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!

making an impression…

the lovely Griffin

 The lovely Griffin etching press that I was able to buy years ago (with a professional development grant while teaching ) has been patiently waiting in my basement studio for me to return.

plate ready to go

This past week, I had to crank out an edition of 15 prints for a show/print exchange at Pierce College in Tacoma, WA.  I had been meaning to get back to this, but as so often happens, a deadline does the trick.

So… now the ice has been broken and I can keep at it during the summer.

Making a ‘series’ of monotypes is a bit of a contradiction, since each print is unique and can’t be replicated.   What we’re talking about is making 15 individual paintings and then squashing them one by one onto dampened paper under pressure.  The other exciting part of this is that I will get 13 random little prints sent back to me.  What a great idea, and only possible when working in this medium.

laying the paper on the plate

After this brief interlude, I’ll get back to prepping for the 2-day studio tour in June.  Maybe do some prints to expand on the ideas for the new series of grass/weed imagery.  It was a very nice interlude, indeed.

another new thing I’m learning…

My last studio newsletter was a number of months ago- and I like to put out a couple a year. Because my list is nearing 200, and I’d rather not deal with composing in a Word document- which makes the file wayyyyy too large. I’ve decided it’s time to buckle down and learn how to use Mail Chimp.

Which gives me way more functionality
and easier ways for people to opt in or out.(plus did I mention it’s free for a nice small business like mine)

Wow- they provide so much support and tutorial help, I’ll be swinging through the email trees in no time.

But- on a larger note:  it’s challenges like this to the brain that keep us mentally sharp as well!  So, I may never get around to learning Spanish like I probably should- (or maybe that should be Mandarin Chinese?) …  but my little synapses are getting exercised by all the tasks I do to try and generate interest in the work.    So.   Be looking for my latest newsletter soon….

plus, ya gotta love the Firefox cupcake header on my browser!

isn’t that my drawing on the floor?

well, parts of it.  As you can see, I love to erase. Actually, I think of it more as drawing with a skinny stick of rubber.  I just bought a new little gizmo that holds these round white erasers in a holder, and you click it like a mechanical pencil.  Sweet.

But I digress.

fallen crumbs of drawing.. plus a small cobweb it looks like

There are several ways to modulate a line when drawing, which is another way of saying, to make it more expressive and responsive to the subject.

One technique involves learning how to alter the pressure of your touch when you are moving the medium over the paper. Pushing and releasing as the line is moving along, and perhaps turning your hand as you go.

Another method would be redrawing the same line again, but adding bulk or weight in certain places.

Then there is the reductive approach. Which can happen at any time, really.  This involves using an eraser to carve away at parts of a line, or erasing the line and redrawing it slightly shifted to another place.  You can see evidence of this kind of work in Matisse and Diebenkorn, and many other artists’  drawings.  The ghost of the former line creates a visible history of the artist’s process.

this is what brought the end results of all those erasures on the floor… I’ve been carving some lines.   Do you draw?  Is the eraser your friend too?

 

p.s. I think it’s a hoot that there is a Wikipedia entry about erasers!

evolution of a painting…

another piece that might have seemed finished but really wasn’t.  Moving out of former studio into the one at home, there were bound to be paintings that I hadn’t totally wrapped up, but had to get out of there anyway.  This was one. Rewrites are no problem for me!

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I have been working quite a lot with taking things away, trying to find a balance between the tangled elements and an atmospheric, poetic space that envelopes them.

This also marks the end point of these paintings in some way that I probably don’t yet understand. I can imagine that my palette will become darker. I much prefer richer deeper colors,colors that you can’t quite name- and it’s winter, so airy bright atmospheres feel a bit odd.

But there will now ensue lots of drawing, hopefully some monotypes, and some serious ruminating on all sorts of ideas that will lead to the next batch of work. Whether that’s going to be painting or not- I am open to find out.

About that painting I thought was finished…..

Blue Winter Vine 30x32 oil ©2012 Nanci Erskine - finished? yes! (color is also more accurate in this shot)

 

…it’s happened again, another piece that I felt was wrapped up has been up on the painting wall again.

earlier version - with annoying leaf at top and other things I eliminated.... can you find them?

I know how this happens now. Aside from the fact that revision and editing is one of the pleasures of the working process for me.

It seems that I can’t get enough distance on things when working on them- either because I don’t allow myself enough time for simple garden variety rumination, or physical space (until recently,  my studio was about 12 feet long on a good day).

But there is also the space and distance of time- being able to look with fresh eyes at something that hasn’t quite revealed itself.

When I used to teach beginning drawing, and wanted people to really see what they had done, while we talked about the work, I would usually take them out into the hallway.   We’d lean the thing up against a wall, and then walk back about 20 feet to look at an 18 x 24″ drawing.  Now, that is some distance, but it almost takes on another identity. Something glimpsed… all the parts of the whole more visible…. formal qualities and elements standing at attention.

Hard for me to do that now- but, it seems to happen once I photograph a piece and then see it in a much smaller scale on the laptop screen.  Then the faults that are working against what I intended are more blatant.  This doesn’t happen every time, but it’s my version of looking at the painting backwards in a mirror. Flipping it on it’s side or upside down, whatever you employ to hit the refresh button.

So, now I am happy with the painting, and also with the other two – one finished, one almost revised- that are still living on the painting wall.

Authors often talk about the revision process- how many drafts they need to burn through before the prose is clear and the flow of the narrative works.  To me this is the same thing- not being complacently satisfied with what I’ve made, just because it’s a picture.  But not letting it be anything less than a successful painting.