Category Archives: Art Habit

Love and Hate Collage

If you’ve been following this blog for any period of time, you’ll know about my love and hate of collage. I love a lot about collage but I’ll also tell you how much I hate collage. One of my favorite artists from Dada worked primarily in collage (Hannah Hoch.) I don’t know that I’ve ever discussed this on the blog before, but the first piece that I ever got into a show was a small intimate… collage. The collage was met with success and reviewed extremely well.

That year the collage was selected for the show I had also worked in larger scale and smaller scale Matisse and Eric Carle style collages- but instead of the time honored gouache I made my collage sheets out of… Crayon.

I will eventually write a post about how crayons are magic.

Anyway those crayon pieces, now quite sadly lost and a few gifted to friends and former partners, were as magic as the crayons. A few of the larger scale pieces were responses to popular (and less popular) music of the era. And because I am a walking stereotype, more than a few were responses to Ani Difranco. I have no doubt that those collages haave also fallen apart. Wax is notoriously resistant to glue. All it would take would be a few atmospheric changes for the pieces to peel away from one another.

I think the magic crayon collages also showed the power of the arts for healing and processing. I was using the process of making big sheets of my own collage papers- scribbling and making the pages evenly colored, then responding to my own life and music. It’s a great process.

Anyway. I resented the hell out of that piece that was in the show. It was my first foray into collage- torn up magazine pages to create a sea of blue and then carefully clipped images from a magazine to create a surrealist image of confusion. It was good but it wasn’t practiced or even evolved. I hated that my first try (sort of I did dozens of these little collages) was selected, when what I wanted was my more practiced and mature art selected.

I had already turned from what I thought of as immature magazine collages and toward a more refined and matured collage style, and instead of being recognized for my hard work, my first foray was being applauded.

I had selected my own pieces to apply to the show, we were allowed only so many, and I had put in my maximum allowed, and only that one* was selected. I also didn’t have the cash to frame the larger pieces. Even 25 years ago my money was tight and buying large poster sized frames for large work was beyond my budget. They didn’t allow for you to submit unframed work and then frame them IF they got in. Small frames I could build, large frames I could not.

Collage is a long held love of mine, but the sort of collage where you make all your own papers and materials. But then remixing magazine images is also a long held love of mine. But I resent one, but long for the other to gain acclaim.

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State of the Art: Transition

Transition is never easy. And wow, am I doing a lot of it these days. 

In the time between my old job closing, then the temp job, and finally the new job, I started the trash printmaking projects. In part because I NEEDED art in some way, and also as a distraction from the stress of transition. In the two months of that position I churned out some fantastic drypoint and collagraphic plates. All using a craft press! Great stuff.

In the end I got the job that I wanted. I won’t go into details of the position, but I met a friend and told her about it and she said, “That’s the stuff you were born to do.”

I think she’s right.

As I transition into this new job, in a new city, and back to riding the train, I’m finding that my art process is changing too. I’m back to working in my sketchbook and I’m carrying a pocket notebook again. Little ideas are doodled out and ideas jotted down. But I’m having a difficult time finding time to be online.

I’m working on my schedule to ensure that I continue to make art in my off time, but hey, here’s an awesome thing- the job includes making art as part of my daily work.

In the time between leaving and starting again, I visited a friend’s studio, a thing we’re planning on doing regularly. We worked on Gelli plates and used stencils and die cuts to make prints. I tapped into my stash of rescued cardstock and printed a lot of pieces. One of the things about gelatin printmaking that I like is the ability to layer so many thin layers of acrylic on top of one another.

I brought my layered textured images home and promptly turned a large amount of them into a new art journal. I’m hoping to get a gelatin printing station set up in my studio. I consistently find it more satisfying than painting. The ability to layer colors and get a shape to pop is interesting to me. The look of all the super thin layers of paint over one another is satisfying. Anyway, I’m thinking of buying some gelatin and making my own plate, but that has to wait for things to settle down. For now, I’m happy to just have a position where art is part of my everyday.

State of the Art: Success and Failures

I think it’s important to share both my success and my failures on my blog, so that readers can see that everything doesn’t turn out as expected all of the time.

I was really excited about this plate. It’s a bit bigger than some of my others and it’s a subject that I enjoy exploring- the Super Chicken building in my neighborhood. When I first moved here is was… Something else. The owner had painted the lower half of the old brick building bright glossy red. To say it was ugly is an understatement. It was garish and a lot. Recently* they did some renovations and painted the lower half a sedate cream and gray color scheme and installed new gray awnings. Classy.

This image is from a photo I took of the building in it’s old garish glory.

I had hopes of using textured cardstock to create the feeling of the rough painted over bricks and then the brick above that, plus the old concrete of the sidewalk and the beaten up street.

The reality is that I didn’t leave enough room between sections of the cardstock to create the lines I needed to make the darker areas. I had too much of the textured card in some areas and not enough in other areas.

I wiped back the front of the building more to create a lighter area, and left the shadowed section darker, but it all comes out as a similar gray. Largely because the areas that should show lines, aren’t because they are too close together. The result is an image with too little dark, too much gray even tone, and not enough light area.

Anyway. It’s a failure as a finished image but I learned a lot- I need a certain distance between collaged on elements and that the texture doesn’t need to be pronounced to be seen in the final print. Also, when I apply glue to torn out areas, the application must be thick enough to coat all the fibers and rise above them. I’m also noticing that any white glue that I apply becomes crackled when I put the acrylic varnish on. Which this is a good effect for some applications, it’s not the best for everything. Here I really wanted a pure white area in the windows. I might need to switch over to shellac or use the waterbased poly I have instead of the craft varnish.

I keep cataloging things I learned from this process. I really dig the texture sheets I made with modeling paste for this image. I’ll definitely be using them again in the future. While I don’t like to work directly into modeling paste to create an image, this was both fun but also looks great. It is an area to explore in the future.

Every art piece disaster is a learning experience.

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State of the Art: Printmaking Play

I’ve been deep in art play mode lately. I apologize for the lack of pen posts and overwhelm of printmaking play posts. I do have a review partially completed for a great pen that I should be posting soon.

Printmaking has been a passion of mine for a long time but lack of a press and interest in other art making has taken up much of my time over the last few years.  I think that the last time I posted here about printmaking was when my friend Jane and I made gelatin plates over ten years ago! (Just writing about them makes me want to make more gelatin plates!)

I’ve been testing out how different materials collagraph- what they look like and how they stand up. I also purchased a pot of Speedball SuperGraphic Black and a tube of their fabric ink in brown.  The SG Black is taking forever to dry, but it’s also been incredibly humid and cold here. The fabric ink started to set up as I rolled it out. But both inks look great- on paper and fabric!

With collagraphs building the plate is just one part of making the image, inking is the second part, but the most important is wiping. In this final last part of the process, like etching, the printmaker controls how much of the ink is left on un etched areas of the plate and how much wiping will occur, also, if any texture is left in that ink. Changing one aspect of the wipe can almost completely change the image!

The fun little mini press aka embossing tool that I purchased allows me to play around not only with lino, wood, and collagraphic prints but etchings too! ‘

Many people make etchings into aseptic packaging- soy milk packages and the like. Any plastic lined multi-layered item will work. I managed to get my hands on an assortment of old advertising items- mini white boards with old calendars, decks with missing cards, and old advertising posters. All of these things have a plastic layer over cardstock and work great for mini etchings.

I did a few tests of prints and use of different materials for etchings and I’m really pleased with how they came out. This of course leads me to more ideas for the process.

State of the Art: Printmaking and Cleaning

I’m not going to lie, the state of the art is a mess of printmaking and cleaning my studio. Also my workplace office and a lot of the facility. I’ve had to sort through the art studio at work and decide what was trash, what could be sent off, and what would be sent to another program.

Let me tell you, that was not fun.

Of course I spent a fair amount of time staring at my work computer waiting for the system to save and load things. Our computers are old and internet slow. Go figure. While I sat there I decided to try some collagraph prints with left over office supplies- old folders and glue sticks, and beaten up craft knives.

I love collagraphs. They are very versatile and there are options for relief work but also intaglio style incised lines. Another fun aspect is that you can really get the plates to be quite painterly. The resulting prints have a wide range of tones. I’m still figuring out the right mix of ink and additives for a good wipe but also a good range of tones. I’ve ruined a few plates already, but if you want to get your hands on some of my prints, check out my Ko-Fi page, I’ll be listing them there soon. I also plan on putting together a package for Ko-Fi subscribers, after 3 months of subs of $5 or more, I’ll send a little package of prints. It’ll be a fun little surprise.

As an aside, I really want to get into using some of the waterproof when dry inks like Akua, but I really don’t trust myself to use those inks in my kitchen… Our old kitchen table had some pretty intense teal streaks. Because I want to work my little press out a lot, I’m cleaning my at home studio out. It’s a mess. When I headed off to grad school I had the school studios to work in, so more often than not, I’d grab materials, go to school, then dump them when I was done with the class. When I worked at the place after graduation, I was mostly focused on writing, so I didn’t do as much art that required a studio… So it sat. Then I started to work where I have been for the last two and a half years, where I had an office and an art studio. Why work at home when I have year round access to a well set up art studio and can leave my supplies in the office?

So yeah, my studio looks like an art store threw up in there, and it isn’t at all good. It’s awful. I’m moving supplies around, deep cleaning, and I’m eventually going to store everything in organized manners. I got down to the rug (that’s going!) in a 4x4ft corner. I’m working my way out. I took out a bag of trash and another of paper recycling.

With my possible free time next week, I hope to make more progress, I’d like to clear out one end, so I then have a spot to sort out supplies and decide what is trash, what I need to pass on, and what I need to store. And most importantly, HOW I’m going to store this stuff.

When I’m done with this massive chore, I’m going to treat myself with a range of nontoxic oil based water-soluble inks.

State of the Art: Zines

Lately the art I’ve been making has been written and mostly in the form of letters and journals and nonfiction writing. Someone once told me that writing nonfiction was easy because it wasn’t creating anything.

Envision a long pause as I take in what she said… LOL not creating. LOL.

Looking back it is laugh out loud funny, but back at that moment it fed into my inner critic  which fed into my imposter syndrome.

Well, I’ve come a long way in the last few years, and quite frankly, that former friend can stuff it. Though If I ran into her again my language might not be as nice.

My zine, Useful Journaling has 3 issues out now. I’ve reprinted the first issue several times and the second is about to be reprinted. Making zines has been a throw back to my days of bookbinding, and wow do I want to make some pocket notebooks. I’ve been making simple collages as a future cover for Useful Journal (that will make sense for issue 4) and that’s been really fun creating a nice cover that will get photographed then manipulated digitally to create the final cover.

Though it’s not art, I’ve also been starting seeds and getting things read for my garden.  It is creative in that I’m reusing as much as I can and recycling things, like Keurig cups and tp tubes for seed starting.

State of the Art: Coffee Bag Wallets

I’ve been making recycled coffee bag wallets for years. I used them extensively throughout grad school and sold them. I haven’t had time to make them recently.

Many of the coffee companies I’ve been getting coffee from have changed the bags they use- they’ve gone from the tube style to a style that has 4 sealed edges or are short and squat. I welcome that they use less plastic but the lower amount of plastic means I don’t get to make the bifold bill fold wallet, since there just isn’t enough bag there to make one.

I started looking at some of the wallets I like online, and my Baronfig card sleeve. I’ve always wanted a slim wallet that holds very few cards and takes up as little real estate in my pocket as possible. But I’ve always wanted something that holds cash as well. The Baronfig sleeve doesn’t hold cash well.

I decided to make something a bit larger all around than my Baronfig sleeve, not to hold more card, but to hold cash.

I attempted to heat seal the pieces together but that didn’t work well at all, so I’ll try stitching them together. That’s for next time.

Maker: Demise of Small Companies

Way back in 2009 or even further back I picked up a copy of Make the Cut a fabulous software that let me control my Cricut craft cutter. I was able to cut anything I wanted and items of my own designs. Awesome.

Well that was fun, until Provocraft decided they didn’t want third party software controlling their machines. Then sued the makers of Make the Cut. Make the Cut was tied up in court for years. Googling the company shows several lawsuits. Eventually the software was locked down and the code needed to make the software able to work with the cricut was locked out. If you upgraded your copy of make the cut past MTC 4.1.0 it can’t be hacked to work. You also need to install the pccplugin which you have hopefully saved on a thumb drive somewhere.

Make the Cut is now abandonware. The developer has allowed the site to come and go it is currently up and you can download the software, though there are reports in the forum that the new serial numbers no longer work. The forum and site are up now, I was unable to get any assistance from the owner for getting my reg key. I used their automated system and it did not work. I also have not received an answer via their support ticket system. According to several users on the forum, the user has not responded to anything on the forum for over 5 years at this point (writing this 12/2020).

If you have access to the computer you had Make the Cut installed on you can use these instructions to attempt to retrieve the registration code. I was able to successfully reboot my nearly dead old laptop and pull the code out. Then I emailed it to myself AND saved the MTC4.1.0 installer, pccplugin, and reg code to thumb drive. This will get stored in a safe place and I’ll also back these files up to the cloud. And you should to.

I’ll update my old posts about MTC. Apparently now you need to use Sure Cuts a Lot, but I do not think it can be hacked to work with the crapcut. Again I salute Provocrap with a middle finger salute. We should be able to use the Crapcut with any software in the same manner we use a printer.

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State of the Art: Making it Work

A thing that happens a lot among artists is that we find a tool we like, use the hell out of it and realize that it doesn’t just work the way it is so we start to need to adapt our tools. This can be done simply with a knife or scissors. Or with the addition of layers of masking, electrical or duct tape. I often will use jelly silicone pencil grips to bulk up the grip of a pen.

A case in point is this little number I did to this Bic Gelocity. You know the one I reviewed over here. Well it is not a great pen, but it does make nice fine deep black lines, but wow is it uncomfortable. I slid a gel grip on hoping it would slide around easily but instead it’s a snug fit. I wedged it just above where the cap clips and used a pair of scissors to snip the cap off so it fits without needing to go over the now phat grip. The clip started to catch on the grip so snip snip, that went goodbye as well. I filed the sharp pieces of plastic down and now the Gelocity is more comfortable and not bad for sketching in a pocket notebook.

I’ve also removed clips that poke into the meat of my hand, bulked up pens with masking tape and made adaptive devices for other people with Crayola model magic.

I also have added a roll of fabric to the side of my mouse to adapt my grip to reduce stress. This is a temporary fix and I’ll eventually go back to a ball but for now, it works.

While I would hesitate to make a more expensive pen 100% mine, I wonder why? Why not take my Sarasa Grand and bulk up the grip with Sugru or Sculpey? Why not stretch and slide a silicone squishy grip on there?

I might raid my pen cup and play some more.

State of the Art: Photo a Day

Waaaayyyyyy back in 2009 Polaroid introduced the Zink Pogo printer. A cute little printer that spits out 2×3 inch prints on sticker paper. Sweet little journaling tool. I of course immediately asked for one for the holidays. And my lovely partner managed to get a good deal on one and I loved it, for 50 prints or so. 

Other folx got hundreds and hundreds of glorious little stickers. Not me. I had a dozen or so prints before mine was a streaky mess.

It ended up in a drawer.

In the great office clean out of the Covidalypse I found the dusty little printer and thought I might dust it off. I did and it was still streaky. I headed to the internet and found loads of info on cleaning it. So I tore it apart, which was really easy and only around 8 screws or so. I was able to clean some little bits of what looked like… glitter in there, as well as some, big surprise here, dog hair. I gave the roller and print head a good swabbing down with rubbing alcohol with a q-tip, then ran several sheets of super thick cardstock through it.

This is not a pogo print but an image I considered for a pogo print.

No more streaks.

Well, mostly no more streaks. The pogo works best on low-res images. So it is helpful to take smaller pictures. I started this project off using Lightroom. Bad idea, it automatically saves in the highest res option on my phone. Also the Pogo prints in 2×3 images, so I used the basic camera on my phone and set it to 3×4 on the lowest res setting available. This particular option also saves it to the cloud so I have the option of editing it down on my laptop. Sadly the polaroid apps that are still available do NOT work with the Pogo. I can’t get any of them to pair with it, or even print to it. BUT I can snap a picture with their app, save it, and print manually, the way the pogo always worked. It takes the picture in the right 2×3 ratio.

Anyway, the goal of this little project is to snap an interesting pic once a day for at least the next 50 days and to journal around a page along with it. If I find that this is a useful journaling practice for me, I’ll continue it with another 50 pack of paper. We’ll see what happens!

An interesting aside to this is that the battery died on the Pogo and no one makes a replacement pack for it. I ripped the old battery apart, picked up a 2 pack of AA battery holders soldered the leads in place, and made my own. It’s not at all pretty but it does the job and is better than being tethered to the hideous and HUGE wall wart plug this thing has. The wall wart on this thing is inexplicably huge. I will also add that Polaroid’s CS when I asked about the battery was prompt and curt. Funny thing, since making the battery pack I have yet to take the Pogo anywhere, so I guess a useful thing is to consider if you will actually use the Pogo on the go.

Anyway, we’ll see how long I can do a photo a day.