Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Elephant Sanctuary

Hey Everyone. Please read this post to the end.
For a while now I have been reading about the amazing people and elephants in Hohenwald, Tennessee. The Elephant Sanctuary
It is the nation's largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants. Quoting from the site:

"The Elephant Sanctuary exists for two reasons:
To provide a haven for old, sick or needy elephants in a setting of green pastures, old-growth forests, spring-fed ponds and a heated barn for cold winter nights.
To provide education about the crisis facing these social, sensitive, passionately intense, playful, complex, exceedingly intelligent and endangered creatures."

The first time I stumbled on it, I read everything there was to read over there and being an animal lover, cried over it. I think if I had won the lottery, most of it would go towards helping animals. Unfortunatelly, by myself I can not donate enough to them, but what I can do is to tell you guys about them and to ask each of you to write a post in your blogs where you ask your readers to write a post as well. If 100 of you will write a post and 100 of your readers will do the same - that's 1000 people right there in a matter of a day. And if we take this up one more level, that's 1 million. If each donates at least a dollar - do the math. I know that we can not help everyone and everything that needs help in this world, but we should at least try. It will take you no more that a minute to do a post, but that minute can and probably will help save an elephant's life. Let's see what we can accomplish here shall we?

This is Tarra - one of the residents of the Sanctuary

Quote: "elephants are majestic creatures who are highly intelligent, complex, social, and sensitive individuals. In the wild, elephants are migratory, walking 30 to 50 miles each day, and form intricate family structures. They grieve for their dead in a more-than-instinctive way. They show humor and express compassion for one another with intense interactions. The reality of their lives in captivity is that many are in chains up to 18 hours a day. They are enclosed in steel pens -- often alone -- broken and controlled by fear and intimidation."

Please repost in your blogs.
Thank you and btw, I will do more tutorials soon.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And The Winner Is...

Ok, It's October 30 and time to draw the winner of the give away (see previous post). What I did was print out all the comments, then had my girlfriend close her eyes and point at a comment. Her finger landed at NAHANI.
So congradulations NAHANI. I hope you will enjoy it. Please contact me with your information. I will send it out as soon as I hear from you.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Blog Giveaway

(click to zoom)

What do you think guys? Is anyone interested?
This piece measures 24"x18". It came from my slightly darker times about two years ago. People have asked me what it means and I am wondering if the meaning is really that essential since everyone sees things differently. To some - it's just a bunch of masks, to others - just a cliché of despair. Some love it, some hate it.

These are masks, different masks that each and everyone one of us wears at one point in our lives. We take off one, just to put on another one. It is not the masks that are crying - it is the person behind them that is crying because he/she is unknown to its Self. Hence the writing "you don't know".

Now I didn't sit there and analysed the work in my head before making it. I threw it onto the canvas and then looked at it and that's what it revealed to me.

I want to give it away. It had stared at me long enough and I would like to think that I am a little closer to that face behind the mask. It is someone else's turn now. If all this hits home, then leave a comment to enter the giveaway. I will randomly draw from the comments on October 30. Make sure I am able to contact you (sometimes I click on person's name and there is no blog or contact info).

If it is not too much trouble to blog about this post or link to me, it would be much appreciated, although not required to enter. If you do blog about it or link to me, can you please link to my main website http://www.laraberch.com.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gel Transfers

In this tutorial we will learn how to transfer images into fabric using gel mediums.

Things you will need:
1. Golden medium heavy gel
2. Some type of fabric
3. An image to be transferred
4. Roller

For this particular tutorial I am using heavy gel matte, but you can use regular gel and soft gel as well. Similarly, you don't have to use matte. Gloss will work the same way, but it will give you a glossy finish. As far as images go, I found it best to use an inkjet printout. Do experiment with other images such as magazine cut outs, brochures, postcards etc. I tried all of them, and to me inkjet printouts work the best.
Now for the fabric, I am using old cotton sheets. Begin by applying the gel onto the image. The easiest way to do this is to use your finger. Make sure you cover the whole surface. Don't let it sit too long or it will dry and won't transfer.

When you done, turn the image over and place it with the side that has the gel on it down onto the fabric. Take your hard roller and start rolling. Make sure to roll long enough for the whole surface to adhere to the fabric.

Let it sit for while. How long? Well, I let it sit long enough for me to make myself a cup of tea with honey and lemon. :-) Now, peel off a corner and if most of the colors transferred, peel off the whole thing. There is always going to be some ink still left on the paper. Don't worry about it.

As you can see, there is still some white paper left on the transferred image. What you want to do is get a wet paper towel and slightly dab the white spots.

Rub the wet spots with your finger. Do not apply too much pressure or you will rub off the actual image. Do it until there is no more white left. The second picture below show half of the image rubbed off and half with paper still left on it.

Finish the cleaning up the whole image and then apply the same gel that you used in the begining. This time, don't put too much. Just enough to seal the image. Let it dry.

You're done. You can use this techniques on various surfaces such as fabric, wood, cardboard and more. If you're going for a worn out look, just rub off more of the image. Don't get upset if you don't achieve the desired results on your first try. You have to get used to the gels and get the feel of it. After that it's a snap. I've ruined a quite a few images before I got the hang of. Different surfaces yield different results. Also, before printing out the image, make sure you bring up the contrast in your editing program. (I will do a tutorial on that as well)

As always, if you would like me to do a different tutorial, leave a comment. If I am able, I will do it. For those of you who have tried this tutorial and absolutely loved the results, consider making a donation (paypal). You can give as little or as much as you want on my main website

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Design Your Own Color Palette

If you're one of those people that have trouble picking the right color scheme for you project, one way to do it is to turn to nature (or take a class on color theory). I've recently seen an interesting post Beautiful Color in Nature: Frogs and Toads. where the author makes up a color palette from images of animals - frogs in particular. Looked easy enough, but when I set out to do it, it wasn't that simple. So here is what I'm thinking: Take one of the pictures below and make a color palette. It is interesting to see the different combinations that will come up from the same picture. Post the result in your blog and let me know, or send it to me and I'll post all of them side by side. The easiest way to do this little project is to use a color picker in photoshop.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Antiquing Paper

In this tutorial we will learn how to make things look old and wrinkled. There are a lot of methods to do this, but I prefer coffee. I like the color (as you can see by now, I like earth tones - the brighter the better).

Things you will need:
1. Cheap instant coffee
2. Tray or a plate or anything that will hold the desired size of the paper you are going to antique.
3. Gloves (if you are allergic to coffee)
4. An image (I'm using plain paper)

Pour water into the tray. Warm water dissolves the coffee faster, but cold is ok too. Add coffee. The amount depends on how drastic do you want the final result to look. I usually like to put as much as possible for a strong effect. Mix it up.

You can see that there is still some coffee that didn't dissolve in the lower right corner. Don't worry about it. We don't want a uniform look.
A WORD OF CAUTION: first time I did it, I mixed everything with my hands. The mixture was so strong that it probably got absorbed into my pores and needless to say I felt like crap afterwards. My heart was racing, i was shaking a little and so on. Perhaps I was imagining things, but I'm just letting you know that you might want to use a spoon or gloves when mixing this stuff.
Back to our project. Place the paper (or whatever you're using) into the water. Let it get wet completely. Keep it in the water until you have reached your desired color. What I did was wrinkle it like so:

Then I took some more coffee and sprinkled it all over the paper.

The grains will start to dissolve, leaving black spots. The less you let it sit, the darker the spots and vise versa. Pour the water out. Here you can stop or continue further. With the back of a spoon I created folds by going over the paper.

Then I sprinkled more coffee on it.

Then I placed it on a paper towel and rolled over the spots with the back of a spoon.

Now, if you want to add some more wrinkles, just crumble some areas like so:

Let it dry and you have your old and worn paper.

You're done. You can use this techniques for various items such as letters, images, photos. You don't have to do as drastic and messy. Just decrease the amount of coffee and time in the water.

If you would like me to do a different tutorial, leave a comment. If I am able, I will do it. For those of you who have tried this tutorial and absolutely loved the results, consider making a donation (paypal). You can give as little or as much as you want on my main website

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

What Do I Think

I want to thank everyone who responded with their thoughts on "Black Square" by Malevich. I agree with eveyone else's opinion.
I do not see anything except for a Black Square. It doesn't make me stop. It doesn't make me stare. I think the reason why this piece got so famous is for its novelty and simplicity (simplicity is not always elegance). It was a BOLD move to push this as a work of art. Excuse my language and no offense to Malevich (may he rest in peace), I think the black square sucks. I guess one of the reasons I like collages is for the details. One element flows into the other and leads yet to another. I don't get tired of looking at collages whereas this Black Square puts me to sleep.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What Do You Think

Kazimir Malevich
Black Square, c. 1923
Oil on canvas. 106 x 106 cm
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

I have always been curious if others consider this a work of art. In my opinion, media sometimes promotes the weirdest pieces. Just because something is famous, doesn't mean it is good. This is not to say that this work is bad. Nor am I saying that this is good. I want to hear honest opinions about this. Imagine that this is not Malevich. Instead, imagine you found this at a garage sale and the artist is unknown. Would you buy this? Why do you like it? Why do you hate it? Do you see anything in this work except for what it is - a black square? Let's hear it!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Guys, I'm a little new to blogger...I was hoping you could answer a few questions:
1. When I leave a comment on someones blog, how do I know whether there was an answer posted without having to go to that person's comments page everyday?
2. How do I read new posts in my favorite blogs without once again visiting every blog separetely?
Please forgive the stupidity of the questions :-)) I am switching from livejournal where these things are automated...

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Found an artist that I would recommend: Leighanna
Her figures and collages are nostalgic, gothic, almost creepy but at the same time illuminated. Just thought I'd mention her :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


In this tutorial we will learn how to make a collage. Things we will need:

1. Acrylic paints (or other paints of your choice).
2. Some brushes.
3. Golden Gel Mediums (you don't have to use this particular brand, but I find it to be better than other mediums on the market).
4. Gator Foam (a piece of wood will do as well, or hard paper although paper tends to warp).
5. Crafts Roller.
6. Scraps: images, printouts, nicknacks etc.

Before doing anything, I suggest gathering your scraps and picking a theme. It could be a color theme, a particular concept, a certain style - pick one. A theme will give your work a more organized professional (for the lack of better words), unified look. I don't want this to be a mish mash of colors that clash together or images that don't relate to each other. To me such things are distracting. (THIS IS JUST MY OPINION. FEEL FREE TO EXPERIMENT WITH JUST THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT I SAID).

I like earth tones and I love red and yellow. Most of my work tends to circulate around these colors. I picked the topic of World War II and the memorabilia of that time. So my theme is pretty much set. Lay out your scraps, see what you like, what you don't like, what goes good with what. There is no sense in laying out the whole collage, because I guarantee that no matter what you pictured in your head, your end result is going to be different. In fact, I never know what I am going to end up with. It takes a life of it's own. I lay things out, I play with them, but in the process, I remove images, I add other images, I remove colors, I add colors. At one point I look at it and decide that it's done. After that, I end up staring at my work for a while because what appeared before me is not what I intended and so I stare at it and either like it...or hate it :-))

Before I do anything, I usually paint my surface. I mix the paint with a gel medium to make it a little translucent in case some spots are visible through the images later on. Whether to use use gloss or matte is up to you. Pick a couple of colors or one color and apply it to the surface. I picked red and yellow.

Don't try to be perfect. Just slap it on. Wait until everything is dry and lay out your images again just to get some idea of where things are going. Once again, perfection is of no issue here.

From looking at it I eliminate a few things. The kneeling lady has to go. I don't like her there. The tanks with the soldiers are not sitting with me well also. I will remove these and save them for some other time. Now before I search for more images, I am going to apply the ones that I definitely like. This will give me a starting point. I applied them using the same gel medium. Gel mediums serve as an excellent glue.

I applied the picture of a crying girl. I love that image. I always use it. The girl must be about 80 years old now if alive at all. In it's original format, the photo is black and white. I found some old white sheets and transferred the picture of a girl onto the sheet using the gel medium (I will explain how to do it later). Then I dipped it in colored water and let it dry. Moving on. If anyone is wondering how I got the paper to appear stained and old - I used coffee. Take a plate large enough to fit a standard piece of paper. I used a basin because I was making a whole stack of papers and envelopes for future use. Put some water in and dump some cheap instant coffee in it. I put a lot. Mixed it up. Submerge the paper (or whatever you want to color) in the water. How long to keep the paper in the water is up to you. If you want it darker, keep it longer. To get the dark spots, just sprinkle the grains of coffee where you want them. They will dissolve slowly with the water and form those dark spots you see in the picture. I would suggest doing the sprinkling after you take the paper out of the water but before it is dry. Lay it flat to dry and sprinkle coffee on it. If you want those spots a little lighter, just rub it a little with your finger while paper is still wet. Experiment with it.

I laid everything out again. I found some new images to use.

I glued on a couple of more pieces.

And some more. Don't worry about not liking what you see just yet. You can always apply other images on top of the ones you don't like. That will only give your piece more depth.

Before we continue, I will show you how to transfer images onto other surfaces. In this case I am transferring onto a cotton sheet. I like the way images transfer onto fabrics. Print your image but raise the contrast a bit. I am going to use this image of an eagle. Dip your finger into the gel medium and apply it directly to the image. Make sure to cover everything.

Flip the image over with the ink side down (you should have the gel medium on the ink side) and press into the fabric. Use a roller and go over it a couple of times. Make sure it's glued to the fabric.

Wait until everything is completely dry. Dip your finger in water and start rubbing the paper.

Use more water if necessary. After a while you should see an imprint start to appear on the fabric. Be careful not to rub off the ink. Continue until all the paper is gone and you are left with the image imprinted on your fabric. Now add some color into the water that you just used and dip the fabric into it. I put a little bit of red color that sank to the bottom

When I dipped the fabric into the dish, I rubbed it against the bottom of the plate to get some red on the fabric. This is what the end result looked like after it was dry.

I glued some more pieces on:

And some more images on.

This is not done yet. I am going to stop for now. I'm tired. Will continue tomorrow :-)

If you would like me to do a different tutorial, leave a comment. If I am able, I will do it. For those of you who have tried this tutorial and absolutely loved the results, consider making a donation (paypal). You can give as little or as much as you want on my main website

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wall Art

In this tutorial we will learn how to create a simple wall plaque similar to the one shown below:

Keep in mind that you don't have to use the colors that I use or the mounting material. I usually use gator foam, but you can use anything you find around the house like wood or plastic. Just make sure that what you choose has a good enough surface for spackle to stick to. As far as colors go, I tend to gravitate towards the earth tones, but that's just me. Don't be afraid to try other things.
This project will actually go on my wall. I have an empty spot in my bedroom that is just begging for a matching piece.

I am going to cut a long piece of gator foam amounting to the combined length of the two plaques that are already on the wall. Here is the stuff we will need:

1. Regular Spackle (don't buy the light stuff).
2. Spackling knife.
3. Golden gel medium (matte) or any other type of sealer like polycrylic protective finish (water base ones will produce less harmful fumes) or polyurethane (stinks to high heaven). Whether you want gloss or satin is up to you. I used semi gloss on my previous pieces, but I think for this one I will use satin.
4. Gator foam or another material of your choice. Note: if you pick gator foam, make sure to buy the stronger one. The light stuff might warp a bit under the weight of the spackle.
5. Paint - Cheap acrylic crafts paint will do. If you want you can also use gel stains. Sometimes I use color washes.
6. A couple of pieces of appliques. You can purchase them for a couple of dollars in lumber yards or on the internet. They don't have to be wood. The cheaper ones are made of urethane (high density foam). Since we are going to paint them anyway, the material that the appliques are made out of will not make a significant difference.

Let's get started. Lay out your piece of foam or wood and play around with the position of the appliques.

Once you are satisfied with the look, remove the appliques and start applying spackle to the surface. Don't worry about it being perfect or even. We are trying to achieve just the opposite effect, so put that spackle on as sporadically and unevenly as possible. Make sure it's a thick enough layer for the appliques to stick to, although even if they fall off, you can glue them on later. Don't wait for the spackle to dry. Take the appliques and push them in where you initially planed to put them. Make sure they're fit nice and snug into into the spackle.

Wait until everything is completely dry. Here you will have to make some choices as far as the colors goes. What color do you want your appliques to be? What color background? Do you want a solid coat or a transparent wash? If we want solid colors, then we simply paint it with the color of choice. If we want transparency, the we will use color washes and stains, but before we start with any of these, let's cover our piece with a coat of satin polycrylic protective finish (don't cover the appliques). This will seal the spackle and make it a bit smoother to work with. Now, let's take a color (i picked yellow) and apply it to the surface. Again, don't try to make it perfect. This is just a base coat. Wait until dry. Take a gel medium and apply on top of the base coat. Make it a very thin layer. The reason I put the gel medium on it is to make a smoother surface. You can use matte or semi gloss. It's up to you.

Now what we are going to do is apply another color mixed with a "gel stain medium". I work in small patches. Put it on, then wipe it off with a rag leaving more color in cracks and crevices. Note that for this step you can use regular gel stain that you can purchase in any hardware store. I didn't have any on hand, so I mixed the paint with the gel stain medium to give it some flexibility when wiping it off. You can also use color washes. Put it on, wipe it off. You can't screw this up because like I said before, the more uneven it is, the better. After you're done, pick a color for your appliques, or paint them the same color. It's all up to you. After everything has dried, apply a protective finish of your choice.

That's it. You're done. If you're wondering how to hang this on the wall, I use Velcro if the material is light enough. If you would like me to do a different tutorial, leave a comment. If I am able, I will do it. For those of you who have tried this tutorial and absolutely loved the results, consider making a donation (paypal). You can give as little or as much as you want on my main website

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