Serial Muralist

So now I am a muralist.  A serial muralist. LOL! I just finished a commissioned mural for a dog trainer/pet sitting business. Diana had recently installed a large shed for her new alpacas and wanted the back of the shed to  beautify her property.  Her home-owner’s association (HOA) wouldn’t allow a sign at the end of her driveway, so she opted to have a mural of dogs as a way to indicate to her clients they’d come to the right place.  The shed is 30 feet long, but it is hundreds of feet from the road, so the perspective makes the mural about “sign sized” as seen from the road.

Drawing in progress. Cut-outs of silhouette dogs made the next step easier.

Diana found me through Eugene Urban Canvas, a clearinghouse for muralists in the Eugene, Oregon area. I got listed with EUC because I like painting murals, and frankly, I’ve done a few in my time.

Spray paint around the image cut-outs leave an outline “glow”.

I now have an under-drawing structure.

I started thinking about how many I’d done as I worked on this project and realized there are a fair amount of them stretching all the way back to my high school days when I painted an Arizona desert sunset on my bedroom wall.  Later, in my 20’s, I’d painted a VW Beetle on the garage door of my mechanic as trade for some work on my own vintage bug.  The mural showed the car on a road heading into the coast range mountains, yet another colorful sunset image. Quite a few of my murals have been of sunsets, people seem to really like the color palette of yellow and orange against a gloaming blue sky.

Among some of my murals I’ve painted a fairy princess posed with a crescent moon, a moon over the New York skyline, the city lights of Seattle, ponies peeking out over stall doors, giant horses running across the roof of a barn (at 100 feet long, it can be seen from planes as they land at the Eugene airport), a Star Wars themed sunset, historic images and once, the world series winning Oregon State baseball team. As requested by my client, the baseball mural featured images from the big event and so, sadly, it was painted over when the team won the world series again the following year. Good for them, but it made the mural completely superfluous! It was painted over and something more timeless and generic replaced my work; who knew they would win again so fast? Probably my shortest-lived mural, it was up for less than a year.

You can see this driving north on Hwy 99, just past the Eugene Airport (Oregon) on the west side of the highway.

The entrance to Goss Stadium at OSU… for about a year.

But that’s the nature of murals, they are generally considered public art, so they have to do their job as décor and if that job is linked to a business or a place in time, well, things change and so too then must the mural adapt or perish. I’ve come to accept the transitory nature of murals and have found the ones that last the longest, fit the best into their space and time. I once painted a Tuscan landscape in a client’s craft room, when they sold the house years later, did the mural survive the sale?  When the teen-aged girl who loves horses, grows up and moves out, will her mother still keep the pony visiting over the stall door?  I know my mother did not keep the desert sunset in my teen-aged bedroom; she redecorated and turned it into her sewing room, the sunset replaced with a clothes rack.

I encourage clients to have me paint their mural on canvas or large sign boards, that way if ever a move occurs in the future, the mural can be brought along, or even sold and transferred to a new owner. The Seattle mural benefited from this as the nightclub I painted it for, went out of business and the mural was relocated to another city.

Nine feet long is not easy to transport, but it survived the business!

It’s how I managed to get the fairy princess back, where she now graces my car-park wall. But, it’s also how the same fairy princess was stolen right off the Alpine Market wall and disappeared for a few weeks. She was MIA until the thieves realized they would never be able to display it without advertising their crime and so, late one night, returned her to the back alley behind the store.

Oh where did you go, fairy princess?

Murals have stories to tell, and my newest one is no exception.  While painting it, my client received calls from her Home Owners Association demanding she quit as the mural was unacceptable to them.  Diana had notified the HOA months before that a mural was coming (after they complained about her long white shed) but no questions were asked and nothing more was said about it until the day I outlined the image.  Unfortunately for the HOA, murals are not against the rules, so we continued on, despite further phone calls and a hastily penned letter.  Once again, a mural of mine has generated controversy; not everyone is a lover of the arts.  But when it comes to beautifying your property, it seems some have overstepped the boundaries of good neighbors.  I’m glad I’m not taking it personally that someone called my work “graffiti” before I was even done with it; truly, it says more about them than me.

Blocking in color.

The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense. Pablo Picasso

Clouds are coming along, grass area blocked in.

As for me, I love changes, change is all about new energy and growth. Change is the essence of creativity, and that sometimes takes courage. This time however, the changes that may be forthcoming could possibly be a renewed and updated HOA or if it doesn’t serve the people as it was intended, then perhaps its dissolution altogether?  It depends on what the neighbors say and how things progress from here on out. Diana is not backing down; she loves her new mural!  If you’d like to support Diana regarding the mural, comment below and I will forward your messages on to her.

Just about there!

There is power and energy in art, and sometimes, the bigger the art, the bigger the reaction.

Finished mural, All Wags and Smiles!

Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe and one hand extended into the world, and letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy.  –Albert Einstein

Gone Girl Comes Back

I’ve been thinking about my blog and how I’ve neglected it for so long.  Poor blog!  The longer I stayed away, the harder it got to make myself sit down and write a post.  I’ve been painting, and I’ve been writing, I just haven’t been putting it HERE!

So here’s a brief update:  I hiked in Sedona… and painted this:

Red Rocks of Sedona

Sedona was magical, I came home with a renewed love of the desert and so many more images to put onto canvas.  This is the first, but won’t be the last.

I hiked in the Three Sisters Wilderness with my dear friend, Amira and painted this next image. I struggled with capturing our faces and still feel out of sorts whenever I look at it.  But, I decided to add it to my blog so you can see that while I may personally have trouble with some of my work, I’ve learned that other people LOVE them!  And pieces I love, other people feel somewhat “meh” about. Who am I to say it’s good or bad?  It comes down to your own taste.

Cold July Camp

I was commissioned to paint a beloved family member.  Elkton was an older dog, and his photo’s didn’t do him justice.  I managed to shave off a few years and pounds and drop him into a regal hunting pose.  Here he is, surveying his kingdom:

Elkton the Wonder Dog

And I painted a portrait of my son and his girlfriend.  He was heading out for a job interview and Karen sent me a quick shot of their morning and a glimpse into their thoughts as she titled the photo.  I loved this selfie she took; I had to capture that smirk!

Dressed for Battle

Then I painted a view of my willow that seemed poignant, yet crisp and quietly vibrant. I hung it in the newly remodeled guest bedroom to bring a bit of the outside, inside.

Winter Willow

Followed by a few fantasy images to get in touch with my feminine side and to reflect the deep introspection I had been exploring of late.  I sustained an injury the previous fall that just managed to get worse over time. When you are dealing with chronic, long term pain, it helps to spend time listening to your body.  I kept asking that question…  what are you trying to tell me?  I think my body just wanted me to sit down for awhile.

The Hermit Girl Meditates

Connections of Love

Besides these images, I’ve tooled around with some odds and ends art projects and did some remodeling on the house.  I’ve had to readjust my life in the past year as I’ve been dealing with a shoulder injury that really set me back in my activity level.  You wouldn’t know it by the new flooring and slate tile I managed to lay down, but still, 2017 has been my year of recovery.  I couldn’t ride or hike or do my normal kinds of things, so instead, I took my “Wilderness of Women” paintings on the road.  Literally.  I created a presentation about my art and hiking, how each one influenced the other and gave my lecture/slide show at REI stores from Portland to Medford. It was inspirational for me as well as for others and after it was over, I began to focus on a writing project that germinated from this dog and pony show.  I’ll devote another post to it, later, but for now, this one will have to do.

I think it’s time for this hermit girl to come on out of her cave and say  hello to the wide world of life.

Hello world!

The Wilderness of Women

This winter I’ve been collecting images from the wilderness; photos taken by women.  I’ve made some wonderful connections with women hikers (good old Facebook!) and this has fueled my desire to get back to the back country.  I don’t have much to say about it other than I noticed a trend in these paintings.  That is, I seem to be recreating these images with intense, vibrant colors.  Far exceeding the photos sent to me, the hues are saturated, brilliant, strong and deep.  I suppose I am expressing my own personal intensity when it comes to these remote places even though I have not been to these specific locations.  Yet.

Anyway, it all came together without the fuss and drama I had experienced with Spectacle Lake.  I have no idea why!  Maybe I was just in a better “head space” when I got into it… seems like life is on track right now and my own personal dramas have been smoothed out.  So without much fanfare, musings or stray thoughts, here it is, Mile 2330 on the PCT.  It’s the fourth in the series, based on the photo from “thru hiker” Jocelyn (Patches) Songer.  Thank you my fellow Yankee!

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Mile 2330 on the PCT Oil on canvas 12 x 16

 

In the Eye of the Beholder

Though the artist must remain master of (their) craft, the surface, at times raised to the highest pitch of loveliness, should transmit to the beholder the sensation which possessed the artist.

~Alfred Sisley

I’ve pondered these ideas… is the art in the eye of the beholder, or in the artist’s rendering of that thing, that image, that concept?  Is it both or neither? Is it, as Sisley suggests, a vehicle of transmission?  Art being the thing that carries the sensation, the feeling of the artist to the viewer who can then somehow share in what it was that possessed the artist?

Well, lots to think about there.  And many have.  For me, art is a very personal thing… you, and only you, know what you like.  Sometimes you know right away, and sometimes it grows on you, but regardless which way you fall in the spectrum of like or dislike, no one should tell you what to like.  It’s up to you to decide. For me, I gave up a long time ago trying to please my audience, because that’s an impossible task really, and so, I decided to please myself.

The other side of that same coin is, sometimes, in my own personal work, I may not care for a piece.  If I hate it, I will paint over it so I can get some more miles out of a canvas.  (Most artists are into recycling… even the old masters did it, it’s not a new concept.)  Or I will stash it away as a reminder that not everything I do is gold… far from it!  I really should get rid of some of the old crap, but I’m rather nostalgic about the old stuff… even the bad old stuff.  So, I keep it for me, and show it to no one.

BUT, one day, a friend was in my studio and she gushed over an unfinished piece that I happened to think of as bad enough to recycle. There it was, propped up against the wall waiting for a coat of gesso so I could stop looking at it’s horribleness.  I really disliked it.  However, much to my surprise, she loved it!  Something about the colors spoke to her and when I gave it to her she was thrilled.  I made her day with something that meant very little to me, but meant so much to her.

Now, rather than focus on the part about me handing over something I had no attachment to (as if that makes my gesture less than noble and then less than worthy) focus instead on the part about Maria.  She loved it.  She was happy.  She was so pleased to adopt this little wayward canvas and give it a home.

This was the third time this happened to me.  It took this happening three times before the significance of the act held any meaning.  And that was this: for me, even as a creator of art, am not the sole person to judge the value or beauty of my own work.

While I am making it, while I paint and create, I get something intangible.  And if, at the end, that thing pleases me, then great. If it doesn’t, then that’s ok too.  I still got something from the process.  BUT that thing that I don’t care for aesthetically does not mean that it’s bad.  In fact, someone else may love it.  More than one someone… maybe even lots of someones!

Case in point,  Purple Repose:

Purple repose

Purple repose

I hated this painting.  In fact, I was planning on recycling it but while I was waiting for the paint to dry I changed my mind.  My husband saw it and liked it, so, with a shrug, I kept it.  I hung it in the house and after a while, it grew on me too.  I came to like the blue colors, the broad strokes, the way the horse’s shoulder bumped out.  Later that year, I included it (as a print) in a series of blank greeting cards.  It became one of my best sellers.  People loved it!

The same thing happened with Walker Pass, only in reverse:

North of Walker Pass

North of Walker Pass

By reverse, I mean, this is by far my absolute favorite painting (right now).  I LOVE this piece.  It only got a couple of dozen Facebook “likes”.  Granted, this painting has yet to make it out of the house, but still… my dog snapshots get more “likes”.  I didn’t take it personally, because I truly believe in my heart and soul, that art is a personal thing.  I may take it personally if you tell me you hate it and why it’s awful and say other mean things about the thing I love, but hey, I’m only human and that kind of behavior is mean spirited and small.  You are entitled to your opinion, just keep the details to yourself if you hate something (or someone!) I love.

On the other hand, my next piece, I just didn’t love so much.  It’s not recycle worthy, not by far… you’d never see it if it was.  And I still wouldn’t post or show any piece I found embarrassingly bad, or trite or derivative or unworthy.  So, just because I don’t love it, doesn’t mean I don’t like it.  I may just think of it more as a second runner up.

But, it was a challenge.  I worked hard on this one.  The drawing was complex, the details, intense.  It is the 3rd in my series of images from the wilderness, photos taken by women hikers on the CDT or the PCT.  I’m calling the series, The Wilderness Of Women.  Now, here is where I love social media.  On Facebook, I asked women hikers if they would share with me (for the purpose of painting) photos from their hikes and I got an amazing outpouring of images to choose from.  So, choose one I did (thank YOU, Judy Flexer) and got to work.

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

I thanked Judy online and somehow, I don’t recall how it happened, but Judy kindly sent me a high resolution image of her photo.  I thanked her politely, but inside I was worried.  All those details… how was I going to block out all those details?  “Oh, buck up, Sky… you’ll be fine!” I told myself.  But I was worried.

And so, I bucked up and promptly fucked up.  It became a horrid mess of tiny, detailed, muddy strokes of paint.  Not the sure and swift flight of color that signified I was “in the groove.”  I bravely soldiered on, slogged up one muddy hill and down the next… madly mixing, swiping, swooping, adding, subtracting and aaarrrggggg!!!!  Nothing was working.  I was in utter despair.  So I did the only thing I could do.  The thing I have never done before.  I almost couldn’t believe what I was doing.  I took it off my easel, laid it flat, and poured turpentine over the entire painting.  I took a rag and wiped it clean.  All of it.  Even the sketch.  Gone.

I waited two days to go back into the studio.  I just couldn’t bear to look at it.  I had never scrubbed out a canvas before, it felt like a failure.  But two days later, I was ready to get back to work.  I followed the faint leftovers of pencil lines that were under the first orange outline and redrew the sketch.  Instead of the high resolution image, I went back to my original Facebook clipping.  That picture, I altered to be bolder, more saturated in color than the photograph Judy had taken.  I made it small and took off my glasses to blur the details.  I needed to see blocks of colors, not every single rock and tree.  I put on a favorite CD and lost myself in Spectacle Lake.

This second go round was tricky… I still had some issues and some personal demons to slay, but it finally came together and I was satisfied.  I signed it today, so that pretty much means it’s done.  It may not be a favorite, but it’s good, I’ll say that.  And when I posted it to the woman hikers page on Facebook…. well, it got 75 likes, right off the bat.  Goes to show you… beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Oil on Canvas 14x16

Spectacle Lake on the PCT
Oil on canvas, 14 x 16

 

 

 

The Inspirational Stretch

Where does inspiration come from?  One can never tell, really.  I like to think of it as weather… a storm that blows in strong and unexpected or a misty rain that slowly seeps into everything.  Sometimes you see it coming and can shape it to bond and meld with your own will.  Sometimes however, there are bolts of lightning that make the hair stand up on your head and scare the bejeezus out of you.  I like those moments of inspiration, they are electrifying, thrilling and exciting.  But I also love the slow seep, where an idea builds and builds and before you know it, you’ve created something magical out of nothing.

Inspiration is where you find it.  this frozen puddle makes a cool fractal!

Inspiration is where you find it. This frozen puddle makes a cool fractal!

But lately, I’ve been all over the weather map.  It’s been raining, sunny, stormy, foggy.  And since our Western Oregon weather pattern has been matching my inspirational mood, I’ve been spending a great deal of time outside.  I’ve been hiking and testing equipment and getting ready for a return to backpacking.

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That’s me in the corner… getting in touch with my hiker self.

Maybe it’s all the hiking… or all the thinking and research I’ve been doing, but my muse has kinda skipped out on me.  It seems as if I didn’t have a single idea.   Well, that’s not exactly right… I have ideas but what I want is lightning  bolts.

So, when in doubt, clean.  I straightened the studio, scraped off the old paint on my palette and checked my inventory.  That’s  when it hit me… I was out of canvas!  How did that happen?!

Ok, so I know how it happened.  I’ve been painting.  Duh.   I thought about getting on line and ordering a new batch but I came across some stretcher bars I bought on sale and decided to do something I hadn’t done in quite some time.  Stretch my own canvas.

What’s that you say?  Stretch… canvas??  Well, well, children, gather round.  Way back when granny was poor as… well, a starving artist, she learned how to stretch her own canvas so she could paint.  Nowadays, she usually buys pre-stretched but she still knows how!  All you need is canvas, a wood frame and a staple gun.  I used to grip my canvas like a mad demon, but then I discovered canvas pliers which made all the difference in the world.

Tools of the trade... so to speak.

Tools of the trade… so to speak.

You can use regular duck canvas you buy at a fabric store (if you can find a heavy enough weight for the job) or you can order specialty artists canvas.  They even make pre-gessoed canvas.  Gesso is the sizing that is painted on a raw canvas to prime the surface for paint.  More about that later.

First things first, the frame.  You can build your own, or buy the premade and ready to put together “in whatever size configuration you like” kind.  These slip together at the ends with some clever tongue in groove joints… a couple of taps with the hammer and you are good to go.  Cut the canvas to size, (larger than you need, obviously) then, starting in the middle, staple to the frame.

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Canvas pliers doing their job.

Canvas pliers have a nice wide mouth and a foot to pry along the edge of a frame or stretcher bar. They grip the canvas, you roll them over the edge of the bar and pulling tight, staple the snot out of it! I couldn’t hold the camera, the canvas and the staple gun all at the same time, so you’ll have to use your imagination.  I staple each middle section, turning the canvas as I go, then work the corners in turn.  To get an even stretch, you need to put in a few staples, turn the canvas, do a few more and so on.  Rotation is the key to an even stretch.

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All finished stapling and trimming the excess canvas. I like to wrap my canvas around the edge of the frame and then paint the edges of my work. Eliminates the need for frames.

Probably the trickiest part besides the stretch is how to fold the corners.  How?  Trial and error, my friend, trial and error.  Just do the same thing on each corner, and make your folds as even as possible.  If you are not handy enough to make a neat corner fold, then canvas stretching may not be for you.  No worries though… it is kinda a pain in the ass to stretch canvas.  There is a reason why I don’t usually do this anymore!

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Next step, Gesso!

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Gesso… two types. Cheap and the not so cheap.

Gesso is just fancy primer. You can use regular wall primer but it is usually very thin unless you buy a top of the line product like Benjamin Moore which has some nice primers. Artist quality gesso is made with high quality materials such as titanium, plaster, clay, gypsum and marble dust suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion.  They will be thicker, cover better, and have the ability to be tinted.  But several coats of the cheaper stuff will most likely do the job.

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I use a wide brush that is dedicated to primers as the thick material is hard to wash out and will ruin my finer brushes.

If I had ironed the canvas before stretching I probably wouldn’t have this fold shadow in my fabric.  I thought I could stretch it out, but alas, it is still there.  The Gesso process will eliminate it, since as it dries, the sizing (glues and acrylic polymers) will shrink, further tightening the canvas.

20150117_160246

I paint several coats in perpendicular strokes. Even though this image shows a diagonal stroke, it was just to lay down the Gesso before smoothing it left to right. You can see how thick it is.

As I was writing this post, I stopped to do a little online research on Gesso and was surprised to find a number of YouTube sites that showed how to make homemade gesso with white glue, titanium paint, plaster and of all things, baby powder.  You can save $$ by making your own gesso, but I wouldn’t  suggest following unreputable sources.  Some of the videographers couldn’t even read the label on the Plaster of Paris box, which threw all credibility out the window for me.  However, they are on the right track.  Gesso in it’s most simple terms is white stuff and glue… painted on a surface so you can then paint on something white.  Done poorly, it will flake off and ruin your work.  Done well and it will last hundreds of years.  Keep in mind those old masters of yesteryear didn’t have access to the wealth of materials we can find in our local home improvement store.  So, really, in all probability you are going to be ok no matter what you use!

Finished canvas ready to rock and roll!

Finished canvas ready to rock and roll!

Best part of stretching my own canvas… I can make a non standard shape (this one is about 16″ by 34″ something you cannot find anywhere) as well as the satisfaction of DIY.  And I saved about $35.  Ten paintings later, that’s $350 so not too bad in the savings department. Oh yeah, and I also found my inspiration for my next piece! That lightning bolt was lurking about waiting for me to stroll by. So stay tuned!

Getting back to work… the lifesaver!

What do you get when you mix one month of intensive novel writing with a “holiday” that requires extensive cooking by moi, (all self imposed slavery, I assure you) another upcoming “holiday” that requires more extensive shopping, cooking, as well as decorating and even some furniture rearranging, and an online workshop, and 10 acres of land with livestock to maintain as well as a new obsession that requires tons of research and gear trial?  You get an artist who can’t get into her studio to save her life.

Last night I realized that working in the studio is a life saver in many, many ways.  Mental health being first and foremost, creating art allows me to unravel and unwind my mind from the things that don’t matter and channel that energy into something productive and beautiful.

So I managed to get lost in the studio for a few hours where I made a mandala to get my brain back on track for creating art.  After finishing that last painting of Hope Pass, I wasn’t sure what I was on to next.  Drawing a mandala helped me focus and voila!  This morning I knew what I wanted to paint.

last_mandala

Here’s the magic mandala for now; and off I go, back to work!

Phew! Glad that’s over!

Hurrah and Phew!!   Today I reached my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words in a month. And I am, apparently a winner!  Just like everyone else who made it to 50K words.  My story is not finished, I was bulking up what I thought was the end but wound up adding yet another problem to be solved.  But now that I can actually edit the thing instead of madly writing, looks like it will either be a new cool addition to the novel or axed and I’ll finish the actual story in less than 50K words.

I may post it here in serial form if I get some requests… anyone interested in reading a first attempt sci-fi novel?  The hubby said he liked it, but hey, he is the hubby.  Though I do trust his honesty…. well, you’ll have to judge for yourself.

In addition to my mad writing skills, I took a mandala workshop too.  So, in honor of that, here are the exercises in order as we worked through them:

Day 1, seeing circles and learning about the mystery of the circle!  Medium: twist crayons

20141130_185506 This was a cool exercise in going round and round… I inadvertently made an eye in the middle!  My text above says, once seen, it could not be un-seen.  There I am, on the inside looking out.

Day 1, continued.  The magic of circles… interesting geometrical facts… like how the radius applied to the circumference creates 6 segments that make other interesting shapes when you connect the lines. Medium: Sharpie Markers and colored pencil.

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Day 2, we moved on to lotus shaped mandalas.  Fun!!  Wish you could see the copper colored ink.  Medium: Sharpies and copper ink.

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Day 3 was a self exploration using collage. Never my favorite medium, but the point was to cover up our affirmations that were written below the images.  No thinking allowed…. a good exercise for me!  Sometimes I need to shut it down or shut it up.  My brain, that is.   Medium:  pencil, magazines and matte medium.

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Day 4, just finished.  A Hamsa…. not exactly a mandala, but a wonderful pattern of protection.  Also a fun exercise.  Medium:  Prismacolors, water color pencils, Sharpies.

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Day 5…. well, I think I ‘ll save that for the next post.  Always leave ’em wanting more, said the hubby.  Not that he said it first, but still, a very good idea. 🙂

A few words about Art

OK, I just need to get this off my chest.

The other day I was having a discussion with a friend of mine regarding  what was Art and who are Artists.   I was speaking emphatically on the topic when she stopped me with a question.  She asked me why I felt so strongly about the subject.  I had to think about that one.  It’s true, I do see edges between arts and crafts and artisans and artists.  But when someone asks me to defend my position  it occurs to me that there are two camps on this subject.  The all inclusives and the separatists.  And it surprises me when the inclusives camp is less tolerant than the separatists.  I seem to have run into the idea of “you’re either with us or against us” more often from inclusives, when what I feel as a separatist is, we are all cool doing our own thing, you don’t have to believe what I believe.

This came up because recently there is some movement in my community to start an artists cooperative where we share ideas and develop a place where we can show our work. I wrote another post about how I feel about the whole group art get together, (read here) so I won’t rehash that, but in discussing the community space, we touched upon these ideas of what/who is an Artist?  I especially dislike the notion that all of life is art and art is all things. The idea that art is everything and everywhere is irritating. I’m sorry, not everything is art. Philosophically, if everyone is special, then no one is special.  It’s like saying everything is God and God is everywhere. Okay, well I guess people do say that. Does that mean that Art is God?  Or, God is Art?  Or that Art is our God?  (lol)  Well, enough semantic double speak, here’s the nuts and bolts of what I mean when I say that there is a difference between Arts and Crafts.

But first, let me reiterate: I am an artist who paints and sculpts. I can draw and compose a visually balanced photograph. And I am a crafter who makes baskets, jewelry, what have you. I can also be an artisan who makes lovely signs, builds clever shelves, imprints leaves into my plastered walls.

flatcreekretrievers

Yes, I use my creative abilities in everything I do. So I feel more than qualified to express my opinions that these are  different facets of my artistic ability.  But, if I did only one… like paint, then I wouldn’t call myself a crafter.  Because I wasn’t.  And crafters who don’t engage in creating art for art’s sake aren’t Artists.   They are Artisans. There is a difference and this whole notion of inclusive “we are all the same, we are all artists” is simply not a truth for me.  I don’t believe I have to be on board with this notion to be a good person or to be a good artist or even a good community member.

All the wonderful things we do as humans that are creative and enriching is very important to our psyche as a whole. It’s important to our psyches as individuals as well. But we water it down when we throw it all into the same pot.  Perhaps my hang up with labeling is improper use of labels, rather than the labels themselves.  If we use the word Artist, to represent creative endeavors, than we could all say we are all artists but define our art with a fist name:  Fine Artist, Craft Artist, Fabric Artist, Food Artist, Musical Artist, Wood Artist.  Or, we could continue the practice of using the word Art to describe a unique creative project.

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Are chefs artists? Yes, most certainly there is a huge creative process to making delicious food. But should I invite chefs to an artists gathering? Are musicians artists? Sure, but  should they to hang their instruments on the gallery wall? If we turn it around to examine the logic, should I, as an artist be included in a creative cooking workshop? Not unless I’m there to cook, right?  Should I enter the battle of the bands competition and rhythmically throw paintbrushes at a canvas while singing?

So no, I’m not a chef… and no, I’m not in a band.  I don’t get to call myself a chef just because I can cook or a musician just because I sang in the school choir. I’m not that kind of artist.  Same goes for crafters. Craft is a learned skill and usually makes something useful. It’s reproduce-able by the artisan and  by others just as skilled in their craft.

On the other hand, Art is a unique item and generally is not reproduce-able by other skilled artists. I have my own style of painting, Jen has hers… we are not interchangeable.  Now I happen to know several very skilled artisan basket makers.  And you know what?  Two of them make the same style of basket.  Slightly different to account for their individuality, but it is really the same basket and I can make it too.  Just because I am an artist, doesn’t make my basket art. A basketmaker is a Crafter because they are recreating what someone else designed.  Make a basket out of zip ties, washers and driftwood?  That’s probably Art.   An artist makes something that no one had thought of before… it’s creative and unique and innovative.

It's a lovely basket, and nicely made but it's not Art.

It’s a lovely basket, and nicely made but it’s not Art.  However, the photo may qualify!

 

Here is a wonderful 5 minute TED talk from Laura Morelli describing the history of art and craft. She describes how we came to differentiate between the two. She wraps things up with an oft quoted truism “art is in the eye of the beholder” which, to me, is really  like saying at this point “lets agree to disagree”.  Most unsatisfying, but as a separatist, I can get behind the idea.  Along with the great history lesson was a nugget of truth that I loved: work is elevated to art by being innovative. And I’d have to agree with her on that one. Because if anyone can recreate my basket (and anyone who knows how, can) then it’s not art.  But if you are skilled enough to reproduce my painting, that bumps you up to being a Forger… and the first name of that title is Art.

http://ed.ted.com/lessons/is-there-a-difference-between-art-and-craft-laura-morelli

Want to read more?

http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-art-and-craft/

And finally, my last bit of analogy. Writing. The best works are art, but even then it has it’s own label: Literature. Great literature is unique, different from what came before.  Most likely it’s a work of fiction or poetry. That is to say, made up, and creative because it was created from the writers imagination. Even if it was based on real life. Now, there are some great cookbooks out there. And manuals and text books even! But they are not literature. The greatest cookbook in the world is not high art. It doesn’t diminish a cookbook to not be called literature. But it certainly diminishes the literature to put it in the same category as cookbooks. Yes, it’s true, they are both books, and so is the Physicians Desk Reference. But you don’t see Oprah putting that on her night-stand and my guess is, neither do you.

I rest my case.

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This may not be very good, but it is Art. It is not a Craft.

Aerial Home

A Change In Perspective

Ever since moving to this property I have been obsessed with the idea of an aerial image of the place.  I managed to wrangle a small plane ride over our place early on in our history, and though I took snapshots, they were grainy and awful.  It didn’t matter, I was only going to use the photo to create a map of the land.  The snap shots sat on my drawing table for years… mostly gathering dust, never culminating in any sort of accurate representation of what we had been doing.  Maybe what I had been obsessed with was documenting our progress as we took 10 undeveloped acres and built a shed, a house, a barn, a studio.  Once the record had been made, I relaxed.

Years later, a professional aerial photographer took a nice shot and we bought it, hanging it in a spot of honor in our home.  This fired up the old desire to somehow draw the land myself.  Especially now that I had completed my civil technician program which included mapping software and surveying coursework.  For awhile I thought I should use my newly acquired skills to render a plat map of the place.  But I couldn’t get fired up about actually measuring and then working on the computer.  Finally, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted anyway.  What I wanted was the exercise in thinking about what I liked about our home and aesthetically recreating the features.  I wasn’t going for letter perfect accuracy… I just wanted to use my own two hands to creatively “map” our property.  For fun, for the hell of it, and most importantly, for me.

Aerial Home

Aerial Home (North orientation)

Dark Shadows

Being outside heals me.  Outside is bigger than all the sadness in my head. Getting out of my head is a good thing.  I spend far too much time in there.  -Me

 

Dear readers… this next post is personal.  Since my blog is The Work and Ideas of Sky Evans it seemed time to post some ideas.  But maybe it’s more of a confessional?  Either way, if you like my art more than words, and you want to skip this wordy post, rest assured you aren’t missing much in the way of visuals.  The art I used to illustrate this post is from my early years.  Not very good IMO, but interesting to see this other side.  Having said that, bear with me while I try something new.  Not instructional, or piece specific musings but thoughtful, as in full of thought.

 

I can't remember when I did this dragon in the clouds... but I kinda like it!

It was 1983 when I did this dragon in the clouds… I never really cared for it, but for some reason I kinda like it now!

In the past few weeks I had the art show in the vineyard and summer time visits with relatives, (both most enjoyable) but lately the weather has rolled in HOT HOT HOT which makes it hard to get much done if you don’t get up early.  I like the cold, it sharpens up my brain.  Hot weather has me laying around with sweaty glasses of ice tea clutched in my paw, moaning about the heat.

Okay, so it’s not that bad.  But the day after the show I did wake up and sigh.  Not a “oh woe is me” sigh, or “damn I am about to be evicted” sigh or even a  “the world is fucked and my life is ruined” sigh.  Just a soft, weak, puppyish whimper… (I invoke the puppy image hoping to come off as cute instead of pathetic).  It was a “what now” sigh that I have come to associate with the let down after a long slog uphill.  The long slog was all the effort and energy getting ready for the show.  Which was good, and productive but definitely falls in the “uphill” category.

My display at the show.  All the hard work paid off.

My display at the show. Doesn’t look like that much hard work, but still….

Eight days later and it’s still not all put away. I seem to be having trouble getting my rhythm back after revving my engines for a week in anticipation of that 5 hours at the show. The hot weather does not help.

A thought and this post has been percolating away in my head since waking up with a “what-now-blues” feeling.  It’s about temperament. Specifically, artist’s temperament.  Somehow, somewhere, I picked up the notion that there was such a thing.  And that kind of temperament meant that artists were moody, prone to jags, hard to get along with and somewhat bi-polar, though in the old days, we called it manic/depressive.  As far as old days go, I am, literally, a child of the 60’s.  Andy Warhol and Peter Max were household names.  Jackson Pollock’s death and eccentric style was still in the forefront, and the music of the era included Don McLean’s famous “Vincent” which sparked a fresh look into Van Gogh and his famous mental illness.  (His work is among my personal favorites.)  Maybe these kinds of artists perpetuated the idea of the “artist’s temperament”.  Regardless of where it came from, I somehow grew up with the notion that there was such a thing.  And I was determined to prove it all wrong.

I Am The Endless Sky 1985

I Am The Endless Sky 1985.  Gravity defying tubes of paint and the cosmos.

Determined is a good word to describe me.  Not the only word, but a good one.  It irked me that artists were considered touchy and had to be “handled” for some reason.  Fuck that shit, I was as normal as normal could be.  Wasn’t I? With a flip of my locks, I would snort derisively.  I was determined to be happy, healthy, smart and together!  Reasonable, logical, empathetic, someone who was kind, a good person.  I wanted to be the best person I could be… I would not be a stereotype.  No dark shadows here!!

If I was reading this aloud, here’s the part where I would laugh.  Knowingly.  Maybe even sarcastically.

Because no one is really normal.  Normal doesn’t exist.  Decades later, I am finally coming to the realization that normal is an average and averages are made up of numbers that are added together and divided by themselves.  How can people be normal?  The world is a crazy place (watching the news will prove that) so normal must be crazy.  Maybe we should just embrace the crazy and applaud those who manage to cope and thrive amidst the chaos.

So then, is there an artistic temperament?  For a long time I didn’t even want to admit to being an artist. Even after I had a degree in Art, one in Art Education and had been an art teacher I was in denial.  I think I was denying the stereotype… but often stereotypes exist because they ring of truth.  Sigh. So okay, here goes.  Here’s my truth: I sometimes dance on the edge of depression.  Not a  “dancing with the stars” thing, but a little tap dance. I don’t believe I qualify for a full blown depression as outlined in the DSM-5 (not that I’ve read the description… I’d actually rather not know to what level I may rate) but little dark clouds have been a part of my life for a long, long time.

My Life, circa 1984

My Life, circa 1985

It’s my version of normal, those little dark shadows. When I was a pup myself, it was like waves of sadness.  In my childish mind, I could image I even heard voices whispering to me.  Nothing bad, but lonely and very sad.  I told my mother about it once; bless her for not minimizing or ridiculing me in any way.  I felt safe telling her about it.  But that was as far as it went.  Which may have been a good thing as it set me up to believe there wasn’t anything wrong about it and so, I didn’t worry about being sad.  My coping technique at the time was to sing.  I memorized the words to the Eagles song, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and would invoke it whenever those shadows came a calling.  It always worked.  One run through and my brain was back on track and feeling peaceful and easy.

 

The inside part.

The inside part.

 

Well, I grew up and out of my imagined whispering and as life got busy and hectic, the shadows ebbed and were kept at bay with activity.  Alcohol in judicious amounts is also a tool for ignoring those small voices.  I never was much of a drinker though, I have a fine line for it’s toxic effects.  I’m basically a cheap date. Instead I hiked or rode away the sadness.  Being outside heals me.  Outside is bigger than all the sadness in my head.

 

The Zoo 1985

The Zoo 1984 In this piece, the protagonist is covered in flowers, she’s an exhibit in an alien zoo. She wants to escape her companions, the fuzzy slugs. But at least she’s OUTSIDE!!

 

But here’s the funny thing about little dark clouds.  They come back around when you aren’t looking. You wake up in the morning and there they are raining on your personal parade.  They leave you with a low grade sadness that is aptly named “The Blues”.  As a color, I like blue, but as for “The Blues”, well, they fuel my passion for leaving them behind.  If I get up and get moving and do something I can outrun them.  Maybe that’s why runners run.  I’m not a runner, but I can paint.  And when I paint, or create, I get out of my head.  Getting out of my head is a good thing.  I spend far too much time in there.

Fishes and Wishes Oil on Canvas 12"x16"

Fishes and Wishes
Oil on Canvas
12″x16″

 

In effect, I create because I have to.  So maybe there is something to this Artist’s Temperament after all.  Am I an artist because I have the temperament or do I have the temperament because I am an artist?

Either way, it’s also telling to me that I spend the most time with people who I believe fall on the low end of the crazy spectrum.  I can do edgy people, but only in small doses. But if indeed it is normal to be a touch crazy, then that puts me in the small doses band for everyone.  In other words, I can only “do people” in small doses.  Which makes me an introvert.  And indeed I do need alone time just to recuperate from normal social interactions.  Sometimes trying to stay dry under my own clouds is about all I can manage.