The Effort

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Last week I talked about looking, seeing and inspiration. I offered you a video on the art of Anne Bachelier. If you watched the video, you’ll hear her talk about her interest in illuminated manuscripts and she shows us a book that she has ‘illuminated’.

I find all her art fascinating. Her facility with oil paint is astonishing, but the part that inspired me most were the grittier works in the book she made.

I don’t know what sort of book Anne used. But my instinct was take an old book from my book shelves. My husband’s Grandfather used to buy boxes  of stuff at farm auctions that held all the things the auctioneer expected no one wanted. Often these boxes held books and the books were passed on to us. We both have a hard time throwing out books.

Lord Johnnie by Leslie T. White was published in 1949. The paper is pulp and fairly thin. I have no idea what the story is about. The cover has an embossed sword on it. Here’s a bit from its pages:

“I fear, sir, there is some mistake,” she said fridgidly. “I recall no cousin who–“

Abruptly her yes widened. She opened her mouth to scream, then stifled the outburst with her fan.

“Control yourself, madame! warned Johnnie. “A scene will be fatal!”

I’ve since found that painting in already published books is not my own invention. It’s a thing. If you Google Altered Books you’ll find images and how tos.

I learned some excellent things in creating art in someone else’s book.

  1. Because the paper isn’t pristine, it’s easier to make your first marks and be less precious about the drawing.
  2. Because text covers much of the page, you end up using the whole page for your composition.
  3. Though I haven’t read any more of the story in than what you see above, I found my images seemed to imply a narrative.

I suppose, if I had planned better, I could have chosen a theme and made the narrative clearer. I’m glad I didn’t, because as you can see from the work on this blog I liked to change things up.

The mediums I used were Golden Heavy Body Gel (as my glue), Golden Acrylic Gesso, various inks, pencil crayon, tissue paper and other collage elements, and gel pens. The figure with the wings was drawn digitally, printed and painted with coloured pencil and watercolour.

I needed a poem about ravens, and couldn’t find one that felt right, so I wrote my own.

Fledge

Above,

hunched in our tattered funeral array, we watch.

Soon,

the itch in her wings will lift her up.

Below,

scuttles her prey.

 

Taking Stock

Last year at about this time I talked about setting goals. I tried not to call them New Years resolutions, but we all know that was what I was making. It’s exciting to start anew at the beginning of the year and plan to be better, but more often than not our resolutions become a kind of tyranny of ‘shoulds’ and if we fail even once to comply with our self imposed rules we mentally shout at ourselves until in a complete failure of confidence we give up. After which we call ourselves dispicable names until next year.

So this year, no goals, no New Years resolutions. There are some things I’d like to get better at–there always are–but I won’t mention them here or anywhere else either.

Instead, this year I’ve decided to take stock of what I did accomplish in 2018.

Paintings:

 

In 2017 and early 2018 I had a terrible time painting. I felt as though I did nothing but repeat myself, and everything was boring and lacklustre. In the summer I had the privaledge of visiting the studio of Lorenzo Dupuis,  I love his egg-tempera paintings and I began riff off his work. (Steal like an Artist, eh?) And just like that I was back and excited to work. In 2018 I paintinged more than ten paintings in oil, acrylic or egg-tempera. This is a small number compared to my usual output, but I’m so delighted to be back.

Sketches

 

I filled up a Moleskine sketchbook and part of another sketchbook with drawings. In totally this amounted to more than seventy analog drawings in 2018. There were many more digital drawings.

Digital Drawing/Painting

I’m not going to post my digital work because my last two post featured digital artwork, and surprise, I can’t remember which works happened in 2018 and which works came before. Note to self: Include dates in file names.

Writing

There were times in 2018 when I was pretty discouraged about my writing.  I’ve been writing fiction for over ten years, and during those ten years I have submitted work to various publishers. I’ve had some near misses, but to date nothing has been published. Yes, we live in the age of self-publishing but when you no longer have the day job the expense of edits was more than I could manage. Ten years is a long time write and have no readers. This depressed me no end.

Nonetheless, I rewrote and revised my 75,000 word young adult fantasy novel, The Spell, as well I wrote and revised a Boomerlit novella (35,000 words) I called Hannah’s Hearing, and I’m in the midst of  a major revision of my time travel novel The Chronos Project.

It turned out I couldn’t stop writing, drawing or painting even if I had no gallery exhibition in the works or a publisher for my stories.  Why is that?

I suspect there are many answers, but one of them for me is that as long as I’m learning and creating, I’m alive. More alive than at any other time. I live in a vivid world of my own making, and I swear to you that the ‘process’ of painting is a form of deep meditation. Time disappears and scratchy everyday problems fade away. How could you not pursue that?

This was my first year of retirement from my day job. Surprise, surprise, retirement calls for a bigger psychological adjustment than expected. Also, two close family members died, both in their fifties. My husband got a promotion and a pay raise. My grandchildren and children are wonderful. It was the worst of time and the best of times, as is every year.

So, at the beginning of this New Year, I’m super proud of what I’ve accomplished in 2018.

Take a look at what you’ve accomplished. I bet you did a heap of great things in 2018 that you forgot about. We tend look at our failings more than the positives in our lives. That might be something worth changing. Hmmm….

Happy Holiday!

2018-12-22 20.33.26The year is all but done, and it’s time to slow down and take a break. If you don’t celebrate a holiday in December take a break anyway. The winter is long and festivities help to chase away the grey. If you live in a hot sunshiney place, a break can be rejuvenating for you too. Thank you all, for hanging out with me this year. I’ll be back in January.

Above you see the last painting I will have time for this year. It’s egg tempera on mat board: An upside-down Mulberry tree and Cone Flowers. (9″ x 12″)

Excited about Illustration

A few years ago, as I mentioned in my last entry, I purchased a tablet on which I can draw. For my birthday, this year I received a larger Huion display drawing tablet.

Because I do visual art, and write, it occurred to me to consider painting book covers. I’ve come to realize that many illustrators are amazing artists. They know things we didn’t learn in fine art school. Above, you see some of my illustration attempts. Many of these pieces lean heavily on the work of other artists. Most are at least modified by my ineptitude.

Like many creatives, I set up way to many learning projects each year. Learning to be an illustrater didn’t get as much time as it needed, but hey, my learning time isn’t over.

Judging Improvement

celmissia_coriacea
Celmissia coriacea, 2002 Digital Drawing

One of the hardest things in the making of art is judging improvement in your skills. We talk about the necessary 10,000 hours of practice that make you good at something. We think about that and decide maybe it isn’t 10,000 hours of practice that is needed, but instead, you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to make you a master.

I’m old. I’ve had tens of thousands of hours of practice in all manner of things, and I don’t think I’m a master of anything. There are things other than practice that make you a better artist. An intimate familiarity with the things of music are a necessary tool but that knowledge alone doesn’t make art. What is necessary is an openness to experience, and an understanding that experience in one domain has an echo in another. That somehow, curiously, everything is fractal and this is that. This is a hard thing to practice.

So how do you judge? Sometimes you know you’ve reached a point of excellence by the reactions of others in your creative domain. Sometimes you know because one day you find that you, yourself, know that this thing you made is good. And sometimes you have no clue at all. You just keep doing it because there is something more to be said and something more to be proven, or understood.

My son enables my passion for new technologys. In 2001 he gave me a Wacom Graphire II. One of Wacom’s tiny digital drawing tablets. With the use of the included pen and a software that supported the hardware, you could make a painting direct to digital.

I made the painting above with this little Wacom tablet, in a software called GIMP. (I was all about Linux in 2001, and still have one Linux only computer). The lines are wobbly, but, art-wise, this painting is no worse than many I make today.  In this case, I have no clue as to whether I’ve improved, so I’ll keep on keeping on until I do. Hmmm, how did I get that watercolour like look…

 

Being Social, Being Creative

Visitors
Visitors, 2014, encaustic on panel

As a creative person I find I have two major modes: the inner mode, which is the one that rummages around in my mind looking for patterns and divergences. And the outer mode that engages in the world and socializes with other people.

For me those two ways are very distinct. When I’m in a creative groove I’m inner focused, sometimes to an extreme. I do not want to be disturbed by disturbing things, like the wrong kind of news, the wrong kinds of sounds, the wrong kinds of light and people.

But, soon enough something curious happens. Idea generation begins to stagnate, and boredom and self-doubt set in.

It is at this point that being social, meeting with people, and being outwardly focused is the thing I need. Now, as an introvert, I find it difficult to breach that ‘being social’ barrier. I go kicking and screaming into socializing. When I, finally, capitulate I have a wonderful time. I forget all about creating things. I don’t have solutions to a paintings in my head. I don’t connive ways for my story characters to find their way out of a difficult situation. In fact, I don’t think I could do those things if I tried. It takes me days after a social period to get back into my head, and into a creative mind-space. I make tentative attempts. Again I doubt myself. But little by little, I move back into that inward space, and lo! All those things I experienced during a social time well up and become energy for something new. And the cycle begins again.

We all need social connections and community. Some of us need more than others, but everyone needs at least a little and if you do creative work you’ll do well to remember that you need it more than most. Think about it. Without input there can be no real output.

 

 

Dog Days of Summer

Red Trees
Red Trees, c1990s, gouache and wallpaper paste on paper

“The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the helical rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.” —Wikipedia

Wow, that describes my condition perfectly: lethargy and erruptions of irritation. Occassionally an idea will seek me out and I’m in a fever until the lethargy comes back in taking with it every bit of energy and leaving me, dare I say, mad.

I am overstating things, but yes, there is too much smoke in the air, it’s hot, I need a new project. My old projects, though not finished fill me with lethargy.  This happens.

Funny thing is it is exactly these hot, grasshopper hopping, cricket-singing days I remember from my childhood with nostalgia and longing. It occurs to me that perhaps I need not produce every minute of every day. Maybe it’s good enough, sometimes in the dog days, to lie back on a lawn chair with a good book, and look up every once in a while to watch the birds practise their flying and see the heat shimmer in the distance.