Accidental joy

"Mapland", sewn paper and gesso, 12"x 16"

Hello darlings! Please excuse my belated announcement of the winner for “the name game”. I know I said I’d post it yesterday on Tuesday, but I hate to publish a blog post without art, so I lollygagged until I had something new to show you.

Thick gesso imprint forms tons of texture

First thing’s first- after careful consideration of the many wonderful suggestions, I’ve decided to go with “Golden Lantern”, a suggestion from Priya- a fellow artist and blogger- who wins the first print [a limited edition giclee] of this painting! Yay! This was fun. I think we’ll do it again sometime. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Map details are partially visible behind the translucent overlay

Today I’m sharing a new piece I cobbled together this afternoon. It started when I found my sweet vintage atlas (under a pile of stuff in the studio as suspected). Nearby were two sheets of translucent paper I’d used to imprint yarn into thick wet gesso for the landscapes I completed recently that I’ve been aching to Frankenstein into something grander. So I decided to combine them with atlas and map guide pages as an additional layer of subtle color beneath the white landscape.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the studio. The last of the daylight slipped away as I finished stitching, allowing the glow of my trusty sewing machine to illuminate my paper ‘painting’. Instantly I felt a little ball of happy form in my chest.

Oh, joy! Damn, I love this.

The warm yellow light brought the map pages to life. Diffused under the frosted layer, they introduced soft color and lines less visible in daylight; like water transforms dusty pebbles into beautiful bits of color. There’s just something about illuminated sculpture that grabs me in my gut and won’t let go.

That pushpin fell out a half second after this photo. Yeah... paper lanterns don't make great bulletin boards, just FYI.


Junk mail Christmas tree!

Junk mail Christmas tree

Day 347: Junk mail Christmas tree with how-to

18 days left! Today’s artwork is this junk mail Christmas tree with a full how-to on Instructables. A few days ago, I realized:

1. I had a huge pile of junk mail taking up valuable real estate in my art studio, and
2. I wanted a Christmas tree.

I also don’t have a lot of spare cash for a tree, am morally conflicted with supporting an industry of tree-killing, and am constantly on the lookout for daily projects. Et voila! Junk mail Christmas tree was born.

Using a pile of junk mail and some pages from a copy of the Iliad, I made a half & half tree so I can go with the colorful side or frilly white book page side depending on my mood. 🙂

I’ve seen a lot of arguments over the years about craft versus art. I consider craft and art to be equal in expression, creativity and viewer enjoyment. Crap is still crap, whether it’s defined as art or craft, and you know it when you see it. In my opinion, all good artists should consider their work a craft anyway requiring skill and quality. So I hope with that explained, y’all don’t mind my use of this piece as today’s daily artwork.

Plus there’s something so satisfying about upcycling projects, where you can take something that would normally be useless and magically transform it into something pretty, useful or both. Believe it or not, writing a comprehensive how-to for something like this actually takes a lot longer than you’d expect. But people have posted photos of their completed efforts from other Instructables I’ve published before, and nothing makes my day like seeing concrete evidence that I’ve inspired someone. So here’s hoping you can use this info to make your own lovely little free tree! Happy holidays, darlings!

Wind beneath my wings

Day 246: Crying up to joy

Today’s piece is a little woolen cloud with bird (on thread) composed of two pieces of paper. One side says “cry up (to)”, which is from a Spanish/English dictionary from the “sayings” section, and the other is a bit from a hymn book that has “ing joy!” in it. As the bird hangs on a thread, it can twirl in the breeze. Thinking of it spinning around, I combined the words and decided to call it “crying up to joy”. I think it’s interesting how we use the term “cry” to refer to sadness or happiness. 

If I ever learn how to do encaustic stuff, I’d like to do something similar with a little wax bird along the lines of the Icarus myth. For some reason, lots of my art thoughts are steering themselves towards folklore and mythology lately. Happy weekend, everyone!

The other side of the bird

Haven’t you heard?

Day 245: Catch

“Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!” 🙂 If you watch too much Family Guy like me, you’ll now be reliving the “Surfin’ Bird” episode in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome. But I couldn’t help it. I’m using birds and words.  (For those of you who don’t watch Family Guy, I’m referring to liberal use of the abovementioned song by The Trashmen in a particular episode. And if you don’t know that song- do yourself a favor and don’t google it.)

Today’s piece is composed of a frame donated to me by a fellow artist (who, coincidentally uses black and white in her artwork) and some more bird cut-outs from a vintage Spanish/English dictionary. Though “disquietude”, “bridle” and “catch” are all visible amongst other smaller type, “Catch” seemed to stand out the most to me. Instead of layering birds like yesterday, I decided to suspend just a few from thread. This allows them to move with the air of the room and cast shadows. I know it’s simple, but I like that about it.

"Catch", paper thread and frame

Go west, young bird

Day 244: West

Today’s piece is a paper sculpture. Using the other half of the embroidery hoop I used for the base in Day 241’s “Autumnal” lantern, some yarn, and a map guide of the bay area (also some Shakespeare for an extra touch of romance), I cut out tons of little birds from a pattern I drew freehand, and glued them on to each other in a floating formation.

I want them to be doves or something, but odds are they are seagulls, seeing as how seagulls are so abundant near the bay where I grew up. They’re permanently imprinted on my brain as default bird shape. Even though here we are beset by roof-roosting pigeons. Who panic in a flurry of feathers every time we leave the house. Someone should tell them we sold that BB gun we initially purchased as cheap exterminating gear at the garage sale. I mean, we’ve let them raise a couple of broods up there now, so they can relax already. Sheesh.

"West", an upcycled paper sculpture measuring about 8" long by 5" wide.

Challenge within a challenge

'Balloon Flowers', mixed media on 8x10" canvas

Day 204: Balloon Flowers

I watched another episode of “A Work of Art” on Bravo today (I heart On Demand), and on this last one, they had to use children’s materials and create something inspired by the experiences that molded them on their paths to being artists. Instead of pouting about not being on this season, I decided to use the show as inspiration. Though I don’t have pipe cleaners and neon pom poms hanging around (perhaps we should equip children with less obnoxious art supplies?), I decided to give myself a similar limited resource challenge and set about seeing what I could make with paper.

Unlike many contestants of reality show challenges, my childhood was pretty awesome. I didn’t have to use street trash for drawing paper, or burn paintings in the fireplace to keep everyone warm. My creativity was constantly nourished and supported by my family. I remember being amazed at my grandma’s tolepainting, my grandpa’s woodwork, and even the creative décor zeal with which the women of my family tackle parties.

I sewed concentric circles of paper in the center, trimmed them, then folded them up for the blossoms.

I began fantasizing about writing and illustrating in elementary school. I think it was Grandma who gave me a great “this book written and illustrated by Marianne” stamp. Grandma taught me to read as well, and words constantly worm their way into my visual art to this day.

After carving up a phone book and using some pages from The Iliad, I was on my way with a satisfying level of texture and even more color than I’d expected. The imagery on this 8×10” canvas is simple, but for me, it holds that childlike joyfulness I remember being consumed with when I first began to create things. Embroidery floss stems/strings anchor these balloon flowers. Else they may just leap right off the page… 🙂