Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Adroit Shenanigans

 
 
"Going gold" is the expression or title I kept thinking I would use for this month's post. But that sounded rather braggadocious, especially in the wake of Hurricane Harvey when so many people are relatively homeless here in Houston. How so -- going gold? Not my credit card status... Not the app-modified golden photo of my cat Molly above.... Instead, it is related to collage...


This 4 x 4" collage on wood entitled Adroit Shenanigans is the piece of art that catapulted me into the Gold Signature membership status with the National Collage Society. Let me explain... I joined the NCS in 2010 and was extremely pleased to learn on of my collages had been accepted for that year's juried exhibit. Every year I entered these annual competitions and had success again in 2013. This year, because my collage above was accepted for the 33rd Annual Juried Exhibit and was my third such acceptance, I became eligible for "Gold Signature" status. This denotation gives me the privilege of including the NCS insignia on any collage I sign. It is a pat on the back I really appreciate and may come in handy in the future, especially should I start applying for solo shows. The show is being held at the Union Street Gallery in Chicago Heights, IL from September 27 - October 28, 2017 and will also be online at NCS soon.
 
The fact that this teeny-tiny piece of art was accepted and therefore was the road to "Gold" delights me. So may people in the art world tell aspiring artists to work BIG. I've only gotten as big as 16 x 20" thus far and most of my pieces are 8 x 8" or 9 x 12". I love working small. For one thing, my scanner is your typical desktop size and taking larger art to be scanned or professionally photographed is cost prohibitive. Most art shows today depend on digital entries, so the ability to scan my art is important. Secondly, because I often use Dover clip art books, I have to work within the smaller scale of my found images. My art has also appeared in Cloth, Paper Scissors magazine and their Reader Challenge size requirements run small.  I have also learned that many collectors have run out of wall space and are turning to smaller art. Think tiny houses and the trend towards simplicity! Many baby boomers are scaling down, so small art makes sense.
 
 
As for Horrible Harvey, the rainfall was quite scary. We sandbagged the front door and watched our street turn into a lake. The photo above shows our flooded street (no curb in sight and the water level risen to halfway up the Stop sign pole). And though the rain continued for days, our house never flooded. Several of my friends suffered major or minor flood damage. Heaps of hurricane debris still litter the front lawns of many homes nearby. We dodged the bullet, and in the days after the storm, helped others as best we could.


I took a long-planned girlfriend getaway trip to Sedona, AZ in early September. Hobby Airport was still affected by the hurricane, so I had to fly from Austin and back. Sedona was marvelous. Every day the scenery blew our minds. That said, I am more of a water person. I like to roam around ocean or lake shores. I am not a mountain climber, and so felt a bit removed from all the Sedona beauty, merely an observer, not a participant. Best tourist experience: visiting the Amitabha Stupa Peace Park, a place I believe almost anyone would experience as sacred.

Monday, August 14, 2017

GIMPing Towards Digital Collage Skills

GIMP is a (free!!!) Graphic Image Manipulation Program that I am currently studying. People tell me it is much like PhotoShop. I figure maybe I will have to do about 500 creations before I am anywhere near proficient. I am fortunate to have an artist friend who knows her way around GIMP and so I was able to take two classes with her at the start. I own one book about GIMP which I am very slowly reading. There is also good help online, thank goodness, because the mysteries of GIMP are many. But mostly I just play with the software and try out different tools. Here are a few of my experiments:
 
 
I loved learning how to use the bucket tool to pour paint onto this black and white postcard image of a ferris wheel. Then I added Da Vinci's Vitruvian man to finish the collage. A lot of my imagery comes from Dover Publications. I have been buying their books for years and using their images for collage.  Some of the books came with CDs, which I am now also putting into use.
 
 
This landscape-like collage experiment is made using scans of my Gelli prints. I have spent many hours scanning these prints into my PC. That way, I can create with them digitally even after they are cut up and pasted down into a "real world" collage.
 

These flowers were made learning how to use the Fuzzy Select and Color Select tools. The original flowers were photos I took in our backyard. I am by no means saying this is a finished piece of art! But who knows, maybe I will use a few of the flowers again later in a GIMP piece.

 
Star Babies, anyone? I used the Brush and Pencil tools to play with these black and white images. Starting out in GIMP, choosing black and white imagery against a white background almost feels like cheating since no one can see your clumsy cut lines! Herein I also learned to use the Rotate and Scale tools.
 
 
This image started out as a bunch of GIMP scribbles. I then turned to my Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI software to make a kaleidoscopic/mandala-like image from the scribbles, always a fun experiment.
 
 
Finally, here is an oddball constellation of mandalas, all of them made with some combination of GIMP and Paint Shop software. Playing herein, I had to do a lot of rotating and scaling to get the circle forms to work together. With this image, I am about 70 experiments into GIMP. I've got a long way to go (at least 500 experiments I should think...), but am determined not to put pressure on myself about it, not to overdo GIMPing to the point where I get a sore mouse finger or carpal tunnel syndrome, but rather to play and explore without giving up my printmaking and "offline" collage practices.
 
This month, I feel lucky to have two pieces of art in a Visual Arts Alliance show at the Silos on Sawyer here in Houston. I won't put the images up today since this is a GIMP-related post, but look for them in the future.
 
As printed on one of my favorite t-shirts: Make Art, Not War!
 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dogs Galore in Art & Life

This is our new Havanese puppy. We adopted him a few months ago, named him Dylan, and now of course, he is running the show. Dylan turned 1 year old at the end of June. I love taking him for walks in the morning, even though the summer heat is upon us. Dylan has a jaunty walk and a loving personality. We have enrolled in some dog obedience sessions at Petco and the trainer thinks Dylan is quite the brainy boy. He catches on quickly, especially when treats are involved. Now if only we could correctly apply all the commands we have learned at the appropriate times.
 
The biggest bugaboo about the dog is that he and the cat (Molly) have not yet made peace with each other. The dog just wants to play with the cat, but the cat hisses and sticks out her claws. Molly lives in fear of the dog and keeps high on the furniture. Yes, it's all a bit much, but my husband Tom really wanted a dog, so it makes me happy his wish has been granted before we get too much older. On Tom's side of the family, everyone owns dogs. When we all get together, as we did on the 4th of July, there are dogs galore, running around everywhere. Meeting this canine gang made Dylan giddy with delight. And when we put Dylan in the swimming pool, what do you know -- his doggy paddle was perfect! Dogs are a lot of work, but they steal your heart and so the deal is done.
 
 
 
This cloth and paper collage is one in a series I created in February. I think the poochie here resembles Dylan, although he has more white fur. So it is interesting that Dylan appeared a few months later. This collage and the one below were my entries in this year's show at the Jung Center. I called them Poochie Woochie 1 and 2. And guess what? Poochie Woochie 2 shown below sold to a couple from Mexico. My strategy in this series was to keeping it simple. Collage can easily get overly cluttered.

 
There have been a bunch of good things happening in my life as an artist. First was the use of one of my collages on the Jung Center Summer catalog. Then I entered a winter holiday greeting card into a Reader's Challenge at Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine and made the cut as a finalist, so usually when that happens, your image appears in the magazine. So I look forward to that winter issue and will keep my fingers crossed. Then learning I sold a piece at the Jung Center show was wonderful. I did not get in the Archway juried show this summer. Never mind, I have been in it twice before. There is always a mix of rejection and acceptance in any artist's life.
This second life as an artist after a career in librarianship is invigorating. Yet I constantly battle with work/life balance. DIY home and yard maintenance take way too much of my time. Other diversions such as yoga, women's circles, church groups, book group, travel, etc. also interfere with my artistic intentions. I am also taking a few art classes here and there. I am bushwhacking my way into digital collage by learning GIMP, a time-consuming process. On a good day I get to work on my art for 4 or 5 hours, but often that is not the case. Life is too short! On that note, back to the drawing board...
 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gifted by John Daniel


Gifted by John Daniel is a first novel that feels like the polished work of an old master, bringing to my mind the likes of Ivan Doig and Wallace Stegner. Daniel has previously published nonfiction and poetry, so he has certainly put in plenty of time polishing his writing skills.. Here is my review of Gifted:

“Sunrise and sunset are made of the same light, and, like gladness and sadness, you can’t have one without the other.” These words arise in the mind of Henry Fielder at the age of 16. Think he might be an old soul? Yes, oh yes.

His beloved mother dies when he is 15. Then later his father kicks the bucket when a tree falls on their house in rural western Oregon. If that plot line sounds like a formulaic YA premise, don’t go there. This novel runs deep. Henry is one of those kids who doesn’t talk much, who walks the woods in wonder. Woodland creatures who usually bolt away from humans instead step closer to Henry and they share spirit. That is his gift and those are the moments Henry lives for.

But Henry is no saint. A horrific act of violence is at the center of this book. And that violence against Henry only begets more violence. Henry strikes back at the cruel world in ways that only get him deeper into trouble. Yet often he is able to channel wisdom from the native American stories so revered by his mother and from the array of books he hungrily consumes. Henry hates school. He wishes he could just have a tutor for his favorite subject: “biologycosmologyphilosophyreligion.”

Often Henry runs away to the woods, with both positive and negative results. At one point, he commits an act of ecoterrorism that could land him in jail for several years. Like many teenagers, he drinks, smokes and discovers sex. Luckily for him, there are many caring adults surrounding him, including neighbors who become his foster parents, a gay man who lives in a commune and various church members.

The story of Henry’s troubles is told in hindsight as he tries to write a memoir many years after all the drama of his adolescence. This novel hurt to read. It hurt deep. But for all that, Henry’s intuitive pull towards the wisdom of nature is wondrous to behold. Acts of communion are many.

Some readers may find the novel too dark. I like dark and yet, at times the novel was almost too dark for me. But there is pure poetry here. Those sublime moments rang true and thus, I was hooked. I will not forget Gifted. It left me itching to go for a walk in the woods. A quiet walk alone, listening deep….

The text of this review also appears on LitLovers.com and if needed, see also the discussion guide posted there.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Mashing for Five"

Mother's Day is around the corner and of course, I am thinking of my Mom, Dorothy Stanton Outlaw. We lost her in 2013. She lived to be 94. I wrote this poem in her honor years ago and gave it to her. She had it framed and hung it in her kitchen.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mashing for Five

She stood at the sink with
the big pot of steaming hot potatoes
safely stowed there for mashing.
She used a common implement made of

curlicue metal attached to a worn wooden
handle, known as the potato masher.
The noise that Mom made
mashing the potatoes for dinner

was a predominant sound of
my childhood. Most nights,
some ten minutes before dinner,
we heard the mashing noise throughout

the house, a certain clackety-clack,
clackety-clack, clackety, clackety,
clackety-clack that comes back to me now
clear as a hymn or a heartbeat,

almost jazzy, our mother orchestrating
dinner, our mother so Irish and hard working,
mashing and fluffing, mashing and fluffing,
adding the milk and Blue Bonnet margarine

and giving the masher a final whack against
the rim of the pot before setting it aside
to tend to the meat and vegetables.
Only occasionally did I notice

the little sighs Mom made, those
sick-of-cooking-for-a-family-of-five sighs,
those this-must-be-my-three-thousandth-pot-
of-potatoes sighs, but I write this poem

to recognize them now, and to celebrate
the rhythm of her mashing so fondly recalled,
clackety-clack, clackety-clack,
clackety, clackety, clackety-clack......

- Keddy Ann Outlaw

The photo above shows Mom with me, her firstborn. To see her so young and happy, joyous in motherhood, is wonderful, a tonic for my spirits.

I have to tell you, despite the sighs I wrote about in the poem, mashed potatoes were one of her favorite foods up till the end... She once told me she would love to just eat a big bowl of them for dinner, especially if someone else made them, which I often did when I visited her in the last few years of her life. Love you, Mom! And I will say again what I often said to her over the phone on Mother's Day -- Mom, thank you for giving me life.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Collage Postcards

It seems March evaporated without much art to show for my efforts, but here are a few postcard collages I composed in my spare time when I wasn't suffering with a ginormous cold or working in the yard. My incentive was the National Collage Society annual Postcard show (a non-juried event for NCS members), which had a deadline of March 20th. So although I always have postcards hanging around that I made in the past, I like to make new ones for this annual event. You can only send in one, so here are the ones I considered as possible entries.....
 
BeSpoke
 
Circling In
 
Moving On
 
Stay There (using monoprinted papers)
 
        Her Domain
 
I also attempted some paper weaving using papers I hand painted, inspired by a Cloth Paper Scissors magazine Challenge. I spent more time on it than I first intended playing with the concept, only to ultimately trash the thing. But I learned some new techniques. And I have to admit, I spent a bunch of mad money on paint markers (I found that Sharpie paint pens were the easiest to use, but the color palette was limited). Oh well, that's the way the artwork crumbles sometimes... 
 
Happy Spring!
 
PS For my latest book review on LitLovers.com, click here.
 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Painting the Garage Floor -- a Work in Progress

 
It is not easy to paint like Jackson Pollack! That is what I have learned fooling with paint effects on our garage floor. We painted it a plain gray using concrete paint last year shortly after the builders left. But that gray paint started chipping even after 3 rolled coats. Also, the light gray showed every speck of dirt and I found myself wanting to sweep far too often. When you have a new building, it is only natural to want to keep it looking new... Anyway, I decided to spatter paint the floor so it would not show dirt and imperfections so much.

 
At first I followed techniques picked up from YouTube and other online sources. I learned you were supposed to start with dark colors and then work your way up to lighter colors. The main technique seemed to be loading up a paint brush and then smacking the brush with a stout stick. That did not always produce the effects I had in mind. So I just started flinging the paint  and that helped a bit, but sometimes I had to wipe up unsightly big blobs. Flinging works best with slightly thinned paint, but could be unpredictable. After working my way through four colors (one a day and then letting it dry), I was not happy with the way the floor looked. So I dug into my printmaking tools and came up with three simple "tools" that really made a difference once I got to the white paint stage: a foam brayer with small dots, a piece of wadded up netting and some bubble wrap. Using these three inexpensive tools made all the difference. The floor started to look more unified. I am not done yet, but finally feel like I am making good progress. I want to add a bit more aquamarine. There is a much larger area of the garage floor yet to go and tackling that will be much easier now that I've got a handful of techniques together.

 
See here some other printmaking paraphernalia I might have used. But the three I chose seemed to be enough to get the job done.
 
 
And so it goes: every day a new adventure with paint and color, in both my DIY mode and art practice. More about recent artworks in my next post... February has flown by like nobody's business. We had a carport built last month, and once the garage floor is done and before the summer heat arrives, we intend to build a deck behind the garage as my potting area. Then we hope to be done with major DIY projects for awhile. Is there every really an end to such things? Probably not, but sometimes it is good to pretend so!