Seeking inspiration: Take the “Work of Art” challenge
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 3, 2011
|“La Fille aux Yeux Verts” by Henri Matisse|
Typically the hosts take the remaining group of young artists somewhere in New York City, to a location or experience that will generate inspiration for their work of art. This season, their inspiration has come from some pretty diverse sources: kitsch, creative movement called Parkour, children’s art, pop art, newspaper headlines, a brick wall in Brooklyn, and a disassembled Fiat 500.
Although the source of artistic inspiration can be just about anything, I’m intrigued by the notion of an imposed source of inspiration. A group of etsy.com artists are actually playing along each week with “Work of Art,” taking the same challenges and posting their results at etsymetal.blogspot.com. (What will these metal artists do with a brick wall in Brooklyn?)
In the same spirit, I decided to seek my own artistic inspiration from some unlikely sources. I chose three new books as my point of departure, and created three crafty projects. Here are the books—all of which I highly recommend—and the results:
"The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web."—Pablo Picasso
Book #1: PARIS PORTRAITS by Harriet Lane Levy
Project #1: An audacious pendant
When Harriet Lane Levy died in 1950, she left the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art a trove of art, including “La Fille aux Yeux Verts” (The Girl with Green Eyes) which, when her friends declined it, she bought from Matisse in 1908 while in Paris. Like Harriet Levy, I didn’t initially take to Matisse’s modernist style; but the joyous, audacious color in his portraits of women gradually won me over. So, I made pendants using printed images from Matisse and Matisse-inspired paintings, reduced to a size tiny enough to fit on the back of a Scrabble tile. There are several websites and YouTube tutorials that show you how. Just Google “Scrabble tile pendant” or “resin jewelry” for instructions.
"The torpid artist seeks inspiration at any cost, by virtue or by vice, by friend or by fiend, by prayer or by wine."--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Book #2: JUST MY TYPE: A BOOK ABOUT FONTS by Simon Garfield
Simon Garfield likes to tackle topics that make people wrinkle up their nose and ask, “How could that be a good book?” Among other historical topics, he’s written about postage stamp collecting and the color mauve. Reading his latest book “Just My Type: A Book About Fonts,” I found myself unexpectedly absorbed in the history and evolution of the ampersand, the controversial switch by Ikea from Futura to Verdana, and a typeface called Gotham, that has been embraced by both President Obama and Sarah Palin. Fonts carry a wide range of subliminal messages that go way beyond mere words, and Garfield has wisely included lots of visual examples to demonstrate the subtle powers of type.
“Retrofonts” by Gregory Stawinski is a good follow-up that allows you to simply bask in the lovely inventiveness of over 400 classic 19th and 20th century fonts. It includes a CD with 222 featured fonts, although many of these can be downloaded for free from the internet.
|I used “Retrofonts” to find the distinctive font “Renold Art Deco”|
which had great Fs, Is, Es and Ss, and downloaded it onto my
computer using www.azfonts.net. I then created stencils so I could
spray-paint the letters for my address along the driveway fence.
Project #2: A distinctive address
To make your address more distinctive, spell out your numbers with letters in a distinctive font. Flip through “Retrofonts” to find fonts with good capitalized letters occurring in your address. Use www.azfonts.net to downloaded your font, then enlarge and print to the desired size, taping pieces of paper together if necessary.
Create a stencil by taping each large letter to poster board and cutting through paper and board using a craft knife. (If you have an “O” or “R” or any other letter with an island in the middle, leave narrow connecting bridges to hold the center of the “O” or “R” in place.) Tape or tack the letters to your fence or wall and add newsprint extensions to catch any overspray. Apply three layers of spray paint for good coverage.
"Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant, there is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks."—Johann Gottfried Von Herder
|After an afternoon of cutting and folding two|
2011 calendars, I had created three sets of
origami earrings and several origami gift boxes.
Origami can be complex and intimidating at times, but the projects in this book are refreshingly simple and practical. The authors show you how to make useful objects such as boxes, checkers sets, photo cubes, bowls and envelopes out of found papers. At a time of year when calendars, catalogs, gift wrap and greeting cards are quickly filling up your recycling bin, Trash Origami offers these paper products—and just about any other kind of waste paper—a great second life.
Project #3: The gift is origami
Use the instructions in “Trash Origami” or search origami-instructions.com to make gift boxes with lids from 2011 calendars, used gift wrap, or other colorful, not-too-thick source of paper. Take “Trash Origami” one step further by also folding a gift to go inside the box. Search the Web for instructions on making an origami pendant or earrings. Use shredded paper as fluff inside the box and fold an origami decoration for the top and you’ll have a completely upcycled, handmade gift.