Days and weeks can seem to pass in the blink of an eye, or so it seems in my little world. But I've done and seen some interesting things in the past couple of weeks. One of the most noteworthy was seeing Annie Bisset's exhibit, We Are Pilgrims, a suite of beautiful mokuhanga prints, at The Cullom Gallery in Seattle. I've also made a few trips to Tacoma to participate in the month-long, city wide art 'festival' where I attended an artist's talk by Janet Marcavage, a poetry reading and an interesting workshop entitled 'Time Management for Artists." All good things to be sure. And I have done a bit of sketching along the way. Here are two entries to bring me, sort of, up to date. My sleep has been out of whack lately. Can you tell?
I'm a slacker and have allowed myself to become overwhelmed by the other, less creative parts of my life. Day job, house stuff, oh, and i got another kitten. Henry asked me for a little sister or brother and how could i say no? Jolene joined the family but not without the sibling rivalry that inevitably results. Poor Henry has become very familiar with the squirt bottle and i have felt a kitten patrol officer. Honestly, what was i thinking? But seriously, could you say no to this?
No time in the studio makes me cranky and then rusty and then fearful. The only way to blast through the roadblock is to, in the words of author, Anne Lamott, 'allow myself to make shit' and then sit down with a brush, a bottle of ink and a pad of newsprint and have at it. I did that yesterday and blasted out about 25 brush sketches. It was scary and difficult but worth it. Not for the work produced, but for what came after when I turned my attention to serious drawing for some new work, which I will share when the time is right.
Often, when a print is 'finished' I must put it away and not look at it for a few days, (or a week or several weeks). Most of the time the finished work doesn't match my 'vision', (whatever that means) and I'm left with a tinge of disappointment. In all honesty, I can name probably three pieces that, upon completion, one could have heard me shout, "viola!" This print was not one of them. It was put away for a few days and glanced at occasionally while working on a new project, but I have now come to a place where I can accept it for the print that it is. There are things I like about it, and other things I would do differently, but isn't that true with just about everything in life?
Spring Fever 1 - procrastination & Spring Fever 2, concentration
As of late I have turned my attention to bookmaking and am in the home stretch of making an accordion book of prints from blocks carved several years ago. I like making books in that it's a nice combination of creative abandon and precise technical skills, (not that all my angles are right angles, mind you). Whenever I finish a book and everything lines up and it looks pretty-okay, I feel as though something magical has happened. Here's a spread of two pages:
sink or swim - detail
Sadly, my sketchbook has been neglected, (she said shamefully, followed with a promise to rectify that situation straight away). Here's something from previous pages:
No need to list a bazillion reasons why I'm behind in my weekly posting. The photo explains it all, (well, to be completely honest, I also spent a little time catching up with past seasons of Mad Men)...
See the black blob and tail? That's Henry. Henry is sitting on the blocks I began carving last weekend. Henry is a cute, little roadblock in my creative process. My goal for this weekend is to complete the carving I started last weekend and add a bit more color and detail to the prints I began two weekends ago...
Spring Fever after three passes
And since I'm on an honesty kick, here are two sketches, one for last week, one for this week...
Busy week last week. My number-one-son moved home on Sunday only to get a job offer in the bay area on Monday. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of his unpacking and repacking I welcomed a new kitten into my home. His name is Henry. I forgot just how active kittens can be, (but oh how sweet). Add to that, a more hectic pace at the day job with all the preparations for the upcoming fall schedule. The holiday weekend found me juggling the above and working in my studio. My September print is well under way. Several times over the past week I spotted the Farmers Insurance blimp cruising through the sky. On the radio today I learned the blimp is in the area for scientific reasons, to look at whales in Puget Sound, and I learned the blimp now prefers to be called a zeppelin. Sounds to me like the blimp is getting uppity since becoming involved in scientific research. Pretty soon it will be Dr. Zeppelin.
The first of September, already! I've made two goals for this month. Number one, start and finish a diptych based on this sketch. Number two, get rid of the mulch pile in my driveway. I'll keep you posted.
Such a busy weekend! On Saturday...after riding 40 miles on my bike, I spent four hours pulling weeds and hauling mulch and rocks, (thanks to my dear, sweet neighbor who simply wants me to be the best i can be). On Sunday I attended the annual Seattle Print Arts picnic at Sidereal Press, ( a print shop/facility to die for!) after I attended Eva Pietzcker artist's talk and demonstration at Cullom Gallery. Eva is also a NAP alumni, and seeing her work and watching her demo was truly inspiring. Her exquisite prints reminded me of just how beautiful Japanese-style woodblock prints can be. The color, which permeates the paper, (and doesn't just sit on top of it as in oil based prints) is radiant, luminous. Since returning from Japan I have shied away from moku hanga. The intention has been there, but the courage has been lacking. My biggest fear has been sizing paper. After talking with Eva yesterday I realize my 'mountain' of paper sizing is really just a molehill, (and I'm kinda dumb.) Eva uses sized paper. This morning I hopped online, purchased some sized paper and am one step closer to hauling out my maru bakes, barens and sumi ink. Below is the announcement postcard for Eva's exhibit at the Cullom Gallery, (see it through October 9th!)
(detail) Baltic Sea, Moving Trees - Eva Pietzcker, 2009
When I was in college, the professor of my Introduction to Drawing class gave an interesting and useful assignment...100 drawings of one object, (I chose a cardboard box). Looking back I understand what a brilliant assignment this was. After the first dozen or so drawings, one simply must 'get creative' to fulfill the 100 drawing quota! I've been reading Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit, and in her chapter entitled, Ruts and Grooves I discovered Ms. Tharp suggests something similar. She says, "If you find yourself caught in a rut, what you really need is a new idea, and the way to get it is by giving yourself an aggressive quota for ideas." She then describes an exercise she uses when she lectures at colleges...she shows students an object (she used a stool in her example) and challenges them to come up with 60 uses for the object in two minutes. She finds there is a consistent order to the quality of ideas; the first being the most obvious, and the ideas closer to number 60, more imaginative and creative. The same was true with my 100 drawings of the cardboard box. Lately I've found myself lost and uninspired, experiencing lots of fits and starts and getting absolutely nothing accomplished in my studio, the result of which is pessimism. (Twyla addresses pessimism too, she calls it 'the mother rut".) So earlier this week, in an attempt to just do something, I sat down at my drawing table with a stack of assorted sketchbooks, pens, brushes, pencils and paints, and spend an entire day doing nothing but drawing; sort of a combined variation on the 100 drawings and the 60 uses exercises. I don't have any wildly imaginative drawings to post, (would you believe the wildly imaginative ones are too large for my scanner?) but the day of drawing did propel me out of my malaise, and into a better place...out of my rut and searching for a groove.
On a day that felt more like the first of September than the first of August it actually was, I pulled out a piece of copper and for the first time in more years than i want to admit, did a dry point sketch. I wouldn't say the result was 'successful', but the process was informative and fun. Me thinks I shall further explore this technique.
On another note, today, the smoke from the wild fires in British Columbia turned our Seattle sun an eerie and wonderful orange. I tried to take a picture but my camera went blind.
This week I refinished my backyard deck. I figure I saved several dollars doing it myself. But, now that the job is done I am reminded of that saying, "you get what you pay for." Still, it looks a lot better than it did just one week ago, with the bonus of no more risking life and limb stepping out the back door only to slip and slide on icky moss and mildew! Perhaps the 'sprucing up' will make my back yard less attractive to raccoons. Speaking of which, tired of happening upon piles of raccoon skat, I've had two raccoon traps installed in my backyard. So far I've caught two cats and a squirrel.
The weather has changed and it is now summertime in the northwest. With the sunshine and warm temperatures I find that my energy for domestic chores is waning. Oh, the bloated chore list still looms; every time I turn a corner in my humble dwelling some new or existing task requiring toil, sweat and elbow grease jumps out at me. Lately, my typical response is to cover my eyes and run in the opposite direction. My energy these days leans more in the direction of watching The Tour, drinking lemon water, reading suspense novels and, one of my favorite summertime activities, spitting cherry pits.
I have a doodle pad at work. It was made from paper that would otherwise end up in the recycling bin. Recycling is good, right? But, I'm still bothered seeing paper in the bin that is blank on one side. So, I fish it out of the bin, trim it to a convenient size, clip the sheets together and keep this ever growing doodle pad next to my phone. The minute I pick up the phone to take a call, I pick up a pen. Sometimes my phone calls require serious and important notes, other times not. It is during those less serious calls that I doodle. At home it has been a busy week for me, what with two cars in the shop, yard sale preparations, deck cleaning and raccoon hunting, I've had little time with my sketch book; so today I'm sharing a couple of my telephone doodles.
I have returned from my travels and am slowly readjusting to my 'real' life. Amazingly, this is not as easy as it sounds....for me. I was appalled that the grass continued to grow while i was away! The same goes for bills arriving in my mailbox and food decaying in my refrigerator! Add to that, rusty drawing skills after not picking up my sketchbook for 10 days, and you have the perfect recipe for one unhappy mama.
This week has been consumed with out of town family gatherings. The busy days have left my sketchbook lonely and neglected. But my children are with me and more than once I have happened upon them doodling away or painting postcards to send home to friends. I guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. So this week I am posting some of their work.
A few weeks ago I read an article about productivity. The author interviewed some big-wig executives and the latter divulged the secrets of their success. Some of the big-wigs waxed philosophical and hardly made sense at all; others described their over-achieving lifestyles of getting up for a 3:30 workout, followed by a 25 mile bike ride, returning home in time to make whole grain waffles for the kids before dropping them off at school on the way to the office. Ridiculous, right? But, remarkably, I did read one interesting approach to productivity that I have tried to put into practice over the past few weeks. One executive, (can't remember who; should've taken notes) said she uses a to-do list, (I love lists, so of course this caught my eye) but she doesn't prioritize her list. She reasons that every item on the to-do is important, so by focusing on the item she has the most energy for, her productivity will be at its highest. Me and to-do lists go way back, but I've always prioritized my lists. I got to thinking, 'how much time have i wasted prioritizing my to-do list?' So I decided to try the 'executive' approach. My energy in recent days has definitely tended toward the domestic. In the past few weeks I have cleaned closets, sorted through years of clutter, and I have spent hours and hours doing yard work. I've spent some time in my studio too, but not nearly as much time as I've spent hauling mulch. Consider this my excuse for posting my Saturday sketch on Wednesday. My sketch is late, but my front yard looks awesome.
One year ago today I was beginning a one-month printmaking workshop in Florence. Please, can I please do that again, please? Perhaps it was jet lag, but there were moments in my first hours in Italy when I wondered what the heck i was doing there...when i wondered if participating in printmaking workshop with people half my age was a stroke of genius or a really stupid idea. Not too soon after those first desperate moments I, "got over it" and immediately began to relish every single second of my time there. My month of days was comprised of mornings viewing Michelangelo, Botticelli, Bernini, the de Medici's, Ferragamo, and SO much more, followed by afternoons spent immersed in serious studio work. How did I ever get so lucky?!?! It's not easy to take photos of the exquisite art in Florence, (no photo, no photo!) and really, why bother? It's like trying to take a picture of the Grand Canyon...you just can't capture it. But postcards are readily available. I have a collection. Here are two of my favorites...
One of my favorite sights... Deposizione Jacopo Pontormo Santa Felicita, Firenze
The Duomo, a full moon ...and kittens!
Over the next month I anticipate there will be many, "ah, Firenze!" moments. Please, can I please do that again, please?
On a totally unrelated note, I spent some time in my yard today, pulling weeds and generally clearing a pathway from the back yard to the front. Dabbling in the genteel art of gardening can be quite satisfying. I'd post a picture of the results of my attempt to reign in mother nature, but without a 'before' picture, I fear it would be quite meaningless. But the bigger news is, there is a raccoon living under my deck! The reason I know this is, I've seen this critter saunter through my back yard four times now and when I ask it what it's doing in my yard it just looks at me and runs under the deck. I'm thinking it's a she-raccoon and that there is a brood of babies in a cozy little nest under there. But I've heard that if you see a raccoon in the daytime it could be rabid. And if that's the case, then spending all that time in my yard today was very risky and dangerous. Two things I've always considered yard work to be.
Doesn't it sometimes feel like all the pieces and parts of your life have been thrown in a bowl (a bowl big enough to hold 27 years of experiences) and tossed about like some great big cosmic salad? No? Maybe it's just me.
It has been a whirlwind week for me; so whirlwind-ish, I had little time for sketching; so little time for sketching that I am forced to cheat; a double-whammy cheat in that not only is my post a day late, it's also an older sketch; a sketch I passed over for posting a while back; a pencil sketch! (I have no idea if I used proper punctuation in that sentence.) Please forgive, (both the late posting and the improper use of semi-colons). This week promises to be less hectic; my sketchbook and flair pens are ready and waiting.
My print and I have had a good run but it is time to go our separate ways. Oh sure, there were good times, but there were some tough times too. I think we learned a few things and are both better for the experience. So, after a little drying time, my print will head off to the framer. As for me, I already have my sites set on my next conquest.