Handmade stencils and life

I’ve been working on designing and creating my own stencils. In my previous post I wrote about two of those designs.  Since then I created two more designs and cut them out. Then I did a test to see how well they worked.

Below are pictures of the stencils after I tested them.

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The blue stencil (crosses) was cut out of a Casemate Index Divider. These are 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. letter size dividers which are generally used in notebooks. This divider is very thin and therefore quite flimsy. During testing this divider lifted a lot when dabbing with a makeup sponge which made it difficult to have clean edges (the paint got under the stencil). I also needed to have less paint on my makeup sponge.

The other three stencils were cut out of Avery Insertable Plastic Dividers. These are also 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. letter size dividers. They are thicker than the Casemate Index Divider. During testing these stencils stayed in place better and didn’t lift as easily when dabbing with a makeup sponge.

Here are pictures of the tests I did. I first spread a layer of acrylic paint over the page. Then I used black paint with the first two stencils.

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The third stencil I used white paint. It was a bit thinner than the black paint but also this stencil is the one that was cut out of the thinner divider material. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been when applying the paint which is why the edges are sloppy.

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The fourth test is a bit harder to see but shows up nicely on the white paint. I wanted to see how they would look layered and I like the effect. I used a magenta acrylic paint.

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What I learned from these stencils is I prefer the Avery dividers over the cheaper Casemate dividers for making stencils. I cut them out using a box cutter. I like the control I have over the larger handle of the box cutter and it was easier on my hands and wrist than a craft knife. Maybe in the future I’ll see if I can use my jpeg images of these stencils with my Silhouette to cut them out of actual stencil material. However, I have found hand cutting them is relaxing, enjoyable and a good mental distraction.

I like the idea of using just portions of these stencils for layering backgrounds as well as using them with my homemade gelli plate. I have several other stencil designs which I’ll be working on and cutting out over the next several weeks.

Unfortunately, this is about all I have accomplished since my last post. Life is taking precedence. Even when I have a few moments to be creative, it is difficult to focus. Creating the geometric designs and mandala type designs for my stencils helps to bring some creativity into my life and helps me to feel like I’m not avoiding my artwork entirely.

Tonight, as I write, this is really the first time I’ve picked up any paints since my last post where I had worked with watercolor. The reason for that isn’t easy to reveal. Sometimes I get in an emotional place where I have a difficult time finding any energy to work with paints. When I’m in such a place, all I want is for things to go well. Paints and I have this unstable relationship right now where I tend to go dark with them and then don’t know what to do next. This creates a sort of anxiety stress, so when I’m in an emotionally stressful place, I just don’t want to add any more stress. I, therefore, try and avoid it.

Of late, I’ve been on shaky ground. A lot of life requirements which could no longer be put off are causing stress and anxiety. Any little additional stress just compounds the situation. This is why I haven’t done much with paints lately. Drawing geometric shapes and mandalas help to de-stress me or at least give me a break from the stressors in life which I feel I have no control over.

I am trying to learn to let go. This isn’t easy for me. However, life/God/the Universe has a way of forcing the issue.

After I did the tests with my stencils I decided to play around with the page. In the process when trying to splatter some black paint, I ended up dropping the bottle and spilling a good amount of the paint on the page. Trust me when I say the amount of paint spilled had me just looking at my page and thinking I couldn’t make it any worse. Therefore, I thought what the heck and I decided to add water, let it run around the page a bit as I tilted it in all different directions, then blotted it with a paper towel. The resulting pattern in the black paint was fascinating.

What I didn’t tell you is I had kept the cutouts from the stencils. I thought some of them might make a good mask, especially the large and medium size crosses and the other odd shapes could be used with my gelli plate to make some interesting patterns.

When I was trying to decide what to do about all that black, I laid down the cross stencil over the page and really liked the patterns I saw in the large cross. This gave me the idea to try using the cutout of the large cross as a mask and sponge white paint around the outside of it. I did this three times. Then I used a wet wipe with some white paint to try and soften the edges.  I used a section of the cross stencil to paint some black crosses around the lower part of the page. I’m starting to like the page so I know I’m not done with it  yet. I did decide however to set it aside for now since it is around 1am.IMG_1382

I was wondering how my choice in reading and studying the bible would influence my creativity. I knew it would, just wasn’t sure how long or in what way. Therefore, I’m not surprised it has, just a bit surprised it is doing so already with having only started my studies just shy of a month ago.

I want to write a bit about how my studies are going so far. I’m up to Chapter 27 in Genesis. I have found that using McGee’s recordings in “Thru the Bible” series inspires me to study the scripture deeper. I am almost always mentally challenging McGee’s interpretation and I’ll admit I often do not agree with him. I am not sure if it is because of my lack of knowledge of the rest of the bible or if it is because he and I are very different people.

Listening to his recordings does two things. It reminds me why I don’t attend church and because they are recordings I can first read the scripture, then listen to the recordings, and then read the scripture again, looking at it deeper to hear what it is telling me. And I can replay the recordings or go back to certain parts of the recording to help me understand why I feel a certain way about what he says. I can’t do this when attending church and just listening to a sermon leaves me with feelings that I don’t understand and at a loss as to what to do with them. I’m realizing I need to take things apart, digest them and put them back together again in a way that makes sense to me. Thereby, creating my own interpretation.

For example, McGee speaks about the description given of Esau and Jacob. The bible describes Esau as a hairy man and Jacob as a smooth man. For those who don’t know, Esau and Jacob are twin brothers. McGee compared Esau to being like a caveman or a hippie. What one needs  to remember is McGee’s recordings started in 1967 for Thru the Bible and I keep this in mind when I listen to his recordings. He considered Esau like a hippie because from his perspective hippies were hairy (they had long hair) and didn’t bathe much. I guess in his eyes he felt cavemen and hippies to be very similar. I would disagree with this but I do so from the perspective of someone who was born in 1960.

I sometimes feel McGee has a closed mind. His comments regarding books outside of the bible and hippies are just two examples. When I read the description of Esau and Jacob, my interpretation was more of Esau being a man with a lot more body hair like some men have today, while Jacob had much less body hair like other men today.  I believe the description was meant to emphasize how different the two brothers were, not just in thought but also in physical form. Knowing they are twin brothers without this description might lead us to believe they were more alike than they were, so the description aids us in understanding the deeper nature of their conflict. To go even deeper is the fact that there is also a mention of Rebekah, their mother, feeling the strife between them even as she carried them prior to their birth. I don’t believe Esau was anything like a caveman or a hippie. This is where McGee and I disagree on a fundamental level.

I remember as a child being told the the reason the bible is considered a living bible is because everyone who reads and studies it will receive their own interpretation or  understanding of what the scriptures mean to them. Therefore, I use McGee’s recordings as a catalyst. Without that catalyst, I have no doubt my attempt to study the bible would end like all the other times I tried and gave up. This time is very different from the other times and I find myself drawn towards my studies first thing after waking if I have a couple hours available before going to work. I also find myself drawn to study more than one chapter at a time even if I’m short on time. I try not to do so because I don’t want to feel rushed. I’m both surprised and fascinated that this is happening.

In other news, last week, my daughter and I needed to go into Vancouver. While there we decided to go to the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was our first time there. I am so glad we went. I got to see my very first Monet.

I was thrilled knowing I was standing in front of an actual Monet. I tried not to be disappointed. I couldn’t understand why I was disappointed. When I looked at it, I was left with a feeling that maybe it had lost its luster. It seemed dull or a bit out of focus when I looked at it and thought about other paintings but this is probably due to my lack of knowledge on Monet paintings. I have done a bit of research since then and discovered Monet did several paintings of the same subject in various conditions. I have no doubt the feelings invoked by the painting weren’t in fact disappointment but my reaction to the subject matter and the subdued nature of it.

What fascinated me even more about our trip through the art gallery was the exhibition “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg” and my reaction to it. I don’t think I could do it justice in describing what it was about the exhibit that fascinated me. I could probably look at just one of the paintings for hours because of all the layers and fine details, and OMG the bright colors and patterns. My mind was blown away. All I could think was ‘how does he do that?!?!’ over and over again as I looked closer. In truth, when looking at the paintings at a distance the subject matter didn’t really fascinate me. It wasn’t until I got up close and saw the details. That is when the fascination kicked in.

I am so glad we went to Vancouver when we did and took the time to go to the art gallery. I’m enjoying my studies. Work is okay, I still enjoy interacting with all the people. Even though all of this seems to be going well, mentally I’m not in a good place right now. I honestly do not know how people do it. How do they live pay check to pay check trying to feed their family if they are only making minimum wage? Maybe it is worse for me because I had a really good paying job that I took for granted. All I can think about sometimes is that it should be a crime for people who work to not get paid enough to support themselves.

I saw a sign at a company once where I knew they paid minimum wage to the workers on the front line, which stated they supported a program to end child hunger. My first thought was, “then pay your workers enough so they can feed their children!”. Minimum wage doesn’t pay enough to enable the employee to support themselves let alone a family. It makes me sick when I think about it. I can’t tell you how helpless I feel to do anything about our current situation which if it doesn’t change could be quite devastating. And yet I know there are people who are in worse situations which I cannot even fathom right now. It scares me to death to think we could end up in one of those worse situations. I need to have some things done around the house but I’m afraid to spend the money and yet I know if I don’t those things could and will get worse. So, in a few weeks I’ll bite the bullet, find out how much it will cost, and spend the money.

I stopped writing this last night and went to bed. It was getting so late and I needed some distance to decide if I wanted to include all that I had written so far. I needed a fresh mind. At first, I thought I would delete a good bit of what I wrote since the intention of this blog was to be about my artwork. As I consider what I had written and whether I should delete anything, I ask myself, “Would I be denying the real artist within me by omitting anything I have written?” Yes, some of it is very personal. However, I cannot separate the rest of my life from my life as an artist. When I go out into the world, I do so as an artist. When I sit down to do a painting or drawing, I do so with the weight of my life and all that has influenced me, good and bad. Therefore, if I am to be true in my writing about being an artist, I need to include all areas of my life because no matter what it all influences what I create.

I also have to remember, I am not just an artist who draws or paints, I am also an artist who writes and a writer who is an artist. Writing helps me to process and that includes this blog.

When I worked or rather played around with my page last night, I got my hands into it. I had used a gift card for the first layer in spreading the paint I had dribbled all over the page in a haphazard manner. I can’t use a makeup sponge to dab on paint through a stencil or around a mask and not get paint on my fingers. I wasn’t liking how the splotches of color looked when I tried to add some layer of colors so I just started dribbling on paint and haphazardly smearing it around with my fingers. I didn’t use a brush at all on this page. The closest thing I used was a makeup sponge, a wet wipe and the gift card to move paint around. I still have some paint on me this morning. 🙂  Yes, I’m normally very fastidious about not getting too much paint on me and when I do to then get every bit off of me.

I am both fascinated and fearful of the changes which I am experiencing in my life. It is a scary place to be in right now. If it was just me, I think it wouldn’t be so frightening. Knowing I have the responsibility of my daughter and I am her sole support compounds the fear. Knowing I have a breaking point has me very weary and watchful that I avoid that breaking point at all costs. It is obvious I’m seeking answers, a resolution and a way through to a life that is less stressful or anxiety driven. For now, I’m doing what I can, which might mean that art takes a back seat if I have to work a second job to make ends meet.

If you have made it this far through my rambling and spilling out of my life, thank you. You are appreciated. Thanks for being here. ❤ ❤ ❤

~Patti

Exploring other options (gelli printing), and the next lesson…

I said I would write about this, so here it goes….

While I was working on the Tending Your Dreams (Garden Fairy) lesson in Life Book 2018, I saw posts in the Life Book 2018 group that one of the lessons posted involved using a gelli plate. It isn’t the first time I heard about gelli plate printing. I’ve seen numerous videos on it and considered trying it. I haven’t done so until now because of the following issues:

Issue 1: gelli plates are not inexpensive. At this time buying a commercially created gelli plate is out of my budget, so it was time to consider other options.

Issue 2: I read about using other alternative methods, of the ones I had the materials for, they just didn’t work sufficiently for my expectations.

Issue 3: everyone I watch who does gelli plate printing mostly uses deli paper. I can’t find any deli paper locally, and I put a halt to buying online, at least for now.

Issue 4: creating a homemade gelli plate. The only supply I had to create one was some unflavored gelatin and I wasn’t sure I had enough of that. It depends on the size I planned on making. I also heard of people having issues when making one but to be fair I also heard of a lot of people being successful at making one and some have said their plate has lasted so far a year or more. The plus for making my own is hearing they can be melted down and allowed to set up again, so being able to recycle them was a definite plus.

Issue 5: acquiring the supplies. Unflavored gelatin wasn’t hard to find, the local grocery store carries it. Finding the glycerin posed to be a bit more difficult until I finally found a local drug store that carries it. The only problem is they only carry 250 ml bottles which is approximately 1 cup and costs about CA$7 or $8. I read on one blog a person who made an 11″ x 17″ gelli plate. She needed 4 cups of glycerin. I estimate the cost to be about $45 which includes about an $8 pan for setting and storing the gelli plate. This doesn’t seem to be a huge cost when compared to what a commercially marketed gelli plate costs. It is however high enough that I decided to make a much smaller plate first just to make sure I would be successful at creating a gelli plate and to see if its versatility is as I have read about on other artist’s blogs. Also, to see if it would be a technique I would love doing.

I purchased one bottle of glycerin. I already had enough unflavored gelatin. I needed a small container I could use as a mold and for storage. Others recommended using plexiglass or glass as a cover and a surface to put the gelli plate on when doing the gelli printing. I thought I would need to purchase some but had an idea to try an extra ceramic tile I had. It had a smooth glazed surface and I hoped it would work like the glass others recommended.

I found a 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ plastic container at the local Dollar Store. It was perfect size for the ceramic tile I had. I bought 1 bottle of glycerin. When I got home I put water in the container to the level for how thick I wanted the gelli plate. Then poured the water into a measuring cup to measure how much liquid I would need. I only needed 1 cup of liquid. I measured out 1/2 cup glycerine and 2 tablespoons of gelatin (about 3 pkgs), poured the gelatin on top of the glycerin and let it sit will I heated up the water.

Once the water was boiling I measured out 1/2 cup of water and poured it into the bowl with the glycerin and gelatin. I stirred it until it was dissolved. Then poured it into the plastic container and set it in the fridge to set up.

What I noticed: I used a glass mixing bowl, and some of the mixture set up on the sides of the bowl.

I let the mixture setup in the fridge over night and then took it out. I used a knife along the sides of the container to help loosen the gelli plate. When it came out the top, the part that was on the bottom of the container had a bit of a rough surface and the other side was completely smooth. The top was also a bit more firm than the smooth side.

Issue 1: I tried using the gelli plate first on the rougher side but it didn’t work well. The paint didn’t roll out smoothly on the surface and the surface left a texture when printing. Though the texture wasn’t bad, it wasn’t something I wanted to appear on all my prints. The surface was also difficult to clean due to the texture. I flipped the gelli plate over and tried using the other side.

Issue 2: the rougher side wouldn’t stick to the ceramic tile like the smooth side did, so when rolling the paint out, the gelli plate would lift and shift. However, the paint rolled out smoothly on the smooth side and printing looked a lot better. At this point I thought I was going to have to splurge and buy a gelli plate.

I put it aside and walked away from it for a bit. I thought about all the things I noticed when I had created the plate and wondered if using the glass bowl, which even at room temperature feels cooler than room temperature, might have caused the liquid to set unevenly, making it lumpy and then the lumps settled to the bottom of the container before it setup in the fridge. I decided to cut up the gelli plate and melt it in the microwave. This would also help me see if homemade gelli plates are indeed able to be melted and setup again.

I cut the gelli plate up, put it in a microwaveable bowl, yes another glass one but I knew it would warm up in the microwave so if the issue was caused by the cool glass, that wouldn’t be an issue this time. In fact, the gelli plate melted in no time. I used a fine strainer to get any bits of paint out of the liquid that was left from my test printing. The liquid this time looked wonderfully clear of any lumps and setup beautifully in the fridge.

Once it was setup again, I took it out of the fridge. This time I just used some gentle pressure with my fingers to pull the sides away from the container which worked great and the plate came out beautifully. All sides were wonderfully smooth and adhered well to the ceramic tile.

The above pictures are of the gelli plate after I melted it down and set it back up again. In the second picture you can get an idea of the plastic container I used. What I love about this container is it has ridges on the outside so I was able to see if it was sitting level in the fridge and also it helped me determine how much liquid to put into it. The sides also slant slightly outward which means the bottom of the gelli plate is slightly wider than the top. I think this helps keep it firmly planted on the ceramic tile. This picture is after I used the gelli plate to make the below prints. I store the gelli plate on the tile and use the container as a sort of cover over it, protecting the plate for having anything accidentally sit on top of it.

I did some test prints after cutting down some lightweight cardstock to about the size of the gelli plate. This time the printing worked wonderfully. Here are pictures of what I created:

I had a blast creating these prints. The homemade gelli plate worked wonderfully. These are my first prints and I know I took some of them a bit too far and some of the layers aren’t that great but I was successful at creating a few really nice prints. Plus, I now have a better idea of when to stop layering.

This definitely gave me the desire to have a larger gelli plate. I just need to find somewhere I can buy some deli paper. 😦 If I want to use the prints for collage. To make a large plate, I’ll have to buy a container the size I want and possibly get a larger ceramic tile or plexiglass for a cover and for when I use the plate. I want one large enough for a 9″ x 11″ piece of watercolor paper. It would be nice to have a 12″ x 12″ plate but I haven’t had much luck at finding a container in those dimensions. But then I tend to want to go BIG when I find something I really love.

I am now looking forward to doing the lesson involving a gelli plate, especially since I found out I won’t have to spend so much money on a commercially made gelli plate. The homemade gelli plate is as versatile as I have read online, and knowing I can make my own means I can make whatever size and shape I want.

If you are curious as to the recipe I used, it is very simple: 2 tablespoons of unflavored gelatin for every cup of liquid. The liquid needs to be half glycerin and half hot water. For my 5″ x 5″ plate, I needed a total of 1 cup of liquid so I used 1/2 cup glycerin, 1/2 cup boiling water and 2 tablespoons of gelatin. If you plan on using a glass bowl, maybe warm it a bit before putting the glycerin in it. If you end up with lumps, just cut it up and melt it down again, maybe strain it if it looks like it has any lumps or debris in it.

The only thing I’m not sure of at this time is how well this plate will keep. It has been a week or so since I made it. I keep it at room temperature on the ceramic tile with the plastic container over top of it to keep dust off of it. I have no idea if it will get moldy or not. Only time will tell. Some use alcohol in the mixture. I didn’t. So far it is fine.

This was a great project to work on in between the drying of the various layers for the Garden Fairy.

After completing the Garden Fairy, I moved on to the next lesson, Week 2, Colorful Intentions with Andrea Gomoll. Here is what I created:

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I went a bit too heavy with the black which is fine. I’m learning and next time I’ll apply the black a bit differently. Otherwise, I LOVED this lesson. This is one of the reasons I love watercolor SO MUCH. Watching it blend and bleed into each other when using colors that compliment each other just makes my heart sing. I definitely plan on using this technique in my watercolor art journal when wanting to express myself or even get things out.

Andrea is so good at how she applies watercolor, she makes it look so easy. It isn’t as easy as it looks. In abstract art, that really doesn’t matter. You can let the paint and water do most of the work. I’ll definitely be playing around with this more.

This was also a great exercise to do after taking so long with the Garden Fairy. It was quick and easy, something that could be done in a short period of time. I think I only had two drying periods, one after the first layer was put on and then one at the end before using the stamps and texture paste. And of course the final drying after it was complete. It was done in one day but I had the day off and could work on it, then take a break and do some chores or run errands and come back and do some more.

Next lesson will be the Compassionate Bear with Tamara Laporte in Life Book 2018, Week 2. I did one last year and look forward to creating another one.