I’m embarrassed to see that I haven’t posted an update since the beginning of August. The month passed quicker than I expected. And though I thought about posting something here or there, my priorities were focused elsewhere. So, much like that first essay the teachers used to make us write in grade school, here are some pictures of art that I worked on this summer.
Anemia is an art doll that I first wrote about in June. Here are a few pictures of the finished piece. I hope to some day share more about the process of Anemia’s creation.
This piece now hangs at the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, MA in the Bolton Artisans Guild’s display “Themes From Our Town” as part of Bolton’s 275th anniversary celebration. A few pictures of the finished piece is below. (Click on the first photo to start the slide show.)
Trees Through The Forest Amy A. Crawley, 2013
Spring and Summer Trees Amy A. Crawley, 2013
Fall and Winter Trees Amy A. Crawley
Trees Through the Forest Detail Amy A. Crawley, 2013
Inspiration From Nature
As summer moves forward in our garden, I often find interesting mold and fungus sprouting on the mulch. Some of it can be both intriguing and repulsive. For a long time I’ve wanted to make something inspired by these molds and fungi. And this summer, a technique I found in Cynthia Tinapple’s new book, Polymer Clay Global Perspectives, made creating these fungi pods a lot easier.
For lack of a better phrase, as this work in progress as no formal name, this piece is simply inspired by nature.
Though I had all good intentions of posting more frequent updates on the progress of my new wall art, I just wasn’t feeling it. My goal is to write one post a week that is published on Wednesdays. But, to be honest, when I don’t have anything to say, I stay quiet. To paraphrase that old saying “if you don’t have anything new/interesting/inspiring to say…”
In my absence here, I’ve been busy planning a new teaching gig, writing the content for a free tutorial, and videotaping another tutorial. Writing the free tutorial is a whole new experience. Develop the idea, write out the process, take pictures of the steps, edit the pictures, write the process in Keynote (that is what I’ll use to convert the tute into a PDF), proof read, publish. I’ve set a date of August 15 as my deadline and have been working backwards from there to manage the various steps in the process.
Makes my brain ache some days.
BUT! In between all that I have made progress on “Trees Through The Forest.” You can read about the origins of this piece and see its beginnings here.
Part 2: Progress Continues
After I created the disk shapes and added texture to them, I baked them in the oven for 15 minutes. Then I had to decide what paint colors to use as a patina. This helps make the texture marks pop on the clay. For some unknown reason this felt like an agonizing process. Is this what they mean by “suffering” for your art? No, I didn’t think so.
After the patina process was completed, I used liquid polymer clay to secure any piece that had multiple disks or other components. I let all the pieces sit for several hours while the liquid clay set up. Then everything went back in the oven for one more baking.
Here are the polymer clay disks placed on a blank canvas. The popsicle sticks mark where the tree trunks will eventually be painted.
And some detail shots of the disks. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
Spring and Summer Tree Disks
Fall and Winter Tree Disks
Spring Tree Disk -Detail
Summer Tree Disk-Detail
Fall Tree Disk Detail
Winter Tree Disk-Detail
Now the fun begins with creating the background for this piece. I decided to use a 10″x8″ canvas.
Preparing and Painting the Canvas
First, I applied two coats of Gesso to smooth the surface of the canvas.
While that dried, I picked out the colors for the background. Here I tested them out in my sketchbook so I know they’ll look nice together.
Once the Gesso completely dried, I held my breath and applied the paint colors. I’m working intuitively here but still felt a little nervous.
Before even painting the colors onto the canvas, I looked at several surface techniques in the book Surface Treatment Workshop by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson.
I decided upon the plastic wrap resist technique. With this technique, you place a sheet of plastic wrap over the wet paint. You can stretch the plastic into linear patterns or pat it smooth.
Plastic wrap over canvas
Plastic wrap over canvas-detail
See all those lines and bumps? The trick with this technique is to let the paint dry before removing the plastic wrap. The drier the paint, the crisper the texture.
And now the big reveal…..
And a detail shot of the texture:
I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the texture came out.
I’ll leave you with this piece, “Trees Through the Forest,” almost finished.
The edges of the canvas have been painted. Since I took the above picture I removed the popsicle sticks and painted in tree trunks. I’m not sure if I need to add anything else to the canvas, so I’ll let things sit for a day or so. If the muse tells me the piece is done, I’ll put a hanger on the back and attach the polymer disks to the canvas.
I’m going to install this piece on Monday, August 5 so there isn’t much more time to agonize think about it. I’m meeting my deadline which was most important.
This year marks the 275th anniversary of the town I live in. The celebrations and commemorations started a few weeks ago with a parade, historical tours, hikes on conservation land, bike tours, and a pipe organ dedication at the First Parish Church.
As part of the celebration, members of the Bolton Artisans Guild decided to create artwork inspired by the town’s history. I loved the idea but came up with a big blank slate in the idea department. I thought, “What can I create using polymer clay and mixed media that is inspired by our little town?”
(Why the conundrum? The art is being displayed at the Nashoba Valley Winery and the display space is one wall in the shop. An art doll didn’t seem to be a good match and, the way I sometimes work, it would probably take too long to create.)
Then an idea came to me the other night. I could make a piece of wall art and use pre-stretched canvas as my substrate. Using a design concept that I saw in a Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine over a year ago, plus my love of circles and disks, I drew my idea in my sketchbook.
Trees thru the Forest Sketch
One quality that Bolton is known for is preservation of land. We have a lot of conservation land with many hiking trails. That is the inspiration for this work in progress.
My intent is to depict trees through the four seasons. In order to get the colors I want, I’ve had to break out my color blending notes from the workshop I took with Lindly Haunani several years ago. It has been a good way to get the creative juices flowing too.
This is where I’m at so far in creating the trees:
The “spring” tree will have three different shades of green in flat and concave circles, plus a small bird. “Summer” is represented with similar colors, two birds and baby birds, “Fall” has a Skinner blend convex circle and tiny concave circles representing apples. (Bolton also has several apple orchards.) “Winter” tree will be interpreted with varying shades of green in a scribble cane.
This piece is more contemporary that my usual work. Another good way to stretch that creative muscle. Of course, since I’m doing something that I don’t do all the time, construction of the piece is moving along a little slower than I envisioned. (Isn’t that always the case?)
How much longer? Well, I spent the better part of two hours trying to recreate a particular color for the scribble cane that will become the “winter” tree.
I have no idea what I’ll do with the canvas. Right now I’m thinking a light wash of paint may be enough. I don’t want the background to clash with the trees.
How did you enjoy last week’s mindfulness practice to notice the trees? Hopefully it was an easier practice for you; a nice break from some of the more intense practices we’ve discussed. I love looking at trees. Their gnarly roots, the different patterns of bark, and just how flipping tall they can be. Talk about feeling like a speck on the ground.
Trees are also fascinating when they die. I love to look at the holes that woodpeckers have created in trees. To see all the layers beneath the bark and the crazy patterns that emerge as the tree disintegrates and the bark peels away. Some trees just invite you to crawl inside. But I think the prospect of coming face to face with some bugs or other creepy little insects will keep me an outside observer.
This Week’s Mindfulness Practice: Rest Your Hands
In theory this seems like an easy practice. Rest your hands. Putting it into mindfulness action may prove harder.
In this week’s mindfulness practice we are asked to rest our hands. To physically stop any activity we are doing with our hands and to let our hands rest comfortably in our laps. And this isn’t just a short break. With this practice we are asked to let our hands completely relax.
Our hands reveal much about our state of ease or discomfort. How many of you have a nervous habit using your hand, such as tapping your fingers, rubbing your hands, cracking your knuckles or snapping your fingernail? I have a tendency to crack my knuckles. I’ve eased off quite a bit since I was a kid but old habits die hard.
When you rest your hands and let your hands relax, the rest of your body also relaxes. Your shoulders relax and release tension. Your eyes become softer. Your back relaxes. Perhaps even your breathing slows and becomes deeper.
Consider too other times when your hands are tense and need resting. How about when you’re driving and you’ve got a tight grip on the steering wheel? Or maybe you’re sitting in a meeting with your hands clenched into fists? Be aware of these times. Remind yourself to relax your hands, to loosen your grip, to open your fist and let your hand breathe.
Reflection: Better is a handful of rest than a double handful of hard work and striving after the wind. -Ecclesiastes
As we ended the month of April, we were asked to be mindful of entering new spaces. The focus of this practice was to increase our awareness of leaving one space and entering another; something that we rarely pay attention to as we tend to move quickly from one space to another.
How did you do with this practice? I failed. Dr. Bays said it was one of the hardest mindfulness practices and it is indeed. I rarely found myself pausing while leaving one room and entering another. Dr. Bays comments in her book that one reason this practice is so hard is that as we leave one room, our mind moves ahead toward the future, moving into the next room and what we will do in that new room. It happens so quickly that we aren’t even aware of it.
This Week’s Mindfulness Practice: Notice the Trees
Doesn’t this sound like a wonderful practice? This week we are asked to notice trees; their shape, their texture, height and foliage. Don’t analyze the trees. Appreciate the trees. If you don’t have trees where you live, notice the grass, the cacti, or the bushes.
What is the point of this practice? To become aware of our interconnectedness with trees, nature, and the environment. Trees are part of life. They provide shade, shelter, and filter air. You might even have a favorite tree to sit under, to climb, or perhaps it holds a swing.
I remember how much it hurt to see the tree damage that occurred from the early snow storm last October. The broken, snapped and twisted branches. And yet, this spring, many of those same trees sprouted new leaves and flowered as if nothing had ever happened. Now that’s resilience.
So this week, notice the trees when you look out your window, when you walk or drive.
Reflection: There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. -Minnie Aumonier
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. -Dr Seuss (The Lorax)
Today’s head was inspired by the swaying trees that surround our house.
To help me keep track of when I create each head, I am scratching the date onto the bottom of each piece. Ironically, the idea for yesterday’s and today’s head came to me as I lay in bed at night. It makes for an interesting experiment in memory retention and in how an idea received at bedtime manifests itself the following day.
This head is 3.5″ tall (at his highest point), made from copper and metallic green polymer clay, sanded, washed with white acrylic paint and buffed.
One of the first spirit messengers I made was the Tree Spirit Messenger. He is one of my favorite pieces and he is waiting for that special person to purchase him.
As I was looking at the Tree Spirit Messenger last month, I decided to give him an updated look. I started experimenting with Apoxy Clay last month as well and it was the perfect medium to use for this update.
Here is the Tree Spirit Messenger as he used to look:
Tree Spirit Messenger Original Design
And here is the updated version of the Tree Spirit Messenger
Tree Spirit Messenger Updated
I created the small bluebirds first with some scrap polymer clay to get a visual idea of how they might look on the Tree Spirit Messenger. However, since this piece was already finished and could not go back into the oven, the Apoxy Clay was a great alternative.
The bluebirds were hand-sculpted, attached to the branches and left to harden overnight. When Apoxy Clay hardens, it is leather hard. You can paint it, drill it, or carve it. Apoxy Clay, Apoxy Sculpt and related products are manufactured by Aves.
Tree Spirit Messenger looks a little happier and less lonely these days. I think he enjoys having the little bluebirds chatting and chirping in his ears.
On Saturday, Eric and I spent some time walking the trails at Fruitlands Museum. Here we took in nature and art because Joseph Wheelwright’s sculptures on are display throughout the Fruitlands property. You can read more about Fruitlands here
Joseph Wheelwright is a master carver of stone, trees, bones and other natural materials. He works in Boston and Vermont and received his BA from Yale and his MFA from RISD. His website doesn’t explain much about his process in creating the tree figures. My understanding is that he tends to use trees that have either been uprooted or have their roots exposed. The tree is then removed from the ground and taken to his studio where a transformation occurs. The root ball (or some variant of it) is preserved and serves as the figure’s head and/or “hair.” You can visit Wheelwright’s website here.
Here are pictures of the figures on display at Fruitlands. They are quite fascinating. In the first picture, you’ll see a woman coming down the trail toward the figure and a small child staring up at the tree figure. This gives you an idea of the height of Wheelwright’s figures.
Oracle is a pine tree and was, appropriately enough, placed between two large pine trees just off the hiking trail.
Under The Oracle
Sometimes, the photographer’s timing and the lighting are in sync. I was thrilled with the way the picture below turned out.
Doesn’t it look like she is playing with a ball of light?
This tree, another hornbeam tree, really did look like it had survived a fire.
Smoke Jumper's Face
Dragonfly On Shiva
These last two figures can be seen from Prospect Hill Road as you drive past the entrance to Fruitlands. From the road they look rather imposing and scary.
Under the Pine Man
Pine Man's Face
Predator Tree below looks the biggest and scariest from the road. Walking up to him, he didn’t see so big and scary.
On second glance, however, his face is a little intimidating. A face, as they say, that only a mother could love….
Joseph Wheelwright’s Tree Figures are on display through the fall of 2010 at Fruitlands.
This past week we had a few trees cut down in the backyard. These were trees that were damaged in last December’s ice storm. We jokingly referred to the tree removal as “the Orc destroying the Ents.” Even though the trees were damaged (some with large branches that snapped off due to the ice storm) I still hated to have them cut down and removed. The job was completed today, hence the ‘not so silent Sunday’ title for this post.
Here are a couple pictures of the Orc (aka Walter) cutting down the trees.
Unlike the Orcs in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, Walter was much neater and removed most of the debris. I’m sure Treebeard would have approved.
The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes.
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.
The forest knows where you are.
You must let it find you.
From Traveling LIght: Collected and New Poems