Friday, May 27, 2011

She's Crafty Like That...

Ever watch MacGuyver? The TV show, which ran 7 seasons, from 1985 to 1992, followed the ever-resourceful secret government agent MacGyver. This guy is a hottie scientist (is that an oxymoron?), a bomb technician, and a Vietnam vet. He's constantly in situations where he has to solve complex problems--problems which often could kill himself or others if not solved IMMEDIATELY--with everyday materials he finds around him. He can use chewing gum, duct tape, and a Swiss Army knife to get himself out of pretty much any situation. He fights the bad guys without a gun. He fights them with his mad intelligence. He's calm, cool, and collected, never breaking a sweat or mussing his awesome mullet.

About now, you're wondering why I'm sharing this. Well, I fancy myself a modern-day MacGyver, only instead of duct tape and a Swiss Army knife, my tools of trade are the sorts of things you find around your house or, at the very least, at your local thrift store or yard sale.
Over the years, I've honed my squirreling skills. I squirrel away items I think will be useful in my art. To the untrained eye, these items might seem useless in that capacity:

Here we have a spaghetti measurer (for those people who actually concern themselves with carbohydrate portion control)

And here we have a plastic doily--the type most of your grandma's have covering up any and all surfaces.

Any game players here? Brand new games often have pieces which need to be punched out. I save the pieces of cardboard after punching out the pieces. Or I ask friends to save them for me. These are special friends who probably secretly roll their eyes or think I'm crazy, but they do what I ask anyway, which is the best kind of friend...don't you think?

This is a 49-cent metal star. I'm not sure what its intended purpose is. It's really too small to hold anything.

This is a paper plate holder. It was 20 cents.

This is a beheaded fly swatter.

Sometimes my dog helps the artistic process. He found this badminton shuttlecock while out on one of our walks.

So aside from sounding like a candidate for Hoarders, what do these things have in common? Awesome patterns! I use them to stencil. I use Glimmermist or make my own colored mists using reinkers and perfect pearls. Or if I'm in a graffiti mood, I take the whole operation outside and use spraypaint.

Have I mentioned that I save everything? This is the paper towel I used to dry off my stencils after each application. I later stamped the paper towel with a foam butterfly stamp and acrylic paint, which yielded a Batik-y look.

And what was I working on in the first place? Well, I'm in a collage group, and each time I send off a collage, I like to send it in style--with colorful envelope art. I'd like to think I'm momentarily making the post office workers happy. If this was a TV series, I'd be using my art to bring those workers down from the metaphorical edge. I'd be stenciling to prevent them from "going postal."

Even if you can't imagine yourself sending out mail in decorated envelopes, can you imagine the money you'd save on wrapping paper if you created your own? Or if you're at a loss for a project for the kiddos, why not let them lose with some household stencils and a large sheet of newsprint out in the backyard?

So what household items are you ignoring? What new tools can you add to your studio?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Several months ago, I happened upon an interesting Facebook page, The Collage Collaborative. The group is the brainchild of Ohio-based artist, Nikki Soppsela. Group members live all around the world. For instance, the other collage I feature in this blog entry originated in Western Australia, went on to the Phillippines, then to the U.S. (Ohio), to Wales, and finally back to the U.S.A where it landed in my mailbox!

Participating members create a 5 x 7" collage--a skeleton really. The original collage gets sent on to four other members who each flesh out the original skeleton by adding an element or two. The fourth member then sends the finished collage back to its originator. The group documents each step of the process on its Facebook page. I was mesmerized by the metamorphosis. And who could resist the ability to travel the world for the price of postage? So I requested to join.

Since joining, I've created my own collage as well as helped four collages on their journey to completion. Yesterday's mail yielded 2 collages. Not even envelopes are safe from crazy collage artists. Each member decorates the outside envelope, and often they include some sort of art for the next member to keep. You wouldn't believe how getting one of those envelopes amongst bills and junk mail can change the course of an entire day. Well, that might be overly dramatic. At the very least, your soul smiles for a second before you race home to see what the next creative challenge will be. I'm kind of a nut, so I generally add to the collage on the same day I receive it.

The first collage originated from Ma.nimfa Maligaya Ursabia, who studied fine art at the Phillipine Women's University. Three others added to it. When it got to me, it looked like this:

I added a haunting set of eyes. The eyes are a stamp from B Line Designs. I did a packing tape transfer, so the beautiful handmade paper would show beneath. I colored in the irises with alcohol ink. The result:

Australian's Sue Byrne was the mother to the next collage I worked on. The "baby" then went to visit 3 "aunties," until finally the stork brought her to my doorstep. When I opened the envelope, this is what I saw:

Well the creative process for me always goes something like this: "flowers, a set of female hands pulling back a curtain, a bird, butterflies, flowers, and NOW the Queen of England?! Oy!" The mind sort of explodes for a moment, and then you act. I found that I was most inspired by the element I was initially most flustered by. Then it becomes, for me at least, a game of association: "Queen" leads to queen of hearts card, which creates a problem with color. The playing card was simply too bright and brought in a yellow I didn't like, so I sanded the yellow parts of the card and colored them in with Faber-Castell PITT pen in a shade that complimented the butterflies and flowers. Then the phrase, "Queen for a Day" popped into my head. I followed that imaginative trail by looking for rubber stamps that might suggest royalty: a crown, which I whimsically put on the bird and the number 4. Finally, I was uncomfortable with some open spaces to the left and right of the butterflies, so I decided to add a couple more. I didn't want to cut out the image of a butterfly, so I added a couple using some face-painting stencils I recently purchased. I traced the outlines with Permaball pens and finally colored them with watercolor pastel. Was I done? It's my feeling that a piece of artwork will always let you know when it's done with you and not the other way around. As a finishing touch, I added some clear glitter glue to the bird's crown and to the stenciled butterflies.

I will be sad when this project comes to an end. I hope to wriggle into the good graces of group leader and collage goddess, Nikki. I hope to plead my case that I deserve a seat on her next creative train.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

She Art

She Art - page 1

I signed up for Christy Tomlinson's She Art class. You can read more about it HERE. Or go see the art pieces her students are creating in the She Art Flickr group HERE. You can find her blog HERE.

Students create layered, collaged canvas backgrounds comprised of scrapbook papers, personal ephemera, stamping, painting, stenciling, and more. While I don't know that the girls are my thang, I AM excited about the techniques Tomlinson teaches. Though I often refer to myself as someone who employs mixed-media techiques, I realized after taking this course, I've been lying to myself. I rarely venture beyond a straight-forward collage technique and, if anything, I only dabble in terms of adding sewing notions or sewing on my work.

Christy has opened up new possibilities and a new-found confidence in playing, in getting messy, in creating with a pure heart and reckless abandon. Future work will, no doubt, be affected by this 3 months in the online classroom.