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. 

BK photo inspiration SQ.jpg
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

Johntimothy: So how did the exercise work…can you describe the process?

Patti: Each person was to start with a stack of 50 sheets of blank photocopy paper and a mark-making tool…pencil, pen, brush, whatever was comfortable. We were to find a quiet and uninterrupted place that allowed us to relax….this was homework, so we were doing this alone in our own at homes. Basically, it was then a process of making marks on each of those 50 sheets without thinking about what we were doing. You were to just let your hand move and “listen” to when to turn the page over and make marks on the second sheet, the third, etc. until you came to the end of the 50 sheets. As I recall, the whole thing took less than half an hour. The idea was never to make “drawings”, but to let go and just work through your body and not think about what you were doing. I remember most folks in the class were art education majors and not studio artists, so many found the process frustrating. I think many of them were not able to let go of trying to make drawings. When we all came back for the next class, Loveless had us lay each of our 50 sheets out in individual groups on the floor in that very large studio. I got it right away. I recognized myself in my own 50 pages. Like looking in a mirror….those marks were my marks and could only have been made by me. It was not about filling the page, but feeling when enough was enough and when to turn the page. So, on one of my pages, for instance, there might have only been one tiny x in the corner. So, it was the weight of the lines in the marks you made, but also where you put things, the spaces, the density of the page. That was a powerful moment for me to recognize myself in the mirror of those fifty pages. I began to really trust my own creative process and I came to believe that we each have an inner landscape of mark making.

Getting people connected to such an idea and to trust in it is a whole new conversation. I think our creativity is a fundamental part of natures. Maybe our next conversation will focus on our ideas about creativity and how to help people rediscover that in themselves.

Johntimothy: Yes, that's a big one for both of us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Chat: A Conversation With Johntimothy

Johntimothy at an interlude with moments of play on the tiny Buddha Board, a reusable calligraphy pad.

Johntimothy at an interlude with moments of play on the tiny Buddha Board, a reusable calligraphy pad.

This morning, I sat for a bit in Johntimothy's studio while he worked and asked him a few questions about printmaking and the work that he loves. My notes from that conversation/interview with Johntimothy are below. I have to say that even though you know someone so well, or think you do, there is always room for surprise and delight in the course of a conversation. Hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

Patti: I know that you are enamored with nearly all the printmaking processes! Right now, you are concentrating your time in the studio on intaglio . Can you tell our blog readers why you are so drawn to these processes?

Johntimothy: First and foremost, I'm attracted to the way ink sits on paper with intaglio. It's dimensional! Then there is the fact of the bravado--being able to draw into metal. My first printmaking course in college was an intaglio class, so that may have left its mark...pun intended. Intaglio is sculptural--there is a sculptural aspect to creating the plate and I am drawn to the physicality of it. There is a kind of resistance that you have to fold yourself into. While it is also there in other printmaking processes, it is especially the case with intaglio. I just find it engaging.

A proof of a tiny engraving plate in process

A proof of a tiny engraving plate in process

detail

detail

Patti: Is there anything about the slowness of the process that is part of the attraction?

Johntimothy: Yes, with engraving especially. Some people don't like these processes because you don't see the final product until it is printed and that takes quite awhile. There is a delay for sure. But through time, you can learn to read the plate as you go to be able to see or envision what the image will look like. You do have to slow down and I do like that aspect.

Engraving.jpg
full engraving (with some mezzotint marks)

full engraving (with some mezzotint marks)

detail of plate showing engraved lines and mezzotint burr marks

detail of plate showing engraved lines and mezzotint burr marks

Patti: You are an artist/teacher, so can you talk about what your decades of teaching have taught you about the learning process? What words of advice or bits of wisdom could you share with someone who wants to begin making art, but finds that fear and doubt hold them back?

Johntimothy: Teaching all this time has taught me that the learning process is just that--a process. For a variety of reasons, in the arts, doubt and uncertainty are always present and are compounded with the cultural stigma of fear of failure. In education, we talk a lot about the importance of failure in the learning process, yet there is still a good deal of teaching connected to just how to deal and learn from failure. In my own practice, this is something I still deal with on a daily basis. Connected to all this is the aspect of confidence. Is it learned or innate? Maybe both. Also, we have to be open to being vulnerable. When you fail, you are vulnerable. When you are open to an experience, to see it for what it is, you are exposed--and therefore vulnerable. We aren't taught how to be vulnerable. Instead we are taught that vulnerability is weakness and that showing any signs of weakness is bad. You can be taken advantage of....you could lose to an opponent. Maybe it's part of the fight or flight aspect of our brains.

Patti: Those "survival" skills serve us well in certain situations though.

Johntimothy: Sure, but they don't serve us well at all times. They can throw into question what is meant by "strength". There is that old cliche that "might is right", but strength comes in many forms. Vulnerability can certainly be a strength.  This calls to mind one of our ongoing conversations and the advice that you share with me about working through your hands and trusting your inner self. Looks like I have some future questions formulating for when we reverse roles and I interview you.

Patti: Printmakers love process and they also have some pretty cool tools that go with each method....any favorite tools?

Johntimothy: Yeah, printmakers can geek out on tools. And there are lots of fun things to play with. Sometimes it's just because they look cool--I do have lots of tools and a lot of really fun ones. Does the tool direct me to a process? Well, with engraving, yes. With that, there's a go-to tool....because of the size, it's the #8 burin. That one is my go-to, but does that make it a favorite? I suppose. But, then again, I may not use a favorite tool as much, because I want to save it. There's that idea of babying it--that you only bring it out for special occasions. You could have the workhorse tool that is favorite...or you could have the favorite you only bring out at special times.

A few of the well-loved tools

A few of the well-loved tools

#8 burin....a go-to tool

#8 burin....a go-to tool

Patti: How about that big magnifier you look through to draw? Could you do this work without it?

Johntimothy: I could do it, but it I would not find it as easy. Printmakers love process and I question how early engravers could have worked without any magnification to achieve the fidelity, delicacy and nuance of the marks they made. Those are drawing marks that often I don't fully see or appreciate until I see the print through a magnifier. Then I am astounded by the confident, gestural sureness of those marks and I ask how could they have even done it without magnification!

A major tool....for working on difficult-to-see plates

A major tool....for working on difficult-to-see plates

Patti: I just have one more question. I think I know the answer to this, but I'm prepared to be surprised!. Your printmaking heroes...can you name a few? 

Johntimothy: It's a long and varied list....there are too many to name and I'll probably forget some of my favorites. If I focus on artists working in intaglio....well, historically, there is Rembrandt, of course, along with all the typical hitters, including, Goya, Durer, Mary Cassatt and Kathe Kollwitz. Perhaps lesser known are the beautiful drypoints of The Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet and Martin Lewis along with the etchings of Charles Meryon and Felix Bracquemond. A small sampling of the variety of contemporary artists that immediately come to mind include Karla HackenmillerArt Werger, Doug Bosley, and Tanja Softic

Patti: Thanks....I'll stop distracting you and let you get to back to work. See you at lunch!

 

 

Autumn Nocturne

Autumn Nocturne no. 1 (in process)

Autumn Nocturne no. 1 (in process)

Days are getting progressively shorter and the nights noticeably cooler as autumn waits in the wings just around the corner. I find myself now drawn back into blue...indigo that is, and the deep richness that calls to mind another series of Nocturne pieces. While the word nocturne most often refers to a music composition, the meaning of the word harkens back to the darkness of the night sky. 

Some folks are night people, more awake and alive at night. I'm not one of them, actually. I much prefer the daylight hours, but still, I am fascinated by the kaleidoscope of stars in the night sky, the immensity of the cosmos, and the vastness of deep time. Those ideas inspired a series of ink drawings I did some years ago....white ink on handmade paper painted with multiple layers of deep blue acrylic. I don't believe I still have any of them, but one from the series is pictured below.

Nocturne no. 6

Nocturne no. 6

A new series of nocturnes seems to be underway, and though based in blue, it is taking a different turn. I am still experimenting with paper and materials, but I've started on a thin Japanese relief printing paper that can take a bit of moisture. The blue in that first piece at the top of this post was laid down with a few layers of flat water-based screen printing, thanks to Johntimothy. Payne's gray and white ink for the drawing. I like the contrast of the white, but also the way the dark ink lays on the blue paper. The drawing on that is finished and I've already dipped it in beeswax, so will do some sewing next, I think. 

Autumn Nocturne no.2 (in process)

Autumn Nocturne no.2 (in process)

In the piece pictured above (not yet dipped in beeswax), the base blue comes from several layers of overlapping brushstrokes of indigo watercolor, with white ink for the drawing. Both of these pieces are 12" x 9", which is just a bit bigger than I normally work and just enough bigger that it makes dipping them in the beeswax, just a little more problematic. I keep the beeswax in an electric skillet, so the size is somewhat limiting. Good thing I prefer to work small!

So the new series which I've taken to calling Autumn Nocturnes, to differentiate it from the first series, is more about the ideas associated with connecting the dots. This is a theme that shows up in my work at various times. While it may appear as only a formal design element, it is much more than that. I'm quite enamored with dots, with connecting them and how that works as a metaphor for finding and making meaning. When we look up at the night sky, for instance, our field of vision is completely filled with sparkling "dots"....stars whose light is billions of years old and now just reaches us across time and space. As humans, over the eons, we have connected the dots and created constellations....not only to orient us, but to ground us, creating context and meaning out of the void.

But I think of this. When we connect the dots a certain way, we have to know that those same dots could be connected in a different pattern, which would reveal a different image, allow for different meanings to emerge. It could be this, but it could just as easily be otherwise. And I think of this too. If we make sense of the world and create meaning for our lives from the events that occur out in the world, we have to know that those same objective events, seen from another point of view, might look quite differently....those dots might very well be connected in other ways....ways that would result in another pattern, another image. Those connections would then lead to another, quite different conclusion. Connect-the-dots is a metaphor...for making meaning and a reminder that it might do us well to keep in mind that what we think of as a given, may only be a result of the way we've connected the dots, So many reasons....our culture, our experience, our fears. What appears one moment to be "true" may not be quite so grounded as we think, when we look at pattern of connected dots whose meaning is made from another's experience....someone else has connected the dots. Maybe it's a way to start the conversation over difference. Maybe we can come together to agree on the way some of the dots should be connected....one that will be meaningful to everyone.

I'll share these pieces again once they are finished! We'll see what unfolds from here. 

Here's a reminder for you....sign up for the Missouri Bend Studio Newsletter, Notes from the River! The first issue of the online newsletter has now been sent out to the initial subscribers! When you become a subscriber, you have access to a discount on works in our Etsy shops, Missouri Bend Studio and The Art Filled Home. We also take a little more behind-the-scenes look at what's happening in the studio and in our lives. You can sign up here! And while you are reading the blog, remember that if you haven't already done so, you can add your email address to subscribe and get the posts coming straight to your inbox! 

Thanks so much for interest in Missouri Bend Studio. If you are seeing this post on the day it is written, one last reminder of the Labor Day Etsy sale....I'm offering 20% off everything at Missouri Bend Studio (use coupon code: LABORDAY2017 at checkout), but sale only runs through Monday, September 4th. Enjoy your week...see you soon!

 

Prints in Process: A Visit with Johntimothy Pizzuto

Greetings, with an update from Missouri Bend Studio, where Johntimothy and I are busy in the studio. As I've given some thought to this blog, I think we'll focus a Tuesday post on what Johntimothy is up to, both in and out of the studio and a Friday post will feature my work...Studio J and Studio P, so to speak. So, today is Johntimothy's day....I'll follow him around a bit!

Working on one of many mixed intaglio plates he has in the works!

Working on one of many mixed intaglio plates he has in the works!

Johntimothy and I have been attempting to maintain a somewhat strict studio schedule of late, trying to keep ourselves productive and on course. He is on sabbatical this semester and therefore doesn't have any classes to teach, so is dedicated to spending time making new work and finishing some other projects. We both spend mornings in the studio and he too has begun working on his own daily drawing project....but, more on that another time. 

This morning he worked on a number of plates he has had in process. All are intaglio plates, which means that he is creating the image by incising into the plate with various tools. Intaglio is a broad term, which might include any number of processes such as etching, engraving, drypoint, or mezzotint, to name a few....and in fact, to name all the processes that have some part to play in each of the plates he is currently working on! He refers to them as "mixed intaglio". Some of the tools that come into use can be seen below on his desk. That's quite a magnifier, eh? I think my work is hard on the eyes, but try drawing fine lines and tiny marks through a zinc plate and being able to see what in the world you've done!

John at work 2 8 29 17.jpg

Over lunch I asked Johntimothy to define the printmaker's lingo in layman's terms, so I could help relay it to our readers. I'll give you the basics here, but you can click on each of the terms and be taken to more expansive Wikipedia definitions and discussion. He loves all these processes and depending on what he wants the image to reveal and what kind of mark he wants to make, he will choose the method and proper tool for working the plate.

Drypoint: drawing directly into the matrix or printing plate (could be metal or even plexiglas) with a sharp stylus.

Etching: image in the plate is the result of etching with acid or corrosive salt (he uses ferric chrloride, a safer etchant) in order to hold ink.

Engraving: Cutting incised lines in a metal printing plate with the use of a burin (there's also wood engraving, but that uses different tools).

Mezzotint: Reductive process in which the drawing is revealed by scraping and burnishing the image of the dark background surface created by a making a field of dense burrs with a tool called a rocker. Mezzotint creates a tonal image.

Those are very basic ways to describe the different processes, so I encourage you to follow up and investigate these links to find more information. You will see the evidence of all of these processes in his work....check out his gallery page here on the website.

Earlier proof below, today's proof above

Earlier proof below, today's proof above

So, after working on a plate for some time, it will be time to see just where it is and how far it's come from the last proof. So today, some fresh proofs ended up pinned to the board in the studio. Check them out....everything still a work in process. He'll often pin an earlier version below and the fresh proof above in order to check progress, as seen here.

Earlier proof below, today's proof above

Earlier proof below, today's proof above

The changes in the print immediately above here are the most striking. See especially the difference in the rich darks that show up in the upper example. That's the mezzotint....so he "rocked" that part of the plate to create the tiny burrs that hold a lot of ink, creating that rich, deep black. Where you see white on the plate, the ink is wiped off, leaving ink only in the incised lines that show the image. This image will go through quite a bit more change, I'm quite sure. I'm glad he was ready to do some proofing today, as there are many many hours of work on the plates in between printing even just a proof.

I have immense appreciation and respect for printmakers and ability to create such richness from a simple piece of metal. There is a long history, tradition and dedication to craft that comes with the territory, which draws many folks to become printmakers....and others of us to love what they are able to create!

 

Meditation Through Drawing: Notes on the Daily Practice

Daily Drawing August 19, 2017

Daily Drawing August 19, 2017

 

I’d like to talk a little bit here about the daily drawing ritual that keeps me grounded and balanced.  I call the practice Drawing Meditation, as it shares some similarities with a more traditional sitting meditation that focuses on the breath.

Meditation can take many forms, but often one sits quietly and focuses on the breath, working to detach from the thoughts and distractions that inevitably flood the mind. The idea, as I’ve always understood it, is to let go and not get caught up in the “monkey mind” that keeps us all on edge and off balance.

August 20, 2017 daily drawing (sold)

August 20, 2017 daily drawing (sold)

I do this same thing through drawing. I sit down each morning with a sheet of 6” x 4” blank Japanese paper and a pencil and often a bit of watercolor. With no attempt to make a particular drawing, that is, with no idea what will emerge, the drawing begins. The process is one of letting go, as I let my hand make the marks on the page. There is a kind of remove, as I become the observer, detached….there and not there, fully present but not exerting control….letting go.  In this practice, watching your hand move across the page is akin to focusing on the breath. 

Daily drawing August 21, 2017

Daily drawing August 21, 2017

If you are in a mindful state and not exerting control, there will be a kind of detached wonder at what emerges on the page.  Remember, that inner critic has been banned from entering the room, so you are free! Think of it as a kind of dance. You will know from within when you are finished. Since there are no rules, there is no need to fill the page…there may be just a few stray marks, but you will be in tune with your own sense of balance and composition, the weight of line, the sense of space etc. What emerges on the page may not be anything you recognize in the outer world around you. At the end, the drawing you've made may or may not be to your liking...but, the product isn’t the point. I believe that you will have begun to tap into your inner landscape….that place that is your source, where your knowledge and wisdom reside. 

Daily drawing August 22, 2017

Daily drawing August 22, 2017

My drawing meditation practice may last just five or ten minutes, but there are no rules, so it might take you longer. But the idea is not to labor over it....if you find you are putting effort into thinking about it  or about what to do next, you may not be in the flow of it. Like anything, it may take practice, so If you are new to this, it may take some time to be able to relinquish control. You are not making a “drawing”, but the drawing is reflecting you, in a sense.  Over the course of time, with such a daily practice, you will begin to see and have a sense of your own mark making and I also believe you will develop a new kind of trust and connection with yourself. Strangely, in the process of letting go, you may feel more in touch.

Daily drawing August 23 2017

Daily drawing August 23 2017

I’ve carried on with this daily practice on and off for many years now. There are periods when I drop it or the dedication falls by the wayside, not necessarily intentionally, but because life gets a bit crazy. But I am also reminded how important and fundamental it is for me when I return to it. My sense of equilibrium and balance is restored. 

Daily drawing August 24, 2017

Daily drawing August 24, 2017

I've shared here a week of daily drawings....each one different, each one a reflection of a the few introspective moments when time slows down and the inner landscape reveals itself. The invisible made visible.

I have many of these daily drawings, the result of this meditation practice, available at a reasonable cost in my Etsy shop, Missouri Bend Studio. Countless dozens are available in the shop and hundreds more lay about in stacks in the studio. That may seem contradictory to everything I’ve just said about the process not having to result in a product. Let’s talk about that next time….I have some thoughts to share!

In the meantime, before I post today's daily drawing, just a note to let you know I am planning a newsletter that will go out the first of each month (or thereabouts!). In addition to news and updates, newsletter subscribers will receive a discount on purchases in the shop here at Missouri Bend Studio. I'd love it if you subscribed! You can do that by filling out your name and email address on the form located on the About Us page here on the website. Don't worry, your contact information stays here. I'm still working out the ideas and format for the newsletter, so please let me know if there are things you'd like to see or hear more about. Look forward to hearing from you....enjoy your weekend!

 
 

What Remains

Explorers' Notebooks no.6

Explorers' Notebooks no.6

Well, it's been some time since I've written, but the last few weeks have been filled to the brim with travel, along with planning for my niece's September wedding which will take place in our backyard on the banks of the Missouri River. Johntimothy and I have just returned from a wonderful trip to various locations all over the state of Montana where we enjoyed visiting with my extended family in a couple of mini-reunions, along with a venture down to Yellowstone and a spectacular trip through the Bear Tooth Pass. As enriching and thrilling as it is to be away, it does take some time to get your usual rhythms back! So....finally ready to share some thoughts and images with you.

The image above, Explorers' Notebooks no.6, was nearly finished when I left for Montana, so the only thing that was done in the last couple of days was the stitched line on the lower portion....for me, it's an echo of the amazing mountains I saw, but I can see that it might be seen as a time line, part of a chart, or some other documentary evidence. As those familiar with my work already know, I am fascinated by the ability of the book page to document the newly discovered and to communicate across time and place. I've invented those floating forms at the top and the little white snippets that appear to identify them are just bits of book page text painted out with acrylic. I am more interested in the idea of these book pages and their ability to capture our sense of wonder than in depicting actual specimens.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

The focus of my work is of a different kind than actual observation....more difficult to put into language....or visual terms. My search is really about what remains. Until now, I've put that in terms of "the trace", but that has always implied some physical manifestation, something visible left behind. But I've come to understand that to describe this nebulous "thing" I'm after as something tangible kind of misses the point....the longing and the yearning are really all about the intangible, as ultimately what remains can't be held or touched.

Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The impressions left after the breathtaking views seen front and center or from the periphery in a moving vehicle, the glance of a stranger, the moments of warmth and cheer when gathered with generations of DNA sharing relatives, some of whom you've only just met....all seep into your being and become a part of you. They become memories, but also more than that, as each moment lived changes who you are just a little bit.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

In the end, perhaps nothing remains in the material world, and yet, everything remains....everything you've seen and heard, everything you've experienced lives in you somewhere and beyond you when you're gone. Call it something, call it stardust. And just how do you get at that notion through the slow process of making small and intimate drawings on paper? How do you open that door to the invisible through the seen and the felt world of material things? That's my quest....that's what is behind the Explorer's Notebooks. I'm trying to document those things you can't point to, that you can't see, but you sense them....put together, it's all that remains.

 

Navigating the Waters

July 6, 2017 daily drawing

July 6, 2017 daily drawing

I seem to be carving out a bit more time in the studio....enough to get back to the dailies and finish up a couple more ambitious pieces. This summer is filled with visitors and trips, both near and far, so this open window of time is not going to last long....but for now, I'm enjoying the rhythm.

Explorers' Notebooks, no.5

Explorers' Notebooks, no.5

 

Another finished piece in the Explorers' Notebooks series. The slow pace involved in making these pieces gives me time to ponder....what they reveal and what they conceal. I wonder if those words, caught in the net, are a metaphor for unspoken thoughts or unrealized dreams. Are they words undelivered or perhaps caught, just in time, allowing them to be sorted and spoken with more care? And that river....it's the one I look at every day out my window, but it is so much more than that, of course. I think of it as the river of time, of memory....the one that sweeps all our days away to join the others downstream, the one that reminds us that change is constant and each day we have the chance to begin anew.

Gathering of Stones

Gathering of Stones

 

Johntimothy and I are also in the process of collaborating on mixed media print works, which we sell in our Etsy shop, The Art Filled Home. You can view many of these works here on our website, as well. I have a stack of beautiful patterned silkscreen pieces that he has made, ready for me to draw on, but I seem to have gotten away from them of late. This week, I finished one up that I like very much. I find I am drawn to a slightly off-kilter composition, just out of balance, yet one that invites relaxation and contemplation. Stones, such as these, often find their way into my work, as yet another signifier of time and memory. And those flowing lines....in some ways, they are much like a river. This piece is just as much Johntimothy's as it is mine....he sets up the color palette and the subtle patterns and I respond with drawing. We have much to explore in this area, with plans to create more scroll-like compositions, playing more with juxtaposing pattern and image. Stay tuned!

 
A newly created fire pit area out by the river

A newly created fire pit area out by the river

Meanwhile, earlier this summer we (meaning, mostly Johntimothy) put the finishing touches on the fire pit area, the project we began last summer. It's so wonderful to be out by the water on a not-too-hot summer afternoon with a cool, refreshing drink. It feels as if we have a whole new living room, actually! There have been quite a few fires in that fire pit, but evenings lately have been a bit muggy. But, Johntimothy has wood, branches and kindling placed just so in there....we're ready on the next night that's just a bit cooler. Actually, I believe I'll head out there now! Until next time....enjoy your week!

 
 

The Flow

Approaching storm over the Missouri River, June 29, 2017

Approaching storm over the Missouri River, June 29, 2017

I love the long, slow days of summer when the sunlit evenings linger, moving in a kind of slow motion, toward the approaching hour of sunset. While we have breakfast, and often lunch, on the front porch where the nest full of newly hatched barn swallows is the star attraction, the evenings are often spent out closer to the river in our fire pit patio area. Not tonight though....with the menacing storm approaching, we returned to the front to sit through the storm under cover. A little hail, some heavy rain, and then bright skies returned and a quiet hush fell as the ground soaked up that much needed water.  We've waited so long for some rain, I felt myself relax just a bit....for the sake of the parched plants.

In the middle of each day, I try to spend some time in the studio. Days are often filled with weeding, gardening chores, and errands, so I'm lucky just to get to the daily drawing and a bit of journal writing. But always the goal is spend some real time working....that's when all my insights come....during the slow passage of time quietly drawing or stitching on paper. The studio is where the grounding happens and I'm easily thrown off kilter if I neglect my time there. 

 
Explorer's Notebooks, no.5 (in process)

Explorer's Notebooks, no.5 (in process)

 

This piece above is still in the works, but I thought I'd share it with you now as a way of talking about the intuitive process in the studio. This series, The Explorer's Notebooks, allows me to pay homage to the beautiful journal pages and documentary drawings of explorer's through the ages, while also drawing on my own inquiries in living mindfully each day. I am drawn to the magical capabilities of language, though I am not a writer. As a visual artist, I use asemic writing to spark curiosity and wonder, in myself and in the viewer. With each drawing, I "know" one step at a time what goes where, which means I never really know how a piece will come together until it is finished. I start from a place of unknowing and usually end at a place of understanding, as the slow revelations happen while the work progresses. Putting the understanding into language, which is after all the inspirational foundation of the work, is most difficult. 

In this piece, it wasn't until the main base layer of the piece has been drawn and then dipped in the beeswax that I knew what I was to do next....a net....to capture language. The countless words that we speak or hear during the course of a day, the important ones and those that are lost to oblivion....all those words. Not to mention the words rattling around in our head that never escape our lips....all those thoughts, all those precious words. They hold the power to heal or destroy, create anew or kindle a fire in the heart. What if you could capture all the words that filled your day in a metaphoric net....one that allowed you to sift and sort, holding on to the treasured words and taking back the ones you never meant to say? Or the ones that hurt you....perhaps you could let them go? What if there was a count of all the words spoken....how would you form a tally? And that river.....isn't it really as if all the words are like a constant stream, moving along toward a fast moving river? The hours of our day rush past, sweeping all those words up in a torrent. But the river, isn't that the flow of our collective history....who can say where it is going?

I took this photo earlier in the day and now the piece is further along....I will share it here when it is finished. Our 4th of July national holiday is fast approaching. We'll have some houseguests, including two lively dogs, which will be fun! Hope you enjoy the holiday....see you soon!