from crayon box to powering my soul… color defines me

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More In The Studio

My latest studio exercise from the class I’m taking through  http://www.coursera.org is to learn and paint in the style of Jackson Pollock, humorously nicknamed “Jack the Dripper”. His No. 1A created from oil and enamel on canvas in 1948 is shown (at left below). My exploration resulted with this interpretation of his process (at right below):

Jackson Pollock No. 1A, 1948, oil and enamel on canvas

Jackson Pollock Exercise by Carla Bange, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pollock started out inspired by American Indian sand paintings, which can be seen in his impressive The She-Wolf (see it here: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/78719 ). Once he relocated to New York, he focused on his “poured paintings” which are much more recognizable as his work. I learned that he used enamels, like house paint, which probably helped his action paintings which he created by moving around all sides of a huge canvas spread across his barn floor. My efforts, using thinned down acrylic paints, resulted more in drips and drops than flowing strings of paint. I really enjoy watching Ed Harris, the actor. So when he did such an amazing job portraying the artist in Pollock, the movie released in 2000, I was already familiar with the sweeping gestural movements of Pollock’s brushes. I was, however, unaware that he embedded trinkets in his work, such as nails, coins, buttons, and even cigarette buttes in his work Full Fathom Five (see it here: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/79070).

Next up was Mark Rothko. Art History 101 and 102 courses were my favorite classes in college. We were required to attend an art show, a play, a musical, and to write critiques. I’m not sure any of us truly knew what we were doing critiquing famous works but I imagine reading our papers was very enlightening, as well as entertaining, to the instructors. Standing in the Sheldon Art Museum on the University of Nebraska – Lincoln campus looking at a Mark Rothko original for the first time stayed with me over 40 years later! At the time, I felt the need to equate the work to something familiar and recognizable. Was it a landscape or a sunset, a field or the sea? Now I understand that abstract art is less about a relating it to something concrete and known and more about relating it to an emotion and feeling.

I used similar colors in the studio exercise I made with acrylic paints on a 24 x 36 inch canvas. When I stood back I realized that I had neglected to try to round the corners of my shaded rectangles which float on a red background. Rothko didn’t let others watch him work, so it is uncertain how many coats of paint he applied or what techniques he used for his smudged edges.

I did try my hand at using oil paints in the Rothko style, but on a much smaller scale. I found the streaking nature of thinned oil paint to be disappointing to work with. The upside is that I can say I tried it!

Look for more from the class as I continue to explore in upcoming blogs…


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In the Studio with a MOMA MOOC

The second course I signed up for on Coursera.org is much more experiential than the Learning How to Learn (LHTL) course I wrote about 2 posts ago. I took a leap and signed up for “In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting”. We’re exploring the Abstract Expressionists of the New York School. I knew 2 of the artists by name, the rest are new to me, which is exciting. I still think about my favorite undergrad classes: Art History 101 and 102, which pushed us to experience an onstage presentation, a play, a musical, an operetta, an art show, sculpture, and architecture.

Forty years later, I am studying art again. Through my latest class at http://www.coursera.org we have learned a bit about Barnett Newman, who’s pieces were huge, often 18 feet in length (at left below). My exploration resulted with this interpretation of his process I call “Grounded” (at right below):

Newman made what he called “zips” and I practiced a couple of different types of zips on my much smaller version (11 x 14″). The course instructor is Corey D’Augustine, artist and curator at MOMA. I naively presumed this studio exercise would be simple; Corey made it look easy, however I was surprised at how difficult it is to try to ensure your lines are straight. I used all acrylics: Raw sienna covers the entire canvas, then I taped the left zip and covered everything with yellow ochre. Next I taped the 2 right zips. I mixed Payne’s gray with Titanium white & gloss medium for the thicker of the two stripes and use straight-from-the-tube Payne’s gray for the thinnest stripe or zip. Finally, I used Naples yellow with palette knife for far right imperfect edged and textured zip.

Next up was Willem de Kooning. I think his work is interesting because it changed so much over the years; there is not one phase of his work that I can readily conclude is de Kooning’s style.

I used the same color palette as Corey did in the studio exercise video. I couldn’t find Titanium Buff so I tried to create my own flesh tone; it is a bit darker and pinker than I expected. This is my first experience using oils and I liked mixing in linseed oil, varnish, and mineral spirits, even water. My favorite parts of the de Kooning process were the charcoal pencil and the removing processes, like scraping, scratching, and rubbing off with turpentine on a rag… love that look! On the downside, I hated the clean up process of oils. I’m a messy artist and my hands were covered in oil paint. I just threw away my yogurt cup “bowls” and inexpensive brushes. I think I’ll stick with acrylics for future studio exercises. I like the final result, but am clueless as to whether it’s “finished”! I named it “Macaw” for the colors and textures.

Look for more from the class as I continue to explore in upcoming blogs…


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It’s Vintage!

When my mom moved back to Omaha to live with my sister and her family, the enormous task of cleaning house ensued, and the constant questioning, “Do you want this? or this? or this?” or “Maybe your sister wants this.” Many of the items brought forward for decision-making including the handmade items I had gifted her with over the past half century. Some I passed on. Some I had long forgotten, had a good laugh over, but still passed on. A couple I had forgotten and kept with a big Cheshire cat grin.  These two are ones I kept, had professionally dry cleaned, chose new mats and frames, and waited.

The results are in and I’ve found a bit of empty wall space to show them off. Made over 40 years ago. The first and only needlepoint canvases I made myself. Long before there were Michael’s Crafts Stores, Lee Wards out of Elgin, IL, was where I worked part-time during senior high school. One of my re-loved projects was from an introductory class which taught us a variety of needlepoint stitches and the other from a holiday DIY kit. If vintage is classified as anything over 25 years, then these two pieces certainly qualify:

 

Learning needlepoint stitches, the cat in blues and purples, Lee Wards Craft Store class, circa 1976

 

Poinsettia stained glass needlepoint kit, circa 1978

The Impressions We Make

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Since facebook has started bringing back memories of what we posted 3, 4, even 5 years ago, I am sure that I’m not the only one who has been tickled to see something we posted but had already forgotten. A few years ago I met my friend Rosie. I was gifting my mixed media paintings to the local area Starbucks Coffee shops, like these prints on canvas now availalbe in my Etsy shop:

Rosie saw one in our neighborhood Starbucks, asked about it and they handed her my business card. Rosie called me and asked if I would be willing to show her how to create her own mixed media art.  I was so excited to meet her and create with her. She made this gorgeous, colorful collaged Christmas tree. It came back to me on facebook as a memory from 2012.

My friend Rosie’s first mixed media collage – not quite dry yet so some areas of glue still appear white

A friend sent me a photo of the mini album I created for her when Margo was surprised by her now husband’s proposal. Remember this? she asked in the text. I laughed! Yes, I remember creating it, but more importantly, I was so warmed to know she still had it around and would share the pic with me.

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Margo’s Marriage Proposal Captured in a Heart-Shaped Mini Album

Another canvas I created came back to me recently in a totally unexpected way. I participate in an annual breast cancer fundraiser. At this year’s Think Pink Crafting Extravaganza, formerly known as Survivor Crop, and my 12th of 15 years participating in this wonderful event, breast cancer survivor Kendra spoke to us about her experiences; her journey with chemo and then radiation treatments was harrowing.

She spoke of how difficult it is for people to talk to someone when they are sick. People look away, pretend they don’t see you, fail to acknowledge your existence, mostly because they don’t know what to say or how to act around cancer patients. Friends fail to call, you’re sick, in pain, scared, and lonely, so lonely. Other people come into your life, like the wife of one of her husband’s co-workers. Sandy listened to Kendra and was a resourceful and caring sounding board. Sandy is one of the Think Pink Crafting Extravaganza organizers.

After talking to us as a group, Kendra visited with many of us as we crafted all day in our fundraising efforts. When she made her way to our table, she stopped to sit down by me. I had just finished a mixed media canvas using Simple Stories new Hope Collection of patterned papers and matching stickers. I call it Breezy:

Kendra talked about my Breezy painting and how it reminded her of the collage she has been gifted with.She told me how she had it hanging in her bedroom and when she was too sick to get out of bed she would look at it. She said it was fascinating because each time she looked at it she would find something new; there were layers and layers of messages and images in the painting. She said she loved it and how much it had helped her.

I asked Kendra who the artist was, but she didn’t recall. I asked her what the collage was of and she told me it was 3 women; it was breast cancer survivor art. You know how they say you can just sense where something is heading, the goosebumps appear on your arms and it becomes really quiet all around you as you focus in on just one person or one thing? Well, that’s what happened to me. I then asked where she’d gotten the painting and she told me that Sandy had given it to her.

For several years, I would make mixed media collages for the Silent Auctions at this breast cancer fundraiser. I recall creating one with 3 women on it and wondered if Sandy had bid on it and won it at one of the auctions? It was so rewarding to know that a collage I had created and donated to a previous year’s silent auction had been bid on and won by my friend, Sandy, and then out of the thoughtfulness of her heart, Sandy had gifted it to the lovely breast cancer survivor sitting next to me,telling me her story, Kendra.

I told Kendra that I thought I might be the artist and asked her if she would send me a photo of the canvas, and I’d also love a photo of her with the painting and she agreed.  I was close to tears, but it really didn’t hit me until the drive home that night. We raised almost $20,000 that day and the tears poured down my face driving home. It means the world to me to know that my art can have this kind of an impact on a total stranger.

My hope has always been that my colorful, whimsical and, sometimes. quirky view of the world through my art will touch emotions in others. Unbeknownst to be, I certainly had. I couldn’t be more proud, so I’m off to paint more! Happy Thanksgiving 2016 everyone!

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Kendra and the 3 Girls Survivor Collage

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Halloween Just Might Come in a Tin

As many of you know, I love to recycle or upcycle stuff. I had been collecting empty Altoid mint tins for a mixed media canvas class I intended to teach at a local scrapbook store, but unfortunately the store, like so many other small independently owned shops, has closed. We are down to only one or two scrapbooking stores in San Diego county and it’s disheartening. If you aren’t already familiar with the 3/50 Project, Saving the Brick and Mortars our Nation is Built On, please visit their site here.

So last weekend while participating in a pet rescue fundraiser, I created 15 miniature Halloween-themed tins from ribbon, stickers and beads I had sitting around my studio with my stash of creative goodies. What can they be used for? Spare keys, spare change, business cards, or even that emergency chocolate supply you want to keep handy, just in case.

 

Want to make some yourself?

Here’s how: Starting with a clean mint tin, I printed vintage witch photographs on full sheet label paper, trimmed them down to size and adhered them to the top of each tin.

Next, I realized that the tin had the mandatory nutritional information on the bottom, so I added photos there, too, to cover it up!

Using a hot glue gun, I adhered ribbon to the top outer rim of the tin creating a skirt for each tin. I have one with this crinkly old ivory ribbon that reminds me of the inside lining of a coffin.. how appropriate for Halloween, right?

I added stickers and jewels, flowers and glitter glue dots, rhinestones and mica flakes using liquid glue and pop dots for a raised or 3D effect.

Lastly, I added “feet” so that each tin would stand elevated off of a surface. I used matching beads, ensuring that the ones I chose had a least one flat side to keep them level. Using my hot glue again, I glued 4 beads onto the corners of the bottom of each tin. In the photo, the first tin on the left in the second row was photographed upside down so that you can see the amber bead feet.

Remember to keep a cup of ice water handy when using your hot glue gun because it’s inevitable that you’ll forget and touch a spot of hot glue so quickly plunge the burning finger into the ice water to harden the glue and stop the burn… just think of it as a little witches brew you have on the side!

One other thing… I found my Halloween costume at WalMart in the women’s PJ department. It is so soft, comfy and was only $6! It’s a black night shirt with this on the front. The only thing that would make it more perfect was if it glowed in the dark!

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Happy Halloween!


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The Spark is ReIgnited!

This past year had been a bit of a challenge for me, as it has for many of us. I see, for example, the last time I wrote on my blog was 2015 just after my brother passed away from complications of Type 1 Diabetes. Since then, I’ve focused on taking care of myself, because, really, who else is going to do that for me, better than I will? I had a knee replacement and have been doing water aerobics and swimming laps several times a week. What a joy it is to be back in the water (must be the Aquarian in me?)!

Along with improved health, I’ve lit a fire under my creative side and have been happily creating new mixed media projects, many of which you can see in my Etsy online shop: CarlasCraft.etsy.com but, of course, I plan to share some with you right now – I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I enjoyed making them!


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A Visual Feast

Last fall I signed up for a week-long Artist’s Retreat in Puerto Vallarata. It was one of those rare (very rare, actually) decisions where I put myself first and escaped from work and home and the everyday. Arriving on a Sunday, with my largest bag stuffed with art supplies, I found myself at the Hacienda Mosaico searching for a way in. Eventually, I realized that the hanger wire poking through the stucco wall was a door bell, connected to an internal bell that let those inside my new haven know that I had arrived.

Once inside, the stucco’d walls encased an amazing world of tropical trees and flowers, a charming blue pool and several casitas. We had a wonderful chef who served us amazing breakfasts at 9 a.m. and late lunches at 2 p.m. which I usually followed with a swim to cool off. We eventually went out on the town between 8 and 9 p.m. for a bite or celebratory dinner on the beach, our toes wiggling in the cool sand surrounded by tiki torches. The hacienda is filled with mosaic and brightly colored art.

Our week included art classes and free creative time where we share ideas with each other and experimented with color, texture and products. A trip into town to a little art supply store and to purchase milagros, Spanish charms, and sundresses. Another trip one evening for the weekly Art Walk, a musical event in front of the Cathedral, and to watch the sun set. Here’s what I completed during my little reality escape:

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