Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tiny Museum Tango

Things are kind of rough right now on the homestead; health issues are occupying just about every waking moment while I push through work four days a week. Sometimes I wonder just how much I'm going to be able to tolerate but when certain "can't do anything about it" situations rise up up before you, the only thing to be done is to slip slide around, under, or through such things and just keep moving forward. I strive for net gains each day, even if it is only an inch or two. The upside is that I'm getting a crash course in self-care, something I've always found extremely difficult to follow-through on. 

Miraculously, the art-making continues on a daily basis. I'm not creating masterpieces here but instead, just trying to escape into color and pattern. I've been doing a lot of doodling but I'm also, very slowly, playing along with a fabulous new online class called "Tiny Museum," from the equally fabulous Tammy over at Daisy Yellow. That lady could motivate a snail to stand up and do the tango! Watercolor and gouache are certainly dancing together in my journal as I work through the many videos in this class. I'm sure everyone has their own approach but I enjoy working while listening to the videos, listening and following along very loosely while Tammy describes what's she's doing. Her enthusiasm is contagious and helps cut through the painful haze I am swimming through every day. If I get a few of these wee boxes of art completed - presto! - my daily inches of accomplishment and joy are done. I'm posting the first page I finished as inspired by "Tiny Museum." These pages can take several days as you wait for some blocks to dry so you can add new layers. That's just my speed. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

More Drifting

More pages from my "Drifting" journal as inspired by Lisa Congdon's drawing classes over on Creativebug. The first spread follows Lisa's instructions pretty much verbatim: light-colored marker background topped with black ink flower motifs. From there, I got a little wild, changing the direction of the marker swipes in the background and adding some water to help those marks bleed and blend. Once that was dry, I added ocean-themed doodles "fished" (sorry! couldn't help myself) from my imagination.

Lots of other stuff is brewing behind the scenes here at Lost Coast Post...it's the finding time to show & tell that's the hard part. Thanks for sticking with me...your readership and commentary is deeply appreciated!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Drifting Whenever Possible

Just as I promised the blog wasn't going anywhere in the near future, I promptly posted just once last week. Life is just so intense right now. I'm caught up in the twin storms of a new work load I probably should have never agreed to and slowly advancing Parkinson's which has brought on swallowing and talking issues (as in I can't) and the most incredible leg pain that keeps me from sleeping most nights. Oh well...my choices are limited because I did say yes to this new schedule at work and since I authored the class, there's no one else to teach it. The PD is going to advance. These are immovable realities and so I just do the best I can to maneuver within my capabilities.

It is absolutely key for me to stay connected with my art-making in whatever form I can manage with the time and energy I have left at the end of the day. Right now, that means no hard focus/specific goal-oriented projects, just a bit here and there of soft focus (aka low impact) art work. I'm not especially fond of this way of working in the studio but as they say: "It is what it is."

After getting though most of Pam Garrison's "Creative Sketchbooking" class over on Creativebug, I started digging around the site in search of other classes that might interest me and discovered three classes taught by Lisa Congdon. Her casual (but organized) way of drawing appealed to me right away and I've been filling a sketchbook with lots of doodles inspired by her teachings.

Usually I really strive to take an instructor's techniques and fold them into my own but I'm in a place where I just need to drift along for a while in a artsy canoe of someone else's making. I watched Lisa's video lessons and then created my own versions using her instructions as my framework. As I worked, I naturally started to diverge more and more from the original ideas but I'm not actively trying to create something new.  I've taken to calling this journal "Drifting" because I'm trying to allow myself to get carried away from the day-to-day pressures by focusing on the repetitive scratch of pen on paper and the repetitive layering of geometric shapes.

I have to say that the paper in this sketchbook ("Pen & Ink" brand?) is simply loathsome. It is watercolor paper but more rag than cold press and thus it has a very soft plate. That means the surface feels (and acts) cottony rather than hard. My pen drags rather than glides across the surface and I think I curse as much as I draw. Unfortunately, it was the only blank landscape journal I could find in my "blank journal collection." (Surely a few of you out there have one of those...) One page had been torn out of the front but otherwise the journal was unused; I now remember why. To top it off, the pages are perforated which means any fluid medium used seeps silently like an evil plague onto every other page, created unwanted blooms of color on already completed work.  [*insert deep breath as the paper snob that I am tries to recover from this injustice*] However, I needed a surface that wasn't precious. As much as I despise the paper, this is just a low pressure project to pick up on and off throughout the day, a place to escape to when teaching and tremors get overwhelming.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Flashback to Beginning Drawing (and A Side Note About Instagram)

I have a vague recollection of posting some of these works before but I don't have time to search the post archive so if these are familiar, please forgive the repetition.

These pieces were completed in my Beginning Drawing class back in 2000 when I was starting my Studio Art degree. Originally, I entered college as an oceanography major and I had taken several scientific illustration courses before I changed my major to art. It just so happened that my illustration professor was also my drawing teacher. Although I was given the option to waive the beginning drawing requirement due to my work in representational drawing, I opted to fulfill the drawing component of the degree simply because this professor was brilliant.

Looking back, I realize now that this drawing class must have been extremely frustrating for some students. There were no demonstrations and the lectures were terse at best. My professor, Mr. Anderson, believed that the best way to learn drawing was simply to put in the work. To that end, he was an incredible taskmaster when it came to drawing practice; the class met twice a week, three hours per class, and save for two ten-minute breaks, we were expected to keep our butts in our seats and draw with exacting precision. Ancient, grizzled, and solemn Mr. Anderson missed nothing. He knew exactly who took an inexplicable thirty minute break every hour and who stuck to their work. (Of course, that information was usually pretty obvious during the critique.) When our drawings were finished, we'd earn a letter grade scrawled in the corner of our paper and a few words on how the drawing could be improved. Otherwise, our instruction was the process itself, repeated over and over and over... 

I remember dreading drawing rocks and sticks but bone drawing sent me over the edge. So much of the detail on bones is created by contrasts in shadow rather than hard lines and it was so difficult to get that sense of depth correct. This skull drawing was the height of my bone drawing assignments and in the end, I was thrilled that this turned out as good as it did. In fact, I remember moaning and groaning over almost all of the assignments but also being constantly surprised at the final results. For whatever reason, Mr. Anderson's teaching style worked for me.

While I hated drawing bones (and shells for that matter,) I loved drawing inorganic objects with a variety of surfaces. We practiced rendering crumpled paper, reflective metal, and glass. I remember very clearly the day the paper bag drawing was assigned; the class nearly rioted. "Whaaat?! Do all that shading? That's impossible!" I guess that's one of the most important things I learned in Mr. Anderson's classes: things might seem impossible but devote the time, and you could conquer even the toughest assignment.

AND...on an unrelated note...there has been some confused and even seemingly angry (!?) backlash over my announcement that I can now be found on Instagram. My inbox was inundated with anxiety and questions...even lost a follower...although that could be for some other, unknown reason. I thought I was clear in my previous post but in case you are one of those worrying over this issue, let me clarify: THIS HERE BLOG ISN'T GOING ANYWHERE. I didn't drape the blog in black silk and play "Taps." (Admittedly, today's post is pretty monochromatic but I swear that's pure coincidence.)

I completely understand the fear of new technology; I'm still in love with typewriters and phones with the long, curly cords attached to the kitchen wall. I'm sure I'm one of the last people on the planet without a cell phone; I'm managing my foray onto Instagram via an old Samsung media player. So everyone just relax! At Instagram, all I'm doing is snapping an often poorly-lit photo with my crappy, stone-age camera and adding a poorly-typed caption. (Curse you, tiny keyboard!) I know the art blog scene is shrinking by the minute but Lost Coast Post will remain here in all its long form glory as long as I feel compelled to maintain it. I am deeply honored by your passion for this space. Please...take a deep breath and keep reading. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

LCP Now on Instagram!

Thanks to a piece of hand-me-down technology, I am now on Instagram! My handle (or whatever it's called) there is, of course, "lostcoastpost." My account is just getting starting with a couple of timid postings but I've wanted to use Instagram since forever. It will allow me to post many, many more pictures of my work and world without the necessary complexities of blogging. I'll now be able to carry a camera with me wherever I go. WhooHoo!

I plan to share lots of "in progress" pics so you can see what I'm working on in real time. Instagram will also allow me to share more of my everyday life here on the extreme Northern California coast (brace yourself for lots of cat pics!) Don't worry: the blog will continue as usual with regular posts at least two days a week but with my crazy work commitments, Instagram will help me stay connected to readers in between posts. So, if you are plugged into Instagram like most of the world, look me up there and follow if you wish. I could use some cheering on as I try to drag my analog brain into the 21st century. (Seriously...how do people use these itty bitty keyboards on such a tiny screen??? It makes me feel as if my fingers are huge!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Joan's Sweet Peas

Last week, a friend gave me a small bunch of sweet peas and I immediately grabbed my watercolors and sketchbook to document the bouquet.

I always place what I am drawing on a white sheet of paper so I get the clearest idea of colors and shadows. For larger objects, I also place a white board behind the object. Here's what my setup looked like...

Sweet peas are crazy hard to draw so I decided to take an impressionistic approach, beginning with a light wash of paint to define the area. (I actually like this stage of the painting all by itself!)

I added some pen work to more sharply define my subject. Then it was just a matter of pushing in the darks a little bit at a time while preserving the light areas. I gradually built up color intensity by laying down a wash of color, letting it dry and repeating...over and over again.

Finally, I added a title. Presto! Sketchbook page complete! An evening well spent...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Coloring Exultation

Well, one week of teaching down...onward to week two! For the most part, last week went smoothly in the classroom even as kids were trying to figure out schedules and adjust to being students again after a long, leisurely summer. I'm trying to make those adjustments as well.

There's precious little time for art-making. Correction...there's time but I don't have the energy to use it. I'm dabbling here and there but not getting a whole lot done. When I do dabble, it's often in my new journal called "Exultation" which is, in essence, a self-made, scribbly-style coloring book.

Adult coloring books are a hot trend right now and I can see the appeal. It's nice to wind down at the end of a long day with a quiet, meditative activity...just what I need. However, I didn't have coloring books growing up (parental emphasis was on creating my own images) so I feel very weird about working on the drawings of others. In addition, I haven't seen much out there that interests me visually enough to inspire me to spend what little art time I have coloring. After I created "Exultation," I realized I had solved my coloring conundrum.

I wish I could work faster on these pages but they are a long time in the finishing...just a tiny bit every so often. I also bounce around in this journal, working multiple pages at once. This is one journal I know I may never see the end of! In this post you can see the progression of a page, from blank scribble to finished piece. Besides coloring with acrylics and watercolor, I add small bits of tape and collage, pen/pencil/marker work, and lettering. The images are awkward owing to their non-dominant hand, scribbled beginnings but to me, their silly imperfections are fun and utterly forgiveable once the page is complete. It all just seems to come together in the end.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lost in the Sketchbook

My sketchbooks really have me in their grip right now. After years of saying that I wanted to focus primarily on observational sketching, I finally find my heart and mind completely and utterly smitten with drawing and painting the world around me. (Alas, poor Snippets journal! I promise I will find some way to complete you...) The fact that I'm going to be teaching this now for an entire year probably has something to do with it as well.

Oddly enough, after work, when I am arguably at my most exhausted - mentally, emotionally, and physically - I have discovered that I can actually complete highly detailed pages in my sketchbook. The focus required is intense but soothing. I get lost in my observations of what I'm drawing. I sit and quietly look at the shapes of shadows. I compare the relative intensity of one color to the next, trying to match my paint mixtures to what I see. While I'm not monitoring it, I'm pretty sure my heart rate slows. So unless I have a migraine (which makes it impossible to do anything,) you can find me working in my sketchbook most afternoons and even right before bed.

One particular subject I'm having tremendous fun with is old school portraits from the fifties. I have a large collection of pictures I've found in thrift stores and culled from old yearbooks. I pick a photo to reference, draw the basic outline and then start filling in color. No sketching in pencil! I just pick up a black pen and dive in! I have to live with and learn to love my mistakes (including some very unfortunate chins.) The fact that the reference pictures are in black and white helps me two ways. The grayscale allows me to judge values quickly and secondly, I am free to assume whatever colors I choose when bringing the person (child or faculty member) to life. This particular set of portraits is colored with Tombow markers. Most of my drawings look nothing like the picture but the resulting characters are fun and a little wacky...just the way I like them! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Tomorrow Teaching Will Begin

Tomorrow the new school year really begins for me. I've been at it for three weeks now but without students...just lots and lots of room prep, material ordering/organization, and lesson planning. Last week, the students were on campus but the first week at my school is devoted to community-building and assessments so there's no regular classes. Tomorrow all that changes. I'm about to get really busy.

This year, my primary focus will be teaching Art 1 to 35 high school students. I developed this class to satisfy a California high school graduation requirement and (hopefully) an entrance requirement for the California State University system. (The rather extensive and tedious paperwork for the latter is still pending but I'm told it has a good chance of making the cut.) This is a yearlong class that is actually paired/integrated with Spanish 1. My class has two components: Mondays and Tuesdays will be devoted to the first component, "Fundamentals of Sketching." The emphasis here will be on observational sketching (as opposed to formal, precision drawing) and our study will culminate in an urban sketching trip to Mexico next June. (Be forewarned: you're going to see a lot more sketching in this space since my personal policy is always to actually do anything I ask of my students before I ask them to do it.)

The second component of the class is called "Art of the Americas," a series of projects throughout the year that highlight the art & craft of ancient and contemporary cultures in Mexico, Central America, and South America. We'll be carving stamps and making monoprints, crafting paper mosaic masks, painting wall hangings, sculpting animals, sewing "grave" dolls, and constructing tin retablos. First up though, we'll be creating sugar skulls in cardboard relief. Those are my samples in the photo. (Thanks to Pink and Green Mama for the inspiration!) Again, you have lots of photos of all those projects to look forward too!

In the spring, I'll add teaching the art component of the annual Shakespeare/theater unit but one thing at a time. [insert deep breath here] The posting schedule here at Lost Coast Post may get a bit shaky as my brain is overtaken by the chaos of teaching but I'll do my best to keep up. It's going to take me a while to find my daily rhythm. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Journal Exultation: The Evolution of my Own Look

So as I said in my last post, I recently started a new journal initially inspired by Pam Garrison's journaling class over at Creativebug. This brand new project is called "Exultation" but it took a few pages to discover my own spin on the class lessons. What follows is the evolution of that style in pictures and a few words.

I began at the beginning, following Pam's first lesson to the letter. Scribble then paint. Blind right-handed scribbles and then left-handed scribbles while looking. OK...I confess...I looked a little bit while using my right hand too. Once I started painting, I was conflicted. I hated the process of painting all those little spaces! It was quite difficult to manage all the details with my PD tremor getting in the way. I almost quit.

However, once I finished the first page (right-handed scribbles) with my own spin on filling in the spaces, I felt a wee bit better.

When I finished the second page (left-handed drawing,) I knew a seed of inspiration had been planted but that I had to find my own way of doing things. Some of those changes: watercoloring around the painted portions, layering painted marks over solid areas, shading with paint markers, a little bit of collage/washi tape, light background stamping.

Right away, I realized that I really liked having an actual image to paint, not just random scribbles. So I thought...hmmm...maybe if I hold my pen very loosely with my right hand, I could create some scribbly "coloring book" pages to work on...so I scribbled away as casually as I could.

I painted the first page and thought "Yeah...this is pretty cool but it's a little stiff...I'd lost the playfulness by allowing my dominant hand (and my inner control freak) to guide the work.

I scribbled a second page to experiment on...I thought...this is going well.

I was wrong. Work on the second page slid out of control fast as I tried to fix problem after problem. The face turned out so bad, I had to collage something on top to save the page (which I was NOT going to tear out as I am working in a rather expensive Stillman & Birn Zeta Hardbound sketchbook.) When I finished, I hated this page passionately.  I knew now what I DIDN'T want to do: right-handed drawings, collage as a main focus, images of people. Fortunately, I was also able to pinpoint what I did like: a narrow color profile, washi tape, a specific, scribbly image, dip pen lettering, animals/birds/flora, all my previous additions to the process. This page became incredibly instructive so for that, I forgive it. 

I proceeded to fill many pages with left-handed scribble drawings. (I don't have "before" pictures for the beginning few; I was too excited to wait to paint.) Full confession: I've had a lot of practice using my left hand in the last 25 years due to extensive hand problems/multiple surgeries. The drawings are wobbly but very recognizable. Even using my left hand, I have to focus on staying loose. These pages though have that playful, wild quality I love. However, they're not so random as Pam's pages. Finally, they look like me. 

It takes me days to finish one page as I only have short blocks of time in the studio. I tend to work a couple of colors at a time, filling in all the spots I think need those colors. Next painting session, I work all over the page in a couple more colors. Eventually, I layer in painted and drawn marks, tape, stamping, watercoloring, lettering.

As I post more pages from this journal in future blog entries, I think you'll see my style evolve even further. It gets a bit more refined but also a bit more abstract. I settle into a rhythm with a particular image and my color palette gets more sophisticated and thoughtful. All in all, this journal is a place to simply play when I'm tired after work but still longing for some art time.

I heartily encourage you to take art class lessons and push the information until you find something that is unique and not just a mirror of the instructor's portfolio. It can take a bit of experimentation and a few flops but it is worth it.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

This Morning's Musical Inspiration

This song is on an endless loop this morning...love, love, love the little messages embedded in this tune and seriously...if this doesn't get your toes tapping, you might be dead... 
(By the way, this entire album is fabulous!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Journal Exultation Begins

I knew that once the new school year began, my art-making would suffer as my fatigue & pain levels rose and my free time dwindled. (I didn't realize that it would be quite as bad as it is but I'm still holding out hope I'll find my way through.) In anticipation of this, I began a new journal in early August that I hope will allow me to continue to do a bit here and there without too much pressure or commitment. And so begins "Exultation."

This journal was inspired by the first lesson in Pam Garrison's Creative Sketchbooking class which you can find on Creativebug. (Note: You pay a monthly fee of $4.95 to access all the classes Creativebug hosts but they do offer a two-week free trial so you could technically binge watch what you want in those two weeks and then cancel your subscription before it automatically renews.) Essentially, the lesson in a nutshell was scribble and paint. The first time I did this, I thought I was going to die of boredom and tedium. I also hated that my initial efforts looked like a clone of Pam Garrison's work. However, Pam enthusiastically encourages her students to make things their own and I recognized in this lesson the kernel of an idea that I thought I could develop into something I enjoyed more.  

It took some trial and error but I eventually found a way to make this process and the resulting pages look more reflective of my own personal style. I'm starting here with the journal's title page but keep in mind that this page was completed about midway through my experimentation process. On Friday, I'll back up and show you how I began, where I ran off the rails, and how I got back on track to something that will help me stay connected with art even as I have to focus on other things. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Snippets: Weeks 33 and 34

This Snippets journal tries my patience these days but I am forging ahead, determined to make it through to the end of the year. In truth, I'm free to quit this any time. My journals are bound by me; I am not bound by my journals. However, I'd like to see this volume through to the end just to have a complete picture of 2015. I like the results when I complete a spread but the collage aspect of this project is wearing on my nerves. I want to make a clean break to focus primarily on drawing and painting but Snippets has me still plugging away on something that is more collage-based. It splits my brain in half. Oh well...eventually I'll figure out a compromise that will revitalize my enthusiasm or I'll get to December 31 and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Note: Thank you to Tammy of Daisy Yellow for the "Breathe" postcard! I've had it pinned on my inspiration board for a long time and finally decided it deserved a permanent home in my journal. In addition, the little Buddha image arrived via Connie Rose on a wonderful piece of mail art and it too needed to live in my journal. Thank you ladies!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Strange Fowl and Back to School

"The Strange Fowl Quintet Prepares for Rehearsal"; 18x24; acrylics - SOLD
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind with the onset of the new school year. I think I am only breathing intermittently...in between staff meetings, supply assessment and ordering, lesson planning, syllabus-writing, school clean-up and organization, bulletin board-making, and classroom decorating. It is always a challenge to slide from the lazy days of summer back into the barely controlled chaos of the classroom environment but this year is especially tough as my hours and responsibilities have increased right up to the edge of my physical tolerances. I come home exhausted. There's no art-making happening (other than school-related), no cooking, cleaning, conversations, errands...nothing on work days besides work. If I'm not at school, I'm a couch zombie. Students begin on Monday but it will be another week before the regular daily schedule commences. (At my school, the first week is used for community-building.) I am hoping against hope that once a routine begins, I'll be able to settle more gracefully into my role and then find the time and energy for my private pursuits. In the meantime, brace yourself for a wobbly posting schedule here at Lost Coast Post...I'm busy trying to find my way. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

King Boris the Blunderous Finds a Home

I've only shown a few of the paintings I did for the Sparks of Madness show so here and there, I'll post one or two when I don't have time to do anything else. I started back to work this week and so far, I am exhausted...and there aren't even students on campus yet! I hope this is just some sort of adjustment period and that I'll find my footing in the teaching world again after a rollicking good time this summer, making art to my heart's content.

This piece, acrylics on an 18x24-inch canvas, is titled King Boris the Blunderous Practices Balancing. King Boris took his time appearing to me; I had this canvas up for a couple of days, turning and twisting, looking for something in the background until I was on the verge of despair. Then, at about 3am, in the slow glow of the white lights that circle my studio space, I spied him, tiptoeing through an ancient forest, a little birdie friend accompanying him.

I know the purchaser of this piece and know that it is destined to belong to a little boy named Arden. Arden's grandmother took him to see the painting and ever since, Grandma has been spinning stories about King Boris and his birdie friend they named Natasha. It seems King Boris is a sweet-tempered, helpful chap who goes about rescuing wayward animals in the forest. Arden has no idea that Boris is actually coming to live with him at Christmas time and I would pay good money to see the reveal on Christmas morning.
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