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?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Quick and Easy Vegetable Printing!

I've always loved printmaking - especially using found materials to make impressions and patterns.  Several years ago, I was introduced to nature printing through The Nature Printing Society, and I've been printing with plants, vegetables and other natural found objects ever since!

Usually, when printing from nature, I roll out water soluble printmaking inks, and use a brayer or dauber to apply ink to whatever I'm going to print.  Recently, however, I saw a great shape in a bunch of celery I was getting ready to juice, and wanted a quicker printing option.

Here's What You'll Need:

  • The end of one bunch celery
  • A paper towel or rag
  • A rubber stamp pad - I used Staz-On, a solvent ink pad, but any dye or pigment stamp pad will work
  • Paper to print on - try copy paper, cardstock, or even tissue paper

You're Ready to Get Started!

1.  Blot your celery end with a paper towel or a rag to get up the extra juices - if the celery is too "juicy," it'll cause your print to blur.

2.  Ink up your celery!  Don't just push the celery into the stamp pad - be a bit more gentle and dab the celery with the ink pad.

3.  When the celery looks like this, you'll get a light print.  Keep gently adding ink!

4. Press the celery onto your paper with even pressure.  Voila! See how inky the celery is?

5. Every celery bunch has a different pattern - and each celery end can be used multiple times!  I've had good luck getting up to 30 impressions from a single celery end, but haven't had much luck with storing them overnight for reuse. 

The paper can be used as gift wrap, collaged into encaustic paintings, used for greeting cards - use it anywhere you'd use patterned paper! I used a celery end, but I'm thinking you could use the carved end of a potato, a cross-section of onion, or even a sliced apple!