Monday, July 21, 2014

An Easy Birdbath

I love birds, and I've been wanting a birdbath for a long time. However, a recent trip to my local garden store showed me that pedestal birdbaths are pretty darn expensive! Try $70-$180 - for a short one.  And I wanted a fairly tall birdbath - I really want to make it hard for the neighborhood cats to hunt in my yard!

So, I with a little internet research, I figured out how to make one for about $25. 

What You'll Need:

1. A shallow dish - I found this one at a second-hand shop for about $10
2. A three-foot piece of 1/2" or 3/4" galvanized pipe 
3. A galvanized floor flange that the pipe can screw into (see photo below)

4. Heavy-duty adhesive - I used a caulk-like adhesive called StrongStik

Here's How You Put it Together:

Clean both surfaces, and then glue the floor flange to the bottom of the dish, being careful to center it.  Let dry per the adhesive's instructions.  You can sand the bottom of the dish first for better adhesion, but it didn't really seem necessary here.

Once the glue is dry, screw your length of pipe into the floor flange.

Push your pipe into the ground like a stake, fill your dish with water, and you're done!  Mine was positioned near my deck, and the ground was kind of rocky, so - since I couldn't get the pipe very deep into the ground - I screwed a galvanized pipe strap to the edge of my deck to help hold the pipe upright.

Want to see some other DIY Bird Bath ideas? Check out my "Outdoor DIY" board on Pinterest.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Working Big!

I used to work big all the time.

When I was in college, I regularly did acrylic and collage pieces that were 4 feet by 4 feet.  When I started doing process painting with tempera on paper, the paintings frequently grew to six feet in height! That's so big I had to stand on a chair to paint them.

But since I started working in encaustic in 2006, I've been working smaller.  Encaustic is expensive, and there are technical considerations to working large that aren't as prevalent in other media.  For example, it's generally easier to work an encaustic painting while it's flat rather than propped on an easel.  I'm effectively limited by the length of my arms and the size of my table.

But in January, I exhibited a piece that once again hit the four foot mark - it's made up of four panels, and is four feet wide.

Because I was working on it modularly - generally one or two panels at a time - I was able to move the panels around as I painted. So, the painting can be hung different configurations.

A few months ago, I re-configured my studio so that it would be easier to paint on large panels. Now, my palettes (er, griddles) sit to my right and the paintings sit on a six foot "island." It's all at counter-height, so that I can stand and walk around the pieces, working on them from multiple angles.

The diptych that's on the table in the above photo is composed of two square panels, each of which measures two feet by two feet.  The piece went through multiple evolutions!

At first, I wasn't even sure the two panels were related, one just areas of color, the other incorporating image transfers of cactus.

But then I connected them.

And then it takes a huge, undocumented leap!  It got largely painted over, octopus tentacles were added and removed, pollen was added, and then . . . I decided to focus on the pollen.  Interestingly, even though the panels were flipped, you can see that the underpinnings of the composition remained . . . 

And here's the final piece - installed at In Bocca Al Lupo Fine Art as part of their "Pollen Count" show, up through the end of June, 2014.

 Working on these bigger pieces lets me be looser, more experimental. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Getting Creatively Unstuck

Creativity often involves trying new things.  Taking risks.  Even possibly looking like a fool.

Well, here I go! My first video!

I share ways of getting unstuck when you don't know what to do next in a painting, as well as how to fold a paper fortune teller (or "cootie catcher" for those of you who remember middle school).

Why the heck do I share how to fold a "cootie catcher" in a video about getting unstuck?  Because I've created my own paper fortune teller, dubbed the Creativity Catcher, full of prompts to help you get unstuck! (Yup, all the same tricks I use when I get stuck!)  So feel free to scroll down, then download and print your own Creativity Catcher, and fold right along with me!

And here's the link to the Creativity Catcher -  it'll take you to Google docs, and you should be able to click the arrow in the upper left-hand corner to download after you follow the link.  If you have problems, just email me at and I'll be happy to send you the .pdf!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Washi Tape Easter Eggs

Sometimes, I get really excited about a new art material.

This time, it was washi tape - printed translucent tape originating in Japan.  It's not exactly new - but it was new to me when local art store collage started carrying it.

I've been looking at it and drooling every time I go to collage to teach a class - so I finally developed a class to actually use it! Easter eggs with their bold stripes of festive color seemed like the perfect opportunity.

What You Need:

Papier Mache egg shapes
Old egg carton to hold eggs while you work
Craft paints
Washi tapes
Mod Podge
Scissors, xactoor craft knife
Brushes, water, rags

Tiny screw eyes
Thick craft glue
Narrow ribbon

You're Ready to Start:

The egg shapes I used were brown, so I started by painting them with two coats of gesso. Since the tape is relatively translucent, the white background helps the color show more brilliantly. Here's the egg after one coat:

The tape doesn't work well to cover the steep curves of the very ends of the eggs, so I painted the bottom and top 1/4 of the egg, leaving the center of the egg free for washi tape.

Measure the circumference of the egg at the widest point - mine were 6" around.  That helps you determine how much tape to pull off the roll.

Start by wrapping tape around the very center of the egg.

Because of the curve of the egg, the tape won't lay completely flat. It will probably be lifting up along the top edge.  Use your xacto knife to cut tiny slits in the tape every 1/4" to 1/2" along the top edge.  This will create what are essentially darts, and will enable you to press the tape flat. The edges of the cuts will overlap slightly.

Now, you can repeat the process by adding tape on either side of the center stripe, cutting the little darts, and pressing the tape down.

Awesome! You've got stripes!

At this point, you can seal the egg with Mod Podge and call it good - or, you can prepare the eggs for hanging.  Take a small screw eye and dip the end in thick craft glue.  Screw it into the top of the egg and make sure there's a little extra craft glue sealing the hole.

Once the glue has dried, cut 6"-12" worth of narrow ribbon and tie it through the screw eye for hanging.

Here's a few of the ones my students did during the collage workshop last week:

Love the skulls! The possibilities are endless!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Taking a Second Look at Art You Don't Like

A while back, I did this collage.

It was made as part of a class I was running, using one of the exercises in my book, The Creative Conversation: ArtMaking as Playful Prayer.

The Artful Explorations in that book are all about exploring - not necessarily making an amazing product.  In fact, this exercise is called the "What's Next? Art Jar" and it's all about working within constraints and ultimately, LETTING GO OF THE OUTCOME. 

I had fun doing the exercise.  I  finished the collage, and felt, well, complete. 

And I didn't particularly like the result.

This happens.  And it's ok.  To paraphrase drawing instructor Phil Sylvester, "Everyone's got a lot of bad drawings stuck in their arms.  You've got to make a lot of bad drawings to get to the good ones." 

Fortunately, I wasn't attached to whether the piece was any good or not: I had a good time, learned some interesting things with negative space, and that was enough for me.

But there's always the question:  what do you do with something you're not crazy about it when you're done?  Poets and musicians might keep a line or a phrase from an unsuccessful piece, use it, turn it into something else. 

Even a piece we're not happy with will have interesting moments - bits that shine when you put them in a different context.  To help me find those moment in my own artwork, I use a piece of cardboard with a rectangular shape cut out of the middle.  Like a camera, the cardboard helps me to "frame" a small piece of the total picture, and notice it as its own composition.

I have one the size of an artist's trading card (what better way to use those pieces than to find the good "moments" and share them?) and another that's a small square.

Then, I use the cardboard frame(s) to mark the selected areas with a pencil . . . .

And I cut out the pieces I want to keep!

It's fun to play with the pieces, rearranging them, considering them alone and together.  It gets the creative juices flowing!  I'm really enjoying how these three pieces fit together!

 So, do you have any pieces of art that could use a fresh look?