The buffalo series

I went to a moving sale for an art store.  They drastically reduced their prices so they didn’t have to tote everything over to their new location.  I heard about the sale a little late, and it was a few more days until I had a day off and could go.  This meant that the supplies I was looking for weren’t there – and certainly not the colors.  I decided this was a good opportunity to try out new kinds of art materials as well as new colors.

I chose a vintage postcard of an American buffalo (really, it is a bison) that a pen-pal sent.

buff1

I made a limit for myself that I could only use the materials that I had bought at the sale, and only one material type per page.  I used carbon paper to transfer the outline of the buffalo to my sketchbook.

Here it is in pastel –

buff2

This is artist crayons –

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This is colored pencil –

buff4

This is acryl-gouache –

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I will add more versions here as I do them.  There is only one more medium to use from that sale, but I am enjoying this enough that I may continue doing this in other mediums – perhaps even in collage and washi tape.

Here is “Jerry’s Artarama jumbo jet sanguine”, charcoal pencil, lamp black pencil, and Derwent onyx.

buffalo pencil

 

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God is in the darkness

dark1

I was painting the background for a space picture. This alone is a new thing for me. I’m trying to learn that it is OK to work on a project over the course of time. I’m trying to learn to do things in stages. I don’t have to do the whole thing at once.

I’m not sure where I got the idea that I had to finish a painting all at once. I have wirework projects that I can’t finish all at once. The work is too hard on my hands and wrists to complete it in one day. There are certainly beading projects that are sitting in plastic bags in bins right now, half finished. I may never finish them.

Perhaps part of it is that acrylic paint can’t be worked with once it is dry, and it dries very fast. Beads don’t care. With beads, I can take the whole thing apart and redo it as many times as I want. Paint isn’t forgiving like that.

But I keep reading about image transfer and collage, and I keep thinking it is cool. I’ve got all the materials I need (I think) and I’ve read quite a number of books about it. I still don’t think I know what I am doing, so I haven’t tried. But I’m trying to convince myself that if I don’t try, it is worse than trying and failing. Not using art supplies for fear that I’ll mess them up is worse than using them and not getting what I was aiming for. At least when I use them, I’m learning how to use them, and I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.

All the image transfer and collage techniques are multi-day projects. You have to paint the background, and let it dry a day. Then you paint a layer of clear glue on it. And let it dry a day. Then put something else on. And let it dry a day. You get the idea. Lots of waiting. Lots of days.

Part of my issue is that I want results now. I’m trying to get over that. I’m trying to use these kinds of projects to get over that. I always have “quick” projects to give me that “I made something” buzz, in the meantime.

So, back to the painting. I needed a black background, but I didn’t want to use black. That is too easy. So I used a really dark grey called Paynes Grey, and a really dark purple called Dioxazine Violet (Hue). I squirted some of each on the canvas and swirled them around and together. I really like the color I got. It isn’t traditionally black, but it is plenty dark. I figure space isn’t black, but more purple/grey, if it had to have a color.

In reality, I figure it is the absence of light, and that doesn’t have a color at all.

But then I didn’t like the lines in it. Because I use my fingers to paint, there were large lines in it. No matter how I swished and flicked my fingers, the lines were still there. I don’t want lines, because they will draw attention to themselves. This is a background. Backgrounds are supposed to stay in the back, right? They are the supporting role, not the main character.

So I started “writing”. I have a friend who does “light language”- which is really the gift of tongues. It can be done with the voice or with writing. Her coming out about it has reminded me of the fact that I’ve done this for years. I stopped doing it because it felt silly. I got really self conscious of it and stopped. I never showed anybody what I was doing. I guess there was some shame in it, because I felt like an oddball.

You aren’t weird if there are other people who do the same thing, though.

So I’ve started doing it again, intentionally. I’m letting the Holy Spirit work through me in this new/old way, and it is really freeing. I’m still really aware how unusual it is so I don’t do it all the time. I’m mindful of my audience.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that a minister told me to stop talking about how God was talking to me, was waking me up at night to give me messages. A minister, telling me to stop talking about God. In church. To church members. Isn’t that the place where people who have those kinds of experiences go? Isn’t that the place where people seek to have those kinds of experiences? Isn’t that the place where people read about other people in the Bible having those experiences?

I’m glad I chose to leave that church rather than to be silent.

So when I started to write on this painting, I learned something. I didn’t write down or record my experience. I spoke the words out loud and “wrote” them in my light language shorthand. When I write this way, I write left to right, then right to left. I kind of make an S across the page, going back and forth, until I am done.

Here is what I remember of it:

Under the sea, and deep in space, it is very dark. The darkness is vast and silent.

There is potential in darkness.

Babies grow in darkness.

The seed is the same way, swelling, stretching.

And God is there in the darkness.

This reminds me of Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Which then leads to Psalm 139-12-16
…even the darkness is not dark to You.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to You.
13 For it was You who created my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well.
15 My bones were not hidden from You
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in Your book and planned
before a single one of them began.

I was afraid of darkness when I started this project, and now I am at peace. I’ve gotten the message that God is there, at work, even if I can’t see it. I’ve gotten the message that God has a plan for my life.

Then this leads me to Jeremiah 29:11-13
11 For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

What an amazing message to come from just painting the background to a piece that I don’t even know what it is going to be.

Thanks be to God.

seed

An apple seed, sprouting.

Blob art.

There seems to be two ways that art is going these days: hyper-realistic and blob. Either people are painting reality better than reality or they are painting blobs.

Me, I’m in the blob category. Sure, it is fun. And nobody will know when I don’t get what I was aiming for, because what they see looks nothing like anything else anyway. When you try to replicate something that is real, it is easy to tell when you have missed the mark. Blob art is free from this constraint.

But then I see other blob painters charging hundreds, even thousands of dollars for what they made, and I wonder. Is someone actually buying this?

Blob art can be made by toddlers. The more you think, the less it works. In fact, part of the reason I paint blob art is because I want to not think. I want to disengage. I have tried to paint blob art with brushes and other paint tools and I just don’t like it. It is fingers all the way for me.

I call it blob art because that is how I make it. I pick up a tube of paint that looks nice and I squish out a blob of paint on the canvas. Then I pick up another tube and squish it out too. I’ll keep adding blobs until I feel I might have something to work with. Then I smear the blobs around and mix them together until I like the blend and the swirls. Sometimes I add in a few more blobs and mix them in.

It is kind of like how I cook. Spices, colors – it is really all the same. I’m heading towards a goal, and I take whatever I need to get there.

Painting realistically has never made sense to me. Just take a picture. It is faster. Sure, it is pretty impressive to find someone who can paint a picture that looks like it is a photograph. But to me it seems like a waste of time.

Now, one advantage to painting is that you can paint what isn’t there. You can paint all the good stuff and leave all the bad stuff out. This is especially appropriate when you are painting a family portrait and not everybody is available to sit for it at the same time. Or it also works if you are painting something that would be good for a science fiction illustration.

While you can create pretty amazing things with photo manipulation software, there isn’t really “art” in that. You aren’t making something new, so much as working with what is already there.

Is blob art really art? Sometimes it just looks like someone shoved paint around a canvas. Sometimes they did. Sometimes I do. Children can do this. So is it worth a lot of money to buy it?

Sure, the materials are expensive. Paint and canvasses are stunningly expensive. Framing is insane. Sometimes you can get deals on supplies but not often. So there is something about the actual physicality of the piece that will raise the price.

Sometimes what inspires people to admire artwork or writing or music is what it reminds them of. What they see in it has little to do with what the artist put into it. Some swirl, phrase, or riff catches their attention in just such a way and they find that a doorway has opened in their mind, or a bridge has been created.

That is one of the most frustrating things to me as a creator. I really feel like I’ve expressed something well, and people just don’t get it. They may like it, but what they like isn’t what I was trying to express.

Maybe that is why I make blob art. I don’t have as much invested in it. It doesn’t matter if they see something different in it, because I didn’t put anything in it. It is more about what I got out of it.

I discover when I create blob art. I play, too. I learn how the colors go together, and I relax into the creation. There is no stress because there is no specific goal to be reached. Just enjoying putting paint on the canvas is the goal.

It isn’t about creating anything. It is about creating me.

Thoughts on art – heavy vs. light

Sometimes I think that I just like buying beads. The potential is always more interesting than the reality. Seeing all the beads together I go a little wild.

When I have to pick what I’m going to work with, I am a little overwhelmed. There are so many choices, but I can’t do it all. I like that at least if I change my mind I can take the necklace apart and do something else. Somehow that makes it easier to get started.

Sometimes I just want minions. I’ll finally work out the pattern that will use the beads in a way I like, and then it is all about just doing the work. This is so boring. This part is not the part that keeps me beading.

jan4

This kind of stuff is really boring. Sadly, this kind of stuff sells pretty well, so I make a fair amount of it. Sometimes I think I make it so that I can afford to make what I really want to make. There is a space in the center for a pendant. It hasn’t been chosen yet.

Figuring out the pattern can be the hardest part, yet the most rewarding. There are a lot of factors to consider. Necklaces have weight that is both physical and visual. I don’t want to make something that is very heavy and thus a pain to wear. Some designers don’t seem to ever wear what they make, so they don’t get that this art piece is completely impractical to wear longer than twenty minutes.

Then there is visual weight. If there are a lot of large beads very close to each other, the necklace will look heavy. This is ok for certain people, but not others. In general, older and larger women like “heavy” designs, while younger and thinner women like “lighter” designs.

Heavy.
jan1

Light. (This is an end-of-week necklace, made with leftover bits of other projects.)

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Making a heavy piece light often just means adding some plain glass beads into the pattern. This also reduces the cost, which is another factor. You may make the most beautiful necklace ever, but people will simply not want to pay for it.

These are heavy beads, but I’ve watered it down by adding some plain glass beads.

jan2

I was interested in making a big chunky necklace but didn’t have enough of the big beads to make it work. I’m trying to not get obsessive about what I make to the point that I have to go to the bead store to finish out a design. If I really want to make that specific piece a specific way, I’ll remember it the next time I’m at the store and just make a second version of the necklace.

Would you believe that the cost of just the beads alone in this necklace is $80?

jan6

And that is just the ones I used. I had to buy the whole strand of antique chevron beads. That was $200. The strand of pre-Islamic cut lapis lazuli wasn’t cheap either.

I did manage to get the centerpiece for free. There is something to be said for not being pretentious at a bead show.

jan7

Sometimes I have just a few beads for a necklace and I want to use them up. I’ll work out a decent pattern and then be short a few inches. Then I have a choice. Take the whole thing apart and figure out another design, or just add some filler beads to the end. Nobody looks at the back of the necklace anyway, right? And, after all, it isn’t like I’m going by a pattern that anybody knows. They won’t know I didn’t mean for it to look like that.

jan3

I guess that is part of it. Nobody knows what I’m aiming for, so when I miss they don’t know. I think that is true with everything. Just do it anyway. Keep on trying. Keep on making and writing and drawing and beading. Keep on putting it out there.

Maybe one in twenty is a keeper, is one that I think ended up somewhere near what I was aiming for. But I think that is the trick. If I don’t keep trying, I won’t keep getting that one at all.

The funny part is “the one” is the least likely to sell if it is jewelry. For my writing, “the one” is only rarely noticed. So even if others don’t get it, I do, and that is good with me.

If you don’t love your art, quit doing it. Because it isn’t about the money. Well, getting money helps. Don’t get me wrong. I love it when my jewelry sells. Now, in part I love it because it means I can buy more beads to make more jewelry. It isn’t about the money, then, but the chance to create, and thus the chance to get it right.

Creating is like mastering a language. You’ll get really frustrated trying to express yourself until you figure it out. Either you need a new set of words or a new phrase or a different way to communicate. Perhaps you need sign language, or poetry, or email. Perhaps you just need to keep slogging away at it until you figure it out.

Art-spiration

Feeling the art blues? Haven’t made anything in a while? What do you do when you need to get your creative juices flowing?

Inspiration comes from many places. Try something different.

Go to a museum.

Go for a walk. Look at the colors. Look at your neighbor’s houses. Look at your neighbor’s dog. Take pictures to remind yourself later when you get home.

Read a book and make something the main character would wear.

Look at a magazine that has nothing to do with art. I find a lot of inspiration from architecture magazines.

Watch a movie and try to replicate something you see there with the supplies you have. Better, don’t replicate it literally, replicate how it makes you feel.

Try limiting yourself – some of the most amazing pieces were ones I made from using just two (of the 14) bead bins I have. I decided I could not get any other beads – I had to use just those.

Make up a rule – only two colors, or only two textures.

Only use beads that were purchased from the same store, or the same state. Or use only stone, or Czech glass.

Use all the beads you can’t stand and put them together and see what happens.

Set a deadline – five things must be made by a week from now.

Sign up to do a show. That will force you to make stuff.

Have an art-date with a crafty friend. You both get together to make something, and you’ll be inspired seeing what the other person makes.

Buy more art supplies. Nothing inspires me more than getting new beads or a new tool.

Organize the supplies you have – you’ll find stuff you’ve forgotten and see combinations you’ve never noticed.

And just make. Make something, even if you don’t feel it. Sometimes the stuff that people are most impressed by is the stuff that I made in 10 minutes without thinking about it. Put something together, then put something else together. The feeling will come – you have to present yourself to it.

On art – collage, time, and audience.

I’m working on a new art style. I’m trying to do collage and it is testing my patience.

I love the art of Nick Bantock, of the “Griffin and Sabine” series. I don’t want to replicate his work but I do want to try to approach its emotion and depth. The problem is that it takes a long time and you can’t erase.

When making jewelry using beads, if the pattern doesn’t work out you can always take it apart and redo it. Even years later you can always try again if the design gets old. Not so with collage. Once you paint something or glue it down it is done. You can’t go backwards and change things if it looks weird later. You can’t reposition it. You are stuck. You’ve used up the materials too – you are out that money.

It also takes a long time. If you have multiple layers, you have to let each one dry for at least a day. I’m not really that patient, but I have to be to make this work.

This has stopped me from even working with this style for a long time. I’ve got lots of art materials that I’ve not used at all for fear of doing it wrong. So I’m wasting them even more so. It would be better to use them and figure out what works and what doesn’t work than to not use them at all.

Boats are safe in the harbor, but that isn’t what boats are made for. The same is true of collage. The same is true of life.

I’ve decided with collage the best thing is to just get over my “need” to start something and finish it in the same sitting. I certainly don’t do that with beads or with writing, so I don’t know why I think my painting has to be the same way. Maybe I want to see results fast. Maybe it is because I don’t have a lot of time to work on my art.

I think part of it might very well be that I resent the amount of time my job takes from me having time to do what I want. I just don’t seem to have a lot of time to do “me” things. I know I’m not alone in this thought. Nobody gets up and says “Yeah! I get to go be a cube-farmer today!” I like my job, mostly. I like the people I help. I just don’t think it requires 40 hours a week to do it. After 40 hours of work and time spent sleeping, there isn’t a lot of time for “me” stuff.

I’d rather work 30 hours than 40. I’ve asked if it is possible and because of how the pension plan is structured it isn’t. So I shoehorn in my “me” things – writing, exercise, art. I love the space I go to in my head when I create, and it is hard to wrestle myself back to a clock and a schedule and go to work after being in that space.

I’m starting to see collage as a good middle ground. Since I simply can’t do it all in one sitting, it works well with not having much time. I’ll do a layer, wait, do another layer, wait, and do another layer. I can’t work on it for hours at a time, and that works because I don’t have hours to work on it.

Collage is strange to work with because I don’t know how it is going to look until I’m done. I have some general idea but then when I add another element it changes everything. I can get an idea of where things are going before I glue it down but then sometimes when the glue dries it changes the effect. It is always a surprise. Sometimes it isn’t a welcome surprise.

But then I remember that with writing and with beads, the stuff that I really planned out and really love how meticulous and amazing it turned out happens to be the stuff that nobody “gets”. Nobody likes it or appreciates the work involved except me. Conversely, the stuff that I really don’t care about much – the stuff that I worked on and just don’t like as much is the stuff that people rave over. That is the stuff that I think is OK enough for others to see, but it just doesn’t get my idea across the way I meant to.

There are plenty of pieces of writing and pieces of jewelry and other artwork that I’ve created that nobody has ever seen. I feel like I show you a lot –but what you see is just half of what I’ve produced. Some things I feel are just warm-ups, just stretching. Some things are just exercises that help strengthen me for something better later. I don’t feel like this at the time – I want everything to be a marathon win. But some things just peter out about the three-mile mark. Or maybe that is just me. Maybe I need to show it anyway. Following the usual trend, they will be the things that people will really “get”. But for now, I don’t want to show them because I don’t want to put my name on them.

When you show any art – be it writing or visual art, you put your name on it. You say “this is me”. For good or for bad, you are showing off what you have made. People will judge you by it, for good or for bad. So you have to be careful what you show. You want to be known for good work so people will seek you out and buy what you have made. You want to get a reputation as a maker of good things. Do you keep with one motif, or do you have a range? Do you create for an audience, or create for yourself? Whatever you decide, you have to be mindful of who is going to see it and what they are going to think. Does this cause you fear, so you edit? Does this cause you excitement, so you embellish? Your relationship with the audience will influence your work.

Art isn’t yours anymore when you let other people see it. It changes. The meaning changes. What you thought it meant doesn’t matter anymore. When another person sees it, she brings herself to it. She brings what she loves and hates to it and sees that in it. Art is a mirror. It isn’t something that stands on its own and speaks for itself. It would be great if it was, but it isn’t.

Art Attack

I want to get my art started. It isn’t beating very well. I forget to take time to exercise it, to keep it healthy.

It isn’t due to lack of materials. I’ve got paint and canvas and decoupage goop and brushes and watercolor pencils and watercolor paper. The list goes on. I’ve got stuff. I even have a cute little bin that looks a bit like a small attaché case that I’ve put the words “Art Attack” on it using my label maker. I figure if it is portable, then I’ll do it more. Nope. Rarely works.

I’ve seen books that I like the style of. A little bit of words, and a painting or three to a page. Sometimes they are travel books, sometimes they are children’s books. The illustrations are irregularly sized, mostly rectangles though. Some people can make watercolor look so simple.

I’ve decided that I’m making this too hard. Just like with writing, I need to set aside time to do this. Once a week? Once a day? Whatever I pick, I’m going to have to stick to it. If I wait for the muse, she’ll never come. Sometimes you have to go find her.

Part of the issue that I’m having is I like to be free with my art. I like to get immersed when I’m creating. I don’t want to have to suddenly stop and have to get ready to go to work. Art, when done well, is transformative. It is like a soul-journey. It is like getting stoned, but without the illegal part. So I don’t really want to work on my art first thing in the morning. But then I don’t have time when I get home, and the light is bad.

Another issue is that I don’t want to waste the materials. I want to use them well, to make good art. Paint and canvas can’t be re-used in the same way that beads can. You can’t move stuff around to make it look better in the way that you can with words, either. I feel a need to think it through and get it right. So instead of potentially making a mistake, I make nothing. Talk about wasting materials.

I need to follow my own advice. Something is better than nothing, and if I make up too many rules about this then I’ll never do it. If I think that it has to be perfect, to look like the illustrations in the books I enjoy, then I’ll never do it. So I have to commit to this, and just create. I need to create for the sake of creating, with no editing or self-censoring. I need to remember that it isn’t the end product that is the point, and to just enjoy the process.

There is nothing like drawing something to make you really see it. There is this concept called closure – we see what we think we are seeing, most of the time. We see what we expect to see. But when we slow down and try to draw something, we notice all the things we’ve missed.

(edit – here is what I made today after writing this. I have a “rule” about not drawing real things, because who can improve upon reality, but then I realized if I don’t draw what is, then how can I draw what isn’t?)

7-24-13 sketch

This is a monochromatic sketch of a vase I found at Goodwill. I drew this with watercolor pencils. I like them because they are quick and not messy. It was sitting in front of me. I decided that if I went to go find something special to draw I’d get distracted. Just like with writing – write what you know, and what is right there.

The paper is more white than the picture makes it appear.