Aug 26, 2017

En Plein Air

I'm on a week vacation from my day job. It is amazing. When I am at my day job I don't think, gee I wish I was in Hawaii right now. I think, gee I wish I was hiking or gee, I'd like to be painting. Hiking is sort of out right now--a foot injury limits me to short hikes on flat ground. I decided to paint 5 treescapes over my vacation. I figured I would get up early and head out to the arboretum where I could find lots of good spots to paint within a short walk of the parking lot. Morning is a really good time to paint because the lighting is interesting but mostly I knew if I didn't paint in the morning I would have trouble leaving whatever family activity was happening for the rest of the day. 

I'm really impressed with my paintings. I felt like I reached a new level of facility in my effort to simplify foliage which makes my paintings look more intentional. One thing I still struggle with is whether or not to use ink lines. I love ink lines, I love line. I always start with the line drawing but then a problem crops up where the rest of the painting gets a bit rigid and can feel like a paint-by-numbers. The paintings still look nice but they aren't as enjoyable to complete.

painting with no fine ink lines
painting started with lines

 The one painting I did this week without ink lines felt really good; I felt like I was painting, I felt like I was able to simplify complicated things with spontaneous brushwork instead of mapping out shapes. Next I'm going to try painting a value scale first and then add the ink lines in an effort to combine the two, we'll see how it works. 

This week was also the first time in a while I painted en plein air. Previously I decided to do my sketches outside and paint in the studio. Historically, when I paint outside I get bogged down with details and accuracy. I want every little branch and leaf to be in the painting and I want everything to be the exact size and shape and color that it is in real life. Realism is not my forte so this made it hard to make a good painting. The work I had been doing in the studio to simplify plant life gave me leverage to let that go. It was really great to be outside surrounded by nature and working from observation. I am eager to do more.

Aug 10, 2017

From Home by Memory: Sketches

I've been keeping a sketchbook in my purse so I can draw on my work breaks. I've been trying to draw things from my home by memory, it is really fun, these are my favorites.

Jul 14, 2017

The Allure of Shipping Tags

I am not sure why shipping tags are so visually appealling but I decided to make a book centered around them, here's a couple prototypes in-progress. My vision is that they will be little photo books but the photos will be on shipping tags one can pull out to look at in their entirety.

My latest effort to make more time for artistic endeavors has been a one-week-on, one-week-off approach. I'm not very good at following schedules so for a week I spend all my free-time making art and writing. The next week I make fun, exercise, errands and socializing the priority. It's been working pretty well. This week I have not been doing either because my dad is in the hospital but that certainly deserves the time devoted to it.

In other news I got to hang a couple of my Nature Saint paintings in the Neville Building on Samaritan's campus.

Studio Holiday

getting ready for a workshop

Today is the fourth of July. This is not my favorite holiday. I don't get excited about fireworks or potato salad. I don't drink beer or soda pop. I do love my country but I feel ingenuine celebrating our independence from Britain when we are not exactly granting all our citizens their own freedom within this democracy.

I'm not good at debates or providing sources but I see so much evidence that our free market economy has been legislated into siphon that is creating a lot of poverty and struggle while making just a few people rich. Why are banks allowed to make money loaning money they believe they will have one day? Can you do that? I sure can't but it sounds nice especially if the gov is going to bail you out when you make a mistake.

Why are corporations beholden to make a profit for their shareholders but it's OK for them to pay their workers so little they have to apply for public assistance? Why does our justice system fail so blatantly to protect the rights and lives of minorities as equal to whites? I have only scratched the surface but those are the kinds of questions that make it hard for me to be patriotic even while living in a country that I love and feel extremely grateful to be a part of.

I have a four day weekend because of the holiday and I decided to spend it in my studio. During my normal work weeks—being a dutiful element of the siphon, providing a means for insurance and pharmaceutical companies to make a ton of money off people's health issues—I think about how I want to be creating. I look at my accrued PTO and dream of taking a week off to just to work on art and then I think about how I also need an actual vacation to enjoy my human-self and I feel a little discouraged.

Clearly I am fortunate that this is the worst problem occupying my personal sphere besides a large pile student loan debt and indigestion so I decided that on this weekend I could spend 3 days in the studio and still have one day off for relaxing. It was glorious, these last three days. I finished and illustrated a poem, started a couple new paintings, sketched at Jackson-Frazier Wetlands, got ready for my next Artscare class, worked on a couple writing pieces, learned how to use a new tripod attachment so I can get better photos of the paintings I want to reproduce.

I don't want it to stop but I know I need to spend time relaxing and tending to life outside the studio or I will get burned out. I think its very misguided when people have this romantic idea that creative people only care about their work and don't let mundane life in the way. That is one of those ideas society pretends is true to maintain control. If you can keep artists from enjoying their humanity and other humans from enjoying their creativity there will be little visionary art that inspires change.

There is no one right path for creative work. Anyone who touts an adage of a true artist...blah blah blah is full of hot air. We don't need to maintain this siphon that gives a few creatives status and promotes this insidious idea that others shouldn't try, that what they make isn't worth while. We need people engaged in life to talk about that life creatively.

Most of the artists I know are over this stereotype and have fairly balanced lives. I still meet lots of people who feel they couldn't possibly be artists, or performers or writers though. If you are one of them I invite you to try a new way to express yourself and trust that you have things of great value to share.

Jul 2, 2017

Poem: Migrations.

This evening is larger than my thoughts,
possibility buzzes in each shadow
as if trees are swapping molecules with the street
in the moment between a summer day and a rain storm
when the wind feels like thunder.

I am riding my bike down the back streets toward home
 after a presentation about butterflies at the library.
About how humans, in all their folly, can restore things.
About inmates tending to rare flower plantings or caterpillars —
how they cherish it.

Imprisonment is its own tragedy,
each heart in its trajectory—trying to live,
to right poverty or subjugation—
can loose its place of rest
like the dwindling monarchs.

But to learn how the human heart longs
so much
to tend to something precious,
to be tender in the harshest circumstance —
this is everything.

On my bike in the shifty dusk
all my plans are gone,
none so precious as this choice
to tend to the quiet in the wind,
my feet pedaling, the gray street.

Butterfly lecture by the Institutefor Applied Ecology which is involved with many ecological restoration projects involving men and women inmates.

Did you know that 1 in 100 Americans are incarcerated and only about half of the people in prisons committed violent crimes? Bill Moyers has some excellent articles about this problem.

Jun 17, 2017

Lovejoy News 2.0

three drafts
Remember Lovejoy News?  It was a project I did a few years ago that was like a poet's phenology. I'd wander off into the neighborhood with the intention to observe and report on what was happening nature-wise. I tried to include myself and other humans in the ecology. I wanted to erase boundaries between human habitat and nature, between my inner world and outer world, between science and art. I see science as the mythology of the present. I love science, but I think humanity looses something vital when measurements and calculations become our only form of understanding. There is an increasing participation of non-scientists in scientific endeavors like naturalism these days, it is very exciting and I think it would be deeply enriching if people recorded their observations in their own inspired and creative voice.

I want to pickup Lovejoy News again—I barely scratched the surface of my intentions—but I thought it would be fun to first choose my 10 favorite sketches from the original project and make them into illustrations.  I just finished the first one from Jackson-Frazier Wetlands. I am really happy with it. The text is the most challenging part. Of course it is available in print too.


Jun 4, 2017

Four Excerpts from Spring

Today there were just the Cedars in their enigmatic tallness, their shrouded cores. Just the cedars and the grey sky.

It's evening. The day has been summer-like and we are all giddy with warmth. It will turn cold again soon, but for now the cool wood floor on my bare feet is a pleasure and the rhododendrons are heavy with their immense clusters of pink blossoms.

The sun has set. This would be the most gentle time to go for a walk but the rice cooks on the stove and I'm tired.

The rain is easier to take after a few sunny days. It feels like the lushness of a deep green forest instead of the misery of a cold cement city. It is the sort of rain that makes the green feel even greener so I step out into the world to hike.

Bald Hill is thick with trees—an invincible canopy until the very top. I walk slowly up realizing it is time to start acting like an old person who needs to conserve their health. Just as I step into the open a buzzard soars over barely clearing the trees. I feel blessed every time a vulture's imposing wing span lays its shadow across me, they are the softest birds.

There are trees with white flowers blooming everywhere and the air is thick with pollen.

I walk slowly all the way down the hill on the back side. This time I am not conserving my health. I want to take each inch of the shadowy vault the trail makes through the woods. I spy a kinglet on a bush next to a trail that is so small and still with his little hieroglyph of an eye. Later I hear a Swainson's thrush and try to spot it through the brush between it's little water drop calls.

As a Pacific Northwesterner a warm summer day feels like a silky sweater. My arms, so rarely bare, elicit the strongest contentment as I walk the trail from the parking lot of my work to the farmer's field, it is an unofficial trail used by deer and smokers mostly. The brush is so green and dense I feel as though I am burrowing instead of walking and it almost makes the 8 hours of answering phone calls seem like a reasonable way to spend one's day.

In the office I am sure I am a scourge cursed by karmic debt to stay until I can remember the exact order of the vowels in the word acetaminophen. In the wooded area, however, I am another mammal—rife with joy and searching for sustenance. I am welcome here as another creature and delight of earth, even in my funny clothes. Each step in my loafers on the dirt feels like an affirmation that I belong, an act of gratitude to be home and burrowing deeper into the green day.