Thursday, May 30, 2013

Outsider Art Exhibit: Part I

Earlier this month, I went to the Outsider Art exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, entitled, "Great and Mighty Things:  Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection."

I didn't think that I would be allowed to take photos inside the exhibition, so I took a picture of this trolley advertisement out front, thinking it would be the only visual I could share with you from my amazing day at the museum.  Incredibly, this is one of the few special exhibits allowing photography!
Outsider artists are self-taught artists.  They haven't gone to art school and they don't run in professional art circles.  They lie outside the canon of traditional Western art.  In some cases, they use unorthodox materials.  In many cases, their biographies seem to include interpersonal and mental health issues.  Often, they do not seek recognition for their work, but their work has been discovered and valued, sometimes before and sometimes after their deaths.  

An essay by Ann Percy explains:  "...the best outsiders produce work that is, variously, out of the ordinary, edgy, visionary, imaginative, proselytizing, obsessive-compulsive, or popular-culture-driven, often raw or crude in execution but also masterful in color choices and composition."

There were 27 different artists represented in this exhibit, and I'll share six of them with you in this blog post, and a few more in the next.
"Prayer" by Elijah Pierce, 1966
Elijah Pierce used paint and glitter (love it!) on carved wood for this piece entitled "Prayer", and created his own frame.  He was known for these kinds of colorful carved wood panels, often with biblical scenes, African American figures, and images from American life.  Pierce was a barber and a preacher by trade, and created and displayed his work in his Ohio barbershop.  His works have been described as "sermons in wood."
"Red Vest With Buttons," by James Castle, 9-1/2"x6", cardboard and string
I am already a huge fan of James Castle's work.  Philadelphia had an exhibit of his work alone a few years ago, and I was enthralled by both his biography and his body of work.
"Abstract Construction," by James Castle, 4-3/4"x5-1/4", found card  and string
Castle was born deaf in 1899, and never acquired language--never speaking, writing, or reading.  And yet he created hundreds of hand-bound books, and incorporated all kinds of text and graphic imagery, making use of food cartons, cigarette packs, matchboxes, envelopes, and other "detritus" as his art materials.  Much is made of his technique for mixing soot and spit, and applying the mixture with sticks to create many of the lines in his pieces.
"Red Dresser," by James Castle, 4-1/4"x5-1/4", cardboard and string, soot and spit stick-applied lines
"Assemblage of Faces," by Simon Sparrow, 56-1/2"x107"x3-1/2"
This absolutely spectacular mosaic-style piece by Simon Sparrow is created with glitter, paint, plastic figures, shells, jewelry, buttons, beads, and glass (to name just some of the materials!).  Notice that it is 107 inches long; that, according to my weak math, is over five feet long!
The artist also created the wooden frame as an extension of the art inside, a feature of some of his other works as well.
Here is a close-up of some of Sparrow's materials:  shells and beads and plastic figures and glitter, oh my!
Notice the plastic Star Wars figures!
A booklet provided for children attending the exhibit challenges them to find as many faces as they can within Sparrow's assemblage of faces.  In many cases, there are faces WITHIN faces.  It is a fun challenge to try to identify them all.
"Balance" (54"x18-1/2"x8") "Airplane" (78"x19"x4-1/2"), and "Single Balance" (43-1/4"x6"x6-1/2") from Emery Blagdon's "Healing Machine"
Here are three sections from Emery Blagdon's Healing Machine.  Blagdon used iron, brass, and copper wire for his sculptures, along with materials like aluminum foil, nails, can pop tops, masking tape, and bandages.  Some portions of his healing machine include jars or bundles of different minerals hanging around the space.

Blagdon's mother died of stomach cancer, and his father died of lung cancer, so he spent the last 25 years of his career trying to ward off disease with this creation.  His plan was to channel the earth's electromagnetic energy for its healing powers.  He built more than 600 segments like these three in a shed on the farm where he lived.  Sadly, Blagdon died of cancer himself in 1986.
Jon Serl spent his early life with his family of traveling vaudevillians.  Themes from that life are evident in his work, including this piece:
"Family Band," by Jon Serl, 43-3/4"x104"
Serl painted mainly with oil on fiberboard.  He is said to have painted every day, creating over 1200 works before his death in 1993.
"Three Figures," by Jon Serl, 82"x50"
I am going to end my first post about the art show with the Artist Books of Purvis Young.  Several of his books were displayed in a glass case (hence the shadow of my hands holding my iPhone in the picture above!).
Young never went to high school, and spent time in a Florida jail as a young man for breaking and entering.  In jail he began making art, and dedicated his life outside of jail to improving his community.
Young used old library books and magazines for his artist books, and drew or pasted his own imagery over top of them.  Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

I have several more artists and works of art that I want to share with you, so I will save them for a second post so as to not overwhelm you all at once!

I walked out of this exhibit feeling the same way I did after seeing James Castle's work a few years ago:  honored to have had the opportunity to see this work, and fascinated by the unorthodox lives and styles of all of these people.

Everything in this exhibit appealed to my own personal aesthetic (well, maybe not the chicken bone sculptures right at the entrance, but that's another story!), and I have such respect for the people who created these pieces with such pure intentions--to honor their divine calling, to save the lost, to beautify their communities, to heal the sick and dying, or simply because it was WHO THEY WERE, their very identities.

No other word but "spectacular."

More in my next post.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Art Journal Round Robin: New Pages!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am participating in my first Art Journal Round Robin this year with Janet, Mary, and Danielle.  Our books have now made their way around to every person, and have just begun their second journey to each participants' home.

Most recently, I have had the pleasure of working in Mary's art journal.  I just love the vibrant colors of her book's cover; it has a modern graffiti-style.
I'll take you on a quick tour of its already-amazing pages, and then share the two spreads I contributed before passing it on.

From the book-creator and owner herself, Mary:
You can see her hand-painted papers from the cover on the left side, and Mary's signature pen-and-ink portraits on text pages on the right.
Her next spread incorporates colorful and quirky flowers, and a fun border, which I always think of as "Teesha-style."
Here's another great Mary portrait with graphic elements in the borders.  Now that I've sent the journal on, I'm not sure whether Mary completed three spreads in the journal, or if I have accidentally included a spread of hers from someone else's book.  No matter; it is only our gain to see more examples of her work!

And from Janet:
If you know Janet's work from her blog, then you know that she is a prolific portrait artist, and she shared a signature lady's face in Mary's journal.
I love that swooping hat and those full lips on this flirty lady!
Janet is also great with texture, as evidenced on this second spread in Mary's journal.  I'm not sure if she used modeling paste through a stencil with this, but it makes for a very tactile journal experience!

From Danielle:
Danielle's signature style, I have come to see, includes scrapbooking elements, combined to create art journaling spreads with plenty of positive messages.
Her pages give you lots of fun elements to look at as your eyes move across her spreads.

And now for my contributions to Mary's book:
I have included one black acrylic-painted silhouette in each of our art journals.  I've tried to make sure that each one has been quite different, with its own positive message:  reach for the stars, stretch yourself, believe in yourself.   This time the message is a little different:  "Balance is over-rated.  Enjoy life out of balance."

I can't remember where I heard that quotation, but it has stuck with me like no other!  Whenever I read articles about trying to achieve balance in my life, I always think of this quotation, and it brings me some peace!  (Did I turn that "B" around intentionally, or was it a mistake?? I'll never tell!)
For my second spread, I decided to let the beauty of some of the vintage documents from the Allentown Paper Show speak for themselves, with the addition of a few stickers and borders.  I would be pretty content to glue a document to every page of a book and just flip through the pages, admiring the printed text, handwriting, and graphics.  But that's just me!

Mary's book is looking awesome, and it will make one more round to each of our homes before returning to her so she can check out the final product.  Now for me, it's back to Janet's book for another couple spreads.  An art journal round robin keeps you on your artistic toes!

I am linking up with Aimee's Glue It Tuesday, so stop by her link list to see what other great glue projects are going on around the country and the world!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Envelope Liner Tags

A holiday weekend means a quickie check-in with a quickie creation:  gift tags made from that ubiquitous craft material--the business envelope liner. 
Envelope liners are so perfect for collage projects and art journaling layouts, but much more simply than that, they can be cut into the shape of shipping tags to create gift and message tags in green, blue, grey, and red.
Sometimes it doesn't hurt to point out the obvious, does it?

For me, it is easy to imagine that this Memorial Day weekend is about cookouts and an extra day home from work for my husband.  But I know that for many people it means SO much more.  Please take a moment to consider the true significance of this Monday holiday, and offer a prayer for those who have given their lives for the freedom that we enjoy, and especially a prayer for those left behind to mourn them.


Come back later this week, because I have hand-carved stamps to share, as well as the Outsider Art exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the latest spreads in my Art Journal Round Robin, and my treasures and findings from my trip to Texas!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mixed Media, Preschool Style

The other day my five-year-old Katy told me that she wanted to make a book about a rainbow elephant.  I left her at the craft table to lay down briefly, thinking that I was coming down with a cold (happily, nothing materialized).  After a bit, she came in to rouse me in order to show me her mixed media creation--the cover for her book:
Katy created a border with paper tape from Target's kids' craft section, with one small area of a scrapbook border I had given her to create with.  Then she used a mix of pen and marker to create her colorful patchwork elephant. 

I'm sure that most mothers think their children are the most clever and creative creatures on earth.  And many kind souls tolerantly listen as these mothers gush about their angels' latest flashes of brilliance.  I hope you will tolerate this bit of gushing, because I happen to think Katy has great artistic creativity for her age.  She dreams up these projects, determines what materials she wants to use to create her vision, and carries them through until she's satisfied with how they look.

I may be reticent to use the word "artist" to describe myself, but I have no doubt at all that my daughter is an artist!  And, happily, she freely uses the word to describe herself.  I hope she never loses that self-confidence in her talents.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Glue It Tuesday: Austin Edition

When I visited San Antonio two weeks ago, my family and I traveled to Austin to spend Saturday with my husband's cousin and his kids.  I have a long-standing love for the city of Austin.  The city that absolutely enchanted me as a high schooler and college student still has power over me as a 40-year-old woman!  I love the vibe of the place; it feels independent, healthy, and creative.

One of the many amazing things about Austin is the absolute abundance of free publications.  We went to lunch at the Marketplace, and I walked out of the cafe with at least eight free magazines and newspapers.  In addition to the longstanding Austin Chronicle, there were publications for cooking, parenting, healthy living, spirituality, women's issues, and independent businesses.  Many of them have fabulous illustrations and photographs, which make perfect collage fodder for art journaling and postcards.

I didn't buy any pre-printed Austin postcards, so here are some originals I created from various clippings from the free publications.
Wouldn't these small business owners and employees be amused to know that they've found their way onto a Philadelphia woman's postcard and blog?
I can't seem to get this one turned around the right direction.  I used  decorative tape along the edges and a patchwork of tiny tea box ads, along with some scrapbooking trim.
This one might be my favorite, with all kinds of images from the magazines collaged together, and inked edges.
This one is kind of fun, too, with the Austin skyline and ubiquitous Texas boots.
These postcards will soon be on their way to mail art friends around the country!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rubber Stamp and Zentangle Mail Art

I took a week away from blogging to visit my friends and family in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas.  When I got home, I found it surprisingly difficult to get back into the "swing" of blogging, so I ended up taking another week off!

A couple weeks before my vacation, I sent out some postcards to blogging friends, making use of two of my current favorite pastimes--self-carved rubber stamps and Zentangles.  At some point, I will share all of the rubber stamps that I've carved, but for now, I'll share the fronts of the postcards, which display a selection:
I used a light color Distress Ink (Antique Linen, I think) to stamp background images, and then used the Fired Brick Distress Ink to bring some of the images into the foreground.  I used the same Fired Brick to ink the edges of the cards:
On the back, I created borders around the edges using different Zentangle and Zenspirations designs:
Here are the borders on the other sides:
This turned out to be a great way to practice a lot of different designs!

I am hoping that my friends and readers will find their way back to Drawing Near after my lengthy hiatus!  I am glad to be back.

Monday, May 6, 2013

More Mail Art & a Giveaway Winner!

I've been busy playing with all of my new ephemera from the Allentown Paper Show, and have created some more postcards for my mail art friends.
The ephemera from the State Hospital in Utica, New York--mainly receipts--make fantastic postcard backgrounds.  On several of the cards, I added decorative tapes, as well as the matchbox stickers I bought recently at the Omoi Zakka Shop here in Philadelphia.
The tan and red decorative tapes you see on these cards came from the zakka shop, as well--I love them!
And, look--there's a lire glued right onto the postcard above!  I've started using the vintage currency from the auction.
I also used many of the old airmail envelopes from the paper show as background elements for the postcards.  My Cavallini postal-themed rubber stamps and my hand-carved stamps made appearances, too!
And the red labels are Martha Steward brand with Avery, which I purchased at Staples.  They're pretty awesome!

All of these wonderful collage elements came together in these postcards, and it gave me great pleasure to create them.  I have a feeling that many more postcards with a similar "feel" are waiting in the creative wings!
And now, without further ado, I will announce the winner of my Paper Loot Giveaway!  I determined the winner the old-fashioned way:  I wrote every entrant's name on a slip of paper, and then drew one from a bowl.  I know for sure that this particular person was meant to be the winner because I drew her name from the bowl, then realized that one person's name had fallen out before the drawing.  So I put the slips of paper back in, swished them around thoroughly with my hand, and drew again.  And it was the same person!  So congratulations to Tina/ZooGardener36.  I drew your name twice, so I guess you were really meant to have all of this fun paper loot!

Many thanks to the over-30 people who entered this, my biggest giveaway to date.  It was very fun for me to see how many people share my love for paper ephemera.


I am taking a brief week-long blogging break to spend Internet-free time with my family.  I will be back next week!  I hope you will re-join me then.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Taking on Tangling, Officially

If you've been reading my blog for any time at all, you know that I have occasionally posted about tangling projects, such as my tangled Easter eggs and tangled trading cards.  I discovered the concept of Zentangles two years ago, and have purchased several books on the subject, predominately the ones by Suzanne McNeill.  Thus far, I have been a "self-taught" Zentangle artist, I guess you could say.  But today I had the chance to get some "official" training.
Our Zentangle Starter Kit
Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill (an area of Philadelphia) offered a two-hour class in Zentangle, taught by Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) Terri Greenberg.  Twenty students gathered in the Horticultural Center, receiving a starter kit for tangling.  The drawstring bag contained five tiles, an official pencil, and a Pigma Micron 01 black ink pen, along with a couple of handouts and a note-taking pamphlet.
The Horticultural Center at Morris Arboretum, the beautiful location  of our class
I was interested to use the official Zentangle tiles for my designs, as I have always used regular drawing paper in the past.  There is something satisfying about sitting down to the precisely-cut 3-1/2 by 3-1/2 inch lightly-deckle-edged square, and yet I don't foresee ordering more for my own tangling; I'm fairly satisfied with the flexibility of using my own drawing paper.  Our instructor Terri explained that the specifically-sized tile is meant to reinforce the Zentangle principle of "the elegance of limits," which many of us have considered and appreciated when we've talked about limiting our materials for collage.
Our instructor, Terri Greenberg, standing next to a projection of one of her designs, published in a local paper.
Terri, who calls herself "an art enabler," is a patient and upbeat instructor.  She trained with Zentangle originators Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas during their first year of offering training sessions.  She explained that erasers are not used in Zentangle, because you are meant to make your stroke and deal with the outcome.  Terri was available to help anyone who felt like they had "messed up" to integrate the errant stroke into their design.
One of my two completed class tiles
She walked us through the seven steps of creating a completed Zentangle:

  1. Sign and date your work on the back of a tile.
  2. Use a pencil to draw four small dots in the corners of the tile.  The dots are a kind of ritual, signifying that you are entering a creative space.  
  3. Continue to use a pencil to connect the dots in order to create a border to frame your art on the tile.
  4. Also with the pencil, create "the string," which is a line that further subdivides the space into the areas in which you will draw your tangles.
  5. Switch to a pen, and fill in each of the spaces your string has created with the tangles of your choice.  Terri showed us Knightsbridge, Printemps, Hollibaugh, Dooleo, Trentwith, Shattuck, and Huggins.  Some are official tangles, and some are designs of her own creation.
  6. Go back to using your pencil (along with your finger or a tortillon for smudging) to add shading, which causes your designs to either recede or project from the page.  I have a huge amount of trouble with shading!  
  7. As a final step, add a stylized initial, or "chop," to your piece.  Terri showed us how she created hers, and encouraged us to develop a presentation of our own initials that we like for our pieces.

I walked around during our ten minute break to sneak peeks at my classmates' projects; there were a lot of talented artists among us!  Even if everyone is doing the very same design, each person brings a little bit different look to the final result.
Our class, hard at work
Terri is offering a Zendala workshop, in both black-and-white and color, during the summertime, and a more in-depth Zentangle class in the fall.  You can check out her web site here, and search for a CZT in your area here.

Here are some of the tangle patterns we worked with today:

Check out Tangle Patterns for the best source of new tangles to try.

Happy Tangling!

Come by on Monday to find out who our Giveaway Winner is!