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This aspen tree palette knife painting project for senior citizens was done at The Gallatin Rest Home, which cares for very elderly people, many with significant health issues.

Preface about this “cookie cutter” project approach. I have found that many adults feel apprehensive about making art and enjoy themselves more if they are given some kind of structure to begin with. I’ve also noticed that using non-traditional tools and techniques helps participants overcome the fear of “messing up.” (For senior citizens, having diminished dexterity can be very frustrating, so using tools they haven’t tried before circumvents expectations of how the tool should work.)

I chose aspen trees since their shape is simple and distinctly recognizable. Fall is a nice time to talk about bright, falling leaves which are beautiful in their imperfection.

  1. Since my class time is only an hour, I prepped my canvases with a background color to dry overnight. (I used a credit card and a rag to create a smooth gradation from robin’s egg blue to navy blue. –Note on the example photos, I had first tried white to blue to black, but I decided brighter blue was better– It didn’t matter if they were perfect because the background recedes behind the trees in the finished painting.)
  2. I started with short (5-minutes or less) demonstration of using the palette knife to apply white trunks and branches, black shadows and knotholes, and blobby yellow leaves. (This is for the seniors’ benefit, but also for the helpers, who need an understanding of the process in order to assist the seniors.)
  3. I passed out example images of aspen trees that had been painted with a palette knife, making sure that people understood that their painting didn’t need to match.
  4. We gave each painter a plastic palette knife and blobs of white and black paint (about the size of a quarter) on a paper plate.
  5. I demonstrated how to drag the palette knife downwards to create a straight tree trunk, then pull the branches upward.
  6. I showed how adding black along one side of each trunk creates a shaded side, then added black and gray dots and flecks to look like knot holes and bark.
  7. I gave each artist a wet paper towel (baby wipes work great) to clean their palette knife.
  8. When trunks were done, I gave each artist two shades for leaves: a darker ochre, and a bright lemon yellow. I showed how to dab yellow on to create the impression of leaves, and talked about how some leaves might be falling, or already on the ground.

The project took about 30 minutes for each person to do. For some older seniors, this is a plenty long time to sustain attention. For younger seniors or people with fewer physical challenges or more time, I would provide some photos of aspen trees for inspiration. The painters could have painted their own gradient backgrounds using a credit card or piece or card stock if the class had met twice (so there would be time for the background to dry).

Helping seniors paint: If you’re a helper with this activity, here are some examples of how you can help.

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Getting started:

  • Sometimes people have a hard time getting started, so I’m not shy about demonstrating that first line. If I see someone who looks like they don’t know how to begin, I ask, Would you like me to make the first trunk so you can see how it works? If I get no answer, I just do it and then load up the palette knife and casually hand it to the person. Sometimes I may point to an area on the canvas and say, It looks like this would be a good place to start.
  • People often lose momentum, so helping them continue and complete a work is a delicate art. Here are some ideas to help them be attentive without nagging:

Talk about the tools and the paint:

  • Have you ever painted with a palette knife before? It’s quite different from a brush, isn’t it? You don’t have to worry about the details.
  • That white paint looks nice and bright on the blue.
  • I see you have mixed some black paint in the white. That reminds me of tree bark.
  • Do you want some more white paint? Here’s some more. I’ll load up your tool for you.
  • Load up their palette knife with paint, repeatedly, if needed!

Talk about what they have done so far, and encourage them to keep going:

  • “You see you painted one trunk. Do you want to make another one? Here’s some more white.”
  • “I see you made a nice, bold white line. What do you think it needs now?”
  • I see you made a leaf. If you want more, you could dab some more paint on.

Countering negativity:

Always resist the urge to talk about “good” or “bad” artists or art.

  • Please, never say in front of any artist of any age, “I’m a bad artist” or “You’re a good artist.” There is never a need to bring up the topic of self-judgment, even if you’re judging yourself. Keep it light and easygoing. Think more in terms of, “We’re experimenting here, and anything goes.”
  • If a participant is saying “Mine looks messy” you don’t have to contradict them. You can quietly let them have their opinion, or if you feel they want reassurance, you can say “To me it looks lively!” or “I’ve noticed when I walk in the forest that leaves do look messy sometimes. I love windy days in the fall. How about you?”
  • Again, you don’t have to tell the artist, “It’s good.” It’s not your job to judge their art. Instead, encourage them by saying something more like, “It’s adventurous of you to experiment with this messy technique!” or just validate their feelings by saying, “You like things to be tidy, don’t you?” or “This is kind of a messy process, isn’t it?”
  • Although most participants enjoyed this activity, one said over and over, “I can’t paint my way out of a wet paper bag.” In this case, I just joked, “Well, you never know!”
  • Unlike small children, many older people have spent a lifetime being judged and criticized, so don’t feel discouraged if some people come with “baggage” about art. Just congratulate them for touching art supplies and thank them for joining you on an adventure, knowing that this sensory and cognitive experience is valuable, and it’s not up to you to “fix” their attitude.

I always enjoy the end of a workshop, when people see what others have done, how different and individual each piece is, and how we can celebrate each different approach. Participants always seem to leave feeling good about the works as a group.

 

aspens

aspen tree trunks

MusicMnemonic

Having never learned to read music as a young person, I always wished for a mnemonic system for reading music that made sense to me. The illustration above might look complex, but to me it’s simpler than memorizing a bunch of different mnemonics for each of the two staves (which look basically alike and are connected in one grand repeating pattern).

Maybe this won’t work for everyone (or even for me!), but I had to give it a try. I give you two all-purpose mnemonics that work for the both lines AND the spaces on the bass and treble staves. One for going up the staff – Fucking All Cows Eat Grass By Daylight – and one for descending – Found Dead Because Got Evil Cat And.

No matter where you start, on a line or a space, in the Bass Staff or the Treble, these two mnemonics provide quick reference for the ascending or descending lines or spaces.

For example, if you start at the F (F3) on the Bass Staff, (the line with the two dots of the Bass Clef symbol on each side) you should be able to name the lines, going upward or downward, using the appropriate mnemonic. (Fucking All Cows Eat Grass By Daylight goes up, Found Dead Because Got Evil Cat And goes down)

Or if you’ve memorized one or two note positions on each staff (I’m shooting for the B in the center of the Treble Clef and the D in the center of the Bass Clef) you would start in the middle of the mnemonic on whatever letter you’re at, and repeat as needed. (e.g. if counting downward from the D in the center of the Bass Staff, you’d think Dead Because Got Evil Cat And Found Dead…

Sorry about the profanity, but trying to learn to read music puts me in a profane mood.

My music vocabulary is pretty shaky, so feel free to correct me if you see a usage error or (heaven forbid) a mistake in my image.

“Untold Stories,” a series of works by Lori Keeling Campbell and Marla Goodman, will be on display at Wild Joe’s Coffeehouse in Bozeman Montana, July 2018 with an artist reception during the July 13 Downtown Bozeman Artwalk. Campbell and Goodman share a vibrant aesthetic and an interest in artistic storytelling. Their exhibit eulogizes the dead and the living through collage, printmaking and mixed media works.

 

 

Lori Keeling Campbell

Lori Keeling Campbell is a print maker and illustrator who studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and has lived in Bozeman for 25 years. She has worked at the Community Food Co-op ever since, where she has done design work and coordinated the Co-op’s art gallery, as well as showing work in group art shows there. You may have seen her working at the Customer Service desk and checkout.

Campbell has done freelance work, been a member of cooperative art galleries and worked with art projects in local grade schools. She spent more than a decade volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters and currently volunteers at Sacks thrift store, which benefits the Help Center. She and her husband enjoy traveling by motorcycle here in the U.S. and on their boat in Europe.

Campbell’s works in the “Untold Stories” show were inspired by her “Day of the Dead” style handmade book of block prints and prose, which honors loved ones who have passed away. She will also show block prints she created for her ongoing participation in the Global Art Project.

Marla Goodman

Marla Goodman is a painter, performance artist and community art activist. She was raised in a rural area south of Bozeman, where her early influences included artists Bob and Gennie DeWeese and Dorothy Newton Semple. In the late 80s, she graduated from MSU’s School of Art with a degree in painting, but opted to remain on the fringes of the art community, working to bring art to non-traditional venues.

Best known for her dark sense of quirk, Goodman’s figural paintings often juxtapose quaint images with unexpected or ominous visitors. Her photos, dioramas and paintings sometimes incorporate dolls, which she describes as “existentially troubled.” Other works celebrate the unsung by studying vernacular photos and personal iconography.

Goodman’s paintings in the “Untold Stories” series extract personal imagery from the lives of real people, re-attaching it to found Storybook dolls, which she sews directly onto the canvas. She describes her experiment as a type of life story transplant, entrusting the dolls with the earthly baggage of real people.

In addition to painting, Goodman promotes nonprofits, organizes art outreach exhibits, teaches art and music workshops and appears as the street performer, “Polly Vinyl, Art Thereminist.”

 

 

 

 

Polly Vinyl, Art Thereminist

Polly Vinyl, Bozeman Montana’s most prominent Art Thereminist, is scheduled to appear May 12, 2018 at the Bozeman Labor Temple’s upcoming Support Group show with Zenitram Jr. and Shane De Leon(FB event).

Needless to say, Polly is excited to appear on the ticket with these great artists.

Polly, who boasts a Facebook followership of 61 individuals (as of this writing) first made a name for herself performing in a pink evening gown, along with karaoke tracks, in front of Cactus Records in Bozeman. She has also appeared in various incarnations such as Dolly Vinyl, Cowgirl Thereminist (with the Dirt Farmers, 406 Brewing), Holly Vinyl, Yuletide Thereminist (with a masked mystery harp accompanist at Bozeman’s Christmas Stroll), and as part of the lounge-inspired Piano/Theremin duo, The Cliff and Polly Show (with Cliff DeManty, at Wild Joe’s).

For the May 12 Labor Temple show, Polly is working on a 30-minute set which will include an informative Theremin-accompanied exploration of the history of American productivity and a salute to ice skating legend (and Polly’s own shoe-string relation) Sonja Henie.

In preparation, Polly penned new lyrics to the “The Swan,” (AKA, Le cygne, the penultimate movement of The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns) which the legendary Clara Rockmore immortalized as a Theremin classic.

Polly will offer opportunities to purchase laminated “The Swan” lyrics bookmarks (and autographed 5×7 photos) at the performance, but interested parties can purchase “The Swan” bookmarks via Polly’s publicist, Goodwerks Creative, or her Etsy vendor, Kitschatorium.

The all-ages show begins at 8pm.

Lyrics to The Swan

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Here’s a little story about how a small nonprofit got lots of free design work, just by being receptive to it.

I had been watching social media for a local nonprofit called Befrienders, which pairs isolated seniors with volunteers who commit to visiting them for an hour a week.

I could see that whoever was running Befrienders was making an effort with their Facebook posts. I sent a few encouraging messages (and a bit of unsolicited advice) for which they graciously thanked me. After donating a few bucks to one of their fundraisers I got acquainted with director, Jessica Stillman, via email, and offered to help her with graphic design if she needed it.

Jessica took me up on the offer. She sent me a copy of a newsletter/annual report that she (sole, part-time employee) had made herself (see slideshow below). I could tell that she worked hard to make it look nice, though I’d have done a few things differently to make the same product look even better. A lot of it comes down to simple tricks like

  • consistent text styles
  • margin size and alignment
  • image sizing/cropping

 

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Anyway, these initial interactions gave me the impression that I’d enjoy working with Jessica. 1. She is gracious to strangers offering helpful advice. 2. She thanks her donors. 3. She follows up. 4. I saw the humility, energy and perseverance in her communications with me, her Facebook posts and her annual report, so I inferred that she applied this same dedication to the rest of her job, which includes screening and interviewing volunteers and senior applicants for the program, among many other things.

Done. I’m all yours. What do you need?

Jessica and the Befrienders Board of Directors were working on a “Sponsor a Match” campaign to help bring in funds so that Jessica can further spread the word about the need for volunteers, and continue screening them at a high level in order to provide the best results for the senior applicants that the nonprofit serves.

She didn’t really have any copy written. So I just dug in her website for the info to make a general brochure. It was already well written, and I liked their logo, so it was easy make a brochure.

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I suggested to Jessica that instead of making a whole brochure for her Sponsor a Match program, to make a 3.5×8.5″ insert which could also be the mail-in piece. That way she doesn’t have to print a full brochure for each special audience. Every penny counts.

We created a modest match sponsor appreciation packet, which includes a thank you card, a small framed display certificate, and a window decal.

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Since we now had a pretty new general brochure, I suggested making other targeted inserts that could contain compelling information for potential volunteers and senior applicants. Next, I discovered that this year is the Befrienders’ 25th Anniversary, so I suggested making some promotional items focusing solely on the anniversary.

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I was able to get the entire print package printed for under $500 (not counting the anniversary balloons, pins and stickers, which aren’t yet in production).

It was a wonderful experience working with Jessica and I hope that this new suite of materials will help their program serve even more local seniors. To learn more about Befrienders of Bozeman, or to donate to this worthy cause, visit: http://www.befriendersbozeman.org/

Last summer I applied to have one of my paintings included in the Montana Arts Council’s 2018 Art Mobile of Montana show, a traveling exhibit that reaches audiences in grades K-12 all over Montana.

When the exhibit came to rural schools near Bozeman, Curator/Educator Tess Fahlgren invited me to come to one of the visits. It was beyond fun, beyond inspiring… It was the kind of heart-melting feel-good experience that just makes all the yucky stuff in the world disappear like a bad dream.

I fell in love with the incredible kids at this tiny rural school, and their cool teacher, and their toddling siblings, and I was not a bit surprised at how deftly and intelligently Tess handled the presentation, discussion and art activity. I knew I would enjoy going, but it was even more wonderful than I imagined. (A shout out to my friend, artist Angela Yonke, or “Miss Angela” as she’s known by the students, who taught art as a visiting artist at Pass Creek School for several years! I bet you miss these guys!)

Here’s a rough collection of video clips that I caught:

And below is a little photo essay taken with my phone, since my camera card was on the fritz.

Thanks so much, Tess, for the invite and to Tess, Ms Rider, and the students for including me in this great day. Happy travels, Art Mobile!

I’m doing a collaborative journaling project with some of my Etsy friends, and today’s entry seemed fit for general consumption, so here it is.

We watched “Liberation Day” last night, a documentary about the concert in North Korea staged by the “radically ambiguous” ( i.e. hopefully ironically) pseudo-fascist Slovenian band, Laibach. It’s mind-blowingly weird, and more than a little depressing. It has been described as “the most bizarre concert ever,” which I can’t really argue. The fact that the concert happened at all is completely mystifying.

Laibach is David’s favorite band. They play sophisticated, industrial/classical/martial style music, and their lead vocalist, Milan Fras, sounds pretty much like my imagining of the prince of darkness. I think David finds their covers of sweet songs like “Let it Be” and “Across the Universe” refreshing. I get that. But it’s not exactly the kind of music I want to listen to while in my home with a cup of tea, crocheting.

In North Korea, after much confusion and censorship, they did covers of “Edelweiss” and “The Sound of Music.” Here’s their somewhat terrifying rendition of “My Favorite Things,” which we watched on Youtube, later.

The documentary was artistically filmed and had that disjointed/redacted character that all films that make it out of North Korea do. We had watched Álvaro Longoria’s “The Propaganda Game” a year or more ago, and it gave me that same eerie feeling of a dream you wish you could wake up from, and you keep realizing, “Fuck! This is real!” So, one North Korea film a year is enough for me, tops.

The weirdest parts of “Liberation Day” for me were the is he serious? comments made by Laibach’s Ivan Novak, who famously said in response to Orwell’s quote, “All art is propaganda,” “All propaganda is art.” You just don’t know whether he really thinks totalitarianism is a good idea, or if he’s being provocative. It’s discomfiting, but thought provoking, which I chose to think was his intention.

The North Korean audience looks about as thrilled by the performance as I imagine any given audience in fly-over Oklahoma or Montana* might look when presented with Laibach. How did they pick these audience members anyway? Was it a punishment or a treat? Did people just choose to come of their own accord? Did they love it, but carefully hide their emotions? Did they have post-Laibach stress? Were they monitored afterward? *Which brings to mind a question. Has talk radio created the propaganda equivalent of our own little North Korea, right in our midst?

Anyway, after checking the laundry, I realized I felt like crying. We call the movie you watch after the weird, upsetting one a palate cleanser. Last night’s palate cleanser was an episode of “Laugh In.” It was the first time I’d seen it since I was about 6 years old. That was a trip in itself. I could smell the warm polyester of our 1970s living room the minute Dan Rowan and Dick Martin started swizzling their martinis.

Afterward I went on a Spotify safari to find songs for next Wednesday’s ukulele cabaret play-along. I had decided on the theme “Good, Bad, Ugly” after hearing “Only the Good Die Young” on the oldies radio station in my car. Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” helped to wipe out the cobwebs of totalitarian ambiguity angst, followed by “You was a Good Ole Wagon, but you Done Broke Down.” I don’t think we’ll be doing any Laibach songs.

Marla

Over the past weeks I’ve been charging up for the Bozeman Open Studios Tour (10-4 Sat-Sun Oct 21-22 2017).  Pop in and see me! I’ll have tour maps on hand, or use the online map.

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Drop-In Hands-On Workshop I’ll be doing a very easy-going drop-in gelatin monoprint workshop. It’s super easy and fun to make an ink monoprint from a reference image, using gelatin as a printing plate. I’ll have it all set up so you can try this 5-10 minute activity if you want. You can make a coloring page, or notecard, or do like I do and just call it art.

pendants

Art Merch! I’ve got new prints, pendants, magnets, patches, wee ditty bags, matchbook sized print booklets, Marla art comics, cards and even a few oddities & cast-offs to purvey, so you can shop for your friends & family, be they geeks, angry feminists, inconsolable peaceniks, or just normal weirdos. (I will also have a few items from the sweeter, cuter, more mainstream side of my personality, which my sister Jana will like.)

FTS

New Originals! If you missed out on the chance to express your feminist outrage through an embellished monoprint from my “Fuck This Shit” series, I’ll have some new ones at a variety of smallish sizes and delightfully affordable prices, while they last. Who knows, I might even have a few surprises lurking around here.

swimsuitOld Originals! Perhaps you’re interested in something On Fire? Or a PINK painting based on vintage photos of women? A Caroline Kennedy figurine or baby doll embellished found-painting? A vintage swimmer? Or that weird painting of Captain Kirk carrying Spock’s head in a basket? They’ll be here, too. I’ll probably be ready to do a little wheelin and dealin on older stuff, so don’t be shy about asking for a discount.

apoca

Sneak Peek at the first few items to emerge from my newest creative outlet, Apocalypta’s Sewing Circle. Give me your input, or buy original embellished clothing if it fits your style and/or your body.

A while back I had the idea of making a Halloween Advent Calendar, and I got busy this weekend (Sept 30 — nothing like planning ahead!) and did it, start to finish. I wanted to surprise my daughter and her husband with it, because they’re pretty into Halloween, and they usually come over for brunch on Sundays. Okay, so they didn’t get it until October 2. Still a Halloween miracle.

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Here’s how I went about it.

  • Day one Sept 30: With David’s help I wrote a list of 31 Halloween related images, one for each day of October. It wasn’t easy coming up with the last 5 or 6.
  • I creased a brown paper grocery sack into 36 squares (6 rows of 6). This gave me a couple extra boxes in case I screwed up.
  • I sat down at the coffee table with a pencil and sketched a picture in each square. I went with mice, since I can draw them pretty fast, they’re a rather “forgiving” creature.
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  • Next, I headed down to my art kitchen and listened to several podcasts and comedy recordings while furiously coloring with Prismacolors. I love my electric pencil sharpener. My rate was about five 1.5×1.5″ pictures per hour, so it took 6 hours to do the coloring. (Thank you Patton Oswald, Mitch Hedberg (yes, I know you’re dead), Danielle Krysa and “Sawbones.” You could spend a lot less time and still make something fun!
  • Went back up to the office and scanned my little pics. (If you’re only making one, you could just use the originals and use real life cut and paste skills instead of a computer.)mouse
  • Day two: Found a picture of a spooky looking house and sized it (in InDesign) to fit my final calendar, then printed a reduced version of it on 8.5×11. (easier to draw and scan than actual size)
  • On tracing paper, I semi-traced, semi-reimagined the house image lightly with pencil, planning in 31 window spaces. Then I inked it with India ink and some messy washes. (I was short on time, but I’m cool with the way my super-fast house came out.)
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  • I would have scanned my house drawing, but who has time for India ink to dry? So I took a photo of it with my phone and placed it in an InDesign document, sizing it to fit my final calendar sheet. (I added a brown paper texture and green tint in PhotoShop.)
  • Next, in InDesign, I sized and placed my little brown bag illustrations on top of the windows in the house drawing, bearing in mind I wanted my illustrations just slightly larger than my windows.
  • After I had them where I liked, I duplicated that “guide” page in the InDesign doc twice, so I had 3 copies in all.
  • On copy 1 of the page, I kept the little illustrations, but deleted the house.
  • On copy 2, I deleted the little illustrations, kept the house, and placed the numbers 1-31 on the windows.
  • I kept my original page (copy 3), with both the house and the little illustrations, to print as a cutting guide.
  • Finally, I printed all three pages, one to be the outside of the house, one to be the illustrations that are seen when the windows are opened, and one that I made into a cutting guide so I could get the window slits in just the right places without marking up my house. I printed two different sizes. I checked my placement on a small printout before using our fancy 13×19 printer.
  • I made a cutting guide for each size of calendar. On it, I decided how the windows would open, (left, right, up or down) and marked the appropriate 3 edges with a contrasting Sharpie (now I can re-use the jig without stopping to think about each cut).IMG_8595
  • I placed the cutting guide over my final house page and taped it to the cutting mat so it wouldn’t move while I was cutting. It goes faster if you cut all the lines in one direction first, then go back and do all the perpendicular lines.
  • Finally, I used double stick tape to adhere “illustration” page to the “house with windows” page, and punched some holes to hang it with. (Obviously, I only put the sticky tape in areas where there weren’t any windows.)done

Boom! It’s a Hallowadvent calendar. If you want me to make you one of these, hit up my “cute stuff” Etsy shop, Goodwerks. It’s OK if it doesn’t get delivered on Oct. 1, because you get the fun of opening more windows when it arrives!

Happy October!

My “Pink” painting series will be at Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot, 18 W. Main, throughout September 2017, with an “artist hangout” (i.e. super chill reception) during the Friday, Sept 8. However, these extra special “FTS” pieces (and some other surprises!) will be on public display only during Bozeman Artwalk 6-8pm Sept 8. Here’s a secret link for anyone who might like to purchase early: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Kitschatorium

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