Friday, May 24, 2013

Artist Dates and Small Works Make for More Than Just Paint

As an artist, I have come to realize how important it is to be connected to a community of creative people.  I love all my friends, whether they are creative or not.  They all play a different role in my circle of friendship. Heck!  My husband isn't a creative and I think he is pretty darn cool himself! But my artist friends understand me at a level that is only possible if you are crazy, weird, nuts sewn together in way that creative thinkers are knitted.

After reading through the first half of Julie Cameron's The Artist Way, I decided to take the initiative to champion a Artist Studio Date once a month with two of my favorite creative friends.  We get together once a month with a sketchbook and limited supplies to create small works of art, but more importantly to connect and talk and share.  The idea is to come with a loose idea of what we might paint on the page.  We paint, chat and stop for lunch. We sip Prosecco and laugh about our lives, our men and bounce ideas off of each other. These ideas are both about our studio work and about our lives.  We are three months into our dates and I wanted to share with you the three pages that I have completed.  
In my bag of tricks I pack drawing materials, a limited supply of brushes and tubes of gouache.  Here are the results of each month's date.

Pic from the first Artist Date
In the above small painting, I came with the goal to just paint something without thinking.  I brought a few brushes, pencils and gouache.  (For those of you who don't know what gouache is, it's a watercolor paint that has nice qualities that allow if needed for a more opaque result than most standard watercolor paints.)  I just did without thinking, laying down a layer of bright yellow and then just adding the elements.  I have glue relief stamps that I made and tossed in the bag that I used to create the square and rectangular shapes.  During the afternoon, one of my friends said, "You can't be erased."  It wasn't a direct comment at me, but an overall pronouncement.  It stuck with me, so I used it in the piece on the bottom right corner.

On our second Artist Date, I brought with me a copy of a photograph that my daughter took of herself to use as inspiration.  Here is the photocopy. It's a somewhat somber image.  She captures herself in many different moods.  I thought this image would be interesting to tackle both thematically and structurally.

Below is the small painting I did based on this photograph.

I decided on a brighter color palette and put down a basic background sketch using pencil.   I made the decision at one point to open her eye because I thought the downward gaze would help me illustrate the mood of the image. We, as a family, have been through a lot in the last few months.  I wanted to document this moment.

This past week, we met in MY studio for the first time. Boy was I excited to host the day.  We all three have come to look forward to getting together to share our work and our lives.  We can say anything and the other person doesn't judge.  We 'get' each other implicitly. Weirdos like other weirdos. Hee hee.

Gypsy the Studio cat!
For this week in addition to the Artist Date, I was attempting to also participate in an online community linky party sponsored by Inspiration Avenue.  Maggie picks a theme each week and all the participants create something based on that theme.  I rarely participate in these parties because my work is my work and I find it hard to paint something that doesn't apply.  The theme this week was "Retro Art 1950s and 60s."  I had the hair brained idea that I would create my Artist Date page based on the work of the 1950s and 60s artist Mark Rothko.  I love his work and thought it would be fun to explore this idea.

It turned out to be not the best idea.  I am not Mark. Will never be Mark. I hated the painting. It didn't feel like me. The rectangles were all off or something.  Couldn't put my finger on it.  Maybe it was that I drank too much Prosecco? (wink)

In the end, I was so unhappy with the painting that I added this random tree.  Why not?  It is what it is for sure.  One of my friends said that the painting reminded her of Jasper Johns, another painter from that time period. So hey, it's my Retro Art. Ha!

An artist's life can be very isolating.  I think it is important to get out with other creative people.  We feed each other.  We validate each other.  Sometimes...we just need to 'be' together, if nothing more than to realize that there are other weird people out there just like us!  It's worth the effort. I promise.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pouting, Painting and Pondering

This week I am in the studio doing small works on paper.  I needed a break from my larger work after my husband left a door open on my studio allowing a gust of wind to turn the painting I blogged about last week into a sail which resulted in a large rip in the canvas.  I could try and repair the rip and continue, but the painting wasn't really working anyway.  I just don't feel like investing the time into something that is already damaged.

I was disappointed. Yes.  I did take most of the day to pout, bitch and complain.  I behaved horribly, which I felt obligated to do. (wink)  Sometimes...ya just gotta stomp your feet and get it all out!

Perhaps he did me a favor.  The event forced me to change course and start on something fresh and new.  My other studio work can wait for a little bit while I explore this avenue.  I am having fun with it.  I showed this one painting to my friends on Facebook yesterday and I have gotten nice feedback.

Gouache and pencil on paper. 6 inch X 6 inch. 

My husband called it whimsical.  Another friend called it bubbly delicious!  I haven't called it anything yet. Which is kinda strange because I usually name every last thing I paint.  Anybody out there care to help a girl out?!  Wanna take a stab at a name?  Who knows....perhaps I will use it.

So, I could have remained stuck in that rip-in-my-canvas moment.  I could have used it as an excuse to impede the momentum that I am attempting to build in my studio work.  To many...including my critical self, that would have been understandable...even justified.

But why?  What was I to gain from remaining in that negative place? What benefit or growth can be achieve if we allow ourselves to be tied down?  There might have been something to gain in that place. I think there is something to learn from in every circumstance.  But I chose to let it go and move on. I chose to untie from that entrapment and explore what a new freedom might offer.

In order to feel good about not languishing in that place, I had to completely switch it up and work in a different manner. My husband knew what was good for him, so he helped me rearrange and clean up my studio space over the weekend. I set up the tables in a different configuration that is more conducive to working on a paper. It's amazing what a little clean up and switch up can do for perspective!  Fresh path.

Who knows to what this path might lead. I think it is worth traveling.  I think that this matters.  I think letting go of what ties us down matters.  It allows us to move on...

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” 

Linking this post to:
Paint Party Friday

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Turn Things Upside Down!

There is this thing that happens to an artist while working in the studio. It is inevitable  We all experiences it from time to time. It's like hitting a stone wall. Let me explain...You have this painting in progress.  The problem's stalled. There is no progress.  It's trapped in a place. We stand looking, realizing that there are some very obviously things wrong, but more importantly...there is something elusively wrong too.   Many times we continue to layer paint, add elements, squint at it, turn our heads to one side, stand with puzzled faces and sometimes just plain walk away in disgust!

My friend, Riitta and I also sometimes chose to put those paintings in 'time out.'  I call it putting it in the closet. Riitta calls it the punishment box!  We chose to laugh in spite of our frustrations, because in reality sometimes you just gotta laugh!  So why the rambling over this inevitable circumstance?  Well.... I've got this on an easel wasting the days away in a suspended purgatory...

Painting in Progress

So...the obvious problems?  Just above the mid-level area of this painting, the colors need to change. Obviously?... This painting is far from worked to completion.  So why am I 'stuck?'  It's been like this for days, without an answer.  Sometimes, I will send an image to Riitta to get her take.  But this time...I have just let it sit.  Deep breaths...

Detail - Painting in progress here's my solution. Well, it's not MY solution, it's one of those 'tricks' we are taught along the way. Perhaps, it's just a coping skill we learn...ya know, the skills all of us employ on a daily basis in an attempt to stay sane?!!  I am going to put a Voodoo curse on this painting. Just Kidding!  I thought I had ya there! (wink) I am going to simply turn this painting upside down and start fresh...well, kinda fresh.  I have something on this canvas and I am going to try and re-address it from another perspective.

Many times this technique will help me re-establish a color palette direction. Sometimes it will allow me to correct composition issues.  Sometimes it is just as simple as forcing myself to enter stroke marks from a different direction which can change the overall energy or flow of the painting.  I might also cover a few areas that aren't working for me with gesso.  We shall see what develops in the upside down world.

Regardless...this painting needs the big 'switcherooy!'

So today...I'm flipping out!... uh wait... No.  This painting will be flipping over. Yep...Not me, the painting.  Got it. (Sometimes it feels like both.) Ha! The key to being able to do this? Letting go... Whatever I thought this painting might be, is a thing of the past.  Let's see what happens...

"Sometimes you have to let go to see if there was anything worth holding on to." Anonymous 

Linking this to Paint Party Friday

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Finding Answers and Searching for the Recipe One Step at a Time

My son is a musician and a song writer.  He discovered his passion for music at age 13.  In high school, he was an honors student and pretty darn amazing at remembering facts and figures.  He always excelled in the sciences.  He had a gift for understanding scientific concepts.  When he was quite young, he would love to get as gifts large coffee table books covering all sorts of biological and animal life subjects.  He would devour the contents and to this day can still pull up details about strange creatures and organisms.

He is one of those people who is fascinating and is knitted together quite differently from most others. He has the intellect of a geeky kid, but not the personality.   He is extremely outgoing and social.  This fact has made growing up tough for him. Even though he was one of the smartest kids in his classes, he struggled to perform academically because of the negative distractions.  He has not had an easy road. At the age of 18, he has experienced much more hurt and heartbreak then most people do in a lifetime.  His struggles have been epic...but he is a survivor.

I was told once by an elderly lady whom we came into contact with when he was a toddler that I had been given a gift. She told me that I had been given a child that was here to change the world.  Oh course, she was saying this based on his current headstrong and unrelenting behavior, but somehow she saw something in him.  During some of the toughest days as a mother, I would cling to those words, thinking that they meant something.  I told myself that she must have been an angel send with a message.  It got me through a lot.  I am grateful to this day that she took the time to impart her words. We should all do that more often.

Paris 2011. He spontaneously joined a group of street performers. He played for two hours with these guys who had mad respect for him.  He even drew a pretty huge crowd of people.  I think he still sees this moment as one of the
happiness afternoons to date. 
I had always just assumed that both my kids would have a great high school experience.  That my house would be filled with friends and parties, football games and school activities. I assumed that I would be able to guild them into choosing the best, most well selected colleges that would match their passions. I guess that I always thought that if I worked hard and became the best mother on earth, that they could move mountains and that everything would work out just great.  I assumed a lot, but learn oh so much more.  They say that when life throws a curve ball, you better have your mitt ready.  Well, we caught the ball...and we are still trying to recover from the sting...we are also looking for the recipe to the right lemonade.

This image was taken back in 2012 by my daughter, who is a gifted artist and photographer.  I have a ton of images of him throughout the years walking away. Kinda a strange happenstance.  I realized this during the last 6 months...that he always seemed to be walking away, in search of something.  Perhaps we will help him find that something now.

So now we are on a new road.  A new normal.  A one day at a time future.  The recipe is somewhere out there. No doubt Life will point us in a direction.  Life has a way of doing that.  I still believe that I am that great mother who can help my kid move mountains.  It just so happens that we've moved to a new range.

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"
Dale Carnegie