Thursday, December 17, 2015

An Old New Path Begins: Part 3 - Giving the Journey a Name

After that initial journaling session on November 28, that one where I sat back when finished and exclaimed "Holy Sh*t! This is it!", I began serious consideration of where it was I thought I needed to go. I looked back through my old blog posts and old journal entries for confirmation and then I began to try and clarify the path. Here's some of the notes I took so you can see my thought process:

* Journaling (as I've done it before) = a representation of my voice, my story

* I am ready have been ready for something new.

* All roads have led here.
  • I want to tell the stories of others: characters I've known, loved and/or imagined
  • I need a process to communicate those journaling but not...
  • A marriage of two passions: 1) illustration 2) art journaling
  • Need a simple way to frame this concept
  • 1st word that came to mind: tribe (as in "Find Your Tribe")
  • Maybe not so much find as acknowledge the one already there...
  • I am not/have not been as alone as I thought I was...
  • My tribe has been with me since the beginning...the very beginning...aka childhood
Precedent exists:
  • My own work & words (Fiddlestick Hollow, World Within, blog, Year of Fairy Tale, 365 characters, monsters, robots, journal pages, sculpture work, Girl Who Spoke, Estrellas story etc) 
  • Other artists who create characters (ie. Karen O'Brien, Mindy Lacefield, Juliette Crane)
Important Criteria:
  • Structure + serendipity
  • Emphasis on illustration 
  • Messy mixed media approach mashed together with detailed drawings
  • Look behind to see ahead (the characters are already there; they just need release)
  • Still need a place for "me" (journaling within background...private...hidden)
  • Ultimately, MY OWN STYLE MUST DOMINATE - inspiration OK but needs to be viewed cautiously - look for generic technique not artist-specific steps

After a few days of thought-gathering, a word for all of this rose to the surface: Storybooking (aka "storybook journaling.") As a quick Google session revealed, it isn't a wholly new word. There are sites that use the term "storybooking" to describe the process of adding narrative to photo books and scrapbooks. And "storybooking" can be found in the Urban Dictionary, an online resource with often dubious information. I take that particular reference with a very large grain of salt. 

I am using "storybooking" in a completely different context, one that I could not find elsewhere so perhaps, I am coining something new. My search wasn't exhaustive so let me know if you've heard this word used in this way before. Here's my definition/description of storybooking:

Storybooking is a form of art journaling that focuses on character depiction and/or development; characters can be pulled from previously published classics or can be newly-invented. Storybook pages tell a character(s) story: broad or narrow, obvious or obscure. The journaler's own life and thoughts can be contained on the page but are subordinate to the character's tale. 

So why (you may ask), do I feel like I need a label for this process I am now exploring? I'm not angling to develop a product line, start a new trend, or trademark a word. This is strictly for my own edification. 

First, I want to distinguish what I am doing now from what I have done before so I can let go of that old way of thinking. New roads seem more comforting to travel down if they at least have a name. Secondly, an encompassing label/definition really helps clarify the clues my subconscious has been dropping for years. (Interestingly, my own brainstorming session revealed that I have several "storybooking" projects already in progress, dating back almost a decade. Time to revisit those old friends to see what I was trying to say to myself.)

Giving the process a name or definition doesn't add limits; in fact, I think I'm only doing this right if the road is always a mystery just around the bend. As I work, I can see a little ways ahead. I work towards the next curve, unsure if the path will turn left or right, remain straight, or turn back on itself. The path will be in constant flux. That is the way it should be.

And now, dear readers, I leave you until January. At that time, I'll reveal my storybook pages in full and babble on about where I'm at so far. Besides exploring this new direction, I'll also be visiting family, binging on Netflix, crafting, drinking copious amounts of cocoa, chai, and coffee, listening to the rain, planning lessons and blog posts, relaxing, and generally making mischief in the studio. I hope your holidays are filled with beauty, bliss, and bounty. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Old New Path Begins: Part 2 - Provisions for the Journey

After the new year, I'll reveal where I've traveled artistically since late November but for now, I'm just posting about the trip preparations, talking through how I settled on my current itinerary in the studio.

As I related in the first part of this post series, I discovered many clues to this journey in past blog entries. I also found a wealth of inspiration in my past work and in the work of artists that I admire, old friends and new acquaintances. I am forging ahead on ground that feels both familiar and foreign; my work and the work of others create a little travel guide to accompany me as I move forward.

Remedios Varo
There are two artists in particular that are helping to illuminate the path. First, there's an artist that I've been obsessed with since art school (circa 2001-2002.) I minored in art history with an emphasis in Latin American art and it was in those classes that I was introduced to Remedios Varo. A Spanish expat to Mexico in the 1940s, Varo explored the characters inhabiting her mind in surreal paintings full of secrets and story. Varo is my number one art crush and in the last month, I have returned to her work for fresh inspiration and motivation. 

As for present day artists, there are many that inform my own work. Teesha Moore and Tim Burton have been particularly influential. However, in early December, I discovered a new-to-me artist through Seth Apter's long-running blog series "The Week Links" and this artist's work shook my very foundations. Roxanne Coble (aka bybun) is absolutely fabulous and it was stumbling upon her expressive, haunting journals that caused the shift in perception I needed to see the path I had been destined for all along. I'm not entirely sure why Coble's work was the kick I needed but what particularly caught my eye was the way she blends messy backgrounds with finely-rendered figures. I also love all the wild but thoughtful mark-making. To me, the pages reveal fragments of narrative that are tantalizing and mysterious. 

With all this inspiration in mind, I sat down to play with my current interests and style, pushing out into new territory while holding on to techniques and topics I really love. This resulted in a singularly breathtaking journaling session on November 28. I followed up that initial exploration with three more pages spaced out over a week's time and presto! My direction for 2016 became clear. Frankly, the light of realization has been a bit scary in its clarity and intensity but I continue inching my way forward, day by day.
While external inspiration is good, it is even better to be your own best guide. I also have to acknowledge that I've been leading myself along little by little over the years. My journal entitled "My World Within" is probably the earliest series of breadcrumbs. In 2013, I attempted to create 365 characters in the course of a year. I didn't hit that goal within that year itself but I kept on creating characters since that initial goal and now have created so many, I can't even manage an actual count. In addition, there are many, many journal pages that left visual messages from my subconscious, urging me to see where I needed to go. That "Striving for a New Perspective" page is from November 11 of this year. Once I started digging, I found dozens of pages like this one, dating back several years, all exhorting me to "follow the path" or to "look for something new." I can only say that it is an excellent idea to periodically review one's own work to see if you can spy consistent themes and/or repetitive "notes to self." Oh, and if you find them...listen to them!

Next Installment: Giving the Journey a Name

Sunday, December 13, 2015

An Old New Path Begins: Part 1 - Breadcrumbs

Warning: This and the following two posts are "brew-a-cup-of-tea-and-settle-in" posts, long-winded and wandering. They are, in large part, me talking myself through things. If that sort of thing interests you and you have the time, by all means, read on...

Dear readers: This week here at Lost Coast Post, I'll be posting about my artistic direction for 2016 (teasing you about where I'm headed) and then - from Dec 18 through Jan 4 - I'll be taking my annual posting hiatus. I'll be behind the scenes planning posts and photographing work but there won't be any new blog entries until after the first of the year...just a heads-up so you don't think this space has been abandoned.

Last week, I had an epiphany. Now "epiphany" implies that I had a sudden burst of inspiration and revelation, new insight that surprised me with its appearance in my brain. However, when I started digging into this epiphany, trying to discern its origin, I discovered that this is an epiphany that I've had before...many times (so many it is kind of embarrassing.) What's new this time around is an intense, gut-level feeling that I'm on the right track, faith that what will unfold is uniquely me and meant to be.

In researching the roots of this "new path," I found that it actually has revealed itself to me often over the last few years and that I laid down markers to its presence all throughout this blog and my work, like Hansel & Gretel's breadcrumbs that show the way home. Unfortunately, my breadcrumbs disappeared in true fairy tale form. No villainous birds were responsible; I simply failed to follow those clues and that neglect rendered the path invisible.

Here's a few of those "breadcrumbs" I found littering Lost Coast Post:
From August 6, 2010:
I desire two things: a feeling of childlike joy bubbling over in everything I create and an authentic, personal relationship with my creations.  Looking back through a ten-year portfolio and reaching back even farther into the mists of my childhood, I had an epiphany of sorts, a realization that is shaping up to be a huge whirlwind of new energy and exploration.

From August 17, 2010:
[O]ddball beings are clamoring to be heard; they want to materialize from the mists of my imagination into a world that may or may not look kindly upon their appearance.  But things are getting sort of loud in my head.  It is time to listen, no matter how scared I might be.

From July 19, 2012:
All the beings I had tucked away...were shouting in one, collective voice:  "Set us free!"  ...I began to reacquaint myself with the world I had abandoned and in the process, I realized it was really about setting myself free.

From April 7, 2014:
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...I'll forge a brand new, exciting road.
Do you get the idea? I could go on as there are many more tiny tidbits like these scattered throughout 9+ years of posts. The phrase "new path" or some variation on those words is particularly abundant. The difference now? Well, last week, I stumbled back upon this previously-paved path quite by accident, propelled by a stunningly revealing session in the studio. At the end of this particular session, I had the distinct impression that I had torn through the veil. Mental blocks, that had rendered my breadcrumbs invisible or impotent, simply dissolved and the way forward lit up like a string of Christmas lights.

That isn't to say that I'm not still in the dark. Just because there's a light on the path doesn't mean it isn't pitch black all around. Now, however, I am willing - gleefully, greedily - to proceed into the night, one little gleaming will-o-wisp of inspiration at a time.

Next installment: Provisions for the Journey

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Of Rain and Umbrellas

Finally, in the last couple of weeks, we've been getting the rain the state so desperately needs. Of course, Nature can't do anything in half measures so it seems like all the rain we've missed in the last year, showed up all at once in the course of two or three days. No matter. I love the rain. Whether gently pattering or wildly pounding, the sound of water upon roof is soothing. Before a storm, the wind is warm and blustery, the skies a deep slate grey full of liquid lullabies. And I love the freshness of post-storm air, washed clean of pollens and pollutants. Puddles delight the neighbors' children to no end and I'm amused to see them head right for the nearest pool of water regardless of their footwear, a clucking adult at their heels, trying to prevent the inevitable. (I'll admit to splashing through a few puddles myself just for fun.) In my corner of California, umbrellas are generally useless for anything but flying as the rain most often falls horizontally, driven from its otherwise downward path by fierce winds. Still, I like the symbolism of the umbrella, a shelter from storm that can go with us wherever we dare to travel. I try to carry invisible umbrellas with me when I head out into the world, small mental refuges that encircle me as protection against the surging deluge of injustice, hatred, pain, and ignorance. When I need physical protection from such horrors, I fall into the shelter of my art, wrapping myself in a rainbow of paint & paper to beat back the dark. I think maybe this blog is my way of holding out that umbrella of color and joy for others. Get under here, all of you, and let's stay warm & dry together...

Monday, December 7, 2015

New Ideas & Giveaway Winners

Just two weeks stand between me and a very much anticipated winter break...I have so many irons in the fire right now: teaching, sculpting, journaling, illustrating, present-making, ornament-making...a joyous and exhausting mix of must-dos and want-to-dos. And then, in the middle of everything, a fresh project idea surfaced, something incredibly exciting that has set my heart on fire. It is something that I've been building toward for a couple of years now but it also seemed to emerge unexpectedly from a sudden burst of inspiration & insight. I probably won't post about it in depth until after the first of the year (such a tease, I know) but I need to see if this is a project that will burn brightly for the long term; a little time will tell if I've hit upon something really profound or if it is another grand scheme that fizzles out. I've had a few of those so I'm a little wary now when I feel so impassioned about a new idea. In the meantime though, here's a little peek at my studio table when I first began exploring the edges of this new project, testing the waters and trying to tease out the direction this idea wants/needs to go.

Today, I also wanted to post the giveaway winners from my first ever Reader Appreciation Week. It makes me sad that I couldn't give something to everyone who stopped in to visit; tis the nature of giveaways, I'm afraid. However, I'm considering doing some surprise gifting next year...just picking a commenter at random and sending out a little bit of art if that person replies to my email request for an address. I definitely do want to do more giveaways in 2016; helping my work out into the world is an essential part of my artistic process. Anyhoo...without further ado, here's our winners:

Set of Art Cards: 
[domestic] Mary Jo 
[international] Jennifer Shelby

Strange Fowl painting:

Owl Pendant necklace:
Diane H

Hope collage:

Friday, December 4, 2015

Reader Appreciation Giveaway #4

EDIT: Entries are now closed!

Today's giveaway features a much, much older piece of mine, back when I was exploring the early "Petit Dolls" face-making style of Suzi Blu. Ultimately, I drifted away into my own style but I learned a tremendous amount from Suzi and to this day, I still use an abbreviated & altered version of her shading instructions to add depth to my characters' faces. This is collage and handpainted lettering on a 9x12-inch canvas board with a tiny faux pearl button and scrap of ribbon added for dimension. After all these years languishing in a drawer, she needs a home after all these years so please, if you so desire, add your name & email address in the comments.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Reader Appreciation Giveaway #3

EDIT: Entries are now closed!

This post is a little late in coming this morning (by this time in the work week, I'm running on fumes alone) but here it is:

A necklace in brassy gold featuring a wee watercolor owlet painting under glass. This pendant is a bit on the large side - 1-1/4 inches wide by 1-3/4 inches tall. A few years ago, I had this big idea that my little doodles might look good as necklaces; generally speaking, it was a flop but I still have all the supplies I acquired in pursuit of this fever dream.

Thank you for all your lovely comments! I must say that I'm a bit surprised (but definitely honored) that so many of you have been following this blog for a year or more. It is encouraging that people are willing to stay with the rollercoaster ride that is my life and Lost Coast Post. Some days I feel like a train wreck in slow motion but I've never been one of those "everything-is-blissful" types. I just put out there what I'm dealing with and how I'm dealing with it and hope that somewhere, between the lines, you'll glimpse the hope and fortitude I try to bring to every day, up, down, or sideways.

PS...Don't forget to leave your name and a working email...

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Paper Mosaic Aztec-Inspired Masks Next Up in the Classroom

Mid-week break in the Reader Appreciation Giveaways so people can catch up. My students and I embark today on the mosaic process of our Aztec-inspired masks. Everyone has their cardboard face created and gesso'ed black as well as their color map completed; now we begin the slow process of cutting and gluing small pieces of colored cardstock to stimulate turquoise, coral, gold, silver, obsidian, bone, and shell. Once the entire mask is covered, we'll apply a touch of faux gold leaf and finally, add a topcoat of gloss varnish. I can't wait to see all the finished projects!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Reader Appreciation Giveaways Day 2

EDIT: Entries are now closed!

It is very cool to hear from so many different people from so many different places! Your comments help stir up new ideas for blog posts and reassure me that I am on the right track with LCP. I often worry that I am too eclectic; I've always worked in many different arenas all at once and the wide-ranging variety of my blog content reflects that working style. I used to think that I would just post about one or two subjects and keep the rest private but ultimately, I decided to let the readers do their own moderating. You'll read what interests you and skip the rest.

Today's giveaway features a little canvas from my Sparks of Madness show this past summer. I did a series of bird paintings called "Strange Fowl" (a theme within a theme, if you will) and I had great fun inventing names for all my creations. This piece is rendered in acrylics on a standard depth 5x7-inch canvas. One lucky winner will be able to cross these "yellow-tufted screechers" off their lifetime list of imaginary birds. Same deal as yesterday: name, where you call home, and a working email address. Ideas for blog posts, questions, and general commentary are very much appreciated (and infinitely helpful) but not required. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Reader Appreciation Week Giveaways Begin

EDIT: Entires are now closed!

This time of year, I do a lot of thinking about this space: whether to continue, how to make it better, what new direction I might take. Lost Coast Post will turn ten in 2016 and this blog exists because I like rambling on about my art adventures and because I hope that some of my thoughts on life & art-making with chronic health issues are helpful to readers who may have their own challenges. You, dear readers, are what bring this space alive: your comments, questions, and encouragement - whether vocal or silent - keep pushing me forward, keep driving me to share and wonder and explore.

So I've decided to institute a "Reader Appreciation Week," featuring four days of small giveaways to say thank you to all of you for showing up here over the years. Entering the giveaways is easy-peasy: just click on the "comments" button and leave your name, where you're from, and a working email. International entries are welcome...if you promise to let me know if a prize arrives. I've had a few difficulties mailing overseas in the last couple of years (lost packages break my heart) but I want every reader - near and far - to have a chance to win.

I'm kicking off this week of giveaways with a set of 6 professionally printed cards featuring my art. There'll be 2 winners today - one domestic and one international. (Don't forget to add where you're from in your comment!)

Entries for all giveaways this week will close at 5pm PST, Saturday December 5th, 2015. Winners will be chosen randomly and announced Monday, December 7th. Mailings will go out as soon as I have received mailing info from the winners.

If, in leaving your comment, you can answer one of the following questions...well, that would be wonderful for me but not required for you. Feedback helps me tremendously - as it does every blogger - and I would be thrilled to read your answers.

  • How long have you been a Lost Coast "Postie?" (In other words, how long have you been a reader?)
  • I post about many different things. What most interests you about my blog or the art I share?
  • Is there anything that I haven't wrote about or done here at LCP that you'd like to see? 
Thank you to all of you for taking a moment from your busy lives to spend some time with me. Thank you for enduring my often wordy posts and sometimes unpredictable posting schedule. Thank you for all the warm thoughts about my art and my health. Thank you for keeping me company in this teeny-tiny corner of the vast internet that I call home!

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Wee Bit of Holiday Remains

For those in the States celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope everyone had a safe and warm holiday. (Those are my hopes every day for everyone wherever you call home.) My son and I had a fabulous time with family: food, board games, laughter, relaxation, catching up, hugs (lots of hugs.) A couple more days of vacation (which will actually be spent lesson planning and prepping) and I'll be recharged enough to tackle the three weeks of teaching before a two-week winter break. This is the most positive I've felt about the holiday season in a while so the "Buy! Buy! Buy!" onslaught of commercials will remain on "MUTE" (everything seems louder and more "flashy-flashy" this time of year) and I'll keep busy in the studio with silly little crafts to while away my free time. There'll be some journaling going on as well...just quietly puttering in paint here and there to blunt the frenzy that the season has become.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dance of the Calaveras

The biggest decision on my docket this morning is what color scarf a little sculpted rabbit requires to stay warm this wet and blustery day. *sigh* (I could get used to this.) Anyway, I'm finding it hard to surface to get real world stuff done like laundry, dishes, and lesson plans. Since tailoring for small creatures is so taxing, I'll keep this post short on words and long on pictures. 
I thought I'd show you a sampling of my students' work from our last project in Art One (upper middle/high school level.) In September, we created cardboard relief sugar skulls inspired by Day of the Dead imagery. In October, we discussed Mexican printmaker José Posada, who originated the calavera image. Posada used calaveras (skeletons dressed up in fancy finery) in political cartoons to comment on the excesses of the rich and the government in the face of the overwhelming poverty that marked Mexico during the era of dictator Porfirio Díaz. Today, calaveras are a popular everyday image in the Americas but they are particularly prevalent during Day of the Dead celebrations.
Students designed a calavera character, transferred that design to a 4x6-inch block of Speedball pink carving material, carved, and printed. They were required to submit at least two prints, one white ink on black paper and the other, black ink on white paper. The process took several weeks but the results are delightful as I'm sure you'll agree. I am so lucky to have such wonderfully creative and dedicated students. I love how each piece really reflects the taste, style, and personality of the individual student.

Friday, November 20, 2015

On Thanksgiving Break

You have no idea how happy I am that I'm currently on a break from teaching. Frankly, all the teachers get a weary look in their eyes this time of year; the kids are extra distracted by the general chaos of the season and the nasty weather that traps them inside. A little break is welcome by all. As usual, I have big plans for my time off; I don't always get around to actually doing everything I aim for but whatever I do, it will still be a quiet, relaxing time that will recharge my batteries. At the very least, it will be nice to have longer than 15 to 30 minutes in a day to make art. It will also be fabulous to gather with family for Thanksgiving. I hope everyone reading gets to have some quality art and family time this coming week.

Note: Even though readership drops off dramatically in November and December, I'll be posting right up until Christmas when I traditionally take a blogging break until after the first of the year. Hope you'll continue to bless this space with your time and interest.

Monday, November 16, 2015

I Am, Therefore I Can

Just four days of teaching stand between me and Thanksgiving break...can I get a "WhooHoo!?" I need some uninterrupted time to tackle a few persistent ideas that are demanding attention. I'm also looking forward to visiting family for the first time since last Christmas. I'd like to get some crafting and gift-making done for the holidays and of course, I need some time to just sit and do nothing except watch Netflix/Hulu and sip coffee while the rain pours down outside. (Please, please powers-that-be...can it rain my entire vacation?! My state needs it but I think my soul needs it more.) I adore teaching but it dominates my days, leaving little time or energy for anything else.  

I jumped back into my "Exultation" journal this past weekend. In case you missed its introduction, this is my "coloring book" journal where I scribble images in ballpoint pen with my left hand and then paint, doodle, and embellish. The first photo shows you the page prior to coloring; This picture is how the page ended up. Originally, the bird's head was painted just like the rest of the body but as I was shuffling paper scraps around on my table, that purple and green circle literally fell onto my open journal. I've learned to go where serendipity leads so my birdie acquired a brand new noggin! Such a handy thing...wish I could do that myself sometimes...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Flip-Through of Scraps Journal

So I uploaded my first video to YouTube, a flip-through of my Scraps journal which I completed in 2014. I posted all of the pictures here individually but I thought you might like to see how the journal evolves as a whole. Be gentle; I'm still learning and the camera is zoomed in a bit too close. In addition, I'm working with an extremely basic camera so the quality is not the best. One step at a time.

Note: For those who couldn't see the little practice video in my last post, know that it was uploaded directly to Blogger as a Flash video and if that program isn't up-to-date or enabled on your computer, you won't be able to view it. This one, however, is on YouTube and although my channel is currently unlisted, the above video should work for everyone *crosses fingers*

Friday, November 13, 2015

Look Mom! The Picture Moves!

This is silly times a hundred but I'm doing a wild "I Conquered Technology!" dance around the studio as I somehow managed to make my first ever video in iMovie!!!! 32 seconds of miracle here people! I'm posting it here with zero idea if it will play OK for everyone (and even less idea how to fix it if you can't.) You'll just have to bear with me as I experiment. For me, the only way to learn something (especially new technology) is to just play and fail and play some more. It is an uphill climb for this entrenched PC user but if I can figure out Mac, the door to Lost Coast Post is going to swing W-I-D-E open! (Cheering section and tips are deeply appreciated!)

PS...Thanks go out to Özge in Turkey for the soft nudge in the comments of my last post! Sometimes a small challenge is just what I need to get started...

EDIT - November 14, 2015: Apparently I uploaded this to Blogger as a Flash video, NOT to YouTube so if Flash is not up-to-date on your computer, you will simply see a patch of white where my little video should be. Never fear...I've figured out how to load my videos to YouTube so future videos should be available to all. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tinkering in Journals

I'm continuing to work on art things here and there so I'm having trouble finding completed stuff to photo and show here. This is an odd time of year and not always my favorite: I'm very sensitive to environmental noise and general busyness and wintertime simply seethes with chaos. I'm trying to work on government paperwork, cleaning the house from top to bottom for an inspection, preparing for the next two months of teaching (plans, step-outs, samples, research, lectures) and thinking about the coming holidays. This is also a time when I do some serious contemplating about the new year looming. Overall, 2015 has been pretty good to me but I do want to aim for some major changes and goals in 2016. For now though, just trying to stay present and peaceful. Journaling helps with that and so I tinker in all sorts of books whenever a few spare moments arise.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Lost Coast Post Tale

(A post sans photos so that the reader can imagine his or her own pictures...that and I didn't think to grab the camera...)

3:30 a.m...I stretch in bed, contemplating a new day while still half entangled in the dream world. I am reluctant to exit the warmth of my covers but I finally pull out my earplugs, deciding that a return to sleep is unlikely. What's this?! Rain, steadily drumming on the roof, sweet in sound and its mere presence. A long statewide drought has made rain sorely missed so I settle back in, letting the peaceful rhythm relax my muscles and mind. I begin to drift back to slumber.

Suddenly a long, low, urgent howling begins. I sit up instantly. I know it is Marley Bear, my giant marmalade cat, but in the dark, I can't see him. I call out his name and the howl gets more insistent, frequent. A crash of dishes and I half stumble, half run into the kitchen. Marley has a fondness for forts: blanket, box, cabinet. He often explores without an exit strategy and I have had to rescue him from whatever hidey-hole he mistakenly thought could accommodate 22 pounds of furry orange love.

I throw open cabinet doors, calling his name, and rattling glassware, thinking Bear's thankful face would poke out as it has done so many times before. Nothing. The frustrated and fearful howling is now joined by frantic scratching. Confounded, I stand in the kitchen, yelling "Bear! Bear! Where are you?" I am still draped in the vestiges of sleep and unable to think clearly. Where could he be?

I happen to look back towards my bed and see Tuscany, my calico, calmly staring in the direction of the sliding glass door at the far end of the room. She looks amused. I run toward the object of her attention and finally spy Bear, standing on his hind legs, head poking through the blinds, tail puffed out like a gigantic bottle brush. He is raking the glass with his claws and howling for all he's worth.

At first, I try to pull him away from the door. However, Bear is utterly focused and he leans his considerable weight against my hand, continuing to howl in long, deep tones. He sounds exactly like a beagle or bloodhound, alerting his mistress to an exciting discovery.

Finally, my brain seems to catch up to reality and I remember the light to the upstairs balcony. I flip the switch and push aside the blinds. Bear's howling strikes a new level of anxiety. I look out, see a flower pot overturned, its succulent crushed. "I'll have to repot that," I think. Bear is standing again, trying to dig his way through the glass but I can't see the source of his distress. "Bear! Calm down! What is wrong?" I'm starting to get annoyed; it wouldn't be the first time Marley has dragged me from bed before I'm ready. And then, in one last visual sweep of the balcony, I see what has Bear so worried.

There, clinging to the opposite side of the railing like a monkey, face etched with an unmistakable "Oh shit!" look, is a young raccoon. Blinking in the light, it looks at me and the wild cat at the window. The raccoon doesn't move and I begin to wonder if it is trapped on the balcony by the netting I installed to keep out nesting birds. The howling seems deafening and I am now anticipating a knock on the door from an angry, sleepy neighbor. The coon and cat are frozen in their respective positions and attitudes. I run downstairs and drag my sleepy son from bed. (He is even less functional than I when half-awake so I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish. Daniel is much stronger though and I guess I thought he could pull Bear back from his quarry.)

We rush back upstairs. Daniel, asleep on his feet, non-verbal, lumbering behind me like a lazy zombie but obviously trying to respond to his mother's urgency. I throw open the blinds and (of course) the raccoon is gone. Marley Bear is still pacing but now silent. I drag my poor son back downstairs to the patio door, searching in vain for the raccoon. Everything is quiet except for the dripping of rain on leaves. Daniel gives me a long, skeptical look, pats me on the shoulder, and turns back to his room. He mumbles something unintelligible and closes his bedroom door. At 4, on this wet Monday morning, I am left alone with a broken flowerpot and this story: "The Day Bear Treed his First Coon."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tinkering with Time

There just isn't enough time in the day, week, month, lifetime to do all the things I want to do. It is a familiar problem (for probably all of us) but I am reassessing my days to see if I can squeeze in a bit more studio work. Last week, in Ashland, Oregon, I had some rare time to wander about by myself, shop, eat lunch, sightsee, think. Out of financial necessity, I am currently living/working a schedule that is negatively impacting my health. However, I believe that if I work smarter and pay more attention to my personal needs, I can improve my ability to handle stress (which has a huge impact on Parkinson's Disease.) I have to have more time to make art; it keeps me sane and it can help to slow the loss of fine motor abilities I face. The old saying - Use it or lose it - is true. Anyway, I'm taking some time to ponder big issues and tinker with my schedule so I have more moments to consider the little things, like what color sweater a monster needs to stand out in a crowd. (Buster here says that orange stripes are in this season...just a heads up...)       

Monday, November 2, 2015

Returned from Travels

Last week, I traveled with 79 students and almost 20 adults as my school made its annual trip to Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Remembrances, musings, and photos (including those of the travel journal I kept) are forthcoming but it might be a couple of weeks. I returned home to the usual daily workload so I have to squeeze in finishing up the journal and processing photos in between teaching and an annual housing inspection/income verification. In addition, the holiday season is looming and that heralds days more chaotic than ever. I can say, however, that I had a wonderful time and that I survived in better shape than I anticipated. I cannot wait to return and I look ahead to traveling to Mexico next June with excitement. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dem Bones

This is another doodle from my "Drifting" journal, created earlier this Inktober but most appropriate for today. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bouncing from Project to Project

If you follow my blog even semi-regularly, you can probably tell that I'm all over the place in terms of what I work on from day to day. It isn't my preferred way to approach my art life (for more on that see this post) but given my current teaching workload and health challenges, I'll take what I can get: 15 minutes here, an hour there. I'm letting my whim lead me around by the nose; when I find the time and energy to make art, I just pick up whatever is at hand and get to work. So if you're looking for consistent updates on any one project in particular, you're out of luck. The wide variety of art that I post is a true reflection of how I can make art right now. When summer comes - and if I'm not in post-surgery mode yet again - I'll have time to get more focused. Anyhow, today I'm posting a page from my sketchbook...just a pretty flower I found on a walk and wanted to document.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Take a Tiny Seat

Daisy Yellow's Tiny Museum class initially sparked a foray into small abstracts (the focus of the class) but now I'm happily cavorting in the realm of illustrations fit for fairies. First landscapes and now chairs...because you need teensy-weensy seats to sit and appreciate itty-bitty landscapes...obviously! It took me a week to finish this sampler of watercolor and ink chairs only because my personal art-making time is very fractured as of late. Honestly, I think I could draw and paint nothing but chairs every day for a month - maybe two - and feel totally fulfilled as an artist. These were so much fun to do! More minuscule museum pieces are already under construction!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Under the Weather Just in Time for a Field Trip

So I'm supposed to do some traveling next week (for the first time in 22 years) and I am sick. I suppose it was inevitable: there's been a wave of illness washing through my art students and I guess I finally got caught in that storm.  Terrible timing! Luckily, I have a couple days at home to rally (or at least work through the worst of it) before I have to make a decision one way or the other. I was really looking forward to seeing Guys and Dolls and Pericles at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The kids (76 in all) will be creating a visual journal/sketchbook of their 4-day trip as well as completing a three-hour sketchcrawl in downtown Ashland. I need to be there for that so I'm going to hide away for a little bit and gather my strength...and the Sudafed, cough drops, hot tea, Advil, vitamin C, voodoo, hoodoo, and anything else I think might help me conquer the germs currently partying in my head and throat. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Drifting at 20,000 Leagues

Another page in my Drifting doodle journal where I simply play with shapes, repetition, color, and story. This one's titled "Unseen Peril at 20,000 Leagues." These little pages are good, quiet fun after a long day teaching and keeping tremors at bay.

Monday, October 19, 2015

In the School Garden...Magic Happened

Last week, I had one of those teaching days where I think "This....this is why I teach."

I had the day's sketching lesson all planned out. We were going to do the third (and final) in a series of coffee mug drawings, this time adding color as I had just introduced watercolor pencils the week prior. However, walking into the school, it was impossible to ignore the gorgeous garden, flowers everywhere, swaying gently in a light breeze that softened the heat of a brilliant sunny day. On the spot, I decided the kids would be drawing en plein air, out in the world for their first "live on location" journaling session.

We've been at this observational sketching thing for nearly two months now and the kids are progressing by leaps and bounds. There have been, of course, a few hiccups along the way due to the usual self-doubt that arises when you ask students to stretch outside of their comfort zone. In addition to a basic survey of drawing principles, we've been practicing letting go of perfectionism. Each sketching session is approached as an exercise in relaxation, mindfulness, and truly seeing. Up until this point, we have strictly focused on drawing objects set up in the classroom so I wasn't sure how this new assignment would be received. In the very least, I thought the kids would embrace the chance to get outside as any time away from "studies" is always greeted with enthusiasm.

After a brief discussion of composition, journaling, and the history behind plein air work, I sent the kids out into the garden armed with pens and paper. I thought maybe that they would be a bit restless but they settled in almost immediately, each in his or her own space, positioned in front of a flower or tree, silently drawing. The intensity was astonishing and after observing how focused the students were, my principal effectively cancelled the balance of afternoon classes so the kids could keep working (something that a charter school environment makes possible.) Some kids worked on their pages for nearly two hours, first inking their sketch, journaling, and then coloring with watercolor pencils. I listened to detailed conversations about the qualities of various pen nibs, the finer points of shading rocks, and color-mixing ideas to create the perfect shade of green for leaves dappled in light. I heard students complimenting the work of their peers and, more importantly, praising their own work. 

"In the garden I sat and observed the things all around me and just took it all in. The sun shining on the plant. Beautiful."
The writing was just as insightful. The gardening teacher/garden manager was especially moved by the students' renderings and writings. He told me that he always hoped that students would "see the beauty in the garden" he was working so hard to create. These pages are a testament to both the garden's simple elegance and the students' appreciation of the natural world. 

"I saw this flower and fell in love with it. It looked like this inside like it couldn't show how beautiful it really was. I felt like [I] could see [its] inner beauty."
This page in particular makes me teary-eyed every time I read it. I don't feel comfortable hinting at the the backstory of this student - even anonymously -  so my emotions surrounding this piece probably won't make complete sense. Let's just say that I want to whisper in this student's ear" "Honey...that flower is you." 

I am so honored to be these kids' art teacher. To my delight, they are absorbing the lessons, pushing for more, relaxing into their power to capture a moment with both delicacy and impact. Each student is finding his or her own style, even in the short time we've been at this. Questions are flying about art supplies, urban sketching, and travel journaling. "Can we do more drawing?" That question in particular is music to my ears.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Crows' Harvest

The (occasional) cooler temperatures that have arrived with the onset of fall inspired this page in my "Drifting" journal. I used to think that I wasn't a cold weather person but the extended drought here in California has me longing for a break from the sun. I miss rain showers and thunderstorms and mornings spent wrapped in flannel, clutching a mug of coffee while the wind rattles the sliding glass window.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Drifting Through Inktober

Looking back over my art of the last couple of months, I realize that I have become almost obsessed with work that is intensely, rigorously detailed and soothingly repetitive. I've always been fond of work that leans heavily on fine motor skills. However, I think the ponderous but noticeable advance of Parkinson's is driving my attention more and more towards art that - ironically - requires a steady, reliable hand. Specifically, I'm really focused on drawing and painting right now (with a side of sculpture for good measure.) 

This journal I've named "Drifting" began as a response to a pair of classes by Lisa Congdon called Sketchbook Explorations (you can find those over at Creativebug) but at some point, my explorations veered from the provided path. I love it when this happens; a spark lights a wick and I just follow the burning rope blindly, letting the glow of inspiration pull me forward towards images unknown. The fact that it is Inktober just adds fuel to the fire.

I really love the idea of overall patterns, a collection of shapes or doodles that fit together on a page like a puzzle. As prompted by Lisa, I played with pages filled with scallops, circles, and triangles. I like the challenge of filling the page here and there, trying to bring everything together in the end. And then, as I was finishing this page of circles I called "Wheel Galaxies," I felt that something new was near and that with just a bit of thinking, I might be able to uncover a fresh route of exploration. 

Inspiration is often prompted by asking questions and these are the questions I pondered: "What if I used recognizable images instead of geometric shapes to fill the page?" "How would I make such a page interesting?" "Could I tell a story with an extremely limited set of shapes?" I didn't have all the answers before I began this page (titled "Camouflage") but I didn't blunder around in the dark for long. My story popped right up out of the lily pond as I was in mid-doodle. (Do you see him?) From here, I was off and running. Stick around. More is coming.

Note: All pages completed using a white Uni-ball Signo, black Faber-Castell Pitt pens and Tombow markers.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Landscape Painting in Miniature

As a kid, I spent a month every summer with my grandparents in Grass Valley, California and those visits always included lunch with one of my grandmother's friends who specialized in miniature-making. She filled glass-fronted boxes with ornately detailed scenes: a market, an ice cream shop, a toy store. She made every little piece by hand with clay, fabric, and paper. I remember those magical boxes as if it were yesterday, my nose smooshed to the glass trying to absorb every detail and wondering at how someone could create such tiny representations of real-life things. So, when I first heard about Daisy Yellow's class Tiny Museum, I was immediately smitten with the idea. Miniatures still make me squeal involuntarily and I regularly buy little objects simply because they make me smile. 

After I completed my first page inspired by Tiny Museum, I decided that, while I liked the abstract miniatures a lot, the thought of pages filled with tiny representational images made my heart flutter. In that initial page, I created a monochromatic, impressionistic landscape featuring a lone tree and that small image sparked this subsequent page: 22 wee scenes of land, sea, sky, and civilization. (As a frame of reference...the sailboat seen above is just one-inch square.) Can you imagine these in diminutive wooden frames, perhaps adorning the walls of fairy homes? What about a literal "tiny museum," its walls filled with Lilliputian landscapes and portraits....swoon! That thread of thinking now has me working on a page of little portraits. I think my Tiny Museum explorations are just beginning...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Drifting Circles

Here's another page in my doodly "Drifting" journal. I've completed a bunch of pages since I last photographed this journal so there's more to come...just waiting for a day off so I can get some more pictures taken, processed, and uploaded.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tiny Museum Tango

Things are kind of rough right now on the homestead; health issues are occupying just about every waking moment while I push through work four days a week. Sometimes I wonder just how much I'm going to be able to tolerate but when certain "can't do anything about it" situations rise up up before you, the only thing to be done is to slip slide around, under, or through such things and just keep moving forward. I strive for net gains each day, even if it is only an inch or two. The upside is that I'm getting a crash course in self-care, something I've always found extremely difficult to follow-through on. 

Miraculously, the art-making continues on a daily basis. I'm not creating masterpieces here but instead, just trying to escape into color and pattern. I've been doing a lot of doodling but I'm also, very slowly, playing along with a fabulous new online class called "Tiny Museum," from the equally fabulous Tammy over at Daisy Yellow. That lady could motivate a snail to stand up and do the tango! Watercolor and gouache are certainly dancing together in my journal as I work through the many videos in this class. I'm sure everyone has their own approach but I enjoy working while listening to the videos, listening and following along very loosely while Tammy describes what's she's doing. Her enthusiasm is contagious and helps cut through the painful haze I am swimming through every day. If I get a few of these wee boxes of art completed - presto! - my daily inches of accomplishment and joy are done. I'm posting the first page I finished as inspired by "Tiny Museum." These pages can take several days as you wait for some blocks to dry so you can add new layers. That's just my speed. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

More Drifting

More pages from my "Drifting" journal as inspired by Lisa Congdon's drawing classes over on Creativebug. The first spread follows Lisa's instructions pretty much verbatim: light-colored marker background topped with black ink flower motifs. From there, I got a little wild, changing the direction of the marker swipes in the background and adding some water to help those marks bleed and blend. Once that was dry, I added ocean-themed doodles "fished" (sorry! couldn't help myself) from my imagination.

Lots of other stuff is brewing behind the scenes here at Lost Coast's the finding time to show & tell that's the hard part. Thanks for sticking with me...your readership and commentary is deeply appreciated!
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