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.
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