Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Taking a Walk-About

"Blowing Bubbles"
colored pencil on mat board
12 x 15"

This will be my last post until after Easter, March 24, as I will be flying down to Bolivia tomorrow for a bit of charity work. This has been in the works since December, at least for me, and I am thrilled to have this chance to maybe make a wee contribution somewhere in the world outside of my own comfort zone and country.

When my son left for boot camp after Thanksgiving, I had a strong feeling that I needed to DO something...something worthwhile. Not being sure what, I began to look around for some indication of what it was. But the feeling was very strong.

Of course, opportunity always knocks when you are open to it.

In early December, my friend, who runs Global Gallery in the Short North Arts District in Columbus (it's actually next to the gallery where I belong), asked me if I was interested in joining her group to help build an orphanage in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and without asking her another question, I said "Why, yes, yes I would." Apparently, the number of orphans in Bolivia is steadily increasing and the current government funded facilities are extremely overloaded. Global Gallery, while doing amazing work as a fair market shop for 3rd world artisans and manufacturers, has also been raising money and making sizable donations to build this private orphanage. Of course, I wanted to help.

After finally talking to my friend, I had an idea to load up a suitcase and bring some basic art supplies to the kids at the orphanage (they are already housing a few) and for the local village kids. What fun now! My friend informed me that most of the kids have very, very little and a box of crayons would be such a gift. As an artist who grew up with crayons in my fists, and still enjoys coloring, it's hard to imagine a child without those simple basic things!

But there's more: my little guy gabbed onto this and took it upon himself to write a speech about this which he read in front of the entire school! (He's in fourth grade. Can you hear the pride in my voice?) They collected a box of kid-friendly art supplies and raised $700 to boot! (His teacher is phenomenal and really ran with this!) The kids made and sold chocolate suckers for Valentine's Day.) My guess is that the kids at his school had a hard time imagining what a life devoid of crayons must be like.

This will not be a pleasure trip - no sirree! Our packing list is short and limited. We have been told that we should expect to be dirty a lot. Hair and makeup are not in the equation. (But, doesn't that sound like a relief?!)

However, I plan to be open to whatever this experience brings; I have a sense that I'm in for some directional changes (or corrections) in my life. And that's a very good thing. I am going where I'm needed right now; I believe that completely. My husband is a great dad and will take good care of the fort and the residents while I'm gone - the two- and four-legged alike.

Of course, as soon as I'm back and rested for a day or two, expect to see and read a lot about this trip. I'm taking a small sketch book, a camera with several memory cards and a diary, so of course, I'm hoping some new art emerges as well.

If you'd like to help, you can donate directly to Global Gallery, there's a link on their website.
Adios! (I expect that my two years of high school Spanish will just leap back into my brain upon landing in Bolivia, too! Wish me luck on that, I may be drawing a lot just to communicate.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Layers of Fun

“Blue Lucidity”
Colored pencil drawing on 3 layers of Duralar drafting film
10 ½ x 8”

(Backed by Stonehenge white vellum)
I am currently a member of a Studios on High Gallery in the Short North Arts District in Columbus, Ohio, where we work weekly and demonstrate our art. During one such demonstration, while working on velum, both the front and back, a couple came into the gallery and stood watching for a bit, as our customers do. They then suggested, as they were both architects and use the product, that I try Duralar film. Of course, I ran out the next day and bought some (it is usually carried in most art stores in their drafting supply section.)

So then, what to try? While shopping at a flea market, I ran across a woman selling marbles which were perfect for a new project on film. Since I knew I wanted to try to draw something transparent, I bought the entire box and now have a fabulous-o collection (as my son tells me).

Marbles are such simple objects and yet the way the light plays through them and casts such interesting shadows and reflections, I knew I wanted to try to capture that by drawing on the drafting film. But after trying to draw on the front and back only of the film, I wasn’t getting what I had hoped; the film is colored pencil friendly, but only allows a couple of layers at most. Because I usually draw with many, many layers, I then decided to try layering the FILM instead.

  1. On sheet 1 (the top sheet), I applied my first two to three layers using lighter shades of yellows, greens, lavenders and blues. Then I flipped the sheet over and applied some darker blues, purples and greens (indigo blue, dark green, peacock green, black grape and imperial violet). This alone could have been my finished drawing, but I wanted the viewer to feel as if they were looking at a three-dimensional object; to really “see” into the marbles.
  2. On sheet 2 (the second layer), I wanted to highlight my focal marble by using orange/red, which complemented the blue/green of the marble and created the depth I wanted. For the marble just to its left, I decided to use more blues to create its depth and to push it back behind the focal marble a bit. I used various shades of blue, gray and orange in the others to accent their swirls and reflections. Again, the color was also applied to the back of sheet 2.
  3. On sheet 3 (the bottom layer), I decided to created the background. I layered on both front and back shades of orange and blue to create a luminous and interesting grey and also to complement the marbles and pull the composition together.
  4. Knowing that I would be backing all three layers with Stonehenge white paper, I wanted the white highlights to really stand out and the background to really recede. So my final application was to apply white to the marble highlights on the front of sheet 1.

All three complete layers:

Keep in mind that the colors of each layer become a bit muted by the opacity of the film; it’s as if you have added a layer of white.

Assembling the pieces:

Here, I am holding the assembled layers in front of my studio window. (It's my "poor gal's light-box", but I do have an awesome view!) This step helped me to see clearly my pencil strokes and a true view of my assembled layers.

The process was not as labor intensive as many people may think. The drafting film pushes you to be selective in your choice of layers to apply, since it only allows a few. It was such a joy to be able to achieve my goal with this extremely colored pencil friendly support. I think the possibilities are many and I plan to keep “playing” with it!

"Green Glass"

colored pencil on 3 layers of Duralar Mylar film

8 x 10.5"

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is This Normal?

"The Beret"
graphite on bristol vellum
5.5 x 7"

Last week, my son graduated from his Army basic training in South Carolina. The Army was kind enough to let us have him for two days, then they took him back. But while I had him near, I hugged him - A LOT.

Before he left for his next duty station, he changed into "civies" in our hotel room where he inadvertently left one of his berets behind. (I called before he got too far down the road; but not to worry he has plenty.) So, joy, I get to keep a little piece of him around for a while.

Now, I need to tell you what I did next: I smelled his beret. I didn't plan it; I just did it. And yes, it smelled like him. It was just a way of conjuring him up again.

My husband and younger son told me that what I had just done was weird. At first, I did not think so; but on further thinking about it, maybe it was. I've put the question to one of my sisters and she assured me that I am normal and that she might have done the same thing. But then I thought, well maybe it's just a weird family thing.

But here's what I really think (and maybe some of you could put me straight here): mom's smell their children's heads all the time. It's one of the first things we do after they're born and, when they're grown men, you can still kiss the tops of their heads without them felling too smothered. Moms always know their own child's "head-smell". I think I could line up hats from all of my kids and pick out which belonged to each kid. Maybe it's a throw back to our more primitive selves where we probably had to pick our cubs out of the pack by their smell.

Ah well, I have his beret here next to me even though he's far away. And, weird or not, as any mother missing her cub, I will continue give his beret a little sniff once in a while.