Thursday, July 29, 2010

I've Converted My Mom To A Collage Artist

I have often heard it said that I am just like my mother. There have been times I looked at the other person with the "What?" expression and then there are those times that I have said, gladly, "Yep" and proud of it. This is one of those times, but things are a bit backwards, she is a lot like me. You see, my mom has been turned on by the allure and addiction of collage. Not a bad thing at all, within reason, but one that makes me laugh out loud because I know my mother. I know her creativity runs wild like mine, her enthusiasm for a new project is contagious like mine, me, she can lose complete tracks of time in her own "creative world" just like me.

She came over the other day so that we could work on her Goddess of Cut Paper collage. Of course, she didn't approach it in the conventional way, it's not in her nature, or mine, LOL! so we put our heads together and brought it to fruition. She is most proud of it and so am I. You see, it's not often one gets to paint with their mother, or do collage, or chill out and just play with their mother, so the time that we spent doing this meant way more to me than the finished piece, but for her first, it is quite lovely.

 I can remember as a kid always having art supplies handy and one Christmas we made handmade ornaments for our tree. Not just a few, but an entire tree's worth of ornaments, with burgundy velvet, gold trim, and lots of other blingy stuff. I will never forget that 'arts and crafts' time and our was a sight to behold. Let it be safe to assume that the creative gene, the one that keeps my brain ticking, came wildly packaged from my mother to me, and thank God for it. Here is her masterpiece, made of collage, fabric, paint, and assembled pieces. Way to go mom!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mail Art - Have You Tried It?

When is the last time you received a letter in the mail that was hand written? Chances are, a long time ago. In an age where technology seems to have us with a choke hold the fine art of letter writing is quickly becoming a past time. I had thought past times were for 5 cent Coca-Cola's or penny candy from the corner store. I never dreamed that I would actually see letter writing come so close to extinction in my life time, but it seems it has a lot in common with oily birds these days.

Being a member of the Letter Writer's Alliance really opened my eyes to the beauty of the handwritten letter so I made it a challenge to myself to send at least one hand written letter or post card out each week. I joined Postcrossings, which is an international group of folks who swap post cards from around the world and I joined several other letter writer groups. But, being an artist, I found myself wanting to incorporate my love of art into the mail, so mail art became a major part of my letter writing activities these days. If you Google "Mail Art," you can see hundreds of examples of letters, sent through the mail, that are actual works of arts. They are quite fascinating. Because I am a collage artist, I actively sought out other artists who participated in mail art and have now begun swapping actual works of art, with letters inside, through the mail. It is pretty fabulous I must say! 

So, I thought Mail Art would be a wonderful lesson to add to my collage class and next week we will get our hands busy creating, not only letters, but beautiful ones at that. Here are some ideas to consider if you are thinking about a mail art project for yourself or your children.

1. First, decide who you are going to mail your letter to and write the letter. Don't type it, actually pen the words yourself. 

2. If you are going to add mail art, consider what type of art you love to do or art they would love to receive. Do they have a favorite color?
Do You?
Do you love abstract, or funny cards, or do you love to simply draw? 

3. Choose a theme for your mail art, such as holidays, spiritual, sports, gardening, and design your envelope to fit that theme. 

4. Decorate both sides if you choose, just be sure to leave a clear space for your addresses and stamps. 

5. Collage Mail Art can be created using cut out images from magazines, ephemera, patterned or painted paper, or by using rubber stamps. 

6. Sometimes, simply the addition of one simple image, like a flower or a bird, can turn an ordinary white envelope into a work of art. 

Regular white craft glue is great to use for collage, just make sure you glue the edges really well so the automated machines doesn't rip them. 

Postcards can be sent in the U.S by the Post Office for 28 cents, up to a 4" by 6". If it's larger, you need to use a regular stamp. International postcards cost 98 cents to mail. 

Here are some images from mail art that I have made using collage and colored pencils:

If you have a love for letter writing and mail art there are several groups on Facebook and the internet you can join to swap mail art with folks all over the world. Most all of them usually have one primary rule to follow: If someone is kind enough to send you a mail art card or letter, it's always customary to send one in return. I want to challenge you to write at least one letter in the next week, even if it's just a few lines, and consider turning your envelope into mail art. You might be surprised what ends up landing in your own mail box as well!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's Official, I Have Become A Paper Arts Pimp!

It's official, I'm a collage/mixed media addict. There is no getting past a thrift store without scrounging around the book aisle. There is no visiting a junk/antique store without leaving filthy, loaded up with old, crusty, full of illustrations, books and magazines. There is no visiting Bienville Books without feeling like it's crack for the collage artist. But most of all, there is no table space to be found in my house, without some type of magazine, paint, paper, glue, or work in progress sprawled out everywhere and paper clippings have become our new carpet. I am beside myself with joy and my dear, sweet hubs has begun to suggest a paper arts rehab program. 

And, I must admit, that I am quite guilty of spreading my disease to my parents home, my friend's houses, and my fellow artists bag of tricks. Yes, I am a full, fledged paper arts pimp, that finds her Facebook fanpage and kitchen table much more accommodating than the sketchy street corner. So, to be true to my craft, my disease, my "can't look at a book or magazine the normal way, every again" mantra, I share with you here some of the products of this affliction. I do warn you though, these images may be hazardous to your health. They are known to cause one to stare, and study, and get tantalizing ideas for their own paper arts obsessions, so be fore warned.

Here are two mixed media pieces from my Rejection Letter Series. I found an  old collection of letters from the early 50's, from a writer here in Mobile, who was rejected time and time again. I am using those letters to create these vignettes, which are 4" by 12", in a series of 15. 

I laughed all the way through this piece, "A Royal Flush". As soon as I saw the toilet and paper I knew I had to create this. The only problem was trying to limit my ideas so it wasn't too crowded. I may work this into a "Toilet Bowl Series", which would be pretty hysterical but oh, what fun it would be!


Textures on paper are fascinating to me. I decided to play around with some different types, including painted paper and textured wall paper. What started out as a beach house, turned into a work involving architecture, textures, humor, and a profound point that not all neighbors are welcome, hence the expressions on the boys faces. "The New Neighbors" is 11" by 14", collage on paper.

My version of "The Ardithian Alice" came about thanks to my inner child. I love, love, love creating whimsical characters that tell a story and celebrating the release of Alice in Wonderland, in my own way, was tons of fun. This is 12" by 12", mixed media on canvas.

Ah, my first attempt at photo transfer and heirloom collage. These are two images of my parents, young in all their glory, and some ephemera from my childhood. The Red Cross letter was sent to my dad in Vietnam telling him of my birth. The map of Hawaii was from their second honeymoon and the little girl is me of course. I won't explain all the details but heirloom collage is something I plan on doing a lot more of.
 This strange little guy is what I call my Exquisite Corpse Doll Project. I start with a head and torso, tape over a section of it, and mail it to an unsuspecting paper addict like myself. They have to add a body part(s), cover up a bit of theirs, and send it back, for a series of four trips through the mail. When all is said and done, I get back a completed Exquisite Corpse, surreal and whimsical, just like the game was meant to be. I will post a separate blog when he is finished.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Exquisite Corpse Night

(Me in my "Work of Art" art shirt at Exquisite Corpse Night)

When I first was starting out in collage I remember reading an article about the concept called, "Exquisite Corpse", and was fascinated. Andre' Breton, a Surrealist, and a group of other artists decided to start a parlor game, just for fun, by writing phrases on a piece of paper, concealing part of the phrase, and passing it to the next player so they could add to it. At the end of the round, the sentences were shared and they found great humor and appreciation in the fact that they made little to no sense. It was quite thought provoking to them. Eventually they added the use of graphite and began by drawing a head, then the other players would add body parts, but they never saw the completed image until the very end, adding to it's "enigmatic, conceptual nature." 

Here is a link, The Exquisite Corpse , to their group with pictures of the first works from The Exquisite Corpse game. There are some interesting passages to read, to understand the insight into Breton's mind, along with the other Surrealist of that time. I gave this game and concept a good amount of thought after beginning my collage class and chose to try it out with a group of fellow artists that had similar skills, tastes, and senses of humor, because I knew we would all need one. So I, along with Holly Carrigan, Mary Elizabeth Kimbrough, Wayne McNeil, McLeod Turner, Vikki Turner Finch, Lydia Host, and Jami Buck.

Because I wanted to do this game in collage I knew it would take a lot of pieces and preparation, so I asked the other artists to come prepared with a 'head' and an idea for a background. I think by the time we all got together we decided the best course of action would be to wing it and so we did. Although, to be true to the original Exquisite Corpse concept, we would have needed to not see the previous piece of work, we opted for randomly swapping each piece per round. Next time we will add the challenge of keeping each round concealed and I look forward to that added challenge. 

So, after 5 rounds of swapping, cutting, pasting, painting, eating, and laughing our heads off the final pieces were actually quite wonderful. For me, it really wasn't the finished piece that proved the event was successful, it was the whole process, especially the sharing and friendship that made the night unforgettable. Here are our finished Exquisite Corpses, dressed in their grandeur! Now that we have begun this adventure I can't wait to see what our "collective minds" come up with for the next EC! Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ardithian, Wackadoodle Art Journal and Picking My Brain!

If you are a fellow artist or journal lover, then you know the excitement I felt when I opened my handmade journal for the first time, almost like a kid in a candy store with NO ADULTS IN SIGHT! Ahhhhhhhh, I kind of touched it for a while, felt the pages, and breathed deeply because I knew this was no ordinary journal. You see, I have been a journal divorcee just about my entire life. What does this mean......well, I love the thought of journals, I would get a new one and launch myself into it, only to.....peter out and divorce it after a month or so. Sadly, I have various and random petered out  and divorced journals all over the place and it made me stop and look at my pattern. Why did I peter out with them? What's the deal with inconsistency? Should I cut them up and glue them into one just to make me feel better? LOLOLOLOL

UNTIL.......I was surfing Youtube and came across this video. Dirty Footprint Studios Drowning In Blue Art Journal 
Needless to say I had to pick my mouth up off the floor several times because I knew, I just knew I had finally found the type of journal my soul had longed for, the one I could be committed and married to for like life, and I also knew exactly where that journal was, because I had eyed it with great envy at Hobby Lobby for the longest time. A handmade, watercolor journal, with my name on it sat on their shelves and in this moment, it called my name.

THEN.... of course, I went and got it. Gessoed several pages just like Connie Hozvicka suggested, and sat with excitement watching the paint dry. Minutes ticked by, ok, gesso takes a while to dry so I cheated and got the blow dryer out, then.....started with the inside cover with watercolor and allowed it to evolve from there. Here are the pics of my first entry. I chose the sun, a full of bling and color sun, because I believe we must all walk toward the light in our lives. For me, God is that light, but the sun, the created light here, surrounding me, is a gift he gave me and I choose to wrap myself in as much of it as I can. 

 The second page, well that is pretty much just me being me, and of course I had to add my Ardithian spin on it along with my five finger toe shoes, which are my fave shoes of all time. 
I also chose to add a heartfelt thanks, on my first entry, to my dear, sweet hubs, because without his patience and love, I wouldn't have the freedom to create, be a fruitcake at heart, or paint, so to you Bill....thank you and I love, love, love U! 

Where am I heading with this one????? Time will tell but I know this like I am breathing, this journal will be one I can show the grandkids, and the neighbors, and my fans many moons down the road. Wanna join me? 

My fabulous artist friend tagged me in a blog with some intriguing questions, which I shall list and answer here. Might give all of you a little more insight into ME, which on one hand I would say I would be shy to share, but on the other, I have a blog.....duh......shy doesn't equate with online sharing, LOL! 
1. If your life was a sitcom, who would you cast as yourself and your most important co-stars?
This is easy, take Raymond's sense of humor, put it on a body dressed in Betsy Johnson's fabulous clothes, must have rainbow colored hair by the way, working in a psyche ward as an art therapist. Surrounded by, of course, all folks who are thought to be "crazy" but in actuality, really know the secrets to life and share them freely, between meds of course, bahahhahahha. My most important co-stars would be the geeky guy from The Big Bang, because his intellect makes me want to bust a gut with laughter, which is oh, so important in my line of work. And.......Frazier Crane as my own, personal therapist. Last but not least,  the British lady priest on PBS, can't think of the name of her show, but I love her character!

2. Outdoor concerts: Yay or Nay? And why?
Yes, been to see Bob Dylan outdoors, which, sad to say was my only outdoors concert ever attended in 42 years.  I have often wanted to go to Bonaroo, but my health and funds make that all but impossible. Would love to catch Jimmy Buffett and Will Kimbrough this weekend, but the Ticketmaster Puppets cut my strings. 

3. If you could learn one new skill tomorrow and be absolutely awesome at it, what would it be and why?
Forensic Scientist. I have always, yes always, been fascinated by the human anatomy and skeletal system. Now the blood, I could do without that, but the actual study of the parts and structure would completely mesmerize me to no end. Hopefully, if I was really awesome at it, I could get be a physical engineer as well, and design spine replacements that function better than our own and last a lifetime.

4. What would your name have been if you were born the opposite gender?
I have never really been told that, but considering how strange and beautiful my name is, and the fact that people mistake me for a man all the time, hello catalog printers!!!!!!, I guess it would have been Ardith Lee instead of Ardith Lynn.

5. Uhoh! It's karaoke time. What do you sing?
Somewhere Over the Rainbow......of course

6. What's your guilty pleasure?
Orange Circus Peanuts, Charleston Chews, Cadbury Cream Eggs, foot massages, and by all means, sitting on the deck of a hut in Tahiti, toes dangling in the cosmic, icy blue water, the smell of coconuts in my hair, my sweet hubs beside me, but......haven't had that one yet......and I say yet.

7. #1 on the bucket list?
Oh geeze! The million dollar question.......but I am only going to share my number 2, not number one. Finally get my children's book finished, then published, then sell......

8. Best thing you ever ate?
Easiest question for me, my grandmother's chicken and dumplings

Thanks MEK for thinking about me. Go out into this day friends and find the beauty in it, even through pain, or sorrow, the beauty is there to be found, and to comfort!

Friday, July 2, 2010

In Tribute of Michael Dahl Jr.

When the phone rang some time ago and I saw the California area code, I knew who it was, and my heart sunk a little bit. Not because I didn't want to talk to this person, but I knew the conversation would be one of heart break and courage, and I prayed I was up for it. Last year I painted the Soldier's Cross of Courage and blogged about the process. Part of that process was honoring the soldier who had died the day the cross was created, Michael Dahl Jr., and this phone call was from his mother. A mother whom I had never met or talked with, but one who loved her son deeply and wanted to say thank you. 

Michael was the only soldier to die that day and after much prayer I knew it was in his honor that I used my artistic gifts to give a humble, simple thank you to him, and to all our service men and women who sacrifice so much so that I might live freely. This weekend is July 4th, Independence Day, and I find it quite beautiful that after a year of not being able to contact this family, and through the wise counsel of my mom, they contacted me. I had always wondered what Michael was like. My son is 19 and as I looked at him, I couldn't imagine what it would have been like to lose him. Patricia Dahl spent a good while sharing the story of her beautiful son with me, and here, I share a little bit of his story with you. 

Michael was a Christian who loved God with his whole heart. She told me how he kept his electronic bible with him and he would seek out church services to attend. He was two weeks from coming home when an IED damaged the tank he was driving. Patricia told me how great of a son he was, that he had the opportunity to thank her for being a great mom, and was looking forward to coming home, with his best friend, and attending a Laker's game. His younger brother adored him and to me, he sounded like a really phenomenal human being, which made my heart hurt because of such an enormous loss this was. 

After we talked for a while and exchanged our addresses I  promised her I would send her a copy of the cross. I then went and read about his memorial service in his town of Beaumont, Ca. and it became quite clear how much he was loved and will be missed. Being an artist is rewarding in  many ways, but I must say, this experience, to me, is what sharing our gifts with the world is all about. I could have been painting sea oats or magnolia leaves that day but I chose to listen to my heart instead. I'm grateful I did. Of course, I would have much rather learned about Michael for different reasons, but I trust the link where our paths crossed and know God will use it. 

I still find it strange that in our day to day lives it is so easy to be unaware, or apathetic, towards the loss of life in the wars abroad because it doesn't touch us personally. I challenge you on this Independence Day weekend to find a soldier, learn about him, honor him, and really discuss what it means to live in an independent country. I will never look at the flag again without thinking about Michael, or the lives who were lost from the day our country drew its first breath. I will never watch the fireworks on July 4th without seeing past the beauty of them and not understanding the sacrifices so many make for me to sit and enjoy them either. 

I love our country. I don't love war or the losses that happen because of them, but I understand the necessity of some of them. If I were a mother that lost a child due to the war, it would mean the world to me to know that he wasn't forgotten and didn't serve in vain. Thank you God for guiding my gifts to make a difference in one person's life. May I never take that gift for granted or forget what it means to be able to do what I love. 

Here is the link to one of Micheal's memorial articles and the picture of the Soldier's Cross of Courage. If you feel led, please share Micheal's story. 

Michael Dahl Jrs. Memorial Article

And here is the link to the original blog about the cross from last year:
The Soldier's Cross of Courage

Happy Fourth of July to you and your loved ones!