Thursday, 25 May 2017

Where Do You Find Serenity?



“Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.Gautama Buddha
Could anything be more uplifting than seeing a row of decorated flags floating in the Spring breeze? I have long been captivated by the dynamics of fabric and wind. I get the same feeling of bliss seeing laundry hanging on a clothesline as I do when dancing with veils. The graceful movement of soft cloth echoing the direction of a breeze is meditative for me…a way to slow down and become mindful.

Traditionally Tibetans believe in the power of decorated Prayer Flags. By hanging the flags along mountain tops in the Himalayas the prayers and mantras are blown by the wind to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The wishes are not carried to the gods, but instead benefit all who are embraced by the wind. Subject to the elements, the Flags symbolically become part of the Universe, fading over time. New flags are hung beside the old; a sign of the ever changing wheel of life.

Inspired by the new Artistcellar Tibet Series I was ready to craft my own flag, the first of four I hope to create. As it is the colour of Air and Clouds I purchased white chiffon fabric. It is quite transparent and will easily float when caught by the wind.

To keep the fabric from slipping when stenciling, I used an old screen printing trick and spayed a light coat of repositionable adhesive to a large piece of cardboard. It made acrylic application easy and if luck was with me I was hoping to remove the cloth with little damage.  The top of the flag was the perfect spot for the Buddha Eyes, also known as the Wisdom Eyes, stencil. I chose shades of blue acrylic paint…the colours of sky and space…and a wonderful way to show the Lord’s existence around us. 

Spring has certainly arrived with flowers blooming in their beds. It is here in the garden that I find complete serenity. Our bearded irises are now gloriously cloaked in a vast spectrum of lavender to deep purple. They share the garden, living side by side with pansies of yellow, orange, and violet. They, like the Flags, will eventually become part of the Universe as their blooms fade and die. Hoping to hold the memory of this moment, I stenciled the bottom half of the flag inspired by the flowers. The perfect stencil for a kaleidoscope of colour is the Halftone Dots series. Layered, they recreated the riot of colour on display in the garden.

Once dried, it was time for the moment of truth: the removal of the fabric from the cardboard. Just as I had hoped, it peeled off easily with very little distortion. I wasn’t sure if the acrylics would stiffen the chiffon. I am happy to say it was anything but. Even with multiple layers of paint, the finish is muted and sheer, almost dreamlike. And best of all, hanging from a dowel rod finished with wooden end caps, the stenciling on both sides is equally as nice.

Of all the wonderfully creative benefits Artistcellar products have to offer I especially love the way they encourage me to think, slow down, and become mindful. Now more than ever we need to surround ourselves with empathy, strength, peace, and above all wisdom. My hope is that wherever you may be, may the wind caress you and the serenity of my garden encircles you.

MATERIALS USED:
ARTISTCELLAR: TIBET SERIES STENCIL (Buddha Eyes), HALFTONE DOTS (Highlight, Midtone, Midtone 2, Shadow)
HAND CUT STENCIL: Diamonds
PUNCHINELLA
CHIFFON FABRIC – White
DARICE CRAFTWOOD BALL & DOWEL
BEST TEST REPOSITIONAL ADHESIVE
CARDBOARD
PLAID ACRYLICS: Blue Sapphire, Amethyst, Blue Pearl, Pure Orange, Perfect Purple. Violet Pansy, Sunflower, Metallic Rose, Bright Red, Aquamarine, Or Royal, Plum
DECOART: Splendid Gold
DINA WAKLEY: Lime

Monday, 15 May 2017

Right Now. Right Here.

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. 
Making your unknown known is the important thing.”-Georgia O’Keeffe

Do you journal? Or are you like me, jotting thoughts and sayings on random bits of paper? I have often purchased beautiful journals fulling intending to fill them. I just never do. I don’t know if it is the fear of the blank page, or what seems like the vast the number of pages that puts me off. But whatever the reason, there they sit, on my bookshelf, spotless as the day I purchased them.

Some time ago I bought a pack of inexpensive Ace playing cards. The flying biplane on the backs won me over! Who wouldn’t want to fly off to a new adventure in that wonderful plane? It was then I decided to use them as a journal. With a deck of 52, completing one card a week didn’t seem beyond the realm of possibilities. To kick off my venture I knew the best place to start was with the Artistcellar Pocket Stencil series Creative Words: Believe, Trust, Seek, and my favourite, Create.

Have you ever noticed the lovely sayings tucked away on the inserts of your Artistcellar Stencils? To me the stencils alone are creative cake…the inspirational quotes are the icing. Creative Words were just that…the catalyst I needed.

The playing cards have a plastic finish. To allow the media to attach, I sanded the cards and applied a quick layer of gesso. I didn’t want to totally cover the suits and numbers, so I removed some of it with a paper towel. On my work table, I assembled my stencils, acrylics and stamps. I wanted to have a bit of fun and see where my journey would take me. I revisited an old technique: applying rubber cement through the SEEK stencil. I tried a new idea as well: dabbing Dye-Na-Flow colour through the TRUST stencil. When dried I positioned the cards in a row and completed the backs. Though not identical, they have the same “feel”…a record of a time and place.

In the end I was happy with the results. Best of all, the stencils stood up to everything I threw at them. Clean up was a snap with stencils back to perfect condition. The cards are now part of my new journal, safely tucked away in a pocket page protector in a three ring binder.

Time seems to be racing by for me. Is it the same for you? Journaling is a wonderful way of capturing the essence of who we are. The perfect journal format is whatever suits you best. We owe it to ourselves to take the time to make our unknown known. Not only to ourselves, but sharing it those in our life. Right now. Right here.
 

MATERIALS USED

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Restoring the Balance...

“Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”
“Big Yellow Taxi” - Joni Mitchell
Why is that song stuck in my head? Like me, have you ever wondered how a fragment of a melody started what seems like a never-ending loop in your brain?  Did a memory trigger the earworm? Perhaps it was a date? I started working on my latest collage on Earth Day…so it’s no wonder Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” became my musical imagery repetition inspiration.

And here my collage begins. I love my Strathmore Visual Journal. The spiral binding allows me to place the book flat on my work surface. This makes experimenting on the page easy. There’s no holding back a cover or other pages getting in the way.  It’s such a time saver, especially when working entirely conventionally.

The collage began with a discarded page from a dictionary I found in my box of unbound books pages.  I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw the listing included the word “taxi”.  I attached the page to the Journal using matte medium…a quick coat to the paper and back of the dictionary page.

When dried, I started the work from the outside in. I painted the border of the page with Dina Wakley Lemon heavy body acrylic paint. For the center I mixed Dina Wakley Ruby and Lemon and created a glaze using the Golden Glazing Fluid. It’s a great product. The Fluid allows you to hold vibrant colour, yet produce a lovey transparent effect.

Now it was time for the part I love best…the stenciling. I started with the Artistcellar Blocks Series-Open Work which mirrored the checker board pattern on the taxi perfectly. I wanted an organic shape to compliment the patterns I created on the page. Artistcellar Playful Pod’s Petite Pods fit the bill. It complimented the design just as I had hoped.

I’ve rediscovered how much I enjoy using Dylusion Sprays. I have to admit Bubble Gum Pink is my favourite. The pop of colour is exciting, especially as the hue stays true…no fading when dry.

All that was left was to add the ephemera and texture techniques. It’s been fun working with Seth Apter’s “low-tech” materials. In this piece I created the textured lines with corrugated board and gesso. I had a piece of anaglypta wallpaper. The flower pattern worked well with the gesso technique…subtle but effective. I even added a few words from transfer lettering I had in my collection. From a selection of old newspapers I found the headline: "Restoring the Balance". Perfect.

As collage and mixed media artists we embrace the mantra of reuse and recycle.  For us everything old is new again. In our work, our life, the environment: Aren’t we all trying to restore the balance? And often balance is not perfection. “Give me spots on my apples, But leave me the birds and the bees.” Let’s hope it’s not too late.

MATERIALS USED:

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Libraries - Sharing the Passion of Learning

The Journey From There To Here  - Collage
Is there anywhere more wonderful than a Library? From expansive to diminutive all share the passion and joy of learning.

If you are in the Carlisle, PA area please stop by the Bosler Library on West High Street near Dickinson College. Carlisle Arts Learning Center (CALC) exhibits member's works at the Main Entrance. This month I am taking part.

To read more about the beautiful Bosler Library and the exhibit, please visit this link:
EXHIBITS AT BOSLER

My Grandfather pictured in the collage was a great lover of Libraries and Museums. He and my Mom spent wonderful hours together discovering the joys that were there for the taking. My Mom passed this passion on to me. Libraries helped to shape my life. They give my artist's soul wings! Visit your local Library today!

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Microcosm That is Nathan's

"Coney Island is and always will be 'the people's playground.' It's a place where people of all backgrounds come to have a good time." Harold Feinstein, Photographer

It could be the incredible weather. Eighty degrees in April?! Really? Or maybe it was the Pink Full Moon. Or maybe I was just hungry. Nevertheless, my thoughts were drawing me to Coney Island. And one of my favourite places was, and still is, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs.

Established in 1916, immigrants Nathan and Ida Handwerker spent their life savings of $300 to pursue the American dream. Still standing on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Brooklyn, Nathan’s was always a great stop on the way home from a day at the Beach. The huge white sign with the “Nathan’s” green script is forever a welcome mat to every Beach weary traveller.

I found a great vintage photo taken in 1947 of a hungry crowd waiting to be served. And there in the foreground was the object of their affection…the famous Nathan’s hot dogs and buns marking time on the rolling grill.

Grabbing my Strathmore Visual Journal I started the design. I brayered layers of acrylic paint on to the stock. I wanted colours that screamed beach, summer, and joy so I selected hues of yellow, orange, red and pink. I especially love the Dylusions sprays. Bubble Gum Pink is outstanding. It really gave the background the pop of colour it needed. But rather than spray it on to the paper, I sprayed my palette, coated the brayer and rolled it on to the surface. The hot pink colour stays true even when dried. What's not to love?

You can never have the Beach without the Ocean. Part of the charm of eating at Nathan’s is feeling the gritty, sandy sidewalk under your feet and the sea salt in the air. That is why the Artistcellar Water Series is the perfect complement for my composition. I chose to use the 12” x12” Surf stencil. The movement of the stencil is a wonderful counterbalance to the straight brayered patches of colour. 

In addition to my Visual Journal I also have a digital counterpart. From this collection I chose two watercolour versions of the Artistcellar Halftone Dots Series. Stenciled on to Mineral Paper the samples had just the quality I was looking for to complete the work.

You can't have the complete Nathan’s experience without people. With a bit of digital manipulation the image was ready to become part of the final composition.

And that’s what I love about Art. Even though I couldn’t be at Nathan’s physically, by working on the collage I was able to travel through time and visit a location near and dear to my heart. It allowed me to remember an exceptional, blissful time with my family.

But Nathan’s isn’t just somewhere to eat. For me it is the embodiment of all that is truly American: our spirit of entrepreneurship, our willingness to hope for a better future, a place where young and old, rich and poor can mingle. In essence, it is a microcosm of the tolerant and diverse city I am proud to call my home. 

As a Nation there are times we seem to go off track. But I firmly believe our collective soul thrives on compassionately embracing ideas that are different.

Above all else, I am confident our willingness to offer a warm welcome to those who want to make this Nation their own will never waver. It will always be what makes us quintessentially American.

MATERIALS USED IN THIS COLLAGE:

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Reunion of Broken Parts

“Aspire, Advance, Achieve” - Society of Women Engineers
Math. Just hearing the word still sends shivers down my spine, even with years as a cushion between my high schools classes and the present day. But the least scary for me of this abstract science of numbers, quantity, and space was Algebra. As a person who struggled dismally with geometry, for some bizarre reason, the algebraic symbols made sense. Although I won’t say I was enamoured by my Algebra classes, at least I didn’t thoroughly dread them. There was something satisfying in solving the simple equations of elementary algebra.

Recently I decided to review my collection of instructional DVDs. Like going back to school for a refresher course, I began with Seth Apter’s “Easy Mixed Media Techniques for the Art Journal”. There are so many DVDs on the market, but in my opinion, Seth’s instruction is truly one of the best. His relaxed step-by-step style and proclivity for using “low tech” materials make his projects fun and a great learning experience. By encouraging you to “make it your own” surprising and unique results are always a possibility. So with supplies at the ready my project began.

Inspired by Seth’s instructions, I attached a page from an old Algebra book to a sheet of watercolour paper in my Strathmore Visual Journal using matte medium. When dry, I masked off a few equations on the page with torn Post It notes. I then framed the page with Waterfall Green pearlescent liquid acrylics, leaving the center free for a transparent wash of Brilliant Orange mixing acrylics with an equal amount of glazing fluid.

A technique I haven’t used in ages, but is always fun, is “inking” the rough side of corrugated board. At Seth’s suggestion, my packing box discards produced the most interesting series of lines when infused with white gesso.

Some time ago I was gifted with a lovely vintage photo of four Victorian women. With the layers of texture and colour taking shape, I knew this would be a special background just for them. I like to think of the women as engineers, creatively collaborating on a project. And their inspiration absolutely had to be the Artistcellar stencil Metatron’s Cube form the Sacred Geometry 2 Series. Incorporating every shape in the Universe, this certainly could be all the motivation they would need. To help them along, I surrounded the women with a series of rubber stamped numbers…the tools of their trade.

The word Algebra derives from the Arabic al-jabr, meaning "The reunion of broken parts". Journaling is a wonderful way to reunite fractured thoughts and feelings. Taking a new class or reviewing an inspiring DVD is equally rewarding. And there is nothing better than sharing new techniques and discoveries.

I suppose the spirit of Algebra, even if not the practice, is still with me...and perhaps all of us... as we aspire to find the balance hidden within our broken parts.

MATERIALS USED
  • Sacred Geometry 2 Series 
  • Matte Medium
  • Mod Podge – Sheer Orange
  • Golden Glazing Fluid
  • Gesso
  • Daler Rowney FW Pearlescent Liquid Acrylic Waterfall Green
  • Plaid Brilliant Orange
  • DecoArt Desert Turquoise
  • Reeves Metallic Copper
  • Post It Notes
  • Rubber Stamps
  • Stamp Pad
  • Natural Sponge
  • Paper Towels
  • Corrugated Board
  • Strathmore Mixed Media Journal Watercolour
  • Vintage Paper and Images

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Dreaming of Home

“Beds, three tiers high, were still not sufficient to accommodate the 5,000 immigrants who arrived daily. Many, like this young woman, were forced to sleep on benches, chairs, or on the floor.”             – Lewis W. Hine –

When travelling, have you ever felt bone-weary…so tired you feared the next step? Have you ever been stranded in an airport, with nothing but what seemed like unending hours until the next flight? I have. And if you are like me, I am sure all you could think of was getting somewhere, anywhere, to sleep. To lessen the discomfort of my situation, I like to visualise of my cozy bed at home, covered with a warm, colourful quilt.

My inspiration for this collage was a photograph from the Hine Collection. As an educator, Lewis W. Hine encouraged his students to use photography as a tool for social change. He often held his sociology classes at Ellis Island. In five years, 1904 to 1909, he produced 200 photographs of the immigrants passing through the Island. The young woman trying her best to get some sleep is one I thought fit perfectly with the new Artistcellar Quilt Stencils.

The new series features four quilt designs: The Bear Claw, The Star Flower, and the two I chose to use, The Ohio Star and the Amish Star. Living close to Lancaster, PA it’s nice to see the Amish star included in the series.

Going back to my Strathmore Journal, I sponged on layers of acrylic paint, letting each dry between applications. Having the stencils in both the 6” x 6” and Pocket size is really useful. In my work, I used both. Again, the quality of the stencils didn’t let me down. Even though the paint was dry between multiple layers, clean up was a snap, with each stencil back to immaculate condition. I built the background quilt layer by tiling the image as on a true cloth covering.

Completing the collage, I drew upon my collection of ephemera. I surrounded the Slavic lady with what I imagine surrounded her: mountains of paperwork as she made her way through the Ellis Island process.

And was she like you and me, tired and sleepy, dreaming of a familiar place to rest? Did her dreams include quilts and thoughts of home?

MATERIALS USED:

Thursday, 9 March 2017

What's Your Bag, Man?

"Hey man, what’s your bag?" Couldn’t help but think of this relic of the Sixties when I discovered the theme of a French Mail Art Call was to recycle paper bags. As it happened, I was on my way home from one of my favourite restaurants, Neato Burrito, with my mission style burrito safely tucked away in a brown paper bag.

As you can gather by the name, Neato Burrito has a definite retro vibe. Now with several locations...and I’ve visited them all...you create your burrito by choosing from a delicious assortment of tortillas, rice, beans, meats, salsas and vegetables.  Their jalapeno feta salsa is to die for and was just the inspiration I needed! I also wanted to have fun and there’s no better way for me than to dive into conventional collage work. I love being a recycler of images from a past age. Guess that’s my bag.

I started the project by deconstructing the paper bag at the seams. I liked the printed messages and did my best to keep them as part of my finished envelope. The brown paper was the perfect background for Artistcellar Halftone Dots Series. Stenciling with the largest dots first I changed colours as I progressed through the series. The Artistcellar Traditional Japanese Series is wonderful when you are looking for a pop of colour to accent your work. I picked the Cherry Blossom stencil to do just that.

As many collage artists know, the most wonderful ephemera are gifted to us through the US Postal Service. A gem recently dropped in my mailbox courtesy of a local gas station chain. The image of the woman on the front of the brochure was crying out for a new home...and I had just the place for her! The pinup style illustration fit perfectly with the layout I had in mind. And I liked the feeling of continuity...mail that came to me is now part of a recycled piece to be sent abroad.

When you visit the restaurant it’s great to see the selected vintage advertising that deftly crosses several decades. Motivated by the Neato Burrito experience I rummaged through the classified sections of magazines of the era. Happy with what I found, I surrounded the woman with a plethora of choices. Isn’t that what advertising is all about?

And here you have the final product, just waiting to be addressed, stamped and sent off to France. As they say, everything old is new again...so, I put the question to you: What’s your bag?

MATERIALS USED
  • ARTISTCELLAR Halftone Dots Series, Traditional Japanese Series
  • DECOART Sea Glass, Dazzling Champagne Gold
  • CRAFTSMART Sea Mist Pearl
  • PLAID Sunflower, Pure Orange, Metallic Bright Red, Rose, & Amethyst
  • NATURAL SPONGE
  • VINTAGE & CONTEMPORARY EPHEMERA, STANDARD MAIL, PAPER BAG, VINTAGE MAGAZINES

Monday, 20 February 2017

Changing The World...One Postcard At A Time!



“Through art we can change the world.” - David Sandum

I’m sure you’ll agree…the world is going through some extremely tough times. And as strange as this may sound, when things seem just a little too intense for me I enjoy wandering through a supermarket. My local A&P was always a favourite. And when I moved to England my supermarket of choice was Morrisons. Regardless of the location, the ambiance was reassuringly identical and delightfully soothing. Is it the orderly rows of merchandise, the bright colours of the packaging, or even the Muzak that charms me? I really don’t have an answer. I just know I enjoy wandering, most of the time aimlessly, through the aisles. I guess you could call it my version of “retail therapy”.

Searching through my collection of ephemera for inspiration, my eye caught a vintage image of a woman pushing her overflowing cart. Like me, she had to be an A&P shopper. There was the clue.  My favorite: Eight O’clock Coffee…the original DIY lovers’ coffee…ground to your own specification in the machine conveniently placed in the aisle.

I wanted to place the woman on a background that would scream “SALE!!” I took another look at one of my favourite stencils, Artistcellar’s “Celestial” from the Arabian Nights series. I built two versions on heavy white paper using a variety of colours. In the end I had two distinct looks. I decided to use the lighter, brighter one as a background.  Having an assortment of choices at my fingertips so quickly and easily is the hallmark of Artistcellar products.

Working wholly conventionally this time I cut and glued my photos, text and sections from handwritten shopping lists I “procured” from a parking lot to the card. Creating this way was just as therapeutic as my supermarket stroll!

Soon the finished piece will be on its way to Twitter Art Exhibit. Founder David Sandum began the project in 2010 using social media and global public engagement to generate income for charities and nonprofits. Artists donate postcard sized work to #TAE for sale. At an exhibition the art is sold. The chosen organisation receives 100% of the proceeds.

This year TAE17 is supporting Molly Olly’s Wishes in Stratford upon Avon, UK. The organisation compassionately assists children with terminal or life threatening illnesses and their families. Their goal is to help maintain emotional well-being for those undergoing extremely difficult times. My challenges in no way compare to those facing these children and their families.  But my hope is that with my card we can share a smile and the relaxation of my supermarket meanderings.

Why not spread the healing spirit of Artistcellar? There is still time to enter as registration closes on February 24th. Your postcard must be in the hands of #TAE17 no later than March 17th. For more information follow this link: http://twitterartexhibit.org/

As artists, inspiration surrounds us…even in the most unlikely places…such as a supermarket. But with our unique brand of creativity we can change the world…one postcard at a time.

MATERIALS USED:
  • ARTISTCELLAR STENCILS: ARABIAN NIGHTS – CELESTIAL
  • ACRYLIC PAINT
  • REEVES: Rose Red
  • CRAFTSMART: Sea Mist Pearl
  • DECO ART: Peacock Pearl, Champagne Gold, Sunny Day
  • PLAID FOLK ART: Sunflower, Inca God, Bright Red, Amethyst
  • 90lb WHITE POSTCARD PAPER
  • VINTAGE & CONTEMPORARY ADS
  • FOUND SHOPPING LISTS

Friday, 3 February 2017

We Lift Each Other...

“You will rise by lifting others.” - Robert G. Ingersoll

When times are bleak we seize the smallest glimmer of hope wherever we encounter it. I find myself in the midst of such times. For me, turning to my Art is a way of trying to make sense of what is clearly chaos.

I started my journey in Art as a printmaker. The mechanics of cutting a woodblock or prepping a stone always fills me with the comforting feeling of whispered anticipation. Working with the Speedball Lino Cutter and Speedycarve block was like visiting an old, sympathetic friend. And the timing couldn’t be better.

I drew simple butterfly shapes on to the Speedyblock as I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to carve. I must say, it was like pushing a warm knife through butter. Now that I am familiar with the block, I am looking forward to using it again on more finely detailed work. I inked up with both a conventional stamp pad and acrylic paint to print the image. Both were successful, but I preferred the acrylic paint finish. When dried, I coloured the butterflies using Twinkling H20 watercolours. I love their shimmer and rich hue…keeping true colour even when dry.

I adore the variety and durability of the Artistcellar stencils. Adding to my Strathmore Journal, I grabbed the Halftone Dots and Seafoam stencils. I wanted to create a feeling of randomness. I allowed the stencils to drop to the paper without positioning them. My selection of acrylics was as accidental.

When all of the elements were complete, I scanned and began the final composition.

It is impossible to ignore the events surrounding us. The implications are global. But through it all, my spirit is renewed.  Each time I see a new group of concerned individuals lifting their voices in unison, I know we are seizing the essence of what makes us truly American. Like soaring butterflies, our differences are celebrated. And we will only rise when we support and lift each other.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Raising Our Voices In Song

"The singer is the life of the soul
The sick man hears him and gets better…
And he clears away the darkness of night
Letting light into the eyes of the lovers
A little, a little”
“Ghannili Shway Shway” (Sing for Me A Little)

Have you ever started work on a project and for a variety of reasons it never finds its way to completion?  Perhaps you became too busy or had other commitments. Or, as I like to think, the time just wasn’t right for you to connect with the work. That’s the story of this collage.  Partially finished, I knew it needed something more. But what?

I found the photo of the Egyptian Lady included in a lot of postcards I purchased. Reminiscent of the haunting Lehnert & Landrock images I viewed in their shop in Cairo, I wish I knew more about her. How old was she? Where did she live in Egypt? Was she contented with her life? If only she could speak!

I can’t think of Cairo without remembering the blissful feeling of being enveloped by music.  From the latest pop tunes to the classics, music filters through the frenetic streets from taxi cabs, apartments, markets, and cafes. It is the heart and soul of the city and its people. And one voice speaks for young and old alike: Oum Kolthoum. “The Star of the East” as she was known, Oum Kolthoum’s inimitable musical interpretations united the Arab world as Egypt declared her a national treasure. But her music reached far beyond, enthralling audiences around the globe. Regardless of nationality, those who heard her sing could see a little of themselves reflected in her passionate performances.

A favourite song of mine is “Ghannili Shway Shway” (Sing for Me A Little). It was Oum Kolthoum’s first hit and was featured in the 1945 film “Sallama”. The lyrics, forever timeless, pay tribute to the captivating power of song.

I started the collage by photocopying the postcard on to a piece of very thin white tissue paper. Taking sheets of watercolour paper, I soaked them overnight in a bath of tea with a touch of instant coffee. I was surprised, but happy to see the paper dried to a warm auburn hue. I printed the lyrics to the song in Arabic and tore the edges to give an uneven look. Because I was concerned about the ink bleeding when I attached the elements to my canvas, I sprayed them with a fixative. I was now ready for the moment of truth. I primed the canvas with gesso and attached the paper with lyrics first. There was minimal bleeding and good adhesion. I was hoping it would be the same with the tissue photocopy. I placed the paper in position and covered it with a light coat of matte medium. Luckily it didn’t tear and was translucent enough to allow the lyrics to show through.

I wanted a dramatic background. The perfect choice was Artistcellar’s Arabian Nights series.  Inspired by the star patterns of Arabic geometry is there any better way to celebrate the music of “The Star of the East”? I chose “Celestial” and added it to my collection of backgrounds in my Strathmore Mixed-Media journal beginning with sponging Rose Red acrylics and building layer upon layer as each dried. On aqua tissue I dabbed a variety of metallic acrylics through a stencil that reminded me of the windows in my hotel, evoking the blur of colour and light of an early Cairo morning.

Where inspiration left me the last time I worked on this collage I was now energised and ready to complete the image. The elements seem to fall into place. Where would the love of music and a beautiful song take this woman? I pictured her dreamily gazing at a view of feluccas on the Nile. Perhaps she was wondering what the future would bring, all the while waiting to wish on the first evening star.

I truly believe music, as well as art, have the power to unite us. Now more than ever before, we need to raise our voices in song. Together. Regardless of language or genre, one thing is constant. We all search to find our one special star in the night sky. And when we do, we rejoice in letting our light shine, reflected in the eyes of those we love.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

When Dreams Take Flight

When Dreams Take Flight
I had a creatively delightful start to 2017. I received an incredible box of Artistcellar inspiration. Included were the new Chakras 2 Series stencils.  They were impeccably timed.

As with many people I know, I am still trying to make sense of the events of 2016 and see a positive way forward for 2017. I believe this is the reason I was instantly drawn to stunning Sanskrit Om stencil.

If you have ever taken yoga class or tried to find out more about spirituality, I am sure you have heard the sound “Om”. I have read that many believe the resonant tone of Om is the vibration of creation. It is considered the first sound to come from silence.

The symbol of Om visually resembles the essence of Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god, with serpentine curves mimicking his body and trunk. Ganesha is the Lord of good fortune and auspicious beginnings.  But most importantly, he is considered the remover of spiritual and material obstacles. For me, Ganesha has always been a favourite deity. His story of perseverance and faith encouraged me to embrace the power to redefine the course of my life on many occasions.

Om is also a “seed” mantra and is related to the Third Eye the Sixth chakra. Exploring this chakra, your energy to "see" clearly is heightened. Looking at the stencil, you can't help but notice petals in the shape of wings as part of the design. The Third Eye renews our ability to view the world and ourselves with hope for the possibilities of life...allowing our spirit to soar.

And most importantly, your Third Eye is the window to experiencing the feelings of others from their perspective…to revive our ability to empathize with those we meet.

I couldn’t wait to start my next collage. I’ve had my eye on a beautiful piece of marbleized rice paper. It was waiting for the right project. And I knew this was it! I lightly traced the Om and Third Eye stencils on to a page of my new Strathmore Watercolour Visual Journal and completed them using the Twinkling H20s paints and my ever handy Koi Water Brush. The finished effect was just as I had hoped…shimmering, rich colour in peaceful hues of indigo and violet.

I wanted to add straight edged elements to compliment the organic Om and Third Eye designs. I applied the same technique to a series of diamond shapes I had cut into Mylar sometime back. I decided to add the Traditional Japanese Ocean Waves stencil as well, taking it from my library of images safely kept in my Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal. Once everything was dry it was time to scan and build my collage.
I relaxed into working with the elements, allowing the serene sensation of mindfulness to wash over me. The collage came together quickly…almost as if each image knew where they would look best. The wings of the Third Eye allowed me to just go with it…to trust and create from a place of tranquility.

And there it was, my collage inspired by a series of synchronistic events: the release of the Artistcellar Chakra 2 Series and the arrival of the stencils and supplies at the time I needed them most. Perhaps 2017 will be a year of new beginnings… with Ganesha clearing the way, allowing our dreams to take flight.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Echoes We Find Within...

#artistsforempathy #artistsforlove
“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” – Mohsin Hamid

An artist whose work I respect, Seth Apter, recently shared a heartfelt post on his Blog. Seth described a project initiated by several artists, all using the same motto, with the objective of bringing a sense of peace and unity to what has been an extremely chaotic time. By celebrating our diversity through creative endeavours, the #artistforlove movement called for the creation of art as a way to start a conversation and begin collectively healing. Through his work Seth is participating in the process for the restoration of support, acceptance, respect, and love by creating and sharing a lovely poster.

Inspired by the movement and the contributing artists, I decided to take part. As much as I find #artistsforlove an honourable undertaking, I’d like to go one step further. For me, finding a path back to acceptance, respect and a sense of normality begins with a single word: Empathy.

We are different, our outlook molded by our unique life experiences. But rather than the celebration of our unique gifts, our diversity has been manipulated to divide us. This is something I will not tolerate.

It is true that our reaction to what has played out before us has often become heated. But then again, isn’t this to be expected when discussing something about which we are passionate? Empathy encourages us to step back, calm down, and see the other point of view…to find another echoed within ourselves.

One thing I do know for sure, through travel and living in a variety of cities in the US and abroad, one thing is constant. We all want the same thing. We all want meaningful work that provides a good life for ourselves and our families. We all want a peaceful environment in which to thrive.  And together we can work towards making this a reality. Working at odds in counterproductive and will not benefit anyone.  I stand by our Nation’s motto E Pluribus Unum - "out of many, one". I am proud of the rich tapestry of traditions that make us who we are as Americans.

I began the collage with calligraphy enhanced with Twinkling H20s from the Summer Fun collection. The colours are luminous and rich. They went on smoothly using my Koi Water Brush – another of my now “go to” supplies.

The stencils used are the Artistcellar Traditional Japanese Series. I layered Dina Wakley Media Heavy Body Acrylic paint in Lapis, Ocean, Sky, and Elephant. I wondered how the stencil would perform during clean-up since each layer of acrylic was completely dry between applications. Of course, they worked perfectly…clean and back to pristine condition in a matter of minutes! As the work is my invitation to others to participate I pulled all my elements together and built the final art using a postcard as substrate.

Our world is changing. There is no doubt about it. Will you reach out through your work with the #artistsforlove and #artistsforempathy movements?  We all need to take that first step… to begin the conversation, to throw open the door to Empathy… to search for, and find the echo of another person within ourselves. It is only then that we can rediscover our common ground.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Laws of Chance

When life takes on the feeling of being trapped in a never ending roundabout, it’s nice to stop, step back and search for balance. I find solace in Art History.

The Dada Movement inspires me. Born of the chaos of World War I the Dadaists embraced all facets of art as an authentic means of expression. Tristan Tzara, a man with a poet’s heart and a founding member of the movement, composed his work by cutting up newspaper articles and selecting words at random. Following his lead, I cut text from a variety of sources and a photo of Tzara into strips.

The more I looked at the material on my work table, the more I wanted to free the collage to build itself. As was the choice of many Dadaists I wanted to follow the laws of chance. Using this technique and a photo of a pair of cupped hands, a design began to emerge.

To complete the work, I turned to the pages of my Strathmore Visual Journal. It is such a great resource to have at hand…everything in one place ready for use. It was from these pages that I chose the Artistcellar Marked and Blocks series.They were the perfect compliment. Not only did the colour of the neon acrylics and organic Marked shapes enhance the collage, but I was happy with the straight edged Open Work design. It was the perfect foil. Artistcellar stencils never disappoint!

Working in the method of the Dadaists did the trick. The commotion surrounding me slowed and became ordered and, almost magically, not as chaotic. 

It was then I realised something I knew in my heart all along. Making the decision to leave some things to chance is beneficial in…my work as well as in life. It is true that when we learn to let go of what we can’t change, we are open to the possibilities of what we can. We are free to follow the laws of chance, knowing that the decision is always in our hands.

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Searching for Letters Abroad

“There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all”  
In My Life - John Lennon

Of late, the Full Moon has been my time of introspection. Urged on by the changing of the seasons, so it was again this month. The feeling of melancholy surrounds me as I see the leaves change colour and begin their spiral dance to the earth. And the progression continues with change as the only constant.

I have mentioned how much the Artistcellar Labyrinth series has inspired my work. Believing in Synchronicity, they came to me just when I needed them most. This time my chosen stencil to work with was Gonzaga. I love the clean straight lines. It would be a superb counterpoint for the elements I collected for the collage.

A new medium for me is the Deco Art Media Crackle Paste. Application is easy and all that is needed is a palette knife and patience to allow for an adequate drying time. I picked a piece of copper metallic writing paper for my substrate. As I spread the paste through the stencil I wondered how it would hold up. Would this technique be its demise? It’s an interesting process to watch. The thickness of application varies the size of the eggshell cracks. And like magic…there they were. I pulled the stencil away from the paper and started my clean-up. I’m happy to report, as with all Artistcellar products, cleaning was easy and the stencil held up beautifully. Quality, quality, quality!

Hearing “In My Life” on the radio brought back so many wonderful memories from a time before email. It’s no secret that I am a passionate lover of the written word. Letters, postcards…anything in the mail is nourishment for my Muse! I relish the anticipation as much as the delivery. Just to see an address in a familiar hand is uplifting. I wanted my theme for the collage to be the art of correspondence.

I admit I find it difficult to meditate. So many ideas, so many images interrupt what should be a place of quiet and wonder. By using the labyrinth as the focal part of my work, I am getting closer to quieting my mind. The Labyrinth pulls together my random thoughts. So the work you see here is an attempt at stream of consciousness meditation, for lack of a better phrase.

It was time to complete the collage. Drawing from my Book of Backgrounds (aka the Strathmore Mixed-Media Visual Journal) I selected other stencil designs I created: Halftone Dots, Seafoam, and Open Works from the Blocks series. Placing the images went smoothly…as if they knew where they should “live”. I allowed myself to feel, and to journey looking back at what once was with a definite optimistic view of the future. I recognise that accepting change is an integral part of the progression.

In my life all these places had their moments. And for that I am grateful.

Shameless Plug: The Labyrinth Series in addition to other works incorporating Artistcellar Stencils will be on show at the Oyster Mill Playhouse, Camp Hill, PA November 4 through November 20, 2016

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