Colored pencil may be my new addiction so I hope you guys don't get tired of viewing them while I perfect my technique. This picture is of my new pug puppy, Amore, and a young girl from our church, Rhianna. I've been taking Amore to church since I got her last December. She is quiet and well behaved and loves being passed from person to person during the service. As she has gotten a bit older this is not as easy because she is growing so big so quickly, but both Amore and Rhianna still seem to love their cuddle time. Below is the picture I did this from as well as further examples of my process.
Last February I attended a conference put on by the Vermont Arts Council called Breaking into Business. It was designed to help artists establish and market their businesses. There, I met colored pencil artist Corrina Thurston, who does fabulous drawings of animals, wildlife etc. They are so realistic. I had never realized such an effect could be achieved with colored pencil. A lot of it involves building up layers and also using tools to cut into the layers to create lines, hair, wrinkles, whiskers, fur, etc. I decided to give it a try and began doing some portraits. This is one of my most recent of President Obama.
I'm really enjoying the process and am fascinated watching the image emerge. I have been taking photos of the drawing as it progresses and find that by the time I take the one prior to the final I frequently am ready to give up. When I get to this point I have tried studying the photo of my drawing and comparing it to the original picture in Photoshop. I practice making changes in Photoshop where it is easy to backup and erase mistakes and once I realize what needs to be fixed, I return to the page and colored pencil to make the changes. In this case, the changes were minimal, a narrowing of the face and a darkening of the eyes, but it made all the difference. Below, shows the sketch in progress.
You can see how the fourth picture here is slightly different from the final image. All the changes here were done by hand. I only use Photoshop to compare the photos.
As some of you know, today my first email newsletter went out, keeping you apprised of latest news, classes, art shows etc. If you haven't already subscribed, you will notice there is now a place to do so on the home page of the blog. I hope this is one of many new changes over the course of the next year to make the web site more user friendly.
This newsletter was made possible by an artist development grant through the Vermont Arts Council. This past February a friend told me about the Breaking into Business Program, also sponsored by the Vermont Arts Council. My sister-in-law and I attended and the results, including the grant, have been fantastic. The program offered crucial information and advice on how to establish and further your art business as well as awesome networking opportunities. I am really excited about the newsletter, which I will publish monthly to start, that will give you further glimpses into what is going on with my writing, art, and teaching. And, of course, you'll get a fair share of pug news as well.
Which brings me to the latest update—a new litter of pug puppies at my friend Joan's home. Five blacks, all different in shape, size and personality. I'll be introducing them to you in the days ahead. They are three weeks old, have opened their eyes and are learning to stand. The biggest barely fits in two hands, while the little one can curl up in the palm of one. They are magical and I have been visiting them daily.
Unfortunately, I have to take a break as I am headed to Philadelphia to volunteer for an open air religious crusade in Nicetown. For those of you who come to the pages of this blog as writing students or art lovers, please don't be dismayed as I share these other details of my life. We are people of story, which is what art and writing and living and memory and memoir is all about. So just as I encourage you to share yours on the page, I am learning to share mine. I will be writing more soon and sharing lots of news, pics and some latest art projects, too. It has been a busy summer, which means there are many stories to tell.
My sister-in-law Gretchin and I are putting together a series of joint art and writing prompt classes that we are calling Journal Jam. We will be announcing the location of the first workshop shortly. In the meantime, we have both been working on our own journal pages. One of the prompts I love to offer comes from a book by Tristine Rainer called Your Life as Story. In it Rainer gives a prompt on How to be ________. The writer than offers a list of criteria describing how to be ______. Gretchin and I plan to use this prompt in our class and as an example I tried my hand at my own.
The night before I had been visiting Gretchin's house where my three-year-old niece Ellie was dancing around in the buff. I decided to write How to Be Three-Year-Old Ellie Dancing. Here's the result:
How to Be Three-Year-Old Ellie Dancing
Be Stark Naked
Lift Your Arms in the Air
Mold Your Hands into Tight Little Fists
Roll Them One Over the Other
Do Your Magic
Stare Up Into the Sky with a Smug Look of Satisfaction
Burst Into Song
Sing the Theme to Frozen
Walk Across the Room, Strutting like a Drunken Supermodel
Turn and Walk Back Toward Me
Shout "Hey Bee, Look at This!"
Twirl One Final Time.
I then went to work on my own journal pages, but as so often happens the preliminary sketches seemed better than the final result, so I experimented a couple of times.
One of the things I love about digital collage and one of the reasons I turned to working in that medium is that nothing every has to go waste. You can always use a "bad" photo or sketch and transform it into something else. I started to do so with one of the iphone pics I took of my sketch.
I had an older picture of Ellie and when I put them together it seemed as if the two were dancing. I am still working on the collage. This is just the preliminary piece. I'm calling it Shadow Dancers or Fairytale 699.
I'm hoping to add a version of this to my journal pages as well.
Let me get you up to speed… Let’s say for the sake of argument that all of this blog from Day 1 through the middle of last year was Season 1 of our ongoing saga—the pugs, my art, my writing, my friend Joan, her life, and mine. Then let’s say we went on hiatus—a long one. We’ve done a lot in that time, but how do you capture it all on the blog? You can’t go backwards and who wants to inundate everyone with a year’s worth of material, right? But, how do we jump right back in? I’m going to do my best to bring the story forward.
We’ve had our share of romance…
No, not me unfortunately, but my pug Alfie. She turned five in January and it was a do or die moment—time to breed her or forgo the idea once and for all. Alfie is my show pug and the plan from the beginning was to breed her and pass on all her wonderful traits. Unfortunately, her heats were uncertain and it took awhile to figure her cycle out. I decided to take a big leap of faith and go for it this year, so toward the end of January, Alfie and I began daily pilgrimages to visit her “boyfriend” at Pugdom, my friend Joan’s house. Challenge no. 1, while Alfie and the Old Man hit it off, he just couldn’t seem to get the job done, so we had to bring in reinforcements—his son, Gryffindor. Gryff was nowhere near as refined in the courting department, but what he lacked in charm, he made up for in finesse and I was fairly certain after thee successful matings that Alfie was pregnant.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Alfie began vomiting and panting and not acting at all right. I ended up taking her to the Emergency Vet only to learn she had pyometrea, a dangerous uterine infection and had to be spayed. No puppies for us. It seemed unfair on a lot of levels, my idea was if I can’t have children of my own right now, at least I’m gonna have puppies, but that didn’t seem to materialize. Our new grand adventure was cut short, but Alfie is okay, in fact, she seems downright happy and the plan for the future is to find another show dog, since after her spaying, Alfie can no longer be shown.
We’ve had our share of religion…
I spent two weeks in Hawaii last July on the Missions Trip I go on ever year. It was the start of a life-giving time, a creative time, when I returned home I began taking courses to become a certified minister, became a full-fledged member of my church and recently even taught one of our weekly bible studies. I didn’t discover God—I’ve known him all along—I simply got excited about connecting with Him in a while new way and so much has changed.
We’ve had our share of work…
This fall the college where I worked for the past 12 years closed, so I’ve been finding new opportunities to teach at assisted living facilities, arts centers, writing centers etc. and expanding my repertoire. This summer I am supposed to teach at a teen art camp in Lebanon, N.H. I am presently teaching a course on the relationship between animals and memoir writing called “Pet Projects” at an assisted-living facility also in Lebanon. My sister-in-law Gretchin and I are also putting together a joint workshop called Journal Jam.
The art projects are going well. I’ve been in several shows, sold more work than ever, and introduced new techniques such as encaustic to my collages. I joined an artists’ collective in Burlington that not only carries my work in their gift shop, but networks with area businesses to showcase the work of their members. The xposure has been great. In November, I had a solo show of my digital collages called Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood at Radio Bean in Burlington.
I’m currently in another juried show at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center called “Healing with Arts.” The idea behind the show is to hang works of art in the cancer treatment center with the belief that art contributes to and reinforces the healing process for patients with caner. It is an important show for me to be apart of as more and more close friends face the disease.
Also, this fall, a friend made financially possible for me to attend a wonderful and productive writers workshop, Dartbrook Writers Retreat, in the Adirondacks. I worked on pulling some of my blog posts together and creating new writing for a memoir of some of my experiences with my friend Joan. I’m starting to see the themes that underlie the work and why getting to be a part of her life and that of her pugs has been so important to me. The plan is to work more on that over the next year and get that book actually written.
So here we are…now that you’re caught up let’s call this Season 2. Stay tune for our next adventure.
Next month, November 7th through December 3rd, my digital collages will be hung in my first-ever solo show at Radio Bean in Burlington, Vt. The opening reception will be on November 13th from 5 to 7 p.m. Curated by ONE Arts Collective, the show will feature 12 of my digital collages in a show entitled Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood. For those of you familiar with this blog and my work, the following explanation is probably not needed as much of it is offered in past posts and in the gallery section of this site, but for those of you who are new here's an explanation of the show and some background on my work: When you watch girls at play you can often catch glimpses of the people they will become. Like fairies and other magical creatures, the inner world of children seems to evaporate if it comes in direct contact with that of an adult. Still, with a camera lens there are ways to capture it, if you stay on the periphery and observe. With little boys who are typically all action and mugging for the camera, this is more challenging. Girls? They frequently have moments of stillness that offer you this chance. The quickness of the lens lets you capture what is so fleeting—images that hint at the future, of the women these girls will become. In these moments, when their secret world becomes visible, there is a maturity, a strength, and yet, also a vulnerability that can make adults uncomfortable. Simultaneously, we see in them both their innocence and the approaching loss of it. We know they stand on the cusp of transformation. To become a woman means to leave the little girl behind. While children long for the future, we look at them and long for what was. We see in them “once and future things.”
My digital collages have been describe as” hand-worked stories” and as a writer and photographer, I couldn’t be more pleased with this. They combine photography with hand drawing in pastel, crayon and colored pencil as well as digital drawing with Adobe Photoshop and embellishments such as embroidery and glitter. I create my collages in Adobe Photoshop using “recycled images’ that maybe weren’t picture-perfect as standalone shots, but work together to create a new vision of the inner word of children and also animals. Most of my digital collages frequently have fantasy or spiritual undertones. I use Photoshop to draw, paint and manipulate the image and then print it out to hand draw, paint and perhaps embroider or add other embellishments before rescanning the image into Photoshop. The finished work is a digital print on photograph paper.
My work has appeared in venues throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. I also work as a freelance writer and writing instructor helping others find their own unique way to tell their stories.
A few months ago, I connected with ONE Arts Collective, when I took part in one of their shows called Spirit Animalz at Burlington Beer Company and am happy to now be a member of their group. I am excited to have the chance to share my work with a new audience and hope all of you will spread the word and stop by to check out the show if you can!
It was a busy weekend. On Saturday I attended an Open House at author Jon Katz's Bedlam Farm. Sunday, my niece Ellie came down and we went for a hayride at a local pumpkin farm where we got to choose our own pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. Both days were quintessential fall days. The first filled with warm people, sweet song, and sun breaking through the slightly chilled air to create a picture-perfect day. The second? Perfect. How can anything be better than a hay ride through "The Spoooooky Old Woods" as my niece called it to a pumpkin patch to choose the perfect pumpkin? Both days featured beautiful girls and I couldn't resist snapping some pictures to turn into future collages.
Here's my first official encaustic painting. I say first official because the other encaustic works I have done all prominently featured wax-dipped collages. This does too, but at the base of the work is an encaustic painting. I love the texture it created. I wanted to carry the moon imagery through so I created the moon with a stencil and then rubbed oil paint into the wax to create the aura around the moon. I then attached part of the wax-dipped digital collage I created in class using pins. The three dimensional quality was created by putting cardboard in back of the collage. Finally, I used an iridescent blue acrylic paint to the edges, it looks purple. I'm calling the finished product Moon Child.
My digital collages are frequently works in progress. While the initial digital aspects of the collage don't often take long to create, it frequently takes me awhile to get to the sewing and drawing and to the decision that the piece is complete. I started this collage, which I call Temptation back in March and only recently finished it, or so I thought. Since summer I have been taking an encaustic class in which I work with beeswax or wax medium and pigments to create textured paintings. I wanted to find a way to add more dimension and texture to my collages. I'm still learning and it has been a process. You need to work in a well ventilated space, which means I have only been able to work on my projects while in my weekly class. I've been a little slow at mastering the techniques, but recently came up with a few pieces that I really like. The problem is knowing when they are finished. The thing with digital projects is you can always scan them back in and continue to revise and revamp them. I've learned that the wax medium also allows you several alternatives, so I've been experimenting with some of the techniques. On November 20th, my class is going to have a show. We're calling it an Encaustic Jamboree. I now have several pieces to put in the show.
The piece shown above is not encaustic. It's the finished version of my digital collage. Originally, I was going to have only one image of a girl in the picture, but created the mirror image when I printed the collage out on vellum paper. It created a whole new look. I scanned the vellum print back in and flipped the image, adding it to the original collage so that I now had two girls. I printed the collage on a laser printer and brought it to my encaustic class. There I secured it to a wooden board with PVA, bookbinding glue, sanded the edges to make the image flush with the board and then dipped it in wax. From there I created a stencil of apples on a vine. I cut out the stencils and painted in the apples with red wax, adding green accents later. Then using acrylic paint, I painted the edges of the board cherry red. Below is the final result, which I will be showing in the Encaustic Jamboree.
That same class I also brought in some alternative versions of the print including the image I had printed out on vellum. My teacher thought it would be fun for me to try the vellum in wax and see what would emerge. I loved the results. My instructor also had some wonderful papers. We tried one in back of the wax-dipped vellum print and I loved it. I decided to stitch the paper to the back of the image using embroidery thread, creating an envelope like that below.
Then carrying through with my Eve imagery, I cut up little red apples from a photo I had taken and put adhesive felt on the back. I dropped these into the envelope as well as a scripture from Genesis in which Eve eats of the fruit in the garden of Eden and offers it to Adam. I printed this out and also put felt on the back and dropped it into the envelope.
I also added felt to the back of the envelope, punched holes in the top corners, added red eyelets and a wire hanger. I will also be putting this in the Encaustic Jamboree although it is not entirely finished. My hope, once I can return to my teacher's studio is to paint a board with encaustic wax and embellish it with paper apples. Then I will hammer a nail into the board and hang this piece from it. At least that's the plan for now. It seems like my ideas are always evolving.