Check it out! The SHOP is OPEN with FREE shipping.

  • Channeling Willem and Karen

    On: August 26, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, How To's, Studio Journal
    Views: 638
     Like


    So The Plan was this: trade a piece of my art for one of Karen Koch’s and alter it mightily as in Erased DeKooning by Robert Rauschenberg. (You who need the thrilling and informative backstory are encouraged to see Karen’s blog and my previous post, the one just before this one, which will connect you to the other two previous posts…so just scroll down…as always, I’ll be right here when you get back!)

    I have concocted this lidded ceramic container recalling some of the shapes and textures of both my work (the Soap Bubble bottle) and Karen’s. It has been bisque-fired and is ready for more decoration. My plan was to add colors and patterns not to exactly replicate Karen’s lovely little piece, but to riff off of it in 3D. Could I do that with the decidedly less-wieldy underglazes?

    Apparently not. My first brushings were tentative AND pretty ham-handed, if that is possible! I hated them. But the hate was well-utilized because, all of a sudden, I remembered that DeKooning spent eons scraping his paint off of his surfaces, painting more and applying absorbent newspapers, and scraping and applying, scraping and applying. Thank You, Willem! I just got creative permission to do less than rinsing it all off and starting over, but to do more than piling on more colors in hopes it would get better.

    Enter the sanding screen as seen in the first photo up top. I LOVE this thing! It makes Instant Old surfaces. Off I went outside with a mask (because you don’t want to breathe ceramic-anything dust) and ever so lightly and randomly scraped and altered the surface I had thickly painted.

    It got better! I started to feel the rhythms of Karen’s piece, titled Purple Music. I thought about music. I wondered what Karen was listening to when she made it. (Karen?) I put the Real Jazz station on the satellite radio, literally caught the vibes, and painted and scraped and scraped and painted.

    Eventually I broke out the underglaze chalks and pencils. Betchadidntknow they had those, right? For we who love that dry, calligraphic surface, they are heaven. AND they smudge good, too! The bottom photo shows the piece nearly done. It is altogether more playful and rhythmic and totally has the effect I was wanting. Whew!

    So, I leave us right here with just a few more steps to go: clear glaze wash and the final firing, with an important twist in the works. Stay tuned, kids!

    share this post:
    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
    Read More
  • Shhhhh! Creative Radio Silence

    On: August 23, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Community, How To's, Studio Journal
    Views: 626
     Like



    It is pretty much true for all of us with Right and Left Brains: I find I can’t talk and create at the same time. I can talk before (What’s the Plan?), on breaks (How’s it Goin’?), and afterwards (Here’s the Deal), just not during. As a matter of fact, I enjoy watching the demos of creative instructors because there is often a point where I can almost see them switch brain hemispheres and pause their verbal instructing in order to get the demo piece to the right artistic place. Makes me glow inside with recognition.

    For the past week I have been in the silent During phase with the DeKooning/Rauschenberg-inspired art exchange which I am involved in with Karen Koch. (I have described the swap’s progress and premise in my previous posts of 8-17-09 , “Creative Timing” and 8-12-09 “Art Swap, What If?”) I have been quietly and happily deploying my Big Idea, step-by-achin’-step, and have been unable to make words about it. Yet, I also know I need to come up for air in order to document this fantastic experiment for me, for Karen, and for every other interested soul out there. I’m currently on a creative break, so I will recount the tale as it has unfolded so far.

    As of today: the first bisque-firing is cooling down! I lifted the kiln lid and peeked and the piece made it through without self-destruction, always a positive sign. Now it can never revert to earth again, having passed the point of no return in order to become a delicious, absorbent ceramic canvas for the rest of the decorations I have planned for it. I am relieved and blessed to create another day.

    So let’s take those photos up top, have ourselves a pictorial, and see what silent changes happened last week.

    Top: The wet signature on the bottom of the work, a ceramic tradition. The idea is that if the piece is inscribed while it is still unfired, the artist was actually present. While there is no problem with other types of signatures being authentic, this wet signing is just one kind and I happen to prefer it. Sometimes you will see an artist’s chop/stamp pressed in the wet clay, sometimes a painted underglaze signing, all perfectly wonderful. This one includes a date and an inscription which might be the first in the world to include a Twitter hashmark address!

    Middle: One thing I love to do is give a piece some color before that first bisque firing. It helps ease the stultifying transition from forming to decorating. There is so much waiting around in ceramics, it is a common problem to lose one’s stoke between the making, drying and bisque-firing steps and consequently to be neither in one’s right OR left brain when re-encountering it. I painted some amethyst and white underglazes, only partially mixed, on the whole piece. This serves as an underpainting and helps me regain my place quickly after that first firing. I chose those colors because they are common to both the pieces Karen and I traded, as she so skillfully observed.

    Bottom: Off to the kiln! This morning’s photo shows the piece loaded in the kiln. And, surprise!!! It has a lid, formed from memory to recall the top of the piece I sent Karen! It has been painted with chartreuse underglaze as well as the amethyst/white mix, neither of which look at all like they will when fully fired, part of the flying-blind fun of ceramic decorating. (Oh, and don’t worry, all you energy efficiency sensates, I did not run the whole kiln with just this one piece….about 20 other works were loaded in after this shot, and they survived just fine.)

    So, after today’s firing success, I am charged up and ready to do the decorating work in the coming days. Until then, I will maintain creative radio silence on this project. Over and out.

    share this post:
    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
    Read More
  • Creative Timing

    On: August 17, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, How To's, Studio Journal
    Views: 616
     1


    One of the absolutely, positively, hyperbole-intensified, hardest things for me to learn and retain in ceramics is to wait for the right time to do the right thing to the right amount of clay at the right moisture content. There are delicious names that potters give to describe the stages of clay wetness, and here are some common “cheese names”: brie, mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan. (Hungry?) If you just think of how relatively wet these cheeses are and how they might behave when modeled a la ceramique, you get the idea a teensy bit. For years now, I have come up crying when I tried to get clay to stand and behave when it is brie or even fresh mozz consistency OR when I try too zealously to shape or bend it when it is cheddar or, heavens, parmesan hard. You see those cracks?

    So Creative Timing in ceramics not only includes when the Muse/Genius arrives and tells you NOW!!!! but also includes where your clay piece is at when that alpenhorn sounds. Riding this magic carpet of Creative Timing is part of avoiding the ultimate frustration and embarassment of know-better failure as well as grabbing the soaring, roaring upwelling of spirit and plain ol’ fun that nailing it gives. And I suspect that speaks true in any sport or creative endeavor. Probably even poker.

    That said, I am full of ceramic pertinacity, so slowly, slowly, slowly I have gotten better at the Waiting Game. Yes, it is possible to rewet dry clay and to dry out wetter stuff, but it is totally sweet to have the rhythm in place, because then it matches the creative surges that might be accompanying the reason I am in the studio in the first place!

    So, this directly applies to what I am doing in my Art Swap with Karen Koch. There is that Big Idea: take the art she has sent me and rework it in some way so that it becomes new art in the loosely interpreted spirit of “Erased DeKooning” by Robert Rauschenberg. (And see my last post for the most interesting particulars and links.)

    Yet, as I have heard someone who eschews vacations say, it’s because, “Wherever I travel, I take me along,” the bald fact is I am just me, livin’ my day-to-day. Some days I have good ideas and energy, some days I am dull, distracted and dissident. But I really have not survived this long as an artist to mind any of it. I just know to go in the studio regardless of what the finger-to-the-winds of my creative mood reads… and it generally is the right thing to do.

    I stalled in addressing this project today, for familiar, but ultimately dismissible, reasons. Karen and I have agreed to a deadline and deadlines are conducive to showing up, at least to me. Also, the clay was ready for my next impulse. Deadline + clay readiness = dismissible reasons for creative avoidance.

    I wanted to apply a subtle nubbly texture to the bottle form I am working on because Karen, in her note to me, mentioned that she made her art with “colored pencil, paint, and Sharpie marker on patterned paper.” I can’t replicate the pencil, paint or marker, directly, because they would burn out in the kiln, but, hey, I can do texture! So the first shot above is of the homespun fabric that I applied to the perfectly-ready (mozzarella-hard) clay and then rubbed a bit with a nice rounded wooden tool. Second shot is what that left the clay bottle looking like: happily it is reminiscent of patterned paper!

    So it was a few hours well-spent. All in good time, especially in clay.

    share this post:
    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
    Read More
  • Art Swap! What If?

    On: August 12, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 592
     Like



    Oh, what have I done? It all started innocently with a “What if?” And that one “WI?” led to another and another, so that I presently find myself in this fun little puzzlement: How to alter the art sent to me by Karen Koch in the spirit of Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased DeKooning?” (And I take great satisfaction knowing she has the same conundrum over the work I sent her.)

    See, first it was what if I joined a book club organized by artbiz maven Alyson Stanfield on Twitter (yes, Twitter: #dekooning.) We read, more or less together, DeKooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. And what if one of the other readers pondered if any one of us could let our work be destroyed as in “Erased DeKooning.” And what if I tweeted that I thought I could and what if I and that other reader actually did this?

    Fast forward to today: Karen and I have sent each other a piece of our work and are independently gathering our ideas about just what to do. She has blogged several times about it and you can see both works there. What I hope to record here is how I develop my response. So up top you see a photo in my studio with a bunch of slabs of a nice white porcelain-type clay called Geostone, and behind it the work (on the right) and card and envelope that Karen sent to me.

    Below that photo you see what I did with those slabs today, a beginning container of some sort. I DO have a Big Idea, which I got in the shower, but I won’t spill it all out right now. Let’s just see what happens and I will make posts as I go.

    What I think makes this a bit more difficult than just making OR destroying one’s own work, or even trading privately with another artist:

    Goes against the creative grain a smidge. Need to stretch, though, and that is good.

    Feels wrong to wreck someone else’s work, even with permission. Again, more stretching. Still feel a strong urge to honor this destruction. Make it holy, even.

    This particular experiment is being done in front of an audience of sorts, as both Karen and I are posting and blogging and tweeting and emailing and showing and telling and talking to many other people about it. Although it was born in a public forum, it did not occur to me that this would be the case when we traded and created, so the watching eyes and ears add another factor. Fine, so the performance ham in me can come out and play too! It’s been awhile.

    This is definitely NOT like the “Erased DeKooning” because of the two-way exchange and the fact that we were not intending to replicate that. We are more interested in seeing how it feels to let go of an end product, something we both cared enough about to not erase/edit ourselves. “What if….” is a pretty endless proposition.

    share this post:
    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
    Read More
  • Local Talkers Close Up

    On: August 6, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 625
     Like


    Taking a closer look at two of the small face jugs I am making all this year, as described in my previous post. On top is Week #16 and below Week #20. I affectionately call them Bland Man and The Dude. They both were unusual experiences in the making, and that is is why I am featuring them. (You are able to see front views of them in the group shot from my last post.)

    There are typically four faces to choose from each week in the Local Talk column. I am often magnetically drawn to just one and, while I don’t decide for sure until I am actually sitting down with the wet clay to make that week’s jug, it doesn’t change all that often.

    Bland Man was my response to NOT getting any buzz going that week. (No offense to any of those folks featured in that column!) This project has always been more about responding to what I see rather than creating a portrait, but even creative responses benefit from close observation of the details. No matter what I did, nothing niggled or intrigued. What else to do but to go with that then? I am happy I did. There is something timeless in this simple little jug. It has whimsy and wisdom and a calm abiding sense that recalls more ancient art. Bland Man, then, is a tiny little joke, really. Beneath that calm exterior lies….

    Now The Dude I talked of last May in the Mother-Daughter Double Jug post. If you recall, I was tempted to make another two-person jug, but the angles were wrong, so I went with this covered-up but still full of personality (or attitude?) young guy. And, usually I put the week’s number on the neck or hair in back, but the big ole “20” got pressed into the front of the cap. There is swagger and self-satisfaction in this one for both him and me.

    Of the six weeks I let this project ride while I studied ceramics at Skyline College in San Bruno with Tiffany Schmierer, the Thursday columns lined up on my studio wall like fence posts. I spent time studying them yesterday. I mentioned before that I had never seen anyone mugging in a Local Talk column…well, dear readers, I have a Mugger for you. I also have the lovely face of a local classical sculptor who teaches European methods (gee, am I intimidated? Nah.) And there are LOTS of people in sunglasses because it is summer in Santa Cruz! Not quite sure what will develop because of that. We’ll all know in October’s post.

    Like I also have said, nearly all are smiling or doing something to make ME smile. Such a gift. At mid-year I am very pleased with this project and looking forward to bringing it into its fullness. I consulted with Tiffany about applying colors and glazes, so I even have some insight into where I will go with that when they and I are ready. It all feels just right.

    share this post:
    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
    Read More
  • Local Talkers Class Picture Day

    On: July 31, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 657
     Like

    It’s been fun thinking up how to show you all thirteen weekly small face jugs from the second quarter of my 2009 year-long series based on the Local Talk column in the Local Rag Called The Good Times. It’s basically a face-a-week proposition I have been working, working, working.

    But ever since hitting the half a year mark in June, at 26 weeks, I have been letting the columns pile up and taking some time away while I did a six-week summer intensive at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA with Tiffany Schmierer. (Much more wonderfulness on that later.)

    This group shot is reminiscent of an elementary school shoot: line ’em up on some risers and try to capture everyone looking their best. Obviously, some have misbehaved! Love that.

    I also have stylist tendencies, because I put them all on a 2×4 on the laundry room water heater. Let’s go urban funk. It excites me in some great way to do anything BUT the perfect gallery shot. I’m saving that for when the whole series is decorated, glaze-fired and complete. Which is, gee, a whole six months or more away. I’ll wait. In the meantime, I will photograph whatever and wherever I like.

    So here are their sweet and lively bisque-fired faces. What I have learned in the Second Quarter is that the smiles really speak to me, even if they are “window smiles.” I know I talked about smiles in a previous post, but responding to them goes deep and satisfies.

    I also have to admit to understanding my work better when viewed through a lens, blogged about and published. It’s a bit like putting a frame on a painting because it sets it apart and allows another understanding of it to come forth. So does good lighting. So do 2×4 water heater risers in the laundry room.

    I also have learned to stay loose and interpretive this quarter. Hence the Bland Man: I’m sure you can pick him out. But there is also the Temptress and the Dude. (No, not that The Dude, who abides, but a relative.) Such fun.

    I have a few close-ups to post soon. But I wanted to share this Class Photo from today to get things started. It was a great July away..and you will hear me talking about that soon enough…but for now, just enjoy another small body of work that leads to a huge one.

    share this post:
    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
    Read More
  • Quinn’s Traveling Journals Project

    On: July 10, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 633
     Like

    Those two (formerly) blank journal pages up there were mine to do anything with: write, draw, apply thin collages… whatever called me. I had a deadline I wanted to honor before mailing it back to Quinn McDonald in the padded envelope provided, but that was it. I took my sweet time and for once was blessedly serene. No Blank Page Problem here! I was in the tree-stand waiting to trap some lovely creative prey. I was drowsing at the Old Fishing Hole, knowing I would lightly spring into action when I felt the niggling idea on the line. I’d say it was deliciously downright recreational and a grand way to allow art in.

    Since this was the Unthemed Journal #3568 from the Traveling Journals Project, the only thing I felt vital to the effort was my well-considered and deep authenticity. Oh, and don’t fuss. Yeah, yeah: go deep in the most spontaneous way possible! The more this thought grew, the more it seemed the pages needed to be about a moment, and not much more. I wanted an enso, a Japanese brush circle. That much was settled.

    Here came the technical, logistical, physical, spatial, practical, formal, artful problems shuffling in their predictable queue right behind that enso-shaped wish. I kept on waiting. I invited them to my campfire, my drum circle, my tea room. We got along great. They left, tipsy and sated, their ears ringing a bit and I received turquoise and amber, opals and jade!

    They (by now very old friends) suggested that to make an enso in an unthemed traveling journal I use: high contrast, blankish simplicity, pen stippling, my own handwriting, label machine printing, red, humor, and a tiny surprise, but not to plan it in the slightest, just begin. The real-time making was over in, say, 27 minutes. Sweet.

    May I recommend you give yourself a similar creative gift? Sign up for one of the Traveling Journals: Unthemed, Travel, Dreams, and/or, if you’re near Quinn, Summer in Phoenix. You’ll see how by clicking on that link in the second paragraph up there. You also can see all the other pages completed so far. Quinn is definitely in my emerging online family, and I told her I loved doing this so much, to please put me on the lists for Travel and Dreams. Maybe I will see you there.

    And, thanks, Quinn, for letting me use the photo you took, since I forgot to!

    share this post:
    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
    Read More