What drives the art?

Patience and creativity

Returning to life as an artist is a challenge after twenty years immersed in a left-brain career as a librarian – organizing, cataloging and instructional designing.  Nothing demonstrates this more than the past two months working on a seemingly simple artist’s book.

Prior to my life as a librarian, I was a working artist for twenty years with roots in calligraphy. This form is the foundation for everything I learned about art subsequently. Knowing the quality of work of which I am capable by looking back through the boxes and folders of my art projects, and then, looking at my current work, left me sorely demoralized. This is true, even with calligraphy, my first love.

So, I turn to writing prose and bookmaking, additional loves in the artistic life. My intention (please note this noun!) to create an artist’s book with my prose at the central point is a turning point. Designing the format and attempting to carry out the all the skills needed, demonstrates how far I have meandered my previous life. Nothing was meeting my standards. This went on for more than a month. Over and over, re-thinking, re-designing, re-hashing imagery…until, one morning, I collected all the debris and threw it into an envelope to shelve.

What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t this working? I was on my third attempt with this “simple book.”

May I suggest that you read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

 

Cover art

Finally, after re-reading one chapter of the above title, it hit me. I was working with the left-brain. Intention. In my process to create, it was all linear – get from Point A to my Point B .

So, I cleared everything off my desk. Created a big open space. And played. Ran my hands over the handmade papers until I found those that felt right. Moved around the pieces of photographs like a jigsaw puzzle until they fell into place visually.

Continuing along this path for the next two weeks, the book I had never imagined began to form. Yes, there were times I was afraid to “be intentional” not wanting to subvert a new beginning. Each decision, intuitive or deliberate, was met with patience. I put the work aside and came back to it another day; played with it for an hour and then, went for a walk.

To continue to encourage my ability to create step-by-step, piece-by-piece with respect and composure is my task for this season – this month as we enter into the time of hunkering down for winter. If I can allow myself this time, spring will be a joy.


AS I AGE: free verse

As I age, I would like to sit across from my mother at the kitchen table, the one with the red and white enamel top the table where she rolled out her dough for Christmas baking, year after year; where she set our hot meals before us every day – except Sunday.

I would like to talk with her, mother to daughter, about our families, our marriages, and her grandsons. I would like to know my enigmatic father, her spouse, through her eyes and with her heart. To hear tales of my sisters as toddler, her girls. These sisters I love and who were born years before me.

There is so much I ache to know, but mostly it is this: to have my mother close by me again with her smile and scowl in equal measures, the sound of her voice surrounding me. Simply to be in her presence; to share our lives as women do.

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Rake & gather: a poem

All the detritus. Stifling.  Its pungent scent and brown-black spores.

Withered and toxic. Acids eats away at the tender shoots

  Gaillardia and coreopsis. Their sunny faces never reach mine.

I scrape and rake with ruthlessness. Over and over.

The hard, green plastic rake bends with my anger.

                    It is all I can do to change the world.

Bending to my will. Reasons to live.

Yes, pungent smells of decaying leaves lay among fungi.

I rake and gather. Rake and gather. Over and over.

It is all I can do to change the world.

More about making the artist’s book

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

Tribute2Seuss

Tribute to Dr.Seuss

Did you ever read his quirky book

While hiding in your special nook,

Or underneath your narrow bed, aloud,

or in your teeny head?

It’s fine to read together, too! (perhaps while learning to tie your shoe?)

If you are six and have a bigger brother,

The younger says one line, the older, the other.

In the end, they’re all read by mother

who goes from one to another, then another.

And then there’s dad who’s always glad (once he starts in fits and stops)

To read his favorite, Hop On Pop!

We smile big. Our mouths get wide.

We shake our heads from side to side.

We read each book. Our tongues get loose.

Oh, thank you, thank you, Dr. Seuss!

Today I was introduced to a contest for which I submitted a very abbreviated version of the story below that I wrote innor of Dr. Seuss ho. His writings dominated our lives during my boys’ childhoods – stories we all enjoyed, and those which I have continued to teach to my older students for their meaning & messages behind the words, such as The Lorax.

A thank you to both Brenda Davis Harsham and Vivian Kirkfield, “WordPress” bloggers.


Hudak, Tina.  Tribute to Dr. Seuss. Not To Be Eaten Editions, 1995.

July4Art.part three

Book Arts: 3

I know and feel this: I cannot go back. Back to former techniques and past imagery.

I am reluctant to do this. Share. Having dragged out my low artistic energy into August, I admit, right here – right now – that it is a “failure.” Did I create something? Yes. Can one call it art? Yes. Did it fulfill me? No. Absolutely not. No way. And here, dear reader, lies the most valuable experience (from which I have yet to dissect, analyze, and learn).  This failure is a teaching moment for my Self.

Daylilysmall

I know and feel this: I cannot go back.

Back to former techniques and past imagery.

I know and feel this, too: I must go forward.


Sketch with watercolor pencils, while sitting on our porch, this summer evening.

July4ART: part two

Book Arts: 2

It is two weeks into July (almost) and I am myself moving very slowly with art; I am rusty, dear friend. My process is akin to the Tin Man (The Wizard of Oz) walking before Dorothy had the good sense to oil his joints. Thus far my stiff hand has lumbered  with pencils to:

  • draw calligraphic lines at a whim
  • color with pencils random places on the wallpaper reproduction
  • repeat these two steps on varying sizes of paper
  • reproduce a pencil drawing of the “key” onto my handmade paper (Why? I am not sure yet!)
  • use a three-hole stitch binding with two pieces of work (the simpliest, of course)
  • relentlessly ask myself, “What am I doing this for?” and “Who needs more stuff to put away?”

Letting go of reason or purpose and responding instinctively is a difficult behavior to regain after years of neglect. This process. This attempt to “make” art. This metaphor for life.


Please note that you may read The Wizard of Oz in a beautiful color, 1900 edition online thanks to The Library of Congress. Click HERE.

July 4ART

Working artist. These words hold an enormous meaning for me. Since 1996 I have not been a working artist, but a dabbler in the arts. Artists work every. Every day they log many hours thinking, creating, destroying, remaking, and revisiting their work.

As a working librarian, formerly a working artist, I have limited time to all but tap the creative side that lays dormant. Last year I cleared away a massive amount of art supplies and papermaking equipment in order to come to terms with personal changes as an artist – my capabilities and limitations. Now, my supplies are limited; I find this exciting. What can I express with what I have at hand? July is my month for art. A summer adventure in concrete limitations, but not those of the imagination.

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My desire, dear reader, is for you to embark with me on this adventure. What do you have, right now, this very moment, in your drawers? Chalk, color pencils, your child’s Crayola watercolors?  I share my beginnings here and now to give you the gentle nudge in my direction –  a friendly push to take pencil and paper in hand. Use nature to inspire you. Play.

Supplies

  • Faber Castell color pencils
  • Strathmore drawing paper, medium weight
  • General’s extra black layout pencil No. 555
  • Found scrap of wallpaper from our farmhouse wall
  • Printer & color copier
  • Seashell
  • Krylon workable fixative (spray outdoors for ventilation)

What you see here

Size the drawing paper to fit through the printer (8.5 x11). Color copy the scrap of 1901 wallpaper onto this paper.  Using my layout pencil to draw calligraphic strokes, and proceeding to color these according to the tones and hues of a seashell. Spraying fixative intermittently as I do not want lines or color pencil to smear, unless I CHOOSE to do this.

 


Check-in with me mid-July and share your process; share your art. I look forward to seeing your work in progress, as you see mine.

subdued excitement with art.3

“The conflict between man and nature seems to have been one of the bases of Western civilization. In Japan, on the other hand, man has usually lived as part of nature, being embraced by it and commingling with it…”

art materials
Selected materials are exacto knife, scissors, stencils, pastels, bookbinding glue, bonefolder, digital scanner.

A downpour with no drama – no winds or thunder; all, silent and vertical. Dusk is misplaced today.

“Sea and Silence” by Deuter is playing softly.  I slice and cut; glue and tear-away; fold and observe.

Browsing through my book collection of artist’s books, long before the Internet, my right and left brain(s) are rattled to life – together.  Did they forget that they were a team during my day job of constant interaction? I fear so. I play with ideas on the assembly of parts, but nothing whole appeals to me. I go to bed with a trust I have not felt in a long time. A trust that “it” will work out.

This is a humbling experience. For as I regain my belief with this small act, there is the larger reminder that nothing is permanent.  It is all for in the now in my life.  Somehow this sense of impermanence brings a great relief as my eyes close, and the cat purrs.

art supplies close-up
I love patterns. While I play the piano with simple skill, it is the patterns of the music that always appeals to me visually.

Doing justice to the nature of the materials is my hope.


 

Oak, Hideyuli.  How to wrap 5 more eggs: Traditional Japanese packaging. New York: Weatherhill, 1984.  Print.