Wednesday, September 28, 2016

When Life Gives You Lemons... UM, I don't like Lemonade!

Have you ever heard the chirpy little saying "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade".

I've always found that saying to be rather annoying... perhaps it's because I happen to strongly dislike lemonade!    Plus it the saying makes it sound like it's just sooo easy to just turn your lemons into lemonade.  Well I don't have the right tools, I don't like drinking lemonade (even with tea or fruit flavors in it!), and I think the whole saying downplays the real-life drama and frustrations that come with receiving lemons instead of whatever you thought you were supposed to receive!

SO I've decided that when life gives you lemons, you need to take a few moments (if possible) and re-imagine what those lemons could actually be! When I am stuck, I've found it best to let my mind think about the possibilities, and then augment my mind's processes with some good, old-fashioned research.  I'll look at Pinterest, my favorite blogs, my favorite Facebook and Instagram groups, and do a bunch of Googling (is that a word?).   I don't copy other people's work (in fact that's a pet peeve of mine!)... but I sometimes use them as inspirational stepping stones to find a solution that works for me (or a new recipe if you will!).  My favorite way to fill my mind with possibilities, is to simply play with things (with art supplies or building supplies, or jewelry supplies, or ...well you get the idea). The playing with supplies, opens the mind up to new possibilities.  

As for "real" lemons?  Well my favorite use is a recipe I ended up finding in a cookbook I own, that has a fabulous recipe for Mediterranean Garlic-Lemon Chicken. YUMMMM!!!! (a far better usage of lemons than making lemonade in my humble opinion!!).

What is this all leading to in my blog post you ask?  Well, I have been running into a few "lemons" in my art world lately.   This year my art seems to be revolving more around resin and silk than in painting on silk (which is lovely and I'm seriously enjoying!!), but I have created a few lemons for myself.  My biggest lemon (which is a bit embarrassing to admit) was my largest (star-shaped) resin and silk bowl that I've made to date.  I finished it (or so I thought), and sent it out on a trip to Wenatchee Washington to be displayed at a state-wide conference.  I was QUITE honored to have it shown there!

The larger star-shaped bowl and a 2nd, smaller    
bowl as they appeared when I sent them
off to the conference.
I dutifully packed it (along with a selection of other artwork) and waited to hear what everyone thought. I did receive some lovely comments about my artwork, but nothing too much was mentioned about the bowls.  THEN I received my bowls back.  I was SHOCKED.. and more than a little upset!  The big bowl had pretty much collapsed more into a wobbly plate shape rather than in it's fabulous star shape that I sent it out as.  It turns out that it was VERY hot in the car on the ride up and back.  And basically, the resin wasn't thick it softened enough to lose it's shape. Embarrassing to say the least!  So much so, that I didn't even take a picture of it in that shape!

My next step was to do a bit more research about the resin.  I had crafted the star bowl in the same manner that I did all of my other resin bowls and sculptures.  But this was bigger and had the added issue of heat having been applied to it.  The resin manufacturer had little help to offer.  They suggested that I just keep experimenting.  They did seem to think that the heat shouldn't bother it since it had set up properly (but trust me, the heat DID bother it!!).   

A peak at the new sulpture 
After doing as much research as I could (and some more experimentation), I decided to do my best to
reform the bowl and then add additional layers of resin.  That seems to have helped (BUT my embarrassment with the piece has not diminished!),  SO I decided that I needed to do more.  What was 2 separate bowls (as seen in the above picture) will now merge together to form a single, lovely flower sculpture.   I think that this new form is actually a vast improvement over the old one.  Not only is it stronger (and far more stable!), but it is now even more visually appealing!   It's not quite done yet... but here's a peek at the new sculpture (and I've already looked at a few shows that I think are a perfect fit for it!).

With all of this in mind, I have decided that making lemonade out of lemons is no longer accurate for me.  From now on, I'm making something MORE exciting out of my lemons!  I believe: failure invites the opportunity to be creative! (now if only I can remember that in my personal life!!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How Do You Get Focused To Create Your Art?

I don't know about you, but there are MANY times when I struggle to create art. Not because I lack inspiration, but because I am usually very limited on time. And when I do sneak a few minutes to create art, I find myself swept away by business needs (updating my blog, Facebook, Instagram etc, or doing taxes and other office work), or I find a million other things in my studio that keep me busy but also keep me from actually creating art (like cleaning up the messes that I have previously left, or playing with new art supplies).  

But then I visited a friend's house  and she has a lovely ceremony she does when she starts art or any endeavor that is creative - she creates an art alter (complete with candles and incense) and invites her muse to join her.  I LOVE that idea!! (thank you Jacquie Calladine, for providing such wonderful inspiration!)   

So I created my own little art alter.  Mine has bits of nature found on walks, bits of the art I've worked on, and bits of things that I love and that inspire me.  So now, when I'm serious about creating art... I make sure my alter looks inviting and then I light my candles and say a prayer or two.  

I'm not sure I believe in Muses per say, but I do believe in an almighty, powerfully-creative God and I know that any talent I possess, has to come from him/her.  So to me, my muse and my God are one and the same... and I absolutely love the idea of fully opening myself to allowing God to inhabit my studio and myself as I create art. The process of lighting the candles and inviting in the muse, makes me hyper-aware that this time should be for creating.  It is easier for me to stay focused when I have that visual reminder that my creativity is active and awaiting use. Plus the candles add a lovely and inviting warmth to the space.  

How do you keep yourself in a creative mindset?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Working On New Resin Sculptures

I have to admit, I'm rather liking the resin and silk sculptures!!    Unfortunately, since I have a small studio, that means that I'm not getting much painting done (sigh).   But my sculptures are coming along nicely.

I have one that is twice reclaimed (and it's name will probably reflect that).  I've been experimenting with how to create interesting curves with it.  It started off as reclaimed silk which I then painted a partial flower upon using the Serti method.  I decided I didn't like it and I removed it from the canvas (which took some doing since it was adhered with matte medium), and now it's becoming a flower sculpture! 

I have a transparent one with pink and blue streaks, that started off as a large, sculptural bowl.... but it's larger size combined with a hot car ride to a local show - caused it too droop (something it wasn't supposed to be able to do, according to the manufacturers of the resin!).  I've been adding additional resin to strengthen it and have now decided that it too, will be a flower (it will be combined with the smaller bowl of the same fabric and colors).

And I have a blue sculptural bowl started - which I have lots of ideas for and I am not sure which idea will win.    

After these, I'm hoping to work on a tall resin and silk sculpture (but first I've got to figure out how to get the structural support I desire from the resin I'm using).   So exciting to see where my experiments lead!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Update To Testing Jacquard's New Water-based Resist

Jacquard's Water-
based resist

I was very excited to test out Jacquard's new Water-based Resist for silk painting.  I've used a variety of resists and each has their pluses and minuses... and this new resist is no different.

On the plus side:
  • It's premixed and already at a good consistency for applying with an applicator bottle. 
  • It drys fairly rapidly
  • It repels dye very well
  • Dye painted on top of the line doesn't soak through
  • Once dried it can't be scrubbed away
  • It is relatively inexpensive and easy to get a hold of (Dharma Trading carries it - as does at least one local store)
  • Dye can be added to it to tint the resist
But there are some issues that I am having some challenges with!  So to be fair, on the negative side:
  • It doesn't always flow out of the applicator nicely and I often get bigger globs (meaning I have a hard time getting nice, crisp edges on my lines!)
  • Along with coming out of the applicator unevenly, it also tends to spread out rather than hold the line which also results in very uneven lines.
  • It re-moistens while you're painting - which for me is a REAL problem! Sometimes I need to transport my paintings (which admittedly, is a dangerous thing to do while the dye has not set!).   SO normally, I demo or teach and then carefully wrap up my painting (which I have made sure the dye is dry) in  newsprint paper and then a plastic bag.  Initially I didn't realize that the resist actually re-moistens and then it stuck to the newsprint --- but as it got jostled around inside the bag... the re-moistened resist not only stuck to the newsprint - but then reapplied itself to the painting in new and unwanted places!!! NOT good!!

Other resists I have tried and few of their pluses and minuses:

Prochemical Cold Wax 
Prochemical's Cold Wax
Pluses: Relatively affordable, tintable, applicable with Molotow pens or a brush (I LOVE the fine lines that I can get when applying it with a brush!!), washes out easily (little residue).
Minuses: Prochemical has discontinued sales (apparently similar products are available through other outlets), super-runny so won't work with my regular applicators, can actually be scrubbed out of the silk while you're painting it if your brush rubs it too much, sometimes the wax separates in the bottle and if not well-mixed - will not act correctly as a resist.
Conclusion: When it is mixed well and works correctly - I love it!! When it isn't... well let's just say I have a painting with odd-looking oil stains that won't clean out of the fabric - it's a serious bummer!

Resistad - and yes, this is the packaging it
came in!

Pluses: It holds an applied resist line beautifully, once heat-set it can not be brushed out as you paint,
once steamed the Resistad is easily washed out of the fabric, it is easily tinted, you can thin it down as much as you want and will still act as a resist while pretty thin, I bought a medium-sized bottle and it has lasted me quite a long time.
Minuses: It comes from New Zealand only (and I just heard through the grapevine that they are probably going to discontinue it's manufacture!!! - OMG!),  because it comes from New Zealand - it is pricey, once applied to the fabric and heat set -- it has an odd action of resisting the dye that comes next to it - BUT if you paint over the heat-set resist line --- it will PULL the dye INTO it...meaning you'll get weird-looking dye-lines inside the resist lines (which means I have to be super-careful...and that is sometimes hard for me).
Conclusion: It was what I learned with - and my best paintings have been created using this as my resist.  I will cry if it truly becomes discontinued (along with many of my fellow silk painters!)

Gutta/Permanent Water-based Resists
Jacquard's water-based PERMANENT
Resist (dry-clean to remove)
Pluses: It holds the line well, it comes in pre-mixed colors, it adds texture/depth, inexpensive and easily obtainable (I personally love it for adding gorgeous texture and strong color to stamens - or to give the lines a look like stained-glass lead).
Minuses: Making a mistake is not fixable (you can't wash it out - some can be removed with dry-cleaning fluids but not all). Limited color options, adds texture that is always there (unless it can be removed with dry-cleaning fluid)
Conclusion: I use it occasionally  - mainly for stamens and mainly for silk paintings that are painted in the Serti technique

My overall conclusions?   Well... I am truly stuck.  Jacquard's new water-based resist works OK but it really doesn't meet my needs for a resist - other than being easy to use for beginning students.  I still prefer Resistad's versatility and ability to apply nicely (no clumps) and hold a line well - plus I love that I can move my paintings and not worry about the resist being sticky.   I can add color, it holds my line, it can't be scrubbed out while painting.    Really, no one thing meets ALL of my needs and my advice to you is to try them all and decide for yourself (I wish I could tell you that Brand X was the only good choice, but alas...that isn't so).  None of them are too expensive and it is worth the price to test them all.