Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dromedary Print

Continuing my animal theme from last year, I decided to print a camel for my Christmas card this year.  I love the idea of combining my love of animals, folk patterns and Indian motifs into a linocut.

I started with a pencil sketch and thought it might be fun to incorporate my logo into the saddle bag.

But after I carved the plate I thought the knees made the camel look like a robot.  Plus I didn't like the way the saddle blanket fringe didn't continue all the way around.  I also wasn't loving my logo in it.  (This plate is red because I like to use my giant stamp pad to get a quick test print).

So I decided to re-sketch and try again.

Below you can see the plate inked with metallic gold ink.

This video shows me hand-burnishing the plate and pulling a print.

I had a difficult time printing these this year.  I started by mixing silver and gold oil-based ink together.  About halfway through I ran out of silver ink and decided to keep printing with just the gold.  Unfortunately for me the gold ink was extra viscous and I started losing detail.  I knew I should have bought that burnt plate oil at the store but I didn't.  So I quit for the night and tried again the next day.  Again, I was losing detail and getting blobby prints so I completely cleaned the plate... again, terrible prints.  I had to accept defeat and cleaned everything again and took a nap.

Later in the day I went to the art store to try to buy burnt plate oil but they didn't have any.  A friend suggested I try the speedball water-based ink.  I brought it home but was worried about using it on my plate that I had cleaned with vegetable oil.  Another friend suggested I wash it with soap and water.  So I did and then I printed the last 50 prints lickety-split.  The clean up lasted less than five minutes with the water-based ink and all the prints were dry by the next day.  There are definitely pros and cons to both kinds of ink! 

I am not sure what I will do in the future, but I do know one thing.  I am thankful to all my friends (and husband) who keep me going and help me solve these problems.  I wouldn't have made it through this one without them. 

"When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with cries of 'me too!',
be sure to cherish them, because those weirdos are your tribe." 

I thank you all for reading and supporting this blog and for being part of my tribe.  I love hearing all your comments and I wish every one of you a very happy holiday season and much joy in the new year!  Love, Nessy

"Set your life on fire.  Seek those who fan your flames."  -Rumi

Monday, December 21, 2015

Fingerprint Book

Last year my friend Dan Richardson asked me to illustrate his poem and to help him make it into a book. The book is a poem Dan wrote to his son about the difficulty and beauty of finding your way in this world.  After reading the poem and discussing it with Dan I played around with different ways to illustrate the ideas in the poem.  Normally I present all sorts of options, but this time I fell in love with the first illustrations I did and luckily so did Dan.  Each page has a fingerprint element that interacts with an icon (or shape) to help illustrate the poem.  Below is my favorite spread in the book where the fingerprint element has taken on the shape of the earth.

It has been a long process of learning the ups and downs of different printing companies and making lots of difficult decisions regarding book design, size, hard cover vs. soft, ISBN, pricing, ... the list could go on and on.  But through that process we both learned a lot about collaboration, persistence, and what it takes to self-publish a book.  In the end I think our efforts paid off and the book is a lovely combination of poetry and art and I am very excited that it is now available through CreateSpace and Amazon.  This is the first week it is available online so if you know anyone who might be in the market for an uplifting book with a message of encouragement and hope, please help us spread the word!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wisteria Pomander Skirt for Sewendipity Lounge

As many of you know I am part of a group of freelancers called Creative Juice that meets weekly to discuss our creative endeavors.  About six months ago an amazing woman named Karen Williams joined our group.  Karen is one of those people who has amazing presence, contagious enthusiasm, and dogged determination.  She also has a grand plan to open a sewing studio called Sewendipity Lounge where people can learn to sew garments.  What does this have to do with a wisteria pomander skirt you ask?  Well, she recently found a location in downtown Cincinnati and decided to have an opening so people could see her new space.  She decided to have various groups around town decorate creative holiday skirts and to have people vote on their favorite by donating money that would be given as scholarships (Skirts for Scholarships).  So naturally our Creative Juice group decided to make a skirt decorated with juicy, aromatic pomanders.

When we originally heard about the project we all suggested a variety of ideas. One of the ideas I threw out there was to weave a skirt out of wisteria from my backyard.  Then Lisa did a little sketch of the skirt covered in pomanders and we were on our way.  I had always dreamed of harvesting wisteria to make a basket and this was a good reason to try it out.  Honestly I wasn't sure it would really work.  But one day Margot and Monica showed up at the house and we got to work harvesting.  It only took us about an hour to have a rather large pile of wisteria.  My main concern when I thought about this project was that we wouldn't have enough wisteria, but I had nothing to worry about.  I probably have enough wisteria back there to suit up an army with wisteria skirts.

We started by weaving a wreath around our dress form's waist and then inserting the vertical stays into it.  Once we had the stays it was quite easy...  just over under over under until we hit the ground.  You can see a short video Margot made of the weaving here.  After we had a good start on the skirt my neighbor John came over and helped me finish weaving the skirt.  Somehow John always gets roped (or should I say wisteria-ed) into my projects and I can't thank him enough.

Once the skirt was built Monica, Margot, Lisa, Robin, Cindy and I brought elements we found in our yards to decorate.  We added some greens at the foot of the skirt and more for her top.  We also added a spray of grasses to her back, a bustle of more greens, and we experimented adding sprays of greens to a few pomanders.

Here is a stop motion video Margot took of our primping.

At the end of the day we had her looking pretty good.  All we needed were pomanders.

At the next Creative Juice meeting we made pomanders the whole time until there was quite a pile.

The giant grapefruit pomander below was my favorite.

We meet at Red Tree Coffee shop and by the time we left the whole room smelled of cloves and citrus.

Last night we attended the grand opening of Sewendipity Lounge.  It  was well attended and we had a great time seeing her beautiful space and congratulating Karen on her exciting endeavor.  If you are interested in learning to sew I highly recommend stopping by her website to learn more.

Below is a photo of the front and back of the final skirt in the store window.

Robin made us a lovely sign to attach to the back of the dress.  (If you ever need calligraphy, Robin is exceptionally talented). 

Working on this project with these beautiful, creative women was truly a wonderful experience.  I rarely get the chance to collaborate like this and it made me want to do more.  Being a part of this group has been life-changing and I can't wait to see what kind of lemons life will offer us in the future!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Krohn Observatory Sketching

A couple weeks ago a group of us from the Cincinnati Illustrators went sketching at the Krohn Conservatory.  They have their Christmas display up and it is really fun for all ages.  If you live in Cincinnati it is well worth the visit.

One of my favorite rooms in the conservatory is the bonsai room.  I love the wonderful shapes of the trees.  I also wandered over to the Tropical house where they had a train display that circled this fairy house in a shoe.  It is fun to imagine who lives in this house and to think of them catching the train over to the house on the far side of the room.  You can see Christina's sketch here, Amy's sketch here, Anisha's sketch here, and Sarah's sketch here.  Even though I wasn't in a super sketchy mood it was great to spend time with such beautiful, talented women.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Barnacles & Mussels

Originally I wanted to have one post about my Thanksgiving trip called "Nuts, Bolts, and Barnacles."  (I thought the name was catchy.)  But after I looked at these little beauties I realized they deserved a post of their own.  I almost missed seeing them because they were down in between the large rocks at the end of the pier.  I had to lay completely flat on my belly on the large rocks (shown below) to take their photo.

When I first saw them I was quite impressed by their sheer numbers and you know I LOVE repetition.  As I looked down at them I was so joyful to see them all huddled together thriving in their abundant barnacle city.

And the barnacles were not the only ones thriving...the mussels were hanging in there too.  It was interesting to see the contrast in color and texture where the two met.

I was also happy to find the barnacles on these incredible rotting posts.  The combination of the craggy wood and barnacles made my heart skip a beat.  Not to mention the sun was setting and lighting the whole scene in beautiful, golden light.  I wondered if the barnacles were enjoying it as much as I.

The photo below didn't quite fit into my barnacle theme but the surface of this log caught my eye as I lay on the rocks.  It reminds me of a heartbeat reverberating outward (or maybe a many-armed spider).  Either way the combination of algae, age, and texture was stunning.

As I stood up after half an hour of jubilant scrambling around the rocks I noticed my shadow had grown quite long.

And when I turned around I was greeted by the rays of the sun lighting the algae a most amazing, vibrant green. I know my last post ended in a sunset also, but you have to give a girl a break.  I could have done a whole post just about this sunset!

As I sat here thinking about that day it made me realize that sometimes your shadow is what makes you turn around and see the light. And sometimes the light colored barnacles are made all the more beautiful by a dark line of mussels (and vice versa).  I recently read a book called, "In Praise of Shadows" by Junichiro Tanizaki and it taught me a lot about the value of darkness.  As I looked for a quote to end this post I came across these two that say it perfectly.

“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light,
things that have saved my life over and over again,
so that there is really only one logical conclusion.
I need darkness as much as I need light.”

― Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Götz von Berlichingen

Monday, December 7, 2015

Nuts, Bolts, Posts, Pipes and Rust

When we went to Ocean City, New Jersey over Thanksgiving break I became obsessed by photographing the old, rusty pipes and piers leading out to the ocean.  Everyone around me was taking photos of the ocean and their loved ones while I fixated upon worn-down metal and wood.  There is something about the effect of the salt water on these materials I find so fascinating.  For instance, when I saw the top of the wooden pier below I fell in love with the way the wood had cracked and the algae was growing on the weathered surface.

And when I came upon the pipe below I wanted to yell out to everyone, "Come over and check out this patina!"  The scumble and bumble of texture and the warm rust tones were amazing.

The next pipe I came across was totally different but also incredible.  The texture reminded me of elephant skin and the light was hitting it in the most beautiful way.

I was also infatuated with the bolts that held the wooden structures around the pipes.

I loved the contrast of the brand new perfectly machined bolt and the worn, algae-covered wood.

Not all the bolts were new and I found the bolt below still had a hint of its original blue paint.  The combination of the intense blue and the orange rust was lovely.

I let out a little gasp when I came across the bolt below.  The shape was so over-the-top and made me wonder about its history.  Who made this and who decided it had to have four layers and was it really as strong as it appeared?

I also fell madly in love with this old wooden track that had very worn metal shapes in the middle of it.  It was surrounded by huge rocks.  It is always amazing to me what people can build and how nothing can ever really stand up to the ocean.

But I am also impressed with people's tenacity.  The boardwalk near where we were staying had clearly recently been destroyed and was being rebuilt.  The section shown below was in good shape and full of people even on Thanksgiving.

Normally when I see man-made items (like pipes) leading into the ocean I have thoughts of pollution and sewage.  But I love how the ocean and the sun can work their magic to turn even an old, rusty pipe into a work of art.  As I sat on these rocks waiting for the sun to set I noticed something so subtle and lovely.  Each time the waves touched the underbelly of the pipe the water would cling to the pipe for a moment and then cascade down in what appeared to be liquid icicles that glowed orange and pink in the setting sun.  I watched this phenomenon until the sun set and as I ran home to Thanksgiving dinner I thanked my big, orange, lucky star.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

City Hall Sketch, Ocean City, NJ

Over Thanksgiving break we went to visit family in Ocean City, New Jersey.  I am always on the lookout for interesting buildings and when we drove over the bridge into town one building caught my eye.  A few days later I decided to walk to town to sketch that building.  When I found the street it was on I couldn't figure out why it was so busy, but then it dawned on me it was Black Friday and everyone was out shopping.  I made my way through the crowds over to the building but it continued to get more and more crowded and the police were blocking off the street. 

When I first sat down I was still able to see most of the building.  I probably sketched for about an hour when there got to be so many people I could barely see the building to draw it.  Then a man with a microphone started talking and they had the local theater kids singing Christmas carols.  After that Santa appeared on the roof.  It was really quite festive and everyone was cheering like crazy.  I thought Santa's appearance was going to be the end of it but then the fire truck showed up and they swung a big ladder over to him and he slowly walked down the ladder to the cheers of the whole town.  I heard a man near me say he hadn't missed this for fifteen years.  As I walked home I thought it was a funny, but fun tradition and that I had been quite lucky to catch Santa up there for my sketch.