Archive for the ‘My artwork’ Category
Cindy La Ferle on August 22nd, 2013
“Welcome to the Great Plastic Surgery Debate — between women who do and women who don’t, and between the pressure to look 25 no matter the cost and our desire to be true to ourselves.” — Jane Ganahl
Timing is everything, isn’t it? This week I’ve reached the two-month anniversary of the Mohs skin cancer surgery on my right cheek. As I mentioned in my essay on this topic for Michigan Prime, the five-hour procedure included plastic surgery reconstruction techniques to repair the three-inch incision.
Calling it an ordeal would be an understatement, but the pain and numbness are improving now, and the scar is healing … slooowly but surely. And there’s comfort in knowing the cancer was successfully removed.
Yesterday, the September/October issue of Spirituality & Health arrived in my mail, and the cover story caught my eye immediately. Written by veteran journalist and author Jane Ganahl, “Staring Plastic Surgery in the Face” delves beneath the surface (pardon the pun) of this controversial topic. The excellent piece shines a light on the spiritual and psychological aspects of aging — and why so many women go under the knife in order to meet the beauty standards of our youth-obsessed culture. Ganahl approaches the topic even-handedly, admitting she used to “judge” women who paid surgeons to tighten sagging jawlines and erase wrinkles.
Ganahl’s debate got me thinking. After undergoing Mohs surgery to repair a potentially disfiguring skin cancer, I’m not sure, now, if I’d submit myself to a facelift or cosmetic fillers to “fight” aging. For now, I’m grateful to be healing, and hoping to remain skin-cancer free while my new scar slowly blends into the laugh lines on my cheek.
What’s your opinion on this topic? Would you consider cosmetic surgery?
– Collage image by Cindy La Ferle –
Cindy La Ferle on February 2nd, 2013
“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one” – Stella Adler
Not long ago, a friend asked: Which came first — making art or writing stories? Her question got me thinking about the new direction my creative life is taking.
Looking back on my childhood, I recall watching my mother as she mixed her oil paints on a glass palette. In those days Mom worked at home as a color artist, tinting portraits of brides and high school students for local photography studios.
Like most kids, I was fascinated with art supplies, and seized every opportunity to make a mess. There’s an old family story about the time I grabbed one of Mom’s paint brushes, then somehow ended up in the emergency room with the brush stuck in my nose. I was barely a year old — but the accident never discouraged my urge to dabble in art.
Over the years, however, my interest in books and writing grew stronger. And while I always managed to take art classes, even in college, I was discouraged from trying a career in art. How many artists make a living selling their work?
My college professors urged me to pursue writing. I could argue my way through any topic, and was even advised to consider law school. (I know … I can hear you laughing.) After college, the field of journalism wasn’t exactly wide open, but I managed to find interesting work at publishing companies, magazines, and newspapers.
But I shouldn’t have been so surprised to learn that making art gave me the creative freedom I’d been missing from the calculated process of writing and editing.”
After I married and became a mother, freelance writing provided the flexible schedule I needed. The writing life was near-perfect for two decades, in fact, and I loved it.
By the time my son left for college, however, freelance budgets began evaporating. Publications folded up and disappeared like traveling circuses. And while I didn’t suffer a full-blown midlife crisis in my empty nest, I desperately needed to be excited about something again.
Why not art? Heading to the local craft supply store, I felt my heart lift for the first time in ages. I started making cards and notepads for friends, then tried bigger projects — altered books, shrines, and mixed-media assemblages. I made mistakes; I learned new skills.
All along, it occurred to me that I was still telling stories — just using different materials. But I shouldn’t have been so surprised to learn that making art gave me the pure creative freedom that I’d been missing from the calculated process of writing and editing.
Not that I’m giving up the writing life entirely — but I’ve decided to make 2013 my official “Art Year.” I’ve promised myself to create at least one new art project a week, whether it’s a birthday box for a friend or an entry for an art competition.
Though I’ve had several of my altered books and collages accepted in Michigan art competitions, one of my long-range goals is to have enough quality work for a solo art show. And I’d like to start selling a few of my pieces. Maybe I won’t make a living as an artist, but my soul is telling me to follow my heart — before any more time gets away from me.
So far, I’m off to a great start. Two of my pieces were selected for the Anton Art Center’s 40 Michigan Annual (through February 23), and I recently learned that several photographs of my pieces were accepted for publication in a new anthology showcasing writing and artwork from the Midwest.
If you’d like to have a look at what I’ve been up to in my studio, please click here to visit my project gallery on Facebook. For regular updates on all of my projects, please “like” Cindy La Ferle’s Home Office and Studio on Facebook.– Cindy La Ferle
– Original artwork by Cindy La Ferle. For a larger view of both art pieces shown in this post, please click on each photo. –
Cindy La Ferle on January 10th, 2013
Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. ~Henry Ward Beecher
This the last of a three-part series on this project …
At this point, the portrait finally gains a three-dimensional layer. It’s the most enjoyable step in the process, giving the imagination free reign and a permission slip to have fun.
For this step you’ll need an industrial-strength glue to secure the heavier objects to the piece. I use E-6000 on most mixed-media projects.
To create the headdress, I combed through several boxes of treasure I’ve collected from thrift stores, garage sales, craft stores and flea markets. Old rhinestone jewelry, vintage hardware, buttons, sewing notions. … You name it, I collect it. And when I’m out walking or riding my bike, I often stop to pocket bottle caps, gears, and rusted can lids. Finding soulful beauty in these found objects, I often make a home for them in my artwork. To me, the broken or damaged items have more character — their own backstory — and I love how they add an air of intrigue to any piece of artwork.
For this self-portrait project, I let my mind wander as I selected items to build the headdress. Think of it as free association.
It struck me that the headdress could double as an expression of what’s going on inside my head while I’m dreaming or working out a problem, for instance. I thought about the goals I‘d scripted for my life when I was young — and where the journey has taken me since.
Rust and rhinestones
Picking through my button collection, I found a small copper button engraved with a locomotive. This item appealed to me instantly, reminding me of my son’s boyhood fascination with trains and all the lovely times we spent walking the railroad tracks at a local park. (Some of the rusty iron and tin scraps used in this piece were collected near those same tracks.)
Likewise, the old fountain pen nibs honor my writing career, so I inserted them at the lower right side of the headdress. The weathered faucet grips (pilfered from my husband’s hardware stash in the basment) and the twigs (from our back yard) salute my interest in gardening and the natural world.
Because I was born in Detroit — and my Scottish-immigrant grandfather had a tool and die shop — I wanted the headdress to have some edgy, industrial components. So, I included small gears and rusty machine parts along with the sparkling rhinestone jewelry. The Celtic knot triangle at the top of the headdress represents my beloved Scots-Irish heritage, while the stars sprinkled in the background suggest the night sky, when we’re all dreaming.
Most important of all, the butterfly – floating in three different places – has been my personal totem for many years. During the roughest times in my life, including my two hip-replacement surgeries, the butterfly served as a reminder of transformation, hope, and recovery.
Lastly, in the “necklace” I created, you’ll see a remnant of costume jewelry, missing its original stone, which I refashioned to contain the photograph of an eye. Flipping through a fashion magazine, I found a photo of a female celebrity whose eye color looked fairly close to mine. (Can you guess whose eye it is?) The eye detail borrows from the mythology of the “all-seeing” eye, but also plays as a pun on the word “I” – all in good fun and just right for a self-portrait like this.
Once I adhered my chosen objects to the canvas, I applied another wash of black paint and antiquing glaze around the items that needed to be toned down.
I can hear some of you asking: Why bother with the background layer, given that it barely shows beneath the other layers? In a nutshell, making a collage is a process of trial-and-error. It’s all about discovery and surprise — a lot like crafting a life. The past – our base layer – informs the life we have now, no matter how much we’ve morphed and changed in the process. Along the way, we keep adding little gems of experience and a few hard-as-metal lessons. – Cindy La Ferle
– For a larger view, please click on each photograph; it will enlarge a couple of times if you click on a section of interest. If you missed the first two parts of this series, simply scroll down to the posts following this one. –
All photos copyrighted by Cindy La Ferle
Cindy La Ferle on January 9th, 2013
“Creativity always takes courage. — Henri Matisse
This is part two of a three-part series …
Bring on the acrylic paints! Adding more texture and brighter color to the background layer is the next step before adhering a photo of myself to the center.
Not unlike adolescence, this part of the process can be a little scary, not to mention messy.
As Matisse pointed out, creativity demands our courage. Having learned this lesson the hard way over the years, I keep trying to push myself out of my comfort zone, whether I’m working on an article or an art project.
You’ll recall from yesterday’s post that I was pleased with the fresh look of my first background layer — and was tempted to leave it alone.
Instead, I asked myself which areas of the layered canvas I wanted to show through – even slightly – in the final piece. From the start, I wanted the red-haired Renaissance child to show through the additional layers of acrylic paint and stain — plus I wanted to retain a few letters of the alphabet. So, I made sure I didn’t cover too much of those areas when I layered more paint on the canvas.
Why the bright splashes of red and neon pink? I wanted some color to warm up the darker “antiqued” palette I’d planned for the portrait. These colorful, random splashes will almost disappear once I layer a thin wash of sepia-toned acrylic stain over the entire background layer. (Please click on the photos for a larger view.)
I’m drawn to things that have a patina or a worn, “aged” appearance — they carry a certain mystery and romance. Of course, that’s simply a matter of personal style and taste. This might not appeal to you, so it you prefer a brighter palette, go for it. There’s not a “right way” to do this, so it’s best to leave any trace of perfectionism at the back door.
Next, for heavier texture, I squeezed generous amounts of tacky craft glue (Elmer’s is one choice) on the corners and swirled them into circular shapes. My goal was to imitate the look of an ornate picture frame at the edges.
Later, as you will see below, I added touches of metallic gold and bronze paint to these areas after the glue dried.
Next step: Toning it down, adding the photograph
Once the glue dried, I began the process of toning down the background layers, to make them recede behind the photo to be added at the next stage. To do this, I thinned deeper shades of brown and charcoal paint with a glazing medium, then dabbed it over the canvas with a sponge or paper toweling. Again, my goal was to create depth and texture; to make the piece three-dimensional.
Now, to make this a real self-portrait, I placed a copy of a vintage black-and-white photograph in the center of my layered canvas. (I was about 25 years old in this photo, so it qualifies as “vintage” — right?)
As noted earlier, I wanted the painting of the Renaissance child to show in the portrait, so I positioned my own photo in such a way that the child appears to be looking over my shoulder.
I liked the way this plays on the idea that “the past” is always behind as an influence, and that my younger self is still part of me.
Again, I used gel medium to adhere my black-and-white photo, then let it dry. Then — using a lot of Mod Podge — I added a few scraps of old lace at the neckline to create a collar. After it dried, I layered several washes of stain over the lace.
While I wanted to “tone down” the background layers, I decided not to antique the photo of myself. With the darker palette I envisioned for the final version, I knew that I’d want the face to “pop” from the background. But my “Memoir on Canvas” is nowhere near completion here — and the fun part is next. Stay tuned …
TOMORROW: Adding found objects and finishing the portrait
– All photos and material copyrighted by Cindy La Ferle –
Cindy La Ferle on January 8th, 2013
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” — Thomas Merton
The first week of the new year always invites introspection, making it the perfect time to start the mixed-media self-portrait I’ve been putting off for years.
I’m happy to report that it was one of the most satisfying creative projects I’ve ever attempted.
I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I hope you’ll be inspired to try a self-portrait too. I can promise this much: You’ll unearth buried treasure in your own heart — if not your junk drawers — as you cut, paste, paint, and dabble along. Consider it art therapy, if you must, or a chance to re-imagine your goals and dreams.
So what possessed me to give this project a whirl?
Throughout my writing career, I’ve specialized in memoir, telling my “story” in bits and pieces through newspaper columns, magazine essays, and blog posts. And while the mixed-media artwork I do is another form of self-expression, I’ve never attempted to do anything quite as personal as a self-portrait. My assemblages, for instance, are typically focused on nature, my ancestors, spiritual themes, or even favorite authors. And I’ve never included a photo of myself in my work.
Inspired by the cover story of the November/December issue of Somerset Studio last year — featuring an awesome mixed-media self-portrait by artist Anna Dabrowska-Pecocka — I fetched a fresh 16” x 20” canvas and got to work on my “Memoir on Canvas” project.
You’ll unearth buried treasure in your own heart — if not your junk drawers — as you cut, paste, paint, and dabble along.
In the process, I discovered that creating a self-portrait has a great deal in common with writing a memoir. Collage is another form of storytelling, of course, but it relies more on intuition than literal memories. Like life itself, a mixed-media piece is assembled one layer at a time. (SPOILER ALERT: Soon, you’ll see that my finished portrait looks nothing like the background layer shown in the photo.)
It also occurred to me that my styles in writing and art are incredibly different. I prefer clean, uncluttered paragraphs in my essays, but tend to go for a richer, more complex “vocabulary” in my artwork. Best of all, artwork wakes up the right side of my brain and urges me to put my inner editor and critic to sleep.
Over the next few days, I’ll be posting a mini tutorial on this project, showing you photos of my portrait in its various stages. What you’re viewing here is only the start. Please remember to click on the photographs for a much larger view.
Step 1: An intuitive background layer
This step is a chance to play freely. Like a child with a new box of crayons, you grab all materials that immediately appeal to you. Never over-think what you “should” use for your base layer. The possibilities are limitless, although it’s important to ensure that you can adhere everything securely to the canvas. Explore the variety of strong adhesives at your local craft store.
Tissue, wallpaper samples, newspaper photos and clippings, fabric or magazine scraps … I chose intuitively, for the most part, although I did make a point of including letters of the alphabet to honor my love of the written word. At the same time, I deliberately included a print of a Renaissance painting of an auburn-haired child, to represent my much-younger self and to serve as a nod to a period of history that always appealed to me — a period of creative discovery in art and science.
For this step, I also added scraps of fabric as well as vintage lace I’ve collected from thrift stores. These choices reflect my interest in textiles and fashion, and will do their part to add some interesting texture when paint is added later. After using Golden Gel Medium and Mod Podge (matte finish) to adhere my base layer to the canvas, I put the project aside for a day to dry thoroughly.
Though I hadn’t even added my own photograph to the center of the piece yet, I was tempted to leave the background layer “as is” because I liked its composition. But this first layer is merely the rough outline (or draft) for my “story” – and, as you’ll see over the next couple of days, it still needs a narrative.
Tomorrow’s post: Adding more texture, color, and a photograph of me.