To Life! 1
11" x 14"
painted acrylic paper on matboard
work available here
The title seems a little optimistic for me. I didn't quite mean things to sound like a toast or a pronouncement.
Really, the title refers to what this piece is based on which is the beautiful structures of the amino acids, often called the building blocks of proteins. In general, I love looking at the chemical representations of molecules, how they are built and what form they take. To me, these structures are beautiful and very artistic in their own way, both balanced and efficient.
My life is filled with rabbit holes and in doing a little poking around on the Internet, I came across a depiction of the molecular structure of the amino acids group. Amino acids are often called the building blocks of proteins. The above piece is based on the amino acid called asparagine. In general, I understand that amino acids have been here on earth since life began. Anything that old can't be too bad!
It's important to note that I don't fully understand this subject, not even close. I do know however, (I hope), something beautiful when I see it and that is how I feel about these structures that I am beginning to learn about. There is meaning here. The fact that our bodies (and all life forms on earth for that matter) are creating all of the time, taking in nutrition and energy, building up and tearing down, and engaging in unseen processes, is really amazing. It feels ancient and important somehow. Amino acids are a part of this process. I may not grasp the whole process but I can see that it is beautiful in some way.
In making this piece, I wanted something to reflect that beauty. I wanted to respond to what I was feeling regarding these molecular representations. I chose to do this through using colors that are clear, bright and contrasting; by making lines that are flowing; and by cutting and placing curvilinear shapes that interlock together in a pleasing way. In the end, I don't think an artist ever comes close enough to what they want to convey. I think you can only try to be present when creating and hopefully a little of your efforts will show in the final work.
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The Not So Peaceful Garden
16" x 20"
Painted paper collage on matboard
Many moons ago, when I first started college, I felt I needed a way to keep track of assignments, tests, and studying time. (This was before the personal computer really took hold and before I Phones took over. People actually wrote things down...) I bought a little lined notebook, and kept track of the days, noting what homework I had to do and when and what days I needed to study for a test. This system suited me well as I am a list maker and am task oriented. To this day, thirty plus years later, I still have a physical notebook that I write in and use to keep track of things I want to do for the day or the week.
When the Pandemic was first hitting and people were beginning to go into lockdown mode, all of my social media feeds were filled with productivity. People were cleaning out closets, baking up a storm, inventing clever family games and doing all sorts of nifty stuff. The novelty of being at home was on full display. I then waited for the shoe dropping to begin. After several weeks, the reality of the situation sank in and some of those busy folks were a little quiet. How come you wonder? I am going to tell you. IT'S HARD BEING AT HOME ALL DAY! There. I said it. And yes, I am yelling.
Why is it so hard? My own experience tells me that part of the difficulty lies in having unstructured free time. Many of us, myself included, have been very used to a structured work/school environment. Do this thing at 9AM, do that thing at 11AM, eat lunch at 1PM, do something else at 2PM and go home at _______ (insert appropriate time). When you don't have that sort of schedule, things can fall apart. This is particularly true for us creative types who may have a loose schedule to begin with. When you are already stressed about the Pandemic, going into the studio to "create" can seem overwhelming. Where do you start?
You start right here. Make a list! But, you might ask, what if I am stuck? What if I am depressed and can't get started on anything? What if, what if, what if? I will say it again. Make a list!
Full disclosure here. I am not a Life Coach, nor a psychologist nor any other kind of therapist. I am, however, a depressed and anxious person who is at home all day by herself. I know well about which I speak. Getting going is not easy. It isn't impossible though. There is a way to begin and I will share that now. This is what I do to get going. I get out my notebook and start with the date and day. I write that down. Next, what small and finite tasks do I want to do today, particularly as they relate to creativity? Here is a sample: I want to write a blog post, for starters. I have my topic picked out. I want to add four items to my shop that are for sale. I need to prep one board for painting and cut out two sheets of shapes. This may be enough for the day. I also include a few backup items just in case there is more time or something falls through. The tasks aren't really in an order of importance but if I wanted, I could number them or label them as "A,B,C, etc." I give myself permission to do as many tasks as I can reasonably handle in addition to my other household responsibilities (someone has to make dinner and feed the cats). I also give myself permission to lay down and take a nap with the guiltless understanding that some things may not get done. Or, maybe the nap is the incentive to get everything done!
In any case, having a list of items (tasks) to do has been immeasurably helpful these last couple of weeks. I have gone from flailing around, feeling unmotivated, to enjoying a reasonable degree of steadiness and a genuine uptick in productivity. I think the reason is that the tasks are finite and specific and small. (This is something I learned in my former career: goals must be measurable, specific, and achievable.) They have a start and end time. I can also roll them to the next day (without guilt) if necessary. At the end of the week, I can look back and see what I accomplished. And, as I mentioned, there has been some increase in creative productivity. Imagine if your artist's list included "do five quick sketches" and "gesso four canvases" and "watch one instructional video." That would be a fun morning (and a full one at that!).
Two Things: First, list making (tasks) will help you to see that you needn't be in your studio 24/7 (unless that is what you want). You may want to select a certain number of days (I selected 5 days a week) to be in your studio/creative space. I pick my tasks accordingly, knowing that I have the morning and some of the afternoon in which to work. If you have ten tasks picked out and only 2 hours, don't make those tasks complicated. Second, no list will help you if you abhor list making! (Never say never!) If you feel creativity is stifled by having to do tasks, well, I can't help you there. (It isn't true but it may feel true to you.) I can only say that if you feel you aren't in your studio enough or you don't know where the time went or you aren't sure why you haven't completed any new work and the Covid Virus is getting you down, you may want to consider this list idea. At the very least, the concept is an extension of the idea that "idle hands are the devil's workshop." Or maybe it's more like "priming the pump" or "paying into a savings account." Or maybe it's like my late cat Toby who used to get things started with a bite. He would nip you to get you to pay attention to him. It worked every time. Just turn your stalled creativity and list making efforts into a series of small bites and you should be good to go! You are welcome!
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I now have work for sale on my website. It's all right here!
Example of Framing Possibilities for my latest piece,
Together as One
11" x 14" painted paper collage on matboard
In the ten years that I have been making art and have been showing it casually both on the Internet and in person, things have really changed. Significantly! It's nearly impossible to keep up with the pace and I don't pretend that I do a good job with this at all. As I have gotten older, staying on top of things, the changes in technology, has been especially difficult. As I write this post, I am using a computer (desktop) that does not have a camera. Oh My God! That means I can't Zoom with everyone and also can't do a ton of other things that I don't even know about. (I can Facetime with you though, I do have a Smartphone and the money to pay for that data!) I can navigate the Internet really well and I try to see what other artists are doing-what programs and services they use, what their websites look like and what they do with their marketing. (PS-I hate those pop up notices that interrupt me, begging me to sign up for a newsletter or mailing list. Stop that right now!) I try to follow along with hashtags, basic current language and terms, and I know that I need better photos. Way better photos! Still, I manage to show my work to friends and family and I normally have a pretty good idea of what people are talking about. Mostly.
With all of that said, it's not total Fred Flintstone time around here. I have relied on some resources that still appear to be relevant, even by today's standards. I thought I might share those resources and if you are reading and know of any other artists or creative types who may need an idea of where to start (or at least a reliable source) then I have three companies to recommend.
Weebly: I use Weebly for my website building. They host my site and help me to re-register my domain name every three years. I brought my domain name to them independently and they help me to maintain it. I will be the first to say that I have only scratched the surface here. I know my website could use some 21st century-2020 updating, i.e. it could be slicker and more sophisticated. Weebly's platform could help me with that should I decide to go further. My website choice is free but there are several paid options that offer more. You could completely run your online store with this company. The ease of use is the main attraction as far as I am concerned. Weebly uses a drag and drop system which allows you to select features, drop them onto pages, and then populate those features with whatever you want-photos, text, etc. It's very easy and the whole system is reasonably intuitive. As I said, my own site looks pretty simple but yours doesn't have to. The site can be made as sophisticated as you like. I have had 50/50 luck interacting with the company. Still, I am satisfied so far and intend to develop a "shop" page shortly. (It is connected to PayPal and it will be super easy to use.)
Moo: I use Moo for my business cards. I get the basic cardstock, 25 cards in a package. These are not inexpensive I don't suspect but they are awfully nice. I am not sure if business cards are out of date or not but I like to include them with correspondence and if I am out and about, I like to give them to people when they ask me what the Hell I do all day long. Moo offers a variety of products and I wouldn't hesitate to order any of them. Their customer service appears to be good too. (I had a misprint one time and they sent me new cards at no cost, no problem.) The communication about orders is also good and the company appears to respond to emails pretty quickly.
Matboard Plus: I have been using Matboard plus for many years now and have been very happy. Shipping is pretty quick, maybe a week or so, and nothing has ever arrived damaged (knock on wood). Their communication with orders is also good. (Am I the only one who hangs onto emails until their order arrives?) Their products are priced closely with those at Dick Blick-mats, matboard, plastic sleeves, backer boards, and show kits. I know that when people buy artwork they want to frame things themselves. That's cool. When I used to sell in person though I felt that having a prematted product helped the customer to envision the final artwork better (the matting made a better presentation for works on paper). With all of that said, I have been satisfied with the service and products thus far.
Perhaps my recommendations, comments, and choices are dating me. So what! They do work. I would add that these aren't the least expensive options and there are most certainly other companies out there who do the same thing, maybe even better and cheaper. If there are or if you have a resource that you love to use, I would be happy to know about it. I like to share:)
Together as One
11" x 14"
painted acrylic paper collage on matboard
This week I worked on the above piece. It helped to have something concrete and specific to do.
Some noteworthy things about this collage. For starters, it is smaller than what I normally do. I thought that working smaller might help me to work a little faster. I should know by now that this isn't true for me. Small pieces take just as much time as larger pieces for me. In the long run though I think having a variety of sizes to offer will be better.
I used the pieces that were remaining from the last collage. I had quite a few extra for some reason. The color combination really appeals to me. My next project though will use different colors. I already have them all picked out. The shapes just need to be decided on and cut and then also I need to paint some more papers. Everything takes some time.
The above piece is based on the molecule ethyl 2 cyanoacrylate commonly referred to as "superglue." Glue of course is used to join things together and so that is how the title for the piece came about. I also think it is a fitting title given what is happening in our country now. When I was younger I was much more of an optimist I think. Still, there is always hope.
Please let me know what you think. And, if you are reading and know of anyone who might enjoy seeing this piece, please pass along the link!
16" x 20" painted paper collage on matboard
EIt seems like this piece took me forever. There was a long time when I was just gathering and painting paper. Then the shapes had to be cut. Since I hadn't been sketching a lot, I needed to sketch some shapes. More cutting. More painting of papers. Honestly, I have been very slow lately. Once I started placing and gluing shapes however, the pace started to pick up.
This piece is a departure from how I normally work. Hardly ever do I have a design or idea in mind when I start. I have colors and shapes that I have selected but that is it. For the last two pieces though I have started with a loose sketch. It's because I have become enamored of molecules. More specifically, I love the structures of compounds. (Loosely speaking, molecules are two or more atoms of the same chemical that come together. Compounds happen when different molecules join together to form a new chemical, like H2O.) Compounds, molecules or chemicals -whatever!- are such beautiful structures. There is an inherent efficiency to their forms with both a simplicity and a complexity of configuration.
When I first started thinking about this, about using chemicals as inspiration for my collages, I wondered if it would work. Specifically, would I like following something that was already drawn? Would I become entangled in following the picture too closely and lose any kind of spontaneity in decision making? That honestly didn't happen so good news there. I always tell myself (out loud) that it is OK to not follow the sketch or plan or whatever I feel bound to. I have been happy so far with having a kind of roadmap to follow as I work. And the list of chemicals are endless. So, for now I am hooked. Incidentally, the chemical compound that my piece is modeled on is the drug Remdesivir. The title of the piece reflects one of the possible uses of the drug and the controversy surrounding the decisions being made about who is eligible to receive treatment. These are very hard times we are living in and that is an understatement.
Now, on to the real thing I want to discuss. I realized with this last piece (once and for all) that I am not a "concept" artist. When I start a new piece, I am not trying to portray or make something that has explicit meaning or portrays something specific, like a landscape. I liken this to the horse-before-the-cart analogy. The artist sets out to show something specific; to represent something. It's a logical way of working and one which many artists (other than me) employ effectively. My process is to ascribe meaning to something as I am working on it. It's a cart-before-the-horse approach. Sure, I may use shapes and colors along the way to portray something specific. This can be seen in much of my work from 2019 shown here. But I rarely ever these days set out to illustrate a point, concept, or to make a specific design. With the piece shown above, I am not trying to say anything in particular about the drug, Remdesivir. I simply liked its design and felt that my shapes would work nicely within its general armature. At most, I would say the colors I chose support some idea of "softness" which I feels fits in with the concept of compassion. Additionally, there are some circles loosely represented which for me can refer to the circular nature of arguing for or against something, of fighting through "red tape" to get something or of "jumping through hoops" to make something happen. This is all analysis after the fact, mind you. everyone needs to look at the piece and decide on their own what is happening, if anything.
So, what I want to know is this. If you are reading and are a creative type, particularly a painter, I would like to know which camp you fall into. Or even if you just want to comment on any of the above. Drop me an email or leave a comment on IG or FB.
Thanks again for reading!
Painted paper collage
16" x 20"
Quite a while ago I had cut out some shapes from solid colored paper. I had an idea but never followed up on it. The shapes sort of languished on my floor as I worked on monoprinting and making pieces from those prints. At the end of April, after my last piece, I began to wonder about those solid shapes. What could I do with them? I really missed what I perceive as the clarity of those solid colors. They give a different effect from the monoprinted shapes I think. I was nervous though about trying something different. I felt that my last several pieces were good-a step in the right direction. Should I deviate from that idea?
And then, just by accident, I happened across an image of a psilocybin molecule. Totally unrelated right? Sort of. As I started to investigate psilocybin, I came across other molecules. They all seemed to have these beautiful structures. You can see one here and here. I hope that I have a real appreciation for all sorts of beauty in all kinds of places and in all types of things. Images of molecules really speak to me somehow; their order and arrangement, not to mention how their atoms come together and break apart. (You can read more about molecules here.) I am not a chemistry person (I barely squeaked by in high school chemistry class) but I can appreciate these ideas on a general level.
So, I began to think about using these structures as a basis for making my pieces. They looked an awful lot like what I was trying to do already, which is to make some kind of sense and order out of all of these shapes. I had been moving towards a more formal arrangement of the shapes already but was a little stuck. Molecules and their inherent beauty are a good answer for me.
Psilocybin as you might know is the compound found in magic mushrooms. I don't have too much curiosity about the use of psychedelic drugs other than to know that the drugs have had many purposes throughout history and are used by different cultures around the world. I will settle for just admiring the beauty of their molecular structure!
And while my final piece doesn't follow the shape of the compound exactly, it works well for my purposes. I wanted a dominant area and then some subordinate areas. Linking everything together was challenging and I kept some areas separate from each other. Hopefully the piece is balanced. I will be trying the idea again soon and will make modifications. For now, I am happy with the initial efforts.
16" x 20" painted paper collage
For this piece, I found myself returning to some older habits of color selection. While I think those habits worked fine for the pieces that I was doing at the time the ideas didn't really produce great results for this particular style. I found myself really needing a wider variety of hues and values. Oftentimes I just don't know if I have enough shapes, colors and values to complete a piece. For this piece I had to improvise a bit. I am happy with the way things worked out but next time I plan to have some more options on hand before I start.
I was also reminded of how important it is for me to know about the materials that I use. Through trial and error I have found a way that works for me with regard to painting papers, using paint and cutting out shapes. I very rarely deviate from what I have learned and how I use my materials. This time though I decided to add some patterning to one of the papers using stamps and ink. I had forgotten that dye ink is water soluble so I figured I better spray the paper with an acrylic matte spray to prevent the dye from running. (I wipe off the glue with a paper towel from the paper pieces and board once I am done placing each piece. The paint and whatever else on the paper needs to be permanent so the water won't screw it up.) Well, it sure didn't work! I ended getting ink all over the pieces and having to carefully wipe everything off. Not great but in the end everything was fine. next time, I will use pigment ink which is permanent.
Anyway, apart from that SNAFU, it was exciting to add some stamp work into the picture. I am always afraid that adding stamps will make the piece look kind of "campy" but maybe I need to rethink how I use the stamps rather than just dismiss the idea altogether.
The name for this piece comes from what I was thinking about when I was adding each piece. I kept looking for shapes that would "connect" with one another, kind of like doing a puzzle. What fits? What doesn't? So for me, it was like I was making connections.
Alright, thanks for reading and looking. It seems like hard times are ahead for many of us with Covid-19. I hope everyone is staying well.
16" x 20" painted acrylic paper collage on matboard
The above piece came together rather quickly once I got started. What took forever was the monoprinting of the papers that were cut in to the individual shapes. Deciding on colors is becoming harder and harder for me. I have always mixed my own colors rather than relying on pre mixed colors but now I am wondering about that. In any case, it was hit or miss to begin with but I finally put some colors together that appealed to me. They seem Spring-like I think.
The other thing that took me awhile was the part where I actually started the piece! This came in the midst of me getting ready to go away for a few days so my attention was really divided. As I mentioned though, once I got going things went pretty smoothly. I have been working first thing, very early in the morning. The time slot fits in better with my walking schedule which happens later in the morning. Once it starts to really warm up though things will get switched around again. The weather here really dictates when I do what.
I feel like I am getting a little more adventurous with cutting these shapes. At first, I just used the scraps from having cut positive shapes for other pieces. I now feel more comfortable with just cutting shapes from printed paper and seeing how those fit together, cutting them further if necessary, as I go. This all seems pretty small but it's big for me. Going from the rigidity of the grid and using a knife and ruler to cut shapes and then to just willy-nilly cutting with the scissors is a big leap. I actually really love it!
If anyone reading has made some big leaps lately, let me know!
16" x 20"
painted acrylic papers on matboard
Several days ago I showed a photo on Instagram/FB of lots of scraps of painted paper on the floor. The above piece came out of those scraps of paper. What I have been doing for these last several pieces is using the remaining negative cutouts that are leftover from the positive shapes that I use in my work. I take those pieces and use them in my monoprints as "masks". They get overprinted with other paints and textures, often with interesting results. Rather than throw them away, I decided that they needed to be put to use. I really like working this way-no grid to follow, no perpendicular lines or right angles, and nothing to straighten up. It suits me well right now.
The title of the piece doesn't really have a specific meaning other than I feel some of the shapes look a little bird like. I am also reading a book about extinction and so I am thinking about the comings and goings of species through time.
OK, let me know. Thanks for reading.
Round and Round
16" x 20"
painted paper collage on board
Well, I am super excited about the above piece. The shapes are the leftovers (negative cuttings) from the positive shapes that I use in my collages. I took those cuttings and used them as masks in my monoprinting (done on a gelatin plate aka Gelli plate). In that process, they get paint on them, often in layers. I think this layering of colors is very exciting and when I look at a pile of these pieces I don't know where I the final work will end up. I am guided though by what I think about design: color relationships, contrast, and color saturation. Additionally, I think about line and direction, variability and repetition. It's all governed by proportion for me and I try really hard to make the piece feel balanced. I love very much that I am not working on a "grid" these days but the piece, to me anyway, feels just as organized as if I was using that structure to place my shapes. I feel like I have come a long way here. I am drawing and cutting out my own organic shapes, derived from my own images and drawings. It's very much like acquiring a vocabulary of sorts, rather than just relying on a prescribed set of words in a tiny dictionary, if that makes sense.
Anyway, let me know. Thanks for reading.