Sunday, March 25, 2012

mini 34

Miniature #34 - March 19 - 25, 2012,  1.5 x 1.66, mixed media book
          Spring has sprung in tinyland.  The good news - the tinyhouse is surrounded by beautiful flowers.  The bad news - I have allergies and am getting over a cold this week (at least I have tiny tissues to ease my pain.)  Even though I wasn't feeling my best this week, I decided it would be a good time to try another miniature book (mini #24 was my first attempt at the tiny-booking).  In hindsight, this may not have been my best decision ever - bookmaking is process-oriented, it requires certain steps done in a particular order; so, working on a small scale doesn't necessarily reduce one's overall time-commitment (and this one was heavy on the time- commitment.) The edges of the pages are hand colored red, and I made title and author pages for the inside covers.  The backs of the pages and the boards are covered with the beautiful paper I received from Annika at De Milo Design in December. The book has a removable black spine and can be read either in folio or accordion format. Overall, I think once the frustration wears off a little (because really, who's at their most patient when they have a cold?), it will be one of my favorite minis.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

mini 33

Miniature #33 - March 12 - 18, 2012, 7 x 5in, mixed media collage

With mini 33 complete, I'm entering the final 1/3 of the Power in Precision Project.  I've been reflecting on what I hope to accomplish with the project as a whole, and one thing in particular I've been thinking about this week is the sublime.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, for my next project, I'd like to work big; so, scale has been on my mind lately as I start to lay the ground work to move in this direction.  Several other "art-encounters" also contributed to my thoughts this week.  I had the opportunity to hear a lecture by the director of the Pollock-Krasner house about Jackson Pollock; I presented Courbet's A Burial at Ornans to my class, a painting which is almost 22 feet across; and I also got to see online part of a collection of works numbering in the hundreds by a single artist.  All this had me thinking in terms of the sublime - that which makes the mind aware of that which is beyond comprehension. I think there are a few ways of achieving this - through extreme scale or through quantity, but I think there's also another way, which I've been mulling over - through intricacy of detail.  I wonder if an extremely high level of detail can suggest the sublime?  One way I've been thinking about this is in terms of a relationship to movement along the z-axis.  What I mean is that it's overwhelming because one can "zoom in" and continue to see more detail to the point that it becomes overwhelming.  I think some of  Pollock's work may fall into this category independently of scale.  (Funny thing - I used to be a gallery guard in a museum with rooms full of Pollock paintings, and I bet you are expecting a gush right here about how I just loved them - not exactly; but I did have ample opportunity to inspect them up close, and I continue to think about them years later.)  Initially, I thought the completed series of minis would be striking in quantity, but now that I'm 2/3's of the way through the project, I don't think that's really the case. Then I thought that the scale may be extreme; this is more true for some than others, but 5 x 7 isn't really that small  (or maybe I've just gotten used to living surrounded by dozens of minis?). This leaves me with questions concerning the level of detail and how important that is to the series as a whole....hmmmmmm.

My feline assistant has graciously shared
one of her favorite napping spots. 
In other news, the tiny press is all settled in to it's new home, and I editioned mini #28 this week!  In keeping with my goal of working in non-toxic materials, I used water-based, non-toxic ink.  It was a mixed experience - there were no fumes and the clean-up was easy, but the ink tended to dry on the roller, palette and block after only a few prints, making it a more challenging to work with than oil based inks. Ultimately, I think the positive outweighted the negative, and I produced an edition of 12: 6 orange, 6 turquoise.  If you'd like to own your own tiny print (and who wouldn't want I a little mini in their life?), the edition is available through Vignette in Augusta ( ).  
The completed edition of mini #28  - I think the packaging turned out well too :).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mini 32

Miniature #32 - March 5 - 11, 2012, 2.125 x 3.25 in, oil and pencil on paper
This week was my "Spring Break."  I did fun things like clean my house and go to the car wash (which actually is one of my favorite things).  I also got some sci-fi from the library, planted flowers, and tested a new cookie recipe.  Most importantly, I decided to "go big" this week on the mini and try to make a completed oil painting.  I worked on paper so that I could have the support prepared early enough in the week to work in layers with the oil paint, and I also painted and toned the frame to complement the painting.  

Miniature #1 - July 24 - 30, 2011 3.5 x 2.5 in,  oil on paper board
Since mini 32 is a female figure in a landscape in oil paint on paper, I thought it would be a good time to reflect and look back at mini 1.  While there are always things I'd like to improve upon, seeing the two together, I think that I've come a long way.  Some of that has to do with the materials, and the way I'm using them - I applied the details in 32 with the tip of a needle - but some of it is comfort with the tiny scale.  I feel the drawing is stronger in 32 (and I like the micro-birds too - I saw a funny sketch about how to make anything decorative better - add a bird.  It was meant as a joke, but it's sort of true - birds are a useful compositional tool :) ).  

I had plenty of time to reflect on mini 32 as I removed debris from each layer of varnish with a pin (oy).  Something about it had me thinking of Sir Joshua Reynold.  Now, I like Reynold's paintings in the sense that I like lots and lots (and lots) of paintings, but his work is not really on my list of "favorite things," so I was ruminating on what it is in the mini that had me thinking of Reynolds and why. I think I eventually figured it out (did I mention that there are at least 5 coats of varnish?).  I used graphite more heavily in 32 than I did in 1, and that gives the painting an underlying grayish-ness.  Reynolds had a very "experimental" approach to his materials and techniques (when a patron complained to him about one of his paintings cracking, he famously responded: "all good paintings crack."  While this may be true, I would argue that the fact that he was referring to his own recent work is somewhat problematic.)  Anyway...he used a lot of fugitive pigments, especially reds and yellows, which have faded over time, revealing more of the tonal under-painting.  The net effect is that many of his paintings have a grayish-ness, like mini 32 does. Maybe it was thinking about the changes in Reynold's paintings over time, or maybe it was having a different schedule or changing the clocks, but somehow, I came back to thinking about time (again).  On the one hand, in studying and writing about art history, I'm always looking back at the past; on the other hand, when I work on the minis, I have to be completely focused in the moment.  I'm starting to wonder if by working on the minis, I've been trying to teach myself "Presentness," and, if so, is it working?  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

mini 31

Miniature #31 - February 27 - March 4, 2012, 6.5 x 4.5  in (image 3 x 2 in), monotype
Under the general heading of "getting to know the tiny-press," I thought I'd try a monotype this week.  Monotypes are one-of a kind prints, so in a sense, they seem to me to be antithetical to the nature of printmaking as a means for producing multiple works; on the other hand, its magical to work on the plate (in this case - glass, which, sadly, did not survive the printing) for hours to have the work on paper emerge in only a few minutes.

In terms of inspiration this week, I heard an interview on the radio with Chuck Close (and R. Crumb later the same day - it was a very good day for art interviews).  I really admire Chuck Close's work.  I had the chance to see a big exhibition in Atlanta a few years ago.  I think what I loved most about the show was that despite the number of people (note - I do not like crowds), when I looked at his work, nothing else existed.  For me, it acts as material evidence of an incredible level of focus.  I find that amazing, not only because the artist himself has that level of focus, but because he's able to pass along that experience to the viewer through his work.  So, I really like his work and was listening carefully.  One of the things he was talking about was the fact that he is drawn to extremes (naturally, I interpreted this as showing some love for the mini-verse.)  In his large works based on a grid system, each part becomes an individual, tiny, composition, which works together with the others to produce a whole (like an installation in paint.)  This week, hearing the interview and exhibiting the largest display of minis so far got me thinking about the minis as a complete 50 piece set.  Though I still have a few months left on the project, I'm starting to think through how/where to display them as a unit.

While I hesitate to say this because I don't want to loose focus, the fact that I'm well past the halfway point on the "Power in Precision" project and starting to consider the minis as a completed set also got me thinking about life "post-minis" and starting something new.  When I work on really small things, I always want to be working on something big instead and vice versa.  I've been continuing to work on my full scale pieces (which I recently updated on my website - enter shameless self-promotion here: ), but I've been thinking that the next thing should be something really big.  I worked with some very large pieces as an artist assistant, so I have a pretty realistic idea of some of the logistical challenges, and I don't dismiss practical constraints.  On the other hand, there must be some creative solution, I just need to come up with a (good) idea to make it work...  Not to go on and on about this interview (it made a big impression), but one of my favorite parts was that Close called out what he referred to as "station-wagon-sized" art, and I had to laugh when I heard that, since I currently make work exactly to the maximum scale of my trunk.  I'm not getting a bigger car, so I'll have to keep working on an intellectual solution...