Friday, July 23, 2010

Caulk in Art Revisited - Yummy Texture and Dimension

Oh my goodness, where does the time go?  I'm really trying to post more consistently so my blog doesn't grow old and become stale.  I'm so honored to have so many followers and people who visit my blog, and I feel like I'm dropping the ball this year because my posting has been so intermittent.  On the other hand, when one is fighting the cancer battle, art becomes secondary or even further down on the priority list.

These pictures are not of new, recent art, and yes, they've all been posted on my blog before.  But they are three of my favorite works using caulk....which is a product I love to use, write about, and show and tell how it can be used.  I guess I just love promoting the use of caulk for great texture and dimension.  Some artists out there already know about it and have used it in their art, but there are also many artists who don't know about it and haven't used it.  Those are the ones I'm trying to reach and inspire to at least try using caulk.

I love the fact that it's so inexpensive (meaning cheap), so easily accessible, so easy to work with, and gives such great results.  What could be better than that?  It can be found at Family Dollar stores for a mere buckaroo ($1.00).  It's a little more expensive at the home improvement stores, ranging in price.  I buy the 5 ounce hard cylinders that need a caulk gun to extrude, but even caulk guns are cheap.  Or, you can buy it in the tubes that don't need a caulk gun.  I extrude it into a glass jar (the more shallow jars salsa comes in work great), and then put two layers of plastic wrap over the top, and then screw the lid on.  That helps keep the moisture in.  I've never had any caulk dry out on me, it can stay moist and usable for at least year, or even longer.

It can be colored with acrylic paint and liquid inks, and possibly even food coloring.  Or painted any color after it dries.  It can also be sanded after it dries.  It can be stamped or impressed into when it's wet, or frosted over stencils for a great but subtle dimensional effect.  It's a great adhesive and things can be embedded into it, or it can be used like glue to attach and adhere heavier items to a base or assemblage.  It can be applied to rubber stamps or any item with a make-up sponge, to get some dimension.  It can be diluted with water, or I suppose with any acrylic medium, to any consistency you desire.  You can put it in a plastic squeeze bottle to get the effect of dimension, or dilute it even thinner and use it more like gesso.  You can mix things with it when it's wet to get different textures, such as sand, cornmeal, tea grounds from used teabags, used coffee grounds, saw dust, small beads, torn paper, etc.  The sky is the limit as to what can be mixed in with it.  Oh yeah, and caulk can also be used on fabric and almost any surface.  If any of you have any more suggestions on how to use it, please share that information in a comment so all of us can learn about it.

What I've shared here so far are general tips on all the different ways to use caulk.  For more specific information on how I made certain art pieces using caulk, here is the link to all my caulk pieces.  So just scroll down that page.  And here's the link to my very first post on caulk, posted soon after I started my blog in February of 2008.

Regarding making some new art, I am actually working on an 11 X 14 canvas panel, a gift for my dear younger sister (and only sister) Jan, who requested an art work from me.  She has helped me so much and been so supportive during my battle with cancer.  And I love her and appreciate her so much.  I've managed to get the canvas panel painted in different shades of blue, green, and purple, and duh....I'm not liking it much at all.  Which is disconcerting to me.  No, more than that, it's bugging the heck out of me.  It doesn't happen very often that I dislike my art while in the process of creating it.  Occasionally, yes, but not that often.  Usually the more I do on a piece, the more I like it as it progresses.  And I consider this to be a very special and important piece, as a token of my love and appreciation for my sister.  

 The problem is, I'm really in a quandary as to where to go from here.  I suppose I could just gesso over it and start over again, even though I have many layers of paint on it, first with the credit card technic, then the sponge technic.  It has lots of paint on it, but I don't like the way it looks.  Even though it may sound crazy, I've never started over on a piece of art.  It shouldn't be a big deal, but it feels like a big deal.  I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head regarding what I want to do, I can't pick a direction to go in or focus on what to do next.  The ideas are: 

1.  to use caulk and/or wallboard joint compound for a very textural abstract piece.

2.  to do a layered collage, which I haven't done in a long time

3.  to use fabric and lace on it, and maybe even some kind of transfer

4.  to do a nature piece

All of these ideas are competing in my head, and I'm even trying to figure out how I can do all of them in one piece.  That would be great if I could manage to do it.  Or would it be?  Maybe not.  I just don't know.  So right now I'm very stuck.  I wonder if I should start over on it or just set it aside for a while, until I can focus on where I want to go with it.  There's no time deadline or urgency to get it done, and yet I'm very impatient to get it done.  Not only for her sake, so she can hang it in her home, but for my sake, to prove to myself that yes, I can still make art that I like or love.  Because I am concerned about that since I've made only one piece of new art since January, when I found out about the cancer.  At this point, I'm afraid I've lost a lot of the confidence I used to have, regarding making art.  And that is not a fun place to be in.  Oh well, this isn't earth shattering, I'm sure I'll work through it.  But I'd like to be there already!!!  I really need to gain my confidence back.

Oh, one more tip.  When I go to thrift stores or yard sales, I always look for frames. Sometimes I find canvas panels of different sizes, either clean and unused, or already painted on.  This panel I'm working on was already painted on, it was a painting of flowers.  It was not a very good painting.  So I just gessoed over it, and voila it was like a new large canvas panel that I paid a buck for.  I've been able to accumulate six canvas panels so far. Sometimes I find wooden plaques that would make good, sturdy bases for a piece of art.  So keep your eyes open for any kind of base that would work for an art piece.

And if any of you have any great tips for anything regarding making art, please leave that info in a comment.  I think tips are always fun and interesting to read, and it's great when I haven't heard them before.   Tips can really inspire me, and I could use some inspiration right now.  So how about sharing your own tips?  Please do!!!  You'd be doing me a favor.  I have the rest of the day to work on art.  Here's to hoping I find my way out of this quandary today.

One more tip.  If you like using lace in your art, look for lace tablecloths at thrift stores and yard sales.  I bagged a large, mint condition white tablecloth at a thrift store on sale for $2.00 a few weeks ago.  It's the thicker cotton lace, which I prefer.  And cotton lace can be dyed.  All lace can be painted.  The easiest and fastest way to paint it is to use spray paint.  Painting it with a brush can be slow and tedious.  I figure this large tablecloth will last me a good, long time.  I won't be running out of lace anytime soon, that's for sure.                                                                                                                         

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Health update and I love all you people out there

No new art to post this time, this is a short update on my health situation with my cancer.  This post is overdue, and I'm sorry it took me this long to keep you informed.  My first and only post about it was done on February 22nd, a long time ago.  Here's a link to that post in case you didn't read it.   This post is for those of you who visit my blog.  I posted an short update on my yahoo groups a few weeks ago.  I feel I should've kept you more informed, but it's not easy to write about.  And this is an art blog,  which I prefer to keep easy going and focused on art.

I just took a stroll through my blog, and read that post and then all of the 72 comments that were left for me.  I hadn't done that in quite a while, and I'm glad I did it tonight.  I love all of you, I really do.  Your love and concern and encouragement and thoughts and prayers and emails and comments and art works blow me away and have meant the world to me.  You all have been instrumental in, and played a big part in this journey I'm on.  You've convinced me beyond any doubt that I'm not going through this alone.  It does my heart good to know there is so much love and caring out there, from so many wonderful people whom I've never physically met.  So thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  All you guys ROCK!!!  Seriously!

I did get approved for Medicaid, and started treatment on April 26th.  Waiting those four months to get approval was a scary time indeed, realizing that the cancer could be spreading to any number of organs in my body.  I just prayed that wouldn't happen, and praise the Lord, it didn't happen.  He had my back on that, which was pretty darn important!  Thank you, Jesus.  I went to radiation Monday thru Friday, everyday, until June 16th, which was my last day of radiation.  Thank God for that.

 The radiation is cumulative, so it gets worse before it gets better.  Four weeks into it, I hit the brick wall, or fell into the abyss.  I was experiencing a number of bad side effects, at the same time, and was in pretty bad shape for the next month.  I was totally bedridden for two weeks, except for going to the hospital for treatment.  I had zero energy and could barely get around.  I ended up in the hospital for four days at that time.  

The bad side effects were no energy, dizziness, a foggy brain, diarrhea, intense abdominal pain, (the pain meds weren't working well yet, they were still tweaking the dosages), a right kidney infection, and bad radiation burns in the crotch area.  That was the worst side effect of all, as you can imagine.  It felt like a bad sunburn and the skin was even peeling.  I also experienced some depression and really had to struggle to stay in the fight and continue fighting.  That month was the worst time of all.  That's why I call it the abyss.  

And to make it so much harder was the fact that my brother, who was three years younger than me, he was 54, died of a massive stroke.  It was such an incredible shock to all of us, because he was of normal weight and active and appeared to be very healthy.  He died 10 days after he had the stroke, and was in a coma most of that time.  So I was trying to deal with the painful loss of my brother on top of all the other stuff.  Can you say ABYSS?  Or BLACK HOLE?  That's where I was at that time.

But I made it through.  The doctor gave me a week off from the radiation due to the bad burns, and that seemed to help a lot.  I started feeling better almost immediately.  Then I had only seven more treatments to go to finish my treatment plan.  The side effects started to clear up and I could see a light at the end of that tunnel, so the depression lifted.  

I was getting chemo once a week in addition to the radiation.  And my hair never did fall out, thank God.  I was supposed to be done with all treatment on June 16th, but my oncologist wanted me to do two more cycles of chemo with a different drug.  Two cycles meant four treatments in five weeks.  Two treatments, then a week off, then two more treatments.  So I had a treatment last Wednesday, and have three more to go.  The only side effect so far with this drug is a decrease in my energy.  Not as bad as it was during the abyss phase, but enough to definitely notice.  I learned that being bedridden is a real bummer and no fun at all.  It's BORING.

I'm up and around all day now, which is the way I like it.  But I start running out of gas in the afternoon, and have to remind myself not to overdo it.  I've been spending a lot of time on my computer.  A friend who helps me with computer problems took it home and cleaned off the hard drive, and now it's running almost like new.  It was so slow before it was driving me crazy, and was barely usable.  It takes time to get the computer back to where I want it, so that's what I've been working on.  I was able to save the important stuff onto my external hard drive.  

I have a strong desire to get back to making art, so strong it's consuming me.  I have the desire and am strong enough now to do it, but I need some inspiration and direction to go in.  Three of my siblings have all requested an art piece from me.  I can't seem to focus enough yet, or rather maybe it's my muse Bonita who isn't focusing.  It's easier to blame my muse, you know?  She's off on some fun exotic vacation and left me here to fight this cancer battle.  Shame on her.  Oh well, I'm certain one of these days, any day now, I will be creating some new art.

My oncologist told me two weeks ago, the last time I saw him, that I've responded very well to treatment and am doing well.  He said two more cycles of the chemo would give me a better chance.  I won't be tested for the results of treatment for three months after I finish.  So I still have some waiting to do.  I'll be believing and praying that the treatment will be a smashing success.  And I'd like to humbly ask all of you to pray and continue praying for me.   Prayer is very powerful!  

Once again, THANK YOU SO MUCH for your part in this journey of mine.  And thank you Jesus, for giving me your love, strength, comfort, and hope.  I do believe I'm going to win this battle.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another Collaboration Piece

This is the second piece of my collaboration with my art friend Phyll.  This is my piece on which I made a background, seen in the first picture.  (I posted this background and explained how I did it on Dec. 12, 2009, here is the link.)  I sent it to Phyll to work on, and when I got it back, it looked like the second picture.  I was so, so  pleased -- it bowled me over.  She modeled the figure out of polyclay herself.  She covered a miniature trunk with the polyclay and then glued all of those beads inside it.  When I opened the box this piece was in, it took my breath away.  Truly it did.   I was just so impressed with her creativity and what she did to my piece.  Thanks so very much Phyll.  You did yourself proud!!!

I think the greatest thing about doing collaboration art like this is that the end result is such a surprise, and in my experience, far surpassed my expectations.  Phyll took this in a direction I never would've thought of, never would've gone.  I thought what she did was so interesting and so perfect for this background.  It's such a unique piece of art that we both took part in creating.  That makes it very special, at least to me it does.   I'm so grateful and fortunate to own this piece of art.  I plan on framing it soon and hanging it on my wall  

I think I will continue doing occasional collaboration work with other artists because I think it's fun, definitely challenging, and a very worthwhile experience.  I think it's one way, out of many, to grow as an artist.  It's also a great way to get to know another online artist better, in a more personal way.  It's been a pleasure getting to know Phyll better.  So, I definitely highly recommend doing this kind of collaboration.  Be bold and try something new, even out of your comfort zone.  I know you won't regret it!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Art -- A Collaboration

Yes indeed, this is another wonderful collaboration with my art friend Phyll. This is my third collab, and it's been awhile since I did the last one. I love doing collaborations, but it's a lot different and more challenging than making art alone. This one was especially challenging for me, because Phyll's background (the first picture) was made out of polymer clay and baked. She stamped into it with various items. The texture on it is so yummy.

I didn't quite know how to do my part due to the great texture on it. I love what she did, and considered it a stand-alone piece on its own. But I did have to finish it, and I was stumped as to what to do. I looked through some of my stashes and pulled out some things I thought would work on this piece, then I jumped in with both feet. This is not my typical art style, and I felt out of my comfort zone, because all I really did was glue on all these various pieces to embellish what Phyll had done. I loved her background and didn't want to cover up too much of it, I wanted it to shine through.

So, this is how it turned out, and I must admit I do like it a lot. I think it would look great in a nice frame, but that's up to Phyll. The work she did on my background is spectacular and I love it, but I haven't taken any pictures of it yet. When I do, I'll post that piece too.

I am so pleased to finally be able to post some new art. I felt so bad about neglecting my blog, but other than this, I didn't have any new art to post. When you're fighting cancer, other things become secondary. For me, that included art too.

I finished this over a month ago, but didn't get it sent to her until last week. I asked her to email me the pictures, since I hadn't taken any, so I could post it on my blog. The pictures came today, so here it is on my blog. I'm doing the happy dance.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Cardinal

Oh my goodness, I finally got some new art posted on my blog.  I can't tell you how pleased I am about that.  This piece was started last November and finished in December.  I posted the background only on my blog on November 28 (you can scroll down to see that).  This was made as a gift for my older brother who lives in Michigan, in a beautiful log cabin home.  I thought this was rustic enough to look great hung in his home.  He really liked it and hung it up right away.  In fact, he took this picture for me to post.

In a way, this is a collaborative piece of art, because I used a picture he took of the bird.  His property is 40 acres, and lots of birds make use of it.  He's a great photographer, so he has a lot of beautiful bird pictures.  He has them posted on an online Picasa photo album, which I have a link to on the right side of my blog, in case you'd like to view them.  They really are great pictures of beautiful birds.  

So anyway, I picked out this cardinal to feature in my art piece.  I thought it would be cool to feature his photography in this piece.  Thankfully he appreciated that idea.  I printed the bird onto a transparency sheet, then adhered it to a green paint chip, then rounded the corners. I outlined it with black permanent marker.  The long rusted piece was found in Kuwait by a friend of mine in the Navy Reserves when she was on active duty there.  The rusted piece had some holes punched into it (I don't know what it was originally), so I decided to weave some yarn through them, the same color as the cardinal.  Then I pulled some bark off a log, and glued a rusted skeleton key onto that.  I kept it very simple except for the background.  I explained how I did that in my post.  This is framed with a neat wooden frame I got at the thrift store, for half price no less.

I definitely wanted to post the finished art piece on my blog.  But I never got a picture taken.  Then it occurred to me that my brother could do that part better than I could.  Soooo, here it is, all finished and hanging on his wall.  And the first time I've posted art since January 1st.  It's about high time.  I'm very pleased with this piece, and thrilled that my brother likes it and that it's hanging in his home!!!

Addendum:  Update on my health situation.  I was supposed to hear on March 16 about the Medicaid, but unfortunately, no word came.  I can't tell you how sad, afraid, and angry I am over that.  It totally sucks!  I can't have treatment until I'm accepted for Medicaid, so unfortunately I'm still hanging in limbo, and trying hard to stay positive.  Not easy at all, at this point.  Thanks again for all the love and support, the cards and emails and gifts, and especially for the prayers.  Please keep praying.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Belated post -- not about art but about life

Yes, this is a long overdue post, for which I apologize.  However I think the reason justifies why I haven't posted in over six weeks.  Sadly, the news is not good, and has to do with my health.  On January 9th I was diagnosed with metastatic cervical cancer which had spread to the bladder.  I was admitted to the hospital on January 8th, and in my seven day stay, had two emergency surgeries, one to cauterize the bleeding and then one to perform right and left kidney nephrostomies.

I was not in good shape when I was released from the hospital.  I've spent the time since then trying to recover from the surgeries, and the news of my diagnosis.  Although I've had urges to make art, I simply haven't had the energy or stamina, and art has been put on the back burner for now.  I've never been through anything like this before, and am a total newbie at it.  I expect to get back to making art when I'm strong enough and the timing is right.

I know many of you may already know this news, because I made a short post about it on my yahoo groups a few weeks ago.  But many of you may not know, and I felt it was important to share this news with you.  As an UPDATE:  I am doing better, I am improving.  Progress is slow but is being made.  Right now I'm waiting to be accepted by Medicaid.  My file is in the pending status and hopefully will be approved any day.  Once that happens, I can begin 6 weeks of chemo and radiation.  Until that happens, I'm hanging in limbo regarding treatment -- not a good place to be in.

I have good days, bad days, and some really awful days.  As a newbie, I'm still learning how to deal with all of this.  I'm on narcotic pain killers, for which I'm grateful in the sense of how they help control the pain.  But I don't like the side effects at all.  They often mess up my mind to where I can't think straight or focus or concentrate, and make me so drowsy I keep falling asleep even when I want to be awake.  They also cause severe constipation, which I don't need right now.  In other words, they have many undesirable side effects, of which the ones I've mentioned are only a few.  This is the first time in my life I've ever taken narcotic medication for pain relief, and it's worse than I imagined.  But I need them so I take them.  My mind would work better without them, but the pain would be unbearable.

My family and friends, including online art friends, have been wonderful support to me.  I so appreciate that and thank all of you who've emailed me or sent me cards or art gifts.  It means a lot to me.  I especially appreciate prayers said for me, because I believe there is real power in prayer.  I am a Christian who believes in Jesus, and my faith and trust is in Him.  Yes, I am merely human, and often fall short when it comes to trusting God as I should, but I continue to try to the best of my ability.  I know that He knows every detail of what is going on in my life, and is able to meet my needs.  Perhaps not according to my own will, but according to His.  He has this under control and I am not alone.  I look to Him for comfort and strength, because I don't have the strength to walk this journey alone.  Thank you for reading this.

Val, who is in the fight of and for her life right now.  

Friday, January 1, 2010

It's Finished

Yes indeed, I got it done.  It's finished, all except for putting it into a frame.  I posted this background last week, on December 27, just below.  This was made for a friend of mine as a gift.  Actually, she requested it, and I was glad to oblige.  It will look much better in a frame, but I wanted to scan it rather than take a digital picture, and get it posted, so you can see how it progressed.  I'm happy with how it turned out, and love the background.  I'm really glad I started experimenting with this simple technic, which I explained in some posts below.