I received a lovely birdwatching kit for Christmas from my sainted mother this year – an Audubon field guide and a pair of binoculars. Today, the weather and light were finally good enough for me to get a proper look through my new binoculars at the little black and white ducks hanging out in the center of the Mystic Estuary. I was able to confirm the exact placement and shape of the white spots on their heads and the pattern of black and white on their bodies. The birds in my photos identified as Buffleheads are, I believe, actually Common Goldeneyes. FYI.
The links connect to All About Birds, a website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
2019 promises a lot of challenges, and I feel pretty good about that. This month’s Full Super Wolf Blood Moon, with total eclipse, falls on my birthday, which also happens to fall on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year. It’s hard not to feel a certain emotional boost.
So I am embracing the theme with a series of art, writing, and lifestyle challenges.
First comes “50/Week,” in which I must produce one 50-word story each week. In this update of a micro-fiction game from a previous blog, I’m upping the ante by making an illustration for each story. These past two weeks, I have written a version of Rapunzel, focusing on star-crossed lovers, and a suspenseful heist thriller. Watch for these to become available soon.
I’ve also decided to learn a new skill – monoprint. My first attempts are oil pastel transfers – a fun and satisfying creative exercise.
Finally, I’ve started a new year of wildlife spotting on the Mystic River estuary. Last year, I fell in love with the birds, fish and other creatures of the Mystic and began primitive efforts to record their comings and goings. This year, I am laying the groundwork for an ambitious online project. Keep track here.
Welcome to the new and improved, shiny and fresh Jen Fries Arts website for 2019. Naturally, it’s still in progress, with more to come throughout January. But it is open for reading, viewing, and commenting as of this first day of the new year.
What has changed?
Pages: You’ll notice some of my pages are gone. This is only temporary as content is being updated with better images and new projects. Look for more pages coming soon as well, including online projects.
Navigating: All of the information about me is now found under the Home tab in the site menu, including About, Contact, and the Dedication to my late founding partner, Gomez Addams. There’s also a spiffy new FAQ page, since so much of what I do makes hardly any sense. Feel free to send me questions. If they are asked frequently enough, they’ll get added to the page.
Site Title: “Instant Elixir Cures All” is only temporarily out of sight. It is evolving into the name/title/imprimatur of a new venture. Follow and/or visit often to keep up to date.
Update Schedule: I’m shooting for an update every ten days or so this year. I know I don’t have an excellent record that way, but the times they are a-changing and so, hopefully, will my habits. It’s the new year, people – resolutions and all that.
Exciting Plans: I am fairly champing at the bit for the work on my calendar this year, including:
Writing: I will integrate my writing with my artwork in this site. Look for books, challenges, and prompts, as well as illustrated projects.
That Dollhouse I Was Building All Last Year: Is finally becoming something. I’m so up about this one. Wait till you see what I’m doing. Look for progress reports as we go.
Learning and Sharing: I was stretching my wings a bit in 2018, and I’m eager to share in 2019 what I’ve been learning about printmaking, wildlife spotting, and home-made art supplies.
And so much more…
Please enjoy the new site. As I say, it’s under construction, so if you find any errors, broken links, etc., please let me know. One thing I know isn’t working at the moment is the email account, but please use the Blog comments to chat, correct, or critique, until that gets fixed.
Thanks, everyone. I wish you all the best. Let’s have fun this year. I think we deserve it.
Hi, all. I hope all my friends and readers enjoyed the holiday. We were cozy and small at home, and I had great fun making the decorations for our little live tree this year.
The paper stars were made using a delightful little origami model. Click this link for a tutorial from Jo Nakashima on Youtube. I dusted them with a hint of metallic gold acrylic paint – which doesn’t show in the photos but gives the stars a bright glow in the light, in person . I then strung them on simple red cord to make a garland. They are so much fun to make, I will definitely see what more I can do with them.
The paper mushrooms, though, are my success story for the season. I managed to make papier mache with thin, translucent layers of crumpled tissue paper. In the past, I’ve gotten good results with other types of paper, but this month, nothing wanted to work but the plain white tissue paper. It gave the best shapes, but of course was way to flimsy. So I spent a total of about three days lightly and carefully brushing the shaped mushrooms with a very dilute paste of water, PVA glue and wheat flour to stiffen them without tearing or dissolving the tissue. I then painted them, mixing the paint with more of the paste for added stiffness. I am very pleased with the results.
The bases are a last-minute improvisation. The mushrooms themselves were made without bases, but I wanted them standing. Can you guess what I have holding them up?
The display in front of our kitchen window brings a hint of a winter forest into our home. Soon, the decorations will be put away, the cats will get their toy squirrel back, and our little dwarf Alberta Spruce will go back outdoors in the cold where it likes to be. And then a new year will begin, with a new look for this site, new projects from my studio, and lots of plans.
I wish you and yours great happiness and growth in 2019!
I am spending this week making holiday decorations. There will be more paper bows like the first ones I made last year, plus paper mushrooms to make a “forest floor” around our tree and paper stars to twinkle above it and amongst its boughs. I’m having lots of fun playing with paper forms and surface treatments.
Also this week, I am working behind the scenes on an overhaul of this website. The new look will be brighter and livelier, with better organization. It will go well with some big projects coming up in 2019, including new books, dollhouses, toys, more of my Cities series of collages, and lots of art and writing experiments.
It’s been a crazy and distracted year, but I feel excited about the holidays and the new year. I’m ready to buckle down and get to work.
By the way, the new background image for winter is my own photo of white pines in Charlestown, at the Lower Mystic estuary.
Hello, all. It’s been a while. Things have been kind of crazy, y’know, the way they get. Anyway, I have been extremely busy with work and planning and organizing and birding and politics and preparing for gardening, and through it all, I have been shingling the dollhouse roof.
I’m going for the look of slate, and I hope you’ll think I got close. It’s been some fun on the Google, first looking up what slate generally looks like, then how to fake it with paint, then what slate roofs in particular look like, then how to build a slate roof, and from there deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of roofing, skylights and all that sort of jazz.
The following images show some of what I came up with. I painted more manila folders with a small-scale slate effect and others with a copper effect, because slate or other stone tile roofs will often have metal flashing and gutters at their seams, and those will sometimes be made of copper, according to my admittedly superficial research. I went more for look than structural accuracy. In my defense, my neighbor, who is a roofer, says this is pretty much correct. I find it relaxing and fun to cover sheets of paper with faux paint effects. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person, but it would suck if I didn’t enjoy it, as I need to do a lot of it.
These photos are couple of weeks old, and more progress has been made since they were taken. The work is going quickly at this point, which makes it hard to take a break for blog updates. It is about time I began work on the characters who will play out their drama in this house, as well as the furnishings and props, too.
By the way, the blog’s new background photo is a shot I took of a tree on my street, against a wet, gray sky, the bare branches just getting knobby with their first buds. Springtime in New England!
These past weeks I’ve been working very hard on the dollhouse for my mystery graphic novel project. There were a couple of setbacks since January. I decided the acetate windows would not work for photography, so I had to cut them out and replace the mullion bars with toothpicks. Next, I realized the second floor is too dark to see into if the back roof/gable panel is in place, so I dithered for some time about how to fix that problem. But finally, all that was done, and today I put color on the exterior walls.
As you see, I went with a sunny yellow, which will be complemented by colors on the gingerbread ornaments still to come. Next, I will tile the roof, for which I painted card stock to look like slate. You can see a hint of that, dry-fitted with tape, in one of the photos.
As with most labor-intensive projects, it’s amazing how suddenly real progress can appear, and after months of slogging, the thing looks like it will soon be finished. It’s quite energizing.
Yellow dollhouse, in progress, front.
Yellow dollhouse, north side and back, in progress.
Yellow dollhouse, south side and back, in progress
Yellow dollhouse, south side and front, in progress.
It’s been a crazy several weeks, with a strained knee, two bouts of the flu, a blizzard followed by record warmth in February, and a nor’easter to usher in March like a lion, so I haven’t had time to put together a blog post until now. But progress has been made, and a new hobby has emerged.
On the dollhouse, the clapboard siding is finished at last, and I am working now on replacing the acetate in the windows with small wood frames. I found it difficult to focus a camera through the acetate, and in any event, I just didn’t like it all that much.
And the new hobby – wildlife-spotting around scenic urban Somerville. My at-home feeders serve a resident flock of about 15 resident European house sparrows, two pairs of house finches, one lingering junco, a mated pair of northern cardinals, several mourning doves, two blue jays, and the ubiquitous feral pigeons and gray squirrels. Meanwhile, near where I work my day job, I’ve also noticed a welcome return of water fowl to the Mystic estuary, where year-round herring gulls and summer-resident Canada geese have been joined by a pair each of red-breasted mergansers and mallard ducks, and some red-throated loons appear from time to time. This past month, I decided to break out the camera.
Windows in progress
Bay window in progress
Looking into the kitchen
The Birds on the Estuary
Low tide on the Mystic estuary with pier and Tobin bridge.
Red-throated loons hanging together. This pair did a little waltz in slow circles around each other.
Red-throated loon in winter color
Male red-breasted merganser with fish
Red-breasted merganser pair with a fish
Herring gull after clams
Canada geese just landed on the ball field at Ryan Playground, Charlestown on the Mystic.
Construction continues on my New England beach house project, using the Orchid dollhouse as the starting point. Ironically, while putting up clapboard siding, one manila strip at a time, I find myself cursing the noise of the workmen putting up clapboard siding, one wooden strip at a time, on the house across the street. Life / Art. I’m pleased with the effect of the paper clapboarding. You can also see a little of the interior and the kitchen cabinetry. This cozy-modern cottage will be the setting of a story about trying to get away from it all, as a graphic novel illustrated with collaged photos. Stay tuned for further updates.