Owl Creek Art Studio – June 2023 newsletter

Hello, and happy Spring! In fact it is nearly summer already! Summer Equinox is in two days. As my year of teaching wraps up I am getting back on track with my studio business, re-energized by this amazing weather and the glorious green of all the plants growing. Since my last newsletter I have been working on a wide variety of projects. So here I will dive in and tell you about a few of them. 

To help me with the process of printmaking I bought myself a new piece of equipment, a Woodzilla press! (With a little help – thanks Mum!) I’m still learning how to use it. I plan to produce some handmade linocut greeting cards and mini prints in the coming months that I can sell on my Etsy store. Handmade cards seem like a sensible direction because I can make multiples from a single plate, I don’t have to invest in a large print run from a commercial printer, they’re affordable for art collectors to buy, and people still enjoy giving and receiving handmade art greeting cards for all sorts of occasions. My cat Ember approves. Here she is laying on some carefully prepared marbled paper, giving it some extra special wrinkles, next to my new press in the studio.

Here’s an example of a card-making project I did recently. I printed the image on hand-marbled paper that I marbled myself, then trimmed the print into a greeting card.

I’m currently in production, creating an  inventory of handmade linocut print cards on all different kinds of paper.

I’m also planning to do more paper marbling this summer. So much fun!

I already have one edition of art cards available on my Etsy shop called “Love, Louise”, featuring the adorable face of Louise the Silken Windhound. Louise is my dog’s sister, and we see a lot of her for doggy walk dates. They love to “zoom” together, which means running very fast! 

This art card is a limited edition because I used a reduction linocut carving process with only a single plate, carved multiple times for several colour layers.

These cards have been very popular but there are still a few left of this special limited edition! They are available on white or coloured card stock, with many colours to choose from.

Future card editions will sometimes be limited edition like “Love, Louise”, but more often I will use a different technique where the edition can be open. That means I can make as many as I need to, indefinitely. Purchase “Love, Louise” cards in my Etsy shop, at the link below.

I produced a large edition of linocut mini prints in the winter and sent them out to family and friends as gifts for the holiday season. “Owl Pair” features a cozy pair of barred owls perched together on a maple branch. The image was printed in forest green ink on good quality printmaking paper. A few of them were printed on special marbled paper and handmade paper. A few of these mini prints are still available in my Etsy shop. Mini prints are affordable, collectable, easy to frame or store in a print portfolio, easy to send through the mail, and they make beautiful gifts. I’m looking forward to making more of these small prints. I have a cupboard full of blocks to carve! To order an “Owl Pair” print click the link below to visit my Etsy shop.

I’m still exploring all the things the Cricut machine can do. To go along with the “Owl Pair” prints I also made some small paper ornaments to send to friends and family. I made these as a fun substitute for greeting cards because they can be kept and reused as ornaments every year. The ornaments feature artwork of my cats and a white, snowy silken inside of festive snow globe ornaments. I think there is huge potential to make more small decorative items with the Cricut machine, as well as more stickers! I will continue to explore this. Click the link below to view stickers in my Etsy shop. I have many different sticker designs!

Pet portraits continue to be a favourite subject for me, especially with watercolours. I have painted Elska so many times now! She is my doggy muse. I also painted Nigel and Felix, my sister-in-law’s dogs, as a gift for her. Most recently I painted Luna, a gorgeous Ibizan hound, as a donation for a fundraiser for her vet costs. She’s healing from a broken leg. I love pet portraits because I love animals so much. I have painted pets of all sorts with watercolours, oils, acrylics and drawing media too. If you would like me to make a pet portrait for you please get in touch. 

In January I tried something new as an art teacher – I facilitated a Paint Nite workshop for the social committee of a local tech company! I planned a step-by-step acrylic painting on the theme of the Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland”. Planning how to teach absolute beginners how to successfully complete a painting was very complicated, even for a simple painting. I have a new respect for Paint Nite facilitators! The event was a big success! We had about 15 people, and everyone made a terrific painting. I hope to do another Paint Nite event sometime. 

At the Saanich Adult Education Centre I have been co-facilitating a new art program called Cultural Crafts. We have been learning Indigenous crafts such as drum making, drum painting, knitting, beading and cedar bark weaving. The students are really excited to embrace their cultural heritage and get creative together making beautiful things. I find the work very satisfying. Here are a few photos of things I have made and projects still in progress. I have been learning alongside my students.

Refreshed by the glorious renewal of spring, and excited about my summer holiday from teaching, I’m ready to tackle some new goals. I have been paying attention to the challenges my health issues pose in sustaining my art business. I have reached the conclusion – again – that I need to work smarter, not harder. In that vein I want to explore and learn about things like print on demand sites, drop ship sites, and other services for artists that could help me to get my work out there to customers in a way that creates a more passive income stream. 

For example, I could paint beautiful repeating patterns that are useful for fabric, wrapping paper and other products. I can upload artwork to a site such as Spoonflower, and the company does all the work for me, marketing, manufacturing, printing, packaging, shipping… and I get a percentage of the profit from every sale. It’s not a large cut, but they take care of the hard parts for me, leaving me free to produce more art. Here’s a pattern example I tried out with watercolours.

Similarly I could publish a colouring book – remember my Silken Windhound colouring book that I want to publish? – using print on demand services. I upload the completed book design, and anytime a customer orders one the on-demand print company does all the work fulfilling the order. This leaves me more time to design more books and make more art! 

I will always want to produce original artwork and art commissions for clients. That remains the core of my studio practice. But these other streams of production could help my business grow in a new way, so I intend to learn, research and try them out! I will definitely let you know when I get to the point of publishing print-on-demand art products. I also want to return to learning about oil painting, keep practicing with watercolours, hone my photography skills, and take my art outdoors with my sketchbook. My sketchbook continues to fill up with watercolours, studies, and some new experiments representing hours of enjoyment and learning. Here are a few pages for you to enjoy. But first, a bit of an explanation…
For the last couple of months I tried something really special and new to me. I signed up for some art therapy sessions with a practicum student of the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute. We met online using the Zoom platform, and I did several sessions exploring my feelings and thoughts from a new angle. Making art instead of talking about stuff the usual way feels like accessing my emotions from a back door. Lots of unexpected and beautiful things emerged, rich in metaphor and layers of meaning. I needed to take a step back from commercial art making and reconnect with personal art making, and art therapy was the perfect way to do it! I won’t show you much of what I made – it’s therapy after all! – but here is one spread of two pages that I particularly loved because of the way poetry was incorporated with the imagery. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about what it all means. Maybe you will find insight for your own personal journey from this peek into mine. 

Stones can be seeds if you let your stone heart crack open

vulnerable inside

quivering in the cold spring air

twitching with hope at the splatter of every raindrop

What new gems will polish up from these rough stones?

what opalescent hues will glow in my healing heart?

I dug deep in the soil as a child

finding spiders’ eggs

centipedes

earthworms

and clay

shells and bones

scattered carelessly on soil

released like a handful of gems

formerly protected

miserly possession

now will fertilize with their freedom and loss

I’m planting stones in my garden this year

they are coming up in dusky pinks and purples

never quite what I expected

but always beautiful

the deer snip off fresh shoots

but nevertheless they persist

pushing up green and good

what new fruit will these pebbles yield?

what delicate flowers will bloom for a season?

I found two owl pellets under an oak two days ago

the owl roosted there, silently regarding the bulbs pushing up below

The stones in my heart are too heavy to hold.

Let them fall.

Let them become seeds of

TRANSFORMATION.

Caroline Stengl

March 14, 2023

So as you can see I am still here, making art at a slow and determined pace. I’ll never stop. Please think of me if you would like to commission a painting, collect affordable prints, get some fun stickers for your kids, or stock up on your greeting card supply. My Etsy shop is always open and my website too. Click the links below to visit them. You can also email me through the contact page on my website or by replying to this message. I appreciate your support so much! Thanks for reading, and best wishes for a wonderful sunny season ahead! 

Caroline Stengl

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