Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Calligraphy in the Modern World

I received my first calligraphy set at age eleven from my great aunt Octavine.

As the family correspondent, Aunt Vinee appreciated excellent penmanship and the art of font. Octavine was old fashioned. She wore bloomers and muslin dresses from the 1950s.

Aunt Vinee encouraged me and I found I very much enjoyed the rather "old lady" pastime of calligraphy. I practiced and practiced. I bought alphabet books and taught myself fonts. As a left-hander, I couldn't follow the instructions given thus I developed my own style and technique.

Once I had the basics of letter formation, spacing, and placement I began to practice Hebrew calligraphy. I was taught the Hebrew alphabet at a young age, so the letters were familiar.

Luckily, I have figured a way to turn my "old lady" talent into a practical art. Finding that wedding invitations, Bar and Bat Mitzvah invitations, marriage contracts, Ketubah (Jewish marriage contract), concert posters, baby announcements and graduation announcements all require the flair of calligraphy allows calligraphy to blossom in the modern world and bring beauty to the everyday.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Paris from High

I imagine a drizzly spring afternoon in Paris circa 1934. She's a movie star or maybe a dancer. Something glamorous. Although naked, her lazily draped cloak gives a bit of warmth. She is not unhappy as the hurried boulevard beneath provides solace. The terrace of the grand hotel is aged; the wrought iron rusted.
No matter, she is beautiful and a dancer, or maybe a movie star. Something glamorous.

Painted with gouache on a very cold day in NE Portland, Oregon.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Wedding Invitations, Calligraphy and Art Nouveau

When I was married my chief concern was my invitation. Sitting on the floor of my small lakeside apartment I drafted invitation after invitation. Basing my design on an Art Nouveau perfume bottle circa 1915, I sought to create an invitation that incorporated our Hebrew names, calligraphy and an Art Nouveau or Art Deco design.

My dress was from 1930. The long princess sleeves were cut and the neckline lowered. I found a tuxedo bought from a Fifth Avenue tailor in 1935, cufflinks, a shirt collar and a bowtie. Holding fastidious to my theme, I purchased a pair of ca. 1930s bridal shoes. The wedding invitation had to match.

Maintaining my black and white theme, I placed the Hebrew calligraphy into small banners; the English text in the center. As with many wedding and Bat or Bar Mitzvah invitations, the Hebrew calligraphy is decorative.

Combining the aesthetic of the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods with my own and my husband's Jewish traditions allowed the invitation to be truly representative of our wedding day.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

An Art Deco Explosion

When I first moved to Portland it was November and we were subletting an apartment with little insulation nor finished flooring.

The cold air seeped into every nook; every cranny touched by an almost Artic chill. One room was kept heated. Using reruns of Perry Mason as ambient noise, I painted and painted and painted.

The time spent there was my most prolific.

Constructing an entire series out of one word titles and beautiful women, I chose my favorites to be screenprinted. Eventually a few designs out of a large pile (piles are the measure of all things) were screenprinted onto tees, totes, aprons, prints, cards and journals.

The title "Explosive" is both French and English. The style Art Deco but the fashion 1960s mod London.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Art Deco Wedding Invitation

An Art Deco wedding. The bride came to me with a clipping from an old calendar and the idea for an oak leaf motif. Her inspiration for her wedding invitation included something in an Art Deco style, hence the clipping from an antiquated Art Deco cafe poster calendar containing a bit of letting she loved. And the oak leaf was symbolic of the San Francisco Bay Area, their home and the location of the wedding.

I developed an Art Deco style alphabet from the small example of about a dozen differing letters. For the oak leaf, I went for a more abstract, cut-out style illustration to offset the Art Deco calligraphy.

Designing, executing the calligraphy and illustration as well as working with the bride and groom was a lovely experience. Feeling truly part of the festivities, I was able to actualize their vision whilst creating my own.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

The Roaring '20s.

One of my favorite illustrations, this Art Deco style screenprint blends the 1920s with 1980s. Translating Cyndi Lauper's seminal 1980s hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" into French and adding a whimsical Art Deco illustration of bathing beauties made for an interesting juxtaposition of two distinct eras.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Original Art Deco style screenprint.
Signed and numbered.

Please see my Etsy shop for further details.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fin de siècle

Fin de siècle France is perhaps my greatest inspiration. The lines between commercial art and fine art were distinctly blurred as the industrial economy grew and advertising, executed manually, supported fine artists directly.

Out of the marriage between commercial art and fine art, handmade and manufactured was born Art Nouveau. The French lead the way.

I love the streamlined organic form and limited color palette of the Art Nouveau movement in France.

This is one of the more spectacular examples of Art Nouveau furniture and is one of my many muses from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

The painting above is one of my latest. The painting derives its inspiration primarily from the French Art Nouveau movement.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008


I began my professional career as a Hebrew calligrapher. Asked by close friends to design and calligraph their Tanayim (an engagement contract between the betrothed as proscribed by Jewish Law) I taught myself the basics of watercolor and botanical illustration setting to work on my first ever commission. The Hebrew calligraphy came naturally; I had been practicing for years with a calligraphy set my great aunt Octavine gifted to me on my eleventh birthday. Calligraphy was easy and fun, albeit rather un-hip and definitely "old lady;" but illustration was more difficult and my perfectionist tendencies made for quite an exercise in tedium.

Following the wedding, word of mouth spread and over the years I have calligraphed and designed numerous Ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts). Adorning a Ketubah has recently made a resurgence among couples wishing maintain tradition and create a beautiful and meaningful objet d'art.

The illustration of a Ketubah tends to take me away from my French Art Deco leanings. Using watercolor, I seek to create a fanciful world for the bride and groom. Botanical illustration, biblical flora and fauna, and calligraphic adornment and various other classic motifs lend themselves best.

The Hebrew calligraphy is the final addition to the Ketubah. This is the most stressful aspect. It is very difficult to erase or cover up any mistake; and because it is on the final piece of art, the whole thing could be lost in one fell swoop. I have tried executing the calligraphy first but this is difficult as the Hebrew calligraphy has to fit organically into the image rather than the reverse.

Over the years I have had the honor to illustrate and or calligraph many Ketubot. Designing and producing a Ketubah is a labor of love indeed but brings immense satisfaction and pride.

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A Little Attitude

This image is one of my most popular designs. Modeled on a conglomeration of old fashion photos, this was actually one of my first full size paintings. This print, available on my Etsy shop, favors the 1950s with an Art Deco flair. Modern yet restrained. Sophisticated yet sassy.

It was one of four illustrations I had silk-screened onto professional chefs aprons. The aprons are all gone but the images remain.

I do not sell my originals. Partly because I could never part with one, but mostly because I do not trust digital technology enough to ensure its survival. To me art must be real, something that can be touched.

I think it important that the origin of a piece of art also be organic (Of course that then begs the question "What is Art?". But I digress, I'll leave that to the academics.). There is something about purely digital art that is harsh on the eye. I have a difficult time watching CGI movies or cartoons drawn digitally as they have little natural flow.

It is no wonder I prefer Art Deco stylings, Art Nouveau decoration and Craftsman simplicity--crave the antique rather than seek the modern.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather

I love Spain. I've been to Barcelona and Sevilla--the north and the south. Two distict cultures, languages, buildings and cuisine. The history of this crumbled empire is palatable. In Barcelona I bought boots; in Seville I enjoyed Flamenco.

Our trip to Seville was on the last leg of our Moroccan sojourn. Having forgot the iPod on the couch of Brooklyn friends, we had but six CDs bought at the Rough Trade store on Portobello Road in London. Out of those six, my favorite was Devendra Banhart's Cripple Crow. A snippet of Cripple Crow renders visions of great Moorish architecture and bright green palm trees.

I realized my connection to Devendra Banhart through my trip to Seville. Thus when asked to do a concert poster for Devendra Banhart's Crystal Ballroom show in Portland I paid homage to his freak folk stylings through my own visions of Spanish celebration.

Combining the chic Art Deco of Gaudi's Barcelona and the rococco of the Moors, I set to work on an image I felt both captured his music, his language and my own memories.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Album Art--My First Foray Part I

I just started a new commission today. It is for an album cover entitled "Knives That Stab Your Face." I know, pretty intense. However, Brian, the soul behind "Knives," is a slight redhead reminiscent of a rookie detective from Scotland Yard. I think it's the goatee. His music is akin to Elliott Smith or Leonard Cohen. Singer-song writer stuff with a dark edge. Hence, "Knives That Stab Your Face." The theme of the album art is to be "sinister" but will not be literal.

This being my first foray into album art, I am very excited about it. Brian wants to have the album ready for printing in a month. So that leaves me like two weeks. Yikes. Better get to work and stop futzing around on the computer....

Oh, and pictured is the painting Brian likes best and I am using as the inspiration for the album cover.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Just in Time for Valentine's Day

These Art Deco style cards were my first foray into card-making and they ended up being my favorite. Printed with my Japanese Gocco silkscreen press and then hand-painted with gouache. Many think me insane for hand-painting each card but I actually really enjoy monotonous yet creative work. Reminds me of the hours spent with all those coloring books.

Oh, and have I mentioned how much I love my Gocco? In fact, I dropped it down an entire flight of basement stairs where it landed and bounced twice on the cement floor. There was not even a chip in the plastic nor a crack in the glass. Fine Japanese workmanship. Wow.

These notecards can be purchased directly through my Etsy store just in time for you to send to your favorite chums.

Blank on inside.
Six per set.

Each card measures 4 x 6 and comes with matching envelope.
French Paper 100% Recycled Cardstock.

**Note: This is image is available in a wide variety of colors and sizes and can be mixed and matched in a set.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Newest Endeavor--Silkscreened Bat Mitzvah Invitation

This past week I finished printing a Bat Mitzvah invitation which i also illustrated and hand-calligraphed using my very own alphabet. This was a Bat Mitzvah invitation that I also did the printing for. What a job. There were invitations drying all over the house.

I worked with both the mother and daughter to design the final Hebrew calligraphy image you see. The Bat Mitzvah invitation is three layers.

I loved combining an Art Nouveau sensibility with Hebrew calligraphy. The fonts I chose for both the Hebrew and the English were based on 1920s fonts I found whilst traveling in Morocco and France and then further developed.

The invitations were printed on my amazing Japanese Gocco silkscreen. I love it. Someday I will write an ode to the Gocco.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

PDX Etsy Show

On December 22, my local Etsy group put on our first ever Solstice sale held at Portland State University in conjunction with the Portland Farmers Market.

A grassroots effort, the show was a success and gave everyone an opportunity to put a face to a screen name.

PDX Etsy is a consortium of artists from throughout the Portland area seeking to find community and promote art, craft and Etsy.

In addition, PDX Etsy is an invaluable resource for questions, concerns, vending information and marketing.

Artists helping artists.


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Sunday, January 13, 2008

La Belle Vie--The Beautiful Life

La Belle Vie--The Beautiful Life Print--$25. through my Etsy shop

My original modern Art Deco illustration hand-silkscreened on the highest quality archival French Paper.

Limited edition of 75.

Signed and numbered.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

PDX Mural Art--Alberta Arts District

One of my favorite people is Robin Corbo. She is kind, inspiring, gifted and a most talented artist. We have worked together on many a project, including two murals here in Portland, Oregon.

I have been twice honored to letter her murals.

As the bicycle is an integral aspect of Portland life, a cycling mural was precisely what the town needed.

This is our first public collaboration. You can view it on the side of the Community Cycling Center on the corner of NE 17th and NE Alberta, Portland, Oregon.

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On Moleskines

Parisian Girl Moleskine--$10. through my Etsy Shop

The best thing for travel writing is a Moleskine.
Moleskine is a legendary notebook
used by European artists and thinkers
for the past two centuries.

Originally produced by small French bookbinders
who supplied the Parisian stationery shops frequented
by the international avant-garde.

The notebooks are hand-silkscreened and hand-painted
with original illustrations by me.

The binding is stitched,
there is a pocket inside
and the last sixteen pages
are detachable.

Handmade in Italy.

Please see my Etsy shop for purchase information.

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Goats Head Soup & Tea in the Sahara

I love to travel. Much of my inspiration comes from the places I've been and the experiences I've had.

Below are my diary entries from my Moroccan honeymoon. One month spent...adventuring.

"Castles Made of Sand"
after a week in beautiful western europe (london and paris) we are now in colorful morocco. the closest thing that i can liken it to is the scene in indiana jones
where whatshername is wandering through the streets of cairo.
unlike other middle eastern countries that i have been i.e , egypt,
turkey, israel, the old city here, called the medina, is a wide
thoroughfare with so many people, smells, vendors, etc that it is almost too
much to take in. everyone is in traditional dress and everything is very
old thus making it seem as if you could be in any century.
yesterday we went to the castle made of sand, made famous by the
jimi hendrix song (he lived in the area in which we are currently,
called essouiera). it was amazing. an actual castle made of sand on
the beach. we loved it.
other than that we are just trying to acclimate ourselves to the
culture, doing some shopping, and walking along the beaches.
today we head for marakesh where the craziness will be even more
we love it here and cannot wait to see more.
our next venture is to rent a car and drive through the sahara.
we are going to try to send pictures but i'm not sure either jon or
myself is that technologically advanced so it may not happen.
the food is amazing, we pretty much eat tagine, a local stew made
served on fridays.
ramadan begins tomorrow, the same day as rosh hashana. we are
anticipating quite a cultural experience, to say the least.
we have decided to spend the entire month here to truly get a taste
for the country and see as much as we can. we're still not sure how
we're getting home, but we'll figure it out...later.

"Marrakesh Express"
marrakesh is quite an amazing place; indescribable really and with entirely
messed up keyboards; very well near impossible
essentially the town is run by bands of eight year olds who seem to be at
every turn there are burros, mopeds, horsedrawn carriages, insane taxi drivers,
bicycles, pedestrians, and then of course totally confused tourist unsure
about where to take their next step. you know which ones we are. we stayed in an amazing old riad, basically a b&b in the medina. the medina, old city, is utter madness with a square in the middle comprising of snake charmers, veiled women giving henna tattoos, orange juice stands, restaurants, musicians, and storytellers.
there is also a guy who plays music, tells stories and dances around while
still able to balance a rooster on his head.
the souk is a maze of incredible shopping, and well have you know that cara
maintained herself rather well, but not completely jon will have you know
ramadan began and when dinner time hit the streets were completely empty
except for the tourists; most of whom are french.
people try to guess where we are from, the conversation goes something like
espana? italiano? francais? anglais? deutschland? netherlandisch? australia?
canada? extraterrestrial?
the latter was the only response we gave in the affirmative
no one yet has guessed american.
we now head for the sahara in our rented hyundai.

"Rock the Casbah" & "Tea in the Sahara"
so...our road trip to the sahara began with a climb over the high atlas the dark.
we arrived, albeit with a minor cara freakout as we couldn' t find a hotel.
yet somehow we did and ended up in the most beautiful guest house nestled in
the mountains.
we then travelled to various kasbahs (a kasbah is essentially any house that
at one time was occupied either by a noble family, government official, or
served as a military base). they're are literally thousands dotting the
countryside and are difficult to discern as they are made from the very dirt
in which they stand.
similar to adobes they are made out of straw and mud but are much less
durable as the bricks are not baked...okay jon says i'm getting nerdy and
you probably get the picture...
so we went to one that was completely in ruin yet managed to maintain the
harem room which was incredibly beautiful. oh to be a harem woman.
the next kasbah was where gladiator was filmed. jon just kept saying,"are
you not entertained" over and over. he's very funny.
thus our descent into the desert began.
again, we found ourselves driving in the dark unable to find a hotel (are
you sensing a pattern?)
harvedogg (my father) does not understand how two screw-ups such as us manage to find our way in the world, yet somehow things seem to always work out. following with harvedogg's philosophy we ended up staying at one of
the nicest hotels fact it is where hilary clinton stayed.
it was right on the base of the biggest sand dune.
now these are the sand dunes from the movies. the definitive desert image,
if you will.
imagine lawrence of arabia, spaceballs, etc...
it was incredible.
the second night we rode jublee and preparation h raymond (these were the
camels) into the far reaches of the dunes and spent the night under the
stars (actually in kinda nasty tents surrounded by frogs and spaniards)
however we found some very cool italians and climbed one of the dunes in the
middle of the night.
actually jon did, cara only made it halfway...or maybe a quarter.
we then got back into our hyundai and left the dunes for you guessed
it...more kasbahs.
this time we actually stayed in one. again, incredible.
we are now back in marakesh where we spent yom kippur with the small jewish
community here.
it was fascinating and comforting and we met some israelis.
tomorrow we leave for fez.

"Goats Head Soup"
and our (mis)adventures continue...
i saw a goat head lying on the sidewalk whilst jon was making a phone call...hmmm....we are now in fez staying at the most beautiful old house. there is a rooster that lives in the apartment across the way. yes, it lives in the apartment and the constant cock-a-doodle-doo has driven jon a little batty. the proprietors are unbelievably hospitable, it is hard for us americans to understand how people can be so warm and inviting.

fez is absolutely beautiful. it does not have the frantic, insane energy of marakesh. like jerusalem it is built on rolling hills and the only indication of the 21st century are the multitudes of satellite dishes protruding from the roofs of houses literally as old as dirt. yesterday was spent at the ruins of volubilis, one of the largest roman towns in north africa.there were completely intact mosaics and an arc d'triomphe reminiscent of the one in paris (also completely intact).

before fez we spent yom kippur in marrakesh at one of the oldest synagogues in the country housed in a fantastic open courtyard. like most of the houses here it was decorated with intricate mosaic tiling but with the shape of stars of david rather than traditional islamic designs. the only sign showing it was there was a blue stripe on the door. the ceremony utilized beautiful sephardic melodies, each person taking a turn singing. at the end of the service multiple shofars blew simultaneous to the call to prayer signalling the end of the fast of ramadan. it was extremely moving and brought us closer to both holidays. in fact, we are essentially celebrating ramadan as food is scarce to come by during the day.

we don't know where we are going tomorrow (surprise) but lack of planning seems to be our forte and has gotten us thus far. we also don't know how long we plan on staying in morocco, or when (and if...) we are coming home.

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My Great Aunt Octavine

Octavine was my great-aunt. Born in New York City at the dawn of the Jazz Age, she embodied Depression-era sensibility and possessed a penchant for the unique.
She sang opera at Carnegie Hall. She still wore bloomers. For my eleventh birthday she gave me a calligraphy set. I practiced and practiced…a little girl training herself in a lost art.

The cards pictured are silkscreen prints from an illustration I did of my great aunt Octavine at the piano.

They are available for purchase.
$12. for a set of six through my Etsy shop.

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