New Work

Finding the Work / Life Balance

Greetings from Missouri Bend Studio! In my last post, I mentioned that I was going back to work full-time, so two weeks later, I'm here to report on progress keeping up the work/life balance that so many of us struggle with. My new job requires a steep learning curve, which pretty much zapped my energy the first week, but I'm catching on to things now (slowly!) so I've turned my attention back to the idea of figuring out my time in the studio. I don't think I want to put the pressure on myself to require that I spend any significant time there during the work week, but I've found the daily practice is still pretty essential at some level. Those few moments of meditative drawing keep me balanced and bring a bit of satisfaction and rhythm to my day. It's also a way of marking time and being present in the moment.

 Daily drawing, March 24, 2018

Daily drawing, March 24, 2018

So, the latest incarnation of the daily drawings, which I took up again yesterday after a couple of weeks without doing them, are slightly smaller than previously....now at 5" x 4". I think I will try to make the drawing each day, but perhaps wait until the end of the week to dip them in the beeswax, which I can do in a batch. That kind of workflow feels more manageable and allows me to keep up some measure of the rhythm of a daily practice. Yesterday's drawing is above and the one from earlier today is below. As with all the others, these will find their way into MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.

 Daily drawing, March 25, 2018

Daily drawing, March 25, 2018

I also want to have other drawings going on in the studio, which I can work on as time allows, especially on the weekends. After a disappointing attempt in the studio last weekend, I'm happy to report that things are moving forward again as of yesterday. I've finished up a couple pieces that had gotten started, which I've sort of hallmarked as a new series called Impromptus. Each one was a struggle to find the flow and finally came together when I let go (the lesson I must learn over and over and over again!!!) and let the drawing be what it wanted to be. 

There are as many different ways of working as there are people making art...and no one way is right or wrong. I strongly believe we each have our own way of working, along with our own inner language and sense of mark-making. I think my work is always stronger and more satisfying for me when I let my inner creative loose on the page. Play....that's the secret! When we are playing (something we adults have forgotten how to do, oftentimes) we aren't thinking about what move to make next....we just are...free and in the moment, in a full expression of ourselves. When I am in that state, as I finally was when Impromptu no.1 & no. 2 came to fruition this weekend (after much gnashing of teeth, believe me!) we are most ourselves and are making the work that only we can make. 

Yet, I am not without those pesky doubts that lurk quietly in the corner recesses. "These drawings are just goofy scribbles," that inner critic chides...."what does it mean?" the voice badgers. "Shouldn't you be trying to say something specific....to communicate on some topic of importance?" It goes on and on....you probably know those voices. But there is a louder voice....the one that doesn't seem to speak in English (insert your own language here) but projects a kind of knowing and joy and satisfaction....and... enjoyment....and fun, yes fun. I think these drawings are fun....they make me happy and I hope they bring some happiness to you....at least a smile!

Off to the office for me tomorrow....but I'll carry the joy and creative spirit of the studio with me. Hope you do too, wherever you go. Thanks for stopping by!

 

The Pleasures of Reading Three Books At Once

Greetings from the heart of winter! Yes, it is still winter as I write, surrounded by white. Mother Nature is giving us a taste of winter we've not had in quite some time. My work continues to reflect the immersion in this lovely season....the shifts of subtle color, the stark beauty of the trees and grasses against the snow, and the stillness. At least it seems so....life continues to buzz with activity, but winter brings on a blanket of silence that I find quite comforting. My observations turn into memories....and then fade to white.

 Index of Days no.4

Index of Days no.4

One of my desires for the new year was to become more observant...to pay more attention to the details, to capture at least a few more of the endless moments that pass by unnoticed. That's what led to this current series, The Index of Days. These pieces seem to be a place where the accumulated observations of the passing days find their way out into the world. If there were a written index to go with each one, I might be able to point here...or there....with a kind of imaginary page number that would allow me to articulate a reference for that bit of image or stroke of paint. Much of it is fleeting...and fragmentary, all of which we use to piece our lives together into something whole and coherent. We stitch the fragments of memories, of captured moments, the things we've said and heard, the words we've read....it's all there, threads in a tapestry. Or for me, here buried in the layers of paint and ink on a sheet of paper.

Speaking of reading, I want to just touch on the idea that occurred to me the other day as I picked up one of the three very different books I am immersed in right now. The books I'm currently savoring are: A History of Pictures by David Hockney & Martin Gayford, Solar Bones: A Novel by Mike McCormack and on my tablet (a fairly new experience for me) Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon Wood. There was a moment when I realized I was kind of juggling these quite different reads....different in subject, style and mood. My linear side thought I should just finish one and then go on to the next, but the maker/artist in me insisted that the simultaneous reading was creating a different experience of each book and that, in fact, the kind of layered reading was informing the work in the studio in a way that was different than had I been reading one book and then moving on to the next. 

I think it is a fairly understood that the reader of the text is part of the creative spirit of the book, in a sense, in the same way that the viewer of the work of art is part of work's life out in the world. Each read...of a book or a work of art is different, given that each person brings his or her own experience and sensibilities to the engagement. But beyond that, in that moment when I gave myself permission and in fact, encouragement, to continue with this balanced reading, I understood that the insights I gained from the Hockney book, for instance, were enlarged by the incandescent writing of the stream of memories from McCormack in Solar Bones. In one of the chapter headings, Hockney says, "We see with memory"....which resonated even more with me after coming from Solar Bones, which miraculously seems to capture in words the way a daydreaming mind flits from memory to memory, moments of heartache turning to joy. And underneath those books, my engagement with the history of the early days of the United States, is a reminder that it all could be otherwise, that our identity is intricately wound up with our culture and the history of our own country in ways that we cannot fathom. History and collective memory connect the fragile past to the future yet to be born. That notion seems to underlie the writing in Solar Bones....and it goes on...the weaving together of text, ideas and understanding.

February 8, 2018 SQ.jpg

All this is to say....if you are the linear type, as I often am, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about what happens in the interplay of reading several books simultaneously. And, if you are an artist, does what you read inform the work that you make? 

One last note....I'm having a Valentine's Day sale in my shop over at MissouriBendStudio on Etsy! I'm calling it Art for the Heart Sale and everything is 10% off through February 15th, in case the 14th catches you by surprise. I think giving a gift of original art is a wonderful way to express your love and affection for the dear ones in your life....I'm just giving you a little help along the way. No coupon necessary....everything is 10% off, so hope you'll stop by!

 

The Index of Days

Welcome to February! I've had a busy week in the studio and I'm going through the white paint, that's for sure! As our winter wonderland of white began to melt and evaporate, I noticed in my drives to town, that naturally more and more of the other colors in the landscape were reappearing. As readers might remember from my first post of the year in which I stated my desire to be more observant, I've been trying to do just that as I go out into the world....notice and pay attention. Sometimes little vignettes of the landscape take my breath away....sometimes it is color....or shape, or line. So, even as I worked on a couple more pieces in the Winter White series (see below), I was struck by the warm golden yellow of the grasses peaking up through what was left of the snow banks. Or that hedge of rich red in the dogwood bushes I would see here and there. My commute into town takes me along the golf course where an amazing willow tree holds forth majestically, with delicate lines and a most luscious golden yellow. And all that evergreen....and the umber browns against the snow and the soft blue gray of the distant bluffs....well, I was overwhelmed. 

And then somewhere, in the New York Times I believe, some image of people gathering hemp, that also took my breath away and it began to occur to me that all those things I saw and nearly wept over during the previous days, along with the things I'd read, the conversations I'd had, and everything else I'd seen and done, had become some kind of repository inside me. And I understood that, for me, the creative process, is one of accessing all that stored memory....and maybe the pieces are akin to mnemonic devices, of a sort.

I'd finished up the fourth and fifth in the Winter White Series and decided I'd break the ice on a couple of unfinished pieces on the same paper that had been staring me in the face for a couple of years. Perhaps you know the kind....those careful works you've spent countless hours on, yet remain dull and lifeless....and now lay abandoned.

The two pieces above were made using those two old drawings as a base. They were already divided in half, like a book page, and that notion of the book, along with everything I'd been thinking about, combined to lead me to create the pieces above. As I began to let go of the preciousness of the work I'd put in on those pages, the series title announced itself to me....Index of Days. What if you could capture memories in a way that would point to a conversation, or a thought you had....or an image you'd seen? If you could create some sort of index? What if you really let go and let your hand move across the page, following your instincts and wouldn't that inner repository of memory know just what to do to create the index? Maybe you wouldn't be able to articulate everything that came out, but you would recognize it as something interior, something that once resided in you and now was there to communicate with the world. Maybe others could access your index to find their way into their own interior.

I recognize a number of things in these pieces....the reference to the wispy red and ochre lines of those beautiful winter grasses rising up out of the ground and through the snow banks. I recognize the gingko leaf as a marker of memory and I traced it from a cut-out gingko leaf that lays on the corner of my desk. I recognized the reference to that rich hemp I saw momentarily, which reminded me once again of the grasses....the grasses that I love in the landscape here. And that spot of aqua....that was the color of the river I glimpsed briefly as I rounded the curve on the road back home.

Before I knew it, those old cast-off drawings had become enlivened....they reignited my interest in palimpsest as a metaphor for the richness of memory in the overlay of our accumulating days.

So, while the Winter White series will continue in some fashion, especially when we get the next snow that transforms our land, the Index of Days is an outgrowth of that series. As the snow melted and the edges of the landscape began to be seen again, there were new inspirations and a new kind of seeing. I'm excited by the release I felt when I finally let go of those drawings in limbo....letting go of the preciousness and trusting in my hands and heart.

The work I make is never planned....the work that sees the light of day, that is. My work comes from an interior place and the lesson to be learned over and over again, is the need to trust our own wisdom. 

So! As we move into February, I thought I'd have a bit of a sale over at Missouri Bend Studio....a kind of Art for the Heart sale....10% off in my shop to entice you to give a gift of original art to someone you love. Everything is on sale through February 15th. I'll be back here before then, but it's not to early to think about Valentines Day! 

Also, please remember you can always sign up for my monthly newsletter, which goes out the first of each month....I'm off to finish up the February issue right now. You can find the link on the About Us page of the website or by clicking here.

Enjoy your weekend. Cheers!

 

 

Winter White

Maybe it was the look of the winter-white world around me that inspired me to paint over a drawing I'd begun with various layers of white. Maybe it was the ethereal nature of white, inducing a kind of blindness, a metaphor for all the things we miss when we look...everything we are blind to, the visible and the invisible. Its all there, but we miss so much, of course. And maybe it was the ethereal nature of dreams, images arising from the subconscious in an effort to create meaning and memory from the events of our lives.

I found myself painting everything white. As I kept working on a drawing, following my intuition as is my usual practice, I began to cover areas with white acrylic and then began drawing and writing in white over top. With pencil the tiny squares I started in the middle of the page found their way down and further up the page into a tower. I never know, when I begin, what is about to happen, nor why, but by the end of a drawing like this, I usually come to know the meaning, for me, at least. Once I was confronted with the tower and acknowledged it was a tower, I understood that this was a reflection of the unnamed feelings inside me about this huge two story house being build right next door, where, until recently, there was just a small cabin....this house changes the landscape and the view, as it towers over us. So there it is, like a waking dream, where our mind creates literal versions of the metaphors we use to navigate, I gave some kind of form to my mixed feelings about that towering structure next door. That must be our little house....the little one over on the lower left.

 Winter White no.1 (detail)

Winter White no.1 (detail)

A second drawing followed the first and I realized I was actually making a series of drawings based in white and though I searched for a series title, and waiting patiently (I thought) for its name to arise, I realized by mid-week that Winter White was really just right. After the foot of snow we had on Monday, transforming our little corner of the world once again into a winter wonderland, I realized the cool cast of these pieces really is a reflection of the physical world around me. It's winter....I'm basking in the beautiful whites of winter.

 Winter White no.2 (detail)

Winter White no.2 (detail)

Wasn't there something in the news this past week about a meteor sighting somewhere in the upper midwest? That must be the reference in this no.2 drawing....and is that a mountain of snow? I'm not sure....I'm not ready to decode these entirely. It is interesting to me that the asemic writing is back in the work. The written word is magical for me....and powerful, needless to say. My day alternates between work in the studio, reading and photographing/posting/listing work online and in my Etsy shop. There is never enough time for any one of those things, so I try to balance it all. Along with a little yoga every afternoon....now that I've discovered this amazing yoga app (Down Dog), I actually look forward to my late afternoon time in the room we have set aside for yoga. 

 Winter White no.3 (detail)

Winter White no.3 (detail)

Above is the third piece in the series. This looks like cloth to me, which I love....since I don't actually work on cloth. I'm becoming more active on Instagram (feel free to follow me here) and there I see the work of so many artists I admire, including textile artists. I love the look and feel of cloth and of stitching (which I think of as drawing) on cloth, but I've never gravitated to working on cloth myself. Paper is it for me....and sewing on paper suits me just fine, but in this piece I found myself piecing together scraps of imaginary cloth. Its just layered lines, but for me, they evoke the texture of cloth. 

So, I've got a couple more of these winter whites underway on my desk downstairs. I look forward to seeing how they unfold. It is interesting to see the way that the internalized events of my life and in the world around me come through in the work. I'll leave you with a view from earlier this week after our big snowstorm. It's a view I never tire of, that's for sure. Have a great weekend!

Winter snow January SQ.jpg
 

Seeking (Un)Balance

 Three Things, no.1

Three Things, no.1

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

 Three Things, no.1 (detail)

Three Things, no.1 (detail)

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

 Three Things, no.2

Three Things, no.2

 Three Things, no. 2 (detail)

Three Things, no. 2 (detail)

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

 Three Things, no.3

Three Things, no.3

 Three Things, no.3 (detail 1)

Three Things, no.3 (detail 1)

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

 Three Things, no.3 (detail 2)

Three Things, no.3 (detail 2)

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

 Three Things, no.4

Three Things, no.4

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

 Three Things, no.4 (detail)

Three Things, no.4 (detail)

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

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

 

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!

 

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!