Monday, August 25, 2014

Hitting Print

Hey there, Pocketeers!  I've been slowing down on the cards, but getting together with Zingala and RunningWave has spurred me to action a little bit more over the past couple of weeks.  Still only resulted in three cards, but I dug into my scraps and cutting dies a little more for these.  Plus, this weekend we got together to play a little bit with RunningWave's Gelli plate, with fun results. But first, the cards:

The primarily green one has ivy die-cut from one of the papers I printed on the Gelli plate.  The mushrooms collaged onto the other are from a napkin I had in my stash.

The banners and the edging at the top are cut with Spellbinders dies.

My favorite prints from our Gelli Plate adventures, with leaves die cut from one of them, and what's left of the paper I cut the ivy from for the green card.

I love the layers and peel-y look here.

This was a ghost print after pulling a print through a stencil.  Look at that delicious texture.

In two weeks the three of us are taking a class together on using the Gelli plate, so I'm looking forward to learning different tricks and techniques for getting unique prints.  And I kind of want my own plate, but where on Earth I'm going to put it is a different story...

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Wow, it's been a while.  And after I had been so good earlier in the Summer.  Well, I haven't been as persistent with art stuff as I was at the beginning of the Summer.  Been reading more than arting, because I might be a little bit obsessed with the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (OMG).  But I have made a bit more progress on the 52 Card Pick Up deck, and started a new project.  This post shows off the rest of what it took to get to exactly halfway through the deck. 

As for the new project, it's coming along slowly.  It's rather a large one, for me anyway, and it had to spend some time on the balcony in time-out today while the spray fixative I used on it dried.  Really didn't need it fuming up the whole condo. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Gathering

Hi there, Pocketeers. I promise I've still been arting. Slowly, little by little, I've been building my 52 Card Pickup deck. Some cards I'm really happy with, and others less so. But I'm having fun working on them (if you can call it work). Here's what I've put together lately: 

That last one isn't my favorite, but it is the result of me finding my new stamps from Lavinia Stamps in the mail and wanting to try them out RIGHT AWAY. I had forgotten that the oak tree stamp, which you can just barely see in the background, would be so small, but the stamps are great quality. They're clear cling stamps, so they are also great for partial images if you don't put them on a block. 

Part of what I'm enjoying about doing these cards is the scale of them. It's something I will keep in mind for future art. One of my friends who gave me a lot of the Magic: the Gathering cards I'm using talked to me about artists who over-write the art that's printed on the cards with their own original art, and suggested that I try that out. The more I think about it, the more appealing the idea is. I might experiment with that one I finish this deck. Or I might just start before then. Who knows. But it's a great challenge. There's all kinds of magic I could try to work with these cards. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

In the Name of the Father

I hope everyone out there who is or has a dad has had a good Father's Day :)  We started with bringing breakfast to Mr. Pocket's dad (and mom) and finished up with dinner with my parents.  And I got to give my dad a little project I put together just for him.  I actually decided on this gift because I had done a similar one for my mom for Mother's Day, and decided that it was only fair to put the same amount of effort and love into Father's Day. 

Ok, so here's where it gets Jesus-y.  If you have problems with religion, this is your warning that there is religious content ahead.  Not trying to convert anybody here, just showing my art which happens this time to express my (and my family's) Catholic faith.  Ok, disclaimer over.

So the gifts I made for my parents for their respective holidays started out as canvases turned around backwards.  I used photos as the focal point for each, and embellished around them a la Finnabair, but simpler because it's me.  For Dad's, I used a photo I found of the stained glass window at the United States Naval Academy Chapel, because he is a Naval Academy grad and retired Navy pilot.  The window depicts Jesus walking on the water.  As another meaningful element, I used the first and most recognizable words (and alternate title) of the Navy Hymn, which also tie in with it being Father's Day quite well.

The background is a sample of textured wallpaper from Graham and Brown, which I painted and wiped off.  Many thanks to Seth Apter for the tip on where to find fantastic textured wallpaper :)  The waves in front are painted and scrunched tissue paper.  Various embellishments came from my stash, some are Prima, some are random, some are Tim Holtz.  The bottles are filled with water and a trace of Distress Ink, and some of the Glossy Accents I used to glue the corks in place leaked into the water, which made it cloudy kind of like real ocean water.  Happy accident. 
Detail shots.

The words are stamped on a length of the Tim Holtz ribbon that I sprayed with a shimmer mist that's pretty subtle, so you probably can't see the shimmer in the photo.  But I managed to get wings in, since Dad was a pilot.  Also, I LOVE that wallpaper.  Now I need to get more.

So, in case you were curious, here's the original, which I made for Mother's Day.  I've always wanted to do a Marian piece for my mom, since she and I both have a particular devotion to the Blessed Mother.  So finally I figured out what I wanted to do, and shortly before Mother's Day this year I learned a new word.  "Kecharitomene" is a Greek word that means something more than "full of grace" but less stilted and formal than "most highly favored."  It occurs only once, as far as anybody knows, and that's in the Gospel when Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her she's going to be God's mom (pretty heavy news, really).  So I decided I wanted to work that in, and originally I was going to fill the background with different names and epithets for the Blessed Mother, but in the end I decided it would be better with just the one term.  For the photo, I used a photo I took of a statue of Mary and Jesus at Kloster Eberbach last year in Germany. 

I sprayed all those white paper roses with pearl colored Perfect Pearls, and painted paper rose leaves gold.  All the metal pieces on the frame were the wrong color for the piece, so I painted them gold and whitewashed them with gesso.  The rest was all bling from the stash, and that Tim Holtz ribbon sprayed and stamped.

So there you have it.  I'm getting back into the art groove, and parental holidays have been helping, LoL.  I've been moving forward with my 52 Card Pick Up deck, too, but I'll show more of that later.  For now, I hope you've enjoyed seeing what I made for my parents.  Hopefully it shows how much I love them.  They're both pretty spectacular :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Weekend Art Frenzy

Hi all!  It was a seriously long Winter.  I've only recently gotten my creative energy back, and soon I'll show off what I've done on my own.  But I just spent a fantastic weekend with my mom taking Seth Apter's workshops, and I just have to get out a quick lunchtime blog post about them.

Mom and I took classes from Seth before when he was at our local shop, and this year when we heard he was coming down again, I was afraid I'd have to miss it because I just don't have the money for all the classes I want to take.  But Mom paid my way as my birthday present, so I was able to go with her after all!  Seth is fantastic, and if you ever have the chance to take a class with him, do it.  He's very fun, very chill, and very encouraging.  And, like Michelle Ward, his classes use a project as a vehicle for learning techniques, so you do have something concrete to take home, but it's not going to look like anybody else's in the class except in form.

Friday night was all about working with the Spellbinders' medallion sets and dies.  We layered them with all kinds of found objects, and made backgrounds that we could mount them on if we wanted to (which I did).  I'll have to come back and add pictures of my projects from that class, because I was having so much fun I didn't think to take many pictures!

Saturday's class was on painting techniques, which we used on vintage book covers that we then made a book out of themselves.  Super cool.  I learned how awesome fiber paste is, and he introduced us to some new sprays that I really really like.  They don't flatten out to the surface as they dry, but stay dimensional in the shapes of the drips and spatters that they land in.  So cool.  Anyway, those pictures are on my phone and I can't post them at my desk because of terrible reception in here, so I will add them later, too.

What I do have pictures of that I can access on my work computer is yesterday's class.  It was called 52 Card Pick-Up, and once again taught painting techniques but also collage principles, this time to create a weekly journal or art book out of a deck of playing cards.  Now, me, I used Magic: The Gathering cards that my friends were going to discard from their new boxes, but they're the same size.  But of course, with that being the origin of my cards, I kept thinking of the stages of the process in terms of phases of the game.  Most of the day was spent in what I thought of as the deck-building phase. 

So much texture and color...

This was kind of like a drafting phase.  What do I want to do with which cards?

I call this the summoning phase, because I actually picked cards and made them work with me.

It was a blast.  I really want to keep working on my deck, because I rarely finish projects from classes but this one is really cool and easy to work on a little at a time.  Plus, I plan for it to be a fantasy inspiration deck, where instead of journaling on the blank sides, I'm going to write quotations about or from fairy tales on them.  Then, when I'm running low on imaginative energy, I can just draw a card and think about what's on it.  That's the plan, anyway.  In any case, this weekend was so fun!  It's a little hard going back to work after spending days in art utopia. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Hi all!  I know it's been a while. It's the busy season at work, so I've been exhausted and pretty much useless when I get home.  So that means not a lot of arting going on.  Plus, my inspiration has been on vacation or something.  But I have been trying to make more time for drawing, at least.  Much more portable than mixed media.  I used to be really pretty good, but I'm rusty now, so I'm trying to rebuild my skills.  Want to see?

Thumbnail sketches. Heehee. 
Trying to see how pencil works on gesso. 

Preliminary sketch for some character fan art. 

Random sketch from yesterday's lunch break. 

Camellia sinensis -- the tea plant. 

Hopefully you'll soon see more of some of these, but significantly altered.  It's going to be hard to mess with something I've put a lot of time into, but there are experiments I want to do!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Once Upon A Dream

Hi everybody! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. I was so busy I didn't have time to post anything I made!  Have to catch up on that later. For now, here is a quick post of a piece I just threw together after being inspired by watching my favorite Disney movie, Sleeping Beauty. I credit that movie with instilling in me a love of medieval style, because the design of the film is doused in medieval sauce, and as a toddler I watched it three times a day. I watched it again this morning and got this idea which marinated in my head all day. So here it is, with some closeup shots too, to show the pencilled details. 

(I couldn't help myself, had to put a tiny caterpillar on one of the leaves.)

The whole thing was done with Michelle Ward stencils and cheap acrylic paint. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday Theme: Frozen

Hi all!  Back to posts with photos!  Although, ironically after all those posts about inspiration and personal style and such, I have been seriously off my groove.  I have wanted to make things, but just haven't had the inspiration.  I've been keeping up with my sketching, but don't have anything more than a few studies yet.  It's like my artistic impulse and inspiration have been frozen solid by the sudden decisive onset of Winter. 

But last night I sort of forced a thaw.  I had some gift tags to make and some boxes that needed to go out in the mail for some far-flung friends.  I decorated the boxes first, and it was kind of rough.  For a while I just sort of sat there looking at all my stuff, as though I didn't know what I was doing.  I pushed myself to just get started, though, and so I'm not all that thrilled with how they turned out.  Well, they're just shipping boxes, so they're not meant to be kept...

But once I got started on the tags to go with the gifts in them, I started to warm up a little better.

Isn't it strange how you can get so thrown off, and freeze up and feel like you can't do anything anymore?  Or maybe it's just me that happens to.  Well, hopefully I can keep warming up and get the fire burning again.  I have so much to do for Christmas!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday Theme: Taking Charge

Alright, so I did interrupt this series to take Thanksgiving off.  But I'm back to finish out my musings on my creative identity with the final card, pointing to the future.  The Emperor. 

The Emperor stands for stability, authority, and control.  Of the traits associated with the Emperor, control started to stand out to me more as I thought about it all.  But whereas control can often be thought of as restriction and taking away agency, I started thinking of it as something liberating.

It has become apparent to me that what I need to do in order to find and feel comfortable with my own artistic identity and style is to take charge.  I need to be the one in control of my art.  That doesn't necessarily mean isolating myself in my own ivory tower of art like the Seven of Swords can imply with its suggestion of standing alone.  It means deciding what I want to present and how I want to make it happen, and then making it happen my way.  But like any good leader, I can and should allow myself to consider influences from others.  Not to the extent of becoming a puppet and regressing to my past of mimicking other artists, but more like a line in the Tenacious D song "Dio," where they sing to the great heavy metal vocalist Ronnie Dio "Your sauce will mix with ours / And we'll make a good goulash baby..." (they use a lot of food metaphors).  The important part is that I maintain my identity and control how much I season my sauce with others' influence.  I think it's imperative that, as artists, we all take charge of our art and make conscious decisions about where we are headed.

As an example of what I'm talking about, I've been doing a couple of things lately.  For one thing, I was working on corrugated cardboard.  I had to be careful not to be trying to make it look just like Michelle Ward's excellent work with cardboard.  So I added natural and dimensional elements, broke up the field a bit with some strong lines, and kept most of my elements pretty clean.  I'm pretty confident that what I ended up with would not be confused with Michelle's work.  The other stuff I'm working on is going back to sketching again.  I've been looking at a lot of pencil art lately, and there's a big trend of photorealistic sketching out there.  It's beautiful.  And I've looked at some tutorials and stuff, and I kept thinking "man, I don't think I could ever pull that off."  But I gradually came to realize that I don't need to, and nor do I want to.  Just because I am getting back to sketching doesn't mean I have to make everything look perfect and realistic.  By the same token, I also don't have to succumb to the "doodle" trend in mixed media.  I can work in my own style and work towards perfecting the look I want.  A look that is realistic but not perfect. 

From all that, I've started to realize that what I want my art to look like is something that took some effort but was still fun.  I don't want it to look like I've got some sort of god-like ability.  I want it to look like the work of human hands, but hands attached to a mind that constantly challenges itself to improve.  I'm moving away from messy towards intentional, yet organic.  I suppose what I'm aiming for is a bit of a paradox, but it's my paradox and I'll take it by the horns if need be.

Of course, another thing I have to take charge of is my time.  I need to be making more time for my art.  But now that I feel like I have a direction, I think that whatever time I spend making art will be more meaningful than it has felt for a while.

Thank you for sticking with this and walking along this long and lonesome road of introspection.  Please, leave any feedback you can.  I would love to read what you think about these sorts of concepts.  And now, back to all art, all the time on this blog :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Theme: The Road Goes Ever On and On

Hi guys!  This week, I'm continuing what I started last week, examining what my tarot cards suggested about my quest for artistic identity.  So since last week was my past, this week is where I am on the road.  Not much in the way of pictures this time; I'm just going to launch into it.

So, whereas the card referring to my past indicated teachers and tradition, the card for my current situation indicates a few confusing things.  The Seven of Swords suggests deception, deceit, or indecision.  It also can suggest standing alone.  Hmmm...

If I'm being deceitful, it's not on purpose.  I've thought a lot about how that could relate to my current artistic groove, and all I can think of is that maybe I'm fooling myself into thinking I'm making progress when really I'm not.  Otherwise, I don't purposely take credit for what others have taught or provided me.  When I blog my work, I try to remember to acknowledge the products I use and the designers of the stencils and stamps I use.  Beyond something like that, I haven't been able to figure out a way that this part of the interpretation relates.

Indecision is an interesting piece.  Anybody who's known me for any length of time will tell you that one of my flaws is that I'm horribly indecisive.  And my artistic pursuits are not immune from this.  Sometimes if I sit down to start something, if I don't have a project in mind already, I'll sit there and stare at my materials and not be able to decide what to use first and how.  On a larger scale, I've realized that there is a large part of me that just doesn't know what direction I want to go in.  Do I prefer working on a small scale or a large one?  On paper or canvas?  With ink or paint?  How much dimension do I want my art to have?  Is it really dimension and embellishment that I'm after, or just texture that can be achieved with paint or paper?  All of the above?  Some?  None?  It's like I have Art ADD and everything is shiny.  And I feel like, in order to go anywhere with anything, I need to commit to something.  Anything.  A journey starts with the first step, and sometimes I go back to the beginning and plant my feet.

The part that I've gotten the most out of, though, is the part about standing alone.  Independence, or reclusiveness?  I think there's a little of both in where I am right now.  To some extent, I've been working inside my own head, without looking outward as much, trying to just go with what I see myself.  The reclusiveness of that mode can be very isolating and a little frustrating when I get stuck and all I've got to work with is my own tangled mess of ideas.  But there's something stubborn in me that doesn't want other people's work to influence me more than it already has, and something that looks at a lot of work by people I know and thinks "that is SO not my style, time to get back to me."  But there's something positive about the independence of working alone, too.  It gives me the freedom to play and experiment and see what happens when I combine things or stop halfway or push things over the limit.  If I'm not trying to emulate somebody else, it doesn't matter much what my results are like.  I can look inside myself for inspiration, and while the techniques I use to present it may have been learned elsewhere, the idea and the image are mine. 

Now, all of this doesn't mean that I've stopped looking at other art and finding inspiration in other people's work.  I'm not living in a vacuum now.  But I've stopped trying to make my art look like other people's.  I'm trying to use what they've taught me and make it look like my own.  Hopefully I'm finding some success.

Next week, check back for a discussion of what I have to work towards, represented by The Emperor.  In the meantime, tell me what you think.  Let me know where you find yourself on your path.  Share your thoughts on any of this.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Theme: Journey of Self-Discovery

Hi there Pocketeers.  This is going to be a long one.  I'm going to share with you something that I've been thinking a lot about lately, with a few visual aids.  Instead of being a normal Thursday Theme post where all the art shown has something noticeable in common, this is going to be the first of three posts on a progressive sort of theme.  These three posts are going to be about my search for my own distinctive signature style.  I'm sharing this partly to get my own thoughts organized and have some accountability for the process, but mostly to show any of you who are going through the same process what I'm going through in mine, in the hopes that it might be of some help.

It's been a little over a year since I started thinking about what might define my art and make it recognizable as mine.  It started because I heard some things about some artists, and was taking classes a lot, and started to feel like I was just copying others' styles.  So over the past year, I've been sort of stumbling around what I've learned and what I'm still learning and what I have figured out myself and what I can combine.  I think I'm forging a path but I'm never quite sure how much progress I'm making. 

Recently, my friend RunningWave gave me a gift, a deck of tarot cards that a friend of hers designed and had published.  Tarot is something that has always fascinated me but, since I believed it was just for divination and I don't want my future told, I shied away from actually using the cards.  I've always liked the artwork, though, and uses of them in stories.  Well, I have since learned that tarot can be used as a prompt for your own intuition and consideration of an issue, so I decided to use my new cards to get my mind working on where my art is headed.  I did a simple three-card layout that is supposed to refer to past, present, and possible future.  What I drew were the Hierophant, the Seven of Swords, and the Emperor.  So that gave me a lot to think about, once I looked up what those cards mean.  Here's my ruminations on the first, the Hierophant, supposed to be connected to my past or where I'm coming from.

The Hierophant represents organized beliefs, spiritual authority, or traditional education.  It can also represent norms and standards, but what I picked up on the most was the suggestion of authority and education.  For a long time, ever since I picked up mixed media and paper art, I've followed the influence and styles of the artists I liked and took lessons from.  Way back in 2009, I was taking Tim Holtz classes and learning from tutorials and videos on his website and blog.  And, by following in his footsteps, I was producing stuff like this:

That's not bad, but all the elements are still quite recognizable, and even the style in which they're put together says, to me, Tim. 

Since a little while before then, I was stalking faithfully following Michelle Ward and her street team blog.  Her style is very different from Tim's, and it's very rock and roll, with a helping of medieval sauce here and there, and if you know anything about me you know that speaks directly to my heart and soul.  So, naturally, slavish devotion.  Thanks to Michelle, I started playing with stencils, carving the occasional stamp, and trying to do things with paint.  I had little success, and couldn't get into a groove with any of the techniques until I finally took classes with her last year.  As soon as I came home, I did this:

That is as close to a Michelle Ward rip off as I've ever gotten.  And I do love it, but it felt a little too much like copying.  Which just seems wrong when the artist I was ripping off always encourages people to "Make It Your Own."  Hence the start of this journey. 

So that "past" tarot card, the Hierophant, with its suggestion of authority and teaching and traditionalism seemed to be pointing to exactly what I was trying to push off from quite accurately.  But as I've thought about it more, a couple of other things came to the surface.  Things I have to overcome in my head before my hands can really be free to just MAKE stuff. 

First is an idea that there is traditional art like I used to do (sketching and realism), and there is mixed media art with all its abstractness and patterns and textures and assemblage-y thingamabobs, and never the twain shall meet.  The idea that I have to be in a different mindset for each task, and set aside different times for each one, which is why even though I tried to return to drawing last year, I didn't do much with it.  Later posts will address the progress I think I've made there.

The other is something that, again, relates directly to teachers.  My late friend and high school art teacher, who I was privileged to be allowed to call "Aunt Linda," was encouraging and helpful and really liked my art.  There was one criticism, however, that I found somewhat crushing, and I don't think she ever knew that it had bothered me and it still nags at me.  On an early assignment in Art I, I had done a poor job of placing the elements we were supposed to draw on the page.  She indicated this to me by telling me that I didn't have a very good eye for composition.  I'm pretty sure that's the only time she ever gave me a critique that wasn't constructive.  Even now, working on collages or assemblages, it's always in the back of my mind that I have no eye for composition and therefore don't really have a good sense of where to place things so they harmonize and look good.  And I'm pretty sure that "poor composition" is not a style.  So that is something else to consider while working through this process.  Do I try to let go of the criticism and forge ahead, relying on my intuition and lots of trial and error?  Or do I try to find a way to learn better compositional principles somehow?

Well, that's a lot of words, mostly about me.  I hope I haven't bored you too much.  Tell me, are you working on finding or re-discovering your artistic groove?  Do you have ruts or criticisms or insecurities that you need to find your way out of?  Has a criticism ever gotten under your skin and stuck with you?  Please comment, I'd love for this to be a conversation.

And next week... the current state of things, represented by the Seven of Swords.