September 15, 2008

Memory-Keepers - Drawing

What is a memory-keeper drawing? I like to think of it as a way to document events, memories, of things that happen to me in my life or that are important to me in some way.
If the professors in my art classes had talked about keeping a sketchbook as a way to document one's life, or make sense of the visual images bombarding us daily, or as a visual journal we can look back on thirty years down the road--well, I might have kept a more faithful journal. We were just told that "all artists should keep sketchbooks." Certainly practicing technique is important. Working out ideas before commiting them to more expensive materials is a good idea too. But how about forgetting about "doing your best," or "perfecting technique," and just getting down the images, feelings, memories? That is what I'm finding joy in now, as a "mature artist." My inner critic has been silenced, for the most part, and I can draw without evaluating the worthiness of my product. I can create art for art's sake, for my sake.

I was thinking recently about all the pets I'd cared for in my lifetime. Rather than write a list, I drew them. The ones who were with me briefly and went to live with others, are shown walking or flying off the edges of the paper. Those who stayed with me until they died, are shown with little halos. Quite a list when it was all compiled: Timmy the teddy bear hamster who liked to watch TV while sitting on my knee; Marcel, my first pet bird, a Gouldian finch; Joey my first dog, a dashhound; Bailey, the beloved cockatoo whose funny antics still bring a smile to my face.

As for the drawing; it's just OK. But it got me to thinking about other projects that could take off from this one. Actually, this drawing came to me after seeing a photo of Frida Kohla with parrots on her shoulder.

Whether using ATCs, AECOs, collage, paint, scrapbooks, or writing in a journal or drawing in a sketchbook--take time to document your life.

I have some sketches I did decades ago. I've been carting them around from place to place and they are getting rather raggedy. I think I will scan them into my computer and print them out on Epson presentation matte paper (my favorite) and assemble them in a binder.

Do you have any sketches or artwork done, not for the final product, but as a process for keeping memories?

September 10, 2008

Drawing on New Surfaces

Paper, Canvas--traditional surfaces. But what happens when we take our favorite materials and work on new surfaces? Surprising things.

In a previous article, I wrote about my love of Sharpie markers in creating drawings of birds. I also like to use them to create bold, abstract drawings. Like the following:

What happens if we take those same markers, same bold colors, and apply them to a different surface? Below, you will see how the Sharpies look when I drew on a sheet of light beige foam.

This foam, used in kids' crafts, is sold in craft stores and in some discount drug marts. It's inexpensive and fun to use and comes in all sorts of colors. I first started buying it when I began incorporating collage and paste into my acrylic paintings; to build them up and create texture.

I decided to make some Artist Trading Cards using the same technique, and cut the foam to the 2.5 x 3.5 inch size.

The bold color remains, but the effect is softer, more impressionistic and dreamlike.

Take your favorite art materials and apply them to a new surface--see what happens!

Here are some surfaces you might not have thought of:

Recyled materials such as:
  • the nice white inside of a milk carton.
  • Old pieces of glass, old windows, old bottles,
  • old glass lenses, removed from frames and with a pin backing added
  • scraps of wood
  • old slate roof tiles
  • rocks
  • bricks

Materials you can find most anywhere:

  • Kids' board books can be found at most Goodwill and Salvation Army stores
  • Felt, foam
  • A variety of paper surfaces: rough, smooth, textured
  • Apply a coating of gesso or acrylic paint to fabric, then draw or paint on the fabric. How does velvet compare to felt? How does linen compare to fleece? For inexpensive fabric, cut up clothes you are going to give or throw away or buy clearance items at Goodwill.
  • Browse online catalogs from Dick Blick and the like and see what other surfaces are out there.

September 6, 2008

Finding the Right Art Materials #1: Permanent Markers

Let's muse a bit on materials. Ones that work and ones that don't.

How frustrating is it to create a beautiful ATC or altered book or collage or greeting card, reach for a "gold foil" pen and the result is a huge blob of goldish paint right in the middle of your creation?

I love gold and silver pens, but some I've bought went right into the trash. Others consistently work. My problem is keeping track of which is which and remembering when I'm in Hobby Lobby or shopping at Dick Blick or Jo Ann Fabric!

I am thinking about materials because I recently paid many bucks for Micron Archival Ink Acid-free pens. One set of black in various widths and one set of colored. Turns out, I love them. They were worth the price.

I usually draw with fine and extra fine Sharpies. I love the bold colors, the layering of colors, the ease, convenience and portability. In my perfect world there would be 256 colors of Sharpies.

My son, Jesse, introduced me to Poster Paint markers, and the white has been a good addition to my marker box.

But, back to the Microns, the .005 size, in particular. A drawing done in extra-fine Sharpie looks good, but the same drawing done in .005 Micron looks much more sophisticated. Suddenly, my drawing looks hip, looks Wow, looks...I don't know...more professional. I really like the results I'm getting, and nothing about me has changed! Only my tools. How great is that.

Here are some examples:
Here is a drawing I did this week of Tyler, guarding his birthday bone. It is with the Micron pen.

Next, we have a drawing I did last year with Sharpie Extra-Fine markers. I call it Tiny Dancer. You'll see the difference between the two pens.

Here is another drawing of Jackie done with Sharpie markers.

Next, we have two drawings I did this pasat week with Micron .005 black and colored markers. "Tyler and Jackie Dancing" and "Farley's Treat Yes! #2." These are also Artist Trading Card (ATC) size, which is 3.5 x 2.5.

Now, one would hope my technique and skill would improve over time, but the Microns just seem to make things easier.

Do you have any pens or markers that are particular favorites? What gold and silver pens have you found work best?

September 1, 2008

People and their pets–vintage images

Recently, I joined two Yahoo groups for those interested in Artist Trading Cards. Wow! What a wealth of information, friendship, creativity, and visual resources.

I began looking at some of the links to online databases for images of people with their pets. This led me to two websites that were goldmines: and the Library of Congress.

The images that caught my eye gave me a glimpse into life with pets in an earlier time in American history and several images and articles that sparked ideas for future art and writing projects.

Photographing pets is a great hobby. For more on photographing pets, see
this previous blog article.