Saturday, July 30, 2011


Week 4 of Jane Davies' Dynamic Composition class has been much harder than I expected, given that we were exploring the concept of "the grid."  Grids are old hat to quilters -- so I blithely started pasting away with my painted papers and dyed paper towels, when I realized .....


...collages are NOT the same as quilts! 

 I tried using the principles that I follow in quilting:  find a color scheme that you like, gather as many different shades, tones, values of the colors that you can, make sure you include other colors in order to make a smooth gradation from one to the other...  

...but then you end up with a lot of little pieces that look like a bunch of little pieces.  Now this may just be the consequence of my obsessive nature; I am nothing if not detail oriented -- ask my quilting buddies!  I am famous for saving impossibly tiny snippets that everyone else throws away (I do use them!) 

 The difference, I think, is in the scale of the piece.  

a jumble of little bits and pieces
The small pieces I use in quilting are basically like the pixels in a photograph.  If you ever look at a photo, pixel by pixel, you will see what I mean:  a green leaf might actually have many different greens, some purples, and blues -- sometimes even zingers like red, orange, or yellow.  Likewise, when I use tiny scraps of many fabric colors in a quilt measuring, say, 78"x85", the viewer has the impression of only one color.  But collage work is on a much smaller scale than a quilt.  I found that at 8.5"x11", for example, I couldn't use my formula of "lots of little bits," because it just ended up looking jumbled and cluttered.

... and forget about it at 5"x5"!  In these pieces, I realized that the ones that worked better used fewer, and larger, elements.  To my eye, the one on the lower right seems most harmonious:
5"x5" studies

To solve my problem of scale, I cut the 8.5"x11" collage I showed at the top of this post into 2.5"x3.5" ATC's, and immediately noticed a difference.  While not "finished" in any way, they started to look more interesting.

So am I right in thinking that elements of a successful collage -- even those using a grid format -- need to include a difference in scale within the piece?  And, more to the point, how do I achieve this the first time around, without resorting to cutting up my original?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The theme this week over at Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday party is "dreams"...... Make sure you click here to see all the amazing photos that people submit!
"I dreamed I saw a universe contained in a drop of water....."
{2 layers of Kim Klassen's "dream": color burn @45% and overlay @38%}
Talk about dreaming... I have been neglecting most things I need to focus on this week in favor of exploring with my new macro lens.  I have been dreaming of a whole new world of images, patterns and textures......
{bad hair day:  KK "dreams": overlay @70%}

{mushroom:  KK "silence" luminosity @15% and "serendipity" color burn @25%}

{yellow rose:  KK "serendipity" soft light @40%}

{Aster bud: KK "dream" soft light @100%, texture brushed off the center of the flower}

I love finding wildlife in my pictures (although it really highlights the fact that you need a tripod to take macro shots!):
The yin and yang of bees......
{KK "serendipity" color burn @24% and overlay @24%}

{KK "serendipity" overlay @41%)

I only did a levels adjustment on this one, no textures

I only did a levels adjustment on this one, no textures

Friday, July 22, 2011

Colors -- micro and macro

Sometimes you just don't have time to catch your breath -- and I don't mean because of the 100 degree plus temperatures outside.  I've been busy all this week with "stuff".... mostly errands and other boring yet necessary tasks, but there has been some fun thrown in the mix, too.  My Dynamic Composition class with Jane Davies is probably one of the best online classes I've ever taken.  I feel as though I am finally internalizing some design principles that I've read about, but never really used. Here are my pieces for our lesson on cruciform shapes:

On Saturday, I went to The City Quilter for an "in-person" workshop with Julie Fei-Fan Balzer (She blogged about it here).  We splashed paint on fabric (a great way to turn the "uglies" in our stash into something useful) and had a wonderful time cutting and pasting our collages into fun mini-quilts.  Thank you, Julie, for a terrific class!  This is my sample from the class -- I stitched the petals down, but haven't decided what (if anything) I will do with this, so the background is not yet quilted:

Probably the most exciting thing for me, though, was trying out my new macro lens. I've been out every morning at 6 to catch the best light... but what I am learning is that this lens really requires a much steadier hand than the standard lens.   Most of my shots were not perfectly focused, or were only partly focused.  On the other hand, I am realizing there is a whole world out there that I've never even seen!

Uh, oh.... I need a new obsession like I need a hole in the head.

And if this isn't enough, I tried using the new lens in lieu of a scanner to copy some photos in an antique album that once belonged to my husband's great-great grandmother.   I couldn't resist this cutie pie:

"Little Ida May"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The task this week at Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday party is simply to use her "Aurora" texture on a photo.  Click here to see some truly amazing photography and texture work!  I have to say, I really like textures that have text, but sometimes they can be hard to use.  I love this week's "Aurora" because the textures are just on the edges -- enough to give you some visual interest, but not enough to overpower the image on the photo.
(two layers of "aurora" plus Kim's "canvas back magic")



("aurora," "canvas back magic,"  plus a ShadowHouse Creation texture)
My birthday was the other day, so I decided to spring for a macro lens and hopefully it will arrive before next week. I can't wait to see what I can capture with it!  Here you can see that I really want to get in close, but my camera reaches its inherent limits:

(Three layers of "Aurora" with "Dropcloth")

("Aurora" with two layers of "Mayzee")

On 90 percent of these images, my family all prefer the version without the textures. I just can't see why! To my mind, textures add a sense of timelessness and a feeling that there is a story behind the picture. I'll bet you might agree if you are visiting from Kim's site, but then again, maybe it's just my husband and kids' way of telling me I need to work on this some more!
sooc and with "Aurora"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Letting go and trusting that there will always be enough

I am really enjoying my class with Jane Davies!  I love playing with paints and papers in my kitchen, and it is wonderful to have a mentor on the other side of my computer screen giving me constructive feedback -- it doesn't get any better than this!  Here are my final collages from our second lesson on landscapes:

collage #1 before......                                 collage #1, final version 

collage #2, first stage                                      collage #2, final version

collage #3, first stage                               collage #3, final version

 collage #4, first stage                               collage #4, final version

One of the comments I received was about the courage it takes to completely cover over existing work in order to take a piece where it needs to go.  I guess I had never thought about it in those terms before.  Certainly, being willing to work interactively with your creation is very important.  That, and not having a preconceived notion of what the outcome should be, really help you make better decisions on the fly.  For me, the most important part of the process is letting go and trusting that I will hear the voice of my work telling me what it needs, and that I will find the right way to let it be whatever it needs to be.

It is also very much about letting go of any sense that my work -- and the materials I work with --  are "precious."  I try (and this is a constant struggle) to detach from any sense of value.  When I remember that there is always more where "this" came from, I don't hesitate to follow my gut instincts and I lose the fear that I won't be able to replicate or replace whatever it is I'm working on.  Quilters and collage artists are probably most susceptible to this fear -- don't we all have those gorgeous hand-dyed fabrics or specialty papers that we never use because they are just too beautiful?  (We say to ourselves that anything we could do with them could not possibly do justice to their intrinsic value...)

I try to hold onto the thought that if I trust that there will always be enough materials, ideas, and creativity available, then I will find them when I need them.  If instead I hold on and hold back, I am cutting myself off from the flow, which is the source of everything.

I think there's a life lesson in there, too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I am so not a pink girl; I much prefer saturated, vibrant colors.  Much to my dismay, this week's theme over at Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday party is "pink."  Now don't get me wrong.  I love her soft, dreamy, vintage style images, but somehow things like that never seem to come out of my camera.  So the best I could do is a watermelon.... I mean, sure, it's pink...sort of.  Well, it's as close as I get.  Click here to visit Kim's Cafe and see the work of some truly amazing artists.
processed with Kim Klassen's "Silence" (soft light @100%), "Golden" (soft light @100%), "Canvasback Magic" (soft light @79%), and "Golden" (color burn @100%)
I did find a pink rose (with some interesting brown spots), which I'm adding almost as an afterthought (flowers are too easy):
processed with Kim's "Canvasback Magic" (soft light @50%), "Warm Sun" (overlay @58%), and "Greyday Slate" (overlay @52%)

I don't know if photographers have this problem, but as a quilter and mixed media artist, I have "issues" with certain colors.  They just don't naturally appeal to me, so I don't feel comfortable using them.  The good thing about the pink challenge is that it moves me outside my comfort zone.

This week in my online class with Jane Davies, we have been working on simple collaged landscapes.  Here are some of my preliminary color studies:

I even used some pink!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An excuse to play!

I am on a roll now with internet-based learning opportunities -- I just started another online art class. This time, I am studying dynamic composition with collage artist Jane Davies

 I love taking classes because they give me a justification for spending hours every day on my art.  Somehow, because I am paying for the privilege, art becomes "work" that I have to do.  This "work" -- which is really play -- takes precedence over mundane things like laundry and house cleaning by virtue of the deadlines that come with class assignments.  Now, if I can only figure a way to be this focused without spending any money..... 

I'm just playing with shapes here:
Last Friday, I decided I needed to make some ATC's, and was really getting into the mood:
But then I looked at the clock.... we were expecting house guests for the Fourth of July weekend in less than an hour, and my kitchen table still looked like this:

 I really zone out when I'm playing with color!

All I can say is:  lucky for me our guests were running late, too.... We had a lovely holiday weekend, culminating in our town's annual picnic and fireworks display.  I did not take my SLR to the fireworks (I don't even pretend to know how to properly capture fireworks); instead, these shots were taken with my iphone:

This one is kind of cool -- I think it looks like the aliens are landing:
 ...while this one looks like a flock of ghostly birds flying toward the sun:

 I hope everyone had a great weekend!