Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year!

 A wonderful New Year is wished for all. I wanted to share some simple and not so simple decorations in my tiny apartment. Above, a small sparkly bouquet of silk holly and poinsettias, a swirly mask, and a wooden sentiment, candles in stone in glass containers. A bit of sparkle and shine. The handmade and embroidered table cloth was actually a find in a "junk shop" in Indiana. Creamy white with taupe stitching, the piece is very elegant without being too lacy or frilly. The "vase" for the "flowers" is actually a bamboo shaped clay tea cup from my trip to Japan in the 90's.
 This banner is a labor of love. I used my Cricut Expression and several cartridges to make the tags and letters. Lots of Bazzill shiny metallic cardstock in black, pewter, gold and copper. I cut the top most layer of speckled "muslin" cardstock and using browns, tans, and gray inks, stamped every clock face stamp I had. There is a polka dotted swirl stamp in brown under the letters (cut from metallic purple cardstock) that was accented with rhinestones and Ranger's Distress glitter glue. TIP: the rhinestones were clear, but a dab of Ranger's Rust and Golden alcohol inks made a great match. Ribbon scraps of silk, and velvet tie the tags together. A final touch were Tim Holtz gears and brads in copper, pewter and antique gold.

Oh, the "mobile" underneath the tag banner is Memory Glass, Memory frames filled with stamped transparency, "crystal" look plastic beads, waxed thread and a bamboo skewer. I forgot to take it down before taking the photo.
My holiday plans this week were modified at the last moment by the death of a family member of my boyfriend. So while he was away, I made this simple ripple afghan in my New Year's holiday colors of Muslin, Chocolate, light Grey and deep Indigo Blue.

Last thing to make is Photo Booth Fun 'Staches and Glasses, Lips for New Years fun photos. These are popular on Etsy and simple die cuts adhered to bamboo skewers to hold up in front of your face. I'm also going to make and decorate some tiaras and bow ties to go as well. Some champagne glass cutouts and noise maker cutouts would be fun too.

 I have many hopes for the New Year, and I wish all of you a Happy and Blessed 2012. - Anna Banana Justice

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Holidays - last minute details

Above is an easy and quick ornament gift for a couple close friends of mine. A simple to construct pyramid box of green cardstock, stamped, filled with candies (or any small items), tied and embellished.

To create this box you'll need cardstock, swirl or flourish stamp, versamark watermark ink pad, gold interference pigment, brush, misc. paper flowers and leaves, velvet ribbon, metallic cord, rhinestones, glue dots.

I created the box by drawing out on graph paper a simple pyramid box, 2.5 x 2.5 inch square bottom, and each side is 3 inches tall. I added a .25 inch tab to each side of the four sides of the box. Punched holes in the apex of each triangle and scored my fold lines.

I stamped with my watermark pad the flourish on each side and brushed the ink with the pigment powder. The interference colors look white in the jar, but shine brilliant gold, better than any gold ink. You could also heat emboss with gold embossing powder. I then threaded cord thru the holes to pull the sides up and close the box. You can put small candies, lipgloss, etc. in the box.

With glue dots, I added flowers, leaves and a ribbon bow. NOTE: I had clear rhinestones, so I temporarily adhered them to masking tape and used a golden yellow alcohol ink to color them a light amber color. This works for any alcohol ink color and you only need to store one color (clear) of rhinestones. A nice budget friendly and storage friendly embellishment.

I want to wish everyone a beautiful and creative holiday. When we make a gift, we also give a piece of ourselves.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Photography: The Art of Artifice

     I don't have a craft post today, but it IS related to what I do. I am a photographer, and the majority of my work is portraiture (families, teens, children, even some actors and fellow artists).
     Here is a link to a young woman recently featured on television. The young lady suffers from severe acne. The short video shows how she artfully applies makeup to hide the scars and blemishes to create a flawless face and then is able to model professionally. It is a simple How-To, but it touched me greatly.

    So, WHY am I pasting it here on a blog about crafting and art? Because, it reminds me that modern photography has changed. But the view of photographs and video has not. There are thousands of websites devoted to exposing the "evils" of Photoshop. Models shaved down to wasp waists, extreme lithe limbs and skin to rival the backside of any newborn.
    People complain that it sets unrealistic standards of beauty and injures the self esteem of developing teens and young adults. I say this is a societal excuse to remain uneducated about an art form that has developed beyond it's scientific birth.
   I've also been watching perhaps too many period pieces on Netflix, and enjoyed my art history classes a bit too much. (Alas, my college did not offer a Art History degree...). This exposure to ancient and contemporary art, be it painting or sculpture also taught me the art of artifice. No matter how realistic a painting or sculpture may be, not a single one was True. Even the Roman emperors in a time when artists worked hard to depict every flaw, every sinew, bulging vein and muscle - had their images "edited" to create the Image they wished to project. Active follicles were added to hairlines, the invention of the six-pack ab, even manicured toes and better teeth. Renaissance masters perked up breasts, whittled waists and bleached the skin of Royalty. Gray hairs were corrected with a simple paintbrush, and other flaws were simply omitted from the Official State Portraiture.
    A recent special on the History Channel exposed the vanities of our First President. His white wig, shapely calves and even stature were enhanced as part of official PR. The real man more closely resembled a war ravaged and scarred Soprano brother, than the angelic statesman perched atop pedestals that decorate my neighboring city in DC.
    Photography has moved into the Digital Age. Images are a file composed of edited Pixels, dots of electronic paint. I have a tablet and stylus and with the flick of my wrist I am able to create a mark or remove one. I am painting. I may "sketch" with my camera, the sensor picks up the basic shape, signal of the object in front of it, but even the RAW file is not the finished image. The computer itself will interpret what the data says - and converts the 3D object and renders on screen a 2D image. Often straight and plum items develop an angle, lights that looked white suddenly become orange or yellow. My "sketch" does not look like the thing which I took a photograph of.
     I change the white balance, I correct distortion. I remove a blemish, but try to leave the freckles sprinkled across the nose. I remove a stray hair, soften a line on the face that the shadows and flash made more obvious. I have already removed the photograph from its original.
     Even before I pushed the shutter, artifice was at work. The "black velvet drape" is actually cheap black fleece blanket material. The flowers are silk, the vase looks like bronze but is really cheap plaster. I raised the lights to shadow a soft belly, raised a hand to diminish a bit of loose skin at the neck, hid the other to hide a bandage on a finger. Rotated the shoulder to make the subject look slimmer. Stood on a ladder so the perspective will make the head larger, the body smaller in proportion.
    Even my subject has used artifice. She wore Spanx under her dress, she curled her naturally straight hair, or straightened her naturally curly hair. She is wearing lipstick to redden her lips, mascara to lengthen her lashes. She may even be faking her smile, appearing cheerful, when she is really sad.
     The image is True to the Person who created it or wished its creation. Because when we wish a photograph to be made, especially a portrait, what we really want is the Magic, the Illusion. To see reflected in the frame the image we carry in our own head of who and what we are. When we accept that the image is not scientific, but artful, then we learn to accept that other images are artful as well.
     Our self esteem is not damaged by that image. Our self worth is not in that image. Our worth, our value is in what that image stands for. When we expect others to be that image then we put on them an unrealistic expectation. When we say that because they don't look like the image that they are flawed, then we have put the blame on the wrong end. We have forgotten that true beauty is an internal thing, that the image tries only to make manifest and show that beauty in a flawed way. No artist, no matter how skillful, can show or render a Soul onto a lifeless material.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Altered Domino Set with Carved Box

The Holidays have a tradition of handmade gifts. I made this set of altered dominoes for my boyfriend and I'm very happy with how they came out.
My boyfriend and I love to play "analog" games - from Cribbage to "Bones". After seeing a bracelet I had made with altered dominoes as charms (very tiny ones) - he was intrigued by what he thought were imported tiles. So, I took a cigar box that had been in my craft stash and a set of "double 6" tiles and with stamps and a lot of work, created a one of a kind set to entertain ourselves with.
First the Box:
I first painted the box with a mixture of sienna, umber and red acrylic craft paints. The box was plain pine, and I wanted the look of lacquer. I then took a Ranger Paint Dauber in metallic gold and brushed the surfaces of the box with gold. The top has a second layer in a cross hatch pattern. I let this dry over night. I had a large bamboo stamp (from Plaid) that I stamped on the box with black Stazon. I then took my gouges and etching tools to remove all the stamped image. It isn't very deep, just to the raw wood.
With Twinkling H2Os, I brushed in light blue and light green into the exposed wood and let dry. The "antique coin" is from Tsukineko and is adhered with burgundy faux sealing wax (actually a colored glue stick). I then sealed the outside with a light coat of Kumar Varnish for a shiny but NOT high gloss finish. The Varnish seals the watercolors and brings up the colors, the box really does look like it is lacquer.

 The inside of the box is lined with suede paper. You could use fabric or felt. The suede paper reminds me of jewelry boxes and silver boxes. Small cork dots on the bottom make sure the box sits level and stable on the table surface.
 The dominoes inside were altered with rubber stamps I have collected over a period of several years. I used Versacolor pigment inks in Sand, Oasis, Black and metallic gold. The key is to make sure you place the stamps in the same place on each domino, or after a few rounds you will be able to "mark" the tiles and they will be no good in actual play. The design is a base of green bamboo, over stamped with a Japanese paper lantern, then Japanese script (don't worry, the lettering is far too small to be able to read), lastly a solid gold fan stamped on top. I heat set each image before stamping the next.
I did give them each a coat of workable fixative and then a nice soft light coat of Kumar Varnish to seal. I've done this for brooches and pins made from gaming tiles and this is quite durable.
If you are worried about stamping each tile exactly the same, you could design and adhere a Lazertran decal. Or stamp tissue and decoupage to the backs.

My favorite part was the idea to stamp and then carve the box lid. The box was very inexpensive, but the carving really made it more than just a container for the dominoes, it is really a nice display piece. I have plans to try a similar idea on other plain wooden items such as cigar box purses, jewelry boxes or other wooden containers.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Centering Template for Cutting Shapes from Digi Stamps on Cricut

I was dealing with the challenge of positioning digi-stamp images when I came up with this solution.

I like to create cards and more with my cutting machine. I have a Cricut Expression and it allows for centering an image inside a shape. But what if I have several images on one sheet of cardstock? I would have to pre-trim items and centering exactly often required several trial and errors. So I developed this Centering Template - it also allows me to quickly and easily measure images so I can also be sure the image will fit inside the shape, as well as perfectly centered.

I've given the tutorial here as a set of images. Just click on the image to enlarge for directions.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Digi-stamps and Scrap Art Coming Soon!

A long time ago, before college and a lot of other major life changes...I designed art rubber stamps. I designed for several stamp companies, and was a published crafts designer and artist. Anna Banana Justice from West Virginia.

When I designed stamps and crafts projects, my greatest thrill was in seeing others use my images or ideas to create their own artwork. I kept the pages of published cards and more created by others using images I had created. Thank you notes and gifts from fans of my illustrations. I love creating artwork, but most of all, I like sharing it.

While in college, I studied art, photography and graphic design. So, after graduation, I am going to apply all my skills and will be doing so through digi-stamps, a digital version of a rubber stamp! But not just images to print and color, you will see image sets, as well as digital scrapbook supplies. Images will be available for download via email, as well as bundled on CD.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Crafting and Decorating

The top photo is a Faux Japanese silk screen I created for my apartment's living room. I believe decorating should not require a huge bank account. Also, the fact I made this myself, not only do I have a sense of pride, but it is more than just a decorative piece, it is a piece of myself.

The screen started as three inexpensive pre-stretched canvas panels from a local bargain outlet store (hint: big orange punctuation mark in their signage) that cost $7 a piece. Other items required were craft paints (bought on sale at a chain store for 49 cents a bottle), foam and various craft brushes (variety pack for under $5), lots of masking tape, pencil, and some mending plates.

The background was created by mixing a pearlescent glaze in white, copper and a bright metallic gold paint. The canvases already had a coat of gesso. I used a large chip brush (2 in wide) and applied layers of glaze mixture going in vertical and then horizontal strokes. This gave the effect of raw silk.

I then masked the edges and painted them flat black to mimic the lacquer frames on authentic Japanese silk screens. (Note: traditional screens are even numbers and silk painted and stretched on lacquered wood frames). I used a pencil and ruler to create the bamboo - I used to have this variety in my backyard and took the colors and form from the photos I took.

A dry brush technique is easy to master and gives the bamboo it's dimension. A bit of bright crimson gives my initials a calligraphy look. A couple coats of satin varnish and a thin line of gold leafing pen on the edges finish off the piece.

The key to this is project is simplicity. Bamboo signifies long life, strength and growth.

Not everyone is confident with handpainting. This look could be duplicated by using stencils or projecting an image and tracing.

I don't just paint, sometimes a simple accent finishes a room. The second image is a set of vinyl wall cutouts I made using my Cricut machine and a couple cartridges. My bedroom is decorated in a very romantic style, hints of Paris here and there.

It is an apartment and the lighting is very utilitarian, and I am limited on the number of "holes" that can go in a wall. The vinyl removes very cleanly, so my security deposit is safe. I wanted an old world feel, so I made a shield shape and applied my monogram over the top. The fixture shape falls right where the light hits the wall.

This project took less than a hour to complete. I hope these two projects have inspired you.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween - still life and assemblage

The still life was for a photography class on lighting. It was done as a bit of fun for the instructor.
The second is the interior of an assemblage / shadow box I created to decorate my home for halloween. I have a "thing" for Joseph Cornell's assemblage pieces.
There is a new shadow box piece for this year, it needs only the photos printed and added to be complete.

New Blog, another New Adventure

I've been absent from the crafting community that birthed me as an artist for quite some time. Yet, echoes still filter through every now and then. I realize that my work and my former nom de plume still float in the web-verse and are remembered by many. I find I'm picking up those forgotten threads, viewing them with new eyes, and new ideas, a new mindset and a new life.

I am the artist formerly known as Anna Banana Stamps. I designed stamps for several companies, even my own for a very brief time, sadly some of those companies no longer exist. I was published in all the popular rubber stamping/ paper crafting magazines and sadly some of those are no longer in print. I still have the stamp sets (mostly), the samples and tear sheets. I am ashamed to admit, much of it gathers dust in a box under a bed or in the back of a closet. I have albums of ATCs I traded, and scrapbooks of travels and memories. Boxes, frames, scrapbooks and more of art, photography...

I sold supplies and held classes and workshops in my own home. From there I went to work in a scrapbook retail store, a boutique that was shut down in 2007, after I started classes at college. I finished my degree - working in various portrait studios and even as a traveling portrait photographer. For a brief time, I worked as an image editor / photographer for an online retail store. While in school, my art became a class assignment or quick holiday cards and gifts for loved ones. Its circle shrank for a while. I even thought of putting it away altogether.

I had many life changes besides earning my Bachelors degree at 42. My two sons grew up and left the nest, and a difficult marriage ended. I met a wonderful man who brightens my world unlike any other. Some relationships and friendships ended, others were reconciled, and new ones cherished.

Life isn't so much a circle as a spiral, things may look similar, but are different problems or blessings to be reconciled.

I started selling, designing and submitting my art following a serious car accident, while I dealt with some serious health issues. 5 dark years were followed by 5 wonderful, bright years. A recent accident has posed a challenge, but I have conquered it once, I have faith I will again. And what will get me through? Art of course. Art for arts sake.