Friday, December 31, 2010

December 2010 HITS

This Happenings in the Studio post is a recap of what I've accomplished and experienced as a visual artist over the last 30 days. Short of decorating my Christmas tree with bouncy ball garland and crazy straws, I haven't dedicated time in the studio.

In recent posts I've shared that I'm focusing more on what I LOVE doing. Meaning my art needs to shift to a more verbal form of expression, perhaps morph into performance art, dance, or song writing. I LOVE exercising way more than I do making art, so I've been indulging in that instead.

This year I'm going to focus on doing more of what I get giddy over and do more of that. For now I'm converting my art studio into another type of studio- an empty room for exercising in.

I get irritated when I'm told that if I stop making art I won't get back to it. I know me better than anyone. I decide if and when I make art. Creating, sharing, learning and improving myself is what fuels me, so I am exploring the various forms that they can take.

I'm not over concerned with starting a new sculpture. I'm not going to plan, but create when I feel like it. With that said, I might be taking a sabbatical from writing The Happenings in the Studio. We'll see how I feel February 1st, 2011. I'll still post periodically on this blog and on my food blog, Surprisingly Thankful.

2011 resolutions:
1. DO LESS!!!
2. Eat weird produce.

HITS table of contents

November 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

LED lantern commission

This project came up when my friend, Andrew McAleavey, said he had a hard time waking up in the morning due to the lack of sunlight.

Andrew's original idea was to commission me to make hanging lights set up to a sunrise alarm clock, so it would get gradually brighter helping him to wake up.

After a bunch of prototypes the installation evolved into lanterns made out of ribbon and plastic containers that are lit with LEDs that are hooked up to a dimmer touch pad.

Elizabeth Symington
LED Lanterns, 2010
tallest light is about 1.5 feet
made from plastic containers (duck soap pump, laundry detergent caps...), bouncy balls, stiffened ribbon

Check out for more of my colorful art.

Posts on the steps to creating these lanterns:
Part 1: Inspiration for my Current Commission
Part 2: Inspiration for my Current Commission
Part 3: Inspiration for my Current Commission
Human Slinky
Mandala Mobile - contest (the idea before the lanterns)
Mandala mobile model
testing out various materials- gummy bears?
bouncy ball lantern- prototype
video on the progress of the light commission
Prototypes- slinky lanterns and mini lanterns
LEDS inside of balloons
Switching from paper to ribbon lanterns (video!)
installing the lanterns

Highlights from Art School

1. Fencing on the school team
Practicing 4 nights a week 2-3 hours at a shot, built up a camaraderie and a very buff right side of my body. Just like on past teams I've played on, I felt like I belonged somewhere.

2. Meeting Ian, my college boy friend.
I learned so much about him and from him. Ian taught me to relax, do less, love myself more and to take my health seriously. If it wasn't for his support I wouldn't of finished college. Thank you!

3. Anatomy field trip to draw from cadavers.
I love seeing how the body works, hands-on! I learned so much more sketching from a real person, then from studying skeletons and sketches.

4. Having my food allergies identified
Another blessing from Ian was having his father tell which foods I'm allergic to. I'm thankful to have allergies since having them has brought on a deeper awareness to what I eat and do.

I was raised to say nothing at all if I don't have anything nice things to say, but here I go anyways. I learned a lot from the Academy of Art, but I still don't recommend it. Going there is a good way to start off life in student loan debt. Given the quality of the school, it is way over priced and not worth attending. I'm glad I have a BFA, but I could of gone some place cheaper and received better training.

Latest art creation- LED lanterns

Reflecting on my fondest memories of art school shows that making art wasn't the highlight. I enjoy creating, but I'd much prefer being active. This is the super abbreviated version of my thoughts, but basically my art is evolving into activities I want more of: social interaction, voicing my opinion, feeling free and uninhibited, having less control over the outcome of situations and having a more physically demanding way of creating art. More about that later.

From college I learned that I LOVE learning new skills and building friendships while practicing a sport. I get high on life and things look bright and shiny. All I want to do is stretch, run, kick, punch, and do some shrimp-ups. I so much prefer sculpting me to making all of my past art and learning how my body works, becoming more disciplined and aware of how to better treat myself.

It would be a dream job to be paid to exercise with other people. (I've never had that thought about making my art.) With that said, my art needs to evolve into activities I can't get enough of.

Next art project???

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November 2010 HITS

Welcome to the November HITS (Happenings in the Studio), where I recap my life as a visual artist. This month I continued studying to be a certified picture framers (CPF), finished the LED lantern commission and started decorating my Christmas tree with bouncy balls and crazy straws.

Framing News
Work continues to be a rewarding challenge where I learn new skills daily. I made up a study schedule for taking the Certified Picture Framer's Exam by referencing the PPFA's recommended reading list of 23 books. This link is a list of those books and which libraries in the San Francisco bay area carry them. For the books that are not available at a library, I requested that they consider purchasing a copy.

My Christmas Tree- In Progress

I wanted to skip the boring step of fluffing the tree, but there was no way around it (and no one to do it for me). I'm glad I fluffed it, it made a huge difference.

The initial idea and placement of ornaments. I'm just using materials in the studio, like crazy straws and bouncy balls.

I tested which size would look best on the tree, hence the 2 different sizes in the above photo. I'm going to make more garlands out of tinfoil that are a little bigger then the larger one in the photo. I think they need to be bigger otherwise they will be the same size as the bouncy ball garland and the eye likes variety.

Monkies from barrel of monkies!

More pics to come as I continue to work on the tree.


These lanterns are hanging at a friend's loft. Andrew's original idea was to commission me to make hanging lights set up to a sunrise alarm clock, so it would get gradually brighter helping him to wake up. After a bunch of prototypes the installation evolved into lanterns made out of ribbon and plastic containers that are lit with LEDs.

Thank you for looking at my art. As always it's great to have readers. I'll see you next month for the next issue of the Happenings In The Studio (HITS).

October 2010 HITS (Happenings In The Studio)

HITS Table of Contents

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tales of a Female Knight

I grew up in England around castles reading the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. The story is about Alanna of Trebond who disguises herself as a boy so she can train to be a knight. Because of those books I've pretended to be a knight with red hair and violet eyes.

I recently found out that the author Tamora Pierce has written many more books about the realm of Tortal. Over the past year I read the winning Caldecott books, so my treat to myself for 2011 is to read all of Pierce's books.

Song of the Lioness Quartet are on my book list for 2010. I ran through them in less than two weeks. I've reread them so many times- I adore them!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

PPFA Recomended Reading List

PPFA (professional picture framers association) recommended book list for preparing for the CPF (Certified Picture Framer) exam:

I requested that the Berkeley, Oakland, Peninsula and San Francisco Public Libraries consider carrying all of these books. I'll be sure to update this list as they add to their collection.

Caring for Your Art
A guide for artists, collectors, galleries, and art institutions by Jill Snyder
A good general reference book everyone should have handy. The book covers the basics in most areas of preservation framing, including matting; hinging; and how to deal with heat, humidity, light, and pollution. It also covers storing, crating, and shipping artwork, as well as photographing, documenting, and insuring art.
Berkeley Public Library
San Francisco Public Library

The Art of Showing Art, by James Reeve
Peninsula Library System
Berkeley Public Library
San Francisco Public Library

The Life of a Photograph, by Laurence E. Keefe, Dennis Inch
Berkeley Public Library
San Francisco Public Library
Oakland Public Library

(recommended to me by a friend) Secret Lives of Frames, one hundred years of art and artistry by Deborah Davis with photographs by Gerardo Somoza.
Oakland Public Library

CCI Notes: Paintings
Canadian Conservation Institute
PPFA put together a selection of painting sections pulled from the complete CCI Notes. These have particular relevance for the painting questions on the CPF exam.

CPF Study Guide
Developed by the PPFA Certification Board, the CPF Study Guide is designed to help framers prepare for the CPF examination. It covers, in an easy-to-read outline format, specific topics that candidates are tested on, a bibliography of recommended reference materials, and a section of sample test questions with an answer key. If you’re planning to take the CPF exam, you won’t want to be without this important test preparation booklet. (Supplementary reading for the exam.)

Mat Cutting & Decoration, Volume 2 by Vivian C. Kistler, MCPF, GCF
This text contains how-to instructions for cutting more than 50 simple and advanced mats, including inlays, offsets, singles, doubles, V-grooves, oval, and cove mats. Also included are decorative matting techniques, such as French mats, painted mats, faux finishes, and glass mats.

The Mounting and Laminating Handbook
Third Edition by Chris A. Paschke, CPF, GCF
This comprehensive technical reference book is a complete source for basic techniques, procedures, applications, and tips for both beginning framers and seasoned veterans. Broken into understandable chapters, it covers TTPM (time, temperature, pressure, and moisture); adhesives, materials, and substrates; wet, spray, and pressure-sensitive adhesives; and dry mounting, cold mounting, laminating, digital electrophotographic, electrostatic, thermal, and inkjet technologies. It also features mounting suggestions, overall tips, and heat tolerance test results for commonly framed digital art and digital photographs.

Picture Framing, Volume 1 by Vivian C. Kistler, MCPF, GCF
A comprehensive reference for the professional framer, this book provides a complete overview of custom picture framing from the layout of the shop to the work order process. Other topics discussed include cutting and joining wood or metal moulding, cutting glass and plastics, measuring, mat cutting, color selection, and stretching oil paintings.

PPFA Guidelines for Framing Paintings on Canvas
These guidelines provide information on paintings on canvas, how they can be damaged, inherent faults, handling, environmental concerns, and framing procedures.

Preserving Textiles, A Guide for the Non-Specialist
Harold F. Mailand and Dorothy Stites Alig
This text is meant to aid the non-specialist in making informed decisions on the proper care of these objects in order to preserve them. Topics include environment (climate control, lighting, mold, insects, and rodents), cleaning, humidification, stabilizing damaged areas, archival materials, mounting, and exhibiting, as well as a glossary.

PPFA Art & Picture Framing Glossary of Standard Terms
This glossary replaces the PPFA dictionary. It has more than 1,300 terms, 470 new entries, and many updated definitions.

Color & Design for the Picture Framer, by Nona Powers, MCPF

Creative Mounting, Wrapping and Laminating, by Chris Paschke, CPF

A History of European Picture Frames, by Paul Mitchell, Lynn Roberts

Framing Photography, Volume 6 by Allan Lamb, CPF

PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Paper

Mounting Objects with Clear Film, by James Miller, MCPF, GCF

PPFA The Complete Guide to Shadowboxes and Framing Objects by James Miller, MCPF, GCF

Monday, November 1, 2010

October 2010 HITS

Welcome to the October HITS (Happenings In The Studio). This is the monthly recap of what's been going on in my life as a visual artist. Over the month of October I've finished setting up my new apartment and art studio. Peg board is on the wall. Tools are organized. Art supplies are sorted and I'm ready to finish the LED Lantern commission.

I'm searching for my new rhythm at my new job and apartment. Must admit I am pretty tired, albeit content, so I apologize that this is an atypical half-hearted HITS.

This month I finished my online class on how to design a hybrid class. And for my other online class, which is about how to be an effective manager, I just took the midterm. I'm already salivating over the plethora of classes I get to choose from for the Spring semester.

I'm also studying to take the exam to be a certified picture framer. I don't have a date yet set up, but since there are 18 recommended books to study, I think I'll take it Fall 2011.

Wish I had photos and more art completed this month, but all in due course.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tool Library

Could life get better?
There really is such a thing as a tool lending library.

The tool library is through the public (book) library system.

Before heading down to either library, check out their website to see what paperwork you need to bring to verify that you live in the area.

Soon I will have letters after my name

Coming soon...

At my old framing job I asked about taking the test to be a CPF (certified picture framer), but my manager had never heard of the Professional Picture Framers Association, which is an industry trade association who regulates and offers the CPF tests. Also my former manager wasn't interested in paying for the test, which would of resulted in me studying 20+ books on framing.

A few days ago when I was at work, I brought up the CPF test to the owners and they knew about it and asked how soon I'd like to take it. I'm already reading my first book and making flashcards! Life is so wonderful!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

September 2010 HITS

At the beginning of very month I recap the last 30 days in my life as a visual artist. September was particularly eventful. My efforts of job hunting for a full-time job in a creative position with lots of responsibilities has finally paid off. Since graduating from art school in December of 2008, I've worked lots of odd jobs and a couple of part-time positions while I applied to over 200 jobs. Now I have a really sweet full-time job as a custom framer at The Framer's Workshop in Berkeley, CA.

I've had my eye on this custom frame shop when I was still working at Michaels Arts and Crafts. The Framer's Workshop is a certified Green business, they have low turn over, cut their own mats and mouldings and they have the option of custom or DIY framing. Could it be a better fit?

Typically I share more than a few paragraphs and include photos showing my creative endevours, but I'm exhusted. I came out to the East Bay for an inteview at the frame shop, was offered the job that week, then moved out to the Bay three days later. I have my own apartment and studio space.

September involved starting a new job, moving and starting the Fall semester. For my local friends, I'll soon be rested enough to make a coherent converstation and have time to get together. I can't wait to catch up! I am so thrilled to be back in the Bay! I am oh so content, happy and tired.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Golan and Doisneau

Acoustic Long Island podcast got me hooked on singer song writer Rosi Golan.

Every time I hear her song about falling for a man in Paris, I visualize a particular photo by Robert Doisneau.

The below video is a pairing of Golan and Doisneau.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August HITS

Welcome to another HITS, Happenings in the Studio, where I share what I accomplished as a visual artist over the last 31 days. For the month of August, the majority of my efforts went towards creating a commission of wack-a-doodle lanterns lit with LEDs. Right now there are five completed lanterns, three in progress, with maybe a couple more smaller lanterns needing to be constructed. Thank you so everyone who helped me: my uncle Mark and his three girls, Celeste Flores and Ian Southwell. I really appreciate all of your help and support.

The results for Augusts’ goals:

1. Challenge: Find full-time work in the San Francisco East Bay.

Result: I applied to many jobs in the creative field, several of which were an ideal fit. The interesting thing is that they were in a particular niche I hadn’t thought of working in. The fun part of job shopping is thinking of the possibilities of where I can use my creative skills, particularly in a challenging jobs that have the potential for travel. So far I haven’t secured a job yet, but something is going to work out.

One such job that is in an interesting niche was for a Green company who sells LEDs online and over the phone. They have a beautiful website that has a very helpful section on learning how to wire your own lights. As you know I adore incorporating LEDs in my sculptures and being self taught, I love this company’s DIY attitude.

Another intriguing job that I applied for was to be an administrative assistant for a company that designs traveling exhibits and museums all around the world. Most of their projects are for children’s museums, which is preciously my cup of tea in that I approach art in a whimsical manner, often incorporating vivid colors and kid’s toys and encouraging my art to be played with.

This summer I’ve followed the arduous process of applying for work with the state. After taking the two hour test on reading comprehension and long hand math, I received the results only a short 4 weeks later. Here they are: out of 7,914 test takers, only 2,789 scored higher than me. I got 90 % correct, which did momentarily wound my ego, but then again, I can do all of the required math if I was aloud to use the calculator that’s on the computer. The next step is to wait for the state to send me applications for jobs. Given that there are 1,000s of people who scored better than me, I am not very hopeful in getting a job.

2. Challenge: Secure an apartment in the San Francisco East Bay.

Result: My charming, sunny apartment is almost done being built. It’s all about the power of networking; my landlady is a friend of a friend. I’m moving here in a week or two, just as soon as the final inspection takes place. I don’t want to jinx anything, but it is the most adorable apartment and I still can’t believe I get to live there.

I have all sorts of plans for the apartment. I want to have dinner parties. One in particular event I want to host will be at Halloween time, involving Coraline. The book is pretty short, so it can be read in an evening. I thought it would be fun to have friends over to read the book together; each with our own part. Of course there would be festive cupcakes in the shape of rats.

3. Challenge: Register for online Fall classes at Laney community college

Result: The hardest part about signing up for classes is picking only two classes amongst so many exciting options, like a Green carpentry class, salsa dancing, making art from objects from nature, and learning to manage an art gallery. I decided to take another class that shows how to design an online class, since I really liked the teacher from the summer session and how she organized the class. For my other three credits, I am taking a class on how to be a better manager, which will help me not only manage other people, but myself.

4. Challenge: Complete and install the lanterns

Result: Having no idea how involved this project was at the onset, it has taken me on an exciting journey evolving from ‘some type of art that hangs over the bed that has lights set to a timer to simulate the sunrise,’ to ‘suspending 100s of bouncy balls and slinkies in the shape of a mandala,’ to its last form of ‘Chinese lanterns made from ribbon and plastic components that are lit with LEDs.’

The majority of the lanterns are installed in my art patron’s bedroom, with a couple of them lit. Despite constant revisions to make the process faster, it takes a huge amount of time to create the lanterns, which is why, even with the help of three of my cousins and my artist friend Celeste Flores, the lanterns are not finished. To finish this installation is one of my top priorities for the month of September.

Random bits of News

Another thing to note this past month is that I had an unexpected review of my art by the Examiner. (Click to read the article.)

I am completely hooked on Acoustic Long Island, which is a free podcast of indie singer song writers. These musicians have accompanied me in the lantern making process, to which I owe them thanks. My new favorite song is by Rosi Golan about meeting a guy in Paris. It get stuck in my brain and makes me smile. Thank you Cactus for getting me hooked on ALI!

I got to be the personal shopper for a friend in choosing the fabric for her new curtains and table cloth. It was so much fun exploring the fabric store with her seat cushion and a metal butterfly to match to the fabric. I loved the creative freedom and her trust in my judgment. Another lady is going to sew everything- I can't wait!

Food Blog
I divided up this blog and moved all of the food posts to it's own site called Surprisingly Thankful. If you are looking for a good recipe, advice on living gluten and dairy free, go check it out.

Typically I read up a storm, but as you can see a lot of major transitions are going on, so I'm trying to focus on them and not on books. However, I did manage to sneak in a quick read, Rascal by Sterling North. This book is one of my all time favorite kids books.

For the lantern project I referenced four San Francisco library books on lanterns, braiding and making art with plastic. I wish I started with them, they would of made life a bit easier. Ideas for lanterns keep swirling around my mind and sketch book. I think I am going to explore this theme for a little longer.
1. 200 braids to twist, knot, loop, or weave by Jacqui Carey
Paper illuminated by Helen Hiebert
Magic Lanterns by Mary Maguire
Fantastic recycled plastic by David and Robin Edgar

Creativity Jolt

One night I was feeling unbalanced from the lack of creative work, so I made a list of every material, subject matter and started project I want to work in. From the four pages of ideas here are some that I am most excited about:

1. Revisiting my Braille boards and make a series of action figures stripped of their sticker and facial features and attach their torsos to boards with Braille.

2. Experiment with shrinky dinks and see what I can do with them.

3. I want to quill in unusual materials in unexpected ways, like this artist.

4. My mom got me hooked on mod podge, which is a clear paint that is a 3 in 1 undercoat, glue and top coat. It's non toxic and inexpensive. It's used for attaching paper to things like covers of books, but I want to push it and cover buttons with paper and see what else it sticks too.

In closing for this super long post...

September is going to be a big month of moving, school starting, hopefully starting off at a new job, and finishing the lanterns. Thank you so much for reading. As always, I love to hear from you. You can leave a comment or email me at elizabeth at elizabethsymington dot com.

I’ll see you October 1st for the next HITS, Happenings in the Studio.

To get caught up on my life as an artist, you can read and watch videos of my art. Here's the HITS table of contents.