Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It Must be SO NICE to Make Art All the Time!

That's what I often hear from people when I tell them what I do for a living. Surely we artists spend most of our time in creative bliss in our studios.

In the words of the internet, LOL NO.

Want to know what it's really like? Here's my current white board, which I stopped writing on when I ran out of room.

I wrote this half an hour ago and have already added five more items.
This is a mere fraction of what's on my plate as an independent small business owner. Just for starters, the stuff about show proposals, doing my taxes, getting more greeting cards printed, buying frames for things to sell at Crawl, creating a new mailing list, and a couple dozen other items, aren't on here.
A professional artist who manages to spend even 50% of her working time in her studio is an exception and the rest of us want to know how she does it. Generally it involves hiring out a whole lot of items, which I intend to do just as soon as possible.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Second World Under the Surface

I'm often asked where my ideas come from, particularly when I do things like this latest piece, where I used a photo of a very real subject and took it one step sideways. How do I think of these things? What does the collar and key mean?

The truth is, I usually don't know. I know the feeling behind the art, but very little beyond that. There's always a story going on in my work, yet it's rare that I can say what it is. 

This is what it's like to live with the brain that I have: it seems that the part that invents my dreams at night - the part that had me driving my car across a lake, the part that sent me riding on a horse that shrunk with every step, the part that let me tape a small diamond to the back of my shirt and then fly like a bird until the tape loosened and the diamond was lost - doesn't ever quite shut up when I'm awake. I don't know if other people are like this. I haven't asked. But I will look at something here in The Real World, and my brain will instantly show me the Other World, an altered version where strange and beautiful things are happening. One step sideways.

I don't ask for that to happen, it just does. I "see things" when I'm driving, when I'm looking at photos on Facebook, when I'm walking around town, basically all the time. It has been like this all my life. I almost never know what's happening in those ongoing stories in my head, but there is a sense that it's all part of the same alternate universe, one that lurks just under the surface of our own. Scrape at the ground a while and maybe magic wells up from underneath.

The moments when I'm able to capture fragments of that world are when I'm happiest as an artist. But what it all means? That answer is, and should be, different for everyone. I know, on an emotional level, what most of them mean to me. I'm more interested in learning what they mean to someone else. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Class! Making Art out of Snapshots

Pretty much everyone who learns to draw, here in our modern world, starts out by drawing from photos. And pretty much everyone gives up because, let's face it, copying photos gets really darn boring after a while.

But what if you could transform your snapshots, instead of just copying them?

This was a boring, blurry snapshot. Now it's a whimsical little painting in watercolor, pen, and Crayolas.

That's what you'll do in this fun mixed media class for beginners and up. Get out your overstuffed image libraries and start a new adventure.

I'll show you how to:

Choose a picture to work from
Pick out the Good Parts of the shot and ignore the rest
Use a grid to get accurate proportions no matter what size your art is
Have fun with colorful media like watercolors, pencils, acrylics, and even Crayola crayons!

Class is five Tuesday evenings, Feb. 10 to March 10, 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Dancing Goat Coffeehouse, 699 7th Street E, St. Paul -- right by Metro State University.

Tuition $75; limited to six students. Email me here for a materials list, or bring your own existing art materials if you prefer.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Eternal Art Student

That's me. Yesterday I was in Derek Davis' class, not teaching but learning.

Sketch of Maisie, pastel pencil and watercolor, 6 x 10"

This was what I did to warm up before class began. It's the only finished thing I have to show for my 3 hours; the rest of the time I was observing, sketching, and working out how to begin the little landscape I now have in progress.

After a year of mostly working on paper, it's both good and scary to pick up my oils again in earnest. I will always be a student; everyone who's committed to anything, in any field, is by default a student for life. Doesn't matter if it's art, medicine, golf, or dog training. 

The dog, by the way, is named Maisie. She belongs to Derek Davis, and before class she was curled up in this cute little pink chair they have at the Old Town Artists studio. I just had to sketch her, and I'm pleased with the results. I didn't get a lot of detail, but I think Maisie's youth and sweetness is there, and that's what I wanted most.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Adventures in Teaching Art

I'm looking for a new place to teach on a regular basis. 

Meanwhile, I've started working with individual students again. These are things I did as demonstrations last night for one of them, a vibrant and creative woman whose confidence got eroded away by the same currents that get to us all sometimes. I broke out the watercolors and crayons, because it's been my experience that the road out of I'm Too Scared goes right through the playground.

The student in question has been caught in a quandary: She's an abstractionist at heart. She makes these bold, joyful, colorful compositions that look accomplished enough that if I saw them on a gallery wall, I wouldn't question it. 

But she wants to learn to draw what she sees. So, how to learn the intimidating drawing part without losing the joy of the thing she truly loves? I decided the answer was: Start playing with the abstract forms and patterns in the world around us. I have a collection of photos of this kind of thing, so I printed up a few and that's what we did. The bird above was a demo about applying watercolor in an imprecise, fun way (relating to the way she already uses color, but watercolor is a new medium for her). Below, I got the crayons out and did a much more abstract demo from the shapes and colors of a branch of fall leaves. This is that crayon-and-watercolor thing you did in grade school, and yes, that's regular old Crayolas I was using.

For an artist who'd felt as if there was a great wall between "abstract" and "real", this was a revelation and freed her up to find subject matter in the real world, without having to make it realistic.

For me, it was a chance to play again and do things I'd never otherwise have done. I like my abstracted leaves well enough to want to make more, and there's no way it would have ever happened if I hadn't needed to help someone else learn to play again.