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Thursday, 19 December 2013

Inspired by the Past

This week I found some lino-cuts my dad had made years ago at Christmas time to produce his own Christmas cards from. (Now you know where I get my card making love from.) A lino-cut is an image that is carved into linoleum, then inked and pressed onto paper (or I'm pretty sure it would work on fabric too). It's like a stamp which are widely available these days in an abundance of different designs. I have many commercial stamps as well but there is something about a home made unique design that I love. However, a stamp is inked with an ink pad and a lino-cut is inked with printing ink that is rolled onto it. It's a little messier than an ink pad but it stays wet longer to give you time to ink the whole lino-cut and get it down on paper before it drys. Lino-cuts tend to be bigger than stamps.

Images can be carved into a number of different materials. One is the linoleum which is soft enough to carve into but still rigid enough to ink and print larger images. Another is a very soft rubber that comes in sheets. This is easy to carve but also much easier to make a mistake in if your carving tool slips and if you try to make a larger image, it is quite floppy and hard to print. The rubber is easy to cut into smaller sizes for smaller stamps. I've also made tiny stamps out of wine bottle corks which are perfect to use with a stamp pad.

This week when I was working in a journal, I wanted to stamp the year on a page, so I carved myself a set of numbers from the rubber. When doing numbers or letters, I have to remember to carve them backwards so when they are printed they come out the right way.

When the numbers worked out well, I decided to try some other designs to use in my journals. One was a flower design as above and the other a swirl design. I have lots of rubber left over. Any suggestions as to what I should carve next?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Cup of Tea and an Inspiration

In an attempt to get more liquids into my body (I'm not fond of plain water), I've been drinking more tea. I find it interesting that tea bags are made of paper that is neatly folded around tea leaves but that's not what intrigues me about it. It's the fact that those tea bags don't fall apart even after soaking in hot water for long periods of time. So I took one apart, opened it up and rinsed the leaves down the drain and let it dry. The texture is that of Japanese rice paper. It's delicate yet strong. I've read that artists use tea bags in their art and because I like the texture of the bag so much, I decided to try it in my quilt art. I wanted to find out if I could paint it and sew it.

This is what I found out.

Yes, you can paint the tea bags. On the left is an unpainted tea bag. I painted a number of tea bags with liquid acrylic paint that I diluted with water. I used three different colours on each tea bag. Three different blues on the blue ones and three different earth tones on the brownish ones. What it nice it that the tea bag remains somewhat transparent with the diluted paint. These colours reminded me of sand and water so I decided to use that theme for my quilt.
Here I have machine quilted layers of painted tea bags to quilt batting and a backing fabric. I used a copper metallic thread for the quilting to add a bit of sparkle. Next I will build layers on this with embellishments.
I added embellishments such as organza, yarn, beads, sea shells to flesh out my theme of sand and water.
Here is the finished piece entitled "Sand and Sea". It is only 8" X 10" which is the perfect size for an experiment. I'm pleased with the way it turned out and learned that I can paint and sew the tea bags very easily and they hold up well. However, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to wash the quilt. Perhaps, one day I'll try a larger quilt with tea bags. I guess I'll be drinking a lot of tea in the future.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Self Portraits

Have you ever wondered why artists do self-portraits? Well, I can assure you it is not because we are vain. More often than not, our self-portraits don't do us justice. No, we don't make self-portraits because we think we are photogenic. Perhaps way back before the camera, it was a way of leaving a part of yourself for posterity just like regular portraits. But now we have cameras and really, there is no need for a hand made portrait.

Portraits are made because you can put a little of the subject's personality into a painting or a drawing. This comes by the close observation that is needed to make a portrait accurate. It also helps to know your subject well. And who does an artist know better than themselves?

Another reason artists do self-portraits is that it is cheaper and easier to use yourself as a model than hire someone so you can get your practice at portraits. And family members just don't want to sit for the duration of a portrait. You might ask, well then just take a photo and paint from that but there is something about doing a live portrait that helps with an accurate depiction.

So yes, we artists use a mirror to do a self-portrait which is why sometimes the eyes don't quite look natural. It is difficult to look up into a mirror and then down at your paper to do the sketch. You are constantly changing your perspective. It is quite a challenge to get a likeness in a self-portrait.

I am going to be a little vulnerable now and show you some of my self-portraits. I do them for practice so when they don't really turn out looking like me, it doesn't bother me. I have done lots of portraits of my family over the years and some of them they will never see because they turned out so bad but I don't throw them away. They give me a record of how I'm doing and if I'm improving.

This one was done in 1995
Done for a drawing class I was taking at the time.
Well, although they're not perfect, I do feel I'm improving and there is a bit of a likeness in all of them. They are still enjoyable to do and a great learning tool.