Friday, May 20, 2016

New Work: When We Were Kids

When We Were Kids
collage/acrylic painted papers on wc paper
image size approx 15 x 18
It seems like most of my posts lately have been of the whiny nature so this post is just about (mostly) the goofy things that inspired this piece.

I grew up in the East Bay here in CA in a town called San Leandro. Many of my clearest memories center around the town, my childhood, and my parents. These days I can't remember sometimes what I had for lunch but I can remember what the inside of my grammar school looked like. One of my more distinct memories is of picking up pieces of green glass while on the playground at school. I can still see the thick shards of glass in my hand as they sparkled in the sunlight. Those glass pieces got me started on the idea of making a piece that generally referenced that playground. In my mind and in my sketchbook I drew images of the playground and the school: tire swings, monkey bars, the rubber mats on the ground meant to break your fall, the hallways of the school which were green, and the black and white floors. I realized as I was writing that I have a fair amount of memories of physical objects if not many memories of specific events. Funny how that stuff works.

As I put the piece together, I began to see that a specific idea wasn't going to work. Having a narrow focus of the subject seemed to kill the possibilities. I eventually expanded my thoughts to encompass more memories. At one point, towards the end, I abandoned all pretense of there being a subject and simply started to add a few shapes. That broke through the block and I got to a little story that I started to tell myself. It involved sparklers, the Bay, tires swings, and those shards of glass. Not a cohesive narrative but just sort of a stroll down memory lane. The title is meant to be general enough so that anyone might see something and be able to relate. Oh, and I should add that the green figure in the middle is based on a statue in a neighborhood park near my home. The statue is a monument to the Portuguese immigrant. San Leandro is noted for it's Portuguese population. 

OK, enough of all that. Hope everyone has had a good and creative week. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Work: Stop Making Sense

Stop Making Sense
collage/painted papers on wc paper
image size 15" x 18" approx
Alternate view

The title of this piece comes from two things. The first is a movie from the 80's that featured the band, The Talking Heads. For the record, I have never seen this movie nor was I ever a big Talking Heads fan. The second thing is the quirkiness of the English language. It is filled with phrases, idioms, strange rules, and irregularities. Is it any wonder that people from other countries sometimes have a difficult time learning it? I picked the title sort of at random because it described the things that I was thinking about while I was working. I was considering those times when things in the world cease to be understandable in an expected way. Right becomes wrong, up becomes down, etc. What happens when a portion of someone's known world comes to a grinding halt because they can't make sense of things? What happens then? And I am showing both the right side up and upside down view of the piece. You can decide.

I have been going through a creative block lately. It's too tedious to get in to but I did make some observations while working this piece. Here they are:

* It's difficult (for me) to structure something in a way that doesn't seem like a landscape. Logic and order, which I find in traditional landscape work, make sense to me. But, I also recognize things that seem quirky or slightly off kilter. Both ends of the spectrum are appealing. It's especially great when something follows a kind of order and logic but is still kind of off somehow. I like that.

* Words and images are the two things that help me to think. I make associations with both of them and this seems to be coming out in these collages. Colors conjure up emotions and certain objects and symbols carry some basic meanings for me. Those symbols can be fluid too and don't necessarily have to have a fixed interpretation. 

* These collages are turning out to be a visual response to some things that I think about or have learned. It's different than writing about something. Being forced to come up with images to represent thoughts or feelings is the ultimate form of editing!

* Organization of objects on the picture plane is difficult. I find this necessary to think about though when putting these collages together. To overlap or not overlap is a conscious choice.

* In a review of my past work, (and in an effort to break the creative block), I realized that it's hard for me to set out to make a piece about something specific. It's also a problem to have nothing in mind at all when I start. The best starting point seems to be some sort of a prompt: a shape, a vague idea, maybe a word or a color. From there, once I get going, I can build a story. The developing story line helps me to add shapes and to finish the piece. 

OK, hope everyone is doing well and being productive in their own special way:) Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Monday, May 9, 2016

New Work: Something's Got to Give + The Mouse Mobile


The title for the piece references some art things that I am currently struggling with. I haven't sorted them all out yet but when I do it's certain that I will write about the results. 

In the meantime, let me tell you about the mouse. Last Monday I drove my car with no issues. Tuesday I was at home and Wednesday when I got in the car there was a big stink. I drove to the Bay Area where my two aunts and cousin told me that the smell was that of a dead mouse somewhere in my car. I then drove home with the dead mouse. Couldn't find the damn thing and so on Thursday I made arrangements to have the car dash taken apart. Rich got home that night and looked behind the cabin filter. Sure enough, there was the mouse. Little bugger built himself a nest and then died in it. Rich was able to extract him with the shop vac. On Saturday I cleaned the carpets in the car, cleaned the seats and wiped the surfaces with rubbing alcohol. We then bought a scent bomb for the car, activated it and now the mouse smell is gone. The car does have a distinctly spicy "new car" scent which is rather powerful. Not bad like the dead rodent but strong in its own way. 

The whole thing left me discombobulated. Top it off with my art angst and honestly, that's about it for me!

Hope everyone's week is off to a good start. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New Work: Road Work; Thoughts on editing

Road Work
image size 11" x 14" collage on board

"That didn't exactly fly onto the paper!"
Libby Fife (feel free to use this one as much as you like!)
Editing: 
The above piece was finished (several times!) on Tuesday. There is this sense of balance that I am after and I seem to know it when I see it. It took a while to get there however and one of the things I struggled with was editing. Editing is a problem for many and I am no exception. While working, I did remember this little gem from Stephen King's book, On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft. When he first started submitting his stories for consideration, he was given some advice by an editor who rejected his story. When editing your work, take the finished draft and subtract about 10% of the total amount of words written. I took this to mean that it isn't just a matter of removing words but of writing with precision and cleanliness. Have you been concise in your choices? I don't think that making art is any different. Have you used all of your tools (composition devices) properly and in a judicious manner? Can less be more? And to that end do you remember what it is that you were trying to say? Is it clear? Good advice I think for all of us.

Some Progress!
This is the sixth piece I have made now in which I did not start with any kind of sketch/planned drawing. This is progress for me! These six pieces all started with some sort of a large shape that I already had or that I took from my sketchbook. For this particular piece I knew that I wanted to lay down a sort of geometric framework on which to build more organic shapes and smaller detailed areas. I had the idea that I wanted some loose sections but that I didn't want those sections to seem like sections, if that makes sense. I ended up removing some pieces that I had added, discovering that too many little details can break up the larger whole in a negative way. 

Inspiration: 
This piece was inspired by something really random. I was sitting in my car on the highway the other day. There was road construction and I was lined up with everyone else to go through the traffic stop. I looked over at the Cal Trans truck and noticed the sides. They had these kind of square recessed insets. I thought to myself that the design was sort of fancy for a truck. The whole thing started a train of thought about road construction and before I knew it I was making a piece inspired by that truck.

Hope everyone's week is off to a good start. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 2016 Wrap Up Post

Lyle and Shirley Throw a Party
11" x 14" collage/painted papers


Left Field
11" x 14" Collage/Painted papers
(not available)

What it Takes
20" x 24" collage/painted papers

Meander
14" x 18" collage/painted papers
This last month I celebrated my 46th birthday. I am happy to say that I am still here and even happier to say that I have some artwork to share! Here goes!

New Work:

Lyle and Shirley Throw a Party: This piece started out with just one large shape. As I started to add shapes I began to think about a book I had as a child called Lyle and The Birthday Party. Things morphed from there and I hope that the resulting collage gives a sort of playful and festive feeling.

Left Field: April is not only my birthday month but is the start of baseball season. While I am not a big watcher of the game, my husband certainly is. Baseball, at the beginning of the season, always makes me think of green fields, crisp white uniforms, and balls rotating through the air! Inspiration certainly comes from many places.

What it Takes: All things agricultural continue to be of interest to me. For this piece I considered some of the machinery that is associated with water used for irrigation of crops. I also wanted to include some very simple images of buildings and fields. I hope the resulting piece both references agricultural elements and reads as a fun design.

Meander: When I was a kid the color combination of pink and green was very popular. I decided to use those colors for this piece. I hope that the more organic dark pink shapes blend well with the more geometric rectangles and circles.

Collage and Process:

It's good when people are looking out for you! My artist friend Julie Ford Oliver suggested to me that I clarify the type of artwork that I make. Many people may not realize that these pieces are cut paper collages and not traditional paintings. This link here to the work of Henri Matisse provides a great explanation of the materials and the process.

For my work, I start with hand painted papers. I use artist grade acrylic paint to paint sheets of construction paper. Colors are selected to create a feeling that I have about my subject matter. I try for a range of light and dark hues and for colors that are bright and for colors that are a little more subdued. Very often I have no idea how things will turn out! I next begin to cut out my shapes using small, sharp scissors. Using scissors to cut the shapes helps me to get a very "clean" edge which is something that I find incredibly appealing. I then use artist grade glue to apply the paper to the board. The whole process is akin to using a brush to apply paint to a canvas. It's really just like painting. 

The resulting pieces can be considered as collages. Per my friend's great suggestion, I have updated my website to more strongly emphasize the term "collage" in my work. I have also changed the labels for this blog and have updated the language here as well. Thank you Julie!

***artist grade materials are those that are considered to be archival, of the highest quality and consistency, and are recommended for use by professional artists (my definition). I try to make quality work both with my materials and with my presentation. 

New Class:
Lastly I'd like to mention that I will be teaching a new class at ACME Art in Mokelumne Hill, May 13th and 20th. This is an outdoor sketch class designed to help intermediate sketchers get back into the swing of things if they have taken a break from sketching. I have some suggestions for how to add writing to your sketches as well as some basic tips on composition. Please join me for a fun morning if you can by signing up with ACME directly on the link given above.

Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting. I appreciate the continued support. Here is to a great new month!
Libby

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Work: Title Suggestion?

What It Takes
20" x 24" collage on board
New Work:
After arriving back home from vacation, I couldn't wait to get started on some new ideas. After a pile of laundry and sending the husband back to work, I got into the studio. I had a hard time starting though. I then recalled something I had seen earlier on. A while back I watched a video clip about Jon Imber, the late painter. At one point he is outside painting and facing a blank canvas. He is looking at the ocean and he says, "OK now, let's start with a yellow kayak." Or something to that effect. He just needed to get something down to get started and I wholeheartedly understand that idea. So that is just what I did. I got my yellow kayak onto the paper!

The above piece is something I really like. I chose colors that for me are representative of farming: blue for water, green for crops, and brown (red-orange) for dirt. I used the idea of a barn being red (local color) and I made the sun yellow. Why not? I have to laugh also because my little symbolic shapes are just so me. Diatomaceous filters (those are the shapes in the lower left corner)? There is a piece of equipment that tills the field and I included these cement towers that have something to do with irrigation. I see them in many of the fields that I pass by. And of course, I included an above ground pump. I hope it reads as a good design because I am afraid it is like the child that only a mother could love!

In Other News:
Over vacation, I received a rejection email from a show that I had entered. This is nearly it for me. I pay for all of my own art supplies and other art related things. I am not sure that I need to spend money to understand that my art doesn't fit in with the rest of the pieces selected for the show. (I get that all of the pieces need to fit together somehow.) And I am not sure that I want to help fund the show that I won't be in. And I don't buy that I paid for someone's time. Forget it and I am not just being bitter but trying to be practical and reasonable. I'd like the most bang for my buck is all I am saying. OK, all done.

OK, I am open to discussion on the title of the above piece. Any better suggestions?
Thanks for reading and commenting,
Libby

Friday, April 22, 2016

Vacation Photos: Hoover Dam, Zion Park and Snow Canyon Park, Utah

Lake Mead

Powerhouse Floor design

Hoover Dam

Colorado River exiting Hoover Dam

Intake Tower
On the way out of Nevada towards southern Utah



Zion National Park/Virgin River





Snow Canyon State Park-Pinyon Trail




Rich and I have been on vacation this week so there is no new artwork. However, I thought I could share some of the photos that I took instead.

We visited Hoover Dam in Nevada and then drove on to southern Utah (St. George area) to hike at Zion National Park. I had read so much about the dam, the Colorado River and all things connected that I wanted to see those things in person. 

The first couple of shots show some highlights of the dam. I am very fearful of heights and so the image of the dam is taken from a distance out on the observation deck. Hoover Dam was constructed during the thirties and opened to the public in 1936. At the time, its construction was considered to be a modern marvel. It still is a great wonder and when you see it, it's impossible to take in the enormity of what the dam really does. I am showing a picture of a portion of Lake Mead which is the reservoir created by the dam. The other picture shows a bit of the Colorado River. The Colorado River is enormous and its drainage basin covers seven US states and two Mexican states. The dam provides electrical power for a number of huge areas. The structure is also meant to provide flood control, water for drinking and irrigation and recreation. All I could think about when I saw everything was how on Earth could anyone imagine building such a structure? The goal was to harness and tame the Colorado River, providing much needed resources for a burgeoning and out of control population growth. The whole thing is very difficult to take in. I enjoyed the tour though quite a bit. During the tour you are forced through a series of points in order to get to the final destination which is the top of the dam. (You walk or drive across it, honestly.) The whole process is very ordered and it wasn't lost on me that it is similar to what happens to the water of the river. It too is forced through some well regulated points in order to arrive at its various destinations. Truly something.

After the dam we drove on to Utah, passing out of Nevada and spending a few brief minutes in Arizona before arriving in St. George, Utah. Much of Nevada is just a vast expanse of flat land surrounded by distant mesas and pointy mountains. That route we took leads through the Virgin River Gorge which is spectacular. The Virgin River flows to Lake Mead and has suffered from the drought, much like the rest of the west, and its flow is greatly diminished. 

Southern Utah is beautiful and the landscape could not have been more different than what I am used to seeing. We have red dirt here of course but not like Utah. The mountains here are completely different: mesas, craggy peaks and rounded, lave flow like forms are all very common. The formations are all different colors too due to the different strata of rocks and other materials deposited over the course of time. We went to Zion Park to go hiking. I have never been in a river canyon before quite like this one. It's long and narrow and you get a real sense of this when you are either up high or down on the canyon floor. The Virgin River flows here too and I was able to put my hand into the water to feel just how cold it really is. 

After Zion we went to Snow Canyon State Park. It's part of a larger park system. This section was very accessible and couldn't have been more different from Zion. Lots of lava flows, black and red rock formations, and huge cliffs that were creamy beige and golden yellow in color. It is Spring time now and so there was quite a bit of greenery.  Of the two parks I enjoyed this one the most I think. Very quiet and we were alone much of the time. 

Prior to the trip, a few people were nice enough to wonder aloud to me about how this trip might influence my art. Truthfully, I don't really know. You would think that the influence would come via color usage or direct imagery. Those things are possible but I won't know for awhile I guess. For now, the memories and photos are enough to enjoy.

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