Thursday, March 26, 2015

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue...

In my quest to find something to scratch my creative itches this year, that utilized much of the ephemera and mementos I've collected from flea markets over time, and that would bring more joy and lightheartedness into my daily making... I began creating these vintage-inspired mixed media collages. That's the something new.

This is where it all begins. Finally finding a landing place for all my papers, old photos, book pages, candy wrappers, scrapbook papers, antique ledgers, music books, tickets, maps and odd little scraps of stampings and such... well... That's the something old. Those things kind of set my soul on fire. If you saw my stash, you might laugh at the tiniest scraps of things that I am not able to part with. I'm not sure why, but the most miniscule piece of torn paper makes my heart beat just a little bit faster.

Being able to get into all the details and embellishing with paint, pencil, ribbons, buttons and other found objects... well... that just sets my brain on fire! I tweak and tweak and tweak and tweak each piece until it looks 'just right'. And what does that mean? When it has the perfect balance of color, visual weight, places for the eye to fall, and the story is clear... that's when I know I'm done.

When did my love affair of all thing collage-y begin? Probably back around the turn of the century! I first discovered a publication called Somerset Studio, that had within it's gorgeous, glossy pages, samples of artwork similar to what I wanted to create. They called it mixed media collage. And so my quest began. I traveled the country to gather and play with like-minded souls. I discovered new and exciting projects and techniques. I found talented and patient teachers and inspirational workshops. One of those masterful instructors was Lynn Whipple. Her whimsical and lighthearted approach to collage inspired me to keep going. And keep going I did!

Earlier this year, when my thoughts turned to adding more joy and lightheartedness into my daily creative practice, my thoughts returned to that special instructor of more than a decade ago. I found an online class she was teaching — aptly named The Joy of Collage — and signed up in a heartbeat, so I could brush up on my techniques and playfulness. And brush up (pun intended)... I did! That's the something borrowed.

I soon became obsessed with making mixed media magic. I could relax my brain and let my heart take over. It was a much needed break from the complex engineering of the sculpted art dolls I made throughout 2014. I started working on multiple collages at a time, all in different stages. I could play with paper, or paint, or stamping, or details, at my leisure with the freedom to choose whatever was calling me at the time. I started creating works in different themes and different colors (that's where the something blue comes in)... all while using Lynn's visual gauge of, "if it makes you laugh, then go with it".

Working in that way, I found that when I'm finished with a piece, I think, "Awww, I'm done already?" And so I'm on to the next one... to create more fun, more whimsy, more joy and more lightheartedness in my creative soul. Throughout this process the ideas keep coming, and I look forward to exploring these mixed media collages in 2015 and seeing where they take me!

Editors Note: Any time I take a class or workshop from a talented, established artist or instructor, I always ask their permission before I make any work utilizing their techniques public. It's good form and good karma.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Freak Show Peep Show...

After drooling over a full season of inspiration brought to me by the American Horror Story: FreakShow television series, I set my sights on creating a collection of art dolls with a circus sideshow theme! So I thought I'd take you behind the scenes — or should I say under the big top — for a little sneak peek.

Being the first of my art doll endeavors with a single theme, I carefully considered which characters I would create, based on the unique oddities and attractions from the show.

Of course Dell Toledo, The Stupendous Strongman was a big influence. In fact, I knew months ago when I came across furry leopard fabric, that I wanted to create a doll with bulging muscles, a neanderthal brow, and a handlebar moustache, lifting a ton of weight (okay, maybe about half a ton!)

That handlebar moustache... well, it ended up being as big as he is! But I do love to exaggerate features on my dolls, so when it made me laugh, I knew it was perfect!

Dell's former wife Ethel — The Bearded Lady — was a gentle soul and touched my heart. I wanted to dress her in a 1920's style dress, like from her early stage days where she was loved and adored. I tried several different items to dress her up, and felt that this old silk and lace camisole of mine fit the bill. Yes, I save everything!

Of course to go with the theme of the time, no bearded lady dressed in 1920's garb, is complete without a blingy headband!

Then there was Twisty the Clown. A very sick and twisted individual who's specialty was murder! This doll was probably the most difficult sculpture I've created to date. But working from a photograph of a real character kinda made it a little easier than my other dolls, if that makes sense. I put my twist on it (pun intended) and love the way he came out.

Pretty freaking scary! I do love making cute things, but I love making creepy things just as much. This certainly appealed to that part of my personality.

My conjoined twin girls Faith and Hope, were definitely inspired by Bette and Dot from American Horror Story. I dressed them up using a gorgeous pair of lace shorts my mom bought me last year, but alas... were too small. Yes, I save everything! My stash of vintage jewelry, buttons, baubles, beads and ribbon help make every doll a unique and individual piece of art, and lots of fun to accessorize.

My love of all things side show — and the fact that the Wheel of Death made an appearance in the television series — is why I had to create a Knife-Thrower's Assistant! Where does one acquire a doll-sized wheel? In the clock components section of A.C. Moore, of course!

I dressed my Assistant in a goth style lace and tulle dress, complete with a tiny tutu. The main part of the dress is from an upcycled blouse I bought at a sample sale years ago but never wore because I'm not really very appealing in black, LOL. Did I mention that I save everything?

And last but not least. The Ringmaster...

Inspired by Elsa Mars, mistress of the freaks and — unbeknownst to many of the others — was one of them herself. [Spoiler Alert!] Having had her legs cut off for a German snuff film, Elsa was given a pair of wooden legs by one of her "suitors". For my version, the Ringmaster sits atop a vintage bird cage, with a pair of antique wooden bobbins dangling below her torso. At a commanding 2 feet tall in total, her Marie Antoinette style skirt barely hides the history of her past.

Now, by this time you may be wondering why I haven't shown you each of my latest art dolls in all their fabulously freakish glory. Well, here at the FreakShow, you've got to buy a ticket to see the monsters. Pssst! Stick around, and I'll let you know where to get one!