Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It’s All About the Journey

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

Further Defining Myself as an Artist

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

Back to the Drawing Board (literally)

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!

Photography this past week

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

Write the Book for ME!

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!