visual language

Lately I've been working through the exercises in Jane Dunnewold (and Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan)'s new book, Finding Your Own Visual Language. One of these exercises involves carving 30 stamps in 30 days.

I used this to explore some shapes that consistently show up in my work, mainly a pointy oval that I see as a kayak shape, but which sometimes morphs into a leaf.

I am now done with the 30 days. I strayed afield on some days, developed some background stamps using similar lines to the other stamps, and discovered that the birds I've been drawing (with pen and with thread) are really the same shape with legs stuck on.

The yellow one in the corner is a rubbing on one of the stamps to see how they work.

To save money and to get something locally, I chose to use Pentel's Hi-Polymer erasers. I got them in a three pack for around $1.50 at WalMart. They measure 1" x 2.5", which was close to the aspect ratio I use on the kayak shape. They carve like butter; I used wood carving tools because that's what I had at hand, but they cut with an XActo knife quite well. I used both sides of the eraser.

So what have I accomplished in this 30 days? I saw the intersection of different icons that appeal to me. I got some cool stamps, some so-so. I reinforced the value of repeating designs with small variations, because sometimes small changes make all the differences.
I see this shape everywhere. I experimented in the visual journal I kept of the process with combining different stamps going in different directions.

And where do I go from here? I have more erasers, I'm thinking of doing a series that could be used together in a tray of some sort to make a larger surface to do rubbings on. I'm thinking of doing bigger stamps. And there are more exercises in the book.

Even when I think I've made a stride or two forward in the process of being an artist, it's good to go back to basics once in a while. You never know where they'll take you.


kathy said...

This is very cool, Barb. I like all of your variations. I think sometimes it can be hard to think of things, but you certainly did the job! Can't wait to see what you do with all of these designs.

The Idaho Beauty said...

It's good to hear how those Pentel erasers work for making stamps. I bought a 3-pack because I needed a good eraser (and they ARE excellent), but wondered if they'd double for making stamps. Will have to give it a go. Oh, and also thanks for mentioning that you carved on both sides. I'm so tunnel visioned I'd not think to do that.

Kim Hambric said...

I just received this book a couple of days ago. I'm sure it will take me a while before I attempt to do those exercies. I've been wondering if any other artists have been following along. Thanks for sharing your ideas and your supplies. I will have to come back and see how you are getting along with your exercises.

Ann said...


Check out the barkcloth at http://junomain.wordpress.com/

Reminds me of your stamps.