Studio Practice

Paper....In Pieces

Happy Holidays! Already it is December and the year is coming soon to a close. What a time of transformation this has been for me. I’ve gone from having complete freedom and time in the studio to a fairly intense 40-hour a week job, leaving me with much less time and energy for making new work. However, I’m happy to say, I’ve been moving much closer to the ideal balance….where my job (which I love, by the way) doesn’t take all of my energy and I can find joy in my limited time in the studio.

Lately my creative joy comes from gluing tiny bits of cut and torn paper….doesn’t take much to make me happy some days! Actually, what delights me is the simple pleasure of seeing the juxtaposition of color and pattern that unfold in this new collage series, Pieces. These are small collages, of varying sizes, on rice paper dipped in beeswax. Some will have embroidery and/or beads, others won’t. I’m enjoying the play of composition….creating odd spaces and forms that play with balance and empty space.

I started another series of similar tiny collages on some sheets of 6” x 6” handmade paper I recently purchased in St. Paul….it’s lovely and textured and has a real presence. So, out came the tiny bottle of glue, and bits of printed and found (in my bins of cast-offs and fragments) paper and more collages came out of it.

After I made the first one on the handmade paper, I realized that these little collage works called to mind the joy that comes from seeing a beautiful garden….how the colors and forms play off each other in a kind of conversation. Hence, the name of the series, Paper Garden.

These pieces are a natural extension of what I’ve been doing for a long time. They are rooted in play and allowing intuition and change guide the process. Hope you enjoy them….I’m posting them in my Etsy shop, so head on over and see more of these two collage series. See you again soon!

 

An Expanded Missouri Bend Studio Shop!

Greetings on a  blizzard-filled day here on the Plains! We've had quite a bit of snow throughout the day, but neither of us had to leave the house (not that we could anyway) as the university had cancelled classes, so we had a lovely day inside...mostly. I managed to finish the task of closing The Art Filled Home, our collaborative Etsy shop, but not before transferring all the listings to Missouri Bend Studio. All the works that lived their short life (in near oblivion!) in The Art Filled Home will hopefully now find viewers and a loving home. You can find all those mixed-media one-of-a-kind print based pieces in the Collaborations section of MissouriBendStudio. As readers of this blog might remember from earlier posts, the daily print series we worked on together this fall are there, but also the older pieces some of which are shown in this post. The piece above was part of a series done in 2014 for a joint exhibition we had at the University of South Dakota. 

A Gathering of Stones, above, and the one below are from last spring when we began the shop. It was a continuation of that earlier series in terms of format, but with a different color palette and imagery. Johntimothy created layers of lovely silkscreen patterns, which I responded to with drawing and painting. Now that he's back teaching classes full time, we have to figure out a new collaborative series, so stay tuned!

So, winter storm Jaxon was slow to materialize, but I guess he was everything they predicted....I'm not sure how much snow this is, but Johntimothy probably does, as he spent a few hours this afternoon, along with the neighbor, shoveling us out. The snow was beautiful coming down, but the winds created white-out conditions, so hope folks stayed off the roads!

January 22 2018 snow.jpg

Meanwhile, I've been experimenting with new possibilities for the daily drawings, but due to supply constraints, I've returned to using the Japanese rice paper/beeswax....I have a good amount of the paper and the beeswax is pretty irresistible. I'll save the good (BFK Rives) for larger drawings....it's expensive and I would pretty much decimate Johntimothy's supply if I used it for the daily drawings. Here are a couple of the latest dailies.

 Daily Drawing, January 22, 2018

Daily Drawing, January 22, 2018

I've begun another series of drawings that explore the possibilities of white on white, which I'll share with you in the next post. They are mixed media with painting, ink, pencil, collage and embroidery. One is finished and the next one nearly so. I'll be back by the end of the week to share those with you. Hope your week has started off well....see you soon...cheers!

 

The New Year Unfolding

River view Jan 5 2018 SQ.jpg

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

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

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

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

 January 28, 2014 daily drawing

January 28, 2014 daily drawing

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

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

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

 

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 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 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!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 
 

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! 

 

Exploring New Territory

I've been inspired lately by a new book I checked out from the local public library, Explorers' Sketchbooks (now on its third renewal!). I am struck by the notion of exploration, which is rooted in an innate curiosity about the world. We are used to hearing about all manner of men and women (mostly men, of course) down through the ages who risked their lives to venture into the unknown. But, does it seem to you, that there is a sense that we've essentially discovered it all? While that is not remotely the case, it feels as if, in the public imagination, there is a lack of curiosity about the vast unknown worlds. Think of all those unexplored territories that surround us on all sides....the soil beneath our feet, the expanding universe, black holes, dark matter, the human body, the oceans, migration patterns, traffic patterns, it's endless....we've not even really scratched the surface!

 Explorer's Notebooks, no.1

Explorer's Notebooks, no.1

I've begun a new series of mixed media drawings, Explorers' Notebooks, that will allow me to explore the idea of "exploration." Inspired by the Explorers' Sketchbooks, filled with images and text including the beautiful journals, notations and drawings, all attempts to capture the newly seen and experienced, I am using these pieces to explore my own inner worlds, as well as the place and moment in time where I find myself. All of which can be seen as uncharted territory. 

While so many places on the planet have been discovered, mapped and described by others, maybe the secret and the way to reignite our curiosity is to attempt an expedition into our own worlds....the places we think we already know. 

 Explorers' Notebooks, no.2

Explorers' Notebooks, no.2

Speaking of discoveries, thanks to Jennifer Coyne Qudeen for the word "asemic", which is defined as a kind of wordless open semantic form of writing. It is the form of writing without a specified content. I was astonished to come across it on one of Jennifer's Instagram posts, as my own practice is based in what I have always, clumsily called, wordless writing...or some other vague term. To discover that what I do in the studio and the mark making practice that comes so naturally to me, not only has a name, but a codified definition and a whole host of practitioners....well, it feels akin to discovering someone at last who speaks my language. The marks that fill these drawings hearken back to the pattern of writing, perhaps a newly unearthed ancient manuscript, an attempt to communicate down the ages (as the written word is meant to do), but which, for whatever reason, can no longer be deciphered.

Writing and text, seen in these visual terms.....that's my current exploration. Thank to Jennifer and all the countless others who practice asemic writing....you've marked a path for me and now I'm on my own road of discovery. Cheers!

 Explorers' Notebooks, no.3 in process

Explorers' Notebooks, no.3 in process