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. 
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