Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's for the birds

What exactly constitutes art mail? Does it have to be mailable? Or at least look as if it could make its way through the old USPS?

I was pondering that question as I my gaze fell upon a pile of rejected envelopes. My son's bar mitzvah is growing ever closer and I was inscribing them with what passes for calligraphy in my house. Inevitably, there were some mistakes. (That will teach me not to watch Emma Thompson's "Sense & Sensibility" while I'm writing. Yes, I'm still being extremely diverted by Miss Austin's creations.)

Since I'm one of those people who can always envision another use for anything (I suspect our numbers are legion among the GPP Street Team) I decided to spare the envelopes the trash. Immediately, I thought of a play on the idea of air mail -- or par avion (love that French term!) -- and use my new birds stamps. After applying a little paint to the envelopes, I took my art kit (making use of GPP Street Team Crusades 17 as well as 18) to bed with me and embellished.

While these birdies won't be winging their way through the mail, it was fun to work on an unfamiliar surface. I may have to do that more often. And of course, now I want to make some that are postal ready. Sigh. What do normal people do with their evenings?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I can stop any time I want to -- really!

I couldn't resist -- I had to do one more.

I adapted this little guy from a Dover book of Art Nouveau drawings and stencil designs. He was exactly what I wanted and was surprisingly easy to carve. I was so happy with how he came out I couldn't resist sharing.

I don't have a problem, do I? I mean I can stop any time I want maybe after the next stamp...

OK... so maybe after four more. I seem to have Bird Fever. I restricted myself to only four of my favorites -- the chickadee, the purple finch, the American redstart and another robin. Besides, the speedy carve is almost too soft compared to the speedy cut. Sigh. At least I've been reassured that I won't be alone at Stamp Carvers Anonymous.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Now cut that out!

It is GPP Street Team time once again. This month, Michelle Ward has given us a juicy assignment: make your own tools. As part one, the intrepid Crusaders were challenged to carve a rubber stamp. Did I say a rubber stamp? Little did I know!

I am not a total stranger to stamp carving. I remember too well the nasty linoleum carving incident in elementary school when poor Cindy Nelson managed to gouge her finger instead of the linoleum. The incident was so nasty that I avoided printmaking in high school because of it.

Fast forward to my days as a new mother of the babe who has become my towering bar mitzvah boy. During my stolen art moments, I tried stamp carving again with an eraser and an Exacto knife. The result caused less bloodshed but wasn't much more satisfactory.

Carefully reading Michelle's instructions, I figured I'd give it one more try. I'd point the carver away from myself and go slow. If the results were awkward, well, that would be a good thing, right? The other Crusaders were showing some truly wonderful stamps.

So what would I carve? I've really been into robins lately (ergo the half-baked poem below) so I went online and looked up some robin photos. As is typical of me, I got a little carried away with the intricacy of the birds.

I decided to simplify right on the rubber. I marked it with a Sharpie and began carving.

It took awhile to get it just right. Getting the eye to be round was particularly challenging. And attempts at making fine lines with an Exacto just made a mess. The gouging tools worked much better.

When I was through, there was a lot of rubber surrounding my birdie, so when I couldn't get it to gouge flat, I decided to trim. It only took 30 seconds of looking at the trimmings before I started drawing swirls. (I've been coveting everyone else's swirl stamps.) The swirls turned out so much cooler than I had anticipated. Emboldened, I immediately turned the other piece into Matisse-inspired seaweed.

I tried the swirls with paint and discovered they look even better linked. And turned sideways they'll make awesome waves!

And all this came from half of the rubber in the kit. I still have another half to carve a mate for ol' Robin -- maybe even one who is in proportion! And I haven't even begun to play with positives and negatives, quarter images, Art Nouveau botanicals or handwriting. . .

Thanks Michelle for another excellent Crusade! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more carving to do. 

Monday, March 17, 2008

Morning Ramble II: First Robin

First Robin
March 6, 2008

A velvety moss carpet
Is the welcome mat
at the doorway to
Nature awakening.
Where beneath craftpaper leaves
lie the tiniest hints in
a wild newspaper
spreading scandalous rumors
of spring emerging

There’s company for breakfast.
An old friend hops beyond the rise,
already washed and dressed.
His splendid scarlet vest
flashes in the stretching and yawning light.

Fresh from a good night’s rest,
he debates with a chum
the merits of beetle grubs
versus earthworms to break the evening’s fast.
They’re quite unconcerned about the benefit
of orange juice with calcium
and whether cereal has
a minimum daily requirement of fiber.

Enough pondering, he tells me.
The world will wait.
It’s time to eat.

Morning Ramble

The upside of being "between jobs" is having time to do the things that a job supersedes. Keeping an art blog is one of them. The other is to expand my daily walk. When I commuted to Manhattan, I always walked from the station to my office. But while I tried to walk and take in the world around me, I was always preoccupied with all I had to do. 

While there is still plenty to preoccupy me, I am relearning how to ramble. It's just me (was it Satchel Paige who said "the social ramble ain't restful"?) and nature. I'm blessed to live in coastal Connecticut where I can choose to wander in the woods or stroll the seashore. Lately, I've chosen the woods right outside my house. I suspect I look pretty crazy to the casual observer: suddenly veering off of sidewalks into the woods then back out, stopping and staring at tree branches, getting a goofy grin on my face as I watch a convention of squirrels argue. But it's teaching me to live in the present, to be open to beauty and inspiration everywhere, not to carry the burden of things I'm not presently doing.

The rewards are amazing. For one thing, I have come to appreciate cold weather. The sting on my cheeks is a pleasant contrast to the warmth generated by climbing hills and walking distances. I love the clarity of structure I see in the branches of trees and shrubs. And now that Spring is peeking out from her mossy bed, I can see verdant fingers wiggling past loamy covers.

Hopefully, a new job is not too far off. Until then, I'll be rambling. I can't wait to see what comes next.