This found art turned up when I put things away after the Mystery of Cats Art Festival. I hadn’t seen it in two years, and its simplicity was striking. After having spent seven months creating intense and dense patterns for new cats, the plain shapes in this piece have an appeal. I painted in some blanks and now call it “possibly finished.”
With luck, I may create a really big (22×33) painting with solid shapes, one with a combination of patterned and solid shapes, and a few small pieces. I’d also like to make something like this in three dimensions. Creating a new dimension expands the meaning of “found art” and circles back to one of the goals that I set years ago as a protege in the WARM (Women’s Art Resource of Minnesota) mentor program: Work in 3D. (Note: WARM is going strong; the mentor program is on hiatus.)
Having been making paintings since 2009 and having limited ability to dispose of anything — I suspect that a serious sort-and-organize project will unearth plenty of found art possibilities.
Two bits of random (non-lethal) auto injury made me realize that Art is the Best Revenge.
Two weeks ago, my beloved 1999 Honda CRV was murdered in a hit-and-run. She was legally parked on Lake Street in Minneapolis, and was collateral damage to the work of an Evildoer, who smashed a car into mine.
The estimable staff at Bobby & Steve’s carefully explained the damage. GEICO, my insurance company of 37 years, said “Totaled.”
Cars near me for $1000
Acting like any 21st century gal, I took the $1100 insurance check, Googled “CARFAX, cars near me for $1000,” and went to Luxury Imports Auto Sales, North Branch, MN. Waiting for me was a 2003 Mazda Protege Rustbucket. “I have purple duct tape,” I said, and declared that it would become an Art Car.
Based on a favorite stained glass design that I often paint, I made a plan. I started researching rust management, auto painting, and industrial glues that could attach a plastic bib covered with recycled plastic bits. Why not make the stained glass designed out of recycled colored plastic? How will I do that? Why not learn something new every day?
Add injury to injury: a broken window
Two days after first parking in my underground locked garage, either a random vandal or a heretofore unidentified Force of Nature attacked the Art Car and broke her passenger-side window. This is not something that you want to encounter before your second cup of coffee.
Again, Art is the best revenge
Tiny glass bits were everywhere. Beautiful tiny glass bits were everywhere.I had never noticed how beautiful tiny bits of safety glass could be. After calling GEICO, the police, and the glass company, I scooped up as much as I could and made yet another plan: Embed glass bits into paint. I can’t wait to work them into tiny random shapes, whimsical wildlife, and as-yet-unimagined art pieces.
NOTE: As many of you know, when I turned 65, I abandoned activities requiring safety equipment and liability waivers, which means no tile cutting, no glass cutting, and no bungee jumping. I am making an exception for working with glass bits: the glass is pre-cut and tweezers don’t count as safety equipment.
Inspired by a disturbing NPR piece about a very modern product called DRTBox that can scoop up data from up to 10,000 cell phones at once, I began the Vast Big Box Project. In the Inspiration Doodle, I imagined tiny boxes and circles representing individual cell phones, and even tinier interior dots showing the data available to DRTBox.
What is DRTBox?
The Hacker News reports that it is cell phone surveillance technology that can track, intercept thousands of cellphone calls, and eavesdrop on conversations, emails, and text. The Intercept.com/surveillance-catalog lists one version at $100,000. This is not a tool for a home-grown, backyard-basement hacker. This is a tool for law enforcement.
Law enforcement can buy it. Evildoers can probably steal the technology or build something that can mimic its functions.
Questions for discussion
Scooping data from thousands of cell phone users is disturbing. Why? or Why not?
Just because you can, should you?
If the data that I put onto my cell phone boring and innocuous, what do I have to fear?
What if my boring cell phone is hacked by a Genuine Evildoer, not a basement hacker?
Do I want law enforcement to step in?
What is the Vast Big Box Project?
Beginning with blank canvas, a General Pencil 6-H, and a Mobius+Rupper Brass Wedge Sharpener, each part of the piece will be covered with tiny squares and spaces and even tinier shapes to indicate scoopable data. I will cover the pencil drawing with Liquitex Clear Gesso, which will seal the pencil and prevent smudges, and give me a paintable surface. I expect that this will project will fill a wall, presenting an overwhelming image of the length and breadth of this disturbing scoop-ability.
The range of new work surrounding me calls for both an exploration (what is she up to?) and a celebration (perhaps she’ll finally finish some of these projects.) It’s no surprise that my two favorite hashtags are #work-in-progress and #artfun. I may deserve a magpie award: lots of projects in various stages of completion.
Fish Parts Mirror
New work comes and goes in stages. The Fish Parts Mirror is part of the paper mosaic family which bubbled up in 2016. It will be a fish-with-a-round-mirror. What’s the hold up? This looks like a simple glue job. But no. The wooden fish substrate has curves and bumps that need to be smoothed out with layers of gesso. Then, the fish parts need to be fitted together. Funnily enough, what fits fine when flat doesn’t fit as well over bumps and lumps. But you knew that.
Coloring book pages in many stages
Where is the coloring book? Coloring pages have been in the new work pile for more than a year. I have lots of pages, but putting them together into a book that makes sense is a lot harder than it would appear. Questions abound:
How big should the book be? This is a two-part question because it refers to size-of-the-page and number of pages.
Should I include full-color versions of each page? Because all of the designs are based on original abstracts, the book won’t look like others in the market. I am cautiously optimistic that some people may be up for the challenge. On the other hand, painting each of these pages would be enormously pleasurable and a potential black-hole-time-waste.
Each design has a story. How much to I tell. Where would it go? On the back of each coloring page? How much — if any — might be interesting, useful, or fun?
Bead Gel, as you may know, contains tiny glass beads suspended in a clear acrylic medium that allows artists to make things bumpy and shiny. High Flow Acrylics do a lot of things that I haven’t explored.
What fascinated me when I got my first sample from the “sale” table at Dick Blick, was that when a blob is dropped into liquid (gesso was my first), the blobs expand and then grow tiny fern feet. I was concerned (was this paint supposed to do that?) and curious. I sent an email to Golden Artist-in-Residence and Acrylic Diva Bonnie Cutts, who kindly replied that yes, the little feet were part of High Flow’s characteristics. She also sent a cool video. I’ve been playing with this stuff ever since.
The images at right are experiments.
New work for holidays
Having made dozens of Flying Pigs and Elephants this year, it’s clear that I love spending “tiny time” with shapes and creatures. The Holidays (all of ’em) are upon us, and it’s time to turn to ornaments. I’m making a few Holiday Stars that will be studded with shiny stuff (stainless steel beads, etc.) Multi-level Stars of David will be shiny with optimism. Unless there is a groundswell of demand, I will make just three three-dimensional Red-Eye’d Bat postcards which will come with envelopes. All are subject to availability. Contact me directly.
I love dots.Tiny circles that swirl around one another and nestle together to make interesting little worlds. I’m always inspired by tiny spaces, and I’ve covered pages and pages of paper with doodle dots. I’ve been painting dots with enthusiasm since 2009. Many of my whimsical creature friends are from the Dot Family including Zavier Camo Zebra, seen at left in his Dot Suit for an Undercover Assignment chasing confectionery bandits at the Big Rock Candy Mountain. But enough distraction —
This is how a dot painting happens…
Dots in the beginning
I always begin with a pencil drawing. Each of my dots is made with a General Pencil 6H, painstakingly going round and round. Selecting the first color is a big decision. I usually begin with red, but I knew that I wanted mostly blue and green in this piece, so I picked a blue and began.
The dark circles that you see are a 2B pencil. I wanted to see whether making dark outlines of dots would make a difference in the end. Spoiler alert: no difference in the end.
Dots get color
I used both watercolor and acrylic in this painting. I love them both, for different reasons, and I wanted to see if it made the any difference in the end. Spoiler alert: no difference in the end.
Dots get outlines
No dot leaves the studio without an outline. In a painstaking repeat of the pencil creation, I outline each dot with Micron pen. I used to do outline with a paintbrush, and for some reason that I don’t remember, I switched to pen. (Note to artists who probably know this already: I just learned that Micron pens are meant to be used like technical pens, and are best used held at a 90-degree angle from the paper AND used lightly. No heavy hand needed.)
Enhanced dots #artfun
Once I began to explore Photoshop (and filters on my phone and in Instagram) I never looked back. If I had a personal hashtag, it would be #artfun, which is something that I have every day.
You can make monoprinting into a fabulously complex and expensive proposition requiring Huge Presses and exotic equipment. On the other hand, because monoprinting is the application of paint (or other mediums) pressed (or rolled or hammered) onto paper (or other welcoming surface) to make a unique design, it can be done on your kitchen table. Monoprinting is the ultimate free-wheeling art form.
Before you begin, you can do a lot of research (monoprints.com), ask Dr. Google for information about materials you need (craftsy.com), talk to a friendly art store employee or find a bunch of You-tube videos. (238,000 hits in under 6 seconds).
Call your friends. You can monoprint together and make beautiful images.
Abstract 11 makes monoprint magic in Photoshop
Abstract 11 combines my very first monoprint with the magic of Photoshop.
Since 2006, I have celebrated connections within the tiny spaces in paintings called nanoscapes. My friends and fans have been after me for years to make coloring books, and as with so many things, I’ve realized that resistance is futile. Now all I need is a printer who can create a book at a price that my pals can afford. Suggestions? Use the contact form at the end of this post.
Celebrating connections with painstaking exuberance
Almost by accident, I created a consistent body of abstract work that reflects my interest in connections among and between people, their neighborhoods, and their cities: true nanoscapes. I use painstaking exuberance, a four or five-step process, to make each one. I begin with a pencil drawing, continue with a Davy’s Gray watercolor outline, then paint between the lines, and outline each shape with paint or Micron pen. Sometimes the fifth step includes a paint or ink outline of the complete piece. I love and celebrate every single step.
My earliest watercolor paintings were all about tiny spaces, complex designs, and bright colors, and were reflected in the business name: nanoscapes & other visions llc. The first paintings (8×10 inches or smaller) were shown at the now-closed Rosalie Wahl Library in Stillwater. It was a very tiny library, and the very tiny nanoscapes looked great on the walls.
Some of you know the story. No sooner than I had acquired the business name, and other pieces of a corporate entity, than one of my pals said “Honey, I love your work, but I can’t put a postcard behind my sofa.” Although they maintained their tiny designs in small spaces, the nanoscapes got bigger (16×20, 22×33). In 2009, whimsical creatures arrived and took over the studio, and integrated some nanoscapes’ designs into their bodies. I am returning happily to true nanoscapes, and most of the coloring (or painting) pages are inspired by paintings I’ve done or plan to do soon.
Pages coming in tandem with the First Unitarian Society “Connections” show
On December 30, 2015, I will hang a show that is focused on “Connections” at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis‘ elegant space on Mt. Curve. It is an honor to be there, and I am inspired to collect and showcase paintings from the underlying and unifying theme of so much of my work: connections. The show will be a combination of old and new connections-themed pieces with a handful of creature paintings that incorporate abstract images and link my old, new, and forthcoming work.
Some samples as work-in-progress:
I hope to see you at the show. Watch this space, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms for information about the show’s reception. Also, I promise to create a genuine artist newsletter in 2016.
There was a holly tree outside the kitchen window in my first “running away from home” apartment. It was tall and wide — kind of dumpy, actually. Bright and green all winter long, it was a high point in an otherwise dreary Washington DC metro winter. Its berries were beautiful. Red and redder than red.
This Holly Tree
I hadn’t thought about that tree for years until This Holly Treeemerged from a stack of “gotta finish this” paintings on my easel. What was left to do? Add the red berries. Done.
Life in the Holly Tree apartment was more or less carefree (except for the general angst of 20-year-olds, my parents’ consternation at this unconventional (gasp!) living situation, my then-boyfriend’s draft status, and my stolen VW Bug.) This Holly Treechannels the memory, employs one of my favorite nanoscapes designs (tiny random shapes), and makes a shameless pitch for a skinny space on the wall. The original is for sale (5×15″ matted to 8.5×20″, $100) at the Vine Arts Holiday Sale (December 6, 12-5), and from me directly, thereafter. I will have prints, matted to 11×14 for $30 each.
Tiny random shapes on TerraSkin™
Each tiny random shapes piece begins with a very sharp General Pencil (6H) and a deep breath. Sometimes I make them in an order (spirals, straight lines) and sometimes their order is random. I drew This Holly Tree on the most wonderful paper called TerraSkin™ which I buy in sheets from Wet Paint in Saint Paul. TerraSkin™ is a tree-free paper made of 75% calcium carbonate and 24% binder. The combination makes a paper that is very smooth and buttery. Watercolor puddles and dries, making almost translucent color. Because the paint isn’t absorbed (it sits on top of the paper), watercolor paintings need archival spray for protection.
As bad news flows from one neighborhood to another across the country and around the world, I can’t help but want to brighten up the landscape. Two paintings that might be city maps share my living room studio space this week. Technically, each will explore squares and rectangles with watercolor and acrylic in both color and texture. Are they images of neighborhoods? Are they maps? Are they aerial views of bright cities? I can’t decide.
These might also be an homage to tile. I love tiles. All kinds of tile. My favorite bathrooms had intricate black-and-white floor tiles, and beautiful art-tiles in the showers and in kitchens. If I lived in an architecturally appropriate space, I would have a Turkish Tile Extravaganza, and a lot of work by Josh Blanc of Clay Squared to Infinity. I can’t imagine a less tile-friendly space than the one in which I live, so real tile will remain an extravagant daydream.
Back to reality.
For me, creating images like these in actual tile is a non-starter. When I turned 60, I decided to give up activities requiring safety equipment, which specifically included cutting tile and bungee jumping. I’ve left the door open for ballooning and sky-diving adventures, but that’s because every rule has to have an exception.
I suppose that I could use pre-cut tile to make some art, but the tiny shapes that I can draw and then paint make sense to me.
A neighborhood map & coloring-book-map-making project
This larger map has a slightly more dramatic form — with movement within the shapes. (Neighborhood Map #3, 22×33; work in progress.) I will get a digital shot of it before I start to paint so that I can create a coloring-book-map-making project.