Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thousand Year Reich: 3SIXTY5 for July 29

I love reading books, such as Virginia Woolf's Orlando or Tim Robbin's Jitterbug Perfume, where characters live for hundreds of years. Not that aspire to such a fate myself, but it is amazing how easy it is to imagine such a state. Time is a slippery concept, a great deluder. I remember reading somewhere that Lord Byron's last mistress died of extreme old age in the late 19th century, after telephones came into use. That there could be a living connection between Byron and the telephone just boggled my mind! Then there are those best-laid human plans, intended to be endure virtually forever, that come crashing down with cataclysmic force; or those timeless creatures of nature, who would've probably lasted practically forever were it not for the shortsighted destructiveness of human kind (of course sometimes these two phenomena coincide. The BP disaster will hopefully not be one of those.) No doubt if we really did measure our lives in centuries instead of decades, our outlook and attitudes would be vastly different. There could be people around who would remember seeing living dodos, and maybe, even, there might still be dodos. Who knows?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Marvelous Little Bird

This creature  is a strange bird. But he is perfect for my recent, persistent frame of mind. I can relate. Marvelous doesn't always mean wonderful--sometimes just exceptional, extreme. Anyway, he popped out of my subconscious in response to this week's challenge from Three Muses. Perhaps he'll fly away soon, after depositing some special fertilizer in my creative fields. Who knows what will grow?  Created on Polyvore.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

3SIXTY5 for July 27: The Visitor

A very simple piece, for a change, with two of my favorite, familiar creatures:  butterflies, and birds (though cockatoos are not birds I'm personally familiar with.) Yesterday I walked onto the patio and saw a golden and black tiger swallowtail on a potted lantana. Beautiful. There is a family of robins around the buildings where I work, and most mornings lately the adolescent birds have been hopping and bobbing around the lawn, learning to look for bugs, I guess. They are mostly full grown, but still have the remnants of speckles on their orange-y chests. How sad and silent, and alien, the earth would be without birds. Thank you, Rachel Carson!

Monday, July 26, 2010

3SIXTY5 for July 26: Pique Dame and Parrot

She's the Queen of Spades, but I couldn't resist naming her after Tchaikovsky's opera, Pique Dame. Come winter, I'll be listening to the Met Opera broadcasts while working on my collages on Saturday afternoons. Perhaps I'll theme them after that afternoon's opera? I'd better check the roster before I commit. I've always found that art and music go together marvelously. I must have music when I'm working. Classical music, that catchall label for everything from Hildegarde von Bingen to Phillip Glass, is my all time favorite. Jazz and world music after that, especially in the warm seasons. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Stan Getz bossa nova, the Gipsy Kings (who, alas, I did not get to see on their U.S. tour this spring & summer) and  the wild music of Manu Chao, who is a recent discovery. There's nothing like finding a performer or composer whose music is new to you--unless it's discovering an artist whose work moves and excites you. Happy hunting!

3SIXTY5 for Sunday, July 25: Imaginary Lover

Well, either my eyes or my T-square was way off tonight. Guess I'll try to straighten out the frame another time. I rather like the image itself, though.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2SIXTY5 for Saturday, July 24: Fish Hunting

Fish hunting, unlike fishing, takes place only on those rare occasions when very large fish rain out of the sky, an event that usually takes place in foreign countries. Since it is difficult to foretell when this will occur, there is no opportunity to prepare. It is possible, however, to actually catch these fish with bare hands, for, when clutched by the their two tailfins, they become immediately limp and docile. They are, however, inedible, nor do they make suitable pets, since they eat quite a lot of food themselves once out of the sky. For these reasons,  the best course is to toss them from a high place, such as out a second story window, and allow them to go on their way (after suitable photographs of the catch have been obtained.) Thus, the only reason to catch one, is so that you can brag to your friends that you did so.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

3SIXTY5 for July 23: Romantic

This started out much more simply, but, like decorating the house at Christmas, it got way out of hand.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sitting for the Grave, collage a day for July 22, 2010

The Fayum grave paintings have long fascinated me. They are painted in encaustic on wood--I adore wax!--and are some of the most hauntingly beautiful portraits to have survived from Antiquity. Recently I googled "Fayum portraits" and came across several web pages devoted to these paintings: (which features an extensive catalog, with current location, of many of the portraits)
This article on MMA's site, about a single painting,  is nevertheless very insightful:
And so forth! We all know how to use Google, right?

 The Fayum portraits, though conceived and rendered in the prevailing Graeco-Roman style, were of the citizens of the Egyptian colonies.  Thus the huge, dark eyes and semitic features that are the most arresting feature of many of them.

I have used one of these portraits in my collage for today. Forgive my audacity in co-opting a timelessly beautiful piece of art. This is one of my favorite Fayum portraits. Her style is so sleek, so au courant, that it makes me gasp. She must've been the Audrey Hepburn of her era. Which leads me to wonder, did she die this young? Is this an "animated" portrait of her corpse? An attempt on the part of the painter to see the young woman through the wrinkles and gaps of the actual corpse?

Any way you look at it, these portraits are astounding works of art, global treasures on a scale that defies space and time.  We are so privileges to have them among us.

3SIXTY5 for July 21: New Dimension

Change happens so rapidly these days, it's become the constant. "No change" would be a change. I like to think about past eras, what it must've been like when change came to those less hectic times. Mostly slowly, I imagine, but irreversibly. Sometimes fearful--think of the scene in "Dances With Wolves" when the Native American asks something like, "How many of you are coming here?" But I'll bet it was awesome when change remade the entire paradigm of reality on a conceptual level. Such as when the ancient Grecian vase painters gave way to sculptors working in three dimensions; or when the equally flat, distorted  figures of medieval painting surged forward toward the illusion of depth of space and foreshortened, realistically molded figures on a two dimensional plane! How did the iconoclastic early Renaissance artists avoid being burned at the stake as sorcerers? And there can also be equally transformative change on a personal level. I, who until last April, could never "find the time" to make art, almost over night became productive on a scale beyond my wildest imaginings. Since April, I have made over a hundred new pieces of art! I have stepped into my own next dimension.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I had some difficulties discovering exactly what Chyromantie is. The snippet of French  lettering in the piece above was wafting around my work table on its own, with nothing to show its original source. I stuck it on the piece, and turned to Google. On the the National Library of Australia's website, I found this explanation of chyromantie in reference to a book on the subject, translated from Latin by one Thomas Hill in 1571 : "The contemplation of mankinde, contayning a singuler discourse after the art of phisiognomie, on all the members and partes of man, as from the heade to the foote, in a more ample maner than hytherto hath beene published of any."* 
So apparently, chyromantie is the "science" of divining a person's character based on a system of physical attributes, a belief which no doubt contributed to the worship of physical perfection still found in our culture today. Which I confess myself guilty of--I usually select an image I consider attractive to use in my work, such as Ingre's Grande Odalisque in this piece. Fortunately, we no longer assume that an unattractive woman is a witch, or that a person with a physical deformity must be an ogre. Progress!

Monday, July 19, 2010

3SIXTY5 for July 19: Pomegranate and Snake

Today is the last day of my daughter's and son-in-law's visit to Pittsburgh. Happily, I finished today's collage relatively quickly, so I have the evening free to spend with them and my son. I've noticed that when I want to work out a particular idea, I can easily spend hours on a collage. On the other hand, if I have no preconceived pictorial notion, and just start combining whatever elements are handy, I can complete a piece much more quickly, although the final result can seem fairly arbitrary. Given that the odds and ends drifting across my work area are remnants from what I chose for previous pieces, the result still reflects my visual interests. In this case, marbled paper, which I love; snakes, which are wonderfully decorative, if off-putting to some people; and pomegranates, which always seem "exotic" to me. Maybe this is because in my childhood, you never saw them for sale except during the winter holidays. Pomegranates were for Christmas, thus intrinsically special. Snakes were elusive, thus also rare. The snake in the picture is from Guadalupe, according to the caption in the Seba's Snakes and Lizards (from Dover, of course) so I know I never saw one, but he certainly makes a striking pattern of loops and stripes. Thank you for looking!

3SIXTY5 for July 18: Ingres' Odalisques

I recently acquired a copy of 120 Great Orientalist Paintings, selected by CB Grafton, from by Dover Publications. It contains two of Ingres' sensuous odalisque paintings, which I decided to combine, just for fun.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

3SIXTY5 for July 17: Roma

3SIXTY5 for July 16: Opportunities

Tonight's artwork came about more or less on its own. I had some idea to use certain elements, but while I was still pondering how to complete the composition, several images seemed to leap out of my boxes of material and place themselves before my eyes. Thus, this piece is all about eggs and the vagaries of chance. I have observed that "chance" often entails input from somewhere along the subway line controlled by the Third Eye.  Who knows where inspiration comes from?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

3SIXTY5 for July 13, 2010: The Walls of Jericho

I feel this piece makes up for last night's stack of blunders. I hope she survives her crash.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

3SIXTY5 for Monday, July 12: Alphabet Balloon

This was a really simple concept that proved to be a bear to execute. A primitive hot air balloon sailing over a medieval town, sprinkling gothic blackletter on the scene below. A funny anachronism, a calligraphic opportunity, what could possibly go wrong?  Bad choice of background, for starters. My harlequin diamonds let me down. My first choice was marbled paper but those were proving difficult too. Then I forgot that even a little fantasy scene like this should have aerial perspective to bring it off. So I had to scrape out some lettering to knock it back into the distance--where it conflicted even more with those humongous diamonds! *sigh*/**smacks forehead**  A different balloon image would be a good idea too. (This one looks like one of those bulbs you use to clean a rapidograph. Am I dating myself again?) Also, more distance between the town and the balloon would make the middle less congested. Back to the drawing board. Don't hold this against me--I'm doing it to learn!  This is another designI hope to revisit next year, when I have time to play.

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." --Scott Adams

Afterthought on my yesterday's post:  I was so happy when I thought up a winged elephant! Then, this morning--I remembered Dumbo. Was he subliminally flapping around in my subconscious? Anyway, my daughter said Dumbo has nothing on my Elebird, so I'll be content.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Rare Elebird

My daughter and son-in-law arrived tonight from NYC, yippee!! So I am posting today's (Sunday's) collage in the wee hours once again. But--I have Monday/Tuesday off! Tomorrow my three little elephants go in the mail to Washington state for the first ATC exchange I've done since starting 3SIXTY5. I will miss them.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Pair of Elephants

On the Art 42 site, I signed up for an ATC exchange on the theme of those amazing beasts, Elephants. Here is the one of them, as my piece for tonight, July 10 (OK, being after midnight, it is actually July 11, but in my book, the next day doesn't start until I get up in the morning.) This piece is called The Protector.

Here is a second elephant ATC, which I call Starry Night. It is my collage for Friday, July 9. Just in case you're keeping track. Good night!

Friday, July 9, 2010

3SIXTY5 for Thursday, July 8: The Bird Watcher

I love using animals in my art. Our fellow creatures have held endless fascination for me since childhood. So of course I wanted to participate in Theme Thursday's "Animals" challenge. While looking through the wonderful vintage images in Jim Harter's  Animals: 1419 Copyright Free Illustrations from Dover Publications, I came across the stunning little fellow above. He wasn't holding anything in those spongy fingers, but clearly, he was meant to. He is called a Tarsier, lives in trees in southeast Asia, and eats insects. This particular one also likes to bird watch. With those eyes, maybe the binoculars are redundant.

Where's Thursday's Art?

Gardening got the better of me yesterday evening. By the time I quit, I was too tired to finish my collage for the day. So, looks like I'll be posting two tonight. In the meantime, here is a photo from a few years ago of the main flower bed in the front yard, which won't be looking nearly so good this year!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rust Belt Icons

My recollections of the other night, about my Steampunk childhood, took on yet more life recently with 3Muses "Rust" challenge. Looking at those old photos of the Pittsburgh mills is so awesome--you expect to see the god Vulcan lumbering from behind a Bessemer converter, or Jupiter hurling thunderbolts into a vat of molten steel. I remember stories that when a steelworker fell into a vat of molten metal, the entire thing would be decommissioned, disconnected,  and buried. Because of course, no iota of a body would be left to retrieve. Apocryphal, I have no doubt (how could any local cemetery bury something the size of a tank?)

I offer my own take on the mills as icons of their era, as is the lady in the picture. I scuffed her up a bit in tribute to the hard, relentless, unimaginable lives of thousands of steel workers who created another sort of Renaissance in American industry. We can be thankful that the era of unbridled industrialization, with its accompanying pollution, exploitation, disease and early death, is behind us. Or is it? We still face its modern-day counterparts, with devastating consequences on an even greater scale than anything the steel mills ever produced.  Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose.

For some truly remarkable urban archeology photographs of the defunct mills, please visit Sean Posey's blog,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

3SIXTY5 for July 6: What Is Your Passion?

Mine, obviously, is art. And books. And gardening, music, ballet, etc.  This is a topic I could pursue endlessly. It reminds me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem:
The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings

With the posting of today's collage, I am happy as a Queen to state:
The day departs with weary tread
And I am delighted to be going to bed!

Monday, July 5, 2010

3SIXTY5 for July 5: Camoufleur

A camoufleur, I learned tonight, is one who employs camouflage. As it relates to today's collage, the question is:  who is the camoufleur? The angel (actually the constellation Virgo), or the bird?

I believe I am actually getting faster at building my collages.  It helps when a piece is as simple as this one.  It's as much a mind-set as anything else. I'm learning not to obsess over every little detail. I keep reminding myself that I can always reinvent some of these pieces later, when I will have the luxury of taking time over them. I keep track of ideas that I won't bother with until I am in that position.

A coda to my 4th of July festivities:  I never made it to the familial get-together, because just as I was leaving, my cousin, who had taken my mother to the picnic, called to say there was no need for me to meet them there to bring Mom home because she had gotten tired and they were on their way back.  So there I was, all dressed for a picnic and nowhere to go!  I quickly opted to take advantage of an invitation from a woman I was acquainted with through my job. Her home is on Pittsburgh's Southside, and the city fireworks at the Point (where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers converge to form the Ohio River) are readily visible from her roof deck.  The Southside is one of Pittsburgh's historic neighborhoods, and I was hoping for a chance to view something special--in addition to the fireworks--as well as the opportunity to get to know my hostess better. I was not disappointed. Her family's home was crafted from what had been two apartments plus the former shoe-maker's shop above which they were situated. The whole house was long on charm, utility and spaciousness, with all the agreeable features of old buildings:  mellow exposed brick, beautiful old wooden floors, high ceilings and comfortable nooks. It was also filled with art, books and music. She and her family are amateur folk musicians, among other interesting accomplishments, which was something I never knew. All in all, it was a delightful evening in every way, and I am grateful to her for it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

This piece is called Celebrate American Art, and features samples from a couple of my favorite American artists, Frederick Church and Georgia O'Keeffe, with a nod as well to Grant Wood. I celebrated Independence Day, so far, by staying glued to my work table. Since I had been a day behind, and I wanted to do art for July 4th with an Independence Day theme, I had to do TWO pieces, one for yesterday and one for today. Having now earned some just deserts, as well as desserts, I am off to my cousin's annual family get-together to eat, drink, get mosquito bites and maybe even see some fireworks! Happy Fourth of July to all!

3SIXTY5 for July 3: Es In Iniquitate

One of those pieces that takes its name randomly from some text in it. The lazy artist syndrome.

3SIXTY5 for July 2, 2010: Adam & Eve

Saturday, July 3, 2010

3SIXTY5 for July 1, 2010: Steampunk Diva

The first time I encountered it, I felt an affinity for Steampunk. Heck, I was raised on it. Most of the family males for a couple of generations worked in Pittsburgh's various mills and factories. When I visited my cousins in North Versailles, usually on Friday evenings, we'd climb to one of the higher streets and watch the light show from the steel mill in nearby McKeesport. Hissing steam, flying sparks, thundering clamours (and, often, sulfurous fumes) from various sources were a regular feature of my girlhood. On a more intimate note, some of my favorite childhood memories come from accompanying my Grandfather into the cellar, to observe and sometimes assist when he stoked the coal-burning furnace that heated our house. It was a thrill when he opened the door to the fire chamber, a glowing maw into which I tossed newspapers and odd pieces of old wood, while my Grandfather shoveled in the coal. To me it was a domesticated version of the huge, dangerous, noisy, legendary mills that were the life blood of every town strung along the Monongahela River. 

This piece was inspired by Three Muses "Steampunk" theme for this week. Thanks for the inspiration!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

3SIXTY5 for June 30: Pleasure Dome

Another attempt, more successful, at employing empty space. I note that this piece has only 7 components, another departure from my usual visually overflowing style. If I can master "minimalist" collages, will I be able to translate that into other areas of my life? Will the congested clutter disappear from my studio and life??

Speaking of collage a day projects, I came across another awesome site (in addition to Randel Plowman's) dedicated to this activity. Peter Jacobs has been posting daily to his Collage Journal for six years, and he makes his work exclusively with material from the daily newspaper. Take a look:


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