Sol Print

Thank you, Soledad!

Thank you, Soledad!

Just finished my sixth delicious day of creating and printing solar etching plates with Soledad Salame at Sol Print Studios. I’d had minimal, sporadic experience with printmaking before this. In six days I learned a lot about the techniques and how I can use them in my work. I made some good prints and, more importantly, got clearer about my art-making process.

Making a print can be labor-intensive. I found that I needed to take clear, deliberate steps, and that it was a challenge to keep the work area and paper CLEAN! I found the process less “forgiving” than drawing and painting. It’s MUCH harder to cover up mistakes.

I’ve been working primarily three-dimensionally with clay for the last 2 years, so the immersive experience was a good kick in the butt. I got my 2D groove back on!

Small but Potent

I’m getting ready for an exhibition in the gallery on the second floor of the Ma Petite Shoe + Café. It’s a small space but I thought it would be fun to have a show in my neighborhood. It opens on November 6, the first Friday of the month. I’ll be drawing onto the blank wall to the right after you come up the stairs. It will be different from, but reminiscent of, the “Human Soup” drawn installation. I’ll be showing primarily drawings and sculptures. I’ll have some smaller pieces there, great for holiday gifts. I’m also creating a fully illustrated guide to happier, healthier, and more satisfying relationships. I’ll offer tips and strategies for those of us who remain confounded by the search for true intimacy.

Guy Goblets

I made a set of 4 wine goblets that I call “Guy Goblets”. I haven’t used them. Other than vessels, this is the first time I’ve tried my hand at a functional piece. They’re as sculptural as they are functional. It’s as if I gave the “Dirty Little Business Man the job” of holding up a large cup.

The goblet guys have similar body types to the businessmen but their personalities are very different. Whereas the businessmen exploit, the goblet guys are there to serve. The businessmen wear suits and ties while the goblet guys are wearing simple shirts and slacks. The goblet guys engage us; we need to pick them up by their arms if we want to sip our wine. As the liquid is consumed we see his face emerge. We’re looking at each other, actually.

NOT a Halloween piece!

I’m about to put this vessel, without the cat, into Baltimore Clayworks’ Student Show. The reception is Friday, Oct 16 from 6-8. It’s up through Nov 7. I like the way in which the materials and techniques work together. Very often, when those come together, the content does as well. The title, “Bag O’ Goodies And Baddies”, is a play on the notion that if you’re not willing to take on the baddies, you won’t be getting any goodies. This is not a Halloween piece in spite of the cat, the fallen leaves, and the reference to a bag of goodies of any kind. The form looks a bit like a satchel that’s been put down onto a table or, in this case, my deck. The figures move across the undulating surface, unaware of who might be around the corner. This is STILL not a Halloween piece!

Are Pushovers Badasses?

The dictionary defines a pushover as an easy victim. A badass is described in 2 ways:

  1. Bad tempered or aggressive.
  2. Extremely good and impressive, having a very powerful effect.

I’ve shown this piece to you twice already. It’s called Pushovers Alighting. The first version shows them all in the process of touching down, and in the second image some of them have reached terra firma.  In the most recent photo, most of the pushovers are shown having landed, or fallen. In this world, being up and upright is valued more highly than lying down on the ground. The pushovers are actually falling because the masking tape I used is losing its potency. But falling is what pushovers (easy victims) do, right? In the dictionary one of the definitions of fallen is to “come down suddenly from upright position.”

For the most part, pushovers end up on the ground. My suspicion is that badasses are  more likely to remain upright. But sometimes “easy victims” get up, and when they do, they’re probably feeling pretty bad tempered and aggressive, vindictive maybe? definitely miffed about being pushed down. After experiencing being down and figuring out how to get up, they might even end up having a pretty powerful effect on other “easy victims”.

And what happens in the event that a badass goes down? In my mind, pushovers support each other more than badasses do but the badasses are the ones with the resources. Ha! I’d rather be a badass than a pushover but then we all know that we’re gonna go down at some point and we hope that our badass selves are there to help us get back up.

Let’s Call Him James

       "We'll Call Him James", 2015, 8"x4", ink on paper

My Facebook friends who live in the same neighborhood as I do will know the man I’ll be talking about. His name isn’t James but, of course, I can’t use his real name. He’s tall and very friendly with a booming voice when he calls out hello to everyone who passes by. He has a sweet nature and knows a lot about the Ravens and the Orioles. When he crosses the street to tell me about a player being traded for another or a bad call made by a referee, I have to be prepared to spend some time with him. He loves to talk and I think he might be lonely. He doesn’t work. He has disabilities, both physical and mental. I don’t believe I’m breaking any confidences here because you can tell right away by looking at him that he has plenty of issues on his plate.

The other day I was photographing this drawing. I put it on the ground in front of my house so I could use the sidewalk as a background. James called out, “Hey, what are you doing?” He came over to watch. He said, “Wow! Did you do that?” I said that I had. He looked at it for a moment and then said, “It looks like me.”

I felt good about what James told me. I’m always searching for that nugget of connection in my work. It’s like panning for gold. You keep at it and, when someone clearly identifies with your piece, that’s EUREKA!

The drawing is part of the Pushover series, an extension of the work on bullying that I’ve been doing for two years. Instead of on legs, Pushovers sit precariously on rounded surfaces. Some might call this a disability. I’m not sure. Pushovers have the option of coming back up after being knocked around. I’ve heard their booming voices calling out hello to everyone who passes by.

Guy Goblets

I’m creating what I’m calling “Guy Goblets”. They’re approximately 9”x7”x7”, earthenware clay. I’ll be submitting them for consideration to a juried show called “At Your Service”. The one you see here is waiting for the first firing; still pretty wet.

I’ve made sculptural work using clay, and this recent “Bag O’ Goodies” is the most sculptural I’ve gotten with a traditional vessel form. The goblet is my first attempt at a piece that can be used for food or drink. I thought about the “Dirty Little Business Man” right away. He has a stable base and a versatile personality. I made the figure and put a cup on top of his head; too “Carmen Miranda” and too tippy. I decided to put the cup onto his shoulders, which meant, of course, that his head would be inside of and at the bottom of the cup.

I’m just hoping that he won’t mind having wine poured over him.

Really...

I’ve posted these guys before. I made them this summer when I was attending an education conference in Annapolis. They’re part of the Pushover series, which is an extension of the Bullying work I’ve been doing. The title of the piece is “Pushovers Alighting” They’re drawings onto cut up paper plates, and then taped onto pieces of wire using masking tape. When I stuck the wires into the ground, assembling them as a group, they seemed to create the illusion of alighting, to be landing softly onto the ground. Then the masking tape began to lose its stickiness and the drawn pushovers began to touch ground for real.

There’s something about these guys, they pull at my heart-strings, if you know what I mean. Humble materials belying the potency of the image.

Every Which Way

Every which way….. is it this, that, or something else?? I’m not lining up with myself somehow. I’m very busy but don’t have much structure in my life at the moment. I’m not retired yet but I’m not surprised that retirees go right back to work. Of course, an art career never stops unless you want it to.

I’m applying for a residency and they’re requesting a paragraph describing a specific project that I would be working on while I’m there. I don’t generally plan ahead. The work evolves. The Pushovers are an outgrowth of the bullying series, for example. I have ideas that I believe could work but it’s a little like walking in the dark. My arms are outstretched and I’m stumbling to where I think I want to be.

My figures are symbolic. They’re drawn or painted quickly and with urgency. They have things to tell us that are more important than how they themselves look. I’m thinking about a deliberate investigation of the areas in between the figures: tension, communication, power struggle, disdain, love. This is as far as I’ve gotten with this idea. It doesn’t have its teeth yet, but it might!

Where It All Begins

I was having trouble coming up with an idea for this blog so I decided to go where I always go when I’m searching for new ideas for my art. I draw, somewhat randomly. Drawing seems to “draw” out information. It doesn’t always work, of course, and this isn’t the only strategy I have. Sometimes one of these drawings grows into a piece that I will keep. The intention, however, is always the search.

The process is a little like word association games. I begin with an image, doesn’t matter what it is, and I move immediately onto the next one, having been inspired by the first one. The images are usually connected to each other, and it’s possible this will be their only literal connection. There’s no attempt to scale the images relative to each other, or to associate them with narrative. The drawings themselves can be a variety of scales; presumably, the drawing could go on forever. There’s no horizon line or effort to give the images dimension. So it could be any place at any time. 

The Form’s The Thing!

I’ve worked and lived with my characters for a long time. Until a year and a half ago they were inhabiting 2 dimensional surfaces, mostly paper and canvas. As you can see, they’re now populating an undulating ceramic form. It’s a different kind of ride; fits and starts, pauses, and near stops. It’s as if they become part of their own topography when I scratch the drawn lines into the surface of the clay.

The forms are the challenge now. Where do they come from? In what ways do they serve the figures? How can I continue the sculptural search and ensure the vessel’s function as well?

Stay tuned…there will be more!


2D to 3D

I was a 2D girl until recently. In my art that is.  When I started working with clay two years ago I had to consider the fact that it took up space. It began as a 2D surface in-the-round and still is, to a certain extent. I’m getting closer to finding a marriage, if you will, between the 2D and the 3D. They have to require each other.

I dig into the surface to find the lines, the drawings of my figures trying to make sense of their world. I apply the color as backdrop and suggestion of history. All of this is familiar. What’s new, is the 3D form. I’m flying by the seat of my pants with them at this point. I like working on clay that has a rough surface and undulating contour. And, of course the vessel needs to be free standing. After that this new world opens up all sorts of possibilities.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools 21st Century Learning Conference

I’m on day 4 of a 5-day conference. The objective is to get teachers and artists to collaborate, with the intention of bringing Arts into the Common Core Curriculum. This is a bunch of people who believe in the power of the arts to engage kids. And when the curriculum doesn’t allow much time for art classes, then how can we bring the kind of learning that happens through the arts, into the academic arena. I’m not alone in my belief in the power of the Arts to make us happy, well-rounded people. And I know it’s a stretch, but maybe we’ll get along better and War won’t be an assumption.

I’m working with a group of teachers from a variety of schools, each coming from different disciplines and age groups. I’m working in particular with a fourth grade teacher. We’ll be crafting a lesson similar to what I did with Kids At Hope.

I’m meeting and working with people I most likely would never have met. I’ve made friends, learned about myself personally and as a teacher and artist. I’ve also learned a lot about Arts Integration. It’s complicated; engineers are working with musicians, medical professionals are teaming up with visual artists. We can no longer afford to exist in one discipline, it’s all moving too quickly for that.

I’m pictured with an old friend of mine, a founder of the Teaching Artist Institute, part of Young Audiences. She’s moved on and has started an International Arts Integration Institute. Exciting stuff.

Shouting Sticks

You know those times when you’d like to speak up or out firmly and it would be rude or awkward, or for some reason or another you just don’t do it? Well, here’s your answer. Shouting sticks! You can parade around with it by yourself, or, if you’re lucky enough to have a friend who will do it with you, have a small parade. Invite your neighbors.

These sticks are 16” long. The faces are approx 4”x3”x2”, and the material is pulp paper and Papier Mache. The features are drawn with ink over acrylic paint. This size works for parading but isn’t handy for everyday situations. I’m working on a wallet-sized version. We all have too many cards in our wallets already but this one could be the most important one you own.

You’re at the movies, someone behind you won’t stop talking, you’ve asked them to stop, but they continue. You weigh your options. Complain to the management (too much trouble, not your style). You see an empty seat and decide to move but you’re reluctant to do it because it would mean that they had won! You’d love to give them what-for but it would disturb other people. This is when you reach for your wallet, pull out your laminated picture of a shouting stick, rub it firmly, stick it back in, and settle yourself comfortably in your new seat.

The sticks will be for sale on my website here. They’re $75.00 plus handling and shipping. Stand by for the handy wallet-sized version!

The Little Things That Form Us

I’m calling this triptych, “Business Man Formations”. They’re in formation. I’m using the businessman somewhat randomly; it could be anyone really. The specific titles are, from the left, “Straight Across”, “Up/Down”, and “Askew”. The pieces are 30” square and relief print on handmade paper.

I have, of course, created patterns as well as formations. Pattern, however, is too static a term to use for what I’m getting at. Formation is a noun but it contains a verb, and there’s the inherent presumption of movement. I’m looking at the little things we do that go into forming and characterizing our lives. These are things we might do unconsciously that go into forming our underpinnings. Do you avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks? Do you whistle? Hum? Carry an umbrella? Do you eat chicken? What little things do you do almost daily?

I’m not concerned with serious issues here. “Straight Across” could refer to preparation for the day. I like clipboards and often carry one with me. In “Up And Down” I‘m considering the decisions we make, all day long. Heads or Tails. “Askew” is about the things we do to comfort ourselves, to maintain working order. I rub my fingers together, for example.

As I’m writing this I’m thinking, hmm…this might be sounding like a load of you know what. When I made these prints I wasn’t thinking about the things I just said. I’m not doubting what I said, just wondering about it. I do believe, however, that when we create something we often surprise ourselves.

Quartet of Pushovers

I just finished this group of 4 drawings (30” square, oilstick on handmade paper), and was wondering why anyone except for me would care about them. I’m not being disparaging; I like them a lot. The Pushover is part of the Bullying series I began 2 years ago. He’s based loosely on the clown toy that pops back up after being pushed down.

We all have opinions about bullying and know how extensive and pervasive it is. Most of us have experienced it as well, either as a bully, the bullied, or both. I’m not saying anything new. What I’m doing is trying to flesh out the idea of this character. It’s my job as an artist to communicate my connection to my subject in such a way that I invite the viewer to consider old ideas in new ways.

Pushovers Unite (A Quiet Revolution)

I’ve started creating what will be a minimum of 100 sculptures I’m calling pushovers. I’m using red earthenware clay. Each pushover is approximately 7”x5”, and fits nicely into your hand. I’m showing you 2 detail shots of the future installation. I’m calling it “Pushovers Unite (A Quiet Revolution)”. The project is an outgrowth of the bullying work I’ve been doing for about 2 years. It’s about the little guys who have been pushed around, and are now fed up, ready to pool their resources, and create a united front.

The sculpture is loosely based on the clown toy that, when pushed, bounces right back up. If you’ll forgive a little anthropomorphizing, the pushovers have a spirit of willingness as they tenaciously continue on in spite of their many challenges. 

Guy as...

I looked up the definition of “hapless”. The dictionary says it means “unlucky” or “unfortunate”. I guess I see these guys as unfortunate, but the word “hapless” just seemed to fit them and their circumstances. Less hap. I enjoy the idea of using the figure to stand in for common symbols. They exist in their own worlds with no horizon line or specific light source. The figures relate back to the human form, of course, but their purpose is to suggest ideas that go way beyond the drawings.

Of the four symbols, I most closely identify with the guy as the check mark. I like lists, and I like checking things off the lists even more. The check mark indicates that the job is finished and it’s okay to move on to what’s next. So it’s an optimistic symbol that insures there’s a future. It can also mean that you got the answer right.

The minus sign is just that: minus. You had something and most or part of it is gone now. It could have been something or someone you needed to let go of anyway.

The plus sign, even though you’re not alone, looks awkward. The triangle looks even more awkward, for different reasons, of course.

For me, the figure is a vehicle, a means to an end. They’re the players in my productions.

Eureka!

I started working with clay two years ago and I believe this is the first time I’ve successfully integrated my drawing with this complex new surface. I’ve had lots of failures and, even worse, so-so outcomes; not bad enough to throw away, but you don’t want them around, either. And you can’t just paint over them like you can with canvases.

In my experience, making art is about showing up, doing something, even if you’re just sitting there with it. It can be hard work, and rarely cost-effective. When people ask me why I do it, which isn’t often thankfully, I can be at a loss for words. The experience of seeing this piece after the final firing, however, was a good reminder for me about why I make art. The “forces” came together and surprised me. I felt warm and fuzzy inside. I stepped beyond myself with this piece, and learned some things along the way.

Relations

When I don't have much time for large projects, I draw. And I always use the figure in some way. I wonder what motivates us, why we do what we do, and what makes us tick. My ideas usually come from what's going on inside of us. I'm not interested in what we look like but am intrigued by where we are relative to each other and the ways in which that can be shown. In the Venn Diagram image YOU are in the middle and the people in your life appear around you. It can be a tricky tool; just when you thought you were pretty close to a sibling you realize that they're way out on the furthest circle from you.

The quadrant image called "Relations" is intended to show how spatial distance and slight shifts in body position can give us a lot of information about what's going on between the two people.