Tiny Accordion Books

I’ve been doing a lot of abstract work with intense layering, and not every experiment works out quite like I envisioned it would.  Usually, when I’m not satisfied with one side, I flip the paper over and start working on the other.  This leaves me with with a lot of double-sided hand-painted acrylic paper, and I thought I’d try cutting it into strips and creating an small accordion book. I always like the idea of combining text and images, and the sequential folds, with paint spilling from page to page, were conducive to free writing.

What I like about the accordion fold books is that one side segues into the other, so that the poem is circular, even though each side is has such a different feel.  I think of them as mini-journals.

For these, I used Golden Fluid acrylics (I love the intensive of the colors), tube acrylics, and a variety of texturing media, including hand-carved rubber stamps.

Blue Series – Exercises in Abstraction

I’ve always had a hard time loosening up and “letting art happen,” and instead often find myself stuck after attempting to micro-manage every aspect of what I’m planning to do.  As an exercise, I started working on a series of four abstracts based on closing my eyes and moving with unrestrained gestures.  I worked on all four abstracts in the same fashion, at every stage.

Wolfhound (Kali Tal 2012)

I chose various texturing pastes while listening to music. I thought of my arm and hand as dancing to the music, and focused on the movements rather than the results. When I’d finished six layers of texturing (maybe 2-3 per day), I laid down black lines of paint from an acrylic squeeze bottle, again with closed eyes, while listening to music. The idea was to learn to move fluidly, and to keep myself from getting in my own way by pulling my gestures short based on prejudgement of the results.

Blue Unicorn (Kali Tal 2012)

Once the lines were on the paper, I took a scraper and closed my eyes again, moving it against the paper as as the music moved me.  I walked away without looking, washed my scraper and came back the next day.  It surprised me, in every instance, that when I looked at the results I saw very clear images that gave me direction for continuing the paintings.  When the lines of the image resolved, I stared for a moment or two, closed my eyes again with the music on, and laid in a layer of clear acrylic gloss, filling in areas of the “body” that, in my mind, had emerged.  I knew that subsequent layers of acrylic would not adhere to the gloss layer, and that they would give body to the shapes the lines made in my head.

The Stork and Her Egg (Kali Tal 2012)

Then I glazed with subsequent layers of fluid acrylics, glosses, and spatters, letting them dry between applications.  For each of these applications, I looked at the image, and then closed my eyes before applying the medium.  In this fashion, the depth of the images and the backgrounds surfaced in round after round.  It was very, very hard to resist opening my eyes.  I blew it a couple of times, but in each instance I just put the brush or scraper down before touching the paper and walked away from the table.  Later I returned and finished the layer.

The Moon & Her Child (Kali Tal 2012)

I stopped working on an image when it “felt” done.  This happened at different times for each of the four pieces.  In the end, I was happier with the results than I’ve been with any of my other work in acrylics, mainly because of the strength and power of the lines. It’s a reminder that in art, sometimes, the less one thinks, the better.  For me, the struggle to find the balance between eyes, mind, and heart is at the center of it.

Andalucia art journal

Chipiona LighthouseLast May I took a driving trip through Andalucia with my husband. I took a lot of photos and when I got home I decided to turn them into an art journal. I’ve posted the results in a new gallery.

I gessoed some universal art paper, and then transferred some of the photo images with Golden gloss gel. Other pages I worked over with Distress Ink. When the initial prep was done, I drew, painted, collaged and wrote until I was satisfied. I finished some of the pages with an acrylic glaze and varnished others, depending on the media. Then I bound the book with a Zutter spiral binder and set it on my shelf.

I’m very happy with the way the images turned out. I’m less happy with my handwriting — I’ve never like it, since I was a kid. I’m thinking that the next book I do, I’ll use printed or transferred text. I also don’t like the plastic spiral binding as much as I would like a metal ring binding or a sewn binding, so I’ll try that for the next book as well.

Adventures in Abstraction

A few weeks ago I started a new series of paintings based on movement and intuition.  It’s a new thing for me — painting from my gut instead of my eyes and my head. The truth is I think too much and I talk too much, and so I’m trying to just shut up and paint.  That’s why I’m not going to talk much about these paintings, though I will explain my process a bit. They are all done on A3 Gerstaecker Universal recycled paper. In all cases I limited myself to 3 colors + black.

“Gossips with Dog,” Lascaux acrylics, Golden Fluid Acrylics, pencil, rubber resist, scrapers. Kali Tal 2011

In all cases I started by applying the Lascaux black right out of the squeeze bottle, listening to music, with my eyes closed. The goal was to get sweeping lines that matched my emotional state, and to keep them rhythmic.  I let the black lines dry a bit (using a hairdryer to speed the process) and then went to work with a scraper to give them more of a sense of movement.

“The Merman,” Lascaux acrylics, Golden Fluid Acrylics, resist, scrapers. ©Kali Tal 2011

Then I turned off the music and studied the black lines.  In some cases (the Gossips and the Merman above) the shapes immediately suggested the direction of the painting.  I used resist to mask off the parts that I wanted to keep white before painting other shapes in color. Then I masked again.  It’s a bit hard to see in the photos, but there is a lot of glazing to create the shading in each layer.

“Heart / Hand,” Lascaux acrylic, Golden Fluid Acrylics, resist, pencil. © Kali Tal 2011

In “Heart / Hand,” after masking off the white spaces, I dropped thinned Fluid Acrylic on the paper and blew it around with the hair dryer in order to create interesting patterns. I masked over parts of the glazing in each layer to create depth, and then then worked with pencil.  It’s called “Heart / Hand” because viewing it with the golden trunk at the bottom of the page makes it look like a growing tree or a hand.  But flip it 180 degrees and the trunk comes down like an aorta into the chambers of a heart.

“Vicious Circle,” Lascaux acrylics, Golden Fluid Acrylics, resist, pencil. © Kali Tal 2011

My emotional connection to “Vicious Circle” was very intense, and the wailing, tortured figure simply jumped off the page when I took a look at the way the black paint had dried. This is the most layered of all the abstracts and I used resist as a kind of negative paint, moving it around with both the toothed scraper and wooden chopsticks.  Like the paint, the resist was added in succession, masking different colors in different textures.

All the paintings were created over about a week’s time, because each layer of glazing had to dry thoroughly. I found that if the paper was even the least little bit damp, it would stay wet after the resist was poured on, and rubbing the resist would also rub off the underlying paint.  Though this is the very beginning of my experiment, I’m pleased with the results so far and I’m going to keep at it until I feel like I’ve taken this particular technique to its limit.  The plan is to work on paper, and eventually “graduate” to canvas when I feel more in control of the process.

June 4 Workshop — Fabrics in Collage

Fabrics aren’t just for sewing! You can make journal pages out of them, collage them into your journal pages, decorate them with paints, stamps or beads, and use interesting fabric patterns as a basis for your own designs. Dig through your fabric collection and bring your favorite scraps to class!


Workshop – Transfer Techniques

Create transfers from photocopies, to do direct transfers onto acrylic paint and gesso, and other methods of transferring images. Some of these techniques take multiple days, but most can be completed in just an hour or two. None require any previous experience.

Bring black & white photocopies of images that you would like to use in your journals. Do not bring inkjet or home laser-printed copies — they will not work the same way. You may also bring laser and inkjet printed color images, which we will also use in transfer.  And don’t worry if you don’t have images!  I will provide all materials.

Click here to sign up for this or other Art Journal Workshops.

Workshop – Making Backgrounds with Collage

Paint isn’t the only way to create a background image for an Art Journal page. In this class we’ll explore the art of collaging to create a surface for paint, ink, and other media.

If you already have paper images that you would like to use, please bring them to class.  But because this is a workshop and we’re trying new techniques, I suggest that you don’t bring precious, one-of-a-kind items for your experimentation.  And if you don’t have images or paper, don’t worry!  All materials will be provided.

Click here to sign up for this, and other Art Journal Workshops.

Preparing Mixed Surfaces with Acrylic & Resists

In this workshop you’ll gain a familiarity with acrylic foundations that create texture.  We’ll experiment with grainy and smooth pastes, and you’ll learn how to impress patterns into them to create wonderfully textured backgrounds for your journal pages.  We’ll also work with resists, which are prevent the acrylic from staining certain parts of the paper, allowing you to keep color areas separate and bright.

Art Journaling – T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton”

I first read “Burnt Norton” when I was about 15 years old, and it blew me away.  My dad had read me the section of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man about 4 or 5 years earlier, and that had become the standard I used to think of infinity and the incomprehensible nature of eternity. But “Burnt Norton” got me to thinking about time in human terms — what the passage of time felt like, and how, even though we lived at such a small scale in the greater scheme of things, we could still have a sense “time before” and “time after.”  And as many times as I read this poem, over more decades than I care to think about, it never fails to move me. Even after I learned about Eliot’s lousy politics and prejudices, and I could no longer stomach “The Waste Land,” the Four Quartets, and “Burnt Norton” in particular remained a part of my internal landscape.

This is done on a black gesso background, with Painty pens for the rose, and Eddings metallic pens for the writing and flourishes.

Art Journaling – William Blake’s “Tyger Tyger”

I’ve been working on a series of art journal pages based on my favorite poems.  “Tyger Tyger” was one of the first poems that ever captured my imagination, as a small child. My dad read it to me (and defined the word “symmetry” for me), and it was the first time that words ever evoked such striking visual images in my imagination. Back then tigers were magical and powerful symbols, and in my imagination they ruled the jungles of the world, inspiring fear and awe in animals and humans alike. Now the thought of them is coupled with a feeling of sadness for their impending extinction in the wild — there are less than 3200 tigers still living free — and the sense that the world is smaller and less magical than I’d hoped it would be.

Lots of background layering in this, including leopard-spotted tissue paper, metallic & neon paint. Tiger is collaged and over-painted. “FREE” is a 3-D stencil using Lascaux stucco medium.