Anyone that has been in my studio or my classes, knows that I have been practicing art journaling for several years now. It has gotten me through times when I just didn’t have any fresh new paintings in me. Since I was in elementary school, I have loved collage. I used to make calendars for my mom for Christmas, creating a different theme for each month and hand-drawing the calendar (this was way before Microsoft Word. No PCs in my house). I loved collecting images and then putting them together thematically, and the cutting and pasting is still as thrilling to me as it was in my childhood.
I have a growing collection of vintage magazines, including McCall’s, Good Housekeeping Life, Newsweek and National Geographic. I am interested in the stories as well as the advertising. I honestly don’t know how women made it in the 40’s – 70’s (although many of those same ideals and expectations are still around for us today). But I find the glamour mesmerizing, as well as the rationale that the softness of your hands after washing dishes will positively affect your husband’s desire for you.
In my new Retro Art Journaling class, I’m sharing my vintage magazines with you as we create some fun journals. The base of these journals will be booklet cookbooks, so many of your backgrounds will already be in place. We’ll use collage, paint, markers, gel pens and more to create one-of-a-kind art books. I personally have created a couple of these retro-themed books and have loved it. I know you will, too.
Find out more about this new class by clicking HERE.
Productivity is never pretty around here. Making art is like childbirth to me. I start out hopeful and full of promise. At some point it makes me sick (I call it the “ugly phase”), but I keep going, knowing it’s worth the struggle. And toward the end, I will do anything – endure any torture – to get this thing finished and out of my space.
I have been finishing three new comissioned pieces – I just returned from installing one, and two more are awaiting delivery this week.
Meanwhile, my studio is ashambles. Unlike childbirth, there is no nesting going on here, just complete violent, creative chaos.
As I came back into the studio this afternoon, the amount of stuff I have strewn everywhere is insane. Paint, dirty brushes, bits of cut paper all over the table and floor, awaiting placement on some collage or journal.
Project ideas, notes scribbled on lined paper that was torn out of some book. Scissors, glazing medium, screwdrivers, nails, art supply catalogs, plastic bags, ideas for teaching art projects…
But it means I have been making art, and that is good.
The A/C went out last week, just in time for summer’s last stand. Fortunately, I am married to quite a handy man. He’s helping me out by installing a fan today. Come on, cool weather, I need you.
And, athough I’m exhausted, I’m really thankful for this hot mess of a studio.
Seems spring only lasts a couple of weeks here in north Texas. Soon the heat will be sweltering and the humidity high. So on perfect spring days like today, I have the windows and doors open, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming and the paint is flowing.
I set a challenge for myself this month to post on my blog daily, and this, my friends, is the final post for the month of April 2014. I did it!
There were days that were a lot more inspiring than others, some very exciting with good news to share, and others that I just didn’t feel so motivated about. But I’ve found that this has been a really good exercise for me — it has kept me focused each day, because I knew I would need to share something interesting each day with you.
Just like my journals, my blog posts are a good resource for me to see what was going on in my life at a particular time.
An overview of this month’s posts:
I have gotten to share some of my visual journals with you, which until this month I hadn’t published online. Posting on my blog daily has encouraged me to finish some of those journal pages that I had started but had been dragging my feet on finishing. See awesome april posts # 1822, 23, 25 and 27 for new journal entries, and I have a new visual journals page that I’ve been adding to all month.
I shared things that inspire me along the way(days # 5, 6, 7, 14, 20, 28) and the advice I would give to my artist self 20 years ago (#16).
My trip to Europe is officially on the books, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s been 10 years since I traveled overseas, so I’m happy to have something fantastic to look forward to next year.
You got a few glimpses into my studio (day # 10, 15, 26, 28), and the studio of my friend Jennifer Cowley (day #2). I also shared a few of my art friends (day #11 and # 24), as well as some of my students’ work in progress (day #3).
I’ve had a great month getting my work out there. I revealed the news that I was selected to complete a public art mural for McKinney this spring. ( I’m still waiting on a start date, and I’ll keep you all posted on the latest developments with that project). Meanwhile, I’ve also sold a few paintings this month, and been selected for a juried show.
Thanks to all of you who have been reading my blog this month, and to my new ‘followers.’ As always, I’d love to have comments from you on any of the posts.
I have been layering found images into my paintings for the last several years, but sometimes I wanted the paint to have more surface texture. There are many additives you can put into acrylic paint, but most of them either take a lot of layers to build up a thick surface, or they are opaque. I wanted the texture, but still with transparency. Enter encaustics!
I have admired encaustic work for some time – it has a very deep, luminous quality — but wasn’t quite sure how the process worked. So, I took a couple of classes over at The Encaustic Center in Richardson and immediately knew this was a medium that I could continue to experiment with.
What is encaustic? It is painting with heated beeswax! It’s an old method that has been around at least 2500 years, and was used by the Greeks and Egyptians for painting everything from boats to portraits. Find out more about the history of encaustic painting HERE.
Probably one of the most notable artists from the past 50 years that employed encaustic painting in his work is Jasper Johns, famous for his paintings of maps and the American flag.
I make my encaustic medium (beeswax + damar resin) in a large electric skillet. I then use oil paints to add the color (pigment) to the clear medium. I have a separate griddle for this, with 16 oz. ink tins lined up with the colors I want to use. This is the same setup used at the Encaustic Center, and in most books and articles I’ve read on encaustic painting. Some artists buy their encaustic paint already made (R & F has some really good paints), but they are very expensive.
What I love about encaustic is it’s a very fast, spontaneous medium. It dries quickly (think of how fast candle wax hardens), and can be used for both additive and subtractive techniques. You can also layer paper into your work easily — including drawings, photographs, collage, ephemera, etc. Imagine how exciting this was for me, as I love to glue all kinds of things into my paintings! To have a true “encaustic” painting, you have to fuse each layer together, slightly re-melting each layer to make sure it adheres to the one below it. I use a heat gun most of the time, but have just started enjoying using a torch as well. (However, when I add paper, I try to keep the torch far away).
In my newest series, I drew with charcoal or pastel onto tissue paper, then layered those drawings into my paintings using clear encaustic medium (clear paint, with no pigment added). The tissue paper became so transparent, that you can hardly detect the edges in the painting. It allowed me to “float” my drawings on top of previous layers of collage and paint. And the drips are now in 3D!
I just added a few more encaustic pieces to my web site, which you can find HERE.
And I’m happy to announce that two of my larger encaustic paintings were accepted into the 125 Juried Art Show, which opened yesterday. The show is at The ARTS Gallery at Collin College, 2800 E. Spring Creek Parkway, Plano, TX 75074. The show runs April 28 – May 17, with a reception on Thursday, May 8 from 5:30 – 7:30pm.
There’s nothing like new art materials to make me excited. I just got some new paint sticks last week, and have been looking forward to this week – lots of studio time. Tomorrow is the day!
I’ve been using these a lot with my encaustic work, but also love to draw with them in my oil and acrylic paintings.
I also use oil sticks for many of my drawings on paper.
I finally made some new cradled panels this weekend, too. Thanks to my hubby for his help with these (or for letting me help him — he’s so much better at mitred corners than I am).
I made these underpaintings a few months ago, but now that I have the cradles on the back, they are ready for me to layer paint and color. Who knows how much of my original painting will even be visible when I’m done (probably not much). I can’t wait!
While some of my art journal entries use images of people and things, many of them are simple, stream-of-conscious designs . I tend to use a lot of circles.
This is from my first visual journal (an altered book). The background is made by tearing out phone book pages and layering them over the existing book. I then glued on patches of pink tissue paper. I used transparent green glazes to add a contrasting color, then opaque white to balance the black charcoal.
Although this isn’t an image of a real “thing”, to me it reminds me of a totem, a pair of eyes, or even an abstracted female figure.
Like this? You can see more of my art journals HERE — updated frequently.
So in yesterdays post, I spoke of how journaling has helped keep me sane through the years. About twelve years or more ago, I heard about the concept of “art journals.” I had been doing something similar, but not the the degree of the artist’s I found online – and I was so inspired! I have always liked collage and text, and this was a great way for me to combine both of them.
I began working in an oversized altered book — using gesso to block out a lot of the images and text on the pages. In it, I collaged photographs of Greek and Roman sculptures, stained glass windows, and any type of image that I found interesting. Then I painted, drew and collaged more until the images looked the way I wanted them to. That book, started in 2004, is still a work in progress. Some of the pages are complete, and have come out of the book. But many are still in tact. Some have just the background started, and others are almost finished — just waiting for that final je ne sais quoi.
A couple of years ago, I discovered spiral-bound sketchbooks that have thick mixed media paper, and are marketed as “visual journals”. My first one is filled primarily with just doodling.
As I’ve progressed, and I’ve seen my pages get a lot more colorful and painterly, and I’ve collaged a lot more.
I have four volumes in progress right now, with volume 1 almost complete, and volume 4 in it’s infancy. I’ve just added an ART JOURNAL page to the blog, with galleries from each volume. Stay tuned for more!
A big part of my creative process is journaling — both the longhand-written text kind of journaling, and also visual journaling. I’ll share about the writing part today, and visual journals in tomorrow’s post.
I started keeping a diary as a kid, but didn’t really get into daily journaling until my Junior year in high school. Our teacher made us write journal entries (you know, for a grade), and it soon became my top creative outlet. I not only wrote in my journal, but also cut out magazine articles and newspaper clippings, and made collages and illustrations. I have tons of poems I wrote — a few good ones, and many really sad, desperate teenage girl kind of poems — as well as long, descriptive narratives of my summer days working, dating, getting into trouble and being completely bored.
I kept writing in that journal through my Senior year, and it’s a priceless artifact now, in all it’s 2″ three-ring binder glory. I pulled it out to take photos for this blog post, and have now stayed up most of the night reading it. Fascinating stuff.
It has been interesting to see the world through my own teenage eyes. Some things are much different from an adult’s point of view (Note to past self: “He’s just not that into you”). And then, some things never change. Even then, I had so much I wanted “to accomplish, so many things to do, places to go, people to see…” And I still have a hard time being patient, because I “want to go out and do it all.”
Probably my favorite find was in an entry written at the end of the summer between Junior and Senior year. I had worked all summer at Braum’s Ice Cream Store, and was desperately wishing for school to start back. I’d had enough of sticky sweet customer service, and was convinced that when I grew up “I’m gonna get myself a career that I like.” Amen!
Even now I practice journaling on a regular basis. After reading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” I became re-convinced of the value of writing a few pages of prose every morning, to clear my mind and help me to focus when I’m ready to work. I use it to write goals, hopes, prayers, meditations, frustrations, ideas and grocery lists. It’s also a great way of documenting my life at the moment – you forget so much of the everyday details.
And I find it interesting to see what changes over time and what stays the same.
Technology can be a blessing and a curse, but I think the smartphone has radically altered the way we see the world, or at least the way we record and present our point of view.
Although I don’t consider myself a photographer, snapping photos is a part of my everyday practice of finding inspiration, making connections, and exploring concepts. Here are a few Instagram photos I’ve taken over the past several weeks that interested me for their use of pattern, light, texture, and/or juxtaposition of meaningful objects.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas /blockquote>
When I took my first painting class at UNT, the TA had us do two black and white paintings – one in acrylics and one in oils. That way we could test out the properties of each before buying a whole set of paints. I picked acrylics, mainly because I’m impatient and messy. And I like the fact that they clean up with water. That whole semester, several of the other students would pass by my easel and say “You look like you’re having fun.” I wasn’t quite sure what they meant, but looking back, I realize that it’s probably because I had paint all over me, as well as my canvases. I’m still like that.
Today I’m sorting through my acrylics to see what needs to be re-ordered. I’ve got several students, and right now they are all painting in acrylics. Funny thing is, now that I’m using encaustics more, I have to use oils because they are compatible with the wax. But I still use the acrylics in my mixed media journals and ATCs. And there are so many additives you can add in to play with the texture, dry time, consistency and transparency, that acrylics are still hard to beat. I used acrylics on the Emotional Landscapes and Domestics series on my web site, and as underpaintings on some of the art in my New Work Gallery.
I guess I’ve mainly stuck with the Liquitex brand, because that’s what I could get my hands on at a decent price at HMS Art Supply store there across from the art building. I like the Heavy Body line – they have good coverage and opacity. A lot of artists swear by Golden acrylics — I have some of theirs, too and really like the quality. And they have a ton of great mediums and additives. I use their glazing mediums to create deep layers of transparent color. I also keep a lot of Basics paint for my classes, as it’s more economical. (See my current classes at freshpaints.com/classes)
So, how about you? Do you use acrylics? Which ones are your favorites?
When I was a kid, I used to make calendars for my mom each year for Mothers’ Day. I would hand-draw each month’s dates (there was no Microsoft Office then to help me out), and then collage images at the top, making a theme for each month. There’s no telling how many hours I spent making those, but I really always liked cutting out the pictures and categorizing them, finding connections between the images.
A few years back, I was given an old wallpaper sample book, filled with a French motif called “Joie de Vivre,” (literally “joy of life”) used in English to express a cheerful enjoyment of life; an exultation of spirit.” Much of my art was already contemplating the roles of women, specifically in relation to men, children and the household. As a wife and mother, much of my time is spent taking care of others’ needs and figuring out how to capture this joie de vivre in daily life. As an artist and a female, I find myself questioning the traditional roles of women, constantly assessing my own beliefs versus the values of the community in which I was raised, and those that are commonly accepted in my part of the world. The Joie de Vivre imagery was a perfect fit for a mixed media series I call “Domestics.”
I’m typically a joyful person. I think I’m generally an optimist, and I know I’m definitely an idealist. But I have to say I found some of the images in the joie de vivre wallpaper book to be quite comical, with their corseted milkmaids, singing shepherds and dutiful women going about their chores with cherub-like children dancing around their feet. Is this truly the joy of life? (I personally have not been able to enjoy the task of getting work done whilst tending to my children. Maybe some people are able to find pleasure in that, but it just makes me frustrated).
I’m also intensely interested in the preconceptions our culture has about the male/female relationship, as well as the natural differences in modes of communication and disposition between couples. It looks so simple, when pasted to the bathroom wall, but we all know that it’s much more complicated.
What, then, is the key to a successful relationship? Can we complement each other as equals, or will one always seek to have an advantage over the other? Can we ever truly know another person? Are we ever completely honest, without holding back? If so, is that wise? Can you have a successful career and still maintain closeness with your family? What in daily life can be a source of joy?
Perhaps there are more questions than answers.
“I cannot expect even my own art to provide all of the answers – only to hope it keeps asking the right questions.” – Grace Hartigan
One of the strangest dichotomies of being an artist is the constant need to “express yourself” and the constant fear of “putting it out there.”
I’ve been making art for a long time, and I still struggle with this. Sometimes when I enter a new juried show, or approach a gallery about showing my work, I get a little knot in my stomach about how I’m going to be perceived, and wonder if I’ll be accepted or rejected. (Just keeping it real). I do something similar when I’m making art sometimes, too, especially if it’s outside of the box. I’ll have this great idea, and then talk myself out of it before I even start (my “censor” gets the best of me). But I have also learned that when I have that feeling, it means I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, and that’s a good thing. I’ve just got to push through the fear and cross into the unknown.
On Thursdays, I have three adult students that come to the studio to paint. They’re all at different experience levels and backgrounds, all with different interests. One common thread we’ve all found is that sometimes it’s just hard to get started. The potential that a blank canvas holds can be exhilarating and daunting. The drawing is on the canvas, but there is no color yet. And then you jump in.
Michelle has been working on a gorgeous painting, using the palette knife to apply her paint. She was telling me today how she once took a class, and admired how one of the other students seemed to effortlessly apply the paint with a palette knife, and how she felt like she would never be able to do that. But now, after giving it a shot, (and some practicing), she can, too. And she does it well! This is still a work in progress, but she is doing an outstanding job of layering the colors with her palette knife, finding that balance of creating a realistic image while keeping the expressive scrapes of the knife.
It was also fun to watch Jo and Tatiana today, as they got started on new paintings. At first, the blankness of the canvas was a bit intimidating, but once they started, they were so happy with what they had done.
And I was very impressed with them, too — look at those colors and expressive lines!
A good start. (Thanks, ladies for letting me share your works in progress – for letting me put it out here!)
So now I’m going to log off and submit work for a new show – one that pushes me into the unknown. Wish me luck.
This past weekend my daughter went to auditions for middle school band. She’s a fifth grader, who a month ago, had no interest whatsoever in being in band next year. She was set on taking the ‘exploratory wheel’ course, where she would get to try different elective classes in 6-week intervals. Not a bad choice. But her big sister let her know that if she was interested at all in band, that she would probably want to go ahead and take it as a 6th grader, and not have to be in beginning band as a 7th grader (with all those 6th graders –ew!). So… she took her sister’s advice, and set her heart on being a percussionist.
I’ve always thought she has pretty good rhythm, and as a percussionist she would get to play the xylophone (following in her mom’s footsteps – I was excited about re-living my band memories vicariously through her). We showed up for tryouts on Saturday. The cafeteria was full of tryout stations – woodwinds, brass and the highly esteemed percussion area – to which she made an instant beeline. As we waited for her turn, I could tell she was nervous. We watched as the kids before us tapped out rhythms and answered questions by the director.
Then it was her turn.
She did a pretty good job overall, but I could tell her nerves were getting to her. (She had also stayed up most of the night the night before – much to my chagrin – at a friend’s house, so she wasn’t at her best for her first ‘job interview.’ ) After an involved tryout, the director advised her to go try other instruments, and then come back to chat with him if percussion was still her first choice.
She fortunately went and tried everything else– from the bassoon, to the tuba, to the trumpet and flute. She was exceptionally good at the French horn, and thought for a brief time that was the instrument for her. Until…..she tried the clarinet. Apparently, she did an excellent job getting a good sound from the clarinet. The instructor was very encouraging and expressive about her encouragement. This is exactly the type of reaction that goes a long way with my daughter (apple/tree). So, there we had it……she was going to play the clarinet!
On the way out from the two-hour tryout session, we talked about how interesting it was that she went into the tryouts with her heart set on percussion, and then decided clarinet was the instrument for her….. and how life is like that, too. Often, we think that we know what we want. But it isn’t until the pursuit of that goal, that we find the thing that is really right for us. But the first goal wasn’t a waste of time. On the contrary, if we had never even tried for anything, we would have never known what other possibilities were out there.
As an artist, I’ve found that this has been true in my career. I didn’t always have the future planned, but it wasn’t until I tried making it as an artist, that I discovered other possibilities that were waiting for me.
My daughter mentioned several times this weekend how glad she was that she went to the tryouts and tried all of the instruments. I hope that this is the first of many things that she tries for….and discovers surprises about herself along the way.
I just came across one of my sketchbooks today and wanted to share a couple of quick drawings I made while we were at the beach in 2011. I like to spy on the other people around me and capture them in simple lines, while I sit under my beach umbrella.
ladies at the beach
These sketches took about 30 seconds each, and are about 5 x 7.”
Since I was a kid, I’ve loved collecting images – tearing out pages from magazines or books. Sometimes it’s simply a pattern or color that inspire me. Sometimes it’s another artists’ work from a magazine. I also really love home design, so I’ve got binders full of tear sheets for inspiration. This summer, I wanted an area to put up an oversized pinboard in my studio to display the stack of art images I had collected. I decided the inside of the garage door would be a great place, since it wouldn’t take up valuable work space, and it would help to beautify what was an eyesore. I got a couple of sheets of foam insulation from Home Depot and cut them to fit snugly inside of the garage door. Then, I just pinned up my image collection: magazine pics, postcards, drawings, prints, photos and other sources of inspiration. I’m constantly adding to the pinboard, which is about 70 square feet of awesomeness. Here’s how it turned out.
Ok, now on to my real image collection obsession: Pinterest! Not familiar? Let me explain. No, there is no time….Let me sum up… Pinterest is an online “pinboard” combined with a social media site that allows you to “pin” images from the internet onto virtual pinboards. You can also ‘follow’ any other pinner, and get ideas from others whose style you like.
In layman’s terms, it is visual crack, and I spend way too much time on there. But as a visual artist, I justify it as “research.” It is a fantastic way to find inspiring images (and too many DIY projects to count) without having to search all over Google. What I love is that you can customize who you want to follow, and even which boards, so that you get the types of images that you want to see. Recipes and Workout ideas? No, thank you. Color, Art and Gardening? Bring it on!
Here’s a peek at my personal pinboard. Click the image below to go to my Pinterest page.
By the way, there is a fine line between inspired and distracted. I am happy to dance on both sides of that line. -Misty
In honor of the studio tour this weekend, I thought it would be fun to post a few photos of my studio as it has progressed over the past several months. Originally, I thought I’d post as we went, but life had other ideas. So, better late than never….
We moved in November of last year, but it was after Christmas before we got to start working on the studio. It was so cold!
In the spring, I received some reclaimed cabinets from the house I grew up in from age 12. They’re great oak cabinets that were custom built for that house, but somehow my hubby did his magic to make them fit just right into the studio.
So, now, to make a very long story short, here’s the “after.” Our secret: lots of paint and elbow grease.
Come by this weekend and see it in person, if you’re near Frisco. Details at www.artseenhere.com
Up next: insulating the roof and adding a ceiling. I’m hoping to avoid freezing fingers this winter!
One book that has seriously changed the way I view myself as an art-maker and a human is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Once I completed the book (much like a 12-step program for recovering artists), my mindset had been changed forever. No longer was I waiting around for someone else to give me permission to be what I wanted to be. And I learned to let my art be a form of play, not so much work.
I’m starting a series of art classes based on this principle of play, using a variety of media to inspire my students to let themselves actually have a good time while making art.
I believe you can use the skills and techniques of art to communicate your ideas, but without the element of play, the art lacks soul. Allowing yourself to play allows you to use the part of your brain that you don’t control. Think about kids and their imaginations. Let’s get back to that again.
For more information on my classes, visit www.freshpaints.com/classes. I will start another series after the New Year, so check back for new class schedules. Let me know if you’d like to join me.
“Creativity requires faith. Faith requires that we relinquish control.” ― Julia Cameron.
As I mentioned before, I’ve begun a new fixation with pears. They have shown up in some my paintings over the past couple of years, but this time they’re the main attraction. I’ve been buying pears each time I go to the grocery store, and then I’ll come home and set them up on my kitchen table. I’ll draw directly from observation, as well as take a ton of digital photos. These photos were the source for this new set of drawings. I took some photos during the day, and some at night, trying to create the right groupings, lighting and composition.
As much of my other work, these explore family relationships. However, instead of using people, I put pears as stand-ins for myself and others. (The titles give a clue to what’s going on in each composition). It’s funny that even my kids know which pear specifically represents them without me telling them. Now I have dozens (maybe hundreds) of new reference photos, with all kinds of “people” in them, so there’s no telling how many drawings and paintings I’ll do in this series.
Through this process, I’ve discovered a renewed interest in drawing, specifically in charcoal. I enjoy working really loose, and gradually building up rich, dark values. Working in monochrome has been liberating, as I don’t have to worry about color. It has been a good diversion from painting. As I started back on some of my paintings today, I had a fresher outlook. I found that my mind had shifted into a different kind of art-making, and helped me get back to painting with a new perspective. Plus I think I came out with some interesting drawings, and I’m inspired to do even more.
“One of the hardest things in the world is to see yourself objectively. I’m not sure it’s even possible.”
I recently (last week) decided to start doing at least one self-portrait every year. I’ve only really done a few “official” self-portraits in the past. Of course, each work of art has my heart and soul in it, but there are some that are more personally reflective than others. Let me share them with you.
Here’s the earliest self-portrait I can find, made in August of 1988, when I was fifteen. I hadn’t had a lot of artistic training up to that point, but I think I got a pretty good likeness. At least that’s how I remember myself looking. (Check out those bangs!)
I’ll continue by skipping the horrible self-portrait I did in college, the result of a class assignment. A family member owns it now and will not let me take it back and destroy it. Or atleast paint over it. If I have anything to do with it, that painting will NOT make it into the art history books. It’s humiliating on so many levels.
Here’s a charcoal self-portrait I did several years back when I was teaching and my students were working on self-portraits. I didn’t put a date on this drawing, but I’m pretty sure it was made in the fall of 2001, right after 9/11. I was expecting my second child and had lots on my mind. Maybe that explains the serious look.
Here’s something that started out as a self-portrait, but ended up not as an image of me, but a reflection of how I felt at the time…
This was begun in 2006 (top), when I was going through a very difficult time in my life. The title was always the same, “Ou est la joie de vivre?” Translated from French to English, it means “Where is the Joy of Life?” It’s also a play on words, because the collaged images that I used were taken from a wallpaper pattern called ‘Joie de Vivre,’ which shows families happily working and frolicking, just happy to be alive, I guess. No worries in this ideal world. I worked on this painting over the next three years, keeping the collaged elements, but at some point I took out my likeness and replaced it with a woman who is turned away from the viewer. Possibly the journey in this painting is more valuable than the end product. But I think that’s true for all of my work.
Last year I made this 4×4 inch collage entitled “36” that I consider my self portrait for 2009. It’s definitely more lighthearted than some in previous years, thank goodness!
This painting, although I wouldn’t consider it a self-portrait, has a lot of personal connections. Also completed last year, “She Comes from Texas” uses the image of the Venus de Milo as the main subject. The title comes from a collaged passage, located below her feet. It is a quote Ernest Hemmingway, which I found in another book, written in the 1950s. It says, “With us, if a girl is really beautiful, she comes from Texas and maybe, with luck, she can tell you what month it is. They can all count good, though. They teach them how to count, and keep their legs together, and how to put their hair up in pin curls.”
Obviously, the point here is the irony, but I think the quote hit a nerve with me. Growing up in rural Texas, I often felt that I was viewed this way by the men and boys I grew up with. In our small-town culture, the main way I saw males communicate with females was through teasing. Most of it was light-hearted, but I tended to take things very personally, and really never felt very good about it. I learned to smile, though. As a matter of fact, one of my nicknames given to me from male coaches as a teenager was “smiley,” (in addition to “stubby” and “air head deluxe”). I thought that most men thought I was pretty dumb. Wonder why?
So here is my latest “self-portrait.” I’ve been working on it for a few months, but just completed it yesterday. There’s a lot going on here, but I think that is the perfect reflection of who I am right now. There is charcoal, paint, furniture molding, computer keyboard parts, a playing card, and collaged wallpaper. The central figure doesn’t look anything like me, but I think she reflects confidence. I’ve been growing in that this year. Probably my favorite part of this is the blue square behind the girl’s head — it’s a Post-It Note. Any mother or ambitious woman can relate to needing constant reminders, all over the place, all the time. It’s definitely been one of those years for me.
It will be interesting to see how my life, my style and my self-perception changes over the years. I’ll keep you posted.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
I like my work best when I let myself be free and loose, and not getting too attached to what’s on the canvas at any given moment. Sounds fun, but it really isn’t that easy to do. I have to keep reminding myself “Don’t be afraid to mess up. It’s just paint.” To really make progress, I have to get into this certain frame of mind, where I’m immersed in the paint, and not really thinking about the outcome. It’s a place of subconscious that I haven’t been able to explain…..until today.
When I found this quote yesterday, I didn’t know who Scott Adams was, so I did a little research on him today. Turns out, he’s the creator of the “Dilbert” cartoon. I checked out his blog (www.dilbert.com), and guess what he posted about today? He talks about his theory that artists get “Crazy Eyes” when they’re in the creative ‘zone.’ You can read about it here. http://www.dilbert.com/blog/entry/crazy_eyes/ Really funny stuff.
Yep, that’s a good way of explaining it — crazy eyes! That “sort of glassy, unblinking, dreamy, scary look” when someone is lost in their own imagination. I’ve never checked out my eyes in the mirror when I’m in that zone, but I can only imagine that they must look crazy. I think my husband has noticed it. He’ll say something like, “I can see your wheels turning.” Usually, in a matter of minutes, I’m in my studio, with paint on my feet and in my hair. Fortunately, some of the paint lands on the canvases I’m working on as well.
That makes me think about this painting that I finished this last month. It’s inspired by a Crazymaker that I know (a term coined by Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way,” and not at all the same as Crazy Eyes). This Crazymaker had been making quite a bit of crazy for me over the past several months, so this painting was my therapy to work through some frustrations. I scraped on a background layer of color, then added some personal thoughts with charcoal. The next part is kind of a blur, because I let myself just let go and not worry about how it came out. I had nothing to lose. This painting came together quickly and I couldn’t have created it if I had been trying. I just let myself make some mistakes, and artfully chose the ones to keep.
Some trivia: Scott Adams grew up in Windham, NY, and I grew up in Windom, TX. Quite a serendipitous day.
I had a lot of fun playing around with a new media today. Since I’ve noticed a lot of pears showing up in my work, I bought a bunch of fresh pears at the grocery store last night. I thought it might inspire me. Add the pears with several brand new bottles of brightly colored ink that have been awaiting the right day, and the inspiration was born!
Here’s one of the first sketches I made with charcoal. I added color with the ink, diluting it like watercolor. Once it was dry, I used oil pastels, and later chalk pastels to outline, highlight, shade and add definition.
After doing a few of these, I started to loosen up a bit. I kept the washes pretty light and loose, adding salt for texture. Here are some of the looser ones.
I have to include these two (below) because they made me laugh. Some of the ink took quite a long time to dry, and when I moved the paper, the ink ran. I knew that would happen, but I just wanted to play around and see what came of it. The pears grew appendages.
When my daughter got home from school, she saw my “models” (to use her terminology) on the table. She, too, thought they looked a lot like people. She had an acorn and put it on the stem of one of the pears, telling me to make it look like a head. So here’s the result of our creative collaboration.
These are all relatively small, done on 9 x 12″ watercolor paper.
It has finally cooled off here– no more 100 degree heat. The mornings are a little chilly, and the afternoons are warm with a cool breeze. Amazing what that can do for your outlook. Perfect weather to make some art!
Within the past few weeks, I’ve completed about two dozen new works of art, from tiny 4 x 4″ works, to larger paintings and mixed media pieces. Some of them I started several months ago, and others I started and finished within a couple of days. I wanted to share a couple of the “before” and “after” pics with you.
Here’s a photo of some ‘works-in-progress’ that I posted on my Facebook page back in July. I had been having fun layering paint, spraying the wet paint and watching it run. I didn’t really know where I was going with these paintings, but I like to work on top of a layered background anyway, so at least I had a starting point.
And here’s how they ended up–
This painting, “Home” started out as the painting on the far left (above). As you can see, not much of the original underpainting is left, and the canvas was turned horizontally rather than vertically. The layered underpainting did help create a jumping off point. I started scraping layers of paint on top of it, and added layers of glazes for depth. I was encouraged by my friend Robyn to do a larger version of ‘Home,’ as the first one was just 6 x 12.” So this canvas seemed to be a good fit.I changed up the colors a bit, but I’m really pleased with how it came out.
This one started out as the painting in the center (top photo). Again, not much of the original layers are showing. I absolutely love the deep turquoise blue. I don’t think the photo shows the colors very well — I may have to get one of my professional photo friends to help me out with a better shot. It’s got a nice, glossy varnish on top that brings out the juicy colors. I did a little writing in charcoal between the layers of paint, and that’s where this painting gets it’s title, “Give Yourself Freedom.” I think I was listening to a Tivo’d episode of Oprah late one night, and got inspired by that phrase, which struck a chord with me, because I think much of what holds me back is not restrictions given by anyone else but myself. Just in case you can’t tell, the white spot on the canvas is actually a keyboard piece that says ‘enter.’
As far as the third painting from the studio shot (the one with the figure in the top photo), it’s still a work in progress. I think I’ve almost worked it to death. We’ll see if it survives or gets reincarnated.
(Update: The third painting did, in fact, get reincarnated – only the bird survived. It is now “The Progression of Things.”
So, as I briefly mentioned in my last post, I’ve started playing around with text a little bit more in my work. I’ve already been using text for a while, but mostly through collage only. I recently came across some old keyboards and thought some of the keys might make some interesting additions to my work.
The above image is a piece of art that I just finished, titled “Home.” I’ve had it in the works for a while, layering on color and washes, creating texture and depth. I thought it looked like a landscape or seascape, until I added the pears (a symbol I’ve used in other works). Suddenly it became a still life. The pears are collaged from wallpaper (another domestic reference), but I painted on top of them so much, you can’t see much of the original. I found the perfect text for this one: “Home.” I even left the key messy with paint, to reflect my lived-in, imperfect, but creative home. I’m trying to remind myself that it’s ok if things aren’t perfect, that just makes them more interesting.
The computer keys are a fun element to add into my work, adding a little bit of three-diminsionality, but also contributing to the meaning of the art. Here’s a tiny work that I did recently, only 4 x 4″, titled “Down.” A reminder to sit down and enjoy life once in a while. Breathe.
I am interested in taking art historical depictions of women (typically created by male artists) and keeping the overall composition, but changing the meaning entirely. These women are no longer in the background; they are no longer simply seen as allegories of beauty and desire. They are now active participants in their own life, everyday women with interesting stories to tell.
Stylistically, I prefer looser lines and more abstracted forms than used in traditional paintings. I am influenced by the modernists: Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Valadon, and Toulouse-Lautrec, to name a few. I feel a connection to their liberated use of color and simplification of forms. In this particular work, I first layered paper onto the canvas. The underlying image (a photograph of a sculpture that I took while in Boston) shows through only near the bottom of the composition — the dark areas in the female’s dress, and under the red garment of the child.
Another influece on my art is stained glass windows. I believe this comes from my background in Art History, and eventual travels in Europe. Each panel of stained glass tells a story through simple lines and bold colors. Likewise, each canvas or panel of my work captures a simple moment in time (a conversation, an exchange between mother and child), and elevates it to a moment of the sublime. Although I use the “aura” or halo in some of my work, it not meant to be religious, but rather to bring to light the sacred acts of everyday life. Using these female subjects, much of my art work deals with my interpretation of my own life: my role as mother, daughter, and wife.
Pablo Picasso said, ” Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” For me, at least, this is true.
A lot has happened since my last post. I can’t believe it’s been so long, but I’ve been so busy creating, that I haven’t had time to write about it!
Between September and now, I’ve participated in one art festival, two solo exhibits, and three group exhibits. I began serving as the President of our local arts Guild in January. And over the past four months I’ve also designed and produced four very large public murals. So, now, it’s time to catch my breath and show you what I’ve been up to.
Starting in October, I began to come up with designs for four murals that would be in the library at Frisco High School. I met with the librarian and principal at FHS, and we discussed how they would like the murals to be very colorful, livening up the library walls and appealing to the students there. They wanted something that reflected how the library was used, and were looking for a more modern, less traditional feel for the murals. Other than that, I was on my own!
This is the first of the four murals, which measures 24′ x 8′, and is located behind the long circulation desk. I call this mural “Connected,” because it shows the students connecting with books, technology and each other in the library. I thought it would be fun to play with scale in the composition, so I made the books and notebook very large. I tried to incorporate a variety of types of students, and I even used four FHS students as models for this mural. By the time I finished, I had several requests from other students who wanted to be painted, too!
After completing my first mural, I moved on to the mural in the entry way of the library. I knew it would be one of the first things you would see when entering, so I wanted to create another image that really grabbed your attention.
On this mural, the background images were inspired by posters featuring travel, science, fine arts, mathematics, health & fitness, etc. Because of the popularity of using the students in the other mural, I photographed FHS students for each of these figures, putting them into the pose I had already sketched out on my plan. I wanted these figures to really “pop,” so I made them resting on blocks that seem to project out into space. It was fun to interact with the students who came into the library. I call this mural “Inquiring Minds.”
The third mural was at the very end of the long, narrow library. It is over the “College & Career” section, and it is called, “Outlook on the Future.” I decided to go with a simpler, more graphic design, but still wanted to play with scale and three-dimensionality. The background of this design includes a college building, a (long and) winding road, fields of blue, and a city in the back ground. The sky is full of gears, one with a compass, pointing the way to go. A lone figure stands atop a stack of books, looking at the future. In the foreground is a large book, that seems to be balanced atop the bookcase, with a graduation cap on top of it. The tassel really fools the eye, looking like it pops right off the wall. It has been fun to see the students and staff come into the library and try to decide if that book is real or not. They often have to go up close to find out.
This is the final mural I painted for the library, in the fiction section. I wanted this one to be loose and fun, with a graphic, pop art look. I included references to 16 fiction books, two non-fiction books, and one really great bard. This is very close to the entry mural, and is visible from the second floor of the school, through glass windows.
The library hosted a reception for me today, and it was great to hear the responses of all those who were seeing the murals for the first time. It’s always interesting to see how each mural appeals to people in a different way. Some prefer the realism of “Connection” and “Inquiring Minds,” while others are drawn to the more stylized designs of “Outlook on the Future” and “Imagine.” I love the fact that hundreds (thousands?) of people will get to enjoy them for many years. That’s very gratifying. This project has been a great experience for me, and I hope that it makes the library an even more appealing place for the students of FHS to hang out.
So, I’ve been working in my studio. Earlier in the month I spent a great deal of effort fretting about what to make. That’s really a bad state to be in. Wanting to make art, but not knowing what to make. Fortunately, I got myself together, and gave myself a reminder to just enjoy the act of making art. Quit worrying about the outcome. Then I let myself play.
Before I knew it, I was brushing, scraping, spraying, glazing, running, layering, and gluing. I made myself conscious of how the paint moved on the canvas. I stuck my fingers in it, and it felt good! I watched it run as I sprayed water into the wet paint. I saw the color change as I glazed over the yellow paint with a dull purple. I set it aside and begin again on a new surface. The monster had been unleashed.
Right now, I have four new large canvases and twelve new small ones in the works. While I wait for the inspiration for a new image to hit, I continue to play. Laying the foundation. Painting layer after layer. Building up texture. Building up layers of meaning. Maybe the image I create when I am playing will be the end result, or maybe it won’t even be visible by the time I am done. Who knows? I have to trust my instincts and know that my subconscious is a better artist than I’ll ever be.
“To live a creative life, we must lose the fear of being wrong. “ – Joseph Chilton Pearce
Over the past couple of years, this has become my creative motto. It speaks to me very personally. I am by nature a perfectionist of sorts, terribly afraid of being wrong. Mostly not wanting to look stupid.
I’m not sure how this became such a part of who I am (I have an educated guess), but it’s been there a long time.
When it comes to art, don’t we all feel like we’re wrong at some point? I have sat through many, many art history classes, all of which held up artists as geniuses of their time. And I agree that many were indeed geniuses. I’ve critiqued their work. I’ve stood in awe. But some of them really just knew how to work the system. And sometimes I thought, “What? This is art?” Because, as we all know, art these days is so subjective that it’s hard to say what art is anymore. I like some of it. I hate some of it. Most of it I can at least appreciate. But you have to admit it, most of what is considered “modern” and “it” in the art world now really isn’t very pleasant to look at.
Yes, I know that’s the point, ok. But it still doesn’t make me want to look at it. So there. It is visual art, for crying out loud.
And so what if I’m wrong? I’m not afraid of being wrong anymore, remember (she reminds herself).
So this leads me back to my own creativity….. over and over again as I’m working in my studio, I have to remind myself to enjoy my creativity. Stop thinking so hard and have some fun at it. Play. Experiment.
I’m still working on losing my fear, I guess. But I’m a lot closer than I was this time last year. And the year before….
The “Color: Between the Lines” show has been success. Thanks to all who were able to make it out so far, and thanks to all of you who live to far away to attend but sent me your good karma anyway.
Putting together an art exhibit is quite the task, and I can really appreciate the benefit of having a gallery handle it for you (although we were not privileged to that benefit in this case). In addition to making half of the art in the show, we’ve spent weeks preparing biographies, planning the menu and trying to invite anyone and everyone we could possibly think of. Then there was updating my web site, sending e-mails, updating Facebook, etc., etc. I may sound like I’m complaining, but really I’m not. As hectic as it is, I rather enjoy all of the prep work. And I feel very privileged to have the opportunity. It really is a lot of work, though. All in the hopes of baring your soul to the world (or rather a small circle of friends and acquaintances) and hoping to break even. What a romantic life, being an artist.
In addition to the reception, I’ve been up to the gallery space a few other times to show friends and family my work. Each time I had to take my daughters, they kind of groaned under their breath, saying “But we’ve already seen it fifty times.” Experts in hyperbole. Not yet experts in flattering their mother. Makes me wonder how they’ll remember their childhood……”My mother used to make me go sit still in the galleries where her art work was on display. We’d have to look at the same boring things over and over and over. It was absolute torture…”
The show closes this Friday. The gallery will be open Friday night from 5-8pm, so if you still haven’t seen it and want to, please come by. Thanks to T. Scott Stromberg and his wife Sammie for all of their work in pulling this show off, too!
For a while now, I’ve been feeling the need to write. I used to love journaling. I’ve got volumes of poems, prose, stories of my life from when I was a teenager (Oh, the drama!). I used my journal — a very large three-ring binder — to let out my frustrations, my longings, my ideas, my passions, and all the things that I knew no one else would understand. These writings began as an assignment from my favorite English teacher. Most of my classmates would moan in disdain each time she announced a new set of writing tasks and due dates. But I relished every moment of it, and couldn’t wait to live life so I would have something to write about.
And so here I am, twenty years later. Haven’t “had” the time to slow down and write much. It has seemed like a luxury that I can’t afford. House. Kids. Job. Husband. Volunteering. Just too much to do. And then there’s this art thing. You know, I could be painting right now.
But I’m at the point right now that I don’t think I can afford not to write. As my youngest daughter, Sophie, said a while back, “I’ve got all these thinky-things floating around in my head.” As she said this, she moved her hands in a swirling motion on either side of her head. My husband and I laughed and he said, “Yes, I’m sure you do!”
I totally get that! She put into words how I feel about 95% of the time. These Thinky Things are so noisy that they pretty much drown out everything else, and keep me from being focused on anything. Even this morning as we were driving, we passed the art center where I’m having a show this month, and a million “to do’s” popped up into my head like spam in a trash folder. My husband, who knows me so well, heard my sigh, and said, “I can see the wheels turning. Are you thinking about all the things you need to do?”
Yep. And starting a blog was very high on my priority list. (check!) Sure, I think it’s a good way to communicate with my friends and “fans.” But more than anything, it’s going to be a way for me to put all of those Thinky Things in their place!