Interviews

Spring Bouquets

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Johntimothy has recently been working on a wonderful suite of small, delicate flower prints. Measuring 7"h x 5"w, these one-of-a-kind pieces are a mix of intaglio and screen print mounted on cradled panels.  I managed to convince him to share some of these still life pieces with our readers, as well as talk about the inspiration and drive behind this body of work. 

We'll start with a photo of one of the many vases of dry, dead flowers that adorn our studio environment. I've taken to calling our place the headquarters of The Dead Flower Society, which is a term of affection, as I enjoy these quirky arrangements as well. In this state, the flowers perform quite well as models for drawing, but there is more to the story than that, as you'll read about in my conversation with Johntimothy below.

 Dead Flower Still Life

Dead Flower Still Life

PRP: What do you find interesting or compelling about flowers as a subject?

JP: My use of them as a subject matter comes from two directions really. The first is the inspiration that comes from observing and drawing the flowers as they decay. They are beautiful objects to translate into linear drawings...I really enjoy the intricate line work that I can explore through observing and drawing these forms.

The second piece of my curiosity is the connection to the art historical use of flowers, specifically in Dutch still life paintings. I find it interesting that flower imagery is layered with meaning and metaphor, but at the same time serves as visual decoration. I'm fascinated by that layered aspect of their visual being.

JTP Panel Flowers 1 SQ.jpg

PRP: There is a lot going on in these pieces...can you tell us how they were made?

JP: They begin with the intaglio line image (engraving, etching, and/or drypoint) made from an initial observational drawing of a bouquet of dead flowers. The next stage is layering the piece with screen print images from Dutch flower paintings. This mix of screen and intaglio results in a kind of abstraction, which somewhat obscures each layer through the overlapping and merging of the two.

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JP: The immediate read is something abstract and non-objective and the viewer has to get in close to see both the line work and begin to see the screen print flower imagery as well. You can't focus on both at the same time...you have to go back and forth between the two. My interest in this aspect comes from reading interviews with David Hockney and his discussion and exploration of perception and vision. He talks about how we are unable to focus on two things at once and our perception shifts between one and the other. That's also what I'm exploring in these pieces.

JTP Flower panels 4 SQ.jpg

I just love these intimate pieces with their delicate line work and floating color....the essence of the still life flowers seems to lift and merge with the flowers from paintings of long ago in a sort of magical interplay. There are other explorations in Johntimothy's studio based on these themes, which we will visit another time.

Hope you are enjoying spring where you are. Here we are enduring what we hope is the last snow of the season! Cheers!

JTP Flower Panels 5 SQ.jpg

 

 

 

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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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)

 

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!