And everything nice

Day 243: Identity

On my recent 50-cent item spree at the thrift store (a bag full of art supplies for $2.50 ain’t half bad), I picked up a lovely pocket thesaurus. While not as thick as my coveted dictionaries, I still find the aged yellow pages intriguing and today I chose “identity” to go along with the “dust and spirit” hymnal snippet.

In the spirit of “immortelle” from day 239, I wanted to use some sewing notions and other bits for this companion piece, so I tied a knitting illustration and bit of lace to the canvas with blue yarn. I also added a bit of drafting film with gesso imprint, and colored over the sewing pattern ground with blue watercolor and some white acrylic paint.

Identity with Immortelle

For me, there’s something contemplative and interesting about the combination of the symbols- patterns, knitting, the many names for identity, “dust and spirit” together, the feminine bits tied up with the blue… It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I like it. Just can’t particularly explain why. 🙂

"Identity", mixed media painting on 5x7" canvas


Say what?

"Whatcha doin'?"

Day 242: Inquisitive Bird, upcycled sculpture

This sculpture thing is kind of fun- I have to admit it. Today I looked at my pile of scraps and asked myself if I could turn them into a bird. First, I wrapped a bit of batting up into a roll, tied it and snipped it to create a loose body shape. Then I soaked the batting with matte medium and covered it in vintage sewing patterns. Next came hymnal feathers and beak, yarn cowl (perhaps it’s a hipster bird who knits on the subway), lace wingtips, wire feet and straight pin eyes.

Inquisitive Bird is about 6 inches long and a few inches tall.

As I placed him on his legs, he seemed to be tilting his head to the side, (possibly asking me why he was wearing a cowl and lace as a boy bird) and it was a sweet little moment. Voila! Inquisitive bird was born!

Is it Autumn yet?

"Autumnal" illuminated sculpture, about 1' tall

Day 241: Autumnal, an upcycled illuminated sculpture 

This morning, I took a walk through the park and along the levy near our house. As I went, I picked up a few interesting leaves. Sacramento is the “city of trees” after all- or at least, so says the paint on the side of the big water tank/alien spaceship thing along highway 5. If you visit this blog regularly, you’ll know I’ve been working in mostly white lately. That’s because I’ve been exploring sculpture techniques, and I feel like I can’t handle both color and three dimensions at the same time. Then again, having that extra dimension is so vastly different than working on a flat surface. I don’t need the color the way I do on a canvas.

I spent a good hour or two trying to do this other falling leaves thing with some scrap drafting film, wood and these book pages, but it was rapidly becoming a hot (glue gun) mess, so I put that aside and began anew.

Today’s piece, “Autumnal” is an upcycled sculpture using an inner embroidery hoop, book pages (from 2 vintage dictionaries, a Nancy Drew book, and my old college literature reader), some copper wire salvaged from another failed sculpture attempt (hee hee), and part of an IKEA shelf I never used but kept hanging around for a couple of years, which became the base for this piece. I may not use my supplies immediately, but I sure as hell use them eventually!

View from above

What’s cool is that it’s very lightweight, so it can be a tabletop sculpture, but with a couple of brackets, would also make a neat sconce. Also, when you move it, the wire springs around and makes the leaf shapes scrape against each other and it totally sounds like actual leaves. 🙂

Most of the leaf pieces were traced from leaves I picked up this morning. Some visible words are “autumnal”, “nympha” (as in mythological nature beings, not sex addicts) and some lines from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I think it’s nice both lit and unlit. You can see the different colors and thickness of the paper when it’s illuminated, and it makes some pretty cool shadows on the wall too.

Into the White 2

"Into the white 2", gesso on framed drafting film 16"x24"

Day 240: Into the white 2

Wow, “Into the White 2” totally sounds like some kind of crappy surfer action movie sequel. You know, like the lame rip-off version of Point Break for the WB or something. (Does that channel still exist?) It seems like I’ll sometimes hear songs that I think are an instrumental version of some classic tune, but then they vary just slightly by a few notes- so as to avoid a lawsuit, I’m assuming. The same thing happens with made-for-tv movies. You get stuck on some random movie that you leave on because you or your spouse is convinced that you’ve seen it already, but then before you know it, 90 minutes have passed and you feel scammed.


Anyway, this is the other drafting film impression of the other “Little Big Blue” painting, which I put on a frame today. I tried again to illuminate it with a lower watt bulb, but it zapped the second I plugged it in. Hence, not the greatest photographs ever, but you get the idea.

Mexican Polyester

"Immortelle", mixed media painting on 5x7" canvas

Day 239: Immortelle

I’ve got more sculpture pieces in the works, but they aren’t one-day-and-done kind of projects. So today’s piece is a mixed media mini painting. Using a clipping from an old hymnal, a bit from a vintage dictionary, sewing patterns, ribbon, candle wax, blue watercolor and some 100% polyester made-in-Mexico lace, I put the words “death and nature” together with the definition for “immortelle”. Modern definitions refer only to flowers that don’t lose their color, whereas this vintage dictionary also includes reference to a funeral wreath.

Growing up in the heavily populated SF bay area, I remember seeing lots of immortelles on roadsides, eerie silk flower tragedy markers, flooding me with a mixture of sadness, empathy and fear. It seemed to be a common practice among the Hispanic population. Even though I have Mexican heritage, I am usually unsettled by Dia de los Muertos art. I’ve always tried to avoid thinking about death, yet I sense there’s something wise in facing it the way they do. I envy artists who are able to make things that are both sad & sweet or creepy & pretty, and I feel like this piece does that. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Into the white

Day 238: Into the white

You may remember Little Big Blue, these pieces from the other day. I described how I’d pressed yarn into a thick layer of gesso. I did the pressing with drafting film, a matte, frosted, plasticky sheet, thinking originally that I might layer them back over on the painting like I did with day 222 & 223.

Gesso on drafting film, 16" x 24" on wood frame

But then when I started to think of illuminating the sculptures, it suddenly occurred to me that this transparent thing would look a lot cooler lit up than layered over the canvas. So today I built a frame and affixed the film to it, threw a bulb behind it, et voila!

The bulb I photographed this with is brighter than the one I intended to use for it (which was broken, a fact I discovered around 8:30 pm), so it’s hard to see the detail in some of these images.

And I have to admit, I’m kind of in love with this illumination thing. Then again, it’s not the first time I’ve had a crush on artmaking materials. So we’ll see where it goes. Here are a couple of detail shots:

…they’re forming!

Day 237: Forms

So I know all you’ve had to look at for days have been those typographical mini paintings, and it’s been really dictionary/painting heavy for a bit. So I’m happy to say “and now for something completely different!”

Behold the as-yet-unnamed sculpture piece I’ve been yammering on about for the past week or so. After many trips to Home Depot/Radio Shack, Utrecht and some much appreciated assistance from my husband after my first failed tata self-wrap attempt, I finally finished this thing. What is it, you ask? It’s a, um.. illuminated formed quilt and plaster figure form? That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue now, does it? Oh, did I say illuminated?

I’m going to have to look up sculpture vernacular or something and decide what to name it, but I’m pretty happy with it. It’s the first of a series of pieces I had a flurry of ideas for all at once that are largely sculptural. In my mind, I picture a full-on installation with all of them together. Right now, that installation space is probably going to be my garage. Except it’s triple digits out here, and I don’t expect anyone to stand around looking at sculpture sweating their faces off.

I mentioned the other day that I wanted to push myself, and this piece is one of the first in that vein. Sculpture is new for me, as is dealing with personal self-esteem issues in my artwork. I like myself- I think I’m friendly, talented and occasionally witty ;)- but I’ve always had issues with my body image. Like many women, I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my adult life.

This sculpture was made from plaster wraps of my torso, which forced me to face my actual size “in the flesh” right there in front of me. Inside is quilted, shiny white fabric I stitched with a pattern resembling fat cells. It’s an interesting piece for me, because it is a fairly literal reference to the self-deprecating feeling of being a pile of fat wrapped in skin, which taps into years of negative thinking. But at the same time, I tried to execute it in a way that was pretty and light, and I do feel that it has some kind of aesthetic value, even though the body shape represented isn’t one most people would typically associate with beauty.

The L Word

"Lachrymose Lake", mini painting with dictionary page on 5x7" canvas.

Day 236: Lachrymose Lake

This dictionary page’s header reads “lachrymose lake”. Lachrymose means “tearful, sad”. It makes me think of all the “lady of the lake” mythology. And it’s an interesting selection considering the start of my exploration into artmaking using negative feelings.

Along those lines, the sculpture pieces I’ve been working on this week are coming along well. The first one’s almost done! It’s an illuminated figurative plaster/quilt piece, and I have to say I’m starting to get really excited about sculpture. Which is weird, because I always thought of myself as a painter. But some crazy awesome things could be on the horizon. At this point it’s looking like it’s time to build a workbench in the garage. 🙂

Lowercase L. Not an uppercase i. (Just zoom in and take a peek at all the fun L words if you forget)

The agony and the ecstasy

"Hey, you got any e, man?"

Day 235: Eternal Euphony

After yesterday’s unintentionally inflammatory post and the comments kerfuffle that ensued, I decided to play it safe today by mixing religion and street drug references. 😉

Actually, in case you haven’t guessed, I’m creating a series with the letters “r, s, t, l, n, e” as a nod to Wheel of Fortune (c, d, m & a may follow 😉 ). I’ve always enjoyed word games. Apart from art, spelling and poetry were two of my favorite things as a kid. As an adult, I grew up to collect dictionaries. As a visual artist engaged in using symbols to create evocative pieces, I find the different interpretations of words as symbols highly amusing and endlessly interesting.  

This is a great page because it includes some of my favorite words, like ether, etymology, and etiquette. “Euphony” means “an agreeable sound or pronunciation”. So “eternal euphony” would mean an endless agreeable sound. Kinda cool, huh?

My opening comment references the fact that “e” has been used as a term for “ecstasy”, an illicit drug. Yet, if you look up the definition of the word ecstasy, you’ll probably find references to “religious ecstasy”, which is an entirely different thing than chemicals tricking your brain into super happiness…. Or is it? Mwa-ha-haaaaa!

<Disclaimer: Not trying to piss anyone off here, dear readers. I hope you can take a “well, isn’t that interesting?” approach to this piece. But if you’d rather go with a “well, isn’t that special?” reaction, that’s cool too. :)>

"Eternal Euphony", a mini painting with dictionary page on 5x7" canvas.

Torpor Touch

Day 234: Torpor Touch

Okay, so first let me say that A: this is not a cross, and B: I know it really looks like one, but it’s a lowercase t. Seriously. Why lowercase, you ask, when this whole issue could have been avoided by just doing an uppercase T? Because all the other ones in this series are lowercase, alright? Also, I think it’s kind of amusing that it looks like a cross and there happen to be other words on this page like torture and totalitarian. 🙂 Not that I have anything against religion. But it has historically been perverted and used as an excuse for unspeakable acts (i.e. Spanish inquisition). Just sayin’.

I like this piece because the header words together imply a touch that would numb or paralyze, which can be interpreted as either menacing or intriguing (or both). Also this page includes a definition for the “torrid zone”, which is apparently a real phrase applicable to a real place on the earth, as opposed to a reference to the awesomely hilarious Venture Brothers cartoon on Adult Swim. Which would be pretty amazing considering that this dictionary was printed several decades before that cartoon was created.

Time for a brain-teaser! So far I’ve made mini paintings with dictionary pages depicting the letters r, s, t and n. Can you guess which two letters will come next in this sequence? Hint: if you spend your sick days watching the game show network, you might have a leg up on this one.

"Torpor Touch", another 5x7 mini painting with vintage dictionary page.