“Artissima Transitiona” I

“Artissima Transitiona” I

Three years ago, for a number of reasons. my husband and I moved to Los Angeles…Santa Monica to be exact.   Since that time, I  have become involved with the making, study and teaching of artist’s books. I teach bookmaking around Santa Monica and LA County, and am continuously  evolving my own expression of this unique art form. Bookmaking, creating handmade books, unique books, artist’s books, and the book arts overlap as activities. In essence, they employ the form of The Book as an expressive vehicle.

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I have been the principal of my own decorative painting company, ArtiFactory Studio, for many years, primarily in San Francisco, where I resided, also for many years. In this post, I begin to share how I am finding ways to put these two forms together, one, bookmaking, often associated with the small-scale and intimate, and the other, decorative painting, often large-scale, which includes mural painting, glazing, faux finishing, gilding, and a myriad of other ways of “treating” the built environment, IE, the environment created by us humans as the setting for our activities.

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I hope to approach this subject in a series of posts, each showing a slice of what I am doing, and hope to do. I am fascinated with notions of scale, with materials, texture, space and design, as well as with the expressive, provocative,  and multidisciplinary nature of handmade books. In this post,  I will share how I brought techniques and notions specific to the field of decorative painting to the form of The Book in my own work. This process has been part of a greater transition in my life, work, business and career on all fronts.  Hence the post’s title” Artissima Transitiona“. The transition continues…

WEBa1Gilding, or the act of adhering metallic leaf over a surface adds a bit of bling, depth and dimension to an already complex surface on this handmade book cover. The gold rectangle also provides a focal point for the eye to rest on, adding order, focus and coherence to the piece. A piece of board was gilded, then added to the surface collage.

web1Texture can be a huge part of decorative painting. The artist manipulates glazes, paints and other materials over a surface to create both visual and physical texture. Here crumpled tissue paper is adhered to the surface in layers, giving it a satisfying texture, variation of color, and contrast to the look, and feel of the other materials used, which include cloth, hemp cord, beads and paper media.

WEB2The covers of this book are made of boards that have been dragged or “Striéd“, a technique by which paint or glaze is applied to a surface, and a large stiff brush is used to drag through it while it is still wet, leaving a up and down stripe-like pattern/texture.

WEB4Here a “brown paper bag” feeling is created by using humble brown wrapping paper (and bags) to create an earthy  texture on the surface of this book’s covers. Individual pieces of hemp cord are used for the binding, adding to the homespun simplicity and feel.

WEB5This book is created from boards that were originally painted with metallic paint and glaze samples for a client. I loved how these samples looked together, and added the rust, iron and verdigris sample pieces above them.  The rest of the book is made of paper with plant material flowing through it.  It  is bound with linen thread in a  single signature  (gathering of folded pages).

WEBaFinally, here is a book with an accordion spine; a “found” spine…meaning that I happened upon a design brochure, and its size, weight and color worked perfectly the book I developed. The covers are made of paper that has been textured, painted and glazed, then glued onto boards. The contrasting “edge design” is created by the addition of another painted and glazed decorative painting sample, glued on the open edge, then folded over, and glued onto the inside of each cover, giving it more stability, integrity, and visual interest.

I hope you will join me as I journey through this time of creative transition, exploration, and discovery. Although the waters feel uncharted, there are plenty of inspirational and provocative artists, makers and craftspeople to help light the way.  Here’s to diving in!

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Some Kind of Wonderful

Some Kind of Wonderful

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It is wonderful fun to create these “Artissima Lumens

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These (plastic!)  light switch plates become tiny canvasses, ready for adornment (including the tiny metal screws).

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Each one is carefully sanded, primed and base painted with waterborne paint.

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The surface is then ‘textured” with semi-transparent, waterborne glaze.

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The glaze is manipulated over the dry,  base painted surface with tools such as sponges, rags and specialty brushes.

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Because the glaze is semi-sheer, the base paint shows through, but as an altered hue, with added depth and complexity.

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When dry, the glaze treatment provides an evocative  surface to paint, stencil, stamp and further embellish on.

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Next, pattern, imagery more texture and color are added, often with stencils artfully arranged.

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Finally, the whole surface is varnished, sealed with a clear coat of acrylic (again, waterborne), to add sheen and durability.

Some kind of wonderful experience…this process, and the satisfaction in creating “Artissima Lumens“!

“As the Color Turns: Considering the Color Wheel”

The full version of this article, as well as much, much more of interest to the decorative painter, and artists, entrepreneurs, and business folk of all stripes can be found in Cre8tive Compass Magazine, helmed by the inimitable Rebecca E. Parsons, artist, blogger, teacher, and creative entrepreneur extraordinaire.

As the Color Turns: Considering the Color Wheel

As decorative painters, artists, and artisans, color is one of the building blocks of what we do. We are making color decisions each and every time we paint, glaze, gild, plaster, and mix and match materials. Color plays a key role in texture, pattern, imagery, and sensibility, the tools of our trade. Consideration of the color wheel, whether it be before, during, or after we have designed, sampled and applied a treatment can yield revealing, surprising, and even fascinating findings about ourselves, our clients and customers, and the environments in which we work.

Primary Colors: Here’s to the Red,  Yellow, and Blue

The primary colors of red, yellow and blue, the components of all other hues, (excluding black and white), in the world of paint, are dynamic when placed next to each other.  Although the renditions of each may not be “pure” in the strict sense, this triad captures our attention, and draws us into a space that feels clearly defined.  As in the entryway pictured above, the blue may be textured, the red a metallic copper paint, and the yellow a multicolored glaze, but the effect is still that of three independent  hues working in dynamic harmony. The result is that of layers of color which set each other off, which draw the eye  from room to room.

Complementary Colors: The Attraction of Opposites


Complementary colors subdue one another when mixed, and, conversely, intensify one another when juxtaposed.” says Christine Pittel, in “Color and Light Luminous Atmospheres for Painted Rooms” by Donald Kauffman and Taffy Dahl. (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. c. 1999)  The complementary duos of blue and orange, green and red, or purple and yellow, (opposite each other on the color wheel) will create vibrancy and drama, drawing attention to any space they clothe. Here several glazes in each of the two hues are manipulated over a lighter  base coat in the same color family. The combination of glazes lends depth and complexity to the surface. Juxtaposing complements creates an instant color “pop”, which can be fun, powerful, and theatrical focal point.

Analogous Colors: Hue on Hue: Energetic Intensity


Blending analogous colors (those adjacent to each other on the color wheel) across a surface can produce an energetic, yet harmonious effect. The colors work well together because they are closely related, and their combination creates  interest. An added benefit to the decorative painter is the ability to integrate glazes more seamlessly together:  being  unified by color; they are easier to blend. Keeping the base coat and glaze colors analogous will cover up a multitude of glazing issues such as seams and joins created by the overlap of wet onto drying glaze. The closer a base coat color is in hue, intensity and value to the glazes being used over it, the easier it will be for us to control the effects we wish to create.

Neutrals: Tone on Tone: Subtle Harmony


“Tone on tone” neutrals create a sense of peace, calm, and soothing harmony.  However, is any color really “neutral”?  Creams, beiges, taupes, grays and ivories actually have significant undertones of color which define them, and thus the effect they create in combination with other “neutrals”. Combining soft colors interrelated in hue and value (tone on tone) needn’t be monochromatic (based on just one hue). Their combination can also be complex, and very satisfying, offering a sense of richness and comfort. When manipulating multiple glazes over a base coat, one way to ensure integration of all colors involved is to make a glaze out of the base coat color, and use it as part of the scheme. This will create an immediate tie-in of the base coat to the glaze colors, and enable easier blending of the glazes over the surface.

Color is a powerful tool, and when we understand how the color wheel works, we can employ it to our advantage in designing and executing  finishes, applications and treatments. In addition, our color knowledge can inform how we plan, mix and manipulate our materials enabling us greater mastery and control over our processes. As we enter more deeply into the resonant world of color, we can use its magic to enhance, beautify, communicate about and transform our world, one space at a time.

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