I’ve just been thoroughly enjoying these Neighborhood Arts Collective projects; not only is it amazing to be able to have the opportunity to work with such amazing creative minds, talk about their process, and watch them give birth to new ideas, but it feels so meaningful to make something personal and individualized.
More often than not, when I paint, I spend my working time allowing my mind to touch upon generalized themes and ideas. I frequently think about the dynamics of human behavior, our interactions, love, attachment, devotion, heartbreak, disappointment, growth and expansion. These themes rise unbidden to mind as I’m choosing colors, managing and encouraging shapes and viscosities of the paint, and they continue to coexist with the process as I sit and watch the paint dry. It’s all about intention, you know. Much of the time it feels very personal, and (as much) of the time it feels global, but unless I am creating a specific commission for a client, my attention wanders until it finds a focus. With the Neighborhood Arts Collective projects, I come in to the project focusing laser hot on an individual and really get to dig in to what’s there.
Checkout our latest:
I re-lit my studio with daylight LED bulbs today (why did I not do that sooner?!) and I’m incredibly pleased with the result. Although it’s still a little chilly in there, I can now work into the wee hours and not have to call it a day when the sun does. Not to mention, I’ll be able to photograph works in progress without setting up all of the shoots outside. I’m also in the throes of a new work, that dusky monochromatic beauty you see below, so my desk is a humble amalgam of thoughts, colors, tools, and test pours. My brain feels somewhat the same, cluttered, but constantly moving.. I’ll organize them both before this painting is through. I’m still working through my adventures with acrylic on my Cricut machine (an adventure worth an entire blog series of it’s own), but I am hopeful that I’ll dial in those settings soon and really be able to accelerate my techniques in that manner. I don’t want to tell you too much now and spoil it, though, so you’ll have to wait to hear more.
I’ve been going crazy for textures and patterns lately. Upon stumbling onto my cache of digital photo collages from my undergrad days (which I uploaded to the gallery, go look!) I found a renewed sense of interest in collecting and squirreling away some of the surfaces I find on my day to day travels. We’ll see what comes of them, but for now, here are a few I’ve found of late..
It's all about balance, lately.
How to balance weighty expectations with the fleeting desires of the heart? How to balance that which seems to pull in opposition, as solid as the dug-in, earthy toes of great trees and as light as their cotton seeds borne upwards on the shoulders of the pressure systems surrounding. We are all storms and the roots that drink from them. How do we slate our thirst?
The trees have the necessary knowledge to manage their growth and their resources. Deep rings of wet wood show seasons ripe with dripping opportunity, ready to be absorbed and transformed into flesh. Drier years; (for there will always be dry years,) there are rough round remembrances of thin energy and budgeted time. Just another lap around the sun. Just another skin strung up to the canopies. But there is always the green. The little buds in spring that push forth from brown bark and stretch their little fingers towards the skies. Little curls of leaf open like mouths to drink from the air around them and they shake, slightly, under the weight of cold morning dew. A deep freeze reminds that water embodies more than life itself but also time, and we thaw in relief at the touch of the dawn sun. A slow stretch, upwards, and a big gulp of fresh mountain air. (Will I have to describe the smell of fresh air to my children someday, when we are sneaking sniffs of bottled atmosphere from tin cans in the midst of murky cities?)
I miss the forest, clearly.
(I'm posting this from last night. Spoiler alert, I'm in a much better mood today than I was then. I hope you all have a great day!)
One of the most memorable critiques I've ever received was one concerning my studio practice; it came from a man I deeply respect and whose influence I am continuously grateful for (especially when that influence pops up so unexpectedly, like this). Having observed my studio rituals for years, and understanding exactly where I need to get myself mentally before I begin to work, he told me that I had to learn how to paint when I am upset. He knew that part of my creative process was to first mentally arrive at my "happy place", and that getting to that state of mind propagated my focus and productivity. He also knew that there would be days like today, when I can't pay attention because I'm feeling everything, when I'm distracted by negative energies, when I'm preoccupied by anxiety over things I can't change. (Damn you, full moon, ripping me open again! **shakes fist in the air**) I have tried to learn how to do this with equally occurring successes and failures. . . but the truth is that I'm not very good at being a "tortured artist". I'd much rather paint happy. But I'm sure many of you fellow creatives can attest that sometimes angst manifests itself as a thoroughly muddied mess- but more often it produces master works of art, and without some connection to that level of emotion, the majority of artistic endeavors would be banal displays, void of any humanity. Either way. . . on a day like today, where it's hard to get in there at all, and I can only focus a little at a time, I'll take any successes in the studio.
I've been working on a painting that was originally intended to be an autumn piece. I'm impatient for my damn pumpkin spice and jacket weather to get here, for sure . . . but after seeing this little man yesterday, I haven't been able to get the image out of my head. It wasn't an intentional perspective whatsoever; I didn't have the photo open while I worked, I didn't color match the palette, and I wasn't trying to make a political piece or statement. I was just SO preoccupied with him today. With all of it. As always, the painting isn't dry or done, so it will change from here. I just wanted to highlight how easily influenced autonomous abstraction can be and why I usually have a ritual to clear my mind before I paint. It all goes in there.
Here's a list of charities that provide aid to Syrian Humanitarian Relief. Proceeds from the sale of this painting will go to one of them.
I've also been floored by photos of floating caskets in the flood waters of Louisiana- another image I can't get out of my head. I'm happy to hear that people down there are helping each other out so much, but it's a terrible shame that the media wants nothing to do with it. Seems like good press isn't even good press these days.
Sorry to get all doom and gloom on ya, kids, but that's just where my head was at today. I assure you all is well, please do not worry. It's just the cycle of things. <3 Tomorrow will be a bright day indeed!
It's easy these days to become disassociated from the world around us, and those who live in it. We are diving deeper than ever into an augmented reality where others exist merely as an amalgam of posts and photos, and our physical senses and expressions are filtered through a series of swipes and keyboard presses. Try to fight it, when you can. (She says from behind her keyboard . . . trust me, the irony is not lost.)
Here's some artillery:
-Go outside. Pokemon counts, but don't forget to look around you.
-Leave your environment better than it was when you entered it. Small things count.
-Try to hold each other up. The night is long and full of terrors; be a light source.
-Actively combat self-consciousness. Be silly, be loud, make eye contact, sing along with the windows down, say hello. Because everyone is staring at their phones anyway.
-If something's not okay, either say something, or do what you need to to make it okay. You don't get to complain if nothing's being done.
-Fix something that's broken.
-Kiss your dog right on his/her perfect dog face.
-Be nice. It's not hard. And it will make your life easier as well.
EDIT: Here are some additions from the comments:
-Complete some Random Acts of Kindness. They are real and I'll tell you it's the best way to brighten up your day if it's a sour one. Not by receiving a RAC, but by giving one. Damn if that doesn't just make you feel awesome.
-Two is one and one is none. Be prepared.
- Learn first names...Your server wears a name tag for a reason. I can guarantee it makes them happy when you say thank you "Insert name".
Let me know what else you do to stay rooted, friends!
And because I'm already up on my soapbox, I'll add that hydration, sunscreen, seat belts, protective gear, proper first aid, and a bit of an attitude should be used liberally.
What does this have to do with art? Everything.
I make art because I want the world to be a better place. I want there to be more beautiful things for everyone to look at. I want there to be more topics of discussion to bring people together, and art delivers that. Art is for humans, and as such it is infused with human emotion, human opinion, human perception; from both the artist's and the audience's perspective. Art is a soul-made product whether it is tangible or not. So I invite you to interact with art: Go find a mural in your neighborhood and stop in front of it for once instead of walking past it. Think about who made it. Try to feel out their soul. Communicate with them in the same way that they were communicating with you when they were working there. When they made that thing, they stood exactly where you are standing. They looked at that wall from exactly as far away as you are looking at it now. They cocked their head to the side in contemplation, just as you may be doing right at this moment. Think about them. I can guarantee that they were thinking of you.
Here's a lovely music video that showcases the impact of taking a moment to feel out the perspectives of others. The artist is one of my favorite musicians, Imogen Heap. The song is written from the perspective of a river who absorbs all of the emotions from the people who stop to look out across it's surface as they process their own lives, and responds with it's own emotions in turn. Be the river. Be the artist. Be the piano. Be everything.
Just a couple of quick thoughts today, friends. To begin: this full moon has me ripped right open. All day I've been feeling wave after wave of empathy and emotions crashing, and there's an alluvium of gunk and debris that has built up. It's time to clean it out. However, I think that there is something to be said for "refilling the well", and that the maelstrom of incoming stimulus may not be a wholly terrible event. Any situation can provide an opportunity to take something from your external world and make it your own usable thing, so this week I'm focusing on hunting down all of those lovely little bits of inspiration and channeling my inner creative trash panda. Where do you like to go to find inspiration? Or where does it find you?
Here's the time lapse video for my finished painting, Rosewater and Gold. I shared some delicious little photos on my last blog post, but I try not to leak any pictures of the full composition until I know it's fully dry and complete. I'm happy with the tone of the final piece; there's been so much struggle and strife lately, it's been therapeutic to birth and sculpt something that is just quietly beautiful and warm. I see a lot of us facing life's struggles head-on right now, which is important; but I think it's also necessary to simultaneously embrace love and light and mutual happiness. I hope that this happy little painting will brighten your moment.
One of the neatest things about this piece is that it sparked some awesome collaboration from my lovely friend Monte - there are photos below. (Also, Make sure you go here and buy this stuff!). I think some goals for my next painting will be to open up the visual space a little bit more, continue to mix up unusual colors for myself, and not say "um" as much in my commentary. Baby steps.
It is probably necessary to note that at one point in this video I mention that this painting dried more slowly because I used watercolors to pigment the medium. This is a bit of a deceiving statement, because watercolors dry quite quickly when used as intended. In this case, I used many layers of acrylic medium that were pigmented with liquid watercolors and then mixed with more water, and that's why it took 3-4 days to dry. Sorry for any mix-up... I just didn't feel like editing the commentary. Thanks again for watching!
Feel free to comment below if you've got any questions or comments regarding my process, if you've got something you'd like to see out of my next painting, or if you would like to commission a piece!
Below are the digitally edited collaboration pieces I mentioned earlier. Aren't they dreamy?
I pretty rarely work in pinks, so I thought I'd start a project that would challenge me with a new palette. I'm still waiting on it to dry, so no full piece pictures yet . . . but here are a few teasers. There will be another time lapse video of this one when it's done!
Here's a quick little time lapse I made of the behind the scenes of the birth of a painting. Don't mind the mumbling, I just thought I'd toss in a few unscripted thoughts on what was going on. Feel free to add any questions or comments below!