Tidying Up and Correcting Mistakes

Last week I was showing the painting of the dragonfly in the Specimen Series. How I had used the UV protective spray and when done a second time the whole image was covered with a white mist that needed to be completely repainted. Well it turns out that I grabbed a can of the UV spray by Krylon, which looks the same at a glance as the the Krylon acrylic protective spray. Somehow I just assumed that the can I could see quickly was the can I used the first time. Not so. After taking a look in my supplies closet, the can of acrylic spray was just where I put it down and then proceeded to put something down in front of it. Naturally I went for the then most visible can and it was not a good choice. Don’t use UV spray over acrylic spray.

So with that in mind I decided to do a bit of a pick up and put things where they belong. It is just so much easier to put something down than to put it away.

The dragonfly is now framed and the art group came and liked the outcome. They are very encouraging with this series. Actually they have been very encouraging with their sharing and input for almost twenty years now. Members have changed over time, but the premise remains the same…”what are you doing and why?”

Then we get into the endless discussions of how well those intentions are visible in the pieces we are looking at. There is no talk of “how” something is done. That is a craft issue and not what we view as an “art” issue.

So after having two friends in the studio for a couple of days this week…one working on an etching and another on a bound book and box, I proceeded to make another specimen for the series. I love this one. He is a water bug designed to fit onto a seven by four inch gessoed panel.

Now when I paint him and these two below I only have two more gessoed panels to spare. They are a bit smaller and I will have to make smaller insects.

That bottom moth looking one was inspired by the bogon moth I saw so much of in Horsham, Victoria several years ago. And just this past March dodged them on the porch in the Grampians. They have such tattered wings on their lifeless bodies the following mornings.

Anyway collecting the bits and pieces is like a treasure hunt in the woods or just outside my door. There are countless ways these scraps from Nature can be used in assembling some imaginary creature.

On another note this morning, still a bit in the tidying up the studio mood, I had the chance to burn some old artwork. The poor pieces had been languoring  away in the storage room and had not seen daylight since perhaps 2005. So off they went to the burn pile. There was no sadness or even a catch in the throat. It actually felt good and I will do more when there is another fire reminding me to keep cleaning up and clearing out.

Also this past week I started a sample journal made from leather. A simple structure, nothing fancy. But it is designed to hold a folded map in the back. If you have never made a map they are quite interesting in their format and information on offer. Because of now dealing with my husband’s dementia, I decided to return to the idea of the River Lethe. Remember this piece that I did for an exhibit in St. Louis?

I think I called it Voyage on the River Lethe. Anyway it is a river in Greek mythology that flowed into the River Styx which took passengers to Hades or the underworld. If one drank the water from Lethe they became forgetful. So in this boat sculpture the passengers place their “luggage” in the hold as they take the next ladder down to the seating lounge so to speak. Fragments of what they remember are on their bodies. Fragments flow out into the currents around the boat. I like that the ferryman must have joined them as he is nowhere to be seen and the boat is a bit adrift without him at the helm. He probably also became thirsty. Here is a picture of the hold.

But back to the map and journal. I have titled the map, “The Land of Lethe – A Map of What May or May Not Have Been”. So I can put whatever I want on the map. It not need be accurate or represent any place in particular. My journal can be filled with random thoughts, in and out of order.

Below is a tourist map of Australia that I bought several years ago when they still had Australia Geographic stores there. I love the artwork on this map. Lots of places in the border for me to add my own drawings and paintings which I did in 2008. There is a fairy tale likeness about this map. It is engaging to say the least. Don’t you think so?

And the very best part of it is this disclaimer along the bottom. A disclaimer that seemed to be just what I needed to read for my Land of Lethe documented adventures.

“This map journal is an artist’s impression only and not designed to be used as a navigational aid. The artist and publisher do not accept any responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by any use of this map whatsoever.”

Isn’t that perfect! I am now planning on sustaining inconvenience. More next week and thank you if you lasted through all this randomness of the past few days.


Dragonfly Specimen – Learning a Lesson

I said I would work on the dragonfly specimen painting this past week. I started with getting the model set in front of my gessoed board and doing a quick silver point drawing.

I had to make the long wings shorter to fit onto the board. I am not so sure it didn’t lose some of it’s dragonglyness with this this adjustment.

I did not have another large gessoed board to use and I knew that I could get this into the frame size I wanted to use. All I needed to do was get all those tiny vein lines in the fragile leaves and capture the the parts that make up his body. It seemed to take forever and the results were better than I had hoped. I do wish there was a small roller ball pen with a very light walnut color. The ones I bought in Australia and here are just too dark….too intense.

But here it is just after a quick spray with a UV protective spray.

The mat is an eleven by fourteen size with the opening cut to fit the subject. I let it sit there for a bit before anchoring the dragonfly onto another piece of book board cut to 11 x 14 inches in just the right position.

The next day I decided that my darks needed to be a bit darker. So I went over them. Then to protect those I gave it a quick shot of the UV protective spray. I did this in a hurry and left the studio.

When I returned the surface of my dragonfly now had a soft misty white film over the surface.

I had to redo the entire dragonfly and noticed that it was much harder to get crisp lines. All edges seemed blurred to me. Here is a detail of my starting to go over those vein lines.

It is now finished and will go into the frame this morning. Its first incarnation was better but this one will do nicely with the rest of the series. What I learned is that when it says to hold the can so many inches away from the subject when spraying, there is a reason. And I think there must be a limit on how many layers can be added to the surface. Certainly the odd surface of a powdery gessoed board.

So here it is before I clean and insert the glass.

I will show it to my art group tomorrow and the now encased Santuaries. I love the feedback from those who have watched and listened to my trials in the studio and the parts of my life that play so much a part of what I am doing. Two friends join us and stay over a couple of days to work in the studio. I am looking forward to that and getting back to the last two specimens that have been made up.

Be back next week.

Filling Spaces – Boxing Things Up

This was the start of making those little roofed houses with clothes lines. I was using older stamps I had made for a limited edition book based on Thomas Wolfe’s quote about the “familiar” and a self portrait image with the dreaded blackbird bringing messages.

I used several small crow stamps that I carved as well. I was making houses to contain not only the images but the feelings as well. There was no need to have doors on the house. These feelings and the representative images are just always there, coming and going at will.

But I took all five houses, now called “Santuaries”, and put them behind glass in “landscaped” surroundings. Now the viewer and myself can be reflected in the glass and be part of the occupancy in the house. And I like the invisible barrier of a sheet of glass. It somehow “specimensizes” whatever is enclosed behind it. And I like specimens. They are meant to be examined, thought about, puzzled over.

Here are some of the finished ones.

These are all behind glass in deep wooden black frames now.

It seems I was putting things in boxes with special places for some time how. Like these four door treasure boxes based on a Chinese design.

Each section tells its own story, has a separate narrative that relates to the whole. And the center part that lifts out to unlock the other four sections has something that makes a sound. It communicates to the handler/viewer that something more is going to happen.

And this one. The Travelers Box. All about his collected memories and specimens collected in his pockets.

The Travelers Box was made to raise the question of whether we accumulate too many memories and then have to make a conscious decision of which ones to hang on to and which and therefore, who, to let go. I like the bits from his pockets next to his travel journey in the case. This piece sold at a book exhibition several years ago and I still like how it makes me feel when I see it. Do you see the image of the traveler coming home in his buggy behind his memorabilia? My travelers always seem to be men. I think they have more interesting things in their pockets. And pockets are so personal. More so than a purse or shopping bag.

Here is another one from the series of travel boxes I have in my office. This is Italy.

These boxes help me to only hang onto the bits that matter from a trip. Once the box is filled, all the things that didn’t make the cut can be tossed out. Sort of like distilling the journey to each place by making the appropriate size box after the culling has been done.

And one of my favorite series, The Curiosity Cabinets. I only have one left and it could be this one.

This next week my studio ceiling is getting repainted and I will probably get to that dragonfly.

Til then.

International Printmaking Day – Working On It

Today I was going to make a new dry point etching to stay in tune with all the other printmakers busy in their studios. BUT. Sidetracked with other things. This past week I did get all the white line prints out from my recent trip to Australia where I taught and demonstrated the technique. I love the carving into wood. It is that “scritchy” sound and with white line I can dip into the watercolors made from various travels. In this case, Australia.

What I wanted to do was make a stitch line all the way around each print. Just a couple left to do. The thread I am using was purchased in the little town of Goolwa, South Australia from a fabrics and sewing shop where I found this French mercerized cotton just the color of Eucalyptus leaves. Here is another image of some of them.

I would love to print more of these and will later on. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the ones I have. Do I mat them? Mount them on museum board to tuck into archival sleeves and take them back to Australia next year to sell at a vendor’s table?

Actually what am I supposed to do with all the things that accumulate in the studio?  The things I make to keep my hands and mind busy as distractions of enthusiasm from other less exciting realities of life.

So on International Printmaking Day I spent the morning framing in deep frames each of the small houses I made with clothes lines a while back. They seemed unfinished somehow just hanging there on the wall. They were waiting for something I think. And then I thought maybe they should be protected behind a glass.

So naturally I framed up each and every one of the five houses. Then hung them back on the wall. It took all of five seconds before I thought they needed something else. (I really should have just done the dry point etching). Anyway now each will have a turn at getting an environment or yard surrounding the house. I don’t think I liked the plain white space around them….not much different than the white wall in the studio. And of course I had to not do just one and give it a good look. No, I had to frame them all before it became clear that I did not like them. Sometimes I think I am getting a bit slow.  It could also be the influences of living with dementia. But those are just excuses for being impatient. My “let’s just whip this thing out” days may have come to an end and I am just now getting the message.

So thinking about last week and my skeptical view of so many authors devoting time to telling the rest of us how to be creative, I did decide to gather some sticks. Stones will be coming. But with the addition of sticks from my wind blown yard and some thick PVA, I am landscaping the houses. Here is a detail of the one and only one pretty well finished today.

And here is what I have learned.

  1. I am not as patient as I once was.
  2. Glue takes longer than I thought to dry.
  3. Not just any stick will do.
  4. Cleaning the glass on the inside is a royal pain.
  5. Covering up glue smears require more sticks, more moss, more leaves, more time, more patience.

Next week I will get the other four finished. Then it is back to those watercolors on gessoed boards. Those wonderful combinations of sticks, stones, pods, etc. that make up my specimen series. The dragonfly will be the first one I get to.

And you can consider this week’s blog a creativity lesson for free on Sticks, Glue and What You Can Do. 

I am going to finish off today with a scotch and toast all my fellow printmakers who actually did stay on task today and likely ended up with some great editions.

And I will quite easily resist purchasing a “Let’s All Be Creative My Way” book while cleaning up the mess I have made in the studio so I can get on with my desire to be distracted with enthusiasm.

Next week some more newly landscaped houses and the watercolored dragonfly specimen.