mixed media drawings

Works in Progress, At Last!

Daily drawing from September

Daily drawing from September

November greetings! I’m happy to report that there is activity in the studio once again. Not huge amounts, but I’m spending more time there and actually have a couple drawings in progress. The daily drawing project has definitely lapsed. I saw this little guy, shown above, laying on the desk, and realized it was one of the last of the daily drawings that I made. I think that, given my work week schedule, I’m better off letting go of the pressure of the daily drawing project. I can be happy knowing there are a couple more involved works in progress on my desk at any given time. Working somewhat regularly is better than not at all!


A couple of the current works in progress on my desk are shown here. These are mixed media drawings (10” x 8”) which will be dipped in beeswax once they get further along. I work very intuitively, trying to listen to the voice inside and to what the drawing is telling me, so I have no real idea where these are going, but I’m hoping it is the start of a new series. This is a fragment of the larger drawing, but it gives you an idea of where it is….at least for now!

Work in Progress 2a.jpg


The second drawing is above. I’ve created that same 2” border pattern at the bottom to tie the drawings in the series together. Those dots are meant to mimic letter/words on the page, as if there is text there, encoded, meant to be deciphered somehow. Perhaps these are ancient manuscripts of some kind, lost to the ages. Again, these pieces are unfolding slowly and intuitively, so I’m not yet sure what they are saying nor where they are going, so I go one step at a time….like this.

Work in Progress 2b.jpg

Going slowly allows you to listen….to learn and savor the process and the unfolding of what’s to come.

Meanwhile, Johntimothy and I finished a savory little project we were working on for Cake Parade at Ipso Gallery in Sioux Falls. Each invited artist (Johntimothy and I were invited as a collaborative duo) was paired with an area baker to share conversation and inspiration. After the meeting, the baker produced a cake inspired by the meeting with the artist and the artist made a work inspired by the conversation with the baker. We so much enjoyed meeting our baker, Adam Rau, and shared a delightful evening of conversation over dinner here on the river. We found we shared many interests and were inspired by his passion for making pastry, specifically French canele. Johntimothy and I decided to make something equally yummy out of the materials we are most drawn to….paper and print! Though you can’t eat these little paper patisseries that we made, we hope they create a kind of desire to consume, just the same.

Petit Fours tray 2 BLOG.jpg
Petit Four tray BLOG.jpg


We had such fun making these delicious little items….I was sorry when it was time to pack them up for the trip to Sioux Falls. If you are in the area, the show is up for the next few months!

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and then it really is a whirlwind until the end of the year. Hold your breath, we’re nearly all the way through 2018….amazing!

Until next time, enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with those you love and count the blessings you have….they are many, no doubt. Cheers!

 

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!

 

Days of Transition

Index of Days no. 7

Index of Days no. 7

Looks like it's been some time since I posted! Not sure where the time has gone, but much of it has been spent in the studio....and cozy inside away from the bitter chill of winter! The latest series of mixed media drawings, The Index of Days, which I started some weeks ago, has progressed in surprising ways. Number 7, shown above, is a reflection of the winter landscape and that gorgeous pink winter light reflecting off the snow. The most recent two below, nos. 8 & 9, seem to have taken a turn. I found myself captivated by the explorations of those tangled, twisting lines. These two pieces are on the way out the door, as they are designated for an upcoming fundraising exhibition in Sioux Falls. I'm excited they will find a home out in the world, but strange and quirky as they are, I'm kind of attached to them. Make it and let it go....that's how it should be!

Index of Days no. 8

Index of Days no. 8

Looking back, I can see the significance of those tangled, twisting lines....as a metaphor for where I find myself these days. I'm heading off on a new adventure....back to full-time work....tomorrow. My total immersion in the studio has come to a close, alas. While having a loving and supportive husband is so wonderful, having only one income is often a struggle. Periodically, I apply for a few of the limited jobs in the area that pique my interest and now I have accepted a position at the University of South Dakota at the Center for Distance Education. I'm excited to begin, dive into new challenges and connect with a whole new set of colleagues. While that is all the case, still I find myself in a bittersweet moment, as I now give up that luxury of precious time in the studio.

Index of Days no. 9

Index of Days no. 9

But! I'll still be in the studio, if on a more limited schedule. I will also continue to post new work and share thoughts and musings here on the blog, as I value the connection that this gives me with folks all over the world. And now, it is late and time to get some good rest...I need to be ready for the adventure that begins tomorrow at 8 am. Stay tuned....I'll be back with fresh work soon!

Index of Days no. 9 (detail)

Index of Days no. 9 (detail)

 

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!

 

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....

 

Nothing Is Something

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

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

Notes From The Ancestors no.2

Notes From The Ancestors no.2

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

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

 

November 17, 2017

November 17, 2017

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

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

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

 

The Daily Practice: Bonnie Kayser

BKSkbk + ToolsS.jpg

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!

BKtotemsSQ.jpg
BKlassoS.jpg

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! 

BKLetter 2S.jpg

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. 

BKAutumnS.jpg

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. 

BK image SQ.jpg
BK image2 SQ.jpg

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

BK photo inspiration SQ.jpg
BK photo sketch SQ.jpg

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

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

BK image 3 SQ.jpg
BK image 4 SQ.jpg
BK image 5 SQ.jpg
BKSeaweedSQ.jpg
 

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 Image or the Object

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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!

 

What Remains

Explorers' Notebooks no.6

Explorers' Notebooks no.6

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

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

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

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

Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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

 

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!