Making an Art Journal Part 1

Dear Liza,

I have been doing lots of art in Journals lately. These have been store-bought sketch books or notebooks that Auntie Bridgett gave me.

But now, my friend Ruth Inman (ruthinmanart.com) has been teaching me how to make my own! Yes, books from scratch! And since I love books and cheap art supplies and I hate throwing things away, I am loving it!

Front and back covers, with flexible spine already glued on

The one I am working on now is going very nicely. I started out with a saltine cracker box for the cover, a lighter weight cover from a drawing tablet for the flexible spine, and some collage-y paper from Auntie Bridgett’s boxes for pretty.

Once I got the cover glued together and decorated, I made ‘signatures’ from odd pieces of art paper, printer paper, and card stock. These can be any size that fits inside the cover. Signatures are folded sets of four sheets of paper that make the pages of the book. There is a lot of trimming to get this part right, so I used a cutting mat, a metal ruler, and an exacto blade.

Then comes the tricky bit. I measured each signature to find the center, and poked three tiny holes (I used manicure scissors) along the fold. Using heavy button thread, I sewed the pages of each signature together along these holes, making sure all the signatures had holes in the same place.

Three hole binding for the signatures

Since my book had a wide spine, I poked holes for four signatures. Again, I was super careful to measure so the holes lined up with the signatures, and also were evenly spaced back to front.

Spaces for four signatures, at three holes each.

The next part was frustrating, because it felt like I needed extra hands! But once I slowed down and took it easy, it was do-able. Using the button thread, I stitched each signature through its own set of holes in the spine, tying a tight double knot to hold each signature in.

And this is what it looked like! It is actually a book! I am so excited!

Threads that hold the signatures in

Of course, there is more to do before it is just right. I will show you that tomorrow!

All the signatures are in!

Love,

Grandma Judy

This Week’s Media Mix-up

Dear Liza,

My friend Ruth Inman gave us an odd list of things for our mixed media challenge this week. Threads pulled from fabric. Large envelopes. And a ‘page extender’, a flap or a fold-out section to make the page bigger.

As usual, I read the list before bed, so my brain could be working on it while I was asleep. I have a very self-motivated. brain, I guess, because when I woke up I knew just what to do.

Since I have been obsessed with trees lately, that’s where I headed. I drew a hillside with watercolor pencils and pulled some threads from some grey and brown fabric and slowly built a winter tree trunk and bare branches. This was tricky, because after a while the thread wanted to stick to my glue-y fingers instead of the paper, but I slowed down and got it all where I wanted it. I love how it looks and feels. Very nubbly and bark-Ish.

Wintry tree with Fall flap just showing

Next, I taped down a flap that would be the Fall part of the tree, and started putting on the orange and brown leaves. I used crumpled pages from magazines and an old Manila envelope.

Wintry tree with Fall flap

I realized that my tree was going to be pretty stumpy on top, so I taped yet another flap on and kept adding leaves until I was happy with the height. I needed to leave a slight gap so the page could fold.

Fall tree gets an extension

Of course, a taller tree needed taller branches, so more threads got added to the Wintry tree. This sort of unexpected drift of a project can be frustrating, but is also exciting and fun, adjusting to what is needed.

This project ended up taking longer than I thought, because I had to wait for layers of glue and paint to dry, and having two flaps instead of one! Here is a picture to show how it is put together.

This website won’t post videos, but I have put one on my Judy Drueding Facebook page to show how the flaps open up. Go take a look! And if you don’t do Facebook, write me a comment and I’ll send it to you.

Have fun making art!

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

Making Faces

Dear Liza,

I have been practicing drawing faces. My first one was Frankenstein, who is pretty easy. I mean, he’s make believe, and already dead, so that helps.
Faces of people who aren’t make-believe or dead are harder.

I will show you my other faces, if only so you will see how difficult they are to get right!

Frankenstein, still my most successful ‘human’.

There are proportions that are supposed to be used when drawing a human face. The eyes are halfway between the top of the head and the chin, the bottom of the nose is halfway between the nose and the chin…. someone said these are ‘just guidelines’ but it turns out, if you don’t pay attention, things go really wrong, really fast.

Sketch of basic proportions

For example, Lips should be human sized, not muppet inspired. These are size 10 lips on a size 6 face, I think. Eyes should … well, I’m not sure what they should do, but these are clearly wrong.

Totally scary FAIL of proportions

I got frustrated, and took a few days to play with collage, and, following Ruth’s advice, made some backgrounds. I felt better and strong enough to try another face.

Okay, I said, this is better. The eyes still aren’t quite right, but she definitely looks human. There may be hope. I liked her well enough to cut her out and tried placing her on my newly painted backgrounds.

She sort of disappeared into the pink, so I gave her some more shading and tried her in a darker setting. She not only looks human, but also like she is in a place, maybe out for a walk or solving a mystery.

I feel like there is reason for hope and I will continue to practice and learn. Here is my lesson from this: Most things are really hard at the beginning. You will sort of stink for a while. But if you want to get better, don’t give up.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Election Day 2020

Dear Liza,

Hello on the day after Election Day. It was a very long, bumpy night.

Yesterday it rained here in Portland, so when Auntie Bridgett and I went to run errands, we drove. In and out, as they say, and no one got wet. Quick like bunnies, we were home.

Nifty backgrounds with watercolors….

I had my ZOOM Art group with Ruth Inman, where we experimented with techniques for making backgrounds for pictures. That’s good for me, since I am trying to practice painting human faces and they usually need something to make the picture look finished.

….. and some more!

But for now, my most successful “human” picture has been Frankenstein. It needs a background, but I can’t decide what it should me. Maybe a purple sky and a faraway castle in a hill…

My mask-wearing Frankenstein

After lunch I baked the flag cookies I put together yesterday. Grandpa Nelson wanted pinwheel cookies, but flags seemed better for Election Day. I played with the cookie dough like it was clay and came up with a simplified flag. I could have made them red, white and blue, but I really like the chocolate!

Sweetly patriotic

It seems that our across-the way-neighbors have been stress cooking, too. They gave us a pint of yummy apple pear butter, which we swapped for some flag cookies. Thanks, John and Stacy.

Dinner was turkey sandwiches while watching Stephen Colbert’s show from last night. By then the polls were closing back East, so we turned on the news. I had some wine for my jangled nerves, and there was a certain amount of pacing.

The Florida teeter-totter kept my stomach in knots, then let me down completely. Vermont and Maryland, California, Oregon and Minnesota going solidly for Joe helped. We watched Stephen Colbert’s Live Election night special, alternating with CNN’s coverage, keeping track of Senate seats, Presidential electors, and trying, trying, to be patient.

By the time both candidates had over 200 electoral votes and CNN said it would be well into Wednesday before the votes were tallied, it was after 10:00 and time for us to hit the sack.

But my worries woke me up at 1:00 in the morning, and what did I see? Mr. Trump, doing exactly what he said he’d do, declaring victory and insisting that counting any more votes would be ‘stealing’ the election.

This morning, Grandpa Nelson is confident that Mr. Biden will be able to to eke out a victory, if all goes well in Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan. But then what? We would still be in a country where half our fellow citizens have seen Trump’s lying, ignorance, and denial of human rights, and say, “Yeah, that’s just fine.”

I am sad and disgusted and feel like looking for a new country.

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

Mixed Media Journal

Dear Liza,

I have started an art challenge: To make a piece of art everyday for the whole month of October. My friend Ruth Inman posted a list of things to give us ideas, like ‘bread’, ‘sea creatures’, ‘salt water taffy’, and all sorts of things.

Auntie Bridgett, who is very sweet, gave me a big hardback, spiral bound notebook to use. It has nice heavy paper so I can draw, paint, or even glue things down to make a collage!

The cover of my Fall “Art Journal”

I started with decorating the cover in Fall colors. All our magazines are full of oranges and browns, so it was easy to put together. I even found a nice picture of Multnomah Falls to be right in the middle.

First page…

The first page came from my own need to make something seasonal and orange. Crayons, then watercolors, then some words, and taaa daaah!

The first of the challenges was ‘bread’. When I think of bread I go straight to a French baguette, eaten on the banks of the Seine at sunset. This piece is watercolor, colored pencils, and waterproof ink.

Bread…..

Ruth’s second challenge is “alcohol”, so I thought of wine enjoyed while looking out the window of a classic California winery… yummy.

Wine….

The one I did this morning was my favorite so far, because it was about YOU. The actual topic was sea creatures, but I painted them at the Aquarium, with you.

Liza at the Kelp Forest…

I am going to take a break for the evening and not look at the challenge for tomorrow…. until tomorrow.

Keep making art!

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

Painting Islands…. On Fabric?

Dear Liza,

Since I retired from teaching, my brain is like a kid in kindergarten, always finding something new. I opened a cupboard and found things to write about, so I wrote… for months and months.

Writing and writing..

Then I opened another cupboard and there was fabric, so I sewed.

Sewing and sewing…..

And now I have found the paint cupboard. First gouache, then watercolors. And, like a kindergartener, I have friends with ideas that feed my ideas. “Come join my painting group,” said Ruthie. I did, and it has been wonderful. Art, silliness, and learning all come together in the magic proportions that teachers strive for.

Painting little crabby friends….

I posted the islands I was painting and dear Elaine said, “I’ll bet you could put those islands on fabric, and maybe even quilt them.” Well, it turns out that you can paint on fabric with regular acrylic paints if you add a bit of “gac” paint medium. Auntie Bridgett had some, because of course she did.

I spent a day looking at maps of all the islands I love. The Big Island of Hawaii. Tom Sawyer’s Island at Disneyland. Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson. Tiny Gabriola Island in the Strait of Georgia. Neverland. Sketch, reconsider, sketch.

Pencils first….

And finally I started painting my first fabric island. After smooth gouache and watercolors, the acrylic and muslin felt heavy and clumsy, but I kept at it.

The Big Island of Hawaii, as I have it so far…

I am still not totally happy with it, but I will get better if I just keep practicing. It seems a bit flat. Hmmmmm… Maybe I can add embroidery or even some beads. Maybe my friends will give me some good ideas.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Buying Arty Stuff From Artists

Dear Liza,

One of the nicest things about having artists in my life, besides knowing the lovely artists themselves, is getting pretty stuff!

My friend Ruth Inman is an artist who lives in Illinois. She does delightful, pretty, quirky art, with lots of purples, golds, dragonflies, and doodles.

Me and my nifty new scarf

She has gone into business with a company called Redbubble that puts her art onto scarves, purses, face masks, and even shower curtains. You can order these online, which is very nice for these days of not-going-out.

The scarf itself

I have been having art classes with Ruth online, and in one of these classes, she made a beautiful piece of art. I liked it so much, I bought it on a scarf from Redbubble. And yesterday, it arrived!

She can be found at Ruth Inman.redbubble.com

Care directions: Do not eat hats!

It is so soft and pretty, and huge. The colors are blue and a golden brown, which will make it useful for summer and fall, and it feels like a cloud. I am so pleased!

Even a nifty zip-seal bag

If you have arty stuff needs go visit Redbubble, just for fun.

Love,

Grandma Judy