Category Archives: collage

My Maneki Neko


Pink brings fortune in love. Southpaw attracts customers.

This next image from my Artist’s Journal is a collage piece that I did when I was in full Maison Celeste mode.  It is a maneki neko, or lucky cat – the kind you see in all sorts of sushi and other Japanese restaurants.  The cat looks like it’s waving, but the Japanese hand gesture to beckon someone is the opposite of the Western one.

There is a story or legend behind the cat – the most common was about a poor monk in the Edo period.  His cat attracts a warlord to get out of the rain in the temple rather than under a tree.  Then the tree is struck by lightning.  The warlord showers the monk with money and gets people to go to his temple, so he is no longer poor.  When the cat died, he was buried in a special cemetery, and a little statue of a cat with his paw raised was put on his grave.

When I started this journal, I painted a couple of pages first.  I started this page out by using my favorite paint color of all time – Color & Co(mpany)’s cerise. It is the most intense fuschia pink you will ever find.  It’s kind of a shame that it’s a tempera paint, because it might run if I tried to shellac over it, but I love it anyway.  I painted the center, then I blended it in with orange and then yellow, filling the whole page.

Before I put the cat on the page, I did some freehand drawings of flowers, leaves, and vines with two different sized Sharpie markers. It’s the first time I’ve tried that and I think it came out great.  I think it stayed that way for a little while as I tried to think of what to put in the middle of the page.

I found this coloring page and printed it out.  I could have taken the trouble to draw it freehand or trace it, but it is a collage piece, so I just left it like it was.  I thought that I would go ahead and color it using oil pastels.  I chose pink to go with the background, shading the outside of the figure in orange.  The ears, claws, and nose are yellow.  Like most maneki neko statues, this one has a collar, bib and bell.  This article says that cats were rare, hence the collar and bell to find them if they were lost.  This website says that the bib and bell stand for wealthiness and material abundance.

I glued him down over my background, accepting that she was going to cover some of the flowers.  Then, I went for total over-the-top glitter, accenting cat and koban (the oval coin that she is holding) with glitter glue.  It buckled a bit, but has flattened out over time.  As a side note, maneki neko can hold other things beside a big gold coin.  This website by Sushi Cat has a great illustration of the lexicon.

It wasn’t until after I colored him pink that I decided to do a little bit of research on the symbolism behind the statue.  Honestly, I didn’t even think that there were pink cats around. I found out that there are meanings associated with the color of the cat and also the beckoning paw.  A left-handed cat (southpaw, like me) is supposed to attract customers and the pink cat brings fortune and love.  Perfect!

After I scanned the picture into Photoshop, I played around with some effects.  I may put one of them up in my shop.

Of course, because I have been reading so many picture books with great art, I thought briefly that the  story of the Maneki Neko would make a great children’s book.  Of course, there are no new ideas, it seems.  I found four of them:

Maneki Neko, The Tale of the Beckoning Cat by Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Kathryn Otoshi – This is the most recent (out last month) and stays faithful to the tale of the monk and his cat.

The Beckoning Cat: Based on a Japanese Folktale by Koko Nishizuka, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger – This book tells a different story – about a poor fisher boy and his cat who attracts customers.

Tama the Cat: The Story of the Maneki Neko, the Beckoning Cat
by Robert Ogden, illustrated by Julia Preston – not available on, but you can order it from the U.K., along with prints from the book.

The Tale of the Lucky Cat by Sunny Seki – in this story, a toymaker is saved by a cat – beautiful illustrations, with text in Japanese and English.

So, if I want to do a children’s book, there are two possible legends to milk (from Wikipedia):

The Courtesan: A courtesan named Usugumo, living in Yoshiwara, in eastern Tokyo, kept a cat, much beloved by her.  One night, the cat began tugging at her kimono.  No matter what she did, the cat persisted. The owner of the brothel saw this, and believing the cat bewitched, cut its head off. The cat’s head then flew to the ceiling where it killed a snake, ready at any moment to strike. Usugumo was devastated by the death of her companion. To cheer her up, one of her customers made her a wooden likeness of her cat as a gift. This cat image then became popular as the Maneki Neko.

(doesn’t that one sound heart-warming and child-friendly?)

The Old Woman: An old woman living in Imado (eastern Tokyo) was forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. Soon afterwards the cat appeared to her in a dream. The cat told her to make its image in clay. She did as instructed, and soon afterward sold the statue. She then made more, and people bought them as well. They were so popular she soon became prosperous and wealthy.

(That one is also known as the George Rodrigue Blue Dog story – LOL)

Some fun links:

Canon Paper Craft Website – so awesome, and what a great idea!  17 pages of high output ink that you cut apart and put together. Instructions on assemblage are on a separate PDF.  There is a black maneki neko, a white maneki neko, and a calico maneki neko to print out. – there are lucky cat e-cards, plus you can design your own cat to print out or for screen capture.

Maneki Neko by Sushi Cat
– great site with all sorts of information, also maneki grams, puzzles and games – children will love it!

Lucky Cat Museum – online collection of lucky cats.

There is also Lucky Cat Fabric – I did not post a link, but there are a couple of shops that sell fabric.  Those links become obsolete when they get sold, but just do a search for all sorts of products.  Try quilting fabric sites for other options.


Cover of my artist’s journal


Everybody seems to be into artist journals.  With a blog, a journal that I keep when I go to restaurants (mostly), and art that consists of collages, it’s hard to justify using collage papers on something that I am not going to sell or frame.  I do tape and glue little things in my written journal, like tickets, good horoscopes, fortune cookie papers, etc., and lord knows when I plan on scrapbooking to keep the other memorabilia.  Probably never.

But I decided to give it a go – maybe last year – and got the cover done, one collage done, and painted a couple of pages in preparation for more.  I do see it as a great place to really go wild – in my collage work, I do not use glitter or sequins.  Neither can I use a lot of the images I used on this cover, for example.  The major image is cut out from an awesome book on the Virgin of Guadalupe, called Guadalupe, Body and Soul by Marie-Pierre Colle.

Guadalupe looks good on the mosaic table!

I also used some fun glitter sticker letters – the message “Rock The Art World” was possible to make after I did my name in the center!  And, of course, I do want to one day rock!

I love Chupa Chups!

A lot of the hearts and roses are also cut from the cover of the Guadalupe book – I hate to waste bright images.  BTW, the hard cover of the book has the same image as the paper cover – I am not really one to jacket books.  The Chupa Chups logo was designed by Salvador Dali – did you know that?  I don’t love the suckers themselves as much as the wrappers.

The next image is a sticker from Punch Studio that I superimposed over a tequila bottle label – Jose Cuervo.  The colors of the agave fields were perfect against the Virgin.  I also had another candy wrapper (from a Lindor truffle) to add to the mix.

No, I don't just believe in chocolate and tequila...

I am constantly buying books for my classroom.  I love to collect folk tales, fairy tales, and picture books that have great art.  There is a series of books by an author named Monica Brown – the three I’m talking about are biographies for children.  There is one about Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gabriela Mistral, and even Pelé (must be newer), but the one I got the picture from is called My Name is Celia/Me Llamo Celia – about Celia Cruz.  The illustrations are by Rafael Lopez and they won a Pura Belpre Award.  One day, I would like to write a book – either a Young Adult novel or an art picture book, so that is why I also attached the “Latina Book Award Winner” medallion.

In my collage materials, I have a finite number of Peter Max hearts from a run of wrapping paper that he designed for Target years ago.  I went back to the store when the displays were being taken down to ask for them – they were awesome big hearts – but they said no.  Before one of them got put in the recycling bin, my sister managed to obtain one of them (is it really stealing if they are going to throw it away?), which hangs on my studio wall.

Another element I use often – especially in my Blue Dog Shrines, is a wrapping paper by Caspari – a gold background with painted squares.  Whenever I use it, people always think that I painted it myself.  Nope!  Nel Whatmore did.  Here’s a Virgin of Guadalupe shrine that I did – gave it to a friend of mine for her birthday – I might need to remove it from my Etsy shop.

At the bottom of my Virgin, of course, is the little angel that holds her half moon up.  Since my name is Celeste (which means “blue sky” or “heavenly”), I like to hope that angels are watching over (out for?) me!

Angels watching over me...

Entry Number One for NCS Juried Show

oasis: collage with rice paper and magazine images

oasis: collage with rice paper and magazine images

Last night, I did a little last minute work on an entry for the National Collage Society’s Juried Show.  I removed the piece from its frame, because the glass on the frame got cracked in transport.  Then, I stood it up at eye level and used my husband’s digital camera and tripod to take my pictures.  Of course, I still could not use a flash, because it reflected off of the magazine paper.

Then, I downloaded it to my computer and adjusted the light and color with Picasa and then Adobe Photoshop.  I was able to send my entries digitally, along with the entry form, which I scanned.  Then, I paid my fee via PayPal.  It was a lot of work, but much less stressful than mailing it.

I started this piece a couple of years ago on white sketchpad paper.  I was experimenting with including geometric shapes in my collage designs.  I love Oriental carpets, and collect pictures of them – many of my collages incorporate at least one element from a rug.  I also love frames and framing elements.

When I was looking around for entries in the Blue Ridge Gallery Show this past summer, my mother suggested that I work with this piece.  Like I said, I started out with a white background – I don’t know why.  We decided it needed something in the background, so I chose this beautiful handmade paper I found at Sam Flax.

In order to incorporate the new background, I had to painstaking remove all of the elements and replace them on top of the paper.  Of course, I took a picture of the original before I took it apart. I was able to keep the framed elements together and only damaged a few of the Oriental rug “tiles”.  Fortunately, I was able to find more pictures of those patterns and to replace the torn pieces.

All in all, the piece is (I think) 16 inches by 20 inches – the largest I’ve made.  I had it framed (my talented mother did the matting) in a beautiful bright brushed gold frame.  It looked great hung at the Blue Ridge Show, and I hope that it will place in this show.

The National Collage Society show will be at Mason Murer Gallery in the Atlanta area.  It is supposed to be a really large space, and we are fortunate to have the show in our area.  I think that the decisions about placing will be made by mid-September and that the show will run from mid-October to December 31.

Art Show in Blue Ridge


IMG_1043-1Having two computers can be a pain sometimes – photos may be on my laptop that are not on my desktop two floors down.  I have done my latest posting downstairs, so that is why this is a little late.

I am recently participating in the Atlanta Collage Society Show at the Blue Ridge Mountains Art Association gallery in Blue Ridge, Georgia.  This picture was one that I finished just for the show – it’s called Oasis.  It is a large piece, at least for me: I think it is 24 by 30 inches framed.

I had three other pieces entered in the show, including Montgolfier, A Winged Mother, and Lost My Head.  Blue Ridge is about 1 1/2 to 2 hours north of Atlanta, and I visited twice.  My husband and I went to the opening reception on June 27, and then my moIMG_1048-1ther and I went a couple of days later when she was off work.

I have to say that I owe this show to my Mom.  She is the one who goaded me to refine the above collage by adding a different background.  She also went with me to Sam Flax to pick out frames and mats for the two pictures that needed framing.  Then, she cut my mats and framed them.  She’s like the Martha Stewart of Atlanta – but don’t tell her that.  She can do about anything!

I brought some cupcakes to the show for the reception – I will post pictures of that later.  I basically did a variation on my Oreo Cookie Cupcakes, but this time I used mini Oreos to make mini cupcakes.  More later.

Perfect for the “faux catholique”…


A couple of years ago for spring break, my husband and I went to Saint Augustine, Florida.  We stayed in a cute B & B, walked around the old town, visited the fort, ate at the newer 5190Columbia Restaurant, and I think we went to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum.

There is also a holy place there, The Mission of Nombre de Dios and The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche.    They have a great gift shop where I scored four cute little volumes called Miniature Stories of the Saints.  Here is a place where you can buy the set for $7.80.  The stories are short and simple, but the main reason I bought them was for the illustrations.  I eventually plan on using them in collages and shrines.

Here is a sample story I found on a different website.  It is about Saint Barbara:

Saint Barbara the Brave Martyr

When Barbara was a little girl, her wicked father imprisoned her in a high tower. So Barbara lived in the tower with only the servants who cared for her. And she was very good. One day a priest passed under her tower. He was singing about Jesus Christ. Barbara heard him. She asked him about his song. He told her all about the Savior. Barbara was overjoyed. “I love Jesus too,” she cried. “I ambarbara a Christian.”

When her father heard this, he was furious. In those days, it was against the law to love Jesus or to be a Christian. So this cruel father dragged his own daughter to the judge. “My daughter is a Christian,” he cried. “She is not my daughter any longer.” “What shall we do with her?” the judge asked. For he saw that Barbara was good and pure.

“Do what the law orders,” her father shouted. “Beat her until she is almost dead. Then chop off her head.”

So the soldiers carried out that cruel order. But suddenly they saw angels coming. The angels carried the soul of Barbara to heaven. And a terrible flash of lightning struck her cruel father and killed him where he stood. Her Feast is December 4th.

Go here to read the others online:5191



Well, I have accomplished my first two projects of the summer:  going to the John C. Campbell Folk School for one week was the first one.  The second one, I was kind of dragging my feet on, but thanks to my Mom’s encouragement and help, I got ‘er done.

The Atlanta Collage Society was accepting member entries for a show at the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association in Blue Ridge, Georgia.  I’ve known about it for a while, and figured I could always enter the two framed pieces I have if I don’t get around to framing any others.  I gave one of my pieces – Butterfly Girl – to my sister for Christmas – it was framed, too.  The two remaining, A Winged Mother and Hail Mary, were ready to go.

After I got back from “camp”, Mom offered to help me pick out frames and mats for more pictures to frame.  For this show, they didn’t want small pieces, so the two little ones I framed would not do.  We finally decided upon Lost My Head, Montgolfier Milagro, and a new unfinished piece I had in one of my sketchbooks.

My mother is an artist and a master “matter”, but my pieces were a challenge to frame.  Lost My Head is a strange size and Montgolfier was on canvas board.  The unfinished piece had no background, so I had to painstakingly pry all of the paper off and re-glue the elements on a background of hand-made paper.  I called it “Oasis“.  All three of them look awesome, but it was not easy.  My Mom rocks!

The show will be from June 20 through July 18 and the reception is supposed to be June 27th.  Blue Ridge is not far from the John C. Campbell Folk School, so I may take my husband, spend the night, and visit the area for the weekend.

School’s Out!


At least it is for the kids. Okay, at least it is for the kids that don’t have to go to summer school… but they have a little time off before that happens.

We teachers have Memorial Weekend off – then we close up shop. I am moving to another campus, so I have to pack up my room and try to label things so that they make it to my new room. I don’t know where that is yet, I just know it’s at the Sixth Grade Academy.

Yep, I started out my career here teaching 6th graders (Exploratory French and Spanish), then moved on to 7th and 8th graders. I volunteered to move because I am ready for a change. I seem to remember that 6th graders were cute. We’ll see if my memory serves me well.

Next weekend, I leave for my week at the John C. Campbell Folk School for my block print and book making class. I am looking forward to it! I need to buy my supplies, though – maybe tomorrow. I also have a chance to put some collages into a show in Blue Ridge, GA, so I need to get to framing!

So, if you don’t hear much from me next week, that is why! I will try to blog from the Campbell School, but I don’t want to be at my computer all the time, either! Balance. That’s what it is all about.

Lover’s Eye Art


I had a little time on my hands today, so I thought that I would play around eye pin edwardwith Adobe Photoshop.  My inspiration was an 18th century art form known as the Lover’s Eye.  I found a few in a decorating magazine and used them in a collage a couple of years ago.  I don’t know what brought them up again – oh, I was doing a search for heart ex-votos, and this shop had some up for sale.  they run about $3000 to $6000!

Generally, they were miniature portraits of a person’s eye, set in a frame, box, or locket.  Usually, the story was that they were the eye of a secret lover, but they were also popular mourning pieces for the dead.  They were often made into brooches, surrounded by stones.  Pearls, in particular, are supposed to represent tears.

I started surfing the Internet, “collecting” eyes – well, entire faces, of course, but in order to use the eyes.  This one is – can you guess? – Edward Cullen.  Many of the girls in my class were able to recognize it, but my husband was not.  I found a photo of Robert Pattinson and tweaked it (a lot) in Photoshop, making his eye golden, then giving the piece a painted effect.

I used a fabric sample picture for the “gold” frame and settings.  I decided to use black pearls, just to be unusual.  I am sure Edward would prefer black pearls over white.  I found some garnet earrings set in diamonds and added them.  I really like the effect.  I don’t know what I will do with it next – it was just a fun exercise.

I Heart Hearts…


little-montgolfier-for-blog This is a touched up copy of a collage I planned and executed last weekend.  It may sound cheesy, but I am very attracted to making hearts. I started out making valentines when I was in college – cutting out magazine pictures and putting them on top of heart doilies.  Pretty simple.

A couple of years ago, I made many black and white valentines out of images that I found on the internet and collaged to look relatively seamless.  My first shop was made up of colored versions of my designs.  You can see them here.  One day, I will compile a book or coloring book from the black and white images.  I also had a lot of fun making large tableaux on 11 by 17 sheets of typing paper.

At the end of the last school year, I started “collecting” ex votos and tin ornaments in the shape of hearts.  I have found so many different designs, and they serve a inspiration for another of my shops, Milagros.  I scan in my line drawn designs and use Photoshop to add color and details.  Right now, I have designs with the Virgin of Guadalupe, Frida Kahlo, Jesus, La Sirena, and La Adelita.

Now, I am collecting stencils and shapes to use to create those same heart designs in collage.  A lot of what I’ve done lately have been hand-cut, but I did make stencils out of cardstock to recreate this design. It was a whole project wherein I blew up the design in Microsoft Publisher and pieced together a poster.  Then, I used that as a reference for the shapes I needed for my stencil.  Fun, huh?  One day, maybe I will put together a stencil set so others can make their own!