Monday, October 17, 2016

New Work: Build a Better Mousetrap

Build a Better Mousetrap
image size 15" x 18"
collage on paper

Title taken from the song performed by Peggy Lee and Art Lund, 1942. Recorded by Benny Goodman and written by Johnny Mercer. What more could you want?


Thursday, October 13, 2016

New Work: Bye Bye Blues

Bye Bye Blues
collage on paper
image size 15" x 18"
The title of the piece is taken from a song that was playing while I was working. Bye Bye Blues performed by Cab Calloway and his orchestra, is a much sung and recorded jazz standard from 1930. If interested, a brief history of the piece is here. Where would we all be today without such great music to listen to? 

I admit that this piece almost didn't get finished. I don't remember ever giving up on one of these collage pieces before but I certainly was ready to do that this time. My notes say that I want to work with bigger shapes and larger areas of color. Fewer shapes really. My reasoning has to do with working bigger in general. These pieces are small. Working bigger would, in my mind, require larger shapes, more contrast and perhaps greater chroma. Seeing things from a distance is very different from seeing them close up. I know from being at shows and museums that value and color patterns are very obvious from across the room. They can be strong and draw a person in. Not so much close up, however. Close up is for details right? This is just how I see things. I got all bunched up with this though as I was working and got very stuck. I didn't get unstuck until I hit on the idea of adding more of the darker blue color. Things started to come together after that.

Maybe there is a lesson here not to give up so easily. Can't be sure. I would like to have more curvilinear (my word) shapes rather than strictly rectilinear shapes. That is my own idea. How to do it though I don't know. Not yet anyway. 

OK, almost Friday! Yippee! I have gone to the grocery store and am ready for any rain that might actually fall out of the sky, no matter how small the amount. 

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Saturday, October 8, 2016

New Work: Easy to Dance With

Easy To Dance With
collage on paper
approx size 15" x 18"
On Thursday I left the house to go to the Bay Area, thinking that this piece was finished. I got back later that day and had a look at things. What had seemed good that morning just wasn't working that afternoon! So, on Friday, I futzed around with things until I had something a little different, something that didn't feel crowded and busy to me and that was a better "structure." Must remember that more is not necessarily better. And in fact, I find that when I am adding a greater number of smaller pieces I know that something larger is wrong or that I have missed something else entirely.

As I work on these pieces I take notes. Mostly the notes are brief and describe something I discovered or something that I am re-learning. There are lots of notes on re-learning! This time I was reminded (again) that very often there is a moment when things "click." I'll be going along, placing shapes and not knowing what is happening. My mind doesn't snag on anything. All of a sudden though, I will add a piece and there is this "a ha!" moment when the whole thing sort of coalesces into something tangible. I can see something that tells me things will work. I can almost see several steps ahead too which is better than stepping off the precipice into a complete void. I wonder why we set ourselves up to work like this? 

The title of the piece is of course taken from the song that I was listening to while working. I love Swing music, Big band, and whatever else goes along with that time period. The song, You're Easy to Dance With was playing. I thought about the movie with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, Holiday Inn. I watch the movie nearly every year at Christmas time, of course. Watching Fred Astaire dance is a marvelous thing. Anyway, that was the inspiration as I was working.

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

Monday, October 3, 2016

New work: That Thing You Do

That Thing You Do
Collage on paper 15" x 18"

The above piece was started on the heels of the last piece. In looking for color inspiration, I went through a binder that I keep containing snippets taken over the years from various magazines. One article that I came across showed pictures of vintage McCoy and Hall pottery. The colors of muted blues, greens and yellows were set against a red cabinet. Right away I thought that these were colors I could get in to! I painted about 8-9 pieces of papers in different hues and I was good to go. The title is in reference to the idea that finding the thing that is the most "you" will show you the key to your art making. When you figure out what you really love (that thing you do), then your art will flow more naturally.

Originally I had a sketch in my sketchbook that I was using for reference. I was doing pretty well, following the sketch, but I started to abandon things when I felt I was too attached to duplicating my sketch. i wasn't able to make a move without consulting the original picture. So, that was my cue to shut the sketchbook! Once that happened, things flowed more smoothly.

I had several things happen by accident.  I added a triangle shape with the top lopped off. As I added shapes Rich came in to look and said that he saw a door and a hallway. He was seeing some depth instead of flattened space. That was sort of interesting. The other thing that happened is shown in the upper right corner. I had a cut a piece, intending to use it in one spot. It wasn't totally working so I just sort of moved it around. Putting it an an angle in the upper right corner caused a sort of "fan" effect, kind of like spokes on a wheel. I liked it so much that I added it to another area.

Hope everyone is well. I am including some information below from a friend.

Thanks for reading and commenting,

My art friend, Linda Trapp, is teaching a class. I have included the info below, copied from her pdf flyer. If interested, or if you know someone who can benefit I hope you will consider signing up. Her web site is here.

New Workshop for Creative people of all disciplines: Slaying the Dragons: overcoming fears & insecurities that plague artists Linda Abbott Trapp, PhD Sat., October 15, 9-12 Sutter Creek Gallery, Creekside Studio, 35 Main St. Cost, $40 Register 209 772-0502 Bring notebook and pen, 2 photos of your work Class description: This 3-hour workshop covers the issues of low self-confidence, fear, and jealousy. We're going to learn how to get from there to the strength, courage, trust, and joy that characterize the true nature of those who seek the beautiful and true in life. First, we'll complete a brief self-assessment to learn what we're doing right and what needs to change. We'll explore the psychological barriers that have built up over a lifetime, and learn how to grow in strength, valuing our selves and our work more highly. We'll look at fear -of the blank page or canvas, of others' judgment, of failing to meet our expectations, of public ridicule. We'll learn where our courage emanates from, and how to develop it, especially in the face of risk. We'll tackle jealousy, which leads to loneliness and fear of sharing. The antidote to jealousy is trust, and there are clear steps to take to grow in self-trust and trust of others. Finally, we'll summarize and look at applications, perhaps developing an artist statement that reflects a clear, positive and powerful understanding of each person's work. We can put together a game plan to address issues that keep popping up, and work to plan for accountability as we grow. About the workshop leader: Linda Abbott Trapp is a working artist, winning awards and praise for her sensitive abstract watercolors and wood assemblages. Her website,, lists recent shows and awards. More pertinent to this workshop is her background: a former Dean and faculty member at the California School of Professional Psychology, and a Dean at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, she blends a solid knowledge of psychology with an understanding of the stresses and rewards of the artistic life. She has led over 3,000 workshops and published seven books and over 250 articles, columns, and reviews, and has lived and worked in Ethiopia, Siberia (briefly) and Mexico. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

New Work: Now and Then

Now and Then
image size 15" x 18"
The piece above was finished on Thursday. There were a few things that I wanted to try, design wise. Could I do something with a really deep and rich color like that red? I was nearly finished with the piece when I started examining that red space. I really loved the larger expanse of red area on the top right. Leaving it as is seemed possible. The red color was so deep that it could really have been its own shape. I was sort of casting about for what to do, trying out different shapes and values. There was a circle in a very dark blue with a chunk cut out of it. I placed it in that spot and really liked it except for the value which I thought was too dark. On a whim, I grabbed the dark gray color and held it up. It looked good to me so I cut out a similar shape and decided to use that instead. I put a little gray on the other side for some balance and added a green line too for the same reason.

The other thing I wanted to try was using line to create a kind of tonal pattern.  I like the idea of one color pushing into another color, one shape extending into another shape. Sort of like a zipper effect if that makes sense. I tried it out and liked it right away. 

The whole thing has a kind of retro feel to me, almost like I want to say "atomic age" and have that describe things. The title of Now and Then seemed kind of fitting instead. No one seems to be talking about nuclear weapons these days. Are they just passe' or something? Maybe the subject has been supplanted by something else. Lately I have noticed that my reference points for things are a curious mixture of old and new. I guess that just means I am getting older. 

I hope to start another piece today. Yesterday I spent the afternoon painting papers to use in future pieces. The process is really fun for me though it takes some time. Over the past 7-8 years, I have tried to learn about a variety of materials and techniques. Of the few skills that I developed, I am most happy with what I have learned about mixing colors. I feel very confidant in my ability to see a color (either one that is in front of me or one in my mind) and to get a pretty accurate rendition of it in paint. I took a lot of time to learn about paint properties, most specifically underlying color tendency and value and chroma. (There are technical terms for these things but this is how I think of them.) I've met artists who don't know much about their paint and aren't terribly interested. That's OK. It's probably a tedious subject for people. I like knowing the "why" of things though, always have. Don't just tell me to do something "because." It won't work! I have to know why! So, my time yesterday spent painting paper is just more mileage in learning. To me it is time well spent.

Hope everyone will have a good weekend. We are finally expecting cooler weather and, wait for it, maybe some rain????? Could it be true? We will see. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

September 2016 Wrap Up Post

1.Going in Circles
collage on paper 15" x 18"

collage on paper 15" x 18"

3. Sharp as a Tack
collage on paper 15" x 18"

4. Getting There
collage on paper 15" x 18"

5. All Right Then
collage on paper 15" x 18"
September is nearly over and it is time for a look back. Each piece has a bit of a story to it that I would like to share. Here goes!

1. Going in Circles: The challenge of using negative and positive shapes as well as recognizing negative and positive spaces is something that continues to interest me. For this piece I decided to stick with some basic shapes, arranged into different "spaces." To me the piece has a structured quality to it which appeals to me.

2. Crossover: This piece was another challenge for me in the use of "space." It almost doesn't matter what medium an artist works in. Most all of us are deciding, one way or the other, how to use the available space. I found that starting with slightly smaller initial shapes produced a different result than the first piece. 

3. Sharp as a Tack: For me, this piece combines a little of several ideas: utilizing specific space on the paper, having shapes cross over from one space to the next and having some spaces recede or advance. Color and chroma and value all play a role here. This one turned out to be one of my favorites.

4. Getting There: This was another experiment in the use of space and shapes. I liked the idea of one shape "pinning" down another shape. I think value and hue plays a role here and so that is what I tried to do. 

5. All Right Then: As with the previous piece, this one also explores the use of space. What was different for me though for this one was laying down allover smaller shapes to begin with. As a result, many of my resulting pieces ended up being smaller. 

Starting Point:
At this point, I have several different ways of starting a piece. The first four pieces involved me laying down large to medium pieces of painted paper. From there, I can begin to fill in each larger shape with other smaller shapes. I reference doodles that I make or specific design ideas that I want to try. I find that after several pieces have been placed that I tend to do one of two things. 

I'll start laying down an even distribution of smaller shapes using a balanced variety of color and value. I put pieces of paper all over the place in a systematic way, crossing spaces and lines. The resulting work tends to end up looking like the last piece shown above, which is what I think of as an "allover" design. 

The second thing that sometimes happens is that I will add smaller shapes to each large shape. After a few additions I start to notice that visually, I have created a few larger sections. This happened in the first and fourth pieces. 

For the second and third piece, I found that I created a kind of "hybrid" of the two ideas. There are larger distinct sections but the pieces, for me anyway, have an "allover" quality.

All of this is meant to reveal that I don't have a firm grip on things just yet which I think is kind of good. The outcomes are always a surprise. Not bad but certainly unexpected.

Let's Talk!:
It might seem tedious or a bit boring to get into these ideas but I'd point out the importance of being able to analyze and describe what you think is happening with your work. As it is, I find it nearly impossible to tell anyone what it is that I do. Generally, I tell people that I am an artist. If they don't roll their eyes too much, I then tell them that I make paper collages using simple shapes and colors. If they look like they want to hear more then I can go on in stages. My web site certainly describes in greater depth what it is I do. But, I couldn't do any of this if I didn't think about it and try to at least describe what I see. 

Left Field: 
Since it is nearly October and I love Autumn and spooky stuff, how about a great book recommendation. I recently read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. (This is the Penguin Classics edition with the intro by Laura Miller.) I was expecting a ghost story but what I got was an excellent psychological adventure! The idea that a house, something that is not "alive", that it could possess someone, is really incredible to me. I found the idea very compelling. Laura Miller's intro. is excellent also and helped me to more fully understand what I was reading. Shirley Jackson herself has a fascinating story which is also well worth reading about. 

Another Book Recommendation:
Gwenn Seemel is an artist I have long admired. I have been reading her blog for several years now and want to recommend her writing, in a general way. More specifically, for those interested, I want to recommend her book, You Share Good. In her book, which comes in several different price points, Gwenn discusses copyright and why she gave it up. She provides some very compelling reasons why other artists may want to consider doing the same thing. Even if the tip of this iceberg is intimidating or you think that the ideas may not appeal to you, I still recommend reading the book to expand your thinking.

It's a long post. Thanks for sticking with it or just even reading parts. As always, comments are welcomed.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Work: Sharp as a Tack

Sharp as a Tack
paper collage-15" x 18" approx

Back from vacation and back at it! Hope everyone is having a good weekend so far.