Go Big or Go Home? (Or, In Celebration of Small Work)

Show of hands – how many you artists out there have ever been told, “You need to work larger.”?

For those of us who enjoy working small, I’m guessing 90% have.

In my time as an artist, I have made some larger works.  One of the largest includes a collage that measures 8″ X 24″.   But I’ve just always enjoyed working tiny!  I love lots of detail and when one works small, it packs an even greater punch.

Here’s a good one – very, very recently, I was told by someone in our art community that, “Maybe you should have a glass of wine or two before you work.  Loosen you up a little.”

And while I took that advice with a whole shaker of salt (i.e., not at all), it got me thinking about how great working small really is.  So I’ve comprised a list of all of the great reasons to work small.

1.  Salon-style walls are COOL. Almost every room in my house is comprised of art hung salon-style. When art is hung this way, you can buy so much more of it, and really become a collector.  Nearly all the artwork that hangs in our house is from local and regional artists with whom I have some sort of connection.  I love that each piece in my home means something! Here are some examples.

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2.  We don’t take up much space.  If space is an issue in your home or studio, working small is almost necessary.  But even when I had a HUGE room during my artist residency at Sheboygan North High School this past fall, I still worked small (but it was “bigger” than I normally work).

3.  ATCs!  Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are how I fully got into collage.  I credit them for helping me find my “voice” and my style.  Even without them, though, I would’ve started out small (and stayed that way!).

4.  Made you look!  When a piece of artwork is small, it forces you to really look at it.  Take my piece at the top, for example.  That is a quarter-inch square collage.  A quarter-inch.  You simply cannot see it from far away (which was the whole point, as it was part of an exhibit called “Through Mia’s Eyes”, which I created to raise awareness for Stargardt’s Disease, from which my niece Mia suffers).  The viewer can really connect with a piece if they have to get closer.  I love that.  That’s when questions arise and real dialogue begins.

5.  Control issues.  Some artists just work better when their brush, pen, or scissors are held firmly in hand.  If my hand is just flinging about willy-nilly, I think my work looks sloppy.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE work that’s loose and free!  It’s just not how I work.  Artists who work similarly – you are NOT alone.  Let’s raise our (controlled) hands in solidarity!

I hope this sheds some light on why some artists work small or even tiny.  Like I do!  And I will continue to enjoy working this way until I can no longer hold a brush in my tightly-gripped hand.  😀

Here are some more of my smallest works!

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Some Collagraph Experiments!

Oh my – it has been SO very cold here in Wisconsin for the past week!  It’s times like this that I just love being in the studio.  And yesterday, I took the time to experiment with one of my new favorite printmaking forms – collagraph!

Back in September, I found this video about Harvey McWilliams, a printmaker from the Richmond Humanities Center in Virginia.  I’m guessing it’s from the early ’70s, and once you get past the awesomely warped soundtrack, there’s a great collagraph tutorial.  I watched this 12-minute film 5 times in a row, because I was so intrigued!  (This is one of the reasons why YouTube is so amazing. But you already knew that.)

I created my collagraph a little differently – I adhered carpet tape to a wood block my dad in-law made for me, and then placed my cut cardboard pieces onto the block (BTW – carpet tape is INSANELY sticky.  You need Goo Gone if you get it anywhere besides where you want it!).  After they were adhered, I used Mod Podge to “seal” the cardboard pieces, making them “waterproof” (Mod Podge to the rescue!  It works great!).  To prevent the carpet tape adhesive from getting on my papers, I then adhered some butcher block paper to the “open” spaces.  This also aids in clean-up when you inevitablly get ink on your block – it wipes right off of the butcher paper!

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Here is a sampling of some of my prints!  If you’re intrigued by the inking, I took Akua Chromium Oxide Green and Phthalo Blue and “rainbowed” it together with some transparency base in the middle for a smooth transition.  I then brayered it right onto my block.

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Gelli Workshop Ahoy!

You know how, in the beginning of a new year, you can’t help but reflect on the one past and plan for the one ahead?

Sometimes as an artist, those plans get even better.  🙂

And it turns out that I’m going to be teaching some fun workshops in the near future, one of my favorite things that I get to do as an artist!

On Saturday, March 14th, I’ll be teaching Gelli Prints at Black-Eyed Press in Racine!  I love this place!  I’ve been here several times for our ATC (Artist Trading Card) meetings, but I also just ran an “Homage to Libraries” workshop there in January as part of the Artist of the Book series.  What a wonderful class that was, and I’m really excited to be back.  BEP’s owner, Samira Gdsis, is such a talented printmaker and I’m so very honored to be teaching at her studio!

Here are a couple of examples of the types of prints you can make with the Gelli Plate – no press or painting experience required!  Hope to see you there!  🙂

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My first-ever watercolor!

A few weeks ago, my friend Liz posted a photo on Facebook that was absolutely gorgeous!  Here’s that photo:

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I loved it so much, I asked for her permission to create some sort of artwork with it.  She very kindly obliged!

I thought about it for about as long, and then yesterday, decided to finally stop thinking about it and just DO it.  So I began my first-ever watercolor with the paint set I had purchased from Jack Richeson in Kimberly, mainly for hand-coloring my linocuts and woodcuts (we’re lucky – the factory warehouse and gallery is only about 45 minutes from my house!).

I even measured and masked out a block on some watercolor paper, also from Richeson’s.  Here’s the result:

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I have to say – for my first painting, I’m happy with it!  And I had so much fun making it, I’m spurred on to make more.  I don’t know where this will take me, but I’m excited to experiment more!  🙂

Print Exchange 2015

I recently ended an amazing experience as the inaugural artist-in-residence at Sheboygan North High School, which lasted the entire fall semester.  As my assignment was winding down, I realized that I needed a new project to keep me creating new works even without the deadline of exhibits closely looming. I had the idea to order 52 2″ lino blocks, one for each week of 2015.  This is all well and good, but what was I going to do with all of those prints? VOILA!  Print Exchange 2015!  I put out a call on the Linocut Friends group on Facebook, and quickly got 10 responses (my limit).  Three of us are stateside, two are Brits, four are from Australia, and we also have one Pakistani woman, and we record our progress on an event page I created on my What a Relief! Facebook page.  I’m SO excited – we’re currently mailing our first month’s worth of prints!  Here are my first five of the year.  I’m having so much fun with this project.

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What can I say – I just love art. :)