Nebraska Embroidery

With the start of the school year looming, I’m trying to wrap up some unfinished projects around here. This particular embroidery was started over spring break. I tried to add a few details, but ultimately ended up ripping them all out, and instead opting for a simple landscape. You can find it for sale here.

Last March we tried to head out to Fort Collins, Colorado for a change of scenery. Record snowfall delayed our trip and we ended up staying in Kearney, Nebraska for a night.

To my absolute delight, we accidentally ended up in the middle of sandhill crane migration and Kearney happens to be the epicenter of this colossal migration.

Each year, approximately 600,000 sandhill cranes migrate through Nebraska, specifically along the Platte River. The Platte River is wide and shallow, creating the perfect place for cranes to spend the night. During the day they feed on corn from the nearby fields.

Kearney has a spectacular crane viewing park at Fort Kearney State Recreation Area– it has campsites, a playground, plenty of parking, trails, and a bridge to watch cranes coming in for the night.

We found food, viewed cranes, and spent the night in Kearney, due to the interstate being closed. We got up the next morning and saw thousands more cranes and eventually we did make it to Colorado. Admist the human frustrations of road closures, the cranes were a welcome moment of awe and something I’ve always wanted to witness. Their journey is a wonder that has been happening for thousands of years and a timely reminder to slow down and pay attention to the beauty outside our car window.

Waffle Series Pronto Prints

Chicken & Waffles, Pronto Plate Print, 8 x 10″, 2021.

This is another pronto plate series I printed during my spring printing class at the Des Moines Art Center. The inspiration comes from my family’s love of eating waffles and our recent addition of a flock of ten hens for egg-laying purposes.

My work station.

I started with a printing the waffles. Pronto plate is a modern take on lithography – one starts with a drawing using permanent marker on special pronto paper. Then, you wet the paper with a sponge. Next, you roll your lithography ink over the inked drawing. Repeat wetting the paper and rolling the ink until the ink covers the ink drawing. At that point, the plate is ready to be run through the printing press and onto wet printmaking paper.

After the waffle images dried, I was ready for the second layer. I chose the same dark blue for the waffle and the chicken, so I would save time not cleaning up between colors (work smarter, not harder).

I marked on my plate where I wanted to the chicken to overlap the waffle and ran half my waffles through with chickens and eggs on top.

I ran the other half of my waffles through with mulberries & mulberry syrup on top. As a kid, we always ate homemade mulberry syrup on our pancakes and waffles. This color blue was perfect for the color of ripe mulberries!

Cheese & Macaroni

Cheese & Macaroni I & II, pronto plate printmaking, 8×10″, 2021.

I just wrapped up a printmaking class at the Des Moines Art Center. I’ve done relief printing most of my life, but wanted to dive deeper into other printmaking techniques.

My new-found printmaking love is a modern lithography technique called pronto plate. The pronto plate is drawn on with Sharpie and then taped to a piece of plexiglass. The plate is wet down with a sponge between each inking. The ink sticks the the toner in the Sharpie, but not the paper. Then printing plate is then run through the printing press.

First pronto plate attempt.

I did several series of this technique. It’s a process I really enjoyed and it gave a clean, crisp image. The kind of image I always wanted to achieve via silkscreen but couldn’t seem to ever attain.

Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day

COVID era Valentine’s.

I’ve been using printmaking to make Valentine’s since I was a kid – maybe started this tradition when I was in 3rd grade? My parents were always into printmaking and they thankfully taught me linocut early on.

This year I had to go with the masked theme. Some of these will be available in the shop section of this site soon!

I started with the soft-kut linoleum blocks. This is a fabulous material that my first grader even handled with ease. I love using a thick line of marker to ensure I don’t cut too much away.

I used watercolor paintings as the background of my prints. Rubbing alcohol and salt were fun additions to the paintings.

Both my kids were hooked – even working at breakfast instead of eating.

My son created a mask and heart design, but separately. The kids figured out they could cut designs on both sides of their printing block. My daughter did a cat and hearts.

My daughter forgot to make her carved words mirrored backwards, and didn’t catch it until her proof. She rolled with it and adapted her design – a great example of a beautiful oops!

Neuron

This neuron is the second round from a much earlier embroidery that was never completely satisfied with the outcome.

I started with the leg of some worn out pants. This gray would prove to be a good choice when I decided to make this a functional artwork and not a wall hanging.

The pouches are made of recycled cotton and come from Dick Blick. They come in a handy variety of sizes, but only the gray color.

My starting point embroidery.

At some point I’ll revisit the synapse concept, but for now the marvelous structure of a neuron works for me.

Superior Rocks

Superior Rocks, mixed media on canvas, 12 x 14″, 2021.

Oof this artwork was a long time in the making. It was one that took so much waiting between layers and materials that I stalled out many times.

The rocks are a mixture of magazine collage, collage from paintings, and real lake stones.

The water is layers of tissue paper, acrylic paint, and gel medium.

Awaiting a layer of matte medium to dry.

Winter Tabby

I don’t always remember to document the process of my art, but collage lends itself particularly well to this.

I always have an image in my head when I begin an artwork. My perfectionism hinders my speed at times. For whatever reason, I find that collage is the media where the outcome most often matches the initial vision. 

This Tabby winter scene is an artwork I am preparing for an online auction benefitting my church. I’m trying to finish two more artworks this weekend. Deadlines are good for me!

Collage: Getting Started

Collage is one of those art forms that kids naturally understand.  As adults, I think it is best if we give them access to materials and then get out of the way.  However, as children spend more time practicing with collage, their work will become more sophisticated and they will need additional supports with materials, composition, and next possible steps.  In this post, I will introduce the basics, along with some student examples.  Future posts will dive into more detailed collage techniques. Collage truly is my favorite media to work with, as an artist.

Here is a basic how-to poster I created for my classroom on collage.

Some of my favorite collage materials are:

  • magazines
  • aluminum foil
  • doilies
  • lace
  • string
  • wax paper
  • tissue paper
  • tape
  • old photographs
  • tickets
  • receipts
  • junk mail
  • old book pages
  • found objects: paper clips, twist ties, playing cards, pop tabs, toothpicks, things in your junk drawer
  • fabric
  • plastic bags, fused or not
  • wallpaper
  • wrapping paper
  • newspaper
  • cardboard
  • old greeting cards
  • maps
Collage shows exuberance like no other media, in my opinion.

Collage is really all about layers.  Helping students to see that there is potential in their stacking of shapes, objects, papers, and even with their layering of paint or drawing will help broaden students’ ideas of what a collage is.

My daughter made this collage with torn pages from an old book. She explored adding oil pastel, watercolor, and India ink.

Sometimes the sandwich or pizza analogy is helpful when planning for a collage. Students should ask themselves: What is my first layer?  What is my next layer?  What will be my top layer?

There are so many terrific different types of collage to explore.  More coming soonish on: photo montage, dioramas, tissue paper collage, and torn paper collage.

Object Stamped (Wrapping) Paper

Object stamping is one of my favorite artistic processes to do with young artists. There is something so magical about scrounging around for everyday items and with a little paint transforming them into beautiful works of patterns, richly layered designs, and textured papers just waiting to be used or simply happy to be an artwork in itself.

My daughter making stamped wrapping paper with a toy car, potato masher, cookie cutters, foam darts, cut cardboard, hair curlers, spools, foam brushes, gift cards, bubble wrap taped on a box, and silicone basting brushes.

The beauty of this process is that you can use any object that you can dip, roll, or dab in paint. No fancy or expensive brushes needed – just raid the toy chest, junk drawer, or kitchen cabinets.

Some of my dollar store finds – toothbrushes, foam rollers, plungers, brooms, silicone basting brushes, spatulas, and spray bottles. Spray bottles can be filled with very watery paint for spraying effects. This can make a lovely snow texture.

When I do this process with students at school, we use the tables. At home, I just roll out paper on the floor and spread out supplies. Clean up is fairly quick – fill a large bowl with soapy water and soak the objects before washing, drape papers over tables and chairs until dry, and then a quick mop of the floors.

I always use liquid tempera paint – as it is more washable. If you want a glittery or iridescent effect – mix glitter in with glue or paint. Metallic liquid tempera paints are always a great option too. I prefer Dick Blick tempera paint or Crayola washable. Tip: I always buy the smaller sizes for home, because once you open the paint, they will start to smell. Smaller sizes get used up more quickly. Do not put extra paint back into the bottles, as this will speed up the smelliness.

This year’s wrapping paper was made from newspaper sheets and butcher paper. I used winter sticky notes for gift tags and am in the process of using up my plastic ribbon. When it’s gone I plan to go with more eco-friendly choices.

A few of the stamped wrapping paper gifts.

Check out a few more ideas and see the process below:

Paper Snowflakes

This week has been the week of paper snowflake demos for many of my virtual art classes. There are papers, scraps, and snowflakes in all stages of completion all over my bedroom, which has been taken over as my remote teaching space.

I love the unexpected element of a paper snowflake, as I tend to go in with no preconceived plan. There are some amazingly complicated paper snowflakes to be found on the web. Search for them and be prepared to be awed.

What to do with your paper snowflakes? Hang them up, make them into cards, color on them, draw on them, make them into texture rubbings, make them into masks. I always like the simple silhouette of a paper snowflake on a window.

Outside my snowflake adorned window, there is plenty of real snow beckoning me to go and play. The kids and I are done soon and headed outside. The gray sky and cold temperatures won’t keep us away!

Check out the how-to videos below! The second video are the steps I use for my younger students – think Pre-K through 1st or 2nd grade. The second video has some ideas on some possible next steps for paper snowflakes, including the texture rubbing.

Try a digital snowflake maker for more fun!