A new type of imagery emerging

I’ve been taking a class that’s all about getting unstuck or kickstart a revolution in one’s art. It’s led by artist Louise Fletcher, who is co-host of a podcast I’ve been listening to for awhile now. I took her free one week taster course, and decided to jump in and do the full ten-week program because that first week was so effective in getting me to create images, even if they were just exercises in loosening up.

I’ve been learning a lot about what I like and don’t like when it comes to art and mark-making, but more importantly, Ive been really enjoying it! I’ve also been learning about tools, techniques, and types of paint I like. Anyway, these are just a few of the images that have come from the various assignments or modules in the course.

I don’t think this is emblematic of what all my work will look like in future; I enjoy creating representational work. However, I think all that I’m learning will affect my approach and techniques on anything I make in the realm of drawing and painting. And I’m thrilled to be back in a place where I can start putting marks on paper with no expectation of it at the start. That expectation of creating a successful, beautiful image everytime has been crippling me, and it prevents me from even starting or trying.

Only three weeks into this ten week class, I already feel I’ve gotten so much out of it.

Moonwater and Other Rituals of Navigation

Photo of a small black and white ceramic vase I bought as part of the #ArtistSupportPledge

Every weekend I open a “new post” window, and there it sits, staring at me with its blank, accusatory stare. No, the accusation comes from within.

The pressure I put upon myself, the spreading myself too thin, unwittingly, every time a create a ‘weekend’ list— I hobble myself with overwhelm! I did cross lots off my list yesterday but today I’ve been lazy, reading the sunday paper and blogs.

One of the missives from Louise Fletcher‘s Art blog + podcast had an interesting outline of “types” of artist, and it resonated with me immediately. I’m not going to put her words here with the descriptions, but it sounds like it will be a future post on her site, so look out for it there. They are somewhat self-explanatory, but she really nails them in her descriptions (The People-Pleaser, The Disciple, The Perpetual Student, The Critic, The Perfectionist, The Producer, The Artist).

I’ve decided to share my response to her below. It aligns with what I wrote last night after a friend’s zoom ritual of making moonwater for the new moon, followed by jotting ideas around letting go of what doesn’t serve you, and finding new ways to do, to be, to move forward— very timely under the sway of a pandemic which has upended our lives in such far-reaching and often devastating ways.

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Quarantine project: before and after

Spliced photos showing before and after of a desktop refinish

Over the weekend I undertook a project that I’d originally intended to do when I moved into my apartment, but I was on a deadline with a big project for a museum, and there was no time. Since then, well, I just haven’t thought about it except once in awhile.

Then last weekend I got a bee in my bonnet about it. I thought about waiting until Memorial Day weekend, when I would have three days before it would need to be finished, now that I work from home again. But nope! I decided to rush into it, if only for the feeling of accomplishment that such a project can bring.

It also doubled as a way to keep me from spending too much time on the computer over the weekend— successfully! Below are a series of process pics showing the stripping and re-painting.

So, it essentially went from whitewashed with a grid of metallic gold paper (squares cut from joss paper), to whitewashed with metallic gold stripes! But as the old polyurethane had long since gone yellow, it really does look fresh and crisp now.

As always, these projects take about four hours longer than I ever expect, so the total clocked in at around twelve hours. Below is the full photo of the finished desk, with all the tech back in place.

photo of refinished, white and gold striped  desk with computer and other desk items back in place.

For this project, I used some of the less dangerous, more eco-friendly (so they say on the label) varnish stripper, which is part of what took quite a bit longer than expected, and more elbow grease. My body ached for a couple of days after this, particularly because I was working on the floor, as you can see in the photos.

It was totally worth it though! Has anyone else done any big DIY or other projects while sheltering in place?

More masked portraits

Two illustrations of people in masks

I’ve continued to do these masked portraits, though they’ve been meandering in different directions and styles. That’s me, though. I think when I get to a point that I’ve done a number of things in the very same style I begin to feel like I’m just doing a sort of copy+paste art. Which is absurd, really. For most artists who gain any sort of following, it’s precisely that recognizable ‘signature’ way of seeing and expressing, of storytelling, that leads to that.

For some reason, I remain a sort fo chameleon or shape-shifter when it comes to art. It’s something I’ve been battling with my whole career. Why can’t I just pick a lane and stay in it, become the best at *that*?

Two illustrations of people in masks, red and black, very intense

You can see, even among these few, how wildly they vacillate, style- and feeling-wise.

The below is one that I did last evening, based on a person we saw leaving the cemetery when were arriving. I had no intention at the time I made a mental note to draw them, that it would wind up being in these insanely cute and happy Easter egg colors, but that’s something that has been coming out in the mask drawings. Digital has been pulling me in ways that I don’t often go when I’m working with real paper and materials.

These look like the works of at least 3 separate artists! Maybe I’ll go back to just black and white, or at least more in a monochrome palette. I don’t know. I’d just really like to get to a place where my work is recognizably and unmistakably mine.

Small bits of good news are important

Two small prints from drypoint on plexigas

A couple bits of good news have come in the recent month or so. The first is that I’m one of five printmakers who’s been chosen to present and discuss my work at the Print Club of New York Annual Showcase. They saw my work at the Miniature Print Show back in the fall, and reached out asking me to apply for it. I’m very excited to be among the four other artists. The event was originally scheduled to be in May, and at present has been postponed ‘til October (we’ll see). I received that news March 20th.

This past week I was invited to participate in a sort of Call for Creation, involving a collection of artists being provided 35x35mm canvases to put an original work on for the Copelouzos Family Art Museum in Athens, Greece. The collected works will become part of the permanent collection, as well as featured in a book about the project.

From the email invitation I received, “The main objective of the Museum is to act as a bridge for the promotion of modern art and the establishment and support basis for an essential dialogue of Greek artists with artists from Europe and all over the world.” The museum has done two projects of this nature, one involving artists from China, and one with artists from Russia. This one is artists from the United States, and I’m pleased to have been invited.

So there’s a couple of things I have to look forward to, which is so nice. I haven’t done a painting on canvas in awhile! I’m looking forward to it— and feel a little intimidated. I’ll need to check on my acrylics and caseins to see if any have dried up and need to be replaced.

Anyone else had bits of good news popping up during this difficult-to-fathom time?

The therapeutic quality of art-making

When my office first announced that we would be transitioning to working from home, I imagined there would be so much extra time for things; I’d have time to write more here, time to make more art and perhaps complete a few projects that have been on hold. But it hasn’t really felt like that, despite that so many things that used to take up my time are off the menu for awhile.

Initially I found I could’t focus on being creative at all; I was overwhelmed and a bit frozen by the new reality. The only time I didn’t feel this way was when I was working; interacting over Slack and via audio meetings, etc, with my designers and co-workers.

Having work to do was and is really helpful; the opportunity to feel productive and useful, even in small way, is so good for one’s mental health, and I feel very fortunate to be able to continue working.

Finally this past week something shifted, though, and I started what has turned into a little series of portraits of people in masks. Above is the first one I did, and when I began drawing her, I hadn’t any plan to put a mask on her, but that’s where it went, and I’ve done one each day this week. Below are a few others. I’ve been posting them to instagram, if you want to see all of them.

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Reclaiming some sense of control

Digital ink drawing of an old house and trees
A house on Jones Street in Savannah

The past few days I’ve finally begun sinking hours of time into acts of creation (outside of my design work—I’m still working full time hours via telecommuting, for which I’m incredibly grateful).

Despite my plentiful physical art supplies that have accrued over years —like my watercolors which have been sitting out at the ready, for weeks but only used once so far— it’s the iPad that has drawn me in. Maybe it’s the immediacy of it, the ease of being able to duck in and out of a piece spontaneously, that’s made it my medium of choice this past week.

Digital ink drawing of a weathervane on top of a round tower, part of a sandstone building in Edinburgh
Weathervane in Edinburgh

Whatever it is, I’ve found myself spending hour upon hour, zoomed in and getting lost in details. As I wrote when posting one of these on instagram, I believe it’s the sense of control that has drawn me to this obsessive practice.

So I was up until 2am working on this lonely tower. I just get all zoomed in and I can’t seem to stop w the textures and lines and teasing out details. I think it has to do with the utter lack of control we have in this battle against the deadly invisible. The void that is yawning around every grocery aisle or on every doorknob.

So, finding a sense of control where we may is a kind of balm. Like how washing ones hands for so long and so bloody frequently began as an annoyance and has become our (perhaps) life-saving, lung-sparing mantra.

Digital ink drawing of the juncture of two buildings in Brugge, with the restaurant's sign "Diligence"
At the sign of the restaurant, Diligence, in Brugge
Digital ink drawing of two worried-looking cheese knight horses in a black void
Chess horses

These two chess horses with sorry looks on their gentle faces is the exception to the fiddly inked lines this week.

What have you found yourself doing differently since all this began? Since lockdown and stay-at-home started? Is there anything in particular that’s helping you cope?

Art in the Time of Coronavirus

Portion of a talisman design featuring a drawing of the With-Boy, masked and carrying 70% isopropyl alcohol

I had imagined so much extra time to do things like write and draw, now I’m working from home and staying in my house 97% of the time. It hasn’t really been the case. I’m still working, and more hours than before. The 8-10 hours in front of the computer leave me tired— it’s a combination of the work and the general stress level.

I miss reading on the subway. I’ve not read much at all since work-from-home began. But I’m going to start a new book today: Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner. It was a recommendation from a friend.

I did start a new piece of art last Sunday evening, based on a prompt from a friend. She had designed a sort of Medieval talisman as a kind of art protection against the virus. Hers featured a black plague doctor, complete with the beak-like masks of those times and large gloves. She urged me to design one as well.

So I started this on Sunday last, and completed it Tuesday night. The ‘Hand of Fatima’ in this case is comprised of two latex gloves with a protective eye. The corona virus is being pierced with a daggar.

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A row of brownstones: process part III

I planned to post this Friday, but things being what they are out in the world, I didn’t manage it. With things in NYC going from quasi-normal to lockdown in a matter of days, it wasn’t a priority. I spent part of the weekend in communication with family and friends near and far, a final stock-up (including art supplies), and Sunday I was working on a freelance design project.

Today is the last day restaurants and bars are open; henceforth bars will be closed and restaurants will be pick-up and delivery only. I’m on day two of isolation (and of working from home). I suppose things will begin to take on some sort of rhythm pretty soon.

In that spirit, here is part three of my process on this experimental etching piece.

Image of an etching plate in progress, next to a reference image on iPad

Above you can see my plate (collection of individual strips of copper) It has a very fine layer of melted rosin dust on the surface, and the black masking layer is asphaltum, a thick substance that resists the acid, even in long dips. That will keep the sky area and windows from etching.

Continue reading “A row of brownstones: process part III”

A row of brownstones: process part II

Here is the third proof I pulled after completing my line etches in the acid bath on Tuesday. The first proof was a mess, on account of excess acid and water trapped beneath the contact paper that held the strips together throughout the etching process. I removed it, cleaned the plates, and re-joined them with fresh contact paper.

My second proof was over-wiped, and looked frail. Third time was the charm, and I’m really pleased with the result of this experiment so far. The spaces between the plates can be wiped to a degree that the interior edges of the plates leave fine lines rather than single heavy ones— that was an unexpected and delightful result!

Next phase will be to etch tonal shades using the aquatint method. I’ve already applied my rosin dust and melted it (with help!). Masking out the sky and two windows will be done before my next studio session.

Continue reading “A row of brownstones: process part II”