Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dyed Pellon Background Technique

Glad you stopped by to "play" with me in my sandbox today! This is a fun, easy technique and as you will see later on, very versatile. So let's get started...

If you don't have any pellon, it's time for a trip to the fabric store. Purchase some heavy, stiff pellon which is a white interfacing (non iron on) that sewers use to stiffen lapels, etc. in jackets. It's very reasonable in price so get at least a half a yard (or meter) to play with. Cut out lots of 4" x 4" squares to play with but leave some larger pieces so you can play with a bigger piece later on, especially if you want to print some graphics onto the pellon (more on that later!).

For those impatient types who don't like waiting around for something to dry, (ahem.. do you know anyone like that?) you will need your hair dryer to dry the dyed pellon. You will also need some heavy duty freezer packing paper and liquid watercolors. I used Moon Shadow "Gossamer Gold" first, then Color Mists "Copper Kettle" in the sample below. I haven't tried mixing up either tube or cake watercolours but I am betting that either of them would work just as well. A couple of water misters are handy. Have one filled with just plain water nearby and use the other to spray "mix your own" watercolours.

The numbers in the sample refer to the three different looks you can achieve. Play around with these until you get the look you want. Remember you are just experimenting not trying to come up with a finished product!

1. Spray pellon in light spurts with watercolour (i.e. Moon Glow's Shadow Mists or Colour Mists Crumple pellon into a tight ball while wet, roll it around for a minute or so to get subtle wrinkles (put on some disposable gloves if you don't want to dye your hands too). Flatten lightly and let dry naturally or use your hair dryer. Spray with second, even third colour to add more depth and a more mottled appearance. Let dry.

2. Give pellon a dip (in and out VERY quickly) into a bowl of water once you have "dyed" it. But be quick, the watercolour will disappear fast! You can, using my favourite way, spray it with water after it is dyed and soak up the water with a paper towel. Place it on a paper towel to dry and often you'll often get a serendipity piece of paper to play with!

3. Spray dried pellon from technique 1 with water. Don't soak but give it a goodsquirt to disperse the watercolour. Let dry.

Once dry, you can fuse the pellon to freezer paper with your iron to ready it for printing. Sandwich the pellon between the shiny shide of the freezer paper and a scrap of paper when you fuse to keep your iron clean. Moderate hot iron temp.

Oh, you say you'd rather print a graphic on it first and then dye? Okay. Follow this step

Please note: this works with laser printers ONLY. Sandwich the pellon between the shiny side of the freezer paper and a piece of scrap paper. Use a medium hot iron to fuse. Cut to size to fit your printer. You can get 4 - 4 inch x 4 inch squares from an 8-1'2 x 11 inch sheet if you want smaller samples. Just cut them apart when you are done. Print your graphic on the "fabric" with your laser printer BEFORE you dye it.

To dye the "fabric" after printing, just remove the freezer paper backing and follow step 1 to dye it.

Q. But I don't have a laser printer! Can I still do this?
A. Yes. It will work with inkjet printers as well but you must DYE YOUR PELLON FIRST then fuse it to freezer paper.

Q. I don't want to dye the pellon. I just want a white background with an image printed inblack. What do I do?
A. Just fuse the pellon to freezer paper. Cut to size to fit your printer and away you go. Treat the pellon just like ordinary printer paper that you use every day. I always put it on manual feed and change my printer paper setting to "thick paper". Yes, it's that easy. Here is a sample photo:

Q. I want to print a colour graphic on my pellon with my inkjet printer. Can I do that?
A. Yes, you can, although I would recommend that you get some InkAid from Ontario Speciality Products. Although this pre-coat is not "cheap", you'll have it for a long time. You might want to consider ordering the "Sampler Set". I have both the white matte and semi gloss clear in quarts and use it all the time in my art work for printing. It is amazing to me how long my ink cartridges last considering how much printing I do. My understanding is that Golden has come out with a similar product to InkAid but I have not tried it. It likely works in exactly the same way.

Think of InkAid as a way to prepare your pellon for printing just like you would put gesso on raw canvas before painting. The graphic will be much brighter, the colours truer AND you will save ink. At the cost of printer cartridges these days, you want your cartridge to last as long as possible. The end result is a subtle colour difference that makes all the difference... if you get my drift (BIG GRIN)

The InkAid site has lots of info about their different products. Spend some time there reading up on it to get some other ideas of how you can use the product in your art work.

Coat your pellon with InkAid before printing. Just brush it on with a paint brush. Two coats are usually enough to give it a good base. Let it dry between coats. Leave it overnight before using to make sure that it is completely dry. Trust me... you do not want to muck up your printer with this stuff!

Here is a sample photo, done on the same inkjet with and without InkAid. Notice the difference in the blue of the jacketr:

Q. The "fabric" feels quite soft and doesn't have a sheen. What can I do to stiffen it up and give it more "life"?
A. If you want your fabric to have more of a sheen, paint it with a gloss varnish. It won't make it shiny... it has a tendency to soak into the pellon, but it will give it a soft glow and bring out the colours. It will also make your fabric stiffer. Make sure it is completely dry before you use it.

So go experiment now... and on Friday, I'll give you a few more ideas of how to color pellon prints that you haven't dyed. I'll also tell you how to do gel photo transfers onto background pieces you have created.

Any questions so far? Send them to me at this address: sharonhouse at (just change "at" to @ when you send the email) I'll do my best to answer them. I would ask though that you give me permission to post the questions and answers in a future post so that everyone can benefit from them. If you don't want your first name published... that's okay... I'll just use "anonymous" or an initial. Just let me know what you prefer!

Have a playful day... see you Friday!


P.S. When I make these samples, I usually leave the freezer paper on the back so I can write down what I did to achieve the look on the front. You can then put them in an art technique binder or journal for future reference.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My First Major Art Show...and a play date invitation for you

Two weeks ago I found out that one of my mixed media canvas assemblages had been accepted into the 2008 Sooke Fine Arts Show in Sooke, B.C.. The show runs from July 26 to August 4. and attracts up to 7,500 people each year from Vancouver Island, Western Canada and the U.S.. It is one of the premier juried art shows and sales in British Columbia. Needless to say, when I received my acceptance letter, I was absolutely thrilled to bits. Many artists that I know have tried for years to get in and have yet to be accepted. It was my first "crack" at getting into the show and I made it!

Friday night is the Artist and Sponsor Reception. I am so excited, I could just burst! My husband and I are going to dinner beforehand at a lovely wharf side restaurant in Sooke with my friend Marianna , her husband and another couple. One of Marianna's photographs taken at the Louvre in Paris was accepted into the show. Marianna does absolutely awesome photography and has had her work accepted in a number of shows over the past few years. She has another talent which is equally as impressive. Her charcoal and pastel drawings of small children are wonderfully charming. I absolutely love them! Hmmm... I wonder if I could sweet talk her into posting one of them for you to see? Let me work on that one!

Artists accepted into the Sooke show are given the opportunity to sell art cards.. I usually have a large stack of them ready to go. However I sold quite a few of them in the private show I was in a few months ago as well as to folks who know I make them and call me up to find out what new ones I have on hand. Currently "my stock" is way down... I thought I had more cards left than I did. Turns out there were only three in the card box... and the art show wanted at least 25! YIKES.

Because of other commitments on my time, I decided not to drive myself nuts attempting to get some done in a rush just for the sake of having some there. I don't do my best art work under pressure. Art for me is about freedom, choice and fun not about working to deadlines, feeling pressured, blah, blah, blah! I decided at the time not to participate.

A lesson about card making I have learnt over the years is that some folks who buy handmade art cards at art fairs, etc. balk at the price and have been known to make comments such as: "Oh I could make that for a lot less!" Not terribly polite in front of an artist (I'm being nice right now and not jumping on my bandwagon LOL) but hey from what I have heard it happens to most artists at some time in their "art journey".

I usually offer to tell them how to make it themselves. Old teachers never die you know, they just wipe the slate clean and start from the beginning! However, I usually lose them when they start adding up how much the supplies will cost them! But I now have a better way to deal with this. From here on in, I am going to take the cue from a woman in one of my art groups. She came up with a great idea and solution. She had a sign made up for her sales table at an art fair that read: "I know you could make it yourself but will you?" What a brilliant, clever idea. One of those "Now why didn't I think of that?" moments stopped by for a visit when I read that!

It has been my experience that many buyers have no idea how long it takes to make even the simpliest card. First you have to acquire all the supplies (i.e. tape, stamps, fancy scissors, paper, cardstock, watercolour paper, glues, paint.. need I go any further?) Once you factor in the cost of supplies for the card itself (including the envelope and nice sleeves everyone wants them in), the commision to the show (if your cards are sold there) plus your time to put it all together, you, the artist, are doing it not for profit but simply because it is a pleasurable experience and hope like the dickens you break even. Moral of the story: If it isn't a whole bunch of fun making cards or you are short on time ... exercise your right to say no!

A couple of nights ago, Marianna (who is an old pro at this show) and I were chatting about getting ready for it. She mentioned that I didn't really need 25 cards to participate. "Listen to your big sister now. Just give them what you have on hand Sharon. You make some wonderful cards and better seen and sold than sitting in a drawer."

She's right of course. Art should not sit in a drawer. The truth is, I'd rather make a few cards than watch T.V. at the best of times. I took the next few hours to put a couple together. Rifling through my mounds of pretty papers, pre-printed graphics and raiding my "stash" for embellishments proved fruitful. There was "stuff" in there I had forgotten I had made that I could use! I didn't have to start "designing" from scratch.

One of the things I found were black and white art nouveau prints I made on pellon months ago. My thinking, at the time was to put them on some black cards. Yep, you guessed it... the next project came along and the prints landed in one of my many embellishment boxes!

Seeing them again the other night reminded me of the fun I had experimenting with pellon. I had purchased a good yard of it at the store to play with and went to town trying out different mediums with it. I had a great time. Want to find out what I did? Let's have a play date next Tuesday.

You're invited to come play with me in my "artsy fartsy" sandbox. I'll share my experiments on dying pellon with Color Mists (available from A-leen at Outside the Margins) and/or Moon Glow Shadow Mist (available at Lindy's Stamp Gang ). You'll love all the colours you can get!! I'll tell you how to prepare your dyed "fabric" for use in a laser printer and give you some other tips and ideas about using this heavy interfacing, available for (just about) pennies, in your local fabric store. So drop in on Tuesday to get the scoop!

In the meantime, here's a photo of one of the cards I made using the pellon embellishment. I happen to love black & white on black and I think the black "swirlie" die cut makes a great edition to this card.

See you Tuesday. Have a fun "arty" weekend... I know I sure will!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Food for thought. Don't miss this .....

Yesterday evening, I received an email from a colleague pointing me towards a UTube video he thought I would greatly appreciate... and he was right!

I had another post planned for today but in light of the wonderful messages in the video I am HIGHLY recommending you watch, it can wait a few days.


At first I hesitated. It's 75 minutes long! Was I willing to take that amount of time to watch it? I had had a very busy but productive day, I was tired and just wanted to call it an early night.

I pondered vegging out in front of the T.V. for 15 minutes before heading to bed then decided that anything was better than the blood, gore and mostly mindless junk that is served up on T.V. these days! I could always finish watching it another time. I flipped on my browser and clicked the link.

Many universities feature an annual event called "The Last Lecture" in which award winning teachers are invited give a final "talk" to students. There is a twist though... they are asked to imagine that they are near death and to convey some of their final words to their listeners.

If you have never heard of Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, you will never forget him after you have seen this video on UTube from Carnegie Mellon University. Professor Pausch is a marvelous example of someone who is living life to the fullest even though he is dying of an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer at the young age of 48.

His last lecture, "Achieving your Childhood Dreams" (viewed by over 3 million people to date) has got to be one of the most inspiring, touching and moving talks I have ever heard. Five minutes into the video, I forgot that this man is dying. I was captivated by his passion for living each day to the fullest even when death is knocking at his door. His lecture "Achieving your Childhood Dreams" is a wonderful, upbeat and light humoured example of what it means to live a life filled with fun, excitement, passion and love.

There are no words that I could write that would do it justice. Go watch it. Follow it up with his short commencement address at Carnegie Mellon this past spring (Randy Pausch Inspires Graduates). You can find it in the "other video" sidebar on the right hand side of the page. Be ready to laugh, admire and be inspired. But keep the kleenex box handy... you'll probably need it.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beach Therapy!

Today was a gorgeous west coast day so my muse and I (both being solar powered) went to the beach. Just a short, five minute car ride away, these are photos I took this afternoon of one of my favourite beaches in Victoria.

A couple of years ago, I had the honour of being the delegate from Vancouver Island and representing the Victoria Storytellers Guild at the Storytellers of Canada conference in Calgary, Alberta.

That year, I made a quilt square that was included in the Storytelling quilt which was raffled off at the conference. Each quilt square was accompanied by a small "story" about the piece and the artist. The quilt and stories were on display during the conference and the lucky winner , a Newfoundland storyteller, got to take this "one of kind" quilt with accompanying stories home to enjoy for years to come.

As I was getting ready to write this post today, I re-read the small "story" I wrote at the time. I re-worked it some to add to this posting today. Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of the quilt square at the time, but did save the story!

"Stories and Art are Beacons of Light in the World"

The guiding light of the Fisgard Lighthouse at the mouth of Esquimalt Harbour (near Victoria) first shone in 1860. It was the first permanent lighthouse on Canada’s West Coast.

With the lighthouse on the left, the sweeping vista of the Olympic Mountains off in the distance, the swirling waters of Juan de Fuca Strait and a log strewn beach, it is a magical place of beauty on earth. This is where you will find me on any given day of the year, sitting or laying in a log “fort”, sheltered from the ocean wind, wiggling my toes in the warm sand or wrapped snuggly in a colourful quilt.

My only companions are the waves lapping quietly against the rocky shore, the distant greeting cry of seagulls, herons, or eagles flying above and the bobbing heads of harbour seals coming up to say hello as they swim lazily back and forth in the water near the shore. My companions know that this is my special spirit place... my place for meditation, inspiration and creation. They welcome me to this place where I come to read, think, dream, create and every now and again, enjoy a small, but delicious afternoon snooze!

Being in this place, immersed in its quiet splendour and simple beauty has taught me that stories and art are like lighthouses.

Navigating our lives by the light of a good story, the sounds of a beautiful piece of music or the creation of a meaningful piece of art can lead us to a safe harbour when the sea of life gets stormy. Help us journey back to who we are when the way ahead seems misty or foggy. Stand graceful and tall when the sun sparkles on life’s gentle waves. Look beyond the horizon and be awed by the beauty and colours of simplicity. Inspired to dream, create and love by its guiding light.

What inspires you? Where do you go for renewal? If you could do one thing this coming weekend that would bring you joy, what would it be? Will you do it?

Have a great weekend... see you next week!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Embellishment Saga

This morning I was reminded of a very humourous incident that occurred in our little household a few months back and thought I would share the story with you today!

One of the art groups I belong to... The Latest Trends in Mixed Media Art... has a monthly art challenge sponsored by a member of our group, Inka of Inkastamps. The first ten people to sign up receive a stamp, embellishment and a piece of cardstock from her in the mail. Our challenge is to create a card that incorporates the stamp and the embellishment. As you can imagine, you have to act fast once the challenge is announced. I was quick as a wink that morning and got my name on the list just in time!


The package from Inka arrived one sunny morning and when I opened it, out tumbled a pretty little flower embellishment, a cute little angel stamp, a piece of folded cardstock and a packet square of chocolate. I set it on my art table and that evening I made a remark to my husband about receiving the package and in particular about the square of chocolate. After all it was Giradelli which I love and is hard to get in Canada... I buy Giradelli chocolate chips every time I go to the U.S... and the look at on the custom guy's face when he asks what I have purchased is quite amusing.

Now this being my first time in this challenge, I thought the chocolate was an embellishment I was to use in or on my card. It seemed rather unusual, but hey we mixed media types use all types of crazy stuff in our art. My husband, who is rather used to "weird" stuff in my art and who is not as big a chocolate lover as I am, looked up from his book in which his nose was buried and mumbled something like... "Oh, that's nice dear." -- GIGGLE, GIGGLE --

Well sometime after I had called it a day and gone to bed, Mr., who likes to read until his eyes pop out, scarfed the chocolate (midnight munchies??? perhaps). Of course I didn't discover that it was missing until the next morning when I went looking for it! I knew I hadn't moved it or eaten it the night before, so before he went to work that day, I casually asked him if he had seen it. He gave me this totally sheepish look and said, "I ate it last night after you went to bed." The first words that shot out of my mouth were: "Oh my God, you ate my embellishment!"

Needless to say, the look on his face was priceless! He started apologizing every which way from Sunday. Now being a "fixer" (as most men are wont to be), he immediately started throwing out ideas about how he could replace the chocolate ... even making the offer to place an order with Giradelli on the web.

It was pretty funny... I let him swing in the wind for about 10 minutes and then told him that I would just have to do the card without it! Ah, but nice man, he was going to make good on this one. That evening he arrived home with chocolate from Roger's Chocolate in downtown Victoria. Now if you have never had Rogers Chocolate, I can tell you it is to die for... it melts in your mouth and is famous in Canada as the BEST.

Aided by Rogers chocolate, that evening I finished ten little art quote cards with the stamp and made a two tiered folder to hold them. All the while of course... I hoped no one would notice that chocolate wasn't included! It was only later, when the other ladies in the challenge began posting their creations and I didn't see any chocolate on their cards that I realized it was a goodie for me! WHEW!!!

I won the art partner challenge that month. My reward was a number of new stamps, some optical lenses to add to my stash of "stuff" and Inka published a photo of it on her site

For your viewing is a photo of one of the cards, followed by the quotes and below the quotes the cardholder:

"Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what you don't know." Rembrandt
"In our life there is a single colour which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the colour of love." Chagall
"The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery." Francis Bacon
"A work of art that did not begin in the emotion is not art." Cezanne
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." Edgar Degas
"A line is a dot that went for a walk." Paul Klee
"Great art picks up where nature ends." Chagall
"Have no fear of perfection. You'll never reach it." Dali
"Creativity takes courage" - Matisse
"Impressionism is the newspaper of the soul" - Matisse
"Colour is my day long obsession, joy and torment." Monet
"Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art." da Vinci

Have a delightful day... and think chocolate!


Friday, July 11, 2008

Not All At Once - A wisdom tale

I'd like to begin this blog by sharing with you a favourite Persian tale. Because my two great loves... storytelling and art... are so deeply entwined with each other, it feels only fitting to begin with a story! This is my way of inviting you to experience the magic of storytelling and the opportunity to gently retreat from the hectic pace of modern life... just for awhile!

"Long ago there was a mullah who went to a house of learning to offer his teachings. He had hoped for a full house of eager listeners, but only one man, a humble stable attendant, had shown up to listen. The mullah wondered to himself whether it would be worthwhile to speak at all! He thought for a few moments and then turned to the stable attendant and asked,"Shall I go ahead and speak, even though you are an audience of one?"
"Master, I am not a learned man, but if I entered the stable, and found it empty except for one horse, I would feed that one horse anyway."
The mullah heeded these words and began to speak as he had planned. He became totally engrossed with the subject matter and spoke on and on at great length. The humble stable attendant listened respectfully. After two hours the mullah paused, "I could go on all night," he said. "Shall I continue?"
"Master," replied the attendant, "I am not a learned man, but if I came into the stable, and found there but one horse, I would surely feed it, but I would not feed it all the grain in the stable."

Coming from a teaching and therapy background, I delight in the opportunity to share my knowledge. This tale reminds me to do just that but not all at once! Occasionally I still wander over the line but I have learned that it is often wise just to stop and button my lips no matter how tempting it would be to continue. Less is often more. And so it is with my art.

My art focus is simplicity. I tell the story and convey meaning using a minimum of elements that rely on texture, colour and placement to create interesting depth in my pieces. My hope for you is to discover a story within each piece that speaks to your heart and creates meaning for you.

How can you use the wisdom in this tale in your life and art? I'd love to hear your answers!