Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Michael deMeng's Strange Tales of Magic and Miracles On-line Workshop 2018

Michael deMeng's Strange Tales of Magic and Miracles
On-line Workshop 2018


Time for another on-line workshop with Michael deMeng.  This one is Strange Tales of Magic & Miracles.  

Here is the workshop description from Michael:  "Have you ever had one of those experiences where some seemingly inevitable tragedy was about to take place?  Then, out of the blue...an unexpected miracle occurs.   In Mexico, there is a tradition that addresses such strange inexplicable events called ex votos.  Ex votos are small paintings that depict the moment of tragedy or potential tragedy and give thanks to intervening supernatural forces.  In this class, we are going to create mixed media interpretations of this art form.  Collage, painting, metal embossing and assemblage will be used to create a representation of a personal miracle.   So...do you believe in magic?"

Behind the idea of ex-votos (the thank you for a miracle) and a shrine (remembering the things that have past) is an obstacle.

I had already made an ex-voto in Mexico with Michael in 2015 that is one of my favorite and personal pieces of art that I have ever made:  a thank you for the miracle that is my wife Denice.

For this workshop I felt like I was free to make an ex-voto that was not about me.  I tried to make one that is in the style of the original ex-votos...

...but includes the 3D work that Michael was teaching in this workshop.

I started with the abandoned top to a cigar box.

This on-line workshop had a special guest star but Michael did not have to pay any travel expenses to do the filming.  The collage portion of the workshop was taught by his wife, Andrea Matus deMeng. The basic collage goes through a lot of changes to move from what is shown above to what was achieved.  

Most ex-votos have an inscription thanking the special saint(s) who saved the sufferer from their ultimate fate.  My ex-voto has an inscription in Spanish which is supposed to translate as: Thanks to Saint Peter and Saint Andrew for saving me from the fish when I fell overboard.

The second portion of the workshop was shrine building.  This is how I came to assemblage and it was great to get back to the origins.  

As I began to work on this I decided to blend the purpose of the ex-voto with the idea of the shrine.  I researched a saint to thank and came up with "Saint Catherine of Bologna (8 September 1413 – 9 March 1463)--an Italian Poor Clare nun, writer, teacher, mystic, artist and saint. The patron saint of artists and against temptations" from the fountain of all knowledge, Wikipedia.

The beginning work on this project was started at a Make What Ya Brung at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI.

I decided to start the project with something to represent me and selected a vintage Visible Man figure.  One of the techniques Michael teaches is rusting and this guy got the full treatment.

I selected a busted guitar as the base for the shrine.  

At Make What Ya Brung it got the paper mache treatment taught at a recent workshop by Michael Shemchuk at Crystal Neubauer's studio in Racine, WI.  Then everything went home where the project was completed.  

I decided to firm up the guitar by using Great Stuff.  As you can see, it does expand to fill the space, doesn't it?

Then it was time to start attaching stuff...

...and begin the painting.

The idea behind this one is that the painting represents the 12-point color wheel.  There is a lot of color going on in this one and although that is cool I am not sure I executed this project as well as I could.  Time will tell if I go back with a paint brush to "improve" it.

The ex-voto inscription is as follows:

Thank you, St. Catherine of Bologna, for introducing me to Katherine Engen and Michael deMeng, so that I could become an artist. 

Thanks to Michael deMeng and Andrea Matus deMeng for a great on-line workshop experience.  Visit them at https://www.michaeldemeng.com/michaeldemeng or https://www.andreamatus.com.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Prospero's Books Class with Andrea Matus deMeng, Shake Rag Alley, May, 2018

Prospero's Books Class
Andrea Matus deMeng
Shake Rag Alley, May, 2018

May 15, 2018

May meant I was off on another art adventure at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI.  This time the class is taught by Andrea Matus deMeng from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  Above you can see the class samples for her Prospero's Books workshop.

I was able to pick up Andrea at the Milwaukee airport to get her out to Mineral Point.  I made a choice to avoid the construction throughout Milwaukee by heading south before going West.  To say this was not the best travel plan would be an understatement as the Hwy. 11 exit was closed, Hyy. 20 West was under construction and when we tried to leave Whitewater Hwy. 59 West was completely closed.  Although we did stop for dinner, a 2 and 1/2 hour trip stretched to 5.

However, Andrea did get to Shake Rag so the mission was accomplished.

May 16, 2018

This morning I headed over to Milwaukee (on a different route than selected the day before) to get my friend and table mate for this workshop, Marilyn Werst from Louisville, KY.

This night all of the early arrivals headed over to Tequila Point for dinner.  One of the highlights of these workshops for me is the gathering of the clan, an opportunity to re-visit with friends.

May 17, 2018

Above you can see the class samples for our project.  Here is the class description from Andrea:
"Imagine you stumble across a beautiful box, your curiosity gets the better of you and you open it only to discover a treasure trove of unusual and otherworldly books on the interior. The Book of Mirrors (for interested in self-reflection), The Bestiary of Past Present and Future Animals (a menagerie of fantastical critters), The Book of Utopias (the travel guide to idyllic lands), The Book of Water (a book of aquatics tales) and so many intriguing others. In this four-day book making extravaganza we’ll be creating our own Mystical Box to house books we’ve altered, bound, painted and assemblaged. We’ll work our way through several distinct book binding techniques, including the illustrious Mixed Coptic Binding, the Long Stitch and my very own “the Canadian”. The Mixed Coptic bookbinding allows us to bring eclectic “pages” and page like objects made from a variety of different materials together as well as incorporating traditional book signatures. Wood, mica, paper, plastic, metal, fabric and much more can be sewn together and bound; disparate elements unified. A mixed media artist’s dream come true. We’ll use paint, collage and assemblage techniques to build or alter a box that will house all of your newly created books.

The books are loosely based on Shakespeare's play The Tempest where the central character Prospero is betrayed by his brother and cast out to a small deserted island with his young daughter Miranda. Prospero learns sorcery from his books in order to protect his daughter and control some of the other characters living on the island. The source of his power and wisdom comes from his 24 books. We’re not making 24 books but we will be using his list of awesome books as our inspiration. I’ve attached a word document with the list of 24 books in the event that you want to bring some papers, found objects or images to create a specific book.  You don’t need to be overly literal, but these titles alone will likely inspire some cool books. I’ll be guiding you through some techniques that will be very effective for some of these so don’t stress if you don’t have time to figure out exactly what you want to do yet. For the most part I have used the titles to inspire the covers of my books and have left the contents empty so that they can be used as personal art journals. We will also be creating several miniature books that are great for filling the nooks and crannies of our boxes - most of these I fill with pages of text taken from other books. A thrift store paperback is perfect for this job.

Pages of the books (especially our main book) can be a mixed of wide variety of materials and this makes for a very interesting book. Sheets of large mica, thin metal sheets, thin wood sheets, acetate (transparencies), or thin plexiglass can be combined with regular paper in your book to make a very unique collection. Make sure these are not too thick though (not more than an 1/8”, and we need to be able to easily drill or pierce through whatever it is you want to bind).

You can absolutely bring along blank sketchbooks - you'll create amazing covers and won’t have to worry about creating all of the signatures.

There are 24 books (we won’t be making 24) in Prospero’s book list. The list is reminiscent of the lost books of Epicurus
1. A Book of Water
2. A Book of Mirrors
3. A Book of Mythologies
4. A Primer of the Small Stars
5. An Atlas Belonging to Orpheus
6. A Harsh Book of Geometry
7. The Book of Colours
8. The Vesalius Anatomy of Birth
9. An Alphabetical Inventory of the Dead
10. A Book of Travellers' Tales
11. The Book of the Earth
12. A Book of Architecture and Other Music
13. The Ninety-Two Conceits of the Minotaur
14. The Book of Languages
15. End-plants
16. A Book of Love
17. A Bestiary of Past, Present and Future Animals
18. The Book of Utopias
19. The Book of Universal Cosmography
20. Lore of Ruins
21. The Autobiographies of Pasiphae and Semiramis
22. A Book of Motion
23. The Book of Games
24. Thirty-Six Plays"

Marilyn Werst and Andrea Matus deMeng

Here is what my worktable looked like to begin.

I drilled a hole...

...covered it with burlap...

...to make a space for the cool bottle opener I got at Crazy Frank's Flea Market in town.

The insides of the box.

Here is how the top ended up.

The quote is from the Bible and sets the theme for my box:  Parents

May 18, 2018

After working on our boxes yesterday, today we begin the Coptic sewn book that will be central feature of the inside of the box.

I decided to take the central image off the cover and create a peek-a-boo hole. 

Creating the pages.

I brought this old wedding dress to use as the fabric in the inside of the box but...
after modeling it, I could not use it.  (Photo by Cris Smith)

May 19, 2018

Day three finds us busy getting instructions, working on our books and finishing the boxes.

I had a invitation to join a group of my crime fiction fans in Middleton, WI. on this night to meet and greet New York crime fiction author S. J. Rozan (front and center in pink scarf).  We ate at Eno Vino which is a wine bar and a small plate restaurant.  It was great to get together with my friends and talk about all things crime related.

May 20, 2018

 I cannot tell you how fast the four days of instruction went.  By the end of the fourth day, it was time to view all the hard work by all the participants in the workshop.

This is what my box and book looked like at the end of day four.  The book was only half-sewn and I knew I would finish it at home.  

May 21, 2018

My job on Monday was to get Andrea and Marilyn safely to the Milwaukee airport where they (ironically) were on the same plane to Minneapolis in order to get back to Vancouver and Louisville.

After I got home I worked on finishing my Coptic sewn book.  I will have to do more work to finish the whole project but here are the results so far:

Part of the fun I had in this workshop was "writing" a poem for the contents of my book by cutting up the verses of numerous hymns and then re-arranging the words into a theme.  (See the end of the blog for the poet in its entirety).  

The Wonders of Instinct


My heart is aching here

when come to earth

precious moment and wonder

found no room.

While I

just to be near the fount of cleansing me





pure, unbounded love.

O come to my heart

all that fear the eyes of tears made dim.

My eyes are fill'd with tears of they redeeming love!

His face I know,

drawing near to look, 

lost in wonder, love and praise.

There is no pain in the ringing in my ears,

and in deepest humility.

There is room in my heart for thee,

there is room at my side for thee.

Enter ev'ry trembling heart.

Take away the love to which I'm drawing near.

Chorus resound thro' the earth and the skies,

deeply wailing, deeply wailing,

a place will flow filled tears.

But when I am happy

my heart shall rejoice.

While blest with a sense of his love,

in welcome to the weary,

we take our place,

prisons would palaces prove.

O come quickly, 

meekly stealing, 

there is room.


All our sorrows left below, 

we shall part no more

from the grave.