Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Leo Monahan - Collage Artist and Paper Sculptor

One of the artists that I had the pleasure of visiting on the Weaverville Art Safari was Leo Monahan.  His beautiful home is nestled amongst the clouds overlooking his neighbors in the town of Barnardsville.  When we arrived at his studio, a "How you doin'" mat greeted us at the entrance.  When you enter Monahan's studio, you are instantly greeted by his intricate and mesmerizing paper creations.  Each piece is carefully and skillfully cut by hand.  Monahan draws with his blade; he does not sketch out his pieces on paper before he cuts them.  I asked him how he learned to create the complicated geometric shapes his pieces.  He replied that he taught himself, experimenting and cutting the paper to bring his pieces to life.  Using a scrap piece of two-ply Strathmore paper, he demonstrated how he cuts folds into the paper and bends it to give it shape.  He just made it look so easy.

Leo Monahan

Monahan shared with his visitors that day that there are basically four things you can do to paper.  You can cut it, bend it, fold it, and paint it.  He does it all.  To see samples of his amazing portfolio, click here or here.  To hear an interview with Monahan, click here (Thanks, Lynn!).

Monahan received the first Walt Disney art honor scholarship, allowing him to study fine art at the Chouinard Art Institute.  And although he received formal training in the arts, he is a self taught paper sculptor.  When he began his career as a paper sculptor 35 years ago, not many people were doing the work he continues to do today.  This has made his work rare, special, and in-demand.  He honed his craft over the years, earning numerous professional accolades.  He was recognized by the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles for his work and received a life time achievement award.

With such an established career, some may be intimidated by Monahan's accomplishments.  However, he was very approachable.  He was such a delight to speak with, so friendly and so welcoming.  On my way out of his studio, he gave me a poster of one of his creations and gave me some invaluable materials regarding the concept of creativity and the idea of the collage as a metaphor for change.  He was just so supportive and willing to share so much.

He truly was an inspiration to meet.

A Gift from Leo Monahan

"Personal self-satisfaction is the death of the artist.  
Collective self-satisfaction is the death of art.  
It is the restlessness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, 
and agony of the mind that nourish art." 
- Jacques-Lucien Monod

Weaverville Art Safari

Every spring and every fall, the communities of Weaverville, Barnardsville, and Alexander hold the Weaverville Art Safari.  Established in 2001 to help promote the arts, the Weaverville Art Safari is a self-guided tour of local artists' studios located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

Art Safari Sign

Jason and I stumbled upon this gem of a tour during our first trip to Asheville in 2008.  When I got the opportunity to accompany my friend, Angela, to Asheville AND stay with Amanda, John, Craig, and Rebecca at their cottage in the mountains, I seized the opportunity.  I was so happy to find out that the tour would also be that very weekend.  It was meant to be.

After a delicious breakfast at the Over Easy Cafe, we began our tour on a gorgeous Saturday morning.  With 41 artists on the safari, we had to be selective with our limited time.  Although we eventually ran into some April showers, we ended up visiting 17 of the 41 studios on our handy dandy map.  Their specialties ranged from pottery to hand carved wood work to paper sculptures to wearable art.   The tour had a well-balanced variety of show-cased artists.

Craig and Rebecca

Craig and Rebecca

Amanda, Me, and John

Amanda, me, and John

As a new artist, I loved being able to visit established artists and see their work and creative spaces in such a personal way.  So many of them were willing to share their techniques and tell stories about how they started their artistic careers.  When you're new to the creative journey, it's so comforting to hear that you're not alone and see that it IS possible to make a living following your creative dream.  If nothing else, you leave feeling inspired.

Maureen Hoxie

The next safari is in November, right around the time the Blue Ridge Mountains are exploding with autumn colors.  If you are an art lover and are able, please go... and take me with you.

"Man will begin to recover the moment he takes art 
as seriously as physics, chemistry or money." 
- Ernst Levy

Monday, April 26, 2010

All A-buzz

I had the pleasure of doing some commissioned work for my friend, Angela.  She wanted to give a special gift to a retiring principal in her circle of educators.  She knew she wanted to give the principal something unique and special.  After going through some ideas, Angela settled on having me design some special coasters and a t-shirt with a bee theme.

At the principal's school, she taught three main ideals to her students -- Be kind, be responsible, and be respectful.  She was like a queen bee, in charge and responsible for the success of her hive.

Queen Bee T-shirt

In making the coasters, I decided to add some of my own mantras for her to enjoy -- Be happy, be fabulous, and be retired.  She deserves it after all.

Bee Coasters

"To a bee, honey is work
To us, it is leisure, luxury, pleasure.
If only the eating thereof
would fill us with the spirit of hard work."
-Corri Alius

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ceramic Tile and Alcohol Ink Mania!

After reading Artsyville's tutorial on ceramic tile and alcohol ink, I just couldn't wait to try it!

Back in February, I invited my friends, Amanda and Beth, to come over to try the tutorial with me.  Not sure what to expect, we surveyed the list of materials:

Fun with Alcohol Inks

  • white ceramic tile
  • Mod Podge Hard Coat
  • 1" brush
  • Adirondack alcohol inks
  • Adirondack alcohol blending solution
  • old tooth brush
I got the party started by diving into the alcohol blending solution.  I swirled it around the surface of my tile with an old toothbrush.  Then, I selected one of the alcohol inks to drip onto the tile... and magic.  The colors spread out and sometimes swirl when you add them.  Amanda and Beth jumped in and also got some amazing effects on their tiles, too.  Here are the fruits of our labor:

Beth's Tiles
Beth's Tiles

Amanda's Tiles
Amanda's Tiles

My Tile Designs
My Tiles

I think the hardest part of the whole process was waiting for each coat of the Mod Podge Hard Coat to dry (20 minutes for each coat!).  After the girls left for the night, I continued on to design some insects for my tiles.  I was already using decoupage sealer.  Might as well decoupage an original design, too, right?  Here's what I came up with:

Mod Podge FunAfter Mod Podge and Varnish

And to finish things off, I gave each tile a few coats of water-based varnish and a nice cork backing.  I think I just found my new addiction.

Finishing Up a Tile Project

Tiles All Done
"We hope that, when the insects take over the world, 
they will remember with gratitude how we took them 
along on all our picnics."
- Bill Vaughan

Craft Social and Cupcake Stands

Every once in a while, I get together with my friends and participate in a craft social.  I began organizing them as a way to facilitate and allot some creative time in my life.  And what's more fun than socializing with friends over food, drinks, and crafts?  Sometimes when we get together we have a specific project in mind; sometimes we just end up hauling our craft scraps over to a friend's house to see what we can make.  Either way, we have a good time and have goodies to show off when it's all said and done.

This past weekend, we got together at my friend Cree's house (Shannon's mom) to make tiered cupcake stands.  We got the original idea from the blog, Giver's Log, but ended up having to change some of the necessary materials in order to put the whole thing together.  (We just couldn't find the proper candle stick holders anywhere!)

We got off to a good start, drilling holes in each decorative plastic plate we had purchased for the project.  The drill bit got pretty hot during this process... I think I even saw it smoking a little.  Yikes!

Making a Cupcake Stand

But as we came to the step of assembling the stands, we realized that the threads we purchased were too long.  Boo.

Making a Cupcake Stand 5

Shannon, Cree, and Beth try to assemble the pieces.

Making a Cupcake Stand 6

Back to the drawing board...

Luckily, Cree's husband, Robert, was able to use his hack saw to shorten it.  Once we found the right length, Beth, Alfonso, and Jason shortened the rest with a little team work.

Making a Cupcake Stand 2

Beth takes a stab at the hacksaw.

Making a Cupcake Stand 3

Alf gives Beth a hand... or should I say foot?

Making a Cupcake Stand 4

Jason is the missing piece.  Success!

Although we were happy with the results, the project was one of the more labor intensive projects I have ever done.  Now I just need a good cupcake recipe so I can test out my finished product... Mmm... Any suggestions?

Cree's StandShannon's StandBeth's StandMy StandMy Stand 2My Stand 3Shannon's Stand 2


"Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first."
- Ernestine Ulmer

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Summer Pierre Rocks!

When I first began this journey of pursuing my creative and artistic dream, I looked for role models to inspire me.  Surely, there was someone out there who understood.  I searched for others who we going through the same struggles and challenges that I was going through.  Through the gift of chance, I discovered Summer Pierre.  An artist, a writer, and a singer/song writer, this amazing lady pursued her artistic dream and did so with a day job.

Back in November 2007, Summer created her own 'zine called "The Artist in the Office: Living the Dream with a Day Job."  It was her manifesto that challenged the notion that in order to be a true artist, one had to be a purist, pursuing only art full time.  Her 'zine featured words of encouragement and had endless examples of well-known artists who pursued their creative dreams with a day job.  That 'zine was a source of inspiration for me.  It made me believe that, yes, I, too, can be an artist and not feel guilty that I have to have a job to pay the bills.

The Artist in the Office

My Inspiration

So you can imagine my happiness when I saw this video post from Summer's blog last year.

Announcement from Summer Pierre on Vimeo.

A year later, her book entitled "The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week" was released in February 2010.  I promptly picked up a copy... and LOVED it.  I have even convinced people who aren't pursuing an artistic dream to read this book as I find its message can apply to anyone.  Here's a woman who not only believed in what she preached but made her dreams come true.

The Artist in the Office

She's Published!

Summer Pierre is my hero.

Summer Pierre is My Hero
"You're going to be fine.
Your timing is perfect.
And yes, we are all so proud of you."
-Summer Pierre

Friday, April 9, 2010

Words to Live By: Weeks 41, 42, & 43

My friend Jeanine is surviving and thriving after breast cancer.

Jeanine has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  She recently started a walking club of sorts for family and friends on Facebook.  The group is called "Walking to Afghanistan for Ben".  Ben is our nephew who is currently serving as a Marine in Afghanistan.  To show him our support, Jeanine is collecting donated miles from group members until we have collectively walked enough miles to reach Afghanistan.  The goal?  Well, as Jeanine puts it: "As a show of support, I am trying to organize a group of people who are willing to donate their daily mileage (walking or running) so that we can get to Afghanistan to give him a great big hug. Think of it this way- A mile a day while Ben's away."  How awesome is that?

Jeanine has big dreams on the horizon.  I mean BIG.  It's exciting to talk with her and hear her ideas of the kind of legacy she wants to create and leave in the world. It makes me feel honored and inspired to know her.  She is such a charismatic person and can energize you just by speaking with her.  Nothing seems insurmountable or unattainable.  Her optimism is contagious.  I dare you to try to ignore it.

Although she is this vivacious, talented, and wonderful woman, there is something that is looming around the corner...  her husband's foot surgery.  As Jeanine describes it: "As a woman who has not lifted a finger cleaning the house, doing dishes, laundry- just about everything for the past 9 months.....I am being pulled out of my fairy tale land next Wednesday when Terry has surgery and will not be able to walk for 8 weeks. What a good man! What a horrible Wednesday it will be! By the way- if anyone knows anyone willing to do all of these things for free- you're hired!"  Best wishes to Terry and Jeanine next week (and for the next eight weeks)!

Week 41

Week 41

Week 42

Week 42

Week 43

Week 43

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Art for Charity

I'm a big believer in giving.  The mere act of giving can help one recognize their own humanity and can make someone else's world a little brighter.  Giving, if done for unselfish reasons, is a liberating and freeing thing to do.

I recently decided to give of myself the best way I know how - through my art.  My best friend, Angela, is an assistant principal at a junior high school, asked if I would be willing to offer my artistic services to her school this month for Relay for Life.  Originally, she asked if I could do caricatures at the event to help raise money, and, although I enjoy drawing people, caricatures make me nervous.  I proposed, instead, to donate eight paintings to be auctioned off at the event.

Art for Charity

The paintings have been keeping me busy for the past couple of weeks.  I began by painting several canvases, each with a different color and background.  I then began drawing a unique illustration for each canvas, sometimes drawing girls and sometimes drawing imaginary creatures.  I then colored the drawings with watercolor pencils, carefully cut out each illustration, and Mod Podged each drawing to a canvas.  Each painting was created using a 12x12 canvas and features a handwritten quote.  I hope people find them interesting and worth taking home.

Busy BeeRed RobinPink Gamel

If you are interested in any of the paintings below, they will be available for purchase at the Relay for Life event at Triton High School in Erwin, NC, on April 23rd.

Hillside Cartwheel

Underwater Conquest

Taking Flight

Yearning for Spring

Breaking the Mold

Gamel and Bird

Blowing Bubbles

Clever Bee


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