NaniBird Update (because apparently I love updates these days)


Great news! My NaniBird, Gustav, was chosen to be part of "Batch 4" on the NaniBird website. Check out the other 39 finalists here. There are 3 pages of birds so make sure to click the next page button at the bottom of the screen.

Some of my favorites:

  • CiwiBot & Robot Bird

  • Esoteric Day & Night

  • F*CK CMYK (the graphic designer in me found this utterly amusing)

  • Yo! (a gangsta bird if I've ever seen one)

The piece above was a papercut I did of a Leonberger for the lovely woman who raised Pat, Mary Lou. She actually breeds Leos (think Dreyfuss from the TV show Empty Nest) and you can check out her site here.

Christmas Update


So this holiday ornament swap experience turned out to be pretty cool. I not only challenged myself to make an origami ornament, but I also received some incredible masterpieces in return. I felt the need to share with you all the talents of my fellow swappers below. The painting above is a Christmas present for my friend Chris. It's a painting of her baby, Grace, who is seriously the coolest, most chill baby (with the cutest chubby legs I've ever seen). I gave Chris the painting on Sunday at her Christmas party, so I feel okay with posting it on this blog. She and her incredible husband Kirk loved it.

Onto the ornaments and I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Spider Ornament from Jill in Los Angeles. It came with a lovely folktale explaining how spider webs were the inspiration for putting tinsel on Christmas trees. You can check out Jill's other work at:

Fabric ball from Kat in North Carolina. You can see Kat's work at

This ornament from Kris in Pennsylvania came with a note that read: Give Peas a Chance. Too cute. You can read Kris' blog at

I love the neutral colors of this ceramic ornament from Krista in Arizona. You can check out her shop at

Melissa in Florida sent this beaded candy cane. She has a great invitation and stationary site at

This frosted mirror number comes from Naomi in Arkansas.

Last but not least, this wire Christmas tree is from Michele in Pennsylvania. The joints in my hands started to ache thinking about all that wire wrapping.

Origami & Happy Holidays!


Just to squash any of your doubts, no, I wasn't taking a hiatus from this blog over the last month. In fact, I was in the process of creating some pieces to give as Christmas presents (can't post them now for obvious reasons, but will update soon). I also signed up for a holiday ornament swap via the blog Freshly Blended. This was my first ornament swap and I have to say, so far it's pretty cool.

The rules were simple: submit your name, address, and email. A few weeks later you are sent an email with the names and addresses of your fellow swappers who are located all over the country. The deal is to create identical ornaments and send them to the folks on your list. They, in turn, do the same and voila! Nine new Christmas ornaments arrive on your doorstep just in time for the holidays.

When I first signed up for the swap I thought, "In theory, this is doable." Flash forward a week later and my nerves had gotten the best of me. I made the mistake of viewing some Flickr pages of past swappers' ornaments and got totally intimidated. I managed to completely stress myself out over Thanksgiving weekend trying to create the most original ornament. I finally decided I would go back to my roots and create something from origami.

When I say "roots" I by no means mean that I am a master paper folder from Japan. Rather, the roots take me back to 3rd grade when my Uncle Mike came in and showed 33 young students how to fold a paper crane after we read the story, Sadako & the Thousand Paper Cranes. Let me tell you, I was a rock star after that show and tell. For the remainder of my elementary years (that would be grades 4-6), someone would ask me when Uncle Mike was coming back to fold some more animals. My love for origami has stayed true since that day.

I spent a few hours researching the perfect ornament style and finally settled on the 8-pointed star. While searching, I also decided that I would make it out of fabric instead of paper in order to increase its durability. Folding fabric into a permanent shape is no easy task, but with the help of a starch paste called "Stiffy" (a rather unfortunate name if you ask me), you can instantly turn your weak fabric into a much more sturdier material.

Now I just need a Christmas tree (and a Charlie Brown one at that).

*Once all the ornaments come in, I promise to post some pics!

Frida Kahlo & the Art of Pen & Ink


So yeah, it’s been two months since I’ve posted something. Yowsa – have I been a deadbeat blogger. In my defense, I’ve spent these last two months interviewing for a new job title, succeeding in obtaining a promotion, and settling in to my new responsibilities at work. Alright, and I’ve also been totally unmotivated to do ANYTHING. Once the weekend comes, I check out from productivity. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten my ass in gear to finally create.

I have always felt a connection with Frida Kahlo – her spirit, her art, and her unibrow. I remember vividly learning about her and her relationship with muralist Diego Rivera in my high school art class. What a torrid affair that was! Adultery, communism, violence, passion, sickness – all the inspirations for fabulous art. I sometimes wonder if the monotony of my daily routine is the reason I feel uninspired at times. I quickly assure myself that it is better to wait for the inspiration than find it by learning my husband has been having an affair with my sister (no ideas Pat and Sarah).

One of the themes that has always struck me about Frida’s art is her ability to just paint herself, unapologetic and honest of her emotions. So many times she is just staring out from the painting, almost saying to the viewer, “This is me. This is my pain,” or “This is where I find happiness.” I decided that I wanted to create the same type of painting – a self-portrait of the way I feel living in New York City. The way the buildings, and people, and well, city life, feel like they’re looming over me, ready to crush me or give me a severe case of Jimmy Stewart vertigo.

Pen and Ink is one of the oldest mediums in existence. Whether it was used in early Chinese art on silk or by Renaissance painters Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael, pen and ink was a highly adored art form. There are many techniques used to create different values or shades, including “cross-hatching” (making lines in a criss-cross pattern; the closer the lines are to each other, the darker the shade) or “stippling” (making small dots to create different grayscale values depending on how clustered the dots are to each other).

Once I began this piece, I realized how long it takes to create a handmade pen & ink drawing. We’ve all gotten so used to the instant art created by Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. A click of a mouse and the photo you’ve just taken instantly becomes a pen & ink sketch. While I do love certain aspects of technology (my kitchen sink and coffeemaker instantly come to mind), there are other aspects that I feel prompt us to lose some of life’s beautiful simplicities (hello texting).

Before I digress into my feelings on Twitter, let me get back to the drawing. This mashup uses a Frida-esque composition with the artistic medium of pen & ink. I had originally slated to just keep this simple black & white, but the result felt oddly incomplete given Frida’s use of vibrant colors. In the end, I decided to “tint” the drawing using colored pencils.

My initial drawing.

Gustav Klimt & Nanibird


I know what you're thinking - what the hell is a Nanibird? Good question. It's one I asked myself when I discovered the website and the story of its creator, Josh McKible. Short story is, Josh moved to Japan and found he was constantly asking himself, "What?" or "Nani?" in Japanese, throughout the day. To document his experience, he created 100 paintings of birds asking "Nani?" and then took the format to a more 3-D (and in my opinion, much more fun) arena. After creating his own series of Nanibirds and a template, he set out to find other designers who could make the structure their own. Thus, the Nanibird website was hatched. Josh is now roosting his fourth batch of Nanibirds and I sent him my own design (fingers crossed he'll pick it!).

I appreciate Josh's venture for a few reasons. First, I really like how there's a community of Nanibird artists and that no matter your background and geographic location, there's this common meeting ground found among these birds. Second, living in NYC for the last year, I found that I ask myself the same word over and over again to keep some sort of sanity. In this case it's not the word what, but rather, seriously?

The car that nearly sideswipes me on the way to work. Seriously? My landlord who rings the doorbell at 10:30 at night. Seriously? The man who is singing his heart out to Wu Tang Clan on the subway. Seriously? I feel your pain Josh - and I'm still living in my country of origin. (Although, at times I question that last statement.)

The creation of my own Nanibird also allowed me to use an artist's style I've admired for a while - Gustav Klimt's. Klimt was an Austrian painter in the late 1800's during the Art Nouveau movement. Art Nouveau, French for "new art", explored art through geometric and organic shapes. Klimt is best known for his decorative embellishments in paintings, most often of erotic images and femme fatales. His work also incorporated gold leaf, which produced some striking images. In this mashup, I took some of Klimt's styles from the paintings The Kiss and the Tree of Life.

While this on my wall to enjoy, it was by far the most fun I've had in creating a mashup. I've named him Gustav. I encourage you all to check out the Nanibird website and make one of your own!

One Year Anniversary


No - I didn't paint this (I wish I did!). Hide and Seek was painted by Pavel Tchelitchew over the course of two years during the 1940's. It is amazing. Just take a few minutes to examine it and you'll find there's more than meets the eye. I first learned of this piece when I was a senior in high school. As part of an art course, my class took a museum trip to NYC to visit The Met, Guggenheim, and the MOMA. This was the only piece I wanted to see - not Van Gogh's Starry Night or Dali's Persistence of Memory - and as luck would have it, it was in storage during the time of my visit. It took me eleven years to seek it out again and yesterday, I was able to see it at The MOMA in all its glory. Yesterday not only marked this special event, but also marked my one year anniversary of living in New York City.

One year of driving the crazy streets of Queens. One year of listening to airplanes fly over our house towards LaGuardia airport. One year of walking the streets and having no clue what language a passerby is speaking. One year of paying an obscene amount of money for a box of cereal. One year of randomly yelling, "I hate this place!" to myself while on my way to work.

As my family can see, my outlook on this city hasn't changed from my first month of living here. But like staring at Hide and Seek, I've realized that taking a long hard look at NYC is more involved than I originally thought. Sure, there's the surface level details - the subways are dirty and there's some pretty creepy people who ride them; driving can be a harrowing event on a daily basis; the bus will never be on time. But then comes another level of NYC that took some time to understand.

I work with such a diverse array of people, from cultures I would not have been exposed to if I remained in Rhode Island. I've learned of religious customs of which I never was aware. And within this diverse, massive population, Pat and I still feel totally alone. I'm not going to Pollyanna out on you all - it's hard for us here. While we've managed to form those co-worker relationships one has to in order to survive in a new place, those familial relationships that keep you emotionally alive - that bring you joy and sense of belonging - well, we're still playing hide and seek for those.

NOTE: This post was meant as a sort of intermission between mashups. I have been percolating some ideas but have been busy/traveling these last few weekends and haven't had a chance to sit down and produce. I promise - they're coming! :)

George Orwell & Salvador Dali


Let me begin this post with a brief background on Mashup Challenger #2. I met Scott the second day of my freshman year of college. We quickly bonded over competitive taunts that we both knew all the words to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." The taunting become so intense that we actually had a matchoff, which of course, I won. [I'm sure Scott is reading this now, shaking his head in disagreement and yelling out loud: "I would have won the rematch of REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It!" ] Over the four years of college, we continued to stay friends. I supplied Scott with water and a sleeve of Saltines every time he was drunk, which was quite often. He supplied me with apple crepes on my 21st birthday. I lived with him during my senior year with two other ladies. We dubbed ourselves The Golden Girls (Scott was Blanche due to his promiscuity and I was Dorothy by default), and mocked him for acting like an old man with his penchant for crossword puzzles, Jeopardy!, and rocking in his rocking chair. Ironically, I presently do all of these things. Scott, you were ahead of your time.

Long story short, Scott presented me with this Mashup Challenge: George Orwell & Salvador Dali. Because Scott is incredibly intelligent, I figured he chose these two men because he knew George Orwell HATED Salvador Dali, partially because of Dali's artistic style and mainly because he pussyfooted out of fighting in the Spanish Civil War; a war that Orwell fought and whose experiences inspired the novella, Animal Farm. Orwell went so far as to write an essay, "Benefit of Clergy," where he completely tore apart Dali's autobiography. Orwell writes: "It is a book that stinks. If it were possible for a book to give a physical stink off its pages, this one would - a thought that might please Dali, who before wooing his future wife for the first time rubbed himself all over with an ointment made of goat's dung boiled up in fish glue."

And on to the mashup!

George Orwell's stories, Animal Farm and 1984, have been on the required reading list of high schools for decades. Both are focused around his strong distaste of communism and totalitarianism. Big words, I know. Basically, Orwell believed that greed, corruption, indifference, and ignorance would pollute any sort of Utopian (or perfect) society. Both stories also address how propaganda, spurned by the government or those in charge, can create unrest and fear within a society. With 1984, this propaganda is propelled by the posters ubiquitously placed throughout the land of Oceania with the slogan: Big Brother Is Watching You. [Yes, this is the original Big Brother, who unfortunately was the impetus for that horrible reality show.] Besides this slogan of the Inner Party, 1984 has many great catchphrases including: War is Peace, Ignorance is Truth, and 2+2 = 5, all ideas that seem confusing and impossible. The goal of the Inner Party is to create such confusion, to use contradictory ideas all the time, that the citizens are incapable of independent thought. In this way, the citizens are in such a state of confusion that they must depend on the Inner Party (aka the government) to tell them what to think, which is the party's technique of psychological manipulation. Pretty heavy stuff (and sometimes hits a little too close to home, huh?).

For decades Salvador Dali has been affectionately referred to as that guy with the melting clocks. True, Dali's The Persistence of Memory has quite the legacy, with posters often hung next to John Belushi's Animal House photo in college dorm rooms nationwide. As a Spanish surrealist painter, Dali tapped into the unconscious and his dreams for inspiration, abandoning reason and logic in his paintings. In college I had to write an analysis of Dali's film, Un Chien Andalou [translation: An Andalusian Dog]. Talk about an acid trip gone wrong. The film is sixteen minutes with no sound and opens with a razor blade slicing a woman's eye. Take that Freddie Kruger - but I digress.....

Whether you agree with Orwell's view of Dali and his work or you click the "like" button on Dali's facebook page, you have to admit, the guy was pretty fascinating as were his paintings. In this mashup, I chose to use one of Dali's techniques, a composition of spheres, to create a Big Brother propaganda poster. This challenge was great because it forced me to do two things I hadn't done since 1999: read 1984 and draw with pastels.

In progress....

Scott, I hope you enjoyed the results. Thank you for being a friend. I figured I'd end this post with a little Golden Girls humor for the both of us.

Blanche: I've decided what I'm going to use my bonus check money for.

Dorothy: What?

Blanche: I'm gonna have my breasts enlarged!

Rose: Blanche, why would you want to do that?

Blanche: Rose, breasts are back in fashion! Besides, what God didn't give me, Dr. Newman will. He's the Picasso of plastic surgery.

Dorothy: Fine, Blanche. Just make sure he doesn't attach one to your forehead.

Shakespeare & Scherenschnitte


If I could think of two activities that require an immense amount of concentration, patience, and perseverance, they would be reading Shakespeare and the art of papercutting. For both, the process can be quite a bastard, but the payoff is almost always priceless.

When I was in grad school, I was required to take an advanced-level Shakespeare course. I dreaded it. Not only did I find reading Shakespeare cumbersome, but I also found lugging The Riverside Shakespeare, a hardcover anthology of 7.7 lbs in my backpack, exceptionally oppressive. When all was said and done, I was surprised how much I really enjoyed the class and how much I really loved reading LinkShakespeare. I know Shakespeare is revered for his words more than his stories (predominately because he was the P. Diddy of his time, sampling many of his plots from existing tales), but I just love the drama. The tragedies - they're like bad episodes of General Hospital - one guy will kill his mayoral brother to get his wife and his power. The tortured son is suffering from teenage angst and is leading on his girlfriend with false promises. Her brother is sort of a prodigal son, who returns upon the accidental death of his blubbering father and seeks revenge. Oh yeah, and the mayor who bit it earlier in the episode pissed off another family (let's pretend they're in the mob) and they are on their way to pop some caps in the dead guy's gang. So, I pretty much just summed up Hamlet (in probably the most disgraceful way possible).

Hamlet is right up there as one of my favorite tragedies (Othello and King Lear are close behind) and this mashup allowed me to revisit the classic. It's funny - rereading Hamlet proved to be much easier than I remembered. Perhaps it was because I already knew the story or because I appreciate the text so much more now that I'm older. In any case, I encourage everyone who is hesitant to read Shakespeare or a self-proclaimed "Bard-hater" to revisit the plays one more time.

Scherenschnitte, pronounced "Sharon-shnit-uh," is the German word for scissor cutting. I'm sure you've all taken part in a scherenschnitte or two in your lifetime. Did you ever make paper snowflakes or those people garlands where they all are connected by holding hands? Thought so. There are tons of paper cutters out there, each with his or her own style and subject matter. I didn't realize this fact until I really started to research - and boy are some people AMAZING at this craft. Two of my favorite cutters are Beatrice Coron and Cindy Ferguson.

Beatrice Coron has an extensive resume, showing her papercuts and graphic designs around the world. One of her cuts was featured in the F train, a subway line I often ride. I would stare at this cut, cramped in my subway car, trying not to inhale the noxious odor coming from the person's naked armpit directly in front of my face. One of her series, Identity Project, are life-size cuts of the different "layers" we have and contribute to our identity.

Cindy Ferguson also has numerous years of paper cutting under her belt. She has a great blog called Scherenschnitte, where she posts templates and "How To" videos for others to use as a resource. She was also commissioned to do a series of papercuts for an expo at the Tower of London (how appropriate for Shakespeare!). This image is the beheading of Anne Boleyn - morbid but marvelous.

With all this knowledge and inspiration pulsating through my veins, I set out to do my first schereschnitte for The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. I knew I wanted to incorporate the main image of Hamlet along with some small mini scenes and a quote. I ultimately chose the scene when Hamlet stabs Polonius behind the arras and when he discovers the skull of Yorick. To me, both scenes encompass the mood of the play - death, depression, anger, impulsiveness and hesitation - and echoes the quote.

The materials I used included a cutting mat, X-acto knife, silhouette paper, a drawing I created through various sketches, and a lot of PATIENCE (and let me tell you, this 'lil Italian struggles with that attribute more than any other). There were many times when I wanted to rip the whole thing up. There were many times when I would get a finger cramp or sharp stabbing pain in my back from being hunched over my kitchen table for hours. But, in the end, I was so happy with the way this came out, I might just become a full-time papercutter - now accepting commissions!

A work in progress

Alexander Calder & Tricia Martin


Let me begin by saying I would cringe every year in grade school when we would embark on the dreaded gymnastics unit in P.E. class. Besides the fact that I couldn't do a cartwheel (I still can't do one to this day), it seemed like every task in the unit required a talent I struggled with: balance. Over the years, I've come realize what a pivotal role balance plays in our lives. Besides the need for balance when performing physical activities (i.e. riding a bike, walking in heels), we are told as a society to "eat a balanced diet" or to "find a balance between work and play." It is the common theme of balance that brings these two artists together in Mashup #5.

Alexander Calder's most famous contribution to the world of art was his invention of the mobile. A mobile is a kinetic sculpture, where particular parts may be moved by wind or other forces, sometimes with the help of cranks and pulleys. Most often, a mobile is hung from above (think the devices one hangs over a crib to entertain a baby) and depends greatly on equilibrium. Calder also created the stabile sculpture, which is defined as a self-supporting, static abstract sculpture. Some of his stabiles were inspired by animals, like The Crab. One of Calder's stabiles, Bent Propeller, was built for the World Trade Center and was stationed there for 30 years until September 11th.

Find balance was pivotal in Calder's art and is also the focus of Tricia Martin's creations in her blog Eating is Art. I discovered this site through my friend Sophie and have loved reading it since that day. Martin, who holds a Master's in Fine Arts and Design, transforms the process of cooking and baking into beautiful, interactive forms of art. I love how she tries to stay true to the ingredients she uses (most often natural, whole foods) and employs them in a creative way. She is also the creator of Pietopia, a yearly writing/baking competition in Portland, Oregon (a city I have LOVED for many years). The premise: What would your life taste like it if were a pie? Entrants are encouraged to answer the question in a short essay and supply the recipe for their pie. I love this challenge of stretching your imagination. [On a side note: Another one of Tricia's projects that I adore is The Favorite Series, where she creates a full sensory experience for an individual and a person of his/her choice. It's amazing.]

For this Mashup I decided to answer the Pietopia question for Alexander Calder, playing on his need for balance. I knew the recipe would have to incorporate the equilibrium of sweet and savory, smooth and crunchy. The recipe: Peaches and Almond Cream Pie. The challenge: Creating a stabile to go on top. I don't make pies often, usually because after making them there's that problem of actually eating them. Now, Pat and I could probably devour a whole pie, but neither of us, nor our waistlines, are up to that proposition. I also loathe having to throw out food. So I decided I would make this pie for my parents' annual Fourth of July cookout.

I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light's Apple and Walnut Cream Tart. I love peaches and since they are in season, I figured it was an appropriate substitute. The pie came out pretty good, although in the future, I think I would substitute a more substantial crust (possibly cinnamon graham cracker) in place of the phyllo dough. This stabile, an American Bald Eagle, was created from a pineapple, toothpicks, and blueberries (for the eyes). Trying to sculpt this creation was tough and made me appreciate food artists even more than I already do. Food is such a hard medium to work with! Depending on how ripe a food item is can greatly affect its structural capabilities (in other words, this pineapple was damn juicy!). In the end, I think my family appreciated their artsy dessert, or at least, fed my face with false compliments. :)

Happy Fourth of July!

Peaches and Almond Cream Pie
(adapted from Cooking Light)

  • 2/3 cup chopped almond

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup whole milk

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Cooking spray

  • 6 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

  • 5 cups sliced peaches (about 2 pounds)

  • 1 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place almonds in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until toasted; cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Place almonds in a food processor; process until smooth (about 1 minute), scraping sides of bowl once.

Combine almond butter, 1/2 cup sugar, milk, salt, and egg; stir well with a whisk.

Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time, coat sheet with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixture.

Fold phyllo sheet in half lengthwise to form a 13 x 8 1/2-inch rectangle. Gently press folded phyllo sheet into prepared pan, allowing ends to extend over edges; coat phyllo with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining phyllo sheets and cinnamon mixture, arranging folded phyllo sheets in a crisscross pattern. Fold edges of phyllo under.

Combine sliced peaches and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a bowl. Arrange on top of phyllo crust.

Pour egg mixture over peaches. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until center is set. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

Eric Carle & Georgia O'Keeffe


There are two books that stand out in my memory as my "go-to" childhood reads: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. While Dr. Seuss' cadence of words was captivating, it was Eric Carle's visual compositions that completely memorized me. His ability to create a collage that was original (he makes his own papers) and told a story is truly fantastic. When I flip through this book today, I find that I love it just as much as I did when I was four. I love how Eric Carle uses the book pages in a creative way to propel the story. If you are ever in Amherst, Massachusetts, I totally suggest visiting The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. It is definitely well worth the trip and you will not be disappointed.

When I was a senior in high school, I had the privilege of being selected to enroll in "Senior Portfolio," a year-long course focused around creating a portfolio for admission into art school. This was my favorite class during my four years of high school. I became very close to my classmates and my art teacher, Mrs. Zoglio. For my birthday, she gave me Eric Carle's The Very Quiet Cricket, because she felt that it reflected who I was as a person, as a student, and as an artist. It was one of the kindest presents I'd ever received. I still own the book and every so often flip through it to remember Senior Port. I learned so much about history and technique, and I really challenged myself artistically. One artist I studied who stuck with me with was Georgia O'Keeffe.

Besides being a strong woman artist in a male-dominated area, she also brought American art to Europe and lived until she was 98. The woman was a pretty kick-ass lady. She would camp out in the deserts of New Mexico so she could feel close to the environment, battling winds that would knock over her easel and the scotching sun, which would force her to crawl under her car for respite. O'Keeffe was best known for her abstract paintings of rocks, skulls, flowers, and the desert. I must note, it took a while to find a painting to include in this blog that did not resemble female genitalia (O'Keeffe repeatedly denied that she painted her flowers to look vaginal...I'm not quite buying it.) We watched a documentary on her in Senior Portfolio, which was shot towards the end of her life. I would suggest renting it - she really is one-of-kind.

So Mashup #4 uses the collage technique of Eric Carle to create an O'Keeffe abstract floral composition.

Materials: Handmade collage papers made from paint and tissue paper; illustration board; X-acto knife and cutting board; paintbrush & glue; image to work from & tracing paper; pastel pencil.

1. The first item of business was to create my tissue papers for collage. Eric Carle has a great step-by-step presentation on his website showing how to do this. [Click here to watch.] I will say, after creating these papers I respect Eric Carle even more than I did before - this job was so tedious!

2. I then traced out the major pieces of my image and cut the illustration board (on which I would glue my tissue paper) to the correct size.

3. Working with my tracing, I placed it over one of the pieces of tissue paper and cut out the image. I then glued this cutout onto the illustration board, using watered-down glue and a paint brush. Working in batches I continued the process until the entire image was glued on the board.

4. To define some of the petals I used a pastel pencil to outline the contour lines.

I did enjoy the process of the mashup, although I'm still on the fence about the final product. I'm not sure if you can tell it's a flower, but then again, at least I know it's not a vagina.

Shepard Fairey & Bob Dylan


When I was a freshman at the University of Rhode Island, I would frequently take a walk up the campus hill to the Emporium, a one-block stretch of coffee shops, restaurants, and stores. On my way back to the dorm, Bess Eaton iced coffee in hand, I would wait to cross the street at the corner of Fortin and Upper College Roads. That's where I first saw it - right on the stop sign, staring ominously back at me. While I never followed the world of wrestling, I did recognize his face from my all time favorite movie, The Princess Bride. Andre the Giant's mug was on a sticker and he was telling me to OBEY. You may not have heard of Shepard Fairey from his Obey Giant and Andre the Giant Has a Posse stickers, but I'm positive you are familiar with at least one piece of his work. Recall the President Obama HOPE poster, plastered everywhere during his campaign? That was Fairey.

Shepard Fairey holds many titles, among them are street artist, DJ, and guerrilla marketer. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he once owned a small printing business in Providence, Rhode Island where he produced T-shirt and sticker prints. Fairey has come a long way from his Rhode Island days - he has served on the boards of nonprofit organizations, worked on campaigns for Pepsi, and designed cover art for The Black Eyed Peas and The Smashing Pumpkins. He has also been arrested numerous times for displaying his art, his message, on public property. His technique centers largely around graphic and poster design, silkscreening, and stenciling.

From what I can recall, the first time I heard Bob Dylan sing was in my grandmother's car. I was 13 and we were listening to the Forrest Gump soundtrack. There she sat, mimicking her best Bob Dylan voice while singing, "Everybody must get stoned!" It was quite an audio/visual experience. My love for Bob has flourished since that day and picking my favorite Dylan song would be like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. They each hold a special place in my heart for different reasons. I view him as a poet - when I really sit down and read the lyrics, I am so amazed at the fluidity of his writing and how important every word feels.

As I said before, there are too many Dylan favorites for me to choose from, but I did decide on "It's alright, Ma (I'm only bleeding)" for this mashup. I feel this song really captures the mood of the time period - the anger, resentment, and just an utter disappointment at life. I wanted to capture this mood somehow in a Fairey-esque painting, but really struggled in selecting a subject. I had Pat pose for a few reference photos until I finally came to the realization that I knew the man speaking in this song - a man who is suffering and insecure on the inside but puts on an "It's Alright Ma" bandaid to cover it all on the outside - Don Draper from my favorite series Mad Men. The character of Don Draper puzzles me so much! I hate him, I love him, he disgusts me, he enchants me - I can't figure him out! I watch him and think that he knows he is sinking, that the lies he tells and the secrets he keeps are pulling him under - yet the mirage of a life he has built somehow keeps him afloat. As I read through the lyrics of the song, the following section really stood out and justified my choice of using Don in my mashup.

"Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to. "

[To view the entire lyrics to this song click here.]

This mashup was quite a challenge for me. I'm no painter and I knew painting Don Draper was going to be tough. I started out by searching photos on the internet that I felt could be represent the song. I knew I also wanted to include the "falling ad man" that is featured in the opening credits of the show. Upon deciding on an image, I sketched it out, based solely on the shadows and highlights. From there, I transferred by sketch onto the canvas using carbon paper (Yes! They still make carbon paper and you can buy it at Staples. If you want, you can also purchase graphite transfer paper from your local craft store.) I then chose the four colors I knew I wanted to use and worked section by section applying the color. The project took a little over a week to complete. I think it would have taken longer but I was diligent in my quest to complete it, spending many nights painting on the living room floor (this girl's gotta buy an easel).

I hope you like it - I know I'm pretty I just have to figure out where to hang it.

Shepard Fairey artwork courtesy of

Bob Dylan lyrics courtesy of

M.C. Escher & Rembrandt


This first Mashup Challenge comes from none other than my boyfriend Pat. I should note that my relationship with Pat is built from a strong foundation of love, friendship, humor, and extreme competition. This obsessive (and sometimes insane) need to compete with each other can be displayed through lunchtime games of Boggle, nightly viewings of Jeopardy, and our most recent hobby, to outdo each other in geography (i.e. naming as many countries as we can from a particular continent, European cities, state capitals, etc.).

A few weeks ago I was describing this blog to Pat with the utmost enthusiasm, explaining to him how I would encourage readers to challenge me with an artist pairing. Without skipping a beat he says, "I've got one for you. M.C. Escher."

"No problem," I think to myself. I had been thinking of an Escher-esque piece for a while.

"Yeah, M.C. Escher and Rembrandt."

"Rembrandt?" I squawk. "Are you freakin kidding me?"

It took some time, some research, and some general self-talk of "Yes, I can do this," to finally commit to this mashup.

Maurits Cornelis Escher was a Dutch mathematical master who loved to explore the areas of architecture and geometry in his pieces. He worked predominately in lithographs and woodcuts. Escher loved to manipulate perspective, repetition, and reflections. I could spend hours looking at one Escher print and never fully comprehend the intricacy of his work. The patterns are never-ending and the relationships between every single object within the print are so complex, my brain hurts even thinking about it now. What is so amazing to me is that Escher had no mathematical training -he relied solely on his intuition- and yet, mathematicians and scientists love to ponder over his work to this day.

One of Escher's most famous artistic constructions is the tessellation. A tessellation is a sort of tiling, where figures cover a plane without overlap or gaps. To me, a tessellation refers to that horrible Honors Geometry project I had to complete in 9th grade, for which I received at B-. Geometry and I do not have a strong relationship and I felt that this mashup was my chance to overcome our feeble past.

Rembrandt, also Dutch, is considered one of the greatest portrait painters in art history. These portraits were either commissioned by others, self-portraits, or Biblical scenes. Rembrandt is often noted as having the ability to combine human and spiritual aspects seamlessly in one painting. This initial biography proved to be quite problematic for me. I am not a strong portrait painter and I had absolutely no clue how a portrait could be tessellated. It was in my research that I discovered Rembrandt, like Escher, was also a printmaker and his prints specifically focused on Biblical stories and allegories.

Ah allegories, one of this English teacher's favorite words. An allegory is sort of symbolic story - the representation of an abstract idea through characters or events in a narrative. [Think Aesop's fables.]

This new insight into Rembrandt's artistic style allowed me a little creative freedom in this mashup. Two of my favorite allegorical stories, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and Lord of the Flies by William Golding, would provide me with symbols to tessellate: an armadillo and a conch shell.

A week of recycling graph paper, re-sharpening pencils and grumbling, "Tessellations suck," I was beginning feel like I was back in 9th grade. Luckily, I found a wonderful website on creating tessellations and found a loophole: The Gap Method. Yes, this method doesn't really account for angles and shapes, and I didn't need a protractor to accomplish the task, but heck, it's still a tessellation.

As for the DIY portion of this post, I have to say, I created the final piece in Adobe Illustrator, using my graphic design background as a crutch. I did still have to create the armadillo and conch shell illustrations to tessellate, which are featured below.

While this was my first mashup challenge, I have to say, it was quite the "uber" challenge....but Pat, I still won.

Piet Mondrian & Louis Comfort Tiffany


A few years after graduating from my university with a Bachelor's in Communications, I debated returning to school to pursue a career in art education. I signed up for a basic foundations course at another college and sat through long hours of art history with a pompous professor and ten 17-year-old freshmen. It was torture. I would leave class feeling like I knew nothing about art and that my skills as a craftswoman were feeble at best. Despite feeling these degrading emotions, I did learn something in the course - I learned about Piet Mondrian.

I'm not sure how his name managed to elude all of my previous art training (four years in high school along with four art courses in college). I remember distinctly when my professor projected a Mondrian painting on the screen, my initial thought was, "What's the big deal?" Blocks of primary colors? Are you sure this didn't come from a kindergarten student? Since that day, I've come to appreciate Mondrian's style, if not respect it. He felt that by simply placing lines on a canvas, using his own awareness of the space but not exact calculation, he could create something natural and beautiful.

Louis Comfort Tiffany, widely known for the Tiffany lamp, was an amazing stained glass artist. Stained glass has always mesmerized me. My extreme fascination of the craft stems back to being forced to attend Sunday mass as a child. There I would sit in the church, rear end becoming numb from the wooden pews, staring wide-eyed at the large stained glass windows that surrounded the building. Tiffany liked to use glass with impurities because of the interesting composition the overlapping contrast in hues would create. When he couldn't convince glass manufacturers to retain the impurities, he began making his own glass.

So this MASHUP takes the geometric style of Mondrian and collides it with Tiffany's work with overlapping shades. Since I do not have access to a glass making studio (or the skill set to work with glass, period), I chose to create this stained glass look with magazines. I have to say, this project was arduous and extremely time-consuming, but I am utterly happy with the final result. Below is my step-by-step guide to creating this mashup if you feel compelled to try it out yourself!

1. Canvas
2. Black Paint
3. Paint brushes (medium-sized)
4. Painter's Tape
5. Magazine clippings of various hues, grouped by color family
6. Decoupage Sealer (I used Mod Podge, which works as a glue and sealer)

1: Paint the entire canvas black and allow time to dry.
2. Now use the painter's tape to grid off the type of geometric design you wish to create - horizontal, diagonal, squares, rectangles, triangles - the possibilities are endless!

3. Working in one taped off section at a time, apply a layer of sealer to create a glue base.

4. I liked to cut triangles (but you can cut whatever shape you like). Position the first triangle on the layer of glue.
5. Continue adding more layers of different colors and applying a layer of sealer on top to, well, "seal" the layers.

6. Continue the process with the other taped off sections, using whatever color families you've created.
7. After all the areas have been sealed, peel the painter's tape off and viola!

*Note: I found I did have to touch up some of the squares after I peeled off the tape. For this reason, I wouldn't recycle your leftover magazine clippings until after the project is finished.