Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Water-Soluble Oil Pastels Revisited

OK, so I tried the Portfolio water-soluble oil pastels again, inspired by iHanna, who kindly commented and gave me a link to her demonstration. Check it out. She uses the oil pastels on un-primed paper, then coats it with acrylic medium when dry. I did a variation on that by brushing on a tiny bit of gesso, just here and there, on the page before playing with the oil pastels. Then, after brushing on some water, I scraped the color around with a credit card, my favorite art supply. Here is a detail of the above.
And here is another page in this ongoing sketchbook:
On another topic: I'm gearing up for my Color and Composition class, "Creative Beginnings", which is on Friday. I got my supplies together this afternoon and wrote the hand-out. Here are a few paints I'm bringing:
These Blick matte acrylic craft paints are not as bright as I'd like, so I'll be sharing my Goldens for color mixing. I use a lot of craft paints along with my Goldens in Scribble Collage. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Material Challenges

Here is another page spread of color/collage study in my sketchbook. I read somewhere (wish I could remember where) about using gesso and/or matte medium over pastels. I've had a great big set of Rembrandt soft pastels for the longest time, and I just hate them! All that dust goes flying, it rubs off the paper. They look so inviting - all that rich color - but I just can't seem to do anything decent with soft pastels. Using matte medium over them eliminates that whole dust thing, and you can smoosh them around like paint or leave the characteristic drawing marks. Like the pages from the last post, these are just playing around with materials and color. If anyone has more ideas about how to use pastel for a non-pastel person, please let me know!

Just for fun, here is another page:

Pastels with matte medium, gesso, marks with a knitting needle, and then some of those "water soluble oil pastels" called "Portfolios". Everybody raves about these Portfolios, but I can't seem to do squat with them. They rub off of an acrylic surface, the color is not opaque... So in my playing-around-in-the-sketchbook mode I tried them once more. I used them over a gesso texture along with the soft pastels. I'm still not sold on them, but may try them again. Please send me your suggestions as to what to do with these! I need to get out of my acrylic box now and then. Thanks.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tools, Not Rules

Next Friday, the 28th, I am teaching my Art Basics workshop for the first time. It will be at Studio Place Arts in Barre, VT, and I am way excited about it. We're calling it "Creative Beginnings: Unlocking the Secrets of Color", just to have a fun title, but it is really about the basic building blocks of painting/collage: color, composition, and I'll cover materials as well - paper, paint, mediums. The class is almost full, but we may be able to squeeze in a couple more students, so if you are interested and can get there next Friday, call Studio Place Arts.

Yes, we will begin by making color wheels, and then various sorts of color gradations, just to see what to paints do, and to anchor the rest of the discussion and establish a vocabulary for the composition studies. My theme here is "Tools, Not Rules"; the color wheel and gradations, and the elements of composition are tools, just as your brushes, your eyes, and your palette are tools. They do not constitute a set of rules that must be followed in order to make good art.

Here are a couple of composition samples:
We'll be working "off the grid", doing lots of sketches and playing with variations.

OK, on to the next topic: the Sketchbook Challenge! I have found that I am reluctant to draw in my sketchbook because I don't want to "waste" the fine printmaking paper I used to make the book. Plus, I am just starting to draw, so my drawings are pretty basic. "Not worthy" of the fine paper or putting in a hand-bound book. See? So why not paint in my sketchbook? BECAUSE I DON'T LIKE TO PAINT IN A BOOK! Who knew? I prefer to paint on a sheet of paper. But today I seem to have broken through this little self-made obstacle. I just started doing color study/painting/collages in the book, and guess what: I feel freer doing these as "studies" in the sketchbook than I do when working on paper. Here are a couple of pages, and I'll do a post on the Sketchbook blog in the next couple of days.
Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Collage Paintings

Here are a couple of new pieces, both using a leaf rubber stamp that I carved. For an inspiring and comprehensive look at making your own stamps, check out Judi Hurwitt's stamp tutorial. The first collage-painting, "Clothesline", is one I started a few weeks ago and posted some of its early stages.
You can see how much a painting can change over the course of its journey. I often find myself obliterating parts that I really like or have spend a lot of time on. But for me, this letting go, this ability to "destroy" precious parts in favor of the painting as a whole, is one of the essentials of making art. Suspending judgment, letting the painting speak, responding to what is there on the paper, not what "should be" there in my head, is like a meditation. A practice of detachment. It is a constant effort.

This next one, "Blue Circles", is inspired by the paintings of Victoria Huckins, whom I discovered recently. I'm trying to absorb some of her color sensibility to branch out from my usual colors.
I'm trying more reds and blues, and I love this light green-yellow thing. Both of these paintings are done on watercolor paper to which I have laminated muslin. I love painting on cloth, and I just started using muslin-on-paper as a substrate. "Blue Circles" also has a piece of lace trim adhered to the substrate with heavy acrylic gel.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tag Line

Thanks for all your comments on my new banner. I think I'll keep it as is for now, and maybe change it when my new book comes out? Or not. We'll see. Since I got such great response to this query, I'm sending out another: In re-doing my web site, I'm thinking a tag line after Jane Davies Studios might be a good idea. Suggested by Pamela Miller, my web designer. Today's thought is: "Entice the muse; Find your path". Any comments or suggestions? THANKS!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Banner/ Header

I am in process of re-designing my website and I have a new home page banner that reflects more current work. So, I've changed my blog header to be consistent. This is not set in stone, and I'm wondering what you think of it. Too busy? Too something else? Any suggestions? Here is the old one so you can compare. REALLY, any suggestions or advice are welcome. It's easy to change it. THANKS!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Workshop at Ink About It

I was so excited to meet, finally in person, Sue Bleiweiss, who came to my Dream House workshop at Ink About It on Saturday. Several people in the workshop had already seen the Sketchbook Challenge blog and were excited to start sketching. Here is a photo of me and Sue, in person, together, showing off our sketchbooks.
Sue had made her spiral bound sketchbook using the Zutter Bind-It-All; I was inspired to buy one at Ink About It along with some of the spiral wires. Can't wait to make some spiral bound books! But I digress... Here are a few more pix from the workshop:

Pat's Dream House:

Lori's Dream House:
Leslie's Dream House:
Karen, with Sue in the background:
Besides having a great time with the gang at Ink About It and meeting Sue in person, I was totally blown away by a book that Sue made for me. Take a peek:

Here's the cover. It's Ultrasuede with an antique glitter key!
The book is made with three signatures; at the beginning of each signature there is a quote about creativity and a little charm. The charms read: "vision", "journey", and "imagine".
In the middle of each signature is a pair of quotes along the bottom of the facing pages, and the last page of each signature has a pocket with a little tag in it where I can write myself a note.Included in the pages are some very enticing hand-painted papers, the beginnings of collaborative pieces!
This is definitely a case of the book being too-precious to use, and it will take a good deal of will to just get started. Sue said I HAVE to sketch in it, so I think I'll start in the middle on one of the painted pages, and will post the result soon . I promise!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sketchbook Pages

As you know, I've been involved with the Sketchbook Challenge blog. The theme for January is Highly Prized, presented by Jill Berry. At first I was not sure what to make of this challenge, but now it seems to offer unlimited possibilities! Looking through the Flickr site, on which EVERYONE is invited to post their sketchbook pages, it's amazing to see the diversity of subject matter and approach to this theme. Very inspiring to see so many people taking up the challenge. Here are my pages so far:
On the left is a sketch/painting from a photo of my friend Gloria outside her store. She is a painter and lives on the south shore of Nova Scotia, where she collects beach treasures and makes bizarre but funny driftwood masks to hang all over the place. Gloria has been a family friend for almost my whole life, and she is definitely very highly prized!
This page on the right is about zhug, a Middle Eastern condiment I discovered recently at the farmers' market. I've been making it at home, keeping us in constant supply. We eat it on EVERYTHING, and it is so yummy, so highly prized in my household, not to mention very good for you! Here's my recipe.

Put in your food processor: one bunch of cilantro, one bunch of flat leaf parsley, at least one clove of garlic, and a mess of hot green peppers, whatever kind you like or are available. When I say a mess, I mean something like eight or ten, or fewer if you want it more mild. You could also use some sweet green pepper and some hot if you really want it mild.

OK. Buzz these ingredients until they are coarsely chopped. Then add a handful of sunflower seeds. Now add the olive oil: while you are pulsing the processor, pour a steady stream of olive oil into the mix until it is a good spreadable consistency. Sort of like pesto. Mix in more salt than you think you should. It should taste a bit too hot and a bit too salty, as these characteristics will mellow even over night.

Dump it out into jelly jars and store in the fridge, or the freezer for longer term. Eat it on rice, on burritos, crackers, a dollop on top of a stew or soup is good; eat it out of the jar! I love it so much I've contracted a farmer at Green Peak Farm to grow me a whole row each of cilantro, parsley, and hot peppers this summer! I'm growing the garlic.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hard Cover Sketchbook

Since I made my own sketchbook for the Sketchbook Challenge, I thought I'd share with you my go-to mode for making a hardcover book using only basic book-binding skills. If you can glue and do a simple pamphlet stitch, you can make this book. This tutorial is taken from my forthcoming book "Adventures in Mixed Media" (April 26, 2011), which has a whole chapter on making books and boxes. This version is considerably shortened, so if I've left anything out that is crucial, please e-mail me!!

You will need:

  • Paper for signatures (i.e. pages)
  • Illustration board, mat board, chip board, or book board for the covers
  • Paper for covering the book boards, or “cover paper”
  • White glue or PVA
  • The basic tool kit: scissors, a craft knife, a glue brush, pencil
  • An awl or push pin
  • Waxed linen or other strong thread
  • Needle
  • Bone folder


I usually start a book by making the pages, or signatures (pages grouped together), first, and then fitting the cover to the pages. To make the signatures, take a sheet of your chosen paper (I often use 80lb. drawing paper, 18"x24"), and quarter it, either by folding and tearing with your b one folder, or using a paper cutter. Fold each quarter in half and then nest them one inside the other. This is your first signature.

Prepare five signatures in this manner. I usually end up with each signature containing four folios. Then mark and poke three holes, using an awl or push pin, in each signature at the fold: one at the center, and one at each end about a quarter inch from the edge of the paper. When the signatures are stacked and you are looking at the spines, these holes should all line up.

1. Cut two book boards so that they extend about 1/8" beyond your signatures on the top, bottom, and fore edge, but flush at the spines.

2. Cut your cover papers (either your own collaged papers or decorative paper) big enough so that they extend at least one inch beyond the top, bottom, and fore edge of the book covers, and about 1/4" shy of the spine edge. (The spine edge will be covered with a contrasting paper). Glue the boards to the cover paper as shown here.
3. Working with one board at a time, glue down the top and bottom corners.
Then fold and glue down the top and bottom edges. Finally, do the same with the fore edge.
4. Cut a piece of paper (I use Lokta or other similarly strong paper) for the spine that measures the length of the spine plus an inch overhang on both top and bottom (spine + 2"); the width should be the width of the spine (stack your signatures and compress lightly), plus at least 1/2" overhang so that it overlaps the cover paper at the spine edge.
5. Glue the book boards to the spine as shown above. Then turn over and glue the top and bottom of the spine paper.
6. Cut a piece of decorative paper about 1/8" all around smaller than the book cover. This will be your "end paper", lining the cover. Glue this sheet inside the book cover, and reinforce folds along either side of the spine.

7. Punch holes in the spine of the book cover as shown in photo. First mark them with one of your signatures so that they line up. You should have five equidistant holes in the spine at the middle, the top, and the bottom.


1. Starting with the back signature (or front, depending on how you orient the book), cut a length of waxed linen thread three times the length of the spine and thread a needle. Begin sewing by passing the needle from the inside of the signature through the center right-most hole in the spine, leaving about a 6" tail.
2. Now sew from the outside to the inside through the top hole of spine and signature in the same right-most position. Pull the thread almost taught, leaving a little wiggle room.

3. Bring the thread (you're on the inside of the signature now) to the bottom hole, and sew from the inside to the outside, through signature and spine. Pull thread almost taught.

4. Sew back into the middle hole from the outside of the spine through the signature to the inside. Now snug up the thread so the signature is right up against the spine.

5. Make sure that the tail you left and the needle end of the thread are on either side of the thread that goes down the center of the signature. Tie a simple square knot and clip the ends to about 1/4".

Sew each signature to the cover at the spine like this, and you have your own handmade sketchbook!

I think these how-to photos are from a different book than the finished book. Hope that is not confusing. Don't forget to e-mail me or comment if there is something that isn't clear.