Archive for April, 2008

Connie Herring on Making Paper

Hand made paperConnie Herring is a multi-talented artist. She works in a variety of media and does all sorts of fantastical and technical creations. She is primarily an installation artist, though she creates sculpture, handmade paper and books, weavings on commission, and designs personal jewelry upon request. But arguably more important than that, she is a good spirit and one of the nicest people I know. Visit her website, www.connieherring.com. I encourage you to do so.

I had asked Connie to tell me about making paper. She gave such a excellent and comprehensive answer that I thought I would post it all, in her words.

Steps for making paper
I make a variety of papers. I have paper made by recycling old library cards from card catalogs, (this paper can’t be considered archival I don’t think because of the ink they used at the time, but the cards are 100% cotton). I also make paper from Abaca, cotton, and linen linters. The linen is what I’ll bring you.

Linters are large, thick sheets of compressed fibers which I order from various paper making supply places. I tear the linters up and soak them in water over night. I usually weight the amount in each bucket so that if I have to add color, or a sizing I know how much to add to the amount of paper.

The next day I “beat” the torn up paper. I use a disposal which has been mounted under a table which is open at the bottom. I put the soaked, torn paper into the disposal and it comes out the bottom into a bucket as paper pulp. There’s lots of water involved so things get pretty wet all around. From there the pulp is put into a vat of water. There is a lot of water in relation to the pulp and the ratio of water to pulp determines the thickness of the paper. The more pulp the heavier the paper.

Next I get the mold and deckle that I want to use for the size of paper needed. The mold is a frame covered with screen. The deckle is like a frame that fits over the mold. Inside the frame, on the screen is where the sheet of paper is formed. Next I mix the pulp/water mix so the pulp is evenly suspended in the vat. I hang onto the mold and deckle on two sides and cut it into the vat. I pull the mold/deckle up, and let it drain. There is a sheet of paper on the mold at this point.

I carefully remove the deckle and couch the sheet of paper onto a felt. (A felt traditionally is a special piece of felt used specifically for paper making. I use a synthetic felt.) “Couching” is the term used to the process of turning the mold upside down and putting the paper pulp onto the felt. I will place another felt onto the paper, pull another sheet of paper and put that on top of the new felt. I will build a stack of paper like this until I have about 25 sheets.

I then put a board on top and bottom of the stack and place into a press. I tighten the press as far as possible to eliminate as much water as possible. I let the paper set in the press for at least a 1/2 hour, and while it’s setting I make another stack of paper. Once out of the press I lay the pieces of paper out to dry.

It’s really very basic, but takes awhile to get consistent sheets. I order a lot of my supplies from Twinrocker, and they have a web site www.twinrocker.com that has a couple of pictures of making paper that may be helpful.

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So in an effort to better manage my time, I began yet another painting on handmade paper. This really helps me to not force my bear painting along. I can take the time I need to make decisions, without feeling guilty about not painting. I think once I actually begin putting in color on the bear, I will work exclusively on it.

This White Wolf is on an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of handmade paper. It does have deckling, but in an effort to get it in one scan, (instead of two) we lost the deckled edges.

The paper is quite soft, so my usual practice of drawing and erasing really can’t happen. To work around this, I could project the image. OR I could draw it out on something else, like tracing paper. Place the final drawing over the handmade paper and redraw the lines. This forms a barely visible indentation on the handmade paper. Carbon paper would also work, but the lines would be quite harsh and may not get completely covered by the oil pastel. (Besides, finding carbon paper these days, is like looking for something out of the stone age.)

Archivability on handmade Paper
Oils can cause degradation of paper, so it is always wise to research your art materials when working with oil pastels. Since I have started working with handmade paper, archivability is a concern. Thus I began looking in earnest for more information and started experimenting.

I tried a few different gessos and found the oil pastel didn’t adhere as well, as I am used to. I had almost given up hope of working with the handmade paper, until I looked at the various oil pastel brands. Most resources said that there is no need for a gesso or primer to be applied, if the oil pastels were made using inert oils (like mineral oil). Holbein and Sennelier are made with inert oils. I couldn’t find any information regarding my other main brand Caran D’Ache. Perhaps I will contact the manufacturer. If I do so I will post about what I learn.

How to make paper
I asked Connie to explain the process of making paper. She did such an excellent informative description of the process, I thought I would post it tomorrow.

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Midwest Middle Aged Critter Artist

Bear drawing reworked
Here is my re-drawn bear. I am much happier with the hind leg. I may still raise the front leg up a bit more. I also adjusted my bears position in the composition. I usually try to work on boards larger than I need, so I can adjust the image size as I go. Currently this piece is 19 x 26. I need to quit fussing over it and just get after it.

Long ago in another life. . .
Bears (and wolves for that matter) are rather dear to my heart. At one time (long, l-o-n-g ago) I worked in a wildlife park where I was very hands on with bears, wolves and a myriad of other wild and dangerous beasties. I was hired when a keeper quit, after being attacked by a mountain lion. (He survived. Fortunately when the cat pounced, they fell into the electric fence.) They hired me because women tended to do better with the animals, in the area I was hired for. And because as someone with a vet tech background, I could spot a distressed or ill animal.

So you see, I haven’t always been a Midwest, middle aged woman, living the quiet life as an animal artist. No siree. There was a time when I not only danced with wolves, but I conversed with cougars, and I . . . Ummm . . . Whats a B-word that goes with bears? Brawled? No, not really. Had I brawled with bears I wouldn’t be a middle aged artist living the quiet life, now would I? Ummm bantered, bargained, boogied?

Anyway, I had a few close calls with some of the predators. (I may even post a story or two.) But frankly, it was the raccoons and pronghorn antelope that I really dreaded getting inside the pen with. Go figure.

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A Womans Prerogative

Okay, so I changed my mind and started the rhino first. Mostly because he looked quick and easy, while the bear is going to be one challenge after the other for me. I plan to begin making drawing changes tomorrow on my bear. And will post the final drawing before beginning the color work.

I kinda took some liberties with the rhino’s coloring, (as I am wont to do on these handmade paper pieces.) I’m not thrilled with my color combination of blue and rust. However I think he will look interesting once I get him all framed up. I plan to put him on ultramarine blue suede and frame similarly to my purple buffalo.

Much like my purple buffalo was just an okay piece, so is my blue rhino. Hopefully he will sell. My buffalo sold less than 48 hours after I framed him. So maybe that just goes to show I am not so great a judge of my artwork, as I may think I am.

I think the image would be much stronger if I cropped it. Essentially losing everything to the right of the first leg. I want to keep the deckled edges so it would be a delicate operation to tear the paper to get deckling, without tearing the painting. I may just do it anyway. What do you guys think?

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A Small Break From Painting Horses

I’ve got a couple of good excuses as to why I haven’t been posting new artwork. Honest First of all, I finished up my article for the next issue of Apples N’ Oats magazine, a week early! That’s two times in a row. WhooHoo! Also been doing loads of bookwork, like preparing my sales tax figures. Not really a whoohoo, but nice to get it done. And then of course, tis the season for the gallery to get busy. So now that I feel perfectly righteous in my slacking off with the art thing, I thought I would go ahead and show you some of what I have been doing art-wise.

I am putting aside my draft horse by the trailer and moving on. He is almost done and I am sure I will finish him up some time this week. I am hankering for a change. So on this past Sunday, I got three different non-horse critters drawn out. The one that is calling to me the most is this, an Alaskan Brown Bear. I was actually looking for a small bear image to put onto handmade paper, but when I ran across this photo I had an Aha! moment.

So I decided to go large-ish. And of course to add to the challenge, I not only used a reference photo with water, but also decided to move his legs around. This is a zoo bear and it is overweight. Or I may have taken this photo in the fall when it was gaining for hibernation. But it is still more pudge than I want. I am not sure that my painting will reflect any particular season, so best shed a few pounds. I imagine it would be hard to keep a captive bear at its ideal weight. I mean it’s not like zoo bears are running after elk or anything.

I don’t think I am completely satisfied with this pose. I most likely will extend the foremost, hind leg back farther. This will help give him more movement and not make such a straight line along the edge of my painting. Also I may raise a front paw as well, leaving it slightly held in the air. Not sure, but I don’t like the square, boxy shape that I have right now.

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Equestrian Theater

Starring Chicory in I Want Out.
Ah . . . Spring. Subtle flute music plays in the background amidst the chirping birdies and fluttering butterflies. The tender green shoots of grass are bursting forth from their earthy slumber. The rains have come and everything smells clean and green.

I stand outside the barn scratching Chicory, who has almost completely shed out, but still has plenty of those crazy-making itchies. Mind you, it wasn’t so very many days ago that we could have knitted some cozy little chihuahua sized sweaters, from the fur I was pulling off him.

We quietly enjoy the warmth of the sunlight and the gentle breezes. He looks wistfully out to the pasture, of which he has been denied access to, since December.

A thought comes to him. (I could see the wheels turning) He looks at me and nickers softly. I look him in the eye, silently questioning. He looks out to the pasture, pauses a moment, then looks back me. I continue to scratch him, but don’t move. He waits for a moment, then swings his head s-l-o-w-l-y back to look at the pasture. He holds a little longer than before, then looks back at me. I smile placidly and continue to pet him. The words, “Whats that Lassie? Timmy’s stuck in the well!” roll through my head.

Chicory sighs deeply, his frustration at my apparent dull-wittedness is obvious. Since I am failing to comprehend what it is that he wants, he decides to take it to the next level with charades. He steps away from me and walks over to the gate. Makes eye contact again, then tosses his head dramatically over the gate leading to the pasture. This time he doesn’t look back at me, but rolls his eye over to see if I am paying attention. I think if he could have pantomimed the unlocking of the gate, he would have.

I walk over and pat him. “Sorry big guy, You’ll have to wait another week or two before I can turn you out.” He drops his head, and again sighs deeply. I would like to think he understands my meaning. But truthfully, I think he is just resigning himself to the fact that his human is a complete and utter idiot.

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Farewell My Friends

The Matriarch - African Elephant - click for larger image
The Matriarch
Water soluble pencil 27 x 22
Copyright by Mona Majorowicz

It has been a banner week at the gallery. We sold three original paintings, (all shown here.) That is a record for a non-artshow week.

I occasionally get asked why I sell my originals. The way I see it, my work is created to be enjoyed. And unless I plan on lining my tomb with them I would much rather they be sent out into the world. Most of the time, I do miss them once they are gone.

African Contours - Grevys Zebra - click for larger image
African Contours
Water soluble pencil
11 x 17
Copyright by Mona Majorowicz

I’ve got some empty spots on my walls now. So I really need to get crackin’. Since all three of the sold images were not horses, I think I had better replace them with non-horse critters.

Today, (which is a Sunday) I went in to the gallery and drew out three new potential paintings. (Another record for me, but since no harnesses were involved, it all went smoothly.) Two are small ones, (a wolf & rhino) to be done on handmade paper, like the buffalo shown below. And a larger grizzly bear on museum board. I will post my drawing of the bear shortly, as he will be the first of the three that I will do.

Obviously, the originals are gone. But to purchase, or get more information on the prints of either The Matriarch or African Contours just click on the image or the title below it.

American Bison
Purple Buffalo
Oil Pastel – 13.5 x 10.75
Copyright by Mona Majorowicz

There are currently no prints available on the buffalo, as he is truely one of a kind.

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