Saturday, December 27, 2014

Magic Hour of the Year

Wikipedia defines the "magic" or "golden" hour as a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which light is redder and softer compared to when the sun is higher in the sky." Photographers and film makers often take advantage of this time because highlights and shadows are less intense.

I consider this last week of the year to be seven days' worth of magic hours. As the old year closes and the door to the new year opens, I hunker down at home. I reflect on what was and ponder what might be. I make copious resolution lists that I will refer back to all throughout the year. I reprioritize, reorganize, and reenergize. The struggles of the previous year fade away and I look forward with optimism and enthusiasm (even if future struggles have already revealed themselves.) In short, this is my absolute favorite time of year and I'm going to disappear until after the first week in January so I can bask in the soft warmth of hope and plan my heart out. Adieu dear readers until we meet again in this small space of mine. As always, thank you for your readership no matter the publishing lulls. I wish you and yours a wonderful new year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Soothing My Cranky Christmas Self

I'm still here, swinging between grouchy and grateful as the season grinds towards its conclusion. November and December are my two most hated months of the year and yet contain within their scope some of my most favorite times as well. As of today, I have just two more teaching days and I will be released into the blissful freedom of winter break. However, with a Christmas present budget of absolutely zero dollars, I'll be hunkering down in the studio to make a sleigh full of gifts so I anticipate my daily schedule won't actually slow down until after Christmas Day.  I really do try not to be Grinchy but the relentless drumbeat of "Buy! Buy! Buy!" combined with clingy wet, cold, gray weather often conspires to make me grumpy. I have been soothing my cranky self the only way I know how: gallons of hot chocolate and monster creation.

I've drawn or sculpted 89 creatures since November 9th. Let this be a lesson to you: if you decide to finally open the door to your secret passion - I mean really swing it wide and spread your arms in welcome - be prepared to be trampled when all that has been long hidden bursts into the light. When I concluded about a month ago to get out of my own way, the imagination floodgates crumbled like walls of straw. I can't stop doodling and painting all manner of monsters, robots, aliens, and mutant life forms vaguely recognizable as Earth fauna. It is wondrous and glorious and I hope this wave of creativity washes over me long into the new year.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Product Review: Stillman & Birn Journals

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."
                                              Robin Williams

For me, brand-new journals are an incredible sensory experience before they ever see a drop of paint or glue or ink: the smell of fresh, clean paper, the sound of a crisp spine cracking open, the feel of pristine pages under my fingers! I also love blank journals for their potentiality, the promise they hold for future art projects, ideas and imagination brought forth into the real world. 

I'll be honest though: I am a paper snob. I decided long ago that life is too short for cheap paper. I like the paper in my journals and sketchbooks to be courageous, to stand up to any media I might throw at it without warping or bleed-through. I want to be able to scrub the surface repeatedly without deterioration and I want my tools to glide effortlessly across the page without skipping or dragging.


Enter what I consider to be the Cadillac of journals: the Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. I purchased an 8-1/2 x 11", hardbound Beta several months ago. After it arrived in the mail, I spent time simply running my hand over the pages, marveling over the quality of the paper. I confess that initially, I spent a lot of time stroking the paper but zero time working on it. It seemed too precious; I couldn't imagine any work of mine worthy of such a lovely substrate. So this beautiful journal sat on my shelf, empty, a monument to both quality journals and my abject fear of ruining said journals.

Finally, after a long time of contemplation and bravery-building, I cracked that journal open and began a new project I titled "A Little Spark of Madness." I am using this journal to open the door for all the creatures and critters in my head who are clamoring for the light of day. 


The Stillman & Birn Beta journal features 180 lb natural white, cold press paper that has held up to watercolor, gouache, paper collage, markers, pen & ink, acrylics, and colored pencils. (Here you can see that I am experimenting with different media, trying to find the illustration style I like best.) The journal is hardbound and unlike so many other hardbound journals on the market, this one lies flat when open! Awesome! (The spine will feel tight when you first open the journal but as time goes on, the spine loosens up and the book lies flat easily which is handy if you need to photograph or scan your work.)  

In fact, Stillman & Birn offers all of their journals in hardbound and wirebound styles. Their journals feature either 100 or 180 lb paper and you can also choose between natural white or ivory-colored pages and three different surfaces: vellum, cold press, and smooth. Check out this link for a handy chart of the technical details for each journal series. 

Whenever I post a product review, I like to present both pros and cons. Clearly, I love the Beta series journal but here's what you also need to consider.


These journals are not cheap. I paid $24.95 for this 8-1/2 x 11-inch journal on Ebay and I think that was pure luck (both finding it & the price.) Currently, there a couple of Ebay listings for the Beta ranging from $33.59 to $42.98. Yikes! On Amazon, a 5-1/2 x 8-1/2-inch Beta is going for $27.61 right now (with free shipping if you're an Prime member.) I'm an Amazon affiliate but I'd recommend caution when shopping for Stillman & Birn journals there and thus, I'm not including an affiliate link; the prices on Amazon & Ebay are high compared to other shopping options. Instead, try an art supply store like Dick Blick. They carry all of the Stillman & Birn journals except....

...the hardbound version of the Beta journal! I've found that the hardbound Beta, particularly the larger size, is sort of like the unicorn of journals. After much searching, I was finally ordered my journal through Ebay and a stationery store in New York that no longer exists. The seeming rarity of the hardbound Beta is a mark against it for me simply because it makes me scared to work in it for fear of using it up and not being able to find another! I've fallen in love and I am terrified that I might get my heart broken when I'm ready to move into another volume of my illustration work. Still, I'll carry on and tackle that issue when the last page in my Beta looms large.

So in summary...

PROS:
Superior quality, heavyweight paper that withstands multiple media without warping, bleed-through, or "pilling." Hardbound style lies flat when open (as does the wirebound version obviously.) Extra sturdy black covers are easy to alter with collage and paint. 

CONS:
These journals are costly and that, combined with the quality of the journal itself, can be an intimidating one-two punch. In my personal experience, the hardbound version of the Beta series can be hard to find; watch out for price gouging. I advise checking Dick Blick (or similiar source) for best selection and price. (If you want to buy elsewhere, at least use Blick's catalog to get a good idea what these journals cost on average so you don't pay more than the list price.)

Overall, I consider paying a little bit more money for a lot more quality a great trade-off. Stillman & Birn journals are the premium option for commercially-produced journals. And just a heads-up: if you love to make your own journals, Stillman & Birn is now offering the paper from their fabulous journals in 22 x 30-inch sheets!  

January 30, 2017 Edit: I am still head-over-heels crazy in love with Stillman & Birn journals which now also come in lovely softcover versions. They are much easier to find in stock as well so just look to your favorite art supply store.     

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Bit of Poetic Beauty for Ugly Days

"Luke's Junkyard Song"
by Mary Oliver
from her book Dog Songs

I was born in a junkyard,
not even on a bundle of rags
or the seat of an old wrecked car
but the dust below.

But when my eyes opened
I could crawl to the edge and see
the moving grass and the trees
and this I began to dream on,
though the worms were eating me.

And at night through the twists of metal
I could see a single star -- one, not even two.
Its light was a thing of wonder,
and I learned something precious
that would also be good for you.

Though the worms kept biting and pinching
I fell in love with this star.
I stared at it every night --
that light so clear and far.

Listen, a junkyard puppy
learns quickly how to dream.
Listen, whatever you see and love --
that's where you are.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sugar Skull Scalawags

I actually created these sugar skull characters last year but I thought they might be too weird to post. However, since it's Halloween and, in the interest of embracing the strange side of myself and my art, I dug their container out of the pantry yesterday and aimed my camera in their direction. The skulls themselves are made of molded and hardened white sugar so I'm not sure how long they'll actually last. They've made it a year intact and free of mold...so far so good. I have stored them in an airtight container nestled amid those little packages of silica gel (you know the ones stamped "Do Not Eat"?) that come with a new pair of shoes or anything other product that needs to remain dry within its packaging before it gets into the hands of the consumer. I save every one of those packets I come across and toss them in with the skulls to keep my skeletal friends nice and moisture-free. By their smiles, it seems that all is well. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Finding My Authentic Mojo

As I've mentioned, I'm working my way through Tracy Verdugo's e-course "Paint Mojo." We're on the final week of this wonderful six-week course. Much of the content is centered around finding your own voice and connecting with the inspiration all around us to spark fresh, new works of art.

One component of this class is a week-by-week painting project. It is always difficult to learn from an artist with a very specific working style and NOT end up with something that looks like a mimic of that artist's work. Keeping this in mind, I followed Tracy's process up to a point. As the weeks progressed, I drifted more and more away from Tracy's instructions and back towards my own way of painting. Last week, our canvases had reached the point where we were beginning to look for something in the painting that was calling out to us to be brought forth. Students were finding soaring birds, elegant elephants, intriguing underwater scenes, ethereal ladies...in other words, lots of pretty things.

I tried to find something pretty, something "normal". I really did.

Instead, I found this fellow. He roared so loudly that I had no choice but to bring him to life. It is very important to note that although I am ceaselessly drawing them in my sketchbooks, I never, ever paint my creepy critters and characters onto canvas. Stretched canvas is so expensive that I reserve that substrate for my show work. (No, I am not able to stretch my own.) In addition, I've never considered my creature doodles as anything marketable so when I create work to sell, I stick with themes that are proven sellers. I love bird and animal imagery anyway so in the past, this tactic has worked for me. However, when this creature emerged from the paint, I experienced an amazing (and very scary!) change of mind.

I think it is time to take a risk and put together an entire show featuring my private passion front and center. Yikes! There is a good chance that this is a fool's errand. Let's face it: monsters aren't as living room compatible as pretty birds and elephants. This is really a matter of authenticity. I love creating creatures. As crazy as it sounds, they whisper things to me as they come to life. They tell me to play, to smile, to laugh, to be bold, to be content with who I am, awkward bits and all. I think it is time for my creatures to speak their truths to a wider audience.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

In Between Brush Strokes I Might Blog

Well, as per usual, frenzied prep for an art show landed in the midst of my newly-minted weekly schedule and my comforting, organized routine blew up in my face. I hadn't painted all summer due to my foot surgery so I was scrambling at the end of September to try and complete a few new pieces to hang. Then, just as I got the work, new and old, up on the wall, I booked another show for November and December. (Back to the easel I go!) In addition, I'm working through Tracy Verdugo's Paint Mojo e-course, an incredible, in-depth painting adventure that has captured my remaining spare moments after teaching and physical therapy are done for the week. (I won a spot in this class after Tracy offered a giveaway on her blog - so lucky!) Somewhere in there, I also had the first of two annual home inspections which always hit this time of year.

So ends my explanation for falling off the grid here at Lost Coast Post. Longtime readers will know I do this from time to time; if you're new to my blog...welcome! Be forewarned: with limited time and energy, blogging often falls to the bottom of the to-do list, especially when I'm caught up in painting. It occupies my heart, mind, and attention like no other activity in the studio. Even when I'm struggling, it is an extremely meditative process. I forget to clean the house, make meals, to say nothing of blogging. I guess it makes me a bad blogger but I think I am an infinitely better person and artist when I follow my Muse whenever, wherever, and however She appears. After eight years, I keep returning to this space despite my many distractions and challenges. As always, I appreciate my readers' tolerance of my inconsistent publishing habits so I can indulge my artistic fancies. I'll try to get back to my twice-a-week posting schedule but right now, art is constantly calling me away from the online world. I need to answer that call while I can.

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. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Learning to Let Go

I have this compulsive tendency to compartmentalize my journals:  I like to keep techniques, themes, and sometimes even color palettes consistent throughout a single journal.  This is why I have more than a dozen journals in progress.  So when I started this sketching journal, my first impulse was to fill it only with sketches - no playing around, no experimenting, no sampling - this was going to be my "good" journal.  I planned on putting all that other stuff in a less important, less precious book.

Luckily, being confined to the couch made it impractical to have stacks of journals next to me so I had to set aside my discomfort and just make use of the journal I had in front of me.  Does it bother me to have these artistic digressions alongside my "pretty," completed pages?  Well, admittedly, it is hard to loosen my iron grip on the content and "look" of my journals.  However, I am continually striving to relax, to let go of that drive towards perfection.   In all aspects of my life, I absolutely need to reduce the amount of pressure I put on myself; my health circumstances alone demand it.  I think my journals are a great place to begin working towards that goal.

This kind of sketching also lends itself to less-than-perfect pages.  I have thrown out the notion of pencil "predrawing" and draw only in pen.  If I bobble a line, I either ignore my "mistake" and proceed blindly onward or I add the "correct" line right alongside the oopsy one.   And let me just say, that credit for this change in approach goes directly to Mary Ann Moss, headmistress of Sketchbookery and many other fabulous classes.  I've never been very good at fearlessness in art but Miss Moss has taught myself and many others to just begin, to stumble along joyfully, and to trust that all will be well in the end.  I am hoping this mindset will spill over into other areas of my life as I doodle my world in my journal. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sketchbookery: Keys & Tubes

I'm on the "no walking" restriction for at least another week (and perhaps more if the incision continues to balk at staying closed) so I am still tucked in at home, drawing on the couch, art supplies covering every available surface within arm's length.  I've been unsuccessful at convincing my son to gather stuff from outside for me to draw so as of now, my Sketchbookery sketchbook is filling up with renderings of inorganic objects.  Luckily, my studio has yielded a treasure trove of odds & ends for drawing practice.

I've realized that I particularly like to draw collections of similar objects.  This page of vintage and modern keys took three days to complete and more than a few curse words slipped from my mouth as I worked on rendering the varying shades of metal, from shiny silver to tarnished brass.  All the work was worth it in the end as this is probably one of my favorite drawings ever.  I did give myself a bit of a scare at the end though because when the page was finished, I impulsively decided to splatter the page with a paintbrush and a drippy watercolor crayon.  Literally, the second the paint began flying towards all my hard work, I regretted my impulse.  However, by some miracle, nothing got obscured by a rogue blob of color and my neighbors were spared the cries of rage and sorrow that surely would've resulted.

This second page is my version of a color wheel.  Ever since art school and its seemingly endless string of "Create-A-Color-Wheel" commandments, I involuntarily groan aloud when a color wheel assignment crosses my path.  Color wheels (and knowledge of color relationships) are valuable tools and in fact, I reference one almost every time I work but I am deeply tired of making them in the classic format.  This page is my way of adding some challenge and variety to the standard color wheel project.  And again, I like drawing different versions of the same object.  Some of those paint tubes ended up waaay out of proportion but Miss Mary Ann Moss has done a great job of teaching me to keep drawing no matter what the evil critic voices are screaming in my ear. 

PS...Under that scrap of ledger paper on the "keys" page is a HUGE lettering error.  I tried some kind of crazy, triple-shadowed, boxed-in Roman capitals and it wasn't even remotely readable.  The ledger paper cover-up solution worked better for the page overall anyway.  So, don't give up if something goes sideways!  Just adjust your direction accordingly and keep on sailing!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Couch Art Days

As of today - Sunday, July 20 - I am just a couple days shy of three weeks since I had my foot surgery.  It has been a painful, bumpy road to say the least.  Before the surgery, I surrounded my couch/bed with good books and good movies as well as a small art kit.  I had all sorts of plans to spend my recovery days blissfully entertaining myself whilst everything healed.  Unfortunately, I severely underestimated post-surgery pain and the all-consuming difficulties associated with being completely unable to bear weight on one leg.  Forget walking: for the most part, I couldn't even move my foot out of a horizontal position, much less put it down on the floor.  I'm just now starting to let my foot hang down and even that is frowned upon by the doctors.

Anyway, my world is confined to the upper floor of my apartment (and yes...the stairs have presented quite the challenge when I have to come & go for appointments!)  More specifically, I am restricted to my couch/bed, foot propped up on pillows while I battle the worst case of cabin fever ever.  Luckily, I had the foresight before surgery to sign up for Sketchbookery, a fabulous new class from Mary Ann Moss.  I wasn't sure I'd even be interested in following along with all the lessons but it turns out that it's about the only thing that actually distracts me from the misery and worry.

I stack my supplies next to me, leaving room for the kitties to snooze, and balance my sketchbook in my lap.  Between the awkward drawing position, pain meds, and Parkinson's, my lines are extra wobbly but I find that just helps me loosen up (literally and mentally.)  Adding watercolor is a bit tricky but I'm managing.  It takes me all day (or even two) to complete a page but I've got all the time in the world right now.  I'm trying concentrate on just keeping the pen moving while sending positive vibes to my wounded foot that is refusing to heal on schedule.  Narrowing my focus to a simple, everyday object keeps my mind from wandering towards more gloomy, unproductive territory.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quickie Update from the One-Footed Wonder

Just a quick pop-in to let everyone know I'm still here after my foot surgery on July 1st.  Things are not progressing smoothly and I've been dealing with one complication after another.  My doctors tell me though that all the problems I've experienced are pretty much par for the course given the site & size of the incision and complexity of the surgery.  So I'm on the couch, watching Netflix, reading, napping, and drawing as inspired by Sketchbookery, a new class from the wonderful Mary Ann Moss.  I'll post again in the next couple of days once I manage to get to the camera and snap some well-lit shots of my work. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Show Me Your Brave

Now before the Internet grammar police descend upon me like a pack of rabid wolves, let me begin by saying that the choice of "your" vs "you're" in this sketchbook drawing is deliberate.  As I prepare for my 11th and most serious surgery to date, I've had the Sara Bareilles tune "Brave" on my mind and one line in particular: "Show me how big your brave is."  I love the concept of bravery as a tangible thing.  Courage isn't just some ethereal character trait we possess but also something that has a look, a feel, an identity.  Courage has substance and its weight can squash fear flat.  Perhaps for this little achromatic creature, his brave is manifested through his choice of rainbow-splashed, propeller-adorned headgear.

In about a week, I am having a subtotal plantar fasciectomy on my left foot along with a bunionectomy.  For lovers of Latiin roots, "-ectomy" means "removal" as in the surgeon will be removing all of the plantar fascia from the arch of my foot in the hopes of permanently removing a large fibroma that currently makes walking awkward and agonizing.  The incision will wrap in a lazy "S" from my heel to up around my little toe, where the surgeon will also correct a bunion that has developed after years of walking on the side of my foot to avoid the lump in my arch.  Ouch!

Post-operatively, I am looking at four to six weeks of non-weight bearing recovery.  This translates to lots of Netflix viewing and hopefully, a concurrent application of decent pain meds so I can actually focus on what I'm watching.  After that, it's off to physical therapy to learn to walk on my "new" foot.  The reoccurance rate for fibromas tackled this way sits at about 25% so I am going into this procedure hoping to be part of the 75% who get lucky and find a solution to their plantar fibromatosis.  I have this condition in both feet and just for kicks, I have the hand version bilaterally as well.  (Nothing's ever simple.)

Anyway, long story short, I've been doing a lot of looking for my brave lately.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Finishing Up the Scraps Journal

This post technically covers weeks 11 through 17 of my sabbatical.  I considered continuing the weekly round-up of my sabbatical adventures but not too long from now, I'll be having surgery and I can guarantee that in the rare chance I make it to the computer during my recovery, the content of my posts will be simply "!#$@! This hurts!"  So I'll drop the requisite post headline and merely tag the posts "sabbatical" so you'll be able to find all such posts together should you get a wild hair to read my accounts in order and in their entirety.

After about 7 to 8 months away from the practice, I am slowly returning to journaling.  It is such a soothing process and I'm in serious need of soothing right now.  Ironically, I began my reintroduction to journaling by concluding a journal.  My Scraps journal had just a few unfinished pages remaining so I played for a day or so and was able to add another completed journal to the shelf.

I originally started this journal as a sort of background playground but towards the end, I felt like taking the pages a bit closer to fully composed pieces.  These efforts triggered some ideas for future projects so I am glad I didn't abandon this book after so long away.  After the initial week or so of post-op recovery, I hope I'll feel well enough to make it to my studio table and see my new projects fulfilled.  Luckily, journaling doesn't require the ability to walk (especially if one's studio is organized accordingly.)  If I am really forced to keep my foot constantly elevated for four weeks, I'll just journal on the couch with a greatly simplified toolkit.   

 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Sabbatical...

Hello there dear readers...

An long overdue update is coming...probably this coming Thursday when I have a moment to gather my thoughts and shoot some pictures.  Although this space has been quiet, I was proceeding along behind the scenes, making art with renewed vigor as the school year drew to a close.  This space was silent because my days were full.  And then, in the space of a 20-minute doctor's visit, my entire summer has spun in an unexpected and unwanted direction.

At first, I was devastated.  In about a month, I'm going under the surgeon's knife for the 11th time (my 9th surgery in 13 years.)  Rehab will be a bitch...there's no sugarcoating that fact.  My ability to walk normally (or at least pain-free) for the rest of my life is on the line.  And yet, after the initial despair and frustration, a quiet feeling of determination bloomed in my heart like a flower that senses the barest glimmer of sunrise and opens to catch the warmth.  I squared my shoulders and began again.  10 surgeries have provided plenty of practice in logistical planning.  I am rallying a support team and - most importantly - I am in the studio, surrounded by stacks of pretty papers and baskets brimming with paint tubes.  Inevitably, life foils best laid plans.  We are compelled to make new plans and then we go on.  That is all any of us can do.  It is what I will do.

More details forthcoming as well as glimpses of my recent work...if you are still there, I am grateful.  I hope all of your days have been filled with art and joy...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Notes from My Sabbatical: Weeks 9 & 10

"Out for a Walk"

I've been immersed in an Easter break vacation from teaching at the charter school that usually occupies my Friday mornings.  Just one more month there and I am off for the summer...whoo hoo!  By this time of year, I am ready to be free of weekly lesson planning and prepping.  I'll recharge for a couple of months and be ready to go again by September.

In my free time, I've continued to play around in my sketchbook.  After a quick flip-through of my drawings, I realized that 99.99% of my characters and creatures are in a static pose, frozen in position facing forward out of the page.  In order to tell stories with my illustrations, I've got to get those characters up and moving.  To start this fellow on his way, I quickly scribbled a shape that became his head.  Before I knew it, he was sauntering off the page, faithful hound in tow, a skip in his step and a song in his heart.  My doodles want something to do besides posing, mug shot-style.  The minute I gift them with a purpose, their story bubbles to the surface.  Something to keep in mind as I move onward with my exploration of illustration. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Notes from My Sabbatical: Week 8

"Paradoxical Delights" 

I am always intrigued by the paradoxes that reveal themselves in the studio when I take time to notice them.  For instance, I've realized that when I restrict my palette, I often feel that my muse is set free.  And when I decide to turn to "the dark side," I am contradictorily filled with laughter and light.  I am sometimes at my best when I feel my worst and when I allow myself to believe that the end result is of no consequence, I produce work that is anything but inconsequential.  Such are the delights of late, here in the warming, blooming air of spring.  I bend to my sketchbook, caught up in the quiet act of creation and from my tools, creatures are born.  They are filled with shadow and yet sometimes arrive bearing a shy smile and a pink balloon.  Hello there, wee beastie...welcome to the world.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Notes from My Sabbatical: Weeks 5, 6, and 7

"My Sketchbook is Going Dark"

As you can tell from my multi-week check-in coverage, it has been more "lost" than "post" here on the Pacific coast.  As the seemingly interminable winter yields to the slowly gathering warmth of the fairer seasons, my days have picked up pace.  The irritating spring rituals of taxes and student aid applications had to be completed.  My teaching semester is winding down (I'm done at the end of May until September) and so I am looking forward to fresh teaching opportunities in my community.  There's a show looming in May which means I'll spend the balance of April painting while trying to keep up with my assignments for "The Year of the Fairy Tale."  My days have been filled to bursting and yet, somehow, I found time to pause and really think some deep thoughts about where I'd like to take my art next.

I'm going to be forging a new path.  I have things I want to accomplish before the Parkinson's makes me too unsteady to realize the images and ideas in my head...but that's the simplistic explanation for my decision to try some new things.  In truth, these "new" things have been percolating in my brain for years, even decades.  I began setting the stage for this next phase in my art life a couple of years ago when I decided to focus more on illustration.  As I drew and doodled, I built my confidence and technical ability.  Now, with some significant time away from journaling (which, of course, opened up more time for drawing), I realize that I just might have reached that magic place where ability and aspiration meet.  Now just might be the time to stretch in a different direction...

Ever since I was little, I've been inspired by all things science fiction and fantasy.  I grew up on The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Lost in Space, The Outer Limits, The Munsters.  I adore old-school, black & white horror flicks as well as B-movie sci-fi fare from the fifties.  Some more modern idols include Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, and Guillermo del Toro.  Looking through my sketchbooks from the last couple of years, I realize my fascination with robots and monsters was "gateway art."  After so much time lurking around a path I've wanted to explore all along, I've finally decided to step over the threshold and let myself dabble in a bit darker palette.

I'm fairly good at "pretty" but to tell the complete truth, I've also sort of felt all my cute and pretty art was sort of safe.  I've often thought that it was more acceptable to draw cute things, more "mainstream."  I've been afraid to get a little edgy.  After all, even my "sweet" illustrations kill comments and views around here.  However, if I've realized one thing during my "sabbatical," it's that I have no real need anymore for what going on in the mainstream.  I care about what's happening in my mindstream.  I care about letting characters loose upon the world while I am able.  And I'll tell you now that many of those characters & creatures might be a touch shifty with a moral compass that's slightly askew.  I'm not abandoning cute but rather balancing that with a side of creepy.  Silly needs to snuggle in with sinister. 

There's no specific end goal, no secret project or career ambition driving this turn off the pavement and into the wilds.  I am doing this simply because I've always wanted to...there is no better reason than that.  Maybe this will be only a passing phase...maybe I'll fight my way through the underbrush and realize I prefer a more comfortable path...or maybe, just maybe, I'll forge a brand new, exciting road.  All I know for sure is that I'll never know if I never begin.     

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Notes from My Sabbatical: Week 4

"Wandering"

It has been a strange week, alternating between skull-crushing migraines and highly-productive, happy days.  My time in the studio is solely focused on assignments from the "Year of the Fairy Tale" class.  I'm not working in any sort of logical, linear fashion.  Instead, I'm bouncing between tasks, painting one day and sketching the next; sometimes I paint my sketches and sometimes I sketch into my paintings.  In short, I am letting my muse do whatever she damn well pleases.  Because of this, it has taken days to complete this study sheet of my princess in her froggy form.  I was experimenting here with different combinations of techniques, trying to settle on one style that I will pull forward into all my spot illustrations for this fairy tale.  I am filling my spare moments with joyful realization of my imagination's notions and as I set the long-caged characters free, my head and shoulders lift with relief.  This is what art-making should be about...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Notes from My Sabbatical: Week 3

"Full Circle"

After months away from all my colorful supplies, I discovered it was very, very difficult to get started on the mixed media portion of the "Year of the Fairy Tale" assignments.  The sketchbook felt comfortable, safe, manageable.  I actually dreaded the thought of dragging out a bunch of materials, the inevitable clutter invading my workspace.  I'm craving quiet and simplicity right now.  However, in the interest of not falling too far behind, I moved forward last night and played just a bit with watercolors.  My wee frog princess is starting to develop, shown here holding the arrow shot into the swamp by Ivan, the young tsar-to-be in search of a bride.

It is so delightful to fill the spare moments of my days with fairy tales and illustration.  I haven't worked in my journal since maybe last November.  I wonder if perhaps I'm moving away from that pursuit.  Indeed, it feels like I'm coming full circle: I began my serious art studies with scientific illustration, moved into printmaking, bookmaking, then journaling.  All along, my imagination whispered to me, characters gently advocating for their release from my head.  I shushed them all, not feeling confidant enough to draw from my heart instead of my eyes.  After years of casual doodling and teaching cartooning, I'm starting to believe I can give my imagination life.  Sometimes there is a perceived gap between what I see in my mind's eye and what I am actually capable of rendering.  I think that I've been assuming that gap is a chasm when in fact, it may be more of a hop, skip, and a jump.  Of course, I didn't discover the truth of the matter until I actually set self-criticism aside and made the leap.       


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Notes from My Sabbatical: Week 2

"Stepping Out of the Chaos"

Well, welcome to the "Monday-Check-In-on-a-Wednesday"...heh, heh...Time flies when you're ignoring it...


It has been two weeks and (as beginnings typically do) things have been proceeding along swimmingly.  It is amazing how just making a declaration of new direction can, in fact, start propelling you in that direction.  I've spent a lot of time lounging in my sketchbook dedicated to my "Year of the Fairy Tale" work.  This illustration class taught by Carla Sonheim is turning out to be everything I had hoped for and so much more!  A big component of my decision to take a sabbatical (even if it is mostly a figurative one) was that I wanted to completely commit myself to this class.  We're only two months in and I feel it will prove to be an absolutely transformative experience for my art and art life.

All this patient sketchbook work has helped me build sustained moments where I step out of the busyness that sweeps me along through the days.  In my peripheral vision, I sense life continuing to rush by but I am learning to focus on the quiet scratching of pencil on paper; time slows as does my heart rate.  Princesses and frogs rise out of my graphite dust and I am content.  It is really difficult to feel fulfilled by a passion when three-quarters of your brain is preoccupied with the stress of living so this "time-slowing" is essential to master if I want to get the most out of this artistic life I have chosen.
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