Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Deck the Legs with Stripes

Every year, for the last 15 years or more, I have created new ornaments for the family tree. I began...waaaaaaaay back when... with crafting, and I still enjoy the occasional romp with the glue gun and "common" art materials. Of course, those "common" art supplies have gotten a lot more fun with the onslaught of embellishments on the market. For the last couple of years, I have made and taught a class on these "Slide Mount Fairies" and I get a little crazier with each one. This one ditched her fairy wings in favor of some wild, red wire hair and, as she has a peppermint stick for a lower limb, I thought she would be perfect for this week's Artwords prompt: "stripes."

Happy Holidays from Lost Coast Post!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Go Figure

I must admit to an almost pathological fear of figure drawing and I am quite certain this goes hand in hand with an obsessive need for perfection. I absolutely love the human form in art but while in school, I did everything I could to avoid figure drawing classes. I was successful in my quest but inevitably, the need to draw people turned up in other classes and my mortification was paralyzing. If I had to show my pathetic attempts to others, I started sweating and became more than a little sick to my stomach. Afterwards, my paintings and drawings would be quickly committed to the nearest round file, crumbled and ripped so no one else could glimpse my incompetency.

I now have deep regrets about not taking figure drawing. The human form, as rendered by my own hands, is an element I desperately wish to explore in my art. My head is filled with characters and their stories and they are demanding to be given substance. I find it an incredibly difficult task for not only am I impeded by self-confidence, figures with movement and emotion are often best executed in broad, large-scale strokes. I am a detail person. If my workspace isn't three inches square and my tools don't have precision points, I feel overwhelmed.

Things have started to slowly turn around. My recent experiments in magazine image altering and my move to a large-scale journal have awakened that long-suppressed need to draw my own characters. So in the wee hours of this morning, using a magazine image as inspiration, I leapt off the edge into the unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and unknown. I can guarantee there'll be no copyright issues with this one, folks. While my goal wasn't to create a mirror image of my reference photo, it isn't even close...can you believe this is based on a photo of the beautiful actress Charlize Theron??? I have to laugh and perhaps, that is the best indicator of my change in perspective.

I learned a great deal from this exercise...or I should say, I remembered a lot. Old lessons in line and shading resurfaced. See the paper bag in the sidebar? My scientific illustration professor taught me that when rendering objects, at least from a strictly representation viewpoint, lines and shading should typically not be combined. Lines in nature are, in fact, simply the border between light and dark values. Line drawings should only be composed of lines of varying thicknesses (without the addition of shading) and value drawings should only have lines suggested by varying values. I thought this sketch looked much better in pen and ink. I added color and random shading and the impact, whatever that may be, faded.

That said, there is a huge difference between representational art and stylized art. Representational drawing (and scientific illustration) seeks to render a photorealistic image. Stylized drawings seek to capture personality, emotion, and a story. As a stylized drawing, this works O.K. And I am really trying to move away from my illustration roots anyway as they seem to encourage that oft ill-suppressed need for pretty and perfect. So I think I need to work on rendering the individual facial components, but it is a start...a start that I haven't yet thrown up over.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Realizations & Explorations

My journaling as of late has been wild and adventurous as I seem to have finally realized that I have absolute freedom to explore and play to my heart's content. The only limiting factors are time and energy. For so long, I have been concerned with developing a "signature style." I've been obsessively worried about NOT "looking like someone else" because of course, that would mean that perhaps my journal pages were not an authentic representation of my true self. However, I have learned that what makes the pages unique is the thought process behind page construction. I may be inspired by Lynne Perella's page painting techniques or Teesha Moore's characters but when applied to paper with my own mind, heart, experiences, and observations in play, the pages will naturally "look like me." This is one reason I'm sure that generalized techniques are not copyright-protected. The infinite number of variables in play when each person executes the exact same technique results in an infinite number of outcomes. (Keep in mind that I am only talking about the actual physical, step-by-step process involved in a technique; any specific write-ups and/or images created by the artist as well as any unique applications are most definitely copyright and possibly, trademark-protected.)

Sigh! The entire copyright issue is such a tangled mess. Copyright laws have not been sufficiently updated since the rise of photo maniuplating software, collage's surge in popularity, or the advent of altered art. The grey area of copyright law seems to expand on a daily basis like a deep, thick fog enveloping the coastline. I fret endlessly about respecting copyright and because of this, I have almost completely rejected the use of magazine images in my journals. I have found, however, that this closes the door on a wealth of images that could help me tell my tales. So (especially in journals that are for my eyes only), I am slowly, cautiously incorporating images that speak in unison with my own artistic voice. In conjunction, I am exploring ways to alter said images so that I have made a quality effort to make the images my own.

That said, my "look" is decidedly eclectic in recent weeks as I probe yet another path in my "style quest." I saw this altering idea in Karen Michel's The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery and again in Bernie Berlin's new book, Artist Trading Card Workshop. Essentially, it involves altering magazine images with gesso and a medium of some kind. The concept is to use the magazine image as a "skeleton" for a new image. I used this technique on a large face photo and managed to make it into something more surreal and mysterious (it looks nothing like the original as I really pushed the boundaries of her facial structure given what I had to work with.) The ultimate application of this process is to use it as a comforting springboard into creating completely original figures and faces. (My next installment will delve into my rampant phobia of figure drawing...)

The quote on this page is from a play entitled "Defying Gravity" written by Jane Anderson. This theater piece is about the Challenger shuttle diaster in 1986 and its effect on 6 characters and one passed soul (Monet). I had the pleasure of seeing students from my son's school perform this wonderful work about a week ago and I'm still mopping up the tears...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I have been in an art-making frenzy the last couple of days. My fingers cannot fly fast enough to keep up with the ideas brimming in my head and spilling over into my dreams.

It has been so very hard to even think of studio time in the past few months. Among other things, I am challenged by chronic, severe migraines; in October, I lost 26 days to these monster headaches, 24 days in November, and so far in December, 9. This is an ongoing battle the neurologists and I have waged for the last six years with only moderate success. The headaches make me extremely sensitive to light, nauseous, dizzy, and so on. Daily chores take on a whole new dimension of difficulty, much less art-making. But when the fog and pain lifts, especially after an extended period of time, my mind switches gears and inspiration blooms. Perhaps while I am laid low, my brain secretly continues to comtemplate, ferment, and imagine on another level. When all the plans and schemes are ready, I and my brain emerge from the haze and begin. Whatever the reason, the result is fruitful and fabulous art time.

I am continuing to journal, exploring new forms of image altering and following story threads, old and new, that have wound themselves about my mind. Last night, I started a large-scale visual journal (think atlas-sized) entitled "The Alchemist's Journal." I am fascinated by alchemy and see it as a metaphor for personal transformation, artistically and otherwise. This new journal will weave fictional and autobiographical elements as my art and life evolve and intertwine. It will be way too big to scan so I will have to see if I can manage decent photos with my digital camera.

The little art piece featured in today's entry is executed on a 5 by 5-inch canvas board. I actually dreamed this image while struggling through a pounding headache; perhaps my unconscious was puzzling through the whys and hows of life with migraines. In my waking life, I decided to turn the dream image into something positive, a bit of inspiration for future days. Ironically, the little pharmacy label was lifted from one of my headache medicine bottles. How nice of the pharmacy to contribute to the cause! Along with tiny watch parts and blueprints pulled from my stash, I found the most perfect accompaniment in the words of Placido Domingo. What a delight when it all falls together...

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Sky Fire

As the evening sun prepares to sink into the Lost Coast horizon, it throws up a fiery display that catches my eye and my breath. I grab the camera, step out onto the balcony, and capture a winter sunset in all its glory. What an incredible way to close the day...I will never tire of this sort of beauty.
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