Solstice Card v.2014

J.K. SimmonsCreating my Winter Solstice cards is something I look forward to every year.  It’s work and joy bundled together, my way of connecting to the people I love and admire.  It’s also my version of a holiday gift.  I stopped trying to give gifts when I went on Disability, but I can still send a little bit of art.

I also send one to a someone involved in making movies, someone whose work particularly touched me that year.  It feels important to tell folks how they help me manage during the worst of my bipolarness.  I don’t imagine they get that kind of feedback very often.  I sent one to Peter Jackson after the first Hobbit movie saved me from a winter of despair.  This year, I chose a long-time favorite, J.K. Simmons (if you haven’t seen Whiplash yet, run to your theater this second).

Original Artwork of Collage Assemblage Artist Andrea Matus deMengWhen I got back from England in September and immediately got sick with bronchitis, I took myself to the Barnes and Noble to comfort myself by looking through art magazines.  I knew I had to start thinking about my Solstice cards as they often take months to complete (I usually make about 60 of them), but had absolutely no ideas in my snotty head.

Then, I opened the September/October issue of Somerset Studio and found the feature on Andrea Matus de Meng.  Her work stunned me.  Could I do something like this for my Solstice card?  Wait.  Instead of using vintage photographs this time, could I draw something provocative?  The thought of doing my own sketching lit a fire and I went to work.

The bronchitis is gone, but the fire isn’t.  I’ve been hard at work on my cards for about six weeks.  I open my Pandora station, microwave a mug of chai, pull on my ratty and paint smeared sweatshirt, sit at my table and let the magic happen.  Here’s what that’s like:

Gathering Materials

It takes some trial and error to figure out what materials to use.  First I pick the card stock for the card itself—this time, Poppy Parade from Stampin’Up®.  I love the quality of their card stock.  This color is discontinued (I can get the “retired” products cheaper), but I had a bunch on hand.

Step 1I knew I wanted to use paint instead of ink this year, so I sorted through my collection of Lumiere acrylics—luscious paint with a metallic sheen.  Then, I just started experimenting.  The photo above shows all the materials I ended up using for each card.  It’s even a little shocking to me when I see everything together in one pile.

As a base for the collage, I took sheets from my parents’ farm bookkeeping ledger, cut them to size, and painted them.  I wasn’t sure which color would look best, so I painted a few of each color.  They all worked, so I continued this first step using six different Lumiere colors.  I like leaving interesting details unpainted (like the row numbers on the ledger), but I knew they’d probably get covered over later.  That’s okay.  It’s my little secret.

Step 2Next, I collaged pages from a tiny, antique book.  I’m assuming it’s some sort of accounting or actuarial text, but it’s in German, and I really have no idea what these little tables are.  I don’t care.  The graphics and foreign language rock!  Once the Mod Podge dried, I painted them.

Step 3Next, I added music from a Temperance song book from the early 1900s.  I love this little book.  Some of the song titles include “Away! Away! The Sparkling Wine,” “The Teetotallers Are Coming,” and “Beautiful Water” (because they tried to promote water as a beverage instead of demon booze).  Music adds a nice graphic, and I love using it.

Step 4After the music dried and got its coat of pain, I added a fun layer of graphics.  This started as pieces ripped out of vintage dress patterns, but I didn’t have many of those.  What I did have was some seamstress’ tissue paper from the 1930s—deliciously yellowed and fragile.  So I drew some of my own simple graphics with a marker and used that.  Tissue is great for adding depth while letting the color and design underneath show through.  Along with this layer I collaged equations from an antique German geometry text.  Again, I couldn’t resist foreign language and numbers.  Yum!

Step 6After drying and painting came the last layer on this background collage—letters from a vintage children’s reading primer, a section from an old spelling handbook, and either bits from another German book on Hieroglyphics or one on Chemistry.  Once that all dried and got a touch of Bronze Lumiere, I was ready to put together my central image.

I drew my Winter Solstice shamans on a 1906 copy of The Youth’s Companion, a newspaper-like publication for young adults.  I thought the small, delicate type face would lend an interesting texture.  The faces also got a touch of white acrylic paint and a touch-up with black gel pen.

Shaman 1

Then, I went to work on the shaman’s headdress.  From my bucket of fabric scraps, I pulled a nice, gold brocade and sewed beads onto strips that would become a sort of drape (think ancient Egypt or Mayan).

Shaman 2

Next came the feathers.

Shaman 3

Then, the headband.  The gold braid and pearls came from a necklace my mom wore before I was born (so, yeah, it’s really vintage).   I added more pearls from my bead stash (I’ve got a little bit of everything).

Shaman 4

And, finally, microbeads to tie the headdress together.

Shaman 5

Step 7I also wanted to do something a little different for the greeting inside the card.  I have a “Solstice Greetings” stamp, but I thought the nature of the outside ought to be reflected on the inside.  So I opted to dash a couple of layers of Lumiere on The Youth’s Companion and hand-write my holiday greeting with white gel pen.  I layered that over a snippet of music from a 1932 The Etude magazine, then spritzed it with Gossamer Gold Moon Shadow Mist from Lindy’s Stamp Gang (great stuff).

I’m pleased with all aspects of this project—the stretch to my creative muscle, the meditative time with my bits and bobs, the chance to give something that delights me, both inside…

Step Final Greeting

And outside.

Solstice 2014

May your holiday season be as rewarding and juicy.



(not quite) 30 Days of Sketches

Drawing, Sketch

Backside at the Coffee Shop

Well, it’s pretty clear I’m not going to get all 30 days done in my drawing self-challenge, but I’m cool with that.  I accomplished what I wanted, which was to confront and beat back my fear of drawing.  I’ve rekindled an old love affair with pencils, gum erasers and big, blank, pieces of paper.  I got comfortable with a technique that’s faster and edgier than my careful and meticulous high school-age sketches.  The end result is much more than I ever expected.  So, Success!

30 Days of Sketches—Day 22

Sketch drawing portrait

Another Coffee Shop Patron

30 Days of Sketches—Day 21

draw sketch faces coffee shop

Faces at the Coffee Shop

30 Days of Sketches—Day 20

Drawing Sketch Huntsman from Snow White and the Huntsman

The Huntsman

Well, I didn’t make 30 sketches by June 1, which was Carla Renee’s original challenge.  But, that’s fine with me.  The challenge for myself was to actually pick up a pencil and make a mark on paper, to keep doing it until my anxiety over drawing faded.  So in that respect, I succeeded magnificently!  I’ll continue to post my scribblings until I reach my quota, it just might take awhile.

A Quick Bad-Ass Check In

Here’s how my Master Plan is panning out so far:

No TV √

Exercise after Supper √

Meditation before bedtime √

I discovered that doing absolutely nothing while I eat makes me feel awfully lonely.  So, I’m reading a funny Terry Pratchett book, The Wee Free Men, during my meals, then putting the book away as soon as I finish.  I’m also only eating at my table, not my comfy TV Chair (or bed, or standing in the kitchen, or in the car).  So far, I’ve been able to read and eat my meals without the compulsion to keep on eating.  HooHoo!

I haven’t started practicing Tai Chi yet.  I seem to keep finding all kinds of fascinating stuff to do in the evenings—and then go to bed early.  I’m not ready to take it off my Plan yet, though.  I want to keep working with my resistance and see if I can get myself past it.  We’ll see.

It’s amazing how fast I forget to put my fork down between bites.  Yowza!  Since eating is my psyche’s cue to snooze, I’m constantly jerking my head up, metaphorically speaking.  So, this technique continues to challenge me.

I found an old pillowcase in my closet and turned it into a TV cover.  As with the picture of Bad-Ass Bruce Willis on the back of my front door cheering me on, this old Sandra Boynton cartoon keeps me inspired.

30 Days of Sketches—Day 19

Sketch drawing of Captain America

Captain America

30 Days of Sketches—Day 18

sketch drawing of a face

Face at the Cemetery

30 Days of Sketches—Day 17

Sketch, Drawing Human Profile


30 Days of Sketches—Day 16

Sketch of a glass

Glass Almost Empty

I don’t get transparency.  The highlights, the warped lines, the weird reflections and odd shadows—they all sort of scare me.  But, since this whole drawing challenge is an exercise in staring down my art fears, it only made sense to give it a shot.

30 Days of Sketches—Day 15

Sketch and Drawing a Hand with a Straw

Hand & Straw

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