Wonder – Summer Art Exchange

This was my second #recoverygalsartexchange, and I have found that both times, I wanted to try a new process with my art; which is really interesting to me, and very cool that I am stepping into the unknown to try something new, much like trying on sobriety.

The theme for the Summer Solstice was “Wonder”, and there are so many things that come to mind with this theme. Mainly that my mom would have loved it. It’s been eight months since she passed away from ovarian cancer, and if I could find just one word to describe her, it would be “whimsy”, which is what came to mind for me with the word Wonder.

The dictionary describes Wonder as:

wonder. noun.: something or someone that is very surprising, beautiful, amazing, etc.: a feeling caused by seeing something that is very surprising, beautiful, amazing.

Love can also be described this way.

The kind of love that a mother has, and my mom was the craftiest person you could ever meet. I was lucky enough to fall into art as therapy when she was still alive, starting with bible journaling, and I always felt she was proud of that. I have three sisters who are all very crafty, and I thought I didn’t have it in me, but I guess I surprised myself.

I love the idea of a subscription box, which is what I did for the first exchange, so to continue with that theme, I included 5 items:

1. Mixed Media Collage Painting

The first piece I did was something I saw in a Jane Davenport project, using mixed media. This used paper to create a collage, and this is something I haven’t done in my artwork. I was intimidated to try this, because if it failed, this was my main artwork I was planning on sending, and the largest, using a 12×12 gallery wrapped canvas. But I quickly shoved my fears to the side, which I love because it didn’t used to be my first reaction with these things.

I first began with the canvas as a base, and I used beautiful Jane Davenport papers (which are almost too pretty to tear), but the process of ripping the paper was therapeutic, and completely out of my element – I am a “neat” and organized artist, and not one to rip and shred things, but there I was! My word for the year is “Shred”, and I dug into that, too, as I was working on this piece. I loved not being exact, and just tearing as I went, not knowing what it would form.

My word for the year is “Shred”, and I dug into that, too, as I was working on this piece. I loved not being exact, and just tearing as I went, not knowing what it would form.

Then I adhered the paper to the canvas using matte Medi-yum. I continued adding paper until the entire canvas was covered.

Next, I used one of Jane’s face stencils (I love her beautiful women she paints, and I wanted this to guide me and so I traced the face in the lower right corner of the canvas. Then I painted it using colors from Jane’s paint kit; these paints aren’t watercolor like I typically use, but acrylic and very thick, reminding me of foundation that we put on our face. I mixed a few colors together to get the shading just right.

Next onto the hair. The idea is for the collaged paper to become the hair. I drew in hair lines using a turquoise blue Mermaid marker. This I used Gesso on the canvas, on the portions of collaged paper that I didn’t want to be a part of the face and hair. This created white space, but you could still see through a bit to see the collage underneath, which is what I wanted.

I found this to be very symbolic of how we are all broken, we all become fractured at some point in our lives, whether by circumstance, or choices we’ve made, or just life itself. But THAT is what forms us. EVERYTHING shapes us. All of it, the good, the ugly, the beautiful, the misshapen. It all blends together into the canvas that we live and breathe on and in. And we a beautiful because of it. It was at this point that I saw this woman I was painting as a mermaid; larger than life, and something from within the depths of the sea, strong, and fierce, and having seen so much, but coming out fearless.

The next part was the scariest – adding details to the face! After I added the face paint, only the bare features were slightly visible, it was almost as if I were starting from scratch again, as if I hadn’t used the stencil, and faces are not my thing, but I forged ahead, determined to make this beauty rise out of the water. I used mermaid markers, Magic Wand pencils, and Paint Over pens.

To do her eyes, I looked into one of Jane’s books on art I have, and traced a bunch of eyes on paper first, wanting to get it just right. Then I reminded myself that art isn’t perfect and to just go for it. So, I did, and I felt and saw those eyes come alive before me. It was so cool, and I felt like I had grown as an artist. What a cool feeling.

Then I used paint over pens to create texture and lines in the hair, and to segment out her waves, wanting them to appear as if they were floating.

I finished it with a quote I read that reminded me of how strong women can be:

“She is made up of depths even the ocean couldn’t fathom.” – Jessica Katoff

I wrote each word on a piece of ocean colored paper, and arranged them on the canvas.

Once I was happy with it, I used Modge Podge to gloss over the hair and seal it in. Then I finished the entire piece with finishing spray to seal it, and waited 24 hrs. for it to dry. This process of the mermaid took about a week from start to finish.

I felt my mom with me, as I often do, when I create art. And that’s when I felt a prompting to try to create something my mom would think was super neat – a Kaleidoscope.

2. Kaleidoscope

I watched several You Tube videos about how to create one, and they say they are easy – but they aren’t! I created a prototype first out of an empty toilet roll, and those are not symmetrical, so I ended up using an empty Pringles can. My kids were very happy with that.

I ended up mashing up three different techniques, picking the ones I liked best.

Basically, you create a triangle of mirrored paper that you fold into threes and put inside the Pringles can. I used duct tape to decorate the can, along with sticker paper. You create a hole using a hammer and a nail, or if you’re like me, you have your husband do it!

For the lid you need two Pringles lids, one on top of the other, so that the beads can go into one, and then the lid pops on (after you use tape around the edge of the lids to meld them together). The lid is functional and spins the beads around. I used various beads to create texture, including Czech beads.For the lid you need two Pringles lids, one on top of the other, so that the beads can go into one, and then the lid pops on (after you use tape around the edge of the lids to meld them together). The lid is functional and spins the beads around. I used various beads to create texture, including Czech beads.

(prototype is on the left).

3. Art Card – Watercolor

Next, I created an art card, like my 100 days project (which is on hold after Day 62, I have found that I can’t work on two things at once, and this took precedence, but I will be getting back to it!). I thought of a View Master from my childhood, and how that was filled with Wonder for me. So, I sketched one and colored it in.

4. Galaxy Mixed Media – watercolor, paper

Those that know me know I love painting galaxies. I had to do one for this project, so I first painted the galaxy on archival watercolor paper, and then I set it aside. I found a gorgeous book of papers all dealing with the sky, and I selected one I thought would complement it. Then I cut out the galaxy, and adhered it to the paper. To finish it off, I create a poem with sticker words (like of like refrigerator poetry, remember that?) and the poem reads:

Follow the Unknown; Trust the Sky

(I’ve been watching a lot of the vintage X files lately with my 11-year-old daughter).

Then I selected a white frame I felt complimented it.

5. Precious Stones – Crackle quartz and Blue onyx

I love including precious stones with my artwork that will have special meaning for the recipient. I am lucky in that there is a stone and crystal shop within walking distance from my house, called the Moondragon, and the woman there is very helpful, and I explained I wanted to find stones that embodied the word Wonder.

The first stone she selected was the Crackle Quartz:

“With all of its beautiful rainbows, the Crackle Quartz crystal holds the power of pure happiness & joy, bringing harmony and balance to the emotional body. It is known as the “stone of power” and has the same properties as the traditional quartz crystal making it an excellent stone for meditation, and channeling your spirit guides & angels. Just like the rainbows in the sky, they bring promise of hope & renewed life, and is a great stone to use for manifesting your heart’s desire. This stone will amplify and harmonize any crystal you place next to it.”

The second stone she selected was the Blue Onyx:
“Blue Onyx is a stone that will increase your happiness and contentment in life. It will also enhance your intuition and strengthen your resolve in changing your bad habits. It’s a strength-giving stone that will be good for people who are always under extreme physical, emotional, or mental stress.
It will help you reduce or eliminate the stress and allow your body to cope with the demands of life.
Blue Onyx will bring balance to your body and mind, and it will strengthen it so that you will overcome all your challenges. It’s a wonderful stone to have, especially if you’re feeling flighty or restless, because it will help stabilize and focus your attention.”
She told me that you could meditate holding one in each hand, and that the stones complement each other, too.

I loved working on these pieces, and with each of these it’s wonderful to get to know another woman who also is in sobriety and to grow as an artist.

I also found this helpful in the grieving process, I feel more hope than I did before, some days are still dark. But the sun is still there, shining like it always does. And that’s a wonder.

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