Thursday, September 2, 2010

three recently completed sculptures

I am always surprised just how long it takes me to finish artwork, especially sculptures. Aspects of these sculptures were begun fall of 2009, generally finished in July- only to have me go back and resolve them further this past August.

It's almost as if each phase of work has to "marinate" for awhile before moving into the next working phase or resolution. I currently have at least 10-15 other projects in the studio in various stages of either being worked on, or "marinating". In this particular series, there are about 5 or so more pieces coming...

"vessel #1(us)" 4.5'x2.5'x1', terracotta, handmade paper, thread, silk, wire, wax
"vessel #1(us)" DETAIL. 4.5'x2.5'x1', terracotta, handmade paper, thread, silk, wire, wax
"vessel #2 (hiding place)" 23"x20"x16", steel, handmade paper, terracotta, leaf, thread, wax, pigment.
"vessel #2 (hiding place)" DETAIL. 23"x20"x16", steel, handmade paper, terracotta, leaf, thread, wax, pigment.
"vessel #3 (contemplation)" 3'x2'x32", steel, wire, silk, wax, terracotta, thread.
"vessel #3 (contemplation)".DETAIL. 3'x2'x32", steel, wire, silk, wax, terracotta, thread.

a few small paintings

I believe these are done, though sometimes you never know :). I just might jump back into them after a few months...

"the source" 8"x6"
"the finding..." 12"x12"
"goodbyes" 5"x5"
"journey" 6"x6"
"scramble" 6"x6"

Friday, May 28, 2010


The very first thing I thought when sitting in the studio this morning was "today is a day for drawing".

Woke up today and shuffled out to the studio half asleep, with a large cup of black tea in my hand. Off of my "immediate pay" job today, I have most of the day to work. Hate to waste a rare day such as this, but my initial encounter with the recent works in progress has fallen flat. Everything is moving along pretty nicely, overall... yet each piece is at some sort of cross-roads and needs special attention. This is that point where I can easily "make it or break it" with the work. Some days I am fully up to this aspect of artmaking, ready to implement the next steps, whatever they may be.

As I'm sure I have written before, I have learned not to force work just because I can work. This will inevitably lead to disaster. Yet at the same time, today is an art day and must be taken advantage of.

Time to step back and think. Get back to some basics and spend the day drawing and thinking over ideas and processes.

I am really enjoying my "new" working method of giving myself plenty of time for sketching and ideas without imposing deadlines for completed work at this time. This is a recent addition to my work-time, inspired by a trip to Spain in March. Saw a million beautiful and amazing things, but was especially struck by the Picasso studies for his painting "Guernica" at the Museo de Reina Sofia in Madrid. The completed painting was amazing... but the dozens of studies were almost equally so. I was struck by the sheer amount of time and practice he spent working up to this painting- and it has shifted my own approach to artmaking since my return.

So, looking forward to a day for thinking and playing with ideas that have been bouncing around in my head, without the pressure to "complete". A few drawings at several angles of a June bug I found while digging up my dead Bird of Paradise plant last night. Some nude studies of people running. Winged limbs. And some sketches and notes about where the works in progress should go. Full day!

Here are just a couple iphone images of some recently completed studies for myself:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Woke up feeling like I am drowning in something warm, viscous and heavy. Nothing specific, I have known this feeling well since I was very young, though I have found ways to attach various meanings to it over the years.

Wake up, walk dogs, drink tea, throw in laundry, pick up kitchen, pack lunch, get child ready for school...

Here is what I "researched" this morning.


I really did not know how to do this before. No wonder my dog hates it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New work/work in progress

 After a few weeks of exploring ideas and feeling a great deal of creative energy in general,  I awoke yesterday with a paralyzing feeling of anxiety about the work I have been focusing on lately. Given that I had one of those rare full days of working in the studio in front of me, I wasn't about to give up. However, it was a great reminder that positive creative energy can only last so long before the other half of my brain steps in to inform me how silly and futile my ideas are as well as all attempts at art-making in general. Quieting that special critic that lives within is no easy task, but I was able to get the volume turned down to simply "critical" so that I could actually get some work done.

When this voice began, what used to happen to me was that I became incredibly depressed and hopeless, and abandoned whatever idea I was working on. I then would stay in a terrible creative rut until the energy struck again. Not a great working process overall. When I went back to school I couldn't stop working when this happened because of the deadlines pressing down on me. I had to work through it. Still, many, many tears of frustration were shed and ideas still abandoned.

This still fresh in my memory, I resolved yesterday to not abandon these ideas, whatever happened. Certainly not every piece I am working on is successful, and what may be successful in my eyes could be a total failure in someone else's, but it's the process of fully exploring and fleshing out a series of ideas to their fullest that I am focusing on. What lies on the other side? Several failed pieces to be sure, but perhaps a few successes that I could never have achieved without this level of difficulty.

From now on I am viewing that often debilitating feeling as a gauge that I am on the right track. That for me, I am somewhere, for me, that is "unsafe"- and that, artistically speaking, is exactly where I want to stay and push my artwork.

This is also a great time for me to take some pictures and step back to reflect on where I am at this point. Below are some paintings I recently made on some clayboard I had lying around the studio. It is the first time I have attempted to work in color since school... What is interesting for me is that they are done with acrylic ink- leveraging the drawing that I love and leaving behind my major difficulties with paint in general.

Below are a few (very much) works in progress in the sculpture studio. The "bowls" are made from leaves and tea bags cast into a plaster mold. The people are currently made from plasticine, and I am playing with their positions and shapes. At the end of today I bought a box of terra cotta air dry clay to begin making the people in a permanent material. Also, the pins I have used to pin the bowls to the wall are visible. ugh. That needs to go away, but I have yet to resolve how I want to mount them.

I will have pictures of the metal pieces I am working on in the next post.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

it keeps spilling and spilling

I have been almost obsessing about this subject lately, easily brought to tears every time I hear news on the radio. Oil is a symbol of some of the highest levels of greed and corruption in today's society, while the men who died, plants, animals and the people whose livelihoods are potentially gone end up being helpless casualties of this. What are we doing about this? What can we do about this? Personally, I feel completely overwhelmed by the level of devastation. Only 21 years after the crisis of the Exxon Valdez. What have we learned? What next?
These  thoughts have been finding their way into my latest sketches and paintings. Just having fully embraced color once again, the last few days I find myself picking up the burnt umber and carbon black to use liberally in each piece. I don't know how this will resolve itself, both in real life and in my artwork. More to follow.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Wired Magazine. First article is about the current crisis. Second article was written last year, about the long-term findings after the Exxon Valdez spill:
"High concentrations of oil are acutely toxic, but low concentrations have more subtle, widespread effects. As oil percolates through food webs, it retards plant and animal growth, leaving them vulnerable to predation and disease, and less fit to reproduce. With the Deepwater Horizon spill already too large and unpredictable to contain, the question is no longer whether it will cause damage, but what form damage will take"

Friday, May 14, 2010

parenting and the arts...balance. argh!

So life is all about balance, right? My daily struggle is often about fighting to make the time in the studio that I need. It often means other things, like email & blogging, etc. fall by the wayside a bit.

Attended a wonderful panel discussion on The Apocalypse on Weds. night by a panel of artists, designers and a writer for  National Geographic. The main artist there was Marina Zurkow, whose amazing video "Slurb" was/is playing at the Women and Their Work Gallery where the discussion was hosted. Incredible video, thought-provoking discussion.

But the next morning, (and I do believe I was somehow being "punished" by life for having some fun and a nice night out ;) ) I was up at 6am sharp. Thursdays are fertilize all the trees day, and getting ready to head out to a nearby town to work as an art assistant for a UT sculpture prof.- right when I get home from that, I had two massage clients back to back. So all in all a busy day. No problem, I have my routine down. The only thing that made this particular morning different is that my son had a book review due. Before I left for the panel discussion, I gave him explicit instructions about the final touches that needed to be done. I sneaked into his room at 6:30am, and jumped on his computer to print out the report for him. Only to see that he did not do anything to the review the night before. What did he do? He watched the "300" movie with my fiance. You might ask why he couldn't print this out himself? Our network printer is not set up with his computer (this is to save our ink from the many many things he deems "very important" to print) and I need to email it as an attachment to myself to print from my computer.
Anyway, I immediately shook him awake and of began a monologue on my frustrations about him not finishing. I imagine that none of my words penetrated his barely awake head. So I wrapped it up by telling him he needed to get out of bed now and finish the report,and headed back downstairs.
25minutes later, no sign of my son at the breakfast table. My internal "mom" clock is going off and I head back upstairs to his room. Only to find him ready generally ready for school, but with the book review not touched. AH!! What was he doing? I was greeted with the usual answer of "I don't know". As I lecture him yet again (why? perhaps for my own sanity), I noticed that he has really horrible breath. I mean seriously disgusting. So I stopped lecturing to tell him to brush his teeth.
2 minutes later, he ran out of the bathroom saying, "where is my toothpaste?!"
The first thing I thought was, um, if you brushed your teeth last night then you should know where it is. When I asked this question I was greeted with "I believe so". Translation: "I believe so" means: "No, I did not, but I don't want to get in trouble for this so I will give a vague answer". He then proceeded to go to his closet and pull out his toothpaste, toothbrush and floss from the overnight back I packed for his sleepover last Saturday night. Let me repeat, Last Saturday Night- it was now Thursday morning. You do the math. Freak out time!
"Brush your teeth for 10mins- time it! and finish the damn book review so I can @*&$ print it!".
It was now 7:55. We had to leave in 10mins. I had not eaten breakfast, or pretty much finished anything I needed to do to get ready. Mad crazy rush time. My son appeared downstairs to let me know all is finished. Yay!
But wait, he decided to use a downloaded trial version of Microsoft Word on his computer for this report and my old clunker laptop converted this to.... wingdings!!!! awesome. Finally ended up printing it from the html showing from my email and it printed....sideways. Sideways it was. I didn't have time for it anymore. I handed it to my son, who at that point knew better than to say a word.

On the way to school, I informed him that he would be late, stopped by the coffee shop, dropped him off at school, and ate the best bagel and coffee I had ever tasted while on the way to work. Oh, and I sent a text message to my sister about the desire to beat my head into a wall over and over again. :).

And my family wonders why I often lock the door and put on headphones while in my studio??

As soon as I send this post, I will be happily in that space- getting in as much time as possible before heading to my "regular job" this afternoon.

Final moral? Even though my son is just shy of pre-teen... I cannot leave the house and expect things to actually happen.

The End.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Facing middle school students

Wow, it's been a hectic month! Finally over my virus from hell (down a total of 2 entire weeks) and then the subsequent avalanche of things to do that inevitably happens when you haven't been able to do anything for 2 weeks. Today is my first day back in the studio, at last! As soon as I am done with this post...

One recent adventure to note- my son asked me if I would come and speak to his class about my artwork for his "Science Day" last Friday. Of course, I said yes- who could resist their child actually wanting them to come to their school and talk about their work! I certainly was very flattered.

However, this turned into a much larger deal than I originally thought. I received an email from the middle school coordinator asking if there was anything they could do to help me with my "demonstration". I emailed back- "so how long is this demonstration again?". She replies that I will have 40 minutes per grade and that it also would be great if I had a student project as well. Let me remind you that this is happening on Wednesday and the demonstration is Friday... AH! I had a good 45 minutes of complete and total panic before I figured out what I would do.

I decided that I would bring in some finished work plus a bunch of my materials and talk for only 15 minutes. Then I would have the students all make mini-collages using the materials I used for the collages in my show last Spring: bark, leaves and old encyclopedia images. I made my son go out and help me collect over 200 pieces of bark and an entire bag of leaves the next evening.

The demonstration seemed to be a hit! Almost all of the students were interested in my work (along with some teachers) and really got into making the collages. success! I had offered to them that if they wanted, I would take their projects home and put a wax coating on plus and wire backing so they could hang them. You can guess what I spent my weekend doing... waxing and mounting probably around 170 collages.

I have to say- I was very impressed with the student's enthusiasm and creativity. I really had no idea if they would be interested or not, and it became quite a pleasure to finish their projects for them. Though, if I ever do this again, I need to find a way that doesn't add hours and hours of extra work for me in the end.

Happy ending all in all- I was extremely nervous about presenting and it went very well. Now back into the studio to get some of my own work done!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Betty Boop stars in Snow White, 1933

I've been completely down for the last two days with what seems to be a viral throat infection from hell. On the bright side, I have been sleeping, reading and watching hours of Art21 on my instant que. Never been into TV much, but the whole "instant que" thing has me pretty hooked :).

just for fun today I am going to link to my absolute favorite Betty Boop cartoon, Betty Boop in Snow White, dated 1933. It's very bizarre in a cool way and when Cab Calloway sings, I get goosebumps every time.

It's only 7mins long. enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ted Talks in the studio

Lately instead of listening to only music while working, I have been addicted to the Ted talks. Incredibly inspiring and fascinating- often I hear something that encourages my work instead of being forced to listen to the special critic that lives in my head. Often, I will get so absorbed in my work that I forget to listen- so many talks I have to listen to 5 or 6 times.

Pretty much every talk is amazing. but here are some links to a few of my favorites.

Steven Pinker on the myth of violence:

Brian Greene on superstring theory:

Eve Ensler (from the Vagina Monologues)

Joshua Klein on the intelligence of crows:

Seriously, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I will share more from time to time, but you can go to to hear many many more amazing insights and stories. I have also linked the title of this blog to the site.

Monday, January 25, 2010

wasting time

Why is it that when I take a break from the studio (or rather, life forces me away) it is so difficult to get back in and thoroughly working? One would think I would be jumping at the opportunity to get back to work. Actually I am jumping at the opportunity, but then the excitement stops there.

The procrastination sets in- I will decide I need to research more and read more before working again. I will start on something mundane instead of diving into a project I have been really wanting to start, like organizing closets, etc. While reading and researching is definitely important to the artistic process, it still must give way to actual studio work. It can quickly become a comfort zone that is keeping me from getting anything of value accomplished.

I really think that there is a kind of pervasive fear that settles in when I stop working. Fear that my work isn't or will never reach my standards. Fear that my ideas are not being pushed enough. Fear that my work will never show, or I will somehow destroy it in the process. Fear that it won't be liked. And insert a plethora of additional fears here. This is the other side of the proverbial "artist ego". We often love our work because we also hate it. Or have hated it at one point. I have said on many occasions that my relationship with my work is like a semi-dysfunctional relationship with a lover: We fall in love, then break up, get back together and try to fix things, break up again. However many times this happens depends on the piece and the only difference from an real life dysfunctional relationship is the happy ending. Eventually, we resolve our differences and the piece is ready. In the meantime though, I have built a serious emotional history with the work.

This doesn't actually happen with every piece. But most often, the pieces that I have "broken up with" on more occasions, turn out to be my favorites.

I have seen some artists that seem to work evenly from start to finish, calmly problem solving all the way through. I might get there someday. I have already learned (the hard way) not to have a temper tantrum in my studio and throw things. (If you were to look around, you would find a strange number of objects splashed with droplets of black ink). And I have learned to set aside a piece for any number of days when I feel the emotional frustration increasing to the "your going to ruin it stage". So perhaps, I too, will be zen one day.

I'm digressing. And I really don't know what my final point is about the fear, except that it is very real. And, in the beginning, those demons can block out the euphoric memory of finishing a piece I have worked so hard on.

My guess is that every artist has to somehow shove that fear in a corner to get started. Quiet it down, but let it be heard just enough to make sure you stay on your toes while working. I have read from several well-known painters that some of their best work occurs in the mistakes. So, in my mind, the fear actually has a purpose as long as I actually get in the studio.

So, speaking of- that is where I am finally headed today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Making myself talk (art, of course)

"new beginnings" 4"x 6" (sold)

Generally I belong to the camp of people who choose not to make New Year's resolutions. I tend to check in throughout the year and make lots of little resolutions as I go. But this year, a few resolutions just sort-of "happened". And they all belong to the "being social" category of life.

It began when one evening my partner said " I really want us to begin seeing friends more. It is driving me a little crazy that we never go out and socialize. We need a community". My partner is a social person. I am not. at all. Literally, I could go for months without seeing anyone, contentedly holed up within my own little schedule. I even go out of my way sometimes to avoid people. Not that I don't like people- once I actually get out, I enjoy myself quite a bit. I just have to be pushed. So, I promised him that I would make an effort to invite friends over and go out more.

Then I realized this probably should also carry over into my art life. Happy making studio work, I only show work when someone approaches me to do so. Now there are many reasons for this (some shyness, some not thinking I have enough work yet, etc) But most of it is, I am just uncomfortable talking about (and selling) my art. I LOVE talking art, just not mine. However, every successful artist I have spoken with has told me to go to openings, meet people, talk to people and approach galleries. Oh the horror! So many opportunities for awkward moments and social faux pas. Yet here I go, New Year's Resolution #1 and only: Get out there and talk.

Beginning small, of course, don't want to set myself up for certain failure :). So the goals are to:
1) go to at least one opening per month. The actual opening. Not just quietly sneaking early on a weekday to look at the work.

2) update my blog at least every Monday. I love doing this, but it is amazing how I think I never have the time. and yes, I know today is Tuesday, but today's excuse is my sister left town yesterday evening and we were hanging out. I started off with a bang this past spring and have slowly gone down to one post a month, if that. This includes taking regular photographs of my artwork. Not waiting until every 6mos.

3) contact at least one gallery per month. Here's where I am the most afraid. But even with rejection, it is great practice to finally get to a few that say yes.

So there it is, in writing. Now I am accountable, even if just to myself!

On another note (but still in the talking subject), I shared a booth with two artist friends at the Keep Austin Bizarre Bazaar last December.(you can see all the work at I was very unsure what to expect, as I had never done an art fair before. This one was pretty small, so nice for a first go at is plus my expenses were kept down with sharing. Other than freezing my butt off- I had a great time! Great conversations with people about both my art and art in general, had quite a few friends come by and say hello (thank you!) and sold some work. Final verdict: exhausting but worthwhile.

Again, met many wonderful people. And a few who freaked out :). Below is the piece that one lady saw while walking by and exclaimed "EWWWWWWWW! THAT'S SO WIERD!!!!" Evidently, she does not share my love for insects :).

"wonderment" 4"x 6" (8x10 framed)