Best-Laid Plans… and Messy Studio Tables!

 

messy studio table - artsyletters

I’ll explain this messy table in just a minute.  But first, a quick catch-up:

My plans last month were:  Travel to help oldest (daughter) get set up her brand new third-grade classroom, return home, travel with hubby to get youngest (son) settled in to his second year of college, return home, and work like a crazy person in my downtown studio, creating at a record pace to fill my Etsy shop and my local display at Fordham Market for the busy fall season.

Reality was:  The very night of the college move-in, what I thought was an annoying pulled muscle in the back of my shoulder (that I’d ignored for weeks) suddenly morphed into something excruciating.  Pain not only engulfed my shoulder, but my entire arm and hand as well. So began my adventure with entrapped nerves – the ones that exit  the vertebrae in the neck and pass through the Scalene muscles (the three muscles in the side of the neck).

I am beyond thankful to have found a neuromuscular massage therapist with a masters in physical therapy.  (Think part relief/part torture.)  She is slowly putting me to rights, but it’s a long healing process.  Still don’t have complete feeling in my last two fingers or full strength in my right hand; still packing myself in ice several times a day to chill in the recliner we ended up buying.  (This condition does not lend itself to much actual sleep!) Note to my artist and writer friends:  years of hunching over drawing tables and keyboards contributes to the possibility of this!  So, take frequent breaks.  Watch that posture.  Breathe.

Anyway, my therapist recently “allowed” me to work an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, if I rest with ice in between.

She even made my buy two timers – one for the studio, one for the computer. two timers

 

 

 

I’ve been SO happy to be able to make some art, and make a mess, even if it’s for short periods!  Just so happens I was trying out a technique I’d recently seen in a video by the talented and generous Seth Apter.  He had demonstrated a way to use textured wallpaper samples and gesso when working on mixed media surfaces.  This necessitated, of course, that I find a really cool book of Italian wallpaper samples on eBay and purchase it.  Yes, I did.

I’d been trying out this technique the last couple of days in my brief studio visits.  Then late today I stumbled on a Twitter link to a fun round-up Seth is doing on his blog, The Altered Page.  He’s invited artists to submit links to their own blog posts featuring their messy studio tables!  Kind of a come-as-you-are-party, rather than the polished and perfect studio pictures we all drool over in magazines.

I figured since my current project – making backgrounds for some small mixed media pieces (pix of those soon – promise!  My idea is actually turning out…), I had to knock at the blog party door even if I’m a little late today.  So there’s my messy studio table up there, and here are a couple more pictures:

working on mixed media substrates, with the help of some Italian wallpaper...!

working on mixed media substrates, with the help of some Italian wallpaper…!

Love me some gesso....

Love me some gesso….

I have plans for these....

I have plans for these….

and I can’t wait to spend LOTS of time in here, making more messes!

messy table studio vertical 2

If you love sneak peeks into working studios, be sure to check out all the great links artists have submitted to The Altered Page.  That will keep me busy in my recliner for quite a while.  And if you’d like to see more of my own studio, I posted a little “tour” a few weeks ago, here.  Thanks for coming by!

Art Break Wednesday – Artsy Thanks to All!

Ringing in the season at the Cumming, Ga.,  "Christmas in Central Park" last weekend.

Ringing in the season at the Cumming, Ga., “Christmas in Central Park” last weekend.

It’s about that time – time to slow down and name what we’re grateful for.  I’m most thankful for the priceless intangibles:  family, friends, health, freedom, opportunity.  My thoughts and prayers are for those whose hearts (or bodies) ache this time of year.

And while my art business is less important than those intangibles, I’m still thankful to be able to say – Whew!  Made it through the first year, and I’m excited about the future.  I might not be paying the mortgage or the college tuition (yet, anyway!), but I’m pleased to be moving forward.  I learn more with each show or festival, and I know a lot more about selling on Etsy now than I did last fall. I’ve had a lovely little rush of orders this month, too, which I hope continues through the holidays!

My art business has tangibles and intangibles, too.  The tangibles I’m thankful for include a “yes” from the Trademark office this past year re. my artsyletters name, and a new, old studio space waiting for me in Beaufort, South Carolina, where we’re moving.  (I’ll do a post on that in the future – it’s right on Bay Street, in an 1890 building!)  I’ve found suppliers I love ordering from and I’m getting better and better at shipping, with all its myriad dynamics.  My booth set-up has gotten more appealing with each show, and I’ll continue to tweak that I’m sure.

The intangibles?  First, discovering that I was indeed appealing to my target market.  I’ve sold items to fellow writers & poets, teachers, librarians, college professors, artists, and book lovers of all ages – sending packages all across the country (including Hawaii) and to England, France, and Canada.  Nothing could make me happier.  Even more special, some customers have shared comments I will treasure always, particularly about my altered page collages (I’m making more, I promise!):  “Your work calls to me.”  “This piece speaks to my soul.”  “So excited to give this.”  “Love your creativity.”

Those kind words are the fuel that keeps me in a creative frenzy!I made this Emily Dickinson collage with "There is no Frigate like a Book" and gorgeous1800s illustrations - it sold quickly last weekend!

This Emily Dickinson collage features “There is No Frigate like a Book” and gorgeous 1800s illustrations, plus vintage bling, and the fairy door book collage below says, “I think your wings are strong enough to carry you” from a 100-year-old text. I think the glue was still drying at last weekend’s show, and they both sold! 

The Emily Dickinson collage features "Every Frigate is a Book" and gorgeous 1800s illustrations, and the fairy door book collage says, "I think your wings are strong enough to carry you" from 100-year-old text.

Second art business intangible: the amazing support I’ve received from creative friends.  There’s my art critique group, who heard me verbalize this nugget of an idea for the first time just over a year and a half ago.  (My Thanksgiving post last year was about them! –  Also thankful that we added Leighanne Schneider to the mix this year).

Also, where would I be without Kim Siegelson,

with Kim S Nov 2013 adj reduced

my award-winning writer friend with a wonderful vintage shop on Etsy, Perfect Patina. Okay, I’d be floundering.  I’ve called Kim – um, I don’t know exactly how many times, but several – with Etsy questions.  I’ve got some good books on Etsy and online selling of art, and I consult the Etsy blogs, but there is no substitute for talking to someone who has been in the trenches and marched triumphantly ahead.  Thank you, Kim!

Whether it’s pestering graphic design whiz Kathleen with emergency photo editing questions, or snagging Paula and Beth for antique market outings, or doing some serious vintage hunting with Kim, I’ve been so very fortunate to have partners in my artsy crimes.  Friends have shown up at shows, too – aforementioned Beth and Paula, Peggy, Barbara, Janice, Michael & Candy, the Kennedy clan, Trish and others- not only to buy a gift here or there but to offer a booth-sitting break and words of encouragement.

Finally, I’m thankful for my family (hubby Jeff and kids Morgan and Seth) – they’ve put up with art show explosions from time to time in the house.  (Oh – you’re supposed to EAT on the dining room table?!) And, they’ve put up with my way-too-old-for-this all nighters and my being out of pocket for weekends here and there.  Daughter Morgan put my entire inventory on Square so I can make sales with just a couple of clicks at shows. She can tweet, post to Facebook, and conduct transactions all at the same time! morgan in booth AITS 2013

Huge thanks to my online friends who have “liked” my Facebook page and shared posts, followed me on Twitter, commented on my blogs and mentioned me on theirs,  “favorited” items on Etsy (& purchased them, too!), and generally helped spread the love in this vast virtual community.  Julie, Renee, Cathy, Jone, Liz, Jama, Irene, Susan, Laura S., Laura Sh., Tabatha, Stephanie, Tricia, Linda, Kirby, Betsy, Joy, Elizabeth, Gail, Michelle, Beth, Janet and more – I am very, very thankful! :0)

Wishing you and yours a creative and love-filled Thanksgiving holiday.

Art Break Wednesday: Some Gothic Shakespeare for your enjoyment…

gothic shakespeare shadow box collage with c

Seems an appropriate season (and time – it’s coming up on midnight!) to share another recent mixed media adventure.  As my daughter, Morgan, was helping me enter items into my Square inventory on my mini iPad, she asked, “What do I call this?  Gothic Shakespeare?”

I liked the name.

This 6 in. by 8 in. shadow box features an embellished experiment.  I printed my fairy door relief print design on a page from a vintage reader, and the result was rather ethereal and dreamy – but gritty, too.  I loved its mysterious “air” and pondered using it as the backdrop for an altered page collage.  Pondering turned to pasting…

Somehow a vintage typewriter key seemed perfect to place near the top – the numeral 0 with a parenthesis which looks quite like a moon.  Then, the “Floating Shift” key, featured in a copper tray and attached to a mini canvas on light green paper and a gothic shakespeare top closer uppainted black background, floated itself up in a corner.

In another vintage book, I found a wonderful snippet from Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” – this seemed just right:

Hermione.    Pray you sit by us,
And tell’s a tale.
Mamilius.      Merry or sad shall ‘t be?
Hermione.   As merry as you will.
Mamilius.      A sad tale’s best for winter.
I have one of sprites and goblins.
Hermione.  Let’s have that, sir.

shakespeare detail winters tale gothic collage

Beside this text I added an old clock hand (the reverse side – the lighter color contrasts with the black frame), and a small vintage metal rectangle graces the bottom edge.  On the top right, I placed this luscious little embellished metal door hardware.  (This was a find from my favorite antique dealer at the monthly Flowery Branch (Ga.) Antiques Market – I was able to get  a few!)

Here’s hoping a little haunted art makes you smile.  Wishing you ghoulish inspirations as the month carries on… Bwa haaa ha ha ha.gothic shakespeare angle

 

Art Break Wednesday: Columbus Day art!

 

©Robyn Hood Black

©Robyn Hood Black

Okay, so we haven’t historically had big “Columbus Day parties” in our home.  But this coming weekend, we’re celebrating both kids home for college for Fall Break over the Columbus Day holiday.  I thought it might be a fine time to share a recent mixed media piece with a Columbus connection.

The map is an original page from the Meyers Konversations-Lexicon, Vol. 7 (G), Fourth Edition, Leipzig, Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1887.  Genoa was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, who penned these words in his Letter to the Sovereigns on the First Voyage, February 15-March 4, 1493 (first and rarest of printed Americana), referring to Hispaniola (today, the Dominican Republic and Haiti):

And they know neither sect nor idolatry, with the exception that all believe that the source of all power and goodness is in the sky.

This mixed media piece columbus detail 1 features various watch components and decorative metal embellishments from a variety of sources, namely antique markets and Etsy vintage shops.  A peek into how I chose to put what, where:

 

 

 

 

watch calendar numbers detailFirst, this round metal watch component with the red calendar numbers on a white background seemed perfect color-wise for the piece, and I love the suggestion of time having to do with anything historical.  I “highlighted” Columbus Piazza on the map with a small vintage silver component.

 

 

I liked the way the shape watch parts detail columbus artof these vintage watch parts seemed echoed in the shapes near them on the map, with the circle and spokes, and then the arch/ray image:

 

 

 

 

key detail columbus art

 

The shape of this old metal key seemed to suggest the shape of the docks depicted on the map.

 

 

 

And… true blue buttonI couldn’t resist adding the brass vintage “True Blue” button beside the quotation about the sky!  As far as the larger brass embellishments, I placed them at the top of the map to frame the whole image.  Notice how the “arched” piece on the right echoes the shape of the harbor at the shoreline immediately to its left.

Columbus framed

I had fun making this piece, especially working with such a lovely map in such wonderful condition.  Thanks for taking a look.  And, HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY on Monday, however you choose to celebrate it!

 (Note:  This piece is for sale and has garnered some interest at shows this fall, though it’s not currently listed in my Etsy shop.  Feel free to contact me with any questions about it. The image is approx. 9 X 11 in. ; the frame’s outer dimensions are 18 X 20.)

 

Art Break Wednesday – Decatur Book Festival Street Market Wrap-up

 

A R T booth decor DBF 2013Whew!  The streets have no doubt been swept after The Decatur Book Festival last weekend (the nation’s largest independent book festival, with 70-80,000 of your closest friends), and I’m still catching my breath.  It was strange being there as a vendor this year rather than as an author, but much fun all around, and I’d have to say a successful weekend.

The Kids' Parades are always a highlight at the Decatur Book Festival!

The Kids’ Parades are always a highlight at the Decatur Book Festival!

Here are a few pictures of my booth:

artsyletters booth 2 DBF 2013.jpg reduced

 

 

 

 

 

Robyn artsyletters booth DBF 2013 crop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

artsyletters booth DBF 2013 interior

 

 

 

 

 

 

table artsyletters booth DBF 2013small banner artsyletters DBFartsyletters booth interior DBF 2013

 

Couldn't have done it without the help of my wonderful hubby, Jeff...

Couldn’t have done it without the help of my wonderful hubby, Jeff…

 

 

leighanne and robyn DBF 2013

 

 

 

 

 

We had terrific weather on Saturday (albeit hot), but the rains blew in off and on on Sunday. Not enough to dampen spirits. I still caught up with some good writer/illustrator buds.

Fellow art critique group member Leighanne Schneider had her gorgeous art on display directly across from my booth – she’s a regular at DBF with her Doublefly Designs.

 

 

Then Leighanne and I went with Elizabeth Dulemba to go cheer on Jo Kittinger, who was presented with a community volunteer award on Sunday afternoon for her fantastic book, THE HOUSE ON DIRTY THIRD STREET, illustrated by Thomas Gonzales.

LeighanneRobynJoMe

Caught having a good time! Leighanne, Robyn, Jo, and Elizabeth. (Photo by Elizabeth’s wonderful hubby, Stan.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t believe I neglected to get a picture with the amazing Kirby Larson, but she kept coming by to brighten my day.  And buy more artsyletters merchandise to boot!   I was thrilled to meet so many new customers.  Teachers, students, poets, historians, writers, artists, calligraphers, printmakers, journalists – you all make my heart sing.

Finally, huge thanks to my daughter, Morgan Black, for getting all my inventory loaded on my Square account the night before the festival.  Everyone needs a college student on hand to help with the technology… :0)

It was a fabulous, fun weekend, and I look forward to Art in the Square here in Gainesville in just a couple of weeks!  Come on out if you’re around.

Happy Almost-Fall….

Art Break Wednesday – Dreams Great and Small

In Unity’s “Daily Word” devotional booklet entry today, there’s a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:  “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

As we celebrate sweeping, life-affirming dreams for humanity today, I’m also thankful for smaller, individual ones.  My kids are both starting a new year in college, and my husband has just begun new, fulfilling work.  And I’m pondering that artsyletters is almost a year old! thoreau angle with c

While my business won’t fund those college educations, I feel blessed with the feedback I’ve gotten from customers this past year.  I’ve sold work to college professors, history teachers, librarians, writers & poets, artists, high school students, mothers and grandmothers and husbands – folks from across the country and even across the ocean.  And I’ve only just begun!

This weekend I’ll have a booth at the fabulous, crowded, lively Decatur Book Festival   

BOOKZILLA interpreted by Dan Santat

BOOKZILLA interpreted by Dan Santat

in Atlanta. (Not too far from the children’s stage – come on by if you’re there.)  I’ve enjoyed participating as an author before, but this will be my first time as a solo vendor.So my desk/work area pretty much looks like this:

messy desk

Multiply that, and you can imagine what my studio (and the rest of the house) looks like this week.

I will not have all the inventory I’ve imagined in my mind – so many projects, so little time!  But I won’t run out of ideas for future shows, either.  Here are some 5 X 7 pieces made with those new letterpress blocks I raved about before: dressed up letterpress A

matted letterpress letter art

 

 

 

I’ve hand-stamped the blocks with oil-based printing ink, then decorated with a dip pen and India ink (and some gold on the smaller ones) .

And because I just found a wonderful complete set of typewriter keys on Etsy, I’ve assembled a few more earrings:

typewriter key earrings

 

I’ve just sold three collages out of the blue, so I’m hoping to finish up a few more framed pieces to add to the mix.  And I need to get back to blinging up some bookmarks, packaging notecards, putting together  magnets, sprucing up booth decor…  Who needs sleep?

Wishing you a moment to pause today and think about dreams big and small, with gratitude for those who have risked their own lives to make life better for others.  And I wish you an outlet for your own creative dreams, no matter the size!

Art Break Wednes…- um, Thursday: Hashtag Classic Authors!

 

(Sorry for the day’s delay – summertime, you know….)

What if classic authors had used social media?  I’ve had some fun with this idea creating the start to a series of new works using vintage “Authors” playing cards.

For instance, perhaps the Bard, while penning Romeo and Juliet, would have dubbed himself @mymindmisgives and sent a little message to @dearestjuliet – “Stony limits cannot hold love out” – with the hashtag #hanginginthestars.

hashtag authors shakespeare 1 w

hashtag authors shakespeare 1 close up

Okay, I’ve been having fun playing with vintage metal letterpress type, too.

I’m making 8 X 8 shadow box frame versions like the one above, and, in a smaller image at a smaller price point, a matted 8 X 8 option with mini-versions of these vintage cards.  Like this:

hashtag authors dickens 1 two w

hashtag authors dickens 1 closeup

Here we have Charles Dickens, in the midst of David Copperfield. Hence the reference to himself as @trueastaxes, the quote, “Trifles make the sum of life,” and the hashtag #umblepie.  (That’s bona fide “umble,” not “humble.”)

You get the idea.  In my Etsy shop I’ve got a couple of the framed versions and three of the matted pieces.  I’ll add more as I make them and want to have a nice selection of these (and lots of literary art) for my booth the 2013 Decatur Book Festival coming up Labor Day Weekend.

For these “hashtag classic authors,” I’m only using phrases lifted from their direct quotations and works.  I hope they would get a kick out of them if they time-travelled to our fast-paced, social-media-driven lives.  To see this section in my Etsy shop, click here.  Enjoy, and thanks for visiting!

 

 

Art Break Wednesday: Ann Goble’s Fine Art

 

Today I have a special treat – for me and for you!

First, I get to meet my friend Ann Goble for lunch.  We try to do this every once in a while – not nearly enough!  Ann has been a dear friend for many years, as we’ve both raised our kids and pursued creative careers as well.  Our sons just graduated, but I know our friendship will long continue.

Now the treat for you – I thought I’d share a bit of Ann’s work here to brighten your day.  I’ll have her back for a real interview soon, but I wanted to whet your appetite.21096_805145ss ann b w head shot

Ann began seriously painting in1999.  She has studied under renowned painters including Roseta Santiago, David Leffel, Gregg Kreutz and Marc Chatov.  Her work has garnered numerous awards and hangs in galleries and private collections.

Her paintings are breathtaking.  Here are some of my favorites:

the-boss goble

The Boss – ©Ann Goble. All rights reserved.

camelia-on-white goble

Camellia on White – – ©Ann Goble. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

amber goble

Amber – – ©Ann Goble. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Ann begins her artist’s statement, “Painting is for me a search for beauty.”  I think you’ll agree she’s found it! You can learn more about Ann and see additional paintings here.

 

SAMSUNG

Horses of Los Cob – © Ann Goble. All rights reserved.

But wait – there’s more!  Ann’s mother,  Ruth I. Money, is also an accomplished painter.  (You know, the apple doesn’t fall…)  Ruth and Ann have exhibited their paintings in the same shows before, and if you happen to live in north Georgia, you can see an exhibit celebrating both their careers.  “Mothers and Daughters” runs until July 19 at The Bowen Center for the Arts.  Click here for more info, directions, and images of paintings –  and feel free to leave some love in the comments below.

Art Break Wednesday: Uri Shulevitz’s WRITING WITH PICTURES

images WRITING WITH PICTURES cover

If I had to clear out my shelves and give up all but one book about illustrating children’s books, I’d keep Uri Shulevitz’s classic, WRITING WITH PICTURES – How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books (Watson-Guptill Publications).  I have the bona fide 1985 version, which includes chapters on color separation – a process unknown to young illustrators today, I’m sure!

I revisited this wonderful volume this past week because I had to list a favorite quote for a blog interview appearing today at Check It Out.  I snuck in two quotes – one on haiku writing and one for art, the Uri Shulevitz quote I have literally written on my wall above my drawing table:

Give up the idea of the perfect flawless picture, and aim for one that is alive instead.

The book contains hundreds of examples of illustration that is alive, mostly Shulevitz’s own work but also work by other artists, including many classics.  Shulevitz won the Caldecott medal in 1969 for Arthur Ransome’s retelling of THE FOOL AND HIS FLYING SHIP and a Caldecott honor in 1980 for THE TREASURE.  Born in 1935 in Warsaw, the young Shulevitz and his family fled from Poland during World War II.  He lived in France and Israel before settling in New York to work and teach.

WRITING WITH PICTURES delves into what makes a story with a complete action as well as the finer points of drawing technique, style, and composition.  It includes the best examples I know about creating a storyboard and dummy.  For a taste, here is an excerpt from the book as tutorial on the site, Mighty Art Demos, which says the tutorial is reproduced with permission from the publisher.   While this is a pretty thorough excerpt, I’d still encourage anyone to purchase the book, chock-full of clear explanations and insights about the process from beginning to end.  Here are a few more quotes, to give you an idea:

A picture book is closer to theater and film, silent films in particular, than to other kinds of books.  It is a unique type of book.  (p. 16)

For a story to succeed, the reader must be engrossed in each successive moment of the story and must care about what happens next, or at least be curious enough to want to know. (p. 41)

Outstanding illustrations are effective on at least two levels.  First, they tell us the story, portraying the subject matter accurately; and second, the abstract pattern of the picture is alive in its own right, with an underlying geometric structure that gives character and strength to the forms. (p. 129)

Great stuff, no?  I have other books on illustration that I treasure, but this one captured me early on and still rings true.  Do you have any favorites?