Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pets in My Studio? NOT!

Once upon a time, when my studio was in a spare bedroom in our house, we adopted a second cat. Everyone advised us to introduce the cats to one another very slowly. We were urged to keep the newcomer behind a closed door at first so they could hear but not see each other. The theory was that they could play pattycake under the door with their paws, become accustomed to one another's voices, and eventually be introduced face to face. This process, we were told, would allow them to gradually become best buds.

Pudge making herself at home on my worktable on her first evening in our house. At the time I failed to notice the chewed corner on the piece of paper next to her. It was an omen of things to come.

The only room available to house Pudge, our adoptee, was -- you guessed it -- the studio. On her first day with us, we settled her in with nice fluffy mats to curl up on, plenty of food and water, and a slew of brand new cat toys. So far, so good. We went to sleep that night excited and happy that a sweet new kitty had joined our family.

It didn't take long for us to discover she wasn't exactly a model citizen. The term "Trojan horse" comes to mind. The rescue organization we acquired her from hadn't mentioned that our new cat was the feline version of a paper shredder. If she got hold of anything made of paper it was toast. She would tear it into hundreds of tiny pieces before you could snatch it away from her. Nor did they mention her insatiable taste for plastic. This included plastic grocery bags, plastic trash bags, cellophane wrappers ... if it was thin and pliable enough to eat it was "down the hatch" in a flash.

The morning after her arrival, I opened my studio door to find the room had been ransacked. Covering the floor and my worktable was a blizzard of chewed papers. They included was was left of collages and other small works on watercolor paper, the contents of some files I had left on my desk, and of course the contents of the wastebasket. What remained of the plastic grocery bag I had used to line the wastebasket was riddled with teethmarks. In the midst of this destruction sat our new furchild complacently grooming herself, completely indifferent to the mess around her.

Long story short, she and our other cat did eventually bond, but while Pudge was housed in that bedroom studio every piece of paper, every magazine, every Post-It note and every item made of thin plastic had to be gathered up and stored where she couldn't reach them. The studio for the first and last time ever looked like it was ready for an HGTV shoot. Unfortunately, this uber-tidiness actually got in the way of productivity. I spent half my time trying to remember where I had hidden my supplies, and the rest of the time trying to protect them from the cat after I had found them.

Pudge, left, and her late buddy Chardonnay

Today I'm blessed to have a studio on our property that's separate from the house. Pudge has never lost her taste for plastic, and if there's paper within her grasp she's on it like a duck on a june bug. My studio is full of both. So Pudge, despite the fact that we love her dearly, has never been allowed to set foot in there, and never will be. The upside is my works on paper remain safe and intact. My studio wastebaskets are even lined with plastic bags -- a nicety we can't enjoy back at the house. People ask if I allow our cat to keep me company in the studio, and my unfailing answer is, "Hell no!" They're picturing a purring kitty curled up at my feet in a scene of idyllic contentment. Reality is a cat tearing into everything in sight like a runaway lawnmower. Nope, my studio is forever off limits to Pudge, aka The Evil One. It's officially pet free -- just the way I like it!

Text and images ©2016 Lynn Edwards

A Thought for Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen." -- Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, January 24, 2016

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads." -- Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Resources for Artists: Acrylic Solutions by Chris Cozen and Julie Prichard

The wind is howling, the roads are icy, and snow is falling. It's the perfect time to curl up with a cup of cocoa and a good book! If that book is Acrylic Solutions: Exploring Mixed Media Layer by Layer (North Light Books), you're in for a fine read.

Co-authors Chris Cozen and Julie Prichard lead readers step by step through the process of creating  compelling mixed media paintings. After covering the basics -- paints, surfaces, tools, and guidelines for applying techniques like glazing, blending, and mixing colors -- they move on to the hows and whys of laying a solid foundation for a piece, including choosing the right substrates and how to prep them.

Structure comes next, with discussions of exactly how the various mixed media pieces shown were developed using collage, texture mediums, color blocking, mark making, etc.

From there the book moves into the topic that poses a challenge to many artists: how to develop complexity in a work without it becoming a visual jumble. Advice and techniques are offered to enable you to design a work of art that's both exciting and yet cohesive.

The last chapter covers the essential final step, which is assessing the work and finessing the details.
If the checklist provided reveals that improvements are necessary, you'll find numerous ways to achieve them in the "toolbox" of solutions offered.

I consider this book to be an essential resource due to both its excellent content and functional design. It's spiral bound, making the many demos in it easy to follow because it can be laid flat on your worktable. It's written in a lively, entertaining style, and the many photos provided are crisp and clear. Among them are many photos of works created by the authors along with those of dozens of other mixed media artists. The works depicted are sure to inspire anyone looking for some artistic inspiration. And because Cozen and Prichard's own personal styles are considerably different from one another, it's interesting to see how applying their suggestions can result in decidedly different yet equally successful works of art.

©2015 Lynn Edwards


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Learning a Computer Program When You Don't Speak Geek

Ok, I admit it: the gobbledegook one finds in what passes for "instructions" when learning to use a computer program is total Greek to me. Or, more accurately, perhaps I should say it's total "Geek" -- unintelligible terminology that only a computer programmer can decipher. And if you think that's bad, too often it's even worse: there's no instruction provided whatsoever.

My own efforts to master certain software packages were a complete disaster. (The programs in question will remain unnamed because I do not wish to be stalked by cyber sadists who write those software manuals and Help pages.) Perhaps, if you are anything like me, you will be able to relate to my experiences:

Sitting in front of my computer trying to navigate through an unfamiliar program inevitably produced a state of frustrated rage. You do not know how often I was tempted to pick up a book and heave it at the monitor. Ranting at and cursing the computer was a daily occurrence. My recurring fantasy was imagining the delicious sense of revenge I'd enjoy as I envisioned tossing the damned thing out a second floor window.

 Meanwhile, my poor husband, who was usually listening from the next room to a colorful string of epithets, was dreading what he knew was coming next: "Would you PLEASE come show me what the @#$%^%$# I'm doing wrong????!!!

He would then rise from his chair, don a hardhat, and warily come to the rescue. Scenarios like this were repeated countless times as I tried to master email, searching the Internet, using a scanner, placing an order online, and on and on. The man truly has the patience of a saint. If we had a nickel for every time Hubs had to come bail me out of a bind, we'd be living in high cotton on the French Riviera. My learning curve wasn't just steep. It was decidedly vertical.

Then one day a thought occurred to me: why not write down each step as my husband showed it to me, using terms and descriptions of my own that would help me remember what to do and when? Writing descriptions that made sense to me, however oddly they were worded, allowed me learn the programs that formerly had left me so frustrated and baffled. I think Hubs was willing to accommodate me because he was ready to try anything, however outlandish, if it would allow him to spend his retirement in peace.

So whenever I found myself stumped by a program I couldn't understand how to use, he would come and sit down next to me at the computer, where he would describe each step and show me how it worked. Then, displaying the patience of Job, he would wait as I scribbled down my interpretation of it. My notes may not have made much sense but I knew exactly what every phrase or sentence meant. Here are a few excerpts:

"Click one time on blue thing at bottom of screen that looks like a planet."
"To leave page, click on red X in upper right corner. DO NOT hit other X in box in other corner!"
"To make a new folder, click on Pictures, then highlight My Pictures underneath it, but don't open My Pictures just yet."
"Click one time on gray triangle (lower right side) near thing with flag. DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING ELSE. Wait til OK to Remove shows at bottom of box before pulling card out."

Using my notes I finally got the hang of navigating and utilizing all the programs I needed to learn, without getting divorced or being arrested for unruly conduct. Granted, it took a while to become completely comfortable with them, and there are still certain applications I have yet to try, but now I breeze through programs like Photoshop Elements and others without hesitation. I no longer need to consult the notebook, but I still keep it handy -- just in case.

I share this with you, dear readers, not to make myself look clever (If I were clever I'd have learned what I needed to learn a whole lot sooner) but rather to suggest to others struggling with computers that there's a way to ease the pain. Buy a notebook, grab a pencil, and recruit someone patient who's familiar with the programs and processes you're trying to learn. Start making notes. You'll be amazed at how effective this no-tech approach can be, and -- thank goodness -- there's no Geekspeak to send your blood pressure soaring.

©2015 Lynn Edwards

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, January 17, 2016

"I have a rock garden. Last week three of them died." -- Richard Diran

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, January 10, 2016

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape -- the loneliness of it -- the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it -- the whole story doesn't show." -- Andrew Wyeth

Using Gel Transfers to Create Linework

Sometimes we just don't have enough time to create highly detailed line work for a mixed media piece, but we know that's exactly what it needs. Right now I'm working on a large mixed media project consisting of four 12x36 inch panels. It was just begging for an image of stark winter trees, but for me to draw those trees with their intricate, tangled network of branches and limbs by hand would take me an awfully long time. Maybe forever. So what's a girl to do?

It would take hours to draw all these limbs and branches by hand. So I used a gel transfer instead.   ©Lynn Edwards
The Idea Fairy dropped by as I was contemplating this dilemma and whispered, "Use a gel transfer!"
What a great idea! I grabbed my digital camera and my trusty jar of soft gel and went to work.

The above photo is one of several shots I took of trees at the edge of our woods. Using Photoshop Elements I changed them from color to black and white and increased the contrast so their details would be preserved. Then I printed them out on ordinary 20# white copier paper. After trimming away the excess paper with a scissors I applied a layer of soft gel gloss medium to each one with a wide, soft bristle nylon brush.

The trick to making gel transfers is allowing each gel layer to dry thoroughly before applying the next layer. I like to apply at least four layers, minimum, so this often entails allowing each layer to dry overnight or for several hours at a time. It may take some time, but I find this transfer process is much easier and faster than trying to render all those limbs and branches in ink!

Once the final layer of gel dries, I apply water to the back side of the paper with a sponge and gently rub the paper fibers off using my fingers. It usually takes several applications of water and determined rubbing to get all the paper off, but eventually you'll end up with a clear sheet of flexible acrylic with the photographic image embedded in it. The white areas will have disappeared, becoming totally clear, and all that will be left are the dark parts of the image. The sheet can be cut into pieces or left intact. (Smaller pieces are easier to handle.)

The gel transfer can then be adhered to the canvas or panel with more gel medium. Or, you can sandwich it between pieces of wax paper to store it for future use. One word of caution: don't put the paper rubbings down the drain. Dispose of them in the trash instead.

Image and text ©2016 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, January 3, 2015

"I've had my butt handed to me on a platter so many times that I was beginning to think it was a Happy Meal!" -- Dave Iles