Just Kidding Collage

Kids and collage are just like peanut butter and jelly. Messy, fun, and sticky. Give scissors, glue, and paper to any kid and see them jump into collageing without hesitation. Somewhere, Matisse must be smiling…

These were done when our children were only 5 or 6. Settling down to create a collage can eat up a whole rainy afternoon. Best of all, you’re likely to have all the materials on hand, no trips to the store.

Some materials to inspire – just arm the the kids with blunt scissors, white glue and strong paper, and let them loose:

. Magazines and catalogues
. Construction paper
. Old greeting cards
. Bits and pieces of doilies, thin fabric, tissue paper
. Markers, pencils, crayons – whatever you can live with

Don't limit yourself to these ideas - any safe material can end up "making" a collage. Try to avoid ready-made stickers, and encourage exploration of favourite themes, fantasy and imagination.

Don’t expect any masterpieces – but do remember to enjoy the moment.

Considering the materials used, these creations certainly won't last forever, just long enough to adorn a bedroom wall until the next artistic exploration or the next rainy afternoon, whichever comes first.

(This post by Neda and Rima)


Sketch in the afternoon

(Hubby sent me this from his sketchbook)
Geoff and Rudayna's house is a very colourful place. Lots of interesting elements meet you at every angle you turn.
On a cold February day while the kids were playing and everyone else was working hard to make lunch, I snuck away to the couch and spent a few minutes
doing a quick sketch with pen and ink. I didn't have my favourite Ackerman pen at hand, but used a plain Pilot Fineliner that I had handy. Back home I added colours (as I remembered them) and diluted the pen lines with water as well.

(R&G - F. Barrage © 2007)

In reality, the red wall is a much richer red almost tomato coloured and lovely. It would have tipped the balance of the drawing though, so I made it paler.

My Nifty New Pump Pen

Hubby lent me his Ackerman pen and I’m not giving it back.
As my favourite 7-year old would say, I don’t like it, I LOVE it!

This is an artist’s pump pen, an inspired work of genius that will do for your sketching and doodling what the Cuisinart did for my food prep: you won't go back to your clunky old tools.
Yasmine - R. Koleilat©2007

This oh-so-clever pen works very much like a regular fountain pen, but with an added pump feature, and nib and brush tips you can replace at will (you can use your old nibs, they work just fine). The fountain-pen design is this cool tool's most excellent feature - no more dipping! And it’s transportable!

But you do have to be very careful how you store the pen, if it still has ink in it – if it’s not upright, you may get an unwelcome mess when you open it. You're also better off road-testing it first - it takes a little while to get used to the flow of the ink, and you tend to overpump when you’re first trying it out. At least I did.

Another lovely feature: the pen will happily work with whichever water-based medium you like best: I’ve tried plain old black ink and like it very much, and hubby is using his with watercolours to absolutely brilliant effect.

Here's the other main reason I really love this pen: you can clean it in seconds under running water – no clogging, no dried-up gunk, no flakes! Love that.

I think the pens are totally worth the $30+ US price tag (of course, I did steal mine) – you can check them out at Charles Ackerman’s website http://www.ackermanpens.com/
The pen comes with easy to follow instructions and lots of tips – but nothing beats getting your hands on it and trying it out for yourself.

I hadn’t bothered with ink for a while because of the fussiness that comes with it (I don’t have a lot of working space, but I do have too many cats, and 2 kids and too little time) – and now, I have the perfect, coolest tool for it. Gotta go do some more sketching


Darling Doily

(This post by Neda)

I think I am turning into a domestic diva of sorts. My new experiment does involve a kitchen item but it is not edible, more like a feast for the eyes and the crafty soul maybe.
(Darling Doily - N. Doany©2007)
My newest creation was borne out of rummaging through the dreaded stuff-everything-in-it kitchen drawer. As I was tossing old fridge magnets and countless twisty ties, I came across a tattered doily paper, the kind used for decorating birthday cake trays. For a minute, I considered it tossing along with the ex-residents of the drawer. But I hesitated. I never met a piece of paper I didn't like. So, I took it to my studio to neatly shelve it in my box of found treasures. But, the temptation was too great, my head was already buzzing with an idea.

I cut parts of the doily with scissors and glued them over a little drawing I had already started that morning. I painted over the doily pieces with Golden Acrylic fluid.

Things I’ve learned (Clorox 2)

(This post by Neda)
Having had a quite successful first experiment with the Clorox Bleach pen, I got hooked on the process. OCD aside, I could not resist experimenting more. Well, the results were less than satisfactory.
Before I talk about the experiments, let me remind you of the following safety guidelines (I know it is a bore but you really have to stick to these recommendations)

1. Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area even if using you are using just a drop of bleach.

2. Do not wear anything you care about, a drop of bleach could ruin your favorite Gap tee-shirt (unless this is the look you are aiming for).

3. Do not, I repeat, do not smoke/eat/drink/multitask when you are working with bleach.

4.If you get any bleach on your skin or into your eyes, follow the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines immediately!

Okay, now for the humbling stuff:
1. Bleach can ruin a perfectly nice drawing if you overdo it (see exhibit A - above). Be careful where you “draw” with your bleach pen.
2. Bleach does not work very well on pastels, at least on the Neocolor II I used (see exhibit B - left)
3. Bleach once, okay. Bleach twice, not okay (see exhibit C - below)
4. If you want to experiment, dip an old inexpensive brush in the bleach and “paint.” However, as soon as you are done, kiss the brush goodbye …uh..no, no, do not kiss it, just throw it out.
5. TIMING is of the essence. Within second, you will notice the effects of the bleach on your drawing. Rinse it under running water immediately and blot it between 2 pieces of paper towels. Let it dry BEFORE you attempt any additional work.

6. I have not tried spraying my bleached experiment with any kind of varnish yet. I am afraid a) to engage in some chemical experimentation which I might regret, and 2) I am at loss as how to preserve the bleached drawing without ruining it. Any suggestions???

Keeping all this in mind, have fun experimenting and please share your ideas with us!


Clorox anyone?

(This post by Neda)

I am notoriously impatient especially when it comes to following lengthy artistic instructions. Once, I even ran away in tears from a so-called “collage class” with a renowned collagist in Austin. In brief, I perceive myself as a spur-of-the-moment artist, which is why I love collage (instant gratification) and experimenting with whatever is available to me at the moment.

(Aqua-N.Doany ©2007)

Here is an example of such whimsy, aka a fun idea born out of almost nowhere (pictured here). It started when my 15-year old son accidentally spilled water on a photocopied color drawing he was working on. Having inherited a good eye and an adventurous spirit from his mom (of course), he came over to my studio to show me the interesting splashes of color the water had done to his design. He asked me if we could experiment with one of my photocopied color sketches. We then proceeded to the kitchen faucet where we experimented further. In the background, the washing machine was churning about and I came up with the idea of adding bleach to our experiments. I reached for the bleach bottle but something cleverer caught my eye: the Clorox Bleach Pen. Aha! Why did I not think about that earlier? A pen, I can handle. A bleach pen, I can experiment!

I took a small painting which I was just about to discard to oblivion and copied it using a regular ink-jet printer and photocopying paper. I then proceeded to draw squigglies over the photocopied image and to my surprise, the results were quite interesting. Wherever the bleach pen touched the colors, the latter seemed to fade instantly. I was afraid the bleach might ruin the paper entirely so I ran the photocopy under water and blotted it between two pieces of paper towels. Keeping with the laundry day theme, I let the photocopy dry over the dryer. Once set, I then re-colored the photocopy, making sure to leave the bleached parts blank. Et voilà…


What in Christie's Name Are Art Cards?

By now, everyone’s heard of ACEOs, this ubiquitous new trendy trend in the art world that has spread like wild fire from North America to Europe. So, what are ACEOs? Let me put my researcher’s hat on:

(Red Umbrella - F.Barrage©2007)

ACEOs, an acronym for Art Cards, Editions and Originals, are small-scale original works of art, and like their larger counterparts, can also be produced in a series or reproduced in a limited edition (as their name indicates...). There is only one rule to ACEOs: They have to be 3.5" x 2.5" (8.9cm x 6.4cm). As for medium and material, it’s up to the talent and imagination of the artist – I’ve seen acrylics, pen and ink, watercolour, collage, altered art – you name, someone’s done it.
Beyond the hype, the reality is that these art cards have been around forever – many artists do them as a way to plot their next project, as a quick exercise to try colours or techniques, or just for fun but they weren’t labeled as such. My sister, for one, has been doing these for years, way before it was all the rage. At some point in time, quite recently, artists started trading them informally (trading as in give-me-yours-I’ll-give-you-mine) through groups and clubs that mostly formed on the internet. Then some really entrepreneurial soul decided to start selling their little creations on eBay (where else?) and called them ACEOs. So there you have it.

This said, you should absolutely not be turned off of these highly collectible, highly addictive works of art because of their popularity. Some of them are little gems. We all love them, love making them, love having them – there’s a definite appeal in these pleasurable, small, visual haiku. Just like haiku, good art cards are deceptively simple, yet exquisitely crafted. For instance, I’m the proud owner of this little precious bit of whimsy pictured here, and it's hanging in my bedroom. I love having it and no, I am not in the least biased because it’s painted by Fawzan – I truly am in love with it.

Watch this space for more on this, coming very soon – there’s some superb work that I’d like to share with you.

Cheating is fun

Isn't fun to change your work, without breaking a sweat? Photoshop is great for playing around with different textures and help me see what I can come up with next. I did this quick little sketch for my daughter on plain sketching paper and watercolour pencils (left) - It looks a lot more interesting with the fake canvas texture (right) which I added to the scanned picture. I like my little sketch a lot better now: it's tougher to use pencils on rough textures, but the resulting work may be more appealing.
(Flower Girl 1 & 2 - R. Koleilat©2006)


Writing For You

It’s always difficult to come up with a well-rounded, well-written profile for yourself – particularly if you’re an artist and your talent lies in whatever form your artistic expression takes, but not necessarily in writing about it. At least, that’s been my experience when trying to elicit biographical information from artists.

(Purple - R. Koleilat©2007)
For many artists, having a good bio is a necessity – for everything from a blurb on a leaflet to your own horn-tooting on a book jacket (or website). A necessity, but a wretched ordeal to come up with on your own. This is where I come in.

When creating an artist profile, I incorporate biographical elements into the narrative with a detailed description of the style, technique and appeal of the artist’s work. Examples of the kind of profiles I have written for some of the artists we represent at the Gallery can be found on the website. I charge extremely reasonable fees for small write-ups that include research and free (reasonable) editing for six months, all easily paid for on PayPal.

For details, email me and I’ll send you a list of available services.
J'offre aussi des traductions Anglais/Français, Français/Anglais, English/French, French/English Translation available

Refurbishing A Beat-Up Winsor & Newton Tin

My dear watercolourist husband who has a way with paintboxes wrote this for our Maraya Newsletter a few weeks ago under the title "Saving a Classic". Check out his blog to find
out what he does with empty Altoid boxes...

Watercolor artists fall into two camps: Those who love tubes and those who love pans. Count me in the second group.
With two small children at home and limited space, I don't have the luxury of a real studio or the ability to spread my art stuff around too much.
Watercolor boxes with pans or half pans in them are perfect for my needs. When Winsor & Newton started putting their artist pans and half-pans in plastic boxes, I felt a deep sense of disappointment. A whole era was ending. An era where craftsmanship and durability were paramount was giving way to mercantile flexibility and sales.
The Winsor & Newton Metal box is a true classic. The box is made of solid metal and has deep wells for mixing washes. It holds the pans perfectly in place. With its black enamel cover, it evokes those days of yore when everything built in England was known to be of the highest quality.I was recently able to acquire an old, abused Winsor & Newton metal box. The place holders for the pans were rusted and broken off, and the base of the box was also rusted and uninviting, but it was still as solid as the day it was built and the outside of the box was as good as new.

I needed to find a way to cover the base and a means to hold the paint pans in place. After taking detailed measurements of my box, I went to the local hardware store to see what I could find. Without a clear plan, I walked the aisles, looking for ideas - then ...I finally got it. I found a white peel-and-stick tile, a length of shelf edging (3/4") and some large staple gun staples - that was it, that was all I needed. I began by cutting a piece of the flexible tile to fit in the box.
Next, I cut three pieces of the shelf edging to the size of the box length. Because the staple gun will not drive a staple through the plastic of the edging or the core of the tile piece, I had to drill very small holes in the edging and the tile to fit the heavy staples in. I then held the edging in place and threaded the staple through the edging and the tile. I folded the ends of the staples and pressed them firmly in place with pliers.
Once I was done placing the three lines of edging on the tile, I slid the tile in place in the box. I could have peeled the bottom of the tile off and stuck it to the base of the box, but I decided against it. By keeping it loose, I could then easily remove the whole thing and clean the box when needed.With the tile in place, I put the half-pans inside the shelf edging. The half-pans fit snugly in there and don't move - it's as if the shelf edging was made especially for them.
So now, not only did I end up owning an excellent paintbox, functional in every way, but I had also rescued a classic Winsor & Newton metal box that have gone way beyond its prime and gave it a new life.
A final note: It is a shame that watercolor boxes are not as commonly used in North America as they are in Europe. I strongly urge the reader to try them - contrary to popular belief, one can get very strong colors from pans. All that is needed is to wet the pans and let them stand for a minute or two before using them. The resulting colors will be as strong as those freshly squeezed from a tube.
(For more pictures, see the full article here)


Who Says Art Can Only Be Found on Canvas?

Or paper, or board… you know what we mean. An artist’s unexpected instruments can also be made of sugar glaze or edible beads and her palette of a rainbow of food colouring concoctions. Under the edible art rubric, we found Hala Audi Beydoun’s fanciful, unique cookies both scrumptious and inspiring.

(I wrote this article for my other newsletter, featuring Hala's very funky, very risqué Valentine's Day cookies - there are many more amazing pictures on my site)

Adorned with delicate arabesques and boisterous colours, Hala’s completely original creations are lovely little objets d’art. A little Gaudi, a little baroque, a little Pop-Art, Hala’s filigreed cookies and bold cakes are crafted and painted by hand – no two are ever exactly the same.

Although thematic by necessity - her work is commercial after all - Hala is never constrained by the expected limits of her craft. From designing and manufacturing her original shape cutters to riffing on a favourite theme, Hala’s muse takes many forms – images from popular culture, ornate fabric, travel and sight-seeing.

Ol' Blue Eyes
On a recent sailing trip to the coast of Turkey, Hala was struck by the brilliant hues of the traditional “Blue Eyes” and “Hands of Fatima” talismans, a folkloric and prevailing leitmotiv in that region. From this inspiration, she created these unique, bewitching and scrumptious confections.

The Wedding Thing
A deliciously allegoric representation of modern marriage, Hala’s latest wedding cake is a contemporary confection, laced with both humour and foreboding. Since the wedding in question was to take place on the 1st of April, Hala chose fish to decorate the first layer – a wink to the traditional French “poisson d’avril”. The bride and groom cookies adorning the top were fashioned from the groom’s original sketch.

Be my Valentine
Hala enjoys visual puns – one of her favourite valentine creations is a gift box featuring a yellow chick cookie and a red hot pepper cookie (for all those “Hot Chicks” out there, of course).
Another valentine favourite is a trio of more traditional shapes likes lips and hearts, but rendered with bright hues and varying textures.
But the magnum opus of the valentine collection is the naughty (and comical) adults-only “Kama Sucra™” line – a hilarious cornucopia of erotica in a winking nod to Keith Haring and inspired by E. Jaye's Cookie Sutra book (Thomas Allen & Son, Canada), as well as a line of startlingly mischievous adult-theme cookie series ("Cookie Sucra™", parental discretion strongly advised). These and other creations by Hala can be viewed at the Maraya Galleries main website: http://www.marayagalleries.com/MaraZines/MarazinefullCocoa&co.htm

Hedonism with a message
But for all the fun she’s having crafting these delightful creations, Hala still manages to combine hedonism with a socially conscious message. With her recently created company, Cocoa & Co™, Hala has often participated pro-bono in such worthy campaigns as the “Buy a Cookie, Feed a Child” fundraiser for the ARC in Beirut. She also doesn’t shy from controversy, dressing some of her innumerable “Husband Cookies™” with politically charged slogans and heart-felt statements.

Until her upcoming website debuts online, you can contact Hala through Maraya Galleries (customerservice@marayagalleries.com) to share your comments or place an order (currently available for the Middle East and Europe, coming soon to Canada and the US).
(I saw a preview of the Cocoa & Co site - it's adorable... I'm providing a link as soon as one is available and you can then contact Hala directly)

War d’Oeuvres

“A nation without arts would be a nation that had stopped talking to
itself, stopped dreaming, and had lost interest in the past and
lacked curiosity about the future.”

John Tusa, Art Matters

(My very lovely and talented sister Neda, a collage artist, wrote this article for our Maraya Galleries Newsletter at the end of last summer)

War Collage 1982 Future Gaze: one of the first collages, used Marie Claire magazine, rubber cement glue, only light source: candle

Commenting on a commemorative “Art at War “exhibition he curated in his Chicago gallery, Nicaraguan art dealer Aldo Castillo remarked that “the history of conflict, aggression, and war shows no human evolution. We have not learned the difference between right and wrong. Nor have we learned […] that violence is no solution for violence.”

War Collage Red: I did this collage in July 1983 using fragments of a medical review journal, rubber cement glue

Castillo’s plainspoken words resonated in my mind as I was reading the latest news about the war in my native country, Lebanon. Sipping my morning coffee, and furiously zapping through the latest blogs in all the languages I could read (or decipher for that matter), I was feeling myself slowly drawn into an abyss of jarred memories I had long forgotten …or conveniently suppressed.No longer was I sitting at my desk in my serene Austin home, java in hand, and thousands of kilometers away from a past I thought had properly stashed away in the confines of my own complex history. The past and the present were cruelly fusing into a nefarious surrealistic reality of death and destruction. The country where I was born and raised was yet again in the throes of war with Israel who, as it did in 1982, invaded Lebanon this summer of 2006, wreaking havoc and misery to life and property*. It was “déjà vu all over again,” and I was both a captive spectator and a reluctant victim now as I was then twenty-four years ago.

Facing this familiar yet uninvited “reel-ality” rerun, I turned back to Castillo’s commentary. The curator’s words, although well intentioned, were in fact quite banal. I had heard it all before. Cynical and blasé that I was, I could really not figure out what attracted me to remember this inane tidbit of words. And then, it hit me: it was not Castillo’s words which really mattered to me; it was what he did to transform the ugly reality of human aggression into an accessible visual display open for all to see. He, along with several international artists, participated in an extensive exhibition post 9-11 entitled “Art at War – The Artist’s Voice” which was held at the Aldo Castillo Gallery in Chicago in 2004. Having grown up in war-torn Nicaragua and having been sensitized to the current wars all over the world, Castillo set out to create a bona fide gallery with a social vision. His aim was to bring about a dialectic of sorts within the gallery walls and the outside world. The result was an impressive tour-de-force which attempted to give various artists the ability to explore the emotional dimensions of their collective harrowing experiences. More significantly, in my opinion, the exhibit helped in engaging all participants (artists and audience alike) in an ongoing public discourse of critical issues.

It was that particular exploration of the meaning of memory and war which had attracted me in Castillo’s endeavor. Art, in any aspect of our daily lives, is a vital medium which consciously or not is a repository of our inner subjective human experience. In other words, whether in war or in peacetime, art – in whatever form – is intrinsic in the way we understand and process the world.

War Collage 1983 Life in Black and White: magazines fragments, rubber cement glue

War Collage 1983 8 Minutes Today: I called it so because I did it in only 8 minutes

As for me, mixed within the somber war images flashing on my computer screen, my mind was resplendent with parallel yet pleasant, almost peaceful, memories. Through the caffeinated fog which mimicked itself as my brain, I was transposed to the summer of 1982 where I used to sit and create paper collages by candlelight (yes, by candlelight – since all electrical power stations were bombed into oblivion). Although we had no electricity nor running water, no hope for a better tomorrow, let alone surviving another day, there I sat. In my bedroom, on my bed, with the atrocious whistling of exploding bombs over my head, there I sat. I sat with my French Marie-Claire fashion magazines spread out on the floor, scissors in hand, and a half-empty jar of rubber cement next to me, cutting, tearing, and pasting images upon images. In the building stairwell –turned into an ad hoc shelter – I sat. Huddled next to my younger sister Rima, praying that the hundreds of 3,000lb-bombs hurled from the monstrous F-16 jets would somehow miss our family, there I sat, clutching my tattered magazines. I sat in the bomb shelters, next to crying babies and weeping mothers. I sat and I cut. I sat and I pasted. I sat and I dreamt. I cut images, shapes, colors of vibrant red and azure blue as if I wanted them etched in my memory for fear that I would never see them again.

Collage was my medium of choice. I had dabbled in it when I was six or seven years old, cutting though a very valuable gilded Persian manuscript in my father’s library of art books. If memory serves me right, my curiosity about collage was peeked, although my young ego was bruised because my parents were more concerned about some old book than my own artistic expression. Since that time, I have always had an affinity for paper collages. Its versatility and unrestricted nature suited my impatient temperament. Collage was fun and led me to unexpected journeys. As contemporary collagist Susan Krieg likes to describe it, collage is an organic form of art:” Every time you add something new to a collage, it reassembles itself and responds back;” collage is “a conversation between the artist and art.” Conversing with my collages, I felt empowered and alive…even if it meant surviving only for the next few minutes until the next round of bombing.

Long after the war ended, and decades after my “Persian experiment”, I am still creating collages, almost every day. I create because I am moved to do so. I was never formally trained as an artist. I do not think of myself as one. I am guided by my artwork, I do not guide it. My collages are ephemeral memories of a time and place in my life. It does not matter what I create. What matters is to simply create.

My art is not necessarily ennobled by lofty ideas nor does it pretend to be a medium of social change. My art just is. It is art (with a lowercase “a”) which guides my life vision. I do not think about my art. I just create. Just as German philosopher Martin Heidegger spoke of “dasein” as existence, or as being in the moment, I think that art – in whatever shape or form-- is very much necessary for the temporal coherence of being and doing.

To exist is to create. I create art. I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones.

Meanwhile At the Art Gallery (Art explorations with wee ones)

I love taking my children to various art venues – their favourites, of course, being any outdoor exhibition of the arts-and-crafts kind. They’re a lot less excited and a lot less well behaved when they’re subjected to formal settings like art galleries, where my hushed mantra is usually “no, you can’t touch this”.
A while ago, I took them to see the works of an interesting sculptor, Andrew Benyei, which were being shown at a tiny local gallery. It promised to be interesting, at least for me: an exhibition of contemporary sculpture that was described as an exploration of the human condition, through several tableaux from everyday life (or maybe just the everyday lives of working stiffs).
My children didn’t care much about the existentialist queries posed by these affecting, sometimes poignant compositions. But they were captivated by the seeming playfulness of the miniature people in “funny” situations – this was the first time they had seen such colourful sculptures in such a serious setting.
My two girls stood in awe in front of a large panel, where various figures, men and women, looking quite anxious in their business attire, were scattered among several ladders. “Look, mama”, my six-year said in wonder, “this is snakes and ladders with real people!” – and, not surprisingly, the piece was entitled “Snakes and Ladders”.
Another piece depicting the all-too familiar (c)rush of busy elevators prompted squeals of recognition from my youngest one, who had seen a picture of it on my computer when I was searching for information on the exhibit (“Look, mama, they’re still smooshed together!”).
The children loved exploring the rest of the gallery, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the “bootiful” paintings from the permanent collection.
It turned out to be quite enjoyable for an “educational” outing – the gallery was small, fairly empty on a weekday, and the tour took a relatively short time. A perfect activity for that lazy summer afternoon: Not too drawn out, so the children didn’t have time to complain, no waiting in line to get in and rich enough in new visual experiences that I felt it was worth the “are-we-there-yet” car trip.
So there you have it: if you choose the right destination, even preschoolers can enjoy a truly esthetic experience. Ice-cream cones for a treat afterwards help too