Monday, August 31, 2009

Alone in the Dark with ART

Rick St. Dennis
Assemblage CS4 Digital copyright 2009

Okey Dokey then…I have a question?

WHAT is going on in design? I seem to be thrashing about in a sea of “WTF?” without any sense of whether or not I am swimming upstream to spawn great new ideas or if I am slowly drowning in the weight of my own misconceptions…someone throw me a life preserver…

Vampires, I think its vampires…we did pirates to death didn’t we and that’s…ahhhh, OVER, right?

Anyone want to vote in here? It could be a charitable act as I think I am starting to panic…

I seem to need a new direction from grunge, I’m tired of borders full of curly ques and vegetation…there are suddenly page after page of free Photoshop brushes on DEVIANT that want my designs to include sutures or vampire bites…BATS even...

I almost feel as if I need to pass amongst the teeming masses and read their tattoos carefully, perhaps pass out anonymous poll sheets entitled “Whither Design in Latter 2009?”

I’m sure I see a trend: NURSES and VAMPIRES!

No one seems to have made the Vampire Nurse an icon yet but it could be coming…

Harry Potter? Over, right? The kid actors are now somewhat bizarre adults and are becoming irrelevant…Kathy Griffen has finally gone too far even for me…and I thought it was impossible to offend me…but am I actually offended or just weary of it all.

I obtained a couple delicious reissues of Noel Coward and Bea Lily recordings…delicious…that sense of re-meeting old friends for a chic cocktail in someplace smoky and divine.

What is my boggle I ask myself?

I am firmly clinging to the concept that I can’t let my midlife crisis drag me into such a state where I end up institutionalized, drooling and either staring vacantly into space, frustrated and empty OR WORSE bouncing off the walls while trying to avoid that huge orderly and his needle filled with “I don’t care”, poised to slam me full of complacency without having my permission slip on file.

Maybe it’s just too late…

I don’t understand how someone can kidnap an 11 year old girl, imprison and impregnate same for decades and when caught plead NOT GUILTY? Is there anyone who can sort that one out for me?

WHY are we not boiling tar and plucking chickens…it can’t be civilization…in a world where drive by shootings make vegetables out of 4 year old children and we allow it-we are FAR from civilized!

I guess I just need to GOOGLE “ART and DESIGN in 2009”…actually I did Google “ART AND DESIGN in 2009 and found the winning blog which I think may be GERMAN and featured abstract photography of women as icons dressed in rye bread and plastic cutlery?

Am I just OLD?

I look at fashion and I don’t get it.

They give high points for looking as if you are swathed in old bed sheets or for sporting a one shouldered green sequin sack so long as worn with the obligatory Jimmy Chou strappy sandals HOWEVER you need to be sure your stylist has the hair and makeup design together because the Vampire makeup cannot go with the NURSE JACKIE hair-it is an abomination and gets one a failing grade on OMG (Jimmy Chou be damned!).

Guidance, I need guidance…

Men may channel the spirit of Bond Street or Wall Street but in any moment of weakness for heaven’s sake stay off the Yellow Brick Road…that being said the gents seem to have less worries about hair and makeup (unless you are Marilyn Manson).

OH, whatever you do make sure your hair extensions aren't tacky and lip plumping is least we can relax about THAT one.

I go on record here, I have done the 60’s at least twice-the original voyage was new if a bit tacky but acid rock and a black light made it palatable (all drugs to one side),the 2nd time it was quaint. retro and as sugar coated as a Krispy Kreme.

We seem to love retro chic (as if we had never before seen lime, hot pink and orange all in one outfit or website or living room-bong optional- ever before in time).

I can’t go through shag carpet again…I just cannot…and yet there’s an asymmetrical auto out there with a circle of shag in the dashboard optional…you can order a car where the interior lighting can be designed as to style and colour and changed on a whim…how far can we be from total anarchy?

There’s a glitch in the Matrix, a ripple in the force or a bad moon rising and what’s all this 2012 Niburu, end of the world BS? WHY does no one seem to hear the voices of sanity that keep trying to soothe our panic by assuring us that the Mayans were on a recycle kick with their calendar and didn’t then nor now intend to panic the populace? No one seems to be listening.

We could be on the verge of doing Egyptian again-it has been a respectable distance between King Tutisms…but it’s too soon for more GOTH, doesn’t anyone see that?

Anne Rice made Vampires (or is it Vampyrs) beautiful…Nosferatu and Dracula OUT long live Lestat!

Except immortality aside Lestat is also OUT and TWIGHLIGHT is in…in a world as tenuous as ours the Tweeners have eschued Captain Jack for the pasty world of the living dead…beautiful forever…didn’t we do that in DEATH BECOMES HER?

I guess we have exhausted Jane Austen as well…nothing new from that camp of late.

The religious conspiracy thriller seems alive and well but it doesn’t do much for art and design=I mean, face it, Tom Hanks in bad hair does not a fashion trend spawn and the closest thing to a colour trend inherent is TOM BROWN.

Sorry, I had to go there.

I don’t know what any of this means but I woke up in the pre-5 AM darkness, panicky about the state of art in the end times and without a clear trend to latch onto…even PENGUINS are on the wane.

Maybe it’s time to scrutinize Disney again, African American princess kisses toad and SHE turns into frog…cynicism, we have attained the cynical society…Nurse Jackie certainly has a strong dose of cynic running through it with a lacing of sarcasm and contrite bitterness and a little hint of ennui…

The sun is rising time to shut the coffin lid on this conundrum for today.

Wither ART and DESIGN in 2010?…For me it will have an edge and contain iconic imagery with richer colours, Vampires maybe, Nurses…not so much.

No FROGS neither!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Payne's Gray

Payne’s Gray is a perfectly wonderful colour.

If you have ever visited one of those seaside art galleries hung with watercolours of stormy days over local landmarks you have almost surely seen Payne’s Grey as it is almost prescribed for the execution of storm clouds and troubled seas.

It is best used as a watercolour or oil wash.

When attempted in acrylic or gouache it becomes heavy and cloddish losing all its glorious subtlety when applied with opacity.

I had a wonderful art teacher early in my life-I don’t even know how it happened actually.

My Mother, as I have mentioned in other posts, was an artist and designer, she attended the Ringling Art Institute in Sarasota, Florida and wanted to be a fashion or costume designer.

The 2nd World War squelched her plans and she became a nurse, then a wife then a mother then a widow…she married my Stepdad and had my sister but she was always creative and encouraged both of us to express ourselves artistically as well.

She liked to spring surprises on us and one day she announced we would be going for watercolour lessons in Whittier.

I have no idea to this day how she met Rachel Ulrey or knew about her but off we went and the relationship lasted for the next 20 years or so.

Had she been a different kind of person Rachel would have been a noted, famous artist.

Her work was ethereal, hugely affected by Japanese and Chinese schools of watercolour technique, soft and almost mystical.

She had made a name for herself locally and taught from her apartment which was more studio than home.

Having known her for so many years, I knew little about her.

She had a sister and she shared the duplex on Greenleaf with her father,
Her Mother had passed and must have been a huge influence in their family as it seemed the void where she had been never healed.

I remember her Father coming in one day during our art lesson and insisting that Rachel come and look at the way the sunlight through lace curtains was hitting her mother’s picture in his living room-she didn’t question him, she excused herself and went.

Subtleties, the play of light and shadow, warm and cool colours, Payne’s Gray and Alizarin Crimson are just a few of the things that I learned about from Rachel Ulrey.

She taught me to start slowly and build up transparent washes adding the barest hints of this or than colour as they reflected from other surfaces, painting an apple could be several weeks of work and she often would let me use a sheet from one of her expensive watercolour blocks instead of my student grade watercolour paper.

Several times my Mother packed a picnic and we went off to paint outside from nature.
On those magical days she would paint her own composition and worried less about teaching.

While I filled my pages with youthful exuberant splashes of orange and purple she carefully, almost reverently applied her principals of form, colour and texture and slowly from a blank white page a dreamy vision of the world before her would emerge.

We attended lessons off and on through the years depending on finances at home and how our school work and other activities affected our schedules.

Rachel would occasionally travel or go off on some retreat or another; some of them artistic, some spiritual, some both.

When I went to college it happened that Mrs. Ulrey was teaching at the college I attended so I was able to take her class and she continued to teach me now more and more in language that was more comfortable to her halting, shy, almost stilted manner…as I became an adult she found it easier to allow me into her world but at the same time I was threatening to her as I became a man.

Somewhere in her life she had been badly hurt, deeply damaged and the damage rendered her incapable of feeling anything more than a friendship at arm’s length from any man.

I learned too that she had a wonderful dry sense of humor that could snap out like a bullwhip leaving you feeling as if you didn’t understand whether or not you were expected to laugh despite the fact that you seriously found whatever she had quipped enormously funny.

You shared a joke with her in a quiet, subtle way, both parties cognoscente that humor can be shared without laughing just the restrained twinkle of an eye and slight upturn of a lip was enough to know that the joke had been shared.

It was the intellectual version of a belly laugh.

The last time I saw Rachel Ulrey was somewhere in my thirties, I had invited her for Christmas and she came with a suitcase to stay several days at my Mother’s home in Burbank.

We drove to Whittier and picked her up and later took her home to a tiny place she had taken after her father died and when finances had become tough; young ladies and gentlemen no longer came to her apartment for watercolour lessons this was the age of soccer games and ballet classes.

I remember she enjoyed her visit and it was almost as if she were in a foreign country which in many ways it was for her, our family of jokers and holiday revelers must have been very foreign to her indeed, she who dwelled in the quiet safety of the rarified aire she surrounded herself with.

We sat, she and I, on that Christmas day in my Sister’s country Kitchen bedecked with ducks and blue gingham, devoid of subtleties or anything vaguely oriental and we talked, we talked for a long time as peers for I was a successful artist and was know from my work being used for needlework kits and other products, being “licensed” was a concept she could not quite assimilate.

As I waxed on about my career and my various triumphs I never thought how my sharing my success with her might affect her, I actually spent some amount of time talking to her about her contributions and influences on my work.

She watched me intently in her teacherly way and with all her restraint at the end of my discourse she smiled, thanked me and then said “I don’t know what to say to you.”

I remember being just a little taken aback by that, worried almost, but the day went on and it was forgotten in all that it takes to stuff Christmas into a single day.

We didn’t hear from or about Rachel for a long while after we took her back to her home after the Holidays.

I actually became concerned.

We had received a note of Thanks written in her tight matronly formal script on one of the watercolour art cards she used for such things. It mentioned that she was traveling north to the Gold Country to spend some time with her sister.

Later we got another card that said she was well, shared a few anecdotes of her stay…nothing more.

She had stopped painting in the last few years, she felt she had said in her work all she had to say about her current state of SEEING and she needed a new slant and a new direction to go back to painting again.

That’s what she told people anyway.

Rachel Ulrey died peacefully at her sister’s home of the terminal cancer that had been eating her liver that Christmas day some months before when she didn’t know what to say to me.

I understood then that what she didn’t know how to say was GOOD BYE or even farewell in the circumstances in which she found herself surrounded by family which was not her own and friends whose relationship to her would not allow the intimacy of such a deep and painful revelation in the midst of a celebration.

I didn’t mourn her, it would have been insulting to her, she didn’t want to be the victim of a fatal disease or the center of messy, tearful expressions of parting.

She died as she lived, cool elegant and restrained, somewhat detached from the rest of the world in a room where the light of the sun fell through lace curtains on the picture of her Mother and Father on the bedside table, where the frames were a softly patinaed sienna and the shadows a perfectly executed wash of Payne’s Gray.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


WHY do we ART?

Creative people, people with a passion to make things, use colour and texture, put down their ideas, cannot do otherwise.

We are driven.

I can’t imagine a day when I didn’t do something that involved my creativity; it’s not even a consideration.

Left with an empty moment I will doodle or my mind will wash the world with colours. I never walk into a new office or home without seeing the art, the arrangement of things; my mind critiques it and learns.

I think sometimes it must be tedious to be around someone who constantly is SEEING and storing information, scanning their surroundings for new material, never at rest completely.

I get frustrated when people don’t take the fall of a shadow or the play of a reflection on water as seriously as I do.

That’s a bit silly, people don’t have to see what I see that would be part of the mission of my artwork, to share my vision, translate what I see into a new way of seeing for others.

I know I don’t see as others do why should I expect them to share my vision without the filter of my artwork?

Artists must be true to their vision-somehow, someway…I know that there are considerations of making money if you are committed to ART as a way of making a living.

Way back in my formative years my Mother told me to never paint bowls of fruit or clowns, they diminished one as an artist.

Possibly, HOWEVER I made a great deal of money painting and drawing clowns of various kinds.

I didn’t compromise. I made each clown a lesson in composition, style, colour and form whatever the subject one can learn from doing what they do.

Now, what if you do this just for fun, because you love to ART?

No difference…

Art is ART is ART…

Do the best you can do, be true to your vision, ART with all the passion you can muster and then let it go and move on to the next thing.

Later in my career selling flat art I was a little embarrassed by my early pieces until a collector told me she actually (in some ways) preferred my “More naive” work to the style I had evolved into.

I was annoyed at the time but looking back she was right, ART is about evolution and I HAD become a little slick and too sure of myself,

I often take classes where there are diminished expectations or in an area where I have little experience (I must find a sculpture class-I need to make a note).

The reason I take these classes is for my own enrichment and to simplify, to go back to an earlier stage and “reset” some of the hard drive we call a brain, to SEE differently.

It’s therapeutic.

I took such a class some years back because the teacher had an interesting approach to colour.

One lady in the class painted the same subject over and over and over until it was anxiety making; two trees one on either side of a house with a circular driveway in front-childlike, simple…sometimes she did the picture in realistic colours, sometime surreal, sometimes in monotones, but they were otherwise almost identical,

I decided at some point she was a harmless crazy, there are many such people who find their way to art, harmless, sweet and totally bonkers…they ART because it’s therapeutic and because they get attention that is otherwise denied them (unless they act out).

ANYWAY this lady with her trees, house and driveway pictures took a shine to me and would chatter away while we painted about nothing in particular.

She often looked at what I was doing and you could see in her face that there was a total lack of comprehension as far as MY vision versus her world of simple shapes and colours, often repeated.

There came a day when a juried show was held at the local art association-I had submitted my allowed 3 pieces and got 2 of the three back (I was so annoyed, my “MASTERPIECE”-rejected, what morons!).

Attending the first day of such a show is always nerve making as the awards are up and you don’t know exactly where you piece will be in the show---you find yourself scanning not for your own work by for blue ribbons-what won? If it’s too different from what I do will I have a chance in hell of getting any award?

I came upon a stunning, large FRUITBOWL painting, Lemons in a blue and white bowl against draped brocade, some flowers involved, lovely cool and calming.

It had won best of show.

I looked at it for a long time, the subtle shading, the way the composition was deceptively simple and how the viewer’s eye was carefully led about the canvas to always return to the lemons.

The title of the painting was “Remembering Yellow”.

WOW, even the title has class.

My little gouache of a theatre stage door, wonderfully whimsical, carefully thought out and framed was totally overlooked and hung in a dim corner somewhere near the rear of the show.

I understood next to the more finished things on display my attempt had been feeble and I would need to learn from that in order to do better the next time.

The top division winners and the best in show pieces are always purchase awards.
The artworks are auctioned at the close of the show and the Association and the artist split the proceeds.

The opening bids for the particular pieces are set by their creators and usually were within the parameters one would expect for “amateur” art.

When the FRUITBOWL came up there was a hush over the room and an excited murmur when it was announced that the opening bid was ONE DOLLAR.

CLASSY…classy all the way…

The bidding was fast and furious and the price kept soaring, finally to record heights for this little local show.

A well known businessman paid well over three thousand dollars for the painting and said he had a bargain in the deal.

I picked up my little picture and as I was glumly wandering out towards the parking lot I encountered the lady from my art class coming towards me.

“They’re pulling it all down.” I told her, hoping to save her a trip.
She just smiled and continued on her way.

It wasn’t till the local paper came out and the picture of her, her painting and the man who paid all that money for it appeared on the front page that I connected that the harmless crazy lady was also an incredible artist.

I never got to find out the whys and wherefores of this lady and her art.

The next class I was expecting to give her a bad time about not letting us know how fine an artist she was but unexpectedly she went missing and none of us ever saw her again (in person at least).

We kidded that she had taken her money and ran off to Paris and we buzzed about how surprised we all were and how we had been duped…a mixture of admiration, awe and very tart grapes.

A couple years later she surfaced again when she won a bigger show and made the L a Times Art section.

I found out that this pattern of taking classes and producing her simple “House” pictures was her way of going unnoticed; she was well known in some circles but completely anonymous in others.

Thinking back I had a moment of epiphany when I remembered that one day when she had been chattering away next to me and had looked at my painting her house and trees picture had reflected exactly the same complex colour study that I was working on.

I understood then that in her way she was doing very much the same thing that I do-she traveled around and in simpler climes reset her hard drive, her paintings were her notes, her way of remembering all of that which she had learned along her journey.

In retrospect it is humbling to think that even a successful and accomplished artist needed the reassurance and quiet of being surrounded by other artists and passing without being the constant center of attention or source of information toward the improvement of others.

She simply needed to ART amongst others who ART.

If we had known who she was and what level of appreciation she had achieved in the art world we would all have been intimidated by her, she would have had celebrity.

BUT…she simply needed to ART…she didn’t want nor did she invite or need the rest.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Strong sentiments

Michael Finestein sings this haunting song on his album ISN'T IT ROMANTIC?

I think anyone who is or has been in Love can relate to the sentiments:

Where do you start
How do you separate the present from the past
How do you deal with all the thing you thought would last
That didn't last
With bits of memories scattered here and there
I look around and don't know where to start
Which books are yours
Which tapes and dreams belong to you and which are mine
Our lives are tangled like the branches of a vine
That intertwine
So many habits that we'll have to break
And yesterdays we'll have to take apart
One day there'll be a song or something in the air again
To catch me by surprise and you'll be there again
a moment in what might have been
Where do you start
Do you allow yourself a little time to cry
Or do you close your eyes and kiss it all goodbye
I guess you try
And though I don't know where and don't know when I'll find myself in love again
I promise there will always be
A little place no one will see
A tiny part within my heart
That stays in love With you

Thursday, August 27, 2009


It was way too hot today – like 100 at the beach – that is the definition of obscenity…I live at the beach so I don’t have to deal with nasty, sticky, miserable hot weather like the kind I put up with for 30 odd years living in the San Fernando Valley….YUCK!!!

It’s so easy to get warm and so hard to get COOL – if gas weren’t so expensive I would drive around just for the AC.

We aren’t insulated for heat here at the beach and I have no AC in the unit-so I have to rely on window fans-so far so good for sleeping although tonight feels like it may never cool off…

I found a quote online that says, “HOW can it be HOT as Hell one day and COLD as Hell another?”
I love that-it’s so true…our word usage is just way too far over the top sometimes.

I actually sit and dwell on these things, like being an INVALID…
In Valid…
You are sick so you have no validity but then you can RE COVER…
I thought the only thing one could recover was upholstered furniture? Strange!
WHY are cough, rough, bough and through (and trough) all spelled alike but pronounced differently?
Who thought up the spelling for PHLEGM?
New/ Knew/ Gnu…Fairy, Ferry, Faerie…Would, wood?

We have the nerve to wonder why English is just not adopted as a universal language and embraced with open arms by all.
In Spanish you have that little wiggly line over certain letter called a TILDA, In French they have a cedilla and Germans an Umlaut…those little double dots…they all tell you HOW to pronounce the word.
We have borrowed an occasional accent mark---stupid…

I was once a wiz (as in wizard) when it came to diagramming sentences, remember that? I don’t think they teach it any more, too bad; it was like a game to me!

Did you know you shouldn’t say you were JIPPED by anyone-it’s a derivation of GYPSY and therefore a racial slur?
Madonna got booed in Romania for defending the rights of the ROMAS for which the country is named.
The ROMAS are also known as Gypsies.
Why did they name the country after an ethnic subculture that is pretty much hated country wide?
I am sick of people talking about RACIAL DIVISION – there is only one race of HUMANS – you think there is division amongst cows because they come if various colours, shapes and sizes? PUHLEEZE…
While I’m at it get over the Homophobia as well…

Time to stop hating…haven’t you had enough? I know I have…

Hot weather brings out the worst in me, it really does…I don’t understand people who LOVE the heat...
I refer to them as Raisins.

Those would be people who love to lay in the sun inviting carcinoma until they are wrinkly, brown and desiccated…like Raisins.

Now watch I will have offended someone from a Raisin’s rights organization and I will be in trouble again.
If you can marry CHOCOLATE and PEANUT BUTTER and that doesn’t threaten the family unit why are people not allowed to marry who they choose? Gender be damned…
I wish stuff like this didn’t bother me so much.
I am currently trying not to use BUT or HATE so much…
I am told that BUT negates everything that came before it in a sentence and HATE is too strong an emotion to apply to inconsequential things.
(I HATE your outfit BUT I LOVE you freedom of style)
(I LOVE you BUT you make me HATE you sometimes!)

(I would BUT I can’t.)
OK the last one (terrifyingly) makes sense to me.
My hand is sweaty, it smudges my pencil lines, my paint dries too fast, HOT is not for Artists BUT I am coping.
I will be glad when it’s cool again no BUTS about it-I Hate the heat…

End of RANT
GEEZ! (You know that’s derived from JESUS-not good BUT I use it anyway Jesus probably didn't like the heat either).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Preparing Bristol Board for Artist Trading Cards

I am a huge fan of Strathmore vellum Bristol board.

I have tried other brands, imported stock and also the plate (or smooth) finish and I always quickly go back to my old friend Strathmore.

Bristol board while not as heavy as illustration board is very similar to the paper used for the covers of paperback books and if properly prepared may be the perfect surface for ATCs (Artist Trading Cards).

Artist Trading Cards (or ATCs) are miniature works of art the same size as a traditional baseball card and small enough to fit inside standard card-collector pockets, sleeves or sheets The ATC movement has its origins in Switzerland . Cards are produced in various media, including dry media (pencils, pens, markers, etc), wet media (watercolor, acrylic paints, etc), paper media (in the form of collage, paper cuts, found objects, etc). The cards are usually traded or exchanged rather than sold.

Bristol has the major plus of having both a front and a back surface suitable for use (as opposed to illustration board which only has one.

Bristol is also very easy to cut and comes either in sheets or padded in a wide variety of sizes.

If brand is not an issue your local instant printer and sometimes big box office supply stores have COVER STOCK in reams which is actually Bristol board. This is by far the least expensive way to obtain this paper.

Since ATCs are 2 ½ by 3 ½ inches you can get 9 cards out of one sheet of 8 ½ x 11 cover stock.

Here is how I prepare the paper for use:

Gesso one side of several sheets of paper using a 1 inch white nylon wash glaze brush. Make sure your strokes are even and the paper is covered thoroughly and smoothly.

Allow the sheets to rest and dry on a dry flat surface in a dust free area for about 30 minutes.

Remember paper may feel dry on the surface but can still be damp in its inner fibers.

Flip the sheets and gesso the backs in the same manner.

Repeat this process until each sheet has 3 thin, even coats of gesso on each side. Allow them to rest overnight laying flat.

On day 2 use a good matte liquid acrylic like Deco Art Americana Paint and base coat the sheets with a light colour like ivory, linen white or even a soft pastel-it depends on what you have planned for the designs on the paper.

Be sure to basecoat both sides again using a one inch wash glaze brush and working for a smooth even surface.
I like to put on two coats of the base colour on each side.

If you have space to do 12 sheets you have prepped enough surfaces for 108 ATCs.

Store the paper which has dried completely flat in an acid free cardboard box with acid free tissue between the sheets-you can also use tracing paper or vellum to separate your sheets.

Since I have a repertoire of backgrounds that I like-I would go ahead and prep some basic backgrounds and colours to save time later.

One coat of a soft color like baby blue or pink, celadon green or soft tan on each side drying between coats should give you a good base upon which to add texture techniques like Parchmentier.

Parchmentier is a French decorative painting technique that gives your papers surface the look of a good parchment paper.

I use water to thin the paint but I have done this for years and I can feel when the glaze is the correct viscosity for my needs.

You want the paint/water mixture to be a smooth inky consistency not runny but also not so thick that it won’t flow and lift easily when applied.

What you are going to do is quickly put on a coat of glaze then using a crumpled paper towel you are going to tamp and lift off the glaze quickly.

Practice will give you a wide variety of surface textures from soft and cloudy to crisp and stippled.

If you are not getting satisfactory results with water try tinning you paint with a glaze base such as those used for faux finishing.

I generally only texture one side of the paper the other side I leave base coated so it suitable for decoupage or a darker solid colour.

Strie’ is another easy surface texture and is applied similarly to Parchmentier except in this case you are going to wipe the paint off in one direction (usually the long way since this is going to leave lines or striations and it seems most artists like these strong lines to be on the vertical or diagonal.

Once this step is finished and well dried you can actually apply a misting of a good spray sealer/finisher OR you can splatter, cup ring, rubber stamp or stencil.

I have used this technique to prepare paper for demonstration sheets and quite frankly I would cut my cards out before I base coated with the acrylic.

If you basecoat the cut cards the edges get sealed making the finished card stronger and more moisture resistant.

IMPORTANT: I like to varnish my cards using a matte varnish you can do this after decoupaging but should do it before adding any ribbon, trims or other additions.

The one exception is cotton trims-and these must be as close to 100% cotton as possible-cotton lace and trims can be saturated with gesso (squeeze out the excess so holes in lace doesn’t close up-then you can smooth the lace onto the gessoed card and allow to dry (trim excess after it is dry) this can later be antiqued or highlighted after base coating etc with acrylic.

Remember to finish BOTH sides of your card before varnishing again using a one inch white nylon wash glaze brush and a good quality acrylic varnish apply two or more thin coats to each side of the card, drying between coats on each side.

When dry this finished card will feel almost like thin leather, it is very tear resistant and can actually be carefully wiped off with a damp cloth if dusty or soiled.

I’m sure this sounds like a great deal of work but once you are proficient in the steps and finishes it goes quickly and again you are preparing over a hundred card blanks in advance of needing them.

I hope this helps, feel free to email any questions or ask them in the comments section following this post-questions are the way we learn and also the way I monitor how well I have explained these techniques-it’s so much easier to show you than to write all this out so one of these days maybe I will finally do some videos.

I hope this information is useful!

If you look at my online portfolio on Carbonmade
( all the book covers and the alien makeup renderings are done on Strathmore vellum Bristol prepared in this manner exactly using Delta products-I started with Deco Art but Delta was a local company and I was able to have a much closer relationship with them since I could visit the factory regularly and work with their technical team-I was so sorry to see them go out of business.

I pray Deco Art hangs on – they make wonderful metallics and their products are every bit as good as Deltas were.

BTW in closing this technique is very useful for other applications like hat brims for doll hats or adding dimensional pieces to cards or altered art pieces-the paper while wet can be somewhat molded and formed to make scrolls or leaf shapes even mermaid know my motto: Explore, Create, Design and SMILE but above all PLAY!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Adapted and Improved email


1) No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats.

2) When your Mother is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair.

3) If your sibling hits you, don't hit them back. Parents always catch the second person.

4) Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a goldfish.

5) You can't trust dogs to watch your food..

6) Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.

7) You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.

8) You can’t nail Jell-O to a tree

9) Painting the family dog is a mistake especially if enamel is involved

10) Tuna Salad Sandwiches will not stand up to long term storage in your bedroom closet

11) It’s not a good idea to put a frog in your pocket

12) Liver is yucky

13) Teachers and mothers are psychically connected what one knows the other knows

14) Cats make good dolls for about 3 minutes

15) ART is best done on paper not your bedroom wall

16) Adults own things that they are very protective of while you are expected to always SHARE

17) Whatever that was it WASN’T a balloon!

18) Grandma’s teeth belong in her mouth and are not to be used as a hammer or a hockey puck

19) Never trust anyone that says “Just TASTE it”.

20) No matter how much you know there’s always more to learn

La Belle et La Bete - Cocteau 1947

Some of life’s experiences leave an indelible mark upon us and areas of what we do in aspects of our lives.
One such experience was my first viewing of Jean Cocteau’s masterpiece fantasy film LA BELLE ET LA BETE (Beauty and the Beast).

Filmed entirely in Black and white –the film is enriched by the serendipitous fact that being made in 1946 shortly after the close of the war, film stock was at a premium; consequently Beauty is filmed on several types of film ranging from crisp and stark in the “reality” scenes to diffuse and misty in some of the scenes in the Beast’s kingdom.

This is a fairy tale that is dark and brooding true its origins and again made better by being entirely in French (I have seen this film dubbed which detracts from the overall atmosphere-we all know the story it’s simple enough to follow along).

Clever lighting and use of existing structures allow a low budget to look opulent and rich. Camera shots are skewed and never exactly what you would envision with shadows and objects intruding in places where one would expect a clear view. These devices allow our imaginations to fill in the blanks and overlay our own mental images on the realm of the Beast.

Special effects are often filmed as they happen, living arms support candelabras, and live human faces peer out from carved mantles and statues.

This Beast is restrained and elegant, a vicious cat whose ears lay back when prey is near and whose hands smoke when he has killed.

Jean Marais, a Cocteau regular, plays the beast so sympathetically that when he transforms into a handsome blonde prince we want our Beast back.

Josette Day is a beautiful cross between ballerina and mannequin who belongs in a mysterious kingdom where tears turn to diamonds and mirrors allow you to time travel. This Beauty is fragile but strong willed at the same time, delicate but able to tame the beast by the emotions she focuses on him from her eyes.

Haunting scenes include a long hall with floating white curtains that connects the common rooms of the beasts castle with the bedrooms, huge grotesque statuary on the grounds of the "Beasts" castle which actually exist on an estate in France and the sumptuous costumes glittering in the candlelight of the nightly supper ritual.

If you can’t rent the Criterion Collection restoration you might watch for this film on cable as it now plays on Turner Classics Movies occasionally.

Children, at least those that I have shared this movie with, don’t seem as taken with this version as adults are.

I think the lack of colour and English dialog along with a sophisticated progression of plots and subplots (plus the familiarity of the Disney animated version) are the reasons.

Decidedly worth viewing it’s one of my top 10 films of all time and I can watch it over and over finding new details in each viewing.

Even in our modern high definition age La Belle et la BĂȘte holds its own and doesn’t seem tired or dated, certainly not as much as many Hollywood films released in the late 1940s.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Raphael ruined ART...

Hylas and the Nymphs
J W Waterhouse
Manchester Gallery England

There is a style of art that draws me in at once-starting with the Pre Raphaelite School in England and encompassing the European Symbolists, some of the Victorian Allegorical Artists and various sub groups that are loosely connected with these movements.

It’s hardly a surprise that I would be drawn to these artists since many of them share my disposition for flitting back and forward between design and flat art, many were designers for the theatre (costumes and so forth) and most liked a good solid hidden message in their work.

It all started because this band of eccentrics thought Raphael (the peer of Leonardo) had ruined art (hence the name PRE RAPHAELite) and they hated SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS who was the head of all things art in England and arguably the best portraitist of his time-at least he had a style.

It all gets a bit mucked up because Art Nouveau shares some of the same values as the Pre Raphaelites and the symbolists and then Gustav Klimt gets into the fray and all the fine painting and adherence to nature starts to wander off, along comes Moreau and the rules change again…and where does poor Aubrey Beardsley fit into all this mess?

There is a challenging but wonderful book (many pictures but alas mostly B&W) called DREAMERS OF DECADENCE-I suspect it is long out of print but some stalwart used bookseller should be able to drum up a copy if any of this piques your interest.

I actually found several used copies available on Amazon at low prices.

Dreamers of Decadence attempts to explain and sort out all these artists and designers and make sense of them and all that they have done.

A gesture in futility when attempted in one volume-it seems to take an entire shelf at the library to even begin make a stab at separating one branch from the vine.

I had a college art history instructor lecture me that this entire massing of art was not noteworthy and too similar to children’s book illustrations to be of any consequence in the scheme of things when discussing the history of actual ART.

I’m certain that Arthur Rackham, Maxfield Parrish and many others would have some harsh words for this naysayer as the genesis of their work is here and stretches on into the world of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo not to mention the Hildebrandt Brothers in my generation.

If you love richness of form and content, wonderful massing of colour and attention to minute detail I urge you to explore this period in art and see what you bring away with you from the experience.

Be sure to check out Waterhouse and the Rossetti’s along the way or just do a Google search on Pre Raphaelite Art IMAGES and see what you find attractive then follow that focus for awhile.

Allegorical art is a wonderfully frustrating thing to discuss.

Unless the artist had left copious notes and diagrams what may seem symbolic to some was just filling in an empty space to them.

There are agreed upon symbols like Roses, Water and Iris, it was a period of lovely ladies drowning or drowned or floating in a way to LOOK drowned but lovely in limpid pools OR rising from limpid pools like sea nymphs or in this case pond nymphs to great strong and handsome mythical heroes usually in gleaming armor.

My favorites are also the happy bands of revelers strewing flowers as they pass through fantastic marble cities draped in silk (the city and the revelers) happily thronging to be sacrificed by being hurled off a high cliff or some similar dismal fate.

It’s that Victorian thing-pale beauty ravaged by consumption dies while still attractive by sacrificing all for love… how tragically beautiful….sigh, this is the period where weeping became an art form as well.

Take a look, you may find that this sneered at “sentimental tripe” touches something deeper in you I know it certainly has influenced me in my work.

I was reading an article while researching this blog post that indicated designs for the castle interiors in the recent Narnia epics were almost surely inspired by the work of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema.

He also gets kudos for inspiration connected to INTOLERANCE (D W Griffiths Babylonian spectacular) and even Star Wars.

Alma Tadema was so meticulous in his renderings of marble surfaces that he became known as “that MARBELOUS painter”.

The salient point to all of this is discovery-I realized as I was writing this entry that the Hildebrandt’s ( ) are no longer the household name they once were.

True “painters of light” the brothers produce some amazing illustrations and I think may be the most glowing modern exponents of the Pre Raphaelites and Symbolists.

Just as the original movement fell into disfavor and were largely forgotten for many years some artists who followed their techniques and brought them into today’s milieu have also been forgotten as styles change.

Hope this gave you some active interest in at least looking at some of the art of the Pre Raphaelites or if you had known them once rediscovering them can be a joy.

An interesting side note, Sir Andy Lloyd Webber is an avid collector of Pre Raphaelite art and allowed use of 300 pieces from his personal collection for a showing in England.

Wishes and Dreams

I want to make this perfectly clear, whoever you are I wish you happiness, success and all good things.

It is my sincerest wish that you go through life happy and free from pain and the only tears you shed are those borne on the wings of joy.

I want for you the gifts of sight, insight and freedom to imagine…I wish you love in whatever forms it is lavished upon you, know that you deserve all these things.

We ALL deserve all these things…if a dream is a wish your heart makes (thank you Mr. Disney) then may all your dreams be wishes and may all your wishes come true.

Take these good thoughts, freely given, and bathe your soul in them, lavish yourself with an abundance of riches (for the cost to each of us is nothing and the rewards are many) believe this…

You have a responsibility since you have taken these wishes and to keep the world in balance you must pass it all on to the rest of the world, freely.

Some say we come into this world alone…we actually arrive hooked to our Mother and surrounded, in most cases, by people who are making sure we get here safely.

We then are separated and we begin the lifelong task of learning to live with ourselves…I fear some of us fail that series of lessons.

We seem to learn quickly what and whom we hate, what we don’t want, what we don’t like or want near us…so many things in the negative…we learn to think in the negative as well, we know what we like but we expect not to receive it. We know what we want but we think we will never get it.

We often want things that we simply can’t have.

I wanted to be five foot seven and weigh about 135 lbs. I am six foot two and have, in the past, weighed three times that much…well, almost. I don’t know that I will ever be thin, I have been much thinner, I’m working on it but then I’m working on so many things these days.

I love creative people - which means I love almost everyone.

What wondrous creatures we are don’t you find it?

Even those of us who don’t make things, don’t cook, don’t have regular outlets for our creative urges have found ways of displaying inherent creative abilities.

I know some amazingly good liars for instance.

Don’t scoff it takes real talent to be a good liar it takes remarkable world class talent to be amazingly good-it’s an ability that stretches creativity into the thin and heady air where string theory and quantum physics reside.

I am impressed by liars.

I think to be a successful liar one needs to be in the range towards amorality.

Too many morals and all the deception will keep you up nights; better to just think it doesn’t matter and get on with it, devil be damned.

Not the same thing but just down the street in a similar neighborhood is duplicity, the fine art of being two faced…another exhausting exercise in creativity…and acting, all that energy directed from a stage in a good play would be prize winning stuff, they pass out handsome trophies for just that sort of thing when it’s called acting.

Funny, actors will tell you its HONESTY that makes a good performance…

Now we come to the purview of the artist:

When we put down how we feel and how we see in a way that flows naturally from wherever all visions commence we are the most honest of creatures and we can transmit a message without a single word or with words as a part of the composition but in any case we have created a connection that is clear and honest and hopefully from the heart.

If you do a bit of research, another thing I love-research…if you do a bit you will find that many artists copied each other during various periods.

Brach (nude descending a staircase cubist) was indiscernible from many of the artists (including Picasso) who were in his Salon…there is a book, name escapes me, that shows canvases by a number of big names side by side-all very similar…then you watch as they move to the next experiment and as their inner creative self is engaged they go on that detour route that leads to their fame away from the others, each in their way.

Mary Cassatt seems to have never needed to trod the copyist route, she just evolved on her own terms but then she was a woman in a time when women were expected to leave drawing behind with girlish things and go on to taking care of home, family and husband. She had to have a singular will to succeed

I always taught my students that they shouldn't’t be any copy of me or a poor version of someone else but the BEST THEM that they could be-meanwhile I, firmly ensconced in the nest with my size ten topsiders firmly planted against their backsides, urged them to fly and soon.

I boldly (and bravely) taught decorative painting classes with no patterns to trace-I convinced an entire roomful of women in Canada within earshot of Niagara Falls to paint miniature landscapes based solely on a concept and a sample…THEY triumphed and I was thrilled-none of their work looked anything like mine a reality the glory of which was, sadly, lost on many of them.

Remember back there a quarter hour ago I gave you gifts of wishes, happy good wishes in your direction?

I saved one for here, I wish you a hopeful and curious heart…this is so valuable it should come in a golden box with purple ribbons and balanced on a velvet pillow… never mind, we can pretend…

It is so hard to get through life and come to an advanced age with hope and curiosity intact, perhaps if you are deficient you can find a way back to that point in your life where you lost one or the other and regain that wide eyed state of innocence where you hoped for everything and wanted to learn it all, to do everything without thinking about it, just DO…

I’m not going into the realms of fear and disappointment and all the dark shadows that lurk in the still, dusty, cobwebby corners of our brains-let’s leave that for another day far down the road.

Now, in this special moment between you and I, gather up your wishes and dreams and go forth, run, dance, fly, dazzle the world beyond with the glory of all that you are and all that you do.

At the very least…TRY.

Remember Dorothy? She had it all along, she didn’t need the gaudy shoes…you don’t need my good wishes either, you just need to be reminded that you have been ready for a long time to put yourself out there.

To succeed!

You may have pains in your joints or you may be too tired, other obligations, there are so many reasons NOT to try but think again, WHAT IS THE COST of NOT trying?

It is too dear a cost with which to be burdened…if nothing else, at least, TRY.

Trust me, sink or swim you will not be alone, there are always those who will be there one way or the other,YOU however, shielded in your glittering armor of wishes and dreams, will prevail!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What are you eating Dorothy?

I would like to talk to you seriously about a subject I take very personally…


One of the most homey, plain, comfort foods on earth I can’t fathom that some people actually don’t like it.

I am not fond of it cold…I prefer warm.

Actually between warm and hot and with a sauce…not too sweet…it must have the proper combination of custardy, caramelized, vanilla, soft and crispy tastes and textures.

If a little good old fashioned booze sneaks in there that’s fine…a LITTLE. Not too much!

My Mother made a great Bread Pudding - that's saying a lot she was a tragic excuse for a cook however she knew how to make a perfectly yummy bread pudding - I wish I had paid closer attention, the recipe died with her.

You grew up with your bread pudding and I grew up with mine-we then ventured out and found that the world was full of bread pudding of all kinds-some with odd and interesting additives, some plain and some exotic and some not even identifiable as bread pudding.

I write, on occasion, restaurant reviews for my local paper.

I take on all comers from major chains and name chefs to Mom and Pop but I always review the bread pudding when I have a chance.

Have you ever noticed on cooking shows that famous chefs and food critics seem to all be experts on what makes a good scallop?

I myself have no idea as I am allergic to shellfish-actually to anything that swims or otherwise resides in or around water, salt or fresh.

The smell of seafood causes me to feel as if I might un-swallow at any moment.

All this understood I find it fascinating that those great chefs and food experts ALL know what makes the perfect scallop I must be the only restaurant reviewer in the world that has never eaten one.

Scallops cannot be over or under cooked, they must be impeccably cleaned and fresh-very, very fresh!

The pundits will wax on and on about the texture and sweetness and if there is a sauce, the flavours and how they meld-it is positively astonishing how in depth (no pun) they can become about a simple scallop.

I understand; I feel exactly the same about Bread Pudding.

There are requisites-texture, flavours and so on, I KNOW a good bread pudding from an incredible bread pudding and don’t try to pass of any plastic container, made in a factory goo under a sauce from a can-have you ever seen Gordon Ramsey go postal? I’m worse…

Gordon Ramsey is one of those experts on Scallops.

Give him a bad scallop and he will tear you apart with his bare hands, he is passionate, passionate and vociferously profane about all things Scallop, and don’t you forget it big boy.

It has become something of a joke in my neighborhood that if there is no bread pudding in my review I was probably in a Chinese restaurant and it wouldn’t have mattered because I wouldn’t have liked the bread pudding anyway…

If there is ever a national bread pudding contest I should be the head judge.

It is one thing I am absolutely confident of, I KNOW MY BREAD PUDDING!!!

I also make a quite passable bread pudding - several variations as a matter of fact – my pumpkin bread pudding with Jack Daniels hard sauce is a Halloween favorite…I DO as well as PREACH.

I’m sure you knew this was coming but here goes anyway: ART is a little bit like BREAD PUDDING.

You grow up with a sense of art, you move on and as you mature you expand your horizons and learn that there is more to art than say a sappy landscape, dogs playing poker or Pinkie and Blueboy.

You learn new recipes, you find things passing as art that don’t even resemble art and you come to be an expert on what it takes for you to consider something good and what makes something else great -textures, flavours, subtleties.

Actually art is a LOT like Bread Pudding with the exception that I like more kinds of art and a wider variety, I will allow more diversity, and I am less conservative when it comes to art.

I am also not as absolutely confident when it comes to my taste in art.

I appreciate a Lawrence or an Alma – Tadema over a Picasso or a Calder.

In the art world that’s a little like preferring Bread pudding to Marons Glace.

But there you have it; I DO prefer Bread Pudding to Candied Chestnuts I think I have made that blindingly clear!

That’s all; I think I’ve made my point.

I feel much better now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Colour, Music, Design...ART!

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884, 1884–86
Georges Seurat
Art Institute of Chicago

The first time you see this painting you the size, the is overwhelming.

Then you begin to really look at the picture and you come to the even more stunning revelation that there is no picture there at all, just daubs of colour, carefully and masterfully applied that go together to create an image and colours when viewed as a whole and from a distance.

Somehow this man, a little mad and very intense had envisioned television and pixels long before they were even a concept.

Pointillism didn't catch on, but we have this unparalleled work that encapsulates everything there is to know about colours and harmony and light and shadow and tones and tints.

At the end of Stephen Sondheim's SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE we are given the gift of the most sublime finale-wonderful music and the most engaging of lyrics that speak about art.

Wikipedia describes it thus:

Sunday in the Park with George is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. The musical was inspired by the painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat. A complex work revolving around a fictionalized Seurat immersed in single-minded concentration while painting the masterpiece, its Broadway production was greeted with mixed praise by the critics.
Nominated for ten Tony Awards, the musical won only two design awards but won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, numerous Drama Desk Awards, the 1991 Olivier Award for Best Musical and the 2007 Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production (analogous to the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical).

Here is a link to the UTube video of the finale music performed beautifully:

This is my gift to you as I close my first week of blogging...on a Sunday...having talked a great deal about colour...

I hope it blesses your soul. Lyrics follow...

Have a magical day!










By the blue Purple yellow red water

On the green Purple yellow red grass,

Let us pass
Through a perfect park
Pausing on a Sunday
By the blue and triangular water

On the soft green eliptical grass
As we pass
Through arrangements of shadows

Towards the verticals of trees


By the blue Purple yellow red water

On the green Orange violet mass

Of the grass

In our perfect park

Made of flecks of light

And dark

And Parasols...

People strolling through the trees

Of a small suburban park

On an island in the river

On an ordinary Sunday...




A blank page of canvas.

So many possibilities...

Friday, August 21, 2009

I eat therefore I swell...

I am doing Weight Watchers...again.

Back when I was 40 I lost about 100 lbs on WW and could wear anything---unfortunately I found all those lbs and a few extra.

In a world where there are dates wrapped in bacon and stuffed with Parmigiano Reggiano or salads with champagne dressing, mandarines, Gorgonzola and pine nuts not to mention Pumpkin Bread Pudding Brulee-how can anyone be thin?

Did you ever notice that when you go to a craft class you don't see to many thin people?

I have this theory that creativity gives one the fat gene or vice versa, doesn't matter it's there.

Also crafters can be really good cooks OR they know where they can pick up a box of really fine Cannolli or Danish and they are happy to share with other crafters.

Ask a crafter where the closest SEE's Candy is, they WILL know.

I'm not so much about sweet-bread, pasta, those pesky carbs are my downfall.

Don't get me started about fried food, fried is one of my favorites of the food groups and show me a good buffet and I'm done for.

(Frankly even a mediocre buffet is fine-I love Hometown Buffet's meatloaf)

Here is desperation-I found whole wheat hot dog buns that are only 2 points.

WW is very unfair to women - ladies get like 2 points a day-we large fellas get 40 or so.

Now, you take a bag of ready mix cole slaw and pour in some Tom's Sweet Vidalia Onion LITE dressing-just enough to coat don't want to kill the crunch, put 3 ounces of turkey breast on the bun and top with a huge quantity of said slaw , maybe a little dijon mustard schmeer...heaven...Its about 10 points with the turkey and about 5 without so I have 2 with and one without-if I'm desperate enough I just have coleslaw on a bun...

I know, I's almost too much information...did you know Smuckers makes a perfectly acceptable peach preserve that is ZERO points...all fruit no sugar-I count it as one point per tablespoon just in case...

OH! OH!...Weight Watchers Giant Fudge Bars...ONE POINT...they also have a coffee latte one also one point---see ya eat enough stuff that's one point you don't get into trouble.

One whole wheat Hamburger Bun is about 4 points put mustard, tomato, red onion and lettuce on it its still 4 points and you hardly miss the meat and cheese, a dill pickle slab is about 1 point or less...a Whopper is like 20 points.

Chicken is fine as long as you don't have chicken salad-as in mayonnaise...there's a phony WW version-it's just depressing, why bother? You can get salads in restaurants that are enough points to feed Romania for a week-look it up!

After a month or so your taste buds just sorta go numb, even Tabasco on a Saltine is exciting.

Now the nice WWs folks will tell you that I am depriving myself of all sorts of yummy things and by eating smaller quantities and getting some exercise I will be less hungry and lose weight quickly...blah, blah, blah.

I want to settle in and watch Project Runway with a bag of chips and some salsa not carrots and nonfat Ranch dressing.

Do you know what you get for one solid hour of pedaling a life cycle-90 calories, NINETY! That's about a Twinkie, I hate Twinkies, pass on the life cycle, moving on...

I actually forget food and eating when I'm creating.

Somehow designing and concentrating takes my mind off food and I really have to force myself to eat so I don't get peckish.

Peckish...that's a great word...not quite as good as SMARMY but easier to agree upon a definition than PUCE.

PUCE BTW is shocking purple pink...betcha thought it was that acid green I love so much...nope a little more magenta than Heliotrope.

OH, I forgot I was going to tell you WHY paint has those cutesy names!

Did you know that all the trends in the USA and possibly the known universe are decided yearly in OHIO?

It's like finding out that there are 6 people who get paid some outrageous amount of money each, yearly, to get together a few times and have TEA ( it's also a true fact).

So this OHIO panel meets and they decide that this year its going to be jewel tones, Christmas will be less Victorian and more atomic age so coral and turquoise (both considered semi-precious so therefor jewels) will be the colours, stoves will be Hudson Grey-I made that colour up just like they do and cars will come in Celedon green...OK time for lunch.

The names of the colours is to help those of us who might not be able to put together just the right grayish blue and a brownish red with Williamsburg....hmmm...what does that say to you? Colonial, traditional, heritage,,,oh wait Heritage Red and Savannah White? NO Savannah White would go with Charleston Crimson...shoot...whats red? Apples, sometimes but not colonial enough---BARNS but then you get into country names like Sunflower Yellow...OK BOSTON red...baked beans, tea will work!

It's the GRRAnimals school of design...nature colours, local colours, jewel tones---now there's one of my favorites!

What we call a ruby is almost entirely composed of aluminum oxide in its corundum form. Corundum has a crystal structure made up of repeating units of aluminum ions surrounded by oxide ions.

SO BY RIGHTS Rubies should be and sometimes are called Corundums but only of they are RED rubies and only if there is chromium present---no chromium you have a clear Ruby...other impurities make other colours-same with Diamonds and other gemstones.

While TOPAZ may make you think of a warm honey yellow a Topaz can be many colours and Sapphires can be the same yellow as can diamonds...confusing isn't it? Remember the cotton candy and bubble gum?

SO the paint people made up names in colour groups so that we wouldn't make boo boos they assumed we couldn't deal with colours but could deal with NOT putting Eggshell with Newport Blue when we all know that eggshells and blueberries come from the food group while Newport is in Rhode Island or California so it is a seaside locale suitable for the resort location group and never to meet the flower, gemstone or arbitrary groups.

I'm not making this up you know?

Here comes the slap your forehead and say, "ain't I a fool ?" part:

Remember those folks in Ohio?

Well they got together seems Plum Pudding (the colour) didn't do well last year so there's a lot of throws and Holiday decor and paint hanging around that was supposed to be combined with Toffee and maybe Sage ( it is an edible name) but alas failure...Putting that all to one side, this year we will be calling it REGAL PLUM and we will be showing it with Royal Gold and Empire Green---same colours, new names...and while we're at it let's suggest that it just may be time for a midsized sedan in REGAL PLUM.

Have you noticed that POMEGRANATE and BLUEBERRY are really popular? Coincidence or Conspiracy?

They both used to be ZERO points on Weight Watchers.

NOW that they are popular they have a point value.

Somebody get Ohio on the phone...

Mona Lisa and the LASER

So many times in my teaching career I have complimented a student on their work and the response was almost predictable.

"Oh I'm not a REAL artist you should have seen my (fill in the blank-Mother's, Sister's. 2ND cousin's) work they were/are a REAL artist."

I learned this lesson along with how many people are damaged and abused physically and psychologically at home and how they carry that damage around with them expecting others to validate the "missing part" of them which makes them deserve to be abused.

Let's agree that we live in a world where there are no rabbit holes that lead to wonderland. that the sun is in the middle and we orbit around it in others words there are rules that allow us to believe that all or most of what we see and experience first hand is reality.

You create, you draw or paint, you assemble collages, you do the best flyers the PTA has ever had you make ART.

Now we have agreed that we live in the REAL world and that's where you create your art so that makes you?

Correct-a REAL ARTIST!

Some years back as lasers became more than toys or oddities someone came up with a brilliant idea of using a laser to examine the microscopic variations in the lines or brushstrokes that made up artworks created by people like Leonardo Da Vinci and Bottecelli.

During the Renaissance it was common for a master artist to do only the most important parts of a fresco or painting and apprentices would fill in the rest a little putti here, a misty landscape was the way they learned.

Also these days forgers have become very clever indeed at getting their faux masterpieces past the art experts and onto the walls of the world's better museums-a lucrative if somewhat precarious occupation.

What they found was that each of us has a signature wobble-as the electronic pulses stream from the brain down through the muscles and tendons via the nerves leaving happy little messages along the way they make a signature pattern in whatever we create using our hand and something that leaves a mark.

SO, find something that you are absolutely sure was created by whomever and map the wobble then you can go looking through the other things they are supposed to have done and you can find that FINGERPRINT-that signature which cannot be forged.

Further to all this you can find which apprentice did what part of which painting and if said apprentice becomes well known you close the loop of verification----fascinating!

I tell you this because I want you to know that YOU are EXTRAORDINARY-EXTRA ORDINARY-there is no one in the world like you and some scientist with a laser can prove it - WHEEEEEE!!!!!

How does that make you feel? A little bit more special?

Think of it- someday, someone may whip out their pocket calcultransowhatsamagigger and run it over something you created and go, "WOW, that's by the artist (did you notice that part? THE ARTIST?) who did that other piece I love so much."

It could happen.

Create like what you make will be in a museum someday-make it important and believe that what you do has merit and substance and intrinsic value as art and design.

We all evolve and frankly, how many Mona Lisas did old Leo turn out? Not that many (it's really not the great a painting anyway-look at some of the other artists in the world there is some pretty swell stuff out there).

Do you suppose some prairie woman thought about the fact that someday her sampler would be on the wall of the ABBY B. ROCKEFELLER FOLK ART MUSEUM behind glass and spotlighted just like the Mona Lisa?

I doubt it, she probably sat there stitching all the while thinking to herself, "I wish I was as good as Grandma".

Meanwhile back here in the real world Grandma's sampler is no where to be seen but look-there's hers! Wonder if it would have made a difference had she known all the history that followed her production of that sampler how the end product turned out?

Probably wouldn't have been as good.


Compare yourself to yourself and go ahead be your own worst critic-it's a human thing to do-but never let yourself be less than the best YOU that you can be and never stand up next to a ruler of someone Else's expectations and accomplishments.

Aspiring is wonderful-I will never draw or paint like Aubrey Beardsley or Bougereau (remember the laser someone would find out my work wasn't theirs)-but I love their work and it inspires me and I aspire to be as finished in my work as they were in some of theirs.

Aspirations are good but they are to inspire not to defeat.

Be inspired to go that little extra distance, to stretch just a bit, to challenge yourself to be satisfied when you put down the pen, brush, needle, glue stick that you have created to the best of your ability the best piece of art you could have done that day under those conditions, congratulate yourself and move on.

In your life you may never do anything as famous as the Mona Lisa but you will have left behind a legacy of things that touch, inspire and enrich the lives of others-think of what an important charge that is, what a precious responsibility-to TOUCH the lives of others.

There is a painting that use to hang off by itself in a nook at the L A M O A-it is a portrait of a young man and is basically done in greys and browns but he is wearing a blazing RED coat and his brown hair is wild and blowing in the wind off the misty landscape behind him-he is handsome and intense and riveting...

I have no idea what the artists name is nor do I know anything else about the painting other than how much I love it-I actually have never even bothered to see if I could own a reproduction-it doesn't matter because I know if I need to see it it means I get in the car and go to the art museum.

The important thing is that whoever painted that glorious HEATHCLIFF of a man probably had no idea that someday his work would touch my life here in Los Angeles and inspire me, make me aspire to do greater things and make me understand what it is to be EXTRAORDINARY.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Thomas Lawrence
circa 1791

What is poetry to me...

I love song lyrics-they are the poetry of our time-sometimes amusing, often profound, frequently banal they run the gamut.

Stephen Sondheim writes incredible lyrics that stand on their own without the music-here is one such incredibly toucing lyric from his award winning show INTO THE WOODS:

No one here to guide you
Now you're on your own
Only me beside you
Still youre not alone
No one is alone
No one is alone

Sometimes people leave you
Half-way through the wood
Others may decieve you
You decide whats good
You decide alone
But no one is alone

People make mistakes
Father's, Mother's
People make mistakes
Holding to their own
Thinking they're alone

Honor their mistakes
Everybody makes
One another's terrible mistakes
Witches can be right
Giants can be good
You decide whats right
You decide whats good

Just remember
Someone is on your side
Someone else is not
While we're seeing our side
Maybe we forgot
They are not alone
Cause no one is alone

Hard to see the light now
Just don't let it go
Things will come out right now
We can make it so
Someone is on your side but...
No one is alone

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Colour or COLOR?

It is a well known fact that most men are a little colour blind.

I know I am because everyone hates my choices when it comes to green-I tend to go for acidy yellow greens I guess but they don't look that way to me.

I love mossy, soft greens and when I moved in 2007 after 22 years in my former home I put the same mossy green carpet and faux slate flooring in my new place-COLOUR can say home better than anything else.

BTW I spell Colour with a U as a wink to all my friends and fans in Canada-sometimes I forget when I'm in a hurry but at least now you know the why of that one.

I have never understood why colour and dealing with colour is so hard for some people?

The sky is blue, grass is some variant of green and the night sky is...GREEN...actually a deep blueish green.

When you do moonlight on the stage you GEL (or filter) the light with a colour called moonlight blue-its very green not that familiar blue light colour that everyone is comfortable with in the school play.

Think about it-the sun shines on the moon and the light is reflected back on the earth-space is absolutely BLACK but the atmosphere changes the colour of the light.

Look at a picture of the moon-what colour is it? Grayish with a bit of a greenish tint...remember the green cheese myth?

I remember long ago I worked in budget men's wear at May Company and a lady was furious at me because she wanted a pair of green pants for her husband, I said we didn't have any green pants...I sold her black pants which as any man will tell you is all you ever need other than jeans to survive (well maybe not so much these days).

Anyway said lady came back screaming at me and waving a pair of grey pants at me and accusing me of treating her badly or selling her something on sale or whatever-she was not happy.

I refunded her money and sold her the grey pants-even today I refuse to believe they were green.

Did you ever wonder-now stay with me here-did you ever wonder if the colour you see when you look at a stop sign is the color someone else sees when they look at grass?

I can't imagine a world full of grey and shades of grey but I guess if you don't know any better it's not a big deal.

I've done the colour blindness test and I always see the right number so I'm not so worried...but is does trouble me sometimes that anyone has an issue putting two complimentary colours together who can actually see colours.

In my school days-back in those simpler times somewhere between the origins of dirt and white thread-when we weren't running from dinosaurs we actually had art classes.

I learned BEFORE I went to school that red and blue made purple and that there were primary and secondary colours-I had the big box of crayons with the sharpener built in the back-my Mother was an artist and a designer; she had her priorities.

I also learned that if you mix a primary (red, blue or yellow) with a secondary (orange, green or purple) that is the complimentary of the primary you will get brown.

Hence if you mix red with green you get...wait for it...that's right, BROWN. Same for blue with orange and yellow with purple...brown, mix them and you get brown.

When you take a colour and add black you get a tone and when you add white you get a tint (that would mean that any grey is a tint AND a tone).

Getting hung up on tertiary colours and complex mixes is taking it all too far-I can wax on for hours until your eyes roll back in your head and you pass out from the drone of my voice about chaining colours, cool versus warm, layering and washing with various warm or cool tones...are you bored yet?

I actually did a painting once that was blue and orange. It wasn't a bad painting it was just ugly.

But getting back to green---someone once told me that green was always a good choice because grass goes with everything---I know, it hit me the same way---what the HELL are you talking about?

If you keep your palette simple and you mix from that simple palette AND if you know those few basics about primaries, secondaries and how they mix you're gonna be OK.

It seems we get into trouble when we start buying colours with names like bubblegum or cotton candy and here's why---when I mentioned those two names I predict that the colour that came to your mind was PINK - am I correct?

I, personally have had bubblegum AND cotton candy that was lavender, blue, green and several other colours-now we are in the world where grass is the colour of a stop sign.

The point to this meandering diatribe is this: call the color what it is yellow green, greenish yellow, blue green or even a greenish blue that is close to the gemstone Turquoise.

A reddish orange tint would be PEACH...when was the last time that you saw an actual PEACH that was PEACH?

When you think of colours not as colours or cutesy names but as components, mixtures, you will never again have a problem with colours and mixing or designing a piece because your colour story will be in sync with the world.

That red a bit garish or you need an antiquing wash for it add a little green and you get a reddish brown, not quite right? TONE it down with a touch of black.

That red a bit too bright for that softer look you're after? Tint it with a touch of white, dull it with a touch of white and green, grey it with a touch of white, green and black.

See how simple it is to start think of your colours as actual colours and not a random name like Newport Blue?

I swear to you those pants were GREY.

Next time I'll tell you WHY paints and other colour mediums have cutesy names-it's fascinating.


Be true to your vision…

So you’ve designed something wonderful and you thought in your mind’s eye that you had it perfectly envisioned – HOWEVER…

Here you are staring at the “whatever” and it needs something, something is wrong, is it too much or not enough, a quandary, a conundrum.

Too often we come to this artistic impasse where we struggle with those last little bits OR we see that we’ve made a huge mistake and something must be done to fix it.

Part of teaching is steering, you learn as a teacher to see a wrong turn in the road looming but you must temper your personal vision in favor of making a suggestion rather than demanding adherence to your own choices over the inner expression of the student.

It‘s all about those bends in the road and getting to the final destination successfully-however many turns, switchbacks and detours come along the route.

A few hints and tips that may shorten the journey follow-use them or discard them-but better than simply dismissing something here’s your first tip and it’s one that took me some time to learn:Listen, consider, adapt.
Listen to whatever critique or suggestion is given but don’t get offended.

I have to tell you that it took me a long time to learn what it meant when someone said “Don’t take this personally.

” Well, hell, you’re talking about my art, my creativity and the expressions of my soul…


It’s an opinion, and what weight you give it depends on what your there to learn or how much you value the opinion of the person offering the advice.

Even if you highly value their expertise-remember what you create is what YOU create-when you’re taking lessons or in a peer setting that offers friendly criticism you LISTEN to whatever words of wisdom or opinions are proffered, you CONSIDER the source, how the opinion was given and then simmer on it in a GOOD way and ADAPT it to your benefit.

“I think it needs a touch of red over here to balance this and make it pop.”

RED? What are you nuts? Hmmmm…maybe not red but a redder orange that would bring out the rusty tones and I could do that by adding some soft washes…


The point is you listened, you took it personally for a minute but then you considered and adapted the suggestion to your personal vision rather than discarding the whole business.

“Had you considered tea dyeing that trim before you added it? It seems too white for the antique look of the composition?”

OH! That’s what’s been bothering me-I can still tone down that white by washing the trim lightly and it will look better.

You LISTENED and you openly CONSIDERED that this was a solution you could ADAPT to improve your work.
As you learn to process critiques in a positive way and use the parts that work (for your style) you also learn to see the tiny adjustments that make huge differences in the totality of a composition.

Part of all this is the training of you artist’s eye-you know as you sit at work table that you don’t have the right colour bead or pearl for this piece, some of us get up and go get the right colour even if it means a trip to the store, some of us put the piece aside and finish it later but too often the easy way is to go ahead and just get it done so ivory would have been perfect but it will be OK with white…

That’s up to you but I say NO!

When my work was used heavily in licensing and that caused it to be adapted it also caused changes since my style was being interpreted by another artist.

Most companies wanted input from me but sometimes they would just head off in their own direction and what I had to consider was they were investing in a product that would pay me royalties but also from which THEY had to profit.

If I was seriously disturbed by the changes I would suggest that I was not comfortable with the product or with an aspect of the design and occasionally I would make a stand and ask to withdraw the design-eventually I learned that it was best to make my feelings know at the beginning and watch how the company viewed a specific item carefully-if I wasn’t happy with the direction they were taking at the beginning I would pull the design before they invested time and money in something I wasn’t going to want my name on BUT I also learned to LISTEN, CONSIDER and ADAPT my opinions and often their superior knowledge of the items they were producing surpassed my opinion of my design and made me a lot of money.

So long as my artistic integrity wasn’t affected it was fine.

A publisher cut all the best designs from one of my how-to books-at least all of the best designs in my mind.
I was terribly upset and almost pulled the book but then I CONSIDERED and ADAPTED-those “BEST DESIGNS” could be submitted as separate articles to craft magazines and the book would be fine without them.

The projects I submitted to magazines were all accepted and eventually (cumulatively) made more money for me personally than the entire run of the book did.


DON’T take it personally

THINK before you compromise your values and your designs but weigh carefully your decisions.

VALUE your artistic vision but don’t discard good input because of your ego-discard it because they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about---not really, that was a little joke---ADAPT any input to your benefit even if it’s only the solid decision that your original choice or direction was the best one and the one you are confident in putting out there for the world to see.

Critiques are OPINIONS sometimes informed opinions but opinions none the less...there's a classic quip about opinions and everyone having one but I think I will leave this right here on the higher road...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Firstly, I don’t claim to be an expert I claim to be experienced-I don’t think my work is superior on the contrary I am amazed by how much talent there is in the world and these days much of it rests with our young people who have a vision and abilities that are beyond me.

What I want most to share in this BLOG is my passion and love of creativity and sometimes how to do things the old long hard tedious way.

I believe it is important that we don’t lose the old ways in the midst of the computer/digital age.

A number of years back a client came to me with a perfectly terrible Italianate table that had a trompe l’oiel painted marble top.

The table top had been terribly damaged and needed refreshing and restoration-I suggested (as I always do in these situations) that she call a local art museum and find a curator to do the repairs.

She assured me that the table had great sentimental value and she valued my work and her trust in that work more than a certified restoration by a stranger.

Reluctantly I took on the job and for the next few weeks I taught myself how to restore a Trompe l’oiel Marble table.

Thus has my career as an artist/designer progressed; when I was approached to design needlework kits I learned needlework, same for collector dolls and silk screened t-shirts; I learned the art form or the technical necessities so I could communicate with each company.

When I was fascinated with Photoshop and the possibilities it held I bought the ADOBE CLASSROOM IN A BOOK for version 4.0 or 5.0 (I don’t remember which now) and set about teaching myself how to create art with Photoshop-I own illustrator but have never yet befriended it in the way I have Photoshop.

Somehow PS and now CS4 make sense to me-we are compatible and mostly amicable mates.

So here I am at an advanced age having done flat art, painting and drawing, an attempt or two at clay, design for the theatre from costumes to sets to makeup to millinery, through interior design, product design, folk art and web art-now I am coming around to assemblage and what’s new in the design markets.

As always I am here to help-I have a wide collection of bits and bobs stored in my melon-they are there to be shared so if you have a question that I can answer feel free.

I say to you here at the beginning-create, design, explore, smile and play-don’t take any of it too seriously but at the same time gluing a rock to a seashell and saying it’s art doesn’t make it so.

There are considerations of design, texture, colour harmony, composition-so much that goes into any work of art be it minimalist or baroque.

Learn to edit, always be adventurous and love what you do but don’t take it personally if everyone doesn’t love your work-taste is a critic that is hard to argue with.