Monday, May 26, 2008

Fauxnally Rusty

Since taking the Assemblooks class a few weeks ago (see previous posts) I've been thinking about how to make ordinary items look like they've been sitting in a drainpipe for years. Today's subject of rustination was simple chipboard. Not that chipboard generally regards rustiness as part of its destiny, but mine does.

Experiments and results in the picture above! I started with several types of embossing powders that I had on hand. I'm a bit heavy on the "dirt colored" end of the embossing powder, pigment, paint, etc. end of the color wheel, so I have lots of this stuff on hand. None of them were really satisfactory, as they all came out too shiny looking. These can be seen in the strip of chipboard on the right side of the picture. I tried painting washes on top of them, interesting and I think I'll use this idea again, but not the desired rusty metal effect I was looking for. Best example of this (shiny E.P. and paint wash) is on the bottom corner of the strip on the left.

Then I broke out my Tim Holtz Distressing embossing powder, and things started to happen. It has a matte finish, and looks very granular, so I knew this was the right stuff, just needed to get some refinement. I painted an undercoat of brown paint (try any color of brown to copper that you like) and put the powder on top of it. Then, I sprinkled a little bit of verdigris embossing powder on top of that for some exciting color, and put a wash of paint on top of that, for a more mottled effect, and because Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold is just great stuff. This is the "fauxnally rusty" top part of the strip on the left.

Husband agreed it looked remarkably realistic. Just like the now rusty dies that I "liberated" from his tap and die set (see previous posts).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

All Art is Illusion - the Telectroscope

I was listening to BBC Worldservice on the way to work the other day, and they did a story on this wonderful new art installation currently on display on the South Bank of the Thames in London, and in Brooklyn, NY. It's called a "Telectroscope" - follow or copy/paste into your browser the link below to see for yourself:

The concept is that there's a tunnel running from London to New York, and if you look down the tunnel, the people on the other side (3,000 miles away) can see you and you can see them. Apparently the drill bits bored up from the rivers just a few days ago, revealing this Jules Vernian portal with gears and steam and bells and whistles. (Ok, so it's really a type of webcam and a lot of very clever props and decor, but I could care less about the mechanics. "Why....because all art is illusion" quote from Michael de Meng - see previous posts on class with Michael)

This just totally caught my imagination - my Grandmother lived in Enfield (north London) and when I was a child (1970s) , I dreamed of her being talk to her on a picture phone and being able to see her and the house where she lived. My Nan has passed on 21 years ago, but I still miss her very much, wouldn't it have been wonderful if she could have gone to this and waved at me? I know, we have webcams and texting and all sorts of marvels now, but doesn't this just seem more romantic?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

In which I learn the Secrets of Rusty Things

Here's photo proof that I've really met Michael de Meng! Well, like you needed that, but hey, I just wanted to show you.....

In our class, Assemblooks, we learned all about Michael's way of altering books. Now I've done some altered book work before the class following the general ideas presented in Altered Books Workshop by Bev Brazelton (which is a good primer on the subject if you want to know more about altered books in general), but nothing like this!

Basically we took the pages right out of our books, so just had the spine, and then worked with foam core board to sculpt "pages" which we then adhesed together to form essentially a shadow box effect. You could build as much or as little "found objects" as you wanted to into the construction. In this form, the altered book is more like a very elaborate box or even possibly a frame. The great thing about altered books, and altered art in general, is that there isn't any one way of doing anything, it's whatever you want it to be.

Michael is an Assemblage artist (which is pronounced to rhyme with "collage" not "fridge") He started the class by talking about his ideas about art, and encouraged us to rummage through a box of "rusty things" that he'd brought with him for our inspiration!

He then gave us a primer on using power tools (scary but intriguing; he was happy to use them for the people that weren't comfortable about this part of the class), alternative adhesives and texturing materials (Dap Tub and Tile Caulk, Liquid Nails, and a few others), and later on, paint. Oh my! Michael is the king of basically what amounts to faux finish paint effects. Now, I don't want to give away any of his trade secrets, so I'll just say he taught us how to create "uszhh" (that olivey color that appears on almost all of his work), and it's near cousins "warm uszhh", "not so uszhh", and various washes that simulate the look of slate, water, verdigris, antiquing new metal, and faux burned paper (according to Michael, faux burned paper takes three times as long as just burning the paper, but is much less likely to go awry, so it has its positives!)

In between giving us information, he walked around and helped people with whatever they personally needed (technique, information, suggestions). I was so impressed with how generous and individualized the attention was. He also has a great sense of humor and is VERY approachable. He sat with the students at lunch and talked about travel, art, and mowing hay (one of the women in class has a cattle farm). At the end of class, he played, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and that was our signal to place our artwork on a table for a little exhibit.

After everyone had their pieces up, we gathered around in a circle and Michael critiqued everyone's work (not scary at all, very supportive and encouraging!) He really spent a good amount of time with each piece and went over them carefully making observations, asking the artists about their ideas on the work, and pointing out features of each piece. It was really great to see everyone's interpretations of the "altered book" theme. Some pieces were actually finished, some were in development, the great part was that everyone's work was totally different. We all started in the same place, but each piece truly took on the personality and outlook of its creator. It was such a difference from taking scrapbooking classes, where everyone comes out with something that looks EXACTLY alike (that's the point). He basically provided technique and advice if asked, but where you wanted to go in your piece was entirely up to you.

I actually found symbolism in my work that I hadn't even realized at the start. He asked what my thoughts were on the piece, and I suddenly realized that there actually WERE thoughts on the piece. I guess I had better show you what mine looked like, right?

Jane's Assemblook (interior)

The picture in the "cage" is of the Priestess of Delphi (by John Collier).

The picture below one I took in Venice, Italy of the colonnade of the Doge's palace near the Bridge of Sighs.

I realized that the symbolism was about caging and subjugating your (mine, many people's) intuition and your authentic self. The Oracle represents the interior world, and the intuitive feminine gifts that are often discounted or disregarded. The Bridge of Sighs was called this because prisoners were led across it from the Doge's palace to jail, and it was often their last sight of freedom. So, in this meaning, we imprison our creative spirit often in a cage of our own minds, and our own fears about breaking free. You'll notice, however that in the photo, there is almost a fiery quality to it, and a look of broken glass (actually, mica) indicating that the fire of the creative spirit in the end will break free of its "prison."

Jane's Assemblook (exterior)

The exterior of the book, by contrast, is very slate-like and (hard to see in this picture) watery looking, and is free of ornamentaion, indicating the cool exterior that we/I present to the world. (As a note, if you believe in this sort of thing, I'm a Capricorn sun sign, with a Scorpio moon - work that one out!)

So, outside is all smooth and stony, inside, there's a creative firestorm when we allow it to happen!
This was the first piece that I've made in the direction of symbolic art - something that fascinates me, and is totally the direction I want to go in, of using art as a tool of self-discovery. So, having a class with Michael is obviously transformative on many levels! As a bonus, I used lots of the paint washes and techniques that he taught us in the book's production.

So, to conclude this very long post, I thought I'd show you Random Arts in Saluda, NC. Random Arts sponsored the class. It's probably the only altered art store in the Southeastern US, and is a little nook of creativity, with so much stuff to look at and putter through. Jane Powell, the owner as well as Jen (I didn't get to meet the other Random Arts Lady, Julia) has fostered such a creative community of altered artists in this area (western North Carolina is already very supportive of art and general and artists to begin with). If you are in this area, make sure you go!

Michael de Meng's Assemblook

Michael's Assemblook - Front Cover

Michael's Assemblook - Interior Left Side

Michael's Assemblook - Interior Right Side

Before I took the Assemblook class, I was looking all over the place on the internet trying to find a picture of what an Assemblook might look like. A class sample, if you like. I couldn't find one anywhere, so now I've actually seen one for myself - actually Michael de Meng's and the ones created by my fellow artists in our class at Random Arts (see previous post for pre-class jitters). I thought I'd share a few pictures I took of Michael's, so you can see for yourself how beautiful it is! I sincerely hope he doesn't mind my posting pictures of his work here :-) Shameless plug for Michael de Meng - if you are an altered artist, you simply MUST try and find a way to take a class with Michael; he is amazing!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Studying with Michael DeMeng

I'm going to be taking a class with assemblage artist Michael de Meng this week called "Assemblooks aka Trashy Novels" at Random Arts in Saluda, NC.

My friend Cindy (fellow artist, and given to observations such as, "You know, scrapbooking just isn't subversive enough...")and I call him M de M - like we know the great man, right?

On one hand, I'm very excited about the opportunity to study with one of my favorite "BNA's" (big name artists) but on the other hand, quite intimidated. I've been getting together my art supplies (ordinary - paint, brushes) and out of the ordinary (Qwik Seal Tub and Tile Caulk, Liquid Nails, 5 minute epoxy - not liquid) obtained from Lowes. I have no idea what to do with the latter group, and am concerned that my brushes are not up to snuff in the former. I'm also supposed to gather "altered" materials - problem is, I don't really have that many. Everything I have is more in the scrapbook-esque line, not so much in the Rusty Things category. This for a man who wrote a book called "Secrets of Rusty Things."

So far, my rustiest thing is two quite lovely bolt-y things that have nice circles in the middle of them that look like medieval stained glass window structures. I found them in my driveway and have been rusting them nicely next to my ficus for some months. I brought them in and washed them off the other day, and my husband saw them next to the kitchen sink.

I said, "Look at these nice rusty bolts; do you have anything else like this, cause I really need it for my class."

He said (eyes slightly bulging, forehead shoots skyward) "Those are my missing pieces from my tap and die set! Where did you find them?"

I said, "Um, out in the yard.." (gestures vaguely towards the yard) "I think they're pretty...very medieval...haven't you noticed their design?"

We then stared at one another; incredulous at each other's ideas of what constitutes "art."

He seems to be a bit worried about what other items from his garage I'm going to purloin next.

Hoping to get around to creating a few stencils for Michelle Ward's Crusade this evening; I'm definitely leaving this up until the last minute. I've been rather overly busy this month, it seems.