Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Turtle Art Camp October 14 - 20, 2009

This is a closeup of the Rainbow Serpent painting that Patricia Ciricillo, of Columbia, Maryland, did on a small wooden trunk-box here in the October 14 to 20 Turtle Art Camp last month, here at our home and studios in Wooster, Ohio.

David Bogen, a retired Professor of Law at The University of Maryland, came along with his wife Patricia, to our camp, and spent most of his work time writing parts of a book he's creating about Indigenous People law throughout the world, especially in Australia and New Zealand, where he and Patricia have spent many sabbatical years doing research.

He had the peaceful "internet cafĂ©," as Patricia named our would-be dining room.  There he could enjoy looking out at the squirrels and walkers, as the trees started changing colors for autumn. One night David read the introduction to his book to us, after having written it here.  It was a magical and historically correct story of the First People coming to New Zealand, based on native oral traditions.

Every morning David and I took my morning walk for one hour, before it got light, and later Patricia joined us for shorter afternoon walks in the sunshine.

This is the little wooden trunk that Patricia chose to work on, making a design that would have a Rainbow Serpent meandering over most of the surfaces, with other personal symbols around the snake. Patricia, please write me and tell me the size of your box: h x w x d. And the size of your flag I've shown here, too.  I'll add the sizes to this blog. Thanks!

Since Patricia chose to work on a box, I went and found the second GI ammo box I've owned since 2001, when I painted "Ammo Amore" in a class, a box about Jimmy and my 11th wedding anniversary.  You'll see pix of "Ammo Amore" far below in this blog entry, but this time I made a box called "True Love Polka." Both ammo boxes are 32.5"w x 12"d x 7"h.

Patricia had never done a regular painting before, so it was good to see her smiling as she embarked on this adventure.  We used regular acrylic paints on our boxes and after discussing the effects, both decided to not gesso the wood first, so that our paints would become softer, with the wood color as our base.

Here you can see my darling cat Ome enjoying our girl company, as Patricia began drawing in her forms. Patricia used a Rub-a-Dub laundry marker to create the lines.

Here Patricia is painting in the shapes, putting a landscape on the front, behind the serpent. After painting in all the colors with brush and acrylics, she went over the black lines with Painters acrylic paint markers, which make stronger lines than Rub-a-Dubs do.

Our cats Ome and Otis loved coming into my studio and taking long cat naps in the middle of the table. We made sure to keep the paint water covered, if we had to leave our work unattended, and to keep any wet paint out of the reach of little cat paws.

This was the first step of my first version of my ammo box's imagery. I was thinking turquoise blue!  And a mermaid for Eva.

The mermaid got this far, and I got bored with her. Too fluffy!  Besides, I had heard a catchy phrase somewhere in the meantime: "True Love Polka." Well, that was IT for me! This box had to get funkier fast!

I mixed up some fine turquoise green and wiped out the first mermaid, before I could chicken out!  The really cool thing about acrylics is that you can use them opaquely. I'm so used to my transparent fabric paints, which handle like watercolor. You can water down acrylics, too, and they become much like watercolor, but when you want to cover up something you've turned on, you can do it with ease with acrylics!

Then I sketched in a new mermaid, between two gentle possums. All for Eva. And I was starting to think about how I could make this be one of my pieces for WAGE (Wayne Artists Group Effort)'s upcoming group show: "Earth Walk."

I'm adding colors to the top panel now, listening to music with Patricia and discussing our exercise regimens, our take on art quilting these days, and our shared political viewpoints.

The top evolves, getting more detail. Nice big, pretty blonde hair for Eva the Mermaid.

Eva would like some roses, I'm sure!

Here's the first line drawing I did on the inside bottom of the ammo box. See the original stamps that say, "Ammunition for cannon, with explosive projectiles.  EMPTY."  Thank goodness!  MY artist's interpretation of this particular image is that Jimmy and my relationship is empty of explosive devices. May it always stay that way, too!

But then, I just didn't like that drawing as much as I could've, and besides, I was really diggin' being able to paint something out and start over, something I can't do most of the time with my work on fabric!  So I painted us out and drew us in again as two haeds, much like the ones I'd made in the 2001 piece.

Here we are, evolving ... Like our green hair? Very Earth Friendly!

Here's the start of the bottom inside that I kept. I was working on the lid's inside at the same time, but Jimmy had taken off the hinges for me, so I worked on them separately.  I'd stand the lid on the box often though, so I could see how things looked together.

Here's the inside of the lid.  I was watching Ome sitting and rolling around on the top of the new washer, and I just decided that Ome standing on the washer would make a nice image.  She really thinks that washer belongs to her!  And I knew Eva would like Ome being there, when you open the box, since GEM's cat Cricket is Otis and Ome's sister. I think the Ome Washer painting may be my favorite part of the box! It's just weird and funky!

Adding some peach color to us, so we'd be more interesting.  I love colors!

It's hard to work on the inside of a big box with a paint marker.  I drew and wrote with Painters acrylic paint markers, using the medium tips for outlines and the fine tips for writing. The hardest part is working on the insides of the walls.  Just have to take your time and go slowly, so you don't wreck your hands.

Here's the box top, with writing on it. I decided that the mermaid would be both Eva and her mommy, my daughter Gretchen. I love my girls!

Now we're in Jimmy's studio.  He was working on a series of cigar cases for OK Cigar, a store in New York.  He had David and Patricia come into his studio one day for a tour and a little demo of his carving / tooling processes.

Jimmy doesn't use stamps to make his images, like a lot of leather artists do. He has a bunch of tiny mark-making tools he uses in conjunction with a mallot and a swivel knife, and slowly, slowly sculpts his realistic forms into the leather, with all the surface textures established, before he paints them.

Some of his tiny tools are dental instruments that he's filed down to the even smaller shapes he needs for tooling.

Most nights of camp, we go out for supper, to enjoy the unique local restaurants of Wooster.  One night we dined at Matsos' Greek Family Restaurant downtown. Here are Spiro Matsos, the owner and host, along with my WAGE artist friend Jennifer Miller, who's the marketing agent for Matsos' Salad Dressings nationwide. Yummy!

Patricia Ciricillo brought along this piece of her artwork to show me. It's a Peace Flag, 8"h x 12"w, made with the American flag that their daughter Jocelyn brought back from the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver.  Patricia wrote stories in the white stripes, and hand embroidered a big peace symbol onto the flag. Its back is equally interesting.

One day during camp, Jimmy suggested to David that he should take a break from his writing project and come down to Jimmy's studio, and they could make leather belts together.  Jimmy doesn't make belts to sell, but once in a while, he makes one up as a gift.  They went through all the steps of creating a finely finished belt for each of them, with David doing his share of the work he was shown to do.

David came beaming into my studio, saying this was the first time in his life that he owned a belt that actually fit him perfectly.  Look how happy! There's something about that leather shop!  A real man magnet, if you ask me!  :)  Even vegetarian guys can hardly pull themselves out of there!

So now the end of the five day class time had come, so here are pictures of Patricia's box, and later mine. Neither of us was finished completely, but we were close. If you took all the sides of a box and laid them out together, flat, it's a BIG space to cover! And you can't paint on much of it at once, since you have to be careful with the wet paint.

This box of Patricia's is 14"w x 8"h x 8"d.

You can see how much Patricia loves the Indigenous art she's seen so often in person on her and David's travels. She told me good stories about the artists she'd met in Australia and New Zealand, as we worked.

You can see how this serpent entwines the whole box.  Very nice! I think Patricia may have changed the name to the Great Plumed Serpent, because that would reference a different story than that of the Rainbow Serpent.

I just know that it's quite beautiful! And very unique. The writing on the box here is for the purple and blue-dotted cross form, a very ancient image which Patricia loves.

This side, the back of the box, has the least work done to it. Patricia's thinking of doing some fabric collage on the trunk, and especially on this part.

This is the bottom of the box, where the dream story images made with dots are strongest on the work.

The trunk is upside-down here, but you can see the beautiful sunflower that spans the bottom and side panel, beside the snake.

This is as far as my box got by the end of the camp. I've done more to it since then, like brightening up the waves and writing more inside. I'll show you another time.

The lid's not hinged on yet, so it's just sitting on the box, but you get the idea. That's one big kitty girl!  I can't remember if I did a lot of political ranting on this piece or not.  I'll have to go read it, I guess.

See?  I stuck that Earth Walk (WAGE show theme title) in here, too, so it's definitely an earth walk piece.  My interpretation of the theme is any kind of story about someone's life, but each WAGE member figures out how they'll respond to each year's group theme.  Our show will be January 14 to February something. Y'all come!
Notice the fancy, hard-to-do writing up the inside wall of the box?  Tricky!

Hmmm.  I see that I didn't give my all-knowing cat her third and fourth eye, my fave thing to do.  Well, I told you it's not done, and it's NOT. But it will be, soooon!

OK, this is my 2001 ammo box, "Ammo Amore," which I made in a class Jimmy and I taught at Craftsummer at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio. It's the story of our 11th anniversary party at Gretchen and Mike's apartment in Cincinnati, on Ludlow.

Here's the bottom of the box inside, with Gretchen and Mike standing beside us, while we snuggle.

Last detail of "Ammo Amore."  Me.

When the campers were ready to drive home to Maryland, we did a little photo op out with the Obama mural, which had been one of my WAGE show 2009 pieces, for the theme "Personal Landscapes." It includes GEM (Gretchen Eva and Mike) and their place up in Lakewood (Cleveland) and our place in Wooster, tied together by all of our cats and Lake Erie. And then Obama rises behind us, like the Sun, along with his muse, the Statue of Liberty.

This is Marigold, our cat who lives in Jimmy's studio, who's very nice to people, but tries to kill Otis and Ome. Honest, she does.  So she has a very big part of the house all to herself!  She's a real cuddler and purrer! She was my birthday present in 1998, so now she's 11! Wow! I used to try to give her away to a good home, since she's a nasty-to-cats cat, but every time I found one, Jimmy refused. He really loves having her in his studio, as her lockup.

Ahhhh, camp is over again, and look who's crashed out!  The boys!

This is the last we saw of Freedlander's, our last department store here in Wooster on the main drag.  They put up all those barriers, and down it went, in about a week. Now they're going through the heaps, trying to recycle what they can, of the building materials.  Freedlander's was the biggest deal in shopping in Wooster, and it lasted about 130 years.  A new row of fancy little stores will soon replace it, as Wooster is no jive place, dear reader. It's one hip little town.  Come and see, soon!

I'll put up another blog within a week, I hope, as I'm way behind in my news.  Next will be Eva's birthday, which was way back on October 22, when she turned 5!  FIVE!!!!!!  You were five once, too, remember? When I was five, I attended the Little Elf Academy kindergarden in Orrville, Ohio (near Wooster), and then we moved out to Smithville (between Orrville and Wooster, kinda) that summer. That's where I grew up, only I went to school in Akron through ninth grade, for the Sight Saving program. Anyhow, when I was five, I was drawing all the time.  Eva is loving to draw now, too. Because she's five.

Oh oh, I'm supposed to save that for next time.

See ya.  Thanks a lot, Lucky


  1. Well, gosh darn, you see, if I had come then there would have been TWO Patties from Columbia -- one for each kitteh!! SOME DAY!!

  2. this is one of the best ways to express feelings of love for animals and show the community how valuable these are in our lives