Orphaned ancestral photographs
Have you ever been in a flea market or second hand store and come across old photographs with no names, date or location on the back? Do you wonder who these people are, or how these photos ended up as orphans? A great grandparent perhaps, a school teacher, the local post master? Is it possible these photos will ever get reunited with their descendents and find their way back into the family album?
Having come across some recently, I decide to buy a few of these old anonymous photos and have now made a book of them. The book will be available at the Navan Fine Arts Show June 6 & 7 http://www.navanarts.com
I am hoping that you will add your input to the book about what the lives of these people may have been like. Please come by, pick a photo or more, put pen to paper and help them to discover a life for themselves, for example:
- what might their hobbies or favourite activities have been
- what do you think they did for a living
- where did they live
- where were they originally from
- did they have children
- what did the future hold in store for them
I am very much looking forward to reading all the comments and ideas - and seeing what the lives of these people may have been like.
Week 2 at Ottawa School of Art
Perhaps I have been overly ambitious.
We started our first project in class yesterday doing a contour drawing of an item of our choice, then learning techniques to embroider the drawing on paper. We are using Tibetan paper which is very thin and translucent but quite strong and fibrous. It wrinkles easily but can be ironed later.
Clearly this is a work in progress. The bits in light blue are my working drawing. These lines will get washed out once the project is complete. The dark lines are what I have completed so far in thread.
Out of interest, the dress and suit are from my parent's wedding photo, taken almost 52 years ago.
I have no idea how long this will take to complete. It's now homework as we move to another project next week, but I am not alone as everyone in the class was quite ambitious. We did promise to bring in this project once it's done and I will continue to post updates as I work on this piece.
Letters I, J & K
Letters F, G and H
Which works better: Making New Year's Resolutions or choosing a theme to guide you for the year?
I chose a theme for 2013 - Connections - and made lots of new connections, connecting with people and connecting the dots. My theme for 2014 is Innovation. And I'm already starting to see it being realized.
Here's to 2014!
2014 Alphabet book project
I've decided to embark on a new project for the 1st quarter of 2014 - and that is to create a book of the letters of the alphabet, each letter created using a different art technique or medium. This book will then be displayed April 4-5, 2014, at a show being held by the Out-of-the-Box Fibre Artists.
To have this done in time, I will need to complete an average of two letters per week plus time to put it all together and make a cover. One of my objectives is to create most of the letters using techniques and materials that I am not very familiar with, so some practice may be required. My plan is to post pictures of at least two completed letters by each Sunday evening between now and mid-March, and in order. The first 3 are shown below.
- Each letter must be completed using a different technique or material (when it becomes necessary to also incorporate a previously used technique, the main focus must be on the technique or material assigned to the letter)
- The technique or material used must start with the same letter as the letter of the alphabet
- Each letter must be somewhat flat since they will become part of a book
- Each letter must fit on a 6x6 paper - this is the size of book that I am making
My list is below. It is subject to change - if a material cannot be located or if I come up with a better suited idea for the letter that I had not thought of up to this point.
Art the visually impaired can enjoy too
I watched her use her fingers to feel the texture and pattern of the thread stitches. I was showing her the book I had made containing photos which I had enhanced with handstitching. Lily, one of the seniors I teach at a retirement home, has a visual impairment that affects her ability to see detail. She could see the photos had thread on them, but could not see well enough to view the individual stitches. So she let her fingers do her seeing.
I had previously framed each of these photos, but had decided to move them all to one of my handmade books. It was Lily who had inspired me to do this after showing me a book she had made several years ago that contained photos of her paintings, along with a full record of medium, where the scene was from, when sold, etc. I liked the idea of having all my stitched photos together in one place, creating an art book.
I wanted to show Lily the book and let her know that it was she who had inspired me to put this together. Lily has been an artist all her life, exhibiting and selling many paintings, and I have come to admire her very much. We often share our excitement over new pieces, a new technique, or sometimes an older piece. And because of her visual impairment - and vision issues of some of the other ladies at the retirement home - I have tried to adapt the art classes I give so they can all still fully participate.
Watching Lily smile as she felt the photos got me thinking that there is so much art out there that can only be enjoyed by seeing. And most pieces do need to be protected from dirt, light, dust and fingerprints. But why not create one or two textured pieces that can be part of an interactive, touch exhibit, appealing to more than just the sense of sight. Something to think about.
Aging wood to look like barnwood
My husband is renovating our fireplace surround and we were fortunate to score a fabulous piece of barnwood to use as the new mantle.
The piece is gorgeous, however the underside and both ends looked like new wood, not the beautiful grey on the top and sides.
So we turned to google to ascertain how to age the wood to match the barnwood colour. The recommended solution was to steep steel wool in a container of vinegar overnight or up to 24 hours, strain, mix with water, then spray or brush the solution onto the wood. The only risk was that the wood could turn dark brown rather than grey. Ours did.
But there was a solution for that too; by simply adding a mixture of baking soda and water to the treated area, the shade of brown would fade to some degree. After a bit of testing and a little bit of time, we were tickled pink - er, tickled grey - to discover it had worked. We now have a piece of wood with the aged look of barnwood on all sides.
Of course there are a number of variables with both of these solutions; how long to soak the steel wool, how much to soak, how much vinegar to use, does it need to be watered down, how much baking soda to mix with how much water, and so on. But with a little bit of time and patience, we
got exactly what we wanted, and without the use of store-bought dyes or chemicals.
Our new mantle is now in place; next up: hearth and stone.
The pictures below show:
Left - The nice part of the barn board, showing browns and blue-greys.
Middle - The underside of a testing piece. The dark part at the bottom and middle were both brushed with the vinegar solution, the bottom one with more water and less vinegar. The light brown part at the top was prior to any solution being added.
Right - The final piece - notice how much closer the colour is to the colour in the first photo.
Paper books or e-books
I have been using my e-reader for over 2 years now, having first purchased it prior to going on a 6-week long trip. Definitely easier than carrying a number of books with me while traveling. And I especially like the convenience of being able to download books without leaving home.
But I do still love books made of paper.
As part of a book arts class I am taking, we had a field trip National Archives Canada to look at, and handle, centuries-old leather bound books and manuscripts. The scripts were beautiful and the illustrations all hand-painted using natural materials. Covers were often embossed, sometimes with the initials of the book owner.
During our visit we pondered whether this is an art that will one day be lost.
But some books just don't lend themselves to e-book technology. My book club met recently with an author who has published a historical book that includes many old photographs and maps. When asked if the book would also be available for e-readers, she hesitated before stating that by including photos and maps, the book would just not work well on an e-reader.
Will this hurt sales? Perhaps. Perhaps not. My copy of her book is now on the shelves in my living room and can easily be picked up and read for years to come. We don't know format e-reader technology will be like in, say 50, years and if we'll be able to read today's formats.
Oh, one other benefit of paper: My copy of the book is autographed. Not sure how that would work with an e-book.
I have been a member of various arts guilds in the past, each with its definite benefits, including exhibits of the artists' works and opportunities to learn new techniques.
Today I find the arts & crafts shows are jam-packed with artists and crafters, especially at Christmas, and it can be hard to not only be able to get space to exhibit, but for those with guilds behind them, to move up the waiting list.
I recently had an opportunity to join a women's business network. And I quickly discovered this to be a great networking and referral resource. In just two months (one month as a member), not only have I gotten a couple of new clients, but may also have some leads on new shows, which I am quite sure I would not have heard about until it was too late, and also some businesses in which to promote my work.
So let's compare some of the benefits of joining a guild and joining a business network:
It's not easy for artists to market themselves. And with so many competing to get booths and tables in art shows and in craft shows, it's very important to find alternative, creative ways to get our goods out into the market. An online presence is critical too. Showing your work in person cannot be beat. Perhaps next month I'll talk about that online presence and some of the keys to creating art websites.
Artists and injuries
I recently had a thumb injury which has not prevented me from painting or working with a needle & thread, but it sure was annoying and a bit sore. I'm glad to say it is healing, although very slowly and it's still very tender. It got me thinking about injuries that artists - and anyone who does any kind of repetitive work especially - can and do get. Some are easy to fix, others never really heal and keep flaring up, and other are, well, continually problematic.
Injuries may not be a very exciting topic, but is one that I thought was worth addressing. Because artists, painters, and anyone creative can be at risk for injury. We do need to know how to properly use brushes and pencils in order to minimize potential problems. We need to ensure lighting in our studios is good. Neck and shoulder issues are quite common. Are we leaning over too much, are we straining our necks, our eyes or other muscles? Repetitive strain injuries are all too common, affecting the wrist and shoulder, even fingers and thumbs.
Help can be obtained from your doctor, and through massage or physio therapies. But it's best to prevent these injuries from happening in the first place since, as I mentioned above, some take longer than others to heal. None of us wants to give up our creative ventures!
I recently came across a web site on an "Artist Injury Prevention Program" http://www.selfcare4rsi.com/artist.html. The site includes descriptions of the various problems that can crop up. They aren't restricted to just artists, but to writers, golfers, sports enthusiasts and so on.
The web site talks about the importance of stretching and includes examples of stretches.
Now the information provided of course does not take the place of your health care provider, but maybe if we are all a bit more aware of these potential issues and are in touch with how our bodies feel, we can prevent some of these injuries from happening in the first place. I have a good stretch program that I follow 3-4 times per week, partly as a result of a wrist problem, but also to prevent problems in other areas.
I hope you find this link as useful as I do.
Itching to take some art courses
Wow, I can't believe how long it's been since I blogged. Summer has gone very fast. A trip to Newfoundland in July has left me with lots of ideas for new paintings, some of which I have started. And doing demos at the Navan Fair I hope were inspiring to those who visited. I was certainly inspired by those who chatted with me, and I have some new ideas for the fall for my cards. I'll be demo'ing coloured pencils at Fall Fest in Navan in October - something I think some of the kids may like to try.
And with the cooler weather in the mornings, there is a hint of fall in the air. September for me has always been a favourite month, a month when I've often taken on new projects or taken courses.
And I've got the itch to take some art courses. Not sure yet what I will take, but I've started looking and one or two will hopefully speak to me. Perhaps it will be abstract painting, perhaps an entirely new medium for me.
And Artisan Day with me friends is set to start again in September. We get together once a month for a day of working on our projects, sharing with each other and sometimes even learning new techniques. Not to mention the wonderful food that we share for a potluck lunch.
Painting with my mom
My mother has been working on a new watercolour, after several years of not having painted very much at all. I have watched her confidence level come back as she continues to work on this piece.
It's been intriguing how much she is able to paint intuitively, without thinking about what needs to be done. Indeed she does better work when she does not stop to think about or "analyze" the painting. When the intuition takes over, the painting starts to take on a life of its own.
Creative activities are very stimulating for those with a dementia. The act of creating taps into the non-verbal areas of the brain. While memory and language start to disappear with dementias, for some reason creativity seems to stay, allowing emotions and expression to take place in non-verbal ways. I have observed this in others while they were knitting, playing the piano, creating pictures with buttons, even while colouring. It seems to help with relaxation, and also stimulates memories of past times.
I think my mother and I will need just one more session to finish up this painting, then we can decide what she would like to try next. Working on art has been a great way to spend time together, and time I will cherish for years to come.
A good friend showed me a book she had bought recently with ideas for making greeting cards. The cards were beautiful - gorgeous papers, lots of colours, embellishments, stamps. My first reaction was that my cards don't look anything like those.
She responded: "No they don't. Yours are Anne cards. They are your style".
What a nice compliment, and in that short exchange, she got rid of that little voice in my head that so many of us hear that brings out a negative side, that maybe our work isn't quite good enough.
How many of us don't think we are creative or have artistic talent. In my case a grade seven teacher criticized my art work, and for years after that I didn't think my art was very good. I certainly wan't about to sell any. It took courses and positive feedback many years later to realize that I do, perhaps, have some creativity or a bit of talent. And I realized too just how much I missed being creative, doing some kind of art, every day.
Everyone is creative in their own way, be it painting, knitting, gardening, cooking, home decorating, scrapbooking, writing or other such pursuits. It's the act of creating that is important, not the end result. If a child wants to colour a cow purple and orange, so be it. Developing imagination is key. Creativity and flexiblity are desireable, lifelong skills.
So thank you Catherine for the lovely compliment. It's very much appreciated, as is the support of my family and my friends as I go along this journey. I hope that I am able to inspire you as much as you inspire me.
Awakening the heart
Artist - Anne Warburton
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It's taken years to discover the medium I enjoy the most. And how what I have learned before somehow fits into what I am doing now. Even when I travel my needles and threads are with me so I can continue to create while away.