Friday, May 11, 2012

Reno Retreat, April 2012

This year's Reno Retreat with the incomparable teaching team of Jean Bernard and Sherry Goshon featured what was (for me at least) their most challenging project yet.  "Diary of a Mad Artist" is a doll built upon an altered book.  You can see the class prototype here.

I confess, at the end of 3 exhilerating and exhausting days, I was a little worried about my book.    It was unfinished, but I was also unhappy with the way I had constructed the interior compartments - there was just WAY too much empty space in there, and the whole thing looked like a craft project from a beach community senior center.   I took it home and set to work.

4 weeks later, I *think* she is finished.

Here is the finished book, closed.  The "porthole" is inset with a layer of mica and sealed with Envirotec.

The real complexity of the piece is revealed once the book is opened.  Assemblage is new to me, so I wanted to stick with a defined theme.  I am a Pisces and have always loved the water, so I chose to go with an ocean theme.  The whole box is stuffed with shells, coral, crystals,  pearls, and lots and lots of drippy things.  It took a looooooooooong time to get those drips done to my satisfaction, but I am so happy with the way it all turned out that I don't care.

I forgot to take a photo of the inside cover and you really can't see it very well here, but it features a drawing of a seahorse done by my daughter Lydia.  

The doll itself posed her own set of challenges. I covered the face with a layer of japanese lace paper, which reacted very unexpectedly with the Inktense water soluble pencils I used to color in her features. I suppose I could have filled in more features with acrylic paint instead, but I like the "rain on the window" feeling that the bleeding inks created. I LOVE accidents when they have such happy results!

I'm only sorry I couldn't get a good detail photo of her crown.  It's my favorite part, but I just can't capture the detail.  One of these days I am going to sit down and figure out how to photograph sparkly things...

The details in the interior of the book made for an overwhelming photograph, so I separated the upper and lower portions into 2 views.  The "waterfall" down the inside spine of the book was created with Envirotec and cling wrap.  I learned the hard way that the Envoritec is best applied in smaller amounts, letting the layers build up slowly - I'm afraid I got a little carried away when I first began on that part and actually overflowed the space to the point where the book wouldn't close.  I was able to rescue it with my Dremel and a cutting blade, but I was worried there for a while.  

The little face sculpted into a shell is a piece I have had lying around for a while now.  I never knew what to do with it, but I am so happy he has finally found a home.

The upper portion of the interior features a photograph printed on transparency of me as a little girl.  The bird skull was a gift from a friend and is very special to me.  The "drips" are built on a base of angelina fibers coated with Envirotec and absolutely slathered with glitter and microbeads.  SO much fun to do!!

I can't wait 'til next year!

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Rooted and Grounded"

Hello again! I know I have been neglecting this poor little blog, but I have been learning to use Facebook and reconnecting with far-flung family; it feels so good to be interacting again.  I love knowing what my nieces and nephews are up to, as well as my cousins whom I haven't seen in years and years.  I love having family again!  

However, just because I haven't been posting  doesn't mean I haven't been creating. I have several finished pieces to share in time, but one is a challenge entry and the other is a gift so they must remain under wraps for the time being.   I'll be back! 

"Rooted and Grounded" by Judith Atsma.  Commissioned by and on display at
New Hope  Foursquare Church in  Salem, OR

This piece was commissioned by my church to coincide with a "40 Days in the Word" sermon series, which started yesterday. I was given a phrase ("Live the Word") and complete artistic freedom of expression within the confines of the space available. My original plan was to display this piece as 3 separate canvases hung side by side, but in the end I decided to take pity on the ones who had to install the artworks and joined the canvases together with spacers. 

 I built up the colors in this work using very thin glazes - I believe there are nearly 80 layers of color throughout. The tree itself is not black, but layer upon layer of 4 different colors. Each leaf has 4 colors also. The black text was created with rubber stamps from my collection - I finally got to use them! - and the white cursive text was written free-hand using a mix of Golden's pouring medium and paint applied with a needle-nose squeeze bottle. I am definitely going to use that technique again!

Would you believe that the most difficult part for me was keeping my fingers OUT of the sparkly embellishments I love so much?  There is not a microbead or a speck of glitter anywhere.  Not even Pearl-Ex, LOL.

P.S.  It *isn't* crooked in real life - everything is level and square except the way I held my camera when I snapped the pic.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Steamfae is born - Meet Phinaes

This little guy is the result of an online class with Dawn Schiller at Doll Street's Creative College.
He is a real dandy, and a little bit of a flirt to boot.  

Meet Phinaes, a Steampunk Elf. (Dawn uses "Steamfae" to describe these little guys, but I don't want to steal her charming term.)


It was a lot of fun to do a character piece for a change, but the more I try to branch out, the more I find that I really prefer to create Pretty Things.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Iowa Retreat 2011 Finished Doll - "Rise of the Evening Star"

Can it really be months and months since I have finished *anything*? Sigh... Unfortunately, yes indeed, it can.  Thank goodness for the inspiration of my annual trip to Marshalltown, IA for Jean Bernard and Sherry Goshon's Dollmaker's Retreat!

This year's retreat  was every bit as stimulating as I have come to expect. Sherry and  Jean  are generous teachers who do not hold anything back, and have the gift of dragging the creativity (kicking and screaming if necessary) out of every participant.  

Everyone started with the same type of gourd as a base, though each individual gourd had slightly different shapes. Some were tall and straight, while the one I chose was a marvelously swoopy curvy one with lots of potential for implied movement. After basecoating the gourds with layer of acrylic paint,  we then completely covered them with alcohol inks. I used yellow, several shades of red, purple, gold, and just a little green here and there. Because the inks dry almost immediately, you have to work quickly and spontaneously - my favorite way! It was a real rush to watch the colors do their thing. Almost like magic.

Her cape started life as a sushi mat. (Another new thing for me - I had never heard of one before. Perhaps I need to get out more?) I stained the mat with thinned down acrylic paints and attached it to the doll's torso with apoxie sculpt. The feathers softened the outer edge but didn't blend well into the mat, so I blurred that edge with several layers of Jean Bernard's signature "Bling Soup" - a mixture of micromarbles and glitter suspended in DG3 glue and smeared on with a toothpick (or in my case, my fingers.)  I really don't know what posessed me to do it, but I also added approximately 150 flat back crystals.  It took me most of an entire morning, but I am happy with the result.

Because the underside of the cape is so visible, I think I will go in and add some bling mix to this side as well. I just don't like the abrupt line at the base of the feathers.

The face is a resin cast of Jean's new "Scarlet" mold which I colored with Sherry's watercolor pencil techniques. Didn't Jean create a beautiful sculpt? Such a lovely, delicate expression.

Jake says she is one of the best things I have ever done.  I am pretty happy with her myself.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Too Creepy/Weird?

This is my first attempt at a Frowning Francis pattern.  She was a LOT of fun to make, but I am glad she is going to a new home soon. I'm not sure I can take her staring at me like that!

This is the "Embellished Bird" pattern from the website. I also have the mermaid and zombie elephant patterns to play with. It is a nice little creative vacation to turn off the brain and just follow instructions for a change.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Grilled Pizza

When Jake bought me my grill last year, one of the first things I tried was Grilled Pizza, just because it sounded like so much fun.  I was right - it IS fun, and we loved it so much that I have been making it regularly ever since.  I have been asked several times for the recipe, but I haven't been able to come up with a good response because what I do is a mishmash of researching many many recipes in books and on the internet.  (Why yes, I do read cookbooks for fun, LOL.)

Anyway, I am going to take a stab at writing it down.  Feel free to e-mail me with questions!

The most important element of this process is a good crust.  The tastiest recipes call for a long cold rise, so you need to put the dough together at least 24 hours before firing up the grill.  I like Alton Brown's recipe.  Don't be fooled by the 1 star reviews - the people who deemed it inedibly salty obviously used regular salt instead of kosher.  (By the way, if you haven't switched to kosher salt yet, I recommend you do so.  Yummy!)

On the other hand, if you're like me and don't always plan your menus ahead of time, I have a fabulous 2 hour dough recipe from Eating Well magazine that comes together effortlessly in my food processor.  It isn't as tasty as the 2-day variety, but is definitely good enough, especially when one is craving pizza *today*, LOL.

After your dough has finished rising, punch it down and divide it into 4 equal pieces.  (8 pieces, if you're using Alton's recipe.)  Cut four 10" pieces of parchment paper, spray well with nonstick spray and dust lightly with flour.  Put one piece of dough on each piece of parchment and, using just your fingers, spread the dough out into a disk about 1/4" thick and don't stress about the shape.  Brush with a light coat of olive oil, then repeat with the remaining dough pieces and let them rest while you assemble your toppings.

Grilled pizza goes fast, so it is important to have everything ready before you start cooking.   Anything goes when it comes to choosing your toppings - my favorite combination is grilled red pepper, grilled zucchini, and grilled onion topped with mozzarella and parmesan.  I am still searching for the perfect sauce recipe...

So, your dough is shaped and rested, your sauce is ready, the toppings are set out, and the cheeses are grated?  Good.  Let's grill!

To start with, make sure your grill grate is pristinely clean and well oiled.  Fire it up and crank the heat to medium-high.  (I like to maintain a temperature around 450 degrees.)    When the grill is ready, put your crusts on the grate paper side up.  Leave the papers on.  Close the lid and DON'T GO ANYWHERE.  After 3 minutes, open the lid, remove the papers and check the underside of the crusts.  If they're a nice golden brown, they're ready.

Remove the crusts from the grill.  (I have my own pizza peel for this.  If you make a lot of pizza, a peel is worth the investment in money and storage space.)  Close the lid.  Lightly coat the "raw" side of the crusts with olive oil, then TURN THEM OVER.  (I forgot to turn them over once.  Don't repeat my mistake.)  Put a light coating of sauce on the toasted side of the crusts, add the toppings of your choice, then top with cheese.

Please note:  It isn't a good idea to pile on a huge mound of everything the way they do in most pizza parlors.  Go easy with the sauce, you should be able to see the crust through the toppings, and a single layer of each cheese is plenty.  Moderation is the key to a perfect Grilled Pizza.

OK, sermon over.  It's time to put the pizzas back on the grill with the lid closed.  After another 3 minutes, check to see if the undersides are nice and brown and the cheese is melted.  If not, leave them on for another minute.  If they're ready, take the pizzas off the grill, let them sit for a minute or 2 for the cheeses to set up, then serve.  Enjoy!

Not White-on-White

This lady doesn't have a name yet, but I am so happy with how she turned out that I am going to share her anyway. She is the product of yet another online class with the incredible Sherry Goshon, this time from the Crafty College at Doll Street.  Her body is wrapped wire, plaster cloth, and paper clay, while her arms and hands are cloth.  Her face is from Sherry's "Krystal" pressmold, and her hair is tibetan lamb.

The shining star of this piece though, is her wings, don't you agree?

These wings were custom made for me by Judy Serreseque from OOAK Artist Emporium, and a believe me they are worth every penny - I actually gasped when I opened the package when they arrived.  This doll was *supposed* to be a white-on-white piece, but I needed to add quite a lot of color to her to live up to those glorious wings.  The subtle texture is amazingly realistic.  The beads and glitter give it just the right amount of bling without being too much, while the Swarovski crystals are the perfect finishing touch.

I have tried and tried to create a white-on-white project, but I have never yet managed to do it.  Oh well, there is always next time!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2011 Reno Retreat

After a long dry spell, I am once again creating. It seems that our dark and wet winters have a dampening effect on both my creativity and my energy level. And while spring isn't here quite yet, but this year's Retreat gave me the kick start I sorely needed to find some joy in my studio again.

This year's doll features a cloth body, a cloth-over-resin face painted with watercolor pencils, and a base of carved and embellished floral foam.

The front of the base has a niche carved into it, closed by a gate of twisted wire. The embellishments are vintage locks and skeleton keys, metallic and interference paints, and my favorite glitters and microbeads. I haven't thought of anything to display inside the niche yet -- anybody have any ideas??

The back is embellished with more locks and keys, as well as a cricket that came in my goodie bag. Can you spot it in the lower right of this photo?

Perhaps this photo will give you a better look...

Her hat is my favorite part - gosh, it was fun to make! The basic form is made of cardboard pieces cut from a cereal box and held together with masking tape. The whole thing was sealed with acrylic medium, painted gold, and covered with black net fabric. The bmbellishments are lots and lots of tulle, another little lock and key, tiny watch gears, and of course, glitter and microbeads.

Can't wait until next year!