Tag Archives: mixed media

Memory crafts needed in a hurry plus mourning in a social media age

Trigger warning: this blog post deals with the topic of suicide.  Please get professional help if you are suffering from mental health issues. If you are afraid that you might harm yourself, please call 911 or a suicide hotline immediately. Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number – 1-800-273-8255.

Knowing how to make memory craft projects and having memory craft materials around is most helpful when going through something like my remaining family and I just went through. My uncle Dave was discovered deceased on August 27, 2021 and my brother Larry died from suicide on September 4, 2021.

I think some people were taken aback that I was open about my brother dying from suicide almost immediately after hearing the news. No one gave me flak over it, but I do think a few people were surprised. I did ask my Dad for permission before I posted the cause of death. My Dad and I are the two remaining from our original nuclear family of four.

There are reasons why I wanted people to know the truth right away. For one thing I wanted people to know exactly what horror we were dealing with because it’s not likely that our lives will be “back to normal” any time soon, if ever. We will be needing and asking for some leeway in meeting some of our obligations as we try to figure out what our lives are going to look like now and decide how to prioritize tasks.

Another reason is that my brother fought to overcome bipolar disorder for over 20 years, and my late uncle did as well. My brother’s illness affected our family greatly even well before it was diagnosed because there were serious symptoms that made all of our lives challenging at times, even if we didn’t yet understand what they meant. I have done volunteer work from time to time over the years to help people with mental illness, mental disabilities, or are just going through a tough time as the result of a normal grieving process. In the past I taught workshops at the former Open Door Art Studio and a few years back I donated a few days work and a lot of supplies to Artists First studio with the hope of someday doing more work there. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, my husband Tom and I did a series of eight webcasts we called #virtualartparty to help people enjoy art and craft activities to help avoid mental health problems that could result from anxiety and isolation.

I knew my brother’s suffering had increased quite a bit over the last few months. I tried to show I cared and encourage him a little by doing a couple of “art therapy” projects with him and my Dad, and with a few other people who were also going through a hard time. I was planning to do more whenever I was able. I put “art therapy” in quotes here because while I’m a trained artist I’m not a formally trained art therapist – but since all art is therapeutic, my philosophy is it’s better to do something than nothing. Even if it doesn’t work, at least you have tried. And a few minutes of distraction from misery is better than nothing as well. I have to look for something good where I can in order to go on.

Making self-care cards out of Project Life cards

Art Journaling By Selectively Covering Text

I have been through a course of therapy myself to recover from an abusive relationship and the resulting serious trauma. Even though I have great empathy for sufferers I know there is a limited amount I can do to help someone else recover from severe mental illness. My Dad and I know we tried everything that we could think of to save our loved ones but we could not do it. Dave and Larry were both under medical care and as far as we know fighting hard for many years. Our help and the work of many doctors and therapists was not enough to save them. I’m grateful for the people who can be saved and sad about the ones that can’t. There is a need out there for compassion and understanding to aid others in helping their loved ones with mental illness or consoling them if the outcome turns out tragic. That’s something I can help with in a little way perhaps by writing about it and continuing to make small contributions to the general cause of mental health whenever I can. I think dealing with reality head-on is more useful for this goal than trying to cover it up. I feel devastated over what happened but it’s based on sadness, not shame. I don’t want other mourners affected by mental illness or suicide to feel shame either. So I’m trying to contribute by setting an example of frankness and truth. I am not judging others who choose a different way – we all have our reasons for how we grieve and how we process our situations.

It comforts me to try to find answers and explanations to find meaning in overwhelming situations. Right now I’m more consumed with questions than in a state of readiness for trying to find answers. That’s where the memory crafts come in. I made a few things for the funerals in a hurry, which served the purposes of mourning the dead, comforting others, and providing a needed distraction and creative outlet for myself to help me cope. Following are some pictures. It’s my way to mark just about any important occasion with art and crafts – both celebratory and mournful.

fishing related craft items plus lures
Fishing related craft items plus lures. Uncle Dave was cremated so I was asked to make a box to temporarily cover the plastic box of ashes during the mass. I was inspired to make a fishing themed box for several reasons. One, as Christians, I liked the allusion to Jesus asking the apostles to be join him and be “fishers of men”. Is there a way to use this tragedy as a way to bring God’s love to people? Another reason is that fishing was one of his main activities if not THE main activity he loved, and it broke my heart that when we went in his house all the items for a future fishing trip were ready by the door – poles, cooler, pliers, tackle, etc. I wish he had been able to go on his planned trip and many many more after that. Another is that although I don’t fish I love to be on water and one reason I do Operation Clean Stream is so that people like me and Uncle Dave and everyone who enjoys the outdoors can have clean, healthy streams. So that is something I felt a connection with him through – nature and water. Two of the lures I used I found in the Meramec River while I was doing stream cleanup, and the other lures I used were Dave’s.
wood panels for box
Wood panels for box after being painted, sanded and assembled.
Finished box
Background for Dave's photo board.
Background for Dave’s photo board. When I started Dave’s memorial projects, I thought I was going to have a lot more time to work on them. Unfortunately my brother also died before we could have Dave’s funeral, so some of that time went for planning Larry’s funeral also. Dad and I glued on the papers for this background from a selection I had already picked out to harmonize with the box. We used medical tape that Tom had around on the edges because we didn’t have time to shop for anything else. Fortunately, it was the right weight and texture and looked good. Because of our grieving and hasty preparations, I actually wore a dress with no underwear because I forgot to bring extra and using one of my brother’s ties as a belt because I forgot one to the first funeral – but we got by. With all the shock I’m proud of us for just functioning. We had a lot of great help too – we are very grateful. We believe prayer works and we know lots of people were praying for us. We also know how much we were helped by people’s kind actions. For example my husband Tom took two weeks off from work to help us. We are most indebted to him and others for their kind deeds.
Larry's photo board #1
Larry’s photo board #1

We used the same tape on Larry’s boards but I painted it a black/bronze color before we started gluing down the torn paper. This is only a tiny percentage of all the photos we would have liked to show but Larry’s friend Tim and others helped put together a digital slide show as well that was greatly appreciated by all of us.

Larry's photo board #2
Larry’s photo board #2
Larry's photo board #3
Larry’s photo board #3

Links to more information:

Dave’s obituary

Video of Dave’s mass

Larry’s obituary

Video of Larry’s mass (partial, but they got the homily which was excellent and appropriate)

Larry’s memorial Facebook album (in progress)

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.

Every art journal page doesn’t have to be a masterpiece

I’m happy with how this two-page spread for my art journal turned out, even though it is kind of messy. Sometimes in the morning Tom will make the coffee before leaving for work and often he’ll leave a love note for me with good wishes for the day if I’m not awake yet. He uses paper left over from me printing out shipping labels for my online store. The leftovers just happen to be the size of my journal and planner pages. I punch holes in a lot of them and write on the other side when I want to take notes or record thoughts. Often either he or I will get coffee stains on the notes as you see here. Since I’m not starting with a pristine piece of high quality paper, there is no pressure on me to make a craft demo worthy effort every time I use these to make an art journal page. I did however greatly enjoy using stencils and stickers in the rough but satisfying example shown above to record a few thoughts about sharing morning coffee with my loved ones and having a healthy weekend.

In my last blog post, I wrote about the acronym G.R.A.P.E.S. and how the G stands for “Be gentle with yourself”. One way to do that is to take a little time to journal and let yourself off the hook if it doesn’t look like a brand ambassador did it. The activity itself is beneficial in many ways.

Stencils and stickers are real time savers when you want to slap something together without having to make a major art or design statement. I have a lot of supplies, but also I have a basic portable kit that includes some of my favorite stencils, a folio of colored pencils, gel pens, a few planner-friendly design tapes and some basic pencils and markers for writing and outlining. There are a few frequently used paper crafting tools in that kit like a burnisher, glue stick, hole punch, scissors, ruler and utility knife for cutting and sharpening pencils. I can get a lot done with that kit, and if I want to add more to the pages when I’m home, I have many more paper crafting supplies I can utilize.

The stencils I used in the two-page spread above are available in my online shop:

Mini Script Words

Mini Word Association

Mini Coffee Splotch

Mini Home Sweet

I have a couple of Pinterest boards full of more of my own examples along with samples, inspiration and tips from others on the topics of Art Journaling, Planners, Albums, Homemade Books and Scrapbooks. Enjoy!

Art Journaling

Planners, Journals, Albums, Scrapbooks and Handmade Books

Making self-care cards out of Project Life cards

I know several people who could use some encouragement right about now, including myself. I decided this week to get out my paper craft supplies to have a bit of creative fun and make supportive cards to use and more to give to people I know.

First I’ll explain what both self-care cards and Project Life cards are. Self care could be considered the practice of maintaining your physical and mental health in order to prevent burnout and breakdowns. While looking for some resources for my Self Care Pinterest board that I use for reference, I found some specifically aimed at caregivers of different kinds. Even if one chooses from their own free will to be a caregiver, it’s still a tough job. As these resources I found mention, one should not feel guilty for practicing self care even if you are naturally inclined to be giving – a burned out or broken down person is not in a good position to help others. We are able to be of much better service when we are strong. We are often socially engineered by individuals and institutions to sacrifice our own agency to serve interests not our own or of our own choice. I think it’s a beautiful thing to voluntarily share but not to be manipulated or coerced into it. The latter is just being a victim of people who choose to live a parasitic lifestyle.

So what are self-care cards and where do they fit in? There are many types of cards with different information that people have used over the years as reminders or teaching tools. Small cards are portable and fit in a wallet, a planner, a journal, a pocket or wherever so that you can access reminders on the go or wherever it’s convenient. When learning new life habits we might need a touchstone of sorts to keep us on track. Self care cards are just cards with self-care content. They can be purchased, downloaded for printing, or handmade. I often like to use a combination of desktop printing and paper crafting methods to make or decorate self care cards for myself.

What are Project Life cards? Project Life is a commercial product developed by designer Becky Higgins intended to make scrapbooking and related memory crafts easier and less time consuming, and to relate the activity to living well and positive personal goals. Pocket scrapbooking is a generic term for using clear pocket album pages to organize cards and various paper items. Like a lot of people, I picked up the modern form of the hobby of scrapbooking in the 1990s. When I first heard of pocket scrapbooking I was intrigued and purchased some cards to use in conjunction with with my “conventional” scrapbook pages and also in other paper crafts.

Several years ago I purchased the Project Life Cinnamon Core Kit and the Road Trip Theme Pack. These sets featured lots of colors I used a lot, and graphic themes that were complementary to a number of products I already owned.

I’ve used a lot of the cards in scrapbooks and other paper projects over the years but still have a good quantity left. Because some of the Project Life cards feature positive messages and others contain grids or lines to help with journaling or record keeping of various kinds, they are well-suited to use as a base to make self care cards. If you want to make these of course the bases of your cards don’t have to be specifically from Project Life – a variety of products could be used.

One activity that I learned a few years back from a depression support group web page is the acronym G.R.A.P.E.S. It stands for:

  • Being Gentle with yourself
  • Relaxation
  • Achievement
  • Pleasure
  • Exercise
  • Social

The idea behind using this acronym is to try to do one activity on the list from each category every day. From my own experience and from what others have told me who have tried it, even if it isn’t possible to do each category each and every day, striving to do it and tracking the activities each day to make sure one is continually improving does result in better mood and health. It helps you “social engineer” yourself into having a better life. This is anecdotal information of course, but if you delve into scientific research on mental health you will find out why it’s effective. In this project, I’ll show how I made self care cards track the use of activities from the G.R.A.P.E.S. categories. I put more “decoration” on these cards than is strictly needed but it’s fun to use up paper scraps while making cards that fit my own personality. And paper crafting itself is a great way to get the Pleasure “task” checked off for the day!

paper crafting materials

Tools and Materials

Project Life or other cards
Scrap papers in harmonious colors
Scissors
Paper cutter
Glue sticks
Thin markers in black and colors harmonious with chosen color scheme
Small letter stencils
Small letter stickers
Assorted encouraging stickers, die cuts, paper scraps featuring helpful sayings or sentiments, or other appropriate embellishments
Rubber stamping ink – black and harmonious colors
Rubber stamps
Hole punch
Cord or string to loop through hole

First I added paper scraps to the existing Project Life cards I had whenever I wanted to make the existing designs more to my taste. Mostly this consisted of adding paper scrap strips to the borders on some of the cards, leaving the grids or lines in view. Some of the cards were fine the way they were.

Next I assembled a variety of letter stickers from my collection that spelled G.R.A.P.E.S. For more variety, I drew some letters with marker through alphabet stencils and cut those pieces of paper out. I added the letters G.R.A.P.E.S. along the side on on side of the card. Since these cards came with designs on both sides, I used the other sides for spaces to take notes, or for making a mini encouraging collage with stickers and paper ephemera.

When necessary to make a grid to keep track of activities, I added vertical lines with thin markers.

I punched a hole at the top and added some string with a lark’s head knot so that I can use these cards as bookmarks also.

I thought some of the cards needed just a little bit more added to make them looked finished, so I stamped here and there with assorted rubber stamps and added a few more stickers.

As I complete daily activities that fit one of the G.R.A.P.E.S. categories, I’ll put a checkmark in the proper spot on the grid.

Additional Resources:

My article "Self-help Techniques for depression"

Link to a PDF file I made with motivational quotes and graphics with the letters G.R.A.P.E.S. for printing out

My Self Care Pinterest board

Art Journaling Pinterest board

Pinterest board of Planners, Journals, Albums, Scrapbooks and Handmade Books

Scrapbooking Page Sketches Pinterest board - includes a section on pocket scrapbooking

Homework, art journaling and stencils!

Art journaling is an activity that helps me a lot with self care, artistic expression and just general management of life. Lately I’ve been experimenting with combining some artistic expression with material I’m learning in Social Engineering class. There are a lot of acronyms and concepts to remember – things that lend themselves well to bullet journals, art journals and chart and graph type graphics.

These pairs of pages you will see are in progress. I made them to have something to do adult coloring and other paper craft based activities on when I want to relax and be creative for a bit. As I work I can study and memorize the “bullet points”. I’m going to erase some of these pencil lines as I go. For a couple of the more complicated layouts I made drawings on tracing paper and chipboard templates to help cut the paper pieces to the right sizes and shapes.

Some of the stencils I used are commercial products I sell in my online Etsy shop. If you would like to see the selection, it’s at this link: Stencils and Stenciling Supplies.

I hope these pages in progress will give you some ideas for organizing information in a creative and fun way!

Two-page spread for MAPP – Mitigation and Prevention Plan.
Here is a pair of pages I began to create my rendition of “Curtis’ Triad of Disruption”. I love geometric shapes, and trios. This will be fun to work on!
Social Engineering Pyramid two-page spread on tracing paper and then started in the art journal.

SWOT Analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard

A SWOT Analysis is a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat Analysis. Here I am using an outline partly based on an unpublished paper I wrote for Marketing 5000 class last spring to create a SWOT analysis for the #12daysoftomsbeard project. My unpublished paper, titled “(Name of Fantasy Company) Marketing Plan” was based on an assignment and outline given to us by Webster University professor Dr. John Jinkner.

I’m going to publish a small portion at a time, because it will take some time to write. I hope you enjoy it!

12daysoftomsbeard
selections from #12daysoftomsbeard 2020/21 season

I. Executive Summary

#12daysoftomsbeard is a conceptual art project engaged in by Carolyn (Me) and Tom Winkelmann as part of our annual Christmas tradition. This is a young tradition for us, having been recently practiced for only the second year in a row.

The activity was inspired by several things. I have a long history of engaging in conceptual art through Mail Art, the ‘zine scene, and various art experiments involving photography, handmade books, ephemeral art installations, Pop Art, Dadaism, and more. There are two definitions of conceptual art in an interesting article I found, “If You Don’t Understand Conceptual Art, It’s Not Your Fault”. One definition, the one I gave to my husband off the top of my head while I explained why I wanted to take pictures of him with things in his beard, is that conceptual art is a form of art where the idea is the art and the tangible object created is not considered important. The other definition in the article is that conceptual art is a set of plans or strategies (Kaplan).

Tom has been letting his beard grow more often and is frequently teased about his beard by his family. Last year I decided it would be fun to turn the teasing into humor and art so I showed up at Christmas Day celebrations with colorful paper circles and squares with a few collage elements on them and writing implements for family members to color and draw on to put in Tom’s beard to take pictures of. The idea for hanging paper or art items from a beard is not original with me, there are people who use their beards as mini art galleries and vehicles for Christmas decorations.

I invited family members, many who I know like to paint and color, to use pens and markers to add to the paper pieces, which I then clipped to Tom’s beard with mini clothespins. Then I took photos for Instagram and posted one each day for 12 days, with the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard. The idea for hanging paper or art items from a beard is not original with me, there are people who use their beards as mini art galleries and vehicles for Christmas decorations.

Examples of beard art at #12daysofbeardmas and Italian artist Fulgor Silvi's beard gallery.
Examples of beard art at #12daysofbeardmas by Doug Torpey  and Coleton Williams, and on the right Italian artist Fulgor Silvi’s beard gallery.

Since I like to art journal as a creative development and self-care activity, when I was done taking pictures of the paper pieces in Tom’s beard, I mounted them on art journal pages, some of which I planned to exhibit in the then upcoming art show, Back To Our Roots which opened in February 2020 at the historic Arcade building in downtown St. Louis.

Beard art and art journal samples
On the left is one of the #12daysoftomsbeard pictures from the 2019/2020 holiday season. In the middle is shown a tray of the paper pieces I was using last year, and a couple of the art journal pages that made use of paper beard pieces after the photos were taken. The green page at the center right was used in the Webster University art and literary magazine. The right photo shows my installation of collages on the wall at the Back To Our Roots art show opening night, and the shelf below holds three art journals that visitors were allowed to page through. The little green pieces of paper you see on the shelf were for visitors to take if they wanted to. The paper pieces featured a QR code that people could scan and view with their smartphones in case they wanted to read more about the journals in an artist statement I wrote. The artist statement grew a lot bigger than I was expecting and I’m actually still adding content from time to time, trying to finish it.

II. Environmental Analysis

There were several parts to the #12daysoftomsbeard project as executed in the 2020-21 holiday season. Since I was anticipating only distance Christmas activities due to the pandemic, I decided to send out tags and invite people to alter them and send them back to take picture of in Tom’s beard.

Greeting cards with materials inviting participation in #12daysoftomsbeard
Greeting card with materials inviting participation in #12daysoftomsbeard

1. I made a black and white version of collages that Tom and I made together to use in our Christmas cards, then had copies printed out on white cardstock. I traced shapes from Christmas cookie cutters onto the back of the cardstock and cut out shaped tags. I made stickers for the backs of the tags that explained the project and featured a QR code so that people could easily check the results of the #12daysoftomsbeard Instagram feed with smartphones if they wanted to.

2. I put tags in most of the Christmas cards we sent out. I also included in many of cards some scrap paper pieces and examples of faux postage that Tom and I made to use in Christmas artwork, for people who might want to join in but don’t have a ready supply of art materials around. Some of the paper scraps were examples of Christmas faux postage that I’ve made on my own and with my husband so if people didn’t end up using them in the project they might want them for some other craft or just something to look at as part of a Christmas greeting.  For a few of the people that we hand-delivered cards and gifts to, we punched a hole at the top of a tag, attached a loop of cord for hanging, and put one on their doorknob.

Social media header promoting #12daysoftomsbeard
Social media header promoting #12daysoftomsbeard

3. I made a graphic to use as a social media header that included the QR code and images from last year’s beard series to raise anticipation and awareness. I also wanted to cheer people up with some bright colors since I knew a lot of people who were feeling sadness over separation from loved ones and the loss of loved ones during the holidays. I know from personal experience that the holidays and winter are often difficult for many people even in more typical years depending on their current situation in life.

4. To help people get started sooner if they were eager, since we weren’t as early as I would have liked getting our cards mailed, I made graphic that people could download and print out that had tag templates on it, instructions and the QR code.

#12daysoftomsbeard
#12daysoftomsbeard

I posted the template graphic in social media for download, and mailed and emailed a few copies to people I thought might be particularly interested.

Colorful paper pieces made for #12daysoftomsbeard.
Colorful paper pieces made for #12daysoftomsbeard.

5. In keeping with the theme of bright rainbow colors I had started, I prepared 12 little collages made from colorful upcycled hardware store paint sample cards so that I would have something to put in Tom’s beard if no one sent me any art pieces to use. On some days I made extra items to fit the color theme of the day and also incorporated found objects if I was inspired. For example, those two guys in the right picture above were cut out from a piece of junk mail. Some of the paper pieces there were parts from older Christmas card designs.

Purple day - I rummaged through a box of stuff I had for making crazy ornaments, and got some purple floral pieces and some plastic jewels. My Dad made the tag on the right and I made the paint sample collage. Tom and I made the stars for the glasses together. Yes we both like Bootsy Collins! Here you can see how much fun and color the filters add to the photos.
Purple day – I rummaged through a box of stuff I had for making crazy ornaments, and got some purple floral pieces and some plastic jewels. My Dad made the tag on the right and I made the paint sample collage. Tom and I made the stars for the glasses together. Yes we both like Bootsy Collins! Here you can see how much fun and color the filters add to the photos.

6. When taking the pictures, I had a lot of fun experimenting with different eyeglasses on Tom and taping things to the lenses of my clear protective goggles to make crazy compositions. I installed some new photo filters on my smartphone to make the pictures even more fun and colorful before I posted them to Instagram.

Here are a few of the sequential header graphics I made to show each day being filled in. I had to make two "pink" days to compensate for an issue that came up that I'll write about later in this paper.
Here are a few of the sequential header graphics I made to show each day being filled in. I had to make two “pink” days to compensate for an issue that came up that I’ll write about later in this paper, that’s why the last graphic is wider.

7. Tom and I were feeling lonely over the holidays and thought that since we were staying home, it might be fun to have a New Year’s Eve themed #virtualartparty, an ongoing series of online meetings I started when the pandemic began, with the purpose of cheering people up who were missing out on their usual social activities.

Griffin still doesn't look too happy in this picture. It was taken a few days after she was sick to show my Dad she was doing a lot better. She looks a lot happier now!
Griffin still doesn’t look too happy in this picture, it was taken a few days after she was sick to show my Dad she was doing a lot better. We were so sure she was going to go on Dec. 31 that we invited Tom’s former roommate over to say goodbye. We were grateful at the time of this picture that she was holding her head up. These days she is acting pretty normal and doing a lot more than that.

We ended up cancelling the New Year’s Eve edition of #virtualartpary because our cat Griffin was terribly ill that day and we were sure we were going to lose her. Griffin has been with my husband for 21 years and Tom needed my support and attention so he could be with Griffin, and I thought we were going to be dealing with grief on New Year’s Eve and not in the mood for a party. But to our grateful surprise, Griffin recovered and is doing very well now. At her age we know she won’t be around that much longer, but we aren’t eager to lose her any earlier than we have to.

I had been planning to talk about #12daysoftomsbeard on December 31 as part of the #virtualartparty, the timing made sense since I was taking a daily photo from December 25 through January 6. I made some sequential social media header graphics with colorful beard pictures and the hash tag #virtualartparty to help build interest. I didn’t have time to make a header graphic for each of the 12 days, but maybe next year I should.

A. The Marketing Environment
Even though #12daysoftomsbeard is not a commercial activity, we do need to market the project in order to persuade people to participate.

1. Competitive forces. Other sources of entertainment, amusement or hobby activities are the main competition for the attention and time that potential participants might allow for just understanding what our #12daysoftomsbeard project is, much less time to participate. With the amount of time that people spend in front of a screen or with a smart device in their hand, it is difficult to get anyone’s attention away from anything that isn’t corporate in origin. As Dr. Jim Taylor lamented in an article for Psychology Today, the nations of the former Soviet Union, Italy, Spain, Germany and nations conquered by the NAZIs, Cuba and North Korea have experienced decades of suffering because aspects of their authentic culture were abusively removed and replaced with a synthesized totalitarian culture (Taylor, “Popular Culture: We…”). I would add China and the United States to that list also. Dr. Taylor’s article reminds us why there are so many organizations throughout the world dedicated to cultural heritage and cultural preservation. I quote Dr. Taylor in this excerpt:

“As individuals, a genuine popular culture instills a sense of ownership and empowerment in our society because each of us knows that we contribute to that culture. We are more likely to act in our society’s best interests because we know that those best interests are also our own. An authentic popular culture also gives us a sense of shared identity, meaning, and purpose that transcends differences in geography, race, ethnicity, religion, or politics. All of these then encourage us to lead a life in accordance with our culture’s values and norms because they are our own (Taylor, ‘Popular Culture: We…’)”

In other words, if we throw away our authentic culture for synthesized corporate culture we should not have to wonder why so many of our citizens have been programmed to serve the interests of large corporations so thoroughly that they are literally waging war on their behalf with people that they formerly were able to co-exist with. Many people trust screens far more than they trust friends, neighbors and even family members that they have known for decades. The manner in which many people experience the world is corporate-based with life beyond a screen regarded as if it is fiction. They allow corporations to tell them what the world outside is like instead of going out and finding out for themselves. People are told that their own judgement is not to be trusted and they need corporate “fact-checkers” to tell them what is ok to read or hear about. I overheard art teachers as far back as the 1980s trying to urge some of my fellow art students to use their own authentic experiences and senses of self to create art instead of just drawing corporate cartoon characters and corporate based entertainment characters and content. I know so many people, who if you removed corporate consumer culture from the topics they could talk or think about, there would be almost nothing there. Teaching art or trying to market an art activity without corporate branding attached to it is inherently very difficult. We know that children can’t distinguish advertising from entertainment, that is widely acknowledged, but I don’t know many people who admit that a lot of adults can’t either. Most people I know aren’t aware that when they are entertained they are actually being marketed to and they are not the customer for the entertainment – the advertisers are the actual customer.

The #12daysoftomsbeard project is not completely devoid of corporate content because it includes found objects and some clothing with logos. However, by basing it on the universal human experience of personal grooming and running it from December 25 to the Feast of the Epiphany (the day we Catholics observe it, my understanding is it varies depending on tradition), I intended to bring attention to authentic human and authentic Christian culture and away from the corporate way of celebrating Christmas for just a little while, just to give Tom and I and others a break and a reason to look at each other while really seeing and interacting each other. What would my slightly weird Christmas cards look like next to other cards designed by corporations? What do people think when they see the resulting pictures? What did they think about while making an art piece to send back?

Works Cited

Kaplan, Isaac. “f You Don’t Understand Conceptual Art, It’s Not Your Fault.” Artsy, 2016, www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-if-you-don-t-understand-conceptual-art-it-s-not-your-fault. Accessed 22 January 2021.

Mitchell, Grant. “Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) Analysis.” Dotdash, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/swot.asp. Accessed 15 January 2020.

Taylor, Dr. Jim. “Popular Culture: Too Much Time On Our Hands.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200909/popular-culture-too-much-time-our-hands. Accessed 15 December 2020.

—. “Popular Culture: We Are What We Consume.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200912/popular-culture-we-are-what-we-consume. Accessed 15 December 2020.

Merry Christmas!

And Happy Holidays to all!

This year I made two Christmas card designs. This first version started out as a mixed media art journal page. I scanned it and used Photoshop to add background shapes, manipulate colors and to add details. I started it two years ago, and got it out again last year, but I just didn’t get it to where I wanted it until the third try. I added in some of the faux postage designs Tom and I made a few weeks ago and that was finally the finishing touch it needed!

Christmas Card 2020 #1
Christmas Card 2020 #1

As often happens, while scanning in and manipulating the faux postage designs to use as accents, I got another idea and was in the mood for some brighter colors so I made another card design. I had both cards printed and sent one design to half the Christmas card list and the other to the remainder.

Christmas Card 2020 #2
Christmas Card 2020 #2

Besides the digital manipulation, the art and craft media and techniques that went into this card design consist of the following: rubber stamps, hole punches, collage, stickers, design tape (washi tape), and image transfers.

Greeting cards with materials inviting participation in #12daysoftomsbeard
Greeting card with materials inviting participation in #12daysoftomsbeard

The picture on the left shows how a lot of our Christmas cards went out. We each made two sheets of faux postage. Tom didn’t care about having color copies made of his or displaying them as full sheets, so I scanned his two faux postage sheets to make black and white versions for coloring. Last year we were able to invite family members to help color in and draw on paper items for Tom’s beard in person but this year we are not doing gatherings in person so we are encouraging people to mail things in for Tom’s beard. We made the black and white shaped tags to give people something to color on in case they are stuck for an idea.

For those who got a little envelope of paper bits, those are for designing and collaging with if you choose, or you can just enjoy them in different paper projects if you have any. I made a Pinterest board on which I collect ideas for things to make with scraps. Scraps and paper ephemera are endlessly inspiring to me.

https://www.pinterest.com/tdannenf/made-from-scraps/

Tom is a good sport and is having fun thinking of places to take the photos each day and also helping pick out filters. I downloaded a couple of new phone apps that have some crazy filters in them and I’m enjoying using them to help make an art statement.

Here are the results for Day 1. I added a hint of a grunge frame, the hashtag in text and a border in Photoshop after sharing it on a couple of social media sites first. As I get used to how the sharing process works with the new filter apps I’m trying out, this part should run more smoothly.

Day 1 of #12daysoftomsbeard!
Day 1 of #12daysoftomsbeard!

#12dayoftomsbeard lasts until January 6, so there is still plenty of time if you want to send something in! Some people probably don’t even have their greeting cards yet since I was a bit late getting them out due to school. I’m used to having to throw together holiday themed promotions at the last minute because often when working for a company or clients we would not have much time available to plan so we’d have to wait until client work slowed down right before Christmas to even start. It was and is frustrating to have to hurry through the planning and execution because we could have been so much more effective with more strategy and care. It was good practice for doing things fast though – I had to work fast once again this year because I’m in graduate school and there is very little time between the end of class and Christmas to work with. I don’t have much time to make gifts so a little fun activity and putting some extra work into the cards is the best I can do. I’m having fun with it – I hope other people do too!

Faux Postage With Stickers and Image Transfers

Two finished Christmas faux postage sheets.
Two finished Christmas faux postage sheets. I’m going to make copies of these and cut them up to use on mail, tags, packages, and more.

Tom and I are spending part of this weekend planning our Christmas crafts, card list, and gift list. 2020 will be our third Christmas as a married couple! It’s always been part of my tradition to participate in as many Christmas crafts as possible. Since we are Roman Catholic, Christmas lasts a long time – over a month.  Both for cultural and religious reasons, the Christmas season for us is from the day after Thanksgiving to January 6. Activities all through this time period are how I celebrate Christmas, I don’t just celebrate it for one day. Integrating crafts and creative pursuits as much as possible is one way I show gratitude to God for the gift of being able to share creativity with other people, whether through a handmade gift, a piece of mail or a social media post. There is probably going to be more inspirational holiday sharing online this year than ever before and I’m going to try to do my part!

I’m noticing that Tom and I are developing our own set of Christmas traditions, incorporating some things transferred or revived from our families of origin, combined with activities that are unique to us as a couple. In no particular order we participate in:

1. St. Nicholas Day – we used to celebrate this when I was young, and since it is very special to me we have brought it back.

2. Daily Advent prayers with candles – we’ll be getting the candle set out soon!

3. Charitable donations.

4. Reverse Advent calendar food pantry donation – we did this last year and found it worthwhile so are going to do it again this year. It is a great way to remember to be grateful, keeping in mind what other people might really need instead of just what we want.

5. Christmas/New Year cards designed by me.

6. Handmade gifts.

7. Masses and worship.

8. Christmas poem by Tom.

9. #12daysoftomsbeard

10. Christmas Faux Postage.

11. Christmas decorations.

12. Holiday media and reading (such as Hallmark Christmas movies, prayer books and the Bloomin’ Christmas book).

13. Christmas baking and food.

14. Festive gift packaging.

15. Christmas stockings.

16. Christmas Journaling and Icebreaking Activity Cards.

Today I’m going to focus on this year’s Christmas Faux Postage. It’s going to play a part in this year’s card design and possibly other craft projects too so I’m working on the faux postage first. As I did last year, I printed out two each of templates for making faux postage that I made available online, and Tom and I each started building compositions on two sheets. Here are two articles I wrote last year showing how I made designs with the two templates, including links for downloading the templates.

Low Tech Faux Postage: Part 1

Low Tech Faux Postage: Part 2

This year to start off our stamp sheets, Tom and I sat down with the printed templates, stickers, red, green and white image transfers that I made last year, collage papers and various markers and pens.

Developing four Christmas themed stamp sheets
Developing four Christmas themed stamp sheets

I’m in the process of finishing up those stamp sheets by treating them in a similar manner as the ones in the two tutorials linked to above, Low-Tech Faux Postage parts 1 and 2. I have stamped out some tiny words such as “US Postage” on strips of scrap paper and am gluing them down where there is room on the stamps designs. I’m making borders with mixed media. I’ll add some postmark stamps to the sheets and use stamps and perhaps stencils to add a little fine texture here and there where I think it’s needed. When the stamp sheets are done, I’ll get color copies made and cut up the copies into individual stamps to use on all kinds of Christmas paper crafts.

#virtualartparty 8: Public Art, Protests and the New Iconoclasm

Tom and Carolyn made this as part of #paintforpeace in #ferguson MO on June 6-7.
Tom and Carolyn made this as part of #paintforpeace in #ferguson MO on June 6-7.

I have never lived in Ferguson, MO but I have a lot of ties there. I worked there for several years. I went to school there for several years (yes I know STLCC is a two-year college but it took me longer than that – plus I took continuing ed classes for many years afterward). I know how hard the people of Ferguson have worked to create a nice business, dining and entertainment district. I’ve had several of those businesses as clients over the years and have been a customer at many others. A couple of my best friends lived there. I don’t like to see any community torn by violence but of course it’s extra emotional when it’s one that I am familiar with.

I believe the arts can heal and I believe that gardens can heal. That’s why I’m a Master Gardener and why I’ve been having my #virtualartparty online. When I saw that a friend of mine that I respect for her art ability, spiritual commitment and community spirit was participating in #paintforpeace in Ferguson, I wanted to put my beliefs about the healing power of art to the test. This past weekend I painted one panel along the main drag of Ferguson to make my contribution and to see what would happen. My husband joined me for one of the two days I was there and helped me paint a panel. If you have any questions about what we experienced or opinions about the project please feel free to ask and comment.

The theme for #virtualartparty Thursday, June 11 is Public Art. #paintforpeace is a form of public art that is intended to have a specific function. There is also a lot of other public art in the news lately – statuary and monuments from US and World History. There are monuments that are being targeted because they cause offense and make people feel unwelcome, and there are others that I theorize are being targeted to get footage of statues being toppled in the hopes of inciting fear and anger and sparking a violent revolution of our form of government. George Washington, Winston Churchill, Ghandi, Queen Victoria, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are all under attack and if continued we in the US and any part of the world influenced by European culture will see a Cultural Revolution to rival past events in history. Has anything good ever come from that? Please give your opinion.

Although it is not perfect I still support the Democratic Republic form of government and the US Constitution. I predict public art is going to be in the news for a long time to come. In between questions and comments, if we get any, my husband Tom is going to read selections from the following books. I chose these books because they were on my shelf and convenient, and also had something interesting to contribute to the public discourse about public art and public spaces. I have a HUGE book collection (seems pretentious to say “private library” but I guess that’s what it is) and I need to dig into it more often. It’s very illuminating, and I also find it calming to know that the issues we wrestle with today are not new and people have the ability to persevere through a lot of tough times.

Book selections for June 11, 2020:

“The Expressive Arts Activity Book: A Resource for Professionals” by Suzanne Darley and Wende Heath, 2008. Pages 60, 68.

“American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Excerpts from pages 186, 189, and 190.

“A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877” by Stephan Thernstrom, 1984. Excerpts from pages 358, 372, 377-379.

“Parks, Plants and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape” by Lynden B. Miller, 2009. Excerpts from pages 65-66.

“Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, 1991. Excerpts from pages 68-69, and 98.

“St. Louis: Portrait of a River City” by Elinor Martineau Coyle, 1966. Excerpts from pages 56, 66-69, 82, 128.

“Arts and Ideas”, Seventh Edition by William Fleming, 1986. Excerpts from pages 86-87.

“The Visual Dialogue: An Introduction to the Appreciation of Art” by Nathan Knobler, 1966. Pages 238, 261-263, 289.

If you have book, article, or art recommendations, please post them! I’m going to be posting more after tonight’s discussion because there is enough material to stay on this topic for quite awhile. I might even want to turn this into a project for my Master’s Degree at Webster University, if I don’t get expelled first for “thoughtcrime”.

Update June 12, 2020

Ok, here is how last night’s video turned out.

#paintforpeace in Ferguson organizers video:

They are promoting the hashtag #wehearyou so I’m going to start adding that to related stuff in social media.

Listening and hearing I think are some of the key things I’ve learned from this healing experiment. We live in a “gotcha” culture and everyone is quick to see and pounce on the flaw in someone’s reasoning rather than trying to understand how they got to where they are in their thinking. People in our society today have an average attention span of 8 seconds which is less than that of a goldfish which is 9 seconds. Is it any wonder that the humanity part of being human seems to be hard to find? Understanding and healing takes patience and work, but we are being pushed to instantly judge someone to see if they fall into one category or another so their concerns can be dismissed. If you treat people like that for decades you can’t earn trust back in an instant. Have we all examined ourselves to see if we are worthy of trust? That’s what we have to do first before we judge someone else for getting the wrong idea about us and writing them off as not worth trying to engage with.

Of course there are those who have ill intent and want to sow hate and violence to achieve their destructive goals and sometimes they hide those goals under a facade that seems benign. I believe in letting people show you who they are with their behavior before you judge. I don’t blame people for not knowing who it’s safe to trust. I try not to take it personally and use patience and love to “give peace a chance”. You might get burned, but you might find something beautiful. We have to accept that we aren’t always allowed to have peace but where we can have it I like to try it first.

Here is an amazing video I watched the other day. It’s called “Before You Call the Cops”.

https://www.facebook.com/NowThisNews/videos/3775601599137969/

Make a Greeting Card With a Star and Arrow

mixed media greeting cards

I designed this project around some collaged stars I had made awhile back while working on my previous tutorial, Making Greeting Cards From Scrap Papers. If you don’t want to make your stars in that style, you can use any paper or cardstock star of your choice.

This card design uses quite a few tools and materials, so if you are going to get them all out you might as well make several. Having extra cards on hand is a real time saver sometimes!

matching_stars_with_card_colors

Supplies:
Cardstock
Assorted small paper scraps
Decorative paper large enough to make envelopes
Tracing paper
Tape, single and double-sided
Pencil
Scrap chipboard
Glue stick
Black rubber stamping ink
Clean scrap paper
Envelope template – free download here for a template that fits a 5.5 inch x 4.25 inch card – Envelope template for Rectangular Card

Tools:
Greeting Card With Star and Arrow Template (free download here)
Paper cutter
Metal ruler
Self-healing cutting mat
Scissors
Rubber stamps with sentiments
Colored pencils
Prismacolor art stix or similar product (like Conte crayons in more than just basic colors)
Sharpie Pen
Sharpie Twin Tip Marker Fine/Ultra Fine
Squeegee or bone folder tool
Rubber stamp Bubble Border Small or other border stamp
Rubber stamp Rounded Squares and Rectangles Border Large or other border stamp
Stencil for the “awesome” arrow – Mini Word Arrows 6×6 Stencil – if you don’t have that stencil, you can use a stamp, stencil or paper of your choice for the small arrow portion of the card.

star_greeting_card_with_arrow

Instructions:

Download and print out my free template, Greeting Card Sketch – Star With Arrow.

Tape tracing paper over the printed out template, and make tracings in pencil over the star portion, the arrows and the shapes on either side of the star.

Write “front” on the tracings before you remove them from the template.

tracings

You’ll use these tracings to transfer your pencil markings onto the the backs of scraps of chipboard to make templates for tracing and masking.

To transfer, place your scrap chipboard pieces face down and flip your tracing paper over so that the back is facing up. Tape in place and go over your pencil lines. When you lift the tracing paper, you’ll have lines you can follow as you cut.

Out of one piece of chipboard, use a utility knife and a metal ruler to cut the two side shapes and the star out.

cutting_from_back

Make yourself templates for the large and small arrows as well.

cut_outs

Put the front of the card on your work surface and tape the stencil/mask over it. With a thin, light pencil outline the star and two side shapes. These light pencil lines will help you line things up in the later steps. Place the large arrow template where you would like it and trace around it too.

outlining_in_pencil

Stamp in black through the mask onto the front of the card, alternating the border stamps you are using.

stamping

Lift the mask to see that portions of the front of the card are partially filling the cut out shapes. This is a technique you can use with stencils or masks you cut yourself or with purchased stencils.

stamped_template_lifted

At this point, you can choose to erase your pencil guide lines, or disguise them by drawing over them with a marker or color pencil. I drew over mine with harmonious colored pencil colors.

green_web

Choose an art stick color and go over your outlines heavily, and the insides of your shapes lightly.

green_web_2

Choose a 1″ x 5.5″ piece of scrap decorative paper in a harmonious color. Fold it lengthwise, apply glue to the back and use it to cover the fore edge of the card.

Trace the large arrow onto a piece of decorative paper and cut it out. Glue it in place on the front of the card.

Take a bright, lighter piece of paper and tape it to your work surface.  Tape your stencil over the paper so that the paper shows through the word “awesome”. Outline the “awesome” arrow and lettering with a black Sharpie pen, then lift the stencil and finish filling in the arrow with the fine tip of a Sharpie double-sided black marker.

awesome

Glue the star and small arrow to the front of the card. Accent the lower and rightmost edges of the star and small arrow with the thick tip of the double-tipped Sharpie marker.

Make an envelope for your card by tracing Envelope template for Rectangular Card onto the back of a piece of decorative paper, then folding it and taping it together. Your’e done!