Sunday, December 29, 2013

Words Fail Me

A new year is about to begin. And there are exciting plans in the works for 2014!

These past several weeks I've been working on a series of necklace and earring sets and eyeglass leashes for shows I'll be doing this coming year and for the launch of my Etsy shop next month.
An Original Art pendant on necklace featuring semi-precious stones and glass beads

 When I laid them out on a table, I noticed they seem to share a certain "look," though I wasn't consciously striving for that effect as I created them. The colors, sizes and shapes of the beads and other elements used vary, but still, there's that indefinable "something" that seems to unite them visually as a group. My style, in other words.

Necklace of painted fabric beads, glass beads and filigree beads

Now I need to define that style with a two- or three-word label or tagline that describes the jewelry. This sounds like it should be easy but it's not. There are millions of words in the English language. Narrowing them down to an accurate and appealing two or three word description is much more difficult than it would seem.

I've been wrestling with this issue for a while now but have yet to resolve it, so I'm appealing to the online community for help. In this post I've included photos of several pieces from this collection. (None of these photos have been improved using PhotoShop to correct lighting, contrast, etc. but I'm sure you'll be willing to overlook their deficiencies.)

What are your thoughts? How would you chatacterize them? Any input you can offer will be so appreciated. If I adopt your suggestion I will send you a complimentary pair of handmade earrings as a thank you gift! To submit your ideas, just scroll down past the photos, below, and click on the "Comments" link.

This set is comprised of hand made paper beads, semi-precious stones and glass beads

A closeup

Hand made paper beads, semi-precious heishi beads, ceramic beads and glass beads were used for this set

This Santa Fe-inspired necklace features hand made paper beads, semi-precious stones, glass beads and wooden beads.
All text and images ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gold Finish, Gold Plated, Gold Filled and Karat Gold: What are the Differences?

The terms used to describe beads and other components used in jewelry can seem very confusing. Take gold for example. There's gold finish, gold plated, gold filled and karat gold. The cost for each varies considerably, with karat gold being the most costly, and "gold finish" being the least costly. Gold plated and gold filled fall between the two. When buying jewelry, whether manufactured or handmade, it pays to know the difference.

Karat Gold

Twenty-four karat gold is pure gold but it's too soft to use for jewelry making, where durability is needed. So jewelry that's made with karat gold commonly uses 14 karat or 18 karat gold. Fourteen karat gold is 14 parts pure gold. Eighteen karat gold is 18 parts pure gold. The rest is alloy, which supplies the necessary hardness for karat gold to be used for making beads and findings (clasps, chains, ear wires, etc.) and to withstand long term use. Karat gold is the most highly prized form of gold there is, and its price reflects that. It's beauty endures forever: lustrous karat gold jewelry has been discovered in tombs that are thousands of years old.

Gold Filled

Gold filled jewelry is less expensive than karat gold jewelry because a lesser amount of karat gold is used in its production. A gold filled clasp, for example, is made of a layer or layers of gold alloy bonded to a base metal, most often brass. Like 14 and 18 karat gold, gold filled pieces are quite durable.

Gold Plate

Gold plate occupies the third rung down on the pricing tier. Industry standards require it to be 0.15 to 0.25 mils thick. It's chemically plated or electroplated onto base metal. Gold plated is is not as durable as gold filled, but it's more durable than gold finish. It's often used in jewelry that's purchased as a fashion accessory rather than as an investment or heirloom.

Gold Finish

Gold finish sometimes goes by other names, including "gold-color" or "gold wash." Jewelry that's designated as gold finish has been electroplated with gold but the gold is of a non-standardized thickness. Of the four categories, gold finish is usually the least durable. Like gold plated, it's commonly found in inexpensive costume jewelry.

The terms "filled," "plated," and "finish" can be applied in similar fashion to other metals including silver, nickel and copper but I've focused solely on gold here for the sake of simplicity.

I hope you find this information helpful when making your next jewelry purchase. There's nothing wrong with buying gold plate or gold finish if your aim is simply to enhance your wardrobe. These pieces are quite affordable and, if cared for properly, can look good for years. (My mother, who used to work in the jewelry business, has costume jewelry that's more than six decades old and it still looks great!) If you like the look of a handmade piece that's made with gold plate or gold finish, the artist who made it may be willing to make a custom piece for you with gold fill or karat gold instead. It all comes down to your needs and what your budget can allow.

©2013 Lynn Edwards


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to Care For Handmade Art Jewelry

Handmade fashion jewelry is a great addition to anyone's wardrobe. Today's jewelry designers are using a wide range of materials in their creations: glass, ceramic, semi-precious stones, fabric, polymer clay, precious metal clay, ribbon, felted wool, paper, leather, acrylic and resin, to name just a few. Metals include 14k gold, gold filled, gold plated, copper, sterling silver, sterling silver filled, silver plated, stainless steel, aluminum...the array of metals available is endless. With such diverse components, how does one properly care for handmade/ mixed media/fashion/art jewelry pieces to preserve their beauty?

Here are a few quick tips:

1. To keep that handmade necklace with its lovely ribbon and fiber strands looking its best, store it in a box with a lid. Avoid storing fiber jewelry where it can collect dust and dirt.

2. Put your jewelry on after you've showered, dressed, and applied makeup, fragrance, lotion and/or hair spray. All jewelry is very susceptible to damage from these products. Hair spray, for example, leaves a sticky residue that can dull and erode the finish on beads and metal findings. Lotions can permanently darken leather and gum up filigreed pieces, so apply that hand cream before putting on your rings and leather cuff bracelet.

3. Check your jewelry regularly for signs of wear. Many handmade necklaces, particularly those which are imported, are strung on nylon fishing line which stretches and eventually breaks. Examine these pieces to see if a noticeable gap has appeared between the beads and the clasp, or if there are other visible signs of wear. If so, have the piece restrung with professional quality beading wire or other material suited to the materials in your jewelry piece. Natural stone beads, for example, call for sturdy, abrasion resistant beading wire. This stringing material resists stretching and can stand up to the beads' weight.

4. Paper beads are popular components in today's mixed media jewelry. They'll perform well if they're properly sealed with a glaze or varnish, preferably one offering protection from ultraviolet rays so the paper is less susceptible to fading. To keep your paper bead jewelry looking its best, avoid storing it in direct sunlight and never wear it in the shower. 

5. Storing your jewelry in the bathroom may be convenient, but it's not a good idea. The steam and temperature swings found in bathroom environments accelerate tarnishing of metal. As if that weren't bad enough, it's all too easy for jewelry pieces to fall down the drain.

6. Go swimming sans jewelry. (Notice I am not suggesting you go skinny dipping!) Chlorinated pool water has been known to harm the surface of gold. Not only that, it can turn silver black. Some precious gems can actually be ruined by it!

As a maker of handmade jewelry, I know how much fun it is to wear as well as design. Hopefully the tips I've shared here will keep your jewelry sparkling and admiring compliments coming your way. When your jewelry looks wonderful, so do you. Give it a bit of care and it will enhance your life for many years to come.

©2013 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Making Beads With Cotton Fabric

Using fabric beads brings a whole new dimension to jewelry making. Depending on the type of fabric used, fabric beads can take on many personas: casual, elegant, textural, smooth, homespun or chic. A bead made of denim with frayed edges will look very different from one made of silk. This is the fun of working with fabric beads: you can create any look you want simply through your choice of fabric.

The fabric beads' autumn colors were the inspiration for this necklace and earring set's design. The fabric used to make the beads was 100% permanent press cotton.

Some fabrics are easier to work with than others. For example, silk is very sophisticated-looking but it's quite slippery. Knits, being stretchy, can pose quite a challenge because they tend to "grow" during the rolling process. Another consideration to keep in mind is whether the fabric is soft and loosely woven, or tightly woven with a bit of body to it. It's certainly possible to make beads from loosely woven fabric, but it's much easier to roll beads using fabrics that are tightly woven without much "give."

I've found some of the easiest fabrics to work with are tightly woven cottons. Not only do they roll neatly with little fuss, they take surface treatments like paint and dyes very nicely. Fraying is usually minimal. A few snips with a scissors eliminates the occasional stray thread, and the tight weave lets you maintain steady, consistent tension as you roll the bead.

However, some fabrics can fool you. Not all cottons are alike! Recently I happened upon a beautiful cotton fabric whose colors just grabbed me. In my enthusiasm, all I could think of was how great it would look made up into beads. It didn't feel quite as crisp as most of the cottons I've worked with but it seemed woven tightly enough plus it was on sale so I bought it.

Once I started cutting it, I realized this fabric was going to be more difficult to work with than I thought. The first thing I noticed was that it produced tiny fiber "dust bunnies." Uh-oh. I also noticed that it tended to stretch a bit with handling, so it was harder to keep it in a straight line as I rolled it. The edges frayed readily too, so I found myself snipping off lots of pesky threads. (Some folks like loose threads on their beads but I'm not one of them.)

These beads, also made of cotton, were harder to make than those used in the necklace and earring set above. Their colors were quite similar but they were a looser weave and frayed easily.

Despite these small annoyances the beads turned out okay. After painting the ends and edges with metallic gold acrylic paint, I applied a couple of coats of ModPodge to smooth and seal the surface, followed by an acrylic varnish. The ModPodge darkened some of the colors, of course, but not so much as to negatively affect the appearance. If anything, it made the colors look a little bit richer. I'm looking forward to designing a necklace with these using gold, dark olivine and ruby red beads to compliment them. What's your preference for making fabric beads? What fabrics do you like to use? And what kinds of fabric would you not recommend using?

Text and images ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Friday, November 15, 2013

Choosing Papers for Paper Beads

It's time to come clean and admit it. I'm hopelessly addicted to bead- and jewelry-making. Oh, it started innocently enough. While my studio was under construction earlier this year, I needed something I could do to keep my creativity alive while being without a space for making art  (poring over paint chips just wasn't enough). So I started making paper beads. It was great fun, and I found it was possible to roll beads on a surface as small as a TV tray as I sat in the living room at night.

 At first the beads were made from found images taken from old magazines. This upcycling resulted in many beads with fascinating patterns on them. Such as a series of beads created from a full page photo in an architectural magazine that showed lots of angles. You'd never know what the original subject was by looking at the beads, but the angles produced very graphic-looking beads with lots of zigzag patterning.

Next I tried using some of my own hand painted papers originally intended for collage. Some of these papers were textured; beads made with these papers exhibited a wonderful tactile quality. Collage papers made from deli paper painted with acrylics also yielded excellent results. The deli paper (bought several years ago at Sam's Club) was super easy to roll and took the adhesive and varnish very nicely. Another source that worked well for making beads was a museum calendar printed on heavyweight, glossy paper. Its smooth, lustrous surface made the beads look as if they were glazed ceramic, even before high gloss varnish was applied.

Now I'm experimenting with beads that combine solid color, text, and images, all on different kinds of paper used together on a single bead. These beads are more labor intensive to make, but worth the extra effort. I'm combining them with glass beads, fabric beads and semi-precious stones to create necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Photos of these latest creations will be posted here next week. Be sure to check back then for a sneak peek!

 ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Glorious Santa Fe Part 3 -- The Plaza

The Plaza is the very heart and soul of Santa Fe. Around it are fascinating galleries and boutiques, restaurants, the Palace of the Governors and of course, the famous Portal where Native Americans spread blankets on the ground to display their exquisite handmade turquoise jewelry.

My first glimpse of the Plaza caused me to do a doubletake. It looks remarkably like Marietta's beloved Historic Square here in Georgia! The Plaza is about the same size and has beautiful mature trees just like the Marietta Square does, as well as benches where people sit in dappled shade and watch other people. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I had not expected this iconic New Mexico landmark to feel so very much like home.

Santa Fe's Plaza. The trees were just starting to change to their autumn colors during our visit.
Of course, the Square's signature structure is its Victorian bandstand, something that's absent in the Plaza. Nevertheless, it was "deja vu all over again" as we strolled around the Plaza. The surrounding architecture in Santa Fe is quite different of course (adobes prevail) but this lovely patch of green space in the City Different was a place hubby and I resonated with in every way!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Do People in Santa Fe Have More Fun?

Americans tend to have a good sense of humor, but Santa Feans could write the book on it. Everywhere we went in the City Different seemed to feature or display something that was designed to tickle the funnybone. Whether it was quirky yard art in gallery courtyards, humorous descriptions on restaurant menus, or slyly amusing merchandise displays, the residents of Santa Fe seem to excel at making people smile. Having been treated to their lighthearted approach to life, I'm happy to share it with you. The photo below is an example of what I'm talking about.

This sign in the Farmer's Market building made me burst out laughing. Love it!!

Text and photo ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Friday, October 25, 2013

Zentangles Are Just So Zen...!

 A couple of years ago, my friend Dinah got me interested in Zentangles. They're a form of "doodling" that's very calming and meditative. Basically, the idea is to lay down loose, flowing, overlapping lines on the surface of your paper, then fill in the negative spaces with a variety of repetitive patterns using a black fine tip pen.

"Office Romance"   ©2011 Lynn Edwards
The concept has been expanded by artists over time to incorporate color, representational subjects and other refinements, but I haven't taken it to those levels. I keep it simple by just sticking with the basics.

When Dinah first introduced me to Zentangles, I was eager to try them. At the time getting into a Zen state of mind sounded mighty good to me.

A terrible tsunami and earthquakes had just devastated northern Japan. Political turmoil was rampant, both here at home and around the globe. Deadly tornadoes had brought death and destruction to the city where most of my family lived, and in the midst of that god-awful year my mother had been diagnosed with cancer as well as an aneurysm threatening to snuff out her life. Was I stressed out? You bet. If picking up a pen and making funny little marks on paper would give me a modicum of calm, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes, I was all for it.

Garden of Eden ©2012 Lynn Edwards
It didn't make the problems and stress disappear, of course, but doing Zentangles did help soothe my frazzled nerves. It provided moments of temporary respite from some of the intense anxiety I was feeling. When all you're focused on is making simple repetitive patterns, the part of your mind that's busy conjuring up mental bogeymen and posing terrifying "what if's" just sits down, shuts up and takes a back seat to the task at hand.

I churned out quite a few Zentangles that year. The materials needed (a pen and a small piece of paper) could be carried around in my purse, so I took them everywhere. Just knowing they were so accessible was something of a comfort. And the Zentangles were fun to do. No pressure to make a masterpiece, just move the pen around. No prepwork; just begin. No rules to follow, either. Just enjoy the process. And so I did. Still do!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Glorious Santa Fe - Part 2

Our first morning in Santa Fe was spent at their popular Farmer's Market, held on Saturday mornings in the Railyard area. I was amazed at the wide variety of food being sold. We saw everything from enormous orange pumpkins to bright green pole beans, purple onions, luscious red tomatoes and of course the region's famous red and green chili peppers everywhere we looked. There were all kinds of vegetables I've never seen before as well, with names I couldn't pronounce.

A number of vendors were selling decorative items for the home, including some very pretty wreaths made from red peppers that would have looked great on anyone's front door. Inside, vendors were selling locally produced soaps and toiletries, specialty honeys, home grown lavender sachets, wearable art, hand crocheted slippers -- you name it.

The Saturday Farmer's Market in Santa Fe attracts quite a crowd. Local growers offer a huge variety of fresh produce, much of it grown organically and sustainably.

Here, I learned how one of these talented artisans dyed and carded wool from the area's sheep herds to turn it into beautiful shawls, scarves and hats.

The colorful wearables in this booth generated lots of attention. 
The Artist's Market section, directly across from the produce growers, offered sculpture, jewelry, paintings, stained glass, wood crafts and other works at excellent prices, all accompanied by tunes from a live band. A darling little girl of about 5 or so stood on the steps of the market building, dancing enthusiastically to the music and drawing the smiles of passersby. A man walked past, gnawing on some kind of vegetable that looked like a gargantuan white carrot. The vibe was lively and upbeat, and everyone was smiling -- so typical of the residents of this amazing town, and for that matter, everyone we encountered in New Mexico.

Lots of art and Santa Fe's beautiful weather made for an enjoyable morning at the Market.
In fact, smiling seems to be everyone's pastime in this part of the world. People are so friendly it's impossible to feel like an outsider here for long. The warmth is genuine, the atmosphere totally laid back, and everyone goes out of their way to be helpful. It's an extraordinary place. We're already planning a return trip!

All text and images ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Glorious Santa Fe - Part 1

Hubby and I have just returned from a long-anticipated vacation in Santa Fe. It was our first visit to "The City Different" and it was fabulous! As an artist, to me it was like finding the Holy Grail. Art and culture are the very essence of Santa Fe. It's literally everywhere, from hand-painted window panes on charming adobes to its numerous outstanding art museums to the hundreds of galleries all around its beautiful Plaza and up and down its fabled Canyon Road. Everywhere you look, there's art -- paintings, sculptures, handcrafted jewelry, wearable art, hand tooled leather, museum quality beadwork...I could go on and on. Suffice it to say I was on Total Sensory Overload from the moment we stepped off the New Mexico Rail Runner, the commuter train connecting Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and caught whiffs of fragrant pinon pine scenting the cool night air.

We stayed in a delightful little inn, El Paradero, within walking distance of the Plaza at 220 W. Manhattan St. Having decided to go totally green on this venture and use nothing but our feet and public transportation to get around, the location was ideal. The walk to nearby restaurants, the Plaza and all of the surrounding attractions was easy. The only time we relied on vehicle transportation was to go to and from Canyon Road. We could have walked but because Canyon Road runs uphill and we're not exactly spring chickens, we opted to save our energy by taking the free shuttle.

El Paradero's courtyard gates, flanked by ristras -- strings of red chile peppers. Note New Mexico's famous turquoise sky in the background. It truly is that blue!

Our innkeepers, Paul and Sue, have decorated all their guest rooms with hand painted motifs in keeping with the area's Spanish, Mexican and Native traditions. But my absolute favorite was the room in which we were served breakfast each morning, shown below:

Warm yellow walls, festive tablecloths and colorful pottery add cheer to El Paradero's sunny breakfast room.

A fire burning in a hand painted kiva fireplace warmed the room on chilly mornings
Who says colors don't affect one's moods? There's no way a person could fail to start the day smiling when served breakfast in a room this upbeat!

And why live with plain glass panes when you can decorate a door like this?

Hand painted designs brighten the entry to El Paradero's breakfast room.

I like this door and window treatment so much, I'm planning to paint designs on my French doors here at home. All it takes is a bit of acrylic paint, which is easily removed when you want to make changes to it. The light shining through the colors is beautiful, and if the design used is "open" enough, you can see through the glass to the view outside, while still enjoying some privacy. Painting glass panels will be much more fun than hanging curtains! Later I'll be posting a photo of my efforts, but in my next several posts, we'll be covering many more fascinating aspects of Santa Fe. Have you been there? If so, what was your favorite part of the trip? Leave your comments by clicking on the "Comments" link below.

By the way, here's what we saw when we looked out those same French doors earlier today. Now we've seen everything!!! No idea where it came from, but the little rascal has had a great time chowing down on the hostas. Is anyone missing a pig???

Our unusual visitor.

All text and images ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Friday, October 11, 2013

More "Stained Glass" Mosaic Cards

The technique for making "stained glass" mosaic cards I described in my post of Sept. 30 offers room for experimentation. After designing several compositions using photos taken from old magazines, I decided to try a different twist on the basic technique.

Some time ago I had made some collage papers using paper napkins imprinted with vintage botanical drawings. After carefully separating the napkins' layers, I had fused the top (printed) layer of the napkin onto acid free artists tissue using acrylic gloss medium. The resulting collage paper had a highly textural feel to it, which I liked. This texture, I thought, could be another variation of the basic "stained glass" mosaic technique. In keeping with that basic technique, I stamped additional designs on the collage paper using permanent ink and rubber stamps.

Cutting this stuff into pieces was more difficult than cutting the magazine photos had been. Because the napkins had been adhered to the artists tissue with gloss medium, the finished paper was considerably heavier and thicker than the magazine stock. I was able to use my trusty paper cutter, but I had to cut very slowly and carefully. Otherwise the collage paper would bunch up and tear.

Because this paper was semi-transparent, I couldn't use dark card stock under it or the botanical drawings would disappear into the dark background. Instead, I used white card stock, which allowed the botanical drawings to show up clearly and preserved their colors. After cutting the "tiles" and gluing them down with  Elmer's glue stick as before, I rolled over them with a rubber brayer. Then, to create the illusion of grout, I took a black permanent Sharpie and colored in the spaces between them, along with the edges of the card stock. Here's how it turned out:

This card design features a very textural collage paper made from artists tissue and paper napkins.
I'll be making more cards using other motifs found on the same collage paper. When I've used all of those, I'll try yet another approach. With so many ways to create interesting surface designs, there's no chance of ever running out of ideas for making cards.

All text and images on this page ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Monday, September 30, 2013

How to Make "Stained Glass" Mosaic Cards

Last week I decided to play with some old magazine pages, using them to make note cards that ended up looking like stained glass mosaics. The combination of patterns and colors on these cards somehow reminds me of the glass seen in cathedral windows.

I started by tearing color photos out of some old magazines, then stamped designs over the photos using  rubber stamps and permanent ink. After the ink was completely dry I cut the photos into pieces of varying sizes to create "tiles.". Then I measured a piece of colored cardstock to fit the front of a blank Strathmore note card, available at most arts and crafts stores. I trimmed the cardstock so that it was slightly smaller than the face of the note card so there would be some visual contrast at the card's edges.
One of several designs I created, prior to being adhered to the blank note cards

Next, I arranged the "tiles" on the cardstock. When I found a composition I liked, I used an Elmer's glue stick to glue them into place. (I prefer the Elmer's brand because it glides on very smoothly, making it easy to get good, even coverage with the glue.) Once all the pieces were stuck down on the cardstock, I placed a clean sheet of wax paper over it and rolled a rubber brayer over the wax paper. Then I removed the wax paper and adhered the cardstock to the front of the note card. The result: a colorful handmade card perfect for sending to that special friend or relative!

All text and images on this page ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How to Use MDF for Painting, Mixed Media or Collage

As artists, we're always looking for good painting surfaces. Have you tried MDF yet?

The Pro's:

Medium Density Fiberboard, aka MDF, makes a fine substrate, or support, for painting as well as mixed media and collage. Its nice smooth surface lets you push paint around with ease. It also makes gluing down collage papers a snap because -- unlike canvas -- there's no "give" to it. Any air bubbles trapped beneath the paper disappear under the pressure of a brayer. Dimensional objects can be affixed securely to MDF with an appropriate adhesive.

MDF is wonderfully inexpensive. You can usually find 4x8 foot sheets of it at most home improvement centers for less than $25 each. Some also sell MDF half-panels, which are easier to handle and transport. If you've got access to a power saw you can cut it down to support-size pieces yourself, or you can pay the home improvement center to cut it up for you. Either way, one MDF panel can yield dozens of good supports for art making at very low cost.

The Cons:

MDF does have its drawbacks, though. For one thing, it's heavy. Small 8x8" pieces, such as those Corinthian II or Sojourn, shown below, were created on, weigh about 1.6 pounds apiece. That's considerably more than a cradled wood support the same size, and much, much more than a stretched canvas weighs. Its weight therefore makes MDF impractical for large works. The largest MDF panel I care to work on is 14x14".
Corinthian II, 8x8" mixed media and collage on MDF
Although MDF can be found in quarter-inch and half-inch thick sheets, which are lighter, the most commonly available MDF is closer to an inch thick. 

How to Hang It:

The bigger and heavier the MDF support, the more essential it will be to use a weight-appropriate hanging system. You simply cannot hang weighty MDF pieces with flimsy metal wall hooks. It's a safety issue. For a 14x14" piece of art I use two heavy duty wall hangers. Also, I wire the piece with heavy duty picture wire attached to heavy duty D-rings, which are screwed into the back, not nailed on.

MDF's other drawback is that the edges are not as smooth as its surface. If you want something that's nice and smooth all the way around, you'll have to do a little extra work. One solution is to don a mask and sand the edges. Even then you won't get the same smoothness as the surface, so you may want to take it a step further by applying wood filler to the edges, letting it dry thoroughly, then sanding again. Or, for a rustic look, you can skip the sanding and filling altogether and just paint the edges as they are. (Use an old, worn bristle brush for this.)  Another option --my preference -- is to collage painted paper onto the sides, as I've done with Sojourn, shown here:

Sojourn, 8x8" mixed media and collage on MDF
Strips of artist's tissue paper were glued to the sides to give Sojourn a finished, textural look. The tissue paper was gessoed, then painted, then cut into strips and adhered with soft gel medium.

How to Prep MDF:

Because MDF is a wood product, I always apply a couple coats of Golden's GAC 100 to its surface, back and sides before gessoing or doing anything else. GAC 100 is a sealer that keeps impurities in the wood from migrating up through the paint layers. It dries clear. Once the GAC is thoroughly dry, you're good to go for gessoing, painting, collaging or whatever.

Don't be tempted to skip the sealing part. Unsealed MDF is very susceptible to damage from water and other liquids. Sealing it helps protect it from moisture and allows you to use this sturdy, affordable substrate to create artwork that, given its heft, should endure for a very long time.

Questions? Comments? Just scroll down to share your views.

All text and images ©2013 Lynn Edwards   

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Color of Cool: September's Smithsonian Magazine

September's Smithsonian arrived in the mail this week. Wow, what a fascinating issue for artists or anyone who's drawn to learning about color! There's an amazing story about a 1600 year old Roman chalice that changes colors -- it goes from pale green to bright red -- thanks to the early Romans' use of nanotechnology. (Yes, you read that right: nanotechnology.)

There's another story on poison frogs whose colors rival those of neon signs. And a piece on an inventive British artist, Jaz Parkinson, who creates "color charts" that correspond to the number of times a book or play refers to a color. Who knew Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage could be so visually compelling?

To blow your mind, take a look at the photos featured on page 15. They're from a series of art installations called the RGB project by Carnovsky (a duo from Milan).  These artists use colored filters on LEDs to conceal and reveal imagery in their striking murals.

There's also an excellent in-depth article about the always-colorful David Hockney, a not-to-be-missed read that will have you mesmerized. Plus curious tidbits that tie into the question of what color to paint a room. (Hint: don't use purple if you suffer from insomnia.) Actually, this issue is so loaded with topics and insights we artists can appreciate there are just too many to name. Locate a copy, pour yourself a big glass of iced tea, settle into a comfy chair and enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Painting an Artist Trading Card or ACEO with Sponges

Why is it the art I seem to be most satisfied with are the pieces created "off the cuff?" Yesterday was a good example. I had been dipping the ends of some fabric beads in iridescent silver paint. When I finished, there was about a teaspoon of paint left over.

I didn't want to toss it, or wipe it off onto the cloth I was using for a cleanup rag. Instead, I decided to see if I had an old or unfinished painting I could stamp onto with the silver paint. Maybe it could rekindle my enthusiasm for some orphaned project. So I went looking in my stash for a suitable piece to work with.

The perfect candidate turned out to be a 2 1/2x3 1/2" artist trading card my friend Rebecca Salcedo had given me a few years ago. Rebecca is both a decorative artist and a fine artist. She had been experimenting with faux paint treatments for a client's walls, and had created several of these little cards to test various effects and color combinations. One afternoon she had stuck her head in my studio door (at the time we were both tenants in a communal studio space), handed me two of the cards and said, "Here's something to start some tiny paintings with." Intending to do just that, I had placed them in a drawer. Where they languished until yesterday.

One of the cards featured a bit of texture on its surface. It was painted a mid-value grey, lightly glazed with what looked to be a mixture of Pthalo Blue and black, making it an ideal blank slate. Eureka! The leftover silver paint would look great with those colors. I got right to work.

A 2 1/2x3 1/2" abstract, painted entirely with sponges.

Instead of a brush, I decided to use itty-bitty sponges. These were actually pieces of a large sponge I had previously cut up for another project. Back then I had used the pieces to stamp small squares onto a canvas. The biggest of the bunch was about the size of a thumbprint, the smallest about the circumference of my middle finger.

Painting with sponges was a way to leave my comfort zone and give something different a try. It's part of my New Studio Mantra: new digs call for exploring new directions. Since moving into my new space, I've been doing just that and having a ball, inspired in part by a book titled Mixed Media Revolution: Creative Ideas for Reusing Your Art by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson. Already Sandra and Darlene have led me down several new pathways to creative opportunity.

Doing this little sponge painting was great fun. I held no expectations for its outcome, just allowed myself to play and dabble. In addition to the Iridescent Silver, Carbon Black, Titanium White and Payne's Grey rounded out my palette. I learned quickly to use the very lightest of touches when applying the loaded sponge to the paper, or a big blob would result that had to be covered up. The sponges' textured surfaces created a delicate, yet intricate interplay of colors; layering and veiling and layering some more produced a remarkably detailed level of complexity my clumsy photography can't capture adequately here. Nor can it capture the luminous glow the metallic silver paint infuses.

As I worked on this I was fully in the Zone, dabbing away and enjoying every minute as the painting took shape. When I finished it, I noticed it looks equally good turned in any direction, and because the silver paint is reflective, each orientation looks very different from the others. It's like four unique little paintings in one!
©2013 Lynn Edwards 


Friday, August 23, 2013

Tips for Making Paper Beads

What started out as idle entertainment is now an obsession. To keep my muse from leaving on vacation while the studio was being built, I took up bead making, specifically, making beads from paper and fabric scraps. The materials were readily available and it was something I could do while watching TV in the evening. The simplicity of this activity appealed to me, as did the idea of turning commonplace materials into something attractive and useful. No special equipment was needed other than a ruler, scissors and glue.

Once I had the process down after considerable practice, I started thinking of ways to streamline the mechanics of rolling paper beads so the paper strips would stay centered, resulting in a nice, uniform bead. My bead making endeavor took a big leap forward when I discovered bead rollers while cruising Etsy. A bead roller is a simple hand held tool that grips one end of the paper and holds it in place so you have much better control of the paper as you roll it. (My bead rollers work only with paper. I continue to roll fabric beads entirely by hand. I'll cover making fabric beads in a future post.)

Once you start making paper beads, you become a paper addict. Suddenly you see anything made of paper in a whole new light! Can labels, candy wrappers, old stationery, gift wrap, advertising brochures, junk mail...everything that's paper becomes potential bead making fodder. The prospects are unlimited. But to expand my choices even further, I'm also hand painting my own papers using multiple layers of pattern and color. For these papers I use the same professional quality acrylics and permanent inks that I use for making fine art. The reason? The acrylic paints are the most heavily pigmented, most lightfast paints available, and the inks are equally stable. I'm using them so that the beads will look just as good years from now as they do today.

I've also adopted the practice of double coating the outer surface of each bead, particularly those printed from "found" materials, first with a clear acrylic isolation coat, followed by a polymer varnish with UV protection. The two products work in tandem to protect paper beads from fading, and the varnish provides additional protection from dirt and scratches.

Along the way, I've also made several discoveries through trial and error. I share them with you here:

1.The best looking beads have visual impact. Papers with colorful, complex patterns or images and those with high contrast graphics produce dramatic looking beads. A more understated look can be achieved by using papers with soft, blended colors.

2.A paper cutter can eliminate the tedium of cutting papers with a scissors. I spent about $17 on a Fiskar SureCut paper trimmer and love it. With it I can cut papers faster than the speed of light, and with accuracy, too. You can find these gadgets on Amazon, which is where I bought mine, or in arts and crafts stores.

3.Rushing things can ruin an otherwise well constructed bead. Allow beads to dry thoroughly in between applications of glue, medium and varnish.

4.A storage bin lets you dry many beads at the same time. Mine is an upcycled potato salad container with a couple inches of sand in it. (See photo below.) In place of sand you can use raw rice, dried beans or tiny pebbles. The beads are held upright in the sand on cotton swabs. I snip off one end of the swab to remove one of the cotton tips, but leave the other cotton tip in place because it makes the swab easy to grasp. My favorite bead roller creates a hole in the bead that's the exact diameter of the hollow plastic swabs I buy at Walgreens. So after I've rolled the bead, I carefully remove it from the bead roller and gently slide the bead onto the stick part of a swab. The cotton tip acts as a "handle" for the bead as liquid medium or varnish is applied. Then I push the trimmed end of the swab into the sand to hold the bead upright while it dries.

Cotton tip swabs hold beads upright as they dry in a container filled with sand

For beads with holes that are too large for cotton swabs, I use straws of a corresponding diameter. I cut the straws into 3" pieces and slide a bead onto each one. "Stops" made of masking tape wrapped around the straws, or rubber bands twisted onto the straws keep the beads from sliding downward.

Copyright 2013 Lynn Edwards


Friday, August 16, 2013

Solving Studio Storage Problems

Have finally gotten everything unpacked and have been busy devising functional yet inexpensive ways to store it all. My only "splurge" has been acquiring more shelving to house my books. Once again, I turned to Ikea and purchased two of their Expedit storage units. Stacking them one atop the other allows them to fit perfectly into the corner I'll be using as a reading nook. They're very sturdy and they look great. At just $39 each they were affordable too. These Expedit units hold all my over sized art books with ease because they're slightly over 15" deep. I love 'em!

A Different Angle

One strategy that helped me use the floor space more efficiently was placing some of my furniture perpendicular to the walls. This creates more usable wall space, makes better use of the room's interior square footage, and -- to my eye, anyway -- makes the studio seem larger than it actually is. I've done this with an open plastic shelving unit that houses a collection of lidded boxes containing my art supplies. Placed at a 90 degree angle to the wall, the open-backed shelving unit functions nicely as a room divider, with the work area on one side and "kitchen" area on the other. It effectively keeps the latter somewhat hidden from view, clearly defining the two areas, yet still leaves plenty of "moving around" room. Another advantage is that I can access the boxes on the shelves from both sides. Very handy!

To the left of the shelving unit is an old computer cabinet whose surface now holds a small fridge and microwave (not pictured). The cubbies below hold canvases and wood panels. In the foreground, adjacent to the shelf unit, is my "poor man's wash station." The unsightly electrical box will be concealed by clips attached to the wall holding sheets of watercolor paper.

I've placed my six foot work table perpendicular to the wall as well. This way I can work from either side. I'm really enjoying the versatility of this arrangement. Having easy access to the entire table surface is nice, and when my friend Kathy joins me for our weekly painting session, relocating my chair to the side closest to the door gives us both more room. The table Kathy uses sits several feet away from the 6' table, but we're both capable of making a bit of a mess as we work, so the more space, the better!

My 6' work table placed perpendicular to the wall leaves ample room for storage to both the left and right. That open area now occupied by the trash can is destined be filled with a small 3-shelf bookcase.

Put Up Some Pegboard 


Pegboard painted a cheerful color holds tools that used to take up valuable drawer space.

Another storage tactic that has worked out great was putting up a pegboard panel in the work area to hold everything from brayers and palette knives to rulers, scissors and other frequently used tools. I painted the pegboard a happy shade of lime green in about 30 minutes, using a 4 inch foam roller and latex house paint. (The pegboard I used was pre-primed.) Pegboard is much more attractive when it's painted, and I've been amazed at how many items it holds, even though the panel I used was only 28" wide. Mounted in the space between the two south facing windows, it accommodates a few dozen tools and then some. As you can see in the photo above, it takes up hardly any space but holds a lot!

With all the gear I use routinely on full view, I no longer have to waste valuable time hunting through cabinet drawers trying to find a particular item for making art. Pegboard panels are inexpensive (a 4x8 foot panel is usually less than $20) making this storage space-saver a super bargain. The metal hardware that holds the tools on the pegboard is usually sold separately. I bought a set of hardware -- assorted pieces in a variety of configurations -- at a big box home center for about $9. The set also included the brackets for mounting the pegboard on the wall.

One last item still unaddressed is figuring out what kind of hanging system I'll use for that gallery wall. With so many choices available, that decision will take some homework on my part to get it right. So stay tuned. I'll keep you informed in future posts as I explore my options. Perhaps you have some suggestions or advice as to the kinds of hanging systems for artwork that have worked best for you? If so, I'd really appreciate your sharing it!

Images and text ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The New Studio is Up and Running!

Well, not entirely. There's still some unpacking to be done and furniture yet to be moved in, along with some exterior work, but that didn't stop my artists' group from meeting here this past Monday -- the studio's "inauguration day," so to speak. Hubby and I had worked right up til the last minute to get everything ready for the group's arrival. The day was perfect (no rain!!) and even our resident hummingbirds contributed to the occasion by visiting the studio's window boxes during our meeting, which just added to the fun. The deer and the flock of wild turkeys that hang out under our bird feeder made themselves scarce while Carolyn, Rebecca, Dinah, Kathy and Karen were here, but reappeared later that afternoon. It would probably have thrilled everyone no end had they been able to see even more of the amazing wildlife we enjoy so much.
The studio as it appeared mid-construction

As it appears today. A 4x6' entry deck will replace the temporary steps, and lattice skirting will enclose the foundation over the course of the next few weeks. And then we'll finally be able to call it DONE!

Hosting this month's meeting gave me a chance to try out various furniture placement schemes for accommodating several people in the studio at once. The Ikea storage cabinet and the repurposed computer cabinet I'm using to store my canvases and sewing machine are both on casters. This makes scooting those heavy pieces around quite easy. Eventually I'd like to have both work tables, the basket storage unit that holds collage papers, and my armchair equipped with casters so I can reposition everything but the shelving units at will. For artists who are teaching classes or workshops in their studios, or artists like me who create many different types of art, the ability to reconfigure furnishings easily is most helpful.

In the meantime there are other things to be done, like painting a darling little wall cabinet I found at a yard sale to hold my rubber stamps (It cost me just one dollar!) and painting the dark wood table that now functions as a wash station for cleaning brushes. Both will be treated to bright new colors more in keeping with the decor.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Choosing Lighting for an Art Studio

Selecting the right kind of lighting for a studio is extremely important. Ending up with the wrong lighting can make your artistic life miserable because lighting affects your color perception. So it definitely pays to investigate the many choices out there to find a lighting system that satisfies your needs and fits your budget. How you work and where you work will be key factors in your decision.

How Do You Work?

If you work in your studio at night, you'll be relying more heavily on your lighting system than someone whose lighting system acts as a supplement to natural daylight. I rarely ever do studio work at night, but I wanted to make sure my lighting system was capable of providing adequate illumination if ever I needed to. Another question is whether you prefer to use an easel or work flat on a table. I prefer the latter so I wanted something that provided good general illumination throughout my work area with a minimum of glare. It also needed to provide illumination for the gallery wall where finished artwork would be hanging. It was important that whatever system I chose had directional flexibility so I could aim light at an ever-changing collection of pieces to display them to their best advantage.

There were a number of factors to be considered as I mulled over my potential choices, which were systems featuring halogens, LEDs, or fluorescents. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.


Of the three, I'm least fond of fluorescent, having had this type of lighting in two former studios. Ceiling mounted fluorescent light is a popular choice because it's relatively inexpensive, is economical to operate and throws a strong bright light, but I find it to be harsh and hard on my eyes. The typical "cool" fluorescent throws a cold, bluish light, while "warm" fluorescent bulbs seem (to me, anyway) to tint everything a faint shade of pink  Even when a "warm" fluorescent is paired with a "cool" one to get a more color-balanced effect, I still prefer other types of lighting. This type of lighting is also the least flattering to artwork, and overhead fixtures offer little if any directional flexibility.  It's a matter of personal preference, of course (I know plenty of artists whose studios are lit by fluorescents and they love them) but to me fluorescent's positive qualities aren't enough to outweigh my objections to it. So I eliminated fluorescent lighting from my list pretty quickly.


LED lighting may be the wave of the future, but after pricing LED systems I decided my budget needed to be guided by the here and now. LEDs put out a beautiful clear and even light, but holy moley, are they pricey! After tallying up the price to equip my studio with LEDs, I decided I wasn't willing to part with a Trump-sized investment to acquire such a system. If you don't mind dropping, oh, $25 or so on each bulb, LED lighting may be just the ticket, but there was no way your frugal correspondent was going to part with that kind of money. Nope, no way. 


Halogen track lights installed along the gallery wall. Here, three of them have been directed away from the wall temporarily and back into the room to provide light while we fabricated and painted the shutters during construction A total of six lights occupy this section of the track. Many more can be added but for now six seem quite adequate.

Halogen lighting is what I ultimately chose. Halogens deliver a clear, perfect light for displaying and making art. They provide fine overall lighting and the quality of the light is excellent. It allows me to see colors accurately, yet the quality of the light remains soft and pleasing. The cost was moderate, too: excluding the electrician's fee to install it, the entire system cost about $250.

I chose a halogen track light system that allows me to add or subtract lights which can swivel in any direction to provide illumination as needed. I can direct light wherever it's needed, and each lamp can be repositioned anywhere I want it along the track. I actually had our electrician install two separate track systems -- one over my work area, one along the gallery wall -- so they could be operated independently of each other. This way, I can choose to have one or both in operation depending on my needs at that moment. Each is on a dimmer switch, giving me wonderful flexibility in setting the light levels for all sections of the room.

Both track systems are positioned about 2 feet out from the walls. This is not only a proper distance for lighting artwork, it also works well for lighting my work area so that the light falls in the optimum position over my work table. If I did decide to use my easel, all that's necessary is to direct one of the halogens at it. Their versatility make halogens the perfect lighting system for me.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Choosing Flooring for an Art Studio

This was one of the biggest decisions I faced when building my new studio. It can be surprisingly complicated. What type of flooring would be best? Hardwood? Wood laminate planks? Ceramic tile? Sheet vinyl? Vinyl tile? Or some sort of composite material?

Whatever I ultimately selected, it had to meet three criteria: the flooring had to be relatively inexpensive, it had to be something my husband and I could install ourselves, and it had to be able to stand up to spills, drips and paint splops.


I rejected hardwood flooring right off the bat. It's gorgeous and is often seen in galleries but I knew that its beauty alone would inhibit me from flinging paint with wild abandon. It's also rather pricey and requires professional installation. Ka-ching, ka-ching.

Wood laminate plank flooring held more appeal: it's tough and can stand up to abuse, while being very easy to clean. I had wood laminate in my first studio and loved its good looks, but I wasn't sure I wanted it in the new studio. For one thing, it's susceptible to water damage, which concerned me. Water is essential in my studio -- buckets of it. An accidental spill can destroy a laminate floor. So I decided wood laminate was out.

Ceramic tile

Ceramic tile is lovely and easy to clean but standing on it several hours a day is mighty hard on the legs and back. Since I work standing up for hours at a time, ceramic tile wouldn't do at all.

Composite flooring

I did consider a resilient type of flooring that's used in daycare centers and on playgrounds, but soon rejected this option. It costs the earth and was available only in dark colors. Not for me.


Vinyl flooring is what I ultimately chose. I had used loose lay sheet vinyl in my second studio, to protect the hardwood flooring underneath it, and really liked it. Vinyl is offered in a wide range of prices, styles and colors, including both tiles and sheet vinyls. Sheet vinyl is available in the familiar glue-down type, or, for easier installation, a loose lay type that's rolled out and trimmed to fit but requires no adhesive. Sheet vinyl can survive spills: acrylic paint spilled on it cleans up nicely with a damp rag. For me, that feature was a key selling point. I selected a modified loose lay sheet vinyl from Lowes that's heavier and thicker than most. It's a nice light color (a stone-look in a medley of creams and tans) that reflects rather than absorbs light. Not only is it going to be easy on my feet and back, it was equally easy on the budget, at only around $1.25 per square foot. I think it will prove to be a good choice.

Beating Boredom by Making Beads

Making Fabric and Paper Beads to Keep in Touch With My Muse

So how does someone whose art supplies are in storage keep her creativity from atrophying? She turns to whatever materials are at hand. In my case, at hand were scissors, a bag of fabric scraps and lots of paper that was destined for recycling. Oh, and a bottle of white glue. Using a TV tray as my work table, I've been having a ball turning out a nice collection of fabric and paper beads from these humble supplies with which to make necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Considering I was completely new at this and had never tried my hand at making beads before, I think they've turned out nicely, don't you think?
The two large batik beads in the foreground are fabric, as are the two sunflower beads next to them. The rest are made from various papers: magazine photos, shopping bags, newspaper, junk mail, hand painted deli paper and origami paper. Plastic round beads separate the paper beads in the necklace.

What inspired me to try making beads was a book titled Creating Extraordinary Beads From Ordinary Materials: How to Turn Common Everyday Materials Into Uncommonly Beautiful Beads by Tina Casey (North Light Books, 1997). I came across it at the library and was immediately fascinated by the depictions of the many variations of beads that can be fashioned out of commonplace materials just laying around the house. 

The Basic Process

The basic process is really pretty simple: you cut your paper or fabric into long strips, then roll it tightly and evenly around a toothpick, straw or similar implement, gluing at intervals to secure it. It took me many tries to get this wrapping technique down because I'm all thumbs. My first few attempts were pretty laughable. But after a while, with more practice, I was able to keep the edges even and was able to turn out a bunch of decent-looking beads. The only problem was that it took me forever to make each one, primarily because it was very hard to wrap paper that was slipping and sliding around a skinny little cocktail stick.

A Better Way

I figured there had to be a faster way to roll paper beads, so I turned to the Internet for help. (The process for making fabric beads is a bit different and, to my mind, is less tedious.)  By cruising the Internet I learned about something called a bead roller. Basically, it's a tool that allows you to slide the end of the paper into a slotted holder that secures it and allows you to roll the bead much more quickly and without the paper shifting. A quick Internet search for bead rollers turned up sellers offering a wide variety of them at all price points.

I opted for an inexpensive set of five bead rollers (each a different diameter) with simple wooden handles for $11. They work great! Now I can roll several beads in the time it used to take me to roll just one. In the past two weeks I've managed to create almost 100 beads -- enough to make several necklace and earring sets. After working on the studio each day, I spend my evenings making beads while relaxing after supper. I love the idea of upcycling discarded paper into functional art, and best of all it's keeping me in a creative mode until I can move into the new studio and unpack my art supplies. As soon as I can get to my paints I'll be embellishing and decorating my beads further, but right now, even in their most basic state, I think they look attractive enough just as they are!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Construction Delays Can Drive You Nuts

Rain, Rain Go Away Please!

A prolonged spell of extremely wet weather has been hampering our progress on the studio's exterior for the past several days. It has been raining buckets around the clock, to the extent that big trees are toppling all over the area due to overly saturated ground. A little rain is fine but this ongoing deluge that seems to have no end is driving me crazy. It makes getting anything done outside impossible.

We spent the afternoon working on the shutters, which we're fabricating ourselves. Why go the DIY route? Custom wood shutters were insanely expensive. Vinyl shutters, on the other hand, were more affordable but the color choices are limited, and none of the colors offered matched those on our house. By creating the shutters ourselves we're saving several hundred dollars -- and achieving a cohesive look among all of the buildings on the property.  They're a simple, country cottage batten style: each side comprised of two wide vertical boards topped with a pair of horizontal cross pieces. All straight cuts, nothing complicated. My hubby and I were able to get all of the lumber cut and sanded this afternoon. Tomorrow we should be able to start priming, painting and assembling them. Then it's a matter of waiting until this rain stops so we can install them on the windows. If it doesn't stop soon, we'll be using the lumber to build an ark.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Choosing Paint Colors for the Studio

The question of what color(s) to paint the walls in the studio had me collecting and comparing paint chips for weeks. My last two studios had white and off-white walls. Many artists say those colors, along with very pale gray, reflect light best and don't skew their color perception. So at first I decided to go that route and chose a clean, bright white for the walls and ceiling.

Big mistake. Once the white paint went on, the look was cold and clinical. It made the space feel as charming as the inside of a food freezer. This I couldn't live with. It was back to the color chips for another try.

Most of my work -- along with my personal taste -- runs to warm colors. I'm happiest when surrounded by sunny hues. Give me light and bright and I'm delirious with joy. (My idea of hell is being stuck in a room with beige or taupe walls and brown furniture. I find that to be very depressing.) Determined to inject warmth and color into my space, whose furnishings are mostly white, I settled on what I thought would be the perfect shade of pale golden yellow. I bought a sample bottle, painted a 2x3' piece of heavy white paper with it, and left the paper taped to the wall for a week to see how well I liked it. Then I bought a gallon and started painting.

Another oops. What had looked lovely on the color chip and the painted sample sheet looked perfectly awful on the wall. When my husband called it "D.O.T. yellow" he was absolutely right. It was the same color as yield signs and school buses. Much too intense, it bathed everything in a French's Mustard sort of glow. I couldn't live with this color, either, so it was back to the color chips yet again.

This time around, I lucked out and found the very shade of pale yellow I had always envisioned for my studio space: Gold Buttercup 310A-2, from Behr. I painted three of the walls with Gold Buttercup, and painted the gallery wall with Behr's Ivory Invitation 310A-1, a derivative of Gold Buttercup that's a value or so lighter. The ceiling was left bright white. Together these colors are just right for my purposes and psyche. Every time I walk into the studio now I feel uplifted.

I think the colors selected for an art studio will largely depend on the kind of art being made, and the interior lighting situation. If I were painting portraits or realistic subjects where paints must be mixed with dead-on color accuracy, I probably would have gone with white for the studio walls. But the abstract and mixed media pieces I create are more forgiving when it comes to such things, and the pale yellow I used doesn't seem to reflect back into the room in a problematic way. It's warm but unobtrusive, while Ivory Invitation provides an inviting yet neutral backdrop for work displayed on the gallery wall.

Why is it so hard to pick just the right colors? After all, it's not hard for me to choose or mix colors when painting a canvas. I think the difficulty in getting color for the walls right must be due to the scale involved and the many variables that affect color perception in the physical environment -- shifting shadows, the movement of the sun, and the gradual change from cooler light in the morning to warmer light in the afternoon. What you see on a color chip may not be what you get when you paint the walls due to the way humans perceive colors in our surroundings. As my experience shows, getting the wall color right can be a matter of trial and error. In this case, the third try was a charm. Anybody wanna buy a gallon of  "D.O.T. Yellow?"

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Building a New Studio

When our studio lease was up for renewal this past April, Dinah and I decided not to renew. Instead, we both arranged to have studios built on our own properties. Although we really liked our former Kennesaw location and our wonderful landlord, after much discussion we decided  it made more economic sense to build studios of our own. In doing so we'd be able to eliminate an hour of commuting time each day, save a bundle on gasoline, and enjoy the convenience of being able to start each day's projects within minutes of waking up!

Work on Dinah's new studio began a couple of weeks before mine. Construction on my studio began April 12 and now, 2 1/2 months later, it's almost ready to move into. Just steps from my kitchen door, it's a dream come true. (I'm still pinching myself.) Both Dinah and I selected Backyard Construction to build the basic structures. On mine, my husband and I hired out the exterior painting, sheetrock work and electrical work. He and I are doing the interior painting, flooring and trimwork ourselves. We're old hands at home renovating so we've been able to save quite a bit on labor costs this way.

April 12 - A gorgeous day to start building a new studio!
Just to the right is a garden shed that Backyard Construction built for us last year.
The exterior shell upon completion. Yet to be done when this picture was taken: interior finishing, exterior painting, adding shutters and foundation skirting and replacing the temporary stairs with an entry deck.

I gave lots of thought to the design before we began. Ultimately I decided on a 12x20 foot single level building with four large windows and a 15-pane entry door. One window faces east, two face south and one faces west. Built on a slope, it has a pier foundation and sits adjacent to a small garden shed.

A large stand of trees is immediately behind the studio on the north side. The tree cover is just too dense during the summer to afford much light so I opted to forego placing windows on that side. Instead, the entire north wall will serve as a gallery wall. My work area will be set up on the opposite (south) wall. A reading area with bookcases and big comfy armchair will occupy the west wall. On the east end will be storage units and a cleanup station. Now, as we finish up the very last of the interior work, it's only a matter of a few days before I can move my furniture in!

Decisions, decisions......

Building a studio is a challenging project. There were countless decisions to make even on a design as straightforward and simple as this one. Heating, cooling, flooring and lighting choices were the biggest, but even the smallest (the style of the lockset, the type and style of trim) had to be thoughtfully researched and considered. In subsequent blogs I'll cover some of these issues so that anyone building or considering building a studio can share in what I've learned. And I'll be posting many more pictures, too.