Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Work and What Drives The Need to Create

Forest Future
15" x 18" collage on paper

Towards the end of July I decided that I was only going to post once a month to my blog. It seemed to me that writing about my work and showing it online wasn't working. I questioned if I would continue making art if I wasn't writing about it and if I wasn't showing it to anyone. I was very fearful that the feedback I was receiving was fueling the art making. I decided to stop blogging and to see what happened. Here is what I found out. Maybe it will help someone?

I learned that the work and the writing is connected but not exactly in the way I thought. The writing itself is important to me because it keeps me connected to actually making the art. It doesn't matter where I write so long as I write about my art in some way. I found that not writing gradually begins to lessen my interest in making art. Not only that but I lose clarity and don't generate ideas about how to proceed, about how I am progressing, and about what I want to do next. Writing seems to cement that process. 

I also found that the writing seems to support the other interests that I rely on. Those outside interests, that often have nothing to do with art, feed the artwork itself. When I wasn't writing as much, I wasn't as aware of my interests and connecting them to my art, if that makes sense. 

Lastly, I found that while I love feedback, it isn't absolutely necessary for me. I love hearing from people (and staying connected is very necessary) but in the end, that can't be the reason why I want to create. And it isn't. As a related point too, everything I read indicates that people have to see your work in order for the entire process of art making to be complete. I do believe this but don't know how to (or haven't tried) to address this aspect of the creative cycle.

It's tough. Writing isn't for everyone. It seems to be important to me though particularly in how it is connected to and integrated with my art practice, such as it is. The thought that I make art because I blog about it is scary. That idea loomed rather large in my mind and I didn't want that to be true. I am hoping that a month away from blogging has shown me that this isn't the case.

And in case anyone reading is wondering, the above piece was inspired by my recent trip to the mountains. California has a terrible problem with the trees, pine trees in particular. The drought has weakened them so much that they are greatly susceptible to infestation from insects. The insects are slowly killing the trees. You look out at the forest in a panoramic view and see spots of brown everywhere. And there doesn't appear to be an immediate solution in sight.

If anyone has an opinion on the above, let me know!
Thanks for reading and commenting.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 2016 Wrap Up Post

1. All Together Now
collage-15" x 18"

2. Cool Customer
collage-15" x 18" 

3. Back in The Day
collage-15" x 18" 

4. Essential Elements
collage-15" x 18"

The month of July, (and hopefully the extremely hot weather), is almost over. It's been one of those long months that also seems really short!

I have had a productive time in the studio while still managing to get out and enjoy walking, hiking, and now, kayaking. Let me provide a rundown of the pieces listed above:

1. All Together Now: This piece started with shapes leftover from other projects. I wanted to add things together to simply see what happened. The resulting piece has a slightly different feel from the others, for me anyway. 

2. Cool Customer: Sometimes all it takes is just one shape or a small group of shapes to give me an idea about the direction in which to head. For this piece it was that pointy orange shape in the left corner. I started to think about boats lost at sea and the men and women who try to find them. The rest of the pieces fell into place shortly thereafter.

3. Back in The Day: Though I struggled with this one for awhile, it was the pale blue shape with white squares in the middle which began to suggest a story to me. I was reminded of visiting my grandmother's house when I was a kid. I remember trees, and a screened porch and a fence. I mixed in several other ideas as well and am happy with what came out of the blending of ideas.

4. Essential Elements: Normally I don't start with a specific theme in mind. I find it limiting which isn't good for free thinking! This piece started with a practice collage and the idea of some biblical literature as well as two Greek letter symbols, the alpha and the omega. I imagined animals from Noah's ark and an angel or two heralding the arrival of someone or something important. Also, if you can spot the two additional Hebrew letters, give me a shout out.

My wrap up posts and email newsletter are now 3+ years old. I have decided it is time for a change and will no longer be sending out email notification of these end of the month posts. I have appreciated so much the interest that people have taken both in my artwork and what I write. It's very gratifying. But, as with all things, even positive happenings, there is a natural ending. I will still be doing these monthly wrap ups. They will be posted right here on my blog as always. I simply won't be sending out an email notification. I encourage those of you interested to utilize a news reader such as Feedly or Bloglovin. You can also bookmark my site and keep up that way. And lastly, there is always the email sign up available with Feedburner. That link is on the right hand side of my blog and by signing up you are automatically sent an email every time I make a post. It's very easy. Many of you may know that I am also on Facebook and Instagram. It's damn near impossible to get away from me! So please, I hope many of you will continue to read the blog and to keep up with me. I've appreciated all of you who read and send me comments. 

Here's to a good August. I hope everyone is busy enjoying themselves in some fun way.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

New Work: Essential Elements

Essential Elements
image size 15" x 18" approx
A couple of weeks ago I made a practice collage using leftover bits and pieces from previously finished work. It's like working a puzzle only without having the picture on the box top as a guide. I felt there was enough of an idea in the practice collage to try and make a finished piece.

What really got me going though was the funny blue circle shape that I made. To me, it looks like an omega symbol. That got me started thinking about the line from the bible, "I am the beginning and the end...I am the alpha and the omega..." The quote isn't written verbatim and there are many instances of it appearing in biblical literature. Judaism is my chosen religion and so I thought about the essential statement of Jewish belief, the Shema. I then began thinking about proclamations (made by an angel or person), God's creatures, and the Garden of Eden (snakes and apples). I am a literal person, what can I say, and so it's easy to see what happened here. I'd point out too that in the left hand corner I finally was able to include two Hebrew letters, Aleph and Tav. They also have biblical meaning that is varied and mystical and controversial. I guess that I love stories but not controversy or arguing. I like the idea of a mash up of ideas, if that makes sense, and I like to think that my mash up approach is egalitarian in nature. And in the end I really love my little design and had a good time making it. That's all I actually care about.

So, I sure hope everyone had a good week. I am on to some other things (hopefully). Maybe another practice collage? we'll see!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

New Work: Back in The Day

Back in The Day
image size 15" x 18" 

These last several pieces have all started with a shape or two. Things aren't necessarily driven by a particular idea though my notes on what I have seen and learned are close by for inspiration. Often I have some specific images in mind or maybe even some words. In general though, and except for the color scheme I select, I haven't much of a clue when I start. It's only as I begin to add shapes that the structure begins to form. I wait very patiently (I like to think) for an idea to take hold. When it does, it's fairly amazing. I can literally see in my mind's eye some physical object sort of digging into and taking hold of a kind of ground. Sort of like the road runner cartoons where the coyote has an anchor behind a truck and it drags on the ground until it jams itself into the cement. The truck comes to a halt and the coyote goes flying out of the cab. Sort of like that. 

For this collage I began with the dark blue and dark green shapes. I looked at them and wondered what I was doing exactly. No story emerged until I added the light blue piece and the white squares. The light blue shape reminded me of a screen door. Then I began to think about my grandma's house. The house must be some kind of a touchstone for me because I dream about it; the mental image is very clear. My grandmother had a back deck with one of those dark green plastic overhangs, the kind that are sort of rippled. The deck was gray and the steps led to a long rectangular back yard. She had a loquat tree on the side of the yard. I began to think about that screen door and blueberry bushes (my blogger friend has a blueberry bush). The rest of the imagery all has personal meaning (not private, just mundane). I wasn't sure I could finish it and then I added the black lines. Once those were down, the rest was history as they say.

While making the collage, I thought about whether or not it is possible to have several ideas that are unrelated as the basis for these pieces. The relatedness could be the overall design and color scheme. This way of working interests me because it would allow me to cull my disjointed thoughts into one collage that is cohesive rather than depending on a specific theme to get things started. I wouldn't have to try and pick a theme in advance.  Since subject matter is always a struggle for me, this way of working would be useful.

The last thing to mention is that I am starting to realize that the writing I do about these pieces is nearly as important to me as doing the pieces themselves. I can't wholly explain this but can only say that writing has always been important to me. The drive to write is stronger for me than the drive to make art; writing comes more naturally. But, the writing and the art together somehow is a great combination, supplying me with something that I wouldn't get from either art making or writing alone. 

I hope everyone reading has a good holiday weekend. Be safe.

Sales: Libby Fife Fine Art

Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 2016 Wrap Up Post

1. Up in Arms
collage approx size 15" x 18"

2. Downtown
collage image size 15" x 18"

3. Whatever!
collage image size 15" x 18"

4. "Do You Remember?"image size 15" x 18"

Hot, hotter, and hottest! That is the weather report from my neck of the woods and so it must be almost July. Hope everyone has had a nice June. It's time to see what happened this month in my studio. Here goes!

1. Up in Arms: Many artists rely on imagery and ideas that they see every day. I certainly do and for this piece I drew on some of the things that are happening around me. One of our supervisors is embroiled in a recall effort. Our county is experiencing higher than normal traffic and we have had a rash of fires close to us in the last two weeks. Although the piece is personal, I am always interested to know what the viewer sees so don't let me sway you!

2. Downtown: The subject of "town and country" as being opposing places is always of interest to me. For this piece I relied on a sort of cityscape idea to give structure to the piece. The feeling of opposition was brought out in my use of the colors blue and orange, which are opposite colors on the color wheel. I added just a touch of green both for a surprise color and to suggest the idea of a strip of greenery such as a lawn.

3. Whatever!For this piece I experimented with the use of letter stencils. The abbreviations are what I think of as "filler" words; things that people say when they are trying to fluff up a conversation or when they may be at a loss for words. They are a sort of verbal shortcut. I again drew on the opposite colors of orange and blue but made them a little more subdued. Still vibrant but not as colorful as the preceding piece. The letter stencils are very fun to use. Look for them again in upcoming pieces!

4. Do You Remember?: Sometimes a work of art is just pure nostalgia for the artist! Such is the case with this last piece. I drew on my memories of growing up in the East Bay (San Leandro) and tried to make something childlike. Or maybe I should say reminiscent of my childhood! I used imagery that reminded me of board games, sidewalks, bushes, and rose colored glasses of course! As with all the pieces above, this one has a personal narrative involved. And while that is important to me, I also want to know what the viewer takes away. Both viewpoints exist together.

I hope everyone has some vacation time planned or something else fun to do during the upcoming summer months. I'll be doing plenty of hiking, walking and biking. Those activities help me to re charge my "creative batteries." Have to get out early though around here or head up to the mountains. Either way, I am looking forward to the activity. 

Thanks for reading my wrap up posts and if there is a special way that you "recharge", let me know by sending me an email or leaving a comment. Thanks again!

Friday, June 24, 2016

New Work: Up in Arms

Up in Arms
image size approx 15 x 18

At this point, using the skills and knowledge that I have to date, I am fairly sure that I couldn't think up some of these compositions beforehand. They tend to sort of evolve. Given time though, perhaps I can get to the point where I can draw them out prior to getting started.

The above piece was an exercise for me in what I am coming to think of as "stream of consciousness" art making. I first learned about this term in high school as I struggled to read through a James Joyce novel. This style of writing perplexes me; I find it tedious as well. But the term itself, loosely translated by me into something I can use, describes how I put this piece together. During the week, I wrote down things that I observed (actual objects), ideas that came to me, and events that were happening around me. Basic geometric shapes helped me to get started and then I added other shapes based on the semi-related mishmash of things that I gathered during the week. Pretty soon I was telling myself a little story about what was happening on the paper. A title suggested itself and before I knew it, I was finished. It's good for me that most things can be translated in to a shape. It's OK if that translation is known only by me. What I hope is that the viewer, at the very least, finds the design and color pleasing. It's fine for me if people supply their own story.

As I mentioned above, I drew on what was happening this week in order to come up with a composition. Our area of the county is involved in the recall of one of our supervisors. Neighbors discuss things and so I have talked with some people about the recall initiative. We have had a lot of road construction going on and as a consequence, heavier traffic than normal. In addition to these things, we have also had two fires nearby (last week) and in the same spot. We also had a fire at the lake recently. I mention all of this to be sort of small-town-folksy but also because it's just what happened and came out in my art. It's nice for me to have personal subject matter. Things flow more smoothly if I am connected somehow to what I make.

OK, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope everyone has had a good week.

Friday, June 17, 2016

New Work: Whatever! (2); My Art Matches My Sofa...

Whatever! (2)
image size 15" x 18" approx
Should I be ashamed to admit that I made some art to match my living room decor? Well, I did, so there!

I wanted to do a redo of the last piece. The colors were not me. In fact, I have made some questionable color choices lately which I guess is all part of experimenting to figure out what you like and what you want to say. I learned a little bit more about my tolerance level for combining paper and texture. I also enjoyed mixing my colors once again from the primaries. I can make a neutral like nobody's business! Very happy I learned how to do this along the way. There is a real challenge in trying to find just the right balance of dominant color and chroma (saturation). I really enjoy it, I admit. And I was surprised about the choice of that blue color. I had a green color on my mind but nothing I tried seemed to work. For me, that blue was the ticket. 

This week has been hectic. We had our HVAC unit replaced and so the past two days have been stressful because of needing to sequester our indoor cats. The company truck was also parked directly next to my studio window and the unit itself is directly over my studio. It's all a good thing though because while it has been unseasonably cool here, it is getting ready to be very warm. People live here with no air conditioning. I know from my time in our last home though that 100+ temps with no air is incredibly uncomfortable. So, while the installation was stress inducing, I am grateful for the new unit. 

I have some poetry and writing in my sketchbook this week to share. The first is a poem by William Stafford, called Cutting Loose. The second is a quote from writer Diane Ackerman, included in the blog post of Parker Palmer, also a writer. I found both things to be uplifting and wanted to pass that along.

Hope everyone has had a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.