Saturday, August 29, 2009

14 Secrets for a Happy Artist's Life

Be Last night I stumbled on a Yahoo group called “14 Secrets for a Happy Artist’s Life”--- The group is all about art making, art exchange, and making ourselves happy with art.

"14 Secrets?" I mused. I love secrets so I joined the group. Here are just a few:

--- Find three good things every day, whether they are experiences, or objects, or both. Find a way to use them in art.
--- Make everything special. Embellish your life.
--- Play more often.
--- Find something to love about where you are everyday.
--- Create beauty with what you have on hand.

They made sense to me.

Group owner Lani Gerity is an artist/art therapist/writer/puppetmaker who was raised in Taiwan, schooled in New York, and currently lives in a fishing village in Nova Scotia. A magical muse, she offers an on-line course starting September 7th called The Artist’s Happiness Challenge—An eWorkshop. The class seemed a bargain at $40 ($19.95 if you’re smart enough to click on the “Top Secret Discount for Blogspot Readers” which I wasn’t) and I signed up immediately.

Who could resist “three months of art challenges, current research, and happiness inspiring stories... weekly art challenges based on current research from positive psychologists... and exploring the connections between positive emotions, art making, and health benefits?"

Check it out for yourself at Lani also offers free downloads of an e-zine that is definitely worth the read at

I love retirement and time to dabble. My march has slowed, and there is so much to see and sample!

I Know a Little Bit About a Lot of Things...

I love the Information Age. What I know about IT---information technology---would hardly impress a kindergartener, but as a dedicated, lifetime IM---information monger---virtual access to the seemingly infinite world of ideas, opinions, and people leaves me breathless with anticipation as I boot up and head for Google Search each day.

No wonder collage art has surfaced on my radar and is consuming so many of my waking hours since June. It feels as if I am collaging my life, organizing what floats about in my head and grabs my attention, and then giving it a visual form. My computer is the intercept between what I want to express and how I give form to that vision. I spend endless hours revisiting the thousands of scanned photos from old family albums and those available in the public domain, considering why they call to me, imagining how they might be transformed. When something clicks, I open Photoshop and start playing on my computer screen. SAVE and DELETE are such powerful little keys. I keep what I like and discard the rest.

Sometimes I stumble upon some little program such as the one that created the word COLLAGE above. You can try it out yourself at What fun! This morning I plugged in my name, pressed enter, and voile! Photos of letters on signs from around the world spelled out "C" from a highway sign in France, an "I" on a graffiti-filled building in a city, and so on. I just love this kind of thing. It won't put bread on the table, but it brought pleasure to this grandmother in North Carolina on a hot Saturday.

What is your experience? Why not share it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Generosity and Art

I look forward to checking the mailbox these days. Bills, flyers and magazines are always there. But if I'm lucky, I'll also find a neatly addressed envelope that contains a special gift---a tiny piece of art from a new, virtual friend!

The image above is a page from my ATC collection. The acid-free pockets, originally made to fit standard sports trading cards kept in a three-ring binder, are perfect for these tiny pieces of art. Imagine the generous spirit of the individuals from around the world who share their creative talent with strangers for the cost of a postage stamp and a card in return. Amazing, isn't it?

Some of the cards are cut paper collages, some doodled in inks or colored pencils. A few, like most of my own, are digital collages created from photos and images in the public domain, manipulated to create backgrounds for a dramatic effect. What they all have in common is the creative passion of the individual artists who create them and their generosity in sharing them with others.

Do you think you'd like to try your hand? Search "ATCs" on google or yahoo and see what comes up for you. You may be surprised at what you find!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Two puries for your aggie"...Internet Swapping

When I woke up and checked my email this morning, there was a message to check out a blog kept by a new Internet friend in Arizona. Along with thousands of other artists around the world, she creates tiny Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) and sends them out to people who want a piece of her original art in exchange for something they have created.

From parcels of land to marbles, swapping is as old as time. The Internet simply has expanded number of players by pushing the boundries into cyberspace.

I swapped the cards above with Margaret Storer-Roche last week, 4 of hers for 4 of mine. She had so many little jewels of color and ink on her flickr photostream site that I wanted them all, but fair is fair. I had to leave some for other eager traders, after all. When I opened her blog, I found that she had posted the trades she received this past week from all over the world: . Do take some time to visit it, won't you?

Yes, Trading Cards are B-A-A-ACK, not the mass produced wax packets along with a piece of bubblegum however. This time, each 2 1/" X 3 1/2" card is a tiny bit of original art. and who knows? Maybe one that I've traded for will some day be as prized as a genuine 1951 Mickey Mantle Rookie card!

Friday, July 10, 2009

SoulCollage or ATCs?

Two weeks ago, I made a new discovery---ACTs. ARTIST TRADING CARDS are miniature works of art created on 2 ½ X 3 ½ inch or 64 X 89 mm card stock or similar sturdy papers. Produced by a single artist, ATCs are made in limited numbers, often no more than one of a kind. Unique ATCs are called originals; sets of identical ATCs are called editions and are numbered; sets of ATCs that are based on one theme but that are different are called series. They reflect a wide variety of techniques including paintings, drawings, collages, photographs, rubberstamp works, mixed media, found images, assemblages, and more.

Although art miniatures were popular as early as the 1600s— Zurich artist and organizer M. Vänçi Stirnemann initiated the concept of ATCs, the application of trading cards to the art world, in 1997.

Traditionally, an ATC mustn't be sold, only exchanged, as the whole essence of these tiny works of art is about artists meeting other artists and exchanging their works in person, by correspondence, or even online. Several yahoo groups exist to promote trading internationally. Artists upload pictures of their cards on photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and invite group members to view them and propose a trade. is one such group with over 2000 members.

That basic rule about trading and not selling cards was tweaked when some artists saw the Internet as an opportunity to make some money and began to create cards to sell, and ACEOs---or "Art Cards, Editions, and Originals" came into being. Many former ACT artists now sell their art miniatures on EBay, making art easily affordable to virtually anyone today.

So, where do I sit on all of this “new discovery? For now, I love creating these little bits of color and form on my computer. Through trial and error and a real desire to understand the program, I have finally learned some of the most basic techniques in Photoshop that have eluded me for years. SoulCollage cards and ATCs are a very different process for me. The first is driven by intention that is felt but not always clear until the last image is glued down. The latter evolves from an image and decisions made to enhance and show it off to the best advantage. My flickr photostream has been inserted to the right on this page. What do you think?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. For the most part, so it is for me with collage. Not so this time, it appears.

First, the backstory. My sister and her husband just left to fly home this morning after spending five days exploring Greensboro. We drove around, walked the university campus, looked at neighborhoods and houses, ate in some wonderful small restaurants and celebrated my birthday at the ballpark watching the hometeam lose their lead and get beaten into the ground in the ninth inning. We really enjoyed each other's company and laughed a lot.

After dropping them at the airport at 6:30 a.m., I grabbed a biscuit and egg at Mickey D's and grabbed another hour's sleep at home. When I rose for the second time, I pulled out my magazines and started cutting out images. One by one, they just seemed to fall into place. Arches and pathways. People facing forward and away. Questions. Laughter. People sharing. Old and young. Even the cats and sponge Bob's eyebrows made it into the picture.

For me, collage tends to be the creation of pleasing arrangements of color and form without any clear underlying intention. When the collage felt complete, I took it to my workspace to scan it. I really like the way the image glows on my monitor, almost as if it were a whole new piece.

The image popped up on my screen. For the first time, I really saw it---a family in transition, and staying present to the process. A surprise summary of a great visit.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Now You See It, Now You Don't!

Retired for several years now, I've explored a variety of activities in that time, some useful to the greater good, some just gloriously self-indulgent. I love the Internet. It satisfies my insatiable need to "dabble" in ideas new to me like nothing else short of a real library. That's what I was doing a few months ago when I stumbled on an article by Seena Frost about a process she called SoulCollage, and "discovered" the infinite possibilities inherent in collage. It was just like walking into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory and not being diabetic. I was hooked.

Since then, my so-called dabbling is more focused. I've found and follow some wonderful mixed-media bloggers who share their art and observations with visitors. Corey Eiseman is one of then. The image above is really two images by Eiseman that I printed out and scanned for comparison. The top part, No. 302, is the most recent evolution created on May 15, 2009; the bottom, No. 1, was the first collage, started on September 15, 2004. There have been a lot of changes to the original in 5 years.

A good poker player knows when to hold and when to fold. But Eiseman's perpetual computer blog "canvas" seems to have no end, and she's betting that we will keep returning to see how it evolves. The unique thing about this process is that the current entry is used as a starting point for the next. Then it is worked on, added to, changed a little bit more and archived along the way.

Eiseman says the hardest part about making art is knowing when to stop, but with digital media and blogging available why should we have to? You can see the progress of the perpetual canvas for yourself at .

Trying Something New...

Last weekend, I came upon a blog called "A Collage a Day," an ongoing project that involves creating and posting a new 4" x 4" collage to this site every day. Each 4" collage is offered for sale for just $25.00, which includes 8" x 8" archival gallery matting, documentation, and free shipping. Randel Plowman is an artist living and working in Northern Kentucky. He is part of the graphics department at the University of North Kentucky.

As I scrolled through his site, I came across a notice about a workshop he was offering this weekend, during which he would be examining various transfer methods, the use of glues and various mediums and how to mat and frame art. As a newbie to collage, I was immediately drawn to the offering and contacted the artist to see if there was still a place available. There was.

I am so excited! After hours of scouring the Internet, I finally was able to get a great deal on an air and car rental package, and then Priceline set me up in a 3 star hotel for just $40 a night. As the lyrics of an old favorite say, "My bags are packed and I'm ready to go." Meanwhile, I've played around with computer collage using some free vintage images that characterize Plowman's work.

You might enjoy checking out Plowman's blog site at There are similar sites where quality art is offered to the public at reasonable prices. Check out a-painting-a-day and others.

Monday, June 1, 2009

...A Daisy a Day

These daisies have pushed through the rubble of an old brick home being torn down to make way for a new interstate highway near me. According to the Language of Flowers, each flower has a message and a story. Daisies bring a message of innocence and purity, saying, "You have as many virtues as this plant has petals," or, "I will consider your request." I wonder how this applies to the current situation!

Do you remember plucking a daisy's petals one by one as a child and reciting, "He loves me, he loves me not," for each petal pulled? The last petal so plucked predicted the future of such love. Young girls might also pick a handful of daisies with eyes closed. The number of blossoms in hand told of the number of years remaining until marriage. Its simplicity has made the daisy a favorite of many poets. Its healing and predictive powers made it popular not only with farmers, but also with an infamous English king. Spring, medieval farmers would say, would not arrive until one could set a foot on twelve daisies. To dream of daisies in springtime or summer was a lucky omen, but dreams of them in fall or winter meant certain doom.

Transplanting wild daisies to a cultivated garden was considered to be very unlucky. King Henry VIII ate dishes of daisies to relieve himself from his stomach-ulcer pain. For then, it was also believed that drinking crushed daisies steeped in wine, in small doses over a period of fifteen could cure insanity.
I'll give you a daisy a day, dear...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Watching the Dance---Life as Improv

Life just happens, whether we step up to direct it or just improvise minute by minute. Have you heard about Improv Everywhere? Based in New York City, this group of out-of-the-box comedians creates scenes of chaos and joy in public places. Begun in August of 2001 as the brainchild of Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere has executed over 80 missions involving thousands of undercover agents/actors. Several of their spectaculars are circulating the globe on the Internet and inspired similar groups in major cities worldwide.

On April Fool's Day this year, they staged The Best Funeral Ever, fooling thousands of people into thinking that Todd had lost his judgment and done something horrible. Take a look at the video and judge for yourself. Everyone in the video is an actor. There was no funeral and no family. 30 Improv Everywhere agents found a random funeral in the obituary section of the newspaper for a man who had very few surviving relatives. Then they showed up to his funeral to send the man to his maker in awesome style instead of lonely anonymity that often is the fate of the elderly. I can't help but believe that the old man would have been delighted. Check it out. Life as improv. Death as improv. Incredible!

Visit their site when you need a lift. They've orchestrated a Cellphone Symphony, a Human Mirror and a No Pants Subway Ride to name some of my favorites. Go to: It beats most of the drivel that floods our email boxes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Eyes Have It

If you want to know how the person in front of you really feels about you, take a good look at what happens with the pupil of her/his eyes. The eyes are the mirror of the soul. Take care of your eyes with gentleness. Here are some famous quotes about eyes… enjoy!

"There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect." G. K. Chesterton

"The eyes are not responsible when the mind does the seeing." Publilius Syrus "The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"No eyes that have seen beauty ever lose their sight." Jean Toomer "Weak eyes are fondest of glittering objects." Thomas Carlyle

"The eyes have one language everywhere." George Herbert "The eye is the jewel of the body." Henry David Thoreau

"The eye sees a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination awake." Leonardo da Vinci

"He had but one eye and the pocket of prejudice runs in favor of two." Charles Dickens "A wanton eye is a messenger of an unchaste heart." Saint Aurelius Augustine

"The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." Henri Bergson

And finally, from Groucho Marx ,the man whose bushy, gesturing eyebrows are as famous as his comedy, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What's all this about Pluto?

First off, I am not and astrologer. However, I'm hearing a lot of buzz going around about the planetary energy of Pluto entering our lives and what to expect as that plays out. From what I am hearing, it is not a pretty picture.

"Big changes," said one friend. Just look at what's happened to the banks!"

Curious about all of this, I found a piece on the Internet that tells me, "Pluto’s transformative power comes as a release of the old in order to survive. It often forces us to surrender that which we have most valued. And, Pluto doesn’t take “NO” for an answer. Pluto is working to transform and evolve us, not just personally, but collectively; and, because of the long periods of its transit, it works slowly and thoroughly."

I just made a card about the Black Madonna, another "big energy" player. I think I need to learn more about these two forces. It looks like change is in the wind, and forewarned is forearmed. Time to "get down and dirty" if the real transformation is going to happen.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Being Peace...

Hmmph! It looks to be so easy, this "inner peace" thing. Some of my friends seem to find it easy to slip into peaceful meditation. I hear it's about practice. Practice?

For now, creating these collages creates a kind of peaceful, focused energy in me as I carefully choose my images, try them out on my computer canvas, arrange and manipulate them to achieve the desired effect.

Linus seems to have the concept. I think it may come naturally to him. Purrr-r-r-rrrr.

Ah! Peace. Om-m-m--mmmmm.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Gifts of the Black Madonna

The Black Madonna calls us to our depths, to living spiritually and radically on this planet and not superficially and unthinkingly and oblivious to the grace that has begotten us in so many ways.

The Black Madonna also calls us to Grieve. She is the sorrowful mother, the mother who weeps tears for the suffering in the universe, the suffering in the world, the brokenness of our very vulnerable hearts. She embraces us like a tender mother, for compassion is her special gift to the world. She invites us to enter into our grief and name it and be there to learn what suffering has to teach us. Creativity cannot happen, birthing cannot happen, unless the grieving heart is paid attention to. Only by passing through grief can creativity burst forth anew. Grieving is an emptying, it is making the womb open again for new birth to happen.

The Black Madonna also calls us to Celebrate and to Dance. While she weeps tears for the world, as the sorrowful mother, she does not wallow in her grief, or stay there forever. Rather, she is a joyful mother, a mother happy to have being and to have shared it with so many other creatures. She expects joy in return. Celebration of life and its pleasures lie at the core of her reason for being. She expects us to take joy in her many pleasures, joy in her fruits. Sophia or Wisdom in the Scriptures sings to this element of pleasure and eros, deep and passionate love of life and all its gifts.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Do You Measure Unconditional Love?

There is nothing quite like a cat resting on my lap or nestled up against my legs in bed at night. Here are the current members of the family---Lizzie, Boy, Zeus and Linus. Actually, this is not quite accurate. Zeus, the black one with the white bib, died from complications of diabetes a few months back, but he still lurks around the house. For several weeks after he died, the other cats poked around under dust ruffles and furniture and in closets, looking for him, I think. I, too, kept expecting him to appear, and Boy stopped eating for 3 days before deciding that grief was no excuse for going on a hunger strike.
I just returned home after being away for five days. When I first walked in the door, I was ignored. Then Lizzie, always eager for a tummy rub, gave in and threw herself on the floor in front of my feet. Sucker! That's the way it is with beloved pets. Their loyalty bounces back. Their love is unconditional.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How did you do that?

Have you heard about a nifty applet that allows you to take running text and create a word "picture"? While saving the randomly generated design is a bit complicated without a postscript printer that will save it to a .gif or .jpg image, you can get around that problem by printing the screen, and then scanning the wordle.

The collage above is the first I created using layers in Photoshop, a powerful program I'd had for years but didn't use much beyond resizing pictures. However, desperate people do desperate things, I'm told, and if I wanted to integrate a Wordle into a card, I was going to have to learn how to work with "layers."

Have you seen how huge software manuals have become with their impossibly small print and B&W screenshots? Mine gather dust until they become outdated and are finally tossed. However, I found a magazine on digital scrapbooking at Borders that launched me easily into the wonderful world of Photoshop. The two-page projects featured simple, numbered steps and glorious pictures. Layers were a mystery no more!

If you would like to try your hand at creating a wordle, go to and play with it. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fabulous Freebie

I found a wonderful resource on the Internet today, and it is FREE! If you go to you will find an on-line publication catering to all kinds of collage artists, including those who specialize in Altered Art, Chunky Books and perfect 1-inch art cards for trading!

If you have some time, why not check it out?

Getting Started...

I don't fancy myself an artist, yet when I came across an article a few months ago on the Internet about something called SoulCollage, it grabbed my interest immediately. There was something freeing in knowing that I didn't have to draw. That I could put a bag over the eyes of my inner critic and simply create.
The first step is often the biggest step in any process. Yet as soon as I started browsing through the boxes of magazines I'd stashed or hauled around with me over the years, I was lost in the process. I tore, trimmed, treasured and sorted the images that suddenly took on new meaning independent of their textual context. They stood alone now, waiting to be reassembled into something...different. New.
Assembling took time, however. For three weeks, I did nothing but turn pages and tear out images that caught my eye. No judgment. No plan.
"Get with the program," I finally said to myself. I spread out some of my treasures on the kitchen table and started assembling them, without any particular intent other than creating a pleasing array. In no time at all, ARTIST'S FANTASY emerged right before my eyes.