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

Burgers at Sunset

Dear Liza,

Thursday was a slow day for me. I didn’t have much energy and felt a little sad most of the day.

I had my art class with Ruth Inman, and we worked on our concertina books.
We laid down some more black and white collage, and then added a tree, dabbing on color for the fall leaves.

I am not very happy with my tree at the moment. It looks clunky and wrong, but Auntie Bridgett says I should let it sit for a few days. Sometimes a piece that turns out differently than you expected looks ‘bad’ because it doesn’t match what was in your mind. So I will let it be and figure it out later.

I did language practice in the afternoon and then Bridgett suggested that we all go for a walk to Monster Smash, our favorite burger place. It was just about 5:00 and warm (and dry) for January, so we headed off. The sky was so pretty and the neighborhood so pleasant, it made me forget about not liking the tree for a while.

Maybe I’ll have another look at it tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Postcard Swap

Dear Liza,

I love finding new ways to use art! I make cards and gifts for friends and family and pretties for myself. And now, Ruth Inman has started a postcard swap.

This is a thing where folks volunteer to make a postcard to send to a stranger. The stranger makes one, and you swap. I like this idea for so many reasons.

I get more things to make (always good). I get inspired to try new things. I get to know other artsy people and learn from them, even if they live far away.

Since I am learning about mixed media right now, my postcards are a layers of acrylic paint and collage. Since they are for the month of February, they are red and have hearts.

But, like any handmade thing, they are a little different.

I hope the person who gets my postcard enjoys getting it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Art Therapy

Dear Liza,

The other day, I woke up grouchy. There wasn’t really any reason for it, I just had a chip in my shoulder. Art projects I had started weren’t working the way I wanted. A story wasn’t as good as it should be. Nothing felt right.

Grouchy.

After stomping around the house all morning and irritating my lovely people, I went for a walk and stomped around the park. I watched the dogs, listened to the birds, and smelled the rain in the mud. I am glad I did.

When I got home, I didn’t go near the art or writing projects I had wrestled with. Instead, I opened my box of collage papers and just started gluing pieces down.

I know enough to stick with colors that look good together. The first few I chose were red, so I went with that. Watercolor pencils, tissue paper from Pittman and Davis fruit boxes, and a small envelope filled up the bulk of the space.

The circles on the tissue paper were looking good, so I pulled out some circles that I cut from magazines years ago. A watercolor piece I did online with Ruthie Inman got cut out and added. A little bit of black made it better.

I made a weird little dude to hide in the envelope. And after more than an hour of cutting and gluing, I felt better!

Art therapy. It works!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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