Saturday, November 28, 2009

I haven't posted for a couple of days but I have been making art. I made a pair of collages yesterday but they have so many layers of gel medium and PVA glue on them that they are taking a long time to dry out. I will show you them when they no longer have opaque white blobs - probably a day or two. Today I have been making another book, different to the last one. It is all constructed but I am still assembling text and images for it.

A fortnight ago I bought the book Mixed Mania in Hobbycraft in Stockport, then I went into the Starbucks next to it to read my new book over a cup of coffee. This is not unusual. But I was so grabbed by the projects in the book I left my coffee unfinished and went straight home to make a start. I began at the front of the book and worked my way through it, trying every single project. This is very unusual.

In the last two weeks I have made paper cut-out dolls, decorated paper, inchies, textured backgrounds, doodles, mini-artworks, a self portrait, a reliquary doll, a quilted clutch purse, a mixed-media doll, an art quilt, a fabric journal, as well as the textured collages and the book I can't show you yet. I invented orc stitch, non-dominant hand embroidery, drawing with a toothpick dipped in ink, and some ugly doodles of rats and seagulls which then kept cropping up with my work. I started keeping a dream diary and drawing on that for artistic inspiration, which has been very productive.

Fortunately I have a well-stocked art and craft stash and I have hardly bought any materials for all this. In fact, I can't think of anything I bought just for this. I either already had the materials required, or I was able to improvise and substitute.

I feel no urge to slow down. I am keen to continue and probably complete all the projects in the book. I already have a few other books lined up I would like to attempt projects from, although there aren't any other books I want to work through cover-to-cover as I have with Mixed Mania.

I'm interested in doing more exciting things with textiles. I'm interested in altered objects (altered books, altered clocks, furniture etc.) I want to make more 3d objects. More assemblage. Diptychs/triptychs. Boxes. Drawers. I want to work bigger. I want to make an altered long case clock!

I said all this was going somewhere. I still don't know where. But the journey is very exciting.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fabric-covered journal. I have never done any bookbinding before, although it is something I have always wanted to try. I really enjoyed making this book and I am sure I will make more.

I dreamed about the woman, and I woke up with the song lyric going through my head. Sometimes, one of the hardest things about making art is deciding on a subject. My inner critic tries to have her say, telling me that the subjects I choose are too hard, or too lame, or hackneyed, or just plain wrong. By using images from my dreams, I take control away from my conscious thought where my inner critic speaks, and hand control over to my unconscious thought. My unconscious thought is a much better artist than my inner critic anyway, and a lot more fun to be with.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I've just got to share this wonderful poem/incantation my sister Stephanie wrote for banishing that poisonous toad, the inner critic:

Inner critic,

negative spirit,

be quiet!

You're a pest,

and I have bested you.

I see you for what you are;

an attention-seeking, jealous, spiteful sprite.

I will listen to my well-wishers,

who bless me with kisses

and hugs and warmth.



Off with you now.

From A Roker Artist.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Art quilt, based on a dream I had about a wolf (who was also a woman) and her two cubs running away from something.

I had particular fun doing the rats (the triangles around the edges of the quilt). I wanted to hand-stitch them on with jagged, rough-looking stitches. I called this stitch "orc stitch". But I am an experienced seamstress, and when I am not paying close attention I automatically produce tiny, neat, even stitches. To prevent this I developed the technique of "non-dominant hand embroidery". Non-dominant drawing and painting is so last week, darlings!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm working on my next mixed-media project - a 2' square art quilt. It will be based on a dream I had about a wolf (who was also a woman) running away from something with her two cubs. I have started out by drawing the wolf and the cubs with my new favourite method - a toothpick dipped in ink. Toothpicks are horrible drawing implements. They are messy and scratchy and blotchy and unpredictable. Scraping them across paper is a sensation similar to running your fingernails down a blackboard. But the results seem to match the tenor of my dreams lately in a way that no other medium can.

Anyway, I am quite pleased with the drawings so far. These will be scanned and copied onto fabric which will be stitched to the quilt. But I might also do something-or-other with the drawings themselves because they have something about them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mixed media doll. I had a wonderful dream a few days ago in which I was in a sort of "Pirates of the Caribbean" type adventure. I was boarding galleons and seizing treasure, beaing chased through wharfs full of half-naked stevedores and escaping by jumping into the sea and swimming for my life. It was thrilling, but never scary. I made a note of it in my diary when I woke up.

When I saw this project in Mixed Mania, the doll's locks and beads reminded me of Johnny Depp in "Pirates", and I decided to theme the doll after my dream. My son Sam looked at her and asked "Is it Calypso?", who is also a character in the same movie. So I have named her Calypso.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A quilted clutch purse covered with objects, images and words that boost my self-esteem, e.g. running medals and ribbons, compliments that really boosted me and my graduation photo.

Beautiful wire-wrapped and beaded glasses by my sister Lindsey. View her bespoke jewellery on her website Paraphernalia.

Friday, November 20, 2009

This is a reliquary doll. A reliquary is a special container for relics - bones of dead saints, pieces of the one true cross, the nails Jesus was crucified with, that kind of thing. This reliquary contains things with a different kind of meaning. Found items from around my home that I personally associate with ... well I think I'll keep that private. It only needs to be said that this doll represents someone or something to me. What it means to you (if anything) is up to you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I have now finished all the projects from the first part of the book Mixed Media. Titled "Artistic Appetisers", they were all small projects to teach techniques and build confidence. I have had a lot of fun doing them and have already started adapting some of them to my own ideas and interests.

The next section is called "Main Courses" (the book is themed as a cookery book for some reason) and involves larger projects with multiple stages which take longer to do. I have already started getting stuck into the first project which involves several stages and so cannot be completed in a single sitting. I intend to keep making small artworks and inchies every day at the same time as tackling some larger projects. What is more these "main courses" have much more leeway for self-expression, which is exciting.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I've been keeping a diary of visual images from my dreams each night, to use as inspiration for art. The seagulls with oversized vivid orange beaks in the previous post come from this diary. On another occasion I dreamed of ill-intentioned rats with speech bubbles, each containing a single word. I couldn't remember the words in the speech bubbles but I knew they were something nasty. So I combined some rat doodles with some textured backgrounds and some found objects, to produce these unpleasant yet curiously cathartic little artworks.

My dreams aren't full of unpleasant images. In the last few days I also dreamed of jigsaw puzzles and pieces, of a cave with a fire in it which was definitely a safe and welcoming place, a wolf (who was also a woman) and her two cubs, and a room in which one wall was covered with acoustic guitars. I also dreamed of my nephew wearing a hat which looked like a rolled-up condom. Don't ask me. I don't actually believe dreams "mean" anything. They're just random images your brain throws out. My brain produces a pretty normal mixture of pleasant, unpleasant and downright inexplicable images, just like everybody else's.

Breakthrough! Sketching with toothpicks dipped in ink. Rats and seagulls. Dirty enough for ya?
I am going somewhere with all of this. Somewhere that has nothing to do with scrapbooking or card making.

I want to use authentic objects in my mixed-media work - real stamps, real photos, real postcards, real books - not just photocopies and reproductions

I want to use personal objects in my work - things that have come from my life, such as stamps that came from a letter I received, train tickets from journeys I have made, religious icons from missal cards I collected as a child

I want to say something with my work. I want to express my feelings and experiences, my wishes and desires

This stage is about research. I am gaining experience, learning techniques, gathering inspiration and collecting materials. I am building my confidence. I am on a road and it goes somewhere. I don't know where it goes, but I know a road when I see one.

Backgrounds combined with doodles.

Backgrounds combined with inchies to create simple small artworks.

Mixed-media art seems to be closely related to scrapbooking and card-making, two very trendy crafts which I loathe on account of their excessive twee-ness. One way out of twee-ness is to avoid using the ready-made papers and trimmings and cartoon figures you can buy in craft shops. I have been drawing my own doodles. OK, they're still twee. Very, very twee.

BUT it was worth doing for a couple of reasons. First, I discovered that when I was sitting and drawing doodles, they were not only twee but also crap. My inner critic was seriously getting in the way. I was much more productive when I doodled whilst watching TV. I filled pages full of the things and afterwards I could see that the later ones were in some ways better than the early ones. Unconsciously I had been monitoring, evaluating and improving without any input from the inner critic. That's very, very interesting.

Secondly, I can see a place for cartoons in mixed media. But I'd prefer to produce edgier Ronald Searle-cum-Gerald Scarfe types of cartoons than this sub-Hallmark shite. I can probably do that if I try. I just need a drippy pen and to get into a really bad mood.

Ten 4-inch-square backgrounds using acrylic structure gel painted over watercolour paper (actually cut-up old sketchbooks). Then impressed with various textures, and painted with acrylic paints using a variety of techniques including brushing, drybrushing and fingerpainting. These will be used in future mixed-media artworks, although some of them are quite pleasing in themselves.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Inchies - tiny little 1.5" square mixed-media artworks. Quick and fun to make, they can stand in their own right or be incorporated into larger pieces.

Ten sheets of hand-decorated paper for use in mixed-media projects. Food colouring, Kool-Aid, tea, water-soluble coloured pencils, acrylic paint. Wax resist, potato printing, freehand painting. Why should kindergarten children have all the fun?

Two mixed-media/altered book poems. The first is by me, the second made simultaneously but independently by my sister Stephanie. After we had finished and had show-and-tell we realised they formed a call-and-response. Serendipity.

Paper dolls dressed in mixed media. The idea came from a book called Mixed Mania but I didn't like the stick-thin doll template in the book, so I drew my own with my own proportions (and a cartoony-enormous head, otherwise it didn't look right).

Is it art?

No, but only because I say it isn't. If I said it was, it would be. It was fun and easy and a start at mixed media.

I could do more with it. I could stick on photos of my own face over the head. Or the faces from vintage photos, black-and-white film stars, modern celebrities, oil portraits. I could cut the clothing from newsprint text, photographs, bus tickets. I could cut the arms and legs off and rearrange them Picasso-style. I could use the figures in a collage. I could insert them into Calvin Kline adverts, catwalk photos, movie posters, porn photos, Bratz doll boxes to comment on the disparity between real female bodies and the distorted bodies we so often see. I could do stuff with it but I haven't yet.