Tag Archives: Art

The Art of Musical Instruments

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Over the last six months I have used broken and abused musical instruments as a jumping off point for several pieces of art, but a recent visit to the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, AZ, reminded me just how beautiful instruments can be. Beyond the vibrations they exude, beyond the creativity of composition, beyond the artistry of performance, musical instruments are works of art unto themselves. Take a look at some of my favorite pieces (and visit the MIM for a first-hand look at these glorious objects).

 

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Marker Love

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I’m a marker girl. I own a box of pastels, a couple sets of colored pencils and a carousel of gel pens, but markers are my medium of choice – and I have A LOT of them in water-based, permanent, and alcohol inks. Unfortunately, my VERY favorite set (a nondescript package of generic alcohol markers purchased for half price from Hobby Lobby) are running out of ink, and what is doubly unfortunate is that the store doesn’t have them anymore. (Imagine the outcry of indignation and sorrow!) Thus, I set out to find an affordable set of double tip markers to replace my beloved coloring companions. After looking at plenty of markers in local arts and crafts stores, I settled on a set of 72 Bianyo 8606 markers from Amazon.

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These arrived in a soft sided case for $39.99, which works out to about 56 cents a marker – a bargain for sure. (My former favorites were 69 cents each on sale.)

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I immediately liked the squarish shape of the barrel which made the markers easy to manipulate and comfortable to hold. Since I have arthritis, the fatter barrels are much easier on my hands.

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Each marker has a fine and broad tip along with the color number on both ends, so it is visible in the case no matter which end is up. I’m always happier when the company puts a number on the pen so I don’t have to!

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Whenever I get a new set of markers, I always start by creating a set of color swatches because I just don’t trust the hues on the caps. A set of swatches allows me to choose the exact color I want (or quickly see that I’ll need to blend a couple of shades to get it). Since the markers were not separated by color in the case,  I sorted them into color groups and arranged them by number before creating the swatches.

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Each swatch consists of two passes with the chisel tip and the color number written with the fine tip of the marker. These pages get stapled together and stored with the markers so the swatches are easily accessible whenever I use the pens. (I used to put all of the swatches into a three-ring binder, but found it too cumbersome over time.) This set is listed as “classic colors” and has a nice variety of both cool and warm grays, blues, yellows, greens, and reds along with a sable and a blending pen.

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After creating the swatches, I put the pens back into the case by color (sort of), which brings me to my only complaint about the set – the case. In the ordering photo, the markers appear to be in a stiff-sided case that holds them upright and in order. (Okay, I’m probably OCD about these things, but I like my pens sorted by color and number.) However, the case is unstructured so the markers don’t go in rows (which would make them easier to organize) and they start to fall over when several are removed at a time.

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That said, I liked them every bit as much as my “old favorites.” The colors dried quickly, and once dry they did not bleed when touched by a new color / wet ink (which is one of my pet peeves with water-based markers). In addition, the fine tip easily managed the small spaces on this coloring page from Creative Cats by Marjorie Sarnat (Dover: Mineola, New York) and the chisel tip filled in the backgrounds without streaking. (I tend to turn the page and color in different directions, so the fact that the ink blends into itself is a real plus.) I would give these pens a five star rating for color variety, value, and feel. But, I’d only give the case two stars, because I find it unwieldy and annoying. It provides basic storage, but it doesn’t help me organize the markers or quickly find the one I’m looking for. If that doesn’t bother you, I would definitely recommend these markers.

Cello Dolly

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With my penchant for puns and general silliness, when a broken and abused cello fell into my hands ( … OK, when I charmed a guy to dig it out of a dumpster for me …), I couldn’t resist turning it into an over-sized doll. (I mean, really, what did you expect from me?)

While I conceived this project last May, it has been done in fits and starts because of interference from other projects, vacations, and prepping for school – not to mention pulling together materials (read a frame) large enough to accommodate a cello. So, without further ado, here’s the process of my latest creation.

As you can see, this poor cello was in need of love.

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After several attempts at separating the front from the body, I called on Lochinvar to lend a hand. Once he managed the task, I gave it a quick sanding to remove the shiny finish.

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After a coat of Gesso and a couple of coats of white chalk paint, the front was looking a good deal better.

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Since I was going for a paper doll feel, I decided to create a polka dot “dress” from the cello.

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Meanwhile, the hunt for a large enough frame began. After some focused shopping (read hitting every thrift store in town) I found this pretty icky but sturdy frame on a half-price Saturday at Goodwill. The center of the frame was covered in a suede-like fabric.

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Two coats of Gesso later, I was afraid I was wasting my time trying to revive the frame.

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However, three coats of white chalk paint finally seemed to breathe new life into the structure.

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A couple of coats of black paint in the middle gave just the right touch to coordinate with the polka dots I had put on the cello “dress.”

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The final piece has a scrap wallpaper background with paper doll outlines printed on vintage sheet music and covered with a light coat of gray chalk paint to provide plenty of contrast to the Cello Dolly design. Embellishments include some actual jewelry (the pendant, dog tag, ring, and earring) along with dressmaker fringe, and a purse constructed from a fabric scrap. The face and arms are constructed of card stock and drawn/colored using alcohol markers. This is the largest piece I have completed to date measuring 33 x 50 inches. 

I actually have two more broken cellos and a guitar stacked in the corner of my studio, but I haven’t envisioned anything for them yet. Hmm … I wonder where I’ll find three more giant frames.

So Much Art

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Recently, Lochinvar and I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the 2018 Santa Fe Contemporary Art Show. Our frequent trips to museums and galleries did not prepare me for the overwhelming number of pieces we viewed that night. Nor did I have any idea that so many of the artists would be so forthcoming about how they created pieces, their materials, their time, etc. Frequently galleries and museums seem quite stuffy, with people wandering somewhat aimlessly and speaking in hushed, reverent tones. So, the laughter, conversations, wine and nibbles were not at all what I expected. Walking through the doors, we were greeted by over 100 artists who had multiple pieces on display in a labyrinthine grouping of partial walls filling the main hall of the Santa Fe Convention Center.

While I cannot enumerate how many pieces we quite adored, there were a couple of artists who stood out. Ibrokhimbek Ikromov is a young man from Uzbekistan whose precision and eye for detail astounded me.  His paintings are quite small – the size of a several hundred year old book page (on which they are painted). You can see more of his work in his online photo gallery.

      

I also spent a great deal of time looking at the oil paintings of Marcella Rose. I am frequently enthralled by paintings of women and/or dance, so her work immediately grabbed my attention. Rose also had some lovely animal-themed works, and (bonus!) she was just fun to talk to, having moved around a good deal. Check out her website to see more of her beautiful work.

    

It is impossible to discuss the many pieces Lochinvar and I viewed, so here’s the list of exhibitor’s for this year’s show. You can see a sample piece, read a little about the artists, and follow links to their individual websites. (I have spent a good deal of time surfing through them!)  Art Santa Fe Contemporary Art Show 2018 exhibitor list.

And, if you’re interested in attending (or exhibiting) at next year’s show, those plans are already in the works.

 

Easy DIY Art with Colarting Kits

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When summer temps hit the valley of the sun there are only a few acceptable activities. One, of course, is hanging out in the pool; another is anything that can be done inside with air conditioning and a cold drink in hand. (The latter situation is also familiar to my northern friends who hunker down to escape the blustery cold of winter.)

As a teacher, I spend a good deal of my time in the summer thinking about and planning for school (which gears up at the beginning of August), but since I don’t have to do those activities on a bell schedule, I also get to spend a good deal of time in my studio. On 115 degree afternoons, the coolness of the basement beckons me to color, cut, and paste.

Thus, our Colarting (where coloring meets art) kits provide a means to escape the heat and create something to hang in my room, office, or home. Let me show you how it works with the Dreamy Kitty design.

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Each kit comes with three or four layers (depending on the picture) to create a 3-D design along with a package of standard embellishments and the foam tape used to give the art dimension. Full instructions are also included, along with a bonus coloring page.

 

 

 

In step one, each of the layers is colored in preparation for cutting and stacking. While a person could leave the larger shapes blank (white), I suggest filling them in to provide a background when looking at the pieces at an angle. This helps the piece look more professional when its complete.

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The middle layer has a gray space around the pieces to indicate what will be cut away. Because I know I’m going to cut these out, I don’t worry about staying inside the edges. As a matter of fact, I intentionally go over the line to make sure I fill in all of the white space. In addition, when I’m using several shades of the same color (like two shades of green on the squirrel shape), I color the entire shape in the lighter color using a chisel tip marker, and then go back with the darker color and fill in the details using a fine tip marker. This makes it much easier to color small, detailed areas.

As you can see, I have written the color numbers I used across the top (which will get cut off). Since I don’t always have time to color all of the pieces at once, this helps me remember which markers I used so I can carry the color theme over to other pieces.

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The top layer consists of cut outs that will rest on top of the middle layer pieces. I used the same basic colors to complete these pieces, too.

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If you plan to use a photo mat (which I highly recommend since it adds a professional finish to your artwork), put the background in the mat before you begin adding the layers. This allows the layers to stick out over the edge of the mat and adds to the 3-D effect.

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Now you’re ready to cut out the middle and top layer pieces.

Once everything is cut out, open up the embellishment packet and locate the foam tape squares. These will be applied to the back of the cut out pieces in order to create a 3-dimensional effect on your artwork.

It’s always a good idea to space out the foam tape squares around the edges of larger pieces (like the kitty). The smaller pieces may only need one or two squares to support them. Remember to plan the number of squares per piece to make sure you have enough.

Once the tape is stuck to the back of the layers, peel off the wax paper backing and apply the middle layer to the background.

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Repeat the application process with the smallest top-layer pieces. Here, the angled photo gives a better look at the shaded in bottom layers. (Take a look in the lower left corner under the lizard.)

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Once all the layers of the picture are attached, it’s time to have some fun with the embellishments. The packet contains basic embellishments in clear and silver to match any color scheme. Of course, you can always add extras from your own stash. (Consider buttons, beads, jewels, trims, pieces of broken jewelry, or even origami.)

If you don’t have a stash, we offer additional embellishment kits in multiple colors. (All of our kitty-themed demos on the website feature standard embellishments. The other themes sport a variety of items from my studio.)

Arrange the embellishments wherever you like. (I suggest placing all of them on the piece before gluing, just to make sure you like the layout.) Regular white glue or craft glue will work to attach the embellishments, or if you’re impatient (like I am), use a hot glue gun for immediate gratification.

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Finally, don’t forget to sign your work before putting it into a frame. Our kits create an 8 x 10 picture which fits into an 11 x 14 mat and frame. (I suggest you get a shadow box frame so your work will be protected behind glass.) If you use a non-shadow box, simply remove the glass to allow space for your 3-D design to pop out of the frame.

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The final product is a one-of-a-kind piece of art ready to adorn your office or home. Our whimsical designs are perfect for kids rooms, dorm rooms, hallways, and cubicles. They make great gifts as a project to be completed or as a finished product to make someone smile.

Check out the nearly 30 designs available at thecockeyedcolorist.com. Happy colarting!

 

Charmed, I’m Sure

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Like most people these days, I frequently find myself pressed for time when it comes to things I want to do (like creating art) versus things I have to do (like working). More and more, though, I find that if I put a project on my brain’s back burner and let it simmer awhile, the actual time it takes to create the piece is drastically reduced.

Case in point: Today I created a piece from start to finish (except for framing) in about six hours including breaks for food, pets, and drying time. This is highly unusual for me, but I’ve been thinking about the work since I popped awake at 3 a.m. about 10 days ago and made a quick sketch just to get the idea down so I could sleep. So, even though I had organizational chores that took up my time for awhile, by brain just kept plugging away at what I was going to do. Then, when I stepped into the studio this morning ready to begin, I also finished. Perhaps the organizational tasks helped, too, since I re-sorted all of my backgrounds, pictures, and embellishments in the process of refining a system I implemented a year-and-a-half ago. As I sorted, I thought, “Oh, I should use that!” when I came across a piece of lace or some beads I had forgotten about.

Here’s today’s work: “She’s a Charmer.”

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I started by spray mounting heavyweight pink construction paper to a 30″ by 20″ foam core board to create a solid colored base layer.

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Next, I swirled glue on top of the construction paper and added a layer of dress maker patterned tissue. The swirls of glue (which show since the tissue is so thin), provide added interest.

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Next, Stanzilicious PouffyPants helped me choose some flowers to cut out of printed and sequined felt. These felt pieces are remnants of calendars that my mother-in-law makes for me every year. When the year is up, I cut away the calendar portion and keep the decorated motifs for other uses.

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Once cut, I glued on the sequined felt pieces and added some paper rickrack to finish the border.

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I tend to use whatever I have handy to weight items down while the glue dries. Here I used a couple of heavy books and a pair of pliers. The items added to the piece include a plastic recorder that I painted to look like brass along with half a thrift store hat and a glove with some wire and batting. I sketched my lady’s face, scanned it in, and printed it on manila paper. Her lipstick, eyebrows, and hair are alcohol marker, while her eye shadow and blush are oil pastel. A green zipper “snake” is responding to the lady’s tune.

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Poor Licorice needed a little help to join me on the studio table today. He had surgery last Tuesday and tore out his stitches last night, so the boy has to wear an inflatable collar and a bandage until we can take him back to the vet. This, however, did not stop him from wanting to take Stanzi’s spot this afternoon. It also garnered him quite a bit of extra attention and treats.

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Next, I added a little more jewelry to my lovely lady. I had already placed an old (broken) ring on her gloved had before gluing down the fingers, so I an amber colored earring and a charm bracelet I picked up a couple of months ago at a swap meet seemed appropos. I also added some jewels to the zipper “snake” for some extra shine.

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The final touches include beaded fringe for hair plus one more flower for good measure. I used a drawing of an angel wing that I had previously completed for her collar and outlined it in gold glitter. (After all, a girl can never have too much sparkle!)

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Finally, I added the lettering that ties together all of the imagery. The word “charm” can be used in multiple ways: as a reference to beauty and grace (my lovely lady), as a means to mesmerize (a snake charmer), as a piece of jewelry (a charm bracelet), and as a means of good luck and protection (under an angel’s wing).

After spending so many days contemplating this piece, I am happy to see it finished, and I’m excited about the next idea rolling around in my brain. (No spoilers, but I will say that it involves a recently acquired broken cello.) I’ hoping to capitalize on some think time for a few days.

 

 

 

 

Learning to Love the Gel

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I have a love/hate relationship with gel pens. I realize to most people having strong feelings about gel pens may seem overly dramatic or personally indulgent, and they’re probably right. In the grand scheme of things how I use gel pens is not going to save the world or cause it to spiral out of its orbit on the way to total anihiliation. . However, (and there’s ALWAYS a caveat, right?) they are a source of joy and consternation every time I color.

Why, you may ask, do I invest them with such emotional power? The answer is simple: I don’t know. There. I’ve admitted it. It could be that I love the sparkliness (Is that even a word?) of the glitter gels, the edgy glint of the metallic gels, and the vivid hues of the florescent gels, but I hate (deplore, abhor, and several other synonyms, too) their lack of coverage in larger spaces and their tendency to smudge. (Yes, I COULD wait for the ink to dry before coloring next to it, but that would require a level of patience that I don’t possess.)

Thus, the very things that make gel pens fun also make them annoying. So, I’ve tried to devise ways to mitigate the problems with gel pens while keeping the lovely gel-iness (Now, I KNOW that’s not a word, but I’m feeling Shakespearean today.) that they bring to a design. Let me explain:

DSCN3216This is how my gel pens look on a larger swathe of page. As you can see, there is quite a bit of open space, even though I colored the area twice.

DSCN3217Next, I turned the page 90 degrees and colored the other way. While this helped fill some of the gaps, there is still plenty of paper showing through.

DSCN3218Of course, I could use a fat-tipped marker to get better coverage. (This patch was done with a Sharpie.) But it lacks the lovely sparkle and the intensity of color from the glitter pen.

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And, of course, the combination of the two opens the door for other effects. Here, I laid down the base coat with a berry colored marker, but still used the dark purple glitter gel over the top. This allows for a subtle variation of color that I might use on flowers next to one another or to color a bunch of grapes.

And different colors yield different effects (duh, right?). Here is a bright tomato red patch of marker covered in three different gel colors: pink, dark red, and orange. Each one changes the base to create something new. I might do this as an easy way to shade parts of a flower (especially if I have a limited number of marker colors or the markers don’t blend well.) Thus, I could color the whole flower in the base marker color, and then add darker parts with the red gel, medium tones with the pink gel, and light areas with the orange gel.

However, I should add, some colors don’t play well together. Here, I put silver (left) and light blue (right) glitter gels over that swatch of red and ended up with muddy ugliness. (Yuck! Yup, even the camera couldn’t hone in well enough to focus on this mess.) So, be sure you try out the combinations on a piece of scratch paper before you apply them to something you’re working on. (I HATE it when I ruin a perfectly good picture with the wrong color choice!)

Here’s an example of the dramatic difference gel pens can make in your coloring. I started with a base coat of medium pink Sharpie (left). Next, I added some pink glitter gel around the center and edges (middle). Then I finished by going over the outlines and coloring in the center along with every other space on the edge with purple glitter gel. Just this touch of dark adds a great deal of drama to the image.

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Here’s how the flower looked after I colored in the rest of the petals alternating gel ink and marker. To help keep the gel from smudging into the color next door, I did all of the marker sections first, and then went back with the gel working my way from the inside out and turning the picture so my hand wouldn’t drag across it.

As you can see, I tend toward high contrast, bold, unrealistic colors. (After all, I get enough realism from the evening news. I don’t need it on my coloring pages!) The colors work because the purple on the outside petals relates back to the purple in the center of the flower, and the darker color on the outside grounds the flower as a whole.

So, thinking back on my relationship with these pens, I can see that learning to love gel ink was really a matter of setting it up the right partner. Hmm… Isn’t that true for most of us?

Happy coloring!

Trash 2 Treasure

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The expression “Time flies when you’re having fun,” used to feel right. These days, however, the time seems to slip through my fingers no matter what I’m doing. I blink and a week is gone. I yawn and it’s a month. I sleep a little and discover it’s been five months since I wrote here last. (Sheesh!)

Much has happened at the Cockeyed Colorist in recent months. Lochinvar and I have taken our kits and original art to the Fountain Festival, the Mesa Arts Festival, the Great Fair, and the Tempe Festival of the Arts. In addition, I currently have three pieces in the spring show at The Grotto Gallery while Lochinvar has reinvented our festival set up to emphasize our new branding efforts which are leading to a new website (coming soon). Whew! As part of our brand building, I have decided to focus my work on upcycling items, so I have new piece that I’m excited to share with you.

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I picked up this child-size violin at a local flea market.

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As you can see, I had to remove a good deal of industrial glue with bits of synthetic wreath buried in it.

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After a plenty of scraping and sanding, most of the goo came off.

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Some of it was pretty stubborn, though, and refused to be separated from the violin.

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A couple coats of Gesso and some chalk paint covered most of the flaws.

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The fun part starts here. I used a gold paint pen to add some highlights around the holes in the body and at the top of the neck.

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Next, I dipped some old silk flowers in plaster of Paris to give them the look of porcelain.

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While the flowers dried, I painted some wooden keys and put them through the peg holes to hold the “strings.”

 

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Pearl trim serves as strings with an old button cover holding them together on the body.

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Next, I added the flowers which covered up the imperfections that were still visible through the paint.

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Of course, the flowers needed some jewelry, too, so I added some pearl beads to finish them off.

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For the background, I scanned old photos and drawings of women from a variety of eras into my computer and printed them in sepia. After layering them on a backer board, I used permanent markers and oil pastels to add “make up,” creating some painted ladies. I also gave some of them necklaces and glittery buttons using pieces of old jewelry.

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Next, I dropped the background into a frame that we found on a “junking” trip to Tucson. (Of course, I HAD to add a little pearly silver highlight to the frame before adding my dressed up girls!) Then, Lochinvar attached the violin to the backer board with careful measurements and small screws.

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In the final step, I added more embellishments in the form of flowers under the violin’s neck, a couple of small frames for my lovely ladies, and extra pieces of jewelry to add just a little more sparkle. (After all, a girl needs her jewelry!)

After spending several weeks working on this piece a little at a time, I’m happy to see it finished and excited to find more items like this violin that need a new lease on life. This piece is a stylistic change for me, but the idea of turning someone else’s trash into a treasure is what I really love about art and a thread that runs throughout my work.