Thursday, March 26, 2015

Onward

In spite of bilateral Kienbock's Disease (stages 3 & 4), bilateral fibromatosis (hands & feet), chronic migraines (7 to 20 a month), Young Onset Parkinson's Disease, and all the surgeries and symptoms that accompany these issues, I have a simple, one word motto that carries me through my days:


That's it. I just keep moving forward, some days slogging and some days skipping but always striving forward even if it is just in increments. I have plenty of days where I lose my footing and slip-slide backwards but as soon as possible, I plant my feet and start climbing again. Art is the most important tool I use to dig into the mountain of hard living that looms before me. One art project after another forms a rope that I will follow to triumph. Whether it's around, over, under, or through, always I strive onward. That's the underlying message I hope you glean from this humble space: keep making and moving no matter what. So let's get to it.

Today's Soundtrack

This song is getting me up & moving this morning no matter how much Parkinson's wants to turn me to stone...literally dancing before dawn in my living room. Every muscle is slow and sluggish, cramping while also tremoring and yet...I'm dancing. Turn the pain into power indeed. Screw you PD! 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Snippets: Weeks 11 and 12

Whew! It has been a rough couple of weeks! I won't bore you with the details but let me just say that "When it rains, it pours" is a really weak cliché. "When it rains, it hurricanes" would be infinitely more accurate. I managed to complete my two-week spread but there's no preview of the prepped pages for March 23 - April 5 because as of this post, I haven't started yet! I'm hoping the Sunday rain will soothe my ruffled spirit and I'll be able to settle long enough to play a bit. I really need to get my hands painty... 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Scissored

I work in bursts: bursts of inspiration, projects, energy, interest. Case in point: last summer, while laid up on the couch for the better part of 12 weeks healing from foot surgery, I worked passionately on my Sketchbookery journal, balancing supplies and subject in my lap or, once I was allowed, at my studio table while my foot rested atop a pillowed chair. I created a lot of ink and watercolor sketches in that journal and then *poof* my attention turned to other pursuits.

Recently, I returned to that sketchbook and tried to jump back in to the rhythm of seeing and drawing. My first effort since September 2014 is a bit wobbly & wonky due to time away and shaky hands; thankfully, this technique actually benefits from less-than-perfect lines and although I was discouraged at first, I ended up loving the final page. I definitely feel a burst of enthusiasm for this journal again.

P.S. Does anyone else feel like they have a pair of scissors for every possible task?? Once I started digging, I was a little embarrassed by my collection. It would take two or three more pages to document them all.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

More Minuets and Some Studio News

I have a long, intimidating list of major projects to work on including two upcoming shows, summer class proposals for our local creative reuse center, product to make for consignment at the local art supply store, painting commissions, and ongoing prep for my long-standing teaching gig at a local charter school. I don't know how much progress I'm making on those things but I am readily tinkering away on my personal projects like the "Snippets" journal and my new "Minuets" collage collection. Currently, my health is a major distraction and so it is comforting to think small and be "in the now" with little side projects. However, the relentless stampede of bills demands my attention and I just want to hide under a pile of paper scraps (which, by the way, I think I could actually do if I tried!)

In the next week or so, I'll be posting some work for sale here at Lost Coast Post if I can figure out how to insert PayPal buttons in a blog post; otherwise, I'll upload things to my Etsy shop. The Etsy option is way more complicated than I have energy for so I thought I'd give selling via my blog a try. I've always opted to keep the monetization of my blog to a minimum but I've got work piling up and I need to start trying to move it along to new homes to pay medical bills but also to make room, physically and emotionally, for new work to emerge. Brand new doors are waiting to be opened...if only I can get some old ones closed.

P.S. Thank you to everyone who takes time out of their day to pop into Lost Coast Post and read my random ramblings. Your support, whether quiet or posted, is deeply appreciated!


Minuet No. 3 - "Beacon"
Minuet No. 4 - "Underground River"  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Beginning Minuets

"minuet" - Slow, stately pattern dance in three-quarter time for groups of couples, originating in 17th century France; from the Old French word "menuet" meaning "small and dainty."

This past summer, in anticipation of a long couch convalescence post-foot surgery, I had prepared a small watercolor journal with rapid, random swipes of color and filled an envelope full of paper scraps. I had no idea what I was going to do on those pages but I thought quiet collage work would be soothing. However, I ended up doing a lot of sketching instead and my little collage project landed squarely on my rather overloaded back burner.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago:  I've been battling a relapse of severe fatigue (possibly Parkinson's-related) while also wishing I could do more art each day. I get up between three and four every morning so by two in the afternoon, my energy level is on the downslope. By the evening, I have trouble doing much more than staring at banal TV shows. I wanted something creative to do that was completely gentle on my tired brain. After some digging around in the studio, I rediscovered that small watercolor journal and its companion envelope. Something sparked in my mind and a new project sprang to life.

To create these pieces, I dump out all the paper scraps and just start moving things around on the page until something pleasing shows up. I glue everything down and add some doodling. At first, I intended to remain firmly rooted in the abstract but almost immediately, I strayed into collages that had a slightly representational twist. I find that titles come unbidden, popping into my head like lighthouse beacons as I work, guiding the completion of the collage. Each one takes no more than 30 minutes and almost all of the work is done without any pre-planning. I just let my subconscious Muse off-leash and follow her wherever She sees fit to wander.

I've titled this series "Minuets" because these silly little works help me take small steps through the brain fog and pain clouding my evenings. Instead of giving in, I'm dancing right around the obstacles, a step at a time. Look for regular "Minuet" posts as I progress.

Minuet No. 1 - "Supernova"
No. 2 - "Mother-in-Law Unit"

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Snippets: Weeks 9 and 10

Lots of affirmative self-talk in this fortnight of Snippets journaling: I've been ensnared in a crisis of confidence after several opportunities arrived at my doorstep in the past few weeks. Whether deliberately sought or completely unannounced, these possibilities for selling, teaching and/or displaying my work triggered the old hypercritical, skeptical voices and I've been trying to counter those negative thoughts with happy and encouraging words. I also paid tribute in gouache to actor Leonard Nimoy who passed away on February 27 at the age of 83. As a lifelong, passionate sci-fi nerd, his death hit hard. Star Trek was a huge part of my childhood and is a comforting companion in my adulthood (love watching sci-fi while creating!) I felt like an entry in Nimoy's honor was necessary. 

As always, here's a snap of the Snippets spread for the next two weeks, prepped and ready to complete. This time, I tentatively experimented with small, direct-to-journal Gelli prints. It was fun and I'm sure I'll do more of this in the future. I also create background patterns with stamping, stencilling, collage, and simple brushwork. As you can probably tell, very little of this work shows through in the end but it gives me an inspiring jumpstart when I journal.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snippets: Weeks 7 and 8

Took an unplanned but necessary break from blogging due to household upset (again!) due to a chronically-leaking upstairs toilet; I'll spare you the dirty details but suffice to say that sometimes apartment living is not for the faint-of-heart. I covet my routine, peace, quiet, cleanliness, and privacy almost obsessively and it is intolerable to have strange people and deafening equipment ripping up my space. In addition, all the resulting stress nullifies my PD meds and as a result, I become a constantly shaking mess. It took all I had to complete my spread for the last two weeks. On really bad days, I did just a little and on other days with a bit more calm, I accomplished a bit more. This journal format really fits the unpredictability of my life and health; I can stick with my "art every day" goal while not getting overwhelmed.

The ceiling in my son's room gets repaired on Monday (again) and ironically, as things settle back down, I think my art-making will gain traction as I have deadlines to meet with several projects in the development/preparation stage. The next few months look like they'll be super busy but it is a happy busy of my own making.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Snippets: Weeks 5 and 6

This process of "a-journal-square-a-day" is working out better than I'd hoped. Sometimes the day's space is all the journaling I have time for and sometimes, once I complete an entry in the Snippets book, I turn to other journals because my interest is sparked and yet unsatisfied by the small portion allotted that day. I think that it is important to note that although the resulting spread probably looks like a disjointed collection of images to outside viewers, I personally can see how each little section relates - directly or indirectly - to something going on in my life at the time. As always, I try to work fast and instinctually, allowing my subconscious to guide my hand. When I work this way, my journal entries almost always speak to underlying thoughts, emotions, or events, even if the connection isn't immediately transparent.

Here's next week's spread prepped and ready to go! This time around, I'm going to be experimenting with a "themed" week of entries in honor of a holiday (in this case the beginning of the Chinese New Year.) I still gather an envelope full of possible images and scraps to use in the two weeks' time; however, when a theme week occurs, I make sure about half of my choices are relevant to the holiday at hand.
 

Note: If you are curious how this week's spread evolved from the initial background, just pop in to the previous Snippets post; as I post the completed spreads every two weeks, I will also post the prepared spread for the following fortnight.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

6am here at Lost Coast Post and the day is still black, awaiting sunrise. Much-needed rain is steadily tapping out a soothing tune on my roof as I sit here at my Chromebook and create some tap-tap-tapping of my own on the keyboard. As is my custom, I've been up for about three hours now, slowly starting my day in the surrounding softness of the early morning hours. Lots to contemplate as many things seem to be crystallizing all at once in my life, like stars that wink into existence as a cloudy night sky clears.

I had a long interview with a local reporter yesterday about my work (particularly my journals but my paintings and sculptures as well) and it was very enlightening to see my many, bursting-at-the-seams journals processed by a stranger, someone unfamiliar both with myself and the art journaling movement. In the last couple of years, I made a conscious decision to set aside journaling for other things but before that, journaling had been a steady, anchoring practice of my artistic life. I haven't looked through those old journals in a long time so it was illuminating to thumb through them again and to see which pages attracted the reporter's eye. It was interesting to try and articulate what I felt about my journals and how they served me in life. It was even more challenging to speak to where I see myself going in the future.

I don't actively promote my work. It isn't something I'm comfortable with or skilled in and as result, I tend to simply keep my head down and focus on private artistic pursuits like journaling or illustration. I show my work in the community at least once but no more than three times a year. Here and there, via word-of-mouth, opportunities to launch myself beyond my apartment threshold come along. I almost always hesitate to follow those openings for reasons both known and unknown but I sense that the time is coming where I'll need to make a decision one way or the other. I am clinging to the quiet comfort of the status quo, mostly uncertain whether the reality of Parkinson's makes me more or less likely to pursue any fresh paths that appear before me. Sometimes I want to hold onto my quiet existence; sometimes I want to let go and rise up to greet the world knocking at my door: stay in my comfortable, predictable orbit or stretch out into the unknown. The impulse toward one option or the other varies each day. Indeed, I waver between the two choices within the days themselves. All in all, I think perhaps this is a dilemma best explored through art. That being said, I'll hit publish on this post and get to work. I have little time to lose.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Following the Sparks

Hand-colored Scratch Art Foam Print
I realize that California is in desperate need of rain but today's cold, wet, gray weather is making my legs ache, my mood sour, and my head sluggish. As a counterpoint, I have the heaters running to warm my body and art projects in progress to warm my soul. Aside from consistent work on lesson plans and my new Snippets journal, I'm a bit unfocused, applying a dab of paint here and sculpting a lump of clay there...just following the sparks of inspiration wherever and whenever they flare up. Sooner or later, something specific will grab my undivided attention and the fire of creativity will once again burn brightly in my brain no matter how depressing the weather. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

When Forgotten Supplies Come 'Round Again

Last fall, I won the opportunity to take Tracy Verdugo's Paint Mojo class; it was an excellent experience full of inspiration & ideas and I continue to explore the concepts, techniques, and materials discussed in that class. The class is expensive and not something I could have ever afforded but in my opinion, it really is worth every dime if Tracy's style/working method is something that interests you. Most importantly, the material presented is information that can be easily folded into your own art practice so that you can create art that is unique to you and not just a mimic of the instructor's work.

One of the supplies that I rediscovered through Paint Mojo is scratch art foam board. I was first introduced to this product way back in 2000 during art school when my bookmaking teacher, the incredible Shereen LaPlantz, handed out samples in one of her classes. I think many of you can relate to what happened next: I played with it, I loved it, I tucked it away in favor of the next, exciting thing, and promptly forgot all about it. Fast forward fifteen years and an "old" favorite becomes new again. 

Scratch art foam boards are very thin sheets of styrofoam that can be used as inexpensive printing plates. You lightly draw an image (ballpoint pen works best), deboss the drawing (again ballpoint pens seem to be the best tool for this process), paint the board, flip over onto paper, rub the back, and lift to reveal the print. With care, the plates can be used over and over again.
Some tips for using this product:

1) I found that fluid acrylics worked best for printing. The debossed lines aren't super deep or detailed; ink tends to fill in your printing lines while craft acrylics dry too quickly. Heavy body acrylics work similarly to inks as it tends to squish into the lines you are trying to print.

2) It takes practice to know how much paint to apply to the plate: too little and you won't get much of a print...too much and the excess paint will blur your image. The amount of pressure you apply to the back of the plate also affects the final result. Be patient and just play. "Oopsy" prints can be cropped and used in other projects so don't be too hasty and ruthless with your "mistakes."

3) I really felt the prints showed up best as light colors on a dark background but this may be just a matter of personal preference. 

4) If your lines are not printing clearly, try deepening your debossing. You don't want to poke through to the back of the board but you can get a surprisingly deep mark without piercing the styrofoam.

5) As with any monoprinting, reverse any lettering before printing.

6) Clean the plates immediately after printing; the paint seems to dry very quickly on the foam.

7) You can add additional coloring and details to the final prints; the material isn't fabulous for super-refined lines so I add that after the fact.

8) Since paint does dry fast on this stuff, I found that smaller plates were easier to handle. I cut larger sheets (9x12-inch) into the smaller pieces that I needed. This extends the value of the product.
As an alternative, you can use very clean meat packaging trays in the same manner. If you're worried about getting those trays as clean as needed, just ask the meat manager in your local supermarket if you could have a few unused trays. In my experience, most managers will happily give you what you need just for the asking. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Single Candle

...for Holocaust Remembrance Day 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Snippets: Weeks 3 and 4

Little bit of everything in this spread from my new Snippets journal: altered classic art, photocopies and originals of my own art, collage, micro-journaling, quotes (stamped and found), gouache painting and doodles directly on the page...love, love, love this process! So easy and yet so engaging! For more information on how and why this 2015 journal project got started, go to this post.

And here's the spread for January 26 through February 8 all prepped and ready for me to begin the Snippets process:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Life in Crazy Town and Robot Heads

For me, the new year has roared forth like a rabid lion, filled to the brim with top level chaos including (but not limited to) a work schedule that changed five times in a week and a flood of raw sewage in my son's room from an improperly installed toilet. Throw in the winter blues and PD tremors made worse by dipping temperatures and my days have been a mess. I'm keeping up with my new journal project but not much else. I'm hoping things will start to settle down soon because I'm not designed to manage sustained insanity. I have a grand art project wish list but little time or energy to bring those ideas into reality. The new semester of teaching begins next week (something my boss neglected to tell me until last week) so right now, every spare moment is spent lesson planning. I'll be teaching cartooning again (that class is in its ninth year but gets revised & updated every year) and a new class in writing and illustrating children's books. I'm already coveting the arrival of June!


Anyway, enough boo-hooing...I'm lucky to have what I have and to do what I do so I'll just ride this crazy train all white-knuckled and such until it pulls into the Station of Not-So-Crazy. Once that happens, I'll get back to my regularly-scheduled painting, illustrating, and sculpting. Speaking of sculpture (see what I did there?) today's post features photos of a couple of pencil cups I made as Christmas gifts. I lucked out and found two squared-off mugs in a local thrift shop; I knew as soon as I saw them that they'd be perfect as robot heads. They look a little bit how I feel...
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