30 Days of Found Object Art

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I make art every day. Somedays it’s a quick 5-minute collage. Other days I’ll have an hour to work on a single piece or a few at a time. But at some point every day, I schedule time to do something creative. I credit this habit to the monthly challenges I started in January of 2016. Creativebug was offering a month-long drawing challenge hosted by Lisa Congdon. I love her style and I’ve always wanted to develop a drawing practice so I decided to join in. And for extra accountability, I posted my work on Instagram. It was way outside of my comfort zone and literally made me feel sick to my stomach every time I posted one of my sketches, but eventually, it became more about the practice of creating the drawing than it did the worry of what people would think. I later joined another month-long drawing challenge hosted by Pam Garrison. Then I participated in Index-Card-A-Day (ICAD) hosted by Daisy Yellow where you create something, anything, on an index card every day for the months of June and July. By mid-year, I could feel the habit forming. It was no longer a task on my to-do list, it was something I craved and I couldn’t go to bed without completing my piece for the day – and not because I felt guilty if I didn’t, but because I felt incomplete.

By the end of 2016 I was hooked and decided to step it up a notch. I committed to a 365-day challenge. I’ve added other monthly challenges in throughout 2017 as well, but my daily project has given me something consistent to work on, something that will be there for me every day. The book I’m working in is very small so it doesn’t feel overwhelming to commit to completing a page in it each day. And I didn’t limit myself by giving it a specific theme. I decided I’d simply find something that inspires me each day and use it to create a page and tell a story. This practice has made me more aware of the world around me. I see the little things I used to overlook (like 4-leaf clovers in the park), and I’ve realized that just about anything can provide inspiration, even the junk I find on the ground or the annoying/difficult things that happen in life.

After participating in so many challenges hosted by other artists, I knew that someday I’d like to host my own. So I decided to take that idea for a test spin and in honor of the launch of my Etsy store, I’ll be using the month of November to create 30 Days of Found Object Art. Every day I’ll create a piece of artwork that was inspired by something I found either on my morning walks with Murphy in the park, in a parking lot, at my kids’ schools, or around my house. Some items will be used as tools, others for color or pattern inspiration, and some may become a story starter. There aren’t any prompts for the month, I will simply respond to the “junk” I find throughout the course of my day. I’ll be posting the artwork every day in Instagram and you can find me here or by searching for my account @mrkanthony (there is also a link on the left side of my blog). I’ve completed the first four days and you can see them below.

Day 1:

 

Day 2:

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Day 3:

Day 4:

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I’d love to have you join me! Don’t worry about catching up, you can start any time you like. Just create something inspired by a found object. If you post your work on Instagram, don’t forget to tag me (@mkranthony) and use the hashtag #30daysoffoundobjectart so that I can see your work and follow your journey. And by the end of the month, you’ll have a new habit of looking for inspiration in unexpected places all around you!

Let’s go exploring!

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Opening Day!

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I’m very excited to announce that my Etsy store is officially open for business! I am slowly working on getting it fully stocked, but I do have a variety of my Found Object Creativity Kits available for purchase.

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Each kit contains:

  • A Found Object Creativity Kit Guidebook – a 14-page book that explains how to use the tools in your kit, provides a list of prompts to get you started and explains how to go on your own found art walk and add to your collection
  • A unique assortment of carefully cultivated found objects to ignite your imagination (there is a combination of both natural and man-made objects included)
  • A packet of paper scraps
  • A handmade book from reused materials for note taking and mark-making exploration

Each object in your kit, including the container itself, can be used as an art supply. For example, the jar can be filled with water for painting, the lid can be turned into a paint palette and the envelope with the paper scraps can be glued into your journal to hold treasures you collect on your own found art walk.

You can click here to visit the store or you can search on Etsy for the store name: TheFoundArtWalk.  I have more items that will be listed soon so check back for updates!

Creating a Gratitude Banner from Found Materials

I am always looking for new ways to use or reuse household items. This has rubbed off on my daughter Lucy. She never throws anything away, instead she hands it to me and says, “here, this is for art projects.” One of my favorite techniques is dipping an empty toilet paper roll in paint and using it as a stamp on journal pages. They make great circles, but are also easy to reshape so that you can create other unique stamps on your page. But the cardboard tubes are really durable and will last quite some time so I am constantly thinking of other ways to re-purpose them.

One day I was holding an empty roll while I was doing something else and began to mindlessly unravel the cardboard. Then I folded it half and realized that it made two perfect triangles that could be used for pieces in a banner.

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The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday gave me an idea for a banner that would combine Lucy’s love of giving me things for art projects with a lesson in gratitude for my kids. So I gave Lucy the assignment of helping me collect empty toilet paper rolls, a job she was very happy to accept (hopefully she’ll be as excited about cleaning up her room someday).

In order to create a banner, you only need a few simple materials:

  • Toilet paper rolls (each one either makes two triangular banner pieces if you cut it in half, or if you prefer to have a slightly thicker piece, you can simply fold it over and glue, staple or tape the two halves together to make one piece).
  • Twine or ribbon to connect the banner pieces
  • Scissors
  • Materials to decorate your pieces (paint, markers, collage materials, glue, stickers, stamps, stencils and ink, glitter, etc… The sky is the limit, you can make your banner as fancy or as simple as you desire)
  • A hole punch or awl

Begin by deciding how many banner pieces you’ll need. I wanted my banner to say “Give Thanks” so I cut 10 pieces.

Since the tube was round, the edges of your pieces will turn up a bit when you cut them. You can either place them under a stack of books overnight or iron them (I placed a thin cloth between the cardboard and the iron). If you iron them, you must do this before you add paint and/or ephemera.

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Once you have the correct number of flattened pieces, you can begin to decorate them. I kept my design relatively simple and chose a few of my favorite colors of paint, collage materials, a stencil and rubber stamps for the letters. You will need to punch holes in the corners of your pieces so that they can be strung together. You can either do this before you apply your design or after, it’s really up to you.

When you are happy with your design and you’ve allowed enough time for materials to dry (if necessary), you are ready to string the pieces together. Cut a piece of string, twine or ribbon to your desired length. Thread your twine through the front hole of your first banner piece (depending on what type of twine or string you use, you may need to tie knots around the holes to keep the banner pieces in place). Run the twine behind the piece then through the next hole and out the front. Tie another knot if necessary. Repeat this sequence for the remaining pieces, but be sure to allow some space between them on the banner and enough space on the ends to hang it up.

Once you’re done, clip the twine and hang your banner!

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I am working on teaching my kids about gratitude and how important it is to be thankful not only for the big things in our lives, but the little things too. So once our banner was hung on the wall, I grabbed a stack of sticky notes and a Sharpie and asked my kids (ages 2 and 5) what they are thankful for. Very quickly the wall was filled with amazing, heartwarming thoughts of gratitude and love (including Becca’s love for bananas). It’s on a wall in a hallway that gets a lot of traffic in our house so we will constantly be reminded of all the things we have to be thankful for. And I left the stack of sticky notes and Sharpie out so that we can continue to add to it all season long.

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I’d love to see the banners you create! If you post pictures to Instagram, be sure to use #TheFoundArtWalkGratitudeBanner

The Little Lost Pen (and friends)

I love pens. It’s somewhat of an addiction really. I can’t go into an art supply store or even Target without perusing the pen section. There’s always a need for a new pen: the perfect white pen to write on top of a dark-colored paint, the perfect fine tip black pen to sketch on mixed media or drawing paper, the perfect shade of [insert color here]. The list is never-ending. But that’s the problem, it’s always the search for that “perfect” pen. And the search for “perfect” often times leaves us doing only that –  searching and never creating.

A few weeks ago, as I was walking into the local library, I noticed a ballpoint pen on the sidewalk. So I stopped to pick it up.

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I used to use ballpoint pens all the time when I consistently wrote in a journal. I carried a notebook with me everywhere. I wrote down everything. I had notes on napkins and scrap pieces of paper tucked into pockets and clipped onto pages with binder clips. And I always used a blue ballpoint pen. This ballpoint pen was blue, just like the ones I used to use. As I cradled this little lost pen between my fingers and gently swiped it across a piece of scratch paper to see if it still worked, I felt a sudden pang as if I had just been reunited with a best friend who I hadn’t seen in many years. I tucked the pen into my purse and promised it that we would embark on a long-overdue journey together.

I began taking pictures of the Little Lost Pen’s adventures on my Instagram account (follow the adventure using #littlelostpen). Our most notable adventure so far has been to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival where we met the owner of E & L Bindery who helped us choose a special handmade journal just for the Little Lost Pen.

It even made a guest appearance in a blog post I wrote for Artorium Emporium.

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We’ve also gone to an antique show,

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Lucy and I sketched out ideas for carving pumpkins and dressed the pen up in a washi tape costume for Halloween,

it has helped me with pages I’ve created for Get Messy Art Journal prompts,

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and most importantly, has helped me jot down ideas for this blog.

Although it has been fun to play with the idea of taking this pen on adventures, it has actually served a much greater purpose – it helped me step away from the idea of the “perfect” pen and just have fun creating. Sometimes we need to break our routine and use materials that we normally wouldn’t choose or haven’t used in a long time. For me, it was a ballpoint pen, but it could also mean using watercolors instead of acrylics or even changing the type of paper you are using. As my 5-year old daughter and I were putting away groceries one day, I mentioned to her that you can make a journal out of a paper grocery bag. She didn’t believe me. So I made us each one.

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I’ve been using mine for the NaNoJouMo art journaling challenge hosted by Dawn DeVries Sokol. I don’t typically use brown paper so it has been fun to work on the kraft paper. And I didn’t spend a ton of money of the journal so I don’t have to worry about ruining a precious book, which allows me to be a little freer with my creativity. And honestly, I’ve fallen in love with my scrappy little journal and have been collecting bags to make more once this one is complete (my favorite so far is a colorful, heavy-stock bag from Paper Source).

So my challenge to you is to find a material that you don’t typically use and try it out. Since finding the Little Lost Pen, I’ve also found a black ballpoint pen and two pencils that will begin to join our artistic adventures. I keep all of them tucked into one of my favorite little Orla Kiely cosmetic bags (I love these bags, I have a bunch of them and they are ALL full of art supplies, never makeup) in my purse along with some blank index cards and a small journal so that no matter where I am, I have supplies and a close friend to join me on my journey and keep me motivated and inspired.

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