Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Thought for Sunday, June 29, 2014

"What light is to the eyes -- what air is to the lungs -- what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man." -- Robert Green Ingersoll

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Upcycling a Thrift Store Find with Paper Mosaics

A few weeks ago I was cruising my favorite thrift store when I spotted some small framed mirrors. There were six of them, all identical to each other. Their 11 inch square, plain black frames were perfectly flat. Their backs still bore Ikea labels. Surprisingly, they were in very good shape despite having been tossed haphazardly into a bin. I snapped up three of them then and there but now regret not buying the entire lot when I had the chance. At just $1.51 each they were bargains!

From the minute I saw them I knew they'd be ideal candidates for a makeover with paper mosaics. I've just completed the first of the three, shown below:

Paper "tiles" in shades of blue, blue green, violet, and yellow green revive this thrift store mirror. To avoid reflections while photographing it I temporarily covered the mirror area with black card stock.

Will I put it in my Etsy shop or keep it? I haven't decided yet.

A paper mosaic treatment is a great way to update an old, shabby or dated-looking thrift store find. Or that beat up piece of furniture that's been languishing for years in your garage. Whether you call it upcycling, rescuing or rehabbing, the end result is spectacular. All it takes is patience, a variety of papers, decoupage medium, a flat artist's brush, a ruler, scissors or a paper cutter, paper towel or a soft cloth, and a utility knife or X-acto knife.

Here's how, step by step:

1. Clean the surface of the item to be covered to remove all traces of dust and dirt.
2. You may have to scuff a slick surface with sandpaper to provide some "tooth." If so, remove any sanding dust before proceeding.
3. Cut your papers into strips. The strips can be all the same width, as on the mirror above (mine were all one inch wide) or they can be cut to different widths. The length of the strips can vary according to your preference, but it's easier to work with short strips rather than long ones. The length of the longest strip on my mirror was four inches.
4. Try out various color and pattern combinations to see how they look together. You can plan your arrangement out in advance (take a picture with your cell phone to help you remember where things go). Or you can just wing it. I chose to wing it.
5. Apply decoupage medium (my preference was Modge Podge) evenly to the back of a paper strip and press it onto the surface. Smooth out any air bubbles. If excess medium oozes out from underneath, gently blot it up with a slightly dampened cloth or paper towel.
6. Continue adding paper strips as above, positioning them snugly against one another until the surface is completely covered with the paper "tiles." Allow to dry for at least 24 hours (it can take longer in very humid conditions for it to dry completely).
7. Trim excess paper from edges. For the mirror, I placed it face down on a cutting mat and trimmed off excess paper with an X-acto knife with a sharp, brand new blade.
8. Apply another coat of decoupage medium to the surface. Allow to dry thoroughly.
9. Apply one or more coats of acrylic varnish to help protect the surface from dust, fingerprints and scratches. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next coat.

Use papers of a similar thickness for a nice smooth finish. Text weight papers are easiest to work with.
A paper cutter makes cutting the strips go much easier and faster. Be sure to use a fresh new blade!
For a different but equally appealing look, you can paint the item in a single color first using acrylic or latex paint, then apply the paper strips, leaving small gaps between them.

Text and images ©2014 Lynn Edwards

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Studio Decorating Choices -- An Evaluation

It has been just under a year since I moved into my studio. Using it daily over the course of each season, I've had plenty of time to evaluate my choices for the lighting system, flooring and paint colors for the walls. It seems quite a few visitors to the blog have been interested in these topics, too. The posts in which I've discussed the studio's decor have been some of the most visited, according to the stats. From this I'm thinking there are many of you out there who are interested in building a studio or improving an existing studio. Like me, you don't want to end up with paint colors that don't work, lighting that fails to do the job or flooring you regret selecting

Now that I've spent almost 12 months in my new studio, I'm able to offer a few thoughts on the choices I made back when it was under construction.

The Paint

First, let's talk about the paint colors.Ultimately I had settled on Behr's Invitation Ivory #310-A1 for the gallery wall and Behr's Gold Buttercup #310-A2 for the other three walls. Now, with my paintings and jewelry on display on the gallery wall, the Invitation Ivory has proven to be a good choice. It looks great with everything and clashes with nothing. Under the halogen track lights it imparts a subtle, soft tone to the room but doesn't compete with or detract from the artwork in any way.

As for the other three walls, which were painted with Gold Buttercup, I remain delighted with that color too. On winter days when the weather was cold, gray and dismal, I'd enter the studio, turn on the lights, and the room would instantly feel as if it were bathed in sunlight. You might think, being a pale shade of yellow, it would feel too "warm" during the summer months but somehow it doesn't. It reflects light well but seems quite "neutral." It also makes the studio seem larger than it actually is.

If I had to do it over again, I'd choose these same two colors. They've worked really well for me.

The Flooring

After weeks of research and sample-gathering, I had selected modified loose lay sheet vinyl flooring from Lowes. It has turned out to be a snap to keep clean, despite the fact that it's light cream-and-beige in color. It's surprisingly easy to spot tiny beads I've dropped on it -- even microscopic 2mm crimps! A quick swipe with a water dampened rag or paper towel takes care of fresh paint spills. Dried on paint peels off it easily too. (Note that I paint almost exclusively with acrylics. I'd advise testing a sample first if you paint with other types of media.) The vinyl I chose was extra thick, making it very comfortable to stand or walk on. That had been a strong selling point for me, because I paint standing up and also have back problems.

The only criticism I have is that the flooring developed two subtle "ripples" earlier this spring. The ripples persisted for a few weeks, but disappeared when outside temperatures began to rise into the 80s. The cause of the rippling is a mystery to me. Possibly there are places where the edges weren't trimmed back sufficiently to allow for the flooring to contract and expand, as this type of flooring inevitably does. If we ever move the heavier pieces of furniture we'll trim the vinyl's edges back a bit more. That will probably take care of the problem, but until then I'll just live with it. It wasn't a major issue, just more of an inconvenience.

The Lighting

Halogen track lighting is what I chose for general illumination and highlighting the gallery wall. It produces a nice clear light that doesn't skew colors. I've been very pleased with it and feel it was the right choice for my needs and budget. The only downside I've noticed is that the halogen bulbs generate a fair amount of heat. This is an advantage in cold weather but not so desirable in the summer. To keep the air conditioner from working overtime, I tend to use only the track over my work area when I need general illumination on that side of the studio. (A ceiling fan installed directly over my worktable helps keep me comfortable.) Two fluorescent task lights on my work table provide plenty of light for doing close work like making jewelry. And the studio's four large windows admit plenty of natural light. With so many light sources, I don't need to use the halogens very much. When I do, I enjoy their clarity, the quality of light they produce and the way they make artwork look so vivid. All in all, they definitely were a good choice.

There are several other considerations you may want to keep in mind if you're building or rehabbing a studio. We'll be covering those in a future post.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Making Handmade Business Cards

Recently I came across an intriguing project: making handmade business cards. I found it in Roxanne Padgett's fine book Acrylic Techniques in Mixed Media: Layer, Scribble, Stencil, Stamp. This appealed to me, so I gathered up a few supplies supplies and got ready to play.

Some of the handmade, hand painted business cards I made this past week.
The idea is to take a sheet of paper such as heavy card stock or watercolor paper and proceed to paint, collage, stamp and/or otherwise express yourself in various ways, then cut it into 2 x 3 1/2 inch pieces -- the dimensions for a standard business card. Apply a computer label printed with your contact information to the back of the card and you have a tiny work of art a recipient will be unlikely to discard. As an alternative to using labels you could simply print or write your contact info on the back if you have good penmanship.

Distinguish yourself

It's probably not feasible to make these cards in huge quantities, but it's nice to be able to hand one to someone you hope to make a lasting and favorable impression upon: a prospective collector, a journalist who's interviewing you, or a gallery director, perhaps. Receiving a piece of original art from the individual who made it automatically sets that artist apart from the crowd.

The first batch I made up (two in shades of violet and blue-green are shown in the photo's upper left hand corner) feature collage, but for subsequent batches I used paint only. I applied it in several ways, including washes, stenciling and stamping.

Fun Foam is FUN!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this project was creating three small stamps using fun foam, which is readily available at craft stores. If you haven't tried this product yet you don't know how much fun you're missing. Fun foam cuts easily with scissors. The fun foam I used has adhesive on one side. Just cut out your design, press it onto a piece of mat board and you're ready to go. One design turned out so well I'm thinking of having it made into a mounted rubber stamp.

It's like making paintings

All told I ended up with 25 handmade business cards. I worked on 140 lb. watercolor paper (cut roughly to 8x10 inches) using a different palette of colors for each. Sure, it was more time consuming than ordering business cards on the Internet, but I found that creating the handmade cards was just as enjoyable as creating small paintings. So I feel like the investment of my time was worth it. Leftover scraps that weren't large enough to make a card with, I turned into bookmarks.

Have you ever made your own business cards from original art? If so, let's hear from you. Tell us what techniques you used to make them or how you've promoted your art with them. What has been recipients' reactions to them? Include an image of your handiwork and I'll happily post it here on the blog for all to admire and enjoy.

Text and image ©2014 Lynn Edwards

A Thought for Sunday, June 22, 2014

"For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, June 16, 2014

Freedom to Experiment

There's a 24x30 inch stretched canvas in my studio that could probably serve as a boat anchor. It has been gessoed-over too many times to count. It also sports a thick layer of texture created with a wall compound called Flex-All. This is my Experimentation Canvas and it has provided a working surface for many, many experiments in its lifetime. Which is to say that if it's ever hung on a wall it will constitute a safety hazard. That puppy is H-E-A-V-Y.

It didn't start out to be an experimentation canvas, of course. It started out to be a nice landscape or something (I no longer remember what) that I decided I didn't like. So I gessoed it over. And over. And over. By now I've lost count of how many paintings and half-paintings lie hidden under its many layers of gesso. Some turned out ok, some were mediocre and some were truly awful. All of them were the subjects of experimental techniques: dripped paint, weird glazes, scratchings and scrapings, unconventional substances and who-knows-what-else.

Somehow I've always found it easier to conduct experiments on this one (ridiculously abused) canvas. It's my dedicated sacrificial lamb. I never worry about creating masterpieces on it. I worry more about it falling and fracturing my foot. What I appreciate about it is the total freedom it gives me to try any technique I feel like trying with no concerns whatsoever. No hesitations about trashing an expensive new canvas or blowing through costly sheets of watercolor paper. Nope, I just get out the gesso, apply a coat or two over the previous experiment and voila! I have a fresh, clean surface on which to play.

Gesso is amazing. Slather it on a failed painting and it does away with your sins (an unfortunate acetone catastrophe comes to mind). It's absolution in a jar, capable of returning things to a state of purity. I love the stuff.

Nowadays I use Utrecht's gesso, which is very opaque and thick but can be thinned with a bit of water. Cheap Joe's is another brand I like very much. Both are excellent products and are good values for the money, but even a thin, runny gesso can provide you with the freedom to try new techniques. Just pull out a not-yet-varnished canvas you don't care for, hit it with some gesso -- any gesso -- and you're good to go! Have fun!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Thought for Sunday, June 15, 2014

"A doctor can have four appendices out before breakfast. That's professionalism. If you or I had to take out an appendix, we would go by the book, take until noon, probably lift the wrong organ, and the patient would likely not make it to the recovery room. That's amateurism."  -- Robert Genn, The Painter's Keys

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Must-Have Book Every Artist Needs to Overcome Creative Blocks

Do you dread facing a blank canvas? Do you struggle to come up with creative ideas? Are your go-to techniques becoming boring and stale? All of these artistic maladies plague us at one time or another, to lesser or greater degrees. They're part of the territory for most artists, but they're not much fun. In fact, they can make us truly miserable. If only we could call upon a wand-wielding fairy godmother to vaporize these goblins and get us back on track...

Twinkle, twinkle

Enter artist and author Marjorie Sarnat. Now, I doubt Ms. Sarnat thinks of herself as a fairy godmother, much less bills herself as one. But she has created resources for us that can propel us right past all those angst-producing roadblocks that freeze us up and bog us down. For stymied creatives, her books are the next best thing to fairy dust. Instead of glitter, she showers us with so many prompts and suggestions for getting going and overcoming roadblocks that it's just about impossible for us not to.

I'm not talking about Ms. Sarnat offering a mere handful of suggestions, either. I'm talking a few hundred.

In fact, if, after consulting her books, you're still not feeling inspired enough/confident enough/adventuresome enough to grab your brushes and start art-making with gusto, I strongly suggest you check your pulse.

What are these amazing resources? One is 210 Imaginative Ideas for Painting: How to Find and Keep Your Inspiration and Advance Your Visual Style. The other title is 151 Uncommon and Amazing Art Studio Secrets. A third title by this author is 151 Effective and Extraordinary Art Studio Secrets. I haven't read that one yet, so I can't comment on it but I suspect it's just as helpful and information-rich as the aforementioned titles. All are available in hard copy and ebook versions.

Ok, you're thinking, give me some examples. For our purposes I'll discuss 210 Imaginative Ideas only in this post. The other title, 151 Uncommon and Amazing Art Studio Secrets, I'll save for a future post.

A Little Self-Analysis

In 210 Imaginative Ideas, in Part One, you'll discover what inspires you in both the inner and outer worlds (there can be some real surprises here if you're willing to indulge in a bit of introspection).

What's in Your File Cabinet?

Next, in Part Two, you'll be treated to what Sarnat calls "inspiration therapy," suggested destinations and activities to rouse your snoozing Muse. The author also delves deeply into capitalizing on journal-keeping and reference materials to a degree I've not seen elsewhere. She discusses at length the many sources of inspiration around us and how to capture and catalog them for future reference. I found this part of the book to be exceptionally comprehensive. It helped me uncover so many overlooked sources of inspiration that my Muse not only woke up, it became as active as a six year old on a sugar high.

Ready, Set, Go

In Part Three, the terminally uninspired will hit paydirt. Here's where you'll find 210 ideas for painting subjects, many of which are unusual enough to pique the interest of even the most jaded among us. For example, have you ever thought of deconstructing an eggbeater and using its parts as subjects? Creating an Aboriginal Dot Painting? Or enlarging a Monet reproduction by 200 to 400 percent to reveal an abstract image that can inspire an abstract of your own? I assure you that by the time you work your way through this part of the book you'll be positively itching to get into your studio and break out your paints.

As if that weren't enough, there's another whole section on taking your work in new directions using innovative materials. Like 2x4s. (Yes, you read that right.) Or trash. Or leaves. Also, a highly informative discourse on working in series.

Actually, this book is so chock full of ideas your head will be spinning by the time you finish reading it. I can't even begin to cover all the topics Sarnat has packed into this book. It's simply impossible to do it justice. All I can say is, if you suffer from any of the conditions I've mentioned, you owe it to yourself to get a copy. It will be one of the best investments you've ever made.

©2014 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Thought for Sunday, June 8, 2014

"The power of transformation and love has never been the territory or possession of only saintly or special people. Courage and compassion are not preordained gifts possessed by only a select minority. The heart of love, forgiveness, and grace lies within each of us...Each one of us has the potential to live as a fully sensitive, connected, and free human being." -- Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield in Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart: Parables of the Spiritual Path from Around the World

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dressing Up the Studio Entrance

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, my studio used to have three wooden steps leading up to the entrance. These steps were only temporary, although I used them for over a year before we hired Richard Morris of Decks Unlimited to construct a 6x6 foot entry deck in their place. Those original steps were narrow and definitely hazardous. I came close to falling off them more than once! As the saying goes, "Grace is not my middle name."

Last month, Richard worked his magic and built a fantastic entry deck for me. The craftsmanship he put into it is obvious, and its construction is solid as a rock. It has nice wide stairs, a broad, sturdy handrail and on the deck itself there's plenty of room to open the storm door and come and go without performing a balancing act.

Richard has a strong design sensibility and a great deal of aesthetic sensitivity. He grasped immediately how important it was to design something that not only was safe but would also enhance the appearance of the building while staying within our budget.

Besides being an excellent builder, Richard is an accomplished musician with his own in-home sound studio. As a fellow artist he had no problem understanding how I envisioned the Ideal Studio Entry. Despite the fact that this project was very "small potatoes" compared to the much larger structures he usually designs, Richard treated my entry deck with every bit as much regard as he does the big stuff. He made thoughtful suggestions that proved to be the right choices. The result is that I love my new entry deck just as much as I love my studio. It gives me pleasure every time I use it.

Richard Morris, on the left, and son Tristan. Thank you, Decks Unlimited, for a job well done!

Once the deck was finished I started thinking of ways to give the area in front of the door a "decorated" look. Planters with sun loving coleus, begonias and marigolds now sit in one corner, and pots of  geraniums are positioned at the base of the stairs. In the large corner planter I've installed one of those tall garden hooks. It serves as a prop for when I photograph my suncatchers. The rest of the time it holds a suncatcher I've made just for the studio. Its colors and those of the flowers are repeated in a rather artsy-looking door mat with a floral theme that Hubs and I found at Aldi.

It's amazing what a few blooms and a small piece of garden art can do to dress up an entry area. Real estate agents have always known that enhancing its entry makes a house more appealing to buyers. While I have no intention of selling and it's not a residence, I do want visitors to my studio to feel warmly welcomed. Greeting them with colorful flowers and artistic accents does that and sets the stage for guests to enter the creative environment within. It also gives me a boost as I approach the studio to start my day. Here's the cheerful sight that greets me each morning:

Welcome !

Pots of flowers and a suncatcher provide a bit of color

This "painterly" looking outdoor mat, found at Aldi, is perfect for its setting.

Text and images ©2014 Lynn Edwards

Friday, June 6, 2014

Suncatcher Update

Suncatcher #1 and Suncatcher #2 are now available through my Etsy shop, Playing With Colors. In the past day or so I've made several more and am having more fun doing so than is probably legal. Among them are a Patriotic suncatcher in red, white and blue, and an elegant model in shades of topaz and gold that's reminiscent of the Gilded Age.

They'll appear in my shop just as soon as this nasty weather (violent thunderstorms, hail, etc.) decides to head elsewhere. It's making the outdoor photography they deserve a challenge! So I'm waiting for the rain to stop, designing even more suncatchers, and wondering if we should start building an ark.

©2014 Lynn Edwards

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Turning Leftover Beads Into Suncatchers

What do you do with a pile of orphan beads? ("Orphan" being defined as beads left over from other projects, and beads I don't plan to use for jewelry for one reason or another.) In my studio, they're now used to make suncatchers!

I love suncatchers. For Mother's Day I gave my mom a rather elaborate suncatcher I found on Etsy. It had all kinds of quirky items on it besides beads, including old keys, charms and other small trinkets. Sure, I could have made a suncatcher for her myself, but the idea to send Mom a suncatcher in addition to her other gifts occurred to me right before Mother's Day. There wasn't enough time to make one for her myself.

So I went shopping on my favorite source for "all things handmade" (shameless plug: my own Etsy shop is Playing With Colors) and found a lovely suncatcher at The wonderful seller moved heaven and earth to ship it so Mom would get it in time (just try getting that level of service at a big box store!) It got delivered practically overnight. Mom was thrilled with her gift and I was positively wowed by Beauty of Light's awesome customer service.

Anyway, back to the orphans. I had enough of them on hand to make a simple, one-strand suncatcher if I supplemented them with some of my jewelry beads. Instead of using nylon fishing line, which stretches and weakens over time, I opted to use 49 strand beading wire to string them. This is the same super-strong product I use for stringing necklaces.

I also had several teardrop shaped glass prisms that once hung on an old chandelier. They had been gathering dust in a box for years. Cleaned up, they'd be perfect as suncatcher drops. I selected one, gathered up the beads, and got busy. Soon, Suncatcher #1 was born:

Orphan beads and an upcycled prism from an old chandelier make a colorful suncatcher.
I enjoyed making this colorful suncatcher so much I immediately started in on a second. This time I aimed for a more delicate look. I used some large faceted acrylic beads in a yummy raspberry-pink color, combined with turquoise, pale green and clear glass beads. Oooh, this suncatcher thing is too much fun! Here's Suncatcher #2:

Two large faceted acrylic beads and pastel colored glass beads adorn Suncatcher #2.
But why stop with just two? I couldn't seem to focus on anything but suncatchers. Soon three more were dancing in the breeze outside my studio door as I photographed them for my Etsy shop. But I won't stop there. I'll be creating dozens more in the days ahead. Is there a 12 Step program for suncatcher-makers? I believe I'm addicted.

What is it about them that captivates so many of us? I think it's their sparkle, their movement and the beauty of sunlight shining through them that makes them so irresistible. They're wonderful as garden art or hung on a porch or deck; indoors, they bring cheer on the drabbest winter day when hung in a window. They make terrific gifts, providing pleasure year round for even the hardest-to-please recipients. Can you think of a better gift for someone who is ill, or in a nursing home? Given as a hospitality or housewarming gift? Or a gift for a co-worker, friend, or neighbor? This simple touch of beauty lifts spirits and brings joy to all, day after day, year after year. I can hardly wait to make lots more of them!
Text and images ©2014 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Art in Asheville: Part Two

The drumming circle we had attended on Friday night in Asheville was a fun prelude to what was to follow: touring the art studios in the city's popular River Arts District on Saturday. The River Arts District, formerly an industrial area, is now home to approximately 180 artists whose studios now occupy what used to be manufacturing plants and industrial warehouses. Many of these artists open their studios to the public on Saturdays so there were plenty of studios to visit but not enough time for us to see them all.  (There's also a twice yearly Studio Stroll, to be held on June 14-15 and November 8-9 this year.)

CURVE Studios

We began our tour at CURVE Studios and Garden on Riverside Drive, where we found beautiful salt fired pottery by Kyle Carpenter, unusual handmade lamps by Pamella O'Connor, and graceful ceramic sculptures by Cassie Ryalls Butcher to name just a few. I was especially drawn to quirky mixed media pieces by L. Balombini and fascinating weavings by Suzanne Gernandt that combined silk and linen with hand painted papers. Suzanne also creates truly lovely scarves, one of which my friend Gail couldn't resist buying.

The Wedge Brewery

From CURVE we walked across the railroad tracks to The Wedge, a complex containing the Wedge Brewing Company and The Wedge Studios. On this day a well-attended Beer Festival was in progress on the parking lot. Ticket holders could wander through the maze of craft beer vendors offering all sorts of unusual brews (chocolate beer, anyone?) We didn't have tickets so we opted to order our libations from The Wedge Brewing Company and enjoy them on their shaded patio. I must say, The Wedge makes a very tasty cider.

The Wedge Studios

From there we headed up the stairs to check out The Wedge Studios on Roberts Street. We wandered in and out of several, admiring paintings, collages, and hand dyed silk and wool accessories. At Broken Road Studio, an abstract landscape by Philip DeAngelo caught my husband's eye.

Now, understand that Hubs is an ardent fan of realism. (He still hasn't forgiven me for gessoing over a painting I had once done of storm clouds looming up over the Kansas prairie. He loved it because it was "so real.")

When I noticed him admiring Philip DeAngelo's moody abstract landscape, I was surprised and secretly delighted. Was Hubs actually becoming fond of abstracts???!! The wistful look on his face told me he really, really liked this piece. In fact, he was almost panting. (Well, not exactly panting, but I can assure you he was in serious Art Lust.) So I did what any good spouse would do. I suggested we buy it. He instantly turned into one happy camper. Which made me happy. I liked it as much as Hubs, so there were smiles all around. As it turned out, the original was already sold, so we did the next best thing. We bought a giclee. Everybody went home happy.

There were so many more studios to visit, but the previous day's drive and late night entertainment had taken their toll on our energy levels. Next time we visit Asheville, we'll have to spend more time in the River Arts District. In fact, I could easily spend a week there. It -- and Asheville itself -- are fun,  funky, and full of amazing art!

©2014 Lynn Edwards

A Thought for Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Artists can no more stop creating than they can stop breathing. As long as you are still breathing, living  your life out loud through love is your calling." -- Nicole Steiman, in Artstarters: A Spiritual Process for Using Creativity and Art-Making to Ignite Your Life