Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sometimes I Just Get Carried Away

I've been reading a book on how we create--the science behind creativity. It's called Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer. (His website is ) I had gotten some hype about the book from a couple of lists I belong to, and I was curious to see what all the fuss is about. Creativity has been on my mind a lot these days; one of my good friends has been bemoaning her lack of it, meanwhile being creative about a problem in her life--she just wasn't making ART and saw that as not being creative. Lehrer's book is a look at how creativity works in the brain, and it is written in a handy accessible narrative style so it makes an enjoyable read as well as an informative one.

I am fond of saying, in accordance with the standard Left-Brain-Right-Brain definition of what in our brain controls what, that I am always in my right mind. Apparently, though, one needs both halves to do any thinking about anything. Throw in the Prefrontal Cortex and you are on your way to being creative, if you just go along with what your brain is doing. But please--don't take my word for it--read the book!

"Cabinet of Curiosities" using stuff from Deviant Scrap

Now my biggest fault in being creative is that there are too many choices pulling at me--should I write a poem? Should I paint something? Collage? Sew? Work on a novel? I am constantly being pulled this way and that, each shiny new thing attracting my attention. Right now I am loving digital art, playing with art journals, making liquid polymer skins, and putting earrings together to sell at the Northwest Polymer Guild's Artisan Gift Show this year. All--or should I say each--of these requires a certain amount of creative thinking, though this kind of decision-making is not earth shaking in its consequences. I don't think I will ever invent Scotch Tape (after all, it's been done) or the Post-it Note, or anything as useful as a Swiffer (all these are talked about in Lehrer's book). I might--though it isn't highly likely--write a poem as game-changing as Bob Dylan's "Rolling Stone," but I only have about twenty-five years or so left to do it, and my Poetic Muse is busy elsewhere right now. What I really have to think about is my upcoming classes and demonstrations, the first of which is next Saturday. So what am I doing? Writing this blog, and posting my digital art to it.

"Woman Escaping Her Stereotype" using Deviant Scrap and other images

These two pieces of digital art are made with the copy of Photoshop CS6 Beta that I downloaded a couple of days ago. I have been a Photoshop user since forever, and am still finding new things to do with it. Some of the new things in CS6 Beta are fun to experiment with. But the old standbys of layers, masks and blending modes are still the big guns in my arsenal. I heart Photoshop! (And that iconic phrase is in Imagine too!)

That's all for now--Nan

Monday, March 19, 2012

Some More Poems from the Past

I'm feeling sorry for Greece right now--such a lovely, hospitable, proud people, facing who knows what for a future. Will their precious heritage be sold to the highest bidder? I sure hope not. I'm not likely to visit Greece again in my lifetime, but I have very fond and pleasant memories from my visits there over the years. My pictures from Greece are all on slides, mostly put away in binders, but one of these days I'll have to dig some out and scan them for the blog. But for now I will have to illustrate my poems with other things.

Collage with leaves and transfer

At Delphi, 1971

When we had climbed,
stumbling on the loose pebbles,
struggling up the high steps,
the long path to the place
where his Pythian priestess sat
dispensing the future suitably
in ambiguous hexameters,
there was nothing for us to see
but weathered memories.
Our guide unequivocally announced
the irrefutable fact:


I found it was not so.
I knew why I had climbed:
to hear, still echoing
across these sacred stones
the music of his golden lyre.

Collage with transfers.
Clytemnestra Speaks her Mind

Beetlehusk I
who was once iridescent, expectant of life
stood in my robe of soft folds of love
enveloping, caressing,
waited to be drawn into the net
of a bride's veil, a prized catch
to grace some royal house.

Treasure of the House of Atreus
you came in gleaming gold,
Agamemnon, Marshaller of Men
to court my sister, Helen. She,
daughter of Zeus or Tyndareus
went home to Sparta with your brother
while I, of no less age and worth,
followed the greater King to Mycenae.

You, like that warrior-laden horse,
were beautiful and strong to look upon,
but full of sharp and deadly little things
to strike the color from my folded wings.
Without complaint I bore all that was
to be borne.

Then, wretched day at Aulis!
the fairest flower of your house
I watched you pluck
and dash against the altar of expediency;
and in my grief and rage I swore
if you lived through your stupid war
a second sacrifice.

Ten years now I've waited wrapped
in the hard shell of hate
keeping your kingdom's keys
winding, spinning, weaving,
bringing honor to your throne,
dishonor to your bed,
preparing for the day of your return.

Now, come, in gleaming gold,
step out into this blood-red trap I've laid:
step out, march forth
into the thick enveloping folds
of my vengeance.
Let me hack this lump of vengeance out
with a two-edged sword:
One edge for her who never shall return
and one for me who never was.

You shall feel the sharp edge
of my beetle mouth, caught in my jaws;
for this have I waited expectant of death
and I shall not let go.

Digital collage; texture from my photos and scans,
clip art from Dover, colored in
Menelaus Tells the Truth About the Trojan War

The poets say we went to war
spent ten years on a foreign shore
because some cockamamie kid
ran off with my wife.

That's my Helen, over there,
the pretty one with yellow hair
throwing weft threads on her loom
quite content with life.

She insists it was a hoax,
says she visited some folks
in Egypt, pure as driven snow
avoiding all the strife.

Her royal hosts will surely claim
that she alone and blameless came
to them, and took no part at all
in her supposed rape.

My friend, what difference does it make?
My honor's never been at stake
when gods take part and interfere
with history's true shape.

We monarchs didn't go for her--
we marched away because we were
young and strong and brave and ready
to play at war, escape

the mundane and the nine-to-five, 
because it made us feel alive.
The glory of the battle won
excitement and comraderie--

that's why we went!
Our names and deeds from hearth to tent,
in triumph sung, we laugh and cheer.
We weren't the ones who had to die.

That's all for now---Nan

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Indulging My Passion Last Weekend

Lest you get too excited, I hasten to tell you that last weekend my passion consisted of a workshop in pop-ups with book artist and paper maker Shawn Sheehy. Of course I had to take this workshop--I collect pop up books and have dabbled from time to time in making cards and two minute books with pop ups in them. So here was my chance to learn from a master. Here is a link to Shawn's web site, where you will find Wonderful Things.

I warmed up for the workshop by entering another of those contests at Urban Scrapbooking in Edmonds, where you get a kit of papers and embellishments and make whatever you want. Incidentally, my Advent Calendar won the last contest. My only competition was a series of paper dolls, which were really cool, and made me think about my paper doll for this contest. In case you've forgotten what the Advent Calendar looked like, here is a reminder:

The paper dolls in the contest were flat, and made from the kit papers and arranged on a wall hanging. I love paper dolls (and collect those too, in a desultory way), and lately I have been collecting pantin, or jumping jack, patterns. Like the Jumpables I blogged about a couple of posts back, designed by my friend Shirley Rainman.

So I thought I would use one of those and build a costume around it, using the papers in the kit.

Victorian Pantin

I chose this one, because the color of her bodice went with the papers in the kit, and I liked her black tights. She didn't come with a body, but those are simple hourglass shapes of the appropriate size, and easy to make even without a pattern.

Bodies for Pantin Ladies

These dolls are usually made by pasting materials directly to the assembled doll, but I wanted to make something in three dimensions that would sit on a shelf, That meant I probably needed to make a cone for a skirt. And my cone would be limited by the width of my paper, which was 12 inches. It also would need to be attached to the doll somehow. I worked out a pattern on lightweight chipboard, so I could use it again if I wanted to.

Cone with Bodice Attached

I cut the colored paper using the cardboard pattern, and found I had to cut almost to the bottom of the hip on the body to get the cone to form properly. That didn't matter, as those cuts would not show when I executed my Grand Plan for the dress.

I made a second cone, minus the bodice shape, out of patterned paper, and fit it over the first cone to make an overskirt. Before I closed the cone, I cut a body shape from patterned paper, fastened the legs on with brads, and glued it to the first cone over the attached bodice. Then I put the head and the top of the bodice on top of that. Now I was ready to fit the overskirt on. Next came the arms, attached with brads at the shoulders. I made a ribbon sash to help blend the overskirt to the bodice, and used a brad in the center of the bow for a little pizzaz. The brads were painted with a coppery glitter paint, and went very well with the underskirt and the flowers on the overskirt. I made the doll a matching hat, and used Stickles to add a bit of bling to the skirt and hat. I thought her underskirt needed a little something, so I put word stickers all around the bottom, using words like "adventure" and "explore" and the like. I also added the sign she is carrying, which reads, "I just want to have fun." (Me, too!)

The Finished Paper Doll

It was a good warm-up for the next day, when the pop-up adventures began.

Here is a picture of the class, with Shawn Sheehy on the left, in the lime green shirt.

Pop Up Workshop with Shawn Sheehy

We worked from 9 AM to 4 PM each day, with an hour for lunch break. We made 16 pop-ups--each one took about an hour--and at the end bound them all into a handy reference book. My book needs a bit of touch up--I want to add titles and such--before I photograph it and post it. But here is a wee preview:

Pop Ups in Progress
And yes, it was exhausting, but so exhilarating! I am really looking forward to making lots more of these cool paper sculptures!

That's all for now--Nan