A Slab of Beef and My Little Book

A humungous, over-sized replica of a piece of steak won the Grand Prize at the 3rd Annual National Juried Exhibition of the Art League of Northern California in Novato. This chunk of cow was amazing; it must have been about four feet by three feet in diameter, and it looked exactly like the meat I buy at Raley’s, from the fatty marbling down to the hand-drawn bar code on the label and the cellophane wrapping stretched over styrofoam with the blood pooling inside under the meat. It was displayed low to the ground on a pedestal and had a “Do Not Touch” sign placed in front of it. Good thing too, because I really wanted to feel what it was made of. I tried to get a closer look at the display label, but there were always people standing in front of it. I think it may have said “resin.”

I dragged my husband and my long-suffering son to the artists’ reception last Saturday night. We actually had to drive an hour and a half out of our way to get to Novato because we were going to visit my dad in Sacramento after the show. My son didn’t want to be going to his grandpa’s in the first place, so he was rather surly and unenthusiastic — you know, a typical mopey adolescent.

I had really talked myself into schmoozing while I was there. I was going to mingle with artists, network, bask in the glow of my art work. But it was not to be. The gallery was crowded, mostly noticeably by the front door where there were serving brie and fruit and other interesting tidbits. I tried to appease my son by directing him towards the free food, but that didn’t do much good.

Meanwhile, my husband and I snaked our way along the walls of the little gallery, looking at the art work. Some of it I loved – a huge oil painting of a woman in a sheik black mini-dress lying on the floor repairing a dishwasher really stood out. As did an assemblage piece made entirely of discarded radio tubes. There was a nice variety of types of art, from collage and ceramics to oils, watercolors, and photography. My piece was the only altered book or book art piece. It was in the back gallery on the wall across from the meat. It looked tiny and forlorn by comparison. And a couple little matchstick pieces had broken off from the top. Directly below my book was a painting (or was it a photograph?) of a dog in a funeral home. I liked the looks of that.

When we got to the back room where Fear was hanging I noticed two women pointing at it and talking. I wanted to get close to them so I could hear what they were saying, but the room was too small and crowded and noisy, and that sirloin was taking up so much room! I wondered if it would be kosher to walk up to them and say, “Hi, I’m the artist that made that. What do ya think?” But I was too chicken. So I waited until they left and Michael took a couple of pictures of me standing next to my pride and joy. Did I tell you before that my son picked out that one to enter? I let him choose the three of the six books in the Broken Doll series that I would submit because I couldn’t decide. He may be a surly teenager, but he is my absolute best source for truthfulness — no matter how the truth might hurt!

It’s hard to try to wheedle yourself into a conversation with strangers when you haven’t had a drink and your son and husband are hanging on your sleeve. It’s hard enough for me to engage in small talk even without those hindrances. So after making one and a half rounds again, (with one last look at my book to make sure it was still there) we left and headed up to Sacramento to see my dad.


Drowning in Pink


Saffron Skies

I find myself drowning in pink. I recently finished a new altered book/wall hanging, Saffron Skies, which was packed with frills of light pink darkening to magenta. And now I’m working on a book called Dream of Orchids which is also filled with pink . . . and violet, yellow, hints of orange, and white. This book is going to be similar in structure to Anatomy of Paradise. You can see some of the orchids I made in the picture below.

Right now my tiny work area is covered in beautiful scraps of pinkish and yellowish paper, and there are pink inks and crayons and oil pastels lying around. It’s such a lovely mess, that I almost hate to clean it up. But I will. I need to make room for green so I can start working on the tendrils, leaves, and vines that my orchids will dangle from.

Today was my first day of work, and although the thought of going back to work is somewhat depressing, I enjoyed seeing my colleagues and felt that familiar rush of energy and excitement that getting ready for the new school year always brings to me — even as I’m sad by the loss of my “art time.” I got home around four, and continued working on my book, and before I knew it, it was 8:00 p.m. already! The time goes by so fast, and I have so much that I want to do.

But going to back to work also tends to make me more efficient in some ways. I have to make more productive use of each minute and really multi-task. So I write a blog entry while the paint is drying, and I eat a sandwich while the glue sets, and I take a break when all the pinkness is done and watch some TV with my son. Then I clean up and get started again until my eyelids just get too heavy and I know it’s time for bed.


Good News!


Kneel to the Prettiest

Last week I received an acceptance letter from the Art League of Northern California which is located near me in Novato. I had submitted jpegs of three of my Broken Doll altered books to their 3rd Annual National Juried Exhibition. I wasn’t sure which of the six altered books I should submit, so I let my son John decide. They rejected two of the pieces, but accepted Fear. The letter said they had over 400 entries and were only able to selet 62 pieces, so I’m pretty excited that one of my altered books were among those chosen. The Opening Reception is scheduled for Saturday, September 9, 2006 from 5 – 8 p.m. My husband will be in Greece, so hopefully my sister will be able to go with me for moral support.

Although I still have a lot of ideas for my Broken Dolls series of books that I want to play around with, I’ve decided to to some more Wall Hangings for a while. I need to take a break from the dark, weirdness of that other work for a while and work with some bright colors. I’ve had a book on my shelf for over a year now; it’s called Saffron Skies. I’ve had an idea for that book swirling in my head since I first got it, so I spent the afternoon painting paper shades of pink and splattering the pages with halo pink-gold and metallic gold. So much fun. And to make it even more enjoyable . . . I’m working in a clean, uncluttered work space!! HOORAY! We’ll see how long that lasts . . .


Back to My Altered Books

Back to My Altered Books

The Art of Happiness :: Page 25

In the two months since my previous entry, I lost my wonderful mother, Sandie, to complications from Alzheimer’s, and my sweet little dog Angel, to blood clots in the lungs. Until just about two weeks ago, when we scattered my mom’s ashes, I had been walking around in a haze, unable to even think about making art. Slowly, I’ve begun to peel back the sadness and have restarted my artful journey.

I want to thank everyone from my Yahoo! Group who emailed me their kind words of support and empathy, as well as those of you who, through this blog, offered encouragement to me during my mother’s illness. You have no idea how helpful it has been over these last few months, to read your touching, heartfelt comments. Thank you so much.


I decided to do a few more pages in The Art of Happiness. Let me tell you a little bit about how I did page 25, which is pictured above.

As per usual, I first prepared the pages by painting on a thin layer of fluid matte medium to protect the text. After I had decided on the found poetry, I used my Masquepen to cover the words. I then drew and painted the orb on the left side using white acrylic paing. Next I covered the entire two pages with Lumiere acrylic paint in Sunset Gold, painting around the white circle.. After the paint was dry, I used the Masquepen again to draw lines over the orb and across the page. I knew that I was going to do a watery color wash over the pages, and I wanted to create the impression of golden threads.

When the Masquepen had dried, I wrapped the book with waxed paper and fastened it up with a rubber band so that only the two pages I was working on were exposed. I knew what I wanted to do would be wet and messy and that I needed to protect the rest of the book. I painted the pages using in turquoise and magenta. I placed several paper towels on my work space, ready to catch the drippings. Then I used the ink droppers and dropped turquoise and magenta FW acrylic inks onto the page. I used a small water spritzer and sprayed into the pools of ink; then, I lifted the book up and tilted it in different directions so the inks would run together and spread across the page. As the ink puddled-up at the bottom of the page, I blotted it with a paper towel. I used a toothbrush to splatter Pearlescent Acrylic ink in Magenta onto the pages, and also used my Pearlescent purple to drop some colors here and there. I sprayed each drop of ink with water and tilted the book. I also used a little red cocktail straw to blow the ink around the page.

I did have a problem with the ink pooling in the gutter of the book. I was worried that it would seep into the other pages, so I used my paper towels and dabbed up as much extra liquid as I could before it could sink in.

When the ink had dried, I peeled away the Masquepen to reveal the poem which says:
sew a thousand golden threads
over her dusty world

I’m happy with the way these pages turned out, even though it isn’t exactly what I expected. I was really hoping for more blueish gray to come through, similar to the color on the white circle and my color square. But I love the way the darker colors got trapped along the edges of the Masquepen. Maybe I’ll try this technique on a larger canvas or on water color paper. It sure was a lot of fun.

P.S. A quick tip — Once you have the Masquepen on the page, don’t close your book! The Masquepen will stick together and pull itself off. Don’t ask me how I know ;-)


Altered Book :: The Art of Happiness

I just finished this altered book page for The Art of Happiness. I wanted to counteract the darkness of the text with something rich and colorful, and since I hadn’t used a purple color scheme in a while, that’s what I settled on.

First I covered the pages with a light coat of fluid matte medium. This helps to protect the paper when I apply the Masquepen. I have found that sometimes the Masquepen will lift the paper (and the text) right off the page if I don’t put down a layer of medium first. (You can read more about my Tips for Using Masquepen on my web site.)

After I had decided on the found poem, I used the Masquepen to cover the words, so they would be protected from the paint. I waited for that to dry. Then I used a light gold paint to cover the entire page. Afterwards, I painted different shades of copper and gold randomly across the page.

When that was dry, I used the masquepen again to make the stems and leaves of the flowers. I then painted the flower heads in shades of purple and covered those with masquepen as well.

Once the masquepen was dry, I applied a coat of pearlescent violet acrylic ink and some darker purple around the edges. Finally I was able to remove all the masquepen from the pages, and this is the result. The little flecks that you see in the image is the mica in the paint. I wish the contrast between the gold leaves and stems had been more dramatic, but this was a technique that I’d been wanting to try for a while, and I’m pretty happy with the result.