Saturday, February 25, 2012

Paper Goods

Drop off for CAW's Creating Our History show is Tuesday, and I'm spending this weekend finishing up a couple of pieces. This one I just finished today...
Syrmaticus sapiens
Syrmaticus sapiens (detail)
Have you ever had a project where you sort of have an idea of what you want the thing to look like, but you have to make everything up as you go along? That's this piece.

I knew that I wanted to do a bust, but I wasn't sure of what. I went to the antique store to find unique bases on which to mount this piece and another piece that I wanted to make. I found a wooden cactus sculpture carved onto a thick tree cross-section. The cactus sculpture was very sturdy and the rough bark of the base was super-cool so after I listened to it for a bit, I think the sculpture asked me to make a bird-man out of it. I covered the cactus with a ton of newspaper and masking tape and formed a head shape, then I applied gobs of papier mache all over it while leaving the tree bark exposed. While the head was drying, I had a conversation with myself about what to make the facial features out of. I (we) decided to use Creative Paperclay Modeling Material. After the face pieces were dry and primed, I attached them with glue and nails to the primed head. After staining and detailing the piece I gave it some final avian touches by attaching pheasant wings and pheasant feather eyebrows.

I usually am a person who requires a great deal of predictability in Real Life, but for some weird reason, I seem to thirst for "the quest"' when it comes to art projects. I think the point where I went from mostly painting to mostly sculpture corresponds directly to the point where I gave up playing World of Warcraft. To some degree we all desire a challenge. Without such a thing, we grow stagnant and covered in algae.

Today may you accept The Quest (however that may apply to you)! Just be mindful of the Murlocks...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Can I Get a What-What?

The family that arts together...

So at the house we're trying this "thing" called "Art Club" on Wednesdays (a.k.a. "slow t.v. night"). For our inaugural night we worked with Amaco Claycrete Paper Mache clay. As a quasi "art educator", I shared with my family about how "this shit is WAY less expensive than Sculpey or Creative Paperclay" and how "when you mix it you need to turn the exhaust fan on unless you want to inhale a lung full of paper dust."

It was a productive night with an eclectic mix of show tunes and Blondie and some yummy hot chocolate. I created a stumpy, little superhero who when finished will be called Super Peen. Dave started with a promising homage to Mr. Magoo but scrapped it midway to make a companion piece to Super Peen. Nora played it safe with a custom wand and an item that she mumbled had something to do with a "role play". Nerd (just kidding). Alex started a super badass plague doctor mask. FUN!

Next week when everything is dry we'll paint our creations. I'll post pictures of the ones that get finished (maybe not Super Peen?). Even if you don't do something every week, consider grabbing some family members or some friends and planning an art night. There are tons of great resources out there for fun projects to make. Two of my favorites are Cut Out + Keep and Craftbits. You can find projects on those sites that have minimal supply costs, and if you're lucky you'll find some that use common items that you probably already have on-hand. Add music, beverages, chocolate...


Dave's Mr. Magoo inspired sculpture

Alex's plague doctor mask in progress

Nora posing with her wand

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Even if you're not a fan of the holiday, use this day as an excuse to eat something covered in chocolate!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hey, girl... Why so glum?

Heavy sigh...

So I've been working on three large pieces for an upcoming show. I finished one of the sculptures yesterday (not the little guy above - he just fit the theme of the post), and...


It's unworkable at this stage, so I'm going to have to live with the results. The finished piece that was in my head is NOT the one that now stares back at me. My "fine line" between artwork and craft project is apparently not quite so fine, and I feel like the creator of this piece might have worn a Christmas sweater and driven home from a quilt show in a minivan (not that there's anything really wrong with that if this describes someone that IS you or who is LIKE you).

I've made shitty artwork before and have been fine with it. The time, supplies, and emotional investment were low, so the outcome was somewhat irrelevant. But I had such high hopes for this piece, and it took a very long time and some rather expensive components. In summary, it's just a huge-ass bummer.

I know other artists go through this all of the time. It leaves us saying to ourselves "Why did I think I could make art anyway?" Or, "People won't like it, what's the point?" Here's a list of appropriate responses:
  • Don't scrap your project! Even though its very presence haunts you, the days after a project are finished are NOT the best times to self-critique its outcome. Even if you LIKE the results, when a piece is newly finished you are too emotionally tied to it to make an accurate judgement. Put the piece somewhere where you can't see it then go back periodically to visit. The saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." can actually apply in this situation as well.
  • Get some perspective from a trusted friend. Ideally, ask one person who does not consider themselves a fine artist and one person who does. A well-rounded perspective is best. You'll probably be surprised at their input which will undoubtedly be way less bleak than your viewpoint on the situation.
  • Embrace the process. In all seriousness, when people say this to me I usually want to punch them in the neck. But maybe after a day or two has passed, really look at what you've learned. You certainly have learned what NOT to do. In my case, I learned that I should NOT glue everything down and THEN stand back to see if I'm happy with the placement. I also learned to not spend HOURS trying to "shine a turd" only to ensure that the dark hole of post-piece depression will be that much deeper and darker.
  • Make art to make art. Another potential neck-punching statement, but really... We have to think about why we do what we do. Every artist wants positive feedback and to feel "warm fuzzies" from the admiration of others, but what if we were on a deserted island or the only survivor in a post-apocalypse situation? Assuming you've gotten all of your survival chores out of the way, you'd probably want to make stuff, right? I'm pretty sure that I would go crazy if I was not creating. I'm guessing you're in a similar boat. We create because we pretty much HAVE to. There's no rule that says it has to be appreciated. You're an artist. Just make art!
  • Let it go and move on. Whether or not you decide to "use" this piece, you've brought it to life. You can decide to murder and bury it or to let it be what it is and allow others to experience it. But after your brief, self-loathing period, MOVE THE EFF ON! There will be other stinky piles of crap to make and some shiny gems. You won't know if you give up.

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    The Best Valentine's Day Craft Ever!

    O.k., now THAT'S quite a boast!!! How about, The Best Valentine's Day Craft Ever For the Partner Who Has Everything!? Or maybe, The Best Valentine's Day Craft Ever for Your Friends Who are New Parents!? Well, that's just gross.

    My Bloody Valentine (and you should DEFINITELY be listening to the song Only Shallow while you make this!!!)

    • One discarded baby doll head (I bought a doll from a thrift store for $0.50 and used the arms and legs for another craft)
    • One heart plaque (you can also find something like this at most craft stores or even some dollar-type stores)
    • Saw-tooth picture hanger and little nails plus a hammer
    • X-ACTO knife and a pencil
    • Pink, white, black, and brown craft paints and paint supplies and paper towels
    • Two screws a bit longer than the thickness of your plaque plus a screwdriver or drill
    • Black and red colored pencils
    • Clear, matte varnish of some sort (or even some thinned-down, matte Mod Podge)
    • Lace (I used the edge off of an antique, stained handkerchief)
    • Red fancypants-type ribbon (I scored some cotton, antique stuff!)
    • E-6000 Industrial Strength Adhesive (this is the most badass shit!)
    Let's do this!:
    1. Let's just start this whole thing out by attaching the hanger to the back of the plaque. I often forget to do this until my crap is all finished, often making this a complicated endeavor. Just do it now.
    2. Write out whatever effed up thing you want to say to your loved one on the baby's forehead in pencil first, then carve over it with your X-ACTO knife. Get in there real good and deep (say "real good and deep" with a mountain-folk twang).
    3. Paint the baby head with several coats of white paint and the plaque with several coats of pink paint. Let that shit dry.
    4. Attach the baby head to the plaque by: A) Putting a dab of E-6000 on the back of the head where it meets the plaque and B) Screwing two screws through the back of the plaque into the back of the baby head. While I had the glue out, I also glued my doll's eyes open. 
    5. Stain the baby head and the plaque. Mix a small amount of black and brown paint. In small sections, paint on a bit of the mix then quickly wipe it off with a paper towel. If you accidentally apply too much, just get the paper towel a little wet and wipe off more.
    6. After the stain is dry, you can embellish the baby head with some colored pencil. You ESPECIALLY want to highlight the carved words in the forehead. With a supersharp red pencil, really get in the carved areas so that it looks all scabby in there. To make the baby look even more effed up, use red pencil around the eyes. Use the black colored pencil to add some shading around the carved areas and the eyes and anywhere else you think might be nice.
    7. Coat the whole thing with some varnish.
    8. Use E-6000 to attach ribbon around the outside of the heart and to attach lace around the neck hole of the baby.
    BAM!  Valentine's Day gift!

    I heart you!

    Check out these AMAZING babies that Danielle whipped up!!! And make sure to check out her Etsy store!
    Yay Danielle!
    This one she made into a bank!

    And this one was a gift for a friend.