Dec 23, 2007

Three Autumn Trees in Hoyt Arboretum.

I have grand hopes of learning to document my work over break so I can get my portfolio together. By the time I get around to applying to 4 year programs I will be under the wire as the deadlines go. Anyways it seemed really simple at school when people were helping me, AKA doing it for me! I have a tripod and a level and I seem to think that it should be easy now. Not really, I took his picture before I got lights so we'll see what happens when I get those set up.

I haven't named this painting yet. I painted it from sketches I made at the Arboretum, though I did not stay true to the landscape exactly. My painting teacher feels that this is the least resolved of my pieces and while I think it is the most static I really can't figure out what else to do to it without completely repainting it. I love trees and color so I guess I don't mind having a static but colorful painting of some very beautiful trees. Hopefully I will outgrow static.

Dec 18, 2007

Oatmeal: the Movie.

I am now officially on Winter break, finals week was rough but I did well and I am very happy to report that I am finished with my college math career! Painting finals are a whole different story. We don't take tests. We aren't forced to paint a still life in 2 hours to prove our skill. We have a critique. Everyone puts all their work up from the quarter and we disscuss as a group what works and doesn't work about each piece. They are extremely educational but somewhat dissapointing in that, inevitably, there are pieces I think are finished that aren't. I have three such paintings. Patience is the hardest part of being an artist so far.

Anyways, like I said, I'm on break. Although I have been running around trying to gather lights, velvet and camera gear to take slides of my work, and lumber and tools to frame work, I am actually trying to relax too. One thing I find really important is to play creatively like I did before I had any notion of making art a career. Oatmeal: the Movie. is just that sort of endeavor. My sister and her husband thoughtfully gave me their digital camera after they upgraded. It's far superior to the one I had and it makes movies! I have no idea why this film is so funny to me. I know nothing about film making and it is really hard to film what you are doing when what you are doing you would normally do with two hands. I like it anyways.

Dec 5, 2007

The End of Math and Other Post-Flu Stories.

Well, I have just returned from the land of ill-health. It's not my favorite place to be but now that I am back in a sound body I feel as though I've accomplished something, like taking a trek through the desert or enduring a meditation retreat. Of course it's not like my life stopped, I'm a student, you know, and I work in a restaurant. Neither industry stops for the wounded. So, although it feels like I have slept through the last few weeks I have still been an artist making art and a barista making lattes and a math student avoiding limit notation and logarithms. The print to the right is one I thought I would give up on but one day when I needed a reason to avoid the function of g with the function of h as its input I found myself hacking away at this plate with abandon. It's really lovely to work on a plate you've decided to give up on. There's no pressure, you can just experiment. I'd like to cultivate that freedom in pieces I haven't given up on.
Today I attended the last math class of my college career. I felt strangely elated when I left the room and my new found health seemed to elevate further. It's another kind of freedom, one less thing in the way of painting and print making.

Nov 15, 2007

Coming to Terms with the Postmodern Age.

As you well know an artist can get away with anything these days. We keep trying to get away with more because everything has already been done and it has been done with incredible skill and beauty. I have had a profound dislike of minimalist art, DADA, and postmodern art for some time and am slowly learning to appreciate and even adore some of it.
It all started with Mondrian. I had to do a report on him for a design class. He had this Grey Tree painting that I loved and as I learned about the spiritual pursuit underlying his art I began to think it wasn't so pretentious. Then I watched a video about him, as they panned the camera through a gallery of his work I could feel the resonance not available in printed reproductions. Later I went to visit the minimalist art wing in the Portland Art Museum and discovered it was my favorite wing, all the pieces had a profound resonance. Agnes Martin made no sense to me in a book, but standing in front of her work I found it indescribably beautiful. I have heard from many people that they did not like Pollock until they saw his work in person, now they love it!
I still have trouble with the Postmodern and DADA aesthetic but after reading about the context they were born out of I can finally appreciate them as important movements. DADA being a reaction to the senselessness of war, the initial impulse to make art without reason or rules is inspiring but the destructive attitude that went along with the movement really puts me off. They wanted to obliterate everything previously held sacred or revered. While it's certainly worthwhile to deconstruct cultural assumptions the bitterness is hard to find attractive as an artistic aesthetic. I have only learned a little about it yet and may change my mind. These days it seems much of the art out there is either a dry imitation of something else, a forced attempt to do something unique for its own sake, or its very conceptual. So far I am not very drawn to conceptual art but my continuing education may change my mind on that, too.

The above picture is one of my first attempts at abstracting from an observed subject, the Columbia river. This painting at right is a small canvas I painted after looking at Paul Klee's work. I was using it as a warm up to try to get in a less structured spirit before I began work on another painting. I think I will continue to paint over it as a warm-up improvisation.

Nov 9, 2007

Soft. (book arts)

This book is made of handmade paper, a blend of Abaca, cotton and recycled paper. I really enjoyed designing this book. I made the inside pockets first then found a poem I thought would fit the format. I made the cover last. I sold this book last spring. Of all the books I've made this is my favorite and I was glad that it was the one that sold because I felt it deserved to more than any of my other pieces which are equally beautiful but not as cohesive. Before I went back to school it was difficult for me to think of parting with my art, even casual little paintings on sketch paper. I felt like I lived in a recycling bin, there was so much art stuffed in my closet and under my bed! Now I recycle things regularly and would gladly part with any of my pieces. Oddly enough, I feel I "have" this piece now more than ever because it has lived the full life of an art piece and now enhances someone else's life.

I decided to post this piece tonight because I was just out sketching trees. Afterward I went for a hike and I felt as if all the trees were being especially alluring in their windy branches and stark dusk light. It was as if they all wanted desperately to be drawn! Of course, I know this isn't true. They have been fine forever without any portraits and they will continue to be more content than I can imagine without my attention. So, I thought of this poem.

Nov 7, 2007

The Denial of Little P's Flight. (Intaglio)

Well, I'm not quite done with this print to the right but I want to post it anyways because in my world its a feat to get a decent aquatint unsupervised. Aquatint uses spray paint as a ground for etching. It covers just enough of the plate to make an even shade of grey without open-biting the plate (etching such a large ares it cannot hold ink.) I've had trouble getting an even coat that isn't too thin or too thick. The other tricky part is to render your shading in reverse, blocking out the light areas with a Sharpie pen. It hurts to think backwards like that. The original drawing is a line etch and I used white ground on top of the aquatint to get the gradations in the sky.
The main change I want to make is to lighten the bird up in the left part of the tree. You probably didn't see it did you, see what I mean? The title, The Denial of Little P's Flight is just a working title for now. The piece is about how we sometimes would rather deny the wrongdoings of someone important to us than to make them uncomfortable. We can also deny out own wrongdoings just to "save face" in the world. I don't know if I've conveyed that or not.
The other two pieces feel at a standstill to me
and I'm tempted to abandon them and move on to new plates. Sometimes when I try to correct a mistake it causes ten new ones. It's not easy to let go of a piece I put a lot of time into but I think it might be good to apply what I've learned to a new plate instead of struggling with an old one.

Nov 5, 2007

Fertile Paper.

So here's the finished product...I get a little enamored with handmade papers. I love getting up in the morning after making a batch to see if they are dry. It's just like a holiday with presents. Each piece is so different from the others and seems to tell its own story. In this case some pieces are busy with lots of frantic sperm trying to get to their destination, trying to be the select parcel of genetic material that gets to be expressed in an actual human being. Other pieces with just a few wayward sperm seem to be in some far reaches, having totally missed the meaning of their existence. They also look like microscope views.
I love all the inconsistencies, the one piece of blue lint or the wrinkle, the misshapen corner. They seem to have more character then the few pieces that turn out more perfect. Now I need to test them out to see what mediums can be used on them . I did use some sizing but its difficult to get enough in and not too much. Very scientific and since I am more interested in making new papers I rarely get a chance to perfect the science part. I think my paper had become boring then anyways, less inconsistencies.

Nov 3, 2007

The Virility of Paper 2.

Yesterday and today I made paper. Making paper is incredibly tedious but I love it! I felt a little out of practice and forgot to put the size in so I had to empty the vat back into buckets and start over.
I love the way paper looks when it is hanging up to dry and I have to admit I think its more beautiful wet then it is dry.

Nov 1, 2007

Works In Progress

Painting is hard. Just when you think all you have to do is paint the sky orange so that your piece is no longer dark and closed you find that the white figure disappearing behind the mountains, the grey stump and the dark tree no longer work. And is it any surprise? It used to be night and now it is dawn! It is still rewarding though. I'd post pictures but I'm not sure how I feel about posting works in progress, maybe later. Yesterday I started a new etching, I can hardly wait to print it. It is a departure for me in that I drew very loosely and did not have a drawing all planned out ahead of time, I worked from a rough thumb-nail sketch and a narrative in my imagination. We'll see what happens...

Oct 30, 2007

The Virility of Paper

Today I started blending pulp for a new batch of paper. This will be an abaca, hemp, cotton blend with some recycled printmaking paper thrown in. My inspiration is a little seed from the bushes behind my apartments. There were many of them floating through the parking lot the other day, bundles of fluff sailing whimsically along. I picked one up off the banister and noticed that inside the fluff the seed was shaped just like a sperm with a long, windy tail. Normally I don't gravitate towards the crude but who could resist a beautiful, handcrafted piece of paper that happens to have giant sperm in it, each going their own merry little way! It's so understated, can you imagine sending a casual little note to a new boyfriend or girlfriend on such paper! I'll photograph it when it's finished. For now there is just buckets of blended pulp and buckets of fibers to be blended.

Oct 29, 2007

Mathmatics of Branches.

Lately I've begun making little sketches and notes about landscape paintings and painters I like. My favorite of today was "Ski Tracks" by Edwin H. Holgate, a Canadian painter. Of course my sketch does not do it justice but it is a really beautiful paining. The shapes are so simple but compelling, there is no dead space in this painting. I would imagine that's quite a feat considering that most of the piece is white, and how did he make ski tracks look interesting? I think the shadows are what make the painting and the composition of the fence and tree with the top of the hill.
Later in the day while I was on my way to Algebra, thinking that I would get there early and catch up on logarithms, I stopped to sit on a stone bench out behind the cafeteria. There were such beautiful trees I had to get out my sketch book. What I loved most was the brilliant yellow of back-lit leaves glowing between evergreen trunks in the distance. I tried to be loose and found that, as I suspected, drawing is way more fulfilling when the drawer is relaxed. It was tempting to skip math but I left for class anyways and found that everywhere I looked there was a beautiful composition waiting to be painted! It's almost overwhelming. I felt very quiet and tree-like in the midst of all that beauty and remembered why I love trees so much. They are so strong and so yielding. They do not try to make their branches grow in any particular way, they do not spend thirty years deciding what kind of tree they want to be only to have a mid-life crisis ten years later when they realize, "I was just never meant to be a birch, I 'm an oak after all!"

Oct 28, 2007

Sketching Trees

On Friday I went out to take pictures of trees. My painting instructor suggested this since I would sometimes get stymied in my paintings when a tree just doesn't look right. I thought the trick was to go sketch trees and then return to my work-in-progress with the collected information. This is ideal but it is nice to have some photos on hand so I don't have to drop everything to go to the woods (although I do like excuses to go outside.) I had a great time photographing trees, there are so many I want to paint. I sketched for a while, too and realized that I would sketch a lot more if I didn't try so hard. Drawing is so tiresome when I try to make it "good." But I don't think drawings have to look good in order to be useful, it's about learning to see. I love the way Bonnard paints landscapes, trees especially, and I've noticed that his corresponding sketches are ridiculously loose and scribbley. If the book did not point out that they were Bonnard's I would assume a non-artist did them. I would like to be a non-artist when I sketch!

Oct 26, 2007

They Give Like Sighs. (Intaglio)

I sat down with my new copper plate, it had a fresh coat of soft ground and blank piece of tracing paper on top. I started drawing trees as if I knew how to draw trees and knew what kind of trees I was drawing. I was working with a poem in mind and after several months of struggling with this plate I had to admit that the poem called for birch trees. The letters on the ground are what I love about this print. They took forever!

I spent hours writing them on tracing paper then spent hours tracing them backwards onto the softground and then I etched my plate too long! The acid broke through the ground and I lost half the letters. I started over, writing the letters on tracing paper...this time I decided to line etch them so I could leave them in the acid longer without worrying about the ground breaking down. I transferred the letters from the tracing paper onto the asphaltum ground by running them through the press. I then spent hours carving the letters out before I etched them again. The letters came out this time but they were so much darker than the softground trees I decided to use drypoint to bring the trees back out. When the plate was finally "done" I was disappointed in the upper branches and am considering cutting the plate down and re-editioning it.

Oct 25, 2007

A Brief Exploration of Pastles.

These are pastel pieces I made in Rebecca Wild's workshop, "Letters, Lines and Luminosity." I wanted to learn how to incorporate the text of a poem into an illustration.

The above two pieces were practices using only one word. I actually like them better then my poem illustrations. The slides were not all that great and neither is the photo-editing program on my home computer, thus the pastel borders!

"A broken heart ain't nothin' more than a poem, another excuse to stand infront of the world to say, 'I love you! And it hurts when you don't love me back!'"

"So now my body belongs to the summer grass."
I took this workshop around the same time I made "The Geology of Being" books. It was very instrumental in motivating me to go back to school. Everyone in the class loved my work and encouraged me to consider going into illustration. I wasn't all that fond of these pieces but I so enjoyed making them! We used frisket paper as a mask that could be moved and layered with varying pastle color schemes. It was always a delight to see the way the colors would layer on top of eachother--changing, then peeling off the frisket. I was dazzled with the contasts between the original colors and the layered colors.

Oct 23, 2007

The Geology of Being.

It's about time I got around to the namesake of this blog. I made ten copies of this book, each illustrated and lettered by hand and then I gave them away to my friends at my 29th birthday party after cooking dinner for everyone. They thought I was crazy but my birthday is on December 28th, in the shadow of The Big Day (aka Christmas.) I felt oft forgotten and at least neglected as a kid on my birthday but somewhere along the way I developed the practice of planning my own celebrations whether it be a party or a day hiking alone.

The covers are made out of handmade paper, The grey paper has various mosses, pine needles and other forest debris inclusions. The inside black paper has old man's beard, a lichen, embedded into it. Not long after making this book I decided to go to school to study calligraphy and painting.
I pretty much stole the idea of portraying a person as a mountain from my first love, who talked about making of portrait of himself as a clear-cut mountainside. It wasn't intentional thievery. Some time after I made the books I remembered his idea and it occurred to me that I had completely revamped his vision to suit my own purposes. I don't think he was super impressed with my theft, especially not the sweetness of my version which I did, in fact present him with on my birthday. He was kind and said nothing.

"Any Morning." (Book Arts)

This is a Japanese bound book made
for William Stafford's poem, "Any Morning." In Western binding methods the folds of the paper are generally nested together and sewn or glued into the spine. In this traditional Japanese binding style the folds of the pages are on the outside of the book. For this rendition of "Any Morning" I selected one word from each page and wrote it under the text in blue gouache, across the fold and onto the backside of the page. The calligraphic hand is Uncial, widely used in the middle ages.
William Stafford was the Poet Laureate of Oregon in his day and still widely acclaimed. This is one of my favorite poems.

Oct 22, 2007


This is one of the first books I made out of handmade paper. The process occupied almost every square foot of my small living room and kitchen. The binding is actually embedded into the pages. It was really challenging trying to keep track of which string went where and I was pleasantly surprised when it all worked out. I left the binding threads hanging, long out of the sides of the pages because I thought it gave the book a more earth feel and the reader has to participate more to turn the pages, sweeping the strings out of the way. The text reads:


I would like to blow away with the
leaves today.
Surely some of them make it all the
way to Santa Fe.
There they catch in sagebrush with
local cotton wood leaves
to rest forever under snow and bright blue skies.
I would like to rest forever!
I would like to ride the wind and change colors.
I would like to fray and melt back into the earth.
I would like to mingle with stones and worms.,
to sink back to roots and feed new green leaves
who have yet to paint themselves and dance across city sidewalks.

What joy there is in sadness!
Those old leaves rattling about on the street
sing the meanest, low-downest blues I've ever heard.
But they feel no pain
even stuck in gutters and drain grating, soggy and forlorn.
They sing their blues for us.
They dance around our feet
lamenting the lives of such big, tall creatures
who never paint themselves red
or dance on the wind.

Oct 21, 2007

Painting Trees in the Arboretum

On the first day of my landscape painting class I felt truly horrible, I'll spare the details for the guys' sake but it was all I could do to look at the tree and move my paintbrush around on the gessoed paper. The interesting thing is that I'm sure it is my best painting of the entire class, most likely because I wasn't thinking about it at all. I'm not about to induce pain upon myself before I paint but I would love to find another way to get a similar effect. Meditation maybe...
Anyways we were in the Arboretum which is one of my favorite places to be and I can't wait to go back and paint there again.

Oct 20, 2007

Shadow and Fern.(Intaglio)

I was minding my own business in the Arboretum, just sitting at a picnic table admiring the lines of the cobbles and the lush ferns against the rocks when an Oregon Junko landed right in front of me. For just a moment he was still but his shadow seemed to be moving slightly, rising as if to take flight and leave his body behind. I didn't have my sketchbook in hand and even if I did I would have missed the moment, trying to get it down on paper. Birds are very frustrating to draw for that reason but Junkos are so fun to watch! They will hop up on a grass stem to pin the head down so they can eat the seeds. They are so focused and nonchalant about it. You know if a human figured out a trick like that they would have to boast and blog about it and forever be proud. Speaking of which, this is my first intaglio print. It's drypoint, meaning I scratched the drawing directly onto the copper plate. The metal burrs are what hold the ink for printing. Drypoint generally gives a darker, softer line then etching.

Oct 19, 2007

Separate. (Book Arts)

This is a book I created for my friend Loie as an illustration of the poem below. I was enamored with the idea of a book that had many compartments, pockets and folding surfaces. The above picture is the last, inside page because I have not yet developed lay-out skills in this program!


There's a man in my window, It's only my reflection without my face.

I've just come from the arboretum
where wind sculpted light across the sky
on the bellies of clouds.

I just lay in the arboretum
where trees drew inky, angular lines across the sky,
some flaming in the iridescent glory
of blood becoming light.

I just made love to the sky,
the wind coddling my cheek,
each pore receiving rain in the delighted giggles
and shudders of virgin nerves.
Here my chin, there my brow,
now my lip, then my nose.

I turn to the days melt along the horizon
where orange and crimson undulate
in the grey sea of twilight.
I stand to see more and wander home
until the sky of paint pulls me from the trail.

The pain of seeing only dark,
formlessness within collapses,
a pile of joints and bones and skin
at the crest of a needle-strewn hill.

I'll leave all my dreams here,
take my last walk off this hill,
if I could just tuck the colors in my pocket
and hold the light inside.