Monday, July 24, 2017

Blind Contour Yearbook Friends

Last week, Tammy of Daisy Yellow did a live stream on Instagram, demonstrating blind contour portraiture on index cards. I was subsequently inspired to do a few of these portraits myself using my old friends from Hughes High School's Class of '25 as subjects of my wonky portrait play. I actually do blind contour drawing almost every year with my middle school students as a drawing warm-up/"getting to know each other" game and it always generates smiles and giggles. However, I forget to do these myself so I was grateful to Tammy for the reminder to relax and get silly. 

These are in a Stillman & Birn hardcover Beta sketchbook; I finally finished Volume 1 of Sparks of Madness so it's time to start Volume 2! I drew from the reference photos (mostly without peeking,) colored with Tombow markers, and then added a few more details with a fine point technical pen.

Quick, fun, and betcha can't do just one!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

One-Day Sale at Society 6

Heads Up: 

Society 6 is running a 1-day sale Sunday July 23 starting at midnight PST and running all day until 11:59 pm PST. This is probably their best deal: 20% off everything AND free shipping. There are many fantastic artists at Society 6 offering their art printed-on-demand on a wide variety of products. Society 6 handles printing, shipping, and payments and artists get a small cut of the sales generated. I'm there too with my mixed media owls on a small selection of items and as of today, this pretty, energetic flower print as well. I particularly love the canvas pouches but you can find all sorts of gift and home decor items. Interested in supporting Lost Coast Post? Click here to beam on over to my Society 6 shop. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Studio Beckons

I didn't mean for so much time to lapse between posts but I am, for once, trying to let my body's [irritatingly slow] healing process take the lead. I've had much more fatigue, pain, swelling, and bruising with this surgery; three weeks post-op and my foot is still not ready to come down off the elevated pillows for long periods of time. I am returning to the studio by degrees though and dabbling in a little bit of everything for as long as I can tolerate it. There's not much time left now in my summer break and I am overwhelmed with preparations for a brand-new art program and teaching focus at work come September. (I'll write more about those exciting developments soon.) In addition, my annual October art show is looming so there is certainly no shortage of stuff to do. 

Healing from surgery has its ups & downs and some days, it's more down than up. However, if I manage to spend even 15 minutes at my studio table, I remember that art makes everything better. Life isn't perfect but it can be colorful, playful, and creative. I can't wait to get back to doing and teaching art at my usual pace.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Road Bump, Not a Road Block

So I lost a lot of sleep last night over this stupid Photobucket screw-over but this morning, I woke up with ideas and resolve. Sometimes what feels like a dog pile needs to be interpreted as a kick in the ass from the universe. I've been dithering over creating a website for years, mostly because I felt leaping from a blog to an official website meant I was taking real ownership of my "artisthood" and deep down, I wasn't sure I was worthy of such a designation. Enough already: it is time to set aside reservations and claim my space in the wider world of professional artists.

The real anxiety-producing issue is that this new challenge is really poorly timed: I am still early in my post-op recovery (not able to drive so that makes life extra inconvenient) and I am in the middle of preparing for huge, exciting changes in work this fall. Somehow I am going to have to fit in preserving my blog archive, pulling 1550+ photos off of Photobucket, and building a website from the ground up. Cue hair-pulling and sense of overwhelm! Luckily, I had already been dabbling in Wix for work. It is mostly drag & drop designing so it might not be as difficult as I fear.

In the meantime, I'll be uploading photos directly to Blogger. There are size & storage limits and Blogger has an annoying "auto resize" feature but it'll do for now. I'll have to find a different option for hosting videos...maybe I'll just post to YouTube and temporarily drop the idea of a more formalized online class. I think the best solution will be a central website where I can have a blog (hopefully with all my past posts,) photo gallery, and shop/class site. It will just take time which is in pretty short supply right now. *breathe*

I deeply appreciate all your love and support! I have tried to live as if obstacles thrown in my way - whether they are health issues, financial restrictions, or crooked corporations - are just annoyances to be conquered, road bumps rather than road blocks. The ride might get rough and but I will continue onward.

PS: Here's another great article on what Photobucket is doing to its customers.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Photobucket Issues & How This Space Is Affected

For the eleven years that Lost Coast Post has been a blip on the internet, I have used Photobucket to host my photos. I upload my edited photos to the service, get a link, and then when I write a blog post, I embed that link in the post so the photo shows up. In short, Photobucket stores the pictures and allows 3rd parties (i.e. Blogger) to access those photos.

Well, as of July 6, 2017, Photobucket has decided to deny 3rd party hosting/linking to all but the most expensive plan. My account was up-to-date and in good standing before the change so I can continue to link to Photobucket until May 2018. At that time, I will need to pay $400 per year (due in one lump sum) to have Photobucket host my photos. If I don't pay, all photos in my blog will disappear and be replaced with the Photobucket logo and a "Unable to View" notice. And in case you were wondering, no warning was provided to customers; I was made aware of this issue via another blogger and had to go digging through Photobucket's site to find information on this issue. I'm sure they buried this huge policy change because they knew it would anger a great many people.

As you might imagine, I find this situation outrageous and financially impossible. Photobucket is going to cut off access to my photos, even ones I uploaded and linked to under plans that allowed 3rd party hosting when I paid for them. I will have private access to my photo library (theoretically) so I can download them but there will be no links available. There was zero heads-up on this policy change. In addition, in recent months the Photobucket site has been riddled with technical difficulties. Just today, when I tried to log into my account to upload pictures for a fresh blog post, I got stuck in an endless log-in loop. Half the time, I cannot even access the service I paid for.

Bottom line, this change means two things: 1) I need to find another way to store/host photos for the blog and 2) I will have to go back through almost 1000 blog posts, replacing blocked photos. I will need to download the original photo from my Photobucket library (if I can't find it in my archives,) re-upload to another site, and then replace the disabled link with a working link. Often times, this will mean restructuring the post itself. In addition, if you read through the endless pages of users' angry comments on the Photobucket site, a vast majority are having difficulty simply accessing and downloading their photo libraries. I have each and every one of my 1500+ photos on Photobucket saved elsewhere but it will be intensely time-consuming to dig through all my archives. I have some time to do this but it is a tremendous amount of work to add into my already chaotic life. I will just have to work on the problem bit by bit.

I am asking you, my beloved readers, to please be patient when this whirlwind hits. I am, in this very moment, trying to find an alternative to Photobucket (Google Photos?) so I can stop uploading to Photobucket immediately. (There's no point in continuing to use the service - even though I just renewed my plan a month ago - if access to those photos will be cut off eventually anyway.) I am looking into creating a website, purchasing a domain etc to see if perhaps that would be a better option. I am also considering Patreon.

I love Lost Coast Post and will continue as long as I am physically and financially able.
Please understand that I live on a shoestring budget and I cannot, in any way, add huge new bills into my budget just to be able to blog. Give me some time to see if I can figure out alternatives but be prepared for changes. I treasure your support of my art life and hope you will continue to show up for my art and ramblings wherever they may be found. This particular space will NOT close up shop unless I simply cannot find an easy, reliable, and affordable way to host photos for my posts.

How You Can Help:
1) Suggest photo hosting sites. Photo sharing sites that have reliable, affordable 3rd party hosting rules are hard to find.

2) Suggest alternatives to having a blog here at perhaps? Has anyone ever used Wix to build a website? (Keep in mind I am not super techno-savvy nor do I have a lot of extra time/energy to get that way.)

3) Check out Patreon...would you be interested in supporting me on Patreon? (For say $2 - $5 per month to read blog posts/see art...more for access to how-to/videos etc) It is totally OK if you can't but it would be nice to get a feel for what people think of Patreon. I have considered it in the past but always assumed I wouldn't garner much support in that particular format.

4) Tell me to breathe and not panic...

5) Stick close because I have more art to share and will do so as soon as I find even a temporary fix.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Art Always Finds a Way Through

Taking stock,
Leaving a digital post-it note
To reference later
When things get tough:

I've had 11 benign masses removed to date
(All but two from my feet.)
No guarantees that a 12th won't arise.
I've lost three bones from my right wrist
And subsequently had that wrist completely fused
With bone dug out of my hip.
My left radius has been shortened.
Two tendons have been released via scalpel,
One in my wrist, one on a toe.
I've gained two titanium plates
And 12 screws.
For variety,
April 2013 brought a diagnosis of
Young Onset Parkinson's,
Solving a decade of mystery symptoms.
Sprinkle in a few migraines each month
And I am a limping, shaking, painful mess.
And yet,
I am still standing.
(Not right now
But soon.)
Art always finds a way through.

And with the art comes

From their sick beds,
Fragile & failing
But fearless,
Henri & Frida showed me the way:
I will tremor,
I will hurt,
I will be constrained
But as long as I reach for my art
I will always be free.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Home Resting

Home from the hospital this morning after my foot surgery on Tuesday. I have three separate incisions on my left foot as my surgeon had to work on three different issues. He encountered some abnormal tissue deep in my foot surrounding the largest fibroma (in my arch) and was unable to do any internal stitching there. So only the surface of my foot is stitched together.  This means I have to be extra careful with weight-bearing as the wound is more prone to bleeding and opening. Of the six foot surgeries I've had now, this is easily the most painful and just might be in the top five most painful of the 13 procedures I've had so far.

I'm giving myself a little time to spend mostly sleeping and watching TV and then I am going to try and get back into the swing of life as fast as my foot healing allows. I might have to take things a bit slower than in the past but I just need to keeping reminding myself that I always get through.

In art-related news, I actually managed to film 3/4ths of a class before the surgery! I filmed how to gut a book and recover it. It isn't perfect but it is a start. Once I can climb a chair again (so I can focus the tripod-mounted camera above my head,) I'll film the last part on how to bind in your own signatures. What I did record will give me some footage to edit. I also took more pictures of my journal pages so I'll have images to pair with posts in the coming weeks. So give me a little time for a few long naps and I'll be back more regularly in this space.

Note: The picture here was taken at my staff retreat in Junction City, CA. Lots of oddball issues with the vacation home our school had rented for this event as well as a week of 100+ degree weather but it was definitely pretty to look at.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Sonnets Journal

Well, the 2016-2017 school year has come to a close...sort of. Next week, I'm off to a weeklong staff retreat to work on next year's plans. Every June the staff (and their families) go somewhere out of town to live and work together for a week so we can nail down schedules & plans for the fall and then have the rest of the summer to make those plans a reality. This year, the principal rented a fancy house a bit inland with seven acres, private lake, and pretty much every amenity you could think of. It is a working vacation but still...

Anyway, in my last post, I promised I'd start showing you the insides of some of the new journals I made recently. First up today is a journal I made from a small book of Shakespeare's sonnets. The journal is 5.5 inches wide and 8 inches tall. On the cover, I adhered a vintage French postcard I got years ago at a local flea market. I altered it a bit...added some rub-ons and a doodad. So lucky that it fit exactly inside the gold frame on the book's cover.

Now here's something you'd otherwise never know: I wanted to see both sides of that beautiful postcard; the address side is crazy lovely with some incredible handwriting in French. So I thought I'd be clever and cut a hole into the cover, just slightly smaller than the postcard so I'd be able to view both sides. That plan went well enough until I thought I needed to reinforce and protect the fragile card with some gloss varnish. Well, the old paper reacted funny with the varnish and the address side of the postcard sadly became unimaginably ugly. (The cover, you can see, held up a bit better.) So now, I had not only ruined part of the postcard I wanted to save but I also had a huge hole in my cover. If I had tried to pull the card off, I would've lost the thing entirely and my little "Sonnets" cover would've been ruined too so I chose to cover up the hole on the inside with a heavy piece of watercolor paper and some collage. And viola! Problem solved!

This journal is all about sketches & scraps, just bits and bobs that I glean from my stash and draw from my life. I've really missed journaling on a consistent basis so these little handmade journals are a place to dive back into that practice. Based on previous comments, I'm considering filming a short class on how I use old books to make journals. If I want footage to edit post-op, I'll need to somehow squeeze in filming this weekend or next...absolutely no promises but it is a good idea. I have so much to do between now and the 27th that my "to do" list might self-combust if I add one more task. However, I'm crazy that way so we'll see.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Journal-Making Frenzy in the Middle of Life Frenzy

I have just a week left in the school year (plus a week away at a staff retreat where our entire staff plans for the fall.) My surgery is scheduled for June 27. So I am caught up in a unique whirlwind of closing out past activities while outlining and creating future projects before I have to go into a two-month holding pattern for recovery from surgery. And somehow, in the midst of everything, I had an irresistible urge to go on a journal-making binge. I offer photos of my studio in disarray as explanation for my absence here.

My journaling practice, after many years of consistent, devoted attendance, now ebbs and flows. It isn't so much that I fell out of love with art journaling but rather that I fell in love with so many other things. Every so often though, I become consumed with a need to journal again. Maybe it is the current state of the country or the fact that surgery number 13 is looming or maybe it is just because I need to return to a practice that anchors and documents my days. When the chaos reaches dangerous levels, keeping a daily journal helps me stay in touch with the present. Journaling gives me something quiet and beautiful and inspiring to balance the anxiety, ugliness, and busyness.

I have been casually working in a variety of small purchased journals but I prefer handmade books when I want to journal every day. And I really, really love "junk" journals, books made with a variety of papers in all sorts of colors, textures, and sizes. I had several book covers in my stash that had been waiting a long time for the right project. (I gut the book block from small books with interesting or pretty covers.) I wanted to preserve the spines on some these particular "book husks" so I spent some time working out a binding technique that would allow me to insert a signature in papers of my choosing without destroying the existing spine. And once I got has been almost impossible to stop making these journals.

I kept the original covers on three of these journals and added fresh paper to the other two. These are all small journals with a single signature of heavy duty papers inside (nothing less than cardstock but mostly 140lb hot & cold press watercolor paper.) I added a tab or edging on every page for lots of pops of color and pattern. In the next couple of posts, I'll share pictures of the individual books and their insides. The small pink and purple journal will be available for purchase as well.

Monday, May 29, 2017

For Sale: Rubber Stamp Destash

I am selling about 80 percent of my rubber stamp collection and today, I present four stamp lots for sale. Here are the details:
  • I have treated my stamps gently over the years. That said, these are used stamps and the rubber is stained. This does not affect future stampings. I will clean each stamp again before shipping but I want to be clear that these are NOT brand new stamps. (There are many though that I've only used maybe once or twice.)
  • These stamps will be sold in the pictured lots only, not individually.
  • Wood-mounted stamps are heavy to ship so I will be mailing these within the United States only via USPS priority flat-rate shipping. The listed price includes $10 to go toward shipping/packaging costs. I will email you a tracking number once I ship so make sure the email and physical address associated with your Paypal payment is correct.
  • Shipping will take place once your Paypal payment successfully transfers into my bank account, a process that can take 2 to 4 business days, depending on when you send payment. (Payments made on a weekend sometimes take a bit longer to process.) 
  • All sales are final.
  • Thank you for your support!

Lot #1: Asian-themed Stamps $35 (includes $10 for USPS Priority/Flat Rate Shipping)

Lot #2: Asian-themed Stamps $40 (includes $10 for USPS Priority/Flat Rate Shipping)

Lot #3: Nature Stamps *SOLD* Thank you Carol!

Lot #4: Nature Stamps $45 (includes $10 for USPS Priority/Flat Rate Shipping)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Eleven Years Today

As of today, this humble collection of data bytes has existed on the Internet for 11 years. I've had plenty of moments over the years where I questioned continuing but this space has grown on me. Here I share my art, my thoughts, my time, my worries, my challenges and by some miracle, there are people who show up to read those musings. 

Compared to many of the art blogs that remain active today, Lost Coast Post is decidedly longform (I love to write) and non-commercial. I have slowly increased the exposure I give my work-for-sale and I include product links for stuff I use & love; it is a matter of economic survival. However, first and forever foremost, I deal here in inspiration. Whether you need a little push to try something new or continue along the path you've chosen, whether life is relatively easy or whether it is studded with obstacles, I hope that this space encourages you to rally onward.

Like most blogs, my comments section is generally soft-spoken but the words you do leave behind after a post lift my spirits. A few send lovely personal emails telling me how much you love LCP and some drop a bit of financial support into my tip jar. I am grateful and humbled by it all. Thank you for your readership, whether you've just discovered Lost Coast Post last month or whether you've been along for the ride since 2006 (is there anybody in that category out there?) Let's keep forging ahead...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Learn When to Let Go & When to Hang On

Art and work and the race to summer break (and my 13th surgery) continues at a breathtaking pace. I am getting better at taking time outs to just breathe and re-gather my wits so I am surviving the daily chaos reasonably well. However, even though my foot will be trussed together with more than a dozen stitches after June 27, I am looking forward to downtime for a couple of months, sitting on the couch, binge-watching Netflix, doodling, and planning for the fall. There's lots of fresh changes coming at work; I am very excited to begin writing lessons and creating class samples & step-outs. These surgeries are never fun and often become complicated but I am going to try to make the best of it and keep my chin up.

My series The Lost Aesops is still alive. This piece, completed on an 18x24-inch gallery-wrapped canvas, is titled "The Raccoon and the Balloon." The moral of this pictorial fable might be something along the lines of Learn when to let go and when to hang on. This canvas is quite a bit bigger than my first ("The Tortoise and the Hares") so a bit of the patchwork busyness is lost. I did want to evoke a feeling of spaciousness as is appropriate for the sky and a smaller substrate might have made the piece feel cramped. The balloon needed some room to soar.

Again I restricted my color palette. My color choices represent a loosely interpreted accented analogous scheme. Analogous colors are lie next to each other on the color wheel and usually the artist chooses three colors for her scheme. I traditionally choose four colors; in this case, I used yellow, yellow-orange, orange, and red-orange. Accents are usually chosen from directly opposite the analogous colors and my predominant accent is blue in varying tints (white added) and tones (grey added.) There is, of course, some green present so the rigor of the scheme starts to break down. The overall look though feels restrained to me; I am trying to rein in my usual "all rainbows, all the time" approach to color choice.

Fun fact: I do actually use a handheld color wheel while painting. Back in art school, it seemed like every class I took required the creation of a color wheel and I grew to dislike making them. However, I saved all of those wheels and use them often to this day.

I just finished a third Lost Aesop this morning. A fourth is already sketched and waiting for paint. I'm not sure if I will do a fifth but there is still time for an idea to come calling. I need to move onward and I am beginning to feel a pull towards other things. As I've said, I'm a "pinball artist" and I get restless when I linger on any one task for too long. I guess the raccoon's lesson is also my guiding philosophy. I'll hang onto this idea as long as I can and then I'll let it go in order to land somewhere new and different.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sketching Memories

I read somewhere once that it is hard to remember the pain of childbirth clearly because your body is then flooded with happy-making hormones so you can bond with your baby. Hmmm...something similar happens with the school year as the beginning and even the middle is so wonderful and then I realize I had forgotten the INSANITY of the last few weeks. The energy level is somewhere between whitewater river and simmering volcano. I come home exhausted, thankful to just stare at a blank, white wall for a while in utter, blissful silence. Then, as time for art-making is ever dwindling, I peel myself off the couch and stumble to the studio table a few feet away to recharge.

I've returned to my sketchbook in anticipation of teaching observational drawing again in the fall and I love the peaceful, engaging effort of looking and really seeing all while trying to record the lines, shadows, shapes, and colors before me. I'd like to do a sketchbook filled entirely with drawings of toys; a while back I was completely inspired by my wind-up collection sketches. Here I begin that project with sketches of some toy cars that belonged to my youngest brother Sam, whom I lost to a rare brain cancer when he was eighteen. These cars were passed along to my son Daniel. Daniel has long grown beyond pushing toys in the dirt and making engine noises in some great construction yard of his imagination but I can't bear to throw these playthings out. Through them, I touch my brother and don't want to let go.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In Which Young Ideas Have Growing Pains: Part 2

(Part 1 of this post series here)

My sketchbooks and journals are essential studio tools; they are repositories for ideas and a fantastic place go digging for inspiration. (Hint: The more you self-reference, the more unique your work will be to you.) Almost exactly a year ago, I did some loose sketches for a series on canvas featuring whimsical animals involved in silly situations. I've stacked animals before in my work so these sketches were not entirely unfamiliar territory. I doodled critters upon critters employing various means of transportation but it all seemed a bit too cute and I didn't have time to waste trying to fix the issue. 

Fast forward to three weeks ago when I returned to those idea seeds to see if I could bring something forth from them after all. I doodled a bunch of rabbits and decided to zero in on my idea for three bunnies riding the back of a giant tortoise. I chose a tall and narrow gallery-wrapped canvas (12x18-inches) and sketched my central figures. The initial painting went well. I quite liked my rabbit arrangement and thought I was proceeding along swimmingly. Then the speed bump in my process appeared. It took me almost an entire day to paint the turtle and at the end of the evening, I knew it wasn't right. My goal from the outset had been a whimsical approach and while the bunnies were working, the turtle seemed too realistically positioned and the shell texture was a disaster. I snapped a quick photo of the canvas at this stage right before I gessoed over the problematic parts.

Before I began again, I decided to take a look at some primitive landscape art, both traditional and contemporary. Much of primitive work, either with or without animals, has a flat depth of field. There's not a lot of deep perspective. Think of a landscape folded forward toward the viewer, foreground, middle ground, and background lying directly on top of one another. It conveys layers but not real distance between the layers. My tortoise needed to be flattened. (Ironically, I got it right in my initial layout sketch.)

Primitive landscape art also tends to be busy with lots of little details to capture one's attention. Once I had figured out the redo of the tortoise, I needed to figure out how to fill the space around the central characters. I wanted it to be interesting but not distracting, flat but not boring. My "World Within" journal provided inspiration for the solution. My later work in that journal featured collage-constructed animals surrounded by a pieced border. I thought I could use that border idea but also knew the journal version was too busy. So I made the "pieces" more regimented and quilt-like. Ideas for the patterns in the individual sections were pulled from yet another sketchbook. 

I also decided to use toned colors throughout this canvas, something I've never done before. Typically, I paint with what comes right out of the tubes but for a more primitive look, I mixed grey into everything to dial down the brightness. I limited the overall palette as well, managing to completely avoid using my beloved quinacridone magenta. These color choices resulted in a fresh, new look while retaining my usual approach to creatures and critters.

I also wanted to tie this canvas to another already-completed piece that will hang in the same show. Remember "The Hitchhikers?" I really loved the little row of houses and simple "lollipop" trees on that piece so I decided to repeat that motif in my new work. Repetition - whether of pattern, image, color, line quality or shape - is a great design principle that creates visual connections within a single piece or between multiple pieces, something that can be important when hanging work for a show. (And, as I've said before, referencing and repeating yourself is the best way to develop your own style.)

Besides the whimsical trees and houses, I also decided to repeat the checkerboard line in all subsequent canvases in this series. Because all these little ideas finally grew up and became something brand new that I felt was strong enough to sustain over a number of pieces.

When I finished this canvas, I showed it to my son and he said it felt like an alternate version of the classic Aesop fable, one where the rabbits decide they can win the race and expend less effort to boot if they simply ride the sturdy tortoise all the way to the finish line. And so this series is now called "The Lost Aesops." (If I was being cheeky, I'd call them "Alt-Aesops" but despite the temptation, I'll leave politics out of it...except to say my first title for this painting was "The One Percenters.") In the end, I'll give each piece a title but the moral will be up to the viewer to discern. This first in the series is named - of course - "The Tortoise and the Hares." The second piece is already complete and you'll get a peek at that next week.

I hope this lengthy two-part breakdown of my design and problem-solving process is helpful to those of you wrestling with how to develop new work while either developing or maintaining a "look" that is uniquely yours. Write down every idea, no matter how small or silly. Those are your seeds. Find those common threads running through your work over the years and pull them together. That will be your lattice on which new ideas will grow. New and old will come together to make exciting forward progress in your art practice!

Monday, May 8, 2017

In Which Some Seeds Sown Long Ago Finally Sprout: Part 1

One of my favorite parts of my own working style is that I leave a lot up to my subconscious. I sketch, jot down brainstorms, make lists, do research, and play randomly, gathering seeds for future projects. It took a long, long, LONG time to do this on a consistent basis, to store ideas for a later date rather than strong-arm those passing notions into something before they are really ready. (Just because it is the first idea, doesn't mean it is the best idea.) This is big part of why you see me working in so many different styles, mediums, themes, and techniques all at once. My brain moves fast as does my interest so I try capture what I can and then move on.

I treat ideas like a gardener tends seeds. I sow the idea seeds in my subconscious and walk away, like bulbs you tuck into the ground in winter with a hope and prayer that you will see something of your efforts in the spring. I never know what - if anything - those seeds will become, either alone or in concert with something else. The majority fail to germinate; they are dead-on-arrival, just some passing fancy that doesn't stay on my radar for a variety of reasons. Rarely, an idea becomes something greater than its beginnings almost immediately. Most of the time though it can take years before something sprouts and I finally have that beloved "A-Ha!" moment. Almost always, those freshly risen ideas are never what I expected them to become...sort of like thinking you are planting pansies and ending up with roses.

A little over two years ago, I did a small series of sketches of primitive woodland animals, trying to distill the essence of the creature in as few lines as possible. Usually, I feel it necessary to convey every detail but here, I wanted to see if I could step back a bit from all that obsessive detailing and draw something very simple. I really liked my efforts but I couldn't see where to take these doodles at that time so...onward.

Last year, before I settled on the assemblage series, Figmenta, I did a bunch of very rough painting layouts all centered around animals. I had some bare-boned concepts but nary a unifying theme, style, or technique in sight. Figmenta, on the other hand, came together quickly and since I didn't have a lot of time to spend dithering over what I was going to do - I had to just get to the "doing" part - I turned the page on those sketches and moved on once again.

This year, I decided fairly early in the show prep process to return to an animals theme, seeking to pull on the energy and enthusiasm I had for the two-plus years I worked on The Motley Menagerie. I keep a private sketchbook/journal just for show development and one idea was to do a show entirely of portraits. As most steady readers will know, I've been immersed in yearbook-inspired drawings for quite some time so a portrait-focused show was not far afield. Since I don't feel up to doing human portraits on a scale larger or more public than my journals, my show concept quickly morphed into a collection of animal portraits.

I like to work in multiple small series united under a single, umbrella title. At this point, my 2017 show title still eludes me but for now, that's fine. I've been happily painting a series of cat and dog portraits while plotting some more "Woodland Hoodlums." (Yes, the Hoodlums were originally planned to be part of Figmenta but the assemblages asserted themselves early on and I simply followed their siren call.) Since I was looking for more sketch inspiration for the Hoodlums series, I returned to my "idea seed catalogs," aka my sketchbooks and journals.

I began playing again with simple drawings, focusing this time on bunnies as prompted by those 2015 doodles and my quickie layout ideas from a year ago. My head started buzzing because I felt something trying to break through. I thought maybe it would be good to just start a canvas with this fresh impulse in mind, even though it was going to take me away from the "portrait" part of my focus. You have to learn to recognize when your subconscious is ready to share with your conscious mind and take action. If you see a hint of green in the dirt, for goodness sake, get thee a watering can! So I began to paint, swearing to myself that I was going to take just a little time to see if anything of substance would result; if not, I would get right back to my other, already-in-progress ideas...nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that. It turns out, something new and fun was waiting for its time in the sun...

Part 2 posts on Wednesday...

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Another Junkyard Mutt

There's a lot going on in the studio right now but no time to edit pictures and write detailed posts. I haven't forgotten about you all though so for today here's another sneak peek at new work for my October show. This is one of ten in my "Alleycat/Junkyard Dog" series painted on 8x8-inch canvases. I'm not sure yet how I am going to name these although I am leaning toward giving them "adoption numbers" so people can name them themselves.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Furry Friends Fresh off the Easel

Here's a couple more peeks at work for my show coming up this fall. This year, I thought I'd return to painting animals, birds, and other creatures; it is a theme that seems to be popular with show attendees and certainly is popular with me in the studio. When one of these faces starts to come to life on canvas, I get very excited and that energy propels me fairly easily through having to make a lot of pieces so my show can look comfortably "full."  As I have done in the past, I am working in a few small series that ultimately will hang together in October. These small canvases (8x8-inches square) are from the series I'm tentatively naming "Alley Cats & Junkyard Dogs." (Everything is "tentatively named" at this stage in the process. I mostly name stuff after everything is finished.)

Cats are always warmly received and this year, I will be presenting more than a few cat paintings. However, for the first time ever, I am also painting doggie faces and it has been so much fun! We all know that cats and dogs have very different personalities and I have discovered that they each have a unique feeling on canvas as well. I'm not sure why I haven't painted dogs before except perhaps for the fact that I am probably best described as a cat person. I realized though that I had unintentionally pigeonholed myself. I will coo over a cute dog I see on the street to the point of embarrassing both myself and the owner but it never occurred to me to try adding dogs into my art. Even in my sketchbooks, dogs rarely appear. Well, after the first couple of dog portraits in this series, I am hooked and thrilled to find something new (to me) to paint.

I took some decent photos of these pieces and will probably try offering this series printed up on tote bags and square throw pillows over at my Society 6 shop. I'll give everyone a heads up when I manage to get around to that. Life's quite busy right now - honestly, when isn't it - so I am juggling as fast as I am able.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

2017 Show Prep Underway

I'm rolling out blog posts rather casually this week as I am currently on spring break and spending most of my time painting. Every October I have a large solo show of my work and with foot surgery again immediately after the school year ends in mid-June, I am trying to get a jump on work for that show. I keep notes on theme and painting ideas year-round but I typically only produce work in over an intense period of two to three consecutive months. It is a habit I have tried hard to break; things would be much more relaxed if I built up my inventory throughout the year. However, teaching (mid-August through mid-June) takes most of my time and energy, leaving little remaining to put into major art projects. In addition, when I work in these blazing bursts of enthusiasm, the pieces seem more cohesive and more joyful.

I've been toying with ideas for this year's show since last October. For a while, I thought I would do a show titled "A Gallery of Rogues," featuring several mini series of portraits in different materials & methods. At the same time though, I actually painted two large pieces that are animal-themed: A Parliament of Hooligans and The Hitchhikers. That was in keeping with other notes and sketches I was creating for a show that harks back to my "Motley Menagerie" series from 2012 but with more storytelling in the imagery.

Back and forth I went, trying to settle on an idea because a solid guiding theme is what fuels show production. I liked the idea of including the yearbook portraits in some form but in the end, I felt much more enthusiasm for returning to painting birds and animals; I had complied considerably more sketches with this critter-focused theme in mind than I had for a collection of portraits. In the end, I guess I decided to combine the two ideas, at least in part. This small canvas (8x8-inch) is one in a series of ten portraits of cats and dogs. I enjoyed painting these pieces immensely and as I worked, that excitement fueled my confidence that I can produce other works that are still in the drafting stage. That's a good indicator that I've made the right decision about this year's show direction.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Big Blooms Redo

Ever since I completed this painting last November, it has been sitting on my easel in my studio and I spent five months walking past it. I wasn't happy with my initial efforts but I wasn't sure how or if I could save the piece so I gave the question over to my subconscious. Two days ago (as usually happens,) I was on the verge of sleep when I realized how I might "rescue" my Big Blooms painting. I pulled it off the easel and began by redoing the background, cutting deeper into the bouquet and trying to create a more abstracted look. There was no anxiety about ruining anything so I just let my whims guide my brush, my pencil, my collage papers.

And this is the result of my experimentation. This version feels lighter and thus, more lively. The arrangement is still awkwardly tilted but now that movement to the left of the canvas seems a bit more appropriate given the rest of the composition. This still isn't quite how I'd like it but it is much closer so I might put it back on the easel for a while to see if any other ideas emerge or I might call this one done and move on. I'm not going to dwell on this single painting for too much longer - I have so many other things to do - but it is useful to revisit old works just to play and learn how to make revisions.

I used oil pastels on the first version of this painting but because I sealed the pastels with a workable fixative, I could work right on top of those pastels without worrying about the color moving around. I used no pastels in the second version. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Meet Mary Lucy

Sometimes I think it is helpful to approach a new idea as you would a feral cat: with caution, respect, and patience. For me, it often doesn't work to rush headlong into creating when inspiration first strikes; it is definitely detrimental to push ahead when I are overwhelmed (in a good way or bad,) frustrated, tired, conflicted. This is something I have learned over time. When I am feeling stuck, I set the project aside and turn my back. I give the idea over to my subconscious and let it simmer awhile in my brain pan.  And just like a wild kitty that grows emboldened when given some space and gentleness, ideas will often creep back from my subconscious bearing solutions to the roadblocks that had previously stymied my work.

After my last post, I began some serious thought about how I might include my latest yearbook portraits in my upcoming show. They are small (3x5-inches) and would require mounting and/or framing in order to join the canvases I already have planned. I spent the better part of a day online, researching ways to present matted items in art shows and after hours of skimming solutions that were never entirely feasible or visually appealing, the wild idea approached:

"I wish I could do this technique on canvas."

Right away, my critic spoke up:

"That'll be too hard. It will never work. People will never buy these. They'll look stupid."

So I turned off the computer and stepped away from the studio. I watched a movie and went to bed. I lay in the dark, reviewing my day, purposely avoiding any musings on my art or upcoming show. I was just drifting off, listening to Marley Bear gently snoring in the chair next to my bed, when my eyes flew open and the wild idea was before me again:

"Why can't you do this on canvas? You could use metal tape to seal the edges of the Dura-Lar to your canvas, just like you did on the shrine project."

The next morning, I began a test canvas. It is 8x10. I made a good and proper mess and pulled out all the stops to discover how the process and the results would change on a larger substrate. I learned a lot of things. For example, it is very fun to have more room - both on the film and the canvas - to play with color, pattern, and transparent layers but it is easy to go overboard. It is also much harder to glue down a large piece of film versus a small piece. On a larger scale, some of the intimacy of the image is lost and the gloss of the film becomes more distracting. I feel less confident in my ink drawing when it is bigger; mistakes or oddball features are more glaring and irritating. * Hush now, inner critic. *

I'm not sure yet if I will commit this technique to a series of canvases. I'm still courting this wild idea to see if it will become friend or foe. While I'm deciding, here's that test canvas for your consideration. This is 1925 Hughes High School senior, Mary Lucy Brouse from Cincinnati, Ohio. Ironically, her motto is recorded as:

"Diligence and success go hand in hand."

And here's her yearbook description:

"Do you need a tutor in history? See Mary Lucy. Do you want a good dance? Get Mary Lucy. Do you want to know the words of the latest song? Ask Mary Lucy. Do you want to get rid of the blues? Find Mary Lucy."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Vintage Visages Meet Modern Materials

So after spending a fair amount of time drawing from yearbook photos in the last few weeks, I wondered where to go next. To see how far I can take this idea, I want to experiment with many different mediums and techniques. If you can't tell, I've fallen head over heels for yearbook photos and it is going to be hard to tear myself away from those vintage visages to focus on painting for my October show. (I might need to find a way to include them in that event if I can't push "pause" on this obsession.)

For this latest iteration of my yearbook series, I turned to Dura-Lar which is a fantastic clear film that is specially treated to accept water-based media without beading up or flaking off. I have used & reviewed Dura-Lar before but I put it aside at the completion of that "Scraps" journal and the product got lost in my stash. However, Grafix Arts, the company that makes Dura-Lar, posted my review to their Instagram account just a few weeks ago and that reminded me to pull the stuff out and play some more.  In the following pieces, I am also using some lovely vintage index cards I found at my local creative reuse center as well as awesome photos from a 1925 high school yearbook. Such an inspiring combination!

When using Dura-Lar, I play with the front and back of the film as well as the front of the index card the film will be mounted on. It is an interesting challenge to work on transparent material as you have to plan ahead, keeping in mind that each layer will be visible in some way. This photo shows the film near the beginning of the process as I start with some watercolors and stamping.

Once dry, I add layers of print transfers using vintage papers and semi-gloss gel medium. I will also add more stamping, watercolor, and mark-making, trying to keep the center of the piece relatively simple. These are the same films as before but with bits of book pages transferred and then removed in places to ensure natural edges and varying levels of transparency. Look at how luscious and intricate those layers are!

I work on the front of the films with waterproof Sumi ink in a water brush. I freehand the figure based on my photo reference; if I make a mistake, I can wipe the ink off and start again. Once the ink dries, it is relatively permanent. It can be scratched off with some force but will not simply rub off if touched. After the portrait is dry, I begin coloring and embellishing the character using wash tape, ephemera, rub-ons, markers, paint, and collaged paper bits. Things get really fun at this point and it is hard to stop. However, I do eventually reach a conclusion and finish up by gluing the film to the index card.

As you can see, I have done several of these and I have more lined up waiting to worked on. I may mount these in a small book I made; I am also contemplating offering some for sale, mounted on mat board. Each portrait represents someone I "met" in the yearbook. I'm not sure yet how best to tell their stories so right now, I am building up my pile of portraits and waiting for a great idea to emerge.

This special acetate comes in a package of 12, 9x12-inch sheets or a package of 12, 11x14-inch sheets or a roll that's 25 inches high by 12 feet long.  Each sheet in the pad is interleaved with a piece of tissue.  I mark my desired measurement on the tissue and then cut both tissue and film with my paper trimmer.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Life Picks Up the Pace

Life is about to get crazier for me in the next couple of months. I meet with my foot surgeon this afternoon to discuss my next surgery (right foot this time) which will most likely happen the third week in June. This means I need to get a major jump start on work for my October show since a large part of my summer vacation will be spent recuperating. And since things are changing at work in the fall, I need to spend time developing lesson plans and curriculum for a new art program I'm looking forward to implementing. Of course, I have all my ongoing projects, large and small, in journals and out. It will be good to keep this Soul Stories page about balance in mind as I plunge into the coming weeks. As far as Lost Coast Post is concerned, you can look forward to a bit of everything including show prep, more yearbook portraits, art for sale, journaling, drawing, maybe even some sewing if I can manage it.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Art Projects & Displays at Work

Since I am a bit worried you all might be growing weary of yearbook portraits (I do have more of those to share,) I thought I'd switch things up a bit and show you what I've been up to at work. The Spanish students are just finishing up a miniature shrine construction project crafted from recycled paper gift boxes, tooling foil, and permanent markers. The little "milagro" inside the shrine is created from thin cardboard. These are my class samples. They are quite shiny so please forgive the dark photo; super reflective objects are difficult to photograph.

Next I took that same shrine construction process and applied it to a large bulletin board at school to celebrate the Spanish students upcoming trip to Mexico. That big piece of cardboard in the center is made from a large box that poster board arrived in. The flaming, winged heart shrine is actually three-dimensional (it stands out from the board about three inches) and is made from a beverage box.

I've been doing bulletin boards for teachers and schools since I was in high school myself and it is something I love to do! Bulletin board creation is an excellent large-scale design challenge and I enjoy finding ways to present material in an eye-catching and artistic way. Almost all the elements in my bulletin boards are handmade/hand-lettered/hand-cut which gives them a quirky but unique look. This bulletin board is currently hanging in our library/main classroom (I'm also the school's de facto librarian right now.)

This is a bulletin board I created for our recent hero-themed readathon. It was inspired by multiple hero-themed displays I found on Pinterest. A different "bat signal" went up when it was time to advertise dress-up day.

I keep all the pieces to my bulletin boards when I take them down so I have them for future years and also so I can mix & match parts to make new displays. They are difficult to store but since my school often does the same event/trip/project every year, I can save myself some time by reusing bits from previous displays. 
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