Archive for September, 2012

Gloria Hansen’s New Book – A Surprising and Beautiful Journey

I have followed the career of Gloria Hansen for a long time and thought I knew her as an artist. Apparently not! Her new book, Gloria Hansen:  An Evolution in Stitches, Paint, & Pixels reveals an artistic journey full of unexpected influences and is an amazing catalog of her art-making career.  It reveals Gloria as a true renaissance woman, skilled in many artistic media and inspired by the world around her.

I love to see other artists’ studios and Gloria’s book opens with an introduction featuring several pages of her work spaces and materials.  It’s glorious to see the sheer amount of stuff she has crammed in to her workspace; it’s reassuring that someone who makes such pristine artwork works in such a material-heavy environment.

Here was the first of many surprises about Gloria.  She works in many media; her sample of a dog sketch in one of her journals was a revelation to me.  You can see she really works in her journals and sketchbooks.  The stack of books is huge and many of the books are lumpy with mixed media. Everywhere you look in the photos, you can see color and experimentation.

But, of course, Gloria is best known for her use of digital images printed on fabric and used in art quilts.  The book begins with artwork from 2002 –  present, including many of her awards, special exhibits, and her previous book, Digital Essentials. Gloria’s editorial voice is lively and she shares many photos taken at exhibits and events.  It’s a personal book in the very best sense.

Gloria wisely devotes fifty-four pages to her newer artwork before turning to artwork and publications from three time periods 2000 – 2001, 1992 – 1999, 1986 – 1991, followed by a section on her embroidery work.  Gloria’s talents as a writer were utilized early in her career and she also began winning awards for her innovative designs and beautiful stitching very early in her artistic career.

Surprise #2.  I honestly didn’t know beautiful and integrated the stitching is on Gloria’s artwork.  I appreciated the detail photos of the artworks featured as full-page photos and the frequent appearance of a small blurb about the artwork’s inspiration.

I appreciate how hard it is to sustain and grow a career, but Gloria has succeeded by working toward her strengths and evolving the complexity of her designs through her computer skills.  The story of how those computer skills developed is also integral to the book.

The biggest surprise for me was the section about her embroidery work. Who knew? You can see the same attention to details and color that later appear in her art quilts.

Her “Closing Stories and Thoughts” begin, “I struggle . . . ”  This typifies the tone of the entire book.  It shows that great careers are made by experimenting, never giving up, being true to one’s skill base, and working, working, working. Kudos to Gloria for having the courage to share the entire journey of her career to date, rather than just the highlights.

The book is available as a PDF download directly from Gloria for only $15 or from Blurb book for $60 with standard paper or $67 with premium paper.

I read it as the PDF file and it took me awhile to grasp the structure of the book; I kept going back to the Table of Contents to see where I was in Gloria’s journey.  But if you are use to reading books on various tablets, I don’t think this would be a problem.  Once I read the book, I read it again backwards.  I agree with Gloria’s strategy in starting with the present and working backwards in time, but it was fun once I knew the whole story to see the growth and evolution of her artwork from the very beginning.

This book is not only inspiring, but it also a fine record of the career to date of one of our most well-known artists working with art quilts.  If only mainstream publishers realized how important it is to record the history and development of pioneers in our field, such as Gloria.  I’m thankful that Gloria made the time to create this record of a 30-year career and shared it so generously with us.



09 2012

The Sketchbook Challenge by Sue Bleiweiss – Information and Inspiration!

I received a review copy of The Sketchbook Challenge by Sue Bleiweiss. I love it when I can wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommend a book – read on.

The subtitle of the book is “Techniques, Prompts, and Inspiration for Achieving Your Creative Goals.”  That is quite a promise and Sue’s book provided specific information to do just that. But the best thing about the book is Sue’s editorial voice.  How reassuring to hear, “Give it a try.  This might work.  Here is something other artists have tried.”

The book starts off with an eight-page overview of materials and tools.  This is crucial and so many books skip this step.  Better yet, Sue names names.  I hate books that say use a specific tool, but won’t say which brand they prefer or what brands are even out there. For instance,  a person new to sketchbooks can begin with confidence after reading that there are many ways to make marks, here are five types of mark makers to try, here are the subgroups within each type, and here is where they might be used.

The introduction then continues with ways to overcome the fears of beginning a new sketchbook by adding background color, how to develop and work with themes, how to explore a theme to develop ideas, and finally how to move off the page to create a new piece of artwork.  The last step is crucial as I see many how-to books that consider sketchbook pages to be the desired end result.  That may be true for some artists, but there is a lot less pressure when creating your own unique version of a sketchbook if you decide up front that its purpose is something other than a ready-to-be-framed piece on art on every page. That’s another thing that Sue stresses:  Your sketchbook should be exactly what you want it to be, even if that is making lists instead of artwork.

The Sketchbook Challenge is filled with sketchbook pages from twenty-eight artists along with many artworks based on the sketchbook pages.  This could be overwhelming, but it’s not because the remainder of the book is set up as a challenge to the reader.  A theme is given and then two artists are spotlighted.  Each artist writes candidly about their experience of working with the theme, generously share their sketchbook pages, and shares a photo and some details about a new artwork based on the sketchbook pages.  I love this because you can see that everyone (including you and me) works differently.  Some sketchbooks are beautiful works of art, but others give sketchbook newbies hope because you see the artist struggled with the theme, but carried on anyway.  That’s a powerful message.

Embedded in each theme chapter is a tutorial for a mixed-media technique.  Specifically:  Screen printing, stenciling, digital printing, thread sketching, painted papers for collage, hand-carved stamps, hand-dyed fabrics, soy wax batik, image transfer, foiling, silk fusion, moldable foam stamps, and drawing techniques.

This is why I so heartily recommend this book.  The basics are enough for you to see that there are many options and the directions are complete enough for you to really give a wide variety of techniques a try.  I have made a lot of moldable foam stamps and I have to say that it never crossed my mind to use wooden skewers to make lines. Thanks, Sue!

There is a resource list, a small “Websites of Interest” list, and a brief bibliography at the back of the book.

This book packs a lot of information and a lot of inspiration is its 143 pages.  The retail price of $21.99 is a good investment for a book that beginners will refer to often and more experienced sketchbook creators will find inspirational.  The book is available at all the usual places, but Amazon has a pretty good price at the moment (No affiliation, of course.)

Of special note is that the book is based on an online Sketchbook Challenge that has been ongoing since 2010 with participants from around the world.   Sue invites all artists to participate.



09 2012

New Artwork: Inspired by Nature and Solitude


Evening Blue
Quetico Journal Series

The new Quetico Journal Series, inspired by the beauty of the  Quetico Provincial Park which so graciously granted me an artist-in-residency, are up on my website today.

How inspiring to be surrounded by Nature and have the time to appreciate it.  That is one of the joys of wilderness canoeing/camping; the solitude needed to empty your brain and just be in the moment.


Quetico Sunrise
Quetico Journal Series

“Quetico Provincial Park is a protected, pristine wilderness retreat of international acclaim west of Lake Superior on the Canada-U.S. border. The park’s tangled network of lakes once formed water routes travelled by Ojibway and fur traders. Now it is primarily the destination of experienced canoeists seeking solitude and rare glimpses of wildlife by cascading waterfalls, glassy lakes and endless forests.”


09 2012

Auction of almost 400 art quilts opens today.

Mary Ann Van Soest
Summer on the Pond

Almost 400 small artworks will be sold in a reverse auction to benefit Studio Art Quilt Associates beginning today, September 10 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  This first flight of art quilts will be followed by two more flights opening on September 17 and September 24.

All the 12″ square artworks are here or you can view Dream Collections chosen by SAQA members.  My Dream Collection “Archetypes and Artifacts” is here.

Laurie Ceesay
A Woman at the Beach 

The money raised supports SAQA’s exhibitions, catalogs, and outreach programs.


09 2012

NEW BOOK – Ground Level: Ephemeral Art in the Quetico


While an artist-in-residence in the Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada, I made MANY small ephemeral art sculptures.  I was truly inspired by the setting — so beautiful, so simple (rock, water, tree) and yet so complex when you really looked.

Here is a bit from the intro, “What’s It All About?”:

Mainly it is about looking and seeing.  It’s honoring the shape of the land and the materials at hand.

I like making ephemeral art because it makes a powerful statement about place and the passage of time.  The artwork changes with the passage of the sun, wind, and waves.  Shadows wax and wane, marking the passage of time. 

I found it freeing to know that this book would be the only record of the art as Nature sometimes whirled an artwork away just as I finished clicking the shutter.

Ordering info and a seventeen-page preview of Ground Level:  Ephemeral Art in the Quetico is here.



09 2012