Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Holidays are on the horizon!

After finishing my piece and getting it sent off for the exhibit, I felt a sense of loss.  It was as if there was nothing to look forward to with the completion of that piece.  I wandered about the flat trying to think of something that would provide a challenge and be interesting to work on.  It was not long before I thought about trying to submit a piece to a magazine to see if it had a chance of being used and then I realized that the holidays were not that far off and it would be wise to start prepping cards, gifts, and other tokens of appreciation along with pulling together the magazine submission.

With all this in mind, I set about putting the studio back in order and tried to put all the items I had been using, back into their rightful places.  Making progress, I had some table tops cleared and a working area designated as well as an area where pieces would hopefully be safely left to dry.  Molly Cat has a bad habit of thinking that she can roam at will where ever and when ever she wishes.  While I am generally an easy going person, I do get a tad worked up when Molly starts moving my artwork around, especially if it has not completely dried.  I am trying to break her of the habit, but it is going to take some time.

Truthfully, I really am not sure what I plan to make.  At this point, I know that I will make holiday cards as well as a stash of generic ones that will fit almost any occasion.  I feel comforted knowing that I can reach for a card at any time and write a brief message in it and send it off to a friend.  So, between making the generic cards along with a few special birthday ones since I know of a few birthdays in the not so distant future, I will go full force and get the holiday cards designed and with a little luck, get the envelopes addressed.  I got the idea that I would like to make some special cards out of chip board which would make them more of a keepsake.  With that in mind, I found some interesting tri fold pieces that are reminiscent of an altar or little shrine.  I have done one up with a generic theme, one that could be sent to a woman on her birthday.

The small shrine has been painted a light shade of blue and has some floral accents added to the front two pieces which open up to reveal the stamped images of ladies from years gone by accented with bottle green washi tape and stamped images of flowers on either side of the main image of the women.  The caption at the top reads "To an amazing woman."  I can think of many women that this would apply to and think it wise to make up several of these cards.

In addition to the cards, I have also been working on the template for a calendar to be given as part of a holiday gift.  I do not have a completed one, but have included a picture of the calendar blank that I will be using.  I have a stamp of a calendar page which I will use on the lower portion of the page and then stamp an appropriate image on the top page to coordinate with a holiday during that month or something seasonal.  While the one I am showing you is made up of blue and green shades of card stock, I also have some blanks put together of more vibrant citrus colours, shades of pink, spring colours and one of reds, oranges and yellows that I hope to tie in with an Asian theme.  I forsee a lot of work over the next month or two, but it will be time well spent and will hopefully get me in a position of being ahead of the game come the early days of December.

I have already tucked away a few gifts for the holidays, ones that I happened across unexpectedly, but knew that they would be perfect for the individuals for whom they are intended.  I am gathering some recipes together that I will put together a little closer to the big day.  Once again, I will do a few days of intense baking that will not only fill gift tins for friends, but fill up some containers for me to keep in the freezer and brought out when I hear of friends coming over for a visit.  With all this in mind, it would be wise to start picking up items needed for these recipes, so best I go through the cupboards, organizing as I go and making note of what items I am going to need.  I would like to make shortbread, but find that it is easier to purchase it.  None of my recipes yield the perfect shortbread cookie and that is what I really long for during the holidays.  The other treats are fine, but a shortbread cookie along with a cup of tea just makes the day seem more festive.

What are you working on artistically right now?  Are you prepping for a church bazaar or charity sale?  Will you be making something crafty or will you do some baking?  We would all love to hear what you are up to as it will jump start our own thought process and hopefully bring to mind something that we can make.  I will put up pictures of my own creative attempts to show you where I am heading artistically.  Gift tags, cards, calendars and decorative place setting markers will all be in production over the next month.  Hopefully, I will have enough of each item made that will carry me through the holidays with a few to spare.  It never hurts to have a few extra items in the cupboard for an unexpected guest who arrives along with the ones you had planned for to attend an evening's festivities.  The more the merrier and since I generally bake more items than necessary, the refreshment table will not suffer from a shortage of goodies.  Suddenly, I feel much better about the impending season now that I have plans in place.  Now, as long as I hold firm on my resolve to stay on top of things, not only will I get my submission ready for the magazine, I will have the freezer stocked with sweet treats and little gifts wrapped and ready to disperse.  Now, that is a good thing!  Even Martha Stewart would have to agree.  ;)

Have a great week!

Sincerely, Rutheemac


Monday, August 22, 2011

The making of an exhibit piece

It is the start of another week and I have just now finished the art piece heading for an exhibition.  This piece has been in the making for a long time.  Prep work started in June when I was sketching out ideas hoping for one to capture what I hoped would be the best of the best in my sketch book.  Time passed on and I knew that I had to get working on this lest I leave it down to the wire and barely get it submitted before the September 01 deadline.

Well, I finally decided on a simple Japanese scene that I titled "Serenity - A Zen Feeling."  What I thought would be a simple piece to put together turned out to be anything but that.  I started the actual piece last week after deciding on some modifications to the original design.  By Wednesday I had progressed and had most of the background done.  But, I was not happy with the way it was going together and I scrapped the whole piece leaving me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Maybe I was not going to make the deadline, maybe I would not have a piece worthy of showing, especially at an exhibition with 200 artists all working on the same sized piece - 6 inches by 8 inches.  You would think that with such a small sized piece of paper to work on, it would be easy to put together a mixed media piece of art.  Well, it was not as easy as I had originally thought it would be, but with a bit of perseverance and a lot of labour, I have completed one of the most arduous pieces I have done to date.

Working with strands of embroidery floss, I painstakingly laid one piece after the other to form the scene.  The background went down first and I thought I would never get my eyes to focus normally after that.  Each piece of floss had to fit tightly against the previous one so that no paper could be seen.  I spent at least 8 hours on that part of the piece alone.  Then the trees were the next to be laid out.  To make them look at realistic as possible, I use different colours of embroidery floss and built up layers of bark just as one would see on a real tree.  I am quite pleased with the way the trees turned out considering that I had never worked with this type of mixed media prior to this.

After the trees were finally in place, the little bridge had to be put down on the paper.  Cutting toothpicks to the size needed was interesting.  I found that I had a nice little pair of cutters that could cut through the toothpicks nicely but found that I was chasing bits of wood as they scattered through the studio.  Finally, I had enough pieces cut to build the bridge.  Thank goodness I only wanted a small one, I am quite certain I would have gone quite squirrelly had I tried to build a larger one.

Now, I was making progress!  I could actually start work on the cherry blossoms, the bush and last of all the geisha.  The cherry blossoms went together quite nicely and did not take too much time.  The bush was the easiest piece to put down on paper.  Taking pieces of yellow and spring green embroidery floss I managed to pull them together at the base of the bush and glue that in place.  I had really wanted to have three trees, but there just was not enough room on the paper.  The main element was to be the geisha and I wanted to ensure that there was sufficient room to give her the proper placement so that she would stand out.

To put my lovely little lady together, I drew her on a separate piece of the etchu hagaki paper and started to form her kimono out of purple floss with a pink floss forming her inner kimono.  The obi was made out of a lighter purple embroidery floss.  The black floss made up her hair and white floss her face.  The piece was finally done or so I thought.  I sat looking at it for quite some time and felt that something was amiss.  I just did not like the look of the kimono, it looked so plain.  Rummaging through my stash of Japanese paper scraps, I found the perfect accent piece that I added on to the kimono.  The difference this little piece of paper made was incredible.  How could such a small piece of paper have so much impact?  I think with all the solid colours laid down on this small piece of paper, the bit of pattern stood out and made the geisha seem more authentic.  At least that is what I think and I am sticking to that theory.  At this point, there is not a moment to spare for second thoughts.

I look at this small piece of art that I so carefully put together and have mixed feelings about it.  While I am proud of it, happy that it was completed with plenty of time to get to where the exhibit will be held, I truthfully cannot say that I am totally happy with the end result.  I know that I put a lot of effort and time into this small piece, but it still seems raw, not fully thought out and executed to the level that I had hoped to make it.  Maybe I am being too critical, but there is always room for improvement in every piece.  I will try some more Japanese scenes done on the same paper with embroidery floss with some paper accents.  I would really like to make a series of these pictures and place them in a handmade album that I construct using some wonderful Japanese paper on the cover.  The inner pages will likely be black cardstock in order to show off the pictures to their full advantage.  But, that is a project I will start on another day.  For now, I plan to tidy up the studio, bin all the scraps of embroidery floss, bits of paper that are of no further use and just generally get ready to start my next major project.  That will be a story for another day!

Let me know your thoughts on my art.  I am posting pictures here  of the different stages it went through and then, the end result.  I am open to all critiques, good or bad, as they will help me grow into a better artist and show me where I might have finessed the piece a bit more.  You know how to hit the comment tab at the end of the post and it will open a window for you to key in your thoughts.  I will be looking to see what you have to say.  Be honest, be sincere, that is all that I ask.

Have a great week!  Take some time for some artistic moments of your own doing.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So many ideas, not enough hours in a day!

I feel like I am running full speed and not getting to where I want to be right now.  My mind is overflowing with ideas, images, colours and so many other things that I am not sure which pathway I should follow.  This is not as dire as it may sound since I consider it better to have a surplus of ideas rather than go through a dry spell when I am not able to muster up a single concept or idea of what type of art I should be pursuing.  This past week was one in which I found myself flipping from one idea to another, from working on templates for an exhibit piece to making clay beads and pendants.  Add to that a mix of ideas for something that will likely end up as a mixed media piece done on a fabric like burlap and intended to be hung somewhere and you might be able to understand why my mind is feeling like it is being jumbled about with an overload of images coming at me rather like laser beams or bolts of lightening causing me to move frantically about. 

This blaze of activity both physical and mental is very much welcome since I enjoy working with a diversity of  subject matter and art mediums.  The only problem is that right now, the exhibit piece needs to be front and foremost, the tentative drawings need to be translated into the finalized version and done on the specified paper with the exacting dimensions of 6 inches by 8 inches followed precisely.  I posted two of the unfinished samples in last Sunday's post.  At this time, I am thinking that both the tree and the bridge need to be part of the final version, but that I need to inject a little more of Japanese culture onto the sheet of paper.  How such a small piece of paper will allow me to put all my ideas onto it is beyond what I see in my mental sketchbook.  It is almost as if there is a film running in my head with fleeting images of Japanese culture, the day to day life and zen like scenes begging me to put them down on paper.  How can I possibly do justice to all these scenes?  Then my muse jumped into action and made me sit still and think about what it was that I felt should be shown.

The concept of the portrayal of a zen like moment came to me as being what I should be striving towards in my work.  Simplicity should be the key element of what I hoped to display.  To put everything that I saw in my mind down on a small sheet of paper would be wrong on so many levels.  Keeping the idea of creating a zen moment would mean that I needed to whittle away at all the "extras" that kept showing up in my sketches. I need to pick a key image and keep it simple, not overwhelm the paper with too many images.  I still plan to finish the two templates that I showed you.  But, I will keep them simple and true to what I hope to be simple, but elegant images.  I know what I need to do to get moving on what I hope to be the final sketch that will be put to paper.  But, will I know when I have captured enough of the spirit of a culture that I love so much without losing balance?  Keeping it simple is much easier said than done.  Knowing when too much is just that, too much, is difficult for me as I tend to want to put everything from my notes into play.  Restraint is something that I need to learn artistically as well as in other areas of my life.

With all this in mind, I will proceed with caution, but not lose my enthusiasm for the project.  All the extraneous material will not go to waste meaning that all the ideas that have come to me will translate into ideas to be put onto subsequent portrayals of Japanese life.  The piece that is sent off for the exhibition will be one of many pieces that will come to be a series.  With that in mind, I am thinking that I will make a special album to contain all my ideas and thoughts of zen moments in life.  I will share these with you as they come to be, but know that it will take a while to capture all those moments.  But, for now, the first piece has to be put to paper and the next few days will see me spend more hours in my studio than outside of it.  I will live and breathe art, but saying that, I know that I will more than likely take little breaks where I will spend some time on my obsession with jewelry and other odd art forms that I have not previously given serious thought.  The idea of wall hangings done on fabric is terribly tempting, but I will not start on such a piece until I have completed the exhibit piece and it has been wrapped and sent on its way.  At least that is the plan as of now.

I do have to show you the jewelry that made it from just a fleeting idea to actually being made in the past few days.  A few ideas for upper arm bracelets found me playing with paper which became the base for several pieces.  For some reason, I felt that a collection of three bracelets worn collectively could be fun to make.  A few single bracelets also were made, but again the idea of wearing them on the upper arm found me making them larger, having more impact than a delicate band might have.  I have put up some pictures for you to see and I would really appreciate your thoughts on these.  Would you wear this type of art?  Would you rather wear a collection of three or just a single band?  Realize that the bracelets have not been embellished with any stamping or wrapping of cording on them.  They are pure naked pieces which will remain that way until I decide what I want to put on them.  I realize that they still need to be refined quite a bit as they are very raw in their execution.  But, I will refine the process and see if I can make the bracelets into a nice line of jewelry for gifts.  At least that is my hope!  I have also put up pictures of a couple of pendants that were made in addition to the two necklaces and the bracelets.  Let me know what you think as I welcome all opinions both positive and negative and learn from them both.

Now, it is back to the exhibit piece!  For the next few days, I will spend a great many hours in the studio working on this and with a bit of luck, it will be in priority mail by Saturday.  I may not be a presence on Twitter, but know that I am thinking of all my friends over there.  Julie Anne (@JulieAnneRhodes) has her daughter visiting, Cate (@shardArtist) is working on a new mosaic, Elaine (@elainefrenett) is always working on something fun in her journals or in the classes that she teaches.  So many wonderful people to get to know and I hope you take the time to follow them and read what they post.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention a lovely artist, Liza (@LizasArt).  Liza does the most wonderful faerie art work and the resulting pictures are breath taking.  Take a wee break to follow the faeries and they will steal your heart just as they have stolen mine.

That is my week in a nutshell!  Once again, I have company for a few days and so, studio time will be stolen moments, likely far into the night.  Teresa and friends will be heading north in a few days to spend time with relatives in Scotland.  As much as I would love to join them, traveling is not something that I do easily.  So, I will spend my time in the studio, working flat out to complete my project and so I shall!

What special projects are you working on right now?  Will it be on display at a fair or competition of some sort?  Send in a comment and let us all know what you are up to these days.  We would all love to hear about it and maybe it might inspire some to try something new.

Here is to another productive week!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Japanese paper, jewelry, and firemen

Oh yes, it has been another day for Molly Cat and myself.  I set the alarm for 6 a.m., determined to be up and taking on the day as early as I felt possible.  Obviously, my muse decided otherwise or at least I am blaming her for the resulting chaos.  Somehow, I managed to turn off the alarm when it went, rolled over and promptly went back to sleep.  When I awoke somewhat later, confused and not knowing what time it was, I realized my folly and dove into action.  First order of the day was to get Molly her bowl of kibble, a saucer of treats and nice big bowl of cold water.  The next order of the day was to turn on the coffee pot so that it could heat up whilst I had a quick shower and dressed appropriately for a day in the studio.

Feeling somewhat annoyed at myself for wasting time, I got to the business of making art.  Paper out, acrylic medium ready and then I started chopping up toothpicks.  You must think that I have truly lost my senses and maybe I have, but the toothpicks were destined to become part of a bridge in my latest idea of something to try for my exhibition piece.  My line of thought is that if I do up enough pieces to see what can be done on such a small piece of paper, then I can pick elements from each partially completed piece and incorporate the elements into the final piece which has to be in its final destination by September 01.  I am committed to having this piece of art in priority mail no later than August 20, so I do still have a little time to play with ideas and see how the ideas transition themselves onto the etchu hagaki paper which is only 6" x 8".  Trying to put an idea onto such a small piece of paper is not as easy as one might think, or at least I find it difficult to reign in my ideas and put just one down on the final piece.  I keep thinking "what if this other idea turns out better and I can execute it better?"  I have to leave the "what if" and move on to "this is what I am doing."

At this point, my flurry of activity came to a grinding halt as their was a loud knock on the door that echoed through the flat.  This was not the knock of a neighbour wanting to borrow a cup of sugar, nor was it a tap to see if I wanted to join someone for tea.  This was the kind of knock that makes you immediately start to worry and portends of trouble somewhere in the building.  I got to the door and opened it to find a fireman in full gear with several of his co-workers all on the floor knocking on the various doors.  I have to admit, I was somewhat concerned and already thinking of how I would capture Molly Cat and get her into her travel cage and then make our way down the stairwell.  The fireman asked if I was cooking something, no I was not.  He asked if I could smell the smoke in the hallway, yes I could.  I was told to close my door and there was no need to evacuate as yet.  The other firemen seemed to have found that the smoke was coming from a certain unit and were pounding on that person's door.  There appeared to be no answer.  I opened my door to talk to the fireman that had been questioning me as one other said that they needed to find a key for the unit.  I volunteered that I had a key for the unit.  The occupant had been ill a few months earlier and had asked me to hold onto a spare key in the event that I needed to get in to help her.  Key in hand, the fireman unlocked the door to find something burning on the stove or in the oven, I am not sure which it turned out to be.  The occupant was home, but had dozed off forgetting that she was cooking.  Luckily, she was fine, the fire detectors had not been set off and it was another neighbour who had smelled smoke and had called for help.

So, a word to the wise - if you are cooking, it might be wise not to decide to get too comfortable and hence, fall asleep.  Not only do you ruin your dinner, you make a lot of your neighbours nervous.  As the fireman returned my set of keys to me, he said that the lady should be grateful that they had not had to kick her door open.  I quite agree!  Note to self, make extra sure when I am cooking to stay right around the kitchen in the event that something boils over or more water needs to be added to a  pot of rice.  I always set timers when I am cooking and carry the timer with me wherever I go in my flat.  I know how long it will take to roast a chicken, bake a cake or brownies.  I err on the side of caution and deduct a few minutes and check to see how my cooking project is doing.  Burning down the flat just would not be something I would want to consider and so I am cautious, very cautious.  It was nice to know that someone was on the alert and smelled the smoke and knew that it was not something to be ignored.  I will have to find out who that person was and thank them.  Evacuating the building with a cat in a traveling cage is not easily done for me and I am very grateful that it did not come to that today.

All week my thoughts have been jumping around from jewelry to paintings and then on to writing.  Somehow, I need to incorporate all these elements into one.  And, so was born an idea that I plan to execute which will satisfy all my needs into one very energy laden project.  All the partial art pieces, that have been made to give me an idea of how they would translate onto the specified paper, will be completed once the actual piece destined for the exhibition is complete and on its way.  These sample pieces will be part of a larger series, all with a Japanese theme and become part of a album of my works done using this theme.  No bought journal would be what I need for the completed pieces and so I will make my own album using wonderful Japanese paper with each 6" x 8" piece on its own page.  Hopefully, I will come up with a title for each completed piece which will be ever so carefully inscribed below the artwork.  I am hoping that I will come up with at least 12 to 15 pieces of artwork all using the Japanese theme.  A spot will be left for the exhibition piece in case it comes back to me.  Artwork sent in for this exhibition will be on display for a month or so.  Judges will pick a first and runner up to win a gift certificate.  Artists are able to set a price on their submission in the event that someone wants to purchase it.  That would be lovely, to actually have someone want a piece of my work badly enough that they would actually pay for it.  But, let us see how the piece progresses before I even think about such an airy thought.

I love texture in my work and I really want to work some texture into my submission.  I have two partial pieces to show you at this time.  To the right of this column, you will see two pieces which I have been working on.  I know that they look quite simplistic, but I was amazed at the length of time it took to execute each.  The first piece shows a mature tree in the far right hand corner.  I used various shades of embroidery floss to get the effect of bark on a tree.  I envision some leaves towards the top of the paper, perhaps a lovely geisha strolling along a pathway with her paper umbrella ready to unfurl.  There may be a butterfly or two in the sky with some flowers lining her pathway.  That is the joy of being the artist, I get to create the story and plan how best to depict it using various materials besides my paints.  I am not sure how the idea of embroidery floss came to me, but I feel that it worked out well when I was putting the tree together.  One simple little tree took almost 5 hours to put together, piece by piece of the coloured floss, side by side and then on top of each other in places to build up the texture.  The picture is a long ways from done, but I will get it done, along with all the others that I would like to see in the series.

The second piece of artwork shows a bridge with some trees in the background.  The trees are all done in acrylic paints at this point, but will be covered with embroidery floss Monday morning.  The bridge is made out of sticks with with one stirs their coffee as well as toothpicks.  There will be a pond added to the scene along with water lilies, their leaves and maybe a curious little koi fish poking his head through the water to see what the day might be like above the water.  This piece of artwork is far from complete, but I can see what I am imagining in my mind.  My muse is quite clear about the colours that I need to be using.  A few bright notes to catch the viewer's attention are required.  I am adamant that each picture have bright colours, that the pictures are bold, in your face and not tentatively asking you if you might like to see them.

I am hoping that people will be drawn to my show piece and ask if it might be one of a series.  The answer will be a resounding "yes" and maybe I will need to take pictures of each to send off to a prospective buyer.  These are all dreams at this point.  How cheeky of me to think that someone might be interested in a series of mixed media pieces all pertaining to Japanese life, but I still am hoping that people will be interested in what I have put down on paper and the different mediums used to bring life to trees, bridges, kimonos and all other things Japanese.  I have a little trick up my sleeve for one piece that may or may not turn out to be an element in the art submission.  I will have to see how it will turn out and if it is impressive enough that others might find it interesting.  I have a lot of work to do over the next 10 days and I suspect there may be some late nights.  But, I am up for the challenge!

Realistically, I just need the one piece for the art exhibit.  The other partial pieces, plus the ones still to be developed can be done over the next month or two.  I can work on other types of art in between each Japanese piece.  I am hoping to spend a lot more time making pendants for necklaces, bracelet, beads to be strung for necklaces.  I will be making cards, lots of them, for the holidays.  But, I also want to make up extra birthday cards, cards for new babies, some with get well wishes and a lot of cards that impart the idea that someone sent the card just because the sender was thinking of the recipient.  That is the best reason of all to send a card.  I am hoping that others, maybe those reading this post, might take up the challenge to send more handwritten notes to those they care about.  These days, we are more apt to send a quick e-mail to someone on their birthday or when they are feeling down.  I remember the days when I would go to my mailbox and find that someone had taken the time to write a note in a card and send it to me.  The feelings that came over me while opening the greeting are difficult to explain other than to say, I felt so happy, so very happy.  I would love to send a card to someone hoping that they might capture that feeling.  And so, that is why I make greeting cards.

This is the way the journey played out this week!   I hope you had a wonderful week and got to do something that you normally would not have the time to do.  Enjoy these last few weeks of summer.  Summer never lasts long enough and so it is up to each of us to make the most of these last few weeks.  A few more barbeques, time in the park to sit and read or maybe one more trip to savour a dripping ice cream cone.  You decide!

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

P.S.  Whilst rambling around the internet looking at some of my favourite sites and looking at some new places, I found a great e-zine.  Nuno Magazine is published digitally and has just put out their 4th edition.  Go to http://www.nunomagazine.com/ for a taste of what you find in each edition.  Nuno writes about craft work that you might want to take on with your children and other pieces that are strictly for the adults.  The craftwork uses repurposed supplies you might have on hand or might find on an evening stroll in your neighbourhood.  Have a look at the web site and see the sample craft for making a pendant and necklace.  You can subscribe to the magazine for a nominal cost, well worth it considering the ideas you will get for other crafts.  Digital magazines are the way of the future - trees are not cut down to make paper, you will not be looking to find where someone may have stashed the magazine since you just have to go to your computer, where you have downloaded the current issue.  Check into Nuno and I think you will be excited to see what they are all about!

By the way, Omiyage is a fantastic place to do some browsing and shopping as well.  I got my first shipment of goodies (stamps, origami paper, notebooks) and am dreaming of all their wonderful items.  Marisa writes a chatty blog which she updates frequently.  I do not know how she does it all!  She has such amazing information and reading her blog will take you on a tour of many wonderful items.  Check her out at http://omiyageblogs.blogspot.com/