Online Artists’ Challenges Spark Exploring Techniques and New Avenues of Expression

Online challenges are a new passion of mine, having stumbled upon a free one a few months ago….maybe via Instagram?  Somebody’s blog?  I am losing track of how I found – and keep finding, such great talent on the web to learn from, maybe emulate, and share with.  Then of course, you get chummy with the other artists involved in that challenge or class.  You’re hooked.

I found more artists whose work I wanted to see more of, via a big clean-out of my many art books and periodicals.   I will be downsizing even further in the next few months, and I needed the cash, so off to HalfPrice Books I went with a load.  Before letting a good book go, I found it necessary to peruse it thoroughly; keepers were set aside and some pages torn out of various Stampington publications before trashing the rest of the magazine.  Even so, there were plenty of pristine issues intact left to sell.  You can find  ’em at the HPB store on Northwest Highway.

Now I have roughly half the art and decor books I moved in with; which gave me the courage to toss a big trash bag full of fabric scraps.  I’m not done ferreting around in my stash;  I’m determined to be tough.  I’ve had this stuff for many years.  I used to enjoy popping in to the fabric store for the odd remnant but haven’t had that pleasure for a long time, ’cause I just didn’t want to add to my piles.

Last week I let my favorite doll that I made go; and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would!  “Beth” is with her new mom now up in Glen Ellyn, IL.   I listed her on Etsy and she wasn’t there for long, so I am encouraged to keep going with dolls and other artwork for sale.  And selling at lower prices than I offered before; I am trying to find that sweet spot between what’s affordable for a buyer and gives me some profit, too.  It’s the sharing of my work, and the recognition, and joy the buyer experiences that mean the most to me now.

I love Instagram for its ability to satisfy my need for instant gratification.  I follow close to 200 artists world-wide now, and have some followers of my own.  It keeps me on the creativity path.  The online challenges have you upload your “homework” onto Instagram, and all the artists in the challenge view and comment on everyone’s work.

Shout out to Tara Leaver, a young abstract painter in Cornwall for her Art Notes news and encouragement!  She has online classes in addition to an occasional free challenge.

Tara Leaver Freedom Through Art

Now for photos of my artwork since last May.

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Playing with Linda Goodwin’s oil pastels

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Black gesso smudge, white charcoal and oil on small canvas paper. I didn’t plan it, I just pulled the imagery out of the black smudge.
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White and Black charcoal
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Still loving learning painting with soft pastels via Gail Sibley’s blog, How To Pastel

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I fell in love with a business card featuring a photo of A Little Company stoneware/porcelain sculpture of these delightful characters
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I wanted to see what would happen if I held two different tip size pens and made a quick sketch of a still life.

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“Beth” doll is ready for mailing to her new mom in IL. I made her wrapping paper out of paper napkins stitched together.
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Little fabric collage, or samplers. Using up favorite scraps, and loving the zen relaxation of making them. Just instinctive; no plan. Addictive. Jude Hill of Spirit Cloth got me onto this.

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Pamela Hastings Book and the little figure I made from one of her patterns
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I wonder if I should quit while I’m a-head?

In Order to Execute One Task, I Drift Off Into Another In Search of the Elusive Muse

Evolving Studio Reorganization
A few weeks ago, before launching into some new projects, I decided my living room/studio required another sort and rearrange.  Besides gaining some wiggle room I found an old sketchbook with drawings from my foray into the Sketching in the Gallery events at Dallas Museum of Art in 2001.  I thought I had lost them.  My graphite drawings reminded me how much I used to love using charcoal.  Now I get a thrill knowing I can seal these babies with my new spray fixatives (matte or semi-gloss).

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My tonal drawing of a painting while at Dallas Museum of Art’s Sketching in the Galleries

Before and After

Before and at the Point of Overwhelment:

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And After, At Last:

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Mom painted that Venice scene in 1965.  We hated the bottom half.  I’m collaging on that part.  Mom’s passed on, but I like to think she visits me.

 

Trying New Supplies and Techniques
In response to a call for entries for artworks inspired by the iconic Frida Kahlo at an upcoming curated gallery exhibit at The Bath House at White Rock Lake, I had an idea for a cloth doll posing with some of her (the doll’s, not Frida’s), self portrait sketches (done by yours truly). I wanted to experiment with some of my new art supplies, but it was also important to me that I use fabric, trims, and doll hair already on hand.  And the DOLL selects the materials she wants.

I like to shop online.  I HATE shopping in person.  My vertigo kicks in and I always get a tummy ache.  In a store, decision-making eludes me.  I have been known to leave a store empty-handed.  If I could order groceries online for cheap, I would.  Anyway…..

The drawings are done on four different papers, approx. 5” x 7”, using a variety of tools including chisel tip pens, markers Pigma pen, pastels, acrylic, charcoal.  Why had I been afraid to try new techniques?  That’s an interesting line of thought, I think..  I found I love the soft pastels, especially on this new Yupo ‘paper’.  So slick and smooth!  Spray with fixative and you’re done.

I was uncomfortable using the calligraphy pens and lost control of my marking a few times.  So much so that I cut out the boo-boo and pasted on a new piece of paper, and drew over that.  Ouch. The damn chisel tips bleed when dampened by a dot of Elmer’s.  That would never do with a wash.  I’ll stick with my trusty Micron Pigma Pens.  In the end, none of my sketches remotely resemble Frida, but why quibble over details?   In any case, I changed my mind about using them with my Frida doll entry.  They will turn up in a future project, probably.

Recent sketchbook drawings with new supplies:

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The dreaminess of soft pastel on the slick Yupo paper blew me away

 

Inspiring Studio of Artist/Writer Linda Garten Goodwin
Is it any wonder I like to hang out in my friend’s carefully collected and curated studio space?

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Linda’s self portrait.  The red shoes are just there for eye candy.

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My Frida Sketches

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Charcoal interior in new 12 x 9 Super Deluxe Bee Paper sketchbook

In Order to Execute One Task, I Drift Off Into Another In Search of the Elusive Muse
I was also playing around with piecing small scraps of fabric.  Maybe use some on cloth dolls.  Maybe just see what becomes.  I was stuck in the select-and-pin phase; the thing was getting too big and pissing me off,  when I happened to take a Pinterest break.  A Pinterest “break” usually becomes a BINGE.

Luckily my Textiles-Fiber Arts Pinterest board includes work by Jude Hill and I happened to swoop into her Spirit Cloth blog   .    Serendipity!  She was just starting a new online sharing project and soon I had segued into beginning my first cloth sampler.  I’ll try a nine-patch soon, but it scares me because I have a hard time with measurements and squaring things up.  Don’t know how much of that fear is due to mental block or mental handicap.  **humphf**  But for this first project, I want intuitive design, imperfection, and simple hand stitch.  I love that Jude uses just a few simple but perfect, tiny embroidery stitches.  The folk art feel appealed to me, but with the hope of producing something that is somehow primitive and modern all at once.

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Piecing out of control

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It started off random but now reminds me of a town

 

Meanwhile, My Doll Making Muse Butts In
So OF COURSE this stitch-play led to the dubious decision to stitch my Frida doll BY HAND.  Which I loved doing, but it really slowed me down and I was only 97% finished with her in time to meet a contest photo-entry deadline, so I had to tack her clothes in place, pose and snap the photo, and wait until later to give her rings and embroidered shoes.   I used my new pastels along with pen, fabric paint and spray fixative on her face.  I’m pleased with her hair.  It’s mohair + synthetic doll hair.  She wears new earrings from Kalachandji’s Indian gift shop. She doesn’t look like the real Frida, but she FEELS like her to me.  I enjoyed researching the real Frida Kahlo in any case, and remembered I want to add the movie to my collection someday.

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A trip to Joann for embroidery floss for Frida’s slippers also yielded remnants which I immediately hand stitched onto sofa pillows I was sick of.  Frida doll approves.

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This was my photo entry of my piece for the upcoming curated gallery exhibit at The Bath House
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Frida doll contemplates her image in this moody light-play vignette
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And we are off for delivery to the art gallery!

Color Play
Adult Coloring Books have become so popular, and friend Linda Garten Goodwin and I spent an afternoon at the Bath House at White Rock Lake indulging in a coloring event with folks from the East Dallas Creative Arts Center.  I hope to take a class there someday.  Anyway, while I enjoyed the outing, my colored page SUCKED.  A four year old could have done better.  I was duly humbled.  Linda didn’t like hers either, but I thought she did pretty good considering her advanced age (ha!).  She complained that her hand was cramping up.  Excuses, excuses….

Speaking of child play……So the kids who graduated high school the year before me were in town for their 50th reunion.  Lesley Ivy stayed with Linda and Mr. G, (who live just a couple blocks from me in the White Rock area), and I was lucky to get a play date with her and Linda before Lesley returned to her home in Taos.  (I know, right? Taos.  *sigh*)

We had a sublime lunch at East Dallas’ Kalachandji’s Indian restaurant/gift shop/temple, where you eat outside in a lovely courtyard.  I bought Frida-doll’s earrings there.  Beautiful afternoon with beautiful ladies!

Check out Lesley’s colorful and distinctive murals, mosaics, painted furniture and more, here  Colorwork  I’ll take one of each, please!

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Coloring at The Bath House
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Linda got Colorers’ Cramp
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Courtyard dining
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Stained glass Peacock at the Indian restaurant
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Old High School Friends Lesley Ivy and Linda Garten Goodwin
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Little Ganesh came home with me.  He removes obstacles in our paths.  Seems to be working pretty well.  Nice.