Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Resisting the urge to buy more stuff

I’ve shown you a bit of the journal I’m making in a class exercise led by Mary Ann Moss called Remains of the Day.  I have enjoyed this experience and I’ve had lots of fun making the cover and the pages and thinking about how I’ll use the technique to make lots more books. I really like making and using books and journals that focus on art and life and I intend to continue until my hands won’t hold a pen or scissors.

As I understand the idea of a Remains of the Day journal it’s to use the waste paper that comes to me during the normal course of daily living to create something else that’s useful and beautiful. There sure is plenty of that!  Bills, flyers, notices, ads, notes and lists, semi-personal letters, and so on… mostly mail that is skimmed and quickly tossed into the round file.  Yet with every video where Mary Ann shows a piece of ledger paper, or Hambly overlay, a huge spool of red thread that won’t run out, or decorative label, or vintage something or another I find myself wanting something just like it for my own journal, even when it’s not the remains of MY day. It’s related to how a friend and I laugh about our shared urge to buy yet another art supply when our studios are already crammed.  Purely greed!  When will it end?  It won’t until I intentionally end it and begin a new process.

Again at the beginning of this new year, as I did last year, I remind myself to use what I already have in a creative way and stop buying more stuff.  That’s why this class appealed to me in the first place.

Here's what I keep reminding myself: this process is about using today's ephemera that would otherwise get tossed into the trash, things like credit card offers, junk paper, printed emails, paper that clutters my file drawers that is no longer useful, 10 year old bank statement (with the account numbers and names cut off), fabric scraps, kids homework, a church bulletin, etc.  Instead of throwing it all into the recycle bin cut it into page sized pieces and sew it into a book in which I write about my day and into which I glue or stitch some pictures taken that day.

This junk paper that’s generated in my daily life can take on an importance that someday will seem as interesting as the vintage ephemera that seems exotic to me now. I can use it in an artful, thoughtful way to reflect through art-making and journaling about what I’m doing with my life and what I am leaving behind, by making beautiful and interesting books out of the remains of my own day.

One of my treasures is a bundle of papers left by a great, great grandfather. It’s not a book and it’s not very personal but it does represent the remains of his work day and what was important to him back in 1827 – 1865 … a bundle of IOU receipts and a few letters, tucked into a handmade case of linen pockets. Maybe my books will be valued in a similar way in future generations if I’ll make sure to include bits and pieces of my current life, write about my beliefs and activities, and include other notes about what is important to me today… letters to the future instead of notes from the past of strangers.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wild Oats - Pages

I'm having so much fun making pages for my Remains of the Day journal, hunting and gathering ephemera to combine into pages: scraps left from sewing projects, papers... whatever can find around the house. I'm determined not to buy anything but to use what I already have in abundance. I brought 2 Iris boxes, 12x12x4 inches, packed full of stuff for the book, and in one day... maybe 14 hours but who's counting... I made 42 pages. They aren't finished and won't be until I get back to my studio where I can root out more good stuff to use.  I cut full pages, half pages, and strips and sewed them together to make 11 x 7.5" pages. You can see some of them at my Flickr album here.

I told you that I made Christmas gifts for my family and now that they have their gifts I can tell you what I made... pillowcases.  I know, that's not very exciting, but these are special, made from fabrics especially chosen for each person. Our dog loving son got a pillowcase made from a fabric printed all over with puppydogs, trimmed with a narrow band of black lettered in white with doggie words (ruff-ruff- good dog - like that) and edged with black paw prints on white. My husband's is a route 66 fabric that includes Oklahoma with a band/hem of 1956 Chevrolets like the one he once owned.  My gardening daughter got  birdhouses and birds, and her husband got big mouth bass with spawning salmon and trimmed with pink roe eggs.  The oldest grandson loves camo anything and his is a batik print that looks like camo but feels softer with a trim of black helicopters on a camo background. 

I'm guessing you want to make some for yourself.  Here's what you need:
5/6 yard of 42-45" wide fabric - body
3 1/2" of 42-44" fabric.  trim fabric
1/3 yard band/hem fabric

I'll trust that you can figure out how to put these together.  The trim is folded in half lengthwise and sandwiched between the body and band/hem, like you would insert piping.  Sew them together. With right sides together sew around the side and end of the pillowcase. Turn the hem and stitch, and you're done.  Use the scraps in a journal like mine.

The pink batik with flowers is the one I made for myself.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sewing Wild Oats

Titles for my art usually are difficult for me but not for this journal cover; it was a piece of cake because of a label I chose to use, from a company called Wild Oats.  And since the cover is sewn ... well there you have it: Sewing Wild Oats. Yes, I know what that phrase refers to, but I'm using it here because this cover is the first assignment in Remains of the Day class where I'll learn to be loose, both with my journal additions and with my machine stitching.  I'm never very loose. When I learned to sew I was taught to be careful and precise. But now I'm asked to turn loose of that life habit and work without thinking. We'll see about that.

I dug into two of my collections, the Thai silk and the clothing labels and sewed them to the base fabric almost without thinking. The resulting piece is overworked in an interesting way and I think it'll be fun to continue.

One thing I learned many years ago about journaling is that if the cover of the book is attractive then I'll be attracted to pick it up and work in it on a more regular basis. Even when buying simple spiral notebooks I look for a color that's attractive, and if it loses it's appeal I take the time to paint or collage the cover.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Recycling the Bits and Pieces

In the past whenever I finished a sewing project I tossed all the tiny snippets into the trash and bundled the big pieces for possible use in another project but now I find myself saving all the snippets to recyle into the building of journal pages and collages. I spent most of the day sewing some Christmas Eve gifts for my family and I'm really proud of what I accomplished but since some of the recepients may read this I can't tell you what I made.. just that each one of pretty wonderful, if I do say so myself. At least you can see a few of the remains of the day and how I used them on this page. It's 8.5 x 11 inches, done on heavy kraft paper that had a former life as a protective surface on my big work table. This is the paper I clean my brushes on, where I practice mark-making, and after a few months it takes on the character of lovingly worn jeans. I couldn't throw it away so I cut it into pages on which I intend to record my days in some way or another. When I have a big stack of finished pages I'll bind it somehow, either into a 3-ring binder or with a big fat coil.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Remains of the Day

I'm going to have FUN.... yes, I am. I've signed up for Mary Ann Moss's online art journal class, Remains of the Day which is starting soon. Go here to read all about it. Class starts December 15 and all the videos and PDFs are available for a year. I've taken other classes from Mary Ann and I guarantee you the woman knows how to teach and how to structure a class. After all, she teaches second graders in LA so how hard could it be to herd a bunch of adults?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Morning on Discovery Bay

Our family spent Thanksgiving with our daughter's in-laws who live on Discovery Bay in Washington State, right across the bay from Port Townsend, in such a lovely setting, as you can see from my sketch. I cherish my memories of waking up very early when the light was just beginning to separate light from dark, when all the world was in silhouette, and all was quiet. I was told that there's a single loon living there, one who's lifelong mate has died. I've felt sadness in the call of the loon, and especially with this one who's now alone for life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paintbox + Velcro + Bookmark

While watching a video by Free(k)hand showing one of his watercolor sketchbooks I spied a spread about his watercolor box holder and decided to make my own. While not as tidy as his, mine works great for my purposes. The box is an Altoids gum box, spray painted white on the inside with Rustoleum. I used double-sided carpet tape to adhere the half pans, filled with my favorite colors, to the box.

I located a metal bookmark and glued velcro to the head of the bookmark using Tough As Nails glue, and the companion side of the velcro is glued to the bottom of my paint box.

To use this little contraption when I'm out painting I simply take the bookmark out of the pocket in the back of my Moleskine and slip it onto a page of my notebook with the head sticking out at the top and fasten the paintbox to the bookmark and paint away, using a waterbrush.  How cool is that!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Surviving the storm

We were without power in a condo at the beach for 24 hours and 5 minutes and just about ready to call it quits when we noticed that some lights had come on in Cannon Beach and knew that ours would return soon. It was interesting to sit near south-facing windows against which 90 mph gusts were blasting off and on throughout the evening and night. Roads north were closed this morning so we went south looking for hot coffee and breakfast. The Wayfarer offered bacon and eggs but no way to make toast; we were happy with what we got.
I worked on journals most of the day, happy as could be to have heat from the gas fireplace and plenty of food in the fridge, but by 3:30 I was ready to move on to something else... maybe packing up and heading home.  Then the power returned and all thoughts of leaving this beautiful place vanished. The sun which warmed our day is down now, leaving behind a sky full of purple clouds with striking bits of orange peeking through here and there... so beautiful I can hardly stand it.

One journal I'm working on is for the Point & Shoot class... this one being the last of the November assignments. the word is juxtapose. I found three photos in my archive that tell a poignant story when viewed together. Tell me what you think.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stormy Day Gray

Coastal Storm

It's not fit for man nor beast outside and I'm counting my blessings for a snug place to spend the day, for heat and electricity and plenty of food in the cupboard... and especially for a blank canvas and a few tubes of paint with which to record the many grays I see.  When the sky is such a whitish gray and the clouds are so low there isn't much definition anywhere. It's difficult to get the waves right when they change moment by moment, but I think you'll get the picture.  The only thing that could get me out of here today is a trip to Seaside to get some acrylic medium that's fresh and juicy to replace this dried up stuff I brought with me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Conversations with Nature

These two paintings are the result of a workshop I took yesterday from Rebecca Wild, a local artist who often teaches for the Sitka Center near Lincoln City.  We cut simple stencils from contact paper and applied multiple layers of color and text on paper to create these small works. They're each about 5 x 7 inches.
This one with the 12 circles was done by cutting masking tape into nickel sized circles and sticking them in a pattern on tip of the painted paper. Then I worked back into the paper with powdered graphite and pastel, removed the tape and wrote a poem inside the circles about summer rain on the coast.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Point & Shoot Journal

Volunteers finish the lines and text of the mural.
The mural I’ve been working on this summer is finished and the sealer will be applied Monday. It’s been such a blessing to be able to work on this project, especially since my son was also working and it gave us extra time together. I wasn’t working every single moment but I did try to work 3 times a week and that practically eliminated my time or desire to do much other artwork of my own.

Now I’m back in the studio, this time concentrating on doing my assignments for an online course I’m taking from LK Ludwig, Point & Shoot Journaling. This is right down my alley, combining three loves: writing and photography and making pages in a visual journal. I signed up for both the October and November courses and as is my usual wont, I’m now doing the last lesson from October. I’m working in a 16 page journal made from one sheet of hot press watercolor paper that I painted on both sides with Bob Ross black gesso. I used the BR because it is thinner and cheaper than some others and spreads very well, drying quickly while retaining interesting patterns of visual texture. Here, I’ll show you some pages.

This one isn't in the Point and Shoot Journal; it's a 9x12 collage I made one day last month.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Katherine drawing lines on wall.

I've been helping with a mural project at my church all summer and now it's about 95% finished, all 300 feet of it. Yep, that's right, it's 300 feet long and 8 feet high, stretching the length of the children's nursery wing. Katherine Boettcher, a muralist, designed the project which illustrates all the Bible stories taught in the nursery classes, using photos of zoo animals and many of our children. She projected the drawings onto the walls and we drew the lines on the wall in pencil and then went back and painted over the lines with dark brown latex paint. Then families were invited to come and paint. Here's a video showing us working last Saturday.

CMBC Mural September 2009 from Nathan Becker on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Choose + Integrity = journal pages

I took my box of compost and some Mod Podge to the beach and managed to extract 2 collages from the collection of paper ephemera. I didn't
know where I was heading with either one but just kept putting colors together to see what came of it. Choose just happened. I used part of some papers I made years ago, literally in the dark.

In a painting class we students were instructed to bring all sorts of non-painting things, arrange them in front of us within easy reach, and put a big sheet of paper was on the easel. Then the teacher turned the lights out, leaving us totally in the dark, and told us to start painting with the materials in front of us.

I don't remember all that I had to work with but I do know that the collection included turmeric, lipstick, eye shadow, and some other kitchen stuff. The painting was really ugly but I've used parts of it in many collages since then, and part of it is what I used here, in the upper left section. The picture of shoppers in an old fashioned store reminds us to choose wisely. And once I started thinking about the night I was choosing non-painting things, my constant choosing of what I eat and don't eat, and my constant choosing between right and wrong the piece came together quickly.

Integrity came together from a prints of another piece coupled with some images from a newspaper that was masked with tissue. The woman is a photo of my mother as a young woman. She and Dad came home from work one afternoon to find that their house had burned to the ground, along with all their possessions. It was during the Great Depression and their situation was dire. Her brother who owned a drug store in PA paid their way north, gave them each a good paying job, and a place to live for the next three years. This of Mother and one of the city crowds by another brother, a newspaper photographer in NYC, seems to tell the story of a frightened young wife with nothing but hope that the future would bring better times. You can faintly see "storyteller" and "catch a glimpse" as well as people reaching up as though they're asking God to step into a tough situation and lift them up. I think Mother would have liked this collage.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Seeing with an artist's eye

I'm sure you've noticed that I love using my own photos in my artwork and on journal pages. My friend LK Ludwig is offering an online class about making and using photos in visual journaling using a simple Point & Shoot camera, so if you need help seeing your world from an un-ordinary perspective head over to her blog and sign up for the class.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hawaii Art Journal

I had grandeous ideas about journaling every day, every time I had a minute to sit down I'd add a sketch or words or paste in some decorative bit of paper, and every day I'd work with my grandkids and help them build their own journal. Right. Best laid plans for journaling never seem to work out for me. Some of these pages have appeared here in my blog as "starts". I added to a bit to them on location but most have been completed since I got home.
I stripped the airline magazine of interesting words and pictures and culled more from a variety of advertising brochures that I picked up in stores or at the airport. These add interest to my pages but they weren't used except to augment entries about something we actually did or saw.

Our grandson, Lucas, added much of the comic relief to our days but he never did get adjusted to the 3 hours difference in time zones, insisting on getting up before the sun rose.

Since this blog is supposed to be about my art-making I'll tell you a bit about how I created each page and if you have other questions just email me. The fruit page was so simple. I used a commercial scrapbooking paper cut to fit my journal and added the text by hand and the title using a stencil.

Starbucks is another scrapbook paper with photos and stencil. I'm trying to remember to take shadow self-portraits often. It's usually only possible in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is low. The people in the small photo are my daughter and four grandchildren.

This page was spray stenciled at home and I added lots of bits later. The photo is of my son.

This paper was painted and stenciled at home with a bit of fabric and a garment label stapeled to the paper.

I did this watercolor sketch from a photograph.

And this sketch is from a magazine picture. I usually don't use photo references from anyone else but this is an exception.

Prepainted paper with label torn from the ice cream cup and a photo of the trunk of a tree.

This page was created at home using fabric, paper and my sewing machine, and the writing that can't be read was done on my anniversary when my husband got sick and we had to cancel our celebration plans. I was a little upset but more for him than for me. He so wanted to give me a day to remember and he couldn't help getting sick. We'll both remember this day for several reasons. It really was a wonderful day from the beautiful sunrise to its quiet end. Our precious son-in-law cooked a gourmet breakfast for everyone, we enjoyed time with all our family, and we had some time away in a beautiful place. And when we returned to our house we had peace and quiet to rest and dream and pray. It really doesn't get any better than that. And I didn't have to cook a single meal all day.

I intended for us to recite our vows for our family and at breakfast I started talking about our wedding day. I described the pink suit i made and wore for going away, with its matching hat, white shoes and gloves, and how we stopped for dinner at a chicken restaurant, and wondered how the owner knew that we were just married. But I didn't get much farther than describing the place we stayed before I got all teary with nostalgea and couldn't go on and pull off the recitation of vows. But we do still love and cherish one another through bad times and good and we'll still be together when one of us dies.

This is the view from our lanai, a watercolor done one afternoon while we were enjoying pupus and drinks. Everyone was fascinated, watching me capture what I saw, and I drew a couple of ooohs and aaahhs when I painted the sky. Some people are so easily entertained!

This is a stencil I cut from a photo of my youngest granddaughter, Sarah. She's such a sweetie, full of energy and fun and ideas for what to do next. All the kids are waterbabies and strong swimmers so they all took to snorkeling very quickly, and even had a Snuba lesson... diving with an instructor and their father floating above ready to come to their rescue. He's a certified diver.
Rick rack makes excellent waves aboue a colorful fabric ocean, don't you think?

This was my planning page. I added a couple of plastic slide holders to the page and inserted a luggage tag and my boarding pass as well as a bougainvillea flower petal. And I made lists of things I wanted to do.

That's it. I have a few blank pages of watercolor paper and will do a few more sketches in the book but it's essentially finished and I'm ready to move on.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy 50th Anniversary

Gerald and I were married 50 years ago today, August 30, 1959, in Booneville, Arkansas. He was 21 and I was 20 and I never thought we'd live long enough to celebrate 50 years together, not because we weren't commited to staying together but because being 70 and 71 seemed so OLD. Two weeks after our wedding he entered medical school in Oklahoma City and I went back to finish my last semester at OSU in Stillwater. We spent the first 4 1/2 months of our marraige with me commuting on weekends while he was adjusting to med school and the accompanying marathon study sessions. The next year I landed a position teaching home economics in a junior high school and had a wonderful 3 years there before we moved to Portland.

We stayed in Portland and the only thing we regret is leaving family and friends behind, especially raising kids who grew up with their grandparents several thousand miles away.

Friends ask, "How did you do it, stay married so long?". It wasn't easy and there were times when we'd each have been glad to walk away, but we went into marraige having promised God that this was forever and neither of us were willing to turn away, even in some of the rough patches. We respect each other and we've given each other room to grow as individuals while supporting one another and looking to a gracious God for help and thanking him for life's many blessings.

This week we are in Kauai with our son, our daughter, our son-in-law and 4 grandchildren, and we're having the time of our lives. I love waking up to the sound of the ocean and taking a long early morning walk along the beach before joining the others for our morning coffee. Life is slower here and so peaceful. We might not go home.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nature's Paintbrush

We toured the Botanical Garden here on Kauai yesterday and one of the first trees I saw, one who's name I don't remember - just that it was a mid sized palm-ish sort of tree - had some unusual fruit that looks like cotton candy, 3" long cotton candy. When it dries it resembles a handleless paintbrush. It works, too, though it adds dirt and fibers to the paint and won't last long.
I'm taking lots of photos but not doing as much art as I'd hoped, just using bits and pieces of time to work in my journal. My 4 grandkids have been delightful. I was snorkeling with Amy and we both popped up our artistic heads, saying did you see THAT fish? We're both making an effort to remember colors and patterns and then make color notes about them when we get back to the house.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Packing for Travel

I'm sorry to have been so quiet this past week. I haven't made much in the way of art although I've been in my studio every day, reading blogs, keeping up with email, making a mess and straightening it up, painting paper and spraying, but mostly preparing for vacation travel.

For some reason I simply can't toss a few things into my suitcase and be confident that I'll have all I need when I get to my destination. I have to make lists upon lists to be sure I haven't forgotten something important... and this from a woman who used to teach workshops about planning and packing a travel wardrobe. Yesterday I finally called it quits, culled my clothes down to the bare essentials, put most of the more valuable things like art supplies into my carry-on, pared down the contents of my handbag, and I think I'm ready to go except for the last few things I'll need until we hit the road.

Art essentials for my trip:

So what am I taking in the way of art supplies? an Altoid travel box with 10 colors, a waterbrush plus 4 other rather small brushes, a tiny spray bottle, a tiny bottle of Indian red ink and a dip pen for drawing, my collage/watercolor journal and a few extra bits of watercolor paper, 2 gluesticks and a small bottle of ModPodge with a spreader, small scissors, pens and pencils, eraser and pencil sharpener, a tiny sea sponge, several paper and plastic alphabet stencils, my Moleskine journal and tiny watercolor paintbox and waterbrush in my handbag, a film container with paper clips and brads with masking tape wrapped around the outside, a roll of clear packing tape that tears easily to use for magazine transfers. I'm sure there's more but I can't think what. I didn't make a list for those things. I laid out everything I thought I'd need and put only half of it into a small folding cosmetic bag I found at Fred Meyers. Oh yes, I added a small cribiner, an S hook, and a large safety pen. These are so I can hang up my bag from the airplane seatback in front of me while I work on that impossibly small table. I'd show you a picture but I forgot to take one before packing and I'm not about to undo it now. Maybe I'll remember to take pictures as I work so you can see the process later. Remind me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coil Binding for Journals

Gina asked about how I bind my journals. Several years ago I was teaching some workshops on travel journals and I splurged and bought myself a holepunch for coil binding, (like the plastic coil used in spiral notebooks). This isn’t your everyday holepunch; it punches a jillion holes at once, perfectly spaced, through several sheets of paper. It wasn’t an economical move but I’ve loved being equipped to create my own unique spiral/coil bound journals with my paper of choice. I like the coil binding for my sketchbooks because I can turn the pages back on themselves and have a solid platform for writing or making art. I bought my coil punch from Bonnie’s Best.
Most copy stores will be able to coil bind your books for a small fee, usually around $5. Assemble your pages, clamp them firmly with some bulldog clips on every edge except where the spiral coil goes… and on that edge put a big yellow Post-it with an arrow pointing to the edge you want punched… PUNCH HERE. They may take off the bulldog clips but hopefully the note will stay in place and they’ll do it right.
Sometimes when I have a hardback book that I’ll be using a lot in the studio I’ll take the book to the copy store and have them slice off the spine along with about ¼” of the spine edge of the book, and have holes punched in the book so it will fit into a 3 ring binder or punch it for a big fat coil if they have the large size in stock.
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