Tag Archives: process

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.

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The Mother of Invention

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The old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” held true for me this week. Kids are returning to school in the Valley of the Sun, and that means dealing with cell phones in class. This year, my school is adopting a no-phone policy across the board during class time. (This is good news for those of us who battle the texting, gaming, and surfing that distract students from learning.) In order to make the edict more palatable I want to provide a space where students can park and charge their phones while we’re working on literacy and writing skills.

To my dismay, most of the classroom phone storage devices are hanging shoe organizers with pockets. Since all of my wall space is taken up with posters and academic language word walls, I want something that will rest on the counter at the side of my classroom. The few tabletop organizers I found were on the pricey side and wouldn’t arrive until after the kids report in a couple of days. So, I decided to make one.

I observed that the organizer I’m after is simply a series of boxes or slots that are large enough to accommodate any phone and provide access to a plug. So, here’s my low cost solution:

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I went to my local post office and picked up 19 of the (free) small Priority Mail boxes, which are about the size and shape of three DVDs stacked together. I drew a line down the center in order to get two open boxes from each piece. (I have 36 chairs in my room, so the 19 boxes cut in half  create 36 slots plus a couple of extras in case I mess up!)

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Here’s how the boxes look once they’re cut in half and assembled. (Just use the fold lines and pre-applied tape to put them together.)

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Next, I arranged the boxes into groups of four. The desks in my classroom are numbered and arranged into quads to create small tables and work groups for students, so it seemed logical to mirror this organization in the cell phone garage.

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I considered stacking the boxes vertically, but ultimately decided against it because I think the other arrangement provides more stability.

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Once the arrangement was finalized, I added labels that correspond to the group and seat numbering system on the desks in my room. Students will put their phone in the slot that matches their group and seat number. (I have nine groups of four students.) Then, I used left over box tape to form a set. After I finished the whole thing, I realized I probably should have “laminated” the labels with clear tape before attaching them just to add some durability to the card stock. (So, consider adding that step if you construct one of your own.)

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Once all the sets were created, I used left over masking tape to put them all together. I taped around the whole group a couple of times and across the bottom of each set both vertically and horizontally. (I have to confess that I changed tape here because I ran out of the box tape. I was determined to just use whatever I had to complete this project.)

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Finally, I used some shiny silver duct tape from my stash to finish the “garage.” This added more stability and durability to the project. (If you want to use spray paint to finish the piece, I suggest covering the whole thing in masking tape first to add that stability and create an even finish.)

When I take this to my classroom tomorrow morning, I’ll line up a couple of power strips in front of the boxes to provide a charging station for my students. Hopefully, this will entice them to willingly park their phones and give them a rest during Junior English!

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!

 

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!

On Your Mark, Get Set …

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Lochinvar and I are gearing up for the Fountain Festival next weekend (yikes!), so we’ve been in sprint mode since Monday. I have finished up the last of the pieces for the show and Lochinvar photographed them and listed them on the website. Today I am writing artist statements, printing price tags, hemming tablecloths, and gathering paperwork while Lochinvar assembles the booth in the garage for a trial run. (Occasionally, of course, I have to go out and kibitz about where to hang specific pieces and give my creations a critical once over in the bright light of day.)

One of the items I am writing today is a process page that shows how pieces are created. I think people often don’t consider all the small steps necessary to create a piece of art. They say, “Oh, it’s a decorated bottle,” as if someone waved her hands, did a dance, and magically transformed a dusty dumpster dive piece of trash into an artful treasure by sheer will power.  People don’t seem to realize that bottle took elbow grease, inspiration, a myriad of materials, a good deal of time, and a host of steps to make. Other artists that I have seen at shows combat this mentality with an explanation of their process and materials, so I thought I would give it a shot, too. Here goes:

Hi, I’m Jenny and I rescue things: discarded bottles, old candy boxes, beat up toys, hand-me-down trays … all of these items (and many more) live in my studio stash waiting to be reimagined into something new. (To be honest, my work space sometimes looks like the Island of Misfit Toys with odd pieces of stuff scattered about in various states of becoming.)

While some of my art is completed on conventional mediums like canvas and card stock, I’m much more interested in the trash-to-treasure process, so here’s what it looks like for something as simple as a discarded bottle.

 

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Most of my bottles come from the trash, though sometimes people give them to me. Other items come from yard sales and thrift stores. (Half price day at Goodwill is always a treat!) “Junking” for hidden treasure is one of my favorite pastimes.

Of course the first step for any item is a thorough cleaning. Labels are removed and grime is scrubbed off.

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Next, everything gets two coats of gesso to create a paintable surface and block any colors or blemishes that did not come off with cleaning.

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The bottles (or boxes or toys, etc.) get two to three coats of paint. I am partial to indoor acrylic paint (the kind that goes on walls) for this step because it is durable and sample sizes come in lots of cool colors. I also use plaster of Paris to create my own chalk paint for this step.

Some items get acrylic craft paint, which usually requires extra coats. The type of paint is dictated by the material it is going on.

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After the base coats are dry, every motif that’s going on the item has to be created on paper, card stock, wallpaper, sheet music, book pages, etc. using a variety of inks, paint, pencils, and pastels.

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Once the elements are done, they get a coat of fixative  to seal the work and add a subtle sheen.

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Next, the elements are applied to the item with a variety of adhesives (depending on the materials) and craft or fabric paint and glitter are added to the edges.

23316727_1500196130016923_7630399991227667318_nThe final step is attaching embellishments like beads, rhinestones, and costume jewelry. It can be tricky to get the embellishments to stay put while the glue dries.

 Once everything is glued in place, the final product is ready to be signed and photographed for the website.