Art Every Day Month: November 23

WADC Envelope, originally uploaded by Leah Virsik.

I’m super tired and I didn’t particularly feel like writing tonight. I’m trying to clean up a bit. My sister and her partner are coming after Thanksgiving and I was really hoping to get get some art hung. I have these boxes of papers I was going through to try and consolidate them. It drives me crazy, like I should have organized it better the first time around. But then there are also treasures I find too so there’s the good and the bad…

This treasure is from Rick Tharp. Jill Prestigiacomo wrote “Hi” on the back. I remember really enjoying it and asking her about it. I remember her saying it was something that he did but I can’t remember much else.

One of the highlights of a trip to Washington years ago was to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. They had an envelope contest there. I was so impressed that the stamps were not all in the right hand corner. The contest is called the Graceful Envelope Contest and is now put on by the Washington Calligraphers Guild. There are some beautiful envelopes there.

Writing this reminds me of the National Collage Society. They have an annual postcard show which I found out about while perusing  Carol Parks website after reading The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam.

Art Every Day Month: November 20

Roots and Branches Revisted, originally uploaded by Leah Virsik.

Tom and I were supporting art tonight. We had the great pleasure of seeing The Swell Season at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre. If you’ve ever seen the movie Once, you’ll know who I mean. Incredible show! Great entertainment. They filled the room. I always appreciate a great band and a musician who can really entertain. Glen Hansard, the lead singer, pushed the crowd and had us sing. He said “when you sing from the heart there are no wrong notes.” So true, isn’t it? For so many things in life…

Glen Hansard played a manic cover of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks kinda like this but way more intense. He was so appreciative and grateful for his audience and was by no means taking his present success for granted. I could identify. I’m grateful for the attention I’m receiving for my artwork lately and that I have a class of eight people tomorrow. Yet, it’s the act of showing up and doing the work that is critical – not the result. Whatever comes, comes. I am responsible for doing the work that feeds my soul. From Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 1, scene 3: This above all: to thine own self be true.

Above is the “front” of what I posted yesterday, “Roots and Branches Revisted”.

Art Every Day Month: November 3rd

Creating(front), originally uploaded by Leah Virsik.

To create everyday and then document it, not just think about it…that’s the challenge I accepted when I took on Leah Piken Kolidas Art Every Day Month challenge. I wanted to have a good excuse to blog more. Plus, it’s a great reason to connect with other creatives.

It’s interesting what comes up… what to post, what to create… we’ll see how it goes…

The image above came out of inspiration from Carolee Gilligan Wheeler and Jennie Hinchcliff’s book Good Mail Day. Mail art is really interesting. You create it and send it out into the world. I like that.

Make Your Own Simple Handbound Journal: November 21

Raid Your Office Supplies! Make Your Own Simple Handbound Journal
Time: Saturday November 21, 1:00-4:30 p.m.
Where: Frank Bette Center for the Arts
1601 Paru Street, (at Lincoln) Alameda, CA 94501
Fee: $45 members, $60 non-members. Plus $10 materials fee
(pay materials fee at workshop)
Click here to sign up via PayPal at the Frank Bette site.

Meet Leah Virsik on Wednesday, October 28th, 6:30 – 7:30 pm. Leah will have samples of her journals/books and answer questions about her workshop.

In this class for beginners, you’ll create your own 2-section “pamphlet stitch” journal from commonly available office supplies including file folders, envelopes and paper clips. You’ll sew the sections, attach eyelets to the spine and secure your book with an elastic band. You’ll then add elements to the cover and inside to make it your own. Take home your own unique handbound journal and a one-section mini-postcard book.

What to Bring: ruler, scissors, glue stick, pencil, a cutting mat and a bone folder. Also, bring a 4″ x 6″ piece of cardstock (or postcard) for a cover for a mini-book. Optional: Bring any elements you’d like to include in your book to personalize it. Some examples are: canceled stamps, rubber stamps, stickers, paper clips, ribbon, old receipts, shopping list, scraps of paper and handwritten notes. Limit these things to 5 1/2″ high. White inside pages and some ephemera will be provided.

About the instructor: Leah Virsik enjoys making books and painting. She has a passion for paper and bookbinding and daydreams about art when she’s not actually making it. She creates books out of new and repurposed materials and works with paper, fabric, plastic, metal, acrylic and collage. Learn more about her and her work by visiting

Creating an Artful Home

bottle_border, originally uploaded by Leah Virsik.

Tom and I planted our first bottle border this weekend. One down, three more to go. We only need 734 more bottles by our count. No, just kidding, really 150. Anyone who would like to donate to our cause of having the most artful house in our neighborhood, please let me know. The bottles with the flat bottoms are best. Thanks!

Writing & Illustrating for Children’s Books Class

I am very fond of Dona Turner. I took a packaging class from her at UC Berkeley Extension many years ago and am very happy to say we still keep in touch. Very encouraging and positive, she’s an incredible artist and a really enjoyable person to be around. In the class I took from her, she helped me push my ideas further to create pieces that I enjoyed producing. If you’re interested in taking this class from her, I say “go for it!”

Writing and Illustrating for Children’s Books – bring your ideas to life!
Instructor: Dona Turner
Thursdays, April 23—June 11th   6:30-9:30pm
8 sessions. $200.00.
2501 8th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
(at Dwight in the famous Sawtooth Artists Building)
Offered in the artist’s studio. There is plenty of safe free parking and the studio is accessible directly from the street. Café Trieste is nearby!

This workshop is designed to provide anyone interested in writing and illustrating children’s books with a supportive and stimulating environment to bring their ideas to life. Participants will work collaboratively in an informal setting to develop their works to their richest potential—with the goal of creating a professional presentation for editors or agents. This workshop will use constructive group critiques to further each student’s process; so, time will be dedicated during each class to review participant’s work.

We will:
• discuss illustration techniques
• examine character and setting development
• study page layout and pagination
• create beginnings and endings
• explore dos and don’ts for marketing and getting published

Materials: Bring ideas, manuscripts and sketches, plus painting or drawing materials, or your laptop.

Sign Up: Please email the instructor to secure a space. Check or cash payment appreciated before or at first class. Make check payable to: Dona Turner and send to the studio address above.

Dona Turner has taught illustration at CCA, Extended Ed. and currently teaches Graphic Design at UC Berkeley Extension. She has illustrated numerous children’s books, including the popular, “What Makes a Rainbow” and “What Makes Music”.  McAdam/Gage Publishers in San Francisco brought out her own book, “My Cat Pearl”, this year. She recently completed a picture book in Korean for Yeowan Media. Dona is also a Life Coach specializing in Creativity and Goals.

Visit or

Putting Yourself into Your Work

Hearing David Carson speak at the HOW Design conference in 2001 was one of my highlights. His 2003 TED talk is very inspiring as well. These words stood out so strongly for me in his talk that I had to transcribe them:

“You have to utilize who you are in your work, nobody else can do that, nobody else can pull from your background, from your parents, your upbringing, your whole life experience. If you allow that to happen, it’s really the only way you can do some unique work and you’re going to enjoy the work a lot more as well.”

I read the quote to Tom and he recited Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.”

The Scottish Play by the Shotgun Players and Musings about Local Theater

Guest Theater Critic: Tom Virsik

Leah and I recently saw Shotgun Player’s Macbeth. We can recommend it — but not appropriate for children. Overtly carnal (but tasteful) in parts and LOTS of well-placed stage blood. Audible gasps from the audience at certain scenes of violence.

(Actor playing Macbeth: Craig Marker. Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli
Source: Shotgun Players)

The leads are great, as is the one witch/weird sister. Director Mark Jackson changes a small part of the plot (but not the lines!) that works well in this version. It is not his best work, though, and a few of his signature techniques are, in my opinion, overused. (And I suspect Jackson recycled a throbbing soundtrack used for a party scene from his American $uicide production). Very stylish and hip throughout and thoroughly understandable. You will remember this production of Macbeth and never confuse it with another. Macbeth has been extended through February 1, 2009.

Leah and I also saw a special one-night performance of Beowulf — a sort of rock opera “song play” based on the epic poem. We first saw it during its premiere run in Berkeley some months back. it is now headed to New York City. I noticed that among its cast is an actor I had originally seen in a Woman’s Will production a few years back. (I need to disclose that I recently was invited to and am presently a member of the Board of Directors of Woman’s Will). This same actor I next came across in a leading role in a different local company after. Now the actor is headed to NYC! If you are in NYC in April, check it out!

I am a strong proponent of local theater for a variety of reasons. The above tale is an example of one reason — being a part of something bigger. I — with many others — played a small part by reaching into my wallet for tickets and donations to keep local theater companies alive and prospering. That support translates into seeing those companies, the actors, the other professionals, excel and create work that is (in my opinion) beyond mere entertainment. One need only look at the titles of what is playing at small theater companies in the Bay Area to realize that political, ideological, and social themes are being debated and explored on stages almost nightly. Macbeth is, after all, a tale of an unquenchable thirst for power and no fewer than three small companies staged three very different versions of Macbeth within the last year. Coincidence or a thoughtful product of the political climate?

I am aware that especially in this economic climate, the arts in general are facing challenges. I know local theater in the Bay Area is under the gun, including the one organization of which I have personal knowledge, Woman’s Will. I encourage you to go see a show at your local theater. Volunteer, make a donation if you can. If the small theater companies perish for lack of support, we will have only ourselves to blame.

100 Memorable Experiences of 2008

Lisa Call’s blog post: 100 Accomplishments of 2008 inspired me to write my own. Whew! I didn’t think I could come up with 100 but Tom helped.

1. I experienced an incredible wedding with Tom, the man of my dreams. When things just click, you know it and it feels right… I knew this was possible but hadn’t experienced it before.
2. Tom and I spent a fabulous two-week honeymoon in Savannah, Georgia, Durham, North Carolina and Florida.
3. Saw an incredible exhibit of William Christenberry’s work at the Telfair Museum in Savannah, Georgia.
4. Joined Alameda Women Artists and became a board member.
5. Accepted into Frank Bette Center for the Arts Alameda on Camera exhibit.
6. Threw a summer party in our home.
7. Visited my sister and her partner in San Diego and ate lots of wonderful food.
8. Conceived and led Artist Business Circle at Frank Bette Center for the Arts.
9. Started yoga at at Loka Yoga.
10. Inspired by Kelly Rae Roberts to begin blogging.
11. Ran across the Golden Gate Bridge and back on New Year’s Day 2008.
12. Spent weekend in Napa with Tom.
13. Took care of my mom’s dog. Learned a lot about myself and how my life would need to be different if we were to have a dog.
14. Learned coptic sewing and long stitch link stitch binding via Keith A. Smith’s Non-Adhesive Binding Books Without Paste or Glue. If you buy this book or any of his books which I recommend, buy them through him, he’ll send you a thank you note!
15. Bought a Vivitar Polaroid Instant Slide Printer and learned how to make emulsion lifts.
16. Started working with scrap aluminum.
17. Bought a modern sewing machine from a garage sale.
18. Lost weight through Weight Watchers and kept it off.
19. Took emergency preparedness courses through Oakland’s CORE program.
20. Saw a great KFOG Concert for Kids featuring the Pretenders and Amos Lee at Oakland’s Paramount Theater. (Incredible eye candy!)
21. Discovered great ginger snap recipe. (Tom calls them Ginger Slaps.)
22. Conceived, planned and executed our first lawn art sculpture: Hammie with Tom.
23. Planted our first tree.
24. Cleaned our gutters. Tom reminded me of this. Such a great workout!
25. Created more art than I’ve ever created.
26. Worked outside of my norm and created works in pastel colors.
27. Paid off debt.
28. Bought digital camera.
29. Planned Christmas meal with Tom and didn’t suffer from the lack of abundance feeling that I get at times, “Is this enough?” It was enough.
30. Finally painted my lamp my mom gave me years ago.
31. Worked with Tom to design placement of ART letters on studio door.
32. Bought our first gas BBQ.
33. Bought outdoor furniture from the Alameda Flea Market.
34. Ate Southern BBQ.
35. Experienced fried pickles. Yum!
36. Went to the Salvador Dali Museum and then later found the pencils he used at the Alameda Flea Market.
37. Discovered Key Lime Pie and that it’s not green!
38. Discovered the Daiso.
39. Took a really great AIA home tour via bikes. Nineteen miles round trip!
40. Stayed up til 3 a.m. with Tom and made art.
41. Discovered
42. Attended a LEGAL same sex wedding.
43. Voted for Obama.
44. Asked Michele Pred to speak at my Artist Business Circle. She said yes!
45. Bought an original Michele Maule.
46. Was incredibly inspired by Cay Lang’s Taking the Leap.
47. Took a class with Lisa Kokin and discovered what great things you can do with books and dictionaries.
48. Attended an Oakland City Council meeting.
49. Took a tour at S.F. Recycling.
50. Witnessed my sister’s defense for her Ph.D. from the University of Washington.
51. Letterpress printed our wedding invitations at SFCB.
52. Saw the Cowboy Junkies in Napa.
53. Went on a women’s retreat to Occidental.
54. Discovered Graton and had fabulous food at Willow Wood Cafe.
55. Bought a great jacket from Mr. Ryder and Company.
56. Saw Chihuly’s In the Hot Shop video. This is a great example of “artist as director”.
57. Saw the Joseph Cornell exhibit at SFMOMA.
58. Sold more artwork than I ever have.
59. Bought a Royal typewriter and Tom named him Roy.
60. Discovered how yummy frozen grapes can be from Carol.
61. Discovered the Food Mill and their super ginger bars.
62. Discovered radish sandwiches.
63. Ate wonderful turnip soup Tom made.
64. Spent an exhilirating day planting with Tom, my mom and Warren. We planted the plants my mom bought for us for our wedding.
65. Put political signs up in our yard.
66. Asked for trees from the city of Oakland.
67. Bought house numbers.
68. Sumitted work to Rock Paper Scissors.
69. Submitted work to Rhythmix Cultural Works.
70. Changed my name.
71. Exhibited work with AWA at the Alameda Library.
72. Exhibited work with AWA at the Alameda Museum.
73. Sold several handmade books.
74. Got my lip pierced.
75. Wrote letter to my city council representative.
76. Letterpress printed thank you cards.
77. Exhibited at Frank Bette Center for the Arts in “Vision and Revision”.
78. Heard about Francis Bacon’s studio from Julie Alvarado.
79. Wrote 46 blog posts.
80. Began reading Lisa Sonora Beam’s The Creative Entrepreneur.
81. Wrote to Lisa Sonora Beam and told her that I would like to host a class of hers.
82. Created my first visual journal.
83. Experimented with different types of frames including a window.
84. Began reading Kelly Rae Robert’s Taking Flight.
85. Wrote a note to Carol C. Parks.
86. Bought LK Ludwig’s Mixed-Media Nature Journals on Carol C. Park’s recommendation and really enjoy it.
87. Imagined idea of running a non-profit for artists.
88. Bought Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea.
89. Bought and used ideas from Alyson B. Stanfied’s I’d Rather Be In the Studio.
90. Introduced to the concept of “teaching what you need to learn”.
91. Read Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.
92. Celebrated Julia’s 60th birthday with her and extended family.
93. Was treated to a fabulous day in San Francisco by my mom, sister and sister-in-law for my wedding.
94. Met incredible people of Tom’s past on our honeymoon.
95. Asked Dona Turner to speak at my Artist Business Circle and she said yes!
96. Gently reminded of connectedness and introduced to the Oakopolis creed of “No separation between art and living”.
97. Reminded by Dona Turner of the importance of enjoying one’s creativity. She shared an incredibly cute dog she created with my Artist Business Circle.
98. Introduced to an exciting new gallery in Alameda: Autobody Fine Arts.
99. Experimented with solvent transfers.
100. Organized garage and studio.