Monday, July 19, 2010

Art-filled Summer (Artistic Mother & My Best Shots)

readers diptych: Me by C-Dog (left); C-Dog by Me (right)

Left: Me by Cowgirl; Right: Cowgirl by Me

A quick recap to help establish the mood and setting for my life last week:

1) dog sick with "tummy" troubles (meaning: lots of walks so no accidents occur):
2) air conditioning on main floor of house not working for 3 of the hottest and most humid days of summer thus far;
3) kitchen sink detaches itself from concrete countertop (a case of beer held it in place);
4) electric circuit in basement (my art area) blows and cannot be reset;
5) did I mention it was incredibly hot and humid all week?

I am happy to say, in spite of these challenges, art was made, projects completed and we earned our afternoon trips to the pool, cold beer (me) and nightly ice cream reward (me & Cowgirl). And thankfully everything except the heat and humidity has been resolved!

One project that had been languishing for weeks was an altered story book which is a project from The Artistic Mother by Shona Cole (I am part of the online Group working through the projects together. To see other examples, or to join, go here.) I don't know why it took me so long to complete; I have made travel/memory books using altered kid's board books before and I love making these pieces.

i collected photographs, tickets, maps, stickers and postcards from our trip and then collaged the pieces into a board book. i wrote journal entries on the back of postcards to document our trip.

I buy cheap board books from the discount table at my local bookstore. (You could probably find cheaper ones in a used bookstore.) I first gesso all the pages and then go back over each page using a brayer to apply the acrylic paint. (The directions in The Artistic Mother have you mixing paint into the gesso for a lighter effect; I decided to stick with vibrant colors so I only did the cover in tinted gesso.)

The theme was to be a story about Cowgirl. Ever since she was a baby we have played the game "Where's Cowgirl?" It is peek a-boo except I had read that since "Bu" is a negative in Chinese, it might scare the child to keep saying Boo or "NO NO" to them. (Never mind Cowgirl knew Cantonese! She used to say BAH! and wag her finger at me which must have been the no she heard from her nannies.) When she was little, Cowgirl would simply hide herself under a towel (her security blanket) but now the game has morphed into a variation of hide and seek. Since this game so defines her, I settled upon the story "Where is She?" Each page asks the question "Where is Cowgirl? Is that Cowgirl?" and the facing page is one of the many characters she encompasses:

To put the book together, I wrote out the text and selected images using matt photographic paper to print on. (I simply created everything in a Word document, that way I could easily change the size of each photograph to fit the book.) For each page I picked a color based upon the images I was going to use and then I stamped in some details and colored the edges with water soluble oil crayon. Since Cowgirl wanted to take the book to school for Show and Tell, I decided to add a layer of Mod Podge over each page for extra protection and durability. I tried rubbing a wax candle over the surface of each page to hopefully cut down on the stickiness (a trick I learned from a fellow art journaler when using gel medium on pages).

I am pretty pleased with the final product and hope to make a couple of books with pictures from our weekend at Chinese Heritage Camp. At least, that project is on my "To Remember" list!

Since finishing my 365 project of self portraits at the end of June, I have been neglecting my camera. One morning I remembered to grab it before heading out the door on an early morning walk with Moose and guess what?

Yup, fog everywhere. I kept my camera with me even though I doubted I would see anything worth shooting. Thankfully, the Universe always has some magical tricks up her sleeve which I might have missed if I wasn't looking so intently for something to photograph:

In one tree alone I found 5 beautiful webs! (To see another one, check out Unravelling Together where my web had a fortuitous encounter with some oranges.)

And even when it is too hot to venture outside, I can stay in and play with some And amazing backgrounds/textures available for free when you sign up at Kim Klassen Cafe for her weekly offerings. This week I received "Simple Things" texture and look how beautiful it is paired with a busy bee (hmmm?):

and a pumpkin blossom (yes, that is Cowgirl's pumpkin plant!):

I've only just begun to explore the possibilities available by tweaking the effects and lighting and opacity features in PhotoShop.
So much fun, I can't wait for Kim's Stay-cation in August. (Thank you Janice for sharing these goodies with all of us!)

Guess I have been busy! But there is so much fun to be had, it feels right to balance intense playful work with intense play.
Cowgirl and I have two more paintings scheduled to make and I just bought more paints for week three of BIG.

How are you filling in your summer days? What memories are you busy making?


  1. wow, lis, i'd say you've been busy! i love your altered story books and these photos are stunning! i love playing around in photoshop. i've yet to get to any of the artistic mother projects...

  2. This is a great idea for an altered book and it looks wonderful.

    Beautiful webs, too!

    I wonder if there is a free program that lets you use textures...

  3. Hi,

    I am amazed that your found the time, energy and inspiration to keep creating, given the week you had. Brava! I love the altered books. What a brilliant idea. I can't tell you how many little board books I have from my son's toddler days. I think I might play around them. Thanks for the inspiration. Take care.

    Sandy from

  4. Whoa! Love the altered story book, Lis! It turned out great and is so much fun! And to have done it on such an odd week too- very brave!

  5. beautiful creations. i've been resistant to the scrapbooking ideas for my little one, but you have given me inspiration to create something that is more "us" - and something he can hold in his hands if he so chooses...when he is 64. :)

  6. Dear Lis-I absolutely LOVED reading and looking through your altered book project. You are such an AMAZING mommy and I mean that from the bottom of my heart! You really are! I love how you take into account your little girl's Chinese are planting these seeds of cultural integrity and one day...they will bloom and bear fruit. For your daughter and her children. This project seems so fun-I have a fave book of Tara's called 3 little caterpillars that I want to (one day) turn into a photo frame. It was her fave book until she pulled out the pop out butterflies! I am so loving the digital overlays you paired with the photos. I purchased some from Cottage Arts (?) but have not had the time to figure out how to use them! Their effects are so amazing though-it gives the pic a whole different quality.
    Things have been even crazier than usual over here. I am trying to get some stuff done around the house (pressure wash roof etc) and these contractors are a bear to deal with. I really feel that they treat women so much differently with trying to get over on us.
    The book I am reading Broken Open is simply an amazing read Lis. It really has been a gift. Try to check it out when you get some time. Until then xxx

  7. poor dogie, hope he's ok.

    sorry about the air-con, horrible time to go.

    but you've still created! i'm impressed. and those web shots are gorgeous too.

  8. i could look at spider webs for hours- but i hate when i walk thru one! ewww.
    but they are really little works of art, and your photos captured them magically!

  9. such beautiful, inspirational and lovely ideas and images here. Glad to here that regardless of set-backs many good things were completed too. I find this often happens in my life and I need to gather inspiration to overcome the feelings of overwhelm. It sounds calm and productive though where you are.

    I am spending my summer days still working and looking forward to August being a little calmer . . . . .


  10. Hi Lis, I'm so pleased to see you signed up with Kim Klassen and for the Stay-cation. I'm looking forward to seeing what's involved. Your experiments with the textures are fab! But most of all I love your storybook about Cowgirl. What a wonderfull keepsake for her, and I'm sure she'll treasure it all her life. I did some similar things with my boys when they were aged 4 to about 9 and I love them - although they are too 'cool' to enjoy them right now and will need a few more years before they can look back and enjoy them again.
    As for the rewiring at age 5 or 6 (in your more recent post) all I can say is - wait for the one that hits in early teens!!!!!!!
    Janice. x