I asked my sweet friend Nathalie Kalbach to choose a favorite post from this blog's archives. Actually, it's because of this blog (and her blog) that we are friends! We started blogging around the same time and I gravitated towards her artsy style and she towards mine. We commented on each other's blogs and became friendly online. We finally met in real life at CHA (the Craft and Hobby Association Show) in 2010:
And later that year, we shared a room when we both taught at an event in France. (Apparently I didn't understand how to take a selfie at that point in time and there are no photos of the two of us together.)
In 2011 I went to Germany to teach our Mixed Media Circus together! (Same lack of taking photos together problem....)
In 2012 Nathalie came to visit me! And we started our Second Floor Challenge (more on that in a bit).
In 2013 I returned to Germany to celebrate Nathalie's birthday and share some adventures!
In 2014 she moved to New Jersey and so the two of us got to spend a lot of time together -- museums, classes, shopping, eating, art making...girlfriend time!
2015 was no different.
And then, I moved to Boston. But we still managed to get in some girlfriend time -- teaching together in Australia in 2016 and visits to NYC and Boston.
It has been a long and happy friendship, all stemming from art blogging! Isn't the internet an amazing connector?!
So, earlier I mentioned our Second Floor Challenge. When I asked Nathalie to pick a favorite post from the Balzer Designs Archive, she chose the first Second Floor Challenge. (You can read all about how we came up with the challenge HERE.) Here's what Nat said:
"I really loved the post because it was the start off for a really fun challenge series. It made us try things we would otherwise not have done but even more it made us put in words what we experienced. I feel as if this post made us take a great leap for both of our art adventures."
So without any further ado, here's that post from March 13, 2012:
Today is the first Second Floor challenge! Are you ready to take it to the second floor?
The challenge this time around is to use gold paint. Whatever that means to you or however it inspires you. The prompt is simply meant to get you started. The level of challenge you aim for is entirely internal and up to you.
Click here to see what Nat did.
I had done a bit of printing with the Gelli Plate before, but this was my first time creating layered prints and I was thrilled with the results!
I could have stopped there. It was already a bit of a push. In my original envisioning of the project I thought the printing would be my experiment with gold paint.
But embracing the idea of taking it to the second floor, I decided to do something very far outside my comfort zone: formal collage. I started to play around with some stitching and layering and....
I really *hated* how it turned out. Just sort of all over the place. No focus. The print that was so beautiful had been "ruined" by my messing around with it. Picture a super sad Julie here.
In writing this blog post today I realize that I should have taken a photo at this point. But I'm a never-say-die kind of girl and as soon as I hated it, I resolved to fix it. I read a quote on Roben-Marie's blog last week that said, "When you discover what you fear most, run towards it." Right on. This is a life philosophy I try very hard to embrace -- don't always succeed at it -- but it's a goal of mine, especially artistically.
I experimented and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. And it wasn't good. So now I had two choices:
- Stop, photograph, and write about what I learned from the failure.
- Never-say-die and keep going.
You can probably guess which road I chose.
Rescue came in the form of this little book:
Most of my fumblings are somehow magically hidden by folding the ugly collage in half and turning it into a book cover. Although I will tell you that despite the pretty pictures, the book has a few issues of its own.
Here are just a few of the things I learned from this challenge:
- A collage requires a certain amount of unity whereas a book cover can just be bright colors and interesting patterns. This is congruent with an old art trick of taking something you hate and cutting it into the pieces. The smaller pieces almost always work better than the large piece.
- The print I started with was one hundred times more interesting than the collage I ended up with. Perhaps collage is something better done with either (a) smaller pieces of layered prints or (b) simple prints. In fact, I think collage (for me) works best with manufactured prints because it's the contrast between the hard manufactured line and my own soft line that makes it interesting.
- As far as the book is concerned, I took the easy way out and used a tape runner to secure the end papers (inside the covers). Bad idea. The book pages they're made from are fragile. I should have taken the time to properly wet glue them.
- Also the binding of the book. I just shoved it through my sewing machine. I much prefer the feeling of a book that has been handstitched and it really doesn't take much longer, especially with a little pamphlet style book like this.
- One of the things I really like about the book is that I mixed watercolor paper with deli paper for a neat mix of surfaces to work on. I like the translucent/opaque contrast between them.
- As far as the Gelli Printing is concerned, there's so much to love there. I loved cutting out the feather shapes (from my 12x12 Peacock Feather stencil) and using them as masks. Definitely going to do that again. Taking the time to cut them out was totally worth the result.
- And I loved having the painted feathers around, though collaging them on top of the print was probably not that smart.
- Another Gelli Printing thing I loved was printing time after time onto watercolor paper, deli paper, book pages, whatever was around. Lots of cool variation. Another good one to try again.
- Something I learned about myself: it's really hard for me to share something that failed without a positive resolution. Really super duper hard. But that's what this Second Floor project is all about. And if I was really good at doing it, I wouldn't need this challenge, would I? I'm not sure I'm leading by example today, but I'm trying my very best.
Who knew you could learn so much from an evening spent playing with paper and paint? Well, now I do. And now you do too. Imagine how much we can all learn from each other's experiments?!
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. You can still join me and Nathalie and lots of other artists for Creative JumpStart 2017!