|Work in process ... still lots to do|
Thursday, November 2, 2017
My mind is churning around art this morning after another successful Weekly Wednesday Wine-fest (WWW). (Big drinkers we are, she has one glass of wine, and I, two). WWW is an opportunity for two friends and artists to get together to talk about art and life, and the most intriguing aspect of our friendship is that we are totally opposites in our techniques, styles, and processes. Yet we have the most amazing conversations and are very supportive of one other.
I had printed photos I’d taken the past two months from which I plan to do paintings and she brought over her work sketch book of how she works with photos in her painting process. We often talk of composition, values (which I still struggle to fully understand as an artist), colors, etc. We may be opposites in how we work, but what we love to paint is similar in the types of landscapes and such.
After all these years of doing art work, I still always question, always seek to learn and evolve. My journey with art isn’t just about technique and style. My entire soul gets involved. Emotions ramble (or is it rumble? Ha ha.) throughout the process. It’s like I become part of whatever I am working on and it becomes part of me so that I am thinking about it even when I’m not at the easel. It sometimes comes through when I’m meditating, or I’ll wake in the night with a slight memory of dreaming about it.
“I take photos and paint scenes, based on what I like; what catches my attention. If I’m intrigued by the view, I believe others will be, too.” – Sasha Wolfe.
I paint scenes that intrigue me, often using multiple photographs of a landscape to capture various nuances and angles of the area. My mind is flooded with emotions which is a mish-mash of visual colors, textures, and words. It’s weird because I don’t get clear visions and sometimes there are no words to fully describe what I am feeling/seeing. (This is the first time I’ve been able to put this into words!) It’s only when I stand at the easel with brush or pastel in hand that I start seeing clearly … And at that point, there are times when it feels like something else takes over.
However, it’s not perfect, not constant. There’s always the ups and downs, ins and outs. The emotions ebb and flow. I’m excited by the work, then discouraged feeling I’ve done something wrong. I walk away, then go back. Eventually I reach the point where I have to stop. It has to be finished. The painting tells me it is done, even if I keep finding something to “fix.” I have to let go. It’s time to move on to another painting.
Friday, October 13, 2017
I find scenes I want to draw and paint. I take multiple photos to catch different angles. I don’t “think” too much about it in the moment. I am just excited with the view and I snap away. Too often it’s a quick stop because I’m heading somewhere else, so I don’t take my time and totally “feel” the area.
“Feel the area” means sitting for a little while and catching the nuances, the smells, noticing little quirks or paying enough attention to light. And light is soooo important! But for some reason, it’s not the light that catches my attention. My delight is in the beauty of the landscape. I know light is something I need to consider in creating a good picture, but every time I am so caught up in the view of trees, water, mountains, sky, and other vegetation, I totally forget about the light in the moment of taking the photographs.
|I took multiple photos along this scene to do a panoramic painting.|
I was traveling with someone and we were in a hurry, so there
wasn't any time to contemplate the scene. I just snapped photos.
What am I saying here? After years of being an artist, dabbling in numerous mediums and creating by my own rules, I am now taking a closer look at honing my skills. Maybe it’s because pastels work differently from the oils, acrylics, and charcoal I’ve used in the past. I’m fascinated by the various types and textures of pastels and the wonderful array of colors. However, they are giving me multiple challenges which I find intriguing and exciting.
There are also the challenges of learning on my own and not taking classes. There are new discoveries to make in order to create a beautiful painting. I talk to other artists (most don’t work in pastel, but all have insights) and I read books and websites on pastel painting. I process conversations and readings choosing aspects that will help me in my style. I feel I am building my own separate pathway across the pond.
Last night’s reading, in a book by Richard McKinley, talked about how a plein air sketch captures the essence of the scene the way the eye does (and a photograph does not). I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of the “essence of a scene” in words and sketching. I know I feel it, but outside of excitement, I’ve not considered artistic description.
Is this part of where artistic intuition comes in? I’m often told I have that. I use photographs as a guide to create the scene, but often, once I get background down and an idea where shapes go, I just dive in and start painting. Yes, I’ll refer to the photo, from time to time, but there reaches a point where the picture is telling me what it wants.
I’m not perfect. I get stuck. I walk away, sometimes for days, before the painting calls me back. I’ll take photos of my progress to post on FB and ironically, it’s often after I post an in-process photo, that I’ll notice some nuance I have to add to the painting. Why didn’t I see that in real-time with the painting? Perhaps it’s one of those mysteries.
This entire process is also teaching me to see differently. I’d noticed years back that when I was taking a photograph with the intent to do a charcoal drawing, I’d look at it with different eyes than if I was just taking a photo of a pretty scene. That is also translating to pastels and further as I look at the photo with different eyes than I look at the painting. It’s like I’m having to learn to see in new ways. (And I still don’t have the words to fully describe and understand that … yet.)
Thursday, October 12, 2017
There is something in my soul that craves: attention, feedback, acknowledgement. Maybe it’s from all those years when I felt nothing but harsh criticism and ridicule. Maybe it was from all those times I felt not good enough. Maybe it’s because I pour my heart and soul onto the page so that it’s like a part of my soul bleeds.
The writing gives me a such joyous release! However, after the initial burst of excitement dies down, I am drained, empty; almost as if I continue to slowly hemorrhage. The flow of words, stopped for the time being, leaves me feeling hollow. An inflow is needed to replenish my soul.
I think about these feelings and what they might mean. These bursts of creativity, of word flow, is so highly intense for such a short amount of time. It’s like running a 50-yard dash at top speed. The words stop. The running stops. And after the initial cheering of the crowd, after everyone walks away, I collapse in exhaustion … alone.
|"End of the Lake" my biggest charcoal drawing |
ready to go to a new home
Yes, the writing is a release for me, but a yearning within replaces the joy. I feel I’m missing something. (Do all writers and artists feel this way? There’s a letdown; almost like the letdowns after all the Christmas holiday hoopla.) I continue to crave recognition.
Why do I feel I need to have others tell me I’ve done well? I know I’ve done a good job! I love what I’ve accomplished! Is it just an after-effect letdown and it’s normal?
Is it about being witnessed? We all need to be witnessed in our lives. It’s an important aspect to help us gain perspective about ourselves and know that we’re doing OK. It’s knowing that we are not alone in our life struggles and celebrations.
Is it the need to feel understood? This is a biggie. I think a lot of us feel we are not understood, and yet, in reality, most of us do have similar feelings, live through similar experiences. A lot of people see my poems as sad. That makes me feel misunderstood. The poems are not sad to me! They bring me great joy because of the release.
Maybe it’s just about need. And I need a little more positive feedback to help me replenish my soul, so when the next creative burst slams into me, I can offer it all I have. The incredible joy that fills me when I first get those words onto the page is indescribable. I want to share that and have others experience it, too. These are moments of self-realization and that helps me evolve into a better person and aids in my quest to live whole-heartedly.
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
|"Fog Receding" ready to go to the framer.|
The Muse strikes and it’s hard not to fall into it. I so want to, but I have InterTown work, interviews to do, stories to write, and other ongoing projects along with household chores. These days I’m just feeling overwhelmed between everything I need to do and everything I want to do. I haven’t even updated my accounting in months!
But The Muse has me in her grasp. She comes barreling in for writing projects (poetry or articles), charcoal drawing, or pastel painting. Right now, I’m being driven to talk about my experiences in my work; to share thoughts as I live the life of an artist.
I have questions in my quest to find my way, and one of my ways of figuring things out is by talking about them. Talking, writing, and getting a little feedback helps me figure out my way. It’s not about having someone tell me what to do or how to do it. Conversation helps me figure things out for myself. (And yes, I love talking art and hearing from others. I love their stories!)
I am certainly not a traditionalist nor do I see myself as radical. It’s all about finding my way in creating. That statement really became clear to me this week as I contemplated finding a class to take. My problem is finding the time and taking the time to actually go to a class. Heck, I even hate to stop working to eat; let alone taking time in preparing and cleaning up a meal.
Then there’s attitude or stubbornness within me in following someone else’s “rules.” That’s because I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. I don’t want to do it like anyone else or follow any one school. And yet, I do appreciate tips and feedback. Yes, I definitely want to get better.
In sorting through all the thoughts currently running rampant through my brain, this burning desire to talk about what I’m experiencing is in the forefront. I posed the question to some of my artist friends: Should an artist talk about her experiences, the trials and errors, the successes? Should an artist show his vulnerability to the public?
Some believe an artist always has to put on the professional face to potential buyers, that buyers are only interested in what the painting looks like, and don’t want to hear any particulars about the process. Some artists fear any mention of a struggle to complete the painting makes it flawed in the buyer’s eyes. Other artists push to promote being a successful artist to the public by expounding on the shows they’ve done and the sales they’ve made. They believe talking about artistic struggles and real life is only a subject to discuss with other artists.
Do non-artists believe artists are naturally talented or that they’ve studied with “masters” for their entire life? Do they believe that painting flows easily and the artists never struggle? Are they afraid that hearing the artist talk about his life that it will affect how they view his work? Do they believe that artists are in another realm and is something they could never be? (Yes, I’ve often heard, “I could never do that!”) (Personally, I believe everyone can be an artist in one form or another.)
So, what is it like to be an artist? Do we assume it’s the same for everyone? I don’t think so. There may be lots of similarities and we may have similar experiences, but all the other aspects of our lives factor in, too. That gives a uniqueness to all of us. Time, space, money, family, and more all factor in. Do you work a fulltime job to support your art? And what are you (and I) willing to admit about your work?
My art evolves, as it does for all artists, no matter the genre or medium. Some may stick for years in one medium. They are still evolving because they are striving to be the best they can be in their style. Others expand into other realms of art trying different techniques and mediums.
|"Breaking Dawn" ready to go to the framer|
I went from oils to acrylics to charcoal. I’d been doing charcoal landscape drawing for years and loved it, but it evolved. I began adding more and more “hints of color” with pastel, and when I moved to Hillsborough, it became all about the color. I switched almost entirely over to pastel. I love color, which made it odd that I enjoyed working in charcoal all those years.
The funny thing, if I am admitting to honesty, is that I never worked with pastel before adding the hints of color to the charcoal. I can’t even remember where I got the first pastels. I thought pastels, being soft like charcoal, would blend like charcoal. They don’t. Nor do they mix well like paint.
Oh, do I have a lot to learn! A good part of the lessoning is: It’s all about the journey. And the journey itself can be as exciting as the finished piece, which, for the most part, has been amazing. I heard an artist on TV last night (a recorded show) and, unfortunately, I can’t recall his name, but in talking about being an artist, he said, “You have to be willing to fail.” He also said something along the line of: Not every failure is something wrong.
Yes, some need to be thrown out or painted over, but other pieces can be turned into a different work of art which can be beautiful. It’s about changing direction and letting the piece go where it needs to. It’s turning a moment of disappointment into a success by allowing something else to be created.
I love this work!
Thursday, September 7, 2017
This morning I want to discuss a subject that some would never put out in the open: Faults, flaws, and self-doubt. I even had to think whether I even wanted to talk about this. If I admit my flaws and lack of professional training, will that mean others won’t see me as an artist?
|pastel painting in process|
But it’s an important topic. I know many artists struggle from time to time with self-doubt. Talking about it helps us get over the hurdles. Talking helps us realize we are not alone. Talking helps us work through whatever issues we are having so we can get on with our work with clearer minds.
Talking about, and admitting, faults and flaws do not make us less-than. It’s not about being Debbie-downers. It’s about life and living. We have bad days along with the good. We need to get things out of us so we can do better art. It’s clearing the way for our art to improve and evolve. It’s admitting we have self-doubts, and yes, sometimes we need a little outside pep talk.
I am an artist! I say this vehemently and I cannot deny this drive within me. I have to paint (and write). My work in charcoal landscape drawing has slowly evolved over the past few years as I began adding hints of color (with pastels) to the drawings. Last year I switched almost entirely over to pastel painting. I loved my charcoals, but the pastels have moved me into a new dimension with my art and I am excited and love what I’m doing even more.
What does this have to do with admitting faults? Faults can be stumbling blocks. I will never see myself as good enough if I play the same old scenario in my head of how can I be a real artist if I never went to art school or take lessons with anyone.
I can’t let those thoughts continue to stew inside. I have to let them out so I can get into my work with joy. Plus, I want to evolve. I want to get better. There was always that part of me that would take a couple of classes, then strike out on my own. I don’t want to be like other artists. I don’t want to do what they are all doing.
I try to get out to talk with other artists (often non-artists have no idea how we think). It’s important to spend time with those who “know.” Another way is to read of art books (something I’ve never done) and the books don’t have to be on art you like. I picked up a couple of books on pastel painting and one is especially throwing up hurdles and making me feel like there is no way I can ever be considered a professional artist … because the style he is teaching is something I am unwilling to do.
So, my biggest fault: Lack of training. I can rant and rave over how, in junior and senior high art classes, I was never taught the very basics of art. How to see color, what the color wheel actually means and how to use it, values, composition, and so much more – I didn’t learn any of it! I took adult ed. classes in oil and acrylic painting in my young adult life and I still wasn’t taught those basics! How could I have had that early training and not be taught the basics? (Or is this just how I’m seeing it now?)
At this stage of my life, I am not going to go back and learn all those basics. I have come too far. It would be different if I didn’t know anything. There’s too much going on in my life to take classes. Plus, there is a part of me determined to make my own way in my chosen medium. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to grow with my art. And yes, I’ll continue to read and pick up bits and pieces that I can use in my own evolution.
Are these faults and flaws? Maybe to some people. Maybe to me as long as I let those negative thoughts hinder me. Instead, I’ll fall back to my own style: Figuring it out for myself, picking up tips here and there, and making my own rules with my style and technique.
Friday, August 11, 2017
Below is a part of a conversation on art and art training. I am always surprised when simple morning email chats elicit some part of the past and a better understanding of who I am as an artist. I love these conversation and it's amazing when artists in totally different media can help each other. I love these conversations and I'm always curious to know how other artists think and work. Enjoy!
Isn't it funny how we seem to have been taught different ways. Sometimes I wonder how true my memory is or if it's just what I'm thinking happened. How much did peer pressure have on me as a kid -- a lot -- and how has that colored my memory. And I know (now) that that held me back from lots of things as I tended to retreat into myself believing I wasn't as good as others.
Isn't it funny how we seem to have been taught different ways. Sometimes I wonder how true my memory is or if it's just what I'm thinking happened. How much did peer pressure have on me as a kid -- a lot -- and how has that colored my memory. And I know (now) that that held me back from lots of things as I tended to retreat into myself believing I wasn't as good as others.
And, I have to admit, I really don't remember much of anything about doing art in school. I don't remember being taught -- I took art classes, but I don't remember being taught. How weird. I have only a couple tiny bits, like quick flashback clips, but no real memory.
|Work in process|
Also, I think (again totally in the opposite direction as you) I should not work drawings/paintings so much. I need the simpler approach. I need to keep my work more ephemeral/foggy; go back to that "illusion of detail." I forgot that in my evolution into pastels. I can still have amazing color while keeping a feeling of mystery in the painting.
What I've been doing is -- trying to do too much -- work in more layers, keep playing with it trying to get lines that I can never get and which don't work well for me. Part of the reason is because I hear and read that's what other artists do.
But, I am not other artists. I have to be me! I can’t be anyone else or like anyone else.
Maybe in everything -- art and writing -- too many people have written too many rules. Maybe it just all comes down to preference and opinions. An editor bases writing on experience, training and personal preferences of self and the publisher. How many books are out there on how to be a better writer? I find bits of controversy in all my research as to what is the “correct way.”
Artists train for years in specific mediums then some put their own twists on their work. We can have similarities, but no one is the same. We don't always think the same when we work, how we work, or what we work on. It’s important and more interesting to allow differences.
How can we not put our own twist on a project? We are individual thinkers! Even those with strict adherences to photorealism develop their own ways of doing things. We meld aspects of all we've read and studied and practiced into what we do today and we still work at perfecting what we do. We keep trying, knowing there is no such thing as perfection.
The bottom line is we have to be satisfied with our art.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
This statement “It’s all about the journey,” is ringing more true for me all the time. The subject doesn’t matter. It’s all about the journey of getting through it (whatever “it” is in the moment) and my thoughts around it: From the trips, to emotional life dealings, art, photography, and writing. Then again, it makes total sense. After all, life is a journey no matter how many detours are taken.
“It’s all about the journey” has been being said for a long time, but there’s a difference between making the statement and actually feeling like you live it. I LIVE IT! It’s the difference between knowing something logically and feeling it as truth throughout your entire being. That doesn’t mean your mind or your direction can’t change; it’s that, at this moment it is so. It doesn’t mean learning doesn’t continue. For me, the journey has become every aspect of my life … and it’s exciting.
I was surprised to realize there are similarities in the journeys. For instance, how I am when I’m traveling has some sameness in how I work on a painting. I know, sounds weird. It has to do with emotions. I FEEL my way through everything and that sixth sense can be just as strong as the others and shouldn’t be ignored.
Today my thoughts are around my art. My mind is always questioning and exploring. Last week someone said, “Take a class with (so and so) because he’s a good teacher.” She also named other teachers. Was this a subtle put-down of my art? Was she saying she didn’t think I was good enough and I need “proper” training?
Personally, I didn’t get that vibe from her, but it did make me wonder. I’ve heard other artists touting this teacher and that. Does that mean they don’t think they’re good enough so they need to continue taking classes? Is taking a class the excuse to do some art? And, yes, of course, you can always learn something.
This is what I love about life, though. We don’t all have to do things the same way. We find what works for us as individuals. There are those who want to get better at what they do by taking classes. Others go way out on a limb and work outside the norm, and yet some quietly find their own way.
For me, it’s important to follow my feelings and find my own techniques and style. I might do something similar to someone else, but it’s by my terms. My journey is the diving right into work. I’m not into practice sessions which I find tedious and boring. Work is the practice as life is work/practice. Each painting is its own journey and part of my enjoyment is the surprise of discovery (and I’m always surprised there continues to be many surprises).
The biggest surprise is just in what I see. No matter how much I look at the photograph, using it as a guideline to the drawing, I miss things. The next time I return to the easel, I’ll notice more. (I am reminded of the old adage “Can’t see the forest through the trees.) Or, if I take a photo of the drawing and post it on Facebook to show my progress, I’ll see something to adjust. I take these instances as little exciting discoveries.
|"Along the Creek" was one of those photos where I kept|
noticing things. This turned out to be one of my favorites.
Every time I think, “I got this!” something comes along to throw a wrench into the process. Sometimes it’s something simple, something I should have known. Other times it’s stepping out onto the ice and having it break. I fall in, get wet, but make it to shore to dry myself off and continue. Sometimes I can get there from here and other times a re-route is necessary. The end result is always amazing and I look back over the journey with relief and joy at the accomplishment.
This doesn’t mean I do everything on my own. I look up information online and talk to other people and other artists. I don’t take every piece of advice, but I listen, contemplate, and figure out what works best for me and the painting.
So, I don’t take a lot of classes. I don’t study a lot of other artists’ styles. My learning is through the journey. This is my joy, my treasure hunt, and I have been very happy with the results.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Pastel Drawing or Painting
It’s been another extremely busy week. It comes down to choosing to work on this project or that work in progress. Plans made in the morning may take a detour before the day is through. I may not even make it through the morning before moving into a different direction.
It’s all for the good. Things need to get done; things that need to be done and others that I want to do. Sometimes the want-tos outweigh the needs. I’m beginning to think I’ll never be finished – well, when I die I’ll be finished, but until then, there are always to-do lists.
Four paintings were dropped off in Warner on Monday for a show and the opening reception was Friday evening. I love meeting up with other artists, seeing what they’re doing and hearing their stories. I admit seeing my work hanging with others’ art is a good feeling.
Recently I read a few articles on whether to call pastel art drawings or paintings. The general guideline is if the entire picture is covered with pastel, it’s called a painting. If it has white or blank areas, it’s a drawing.
I hemmed and hawed to myself. After all, I don’t use a brush or palette knife which is what my brain says is painting. However, if those in the art world are calling pastels paintings, why should I question it? My finished pieces paintings even began calling themselves paintings in my mind. I guess this means they are paintings, so I decided I’m going to call the works-in-process drawings, and when the piece is complete, it’s a painting.
This is an example of me doing things my way and letting information come to me and through me in its own terms. Think of that concept “owning it” – until I could feel it for myself, it wasn’t true for me. Now it is true and it feels right.
This is how I learn, although it hasn’t always been that way. I was the good, honors-student in school. I followed rules, I memorized. Now, however, I don’t believe everything I’m told or I read. I have to work with it, let it permeate throughout my being, and then I turn it into my own way of doing it. I put the rules into my language and words, and that often means I don’t do it like everyone else. (Nor do I want to.)
The journey of being an artist excites me. Part of me thinks it’s all an experiment, but it’s not, not really. It’s more of a discovery. For instance, what happens when I put oil pastel over the top of soft pastel? (Some say it doesn’t work, but I’m finding using the oil sparingly, it adds another element.) How does the pastel blend with the charcoal? When does an eraser work and when doesn’t it? How does it all blend? When do I want a textured look over a smooth look?
Every landscape has its different nuances and what works on one drawing doesn’t seem to work as well on another. For me, there’s an element of letting the drawing talk to me, or rather, move me. My hand will just start doing while my brain disengages.
This is my journey and I’m finding my own way. Even the frustrations are worth it because in the end, it’s always an amazing work of art.
Monday, March 6, 2017
I used to be afraid others wouldn’t recognize me as an artist. I was worried that, because I didn’t want to work like them, they wouldn’t like me. My fragile ego couldn’t take the ridicule and I felt ashamed of being looked down upon. However, I’ve never wanted to be just like everyone else. I’ve always wanted to find my own way. And now I am brave enough to stand up and say so and do so!
I never wanted to take traditional classes because the cost was usually more than I could afford, plus I don’t want to practice aspects that I’m not interested in. I only want to know what I need to know. My brain can’t take being boggled down with other stuff. It stifles my creative intuitiveness.
This morning I was thinking about my art style and how I work. One of my joys is the discovery of something new every time I go to the drawing board whether it is in the drawing itself or the photograph being used as a guide.
This got me thinking about traditionally-trained artists. I know and have read about artists who will spend days doing studies of the work they are about to start. They may visit the actual scene a number of times or will take photos and edit them in various degrees to study value, light and shadows. The artists will make numerous sketches or even do underlying (not the right word) paintings before approaching the canvas or whatever they will do the main work on.
My brain would find those techniques tedious and boring, but this is another aspect of what makes art fun. We don’t have to be the same or do things the same way! I love hearing about other artists’ processes. It really is interesting to hear/read what each one goes through to accomplish their goals in the creative pieces.
My style has me taping the drawing paper onto a board with the photo(s) taped nearby. I glance over the picture to give me perspective on where to start the basic lines and I dive in laying the initial preliminary light sketch and some shadow. I work in short stints of about 15-20 minutes. My focus narrows for just those few minutes and then I pop up for air.
I step back a lot and when I start to feel unhappy with the progress, I’ll move onto another. I usually have three drawings going on at the same time. One day I might move back and forth between the three and another day might be spent on one. This process keeps me satisfied with at least one of the drawings and I know the end result of all three will be amazing. My time done for the moment, I head back to my desk.
|In process drawing; sometimes even when looking at a photo of|
the drawing I will notice something needing to be changed --
in this case, the horizon. In these cases I always wonder why
I didn't notice before.
The surprise is when I come back. Every time I walk into the studio, I find something to change/add/erase, and when I’m on the air walker, I’ll be looking over the drawings and the photos. I notice aspects I’d not seen earlier whether on the drawing itself or the photo. It’s almost like my eyes need to re-adjust. I love these moments. It’s like finding a treasure and I jump into the drawing with new enthusiasm.
Those surprises are exciting and bring a uniqueness to my style. It’s almost like a give and receive as if the drawing is working with me. Sometimes I don’t feel I’m in control, and for a few seconds, something else takes over and is guiding my hand. (Of course, when my mind realizes that’s happening, it stops.)
Working with charcoal and pastels has health issues because of the soft consistency. The particles get in the air and are easily breathed in. I find wearing a dust mask claustrophobic and hot. When I worked with charcoal alone, I wore latex gloves to protect my hands, but with pastels, it’s easier to wipe my bare fingers when changing colors. Yes, I wash my hands a lot. These are health considerations that I accept as part of working in a medium that brings me much joy.
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Sunday (today) it’s again cold and I don’t want to go outside (except I put up bird feeders this morning and took a couple photos from the deck). Instead, I spent time in the studio at the easels after finishing my weekly editing work.
I continue working on the three drawings. I haven’t had time since … oh, I don’t know when the last time was. Yeah, I know, I’m a little crazy to work on three at a time, but this way I can bounce from one to the other without getting frustrated with the process. The minute I start feeling like it’s not quite working the way I want, I move over to one of the others.
This also allows me time to reflect on the process. Sometimes I have to look at the drawing over a couple of days before I’m inspired to take the next step. Other times I need to wait until the drawing calls me (and it eventually does if I’ve not paid attention to it in a few days). There are those times when I just grab the pastel or charcoal stick and dive right in without even thinking about what I’m doing. Then there are those instances when I see something in the photo I hadn’t noticed before and I have to decide if it’s relevant for the drawing.
Today I added more green to the mountains, mid-range trees, and teal to the waters. I used charcoal to add definition to shadows and a charcoal pencil for the illusion of tree trunks. Layer upon layer I build the scenes.
I’ve done charcoal landscape drawings for years. Now I want more color in my life and I thought pastels would work well with the charcoal. I’ve never taken a class in pastel. As a matter of fact, the pastels I have are an accumulation of collected art supplies gathered throughout the years. It’s fun working with pastels and charcoal and learning how one medium works with the other.
I was surprised to discover they don’t work the same way at all. Charcoal vine sticks are not the same as pastel sticks and charcoal colored pencils won’t work at all with soft or oil pastels. Oil pastels won’t smudge nicely like soft pastels and charcoal. As a matter of fact, the oil pastel just pushes the two softer ones aside.
Still, I am finding a way to blend them all and make them work and I love what I’ve accomplished. I am filled with excitement and joy and I want all my drawings to find happy, new homes!
I didn’t get to the drawing boards the last couple of days, but I did continue to take photos every day. I started a Photo-a-Day challenge in February 2016. It was only going to be for 100 days, but we were having so much fun, we’ve kept going.
The challenge came in handy after moving in 2015 and all the new house renovations in 2016. My art work went on hiatus and I was floundering horribly with my photography direction. The subjects I loved to photograph no longer interested me. Of course, most of those subjects were away from the house and I was staying home more and more because of the house renovations.
The photography challenge kept my heart in the visual creative field. It pulled my focus into subjects immediately at hand around the yard and I discovered it was like going on a treasure hunt. What joy! I never know what I’m going to find and I the smallest of details in leaves, flowers, old stumps, rocks, and such are intriguing.
|Ice formations in the rushing brook remind me of chandelier crystals|
The brook, which can be seen out the sliding glass door, often catches my attention with its ever-changing flow. There’s something different to focus on every day. The view from the deck lets me look down on it. However, there are quite a few trees blocking making it difficult to get good pictures. The sound, though, is amazing! The roar as it tumbles over and between rocks is sometimes so loud I can hear it in the house and any conversation outside is with raised voices.
Last week the warm temperatures melted all the ice, but this weekend with the returning cold, the water started freezing up again. The snow receded enough I was able to get down over the embankment. Gosh, that water was rushing! The new formations of ice were squeezing the flowing water into smaller channels between the rocks.
I am fascinated by the ice crystals on the rocks. Some remind me of ice castle caves and others chandeliers. I took over 50 photographs trying to different views or the rocks, water, and ice. It’s fascinating how quickly it changes between one day and the next and morning to afternoon.
However, I am disappointed when I import the photos onto the computer. Once again, what looks fascinating in real life, doesn’t quite capture it in a small picture. The rushing water creates a blur when I focus on the ice crystals and if I focus on the water, everything else is blurred.
What does this mean?
One is that I need to make better use of the new camera. It focuses a lot slower than the old which is a nuisance when photographing wildlife.
Two is the need to take more time while shooting the picture. I tend to be a hurry-up-and-move-on type of person trusting that I can use the computer to edit (most get deleted).
Three is to not let myself get too carried away in finding a lot of fascinating things to photograph. One the one hand, it’s, like I said, a treasure hunt, and how fun is that! But on the other hand, it’s time consuming to go through to delete and choose which to edit.
All of this said, taking pictures brings me tremendous joy and I love sharing that joy. I post my one-photo on our challenge page and others I’ll post to my Facebook page so others can see. It’s my way of finding beauty every day.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
The flash of inspiration washed through me as I was finishing my morning journaling: Write the book for me!
Wow, this is definitely a wake-up call and the excitement is returning. If I write the book for me, and I don’t care about publishing, I can write exactly the book I want to write! I can write a book full of story, photographs, and history segments. I won’t have to follow someone else’s rules about genres or marketing. The important thing is to get the book written; then figure out where to take it.
I’ve been struggling with getting back to the book. Part of the reason is I’ve been very busy. Another reason is the feeling that no one cares, and I feel the writing I do isn’t just for me, it’s to share. If no one wants to read my writing, why am I bothering? I put a lot of heart and soul into what I do. To do it “just for me,” doesn’t seem enough. (I also have to keep reminding myself “I AM ENOUGH!”)
Why not? Don’t I deserve to tell my stories? Of course, I do. After all, that’s an important, deep-set belief; that we all need to tell and share our stories. Storytelling and sharing forms connection between us all. It shows us we are not alone in the world, that others also experience what we do and feel like we do. Something in your story may help me in dealing with an issue and something I say may help you on your way. It’s a give a take.
Yes, I have said this before, but I stone-walled with my book. Writing and publishing and what I had hoped to accomplish wasn’t happening. I can’t let my experience with the other book stop my creative drive on this and subsequent books. The publishing world has changed a lot. I, too, need to change; change preconceived beliefs and even wants. I cannot deny the creative drive. To do so would be killing a part of my soul. Writing is part who I am, an integral part.
“Write the book for me” has a funny twist because a couple of good friends have told me to do just that, but I had this grander goal in my mind, and haven’t I been studying and practicing manifesting my dreams? However, as happens time and time again, what works for some, doesn’t work for me, and as it turns out so often, I need to figure out how to do things under my terms, in my way, and when I’m ready.
So today, “Write the book for me” finally becomes me – or I become it. And I am darned determined to get it done among the myriad of other projects I have going on. Oh, I do love life! There’s never a dull moment. I am so excited!
Saturday, February 4, 2017
Yesterday I started covering this topic about standing up for ourselves for our art. What are the parameters for someone being a professional artist, a real artist? Is it those who have the courage to say they are an artist? Are people only considered an artist if they have been juried into an art association or group? Are real artists only those who have studied for years under another artist or those who have gone to a credited art school? Are real artists only the ones whose work sells? Are real artists those who fit into the traditional art styles? Or is the real artist the one who just bends to the task of their work?
I’ve been asking these questions for years. I question the psychology behind the rules and beliefs because I want to understand. Are rules made to make certain artists more special than others? Is it for a sense of belonging? Is it to exclude some to make those in the group feel more important?
Art has evolved much over the years and the doors have been blown open, and with technology, almost everyone can be some kind of an artist. Does this threaten the traditional artists? How does a painter feel when someone manipulates a photograph on the computer to print it to look like a painting? Is that real art? Is it deceiving the buyers? Or is it just another form of art? How artistic is it to push a button and have the photo look like a painting or a pencil drawing? (I’m a photographer and I question doing this, but do I have the right to say it isn’t art?)
I can certainly understand the competitive market is inundated with art. I understand that it must be tough for those who have studied for years, done the practices, honed their styles, paid their price, only to find up-and-comers jumping in without going through the years of development. I know what it’s like to work hard on a piece only to have the area so inundated with art work that is just as good that it’s almost impossible to sell unless you have built a following.
What is it like for the traditional artists to be competing with the newer styles and media? And, if you’re in that field of the untraditional styles, how do you make your mark in the art world? What if your creative passion takes you in another direction? Does that mean you are not an artist?
I’m curious to know what others think. What questions do you have?
Friday, February 3, 2017
(Forgive this long intro; for some reason, I felt the need to include this before I got to the meat and potatoes part.)
I have few memories of art as a child. I remember my mother loved to color with my brother and me. There is a vague recollection of nature coloring books where one page was a color-by-number and the next page was the same picture without numbers. My favorite possession was a box of 64 Crayola Crayons with a built-in sharpener.
My best friend, Gail, and I would make our own paper dolls and design the clothes for them. I remember tracing the form for the clothes to fit the doll and making the tabs to fold over for her to wear. My figures were always plain (in my eyes) and the clothes not very inspiring while Gail’s dolls were beautiful with fashionable clothes (in my eyes). She was two years older than I and played the big sister.
The next thing artsy I remember was a girl in elementary school not allowing me to color in her book because I refused to color the horses white. Sometimes the kids on the playground would make fun of me so bad the teacher would let me stay in for recess. I’d spend the time drawing pictures on the blackboard – usually things of nature such as birds, trees, and flowers. Horses and cats were my favorite animals. Fourth grade and I was drawing the inside of a human body from pictures in an encyclopedia.
I was still an outcast in high school. I saw the other kids in art class as the better artists. (Looking back now I think it was mostly because I was a loner and I never wanted to do exactly what everyone else was doing – which was kind of the norm at the time.) I didn’t dare say anything. However, I remember one time standing up to the teacher because she only gave me a C on a project that I really liked. Plus, it hurt because I normally got As and Bs in everything. I remember going up to her desk to demand a better grade, but I don’t remember the outcome … I don’t even remember the piece. I only remember feeling humiliated by her tone. I never spoke up again or defended anything I did.
Maybe it was because I didn’t copy others that I was made to feel not good enough. I wish I could remember more. Most of my younger years are a black hole.
Years passed. I took occasional classes when time and money allowed. The desire for creativity became a driving force, almost a life or death situation. I found a voice through various self-help types of courses and writing, and it was in studying “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron that I finally found the courage to proudly say, “I am an artist.”
But it was the move to Bradford in 2006, when I took up charcoal landscape drawing that allowed me to devote time to actually be an artist. A friend convinced me to apply to be juried into a local art group and I was accepted in both charcoal landscape drawing and photography.
It wasn’t just being accepted in a group, but being accepted by other artists. Here there were a variety of different mediums used. Here the artists were not copying each other or doing the same thing, and I loved it. It’s very inspiring to visit other studios and shows. And another thing I discovered was that these artists loved to talk about their work.
I found a common denominator in many stories: Artists have often needed to defend themselves and their art.
So many aspects come into play and artists are often sensitive, emotional people. There’s that driving force within us that makes us artists, but too many times we face criticism and put downs. Our work is pooh-poohed as a hobby and not considered real work. We’re told to get “real jobs.” Then if we are doing something outside of the norm, that puts even more of a strain on our sensitivities.
The greater community doesn’t understand art as a driving passion. They don’t see the hours or the emotional ups and downs while creating. We finish our piece only to have critics find fault or we hear time and again how beautiful our work is, but no one makes a purchase.
I know the passion I put into my drawings or even with my photography. I am excited with the finished products and the joy at creating feels like it is oozing out of every pore. That excitement makes me not just show my work, but I want to talk about it; I want others to love it and want to buy it.
So what happens when you’re on an emotional high with a finished piece of art and you don’t get the responses that you would like?
Stay tuned. Nan McCarthy and I have been having wonderful conversations about art. I want to explore this subject further and would welcome any comments and feedback.
What do you do for art? Are you a traditional artist or do you enjoy exploring and finding your own way?
When have you felt the need to defend your work?
After reading my story, how has your own story of being an artist gone? Call me or email me.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
I had another amazing conversation with Nan McCarthy yesterday. It never ceases to amaze me how our styles, techniques, and attitudes towards our work differ, and yet, we can talk art for hours.
One of the biggest reasons we get along so well is that we don’t expect the other to adhere to our personal style. We have great respect for one another and that allows us to support the other in whatever technique she chooses to work. She could never work like me, nor could I work like she does.
Nan is very passionate about her painting. She’s a photorealist and it is of the utmost importance to her to have her painting look exactly like the photograph from which she is working. Her mathematical mind has her taking measurements and she is very precise in the colors she chooses.
Her lines are crisp, clean, and the paint smooth, and she strives to get minute details to every object in her scene using a size 0 brush. Layer upon layer is put onto the panel in painstaking detail and she’ll spend hours at her table.
Nan is a die-hard photorealist. I, on the other hand, am a Sasha-style impressionist. My style, because of the medium of charcoal and pastel, is loose. The drawings lean towards impressionism, but it’s not an exact. I always strive to put my own spin on things.
I use the photograph as a guideline. I make a token attempt at similarity, but once I start laying the charcoal on the paper, I am willing to allow the drawing to take on a life of its own. (A person familiar with the area could still recognize it.)
Nan has to take breaks to let paint dry between layers. I work in short 10-20 minute bursts. I walk away to allow fresh eyes when I return to the easel.
It usually takes Nan two weeks to finish a painting. It doesn’t take me as long with the charcoal and pastels, but I have to know when to stop, when it’s enough. I can too easily keep going back to tweak something. I have to be careful because when I over work the drawing, it starts looking muddy.
Viewing perspective is another big difference between Nan’s paintings and my drawings. Nan works in small and miniature. Her favorite size is 7 x 5. I prefer drawing on sizes around 14 x 11. Nan’s paintings are best viewed up close and my drawings look great from a distance of at least 5 feet.
There may be many differences in our work, but we are both passionate and dedicated to what we do. Sharing our stories with someone provides an understanding witness to the challenges we experience while honing our techniques. We can discuss aspects that only another artist will appreciate. Even though we are very different, we still offer feedback and provide suggestions and sometimes that is what is needed to push us to the next level. And who else could we talk art with for an hour, but another artist?
Sunday, January 29, 2017
My thoughts are on my drawings and how my style is evolving. I woke yesterday thinking about the current in-process on the drawing board and the need to get it finished. This one has been a struggle and it dawned on me that I sometimes have this – habit – of having a tree or part of a tree on the side edge of the drawing … but not enough of the tree to make a statement or even really look good the drawing.
I question myself: Why do I do that?
There are a couple of reasons. One is a photography teacher once telling me a good photo needs to be “framed” by elements on the side. My interpretation of that statement might have been a little skewed which, as my photography is evolving, I look closer at how I’m cropping and editing.
Another reason is I like trees, but I’ve discovered throughout the years that often what looks like a good shot in real life is not always a good photograph or will work in a drawing.
Then there is the fact of the medium in which I work and what will determine a good drawing in this style.
With those thoughts, I went back to the drawing board and made the tree on the side of the drawing extend more into the drawing itself. What a difference that extra added! I felt comfortable in calling the drawing finished with 15 more minutes of work. The drawing is happy and I am pleased with the outcome.
So, what am I learning from these thoughts, statements, and older beliefs?
I need to listen more to what the drawing wants.
I have to allow that the drawing is not going to look exactly like the photograph.
Sometimes I have to look with “soft eyes” to see elements in a different aspect. I have to stop, stand back, walk away for awhile.
The medium I work in (charcoal and pastel sticks) does not lend itself to crisp, sharp lines and minute detail and that means I have to compensate for that.
I have to remember the photograph is just a guideline and trust my own intuition, allow free-flow, and let the drawing happen. It’s similar to my writing when I let the writing free-flow. When the words pour in and then out, I can’t stop to edit or it breaks the flow. I’m discovering a similarity in drawing. Let it flow and when the flow stops, then I can go in for details and adjustments.
I am excited about these discoveries and my artistic evolving.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Today it hit me that this coming Thursday is my next dentist’s appointment and I have all I can do to keep from freaking out and calling to cancel. This appointment is the first of four in the series of cleaning. We decided to break it up into the four quadrants because it is so difficult for me.
He says I have a little bone loss in left front and the tooth to the side and the deep cleaning is necessary to prevent any more bone loss and save the rest of my teeth. I can’t even begin to describe how I feel about this. My teeth are so sensitive! I’d almost rather have a toe amputated than have anyone put sharp pointy objects in my mouth.
All my training in various techniques fall by the wayside when it comes to the dentist. I am attempting to talk about it more to, hopefully, exorcise these deep rooted (pun intended) issues so I can get on with it.
But I will get through this!
Friday, January 27, 2017
Yesterday my energy felt up and so were my spirits. I didn’t get everything done that I could have, but I am satisfied with the day.
Today I’m dragging. I had a hard time with my morning exercise routine and it didn’t dawn on me until I turned on the computer to check my messages that I realized all the negative messaging regarding President Trump is affecting me and my spirits. This has gone beyond negative and has turned into down-right nastiness.
It isn’t about whether I personally believe in what he is doing or not, and it’s certainly easy to get upset up when reading all the horrible things he’s doing. (But is it only one side of the story, one small piece? I don’t know because I have researched the entire story, so I can’t judge.) The issue is what all this negativity is doing to America, what it’s doing to people! It’s almost like it’s turning into a witch hunt – that same mentality of the old witch hunts back in the middle ages and later – only it’s directed at one person and what he is doing or what people are afraid he’s going to do. And it doesn’t matter what he says or does at this point, people are so filled with hatred at this guy that they will not accept any good coming from him.
There has always been controversy. There have always been disagreements with policies and beliefs, but never have I seen it so ugly. I find that this hatred and fear only creates greater hatred and fear, and as much as I try to not listen to or read any of the news, it seeps in. And it’s sapping my energy and I don’t like it.
So, what can I do about it to take care of me? And I have to take care of me because the minute I let up, I fall into depression, begin to hate life, the world, and what mankind is turning into. I don’t want to give in to that. I am determined to be positive and love life. I am determined to have faith in human beings! Here are some of the things I am doing to not get caught in the trap:
I can avoid Facebook (and I do as much as possible), but Facebook is my connection to friends and family, and I like to know how people are doing (personally, not their politics). I enjoy the connections when a positive word of support can help each another and where we can celebrate our joys and accomplishments. I love that I can post a question and get answers and suggestions. But, as of today, I am hiding all Facebook messages that are political.
I also avoid commercials and the shouting-at-you hype of how this product is going to save your life, be the best thing for you, and blah, blah, blah. All this constant chatter is just brainwashing you; telling you what is best for you when the bottom line is they just want your money. They don’t even have to tell the truth!
Another thing I do to keep my mental well-being positive is to have affirmation cards all over the place so almost everywhere I look there is some kind of a positive message to read. “Pump up the enthusiasm to be creative,” “Focus on the present joy of creativity,” “I am filled with Spirit and Light,” “Joy and love surround me,” “Center and Ground – Breathe in … Breathe … out,” “Love and Success,” “I am good enough,” and so many more.
I also try to spend time outside paying attention to the beauty around me. Sometimes it’s in little things seen on the ground; how the ice melts around a leaf, flower stalks sticking out of the snow, how the ice changes in the brook, and, of course, I love the little birds.
I watch clouds, notice little intricacies about trees, rocks, how the land around me curves or is sharp. I talk to the neighbors’ cats and dogs (and the neighbors when I see them).
And I focus on the love of my work be it editing, a writing project, photography, or a charcoal-pastel drawing. I take time to play Spider Solitaire and play and pat my soft, fluff-ball Pele. If I don’t get everything done on my to-do list for the day, then I am OK with that. I am good enough.
Monday, January 23, 2017
My mind has been on the state of affairs in the U.S. I am distressed over the hatred and violence. I’m trying to understand; trying to see other points of view. Right now, I feel shame for America if this is what we’re dissolving into. Our enemies must be laughing their butts off!
This morning I heard a story about a woman on an airplane who went off her rocker because the guy sitting next to her voted for Trump. When the plane landed, authorities had to take her away. (I heard this, but I don’t know how true it is.) I avoid the media because they are so into getting people hyped up over the littlest of things and it’s hard to know the real truth. Unfortunately, people “buy” into every little story and get upset.
I understand fear. I understand that people may be afraid for the future. But is this mentality of violence the answer? Did the American system work? If so, then be American and give the new president a chance. If you think it didn’t work, does that mean the system needs to change and how can that happen? If you don’t think the elections system is fair, what can you do to help bring about changes?
Will this hatred and violence make people listen? No, it only makes more people afraid. Will the nasty demonstrations and people acting out of their minds make changes? No, it will only make the rioters look like idiots (sorry, no offense, but my personal opinion) and will end up taking away more freedoms with the enacting more laws to “control” the masses.
The riots, demonstrations, and violence only promote more of the same. Where has logic and common sense gone? Where has democracy gone? Human decency? What is our wonderful country turning into?
Again, I’m trying to understand. Some of the nastiness going on is so out of control that it doesn’t make sense at all. The individuals participating – is this who they really are? I bet most of them are really nice people, but to see them with all that anger and hatred – makes me wonder where it’s coming from. Did they take the blue pill or the red pill?
Part of it feels like a big act. Yes, I heard a rumor that people are being paid to demonstrate and cause riots. I don’t know how true it is, but seeing how people are acting, makes me wonder if there is truth to the rumor. There’s a falsity to it and yet, when people amp up the anger and fear, it continues to escalate and others catch the “anger” bug. I find it hard to believe that people could act so horrible! Is that the kind of person to admire? If you’re one of those hate mongers, is that how you want to be seen?
It’s also the mob mentality and how if one person starts getting upset and “getting on a bandwagon,” others join in. Sometimes they can’t help it. It’s part of the connectedness of being human.
Then, as I mentioned earlier, part of it is the media and what they feed the public. We have to ask what the real truth is. The media feeds us a lot of hype to sell their stories. Sensationalism sells and if they can get the public worked up then it’s good for sales. And, unfortunately, too many people buy into the hype (look what happens when a bad storm is predicted).
I am also thinking about demonstrations of the ‘60s and ‘70s. I don’t remember it quite this bad. Yes, there were some horrible incidences, but this doesn’t feel the same. Back then, it felt like people were fighting for something -- something great. This just feels like someone is behind the scenes stirring the pot, pulling strings like on a top then letting it spin out of control.
Those who are protesting, does this mean they don’t believe the government works? Do they think it’s impossible to work through their state and county reps and senators? What are they really looking for?
All I’m asking is that people think about what they are doing. There’s nothing wrong with holding onto a belief if it’s to the good and will help others. There’s nothing wrong with standing up for your right. Just don’t buy into a lot of hype and sensationalism if it really isn’t necessary. Violence and destruction is not the answer.
I don’t know where all this is going, but I’m trying to have hope in the future of America. I am an American and I want to be proud to be American! It doesn’t matter if some of my blood is from Irish, Canadian, English, Native American, or whatever descent. I AM AN AMERICAN! I want to be proud of my country!
I have been extremely busy and it’s exciting (exciting has been my favorite word of late). My other projects are keeping me away from more free-style writing which is why I haven’t been blogging. It’s all good.
What turned out to be important for this month is the fine-tuning of work schedules; becoming aware of how I need to work. More and more I am learning that it helps to work in shorter time frames. This prevents me from getting frustrated with the project or getting to a point where I want to destroy it and start over. Yes, this means it takes longer to get the project finished, but it allows me to be kinder to myself about the processes, and I find I am happier with what I am doing. Plus, as I often work on multiple projects at time, this allows me to do something on many of them.
Here are some examples of how I work:
When The Muse comes, it isn’t for very long. If I try to force any more, I get frustrated and upset with myself. However, if I walk away for a bit, do something else, then come back, I am more inspired and feel new energy.
The writing muse usually strikes (yes, often it is like a strike) first thing in the morning. She doesn’t stay long and this writing is very inspirational (not so much in a spiritual way, but a life/emotions/lessons way). Words and feeling gush through me and out of me, then suddenly stop. I might get fifteen minutes to an hour.
I get out of the chair to do some physical movement and chores around the house before sitting back down to respond to emails and Facebook messages. Again, no more than an hour and I’m up again moving. This time might find me on the air walker and as I’m doing a workout, I’m studying the drawings on the easels.
Fifteen minutes to half an hour is next spent handling charcoal and pastel. I can’t work very long at one time on a drawing. I have to stand back and walk away – sometimes until my next break from the computer and sometimes a day or a couple days will go by before I feel the urge again.
And so my day goes, in short intervals. I keep a log of what I do so at the end of the day, I can look at my list and see how much I got done. And I feel good about it!
It was hard getting used to this. I wanted to jump into a project and get it done. I’d get frustrated and beat myself up when things didn’t go as planned. I’d get depressed that I wasn’t good enough to call myself a writer, photographer, artist because I’d get angry when the work wasn’t going the way I wanted.
This new attitude has brought renewed energy and joy into all that I’m doing. No, it’s not always perfect, but when I run into a stumbling block, instead of letting the frustration pile up, I just walk away and work on something else. I have been so happy and thankful!
The other day, when I was talking about my new work ethic, someone told me studies have been done where they’ve found people do get more work done and are happier when working in shorter intervals.
I’m onto something, for sure. Of course it isn’t always possible depending on types of jobs. For instance, when I’m working on weekly deadlines for the newspaper, I can’t be so free with my time.