In working on my anxiety series, I have spent a lot of time trying to find the words, the language to convey the constant busy-ness of my brain. It seemed when I focused on it, it would just disappear. A few months ago I started writing short bullets, nothing topic-specific. Using my light table, I am making stencils of these ideas. Quite a pile is accumulating!
I am also experimenting with words in other ways, which I will show in a while, after I have worked on them a bit more.
I hope you are enjoying your summer so far. Get outside and take advantage of nature to help with overall mental health. Also remember to take some time to be creative. Research shows it’s good for your mental health too, whether you think you’re good at it or not!
In a previous post, I mentioned I am working on a new series for a solo show at Harcourt House Artist-Run Centre‘s Art Incubator Gallery in 2020. I would like to incorporate text into the series in some way. So far I have spent a lot of time thinking about how this might work and I have not been satisfied with my attempts.
Last week having trouble sleeping, as can happen when anxiety levels are high, I thought about a different method using embossing. Some excited searching at 1:30 am made me think it could work. Lucky for me I had some supplies at the ready, due to a brief flirtation with scrapbooking in the early 2000’s. The next step was to find the right material to work with. My work is digital and I have not bought art supplies in a long while, however I do still have a fairly good assortment of paper from my traditional art material days. After some unsuccessful attempts, I went to You Tube to look up embossing (spoiler alert – the stencil goes under the paper). Next step was to think about making stencils. After trying to trace on paper taped to a window, I realized this was not sustainable. My arm was aching something fierce.
Experimenting with paper
DIY Light table – dust-free, chemical-free, one stop shop
Next step, searching light tables. These can be a bit pricey, from $60-$150 depending on what size you would like to have. If I was going to trace things all the time, I could see making the investment, but for now I want a cheaper option. After looking up DIY light tables I was starting to think I would need to check out some used furniture places for a glass topped end table (not my favourite activity as I find they are like a dust mite rave and I have a strong reaction). Most of the information I found in blogs involved using a router or sawing, getting a specific size of acrylic sheeting, spray painting, etc. I wanted a dust-free, chemical-free one-stop shop kind of option. I checked out Ikea, based on a comment made by a blogger about using an Ikea picture frame and some LED lights. Success! I didn’t think a picture frame would work, now that Ikea uses a thinner plastic for their glazing, but I did find another option.
I purchased the Nesna Nightstand on sale, then sourced a white cardboard box (note: white to increase reflectivity) in the home organization section and purchased LED string lights (lights do not get hot so won’t be a fire hazard). After assembling the nightstand, I put the lights into the box and slid the box under the table top, using the lid to raise it up for a snug fit. Once I knew it would fit, I used a piece of paper palette left over from my painting days and taped it to the underside of the glass top with painter’s tape (you could use waxed paper or white tissue paper). I didn’t want to make it permanent as I want to be able to repurpose the table when I don’t need it as a light table. All in all I am pleased with the result. It cost me about $30. I am thinking of replacing the LED string lights with an LED camping lantern I found in the basement, as I’d like the light to be a bit stronger. My Ikea was out of the 24 light strand, so I bought two 12 light strands, which are ok but not as bright as I’d like. As you can see in the photo below, it will fit a pice of 9″x12″ paper.
To make it more permanent, you could close in the sides and bottom of the table and/or use LED strip lighting, however this will increase your costs so you’ll have to decide if it still makes sense to DIY. If you would like a larger table and you don’t mind dust, chemicals and using tools, I found this video, as well as several other options.
Frames: The best frames I have found if you want to have the option of changing your artwork are Opus Exhibition frames. They are sturdier than what you can find at your local Scandinavian store and the fasteners at the back allow you to easily switch out your artwork. The mail order versions now only come with plexiglass so you do not have to worry about breakage. You do, however, require special cloths and cleaner if you plan to clean the plexiglass. DO NOT use paper towel or regular glass cleaner on plastic or plexiglass. These items can also be purchased through Opus.
Wiring frames: I was never very good at wiring a frame for hanging, then I watched a few YouTube videos. Here is a good one. Note not all frames can be wired, as the D-rings on the back are not made to hold the weight of the frame from a centre point. You want a ring that looks like this. If the D-rings are triangular shaped, and you cannot see the ends, I would not wire them as in my experience they will fail. Instead use two picture hangers (see below for video on hanging with D-hooks only). Coated wire saves your fingers or just put on a pair of gloves that offer some grip. I use gardening gloves.
How high to hang your art? Gallery height is between 147-150 cm, which is considered eye level (i.e. the centre of the art will be at eye level). To hang your art, measure the length of your frame, and divide by 2. Pull the picture wire on the back of the frame as if it were hanging on the wall, and measure the tightened wire point to the top of the frame (tight wire measurement). Subtract the tight wire measurement from the 1/2 frame measurement. This is your “from the hook” amount. Add this to 147 cm. Then you use your tape measure to measure from the floor to that point, and that’s where you put your nail. If you are using a picture hook, you will will want the hook to sit at this point, not the nail, so keep that in mind. Write the measurement on the back of the frame, so you only have to figure it out once.
So, if your frame is 60 cm long, it would look like this:
60/2 = 30 – 3 (tight wire measurement) = 27 + 147 = 174 cm (measure from floor)
Hanging a group: If you are hanging a group of pictures, choose one as the centre, hang it at eye level and then hang all the other ones around it.
Hanging in a row: If you are hanging them in a row, make sure your picture wire “from the hook” is exactly the same for all of your frames (e.g. all tight wire measurements are 5 cm). This will save you a lot of hassle when hanging.
D-rings only: If you are not using wire and are just using the D-rings, here is a handy video. Large pieces of art are usually hung with two D-rings instead of wire because of their weight.
Not sure? You can always consult with a local framer or the framing department at a craft store. Just make sure the person you talk to actually does framing.
Process: Every artist has their own way of getting started. Some do a lot of sketches, others are inspired by things they see or read, some just dive in and figure it out as they go. I get inspiration from life experiences, music, poetry, other things I read, and nature. To get started, I just draw. Starting a painting is called laying down a ground (a base). When I work, I often draw lots of grounds with no set idea and see if something appears that I want to expand on. This way of working is called automatism. Artists like Joan Miró, Paul-Émile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle used automatism during their careers to create spontaneous works of art. Sometimes I will let the ground sit for a long time before working with it again and other times can see where I want the drawing to go right away. One I am working on now, I first drew in 2016. Other times I have an idea in mind and I work to create that vision. It’s a very intuitive process. One thing you do not want to do is overwork it. It’s hard to know when you’ve hit that point. I find when I am revisiting small details over and over, it’s time to ignore the drawing for a while and then revisit it with fresh eyes. Usually when I do that, I’ll decide it’s done.
Dream collaboration: This is a really tough one that’s firmly in dream territory. There are lots of artists I admire for different reasons. I think I would go with another artist who’s work I find very inspiring, Helen Frakenthaler (December 12, 1928 – December 27, 2011). I was able to see some of her print works over the summer in Chicago, which was very exciting. To make them, Frankenthaler collaborated with master print makers so I feel like she would be comfortable with the idea of working with another artist. I, on the other hand, usually prefer to work alone 😀 Maybe I would even venture into the land of colour!
As for a living person, living artists I admire include Ira Hoffecker, Robin Smith Peck, Paddy Lamb and Sean Caulfield. Lucky for me I get to see their work without having to travel far afield. The latter two I’ve had the privilege of hearing talk about their art. I could learn so much from all of these artists. So, if any are looking for a collaboration, give me a call 😉
Mistake: In art like in other aspects of life there can be happy mistakes. When working on a piece, you get attached to certain aspects of it and they start to hold you back. You want to keep them, but you can’t seem to resolve (i.e. finish) the work. You either decide to take out one or all of the things you like, or you make a mistake that removes something. Then suddenly you get a renewed creative burst. Those are the fun mistakes.
A not so fun mistake is to, let’s say, not set your paper correctly on the cutting mat and then cut it an inch too short, the day before you are to hang your show. Thankfully for me I have a great framer nearby who was able to problem solve and cut a mat for me. Pro tip: get a mat the same colour as the frame so it looks like an extension of the frame. Oh and double check where zero is on your cutting mat and measure twice, cut once 🙂
What I am working on: My digital work at the moment is focusing on anxiety. It will be the focus of my show at Harcourt House Artist Run Centre‘s Art Incubator Gallery in the summer of 2020. I am looking at using text as well as trying some larger format prints. We’ll see how it all comes together, and I am excited about the challenge.
Workspace: My workspace is very portable. I use my iPhone a lot to do drawings when I am on the go. I have worked on drawings in waiting rooms, offices, various sports venues, pools, etc. If I’m home I will work on my iPad. My preferred place to work is my living room with some decaf coffee by my side. Access to a little organic, soy-free chocolate never hurts either 🙂
Goals: My art goal is to continue to grow, now that I am done with course work . I am limited in the sense that I cannot try new materials but I try to find other ways to stretch. I am working on incorporating text into some of my work. It is harder to do than I imagined so there is lots of failure, or rather practice, happening. I recently got an Apple pencil, which may help with what I am trying to achieve.
My career goal is to have one group or solo show per year. I was lucky to have a very supportive instructor, Brenda Malkinson, who encouraged me to apply for my first group show in 2015. I didn’t think I had any chance but I was happy to be wrong! I participated in Latitude 53’s Incubator group show and the same year I had a drawing published in aceartinc’s PaperWait arts publication. Since then I have participated in #YEGCANVAS, and CARFAC Alberta’s Ten Voices. My solo show All exits look the same was at the ArtPoint Upstairs Gallery in Calgary in 2018. So far, I have skipped 2019.
Motivation: I like to be challenged, or I start to get bored, and I love practical problem solving. Bringing an idea to life, along with applying art principles is very satisfying for me. Visually abstracting the idea adds an extra layer of challenge which I enjoy. My other motivation is to bring forward subjects that are not part of our regular conversation, in hopes that it will encourage people to talk with others, and in doing so make it a more accepted aspect of our interactions.