Making + Listening::7/2014

It feels like I haven’t accomplished much this past week or so–I came down with a head and chest cold, and I thought I was on the upswing on Saturday, then boom! Sunday I woke up with a horrible sore throat, too. So it feels like I’ve been sick for nearly two weeks now. Energy levels have been pretty low.

However, in that brief bit of fake-feeling-better, I worked on this painting.

"stronger than my rock," original painting, at amyhoodarts.com

Mmm, this composition could be stronger in places. (That tree in the lower right-hand corner, by the way, is cut from a security envelope.) Let me explain about the phrase, though. It’s an important one.

In the Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus philosophizes on the absurdity of life and whether the realization of that absurdity requires suicide. I didn’t pick up Camus from out of nowhere, mind you. I sought it out after reading Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It (including, Camus, who argued against suicide). One of her quotes from Camus particularly resonated with me, and I wanted to read the original. I didn’t manage to read the entire book, but I did read the last chapter, “The Myth of Sisyphus.” Camus presents Sisyphus as the ultimate example of life’s futility. He is condemned to repeat the same action–rolling that damn rock up that damn hill–over and over but, Camus argues, Sisyphus is stronger than his rock.

Yes. Yesyesyes. We all have a rock. I am stronger than my rock.

After that explanation, I have no good segue into the listening portion, so here goes: Griffin House and Landon Pigg. Also, Cosmos, which I’ve been watching weekly with the kids on Tuesdays, once it shows up On Demand. Somewhere I have an old, beat-up copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. He was one of the first science authors I read who wrote in an engaging way for “ordinary” people. (Another was Stephen Jay Gould. I wanted to be him.) It’s fantastic to watch with my kids and see their delight–and find out they already know some things I had no idea they knew! Science for the people. It makes me very happy.

Linking up with Dawn again this week, who is settling into her new home after her cross-continent drive. Go visit and say Welcome Home!

Child-Led First Hand-Sewing Project

Child-led first hand-sewing project at amyhoodarts.com

This looks like it was planned by a 5yo because it was.

One afternoon while I was working (publishing that zine from my dining room table, like you do), my daughter got out her fabric scraps box and got to work. She’s had her own pair of fabric scissors since she was two, and I’m quite comfortable by this point letting her use them without hovering over her the whole time. So she sat at coffee table nearby, and I sat at the dining room table, and we worked.

When she was finished, she showed me what she’d done. She’d cut out pieces to make a “Super G—,” complete with a drawn-on smiley face and a “G” on the felt body. She’d pinned the head, arms, and legs to the body piece. It just needed to be sewn, and I helped her a bit with that part, as this was her first time using thread. (She embroidered her initial not too long ago.)

She is so happy with this creation. And I adore it, not that it matters if I do or not. But what I adore about it is that it contains so much of her. It shares the style of her drawings and her paper collages. She sat down with fabric and scissors, cut out pieces, no-one hovering to tell her how Things Ought to Be when it comes to sewing. Of course the edges will fray. Of course all the knots are visible on the back. These refinements will come in time, if she continues to be interested in sewing. The most important thing right now, though, is her passion–that, and her utter delight in her finished work.

Ready For Arts Night

(Megan at Days With the Grays has started a great series of interviews with creative mothers. You can catch her interview with me right here.)

My oldest’s child’s school is having their Arts Night tonight, with a performing arts/music component and a display of visual art. He chose to be part of the tech crew for the play. The art teacher kindly invited my non-schooled children to display some of their art as well. The art program at this school is, well, challenged. The teacher is only part-time. I believe he’s not even half-time; I think it’s a .4 position. From my point of view as a parent, art has not been a priority at the school as far as resources, space, or time. This makes me very sad, of course. This also explains why my oldest son chose something from home to display; he wasn’t sure there would be anything from his art class at school. I don’t blame the art teacher for this. I think it must be very challenging to try to run an art program under such limitations. At any rate, I think it was really nice of him to invite my younger kids to participate in the show as well.

My 5yo sorted through all the artwork we’ve done recently (printmaking tends to create lots and lots of finished works!) to try to narrow it down. The best she could do was limit herself to three. She chose three gelatin plate prints:

“Spring Tree” by G, age 5. Gelatin plate print.

“Seaweed in the Ocean” by G, age 5. Gelatin plate print.

“Grassy Chick,” by G, age 5. Gelatin plate print.

My 9yo had a specific idea in mind and set out to create it. After much problem-solving, he was still unable to manipulate the gelatin plate layers quite the way he wanted, so he decided to add the final layer, the tree, by making a second print and using collage.

“Starry Night With Tree” by N, age 9. Gelatin plate print collage.

My 12yo chose one of his gelatin plate prints as well.

“Untitled,” by V, age 12. Gelatin plate print.

The adults in the school community were also invited to participate. I wasn’t sure about this; I didn’t want to be the only adult. But I checked, and there will be others, so I decided I’d show a couple of things too, both linocut prints.

amyhoodarts.com

“Rock Crab,” linocut print.

amyhoodarts.com

“Tulips,” linocut print with watercolor

It’s really nice that all three kids are included and excited. (Can I say it? It’s also nice to be done with play practices…)

In Support of Printmaking

Issue 3 button

My kids and I have been having fun with printmaking for a long while now, so I rounded up some older posts with various printmaking activities that could be used to complement those in Art Together Issue Three: Printmaking. First, though, I wanted to make sure to let you know that Jen is giving away a copy this week; she also shares her and her daughter’s experiences as they begin to explore the issue. I also have a guest post at FIMBY, for which I’m really grateful. Renee is wonderful to work with.

Paint Prints: This post from three years ago (!) demonstrates a version of monoprinting using an acrylic box frame and tempera paint. (My daughter was two. Goodness.)

Labeling the Studio: The kids and I used a slide-decal process–making our own using contact paper–to label all those glass jars we use to store pencils, markers, and so on. The directions are found in the book Print Workshop, which I also list in the resources for Issue Three.

Making Prints While the Sun Shines: Sun paper is an easy and striking way to experiment with making prints. (I like to use the prints in collages, too.)

Craft Foam Printmaking: I led this activity with a group of preschoolers in our co-op last year, and the results were fantastic. It’s a form of collagraph, which is one of the activities in Issue Three, except all the pieces are of craft foam.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils describes the process of making your own stencil for a shirt or bag, and this post from almost three years ago shows how my boys used the process to design and create their own t-shirts.

Another practical application of printmaking: my daughter created her own cards to sell in order to raise money to give a goal through Heifer International.

A couple of months ago I described how I created the title for Issue Three.

And finally, last week I posted a tutorial on a way to use the gelatin plate to mimic intaglio printmaking methods.

Tutorial: Offset Printing With A Gelatin Plate

Offset Printing Using a Gelatin Plate at amyhoodarts.com

I’ve been head down into printmaking lately, even more than usual, as I researched and prepared Art Together Issue Three: Printmaking. At the beginning of this issue, I define the categories of printmaking, and every category includes at least one version that is possible to do at home, without a printing press…except for intaglio printing. In this type of printmaking, grooves are carved into a plate, which is usually metal, through any number of methods. The plate is inked and then wiped clean, so the ink only remains in the grooves. Paper is dampened, placed on the plate, and the whole shebang is run through a printing press, so that the heavy pressure pushes the paper into the grooves, resulting in the print. It’s just not possible to create enough pressure to do that without a press.

However, the process I describe here, which I read about in Making Monotypes Using a Gelatin Plate, by Nancy Marculewicz (sadly, out of print), mimics the effect of intaglio, taking advantage of the give that a gelatin plate provides–the surface is soft enough to be imprinted. I didn’t include this method in the zine; it’s a little more complex than the free-form experimentation with the gelatin plate that works so well with children and beginners (and truthfully, never gets old), and it uses a Very Sharp Tool. But I do want to share it for those of you who fall in love with gelatin plate printmaking and want to take it further.

Materials: Thin Plexiglas sheet (I found mine in the art store with the drafting/engineering type supplies); scribe or something similarly sharp; block-printing ink and palette of some sort; brayer; baren; gelatin plate (instructions for making one can be found in Art Together Issue Three)

Process: First, you need a line drawing that you want to work with and that fits the size of your gelatin plate. I did this twice. The first drawing is at the top of this post; the tutorial was made using the second drawing. When you have a drawing you’re happy with, tape it to your surface and then tape your thin Plexiglas sheet on top. You want to try to minimize slippage.

ready to trace

Now you’re going to use your scribe to scratch into the surface along the lines. You’re aiming to throw up a burr on each side of your scratch, so it holds the ink.

Inscribing into the plastic plate.

Apologies for the glare…overhead lighting in the studio.

You can lift up the plastic to check your progress. This isn’t easy work; you don’t want to scratch right through the plastic, but you do want the grooves deep enough to hold the ink. (You may find, after going through the entire process and taking a print, that you want to deepen your grooves and try again.)

When the etching is complete, ink up your plastic plate using block-printing ink and a brayer (again, if you’re unsure how to do this, you can check out Issue Three). I tried colored ink but found black worked best; however, experiment! Another type of ink, or acrylic paint, may yield completely different results.

inked plate

Make sure you cover the grooved area, but you don’t need to ink up the entire plate. That’s because in the next step, you’re going to wipe away the excess ink. I used an old dish towel for this, one of the really thin ones. Any lint-free cloth will work. I’m thinking old cloth diapers might be perfect.

excess ink wiped

Work quickly, because ink dries fast. See how it’s been caught in the grooves? The next step is to place your etched, inked plate face down onto your gelatin plate and press, to transfer the ink to the gelatin.

impression on gelatin plate

So cool, right? Now lay your paper over your gelatin plate and take a print. Normally with a gelatin plate you don’t need a baren, but for this process, you really kind of do.

finished print 1

It’s really an organic-looking result. Pressing hard enough on the plastic plate to transfer the ink causes some bubbles, which may show up on the finished print. Make sure to take ghost prints, too. (Ghost prints are second prints taken without re-inking the plate.)

Knowing that inked gelatin plates also pick up texture from textured surfaces, such as bubble wrap, that are pressed against them, I wondered if I could use the plastic plate in that way. So I inked up the gelatin plate instead, then pressed the non-inked plastic plate face down onto it. Then I took a print from the gelatin plate. This is the result.

finished print 2

You can really see the bubbles in this version. You can also see that the plastic plate was slightly smaller than the gelatin, because a firm line was created where the edge of the plate plastic into the gelatin. I prefer this version. It’s interesting.

As I said, this is a bit more labor intensive and controlled than the usual methods of using the gelatin plate, which are very loose and “let’s see what happens.” Yet because it uses gelatin, it’s still very organic looking and impossible to completely control. It’s also a way to integrate original drawings into gelatin plate prints.

If you try this method (or have tried it) and have any tips to share, I’d love to hear them. And if you’ve never tried printmaking before, it’s so much fun…and I have an entire issue of Art Together to help you get started.

{Art Together} Issue Three: Printmaking Available Now

I am so VERY excited to announce that the third issue of Art Together is now available. This issue focuses on printmaking, which has long been a fascination for me and my kids. It’s so fun and magical. You can read all about (and purchase) the third issue right here. Some giveaways are planned as well, and I’ll be sure to let you know where to look for them.

I’ve added some of the artwork we created while preparing this issue to the {Art Together} Flickr Group. If you’ve been creating art together with your children, I’d love to have you join and share it in the group.

And as always, questions, comments, and feedback are always welcome: amyhood at amyhoodarts.com.

The Story Behind the Tattoo

tattoo

For a long while I said I’d get a third tattoo once I was done with the pregnancy-and-breastfeeding part of my life. (My first two are both small, one on my ankle and one on my hip.) But I wasn’t quite sure what, and I put it off long enough that I thought it would be a good way to mark my fortieth birthday, which was almost six months ago. Leading up to my birthday, I began pinning some ideas, beginning with trees (I have a Thing for Trees). Then I thought about wings, because running has become so important to me again, emotionally even more than physically. Then I looked at hummingbirds, because the few times I’ve seen a hummingbird in person, it felt like a blessing and a visitation.

Then, while in Montana, working with the horses, I noticed a pair of swallows flying around the barn. Once home again, I looked up if swallow tattoos have specific meaning and the first thing I discovered is that sailors would get tattoos of swallows to represent nautical miles traveled, so swallows are a symbol of journeys. That resonated. Ultimately, I decided upon a swallow tattoo on the inside of my left leg, right above the ankle. Wings near the ankle tie into running (think of Hermes’s winged sandals). The swallow is a permanent reminder of the strength I felt that day working with the horses, because sometimes, I forget. And yes, this is a journey.

Our local tattoo place works with you to come up with a sketch, so this was done by the tattoo artist. I wanted line work rather than color. I wanted it facing up. I wanted a reminder: I am strong, and I have traveled far.

Making + Listening::6/2014

Dawn is getting ready to drive cross-continent, but I thought I’d share what we’ve been making this week in the usual Thursday format. The biggest thing getting Made right now is Issue Three of Art Together, which is scheduled to be available on Monday. Here’s the cover:

Spring 2014 Cover

My daughter graciously allowed me to use one of her prints as the cover photo. She flipped through all 34 pages that I’d printed out to proofread, telling me about the photos on every page. Because of course she recognizes them all! She seemed absolutely delighted by that, too.

I am making a list of what I’d like to get to once this issue is out in the world. (I give myself a little break before thinking about the next one.) I owe my middle child a pair of jammie pants (pieces cut, but need to be sewn). I want to sew myself a bag with a yard of Japanese cotton I picked up during a sale. I have some art ideas floating in my head, and I want to do a self-led month of writing prompts using Natalie Goldberg’s book on memoir writing, Old Friend From Far Away. So, you know, just a few things…

Our local library invited kids to submit artwork to be displayed during the month of March, and my kids said they’d like to participate. I can’t even tell you how much Art we’ve made over the past month…art for the zine, art for the column, art just because that’s what we do. Yet two out of three kids would like to make something completely new to drop off on Friday. Of course. My daughter decided upon collage.

G collaging

There, she’s going through the expanding file folder of paper organized (more or less) by color. She is usually a Girl with a Plan, and I just make sure she has the materials she needs.

As for listening, it seems I’ve mostly been listening to whining, bickering, and bad attitude. I’m not sure there’s anyone in this household who isn’t at least in a funk, if not outright cranky. I blame February. My, how it’s dragged on. Truth be told, I don’t expect March to be much better, at least not for a while. We are tired of snow. It’s ugly, the way it’s piled up on the side of the road, covered with sand, dingy, disgusting, depressing. We’re tired of cold, of the need for hats and mittens and snow boots, the time-sucking process of simply getting on enough clothes to get out the door, the way waiting for the school bus with my oldest in the morning is often a feat of endurance. There are no signs of spring here except for the lengthening days–which I do appreciate. But. We’re ready for more.

Speaking of which, don’t forget there are two more days to save 25% with the THINKSPRING code in the shop. And here’s to (almost) March.

“Sick of Winter” Sale

Truth be told, I was Done with winter a long time ago. We’ve got one last week of February to get through and even though I know March is a heart-breaker…at least it’s not February. So to help make it through, I decided to have a sale. Until the end of February (that’s this week only!), use code THINKSPRING for 25% off in the shop.

Find yourself something springlike. Maybe this spring tree?

green tree 1

Or this daisy-printed notebook?

daisy notebook (1)

Or a cute daisy pouch? Either wallet- (shown) or pencil-sized.

small daisy 3

I know I need a little something to get over that last hump before spring. If you do as well, 25% off is my winter blah-busting gift to you.

Making + Listening::5/2014

I’ve been very busy making this past week. First priority was a custom order for Dawn, for a pouch for her son’s Kindle. She also wanted it to be protected against wetness. After talking about her son’s interests, this is the design we came up with.

photo 1 copy

For the uninitiated, that’s a Minecraft cake block.

I lined it with PUL, the fabric that’s used for cloth diapers and wet bags.

photo 2 copy

It’s on its way to Dawn and her son now. I always put my own good intentions into what I make–even when I don’t know who may end up buying something, I make everything as if I’m sewing a gift for a friend. But when I do know who will be getting it, that’s even better, because then I’m thinking of them all the way through. Which is to say, I enjoyed making this for Ander!

Also this week I’ve been working to put together the next issue of Art Together. I am so excited about it. As part of that process, I made my first gelatin printmaking plate.

gelatin plate

Photo by V. Hood.

The kids and I spent Wednesday morning experimenting with it, and we were back at it after lunch on Thursday! I have a stack of gelatin plates in my fridge right now (I cut the large one down into smaller ones). Because this is a completely normal thing for some of us, to have ink-stained printmaking plates hanging out in the fridge.

I’m also happy to be making time for running again. Earlier this month I was cleared by the orthopedist to start slowly, with short distances, adding only 1/2 mile or so of mileage each week. I was waylaid a bit while my husband was away last week, but I got back to the track last night and it felt so good! I’m also transitioning to minimalist shoes, on the orthopedist’s recommendation, which requires a different footstrike, too. (I know, I lost the non-runners there, sorry.) The bright side is that coming back slowly to running makes it the perfect time to transition, because you have to do that slowly too. By the time sunrise is early enough for me to get out before I need to tend to the day (my favorite running time), I ought to be able to just head out the door and go.

As for listening…it’s still the Olympics most of the time, and Pandora shuffle in the art room. What a happy thing, to listen to music and make art.

(Linking up with Dawn again this week.)