Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Work; A Lesson in Picking Art Venues

Riparian Rights
12" x 16" acrylic and painted papers-wc paper

Light over Alpine
11" x 14" acrylic on wc paper
Earlier this summer I agreed to hang some of my work in a local medical office. After displaying my art there for two months, I have some observations that could be helpful. The experience in the main wasn't bad but I wouldn't do this again. Here are some questions to possibly ask yourself before considering this type of display:

* Are you comfortable displaying your work for free? After doing some research (and also after I had hung  my work) I found out that there are companies out there that specialize in renting out artwork to businesses and individuals. The parameters for renting vary but the upshot in all cases is that there is a charge to the person renting and the artist gets some kind of payment.

* Isn't a free display at a business similar to  having your art in a gallery/juried show? Sort of but not really. Hopefully the art gallery is doing something, anything, to promote your work. Could be publicity, could be a party, could be actual traffic coming into the gallery looking to purchase art.

* Is a mixed venue productive for selling your art? By mixed venue I mean a location where people are doing one primary thing. Viewing your art is the secondary thing. As an example, art and wine shows are popular but often unproductive for the artist. My experience shows me that people are there to drink wine and to socialize. Buying artwork is often a fourth or fifth benefit of an event like that. Same thing in a medical office. The person walking in has a problem that is likely occupying their mind. Buying artwork is way down on the list most likely.

* Is it possible to "work" the venue to get publicity, increase your email list or generally make contacts. What kind of exposure are you really getting? Once my art was hung, that was it. I was simply waiting for the random person to walk in and be interested in my art. I had no way to sit at the office and hound people to buy! And there is no advertising of course.

* How often is the office open? This is a no-brainer. This often was open 2-3 days a week. In a small town.

* Isn't blogging sharing your artwork for free? Sort of but not really. There is no expense to me and really, no physical effort and no driving, etc. Plus, the fruits of my labor are some social contact and the practice and habit of writing. 

I am sure I have more points to make. I'll say this though. One conversation can color your viewpoint permanently. Here is that conversation. I did try and work this venue by asking for the business. My contact at the office was a very nice young woman. We agreed to extend my time there for an additional month. During this process, I asked if the medical group would be interested in simply purchasing some of this work. My contact essentially said that no, they wouldn't want to purchase the work but would very much like to have it displayed for another month. This rubbed me the wrong way in the worst possible way. Sort of akin to enjoying the milk but not wanting to buy the cow. Fine. It did make me think though. Why was I really agreeing to any of this? It's likely to do with an old habit of seizing opportunities when feeling a little desperate. The flip side of this coin is not having enough confidence. I'll add that it was a good learning experience. I learned that I wouldn't do it again. I also was able to reason  out the "why" of the matter. Lesson learned.

New work above done earlier  this week and last.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Accordion Books 10 and 11

Accordion Books 10 and 11
Now I am one of the ones apologizing for a bad photo!

I worked on the above accordion books over the last couple of days. The ideas gained momentum as I watched a local newscast. The reporter was showing a map of the Western United States and explaining about where all of the fires were burning. California didn't look great but it was nothing in comparison to Washington state. Wow! The whole state looked like it was one gigantic ball of flames. The arid West is in such trouble.

In any case, I took that idea along with some others and began to compose the above images. I have been wanting to use some general colors to show drought or the idea of the lack of any obvious symbols for water. To me, lack of water looks brown, or beige or white or gold. Those colors are also typical of our area in general. A symbolic color for water could be blue. Most everyone might picture that color when you mention water. (Unless you live say in Colorado where the river could be brown or red!) Anyway, you get the idea. I also pictured burned fields of which I have seen quite a few as of late. The gray and white colors for me mean smoke in this case and the red sun is exactly what it seems: glowing red because of the atmospheric haze. 

I think with some judicious clean up, I could have a few ideas for compositions. I am also going to use a new-to-me idea gleaned form the blog of Julie Ford Oliver, as seen in a post here.  She advocates dividing your composition into quarters and then checking for undue repetition (of value, color, line, etc.) or as she calls it, "matchy-matchy"! This goes under the heading of wish I had thought of that sooner! So, stay tuned to see if I can do it successfully:)

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Flailing Around / Accordion Book Sketches 8 and 9

accordion book 8

accordion book 9

I offer up the following post about being stuck creatively and how to possibly get unstuck. Much of this has to do with subject matter selection, a sense of feeling connected to your work, and being in touch with your feelings. Read on if you can stand it!

There are many subjects that I don't paint because I am not especially interested in them. It's not that the subjects themselves aren't interesting but my emotional investment in them is limited. Conversely, there are many subjects that I love but don't paint. The interest is there but the desire to translate the subject somehow is not present. I have a need to connect somehow, on some level with what I am painting. Both the desire to paint something and the interest in that particular subject seems to need to be present for me in order to begin.

Such was the case this weekend as I worked on the accordion books shown above. The images are based on my time spent at Big Trees State Park located in the Stanislaus National Forest. It's a place that I love to visit. There are several trails on the "floor" of the forest as well as other trails farther up in the south grove. The Stanislaus River runs through parts of the park. The river is a spectacular sight to behold in all seasons and it is an important part of our watershed system. The park is attractive to me on many levels and so I felt I could easily start making some images.

Prior to doing any actual work, however, I made some preliminary notes on colors that I associate with the area, on some shapes that I remember and I made some basic sketches. All set to go right? I sat down to work and nothing happened. The ideas were not flowing. There seemed to be a complete disconnect between me, the materials, and my ideas about the park. I wondered for a minute if I had forgotten how to work! Fortunately, I have a lot of time to think and as I did other things I began to sort out the "disconnection" I was experiencing.

That disconnection comes from loving a place (subject matter) but not being able to translate that love effectively with paper and paint (drive to translate the subject). For me, when I look around that park, I don't really see images that I would want to paint. There aren't many views in a densely wooded forest. No vistas. I am an intermediate to long view painter at heart. Close ups are not my thing. (As a side note it's a great idea to figure out which type of views you like best-short, intermediate or long.)  It's difficult to get a sense of distance and even when focusing on how the forest makes me feel (closed in) I couldn't translate that feeling. 

I mention all of this because my inability to make things happen slowed me down and made me think. As I tried to sort things out, I felt like I was mentally trying to re center myself. I can even see in my mind's eye a kind of "wavering" off course, a mental pulling from each side back to center, trying to hone in on what I wanted to make. Once I felt back on course, I was able to let go of some ideas and thoughts that were blocking me. Imagining this "re centering" helped me to proceed.

The above scenario is a reminder that being aware of your thought processes as you work is fairly critical. I tried to recall past feelings that occurred when my efforts were more successful. Doing this helped me to understand why I was flailing around a bit and helped me to get back on course. The ideas started to flow more smoothly once I reconnected with those feelings. And the good news is that I actually think there are 2-3 ideas above that could turn into paintings. I'll just think about that:)

Thanks for reading ad commenting,

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New Work; Accordion Books/Leporellos; Titles

Hope and The North Fork
12" x 16" acrylic and painted paper/watercolor paper

Alpine Study 3
8" x 10"

Accordion book 6(Made in a response to a fire that occurred just a little too close to home.)

Accordion book 5 

accordion book (for reference to # 5)

The above pieces have been completed in the last week or so. The first piece, Hope and The North Fork, is the one I am writing about today. 

As I worked on this piece, I at first was kind of irritated. It felt like I was slogging along from task to task, filling in colored spaces.  Slogging along is not a feeling I like. I got the piece to a place where I could stop, ate some lunch, and came back to finish. As I was adding the details of the blue lines/shapes, I realized that this particular task was one that I enjoyed more. I like cutting and gluing the painted paper. I am always considering how to add more of this type of work into my pieces and still remain painterly. I'll continue to explore that idea. Listening to your inner self complain can lead to insight, truly!

I did learn some things that I will pass along to anyone reading who is a painter, particularly someone who uses "thumbnail" sketches and then enlarges them to make bigger pieces. Things can get lost in translation. It's important I think to remain aware of this and to be flexible in your thinking. Here is what I found:

1. Size matters (or fill the spaces in a proportionate way). I originally used fewer blue marks to represent the "rain" shapes. Because I was going to a larger format, my shapes needed to get bigger too. I found that I was trying to fill a larger space with shapes that were too small and so I ended up adding more pieces. Even though I used more shapes ultimately, it worked out in the end I think because of value and placement.

2. Weight and Emphasis through chroma and value: In my original piece the sun shape was darker and maybe a little more chromatic. I decided to make it lighter. As a  consequence it didn't have too much of a presence. Adding more blue pieces (because I was trying to solve another problem) helped to give weight and emphasis to this part of the composition. ******Changing the color though did add a greater variety of yellow/oranges to the piece. And in the end I repainted the sun shape to make it a little more chromatic.

3. Lines have rhythm and can direct: duh right? Well, I didn't really see this in my mock up. When I started to go large it became apparent to me that this was a design component to be used to a much greater extent. I tried to create a rhythm across each row of blue shapes as well as integrate both rows with a unified rhythm. No easy task! Overall the marks create a shape that is broader on top and narrows towards the bottom which seems good to me. There are likely many variations on the theme here.

4. Layering and depth: I originally wanted shapes that were not touching to any extent. As I went along I decided to mix the two options of layered and separate shapes. That is just something that appeals to me. Someone else might find it distracting. 

5. Be selective in what you emphasize: I felt that my original piece was pretty balanced. As I moved to the larger format I was able to see that there needed to be an emphasis somewhere. And truthfully I didn't realize this until the end! I usually like to have one small chromatic shape. But! I think in this case the small blue marks and dark bridge sort of take the place of that chroma "pop." In the end, as I wrote above, I repainted the sun shape anyway.

6. Flexibility is essential!: I can't think in one instance when it has served me well to be a stick in the mud about my thoughts. I had to be very flexible in going from a small version to a big version of this piece, particularly because some things weren't working at first. And it's important to not confuse this with what might be termed "artistic integrity" which is to say sticking to an inward vision of your concept or the overarching idea guiding your piece of art.

About The Title: It literally popped into my head while driving. Several weeks ago I learned that the Calaveras River, which supplies our reservoir and hence our drinking water supply, is entirely fed via rainfall. The river and its tributaries terminate at land and not at an alpine lake somewhere higher up. Not great news in my book since we have an issue with rainfall here. But, nonetheless, this is the situation. As far as I know, other than naturally occurring rainfall, there is no way to replenish this water source, both in the rivers and in our reservoir. So, it's how I came up with the title.

Hope everyone is having a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Accordion book 5

accordion book 4

companion to accordion book 5 shown above
Editing these pics made me see that this collage idea has gotten hold of me! I can't say exactly what it is about this way or working but I will say that the process is challenging. It's probably clear for many of the collages that I was being driven by the idea of a landscape of some sort. I can't get away from that I guess. Non objective work isn't exactly what I am after I guess though there are components to that type of design that drive my current style. Non  objective design isn't the sole motivator though. Here are just a few things that I was thinking about when making all of the pieces shown above:

* proportion and balance, specifically with color relationships and shapes and variance in size of shape
* use of positive and negative space and repetition of shapes created in both areas
*use of existing already cut paper-I tried not to cut paper to fit something but hey, I am human, I did it anyway!
*representation via color and shape of some idea or feeling that I had about something in my environment.
* learning how to use color's inherent properties of value and chroma to create a sense of balance, i.e can I have a small chromatic shape balanced against a larger more neutral colored shape or area. What seems proportional?

That second to last bullet point is specific to many of the collage ideas above. And I will be the first to say (again) that some of these collages got away from me. I have a tendency to add more pieces (or start with small pieces and end up adding smaller pieces for coverage) in the hopes of pulling the collage together somehow. It usually results in a fiddly and awkward arrangement. But, these "sketches" with paper are meant to generate larger ideas or to show how I can refine an initial idea that has potential. The whole process really is similar to sketching in lots of ways.

OK, hope everyone is having a good week. I am working on a few more collages for my 5th leporello/accordion book. I found some instructions too for making two "book" covers to attach to either end of these fold out collages. The end result would be a type of book that could be displayed. (I am looking at you, Julie!) We will see.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Monday, August 3, 2015

New Work: Beyond The Rocks and Using Color and Paper

Beyond The Rocks image size approx 11 x 14 matted to 14 x 18-available

It's likely that as long as I continue to make art, I will always think of myself as a "beginner" or "learner." These labels have to do with my personality of course but they also relate to what I do in the studio. Much of my efforts are directed towards learning: learning about art history and movements, discovering different genres of art making, learning how to use my materials, and exploring design. It's all new to me really, each experience. Sometimes I apply learning that came from a happy accident and sometimes I do something and wonder why I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. At times I am confidant but more often than not I question my abilities (and sanity!). It's all part and parcel of who I am and what I like to do with my time, which is to make art. It's really all an investment in "me" if you think about it.

An investment like this can bring results. One of the best payoffs so far has been in the area of color. I really enjoy learning how to use it and moreover, how to appreciate it as a component of design. Color is very complex though. Over the past several years I have heard from many people that color scares them. That statement always stops me in my tracks. Afraid? Hmmm... Well, I can now see why. It's the unknown and the complexity of the subject. But practice helps with this. The practice can prompt questions about color: Is the hue more blue or more green? What other colors is it next too? What does the color remind me of? In the comparison of two similar mixtures, which one is more green and which one is more blue? How can I enhance the color with another color? This list of questions is endless. And the answers are often surprising and along the lines of, "Hey, I didn't see that coming!" I have tried to help myself as much as I can. Doing lots of work with different proportional relationships of just a few colors at a time has been helpful. I have lots of tools to color with: crayons, pencils, chalk pastels, paints, and markers. (I use them too!)  I have a little set of cards showing different colors and their names, countless books with color wheels, books on theory, and of course all of the time spent in my outdoor environment, sketching and making color swatches. This list goes on too.

The most recent thing I have added has been colored construction paper. Go ahead and laugh but it's unbelievably helpful in placing colors side by side to see what they do to each other. You can easily compare two blues or two reds and think about underlying color bias, one of my favorite topics!  You can test out something in your painting prior to actually painting it. You can work with chroma, with value, and other color properties. The paper is cheap and it is a very versatile tool. 

For the above piece, I used construction paper, both painted and unpainted, to get my composition together. I specifically used it to test out the color and chroma (saturation) of the color of the sun. Rather than painting and repainting, I simply cut circles of colored paper to see what worked for me.  Not only did this work well in composing this piece but it also limits your choices a bit. It makes your decisions much more succinct. No room to mess around. Plus, the bonus is that little leftover bits can be used in collages. Because I don't have anything particular in mind, I am not constrained in my thinking. Anything goes with the collages. They are just for fun and just for learning.

Hope the week gets off to a good start for everyone. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Friday, July 31, 2015

July 2015 Wrap Up Post

1. Range of Light 11" x 14"-acrylic on watercolor paper-available

2. Making Connections-20" x 24" acrylic and painted papers on board-available

3. Nestled-11" x 14" acrylic on watercolor paper-available

4. As I See It-11.5" x 15.5" -acrylic and painted papers on watercolor paper-available

5. Above and Beneath-10" x 13" acrylic on watercolor paper-available

6. Release-10" x 13" acrylic and painted papers on watercolor paper-available
July has been a productive month for me and so I want to share some finished work.

1. Range of Light: I have spent some time at Lake Alpine this summer and have been busy making observations! This piece is based on some of the features of the landscape including the light, trees and clouds.

2. Making Connections: This piece is an amalgamation of my ideas about agriculture, water, and the town of nearby Linden. It's a new process for me too: using painted and cut paper to create shapes and lines. Let me know what you think!

3. Nestled: Another Lake Alpine piece inspired by the groupings of rocks that are an important part of the landscape. I took the perceived colors to the extreme to convey some of my feelings about that land.

4. As I See It: More ideas about water and agriculture. For this piece I focused on specific structures such as ladders and the Blue Diamond almond plant that is a fixture of the Linden landscape.

5. Above and Beneath: Inspired by the hot springs at Mt Lassen, a recent trip yielded many new paintings ideas.

6. Release: Our local reservoir, Lake Hogan, is connected with the Calaveras River. The reservoir not only serves a section of our area but is the water source for East Stockton and points beyond. Earlier in the summer I understand that there was a release of water to fulfill contractual obligations to water customers downstream. The dam, the water, rights, obligations, and needs are all things that drove this piece.

Current and Upcoming News:

I currently have two pieces showing at the Arts Council office in San Andreas. If you are local please stop in to have a look. Both pieces displayed go nicely together or separately. 

I will also be participating in the Artists Studio Tour  here in our area in September. The dates are September 26th and 27th. As information becomes available I will pass it along but for now, it's very simple. Just plan on picking up a map at the Arts Council in San Andreas. The map will detail all of the locations that can be visited throughout the county. It's a great opportunity to see a lot of art all at one time plus you can visit with me:)

A Tip:

Much advice is given these days to "connecting", "being present" or simply being aware. Sounds great but where do you start? I'll pass along the advice that I have given before to beginning sketchers. It's the same thing that I do when I am out and about, trying to generate creative ideas and to connect to my favorite environments to gain pleasure and inspiration. Here it is: Tune in to your six senses. It's very easy and will help to center and relax you. Concentrate on one sense at a time in any order that you like: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting and feeling. Look at your surroundings and mentally note what you see. Listen for sounds like birds, cars, wind, water, etc. Smell the breeze or even the dirt! Touch the bark of a tree and notice how smooth or rough it is. Tasting is a little harder but do what you can. And finally, what feelings are generated? Calmness? Nostalgia? Peacefulness? What memories are triggered by your current environment? You can tune in to all of your senses or just one or two. Regardless, it's a great exercise, it's free and requires no electronic device, and it will leave you feeling connected.

OK, thanks for reading these posts and supporting my art making efforts. Send me an email or leave a comment if you would like to.