Previous month:
April 2018
Next month:
June 2018

"Phoenix" Mixed Media Artwork - Phases from Start to Finish

Recently I posted one or two work-in-progress photos and then a picture of the finished product for a new mixed media painting that I called "Phoenix." As it happens, I took photos at the different phases along the way... not a full on tutorial, but I thought it would be fun to share how this piece progressed and maybe a little bit of my thought process as I worked.

To start, I had an inspiration piece in mind - vague, and totally subject to change, as always. I began by gathering supplies to do some collage on the background (as you can see, I always use really cheap, beat up brushes with gesso and matte medium - then I don't feel so guilty about gunking up the ferrule.)

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork---Phase-1a---Gwen-Lafleur

I pulled out my easel and set up my canvas - 24" x 30," and got to work. Here you can see what it looked like after I wrote all over the background (a highly cathartic part of my process that I do quite frequently on everything from canvases to art journal pages - it shows up in various layers of my work, and here it happened to be the base layer. I also frequently write in French - using a second language seems to make it easier for me to express thoughts and feelings. Weird? Maybe!) On top of the writing is the collage and white gesso.

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork---Phase-1a---Gwen-Lafleur
Next I started painting. I just grabbed Indian Yellow and Prussian Blue because they look good together and they were right there in big bottles, conveniently sitting out as if waiting for me to use them on this. Over the last few months, I've been very drawn to the plus sign or a modified Maltese cross - for me it symbolizes positivity, healing energy, and renewal.

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork---Phase-2---Gwen-Lafleur

As I worked, I used my typical process of cleaning off my paintbrushes on scrap paper, creating some fabulous collage fodder in the process...

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork---Phase-3---Gwen-Lafleur

While I was making these papers, I had no intention of using them in this piece, but the artwork seemed to call for some of the specific motifs that had ended up on those collage papers, so I tore them out and added them onto the painting.

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork---Phase-3a---Gwen-Lafleur

My original inspiration was already fading fast at this point, and as I continued to work I suddenly started thinking about my visit to the botanical gardens in Singapore four years ago. Don't ask me why... I still haven't entirely figured out how and why my brain makes the connections that it does, but I have learned that it's usually a good idea to go with it. So with that in mind, I sat down and sketched out some flowers and then colored them with soft pastels and then used an aerosol acrylic spray to seal them so I could collage them onto the painting without smudging the color.

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork---Phase-4---Gwen-Lafleur

After letting the sealant dry overnight, I cut out the flowers and collaged them onto the piece.

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork---Phase-4a---Gwen-Lafleur

I knew I wanted even more flowers, so I took out my Chinese Garden Plum Blossoms stencil and stenciled some more blooms into each of the clusters, then used acrylic paints to flesh them out.

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork---Phase-5---Gwen-Lafleur

You can see hints of it in the photo above, but my work wouldn't be "boho grunge" without the grunge - I love a nice, dark texture paste, and I'd added some all over the canvas here, and also used several word stencils and stenciled a series of words on top of each other all around the border of the canvas. More catharsis, plus it framed the artwork quite nicely! I also used my Ornamental Compass Screen stencil here and there in the background for the added impression of texture.

Phoenix---Mixed-Media-Artwork---Gwen-Lafleur

To me, the symbolism of the cruciform motif and plus signs inside circles along with clustered blooms of flowers seeming to burst out of the grit and darkness made me think of a phoenix - rising from the ashes to be reborn and start anew. (If only it was that easy to break through and overcome our challenges in real life, right?)

Here are a few close-ups of the finished piece:

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork-Closeup-1---Gwen-Lafleur

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork-Closeup-2---Gwen-Lafleur

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork-Closeup-3---Gwen-Lafleur

Phoenix-Mixed-Media-Artwork-Closeup-4---Gwen-Lafleur

I'm really pleased with how this painting came out... in fact, it's the first piece of my own work that I've ever displayed in my living room where visitors can see it! In any case, I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my process :)

 


From the Artist Tribe - Beaded Art Journal Cover

Jackie is here from the Artist Tribe to finish out the inspiration for the month (I can't believe it's almost June! ) She's sharing this gorgeous beaded cover for her sari journal:

Sari-Journal-cover-5-29-2018-(14)

Jackie used my Decorative Flower Stamen Medallion stencil as the pattern, then added some sari scraps and a few other goodies from a Curated Stash Pack. Make sure you head over to her blog to see all of the details!


From the Artist Tribe - Scrap Fairy Art Doll

I just love this gorgeous scrap fairy art doll that Linda Edkins Wyatt is sharing on her blog today... isn't it fabulous?

Orange-Sari-Fairy-Art-Doll---Linda-Edkins-Wyatt

Linda used some orange embellished sari scraps, Florentine paper, and Turkmen jewelry parts... I love how it all came together to make this lovely "paper" doll! Make sure you head over to her blog to see all of the details!

For those who didn't see the latest newsletter that went out yesterday, I'm having a Memorial Day sale in the shop! You can save 20% off of supplies and downloadable collage sheets today through Monday - just use the coupon Memorial2018 when you check out.

Memorial-Day-Sale-Banner


From the Artist Tribe - Global Inspired Art Journaling

Are you ready for some truly global mixed media inspiration? (Not that we aren't going global pretty much all the time over here! LOL!) Today Lynda Shoup is sharing a beautiful art journal page with influences from India and the Middle East.

Longing---Art Journal Page - Lynda-ShoupLynda is using hand-printed papers from some of my collage and embellishment packs, along with my new "Not Afraid to Try" stencil, some sari scraps, Turkmen jewelry parts, and an image from my Irresistible India digital downloads. Make sure you head on over to her blog for more photos and details!

P.S. A little birdie told me that there might just be a little sale coming up to celebrate Memorial Day... keep an eye out, just in case!


Stenciled & Collaged Art Cards

I started a project almost two years ago... making small pieces of stenciled & collaged artwork on oversized playing cards. I had originally planned to continue and make lots of small pieces that would be available for sale, but then never made the time to get back to working on them. This week I pulled those cards out again and started reviving that series, and the first three new cards are now done. It was fun... fulfilling, even, to work on these!

Stenciled-and-Collaged-Cards-1-3---Gwen-Lafleur

I started by sanding the glossy surface of the back of each card so that my mediums and paints would stick well. I decided to leave the suits visible as the back of the piece. Each card was then coated with colored gesso, then I layered collage elements on top - Japanese and Florentine papers, vintage book pages from France and Germany... old typed ledger pages... and, of course, my own hand-painted and hand-printed papers. 

Stenciled-and-Collaged-Cards-1-3b---Gwen-Lafleur

I added layers of paint and stenciling on top of that (stenciling was also done with acrylic paint,) and then some rub-on letters and numbers. I followed that with painted elements and emblems, some asemic writing, and some actual writing and mark-making with a black graphite pencil. I finished each piece with a small scrap of sari fabric or trim, attached with six mini staples shaped into Xs. I also added a few stenciled words for the titles and a few splatters of paint to finish things off.

Here are the individual pieces, starting with "Positive Change:"

Stenciled-and-Collaged-Card-1---Gwen-Lafleur

Next is called "In Disguise"

Stenciled-and-Collaged-Card-2---Gwen-Lafleur

The last one (for now!) is called "Warning."

Stenciled-and-Collaged-Card-3---Gwen-Lafleur

I'm looking forward to getting back to this series a little more frequently, I hope! These were so much fun to make, and I really love how they turned out. All three of these are also now available in my shop, just in case anyone is interested.


From the Artist Tribe - Boho Mixed Media Flower Pot

It looks like Spring is finally here, and Lynda Shoup from the Artist Tribe has a fun idea for a boho, mixed media approach to your gardening with her gorgeous embellished flower pot!

Mixed-Media-Boho-Flower-Pot---Lynda-Shoup

Lynda used a sari applique from the Irresistible India Mixed Media Happy Pack, as well as hand-printed papers from a variety of different packs and kits. Make sure you head over to Lynda's blog to see details and description of how it all came together!


Mixed Media with Relics & Artifacts

I'm thrilled to share that I'm the Guest Ambassador this month for Relics & Artifacts! I've been a fan of Sandra's line since it first launched, so I was excited to have this opportunity to put together a project using a variety of the awesome products available. Here's what I made:

Ancient-Energy-Mixed-Media-Canvas---Gwen-LafleurI used resin blanks, wood shapes, Bohemian jewels, Dresden trim, and one of Sandra's rubber stamp designs along with my Art Deco Bookplates stencil, sari yarn and a large Kuchi patch from the shop, and lots of paint and collage. Of course, there's a tutorial to go with it, so make sure you head over to the Relics & Artifacts blog to see my full post with lots more photos and step-by-step instructions.


Top 10 Most Unexpected Must-Have Tools in my Studio

A while ago, I realized that many of the tools I reach for most frequently when working in my studio are not the ones you'd expect to find on a most-used tool list for an artist. Sure - stencils, paint brushes, canvases, etc... are all at the top of that list, but I've found that there are a few more unusual items that I have to have, so I've compiled them here:

10. Respirator & Particulate Masks

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-10---Respirator-and-Particulate-Mask---Gwen-Lafleur

The respirator was a Christmas gift this last year, and one I was super excited to receive! Why? If you've followed me for more than a few months, you know that I like to make things melt and bubble, and this frequently creates fumes and smells that seem like they're probably not healthy to breathe. A respirator is also great for using with spray paint, certain varnishes, and anything else with fumes. I also do some sanding and working with wood and foam, and the particulate mask is great for helping to keep me from breathing in any of that nastiness.

9. Clamps & Table-Top Vice

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-9---Vice-and-Clamps---Gwen-Lafleur

I have all kinds of things that clamp and lock in different ways - the table-top vice was an especially great addition to my studio, since it's perfect for acting as a third hand when I'm using a Dremel or hack saw to cut anything down. Other clips are great for hanging things to dry or holding them in place while adhesives set up, and the binder clips are integral for when I'm doing bookbinding since they hold everything in place when I'm punching holes in the signatures for my book blocks.

8. Ball Peen Hammer, Bench Block, and Safety Glasses

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-8---Hammer-and-Bench-Block---Gwen-Lafleur

So the safety glasses could kind of go with almost any of the tools in this post - you can get these for just a few dollars, but they're a must-have if you do anything where something could fly into your eyes (sawdust, metal particles, etc...) The ball peen hammer is fabulous for eyelets (which I use a lot in my handmade artist books,) or for jewelry making, and just the occasional application of brute force. And of course, a bench block is the perfect surface to put below whatever you're hammering.

7. Protractor & Compass

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-7---Compass-and-Protractor---Gwen-Lafleur

Who says you don't need geometry in real life? I use my compass all the time for marking circles in my work, and the protractor is super helpful for getting angles right, especially if I'm designing something with a repeating pattern. These are always in my desk drawer for easy access.

6. Bench Scraper

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-6---Bench-Scraper---Gwen-Lafleur

I raided my kitchen drawers for this one... a bench scraper works great for getting dough off of counters and also for getting glue and paint off of your craft mat (of course, once you use it in the studio, you shouldn't use it with food anymore.) I also have a little mini scraper that came in a kit of some kind years ago. These get plenty of use helping me clean up quickly in between projects.

5. Copper Tongs

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-5---Copper-Tongs---Gwen-Lafleur

Remember how I said I like to melt and bubble stuff? These copper tongs are crucial when I'm doing anything with heat since they allow me to hold the items I'm heating without conducting that heat up to my fingers. The length also means that my hands stay out of harms way. I use these when I'm heat-priming metal, doing any soldering, and to manipulate any bits and pieces involved in heat embossing. Another tool that goes into my desk drawer so that I have instant access.

4. Tin Snips, Wire Cutters, and Pliers

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-4---Tin-Snips-and-Pliers---Gwen-Lafleur

My tin snips are used all.the.time. Most all of my light-weight metal cutting happens with these, including everything from metal findings to rhinestone chains. Of course, wire cutters for any wire I'm using, and various sizes and types of pliers for manipulating metal pieces for both jewelry and artwork.

3. Files, Rasps, and Sandpaper

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-3---Files-and-Sanding---Gwen-Lafleur

I love my files - as you can tell, since I have multiple sets in different sizes. These are fabulous for wood, metal, paper, chipboard, clay, foam... you name it! Anything that needs to be smoothed or shaped, I whip out my files. I also keep a nice stock of sandpaper on hand, and of course sanding drums to use with my Dremel for larger projects that would take too long to sand and / or shape with just files or sandpaper. The rasps are also great for shaping foam if I'm using it as an armature for any sculpted elements.

2. Hat Pins

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-2---Hat-Pins---Gwen-Lafleur

I picked up several beautiful vintage hat pins at an antique mall several years ago, just because I liked the beading on the ends. They got put into the pincushion in my studio and before I knew it, I was reaching for them to poke holes, open the tips of tubes and nozzles, and my number one use for these babies... placing seed beads when I'm doing any kind of intricate beading in my artwork. These sit on the shelf right next to my desk so I can grab them without taking a single step.

1. Music

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-1---Music - Gwen-Lafleur

 

 

 

 

 

Music is a huge part of my life. When I was four years old, my parents bought an antique upright grand piano for $25 and put me in piano lessons, which continued all through high school. In fact, I still lug that same piano around the country with me so that I can play - it's great for stress relief and as another means of creative expression. (That piano also weighs in at 600 pounds! It made my move in and out of my 3rd floor walk-up in Chicago... interesting, to say the least. lol.) Also, a little known fact, there is always music playing inside my head. Always. Even while I'm sleeping. Sometimes it actually gets too loud and wakes me up!

Given how integral music is to my life, it probably comes as no surprise that this is the number one must-have tool in my studio. I have several different playlists that I put on when I'm working, and I've found that I can influence or vary the feeling or direction of my work by changing the music I'm listening to. So with that said, I give you a list within a list! Here are the top ten artists / composers currently featured on my studio playlists. (These are in no particular order, except for number one.)

10. Linkin Park

9. Charles-Camille Saint-Saƫns (especially the piano concertos, which are divine)

8. Depeche Mode (I've been a huge fan since People are People was released in 1984 and I don't really see that changing any time soon.)

7. Frank Sinatra

6. ODESZA (a relatively recent find, and I'm kind of addicted - I really dig their global vibe.)

5. The Mongolian Grand National Orchestra (I picked up one of their CDs after a concert in Ulan Bataar - I put this on and close my eyes and I'm standing outside my ger - yurt - in the Mongolian Steppes, looking at at some of the most unspoiled, beautiful scenery I've ever seen.)

4. Luciano Pavarotti (I can't listen to him sing Puccini's Nessun Dorma without getting emotional. It's sublime.)

3. The Black Keys

2. Muse

1. Hector Berlioz (I first fell in love with his music when we played part of la simfonie fantastique in my high school orchestra - I was a 1st violin, and that's still my favorite of his compositions. The 5th movement - ronde du sabbat, is especially incredible. Just plug in your subwoofer, crank up the volume, and sit back and let it wash over you. It gives me chills every time.)

 

That's it for my top 10 most unexpected must-have studio tool... what's on your list? Any overlap?

 


From the Artist Tribe - Medieval Inspired Art Quilt

The Artist Tribe is winding down the work week with this gorgeous quilt-inspired mixed media piece by Linda Edkins Wyatt.

Medieval-Mixed-Media-Quilt---Linda-Edkins-Wyatt

Linda has used some beautiful fabric work in this piece, along with some Dresden trim, Turkmen Jewelry parts, and my favorite embellished sari patchwork ribbon from the shop. Make sure you stop by her blog to see all of the details and get the background on her project!


From the Artist Tribe - Art Journaling with Fabric

Hi all, Jackie Neal is back again from the Artist Tribe sharing another gorgeous spread from her sari art journal!

In her reflection - art journal spread - Jackie Neal

For this spread, Jackie used embellished sari scraps, Fabulous Florals Skeleton Leaves, and some gorgeous Japanese Chiyogami paper. Make sure you stop by her blog to see up close photos and lots of details!

 


June Workshops at Papercraft Clubhouse!

I'm excited to announce that I'll be teaching two all new workshops at Papercraft Clubhouse in Westbrook, CT next month - June 8th and 9th (Friday and Saturday.) Both classes center around fun, technique-driven projects and I'll be sharing lots of new tips and tricks throughout both days. Registration is now open! You can call or visit the store to sign up (860-399-4443.)

First up, Friday June 8th we'll be Getting Abstract with Crunchy Collage...

Crunchy-Collage-Class-Sample---Gwen-Lafleur

Class is $105 and goes from 10am to 5pm with an hour break for lunch (bring a lunch or plan to order from one of the local restaurants.)

Crunch-Collage-Class-Sample----Closeup-1---Gwen-Lafleur

In this class, we'll work on an 11x14 canvas panel to build a background using paints, stencils, stamps, and collage. Then we'll use my "crunchy collage" technique to add some really cool texture. You'll also have the option to add in some dimensional pieces. You don't have to do circles or flowers - I'll show you how to use this technique to create pretty much any shape, and colors, motifs, etc... are all up to you!

Crunch-Collage-Class-Sample----Closeup-2---Gwen-Lafleur

Check out the class page on my website for more photos, class details, and supply lists, or you can call the store to register (860-399-4443.)

_______________________________________________________________________

On Saturday, June 9th, we'll be making my Translucent Art Journal - a 5"x7" accordion style art journal with watercolor paper, and of course, a few cool translucent pages.

Translucent-Art-Journal-11---Gwen-Lafleur

I'll show you my "faux resin paper" technique, and we'll make some translucent papers to use in our journals. You'll have the option to add in skeleton leaves or dried flowers, or bring something from home! (It needs to be quite thin, though.)

Translucent-Art-Journal-2---Gwen-Lafleur

I'll also show you some fun background techniques and we'll use paint, stencils, stamps, and collage to prep some backgrounds in your new journal, and then we'll assemble it so that it's ready to work in when you get home!

Translucent-Art-Journal-9---Gwen-Lafleur

You can see more project photos as well as class details and supply lists on the class page on my website. The class will go from 10am-5pm with a one hour break for lunch (bring a lunch or order from a local restaurant,) and the class fee is $105. I'll be providing the paper for your journal and supplies for your translucent papers. Interested? Spots are limited, so make sure you call and sign up soon! (860-399-4433.)

Any questions? Feel free to shoot me an email or message me on Facebook.

Hope to see you there!

 

 


From the Artist Tribe - Springtime Art Journaling

The Artist Tribe and I are excitedly welcoming Spring with open arms, and today Jackie Neal is sharing a gorgeous spring-inspired art journal spread!

Sari Journey Springtime (23)

Jackie used some of the embellished sari scraps from the shop along with lots of beautiful papers, beads, and my new Chinese Garden Plum Blossoms stencil. Make sure you head over to her blog for lots more photos and details!