According to Flickr, this was my best image of 2011, at least it was my most popular, ranking at a hefty number 13 on my "Popular" count, which is really just Flickr's "special sauce" although it's still (somewhat) reliable I suppose. It was uploaded on March 31 and first posted to this blog about that time, although it was also posted a few other places, most notably it made the front page of Utata, an on-line journal which I love and support.
The shot itself was taken at one of my favorite places to photograph. It was shot on location in Santa Fe, New Mexico at a place called "Jackalope" which is a fantastic environment for great photos. It's a photo-friendly place with lots of pottery, furniture, odd doors, bric-a-brac and the like. I have shot many things at Jackalope and it's one of those places I will return to time and again for some great shots, not to mention some great shopping. (They still have this really cool blue bench I want to get for the front of my door, but not sure how I would manage to get it back from Santa Fe, seeing as I usually fly there. Hmmm. Points to ponder.)
I plan to post my yearly recap of 2011 soon enough. Lately anyway, I've been thinking a lot about the year that was and the year that's coming up. Which directions I want to go in, which paths I want to take. It's been a time of transition in so many ways but I kind of like to think of it more like a time of transformation rather than transition. At least I'm really looking forward to seeing what things will grow into, rather than over-analyzing where they have been. Maybe that's why I've been so reluctant to post any 2011 "wrap up" type of material. I'm too busy looking ahead and thinking about what's in store for next year. I've also been working on a lot of new stuff, cranking out work about as quickly as I can given the constraints I have before me.
We'll see what 2012 brings soon enough, I suppose, seeing as it starts on Sunday. Wow! Where did the year go? Time to make plans, get setup for more work going out, do lots more stuff, and get 2012 ready to roll, isn't it? Oh, wish me luck with that, for I am going to need all of the help I can get.
I hope 2011 brought you some memorable shots and some great photography and art in your lives as well. Here's looking at 2012 with bright spirits and best intentions.
Happy soon to be new year, everybody!
Until next time...
Friday, December 30, 2011
According to Flickr, this was my best image of 2011, at least it was my most popular, ranking at a hefty number 13 on my "Popular" count, which is really just Flickr's "special sauce" although it's still (somewhat) reliable I suppose. It was uploaded on March 31 and first posted to this blog about that time, although it was also posted a few other places, most notably it made the front page of Utata, an on-line journal which I love and support.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
In the process of updated my gallery website, HouseOfCarol.com, I decided to add some information to the site about encaustic and the art of encaustic painting. Since I've been doing a lot of encaustic work recently, I thought it might be a good idea to update the gallery website a bit with some information about the process and, since I was updating that website with some new information, I thought it might be a good idea too if I could share some of that material here as well.
Here is more information about encaustic for the curious.
Encaustic painting is both a contemporary form of artistic expression and an antique process for painting. Encaustic paintings date back to the 1st century-the technique was used in the Fayum mummy portraits in ancient Egypt circa 100-300 AD and more recently by contemporary American artist Jasper Johns.
Encaustic paintings are generally made by using a mixture of beeswax, damar resin and heat as a medium and typically some type of pigment for coloring. Often artist pigments are used, but other items such as coffee, tea, dirt, or any item containing a coloring can be used to provide the desired hue. Encaustics are both a type of paint medium and a technique, with the technique being heating the wax to a melted state and applying it to a support, ensuring each layer is fused with heat of some kind. The surface is manipulated with tools such as irons, hot air guns, metal spatulas, or other tools to provide the desired appearance of the finished painting.
While this may provide you with the "textbook" definition of encaustics, as a practicing encaustic artist, I like to think of encaustics a bit differently. For starters, there are almost as many encaustic techniques as there are painters working with encaustics-every artist I have worked with or met seems to find their own unique way of working with wax. There really is no "right" or "wrong" way to do it-it's more like a "jump right in and give it a go" type of painting style.
Encaustics too are really a material study and an excuse for artists to make their own paint. Being very "hands on" the artist gets lost working with layers, embedding objects, working with color, texture, and fusion. There is a simple rhythm to working with encaustics, the melting, the fusing, the working of the materials, it's almost hypnotic in nature and I find it very relaxing but also sort of a playground for artistic experimentation. There are always new things to try, new techniques to learn and every day in the studio brings new surprises. Working with different types of heat sources, everything from a heat gun to a blow torch, working with different brushes, different wax media, various pigments, a host of found objects, and layer after layer of opaque textural surfaces really lends an element of surprise to each piece. It's a forgiving medium, yes, but I like to think that each and every encaustic piece is really some kind of "happy accident" as results often do vary when you paint with a blow torch. That's all really part of the fun of working with the medium though, as painting with encaustics can be more of an adventure and less an academic study in material sciences.
I get asked to demo and speak about encaustics frequently as it is a lesser-known and not as practiced media. I like to explain to people at these demos and talks that encaustics are not the media for you if you are looking for absolute control and are very fussy about having a strict outcome for your artwork. On the other hand, if you are flexible and have a sense of adventure about your painting, you just might find working with encaustics to be a liberating, fun, sometimes challenging but always wondrous experience. If you're the sort of artist who likes to dabble, play, experiment and try new things, encaustics must just be a wonderful media for you.
Over the course of painting and exhibiting encaustics, I have found too that many patrons either immediately fall in love with the look of the finished wax pieces or just completely fail to understand the appeal of encaustic arts at all. Encaustic paintings are a bit like the "Babe Ruth" of the art world-you will either immediately fall in love and change the way you see things or you will just relegate to the "I don't get it" pile in the back of your mind.
Shown in this image is a close-up detail of a recently completed encaustic piece from my studio work earlier this year. In this detail, you can see the colors and layers of wax that have been applied to give the finished piece it's final appearance. This is a small detail (maybe about 1 or 2 inches square) from an 18 inch by 24 inch painted panel.
I look forward to posting more encaustic pieces and sharing more about the process here in the future.
Until next time...
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Just got finished with a busy studio day today. Wonderfully sunny day today here in Austin and I spent most of the afternoon in studio working and, when I wasn't do that, I was dodging a low-flying bumble bee that kept gunning for my head.
Remember how the other day I commented about mistakes and mistake-fixing in the studio? About how I had spent the entire day (the other day) fixing up prior "studio mistakes?" Well, today was what I like to call "giant project day."
What I mean by that is that, today I set out to just sort of knock out a bunch of paintings, and, did I do that? Nope. What did I do instead? Start one particular painting that can only be described (really) as a "giant project." What do I mean by a "giant project?" Well, it's one of those paintings that I'm going to be working on for a while. A long while. Like sometime in the year 2014 it might get finished, but only if I sweat a lot, really buckle-down and get to it. I'm going to work, work, work on this piece and it might still never get finished but I will be eternally hopefully that, one day, as soon as I get around to it, I'm sure as shooting going to finish *that* piece. Yeah, it's one of those.
I truly believe that all artists have paintings like this. We go into studio, carve out some sort of "half-baked idea," maybe even have some general direction we want to go with the work and we start working. But then, something happens. Something happens as we work away, something that makes us realize this isn't going to be finished anytime soon now but also that this piece is somewhat "special" in some small way and, as such, it deserves the added attention. It's not just added attention, no, we fully comprehend the idea that the piece is going to turn into some great project, some big "chunk" of our lives are to be devoted to it, and it's going to fully consume us until we complete it, though we recognize this won't happen anytime soon. The piece has spoken and who are we, mere mortals, to disagree with the universe, the cosmos or, heck, even the great pumpkin. (We are doomed.)
Today was that sort of a day for me-I made that kind of a piece. It didn't start out that way, but it sure ended up that way.
For starters, I got up early, went to the bank, grocery store, and Home Depot to get more plaster supplies (it's amazing how much plaster a girl can blow through when she is painting like this, trust me on that one.) Then I had something to eat and headed into the studio.
From a previous studio session, I had plastered up an 18x18 inch board and left it to dry, so this was sitting there, waiting for me. Instead of doing more of the type of work you see pictured here (this is pigment stick on panel) I wanted to do the plaster technique today for a couple of reasons-mostly because I wanted to work a bit smaller today (this "Desert Hill" is 18x24 while the plaster series is 18x18) but also because I was out of the 18x24 primed panels, so I opted instead to use the plastered panels I had done up last time I was out in the studio. No worries, I do this often and it makes for interesting painting, as I get to mix things up a bit.
So, I looked at the plastered panel and thought, "Hmm. What color do I want to do this?" I had some silver paint on the palette (encaustics are difficult to do with so many colors at a time because the palette needs to be heated and so there is limited space for a multitude of colors.) I settled on a purple-ish color (since that goes well with the silver I had already melted) and thought, "Oh! I have some pigment sticks that I got pretty cheaply and those were some bright colors." Sure enough, I had purchased a purple pigment stick.
Next up, I got the pressing urge to draw a house, the way I always do, so I thought that, since I was using the pigment sticks and I can kind of "draw" with them (well sort of) I would try to draw an abstract house-ish like drawing and then wax on top of it. No worries, as again this is not something new. So I started to draw the house with the purple color and then I decided I would make a little "village" and so I grabbed a red-ish color and a blue (a beautiful bright blue actually-wow!) and then I wanted an earth to my, well, "earth" so I made that brown and then I had to fill in the sky so I made that sort of blue-ish but the blue color from the house was not quite the right color blue for the sky (it was more like electric blue!) so instead I tinted, toned, and shaded that with some dark grey and some white in places. Before I knew it, I had myself a cute little "village" scene and, well it's really quite pretty. (I shot it with my iPhone so maybe I will be able to show it to you at some point.)
Anyway, now that the little "village" was done, I have to seal it with the encaustic medium. I started to do that, but then found out that I had used so much pigment stick that it "smudged" and wound up making my wax turn red (well, actually the "earth" color in my "village.") With some gloves on, I worked the pigments from the pigment sticks around and made a sort of hot mess, but I rather like it. The pigments from the pigment stick hold together even if you smudge them around and sort of "finger paint" with them, not to mention the plaster makes little bumps and groves that either prevent the pigments from going in there (wind up looking like white cracks) or collect the pigments (wind up looking like shadows since they are spots with darker pigments than other areas of the surface-like dark crevices really.)
The short version is that the entire thing wound up with a lot of pigment on it and it made a mess of my hot palette painting area.
One of the problems I have as an artist is that I hate to paint with brushes. I know that probably sounds silly but I actually prefer (very much so) to either paint with my hands or to use a knife or a trowel like the way they usually apply plaster or stucco. If none of those options are available, then and only then will I turn to using a brush. Lastly, if the brush thing doesn't work out, I use spray paint. I really hate spray paint though, as I don't feel like I have my "hand" in the work at all; I feel very disconnected. Finger painting is quite the opposite of that for me, as I actually like to smudge and smear around the paint, working it with my hands. Once I find a brush I rather like too, I tend to stick with it so I have collected many brushes but only (typically) paint with a few of the ones I favor.
I recognize though that this practice of finger painting can be quite toxic when using things like pigment sticks as they are petroleum based and also the proper artist pigments are none too healthy to inhale too much of in the studio. Nevertheless, I much prefer to work with my hands, so I usually done a pair of rubber gloves and work over the pieces with my fingers anyway, taking frequent breaks to get away from the fumes.
For most of my studio time today, there was a bee buzzing around my wax station, looking to check out the melting beeswax. Usually doing encaustics attracts bees-no real surprise here, they are drawn to the smell of the melting beeswax, but I've always found (and been told that) they come around a bit to sort of "check out" the "new home" but then also take off once they do so and realize it is not their (own personal) humble abode. I'm told this is sort of similar to humans-the way we kind of maybe "check out new condos" that are being built near where we live-we're inherently nosy creatures and want to be "up" on what's happening but, at the end of the day, don't really care all that much. Bees, I'm told, are no different from this. They usually come around, at least one lone one does, to check out the wax but then go away once they have suitably poked their "bees knees" into it and determined that it's just "low rent" housing, not suitable for their queen. Meh, off they go, flying into the sunset and the sweet nectar of the flowers they prefer.
Today though brought about a different type of bee. This particular fellow was quite determined to get a closer look at my "condos" of beeswax so I kept being dive bombed and had to keep dodging around to avoid being stung. I was buzzed quite frequently while working and this made it difficult to work, made it harder to rub the messy pigments all over the place, trying to avoid the cracks in the plaster and also to avoid the bee gunning for my head.
The end result is a piece that is not finished yet, rather it's got wax about the bottom "earthen" part of it and will have to be waxed more carefully, color by color, to avoid the pigments from "running" into the wax (or into each other.) Because of this, I will have to wax each color separately, fuse it gently with my heat gun, and then let it cool before moving onto the next color. All of that plus I've got to just hope the bee keeps his distance and is none too interested in my head. (Wish me luck here, as I am going to need it.)
Anyway, that piece is sitting on my workbench, awaiting me to finish it, which I hope to do at some point in the future. (You can hold me to it.) Tonight, I will be doing some paperwork and web-related items after photographing some of my recent studio output. Lately anyway, it feels like I have been working so much in the studio that I am starting to feel like some kind of "painting robot" and I don't have a life outside of it all. At least, it seems that way to me-lots of studio time and work just pouring out, although not always what I had intended to produce. All of this productivity has me wanting to do even more but I still feel the pressure of this higher output in my studio. As I was photographing the work, I realized today that I didn't even leave enough time to shoot it all, since there is so much new work awaiting me to photograph it and put it up on the web, not to mention the paperwork and such. Catching up with that is next up for me to do.
This particular piece "Desert Hill" is from a series I was hoping to produce this winter. I was hoping for twenty individual panels that I like, each representing a view of the desert areas outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico at dusk or sunset time. I guess maybe I was too ambitious, as I was hoping to be able to sort of knock out twenty of these over winter holiday. So far anyway, I have three of them that I am happy with, including the one pictured here, called "Desert Hill." My plan of producing twenty is going to take a bit longer than I had originally intended.
Normally, I try not to beat myself up about these things but lately anyway it seems like I am anxious to get these pieces photographed, framed, and out the door. I really could envision a wonderful 1-person show of this work. Could you see maybe twenty of these in wonderful wooden frames, hanging in a gallery somewhere? Honestly, I would love to be able to pull this off, but I can hardly manage avoiding the bee that's invaded my studio, not to mention I'm almost out of primed boards and I keep experimenting with plaster, yarn, and other things. I really have to try to stay focused and produce a devoted output, to not be so reactive to shows buzzing around me, much like the bee that has taken up residence in my studio.
In the new year, I will have to work hard, not only at painting more/better/faster but on staying focused on my goals, otherwise my 1-person encaustic show of "Earthen/Dusk" will be but a pipe dream and this will put a serious damper on my plans for next year.
Enough rambling for today, my dreaded paperwork awaits!
Until next time...
Monday, December 26, 2011
, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Let me tell you a tale about two different Christmases. Each Christmas happened this year and each is very special in its own way. Allow me to explain.
This weekend, on Friday, I believe, Nike released the newest and latest version of their ever so popular "Air Jordan" athletic shoes. These "Air Jordans" created such a frenzy that there were mobs and violence in some places, as frantic "Black Friday" shoppers tried to purchase a pair of the shoes. From a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, here are some of the reports on the chaos:
* In suburban Seattle, police used pepper spray on about 20 customers who started fighting at the Westfield Southcenter mall. An 18 year old man was arrested after he punched an officer.
* A man was stabbed when a brawl broke out between several people waiting in line at a Jersey City, New Jersey mall to buy the new shoes, authorities said. The 20-year-old man was expected to recover from his injuries.
* In Richmond, California, police say crowds waiting to buy the Air Jordan 11 Retro Concords at the Hilltop Mall were turned away after a gunshot rang out around 7 a.m.
* In Taylor, Michigan, about 100 people forced their way into a shopping center around 5:30 a.m., damaging decorations and overturning benches. Police say a 21-year-old man was arrested.
* In Lithonia, Georgia, at least four people were apparently arrested after customers broke down a door at a store selling the shoes. DeKalb County police said up to 20 squad cars responded.
Meanwhile, in Austin, Texas, in the morning hours of December 25th, Alan Graham, CEO of nonprofit Mobile Loaves and Fishes hit the streets of Austin in his food truck, distributing hot meals, clean clothing, and hygiene products to those in need. The news reported that, "Instead of opening presents under the tree, dozens of Austin families chose to give back on Christmas day." The Christmas morning route wrapped up around 10:00 a.m. with breakfast at IHOP, a Christmas tradition for the folks who volunteer with Mobile Loaves and Fishes.
Now, I can't speak for you, but I know for certain which Christmas I would have preferred to be a part of this year.
From the website for Mobile Loaves and Fishes: Our mission is to provide uncompromising love and hospitality to our brothers and sisters in need. We do this by empowering a league of volunteers in providing food, clothing, and promoting dignity to our homeless brothers and sisters in need. We accomplish this mission through the creation of relationships that cultivate a community life of stability and purpose.
MEALS SERVED: 2,840,492
TOTAL VOLUNTEERS: 16,368
This Christmas season, you have a choice. You can either be a part (maybe only a small part) of the first Christmas. Even if you don't get Air Jordans for yourself or your loved ones, you can go and help trample people at the mall or opt to be a part of the commercialism that the holiday has become, or you can opt to participate in "Christmas Number 2" and actually remember the spirit of the season. Now, I'm sure there are those out there who feel the pressing need to get themselves a new pair of Air Jordans because, after all, they have to, they just have to "fit in." But, maybe those people should really be asking themselves if, instead of "fitting in" with the "Air Jordan" crowd, maybe they should try "fitting in" with the 16,368 volunteers who actually made a difference in somebody's life this holiday season.
In case you need any additional persuasion, one of the people fed by the Mobile Loaves and Fishes food truck was a man who identified himself as "Shorty." Also from the website: Shorty, a homeless man, said he’s very appreciative of the service and, while this holiday season is bright, that has not always been the case.
"There's been times when I felt so bad I didn't care about the holidays anymore," Shorty said. "It's pretty much only one time out of the year that I can pretty much celebrate.”
Those Air Jordan's cost $180 a pair. I wonder how many homeless people the good folks over at Mobile Loaves and Fishes could feed with that kind of money, don't you? This holiday season, I'm very happy to hear that somebody gets it. It's a sign, albeit a small sign, that things are moving in the right direction. Maybe next Christmas, we can all strive to avoid the shopping malls completely and instead opt to hang with the Mobile Loaves and Fishes crowd.
They really are the coolest kids in town and, no, they don't need any special shoes to prove it.
Until next time...
Saturday, December 24, 2011
It's raining today in River City, making it a bit harder for Santa to get down our chimney pipes, but at least we don't have bitter cold and snow for poor ole jolly Saint Nick. I've readied the milk and cookies and quieted Chase as best I can (so he does not bark, well too much at the gift-bearing Santa.) Now we're together, quietly waiting for him to come along and about to head in to curl up for the evening with a good book.
I was hoping to get some studio time in today, but it was rainy and damp pretty much all day, so instead I watched some TV and unpacked some supplies, restocking the studio, moving things around a bit, and got setup for the next batch of studio work to come along. I've really been quite prolific in the studio lately, sometimes anyway it's hard to remember that, as I always feel I could be (and should be) doing more, more more. Paintings are coming though, and I'm starting to get happier and happier with the outcome. Liking things more and more, making fewer mistakes, learning to cover up mistakes, and just having fun working with the materials-that's what it's really all about for me now, although, at some point, this is going to turn into a nightmare of sorts, as the dreaded marketing will begin. Oh, I'm so not looking forward to that bit of it. For now though, it's fun in the studio with lots of painting, lots of re-working, churning out work, and trying to keep my studio well-stocked. I've run low on plaster so I'll be headed to get that on Monday plus I've just ordered more boards and oil sticks I can use for drawing and underpainting. As those arrive by carrier, I'll be able to turn around and do it all over again.
Looking over my "to do" list is making me depressed, as there is still a lot of items I had wanted to complete this holiday and have not yet gotten around to doing, but I am enjoying some quiet "down" time, and it's giving me a bit of a much-needed battery recharge of sorts.
Tomorrow, I'm going to head over to have dinner with the folks. Mom is cooking a nice roasted chicken in the oven with all of the trimmings-mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies, and a nice salad, and I'll hopefully get to play with Chase and the dogs in the late autumn leaves some, weather permitting, that is. He loves to run and play in the yard but I don't like to leave him out when it's raining on account of his curls, muddy paws, and all. (We'll see if the rain comes tomorrow again or if skies are a bit more clear and suitable for dog play in the yard.)
I hope you all have a wonderful happy holiday with friends, family, and good food. I promise to post some studio output as soon as I can and to continue painting as much as possible while I'm home and the studio beckons. Until then, please have a wonderful holiday and please enjoy your time off (if you're lucky enough to get some) this holiday season.
Until next time...
Friday, December 23, 2011
Mistakes happen and today was no exception. For me, today was, "fix my mistakes" day in the studio. Allow me to explain.
Encaustics, you see, are a bit tricky to do. I'm going to come out right and say it, they're hard. I mean, they aren't "hard" like rocket science is hard but, you know, if you really want the melted molten wax to flow to *just* the right place, if you really have something in your head that you are totally trying to "match," well, encaustics are (or they can be) downright impossible. Encaustics are difficult to get to turn out exactly the way you want them too. I tend to view each encaustic piece as a sort of "happy accident." I work with a color palette, yes, and that does give me some control, but "some" is the key word here. Actually, "little" might be a better choice of words for it. Encaustics can be hard to control and, let's face it, they are an art form probably not best suited for the totally "anal retentive" of you out there maybe reading this. Let me put it to you this way: if you are a control freak, don't take up painting with wax. Better stick to knitting if you know what's good for you. But me? Yes, I almost enjoy these "happy accidents" (do notice, please, that I said, "almost" there. Almost as in, not always.)
So, what's a girl to do?
As I paint, I gather my mistakes. I save them off and treat them with equal respect as I do my "finished pieces," you know, the ones that I like. I save them all and I decided later (after I have had time to think about it) which pieces I want to re-work and which pieces I'm going to just give up on. So far, anyway, I've "given up" on only a few but re-worked many, very many in fact. That's part of the process. I don't beat myself up about this. I'm a beginner, and I've allowed myself time to make mistakes. Just today, in fact, my mother told me, "you learn from your mistakes." Indeed, you do or you should try to anyway. Mistakes can be viewed as learning experiences. Like a teacher in a jar, of sorts.
So, today I had this pile, this ever-growing pile of mistakes and I thought that, well I felt like anyway, re-working some of these, and that's just what I did. I went out into the studio and re-worked some of my prior "fiasco's."
I had this one piece. It was sort of red mixed with purple and it had some brown in it. Yes, I know, these are colors that don't really work well together. So, originally, I thought, "I know! I'll add yellow!" Oh, that was a mistake, let me tell you, a BIG mistake. It wound up looking like a victim (loser actually) at a paint-ball camp. It was horrible, a horrible, horrible, mistake. Think "clown vomit" and you are kind of about half way there. Oh, what was I to do?
Some of the "tricks" I use to cover up my mistakes in encaustics included putting yarn on them (yarn looks really good stuck on top of encaustics and, let's face it, I've made so many mistakes now that I do believe I have an entire "yarn" series in the works. Glory be! Who knew that, as it turns out, simple yarn is capable of covering up a multitude of artistic "sins.") I also use opaque white paint to add an extra thick "top coat" of paint and wax. This creates a nice soft "top layer" like and also covers up a multitude of "sins" as it were.
So, there you have it. This was going to be a piece of cake. Piece of cake, I tell you! I was going to take the ugly paint-ball victim, yarn it up, maybe throw some white on top and call it a day. Yeah, go me! This was so going to work, I could hardly wait to try it.
Oh the horror!
For starers, the yarn looked even worse. It just looked like yarn atop a hot mess (come to think of it, that might be a good name for this, my new series. Hmm. Then again, maybe not.) Then the white paint made it look even worse. It looked like white paint floating atop yarn stuck onto the top of a hot mess. Oh, I was falling fast, let me tell you. You ever get that horrible sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? Yeah, I was so there, I was so all over that one.
I kept putting the piece aside, working on something else, going back to it, laughing at myself for thinking I could fix it, wondering how much wax I was going to waste trying to fix it, scratching my head, laughing again, thinking it was hopeless...you get the idea. This was like a downward spiral made entirely out of "clown vomit," yarn and white paint. Mistake after mistake, entombed in layers of wax. I had created a disaster! I couldn't make something this bad if I had set out to do just that. This thing had "train wreck" written all over it. It was just abominable, but I was not going to give up.
I just kept layering and layering the wax and the paint and working it, over and over. Working with the layers of the wax, fusing, adding more wax. I was determined to make something of this hot mess. My "clown vomit" was going to be fixed, fixed, I tell you, fixed. Fixed! It had to be, it just had to be fixed. Finally, after much trial and error (ahem, read "more much error than trial!") I *finally* got something I sort of liked. It finally looks like something half presentable if, you know, if you squint just the right way. Phew! About time! (Don't you think?) Only took me 20 layers of wax, tons of yarn, and lots of bad luck getting there, didn't it?
Of course, now the damn thing weighs about 20 pounds. It's a 20 pound painting made with "clown vomit," yarn, tons of white paint, and great big gobs of melted wax. Hey, I bet not many of your friends have one of *those* right? I mean, not too many anyway. Well, maybe not unless they know me and have already purchased a wonderful encaustic from my, ahem, "hot new yarn series" that is. (*Grins.*)
The point I'm trying to make here, the reason I'm telling you all of this is that today was "mistake" day in the studio. Mistakes are part of art too. We're all human and we all make them. Sometimes, if you're lucky, your mistakes can turn into your most beloved pieces. There's now something about this piece, something special about it. I will always remember fondly working it, working it over, re-working it, thinking, "Ha! That will never work!" only to prove myself, in the end, wrong about that. Nothing makes me happier than being wrong here too. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my mistakes, seeing them play out before your eyes because that's the only way you will see me grow. I've enjoyed my mistake, both making it and fixing it. Ok, so maybe it's not the best piece I have ever done, maybe it's not the most rewarding, but, at this point, I have to admit, it has a special place in my heart.
The piece has so many layers, each layer representing a different "mistake" I made trying to fix it. I've even decided to name this piece, on account of the "mistakes" and the process by which it came about. I'm going to call it "Circumstantial Undertones." Circumstantial because it is just layer after layer of mistake and "undertones" because, in the end, that's what it looks like. Lots and lots of tones and undertones all fused together.
At some point, I'll post an image of my new "Circumstantial Undertones" piece and you too can judge for yourself, if you think it was a good idea for me to work and re-work the piece. I have to say I do think it was worth it, at least I had fun doing it. I enjoyed making it. I enjoyed making all of the mistakes that I made in the process of creating it. Encaustics are new and fun for me and this, these mistakes, they are part of the process too. Frustrating at times, yes, but mistakes are there too, for all of us to enjoy.
So, for today anyway, I'm embracing my newly found "mistakes" as being a necessary part of my artistic development. Art and mistakes: two great tastes that taste great together.
Until next time...
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I'm sorry to keep posting these shots of ice, I'm sure you must be bored with them by now, but I just love the shapes and colors these frozen landscapes form over time. It's like an icy cold playground up there and I just can't keep from looking at it. It's mesmerizing. I just keep thinking about how I want to draw it. (I believe that icebergs and ice like this would make for some great drawings and, I swear, at some point, I will do these in pastels to see if I can one day paint them as well.)
Today's topic brings me to something I both love and dread: the holiday greeting.
Now, I don't know about you, but, this year anyway, I have been inundated with holiday greetings. At least, my email box has been overflowing with them from sometime, starting in like maybe November. And, I know they mean well, they *all* mean well, each and every one of them. Many of them are from businesses I know and even trust. Dick Blick's sent me a nice holiday greeting card, as did the folks I traveled with up in Iceland (it was really a treat to see an Icelandic Santa, let me tell you. Did you know there are 13 of them and each is kind of skinny and wears cool-looking pointy boots? Wow! Neither did I.) But, holiday greetings from places like Office Depot and Best Buy? Really? Like I'm supposed to "Jingle Bell" my way through a new stapler for my desk or a new DVD player that I don't really need? Oh please, save me from this holiday madness!
As artists, we need to think about this too. I mean, we send out holiday greetings, we all send out holiday greetings, right? But, there are so many of them, and so many people get lost in all of the holiday greetings. So, let me be the first one (maybe?) to come right out and say it. If you're going to do a holiday greeting at all, as an artist, you owe it to yourself to either make the best darn holiday greeting you can make or maybe consider not making one at all.
I know this might be a bit controversial. I'm sure many of you will say, "but I like to send out holiday greetings!" not to mention it's a great way to "get my brand out!" (whatever that means.) The problem is, with all of the greetings going around, yours is going to get lost in the mix. Many of them don't look special, don't offer anything, and are from people I don't really know. (I hardly shop at Staple's for example, yet I have gotten no less than 3 holiday greetings from them this year.) Trust me when I say this, a holiday greeting is going to do more harm them good if you send it to somebody you hardly know, it doesn't look all that great, or it's completely impersonal.
As artists, we make handmade items. Even photographers, yes you too, make things by hand. Art is personal. That's a large factor in the equation. If you start churning out holiday greetings that aren't personal (Staple's anyone?) and you start sending them en mass to everyone you might happen to have met this year, well, I hate to break the news to you, but you're really not helping out your art career. Besides, wouldn't your time be better spent in the studio painting more? Or helping out in your local community where needs are more immediate? (Even cooking up some home cheer this holiday season would be a better use of your time, don't you think? Have you had a snowball fight with the kids yet? Wouldn't that be more fun as well?)
So, this year, as the holiday season rolls into full force, I would offer up some suggestions. Rather than spending hours twiddling with Photoshop to craft just the right holiday "virtual tree" to email to 500 people you don't really know, why not go down to your local homeless shelter and volunteer? Visit a home for the elderly in your area or help out at a local school. Share you artwork on a more personal basis instead. It will do you, your community, and the world a lot more good.
I love getting holiday greetings from artists that I know, I really do. And I'm not trying to get all scrooge on you here, I really love the holiday season too. But there are just too many artists and photographers out there who think they can just sort of "slack off" in the social department and then go overboard around the holiday season to make up for it. Not to mention there are a lot of artists and photographers who see all of these holiday greetings and think to themselves, "Man! This looks great. *I* really want to send out a holiday greeting and have it be the BEST one ever..." only to go overboard trying to "outdo" the artist next door. Is that really keeping in the holiday spirit? Is that really furthering your artistic career? (Did you even both to stop and ask that question before you jumped headfirst into a giant pile of red and green construction paper and silver glue glitter? Mmm. Didn't think so.)
So, before you send out your 12th holiday greeting this year, before you post your best over Photoshopped shots of your fabulous Christmas tree or show me your happy children in fake poses baking cookies (what kids bake coolies these days? Come on, get real!) I'd encourage you to stop and ask yourself, "is this really keeping within the holiday tradition? Is this celebrating the holiday season the way it was intended?" If you're really just trying to showoff, perhaps you can do that another time, like say in March, and leave us to our already stuffed email inboxes this holiday season.
On the other hand, if you're somebody I know (*waves*) and are genuinely sending me best wishes this holiday season, I more than welcome your crooked hand-held photo of your Christmas tree or your non-Photoshopped image of your son making a funny face wearing a holiday hat because, to me anyway, that's what the holidays are really all about and those images? Yeah, those images are truly beautiful to me, each and every one of them.
So there you have it. Carol Scrooge on the subject of holiday greetings. Bah Humbug! Pass the eggnog, please.
Until next time...
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I'm thinking now for these...for this series of encaustic panels...to call them Earthen/Dusk.
What do you think Internets? You like?
Really having a hard time coming up with a name but it'll come to me and just "click" at some point. More panels to come (this one a smaller one-the series is larger now-18x24 sized panels and many more of them-I'm shooting for 20 or so of these before I stop.)
Wish me luck with this new project and please do keep the suggestions for names coming my way.
Until next time...
Monday, December 19, 2011
Sometimes, when you make art, you have to just "go for it." Actually, I hear this a lot, but I'm not fully convinced it's 100% true all of the time. Allow me to explain.
There are those who feel that if an artist is not taking risks, that artist is not being "true." If an artist isn't stretching boundaries, pushing limits, working outside of their comfort zone, then they really aren't "growing" as an artist. While I think this is true to some extent, there is also something to be said for just executing. That is to say, or maybe more accurately to *ask* do we really have to be pushing limits each and every day? What's wrong with pushing limits once and then working to, say, actually *move* that limit, push that line, to its new location?
What I mean by that is, isn't it easy for a painter or photographer to always do something "shocking" and wild? Wouldn't it be better, or equally "artistic" I should say, for that same painter or photographer to push the boundaries once and then work to create a body of work about that subject matter? To, you know, maybe push the boundaries and then languish there a little bit, maybe just a little bit, to see what else is in the neighborhood? Don't we owe it to ourselves to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, yes, but also to work to permanently move those boundaries? What you weren't comfortable doing yesterday, shouldn't we work towards not just making a "one off" but to actually push and move those boundaries so that you're living in that zone tomorrow?
A lot of what I'm talking about here centers around technique maybe. I'm thinking about somebody who maybe started doing figurative work, does it once or twice, and then kind of moves onto something else. Don't we owe it to ourselves, rather than to try and "out shock" that limit, to push it just for the sake of pushing it, don't we owe it to ourselves to instead maybe work along the edges of our comfort zone and really get comfortable in our new hang out? Imagine, if you will, that same person who tries out the figurative work, imagine them actually working to master it, rather than trying to move that boundary yet again. Wouldn't that be better for us? Wouldn't that make for better art, say, in the long run? Do we even consider the long run in any of this?
There is something to be said for working in one's comfort zone. It allows you time to master technique. It allows you time to explore. It allows you time to fully explore and see where you can go, what you can do with something, as opposed to just jumping around, waiting to hop onto the next "big" thing. I do feel there is nothing wrong with working within one's comfort zone, so long as the artist is progressing in some other way (either by mastering technique or future exploration of subject matter.) It doesn't have to be "boring." Besides, if you are good at something, why not stick to that comfort zone to see what you can actually pull out, rather than moving along to something you maybe aren't quite as good at. Is it really better to be a jack of all trades instead of a master of one?
I think comfort zones provide us with a natural launch pad of sorts. They allow us a platform of safety from which we can go forth and explore. If the exploration doesn't say, pan out, we can always fall back into that natural pattern, that natural rhythm our comfort zones afford us. Yes, we need to push boundaries to grow and, at some point, that makes sense to do, but that "safety net" that "cushion" of a comfort zone also serves its place in our artistic development. Maybe the whole point is to work to move, over time, the comfort zone, to push it out and expand it into areas where we currently aren't so comfortable yes but, while we have them, that comfort zone provides us with a wonderful backdrop from which to branch out and really explore our limitations.
When I started doing photography, I did a lot of interior type shots. I've always been a bit of a studio photographer, more than I've really been a "field" photographer anyway. I'm comfortable working at home, working in my studio. I love new surroundings and exploration, yes, but I love to take these things back, return to my studio, and then re-work them into something I can explore on my terms, in the comforts of my own studio, rather than being pressured to work magic in the field. I've never really changed that. In some ways, my studio is my personal comfort zone. It's my happy space, if you will.
When I first started as a photographer, I also shot a lot of windows and doors. Tons of them. In fact, I can still, to this day, smell a good window or door from fifty paces. Really I can, and so too can anybody who studied under my first photography teacher. We were trained, hard core in fact, to sniff out these sorts of photographic opportunities. Over time (I've been an exhibiting photographer for more than 20 years now) windows and doors have become quite popular and then, alas, fallen out of favor yet again. It's a natural cycle and it happens with all types of photographic subjects. To be honest, I too have grown somewhat "past" the windows and doors subject, but it is very much a comfort zone for me. When I know not what else to do, I can always find a window, a doorway, a staircase of sorts, and just go for it. I think this image helps prove that, in some small way, this still works. It's maybe not magical or special or quite as difficult as it was when I first started and, yes, I'm sure you can see hundreds, if not thousands, of images just like this one on Flickr (or some such place) but that doesn't make it "bad" now, does it? Just because I was doing it back in 1992, back when nobody else was and now the whole wide world is doing it doesn't necessarily make it bad now, does it? I don't feel that way. I mean, maybe it isn't as special, maybe it isn't as unique, but it's not horrible really either, right?
Yes, I will shock and push those boundaries, stretch those limits at some point. I still do that too. But, really, does each and every shot have to be doing that? Can't I have some "comfort food for the eyes" along with my cutting edge craziness too? Isn't there room in the big bad art world for all of that and more? I mean, sometimes doing the same can be different (or unexpected) too, right?
All questions to ponder for this, a rainy Monday morning in River City.
Until next time...
Sunday, December 18, 2011
In case that "off the cuff" language doesn't fully translate, I've been working on a new, larger encaustic series (well 18x24 if you count that as being "large." Sure blows through a lot of wax!) I'm not quite sure what to call this series, but the "inspiration" (if you can call it that) is sunset in Santa Fe. Know I know, I just know, how absolutely *horrible* that sounds. Like bad Route 66 motel art only worse, right? Like otherwise good kitsch gone bad, horribly wrong actually. But it isn't, I mean, it's not really, although it could be. These are very abstract and just sort of "red-ish" (maybe more "brown-ish" than "red-ish" but really "earth-tone-y-ish" only that's too long and really gloriously hard to say.) What I'm really trying to say here is that these are just actually abstracts (complete abstracts) done up in colors that remind me of the sunsets out in Santa Fe. And that's not really very "Route 66 motel-ish" only worse if you think about which, you know, I'm sure you won't (well, not for very long anyway.)
I'm totally open to suggestions for names for this series. If you have any, do please shoot them my way. I'm sure it will help once I get off my duff and post some actual pictures, right? (Yes, I know, pictures to follow. Don't I always say that? And, sometimes even, it comes true.)
Been an otherwise quiet weekend. Was under the weather yesterday (man, what a headache! Darn allergies!) and then studio time and some good eats today. About to fall over with some green tea and catch up on some TV viewing before heading in for an early night.
On the subject of TV, lately anyway, it seems like Saturday night offers up the wildest of TV adventures for those courageous enough to venture into the land otherwise known as "basic cable." Last night, I actually found myself in bed with a migraine but also inexplicably torn between watching the Christmas episode of "Wipeout!" or a marathon of "Storage Wars!" For some reason (you'll probably never get me to admit to this in public again, so you might want to actually pay attention here) I find both of these TV shows mildly addictive. I mean, watching a bunch of wanna-be athletes fumble around getting knocked off "snow balls" by giant nutcrackers while trying their darnedest not to fall into a frozen lake was oddly watchable television. And then there's Storage Wars. Oh, now what can I say about Storage Wars. I just love Barry. He's so cute. Last night he took some old TV set from the 50's, brought it over to his artist friend and had him make an art project/diorama out of it. Amazing! I so want one of those. And this too can be yours for a mere $6000. Every time I watch that show, I swear, I wind up thinking, "Damn! I'm in the wrong business!" I so want to do *that* for a living. Don't you?
Well, it beats playing around with oil sticks and making something that can best be described as "Sorta Santa Fe Sunset-ish if you squint really hard," that's for sure. At least I think it does.
Until next time...
Thursday, December 15, 2011
As the seasons change and the calendar also draws a new change, many artists find themselves taking stock of 2011. I have seen many posts about "Best of" or "What I did this year" and, likewise, I'm not immune to these sorts of things. I too love to take stock of the year that was and I do think it's important for artists to do this.
One thing I have noticed though is that there seems to be a difference between successful artists and those who are more beginners, specifically in the "taking stock" phases of query. The beginners focus on what they did not do or what they want to do, while the pros or the more seasoned artists focus on what they do best or what they have executed. Good artists, professional artists actually, get things done. They are able to cut through all of the "red tape" and bull garbage to get things finished. Beginners allow small things to snag them up, snarl up their progress, and they let small things get in the way.
This year, as you are taking stock, I'd like to offer up a challenge. Focus on your strengths. What is it that you did well in 2011? Stop and really think about this. What is it that you do really well this year? What is the one single most important thing you did well in 2011 and why do you think you were good at it?
I'm a firm believer in the "Find Your Strengths" model of performance. It's an interesting book if you have not read it and an interesting model to use to focus your efforts. In case you are not familiar with it, the notion behind "Find Your Strengths" is that you focus on what you are good at.
Let me give you an example here. Supposing your son came home with a report card. Supposing the report card looked like this: English: B, Math: A, History: C, Art: B. What class would you focus on? What would you have little Johnny do more of in school?
If you're like most people, you would probably say "History" here. History since he got a C and he needs to improve, right? Well, the "Find Your Strengths" models all say to focus on Math, the class in which he got an A. It's probably a safe bet that little Johnny is not on his way to becoming a historian, but that doesn't mean he should focus on his weaknesses either. By focusing on his strengths, he can do better in what he's already excelling at. He might be a good mathematician now, but he could be a stellar one tomorrow. He might never like history. So, go ahead, let him get a C in it. Let him do ok but "just pass" in an area he is weak in, instead focus on his strengths, concentrate on what he does well. Get him working some mathematics and see what he really can do if he opens up the tap, so to speak.
The same theory can be applied to the arts. What is is that you do well? Find what it is and go and do it. Don't spend time, any time in fact, worrying over fixing what you are not good at. Instead, focus on what you do BEST. If you are bad at bookkeeping but you paint really well abstracts, paint a lot of abstracts in 2012 and hire yourself a bookkeeper. That's a great path to success and this model really works if you take it to heart.
So, as you're looking at 2012, as you're taking stock of 2011, I'd encourage you to really stop and look at your strengths. What is it you do well. Where did you knock it out of the park in 2011? Why don't you try to spend more time in 2012 doing that instead of trying to fix something else? Go on, push yourself and see how far you can go.
There will be many "Best of" lists in 2011. Many favorite music, best art, recaps, and recalls for the year that was, I'm sure. Instead of recapping (or maybe besides recapping) the year that was, why not look up to 2012 and think of it as the year that could be? Focus in on what you do best and see how far you can fly given a proper set of wings.
2012 is already shaping up as the year that could be. The big question is, what are you going to make of it?
Until next time...
Monday, December 12, 2011
While I'm not fully convinced that artists need a degree to be a success, I'm also convinced that art school does instill certain factors into successful students. Most art school graduates, for example, learn how to market their work. They know how to build a base, a clientele, and work up from there. One of the other things they also get if they are lucky is an urgency about studio work. Most art schools have ample studio space and afford the budding artist space to work in the studio. There's also the time factor. Many students have plenty of time to do nothing but create-they don't suffer from the interference of a "daily life" getting in the way. Running a house, maybe if you have kids, doing laundry, taking care of the car, walking the dog, etc. these are all things that can get in the way of proper studio time. As artists, we need to learn to deal with these things and, in most cases, art school teaches budding artists how to do just that.
I've seen so many artists who make excuses and not art. I've met so many who say, "I just don't have time!" or "When I get a round to that..." I know a guy who has been wanting to purchase a printer to print his photographic images larger for about 5 years or more now. Every time I see him he makes comments about my work, "oh, love your new piece!" or "I saw your work up at..." He then talks about how "someday" he'll be able to get a printer setup to be able to print his work. Unfortunately, if he had started printing 5 years ago, he'd be a pro at it now, but he keeps putting it off. Sadly, for him, I doubt that big all-important "someday" is going to come to pass. (Do you really want to end up like that guy?)
There are other artists I know who let their children run their lives. I've talked before how there is nothing wrong with having children (thank goodness my mother felt that way, right? Note to self: remember her on mother's day!) The problem is I've seen so many artists who never get into the studio because they have to go and pick up the kids or their son has soccer practice or... Again with the excuses, again with the "putting yourself and your needs on the back burner." Yes, I know children are demanding and yes, I know it's hard to not pay attention but, especially if you're children are a bit older here, you need to make sure you get time for doing artwork. In the long run, your children will be better if you allow them to grow into their own independence and you're artwork is important to you too, so why are you not making time for it?
You need to make your studio time regular, like a habit. Practice going into the studio every day at the same time. Consider it like a job. You wouldn't blow off work everyday because your daughter called and wants you to pick her up or because Barney is on the TV or your son's soccer practice is...Stop it! Consider it your job and get into the studio. Make the other stuff wait. Unless little Johnny is bleeding, allow him the freedom to grow. He needs to learn to amuse himself and doesn't always need to be pulling at your coattails each and every hour of each and every day. This is especially true if you have older children. I can't tell you how many artists I know who do things like dishes for their high school aged children. Let them do their own dishes. They need to learn how to do this anyway if they are going to be a success in life, isn't it high time they start now? Stop coddling them and let them grow up. In the process, don't be afraid to devote more time to your artwork.
Your studio time should also be sacred. This is the place and time where you create. It's not about "me" time, it's about putting your art first. If you really want to succeed as an artist, you need to put your artwork first. You need a proper amount of studio output. You have to paint enough to sell enough paintings or take enough photos to be able to keep up with the kids on Twitter who tweet and Facebook about every little meal they eat or drink they gulp down with lunch. You can't just sit around in a chair wearing elbow patches talking about "the shot that got away" you have to make some new material. You have to have a strong creative output in order to be a success.
For me, I try to focus on art for part of each and every day. If I'm not working on it, I'm writing about it. If I'm not writing about it, I'm organizing it. If I'm not organizing it, I'm planning it. I edit work all of the time. There's always something going on, something in the pipeline, and I'm already working on the next big thing. In my mind, I'm four projects ahead and I like to keep my hands busy, you know, in the pot so to speak. It doesn't always seem like it but I try to make a habit of studio time and field work. I've always been good about keeping my studio sacred. I don't get disturbed easily. I don't answer the phone when I'm in studio and I try to plan my studio output. I don't always know exactly what I'm going to paint, or exactly where (which direction) a particular piece will take me, no, but I know that, on any given day, or any given time slot spent in the studio, I'm going to try to knock out a certain number of pieces. Things don't always go as planned, no, but I try and I'm sort of "mentally prepared" to do a certain amount of work each and every time I either pick up a camera or a paintbrush. If it doesn't work, if one particular piece takes longer than I might have anticipated, so be it. I'm making art, I'm not a robot, but I do have the habit of making art. I actually MAKE art, not excuses, and that's what important here.
So, while I might not knock out three pieces like I said I was going to, I make progress along with my art. I try to do more, to be more, to teach more, to learn more, and to grow more, both as an artist and as a human being. It's important to me. I want my artwork to get out there, yes, but I want to have something worthy of "getting out there" wherever that happens to be. I strive to make better art, not just to market it, and that means getting my hands dirty in the studio. Rolling up my sleeves and getting down to work. Yes, I'm all about working it in the studio these days.
I hope you'll consider your art habits. What you're doing that's working for you, how you're going about keeping your studio time sacred, and how you're developing your own studio habits. If you find yourself making too many excuses and not enough output, maybe it's time to stop and really think about what your priorities are. Especially at this time of year, when families tend to interfere more and it's easy to blow off menial tasks, I would encourage you to take a long hard look at your "art life" and see where it it taking you. Where do you want to go and are you producing enough, devoting enough studio time to get there?
It's an important question and one that only you really can answer. I hope you'll think about it, even for a moment today or at some point over your development as an artist. I know I have and I'm working towards developing good (or better) studio habits all of the time.
Until next time...
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Tomorrow night is the photo group party so I'm going to head over there in the evening if I can manage it. I will bring some prints and get some prints in exchange (from other members, of course.)
Yesterday, I wound up doing 3 or 4 small pieces (6x6) and two 12x12 (aka "foot long") boards. I really quite like the 12x12s, I like how they came out. I also wound up showing my Blurb book (work in progress) to a few folks and got an idea to do a giant 12x12 book of wax. I'm going to photo a lot of my square panels and do a 12x12 book of encaustics at some point. Wish me luck that project as well. Another day brings another project, right? Will it ever end?
Got a lot of plans for the coming year and it's almost time to start writing some of those "this is the year that was..." posts. I'll be curious (but maybe not so much) to see which photo winds up at the top of the heap, in terms of my best photo for 2011. Might be an interesting race this year but then again might be something you totally expect. Only time will tell, right? Which image of mine do you think is going to make it? Which image is going to bubble to the top? Like I said, only time will tell.
Well, time and a certain artist/blogger who has been very busy in her studio lately, that is.
Until next time...
Saturday, December 10, 2011
I'm so STRESSED about this. For starters, every year I go to this, I wind up getting a wonderful piece of art. I love the piece I get to take home-I mean like LOVE here. Like totally adore. I've gotten some great work in these holiday exchanges.
And what have a I shared?
GULP. Ok, so the first year, I was a beginner. I had an excuse! My piece was no so great. I mean, it wasn't horrible but it's not something fantastic either. It was newbie art. Oh the humanity! Oh the horror!
Last year, I barely had time to scratch something together. It was like "quick, glue some paper down and WAX WAX WAX!" ten minutes before the meeting started. We were even late getting there! Oh boy!
So, here were are again.
This year, I'm going to try to dunk this thing into wax. Wish me luck with this.
Right about now, I'm thinking that this will look ok. That this might look something like marble under wax. And I *so* wanted to do an iceberg because I figured that icebergs are kind of hard to find. Most of the folks in the wax group will probably not wind up traipsing around Iceland looking for them, so it's a safe gift in that they won't have one already.
Oh, wish me luck with this wax work! I'm going to need it.
First step, glue the photo to the panel and let that dry. Then wax over it, paint the edges, and let that dry. Then wire up the back.
Let's see if I can get all of this done today, before the 6 pm party starts.
Wish me luck, Internets!
Until next time...
Friday, December 09, 2011
Photographers can use "tricks" here like focus, leading lines, and the like, to give work some depth. Likewise painters often use tints and tones, lightening or darkening an area to make it look like it's coming forward or receding back into the ground. Then there's also the matter of scale. Like the good car mirror says, "objects in mirror are closer than they appear" both artists and photographers can use scale to give a piece depth. Making something smaller relegates it more to the background while larger object tend to "jump" forward more.
As an artist, I've always been fascinated with perception and scale. My weak spot, if you will, was always tone-I've never been any good at toning charcoal, for example and I even have difficulty toning prints on some level (I'm the first to admit there are those much better at this than I am!) but scale? Yeah, that was always fun for me. Perspective and scale have always interested me and I have never had a hard time understanding them. I can't always draw them right the first time out of the box, but I usually get it on the second or third attempt and, if I'm being blunt, I can be pretty good at it if I really buckle down and apply myself. I can usually get some kind of perspective or scale that matches "the real world" even though I cannot draw very well.
If you following the "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" way of thinking, there are different aspects of drawing. Line, shape, tone, perspective, etc. Everybody, every single one of us is good at one of these and likewise (I hate to inform you) every single one of us is also bad at another one of these (or, you know, maybe just "not as good.") Most of us? Well, welcome to the lump that is the middle of the bell curve.
Perspective seems to be one of the harder ones, that is to say not as many people are "good" at it. Depth perception, scale, and perspective all go hand-in-hand in a lot of ways, as they all help give an otherwise flat work a 3-dimensional feel. In a way, it's great that photography came along, as it's really a great tool for artists to learn how to work with depth, perspective and scale. Photography allows us to "freeze" something in time and space so that we can more accurately see the depth, perspective, and scale of the object. (It does a lot more than that, photography does, but it does that for us too.)
And that, in a nutshell, is probably why I became a photographer in the first place. I love perspective. I love scale. I love depth. Not so crazy about tone, but I can work around that. Color photography helps us do that. No surprise here that I started out as a color photographer and, even though I have grown to love black and white more and more over the years, color is really where I lay down better work (at the end of the day) unless I shy away from the pesky tone part. Over the years, over many years of being a photographer, I have learned to work more with tone. I recognize it as a weak spot and try to overcome it as best I can. I know too though it's something I need to work on, to work hard at, while it comes naturally to some other folks. Perspective though? Yeah, I'm comfortable playing in that sandbox.
Sometimes, it's interesting to examine our strengths and weaknesses and see how they molded the choices we've made over the years. We tend to gravitate towards things that highlight our strengths, at least I know I do. I'll never be a tone poet but you can always count on me to come up with some crazy, unusual viewpoint, that's for sure.
So today, on this Friday, I would encourage you to think about your strengths and weaknesses. What is it you do best? What do you want to work on? Which aspects of art (line, tone, scale, perspective, etc.) do you maybe feel need some attention and which ones can you claim as your strong points? Once you find these things out, if you don't know them already, it might help you grow as an artist some, so I'd encourage you to do some digging if you have not looked into this already.
Until next time...
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Showing your work in front of real "live people" is a totally different experience. For starters, there is nothing quite like that feeling of sitting in a gallery, playing "mouse on the wall" and watching people react and respond to your work. It's the best feedback you can get, really it is. Open and honest and all about the work (usually.)
Showing your work allows you to interact with the public. It allows you to meet new people, explore new ideas, and share time with other artists (usually.) These can all be valuable aids in advancing your art career.
Showing your work also help you talk about it better. Many artists, so many artists I work with simply cannot talk about their work. They don't know what to say. They haven't quite mastered that "elevator speech" and they can't say anything meaningful (good or bad) about their work or the work of others. This is one of the down sides of not going to art school, I guess, because they teach you there to critique work. Sure, nobody likes somebody who is always going to criticize but, let's face facts. If you're going to be a working artist in this world, you had better get used to some criticism too. Not everybody is always going to love your stuff, and you'd best learn how to deal with it. Showing art in venues and interacting with people can really go a long way towards helping you build up that thick skin and really handle criticism when you get it.
Having said that, most of my interactions with people have been wonderful. Most people coming to see art are there because they enjoy it. They want to see what you have to offer! This is what you do, this is your moment to shine, so really enjoy it. The best artists are not always the ones who can slap paint better on the canvas, no, they are communicators. Part of that communication involves talking with people. So, go ahead, do that meet and greet. Spend a few hours sitting in a gallery and strike up some conversations. Learn to speak about art, practice if you have to, but do it.
Another thing that happens is that, when you show art, you become a part of the artistic community. You immediately join the family of artists living and working in your community. That sense of camaraderie is really something. There's nothing quite like feeling a part of the "in" crowd, believe me. Many of your contacts and future opportunities grow out of networking with other artists. Nobody should create art in a vacuum, so get used to getting out more.
Before you can show your work, a lot of what you have to do is work out the logistics. If you're a photographer, figure out how to print, matte, and frame your work. Go ahead and do it. Nobody is going to help you. Most of the artists I know do this themselves. I can't tell you how many photographers I've met over there years who are "just about to get a printer so they can do some stuff with it." If you've been "just about to get" a printer for three or four years now, what exactly are you waiting for?
Printing is a very large part of photography, in fact, I would go so far as to say mastering printing is almost as important as mastering camera exposure. It's that critical to the success of my work. Sure, most of you never get to see that-you don't get to see and share the experience of seeing a "real live" print from Carol's hands, but I'm setup as a photographer to be a print photographer. The print is everything to me. I take great pride (and often great pains-follow me on Twitter if you want a laugh at that bit. Light magenta, I'm talking to you here) in crafting my prints. I spend hours getting them just the way I want them. This is important to me in showing my work.
If you don't know how to print, you're missing half the fun.
The same goes for painters. Learn to take great photos of your work, learn how to photograph your paintings so they show in the best light. Learn how to frame your work and present it in the best way. Get nice business cards, like Moo cards, featuring your work and make a lovely Blurb book of your work to show people. Learn how to present yourself, so that your work will be held in the highest regard. All of this stuff is important. I can't tell you how many opportunities I get from "face to face" contact. From going to show, talking with people.
One of the best "exercises" I ever did was go to a gallery show (it happened to be a show that I had work in but this doesn't have to be the case) and just going around the room, stopping each of the artists and simply asking them, "Can you please tell me something about your work?" Artists love to share, it's inherent in what we do, so it naturally follows that we love to answer questions about process or subjects. Many artists can't strike up a conversation like, "Hi! I'm Carol. I'm an encaustic painter and photographer and this is what I do...." but, if you ask the same artists questions? Yes, that's when you'll get an answer. It doesn't have to be elaborate questions either. Just simple things like, "can you tell me something about your work?" or "can you please tell me something about this piece?"
Every piece of artwork, like the artists that made them, has a story to tell. Learn to ask and tell about that story. Share your stories. It's part of the entire experience of what we do as artists.
I follow a few newsletters (on-line) and one of them this week has issued a challenge. The newsletter is telling people, actually challenging them, to go and get a "real live show" of their artwork by January 15th. I think that's a great idea. If you're not going to do it now, then when? But I'd go a step beyond that challenge. Don't just show your work by January 15th, no, share you story. Share your story with somebody by January 15th and I bet it will make all of the difference in the world for your artwork.
So, go ahead. The gauntlet has been thrown. Are you up to the challenge? Or are you doing to diddle and dawdle about, fussing over getting some new printer that's never going to really show up? If you're not going to do it now, then when? It's your artwork we're talking about here. Do you really want to keep putting it on the back burner for so long? Or is it time, is it finally time to get out and share it some? Doesn't it have a story too that deserves to be shared? Come on, let's see what you got. Share your story with somebody by January 15th. Are you up for the challenge?
Until next time...
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
- For starters, I get asked a lot how I keep posting to my blog. How I keep it up, day over day. The short answer is, well, I don't. If I wake up in the morning and I just don't have anything all that interesting to say, why I don't blog. I don't feel the pressing need to blog or even to craft a blog post each and every day (for the most part. You know, minus November.) I usually craft a post when I have something interesting, something relevant to post about, otherwise I just wait a day or two before posting.
- Another tip I use is I try to come up with a general topic. Like "tips for bloggers" or "music" or whatever topic is handy, and then sort of "flesh out" a post related to that topic. Sometimes, my ramblings take me far from my original topic, that's fine, that's what blogs are supposed to do. This is an informal means of communication and I don't spend a lot of time "polishing" my blog posts. I don't over-edit them and I often don't even run a complete spell check. It's ok if you do that, don't let spelling rule your life. Sure it's great to have nicely polished bio and press kits but this situation, this is not the same. People have grown to expect a more informal setting on a blog. Some people don't even write complete sentences, and that's fine too. There are no hard and fast rules here, just write as you feel and try to have clear thoughts. That's all I do and, I believe, that's how many blog posts are crafted.
- I try to keep my posts relevant or somewhat relevant-ish to my art and photography. Sometimes, as you know, I famously "go off" this model (my Tivo has a fan-base. Well, except for that entire Nicolas Cage incident, but we won't bring that up again.) I do even try to go "off topic" on a select few topics. Sometimes talking about TV or movies or music is ok but I try not to make a habit of it. I try to keep most posts short but don't adhere to any strict length. I stay on topic and just let it happen.
- I try to tie-in an image with a post in some small way. I love to have one image and one post in combination. I think this really works for my blog although I'd be the first to admit this model is maybe not for everybody. Since I have a large archive of images, it's not hard for me to write and post an image at the same time. Your results may vary.
- Finally, I avoid messing with templates. My advice here is simple but, I think, very helpful. Pick a template of some kind that you like and stick with it. Don't spend hours fussing with templates, put your time where it matters most: content. Try to be a content generator and come up with lots of content rather than spending your valuable time fussing with the "look and feel" of a blog. The default templates are fine, just try to come up with some on-topic posts and craft your blog a bit more. After a while, if you really feel like diddling with your template, go ahead and do so, but don't let that stop you from blogging or keep you from generating new content.
- There is nothing wrong with only blogging once a week or even once a month and there is nothing wrong with putting a post up that contains nothing more than a new piece of art that you have created or a new photo you have taken. Don't feel pressured by the blogs of others into having to "live up to" certain expectations. I'm going to sound like your mother here but, just because "little Johnny" is posting every day and writing gobs of new material for his blog, doesn't mean that you have to also. Do what you feel comfortable doing.
- Then there is the topic of rants. Rants work great and can be received as being very funny even but, here again, don't make a habit of it. Posting too many rants will lead people to believe that you are a negative person. Complaining about a brush that falls apart or a photo shoot that didn't work out all too well is fine if you do it once in a while but remember that people (your fans) want to share in your successes too, not just hear about your rants.
- Try to keep your audience in mind. Who is reading your blog? What do you think they are going to want to read about today? Sometimes, answering these all too simple questions leads to great content. Especially if you are working in the field, if you are in the trenches and actually doing something like traveling or working with a specific type of technique, people love to hear that and they want to listen to what you have to say so don't be afraid to speak up. Say what's on your mind, and tell them what you think they want to hear about. Share what it is your doing with them. They'll love it, I'm sure.
- I've said before that this blog is read mostly by artists and photographers and so that is my target audience. I try to keep them in mind. If I post everyday about the weather or about what I ate for dinner or something unrelated this will eventually chase them away. Sure a rant from time to time about a chicken I burnt or my dead mac and cheese is fine, but I look at that as being part of living the life of an artist. I'm not a chef and most people don't come here for cooking advice, but I'm also ok if they share in my burnt dinner once in a while. Sometimes though, things are on my mind and they are things that are not really related to art and photography and, if that's the case, why you're probably going to hear about them or, at least, hear a little bit about them. They're part of me and I don't mind sharing. This is my kitchen table of sorts and so anything is fair game but I do try and come around to the topic at hand again and again. It's what keeps people coming back for more.
- I try to let readers in on big projects or even long-running projects I'm working on. I think this is helpful as they can learn too by following along. You are also right along with me when I travel because that's a big part of what I do. As Joe McNally so eloquently put it, "I’m thankful airplanes generally go interesting places, ’cause I’m on them a lot." Yes, photographers are on them a lot indeed. In these days of social media, the "behind the scenes" is the scenes, so I let you in on that whenever I possibly can. It's what you want to see.
- I try to share information about upcoming shows, gallery openings, and the like, although I also try to avoid being a commercial. If every post I were to write started out with a "buy this!" or "look at my work here!" I know you would stop coming here, stop reading along. I try to keep those more like pleasant interruptions, rather than the norm, even if I do wind up doing a lot of shows this year. I do, however, think it important to share. I also find this helps promote other artists. A lot of artists in Austin don't blog and don't have websites so, often, I find I'm the only way their invitation might get on the web or in front of so many eyes on Facebook. I almost think of this as a service I provide and do try to promote the artwork and photography of others as often as I can.
- Blogging is like exercise. The more you do it, the better you get at doing it. It's just kind of one of those things you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and say, ok now, I'm going to start doing this. It has its own rewards. The Internet can be a wonderful place, and you enjoy it a lot more when you are a blogger.
- Some days you are the pigeon and some days the statue. What I mean by that is that, some days, it's going to feel like the entire world is reading your blog while others? Yeah, not so much. Even your grandmother will tell you she has better things to do with her time. Accept that. Internet traffic varies. It's better to build up a stable of regular readers than to become a flash in the pan one hit wonder. Take your time and don't expect instant results. Nothing is instant in this world except for make instant mashed potatoes and even they take 90 seconds in the microwave.
- Don't substitute a blog for doing marketing and, by this, I mean real marketing. Have business cards, hand them out. Talk to people. Attend shows in your area. Go out and see local art. Go on photo shoots, see what it's like even if you are not a professional. Having a blog is not a substitute for living an interesting life, try to strive to do both if you can.
- Lastly, have fun. I try to have fun in everything I do, even if I take things seriously. There's always a little bit of fun thrown in somewhere along the way.
Until next time...
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
It's a lot of work being an artist. It's a lot of work, we have a lot of things to do, there are many items to complete, "to do" lists to conquer, and just plain not enough hours in the day. Couple that with a case of "gee, it's cold outside today!" and, what do you get? Bed. Beds like this one. Yes, indeed, today, I have to admit it, I'd much rather be sleeping. I'd much rather be sleeping then going out, lugging along a heavy camera, or dipping some messy items into molten hot wax. I don't want to get my fingers all dirty smudging around some pastels. Today, I really, really want to sleep. SLEEP. I want to take to my bed. But, alas, I can't. I have too much to do.
As an artist, I always feel like I don't do enough. Like there are not enough hours in the day, I always have more to do. You can send your work out infinitely, really you can. There are a million places you can always send your work out, a million model releases to file and, heck after all that, if you're still bored, why you can always sit down at the computer and order more Compact Flash. There's lighting to diddle with and shots to sketch, paperwork that must be done, heck my studio is not the most organized of places these days (Now, where exactly did I put those foam brushes that I need. Hmmmm...) I could also be editing and posting additional shots. Many of you complain about how I have yet to post a complete set from Iceland. I have yet to do that. I have also yet to post a complete set from New Orleans, from Venice, from my recent trip into the woods. There's lots of stuff. I have tons of things to do, and tons of things I could be doing at any given moment of any given day. Really, we artist and photographer types, we're a busy lot, trust me on this one. If all of that weren't enough, I still have to take more pictures, yes I do. Makes you almost wonder how I find time to do that, seeing as I have so much other stuff I need to do, doesn't it?
Many of my friends, well maybe some of my friends might describe me as "hard-working." I like to think that I am. In fact, I like to think that I can really buckle down and get things done, knock things out when I really apply myself. The trouble with that is that I'm really a lot lazier than I look. There are times, there are days, when I really don't even feel like getting up and getting out of bed. Really, I don't. It's just so hard to get even the slightest bit motivated to do even the simplest of things. I want to hit the snooze button over and over again instead of doing anything, really I do. Lounge around the house much? Yup, that's me. I've got a friend who calls this a "house slug" day. Yes, you can call it that. I like to think of it as "taking to my bed." Not that I'm sick or anything, just that, well, I feel like I could really use a day off, a day away from everything. Like I want to curl up and read a good book instead of doing any of this.
This weekend, I had some big plans. I was going to do some great giant pastels and they were going to change the world! Everybody was going to see them because, after I did them of course, I was going to photograph them and post them on the Internets for all to see, yes I was. I was not only going to post them, I was going to enter them into a local show. I even had plans to frame them and make them look extra pretty. Oh, it was going to be great. Of course, they exist now only in my mind but, I have to say, they are looking pretty buff even if they exist only in my head (for now.) At some point, I promise, I'll do them yet. You just wait and see. And I'll show them to you, I swear I will. You'll get to see them too, I promise. Well, as soon as I start them anyway. (They've been bouncing around in my brains for a few months now, I really need to do something to get them out of there, don't I?)
But, what did I do this weekend instead?
Curl up with a book. Watch TV. Eat a little bit. Heck, I didn't even make it out to the grocery store. It was all too cold and rainy and I just didn't feel like going outside. I didn't even do laundry (requires a trip outside, which Chase would have loved. Sorry, little buddy, no "cat hunting" time for you this weekend. It was just too cold and wet.)
And then yesterday, after my great post on rain and how we should all go out and conquer the rain, how we should be all so inspired by the great cold and wet offering from the sky, one of my regular readers, Mythopolis, commented how he loves to stay at home with vodka in his pajamas and watch Netflix when it's raining. Oh, God! I so want to stay at home and do THAT. Doesn't that sound really good right about now?
[OK, LISTEN UP GREAT UNIVERSE IN THE SKY. I want to stay at home and watch Netflix. I really would love some Bailey's and coffee right about now, in my bed, thank you very much, with a GREAT MOVIE on my TV set and some time to just curl up and finish some nice books I've started over the Thanksgiving holiday. PLEASE. PLEEEEAAAASEEEE. Can I have a day off? We thank you in advance for your cooperation. --The Management]Oh, my plan for "seize the opportunity! Go out in the rain!" backfired in oh so many ways, let me tell you. Now I'm going to spend all day fantasizing about spending all day in my pajamas with a cup of Bailey's and coffee with like maybe a good movie on the idiot box. Oh snap! This is so wrong in oh so many ways.
[Back to the serious blog post for a moment, shall we?]
One of the problems with doing art as a "hobby" (gosh, I hate that word) is that we essentially do it as a second job. As somebody who's kept a "second job" for about 20 years now, I have to tell you, there are times when I get really very tired. There are times, there are days I come home from "work" and have to go back to "work" and I just so feel like going to bed. It's hard being an artist. If you do it full-time, you often find yourself broke, without any money. If you do it part-time, you often find yourself with any time at all, no time left to do any of the "little things" like lead a "normal" life. Some of the "soccer Mom" type people I know routinely complain about having to pick the kids up from practice or host in-laws for dinner or some such thing. That's child's play compared to the life of an artist, really it is. If you don't believe me, try it for a week, if you can even make it that long.
Being an artist is a big commitment. You have to commit yourself to pursue your passion and that might mean giving up simple things, like TV, trips to the mall, dinners with the in-laws. You have to be an artist 24x7, there's no half-way out of this. It's an all or nothing endeavor. Many of the artists I know are working artists and this means they have "day jobs" (everything from being a waitress to working at Macy's to working in high-tech, you name it.) Even without a "day job" you have to spend a lot more time "at work" than most people who work full-time. That means sitting in front of the computer, running to the pak-mail place to send out work, sorting invoices, doing taxes, arranging model releases, getting prints ready, uploading or resizing files, and tons of other stuff that maybe the casual observer does not "see" but needs to be done. It really is a full-time job being an artist. It's full-time and then some. Most creative types work a lot of hours and sometimes it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done.
When people ask me "what do you do?" I often tell them I have two jobs. I work in high-tech some, yes, but I'm also an artist and photographer. One of these jobs pays me very well while one is very rewarding. And I wouldn't change that for the world, really I wouldn't. I love the balance of being able to shoot what I want and not have to worry about clients. I also love the steady paycheck high-tech affords me. Just yesterday, I was browsing $58 dollar paint brushes. I could not do that if I were only a poor "starving" artist. My "day job" as it were allows me the opportunity to do more with my art. It allows me to travel and affords me the best art supplies money can buy. I don't want to be a poor, struggling painter who can't afford her next tube of paint, believe me, that's no fun. That's not a pretty place and I will do everything I can, everything in my power, to avoid ending up there.
When asked by students or other artists when I'm going to quit my day job or, even worse, if I think they should quit their day jobs (often I get asked quite bluntly, "when do you think I'll be good enough to quit my day job?") I always reply with the same answer:
KEEP YOUR "DAY JOB" AS LONG AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN.
It's great to have a source of solid, steady income and, trust me, no matter how good an artist, photographer, or musician you think you are, you'll always appreciate having a "cash cushion." It's just good for you and it makes for better art. It's easier to make art when you don't have to worry about paying the bills, when you don't have to worry about where next month's rent is going to come from or when you don't have to worry about how you are going to be able to afford your next tube of paint. It might seem like a pain to have to go to work and then come home and go to work again but it's not really. It's building discipline. That's something artists need to become successful anyway. You don't really think that great artists sit around in lounges all day staring at the walls, do you? They don't call it artWORK for nothing, get used to it. It's a grind and you had best learn early and often how to pick-up the pace if you really want to survive or begin to make it as a creative type. Artists are some of the hardest working people on the planet, they just don't look like they are doing much because they really love their work and get to do fun stuff, but it's still work.
As to me, as to when I will completely quit the old day job, I'm not 100% sure about that one. I do feel it slipping away and don't feel as pressing a need to keep one but, please do recall, I've been doing this for over 20 years now. Maybe it's about time but, then again, maybe not. It's all too easy to fall into the grind of just keeping it and keeping on so that I have that steady cushion but I'm also at a point in my career where if it fell through I would be ok too. I am almost ready to make the switch but don't want to fully commit yet.
More on this in future topics and posts, I'm sure. Until then, I'm going to try to get over this "she took to her bed" mentality although I might really just take a day off. It couldn't hurt to relax for a day or two and nobody would really miss me if I did it, just for a day. Just for one little old day, I might just go the Netflix and Bailey's route but, you know, I'm not going to stay there for long. I've still got some pastels floating around in my head and it's not going to be "rainy day curl up in bed with a good book" weather for long now, is it?
Until next time...