Thursday, June 27, 2019

A New-ish Start!

I have made the decision, for now, to transfer my blogging endeavors over to my artist website, Libby Fife Fine Art. That link can be found right here. I hope those that are still following will hop right on over to my website to see what is going on. I will still be sharing my new work, the reasons why I made it and what inspired it. Additionally, I will try to share information about my process and what I am up to, artistically. Please join me as I try something a little new.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

New work: The Not So Peaceful Garden

The Not So Peaceful Garden
Image size 16" x 20"
painted paper collage on matboard

The title of the above piece comes yet again from something that I read in my book on evolution (Carl Zimmer). In the book, the author references a quote made by Darwin to the effect that while we love to hear the birds singing happily in the garden and their music signifies the presence of life, we must also remember that the very life we hear is also bringing death to the worms and the insects being eaten by those birds. I thought those two ideas held together simultaneously merited some real thinking on my part. That's an important idea not to be missed.

I admit that though that while I am making these pieces, I have nothing much in mind to start with. For example, I didn't set out to make a piece of art about life and death occurring simultaneously. It is just what I happened to think about as I was working away. What actually got me going was another idea from awhile back and that can be attributed to a Stephen King short story called Chattery Teeth. Based on that reading, I had made a little paper sketch of a pair of orange "chattery teeth" and I liked that so much that I really wanted to use the imagery at some point. Well, this piece became that point! I knew too that I wanted to use some flower images. Earlier in the week I had seen some wallflowers while on a hike. I loved their four petal formation and bright orange color. (Plus, who doesn't love a wallflower?) So, on to the piece they went. The two blue shapes that sort of resemble a bird and fish were "accidental" in that I had cut several shapes earlier in the month and these two shapes evolved from those other shapes. Nothing was planned, in other words. It just evolved! (How fitting, no?)

Admittedly, at some point, I felt that a kind of "garden" theme was emerging. Not a peaceful, relaxing garden but a garden with a somewhat sinister subtext. I like that idea a lot (too much time with Stephen King) but if I had set out to do that at the beginning this piece would never have been made. I mean to say that I am not sure if I could make a second or third piece and make this a series. I couldn't be deliberate. It's likely though that in the future this idea will crop up again. I don't think ideas or creative impulses really ever go anywhere. We always circle back to them eventually in one way or another. 

Alright, I really hope everyone has had a productive week, creatively or otherwise. Thanks for reading and commenting. Or emailing. Emailing works just fine:)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

New Work: Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Endless Forms Most Beautiful
15" x 18" painted paper collage
This piece was based on a "leftover" scrap collage that I did a week or so ago. When I finish a piece there are generally lots of little bits and pieces leftover. Sometimes I use them in the next piece or sometimes they go into a small sketch. Every now and again there are enough shapes leftover to do a 8" x 10" practice collage. I liked the practice piece that I did so much that I decided to use it as the launching pad for a real piece.

I have to admit though that I deviated significantly from that practice sketch. I was trying to duplicate it and that just wasn't working for me. So, I put the sketch away and just forgot about copying it. I am so happy I did because I never would have made this piece otherwise. 

I am lucky too because I just happened to come across some images in the last several weeks that have generated some new ideas. Not fully formed ideas but fragments of things. I so much want to make more organic shapes and combine them with the rectilinear shapes. But how to do it? What could it look like? Well, there has to be source material for starters. I have recently been looking online at old anatomy charts and also perusing our anatomy reference book. I have looked at (and sketched) plenty of flowers over the course of the Spring and I have been sketching oddball animal shapes based on the exercises in Carla Sonheim's book, Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals. It is slow going but ideas are beginning to emerge. I don't want to jinx myself so I will leave it at that.

Incidentally, the title is based on a passage from Charles Darwin's book, On The Origin of Species. The full quote is referenced often and sums up nicely what Darwin felt about evolution and natural selection (not an easy topic to sum up)!

OK, thanks for reading. Leave a comment or send an email.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

New Work: I Spy Blueberries!

I Spy Blueberries!
11" x 14" painted collage papers on wc paper

Every once in awhile an image will pop into my head and I know right away that it is something that I will incorporate into my work. For the above piece, I very clearly remembered the blueberry farm that I went to last summer. The blueberries were such beautiful colors and the woman who owns the farm had planted several different varieties which all tasted a little different from one another. Picking the berries was a great experience for me and I can't wait to do it again this year.

The other thing that appeared in this piece are some organic shapes that are a kind of experiment. I thought I could use portions of them and blend them with the more rectilinear shapes. I think that they work and I will continue to try and incorporate them. It's important for me to not have these pieces be "sectioned". I want them to have an overall-ness so it's a challenge for me to get all of the shapes and colors to play well together. As I place shapes onto the paper I look for a directional flow and it's this flow, among other things that I think helps make the pieces cohesive. Anyway, that's what I think.

In other news, I am still perusing my Carla Sonheim book that I mentioned in my last post. Though I am not drawing any finished animals as the book suggests you do, the exercises are providing prompts for drawings which then lead to paper cut out shapes and completed figures. I hope to be able to show some photos of that work soon. My thought is that even if those shape/figures don't show up in my work they are still helping me to work with color, line and composition. 

OK, that's it for now. Hope everyone has had a good month. It's warming up here which is good and bad. We'll just see!
Thanks for reading and commenting,

Friday, May 24, 2019

New Work: Right Way Round

Right Way Round
14" x 18" acrylic painted papers on mat board
One idea that I have come to embrace is that no art supply is too precious to use. Everything in my studio is fair game and will eventually get its 15 minutes of fame. The results may not be great but at least I tried and eliminated one possibility. I can then move on to the next question this way and not always wonder if something may have worked or not.

Such was the case with the above piece. I made this one using regular mat board as my substrate. It worked fine and I am in fact thinking of trying some more pieces, maybe larger, on more matboard. The paper is no more warped than other watercolor papers that I have used as substrates. I got super frustrated (again) because some watercolor paper that I had soaked and stretched ripped right down the middle. That led me to trying the mat board. See, anger is beneficial and healthy!

I didn't have too much on my mind for this piece other than some lyrics from a Jackson Browne song referencing the disappearing ozone layer. That's what the yellow and blue shapes are about. But, I liked the idea of a cascade of shapes falling through the piece and so I tried that out with the half circles. When I got to the last shapes I pictured Atlas holding up the world. I ended up liking this piece a lot-maybe not in the same way as some of my others-but still in a good way nonetheless. 

I also bought a new book for myself. It's from Carla Sonheim and is called Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals. I was initially concerned that this was yet another rabbit hole that I was going down. She says though right at the beginning that sometimes the things that you do creatively that don't make much sense eventually end up informing your work in some way. That's reassuring to me so I am going to proceed. (My friend Carol told me essentially the same thing. Two people can't be wrong can they?)

BTW, the title of the piece refers to my idea of how I make art. Does the idea come first and then the art follows or is it visa versa? 

OK, hope everyone is having a nice Friday. Thanks for reading anc commenting.

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.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

New Work: 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,