Category Archives: mixed media

Looking Forward to 2023

“We don’t have to live with our mistakes simply because we spent a long time making them, or we fear it will take a long time to correct them.”Bonnie Hunter

I came across the above sentence by accident as I don’t read Bonnie’s blog every day. But I’m glad I read her January 4 post as I think I need to apply her attitude toward my work. Oddly, I don’t worry about mistakes in my quilting and have no problem cutting up or revising work I consider a failure. Yet, I am surprised to find I have fear of failure in painting and mixed media. It makes no sense as paint and paper are much easier to modify than fabric. Maybe it’s because with paint and paper you can never retrieve the work you’ve covered over, yet with fabric you can by removing the offending fabrics.

These thoughts bring me to one of my non quilting goals for 2023 – to review my work on paper with an eye to improving it or turning it into collage materials. If all else fails I will recycle it.

As you may know, I spent time in 2022 working on paper – collaging, gel printing, painting. My work is still clumsy and lacks polish, and glue and I are never going to be BFFs.

One overarching goal I have is to emphasize composition and design in both my fiber and paper work. Improv is fun, but I think it’s time I developed at least a modicum of a plan before I begin a work. It can be a sketch, a color scheme, materials to use, or even just a mood. My serious works in 2022 began with some sort of sketch, however rudimentary. Of course, I face the familiar problem that it’s more fun to work in the moment without planning. However, that often leads to less successful results, and certainly can take longer to reach a pleasing result.

Speaking of composition, I am working through a composition class from Laura Horn, and have looked at a short video by Judy Wood about the use of drawing to analyze a composition once you’ve started a piece. My in-box is inundated with offers for classes that focus on techniques, but I had to search for classes on composition. I get it. Composition is where the going gets tough. There are lots of basic “rules” of composition out there (here’s one from Skillshare) but I think it takes lots of practice and making bad art to get the knack.

I began 2023 with collage compositions in my board books. Chunks of paper make the work go fast and I’m recycling both the books and old papers. Since I didn’t want to bring many supplies with me to Florida, where I am now, I packed just text-heavy papers, Posca markers, board books, scissors, and a glue stick. So far I’ve made a collage a day, and have spent roughly an hour on each. Some let the colored gessoed background show while others cover up everything. Here are examples of what I’ve been making.

Obviously some are more successful than others. I see I favor vertical compositions and either under or over work my layouts.

To counter all that composition I am hand sewing down my felted wool squares with a buttonhole stitch. Very mindless, but NOT meditative. I despair of achieving consistent stitches, and keep going only because I already have so much time invested in this project. Once the last five squares are sewn I will square up the background and fuse felt to the back for stability. After that a bit of quilting, a binding, and then it will be DONE.

I have rearranged the squares, but the layout is the same.

I realize there are eleven months after January to fill with goals for activities, but maybe I’ll take it a month at a time. I have only a few projects that carry over from 2022, mostly my fantasy town and unknown family. While I have printed inspiration photos for some new work, I haven’t yet come to grips with composition and fabric choices. I have no classes in mind, but I believe I would get the most benefit from intensive classes rather than short ones. Of course those are more expensive in terms of time and money, so I need to make sure they’re the right fit for me. Please let me know of any courses you’ve found helpful.

Sunday we return to the north. Luckily, there has been no snow in northeast Ohio so our driveway shouldn’t be blocked with a foot or so of snow. I look forward to reviewing my work done here in Florida and fixing it up with bits from my collection of paper.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under collage, Commentary, mixed media

Recalibrating in 2022

Last year I began to poke my head over the parapet a bit and get out more. The landscape has changed as online teaching and get togethers become more permanent. I am so over Zoom meetings, though it can work for classes.

I used the extra home time to dive into non fabric art mediums such as collage and mixed media. Of course that meant new supplies were bought and a new learning curve was begun, which was a good thing. The basics of design and composition carried over from quilting, of course, but different mediums have different pros and cons.

It is so much easier, probably too easy, to make changes with paint and paper than with fabric. One new supply that gave me trouble was brushes – which type of brush to use and how to handle it. I found a world of difference between flat and round brushes, and was astounded at the difference a good brush makes for watercolor. This is where videos have an advantage over in person instruction as you can rewatch a teacher wielding a brush until the knack becomes clear.

While I made fewer quilts in 2022 I didn’t stop making them. I finished fourteen quilts, though some had been started before 2022. I consider “Homage to Escher,” “Rhody,” “The Left Coast,” and “Happy Accidents/Chaos Theory” to be serious art quilts. Two are experiments that didn’t quite gel – “The Eyes Have It” and “Along Portage Path.” The rest are scrappy quilts that allowed me to play with color.

Except for “Homage to Escher” I enhanced these with paint, Neocolor II water soluble crayons specifically; and I used a Spoonflower printed fabric in “Homage.” I am learning that subtle gradations and blurring of color are more effectively done with paint than with fabric or stitch. It’s also much faster to do – a big factor for me.

In 2022 I entered my work in fewer shows. “Dreams of Freedom” was in the 2022 Sacred Threads show and “Shattered” was in Fiber Art Network’s Excellence in Quilts. Hmm, it seems I didn’t tell you about the Sacred Threads exhibit. I realized that if my work is accepted I can count on an overall outlay of about $100 for entry fees and shipping. That cost would be worthwhile if I were publicizing my teaching or felt my work would sell. Since neither applies, I now think long and hard before entering a show. Alas, there are few opportunities to enter local art shows. Summit Artspace in Akron offers a few juried shows open to all art mediums, and my “Still Standing” was included in their 2022 Fresh show. I did show “Calliope” at the non-juried Lake Farmpark show in northeast Ohio and won a blue ribbon for my category. However, I am over judges’ review of my workmanship, so I don’t plan to enter any more shows with that feature.

Of course learning never ends. I did no in person classes, but took a six hour Zoom workshop with Valerie Goodwin. It seemed to be a sped up version of a longer workshop, so I took in less than I had hoped. I really should have taken better notes. I also tried a free stitching workshop by Gwen Hedley from textileartist.org, but found the approach didn’t work for me. However, the website is full of stitching inspiration.

On the paper side I took an online gel printing class from Drew Steinbrecher, and a few freebies such as Drew’s collaged board books and that for Fodder Challenge. To gain more exposure to mixed media I signed up for the year long Wanderlust class series. I found the lessons to be hit or miss. I think I did about 50% of the classes. I did learn about materials and techniques new to me – gesso, modeling paste, watercolor painting, and portraiture. The organizers had developed a structure centered on materials such as gesso, acrylic paint, inks, modeling paste, watercolor, etc.; however, the instructors sometimes made just passing use of the materials for that unit and at least one totally ignored them. I thought some of the instructors’ samples were awful, but other students rhapsodized about how wonderful the lessons were. Students were encouraged to post their work. I was surprised to see how closely some followed the instructor’s sample. I concluded there are way too many butterflies used in mixed media works. All that said, some of the student work posted was wonderful.

I just reread my goals for 2022 (where I should have started the post,) and I’ve achieved about 75% of them. I completed one more panel of my unknown family series,with one more to come. All four scrap strip quilts are done and dusted. I have found new homes for many of my quilts, especially small ones, though I still have far too many. Hand stitching my wool squares to a background is my Florida vacation project.

My biggest art life disappointment in 2022 was the demise of an art quilt group I belonged to for many years. Granted it wasn’t in the best shape before 2020, but Covid put paid to it. The members didn’t want to try online meetings, and managed to meet only once after things opened up at a lunch hosted by a generous member. Radio silence ever since. Individual art friends have moved away so contact with them is now online rather than in person.

Overall, my 2022 was a year of pivoting to other art materials and trying for more deliberate creation of fiber art. I guess my improv urges moved over to paper, where for 2022 I had the excuse I was a beginner. I’ll lose that fig leaf in 2023. Time for the big girl pants.

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Filed under Art quilts, collage, Commentary, mixed media

Board Book Bonanza

Thanks to Drew Steinbrecher’s free online class I have a growing collection of sketch books made from children’s board books. In the past I started sketch books, but didn’t keep up with them. If you ever started a daily exercise program on January 1, found it became weekly by January 20, and maybe every three weeks by February 5, you know the process.

Drew uses his gel prints, gluing them directly on the book pages, but almost any material, paint, or drawing tool can be used as long as you gesso the pages first. Why board books? Because they’re thick cardboard the pages don’t buckle and warp with glue, and they are cheap second hand finds. Library book sales, online auctions, and yard sales are potential sources of inexpensive used ones.

I got this stack from my local library.

I won’t linger on the technical details as Drew covers them thoroughly, but so far I’ve finished two books and am almost done with a third. My leaf gel prints filled up one book by themselves.

It’s fun to make covers for my books.

Tickets and pamphlets from my trip to Spain combined with paper scraps are featured here. The grid paper lined an envelope our credit card company mailed us.

Magazine pages and collage leftovers

I start a fresh page or add to an existing one whenever I get stuck on my current quilting struggle, and find creating something in 30 minutes or less with paper and a glue stick boosts my mood. Then I’m able to return to the slog in a better frame of mind.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under collage, In Process, mixed media, Techniques

You Can Print With Anything

Originally I typed “you can print anything,” but that can be misinterpreted. I want to talk about the use of unconventional objects in gel printing. Of course, there are screens, stencils, stamps, etc., sold for printing. However, I like found objects that are free.

Instagram offers lots of ideas for such objects. Margaret Molinari (@margarts) prints on fabric with all sorts of items – pressed glass, reed baskets, fruits, vegetables, etc. Another artist, @giogiocraft, uses leaves in a fast way to get a ghost print from a gel plate.

I couldn’t resist (ha!) gathering and pressing leaves, and then printing with them on drawing paper and tissue. Some of my papers had been through one printing already, so I had a head start.

Another Instagram inspired printing object was blue jeans. My husband handed over an old pair of his, which has found its way into a quilt (“Damask and Denim”) and now prints on paper.

I think we’ve gotten our money’s worth out of that pair.

If you have printed with interesting found objects, I’d love to hear about it.

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Revisiting the Unknown Family

About a year ago I began a project that involved unlabeled family photos. I envisioned a three part series featuring groups of people, women, and children; all with no identifying names. After finishing one with groups of people I stopped working on the series as I hit a mental block. I just couldn’t make them into art quilts, and the colors were very muted. That was understandable as I was working with old linens. However, I wasn’t ready to take on a huge amount of embroidery to add color, and I wanted to keep the vintage theme.

All I know is that the people in the photos lived in Ireland or Manitoba.

A week ago I hauled out the remaining women and children photos and set to work on developing visually pleasing layouts. I realized that these won’t be art quilts, but are more fabric scrapbook pages. Once I made my peace with that I was able to find a way forward.

The women piece features a wallpaper sample, a linen napkin, pillowcase ends, a hankie, lace, old photos, and crocheted pins.

I had done natural dying on the old pillowcase some years ago, so I was stuck with the muck green color. The central photo may be one of my mother’s cousins. I know it’s not as old as the surrounding photos, which were probably taken in Ireland. The original of the stern matron has the name of a photographer in Letterkenny, Donegal, at the bottom. The crocheted pins were made by a friend of my parents, while the flower filled oval came from a scrap I was given.

I’m not thrilled with how dark some of the photos are, but I don’t have the originals to scan in and edit.

While I still have some hand tacking of edges to do, in my book the women are done.

I can’t say the same for the children. The photos are a mix of studio portraits and casual snapshots. The latter are under or over exposed, but again I don’t have the negatives. The fabrics here are another linen napkin, an embroidered small pillowcase given to me by a friend, hand knit mittens and a hand embroidered bib that may have been made for me. There’s no one left I can ask.

I think it needs an edge treatment but I have nothing suitable.

So, one will go back in my undone pile, while two will go in the completed pile. These aren’t works to be entered in a show. For one thing, shipping would be difficult as they can’t be rolled up or folded. For another, they aren’t works of art, but family mementos. Maybe I can convince one of my cousins they are perfect for their family photo wall.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under In Process, mixed media

Another Stash

So far my goal to not buy fabric is holding up well and I’ve been patting myself on the back for my restraint. I don’t count fabric I’m given as that’s simply recycling. Then I look around my studio and notice that I have substituted mixed media supplies for fabric accumulation. Oh dear.

It began with paint and a bit of glue. I already had fabric paint, but I got serious about decent acrylic paint for gelli printing. Since different collage artists use different glues I added several types to my stash to see if I liked them better than matte medium. Then of course I needed different types of paper (sulfite, mixed media, watercolor, bristol.) Followed by markers – Posca, india ink, Stabilo; I had inherited colored pencils and an assortment of drawing pencils, but found I needed markers that could work on different surfaces. And speaking of surfaces, I learned about white, black and clear gessos; and what they could do. Then came good watercolors and good watercolor brushes. Supply accumulation was somewhat easy on my purse as my family was happy to give me Dick Blick gift cards and I was happy to use them. Also, a friend generously shared her extras with me.

By this time I had swapped a small chest of drawers for rolling supply carts, and built up a stash of collage papers. Some are paintings and prints that aren’t works of art but are starting points for more work. Others are old books and music scores to print on and children’s board books to use as journals. I scrutinize all our mail for collage possibilities.

I also have magazine holders filled with fodder.

I found there are whole classes devoted to creating collage fodder. That’s one area I don’t need help with as fodder creation is the easy part. The good thing about paint and collage is that the work goes fast; the bad thing is it can go wrong really fast. Of course painting or pasting over such areas is easier than ripping out seams as long as you let the paint dry enough.

My latest mixed media forays attempt to blend fabric with paper. I enjoy all the work on paper, but so far I don’t think the compositions are as strong as my fabric work. Of course I haven’t been at it as long.

Bottom layer is a thermofax print, next layer is book page with watercolor and bits from a gelli print, next layer is fabric scraps from a curtain, final layer is markers and colored pencils

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Paper Work

While I’m resting up my arms and shoulders from a quilt wrestling project (why did I choose a circular quilting design?) I’ve been playing with paper. Some efforts I’ve framed, and some I’ve created as part of Willa Wanders‘ free Fodder Challenge lessons.

After living with so-so framed art for many years I decided new art in the frames would be nice. One is a collage, two are gel plate monoprints, and one is a weaving of collaged strips sewn onto paper. I had forgotten what a pain it is to frame stuff.

In between faulty measurements, I watched several Fodder Challenge lessons. Many were too cute for me. I cannot collage inspirational sayings with a straight face. However, I tackled three projects in my own way.

First I used Drew Steinbrecher‘s collage methods for gel plate printed papers, where you create one large collage and then cut it into several smaller collages, which you work on individually. The last work was done in a board book, and uses illegible words stenciled with modeling paste on tissue paper.

Next I tackled paper strip weaving with Rebecca Sower, an easy way to use collaged papers. Besides the framed weaving shown above, I wove another with strips leftover from that one, and yet one more that used a quilt calendar photo as the base. Some challenge participants wove cool diagonal versions.

My last challenge project involved Jane Chipp‘s button collage with printed tissue paper. The instructor used vintage photos printed on tissue with a home printer, and her results were charming. However, I found that my glue would smear the ink from my printer, so I used a sheet of deli paper I had brayered off on and then drawn and stenciled on. You need large, flat-back buttons, printed tissue, gesso, and matte medium (plus patience) to do this.

Finally, since I had all my collage supplies out, I made two more mixed media pieces from previous starts. My goal was to see how far I could go before the piece was overworked. I toned down some of the black on the left hand piece, which helped pull it back a bit from the overworked edge. The right hand piece began with gold blobs and ink lines on watercolor paper, got some paper glued on and cording sewed on, and ended with Posca pens and acrylic ink.

Now that I have gotten almost all the matte medium off my fingers, I hope to return to quilting in the round. Maybe next week I’ll have a finished quilt to show you.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Why Do You Take Classes?

In the week since I wrote about the Map Play class I took with Valerie Goodwin, I read two posts about art classes. The first by Jane Davies responds to a student’s comments that she wanted to play and have fun at a workshop and then had a meltdown when she was asked to dig deeper.

From Jane Davies’ blog.

Making art IS about play and it IS fun, but that is not all it is, usually. If you are always playing and having fun, with no angst or frustration, and you are also generating images that really speak to you, that you find compelling, then that is just GREAT! Congratulations. Most of us also have moments of frustration and occasional meltdowns or at least self-doubt. Learning how to navigate these skillfully is part of the process.

The second, Chris’ Quilting Universe post, Am I Addicted to Taking Classes?, reviews all the quilt related classes Chris has taken and the work that resulted from them. She has taken a wide variety of classes, ranging from year long master classes to online multi-lessons to one shot workshops.

Do you take classes to learn a process or leave with a product? Do you want to learn to make art like that made by the instructor? Do you want a two hour class at a quilt show or a five day immersive course? Do you want a deep dive into one teacher’s methods or a potpourri of many teachers’ approaches?

A further permutation is in-person versus online classes, and a distinction between live online and prerecorded. An additional nuance with any online class is the amount of interaction possible with the teacher and other students. I have taken classes where I had access to videos with no interaction, to videos with a class blog, and to videos with some sort of proprietary discussion forum. Some classes use Facebook.

These are very different animals, and I believe one’s expectations should reflect the differences. For example, I took a three hour Zoom class on sewing paper collage with David Owen Hastings. I learned a well explained technique that required a minimal amount of supplies. All interactions occurred during the class, with no subsequent followup.

I love using the curved bits from monoprints.

I also took Elizabeth Barton’s year long master class that required a deep commitment to developing designs and executing them each month. While the students could and did comment on each others work, the main focus of the class was improving our designs through Elizabeth’s critiques, which were copious. Each month we developed sketches in response to a theme, chose one to turn into a quilt, and then made the quilt.

“Mean Streets” was made in Elizabeth Barton’s master class

Right now I’m taking a year long set of mixed media classes called Wanderlust. The classes are loosely organized around basic art supplies like gesso, acrylic paint, modeling paste, etc., but each instructor pretty much presents her own thing. (I have yet to see a male instructor.) While I have learned a lot about materials and techniques, I find some of the instruction to be overly focused on “playing and having fun” and what I call greeting card art. To me the missing element is learning to evaluate your work. With so many instructors and students, comments on anyone’s work is pretty much limited to “great,” “nice,” “how sweet,” etc. It’s hit or miss whether the instructor comments on student work.

“An Octopus’ Garden” made for a modeling paste segment of Wanderlust

Such an approach is great if your goal is to play. I have to say I had hoped for less overlap of techniques and more building on previous techniques. Again, that’s probably not doable with so many instructors. I have learned there are as many ways to glue paper as there are teachers.

This week I’ve reflected on all the quilt/art related classes I’ve taken thanks to Jane and Chris, and decided that the ones I benefited most from were process related, with a critique/feedback component. The absolute worst class I ever took was on paper and cloth marbling. All the students shared one container for marbling and we were to take turns. Let’s just say there were some interpersonal issues. I figured the two fat quarters I marbled cost $25 each, and they were ugly. I won’t try to name the best class I ever took as there are too many candidates.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with art classes, both in person and online. Do you have any recommendations for outstanding classes/teachers?

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Filed under Art quilts, collage, Commentary, mixed media, Techniques

A Lovely Parting Gift

It’s hard to say goodbye to a friend who is moving many hours away. I know, it could be much further away, with visits possible only by cross country or ocean trek. Still, the easy spontaneity of living a mere 20 minutes from each other will be gone.

Since we are both arty types of course we gave each other handmade farewell gifts. I created (with the help of Shutterfly) a book of my friend’s photos she had shared with me. In return she created a mixed media piece she called “Expecting to Fly.”

“Expecting to Fly”

And it was accompanied by a handmade card.

Thank heavens email and Instagram make it easily possible to continue to share our artistic journeys. Alas, they aren’t so good for seeing shows in person and talking over each piece. I’ll miss you P.

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A Finger In Every Pot

The past week I’ve dabbled in quite a mix of projects and techniques, probably revealing I’m a Jill of all work but mistress of none. (I don’t get the they/them thing, so I went the old fashioned route. Though I could say I contain multitudes and use they/them.) Since I often work on more than one project at a time, sometimes they all mature at once.

My Spoonflower printed trees and wall fabric has been sewn together and I’m now experimenting with different embroidery stitches and threads to enhance the tree area. The printed fabric is less intensely colored than the hand painted and dyed fabrics, so I want to bring it out more. Right now it’s called “Along Portage Path.”

I went with five panels, a left to right gradient, and no top or bottom strips. It’s spray basted on batting. I will embroider it at this stage and then add a backing before machine quilting it.

I pulled out an unquilted top and finished it through the hanging sleeve stage. Put on your sunglasses at it’s bright.

“Teetering” is 21.5″ wide by 27″ high. I combined straight stitch and zigzag in the acid green lines.

I returned to “The Memory Jar,” an old project I was never satisfied with and added paint and oil pastels. Now it better expresses my intention to show the breakdown of memories with age, but I’m still not wild about it.

Revised version
Original version

Not to ignore my paper projects, I sewed several small collages onto a large printed piece of sewing stabilizer, and tried to mesh them into a coherent whole. I ended up changing the look of most of the original collages. This was a great way to reinforce the lesson that nothing should be viewed as too precious to change.

Untitled, 16.5″ wide by 19.5″ high. Backed with felt.

Finally, I finished up a magazine image collage that emphasizes a subdued color palette. I will most likely make a few more changes in a week or so, as a distraction from any other project I’m stuck on.

Untitled. 12″ high by 14″ high

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, mixed media