Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's Halloween . . .

And usually that sends me into fits of joy because it means I get to wear a COSTUME! Here are a couple of my favorites from the early 90's - Me as Kali Ma and me as Medusa. I love getting to dress up . . . and I love taking clothes to bizarre extremes. Almost as much as I love hanging out in a pair of baggy jeans and an old sweatshirt.

But, times change and everything moves in cycles. I've been on a bit of a break from full out costumery the past few years - I've been channeling all that creative juice into other endeavors. Like making moldable foam stamps (more on that tomorrow).

But in the spirit of the season, and recent bloggin' posts, here's a late 90's shot of me and L dressed as the Supreme Geeks for an All Goddess House Party. (L is currently deep undercover as a Suburban Housewife, so I am taking pains here to protect her identity . . . )

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


One of the things I did last week - when it felt like I didn't accomplish much - was organize my fabric stash.

It began, of course, with a trip to IKEA, a mecca for people who like to figure out how to turn cheap flat boxes full of laminated boards and little metal parts into things that will hold other things. I am one of those people.

I am also one of those people who really likes to be organized in my own deliciously chaotic way. Anyone who has ever taken a class with me can attest to the appearance of many plastic drawers full of collage papers, art supplies and found objects, all clearly labeled using a label making machine. The labels provide information as to the contents, using categories like "Cardstocks and Solids," "Critters," "Feathers - Pale," and "Pearls, Pom Poms, Eyes, Odd Bits, Shiny!"

I had been trying to organize my fabrics in similar bins, except that most of them simply read "Quilting." Which is misleading, as I have never actually made a quilt, per se. I have done a lot of fiber art and applique and piecework, but have never actually finished a top and put a layer in the middle and then put on a backing and actually quilted it. They were also so stuffed that I couldn't find anything.

Obviously, time to update the system. I decided it would be easier to use all the fabrics labeled "Quilting" if they were actually visible, and the Ikea Expedit bookshelf, 5 feet by 5 feet of lovely cubbies, looked perfect! I put it together in an evening, then spent a large part of the next day organizing the fabrics. Most of which . . . I did not remember buying. At all. And not all of them would fit on the shelf. I still have tubs of "Fleece" (left over from the Christmas when I was going to make everyone a hat) and "Felted Sweaters" (left over from the Christmas when I was going to make everyone fingerless gloves and matching purses). It goes on.

Yet, I am very proud that most of the cottons are now easily visible - which means I'll actually use them in my upcoming projects instead of just hoarding them like a fiber-addicted dragon. And it will be easy to find "Purple Fabrics," "Upholstery Samples From SCRAP," "Bright Patterns on Black," and "Fabric with Vegetables and Fruits on it."


Monday, October 29, 2007

This is the week!

Halloween. Dia de los Muertos. The true deep dive into fall. I don't have any big plans for Halloween - I may put on the Bumblebee Costume and go dancing. I may stay home and make some art. I may actually give candy to trick-or-treaters, as there may actually be some in my neighborhood this year. But no matter what the week holds in the way of celebrations, I gotta say that this time of year is invigorating in that go-deep-within, bake-and-snooze-in-front-of-the-fire, make-shadow-art, do-tarot-card-readings, layer-up-with-sweaters-and-scarves way.

Here is one of my seasonal touch drawings - Mr. Skelly - done a week ago, and feeling very timely . . .

Last week, I went to the opening of Mad/50's latest outdoor shadowbox installation - this one, a Dia de los Muertos shrine to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. For those of you unfamiliar with Mad/50, it's another one of those cool Portland things - two artists (one full time, one part time) who share a house and a life at the corner of SE Madison and 50th have created a yard full of art and neighborhood involvement. Four artists a year create shadowbox installations for the outdoor art display - and it looks like I'll get to do one next Spring! Right now, though, the featured artist is Malaina Guzman, and the piece is wonderful.

Here, you can see the shrine in context - complete with Marigolds - as well as a marvelous detail of some of the handmade figures. The shrine is up through December 10th, so definitely come by if you can! (PS - couldn't find a website for Mad/50 or the current artist - don't think they have one, but if they do, let me know what it is!)

The most exciting thing this week though is two openings on Friday, November 2nd - One: the Dia de los Muertos show at the Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, OR and the other: the Celebration of Souls show at Sixth Street Gallery in Vancouver, WA. Both shows feature some of my encaustic work and promise to be very fun shows for those of you interested in the traditions of the Day of the Dead . . . to find out more about both shows, check out my website here. There's even a few links to more info about Day of the Dead, if you're curious . . .

Thursday, October 25, 2007


So, I took this Geek test online to see how Geeky I really am. These are my results.

I am 24% Geek.
I wish I was a Geek. But alas I am not. Damn.
I wanna be a geek. But I'm not. Why would I even want to be one. Do I think it's fun? I should try writing an online test application at 1 am in my underwear

Is it Geeky to disagree with their definition of Geek? I mean, there weren't ANY questions about Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or any Joss Whedon TV series on that quiz . . . Maybe I'm just a TV Geek. Or a Geek Magnet. And I corrected the spelling in the results before posting their html code. That should earn me a point or two . . . on the Word Nerd quiz.

Masks and Myths

These are the masks the Artmaking as Playful Prayer participants made this week - we also did Touch Drawing (a type of intuitive mono-printing developed by Deborah Koff-Chapin) - which warmed people up. For me, the Touch Drawing always breaks things loose . . . and I think it made the mask-making much more organic. I'm really hoping to attend the in-depth Touch Drawing Workshop next summer . . . maybe tomorrow I'll post some of the ones I did this week.

With masks, we get to invent new identities and try on ancient archetypes. We get a chance to act out our own myths and stories. In some spiritual traditions, the masks worn to represent different deities in rituals and dances are considered too powerful for anyone save trained priests or shamans to wear. While poking around a friend's blog today, I found a link to the Endicott Studio, an on-line journal dedicated to mythic arts. Artwork that deeply engages us in the expression of myths. What a yummy thing for fall . . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Collage Materials - Delivered!

They're not really collage materials in the traditional sense of the word - they're vegetables. And they came to my house via Pioneer Organics. Yet, there they are - delivered - and I've been taking "glamour shots" of them to incorporate into my collage work. I love working with images of vegetables and fruits (kind of like skulls and birds, but different). This photo frenzy? It's all part of my transition to using only my own and public domain images in my mixed media art so that I can publish and reproduce my work. I really want to respect the work of other artists . . . and the food shots in Real Simple have been so tempting . . . their photographers have a genius for capturing the natural beauty of produce. Those images are now relegated to use only in my personal journals! So - I must learn to do my own! Next up: creating my own images of hands and lipsticks . . . then maybe I can finish the mandala I started in the first Artmaking as Playful Prayer Class this fall!

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Proof that Portland is the Best Place for Me Ever

As if I needed more proof - after Powell's Books, Collage, New Seasons Market, Stumptown Coffee, and the little horses project (I could go on!) - there's this: a blog post about a lovely local hiding happy fortunes all over downtown . . . there are so many wonderful places in the world, but there's no place like home!

Geeks on the Road

The Sweetie and I hit the road this weekend - Friday night, we went and saw Transformers on a five-story IMAX screen thanks to tickets scored by his brother - wow. We got there early - as per The Sweetie's instructions - so that we could get good seats in the very center. Mission accomplished! And while we waited, I dragged The Sweetie into a photo booth for an Amelie moment. He is such a good sport . . .

Then, we were off to Bend in Central Oregon on a mission of mercy. The Sweetie's grandmother had a computer that no longer worked . . . and it was our job to rescue her from this horrible fate. I did my part by eating Grandma's cinnamon rolls and pineapple pie and bacon and pan fried chicken (I am SO tortured!) while The Sweetie took apart her old computer and the donor computer, Sara, getting data transferred and making sure everything worked. So, I gained about ten pounds and Grandma has Sara, a spiffy new-to-her computer that will help her collect and print out cool photos of the relatives - and maybe even get broadband! And the old computer has come back to Portland to find a new life as a Free Geek donation.

I believe everyone should have a creative outlet; The Sweetie believes everyone should have a computer with high speed internet access. Sometimes they're the same thing.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More Back to School!

My friend and fellow creativity gal, Gretchin Lair, and I both run in-depth creativity experiences several times a year - she does Artist's Way, I do Artmaking as Playful Prayer. And each time, we check our schedules to see if we can attend each other's classes, and each time, the answer is "no." My fall Artmaking as Playful Prayer class started Monday - and it's a marvelous group! We dove into Mandalas, and I gotta tell you, every time I run that slide show, I get excited about Mandala making all over again!

Yet it is a sad thing in my life that I only occasionally get to work with Gretchin. The good news is that Gretchin has regular free Collage Nights and $10 Guided Intent art experiences at her studio, Scarlet Star Studios, and sometimes I can make those. Last week, I headed over for a Guided Intent . . . LifeMaps. We had to draw. Now, I am very lazy with my drawing. It's not the most exciting part of artmaking for me (can you say COLOR?! SHAPE!? TEXTURE?!) so I do a lot of photography, collage, and painting that incorporates these other images. But, like I said, we had to draw and I was game.

So, I played with watercolor pencils - something I haven't done in years! It was great to be fun, playful, cartoony . . . and I discovered that I like to draw worms. With eyebrows. And cowboy boots.
Worms with eyebrows just seem so much more expressive, don't they? And this particular worm has a secret desire to wear a red satin dress and be a lounge singer. A lounge singer with large, expressive eyebrows and pouty red lips.

That worm and I have some very strange things in common . . .

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back to School

The past month or so has been like "back to school" for me - taking classes at Art & Soul, getting my own class schedule up for fall, and then taking a class with Wendy Huhn at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts here in Portland (yes, a hoity-toity place that still actually uses the word "craft" in its name - wow). Wendy Huhn is a very cool fiber artist who lives here in the Great Northwest and the class I attended was called "Transferology" - oodles of cool techniques for transferring images to paper and fabric (yes, those are some of my samples above).

I had a lot of fun, met some other very cool mixed media artists, and got some great ideas for the pieces I'm working on for the December Gresham Arts Council Show "Postcards from Afar." It was great to see how the other folks in the class worked and experimented, see what their process was like, then see some finished stuff live and in person, and then go check out their work on-line! I love looking at other artist's work - These are the participants with websites that I know about: Trisha Hassler - who mixes fabric and metal in her work, quilter and fiber artist Gerrie Congdon, and mixed media artist Mar Goman (go to the site, click on "Artists" then on "Mar Goman").

Workshop: $$$
Supplies: $$
Getting to see other artists at work: Priceless!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day & Junk to Funk

It's a double whammy: Art and Environmentalism, with a splash of Fashion. Blog Action Day meets Junk to Funk. Write to raise awareness of environmental action. Make clothes to raise awareness of environmental action. I'm a big fan of micro-action, action on a personal level. And I'm a big fan of art. And, let's face it, I love clothes. So, this is perfect. This is my Junk to Funk entry, using reclaimed materials (the thread and the snaps are new - everything else is recycled). I've got used bicycle inner tubes, an old bicycle reflector, and funny rubber bands from SCRAP; shrunken sweaters and faded t-shirts from Goodwill, vintage buttons and jewelry findings from an estate sale. Traditionally, art materials are chemical intensive, and the cotton industry puts more pesticides and pollutants into the ecosystem than any other crop. Art garments from reclaimed materials? What could be cooler? Oh, of course. A Carmen Miranda hat made from an old sweater, minus the composted fruit.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Junk to Funk Fashion Show

I'm working on my entry for Junk to Funk today - here's some footage from last year's show! (added later: and no, I didn't get it together in time to enter last year - but I was very inspired!)

Poetry and Chocolate . . .

Together, they make for a perfect evening . . .went for a chocolate tasting at Alma - and was blown away! They hold them the second Thursday of every month, and I think it's going to become a permanent fixture on my calendar . . . chocolates of different textures with strong and subtle tastes . . . like wine . . . my oh my! Like an art museum for the palate . . . And then, on the way home, I stopped at the downtown post office and the lady I parked next to asked to play with The Blank Canvas (my dear white truck now covered with magnetic poetry)! I giddily said yes - and here is a poem she made:

and here is a compliment she left for my lovely little Poetry Posse member - The Blank Canvas can hardly wait to show Trixie!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wanna Trade?

One of the coolest things about big art retreats like Art & Soul is the chance to trade . . . artist trading cards, handmade beads or charms, inchies, MOO cards . . . whatever little creative detritus and inspirational tidbits we can make and share . . . pictured above are the groovy 2-D trades I wandered away with!

I love trading in part because it says "what you make and what I make are equally cool" and "everyone deserves some original art or at least a cool limited edition." And I love it that I get to share and see what other folks are doing - and it's such a non-threatening, non-precious way to make art! "Oh, I have these little things and I can just make them and give them away and isn't that cool!"

So, I made a few little things to trade, and did a few trades. And it's hard to do trades when you're a secret introvert, like me. I wandered around vendor night with my little box and couldn't approach anyone . . . and I tended to only trade if someone else suggested it! And then my MOO cards came in this week (after Art & Soul, but it's never too late . . . ) and I said to myself, "Well, I can still trade, right?" So, if you'd like to send me some little art trade, I'll happily send you something back! Just send it to:

Bridget Benton
PO Box 4076
Portland, OR 97208-4076
and be sure to give me your name and address! Don't have anything to trade yet?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Time to Incubate . . .

Ok, after four classes at Art & Soul I hit total overwhelm . . . I needed a little time to absorb it all and let it marinate . . . My last class on Sunday was with Traci Bunkers. It was a very cool self-portrait class. We took a photograph of ourselves, cut it into four pieces, blew it up on a copier, and then used it essentially as an underpainting and built up layers of color, collage, and texture on top of it. The idea is to work on each piece of the image separately and then integrate them into a unified piece. I like fragmenting images, and I've used photocopies as underpainting before (I can get really lazy about drawing and love this kind of shorcut!). I used a fun, kind of sexy-sassy picture that my friend Michael Burton took of me (he also did the shot of me on this blog).
And while I like elements of each fragment, I ended up not liking the way the fragments come together . . . . Part of it is that I ended up working very opaque with acrylics and collage materials when I think a little more transparency would have served me well. I also didn't do much to integrate the pieces.

And I can be pretty stubborn - meaning I plan to work the piece until it comes to some kind of resolution.

And part of that for me is setting it down in my studio or somewhere else where I'll walk by it several times a day and keep my subconscious working on it. I may eventually just let it go - decide the piece itself isn't really interesting, and just take the idea and do other things with it. Or it may be like the painting I started ten years ago and still haven't finished. It's sitting there, and yet it's still engaging me. Come to think of it, that painting is also a portrait, and it's fragmented to a certain extent . . . themes.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Gettin' My Art on with the Big Wigs

I took two classes yesterday at Art and Soul - a 3-D polaroid collage construction class with Michael DeMeng and a bird nest jewelry class with Stephanie Lee.

I'm going to admit right here and now that I had never heard of Michael DeMeng before I took this class. About half-way through the class, though, I realized that there were people at this retreat wearing Michael DeMeng aprons and that his color knowledge and paint mixing techniques provoke "wow's" from the students (along with a line of color mixing cards - though he's the first to admit you don't need them if you take good notes). I'm also going to admit right here and now that his stuff was pretty darn cool. I got a lot out of the class: I was reminded of some color theory I'd forgotten, and picked up a few new tricks that I swear I never learned. I also got some great practical tips on how to create texture and 3-D compositions. And I ditched the polaroid concept and the tunnel effect most of the other students went for (and who did some AMAZING things! So bummed I didn't get photos . . .) Here's the piece I worked on - using color photo-copies of a series of photos I did about 10 years ago mixed with lotteria cards - from the side, and from the top.

It was all going well until I learned that he does a critique at the end of the class. My heart rate went up and I got a little queasy. My competitive streak reared it's ugly head. What if people poo-pooed what I did for not being DeMeng enough? Too flat? Not using his palette? Keeping it too visually simple? Not incorporating enough rusty found objects? What if he doesn't like it? What if he does? What if my piece was really the best because it was so different? What if someone else had a piece more different than mine and theirs was really the best? What if I could get my head to shut up and just work on the #@*! piece?

I finally managed the latter. And I shouldn't have worried. He gave the artists a chance to talk about their work, and then he found something unique and valuable and intriguing about every single piece and talked about it. You could see what others had done successfully, and ponder whether or not you might want to incorporate it into your work and how you might adjust your own piece.

And I still don't think I'll be incorporating critiques into any of my classes. Logically, I know that competition can be non-violent, that it can be used in a positive way to inspire and push people beyond their self-imposed boundaries. Yes, I see wonderful beautiful things in every piece of art my students make. And I just hate the way that urge comes up in me - and in some of my students - and tries to turn the artmaking into a hierarchy. "Better than." "Worse than." "More talent." "Less talent." "Right way." "Wrong way." I want each student to listen to their own voice when it comes to their art - not mine. And I want those students to be free from the need to please. To dive into making for the experience, for what they might learn, not what they might earn in the way of praise. Maybe I'm projecting too many of my needs onto my students - maybe I need to find a way to give feedback full of juicy possibilities to those students who want it.

More food for thought.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Art and Soul

I love Portland. I've lived here for 15 years, and it still surprises and delights me. Art and Soul is a cool mixed media arts retreat that's been held in Portland for 5 years now - finally, this year, I got to go! I took a class today from Diane Downs today on how to alter a canvas by adding niches to it - one of those things that I'd read about, but really needed to see hands-on to "get." I had made some paper by arranging and color photocopying recipe cards from a box of old family recipes that my mom gave me - things in my mom's handwriting, my dad's, my grandmother's - even old ones my mom had typed! I used the paper as a cover for the foam core that formed the niche, and for the background of the canvas.

And then somehow the heart just seemed right, along with the white picket fence and the dollhouse window (a gift from Diane - I love it!) Later, I added some matches to one of the niches and have my eye on some etchings of cutlery and my artmaking neighbor from Texas, Ann Webb, gave me some skulls that may need to find a home here . . . there's a strange death and domesticity theme popping up - again.
A friend recently asked me "why shrines"? I think it's largely because I was turned off by modern art and art that was only about deconstructing and challenging the aesthetic ideals of other artists. This happened during art school. I think it happens to a lot of artists. We lose the soul, and get caught up in critiques and techniques and how our work contributes to "the art dialogue." It was around this time that I was really drawn to craft, to outsider art, to process art, to folk art, and to devotional art. Art that was made out of passion, compulsion, prayer or practicality. Art that came out of the need and desire of people to make meaning out of their lives, not just the work of other artists. Devotional art and folk art let me to mandalas, masks, rituals and shrines, as did my own exploration of different spiritual traditions. And I began to look at my precious artmaking objects and my memorabilia and all the evidence of my history and experience of spirit and gather those things together into shrines as a way of both understanding them and honoring them and making art that was meaningful to me. More later, but that's it in a nutshell. Whew!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Joining the Poetry Posse

My little truck, The Blank Canvas - who in her former life belonged to a guy who reworked the enamel on bathtubs - now works hard hauling around art supplies and home improvement goodies. A few years ago, she even made it through a fire that melted her hood and her front bumper and her windshield. Here she is!

Recently, though, The Blank Canvas has been telling me she wants a makeover. She already has some happy decorations inside, but they just didn't feel like enough anymore .

We talked about paint, and I got her a cool new license plate for her birthday:

Then, she met Trixie the Poetry Car and was totally inspired! I talked with Trixie's mom, Gretchin, and we are now officially part of the Poetry Posse! I ordered The Blank Canvas some special poetry magnets today, and then went ahead and put a few on her just to see how it felt. The ones she has right now are little, not big like Trixie's. And they don't stick to her canopy, either. But she already feels way cooler, and is really hoping to meet up with Trixie at Burgerville after the rest of her magnets come in! Now all she needs is a little mask and cape to complete her competent sidekick look!

Monday, October 1, 2007

More Cool People on TV!

Maybe it's the fact that it's fall, or that I have a great place to veg out in my new house, but I seem a little TV obsessed lately! My friend Linda Womack (who also had an amazing show at Guardino not too long ago) was on AMNW this morning giving a wax collage (aka, encaustic) demonstration . . . a few simple techniques, some great effects! ERG! I can't get the links to work right now, but when I do, I'll add a link to a video of her spot!

(added later) Ah yes, I was using the Bad Browser Who Shall Remain Nameless - now I'm back in the Mac-friendly/On-line app friendly browser . . . and the links should now work!