Lucas Museum Chicago: Pushing the boundaries on more bad architecture

November 13, 2014 Leave a comment


This is the concept art for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which landed in Chicago after after a few California cities and NYC all said “Uhhhh, no.” I swear if this ugly mess gets built, I’m going to call it “Blanket Fort” for the rest of my life. You have to be a Chicago local to understand the South Loop to South Shore has traditionally been an architectural “no man’s land.” It’s sort of the “low value thus experimental” chalk board of America’s third largest city.

This is the area that had the real estate so that Chicago wound up with the hideous Mistake on the Lake, the black mass of the original McCormick Place Convention Center. Pile up some cardboard boxes in a horizontal mass, spray paint them all matte black and you have McCormick Place. Existing structures are not safe from being remade into a disaster. Historical preservationists failed to save Soldier Field, which was removed from the National Registry of Historic Buildings for being too architecturally compromised from the original design with contemporary retrofitting . Please, someone, come up with a different design for the Lucas Museum. Looking at a UFO on Romanesque architecture just off from the Mistake on the Lake is bad enough. We don’t need a Blanket Fort added to the collection.

Categories: Chicago

Sandhill Cranes Fall Hike in Indiana

November 10, 2014 Leave a comment

sandhill cranes flying overhead

I went on a guided hiking trip with Skokie Park District and took some nature photos this weekend! We traveled to the Jasper-Pulaski Nature Reserve in Indiana for the sandhill crane migration. The nature preserve is in a really rural area. And there is no cellular coverage there, either.

I only had a 300 mm lens on a Nikon DSLR and was looking at envy with anyone that had a 600 mm or larger lens. It turns out that sandhill cranes are sensitive to being disturbed and the nature preserve has the viewing area is well back from the feeding and roosting areas. Binoculars were really helpful for viewing; photography was difficult. At least I have some images that will be okay as visual references for drawing or painting.  Also, the weekend had a big surprise; so that will be the last photo!


river birch trees

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Practice Design with Japanese Nōtan Art

September 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Japanese Nōtan is a great way to learn to make a balanced design. This 3 minutes video is a good example of the process. Below are some images from around the web of finished artworks.



notan 5


notan 4


notan 3


Categories: Uncategorized

Important Tips on Using Gelli Arts Gelli Monoprinting Plate

August 30, 2014 Leave a comment

gelli plateI have been playing around with a rubbery gel monoprinting plate by Gelli Arts. I learned you cannot use inks with the plate. It is a fun tool for monoprinting by hand, especially for making your own decorative papers. These are the details I have learned so far:


  • Stay with acrylic media! The fine particles of watercolour paints and inks are absorbed by the Gelli plate. I used Speedball water-based block printing ink, and it stained the plate very deeply. Using dish liquid detergent and alcohol hand sanitizer gel did not lift the stains. The instructions say to avoid dyes and fabric dyes but do not mention inks specifically. Many inks are acrylic based; it seems natural media that has gum Arabic or fine colorants work their way into the plate. The pigment or colorant in watercolours, inks and dyes seem fine enough to be absorbed by the Gelli plate. I thought the plate was non-porous sheet of silicone rubber. This is not the case. Some of the inks that caused the staining also came out when I was using it later and blended in with the acrylic paints I was printing. 
  • A drying rack is a huge help. Use a line to hang prints if you have to. I have enjoyed working where there is a drying rack so I can print, let the paper dry and go back to print further layers or color.
  • The surface of the Gelli plate is very sensitive. Use a very soft sponge or a piece of t-shirt fabric if you need to rub off dry paint. Even standard paper towels seem to be really rough and leave marks on the surface. Keep the packaging material so you can store your Gelli plate without it getting dented or scratched. 

I am having a lot of fun with this tool. I just ran into a learning curve on what I can do and cannot do with it, and some concerns on how to properly maintain my new toy. If you have learned anything interesting, please respond in the comments area. 


Categories: Artist Tips, Printmaking

Laser Collage Article

August 22, 2014 3 comments

Art Sharks by Shellie Lewis, paper collage and laser cutter, 6x8 inches, 2014

Art Sharks by Shellie Lewis, paper collage and laser cutter, 6×9 inches, 2014

I came up with a new method for collage or at least a variation on the process which I published here. The intended audience is people within the hacker/maker community and are more likely to have access to laser cutting technology.

If you are enrolled at a college or university and you are not learning how to use current tech in laser cutting and 3-D printing, see if there is an available hackerspace / makerspace in your area. Laser cutting and 3-D equipment was on the campus I graduated from in 2010, in one department and locked behind closed doors, the private playthings of the professors. Students did not even know this equipment existed on campus. Demand education and access to this technology if your campus is missing it or is restricting access to the equipment. Robotics, rap rep [rapid reproduction] and being able to prototype creations on your own are current technologies that a wide range of creative and technical fields are using now. For me, becoming proficient with a laser cutter has opened new doors creatively, has been interesting and a lot of fun.   

Artist Trading Card Animated Zine

August 22, 2014 3 comments




Share artist trading cards with the world! Here is a zine I made as an animation you can link to, email, tweet and send any way you want. Share the idea of artist trading cards with as many people as you can. Short link to this post:

Recycled Book Art: How to make volumes for free or cheap

This less than 2 minute video shows two ways that I used to make hand bound art books using recycled materials for free or cheap.

I made paper for the first art book by pulping the interior pages in a blender, adding some white PVA glue and blue acrylic paint with a dash of glitter. I did not have a proper paper mold screen and used the back of a silkscreen, which made very thick, lumpy paper that took a very long time to dry. If I make paper again, I am going to use a better paper mold that lets more water flow through the mesh.

I skipped making paper for the second book and used acrylics paints and ink with a brayer to change the existing pages. Rolling  colors and monoprinting using a glass plate, gelatin or Gelli plate method worked well. I got a nice, thin and fairly even coat of paint on the book pages.

The supplies to get started with book binding are very simple:

  • Heavy thread like carpet thread or button thread. Embroidery floss and thin ribbon are also fairly strong and come in many nice shades,
  • A large needle to make stitches. I like a heavy needle like a large embroidery type.
  • A basic paper awl. If your materials are thin enough, push pins or dressmaker t-pins work.
  • Having a bone folder helps to make nice folded edges.
  • A block of beeswax is nice; it coats the thread and makes it easier to pull, less likely to fray.
  • A jar of YES! Paste Stickflat Glue lasts a long time. It thins with water and works well for all sorts of paper crafting.
  • Two marble or granite floor tiles and waxed paper to press things to dry. I bought two 12 inch polished granite floor tiles from a home outlet store for $4 each. If you put some weight on top, it makes a cheap book press.

You could skip inks and acrylic paints and use materials as you find them to make totally recycled / zero cost books. If you are piercing slimmer materials, a cork board push pin works well to make holes. An awl or needle tool works better if you need to make holes in anything more than 1/8 inch thick. I had some wrinkled pages from the paints and adhesive I used, he nice thing about book binding is that you can get starting making things for under $ 10 – although under $20 gives you a better suite of tools.

Also, check out this great bookbinding channel: Sea Lemon. The tutorial videos are great and the creator has a pattern to make a book press using two wooden cutting boards. Jennifer at Sea Lemon has very clear instructions and the videos are great.





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