Monday, February 28, 2011

On Failure

"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing." - Denis Waitley

Well, I'm back after a bit of a blog break due the usual health obstacles and the intermittant days of chaos as I try to make the most of the times when I am clear-headed and pain free.  The periodic migraines (occuring about every two to three days and each lasting another two to three days - if I'm lucky) make it hard to build any sort of momentum on a project but I definitely keep busy when the headaches relent.

"The minute you start thinking about what you're going to do if you lose, you have lost." - George P. Shultz

Last Friday, I spent the day cleaning the house from top to bottom after a Wednesday and Thursday spent entirely in bed.  With the house sparkling and the laundry done, I felt that I could devote my Saturday and Sunday to art.  I spent hours painting, layering and sanding back collage, acrylics and gesso on canvas, trying to develop a background technique that I could use en masse for my October show.  I told myself that I was only experimenting, playing with no expectation or internal pressure to create something worth displaying or selling.  Anyway, those were the guidelines I thought I had established.  However, last night, when it came time to create an actual image on top of my background, I absolutely hated the results and in a fit of frustration and fatalism, I obilterated two days' worth of work with a thick coat of gesso.

"I was shipwrecked before I got aboard." - Seneca

I made an important self-discovery: no matter how well I prepared my psyche in advance, I could not let go enough to create something awful.  The inner critic came through loud and clear and shame on me!  I listened.

"It is not failure itself that holds you back; it is the fear of failure that paralyses you." - Brian Tracy

As the gesso dried, I tried to reestablish some control over my thought process.  I knew that I had probably pushed too hard, moved too fast.  When I come out of my migraine fog, I am desperate to make up for lost time.  With white-hot focus, I concentrate on "doing," often entirely forgetting about the critical importance of just "being."  (This is especially true for people with chronic illnesses.)  Although I had told myself that I was committed to the process, my knee-jerk reaction to a less-than-perfect product revealed that deep down, I hadn't really been paying attention to the process at all. 

"It is through failure that we learn our skills, as well as who we are and how much more we are capable of." - Paul Cade

So I ruminated and I sanded.  What you see in this posting is that "failed" canvas as it stands.  I sort of like it.  Well, truth be told, I like it better than what I had going before The Gesso Incident.  And just as I type that, I feel the familiar flutter in my brain of "now if I can just not mess it up again."  Sigh.  Sometimes the learning curve is steep.  I'll work some more on this piece today, taking it a bit slower.  And I've decided that I'll start some new practice pieces, this time on canvas board.  Maybe that substrate will feel less precious than the stretched canvas.  As a storm rages outside, I'll try to settle into the studio and embrace a little failure.

"Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." - Samuel Beckett

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One World One Heart Winner!

I bounced out of bed this morning and proceeded to a local creperie for what's called the "Hungry Farmer:" whole wheat crepes with garlic-rosemary potatoes, jack cheese, black forest ham and sour cream.  After a delicious, energizing breakfast, I intended to go home and get right to work on my One World One Heart winner posting.  Instead, I found myself limping along to the tire store, dreading the "thuppity, thuppity, thuppity" sound of a tire that has lost the will to live.  Apparently, tires all over the county decided to give out today as it took three hours to buy (and have installed) one tire.  Sigh!

Throw in a bunch of errands accomplished in a bitterly cold, driving rain and it is only now that I am posting the winner of my mixed media piece entitled "Tranquility."  So without further adieu...
The random number generator thingie told me that...

Number 103 is the winner!
That's Ladybug from Living the Light I Find!
Congratulations!!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my humble little blog during this huge event!  There were so many sweet and thoughtful comments!  And if you didn't win, don't despair!  As I pick up steam here at Lost Coast Post, I anticipate more giveaways in the future!  And of course, there'll be lots of art to look at and ramblings to read...I hope to see you around!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Owl in My Journal...

Journal page from Feb 16, 2011
...is worth two in the tree.  I was up early this morning, migraine-free (hooray!!) and ready to paint, having sketched this little guy last night.  My journal work seems to taking a turn towards more illustration and less jibber jabber.  I think there's a few reasons for this transformation:
  • Late last year, I had vowed to tap into my imagination more and reduce the significance of collage in my work.  I'll never completely give up collage (I am a mixed media gal after all) but I want my original paintings and drawings to take center stage.
  • I've been a little hesitant to give my doodles solid form, afraid they'll be judged "too cutesy."  In the past few months, I've been able to move past that restrictive thinking.  My journals are for me and me alone.  If someone finds my work not to their liking, they can click away from my blog. 
  • I have an important show coming up in October and I'm in the pondering and planning stage.  I'm pretty sure it will have something to do with animals and birds so I'm using my journals as a practice field.
  • Sometimes my life sparks prolific internal dialogue that begs to be written down; other times, I just want to record my daily experiences and thoughts through imagery and the process of creating that imagery.
It is interesting to experience this turn of events.  It feels awkward, natural, scary, exhilarating, familiar and foreign all at once.  I'm not sure where I'm headed or why but I trust that my journals know where I need to go.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Service of Song

Some keep the Sabbath going to church
I keep it staying home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome.

Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;
I just wear my wings,
And instead of tolling the bell for church,
Our little sexton sings.

God preaches, - a noted clergyman, -
And the sermon is never long;
So instead of getting to heaven at last,
I'm going all along!

Emily Dickinson

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Marley Bear!

Journal page from Feb 12, 2011
Sorry folks, but I loathe Valentine's Day...*blech*...I suppose being divorced and single for 18 years can do that to a person but I don't remember liking the "holiday" much before that either.  And I've actually relished my spinsterhood so I can't chalk it all up to relationship woes.  I guess I just find the commercial aspect of this day to be a bit too much to swallow.  However, I don't think the flower and card corporations will let me repeal Valentine's Day anytime soon so I've long been on the lookout for some way to redefine this sugary sweet date.  And two years ago, I found it.

Our dear sweet Marley Bear turns two today.  This giant marmalade fur baby came into our lives surrounded in mystery.  His original owner surrendered him to the rescue without a stitch of paperwork even though Marley had been acquired as a kitten from the county shelter.  So Marley was inspected and based on the vet's knowledge and experience, he was declared to be approximately six months old.  (I've often thought this calculation was suspect given his size but his behavior certainly fits that of a younger cat.).

I felt Marley was due the dignity of a known birthdate so I calculated backwards and arrived at mid-February 2009 as the most likely time frame for Marley's arrival on earth.  I felt Valentine's Day would be an easy date to remember and assigning Marley's birthday to February 14 also gave me a solid reason to tolerate the proliferation of lovey dovey sentiment.

Marley in his box on my studio table
My son and I will celebrate Marley today with a tuna sandwich party on the living room floor.  Tuscany will join in, though only out of loyality to fish and not because of any fond feelings for the orange beast that hassles her on a daily basis.  Indeed, Mr. Marley Bear is pretty much trouble 24/7; I've never met such a naughty cat.  But then he hops onto my work table, tilts his head, blinks those gorgeous golden eyes, touches noses with me and all is lost.  I am smitten.  No matter that I then have to clean up the trail of painty pawprints as he blunders onto my palette.  It is the footprints on my heart that matter.

How's that for sappy and sentimental?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lost Coast Studio Saturday: Life In Between

Journal entry from February 9, 2011:

"I live in between - that is to say that in between the migraines and the foot pain and hand pain and all the chores and errands and parenting, I live.  During those moments, I am happy, full of energy, brimming - no, overflowing - with inspiration and motivation.  I make art and laugh.  I dance to 80s music and sing aloud ('cause I know ALL the lyrics!)  It isn't that I'm not creative or "alive" when I'm in the grip of health or everyday obstacles but rather that, in between those distractions, I know my hopes & dreams are more than just notions in the mist.  My days ebb and flow and as I ride the tides, I reach out to my potential and try to hang on."

This past week was not a good one for art-making at my Lost Coast studio.  A full week's worth of migraine aggravation and the news that I'm looking at another surgery around June (my 9th!)...such things always knock me back a bit.

You are looking at the sum total of my artistic output for the last week, a curiously charming and happy portrait given all that I was experiencing.  The background was already complete so, in less painful and chaotic moments (and often in the dark), I sat down and transformed this wee child from sketch to fully realized painting.  Remember those altered Golden Book children's encyclopedias that I mentioned in my previous post?  Well, I have one devoted completely to portraits.  The pages are already prepared with complex background work so all I have to do is open the book and begin capturing the characters floating around in my head.

If you have health challenges, limited time, creative block and/or a paralyzing fear of blank pages, I strongly recommend studio time dedicated to nothing more than creating serendipity backgrounds.  Looking through my journals-in-progress, I realized that almost every single one is prepared in advance with at least a soft wash of color.  Background work is really the zen portion of my artistic practice: no pressure, no limits, no judgment. 

With backgrounds ready to go, I give myself a better chance of completing a project or page using scattered moments snatched from in between all the everyday life business (good & bad) that forms the foundation of my days.   

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lost Coast Studio Saturday: A Foundation On Which to Build

For today's Lost Coast Studio, I thought that perhaps it would be informative to detail what kinds of substrates I choose to journal on and why.  I literally have dozens of journals and sketchbooks in progress but I look for some very specific things when choosing my journaling foundation.  I think you'll see that in spite of the variety, there are several key aspects that all my favorites have in common.
When it comes to sketching and note-taking for projects and products, I rely on Canson's field drawing book in either the large 9 x 12-inch size or the slightly smaller 7 x 10-inch version.  The paper is 80-pound and cream-colored instead of white.  The weight is very important; I never use anything under 80-lb for my visual journaling.  In fact, Canson makes a "field sketchbook" that looks identical to the field drawing book but the paper is much thinner and thus, inferior.  Always feel the weight and texture of a journal's paper before purchasing.  Lightweight paper is simply a hassle.  At my local art store, when considering a new journal, I can request that any plastic wrap be removed prior to buying so I can see the paper's thickness.  This ensures that I don't go home with something inappropriate for the type of art that I do.
I also use A LOT of watercolor journals.  I look for a spiral binding (lays nice & flat when working) and 140-lb cold press paper.  These journals are not only good for watercolor but hold up wonderfully with collage and light applications of acrylics and gesso.  With the exception of books for doodling and product testing, I will paint all the pages in advance with a multicolored wash.  Then, when I sit down to journal, my background is already prepped and more inspirational than a stark white page.
 Like so many others, I am overly fond of Moleskines. I especially like the small version (3.5 by 5.5 inches) and always choose the one with the purple banding.  Moleskine paper is cream-colored, smooth and thick like cardstock.  It is best for pencil and pen & ink although it will tolerate light washes and work with watercolor pencils.  Moleskine also makes sketchbooks with 140-lb watercolor paper and while I do have a couple of those, the landscape format and perforated pages drives me a little crazy.  Not all watercolorists paint landscapes...
Last year, I started working this journal handmade in Nepal.  It has wonderfully thick, fibrous paper with delicious deckle edges that make me swoon.  Handmade paper is very absorbent so I prep its pages with a layer of craft acrylics before beginning any art or writing.  After many layers of paint and collage, front & back, the pages become beautifully hefty.  Using this journal is a lovely tactile experience.
Sometimes I bind my own journals.  Because I am involved in the very genesis of the journal, these books are very personal, colorful, and tactile.  I treasure working in them and wish I made my journals from scratch more often.  Again, I always use heavy, durable paper.  I need my journals to take a lot of abuse.
I have a couple of journals housed in three-ring binders.  This gives me the luxury of working on individual pages without a binding to deal with and also allows me to put the pages in any order I please (don't get hung up on the idea that your journal pages should be chronological.)  I typically use 140-lb hot press watercolor paper and again, I wash each page in advance with a variety of colors.  The white page is my enemy!
Finally, I also use old books as a substrate for journal work.  However, I am extremely picky about the books I alter.  The paper must be heavy and not slick like magazines.  There must not be mold, water damage, or the lingering odor of cigarette smoke.  AND the book must be bound old-school: sewn not glued.  When I'm in the thrift store and I see a book that might be cool to alter, I check for all those things.  My very, very favorite books to alter are old volumes of the Golden Book Encyclopedia.  The paper is nice and thick, the imagery is comical, and it is the perfect size.  I look everywhere for those things.  It has to be books from the older printing though because newer printings have slick covers, thinner paper, and a glued binding.  Whenever I find a stack in a thrift store, I buy up every single one that is still in decent condition.

I think you can see that the weight of the paper is a very big deal for me.  I loathe sketchbooks with cheap, thin paper!  (And there are a lot of crappy sketchbooks out there.)  All journal pages will warp with the application of any wet media and I don't mind a little warping in the final product.  But I don't want ink to show through to the opposite side and I don't want the paper to become so wrinkled as to distort my work.  The best advice I can give is to check out the paper in a journal before you buy and use the best paper you can afford with the most flexible binding.  I hope this edition of Lost Coast Studio Saturday is helpful for you in your journaling adventures!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

This journal page, from November 6th of last year, served no greater purpose than giving me a reason to paint a disapproving bunny...I'm playing around with cartooning & illustration a lot more and my journals are becoming a breeding ground for all sorts of characters and critters.

I've been riding the migraine rollercoaster again since the first of the month so for the next couple of weeks, my entries here at LCP will probably be more imagery than words as I can only stand the white glare of Blogger's posting page for a limited amount of time before I need to retreat back into the shadows.  Ah well!  Things will eventually settle down and I'll regain my artistic momentum.  Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January: A 31-Inch Retrospective

Well, January 2011 is history and here is my doodled "calendar journal" inchies for that month.  I began with the premise that I could do anything in that square inch of space but once I got started with the miniature watercolors, I just couldn't stop.  I actually managed to do one per day and keep the entire thing completely up-to-date.  Yay for me and art journaling every day, no matter how small!  I'm off to doodle my way through February...
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