Monday, May 20, 2019

New Work: Party Hat

Party Hat
12" x 12" painted paper collage on MDF board
In between pieces, there is work to do! Prepping paper to be gessoed and painted is always an action item and painting new papers to use is also on the list. I have been doing both things but in the meantime, I made a small piece, shown above, from leftover shapes sitting on my work table. It came together quickly and fairly easily which is nice. It's good to have several positive experiences in a row when it comes to making these collages. Building a kind of momentum is always welcomed when working.

I am noticing a difference in the outcome of these pieces. Some are more structured than others, almost like they are being designed on a kind of grid. Only a few of the pieces I have done so far this year have been more "unstructured", meaning that I use the shapes I have at hand and don't worry too much about placement. They almost have more of a circular or organic quality to them. It's hard for me to describe and I can't intentionally duplicate this second way of working. That tells me that there is something that I am doing that I am not aware of yet. I only know that when I start a piece I can tell right away if I will get something that is normal for me or something that is a little different. My thought process on color and shape and line are the same but there is definitely another factor in play that I have not yet identified. This brings me to my final point.

Is there anyone out there reading that likes taking classes? I admit that I have only taken two before and they were drawing classes. I have watched instructional videos, read plenty of books, and tried to emulate different styles while incorporating other people's ideas into my way of working. I am asking because I very nearly bought a book the other day on drawing imaginary animals and characters. The idea is to keep your eyes open for everyday clusters of objects/marks/images that can be turned into figures. It looked fun but kind of dangerous. I am very hesitant to take in new information at this point. It's taken me such a long time to hear a little tiny voice in my head telling me what to do with my art. I don't want to turn a deaf ear to that voice while I am listening to someone else tell me what to do. Anyway, I am curious to know if anyone else has had this experience or something similar to it that they want to tell me about.

Alright, thanks for reading. Leave a comment or shoot me an email.
libbyfife@ymail.com

Libby

Sunday, May 12, 2019

New Work: Whirligig

Whirligig
14" x 18" painted papers collage
It's wonderful to get compliments and comments on your work. It's important though not to be overly confident in the wrong way. Just because you have enjoyed success in the past doesn't automatically mean that you will enjoy that same success in the future. Having faith though in your ability to do something is a different discussion. In my book, having that kind of faith is totally necessary. It doesn't guarantee success but it will help you to search for answers to solutions knowing that you likely will be able to find them. You can proceed knowing that you are likely to finish one way or the other.

Such was the case with the piece above. I came up with some solutions that I thought were pretty solid. The moves I was making seemed good. At the end though, I was searching for the last couple of shapes and colors that would tie the piece together and make it cohesive. There were several areas that were just too busy and that made other areas look too stark. The answer, as I found out (again), was not to add more shapes to balance out the piece but to remove some shapes and then assess the situation. Once I did that, I had room to breathe and then the next and final moves became more obvious. Removing some pieces that I was super in love with helped me to better evaluate things. You have to be willing to destroy a bit in order to gain. 

These collage pieces are such a challenge for me. What do I want them to be? How can they be taken seriously? What kinds of design ideas guide me while I am making them? The first two questions are maybe not answerable. The third question though is one that I can somewhat address. I know that for a long time now, several years at least, I have been refining my ideas regarding some design "principles". They are the following: repetition, variance, and proportion. I look for ways to repeat and vary shapes and to figure how much of that is needed. I also try to apply those ideas to color, value and chroma. It's sounds boring and academic but to me it's like having a limitless toolbox. 

Each time I make a piece I work with those above ideas in some way. They guide me and help me come up with solutions. I usually too have some sort of "ah ha" moment of clarity when I figure out something that I am after. This time I was able to really hone in on what I think of as "surface tension" within the picture plane. I kind of envision a piece of strong and stout netting that is pulled taut. All of the squares within the netting are pulled equally, all sides are pulled strongly and no one part of the net is weaker than the other. (It's not the scientific definition of what surface tension is but more of a visual.) There is an overall cohesiveness of the piece and an equality of shape, line and color. Not one element is more important than another. This is a tall order to fill but just to verbalize it (or write about it) is critical for me.

With all of that in mind this piece is done and I am happy. Today is kind of a paperwork sort of day in my studio but I hope to start a new piece next week at some point. In the meantime, Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms out there. I hope the day is going well.

Thanks for reading and commenting,
Libby

Monday, April 29, 2019

New work: Coevolve

Coevolve
16" x 16" painted paper collage on wc paper
In my last post I mentioned that I am reading a book on evolution written by Carl Zimmer. I am still pecking away at it and have resigned myself to now being a slow reader. (At least I am still reading!) 

In any case, the above piece was inspired by a couple of things that I read. First, I didn't know that birds have a poor sense of smell but can see well in color. Many flowers are colored red, for example, so that birds can see them to pollinate them. I can attest to this fact since I have a fuschia colored salvia bush outside my window that is frequented by humming birds. Insects cannot see in color but have a good sense of smell and gravitate towards pollinating flowers with a strong aroma. I also learned that there is a particular flower (somewhere in South America?) that has a 16" long shaft with the parts to be pollinated deep inside that shaft. A moth exists that only pollinates that flower. He has a curled up tongue that becomes filled with blood and unrolls to be 16 inches. Imagine that!

You may have guessed that I am on the chapter in the book that deals with co-evolution. I have certainly heard of parasitic relationships but the concept of two things evolving together in tandem is kind of new to me. Very fascinating. So, literal soul that I am, for my piece I pictured unfurling tongues and flowers! I also read about Mendel's peas and his experiments to discover the secrets of heredity. I learned about the evolution of vertebrates and all about how genes and chromosomes worked. I pictured a cell breaking apart from a group of cells. (I also recently studied a little bit about how cancer starts.) 

In all honesty, I can't say that I start any of these pieces with specific images in mind. The pieces in fact start with just some very general shapes. (You can probably tell that by looking.) As I am working though my mind wanders to whatever it is that occupies it: reading material, words I heard, something I saw on TV or noticed while I was on a walk. I'll often jot down a little image in my sketchbook of whatever it is that I am imagining. (Lately I have a lot of flower sketches so out came that idea!) 

It's taken me a good long while to get to this point, the point where I feel I have something for myself, art wise. I know perfectly well that for most of my friends and family the artwork does not appeal. It's OK. I could paint bad landscapes I guess but then where would I be? I just can't concentrate my efforts there and would rather spend my time enjoying the work of others who are much better at that genre. So, that's where I stand. I like having my own thing.

Here's to hoping everyone reading is off to a good start this week. And may you all have your own thing too!
Thanks for reading,
Libby

Thursday, April 25, 2019

New Work: Here and Gone

Here and Gone
11" x 14" painted acrylic papers on wc paper
This appears to be my only completed piece for April. Not too surprising I guess. This month seems to have gotten busy and what free time I did have hasn't been spent very efficiently. 

This piece was started just after I returned from Palm Springs and was finished late last week. I am reading a book by Carl Zimmer called Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea. It's a good read, a little over my head in spots, but overall very understandable. I am currently reading about the extinction of species: why it happens, how it happens, and its general impact. It's disturbing, to say the least.  So, some of the shapes above are inspired by my reading and some of the shapes also came from sketches that I have done this month and last. The sketches are fun because they use bits and pieces of leftover shapes. I never know what is going to appear or if the sketches will prompt something in my larger, finished pieces. Making art is sort of like chain smoking (at least I imagine it is). One cigarette or idea begets the next, and so on.

In other news, I sold two paintings to a friend of mine. They are older pieces which I really like and I am happy that they have gone to a great home. Though I enjoyed this series and feel like it helped me to get used to working with shapes and color, I just wasn't sure how to continue doing it. Looking for landscape ideas was not working for me and I couldn't see how to expand on what I was doing. Fortunately, I think it was at about this time that I started learning about Matisse and his paper cut outs. And though I know that most people I interact with like landscapes and relate to them better, I also know that the genre just isn't for me. I would much rather appreciate them and marvel at the painters who make them rather than try to make one myself. I do believe strongly in listening to your creative ideas even if they don't sell or aren't liked as well by friends and family members. Unless your living depended on making a specific type of art, what would be the point otherwise?


OK, I am kind of excited. I ordered some art supplies (paper) and I haven't done that in awhile. I am going to try out some new marking pens. I have been enjoying my little pen sketches so much and have been adding color to them but my markers are not quite what I want. (They are Crayola kids markers and are fine for having fun but I would like to try an artist grade product.) I have also been painting some papers to use in future work. This takes a little bit of time to do. So, just kind of putzing around I guess.

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





Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sketches and Some Ideas on Said Sketches

A just for fun map of the way up a hillside on one of our hikes

Table Mountain, Jamestown, CA

Some of the first wildflowers I started to record



Testing out some very inexpensive and basic colored pencils





Testing out some inexpensive felt tip pens, Crayola Brand


I am not so crazy about having crappy photos on my blog but I did want to show what I have been up to, art wise, in the last several weeks. 

About a month or so ago I bought a small travel sketchbook. The idea was to record what I saw while I was hiking or walking. The sketchbook's purpose is a little different than my main sketch book which serves as a spot for sketching but also as a personal journal where I record thoughts, feelings, and ideas. My travel sketchbook is meant to be a separate and distinct thing. It would be nice to track what I see over time; to note what is blooming when and where; how the landscape changes, how the weather is different from time to time; and just any general observations regarding my environment. And I can hardly remember about my hikes from year to year so this sketch book helps with that aspect of things too.

I'd like to mention the obvious too. I don't draw well at all. At best, I have a rudimentary grasp on capturing a small likeness of something. And guess what? I don't care! It's taken quite a while to get to this point, the point where I don't care, and frankly, it makes me happy. I am more attuned to how my hand holds the pen, the line it makes, and the observations that I can garner and write down. Can I get close to a likeness of something? Yes, I can. Is it perfect, of an illustrator's quality? No. Is my perspective off at times? You betcha! It's all good though as far as I am concerned and I am going to tell you why. 

The reason my efforts count is because, well, my efforts count! I taught a series of classes several years ago called Get Started Sketching in Nature. All of my students were people who had been away from their art (and their creative side) for quite awhile. Uniformly, they all wanted to improve their drawing (or learn to draw). And, straight across the board, they all said they wish that they had more time to draw, could do what I did, could draw better, etc., etc., etc. I heard a lot of wistful comments that upset me. The sketches above are not complicated, like, say, rocket science is complicated. The hurdle isn't the sketching itself but all of the mental baggage that comes first. And I think it is necessary baggage to "unpack", as they say these days. It's pertinent that you get over the embarrassment of what things look like and the only way to do that is to sketch. A lot. And show those sketches to people if you can. You have to spend the time doing it otherwise, as they say, if wishes were fishes... 

And that brings me to my main point. What I do matters no matter what it looks like because it's me that matters. Me. Those sketches and observations are an extension of Libby The Artist (even if the sketches are a little sketchy!). That's what I think the students mentioned above were missing. For whatever reasons, their creative efforts didn't translate to a value of themselves. And because they hadn't been consistently working at things, the "me" value was missing. 

So, I hope that those reading will check out the observations and comments in the sketches above. I stand by what I taught in the above mentioned classes: basic observations start with who, what, where, when and how (and perhaps why). Taste, smell, touch, sight, hearing, and instinct-these are all recordable and valid ways of observing and can serve to get ANYONE started with a sketchbook or notebook. It's a way to be engaged with yourself and the world around you. 

I'd point out  that what I write down isn't earth shattering. Usually it is just things like the weather, the hike location and who I was with, what I saw and what might have been unusual. If you are a flower person you might notice all of my naming mistakes. I am using an app called INaturalist. It's helpful but without a knowledge of the underlying structure of the plant and all of the terms that go with that (taxonomy I guess), it's a little garbage in, garbage out. But again, no problem. It's the effort that counts!

Please, leave your comments. I am sure they will provide a good laugh for both of us. Thanks for reading!
Libby

Sunday, March 24, 2019

New Work:In Dialogue With Darwin 1 &2


In Dialogue With Darwin 2
11" x 14" painted papers/collage
In Dialogue With Darwin 1
11" x 14" painted papers/collage
The title of the two pieces comes from a podcast that I listened to not that long ago. During the discussion, the interviewer said a few times that the author (it was a podcast featuring a writer) had "been in dialogue with Darwin." Well, that phrase sort of stuck with me (the interviewer said it a number of times) and I have had it in my head ever since. 

It's somewhat coincidental that I am now reading a book called Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer. For someone who isn't very science-y I am certainly drawn to science-y ideas: books, movies, documentaries and podcasts. I can't say that I always understand the topics in an in depth way but I am good at getting the general idea of things.

These two pieces were made simultaneously and side by side. I intended for them to go together, to sort of talk with one another. I can't help but think of prehistoric creatures, plants and animals rising up and being destroyed, water, land, fire and air coming and going, swirling together to help to create life in one form or another. It's heady stuff and honestly, I know precious little beyond Darwin and his famous voyage on The Beagle. What I do know is that the shapes I make and put together often end up looking like some kind of "form" other than just a circle or square. Maybe a person, a plant or another animal? Who knows! I am often pleasantly surprised when a little "story" emerges and isn't that the point of art? Being surprised?

OK, back to work. I have been off for a week or so getting ready for vacation and being on vacation. I'll be writing a seperate post about that on my other blog, The Curious Housewife.

Thanks for reading and commenting,
Libby



Monday, March 11, 2019

New Work: Full Spectrum

Full Spectrum
18" x 18" painted paper collage
The above above piece was actually finished several days ago but has been sitting and waiting for a clear day for me to photograph it. I am not anxious for it to warm up and get dry but just a day here and there would be great!

I admit to being super pleased with this design. Specifically, the circle of circles around the circle (!!!!) was something that I was not expecting. And at the last moment, when I felt things weren't finished, I hit upon the idea of the waves of smaller circles. I am a big fan of repetition and variation. I haven't the imagination to make stuff up but I can certainly look for recurring elements and vary them to create interest and congruity. Early on, when I was learning about the work of some famous artists, I read a book about Georgia O'Keeffe. There was some sort of quote to the effect that once she learned about the elements of design, how to manipulate them, she saw that the possibilities were endless for making every kind of painting that she wanted. I have to agree with that one and the idea of that has guided me ever since.

While making this piece, I had some things on my mind. It's no secret that I love rainbows. Ever since I was a kid I have loved their vibrant and clear colors. They have many meanings and can represent different ideas for different people. I am aware of this (and of the potential controversy of the symbol) as I use the rainbow imagery in my work. The other thing I was considering is the word "spectrum". I recently had a conversation with a friend about the reproductive rights of women. I have always had a clear stance on this subject but listening to my friend, I realized that the scope of my opinion was very limited. I felt that I had failed to embrace the "full spectrum" of available options. (Love and tolerance are not always easy.) In any case, those are the items that likely influenced the above piece in some way.

Currently I am working on two smaller side by side pieces. I had such a good time with this several weeks ago that I thought I would try it again. I have also started taking my sketchbook with me on  my hikes. It has been fun making sketches of flowers and the landscape, noting the appearance of new growth and changes that I see. I stopped doing this practice as I distanced myself from representative art but I think that circling back to it is a good idea. I can't always predict what will feed my art making process so I may as well try whatever I can.

Alright, If you have sunshine in your neck of the woods, go outside and enjoy it! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby