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Thursday, February 16, 2023
We had a great group last Friday for the Valentine Card Workshop. I'll do it again next February. Here are just a few of the pieces made by participants.
All of these are small, greeting card size. It's a great format for exploring contrasts in color, value, and pattern. How do you make an image lively without making it 'too busy'? Where is the line between visual excitement and visual confusion? How simple can you make an image and still maintain a sense of excitement or mystery?
Hope you all had a good Valentine's Day!
Thursday, February 2, 2023
I recently had a bunch of my paintings, drawings, and sketchbook studies printed by a local printer, to generate new collage material. I always scan my smaller work at high resolution, and my larger works I have professionally photographed, so I have high quality digital images of everything. In Adobe PhotoShop I re-sized some of the images, and then ganged them up on 11"x17" files, ready for the printer. You could do this on your own printer if you have plenty of ink.
Here are a few of the files I sent to the printer:
|A few images from my sketchbook|
|More from the sketchbook, original and re-sized |
|More from sketchbook with the red pear in several sizes|
Here are some paintings and studies ganged up on 11"x17" sheets:
In addition to all this new collage material, I used some found material and began playing. Take a look at this video.
I found this to be a very freeing way to play with imagery and generate fresh visual ideas.
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
I've been scribbling a lot lately, layering marks in various materials. You can see previous posts about this work here and here. Like many techniques, scribbling is easy. Making an interesting image with it takes some effort, careful judgement, lots of micro-decisions, and practice. Her is a video showing one way that a particular scribble painting developed. Processes vary quite a lot between individual works, but there is some consistency among those that I do in one "sitting". A sitting doesn't mean all at once, start to finish, but that I work on the group continually until they are done. I don't leave them for weeks while I work on something else. So there is a continuity of thought process.
Here are some of the pieces in this series. They are all 11"x14" on Bristol.
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Friday, January 20, 2023
Tuesday, December 27, 2022
It is a commonly held idea that giving ourselves time to just play, to experiment without a particular goal or expected outcome, is important to making art. [It may be important to living a healthy life, generally, as well]. But many of us, through cultural conditioning, have a hard time with this. If we know it is good for us, then maybe that makes it easier. What are your experiences with play as it pertains to your art practice or to your life?
|A little visual joke on one of my Moving Targets|
As a teacher I say all the right words and give good advice regarding the necessity of play and experimentation, but am I really practicing it myself? I don't know if my work has become more work and less play, but something feels stuck or stale or in need of a re-think.
I would like to commit to a practice of play, of noticing when I am in the playful state of mind while doing creative work, and when I am not. Are there activities that can induce the play state of mind? Are there some that squash it or smother it? (Yes) My working hypotheses are:
- I will make better work if I am having fun. If I am really playing, I will discover more possibilities, more ideas, more ways of executing ideas, and ultimately my work will be better. I might make less of it (which is fine!), but it will reflect my sense of humor and my perspective more authentically.
- Cultivating and valuing that play state of mind will enable me to let go of the external voices - the imagined expectations of others - that seem to still be getting in my way (see this blog post).
- By learning how to play, I can help others (as a teacher), tap into their own playful side more effectively. Learning to play will help me be a better teacher.
I do have fun in my studio at times, and I definitely have fun teaching. I just want to pay more attention to the play and fun aspects of it all and see if I can lean into that a little more.
I would love to hear your thoughts and your experiences on this topic.
Please comment below.
Here is a post from 2018 about Art for Fun. It expresses some similar thoughts through a different lens.
|OK, I do get a bit silly while teaching. That is part of the fun!!|
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Putting together images for my 2023 calendar offers a chance to reflect on the work I've done in the past year. As usual, it is various, and to my eyes all over the map. But it's my map, and I am sticking to it. I've decided not to apologize anymore for being "inconsistent" and trying new things all the time. You can read more of my thoughts on that subject here.
In the 2023 calendar I've tried to choose images that reflect most of the scope of my 2022 explorations. However, I did find myself favoring the most recent work. I wonder if this is a common phenomenon: is your favorite work is the work you've done most recently?
Print it out and enjoy in the months to come. Here is a preview of the first couple of months.
Monday, December 5, 2022
I offer prints and products on Fine Art America / Pixels, which are print-on-demand sites, "FAA" in my shorthand. They are two sites, same company, practically identical, but Pixels offers a few more products than does Fine Art America.
|A few products available from FAA: acrylic print, throw pillow, tote bag, and pencil case|
People often ask me if I like the way FAA sells my work. I read this as emphasis on THEY. Are they (meaning FAA) doing a good job for me? They, in this case, are not doing anything to sell my work other than provide a (fabulous, in my opinion) platform and process for me to sell prints and products.
In the question is embedded a little confusion about marketing. A gallery markets your work - they get the potential customers in front of your pieces and try to match buyer with artwork in a satisfactory fit. I see this as a kind of highly-skilled matchmaking. It takes experience, insight, and knowledge to match the right client with the right artwork. And it takes serious curating. A gallery will not show just anything - they will show work (and dedicate resources to) that they believe they have clients for.
FAA and other POD (print-on-demand) sites do not do marketing. They offer a convenient platform for the artist to offer prints and products. It is up to the artist to get the clients to the site. They also do no curating, so the platform is open to anyone.
|Framed Print of "Line of Fire #1"|
If you have work up on FAA or another POD site and nobody is buying it, it is not because the site is not doing its job. It is because you are not doing your job. Don't give up on POD if your work is not selling. Send people to your POD page via links on your website, social media posts, newsletters, etc., and see what happens.
|This is a screen shot of my new website's navigation menu.|
I personally love the POD concept. For me it means that people can have images of my work in whatever form suits them, for very reasonable prices. Not everyone who likes my work is in the market for original pieces of art. I love it that they can have phone cases, notebooks, tote bags, etc. as well as fine art prints at a size and price that works for them. It's not for everybody, and it doesn't pretend to be original art.
I would like to hear your thoughts on print-on-demand, and to know what kind of experiences you have had with this kind of platform.
Thursday, November 24, 2022
My residency at Truro Center for the Arts in October resulted in some new directions, and new thoughts about my work and processes. That is exactly what I'd hoped to get out of it.
I developed a practice of making studies, or études, as a kind of warm-up exercise. Read about that in the previous post. Drawing from life and from photographs also crept into my practice, like something basic and essential. I have considered how introducing a recognizable subject into my otherwise abstract paintings might give me a broader capacity for expression. I don't know, but it is something to explore. So far, these house-shape elements, or 'fishing stages', or barns, are in a few pieces.
I also explored scribbles, for their own sake to see if I had something to say in this vocabulary. Here are a few examples. Perhaps I'll write more on that at some point.
|Line of Fire #3, 18"x24", acrylic and drawing on paper|
|Under the Wire #1, 18"x24", acrylic and drawing on paper|
Here is the Real Takeaway
Though I've been examining this idea periodically for a couple of years, it was my time in Truro that allowed a new level of understanding (though it is still a work in progress): I let imagined expectations of other people get in my way. Imaginary or hypothetical people, not real ones. Here are a few of the voices:
Is this new idea consistent with work that people have already seen?
Does it make some visual sense to them in terms of my previous work (or work that has sold or been shown)?
Will it look good? Will it stand out? Will it grab the viewer? Does it look like art?
No matter how much I embrace the idea/knowledge that I make my best work when following my own inner urges and curiosities, it is VERY difficult to let go of the urge to please or impress others. I want my work to find 'success' and approval in the world outside the studio. Is that so bad? My guess is that it is perfectly normal and serves a real function. The problem comes when those 'outer' voices - the imagined expectations of others - start telling me how and what to paint.
I am trying to identify the questions and assumptions that may be getting in my way. They are the voices I let in without knowing it. My task now is to identify these culprits so that I can recognize them and put them in their place.
I'd love to know if you experience this struggle between inner curiosity and outer voices, or imagined expectations of others. Please comment.
Friday, October 28, 2022
Many artists have warm-up practices, or do a bunch of studies before plunging into 'real' work. This sounds like an obvious good way to start your painting session, so why haven't I been doing it on a regular basis? I dip into it once in awhile but have not managed to sustain it on any regular basis. Here is a post about quickies. It is almost THREE YEARS old! It is not the last time I engaged with small studies, but still. Here is a video on collage with scraps from almost two years ago.
One of the many things I learned - or re-learned - in my residency at Truro Center for the Arts is the value of this practice. Whether you call them warm-up pieces or studies, the essential aspect is that they are NOT art. They are your playground, a way to warm-up the hand, the eye, the creative muscle that makes visual decisions quickly. You don't have to show any of them to anybody. I don't keep a regular sketchbook as such because I like to work in wet media - paint or collage - and in multiples. I'd have to let one piece dry before turning the page. But these warm-up studies (I'll call them studies, or études) are like a sketchbook.
Do you have a regular practice of working in a sketchbook or doing quick studies? I'd like to hear about it. Please comment below. What is the value of this practice you to? What format to you use?
Here are 'études' from the last couple of weeks here. They are on various papers in various media, and the sizes are around 6x8" or 5x7", varying a bit.