Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Peace at Lost Coast Post

This is Tuscany, Queen of Extreme Grump...

This is Marley Bear, King of Constant Cuddles...

For the last seven years, these two never occupied the same space at the same time for fear of a tear in the space-time continuum. In the very least, even temporary moments of amicability ended in snarls and scratches, both bodies rolling across the floor in an angry ball of claw and tooth. 

And then, in the past week, this began happening.

No prior warning, no formal declaration of peace: just two fluffy bodies curled together, snoring and dreaming, all animosity dissolved for the sake of warmth & companionship.
I can't help but take pictures of this astonishing turn of events. I tiptoe to my camera and hope that the flash doesn't disturb the sleeping couple. 
Maybe there is hope for world peace after all...

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Big Blooms

This painting is my first attempt at painting a vase of flowers as inspired by Lynn Whipple's Big Bold Bloom Wild Painting class. I've been eyeballing this class ever since it debuted but it cost a bit more than I could afford. So I decided to save up all the donations to my tip jar and proceeds from online purchases of my art. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Gretchen, Ryusho, Stacey, Mareen, Loulou, Lou Anne and Ellie! These sweet and generous souls made it possible for me to take this class and I've had so much fun!

I'm very, very selective about the online classes I take; I want to be challenged and I want to learn techniques that are open to my own interpretation. Big Bold Blooms interested me for a number of reasons. Lynn Whipple seemed a fountain of joy and enthusiasm in her promo video and I was not disappointed after signing up. The videos make me smile; Lynn is absolutely irrepressible and her happiness is contagious. Secondly, I really liked the idea of painting in a looser, more impressionistic style. That's just about the polar opposite of how I usually work but as my Parkinson's progresses, I've found that I want to start exploring less precise techniques and materials. In addition, I was intrigued by the subject matter: I've done a few flower pieces over the years (most notably in the Scraps journal) but flowers aren't a regular part of my artistic lexicon. The class also meant exploring a new-to-me medium - chalk pastels - so I knew the materials and subject matter would challenge me.
This first painting has some issues. It is still very tight and a bit too realistic. It will take time and practice to relax on the canvas. I also chose a too-small canvas and the composition is simply too crowded. However, I was surprised to find that I actually loved working with pastels. I've avoided them in the past because of the dust and need for fixative spray. Those aspects of pastels still annoy me but I think the effects you can achieve with pastels are worth that annoyance.

Lynn uses huge, extravagant arrangements as her subject matter in the class videos (which I can't afford) so I went to my local florist and handpicked a few hardy blooms in a variety of shapes and colors. Most of the flowers lasted about three weeks with diligent water changes so I had a lot of time to get familiar with my chosen flowers. It was more difficult to paint a lush, overflowing scene but I found I could make it work. Photographic images helped fill in the gaps.

Georgia O'Keefe said "When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment." I found this to be completely true. It was easy to get lost in the petals, stamens, leaves, colors, shapes, and scents of my bouquet. Time and worries slipped away. I will most definitely be exploring blooms more regularly from this moment forward.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Upcoming Radio Silence

Journal play continues as I navigate the holiday season. Thanksgiving here in the US is over and the advertising frenzy is well underway as we roll towards Christmas. I hope these days, dear readers, whether you are here in the US or abroad, are filled with joy and peace, family and friends. For my part, I am keeping my head down, squeezing in art time whenever possible and focusing on making the next two weeks as productive as possible before my foot surgery on December 13.

Heads Up:
Every year, between December 26 and the onset of the new year, I take a break from blogging. It is an important time for me, something I like to call the "magic hour of the year." It is a critical and cherished blog intermission that I use for planning, dreaming, organizing, recharging, relaxing. This year, due to my unexpected appointment with an operating room in mid-December, I'm going to begin my blog hiatus a bit earlier. It is always a bit risky to push "pause" on posting for an extended period of time - I typically lose a follower or two - but I can't see any sense in blogging while trying to recover. Each post-surgery journey (this will be my 12th) gets more grueling to navigate and I'd like to simplify those days as much as possible. I hope everyone will hang with me until after 2017 begins. There'll be a few more posts between now and December 13 but I wanted to make sure I had posted some advance notice of my upcoming radio silence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Rare Day of Play

Thanksgiving break is here and I spent this past Sunday happily playing in the studio without interruption: no laundry, no teaching prep, no errands. It has become exceedingly rare to have more than 15 to 30 minutes at a time for art. Sometimes I find two or three such mini work sessions scattered throughout a day but that isn't the same as two or three hours back to back. The work - both the act and the product - feels distinctly different and I realized I need to have both working styles in my artistic life. It is a very good thing to be able to dive into a project, focus intently, and get things done before life demands I get on to other stuff but it is also important to have time to work in a wandering, leisurely fashion. I am adjusting my schedule accordingly.

Note: This is another page in my mini "Unexpected Convergences" journal which is beginning to fatten up rather nicely.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Plan

So I created this Convergences journal spread before the election here in America and I'm not really inspired any more by the last line of that quote: "Trust the universe." The time is now to do more than simply sit back and trust that my country (and the world) will find its way back to sanity and humanity.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I can do on a practical level. Without a doubt, I will intercede if I witness acts of malice, cruelty, and/or discrimination against my friends and neighbors. I can vote my conscience and I can support humanity-oriented causes & organizations. But what else can I do - everyday - to foster grace, beauty, understanding, and love? Of course, the answer starts right at home, with me and my daily practices.

Strengthen Myself:
First and foremost, in order to be strong for others, I have to be strong myself. I've never been very good at self-care. In fact, one could say (and some of my doctors do,) that I am pretty pitiful in the self-care department. I've developed a nasty habit of pushing my schedule until I drop wherein I spend time recovering on my back, only to get up and repeat the process. The first thing I ax from my day is "me time" and that leaves me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. Sadly, this is the exact thing that actually advances the progression of Parkinson's Disease. The stakes couldn't be higher. I have to make some drastic changes in my day-to-day routine and priorities so I have a bit more downtime to just explore and enjoy being a person and an artist. I won't detail all my schedule tweaks here (unless they are relevant to the art-making life) but suffice to say, that part of my being is under thorough review and adjustment.

Support My Artist Friends:
I'm making some changes in my artist life as well. A common refrain in the past week is that we need to come together and support one another. A country and ultimately, the world, is stronger when people communicate. Artists, writers, humanists need to rally and beat back hatred with an alternate viewpoint that can fill the holes in people's hearts. But if we artists don't support each other, how can we begin or sustain that "coming together?" To that end, I've decided to make posting comments on the blogs of fellow artists a priority. Anybody who blogs knows what it feels like to not get feedback and what it feels like to be heard. Whether we want to admit it or not, feedback is the fuel that keeps most of us going. So I am pledging to leave a minimum of 5 comments per week on others' blog posts. That's not a lot but it's a start. I just want my artist friends to hear that I am cheering on their endeavors and that what they do matters.

Do/Teach More Art:
Part Three of my plan is directly dependent on success with Part One; I have to find/make more time to put towards being a better artist. By "better" I mean "more committed." It isn't so much about "more" as a number but "more" as a "quality." I will naturally produce more work if I devote more time to my practice but in addition, improving the depth of the work I do create will make what I am able to accomplish more meaningful. I want to push the boundaries of the projects I am currently working on. (Since I have a lot of projects already in progress, I don't think I'm apt to start many more new things...You can laugh if you want to...it's okay. I'm chuckling too after writing that last sentence.) On a related note: If you are looking for new projects to inspire positivity, I think Joyce's "Log of Love" idea is pretty grand and worth supporting.

I'm also setting my sights on returning to teaching art to adults. Eleven years ago, I decided to concentrate my teaching endeavors in the middle/high school classroom and that has been incredibly rewarding. I'd like to go back - even just a little bit - to nurturing creativity in adult students. I have to get past the holidays and another surgery in mid-December but after the first of the new year, I have plans to foster small group classes in my studio and small-scale, inexpensive classes online.

In sum, my plan to save the world is pretty simple: do what I do but do it better and smarter. Of course, the portion of the world I have the opportunity to improve is very tiny, a pinprick in a map. However, if you find ways to make your sphere of influence a happier place, our efforts will add up. That's something I can truly put my trust in...

Friday, November 11, 2016

Flood the World with Light

"Flood the World with Light"

The world is burning:
Hatred stands atop the ash heap, cackling,
Callings to its minions.
There seems so many
And they are emboldened
By the ascent of their leader.
They want to divide,

A constant refrain rings in my head:
What can I do?
Here I sit with above average pain
And below average income.
I have no brand,
No entourage,
No deep pockets
Or friends in high places.
In the grand scheme of things,
My voice,
My reach,
My footprint,
Is very small.
Almost invisible.
I spend time mourning,

I am still tired.
But I am rising.
I am building.
They chant for a wall.
I will give them one.
I will stand against it all:
I will not yield.
I will not be afraid.
If you come for my friends,
You will have to take me as well.

I will flood my world
With light,
It doesn’t matter how broad a beam I cast.
The edge of my light 
Will touch the edge of yours.
We will be blinding,
And Hatred will shrink from our brilliance
As cowardice is wont to do.

Michelle Remy
November 11, 2016

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

This Morning in America

"We need to stop looking to politicians to make our world better. Politicians don't make the world a better place. Everything that's ever made the world a better place has come from inventors, engineers, scientists, teachers, artists, builders, philosophers, healers, and people that choose love over hate."
Don Freeman

I have a personal rule here at Lost Coast Post: Don't talk about politics. Today - and today only - I am breaking that rule. 

I am fairly active on Twitter and anyone who scans my tweet history can quickly determine my political leanings. Here at my blog, I have stubbornly kept the focus on art, even when it was painful to do so. This morning, however, I feel it would be irresponsible and disingenious to not discuss how I am feeling right now. 

I wrote my previous post (regarding Inktober) before the election. In an effort to post more frequently, I try to write things ahead of time and schedule them to run throughout the month. So, on the morning after such a momentous event in our nation's history, I am apparently doodling science fiction creatures, either blissfully unaware of what just happened at our voting booths, completely uncaring or worse, celebrating gleefully. There is nothing further from the truth.

Just for today, I am choosing to write here and now about politics. There is the certain risk of losing followers. I don't care. I stand for inclusion, kindness, education, tolerance, compassion, and thoughtfulness; I have no idea how a vote for Trump supports any of those ideals. Think about this: our nation's first black president will be handing the keys to the White House to a man (using the term very loosely) endorsed by the KKK. If you read that, and believe deep down in your soul, that that reality is a measure of progress, please unfollow me. I can't stand the idea that someone with that kind of hate in their hearts would come here and claim to be moved by my work.

This morning, and I'm sure for days, weeks, and months to come, I will be in mourning for what America has done to itself and the world. This *morning* though, I will do art. And I will go to work and teach art to 40 sweet-faced, enthusiastic middle schoolers. We will draw and color and laugh at our efforts and celebrate them too. We will tackle hard things, learn from our mistakes, and try again even if we are afraid because that is how real, lasting, meaningful progress is made. 

As devastated, embarassed, and ashamed as I feel, I am going to stand my ground. I will make art with abandon, no matter my personal obstacles, for as long as I am able. Now, more than ever, beauty must be sown. Anyone who believes in positivity, light, love, hope, and togetherness needs to stand strong, especially for those most threatened and disenfranchised by this election outcome. I stand up for those things through my work. It is a small thing to be sure but it is what I have to offer. I know, that through art and invention and writing, we push back against ignorance and fear. I see that fact in action everyday in the classroom, whether my students are middle school children or adults.

And so, I turn back to my paint, paper, canvas, clay, journals, joy...because that is what heals me. I hope each of us finds our way and that in the end, when this nightmare ends (and it will,) I hope, with every fiber of my being, that we will find ourselves standing together. Go make art people - in whatever form or fashion suits you - and sow that in your world...please, please, please...  

Continuing Inktober at My Own Pace

As predicted, life got in the way of completing the Inktober challenge within the month of October. Out of town travel was a monkey wrench in my efforts that I saw coming but it still threw me off track immediately. I never really got back on task..no worries. I have completely enjoyed this series of illustrations (especially the theme & color scheme) so I'm going to keep going until I finish 31 drawings. It might very well take me until next October to accomplish this challenge so you've been warned. If I'm posting Halloween-themed drawings at Valentine's and the Fourth of July, you'll know why. I'm big on breaking the confines of "rules" these days in order to adapt to what my body needs so I'm continuing Inktober at my own pace.

Another heads-up: I am having my twelfth surgery in mid-December; left foot again this time around. I've known for a while now that this fibroma surgery was going to have to happen but a visit to the foot surgeon last month resulted in planning for surgery much sooner than later. I usually schedule surgeries for summer break when I have lots of free time for recovery but the surgeon was concerned that waiting six more months - given how fast these latest growths are progressing - would mean a much more complicated surgery. So...back under the knife I go. Five weeks until surgery day; the countdown is on. Lots to do before then: three pre-op appointments, Thanksgiving with family, Christmas shopping/making/decorating, new unit starting today at school (illuminated manuscripts and the study/performance of Midsummer Night's Dream,) the second of two annual housing inspections, and art...loads of glorious art! Never a dull moment!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Reevaluating My Journal Style: Part 2

The pages in this post represent the type of journal that is currently the most inspiring and useful for me. I periodically review my personal trends and preferences in art so I can better utilize my time. My various health challenges make me very aware of the passage of time. Parkinson's Disease in particular is having an increasing impact on my technical skills and mental focus. As with most people, I want to make the most of the time I have. Interests also change over the years and I like to have a conscious awareness of what is setting my soul on fire. So you might be wondering "Am I ditching all my other journals to work in this fashion full time?" My answer is a resounding "No way!" 

While this "kitchen sink" style is what I am currently craving, each type of journal serves a unique and important purpose. Messy, grungy journals fulfill the need to play without boundaries. Journals featuring a single focal image and streams of single-spaced writing let me expound upon and examine emotions and events. Travel journals document a physical journey. Altered or handmade books with a carefully composed, artistic style serve as a bridge between the visual arts and creative writing. Sketchbooks filled with imaginative doodles and drawings are practice fields for my study of illustration. Those sketchbooks I fill with drawings from life form a portrait of the world around me. 

There are as many journal styles as there are journalers and there are no journaling commandments. "Thou shalt not keep more than one journal at a time" is not carved in stone somewhere. Neither is "Thou shalt focus on one style alone" or "Thou shalt not leave a journal unfinished." It is good to know where your attention is being diverted to on a regular basis but at the same time, remember that life is rich with variation. And so shall be our journal shelves. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Reevaluating My Journal Style: Part 1

I have a notebook where I jot down ideas and outlines for blog posts and at this point, I have a lot of things to write about. As usual, I'm just trying to find the time. It took me a while to recharge after my trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last week; I think that, in general, it is taking me longer to recuperate from most activities, both mundane and out of the ordinary. Still moving onward though so it's all good.

I've been journaling more of late but as I sling paint and glue paper, I am starting to consider where I might take the practice next. I aim to allow my gut and my subconscious lead my art life so I pulled down several volumes of journals and sketchbooks to discover what patterns I saw and what emotions I felt.

When I browsed through past journals, I found two basic types of pages. Most are deliberately composed within a finite time frame: I had an idea, sat down, executed it, and called it done. I also have pages (almost exclusively in my sketch/illustration books) that have spontaneously evolved over a non-specific amount of time. Both ways of journaling are important and offer me different things but I find myself deeply smitten by my sketchbook pages, the ones with random sketches, color swatches, notes about my day, project ideas, quotes I love.

It is possible that I am most intrigued by my sketchbooks because for the last few years, I've been leaning heavily towards drawing and illustration. My word of the year (and for perhaps for ever after) is "story" and not only do my sketchbooks tell overt stories through the drawings I create, they provide other tales as well: what supplies I was testing, what things I was seeing, experiencing, doing on a particular day. Whereas my deliberately-composed pages are moments/thoughts frozen in time, these sketchbook pages are alive. I can easily return to them for reference and in doing so, I often find that I have new things to add, further complicating and invigorating them. Most importantly, these pages are also subverting the perfectionistic planner in me; the goal is the mere collection of images and ideas, not the competent composition of that collection. 

NOTE: The pages shown in this post (from my mini "Unexpected Convergences" journal) are a slight fusion of these two styles of working. The backgrounds are built over time as I clean my paintbrushes off here and there or tack down scraps of paper that are cluttering my table. I start deliberate work on the pages once I feel like I have enough interesting color and marks to work with. Next post, I'll show a few of those "smorgasbord" sketchbook pages I've been talking about...

Monday, October 17, 2016

On the Road

This pic has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of this post but it was the best I could come up with in the midst of packing. I'm traveling this week to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with my art students and most of the middle/high school teaching staff; we'll be seeing Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Charles Dicken's Great Expectations, touring the Southern Oregon University campus, shopping & eating in downtown Ashland, taking acting classes, keeping a travel journal, and trying to sleep somewhere in between. My biggest hope is that the weather improves between the California coast and the Oregon interior: it has been raining buckets here and since most of our Asland adventures are outdoors, a tapering off of the precipitation will be welcome. I'll get back to posting once I return and catch up with sleep, peace, and quiet.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Inktober 2016 Days 3 through 7

So far I'm keeping up with this challenge but I anticipate having to quit midway through because I'm traveling to Ashland with my students the week after next and there'll hardly be time for sleeping, much less personal drawing projects. Nevertheless, I'll keep on doodling until the time crunch catches up to me. The alternate title for this piece is "Me, Before my Morning Coffee."

As I said, I'm working in an "old school" Moleskine sketchbook (before they changed their paper stock) and I'm trying to stick to black, white, grey, and the occasional pop of red. I am not following the official Inktober prompts; in general, prompts tend to freeze up my brain rather than inspiring it. That said, my very loose theme for this challenge is "Science Fiction TV and Movies." This piece is an homage to Roger Corman's cheesy B-movie, Wasp Woman (1959.) If you haven't seen this flick, trust me when I say that my version is much more sexy and appealing than the original.

Sometimes I am rendering classic movie creatures in fresh situations such as this Creature from the Black Lagoon ready for summer in his straw hat and vintage swim suit.

I am also trying my hand at a bit of caricature. For me, no retrospective on science fiction would be complete without mention of Twilight Zone creator, Rod Serling. I still watch this show on a regular basis even though I've seen some episodes dozens of times. To me, its writing and themes are timeless.

This piece is supposed to be a nod to Frank Gorshin's Riddler from the 1960s Batman television series. This did NOT turn out how I envisioned but I'm setting aside my hatred of this piece and moving forward. There really are no mistakes or failures in art; each misstep is a learning experience and I gain as much from pieces that don't work as I do from ones that are successful.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Figmenta Finally Out in the World

My 2016 show, Figmenta, is finally up on the wall out in the world! I was unsure how these relatively small works would look displayed on a very large wall but I was delighted to discover that I had made just enough (22) to fit the space perfectly in a soft, flowing line with a bit of breathing room between each piece. Everything is at eye level so people can get up close to see the details and read the tags.

I love this show for many reasons. First and foremost, I followed an inner voice that told me to take a risk, set aside the canvas for a while, and to make my character sculptures the focus. In addition, this show was very easy to execute from an inspiration perspective. I never tired of creating these pieces and in fact, I had to force myself to stop production so I had sufficient time for the labels and show signage. My 2017 show is already scheduled and I know that next year I will return to painting but I have a feeling that more sculpture work will worm its way into Figmenta, Vol 2.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Inktober 2016

I confess that I'm not terrific at participating in online art challenges; my life just doesn't seem to remain steady and predictable so I can rely on enough time to see things through. However, every little bit I do adds up and occasionally, I do manage to complete something despite the constant roadblocks. In this spirit, I am trying to participate in Inktober this year as much as possible. This has grown into a very popular challenge since illustrator Jake Parker started it in 2009; I believe he said in a recent Facebook post that upwards of 200,000 people are posting art this year with the Inktober hashtag.

I like this challenge because it is deceptively simple: every day in October, create a drawing in ink (pre-drawing in pencil allowed.) However, for mixed media artists who are used to playing with every medium known to man all at once, it can be really hard to pare down to such basic supplies and technique. I find it very refreshing and I love the reconnection I feel to drawing.

I am working in an "old school Moleskine" (i.e. before Moleskine reduced the quality of their journal paper.) I'll never, ever buy another Moleskine (it is Stillman & Birn forever & always for me now) but this is a Moleskine I acquired years ago when my local Borders went under and the paper is wonderfully thick, cream-colored stock that is fantastic for dry drawing media.

I started this challenge thinking that I would just draw random, unconnected things so I began with a sweet little gnome under his mushroom home. I just couldn't resist the call of October though; this month brings all sorts of creepy, oddball, and weird images out of the shadows in celebration of Halloween and the Day of the Dead. This is my most favorite month of the year so I quickly decided to focus on creatures for as long as I feel inspired to do so. Thus, Frankenstein showed up on Day 2 of my Inktober, complete with his "I [heart] Science" badge. Of course, I'm already behind: the drawings are up-to-date but I haven't inked them. No worries...I'll keep moving forward even if I'm behind and see where I end up. As per the challenge guidelines, I'll post my drawings as they happen. Hope you enjoy them...

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fleeting Art, Lasting Memories

This past Saturday morning debuted with deep gray thunderheads in the sky and a fifty percent chance of rain in the forecast. This was not welcome news given that it was also the day for "Pastels on the Plaza," an annual fundraising event in my hometown that brings together artists and businesses to chalk the town square. However, tradition demands that the sidewalk art party proceeds rain or shine (within reason) and since rain had not yet fallen, I packed my supplies for the day: soft pastels, chunky sidewalk chalk, spray bottle, water, rags, snacks, sunhat, sunscreen, anti-fatigue mat, camera, and sketchbook. At 7:15am, I headed for the plaza.

Upon check-in, I received a set of pastels and the go-ahead to pick a square. I tried to surmise (optimistically) what spot would be best to photograph once the sun was overhead. I steered clear of cracked pavement and aimed for something close to a bathroom. Once I settled on a square, I got to work.

Soon the plaza was filled with artists on their hands and knees, sketching, spritzing, chalking, smoothing, blending. My plan was to work quickly from the top down, trying to remember to take regular breaks to stand and stretch. It was easy to forget to do that since it actually isn't too painful to be on your hands & knees if you have a quality mat...until, that is, you decide to stand up. The process of sidewalk art is also quite mesmerizing as you aim to get solid coverage, grinding to pastels into the pavement. Entire sticks disappear in a matter of seconds. Luckily, event coordinators provide huge bins of extra pastels sorted by color in case you need more than what's provided at the outset.

I discovered two very curious challenges. First, besides being important for physical reasons, it is necessary to stand frequently so you can gain the proper perspective on your work. Up close, it seems like the bumpy stone will never get covered and that your image is blurry and boring. From a distance  - as these works are meant to be viewed - the image comes together. It was also interesting having a parade of people behind me as I worked. I had to set aside my self-consciousness (every artist's rear end was unavoidably on display for passersby.) It was also interesting to hear a constant stream of commentary and the almost ceaseless click of camera shutters. This event draws many onlookers and so it becomes almost performance art. Luckily, I never heard a negative comment; I did draw the attention of many children which, for me, was really the point of the image I chose to do. I wanted to create something full of color and whimsy, something bold and bright that would make people smile.

It took me about four hours to complete my "square" (which was approximately 3 x 4 feet.) I saved a lot of time by creating the initial layer of color with fat sidewalk chalks. I used the tiny, fragile chalk pastels on top of that to create a more solid layer of color and to add highlights & shadows.

I am very happy that I finally got to participate in this event. Not a single drop of rain fell on Saturday; in fact, the sun poked its brilliant face from behind the clouds on a regular basis. After just an hour or so of working, it was warm enough to strip off my sweatshirt and roll up my sleeves. Sunday morning I woke to a chorus of screaming muscles and the roar of a thunderstorm. Having graciously provided a beautiful day for the bloom of beautiful art on concrete, Nature reasserted herself the next day before dawn, washing the stone clean and sending a rainbow river rushing towards the street drains.

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