Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Protective Armor

I've been spending a lot of time closeted in my studio.
Over the last year, I have felt almost suffocated by some of the art that I made.

Well, maybe not that dramatic but I felt like I couldn't get to MY art.
I had spent the year or two before that creating art for classes and I love those classes, love the art from those classes but I kept feeling this tugging in my heart.
Trying to pull me in a different direction.

If you were to look at the photos that I have taken over the past year or so, you would find a lot of abstract shots.
Texture, color blocks, peeling weathered pieces of wood.
Ancient broken-down boats, driftwood...

There are pages in my handmade books that reflect this "look".
Most of the pages that I paint for backgrounds (for books) portray this.

The last five or six pieces of art that I created have been from a place of deep longing.
A longing to find the sweet spot that I know is there.
That I feel I am getting close to.

I worked on a small piece of art this weekend, a tiny piece measuring 4 inches x 4 inches that felt like I was just basking in that sweetness.

I love it.
Just love it.

I like the color combination in this.

Love the texture

I also like the depth of the canvas - almost 1 1/2 inches.

While I loved the piece as it was above, I felt that it needed a bit more grunge or more decay to it.
Like a protective armor might have.
One that was well used and worn from years of  protecting the wearer.
So I aged it a bit more.

Protective Armor
4"x 4"
plaster, gauze, acrylic paint, joint compound, soft gel,
crackle paste, cold wax

Monday, April 1, 2013

Winging It For Women's Heart Health

This post is also on the "Kick Off Your Heels" blog today.
Run over there and check out all of the other cool "art shoes" being created for such a great cause.

I worked as a Registered Nurse for 2 decades.
Most of those years were spent in Neonatal ICU with the preemie babies.
Even though I was a nurse, I was still shocked when I read the statistics on the numbers of deaths related to cardiovascular issues with women.

When Sue asked me to donate pair of "art shoes"  to the cause, I jumped in with both feet (sorry, couldn't help it).

It's not only vitally important that we create enough noise to make our voices heard but we must also create a voice of consciousness in order to make this matter important enough for others to direct their energy towards it.
We, as women, have a tremendous power in this world - we just have to learn to come together, to harmonize our voices towards a common goal.
This fund raiser is a great example of working towards that goal.

I have never tried to make a pair of shoes into a piece of art. I recall doodling on my tennis shoes in high school but I wouldn't really call them "a piece of art".

I had been working with plaster and joint compound in my studio, so I decided to try using them on the shoes.

I started out with a pair of black heels from a local second-hand shop.

Hmmm...this shoe looks like it has two heels.
Let's try that again.
Two shoes.
One heel per shoe.
Now that we've established each shoe has only one heel, let's proceed with what I did with them.

I wasn't sure how well joint compound would adhere to the surface so I decided to put the plaster embedded gauze over each shoe first.
I knew that the gauze would adhere to itself so I made sure to overlap the gauze layers.

I cut the gauze into smaller strips in order to wrap it onto the shoe surface.
This is the standard "dip in water and place on surface" plaster embedded gauze.

all covered with plaster gauze

You can see the bumpy surface of the plaster. 

I let this layer dry completely before beginning the next layer.

Enter pirate booty supplies, I mean one of my new favorite art supplies from the hardware store (read husbands' shop) - Joint Compound!
So easy to apply, so aggravating to sand but oh so wonderful to carve!

This is the brand that I used but there are many many more brands
out there in your husbands' shop, I mean at the hardware store.
One kind is pink when wet but dries white. How cool is that?!

Just apply like cake icing!
You can see tiny specks of red paint from another project that I was working on
while this layer dried. No worries - this will be sanded off with the rest of the
uneven areas.

Iced shoes, ready for the next step.
Supplies for the next step.

Oops - forgot a really important one!
The face mask.
Do NOT sand this without a mask!

Just in case you forget who you are...

I sanded the shoes until I was happy with the results.
I didn't sand them completely smooth because I love the uneven areas, especially all the small imperfections.
It makes the surface appear old and gives it a lot of character.

I knew that I wanted to have a carving on the back of the shoe because I just love a wrap around design on that area of a shoe but felt that a heart drawing would not work unless I made the heart really wide and squatty (squaty?) (squat-y?).
I had previously made a thermofax screen to use in my journal/sketchbook from a drawing of a bird wing. I decided to try holding that up to the shoe just to see if I liked the idea.

It was the Perfect Size.

Don't you just love it when that happens!?
Boy, I do.
I used that and flipped the image to make a screen for the opposite wing.

I guess that you are wondering what in the heck I was using the thermofax screen for, huh?
In my "regular" art making I use them for all kinds of things but in this project I am going to use it as a guideline for my carving since I don't trust myself to carve freehand or just draw a realistic bird wing (right and left side) on the back of the shoe.
I didn't take a photo of the image after I screen printed it on the back of the shoe but you can see it here after I carved it (and removed most of the screen printed image) on the back of the shoe.

I had already decided that I wanted some type of carving on the outside front edge of the shoe.
I drew a heart shape with an EKG tracing inside of it after seeing a similar one online.

Okay - all the carving done...now the painting begins.

I made sure that all of the dust from my carving and sanding had been removed from the shoes, as well as any other debris that may be camping out there. I used a moist paper towel to remove the excess compound from the inside, the bottom and the heel of the shoe.

I painted two to three layers of red paint as well as the white accents.

You can tell that this is one of the first layers of paint
because of the areas of transparency next to the heart.

I did use a very small brush to paint the EKG tracing in red.
I allowed each layer to dry completely before painting the next layer.

Look at that deep, dark beautiful red color!

I brushed a layer of Soft Gel over the entire shoe to seal the painted joint compound surface.
When I was satisfied with the paint job, I used watered down Burnt Umber Light fluid acrylic paint to brush over small sections of the shoe (including the carved areas). I quickly wiped off the excess allowing what was left behind to sit (as well as set) in the carved lines, bumps and uneven areas on the shoe.
Its give the shoe a beautiful aged patina.

Pre Burnt Umber Light glaze.
Very white wings.

Post patina wings.
Beautiful aged wings.

An aged heart.
I decided to add a heart on the back of the shoe between the wings.
I created one out of canvas with plaster embedded gauze sandwiched around it. I cut the heart shape out, smeared some joint compound on top of it and then painted it after the compound dried.
I rolled it over my fingers to crack the compound then glazed it with a wash of the watered down Burnt Umber Light paint.

The heart is very flexible and could be sewn if desired.

I felt that the area back here just needed a heart.
A heart with wings.
 All that remained was adhering the heart to the back of each shoe and spraying a finish over them.

I must say - I really enjoyed creating this pair of art shoes! I love, love the way that the shoes turned out.

Here are a few photos of the finished shoes.

"Flying Above The Fray"
I felt that we women could use a little help flying above the grim statics
that we are faced with regarding heart health.
These sassy red shoes could definitely do the trick with that.

Having worked as an ICU nurse for two decades, I am both inspired by and familiar with
the dedication and dogged persistence of healthcare workers.
They would fly through hell as well as high water to help their patients.
I felt that these red shoes could help fly them any where they needed to go.

Thank you Sue and Jamie for putting together this fundraiser. I really do believe that this is a wonderful cause.