Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday Theme: Frozen

Hi all!  Back to posts with photos!  Although, ironically after all those posts about inspiration and personal style and such, I have been seriously off my groove.  I have wanted to make things, but just haven't had the inspiration.  I've been keeping up with my sketching, but don't have anything more than a few studies yet.  It's like my artistic impulse and inspiration have been frozen solid by the sudden decisive onset of Winter. 

But last night I sort of forced a thaw.  I had some gift tags to make and some boxes that needed to go out in the mail for some far-flung friends.  I decorated the boxes first, and it was kind of rough.  For a while I just sort of sat there looking at all my stuff, as though I didn't know what I was doing.  I pushed myself to just get started, though, and so I'm not all that thrilled with how they turned out.  Well, they're just shipping boxes, so they're not meant to be kept...

But once I got started on the tags to go with the gifts in them, I started to warm up a little better.

Isn't it strange how you can get so thrown off, and freeze up and feel like you can't do anything anymore?  Or maybe it's just me that happens to.  Well, hopefully I can keep warming up and get the fire burning again.  I have so much to do for Christmas!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday Theme: Taking Charge

Alright, so I did interrupt this series to take Thanksgiving off.  But I'm back to finish out my musings on my creative identity with the final card, pointing to the future.  The Emperor. 

The Emperor stands for stability, authority, and control.  Of the traits associated with the Emperor, control started to stand out to me more as I thought about it all.  But whereas control can often be thought of as restriction and taking away agency, I started thinking of it as something liberating.

It has become apparent to me that what I need to do in order to find and feel comfortable with my own artistic identity and style is to take charge.  I need to be the one in control of my art.  That doesn't necessarily mean isolating myself in my own ivory tower of art like the Seven of Swords can imply with its suggestion of standing alone.  It means deciding what I want to present and how I want to make it happen, and then making it happen my way.  But like any good leader, I can and should allow myself to consider influences from others.  Not to the extent of becoming a puppet and regressing to my past of mimicking other artists, but more like a line in the Tenacious D song "Dio," where they sing to the great heavy metal vocalist Ronnie Dio "Your sauce will mix with ours / And we'll make a good goulash baby..." (they use a lot of food metaphors).  The important part is that I maintain my identity and control how much I season my sauce with others' influence.  I think it's imperative that, as artists, we all take charge of our art and make conscious decisions about where we are headed.

As an example of what I'm talking about, I've been doing a couple of things lately.  For one thing, I was working on corrugated cardboard.  I had to be careful not to be trying to make it look just like Michelle Ward's excellent work with cardboard.  So I added natural and dimensional elements, broke up the field a bit with some strong lines, and kept most of my elements pretty clean.  I'm pretty confident that what I ended up with would not be confused with Michelle's work.  The other stuff I'm working on is going back to sketching again.  I've been looking at a lot of pencil art lately, and there's a big trend of photorealistic sketching out there.  It's beautiful.  And I've looked at some tutorials and stuff, and I kept thinking "man, I don't think I could ever pull that off."  But I gradually came to realize that I don't need to, and nor do I want to.  Just because I am getting back to sketching doesn't mean I have to make everything look perfect and realistic.  By the same token, I also don't have to succumb to the "doodle" trend in mixed media.  I can work in my own style and work towards perfecting the look I want.  A look that is realistic but not perfect. 

From all that, I've started to realize that what I want my art to look like is something that took some effort but was still fun.  I don't want it to look like I've got some sort of god-like ability.  I want it to look like the work of human hands, but hands attached to a mind that constantly challenges itself to improve.  I'm moving away from messy towards intentional, yet organic.  I suppose what I'm aiming for is a bit of a paradox, but it's my paradox and I'll take it by the horns if need be.

Of course, another thing I have to take charge of is my time.  I need to be making more time for my art.  But now that I feel like I have a direction, I think that whatever time I spend making art will be more meaningful than it has felt for a while.

Thank you for sticking with this and walking along this long and lonesome road of introspection.  Please, leave any feedback you can.  I would love to read what you think about these sorts of concepts.  And now, back to all art, all the time on this blog :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Theme: The Road Goes Ever On and On

Hi guys!  This week, I'm continuing what I started last week, examining what my tarot cards suggested about my quest for artistic identity.  So since last week was my past, this week is where I am on the road.  Not much in the way of pictures this time; I'm just going to launch into it.

So, whereas the card referring to my past indicated teachers and tradition, the card for my current situation indicates a few confusing things.  The Seven of Swords suggests deception, deceit, or indecision.  It also can suggest standing alone.  Hmmm...

If I'm being deceitful, it's not on purpose.  I've thought a lot about how that could relate to my current artistic groove, and all I can think of is that maybe I'm fooling myself into thinking I'm making progress when really I'm not.  Otherwise, I don't purposely take credit for what others have taught or provided me.  When I blog my work, I try to remember to acknowledge the products I use and the designers of the stencils and stamps I use.  Beyond something like that, I haven't been able to figure out a way that this part of the interpretation relates.

Indecision is an interesting piece.  Anybody who's known me for any length of time will tell you that one of my flaws is that I'm horribly indecisive.  And my artistic pursuits are not immune from this.  Sometimes if I sit down to start something, if I don't have a project in mind already, I'll sit there and stare at my materials and not be able to decide what to use first and how.  On a larger scale, I've realized that there is a large part of me that just doesn't know what direction I want to go in.  Do I prefer working on a small scale or a large one?  On paper or canvas?  With ink or paint?  How much dimension do I want my art to have?  Is it really dimension and embellishment that I'm after, or just texture that can be achieved with paint or paper?  All of the above?  Some?  None?  It's like I have Art ADD and everything is shiny.  And I feel like, in order to go anywhere with anything, I need to commit to something.  Anything.  A journey starts with the first step, and sometimes I go back to the beginning and plant my feet.

The part that I've gotten the most out of, though, is the part about standing alone.  Independence, or reclusiveness?  I think there's a little of both in where I am right now.  To some extent, I've been working inside my own head, without looking outward as much, trying to just go with what I see myself.  The reclusiveness of that mode can be very isolating and a little frustrating when I get stuck and all I've got to work with is my own tangled mess of ideas.  But there's something stubborn in me that doesn't want other people's work to influence me more than it already has, and something that looks at a lot of work by people I know and thinks "that is SO not my style, time to get back to me."  But there's something positive about the independence of working alone, too.  It gives me the freedom to play and experiment and see what happens when I combine things or stop halfway or push things over the limit.  If I'm not trying to emulate somebody else, it doesn't matter much what my results are like.  I can look inside myself for inspiration, and while the techniques I use to present it may have been learned elsewhere, the idea and the image are mine. 

Now, all of this doesn't mean that I've stopped looking at other art and finding inspiration in other people's work.  I'm not living in a vacuum now.  But I've stopped trying to make my art look like other people's.  I'm trying to use what they've taught me and make it look like my own.  Hopefully I'm finding some success.

Next week, check back for a discussion of what I have to work towards, represented by The Emperor.  In the meantime, tell me what you think.  Let me know where you find yourself on your path.  Share your thoughts on any of this.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Theme: Journey of Self-Discovery

Hi there Pocketeers.  This is going to be a long one.  I'm going to share with you something that I've been thinking a lot about lately, with a few visual aids.  Instead of being a normal Thursday Theme post where all the art shown has something noticeable in common, this is going to be the first of three posts on a progressive sort of theme.  These three posts are going to be about my search for my own distinctive signature style.  I'm sharing this partly to get my own thoughts organized and have some accountability for the process, but mostly to show any of you who are going through the same process what I'm going through in mine, in the hopes that it might be of some help.

It's been a little over a year since I started thinking about what might define my art and make it recognizable as mine.  It started because I heard some things about some artists, and was taking classes a lot, and started to feel like I was just copying others' styles.  So over the past year, I've been sort of stumbling around what I've learned and what I'm still learning and what I have figured out myself and what I can combine.  I think I'm forging a path but I'm never quite sure how much progress I'm making. 

Recently, my friend RunningWave gave me a gift, a deck of tarot cards that a friend of hers designed and had published.  Tarot is something that has always fascinated me but, since I believed it was just for divination and I don't want my future told, I shied away from actually using the cards.  I've always liked the artwork, though, and uses of them in stories.  Well, I have since learned that tarot can be used as a prompt for your own intuition and consideration of an issue, so I decided to use my new cards to get my mind working on where my art is headed.  I did a simple three-card layout that is supposed to refer to past, present, and possible future.  What I drew were the Hierophant, the Seven of Swords, and the Emperor.  So that gave me a lot to think about, once I looked up what those cards mean.  Here's my ruminations on the first, the Hierophant, supposed to be connected to my past or where I'm coming from.

The Hierophant represents organized beliefs, spiritual authority, or traditional education.  It can also represent norms and standards, but what I picked up on the most was the suggestion of authority and education.  For a long time, ever since I picked up mixed media and paper art, I've followed the influence and styles of the artists I liked and took lessons from.  Way back in 2009, I was taking Tim Holtz classes and learning from tutorials and videos on his website and blog.  And, by following in his footsteps, I was producing stuff like this:

That's not bad, but all the elements are still quite recognizable, and even the style in which they're put together says, to me, Tim. 

Since a little while before then, I was stalking faithfully following Michelle Ward and her street team blog.  Her style is very different from Tim's, and it's very rock and roll, with a helping of medieval sauce here and there, and if you know anything about me you know that speaks directly to my heart and soul.  So, naturally, slavish devotion.  Thanks to Michelle, I started playing with stencils, carving the occasional stamp, and trying to do things with paint.  I had little success, and couldn't get into a groove with any of the techniques until I finally took classes with her last year.  As soon as I came home, I did this:

That is as close to a Michelle Ward rip off as I've ever gotten.  And I do love it, but it felt a little too much like copying.  Which just seems wrong when the artist I was ripping off always encourages people to "Make It Your Own."  Hence the start of this journey. 

So that "past" tarot card, the Hierophant, with its suggestion of authority and teaching and traditionalism seemed to be pointing to exactly what I was trying to push off from quite accurately.  But as I've thought about it more, a couple of other things came to the surface.  Things I have to overcome in my head before my hands can really be free to just MAKE stuff. 

First is an idea that there is traditional art like I used to do (sketching and realism), and there is mixed media art with all its abstractness and patterns and textures and assemblage-y thingamabobs, and never the twain shall meet.  The idea that I have to be in a different mindset for each task, and set aside different times for each one, which is why even though I tried to return to drawing last year, I didn't do much with it.  Later posts will address the progress I think I've made there.

The other is something that, again, relates directly to teachers.  My late friend and high school art teacher, who I was privileged to be allowed to call "Aunt Linda," was encouraging and helpful and really liked my art.  There was one criticism, however, that I found somewhat crushing, and I don't think she ever knew that it had bothered me and it still nags at me.  On an early assignment in Art I, I had done a poor job of placing the elements we were supposed to draw on the page.  She indicated this to me by telling me that I didn't have a very good eye for composition.  I'm pretty sure that's the only time she ever gave me a critique that wasn't constructive.  Even now, working on collages or assemblages, it's always in the back of my mind that I have no eye for composition and therefore don't really have a good sense of where to place things so they harmonize and look good.  And I'm pretty sure that "poor composition" is not a style.  So that is something else to consider while working through this process.  Do I try to let go of the criticism and forge ahead, relying on my intuition and lots of trial and error?  Or do I try to find a way to learn better compositional principles somehow?

Well, that's a lot of words, mostly about me.  I hope I haven't bored you too much.  Tell me, are you working on finding or re-discovering your artistic groove?  Do you have ruts or criticisms or insecurities that you need to find your way out of?  Has a criticism ever gotten under your skin and stuck with you?  Please comment, I'd love for this to be a conversation.

And next week... the current state of things, represented by the Seven of Swords.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thursday Theme: Medieval Fantasy

Hello Pocketeers!  It's been a while.  I've been reading more than I've been arting lately, so I hadn't built up much to show.  I guess I could've shown one project here or there, but I've been so wrapped up in my books that I've forgotten to blog.  For a while, I wasn't even checking other people's blogs.  But finally I've got enough art to fill a theme post, so I'm finally going to share some of what I'm doing.  And most of what I've been doing has been inspired by my reading.  I've really dived (dove?) into fantasy novels again, after a long time of reading mostly mystery and Star Wars books.  Oh man.  I forgot how much I love fantasy.  Maybe it's that most fantasy worlds (real fantasy, not this urban fantasy nonsense that's so popular now) are medievalish, or that fantasy worlds, even the ones that are engulfed in war, are more appealing than ours is sometimes.  There's magic, and mystical creatures, and faeries and elves and stuff.  Maybe it's the medieval flavor, though.  You know I love the medieval sauce.

So, since I have many seasonings for the medieval sauce, I've been blending that with the sort of colors and motifs that stick in my head when I'm reading fantasy.  And here is what I've come up with:

Suddenly I realize that this is before I finished the piece, and I didn't take a picture of the finished piece.  But this is nearly finished, so I'm not going to take another picture right now.  The background, btw, is a gorgeous handmade paper I got at the Queen's Ink.

Also not quite finished, but the composition is done.  It ended up being the lid on a jewelry box.  More on that later.

A couple of ATCs I did because I wanted to play around with Seedless Preserves and Scattered Twigs Distress Inks and white stamping.

Really just an excuse to use that awesome shield stamp.

I didn't photograph these finished until I had them hanging up on my wall at work, hence the unsightly thumbtacks.  The one on the left was originally going to feature my hand-carved mushroom stamps but I didn't like how it came together, so I Finnabair-ed it.  New word!  The one on the right was an experiment with embossing resist over a watercolory background, with Distress Ink rubbed on over it. 
I guess it's probably not all that obvious how this stuff relates to fantasy, but it works with the images in my head when I'm reading.  A lot of the stories take place in worlds where the people are close to nature, and the surroundings are beautiful.  Things like roses and herbs and mushrooms take on magical qualities and appear in sometimes impossible places.  These are worlds that are wonderful to get lost in.  And when I come back, I've always got a head full of beautiful images to try to capture.  You may see more of such things soon.
Are you avid readers, Pocketeers?  Is  your art often inspired by what you read?  Are there particular worlds you like to lose yourself in?  Please comment and tell me.  I love to have conversations with people about books :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday Theme: Schnippy Schnappy

Bunch of small projects this time, and a really short post because I'm exhausted.  While we were in Germany, Mr. Pocket's youngest uncle showed us (and let us taste) his homemade schnapps, and then explained that it's not that hard to do.  No need to set up a still, you just use fruit and sugar and store-bought clear grain alcohol that's not too strong.  So with the abundance of delicious Summer fruit around, we've been experimenting with different flavors, and it's been a delicious experience.  But of course, we need some way to tell all the bottles apart.  So I've been making little tags as labels.  Here's the tour of the fruits of our labors... :)
Strawberry on the left, and red currant on the right.  Both fruits from my mother-in-law's garden.

Wild raspberry... mmm...
Blackberry, made with blackberries from a local farm stand.

More of some of the same flavors - red currant, wild raspberry, and blackberry - portioned out for my parents.

For flavors that aren't ready yet:  peach, plum, and more strawberry.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday Theme: Close Encounters

Wow, has it really been almost a month?  Time flies.  Like a spaceship.  And unlike most times when I miss Thursday posts because I don't have anything to post, this time I haven't posted because I've been beset by UFOs.  UnFinished Objects. 

See, I've started several projects and haven't finished them.  Until this week, I'd finished one project, and it's a contest entry.  So I'll just show you the UFOs that have been hovering over my head, and hopefully that'll kickstart me to get them finished.

I may have shown part of this project before, but it's getting along.  I still need to draw the vines around the rose window, and paint the rest of the vines. 
This one will remain unfinished.  I have to start over, because I didn't really think through the logistics of putting it all together.  I'll share what it is when I'm done re-doing it.  I think it's going to be cool, though :)
These are made with leftovers from a first attempt at my contest entry that I mentioned above.  RWBY is a new original animated webseries from RoosterTeeth Productions.  It's also my new favorite thing in the world!  You should check it out, right here:  RWBY, created by Monty Oum.  It'll load the most recent episode first, so scroll down slightly to find the full selection of episodes and start with episode one, or even better, start with the Red trailer and work your way through White, Black, and Yellow before starting the series.  And if you want to see it, here's my poster contest entry:  ta-daa!

And this one is going to be a gift.  If I ever get it finished.  This, too, is one of several attempts, all but this one being unsatisfactory false starts.  Here, though, I finally feel like I'm onto something.
This week I'm back on a roll, though.  Stay tuned, because I will gather my thoughts and soon post about the awesome workshops that Mom and I took from Finnabair this week.  Totally awesome.  Til then, though, I'm off to try and finish some of these projects...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thursday Theme: Medieval Sauce

Wie geht's, Pocketeers?  That means what's up in German :)  Not surprisingly, my work recently has revolved around a particular theme of medieval awesomeness.  We'll be like Tenacious D and call it "sauce."  Medieval sauce.  And it's flavoring everything I work on.  Because being in Germany and seeing all the medieval sights at medieval sites (see what I did there?) brought back my taste for the medieval pretty strongly.  As soon as we got back, with my head bursting with ideas, I ordered a whole bunch of Michelle Ward's Gothic Collection stencils.  If you ever do anything with stencils or stamps ever, and you haven't seen them yet, click right there on the words "Gothic Collection" and take a look.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

So they're gorgeous, right?  And super medieval, which is kind of the idea.  And perfect for many of my German-castle-and-monastery-inspired ideas.  And very fun to play with.  So here are a few things that I've been working on, with a hearty helping of the medieval sauce.

This panel was the result of me playing with the stencils applied one after the other in layers with heavy body gesso.  

I had so much fun with the layered panel that I decided to do little ones, with a coordinating shadow box.

And this is how they look now.  Still not finished, the moss isn't secured, there will be more in the shadow box, but I liked the layers of color.

Closeup of the treatment on the textured ones.

I went to experiment with some offprints that I did with the gesso-y stencils from those two projects onto cardstock, and had some misfires.  But those misfires led me to end up doing this:

Regular gesso and homemade ink spray using a Distress Ink reinker, on watercolor paper.
I loved playing with the sprays and letting them run all over the paper and between the gessoed areas and over the gesso and then wiping it off the gesso and seeing the reverse-windows I ended up with.  So these experiments are now destined to become individual paintings for our bedroom.  But first, they need some detail.  Remember this pic from last week?

I love the vines painted around the arch.  So I copied that style and cross-referenced it with some motifs in an old medieval manuscripts textbook of mine, and tested it out a bit, and then bit the bullet and went for it:

Detail painting is hard!  I have trouble making accurate brushstrokes, even with a tiny brush.
So far I've only done one side of one window.  But all three windows will be surrounded by the time I'm finished.  I want to add some shade and highlight to the vines as well.  But at this stage I'm pleased with how they're coming out.  I'm hoping that when they're finished and trimmed up, I'll have something that will remind me of our time in Germany but with my own personal seasoning.  Some modern seasoning in the medieval sauce.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday Theme: Deutschland!

Wow, did I lose track of the weeks or what?  We've been surprisingly busy since getting back from vacation in Germany, with family visiting from Germany (yes, you read that right) and trying to get settled back in.  But I haven't forgotten the blog, or you.  And I realized finally that it's Thursday, which means it's time for a theme!  Until last night I hadn't done much art in the last few weeks, but even though I now have some pieces that relate to each other that I could show, I'll hold on to those and instead show you some of the inspiring sights I saw in Germany.  It's a beautiful place, and I saw stuff all over that inspired me, from the landscape to the wildflowers to the castles to the floor tiles.  So here we go.  I'll mostly let the photos speak for themselves.

(This is the view from my first castle.  Real castle!  The next few photos are from there.)

(There happened to be an equestrian tournament in town while we were there, in the park on the grounds of a palace.  Sweet!)

(This castle just happens to be chillin' in the middle of the park.)

(These next few pictures are from the monastery where The Name of the Rose was filmed.  Awesome!)

(Germania says:  "Come at me, bro!")

(We spent a weekend in a castle hotel as a wedding gift from the family.  Best thing ever!  The castle ruins were amazing and overrun by nature.)

(These last pictures are from the cathedral in Mainz.)

It was an amazing trip, and this is only a tiny few of the photos we took.  But they're a decent sampling of settings and patterns that got my creative mind going, so maybe they'll do the same for you.  Bis sp├Ąter!  (See you later!)