Category Archives: Creativity

A snack with zero calories

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I love getting stuff in the mail.  I don’t mean bills, promotional magazines, or jury duty summons.  I mean fun stuff!  One of my daughters treats herself to monthly makeup subscriptions (Boxy Charm and Glam Bag) and my son subscribed to a monthly healthy snack club (Graze) last year.  My other daughter subscribes to a weekly food service (Blue Apron) that delivers recipes and pre-portioned ingredients to her doorstep.  I’m not really into makeup, healthy snacks are an oxymoron, and why would I want to cook when I live in NYC and can order takeout?  So what would I like for a monthly gift…why an “Art Snack” of course!

ArtSnacks is a monthly subscription service that delivers new and  uncommon art products, providing artists with an opportunity to try out top-of-the-line art supplies. I purchased the one-year monthly package for $200 and I got my first box today.  Here’s a look at what art supplies I received and my critique of each one.  I received a General’s Layout Pencil ($0.75 retail), a Caran d’Ache Fibralo Brush Marker ($2.25 retail), a Kuretake No. 7 Brush Pen ($7.00 retail), a Spectra AD Marker ($5.15 retail), a Denik Custom Mini Sketchbook ($5.00 retail), and a green Life Saver.

After eating the Life Saver, I decided to test out each item.  The General’s Layout Pencil was great.  This pencil has been around since the 1930’s and is still a favorite of illustrators and cartoonist.  The graphite is soft enough to make beautiful dark-to-light gradations and doesn’t smear. Honestly, this is the best pencils I’ve ever owned.

Next item was the Caran d’Ache Fibralo Brush Marker.  The fiber tip offers the control of a marker and the flexibility of a brush.  I added a little water to the ink and developed a pale watercolor wash.  The specially formulated ink is designed not to bleed through paper though it did slightly bleed through the thin notepad paper I tested it on.  Other than that it’s a pretty ordinary pen with only a single tip.

I got another orange pen, a brand new Spectra AD Marker, an alcohol-based marker that makes permanent marks and carries less odor. It has a chisel tip that makes three different line widths plus a brush tip that creates smooth varied lines. I liked this juicy marker with it’s dual tips and versatility.

My favorite pen of the bunch was the Kuretake No. 7 Brush Pen.  This pen is similar to a foundation pen as it uses ink cartridges. It comes with two cartridges, the first that easily clicks into place while the second cartridge stores inside the pen body.  The dark black ink flows smoothly and evenly onto the paper with excellent control.  I’d love to get this pen in a variety of ink colors. The ink is not waterproof so you can add shading by wetting the drawing.

The last item was a mini sketchbook by Denik.  Denik’s mission statement is, “Art can change the world.”  A portion of the sale from every notebook goes to help build schools in developing countries.  While I admire their philanthropy, the notebook was flimsy and made with very thin paper.  Definitely not worth its $5 retail price.

Overall, a fun present to myself for less than $17.  I can’t wait until next month!

 

 

Checking out the street art in Berlin

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I just returned from almost a week in Berlin, Germany.  Having never been to Berlin before, I was really interested in viewing the street art scene I had heard so much about. Much of Berlin’s street art scene started at the East Side Gallery, a mile-long section of the Berlin Wall painted in 1990 by over 100 artists from across the globe. But the street art didn’t stop there and has spread all over Berlin onto hundreds of other walls and surfaces.  Below, I’ve shared a few of my favorites.  Sadly, taggers (those non-artists that choose to scrawl their initials on any and every surface) have defaced much of the street art by tagging over the top of it.  Of course, many people think that the nature of street art is its impermanence and that layering one person’s work over another’s is part of the process.  Personally, I don’t consider that art…or at least not good art.  Sadly, the last picture is also a common site in Berlin.  Which side of the argument do you fall on?

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Alice Pasquin

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Thierry Noir

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Berlin Wall

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Berlin Wall “Escape”

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A common sight in Berlin

How to paint a commission

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How does an artist go about painting a commissioned painting?  Every artist is different but I’d like to share how I go about it.  I recently got a commission from a collector of mine and I thought I would share the process with you over several blog posts.

To start, I needed an idea of which type of painting style of mine he liked best, the painting size he had in mind, and the color palette he envisioned.  He also sent me photographs of the other artworks in his home that would be within sight of the painting I was creating.

I started by sketching out some rough compositional ideas in small thumbnails (3″ x 3″).  Next, I picked my favorite composition and transferred the same sketch onto a couple sheets of Bristol board.  Then I painted two small studies with different color palettes based on the colors the collector was interested in.  You can see how I went dark and dramatic in one painting, and hot and bright in the other.  These are very small studies (6″ x 6″) and they are just to get some early feedback on preferences, likes and dislikes before moving forward onto the next phase.  Then I emailed the sketches to the client who gave me some valuable input to move forward with.  Check back and you’ll see which sketch he liked best when I post the next phase.

What’s on your desk blotter?

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I have a beautiful wooden desk in my art studio where I work on my computer, doing sketching and more.  It’s too nice a piece to go with my paint splattered folding tables and Ikea bookshelves, but it didn’t fit in our New York apartment when we moved so I got to use it in my studio instead.

I wanted to protect the surface from scratches where I slide my computer in and out of the way, so I taped down a large piece of drawing paper in that area.  I use it to write down short notes or unconsciously doodle/stamp/stencil on it.  When one side gets full, I flip around the sheet and continue filling up the opposite side.  I looked down today for a place to add another note and realized it was completely full…no empty space available.  Obviously, it’s time for a new blotter sheet!  Maybe I’ll save this one to use in some of my collage work.  🙂

Taking a summer break to recharge

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I was in Colorado most of the summer, avoiding the New York City heat and humid as much as possible.  I found being away from my NYC studio caused me to take a short hiatus from creating fine art.  Instead, I found myself doing more “crafty” art projects, enjoying the break and exploring different artistic challenges.  I thought I’d share a few of these projects with you.

Sketching shells while visiting friends in Nantucket.

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Helping my oldest daughter create a sequin wall in her new apartment (though I did more of the planning, cutting and painting while she did most of the actual pinning).  I’m not sure her thumb will ever recover.

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Spray-painting a bronze bed to make it white one.

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Assembling “do it yourself” furniture for my younger daughter’s room…putting together a dresser, a chair, a desk, a side table, and a bed frame while adding funky knobs to the dresser.

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And lastly, sewing myself five new wrap-around skirts

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I hope your summer was as restful and recharging as mine was!

You’ve got mail!

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In my last blog post, I talked about how to best manage my two studios.  One idea was to invest in duplicates of my most used tools. Some of these tools are my Gelli Arts printing plate and Speedball brayers so I purchased a second set yesterday.  I wanted to play with my new tools but not worry too much about the final outcome so I decided to decorate envelopes.  If I didn’t like the way they turned out, I could always use them to pay my bills with.

I started out by cutting 3″ Post-It notes in half and sticking them to the center front of the envelopes.  That preserved the address white space.

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Next I got out my Gelli plate, brayers, acrylic paints and stencils (some hand cut, others purchased from Stencil Girl Products).  I started by adding some paint to the Gelli plate and then rolling it out into a smooth layer using a brayer.  I placed the envelope face down on the plate, placed a clean piece of scrap paper on top and rolled a clean brayer over all of it to transfer the paint.  I cleaned the plate and then added a second paint color to the plate.  This time after rolling on the paint, I laid a stencil over the paint and then placed the envelope on top (and the scrap paper) and rolled the clean brayer over it all.  This left an interesting pattern as the top layer with the first paint layer showing through the stencil gaps.  I sometimes printed a third stencil layer as well.  I repeated the process on the back of the envelopes.

Finally, I pulled out my paints and markers (I use Copic MarkersZig Writer and Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens) to doodle and add some details.  Voila!  Some fun, usable envelopes.

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The Back Side of the Envelopes

Are you ready for Father’s Day?

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Father’s day is coming up this weekend! If you are struggling to find a great gift you can make, here’s a fun last minute idea.  Either buy new tools for “Dad” or just use the one’s he already owns.  It’s simple and only requires a few simple supplies.  Since my dad lives across the country, I used my own claw and tack hammers to demonstrate.  (Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m happy to paint all your hammers for you!)

Step One:  Light sand the wooden handle of the hammer to remove any varnish top coat and scuff up the surface for better paint adhesion.

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Step Two:  If you have primer or gesso available, coat the handle with two coats.  These coats will keep the colorful top layers from peeling or chipping off from use.

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Step Three:  Pull out the acrylic paints and go to town.  Have fun and use bright colors and simple shapes in your design.  If you don’t like it the first time, just paint over it until you have a design you like.

Step Four:  Optional: Finish with a coat or two of varnish to seal and protect your artwork.  Voila!  It’s that easy to create a fast and fun gift for Dad this Sunday.

Supplies

  • Hammer
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer or Gesso
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Varnish (optional)

The therapy of scissor work

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I’ve struggled to create some work for my licensing company, Wild Apple, that I think they will like.  I have sketched out and discarded a number of ideas.  Nothing seems creative enough or unique enough to stand out from the competition.  I finally realized that I’m going about it the wrong way.  Instead of trying to create something I think they will like, I should create something that I find enjoyment in making instead.  Then if the paintings don’t meet their needs, at least I had fun creating something uniquely mine.

What art technique do I find fun to do?  I’ve always loved scissor work.  By that, I mean I can sit for hours cutting out intricate shapes out of paper.  Many people might find this boring or tedious, but I think it is meditative and therapeutic.  I just finished cutting out about 200 flowers and leaves and I’ve started painting them.  I have no clear idea of where I’m going with them and how to incorporate them into my work.  I’m going to take my advice and I just play around, enjoying myself and see where it leads.

All that glitters is not gold

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Nope, it’s silver!  A silver bowl to be precise.

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Sadly, I’ve reached the age where I can’t read without glasses.  I’ve bought a half a dozen pairs to have one in every room, but they all seem to end up on my bedroom nightstand instead.  This table is already cluttered with an iPad, an iPhone, and a computer as well as books, magazines and a lamp. I needed to get organized and make a place to store these glasses and their cases.  What I needed was a bowl!  I thought it would be fun to make my own.

First, I blew up a latex balloon and taped it to a glass jar so it would be easier to handle.  Then I cut up a pile of small paper rectangles out of an old math textbook and some plain newsprint.  I used the math papers first as they would make up the inside of the bowl that would be seen in the finished product.  I painted the balloon with acrylic matt medium and placed the paper on it, followed by more medium, more paper, and so on using the plain newsprint for the outer layers.  Overall, there were about 5 layers of paper.  I let it dry overnight, and then popped the balloon, peeling it off the paper bowl and cut out the top edge to even it out.

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I painted the inside of the bowl with translucent acrylic paint so I could still see the math papers.  Next, I painted the outside of the bowl with sizing and covered it with silver-leaf for some shine (because a girl can never have too much bling)!  I finished the bowl by varnishing it inside and out to seal the papers and prevent the silver from tarnishing.  What can I papier mache next?

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