Emily, My Muse

Poem 2, by Miss Emily Dickinson, is presumed to be the second poem she wrote for possible publication. It was supposedly composed in 1850, but not published until 1894, after Emily had died in 1886. Upon Emily’s death, her sister Lavinia went through Emily’s papers. She discovered a small box filled with over 900 poems, tied into 60 simply constructed packets with twine. Lavinia went to a publishing acquaintance of Emily’s and insisted the poems be published. So in 1890 a selection of 115 poems were published and well-received by the public. At least seven more collections with Emily’s original poetry were published, the last one printed in 1945.

Today I read Poem #2. Four of the simple lines gave me the inspiration for artwork and a few lines of poetry or non-fiction. The verse sounds quite like a kindergarten class’s recitation, so I will create an altered book featuring Emily Dickinson, with 8 to 10 pages using Dickinson as the focal point. Since I am reading a poem a day of Emily’s, I should have plenty of imagination fodder. I need to remember to print a few words on each page if not the whole verse. I also might create several ATCs using the same basic kindergarten art techniques.

2.

Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden
Where not a frost has been.

Using heavyweight watercolor paper or mat board. Cut a large-sized rectangle to serve as a collage base, at least 8″x11 1/2″, preferably 12″x15″. Cut remaining paper into several cards 2″x3″ to use for ATCs (artistic trading cards.) Since I am only doing 2 or 3 ATCs, I will put the rest of the paper cards aside to use at a later date.

Make the backgrounds using a technique with modeling paste (found at Michael’s or an art store, or through a mail order store like DickBlick.com.) Spread the paste onto all of the papers, using a palette knife and covering the surfaces as if you were frosting a cake. Create a different texture by using the long side of an expired or junk mail credit card that has been cut like a saw’s cutting edge. Other textures can be made with a natural sponge, or an “art’s only” toothbrush or comb. Use your imagination and make texture on the papers until you are pleased with the designs. If you want a softer look, you can use white gesso instead of the paste, but I love the modeling paste’s peaks and valleys. They hold their shape and provide more texture.

Dry modeling paste completely. This will take several hours or possibly overnight. Pick two yellow shades of acrylics, ones that are next to each other on the color wheel. Mix some glazing medium or other transparent medium into each color, about 2/3rds paint and 1/3rd glaze. Apply the lighter color with a natural sponge, soaking the paint into the cracks to enhance the texture. While the first coat is still wet, rub the paint lightly with paper toweling. Remove paint from the surface, but the color remains in the cracks. When the paint dries until it is sticky to the touch, wipe again with damp paper toweling. Then apply the second coat of paint in a shade a bit darker and repeat the process.

Next, there are two methods to make the tree trunk. First method: Make a personal stamp using a small piece of linoleum block and cutting tools or a piece of transparent vinyl and an eXacto knife (from an art store or DickBlick.com). In this case, cut a stretched diamond, long and narrow, which will be used to stamp the roughened bark of the tree. Draw the shape of the tree you want, and using the homemade stamp, ink the shape with brown dye ink. Then add a slight (very slight) bit of black ink over the brown. Second method: tear a piece of a yellow phonebook paper from last year’s book. ( This is a wonderful thing to save for all types of mixed media art.) Paint a whole sheet of a yellow page with brown paint (you may mix in some glazing medium) and let the words show through a bit. Use two colors for more contrast if you want, but only if you use another shade of brown. It’s okay to be a little messy with the paint as long as you stay pretty much in the shapes. Dry the paper carefully, using a heat gun to speed drying time. (Do not hold heat gun too close, as the paper can burn.) Then tear paper — not cut, tear! — into the shape of a tree trunk kinda following the lines. Apply tree to the background paper or mat board using matte medium like a glue.

Take a small natural sponge, about an inch in diameter, dot in slightly dark green paint (so that it contrasts with the background) and splat paint in the shape of a tree-top, covering most of the width of the paper. Rinse sponge well. Then use red and pink paint to dab onto bottom of the paper to make a garden of bright flowers. Finally, accent with bingo blotters (dickblick.com), using green for the leaves and red for the centers of the flowers.

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