After spending three years blissfully focusing on art full time, I am now working again and it is a challenge striking a balance between work and my studio practice. What I’m not lacking in is ideas, fortunately. I think the time spent focusing on a job (which I absolutely love, by the way), is giving me a fresh perspective on my work.
Take for instance, my new crow paintings. This series continues to evolve, thanks to a little outside inspiration from Haruki Murakami. If you have not read his Wind-Up Chronicles, I highly recommend it. And don’t give up. I actually was thinking of putting it down several times, but something kept me reading to the end, at which point I was totally enthralled.
Inspired by this experience, I’ve begun a new series of work, a sub-series of my crows, of “wind-up birds.”
Crows are tricksters and symbols of transformation, so in my mind the perfect candidate to play the part of the bird who “winds up the world” every morning.
Here is number one:
And the second one:
These are posing a challenge I haven’t resolved yet, which is combining the awkwardness of mechanics with the natural look of a bird. The parts don’t go. That’s the point. But there needs to be recognizability.
Before I go, I will leave you with this larger acrylic painting I just finished. I was inspired to paint this one snowy day when I looked outside and saw a crow sitting amidst frozen branches of the apple tree across the way. There was something very magical and peaceful about the scene.
Hello, friends, and a very Happy New Year to each and every one of you. Sorry I’ve been out of touch, but I have a little announcement to make. I have returned to full-time work and it has kept me very busy lately.
When I made the transition to being a full-time artist three years ago, I knew it might be a temporary sabbatical of sorts, which happened to dovetail nicely with other changes in my life. Namely, getting married and moving twice (once overseas) with my Air Force husband. At the time, I thought becoming a full-time artist would be the perfect job for me.
But no, I have missed working outside of the house… a lot. I have missed having other things in my life, nurturing other sides of myself. I’ve never been just one thing, but many different people coexisting as one – writer, creator, teacher, caretaker, editor – as I know most of us are. How can I only paint and not analyze, write, learn, and exercise all the skills I’ve acquired from two decades of working in various fields?
But what job would be best? The jobs I’ve enjoyed the most over my life were the ones I worked while I was making plans for bigger things and those jobs were all library positions. I’ve done archiving, cataloging, reference, information management, and circulation. I kept hoping a job at the base library would pop up when I did job searches over the past two years we’ve lived here in Germany. Finally, I got my chance. A position opened up and I seized it.
I love it so far, and I will be able to put a lot of my knowledge and interest in art into the work. I will be redesigning our newsletter and running art-related programs for our weekly Storytime and the summer reading program. The librarian has also asked me to put on a solo show of my work in the library’s little art gallery. I think I might even make a site-specific installation related to books and literature. I’m so excited to see what’s in store!
It has even got me thinking in a very serious way about going back to school for a library science degree, something I’ve pondered off and on for a long time. With the tuition assistance I may be able to secure through my job, it has never seemed so possible or desirable. (I hear Indiana University at Bloomington has an M.L.I.S with a focus on Art Librarianship.)
In the meantime, I refuse to slack off making art. I will never drop it again now that it has become such a daily part of life. In fact, here are a few goals I intend to work on over the next few months:
1. Continue with my “Knowing” series of paintings and create etchings for the series as well.
2. Create new small prints and cards to sell in the spring.
Last year at this time, full of determination to make new work and take my artistic practice to the new level, I wrote in my journal, “This is the year I set myself free.” Once I had put that out into the universe, my work became more about my own emotional journey and it helped me to let go of a lot of things I had been carrying around.
I am moving forward and creating a more balanced life where my art-making is just one aspect of a full existence, balanced with other kinds of intellectual inquiry and service to others.
Yep, I really think 2015 is going to be the best year yet!
How about you, dear reader? What are your creative goals for the New Year?
It’s that time of year, kids. Craft fairs, of all kinds, going on in your community center, church, or convention center. Last weekend, I decided to jump into that world again.
I don’t know why I waited so long after moving to Germany to do something like this, except to say I was a little slow to get my bearings after moving. I knew I didn’t want to deal with the potential language barrier and legalities of doing fairs on the economy, but turns out the Air Force base community center holds craft fairs several times of year.
Once I signed up and was committed, I started to get excited…
I knew I needed to come up with some Christmas-y designs for the fair, as well as multiple price points, so I tried my hand at stamp-carving to make these little moleskine journals:
I also came up with some new Christmas cards. You can read about my process making these linocut cards in this previous post.
And here are some pics of my display:
All in all, people were friendly and generally interested in my work. I did make a few notable sales, but there were not many big spenders, nor did I expect there to be. I think that’s the only drawback to doing a dinky fair like this.
That said, I would advise any artist or crafter thinking of doing something like this, just dive in and do it! There is no sense in doing nothing while you wait to be in a better market. Even if sales are lackluster, you’ll have the experience of designing your table, organizing all of your gear and products, and, interacting with potential buyers. It is great practice for marketing your work in person and, if you’re even half as introverted as me, you probably need the practice! And, most importantly, you’ll be showing your work!!
I have one more show before Christmas (December 6-7) and I’m already signed up for the March show, so if you are in my local area, please stop by. I’d love to see you!
It has finally started to feel like late fall here in Germany. It is chilly and drizzly and the leaves have completely changed colors. So, I’m now in full “cozy” mode. I’m knitting, enjoying comfort food like stews and the like, even lighting the occasional fire in the fireplace at nights! It’s a good thing, too, because I am participating in a craft fair in less than two weeks and I wanted to make some new Christmas cards for it and, happily, the weather has helped inspire me.
My favorite Christmas images convey the tranquility and magic of a starlit Christmas Eve. You know, the kind of night that is so miraculous and exceptional that the lion lays down with lamb. The sweetness and innocence of animals says it all.
So I settled on this image for my Christmas card, available here in my Etsy shop. Check out my process in pictures:
I’m excited to unveil my latest painting, which is part of an emerging series. The theme of this series is the exploration of mental health and depression. For me, the crows represent the twin natures of depression and anxiety. Like shadows, they drop noiselessly through your periphery, heralding a shift in moods and perceptions.
But they are not only negative figures, but positive ones, too. The challenge of getting through a depressive episode or panic attack can open one up to new ways of seeing the world while breaking down the old structures and illusions. This process is also famously linked to art and creativity. If you would like to read more about my own battle with depression, click here.
This is a highly textured painting created with various sculptural and textural mediums and thick paint. There are a lot of layers of color below the pale hues that show on the surface. I also painted this one more loosely and energetically than some of my previous paintings.
You can also check out this piece in my Etsy shop.
Whew, back again from another trip, this time to England. Mike and I spent most of the time in the country, but took one day to go to London. My goal was to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts, a retrospective I highly recommend.
If I had to use one word to describe Anselm Kiefer’s work, I would say “Layers.” Layers of history, meaning, symbolism, and personal reflection. Also, layers upon layers of paint, chemical processes, and all kinds of found and conjured materials and textures.
Kiefer is known for his handmade books, which appear as both a means and a subject of expression throughout his career. Many of his books are personal and more traditional – large collections of watercolors, for example. However, there is always something experimental and unconventional going on. The books in the exhibit dedicated to the female nude, for example, are painted on layers of plaster. In glass cases nearby, he has presented books composed of lead. He paints on the lead “pages” and introduces various corrosive elements to the process.
Thematic to his work is the interaction of elements and the chemical changes associated with time, decay, and weathering. At his huge, sprawling studio complex, Kiefer leaves paintings outdoors with the idea that they continue to be in progress even when he is no longer applying his hand to them. The ancient art of alchemy is a key theme throughout the show.
One of my favorite pieces in the exhibit is called Ages of the World, a site-specific installation in the ornate rotunda of the Royal Academy. The piece is composed of stacked-up painted canvases, long sunflower stalks (a recurring image for Kiefer) rocks, and other detritus. Like layers of sediment, the stack seems to be sinking and grinding down into the earth under its own weight.
However, my true favorites are the paintings. Pictures do not convey the sculptural texture of these works. Two of my favorites are Ash Flower and Osiris and Isis.
I also appreciated the work For Paul Celan: Stalks of the Night. The painting is an homage to the Jewish poet Paul Celan and it depicts a figure in the yoga posture, savasana, with a tree growing out of his torso. The figure lies under a dome representing the Celestial Firmament. As someone who has only been making art full-time for three years, I cannot imagine working on a single painting for as long as Kiefer worked on this one. He returned to it off and on for fifteen years.
The show ends with another installation of huge panels arranged in a maze-like formation. The panels are covered with huge woodcut prints representing the forest around the Rhein River. The images evoke the melancholy and forbidding landscape of Germany immediately following the war. It is almost shocking to see woodcuts not only on such a large scale, but arranged in a way that makes the viewer feel claustrophobic and disoriented.
As an artist and particularly a painter, I am inspired by Kiefer’s focus on process and materials. I am still at a stage where I’m -well, let’s face it – still afraid of my materials. I want to exert control and I feel lost when the materials overwhelm me. Kiefer shows the way when it comes to chucking any need for control and yet he manages to be in control of the process anyway. It’s the difference between being a macro- and micro-manager, I suppose.
I also love that Kiefer is concerned with so many of the themes and media I find myself drawn to these days: origins, the cosmos, nature, yoga, printmaking, bookmaking, and using found materials. Most importantly, his work has a no-nonsense sincerity you can’t find in most contemporary art. He takes on the large issues of history and myth and makes no apologies about it.