Tag Archives: Art Teaching

Building A Book

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Building A Book

You may (or may not) have noticed the intermittent, yet ongoing, production from my studio. There was the fabric dyeing day, followed by multiple screen printing sessions using my old thermofax machine to burn screens. Now, I’m finally turning the printed and dyed fabric into blank journals and sketchbooks.

Steps showing sewing on tapes.

Top: The finished cover before the pages are attached. Bottom Left and Right: Shows what the in-process sewing looks like from the inside and the outside of the book.

The books have soft covers that I create by attaching the fabrics to Pellon Fuse-n-Shape, a thick, iron on interfacing that gives the covers some thickness without making them too thick. The binding is a variation of the coptic stitch and sewing over tapes. I like this binding because it leaves the spine exposed, and allows the visible stitches to become part of the aesthetics of the finished book. This binding is also sturdy and allows the book to lie completely flat when opened, a desirable quality when writing or drawing.

Orange Cat Book

Hand-dyed fabric with thermofax screen image, exposed-spine sewing on decorative cotton strips. Book is bound with waxed linen.

I have fun coordinating the cords, threads, and fabrics to individualize every book– no two are identical. Sometimes, I choose contrasting fabrics for the front and back of the book to add visual interest. So far, I have constructed six of these soft cover books and, with each one I complete, I learn a little more about the small things I’d like to finesse.

Cat on table with books

A selection of books, guarded over by the original Attack Cat, Miss Bean.

The Journey’s the Destination, Especially in Your Sketchbook

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The Journey’s the Destination, Especially in Your Sketchbook

I used to write in copious detail about the events of my travel day, inserting flowery adjectives, and composing play-by-play explanations. I do not poo-poo that kind of journaling. People write for many of the reasons that artists art. Now, however, I tend to take a more visual approach. Sometimes I pre-divide pages with shapes, not really knowing what content they will hold. On other pages, I respond to a scene, or, just draw things that inspire me on the journey. For the first time on this trip, I included some of the thoughts of my travel companions, and discovered that by doing so, the story became more complete.

Sketchbook Pages from Panama Trip

Left: I designed this page in pen without knowing ahead of time what the squares would contain. Right: Special things I wanted to remember after the trip.

It’s not as hard as you think to make full pages of drawings when you’re traveling. I tend to block a few things in, or throw a few words on a page, and then, when when I’m waiting for a meal, in transit on a plane or in a taxi, or back in the room for the night, I fill in with more drawings or bursts of text. Sometimes, I use photos I took during the day as reference. My travel kit (see this post) allows me a lot of flexibility so that my supplies are easily at hand.  When I get home from vacation, I continue to add color and detail until I have a complete collection of pages from the trip.

Sketchbook Drawings

Left: An unfinished page inspired by molas, fresh avocados and a cat. I’ll paint this in now that I’m home. Upper Right: A quick sketch of the skyline from a photo I’d taken earlier in the day. Lower Left: Memories, impressions from traveling companions, and a description of our hike written on the leaf shapes I’d encountered on the trail.

That’s a Lot of Cats

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Cat Drawing with 100About ten years ago, I decided that I wanted to improve at drawing cats, so I followed some art advice from a teacher. That is, if you want to get really good at drawing something, you must draw it at least 100 times, so I am celebrating my 100th blog post with 100 cats. Okay, it’s maybe not exactly one hundred cats, but it’s A LOT of cats, all of them drawn, or painted, or printed by me over the last 5 or 6 years, almost all from my sketchbooks. Thanks for celebrating with me!Drawings of Cats

Drawings of cats by Carol Parker MittalCollage of cat artWatercolor sketches of catsCat drawings and printsCat drawings from sketchbooksCat drawings

Collage of cat drawings

Handmade Monday: Japanese Stab Binding

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Simple, yet elegant, the Japanese Stab Binding is one of the first book structures I learned how to make. There is no glue involved and it takes the most basic materials. These particular covers are hand printed Nepalese Lokta papers bound with waxed linen cord, but any papers, threads, yarns, or cording could be used. It’s versatile, secure, and easy to make.  As an artist, it was satisfying for me to witness the little book gems that emerged.

Steps for Stab Binding

Some of the steps to achieve a side-sewn binding. AKA Japanese Stab Binding

Japanese Stab Binding. Carol Parker Mittal book binding.

I participated in a make-it-take-it open house at Blackbird Arts last week where I taught visitors this structure in 20 minutes or less!

Caturday Donut

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I volunteer as a docent at the Dennos Art Museum. Nearly every Tuesday, we docents assemble to learn about the exhibits, study museum practices, and to plan tours for student groups. This week, the art project committee presented examples and conducted a hands-on workshop for possible activities to use with children who come to the art museum for tours. This is my response to a prompt that asked the students to create a round object containing textures or patterns. It’s inspiration was the work of Jae Yong Kim, a ceramic artist who has an installation colorful ceramic and glass donuts on exhibit at the Dennos. I didn’t realllly follow the assignment as presented, but, well….I take every opportunity to draw a kitty when given the option!

Crayon and watercolor resist, colored pencil

Crayon and watercolor resist, colored pencil

Done is Wonderful

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One of the circus horse heads, and the more or less successful, Baby Kangaroo.

One of the circus horse heads, and the more or less successful, Baby Kangaroo.

Do you remember a few posts ago when I mentioned that there are times when a creative project might benefit from adrenaline-induced mania, like on Project Runway? Well, I am in one of those zones this week! Tomorrow is costume parade/first dress for Seussical, Jr., the show I am costuming for Platte River Elementary.

Every character now has a completed main garment, so I’m doing things like gluing matching feathers on shoes and making animal hats. I just finished the Baby Kangaroo puppet. It didn’t turn out how I envisioned, but I’m happy with the results anyway. That’s what happens when you get down to the wire. I used to work for a costume designer who would say, “Done is wonderful,” when we’d get close to a deadline. That’s me right now. Done is wonderful.

As you approach your own creative endeavors this week, find something that needs finishing! Deadline or no, your projects deserve to be fully realized, so let go of expectations and just go for it.

Thanks so much for checking in.

Creativity is Child’s Play

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“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” Carl Jung

Artwork by Clayton McCracken, one of my former students. Clayton is currently attending Savannah College of Art and Design.

Artwork by Clayton McCracken, one of my former students (2013.) Clayton is currently attending Savannah College of Art and Design.

There is a ton of evidence to support the idea that play is essential to invention and creativity. In his TED talk, Tales of Creativity and PlayTim Brown, CEO of IDEO an “innovation and design” firm talks about the importance of play in the design process, which includes experimentation with materials, and role-playing to understand behaviors. Super-interesting stuff! Watch it here.

Many top firms now include play as a component of the workplace. From Google’s famous indoor slide, to Apple’s volleyball courts, employees are encouraged to play at work and to work at play. Companies are realizing that to have innovative output, there must be a culture of trust, encouragement, and collaboration that is enhanced through shared discovery. There’s even a National Institute for Play, which supports research about what play can teach us at any age.

One of the happiest times in my life was when I was in my final year of working on my MFA. I was preparing my thesis exhibition and teaching 6th grade art part time in a rural, public school. I taught the first three periods of the day, finished around 11 a.m., and then made the 30-minute drive back to my studio in the city. I had just completed two grueling, serious, emotional years of study where the competition for shows and attention was cut-throat. Getting the job with these kids saved my soul because they reminded me that art is FUN! I watched the students learn by taking risks, being goofy, not necessarily succeeding, but trying anyway, and being proud of their efforts. It was refreshing to take that attitude back to my own studio where, frankly, I was so stressed out, that making art was not so much fun. I had become nearly immobilized by critiques and exhibitions and competition and output, that I forgot to play and explore. As a result of my experience with those awesome 12-year olds, I was able to find the vigorous part of my spirit in art making once again.

Do you give yourself permission to discover, experiment, and suppose? When you were a kid, what activities were the most fun? How did you investigate your world? How can you imbue your adult life with more silliness, inspiration, and inquiry in order to advance your creative ideas now?

Creativity: Not Just About Good Ideas

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This is the second post in a series on where I will present strategies, resources, and examples about how to nurture creative thinking.

“Creative skills aren’t just about good ideas, they are about having the skills to make good ideas happen.
E. Paul Torrance

Everyone can develop the skills necessary to be creative no matter what the subject matter or occupation. So, how can creativity get a jump-start? Here are some first steps and resources to assist you with your quest to inspire creativity in yourself and others.

Just some of the ways to measure levels of creativity. This example explores things that are round.

Just some of the ways to measure levels of creativity. This example explores things that are round.

Generate a comfortable environment where ideas are welcome and the censor is silenced. It’s so easy for us all to get mired in that internal dialog that tries to tell us we’re not capable, or that what we have to say isn’t interesting or valid. Having permission to explore without judgment is the first step. It’s the “what-if” stage where, ideally, all possibilities are on the table. I like to think of it like a collage where you lay all of the pieces out to see what inspiration comes by looking at all of the parts.

Play. Once you have a supply of options, it’s time to rearrange, contemplate, elaborate, eliminate, and refine the ideas. This exploration comes from having freedom to see what happens. I think it’s also important to note that, most often, the first idea is NOT the best idea. Keep delving, connecting, and ruminating. The more difficult the task, or prompt, the longer the wait-time required to really come to a conclusion. In fact, sometimes, it helps to give your brain time to decide without your conscious self interfering. (I also know that deadlines are a reality, and can be powerful motivators for decision-making, but I will address that in a later post.)

Some awesome resources I use for the idea-development and refinement stages:

E. Paul Torrence
If you are not familiar with the father of creativity research, then definitely check out this NPR Story about him. He defined the parameters for measuring what characteristics are present in a creative thinker! Super-interesting stuff. There’s also a test to check your levels, though not available to the general public, it’s a taste of the kinds of things you might find on the assessment.

Caffeine for the Creative Mind by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield
This website and book series is designed for every person to have fun thinking and playing. From name-your-own-crayons, to photocopy challenges, these short prompts create exercise for your brain.

A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger Von Oech
A series of books and accompanying Whack Pack Cards present strategies for elaborating and reframing ideas. Particularly good when existing ideas seem to be stuck or need a boost. There’s even an app for your smart phone!

Thanks for your time. I hope these ideas and resources are helpful. Get out there and be creative. 

Next week: Creativity and Deadlines