Wednesday, August 28, 2013

phase 1 redux: develop and appreciate expertise

my first attempt at woodblock engraving
- starting with what I know -
put a bird on it ;)
 (Warning: gush ahead - possibly a little annoying - sorry about that ;))

This past week I had the chance to take a workshop with illustrator and master woodblock engraver Barry Moser at Zea Mays Printmaking (I heart Zea Mays - a studio devoted to teaching, promoting, and developing creature-friendly printmaking techniques.) I'm so happy - I always get excited about new (to me) art-techniques, but I really feel like I found it with woodblock engraving because: it's a technique that wants to be small and meticulous, it's challenging, but highly reproducible, responsive to practice, and involves very few chemicals! Love, love, love! (All those tiny parallel lines I made on things like "Open Hearted" and the neon poster to practice hand control will actually come in handy - haha.)

Even though it was a relatively short workshop (3 days), I feel like working with an expert (Barry Moser has illustrated or designed over 300 books including a version of the entire Christian Bible) saved me a phenomenal amount of "trial and error" time with information about which materials to use, how to handle and care for the tools, what are common pitfalls, and which of them are fixable (or not). Plus, I got to try printing on different papers and with different color inks :). (!!! Art-happiness)

I'm so happy, but I also feeling a little overwhelmed by extremes - for example wanting to make tiny things and giant things at the same time. (I'm in the process of writing a grant proposal for another full gallery installation...) big/small, flat/dimensional, inside/outside, happy/sad - everywhere things being broken apart into 2's.

I don't think wanting to move toward extremes at the same time is the problem though, I think what's bothering me is that keeping things separate reinforces a division: "this print is tiny (full stop). This installation tree is giant." (Not even a single "and" in that statement.) I think one of my art-missions right now is to find ways to reconcile extremes so that I can draw attention to all the beautiful between-ness (hmmmm).

But before I can get there, practice, practice, practice. I'm so excited about this technique and want to get really good at it. Even though my intention is to cut up the prints and use them in collages, I like the possibility of edition them too...

Refining for Tempus Fugit Redux: phase 1 the first go round was "do/make the work." (new question: what is "the" work - how is it particular? answer: intricate, reconciling extremes (non-binary), modular/portable, thing focused instead of space focused). I have ideas about what I want to do/make, but there is still so much to learn, which brings me to the principle for phase 1 redux: develop and appreciate expertise. (Haha - just a little, lifelong, mission there, no biggie ;)).

6 x 4" wood block engraving.  
“Leaving is not enough. You must stay gone. Train your heart like a dog. Change the locks even on the house he's never visited. You lucky, lucky girl. You have an apartment just your size. A bathtub full of tea. A heart the size of Arizona, but not nearly so arid. Don't wish away your cracked past, your crooked toes, your problems are papier mache puppets you made or bought because the vendor at the market was so compelling you just had to have them. You had to have him. And you did. And now you pull down the bridge between your houses, you make him call before he visits, you take a lover for granted, you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic. Make the first bottle you consume in this place a relic. Place it on whatever altar you fashion with a knife and five cranberries. Don't lose too much weight. Stupid girls are always trying to disappear as revenge. And you are not stupid. You loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars, and here you stand. Heart like a four-poster bed. Heart like a canvas. Heart leaking something so strong they can smell it in the street.”
- from a letter of Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell
(Since we're appreciating experts, I thought I'd add a caption, from one of my favorite art-making experts)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tempus Fugit Redux - prequel (fixing to start)

So it was a blue moon this week. It's funny, because I didn't know that until after the fact, but I must have sensed it, because I photographed it. I feel like things have been a little uncanny lately - I haven't made anything since Sunday (nothing, no thing, not a thing - sadness).  Instead I've been trying to "build to last," and get ready for Tempus Fugit Redux  by systematically going through my giant "to do" board and literally 'wiping the slate clean' by either doing or re-evaluating and letting go of everything left on the board from the first half of 2013.  Some of the things were harder to let go of than others, but since the show opened in late July, I've been working toward getting back to the starting line so I can press "reset." I got the board cleared Tuesday (Yay!), then immediately filled it again (haha).

One thing I want to do is take some time to reflect on the project as a whole (even though I always want to be doing/making, I feel like I need to restrain myself a little right now, because once I start doing/making, thoughts will be specific rather than general (all time is not the same)). I've been thinking about the overall project and how to refine it, so that it's not about doing the same project over, it's about doing it better. The question is what is "better," and how can I reach it? Since I think by making pictures, I decided to start with the artwork and go backwards ;) The fact that the project ended with a body of work called "The Forest of And, And, And" could mean a few things:

A forest is a place (a complex, mysterious, place full of intricate systems of living things). With Tempus Fugit, I set out to manage space/time to reflect my devotion to art, based on the hypothesis that this would lead to greater happiness. To me, space and time are inseparable (I can only deduce space by seeing movement which happens over time; I only know time exists because I'm in a place and can observe change), so it wasn't a bad idea in theory, but in practice I got overwhelmed (And, And, And), and ended up focusing more on space than time. 

That's ok - lots of good things came out of the focus on space - I live in a different place now than I did at the start of the project. Thoughtful decisions have been made and acted upon, so some of the big questions of place can now be retired (or wiped off the metaphoric whiteboard). I feel like I'm where I'm meant to be for art-happiness (check mark, gold star :)) This go round, Tempus Fugit Redux can focus primarily on questions of time while refining spacial issues. 

But it's not just any forest - it's the place of "And, And, And" - a repetition and a conjunction.

I think the repetition is important. I'm always excited to talk to other artists about process and learn how they make things. Lately, I've been pursuing some specialized technical skills (with a running list of more). In a way, I feel a guilty about this, because I spend a lot (a lot of a lot) of time learning and developing new materials and techniques, and it's a challenging for me to explain exactly why. The list might seems random or like I'm just scattered or never satisfied, but when I really looked at all the skills I want to develop, they do have something in common - they all have to do with repetition. I feel like I'm comfortable making individualized things (like with the Power in Precision Project),  and now I want to learn lots of ways to repeat things, so I can contrast the two (which will emphasize each - ah, there is a method to my madness ;p). I'm honing in on the techniques that will help me make work about individuality.

"And" is a conjunction though - it connects things. "And" indicates something more will follow, a new idea, but one still connected to the previous thought (patterns within patterns within patterns). So maybe its not just individuality, but individuation, the process of something becoming unique (which is why I need to be able to make repetitions and not just create unique things - so I can show the unique separating from the generic). Furthermore, as a conjunction, "And" isn't the idea itself, its the connector - the part that's between ideas. I feel drawn to what is between out of compassion (long story), but the technique should reflect this. I think it's starting to (the chimeras are made up of individual pieces that are sown together so the parts with different materials and techniques make up one form. Moving forward, particular attention directed to 'between-ness' (mission: building a home-place for that which is between).

Lastly, I don't want to ignore that "And, And, And" indicates overwhelmed. I get so excited about learning and making things that a lot of times it's hard to focus on one thing at a time, and there's just so much information everywhere all the time. More mindfulness to working on this. One way might be by limiting things - looking at the list of new directions, most fall into three categories - printmaking, molds/casting, digital. So maybe I'll stick with printmaking for now, and reassess in a few months? 

Hmmmmmm. I feel better already (Now I can get back to making things, right? I kind of bore myself without pictures.) 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tempus Fugit Redux

It was a helter-skelter week of art-making. I'm super excited about "Tempus Fugit Redux," but also feel like, now that I've made a decision about how to move forward, I want to take a time out to work through and complete other projects that are in process. I'm super excited that my work is getting out there (two thumbs way up!!!) - there are works in 4 shows, all of it recent, and I'm preparing for 2 more that open or ship in the next month (Yay!!) One challenge is that I want to give each piece the attention and devotion it needs (documenting, framing, packing, installing, de-installing). To have enough energy to do a good job, I'm trying to be more conscientious about resting and trying not starting a bunch of new things right now (operative word - trying ;)). Maybe a good addendum for phase 1 is "do/make the work - then care for it." Hmmmm.

I made a custom frame for "the keyhole" this past week. Revisiting this piece was a good  opportunity for reflection because I started it last July/August and it's one of the first works to grow out of the Tempus Fugit project during phase 1: do/make the work.

Sometimes I find myself irritating. I set out to make a simple frame and ended up with something almost as complex as the central piece. Luckily, knowing that things often take longer than I think, I left a few "extra" days to work on this task and ended up using every second. On the one hand, I find it frustrating that I can take any process, no matter how seemingly straightforward, and turn it into a labor-intensive nightmare (making this involved many steps of masking, painting, refining and, it doesn't show in the photo, but there are gold patters within the gold sections. All the colors except the blue are built up with sections of tiny parallel lines - patterns within patterns within patterns.) On the one hand, this is an insane way to go about this task; on the other hand, I do really like the frame. It has lots of features from the "things I like list" - patterns, flat, shiny, foilage, bright, intricate detail, repetition, and I've developed the technique for building up the patterns over the course of the intervening year. 

 I can't really explain or justify making the frame this way except to say that its more enjoyable to me now than it was before. Not only is it more visually appealing, but I feel the frame locates the piece "between" - it has lots of 3D elements and more painting now so it's less clear - is it a drawing or a painting? a 2D work or a relief sculpture? How many pieces is it exactly? To me, choosing inefficiency is an affirmation of humanness (a person can chose to be inefficient, but a machine is exactly as efficient as its programmed to be), so while it may seem crazy, I think making the frame in this way is actually the right thing for me. (hmmmm...)

My donation to "Postcards from the Trail"
an exhibition and sale in support of the Thomas Cole
Historical Site on September 8th

Other art-things I've been up to - I made this small mixed media collage for the Thomas Cole Historic Site benefit on September 8th (Thomas Cole was the founder of the Hudson River School, and helped establish American art in the region - who knows - without him, I may not live where I do? -Yay for art history!) After the scavenger hunt of a few weeks ago, I've been thinking more about the fact that space/place are very important to my work and have been cleaning and organizing to try to make things more streamlined.

5 minutes
20 minutes
10 minutes
Also more figure drawing (:)!) I looooove figure drawing. Thinking more about not getting things on the first try, I've been working on developing a new technique where I draw the figure twice - once in vine (smear) then again in a denser charcoal. I've also noticed that I'm drawn to extremes (giant room-scale installation, then tiny mini-paintings), so, I've been working on grey paper so that I can start in the middle of the gradient and move toward the ends. This also allows me to work in both the positive (charcoal) and negative (eraser), which is another aspect of technique that I've been thinking about since starting to learn more about relief sculpture in Colorado

Overall, an art-filled week!

10 minute pose (!?! pats self on back  - practice, practice, practice ;P)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tempus Fugit round-up

can you spot the micro-ants?
First (shameless self-promotion ahead ;)) - check out this lovely article by John Seven in the North Adams Transcript about the show! I think it's well-written, and it really does sound like me :). The North Adams show has been extended until September 3rd, so if you missed the opening - there's still time and another DownStreet Art Event on August 14th. 

I've been a laying low a bit lately still trying to catch up on some of the things I put off or let go of to get ready for the show.  I installed a new drainage pipe for the sump pump, have been working in the yard, and had help from lovely friends with painting in the kitchen and healing the electricity (thank you!! I have lights in the bathroom and, very important, the socket for my coffee maker is working - ahhhhh - happy human!) And I even got in a little baking - cinnamon brownies with dark chocolate and mini chips and mini chocolate chip cookies (yum).

Last week's scavenger hunt was fun, but it did draw my attention to how important my environment is to me. I've been trying to get my space clean and tidy, to inspire clarity in the studio. 
I made the frame too :)
I feel like I'm behind on everything and am in denial that it's August. Last week marks the one year anniversary of the start of the Tempus Fugit Project - an experiment in time/space management to maximize the expression of art-devotion! Since Tempus Fugit was conceived as a year long project, I've been reflecting this week on whether to extend the project or let it end.  In some ways the timing is right to let it go - the concrete goal was to create a body of work that reflects my devotion to art, and with the opening of the installation at Gallery 105, I feel like I have a chance to show an almost entirely new body of work created as part of the project.  
Haven't you always wanted a horse painting the size of a domino?

In other ways, I feel like I haven't quite reach my goals yet. I imagined the project as having more than 8 phases (conclusion: things often take longer than I expect). There have been some major space changes in my life over the past year - I moved 1000 miles across the country, and visited Virginia, Colorado, Chicago, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia. I feel like I found the right place for myself and my work and am working out a balance of travel vs. staying put; but...I'm just starting to look at time changes and how to take steps towards focusing more of my energy on art-making and scaling back on some of the non-art things in my life that draw off a lot of energy where and when possible.
put a bird in it ;)
My favorite tree

I'm having trouble letting go of the project, and I've been asking myself whether extending the project will really be productive or if it's just a way to delay having to face one project ending before I'm ready to start another?  This does tie in to phase 8 - not all time is the same (find focus) because, while I can pour lots of energy into a project, sometimes it's hard to shift focus once it's done (like too many other possibilities become "suddenly" visible all at once - for more about the effect of attention on perception - check out the "invisible Gorilla experiment" discussed by Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow.) In terms of not all time being the same, I'm eager to get started on the next project because summer is when I have the most energy to start new things. 

So I got to thinking... (uh oh!) When it comes to art-making - I make lots of mistakes, but I'm persistent (check out these first, second (third) tries from the North Adams show: (#haha)
 I've been thinking that maybe I'll do the same thing with the Tempus Fugit project - try again and refine based on what I learned the first time around. The project was supposed to be cumulative, but I did a better job maintaining some of the principles than others once my attention shifted to the next phase. So I'm thinking - the ones that were more challenging to maintain, I'll try again, and the ones I did better with, can be  short or replaced with something new.  That way, there will be a chance to practice the things that could still use more work while also adding new things to keep it moving forward. And the whole project becomes a repetition with variation (and I do loooove repetition with variation - on the "things I like" list!) 

Round up:
Phase 8 - Not All Time is the Same (find focus) (June - July 2013) - still working on it so hard to gain perspective yet, will check back
Phase 7 - Look for Patterns (then do something) (April - May 2013) - love this one (maybe my favorite) - check!
Phase 6 - start from what you know and build from there (or practice, practice, practice) (February - March, 2013) - this new iteration  totally counts on this one, and I got going in the studio again by making minis this week - gold star!
Phase 5 - be brave, every decision involves loss (December - January 2013) - still working on this one
Phase 4 - acknowledge limits (November - December 2012) - fail
Phase 3 - dwell in the house of possibility (October 2012) - still much to be done, but overall - thumbs up 
Phase 2 - be prepared for good things (August - October 2012) - trying, but I may need to re-strategizes on this one
           2b - take time for meaningful rest and reflection - fail 
           2c - build to last - getting there    
           2d - lay the foundation for giving - yay - this one is lots of fun  
Phase 1 - do/make the work (July - August 2012) - this first - Always. 

Double  kitties -  a repetition with variation
Even funnier - what's off camera?
 They're both staring at they're food  bowls.