Wednesday, December 14, 2011

First and Always a Journaler

Look out!  This makes three blog posts in a row!  Why is it I get more productive the worst I feel??  Well, I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say, so I'm just going to roll with it.  I think my cold has reached that tipping point where it will either mutate and develop into something really gnarly that requires antibiotic intervention or I'll start getting better.  I'm opting for the latter scenario.

I thought that today I'd share a couple spreads in my "daily diary" journal.  No matter what else happens in the day, I always make time for this tome - always.  After having completed my first Full Tilt Boogie journal, I moved on to the next volume as each journal only holds about three months of entries.  I've missed some of the other journal styles I've been working in so I'm trying to 1) revisit those neglected journals and 2) add a bit more of those other styles into my diarySometimes I let this journal become a bit too anchored in a grid format as I mark the march of days so I'm trying to remember to emphasis the "visual" in visual journaling.  Having pages with images I can alter and/or write around helps inspire me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Merrily I Doodle On

Despite contracting a wicked head cold from one of my students, I am working away on illustrations for my Christmas journal so I thought I'd share a couple more shots of my progress.  I am working on 140-lb, hot press Arches watercolor paper.  I've discovered that I prefer Arches over Fabriano for this purpose as the paper feels thicker and smoother.  However, I used Fabriano in the construction of the journal as recommended by Teesha Moore and Fabriano is definitely better than Arches for journal-making since it doesn't crack when folded.

Anyhoo, I am sketching in pencil, outlining with black Micron, painting with watercolors, and then cutting out the little doodles and characters.  I'm going to attach an illustration to each page in my journal and you can see in the photo of the cover how the drawing looks once added to the page.  It really pops!  As a bonus, if I have an "Oops!" moment with a doodle, I can simply make a new one rather than wondering how to cover a mistake that is on the actual page. 

I'm having so much fun thinking up characters to bring to life and really falling in love with watercolors & cartooning all over again!  This is the perfect remedy for the common cold!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tis the Season for Doodling

I am happily working on a bunch of little hand-drawn and watercolored illustrations for my developing Christmas journal.  As I sketch and doodle and paint, I realize that I don't do this often enough and I think 2012 needs to include A LOT more illustration work!  It brings out the playful side of me and I find it to be a very peaceful process.  I also realized today that this spur-of-the-moment Christmas journal idea may take me till the end of winter to complete!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Banishing the Bah Humbugs

In order to chase away my usual winter blues and slow my pace during this overwhelming season, I decided to create a Christmas journal and as you can see, the project is in its infancy.  Right now I'm simply creating frames for the pages using a huge pile of Christmas scrapbook papers I've collected over the years.  At this point, I have no real defined vision in mind as I am simply letting the repetitious collaging soothe my harried soul.  I'll post more pics as this impromptu project unfolds. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Moment is Enough

This recent picture of Mister Marley T. Bear describes my current mood perfectly.  My journals are ever-present as I try to muster enthusiasm for the most exhausting months of the year.  I am easily over-stimulated and whether it is all-caps ads screaming at me on Twitter or crowds of the shopping-obsessed out in the world, I feel both suffocated and inspired, exhausted and energized by the season.

This is also the time of year when I become deeply introspective, thinking on how 2011 measured up to my hopes, goals, and expectations.  I ponder the year to come and think about current paths I will continue to explore, which ones I will abandon, and what new paths I might need to investigate.

But really, I just need to be more like Marley who thinks only about how he can best position his sleepy head so he can watch Mama journal and still be comfy.  He cares not for the spinning world beyond.  He lives in the moment and that is enough.

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Art Fail & Rescue

As 2011 winds down, I am going to try and get back to this space more often.  I've got many, many ideas rocketing around in my head; I just need the time to transcribe them into posts.

From time to time, I think it is important to show something that didn't work and this is a journal page that certainly fits the bill.  I'm not sure what I was thinking when I began but I do remember that it was late in the evening and I was super tired and cranky. I was trying to force the art from my brain and in the process, made a critical error.

I began this epic art fail by stenciling with light molding paste.  Once the paste was dry, the coral stencil suddenly looked like an old tree and because of the bluish background, I thought a tree in full autumn splendor would make a nice contrast.  So I used a palette knife to apply heavy body acrylics to represent the foliage.  That would have been a great idea except for the fact that the molding paste created a very dimensional surface and without the addition of a texture medium, the paint simply sank into the crevices around the "tree branches."  It looked terrible and I cursed like a sailor at the wet mess I had created.  I couldn't tear the page out so I decided to let it dry and attempt a rescue in the morning.

The essential problem was that the "leaves" didn't read as being on top of the branches, especially up close.  I considered several solutions.  I crinkled little pieces of tissue paper and placed them on the tree to represent the leaves - too bulky and quite frankly, too cheesy.  I thought about gessoing over the whole mess but that damn molding paste would've shown right through.  I could've applied more molding paste but the page would've become impossibly thick.  Same problem if I tried to apply more paint to build up the "leaves."  Ultimately, I opted to increase the contrast between the background and foliage by applying Payne's gray shadows and pulling the background color up and over the molding paste branches.  This serves to lessen the immediate visual impact of the molding paste's dimension.  This page doesn't stand up to much close scrutiny but I think I actually like the final result.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Whole Lot of Everything & A Little Bit of Nothing

Whenever I disappear from the helm of Lost Coast Post, you can be sure it is because I'm busy piloting the ship of my life across wild and crazy seas.  I am going in a thousand different directions but going nowhere fast, doing a whole lot of everything and a little bit of nothing.  I've been fussing over government paperwork and annual inspections, playing in my journals (always!), creating samples for the art classes I teach (sculpture requires A LOT more time devoted to step outs, lesson plans, demos, and examples), prepping canvases for the next show lined up (January), trying to stay warm (what happened to fall?), experimenting in the kitchen (love baking!) and oh yeah, getting my son through the last few hectic & stressful weeks of his third semester of college.  I suspect things will start to slow down in mid-December as schools begin their winter holidays until after the first of 2012.  Until then, I expect to be constantly on the go, physically and mentally.  Stuff is brewing in my brain for this space but there's not too much time right now to devote to my online presence.  So patience, my might be a little brief around here for a while.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Even When Grounded, I Make Pigs Fly

Some days my hands (and my fused right wrist in particular) become very tender and tempermental but because I like to keep moving forward in some way each and every day, I try to find something to do in the studio anyway.  Today, that "something" happened to be cartooning and Inktense pencils.  This is just a bit of fooling around in one of my sketchbooks while watching Halloween movies.  I don't have any specific project in mind, no deadline to meet.  Throughout the day, I revisit this one page, making small additions as my hands permit.  It makes for a delightfully low key day and I feel like I have rested my hands while still accomplishing something artful.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It is Time to Take the Paths Less Traveled

My first little clay sculpture in several years...
I've spent my studio time in the last week doing more quiet contemplation than actual artwork.  Maybe it is the onset of fall or maybe it is the temporary lull in work for outside projects...whatever the reason, I've been busy pondering instead of painting.  Big changes are ahead.  Or maybe I should say "additions" because I don't intend to abandon my current mediums, techniques, and topics.  However, it is time to experiment in some areas that I've had on my "To Try" list for a very long time.  Perhaps, in time, these new fascinations will completely replace my current loves; maybe I'll just play around for a while and decide I've had enough.  I'm not really sure but I do know a few very specifc things have been pulling on my subconscious for a while and I feel ready for something new.  It is time to step off the well-worn path and explore the waiting wilderness.

Here's 4 ways my focus is going to shift in the coming year:
  1. SOFT - I've been working happily with paper & collage for a long while.  It is time to get serious about fabric.  I want to make soft things for family, functional and/or fun.  I want to dive into my fabric stash and see what develops.
  2. SLOW - I need at least a couple of "slow art" projects, things that I can work on here & there, little by little with no pressure and no rush.  I want to slow my roll and use art more meditatively.  Luckily, fabric projects are perfect to satisfy this goal.
  3. 3-D - When I first started pursuing my art degree, I created a lot of polymer clay jewelry and artist's books.  I'm ready to take a break from flat.  Small sculptures from fabric (see #1), clay, found objects, a return to handmade books, silly crafts to decorate my home...I feel the need to expand beyond my box.
  4. FICTIONAL -  This is really the thread that will run through all of my new pursuits.  I've spent years doing "observational" art.  Look at something and draw it.  (I spent years doing scientific illustration.)  Record the events of my day in a journal.  Most of what I've done has been anchored in the real world.  However, it is time to dive a bit deeper and see what lies in my imagination.  There are stories to be told.  Characters to birth.  For the most part, I've kept the full scope of my imagination under lock and key, afraid that my artistic abilities wouldn't be able to keep up.  But I realized that I have to start somewhere and really, truly, things you are fear are often exactly the things you need to pursue.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wondering What's Next

So my show had its official "opening" last Friday evening and I've been processing and decompressing ever since.  After working so feverishly on one thing for an extended period of time, I typically spend several days regrouping once the object of my focus is complete.

The opening was absolutely lovely and easily one of the best I ever had.  Many of the stores participating in this monthly event also host live music and wine tastings.  I never know who is going to be playing and I was delighted to discover that an amazing, generous, and talented gentleman named Buddy Reed was providing the evening's soundtrack for my art.  His heartfelt blues intertwined beautifully with my work and together they seemed to conjure a bit of magic.  There was wine, spontaneous dancing, excellent discussions of art with people from all walks of life.  I sold about half of my pieces.  I felt like a real, honest-to-goodness artist.  I don't always have an easy time in groups but on this night, I felt comfortable, happy, and proud.

The experience had such an impact that I've been laying low since then, trying to savor the memories while pondering where I go from here.  I think you might be surprised by the answer but that, my dears, is a topic for another day...tomorrow perhaps. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Grumpy Owl for a Slightly Grumpy Post

I'm still hard at work on canvases for my show.  The official opening is this Friday evening but the bulk of the work went up last week.  Today I'm working on making business cards, finishing up six small pieces, updating the price list, making price tags, and making a sign for the show's title.  Once the opening is over, life will hopefully settle down into the regular sort of crazy busy that I'm used least until I need to start on work for a January show.

On a brief but sort of ranting side note, you'll notice that a copyright notice is plastered all over today's image.  I've been sort of hit & miss with watermarking my images but a rather annoying session on Pinterest this morning cemented the necessity of watermarks in my head.  I love when people stop by this little blog of mine and find something that inspires them but PLEASE! USE A DIRECT LINK TO THIS BLOG AND INCLUDE AN ATTRIBUTION ("Elizabeth Michelle Remy") IN THE DESCRIPTION!!!  I found a ton of pins with no mention of my name anywhere; repins are especially problematic.  I love the inspiration of Pinterest but I do feel we are all responsible for protecting the rights of the artists we admire and pin.  For those of you who do include a direct link and attribution, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!   Your support and recognition of my artistic property is deeply appreciated. 

Unfortunately, theft is a part of being an artist and there are a select few who will steal even if the copyright is staring them in the face.  It happens and it sucks but I am choosing to focus on a positive, proactive approach.  I'm going to audit all of my own pins to make sure I have proper acknowledgement on each one or otherwise remove the image that I cannot link to a direct source.  Whenever possible, I am going to try to comment on pins of my work if credit is missing.  I'm going to watermark all my photos so in the very least, a copyright notice is embedded in work that is pinned improperly.  However, I'm not going to spend a bunch of time of this; I've got better things to make more art!

Author's Edit:  One last comment/clarification:  I believe that 99.999% of people who don't use a direct link and/or attribution to a pin are totally and completely well-meaning in their pinning.  We all live busy lives and Pinterest makes it so easy and fast to develop a bangin' digital bulletin board that I think all this attribution business gets overlooked in the joy of the pinning process.  It happens.  I've done that too.  However, every time someone takes that extra minute to give credit to an artist that inspires, that artist's career and passion is validated and protected.  And that makes the world a better place.  Period.  Please keep visiting and keep pinning things you find here that fan the sparks of artistic longings in your own heart.  That's why I do this.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Finally She Blogs & the Art is Up

Oooooo!  I'm sneaking this post in here at the end of the day so perhaps for some of you abroad, it is now Tuesday but it's still Monday for the Lost Coast so it's all good!  After a super busy day, it finally occured to me in a moment of quiet that I hadn't yet posted.  So here ya go!

Shot of one of the walls in the store on which I am displaying my art...
The main part of the oft-talked about show is now up.  As you can see, the work is hanging in a furniture store.  On the second Friday of every month, local businesses host a city-wide art opening while throwing in some great music, wine tastings, and extended shopping hours for good measure.  I love this particular location and have shown here a couple of times before.  It is a huge venue; I could easily hang 30 to 40 smallish pieces here if I ever got my artistic act together in time.  So far, I've got 16 finished canvases up for the world to see and I'm going to hang some more before this Friday evening's opening. 

The walls of this store are a lovely butter yellow which always makes my work look especially yummy.  The furniture is what I call "upscale casual": real wood furniture, elegant lighting, quality futons and the like.  This atmosphere suits my work very well and I think it helps potential buyers imagine what my art might look like in their own homes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Birds on a Wire

The days have been flying by.  In between transportation duties associated with my son's schooling, a bad streak of migraines, teaching 36 young artists each Friday, doctors' appointments, and the seemingly endless work on canvases for my show, I try to remember to breathe and enjoy the lovely Indian summer we've been having here in extreme Northern California.

I've been trying for quite a awhile now to get a decent picture of this piece.  It is large - 2 feet by 3 feet - and thus awkward to photograph.  Plus, the fluid acrylics and matte medium I used give the piece a slight shine which further complicates my photo shoots.  I'm not 100% happy with the way this turned out but it is done and goes well with the rest of the work I've completed so I'm letting it go.  It turns out that I don't have to hang until sometime between October 5th and the 14th so I am cautiously optimistic that I will reach my goal of 25 pieces.  I'm pushing really, really hard and frankly, I'll be happy when they all go up on the wall and I can turn my attention to art strictly for my personal pleasure.  It will be a short rest as I have another show booked for January but still, it will be nice to be able to journal without constantly worrying about losing valuable studio time.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

First Round of Boogie Completed!

BEFORE picture - begun June 18, 2011
No matter how busy I get, I always try to make time for my journaling practice (which is something separate from my sketchbook-keeping.)  This summer I had the opportunity to take a lovely class from the incomparable Mary Ann Moss of Dispatch from LA.  Full Tilt Boogie rocked my journaling world and today, I'm happy to announce that my first journal produced for that class is full and finished, bursting (quite literally!) with hopes, dreams, lists, observations, pictures, collage, and daily musings.  In the "after" picture, you can see that when I say it is full, I mean it!  No matter what I fasten around its girth, it doesn't close anymore than that!

AFTER picture - completed September 22, 2011
I've always tended to compartmentalize my journaling but this class pushed me to try the "kitchen sink" theory in which everything gets stuffed into one journal.  I really love this style of journaling as the very format forced me to loosen up and adapt to each different page size and background.  I definitely will continue to keep this type of journal for my "daily diary" practice and happily, I already have new journals waiting on the shelf.  However, I want to continue explorations in the other journals I have started as I did miss the focus and boundaries provided by a themed or style-specific journal.

My next big experiment will be to try the FTB-style journal with a fictional focus.  I have several creative writing projects floating around my brain that have long been neglected and I think perhaps that it would interesting to develop a set of characters and their stories in this mish-mash, bits & pieces, wandering style.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bringing Some Truly Awful Creatures to Light

While I've been up to my elbows in canvas, paint, glue, and paper as I push to finish enough work for my show, I've also been super busy in another arena: teaching art.  For those of you just tuning in, I teach art on Fridays at a small charter school in my hometown.  I have two groups of middle school students in the mornings and I have a group of high school students for the balance of the day. 

The middle school kids are on the younger side this year, ranging from 4th through 7th grade, and for a change, it is comprised of lots of new faces for me.  I'm teaching cartooning and since there were so many unfamiliar faces, I gave a little "pre-test" on the first day of class.  I asked the kids to draw any character that came to their minds.  They could provide an "environment" if they wished but the character needed to be the focus of the art.  Otherwise, there were no rules and I just hung out nearby to provide encouragement.  I learn a tremendous amount about each student's drawing abilities and attitude with this little exercise.  I note who works really hard to get everything just right, who has trouble getting started or staying on task, who draws too dark or too small, who has an unhealthy relationship with the pencil eraser, and who has obviously not had his or her art praised and loved.  

I was sort of shocked by the results of this year's pre-test.  I have several students (more than I've ever seen in one class) who are highly critical of their drawing talents.  Statistically, I shouldn't be surprised as studies have shown that early middle school is often the time when kids lose their natural love of art, either due to bad experiences and/or time constraints created by increased academics and decreased support for art in the school system.  Still, this is a group of kids from a school that has placed extra time and money into supporting arts experiences for its students.  I saw right away that I wasn't going to be able to launch right into cartooning lessons.  I was going to have to do some art esteem-building first.

So last week, we sat and had a frank discussion about inner critics.  I told them that most people have them and that while the critics often nag about art, the critic can raise its ugly head about lots of different things in their lives.  We talked about why critics arise, what they sound like, what trouble they cause, and how to conquer them when drawing.  Then I asked the students to visualize what their personal inner critic might look like.  I also asked the kids to name their critic if they could.  The drawings you see in this post represent some of the wide variety of inner critics I'll be facing this semester.  

It is interesting to note that some of these critics are fanciful and silly.  Some are menacing.  But note the last drawing.  This student worked really hard on her inner critic portrait to get the details just right.  It seems so "normal" in comparison to all the others.  I think this is the scariest portrait of all because it does indeed represent a real live person in this girl's life, someone who told her at one point that she wasn't an artist.  

The point of this exercise is to make those insidious negative whispers of the critic into something solid, recognizable, and laughable.  Now that the critics have been given an identity of their own, I can work on loosening the hold these creatures have on my students.  Things that creep about in the shadows of our brains have less power when we shine a light upon them.  That's a lesson worth remembering no matter where we are in our artistic journey.

P.S.  Someone commented yesterday that she was surprised that I had an inner critic.  I have one of the most vicious and sneaky inner critics that you'll ever find and I battle him every day.  Some days I am more victorious than others but the point is not the outcome but the battle.  I try to keep going, no matter what vile commentary the critic slings my way.  I try to take care of myself in other areas so the critic doesn't gain a foothold.  It isn't easy.  I don't think it is easy for anyone (and those that want you to believe life and art is all roses & chocolate isn't being honest.)  Just keep working and one day you'll look up and the darkness of your critic will have faded in the sun. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In the Studio Today

Surprise!  It's another update from the studio that involves my show!  (It'll be over soon folks!)  On my table this morning: a 2-foot by 3-foot canvas that'll feature five birds perched on a wire, watching the evening sun sink into the horizon.

Sometimes I'm not very confident about a piece, especially in the beginning stages.  The pieces for this show (and my self-imposed time challenges) have helped me push past uncertainity and just keep going.  I have to keep reminding myself not to judge until all the components of the canvas come together.  If I just keep my fingers moving, my inner critic doesn't have as much opportunity to whisper mean comments in my ear.  Speaking of which, tune in tomorrow for a post about the inner critic banishments I've been working on with my young students.  Fun stuff!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fly Away Home

mixed media on canvas; 24" x 24"
Frantic work continues on canvases for my latest show due to hang October 1st.  I have about 15 pieces to complete in 12 days so from now, until I have to load the work into the car, I'll have my head down in the studio trying to get things done.

I try not to play favorites with my work but I seriously love how this flying egret turned out.  For some reason, I always throw a couple red, black, and white pieces into my mostly rainbow-colored show and they are typically the first to sell.  (I'm currently having a love affair with Payne's gray so there's a splash or two of that in this piece.)  I'll have a hard time letting go of this one.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

A quickie blog post as the oven buzzer is about to ring and my son needs the computer to write an essay:  Specimen number 17B is almost complete and that means I just have 17 more canvases to complete in 17 days.  Hmmm...the math isn't in my favor but I'm going to give it my best shot.  My days are full to the brim unless, like yesterday, I lose one to a migraine.  On a typical day, I check my email, run my son to college, do some chores or attend an appointment, work in my journal, work on pieces for the show, pick up my son, fix dinner, do dishes and evening chores, snuggle the cats, watch a movie, work on some more stuff for my show, prep for Friday's art classes and generally fall into bed exhausted.  Until the show hangs in October, this will pretty much be my weekday routine. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

A New School Year Leaves Port

Hello again Lost Coast Posties!  I'm back at the helm of this ship and ready to set sail across Internetlandia once again!  It has been a very crazy couple of weeks and I'm so glad I took a break from blogging because one more thing on my "To Do" list might have sent me over the edge.

As you can see, I completed another piece for my show but really the last ten days have been completely devoted to preparation for the new school year.  This time around, I have 24 middle school students for cartooning.  They are a young group, many of whom have just moved up from primary.  There are quite a few fragile art souls scattered amongst their ranks but they also seem very willing to try something new, even if it seems a bit scary at first.  I will be spending the first few weeks building their art esteem and banishing the Negative Nellies.

I also have 12 high school students this year for a class I developed called "Design Masters: From Sketch to Reality."  With only two exceptions, these are kids I have been working with for years so it will be fun to push them a little bit.  During the first semester, we'll be studying the elements and principles of design using projects that are strictly non-representational.  After the basics are cemented in their brains, we're moving on to sculpture during second semester.  We'll also be learning how to assemble a portfolio, how to keep and use a sketchbook, how to critique the art of fellow students, and how to display art for sale.  I hope to have these high school students present and run a school-wide art show in May.  I have this group for three hours on Friday so there's a ton of cool projects ahead.

Anyhoo, that's what I've been up to in a nutshell.  Honestly, the crazy days have only just begun!  So hang on everyone!  If you'll be joining me for the ride, I suggest you buckle on your life preserver.  This blog is all about my artistic life and when 36 youngsters climb aboard, the seas can get a bit wild!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pushing Pause by Letting Go

This has been a crazy busy week with my son's college starting up again and it is taking me a bit to adjust the new schedule.  My teaching gig starts up next Friday and I'm barreling towards that at warp speed while trying to juggle all my current commitments.  This is simply the way it is this time of year and there won't really be a true pause in the action until Thanksgiving.

Amid all this wildness, I've felt a distinct urge to just stop and take a breath:  No art for the show, no lesson planning, no payday errands, no paperwork or organizing or driving.  That's not really a practical option so I decided to push that "Pause" button by letting go on canvas.  You last saw this canvas in this post I wrote on failure and this is where it's at today.  

It actually takes a bit of effort to ignore my monkey mind and just focus on the swish of the brush and the random blending of paint but once I get into that space, even just for a moment, the world stops spinning and I am still.  It is a lovely tactic and I've been trying to squeeze in a little time with this canvas each day this week.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Caught Up in My Own Personal Hurricane but Still Making Art

My summer break officially came to an end this morning.  My son started back to college today and so begins the endless driving to and from campus.  While he will be riding the bus some this semester, I'm still responsible for 4 mornings a week and two afternoons which adds up to about 6 hours a week spent in the car.  I'm happy to support my son in his college journey but whew! I get tried of being on the road!  And just as that weekly commitment begins, I'm also juggling the following:
* Continuing prep for my show which hangs October 1st (18 canvases to go!)...
* Initial planning for another show that hangs in January...
* Lesson planning for art teaching that begins Sept 9th...
* Work on creating new inventory for my Etsy shop (aka Hand & Soul Studios) 
* Development of a companion blog space to Lost Coast Post, focused solely on tutorials (more on that when I'm ready)...
* Continuing physical therapy for my foot...
* Annual paperwork requirements for a variety of  agencies...
* A thorough "fall cleaning" of my apartment and workspaces to make some breathing room...
* A return to writing fiction (this has been quietly brewing for some time now)...

And all the while, I am making time to journal!  I'm so very close to completing this Full Tilt Boogie journal.  I'll post a picture of it once finished because I know you'll get a chuckle at how FAT this book has become!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Enter Rainbow Crane

It takes me a while sometimes but once I get into the groove of show preparation, everything else drops away (including blogging).  That has an upside (the chances that I'll get enough pieces done improve) and a downside (I neglect other things I need to do.)  However, I'm in it up to my neck now and it is best to try and ride the intensity in the studio for all it's worth while making a concerted effort to squeeze in all my other obligations.

I've assembled the completed canvases on a wall in the hallway and I have to say that they look pretty good together - just enough consistency in design elements and style to make them look like they belong together and enough differences to make each piece interesting in its own right.  Whew!  This latest canvas is 15 inches wide by 30 inches high

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another Birdie Lands

The last couple of days I've been stuck in that peculiar sort of whirlwind in which I am spinning so fast that I'm actually standing still.  There is so very much to do in such a limited amount of time and the overwhelming-ness of it all has me frozen in place.  I'm doing a lot of backgrounds and some sporadic journaling but other than that, I'm not getting much done.  I wake up with a head full of intent but I've been derailed by a series of appointments as I try to get those out of the way before school starts up.  Ah will all settle down in a bit and I'll take a deep breath and wonder what all my fuss was about.

This is the second bird canvas that I finished this past weekend...only now getting around to posting it.  This particular bird is on a 12 by 12-inch canvas.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hello Mr. Peacock

I completed Mr. Peacock over the weekend along with a smaller piece so I'm actually still on track with the two-canvases-a-week goal of the August "Out of the Journal" challenge. As you can tell, I've decided to stick with birds for this show.  There's just something about birds that I love....

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lost Coast Studio Saturday - It's About to Get Insanely Busy

The fade of summer 2011 into the soft recesses of my memory means that the time is near to get back into the chaos of a new school year.  There's quite a few fresh faces following my exploits here at Lost Coast Post so I'll give a quick and dirty lowdown:  I've regularly taught art classes to adults & kids since 2000 but in a sort of unplanned turn of events, I started teaching exclusively to kids from 2008 onward.  It isn't that I've lost interest in adult classes; in fact, I scheme about ways to get back to that all the time.  However, I developed a particular devotion to a small, local charter school and for the last six years, I've taught art there.  Unlike so many other schools who have been forced to cut art (and music and P.E.) classes, Laurel Tree has made a comittment to fund, entirely through fundraising & donations, one day a week completely devoted to the arts.  Every Friday, students get to take a wide variety of classes such as cooking, gardening, art, dance, PE, and music.  I have found that this yearly interaction with young souls infuses my artistic life with fresh passion and purpose.  

Middle school art journals 2010-2011
I primarily teach middle school students (5th through 9th) and every other year, I teach a class for high students needing the liberal arts units to satisfy graduation requirements.  This is a high school art year so in a couple of weeks, my life is going to get crazy busy.  I found out yesterday that I'll have 16 to 20 high school students - almost all of them boys - so that will be particularly challenging.  And about eight weeks after the start of the school year, I'll also have my usual contingent of middle school squirrels.  My lesson plans are still in development as I was waiting on these key pieces of information before moving forward.  I get free rein to teach whatever I can dream up while touching upon all the standards and over the years I've taught cartooning, art journaling, bookmaking, monster-making, and graphic design. 

So you'll be hearing lots about this adventure as the school year gets underway.  It always proves to be a wild ride!    

Friday, August 19, 2011

Moving Right Along

Mr. Peacock is shaping up quite nicely.  There are no less than 85 handcut pieces that make up this bird portrait and I actually cut that number twice because I make tracing paper patterns first.  This is now sealed and awaiting the next step.  This is on a 20 by 20-inch canvas so the picture is a little wonky since I'd tried to capture the entire piece in one shot.  I'll get a better picture when it's complete.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Trying to Enjoy the Dwindling Freedom

I've just started the pattern cutting and paper piecing process on this peacock-esque bird and hopefully, I'll be able to finish him off in the next couple of days.  I'm a tad off schedule this week but I'm trying not to stress about it.  The summer is winding down and that means a perfect storm is gathering of all the fun things I want to do in the remaining free time versus all the meetings/appointments/errands/planning that needs to take place before I can launch into my fall schedule.  I have a big meeting tomorrow to figure out my art teaching schedule for the coming school year: how many kids, what age group, how long, what budget etc and from that I can finally start developing lesson plans and purchase requests.  I'm not a fan of limbo so it will be good to finally know what I'll be doing.

I've read on a couple of blogs that some people find cat photos obnoxious but I couldn't resist posting this one of my big ole Marley Bear, who apparently is also exhausted by all the recent invasions of noise and strange routines.  This photo makes his 17-pounds look rather rotund but in truth, he's really long so all that mass is evenly distributed.  I adore his devotion to really good sleep, no matter the position.  When he's like this, we can roll him onto his back and give his belly a nice big snuggle.

And in case you're just dying to zoom in for a close-up, here's what his sweet face looked like from my studio chair.  Just love the fangs!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Contentedly Journaling

I'm so close to being finished with this journal!  I have just about 2 and a half signatures left to fill and my first Full Tilt Boogie journal will be complete - wow!  I have more handmade journals waiting in the wings and I know I will definitely continue with this style as I feel so comfortable working on these pages!

The structure is highly adaptable to my needs: I can easily add page extensions if I need to accommodate a larger image or more writing.  I can also cut down and shape pages, although since I added in so many short-width pages during the binding process, I haven't really felt the urge to trim stuff down.

I also adore working with non-blank backgrounds.  The scrapbook and found papers I chose to use provide an instant starting point every time I sit down to journal - no more "staring at the blank page" sessions!

On future pages, I want to add more and more of my own doodlings and creative writing.  I love collage but I want it to always be subordinate to my own voice and vision.  Right now, I am madly in love with robots and want to draw them all the time!  It is quite possible, I will begin a separate journal just for all my robot/sci-fi stuff as I have collected a lot of papers and ephemera centered around this theme.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

After the Noise Dies Down, I Take a Deep Breath

The last few days have been very strange: lots of busyness without accomplishing much and maintenance on my apartment that frightened & confused the cats and overwhelmed my space with displaced stuff.  That's all over now and aside from just getting off the phone with 911 to report a assault-in-progress at an apartment across the parking lot, the evening is finally reaching an acceptable level of calm.  Overall, I love my apartment, positioned as it is up against a wildlife refuge, but the heat has been driving the neighbors a tad wacko in recent weeks.

Anyhow, I think I'm settling down and ready to move onward and upward.  I've somehow managed to keep up on my journaling while the hammering, sawing, and drilling was going around me and you'll see those pages later in the week.  I've also completed the backgrounds of several canvases for my show; they sit in the studio, each one waiting for its own collaged bird.  Sometimes I get really attached to the preliminary layers and I have to let them sit for awhile before I can cover them up with the next stage of the process.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Boogie Onward

Even while I am throwing myself into production mode for my October art show, I am continuing work in my Full Tilt Boogie journal.  I'm almost finished filling the first journal I made in this class and I am loving every minute of crazy quilt style of journaling.  The pages come together very quickly and the varying page sizes and backgrounds keep me interested.

Some days I write a little something and other days, I stay purely visual.  There's really no rhyme or reason to my approach and that is so refreshing!  I am sooo over pre-planning pages and it's about damn time! 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Group of Quail is Called a Covey

This is a tough painting to get a photo over as it is a yard long by 12 inches high.  I hope this shot at least conveys the end result of this piece.  Today was a hard day (the fun can't last) but I'm on the mend.  Tomorrow will be better.  Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

There Be Birds Here!

The push forward on show work and the "Out of the Journal" challenge for August continues at a good clip here at my Lost Coast studio.  I finished Mr. Rooster (aka "Number 59X") by early yesterday afternoon and once I hit "Publish" on this post, I'm off to work on a trio of quail.  Right now I am focusing on bird imagery but that could change if I feel myself getting bored.  Since I'm on Day 3 of a no migraine streak, I'm on a roll and the paint is flying!  I hope today will be extra productive as I can hear the time ticking away.  October is just around the corner!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Rooster Comes To Life

I thought I'd post an in-progress shot of the canvas I'm currently working on for my show.  I'm moving forward with this concept in spite of some reservations and I have to say that I actually like how this one is shaping up.  I'm working on an 18 by 18-inch canvas here and I am realizing that theme questions aside, this technique requires an almost perfect mix of fine and large motor skills.  The backgrounds are bright, colorful, abstract, created with big, broad strokes of the brush while the central image brings me in close to the surface, developing pattern pieces, tracing, cutting, collaging, doodling.  If I'm having a day where my hands are being uncooperative, I can simply paint canvas and still make progress on the series as a whole.  On good hand and head days, I can work on the intricate aspects of the piece a little at a time without losing my place or momentum if I take frequent breaks.  In addition, moving back and forth between these two different ways of working keeps me engaged in the project. Happy times! 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Moving Onward & Upward No Matter the Challenge

Detail from July 5th journal page
Today was literally a time of stepping back into the light after an entire day spent in darkness and wrapped in ice packs.  I have a lot of issues with my hands and feet but I daresay my chronic migraines constitute the singlemost debilitating condition that I have to face.  May and June were really good in terms of headaches but July was one of my worst months ever and so far, August has kind of sucked.  Oh well...I can only move forward and work with what I have.  Yesterday I did manage a blog entry, two canvas backgrounds and the initial layering on a journal page.  I think it can become habit to focus on what you can't do with chronic illness instead of celebrating what you can do.  I see that quite often actually on blogs curated by the chronically ill and it gets tiresome to read about so I can only imagine what it is like to live your life always falling back on the negative.

I've been asked privately many times how I get so much done while dealing with this or that health challenge and the simple answer is that I try to function with the mantras "Just Move Forward!" and "Every Little Bit Counts!"  Sometimes I work only in five-minute increments but that, repeated throughout the day, adds up.  When I feel better, I build on what I accomplished in those little blocks of time.  And over the years, I've gradually learned not to put my disabilities first.  Instead, I try to focus on what I can do, however small.  I'm not perfect and I get frustrated over and over again but as long as I constantly realign my thinking back towards the positive, I keep moving forward and getting stuff done.

And while I'm on this particular soapbox, I have also discovered (and research supports this) that sometimes pushing through what you think or was told you can't do and trying it anyway helps you make strides forward.  My long time physical therapist says he sees this phenomenon every day.  Patients who actively push the boundaries of their disabilities actually make more progress faster than those patients who come in with "I can't do x, y, or z" as their opening line.  People in the latter category arrive and leave defeated.  What a terrible way to live!

So if you're reading this and you have a chronic illness, that's my advice:  Understand that you will get frustrated and angry and depressed but don't allow yourself to settle for that.  Celebrate small victories, practice good self care, make room for bad days but make the most of good days.  Life is not a race or a competition.  Every step, however small, takes you farther on this journey.  Stop trying to assess how far you have or haven't gotten and just do what you can.

Well, enough said...I'm off my sweets to practice what I preach.  To all a good night!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rising to the Surface

The twin forces of ill health and technological meltdown have conspired against my blogging practice these last few days but I've got my sunglasses on so I can tolerate the computer's glare and it looks like my ISP got their act together (in time to email my bill of course!) so I'm hoping I can get back on track.  Thanks for your patience!

I've been quietly and steadily working in my journal and out of it as well.  Dina Wakely's "Out of the Journal" challenge for August coincides nicely with my show prep so I am participating in that this month.  Do yourself a favor and go gawk at Dina's incredible canvases; she does some stunning work!

For my part, I've latched on to a tiny idea, partly because I'm running out of time (the show's in October) and partly because this particular notion has been hanging around my brain for months now.  I think it is important to pay attention to the nagging sparks of inspiration so I am attempting to see it through.  I began with a bird and wasn't sure if I wanted to 1) concentrate on birds or 2) stray outward into the animal kingdom.  So I played around with an 8x10-inch canvas and this is what swam in this weekend.

I'm not sure that I really like this fish and in fact, a whole boatload of doubt surfaced with him.  I have to be careful assessing my work when I'm not feeling well but I'm now less sure about my idea than when I started.  Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) I don't really have any time left to haggle about the show's content or technique; I just have to get the work done.  I've gesso'd up some more canvases and I'm going to experiment today with something a little larger to see if the technique holds up with magnification.  Wish me luck...
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