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2015 Creative Retrospective - or stuff i done did.

Some of my favorite pieces from 2015.
This was a hard year of ups and downs, the 2nd half, mostly downs. While i was not prolific by any means i did create a couple of things i'm pretty proud of:

Mixed Media - Mask
Combining the Gelli print with the found objects on this wood canvas was just about my most favoritist thing i've ever created.

bbbbw2Mixed Media Card - Stronger Than Fearw00
This was this year's Bono's Birthday card. Handed to him in NYC :)

Mixed Media - Be Always Blooming
Another mixed media piece that brought me so much joy. Combining the layers of Gelli prints was the perfect wabi sabi combination.

Art Journal - Put Flowers in the Mud Baby
This was an art journal page - finally found a visual interpretation of one of my favorite U2 lyrics.

Found Object PIeces of My Heart
I had always envisioned trying to use all the bits in my craft room and this pretty much did it!

Roses for Mom
This piece was made for my mother with Roses her aunt had sent for her and my dad's 50th anniversary. Again, i was able to create a wabi sabi environment using crackle paint, Gelli prints and bits of ribbon.

Gelli Printed Wrapping Paper and Ribbon
I had 6 days off around xmas and wanted to be crafty but felt uninspired. Then one morning i woke up with the idea of Gelli printing my own wrapping paper. That led into wrapping the presents and realizing i could also make my own ribbons. Pretty kinda genius :)

2015 Holiday Cards

2015 Holiday Cards

2015 Holiday Cards

This year, to keep from design fatigue, i made three different holiday cards for people - the kitty and snowman are images from old vintage christmas cards i found on the internet, and the crazy reindeer is from a stock photo site.

For the backgrounds i went through my huge stash pile of gelli prints and found some that looked much better cut into smaller pieces than they did at their original size. Again, reminded to never throw those away no matter how ugly they might look!

Once i matched up the image with the print i did add some more gelli or stamped layers to get the card a little more pulled together.

Topped them off with alpha stickers i've collected throughout the years. Seriously, some of these are at least 15 years old! And as i was running out of certain vowels I found ways to substitute for them - like a three for an e (that rhymes!) and a zero for an o (kinda rhymes?).

and .... voila!

Homage to Smoky Mountains Mixed Media

Mountains Mixed Media

This month's challenge at Gauche Alchemy is vibrant technicolor. I pulled out my paints, and threw some used up tubes into a box i keep the used up paint. Looking at the color palette in the box of old tubes, it drew to my mind the mountains in North Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Whenever i visit the smokies i can just feel my whole being let go and relax.

Some of the most magical times in these mountains are the sunsets and sunrises. And the different colors and textures at those times of day.

Sunset in the smokies
(taken in Tennessee in the Cherokee Forest)

So, with this piece, I wanted to pay homage to some of these textures, layers and colors and my memories of them. I put the tubes into a sun pattern and instead of adhesive used nails to attached them to the wood canvas. The nails also help represent the rustic ambiance throughout that area. On top of the tubes, to pull them together, i swirled some paint and thread.

Mountains Mixed Media - Macro

To me this represents the smoky part ;)

Morning Burn in Saluda
(from Saluda, North Carolina)

Underneath the sun i built up layers and layers of acrylic paint, wax, crackle medium and other bits. The canvas I used is one that I've had for a couple of years. I had put it under other projects i was working on at different times and used it to wipe off old paint and different texture mediums - nothing goes to waste in my studio!

Mountains Mixed Media - Macro

Mountains Mixed Media - Macro
As you see, I tried drawing some shapes to define some abstract mountains. This photo I took in Tennessee near Gatlinburg in the spring:
Clingman's Dome, TN
And this photo is from N. Carolina on White Mountain in the early days of Autumn.
White Mountain, NC

I did add some additional color to the palette, even though there was already much there from previous projects. But wanted to put in ALL the technicolors Mother Nature paints our world with on this piece.

Mountains Mixed Media - Macro

The Start of a new scrapbook / U2 in NYC

I've started a new scrapbook which can also be seen at Gauche Alchemy - the technical specifics are there!

However, i wanted to post these pages on my private blog to write some more in depth memories each page brings up. I plan to then print this out and put it behind the layouts in the scrapbook sleeves. 8" x 8" only has so much room!

2015 Scrapbook

The first sets of shows i went to were in Chicago at the United Center. It was strangely familiar as i've seen so many shows over the years i lived in Wisconsin there, including a handful of u2 shows. The GA line area hadn't changed at all in 15 years! Same grassy knoll and public housing building that didn't look like it had been updated at all since last i was there circa 2002 i believe.

I met several friends, old and new, and we stayed at a house near by. I got in the day before the first show and we did some sight seeing. Then the day of the show woke up early (6:15am early) to go "check-in" in the GA line. For those who don't know, U2 GA lines are SERIOUS business. There are rules and regulations, all fan enforced, and there are check-ins starting 24 hours before the show. If you don't show up to 1 of the 4 you're booted to the back! Thankfully, i was with line pro's who showed me the ropes and we were all in the top 25 to the front.

After checking in we decided to "stalk" the band. We all had various reasons why. And these pro's i was with knew where to go. But more on this later...

The SHOW. The WHOLE reason for this mini-vacation!

The stage set up for this tour is pretty spectacular - for any sort of fan. The people I was with had seen many shows and knew the best places. So the first night we stood by the "B" stage which is where the band performs about a third of their show and it's mostly stripped down versions of the songs. The second night we were up by the main stage which is a whole different experience and truly neither is better than the other one. I must give a slight edge to the place we stood at by the main stage because Bono's voice sounded so crisp and clear there - there must have been a dedicated speaker there or something.

I adored being up close for all the shows i saw. You got to see what professionals these guys are. Yet they are still able to create an intensely personal show. Especially being at the B stage which felt quite intimate. You could see all the cues, all the band communication, all the humanism. I loved how on newer songs Bono had to read the lyrics off a MacBook screen!

2015 Scrapbook

Anyways things that really knocked me out about these shows and setlists.

First, Bullet the Blue Sky. For a song that came out in the late 80s they always seem to give it a new life with every tour and this is no different - it's INTENSE. Like leave your body and drive you mad out of your mind intense. Bono really works through some white guilt during the IE version arguing with himself about becoming an American and not recognizing the person he's become. Just. Just.

Every Breaking Wave is another standout performance. It wasn't until i heard this song stripped down to piano and voice did i pay it any attention and thank god the band decided to take it to that level - it's beyond words how gorgeous that song is. And Bono puts SO MUCH emotion into the performance its hard not to be transcended with him. In fact, in NY the last night it literally brought tears to my eyes and made my knees so weak i was thankful to have a railing to grab a hold of.

Then the New York shows. Again i met a couple of friends and we rented an apartment about a mile from MSG. Very convenient. But these shows were something different. They were the last shows of the American leg of the tour and there were special guests (Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon specifically) and some special songs appearing (Satellite of Love, Party Girl). The last night Bono was so hyped he was flying around the stage. It was quite contagious.

However, surrounding the shows there was a lot of negativity and i don't know whether to attribute that to NY specifically or not. People seemed to be much more on edge and there was alot of negative vibes - people trying to cut in front and push their way up to the rail, professional scalpers physically hurting fans for newly released tickets, professional autograph assholes scaring the band away from the fans... it was not cool and thank goodness that last show made up for that.

The first show, not so much - perfectly enjoyable - but there were people just acting like selfish and entitled assholes. I think the event that happened when Bono handed the microphone to the woman who called 911 after his accident was the perfect way to summarize the night. He introduced the woman who called 911 and stayed with him until the medical team arrived and, as one headline put it, she shit all over new york city. And her last comment through the massive booing was "hey guys, bono wouldnt be here today if it wasn't for me" ... yeah whatever lady. And i'm sure that's the last time Bono will be handing a microphone to someone in the audience.

So something else lovely happened in NYC:

2015 Scrapbook

The first day we waiting about 5 hours in the rain by the backdoor where the band enters with the ultimate goal of being able to hand Bono his 2015 African Well Fund birthday card. Not surprisingly none of the band came out.

The next day we again wait about 7 hours this time and finally Bono arrived. He apologized that he couldnt stay long or sign anything but he did it going up to small groups of people at a time. When he got to our area I shoved the card out to him and said something like "Bono here is your African Well Fund birthday card" and he said as he looked at it "I love your stuff" and then he put it under his armpit and moved on. Mission accomplished.

And More Art Journal Pages

Art Journal - Don't Fear Change

Not a color i use often - green. This background started out as a rag i had used to clean up some splatter or paint or something. Then i kept in the color palette and finished it up with one my favorite themes - Fear. Change brings growth and that is something that definately should not be feared!

art journal - who you're not

This has been in progress for months now as far as it's a page i wipe off my brush or brayer when it has purples on it. I pulled it together with some stencilling, stamping and ink spray.
This quote is pretty special to me. I've met my hero twice now - Bono - the first time i met him he called me an artist when i handed him a card. This last time he said "I love your stuff" when i handed him another card. I have such a stubborn mental block regarding calling myself an artist and even admitting i have any kind of creative talent. It's hard to think through why - maybe its because i admire artists so much and i still have self accceptance issues, maybe its because artists should do things no one else has done before and i feel like all my stuff is completely derivative of something else. But obviously it's who i'm not thats holding me back from really exploring and accepting myself as an artist!

art journal - on the turning away

This last page is an ongoing experimentation with different mists at different times. I decided to keep some white space and make it a finished page. I go through periods of listening to certain artists or music genre's on repeat and lately it's been Pink Floyd (again). And i believe "Turning Away" is my absolutely favorite song by them. I thought the page was somewhat exuberant and this verse culminates the song into action from observation. Damn i love singing it at the top of my lungs! It makes my heart swell.
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Style Evolution still in the making or last 6 years of cards for Bono

Last 6 years of AWF Bono Cards

Kind of wanted to see what the last six Bono Birthday Cards looked like if put all together. Because i'm cursed with the "overthinking" gene i was curious what he meant when he said "I like your stuff"

I don't feel like i have a true "style" yet - I'm still looking for that. I also still don't feel comfortable with calling myself an artist OR these cards "art" like Bono and other people have. I just don't know why.

But, looking at these together, and it's literally the last six years of my "artistic" evolution, i guess i can equate my style to bold color ... texture texture texture ... grunginess ... layers...interactive...?

2015 Bono Birthday Card

Mixed Media Card - Stronger Than Fear

For the 13th year African Well Fund held its annual "Build a Well for Bono's Birthday" fundraiser and again i made the card that housed messages sent to Bono from people who donated to the fundraiser. And this year, i have to say, the card was highly inspired.

bbbbw2Mixed Media Card - Stronger Than Fearw00

When formulating the idea for the card the thought of using bicycle gears not just inspired me but amused me as a tongue in cheek reference to Bono's bike accident last fall.

So, I found some used gears on etsy in various sizes then textured the background with DecoArt crackle paste. I actually successfully got the effect I was hoping! Big cracks in the center fading into smaller cracks to the edges.

Mixed Media Card - Stronger Than Fear Macro

The watch face i had gotten at a flea market. There are several reasons why i added it that was inspired by U2's music. I had just seen two live shows in Chicago of the Innocence and Experience tour and the running theme in both the show and the album is "time". The past, present and future. Acknowledging the good, bad and ugly that happened in the past which because of time can be reflected on to move forward with peace and happiness.

In addition, one of my most favorite U2 lyrics (which is in not one of my most favorite songs), always jumps out at me and haunts me even when i'm not listening to it. It's from the song "City of Blinding Lights" and goes "Time won't leave me as I am ... but time won't take the boy out of this man..."

Lastly the lyric "Stronger than Fear." Where do I even start about this line... it's from the song "Raised by Wolves" and i almost got it tattoo'd on me with the wolf dog Bono drew on my arm. I've been really exploring the idea of fear in my artwork over the last year or so, and try to live my life by the premise that "everything good is on the other side of fear" - so this line in a song about moving past something. "Stronger than fear ... if i open my eyes, you'll disappear" -

After all, fear is a construct of our imaginations.

Mixed Media Card - Stronger Than Fear Macro

This year i also hand wrote the note ... i think it says everything it needs to say :)

Mixed Media Card - Stronger Than Fear Macro

On the back i used a stencil with some light molding paste and for the first time signed my name. In the past I haven't because i didn't want it to seem like it was from me, but this year i decided to sign the piece cause it is so special to me. Plus, i think by now he gets it's from the fans...

Oh, and by the way, this year we got to give Bono his card in person! It was about a 10 second meeting but we gave him the card and told him the total. He also said to me after glancing at the card "i love your stuff" and although i have overthought this in every way, i'm taking this as a compliment in every way. (I know, i know, i'm crazy)

For past cards, check out this link.

Gelli Plate Greeting Cards

Harmony Birthday Card

Something i am pretty well known for at this point in my life amongst family, friends and coworkers is making birthday cards for people. Here are a couple i've made the last couple of months.

The above was made using a Gelli Plate and stencils. The back i did up a little differently than usual:

Birthday Card Back

Corset style! All the greetings are exposed when unlaced!

Birthday Card Cupcake

This card is also a Gelli Plate print with a cupcake wrapper glued with soft gel (so it dries completely transparent)

Bird of Peace Birthday Card

Again a Gelli Plate print with stencils and masks used. This might be one of my favorite yet!

Birthday Card - Fly Free

Lastly a Gelli Plate collage for a coworker who was leaving.

Spring POP Mixed Media

Spring POP Heart

I was inspired by the May Gauche Alchemy mood inspiration board to do something mixed media and BRIGHT. The mood board looks like this:

I ended up making two canvases I was so inspired. The first one i glued a ton of wood buttons on the canvas, gesso'd then painted with neon acrylic colors. The heart is made with Crackle medium and Dylusions ink spray.

Spring POP Heart macro

It's pretty amazing affect the ink and the crackle created - looks like a broken pink mirror!

Spring POP Flower

This second project is good old fashioned paper collage. 

Spring POP Flower Marco

The background paper i bought in a scrap paper bag many years ago and there was just enough to cut into all the little squares and glue on the canvas! The flower is cut out of good old black cardstock.

Documented Life Project Art Journal - More Layouts

Art Journal - Put Flowers in the Mud Baby

Not sure where to begin with this journal page because i love it so much. I can't believe it turned out better than i ever could have imagined when i started and i've already started "transferring" it to an 18" x 24" canvas.

OK, so this layout was inspired by the challenge over at Documented Life Project:

Art Challenge: Under Paper (paper on your work table that gets all inky while you work) Journal Prompt: What Lies Beneath?

There's a couple of different under paper type things happening on this one that i think resulted in the amazing layers. First, i used the open spread to roll excess paint off my brayer when i was making some Gelli Prints. Over that, however, is wax paper that i've been using between pages of the journal when i work. As you can see it's collected ALOT of excess paint on the sides, so after i glued it down it really formed a frame. I haven't used wax paper as a layer in a very long time and i'm not sure why. It adds depth as well as texture!

Serendipity played a roll in the direction this page took as i was listening to my Spotify U2 mix and the song Zooropa started. I have a very strong attachment to this song and have actually wanted to do an art homage to it at some point but could never quite figure out how to honor it. I listened to it on repeat riding the El Subway in Chicago for hours on end during a very dark time in my life. The darkness of the layout with the hint of light, and then adding the quote pulls it together perfectly.

     DLP Art Journal Habits

Why, this is another layout i'm quite happy with!

Art Challenge: Repeating Elements
Journal Prompt: It's Worth Repeating

I started this spread out by using Black Gesso to get rid of the blank page. I then chose three stamps and used three color of paints and just stamped, or repeated, across the entire spread. Then i cut a couple of hearts out of some set aside Gelli Prints and voila.

When i thought about the concept "Its worth repeating" i thought about how i've been able to make it a habit to go to the gym 5 days a week for the last couple of months as well as eat better. It's probably the main focus of my life right now. So the quote came from that concept.
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Documented Life Project - First Journal Pages

In an effort to art journal even more in a way that is actually journalling - i.e. document my life's ups and downs, i've joined the Documented Life Project which is a weekly prompt blog. At first i was stumbling over what to use - to make my own journal, to use loose papers, or buy a journal, and i decided in the end to buy a journal and so far it's working quite well. It appears to be a Moleskine but it's actually made by a company called Stillman & Birn and after three spreads created with a plethora of multimedia items including sprays and lots of mod podge it apears to be holding up better than Moleskine. DLP Art Journal - Color This first spread's Art Challenge is: The Color Wheel Journal Prompt: "I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way . . . “ - Georgia O’Keeffe I've actually been thinking of doing a page like this for years since i have a small collection of old Pantone books i've collected from various jobs. And since i'm in the graphic industry our language of color revolves around the Pantone Matching System (or PMS) so really it's like my color wheel. Awhile ago i was emailing with a friend, who is also a graphic designer, and i mentioned "today i'm just feeling really PMS 432" which is a dark grey color. We got a good laugh out of what nerds we are and it kind of became a thing to every so often call out what PMS spot color we were feeling that day. The day i made this spread i was feeling OMS 115 - a bright yellow. Good day :) DLP Art Journal - The Goal This spreads Art Challenge: Book Paper Journal Prompt: Be Your Own Goal Keeper Wow, this spread really went ALL OVER THE PLACE until i finally called it done. You can't really tell, but it started out with a layer of book paper glued to the blank page. Though you can't see the printing on the paper anymore, you can still see some of the texture it left from where i tore it and glued it. There's a whole crapload of layers on this thing - i kept not liking outcomes and tried to cover it up. There's some light molding paste through a stencil, also some gesso slapped on there, so in real life there's actually a ton of texture. But then i kind of just went ballistic with Dylusion Sprays and stamps and when it looked i couldn't save it no more, i took a brayer with some black acrylic paint on it and rolled it over the top. Because of all the texture from the Gesso and paste it didn't go on evenly letting paint show through the vally's. To pull a little more color out i scraped some of the black off also, then stamped a little on top. To finish it off i took these two quotes i had cut out from magazines to dictate my current goal which is ALWAYS on my mind, and it sounds simple buy holy shit is it not - health. Physical health, mental health. DLP Art Journal - Beginning This spreads Art Challenge: Gesso Journal Prompt: “The beginning is always today.” -Mary Shelley Another multi-layered one. And i learned something super duper valuable!!! I started the page out by putting Gesso through stencils. I've done that before, however what i had NOT done before, was then spray over it after it was dry with Dylusions Ink Sprays. it deflected the spray! Needless to say i will be using this technique mucho more times. After the first layer of spray i took another stencil and sprayed over that with some other colors. Then i took some acrylic paints and stamped on it and finally took some Gesso and spread it across the middle so i could write something without it being too obscured. The Gesso picked up some of the spray which is how it turned blue. Obviously the quote is from the prompt but really made it come alive was that morning i had decided to try a yoga class at the gym. It centered me nicely, actually, and just reminded me too live in the present, today.
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