Monday, September 12, 2011

feeling with the bones

There are things in you sometimes that just demand to get out. They don't care about your work schedule or your dinner plans, and they'll wake you up in the middle of the night, or sprain your ankle so you're forced to sit with them till you do something about it. They bypass the brain and go right to the body making irritating disturbances. But if you're quiet and open enough you can feel exactly what they want you to do.

The Vermont floods really got into my psyche, so did the trip back to the town and my home where I hadn't been for so long. I don't know why I couldn't stop thinking about my horse's grave, but it was an itch I had to scratch, and scratching it was to sculpt a little horse skull while I laid in bed with my ankle. When that turned out, the rest of this scene followed, revealing itself step by step exactly what it wanted. I had no idea myself where it was going, it didn't feel like it had a point or purpose. But when the torso cracked in the oven because of a poor mix of clays, without missing a step I felt my fingers making a rose to grow out of the crack. Adding that last detail was deeply satisfying. It's funny how the soul works things out without you even knowing it.

Still not quite finished, but most of the pieces in place after two days of obsessive making.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

studio 9-10-11

Apparently I get the most work done when I'm incapacitated. Yup, I'm incapacitated yet again, this time a giant swollen sprained ankle I'm trying to stay off of. I've got it propped up on a cot in my studio, finishing up some half finished projects. Some hipstamatic snipits of the many things growing in here right now.

Friday, September 09, 2011

love fish

Did some watercolor for the first time since college for a friends' wedding card (the ones who got married at the aquarium, of course). I'm out of practice, but I can't believe it was actually fun.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

paper doll & stage how to

I'd always wanted to make paper dolls. I'd had a bunch as a kid, this one was my all time favorite, and when I dug it up recently I was flooded with distinct memories of carefully cutting out all the dresses. I loved that it came in a package with a little window like a puppet theatre stage. (This is clearly a pretty strong continuing theme.)

I wasn't sure what to make a paper doll of, until my friend and go-go partner's birthday came around. Dot Mitzvah is an aerialist, roller derby skater, and burlesque artist. Her own wardrobe of costumes was ripe with paper doll possibilities. When this shot was taken at one of our go-go shows with the surf band, the Clams, I knew this was the pose for it.

I printed out the photo to the size I wanted the doll, just big enough to fit on 8.5 x 11 paper. I traced her on tracing paper, changing her costume to something easily coverable with other paper outfits. I xeroxed the sketch (copy machines have waterproof ink, unlike inkjet printers), glued it down to bristol board, and painted directly on top with acrylics. I printed her out on card stock, cut her out, and I had a doll to work off of.

I used the same method for the costumes. Using photos from her events I sketched her costumes on trace paper right over the doll so they would be precise. It was tricky figuring out which body parts to include in the costume, and which of the original doll would be exposed. This took a lot of trial and error.

Again, back to Staples to make black and white copies from the sketches on tracing paper, pasted them down on bristol, and painted them in with acrylic.

I painted four costumes, then scanned them into Photoshop. This is where most of the work was. I drew all the lines in on the computer so I could revise them. This was all the tabs for each costume that fold back on the doll so they stay on. This was hard, and took a week of experimenting, by printing them out and trying them over and over. I had to manipulate some of the painting in Photoshop because they were never quite perfect. It's a very precise art form. I had little paper dresses all over my studio.

I wanted her to have her own stage that was part of the packaging of this kit, so I scanned in some theatrical etchings from a Dover book of ornamentation, and with piecing elements together in Photoshop, built up a proscenium and back drop.

I altered the color to be a nice old sepia tone. Because Dot is a burlesque performer, I wanted an old vaudeville look.

Packaging was an important aspect too, because I wanted to give these to her as if they were a printed published kit, and I wanted her to be able to sell them or give them to her fans. To economize on paper I placed the Dot doll in the proscenium to be cut out. Here I had to go into Photoshop with that darn pen tool to make lines for her stand, and add directions for construction, also a very important and complicated task.

Engineering the stage was also tricky, but I went with a tab system, and with just 2 pieces of nice card stock made a sweet little 3-d stage. I am so excited about this stage! It's a step towards those elaborate paper theaters I've been obsessed with since I first saw them in the Albuquerque folk art museum.

Then I set her costumes up with titles, honoring each of Dot's many characters. These two are from our go-go group, the Nouveaux Pony Banditos.

After I'd tested all of these endlessly with print outs from my Epson, I took them to Tyco printing in New Haven and had the amazing Kick do her color copy magic with them. On good card stock paper, they came out gorgeous! I'm so happy with the rich color, sharp details, and the feel of the paper.

The kit is backed with an instruction sheet with photos of the constructed piece. The 5 sheet kit fits in a clear print sleeve, and looks very handsome. They'll be up on an Etsy site soon.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


After putting the word out in Connecticut, my friend Caitlin and I collected a mountain of food, clothes and supply donation for flood relief in Vermont that barely fit into her suv, and headed north for my hometown of Wilmington. I was unsure if we could, or even should go there, because of the dire state of the roads. But with all the conflicting information on the internet about what was going on there, and what they needed, I had to go find out myself.

We weren't sure if the route we chose would even be passable. It was, but barely. In many places the road was more then half gone, fallen into the creeks, and just a few orange cones directed you to drive precariously around it. There is so much to fix, with such massive amounts of new rock and fill to be brought in, it seems an impossible task.

In Wilmington we dropped off our carload, and drove to my old house, formerly the Fjord Gate Inn and Farm. I was obsessed with the idea that the bones of my horse, who we'd buried next to a pond, had been uprooted and floated away. The grave was fine, the inn now whitewashed and seemingly long-since closed for business, our old pastures and barn completely overgrown and abandoned. The bridge next to it missing a large triangular chunk of cement. It was apocalyptic. It was a strange thing to see.

In downtown, the volunteer work crews had wound down for the day and not many people were around other then police guarding the closed road areas. I checked on the places I could get to that had been intrinsic to my youth. Happily, Memorial Hall, the place I fell into theatre, looked pretty good, being slightly on a hill.

But just next door, the Incurable Romantic, once filled with fairies, victorian hats and all sorts of things that I coveted, was now full of the grey toxic muck that came with the flood and clings to everything. Across the street, the relocated Bartleby's Books, is gutted, nothing left. And the 111 year old Dot's Diner, the only place a teenager in the 80s could afford to hangout, is a broken box balancing on a few lose rocks on the edge of the river, the roads fallen in like a moat all around it. A few guys lingered on the porch of an unidentifiable restaurant nearby with a box of dusty liquor bottles, drinking beer and kindly offered us some.

The dramatic ancient cemetery where I idled many hours drawing grave stones as a teenager was thankfully ok.

We didn't stay long, wanting to get off the roads before dark and new rain. The ride home with the pink sunset over the silvery grey coated fields offered a whole new palette of light probably not seen in many places.

I'm happy we got some donations in, but with Vermonters worried most about their roads above all, I'll wait before going in again. I am glad I saw my hometown. Despite not having been back in a dozen years, I found pieces of me are still there, uncovered from their burial grounds by the hungry water. Back home in my untouched coastal house in Connecticut, I pick over the river-washed bones.