A Knitting Victory!

Well – I got word today – I PASSED Level I of the Master Hand Knitter Program offered by The Knitting Guild Association!  I am THRILLED!  Very excited…!  I can’t wait to work on Level II!

Here are pics of my notebook and my mitten project:

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Landscapes (and Life) Through Lenses

I am an artist.

That’s the answer I give when people say “What do you do?”

But, saying you’re an artist is like saying you’re an office worker.  Or a human.  It’s a ridiculously broad answer – perhaps an answer that, for my part anyway, needs some retooling.  Really, when I stop to think about it, I’m an explorer.  It just so happens that the results of my explorations are ‘art’.

For the last 12 years I have been very interested in place and identity – the ways in which the places we work, play, live, and learn affect who we are, and the ways in which we – in turn – affect those places.  I have painted portraits of people in situ, their settings and their personae inextricably and obviously bound.  I have also painted a wide range of ‘scapes’ – city, land, sky, mind.  Most recently, most of my ‘scapes’ paintings have been of urban settings – or of the odd and uncomfortable, liminal spaces between the urban and the other-than-urban.

 

 

The Edge of That Place

 

Increasingly, however, I’m called to consider my own ties to place rather than the nearly complete lack of ties to place I experienced as a result of my childhood in a military family that moved quite frequently.  I have begun to think about the ways in which the artwork and crafts completed by members of my family for generations before me tie me to Appalachia and, far before the arrival of my ancestors, to places beyond the shores of what we refer to presently as The United States.

What has arisen is a series of works that are initially painted in a traditional manner – oil on canvas or panel – but are then converted to stitching (needlepoint) patterns.  I’m fascinated by what happens to the ‘feel’ of the work when the very masculine form of the initial artwork is translated into what has been considered a very feminine form (needlework).  This line of exploration has led me to consider the ways in which landscapes are gendered – and the ways in which artists’ depictions of them are gendered (and empowered – or not) as well.

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In addition to all of this, I’m led to think about the relationship between craft and place – and the gendered nature of craft – even in this day.  So, on I go – exploring.

The next time someone asks what I do, I suppose the best answer might be – “I explore places.”

We’ll see…

Body. Beauty.

My art practice involves the constant turning over and picking apart social narratives around theories of place, identity, community, and communication. Beauty looms over my illustration and art practice in the form of an irritant, a dystopian ideal, a distant Platonic value, a strange and unsettling shadow, and a tool (weapon?) of criticism, judgment, and justification.

Today I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking through a potential project that will put me up against my own lifelong discomfort with the term Beauty, while engaging others in the area in which I live in dialogue about ideas around Beauty.  In sifting through the myriad notions and reactions I have to the term, I’ve become compelled toward the  dismantling and dissection of the term Beauty through the following questions:

 

  • How are our own identities, perceptions of place, and systems of community and communication tied to definitions of beauty most frequently (and unconsciously) constructed of base arguments from analogy?
  • Is it possible that collective unpacking of elements used to develop these arguments from analogy might make space for Beauty as process of discernment rather than Beauty as an ultimate value?

I can directly tie my need to explore theories of place and identity to the fact that I am the child of a teacher and a U.S. Navy officer – and to decades of constant transience induced by my father’s career. But I want to know how other people struggle with ideas around Beauty, Place, and Identity – and if my own struggles with ideas around Beauty spring from my rootless childhood. I want to know if it is possible to turn dialogue(s) around ideas of beauty, place, identity, and community into opportunities for shared experience.  Toward that end, I’m applying to a program that will allow me the space, time, and resources to bring these questions out into the light and share them with people in and around my city – with the goal of turning the resulting conversations into an illustrated treatise on our city’s ideas of Beauty.  Perhaps, through all of this, through this engagement in dialogue, I’ll begin to solidify my own ideas around Beauty.

After thinking through all of this I worked through my ideas of Beauty as related to the body, for submission to a juried show upcoming at Ciel Gallery in Charlotte.  As I started trying to apply my morning’s intellectual sifting and sorting to notions of the corporeal, I felt it necessary to apply my aesthetic to the figurative.  Here are the results:

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What a WEEK!

Wow!  Ok – so, I’m going to blop out a bunch of stuff!

First, I got up this morning and realized my client, the Arts & Science Council, published the presentation I illustrated for them on their blog!  How COOL!  You can see it here….

Also, I decided to publish an eBook version of my illustration portfolio on Blurb.com!  I mean – HEY – why not?  The truth behind that whole project is that I needed to update my portfolio, and I decided that actually doing it as a publishing project would be a great learning experience.  Believe  you me, it was just that…  Click on the cover below to see the listing on Blurb.com!

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As if THAT wasn’t enough this week, I dug into the business side of things and started using Xero.com for my bookkeeping!  I know – ACK!  Bookkeeping?!  Yep – part of running a studio is running the business side of things.  And I actually kind of enjoy it – or, well, I enjoy having my business and if I want to keep it that way I have to make sure I do what has to be done from a back office perspective!  At any rate, if you are interested, check out XERO!  I really like it!

The World Was Me: Hatchfund.org Picture Book Funding Project Page LAUNCHED!

I’m collaborating with the MOST AMAZING novelist and poet – Laura Kasischke – on a picture book project called ‘The World Was Me’.  Kasischke has been a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, won Pushcart Prizes, and has been a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow.  As if that isn’t enough, one of her novels was made into a movie – The Life Before Her Eyes starring Uma Thurman.  Kasischke is – to say the least – a master of the art of weaving threads of language into incredibly textured cloth of meaning.

Here’s a video about the project that is being funded through my Hatchfund.org page!

Looseness and Lostness

I have been working back and forth between refinement and looseness.  Yesterday’s sketches brought today’s concept image inspired by a fairy tale I read recently. I often love to see where an image is free and loose, and then – beyond that – I love to find the point at which the image threatens to become lost – either in its refinement or its wild freedom.

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Shape(s) Shifting

Yesterday I was working on some fun icons for a graphics project for one of my clients.  I’d been curious as to how Adobe Shape worked, so I decided to give it a shot.  Really interesting little tool!

Yesterday I drew the elements I needed with illustration markers and then used Adobe Shape to convert them to vector/smooth line images.  After importing them into Photoshop, I colored them.  Here are some of the pieces from yesterday.

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This morning, I decided to see what would happen if I used Adobe Shape to capture one of my really pencily sketches.  Here’s the one I decided to use – it was an exercise I did last year to work with interior perspective.

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This is what Adobe Shape did with the sketch – I had to increase the contrast ALOT:

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The final step was to take that Shape image into Photoshop and add color:

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I have to admit I’m a sucker for unruly lines – so this came out really cool!

Ok – that’s my experiment for today!

Motherhood, Vulnerability, and the Power of Poetry

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Recently I was reading through bunches of material online.  Fairy tales, folk tales, fables, and then…poetry.  I was looking for something to illustrate as part of the constant exercises that are so much of the work I do in my illustration practice.  I sat on my couch, coffee in hand, and opened up PoetryFoundation.org.

On the homepage, I noticed a poem called ‘Two Men & a Truck‘ by Laura Kasischke.  I am not entirely sure what about that poem drew me in – as I certainly had no particular emotional connection with the title’s offering of the idea of two men and a truck.  But something most assuredly did pull me in, and when I read the poem I was absolutely floored.  I was moved to the very bottom of my soul.  Because I’m a mother?  Because I’ve been through divorce?  Because, like many parents who are brave enough to be open and honest, I can say that I have done some things well – and I’ve stumbled quite a few times in my attempt to raise my kids?  Probably all of those things.  And more.

I read through the poem and cried.

Then, the next day, I started working on something far less touching but equally as sob-inducing.  Taxes.

During the several days I spent doing my accounting (yes, artists have to keep their books too…) and figuring out what the final upshot of all of that number crunching would be, that poem haunted me.  The first lines crept in and out of my thoughts.

Once the tax adventure was done (don’t worry – I won’t be posting anything about the tax process…), I felt compelled to take a look at the poem again.  This time, at half past five in the morning, I printed it out, parsed it into segments.

I’d had the idea that this would make an incredible picture book.  Not for kids, necessarily – but for the countless women who have either given birth to, or taken into their lives, small human beings who for one moment thought their mothers were The Everything.

When I sat down to ask my pencil what to do about this whole emotional tangle of a poem-with-pictures thing, my pencil responded by giving me the entire storyboard set.

I cannot describe what it was to again cry – or, in this case sob – over this poem.  I watched my tears fall and run around between the lines of graphite that were laying claim to the paper.  And – when I was done – I photographed the whole thing and emailed it to Laura Kasischke, the poet who had strung together these perfect little strands of motherhood, joy, and the sort of grief that can only be felt in the long, sweeping arc that is parenthood.  I asked Laura if she would allow me to illustrate her poem as a picture book.

Her response: “Wow!  I’m incredibly flattered, and so moved and impressed by your work.  Of course I would be thrilled and honored!

Laura”

I was thrilled – and excited and terrified.

This morning when I sat down to work on one of the illustrations for the second time – the first feeling like a completely abysmal failure – I got angry.  When I untangled the mess of feelings that had me in an uncomfortable place between immobility and nausea I realized the reason this first illustration was so incredibly difficult to get going was that it left me utterly

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So, I’m sharing the results of this first piece – the initial spread of this picture book – because I have to.  I have to know I am strong enough to share the feelings I have – towering love for my children, thoughts about my failings as a parent, shiny and sometimes glowing little triumphs here and there – through artwork that will only dance if it is an apt partner for the incredible work given to the world of mothers by Laura Kasischke.

 

A Sea Of Sketches…

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Yesterday I started sketching an illustration – again a practice piece – with the intention of exploring a more classic aesthetic than I sometimes employ.  Here are the process shots – up through a color sketch.  All are really rough, but you get the idea here.  Also, you can see I pieced together sections of a sketch – I do that pretty often.  I’ll put together a sketch that works one way, and then decide to make adjustments, so I sometimes photograph my sketches, print them out, cut them up, tape them together, add on some tracing paper with cruddy scotch tape, and keep on like that.  I end up with sort of a monstrous thing of a sketch when it’s all over, but I get to actually feel my way through the whole thing

After I get something kind of close to the sketch I was aiming for, I decided to play with color.  This isn’t exactly what I would go for – and, in fact, it’s possible that I might end up digitally coloring this instead.  But, for now, this is the idea.

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Ok – moving along!