Saturday, December 20, 2008

Year In Review

Well, I don't know about you but I am ready to end this year right now this minute. I think I've been good about my attitude. I lost my temper a few times but I enjoyed myself doing it (I did not shoot anyone). I'm finishing up a massive cleaning binge. . . found all manner of cool whatnot to inspire new collages. Here's a few things I'm thinking about for 2009:
  1. Collage Pins - I got this idea from (and commented about it on) self taught artist so I have to follow through. There are witnesses.
  2. "Hell and Time Tied for Favorite" - Title of collage inspired by Gillian Welch
  3. Animation (cont.) - What a tangent this is turning out to be. I don't know where it is going yet but I will eventually figure it out. It's exciting to learn something new.
And I should give myself credit for my accomplishments in 2008:
  1. Acrylic Painting - I started painting in acrylics in March. I've explored painting on watercolor paper and canvas. I've created grid sub-structures using masking tape on canvas as a preliminary step to collage. I've also used acrylic glazes on the surface of collages to add color. And my last two pieces were what I would consider "mixed media" paintings on paper collaged to canvas.
  2. Collages - I completed 27 collages this year, more than any year previous. (2007 - 11 collages; 2006 - 14 collages; 2005 - 3 collages; 2004 - 16 collages) Well, I'm cheating a little because 5 paintings have been included in this year's count as well.
  3. Anita's Beads - I finally advertised my bead shop and have a Shop Directory ad coming out in the February issue of Bead & Button.
  4. Toad Hollow - Pages added to the web site for Minerals; Herbs, Incense and Essential Oils pages back up and revised.
  5. Animation - Began research to develop idea about creating animated collages.
  6. AnitaNH Weblog - I got a late start on this weblog business but here I am!
Of course there's lots of stuff I dropped the ball on, too. But I'll just roll the important items over to the 2009 List. As George Elliot said: "It is never too late to be what you might have been."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Book of Secrets

I just sat down with the new Blick Art Materials catalog and a cup of Earle Grey (I drink Red Rose to get the neat little animals). On page 176 they show a great how-to for making a "Book of Secrets" with four drawer-like compartments made from match boxes. I really like this idea and as you can see, I have my little boxes all ready to go. Cover size will be approximately 4x4 inches. Thanks, Dick Blick.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Art Quilts

I just clicked over to visit my friend in Vermont at self taught artist where I learned about Nellie Durand and her wonderful quilts. Nellie's album page on the development of a design for a spiral themed quilt is worth a study for insight into the design process. Look how she transformed this wonderful dots fabric. She has a blog called Exquisite Corpse Textiles, and is a follower of Fibermania.


While I'm getting into good music here, I want to mention what is my favorite song of the year: Nwahulwana by the Mozambique's top singer, Wazimbo. The language is Ronga and I find the song is great for playing first thing in the morning to clear the energy in my shop. It's available on CD from Piranha Musik and you can check it out on YouTube. I first heard the song while watching the film "The Pledge" staring Jack Nicholson. But don't waste your money buying the movie soundtrack because Nwahulwana isn't included!

Gillian Welch

I watched The Revelator Collection on DVD four times yesterday! Gillian Welch's voice is just so fine and her songs (most written with musical partner David Rawlings) are sublime and haunting. Included also are three great cover tunes: Bob Dylan's "Billy," Neil Young's "Pochahontas," and Townes van Zandt's "White Freight Liner Blues." This film of performance clips from their 2001 tour made me realize that David Rawlings is not just some guy on guitar. Here they are on YouTube playing "Look At Miss Ohio."

I have four Gillian Welch CD's on Acony Records: Revival (1996), Hell Among the Yearlings (1998), Time (The Revelator) (2001), and Soul Journey (2003). They are all terrific, with Hell and Time tied for favorite.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Collage Paper Sorting

Look at that face. . . he knows he's the favorite cat!
Mica took possession of an empty box in the library this morning. I don't think he plans to relinquish his spot any time soon! I'm still in the middle of my major sorting and reorganization of vintage book pages, contemporary found images, plus book jackets and covers. I've used book covers in a couple of my collages: Curious? (the second half of my first Divorce Diptych) makes use of a nice one. And there are two in "I" Before "E". Book jackets are also fun to collect. I like the older ones that don't have a plastic-like coating. The paper is nice and thick, the color combinations are usually eye-catching, and you can find some unusual fonts. The word 'new' (or 'men' depending how you look at it) in Unequivocation is a nice example. And it wasn't until the dump yielded up the book Physical Attraction and Your Hormones that my second diptych A Sad Infatuation came together!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Clay Animation

Michael Frierson's Clay Animation: American Highlights 1908 to the Present is an interesting read. Clay animation was made possible by the invention of plasticine around 1900. A precursor is the flip book of sequential drawings brought to life through the phi phenomenon: the optical impression of motion created when objectively stationary images are presented rapidly one after another. One of the earliest known women animators, Helena Smith Dayton (b.1879) produced "motion picture comedies in clay" and was written up in Scientific American (16 Dec. 1916). But by the 1920's, the cel system was the dominant mode of animation production. The amateur filmmaker, Leonard Tregillus (a chemist for Eastman Kodak) produced two notable clay animated films: "No Credit" and "Proem." Clay animation finally began a resurgence in the broadcast medium after television's first period of growth in 1948.

In the search for new children's programming, clay animation reestablishes an audience with Art Clokey's Gumby which first aired on The Howdy Doody Show on 16 June 1956. Children's advertising spawned name-brand recognition for toys beginning with Mattel's "Burp Gun" released for Christmas 1955. Clokey credits avatar Sathya Sai Baba with Gumby's later comeback in the 1980's. "Some models had the Sanskrit word for love emblazoned on the chest" [p122].

Clokey was a protege of Yugoslavian artist Slavko Vorkapich, best known for the experimental film The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra (1928). Vorkapich applied graphic art principles to filmmaking. "Like lines, colors and sounds, different motions have different emotional values. . . there are many such fundamental expressive motions and their possibilities of combination are unlimited." In filmmaking, Vorkapich was a montage expert and contributed sequences to many popular films including 1937's The Good Earth and The Last Gangster. A montage can be defined as a panoramic effect in which the events covering a period of time are condensed to a succession of rapidly paced interlocking flashes. Vorkapich refers to it as "film ideagraphy."

In Clokey's opinion, Vorkapich "got down to basics. . . motion and the illusion of three dimensional objects created by use of shape, shadows, color and motion." The influence of Vorkapich is evident in the abstract animation of Clokey's early work titled Gumbasia (1955), interesting for its "visual shorthand of fundamental shapes." Clokey believed that a character's external design should directly objectify its inner state. His work is notable for his use of screen vectors: the angle and direction that a character moves through filmic space. Remember how Gumby was always skating across the screen diagonally on one foot?

Much is also written about the "claymation" artist behind the 1974 Academy Award winner Closed Mondays, Will Vinton. The book closes with a chapter on "new visionaries" of the 1990's (Bruce Bickford and David Daniels) and includes a bibliography and selected filmographies.

Burp Gun Digression
A bit of trivia about the Burp Gun from Images of the Child by Harry Edwin Eiss: "The Mattel Burp Gun became the first televised toy to become a sensational hit, selling more than a million, each priced at $4.00, by Christmas. . . The company even received a personal letter from then President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who requested a Burp Gun for his grandson, David." Here's a 1958 model now priced at $350.00 at Mom & Pop's Vintage Toys. I never had a Burp Gun but I did have this Flintlock cap pistol!

Cold Moon Morning

Here it is this morning, Sunday 14 December 2008 at about 7:00 am. The moon is still pretty full. How convenient that we had a full moon the night of the blackout. All the trees were casting shadows in the yard.
We lost quite a few dead trees that were standing across the meadow, and a bunch more across the street in front of the house. Limbs breaking sound like gunshots.
Here's my old friend covered with frost. I was thinking about Nicholas Roukes and "selective cropping" when I took this one!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another Nicholas Roukes Book

Before I delve into the new animation books, I want to mention one other recommended title by Nicholas Roukes. Acrylics Bold and New (Watson Guptill, 1990) is the perfect how-to guide to provide inspiration to someone like me who has no formal art training. The 5-page introduction provides a nice overview of the qualities and characteristics of acrylic paint including: how and when to apply gesso and varnish, the use of acrylic emulsions in collage including two transfer methods, and some tips on hard-edge painting. The bulk of the book consists of 64 experiments. Each experiment is a chapter covering a different composition, concept or technique illustrated by an acrylic painting. Chapters begin with a general how-to and definition of terms followed by a discussion of the painting and the specific application of the technique therein. Of particular interest to me are: Paint With Stencils, Integrate Transfer Images, Use a "Stage Set" Format, Combine Abstract and Figurative Motifs (love the example byRobert Hudson), Hybridize the Subject (ditto by James Marsh), Use Serialized Images, Use Selective Cropping, Compose with a Grid, and Use Geometrical Abstraction. Now that I've learned about visual closure, equivocal visual fields, figure/ground relationships and rhythmic transition I am ready to choose one of my favorite experiments and apply what I have learned. I think I will create a painting based on hybridization, and a collage composed with a grid.

James Marsh and Robert Hudson
James Marsh has a wonderful web site. Don't miss his print show for many clever examples of hybridization. And his fine art slide show features nice abstract designs, some based on dots. Others using flat stones remind me a little of Andy Goldworthy's work! Robert Hudson's work is somewhat elusive on the net, but you can see two of his assemblages on the site of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. You can also browse SAAM by artwork type. Collage yields 597 hits. . . oh boy!

Animation Hit List

Wow, I might need Evelyn Wood's help with this. I have a total of nine books on animation. I will list them all here and then describe each one in a separate post as I finish it:
  1. Ablan, Dan. Digital Photography for 3D Imaging and Animation. Wiley, 2007.
  2. Chapman, Jenny. www.animation: Animation Design for the World Wide Web. Watson-Guptill, 2002.
  3. Frierson, Michael. Clay Animation: American Highlights 1908 to the Present (Twayne's Filmmaker's Series). Twayne Publishers, 1994.
  4. Kerman, Phillip. Macromedia Flash 8 in 24 Hours (SAMs Teach Yourself). Sams Publishing, 2006.
  5. Milic, Lea and Yasmin McConville. The Animation Producer's Handbook. McGraw-Hill, 2006.
  6. Mohler, James L. Graphics, Animation & Interactivity with Flash 4.0. Delmar/Thomson Learning, 2000.
  7. Patmore, Chris. The Complete Animation Course: The Principles, Practice, and Techniques of Successful Animation. Quartro/Barron's, 2003.
  8. Priebe, Ken A. The Art of Stop-Motion Animation. Thomson, 2007.
  9. White, Tony. Animation From Pencils to Pixels: Classical Techniques for Digital Animators. Focal Press/Elsevier, 2006.

Situation Normal

OK, printer snafu averted. Got the C64 running but I think the C84 is trash. Got the Netfick that was stuck in the player out and off the post office via a friend who also stopped by the library to pick up some books on animation that just came in for me. I sense I am about to embark on a dangerous journey. Some of these books talk about software that I will probably decide I need despite the fact that I can't run it on my present hardware. I know that my days of 54.6 Kbps are numbered as well. The last thing I did before the blackout was to join Pandora which I just learned about from Cecil Touchon's Collage Group on Yahoo, but I can only get sound intermittently because of my lack of modem speed.

Boo-Hoo My Printers Died

Well, it seems I lost two printers (Epson Stylus C84 and C64) due to the power failure. I can't get power to them. . . keep getting an error message and there is no green light. All I can do is unplug everything and try again. I am really clueless when it comes to the mechanical end of things.

Back on the Grid!

Hooray, the power is back on. Folks were saying that it would be "several days" but it has been only a day and a half. Seems longer than that. First thing I did is make myself a cup of Earle Grey. Then I turned the furnace on in the shop. Now I am here on the computer, waiting for the hot water tank to heat up so I can take a bath.

Things to remember for next time: Fill the bathtub any time the weather starts getting weird! The well pump doesn't run without electricity. Always have blank discs and a fully charged camera! Otherwise I waste a good photo op like yesterday with the ice coating all of the trees. It's a blessing that the tamarak pulled through without major damage. There's a big limb down from the second big pine tree. I'll have to investigate that this morning.

The birds were on the suet feeders like crazy and now that the seed bell is gone they are back on the sunflower feeder. And the big brown woodpecker was here twice! That prompted me to put out a second sunflower feeder to replace the bell, and a third one outside the library window. I need to look up that woodpecker. I've seen a picture . . . OK, "Familiar Garden Birds of America" by Henry Hill Collins, Jr. (Harper & Row, 1965) on Plate III shows its a yellow-shafted flicker (male) which belongs to the woodpecker family. That's him! He's beautiful and bigger than a blue-jay.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Well, here is something I learned about bad luck while organizing my collage books (from the Daily Guide to Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia). "The ladder was a legendary connection with the Crucifixion. It is said that as a ladder was erected to bring down the Body for burial, Satan went underneath and tried to push it over; consequently, to go under a ladder is to associate oneself with the Devil."

Soul Collage

I'm two days into a collage area cleaning binge. Absolutely every pile, box and bin is being moved, sorted, and checked for dampness and (heaven forbid) mold. My collage area keeps growing. I have the studio (a room off the barn/bead shop) which doubles as my gallery space. All finished work plus work in progress lives there in addition to all of my art supplies and semi-sorted bins of this-and-that. Half of the office space upstairs has been taken over by my cutting library of books and my vintage pages clipping file (loosely grouped in transparent sleeves by subject or source). And now the big library table downstairs is covered by my contemporary clippings file. I started a system of subject folders some time ago which has grown to five bins worth. I'm still finding boxes of images "to be filed" hidden away in corners here and there. Good thing it's a sturdy table because it's quite an impressive pile. (Note to self: Put up pictures to document this stupendous accomplishment.)

One of the things I found were a few Soul Collage card readings from 2004. Visit the page and get a four card spread. Click on the individual cards to learn their meaning. All of the cards are found image collages by various artists.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Digital Galleries

The research library of The Art Institute of Chicago has published a great annotated list of digital image collections from around the world. While some are limited to subscribers, there are many "free and open to the public" that would make Andrew Carnegie proud!

Egyptian Dots

I discovered Design*Sponge just in time to see a guest article on Egyptian Design by New York Public Library reference librarian Jessica Pigza. I love all the dots in the images she has selected from Gustave Jéquier's Decoraton Egyptienne (1911). Be sure to check out their project called Design By The Book featuring artists work inspired by the NYPL Digital Gallery (it's a wonderful resource. . . I could spend hours online just looking).

And another Design*Sponge post not to be missed is this how-to on making paper garlands for the holidays. Cool fun!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In Wakefield, New Hampshire

Today we are getting a little snow. It's not our first this season but as you can see there is not much to speak of yet on the ground, only enough to make the downed tree look picturesque. The tree was still standing when I moved here over 12 years ago. Its top had been destroyed by a lightning strike some years before and it put all of its energy into one branch that became the tallest thing around. It was unbalanced, however, and the stiff wind blowing across the meadow toppled it a couple of years ago. I was sad to see it go.
There have been a number of lightning strikes in my immediate area, and my house came with lightning rods on the peaks of all of the roofs. The Congregational Church (built in 1816) right up the hill from me was destroyed in a fire started by lightning on 2 September 1956.
It was re-built, although its spire lacks some of the original architectural detail. Below is an aerial photo showing the new church. That's my street and my house is about 1/4 mile down on the left.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Synectics of Nicholas Roukes

In his preface to Art Synectics: Stimulating Creativity in Art (Davis Publications, 1984), author Nicholas Roukes states: "The term Synectic. . . means 'bringing forth together' and 'bringing different things into unified connection.' This is a form of creative thinking that combines imagination and analogical thinking in order to transform commonplace, familiar elements into new and unusual structures." Yes, yes. . . this, to me, is what collage is all about! I just received the book, along with its companion title Design Synectics: Stimulation Creativity in Design (Davis Publications, 1988) and I'm so glad I have both. There are concepts, suggested projects and numerous illustrations and my head is spinning already. I'm going to start my reading with Art Synectics since it was written first. Roukes suggests using his design book as "a springboard for personal experimentation and . . . excursions into realms of fantasy and free association. . . [keeping] an open mind for emerging ideas--and happy surprises". I am a former librarian who believes the right book has the power to change a person's life. I suspect that the way I approach making collage art is about to be enhanced forevermore! The links section of Roukes' Artful Jesters! site connects to a number of artists worth a look. Here are a few of my favorites:

Tony Fitzpatrick (an amazing collage artist discussed here last week).

Po Shun Leong creator of intricate wood constructions which are the subject of the book Po Shun Leong: Making Art Boxes by Tony Lydgate (Sterling, 2001).

Norman Catherine (I love "Pandora's Box" and Group Therapist").

Liz Mamorsky's Functional and Dysfunctional Art (Click on one of her Iconic Abstractions and see what happens; I love her sense of humor and her wall sculpture called "The Good Time Fairy of Honest Weight").

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Literature Review: Parallel Botany

Some posts back in a discussion about children's literature I mentioned that I had ordered a book called Parallel Botany. I have been enjoying Lionni's illustrations of his invisible imaginary plant kingdom but it may be some time before I get around to actually reading the book. And to tie up one more loose end, I should comment that Quiller's book "Color Choices: Making Sense Out of Color Theory" gave me more information than I can use right now. My most pressing urge is to figure out animation and I have recently submitted my "hit list" of interlibrary loan requests to my local library. If you have any favorite books on animation to recommend please leave a comment.

Media Review: Frederick Back
Last night I watched Disc 2. of The Man Who Planted Trees (Deluxe Edition) featuring the animation of Canadian filmmaker Frederic Back. If you have been searching, like I was, for a copy of his fabulously heartwarming short titled "Crac!" on DVD, here's where you can find it! "All Nothing" and "The Mighty River" also come on the disc. I saw them for the first time, and thoroughly enjoyed both, but there is something about "Crac!" that attracts me more. I think it is the musical sound track. Plus I really love the scene in the art museum showing the different reactions to modern art. It also made me think about the price we pay for progress, and of course, "The Mighty River" and "All Nothing"did that too.

Literature Review: Jorg Muller
And to digress a bit on the "price for progress" theme, another illustrator who excels is Swiss artist Jorg Muller. His two books, The Changing City and The Changing Countryside are actually unbound collections of seven 13x35 inch tri-fold prints of paintings depicting a particular locality through sequential (and dramatic) effects of modernization from the early '50's through the early '70's. Catagorized as wordless picture books, these two are winners for kindergarten through any age!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kunstkammer & Keith Lo Bue

The December 2008 issue of Art & Antiques contains an interesting article about kunstkammer by Joscelyn Godwin titled "The Wonder Years." Kunstkammer are cabinets of curiosities mixing art, science and a little magic to create a marvelous world in miniature. Godwin mentions the "genius [of Joseph Cornell] for enclosing the most disparate objects in minimal space" and brought to my mind the fantastic assemblages and wearable art of Keith Lo Bue.

I've been a fan of Lo Bue for some time. I first admired his jewelry and later came to appreciate his work as assemblage. His web site is also a work of art. Lo Bue contributed to Assemblage 100 (curated by Dale Copeland) where you can find a characteristically unusual portrait with necklace. My favorite of his contributions is the macabre Unknown Female Head.

The Kunstkammer was the first museum in Russia, established by Peter the Great in 1718. The introductory page to this site has an intriguing photo of a room full of cabinets. (Hover near the extreme right or left side of the photo to extend the view.) Francesca Fiorani speaks of kunstkammer as "memory theater" in an article from Renaissance Quarterly (Spring 1998).

Spoiled by Technology?

Yes, I definitely have been spoiled in some areas, though in others maybe not spoiled enough. What I am getting to is a contrast between how beautiful images look when displayed on the computer screen (where you can make them look even better with the help of Photoshop and view them in a slide-show with square corners nicely matted by black) and how annoying they look on a cheap rounded television screen masquerading as a DVD player (where they have been cropped beyond your control and their original recognition) ! Despite this, I look forward to viewing subsequent discs of The Lawrence Jordan Album. My favorite on Volume 1. (even with the annoying buzzer) is Our Lady of the Sphere followed by Duo Concertantes, Gymnopedes, Orb, and Carabosse (in no particular order) . One thing I learned was how interesting these are when viewed in Forward x2! It's easier to study the scene changes when the pace is picked up a bit. My least favorite is the ponderous "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" which was read by Orson Wells, dedicated to Wallace Berman, and funded by a grant from National Endowment of the Arts.

Wallace Berman was known for his verifax collages. Two of my favorites are this one and this one.

Surfing Bruce Pollock

Now here's a man that knows his dots. I went from Larry Jordan to Wallace Bergman (I'll get back to Jordan and Bergman in a future post) and discovered the amazing monochromatic quilt-like (grandmother's flower garden, specifically; see above) paintings of Bruce Pollock now at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in a show titled Bruce Pollock: Circling West (September 13 - December 13, 2008). Pollock's paintings, created for this show, are oils on 24x24 inch canvas. My favorite is the violet one for the way it makes me feel when I look at it, but the rest are pretty nice, too! Pollock's web site affords a larger view of Red Square as well as a sampling of pen and ink drawings, my favorite of which is Trinity. I love this quote about his work from the curator of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art: "These are images of transformation. They reward prolonged looking with a slow unraveling of their secrets and with a sense that through them one is contemplating larger issues of creation and existence." Bruce Pollock lives in Philadelphia and is represented there by the Fleischer/Ollman Gallery (a 1996 show was reviewed in Art in America) .

I am reminded of the acrylic paintings by Linda Darling. I just spent a half hour or so scanning through my image files (not as well-organized as they could be) to find her name. I love the way she paints with different sized circles. A nice example is Kaleideometric (Acrylic on canvas; 40x37.5 inches) . I'm sorry I can't give a credit for this photo (below) of another Linda Darling painting which could very well have been from Artnet; I do not know the title either.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Larry Jordan's Collage Animation

My latest Netflick is Disc 1 of The Lawrence Jordan Album. The description mentioned animated collages so I figured it would be right up my alley and so it is! I tried to watch it last night with a friend who is not "into animation" and stopped it before the end. I need to watch it alone. There were a couple that really grabbed me, and a couple of others that seemed too long. So far my preference is for the ones accompanied by soothing classical music. I have found three good sources of information on Jordan: Bright Lights Film Journal has a nice article by Garry Morris, Canyon Cinema has an annotated list of over 40 Jordan films, and Animation World Network has Jackie Leger's illustrated tribute which mentions the numerous artists who have inspired Jordan's "fantastic landscapes of the mind."