Celebrating 20 years making art in Colorado…me, a cat, and a non-profit.

Image 3.5 x 3.5, ink, pastel, acrylic, pencil. If you fill out a short survey at any studio tour location, you might win this little gem. A monotype, w/ mixed media, by yours truly. I have 8 more all unique, framed and ready to go that will be on my wall if you visit my studio.
Image 3.5 x 3.5, ink, pastel, acrylic, pencil, matted and framed.
If you fill out a short survey at any studio tour location, you might win this little gem. A monotype, w/ mixed media, by yours truly.
I have 8 more all unique, framed and ready to go that will be on my wall if you visit my studio.

So- this is the longest I have ever lived anywhere in my life.  20 years!!

I still remember our frantic 3 day trip out here, looking high and low for a house to rent or buy for our impending move from Maryland.

Last month, I helped a local land trust celebrate their 20-year anniversary of working on land conservation in Northern Colorado.  And I’ve been thinking about my own history as well.  Having a helper in the studio scanning slides that go back more than 20 years ago; preparing for the annual two day studio tour, and contemplating what treasures I still have hidden away in drawers and paintings racks must have set off some sort of nostalgic chain reaction in my brain.

At the same time, I’ve been realizing many artist-types I know in town are up to 20 years younger than me. Woah!  and because of this, there’s a dissonance between what I want to accomplish now in my career  and what other artists do.  It’s just that we are at different intersections, looking at different destinations on the map.

I came here with my family, after bouncing around the country for a few years.  First, finishing grad school in Iowa, heading out to Washington state for an informal residency at a former professor’s house, then teaching at colleges in Kentucky, Virginia, and near Washington, DC….. I got an offer to head west, and another round of packing and moving ensued.
I ended up teaching full time in the drawing area of Colorado State for 6 years, and then decided that tenure did not call to me, so I quit. Yeah I know, !!!??? throwing long term security down the tubes?  But in a rather soul-crushing environment, I’m convinced my work would have suffered.  (I did go back for a few terms of part time teaching, because that was the part I did miss.)

When I quit teaching full time, it was great weight off.  I had more time to paint finally. I think it was a great time for my work, and career. There was a quirky little space behind a used furniture store that was my studio.  I exhibited in several commercial galleries and universities, was selling work regularly, did visiting artists gigs, won competitive arts fellowships, even tried my hand at the Cherry Creek Arts festival.

But…while I wasn’t looking, some things were shifting.
First- dot.com bubble bursting, (bad news if your primary gallery is in Seattle) then galleries began closing, recession-induced malaise began creeping in.
Previous to this, I had not been interested much in having anything to do with the local public art walks, open studios, etc.  That changed a bit when I rented a space in a (then) vibrant art space, and suddenly had access to other local artists and people walking through the building every First Friday. I began selling my own work. Over time, I ended gallery affiliations, and began a process of re-tooling.
Now, I’m happily “self-representing” my work, learning and using new skills. I try to find good homes, whether public or private, for what I create.  I ponder having too many pieces of art work lingering around when I check out. I don’t care about gallery representation. I paint what interests me, but don’t have to churn out an arbitrary number of pieces each year to ship off to an unknown future.

If I get old enough, I may put a sign out by the curb…..”free art to good homes”, or have a really colorful bonfire, or put them up on the walls of a skilled nursing facility.   The work will have already served its purpose, which is taking me on my own visual journey.

Oh yeah.  The cat?  Our 20 year-old Lily, who hangs in there, despite kidney disease and 6 years of daily infusions to keep her functioning.  Together, we make adjustments, we have set-backs, we take naps in the sun, and we poke around in the dirt.

Come see us June 2 and 23rd during the free Fort Collins studio tour, and help us celebrate 20 years of being here.

the studio tour approaches- better get those elves busy!

Special events volunteer job finished – check!
Finished helping a former student with her 5th grade art students’ “trash animals”- check!
Garden pretty much planted – check!
Studio intern on board – check!

studio tour painting, Nanci Erskine, grass paintings
a peak at a corner, before this one got stretched. This piece will be in the Studio Tour exhibition at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, opening June 14th

Now, on to getting paintings finished, framed, perhaps some pastels drawings….maybe some prints made… (just met a printmaker from MO, who can show me a new non-toxic process)

I’m lucky this year again to be sponsored by Legacy Land Trust for the FREE weekend artists studio tour. June 22 and 23rd.
AND I’ll be donating 10% of the proceeds from the weekend to the land conservation efforts of this small but mighty organization.

And…I am looking forward to having some help with studio/documentation/database tasks.
If you come by for the tour weekend, you will meet my intern, the amazing Ali. If you speak Mandarin, she will also make you feel right at home!

Brick by Brick… Am I easily distracted or do I just have lots of good ideas simultaneously?

bricksI’ve been working in my home studio for about 2 years now- and enjoy several things about it.
•No rent.
•More space.
•Obviously closer to home-  I can go work anytime- for hours or 15 critical minutes.
•I can do the studio tour more easily.
•Everything is stored in one location.
•I have separate work areas set up for painting, drawing, printmaking, and desk work.
ah….. it’s the last one that might be a mixed blessing.

Desk area Ever the multi-tasker. Listening to a lecture by Daniel Ariely while reworking some monotypes with various media.
Desk area
Ever the multi-tasker. Listening to a lecture by Daniel Ariely about Irrational behavior while reworking some monotypes with various media.
Drawing Wall Lots of pending ideas, and a couple pastels up on the wall.  Finally using that black paper that's been in  my flat file for years.
Drawing Wall
Lots of pending ideas, and a couple pastels up on the wall. Finally using that black paper that’s been in my flat file for years.
Painting Wall Warpping up the large grey one, and several 8x10's coming along.
Painting Wall
Wrapping up the large grey one, and several 8×10’s coming along.

Because when I have several ways to work, of course I have several things going on at once. And they all interest me. And they are all mere steps away from each other.
uh oh
but over the years of working this way, I have become used to this  – everything eventually gets done… even if they all stagger towards the finish line at different speeds.  Being able to trust this is important. The author Daniel Pink says he believes in the simple action of showing up- working brick by brick-  how showing up every day becomes a cumulative effect.
SO… perhaps waiting for inspiration is lame-  we’ve oversold it (part of the mystique of the ‘artiste’?) and been undersold the PRACTICE
Or as Dave Hickey so aptly put it- “A frenzied, vague, emotional response just means your hand is moving in a pleasantly abandoned fashion.”  This is art as therapy.

The hand and eye working in response to how you think and feel about something  (idea/subject) takes more time and effort.

Being able to live with ambiguity and incompleteness- knowing that all the little incremental steps do add up to work that is resolved and also has a deeper history. That’s a tougher task.

brick by brick  –  that’s just the way I roll.  If you keep adding enough bricks- pretty soon you've built something substantial!

A View inside my Studio

It’s a Saturday, P1020635when we were expecting six inches of snow to be on the ground, but no such luck. While I’m ruminating on deeper subjects to write about here, I thought I’d give a glimpse into what’s on the walls and under way in the basement.

I am usually working on more than one piece simultaneously.  It’s a bit like cooking a complex meal.  You are aware of various things simmering, waiting to be prepped and you jump in when something is needed. You are aware of the sequence of steps you take as they overlap and build towards some kind of conclusion. You act on impulse, you act on experience. P1020647

The two large pieces might eventually be stretched. And the small ones on the right are a continuation of the “Grasslands” series.  (bonus- I recently got a new cart to store painting supplies and it rolls around so nice and is just the right height for me)

Working with oils asks for patience and a lot of reworking the way I use it.  The larger pieces with so many stalks and movements in space also call for keeping it all straight in my conscious mind. I am creating a maze of overlapping elements, and also monitoring the overall movement/balance/spatial qualities/color…etc…etc.  What appears to be spontaneous and instinctual can also ask for many small decisions- over and over.

Over-under-over-under, repeat.

Fort Collins Studio Tour

Wayyyyy too hot to paint outside on the public art project.
I know- I’m a wimp- but since I can’t sleep well, getting up early enough to put in a few hours has been a challenge to say the least. That’s OK. Rode my bike around to see what’s up in a few studios of friends/acquaintances around town. The studio tour in Ft. Collins used to be organized by the local “contemporary”art museum, and just made a reappearance this year. I was not too keen on signing up since my studio had just moved home, and I kind of saw this as just another First Friday multiplied. ie: Art tourism. Some nice interactions, but nothing too tangible to show for all the time, effort, money spent. OK- I’m a cynic- so kill me.

But it did allow me to pop in and see the working space of several people I’d lost touch with.
Elizabeth Morrisette’s lovely above-garage space, with a great little deck off the side, accessed by a spiral staircase.
She’s an inspiration for recycling in creative ways!
Then it was on to check in with Susan Sternlieb. Spirited platters and serving dishes with unique hand stamped and colored designs. And before heading home, Carole Hossan who has some lovely rabbit themed watercolor/ink wash pieces, as well as her incredible calligraphy on display.
It’s always intriguing to see how others mesh (or don’t) their working/studio life into the home. Anne Bossert and Micheal Allison were the most obvious examples. They both work at home, and there seemed to be a seamless integration of their work and home decor/environment.
Loved the colorful walls too! Nice work everyone!

What is a studio…. are we there yet?

yes there's crap everywhere.... but it's getting better

I was discussing the notion of “re-invention” with some friends… and it seems that’s what going on here.  At one point in the not so distant past, I was in more of a funk…

well, you put out  a thought, and all of a sudden you have company. My “perhaps it’s time to quit painting” thought brought a response from a grad school friend, and two other local artists…  we all seem to be in a quandary- either feeling the life and art sucked out from teaching demands, or, what…. questioning the point because there’s no audience for what you do,  questioning how professional you can be if you hardly ever sell what you do, finding yourself tempted to pander to folks wanting very “affordable” prices

Then, I finally realized that I don’t want to stop making art, I just want to shake things up a bit.

First week without a space I’m renting outside of my house.  No more retreat from the domestic environment. No more being gone for hours each day.    Now I get up and don’t have to plan on leaving to go downtown- I just wander down the stairs!  Still putting things away and getting organized… I am one of those people who has a hard time working in chaos…. but looking forward to drawing more, getting reacquainted with my etching press, spending more time reaching out to new audiences for the completed work and generally mucking around with all sorts of things.

best Christmas present everrrrr / expanding the painting racks