I’ve continued with my drawing and printmaking.  I decided to try my hand using Adobe Illustrator and have been taking a class at UC Berkeley extension.  The drawing tools in the app are so different from traditional drawing, each assignment has taken hours and hours to complete.  The class was completely filled with several people hoping to add the first day.  Our teacher started us off with the pen tool which is the hardest to learn, but one of the most useful tools in Illustrator.  By the next meeting, there were plenty of open seats – I guess people decided this was not for them.  Patience, persistence, and determination are put the the test in this class.

Here are some of my illustrations.


Illustration for sports iphone app




Rolling Stone cover featuring artist Ben Venom




Six panel How-to illustrating process for making French press coffee


Why Collage?

In our most recent session of collage making with Michelle Wilson at UC Berkeley Extension, we learned to make a simple accordion book to use as a substrate for a collage.    I decided to combine collage and paint across the entire eight span of pages.  My goals were to explore using images as texture and as a way to add complexity to an overall image.

I started by gluing assorted black and white or other neutral papers  across the entire surface.  After the pages dried, I applied a couple layers of gesso with a brayer both to tone it all down, and to add texture. I added some torn pages from a magazine showing a woman wearing sunglasses. Stepping back at the resulting shapes, I decided to add layers of watercolor, acrylic and black Noodler’s Bulletproof ink to create a mountainous landscape.

Collage book 7 3/4" x 58"
Collage book 7 3/4″ x 58″

Most of these papers are from a stash collected over the past couple years, the recognizable is a tattered Dürer print that I saved after using it for inspiration in a drawing class. Strangely, I’ve noticed that papers and images used in my collages, all seem to take on deep personal meaning as the collages come together.  I say strangely, because the papers were selected randomly or chosen for value (meaning relative lightness or darkness) rather than content.  And yet, it does mean something and expresses a search  for meaning and solace in spiritual connection.  In the days following the senseless shooting down of a passenger flight, nothing makes sense.  How can people minding their own business and going about their lives, and suddenly be gone?  How can I glue paper together when my heart is full of grief?

Collage book – detail




Mail Art Project

Postcard-swimmerI’m taking a collage class at UC Berkeley Extension with papermaker, printmaker, book and installation artist Michelle Wilson. We’re about 6 weeks into the class and have explored various techniques and media for creating collages with found imagery.

Postcard-giftsOne of my favorite assignments in the class so far was to create a piece of mail art inspired by fluxus artists, such as Ray Johnson, who included mail art in their work during the 1960’s and 70’s.

Postcard-congratsFor my project I decided to continue with ideas from the previous week where we used chance to determine which images to use or where to place them in the collage.  I thought it would be fun to send one to anyone in the class that wanted one.
Postcard-NetflixI started by collecting interesting postcards that I found at various art locations, like the art store or the reception desk at art galleries.   The postcards were of various sizes, so I cut them all down to 4″x6″ to make them all the same size and to keep postage to 34 cents each.
I painted both sides 12 cards by applying gesso with a bryer to both sides of the postcards.  After letting them dry, I selected images that were either in my leftover pile from previous collages done in class or from junk mail received that week.  I cut them to size and randomly adhered one to each card.  After all 12 had one image, I added another and continued until I felt like they were done.  I did this on both sides of the cards and decided which side was the front and which was the back.
On each postcard front, I added some black fluid acrylic, applied with the brayer. On the postcard backs, I gessoed these to give myself a textured, white writing surface for the address, stamp, and written message.

Postcard-Chocolate-xoxo I’ll be mailing these out in the next day or two.  It’ll be interesting to see what condition they’re in after working their way through the mail.  Postcard-but-it's-also-politics Postcard-4349Postcard-@@@@@Postcard-pumpsPostcard-BackPostcard back

A Keen Print

It was a busy week, and I didn’t have time to do any homework for my printmaking class.  I usually do my carving at home, so I can spend most of my in-class time using the press.  As I was getting ready to head over to the class at Chrysalis Studio in SF, I grabbed my supplies and was thinking of what I could do in class without too much effort.  One of my goals for this session in Luminous Linocuts was to create a two plate lino cut print.  I thought I would just have to draw “something” quickly in class and carve two plates. I suddenly remembered my sketchbook and thought that I must have a recent drawing that I could translate into a print.  So I flipped through the sketchbook and decided to tackle this shoe drawing that I did earlier this month.

KeenKatie Gilmartin helped me analyze the drawing and determine what to put in each plate. I decided to put the upper part of the shoe and insole on one plate and the lower part of the shoe (including part of the insole) on another.  The insole part would overlap, helping with registration and creating an area where the two colors would overlap.  Katie showed me how to register the images so they would be perfectly aligned when I printed the two plates on one piece of paper.

Keen-Plate-2I reversed the drawing using the light table, then carved like a mad woman.  I was able to carve the two 4″ x 6″ plates and make one print (and one ghost print) by the end of the three hour class.  Somehow, during carving, I got the “N” in Keen backwards!!!Keen-Plate-1 Our two colors that evening were orange and raspberry, so I used orange on the lower plate and raspberry on the other.  There were only five minutes remaining in classs, and everyone had some last minute printing to do.  Very exciting moment when my print came off the press, perfectly aligned!!! Here’s the resulting two color print.

keen-shoeHere it is in a second colorway – printed 21May2014 on white paper


Two new prints

A few weeks ago I completed a silk screening class at San Francisco Art Institute with artist Jonathan Palmer.  I was inspired by some of his prints where he combined silk screening and relief printing and decided to create my own series using these techniques.  I posted about it here.

I created three related prints with a background nest-like structure, plus bird elements, such as feathers, wings, and birds. Then I printed linocut body parts over this.  The project is still in progress, but I’ve completed all the prints and machine quilting for two of the pieces. I did some experimenting with the stitching and found that adding some thin batting added depth and texture.  Without that, the stitching didn’t seem to add much.  After completing the quilting, I mounted the pieces onto 18″ x 24″ stretcher bars.

18″ x 24″


Read_-Cor-ValuesCor Values
18″ x 24″

SkullsSkull Prints
Need to dry about 6 weeks.

Silkscreen meets Lino

Several months ago I created this linocut of a heart.  The photo below shows my initial sketches, the carved linoleum, and the print on paper and on fabric.  I wanted to take it further, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it.

Final-Crit---HeartsI’m currently enrolled in a six week silkscreen printing class at San Francisco Art Institute with artist Jonathan Palmer.  The class has just three other students, so we have plenty of time to get help with the techniques that all take time to learn.  I am intrigued with the idea of combining silkscreen images with some of my  linocuts.  The heart lino seemed like a good starting point for exploring this.  Here are some photos of my first project where I silkscreened a hand drawn nest-like background and some wings, then printed the heart over it.  I’m pleased with the result.



Rain Dance

Here’s an update on the printed piece started during a quilting retreat in Healdsburg.   I finished it today and titled it Rain Dance.

I was inspired to create a California themed linoleum block print on a background pieced from yellow and white scraps (more here).  The colors and silhouetted dry seedpods represent our current too dry weather in California.  I accented the printed background texture with metallic threads to represent rain.  RainDance

Rain Dance 24″ x 20″

RainDanceDetailRain Dance (Detail)

Update: Mar 13, 2014 – This piece will be included in Northern California Inspirations at the San Jose Museum of Quilts  from May 6 – July 16, 2014.

Life Forms – A Portfolio of Work

A major component for completion of the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Arts at UC Berkeley Extension is to  develop a portfolio of work suitable for application to a Masters of Fine Arts program.  I’ve been developing this portfolio for over a year and studying at UCBX for over three years. Yesterday  I presented my  portfolio to a committee of professors from the art department at UC Berkeley Extension.  The reviewers looked at my photographed portfolio packet, my artist statement, and all the pieces installed in one of the classrooms.  Additionally they interviewed me about the work, my processes, my inspirations, and my future plans.  The most surprising aspect was the feeling of excitement that I had talking about it.  This has all been such a marvelous adventure – both getting to this point and exciting options for further study and work.  I’m thrilled to say that I passed the review!

Here are some highlights from my portfolio.  See all portfolio images at my website.

First Do No Harm, DetailFirst Do No Harm, Detail

I am a fiber artist using the unique qualities of hand-printed imagery on fabric to represent both the fragility and preciousness of the natural world.  The imagery used sometimes represents the human body, such as the heart or pelvis, and sometimes it is abstracted from cellular and other biological forms to convey the idea that humans and other living beings are all very similar and dependent on each other.

12-Read_11-2013smlArial View

As I worked to find my voice as an artist, I learned that my most authentic work comes from my own life experiences, including those as a nurse and a person concerned with protecting the environment. I used the bioethical precept primum non nocere (first do no harm) as a starting point for my current series, Life Forms. The first piece, The World Needs More, shows printed images of the pelvis that are degraded and unclear, and the additional collage materials are ominous; the upside down heart and the Latin text show us that something is wrong. Usually nature gets it right, but not always. Damage can occur resulting in mutations.  This piece suggested further pieces using imagery of the circle of life and interconnectedness, death and renewal.

The World Needs MoreThe World Needs More

Just as nature uses replication to change things or to generate new life, printmaking is a way to replicate and alter images. I print the images onto whole cloth or pieces of fabric with silkscreen or linocut to create a unique fabric that can be further manipulated by cutting it up and combining it in a variety of ways.  Printmaking also provides the opportunity to make multiples of the same images that can be used within a single piece or across work in a series.


Beyond the images, the meaning of my work is deeply intertwined with quiltmaking.  I have a strong connection to quilt making going back to my childhood when I learned handcrafts such as sewing and knitting at my mother’s knee.   Each piece in Life Forms either incorporates the layering and stitching seen in quilts, or references it in some way. As an active member of the local and international art quilt community, I have been exploring ways to help redefine the quilt as a relevant contemporary art form in the 21st century.

All photography by Sabila Savage.

Piece, Print, Quilt

When Katie’s Luminous Linocuts class started up again a couple weeks ago, I decided to create a large print on a  background pieced from yellow and white scraps from a recent quilting retreat at Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, CA.  I wanted the background to create a landscape feeling with a darker silhouette of plants in the foreground.  I considered appliquéing the silhouettes onto the background, but thought it might be fun to try printing it onto the fabric.  I drew the design onto a large 24″ x 20 piece of lino, dividing it into sections so it would be easier to ink up with a 12 inch roller.  Then I carved the lino for about a week.

Pod Lino

I did some test prints on paper, then printed the design onto two different pieced tops.  The first, shown below, was a test, just to make sure my idea would work before printing on the yellow and white fabric.

Pod lino print IOnce I was satisfied with the result, I printed it onto my yellow and white fabric.  I like the interesting effects achieved by printing on fabric, especially areas where the seams or the fabric created resists in areas. (Click on the photos to see the detail.)  Next step – add stitching. Pod lino print II

Photographing Artwork

Sibila in StudioOne of the steps I’m taking as an artist is putting together a portfolio to represent my work.  The most important element in the portfolio is excellent images. I’ve learned that how well your work is photographed can be the determining factor in whether or not your work is juried into a show.

Until recently, I’ve taken all photographs of my work myself.  This has been fine for sharing snapshots and even for blogging about my work, but images for submission really need to be of the best quality possible.  I’ve taken a few workshops on how to photograph quilts, but have limited space and poor lighting.  

As a freelance technical editor, I’ve worked with the photographer at C&T Publishing producing “how-to” shots for quilting books.  This experience has given me an appreciation for what it takes to get a good photo and also the realization that this is not something I can do myself.   Therefore, it was time to call in the professionals.  I asked around and was referred to Sibila Savage.  Her studio is in Emeryville, CA, about 45 minutes from my home, and she specializes in photographing artwork.  Perfect!

So far we’ve had three sessions to photograph my work.  Some pieces were straightforward, and others posed technical challenges.  Here’s an example of the difference between my best effort and how the pros do it.  This is a large piece, approximately 70″ x 58″ installed. The “before” shot was taken by me without a tripod in the poorly lit hallway at the Origins show back in Aug 2013. The “after” shot was taken in a photography studio, with excellent lighting, and a tripod by an experienced photographer. Big difference.  The color is correct and lighting even.

Before and After

Here’s an example of a piece that was particularly challenging to photograph.  I photographed this piece myself in one the windows at the UC Berkeley Art and Design Center in San Francisco and showed it in one of my recent blog posts.  It looked great and served my purpose to share it with people following my progress. I love how the photo shows the piece in this particular spot.

window installation But for the portfolio, I wanted to show how the piece could look installed floating in a gallery space.  I think we spent about a hour and a half to get a good photograph, first against a white background where it didn’t show up well and then against a gray background, and spending a lot of time getting the lighting just right.  The final result: ethereal, floating, fabulous!