Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Painting, Not Painted

"What did I learn at art school? I learned that art is painting, not painted." --Harvey Fierstein

I really get this now. I agree with it completely. If I make whatever I do about the end result then I'm tense and rushing and uptight, frustrated, disappointed, overwhelmed, etc. If however, I make it about the pleasure of doing each part, then whatever I do is simply my life. (I wrote this same thought here extemporaneously several months ago without any notion of what it meant at the time.)

I have been giving this a lot of thought; I have decided that I am formally, officially announcing that Halfland is not a commercial endeavor. Well, technically, right now it isn't much of anything, nonetheless, this is an important fulcrum point for me and what I do. I have said before that I wasn't interested in festivals, awards, any external recognition, or really even any critique. But the additional distinction I have made for myself now is that I really have no ulterior intention other than making Halfland, or any subsequent projects, in my way, on my terms, in my time, for myself. I am not working (when I do work) on it for the sake of selling. It's now about the painting, not having painted.

(The quote came from an incredible new book I've just started and can already whole heartedly recommend to all you, my artist and artist-eyed friends, Color, by Victoria Finlay. She tells the whole, often sordid, tale of each color in your paintbox and how it is they are there in the first place. The way she describes earthen pigments such as ochre from the Australian outback where they originate in a sacred four color palette, and others, is riveting and terribly enlightening.)

Boo. Happy Halloween, Peeps. This full-size silhouette of a scary owly owl is textured with matte medium and texture paste with a paint patina on the peaks. The cut outs in it are illumined by a candle shining through colored glassine adhered to the reverse.

Putting on the Halloween dog a bit, I never got around to carving my red squash this year (Maybe that guy will do it!?). I festooned the TV for the guests of honor, Jack and Sally. The candle luminaria are made from handmade paper wrapped around clear glass jars with black widow spiders made out of black tape stuck to the inside of the paper. When it's light out all you see is the plain orange and black striped paper but when the candle is lit, the haunting spiders appear. Woo.

Halloween at our house tonight featured, as always, an annual screening of one of the finest stop motion works of art to date, The Nightmare Before Christmas. As I watched it again this year I was more impressed than ever with the endless details in the sets and characters the filmmakers made. I'm even more amazed at the amount of texturing on every surface throughout the film's world. I wonder how it was possible for so many people to invest such loving attention to detail while working on such a large commercial enterprise. Watching the "making of" feature afterward just raised more questions about how these films ever get made. It seems an impossibility looking from here.

The last two days have been devoted to the Christmas Handmade Card Workshop. I woke up at 4 am Monday morning and dove in and kept going all day. These cards go to all our family and friends at the holidays as little wishes for every good thing. We send a different type of paper-craft or fiber-art holiday card instead of any other gifts (so you can quit wondering!). As our only gifts, they need to carry some genuine care however because I need to make 100 of them, they shouldn't be overly crazy time-intensive to create. Each year I try to reach a balance of real holiday heartfelt joy with each one and still be able to render them all during the month of November. After these two days or focused work things are in great shape.

This years "card" was inspired by little East Indian twirly paper puppets Himself brought back from a trip. It looks like an articulated paper doll whose limbs fly up when the handle is flipped around. In preparation I bought luscious beefy festive papers from The Paper Source and made little sketches of a suitable Christmas character to use. I've stuck 100 bamboo skewers into 100 wooden beads and painted them with five coats of cheerful red acrylic for the puppet's handles. Yesterday I was able to fully develop a design for the character and make master templates for all of the parts to make him as well as an ingenious paper envelope based on a Florentine fold. I've laminated and painted up sheets of decorative paper and aged pages from an old dictionary that will be used to make the parts that will be assembled the way the original sample was, with knotted red stitches at the joints. I've carved two expressions into rubber stamp carving blocks in case I want to make these Thaumatrope, special-edition, articulated paper puppet holiday cards. Hee.

Happy Holidays to you!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Canvas Report

I love what Downstairs Clare has done on his gynormous canvas. I was happy to see black paint on there when I popped down earlier today. The first moves are always the hardest to do.

No staring at a blank page for him, I'm happy to report Clare made a start on the biggie. I really love the way it looks, the balance and movement of the line, the composition looks pleasingly complete to me. When he feels a better soon I'll bet he go at it with some tone on tone, pale, textures and dimensional neutral lines of acrylic pastes. But then again, he might surprise me with an audacious choice of color!

Feel better soon Clare Bear.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Raspberry Cream

Hay Fever at Halfland as I tinted this layer with red and brown to make a warm burnt brick color that looked more like raspberry fluff as it dried. I bought some deeper rich crimson arcylics (you knew it was Nova) to wash over the plaster layer, so that should darken it to my tastes.

After the walls of the cottage dried today, I brushed off most of the hay that was pressed into the wet plaster you see above. I plan to wash the deeper tints over it all and then perhaps wet them again after they dry with matte medium and hit it with fresh hay, as that somehow works for this setting. It hides the architectural flaws that the three layers of plaster couldn't and looks right for some reason. I did have the thought that maybe Old English Wattle and Daub might have actually come about for roughly the same reason, neither the old English nor I could make a straight attractive wall without filler.

I've been continuing to sort out how best to make the Tudor style miniature windows. At this point of trail and so many errors, it would be far easier to simply copper foil the pieces and soldier them as I was trying to avoid having to do initially. Now it looks easier, funny how that goes, eh? But the cost and scale of copper tape and soldier still puts me off the idea. I have toyed with painting paper tape, applying it to the panes, and then gluing hand-piped whips (in burnished browns) down directly without any spaces at all, as if soldiering. The samples I did like that indicate it may, at last, work.

Tomorrow I'm to fatten up the tree and papier mache it a bit and wash the walls.

"Skill to do comes of doing." --Emerson

"There is no solution. Seek it lovingly."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Haggy Halloween

Another brief pause for ladies distress...

(This sketch is based on the first shot I ever took with a digital camera, about 1995. I was up for several days in a row trying to create a catalog for a graphic client after convincing them that the "new" digital approach was the way to go. This was me trying to configure the rented camera and learn how it worked. It caught me in my common state of sensational disarray and unique haggyhood.) I post the image today as it typifies how I'm feeling physically today, pretty worn and worn out.

Christmas card creation has begun in earnest here in the Halfland shop. Every year Himself and I mail out around 100 handmade holiday cards to family and friends*. It is a lot of fun for me and our way of sending heartfelt wishes of comfort and joy to those we love and care for.

*I sincerely consider all who visit here to be my good friends. If I don't already have your address, and you would like to be included on our annual card list simply email a mailing address to nobledesign AT sbcglobal DOT net.

Future Post Warning: There's been a convergence from various disparate sources in the last few days on the subject of the creative art process that have me piecing a new-to-me notion together slowly. I'm formulating it to share and discuss.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hay! Howya Doing?!

How, oh how, will I acquire some hay for Halfland?! A Tack and Field shop? Too far. Steal it from the ranch BBQ in Santa Barbara last Sunday? Too tacky. I know... get it from Michael's craft supply shop during the fortuitous October season while out and about today!! Yay, it's hay!

What fer? I'll tell ya, to mix pieces of it into the last layer of tinted joint compound on the cottage walls to provide texture and appropriate barn-like rusticity and rustication. To scatter (well-glued) in and around Rana, the goat woman's, bedroom alcove (she is a goat after all!) Perhaps also to add some atmosphere to her cottage porch with mini-bales, etc., that's what!

I so look forward to moving on with these next steps all day Thursday.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fall Down

I think "Pomona" the Apple Head for Halloween is done shrinking up?

Made-a-little-eight-second-slide-show-about-it-goes-like-this: **Watch the fresh lady seem to transform before your eyes... and the apple does too** Thus will end our little side-show theater of shriveling sweetsop.

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Managed to glue up some insulation foam as an underment for Tarn, the crow woman's bird-nature side. I propped up the rubber model as a guide-let.

"What the Artist does for their village is that which the soul does for the body." --Gabriela Mistral

"Fall down seven times, get up eight." --Japanese Proverb

Feeling a little dejected today. Nothing serious. Just discouraged over how fast my days go by without even slight progress on the project. Watching others growling along, getting in there, and making things happen for themselves. Wishing I could too. Knowing it is my choice. But not getting how I can choose into it when other things seem to need doing first. Not sure I can do what is required to exclude more than I do already. Confused at the moment. Waking up at dawn doesn't seem to influence my having more hours. It still gets dark about 15 minutes after dawn. Will this project require the exclusion of more than I'm willing to do in order for the project to get done? Or will a mitigating solution be for me to once again work to be satisfied with the most minimal of headway? Am I missing a gene? Hmm.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How She Sparkles

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I spotted this real Tudorbethen Bay Window in a nearby neighborhood a while ago and finally crept up to it today to snap this pic. see how she sparkles?

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I sneaked a bit closer to get a shot of the window's construction when.. What the--?! What have they done? What goes on here? There seems to be a wavy plastic sheeting attached somehow to both sides of the window? That was NOT noticeable from further away? Hmm, maybe the real old-style way of making these--leaks! You can still see that the iron work looks thin and soldered though.

In other news, Himself and I stopped in (After paying a $1 admission that undoubtedly keeps out the riffraff.) to an old shop on main Street in Santa Monica called Jadis and owned by the sweet and enigmatic, Parke Meek, who was there sitting quietly reading a paper. I wanted to check out the marvelous automata works whirling away in the shop's window (Seen partially in the left of the 2nd photo in article linked.) and see what else they had hidden in there. It was a place that had nice owners with a merchandise collection hard to pin down exactly.

There were mostly huge scientific glassware and odd old mad scientist gear laying around with HUGE prices on them. There were odd collections of old tintypes, cameras and gobos. I read the articles about the shop's history and rummaged around and was ready to spilt when I spied an antique pair of eyeglasses, with the wire pounded flat for the ear piece and the nose bridge wire was wrapped with silk thread, for $2. I wish I could have my Rx put into these old frames, now, that would be an original fashion statement! They, along with a couple odd lenses and hinges that I'll use in my layered shadow box works, for $1 a piece had me come away feeling like I'd scored a find.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Let Me Put It This Way...

I completed the new panel using plastic spacers only to decide that the square toothpicks I found would be fabulous as filler in the spaces instead of glue. Off came the panes again, on went the panes again with snipped toothpicks. Each pane was hot glued in place (I could always use alcohol to remove it, right? yeah.) I painted cardboard strips, instead of the squeeze paint mixture as Hila had suggested, as I couldn't see how to get flawless straight lines directly on the panes. I chose a brown/stainless steel mix that ended up slightly looking like rusted wood when done. (See problems and lessons below, as Hila had foreseen.)

And then I'll put it that way...

I thought I was being clever by hot gluing (instead of rubber cement as Hila had suggested) to secure the panes down which worked well and I was happy working away filling in the whole panel. I was even happy still as I painted and glued the cardboard strips over of the panes/toothpicks gaps on the first side with white tacky glue. I pressed it under weights to dry. Happy happy. When it was dry it came time to undo the hotglue with rubbing alcohol. But because I had glued the panes onto a work surface of a rigid metal rectangle (unlike the wax paper Hila had suggested) it wasn't possible to peel it back. I dove in and slipped alcohol down the back of the panel like ball bearings falling down a pachinko machine, which of course nearly undid the whiteglue on the panes as well. On with the test, Forward Ho. I flipped over what I could, pieced it back together and outfitted the reverse side with the brown cardboard strips to be able to test the sparkle effect.

And then maybe back like this...

Holding up this newest, all-day-taking, window panel sample I was sure this was a loooong way to go not to get what I wanted. Because now, my spiffy new techniques made it look so straight the window looked perfectly flat. However, light sources do in fact refract in it just right. I'll know more tomorrow.

If I go this technique/materials route, it'll look more like wooden lattice than rod iron, but that's not bad in Halfland's case, in fact it could be better, rustic, natural. And I was pleased to realize that I should use brown as the base rather than black as it dawned on me that Rana's cottage palette is all warm reds and rich browns. There shouldn't be any black in Halfland except for the Crow Character, Tarn.

This new window look is one of those things that I would never have come up with from my mind. I had to have my hands and the doing figure this one out.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Scrap plastic spacers help to align clear panes for my new (hopefully) workable window making solution.

Slowfull time. I put up my Halloween decorations, slept all day on couch (nice, huh?), and only started in to start in. I'm kind of punky and waiting on the b'smurchment. Himself said this week proved one thing, that even with a project blog, a vast support system, a supportive mate, a marvelous audience waiting for action, and finally the time to do it, I still don't get Halfland done. Couldn't argue with that at all. Today, this week actually, I had nothing but sweet, luscious, juicy, succulent, generous blocks of time that could have been filled with great progress, or some progress. I think part of it is that I stay up surfing around or doing small miscellaneous work things until 2,3,4 and sometimes 5 am which in turn causes slobbery deep nap drooling the next day after a meal on the sofa, the evil sofa. I'm not sure that getting earlier sleep and waking early would make a difference in Halfland. I'll have to see.

There's so much on it I'd like to do.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

An Apple a Day

Dark Strider has instigated an interest in the ancient craft of apple carving and Ubatuber has announced it's his Monster Month. Here's my Premiere Observation of Deconstructing Red Delicious: Day One

Here in most of the States it's getting definitely cooler in the ever earlier evenings, yams and pumpkins sit beside watermelon (?) in the markets, nevermind it is fall in LA. Happy October Everyone.

Even Mentor Mike didn't totally realize the scale of Halfland, so here's another measure, for good measure.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Peanut Butter Spread

Peanut butter spread is not referring to my hips from eating too much of it, that's a transistor radio pooching out the scotty dog pajama waist band.

No, I'm talking about the burnt umber tempera used as pigment to tint the joint compound smothered on the famous cottage walls. It looked and felt like a certain lunchbox staple tonight but after I trowel on other darker tints and the texture them with layers of acrylic washes, I think the walls will look like I'd like.

Stick-y. Boo.

The window leading glue technique didn't work. Gluing down the flexible licorice whip strips made out of polymer and paint glued onto the window front ok, a little more time consuming as glue had to be placed in between the panes as well as adhere the leading, but even after leaving it overnight the glue didn't dry where it was covered. The sticky paper was used to hold the tiles in place. To worsen the result, the sticky paper's adhesive was too strong and just about pulled the tiles off the leading as it was pulled away. But nevermind, I have a plan.

side by side, pretty much in same position to light source, I can see the flat sample, while passable, does in fact lack the change in angles. the new indie pane reflections are rocking the Tudor.

It didn't really matter how the test panel glued up exactly. I just needed enough of it to give a hint as to whether the individual panes would look any different than the previously made flat sample panel. And boy, did it! I couldn't tell by looking by eye after I freed the panel from the sticky paper trap, such as it was. But when I looked at it through the camera, it sure did the sparkle trick I have been coveting.

My new idea is to cut strips of cardboard to scale, paint them with my faux metal medium of choice, and hot glue these onto arranged tiles (maybe positioned with mini spacers) on weakened sticky paper. I figure that now that the panes are flexible the leading needs to be rigid. I could buy square or flat model building wood for this but if the cardboard looks right I won't need to.

I think the completed cottage is going to be really great looking. And I am so anxious to get to the dressing and finishing that I'm plowing through these stages just to be able to get those parts!

Grateful for the energy to work, best to you!
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