Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sidebar Survey in Progress

I am thinking about doing more how-to/instructive posts, perhaps as just part of the regular blog or maybe as mini online classes (either here or on a separate, private blog.) This content might be delivered in the form of my usual photo/text posts and/or short, simple videos. First though, I need to know what media/technique/topics you, my dear readers, are most interested in learning about from me. So think about the kinds of thngs you've seen me do here on the blog and pop into my sidebar for the poll. You can also leave comments on this post. Remember, consider your answer in terms of what I do; for example, if you really want to know about encaustics, you'd be out of luck because that isn't a medium that I work in. Think about my interests and style (I'm not big on a lot of collage for instance but I do a lot of original drawing/painting.) I've listed a few things to choose from in the poll; you can choose more than one. If any of those things happen to be something you'd like to learn about, let me know. And again, if you want to provide a more in-depth answer (or the poll doesn't work,) leave a comment.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Single instructional posts or a short series of posts would probably run here on the main blog. You could drop something into my tip jar if you felt motivated to do so but otherwise, free for all to see.
  • More complex/in-depth/lengthy instruction would be probably be on a separate private blog; you would send me your email and I'd send an invite back to you to join the blog. These classes would be low cost and/or by donation and you'd have lifetime access. My only firm stipulation would be that you not pin anything from that private blog/online class.
  • My video/editing skills are still in development so any videos would probably be in a "watch me work/listen to me talk" style. You'd have to be OK with that. I have a decent camera and a tripod but I don't have the brain power/computer program/time/energy right now to whip super-duper uber professional videos...

Nothing is set in stone right now. In fact, I haven't even gotten the chisel out of the toolbox yet. For now, I just need to get a sense of what you all come here to see and learn about. Baby stepping toward online teaching...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Show Work Wanes; Teaching Looms

I've had my head down the last couple of weeks, tinkering away on my wall doll sculptures for my October show. I have 17 complete; I'm aiming for 21 in this series. I have the makings for a small side series (same technique/different characters) but we'll see how much I have time/interest for in the upcoming six weeks.

The new school year is here and as I've been working on the show, I'm beginning to feel the familiar pull of other projects that need my attention. Bulletin boards, lesson plans, and the school library are calling my name. Outside of work, I am also practicing with chalk pastels to prepare for an annual hometown event called "Pastels on the Plaza." I've always wanted to participate but most businesses already seem to have artists that they call upon year after year. However...remember when I said that I was excited to hang my art at the local library because it meant new eyes and perhaps new opportunities? Yep. That's what generated the invitation to do a square representing the library. Anyway, "Pastels" is happening Saturday October 1st and the show will go up the next day. The show reception is the following Friday evening...lots to do before then.

I also have several other art projects that have been piling up and as my attention to show production starts to wane, it is only in the last week or so that I've actually started to see those things in my peripheral vision. This is a very typical work pattern for me when it comes to shows; I spend a couple months caught up in white-hot concentration and then the rest of the year, I do other things. I am forever trying to change this habit as I'd surely get more done if I worked year round but school usually dominates my time mid-August to mid-June. I rarely have enough energy leftover for such an intense process as making work for a show.

In about four or five more weeks, I'll concede (reluctantly) that I've run out of time for making new pieces and I'll turn my attention to the nitty-gritty details of the show such as labels, pricing, advertising, and signage. That stuff always takes much more time than I anticipate, mostly because it is so much less exciting. It is important though and I have found that my shows are more successful if I really make an effort on all those small details that bring the show together. I'll post on that process once I get there.

In the meantime, you'll see my post content start to shift to other topics and (fair warning) my post frequency might also change. Due to a staff member's maternity leave, the middle/high school English/art classes are HUGE this fall; We'll be breaking the group (about 85 kids) into many small groups and projects but it still means a lot of squirmy bodies per day that I'm trying to wrangle into art-making. I'm a little exhausted just thinking about it but it always seems worth it in the end.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bear Feet & Bear Belly

It's been a while since we've had some Marley Mania around these parts so here goes...

Because I'm sure you've wondered, Marley will show you how a Bear washes his feet:
1) Back support is particularly important. Bear feet are big so get comfortable.
2) Grasp the dirty paw with a clean one to keep it steady.
3) Lick enthusiastically.
4) Surrender your modesty because Momma is going to grab her camera.

aaaaand...one more thing...here's a bit of Bear belly love to soften the edges of your day:

Monday, August 8, 2016

Using Every Last Second of Summer Vacation

Soon I need to start turning the bulk of my attention to preparing for the new school year; this is the last full week that I can focus almost exclusively on work for Figmenta. It took a while but once I found my groove, the summer days flew by. I have lucked upon a great source for the perfect-sized wood blocks I need to create these "wall dolls;" a good friend with a large collection of lumber is cutting and sanding blocks for me for free. With this fortuitous development, I have decided that my show will feature my assemblage works only. It is a huge departure from hanging paintings for nine years and I'm sure it will take many in the community by surprise. I hope my audience will be as delighted by the final product as I have been in the creation process. I'm confident that I'll come back around to painting; my ideas just need some time to percolate and mature before I approach the paints again.


Meanwhile, I'll keep constructing these characters, trying to get as many done before October as possible. The space I show in is huge. My "Cyborg Relations" are long (approximately 18") but they aren't wide so it will take more than a few pieces to make to wall space look full. The venue (a local furniture store that participates in our monthly art walk) has two levels so I could hang paintings in other parts of the store. However, my town's library offered to host my work on its walls and since the library is a new venue for me, I am going to take the bulk of my painted work there for display. It is always fun to push out into a fresh space that taps into an entirely different audience. The more eyeballs on the work, the more chances for opportunity to knock. 

Thank you for your warm encouragement throughout this process! As I start back to work (and thus diversify my art-making again,) my blog content will become more varied. I actually have been doing other art aside from the assemblages but I haven't taken pictures of anything but show pieces this summer.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

When a Spark Becomes a Firestorm

Although I've been quiet here at my blog, a creative fire has been raging in my studio as I continue to bring parts together for this crazy sculpture/assemblage project that has gripped my attention for the past several weeks. As usual, once I decided to trust my instincts, a small spark of an idea became a firestorm. I am gleefully buried beneath a mountain of bits and baubles: beads, charms, spools of wire, pipe fittings, springs, buttons, screws, nails, nuts, bolts, keys, game pieces, jump rings, and gears. What grand, silly fun I am having! I can now say that I spent an entire two hours of my life building a miniature ray gun. Last week, I whittled a peg leg and constructed a hook hand. I have giggled and whooped in triumph.

Interestingly, as I work on these sculptures, my normally unsteady hands do not shake. This is a phenomenon familiar to people with Parkinson's: projects & processes that require intense concentration and skillful manual dexterity often calm tremors. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter in the brain that PD patients lose (which in turn leads to lack of muscle control,) spikes during rewarding activities. I am quite literally high on art right now.

At this point, I am approximately 95% sure that my show will be comprised entirely of these three-dimensional, wall-hanging characters. I simply cannot deny my heart's desire and I have to see this project through until the embers of madness and delight begin to cool. I hope that doesn't happen any time soon as I feel like I have just begun to explore where this inferno of inspiration and joy might take me.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Down the Rabbit Hole

If I'm lucky, there comes a time during every show production session that I become completely absorbed in the work to the exclusion of all else: other art projects, laundry, meals, Netflix, errands, sunshine, blogging. Until about two weeks ago, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to find that sweet spot in creating work for Figmenta, my solo show in October. I told myself that I was still recovering from an especially difficult teaching year, that it was just taking time to rebuild my energy and focus. I told myself that an ongoing battle with severe tendonitis and increasing tremor were slowing me down but that I was still making progress, albeit at a snail's pace.

And then, finally, I fell down the rabbit hole. However, the hole didn't appear where I expected it to and I am doing some serious pondering about what it all means.

I had been casually preparing a bunch of small canvases after completing two large pieces but after the first couple of layers, my interest stalled. I'd look at my stack of blank canvas and feel like I had to drag myself across the room by my elbows to them. So, in the spirit of moving onward, I turned my attention to my sculpture/assemblage project based on an idea I jotted down in 2012. It's an idea that's been patiently brewing in my brain pan for the last four years but simultaneously going nowhere. Since Figmenta is all about honoring my artistic whims, I had finally decided to bring this idea out of the show workbook and into reality.

I worked on the individual parts assembly line-style so it took a few weeks for everything to arrive at the same point. The heads were sculpted, dry, painted, and varnished. The edges of the wood blocks were covered in tissue paper and then the fronts & backs were covered with paper as well. Holes were drilled and screw eyes attached, four at a time. I could begin assembly.

And that's when the rabbit hole opened beneath me. Most of the last two weeks, I've spent upwards of ten hours each day playing mad scientist. Metal and wood bits cover nearly every inch of my studio table with the exception of Marley in his box and the tool jars that take up most of the righthand corner of the table. Somewhere in that pile of embellishments there are pliers, glue, wire cutters, a small hand drill, scissors, and a cutting blade that I hope I remembered to cap. There are itty bitty screws, brads, eyelets, random coils of wire, game pieces, and gears galore. As my actual workspace shrinks, my joy expands. Whenever I create something particularly amusing, I actually cackle aloud: "Heh, heh, heh." Time begins to slip slide away.

At first, I was just assembling the two parts I had completed: heads and bodies. But as I worked, characters and their stories began to emerge. I have moved into the deeper levels of the rabbit hole and as I continue to fall, I am starting to evaluate where I might land. Initially, I thought these "Cyborg Relations" would just be scattered in amongst my paintings, oddities for distraction and amusement. Now though, I am wondering if perhaps these might become the main attraction. Other than my very first show in May 2002 and a small show of the robot army in February 2014, I've always shown paintings. Both shows of my 3-D work were in tiny venues. Do I dare try to base a large solo show on my assemblage work? Hmmm...the wheels are turning frantically in my head.

My new friends await their arms and legs. I have two heads to redo since I discovered I am not in love with them. Other ideas are starting to surface. I am making copious notes and sketches. Unless I am seized with new enthusiasm for painting, it is very possible that Figmenta is going to turn in an unexpected direction. I'm not closing any doors yet; it's too early to make any drastic, final decisions. For now I'm just going to enjoy the descent into all-consuming fun.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Emerging

I will never tire of the sculpting process and this is my favorite part. As I work the clay, the characters I envision begin as ghosts; since I do no sketches prior to smoothing the clay onto the armature, I have no concrete idea what the final piece will look like once paint is applied. I have to believe that my subconscious will guide my fingers towards a character that "works" in the end. As I add the shading and details, the sculpt comes alive and if I've trusted the process, the resulting character feels like it existed fully visualized all along. It is as close to magic as I can get in my studio.

I think at this point I can reveal that this series is called "Cyborg Relations" and that it's destined to be part of Figmenta; however, I'll leave it at that until all the heads are painted and I'm ready to start bringing the parts together into the final forms. I do hope the process will start moving along at a faster clip once the heads are complete since that is the most time-consuming part of this project. I feel like my distraction-free studio time is slipping through my fingers and that I don't have much done. I need to keep focusing on each individual work day and not get mired in the gradually-rising anxiety within as summer winds down and show premiere date looms with the onset of fall. 

Thank you to all for joining me on this journey and for your enthusiastic and encouraging comments. Creating a large body of work for a show can be a lonely, exhausting endeavor and it has been nice to have a cheering section as I try to bring Figmenta to fruition. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Figmenta Rises Bit by Bit

I'm a bit behind here at Lost Coast Post because work on the show has complete command of my attention right now. If you were to wander through my studio, it would probably seem as if I'm not making much progress: there are unfinished projects all over the place. Currently, nine small canvases are drying in my tiny kitchen so that I can move on to the next stage with them. I try to end each day with a painting session after the dishes are done so that everything can be dry and ready to go in the morning. However, dinner might have to be take-out tonight so that I don't have to disturb my work.

In between painting sessions, I am working on an assemblage series. In my previous post, I showed you some plain wood blocks. All those blocks are now covered in paper: fronts, backs, and sides. I won't be touching them again until I get into the final assembly stage but I am eager to see how these work together with the heads I'm creating in clay.

Yesterday I completed the last 5 (out of 13!) sculpted heads and in about a week, they should be completely dry. Meanwhile, I'll start painting & embellishing the ones that are already dry, a fun but lengthy step-by-step process. I'm excited though because as I complete the heads, this project will really start to crystallize and come alive. This idea has been a long time in coming (my first sketch for this series dates back to 2012) and it is a more than a little thrilling to see that random note becoming reality. My show title, Figmenta, is becoming more appropriate by the day, as I transform scattered figments of my imagination from barely-articulated whims into real life objects. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that in the next few weeks, I'll have a lot more completed pieces so my usual panic about not having enough to hang will diminish. For now, I just need to keep working away on all the individual parts and trust that things will start to come together.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Teaser


Hmmm...I wonder what these things will become? Some blocks of wood...



A fantastic collection of metal, plastic, and wood bits & bobs (what's in this picture times five)...



Sculpted heads waiting for paint...


'Tis a mystery to be revealed on a future date. The wild ride that is Figmenta rolls onward...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Research Question

Need to do a little research for my show...if you have a moment (and are willing to engage your imagination,) please answer the following question in the comments:

Based on what you have observed, when animals wear hats, how do they usually wear them? (I understand the type of animal, length of ears, and hat style creates a lot of variables but generally, when considering some common creatures - cat, dog, raccoon, fox, rabbit, bird, etc - what do you think is the most typical practice:

A) Hats are known for being uncomfortable. The hat is pushed down onto the head with ears poking out (if long enough) beneath the brim.

B) The ears are stuffed up into the hat so as to keep them warm and dry. This is the point of a hat, silly.

C) Animals have special milliners who craft ear holes in their hats; because of this accommodation, ears remain proudly on display whilst wearing hats.

D) Proper hat-wearing etiquette demands that the hat be set at a jaunty angle, covering one ear and perhaps concealing the other.

E) Hats are sort of a nuisance when one has ears on top of one's head; any hat worn by an animal must perch carefully atop the head, in between the ears.

F) What a ridiculous question! Animals don't wear hats!

If you have observed any hat-wearing options in the field other than what I have listed above, do tell. Thank you for your participation!

EDIT: Yes; I know "real" animals don't wear hats. However, I live a lot in my imagination and a world of story. In case you hadn't noticed, dreaming up fantastical characters, realms, and possibilities fuels my art and life. I thrive on silliness. To answer this question, you'll have to suspend disbelief, logic, reason, and reality. And then, go read Wind in the Willows...

A Parliament of Hooligans

as yet untitled; 12x36-inches gallery deep canvas; acrylics & vintage paper
Work on my show, Figmenta, is progressing very slowly but steadily. This is the painting I completed last week, the beginning of a series I'm calling "Woodland Hoodlums." This piece in particular is going to be titled either "The Hooligan Gang" or "Members of Parliament." (A group of owls is called a "parliament.") Figmenta will be different this year in that instead of consisting of a single, cohesive set of paintings, the show will be comprised of several series, each with its own look and technical style. I'm a bit worried that the final pieces will all look a bit disjointed when hung together but 1) it is too early to worry about that, 2) right now I just need to do the work, 3) my old way of doing things was boring me, and 4) I am giving in to my every whim, every figment of an idea that is floating my way. 

Next week, I will start working on some smaller pieces - preparing multiple canvases at once - so hopefully, I will move more of my canvas stash from the "blank" pile to the "done" pile. This photo captures the stack of small canvases waiting-in-the-wings; I have some large ones as well but I'd like to get these small pieces done first before I turn my attention to something really big and complex. We'll see how far I get in the next few weeks...

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Figmenta Begins...Sort Of...

Every show I do has a "lead" painting, a piece that is hung front and center in the show along with the show sign. Usually the lead painting is the first canvas I create at the beginning of show production, the piece that I love best, the piece that best represents the theme and spirit of the show, and the canvas that inspires & informs a bunch of follow-up work. Approximately two weeks ago, I completed the first piece destined for the Figmenta show in October based on the sketch you see here. As a part of show prep, I've been doodling painting ideas for several weeks and this was the piece I decided to begin with when the school year ended. Sometimes I create more detailed sketches of individual parts of a painting but often, I work off of these very vague blueprints so a certain amount of serendipity remains while I'm working.


Contrary to my personal traditions, this will not be the lead painting for Figmenta. This painting has been "under review" for a while now and I'm still unsure whether or not I even like this canvas. Since I completed this piece, my idea for the show has shifted and this canvas doesn't really "fit" now. Currently, I don't really have any desire to turn this into a series. These things happen. I like to have the theme/technique completely ironed out before I start painting but sometimes, new ideas start to flow once I'm engaged in the process. Figmenta is also very different from previous shows so I'm venturing into unknown territory; backtracking and unexpected route changes are inevitable. That said, I hate to waste canvas and I don't dislike this piece so much that I want to paint over it. In time, I may even fall in love with this big blue kitty. For now, I am going to pursue my other ideas and hope to come back to this one. As long as I can create a couple of other pieces that echo this, it will probably end up on the wall.

At this time, this canvas is untitled; I like to name everything right before the show when I am creating the labels and price list. It is painted with acrylics on a 15x30-inch stretched canvas with a 1-1/2-inch deep cradle.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Show Rituals & Routines: Part 2

The following is a description of how I develop and work on a show. It is rather lengthy and contains several pop-out links to old posts/artwork so grab a cup of your favorite beverage and read onward if so desired.
A reader asked at one point if I sketch out ideas before painting or if I just "wing it." It depends on the show. Some shows have required endless hours of research and preparatory sketches; several years ago I did a series of works based on historical Chinese cut paper patterns for embroidery. I spent a lot of time looking at copyright-free images and developing new designs and compositions. Ultimately, I think I worked in that style for a couple of years. Sometimes, I just fly by the seat-of-my-pants as was the case with my Facades, Soul Terrain, and Ornithological Oddities series. This year's show, Figmenta, is somewhere in between intense prep and blindly stumbling forward. I've made some quickie layouts for paintings and then more carefully "pre-sketched" the individual elements. I used to battle this crazy superstition that I couldn't draw something the same way twice so I was scared to draw anything in too much detail for fear I'd never be able to reproduce the image on canvas. For the most part, I've moved past that fear, due in no small part, to a dedicated daily drawing practice. For all shows, I keep many large "processing" sketchbooks where I gather my notes, doodles, questions, layouts, visual inspiration & reference, show materials (price lists, artist statements, advertising) and even encouraging emails from friends and purchasers.

Figmenta is shaping up to be a very interesting show on many levels. Typically, when I put together a show, each piece follows a specific pattern of techniques so all the pieces have a cohesive look. However, with the Sparks of Madness show (which followed two years of a show entitled The Motley Menagerie,) that idea of cohesiveness started to breakdown as I discovered that sticking to one "look" was getting boring. I felt like I was chomping at the bit to push beyond the boundaries of my artistic box. As a result, that show had two distinct looks within one show: the very colorful creature paintings as well as the more monochromatic collage/mixed media pieces.


This year, Figmenta may have many series-within-the-series as I have given myself permission to play and bounce from idea to idea. Some of those ideas come from those show sketchbooks and it is gratifying to see rough, unrealized concepts from years past finally become reality.


Once I finish painting a piece, it moves into "review" status which simply means I prop it up on the bookcase that sits in front of the couch/next to the TV so I can see it from a distance whenever I am relaxing. Time and space allows me to see anything that needs to be fixed or added. Some paintings are immediately satisfying but others spend weeks under review as I try to parse out what small element needs adjustment before I can truly call the piece complete. It is important to note that if something is bugging me about a painting, I don't pay direct attention to the piece, struggling to find the error and fix it. This only leads to disaster. I've learned to let my subconscious chew on the problem while I move forward. Eventually, I have the necessary "AHA!" moment and know instantly what needs to be done. Sometimes, canvases will go into review status before they are complete and the reason is the same as for finished works: to problem solve without doing so directly.

Well, this is getting long so I think I break off here for now and return to this topic in my next post in which I present the first major piece completed for Figmenta. (Hint: You can sneak a peek at that canvas in the above photo.) If you have any questions, please ask in the comments and I'll do my best to answer.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Show Rituals & Routines: Part 1

Since no one raised any objections to all my chit-chat about show preparation, I'll just stay the course and continue onward with part one of a two-part post on the rituals I follow for each show. Today it's a brief overview of how I work each day.

Before I start serious work on pieces for my shows, my studio table gets a fresh covering of butcher paper. The table itself is a vintage schoolhouse table with folding sides that I found years ago at a thrift store (it came complete with bubblegum underneath!) It is a very dark, unappealing brown so I cover it with white paper. Lighting is the biggest downside of my studio space so the white paper helps lighten up the area and it provides me a better surface for judging colors. Butcher paper, even when shiny side up, isn't totally water-resistant so in the area where I actually sit & work, I top the butcher paper with a layer of clear contact paper. This makes that space easy to clean up and helps the butcher paper last longer. Cat-wrangling is necessary in my space as well; my calico girl Tuscany is pretty independent but my beloved Marley Bear likes to stay in my orbit for most of the day. He has a box that sits on a corner of the table so he has a place to snooze while I work. When I need a bit of a pick-me-up, I merely need to lean over and scrunch my hands through all the fabulously soft white fur of his substantial belly.

When I sit down to paint, I always have a specific set of objects at hand: my X-Files coffee cup with coffee, my favorite palettes, and my favorite water bowls. A few years back, I began using old Pyrex dishes and a pretty handmade ceramic bowl as my primary paint water dishes. I'm not entirely sure why I prefer these to plastic tubs or recycled jars but I do. This year, the brushes I use the most are in front of me in a handmade ceramic tumbler I also found at a thrift store. I guess I like the sturdiness and homespun quality of these objects.

I used to have a specific shirt that I painted in...a X-Files shirt I acquired back in the 90s when the show first debuted. I used that until it literally fell apart; I have it tucked away somewhere because I couldn't bear to throw it out. (I might need find it and use it for clean-up rags.) Anyway, now I have decent, (generally) paint-free things I wear to work and "painting shirts" which is to say, everything else. I use a lot of baby wipes to clean up messes on surfaces but when cleaning my hands, I typically just wipe them on whatever I'm wearing. I'm not a big fan of aprons so if company shows up unexpectedly, they get what they get. Most anyone I know that might show up knows I'm an artist and so no one is all that shocked by my paint-smeared appearance when I'm in "studio mode."

When I'm working, I typically have science fiction movies and shows playing in the background. Last summer's work on the "Sparks of Madness" show was completed while listening to the first four seasons of The X-Files. (You might be sensing a trend by now.) Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Aliens, The Fifth Element, the original Star Wars trilogy: those are all good too...anything I've seen a hundred times and don't need to actually watch to know what's going on. In the last couple of weeks, I've been experimenting with old time radio mystery shows as background noise but it is a bit distracting; I get caught up in the story and my focus shifts away from the work in front of me. When my awful neighbors are away (which isn't often enough,) I prefer the quiet, listening and painting to the natural sounds that emanate from the protected wildlife area that borders my apartment complex.

Another important component of my daily rituals is that I clean up my space completely at the end of every day. If I have a specific set of paint colors that I'm working with, I'll set those aside but otherwise, everything gets put cleaned up and put back where it belongs. Paintings dry overnight on the kitchen countertop. I like to start every day fresh and find that if I ended the night frustrated with some element of the painting I'm working on, a clean studio puts me in the right frame of mind for tackling that issue anew. In addition, if I don't clean up my space, the cats will play hockey with my supplies all night long and in the morning, I'll have to look under every piece of furniture in the room to retrieve my belongings.

On Wednesday, I'll post about the various routines I follow while in the midst of show production and what I do as I approach the date of installation. When I get closer to that event, I'll blog a bit about hanging a show and all the things you do to move the work from the studio out into the world. In between, it will be posts about the work I'm completing as well as posts on other random art stuff that takes place this summer.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Word-Sifting for Show Title Gold

I thought it might be interesting for some to see how I arrived at the title/theme for my show this year. Through a process I call "word-sifting," I settled on the title back on May 21 but I immediately tucked that word away in my heart & brain so it could take root, sprout, expand, and blossom in protective privacy. Today's the day though for that title to become public, to become a solid guiding light as my show prep transforms into show production.

Sometimes the title for a show comes easily - "Sparks of Madness" is an example - but often it is elusive. When that happens, when I have to go digging for inspiration. I love vintage dictionaries, thesauruses and texts on language roots; these books are rich with archaic words that are still valid but that have fallen out of use. They also help me play detective, discovering roots and relationships that can point me to just the right word.  I look for a word or phrase that encompasses the scope of the work I plan for the show, a word that is descriptive and intriguing but not restrictive. I take copious notes along the way and the following is an account of my word-sifting path to this year's show title:

MENAGERIE: I began with a word that I've used for the past two or three years (aka "The Motley Menagerie.") I love how this word sounds and the visuals it conjures but it was time to move on...

MUSEUM: For a while, I was stuck on "museum" as an offshoot of "menagerie" but in spite of listing several possible titles - such as "Minerva Magpie's Marvelous Museum of Monsters" - I finally decided that "museum" wasn't quite right for this year.

CARNIVAL: The next word that rose to the surface of my word-sifting...stalled here for a while as well but I decided to set this aside for a different collection of work.

SIDESHOW: Looking here at synonyms for "carnival" which led to...

CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: Research on this led to...

EMPORIUM: At this point, I began to think that perhaps I was looking for a descriptive word rather than a specific noun so I thought about how I could describe an "emporium." There were many options but the next word temporarily floated to the surface...

FANCY: Which led to...

FLIGHTS OF FANCY: This phrase led to the direct synonym...

WHIMS: Looked up variations of this...

WHIMSICAL: Looked at the definition here which led to...

IMAGINATION: Expanded this word into a common phrase...

FIGMENTS OF IMAGINATION: I was a bit adrift and frustrated by now so I started looking at word origins and broke this phrase apart...

FIGMENT: I realized I really liked the sound of this word so I dug into it a bit more, beginning with the definition - "A mere product of mental invention, a fantastic notion; a feigned, invented or imagined story." Oooooh...there's my "word of the year" - story. I think I'm on the right track so I keep sifting.

FIGMENTUM: This is the Latin root of "figment" related to the verb "fingere" which means "to form, contrive, shape." At this point, I knew the nugget of word inspiration I was looking for had risen to the surface but since my show contains multiple works and "figmentum" is singular, I transformed this word into its proper plural form in Latin...

So hello there to my 2016 show title! I love the familiar but fresh sound of this title and I like how it is general enough to serve as an umbrella for many different types of work but also specific enough to tie all those pieces together.

Note: I hope, dear readers, that you are not growing weary of this kind of post; this work is my primary focus for the balance of the summer. I'll try to remember to toss in posts unrelated to my show work but on balance, expect this thread to continue practically unabated as most other projects give way to my painting fever.
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