Paper Mosaic Reprise

Dear Liza,

I have been bitten by the mosaic bug again, and I looked online for some inspiration. I found this is 1,600 years old mosaic, and I chose it because I love the eyes.

I know mosaics are labor intensive and wanted to start small, so I focused on just “the windows of the soul”, using a piece of backing paper about 5 x 8.

I sketched the basic shape in yellow pencil on dark paper about 5 by 8 inches. The dark background would mimic the grout usually used between tiles.

Since I loved the irregularity of the skin tones, I decided to paint a bunch to play with. Painting these swatches on heavy watercolor paper makes for bits that are easy to handle.

Then came the slow part, trimming and fitting and gluing. They should be small enough, but not too small, close enough, but not too close. It is intense work and I can only do it for about half an hour at a time.

There is a lot of second-guessing and talking to the bits as I work, lots of squinty work.

I was hoping to get this piece done today, because summer weather is predicted to start this weekend and I will (with any luck) be busy with planting and such.
But I didn’t. Here’s what have for now.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Ruthie’s Acrylic Skins

Dear Liza,

I have learned something absolutely new from my friend Ruth Inman. She has found a way to re-use acrylic paints that dry on the palette.

Back when I first started painting, I was dismayed to learn that acrylics, unlike watercolors, become plastic once they have dried. Adding more water doesn’t dissolve them back into paint. This means that once that acrylic is on the palette, you need to use it, or throw it out. For my frugal self, this was bad news. But Ruthie discovered a way to make use of this dried paint.

First, prepare a background for your piece with acrylic paints. Any color combination that is complementary to the colors on your palettes will be fine. Let that dry.

Next, choose a few plastic palettes with good layers of acrylics on them. I use plastic food lids, so they sit around a lot and get re-used. Give the palette a spray of water. Make it wet, even a bit puddly, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until it starts to wrinkle.

Using your fingernail or palette knife, gently ease the edges of the paint layer up. If it is a nice thick layer, it should peel up in one “skin”. But even if it tears a bit, it is useful.

If the skin is too big for your purpose, use your fingers to tear the skin into smaller bits. Look at both sides of the skin; the prettiest may be on the bottom.

While the bits of skin are still sticky and wet, press them down onto the background. Press firmly, but don’t worry if the edges are not all flat. The raised frills add dimension. They will stick once they have dried.


The trick to this sort of art is not to get fixated on what you intend the picture to be. The leaves of red flower on the yellow background was going to be a bit of landscape, but looked more like leaves. I turned it ninety degrees and added the flower.


These flowers looked better apart, so got trimmed and put on cards.

The irregular and colorful nature of the skins lends itself to flowers and leaves, but could also work as feathers for birds or maybe even mountains and landscapes.

I am happy with the results and will keep experimenting.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Making Valentines

Dear Liza,

I had so much fun this year, making Valentine cards for those I love! Each one is personal to its recipient.

Auntie Katie has a love of strong colors and deep feelings.


Cousin Jasper is a twelve year old boy who loves food and video games.


Cousin Kestrel is a ten year old art loving, nature loving, fairy loving sweetie.


Auntie Bridgett loves blue, which is complementary to orange. I added words that help describe her, as well.

And for Grandpa Nelson, I used the box from his favorite Valentine candy.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Garden Journals for Spring

Dear Liza,

We are coming up on spring, and I am making my garden journal for this year. At the end of this month I will be pulling the burlap off my garden plot in the Blair Community Garden, and I want to be ready to write it all down!

Besides the usual encouragement from Ruth Inman and Bridgett Spicer, I am using “Making Books by Hand” by Mary McCarthy and Philip Manna as a guide.

First, I used the heavy backing of sketch pads for my covers, and layered some thinner tagboard with Mod Podge to make the spine. I glued these down to a nice canvas fabric, put a pile of books on them, and went for a walk. The canvas allows the heavy covers to bend properly.


When the spine was dry I covered the cover with some pretty paper, mitering the corners and folding them inside.



While these dried, I cut the paper for the pages. Each signature, or group of pages, takes four sheets of paper, folded in half. I gave them a nice sharp crease with the edge of my metal ruler.

I used a trick from Ruthie to make my measuring device for where to put the stitches in the signatures. A strip of paper as long as my pages are high, folded in half, then each end folded to the center, makes a perfect guide for three holes without nit-picky measuring.

Poking the holes through all the pages with a steel artist’s tack before you sew makes everything easier. Sew the four sheets of each signature together with a strong thread.

I made five signatures because the spine of my book was wide enough to accommodate them. This will be my thickest book yet!

Again, use the steel tack to poke holes for each sewing point. Then sew each signature into the spine with a heavy thread. I used embroidery floss. This is a bit fiddly, but you will get better with practice.

The trickiest bit is making the knot tight. This is easier if you have a friend put their finger on the knot for you while you pull it tight. Trim the ends of the thread short.

Once the signatures are sewn in, apply glue thinly to each of the inside covers and lay the first and last pages against them, pressing the air bubbles out so they are smooth. This will stabilize the book and hold everything together. Put weights on these and wait a few hours.


The last step is to cover the inside covers with pretty paper. Press these flat and let everything dry overnight.

And there it is, my Garden Journal for this year! C’mon, Spring!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Making a New Kind of Book Part 2

Dear Liza,

We got to finish the Concertina books! Weeks ago, Ruth Inman’s Tuesday Thursday Art group started painting black and white pages in this weird, accordion shaped book.

Once we had the black and white backgrounds down, Ruthie let us in on the next step. We would be painting a tree on each two-page spread, and each tree would show a different season.

I started with Fall, and I wasn’t happy with it at first. The background I had laid down included some very bumpy cheesecloth, which didn’t allow the ink to go down smoothly. It was a real wrestling match, but I decided to let it ride for the moment.

We continued on into winter, which went much smoother because the page itself was smoother. The ink was able to run freely and make some nice bare branches.


While I was waiting for the paint to dry, I covered the covers with some of the nifty Paris map fabric I bought to make Auntie Bridgett’s Christmas present.

For the third page, I watered down some acrylic paint for the bare branches. Using a small brush and a straw and tipping the paper, I got it to move the way I wanted.

Then yellow, blue and some white got dabbed on to make the summer fullness of the tree.

When it was time for the class to all put our books together, my Spring page still wasn’t done, but that’s okay. I can paint it later. We all got the covers, glue media and scrapers, and went at it.

The fold-y bend-y parts kept folding and bending, but I managed to not make a mess of it. Now that it is all flat and dried, I feel pretty proud of it. My adventures in book making continue!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Making a New Kind of Book Part 1

Dear Liza,

This week in our Tuesday Thursday art group we are starting a new kind of book. It is called a Concertina book because it is folded like a Concertina, or accordion.

Ruth Inman, as usual, is our teacher. The supply list for this project was long because it is a multimedia project that includes an old book, fabric, and an endless list of possible collage materials.

First, we separated the hardcover book from its covers with a sharp X-acto blade.

Then, after some careful measuring, we made the Concertina part by gluing pages together and giving them a sharp crease in exactly the right place.

Since this book is going be all black and white, Ruthie showed us ideas for making interesting patterns…

And we let them dry while we chatted about other things to use for patterns.

I used black acrylic paint and the spongy wrappers from our Christmas fruit, cut up meat trays, a carved wine cork, and an old kitchen sponge.


We needed to let the first two-page spread dry before adding any more. I was mostly happy with it, but when it was time for the second two-page spread, I decided to use more black and white, with less grey. You can see how many different ways a black and white page can look!

Spread number 1
Spread number 2 (for now)

I like it, but there will be lots more added before it is all done. I will show you the finished product…um…. when it is finished! So there.

Love,

Grandma Judy

… More Art with Ruthie!

Dear Liza,

It feels like forever since I have gotten to get online with my friend Ruth Inman and my fellow artsy students. I have really missed it!

And Thursday, we made some adorable snowmen. Ruth found the original at the blog Adventures in Fiber, by artist Paulette Insall, at carpaulette.blogspot.nl. I decided to photograph the process in case I wanted to do it again. I’m glad I did, because I would never remember all the bits.

First, we laid down letters. I used different sized stencils and waterproof Sharpie and Micron Pens. I wanted to play with pinks and blues in the snow, so I collaged some printed paper. Some text torn from a Mad Libs tablet gave it a nice full bottom layer.

The next step was to add some color. I added just a few watercolor brush strokes of pink and blue.

Of course, in collage, things change once you lay them down. Since part of the charm of this piece is seeing through the layers, I put some some white acrylic on with crumpled saran wrap, to soften the colors and create a nice blizzard effect. It took several layers before I liked the way it looked.

Then it was time for a tree. A nice, curvy tree… Ruth recommended finding a suitable curve in a magazine, and I did! It was a bit too light, but that’s what Sharpies are for. A little trimming and gluing and I had my tree. I sponged a bit more white on, to keep it in the blizzard.

I used watercolors for the decorations for the tree, though Ruth had a lot of fun hunting up the right colors in a magazine. The snowman was next, drawn with a Micron, with text in his tummy and a collaged magazine paper hat. I added some black Micron dots and white Posca dots for the edge of the hat.

I used a thin Micron for his face, and orange watercolor pencil for his nose. A little heart from the same paper as his hat put on the final touch!

As I have said before, collage is very freeing. You glue and sponge and add until it looks like you want. You can’t really mess it up…. if you don’t like it, you’re just not done yet. Add more, paint over bits you don’t like, let it dry and start again.

And above all, have fun!

Love,

Grandma Judy

New Art Comes Home

Dear Liza,

At the beginning of October, we visited SideStreet Art Gallery’s new show and bought a wonderful ceramic plate created by Rabon Thompson. We had to leave the plate at the gallery, though. It was part of a show, and moving it would make everything cock-eyed.

But Friday, we got to bring it home!

Of course, that led to the big question. Where should it go? Our walls are already pretty full of wonderful art, collected on our travels and from local artists. I plan on actually using the plate as a plate sometimes, so I wanted to have it close to the dining room. Bridgett found the perfect place!

Once we got the plate home, we realized that it has the same colors as our favorite painting, done by our friend David Gettman over forty years ago. Bridgett found the perfect place, where we can actually see the plate and the painting at the same time.

Of course, hanging it in that spot meant we had to move the Gary Carmody art, which meant moving other pictures. It was a domino effect of re-hanging.

But now, all is well. The pictures and new plate are handy and harmonious, and all is right with the world.
Love,

Grandma Judy

New Art On-Line

Dear Liza,

A dear friend, Lynn Huff, referred me to an artist who does youtube.com videos. The teacher is Karen Rice. She has many, many followers, a lovely British accent, and a fine hand at watercolors. I decided to give it a try, as Ruthie Inman says, ”for practice”.

Here is the picture Karen Rice was having us paint:

She used quinacridome gold, burnt sienna, and ultramarine. I have the sienna and ultramarine, but no gold. I used a yellow ochre instead.

I did one picture yesterday, but was so busy trying to follow the directions that I forgot to take pictures as I went along! Here is that first painting, all finished:

Doing another one today, I gained from my practice, but watercolor is such a chancy medium that I never know how it’s going to come out. Today, I followed the directions carefully…

I sketched the main parts of the picture with a pencil, then wetted the paper and laid down the wet-in-wet background.

I sprinkled salt in some of the wet paint to give it texture, then let it all dry.

Next, I borrowed a sea sponge from Auntie Bridgett to dab in colors for the foliage. This part is hard because if the paint is too wet, it runs together and doesn’t look leafy. The tricks seems to be to add thousands of tiny, separate flecks without getting them too close together.

Once the foliage was dry, I put in the trunks of the trees. This made the whole forest make sense, tying all the leaves together. I kept adding more blue to make it more moody and contrast with the bright background. I know my picture is more BLUE than Karen Rice’s, but I’m okay with that.

This lesson has taught me how to make this sort of picture, but also a more important lesson: If you think you ‘can’t get’ something, keep trying! Keep looking and dabbing and …. who knows what might happen?

Love,

Grandma Judy

Arty Leaves, Leafy Art

Dear Liza,

I love learning new things! Last week, my friend and art teacher Ruth Inman showed me a way to put the beauty of Fall leaves on paper so I can keep them, send them to friends, or even scan them into my computer to use later.

First, of course, you have to collect the leaves. This gets you out of the house and noticing things, which is always good. If the leaves are wet, lay them between paper towels with something heavy on top for an hour or so.

Place dry leaves between the pages of a heavy book for a few days.

Once your leaves are flat and dry, they are ready. You will need acrylic paints, a brush, watercolor paper, and extra paper to paint and press on.


Paint your choice of colors on the back of the leaf, then carefully lay it, wet side UP, on a clean sheet of newspaper. Lay a piece of watercolor paper over it and rub to get lots of paint from the leaf to the paper. Then carefully peel the leaf off and set the paper aside to dry.

You will learn as you go how much is too little or too much. Be prepared to make a few that you don’t like until you get the hang of it.

TOO MUCH, DARLING…
NOT ENOUGH!

Putting Fall colors on randomly, you can get good effects. Sometimes, a single dot of pure yellow or blue makes the whole thing pop.

JUST RIGHT

Once your prints are dry, you can trim them and glue them onto cards. If you have a scanner, you can scan the prints into your computer and make dozens more.

I enjoyed leaf printing so much, I did a bunch more this morning!

Thanks, Ruthie!

Love,

Grandma Judy