Saturday, May 22, 2010

Of clocks and cats

I have some new projects in my head and have been sketching out others.  I also have this grant proposal to put into action as well.  Aside from that I have a little piece of whimsy that I've been working on here and there.  It will be a little clock eventually.  I have the bones of it on the wood and have more work to do with it yet, but here's a little glimpse.

I initially did a watercolour wash on the wood.  Of course this raises the wood fibres, but also gives an interesting patterning as well.  I will be adding acrylics or oils to finalize this and put in a clock mechanism and paint on the numbers etc. I can't tell you what it means or where it came from, it simply is and mostly done late at night in bed.

I've spent a lot of today working in the garden and wandering around the property, seeing what winter has moved and spring has revealed.  Of course Tripod sticks like glue.  He has a horrible habit of running in front of me, then throwing himself on the ground, hoping to be picked up and carried.  More often he gets kicked or stepped on as you trip over him!  Today was no different and as I started out with my camera, there he was.  Meowing and racing over to ensure he wasn't left behind.

I wandered down the lane by the house and noticed Tripod stopping for a drink in a little stream by the side of the road.  He's a strange cat and won't drink water inside the house from his bowl.  He has to go out and drink from puddles or streams. Perhaps a throwback to his feral days.

Of course he noticed I was wandering off so he scrambled up the bank to chase after me and once he caught up, he shot ahead and flopped on the ground.

His attention span in the great outdoors is limited, so the sound of birds or squirrels has him peering into the woods at regular intervals.  Until he realizes he's left behind again...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Feels like rain

Living on an island, I'm more than familiar with rain, so this drawing is a way of accepting it instead of fighting against it.  Water in all forms holds a fascination for me and I think we all become transfixed by the circles pushing outwards on the water's surface, whether from the impact of a raindrop or a stone thrown.

The initial acrylic study for this piece was posted a couple of days ago and now I'm working on a full sized piece.  This is done on blue Canson paper 19 x 25 using charcoal.  Without a daylight shot, I'm not even trying for the muted blue of the paper.

The subtle differences in the water movement out from the centre where the raindrop hits is challenging.  Even the drawing was intricate and somewhat of a maze that I get lost in as I'm going. It seems I can get enough of punishment in terms of detail, having completed the hundreds of beads in Masai Portrait.  I'm hoping this one won't be quite so detailed.

Stay tuned for updates!  And a short clip of one of my favourite musicians, Maria Muldaur, It Feels Like Rain.  This music keeps me company constantly.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Paying back

 Sparrow Tutorial in progress

I read an interesting piece tonight about an artist, perhaps intermediate level, who was wondering if she should give lessons in oil painting to people who asked.  Her dilemma wasn't whether she was experienced enough in technique and teaching to do, but that if she taught people, they would become her competition.

To me, that thought defeats the teaching rationale.  As a teacher, I want my students to excel and to be better than me.  I know they are not my competition, as I have my own style and so will they.  I know there will be wide eyed individuals who think that art teachers have secrets they will pass on that make instant artists, instead of old fashioned hard work. Yes, there may be more artists in the same market if a teacher gives them direction, but there are many elements in place to ensure success in the market, not from just one artist, but from many.

Part of teaching and or learning is the ability to give away part of yourself to others.  It can be in words or more tangible objects, but in the giving, you enable others to move forward and you enable yourself to pay back to those who have helped you along the way, even if they may never see you again and know what you do now.

This little sparrow is one of the things that I'm giving or will when its complete.  Its another tutorial that I've worked on when I've had the chance.  I have several tutorials available and some are for sale on my blog, some I provide just to see others learn and grow.  Why?  I can't teach art and I can't live life unless I can share it with others.  That doesn't always come with a price tag, but brings wealth in its own form.

Keep an eye out for the tutorial, it should be available in the next couple of weeks. And yes, it will be free!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Desire and sacrifice

Acrylic 4 x 4

People often ask how I find time to produce the art that I do.  There's no magic trick to it, its all down to desire and sacrifice.  To do anything, art included, you have to want to succeed at it desperately and to ensure that it happens you have to sacrifice other things.

When I hear others say that they can't produce art because they (pick your choice) have children, have too much work, or don't have time, don't have the skill, it annoys me a little to be honest.  Yes, we all have commitments, but we free up time to do the things that are important to us and we eliminate other, less important things, to make sure we can achieve what we want.

Today I learned that I was successful in obtaining a grant to produce a body of work in gyotaku and deliver a workshop on the method.  It was one of my goals for 2010 in what I wanted to achieve this year.  Perhaps as I approach the half way point in the year, its time to revisit those goals and take stock of what's progressing and what isn't.

I have a full time job that teeters on 50-60 hours a week some weeks.  I have a life outside that job and I have my art.   So where do I put in the time to produce the work?  Evenings and weekends are my time and I push other things that I once considered important to the side to make sure I can produce the work that is necessary.  Yes, its all about me.  And its all about me because that's how it has to be if  I want something badly enough. 

Its worthwhile analyzing your average waking hours to understand just where time slips away that could be used for artistic purposes.  I'll share a sample of my day so you can get an idea of how my time is split.

  • 6:30 - 7:30   Get up, showered, dressed, coffee.  Then work for 15-30 minutes on current art project or research for new one
  • 7:45 - 8:15   Drive to work.   Listen to art marketing art or art history podcasts on the way. Sometimes stop to take photos of objects of views that interest me.
  • I  stop work for lunch at some point around mid day.  My schedule varies depending on workload as to time.  I often eat at my desk and catch up on blogs, facebook etc.  I sketch out ideas for projects, make phone calls related to art marketing or prepare brochures, write out tutorials, etc.
  • 6 - 7:30  This is my down time when I eat, relax, watch the news, but even then I usually have a pencil in hand jotting down ideas
  • 7:30 - 11  This is my time to completely concentrate on producing art, following up art marketing, sending emails, writing blog posts, etc. 
  • 11 - 12  I go to bed and sketch more ideas or sometimes just collapse and sleep

I don't have blocks of free time and that works for me.  I like the structure it imposes on me and the deadlines that I set for myself. I use time that I could waste on trivial things on things that move me closer to my goals.

This routine varies, depending on what else is happening in life, but its more the norm than the exception.  Social life fits in at weekends.  Work over rides social life, either the day job, art or teaching.  I don't have small children to contend with anymore but there are ways around that.  I have always found ways to fit in my drawing time, even when my children were small and I was a single parent.  Nursery school gave me a couple of hours in the mornings.  One hour to do chores, another to draw or paint. And each night when they went to bed, I hit the easel again til midnight. Yes, sure I was tired sometimes, but having my routine was important to me and ultimately to the children as it kept me sane.

My sacrifices?  I don't see them as sacrifices. I see them as manipulating my life to my advantage. And for that I do not feel guilty.  Women, especially mothers, are constantly in a pull/push situation of guilt.  I believe making time for yourself helps eliminate that guilt.  I love my children, but I have a life outside of them.

I rarely watch television, except for the news.  I use my time to concentrate on what I feel is important to me.  I don't allow myself to 'play' until I have reached a goal that I've set for myself, either in my head or on paper. Weekends allow me more time to draw or paint as there are less demands on my time.  I fit in housework and errands on weekends, laundry on week days and clear up as I go during the week.  I'm toying with the idea of a cleaner once a week to do the majors like vacuuming and washing floors.

Art is hard work.  Being successful in art is even harder work and it takes dedication, planning and the ability to not be easily distracted by less important things.  Its also about taking control of your life and not being swept along on a wave that is not of your own making. Its about knowing what you want and just going for it.

My way isn't for everyone.  We use a lot of excuses to not reach our dreams and then complain about not being able to reach the same dream.  Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of rejection all play a part in staying in safe harbours and never risking the surf.  Its a matter of logically examining each excuse that you throw up and finding a way around it.  There always is a way, if you want to find it badly enough.

I've thrown my excuses out and choose to take some risks.  What about you?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Masai portrait - finished

The Masai woman's portrait is complete, give or take a tweak or two.

I'm happy with the outcome and yes, the beading did make me a little crazy at times, but without it the portrait would not have the same impact. I took an easel shot to give a better idea of size and to see it at a more appropriate distance.

I've gotten a lot of positive responses to it which is wonderful.  I think the lighting and colour against the black paper create impact that draws the eye to it.  Your eyes always come back to it in the studio. I've had requests for prints and cards with this image and will look at that possibility.  I have some other paintings that need to go the print route and have been tied up with other things but will make the time to get that ball in motion in the very near future.

This is a larger portrait, a bit larger than life filling a full 19 x 25 sheet. I still call it the Masai portrait as I haven't thought of anything more inventive at this stage.  Secretly I call her 'Betty Beader'...  Here's a cropped view for those who like to see the intimate details and strokes that make up the portrait.

Now on to other paintings and drawings waiting in the wings!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Starts and stops

 Reef Rats

I prepped a piece of masa to do a batik like piece and I guess I rushed it as the paper tore and didn't adhere well to the watercolour paper either.  I ended up cutting into smaller pieces that I'll use for practice pieces and chalk it up to experience.  Some things just can't be rushed.  So now I have to start that piece all over again.  Frustrating, as the drawing took awhile to complete.

I used one of the smaller cut offs to play around with a little reef fish painting.  This was a reference from this weekends WDE at WetCanvas, hosted by Lisilk.  She has some amazing shots of aquatic life in the Bahamas.

I've got a line up of images in my head waiting to go onto paper.  Its as if they've been waiting to come out once I was feeling better.  So today I started putting down the bones of some on paper and getting ready to add some colour to them or start some shading.  I played around with a tiny study to see if my idea would work.  This will, I hope, turn into a full sheet drawing.  It seems size does matter, at least in the exhibition world, even though some smaller pieces are both quicker to produce and have less expensive price tags to suit more people's budgets for original art.

 Ripple study 4 x 4

I'm nearly at the end of the Masai portrait that I've been working on.  I set it aside today on my burgeoning drawing table.  I so need more room to store pieces.  I need to work on my takeover plan for the room next to me, just to get pieces off the drawing table and into storage.  I have completed works, works in progress, works that are perpetually in progress and lost souls.  All need a home that preserves them but keeps them accessible.

Yeah, I know, it horrifies the purists out there with wonderful storage and filing systems, but nothing is damaging anything else, they're just sitting and waiting.  But it would be nice to have my drawing table back!