Art Crows

Dear Liza,

We have a lot of birds in Portland, but our most visible and noisy feathered friends are the crows. They are comfortable around people and don’t mind sharing our snacks or their opinions.

Waiting for the Queen….

There is a healthy flock (called a ‘murder’, in crow jargon) in our Lone Fir Cemetery, and a lady who comes to feed them every afternoon. She says she doesn’t know if she is their queen or their slave.

Quickened Towards all Celestial Things, by Julianna Paradisi

All this avian beauty is inspiring! I have photographed dozens of crows, and other artists have honored them, as well. Julianna Paradisi, a Portland artist, created the wonderful “Quickened Towards all Celestial Things” in 2018. That same year, I photographed it at the Artbar downtown.

Browsing old photos for inspiration yesterday, I found it again and hoped to reimagine it as a collage. I must admit, in my “I’m not an artist” days, I had assumed that artists just picked up a brush or pair of scissors and ‘whoosh!’ Art happened. But during my ‘quarantine art education’, I have learned there is a lot of making mistakes, starting over, and just keeping at something until it looks right.


This crow took many sketches and lots of staring and trimming before I was happy with it. Cut out of black card stock, it joined magazine clippings, the remainder of a few envelopes, and just enough paint to make it interesting.

Crow and its prototype
My own Paradisi Crow

Thanks, Julianna Paradisi! Thanks, crows!

Love,

Grandma Judy

More Mixing of Media

Dear Liza,

Learning and doing new things is a wonderful way to stay young. Doing the Art Journal challenge with Ruth Inman every week is making me be a better artist, too.

This week I decided to use the mixed media items (address labels, box tops, and can labels) to make a picture that wasn’t about the collage. Let me explain.

I have usually made collages where the paper itself is the feature. The Tootsie Roll wrappers in my bouquet, though bright and fun, never looked like anything other than what they were.

My new challenge was to make a real picture using collage bits. Since I am getting better at faces (by practicing a lot), I decided to draw a face with watercolor pencils, then build the environment with collage.

Naked face and some tentative background…

Once I got the basic proportions in, I built my cityscape background from junk mail. I made them very vertical so they looked like tall buildings. Auntie Bridgett showed me how to make the perspective.

Then came the hard part, making the face. Auntie Bridgett suggested making my character monochromatic, or all one color. I chose blue.

The more I drew, the more I liked it. Shading cheekbones and eye sockets is something that definitely takes practice! Putting in sky and what I thought was a street made it more ‘real’.

He needed a face, so I made eyes out of box tops and junk mail, with eyebrows from address labels, and lips, mustache and goatee from security envelopes.

His hair is made from address labels, with a little black acrylic sponged on to make it more uniform in color. I kept liking it, so I put some details in the background with an Elegant Writer and a few clouds to give perspective.

Looking again, I realized the ‘street’ really looked like an overcoat, so I put in some lapels. And voila! I call him Georges, because he looks French, stylish, and a bit paranoid. I hope when you see this, you will try making a collage picture, too!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Celebratory Walk and Some Art

Dear Liza,

While we were reading the news and doing Duolingo this past Saturday morning, we heard a “Whoop!”from outside, a random celebratory yell.. We opened the window. More whoops, some car horn honks….

“Turn on the news!!” And there it was, CNN calling Pennsylvania’s ballot count for Joe Biden, putting him over the top and making him the President Elect of the United States.

Mouse was fascinated by the news!

We danced, we sang, we got dressed, we needed to get out and walk. Grandpa Nelson woke up and decided he needed to go with us. We waved to folks who smiled and waved back, sang, danced, and honked their horns. People in the park were happily walking dogs. The whole city was celebrating!

Happy trees in the Park

We stopped by Oblique Coffee for two pounds of their fine dark roasted beans, and the folks there were happy, too. We all felt as though we have been holding our breath and clinching our teeth for four years.

Between happy thoughts of new beginnings for our country (after the remaining 72 days of Mr. Trump’s term are over) and the lovely chilly morning, bright with leaves, we had quite a nice morning.

Weird Masonic symbol with Googly eye

Back home, I felt that I wanted to make some happy art. My first thought was “Making a New World”. I pulled some papers out of my collection, and laid them out very slowly, not thinking much, just eyeballing the colors.

The beginning of my celebratory collage

I cut a circle out of scrap paper and glued the collage papers onto it, overlapping and just playing. Once it dried, I cut out the circle out and put it on a page in my journal, then added some words. A little shading, and I think it’s done.

Sing “Thanks” Everyone!

We ordered pizza for dinner and watched our Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and President-Elect Joe Biden make their first official speeches to a socially distanced crowd in Delaware. They spoke of healing, caring, and uniting our bruised country, of fighting the corona virus and not each other. I was happy all over again at hopeful new beginnings.

Looking forward!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Halloween

Dear Liza,

Saturday was Halloween! It was a clear, stunningly bright day, and just a tiny bit chilly. After breakfast and crosswords, Auntie Bridgett and I had some things to do.

First, we drove over to St. Stephen’s Church on SE 41st Street for their Harvest Parade and Food Drive. Grandpa Nelson and I had seen the signs about it the day before on our way to Zach’s Shack, and I really wanted to see kids in costumes.

We chatted with the teachers in charge as a few families began to assemble, gave them our donation for the local food bank, and walked down the block. This time of year makes Portland so pretty! The trees changing, the flowers giving their last blast of color…. it takes my breath away.

As we wandered, a very friendly black cat hopped her fence to come say hello. She rubbed and purred with us until another person came down the sidewalk. “Gotta go, bye!” She seemed to say, and headed off for more pets.

The parade was very low-key, with kids and families organized by grade levels. They had a scavenger hunt of things to look for: black cat (check!) spider webs, pumpkins, and such. Everyone was in costume, but we seemed to be the only non-school people watching. We sat on the corner across from them and waved and clapped, telling everyone how great they looked. Some even waved back!

When I had seen enough happy kids to hold me for a while, we headed to the grocery store. With Election Day coming and Portland tending to over-react to politics, we thought it wise to stock up. We didn’t want to be running out of cream if protesters are out.

The Art Journaling Secrets Unleashed challenge was Orange. I didn’t feel very inspired, to be honest. As much as I have come to appreciate orange this Fall, the color reminds me too much of Mr. Trump’s fake tan. I thought of trying a portrait of him (it would certainly be orange) but I didn’t like the idea of spending all day with someone so unpleasant. So I decided on a collage page, with his silly pumpkin head having a tiny role to play.

We listened to Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack for “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and had a quiet afternoon. Dinner was tamales from Safeway, which were tasty, though we still haven’t found reliable, Salinas-quality Mexican food here in Portland.

We played Presidential Trivia and watched Steven Colbert, then Neil Simon’s mystery spoof, “Murder by Death”, and it was time for bed. It was certainly the quietest Halloween I have ever spent, but it was Covid-appropriate.

I hope you had a wonderful, fun, sweet Halloween.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Candy Collage

Dear Liza,

On Thursday I got to try something I didn’t even know would work. The “Art Journaling Secrets Unleashed” challenge topic was “Candy”. I love candy, but I didn’t want to try and draw a piece of candy; it felt too hard and no fun at all.

We have LOTS of candy around the house, so I looked at the wrappers and decided they looked like flowers. Maybe I could make a collage out of them?

The supplies

But the wrappers are waxed paper… can you collage with waxed paper? I didn’t find anything about it online, so I just jumped in on my own. Figuring that the main problem was the wax itself, I put the wrappers between layers of an old towel and ironed them to get some of the wax out.

Then I cut out some square bits from miniature Tootsie Rolls, and flowers and leaves from Tootsie Pops and fruit chews, and laid them out to make a vase and bouquet. It looked….. okay.

First lay out, without glue

After lunch, I took another look and realized it needed some context. A place for the vase to sit, a background for it to sit in front of. I was sure happy I hadn’t glued the pieces down yet! Since my flowers were all bright pinks and oranges, I made to table and background cool blue and purple.

Painting in the background

Then came the real test: I glued the still- waxy wrappers down, using Modge Podge and a brush, and sure enough, they stuck!

All done!

I put in some shading and lines with colored pencils and a micron pen to make the edges stand out more, and I was done. I was pleased and surprised. I learned something new and discovered a whole new set of materials to play with.

Tomorrow’s challenge is “Masks”. That should be fun! Paint, crayons, collage, fabric…. the possibilities are endless. Maybe even candy wrappers. Yum, yum, yum…

Love,

Grandma Judy

More Mixed Media

Dear Lisa,

I have told you about the October Mixed Media challenge I have been doing. Each day there is a new thing to make a picture of, like ‘birds’ or ‘fence’. You can use any style and material you like, then you take a picture of it and post it on the Facebook page.

Mortar and moss laid down…..

The other day, the challenge was ‘weeds’. I made a sketch of a dandelion growing in a crack in the sidewalk by a stone wall, but while I was working on it, I got the idea of doing it in collage. So I turned the page of my art journal and sketched the picture again.

A layer of collage….

I wanted to make lots of layers, so I used acrylic paints and a sponge to paint in grey mortar and some green moss. Then I cut up our voter’s pamphlet (after we filled out our ballots) for the cement and stone wall. I hid most of the text with a few coats of acrylic paint.

Basic stones and weeds…

I did a few chores while I waited for all that to dry, and then played with greens to put in moss and tiny weeds, and got the basic dandelion put in. Then I put in details with waterproof pens and a white posca marker.

How this one ended up!

It wasn’t as perfect as I wanted, but I couldn’t think of what to do to make it better, so I called it done. I will tell you what happened with the other sketch tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

More Sketchbook Islands

Dear Liza,

Besides being shutdown because of the Corona Virus, Portland is now dealing with Federal troops in our downtown streets every evening. It is also about 100 degrees by noon these hot July days. So I am staying inside.

My first, ‘accidental‘ map

I have taken Hitoshi Shigeta’s sketchbook islands, sent to us by Jennifer Coile, and run with it! I made a few islands in the original drip-and-spread method, but wanted the features to stand out more. I gave the accidentally created features more contrast with my paintbrush.

As I worked, I began to see where the snow would accumulate, how the melt would flow, and what the topography of the island would be. It became a very real, very happy place for me. I named it Welcome Home.

Making it real….

I realized that my calligraphy skills were not up to labeling the features on my map, so Auntie Bridgett suggested using cut-out letters and words in a sort of collage technique, and I am really enjoying it. Years of Portland Monthly, Better Homes and Gardens, and Sunset Magazines, and all our old maps are getting harvested.

Having gotten my island to this point, I am not sure what to do with it next. But my Dad always said that if you can’t decide what to do, maybe it isn’t time to make that decision yet. So I will put my maps in a safe place and figure it out later.

And what will I do next? Who knows?

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Bittersweet Goodbye to Max Jacob

Dear Liza,

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Max Jacob, on display

You know that Auntie Bridgett Spicer is an artist. You know she can paint, draw, and make beautiful collages and cartoons. Did you know that she sells her art?

Well, she does! Last night just before First Friday’s New Artist Reception at The SideStreet Arts Gallery, she sold her first piece of art since we moved to Portland. Her beautiful collage portrait of Max Jacob sold to a nice lady who bought it as a gift for her husband.

We are all so happy and proud of Auntie Bridgett! She works hard on her art and makes such lovely pictures, and it makes me smile to know they will go out into the world and make people happy.

How did she make this beautiful piece? She has given me permission to show you.

Step 1: She drew a pencil portrait of Max Jacob, using photographs for reference. Max was an artist  and friend of Picasso in the 1920s and 1930 in France, so there are lots of pictures of him.

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Steps 1 and 2

Step 2: She cut out all the different parts of the drawing to use as templates for the collage pieces.

Step 3: From her huge collection of papers, she found just the right ones to create his face and suit, then carefully cut them out and glued them down. She rolled each bit so it was smooth. She used paints to give the portrait wonderful depth and humanity. When it was perfect, she matted and framed it.

Step 4: Listening to me when I told her she HAD to take it to the Gallery for her show!

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Step 3

This was a long process where a stray sigh could blow all the bits away, but she stuck with it and made a wonderful piece of art.

Farewell Max!

Love,

Grandma Judy