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. 
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