Finding the Maya Again

When I was in middle school we were charged with the awful task of writing a term paper.  This was not something I was excited or interested to do.  I have to admit that up to this day I don’t fully understand term paper writing with all those references,  all those rules of transferring a piece of information without angering the term paper gods for acts of plagiarism.  All I really remember is that there was something about reading a bunch of books but encyclopedias were not allowed. There were index cards, there were lists of references and there were more lists.  Papers were handed in, papers were sent back.  You were not allowed to copy information but you had to reference what you wrote.  Oh I just didn’t get it.


Phonetic Spelling for Michael(a) in Mayan

Phonetic Spelling for Michael(a) in Mayan


I still don’t get it and it’s perhaps the one large failing of my educators. Well that and the fact that I never memorized my multiplication tables but let’s not get into that particular piece of trivia.

 One assignment I remember was to write a term paper on the Mayan Civilization. I may have gotten a D or a D- I have no clue how I stumbled on the topic, for all I know it was assigned but I did find it interesting.  I liked the story about all the abandoned cities in the rainforest. Once there thousands of people living in those cities and then there was nobody living in those cities. 

 I’ve always been fascinated with Mesoamerican pre-Columbian art so I was thrilled when I was asked by an author to collaborate on a divination deck.  Not only was it something that interested me but I think the style suits me.  I am currently in the “research and development” stage. It’s all about what colors should I use and how do I represent certain themes. Do I stay true to history or do I allow artistic license to play a role.


IMIX Early Concept Sketch

One of the first design sketches I've worked on.


As an artist it’s funny how some of the most simple decisions can take so long to develop when you are working on a project like this.  We had decided we wanted a main picture with a border so I drew up a sample drawing.  But then the decisions… Should the borders be the same for all the art, should they change, what should they represent, What information were we trying to convey.  Should I reference only Maya or should I combine from others, should I use certain symbols?  Obviously It’s both and exciting and daunting task.

 I am learning much more than I did when I was writing my term paper. As we develop this I am learning so much. I had discovered that they had different symbols to represent the same phonetic sound. Writers, although I think of them more as artists, could combine these symbols in different ways to represent the same words.  I think this lends an incredible level of creativity to writing.  What you read is truly in the artist’s voice.

 There is much for me to do.  A project of this size will not happen overnight. I’m convinced it will consume me for a bit.  Hopefully, once I am completed with it my work can in the very least pay homage to a great culture. Perhaps it will inspire someone as I have been inspired to find out more about what once had been.


Mini Card Size Dog Glyph

Spooky Crafting in Autumn

Autumn brings with it a desire to work on wood crafts. I suppose it is a habit I got into long ago when I had worked at a fabrication shop.  We used a wood stove to help heat the place and we would get cast off wood from a local door making company.  We got barrels and barrels of the stuff.  Often we picked out the good pieces and made cute little 1980’s country crafts with them. I used to do craft fairs and sold tons of my cat silhouettes, watermelon slices and heart shaped ornaments.

Pumpkins say What?

Recently I came across one of these wooden ornaments and can’t believe I sold any it was so sloppy with its transparent paint showing the pencil lines below.  Of course some were better than others. I miss having this free wood and a band saw at my beck and call.

This year I had a couple of turned apple shaped wood pieces hanging around that I would make fun little jack o’ lanterns out of and decided I wanted to do more of these. Last year I had discovered four of them that I had painted in 1990 and I repainted them for fun.

Pumpkin Trio

A trio of Jack o' Lanterns!

I have found out that wood items are much harder to come by these days than in the late 80’s when craft stores had entire aisles dedicated to turned wood alone.  Extensive searches on the internet did not turn up the exact shaped ones I used two decades ago but I did find an apple shape at a local mom and pop craft store I discovered one day.

Pumpkin Group 1

What are you lookin' at?

Pumpkin Group 2

A Happy Group of Jack o' Lanterns

I took them and gave them a coat of gesso which I believe seals the wood fairly well and painted them up. I made quite a few.

Pumpkin Trio 2

More happy jacks!

Another project I like to do is to make “candy containers” from pods.  There are these round wooden cup pods on sticks available in the dried flower aisle of craft stores.  They have gone up in price – much like everything else but are still fun to work with.  I cut off the stick which you can get out fairly easy and gave them a coat of gesso both inside and out.  I’m very generous with it on the inside.  I drill holes in the side. Paint up with orange paint and cute jack o’ lantern faces and make sure I give a coat of glow in the dark paint to the yellow parts of the face.  Then I used pipe cleaners to make a handle.

Pumpkin Candy Holders

Happy Halloween!

Last but not least I got my hands on Paper Mache skull masks and painted them up as day of the dead or “dios de las muertos” masks.  The first two I have done look okay but I really wish to improve my line work.  It’s been a long while since I’ve played around with acrylic paints.

Flower Skull Mask

Flowery Dios de las Muertos Mask

All in all I’ve had a fun time working on my haunted crafts. What do you make?

Oak Leaf Skull Mask

I've combined my love of Oak trees and Dios de las muertos

Make my own Rolodex Cards

Sometimes I get an idea for a project and get really carried away.  I’ve spent the past two weeks on such a project. Okay so file this one under silly office supply crafts. I’ve been spending my time making custom cards for my rolodex.  I know that making custom or altered rolodex cards is nothing new and searching the net has provided project ideas from at least 2007 and a good handful of Etsy sellers.

When I come up with an idea or concept my brain fires up a whole list of ideas and things I should try. If you want to know how this thought process goes in my head – it’s something like the following.

Let’s say that it is an average afternoon at the office and my system is busy producing report after report of data.  Bored I look over at my rolodex and think: *** It would be helpful if some of these cards were colored so I could find them easier. ***It would be more fun to look at on a daily basis if they were colors.  I could use the little colored plastic covers for each card but where is the fun in that. *** I have a card punch that adds holes to business cards sp I really could just get colored card stock and make my own. *** I suppose if I can do that I could print some scans of my artwork on cards and cut those out. ***You know – I have all this fancy scrapbooking paper around – I could make stuff out of that too.*** Hmmm – If I could use cardstock – couldn’t I use heavy watercolor paper and paint my own? *** I wonder if paint sample cards would work? *** A set of tabbed cards would be nice – I can make those with numbers or months instead of the typical a to z. ***

As a result of the latest internal dialog I’ve spent the past two weeks creating rolodex madness.  I’m not sure if I gained any creative insights from this process but if I gained anything from this experience it was a slightly mindless pursuit that helped me wind down after a day of aggravation in the office.  Silly office crafts can bring the stress from work down a notch.  It’s like thumbing your nose at the corporate machine by turning the tools of the trade into art and frivolity.

Here are just plain cards from colored paper with some watercolor paper waiting to be painted.


Basic Cards from Card Stock and Watercolor Paper


These are cards cut from scans of my art that I printed on to white card stock.


Cards from Art Scans


More Art Designs made into cards.

The first tabs I tried were from paint chips.  I found that the corner punch did not work for every angle of the tab.  Cutting these curves with a razor produced sloppy results. I tried scissors as well with just slightly better results.  Also with the paint chips the white edge looks sloppy.  I did find on other tabs that going around the edges with a marker or stamp pad polished things up a bit.


Index Tabs from Paint Chips


These are tabs I made from photos I took at a farmers market.  I also tried to “distress” a few with brown dye based ink.

Farmers Market Tab Cards


More Farmers Market Tab Cards

These are from scrapbook paper.  Not so bad but I was still having trouble with the edge rounder.  I also distressed one with ink.  Not so bad. 


Tabbed Index Cards from Decorative Paper


I didn’t want to leave the backs white so I worked on applying some color but I’m not sure I like the result at all.  This is a work in progress.

Card Backs

Card Backs

After looking around I decided to adjust my template a little.  These are probably my best ones so far.  The longer tabs look okay and are also not rounded so the “handy-crafty-cutty-ness” is limited.  You could use these for a set of birthday/anniversary cards.

Month Tab Cards

Month Tab Cards

It’s been fun and I’m not sure I’m done yet.

 You might ask – what is the point.  Does there have to be one? Just making these was fun and relaxing.  In the very least – tucking a few of the decorated cards into your standard rolodex could bring you a smile when you have to look up a number. Perhaps the better mood will lead to better business cards? Adding a little art to your day can only improve it.

Art n’ Craft

When I started “Finding Art Again” I took it so literally and confined myself to traditional art media. Drawing and Painting with a little sculpture here and there. In my youth I used to draw and paint or “do art”, as you might say, all the time. Then for a little more than a decade I didn’t do anything.

That isn’t exactly true.

What I didn’t do was create “hang on your wall” art. If I look back upon the middle ages of my creative self I will find there was art happening. In those so called dark days I taught myself to sew beyond your basic throw pillow making everything from my living room curtains to costumes for my charity interests. I crafted all sorts of little items that would find their way onto my desk or on an end table. I discovered how to make sugar skulls and decorate them with royal icing. I made at least one Christmas ornament every year. My work notes were (and still are) covered in doodles. I may have lost my way but I certainly didn’t lose art! I need to acknowledge that more. Creativity certainly isn’t something that you can put back in the box once it has escaped.

I wonder why I fall victim to the all too common snobbery of discounting other forms of creativity as not being an expression of Art. Yes my crafty types of projects are not my drawing and painting but they are no less important to the overall creative process. They have their own lessons to teach and each of these projects offers a certain therapeutic benefit that painting does not always give me. It’s really just not my personality to do one thing. I like variety.

I guess my point is – while I confined “Finding Art Again” to be just my drawing and painting I wonder if I really should have included it to be all of my creative output. Does the art tell the story or is it only a part of it. The complete picture of me is drawing, painting, sewing, crafting and whatever else passes my way. As long as I’m making something – I’m a fairly happy guy. I may post a few of my crafty endeavors and see how it goes. It is as if finding art is redefining it in a dynamic ever-changing process. I haven’t decided if I want to combine everything into one blog or not but I’m sure the process will be fun.