Category Archives: Art

Two upcoming art shows

“Nourish” virtual exhibition by Art Saint Louis

Art Saint Louis is having a virtual exhibition on their web site, from July 1 – September 1, 2022. I have had one piece selected for this show so I’ll be in it along with 25 other artists.

(all the) Feels show at Art Saint Louis

I’m also in an upcoming gallery show at Art St. Louis called “(all the) Feels”. It runs from July 30 – September 8, 2022. The opening reception is August 6 from 5-7 pm. One of my collages was selected for this show.

For several years I had pretty much given up on producing “fine art” pieces, even though I still had lots of ideas. The main reason was that my time seemed better spent making more craft-oriented things that helped promote my Etsy shop, the blog posts I was writing for Schnarr’s Hardware, or the teaching I was doing at the time. By then, life had taught me several times over not to put all my eggs in one basket when it comes to making a living. I was trying lots of things to see what worked and what didn’t.

In the fall of 2019 I started working on a Master’s Degree at Webster University in Advertising and Marketing Communications. My reasoning for studying communications is that art is a form of communication, and in addition picking up more knowledge about communications can make any of my activities more successful.

My communications classes are fascinating, absorbing, and creatively satisfying, but I cannot help but be jealous of the art majors. Many of the topics I study in communications are serious, and although art can also be serious it also can be pure play and I need some of that! My undergraduate degree is in fine art. Shortly after starting my studies at Webster University, every now and then I would walk over to the art building to see what the students were up to and to find out if there were any art shows that were open to all students and not just art majors. I found two in quick succession and to my great joy made new work and was accepted into both shows. One show was meant to be one night only, and the other show, “Back To Our Roots” was intended to be up for some time but was shut down early twice, the second time due to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m about halfway finished with the Master’s degree right now. I’m using the skills as I go, so I’m not putting undue pressure on myself to hurry to finish. Also I have taken a break due to tragedies in my family at the end of last summer that caused severe grief and trauma that are still greatly affecting my productivity. I’m going to resume taking classes again when I’m sure I can handle the course work. I’m getting there, but there are setbacks along the way that cause me a lot of frustration, as well as to other people who want or need something from me. I feel really guilty when I turn down any work that people want, or set any kind of boundaries. This inappropriate guilt causes me a great deal of distress that I’m trying to work through, but boundaries are necessary sometimes so that I can get my trauma symptoms under control. The art piece of mine that the judges selected for the “(all the) Feels” show is about this discomfort and guilt. It contains parts that I began earlier for a different reason, but that is what the final result is about.

One of the best ways I know to process difficult and complex feelings is to make art. So this spring I joined Art Saint Louis and have been making more art to enter into their shows. I’ve been in a few of their shows in the past but was never a member before. A friend asked me a few weeks ago why I was doing this – we were at a party, so I didn’t want to explain at that time and place that I was kind of doing it as therapy. Yes, entering shows is good for promotional purposes for myself and my work, I can practice and improve my communication skills, I might get a sale, I might even win a prize which would be good for my show history. But much more important to me is motivation to finish some pieces so that I process what is going on inside me. I’ve been through some life-changing events and personal turmoil, as many of us have. Yes the resulting feelings and symptoms are unwelcome and difficult, but I can’t just wish them away. I have to process them, and art is one of the great gifts from God that I’ve been blessed with that helps me do that. I am very grateful for the opportunity to express and exhibit.

More information about Art Saint Louis:

Web site: https://www.artstlouis.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArtSaintLouis/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArtStLouis

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/art_st_louis/ or @art_st_louis

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ArtStLouis

Art Dialogue Blog: https://artstlouis.blogspot.com/

Links to examples of some past and present fine art and design work of mine:

Graphic design and art portfolio on Facebook

Pinterest – Carolyn’s Art and Design

Pinterest – My Ceramics

Pinterest – My Old Artwork

Etsy – Art and Crafts by Carolyn (yes I’m planning on expanding this section more as I get time to do it!)

“Get the Funk Out” Collage

“Get The Funk Out” collage

One of my favorite ways to relax is to cut up some old magazines and make collages out of them. One reason why collages are so relaxing is that I can start them without a pre-planned project in mind and just let my subconscious and the random materials in front of me suggest the theme. Stress is a common theme, because I tend to start them when I need to work some stress out of me. Another reason is that so much printed media, like all media, is filled with images that scream out desperation.

Most media has been on a trend during our lifetimes to become more and more extreme in intensity in order to feed what some people call the “attention economy” or the “addiction economy”. Many media companies rely on an intangible resource to generate revenue – that resource is our eyes on their content. Whatever distraction can direct our attention to them and away from real life is how many corporations generate revenue now. We are not people to them, but a resource to be exploited to fullest extent possible.

A lot of friends pass old magazines on to me to use in collages, and somehow, I don’t know how or why, I’ve been getting US magazine in the mail. The theme of a lot of my art and writing is media analysis, so I don’t mind getting these magazines to see the bizarro world that some people live in and the desperation on display when celebrities need your eyes on them in order to make money and promote the bizarro world agenda. Excess can be both entertaining and disturbing. I’ve done some study on what kind of toll it takes on the people who view it, and I plan to write more in that vein on an ongoing basis. Paging through the celebrity magazines, I also thought about the mental health of the people who go to extreme measures to remain in the top echelon of attention grabbers. Surgeries, diets, fashions, casting couches, drugs, abuse – what won’t they put themselves through in the quest for status in an insulated and dehumanizing system? When they break down, how do they feel about entertaining the masses with evidence of their pain and destruction? When they look at images of themselves, are they looking for signs that the cracks are showing, knowing that untold other sets of eyes are looking for that too and hoping they find some? When does what is on the inside start to show on the outside?

Getting some collage elements together

To make this collage I used a stencil I have that looks like a film contact sheet to make a grid in pencil on a plain piece of white cardstock. Using a template I made with a window opening the size of the rectangle openings in the stencil, I started building up images on separate pieces of white cardstock. After adding images to each rectangle, I added textures from stencils and an a black outline with markers. I used a gray marker to add some lines to the background, and gray and black markers with the stencils to add some more texture on and around cut out words, rearranged a bit.

I deliberately tried to choose less than flattering celebrity photos on which to glue mismatched facial features to make them look more “crazy” to show how I feel about corporations and government trying to use media and celebrities and communications professionals to try to force me to accept a bizarro world as my world. The Urban Dictionary states that a bizarro world is a place where everything is the opposite of the word used to describe it. For example, “good is bad, wrong is right, white is black, logical is illogical, giving is taking, insanity is sane”, etc. It’s one of my theories, shared by many, that those who start out relatively mentally healthy generally pay a price on the inside for living in a bizarro world and being coerced into propagating its false values. Picking up one of these magazines, no I don’t believe some of the messages it’s trying to send me. Ugliness is not beauty, exploitation is not empowerment, sickness is not health, artificiality is not freshness, materialism is not happiness, and celebrities are not just like us! And no, war is not peace, freedom is not slavery, ignorance is not strength. And I don’t love Big Brother either. So there!

When I started the collage, I initially intended just to have some silly fun with some silly magazines and not necessarily think about such serious topics. I can’t seem to stop analyzing media when I see it I guess. I hope my next art or craft project will stay more on the lighthearted side!

Here are links to the stencils I used, on sale in my store:

Mini Texturized: https://www.etsy.com/listing/191860371/mini-texturized-6×6-stencil

Mini Tiny Circles: https://www.etsy.com/listing/679546395/mini-tiny-circles-6×6-stencil

Contact Sheet:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/1020629452/12×12-stencils

Mini Halftone Borders:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/1226450019/mini-halftone-borders-6×6-stencil

Updating a 2020 artist statement

In early 2020, I participated in an art show at Webster University called “Back to Our Roots”. I dedicated my entry for the show to my late friend Mark Reed who passed away in 2018. At the time I was in this show, I started an artist statement to go along with my entry and I put it on one of my web sites. Like a lot of my projects, it grew bigger and more elaborate than I planned at first, and is still in progress. I ended up including grief about several other things in the process which is one of the reasons the series got bigger and bigger. It’s expanded almost to the size of a mini book, kind of like a mini memoir using my art journal and artwork as a jumping off point to write about my life so far.

My original intention in starting these pages which I’ll link to below was to help me process my grief over Mark and explain what my art journals were all about. At the “Back To Our Roots” opening I included little pieces of paper with the QR code to my web site so that show visitors could access the artist statement in progress from smartphones. The show was forced to close early, first from vandalism and then from COVID-19, so not very many people were able to see the original show.

Since I began the project, I have experienced more grief of an even more serious magnitude. It was caused by the type of trauma that when I hear about similar things happening to others I ask myself “how do people live through that”? I’m doing a lot better, thanks to therapy and a lot of writing and art making. While I’m getting better, there are people I know getting one piece of bad news after another. I just heard this morning from a friend whose family, like mine, has recently been impacted by suicide. For all those out there who hear bad news and wonder “how do people live through this”, or are wondering how they are going to cope with something in their own life, maybe my artist’s statement ongoing project will help.

If you would like to read what I’ve written so far, here is an index to all the existing “chapters” in progress. Just click the “back” and “next” graphical buttons to navigate forward or backward.

A. Introduction

B. John Ortbals design class and the projects Mark and I both did

C. The hand that wounds

D. Gardening

E. Shape pictures and clay objects with Mark

F. The gratitude and lack of fear of creating shown by a child

G. The courage to do a Mail Art project again after over 20 years

H. Coloring with adults and kids in a house full of art and art books, including prints by possibly my biggest visual art influence

I. Parts from an old project that I have revisited more than once

J. The ‘zines at Webster University in the art building

K. Finally getting on to a design team

L. Gallery in a box and the Book Arts shows

M. Permission from God to make art again and building a new life

N. Collage made with Mark’s artwork that helped give me the idea for this show

O. Mark coming out and changing his art to LGBTQ themes

P. Letting back in playfulness and conceptual art – #12daysoftomsbeard

Q. Mark’s memorial page

An uplifting trip to Bloomington, Indiana and inspiration from sports

The 2022 Winter Olympics are going on right now. When I was younger, I used to really enjoy watching the Olympics. It was inspiring to watch a competition from beginning to end knowing that for some of the athletes, the years of dedication were going to pay off for them in a big way. These days I’m not tuning in because apparently it’s impossible to watch a whole competition without buying a subscription to something I don’t want, or doing something shady with VPNs. It’s not worth the hassle.

Fortunately, I was able to experience the inspirational side of sports by going on a road trip with Tom to Indiana University for a track meet in January. Tom sometimes takes jobs as a track meet official on weekends. I had a great time watching Tom and watching some of the competition. I needed to get some walking in to help recover from my recent broken foot, so I walked from the hotel to the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse where the meet was taking place. Along the way, I noticed a lot of fine limestone sculpture and limestone architecture.

I was reminded of one of my favorite books from when I was a pre-teen – Breaking Away. I bought the Scholastic Book Services version of the novel and later on I saw the movie. Indiana University is the setting for the book and the movie. In the Breaking Away story, the local young people were looked down on by some of the university students. They were nicknamed “cutters” as an unflattering reference to limestone quarrying being a major industry in the area. When I saw all the limestone, it brought back memories of the book and movie. Tom and I are going to be going back to Indiana University again, and when we do I hope to do more exploration of the stone architecture on campus. It’s really impressive! I might even see if I can get Tom to watch the movie before we go because I know he would enjoy seeing where some of the scenes were filmed.

After the track meet, since it was January and not the most comfortable time for leisurely strolls around campus, we went to the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art for some indoor art viewing. There is a lot to see in there. We toured it for three hours and didn’t come close to absorbing everything to my satisfaction, so I’ll be back. There is also a greenhouse on campus you can tour which I didn’t get to on this recent trip. I want to visit more indoor and outdoor sites the next time we go.

Seeing the college athletes competing helped inspire me to work hard to overcome my injury, and the wonderful art fired up the creative part of me. Overall, this trip was a huge boost to wellness. A road trip sure helps uplift my mind, body and soul. I’m looking forward to doing it again soon!

To see the pictures I took along my walk and inside the Field House, go to this photo album and click the right arrows:

Assorted Hikes and “Daily” Walk Photos

To see the pictures I took inside the museum, go to this photo album and click the right arrows:

Museum Visits

Paper Art and Crafting Technique – Making Templates From Chipboard

Directly above is a faux postage stamp sheet collage I started almost a year ago. Here is how it began. I was sorting through some old papers and I found two computer printouts that another artist had sent to me as mail art a long time ago. The printouts were of faux postage designs featuring computer manipulated photos of Ray Johnson – an artist who is considered by many to have been the founder of the modern mail art movement. Ray Johnson is the subject of a lot of mail art projects. I participated in one such project myself in the fall of 2019. I also featured some pictures of Ray Johnson in my #12daysoftomsbeard art project because when my husband Tom is clean shaven, he looks so much like Ray Johnson that when I was working on the mail art project, Tom thought at first glance that I was using pictures of him!

In the same stack of old papers, I found an advertising booklet that had black and white portraits similar in size to the Ray Johnson portraits in the old printouts. At least they were close enough in size to possibly be used together in a faux postage design. I took a faux postage base I made a long time ago and use a lot and started laying down the portrait pictures on it to get ideas.

I originally had the idea to put the smaller portraits inside silhouettes of the Ray Johnson images and alternate the two on the stamp sheets. I made templates from scrap chipboard to help me cut multiple silhouettes and negatives of silhouettes from colorful paper scraps to play around with. I ended up saving the smaller black and white portraits for a future project and I kept the Ray Johnson images for this set of stamp sheets.

When I make chipboard templates for a collage or other project, I keep them in folders named after the project they were made for so if I want to I can use them over and over for related art projects. If I’m really turned on by the designs, I am likely to use the templates many times. I also made a bunch of rectangle templates to go with my faux postage stamp background, using tracing paper as an aid to finding which piece goes where on the collage. I numbered the chipboard pieces and their position on the tracing paper to help me get organized the next time I use the templates.

I arranged the different colored small rectangles on my collage sheets where I wanted them. I glued on the Ray Johnson images, some miscellaneous found images, and used black permanent Sharpie markers and stencils to draw on some bold designs in black marker. I printed out postage stamp related words, phrases and images with black permanent stamping ink onto white blank sticker paper, cut them out and stuck them on my collages to make them look even more like sheets of imaginary stamps.

I thought they needed more texture to look finished so I used freehand drawing plus stencils again to apply marks with paint markers and colored pencils. The final marks I applied were a bit of colored pencil outlining the white sticker pieces to make them look more integrated with the whole.

Here are the commercial stencils I used in the project. They were designed by the Crafter’s Workshop company:

Mini Patterns

Mini Shape Landscape

Mini X Trail

Mini Rows of Lines

I probably will display the resulting “stamp” sheets as framed collages some time in the future. I’ve scanned them into the computer where they will be reduced to a smaller size so that they look more like real postage stamps. Then I’ll print out and distribute the finished stamp sheets to some other mail artists. Many mail artists collect faux postage as art or use the resulting stamps as part of another piece of mail artwork.

State of the Studio

Today is a good day to put away some of the partly finished projects I have lying around. It’s been almost three months since I broke my foot and toes and bruised up or sprained my shin area so bad it’s still somewhat swollen. I no longer have to sit for long periods of time with my foot elevated every day – it’s healing more and more. And it’s not a big chore to get up and down the stairs any more.

During the last three months I needed to have lots of projects within arms reach so I’d have something creative to work on to pass the time. I have more unfinished projects around than usual because sometimes I’d reach a stopping point where I would have to get up a lot, and instead of getting up I’d temporarily stop that project and start another one.

I do normally like to have projects around in various states of completion, because when I have a certain amount of time available for a work session I’m more productive if I can pick a task that fits the amount of time I have available. But they can’t all be out at one time. Some of it is going to be put away for awhile. To make the task more fun and to help me remember later what I was going to do, today I’m documenting each project before I put it away. I’ll keep adding pics to this page as I work. Enjoy!

Paint sample cards I used during #12daysoftomsbeard in 2020-21 and 2021-22. Together they make me really excited about color!
Tom challenged me to make some little collages with pictures of food. I was in a rainbow color mood so I took this wrapping paper from the Christmas gift he gave me and tried to match food pictures with paint samples and the wrapping paper. I originally meant to cut this up, but I started liking it as a whole. I decided to tape it to the wall temporarily for inspiration and to use as a #12daysoftomsbeard picture backdrop. I don’t know if I will try to get the wrinkles out of the wrapping paper and frame this as is, or use it for inspiration for a more serious art piece. Either way, I know I’ll want to get it out again someday!
Ornaments I made from bells I bought from Lee Wards (that’s how old they are) and upcycled jewelry that I took apart. Ornaments are a great excuse to use components and beads that are a bit more “loud” or “plastic” than I would normally use in jewelry for me to wear. Unless it’s for some kind of costume. I still love bright shiny things! So making ornaments is always a great treat for me. I was inspired by mid-century modern silver tinsel trees when I made these. I don’t own one – but I do own one of the rotating colored lights – waiting for the day that I may or may not get a silver tree. But until then, I got a kick out of these silver bells and bright colors that would look really good with one of those trees.
I cut these stocking parts out in 2018 hoping to do some beaded embroidery on cream colored satin. This is going back in the Christmas projects box for now. All I did this year is look at it!
I made a little bit more progress on this other project I started in 2018. I picked out what sequins and beads to use to finish it off, and bought blanket edging for the border. Dad took me to go buy the edging because I couldn’t drive at the time. It felt so good to be in a craft store even though I only needed one thing! Of course that doesn’t mean I only BOUGHT one thing…
One finished Christmas necklace, and four more in progress. They are made from upcycled ribbon and trim, felt, sequins and beads. They are little pockets with a snap closure for the flap. The chain is not attached. You can change the chain or cord by just sliding it through the flap.
Here is a stuffed pig and the front of a stocking on which I sewed strips of scrap fabric. The pig just needs to be stuffed and have the tail put on. I have several stockings started. I’m going to at least finish sewing on strips before I put the stockings away because they are laid out in the order I want to use them.

Now my studio is tidy! Time to have some fun!

Instructions for #12daysoftomsbeard

WHAT: If you have ordered something from my Etsy store recently, or if you get a Christmas card from me, you will find inside one or both of the following invitations for #12daysoftomsbeard.

Invitations with tags to decorate. Sometimes I include a little packet of paper ephemera to help people get ideas or inspiration, if they need it. If you want an invitation and did not get one in the mail, you can download one at this link – #12daysoftomsbeard tag invite.

These tags are intended for drawing on or decorating, then sending back to me, so that I can hang them on Tom’s beard each day from December 25 to January 6. During that time I will take a crazy picture of the results to put on social media for people to find when they search for the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard. Last year Tom and I experimented with different lighting effects, backgrounds and filters to come up with something unusual each day. Last year I tried to group the beard art items, background and filters by color because bright colors usually go far toward cheering and inspiring me.

Here are some examples of tags I decorated last year, a couple that people sent in to me, and a few images that resulted.

WHY: We mostly like to do this because it’s a lot of fun, and it makes us laugh! You should have seen my MIL’s reaction when she saw the orange picture of Tom! “What have you done to my son!!!” We could do this without any participation from others, but we appreciate it whenever anyone wants to join in. It’s an extra creative challenge to use something someone else sent in, and it’s a way to connect with people who are sometimes separated by distance or who I don’t even know in “real life”.

Why do people paint rocks and leave them for others to find? Why do Jeep owners put rubber ducks on random other Jeeps? Why did I put a banana peel on my head earlier this year and have my picture taken with it on? Why did people in Toronto make a memorial display for a dead raccoon and share it on social media? Group activities and performance art projects are a satisfying activity for some reason, for quite a few people. I will probably write more later about the psychological reasons why that is the case.

Earlier this year I started a SWOT analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard to try to use some of what I learned in marketing class to try to increase participation this year. I didn’t finish the analysis yet, but I will keep adding onto it in the future as I finish sections. Here it is if you want to read what I have written so far – SWOT Analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard.

HOW – One idea I want to try for increasing participation is to provide some more specific instructions. The wording on the invitations reads: “To play, color, glue, punch, stamp or otherwise decorate this tag.” For some people, that will be enough guidance, others might feel comfortable with something more specific.

I am going to suggest techniques to try, and post examples here on this page. Watch this space as I add them! Since I like to use mixed media a lot, it will be a challenge for me to use just one technique at a time, so maybe I’ll try that. Enjoy!

Drawing

Coloring

Stenciling

Stickers

Hole punches

Design tape – also known as Washi tape or Paper tape

Collage

Rubber Stamping

Image Transfers

?????????? – What other techniques could be used?

Here is a link to a slideshow of images from the web page of IUOMA – The International Union of Mail Artists. I’ve been uploading the beard pictures to this gallery as I go. Intermixed are images that other people are uploading of conceptual art that they are both sending and receiving. This slide show changes daily as new images get added and older ones drop off. It might give you some ideas! Sometimes I put this slideshow on the screen while I’m working for extra inspiration!

Slide show of photos from IUOMA

I finished Experimental Art Quilts #2 and #3

I started making this series of experimental art quilts for two main purposes – to learn some hand quilting skills, and to have fun challenging myself to try to make art with upcycled scrap fabrics.

I decided to treat these pieces in a similar manner to some of my art journal pages. I thought of the fabric scraps as equivalent to the paper scraps that start off a lot of my art journal pages. Then I used the quilting stage to kind of draw with thread over and around the scraps like I would draw with pens and pencils on an art journal page. These were intended as art for the wall and not functional quilts so I had a lot of freedom to experiment with different fabrics and textures. Following are pictures of each piece and some process photos I took while I was making them so you can get an idea of how they were constructed. Enjoy!

Experimental Art Quilt #2
Originally this was going to be a sample for a JoAnn class for beginners I was interested in teaching. It was supposed to be four 6 inch squares with embroidery on them. Then I got inspired and started adding and adding and adding parts…
I wanted to get the embroidered parts right so I plotted some of them out on the computer first by using Adobe Illustrator to draw lines over a picture of the quilt to see how it might look. The final step was to outline it with blanket edging that I bought at JoAnn. I also bought the rick-rack, tulle, and yellow sheer ribbon there. I bought the batting online from my wholesaler and all the other fabrics were upcycled or leftovers. There are a few scraps in there that I printed with rubber stamps, a few scraps from my Mom’s stash, a few pieces from a dress I wore in 1985 and a piece of curtains that my Mom made for my room in the early 1980s!
Finished Experimental Art Quilt #3
I assembled strips from scraps and used the reverse applique technique to insert then between strips taken from upcycled bed sheets and pillow cases. The large scale black and white Aztec-looking print was taken from my favorite shirt in the 80s. These are remnants of the sleeves and collar that I cut off when I made a vest out of it a couple of years ago. The color scheme is a result of having some fun with one colorful strip among all neutrals to make a focal point.
I added a border made of tubes of leftover fabric, then decided the piece needed a bit more color and to draw attention to the focal point a little more. I added a strip of leftover brighter colored fabric and started on the embroidery. I used tracings inspired by a shirt I’m still working on that was inspired by my old shirt from the 80s. Then I embroidered through the tracing paper and tore away the paper after I stitched it.

Experienced quilters looking at these pieces I’m sure are aware I need a lot more technical skill and knowledge before I’m a “real” quilter, that’s why I call these “experimental”. One thing I’m thinking about doing this winter is learning to make a traditional quilt block to help with my skills in repairing a vintage quilt I started working on last winter. I’m looking forward to learning new skills as always! And I expect I’ll keep making experimental art quilts (I have ideas and the beginnings of two more already) because it’s fun and it’s useful to have portable projects I can carry around with me.

My Experimental Art Quilts 1-3 are for sale as wall art – if you are interested here are links to my listings on Etsy.

Experimental Art Quilt #1

Experimental Art Quilt #2

Experimental Art Quilt #3

Doing Art Therapy on Myself

Here is what happened to me Friday October 15:

I fell down the stairs and bent my foot the wrong way. I might have two broken toes, I realize it could have been a lot worse. The pain is way down today so my head is more clear and I can actually write something! I don’t have to spend 100% of my time off of my foot until I have a follow up appointment with an orthopedic doctor, but I will have to spend the majority of my time with it elevated, at least for awhile. Not sure for how long, but in the meantime I’m taking the opportunity to study my art therapy book and my horticultural therapy books to see if there is anything I can do to cope better with the fear and frustration of being temporarily unable to move around much. I’d also like to help my stressed out family cope with helping me with my injury while dealing with other severe recent losses. What can I learn while I study and try things out?

Having Some Fun With Negative Space

I started out by working on some collages I began during #virtualartparty number 4, an online session my husband and I hosted to help our friends and family do a little art and hopefully feel less lonely during the pandemic. I’ll write more about the collages later, but for now I want to write about the leftover cut away paper pieces I was dropping in the waste basket to be composted. The shapes were interesting, and reminded me of something. What was it? Why were these scraps interesting? Then I remembered this really cool architecture photo I had put on an Architecture Pinterest board. And some sketches I’d done for a ceramics class in the spring of 1990. Good memories of one of those times when I couldn’t stop the ideas from coming, and a pretty good percentage of them still seem exciting to me.

What I was noticing was the shapes made by the negative space – the parts I cut away – and how they reminded me of positive and negative shapes that I responded strongly to. I took the most interesting white paper scraps back out of the waste basket and glued them down on black paper. I scanned them into the computer to make these positive and negative images to see if they inspired me to make something with them.

Using Photoshop, I made selection outlines out of the white shapes, stroked them in black, and printed out the results as coloring pages so I can try to encourage myself and other people to enjoy the benefits of coloring and art making. There is enough going on to get people started – sometimes a blank page is intimidating if people don’t know what to draw or color – that’s a tip I learned long ago in Drawing 1. There is still room for individual creativity in these and other coloring pages I’ve made available for free download.

Download free coloring pages:

Negative space #1

Negative space #2

Abstract Art

The shapes that resulted from the paper cutting do somewhat resemble natural forms, but the overall design so far is abstract. Is abstract art good for therapeutic purposes?

I often encourage people to try making some abstract art in a project that is relatively low stakes such as an art journal page, because my reasoning has been that many untrained artists are afraid that they can’t draw and therefore are discouraged from making art that attempts to be representational. If I can show them how to make art from found papers and found objects, maybe that will help them become less inhibited and just have fun.

My favorite kind of art is abstract and if need be I can keep myself entertained with shapes, colors, textures and lines for hours if not days on end. Even if I think it’s fascinating and fun, abstract art is likely going to be a hard sell for most people. Those who appreciate abstract art the most are often art and design professionals or people very knowledgeable about art, such as patrons or collectors. The general population is mostly not that big of a fan and prefers recognizable nature-based images (Marcus and Sachs 15). We know from reactions to modern art and modern public sculpture how wide the gulf can be between the tastes of art and design professionals and the general public. If this sounds elitist, it’s not meant to be, it’s just a fact pointed out in a therapy book to help practitioners offer projects that are most helpful to the patient (Marcus and Sachs 15).

Abstract art isn’t necessarily therapeutic to people with certain conditions or states of mind. Experiments on physically or emotionally stressed patients revealed not only an affinity toward nature imagery but hostility to abstract art – even to the point of attacking the abstract pieces in some cases. The same artwork often prompted positive reactions from the staff, showing how the varying states of mind of individuals influenced how the artwork was perceived (Marcus and Sachs 30-31).

Practitioners intending to use art to facilitate health should keep the client’s needs in mind above their own personal tastes (Marcus and Sachs 15). Stress is detrimental to healing, both mentally and physically (Marcus and Sachs 25), so the last thing I would want to do is add to someone’s stress if I was trying to help them.

What could I add to my abstract background to make a project that is more soothing to the general public? My project is aimed at people who want to color but don’t necessarily want to draw. I have several stencils in my collection with botanical imagery that will appeal to the universal human need for nature-based imagery. I can use colors that are soothing and also found in nature. I chose blues and greens for this demo because hot colors might aggravate certain conditions and interfere with wellness (Winterbottom and Wagenfeld 182).

Art Journal Page

Here is an art journal page I made with one of my abstract printouts and a botanical themed stencil.

I got out a piece of cardstock that I use as a template for making pages that fit my art journal and I traced around the printout to remind me where the page edge will be. I chose a stencil by The Crafter’s Workshop, Mini Four Ferns, and outlined the fern designs in pencil.
I chose a blue gray pencil color to fill in the abstract shapes so that they would visually recede into the background behind the green ferns. Where the fern and abstract shapes overlapped, I overlaid neutral gray marker. I used green colored pencils and a green Sharpie paint marker to color in the rest of the ferns where they did not overlap the blue, and I outlined the ferns with a thin black Sharpie pen. It didn’t look quite finished so I drew some lines in pencil that are reminiscent of topographic maps. Then I was satisfied!

Works Cited

Marcus, Clare Cooper and Naomi A. Sachs. Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces. Wiley, 2014.

Winterbottom, Daniel and Amy Wagenfeld. Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces. Timber Press, 2015.

Art Journaling By Selectively Covering Text

Sometimes I find and save advertising materials printed on nice paper. I might like part of the imagery, or be attracted to the weight and feel of the paper, or both. It’s sometimes less intimidating to start an art journal page on paper that already has something on it than a blank piece of paper. In this article I’ll show you two ways to creatively alter found papers with text on them.

Tools and Materials
Assorted found papers and scrap papers
Clean scrap paper
Stencils
Markers and other drawing and coloring implements of choice
Painter’s tape or masking tape
Scissors
Glue stick
Burnishing tool

First, select a piece of paper with text on it, and a stencil. Tape the stencil in place over the text. Using the marking implement of your choice, outline the openings in the stencil only in the spots where there is text to cover.

This results in an interesting effect. The text turns into a texture rather than something you read, and the resulting graphic effect might suggest what to do next to finish the composition. You might decide to color in some or all of the outlines you just traced over the text.

In the example above, since I’ve used permanent black Sharpie markers, I can use almost any medium I want to add color if I want to.

There is no need to restrict yourself to using a black marker. My brother got off to a very good start on this page. He took advantage of the pale text to use colored Sharpie markers. If he wants to work on this page more it has a lot of potential.

I have a real weakness for amoeba shapes and any graphics that suggest mid-century modern imagery. I cut these blocks of text from a magazine because of the pretty shapes and colors backing some of the text.

The article I took these cutouts from was about work-life balance. There are some words in these paragraphs that would be good to have in my art journal, which I use as a self-care tool as well as for creative expression. I covered up the words I didn’t want to see with strips of scrap paper and left exposed the words I did want to see. When the glue was dry enough to handle, I trimmed the shapes. Toward the end, I got tired of gluing paper strips and for the last few lines I wanted to cover, I used a yellow opaque paint marker to finish off these pieces.

Some people compose prose or poetry this way, by removing words instead of writing them to make new compositions. In this sample I was mainly interested in making a visual statement, and I treated the words as random elements. But if you wanted to, you could make a carefully considered visual AND literary statement by selectively covering words.

Here is a two-page spread using both techniques from this article together. I think these two pages are almost complete. I’ll think about them for awhile before doing anything else to them, if I decide they need more.

It helps that these two found pages here were already strong graphically, which was part of the reason why I was attracted to them in the first place.