Saturday, December 22, 2012


daydream I
Daydreamer I, sumi ink figure painting, collage 6 x 6

This week I started a new series which I'm calling Daydreamer. It's based on a loose pen drawing I did last year. Using sumi ink and a hard bristle sumi brush, I painted the figure on rice paper. I then tore off the rice paper that was not part of the figure drawing and adhered the painting to my watercolor paper. The background is a collage of monoprinted papers. I also added acrylic to the shirt to give it a slight tonal change.

daydream I, lamp light
daydreamer I - room shot

When I need a break from art, I either volunteer at the no-kill cat shelter or go thrift store shopping. This week we had lots of rain and ice, so I didn't drive to see the cats. However, the thrift store is within walking distance and I found a cool ceramic male doll's head. It's now a photo prop!

When I finished this latest mixed media collage, I sat for a few minutes trying to think of a title. I find it hard sometimes to title my art works. With this one, Daydreamer came right to mind. The figure reminded me of being lost in thought, focused yet abstracted. I often daydream while I'm doing my art.

Lately, I've been daydreaming about owning a house and being able to have some kitties and dogs again. That is a long way off. For now, I'm enjoying the daydream and being grateful for the time I have on this beautiful island.

What have you been daydreaming about lately?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

sumi cat, ink line drawing on rice paper

sumi cat III

It's been months seasons, since I've done any cat paintings. Since my muse, Sputnik, crossed that rainbow bridge over a year ago, I've slacked on the cat drawings.

Last weekend that changed as I got a custom request to do an 8 x 10 inch painting of my sumi ink kitty painting. I really enjoyed painting cats with sumi ink on rice paper and did about 15 that day.

Most of them went to the collage pieces pile while others got trashed. Four of them worked out as individual paintings.

Why did some get kicked out? The paper was too thin and ink was too thick so the paper buckled horribly in one painting. On another, even though I sprayed fixative on the painting, the ink smudged as I used too much water to put the backing on. Several got thrown out because the lines were too ragged.

When I work with sumi ink on rice paper, I know that I'm working myself up to that moment when all the variables meet, and the magic happens before my eyes. It reminds me of what my sixth grade teacher would tell me, "If at first you don't succeed, try try again."

Below is a time lapse video I made of one of the paintings which became the collage piece that is at the top of this post. The collage is available in my GalleryJuanaArt etsy. You'll also see the rice paper painting that I painted for the custom request.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Baucis and Philemon, pen ink drawing

oak and linden III, pen drawing on dictionary paper,  work in progress
oak and linden III, pen drawing on dictionary paper, work in progress

When he had spoken briefly with Baucis, Philemon revealed their joint request to the gods. We ask to be priests and watch over your temple, and, since we have lived out harmonious years together, let the same hour take the two of us,...
... as they chanced to be standing by the sacred steps, discussing the subject of their deaths, Baucis saw Philomen put out leaves, and old Philemon saw Baucis put out leaves, and as the tops of the trees grew over their two faces, they exchanged words, while they still could, saying, in the same breath: “Farewell, O dear companion”, as, in the same breath, the bark covered them ... Ovid

My husband and I recently celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. The drawing that I've used for this Baucis and Philemon series started with a photo of us from "way back when".

I took that photo when my husband and I were traveling through Mexico on a shoestring budget. And I do mean shoestring! I never thought I'd be able to laugh about some of the things that happened on that trip, but I often look back fondly on that adventure.

When I did this drawing in 2010, I came across the story of Baucis and Philemon. It's a beautiful story about an old couple who wished to remain together forever. The Gods granted their wish by making them intertwining trees of oak and linden.

Still a work in progress; this is the third drawing in this series. The first was submitted to the Sketchbook project and the second has sold. I've used gesso to add texture for the trees and archival pen ink and acrylics for the portrait and leaves.

Friday, November 30, 2012

let's talk about rice paper

rice paper and hours drawing
rice paper and drawing

Recently I got a question from a fellow artist about balls of paper forming when mounting a rice paper painting.

"I find that while applying the paste to the back of the painting, little balls of paper can form sometimes. I find this very disturbing. Have you had this happen? Under what circumstances, and how did you correct it?"
I have had that happen, sometimes it has been the paper. So let's first take a look at types of Rice Paper.

Even though the paper used for painting Sumi Ink Paintings is not made out of rice, Rice Paper is a popular name for this Asian paper in the West. Other common names are Washi, Xuan or Hanji, depending on the country of origin (respectively, Japan, China, Korea).

Rice paper can be machine-made, hand-made, raw or sized. Each variance gives the paper a different texture and absorbency rate.

With handmade rice paper, I have noticed that the ball is already in the paper itself. If you hold the sheet of rice paper up to light, you'll be able to see the fibers and any knots that travel throughout the handmade paper. Knots, fibers and remnants of what made the paper are part of the paper's personality, so they are not necessarily bad.

Before I paint on the paper, I check for any inconsistencies like thinness, thickness or knots that might interfere with my image. Sometimes the knot can be taken out of the paper when it is dry, but the risk is that a hole will be left in its place. If I am going to use the paper with the inconsistencies, I just make sure those points are outside of my image and aren't in the focal point of my painting. In the image above, the knots in the rice paper will be outside the drawing of the figure.

Other times, because the paper is thin or fibrous, the balls form when mounting. At times, I have been able to remove the knot by gently brushing it out or picking it apart to lessen the size. Again, I run the risk that a hole will be left in its place. So sometimes it is better to just leave the paper as it is.

If a hole remains after removing a knot, you can try working the surrounding fibers of the paper to close up the hole. Also, if the painting is mounted onto another support and varnished, the painting will not be compromised.

When mounting a painting on rice paper, it's important to use the proper brush for applying the glue which lessens disturbing the paper's surface. Also, use a light touch when spreading the glue. I hope to post more on rice paper.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dualism I, collage line drawing, artist talk

Dualism I, line drawing, collage
Dualism I, line drawing, collage

Recently, a collector who bought my "Dualism I" limited edition giclee print asked what the art work meant for me. I completed the “Dualism I” collage, line drawing in December 2011 during the end of a difficult time in my life . When I began the drawing, I had two people in mind but by the time I finished the piece, I realized the two people were really both me.

As with my dreams, the same is true with some of my art pieces: I work out my questions subconsciously through imagery. I slowly remove assumptions that cloud my understanding of the current situation. What I’d thought was the meaning in the beginning is usually not what I understand in the end.

dualism noun 1 the division of something conceptually into two opposed or contrasted aspects, or the state of being so divided: a dualism between man and nature. • Philosophy a theory or system of thought that regards a domain of reality in terms of two independent principles, esp. mind and matter ( Cartesian dualism).

The definition reminds me of an experience I had years ago when I was living in Japan.   I was conversing with one of my English language students. We were discussing the emotional conflict that arose when he had visited his Family’s grave. As he spoke about his “mind”,  he would place his hand on his heart.

At first I thought, due to his misunderstanding of the English language, he was confusing the concept of “mind” with the word “heart”. But as he continued to elaborate on that conflict, I began to understand the Japanese concept of “mind” and agreed that was the better word.

So “Dualism I” expresses my divided state of being as well as the conflict that arises when my mind cannot agree with my reality.  This dissonance is both emotional and rational.

At first, I look outwardly for fault.   Eventually, I look inwardly.  The struggle for me is finding what to bridge and what to destroy.   Balance comes when I can isolate the common boundaries between my emotions and reason and between my mind and reality.

ACEO , small sized art

aceo, watercolor, Birth IV
Birth IV

ACEO is an acronym for “Art Cards, Editions, and Originals.” They are small works of art measuring 2.5 inches x 3.5 inches (6cm X 9cm) in portraiture or landscape. ACEOs are sold, as opposed to Artist Trading Cards (ATC), which are traded. Both follow the same size format.

 The first ATC Exhibition was held in 1997 by Artist, M. Vanci Stirnemann. His exhibition included 1200 art cards. Visitors were encouraged to make their own during the show to trade with M. Vanci Stirnemann and others.** From there, the idea went international. Since ATCs could only be traded, ACEOs came about allowing collectors to purchase these small art works as well.

 Each artist uses materials of their choice: paper, image transfers, oils, pastels, colored pencils, 3d ephemera, digital collages, photography, and the list goes on. The ACEO category includes a variety of mediums and subjects. These small works tend to be two-dimensional but 3 dimensional are also available.

 I first got interested in ACEOs in 2007. I like this smaller format because I can develop a concept more quickly. Birth IV (pictured above), which has been sold uses acrylics and watercolors. Below is a time-lapsed video of another aceo that I completed in this Birth series.

Why buy an ACEO? Collectors are able to purchase originals or prints in a range of prices, from as little as $4.00 to more than $100. Commissioned Portraits are also available in ACEO size. The smaller size makes them perfect for decorating any spot in an office or house. They are small enough to frame and put on a desk. They can be hung alone or hung in a collection. Some collectors place their ACEOs under a glass table. Now that makes a great conversation piece!


Framing Art

I recently had a client ask me for assistance with framing.   And in fact, shortly after that, a stranger asked me for framing advice when I was purchasing art supplies at the art store. How to frame your recently purchase art is a very good question.

Framing is for the long-term protection of art work or fine art prints. So it is important that any material that touches the original painting is acid-free. In addition to acid free, lignin free is also important for being archival.

Using UV glass is a plus. Protection from sunlight will further ensure that the colors in your painting or print last a long time. It’s important to note that the painting should not touch the glass. For this reason, matting is recommended.

Many will recommend that the mat should not be lighter or darker than any color in the painting. Double matting is also possible. Mats come in different qualities (listed low to high grade): decorative, conservation and museum rag.

In the past, when I’ve sold through galleries, they chose a white mat and simple black frame, but the choice of framing elements will depend on your taste and home decor.

Oak and Linden art tutorial

In August 2010, I signed up for the Sketchbook Project 2011.  I altered the original moleskine notebook and hand stitched it myself with drawing and watercolor paper.  My finished sketchbook will be added to the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Art Library.

I thought I'd go into detail about how one of my pen drawings for the sketchbook project 2011 was done.  The main materials I used were pencil, sakura micron pens, rice paper, dictionary paper and acrylics. 

I love working with rice paper.  It is versatile and wonderful to use in collage works.

The "Oak and Linden" pen drawing is inspired by the story of Baucis and Philemon who wished to be oak and linden trees intertwined upon their death.  I've used "Baucis and Philemon" for the tutorial below.

The Process

I drew the portraits of myself and my husband in pencil from an old photo taken when we were budget travelling through Mexico.  Lots of good memories from that trip!

oak and linden sketch
preliminary sketch for Baucis and Philemon

Then I placed tracing paper over the original drawing and created another drawing similar to a stencil drawing.  The rice paper is somewhat transparent and can be placed over the tracing paper to outline the stencil art.  That is one more reason I like rice paper:  when you adhere it to your substrate, you can control how visible the layer beneath the rice paper shows through.

oak and linden II wip
drawing done and ready to be adhered

After allowing a light wash of acrylic to dry,  I adhered rice paper drawing to the sketchbook page.  In the image below, the words are still visible through the couple's portrait.  I added acrylic to the faces to give shadow and form.  I also filled in the spaces of the stencil drawing. In the background, images and words from the dictionary paper remain semi-visible.

line drawing, rice paper and pen, oak and linden II wip
For the completed work below, the lines were drawn free-hand and practically spontaneously.  When I got to the top of the portrait, I added two triangular shapes which seemed to be perfect as the roots of the trees.  Below is the drawing that is in the sketchbook I am sending to the Brooklyn Art Library. In the near future, prints will be available in my shop.

line drawing, rice paper and pen, sketchbook 2011 page 16
Oak and Linden I

March 2011, Rogue Festival

I exhibited this series at City Arts Gallery during the Rogue Festival in 2011.

The "Death, Birth, and Identity" series evolved from personal experiences during 2009 and 2010.  At the end of October in 2009, I left Japan. I packed up seven years of my life into two suitcases and a box.  What couldn't fit is gone forever.

Exhibition Rogue Festival

The days spent rumaging through all I had collected over the last seven years and deciding what to keep became a purification:  a process of letting go, cleansing the soul,  and moving on.

I learned through this experience that life comes to me in cycles.  Parts of me die off leaving room for regrowth.  Each cycle defines who I am.

There are 5 canvas works in the "Death, Birth and Identity" series:
Transformation, Awake, As The Heart Beats,  Anthesis, and Gloaming. (From left to right in the above photo)

"Transformation" is the beginning, the rebuilding stage.   It is the moments where I sit quietly, exhausted from the pain of letting go.  There is an emptiness, a void.  Not in a hopeless way, but more like land that has been tilled.  It's a fresh beginning.


"Awake" is questioning, choosing, and planning. 

"As The Heart Beats" is finally taking that leap into the future.

"Anthesis" is the bloom of the choices I've made.

"Gloaming" is the end of the cycle.  This poem I wrote expresses how I feel about this last stage.

Even in absolute darkness, light exists.  The saddest day has a glimmer of hope.  Each drop of rain has sunshine.   Time continues to move.  Nothing is permanent.

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