Thursday, 26 February 2009

Serendipity moments

Time for art has been in short supply this last week, though there have been a couple of serendipity moments which I would love to share. First, at the craft exhibition last week, I made contact with a couple of magazine editors and have arranged to send photographs of some of my journals, and make up a 'sampler' showing some of the techniques I love doing. That exercised my mind for I first analysed the actual magazines and then made notes on what would best showcase my work. Interesting how the gardening magazines I write for often commission something which is loosely craft/art based but inspired by gardens. With the samples will go a little booklet of themed topics I can cover.

That interrupted the flow of ideas I was also working on to use the 'antique' wallpaper I illustrated last week, discovered in the 'wood-mountain' - see my other blog. I had just torn out some lovely magazine pages to frame one or other of the paper panels and then discovered some artificial sprays of twigs and berries in our local garden store; the pink and dusky apricot colours complemented the japanese feel of the paper. On the search for golden forsythia, I discovered some wonderful sprays in a gift shop on our nearest town. A shop I love for they sell 'Shaker' style artifacts and punched metal hearts. When I explained that I did not want the artificial forsythia to decorate artwork and the little journals I make, the young assistant suggested I brought in some samples to show the owner, as they would like to sell them!

I was flabbergasted and to cover myself (for I have no completed samples), I explained that I would make some up as I usually spent the time working on samples to write about step-by-step technique. "Don't miss this possibility," I said to myself, wondering when I would ever have time to make complete little books as samples, and if the owner likes them, to make sufficient to sell. Back home, I set about what I had sworn I would not do again - make copious notes and leave it at that. (And I still have to progress FOUR visual journaling pages that are begun but lingering.) Whatever I decide to trial has to be simple but attractive, and capable of batch construction. This was true serendipity: not something planned and nothing may come of it. Can I do this? Until I try, I will never know.

My pics above show the artificial twigs sourced from two separate venues, which I bound into a bouquet, the notes I made click on the image so you can actually read what I wrote), and a little reminder to myself from the dictionary that this moment would spur me to FINISH something. Maybe I would incorporate another of my recycling finds - again see my other blog, which also details how I purchased a tripod yesterday so I could photograph the stages in non-blur mode. I had planned an art afternoon today, but after a sleepless night (why?) and a morning when I even managed to crash my laptop email program - office machine still not fixed), I developed some sort of lurgi and succumbed to sitting by the fire lap-tapping away to record these moments. Guess I have caught something at the three over-heated exhibition halls; absolutely maddening for I have so much to do! It is certainly not the winter blues or I would have stayed in bed!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Look what I found today ...

Thinking of the post in which someone said 'use a find in a visual journal or collage' - or words to that effect - look what I found today! Some vintage chinoiserie-style wallpaper in, of all places, a gigantic woodpile at a local recycling site. We were collecting firewood emanating from building spoil; old houses that were being re-furbished. Amongst the joists and beams I spotted a bit of fluttering paper, colour amongst the drab planks. The colours glowed; what a collage find I thought, as I squirreled it away into the car. (Raymond was not amused!). As I pulled at the pile, more wallpaper was revealed. It peeled away easily and then I found a whole stash. It was not nearly as old as I thought, probably from a renovation of a renovation in the 50s or 60s, pasted onto hardboard panels and not paper at all but a sort of plasticised material.

Of course! Paper could not have survived the snow and wet of the last few weeks (the spoil from this particular building renovation was not there the last time we sourced firewood, three weeks ago. I peeled it all away and tore away a loose bit on our return home, washed it (fragile as it was, it did not fall apart) and set it to dry between the folds of a bath-towel.

The colours had brightened; it was in fact a little blatant, but I loved the panels of birds and the delicate sprays of flowers. I envisaged using parts of these panels in journals and collages, but first, I must trial the washed pieces. They look almost like paper, but clearly are not. First to check adhesive that will fix them to a substrate; then subdue the somewhat plastic finish with a) gel medium and b) white napkin tissue; perhaps c) with clear gesso. What will 'take'? This will be a case of real experiment - a page at the back of my new collage book. I will post the page as soon as the experiments and 'what if?' are complete.

And then 'use the find' - do not add it to the stash of other finds whose purpose I now cannot recall. What did I save this for ??? I find this so immeasurably sad, to look again upon a 'thing' still beautiful, but the occasion has past and I cannot remember the 'what' or the 'why'.

You can read the story of  the woodpile in my other blog: today's posting.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Collage Notes

I was very tempted today to do more to my 'escape' collage, but decided instead to prepare my page of notes as to what I did and why with the 'experimental' page. For I knew that, with a busy week ahead' I would have forgotten my trials by the time I return to it next weekend. This took me rather longer than normal, for first I had to connect the printer and scanner to my laptop (the 'office' computer is still sulking), and then I had to install the relevant software - AND BACK EVERYTHING UP !!!

So here is my page of notes; I realise what I need to improve, and I have more trials to undertake, and then I will be back to what I originally set out to do, without even thinking of notes or experiments. I know I have learned more in working in this way, and at least I have a completed impromptu page, and the basis for another piece of work. Please click on the image to read the actual hand-written text. I wish I had left room for a proper margin, or a frame all round the page - I was concerned to be able to fit in all I wanted to record, but the finished result is not to my liking. Actually, it looks a little better when tabbed alongside the collage page; it looks more purposeful.

I've also re-posted a photo of the experimental page, shot in daylight this time. The colours are more as they should be (not with a yellow-tinge as in yesterday's post), but still the TEXTURE is not apparent; and it is texture as well as colour that I love. I also discovered that the same shot taken on two different cameras records the image with a totally different colour balance - and it isn't always the same camera that gives me the shot I want. I think that is called operator-ignorance. I must learn.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Naughty play day

I should have been working, but decided to play instead. I have started reading 'Collage Journeys' by Jane Davies - essential and inspirational for anyone who has had the traumatic week I have experienced: it offers a kick-start to creativity for anyone who loves paper. I loved her introductory chapter and for once eschewed my normal procedure of experiment and note-making, which usually results in a box full of supplies, many notes, and nothing finished.

As my computer, scanner and printer were non-operational, I opened a magazine and fell in love with some snow-covered Scottish mountains (quite why in the midst of our own snow-storms ??) - and wondered how I could use them. I have worked with magazine pieces before but suddenly visualised a fractured fabric patchwork technique I had seen somewhere, and decided to rip the magazine photos and intersperse them with some of the text-stamped paperbags that is a feature of a lot of my journaling work.

I was quite pleased with the initial result, achieved without my usual notes or sketches, but I hesitated to explore the next stage without a little experimentation. I wanted to try out different effects of using two sorts of gel medium, partly to tone down the gloss of the magazine pages, plus overlaid napkin images, and stamped text on the white tissue backing from decorative napkins - this as a result of reading Sharon Tomlinson's technique in the current issue of 'Cloth Paper Scissors'.

So out came my journaling notebook; I pasted in a few pieces of torn magazine pages, and then some napkin images, and them some white napkin, using two types of gel medium , but leaving space to annotate what I had done. But the collage took over; I filled in all the spaces in various ways and added colour using Aquatone water-soluble crayons, and Neocolor - to test the different effects. I tried pasting white tissue over the glossy magazine snippets, and tried some over-stamping; then added pre-stamped text, as advised by Sharon. From this 'exercise' that became a page in its own right, I learned so much; my page is not beautiful - lots of errors in placement, and colouring, but it will serve as a 'collage sampler' and I will probably remember more than if I had made my usual tentative experiments. I will still catalogue what I did, in my notebook, because otherwise I will forget what I have done.

The first two photos show this experimental page: 1. just a few paste-downs with space to make notes; 2. the finished collage-that-took-over 'experimental' page - the photographic quality is awful as the light had gone and my scanner is not working; so the colours are quite wrong, all yellow and faded - I am ashamed to be posting them and will take another pic on the morning, in daylight; but I think maybe just a little bit of the exciting texture comes through; and I know where I need to make further trials, before going back to my original idea. Please click on any of the images to view then at a larger size.

As to my original idea - a double-page spread in an artist's watercolour book ( I keep a supply of these handy for when the creative muse strikes): the second two pics show the basic pages, which I will now be able to embellish using the experience gained from the 'experimental' page. The pages will be framed with paper strips over-stamped with script - I painted the paper bags this afternoon with acrylics using my credit-card glaze technique (I will post this method when I have something to photograph). Then I will add the words and some other embellishments, but keep it simple. It will be called 'ESCAPE' - which is just what I felt I needed this week, with the technological trauma I have experienced. Please don't laugh at my poor attempts, and even poorer photography - I console myself with the fact it is not about achievement but having fun; and mental therapy.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Final 'starting young' story pages

I didn't think this through! For this posting to make sense, you will need to read the two other posts from today - there are three in all. Begin with the post headed 'Starting Young'.

And here are the final pages from the little gift our nine-year old grand-daughter made for us last year, to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. The final (photo) is of Kate, enjoying a piece of flapjack, in the room that was 'created' especially for the Golden Wedding celebrations. That in itself was a labour of love on the part of our daughter and son-on-law, for the house was a partly-built shell, transformed for one night only into a magical venue for a family gathering.

I do hope you have enjoyed Kate's story as much as we did; all entirely her own work, from concept to completion. 

More 'starting young' story pages

Here are the next set of pages from nine-year old Kate's handmade story book gift. I do hope you enjoy them.

Starting young

In my other blog I said I wanted to share our special day (8th Feb, our wedding anniversary). I also said I would like to share the very special visual storybook one of our grand-daughters wrote and made for us a year ago, to celebrate our Golden Wedding. I thought journalers might like to share the pages: Kate, then aged just nine, devised the story and wrote it, and drew all the miniature illustrations, then bound all the pages into a handmade cover. I asked her how she planned it all, and she showed me the storyboard she had created, just the same  way as many professionals work. I also discovered that there is to be a sequel to this little book. The pages measure approx 5" x 5", the text is written in pencil and the drawings use coloured pencils. (I am afraid my scans do not do justice to the delicacy of the work, but double-clicking on any illustration will enlarge the image.)

There are more pages, but my blog will not allow me to upload more than five pics at a time, so I will post the others in another blog in a few minutes, so you can read the whole story. It os really sweet.

Friday, 6 February 2009

More uses for table napkins

I have spent the last two days working on a short instructional article on fabricating decorative easter eggs using motifs from paper table napkins. All you need are some polystyrene eggs and some pva adhesive, and good-quality 3-ply table napkins. The pic above shows a selection of those I have been making, just before their final coats of 'varnish' (neat pva). The eggs make a lovely gift for those who do not like chocolate (or can't eat it) when presented in a basket with a little posy of flowers; or they are great fun for a children's easter egg hunt.

The article will appear at the end of March (April issue) in 'Organic Garden & Home': a UK publication but available on subscription. If anyone wants more detailed instructions than will appear in the 500 words I was commissioned to write, then please ask and I will put something together a little nearer the time, and will include some step-by-step photos. 

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Poetry Photocard Journaling

The current theme for a while up here in the northern hemisphere has been snow - so many of us finding such deep and immense beauty in what we see when the world turns white (and blue and smokey-grey and all those other delicately subdued colours that are reflected in the powdery whiteness).

These moments often spark poems in my mind, and one way I have of journaling them is to take a photograph of the image that inspired the poem, and then manipulate it in Photoshop, and then layer the text of the poem over it. I print these 'photocards' onto 6" x 4" stiff matte art-photopaper, ready to bind together when I have enough to make a whole book. Initially, you have to work quickly; no labouring over the words, for the image has to be snapped immediately, before the light changes, allowing for the fact it will have text overlaid.

Above are three 'snow-induced' pages, all from last year, though I only made the cards quite recently when I discovered how to layer text over photos. I apologise for the fact that you will see the chestnut tree so often in my blogs. It stands opposite our bedroom window and is the first thing I see upon waking each morning as I lay in bed. Please click on the images if you would like to view them at a larger size.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Journaling with paper napkins

I first started using paper table napkins to embellish my travel journals about two years ago, selecting designs that ‘spoke’ to me – juicy dark elderberries or flaming clusters from the rowan in autumn; delicate white narcissus with blue muscari (grape hyacinths) in Spring; feathery parrot tulips and voluptuous roses in summer – and almost anything in winter that lifts the spirit on a dull day when the journaling mood hits me yet again. I collect and hoard paper napkins, and am continually adding to my collection. 

Yesterday I discovered a beautiful antique napkin (see pic), perfect for a French travel journal – indeed I am working upon one at the moment. Serendipity for this find – at a bring-and-share luncheon, a gathering of elderly ‘old scholars’ from my husband's school, back in the early 1940s. I spotted the napkins (wrapped around individual table settings of knife, fork and spoon) as soon as we walked into the meeting room. Never mind the food – NAPKINS! Mine went straight into my bag and after the meal, I collected up those that had barely been used. “Where did you buy these?” I asked Jeannie, who was organising the event. “Oh, I’ve had them in the drawer at home for ages,” she replied. So not something that could be replaced; a find indeed.

I digress. I have never met anyone else who uses napkins in the way I do, so I was intrigued and delighted to read Sharon Tomlinson’s informative article on creating a ‘Paper Napkin Garden Journal’ in the current issue (no 22) of ‘Cloth Paper Scissors’. Sharon uses matte gel medium (she recommends Golden) to adhere selected motifs, whereas I use ‘HeatnBond Lite’ iron-on adhesive to fix motifs direct to journal pages, or to the paper bags from which I create some of my mini-journals. I use the more fragile ‘Bondaweb’ where the napkin and decorated paper bag will be mounted on muslin; this creates a flexible background which can be stitched by hand or machine.

The illustrations in this posting are as follows: first the newly acquired ‘French Café’ napkin, then a page from my ongoing French Travel Journal which covers our visit to France and the Loire valley last October – this page uses bright orange rowan berries off an autumn napkin, and describes part of our journey to the ferry (for me a journey is as important as arriving, and I nearly always start my travel journals in this way; a sort of unwinding). Next is the page from my working notebook detailing experiments relating to napkin motifs (a cockerel) that are to be stitched into a small (12” x 12”) quilted wall-hanging, entitled 'Crowing my Cockerel Colours'. Finally a dish of easter eggs, so quick and easy to decorate. Please double-click on any of the images to view them at larger size.

I am happy to post step-by-step instructions for my fusible-web methods of napkin journaling if I receive any requests via ‘comments’. As for my pva-glued napkin easter eggs: instructions for these will be appearing in the April issue of  ‘Organic Garden & Home’ published at the end of March, so I won’t jump the gun and post details until my article has appeared. Right now I am going to try Sharon’s gel-medium method, particularly her use of overlying text; that sounds right up my street.