Sunday, April 30, 2006

A change of pace

My studio is in a room that was added on to our house fifty-five years ago. It has a door that goes out into our side yard where I grow vegetables and flowers. Right by the door is an old maple tree that casts a lot of shade. There is a bare spot under that tree. I have wanted to make some kind of assemblage in that area for a long time. This morning Jim was digging up a vegetable bed for me. I found an old, partially rotten table I had made with four fruit crates, and drug it over to the bare spot. Then I started gathering stuff from the yard. I had a figure made of a chunk of wood and an altar that was hanging on our fence under a bottle brush. They were both buried in a messy part of the yard, where I never got to enjoy them.

Jim came over and started to get into it. Sometimes it's hard for us to work together. I want things well made and sturdy. Jim isn't concerned if they fall apart in a few years. In fact they probably become more materials for his projects. But we spent about six hours on this and I want it to be there for awhile. Today we were in some middle ground. It's not a house project, if it falls over it doesn't really matter. So I was able to not worry so much about the things that were wired together. And Jim was tolerant of my desire to use brass screws and galvanized nails.

Jim is very good at arranging three dimensional things. I am good at putting things together. It felt like a real collaboration because we both contributed skills and ideas. For me this is a memorial for someone who died years ago. I'm not sure what it represents to Jim, maybe just having fun. Nice day!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Expedition to an Unknown Land" added to my Web Site

I spent some time this past week adding a book I completed last year to my web site.

This is "The Findings of the Expedition to an Unknown Land by Ludmilla Paulsdotter." You can see a larger view and more of the inside here..

I found most of the photos on ebay, one big box for about $25. There were lots of shots of camping trips, new houses (probably in the late 40's), and houses in snow. Some had notes on the back. "Barney's 75 pounds of catfish. The ones on each end weighed 10 and 10.5 pounds." I love old photos. They are a peek into someone else's life. It's like driving around at night and seeing houses with the lights on and the curtains open.

When I bought them, I didn't know what I would use them for, just that they looked so useful. When I spread them out on my big worktable, I noticed I could make a landscape by keeping the horizon line even. I used the "dry" method of collage. Here are links to my collage tutorials: Collage demo, part 1. Collage demo, part 2. It's a little tedious and slow, but the surface looks like photos and the pages don't stick to each other.

The recognizable people in the book are from my family photos. I scanned them and had them reprinted. It worked great because I could make them the size I needed.

I will be a little irregular in my posts for the next few weeks. (Not that I consider the last few weeks to be so regular.) Open Studios in San Mateo is May 20 and 21st. I am feeling overwhelmed by the list of things I need to do by them, plus making some progress on getting repairs done in the house.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Volcano Book, Part Two

I have been in the studio every spare moment this week, working on the pages of my Volcanism book. I hope to get it done by the middle of the week so I can take pictures for an Open Studios postcard. I wanted the dinosaur book and at least one other book in the photo. The pages are still sticking together, even after putting cornstarch on them. I think I'll email the people at Golden and see if they have a suggestion. If anyone out there has an idea, I'd love to hear it.

Here you see some of the pages clamped together with spring clamps. the light colored card on top is a template for the holes. Usually I clamp the pages and front and back cover together, cut the book out and drill the holes before taking off the clamps. This time I didn't do the holes in the beginning, so now it's a little harder to manage. The holes in the template are very small because I drilled a guide hole first. I go up in three or four steps to the size I want. It is dangerous to drill a big hole in metal without guide holes. I use the same method in stacks of paper because I have more control. It's easy to place the small drill bit in the right spot, so the holes line up.

The cover is etched, and I am very happy with it. In this photo it still has the beeswax resist on it. Next I need to decide if the back cover should be masonite (stronger) or copper (looks good but can be bendy.) I also have a palm tree cut out of artist's masonite, which may stay black, or may be painted. It's dramatic, anyway.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Volcano Book

I am making progress on the volcano book. I sandwiched the paper for the pages between two sheets of copper and cut them all out as a unit. I like to work from the inside out, so I am collaging the pages first, then I will decide on the design for the cover.

In the image above, the part with the plume is the back cover and the partial volcano is the front.

Here are three sets of pages. They were textured with pumice gel, then painted with black gesso and dry brushed with several shades of grey. Usually I keep the surface of the collage dry, by applying PVA only on the backs of the pieces of paper. This is the method I posted about in December. I like to keep the page surface dry in books so the pages won't stick together over time. Acrylics seem to always stay a little sticky and the pages can fuse together, especially on hot days.

I'm using a different collage technique this time. I'm layering everything on with Matte Medium. It's faster and easier. I will probably dust the pages with cornstarch in the end. This has been a good way to keep them from sticking together in the past.

I am also using lots of transfers and paper aging techniques in this book. I have heard about some of them over the years, but haven't experimented with them much. I'm taking a wonderful Box Art class with Inge Infante at the Community School of Music and Art. She has been doing demos every week. It's inspiring to see someone else do art, and it's easier for me to see how the techniques could work for me when I get to see the examples and the demo. I have admired Inge's work for years and it's very nice to see how she works and to hear her talk about her process.

The other artists in the class are great people, Inge is a good teacher and I am having so much fun. I've made a few boxes, and will put them on the blog as time allows. I fall asleep at night thinking about what to do the next time I get into the studio, and I wake up in the morning thinking about what I have to get done so I can get back into the studio. I recently went through a long period of feeling unconnected with my art, and depressed. I am delighted with this new sense of urgency and play.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


After thinking about the options for 7 Extinction Events, I have decided to make a new background. I started getting lots of ideas for a more funky looking thing, which really appeal to me. The key comment that stays with me is "It's not like your other work." I think that's okay if it's a new direction. But in this case, the model railroad-type background isn't a new direction for me. Fun, but a dead end.

Here is the new maquette. The smaller volcano will be a separate book, there will also be a small shrub or broad leaved fern (maybe as yet undiscovered in the fossil record) that will be a book. I think the palm trees and the big volcano will be cut out of artist's masonite, which shouldn't warp when I paint it. My goal is to get the volcano book done in the next few weeks. I need a photo for a postcard. I haven't decided if I'm crazy or if this is a good idea, but I do like it. When I made the volcano into a book, it made me laugh. That's a good sign, right?

When I started blogging I wondered if I could make mistakes in public. I have always believed that it's best to be able to go into the studio and make a mess and then hide it away, for my own reference. I think it was a mistake to make the first background for 7 Extinction Events, and so far, it's not bothering me to have it be public. If I have to struggle with the next one, I might be embarrassed.