Glass Pebble Magnets

I learned how to do this really neat little project from a visit to the Work*Shop in Austin a couple of years ago.

These adorable glass magnets make great little gifts, original kitchen or office magnets - as well as a terrific craft for an older child, a teenager or a real grown-up like me. If you do take the time to do it properly, these may be the most satisfying fifteen minutes you spend on an artsy-fartsy craft and end up with a really unique-looking creation, one that finally answers the elusive search for form and function.

What you need:
- Transparent glass pebbles with a flat back, the kind you find in the flower arrangement section of your local art/craft supply store. Try to choose the clearest ones you can, you should be able to see your chosen design underneath. It's okay if the pebble shows a little bit of a moiré effect as they often do, it may even add to the charm of the finished piece. You can use different sizes, but it's easier to work with the larger ones.
- Small scale images, anything that strikes your fancy, as long as it fits inside the pebble's diameter and can handle a glop of glue - images from wall calendars work very well. When choosing your image, remember that the glass pebble has a slightly magnifying effect.
- Mod Podge, or other strong glue that works with glass and dries out clear
- Strong magnets, slightly smaller than the pebble you're working with.
- Scissors

How to:
Trim the image you chose to the size of the glass pebble. Don't worry too much about exact borders, you can always trim later (See last picture).
Put a drop of glue on the image, and press very firmly to the glass pebble to adhere - make sure to smooth out the bubbles. Let dry (remember to clean up the mess from the glass while still wet - it won't ever come out otherwise and you'll just have a dull piece of glass to show for it).
Trim the image if necessary (always the case with me), but only after the glue has dried - trust me, you don't want to glue your scissors permanently shut.
Make sure the back of the pebble is dry enough and the picture will not move before glueing on the magnet. Let that dry for a couple of days before using. That's it!


Tadaaaa! Papiers Collés is here

Finally here! Neda has finally started her own blog where there will be guaranteed creative fireworks! She's calling it Papiers Collés and I can't wait to see what she has in store for us. If you've enjoyed reading her stuff and looking at her work here - and I know a whole lot of you have - then go, run, fly and bookmark her blogsite right now. Then come back and thank me for making her do it (and helping a bit).


Art, Altered

The latest vogue of altered art is definitely a result of the immense popularity of crafty pastimes like decoupage and scrapbooking, and things like shadow boxes and easily available crafting supplies. Although certainly not a “fine art” pursuit (to me, ok?), altered art creations are a fun way to let loose with three-dimensional objects as well as two-dimensional ones. And a lot of glue.

(In A Nutshell - N. Doany©2003)

I prefer the term assemblage to the dreadful, misleading “altered-art” label. Besides having a more genteel meaning, it is also a more accurate description of what a good artwork made in this style really is. (Or as a catty critic might say, perhaps “altered art” should only be applied to those ubiquitous, mostly icky, kinda creepy creations that are like a child yelling curse words to grab our attention. Can’t show any pictures of those, ‘cause I don’t own any – but you know what I mean, you’ve probably seen too many of them, eagerly made by misguided crafters with more fondness for in-your-face showiness than artistic finesse.)

But that's neither here nor there. So for your viewing pleasure, these are two very lovely examples of assemblage, both made by two equally lovely ladies: my sister (a couple of years ago) and my daughter (when she was 4 years old).

(My Pink Shoe - Y. Barrage©2004)
Stay tuned for a post about ideas on how to make your own assemblage artwork.


Tempests In A Teacup

(Tempête sur ma ville - W.Beydoun©2003)

Every few months or so, fate decides to bitch-slap us around just to remind us how blessed we really are.


Moi, Plein-Air?

Yesterday was the very first day of spring here. Late according to my calendar, but the temperature finally hit above 20˚C and hubby insisted on dragging the lot of us to a nearby nature preserve. Not that we minded really, the girls were ready for an outdoorsy kind of day, especially with the prospect of bird-watching, snake ferreting (ha! like that was ever going to happen with me around) and most importantly - plein-air painting, hubby's obsess... favourite pastime.

So here we were at the end of the afternoon, baking in the blinding light at the park, when I found myself with no option but to join everyone else in, gasp... painting outdoors. Unlike the rest of my brood, furiously engaged in this captivating activity, I found nothing inspiring in the still-denuded, dusty brown landscape around us - until my heart melted at the site of these two lovely creatures totally engrossed in creating their masterpieces.

Of course, I only had about 45 seconds for each sketch before I had to answer calls for "more water, please, can I have some juice? where's my sandwich, mommy? when do we go to the other park? I'm done, I'm hot, oww there's a buuuugggg on my paaaapeeerrr"...


Working Hard For My Artists

I've been updating my Maraya Galleries website with new works by Fawzan and adding new pages, some of which are already up and running. Here's one of Fawzan's fave watercolours (mine too):

(Lemon Tea - F.Barrage©2006)


More On Ornamental Art

(Flower Power -Léon©2005)
Here's an update on a recent post about Léon, a young jewelry designer. He can be reached at the following international number: 961-3-311964. However, I'd like to point out that Léon's best spoken languages are French, Armenian and Arabic; if you'd like to communicate with him or place an order in English, you can contact him through Maraya Galleries at customerservice@marayagalleries.com.
(Southern Rose -Léon©2005)


Colour Outside The Lines

Sometimes, the best intentions do end up leading the unsuspecting to that proverbial hot place. When my oldest was around 4 years old, I had her enrolled in one of those (famous name) preschools that falls on the more corseted end of the “by-the-book” spectrum.
My best intention of course was to provide her with a good start in her educational life – somewhere where her obvious genius could be harnessed and directed to productive ends (her mother had been ignominously stamped with the “could do better” tag on every single report card throughout her schooling – and beyond). Besides, this was exactly the kind of formal, humourless setting I had grown up in (hello, Collège Protestant Français de Jeunes Filles) and thought it was hence the best choice for my own daughter.
But then, I also signed her up for the extra-curricular “art class” taught by one of the teachers there. Now, mind you, the teachers at that school were absolutely well-meaning, and this one was intent on doing in this classes the same thing she did in her other classes: make sure her young charges could follow direction well and produce a disciplined result. In a nutshell, this is what the class was about: “Here is a yellow triangle, a red circle and a green square. Colour your triangle, circle and square the same way, and make sure you’re staying inside the lines”. See, that’s well-meaning, but completely misguided.
Reigning in a child’s attention in class to help her focus on completing the task at hand is a necessary part of formal schooling (although I came to realize belatedly a not extraordinarily helpful one at the kindergarten level). But reigning in a child’s imagination serves no purpose – no useful purpose that is.
So many adults complain that “they can’t draw/paint/colour” – I suspect it’s because someone, somewhere early on made sure they knew to colour inside the lines and to reproduce the exact model they were expected to copy. And stick to the same guidelines to govern the rest of their lives as well.
Today, my other daughter is enrolled in a cooperative preschool, where the teachers intuitively, implicitly, complicitly understand the value of a free hand – give the children the tools, a little guidance and let them explore.
Now, that’s a life lesson I want to live by.


Ornamental Art

(Circle of life pendants - Léon©2007)

A mutual friend introduced me to Léon’s work. Léon is a jeweler and a craftsman who lives in Lebanon. He fashions these retro-looking chunky jewelry out of stainless steel, silver and gold. They reminded me so much of a flower-child sensibility, that I gave them these names and others, like Moon Hoop and Magic Circle.

They are extremely reasonably priced for artist-designed, hand-made jewelry (a lot of these pieces range between 25 and 50 dollars US for stainless steel). Léon works on commission as well. I’ll update this space with contact information and to show more pictures.

(Willow, Cosmos - Léon©2007)


Water on the go

This terrific idea was given by Barry Lindley

It's hard to find a suitable water container for outdoor watercolour sketching . Most commercially available containers either have to be placed on a flat surface, or be hung from an easel. If you are outdoors and can't find a flat surface or a place to hang your water container, you're out of luck. You have to balance your container somewhere close by to your work surface - and often-times disasters follow.

Necessity being the mother of invention, Barry Lindley came up with this great contraption while sharing a few ideas in the FA-Watercolour group:

By affixing a small, round magnet to the bottom of a transparent 35mm film canister, you can create your own portable water container. The magnet allows you to place the canister securely on the face of a metal watercolour box. While you may tip the canister and spill the water yourself, it is unlikely that the canister will fall of its own accord.

I tried this nifty gizmo with a lot of success. I recycled an old fridge magnet, glued it to the bottom of a Fuji canister with superglue and took it for a test drive. It worked great. I actually made two of them - one for cleaning the brushes, and another for fresh water for colours (first picture above). Thank you, Barry, for a great idea!


Catchy Kitsch

How do you like my little vintage domestic diva? It's one of those treasures you find at the Austin "keep-it-weird" City-Wide Garage Sale.

Somehow, I am compelled to find alternative uses for household items (especially if the object announces its function on the front, 1966 Dava ceramic above) - like the recycled plant pot with a great platinum-gold patina for Yasmine's pencils...
I never think of blooms when I find a pretty pot - being the one with the brown thumbs in this house - so I use them for brushes, pencils, kitchen utensils, combs and hairbrushes...


We're Such A Punny Bunch

Well, three days into this migraine-induced haze, this is all I could come up with – a post explaining the name of this here blog. (Hmmm, still in the realm of “what does it all mean…”. Bizarre, bizarre, as Louis Jouvet would have said).

So, why MaraZine? Well, this blog does have pretensions to be an online magazine of sorts. But what about the Mara part? Oh, so glad you asked – MaraZine evolved from our online art gallery,
Maraya Galleries, thus named by taking the first syllables of our collective brood’s names and coming up with this lovely, musical monicker that means “mirrors” in Arabic. I later found out that there is an actual calligraphic style called Maraya, or mirror writing – even more appealing.
Since I love a good play on words (which someone once dismissed as a lazy person’s facile humour – absolutely correct and I am the queen of laziness, witness this lame-o post), I couldn’t resist “MaraZine” – you see, not only is it a clever reminder of Maraya (aha!), but Mara also means “woman”, or more accurately “broad”, in very colloquial Lebanese. Deliciously silly.

Let’s hope the fog lifts up soon and some creative juices start flowing again…


More Confessions - Meaning of Art Revisited

This comment from Neda on Fawzan’s first reply:
I fully agree with you: we need to rediscover the meaning of true creativity by steering away from ready-made one-size-fits-all "critical" thinking.

However, I would like you to clarify the position of the artist in all this. On the one hand, I would like my artwork to be fully experienced by the viewer and interpreted by him/her. On the other, I would like to still retain "my voice" in the matter.
(Mains - W.Beydoun©2005)

It is true, we are offering our art for the taking, but I am not sure if we are advocating complete "surrender" of authorship... Can you please elaborate?

This from Fawzan in response:
Hi Neda,
I have to be mindful in my responses that I am addressing a former professor of fine arts.Picasso once said: "A painting comes to me from afar; who knows how far; I divined it, I saw it, I did it, but even so , the next day, I cannot see what I have done myself. How can anyone penetrate my dreams, my instincts, my desires, my thoughts, which have taken so long to develop and to see the light of day, and comprehend what I have put into it, perhaps even against my will."

It is funny that a representational artist like Homer, and an abstract artist like Picasso should have both been compelled to express similar ideas about interpreting their art.
It seems to me that the position of the artist as creator is very much the bane of all creators. When an artist is satisfied that the art piece is finished, his/her work is done. The art piece itself contains within it the full scope of its meaning. His or her “voice” is in the work. Not beside it. Not a footnote to it.

It is very hard to let go of something that is invested with so much of us, but as Gibran Khalil Gibran says:
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you…”

The dialogue that ensues, is one, not between the artist and the viewer, but rather between the viewer and the art piece itself. For the artist, there is a painful reality: The minute viewers begin to interpret or define or explain the artwork, it is subject, in a non-mathematical way of course, to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. It is diminished, or to say it in a colloquial way, it looses so much in translation. If the artist could have said it in any better way or form, he/she would have. Once you put your brush down, or your violin or chisel or pen, you are done. You have transformed an idea, emotion, or thought into art. If you could do more, you would have. When you stop, it is because you have finished. It is because you are satisfied that your work can stand alone now. Let it.

This comment came from Debi at about the same time:
I'll play devil's advocate and speak for the "dummies" (it should be quite easy for me).I think sometimes when a person asks about art, they merely want to know more. True, it's likely they already have their opinion -- and even a beginning inkling of a meaning for them -- but maybe something is preventing them from "getting" it. Or maybe they want to "get" more of it. The heart is willing, but the mind falters.

For example, I'm thinking back to my college Art Appreciation days and Picasso's Guernica. Just seeing it I didn't get it. I felt things, but I was confused by what I felt, and why it was important. Of course, reading the back story on the piece, and even the title itself gave me the clues I needed to open myself up more to appreciation of the work.But some art defies even a simple explanation.

I feel that when I think of Miro, who's work simply delights me, and gives me great joy getting lost in the lines and dots and odd squigglies. I guess some art goes down to a subconscious level and thus wrangles wildly free from conventional explanation. No matter what kind of art, a Cliff Notes version (or even a snobby Art Critic essay) of understanding never plumbs the depth or is a substitute for the experience of any work.

Your point is well-taken, Fawzan, it comes down to viewing it, and being bold and invested enough to allow your own feelings.

And me? I say - oooohh, goodie, let's have more of these discussions...


Scrapbooking is like Cooking*...(or why I suck at both)

(Blank Canvas - N. Doany©2004)
1. It looks easier when someone else is doing it
2. You need to be organized to do it
3. You need to follow specific instructions
4. You have to use the appropriate ingredients/materials
5. You have to use them in a specific way and order
6. You have to buy and learn how to use all the tools
7. You need to learn the proper terminology
8. You need to pretend to understand the proper terminology

9. If you mess up, you can’t go back and fix it
10. If you do try to fix it, it turns out worse
11. You have to be good with numbers
12. The result is not always what you hoped it would be
13. You can’t eat at least one of them (both, if it’s my cooking)
14. Somebody always has some comment about it
15. You have to pretend to like doing it
16. You have to be in the mood to do it
17. You have to follow safety measures
18. You really can’t be sloppy
19. You can take a class but it requires time/money/and true dedication
20. You can’t keep up with all websites/blogs on the subject
21. Both activities will negatively influence your girth
22. If you become good at it, you will let it rule your life
23. You could involve the kids and/or hubby, but at your own risk
24. And the worse part: you always end up with a big mess!

* With sincere apologies for all you great cooks and scrapbookers...

Reply to "Between You and Me"

Fawzan sent this to comment on Neda's last post, and I've decided that it needed to be posted here instead. Yaay, we've got ourselves a new discussion going - care to join in? - Rima

"I regret very much that I have painted a picture
that requires any description" - W. Homer

(This post by Fawzan)

Modern society seems to always be looking for the Cliffs-notes version of everything, with the "You-Name-It For Dummies" series leading the trend. We want our news in 20 minutes or less, our novels translated into 1 1/2 hr movies and someone else to tell us what art “means” to us. DVD versions of movies now come with a running commentary track where the director can tell you what he was thinking and what he was trying to do when he shot every scene.

As a society, we want to be spoon-fed all forms of art. We refuse to expand the effort to understand it and in the process we loose so much.

(Artwork by Fadi Barrage, 1940-1988)

When asked for a few descriptive lines about one of his paintings, Winslow Homer once said: "I regret very much that I have painted a picture that requires any description." Kind of says it all, doesn't it? An artist pours his/her soul into a work. He/She uses the language of colours or notes or texture and form to express/create something. Then someone looks at it and says: “I don't have time to try and understand your language, tell it to me in another language (mine)”.

Aside from the disappointing and almost insulting angle to the question "What does your art mean?", there is also a dangerous path taken as well. When people discuss art, be they renowned critics or average viewers, they are engaging in an interpretive discourse. At the end of the dialogue, they have convinced each other of their view-points or retained their disparate views.

It is this dynamic of the artwork transforming into an object to be “owned” by the viewer that is its true value. If an artist mistakenly weighs in to the dialogue, the dynamic dies. Once the artist tells the viewer what the art piece is about, why he created it, what he was trying to do and what it means, the viewer has no more interpretive engagement with the art. The viewer can either confirm the artist's statement, or disagree with it, but can you really tell someone: "No, that is not what you meant to do, I know better"?

I have often wondered, after the fact of course, what my response should have been to the question of “What does it mean?”. Next time, I’ll just have to say: “ I have no idea. Your guess is as good as mine."

http://artezan.blogspot.com/ http://fawatercolour.50g.com/


BETWEEN YOU AND ME: An artist’s confession

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for”
– D.W. Winnicott

"Hide and Seek" - N. Doany © 2007
(This post by Neda)
I am almost never at a loss for words, except in two particular situations. One is a daily occurrence: “What’s for dinner, Mom?” with the customary answer “I don’t know,” and the other is a little bit more problematic: “What does your art mean?.” Although I may have another answer to the former (“take-out”), the latter always puzzles me.

Is art an expression of our inner psyche? An expression of our feelings or a reflection of our environment? An abstract thought or just a reaction to some stimulus? A message to the world? An aesthetic exercise? DOES one’s art mean anything?

At first, the artist might say: “yes, my art means something to me.” The tricky part comes when someone asks you - the artist -what it means.
If you are like me, you might not think much when you are moved by the urge to create. I often start a piece without having any clue whatsoever where I will be going with it. Only when I am “finished” with my artwork, do I begin to grasp what it means to me. Consider the collage above, do you really need to know the “meaning” of it to appreciate it or dislike it? Will it help you “understand” it better if I called it “Hide and Seek?”

So here’s my answer to the often-heard question,“what does it mean?”: “What do you see?”

The self-contained idiosyncratic image in the artwork that I am sharing with you, the viewer, is like an opening sentence in a casual conversation. What I mean by it has no immediate relevance to your response to it. It is true, I did create the collage - but it is you who will find your own interpretation of “what” it is about. The meaning of any art piece comes to life through the person who is experiencing it at that precise moment: you.


Puff Away

Another rainy day idea (I don’t know why I’m stuck on these kinds of activities – must be the weather here). This one’s a big hit with my daughters and their friends – and of actual benefit when you’re trying to match socks to put away.

All you need are plain socks, the white cotton kind that you get in a multi-pack, some fabric paint in tubes, and patience (for the drying time). The tubes work best because you use the tips to draw the lines of your design and then fill in the colours. We like to use “puff” paint, the kind that puffs up when it dries, and glittery puff paint for details (princesses and tiaras are very big at our house these days).

Choose simple designs, like a stylized flower, or a smiley-face sun, or a stick figure – it takes a while for children to learn how to control the flow of the fabric paint, and it’s hard for little hands to do anything more complicated than that. For smaller ones, you can outline a very simple shape for them (circles of varying size, for example) and let them squeeze out a dot of paint in the center. They’ll get a kick out the way the paint puffs up when it dries.

Be prepared for a bit of mess – and for some other activity while you’re all waiting for your designs to dry. It’s best to leave the paint to dry overnight before wearing, but if there are no big globs of paint on the fabric, the little artists can admire their handiwork in a couple of hours, as long as they don’t try them on.


Faux Mosaic

(This post by Neda)

Garage sales can cure artist block. This is a well-kept secret. Take last Saturday for example. While I was driving to run some errands, I stopped by such an unexpected treasure trove. Among boxes and boxes of old Texas Monthly issues and Lady’s Home Journal, I stumbled upon a small wooden box. Intrigued, I opened it. In it, there were more than 40 pieces of an antique (well, at least a few decades old) child’s matching game of animal pairs. Each picture was glued unto a 1 ¾ “ x 1 ¾ “ wood square (that’s 4.5cm x 4.5cm for those of us who are partial to the metric system).

Although I am all for nostalgic sentimentality, I decided to buy the whole set (for a measly $1) and sacrifice it in the name of creativity. Rushing back home, I took 35 squares and laid them on my drafting table. I kept the remaining few in their original box in honor of the unknown child who played with them once.

Using acrylics, pastels, markers, and images from some of my earlier collages, I painted 35 different ideas on small pieces of cardstock. I coated each piece with Liquitex acrylic medium and varnish, and then played around with each piece, moving them across the board in a way that made visual sense to me. Having dabbled in real mosaics earlier, I knew what effect I wanted to achieve: an idiosyncratic yet harmonious creation.
"Mosaic" - by N. Doany © 2007
Once the varnish has completely dried off, I glued all the finished pieces unto a foam board which I then glued over a thick cardboard for good support (I used the same Liquitex medium for glue). Some of the squares did not really fit seamlessly together so I dabbed a little bit of light modeling paste with my fingers, making sure to fill in all the “cracks” between the pieces. I set the “mosaic” board aside to dry overnight.

The next day, I painted over the modeling paste (which by now was bone-dry) and added some touches of color here and there to give a unified look to the “mosaic” board. Finally, I sprayed the finished product with an acrylic sealer.


Is It Spring Yet? (Cocoa & Co's latest)

Back by popular demand! An update on Hala's scrumptious confections.
She just sent
me these
of her latest
display for Easter.
These cookies look like a breath of fresh air, a sure sign that spring is here - even though it doesn't look like it from my window...