January 29, 2014

Orange County Housewife & Cat Nanny

It's been a year since we moved, and I still haven't adjusted to the Orange County housewife gig.  I remain, as far as I can tell, the only housewife around town that drives Honda Odyssey but isn't someone's housekeeper.  I'm probably the most plus-sized housewife in town.  I've had no injections other than that for the flu shot.  I have been known to wear Old Navy flip-flops to the grocery store.  I don't have a housekeeper.  OK, not yet, but need help with this big house and wicked arthritis.  I don't like spas.  I do my own mani/pedi and not on a regular basis.  I live in a small city that doesn't allow door-to-door solicitors other than by those who have applied for a permit to do so here, and even then homeowners can opt out, but a few still sneak around town.  I never knew such a thing existed as a city-wide ban on solicitors.  This week one of the sneaky variety came to the door and, as usual, I was dressed for the studio and had plaster all over my hands.  He said he was stopping by to chat with the homeowner about reducing electric bills.  I stopped him and told him I was not the homeowner and they weren't home, that I was the cat nanny.  He muttered "cat nanny" and made a notation on his little clipboard and said he'd come by another time.  He took it seriously.  O.M.G.  Now I'm actually looking forward to the next sneaky solicitor and have to come up with something better than cat nanny since I Googled it and there ARE cat nannies!  What ever happened to just plain old pet sitters?

On the mom front, the empty nest thing remains a mixed bag of emotions.  The kids are both old enough that even when we're home together, we aren't really together.  My son is usually holed up in his room playing video games (insisting that it is now related to his college major of software engineering, and thus qualifies as in-depth and intense study time that should not be disrupted with silliness like meals) along with making it dirtier.   The older of the two is usually busy studying (for real) for her last semester of grad school if she's home at all with her busy work and school schedule.  Me, I'm scooping the litterbox again.  Ah, the joys of motherhood.

On the art front, the week has been slow in terms of creative time.  My husband accompanied me to the Road to California quilt show which was extraordinarily crowded.  I couldn't decide which I needed more after the first aisle, an air horn or a martini.  There were a lot fewer quilts showing and a lot more vendors than in years past, but it was still worth the trip.  This week I'm busy painting a bathroom, once again with a looming party as the impetus to get something done.  I haven't painted in our house myself for about two years and had forgotten the icky stench of primer and the nausea that comes with it when in a small room with it for hours.  Blech.  The priming is done; I'll paint tomorrow.  Then I think we won't have a party for a while because this is not fun anymore.

January 22, 2014

I Should Learn Before I Do...

Live and learn.  Before I started with the paper clay, I did a lot of looking around online for information about how to use it with limited success.  Trying to break my habit of spending more time looking and reading than doing, I shut down the laptop and got to work.  Oops.

The paper clay head was cracking across the back of the neck and I was afraid it was going to fall off.  I slid the piece off of the dowel and found the clay on the underside of the neck still soft.  Good news!  So I rammed a piece of chopstick up the neck to give it some stability and re-wet the cracked area, packing on a little more clay to fill the crack.  I'm sure this isn't what one would read in an advice column in terms of managing cracks, but it appears to be working.  THEN I found more info on the internet about using paper clay.  Ugh, a day too late for this first piece.  There was frequent advice about building up in gradual layers to prevent cracking, as well as using more structural support than just a blob of foil in place of a brain.  Oops again.  Better luck next time.

January 21, 2014

Breaking Away from Comfortable

This afternoon started out like many other afternoons, cruising through the internet, looking at blogs and photos, hoping for inspiration, advice and help.  Trying something new with no previous instruction is hard and I wouldn't even know where to begin to try to find instruction for what I'm doing.  I decided that I wanted to try this next figurative piece using a new material, paper clay, instead of my usual polymer clay.  The instructions on the package weren't exactly helpful.   Add water if needed and wrap anything left in an airtight container, you can sand it...Ok, got it.  I didn't realize how quickly it would start to feel dry on my fingertips and I felt panicked about having to sculpt in a hurry, having little time to fine-tune it before it started to dry.

I worry about the structure and that I didn't think this through enough ahead of time.  The head is stuffed with foil, but the neck is just solid paper clay.  Will it crack?  Was I supposed to use something for armature?  Oh boy, I probably should have used a wire for added strength through whatever that thing is on his head.  I made it, I should have a sense of what it is.  I'm going to say it's a sort of hat.  Yup, it's a hat.  Now I have to figure out when it's dry enough to handle.  Maybe I'll just ignore it for a few days while I work on something else, just to be safe.  At least I made something, even if it was just a learning experience.

January 16, 2014

Cheat Day

OK, I wanted to get some art work done every day, but I keep getting interrupted with chores and errands.  I figure if I crank out a lot of those chores and errands today, that gives me a chore-free day tomorrow to play!  Today was the marathon run to the grocery store, the dry cleaner and Target for all of the cleaning supplies and household goods.  I am SO proud of myself for having been inspired by some of those nutty extreme couponers I saw on television.  I clipped a few coupons, check out the Target flyer in the newspaper and scored!  The Tide was normally about $13 each but is on sale for $8.  I had a coupon for $3 off, plus Target gave a $5 gift card if you bought two.  I refuse to do math when I don't have to, but I think I got two $13 dollar bottles of laundry detergent for $4 each!  There were a few other similar bargains, but it makes my head hurt to think about it.  Those extreme coupon shoppers are just nuts.  It was my sport for the day.

So while I didn't actually do this art today, I did work on it earlier this week.  A recent email with notices of upcoming art classes with Katherine England prompted me to pull out the goods from the soldering class I took with her last summer.  The work I did was clearly that of a newbie, not terrible, but clearly amateurish.  If I don't practice ANYthing on regular basis, everything will always appear amateurish.  I cranked up the soldering iron, pulled out some unfinished pieces and went to town.

This piece is a bit too large to wear, I think, but the point was just to practice attaching a jump ring (I used many bad words attempting this feat) and to practice adding beads of texture (not as many bad words were flying because I was laughing at my lumps). 

It's not a masterpiece, but more than anything I am happy that I just played around and enjoyed myself.

The surface of this little piece with the owl isn't quite right, but I don't know what's causing the wonky surface belmishes.  (This is where I puff out my chest a little bit, proud that I figured out how to do the little faded border thing in Photoshop).
My sister suggested I move the soldering iron along a little faster, but not keep the heating element right smack on the surface, just barely touch it.  Thank goodness Katherine told us about her tip about buying inexpensive photo frames for the glass to use for practice and projects.  The learning curve here could be expensive! 

For my birthday, my husband gifted me the most wonderful tool - a 3rd hand.  There are days where I feel like I could use more, but I think that comes from the fact that I haven't used it much.  Attaching jump rings is a lot easier now.

 Today I spent too much time on the hunt for supplies.  I can get one thing at several sites, but the prices are all over the place for the same item.  Right now I just want to find a decent glass grinder for a decent price from a place that accepts American Express (not a card tied to my bank accounts!) and that has an option for shipping other than the basketball-player-wanne-be dudes that work for UPS.  Too many packages have been bounced and tossed at my front door, including the ones marked "Fragile" in eighty-three languages.  Grrrr.

The internet is loaded with artists who make pendants like these, so I have no big dream of making a lot of money selling them.  I will enjoy making some with original little paintings or old family photos for me and other family members.  Sally Jean Alexander's book Pretty Little Things is a great source of inspiration for me.  Tomorrow, I take another whack at it.

January 12, 2014

New Year Resolution: Make Art for FUN

Boy, have I been whining and complaining a lot and not just lately!  My New Year's resolution is not going to be all about losing weight and getting into shape (I need to do that anyway), but to focus on being more positive and actually creative.

On the positive front, I stumbled across two wonderful blogs yesterday (thecartbeforethehorse.blogspot.com and allegromelody.blogspot.com ) that have completely turned around my view of my creative life and made me realize that my once creative spirit is still here, it's just been dormant for a while.  I don't need to worry about creating masterpieces to enjoy making something.

My art dolls have been my biggest stumbling block.  For years, I used basically the same construction method with a few attempts at wavering from the usual techniques.  The head and extremities were attached to the body by hand stitching with transparent thread.  After a while, that thread became brittle and the head sagged.  Without ever having taken a course in doll making and relying on trial-and-error, even consulting books and websites, I just couldn't come up with a method to make it better.  Eventually I tried another method, extending beyond just the neck to include the torso of clay.  Boy, was that a headache!  This thing has been through more - what's the word, versions?  Renditions?

The first ones I made a number of years ago (in my once cheery coloured studio in the old house)

First try adding (too much) fibers, wires and metal bits while trying to figure out the bottom half
Next I added some paint to the body and removed what I felt was excess junk on the wire

Last, I removed ALL of the fiber and spent a week adding a zillion bits of copper wire to the heavier gauge wire, painting it black, and then....nothing
 Then we moved and the movers threw this in a box and piled a lot of heavy things on top of it.  I just feel like I can't recover and this is one of those epic failures that is best just chucked aside.

Yesterday I decided to start fresh and get practice sculpting a face, but my clay is just to crumbly.  Bummer.  Time to shop for new, fresh clay.  Since I had free time, I Googled for ANY help on creating a stable neck using polymer clay and thus found these blogs.  My first thought when I started looking through the photos on one is that I just loved the artist's style and sense of decor, reminding me a lot of the home we just sold, valences I'd made for our kitchen windows, and funky art I made about ten years ago when I made stuff for the fun of it and not to sell or be graded or reviewed.  I don't know what I was going to do with this other than just test making and painting a small poofy thing.  I sure succeeded in that :-)

I made this 3" long piece about eight years ago and clearly painted it in about twelve seconds. 
This is the little guy I made years ago as well, but assembled only recently using embroidery floss as an experiment.

Today is about starting on the new path to being creative for fun, sharing with my artsy friends or friends that aren't so artsy but are curious about what I do when I'm in my studio.  This new me is going to make a note that reminds me to shut down my inner critic.  She's fired. 

January 11, 2014

Works in Progress

It's hard to wrestle with creativity without sounding like I am complaining, but I really am trying to focus on just figuring out the problem and then figuring out a fix.  The fact that I share my studio space with the litter box isn't helping my concentration!

Yesterday I found a figurative piece dated 1999.  It was a dreadful experiment with a fun colored body, but a nasty color of polymer clay and a sad experiment using a face mold with Friendly Plastic.  What an abomination.  I tossed the faceless head and removed the extremities, adding the body to the other two I made some time ago.  Then I stopped.  I'm having a tough time making the effort to make the sculpted parts because I just plain stink at it.  What now?  I need to practice, but it feels like practicing driving without ever having had instruction and hoping I don't run up a tree.  I've read books, watched videos and perused the web for help.  At this point, it's clear that I have to actually smoosh clay and try, try, try more than I have before until I get it right.  Watching and reading will not improve my skills.

Friendly Plastic using facial mold
Scary head without the face

This combo does NOT work!  What was I thinking?!?

Is art this hard for everyone?  I see so many prolific artists, some of whom make an enormous amount of art in a short period of time.  Tomorrow I'll be a "football widow," so I can work away in the stinky studio and see what I can come up with, focusing on having fun being creative without insulting myself in my head.  I have three bodies to finish and hope to tackle at least one.

January 4, 2014

Waking Up the Sleeping Artist-Wannabe

I've been struggling with cooties since Christmas Eve, finally able to talk and be heard, though still coughing up camels and tumbleweeds in my sleep.  Yuck.  Since I'm feeling better, I figured it was time to do some chores as well as follow through on my commitment to getting into art again.  It's hard when I've battled with a blank brain for so long, both in terms of just thinking clearly with this bug and with thinking "art" when I've been so uninspired and feeling dusty and stagnant.

My cyber friend Mary has been posting photos of the products of her creative energies on Facebook, reminding me that we can spend a little time and make a little something without the need to create a full-blown masterpiece.  Attempting to follow suit, I cleaned out a bit of junk in my studio space, cleaned off the surface of my desk and started rummaging through unfinished work to find inspiration and motivation.  I found the bits of one of my very small art dolls I made YEARS ago and decided to put them together in a fashion a little different than I've been doing for so long, using a thick cotton embroidery floss instead of the clear fine thread (which I've found grows brittle and breaks).  While I was wrestling with the needle and thread, my daughter's boyfriend passed through the room and said, "Are you making Voodoo dolls?"  I laughed and told him that no, not exactly, though I suppose it could serve that purpose.

As always, I struggle with issues as simple as posting a photograph of my artwork.  Can I take the criticism that may come with it?  If I were confident, I'd worry that someone were going to try to copy my style, then I laugh at myself and say, "Really?  It's too weird."  Do I post photos just to work on getting past the fear of wrinkled noses and squinty looks of people trying to figure out what the heck it is that I make?  Ugh, it's exhausting being such a fraidy cat.

I'm going to get past this fear and post pics (as soon as I get the stupid card reader problem resolved on my computer so that I can post a decent photo and full body shot.

The little guy I worked on today is 9" long from head to toe.  He's leaning on my cup-o-junk while the wires in his head settle down with the glaze I used to give it a bit more stability.  I'm using my Wacom Bamboo tablet to try out different versions of painted facial details before I call him finished.  It isn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel like I'm dusting off and warming up.