Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's Been Like a Really Long Monday . . .

Earlier this month, Bitter Betty talked on her blog about how January can be a lot like a really long Monday . . . and boy, this one's been a doozy! You know, one of those Mondays where you start a new job and wind blows shingles off your roof and you're getting ready for Bargain Hunting 101 and you decide to reorganize your office . . . It's been exhilarating, overwhelming, and exhausting . . . and there just hasn't been much time for blogging.

In the midst of all of this madness, it's been wonderful to be teaching the Artmaking as Playful Prayer class - I've got a great group of women in the class this winter, and it's really rejuvenating for me to spend time making with them. The first night, we did intuitive collages:

We each pulled a bunch of images from old National Geographic magazines, just ripping out the ones that appealed to us in some way, and then sorted them into four groups . . . just to see what kinds of patterns emerged in the images. I encouraged people to make four distinct collages, one collage from each grouping of images. My groupings ended up focusing mostly around color - though there were certainly other patterns that emerged.

This one is brown and blue, and I like the repetition of the striding people and the curving shapes. It's fascinating to me how my mind will work and work to make a story out of it . . . to make meaning, not just connections. Yet, if I let the story get in the way, the piece becomes forced and it loses that spontaneity and spark. There doesn't have to be a story for the artmaking to be meaningful . . . the real meaning in the work comes from being mindful, from being fully in the moment and open to the intuitive impulses.

And that is something that is all too easy to forget on a 31-day Monday spent chasing down a to-do list.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Whidbey Doodles . . .

Here's two little paintings that I did while I was on Whidbey Island, working on the Artmaking as Playful Prayer book . . .

This one is of an amarylis that was blooming from a forced bulb in a glass vase. The color was incredible. I don't normally paint flowers, but I really wanted to try this one. I did the sketch in ball point pen, then filled it in with gouache.

And this one is a self-portrait - again, ball point pen with gouache, my go-to travel paint. When I don't know what to paint, I usually do some kind of self-portrait. I don't know if they ever really look like me, but there's something so satisfying about drawing a person from life. Even if you don't capture a likeness, you capture a moment.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A few more studio ideas

I've loved hearing your studio ideas in the comments! So, in honor of getting your studio together for the new year, here's a few more of mine - let me know what you think . . .

The Studio Behind the Couch
A friend once described seeing the studio of a professional printmaker she knew, and being shocked by its simplicity. The artist had simply moved the couch in his tiny living room away from the big front window, and placed a table and a few shelves behind it. There was room to walk between the table and the window, and everything he needed to do his work was within easy reach and always ready to go. It had made his living room smaller, but it also made his priorities very clear! Is there a space, like your living room or bedroom, that you could shrink slightly in order to make room for a small studio space? How could you rearrange an existing room so that a little space for art was carved out? Don’t forget that basements and garages are frequently overlooked and underused spaces.

The Fold-Out Studio in a Closet.

Claim a guest room closet, hall closet, coat closet, or linen closet for your studio. You probably need to get rid of a few things anyway, and a little re-arranging can find a new home for the items that are left. If the closet doesn’t have a light, a clip lamp and an extension cord can solve that problem. Use the closet to hold your art supplies and a bulletin board or other “display” area for inspirational images and quotes, works in progress and even completed projects.

If you paint, try hanging the piece you’re working on the back of the door and keep a folding chair in the closet. Open the door, secure it with a couple of rubber wedges to keep it from moving, and Voila! - you have an easel. Or, if you work on a horizontal surface and stand while you work, try getting a fold-down ironing board for the back of the door, or some of the wall-mount fold-down tables available at stores like IKEA. This can fold down and become an instant work surface! If you sit while you work on a horizontal surface, you can try using one of the shelves in the closet as a work surface, or find a small table that fits the space. Or you can keep a folding table in the closet, and display works in progress and inspiring quotes on the door.

The idea is to create a space that you can close the door on, but that is ready to go with supplies on hand and works in process visible as soon as you open the door set up a work surface. You can also leave the door open for those times when you want to put your subconscious to work.

Studio in a Tub.

Keep all of your art supplies and projects in plastic bins, totes, or tubs that can be easily toted and stored. This is especially handy if your primary workspace is the dining room table, or a card table set up in the living room. This makes it easy to clear one room, and relocate the project somewhere else, or just put it away until dinner is over. Tubs can be organized by media or by project.

Studio on a Cart.

A similar idea is to keep your art supplies on a rolling cart, like a kitchen utility cart or catering cart. Some are designed as rolling kitchen islands, others to hold microwaves or TVs. These carts frequently have a drawer, and usually have at least one shelf. I’ve seen very sturdy rolling tool carts at hardware stores that have multiple shallow drawers, ideal for paints, pastels, paper, and brushes. Sometimes the cabinets underneath can be easily covered with fabric, or have doors – great for privacy! The top surface can be used to store works in progress, and can even be used as a work surface.

I keep all of my painting supplies on a cart like this. Roll it up to the kitchen table, or to an easel, or even out onto the back porch, and you’re ready to go. If the kitchen table is your main work surface, it’s easy to turn the dining nook into a sometime studio. You can keep a bulletin board on a wall nearby full of inspiring pictures and quotes, or have a magnet board to easily display finished projects. Keep your rolling cart full of supplies in the dining room and stock it with a vinyl tablecloth or piece of oilcloth that you can throw down on the dining room table to protect the surface. Then, roll your cart over, sit down and dive in! Your supplies are near at hand, and cleaning up your work surface in time for dinner is as simple as folding up the vinyl cloth and putting your project on top of the cart – where your subconscious can work on it over coffee and pie.
Any other ideas for making artmaking space at home?

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm Alive! And I have a question about your studio . . .

Just a quick note to let you all know that I'm alive. I've been up on Whidbey Island, Washington for the past week doing a writer's retreat with my writer/editor friend Jill Kelly. I've been working on book to go with my ArtMaking as Playful Prayer class for more than two and a half years, and, with Jill's support, I'm finally making some good progress! I'm starting a new session of ArtMaking as Playful Prayer on January 20th, and working on the book is getting me really jazzed up . . . It's designed as a home workshop for those who can't make the class, or a home companion for those who do. So, in honor of fresh starts and the new year, I'm going to leave you with this tidbit from the second draft of . . .

Chapter 4
Studio: Making Sacred Space at Home

Making Room for Art

It is one thing to go off to an art class once a week and another to work alone at home. In the class, there are other people taking the same risks you are. There are supplies to choose from and a space to work in and permission to make a mess. You know that when you come back the next week, the supplies and the space will be there. There is a teacher or facilitator who is cheering you on, giving you ideas and information about materials, and hopefully setting guidelines that make the space a safe and fun place for everyone to explore. Yet, even if you’re blessed with having a great workshop environment, you’ll end up wanting to do some work at home or in your own studio space.

Over the years, I’ve gone from having a corner workspace in my bedroom, to the use of a larger space in a mildew-prone basement, to the glorious converted two-car garage I now call my studio home. Some full and part-time artists rent studio space outside of their home, and some continue to work for years from that corner in the bedroom. Whether the space is in your house or not, you want to have at least some space that is yours alone and not used for any other purpose; a space where you can leave your supplies set up and works in progress out and visible. This way, you can sit down and work for a few minutes here and there, and you are always walking by your project – catching it out of the corner of your eye and letting your subconscious work on it, too. It keeps your artist within out and visible and taking up space; it identifies artmaking to be as much of a priority as sleeping, cooking, or bathing. It becomes as easy to add a bit of color to a piece as it does to heat up leftovers in the microwave, check e-mail, or flip on the TV.

The reality is that in the beginning, your workspace will probably be in your house, and you probably share your house with other people who may or may not understand what you’re doing. Your home may be small and you might not feel like you have any space to claim for art, or that the spaces in your home are too public for the purpose. You may have children or housemates who would take great delight in using your art supplies, but might not have the same notions of privacy or respect for materials and works-in-progress that you might need. You might be working on things that you simply don’t want other people to see.

For a bare bones home studio, all you need is something to make marks, something to make marks on, and a place to be while you make marks. Here are some ideas for setting up a studio in a small or shared space:

The One-Wall Studio
I once met a woman who had simply dedicated one wall of her kitchen to painting. It wasn’t a large space, but she had tacked cardboard to the wall and floor to protect it, hung heavy paper on the wall to paint on, and then had a tray with her paints on it that could be easily repositioned. It was always there, and it was easy for her to step in and paint without the production of setting up her space each time she wanted to work.

Ok, I'd love to know what you think - and what your studio or artmaking space is like! I'm planning on posting some more of my ideas for making small studio spaces tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

And One Geek to Rule Them All!

They put him in a Spock outfit here, bu he really does look a lot like Tuvak from Star Trek Voyager, doesn't he? Of course, to keep with the title of the post, I suppose I really should show him in Frodo outfit, but, oh well, I guess I'm just mixing my geek metaphors . . .

Recently, on, blogger GeekDad declared Barack Obama the First Geek President. A brilliant follow-up AP article appeared on - I love some of the quotes in this one, and it's where I grabbed the photo from! Yup, our pres-to-be is a Star Trek fan, loves Spiderman, can talk tech, and gave Leonard Nimoy the live-long-and-prosper sign.

2009: Year of the Geek

A Christmas Story . . . With Geeks

I've been away from the computer for a few weeks, just enjoying spending time with friends and family and enjoying the holidays. But something really wonderful happened over Christmas that I wanted to share with you - it is both crafty and geeky, and as such, is a perfect addition to this blog.

My sweetie, Darren, and I celebrated Christmas a few days early at his parent's house in Estacada, OR, as both his brother and his dad had to work Christmas eve. His dad was handing out presents, when, towards the end of the evening, Sweetie approaches me with a little scroll of paper sealed with a bow.

He says to me, "Now, a gift like this is a huge commitment, so I wanted you to have the choice to accept it or not." At this point his mother and his sister are looking at us, and I'm thinking, "Dang, did he get me a puppy?"

I unroll the scroll and start reading. My eyes get really wide and . . . and I blurt out, "OMG, you got me flesh-eating beetles!" My eyes teared up, I covered him with kisses and his mother and sister realized that no, in fact, he was not proposing.

It is, flat out, the most romantic gift I have ever gotten.

I don't know if anyone remembers this post where I talked about preparing bones to use in my art . . . but flesh-eating beetles, or dermestids, are one way that labs, museum curators, taxidermists, and other professionals clean bones. It would be super-cool to have my own colony to prepare lots of skulls and stuff, so that I could use really pristine - and delicate - bones in my art.

But Darren's right - being responsible for the health and well-being of a colony of of flesh-eating beetles is a huge responsibility, one that I'm frankly not sure I'm ready for. Who would take care of my flesh-eating beetles during the weeks I travel? Would I take the tank with me on the plane, or would I ask a friend to come and feed roadkill to my beetles? Speakign of which, where would I get enough carcasses to keep them fed? Though, apparently, if you don't have animal carcasses to feed them, you can give them hot dogs. Hmm. Hot dogs.

Anyway, that's the coolest thing - he knew the beetles would be the perfect gift, and he knew, too, that I might not be ready for such an amazing gift. And that's why he's the Sweetie.

That's why I bought this t-shirt from ThinkGeek: