Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mail Art

I have a nephew who lives on the other side of the country. They moved a lot when he was young (military family), so I don't really know him all that well. Just the same, I suspect we are somewhat alike. He's very creative. He likes art, music and cooking. He gets attached to his animals. Recently, my sister (his mother) tells me he has discovered jazz. Not just jazz in general, but the early stuff. The stuff I've been completely submerged in for the last couple years. I've been meaning to send him something in the mail for some time now, but never really knew what. This week I picked up a copy of a documentary on the history of swing, and figured I'd make a nice little package to send it in. That way I can get in my own playtime, and still cross something off my to-do list. This makes me happy.

This is the front of the package before I addressed it. It's all acrylic. I painted in the block of white in at the end, figuring I'd need a place to put the address that can actually be read. 
Figured I might as well paint the back too. Why not, right?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Finding Inspiration

It would seem I've been doing the same thing for quite some time now. I'm in the middle of my portrait series of Jazz Legends (which will be posted over the next few months), and my mind is wandering to what's next...

And truth is, I have no idea. I feel like I'm getting near the end of my current series, and while I've been working a bit on my non-objective work, I really don't know what's coming. I think I might need to take a bit of down time... let my brain lie fallow, so to speak.

Over the years I've been following a few artists who are well known in the world of art journaling. I find them inspiring. If you are not familiar with art journaling, take a look at the work of Orly Avineri or Erin Faith Allen... its pretty wonderful. Or Julianna Coles... really raw and intimate. It's a different kind of art. A lot of it is stream of consciousness and a mix of images and words. And all of it is made without judgement and is extremely personal. The point is (I think...) to help the artist get to a place where their work is truly authentic. With so much art constantly available to compare ourselves to, that is no easy feat.

I've tried art journaling a few times over the years. I have filled one little 10 page book, which took over a year, and started a second, which has one page half completed. It's not that I don't enjoy doing it, it's more that I have had this overflowing store of ideas that I wanted to get out, and my studio time was extremely limited. I have what I call my little "playbooks", but they are not exactly the same thing. I pick up children's board books at my local goodwill, sand and gesso the pages, and use them for anything and everything. I try out new techniques, new tools, new combinations of media. (The other day I poured rubbing alcohol on a page that had acrylic under oil pastel, just to see what would happen. The answer? A puddle of mud. But now I know). Even that I don't really have a lot of time for. It's more of an "I only have half an hour so I'll work in my book" kind of thing.

But things are changing for me... I now have a reasonably large inventory of paintings to choose from when I find a exhibit or juried show I want to apply for. I don't have to panic that I don't have enough work to fill a booth at an art fair. As my husband regularly points out, I could sell half my inventory and we'd still have work on every wall in the house. It would seem that right now, for the next couple months anyway, I may have some time to just play.

So, I am committing to this: apart from my ongoing Legends series (for which I have set myself a schedule and a deadline), I am not going to focus on producing. I am going to try a bunch of new stuff that may or may not work. I will write about it, and I will take pictures, which may be ugly. In fact, I'm pretty sure they'll be ugly. I'll post them anyway. I'm going to try to start a journaling practice, if only to discover if it's valuable for me. I'm going to take at least one class. And I'm going to find out what's next.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

To print or not to print

I've never done prints of my work. If I can't manage to sell my originals, why on earth would I want to also have prints of it?? A few thing got me reconsidering my point of view. First, I've met people who love my work, but there is no way they could possibly afford an original. Given that my main subject matter over the last couple years has been musicians, and that musicians tend to often be as broke as artists, prints would give the subjects of my paintings an opportunity to actually own one. And the whole "print on demand" thing has made things infinitely easier. No longer do you have to do a run of 100 to make it economical... it's all done digitally so you can print one if that's all you need. Seems like there is no real reason not to do it.  So started my foray into the art print reproduction market....

I have a day job. For the past 20 years I have worked in the graphics field, doing various tasks including scanning, image retouching, colour correction, illustration, layout and design. I've worked on art catalogues, I've worked on magazines. At the moment I work in packaging (which is a totally different animal). So I have some experience with reproduction. I know how an image gets from camera to final, and the steps it goes through. And I'm pretty good at it.

First things first... I had to find a printer. I figured I'd start small. A postcard. Easy. Only...

Things have changed in the 12 years since I left the litho world and went off to deal with recycled board and rubber plates. Holy crap, have they ever. Everything is done online now. Everything. They don't even want to talk to you. Can I pick it up? No. You have to pay for shipping. Seriously? You're down the street.... it's less than a five minute drive. No, you cannot pick it up. Well... ok then. I guess we'll ship it. The specs for uploading your files were very precise. File type, size, resolution, icc profile... how does the artist who has not had the benefit of my experience ever get this right?

I got my postcards and they looked great. I've even had a second image printed, along with business cards with an image on them. The upside of everything being done online is that the price has come down considerably, and I have to admit, having them shipped to my door is pretty damn convenient.

Samples on paper and canvas
So, I've recently begun step two... a full-sized, signed, limited edition print of an original work. I had to find another printer, because I want acid free paper and archival inks. Seems I've gone from the guys who didn't want to talk to me for any reason, ever (email only) to a guy who doesn't return (and I suspect doesn't even read) his email. Sigh. Still, he did samples for me and they look awesome, so I suppose I shall use the phone.

I got proofs on a 23 mil archival paper, and canvas. As an artist I've purchased a lot of paper in my time. I have a load of it in my studio. I don't know what 23 mil is??? All my paper is weighed in lbs/100 sheets. Or grams. I don't have mils listed on anything. Well, just so you know, it is a lovely, very white, very heavy and very stiff paper. I would have to ship that flat, no way can I roll it. Oh my, that could get expensive....

I'm still trying to figure this out. Email was sent (and not replied to) on Thursday, so I guess on Monday I'm going to call and try to get this sorted. I have 3 prints to send off to my Global Vernissage commenters, so I hope they can be patient just a little while longer.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Jazz Legends: Louis Armstrong

Jazz Legends: Louis Armstrong   16x20" Acrylic on Canvas
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you'll have noticed my occasional postings of works in progress on a website called Global Vernissage. This is an online gallery type of site based out of Europe. Over the next year I am going to be working on a series of portraits of Jazz Masters, and posting all my working photos over on this site. The first one, of Louis Armstrong, was completed last week. If you are interested in how I work up a painting from the very beginning, you can see that here. The next one will be starting any time now... if you sign up to follow the site you can get notifications when a new photo gets posted.

"Louis" in progress. Mask is in place.
How I get from A to B in a piece may see a little strange to anyone who paints. I spent years doing things the way I was taught in school, but honestly, I got bored making little thumbnail sketches and working drawings, and many of my ideas never actually made it to the canvas because of this. I thought this was some kind of flaw in me... my boredom threshold being unreasonably low means that lots of things I start don't get finished and things I set out to learn I don't actually accomplish. The thing is, once I gave myself permission to do things my own, unconventional way, my art just took off and improved immensely. 

I had to figure out a way to get the excitement I felt when I had an idea to keep until I actually started to paint. I do it by putting off the "planning" stage until I'm about half way through. Seems a bit counter-productive, but it works for me. Even when I want to paint but don't have an idea, just starting will often lead to something coming to me as I see the marks I'm making. I'll see something in the shapes I'm getting, or I'll try a colour combination that just sparks. It's an energy that I feel, and I think it shows in my finished work.

As for my subjects.... I'm painting portraits of artists that definitely did things in their own unconventional way. Each one of them had a style that was uniquely their own, and it made them legends. How inspiring is that. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My past as an artist: Change and Growth

"Butterfly", Oil pastel and graphite
 on paper from about 2005
A few weeks ago I ran into someone who had purchased something from me many years ago. I was dropping off some work at a gallery, and he happened to be a friend of the owner and had stopped by for a visit. He took a look at my paintings and said he would never have realized they were done by the same artist, they were that different.

A simple, off the cuff observation... but it caused me to take a look at some of my older work that I had put away into the back recesses of my brain. I pulled up my old pictures. I looked at the few pieces I still had hanging around the house (much of my older work was destroyed in last year's flood). And while I see that my work has changed pretty dramatically, I can still see many similarities.

"The Journey", Charcoal on paper from about 2006/07. I think.
My records are somewhat incomplete here... I was working
full-time and had a small child. I was exhausted. 
Thematically, my work is much... well, happier I suppose is the best word for it. Like a lot of artists, I am prone to introspection, and when I started to seriously use art as a tool for self-expression, my life was in a bit of turmoil. But as far as subject matter goes, I am still working with the figure, and still exploring how the figure blends into and stands out of their surroundings. Still fully forming some areas and leaving some parts flat. I thought today I would share some photos of my older work. Keep in mind, art is one of those things that improves immensely with time and practice. For this reason, I'm not going too far back...

"Flying", oil pastel and graphite on paper. Again, from 2004/05. I was simultaneously looking
at cubist art, trying to figure out if yoga would help with my physical issues, and studying the mandala
as a spiritual symbol. I still have this piece, though it has been a bit battered and bruised. 

"Sorrow", oil pastel and graphite on paper, from the same series.

Another example of my charcoal drawings. I was studying native art and trying to figure out what, if anything,  my Metis heritage meant to me. I still have this one... It was framed but the frame broke during the move and it happened to be upstairs waiting to get fixed when the basement flooded. Only one other piece from this series has survived. C'est la vie. 

Ink drawing from 2009. I had been completely blocked for quite some time before I started working on these little drawings. They came from discovering the whole "Zentangle" thing, combined with a creative exercise where you take one word and do a mind-map type of expansion based on that single thought. These are just little drawings. I had intended to rework them as paintings, but I couldn't figure out how exactly to get what i had in my head onto my canvas. I gave up after a couple attempts.  

Another example form the same series of drawings.