Restoring the Mural

Dear Liza,

A few weeks ago, I told you about the mural at Auntie Katie’s comic shop, Books with Pictures. The mural, which was painted in 1997, had recently been tagged with ugly graffiti.

Fortunately, art is Auntie Bridgett’s super power. The first day it was warm enough to paint, she gathered her supplies, and we headed over.

She used a combination of Liquitex acrylics and house paint to mix just the right shades to cover the graffiti while keeping the picture looking great.

While Bridgett was mixing and painting, I went around the building to see local artist Alex Chiu working on a different mural on the new shed by where two new food trucks will be. He has finished the background, and will come back next week to add a painting of kids, comics and whimsical animals.

I visited Cousin Kestrel upstairs for a while, then went back down to see Bridgett’s progress.

I was amazed! In just a few hours, Bridgett had managed to cover most of the graffiti and the mural was looking almost back to its beautiful self.

But it was time to go home for today. We are expecting rain for the next few days, and we will go back to finish it up when the weather clears. I am so happy that Bridgett has been able to save this neighborhood landmark.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Beyond the Exquisite Corpse

Dear Liza,

I wanted to tell you again about a game called “Exquisite Corpse”, which is not as gruesome as it sounds. Cousin Kestrel first showed it to me about three years ago.

It is a drawing game. You fold a piece of paper into three sections, one above the other. The first player draws the head of a creature, with the neck lines going just slightly below the fold. This gives the second player a place to start. Without looking at what the first player drew, the second adds to the creature. This continues with the third player, who adds the legs, or bottom part.

Auntie Bridgett, Cousin Kestrel and I played it last Friday when she was visiting.

This game is based on a word game invented in the early 1900s by Andre Breton, a surrealist artist in France. In the word game, you add to a story without knowing what it is about. Here, you do it with pictures.

As always, it was fun to draw and fun to see what we created together. I love this dancing-angel-god-thing.

Kes and I did a critter with just two parts, as well, and then there was this Soot Sprite (from “My Friend Totoro”) she drew. These critters were too adorable to throw away, so I made a piece of art with them.


I found a page in my art journal that was just sweeps of blue acrylic, trimmed the Exquisite Corpse drawings, and put them in a scene together.


Here is the story, as far as I have it : A tentacled merboy has discovered a lost baby bird at sea, and takes it to his friend, a confused Soot Sprite who lives on a teeny tiny island. The Soot Sprite isn’t sure what to do with it, but a ballerina-angel-sun god flies overhead and everything turns out okay.

I love that I took a picture game based on a story game, made pictures with it, and then made up a story about them. It’s like a spiral of word/art/word/art that just makes me happy!

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

Auntie Beewax Ooops!

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett has been writing her new comic, Auntie Beeswax, for the Willamette Week newspaper for a few months now. Readers have gotten to know cheerful, eccentric Bee, her cats, her chickens, and her hive of honey-makers.

And apparently, they like what they see!

We found this out in a sort of backwards way. Today is the day the newspaper comes out, and we were going to pick one up this afternoon. But before we had a chance, Bridgett began getting alerts in her phone.

Where was Auntie Beeswax?

Our friend Jack, who originally placed Auntie Bee in the paper, has been laid off due to budget cuts. The part time (probably lower-paid) person the newspaper hired to manage the design dropped the ball, and left Auntie Bee off the funny pages. And people noticed!

We are sad for the slip-up, but it is good to be missed. And I’m sure all will be right in the end.

And just so YOU don’t miss it, here is today’s comic!

Love,

Grandma Judy

SideStreet Arts is Open! Part 2

Dear Liza,

There were a lot of artists showing at SideStreet Arts last Friday.

Alicia Justice’s nostalgic constructions take hours to create, and are so pretty! They feel like a set design from ”Life with Father”. Here is a detail of just one room.


Auntie Bridgett has some work for sale, too. Her painting called ”New Home Coming”, showing Mt. Hood all pink at sunset, is displayed with some lovely pink glass by Phyllis Flury.

The last artist I will mention is Melody Bush. She does what are called Book Excavations, which highlight the art of old, forgotten books by carving into them, showing different parts of the book all at once. We own two of her works already! Here is a pretty one on display.

I am happy that with higher vaccination rates and so masking, we can enjoy getting out and about again.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Fun with Stencils

Dear Liza,

I am still doing the Art-Ober challenge with my friend Ruth Inman. The Facebook page is called “Art journaling Secrets Unleashed” and there are quite a few folks playing along.

Splattered and sponged stars

Some of the challenges, like “sea life” or “alcohol”, have connected with me, a memory or a place I love. But others are more generic, like “stars” and “circles”.

Color studies on traced triangles

So, for those, I have been trying out new techniques, new ways of making pictures besides just painting with a brush. Tracing, splattering, sponge printing… these are new to me and I am figuring them out.

Tuesday’s challenge was “pumpkins”. I like pumpkins, but couldn’t think of any interesting way to paint one. So I made some stencils. First, I painted the night sky and some ground in watercolors.

Stencil sitting on the background

Then I cut a pumpkin stencil and started layering on colors in acrylic. I used a brush, a sponge, and even that netting that is used to bag avocados.

Stamping acrylic with the stencil

The purple background kept showing through my orange, but I persevered, layering on the colors. Wanting to distract myself from the muddy looking pumpkin, I cut a stencil for the moon and laid down some white and blue with a bit of rubber mat. I liked how that turned out, because it was fine that some of the sky showed through.

Putting in the moon. The paper clip holds the stencil and keeps the page from curling

Looking back at the pumpkin, I realized it was muddy from the purple AND flat. I laid in lines for shadows with acrylic and when that didn’t work, tried some micron lines and Posca market highlights.

Better? Well, sort of….

But the darn purple still showed through! After a long walk to the market and lunch, Auntie Bridgett Spicer suggested an orange Posca marker to bring some really bright orange to the picture. It was finally good enough for me to stop.

Helped with Posca, for sure

If I were to do this same picture again, I would use the pumpkin shaped cut-out from the stencil to mask the paper way back when I put in the sky, so the pumpkin would have been painted on white instead of purple, which would eliminate the muddiness.

I still am not totally happy with it, but it is better. And better, every day, is all I can ask.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Crazy Busy First Friday

Dear Liza,

The First Friday of every month is usually busy for artists. Galleries are open, artists meet folks, talk art, and maybe even sell some. Since Auntie Bridgett Spicer’s show at Sidestreet Arts is this month, THIS First Friday is even busier than usual!

Window display at Sidestreet Arts

She has been making art for her show “A Sketchbook(ed) Life” for months, organizing it for sale on her website, and getting ready to talk about it on the ZOOM First Friday Open House.

And then, the day got crazier. Friday morning, fellow Sidestreet Artist Dawn Panttaja called to let us know that the gallery had been tagged with graffiti. Again. What a mess.

The mess…..

Since paint comes off more easily when it is fresh, and since the wall that got tagged is only in shade until noon, we hustled over with buckets, rags, and grim determination. Dawn met us, and the three of us scrubbed for hours, until our arms were noodles and our masks were dripping. We made a good dent in it, I think.

…. After a few hours of scrubbing

We chatted while we worked, which always makes the time go by more easily. Passersby offered their sympathies for the tagging and thanked us for keeping the neighborhood nice.

A Paris

When it was almost time to go, Dawn suggested that Auntie Bridgett put another painting up for the show, “A Paris”. (There is an accent over the a, so it is pronounced ‘ah Par-ee’. It means ‘in Paris’.) There was space in the alcove and folks had been asking about it, she said… might be nice to have it out. Since the painting was just sitting in the back room, it was easy enough to hang. Hooray!


Denice Krueger, another Sidestreet artist, came just as we were leaving, to help clean. Many hands make light work, and all will be well. Thanks, Denice!

Once we got home, Auntie Bridgett rested and got ready for the ZOOM party. At 7:00, Michelle Sabatier greeted a group that grew to about thirty people, all seeing and enjoying Bridgett’s art and conversation. It was wonderful to see George and MiMi Niesen and others join the group. It is nice to know that even with crazy times, friends show up to make us smile.

Love,

Grandma Judy

New Art in the House

Dear Liza,

As I have told you before, I didn’t grow up with a lot of art. It just wasn’t something my parents understood or valued. They had both grown up on farms during the Great Depression, and were more interested in just keeping us all fed and clothed.

But now our house is full of wonderful, bright, original art! Auntie Bridgett being a member at SideStreet Arts helps, of course, because new paintings, prints and ceramics come through every month. But Ruth Inman, my friend from High School, has also been added to our collection.

Don’t worry! She’s hanging it, not smashing it!! Ruth Inman’s alcohol ink sunflower.
A Perfect trouple of Art….

We also just hung up a new Denise Krueger ceramic piece. It is three dimensional, one of her many sea creature-like sculptures that remind me of the tide pools in Monterey Bay. We hung it nice and high, above Sharon Jonquil’s encaustics, so we don’t hit it with a shoulder as we pass.

Look closely… there we are!

Our last new piece is a small acrylic painting Auntie Bridgett made for Grandpa Nelson’s birthday. It shows our lovely Laurelhurst Park with silhouettes of the three of us walking among the trees. It is hanging under Erin Hanson’s study of eucalyptus trees.

I love having art in the house. It gives me new perspective at times when I desperately need it. It shows me beauty and joy when I am burned down to my last neuron. And it reminds me that wonder can come from anyone, at any time.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bridgett Spicer’s Art

Dear Liza,

You know Auntie Bridgett is an artist, right? Well, this week she sold three of her lovely paintings!!

Abstract Paris II by Bridgett Spicer

Bridgett shows her paintings, collages, buttons, magnets and zines at SideStreet Arts gallery at SE 28th and Ash Street here in Portland. She is one of nine members of the gallery and also handles the graphic design for their show postcards, their news releases, and advertisements. It is a big job!

Abstract Paris 1, by Bridgett Spicer

This last Sunday was a good day for art selling. The lady who had bought Bridgett’s wonderful collage of Max Jacob last year came by, and they got to chat. It is always nice to know where your art has gone.

Then a couple came in and, attracted by “(I wish I were) A Paris”, they went to the corner where Bridgett’s paintings were. They fell in love with, and bought, three of her wonderful blue “Paris Rooftops”!

Paris Rooftops, by Bridgett Spicer

I love these paintings, which were inspired by our vacations to Paris, and I am so pleased that people love and appreciate Auntie Bridgett’s art. It makes her happy to create it, and then it goes out and spreads happiness in the world.

That’s a win-win, as they say.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Art and Brunch

Dear Liza,

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Bridgett Spicer and her collages

Last Friday I got to help Auntie Katie get her basement decorated so she can start using it as an Air Bed and Breakfast. It has nice new paint and furniture, but the walls are bare. So her friends Murray and Lurline, their tiny daughter Mary Helen and I, matted art, hammered nails and made funny faces (that was Mary Helen). We made good progress.

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New decor in bathroom

Then, because it was First Friday, we went to visit Auntie Bridgett at the SideStreet Arts Gallery. Bridgett’s art looks so good! I love her collages. Since she was busy hosting the First Friday event, Grandpa Nelson and I went over to Ankeny Tap and Table for dinner. The colder weather means they have their big glass door closed, but it is still friendly and has very tasty food! Their new menu has a beet salad that tastes very indulgent.

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Just a few leaves left!

This morning, Auntie Bridgett was working at the gallery, so Grandpa and I walked down to Bread and Ink  on Hawthorne Street for brunch. Weekend Brunch is a very big thing here in Portland, but there was only a short wait and the food was fabulous. Huckleberry pancakes, Kentucky sausage and fried eggs…all made me miss Great Grandpa Lowell, who cooked this on Sundays for years. Food, conversation, and nostalgia…who could ask for more?

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Inside Backstory Books and Yarn

After brunch we walked by a brand new used bookstore, also on Hawthorne. It is called Backstory Books and Yarn and just opened today! It has that delightful smell of used books and is so well organized. I’m sure we will spend many happy hours there.

The rest of today I will be researching Portland history and sewing on a practice quilt.

Yes, I know, I have a pretty sweet life.

Love,

Grandma Judy