Madcap adventures in the land of the Handmad(e)

I love the big windows in my studio.

Day 179: Handmade Hand Linocut

With the gallery showing coming up right away, I’ve been preparing prints, cards and paintings for the day of the hanging (the art on walls, not the public gallows) on Tuesday. Arriving home from Staples for a last minute card-holder-upper-thingy this morning, I discovered one of my tires was pretty much flat. Thankful for the slow leak instead of a dangerous blowout, I prepared to change it out to the spare when Rob stepped in like my knight in shining armor. He changed out the tire in crazy Sacramento heat, took it to the tire place to be patched, and even swung by an auto parts store to get a replacement bulb for my rear taillight, which he then fixed for me. He even wiped mechanic (and Marianne) grease off of the steering wheel with one of those disinfectant things. Hooray for husband!

These tan lino blocks by Speedball are my favorite for detailed work.

This freed me up to do things I needed to do, like create labels, seal bags, and do my daily art. I’ll be posting a new instructable soon on the easy way to make linocuts, so I spent a lot of time photographing the process for this tiny one, a tracing of my hand with a heart in it and the word “handmade” in cursive, which clearly came out a lot more like “handmad”, which I find to be incredibly hilarious for no good reason. Don’t worry, my actual hand isn’t woefully undersized. I shrunk the tracing to fit my lino block. 🙂

Although, I’m sure I could make a name for myself in the circus art circuit as “the tiny-handed wonder”. If a circus art circuit existed. And my hand were actually tiny, which again, it is not. 🙂 Lots more photos of how this “handmad” lino came to be and how you can be the rockstar of your own craft corner in an upcoming instructable. Stay tuned!

Linocut + fabric + safety pin = custom patch!

Linopalooza

6 hours spent cranking out linocards = joy.

 Day 178: Hand-colored block prints

Every time I tell Rob I have to go to the art store, he does the wallet cringe. You know the one- the pained expression and partial body cramp that seems to occur involuntarily whenever you think about having to spend money that you don’t have in abundance at the time.

I find this is a particularly pronounced condition among we artist-types. We so frequently have to look at expenses as “this OR that”… “groceries OR gas?”…. “cable OR car insurance?”…. “student loan payment OR credit card?” It’s so common, they should really start including a course on it at that $16,000/semester private art school I went to. Kind of like the “math for art majors” course I managed to find at my community college (a title that just barely won out over “the bare minimum of required math knowledge for hippies”, I imagine)- “budgeting for art majors” would include key points like growing your own garden to save money (on *vegetables*, people!), the law of disappearing money (you know, how it goes out of your account like 20 times faster than it goes IN to it) and how to be frugal at WholeFoods. Just kidding on that last one. That topic would be more applicable to a fantasy writing class.

Too bad I can't barter these beauties for utility credits.

Thankfully, I can use a lot of my supplies over and over once I have them. Block-printing is one example of this. Once your linoleum is carved and you have the ink & stuff, you can print away! Heavy-duty cardblanks are great to have, but there are other options too, including using fabric scraps, old book pages or making your own recycled paper out of junk mail. Which I have yet to master, but which sounds extremely satisfying.

Linocuts are addictive, as my friend Nicole of BlueBicicletta can attest to. Nicole is an amazing drawer (as in illustrator, not furniture) and loves using black and white, so linocuts are a natural boon to her art-making style. We’ve both been bitten by the block-printing bug.

I made these prints of my carving on 5x7 cardstock, gave them a spritz of fixative to keep the water-based ink set, then hand-colored them with oil pastels.

As you guys know, I love color. So today I did something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile- I hand-colored 4 copies of a block print I designed for this very purpose back on Jan. 21st (which I only remember specifically because it was my birthday). They’re as cheery as a vase of gerbera daisies all together on my table. I also did some color prints of my lovebirds lino. Awwwww! It’s too much cuteness for one post. I have to stop now before it gets out of control. 😉

If Warhol had ever done 'cute', it might have looked something like this.

The best art is handmade

V is for a visiting vixen with velocity in Vancouver. 🙂

Day 153: V is for Vendetta

I love films. Watching a truly good movie is like being carried to wonderland unharmed inside a tornado with a thousand paintings. Transformative, otherworldly, incredible, emotionally exhausting, part of your soul forever after. I’m sure you’ve seen films you feel this way about. V for Vendetta is definitely one of those for me, but of course they aren’t all blockbusters.

My brother-in-law, Jonathan Bland, is an amazing cinematographer of a rare ilk. His films are palpable, visually luscious, rich with images so breathtakingly beautiful they make me dizzy. He elevates film into an art form so separate from the dime-a-dozen lukewater comedy bombs and weak thrillers most people think of as movies. You can see some clips here. Maybe it’s because he’s so hands-on and fully immersed in every project he embarks upon. The art is better because you can feel his love for it in the end result.

One of Jon's still images from filming in Bombay

It’s how I feel about original artwork. It’s nice to buy a Kinkade print you like, sure. There may be 10,000 of them out there, and of course it’s just a machine-made copy of an image he may not have even executed entirely himself in the first place, but it’s still pretty. And that’s fine. But it’s so different to find a painting you love that someone labored over and created with their own two hands. To touch the paper bits they smoothed in and feel the layers of paint they brushed on and on and on. It’s special. It’s magical.

Never felt that way about a painting, you say? Well get your ass out there and find it! City Art Gallery in San Francisco is a great place to start. I’ll be showing there during the month of July and will be at the gallery for the opening the evening of Friday, June 2nd and all day Sunday, July 4th as the gallery sitter as well. If you’re in the area, swing on by and say hello!

 

Today’s piece is a mixed media painting on 8×10” canvas incorporating vintage ephemera with V words like vixen, velocity and visitor. A small map of Vancouver, BC and “Chapter V” from an old Nancy Drew book are mixed in there with the sewing patterns as well.

Day 136: Hard Candy & Carousel

'Carousel', a photo of handmade earrings on milk glass

I manage a fabulous team of about 40 artisans and crafters in the Sacramento area who all have Etsy shops. Etsy.com, if you haven’t heard of it yet, is an amazing marketplace for buying and selling handmade and vintage goods. It’s a clean-looking, easy to use, supportive common ground for the “makers” of the world, and a great venue for connecting with people who understand that when you make something by hand, there’s a special attention to quality and actual love that goes into it. And of course, handmade goods are often unique and extra special for that reason. For example, I have never understood the desire to have a brand name purse for $400, when instead you could have an amazing handmade/upcycled/one-of-a-kind one for a lot less. To each his own. 🙂 Check out our team blog here.

I always found it interesting in art history class that “movements” in art- impressionism, dada, pop art, photorealism- always seemed to become identifiable only after the fact. It made me wonder how we art folk would be able to figure out what kind of “movement” we belonged to at the time, while we were making stuff. I’ve come to realize that it certainly couldn’t matter less. Those who are passionate about making will make what they must regardless of a label.

However, if I had to put a finger on what I think art historians will someday turn back and call it, I would coin this “The New Arts & Crafts Movement”. With Etsy’s continued growth in sales over the past few years and other sites like it cropping up constantly (Zibbet.com, Artfire.com, ShopHandmade.com, iShopIndie.com, CraftMall.com, just to name a few), it appears to me that a renewed appreciation for handmade items is on the rise. Perhaps the continuing exposés revealing the cold machinations of huge corporations are making people think twice when it comes to purchasing mass-produced items. I say our repulsion for big business in general pulls us back to thoughts of humanity, makes us nostalgic for simpler times, and helps us believe that an individual dedicated to creating something- whether that’s a painting, pair of mittens or jewelry- is capable of making something valuable.

I find that a lot of people who purchase my art like to be able to meet me or communicate with me. And with the internet and sites like Etsy, there’s virtually nothing holding you back from doing that today.

Today’s pieces for the art project are two photos of some earrings I made today. Using colorful freshwater pearls and wire-wrapping them into clusters, I made several pairs of fun, dangly earrings. Photographed in a piece of milk glass my grandmother gave me, I picked two of my favorite images- one mimicking a swing carousel and the other resembling a dish of hard candy.

'Hard Candy', photo of handmade earrings in milk glass