Monday, September 29, 2014

Charting a Fresh Course

As I try to ease my way back into the studio after this summer's surgery, I feel like I'm in a new and different frame of mind. Ten weeks of slow living (albeit a forced occasion) provided lots of time to think. There is so much I want to do in my art life but I am keenly aware of time ticking away. My Parkinson's has made small advancements in the last few months although thankfully, it remains confined to my left side. My hands and feet have their own problems that are here to stay. The odds are good that I have at least another 20 years of productive time, maybe even 30. Looking around my studio, I see so many projects: some started but not finished and many - oh so many - still nothing more than a ghost of an idea. There's a few projects that I took past the brainstorming part; those projects and all the materials I gathered for them, reside in neatly-labeled, untouched boxes. All in all, I have enough supplies and projects-in-waiting to last me at least two lifetimes. I'm not going to cure cancer or be the first to walk on Mars; my legacy in this life will be my art and I'd like that legacy to be more than a vast collection of materials and half-realized dreams.

I decided that one of primary issues is that I am splintering my time in the studio too much, wandering from project to project or allowing other distractions to creep in such as the Internet or housecleaning beyond what is really necessary. So I developed a weekly schedule, assigning specific times for journaling, painting, and crafting as well as regular time for reading, online work, the gym, work, prep for work, and medical appointments. I left lots of "open" space in case something new comes up or I need more time for something already scheduled. Then I made a nice big chart (color-coded, of course) and taped it down to my desk. We'll see how this system works. I'm also going to assign themes to each month - very loosely - so I can focus in on the few big themes I circle around in my work. All this structure may work beautifully or it may be a complete disaster but I feel compelled to try something so I can make the most of my time.  I'll let you know how this experiment pans out...    

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Little Here, A Little There

Since I have a rare week off from teaching, I'm settled in at home, waiting for much-needed rain to arrive here on the parched coast of northern California. I love the patter of rain on the roof and it provides the perfect soundtrack for my art play. I'm working a number of projects, a little here and a little there, as my attention span, energy, and pain levels allow. My left foot, 12 weeks post-op, remains a major distraction and discouragement but I am doing everything I can to move forward. If this surgery ultimately turns out to be a failure, it definitely won't be because I didn't work hard enough to recover.

Anyway, all that aside, I am getting back into the rhythm and routine of daily art-making. There are so many things I want to do! I am considering implementing a monthly theme in my studio so I can play in a bunch of different mediums while maintaining a focus. When I peruse all the project ideas I've collected over the years, I see commonalities in the topics, techniques, and symbols that attract my attention. I've explored my lexicon before but I've been wondering how I can dive deeper into the things that consistently excite me. I brainstormed a list of my favorite topics and have gone so far as to assign a theme to each of the next 12 months but I'm still not sure if the concept will work. Right now, I am leapfrogging from idea to idea and I don't feel like I fully explore any one thing. The same themes keep surfacing in my head but because I only touch upon them in bits and pieces, I'm not giving any my full attention for a sustained amount of time. If I go ahead with "themed months" in the studio, I want to start in October so I've got a couple of weeks to make up my mind. In the meantime, I'll continue the random art play in my free time and see what develops...    

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mining the Archives

I have about a dozen projects in the works right now (some personal and some work-related) which is good but it also means I have A) nothing complete to share and B) no time to pull out the camera to take pictures anyway. This level of busy is not unusual for this time of year but it does feel more hectic than in the past. It might be because I am trying to throw my gears into "full speed ahead" while my post-op foot is still stuck in "hobble." My mind was ready to get back to life weeks ago but my foot has had other plans. I'm not sure when (or if) that situation will resolve itself so I'm just going to keep moving forward, doing as many things as I can sitting down and limping as fast as I can when actual movement is required.

All of this is a long way of saying that I'm going to illustrate a few posts with some older work that I photographed but never posted. While I typically drench my work in color, I frequently go through phases where I want to use nothing but black and white. More specifically, I treasure the combination of black, gray, white, cream, gold, silver, and just a touch of red. Oh, be still my heart! That color scheme feels so light and airy after months of rolling in rich fuchsia, decadent lemon yellow, and opulent turquoise. I have also found that particular set of neutral colors complements many of my illustrations, most especially the drawings with a subtle swirl of creepy. I love creating these more edgy characters and just seeing this motley crew in my photo album has inspired me to do more in this style...because clearly, I need one more project on my plate...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Shell Game

This journal page reminded me of the "good old days" studying scientific illustration.  I spent three years in illustration classes (before I switched my major from oceanography to art) and while I love the resulting art from that period for its technical precision, I remember very clearly how I hated the entire process.  It was time-consuming, painstaking, and focused on perfection in every detail (an understandable requirement for drawings meant for scientific reference.)  My least favorite subject matter?  Shells and bones.

Shells and bones are beautifully subtle objects with soft curves and complex gradations of color and shadow.  They are a headache to draw, however, and as this page progressed, I soon began thinking about how I could get this page over with faster.  My solution was to add a nice big title. I think it is good to tackle challenging subject matter but there are so many things to draw in this big, wide world; there's no reason to make yourself suffer if a particular object drives you crazy.  

In other news, the school year is here and that special kind of busy that consumes my every waking hour has begun.  For the first semester (September through January), I am teaching nature journaling, story illustration, map-making, the elements of art, and a class focused on experimentation and play with watercolor.  Whew!  When I'm not planning lessons or making samples, I am trying to complete some new canvases for an art show in October.  I spent my entire summer unable to do much beyond simple sketching on my couch and even though I still have a lot of healing ahead, I am trying to get back into the rhythm of life.  I'm just moving forward, hoping my foot will decide to cooperate eventually. Anyway, if my blog posts become a bit more erratic, you'll know why.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Coaxing the Muse from Hiding

When I open my sketchbook and my muse spats in fear and runs from the room, I turn to font drawing for solace. I have many books of font exemplars so I simply pull one from the shelf, thumb through the pages, and pick a font to practice in my journal. (This book of circus alphabets from Dover is my all-time favorite; my copy is dog-eared and well-loved.

This isn't "high" art by any means but the quiet time spent doodling and coloring letters helps pass the time until my muse decides to join me in the studio for more complex work. In fact, this type of page can often coax the muse out of her hiding place like a tasty tuna treat can lure a shy kitty out from under the couch. One minute, there's this hissing, frightened creature and then, with a little love and patience, that kitty is twirling herself about your legs, purring and mewing for more. My muse is very much like a temperamental cat and I need only observe my actual cats to remember how to make friends with my muse and put her at ease.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wound Care

On July 21, I got the stitches removed from the incision on the bottom of my foot and ever since then, for six weeks now, a family friend (who fortunately happens to be a surgeon with a speciality in wound care,) has been visiting every two days to examine, clean, debride, and rebandage the non-healing wound that developed after the surgery.  Things have been proceeding agonizingly slow but I think maybe I have one more week and the thing will finally be closed.  It won't make much difference in the struggle to walk (that's going to take several more months) but in the very least, I won't be at constant risk of developing an infection.  I've already been through two rounds of antibiotics; it will be nice to be able to put my foot on the floor without worrying about contamination.

There are a lot of supplies and tools associated with long-term wound care.  Some are run-of-the-mill, first aid kit components and some come strictly from a wound care clinic.  Some tools I'm allowed to handle (bandaging supplies) and some are best wielded by a professional; I cringe every time the scalpel has to make an appearance but my doctor has steady hands and a gentle touch.  Anyway, since all this medical stuff has been inhabiting my studio table, I decided to select a few items and memorialize them in my sketchbook.  Normally, I watercolor after drawing, but in this case, I felt a simple black, white & red color scheme was more appropriate, more antiseptic.   

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mending Fences

This sketchbook page is a departure from others I've shown previously in that I painted this one from a photo.  There is a subtle difference in sketching work drawn from life and that drawn from photos.  Illustrator Danny Gregory illuminated the differences much, much more eloquently than I ever could so if you're curious, click here for Danny's blog post titled "Don't Roll Your Eyes at Me."  I don't think there's anything wrong with drawing from photographs; anything that keeps you drawing is a great thing.  I do make an effort to only use photos I've taken myself and such is the case with this page.

This painting is based on a picture taken years ago of my childhood home.  There was this fairy tale picket fence around the front yard although in reality, there was nothing remotely "fairy tale" about this fence (or the house.)  I suppose this fence was white at some point and I bet it even kept things out (or in) during its early days.  However, when I knew this fence, it was grungy and frail, held up in many places by hope, twine, and tenuous wood splinters that somehow defied the advance of rot.  The juxaposition of the vibrant, advancing, sprawling rose vines against the fading, failing fence caught my attention and I pointed my camera in its direction.  I've hung onto this photo for a very long time; the house was demolished about a decade ago and the tired fence was laid to rest in the resulting rubble.  I prefer to remember my childhood home through this nostalgic lens: wild, wandering beauty overtaking and defeating ruin.      

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

All Wound Up

As of this writing, I am seven weeks post-foot surgery and a follow-up visit to my surgeon officially informed me of what I already knew: things are not progressing normally and I'm looking at least another six to seven weeks before I will know whether this surgery was a success or a colossal misadventure.  I am not surprised - disheartened to be sure - but not surprised as I've been through complicated, trouble-ridden recoveries with all ten of my previous surgeries.  I just happen to take much, much longer to heal.  Familiarity with the situation does NOT breed patience and I am struggling to keep my spirit intact.  Fortunately, I have a very compassionate and attentive medical team and whenever I break down in tears (which is nearly every visit), they listen and soothe and convince me to just stay the course.  So every day, I try to do a little something fun in between all the miserable moments and all the napping on the couch.  Sometimes that means binge-watching Netflix or reading escapist novels or doodling around in my sketchbook.

I have lots of little collections around the house and I really like documenting them. I get a lot of practice rendering different types of surfaces in watercolor like plastic, metal, glass, and fabric.  Grouping similar objects also makes an interesting page with a completed, composed feel.  In the case of these wind-up toys, I discovered that it was quite a challenge to make these drawings look like studies of the actual toys as opposed to cartoons of imaginary critters.  In the end, I really liked this page and decided that I will draw a second set at some point in the near future (hence the label "Set One.")  What a wonderful coincidence that the pharmacy I have to visit so frequently these days also has an excellent selection of wind-ups in their gift section!         

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gearing Up While Still Recovering Quietly

The new school year starts up in a couple of weeks.  My hours and responsibilities are increasing slightly and among other things, I've been tasked with teaching a semester's worth of nature journaling to accompany the students' unit on sustainability and survival skills.  After several years of teaching middle & high school art, I'm starting to zero in on certain techniques/mediums that I'd like to make my focus.  There's so much that I love to do (and I am given total freedom to teach what I want) but a wide variety of classes also means that I am always swamped with prep work and lesson planning.  Given my questionable energy level and up-in-the-air recovery from this latest surgery, I think it is prudent to concentrate on just a few areas this year.  In my personal work, I've really been focusing on drawing and illustration so it feels right to also make that the focus of my teaching.  I have an art show looming as well so I'll need to get back to the paint somehow but for now, I'm just enjoying drawing.

Given that I'm going to be teaching nature journaling very, very soon, it would be logical and certainly advisable that I be out gathering and documenting some organic objects in my sketchbook but I remain on "house arrest" because the incision has yet to close completely.  (Yep...seven weeks post-op and still looking at an open wound in the arch of my foot...boo...hiss)  I'm allowed to go out for appointments and hobble around the apartment but that's about it.  The pain itself is pretty limiting anyway so wide-ranging outdoor excursions are too miserable to even contemplate.  (I do have some completed nature journals from years ago that I can use as samples so I'm not terribly overwhelmed with the need to have something for students to reference.  Whew!)

Happily, however, I am literally surrounded at home with my very favorite things to draw: art supplies!  Art supplies are right within reach and most are easy enough to pile next to the couch, my de facto studio space for much of the last few weeks.  For the sketchbook page shown in this post, I simply drew and painted the "couch art" supply kit I had assembled prior to surgery.  The challenge with drawing familiar objects is making sure I draw what I actually see and not what I think I know!  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Swatching

At first glance, this isn't a sketchbook page of much importance...just some swatching of paint colors and for some reason, a drawing of completely unrelated acrylic craft paints (I guess those bottles happened to be in front of me at the time.)  Swatching, however, serves so many purposes.  It is absolutely critical to have actual painted samples for reference when choosing colors during a project; I actually swatch almost every product in my studio, store those cards in a folder, and pull out the relevant swatch card when working in a specific media.  Swatching is a great way to compose color palettes.  Swatch cards also keep you from duplicating colors when you get the urge to add to your stash or remind you which colors you tend to use the most.  For a lovely, color-soaked ode to paint swatching from a master, check out this post from my dear friend, Tammy at Daisy Yellow!  

Perhaps most importantly, swatching is a tremendously meditative activity.  When my brain and/or body are too overwhelmed to attempt anything complicated in the studio, I can always dip my brush in a pan or pool of color and make a mark on paper...and then another...and then another.  More often than not, that mark-making session gains momentum and soon my creative drive overruns my sadness, boredom, or lack of inspiration.  Just a dab of color at a time chases the blues away...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wherein the Storm Passes & Art Remains

OK...now that I've hit the hornet's nest that is Pinterest and some are buzzing about all angry and defensive...let's just dive back into the love and light and laughter of art-making...shall we??  In terms of reblogging, reposting, and/or pinning my work here at Lost Coast Post...well...as a famous (and no doubt copyrighted) cricket once said so wisely: "Let your conscience be your guide."  For my part, I've said my bit, stashed away my soap box, and turned back to my paint box. That's where I find my joy these days; I'll keep sharing what I do and hopefully, my images will alight a spark of inspiration in your own studios.  That's why I'm here in the first place.  

So...onward we go!  To forks.  A rather mundane piece of kitchenware unless you are staring at some from a few inches away and trying to replicate all that intricate etching.  OK...forget the etching...just rendering them as straight objects can be a challenge.  My fork drawings are pretty damn crooked.  Eventually, I figured out that it was easier to draw one side and then the other if I wanted the fork to look like...well...a fork.  I actually had to borrow silverware from a friend because my own flatware is modern, very uniform, and lacking in any interesting detail.  My request to borrow forks to draw was first met with an awkward silence but quickly dissolved into an enthusiastic evaluation of all the little differences between forks from different sets and time periods.  That's the great thing about this entire process: it isn't about the drawing but rather the seeing.  And the more we learn to quiet our chatter and see beyond our own bubbles, the more our capacity to feel and appreciate others expands.   At least, that's the way I hope it works... 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Regarding Pinterest (Again)

I have a "No Pinning Please" statement clearly posted near the top of my sidebar as well as "no pin" code embedded in the blog template itself to prevent direct pinning.  Not unexpectedly, people here & there continue to pin from my blog.  This post is for those who manage to workaround or choose to ignore (or honestly didn't know) my wishes:  I am truly happy that you visit and even happier that you found something in all my ramblings that inspired you...really I am.  I do follow some boards on Pinterest but I do not pin myself since I decided that I didn't want my own work pinned.  (I have eliminated all of my boards except one so I can maintain my membership.)   I try not to patronize boards predominately filled with repins or those consistently without links back to the original source (or at the minimum, a simple notation of the artist's name.)  I think Pinterest is a great tool in concept but its execution often shortchanges copyright owners.  I periodically stop to reconsider my "no pinning" stance and maybe someday I'll just say "Ah, What the hell!  Have at it pinners!"  Indeed, I often wish I could relax about all this because I see how Pinterest could be really useful and then I again find something of mine pinned without a hint of credit or *shudder* even credited to someone else.)  So, for now, I really wish you wouldn't pin from Lost Coast Post.

That said, if you feel absolutely compelled to pin from this blog despite my wishes...well....it is fairly obvious that I can't stop you.  I can't/won't waste time chasing down rogue pinners;  I check in every so often and sometimes comment on things that were pinned after I put my policy in place, just to give a heads-up on how I feel about pins of my work.  In my experience, most pinners are actually just enthusiastically and innocently repinning from a minority of people who knew my policy and pinned anyway.  (That's the inherent problem with Pinterest: accurate attribution can be frustratingly elusive as an original pin ripples outward on the site as repins.)  In addition, I also realize that some pins come from "curated" sites that have blatently ripped off my content without permission.   People are honestly inspired and pin from those sites without ever knowing about (or visiting) my blog.

Sooooo....long rant short....if you really, really have to workaround or ignore my wishes, please at least add a link back to my blog in your pin description.  It is as simple as copying and pasting the link in the search bar.  The home link is as follows:
http://lostcoastpost.blogspot.com

If you've repinned something after my policy went into effect...no worries...just edit that pin to include a link.  I attach a watermark to every single photo so if all else fails, my name is at least attached to the pinned image.  (Let's not talk about those despicable few who actually Photoshop out the copyright info from a photo...grrrrrrr.)  

And for those of you who visit, look, and not pin (and perhaps "favorite" or "bookmark" instead)...all my love and thanks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Postal People

I'm slowly working on a few informational posts regarding watercolors and the supplies I use but I am spending a lot of time prone on the couch, especially since I've started physical therapy.  Therapy right now simply consists of painful wound care (specifically debridement) and trying to keep the non-healing part open and clean so it can get through the slow healing process without further complications.  It may be a few weeks yet before I actually get to start weight bearing and gait training.  A new school year starts in about a month so I'm getting anxious about the snail's pace of my post-op healing but there's not much I can do to hurry along the process.

In the meantime, I am continuing to work in my sketchbook that I began in the wake of taking Sketchbookery from Mary Ann Moss.  I especially loved creating these pages of "Postal People" to practice modified contour drawings of people.  For the first page, I used old yearbook photos as a reference.  For the second set of doodled people, I used a handy book full of photographed facial expressions titled - appropriately - Facial Expressions by Mark Simon.  This book has more than 3000 expressions created by 50 male and female models representing a wide range of ages and ethnicities.  These photos can be used to develop realistic drawings or funny caricatures.  It just gives you something to look at when developing a face that goes beyond the overused blank expression.  (I've written about that topic before: here and here.)  Anyway, these were super fun to do and I have no doubt I'll create a few more before this journal is finished.  

PS...Thank you to everyone who has voiced their well wishes since my surgery and of course, thank you to one and all who continue to visit this little blog of mine despite my inconsistent posting schedule.  Whether you comment or not, I feel your supportive presence and that inspires me to keep this space alive. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Trying to Roll Forward through a Setback

I'm just about five weeks post-foot surgery and now my incision is infected, a major and dangerous setback to say the least.  I had been doing a bit of weight-bearing (hobbling to & fro about the house) and spending some time with my foot down while I worked at my studio table.  My doctor has forbidden all that for now so I am trapped on the couch again going more than a little stir crazy.  To top it off, I'm ordered to spend the majority of my day with my foot elevated above my heart which isn't the best position for drawing.  It is hard not to cheat with these severe restrictions but I'm doing my best impression of a compliant patient.  I figure that my doctors would rather not deal with a complete emotional and mental breakdown on top of everything else and that (hopefully) they'll look the other way a little when it comes to letting me have upright time to doodle in bed.


For the times when I must get up, this neat little piece of equipment has been my foot's chariot for the last few weeks.  After several hand surgeries and recurrent shoulder issues, I can't use crutches so this knee scooter was the solution presented by the surgeon.  It really zips along on open, smooth surfaces but is a bit more of a hassle in tight, carpeted spaces (like my apartment.)  Still, it keeps my foot off the floor while rolling me from point A to B.


I showed you a photo of the actual scooter so you could compare it with the drawing I did in my journal.  Whew!  This was really, really hard to draw and my rendering is waaay off in many places.  The proportions are all wrong, the wheels aren't round, and the scooter's frame isn't anywhere close to correctly depicted.  However, none of that matters to me in the least.  Long after this ordeal has resolved itself, I'll look back on this journal entry and remember exactly where I was, what I going through, and how I got through it.  The photo of the scooter presents a perfect representation without any context or emotion - a snapshot without sentiment. On the other hand, my drawing is an imperfect rendering rich with memories, a doodle with depth.  That's exactly why I'm going to keep my pen moving, no matter how wobbly my lines.  The antibiotics and doctors will save my foot but my art will save my spirit.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

De La Cocina

Here's another page from my Sketchbookery journal.  I hope you all won't get tired of this type of art because, by desire and design, it's all I'm doing in the studio nowadays.  I can't wait to be able to get out and find some organic objects to draw but in the meantime, I am observing and doodling various gadgets and gizmos gathered from my home.

It is hard to render metallic finishes with watercolors.  I use a lot of Neutral Tint (from M. Graham) to simulate silver surfaces.  Watered down Payne's Gray and Ivory Black are useful as well.  For golden or brassy surfaces (such as the vintage keys I painted earlier), I often use Daniel Smith's Buff Titanium mixed with a bit of Quinacridone Gold.  As the color goes from brighter yellow values to duller, timeworn hues, I add in Neutral Tint to darken my paint mixture.  In fact, I use Neutral Tint (instead of black) all the time to create darker values of my paints.  Next Wednesday, I'll post a color chart of pure colors versus those colors with Neutral Tint added so you can see how the colors change and how it can expand your palette.  I'll also try to remember to write up a post about the particular supplies I use because I know many people, myself included, are often curious about what other artists use in their work.

Last post, Carol commented and asked about the brands behind two colors in my palette.  The pale orange is from Koi (by Sakura).  It is considered a student grade paint but I find it useful for rendering fleshtones.  As student grade paints go, the Koi set (in tubes not pans) is probably my favorite.  The lovely phthalo turquoise is from Daniel Smith.

PS...Please note that I am an Amazon affiliate so whenever you purchase something at Amazon via a link you click on here at Lost Coast Post, Amazon sends a few cents my way.  I only post links for products I personally use and love. 
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