Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Filling Spare Moments with Play

Just under a month to go and I'll be able to throw myself full tilt into work for my show. In the meantime, I'm just messing' around in various journals: flinging, brushing, scraping, scratching paint. Here and there, I glue down a bit of tissue or image. I make marks, alternating between methodical and maniacal. I double back and add more paint. In short, I'm just playing, biding my time until I can get focused. Play is important though as it is the headspace in which I make new discoveries and develop fresh direction. This is one of those art play pages in a large (11x14 inch) mixed media journal. The blue feather image is a sun print and the swirly mark is a hand-carved stamp.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hacking the Studio: Vol. 1

A new post series begins today called "Hacking the Studio," a series of teeny-tiny tips on organization and supplies from my studio to yours. 

Boxed Alphabet Soup:
I love using clipped letters to create a "ransom note" look in my journals. When I'm not feeling up to anything that requires a lot of energy or focus, I sit quietly and cut up old magazines, harvesting any usable letters for future projects. When I have a satisfying pile of letters, I store them in a large index card file box that holds one envelope for every letter of the alphabet. When I want to spell something out, I just dig through the necessary envelopes; this makes the process a lot faster and I can see at a glance what I have available. Other artists organize their clipped letters in clear plastic tackle boxes. Do whatever works best for you. (I must admit here that I have a series of organizational envelopes for clipped words as well, sorting those by parts of speech but that might be a bit too obsessive for most people...it works though and makes found word poetry a snap! (In browsing my archives, I discovered I wrote about this process way back in 2009. Click this link for more info!)

Hair-Raising Book Tamers:
We all know that feeling of accomplishment when we complete a journal or book project, its pages bursting with artsy goodness, the covers bulging wildly with accumulated creativity. Rubber "book bands" are available at craft stores but they can be pricey and eventually, the rubber breaks down and the closure fails. As an alternative, purchase a multi-pack of sturdy, colorful hairbands at the dollar store. There's usually a wide selection of styles and colors to choose from and they work wonderfully to keep your overflowing journals in check. I find that hairbands last longer than simple loops of rubber and if they do break, they are inexpensive to replace.

Poster Fever:
My very favorite substrate for creating serendipity papers are posters and flyers I've scavenged from local bulletin boards. The text and imagery ultimately peeks through the subsequent layers of paint and marks, providing visual depth and interest. I try hard to only pull "expired" flyers advertising events that have already happened; it is not unusual for me to take note of posters I want and to revisit the board on the day the event is held just so I can snag the poster. I've even had stores hold posters for me when they clean off their bulletin boards. Sometimes I do see something I want badly - a poster with especially cool graphics, colors, or text - and I just might...possibly...manage to get said poster in my hands before its advertised activity takes place. I soothe my conscience by acknowledging that there are typically multiple copies posted throughout my town, sometimes even on a nearby telephone pole. I've noticed that the super fabulous posters often disappear quickly anyway so I suspect there may be others around town with the same idea. So if there's something that really catches my eye, it's "first come, first serve."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A History of Shows

A Selection of Pieces from My 1st Show
This October, I will be hanging my 10th original solo show. I've had more shows than that over the years but I'm just counting those times when an entirely new set of artworks first debuted to the public.

My very first show (May 2002) was entitled Menagerie and featured a series of creatures created in wire, polymer clay, beads, and charms. I was working on my studio art degree at Humboldt State University and I answered a call for portfolios and artist statements. Those portfolios were reviewed and from those submissions, a group of students were chosen to have solo shows in venues around campus. For my "portfolio," I chose to make a handmade storybook that featured photos of the clay characters I had been making alongside an original story that linked all of the pieces. For the show, I mounted the pieces in a line on black velvet-wrapped boards and together, they represented a story from dawn to dusk.

It took a long time for me to do my second show. I had moved from polymer clay work to mixed media canvases with an Oriental flare. The canvases were piling up and at some point, I worked up the nerve to take some of them into a local business that participates in the monthly art walk in my hometown. I just walked in without notice, paintings wrapped in brown paper, and asked if they would be interested in having them on their walls. I booked a show on the spot. (Here's my blog account of that moment from way back in 2007.) 
Show Signage Over the Years

I am now in the development stage for my 10th new body of work. My ideas are exciting and I can barely wait for the free time to see those ideas become reality. (Just eight weeks until summer vacation!)

My basic goal for each show is to push myself in new directions. I knew right from the start that I didn't want to present the same style, technique or theme every year as many artists do. At this point, the place in town where I regularly debut my new work has no idea what I'm hanging one year to the next. And yet, they say that no matter how different the theme or medium, all my various shows "still look like me." I love that! It gives me tremendous freedom to play, to take risks, to expand beyond my "box" and past my fears.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Encouragement from Dreamland: A New Tapestry Will Be Woven

I rarely have symbolic or prophetic dreams; mostly my sleep is filled with bizarre mashups of whatever science fiction or action flicks I consumed that day. I do a lot of swimming, running, and acrobatics in my sleep (which is probably inspired by the restless, jerky legs that PD brings to my nights.) If I'm lucky, Daniel Craig makes an appearance, doing his smokin' hot James Bond thing. However, I have had a handful of dreams over the years that I've considered important, messages from my subconscious that require closer examination. I write those dreams down in detail immediately upon waking so I can preserve that gift of wisdom from myself.


Last week, I dreamed I was standing on the second floor of a huge factory, leaning on a railing that bordered a metal walkway that overlooked a large machine. The machine was a giant loom and to each side of that were smaller looms. There were workers in greasy overalls working and they all looked like me. I couldn't make out what was being woven on the large central loom but on the smaller ones, I saw bits of my previous work represented as large rugs or perhaps wall hangings. The workers were unraveling those pieces of my art like you would a sweater. Stretched canvas paintings, doodled drawings, clay sculptures: all were being teased apart into piles of colorful thread and those threads were being fed, all at once, into the mechanism of the central loom. I saw a shuttle flying back and forth, seemingly of its own accord and something, something marvelous but mysterious, was spooling out the other end. And that's it; at that point I woke up, frustrated that I hadn't been able to see further but I guess I can't expect for it all to be handed to me. I think my subconscious believes I need to figure a few things out for myself in the light of day.

This dream is particularly on point for me as I begin preparing for my October show. I am working out the inclusion of assemblage and sculpture alongside my paintings. In truth, they are not new ideas but rather past explorations from previous work, public and private, that are exciting to me again. I like to constantly reinvent myself and I do that by mining my past interests for future inspiration. I take that "old" work and weave it into my current set of passions to form something brand new. In that way, I strengthen my unique look (aka "style".) I can put up a completely different show every year and yet, it still has my mark. 

Any time I contemplate something new, I go through a very specific set of emotions. At first, I am wildly enthusiastic, brimming with energy. And then, as I approach actually following through with my ideas, I get scared, doubtful. I begin to question myself, wondering if perhaps I am overreaching, caught up in a fanciful notion with no hope of success. This dream came to me right about the time I was starting to pull back from my initial decision. My subconscious stepped in and sent me a little message across the void: "Hey now! Don't back down! You are on the right track. Something new and beautiful will be born from the old."

Note: The project pictured is my sample for a high school art lesson in which we created painted wall hangings inspired by Zapotec woven rugs. Once I brought my sample home, I embellished it further to help it fit in with the vibe of my studio. The inspiration for this project originally came from this DIY post from Alisa Burke.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New Ideas Brewing While I Rest

I'm in the middle of my spring break, girl cat curled beside me while I wait out the pain and swelling from a cortisone shot I received this morning for a new fibroma that has developed in my left foot. Aside from this little glitch, it has been a relaxing, productive time. I'm working on several post ideas and tomorrow, I'm sure I'll be back on my feet and taking pictures for those posts. I'm also moving deep into prep for my October show which is super exciting as I am taking another wild risk with technique and theme. Some of you have asked me to describe how I prepare for an art show so I thought I'd do a series of posts detailing my process. While school is still in session (just nine weeks remain in the school year,) any major production work will wait until mid-June but there's plenty to do before I start devoting consistent studio time to this project.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Cats Come Back the Very Next Day

Hold on to your hats folks and grab the water hoses! I'm about to set your inbox on fire with a second blog post in the same week! *gasp* I just wanted to pop in and clarify a bit about my cat drawing project. It is titled "52 Weeks of Cats" and it is NOT a 365-project (or in this case, a 52-weeks-straight project.) My goal is to spend 52 weeks total drawing cats. It will definitely not happen within the space of a single year but probably two. My only rule is that when I begin working on a two-page spread (there are 52 spreads in my sketchbook,) I must finish that spread within 7 days time. I might draw 15 cats or only two (one per page.) Any media, technique or style is fair game. I make notes along the way about what works and what flops.

I am experimenting with many, many ways to illustrate cats and a lot of my doodles begin with a random watercolor blob or crazy scribble. Hence, the oddball shapes and decidedly uncatlike creatures. (The large colored cat in this page began as a sketch with my non-dominant hand.) As with almost everything I do, I begin with play - lots of it - and wait to see if something cool or useful develops out of my playtime.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hanging in There

You know those motivational posters from the 80s featuring a terrified kitten clinging desperately to a tree branch by its front claws, the words "Hang in there, baby!" emblazoned across the bottom of the poster? Yeah...that's me. Four Three days of work now stand between me and an amazing ten days off. After that, it's nine (long and unbroken) weeks until summer vacation. I am counting every single second. I need this summer in the worst way. I still haven't decided on whether or not to postpone another needed foot surgery for one more year but even if I have surgery, I know I'll relish the opportunity to sit around for days on end, doing absolutely nothing. The very thought gives me chills of delight.

I am behind on everything: homework, housework, art, appointments, emails, errands, blogging, breathing. I feel like I am in a constant state of breathlessness as I whirl from teaching day to teaching day. When I'm off, a different type of busy rules as I try (usually fruitlessly) to get caught up on household stuff that I only stare at on days I'm teaching. Here and there, I squeeze in a bit of art but it is disjointed and unfocused as my mind is always elsewhere. The photos in this post are from a project I've been working on quietly since the beginning of the year, a journal strictly for practicing the drawing of cats. I started off like wildfire and then, as I was required to burn brightly in other capacities, this sketchbook was placed on the back burner. It is a fun project and I'm getting much more comfortable illustrating cats (which is the point.)
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