Friday, October 28, 2016

Reevaluating My Journal Style: Part 1

I have a notebook where I jot down ideas and outlines for blog posts and at this point, I have a lot of things to write about. As usual, I'm just trying to find the time. It took me a while to recharge after my trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last week; I think that, in general, it is taking me longer to recuperate from most activities, both mundane and out of the ordinary. Still moving onward though so it's all good.

I've been journaling more of late but as I sling paint and glue paper, I am starting to consider where I might take the practice next. I aim to allow my gut and my subconscious lead my art life so I pulled down several volumes of journals and sketchbooks to discover what patterns I saw and what emotions I felt.

When I browsed through past journals, I found two basic types of pages. Most are deliberately composed within a finite time frame: I had an idea, sat down, executed it, and called it done. I also have pages (almost exclusively in my sketch/illustration books) that have spontaneously evolved over a non-specific amount of time. Both ways of journaling are important and offer me different things but I find myself deeply smitten by my sketchbook pages, the ones with random sketches, color swatches, notes about my day, project ideas, quotes I love.

It is possible that I am most intrigued by my sketchbooks because for the last few years, I've been leaning heavily towards drawing and illustration. My word of the year (and for perhaps for ever after) is "story" and not only do my sketchbooks tell overt stories through the drawings I create, they provide other tales as well: what supplies I was testing, what things I was seeing, experiencing, doing on a particular day. Whereas my deliberately-composed pages are moments/thoughts frozen in time, these sketchbook pages are alive. I can easily return to them for reference and in doing so, I often find that I have new things to add, further complicating and invigorating them. Most importantly, these pages are also subverting the perfectionistic planner in me; the goal is the mere collection of images and ideas, not the competent composition of that collection. 

NOTE: The pages shown in this post (from my mini "Unexpected Convergences" journal) are a slight fusion of these two styles of working. The backgrounds are built over time as I clean my paintbrushes off here and there or tack down scraps of paper that are cluttering my table. I start deliberate work on the pages once I feel like I have enough interesting color and marks to work with. Next post, I'll show a few of those "smorgasbord" sketchbook pages I've been talking about...

Monday, October 17, 2016

On the Road

This pic has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of this post but it was the best I could come up with in the midst of packing. I'm traveling this week to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with my art students and most of the middle/high school teaching staff; we'll be seeing Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Charles Dicken's Great Expectations, touring the Southern Oregon University campus, shopping & eating in downtown Ashland, taking acting classes, keeping a travel journal, and trying to sleep somewhere in between. My biggest hope is that the weather improves between the California coast and the Oregon interior: it has been raining buckets here and since most of our Asland adventures are outdoors, a tapering off of the precipitation will be welcome. I'll get back to posting once I return and catch up with sleep, peace, and quiet.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Inktober 2016 Days 3 through 7

So far I'm keeping up with this challenge but I anticipate having to quit midway through because I'm traveling to Ashland with my students the week after next and there'll hardly be time for sleeping, much less personal drawing projects. Nevertheless, I'll keep on doodling until the time crunch catches up to me. The alternate title for this piece is "Me, Before my Morning Coffee."

As I said, I'm working in an "old school" Moleskine sketchbook (before they changed their paper stock) and I'm trying to stick to black, white, grey, and the occasional pop of red. I am not following the official Inktober prompts; in general, prompts tend to freeze up my brain rather than inspiring it. That said, my very loose theme for this challenge is "Science Fiction TV and Movies." This piece is an homage to Roger Corman's cheesy B-movie, Wasp Woman (1959.) If you haven't seen this flick, trust me when I say that my version is much more sexy and appealing than the original.

Sometimes I am rendering classic movie creatures in fresh situations such as this Creature from the Black Lagoon ready for summer in his straw hat and vintage swim suit.

I am also trying my hand at a bit of caricature. For me, no retrospective on science fiction would be complete without mention of Twilight Zone creator, Rod Serling. I still watch this show on a regular basis even though I've seen some episodes dozens of times. To me, its writing and themes are timeless.

This piece is supposed to be a nod to Frank Gorshin's Riddler from the 1960s Batman television series. This did NOT turn out how I envisioned but I'm setting aside my hatred of this piece and moving forward. There really are no mistakes or failures in art; each misstep is a learning experience and I gain as much from pieces that don't work as I do from ones that are successful.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Figmenta Finally Out in the World

My 2016 show, Figmenta, is finally up on the wall out in the world! I was unsure how these relatively small works would look displayed on a very large wall but I was delighted to discover that I had made just enough (22) to fit the space perfectly in a soft, flowing line with a bit of breathing room between each piece. Everything is at eye level so people can get up close to see the details and read the tags.

I love this show for many reasons. First and foremost, I followed an inner voice that told me to take a risk, set aside the canvas for a while, and to make my character sculptures the focus. In addition, this show was very easy to execute from an inspiration perspective. I never tired of creating these pieces and in fact, I had to force myself to stop production so I had sufficient time for the labels and show signage. My 2017 show is already scheduled and I know that next year I will return to painting but I have a feeling that more sculpture work will worm its way into Figmenta, Vol 2.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Inktober 2016

I confess that I'm not terrific at participating in online art challenges; my life just doesn't seem to remain steady and predictable so I can rely on enough time to see things through. However, every little bit I do adds up and occasionally, I do manage to complete something despite the constant roadblocks. In this spirit, I am trying to participate in Inktober this year as much as possible. This has grown into a very popular challenge since illustrator Jake Parker started it in 2009; I believe he said in a recent Facebook post that upwards of 200,000 people are posting art this year with the Inktober hashtag.

I like this challenge because it is deceptively simple: every day in October, create a drawing in ink (pre-drawing in pencil allowed.) However, for mixed media artists who are used to playing with every medium known to man all at once, it can be really hard to pare down to such basic supplies and technique. I find it very refreshing and I love the reconnection I feel to drawing.

I am working in an "old school Moleskine" (i.e. before Moleskine reduced the quality of their journal paper.) I'll never, ever buy another Moleskine (it is Stillman & Birn forever & always for me now) but this is a Moleskine I acquired years ago when my local Borders went under and the paper is wonderfully thick, cream-colored stock that is fantastic for dry drawing media.

I started this challenge thinking that I would just draw random, unconnected things so I began with a sweet little gnome under his mushroom home. I just couldn't resist the call of October though; this month brings all sorts of creepy, oddball, and weird images out of the shadows in celebration of Halloween and the Day of the Dead. This is my most favorite month of the year so I quickly decided to focus on creatures for as long as I feel inspired to do so. Thus, Frankenstein showed up on Day 2 of my Inktober, complete with his "I [heart] Science" badge. Of course, I'm already behind: the drawings are up-to-date but I haven't inked them. No worries...I'll keep moving forward even if I'm behind and see where I end up. As per the challenge guidelines, I'll post my drawings as they happen. Hope you enjoy them...

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fleeting Art, Lasting Memories

This past Saturday morning debuted with deep gray thunderheads in the sky and a fifty percent chance of rain in the forecast. This was not welcome news given that it was also the day for "Pastels on the Plaza," an annual fundraising event in my hometown that brings together artists and businesses to chalk the town square. However, tradition demands that the sidewalk art party proceeds rain or shine (within reason) and since rain had not yet fallen, I packed my supplies for the day: soft pastels, chunky sidewalk chalk, spray bottle, water, rags, snacks, sunhat, sunscreen, anti-fatigue mat, camera, and sketchbook. At 7:15am, I headed for the plaza.

Upon check-in, I received a set of pastels and the go-ahead to pick a square. I tried to surmise (optimistically) what spot would be best to photograph once the sun was overhead. I steered clear of cracked pavement and aimed for something close to a bathroom. Once I settled on a square, I got to work.

Soon the plaza was filled with artists on their hands and knees, sketching, spritzing, chalking, smoothing, blending. My plan was to work quickly from the top down, trying to remember to take regular breaks to stand and stretch. It was easy to forget to do that since it actually isn't too painful to be on your hands & knees if you have a quality mat...until, that is, you decide to stand up. The process of sidewalk art is also quite mesmerizing as you aim to get solid coverage, grinding to pastels into the pavement. Entire sticks disappear in a matter of seconds. Luckily, event coordinators provide huge bins of extra pastels sorted by color in case you need more than what's provided at the outset.

I discovered two very curious challenges. First, besides being important for physical reasons, it is necessary to stand frequently so you can gain the proper perspective on your work. Up close, it seems like the bumpy stone will never get covered and that your image is blurry and boring. From a distance  - as these works are meant to be viewed - the image comes together. It was also interesting having a parade of people behind me as I worked. I had to set aside my self-consciousness (every artist's rear end was unavoidably on display for passersby.) It was also interesting to hear a constant stream of commentary and the almost ceaseless click of camera shutters. This event draws many onlookers and so it becomes almost performance art. Luckily, I never heard a negative comment; I did draw the attention of many children which, for me, was really the point of the image I chose to do. I wanted to create something full of color and whimsy, something bold and bright that would make people smile.

It took me about four hours to complete my "square" (which was approximately 3 x 4 feet.) I saved a lot of time by creating the initial layer of color with fat sidewalk chalks. I used the tiny, fragile chalk pastels on top of that to create a more solid layer of color and to add highlights & shadows.

I am very happy that I finally got to participate in this event. Not a single drop of rain fell on Saturday; in fact, the sun poked its brilliant face from behind the clouds on a regular basis. After just an hour or so of working, it was warm enough to strip off my sweatshirt and roll up my sleeves. Sunday morning I woke to a chorus of screaming muscles and the roar of a thunderstorm. Having graciously provided a beautiful day for the bloom of beautiful art on concrete, Nature reasserted herself the next day before dawn, washing the stone clean and sending a rainbow river rushing towards the street drains.

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