Archive for General

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

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.

In search of a Perfect Watercolor Palette Box

It was decades ago, somewhere between my teen and early adult years, when I first decided that I was interested in working in watercolor. Until then – I was happy using the Crayola set of 8 colors that many of us will be familiar with. This was a big improvement over the tin box I received at some point as a child.  That set – which is still sitting in a box somewhere – was remarkable in its ability to resist water. I swear that each pan was coated with a layer of shellac just to keep the kids busy a few minutes longer. In any case, the little set of eight colors I had progressed to was, and still is, quite versatile, but I’m not one to limit myself to the basics.

Color Chart

My useful color chart

 I believe in the watercolor world there are two kinds of people – those who work from pans of color and those who work from tubes.  I’m a pan kind of guy.  I like to buy my paint in tubes and then fill some sort of permanent container with the colors for my use. If I need a large amount of something, I just get the tube and work that way. I’m sure years of working with watercolor sets as a child have influenced me.

Grumbacher Blue Box

Grumbacher Blue Box


So back to my young adulthood, all those years ago I had stumbled upon a palette box by Grumbacher which contained about twenty-five little wells and for years I was happy with it. I’m not sure if it was for watercolor or ink or what have you but I filled it with the basic colors and it served me well for a long time.  The lid was a perfect place to paste in a piece of watercolor paper for reference. This set up makes me happy.

Grumbacher Paint Box

Old Blue - my trusty paintbox for a couple of decades

As it happens with much of my art & craft supplies, my collection of paints has increased. Note: This is the point where all the purists go crazy and begin to lecture me about how you only need six colors, maximum and you can create any color from those very basic collections of warm and cool basics. If you want to go over the top you are allowed to take in a few earth tones, but don’t overdo it!

 I say BAH!!!! I was not put on this earth to limit myself to a tiny color palette!

 When I embarked on my mission to “Find Art Again” I pulled out my old blue box and began to search for another one so I could expand my available “pans” of color. Of course the Grumbacher paint box was nowhere to be found.  I wanted something that would allow me to expand to new colors as I found them but also to be flexible and somewhat portable.

 There are several “pan” boxes out there which would allow me to buy empty pans, fill them with my own color and rotate as desired. The cost of about $60 for a metal box with plastic inserts just didn’t sit well with me.  At that rate my Altoid’s mint boxes should be worth at least $5 a piece and I must have a fortune in soup cans at home.  For the record there are projects out there for making a travel palette from old mint tins and fimo clay.  I looked at make-up artist palettes but they were black in color and did not look like they could travel if needed.  I purchased a few Mijello Palettes but they sit in a drawer.  Next I decided that a custom solution might be in order.  I found these little paint containers sold at most craft stores and an idea began to form.  The main issue was how I would store and track all of these little containers. They are sold loose and the packages contained several sizes.  Some were opaque and others the wrong size.  None of them came in a handy storage box. How could I make them useful?

Storage Jars

Storage Jars

Then one day I stumbled upon these little containers by Darico that I think are designed to hold beads for jewelry makers.  They were exactly the right size for my needs, everything was clear plastic. There was a container with a lid. I could work with this.

Punched Watercolor Samples

Punched Watercolor Samples

So I began by making swatches of my paint colors and then I punched them out with a circle punch which was slightly smaller than the jar lids.  I glued them on with a little dab of white glue, labeled them with permanent ink and have found this to be a workable and flexible system for my watercolor pans.

Palette Box

My new and "improved" palette watercolor paint box.

So far I’ve enjoyed this type of paint box.  Perhaps the only thing I miss from my old Grumbacher box is the color chart that I’ve pasted to the cover.  The chart is a very useful thing to have.   I’d like to design something in the future that would allow me to arrange a selection of jars into a holder without the lids, but to still keep track of the contents either by a color chart or something that holds the lids to function as a color chart.  I’m sure I will come up with something – I just need more time to figure it out.

Jar of Color

Jar of Cadmium Yellow

I’m sure many will think this is just too complicated or time waster but once it was all in place there isn’t much to think about and every color I want is instantly at my disposal.  I can arrange colors any way I see fit depending on my project.  I can grab a few key colors if I want to take my paint on the road. 

Paint on the Horizon

Paint on the Horizon

I wonder if anyone else has ever done this or how they have solved the same need in the studio.  This is what happens when crafter meets artist I suppose.  There is a project in everything!