some little escapist faeries

Wow! Its been a week. Not just the election – although I am still reeling from that, but also a trip to the Cleveland Clinic which meant a day with over 12 hours of driving. I am exhausted!

Like many other artists, stress drives me into the studio, where I found I just couldn’t settle to any of the projects I had started. On a bulletin board over my desk were 5 or 6 little partially completed collages, things that were stuck and abandoned there. I have been wanting to paint again for a few weeks, the change in the light as autumn and winter draw in always makes me want to pick up a brush to capture it, and so I decided I would try painting over a few of those collaged panels.

What to paint? I hadn’t picked up a brush to paint anything except a wall in more than 10 years –  I decided to just be whimsical and paint some little tiny faerie faces on a couple and see what happened. It was fun, just the escape I needed. The little faces looked a bit odd and isolated on top of the layers of collage, so I added another layer of collage over the top. I enjoyed having a brush in my hand. I see more tiny paintings in my future.

Here are the results – they will be my contribution to an exhibit coming up in December at the Sensory Art Gallery & Winery.


And now back to real life – a mountain of essays to grade and an enormous gift giving exhibit to install at the 3rd on 3rd Gallery.

Local arts showcase


I’ve blogged about Infinity before. What happens there is the best of the arts. Young people are mentored and inspired. With the help of local artists they craft their own goals and get all the support they need to make them happen. We all know the arts make better people. So I am happy to be participating in this year’s local artist showcase. In addition to hawking my wares I am also donating an art guitar to their auction.
Here’s a shot of the work in progress.


Hope that if you are in the area you will take the time to come and see the marvel for yourself!

A rather late new year.

This year I am beginning my year the same way I have started the last two years with the great blog prompts from Lisa Sonora. It’s been a very slow start as I have had the flu and then bronchitis and I am still getting caught up.
In past years I have used an old book as the foundation for my journal, but the book I thought I might use this year was  just not the right size or scale or something, it didn’t feel right. Instead I decided to use random formats of watercolor paper as a basis for my journaling.
Working on individual sheets has been a different experience. I started out with 30 randomly sized pieces of watercolor paper. Next I added a layer of collage. I pushed myself to work with brighter colors than I would usually use. It was a good game plan, but after I added additional layers of paint, printing and tissue, many of the pages ended up being in my happy beige range! A few brighter ones survived, but not many.
The final layer on each page was the stamped quote of the day, and I was able to use the reverse side to journal.



This weekend I bound together the finished pages. I’m still behind but I think I am going to use this technique for the rest of the year, maybe making monthly books.
I have a much less hectic teaching schedule this semester, so I am hoping to get better at guarding my studio time, and posting more regularly here.



So hopefully there will be more to come soon. Thanks for hanging with me!

AEDM, wrapping up week 1.

I am staying with my youngest daughter for a few days while she has some tests and gets used to new medications. I brought a few things with me, mostly  teaching related, but I have been sneaking a little art in. A couple of collages in my art journal



Using only what’s on hand is a stretch, but good for me.
And more prep work on the womens work project. I am about two thirds of the way through securing the book block for binding. It has taken so long to get to this point that I am getting frustrated. I just want to get the fun part, the embroidered binding started! So close. Maybe another hours worth of sewing till I get to that point. Ah well.


I am trying to really embrace all the imperfections in this book, and no doubt it will be thoroughly overdone by the time I am through, but I am who I am, and this is what I am driven to make.
It really is the nature of my work, slow. Sometimes I wonder why the universe send me these long slow things, why I am so attracted to them.

tree star tutorial – finally!

mixed media on panel - tree star - for coffee and canvas at Infinity

mixed media on panel – tree star – for coffee and canvas at Infinity

I developed this project for “coffee and canvas” night at Infinity. Like many other art centres we are trying to encourage our whole community to find their creativity – and these evenings are a super friendly, low-key introduction to finding your creative self. It is designed to be a foolproof project and if you want to give it a try here are the step by step instructions.

The foundation for the project is a plywood panel, I buy finish grade plywood in large sheets and cut it down into smaller panels – the one for this project is 12 inches by 12 inches, the final step in this stage is to sand all the edges and prime the whole panel.

Next I covered the whole panel with old book pages to create a base. Over the book pages I sprayed some alcohol inks, and in the workshop some participants added watercolours on this layer. It doesn’t need to look like anything – this is just to add colour and texture to the final project. Let all this dry thoroughly.

old pages with alcohol inks

old pages with alcohol inks

Now to add the moon – I used a transfer technique for this. I printed an image of the moon, cut it out and covered the printed side with modge podge (or an acrylic medium) and press it down onto your prepared board wherever you want the moon to be. Let this dry. The longer you leave it to dry the better. The final part of this process is to gently wet down the paper and rub it away – I use my fingers but you can use a soft brush or eraser. The trick is not to get it too wet or the glue gets sticky again. It doesn’t matter if the transfer is imperfect or if you rub part of it away. To finish the moon I also drew over the transfer with a white gel pen. You can copy the craters and lines of your transfer or just make something up!

cut out print of the moon

cut out print of the moon

stuck onto the panel printed side down

stuck onto the panel printed side down

with layer of gel pen over the transfers

with layer of gel pen over the transfers

The starry tree uses a mask technique. For the workshop I had this file cut at a printer with a vinyl sign shop – I didn’t have to go far as the family printer I work for has a vinyl cutter. If you don’t want to pay to have a mask cut or don’t have access to a vinyl cutter you could transfer this image onto card stock and stick it down with a re-positionable adhesive instead, or create your own tree in the same way. If you use sign vinyl I would recommend sticking it to your clothes before sticking it to your project to take away some of the adhesive’s tack. (or ask for a re-positionable vinyl). So once you have your tree and stars stick them to the board, this is where everyone gets a chance to make the project their own and really shine!

with the vinyl mask applied

with the vinyl mask applied

To create the star filled night sky I used a watercolour wash sprinkled with kosher salt, the two react with each other to create an easy starry effect. You can do this multiple times in layers until you get an effect you like.

covering the whole thing in watercolour paint o create the starry sky

covering the whole thing in watercolour paint o create the starry sky

Once your sky is dry gently peel away the tree and star masks, revealing your textured paper layer below. I had a few stars that stuck a little too well and peeled away the top paper layer – if this happens to you never fear – the very last step will allow  you to fix this!

some of the paper peeled away with the mask - but we can fix it

some of the paper peeled away with the mask – but we can fix it

Lastly I added some stars I cut out from decorative papers scraps – you all know I never throw any paper away, I also used some punches to make tiny flowers to sprinkle in the branches. I used the gel pen to emphasize some of the stars and the tree branches. The beauty of this project is you can keep on layering more paper and pen until you are happy with what you see.

Lastly I sealed the whole project with a spray varnish. And there you have it – a starry mixed media tree, step by step with error proof fixes built right in! If you try this tutorial please send me an image and let me know how it works out for you. Feel free to share with friends and family – just let them know where your inspiration came from!

Thanks to all the participants in my Infinity group for a fun evening – and to Infinity for being such a great space for creative people!!

Lastly – if you would like me to come and teach this workshop for you please email me at debraeck at debraeck dot com.


a very purple journal page

I swear I went to the studio to do some work, but I couldn’t focus so I ended up playing in my journal instead. I wish I was one of those super messy journal-ers but I am not. I am drawn to clean open journal pages. I made one that was a bit messier than this but I don’t like it as well. In the interest of full disclosure here’s a section of it!

messier – and I don’t like it!!

so much news…

Wow so much has happened since my last post, where to begin? First I am SUPER EXCITED to be included in this years MARK program sponsored by NYFA, so in couple of weeks I will be traveling to Syracuse for a long weekend to think about me, my art and my art career. I am really pumped! As usual though I am worried about how I will afford it – I did get a scholarship to cover part of my tuition,( if anyone out there has friends or family in Syracuse who would be open to having a house guest for a couple of nights please let me know!)

It does seem as if the universe is doing her darnedest to help though, as I have several little design/teaching jobs lined up (as well as RealJob 2 days a week). I am really hoping this is all going to work out. I have been feeling as if I am at a crossroads with my art right now, so I am looking forward to having some dedicated time to work on what’s next for me.

Things in the studio continue to flood out – I woke up this morning with several ideas resolved and have been able to work productively in the studio all day (by ignoring the housework). Unfortunately I am working on many projects at once so I don’t really have many images to share. Here’s a bit of a preview of some things – nothing is finished, but as always comments/thoughts are quite welcome!

Like all mixed media artists I have boxes and boxes of paper… here’s an example


I get so much joy from looking at all the beautiful colours and texture, and I have always wished I could share that feeling of luxury that my paper brings me with others.

I have been moving this old window frame around the studio for a year and I was struck with inspiration. I am creating a work of woven papers/thread/ephemera. I really adore artists who make these really random layered works with color and texture galore, but when I try it it just makes a mess, I need structure – maybe that’s all my years as a graphic designer at work – so I created big sheets of paper with randomly collage papers in various palettes

Then I cut them up into orderly squares and rectangles and wove them into a loom of threads. Here’s a look at the beginning….

Right now it is anchored on a piece of foamcore, but I plan to suspend it inside the old window frame when it is a bit further along. I really like how it looks so far – but really, how can you go wrong with a grid? (hoping I don’t find out – LOL).

Nothing else will make any sense as it is now, so you’ll have to be patient a while longer!! Maybe I’ll have more to post tomorrow?!

Lastly a couple of family notes – first Nick & Chelsea are doing well, back to work and busy with their wedding plans – but keep them close to your hearts anyway. And second – it was the baby’s prom this weekend, so here she is

third street canvas

The words made me think of fairy tales, and maybe not always so happily ever after, about the ways we choose to decieve each other and ourselves and what that costs. So here are the many faces of the maiden in her tower, woven about with roses and thorns, waiting for a prince who REALLY sees. It is almost too late, the leaves are fading into autumnal glory, but there is still time to see her as she really is, and for that happy ending. Below are the poet’s words, (I don’t know their name), and following are some images

A Grand Folly

Gazing at an illusion all these years

just a painting in my mind

that I embellished again and again

loving the impression more than the subject itself

until its magnificence outshined all

the everyday beauty around me

fall cleaning

OK I know it is NOT fall yet, but I am busy cleaning the house to get ready for back to school when my life will once again become insane. I can’t believe how quickly the summer has passed. Chelsea will be home from NYC on Friday, 8 weeks has flown by! I have to admit that the cleaning began because of Paula and a comment about dusting… its a long story, but it guilt-ed me into doing some (dusting), which snowballed into a crazy house cleaning extravaganza! Today I am cleaning out my closets and heading out to the second chances store with a donation, try not to faint but I have even purged my bookshelves!!

On Monday I went to the Audubon Sanctuary with a group of individuals from Aspire. The great artist who works there, Sara and I took them on a bug’s view walk using kaleidoscopes and them we made nature related collages in the style of Jacob Hashimoto but in a much simpler way. It was a great morning, full of laughter, nature and art, what more could you ask for??

Also I have been busy reading, I just finished Scrapbook by Roland Penrose. I had never heard of him, but he was great friends with artists like Man Ray and Picasso. What attracted me was the title of the book, and the idea that this great artist kept a scrapbook of ephemera and photographs during his life, which was a fascinating one. If you are interested in that period in art history it is well worth the read. It certainly filled in some gaps in my education!

Things have been quiet in the studio, but I am doing the Miller’s Park Art Fair at Chautauqua this weekend, so I’ll be puttering around up there later. Also I am starting a big new project, which I’ll post more about soon, a book to go to an exhibition, “Library of Mirrors” at the Bookartbookshop in London in September. The idea is to “copy” a book that inspires you, can you guess what I’ll be making? If I tell you it is called preservation will that help? Stay tuned for answers!!!

out and about, musings on art I looked at and made!

Yesterday I headed up to Chautauqua Institution for the afternoon. I am super lucky to have such a great resource right in the neighborhood. I went ostensibly to register for the Miller’s Park Art Fair, next Sunday, August 8th, but I ended up zoning out for several hours. The show at the Strohl Gallery had some highlights, the work of Donna Rosenthal, and Michael Rogers in particular. I had seen Rosenthal’s work online and I expected to like it in person much more than I did. It was a little more polished and refined than I expected and the gel medium used on the paper made it very shiny and I just didn’t like that.I hope that doesn’t sound to snotty. I was a little disappointed that the work looked very new, and my aesthetic is just older and tattier I guess. The pieces were clever and beautifully crafted but they just didn’t sing to me the way I had thought they would.

Roger’s work was varied and slightly dark, which we know is much more my thing! The glass birds were so haunting. Coupling, two black glass crows(?)  wrapped with rope was so sad. There were some beautiful glass panels that I would like to see again, the depth added to the prints by the glass was really interesting.

Next I headed across the street to the new Fowler-Kellogg gallery space. The student show was hanging and there were some really beautiful drawings. I wish I had been in possession of a pen so that I could give you some names, but if you go, head upstairs there is an intriguing work on faux leather with drawing and threads that is worth the gate fee alone! This was not the only great work, but it was so beautiful i wished I could own it!

I visited my friend who manages the refectory and had some ice cream, did a little shop browsing, sadly no money to buy! then I headed for home.

So while I was eating dinner (well sort of dinner, I had a plate of tortilla chips and spinach & artichoke dip) I watched a fabulous documentary on paper-folding with my son and his friends, who of course didn’t really want to watch but were totally sucked in by the amazing work and the complexity and range of ideas that the documentary covered. I watched it on netflix, if you are interested it is called between the folds. Regular readers know I am a bit of a math/physics geek so I loved it!! What I loved most though was a discussion about visual complexity, and whether a level of accuracy in depiction makes for a better work. That’s a big topic for another post, maybe on my other blog. I don’t want to get bogged down with it, but if you have time to watch the film and have thoughts, let me know, it’s a discussion I’d like to have!!

The boys having secretly enjoyed much of the “lame” documentary then wanted to play video games before the beloved big screen goes back whence it came, so I headed up to the studio. I haven’t been very productive lately, I have started a lot of things that are not progressing at all, or not going any place I want to follow, so I thought i would try adapting an image I had seen in this months Somerset Studio (which I bought despite being broke because I am feeling stuck) by Tracy Nuskey Dodson who used paper to create hair for her images featured in this edition.

To back up a little, for years  have loved the Suzanne Vega song Calypso, and recently I received a call for work for an image related to music. I have many sketches of Calypso in my sketch books, so I thought I would give it a try. Nothing I had been doing captured that sad, misty, flowing feeling I wanted, so I figured that I had nothing to lose by making her hair from paper. Using her technique I cut long wave forms from paper and edged them with blue and green pastel, a little pen and ink face with some coloured pencil and I had the beginning of something soft whimsical, romantic.

I used some cellophane wrap with acrylic paint and some distressed and folded wax paper to create a foamy “body” and here’s where I am right now. Not finished but certainly on the way. I’ll be working with her a little more today, update to follow maybe.