen and sparkle. After drying it with a heat gun, I used dots of Splash acrylic inks in cyan, magenta and yellow, misting with a water bottle and letting it run by tipping the page in different directions. I finished by using black India ink with a brush to add some line and contrast. After my first four layers, my page looked like this.
At this point, I decided I would use the stencil again with the gesso, but save the bright area in the upper left toward the center, which I particularly liked. After using the Pearl-Ex powder, acrylic inks, and india ink again I ended up with this.
I don’t think it’s “finished” but I’m not sure what to do with it from here, and I suspect it will need to wait until I have a better concept of where I want to go with it next.
These are the media I used. The Pearl Ex powder type is called Macropearl, and the Pebeo India Ink is almost out of the photo on the right.
Work: Journal pages
Music: Assorted Leonard Cohen and Applemusic radio using a Cohen song as the “base” for the songs it chose
Yesterday I had a day completely “alone” because DH has been away for work for two nights. In my upstairs studio I was working on some journal pages. I had added some paper to them, but still felt they needed more to be “finished.” These were pages on which I had done initial backgrounds, and then added cut/ torn paper and deli paper I had mono-printed with acrylic paint (using a gelatin plate) with patterns or colors. I felt that college layer still needed to be integrated with the background to make it feel like a unified creation and not just a few types of paper glued together. To integrate them I used acrylic paint to shade pieces to create depth and add color intensity. I also added some pieces cut from a magazine to the first of these three (the white dots on blue).
I went through a stack of (mostly home decor) magazines and was cutting out words which I save in a box for future art use. I also was looking for finishing touches for this piece. I cut these from an advertisement for bedding, and so they have angles from the graphic bedcover on the bed going over the edge that really accent the illusion of depth. I knew as soon as I set one “stripe” of dots on the surface that it would be a perfect accent.
The other two pieces I feel are still waiting for their “finishing” touches. I may need to start a folder of pieces from magazines with texture and pattern on them–I felt like I was finding good examples that I could use almost like paint. They were not objects to cut out, but stripes, or dots, or feathers from which I could cut shapes. I left them in the magazines for now, and I guess need to decide if it would behoove me to start a folder of them, or if I should just leave them to find again next time I page through magazines for collage material.
Yesterday was my 51st birthday, and I had a fun dinner with a couple of friends because DH is out of town for work. Today I may go to the art supply store to buy myself a few supplies I need and something I don’t as a gift to myself! I have been working on some unfinished pieces that I added some collage to using paper I had gelli-printed, but are still not “finished.” Despite adding some more paint to them, they still don’t feel “finished” so I will keep working with them. One piece I did finish is my first “found poetry,” which I have been thinking about trying for a few months.
“Found poetry” uses a published text as a base, and from there you select words from the text and circle them, making a poem out of the words available to you. One thing I have already learned is that I am ambivalent about using fiction for this, because the author has chosen words carefully and it is hard to make a poem that does not end up as a summary of the text that’s there. If the page is about a sunny day at the beach, it’s hard to make it have a different topic or to find unexpected imagery. I will try a few different types of text though and see if I can find something that works better with MY creativity so I don’t feel as imprisoned by the text but can instead find something surprising in it.
After choosing the words by circling with pencil, I used unbleached titanium paint, which was similar to the color of paper from my source (an old book) and painted out the words that were NOT in the poem. I used gel medium to adhere the book page to a A4 size gelatin mono-print page in my supply of studio paper. I then experimented with adding some color to make the words stand out more and make the book page united with the patterned page. I am happy with how that turned out. Finally I used a couple of cards for mixed media art (Tim Holtz collection of “old” looking new things) to make a title.
I have found myself using blues and oranges a lot lately, and am still liking that combination.
I took the book from the bookshelf of my parents’ home (now my house–I bought the house and contents from my father). The book is called “The Rise of Roscoe Paine” and I now feel guilty about using it in my art after reading on Amazon that “this scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world’s literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original.” “https://www.amazon.com/Rise-Roscoe-Paine-Joseph-Lincoln/dp/1419180657
Well, at least the reproduction is available if I ever decide I need the book as a whole piece of literature again…
This piece will probably end up in an art journal, though maybe I will frame and hang it temporarily. Hmm….Maybe I could rotate a variety of found poetry in a frame in my living room. If I consistently used an A4 size, and it was fairly easy to change, that might be an interesting way to display it. Maybe a notebook with page protectors for the poems not currently on display?
Perhaps since I have only made ONE, I am getting ahead of myself…
Apparently I am supposed to have an internet presence that shows my work and my thoughts in order to create a “brand.” But for security reasons, I am not supposed to have an internet presence, or at least should keep any identifiable information secret. This is my attempt to do both of those things. It is likely I will succeed in neither.