Friday, July 23, 2010

MCBA Visual Journal Collective and an owl

On Monday night I attended the MCBA Visual Journal Collective meeting, with Roz Stendahl and 18 other members. We met at the Textile Center for a hands-on demonstration of fabric screen printing using an image from our sketchbook or journal. Karen Wallach, a collective member, gave the demonstration as she belongs/works for the Textile Center. The process itself used a ThermoFax to produce the screens. It was quite interesting and loads of fun.
We were asked to bring in a sketch or drawing to use, along with any fabric, paper, or clothing we wanted to print onto. Quite a few people, myself included, needed to redraw our image using black pen and white paper, as we were supposed to have a simple black and white image like you would carve a block print from. I brought a photocopy of a watercolor and ink owl from a graffiti project example I did during the school year. The original image:

So, before the start of the printing process I had to redraw the owl as a simple line drawing in my journal, which would then be made into a toner based copy to be used in the machine. Karen was the checker of images to be used (she wanted us to have success) and she was unsure of whether or not mine would show all the tiny line detail as a print, but I forged ahead anyway willing to take the risk.

The process itself involved taking our copy, matching it to a screen frame size, and cutting the correct amount of silk screen to fit the frame. Our image was then placed into a plastic carrier sleeve and sent through the ThermoFax machine. The heat from the machine "burns out" the toner ink from a gel on the back of the screen, creating tiny holes for the ink to be pushed through. We then took our screen and mounted it to the plastic frame and encased the entire frame and the edge of the screen in duct tape (have to love that stuff).

After our screen was made, we took it into the next room and printed from it. I have to say there is something very magical about using your image to create prints, it just makes me smile to see multiples that are all original. My image turned out great despite the potential for some of the fine line detail to be lost. My only problem came from not quite pulling the ink all the way down into the tail in every print.
Karen had muslin available for us to practice on and a range of fabric inks and acrylic paints to try. I stuck with black acrylic printing ink made for fabric. I printed a couple of practices on the muslin and two prints on some batik fabric I brought from home.

At that point I switched to paper and printed on two bags, the type that come from a wine bottle, all tall and skinny. I also had a pre-painted sheet of heavy watercolor paper, and a sheet of red print making paper that I tried as well.

By the end of the night I had printed on a variety of surfaces both fabric and paper and was quite pleased with the results, and especially pleased to be able to take home my screen to continue to print from.

I highly recommend giving the screen printing process a try. There are several resources for having your own images made into screens available online, just search ThermoFax printing, and I am sure you can find a spot near you that will make screens for a reasonable price. The Textile Center here in Minneapolis will make them in three sizes: 8x10, 5x7, 3x4 (roughly), for $12, $8.50, and $5.50 respectively.
Well, I am off to print my owl onto my apron.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Sunday trip to the museum

My daughter had three friends spend the night on Saturday and they requested a trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Art on Sunday. We had a great time spending a couple of hours admiring the art. The friends had only ever been once before and they all seemed to enjoy themselves. They even volunteered to submit themselves to art experiments and adventures under my guidance here at the house. Which we were going to start that very afternoon with a paper marbling session, but I got a call from a painter friend who wondered if I would be her plein air partner for the afternoon, so the girls took a raincheck so I could go try my hand at open air painting (more on that later).

Rather than lug my sketchbook or a bag in the museum, I grabbed two sheets of 6x8 paper and folded them into my pocket which also contained a Sakura micron pen. That way when I wanted to sketch I could just whip out my mini supply kit and go for it. That is one advantage of going to a museum with 15 year olds, they can wander well ahead and no one gets lost or scared. I managed only three drawings in the museum, and when I got home I ripped the folded paper into tiny sheets each with its own drawing, and then I glued them into my journal and added frames. I like the results and I will go to the museum that way again. Always amazing how one drawing ends up "the warmup" and is not as accurate (horse in this case).
After returning I packed up my gear, really my bag full of paints and clips and a drawing board along with some paper, and went out to Excelsior to paint with my friend Pat, who is an amazing painter and my coworker. I have been wanting to do some plein air painting, it just seems to go along with the on location sketching that I have been doing. Pat has been raving about Golden Open acrylics all spring and how great they are to paint with, even though she is usually a watercolor painter. So I figured I would go paint, nervously, with Pat and try my sample kit of Open while I was at it.

All that being said I made a couple of mistakes/tactical errors that afternoon.
First - I have been using watercolor or liquid acrylics (also by Golden, they are simply the best) in my sketchbook and in my art for the last couple of years. Which means I have experience in these mediums and should have tried the new plein air part in a medium I was comfortable with rather than switch to something I was new to using.
Second - I chose to use Arches watercolor paper, because I love it and it works well for me when I use it to paint the way I normally paint. Let's just say I was frustrated from the beginning. The paint is different than I am used to, I like washy color and using layers of translucent paint which is a very different feel and process than the Open acrylics. The paint and the paper did not get along - at all. Watercolor paper absorbs paint and water, that is what makes it fabulous to paint on with wet watery paint. With thick, slow to dry paint being applied with lots of water, it also absorbs paint and water, but in a new and frustrating way.
Third - I froze, I thought too much, and I let my mind overtake the process. Rather than enjoy my day and just let go and try something new, I got in the way of myself. Which artists can do quite regularly.
So my first try at open air painting was frustrating and I hate the painting, which I abandoned in favor of my sketchbook, a pen, and watercolor.
All that being said, Pat told me she did the same thing earlier this summer, with the paper. She also told me it took her about a year to get the hang of the plein air thing. So I am not going to give up, I just need to try again, next Sunday with Pat. She said she would call me with a location.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Drawing Army Guys

March 2012 ~ I am flattered by the traffic this image is suddenly receiving. If you are interested in this type of drawing for your website or business, please email me at

Thanks ~ Suzanne

So, for the last week or two my husband has had me working on cleaning up an old t-shirt image that was a line drawing so he could use it to have new t-shirts made for a reunion. Needless to say the image is of a military soldier, not my favorite subject, and that the task has been wildly frustrating.
First frustration has been my client's displeasure with the images - I had an old, badly warped image someone sent in an email, that was not my drawing but someone else's. It was hard to work from someone else's art and even harder because the image was stretched. My second attempt was to draw from another person's drawing off the back of a much loved old t-shirt of my husband's. No luck, I am not that familiar with military grab and I could not make out most of the image.
So as a last ditch effort to give my husband's group fresh reunion tees, I found several images online that I thought might work and drew my own drawing's from the photos. The results are much better, or at least I am happier with them. Now I have drawn a total of four army guys, completed two entire t-shirt designs (one with my image and one with the original borrowed warped image), and I find out he is going to let the group decide. Ugh - fussy clients are a pain! Especially when you live with them.
In the end I have spent a lot of the last two days drawing, even if the topic was not my first choice, and it is always good to stretch yourself. Now I am off to draw a tree or something.

Drawing in black uniball pen on smooth drawing paper.

Monday, July 12, 2010

First Tomato

The tomato plants in a pot that I have on my front patio this summer are about to produce the first of this summer's fruit. I am so excited; it will be the first year in many that we have had our own plants.
I am trying to make an effort to draw/paint/art everyday this summer, with mixed results. I was supposed to begin my book illustrations today, but I was feeling a little "off", so instead I journaled my tomato excitement. This is my page from today. I sat out front on my step and drew the first, ripe tomato on the plant. Being I was at home and had the luxury of time, I first sketched in sharpie pen and then came in and grabbed my paints and brush and did some watercolor over the pen drawing. I spent about an hour total on this page.

Aquabee journal 9x9, sharpie, watercolor (Van Gogh travel pans)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wishing . . .

"Look at the sky and make a wish"
That is one of the new artist inspired prompts (for writing or your choice of art medium) in a new website of artist generated lesson ideas for students and teachers that is being put out by the Getty.
So yesterday I painted the sky into my Aquabee 9x9 sketchbook with liquid acrylic and made a wish. I am hoping to use my wish today as I begin to draw my first ever set of book illustrations. I will post sketches as they become available.
So, make a wish, and then go make art however you like best.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mixed Media Class at MCAD

Last week I was involved with a class at MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art & Design) called "Mixed Media". The class was one of their art educator offerings that they have every summer. It was taught by an artist named Helen Stringfellow.
I must say the class was great fun. There were only ten students, which is a nice number of people to work with. Students came from Germany (2), Canada, Oregon, North Dakota, as well as in and around the metro area (5).
We all were to come to the week long class prepared with a theme or topic we would be working with all week. My theme was owls, mostly because I have a ton of imagery ready from using owls all school year as my main topic or subject.
Each day we had a new assignment or technique we learned in the morning and we had time to work on our personal take or use for that technique in the afternoon. We made rubbings on the first day, just like in elementary school, with a variety of textures, mediums and papers. We then made a large collage using the rubbings as elements and a journey as a jumping point. (see large greenish blue rectangle on the left made using a large sheet of heavy weight Canson, a variety of rubbings using tracing paper, butcher paper, newspaper, Sennelier oil pastels, Golden liquid acrylic ) The resulting work is very abstract, which is unusual for me, but the activity was fun and it really got the class rolling.
The next day we learned about transfers. We used Citra-solv, an organic, smelly, oily, orange-based solvent (can you tell I didn't like it?), Chartpak blender pens, packing tape, and gel medium both to make a "skin" and to transfer an image. All of the above list are methods of making transfers from toner based photocopies. Although the packing tape will turn any image into a sticker-like sheet that can be glued down. My most successful transfers came from using the marker and from gel medium, as a transfer method, not a "skin". But, it was fun to try so many ways of getting a transfer and seeing the different effects and results. Everyone had mixed results and ways they preferred to transfer their images onto their work. See the top book in center image, made using both cream and black Stonehenge paper and a series of marker transfers.
The next day we talked about printing. Carving simple stamps from easy-cut, using a kneaded eraser to make a stamp, self stick cork or foam, simple screen prints, and stencil printing.
On the following day we talked about books (my favorite) and started to think about moving our work more into 3-D. We also talked about fibers and using the printing and other transfers on fabric rather than paper. The bottom book in the center image was made using Stonehenge paper, Golden liquid acrylics, transfers using marker, block prints using Golden open acrylics as ink, and my own paste paper cover. Final image was my final project for the week made using gel medium to transfer the owl image, Golden liquid acrylics, and Arches watercolor - sign at store said 740 lbs - it is very heavy, and wire to hang images out from wall.
It was a great class. It is always great as a teacher to become the student again and spend some time trying new things and making artwork. Now if I could only figure out how to get my images placed into my blog as the text goes along rather than all at once, or post info with the images. Oh well, I never said I was an amazing blogger.