Monday, May 2, 2016

Newest Members of the Menagerie

I recently took my art students through the creation of clay animals sculptures inspired by the wood carvings of Oaxaca, Mexico. As usual, the kids rocked the project (pictures forthcoming once the varnishing process is complete.) I always manage to create lots of samples as I progress through a lesson plan so this newest set of clay creatures is what showed up when the samples were finally finished.

My poor llama suffers from an embarrassing overbite so she thought perhaps a side view would be the most flattering. I took pictures of her buck teeth but she implored me not to post them ("Once on the internet, it's there forever," she gently reminded me.)
Mr. Armadillo is all stretched out here so you can admire his lovely spots courtesy of the end of a paintbrush. This guy was fun to welcome to my growing clay menagerie as I enjoyed trying to create something a bit more realistic-loooking.

Finally, a common cat and dog showed up, dressed in uncommon colors and patterns. The pup has a perpetual playful tilt to his head that "Hey! Can you  play?" I have been experimenting with tilting the heads of my creatures, whether I'm working in pencil, pen, paint, or clay. A little shift of the head to the side and the characters seem a bit more lively, cheeky, and present.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Filling Spare Moments with Play

Just under a month to go and I'll be able to throw myself full tilt into work for my show. In the meantime, I'm just messing' around in various journals: flinging, brushing, scraping, scratching paint. Here and there, I glue down a bit of tissue or image. I make marks, alternating between methodical and maniacal. I double back and add more paint. In short, I'm just playing, biding my time until I can get focused. Play is important though as it is the headspace in which I make new discoveries and develop fresh direction. This is one of those art play pages in a large (11x14 inch) mixed media journal. The blue feather image is a sun print and the swirly mark is a hand-carved stamp.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hacking the Studio: Vol. 1

A new post series begins today called "Hacking the Studio," a series of teeny-tiny tips on organization and supplies from my studio to yours. 

Boxed Alphabet Soup:
I love using clipped letters to create a "ransom note" look in my journals. When I'm not feeling up to anything that requires a lot of energy or focus, I sit quietly and cut up old magazines, harvesting any usable letters for future projects. When I have a satisfying pile of letters, I store them in a large index card file box that holds one envelope for every letter of the alphabet. When I want to spell something out, I just dig through the necessary envelopes; this makes the process a lot faster and I can see at a glance what I have available. Other artists organize their clipped letters in clear plastic tackle boxes. Do whatever works best for you. (I must admit here that I have a series of organizational envelopes for clipped words as well, sorting those by parts of speech but that might be a bit too obsessive for most works though and makes found word poetry a snap! (In browsing my archives, I discovered I wrote about this process way back in 2009. Click this link for more info!)

Hair-Raising Book Tamers:
We all know that feeling of accomplishment when we complete a journal or book project, its pages bursting with artsy goodness, the covers bulging wildly with accumulated creativity. Rubber "book bands" are available at craft stores but they can be pricey and eventually, the rubber breaks down and the closure fails. As an alternative, purchase a multi-pack of sturdy, colorful hairbands at the dollar store. There's usually a wide selection of styles and colors to choose from and they work wonderfully to keep your overflowing journals in check. I find that hairbands last longer than simple loops of rubber and if they do break, they are inexpensive to replace.

Poster Fever:
My very favorite substrate for creating serendipity papers are posters and flyers I've scavenged from local bulletin boards. The text and imagery ultimately peeks through the subsequent layers of paint and marks, providing visual depth and interest. I try hard to only pull "expired" flyers advertising events that have already happened; it is not unusual for me to take note of posters I want and to revisit the board on the day the event is held just so I can snag the poster. I've even had stores hold posters for me when they clean off their bulletin boards. Sometimes I do see something I want badly - a poster with especially cool graphics, colors, or text - and I just might...possibly...manage to get said poster in my hands before its advertised activity takes place. I soothe my conscience by acknowledging that there are typically multiple copies posted throughout my town, sometimes even on a nearby telephone pole. I've noticed that the super fabulous posters often disappear quickly anyway so I suspect there may be others around town with the same idea. So if there's something that really catches my eye, it's "first come, first serve."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A History of Shows

A Selection of Pieces from My 1st Show
This October, I will be hanging my 10th original solo show. I've had more shows than that over the years but I'm just counting those times when an entirely new set of artworks first debuted to the public.

My very first show (May 2002) was entitled Menagerie and featured a series of creatures created in wire, polymer clay, beads, and charms. I was working on my studio art degree at Humboldt State University and I answered a call for portfolios and artist statements. Those portfolios were reviewed and from those submissions, a group of students were chosen to have solo shows in venues around campus. For my "portfolio," I chose to make a handmade storybook that featured photos of the clay characters I had been making alongside an original story that linked all of the pieces. For the show, I mounted the pieces in a line on black velvet-wrapped boards and together, they represented a story from dawn to dusk.

It took a long time for me to do my second show. I had moved from polymer clay work to mixed media canvases with an Oriental flare. The canvases were piling up and at some point, I worked up the nerve to take some of them into a local business that participates in the monthly art walk in my hometown. I just walked in without notice, paintings wrapped in brown paper, and asked if they would be interested in having them on their walls. I booked a show on the spot. (Here's my blog account of that moment from way back in 2007.) 
Show Signage Over the Years

I am now in the development stage for my 10th new body of work. My ideas are exciting and I can barely wait for the free time to see those ideas become reality. (Just eight weeks until summer vacation!)

My basic goal for each show is to push myself in new directions. I knew right from the start that I didn't want to present the same style, technique or theme every year as many artists do. At this point, the place in town where I regularly debut my new work has no idea what I'm hanging one year to the next. And yet, they say that no matter how different the theme or medium, all my various shows "still look like me." I love that! It gives me tremendous freedom to play, to take risks, to expand beyond my "box" and past my fears.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Encouragement from Dreamland: A New Tapestry Will Be Woven

I rarely have symbolic or prophetic dreams; mostly my sleep is filled with bizarre mashups of whatever science fiction or action flicks I consumed that day. I do a lot of swimming, running, and acrobatics in my sleep (which is probably inspired by the restless, jerky legs that PD brings to my nights.) If I'm lucky, Daniel Craig makes an appearance, doing his smokin' hot James Bond thing. However, I have had a handful of dreams over the years that I've considered important, messages from my subconscious that require closer examination. I write those dreams down in detail immediately upon waking so I can preserve that gift of wisdom from myself.

Last week, I dreamed I was standing on the second floor of a huge factory, leaning on a railing that bordered a metal walkway that overlooked a large machine. The machine was a giant loom and to each side of that were smaller looms. There were workers in greasy overalls working and they all looked like me. I couldn't make out what was being woven on the large central loom but on the smaller ones, I saw bits of my previous work represented as large rugs or perhaps wall hangings. The workers were unraveling those pieces of my art like you would a sweater. Stretched canvas paintings, doodled drawings, clay sculptures: all were being teased apart into piles of colorful thread and those threads were being fed, all at once, into the mechanism of the central loom. I saw a shuttle flying back and forth, seemingly of its own accord and something, something marvelous but mysterious, was spooling out the other end. And that's it; at that point I woke up, frustrated that I hadn't been able to see further but I guess I can't expect for it all to be handed to me. I think my subconscious believes I need to figure a few things out for myself in the light of day.

This dream is particularly on point for me as I begin preparing for my October show. I am working out the inclusion of assemblage and sculpture alongside my paintings. In truth, they are not new ideas but rather past explorations from previous work, public and private, that are exciting to me again. I like to constantly reinvent myself and I do that by mining my past interests for future inspiration. I take that "old" work and weave it into my current set of passions to form something brand new. In that way, I strengthen my unique look (aka "style".) I can put up a completely different show every year and yet, it still has my mark. 

Any time I contemplate something new, I go through a very specific set of emotions. At first, I am wildly enthusiastic, brimming with energy. And then, as I approach actually following through with my ideas, I get scared, doubtful. I begin to question myself, wondering if perhaps I am overreaching, caught up in a fanciful notion with no hope of success. This dream came to me right about the time I was starting to pull back from my initial decision. My subconscious stepped in and sent me a little message across the void: "Hey now! Don't back down! You are on the right track. Something new and beautiful will be born from the old."

Note: The project pictured is my sample for a high school art lesson in which we created painted wall hangings inspired by Zapotec woven rugs. Once I brought my sample home, I embellished it further to help it fit in with the vibe of my studio. The inspiration for this project originally came from this DIY post from Alisa Burke.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New Ideas Brewing While I Rest

I'm in the middle of my spring break, girl cat curled beside me while I wait out the pain and swelling from a cortisone shot I received this morning for a new fibroma that has developed in my left foot. Aside from this little glitch, it has been a relaxing, productive time. I'm working on several post ideas and tomorrow, I'm sure I'll be back on my feet and taking pictures for those posts. I'm also moving deep into prep for my October show which is super exciting as I am taking another wild risk with technique and theme. Some of you have asked me to describe how I prepare for an art show so I thought I'd do a series of posts detailing my process. While school is still in session (just nine weeks remain in the school year,) any major production work will wait until mid-June but there's plenty to do before I start devoting consistent studio time to this project.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Cats Come Back the Very Next Day

Hold on to your hats folks and grab the water hoses! I'm about to set your inbox on fire with a second blog post in the same week! *gasp* I just wanted to pop in and clarify a bit about my cat drawing project. It is titled "52 Weeks of Cats" and it is NOT a 365-project (or in this case, a 52-weeks-straight project.) My goal is to spend 52 weeks total drawing cats. It will definitely not happen within the space of a single year but probably two. My only rule is that when I begin working on a two-page spread (there are 52 spreads in my sketchbook,) I must finish that spread within 7 days time. I might draw 15 cats or only two (one per page.) Any media, technique or style is fair game. I make notes along the way about what works and what flops.

I am experimenting with many, many ways to illustrate cats and a lot of my doodles begin with a random watercolor blob or crazy scribble. Hence, the oddball shapes and decidedly uncatlike creatures. (The large colored cat in this page began as a sketch with my non-dominant hand.) As with almost everything I do, I begin with play - lots of it - and wait to see if something cool or useful develops out of my playtime.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hanging in There

You know those motivational posters from the 80s featuring a terrified kitten clinging desperately to a tree branch by its front claws, the words "Hang in there, baby!" emblazoned across the bottom of the poster? Yeah...that's me. Four Three days of work now stand between me and an amazing ten days off. After that, it's nine (long and unbroken) weeks until summer vacation. I am counting every single second. I need this summer in the worst way. I still haven't decided on whether or not to postpone another needed foot surgery for one more year but even if I have surgery, I know I'll relish the opportunity to sit around for days on end, doing absolutely nothing. The very thought gives me chills of delight.

I am behind on everything: homework, housework, art, appointments, emails, errands, blogging, breathing. I feel like I am in a constant state of breathlessness as I whirl from teaching day to teaching day. When I'm off, a different type of busy rules as I try (usually fruitlessly) to get caught up on household stuff that I only stare at on days I'm teaching. Here and there, I squeeze in a bit of art but it is disjointed and unfocused as my mind is always elsewhere. The photos in this post are from a project I've been working on quietly since the beginning of the year, a journal strictly for practicing the drawing of cats. I started off like wildfire and then, as I was required to burn brightly in other capacities, this sketchbook was placed on the back burner. It is a fun project and I'm getting much more comfortable illustrating cats (which is the point.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Still Here (and Some Shakespeare)

Dearest Readers,

I'm checking in to let you know that I've decided to continue blogging. Thank you to everyone for your sweet, encouraging comments and good vibes (I felt them! I really did!) I concluded that my biggest barrier to blogging isn't a lack of interest, ideas, comments or follows but rather a critical lack of energy, time, and decent health. Work took a strange turn late last year when I became a one-on-one aide to a 7 year-old special needs child in addition to everything else I am already doing at the school. It has been a heart-warming task but mostly heart-breaking and it is taking every ounce of willpower I have to keep going. I'm locked in to this assignment until mid-June so I am just taking it moment by moment.

Because life isn't complicated enough, this week, a bad tooth that has been lurking in my head for over a year, finally decided to make my life truly miserable by creating a throbbing, golf ball-sized lump on my chin. There is no local care for adults with dental issues and insurance via the state; all are referred to clinics out of the area and where I live that means 200 mile round trips (at least) and outrageous appointment wait times. Want to pay cash? Well, that's an option...provided you have the cash. Having this tooth fixed by an oral surgeon (which is required since the problem is below the gum line) would cost a minimum of $3000; it's $725 to have it pulled (under sedation.) Let me take a moment to stifle a rant regarding health treatment for the poor and medical highway robbery...*ahem*...OK...I'm good....

Long story short: I will be trying to get some work photographed and posted for sale in the coming days. The posting will be available on an "Opt In" basis; in other words, it will be on a separate page at Lost Coast Post, not here on the main page. As I have said, I like to keep this space relatively free of relentless product-promotion even if I would like to or need to make a bit more money from my work. Thus, things like online classes (if I ever get there...that's the goal) and art for sale will always be announced here but kept on a separate part of the blog; if you're interested, click on through. If not, just move onward.

Again...I was so touched by all of your wise, so supportive...Thank you to those who have left a little something in my tip jar. Thank you to those who simply make time in their busy lives to read Lost Coast Post quietly but faithfully. I have a few new posting ideas and work to share but things are a bit on hold while I sort out immediate concerns. I'm going to stick with my once-per-week blogging schedule while school is in session but right now, I don't think I can even tell you what day that might be. Thank you again for being here, rain or shine, good days or bad.  It means the world.

PS...The Shakespeare portraits by my fabulous art students have nothing whatsoever to do with this post except that I wanted you guys to see their whimsical wonderfulness. I do this caricature project every year in conjunction with the students' study and performance of a Shakespeare play and the resulting work always makes me smile! 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Expanding & Contracting: Considering My Future in Blogging

It has been two weeks since I last blogged. Truth be told, I took a deliberate break to ponder my future in blogging. I began serious contemplation of ending Lost Coast Post last December during my annual, end-of-the-year hiatus. 2016 marks my tenth year in blogging. This space has brought many joys and insights to my art life but also many inescapable anxieties. I am deeply tired of worrying about follows, comments, and page views. No matter how much I tell myself to post and walk away, I still take it hard when I post something and not a soul responds. You'd think that after ten years, I'd have made gains, however small, in followers and yet, I've actually been steadily losing followers. I'm sure there are any number of factors, most of which are out of my control, but it doesn't really matter. It is still disheartening. (And I'm willing to bet that most bloggers out there care about such things even if they say they don't.)

I recognize that my style of blogging is nearly extinct (if it ever existed in the first place.) I write more than I post pictures. I don't end my posts with a lengthy link list of supplies to purchase. While I have some small art pieces I'd like to sell, I don't have my own product line to hawk. I don't host online classes (although I'd like to) and I don't hobnob with any of the big names in the industry. I don't brand, license, name drop, publish, or advertise. I'm just a small-town, part-time teacher and full-time artist trying to show what I do and talk about how and why I do it. I value process over product and that's becoming an increasingly difficult position to hold. It's not that I don't buy stuff or that I don't have stuff to sell; it's that my world (and this space) doesn't revolve around making a buck or promoting my name. Many do that and do that successfully in honest, passionate pursuit of a career making art; that's just not me.

All in all, I'm in an odd time of contracting and expanding: feeling the need to do more work for my eyes only and yet wanting to show more here. Case in point: a brand-new, significantly better camera arrives today that should take improved videos and photos. I'm not sure though that I have the time, energy, or smarts to get really good at editing. I love my work more intensely than ever but it often feels like that fever actually diminishes if I bring my new work out into the public eye. It's not an issue of copyright protection but rather a need to make art just for me so I can grant myself full, unhindered freedom to explore whatever direction I desire. I alternate between feeling like I've said all I want to say and making lists of all the new things I could blog about.

Anyway, lots of thoughts bouncing around in this tender, busy head of mine. I know that I won't make any firm decisions until summer break so that I am not influenced by the cloud of fatigue and overwhelm that envelops my life while simultaneously trying to work and manage my health. I'm going to start blogging just on Mondays to see if dialing back my posting schedule while working helps ease my racing thoughts. If you are one of those people who read regularly and comment (or not), thank you! I intend to hang in here as long as I can.

PS: Please, please, please don't feel guilty or bad if you read but don't comment! This isn't a ploy to get you to comment. I am the Queen of Crazy Busy so I totally understand reading but not leaving behind a note. The comment situation doesn't bug me as much as the page views/follower count...and you guys are right: nowadays a lot follow via feed readers or email so there's no truly accurate way to know the number of followers. I do know that Google discontinued Friend Connect for non-Blogger sites, forcing everyone to have a Google account to sign in. (No more signing in from Twitter, Typepad, Yahoo, Open ID etc) That automatically dropped follower counts for Blogger in late December/mid January.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review: Year of the Doodle

My goal is to do something in the studio every day but that can be tough during the work week when my time and energy are necessarily focused on teaching. My heart always wants to make art but my tired brain sometimes refuses to cooperate. For the last few weeks, I've been working in Dawn DeVries Sokol's book Year of the Doodle (henceforth known as YOTD.) I'm delighted to say that this book is just what I needed to keep the art flowing when it might otherwise dry up due to an excess of exhaustion or a dearth of inspiration.

I have to say right up front that I'm usually not one to use art prompts. I typically freeze in the face of a prompt even if I am initially inspired on the first read-through. However, I am always hopeful that a prompt will do what it is designed to do so I decided to give YOTD a try.

In brief, YOTD features a short word, phrase, quote or visual prompt for every day of the year with space to work. Fearful of the blank page? YOTD pages have a wide variety of soft, unobtrusive backgrounds built right in and each section is numbered in ransom note style. You start in on this project at whatever point in the year that the book arrives on your doorstep. I began on February 5, 2016 which, coincidently, is also "National Doodle Day." I'll work through to the end of the year, turn back to the front and complete January 1 through February 4 in 2017.

Technical Details:
This book is a comfortable, portable size & weight; it is 8-inches high by about 6-inches wide and just 3/4-inch thick. My hands are especially sensitive so the pleasant, satiny feel of the cover and the rounded corners are worth noting. 

This book is bound with glue AND stitching which is important because over the course of a year, YOTD will be opened and closed countless times. A good sturdy binding means no pages fluttering to the floor after months of work.

The paper inside is of good quality that holds up to a broad range of supplies, including wet media. I successfully used crayons, colored pencils, Tombow markers (with & without wet blending,) watercolors, Stabilo Point 88 pens, Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, gel pens, Microns and Faber-Castell Pitt pens, Crayola markers, collage, and small areas of acrylics without bleed-through or significant wrinkling.

The paper does have a little bit of sizing, which hinders its absorption ability (hence the lack of bleed-through.) I advise not overworking an area when using wet media. I noticed that the paper started to "pill up" if I went over a doodle more than a couple of times with water and/or paint without letting the page dry in between applications. This has in no way undermined my use or experience of this book. All in all, I am quite happy with the paper quality (and I am the Queen of Paper Snobs!) The only media I would avoid in this book are permanent markers such as Sharpies and Bic Mark-It pens.


Usage Hints:
There are No Prompt Police:
I have found that the vast majority of the daily prompts are excellent but there have been a couple that were completely uninspiring. This is a matter of taste; what I find "blah" will be "Ah Ha!" to someone else. I don't have a lot of time to waste dithering over a response to a prompt so if I get stuck, I simply do something else in that day's given space. For example, you can see that on February 22, the prompt was
"The Perfect Cookie." That didn't spark anything in my brain so I decided to use that space to ink a large affirmation for myself as I faced off with a new work week.

As I said though, "lack of spark" hasn't been a frequent issue and mostly I try to work with what I'm given so I can push out of my comfort zone. In fact, some of those more difficult prompts have helped me develop ideas I would have never thought of without a wee push in a new direction. 

Make It Yours:
I add washi tape and doodles to the borders between days. I sometimes cover up the provided numbers with my own. I embellish the backgrounds. The pages of YOTD are just artsy scaffolding; you are in complete control of what you build from there.

There Is No "Behind": 
This is meant to be an enjoyable experience so please don't flog yourself if you miss a day. I have found that the space provided each day feels "just right," not too big and not too small. However, I have gotten a couple of days behind here and there. I just catch up when I can. I look forward to working on this project so enthusiasm for filling in missed days is never lacking.

In sum, Year of the Doodle has been a solid and valuable addition to my daily art habit. It keeps the inspiration flowing in times of stress AND it has sparked fresh ideas with a collection of fun prompts presented in a warm, welcoming format. This book just screams "USE ME!" I am happily obliging.

Postscript: This is an unsolicited review. I just bought the book, tried it out, and thought I'd post my findings. The links to Amazon are affiliate links; if you purchase the book through my blog, a few cents trickle into a gift card reward I get about every six months from Amazon. I only include links to stuff I have personally used and loved.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Story: The Word for the Rest of My Life?

These are just a few of the books that sustained me throughout my youth. The Disney book is actually a replacement copy I discovered in a local thrift shop; I had loved the original copy right out of existence. The other two are first editions with text blocks just barely connected to their spines. The paper is yellowed, the pages creased, the covers worn smooth along the edges where I held them repeatedly. I loved fairy tales growing up and as I head towards my fifties, I realize that my art is slowly, surely leading me back towards the beloved characters that accompanied my childhood. I'm making the acquaintance of new friends as well, creatures and critters of my own making that have nestled quietly in my mind for years, waiting for the right moment to push forward into my consciousness.

My word/theme of the year is "story" but I think I can safely say that "story" might turn out to be the word for the rest of my (art-making) life. I don't have to remind myself about my word; I don't have to periodically check-in and see how my life is aligning with "story." I feel like I am inhabiting "story" every day. All of my current projects connect (mostly directly) with story. All those story threads that wove themselves through my past work are coming together and I want to spend time - lots of time - examining and embellishing this thrilling tapestry that is my life. I want to be a storyteller always, revisiting classics and birthing new tales in paint, paper, ink, cloth, and clay. I'm going to take it a year at a time (I want to remain open to change and unexpected insights) but right now, the word "story" feels like it could really have a long-lasting impact on my art.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Gang's (Mostly) All Here

I thought it might be fun to take a group photo of all the sculpted characters and creatures I've made so far. Most agreed to have their picture taken without much complaint. They bustled around awhile this past Sunday afternoon, each trying to put his/her/its best face forward. I had to take several photos as it was hard to catch the flying pigs paused in flight and the tiny owl kept getting lost behind his much bigger friends. My birds are all slightly uppity and much feather-soothing was involved. With a bit of patience though, I was finally able to capture my clay menagerie on film. 

The robot army is not represented in this group photo as they were on maneuvers guarding the studio and they take that duty very seriously. Huck and Puck (Huck's on the left in violet) are also not present. Several months ago, Puck left to live with a friend of mine but unfortunately perished (literally) in a freak fireplace accident before he could even meet his new owner; after that, Huck squared his shy shoulders and bravely left my studio to take Puck's place. I'm so glad I took this picture of those two beastie buddies before they departed.

I love painting, illustration, journaling, and crafting but sculpture...sculpture is the most thrilling. The feel of clay on my fingers as I shape and smooth the form is a wonderfully tactile experience. I also enjoy the challenge of pulling a nebulous image from my imagination and building a real, solid representation in my hands. At times, it feels as if the creature or character coming to life is in charge and that I am simply the conduit. I am still refining my technique and it is fun to interact with the beginner's mind. The possibilities are limitless, problems to be solved still present, and the results often surprising, making sculpture a very dynamic, engaging medium. In the coming months, I will be expanding my exploration of sculpture as I delve deeper into my word/theme/guiding light - "story." More thoughts on that coming on Wednesday...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Embracing a Wild Notion

My 800th post since May 2006:

I don't do a lot of two-page spreads in my journals but here's an exception. This is from my "Tribe" storybooking journal, an obvious homage to Red Riding Hood. This is a pretty standard entry which evolved in a fairly normal, predictable fashion except for one little unplanned detail that delighted me to no end, a fabulous incident of serendipity that made me shout aloud and sent my son running upstairs to see what all the fuss was about.

I had the roof for Grandma's house cut, ready to fashion the standard kindergarten house: a rectangle topped with a triangle. However, I wasn't totally thrilled with the paper pattern I had chosen so I was aimless digging through my cigar box of scraps just in case something else caught my attention. Sure enough, my eye spied an illustration from a vintage encyclopedia entry on illuminated manuscripts. Oooh! That little arch looked like it would be perfect as a roof for a wee cottage. I quickly clipped and glued and moved on to finish the rest of the spread. It wasn't until much later when I saw what was hidden in plain sight in that medieval arch. Do you see it? Does it look like it could possibly be the wolf patiently waited for Little Red to knock on Grandmother's door? That image in the roof is just barely 3/8ths-inch wide so it completely escaped my notice initially. I LOVE when things like that happen, moments of delightful surprise that arise when I respond to my gut instinct without delay or thought or judgment.

Speaking of listening to my gut...this week, I played in the studio, cleaned, organized, and got caught up on things that have been simmering patiently on my mental back burners until I had the time and energy to pay attention. The more I relax, the farther my imagination expands and the more fearless I become. On impulse, I embraced a wild notion for my upcoming October show, an idea has been rattling around my subconscious since my robot army debuted almost exactly two years ago. Typically, I worry incessantly about a show's theme and content, spending months second-guessing myself even after I've started the work, but this time around, I feel completely at peace (and crazy excited.) I have just about eight months' time to manifest my idea but I'm still in the "nurturing the seed" stage so I'm not going to say too much more until I'm ready. All will be revealed in good time.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Warning: Cat Pee & Philosophical Musings Ahead

Note: Every so often I get the urge to do a "soap box" style, picture-less post so consider yourself warned. Feel free to click away at any point the following becomes tiresome. This blog helps me hear my voice and so I'll commence mumbling to myself...aloud...for the whole internet to hear. You are free to listen...or not.

I've spent these first few days of my Presidents' Week vacation refeathering my nest with some long overdue DIY art studio projects. I'm planning an open studio the first weekend in April and I've been thinking about how I want my space, my personal sanctuary, to appear to other people.

And then this morning, when I went to do my usual duty of cleaning the litterbox, I discovered that one of the cats had peed on the floor. This has happened before and it is not a deliberate act but rather the consequence of a kitty bottom not quite hovering in the box as peeing commenced. It is an accident I despise dealing with as any cat owner will tell you there are few things as foul as cat pee. (Hairball vomit is a close second.) There's a "catch-all" mat under the box which fails to catch anything; in fact, most often, the pee just wicks under the mat, concealing a huge pee disaster which gives me shivers of "ick" when I lift it up to clean.

Invariably, Marley (my big marmalade boy) suddenly needs to use the box right as it is in the middle of maintenance so he paces back and forth outside the bathroom, looking all the world like a little boy in serious need of a restroom. Tuscany (the self-absorbed, manipulative, tempermental but secretly-sweet calico) just sits imperiously beyond the site of the offense, blinking slowly and staring as if to say "About time the janitor got to her business." Completely grossed out and irritated beyond measure, I was grumpily going about the business of mopping up the cat pee disaster when for some strange reason (Low blood sugar perhaps? Ammonia fumes maybe?) the whole situation began to strike me as funny. As in a can't-stop-giggling-make-a-weird-snorting-sound" funny.

Here I had been all worried about what strangers would think of my studio and in reality, it was just an everyday apartment, full of the usual everyday stuff, including cat pee. And yet, it is also a strange and wonderful place where magic happens. In a cozy, inspirational, supply-stuffed space, I get to create whatever my beautiful, crazy mind can think up. It is my sandbox and apparently, on some days, my cats' sandbox as well.

I've always shaken my head at the gauzy studio photos that frequent some popular art & design blogs. Even more everyday blogs are sometimes stricken by this syndrome: piles of pretty, perfectly lit and posed pictures of plants, idyllic scenes of pastoral bliss, the ubiquitous duo of painty hands and shoe-gazing photos. Just once, I wish someone would show - or hell, just talk about - the possibility of cat pee and ugly art and dirty dishes and carpet in need of a good vacuuming. I can be knee deep in housecleaning and beauty at the same time. I am not a lesser artist because my studio furniture is from the thrift store or gleaned from the supermarket across the street as it changes displays. No, I don't have flat files or vintage oak card catalog cabinets or perfect lighting or fresh flowers in every corner. Painty those but also paint flecks in my hair, my eyebrows, that long-suffering indoor/outdoor carpet, on every decent shirt I own, and even the cats. Yes, I gaze at my shoes but sometimes, this very morning in fact, I am standing in cat pee. And then, I turn around and go make something.

I guess my point is: don't wait for perfection. Don't linger in the artistic Edens of others. Create in your Now, no matter how messy that might be. Do just what has to be done for hygiene's sake and then get to work. No one ever lies on their death bed and moans about all the lost opportunities to clean house.
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