The Art Of Simplicity

I think I have spent years complicating my artistic process. When you focus on what you can’t do I think it tends to color what you can do. I have now spent forty days on my project. When I started I was focused on this idea of using up all of the materials I had filled my studio with over the years. I don’t think I really thought about the commitment to the work, or how it might affect me, and it has. Over the course of the last twenty years I have started far more projects than I’ve finished. Drawings, painting, even silly craft projects, where something didn’t look right, or I would make a mistake, or more likely, I would decide that whatever it was, it wasn’t good enough, and then the project was scrapped. Even now if I were to clean out the studio, and our garages, there would be a lot of half done paintings, pieces of wood, etc.. I had given up on myself and it is reflected in every unfinished project. What has happened to me in the last forty days is a transformation. I kept my promise to myself, and that’s a big accomplishment. I have produced more than fifty pieces of art in that time. Not every piece is something I love, or even like. But what is important, the biggest accomplishment is that in the process of creating those pieces I struggled with several, and didn’t stop.There were a couple that I was ready to quit, but I didn’t, I stuck it out. Some of those turned out to be some of the best work that I have created since I started this. I believe that forcing myself to confront this mental ball and chain I been dragging along has done great things for me.  My thought process is changing. The thoughts of what I can’t do are straying further and further from my mind. That is because I have forty days of “can do” looking me in the face. When you start something and you are already defeated, you have lost before you have begun. I have a quote on a magnet, I think it is Eleanor Roosevelt, but it states, “Do something everyday that scares you”. I bought it a few years ago when I was in another of the endless “new starts” that I promised myself. Sort of like all the diets that start next Monday, and  trust me I am very familiar with that one. The magnet has been sitting on my drawing table, and I have looked at it so often and thought, “It’s time”. I didn’t do it. I was afraid. Of what? Failure, maybe finding out that after all of the years of “what if?” I might discover that even if I had taken those art lessons I felt cheated out of, I still wouldn’t have been the artist I wanted to be. I am doing something every day, but guess what? I’m not afraid anymore. A little uncertain, yes. A little lost, yes. But things are getting better with every day, with every project. It’s simple. One project, one day at a time.

Two motivations behind tonight’s project. The first is that I am still trying to fulfill the object of the project. I bought a couple of mat boards at Blick last year simply because I liked that the size of the opening was different, it is long and rectangular. So when I went upstairs to see what I would do today I came across them and decided that whatever I did tonight needed to fit in that opening. The second motivation is that Dan likes pen and ink drawings. So for tonight a “simple” pen and ink.IMG_9705

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The Season

It’s Autumn

But the leaves

Have yet to fall.

The time is now,

Opportunity is in my waiting hands.

The frost of Winter

A distant expectation.

Mother Earth at her voluptuous best,

Ripened fruit,

Lush with knowledge.

Now is the time of realization,

Seeds of Spring

Long since grown,

Summers promise

At last fulfilled.

Now is the time

Before Winter’s harsh wind

The harvest of self,

To reap reward,

To be at last,

What I was meant

To be.Autumn (1)

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday’s thoughts, today’s project, watercolor and ink.

Putting Life In Perspective

I finished my project for today in the late afternoon. I hadn’t taken the time to post either the drawing, nor the accompanying text until now. Just yesterday I had spoken to Dan about the tone of this blog. I feared it was becoming a little “woe is me”, and quite frankly I have no tolerance for whining. I told him I was planning to expand a little on my personal history, and despite my complaints here of feeling as though my artistic gifts were sorely under appreciated (because it’s true),  all of my history and the people in it, make me who I am. That was the plan, and it seems that with this blog the plans I make the day before are rarely the things that happen.

This morning the line of a poem came to my mind. I haven’t said so here before, but I also like to write, and have done so for years. New plan! I was going to take the line, which by mid-morning had become several lines, and write it all down, and then my intention was to in some way illustrate either by paint or pencil the thoughts I was having. I even had some idea of what it should look like in my head, but then I came downstairs and looked at a drawing that I began yesterday. It is of the niece of one of the dearest friends I have ever had. She is four, and in her short history, (which I will not share) she has had much loss and sadness. I put aside the brilliant epiphany of my poem and began to  finish her portrait.  As I sat here this afternoon working, the news of the tornado in Oklahoma appeared in the news feed on Dan’s phone. We turned on the television in time to see the devastated school. In the course of less than a single day the some of what I feel, the self-pity, the feeling of being inadequate, the chip on my shoulder, seem petty.  Sure, I’m entitled to my own human struggles, everyone is. No ones pain is any less than that of another, because pain, its causes, and its individual effects are just that, individual. But when I look at the face of this beautiful child, her history, her future, and the futures that so many children won’t have, I see my struggles in a different perspective. It doesn’t mean I won’t continue to look at the whys and hows of who I am. It just means that maybe I won’t be so hard on myself. That I will continue to grow as an artist, and in the process become a better, and more whole human being.

A little note about my materials. I worked in a grocery store for more years than I care to think of. It was then that I began to draw on the blank side of the bags. I love the look of chalk on brown paper.

So here is Emily, in pastel chalk and pencil.IMG_9710

Still Moving Slow

IMG_9719Still a little under the weather, so I just did a small still life sketch with colored pencil.  I struggled a little as always with perspective, but I feel like it’s getting better.  I think maybe a need a day of just doing a lot of sketching, nothing precise, but just some free form sketching.  I’m still a little timid and uptight in my drawing. Amongst the piles of stuff in my studio are giant sketchbooks that belonged to my kids from their school days. I think I need to make it my mission this week to just grab a piece of charcoal and fill one of them. I also need to get back to the painting that I started. It has been dry to the touch for more than a week. I had planned to get back to it ASAP, but I have been allowing other projects to get in the way. If I’m going to be honest with myself I think I’ve been avoiding it.  It will be my first full figure painting, but again, time to face those fears head on! 

Regaining Lost Ground

I’m back, not 100% to say the least.  Very, very bad reaction to some medication, I think it may take a few days to feel better. That being said, I managed to create not one but two pieces today. Dan asked if I felt like I had to do two pieces since I lost the day yesterday. My initial reaction was to say no, but I think deep down maybe I did feel something. As much as there have been those days when I felt pressured, or an obligation to this project, or felt like it is an unwelcome chore, I have gained more than I imagined from it. I have an old leather portfolio, I’ve had it for more than thirty years, and up until the last few weeks it  didn’t have much in it. It isn’t that I haven’t worked at all, I have always kept a toe in the water, but never in my life have I worked this consistently. My portfolio still had work from high school in it. The plastic sleeves are cracked, and the zipper isn’t what it used to be, but I have aged as well. I could go buy a new one, but this portfolio has been waiting for an awful long time to be filled, almost as long as me. Each day I feel more and more authentic in my work, and each night as I slide a finished piece into my portfolio I find myself feeling happy that I haven’t given up. I find myself excited at the prospect of what lies ahead for me and my art. I am taking one day at a time, each day looking through my studio to decide what to do today. I also realize that as I look around my studio that it would take far more than a year to use up all the materials that I have. What no longer seems overwhelming is all of what I own. I will use it all. There may be days in the future like today where I produce more than a single piece of art. I feel as though the chip on my shoulder is fading away. I am no longer focusing on what I can’t do, but rather what I can.

I saw a photo in the New York Times that I found very appealing. It was of a couple of ballerinas, one of which had her back to the camera. I loved the line of her body. I have mentioned that figure drawing is something I haven’t done much of. I jumped right in again and did a watercolor. There are a few sections of it I would like to redo, but watercolor can be an unforgiving medium, so it stays as is. I still love it. My second piece is a pastel. On a drive home from Arizona last year I took some beautiful photos that I wanted to paint. I had a box (unopened) of some soft pastels. A medium I am still not used to using. I like the way the light fell in the photos on the hills, and I’ve managed to capture it fairly well.

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Lost Day

It would be nice if I were posting early because I finally took the time for myself, but that isn’t the case at all. For the first time in more than a month I will have no new artwork to post. I will instead post a photo of something a little older. I promised myself that not a day would go by without doing something artistic. What I failed to consider was that there might be a day when I had no choice. I went to bed last night feeling perfectly fine but woke at some point not well at all, I’ll spare the gory details, but I was very ill. Suffice it to say that my bathroom floor and I have a new-found relationship. I’ve spent the day sleeping on and off, and at this point still don’t feel great. So tonight there is no artistic accomplishment to unveil. I will instead attach an older work of art but one of my favorites. I hope tomorrow to be back working once again.

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This is an oil I did based on a photo that I took in Santa Barbara, California. I call it My Secret Garden.

Tomorrow Is Another Day

There may come a day, or hopefully days, when I am not typing this blog at ten when all I really want to do is to go to bed. Each night I swear I will put my artistic endeavors above all else the following day, and night after night I sit here knocking out a piece of art after dinner. My poor husband has fallen asleep on the couch far too many times waiting for me to finish, but there is unfortunately always something that gets in the way, and sometimes it’s not even me. There was  cleaning the house, cleaning out cat litter, cooking breakfast, making lunch, grocery shopping, three hours working on the faux brick wall project, and cooking dinner. The day just gets away from me. I’ve hashed this problem out in my head over and over. If I want to do real quality work, and anything substantial I need to start rethinking my life. I need to let some things go. So as Scarlett said, “Tomorrow is another day”, and so I will try again, try to make myself a priority, try to make my artwork a priority. Trouble is when you spend most of your life putting the needs and wants of everyone else first it becomes automatic. As I said the other day, it’s been a month since I started this project. I think I can honestly say that I may have set time aside early in the day less than a hand full of times. But I guess it’s all a work in progress, it isn’t only my work that is growing and evolving, but I think I am doing the same in other ways. I don’t stick to things, I have so many unfinished projects, but here now in my portfolio I have more than thirty pieces of finished art. I’m proud of that, and proud of myself for doing it. I feel like my personal confidence is growing with my artistic confidence, and I know that I feel happier and more content than I did a month ago. Doing things for others is very gratifying, I am a person who likes to give gifts rather than receive them, but I feel like I’m giving myself the best gift I’ve ever gotten, me, the way I was meant to be.

Tonight’s project was a simple drawing exercise. Its something I really need to work on. I know I mentioned the instant gratification person that I am. Drawing runs the gamut between pain and pleasure for me. Sometimes I absolutely love it, sometimes its algebra (a subject best left unspoken about). Painting is much more effortless for me, unless of course I torture myself with architectural type paintings. But I truly believe I can’t be the artist I want to be without working on all my skills.photo(4)

Here Comes The Bride

Tonight I’m really happy with myself. I spent the day working on two completely different projects, one which I enjoyed, the other not so much. I read on Pinterest how to make a homemade canvas print. It didn’t work on the first try, but that was because I rushed it, the second version came out really good with one exception, I cut the photo just a hint too narrow. The sides get painted black which cures all ills as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t photograph it yet, and I’m tired so I’ll post it tomorrow.

The other project was a crafty sort of thing, which I really don’t do much of, but it still came out well.

After all of that and cooking dinner, it was as usual  late when I started my project. Once I actually got my supplies together and did the basic sketch it was after eight. I once again attempted something I haven’t done before, a watercolor portrait. Earlier in the day I was looking at the photos of my daughter’s recent wedding. I came across more than a few that I loved, but one really stood out. I loved it so much that I decided to draw it, but once I sat down tonight I thought I’d really like to paint it. Because I am the queen of instant gratification I chose watercolor. I knew I wasn’t exactly sure how to do it, but dove in. It’s funny that as often as I talk about the “not good enough” that lives in my brain, I sometimes forget that and forge ahead, and that is always a good thing. I am very happy to say that I think the results are really good. Most especially because I did the painting in about an hour and a half while watching television, in my lap, and with horrible lighting, and it was my first. I think the practice in both technique and confidence are starting to pay off. Here is my beautiful daughter, Jessica.Image

The Things That Mean The Most

Small project tonight, but inspired by a great deal of feeling. I mentioned that my son wrote a poem for me for Mother’s Day. As I said the other day I cried when I read it because I really felt like he understood where my head and heart are at these days. I just felt the need to put it in a piece of art. I want to work with it more tomorrow, but two pieces are done for now. He felt bad because he thought he hadn’t done enough for me, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. What he gave me was more than any amount of money can buy. For all the times I think he isn’t listening as I talk, or that in his eyes I am only “Mom”, or that he doesn’t understand that there are things in life that I want for myself, he showed me just how present he is in my life. I couldn’t post earlier because I was waiting to gain his permission to post his writing. He seemed unsure but finally gave the go ahead.

I also painted a sign for a friend. It is one of the things that comes so easy to me, something completely different from the work I want to focus on, but something I think she will like.

 

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One Brick At A Time

Happy Anniversary to me! No, not a wedding anniversary, but an artistic one. This post is my 31st. Big deal, right? It is for me. I have never in my entire life produced thirty plus pieces of art inside a month’s time. Other than following a weight loss program several years ago, I have never stuck to anything that was just for me since my teenage diaries. I had intended to celebrate yesterday, but it was Mother’s Day and other plans took precedence. My intention of celebrating was to do something really special for the day, some really great piece of art. So here it is the next day and did I do some really great piece of art? Yes and no, I guess. I have a friend who has hired me to help her with a decor dilemma. As any artist knows, sometimes you work to pay the bills, and sometimes it’s about helping out someone you care about.

My project today is in its own way a commentary on this blog. So many phrases could be applied to this project I have embarked on. Things such as “one step at a time”, “one day at a time”, you get the idea. I have taken this project “one brick at a time”, some days coming easier than others, some days feeling like a total fraud and failure, drowning in my own doubts, but there have also been amazing days when I have produced pieces that I am really proud of. Art that I look at in awe wondering how I did it. There have been a few days where if you’ve been following my blog, you know I just threw something together to get the “homework” done. I also hope that anyone who sees the good work, the stuff I like, that it evokes something inside you like good art is meant to do. So here on my anniversary, and oh so fittingly is today’s work. It took all day. I suggested that my friend might want to add a faux brick wall to the troubled area in her home. She admittedly doesn’t have the vision I have, where it is already a completed project in my head. So I made her a brick wall, no mortar required. I had a very large cardboard box left over from my daughter’s wedding. With Dan’s help I cut it into a 48×50 inch cardboard wall. We then cut out each and every brick from cardboard, I painted the back to match an existing brick wall that is in the room already, faux finished each individual brick to match existing brick using a photo I had taken in her home,and finally (how appropriate), I attached one brick at a time to the wall. So, I didn’t exactly get to create that “amazing” piece of art for today, but I think I may just have created something much more fitting for the occasion.

 

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