29 August 2011

mix tape traveling journal

Some months ago Jessica Mack (aka @brownpaperbunny) of Canberra, Australia asked if anyone wanted to join in on a traveling journal. I signed up, waited patiently, and one day in August the book arrived to me. Now I can share the story of my turn...

Each artist gets to fill out two double-page spreads with simple rules: at least one line must be carried over from the previous page into the new one and the theme is: blue.

Jessica's beginning.

I'd seen Jessica's initial drawings on her blog when she gave the book its start and the artwork was even more charming in person. Since that time, three more artists had drawn in the book, making eight images total to fold out on the accordion pages.

Helen's pages

Helen had sent me the book from Thorndale, Pennsylvania and her pages seemed to echo Jessica's initial art. Both had a city view followed by a countryside scene and were done mostly with ink and colored pens. Two other artists' works sat between them. (I'm showing you a bit of the pages they connect to in the photos as I think it's interesting to see the lines and shapes the artists chose to continue on to their page).

Sara's dark blue

Sara Carns of Phoenix, Arizona had very intriguing pages with layers of pattern, design, gesso, paint, ink, stamps and embellishments. Her first page accented twitter (where the project originated) and the second page addressed the "mix tape" theme of music ~ hence the lyrics from Dark Blue by Jack's Mannequin ~ which is a pretty excellent band to choose, not just for the blue-themed song but also because The Mixed Tape is another song on the Everything in Transit album. This mix tape book is definitely in transit, so that was simply brilliant on her part!

Liz's pages are so pretty and bright. You can tell she designs greeting cards!

Sara's work connected to the perfect penmanship and dainty decorations of Elizabeth Caldwell. I'd seen many of her designs that she shared on twitter or her blog, so it was a little thrill to see her familiar style there on the page. She carried a bit of the tweeting theme along, too, tying it to a cute children's song that I knew because I once taught it to a group of five-year olds for a spring choir performance. It brought me right back to theie little voices warbling as they shook their clappers in time and two girls clanged tiny cymbals as accent notes. Kids are so sweet. One of her little birds is even wearing over-sized heels, like when you're little and you try on your mom's shoes. That's incredibly cute in my book.

So, I oooh'ed and aaah'ed over all the completed pages, and then it was my turn. I had some ideas but didn't know immediately how to begin. I scribbled on a notepad:

having the blues
singing the blues
blue suede shoes
blue monday
blue skies
blue is the sky when I'm without you
ocean blue
blue whale
blue agave
bluefin tuna

A picture began forming in my mind of friends at sea, in a boat at night, playing music. A little sweet, a little familiar, with a bit of that magical storybook feeling. {I hoped, anyway, that it would turn out like that.} When I studied the lines that Helen had left for me to connect to, I was very pleased that she'd been so generous as to give me the lines of two leaves in addition to the basic horizon. Looking at how they would continue out, it was almost immediately clear that on my side of the page the leaves could only transform into a flying gull. And so it came to be.

The night sky demanded a full moon and as I started drawing the mast of the boat I recalled that the Italian word for mast is albero which also means tree. Soon, branches were growing and the sail became a living one with leaves.

My blue vision.

Since the next spread was also mine, I liked the idea of having a less marked delineation and just sort of 'spilling' onto the next scene ~ totally appropriate since it was almost all water and I wanted to move on to a water creature I'm quite fond of, the blue whale. I have a soft spot for whales and the blue whale in particular. They're magnificent and swim most of the world's oceans but can be found along the California coast quite often. They're the biggest animals in the world and the loudest. They can hear for 1,000 miles and their newborns weigh 3 tons! They live 80 - 100 years unless attacked by sharks or injured by large ships. Unfortunately, they're also endangered. I used pencil and watercolor to express my admiration for these beautiful krill-eaters.

Now I'm working on my artist card to add to the mix's back pocket and then I'll send it off. I'm sorry to see it go as I've gotten rather attached to it! But it will be fun to see what the next artists come up with.

By September 1st, I'll send the book off to Sue in Maryland, after which it will pass along to three dear friends of mine ~ Jessica Gowling in Canada, Thuraya Lynn in Kuwait and Juri Kosaka in Tokyo. Another stop in Australia to comic artist Lisa McDonald and then it'll be back to Jessica once more. Can't wait to see the songs and blues they add to its pages and read the continuing adventures of the traveling mix tape!

art afternoon

My friend Chiori and I met with our boys at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University this afternoon for the last day of the Art of the Book in California show. We ended up going through most of the wings, so got to see unique books, antique books, African art, contemporary Bay Area artists and of course, the famous collection of Rodin sculptures.

Here are some of the beautiful books:

Some of the Rodin collection:

A few of the modern pieces:

And a huge sculpture of metal that one could enter inside and see ever-changing curves of metal, light and shadow:

Iced coffee in the cafe', a walk around the Stanford campus (boys shooting ahead on scooters), a pause in the shade for sketching and admiring the architecture, and soon the sun was setting. A perfect afternoon, I'd say!

Quick sketch that I'll send to Chiori for happy memories.

24 August 2011

my desk

I'm very happy with my new desk!

You might recall back in the spring when I was searching for the perfect desk for my own little art corner. I received encouragement and advice from many twitter folk that helped me ultimately decide on a glass-topped number from CB2. I think it was rainbow maker Anika Starmer (of @aisforanika) who mentioned that a glass top was useful for doubling as a light table. Since my corner is small, I also figured the glass would help the room to stay a bit more airy and not weighed down with heavy furniture.

It's working out very well and I've been getting lots done there! It has a keyboard tray but since I have a laptop I use the tray to keep mail art and pretty things from artist friends around the world.

At the upper left you can see a beautiful "K" topiary drawing from Toni Rica (the fox-painted CD is from her, too). There's an etched butterfly from Jeannine Saylor next to the "K" and a cute print from Gizem Vural to the right of that. Gizem (@ponchikk) also made the girl bookmark in the lower right. Smack in the middle is the envelope of mail art I just received from Jessica Gowling. It is chock full of bison and buffalo! I'll be sharing that with you soon. @jessicagowling also made me the collage with KIMI on it to the left of her package. I like keeping the work of artistic friends close by ~ nice to have something tangible while we're chatting at distance through our respective screens.

Recently, @Juriko in Japan posted a drawing of her husband's desk and offered to draw others' desks as well. I had also really liked the drawing she did of her own workplace too.

I realize that with all the reflection of the shoji screens in the glass, my desk may be a little difficult to sketch.

I think this is the angle she normally illustrates from...

Perhaps I'll take another shot this evening when the light is different, and maybe add my Macbook there to make it easier for her (and more consistent with the drawings she's done already). 

So fun to collaborate with other artists around the world. Let's keep creating, everyone! Now that I've got my desk, I'm ready!

21 August 2011

a new favorite ~ {american buffalo}

I've been painting and drawing bison lately.

Our road trip this summer took us to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming where we saw our first group of bison, or American Buffalo. Such a thrill to see them grazing on the high plains, almost as big as our car, so top-heavy with their hunky shoulders over tiny legs.

Slightly north, in Yellowstone National Park, we came upon this one grazing next to a mini-van.

And he answered the question for us, "Why did the buffalo cross the road?"

Think you know the answer?

A: To poop on the other side.

Is that inappropriate? Sorry, I thought it was cute the way he went all knock-kneed to do it. :)

The Yellowstone Hotel gift shop was selling buffalo-poop Christmas ornaments. Imagine, I could have collected this and made some of my own! A missed opportunity, to be sure...

Look how cute they are when they rest in a field. Reminded me of my bunny relaxing on the lawn at home. (And just to be clear, bunnies remain my #1 favorite. I can't be disloyal to my bunny.)

Hard to imagine them ramming and goring anyone with their horns when they look so tranquil, but the park brochures warn that it does occur. Yikes.

When we got to South Dakota, a young bison led us to our hotel in Custer State Park. A very charming escort.

We felt really welcomed.

Incidentally, they have a buffalo drive every fall in the Black Hills and park rangers on horseback do a big cowboy-style round-up of all the buffalo in the park. They count them, check their health and monitor the population. It's a big event that draws a lot of visitors.

Whoops, this darling creature is not a bison. 

But he's so cute! We met him just outside Mt. Rushmore, drinking water off the rocks. These goats are another new favorite of mine because their mouths turn up in little smiles. They're just so sweet. But back to this post's main feature...

The funny thing about buffalo is that they have "extra" fur over their backs that are kind of like blankets. Some are really ragged looking (more like the buffalo that crossed the road's irregular look). But some, like this young fellow, are very smooth and pretty. I wonder if it has to do with age?

Well, I thank you for bearing with my bison adoration post. I leave you with a last look at a group of friends grazing in the Black Hills and another silly joke.

Q: What did the father buffalo say to his son when it was time for him to leave home?

A: Bison

18 August 2011

inspiration ~ {champagne grapes}

About three years ago I planted two grape vines in my backyard. Each year they've produced more grapes and this year we have the most bunches yet. They are sweet (slightly tart if you pick them early) and so delicious!

More ripening soon!

I decided to paint them to record some of my summer bounty, and that's what started it all.

Watercolor on a greeting card.

As I'd just sent off mail art packages to Toni Rica, Jeannine Saylor and Jessica Gowling, I decided to make a package for someone that was completely not expecting it ~ my sweet mother-in-law. She lives far across the ocean in Italy and I think she has been feeling a little lonely as of late. Once the card was ready, I gathered a number of other surprises to brighten her day.

I hoped to help her feel closer to us by sharing some of the things around us right now. My bunny was hopping about in the back yard, a joyful little creature, so I carved the flat end of a wine cork into a bunny shape and stamped it on a tiny card to fit inside a tiny handmade envelope along with...

... yes, that's a bit of bunny's fur. (She's shedding a lot in the summer time!) 

The back of the card says 'bunny' in Italian.

I am pretty happy with how the bunny stamp came out. You might remember my first cork stamp that I sent to Jessica Gowling long ago ~ a 'Secret Agent Man'. Jeannine Saylor has also been making sets of cork stamps. They are fun to make and fairly easy as long as you keep your fingers shy of the blade!

Anyhoo... a few more things jumped in the envelope to Italia: a literary bison (to remember our recent road trip), some colorful printed and letter pressed items, a nice long letter in the best Italian I could muster, and some photos of the fam are now on their way across the Atlantic.

Hope they make their journey intact and give her a pleasant surprise one day soon.

07 August 2011

dappled light

I spent the morning in the back garden with a fairly large canvas and my paints, thoroughly enjoying myself. I thought to share some progress shots, but as I was under a tree the photos have dappled light coming through from above. I kind of liked it and almost wished I could add them on to the painting.

This is for a friend who commissioned it saying, "Just go out and create whatever comes to you! Sky's the limit! No rules. But blue did look good in my living room." :) I liked her direction ~ freeing but with one guiding suggestion.

The canvas was too big for me to get the whole thing in one photo. When it's fully finished, I'll try again and share the whole image with you (perhaps without the dappled light next time).