Saturday, March 25, 2006

Art and AADD

I know I should be packing for Artfest, but I keep getting off track – no surprise there!
At our art club meeting tonight, we were given our latest challenge: alter a clock from the dollar store, and answer the question: “I wish I had time for…?”
As soon as I got home from the meeting, I carefully examined the clock. I’m always curious about how things are put together, and since I couldn’t figure it out, I had to take it apart right away.
Using the mini screwdriver from the eyeglasses repair kit I got in my Christmas stocking a few years ago, I removed the back. Then after fiddling around for a while, I took out the clock mechanism and popped off the plastic cover.
I know what I want to do with the clock because I already have my answer to the challenge question. But I wish I could just explain what my idea is instead of having to embark on the long meandering journey to make it tangible.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Multiple Personalities

For each meeting of Carmi’s Commandos – as John calls our art club – we have a dollar store challenge. This time we had to create something we love to fit into a jeweled paper holder…or completely alter it, if we wanted to. Because I am so busy right now, I decided to use Photoshop and play with a photo I’d taken of someone I love: in this case David.
My project morphed into the three faces of D. with one of his sand cast glass bricks and some shots John had taken of the hot shop at Sheridan. A glass furnace is called a “glory hole” and I think it’s hilarious that the exhaust is actually labeled.

I’ve been thinking in black and white lately because I have to take photocopies to Artfest for Claudine’s class next Thursday. My plan is to do a portrait of Emma with curly hair, so I’m going to take some pictures of her on Sunday. It might be fun to try a different approach, but again using Emma, when I take Anne Grgich’s workshop the following day.
Doing portraits has never particularly appealed to me because I don’t think my drawing skills are strong enough. But I do love working with pictures of people that I care about, and then adding images that mean something to them. It’s an intuitive process and an absorbing one.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Business Card

This is the latest version of my business card, and I’m really pleased with it. I used a picture of Emma that I took up at Meaford last fall when we went away together – plus a photo of clouds from the same weekend and part of my favorite star map.
For a long time I’ve felt negative about all the commercial graphic work I’ve done over the years. But now I know I got into it in the first place because I have a feel for it. I think understanding this – and accepting it – has made a difference to the quality of my digital and design work. I’m no longer compartmentalizing.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Thinking about Artfest

When I take a workshop, one of three things is likely to happen:
1) I get the instructions balled up
2) I don’t finish
3) I bring way too much stuff
Come to think of it, 2) and 3) always happen, and 1) usually does. Part of the problem is that I look on the workshop experience as a kind of art party, and I’m there to celebrate.
But traveling 2,000 miles to Artfest is sobering me up. I’ve never met any of the people there face-to-face and I’m worried about that. Will they tolerate my eccentricities? Will I do something dumb?
Carmi says I’m a Zen artist, which is really her diplomatic way of explaining why I’m slower than everyone else. She also witnessed one of my more embarrassing blunders in a workshop. I covered a painting that was turning out really well with a layer of gel medium, then waited patiently for it to dry to a clear finish But the trouble was I’d actually used titanium white, so I completely obliterated a painting I loved.
Now I’m determined turn over a new leaf at Artfest. I’m going to listen. I’m going to finish. And I’m not going to take too much stuff. The stuff part will be hard though. I could fill a suitcase just with paint. How will I be able to leave my Luna Lights and Black Lava behind? I already have separation anxiety. Couldn’t I just bolt a handle to my cart full of paints? Too bad there’s a 50 lb limit.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Joy of Painting

I’ve almost finished painting the backgrounds for my angels altered book. There are ten or so left to do – plus the index, which I’ll probably leave until the end because I’m not sure what I want to do with it. Working on this project has revived my desire to paint on canvas again, something I always plan on, but never quite get around to.
Years ago I read Art as Medicine by art therapist Shaun McNiff, and I was fascinated the insights he gained from working with mental patients in an institution. For instance, he discovered that patients often improved simply by painting a picture, even if they weren’t able to communicate with McNiff at all. Perhaps there’s something about the fluidity of paint, it’s texture and color that connects us to the ground of being and brings healing because it allows us to express our real self.It’s always a process of discovery too. I’ve been experimenting with crumpling pages I’ve just painted, smoothing them out and then brushing on dye ink with a damp paper towel. I like the way it looks and feels. I also like pressing wet pages together and then separating them. Often parts of the paper will peel off leaving a textured surface you can highlight with darker paint.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Success (I think)

Starting with the design is not the way you’re supposed to do a website. So I obediently did a plan first. But my plan didn’t seem to make sense unless I knew what it was attached to…a visual representation in other words.
Before David left for school yesterday, I showed him all the designs I’d come up with. Then he “interviewed” me about what I was trying to do with my website making a short list of important points. Personally I thought his approach was too minimalist. Didn’t he realize how complicated it is?
For this reason, I ignored his list for most of the day. But there’s always an in-working before there’s an out-working, isn’t there? After hours of tinkering with different designs, I decided to take a look at David’s list again – and to really think about it. Then it suddenly all came together.
I often wonder where I would have ended up if I’d been as together at twenty as David is now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mary Ambrose

After Mary called me tonight, I decided to post this picture I took of one of her altered books. I don’t know whether or not I could analyze why these two pages appeal to me so much, but everything just works for me here…the colors, the composition, the combination of lights and darks, and of course, the images.
The interesting thing about Mary is that while everything she does looks fresh and spontaneous, there’s actually a lot of planning behind it. In fact, she says that planning gives her the freedom and confidence to let her art take her wherever it wants to go.
I learned about Mary’s “front end loading” when I interviewed her for the May/June 2006 issue of RubberStampMadness. For some reason, I’d always thought of her as a force of nature above and beyond any kind of creative strategy. But since then I’ve realized I believe this to be true of the creative process in general – and I think it’s held me back.
While fantasizing about what I’d like to do is pleasurable (in the short run), it’s not actually planning or preparation. The real satisfaction comes from seeing an idea become tangible.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More Website Whining

Trying to come up with a website design is unbelievably complicated. It’s frustrating, endless and I’m nowhere near the GoLive stage. I could write a 25-chapter book on what I’ve been through. But only someone looking for an insomnia cure would bother to read it.
I know what I want, but I can’t seem to get there. I’m vacillating between tarting it up and going for the minimalist approach. Something like assemblage artist James Michael Starr’s website really appeals to me, but I’m not sure that I have one image that could really represent what I do.

I've looked at a lot of websites over the years. One that are cluttered with type and all sorts of boxes and internal links really annoy me. I don't want mine to be like that, but now I understand how difficult it is to just keep it simple.
It was a relief to set my design work aside and indulge in some Photoshop therapy. I took this photo of Lily watching Project Runway tonight. She’s obviously not troubled by whether or not she’s in or out. And I’ll bet she isn’t worrying about a website design either.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

To “Bee” or not to be

I found this playing card (along with a four-leaf clover) in The Poetical Works of Felicia Hemans that I bought years ago in a junk shop. The book is beautiful with a padded leather cover, tiny engravings and gilding on the pages. I don’t know how old it is, but based on my research I think it was likely published in the 1870s. Hemans was a friend of Wordsworth and lived from 1793 to 1835. Her husband left her with five boys all under the age of six and she supported her family by writing poetry!
But I don’t think this playing card is really that old. Although it was obviously used as a bookmark, it appealed to me nonetheless. So I scanned the card, then “painted” and altered it in Photoshop replacing the beehive with a picture of Emma’s eye. It’s exactly the same size as an ATC, so I’m thinking it might be fun to use as a trade at Artfest.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Why am I doing a Website?

I read in Vanity Fair earlier that 170,000 people a day join Myspace. A day! Will cyberspace reach a set point or will the sheer amount of stuff that’s continuing to proliferate, well – just continue to proliferate? I spent another unsuccessful day trying to come up with a design for my website, and I realized tonight that this might be because I’m not even sure why I’m doing it. Is it just vanity, or is there a point to it all? I did finish the playing card collage sheet though…part of the purpose of doing a website is to sell the ones I’ve already done online. But there are so many people doing the same thing, and I don’t have a clue how to market myself. I just want to make art; I don’t want to play the marketing game because I’ve never been very good at games unless it’s something like Tetrus.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Working on my Website

I managed to find time to work on my website today. What’s holding me back at the moment is trying to come up with a design I like. I know I’m mad-dogging it a bit because I’ve experimented with eight different designs so far. But the thing is, if I don’t put something together that appeals to me, I just know I’ll want to change it – and I hate being nagged by that feeling.
It’s a sure sign I’m not settled in my own mind when I ask my family for input. John likes the one with a gray background, and I have to admit it’s the best. But Emma and David both think I should go with the electric blue and yellow. Yikes! I’m not really a gray person, or an electric blue one either. Who am I really?
Before going out for coffee with Andrea, I putter around with both designs. When I get home, Emma is already in bed, but she’s left me a post-it on my mouse: “Mom, I love your Artopia page! It looks FAB!” (Sometime I’ll build a shrine to house all her loving little notes). Anyway, looking at the electric blue one just now, I can’t help remembering Ferlinghetti’s words: “A coney island of the mind, a kind of circus of the soul.” At least I think that’s how it goes.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What Lies Beneath

I decided to use my 1929 copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress to alter for my book on angels. For some reason it seems important to use a story that ties in with my theme. Even if nothing of the actual book remains when I’m finished, I will still know what lies beneath; the idea of paying homage to the original by creating something new really appeals to me.
But now I want to leave the last few pages of The Pilgrim’s Progress intact. Tonight I discovered that my copy of the book has a wonderful index. I looked up “angels,” and John Bunyan refers to them as “the Shining Ones” or “ministering spirits.” It’s an allegory after all, so places have wonderful names like “The Slough of Despond,” “Assault Lane and “Vanity Fair;” and the characters are qualities like “Prudence.” “Mr. Two-tongues” and “Heedless.” I remember being bored by The Pilgrim’s Progress in university, but any author who is so exquisitely literal is probably worth rereading. Bunyan even wrote a book called The Greatness of the Soul!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Altered Book

For me, the most satisfying part of doing an altered book is preparing the backgrounds, but I probably feel this way because I haven’t actually finished one yet! Still, there’s something very freeing about just slapping on paint and finding out where it will take you. I’m thinking it might be fun to do an altered book that is nothing but backgrounds – perhaps with one word to a spread. I’ve always liked Ed Ruscha’s word art, and want to explore the idea. Maybe it’s because words were originally pictures? However I don’t think this approach will work with the two projects I’ve got on the go right now.
In the past I’ve made several attempts to start an altered book, but I always get bogged down. After working as a layout artist for so many years, I think composition has become overly important to me. When faced with a number of collage elements, I often find it hard to make a decision. I want every page to be just right…not perfect, but “right.” I also like to have the whole project pretty much realized in my head, which is difficult to do when you’ve got so many pages to work with.
But on February 26th, I took the altered book class taught by my friend Mary Ambrose (again) and I really got hooked this time. Her exuberance and creativity is so contagious, I decided that I am going to keep working and finish a book.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Fresh Eyes

When you come back to a piece of work you haven’t finished and then left for a while, you can’t help but look at it with fresh eyes. I started working on this digital portrait of David about six weeks ago, and I’d forgotten about it. But today it all came together quickly. Doing portraits of people – particularly of those you love – is very satisfying.
I finally got the chance to tidy up my workroom too. Technically speaking, I suppose my workroom is a studio because it’s where I make art. But I tend to think of a studio in more of a Jackson Pollack-ish kind of way…lots of huge canvases, paint being flung around with abandon…and all happening in a football-sized warehouse space.
But plenty of artists do work with what they have. Morris Louis painted in his living room; Kathe Kollwitz drew at her kitchen table. At one point in his life, Blake and his wife Catherine lived and worked in just one room. Schwitters comes to mind too. No studio for him! He just turned his entire apartment into an assemblage. Would I work larger if I had a bigger space? I think I would. In my opinion, you can never have too much creative room.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Heart of a flower

What I love about Photoshop is that you can really take an image as far as you want it to go. A digital collage usually has many different layers that interact with each other, and just like life they merge to make an impression that's just the tip of the iceberg really. While I was making this collage, I had many different feelings about things...experiences, too, but at the end of it the viewer either likes what he or she sees, or doesn't. It's become something separate from me and takes on its own kind of life.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Up and Running

I can't believe that I've finally put my blog together! After spending a couple of weeks trying to unravel the arcane lore of HTML/CSS, I guess I now qualify as a hacker...albeit a modest one. If it's taken me this long to do one blog page though, how will I ever manage to do a website? I have two parked and they're getting rusty! Next on the agenda is plunging into Go Live.