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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It's "Hip 2 B Square": Oomphing Up a B&W Project with...GLITTER (yeah, baby)

Greetings, crafters and craftresses!

September 4th is the FINAL DAY over at the Lost Coast Portal to Creativity's challenge contest event "Hip 2 Be Square"...which means you gotta hurry and enter your own squarey art project to win prizes like gift certificates for a shopping spree at Lost Coast Designs (purveyors of the most deliciously quirky stamps out there)!

As a member of the Lost Coast Design Team, I have a featured project over at the Portal today: a glitter squares tile. Here it is...BEHOLD! (But, darlings, what makes this look so cool IRL doesn't photograph well. What would that X-factor be, you ask? Why, GLITTER! Opalescent light-refracting eye-catching GLITTRAGE. You know I love me some sparkle and shine...)

How did I get the glitter factor going on this tile of squares within a square? Why, dear reader...'twas glittered embossing powder.

I stamped the Bird Square from Carmen's Veranda in black ink on two pieces of white cardstock, then embossed the images with Black Sparkle EP...

...then cut out the white squares and mounted them on squares of black cardstock.

(Here's a closeup of the black embossing, showing a little of the glittering going on!)

Next, I stamped the nicely coordinating Calligraphy Square (also from Carmen's Veranda) (you may note that there are quite a few of these square tile stamps over there that harmonize nicely together) in white ink onto two pieces of black cardstock. I covered the ink with a homemade mixture of opaque white and clear glitter EPs, and melted it with my trusty heat tool. Then I cut out the black squares and mounted them on squares of white cardstock.

Here's how the white looks all a-glitter:

I then mounted all four glittery squares onto a larger square of black board, and topped it off with a square faceted black rhinestone. You know, for shine and all.

Easy-peasy, but with a little sparkle to make it speshul.

You see that comment box below right there? It's for you! (It's much more fun when I have you to talk to.)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Medieval(ish) Stamp Art: "Le Lièvre" (The Hare)

Greetings darlings! Today I have some art featured over at the Lost Coasters' Review blog as a little designer's inspiration for their "Hip 2 B Square" project challenge. (Share some of your art and be entered to win a gift certificate at Lost Coast Designs' stamp store! Click here for details!) 

I thought I would tell you a little more about the thinking behind my featured piece--"Le Lièvre" (The Hare)--and how it was made...

For the "square" theme, I chose this Rabbit Square stamp  from Carmen's Veranda:

Although I assume from the "cracks" indicated by the artist indicated that this image is supposed to represent a tile, its "feel" put me in mind of something from a medieval tapestry, perhaps along the lines of the famous series of The Lady and the Unicorn:

...and at first I thought I might try to suggest a tapestry in my project. But the image ALSO reminded me of an initial from a medieval manuscript...something like this one from Orleans MS 9 at the British Library:

So upon further reflection, it seemed to me that it would be easier as well as more natural to suggest a manuscript than a tapestry, since mine would be a paper project after all.

To give the proper "medieval initial" gestalt, I needed GOLD. (You may have noticed by now that I rarely pass up the opportunity for a little metallic shine.) So I stamped the Rabbit Square on heavy ivory watercolor paper, and embossed the crap out of it with liquid gold. (Yeah, baby!!)

I then set about laboriously painting the image with water-soluble oil pastels in shades of green, blue, and gray, keeping the bunny buff-brown and "white." I didn't want the color to look flat and even, but to have a bit of watercolor effect to lend some life to the otherwise static composition. 

Next I wanted a border. In keeping with the medieval theme, Lost Coast Designs has the most awesome, ravishing Antique Text Border stamp that HAD to go on this project. I just love it. You'll probably be seeing me use it every chance I get!

Isn't that gorgeous and amazing? The letters definitely looked very tapestry-like and more woven (rather than written) to me (shades of The Bayeux Tapestry?), but it was super-atmospheric, and it was going on my project!

So I stamped the border on a scrap piece of the watercolor paper (instead of stamping directly around the painted image) because I wanted to miter the corners instead of having them overlap. I embossed the text border with MOAR SHINY GOLD before painting with the oil pastels, then cut it out and mitered the corners around the center image.

The finished result looked like this:
BUT because the gold isn't really shiny enough for my liking in the photo above, here's another where you can really see it catch the light. AHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh...

Aren't these cool stamps? I am such a history nerd that I found these quite exciting.  :)  And there you have my finished project: "Le Lièvre" (or The Hare--but wanted to keep that French medieval vibe, you know!)  ;)

And hey--there's still time to join in on the Hip 2 B Square challenge--it runs through September 4! Enter your square-themed projects for one or more chances to win a prize. (The rules are on the Lost Coast Portal To Creativity blog.) Join in the fun!

Talk to me by leaving a comment below! I love chatting with you guys. Would love to hear what you think of these historical images.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Vintage Perfume ATC, or, Photostamp Sale at The Stampsmith's Etsy Shop! :(

Greetings Stampy Ones!

I have recently learned that the zesty, talented, creative, beautiful-inside-and-out Estelle of The (famed) Stampsmith has shut down her website and is liquidating her stock of remarkable rubber stamps on Etsy!!!!!

[gently weeps]

Yeah, it's the end of a stamping era.

In tribute to the legacy of the great Stampsmith, renowned for its "photostamp" images--stamps so finely made that the stamped prints can be indistinguishable from photographs--I wanted to share with you some art that I have made, to hopefully inspire you to

run don't walk!!!

...over to The Stampsmith's Etsy store to snap up some of these iconic images before they are gone forever.  :(

Here is an ATC inspired by vintage perfume ads, featuring The Stampsmith's Classic Couple stamp (currently still available as of this writing!):

Yeah, that's a rubber stamp. #NotAPhoto

Cool, huh?

I made this card in tones of gray and silver, using shades of metallic purple watercolor for extra shimmery oomph on the flowers and brand name. I collaged on a bit of silver foil-lace and added a border of liquid silver embossing powder for more texture and shine.

The metallic effects don't always photograph well, so here's another shot of the card in different lighting. Here you can even see the shimmer in the purple:

Anyway, if you love vintage images...and/or rubber stamps...and/or cool stuff in general, do visit The Stampsmith in its final weeks. I don't know of anyplace else you can get stamps quite like these. ;-(
P.S. As always, I welcome your comments below. Have you used photostamps before?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Words and Music: Deciding How to Work with Someone Else's Captions

One of my favorite kinds of projects to do are collaborative artist trading cards--or ATC jams (where typically one person makes a background, sends it on to a second person who adds a focal point, who in turn sends the card on to a third person for final touches). These collaborations can move to some really unexpected (and quite wonderful) places as each artist brings her own individuality and eye to bear on the composition.

One of the challenges that I particularly enjoy is how to work WITH the elements left for me by the artists who have gone before me in the piece. For me, a successful collaboration means honoring what the other artists have done by attempting to preserve its integrity while adding to the whole with my own vision. I don't consider it a success when one artist negates what another has done by, for example, covering up previous contributions ("covering up" in the sense of obliterating or rendering invisible, not layering upon). How to both show and build upon what the others have already contributed? This is the challenge, and for me, the delight: art as a puzzle to solve.

"a successful collaboration
 what the other artists have done"

A recent ATC jam that I worked on presented a fun challenge: it came to me already captioned with not only words but bits of sheet music. (Some of you may know that I am a musician as well as a visual artist. Fragments of music as used in collage thus always carry an extra layer of meaning for me, as I can hear in my head the tune that is shown as well as usually discern the type of music it is and the time period it comes from--such as a Romantic-era piano piece, or a fragment from a church hymnal, or a bit of a jazz lead sheet. Consciously or unconsciously, these musical bits color my perceptions of the rest of the piece. Ideally, they harmonize! LOL)

But back to the jam at hand. The first layer as created by Marie was a richly colored gel print in a geometric honeycomb pattern overlaid with deep amber swirls:

It had nice texture and depth to work with--two qualities that always make the finished product more interesting!

Layer Two was added by Charlotte. She distressed some sheet music fragments and added some little raised tiles with text on them, both of which introduced the color black into the palette. She left plenty of room for the third artist--me--to interpret her and Marie's contributions and finish the set of cards.

What was interesting to me about what Charlotte did was that all three of her sheet music fragments and all three of her captions were different from card to card. 

On the first card, she specifically seemed to link the music and the text, with the words "Life is" from the first and "independence" to the latter. This strengthened my natural inclination to "hear" the music fragment as melody to the accompanying texts. (Since the key signature is visible, I felt pretty sure the next note would have been an F# for the syllable "in-"...and wondered how the rest of the word "independence" might be set to the music!) With D major being a pretty upbeat, happy, and even brash key, and with Marie's color scheme suggesting Independence Day, I started to think along patriotic lines in contemplating what I might add.

But did I want to pursue the line of combining music plus text? When I looked at the other two cards, I tried to think of a contribution from me that would be fairly unified across the set and that would also honor the work of Charlotte and Marie.

"This is the challenge, 
and for me, the delight: 
art as a puzzle to solve."

The card reading "explore, dream, discover" to me seemed to have a softer sentiment than the other two cards, owing to the word "dream" (thus making me think that perhaps the music fragment from the last card, in A-flat and with its rhythmic swaying between two notes, might have gone better with this particular text...and that the 4/4 G-major frag, which could conceivably be a march, might have gone better with "so the adventure begins"...). But if I disregarded the word "dream," the sentiments of "explore" and "discover" were still pretty bold... How did these words fit with the patriotic feel I was getting from the first card? And what could I do? Maybe find vintage illustrations, perhaps from the Colonial period, that might reflect these ideas?

I rather quickly discarded that idea as being too literal. Furthermore, I felt that Charlotte's contribution, differing as it did from card to card, introduced enough variation to the set; I started to think that I wanted my contribution to be approximately the same across the three cards, and to let the variety in Charlotte's words set the frame of how the viewer would see my contribution, with Marie's background playing the foundational role.

I also realized about this time that the great majority of viewers of these cards might not read music at all, or if they did, might not think to try to link what the music was actually saying to what the texts also said. So I decided to treat the music as largely a merely visually decorative element at this point as I further pondered my contribution.

I did like the vintage illustration idea, but I decided I wanted something quirky and perhaps downright odd. I struck upon this illustration of a maiden leading a moose by a ring through its nose as being wonderfully weird:

AND...when I tried this picture on with each of Charlotte's captions, some new meanings seemed to emerge in regards to what the illustration now seemed to say under each of the sentiments. "Independence" now seemed ironic, since the creature was literally being led by the nose by the maiden. "Explore, dream, discover"--perhaps the maiden was about to be in for the exploration and discovery of her life! (Just how genteel could this besuited moose really be?) "And so the adventure begins" also seemed ironic and perhaps dire; was this to be an adventure for the moose, or for the maiden? Where is she leading him? To the slaughter?

"These slightly uncomfortable
and ambiguous juxtapositions
pleased me greatly." 

YES. These slightly uncomfortable and ambiguous juxtapositions pleased me greatly. I found them thought-provoking and darkly humorous and a little bit weird, which are pretty much my three favorite qualities in a piece of art. I knew in a flash that I had found my contribution. Now to finish the cards!

I manipulated the original illustration in Photoshop to adjust the color cast so that it would be more harmonious with Marie's color scheme. Once it was affixed to each card, I made the colors even more brilliant by adding some creamy colored pencil to embolden the figures and keep them from being dominated by the rich and busy background.

My figures needed a bit of a ground to appear against, which would also help reduce the impact of the background, so I chose some translucent washi tape in a vintage music print that would echo Charlotte's music fragments. (All this music seemed to lend a fairy-tale or pastoral quality to the whole as well, like some sort of Sondheim-esque "Hello Little Girl" vignette.) This washi also repeated the black that she had introduced to the palette; to play up the black and frame the composition, I edged the cards in soft chalk ink, then added an enamel-like border of melted embossing powder.

And voila! My work here was done.