Seeing the Unseen

One of the goals I have for the coming year is to become more observant. I want to pay more attention, to see with intent and learn to practice observing, rather than just looking. This notion occurred to me after seeing a David Hockney exhibition at The Met in NYC, as well as reading a recent book, which I purchased at the museum, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, by Martin Gayford .

Hockney is quite keen on observing, passionately so, I would say. He is interested in looking with intention with his own eyes, but also utilizing lenses, cameras and the latest technology in service of expanding his view. He has paved the way for a new understanding of the historical use of lenses in artist’s studio before photography was invented. It’s the seeing what is actually there in front of us, not just what we think is there…the way light makes color possible, how we interpret space….all of it.

Although I am an artist, I wouldn’t say that I’m terribly observant. Often small details capture my attention or the way color and pattern create moments of interest for me, but generally, I could use a bit of more intentional practiced seeing to more fully appreciate and understand my surroundings. That requires mindfulness, being truly present and not having one's attention clouded by all that remains to be done...the next thing to do. So, along with the goal of becoming more observant, there must be the effort to slow down and pay attention. This is already looking like a slightly overwhelming task! But as I often remind myself, each moment is a moment of choice. We can choose to stop and pay attention. And the awareness of the choices we have before us in any given moment is actually quite humbling! That alone should bring us to a bit of stillness.

 

After the finishing (sadly) the book of conversations with Hockney, I read The Man Who Planted Trees: The Story of Lost Groves, the Science of Trees and a Plant to Save the Planet, by Jim Robbins, which is a truly intriguing book about all those things mentioned in the title! What I actually found most fascintating was the lesson on trees and forests, how they function and how integral they are to making life on our planet possible.

 

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This book was a reminder that no matter how observant we are about our surroundings and the natural world, our senses can only reveal so much....that there are limits, of course, to what we can possibly see or observe (unless you are scientist, I suppose). That includes the cell structure and the root systems of course, but also, for instance, the chemical aerosols that are continually emitted by the leaves or the communication system that is established in a forest of trees. We think we know what communication looks like...or sounds like, but it's happening all around us in astonishing ways. All your sustained observations can only give you a glimpse of the intricacies of our universe.

And one of the things that I came to understand in the daily drawing practice this week, came from having read that book. Oddly, I found myself drawn more to making drawings that didn't reference actual things in the outside world. By a certain point in the week, when I was making the drawing and I'd drawn some object, such as the leaves in the piece above (January 15th), I'd erase it (yes, those leaves are erased and barely visible....so for once, I'm dismayed at how good my new phone's camera is!)....or mask it like in that little square of paper covering up I can't recall what on the 13th. 

Daily Drawing, January 16, 2018

Daily Drawing, January 16, 2018

The drawing above for January 16th is completely overworked I think, but reflects the process of trying to find the expression. One of the things I struggle with (if it can actually be termed a struggle) in the daily drawing process, is trying not to make "art." Which means letting the drawing be the drawing and not trying to "fix" it or edit it. And at the same time, there is a need for satisfaction or resolution of some kind....or of having "said" the thing that needs to be said. In the end of course, I want them to be art, artful at least, but it has to come through the back door, otherwise I put too much pressure on myself. 

So, you may feel differently, which would be delightful to me, but my favorite from this week is from January 13th. It feels spare and minimum and a bit odd and though it may call to mind "things" of the world, there isn't an actual depiction. I may see it all differently next week, but now that little grassy mound on the 14th makes me want to block it out. I won't, but I long to!

All this is to say, even as I attempt to be more observant in this world and of this world, my real interest is in somehow giving voice to the things we cannot see, the things we cannot name and those which are fleeting and ephemeral. And maybe that's where the seeming irony of seeing the unseen comes into play....if you aren't careful and watchful, you miss all those glittering gems of experience....like the way the fleeting shadows fall across the floor just at the moment you happen to turn your gaze or how the trunk of a tree reflects a warm golden pink in the afterglow of a certain sunset. 

All these little dailies (minus January 16th, which I've rejected) are all available at Missouri Bend Studio should you want to look further. If these thoughts resonate at all, please feel free to comment or contact me....I'm always interested in the conversation! Cheers!

 

 

The Art Filled Home Moves To Missouri Bend Studio

Greetings! Along with resolutions and renewed goals, the new year brings with it the inclination to reorder and freshen up all kinds of things in our lives. One of my little clean up projects involves streamlining some online efforts I've had going since last spring with the Etsy shops, Missouri Bend Studio and The Art Filled Home.

Johntimothy and I started The Art Filled Home, our collaborative Etsy shop venture, last spring in an effort to bring the best of both of us to folks seeking affordable small-scale art works. We've made some work together in the intervening months that we both like a lot and plan to continue collaborating into the future. The initial Etsy shop, Missouri Bend Studio, was (and is) still a primary priority, so having a second Etsy shop made life a little more complicated. So, one of my little projects at the start of this new year is to merge those efforts and bring the works from The Art Filled Home over to Missouri Bend Studio, then close the virtual door on The Art Filled Home. All the works that were there can (or will eventually) be found under the Collaborations section of Missouri Bend Studio.

The images here are a partial run from one of the last weeks we did the daily mono print series. Johntimothy would work on engraving a small plate throughout the week, printing it as he went, usually at some point near the end of each day. I would respond to the image or marks on each print with drawing....involving watercolor and/or ink. In the few days represented here, dating from the end of November, you can see that it is the same underlying plate, though it may have altered through more engraved marks. The drawing on top is, of course, different each day. 

Each plate he began with was a "found plate", which meant that he was starting with small 3-4 inch plates cut down from larger zinc plates that had been left behind by students. He would begin by grinding and degrading whatever image marks might have been there and then engraved his own. On this plate, that horizontal line across the middle was quite deep and ended up being part of the plate, which I didn't mind at all.

Since Johntimothy was on sabbatical last semester, there was plenty of time for him in the studio (which, alas, is no longer the case now that he is back to teaching), so this project went on for a couple of months. These are some of my favorites and are all available (follow the link under each one to take you to the listing), along with many others over at Missouri Bend Studio in the Collaborations section....along with countless other small works of art that would love to live out in the world, rather than remain confined to laying quietly on the table in my studio!

I'm about to begin a new series of drawings in the studio....I've got the acrylics and inks out, along with a small stack of crisp white BFK Rives paper....a new series of mixed media pieces waiting to be born! Enjoy your weekend....feel free to comment or get in touch...would love to hear from you!

 

 

The New Year Unfolding

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Happy New Year, dear readers! Please forgive the long absence, but we had some complicated and extended holiday travels that had us criss-crossing the country on a trip that entailed trains, planes, automobiles....and a ferry ride! Somehow, I'm not able to think clearly enough to post images online or anything else when I am not at home at my desk, which doesn't quite make sense in today's mobile environment. But, no doubt you were busy as well with all the holiday festivities and New Year celebrations. Now, I'm quite settled in at home and in the studio, ready for a creative burst to blossom in this new year.

Johntimothy and I arrived home on New Years Day after three weeks of travel that included stops in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh and St. Paul. The New York City stint was all about visiting museums and taking in the sites of New York that we'd not seen...hence the Staten Island Ferry ride, which was, of course, a delight! We made it to the Morgan Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Dia: Beacon, all of which gave us enough inspiration to keep us nourished for the next year. We saw the Michelangelo exhibition at the Met, but the real highlight for both Johntimothy and me was the David Hockney show in the adjacent galleries. I love Hockney's paintings, especially the landscapes of the recent decade, but what I admire most is his relentless curiosity and passion for delving deep into his interests, pursuing everything to the fullest extent. Always an observer, Hockney inspires me to want to take more care, pay more attention....to observe my own world in ways I'd not taken the time to before. 

Meanwhile, as most folks in the United States know, it's been a period of brutal cold and South Dakota has been no exception. Here's the view a few days ago from up on the banks of the Missouri River at the edge of our backyard. That ice was flowing swiftly downstream on it's way to the Mississippi River. Today we hit 50 degrees, which was cause for celebration and a walk outdoors, but we know more cold and snow is on it's way....what else can you expect...it's winter and it's South Dakota!

When we got settled back home, I spent some time in the studio, thinking about what should be next. I had a stack of daily drawings from several years ago that had been part of a collaborative exhibition at USD and as I started looking through those drawings from early 2014, I realized how much I still loved them. That meant that it was time to quit holding on to them, so I decided to send them out into the world through the Etsy shop. Seeing them, also spurred me into changing up the new dailies, at least for now. So, I've started listing some of my favorites from that series, such as the ones posted here, over at MissouriBendStudio. Please stop by and check them out! What I loved about these is the way the BFK Rives paper was sturdy enough to hold a fair amount of ink, so I could do some more involved drawing than I'm able to do on the Japanese rice paper. 

January 28, 2014 daily drawing

January 28, 2014 daily drawing

I don't have any more of that great paper on hand, but I've started shifting the dailies in the same direction on another kind of paper....though it's not so wonderful as the Rives. We'll see what develops with these. For now, I've put the beeswax away in order to explore (or reexplore) some new territory. 

I hope you have found some new sense of inspiration for the of this new year. I'm a bit late getting started, but I'm thinking of goals for the year....along with making a list of the things I'm curious about and want to investigate. I think curiosity is essential....on some level, isn't that what keeps us motivated and what gets us out of bed in the morning? What will this new day bring forth?

Until next time....enjoy your week! Cheers!

 

Seeking (Un)Balance

Three Things, no.1

Three Things, no.1

I began a new series of drawing explorations yesterday….Three Things. I wondered what would happen on the page if there were just three “things” on the paper in conversation with one another. I find I am drawn to compositions that are just a bit off and slightly uncomfortable, as they set up a tension that is compelling.

Three Things, no.1 (detail)

Three Things, no.1 (detail)

There are four drawings in the series now, all of which are 10”x8” on Japanese Kitakata paper dipped in beeswax. So far, the materials have consisted of pencil, ink, watercolor and collage fragments, but who knows what else will show up on the page among the three things!

Three Things, no.2

Three Things, no.2

Three Things, no. 2 (detail)

Three Things, no. 2 (detail)

In the process of making these pieces, a couple of things have occurred to me. The first is a more in depth engagement with this idea of setting up a tension. So, rather than creating a composition in which things feel balanced, I find I rather enjoy the sense of the “off” balance. We seem to always seek a kind of balance in our lives, as we struggle to offset work and play, or work and life, activity and rest, time engaged with others and time alone to reflect. We seek safety and security, so we can feel at ease. But there is a delicate line there….too much ease and we eventually become bored, and begin seeking novelty, the unexpected. Or this....maybe I am seeking this unbalance on the page, because my life is currently a bit out of balance. It's an outer reflection of a longing for balance that I feel inside. 

Three Things, no.3

Three Things, no.3

Three Things, no.3 (detail 1)

Three Things, no.3 (detail 1)

In these compositions, the three things are placed somewhat at odds with one another, so that there is almost (at least for me!) a visceral yearning to move these bits to new locations where they will feel more traditionally balanced…where they will make more sense. In the end, I’ve come to realize that is what I’m after in the work. The yearning….that’s actually what I’m after….evoking that nameless yearning we carry with us through our days. Do you know that feeling?

Three Things, no.3 (detail 2)

Three Things, no.3 (detail 2)

So, what are the three things? I don’t know until they appear on the page….these pieces unfold like the daily drawings….through the movement of my hand, while my thinking brain is always a step or two behind. I can’t say what the relationship is, but it’s a story waiting to be told. You can tell it as well as I can, I’m quite sure. For me, language doesn’t quite get at it.

Three Things, no.4

Three Things, no.4

And, just what constitutes a “thing”? In the first drawing, for instance, there are countless little lines and marks that become loose shapes, each of which reads as a thing….in conversation with one another and with the little jar alone with its shadow. I thought of this as I made those marks. We are each one thing….we are an individual mark, and part of a larger group….actually countless larger groups, which are also things in themselves. In this way we have multiple identities….think of all the identities you have in your life….your family, the people you work with…or play with….your larger community, your ethnic group, your national identity. We interweave these threads throughout our lives. While we maintain our own individuality, we also become part of many, many larger things. 

Three Things, no.4 (detail)

Three Things, no.4 (detail)

I’m looking forward to further explorations in this series. I’ll keep going until my supply of paper runs out. These may find their way to my Etsy shop, but if you are interested in any drawings from this series and don’t see them there, let me know. 

Meanwhile....look at the time....it's nearly December! Johntimothy and I have a very busy and fun-filled month ahead. Stay tuned and I'll fill you in! Until then....

 

Nothing Is Something

This morning, during the course of making the daily drawing, I found myself reflecting on the direction the drawings have taken of late. I’ve been feeling that I’d been slowly moving into a kind of robot mode, which is the point at which the purpose of a daily practice needs a reset….a pause for reflection. There is a danger of letting the whole routine of it become an end in itself and then, well, you find yourself in a rut. I wasn’t there exactly, but something was telling me to bring my attention back to the mindfulness of the process.

One of the positive aspects of a simple drawing practice like this is that you can step outside yourself in a way, because you are not working at making art, but allowing the drawing to unfold. I have noticed over the past couple weeks that I am now drawn to a kind of spare composition that is somewhat new to my work. The daily drawings have always been rather spare, but this is a different kind of thing. The contrast with a piece shown here from The Notes From the Ancestors series maybe gives you an idea of the direction the work is moving. Most of my previous work was dense, layering and brimming with pattern, image and texture.

Notes From The Ancestors no.2

Notes From The Ancestors no.2

Maybe I’m more actively exploring the notions of emptiness, pushing the boundaries of the space and finding myself drawn more and more to a simple elegance that allows nothing to be something.

Images of the spare elegance of Japanese interiors and the balance reflected in all things wabi sabi, float inside me as these drawings unfold. Often I find that the daily drawings inform my other work and I am curious to see how this will play out....what the new pieces will have to teach me.

 

November 17, 2017

November 17, 2017

Earlier in the week I finished a larger piece (11" x 8 1/2") playing with the twisting lines, in anticipation of a series of such compositions. Went back to adding some embroidery to the drawing as well....I do love sewing on paper! I find is very rewarding when there is a flow of conversation between the daily drawings and the other work that unfolds in the studio.

The Thanksgiving holiday is nearly upon us and Johntimothy and I are looking forward to spending the time with extended family. It means an interruption to the rhythm of the studio and making the daily drawings, but it's good to remember we are not slaves to these routines....they are meant to enhance and expand our lives, not confine us. With that, I give myself a week or so off from the practice and will return refreshed and renewed! 

If you are in the United States....wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and hope you find a host of things to be thankful for in your life. See you soon!

 

The Daily Practice: Krishna Mastel

Abstract Wormhole, 8-27-17

Abstract Wormhole, 8-27-17

Welcome back to another investigation into the work of a different artist and how the daily practice informs the work. Krishna is a friend of mine here in South Dakota with a background in photography.  She is also a busy working mother who strives to keep an aspect of her artistic life alive and supported. I recently began following her on Instagram and realized she too was keeping a daily practice in the form of some really interesting abstract photographs. Recently, Johntimothy and I invited Krishna over for lunch and spent a delightful afternoon talking about our various artistic explorations, along with our respective daily practices and how they inform our lives. My original intention was to somehow capture that lively conversation for our readers, but it was too overwhelming! Instead, I asked Krishna to just give us the gist of her practice....how it began and how it plays out in her life. Below are Krishna's words...and images. Enjoy!

Abstract Wormhole, 10-27-17

Abstract Wormhole, 10-27-17

I began to use the practice of daily abstract as a means to hold myself accountable to myself. Accountable for taking the time to focus on an abstract photography collection that I started several years ago and had not pursued to my satisfaction. In late spring and early summer, I made the conscious decision to work on exploring and developing my abstract work. By late summer, this had morphed into making my work on the collection part of my day.  
 

Abstract Wormhole, 6-17

Abstract Wormhole, 6-17

In my photography, I primarily use 35mm film or a digital camera; however, I also explore with photograms and cyanopaper. The abstract collection consists of different interconnected series. The work explores individual perspective, humanity, the universe, time, and space. 

Abstract, Kaleidoscope 10-17

Abstract, Kaleidoscope 10-17

The daily practice is loose. I don't put rules or restrictions on it. I want to keep a playful feel to it. I have found that my daily abstract practice helps me keep a balance in my life.  I have posted a few of my images on Instagram @KMastel. I welcome you to visit me there and also any questions or comments.

Abstract, Kaleidoscope 10-20-17

Abstract, Kaleidoscope 10-20-17

 

The Daily Practice: Bonnie Kayser

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As readers of this blog know, I am committed to a daily drawing practice (when life doesn't intervene!) and I am also curious about other artists who have a daily practice of some kind, as well as the different ways the practice can play out.  I met Bonnie Kayser not long ago on Instagram where I post my daily drawings. We struck up a conversation and found that we were kindred spirits. Bonnie also has a daily drawing practice and I've invited her to share some thoughts and images with you. Hope you are inspired as I have been!

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It was last June as my students walked out the studio classroom door, when my then sporadic drawing efforts unofficially shifted into a daily practice. My own work had been taking an increasingly deeper backseat to the support of fledgling art students. While a worthy, consuming passion in it’s own right, teaching had left me parched and hungry for the process of art making.  Thus, as summer began, my appetite was achingly strong for the nourishment of my soul food! 

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While there was no particular plan for my new routine, nor for the direction it might take, my sketchbooks seemed to lure me in at least once a day. At first, the art was completely random in nature. Each day a new medium, style, content, found expression on the pages. Direction didn’t matter. Time with charcoals, pastels, pencils, inks and pens was taking me back home to myself as an artist. 

Now, as bright autumn leaves drift to the ground, I continue to show up at the page each day - grounding myself. 

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My artist home is incredibly personal, while at the same time absolutely public. The daily sessions with my sketchbook heighten my awareness on many levels. Certainly, visual acuity is increased as I go through the day pausing to examine intriguing textures, colors, and creating compositions. Yes, I’m the one who is stopped by the side of the road to capture the storm clouds brewing or the remains of an eagle’s wing. The more I draw, the more I notice the specifics of things; I become curious about different vantage points, how things work, their history, how they feel both to the touch and or energetically. It is this heightened awareness, this curiosity, ignited by a regular drawing practice that opens me up to the world in an authentic way. It does not matter what I am physically drawing. More often than not, the content is visually abstract. The connection is created rather in the process of the making, what that process ignites within, as well as within others. Sharing my work takes the process to another level. Dialog and experiencing others creative responses to the world completes the circle of connection for me. Personal and public. 

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Drawing daily truly keeps me grounded in a way nothing else really can. By design, I do not put any rules or goals on my practice other than making it happen. This is important for me. Each day the page before me is blank, open to anything. At times in my life that has been intimidating. Now it is like freedom defined! These pages are my playground, science laboratory and journal all rolled into one magical place. They need to be uncensored, without boundaries or requirements. There are other places for more structure in my artwork. Daily practice is definitely my refuge for creative expression and grounding. 

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BK photo sketch SQ.jpg

Sweet surprise: this daily practice of showing up for myself affirms for me I AM an artist. It’s not about how “good” or “talented” I may or may not be. It’s not about how I make my living. It is about how I think, what and who I am drawn to, what ignites my passion, where I choose to live….really it is how I move in the world. All this from a daily, abstract drawing? It would seem to be, yes. 

I share my drawing practice on Instagram, and welcome anyone who wishes to join the conversation to visit me there! @bonniekayserart

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The Dailies: A Studio Update

Mid-week greetings! Hard to believe we're already into November, but the two daily projects I am involved with keep me well aware of the relentless passage of time...and the exact date. I thought it was time to revisit the dailies we've got going and share some of the latest images with you.

We're into the third week of the daily print project, in which Johntimothy creates and then prints a different small plate each week, one print for every day of the week. I respond to those prints with drawing and watercolor on a daily basis. As you can see from the images from the first part of this week, they take a slightly different turn each day. These pieces can all be found in our collaborative Etsy shop, TheArtFilledHome. I try to keep up with getting them posted on a timely basis, so if you don't see the latest ones, check back frequently! Because the works from each week are so related, based on the underlying print, I think a few together would make a nice grouping. The week unfolds top to bottom below.

The other long-standing daily drawing project is going along as well. These daily drawings, pictured below, and countless others can be found over at MissouriBendStudio on Etsy. One thing that is new about the most recent drawings from the last couple of weeks is that I've expanded the size a bit. Rather than 6"h x 4"w, the pieces are 7" x 5". Also, as you will see, I've give myself permission to change orientation at will, so whereas they used to be strictly vertical (for years!), sometimes now they are horizontal. It's all about being in the moment when I make the drawing. 

So, last week I ran out of the various types of Japanese paper I've been using for a long time. Johntimothy was returning from a visiting artist stint out of town, so I had him buy some new sheets at the Dick Black in Omaha. The drawings on this new paper, which is a Thai bleached mulberry, take an interesting turn, at least to me. I'm still getting used to the bleached whiteness of this paper, but I am also finding that the texture and the density of the sheet is much different, so new possibilities are opening up. On the paper shown above, it was very difficult to draw with pen and ink, as the paper had so much fiber and texture the pen would get caught and the ink would bleed. While I love that warm tone of the paper above and will continue to use it in my other work and no doubt, at some point return to it for the dailies, I'm curious about the possibilities this new paper will allow to unfold. Oh! the other thing about these new larger drawings is that I'm prepunching two holes at the top, so you can just easily hang them with two tiny pins in the wall....very informal, yet elegant, especially when there is a grouping of them. The first couple days of November are below.

I am changing things up a bit, which keeps me motivated, engaged and learning. That alone is a good lesson.....if you feel as if you are in a rut, make some small change and watch the ripples unfold. I added an inch in size to the drawings, I went reckless and allowed myself a vertical AND a horizontal orientation and now, I've gone and changed the paper....no telling what will unfold from here!! Stay tuned and thanks for your interest. Feel free to comment....happy to have the conversation if you are reading this blog. And if you have a daily process that you'd like to share, let me know!

One last note, Missouri Bend Studio has an email newsletter that comes out the first of each month. If you are interested in subscribing so that it reaches you directly in your in-box, just sign up here. Remember that you can also subscribe to these blog posts, right here on the blog sidebar. I look forward to hearing from you....see you next week!

 

The Horizon Line

Storm clouds moving in, taken on the road this summer along I-90 somewhere in Wyoming

Storm clouds moving in, taken on the road this summer along I-90 somewhere in Wyoming

Early last week I headed up the road to Brookings, South Dakota on a day when the winds were buffeting the car at 30-40 miles an hour. I’d had an appointment in Sioux Falls, which is an hour north of us and there was an exhibition I wanted to see at the State Art Museum in Brookings, located on the campus of South Dakota State University, which is another hour straight north of Sioux Falls. Despite the winds and the two-hands-firmly-on-the-steering-wheel at all times, it was a wonderful drive, filled with expansive views and gorgeous sunlight casting a warm glow on the already saffron yellow of the trees and the contrasting fields of dry corn and soybeans awaiting harvest.

Autumn soybean field adjacent to the Missouri River, Burbank, SD

Autumn soybean field adjacent to the Missouri River, Burbank, SD

This fly-over part of the country has a reputation for being flat and dull, but here in eastern South Dakota, the land is rolling with gentle rises and expansive views for miles in all directions. We love the landscape and the drive up I-29, especially between Sioux Falls and Brookings, is good for the soul and moments of contemplation.  Our more mundane drive between Vermillion and Sioux Falls is probably equally beautiful, but it is so much more familiar and alas, more taken for granted.

Looking South, Cornfields hedge rows, photo by Krishna Mastel

Looking South, Cornfields hedge rows, photo by Krishna Mastel

That hour-long drive had me yearning to be a landscape painter or a photographer and yet it wasn’t really a depiction of that landscape I wanted to capture exactly. I’m fascinated by the patterns in the land, the juxtaposition of luscious colors and by the notion of the horizon. I got to thinking about the horizon line…the place where the land meets the sky and just how visible it is everywhere you look out here. I came to realize in looking out across the land that I live in a horizontal world.

Harvest Field, photo by Krishna Mastel

Harvest Field, photo by Krishna Mastel

I began to wonder about the difference between living in a horizontal world as I do, one with so few verticals, and living in a vertical world, where the orientation is up and down and the horizontal views are minimal. On the plains, we have wide-open spaces, farmland, prairies (what little is left of them) and rivers. The highest building in the state of South Dakota is the 11-story Century Link tower in Sioux Falls (per my internet investigation) and in North Dakota it’s the State Capitol in Bismarck.  In South Dakota we do have the Black Hills, the mountains in the western part of the state, which are surely vertical, but they rise up from the plains somewhat suddenly, not like in the east where folks might live in the foothills of a mountain range. When I think of the notion of vertical out here, I think of the roots of the prairie grasses that reached down 8-14 feet into the earth. Those grasses held the land in place for thousands of years until we dug them all up to turn the place into farmland. My orientation is truly horizontal and I'm happier in wide open spaces. The daily view I have of the Missouri River outside my window, flowing horizontally right to left on its way to meet the Mississippi, anchors me to the ground.

Missouri River view, October

Missouri River view, October

This post is filled with views of a horizontal world that I thought I’d just share with you, along with my recent musings. Since I couldn't bring myself to get out the car on that horrendously windy day to photograph the landscape, I combed through some of the photos I’ve taken over the last few months. And then I got in touch with my friend Krishna Mastel who takes some truly gorgeous photographs of the rural landscape in the area where she lives outside of Vermillion. The more breathtaking photos are hers, as revealed in the captions. I’m happy to introduce Krishna to you, as she also has a daily practice that I’ve been tuning into. We’ll do an interview with Krishna in one of our next posts about the abstract photographs that she posts each day. Stay tuned for that! 

In the meantime, would love to hear your comments about this notion of a horizontal or vertical view. Feel free to share any stories about where you live and how that affects the way you see the world. 

Sunrise, photo by Krishna Mastel

Sunrise, photo by Krishna Mastel

 

The Daily Monoprint Project!

A new daily series is born! Late last week Johntimothy laid a couple prints on my desk from an engraving plate he was working on. He thought it might be fun for me to play with them....a little watercolor or drawing on top, just to see what happened with them.

Eventually, at the beginning of the week, I took some time with one of them....and the next day, another. Then it occurred to us that these were collaborative monoprints and they might be another fun daily project for us to share for sale in The Art Filled Home. That engraving plate had had some revisions throughout last week, but he went ahead and printed five more and each day this week I've been engaging with them in a new way. We have the first six days of this week here to show you and are in the process of listing them in the shop.

October 17, 2017 daily monoprint

October 17, 2017 daily monoprint

A lot can change, depending on the colors I choose and the drawing marks I make. I love the raised surface of the printed engraved line....so crisp and clean. We are still working out the details of how this daily project will proceed as we move forward into next week. He has a number of these tiny 4"h x 2"w plates currently underway. We've decided there are no hard and fast rules, except that it's one plate per week. The plate may be finished already and be printed 7 times or he may be working on it throughout the week and the plate will change daily as well. 

October 18, 2017 daily monoprint

October 18, 2017 daily monoprint

If you look closely, you can see that the engraved print underneath will have changed from one print to another. Also, because there was no particular orientation to the original print, I may have flipped it from one day to the next and felt it read better in a different way depending on what I'd done with it.

October 19, 2017 daily monoprint

October 19, 2017 daily monoprint

Yesterday (above), I got a little heavy handed, since I started out with gouache instead of watercolor. Much of the lower portion of Johntimothy's beautiful engraving print is obscured, but I can still see it and I think the sense of layering makes it interesting. Still, I think I've learned to stay away from the gouache for this process!

October 20, 2017 daily monoprint

October 20, 2017 daily monoprint

That may explain why I pulled way back and kept the drawing pretty simple today....just playing with my favorite mark, the humble dot, to carry the flow of the engraving marks. There's something to be said for the beautiful contrast of simple black and white, that's for sure! Of course, I don't need to tell that to a printmaker. We're happy with this project and look forward to sharing the results here on our blog and in our shop.

I like the fact that the prints from any particular week can make a nice grouping, as they share that underlining engraving drawing. The first couple mono prints are listed in TheArtFilledHome and the others will soon follow, so please check back often! Hope you enjoy your weekend!

 

The Image or the Object

Johntimothy and I spend much of our days in the studio….making things. We create prints or drawings or mixed media works. My works are one-of-a-kind and some of his are as well, but he will also produce small hand-printed editions. Sometimes we collaborate and make pieces that involved both of us working in our different ways on a single work. At our core, though, we consider ourselves makers of things, which is to say that the works we make are tangible and can be held in the hands. They have a physical presence and a tactile quality, whether that comes from paper dipped in beeswax or the raised ink on a hand printed etching or engraving. We come from a generation that values the object.

 

As a maker who would very much love to sell my work and send these pieces out into the world to folks who will love and appreciate them, I’ve been giving this notion of “the object” some thought, in light of the way that technology has revolutionized our culture. I have work available for sale in the Missouri Bend Studio shop here on this website, as well as through Missouri Bend Studio and The Art Filled Home on Etsy. I post fairly regularly on Instagram and Facebook and my work can be found all over Pinterest. While I do have many appreciators and buyers that I value greatly, and with whom I have established warm relationships, I struggle with the “business side” of selling the work.

The old tired line is that artists are not business minded and while that may be somewhat true for some, learning to engage in marketing and run a business, is really just another skill set….much like drawing. I believe anyone can learn to draw, as it is a matter of eye-hand coordination, and the basic skills can be taught and learned through practice. But, that’s another whole topic of conversation. I’ve learned a great deal in the past few years about various online platforms and navigating the ins and outs of creating websites, online storefronts, etc. While my first love is creating the art, I do love the work of engaging with people all over the world and am interested in maintaining the balance of time spent in the studio along with the business end of things.

 

But….here’s the thing. In our current culture, I am beginning to wonder if, for many folks, the image alone is enough. That is, perhaps now that everyone views most everything through the screen, whether on a desktop, laptop or a mobile device, we are so used to seeing images of things rather than the things themselves….well, one may have replaced the need for the other.  Perhaps the notion of purchasing no longer occurs to someone who sees a piece of artwork that they love, when the image of it can continue to be seen in an image feed, saved to a Pinterest board or captured in any number of other ways. Who needs the object, when you have a picture that represents it? For some, the image alone is satisfactory....it's good enough.

These various online platforms, that continue to multiply in new and exciting ways, provide astounding opportunities for exposure across the globe. I am thankful for the love and support of countless folks near and far, who let me know that my work inspires or brings joy.  I do send small works out several times a month, yet I have begun to seriously wonder about this notion of “the image” or “the object.”

These musings are not just about selling my own work, but have to do with the larger issues about our experience of the material world and whether we are living so deeply in the technological world that we are losing out on deep levels of tangible experience in nature…in the real world. We may be engaged and simultaneously disconnected. 

There is a vast range of experience that is missed when we only see the image of something, rather than the thing itself. Ink or paint on a surface, the nuance of color against color, the way changing light makes the work appear differently. Subtle marks can be missed entirely when viewing only online. I am always aware, when seeing or saving an image online, that it is just a kind of facsimile. The image points to the object, which exists somewhere else, but can by no means be replaced by an image of it. I fear the day when we no longer know the difference.

All this runs through my head even as I entertain the idea of creating an online subscription of the daily drawings or try to figure out new ways to market the work online. I continue to come back to the notion that there is no substitute for the object, as least in the work that I create. I would love to hear from you about your views on these issues. This post is a conversation starter, so feel free to let me know your thoughts here in the comments.

In the meantime, the visuals on this post are some of the recent daily drawings, available for sale at MissouriBendStudio on Etsy. (Buy 5, get one free….it’s a great deal!). I try to post them each day on Instagram, so go ahead and follow me there if you like. But remember, they are better in person….there's no substitute for the real thing.

 

Trace Drawings: A Daily Practice

the daily practice with lights out

the daily practice with lights out

Johntimothy has a daily practice that we'll share with you today. As seen in the photo above, he makes "trace drawings" from the reflections of the light passing through glass. In playing with the arrangement of objects and tracing the lines in the reflections, he creates beautiful abstract drawings filled with pattern and wonder! I asked him a few questions about his daily practice so he could share some of the process with our readers.

the daily practice with lights on

the daily practice with lights on

Your daily drawings are the result of the play of light and shadows on glass. How did you come to use this process?

For the longest time, I have been captivated by shadows and reflections. It was early on in my time in Sarasota, now decades ago, that I first traced the reflections from a water glass on a cloth tablecloth at a holiday function. I enjoyed the translation of the image into line. Since that time, I’ve played with these trace drawings off and on. Now, that I am on sabbatical for the semester, I decided to reengage with the idea more in depth as a basis for a daily practice.

daily drawings (detail 1)

daily drawings (detail 1)

daily drawings (detail 2)

daily drawings (detail 2)

What do you enjoy the most about the process of these trace drawings…or what do you find most satisfying?

It’s an image, but not an image. It’s actally an image from the external world, but abstract. Someone looking at these drawings would not know that they are drawings of the reflections of light passing through glass.

There is a meditative quality to drawing them and that was part of what drew me to making them. In one sense, I don’t have to think about it and I can just be in the moment, with the drawing. Partly, I hoped this process would help me find a direction for my work.

When they are all laid out in a line on the floor…it is kind of fun. They are a timeline, a visual timeline. I am fascinated by how they flow together and part of that is because of the repeated lines and marks of the drawn shapes.

laying out the daily drawings....most recent first, moving back in time

laying out the daily drawings....most recent first, moving back in time

Daily drawing timeline

Daily drawing timeline

Do you see these drawings as an end in themselves or do you find yourself visualizing them translated into prints?

No, I don’t see them as being anything more than what they are at this point in time. That would be a forced thing, so I am happy with them just being what they are.

daily drawings (detail 3)

daily drawings (detail 3)

daily drawings (detail 4)

daily drawings (detail 4)

 

What Feeds You?

View of the Missouri River, October 2, 2017, Burbank, SD

View of the Missouri River, October 2, 2017, Burbank, SD

 

A day of intermittent drizzle, cool and gray, tinged with melancholy....just around the edges. Maybe not melancholy...that may be overstating the mood....I'm really just talking about a day of introspection. There is a blue cast to the light that highlights the deep rich reds in the sumacs on the bank. So beautiful.....always an inspiration.....nourishing for the spirit.

Nourishment...sustenance....food for the soul. As I sat in the reading chair looking out the window this afternoon, I thought about that notion and the idea of posing the question in a blogpost, "What Feeds You?" It was mid-afternoon when I went downstairs to interrupt Johntimothy in his drawing to ask him this question. He's still chewing on the it (no pun intended) and we'll discuss his thoughts in another post. But I had already posed the question to myself and the answer was immediately at my fingertips. Books. I am fed by the printed page. 

A pile of books and reading material is always within arm's reach

A pile of books and reading material is always within arm's reach

Many things actually inspire me....the view out my windows, the landscape here in the rural Midwest, the works of countless other artists. But I think this question of "what feeds you?" is a bit different....it's more fundamental and about food, nourishment, sustenance.

So if I answer that question, I turn to the idea of what enables me to be a maker....what actually feeds my work, where do I turn when the well has run dry....when I'm hungry and weak. I turn to books. I eat those magic bits we call the alphabet that turn into words, that tumble together into ideas and metaphors, which break down in my body into the essential minerals that feed my own creative practice. Turning to other works of art for such sustenance does not feed me in the deepest sense, as I find myself trying to imitate the works that I love. A level of frustration sets in, as those were not my works to make and I can only want to have made them. In the end, I can only make the work that is mine to make, fed by the creative practice that is reading.  

"No two persons ever read the same book." -- Edmund Wilson

This idea, expressed so simply by Edmund Wilson, that no two people read the same book, gets at this idea that reading is a creative act in itself. No two persons actually look at the same artwork...or the same film either, but those are visual mediums and words are more abstract, at least to me. We read each book through the lens of our own experience that allows us to visualize and bring to life what is conveyed in words on the printed page. The film we see in the crowded theater with others is already a visual medium....we experience it in our way, of course, but we don't create our own version of it, as we do with a book. There is a different resonance with language that I find more sustaining. I'm not a writer, but written language becomes visual language in my work, in ways I cannot articulate....with words. 

And because books are so important to me, often my work takes the form of the book page. The daily drawings and any number of works I've created over the years, often harken back to the book....it is that fundamental to my creative practice. Visit my Etsy shop or view some of the series of works here on the website and you will see that the idea of the book, the form of the printed page and the magic of reading are at the core of what I do. 

Ancient Book Page, graphite and ink, collage and sewing on handmade paper dipped in beeswax

Ancient Book Page, graphite and ink, collage and sewing on handmade paper dipped in beeswax

For more about this idea of the book as food for the soul, I encourage you to follow the link to the essay I came across this afternoon by Olivier Nyirubugara. It's definitely worth a read! 

What feeds you? It's an open-ended question. I'd love to hear from you about what you find sustaining and nourishing....what gives you the energy you need to thrive? 


And now, I'll leave you with another quote that makes me chuckle....so true of me!

"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books". -- Jorge Luis Borges

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over Lunch: A Conversation with Patti

Work table in Patti's studio

Work table in Patti's studio

In our last post, Johntimothy and I had a morning interview/conversation in his studio about printmaking and teaching that we shared with our readers. We turned the tables and Johntimothy interviewed me over lunch at the dining room table about my creative process. 

Johntimothy: You are always raising the importance of “thinking through your hands.” Can you elaborate on what you see as the significance of that process?

Patti: It’s hard to describe, but let me just say that when I try to think about an idea and what it might look like and then go about trying to make that thing….it just never works for me. But when I begin with nothing, letting go and letting my hands move across the page without consciously thinking, then things begin to flow. Often it takes some time for me to understand the internal conversation that is going on, but that’s what it is. It’s like the door to the conscious mind is closed, the “thinking” mind is left outside and the conversation is more below the surface....the murmur you might hear on the other side. Sometimes the result, the finished piece, is such that I still can’t put it into words, as it is beyond words…much deeper. Other times, I can articulate what I couldn’t have before I’d begun drawing.

Bloodlines (acrylic and embroidery on handmade paper)

Bloodlines (acrylic and embroidery on handmade paper)


Johntimothy: But you often work with a theme….Notes From The Ancestors, for example. Or you might have an idea about the blood-soaked land. You were reading about things and thinking about them before you made that piece….what was the title?

Patti: That piece you are thinking of was Bloodlines and yes, it is a good example of what we’ve been talking about. It is an older piece, from a period when I was working on your handmade paper with layers of acrylic and sewing.  It was not that long after we moved out here to South Dakota and I was doing a lot of reading about the westward expansion, the displacement of native peoples and the violence…the blood spilled out across the land.  The land was literally carrying the memory of what had happened, but I didn’t understand that until I made that piece. I understood that idea slowly, through the many layers of painting and building the surface and then the time consuming stitching. I didn’t set out to talk about or make a piece about that idea. I came to that idea of the blood soaked land holding memory through the making of the piece.

Johntimothy: But you have to start somewhere…you choose colors, symbols, marks that end up conveying the ideas.

Patti: I don’t choose them exactly. It’s more like an on demand kind of thing….or a just-in-time idea. I “know” what to do at the right time. It starts with play…especially going back to those early mixed media pieces, like Bloodlines. There are many layers in that piece, many layers of red, which I came to understand as blood…and later lots of sewing.

Johntimothy: Did you see the sewing, the stitching, as a metaphor for healing?

Patti: No, but that is an interesting notion! It was more about another source of layering….I think a lot of the works from that period were a reflection of my understanding of palimpsest and perhaps the land being a metaphor for palimpsest. Recently, I’ve gotten away from the layered painting on handmade paper to the more pared down layering on the Japanese paper, but it is a similar process. It is the same “not knowing” when I start out.

Notes From The Ancestors no.1 (graphite, ink, beeswax, collage, sewing on Japanese paper)

Notes From The Ancestors no.1 (graphite, ink, beeswax, collage, sewing on Japanese paper)

Johntimothy: Most of the work you’ve made in the last few years has been on Japanese paper dipped in beeswax. You’re concentrating on a more direct drawing now, rather than using paint.

Patti: Yes, like the Notes From the Ancestors series. I found myself thinking about what our collective ancestors say to us about how to live, how best to proceed at this point in time. We are not necessarily good about learning from the past. Each generation seems to have to learn the lessons over and over again. We don’t always listen to the voices from the past and I think there is a kind of arrogance about looking back, learning from history about how to move forward. There seems to be a sort of limitation on how we see what I think of as a continuum of the past, present and future. But all that came after I started to make a couple of those drawings on Japanese paper, which I divided into sections, making drawings in each section that related to one another in some way. In the process, the notion of what I was doing and the title for what was becoming a series, came to me as Notes From The Ancestors. Those drawings and most of those that have followed are dipped in beeswax and then often have sewing, beads or buttons as well.

Notes From The Ancestors, no.8 (graphite, ink, beeswax, collage, button on Japanese paper)

Notes From The Ancestors, no.8 (graphite, ink, beeswax, collage, button on Japanese paper)

Johntimothy: So, you become conscious about these ideas in the process. You move from not knowing to knowing?

Patti: Yes, that is what I mean when I say “I think through my hands.” It is how I come to understand the world or how I think about the world in which I find myself. It is an embodied knowing, just as there is embodied learning. But, we don’t give credit to the whole body. We separate our mind from our body. Why can’t you think through your whole body? What comes out is an expression of what you are thinking, feeling, experiencing. We all internalize the physical world in some fashion, but it is often happening on a subconscious level.

Notes From The Ancestors no.11 (graphite, ink, beeswax, embroidery on Japanese paper)

Notes From The Ancestors no.11 (graphite, ink, beeswax, embroidery on Japanese paper)

Johntimothy: So, your process of making art is your way of excavating that internalization of the world…to get at it, make it visible and then begin to “see anew” and understand. I think I am starting to connect in a deeper sense to your process. So, this very much relates back to the drawing exercises from your early mentor Richard Loveless. You have talked about this exercise on finding your personal mark since we first met. Can you elaborate on how this works?

Patti: The exercise relates to what I have come to call meditation drawings. That exercise, given by Loveless in one of my long ago teaching certification courses, was pivotal for me. He described it in terms of an internal landscape of mark making that each person carries within them and the assignment he gave us was a way to discover that idea, as well as the individuality of the drawing marks that we make. It was the beginning of understanding my own internal landscape and learning to trust it, as a vast source of wisdom. Not just my wisdom, but the wisdom of everything that has come before. I realize now, that my daily drawing practice grew out of this exercise.

Daily drawings available in Etsy shop

Daily drawings available in Etsy shop