How To: Postcard Backgrounds

After my last post, Lisa asked what I meant by “collaging Bristol board” and if I could explain it with pictures, too. Yes, I can! This is a really loose, open-ended type of thing, with no right or wrong way to do it, so I’m not sure I should even call it a tutorial. It’s more of, “Come peek over my shoulder while I do this.”

Materials: Bristol board, which is heavier than card stock but thinner than, say, cereal box cardboard; gel medium and a brush, although you can experiment with other adhesives; an assortment of papers; paint (optional)

The first thing I do is select some papers, generally around some focus. I chose warm colors for this collage.

selection of papers

I have an expandable file folder where I have papers I’ve collected, sorted by color. You can see that it includes some pre-painted book pages, too. The orange is a paper bag, and the ketchup is cut from a calendar. The rest are odds and ends of decorative papers.

I chose a few and began tearing and arranging. Then I glued the first one down.

first piece glued on

Just play with your papers. This one sheet of Bristol board is going to get cut into four pieces in the end anyway, so there’s not a lot of pressure here.

3 pieces glued on

all papers glued on

After I’d covered the sheet completely, I decided that the top part needed a little bit more, because it was a big space with mainly just that one paper. I thought that after I cut the sheet into fours, the cards cut from that section would be a little boring. So I decided to print over it using one of these foam texture plates the kids and I found on clearance (the whole pack for $1.99!) in a craft store last week. They were in the craft foam section, intended for cut-and-glue kids’ crafts, but my 9yo and I looked at them and immediately said, Printmaking!

foam texture plates

Aren’t they so cool? And they’re washable, so we can re-use them. I chose the smaller bumps (you can barely see it in this picture; it’s the darkest blue in the middle there) and added some prints to my collage using acrylic paint.

finished sheet

Better. Then I cut it into four equal rectangles, which are each 4.5 x 6″.

four individual cards

I think the one on the bottom right is my favorite. I really like creating something like this and then cutting it up–I always think the smaller compositions that result are interesting. And if they’re not, I can do something on them individually. I’ll probably add some cut-out images to these before mailing them.

So, that’s about it. I’m not great with creating collages as artwork–I find it challenging. But I like doing this for postcards. It’s play, and sometimes it’s just the thing to give myself a little break during the day, too.

Building up the Mail Stash

February might be a tough month for blogging, because much of the kid-involved art exploration going on here will probably end up in either my column or my e-zine. After those are published, the outtakes can and probably will end up here (we are exploring so. much.), but until then… I’m excited about the things we’re reading, doing, and planning to do, yet have to be quiet about it here.

mail stash at amyhoodarts.com

However, I can share with you that I’ve been building up my mail stash! With odds and ends of time in the art studio, I’ve made lots of postcards to send out. These aren’t for swaps–as fun as swaps are, I think right now I much prefer the idea of sending out mail to people with whom I already have a connection. I can add a personal note and have the fun of waiting for it to land and brighten a day. I haven’t set a formal goal with this (because it’s a FUN THING), but I like the idea of trying to send out something every week. So while the kids were making Valentines, I made Valentine-themed postcards. When I had ten minutes downstairs, I collaged some Bristol board to turn into postcards. It’s like a quick hit of art therapy, and then comes the fun of sending them out to friends.

I can also share this: in case you missed it on Twitter, a get-to-know-me questionnaire was featured on the Home/School/Life blog last week. Check it out!

A wee bit of overwhelm

Lilies from the supermarket.

Lilies from the supermarket.

As we wind down January and head into February, I’m feeling a little…overwhelmed. I agreed to run some printmaking workshops over February school vacation. I want the third issue of Art Together complete by the end of February. I have a guest post due by the end of February, and a column due as well. My husband will be away for another full week. February is only 28 days long. It’s not looking nearly long enough right now. But these are good “problems” to have—many Good Things will be accomplished in February. Yes.

So, a column is exciting! But also a bit pressure-y in a way writing my own blog is not. A magazine that comes out four times a year doesn’t lend to an immediate conversation with the reader, so I’m left trying to anticipate what those readers might want most. I polled my family members: If you were a homeschooler or parent who maybe wasn’t sure about “doing art” with your kids, what would you most want to know? These are the answers I received:

Husband: I don’t know. What do you want to know about [his industry]??

9yo: Give them things to do—art activities.

12yo: Make sure they know it’s easy.

5yo: Tell them what Art is.

I’m not touching “what Art is” with a ten-foot pole, I’ll tell you that much! (But the 5yo definitely thinks big and all-encompassing.) I like my oldest’s response. Inspiring confidence is definitely a goal of mine.

With all this writing ahead of me, I am keenly missing my running time. I didn’t necessarily compose writing while I was running—letting my mind wander in that way resulted in slower running, I noticed—but focusing my mind on breathing and pacing left it open to work on ideas without me beaming a spotlight on the process. Running is active mindfulness for me, clearing the brain. Oh, how I miss it. I get out for one-mile walks when I can, but that’s only 15 minutes and doesn’t have quite the same mind-clearing effect. I have another follow-up with the orthopedist next week and I’m hoping he says I can at least head back to the track (a soft, level surface) for short runs.

Sewing projects in progress.

Sewing projects in progress.

So how did I spend my weekend? Was I working on those deadlines? Um, not so much. I spent it at karate with the kids. Taking my daughter shopping to spend a gift card. She loved the mama-daughter shopping time (the boys went to get haircuts with dad), and I love that she loved it, even though department store shopping isn’t my thing. Doing the weekly grocery shopping, which, until spring arrives, now includes flowers as a line item. Sewing some pouches, none of which are complete yet. Planning another linocut. Spinning the wheels in my head a bit. How about you?

Lily sketch.

Lily sketch.

Friday Links on Saturday

Taken at Wat Arun by my husband, used here so I have a pretty picture to go with this post.

Taken at Wat Arun by my husband, used here so I have a pretty picture to go with this post.

Between Monday being a holiday and Wednesday being a snow day and tracking delayed and canceled flights, I thought Friday was Thursday, so I’m sharing Friday links on Saturday. Follow?! Anyway, just a few things I saw this week that I thought were interesting:

Take Care of Your Little Notebook by Charles Simic, tweeted by iHanna. I have multitudes of notebooks…a writing one, a project one, sketchbooks, the One With the Grocery List and Meal Plans, one in my bag at all times… (I sell little notebooks, too). I loved this piece. Evernote-on-my-phone may occasionally supplement but will never, ever replace an actual notebook for me.

Debunking the Myth of the 10,000 Hours Rule at Brainpickings. We’ve all heard the idea that 10,000 hours at one activity equals mastery, but this explains that it’s how you use those hours that matter–and that errors are a part of the process.

Related, On Doing the Work on Seth’s Blog is a reminder that you actually have to do the work to learn anything. “Learning is not watching a video, learning is taking action and seeing what happens.”

Speaking of learning, as soon as I saw Sketchbook Skool (and yes, the misuse of “k” is driving me nuts) tweeted by Jodi Wiley and I checked it out, I decided to sign up. I’ve been wanting to take a drawing class, and I was really clicked in to the idea of an in-person class with a live, right-there instructor and classmates that I could talk to in real time. But the figure drawing class I had my eye on is $500 and 45 minutes away for something like 10 weeknights in a row. I wasn’t actively looking for an online substitute, but when I saw this it felt right–I use my sketchbook a lot, but I’d like to be more organized about it, and I really like the aspect of seeing how others approach theirs. This is not the same as a figure drawing class, not at all, but it will scratch my itch for a drawing class and, of course, it’s $400 cheaper and I don’t have to spend 90 minutes in the car every week.

Last but not least, there’s a new homeschool magazine debuting soon, Home / School / Life, and I was approached by the editor, Shelli Pabis, to write an art column. I very excitedly said yes. The magazine will be available in print and digital format, and the first issue will be available this spring.

Have a great weekend!

Making + Listening::3/2014

Sunday at the grocery store, the kids and I bought flowers. Cheerful flowers are one of the small joys of life, no? We finally settled on delphiniums (blue) and tulips (pink). I decided to use the flowers as a drawing practice subject. I found it was easier, at first, to draw the delphiniums. I suspect this is because I have an idea of what tulips look like, but I’m not familiar with delphiniums. My brain couldn’t try to take over with preconceived ideas, in other words. With the delphiniums, all I could do was look at what was there and draw it.

my sketch-delphiniums at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches

Sigh, it’s so hard to photograph pencil sketches. At any rate, of course I asked the kids if they wanted to draw the flowers too. And they did. My 9yo received a nice set of colored pencils for Christmas, and he uses them every chance he gets (I would too!). So his sketch of the tulips in their vase is in color.

N's drawing of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

G, like me, sketched in pencil.

G's drawing 2 at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches by 5yo

G's drawing at amyhoodarts.com

I gave the tulips another go and quite liked the ones on the right, which I went over in Pitt pen.

my sketch-tulips at amyhoodarts.com

tulip sketches

Rather a long time ago, I decided I wanted to figure out linocuts, but it sort of settled to the bottom of the list. However, we’ve been looking at lots of examples of woodcuts and block prints lately, and I’ve been trying to get a handle on what decisions the artists made, and why. I thought I could try to translate the tulip sketch into a linocut. I worked on the carving a bit at a time over several days, and I’m pleased with the result. This is a test print I just pulled today.

linocut of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

Actually, I’m going to rephrase that. I am not just “pleased” with the results. I’m really, really happy. I look at this and I am proud of it. Pfft on the understatement. I am all WOW! I carved this!!

Creating is just so fabulous.

I’m linking up with Dawn again this week for Making + Listening. As for the listening part, I found some Pete Yorn on my computer and enjoyed listening to that. Otherwise, it was a lot more of the 80s station to get through the work trip, which ended up lasting nearly two weeks thanks to cancellations and delays. He finally got home yesterday, two days late, and we were all so happy to see him.

The Making of a Title

The first thing I make for each Art Together issue is the cover header. If you look on the sidebar, you’ll see that the headers match the theme. Once I decide upon a focus and begin researching (I do love the researching), making the header helps set my direction on the rest of the issue. It gets me into the mood of what the kids and I will be working on and distilling for the next month or two. I thought you might like to see how the header for the third issue, which will be out in March, came together.

The focus of the third issue is printmaking, so I had many possibilities. Art-making is a series of decisions made; I’ve no doubt I could make dozens of satisfying printmaking-based headers. I wanted to use easily accessible techniques, though, so that narrowed it down a bit. I decided I’d use a stencil process to get the letters onto the paper, so first I had to make a stencil. I traced the lettering from Issue Two onto tracing paper and rubbed the back of the paper with a graphite block so I could transfer the lines. This works like carbon paper.

Tracing the letters onto Bristol board.

Tracing the letters onto Bristol board.

I taped the tracing paper onto Bristol board and traced over the lines again, which transferred them onto Bristol board. The next step was to carefully cut on the lines with an x-acto knife.

The cut stencil.

The cut stencil.

I set that aside and found some left-over brown packing paper from some of the pre-Christmas mail orders. I crumpled it up, then flattened it out again. Then I rolled it with blue ink using a brayer.

The first layer of the print: blue ink.

The first layer of the print: blue ink.

After it dried, I rolled it in the opposite direction with yellow ink, using a plastic tube wrapped in twine to create a different print.

 

The second layer: Yellow ink on a twine-wrapped plastic tube.

The second layer: Yellow ink on a twine-wrapped plastic tube.

For the third layer, I cut triangles out of bubble wrap, painted them with red acrylic, and made prints in a star-burst sort of design.

Third layer: Red prints from bubble wrap triangles.

Third layer: Red prints from bubble wrap triangles.

Finally, when that was dry, it was time to use the stencil. I taped it down, including the floating bits inside letters like “A” and “R.” This isn’t the best method, but it worked. I used black acrylic paint and a sponge brush.

The final title print.

The final title print.

There is just a little bit of paint excess on the left side of the “O,” but that’s okay. One of my goals for this zine is for it to retain a bit of a zine vibe, even though it’s a digital file. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hand-write the entire thing. For practicality’s sake, much of it is typed. But I didn’t want a slick computer-produced header, and I wanted touches of someone’s hand to be found throughout. So you’ll find not just my kids’ and my own artwork, but hand-done headers and, sometimes, borders. Hand-drawn or -colored explanations. The stamp of the people who put it together, in hopes that not just the content but the entire package is inspiring (and also because we have fun doing it!).

This is the final header, cropped in Photoshop, just as you’ll see it on the cover of Issue Three. Now you’ll know how it was created!

Issue 3 Title Sharp

Issue One and Issue Two are available now. You can sign up for my newsletter to be informed when Issue Three is available and to hear about discount codes and the like.

Kindred Giveaway

Congratulations to Shawn, whose number came up on random.org as the winner of the giveaway issue of Kindred. And thank you to everyone who commented!

amy hood_cover

As I mentioned last week, I have a little piece in Issue 5: Nest of Kindred Magazine. This is a beautifully arranged magazine, solid in the hand, one of substance both in appearance and content. I can’t wait to receive the latest issue. When I got a peek at my writing and photographs, the first word that came to mind was gorgeous.

amy hood spread

It’s a stamp-carving tutorial, which ties in nicely with the next issue of Art Together (out in March), which is all about printmaking. It’s such a thrill to see one’s words and photos arranged so nicely in a print publication, and even better if someone is inspired to try carving their own stamp because of it.

Amanda has been generous enough to offer a copy to one of my readers (US only, due to shipping costs), and I really do encourage you to take advantage and leave a comment–just remember to include your email address in the email box, so I can get in touch with you. The work and care that go into creating the magazine makes it more than just idle reading material…it’s worth setting aside, making a cup of tea or coffee, and settling in for a quiet bit of reading. In other words, it is a treat and a respite, and you deserve that.

Issue Five: Nest is available for pre-order here, and the full list of contributors can be found here. Comments will be open through Thursday, January 23. Good luck!

Making + Listening::2/2014

A bit of our making this week:

banana bread at amyhoodarts.com

Gluten-free banana bread, zoomed in and on macro so hopefully you can’t see that my stove-top is less-than-spotless.

spies at amyhoodarts.com

My 9yo occasionally gathers the denizens of his room for meetings, grouped by their responsibilities. These, as you can see, are the spies, which I’m sharing because I enjoy that the rat is in this group. Most of the dragons are in charge of the treasury, obviously, but that purple and green one is small, so he gets to be a spy.

magnastix 2 at amyhoodarts.com magnastix 1 at amyhoodarts.com

Because my husband is away, my two younger kids came with me to physical therapy on Tuesday. The therapist let them play with this vintage magnetic building game that they use with patients who are working on fine-motor control. My kids asked me to take photos before they had to clean up and put it away. I only had my cell phone camera with me and was hooked up to the electrical stimulation machine when I took the picture, so I think we can forgive the blurriness of the first photo.

sweater in progress at amyhoodarts.com

I’ve been knitting a baby sweater this week, just like this one, except for the color, of course, which is this really lovely light blue. We hope it’s acceptable for either a girl or a boy (we certainly think so), “we” being the 12yo and I, because it’s for his teacher. This shows my progress as of Wednesday afternoon after his orthodontist appointment, during which time I knit happily and quietly in a corner of the waiting room while my other two kids amused themselves with the New Things To Them provided for waiting siblings.

We have one more doctor’s appointment this week, if you can believe it, to the asthma + allergy clinic in the city, after which we plan to visit the Big Art Store. That would be making the best of a trip to the city.

As for listening, it’s been the 80s station pretty much anytime music is on. When no other adult is walking through the door for eleven days straight, you need something to keep you moving forward–and even dancing in the living room every so often. (“Your physical therapist won’t be happy,” my 5yo-going-on-30 informs me. “Probably not,” I reply, and then introduce the concept of air guitar.)

I’m linking up with Dawn again this week, of course. How’s your making been going?

{PBL} The Fairy Project

It began late last fall. Gradually, a list of questions grew.

list of questions for fairy project at amyhoodarts.com

We went to the library to look up books in their computer, as you do, and came home with some that day and requested many, many others. Shortly after Christmas we were excited to find this book in a used book store, because we’d kept renewing our library copy:

fairyopolis

I need to compile a list of books my girl has found so far for this project so I can share them in another post. Our library search led us to The Fairy Ring, which I read aloud to both my homeschooled kids. My 9yo is just as interested in the magical and mythical, and fairies and their cousins the elves, goblins, etc, qualify, so he’s interested to listen along. The Fairy Ring is a nonfiction book that reads like a novel and tells the story of two cousins in early 20th-century England who posed a photograph with fairies. The younger cousin maintained all through her life that she did see fairies, but at the time, they were simply trying to get their parents to stop teasing them when they claimed they saw them. Word of their photographs gets around, and the situation becomes larger than they expected.

A Midsummer’s Nights Dream was mentioned in the book, so it’s been added to the reading list. That’s the way things go with projects.

G has lots of ideas relating to this project. She’s making a fairy comic, would like to plan a butterfly garden (in hopes that fairies are also attracted, since they favor the same habitat as butterflies), and she’s been looking through a book of fairy houses. She tells anyone who will listen about her project, and when she tells librarians, they often have books to suggest or, in one case, a friend who builds fairy houses on her front porch. That librarian said she’d see if her friend would mind if we visited.

G has also been taking notes. Sometimes, if she wants to record a lot of information at once, I write it. But mostly, she does.

taking notes for the fairy project at amyhoodarts.com

(toes!!)

I’ll keep you updated on this project, definitely. Just as I thought with my son’s monster project, this project is proof that project topics don’t have to be “real” or close by in order to provide huge opportunity for learning. She’s writing and researching, we’re reading, she’s drawing. She’s planning a garden and wants to build fairy houses in the spring (nature). We’ll be reading Shakespeare again soon. If a child is interested and curious, a topic is rich and can lead anywhere.

Making + Listening::1/2014

Check out that shorthand up there! This is the first Making + Listening post of 2014, and we’ll see if I can remember I did that next week. Lots of making went on here over the holiday break, including two pairs of flannel jammie pants and two new skirts for the girl. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, one half of our dining room table was given over to sewing and the other to cookie decoration…not a bad way to spend the day before Christmas. But all that is practically ancient history by now. I have pictures of the more recently created stuff for you instead.

thank you RAK mail art at amyhoodarts.com

Karen at Mail Me Some Art suggested that January be Random Act of Kindness mail art month, and that sounded like a great idea to me. I have some previously made background-only postcards on hand, so I added the elephant and the text and a note to the librarians at our local library and sent it along. If you want to join in, Karen has all the details here.

Right before Christmas, we received a box of nature goodies from Dawn. Sadly, our nature swap partner disappeared after receiving our box, so Dawn and her kids stepped in to make sure my kiddos got a box in return. It included this great sea urchin test, something we’ve never found on our beaches (although they do live in our waters).

sea urchin test at amyhoodarts.com

It’s sitting in the center of our dining room table, which is where all our best nature finds eventually end up, so it was in sight and on hand when I was looking for something to draw. Look at that texture! I had to give it a try.

sea urchin sketch at amyhoodarts.com

Remember the socks I began for my oldest a month ago, and then put aside for some Christmas knitting? They were lingering, and I was feeling guilty, and maybe a little unmotivated. Well, I finished the first one and began the next one right away, as you do. I knit on it steadily while watching playoff football, and this was the progress after one day’s knitting: half a sock.

sock in progress at amyhoodarts.com

The next day, I finished it while watching the BCS Championship Game. It’s extremely convenient that two of my hobbies–watching sports and knitting–are so complementary.

finished socks at amyhoodarts.com

These aren’t everyday socks. He wants warm handknit socks to wear to bed. I told him Tuesday morning that they were done, but I needed to take a picture before he could have them. (He didn’t bat an eyelash. He knows this by now.) They were on his bed when he got home from school. He bounded upstairs to tell me, “Those socks are AMAZING!” I will always knit for him, obviously.

Also this week, I tried out a new zippered pocket size. I have a bunch of 4″ zippers and I wanted to try a vertically oriented pencil pouch. This is the result.

vertical pencil pouch at amyhoodarts.com

It’s a little longer than most pencils and pens, but it’s the perfect size for double-pointed knitting needles still in their original packaging.

DPN pouch at amyhoodarts.com

I often need more than one set of DPNs, for instance, when I’m knitting mittens. I like to keep them in their pouches so I don’t lose any, but then I have them rattling around in my bag. The pouch I use to hold my knitting tools–a purchased one, long ago, in my Early Years of knitting–isn’t long enough to hold DPNs in their pouches. I think this might be a little deep for pens and pencils. I need to actually use it for a while to decide. I think it’s just right for DPNs, however.

I think I’m mostly caught up now, except for letting you know that I’m pleased to be amongst the contributors for the upcoming issue of Kindred: Nest, available for pre-order here. That list looks so impressive, and I can’t wait to hold the magazine in hand.

As for the listening part of this post, I could use suggestions of new music. I seem to be listening to the same five or so albums, interspersed with much older stuff. What’s your favorite, sort-of-recent album or band?

(Linking up with Dawn again this week!)