Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Papyrus Sketch

Yesterday was the last drawing class. I have missed quite a few and will not be doing any more classes for a while. Being pregnant has made evening classes a bit of a struggle and once the baby comes I doubt there will be time to do anything apart from keep the little human alive.

I have learned so much from the drawing and painting classes I have done and can't believe how much I have progressed.  I hope to try and continue to draw and make art. Below is the drawing I did of a papyrus plant in bamboo pen and ink and watercolor.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Last night in drawing class we worked on drawing small.  While taking a break to look at each other's work, I heard a class mate say 'shells are hard'. I agreed. I find them very challenging to draw and yet they seem simple when you first start and I think that is part of the problem. With a tree or a flower there's so much detail to work from and once you start to add the detail, the brain starts to see it for what it is. But a shell keeps itself concealed even after it has lost its inhabitant. Working with crow quill pens also added to the difficulty because we could not rely on color to add emphasis. Instead we had to utilize line and shading.

It is this kind of drawing the reveals the surprising complexity of nature. How a smooth shell, when looked at closely is a perfect package of biological wonder.  We all know that every snowflake is unique and while I don't know this to be true, it seems every shell would be as well. Each line formed through tidal rhythms, places where the top layer has flaked off to reveal a different color underneath; it is a visual story of their journey and existence, just like the lines and colors on our own faces tell the story of our life so far.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Deceptive Simplicity

The artistic process seems to be mythologized quite a lot into something far greater than it actually is. It is just hard labor.  - Nick Cave talking to NPR
Last night was the first time in my so far brief career as an art student that I was not at all interested in going to class. Indeed, I was beginning to regret signing up for more classes at all. I couldn't explain why, however now I think it was because it had been so long since I had been in class or drawn anything at all that I had forgotten the enjoyment of it.  These last few months in retrospect have been of tremendous transition but I don't think I noticed it while I was in the eye of the storm. If you read my previous posts, you will know that I am now pregnant. Four months along actually. Of course one starts to re-evaluate life and priorities. I want to be a creative person for my child but I also know that once she's born sketching and painting will probably become a thing of the past (for while at least), so perhaps my reluctance was based on the belief that creating art will have to cease once the baby is born and so it would be pointless to keep going to classes.

I did go though and spent an intensely pleasurable two and a half hours drawing a hosta leaf onto a large piece of newsprint. The first few moments we tough, getting starting is always hard for me but once I had plunged in I was completely absorbed. It is fascinating to draw something like a hosta leaf that on first glance seems rather simple. I chose a leaf with some damage so that I had more to draw. Soon I was trying to create a kind of order of chaos. The damage caused by insects was apparently random, but the more I examined and sketched the rust-colored holes, the more I developed links between them in attempt to position them correctly. Soon they resembled to me an archipelago of islands. My teacher commented that I was creating a kind aerial map, funny how the concept of maps came up again.  I am learning slowly about light and shade, the harsh light in the classroom created some sheen on the leaves that I tried to capture.

Chatting to my teacher, he mentioned the beautiful garden books that in the past came from the UK. He told me that they were so popular because the light in Britain is often subdued and cloudy. Because of this, colors appear more intense as opposed to a sunny landscape which tends to bleach out colors. I thought about the balance of light and dark which is fitting for this time of year, as the Autumn Equinox is fast approaching. We need the dark and the light.

I was surprised when working how easy it was to get back into the swing of things, even after a period of doing little to no drawing.  Creativity I believe, is not a miracle, it is a muscle. Perhaps one day I can teach all of this to my child.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Ryan Trecartin

I read about Ryan Trecartin in the New Yorker and was interested in finding out more, thank goodness he has a Vimeo account!  Trecartin is a video artist and his work is I think amazing, it is kind of familiar and alienating at the same time. Anyway, watch and see for yourself.

excerpt from Sibling Topics (section a) from Ryan Trecartin on Vimeo.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Own Art

It would be lovely to fill one's home with art work, but we don't all live the kind of life that allows for it. I have found that a way to feed my art passion is to buy art zines. Zines are usually homemade or small-batch produced books/booklets. They can be on any subject from DIY, to graphic novels, to feminism. I have been into zines for a long time and the ones that excite me the most are art ones or comics/graphic novels. I have bought quite a few over the years and they are usually very reasonable. If you're interested in buying an art zine or two, try Etsy, they have a zine section. Or look through the resources on the pin board below.   Some of the ones listed on the board are actually free online graphic novels.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Art of Cornwall

St. Ives is a beautiful bay in Cornwall that I visited on holiday when I was young. I remember the studio of Barbara Hepworth and how it seemed like an enchanted palace - full of mysterious forms with the rustle of palm trees, the cries of sea gulls and sea lapping at the coast in the background. The Tate St. Ives is a spectacular building that was built with wide open spaces that complement the Atlantic perfectly. No wonder so many find inspiration here.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Why the Lull?

I know it has been a while since I posted. Much has changed in my life since my last post. I am now three months pregnant, which has resulted in a great deal of thinking and planning. It also resulted in three months of feeling pretty rotten! I am doing much better now, and I hope to be back to my old creative self.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Whispers from the Office: Scissors

As promised, I am doing a drawing a day. I have decided to begin by picking items I have in my office. It is interesting how much I learn and also how much more I see I must learn. These scissors seemed an easy choice but in fact were not so straightforward. The lack of detail and the hard lines meant that proportion and the need for accuracy were important because I couldn't rely on details as I would say, with a flower to do the work for me.

The Deception of Words

Summer is in full swing and so there are fewer community enrichment classes, which leaves me trying to continue my studies in other ways.
One way has been to take another MOOC. A few months back I did an excellent one through CALarts, the one I am taking now is through MOMA. 'Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art' is aimed at educators, but there is great deal to learn here about creativity and learning even if one is not an educator.  Many of the activities described are aimed at communication that is non-discursive, that is, without using words to articulate meaning or feeling.

Some of us, myself definitely included, have learned to rely on the word too much. The word is not always our friend. It is words that convince me not to act, that there's no point, that I am being naive in thinking I can produce anything of value. Words can offer encouragement which we rely on and if we hear anything negative we risk stopping.

With this in mind, I choose to act. My aim is to produce a drawing everyday.  Drawing has been my Achille's and I would like it to be something I feel comfortable doing. And I call on educators now. When I child has literacy challenges, that is problems with reading and writing, teachers see this as something serious, for our world is so dependent on these skills.  If a child demonstrates little skill in drawing,  educators often shrug and claim, that they're not very artistic and little is done about it. Imagine if this were not so, imagine if teachers worked as hard to promote art as they do literacy, how it would change the way we work, see art perhaps live our lives.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Creativity in All of Us

I watched this excellent documentary on Outsider Art and was really moved by it. It raised many questions about the art market, the role of artists and also how we see those who are differently-abled. There was also discussion of the fact that we are all creative and artistic, as children we were all artists, but then something happened along the way. For me it was having teachers frequently tell me I wasn't any good. Now, I hope, I am reclaiming my right to  be creative.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Freedom in the Sketchbook

I want to express the liberation I have found in using a sketchbook. It has unlocked the fear of making a mark. Our teacher has recommended using poster paper and for beginners like me, it is a useful option: cheap and big.

However storage is a problem due to the size, and because it is so big I feel pressure for each one to be a finished piece. I look at some of the works or exercises I did on poster paper and they seem over-sized and clumsy.

A sketchbook on the other hand is unassuming and intimate and by its nature, suggests exercise or study, which for me makes experiment easy.

Monday, 23 June 2014


It's interesting how much of learning about art is learning how to be aware. Awareness of light, color, form etc. and our reactions to them is a constant theme and is a seductive aspect of the process. The pictures above are from a class on texture. It works for me as record of techniques I practiced, some of which I would love to explore further. When I first did this, the brown was off-putting but after a couple of weeks, I look at it now and find the results quite pleasing.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

To be Discontent

 My sisters says that our family has the tendency to to 'look towards the horizon'. Meaning that we have a habit of always looking for the next thing. Despite having so much to be grateful for, I still look for things to work towards. I think it's this part of my nature that led me to art classes, and yet I still wonder why exactly I chose that collage class and at that point in my life.

Tuesday was the beginning of a new class and at the start our teacher (Ursula this time) told us that the Universe had told her to paint. I envy this assuredness, I'm not sure I have ever had it. At the moment two paths diverge and I don't think I would recognize any message from the universe. My habit is to choose the sensible path, but art has taught me to be discontent for this leads to work and to be defiant because if I had not been, I would never have produced anything. This is a new disposition that I am still learning to live within.

I am beginning to look forward to the not knowing aspect of drawing, painting etc. Much of what I do in life forces me to plan and predetermine so that when I get to doing it, it already seems old and drab.

I look at this work above and the energy bursting from it and its inconceivable to me that only a few hours earlier it didn't exist. The fact that I created it and had no idea a few hours earlier that this would be the result is amazing to me too.

Friday, 6 June 2014

This is Not the Drawing You Are Looking For

This picture looks nothing like the subject from which it was drawn. I like it though, it's curious looking. The activity of drawing and painting still life etc. I don't believe will ultimately be where my pursuits end up, I still enjoy it and see it as necessary work. It also has the capacity to surprise me and I like that very much. 

What do Artists do All Day?

I have spent most of my life making assumptions about those who create, I thought them different to the rest of us. I thought of them as full of that mystical thing 'talent' that seems so cruelly and randomly bestowed, we mere mortals look to artists because they see what we do not and do things we cannot. The more I am involved in creating the more I see that this is a myth. Artists, the accomplished ones, are tireless in their pursuits. I think that over the years their sense of sight and observation have developed so that they do notice the unusual or beauty in things usually taken for granted, however it is something we can all learn to do.

The BBC series 'What Do Artists Do All Day?' does a superlative job of showing the process of art making without seeming high-minded. These artists are not distant beings but present humans full of doubt and conflict and also desire, hard graft and humor. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

A Day at the Pool in Pencil and Marker

At no point are we more alike as a species than at the pool, lounging prides reading our light paperbacks and magazines, strutting consciously sucking in our tummies, our postures consequently suggesting we've pooped ourselves.

In doing a rough sketch I noticed how regimented everything is. Every umbrella identical, stark lights in the parking lot. The tile of the pool an oppressive, flat and rigid pattern.  My subsequent picture does not illustrate these things very well, but no day is wasted when drawing or art-making is allowed to happen.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Thinking in Cicadas

I didn't want to go to class last night, I had been feeling under the weather. But it was the last one and I forced myself along.
After a few minutes of drawing, I felt quite well again.  Below is the result, a cicada from above and beneath on toned paper. When I first started the drawing I gave up as I thought it was too small. As always, my teacher encouraged me to keep going. It is simple advice and it is always correct.

This detailed work is like deep thought. I examined the cicada in every detail from every angle. I noticed the tiny ridges and markings, marveling at the precise detail nature had given the insect despite its diminutive size. It's wings, after years of lifelessness, still maintained a luster and color that would rival a stained glass window.
As my teacher observed, the patterns of its body and head are reminiscent of an Egyptian tomb, the colors reminded me also of those rich hues that Klimt used.  Unfortunately I don't think I did them justice here.

When taking a break, I thought about Frida Kahlo after the accident that was to change her life forever. Art must have been a tremendous release to someone like herself, in pain and confined. I am still amazed that more of us don't do it. There are of course other ways to feel that release and drawing or painting are only two of them. 

My teacher was Peter Loewer.  Illustrator, artist, writer, natural historian, teacher.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Color on a Monday

This little picture doesn't do the pansies in our garden justice. It's the time of year when they seem to be happiest. I experimented with watercolors here for the first time in about twenty years.

I had a box as a teenager that my parents bought me. Opening a little box of paint that is all yours feels very good. I didn't think I liked watercolors, the examples I had seen of them were rather twee and traditional.

Look at the work of Dez'Mon Omega for some remarkable examples of watercolors.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

About a Bone

This bone has been my companion for a couple of weeks. I borrowed it from my teacher who generously lets us take home objects to work on from his wonderful collection. As beautiful and intriguing as all his objects were, there was something about this bone I took to immediately. Origins are unknown. The yellowy white color of it was pleasing as well as the shape that reminded me of a spaceship.

When I was younger my parents took me to, I think, the home of Graham Sutherland in Pembrokeshire. I remember finding his collection of 'objets trouve' fascinating and started my own.  Those items are long gone, sadly. However this class is inspiring me to start this collection again. When I looked at the bone, the memories of that trip became vivid.

Back to the bone. I few weeks ago I did my first rendering of it with a bamboo reed pen and in the last class, after my drawings of the leaves, I did this sketch. It took less than half an hour, and I surprised myself with assured I felt when doing it. I felt I knew where the shading should be, how to blend the colors - as if I was channeling someone else. It was an intense and fleeting experience that I hope I have again.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


It is interesting how the mind's eye betrays. Ideas that I am so sure of, in execution disappoint. The automatic reaction is frustration. Except the more I do and the less I think, the more I  am discovering.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Truth! Beauty!

When I left my class last night, I looked up at the sky in the creeping dusk and saw a moon of tempera set in a sky of Indian ink, clouds seemed to be sketched across it. Turning to the retreating sun, it lit the clouds like Turner. I drove with the windows down, smelling the greenery as I went through the River Arts District and felt much like George Emerson in 'A Room with a View' ready to shout out my creed of 'Truth! Beauty'.

Friday, 9 May 2014

An Experiment in Video

I am doing a MOOC on Andy Warhol and this video was the result of an image I created for the first assignment. I've been trying to experiment more with video ever since the {Re}Happening and discovering the work of Ryan Trecartin.
casta diva from LizW on Vimeo.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Drawing Beyond the Past

Dogged - I submit to the page,
My first resistance deflated.
Keep going, fill the space.
God, but you need stamina!
To not remember 
What it was like to be young 
And no good.
Is it OK?
It doesn't matter, keep going.
Now there are shells 
Like planets or mischievous thoughts.
No revelation, I had forgotten to defy the end.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Thank you Mr. Klee

Last week, drawing seemed impossible, like pulling ugly rotten wisdom teeth from a stubborn mouth. This week, I used a bamboo reed pen for the first time and everything seemed to open up. Below is the picture I worked on in class - a bleached piece of bone and sea anemones.

We had begun the lesson with slides of drawings, mostly by Paul Klee. Our teacher used these to encourage us to be ambitious and fantastical. I tend to find the more freedom I am given, the more paralyzed I feel - too many decisions to make. However, drawing has been intimidating to me for so long that this permission for free reign was the spark I had needed.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Gossip, the Bloomsbury Group and Facebook

Where I am is a gift: a community college and as such a place of learning and ideas. Sometimes. I work in an office in the library. Oh to go out of my office and face row upon row of books! The very area where I work is a perk of the job to my mind.

Last week I went to an English Lit class that is studying British literature. My first degree was in literature and they are studying one of my favorite periods, the modernists. It feels luxurious to spend time talking about 'A Room of One's Own'. The students in the class were insightful and wise, more so than we credit to twenty-somethings having. They drew parallels between the upheavals of the post WWI world with our world now.

'What would have Woolf thought about Facebook?' one student asked.

What a great question and one to which I have given great thought.  I think that there has to be two elements to consider. First, Woolf was part of the Bloomsbury group - a group of artists, thinkers, socialites from the middle to upper classes. They were sophisticated, but they were also gossips. So from that aspect, Woolf perhaps would be intrigued by Facebook both as a gossip and a writer who loved characters. However, Woolf's insistence that women carve out their own space is a little at odds with the nature of social networking. You may think that in this universe, you have autonomy but I don't think that is really true. I am surprised at how little control I have over space  online, especially within the realms of Twitter and Facebook. Words are turned against you, pictures become the subject of other people's conversations.

Social networking has a dark side, as we all know - or do we? The internet has become a god like thing, omniscient, indestructible. Like the Old Testament creator, it can be jealous, hateful and legion in its intolerance as well as an important vehicle for spreading love and change. I think that Woolf would be both intrigued and revolted.

Los Gatitos after Las Meninas

This was my submission for the penultimate assignment in the MOOC I am doing on art history. Our task was to rework the paint Las Meninas by Velazquez. I chose cats because I think they are beautiful and seem to be a favorite pet of artists. Cats have certainly found their place in the virtual world, millions of people watch videos of them online everyday. I like humor in art and I like to create humor in art.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Draw to Remember

A new class. This one on drawing from nature. Not an obvious choice based on my interests, though I am a gardener and find natural objects interesting. Drawing is my Achilles' heal which is why this was a good class to choose.

 The precision and detail was demanding but I am quite pleased with what I managed to accomplish. The technique my new teacher recommended had a great similarity with the way my other teacher showed us how to paint. Start by drawing a broad shape that resembles the subject, then fill in with detail. This worked well for me, so that when it came to drawing my second object I felt more confident.

Our teacher began by showing us some slides of drawings, sketches and water colors that revealed the variety of results using the media.  As he went through the slides, he talked about using sketching and drawing to fix moments in one's memory. In particular there was a slide of one of his own drawings that he had done at Kew Gardens in London. He told us that because of this little sketch he remembered everything about the day. This I think, is an important idea and makes me think of why I write poetry. I write poetry to remember a moment, and in so doing that moment is crystallized in a manner that is lacking in typical prose descriptions.  The act of creating embosses that memory and captures the essence. Everyday language can be clunky and frustrating. Art makes communication fluid and nuanced.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

{Re}Happening 2014

Attending the {Re}Happening was a little like slipping into a dream. Through the darkness people wandered in and out of vision and earshot. Every now and then a familiar face would float into my line of sight, but they didn’t recognize me and I let them pass without approaching them. Walking was hard, the ground uneven in the velvety night. If I am hungry at night I often dream about food, usually cakes or ice-cream. These dreams seem to always involve me not having enough money to buy all the things I want and I wake up ravenous. At the {Re}Happening ice cream and cake was free. If there is a heaven, I want it to be like this. Not only because of the free treats. I cannot think of anything more wonderful than going from place to place to experience art projects that were wild and wonderful, meditative and inquiring. Often flawed, but that is part of it. I cannot do justice to the evening merely through descriptive writing. Experience is everything. I will keep trying.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Black Mountain College of Arts

A quick post. The 2014 {Re}Happening was last Saturday. It was truly amazing. Here is a board about the Black Mountain College of Arts and the {Re}Happening

Friday, 4 April 2014

Doing Cubism

Here's some advice. If you're interested in trying Cubism, don't do what I did and use as one of your subjects a perfectly cylindrical biscuit (cookie) tube. One of the essential ideas about Cubism was painting a subject from different angles. Great. Except that cylinders are more or less the same from every angle. The picture I did is growing on me. I need to finish it. I think the little cowboy hats with the very British word 'Jubilee' are funny. The ties from different angles look like search lights, which could not have predicted being the result when I started. I may post the end result here.
Good times. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

In Mud

According to the teacher of my art class, 'mud' does not refer to a colour, rather a colour that you didn't intend.
It seems that most of my adult life has been spent in mud, doing things and making decisions that took me somewhere unintended. I suppose that is the advantage of not having clear ambitions. I can't recall ever having long-term goals. That doesn't mean I was unmotivated. Whatever I was doing at any time, I threw myself into - teaching, travelling, being in love. 
This art class is merely the most recent. I don't know whether this will be something that becomes a long-term activity, I know that I am enjoying it now.

There are definite advantages to living in mud. You don't get disappointed and there is always something new to discover. I recently read an article about Cindy Sherman in Vanity Fair and she said: "I had no idea I would really become an artist. I never would have thought I'd be doing this for 35 years." 35 years in mud has resulted in some amazing work.

I intend to stay in the mud. I hope that it spreads and more people see the beauty in it.

Monday, 31 March 2014


A few years ago when I was planning my wedding, I really got into kimono silks. So often when I come across a textile I love, I get nervous about doing anything with it. The fans used here seemed an effective way of displaying the fabrics. I think the gold spray paint background sets the colours off nicely. The piece makes me think of Jeff Koons, the gold reminds me of the gold statue he did of Michael Jackson and Bubbles.
The gold seems contemporary in a cold, extravagant way, whereas the silks are warmer and inviting.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


I think it's time to put inspiration in its place.

In one week, I heard the word ‘permission’ used twice by two different art educators. Once was to describe using a sketchbook through the MOOC I am doing. Another occasion used by the teacher of my evening class on art, in reference to creating without a plan. I found it interesting that they both used that word: ‘permission’. It’s a gentle word, a considered ‘yes’with a gentle hush to it. Don’t ‘force’ or ‘try’ but ‘give yourself permission’ to work, to do. That’s the problem with inspiration, it denies us permission. Should we throw ourselves at the mercy of inspiration, we might never create anything. Inspiration says we should not work but wait and wait and if nothing comes then it is because we are not ‘good’ at whatever it is we're trying to do.

Inspiration is also, I think detrimental to the notion of education and teaching.   Some teachers see themselves as central to the learning process, they feel that it is up to them to inspire their students. I find fault with this. If you as an educator are trying to fill your education with pizazz and 'jazz hands', students become passive, back seat drivers to their own learning. Why bother to be curious when your teacher is going to present what they think is important, and only if they present it in a charismatic way will you sit up and take notice? Educators put excessive amounts of pressure on themselves to perform sometimes, and in so doing lose sight of what is important, creating an environment of curiosity and choice making.Without ego, thanks very much.

From my first degree, I remember the teachers who had charisma coming out of their ears. I do not remember anything about what those charismatic teachers were supposed to be teaching me. It is the pointless performance that lingers.
Below is a picture of the permission I gave myself to hang my work, in a room and not care about how it looks. To me they are each mementoes of an occasion when I was doing something I loved. Each one is a snapshot of a journey I took, sometimes in a class, but it was always between me and the work.  The teacher just gave me an idea of a path to try.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Art Veterans

I often arrive early to my art class, this time two of the other students were early as well. One of them I recognized from the collage class that I did in the fall.  We got to talking about the classes here at the college and comparing what we had done etc. it seems there is a core group that do these classes repeatedly. I was surprised: when looking for classes, I always focused on ones I hadn't attended. However, now I realize that may not be necessary.  I could do the same classes many times and always come up with new projects, discoveries etc.

That is the beauty of a thoughtful education. It's not about covering the content, ticking boxes, getting something done. If a class is constructive, then it becomes about what YOU are learning. On many occasion, our teacher has given us a task which we all completed with very different results. That is the point, you are growing as yourself, not as others feel you should. Therefore, why not do the same class again?

There is more and more being written about genius, talent and creativity and the most common thread that runs through all these articles, books, blog posts etc. is that creativity is work. According to Milton Glaser 'Good is the enemy of great.' And how does one become great? Through work, through doing.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Dying Everyday

My question was: Are all paintings redeemable?
I looked at my picture in dismay. I had started with such enthusiasm, making stamps out of push pins and stencils from cardboard. This lesson we were looking at pattern and the slides our teacher showed us motivated me to explore. But the more I worked, the more everything seemed to slip away. The push pin stamp resulted in a stipple effect, far less precise than the shape I thought would come out. Paint seemed streaky and the three sections lacked cohesion. My teacher could see I was not at all impressed and gave me some helpful pointers, which I did incorporate. The result is better, not great.

Despite my love and respect for process and work, sometimes I would like to end up with something pleasing. I assumed this would happen with my abstract class since I have always preferred abstract art to figurative, it hasn't. I mentioned to my teacher that abstract work is deceptively difficult. With traditional techniques, if the apple you are painting, looks like an apple then you have some idea of progress. With abstract work however, there is often no reference, how do you know it's ready? That you're making any kind of progress creatively?

Innovation must be a lonely business. No wonder Van Gogh went mad. Imagine, striking out, doing something new and perhaps you sometimes are excited by it but there must also be times where you really do question whether you are on the right path.

In answer to the question: Are all paintings redeemable, my teacher responded that she thinks they are. She then went on to show me examples of painting she has reworked into bright woven squares. I wondered what the original pieces must've looked liked, a pointless thought. She had made them new and let the old creations die (for nothing that dies completely disappears).

John Updike claimed that everyday our old self is gone with the new day. We die, so how can we be afraid of death?

I don't know how we decide what to keep, what to throw away. I trust that at some point, I will know when to let it die, if need be.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Painting, Decisions and Meaning

According to Jean Piaget: "Intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do." This quote became my silent mantra for my most recent art class as I battled with Fauvism and struggled with color fields.
After surprising myself with my first paintings I often ask myself now, perhaps it was a fluke.
 Painting is making decisions even if the decision is to keep going with no plan. It's hard and the results sometimes less than satisfying but it doesn't matter. It really doesn't. The process is the point and the process is becoming my addiction. What  joy it is, after years of being the adult educator to learn something new.

Unlike the beginning acrylics course which was more technical, more methodical, this class feels like a tour through modern art. This time we discussed the Impressionists, the Fauvists and Black Mountain College of Arts whose spirit still lives on in Asheville. I learned that the Impressionists used oils. I thought of those garrets in Paris in the summer, hot humid and reeking of linseed oil. The smell must've been intoxicating.
We learn and then we explore those techniques and it feels to me like I am developing connections with these artists. I mean this with great humility. Actually doing what they did brings it alive. To be honest I think EVERYONE who likes art should do a class, even if you don't have the desire to be an artist. I will never look at art the same again. I'll never look at life the same way again.  John Dewey said this: "Whatever path the work of art pursues, it, just because it is a full and intense experience, keeps alive the power to experience the common world in its fullness." (from 'Art and Experience')

I am sharing what I did, not because I think it is any good but to make those of you also struggling feel better. The finished product here seems so insignificant to the experience of creating it.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Watch: Cutie and the Boxer

I sometimes wonder if we haven't regressed when it comes to women's rights, especially in the media.  On TV shows and in films women are portrayed in ways that are alien to me, and I am a woman.
I especially get frustrated with the way creative and other historical female figures are portrayed in film. I could list many films, "Pollock", "What Maisie Knew", "New York Stories", "Sylvia" - to name a few, where the women's creativity is either seen as secondary to their male partner's, portrayed as silly OR their actual talents become a palimpsest on top of which a dreary or overblown romance is rendered.
See how many films and documentaries about male creatives you can come up with, then try and come up with an equal number for women. Good luck with that one.

That is why "Cutie and the Boxer" was so refreshing and thoroughly watchable. Rather than going for the obvious line of exploring Ushio Shinohara's career that never reached the heights of success that was forecast in his earlier years, or examining the complex relationship with his wife Noriko (who by the way has GREAT style), the filmmakers created a multi-layered documentary that incorporated the above to actually make Noriko, I think, the main protagonist as a talented artist whose circumstances curtailed her career. It was a surprising twist.

Watch it, it's great.

Monday, 17 March 2014

From Beginning Acylics to Abstract Art

Every now and then in life we experience a moment of utter perfection. The moment the teacher of my new evening art class turned off all the lights, illuminating the new falling snow while we practiced automatic drawing was one of them. This new class which began last week, is about abstract art. It's the same teacher I had before (local artist Ursula Gullow) but the tone is different.

In this first lesson we looked at the idea of automatic drawing. Ursula made an excellent point. When we create art with a clear plan of what we want at the end, the subsequent process becomes a series of tasks, with the creativity happening at the start. Whereas if we create art spontaneously, we become the medium along with the materials we use, the creativity is ongoing.  As someone who has always created with a plan, this has been liberating. That is not to say that it is always easy to work spontaneously, my brain doesn't do this naturally. But I am trying!

As part of the class we created our own automatic drawings in the dark using black lines. I chose to draw continuously from one line without lifting my pen from the surface. It was a good feeling to be with these people I barely knew, in the dark, collectively creating. We used the drawings as the basis for paintings. Many people used different colours and materials. I stuck with monochrome. The piece I did fought me for a while, then somehow it came together.  Below is the result.

What you can't see in the picture is the areas that are raised, peaks of paint. I have decided to call it 'Cartography' because to me it seems like a map, a map of my subconscious perhaps.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Study of Glass and Light

It was with great trepidation that I approached the portion of my acrylics class that required us to practice painting still life. Partly because I never cared for representational art nor understood the point of most still life paintings. The other reason was, I thought I would make a horrible mess of it.
At school my drawings and paintings never looked much like the object I was trying to depict, it seems to be me that to the layman, a picture  is 'good' because they can recognize within the work the object that is being represented. While I have never subscribed to this idea myself, there is still the awareness that, if you are trying to master painting, painting from life is an important exercise, even if you don't intend to continue in that vein and branch off into a more abstract or conceptual direction.
Therefore I approached the exercise with an open mind as best I could. It was very difficult, and I was not impressed with the result. But I did learn a huge amount about composition, light and color.  At some point I realized that you have just stop looking at what you are trying to paint and work with the canvas/surface making decisions that will convince the viewer of the object/s although it may not be directly, visually accurate.

That painting I created showed me where I had gone wrong and where to focus in the next class. So I chose in the next class to paint a group of glass jars - in the previous still life there was a glass jar that didn't work and looked more like a tin can.
Here is the result. Not perfect but I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. It was much tougher than I thought it would be.

Again, perfect it is not. For example the jar on the far right was poorly done, the size is too squat and the mouth is not well defined, the bottle in the middle is asymmetrical and the base on the far left one is a mess, lacking depth and with too much heavy colour. BUT I do love the lettering on the far right jar and I like the base of the central bottle. Also think the shadowing works ok and the mouth of the jar on the far right isn't bad.  Now I can understand why Giorgio Morandi spent so much time painting vessels...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Do This MOOC!

I am currently participating in a MOOC called Live! A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers provided via Coursera by CALarts.
It is a really great course full of wonderful resources. The CALarts teachers have done a superlative job at structuring a course around art theory but also encouraging collaboration.
Part of the course has been weekly sketchbook assignments.  Last week we had to create a visual of ten sources of inspiration. I did mine as a Pinterest board (see below).  I cannot recommend this course enough. For someone like me it has been endlessly useful, it has helped me structure my creativity and expand.  I am by nature lazy, I can talk myself out of anything, but the activities and networking with other members of the course have energized me.  PLUS I have found a new way to use Pinterest! When you are an independent lifelong learner like myself, it is hard sometimes to really know how well you are doing or come up with ways to assess and expand on the knowledge you are gaining. Courses like this help because they gave me exercises that I would not have thought of doing.

The advice on how to critique and articulate feelings on my own art and others has even helped improve this blog! 

We are in week 3 and the course lasts for 9 weeks, at this point I dip into the course and look at the videos and read forum posts daily but then also keep track on Twitter and other social media sites as well as blogs. I am by day an instructional designer and adult education specialist, and so I know what I am talking about when I say - this is how education should be! Collaborative, at the student's own pace using materials and technologies to aid learning when relevant. Well done CALarts, Jeannene Przyblyski, Ph.D. and her team!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Adventures in Acrylics

I've been taking night classes since November of last year. I started with collage because it was medium I know. To be honest, the clincher was that the teacher is a local artist that I love - Ursula Gullow. Her work is accessible and also compelling. I was really nervous to join a class, it's weird being a student when you have been a teacher for as long as I have!

However, it was a great experience and Ursula is a great teacher. While in that class I started to use paint, specifically acrylics. I don't think I have painted since being at school and through the years I actively avoided paint in favor or fiber arts and sewing. Turns out though, I love paint. So after that class I signed up for a beginner's class in acrylics with Ursula as the teacher. It was a revelation... I started with low expectations of my work but I have been immensely pleased with the results.

The last class was last week and I am now doing an abstract class, again with Ursula Gullow.
For more of my pictures, check out my Tumblr page.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Textile Art

To be honest, I don't really like this picture. I used spray paint for the branches and they lacked definition and the angularity one expects with tree branches. Ugh. So I tried to fix it with the running stitch and it improved it but still... Plus the kimono blossoms just don't do anything for me and look imposed. That's ok, it's all learning!