Monday, December 27, 2010

12/27/2010: Merrily Chistmas Rolls Along!

We left room under the tree for Dundee, who loves laying there

It has been a lovely, if somewhat bittersweet, Christmas here at Patchwork Cottage (an unofficial  name given to our little house by my Mother, because of the miscellany of materials that cover the exterior.)  Lovely for all the usual reasons—sheer beauty, warm emotions, memories, familial love, traditions, contemplation, companionship, time off from my job –but also a bit sad; due not just to the sweet melancholy engendered by all of the above, but also, primarily, because of my Mother’s continuing decline into dementia, and then my son’s non-appearance due to flu, and my daughter’s non-appearance due to burn-out and the need to take time to reconnect with her and her husband’s own home in New York and all the solace therein. Well, this last is actually not sad-making, I am happy for her to have time off to just indulge in home-life without dealing with holiday travel stresses. My son, who lives locally, is on the mend, having, as usual, not even let us know he was ill. He travels a different orbit and we never know when he may or may not communicate/turn up.

Nevertheless, the pervading mood of the holiday (so far—I insist on all 12 days’ worth of celebration) has been one of wonder and gratitude. Wonder, because, no matter how often I experience it, the physical transformation of our home wrought by the Christmas tree, the tiny lights strung on wreaths and garlands which festoon every room, massed candles, the festive music and aromas of special foods being lovingly prepared, is such a source of joy! I told my Mother, as we watched Baryshnikov dance the Nutcracker, that one of the reasons I so loved Christmas was because it was a time when the appearance of my physical surroundings almost matched the magical world inside my head (where I probably spend way too much time.)  

Well, I guess that is the whole point (once you get beyond mere shelter) of inhabiting a home at all: to create an environment that reflects and nourishes your own senses and sensibilities as nowhere else can, your intimate space into which you can beckon family and select friends. Holiday decorating is that, on steroids. All the decorating excesses that would be bad taste any other time are allowed at Christmas. Though I draw the line at two items:  those hideous, bloated, inflatable plastic Santas and Snowmen; and exterior Christmas lights that operate in such a way as to send susceptible persons into epileptic shock. You know, those lights that race, flash, jerk, change color and direction--! No, give me the still, silent grace of strands of white light drifting from the eaves, or colored bulbs illuminating the façade of the house, tracing against the night that familiar icon that says “home.” Or spirals of lights outlining the primal forms of trees, casting their glow onto the carpet of snow on the lawn around them. Silent night, still night. Give me Christmas lights that echo that aesthetic—the deep silence and stillness of winter, the quiet of animals hunkered down in earthen dens or straw-insulated barns, the evocative pattern of a window cast in warm, supple light on the snow outside, bearing silent witness to the human warmth within.

The wonder of the Birth of Christ is not absent from my Christmas. I still call the winter holidays by the name honoring that event. Having been raised a Roman Catholic, it’s true I have an atavistic tug towards all those religious elements that form the “true meaning” of Christmas to so many. Yet, other, older impulses draw me just as compellingly—the winter festivals celebrated since long before the advent of Christ or even his father, that rather sour-tempered Judaic patriarchal god. Oh, how long ago the snows fell, how long our memories dwell, our sagas tell of nurturing the light, seeking the warmth against the endless night, marking the settings of the Sun, until the night that brought us the dawn of the returning Star. The Winter Solstice, the greatest of the olden holidays, (usurped by the greatest of the Christian holidays, Christmas) the rebirth of the star that gives life to this planet. The source of physical life and the source of spiritual life combined in one season--what more could we ask….?

And gratitude—what makes one count one’s blessing more than the winter holidays? There must be some kind of atavistic wellspring of victory about surviving the harshness of winter, a primordial memory of overcoming the double-whammy of the cold death coupled with cold winter, that makes us especially grateful at this time of year. (Reminds me of an episode of Northern Exposure, where a corpse had to be hauled into a tree to survive the winter, safe from wolves, until the spring thaw when a grave could be dug.) Every feeling of gratitude is magnified in this season: I offer gratitude for my family and friends, my home, my abilities (such as they are), and for so many other things spreading out into the wide world—gardens, books, music, classical architecture, Victorian hotels, the fall of Communism,  inexpensive red wines, bread machines, organic eggs, thrift shops, the internet, and friends I reach thereby—and here let me stop! 

ALSO greetings and thanks to Junibears, Nigel and Connie for your comments, I will offer personal responses later this week--cannot respond from home computer : (

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas to Me!

While shopping for Christmas gifts for family and friends, I usually end up buying way too many books—especially for myself. Here I offer a little tableau, in my over-flowing library (which is also my art studio), displaying some recent acquisitions. 

With so many discount book stores on the streets and publisher's closeout catalogs arriving in the mail, at least I almost never pay full price for them.  Nowadays my favorite catalog sellers also have websites, but I get cheap, bibliophiliac thrills from perusing discount book catalogs. My favorites come from Edward R Hamilton ( and Daedalus Books (  Dover Publications is another favorite source, not discount but I always try to get their items on sale —a regular occurrence at Dover (also don't forget to sign up for weekly,  free email samples from Dover's digital images library). When in pursuit of a specific, probably out of print book, my first resource is American Book Exchange (which offers no catalog):  as well as (no link necessary) whose affiliate sellers also often carry those hard-to-find items.

The costume book, containing marvelously detailed engravings of mostly Teutonic 18th c dress, and the Dore Gallery (with CD-ROM) from Dover will provide inspiration and materials for collages. Also from Dover comes a book about Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. I’ve been fascinated by that event ever since reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.  Larson creates a masterpiece of tension that moves between the logistics of designing and constructing the splendid “white city” that housed the fair, and the nefarious activities of the charming but murderous psychopath, Dr. Holmes, who found the fair to be fertile hunting grounds for his victims (true story.)

From Daedalus came Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi; Manor Houses of Normandy, and Temple Grandin’s marvelous book, Making Animals Happy.   The Life of Pi was an impulse buy, and it looks to have been a good one. It’s one of those books written for adolescents, that, like the Harry Potter series, offers writing with depth and wit enough to keep more mature readers enthralled; the story of a ship-wrecked boy whose wits and skill enable him to survive (unlike his several animal boat-mates) at sea in a life-boat with a ravenous tiger. It contains magical illustrations by Tomislav Torjanac.

Buying books sight unseen, of course, sometimes results in unexpected encounters, as well as pleasures. Manor Houses of Normandy is a rather dry, didactic, technical study of these structures, but nonetheless there are wonderful photos  to fire the imagination. The buildings date mostly from the 18th century, yet they look to me so archaic that I thought they dated from the 14-15th c.  This book will take its place in the architecture section rather than the interiors section of my library.

Temple Grandin is an authority on animal communication who suffers from (or is gifted with) autism, apparently the source of her ability to penetrate the veil between our minds and those of the animals we love, as well as those anonymous beasts who play such a critical role in our lives. If you care at all about animals (who could not??) I heartily recommend her book, Making Animals Happy. You will discover, among other revelations, that one of the reasons cats are reviled among a certain percentage of the population, is because they do not possess the facial muscles to form expressions similar to our own, that dogs do.

Almost hidden in the photo is a book entitled Making the Metropolis:  Creators of Victoria’s London, by Stephen Halliday, which came from a recent used book sale at a local library (oh, to tell you of the treasures I have found coughed up from the dusty cellars of libraries!!)  It is the kind of fascinating study that I love to get immersed in and let carry me away to another time and place. From the jacket flap:  “Halliday’s…book shows how the ramshackle collection of communities that entered the 19th century became the world’s first metropolis.”

Finally, there is the first volume of Anthony Powell’s epic series of novels, collectively entitled A Dance to the Music of Time.  I read about these books in other books (there’s a topic for a whole other post—bibliosynergy) and have always wanted to read them. I gather they are sort of a British version of Proust, perhaps? The books cover the decades between the world wars, an era (among others) which endlessly fascinates me. So much change, so fast,  and with such devastating consequences—how did it all happen? And also producing such singular personalities, how did the people survive it—or not? There are many books which fall into this chronological span, both fiction and non, and some of my favorites include the novels of Mary Wesley and such works as biographies of Vita Sackville-West, Stephen Spender, Lady Diana Cooper, the Sitwells, Cecil Beaton, the Mitford sisters, Iris Origo, etc, ad nauseum. Oh, if only I had the time! (Which will probably be the epitaph on my urn….)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I know a couple of women who are deathly afraid of birds. Can you imagine? Did their mothers watch Hitchcocks's "The Birds" too many times during pregnancy? Birds are naturally excellent mothers, as are all members the animal kingdom.

I read an article once years ago, about a woman who was a preacher I think in the 19th c. South, and she was taken to task by male church members for it, who felt it was not a woman's place to try to teach about Christ. She pointed out to them, that only women should teach about Christ, because he was born of a human woman WITHOUT the involvement  any human male! You go, girl! So I think Christmas is as much a celebration of Motherhood and the miracle of birth, as of the coming of a savior.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Love Christmas!

...and so here is another piece of Christmas art for you. Made on My Polyvore name is Diakea, you can do a Member search to see my other digital art made there, as well as some fabulous art by my Polyvore buddies.

Christmas Kisses to You!

A digital confection created on Polyvore.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Olden times and ancient rhymes of love and dreams to share...

Like the lyrics to the beautiful song by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi, the winter holidays evoke memories and dreams more than any other time of year. I suppose this goes back to ancient times when humankind hunkered down and nestled in for the winter season, replacing the vigorous activity of farm and field for the introspection of fireside warmth.  For me, Christmas is a time of dispensation, when the normal pattern of everyday life is briefly dusted with magic, and we indulge in traditions that cheer us and give reassurance against the dark and cold beyond our walls. Little Augury recently posted some of her favorite Christmas traditions, and requested some from her readers. Herewith, my own “Top Ten” cherished holiday rites:

1) A Christmas tree, decked with treasured ornaments that each have a story. The cloudy, craquelured glass balls from my childhood are among the most cherished.
Our Christmas tree, c. 1953

2) The Manger. Having been raised Roman Catholic, the Manger scene will forever be integral to my Christmas. My Mother’s set goes under our tree, and I temporarily displace some books to make an arrangement in the library of the well-worn figures that were under my Grandparent’s tree during my childhood.
My Mother's manger set from the 1970's. The sugar angels are c. 1965.
3)  My annual Christmas card. I believe I’ve missed only one year out of the 39 or so that I’ve been doing this, starting when my children were small. The cards used to be individually hand-made, but as my painted or collaged designs got more elaborate, I started having them color-copied. I still assemble the cards by hand.
lino block print, 1970

Paper collage card, 2007
4) Decorating to the hilt! I love the annual transformation of my home into a holiday house with something special to see at every turn:  little surprises tucked on bookshelves and table-tops, greens, berries and poinsettia blossoms (mostly artificial but still beautiful) garlanding door frames and mirrors, as well as our annual Nutcracker display. The topiary trees at each end were made by me, using moss harvested from the lawn of our German apartment building, c. 1995. They have been part of my Christmas decorating ever since.
The Nutcracker collection, 2006

5) Baking. Everyone knows that goodies you eat during the holiday season will never cause you to gain weight. Right?

6) Christmas Eve dinner with family at the home of my cousin and her husband.

7) My musical friends’ annual Christmas party, which always culminates in everyone gathering round the grand piano in their Victorian parlor, to sing Christmas carols, loudly and lustily, accompanied by flute and trombone (played by father and son, respectively.) 

8) The Victorian Christmas house tour in Old Allegheny West, an enclave of lovingly-preserved Victorian houses on Pittsburgh’s North Side. I discovered this wonderful event a decade ago when I saw an article about it in House and Garden magazine.

From the 2007 Victorian Christmas House Tour

9) Gluhwein! What the Germans drink to keep warm during outdoor winter events, such as Christmas markets. I will soon be enjoying some here at home. One does not, of course, buy the prepared bottled stuff. First, you make a mull with lemon, orange, cinnamon, clove and other aromatic goodies, sweetened with sugar or honey, simmered for awhile (filling the house with incredible aroma) then add red wine and heat, very gently, so as not to burn off any merry-making molecules, and serve. Good cheer indeed! A must while out on the nighttime patio viewing the December star-scape.

10) Elizabeth’s bears. My soon-to-be-84 year old Mother has been collecting teddy-bears (for affection, not value) for quite awhile now. At Christmas, the entire collection makes its annual appearance all around the house. 

Wishing all of you the happiest of holidays, and may you enjoy just rewards for all the hard work I know you you've put forth to make them special!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Coming Metamorphosis

It’s been awhile since I posted anything, and at present I still have no new artwork to show, alas. However, I do see light at the end of the tunnel: I’ve finally finished this huge calligraphy job that has been stalking me like the Hound of the Baskervilles for several weeks and preventing me from taking up more creative activities. Here is a tale of woe all too familiar to calligraphers:  the piece is done, all 500+ words of it filling an 18x24 sheet, and the last step is adding a logo in black. Why I chose to do so with a crow quill pen instead of a permanent black marker, I can’t fathom, but I’ll know better from now on! Because, of course, the pen burped out too much ink, which bled beyond the edge of the logo design and thus ruined the entire piece. (And that was the second attempt, the first one being only half-done when I ruined it by leaving out an entire, important word.)  That was last weekend. This past week, every night after work, I plied my pen (doing the logo first—in marker!) and, HURRAY!! last night I finished it. Here it is, with apologies for the lousy digital photography:

Since I can no longer keep up the strain of working full time and still producing one of my intricate, detailed collages every day (attempts at simplifying my style have been futile) I’ve been pondering where to go with this blog. Recently I came across a couple of other blogs whose style I love—Little Augury, written by an interior designer in the Carolinas, and Scala Regia, by a Diogo Mayo, who is Portuguese. Both of them have exquisite tastes and interests in art, books, fine interiors, beautiful gardens, legendary personages, in short, the very things that are most compelling to me. Little Augury tends to emphasize interiors, while Scala Regia has lots about fashion, and both offer plenty about the personalities involved in those industries. LA includes a good bit of text, while SR is mostly visuals.Their blogs are loaded with wit and style and never fail to interest, enlighten and amuse. So, taking inspiration from these, I will attempt to broaden Collagitation to encompass all of my interests, not just my art. Whether I can do this without boring people remains to be seen!

Collagitation will remain the title, because, after all, life is a collage, made up of colors, patterns, and contents that we select and attempt to arrange in a fulfilling design of our own making. But unlike the art that we create, many, if not most, of the elements that comprise our lives are not what we choose, but either what we are dealt or what we settle for. Which is one of the reasons why creating art is so satisfying. “Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” - Twyla Tharp

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Amazing Architecture of Antoni Gaudi in National Geographic

illustration by Fernando G. Baptista & Shizuka Aoki

Having been long enthralled by the soaring, intricate beauty of gothic architecture, I’ve never much cared for the idiosyncratic art nouveau architecture of Antoni Gaudi. It always seemed a bit creepy to me. (It came to mind the first time I watched “Alien” and saw the huge skeletons on the abandoned planet.) Well, the December issue of National Geographic has totally revised my attitude about the work of Gaudi. It contains an article, “Gaudi’s Masterpiece,” by Jeremy Berlin, about the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. This amazing cathedral is a massive structure with a footprint of 48,438 sq. ft., projected to be completed in 2026, 144 years after work started.

The NG article quotes professor of mechanical engineering Adrian Bejan on Gaudi:  “He understood that nature is constructed by laws of mathematics. What is strongest is inherently lightest and most efficient, and therefore most beautiful.” Bejan calls Gaudi a "tightrope walker on the line bridging art and science.”

Gaudi conceived the columns of the nave to represent a forest of trees that would bear the weight of the building from inside, without the need for the gothic flying buttresses. One of the main interior columns in Gaudi’s cathedral supports a load of 1,138 pounds per square inch, compared to a combined 697 psi for one 3-column flying buttress on Cologne Cathedral. The details of how this is achieved are beautifully presented in double sided 4-panel foldout in the magazine, illustrated by Fernando G. Baptista and Shizuka Aoki, from which I scanned the above picture. This fold-out is a work of art in itself.

Gaudi was, of course, a visionary. To quote the NG article again, Gaudi’s “belief in the beautiful efficiency of natural engineering clearly anticipated the modern science of biomimetics.” Take a look at this illustration below from the foldout, showing how Gaudi adapted the structure of a leaf to create the roof of a school. Is this not amazing and beautiful? The building looks like forest structure out of a fairy-tale, so perfect for a place to shelter and nurture children. (I googled an image of the actual building. It really is small, one-story, but its situation in a highly urban setting belies the woodland look.)
illustration by Fernando G. Baptista & Shizuka Aoki

I’ll be looking at Gaudi with new eyes from now on.

All pictures in this post © 2010 National Geographic Society.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mea Culpa with Miniature Cathedrals

I hope everyone enjoyed a warm, nostalgic, lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends! And ate too much, of course.

In lieu (yet again) of a new piece of artwork, here is a little bookshelf landscape, consisting of one of my assemblage pieces, called "Mea Culpa," and part of my collection of miniature souvenir cathedrals acquired in German fleamarkets. The red you see in the assemblage piece, is very tiny writing on struck matches, which states, over and over, Mea Culpa, It's Your Fault, Mea Maxima Culpa, It's All Your Fault, Mea Culpa...etc. The calligraphy is the Confiteor, a Latin prayer expressing guilt. A little commentary on one aspect of my Catholic school upbringing.

Abandoning my collage a day project has broken my heart. How I miss that feeling of accomplishment as I built up a body of work, day by day. What a thrill to be self-assured that I could call upon an inner source of creativity that would not let me down. How bitter that it was external circumstances that brought it to a halt—but how much more bitter if I’d had to quit because I’d simply reached the end of my ideas. Still, it is bitter too, to know that while I am up to the challenge creatively, yet I must let art that might have come forth, stay locked up in my mind, because I do not have the time and constitutional fortitude (sleep deprivation is impossible to sustain for a woman of my age) to bring it into the light of day. *sigh*  I feel all at sea. How typical of me to over-reach, then crash and berate myself. Well. This is a line of thought that will lead only to a dead-end. I’ve found myself in a morbid mood too often as it is. And please forgive me for splashing my personal angst all over my blog. But where else??

I’ve concluded that the collage workshop I took last month did more harm than good. I learned what I did not need, and very little that I did. Which is, of course, educational in itself, but still. So I’ve been trying to figure out what I expected from that course, based on the pre-workshop tasks we were set to collect samples of colors, texts, and imagery from magazines (both which we liked and didn’t)  and how I could achieve those anticipated goals on my own. An interesting exercise.

I suppose there are good points to giving up 3SIXTY5. I was working very small, due to time constraints—now I don’t have to. And it spawned many ideas which will require time to work out , that will beckon me into the future. My biggest stumbling block remains Time, as in, not enough of. Time, as in, spent mostly expending my energy on others’ concerns, in order to pay our bills. Time, as in, Running Out!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I've been up to.

This week I've been working on the calligraphy for an award to be presented to a Harvard professor by a group at the University of Pittsburgh, called the Center for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Like that name, this piece is extremely wordy!  I've included a couple of pix of my work area, which is an area about 8 x 10 feet in the library because there's no where else in the house to put it. This house is the first place I've lived in that does not have studio space, in over 20 years' worth of homes. What was I thinking??

The little baroque-style cherub head is a Christmas ornament from Heidelberg, Germany. I purchased a bunch of them while I was living there, and have used them every year on our holiday tree. A few years ago, this one escaped from her storage box after it had been put away (or maybe I just overlooked her?) and since then she has hung and swung over my drawing table, adding whimsy and, hopefully, inspiration.

The calligraphy project will be finished for delivery this weekend, and then I can indulge in more art-making!! I can't wait--I miss it. Which is a good thing, all in all. See you then.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Le Ciel

Where is my blog? From Collagitation to Defunctation?

Biting off more than I can chew is not a new experience for me. A collage a day? Why ever not? Maximum sleep deprivation for a year? No problem! So began my dual adventure of getting my chops back after a decade of minimal art activity, and putting up a blog that would actually not be an embarrassment.  I felt up to the challenge, embarking on my 60th birthday in April, 2010. And I did pretty well for awhile!  Sure, the strain started telling after several months (I also work full time and look after my elderly mother, who lives with me) but I soldiered on, refusing to admit I’d stepped into a bog until the quicksand was up to my neck. I bragged to my Mom about how well I was doing on so little sleep, to which she replied, “Oh, you’ll just age faster.” Just the thing any woman wants to hear! I had my first major melt-down in early August. I didn’t post any new art for about 5 days, which put me into throes of angst. When I resumed my daily efforts, I went from colorful parrots and classical ladies to skulls, skeletons and my own version of the grande macabre.  I figured this was because Halloween was only a few months away. In fact, I now realize it was probably my subconscious sending me dire warnings about the un-sustainability of my new life-style. 

A couple more melt-downs followed, this time met with resignation rather than angst. By mid-October, I was ready to admit that making collage-a-day was probably no longer viable. But good things had happened too:  I’d amassed a body of work the likes of which I’d never produced before, ever; my work has been accepted by my favorite Pittsburgh art gallery, Galerie Chiz; and, last but not least, I've made new friends all over the globe via sharing my artwork online. 

I am still creating, of course, just not at my previous pace. The past few weeks have been crowded with calligraphy free-lance, and with the big holiday season fast approaching, I will have many other activities demanding my attention.  I conceived Collagitation as my art blog, and that is certainly its primary mission. But I have decided to include other things from time to time that catch my fancy, and which I think might be of interest to a wider audience. The emphasis will remain on the visual but will go beyond my own artwork. I think this will be fun…

Meanwhile, I revamped the blog a bit, to get the sour taste of the last few posts out of the air. And here, finally is a new piece, featuring a lovely blue bird I found on The Graphics Fairy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Theatre of Chance

An experiment. As in, win some, lose some. Or is that a card game? A game of chance. Life.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm Back. Sort of.

A bit of ancient history:  a collage I made in 1986, in my sketchbook (where it still is.) This one incorporated some drawing and painting, as well as collage. I was into marbled paper even then.)  The background between the pillars is my hand-made paper, of which I still have a huge supply even though I haven't made any in years! In fact, I still have a good supply of un-sheeted, dyed, dried pulp, and a couple boxes of unused fiber sheets for when I get the paper-making bug again.

This past week was pretty off-the-charts, waaaay too much going on! Some good, some not so good. One of the good things is, we have acquired a new cat! He is a young male, a beautiful orange marmalade, who will be getting snipped VERY soon. He appeared, wailing, on a neighbor's friend's porch for days. She couldn't take him, so we did. Sight unseen, which was a source of some apprehension. But he is a real sweetie! We have named him Dundee, after the city in Scotland where orange marmalade was first manufactured in 1797; and also after an orange marmalade library cat named Dundee, a character in Lilian Jackson Braun's delightful "The Cat Who..." books. (I read those, all 20+ of them, last spring and summer to comfort myself after Rainbow died.) I like a cat's name to have a story behind it.

I also finally stopped in at Gallerie Chiz to see three of my Collagitation works on display! That was a thrill! They are very nicely hung in the gallery entry area. I am pleased, and intend for this to be the start of bigger things.

Well, I am back in harness, and will be posting new art this week--as in freshly made, not unseen for 24 years old!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Tonight's piece is pretty different from anything I've done previously, mainly because it was "art directed" by the one and only Suzanne Moore, calligrapher and book-artist extraordinaire, who came to town this weekend at the invitation of the Calligraphy Guild of Pittsburgh to give her 2-day workshop entitled "Kol-ahz" at Carnegie-Mellon University. If you are interested in some details about the workshop, read on. If you are not, bail now to avoid boredom!

It was an unsettling endeavor for me, being very wedded to a particularly pictorial, narrative style of collage making. I am a concretist, Suzanne is an abstractionist. So it was sort of Max Ernst colliding with Schwitters and Braque!  I was way at sea--not a bad way from which to begin an educational experience. As I grasp it, Suzanne's style starts with letterforms as abstract shapes, which then become the  focal point of a composition. There are no illustrative, pictorial elements added to these abstract letters, but like any good abstract art, they are executed with such a richness and depth of color, texture and form that they evoke a thoroughly satisfying visual experience. Today during lunch, we saw slides from her book of A's--a multi-year project in which she explored hundreds of renderings of--the letter "A." You would have to see it to believe it! A Sistine Chapel of A, a Pieta of A, a Guernica of A!!!

To start with, we created materials to use for the pending assignments. The first of these involved making broadly gestural, black and white interpretations of letterforms in sumi ink, preferably created using anything but traditional calligraphy pens. Everything from dentifrice aids to chunks of roots dug out of her yard, were employed as mark-making tools. These sheets were then cut up into precisely measured 2 or 3 inch squares (what else could one expect of a book-artist, for whom precise measurement and 90 degree angles are a way of life?)  At one point I thought, "I'm cutting out squares; how boring is that?" until I realized that those squares were just a starting point, within them many things were possible. Our squares containing ink marks of no known meaning became the seminal elements from which we assembled our abstract compositions. While I  found these restrictions and this method of working very challenging, I learned a lot in this workshop. It is always worth the time and effort to encounter and work with a world-class talent close up, one on one.

Nevertheless, the above composition was my only creation from 2 days of effort with which I am even remotely satisfied, and then only because I finally departed from the abstract and inserted a pictorial element (the dragon's head). Moreover, tonight, I decided to add another:  the skeletal arm was added afterward, because I suddenly realized that tonight is HALLOWEEN! I've been doing skulls, bones and innards for weeks, so I could not let the target holiday pass without at least a gesture to the macabre!! The exercise in which I produced this piece involved making a template via a very loosely executed--more "drawn" than written--word of our choice. This was sketched in pencil, then the enclosed spaces captured inside the lines were filled with texture, color, other lettering, clips from many sources, including xeroxes or originals of previous work, magazine images, printed text, photographs --in other words, whatever we chose. My word was "Ominous." If you look very carefully, you can discern the letters, especially the initial O, the N, the peaks of the M, etc. But again, restrictions were in effect, all the choices of "fillers" stated above nevertheless being based upon the types of elements we had been instructed to choose prior to the workshop and bring with us. Suzanne is a great believer in "boundaries" as a way to control the endless choices available to an artist, thus freeing up the mind for creativity instead of mundane in decision-making.

She also offered several other techniques, based on her own preferences and experience as a book artist, for embellishing and enriching compositions. One of these which I did not play with, was sewing, the use of stitchery both as a decorative linear element and a functional one to adhere parts of a composition. the use of needle and tread is, of course, integral to bookbinding and a natural addition to the vocabulary of embellishments for someone involved in that craft. But I found no affinity with it at this point, although many others in the workshop produced effective results utilizing various threads and stitchery patterns.

Many other techniques were demonstrated, and lots of other technical information imparted, well beyond what I was able to absorb. Those which I chose to experiment with, and which have stayed with me most readily, are the ones that most align with what I already love the most to do. But even these are novel, taking a step beyond. Thus do we build incrementally on what we already know, and so approach what will enable us to evolve and grow as artists.

No knowledge gained is ever wasted; no experience is ever without its unexpected repercussions. Over time, I am sure the lessons I learned (both consciously and subliminally) this weekend will affect my work. At this moment in time, the main effect registers as a reinforcement of my current favorite way of creating art: via selecting and assembling pre-existing images into some readable, visual narratives that nonetheless result in (I hope) unique works of art. Who knows what lies ahead?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Once in a Blue Moon

My offering for Theme Thursday's "Blue" challenge, a day late. Should the princess kiss that frog? Well, in a cynical world, probably not. But, once in a blue moon...magic really does happen!

Created on Polyvore. Thanks for looking!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Glorious New Hat

Hats, it seems, are not as popular as they once were. Millinery shops are a thing of the past. But sometimes, one can understand why. This piece was inspired by Three Muses theme this week, which is... hats.

The elegant skellie lady is from Itkupilli, other elements from Dover, background text is pages from a vintage German book.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Halloween is almost here, time to think about masks. I offer some originals, along with a simple but sinister one (far left) by by 18th c Venetian painter, Felice Boscarati. Do not be alarmed to find anatomy specimens on your doorstep next weekend!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Warm in Thine Eye

Turmoil has been showing up in my life lately, especially in regard to the house my mother and I share. At 70 years old, it has decided to wage war on us. I will spare you the details. Suffice to say, to hell with the expense, tomorrow I call the plumber!!! (With gratitude to my son and his buddy, who did their best to fix the problems. Sorry, guys, this is beyond your capabilities.) Nevertheless, I am grateful to have 1) my son 2) my Mother 3) a roof over our heads 4) income to pay for repairs 5) the phone number of a good plumber.  I almost entitled this post, "It's better than being bombed," but decided this would've been really bad taste, really shabby. I feel humbly grateful that my problems are so essentially trivial, compared to the sorrows so many people face every day.  And why can't we fix this??

I rather like tonight's piece, but, I must say this scanned image does not do it justice. There are a lot of layered areas, with subtle transparencies happening, that are not captured here. Be that as it may, I am struggling to get back to my collage-a-day-or-so activities, and this is a good start.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Castles in the Air

Ah, that felt good! The first new collage since days and days!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Griffin and Baby

Oh, I've been soooo bad. No new art since last week :-(    As you might expect, from someone who has just started at age 60 to answer the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", I tend to live in the moment, let tomorrow take care of itself, and not worry too much about planning ahead. Thus, I am always somewhat unprepared, and perpetually in a time crunch. Most recently, I've been spending time trying to edit several of my Halloween collages to fit the templates so I can offer them for sale as Halloween cards. "Nothing is ever easy," especially when it is advertised as being so. Well, if not this Halloween, next year I'll already have a whole stable of card designs ready to go. (Now I need to start thinking about Christmas, so I don't have to repeat that statement come December.)  For the time being, in lieu of new work, I offer a collage I made years ago of a Griffin, actually one section of a large piece based on medieval bestiaries. The calligraphy is mine.

Tonight, after an unusually hectic weekend, I'll be back at my work table, yippee!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Galerie Chiz Made My Day

Today I had a wonderful interview with Ellen Neuberg, Proprietresse Extraordinaire of Gallerie Chiz in the artful Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I have been attending openings (and partaking of Ellen's hospitality) at Gallerie Chiz for many years, but today's visit was special. I loaded up a binder with collages from 3SIXTY5, and offered them for possible inclusion in the gallery. It was tremendously gratifying when they met with a positive response!  So it looks like this may be my re-entry into the vibrant art scene in my hometown. It is wonderful to have this blog, and make so many friends through sharing my work and observations online, but it is still very special to participate and be part of something at "street level," in real time, face-to-face with people. I am soooo excited!!!  (Please overlook that I am posting no new art tonight--yet again I began a piece which I find I cannot finish in one night. So I hope this narrative will excuse the omission.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Tonight's art has no bearing (that I know of) on what has been uppermost in my thoughts today. Like opera lovers the world over, I am saddened by the announcement of Joan Sutherland's death. Dame Joan has been such a fixture, a sort of benign, presiding Goddess over the realm of opera, that it just didn't occur to me she would ever die. Surely, she was much too young? She was 83, an age she achieved secretly, behind all our backs, while we listened over and over to the flights of bel canto magic on her numerous recordings made over the decades of her spectacular prime. Well, all good things must end, and here again is one of those occasions when the world turns, and another Immortal goes to her just rewards, never to return. Brava, Joan, and farewell.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Adventures in Banner-land

My art post for tonight is MY NEW BLOG BANNER!!! I actually made it for the opening of my store on Zazzle, to market Halloween cards, and cards & postcards of other designs as well.  I've been in a real time-crunch lately, which threatens to extend right through the holidays. Usually Halloween is the only event in October, but this year, I have an activity on at least one day of every weekend throughout the month. Well, what can I say, I've decided to just get loose with 3SIXTY5, my collage-a-(almost every)-day project. I should have thought of doing something like this when I was still young enough to bear up under the commitment! But I was too busy being a sybarite.

Today my mother and I went to see "Vatican Treasures" at the Heinz History Museum in Pittsburgh's Strip District--a warehouse & market district so named because it occupies a 4 block wide strip of land between the Allegheny River and the bluffs that rise to neighborhoods atop them.--NOT because of entertainment you will find there, LOL! Anyway, my Mom loved the whole adventure, but I found the exhibit somewhat meagre on "treasures." I also couldn't help but register the evidence of immense wealth and luxury enjoyed, historically and into the present day, by the Popes in Rome and their huge retinues. Be that as it may, the exhibit displayed many genuine works of art, albeit the majority of them by "unknown artists " rather than those by recognized masters (do I detect insurance considerations at work here?)  Which is not to disparage the quality of those unknown works, they were still breath-taking! But the "blockbuster" pieces, such as the Pieta, were reproductions. I had a similar experience many years ago, when I went to see an exhibit in Speyer, Germany, of the "science and drawings" of Leonardo da Vinci. There were many impressive constructions of machinery and engines from his designs--but all the Leonardo art was bogus. I took off my glasses, the better to take in Leonardo's brushstrokes, and found myself looking at benday dots!

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog from Three Muses and Theme Thursday! It's always fun to "spend time" with friends this way.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Phone Home

A digital piece created on Polyvore. I thought it would be a quickie, but then I had to tweak the heck out of the phone in Photoshop. Number one priority after the completion of my collage-(almost-every)-day project, will be to spend just about as much time every week on really learning PS.  Though I have to say, I've learned to do a lot more through using it with my 3SIXTY5 images, than I probably would've had I not started this collage project. "It's All Good!"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Composition in Black and Redd: OH, RHETT!

Well, two of my favorite colors, Black and Red, have been called upon for Theme Thursday's challenge for this week. Subject matter a secondary consideration.

Here is my offering:   RHETT!!!   OMG--was there EVER a man so sexy--so pliable to one's fantasies--so, So, SO---(fill in the blank). Which of us would not meld ourselves to the contours of his embrace, offer our lips to the clasp of his kiss--AHEM--ok, and here we stop.

My apologies to any gentle, virgin souls who I may have offended (Get a Life--!!)

Thanks ladies for an excellent challenge! Nighty-night!

The Immortal Piaf

Three Muses challenge this week is "Say it with Music." Where to start?  Who doesn't love music? I'm told there are benighted souls who seldom listen to music; how do they survive??

Well, after some thought I decided to make a tribute to Edith Piaf, the "Little Sparrow." A woman of consuming talent, consumed in turn by her passion for the lives and loves described in her art. Song lyrics of love and loss, recreated as the narrative of her life.  Reality impinged on her world in the form of brutal disabilities, alcoholism, drug addiction, grief and pain on a monumental scale. Yet, a true artist, she kept singing--and loving.

She was a phenomena, an incarnate Act of the Goddess. There will never be another like her.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Victorian Parlor: A Tribute to Edward Gorey

Tonight's piece isn't really a "collage-a-day" effort, because I worked on it over several evenings during the past week (including hours of damage control when I pasted down the old lady in the wrong position.) But I knew how I wanted it to look, and I searched for the images relentlessly until I found what I wanted. I conceived it as another tribute to the great Edward Gorey, so it had to be the visual equivalent of le mot just. I can't say I entirely brought it off. I've discovered the fun in tweaking scanned collages in Photoshop, to offer as art prints or cards, so I'll take this one along that route too.  I've not included a caption with the picture, as EG usually would do in his work, though I may add it later. Here is the narrative:  "As Violet sat in her Aunt Letitia's parlor, patiently waiting for some sign of interest from her shy suitor, she suddenly noticed that a most handsome ecorché had appeared in the room..."

Almost all the images came from various Dover books, including Aunt Letitia, who I took from Gustav Dore's virtuoso illustrations for Orlando Furioso. The creepy little child came from Itkupilli.  

Ecorché is a word I first encountered in a Gorey piece. It's a pretty way to say "a cadaver flayed to show the musculature." Of course, the one in my collage is not a cadaver, but most likely alive, and Violet appears to be interested. What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Dark Heart

Please click on this post to view it at a larger size; in which view, the  image will POP, and the work will be seen much more in its entirety. Thank you!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Constellation Equus: digital collage for Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010

This digital collage is a catch-up from yesterday. After a day of house cleaning, I was too tired last evening to complete and post a collage.  In honor the power of equine beauty to carry us away from anxiety and trepidation, I offer a tribute to the horse, in the form of a new constellation,  "Equus magnificus." OK, I'm making this up, but the admiration is sincere. There are two genuine equine constellations that I know of, Pegasus, and his offspring, Equuleus ("the little horse") which come into view in the Fall. I have a marvelous telescope, but, alas, I probably won't be able to make the time to use it this year.

An artist friend of mine owns a fine horse that competed in the just-concluded World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY this past weekend. I will be visiting her farm later this month, and will meet this equine celebrity. And I'll definitely have my camera with me.

Thank Goodness for Friends!

I want to say a big "Thank You!!" to Nigea, of Paris, France, for her (unsolicited) aid with my Etsy shop. She commented that my Etsy badge did not point to my shop, but only to the Etsy homepage. Then, she sent me directions to find the Etsy Mini widget, with the result (see, top of right column) that I now have a direct link between Collagitation blog and my Etsy store!  You can visit two of Nigea's blogs, nigeArt and Marie's Freebies, as well as her Etsy shop, from my links section. Thank you, my friend, for your coming to my aid! With big hugs from Diane.

(I'll be posting new art tonight!)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Oh, Fortuna

The sculpted head of Fortune dates from the end of the first century. I love her crown:  a city wall and gate.  This could be the basis for an interesting Halloween costume. "Oh Fortuna" is the title of the first segment of Carl Orff's masterpiece, Carmina Burana. I saw this awesome piece performed a few years ago, danced by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, with the Mendelssohn Choir and invited soloists, and the ballet orchestra, in a memorable performance that I will always recall with a thrill.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Memory Whispers

In spite of promises to self to work smarter, faster, design simpler pieces, etc., I keep starting pieces that develop into very detailed narrative collages which, after a couple of hours of searching, printing, trimming--I realize I will not able to finish in time for that night's blog post (given that I have to get up the next morning and go to work: Oh, what I could accomplish if I did not need to support myself!! They can inscribe that on my ashes urn...)  So, tonight, in lieu of the more elaborate pieces that, again, I realized I could not finish before 3 AM, I decided to just grab some already cut out bits from my work boxes and assemble a quickie image. HA! "There's no such thing as magic!" as Uncle Vernon told Harry, and there's no such thing as putting together a quick, simple collage--at least for me. My quickie took another couple of hours and while I suppose it's more or less acceptable, I can't understand why I can't seem to work faster.

Meanwhile, I hope to open my Zazzle shop this weekend, to sell Halloween cards and postcards, given that I have yet (since July) to sell a single thing on Etsy. Maybe that just means I need to find an art gallery to sell my work? I love crocheted cupcakes, and I admire the numerous successful Etsians, but it doesn't seem to be working  for me. Maybe I am too much of an acquired taste....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forest Apparition

I imagine they're wondering if they can somehow build a nest out of it. Birds nesting in your heart? Sounds lovely! A macabre valentine, as it were. Hmmm...I forgot the eggs...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Home Cooking

Mmmm...gotta love that home cookin'! I once overheard my mother, who never liked to cook, tell a visitor that she was very grateful to be living with a daughter (me, her only child) who enjoyed cooking. So true. If you do not cook, how ever do you feed yourself well? You can partake of restaurants (of varying degrees of excellence, depending on your pocketbook) or visit family/friends with, perhaps, irritating frequency until all standing invitations are withdrawn. Otherwise, you might exist in an ever-narrowing field of mediocre, to bad, to inedible, to positively poisonous food. Or, you could learn to cook. But maybe not the cuisine of the lady in tonight's collage.

Apropos this image, I should defend myself by mentioning that I am currently reading a bio of Charles Addams, "Charles Addams:  A Cartoonist's Life" by Linda H. Davis. Well, I wouldn't put CA in the same class as Edward Gorey--he was much too attached to mainstream living, and a bit of a poseur--but, his work  was known to a much broader audience, and perhaps initiated more folks into the mind-set of the macabre, who would not have otherwise stepped into that realm. Charles Addams was, in spite of his openly celebrity-cultivating habits, as much of an original as EG. Should he have followed EG's example and chosen the more reclusive route in life, he might have suffered less. But he also might have had less fun. To live is to grieve, as well as enjoy. (Curiously, it appears that Addams and Gorey never met; unusual, considering that they operated in the same time frame and place, and had stylistic correspondences.)

Tonight we had an unexpected visit from a friend, and his teen-aged daughter, arrived to pick up a computer that my son had repaired. Due to some miss-communication, said son was late on the scene, and my Mother and I got to visit with said friend (actually a divorced relative-by-marriage--but forever biological uncle to my children) and his daughter. She is a remarkably personable young woman, with excellent manners and none of the morose, sullen attitude that condemns so many contemporary teens to dismissal by those who might otherwise have something to offer them. During the course of the evening, I brought up the Chas Addams bio  to Dad, which discussion led to an opportunity to introduce the young lady to the original CA work, via one of the printed collections of cartoons. When the link with the two Addams Family movies was established, she understood who her Dad and I were referring to, and perused the volume of drawings with attention. Who can describe the delight and triumph of actually engaging the interest of a contemporary teenager in something rooted in the past, which has long been a source of one's own  pleasure? 

So tonight I return to what I am again confirmed in believing is my true metier--the realm of the macabre, where the mortality of the flesh is not only met, but greeted with twisted glee,  a la Addams and Gorey.  Bon appetite!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Three Muses Challenge: A Letter for Marie

This week's challenge at Three Muses is to make a decorated envelope. I have done many of these for mail swaps, but this one is a totally digital confection, created on Polyvore. Which I suppose stands as much of a chance of reaching the recipient as a real piece of mail would. Perhaps more?

I am taking a small hiatus from my macabre art. Not that I don't have plenty more of ideas to work up! Especially with Halloween right around the corner. I had quite an adventure at work this week, which I will tell all about soon--and it will definitely put me back in a mood for dark art.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumn Arrives

The Autumnal Equinox this year is special. Well, autumn is always special, but celestially speaking, the 2010 autumnal equinox is different. Here's the scoop:

This is a digital collage created on Polyvore, my old standby when I get too far behind with my collage-a-day project.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I love playing with translucent paper. This was a fairly quick effort that worked pretty well on the whole. The title refers to that ability of remorse, guilt, and related emotions, to kill something in the heart. A bit of living death inside you, as it were. Or a bit of death living inside you. Nothing that another does to you, hurts you as much as what you do, that hurts someone you love.


I'm still compelled to back-date pieces to reflect the date on which it should've been done. Rather silly, I guess, since if I was consistent about it, I'd have to date this considerably earlier. I keep promising myself that I'll get caught up on the weekends, but it never seems to happen. So maybe I'll just say, whatever isn't caught up with by the end of September, falls into a black hole. I'll start October on the 1st of October! In fact, I may play hooky from 3SIXTY5 a bit (I'll post other art I've done), because I want to put some Halloween-y stuff on Zazzle to market as cards and postcards. I've got this wonderful, huge pile of new art now, but no time to try to market it. Which is better than having nothing to try to market!


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