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.
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