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.

Sweet Earth Show

Sweet Earth Vineyard show 2014:

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I wound up with this corner to myself. Center table for my prints and cards, then sheets over cases of wine made a good display for the chairs and paintings.

Last saturday was my first show in a vineyard.  Well, actually we were in the  cold storage room at the vineyard.  Thank goodness because it was HOT as hell outside!  But only if you definition of hell is in the mid 90’s.  That works for me as my melting point is 90.  I am no good in a sauna, a sweat lodge or most hot tubs.  I am good with snow, but we won’t see much of that for the next few months.

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Art Show at Sweet Earth Vineyard was wonderful!

One of the great things about showing is getting a chance to meet your audience and other artists. It’s always nice to sell a piece or two as well as  swap ideas about technique and marketing. Making these kind of connections is worth the effort. One of my fellow artists had seen my winged chairs on my blog!  I was thrilled… looks like my work is being seen.  Which is in keeping with my personal philosophy of art… it’s meant to be shared and seen.  If you are an artist trying to make it on your own, you need to market yourself.  Not always a task artistic minds are willing or even able to do.

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Old friends and new stopped by!

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

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

Even though the show ran from noon to 5, it was weeks in the making.  Or years if you go back to when I actually painted a few of the pieces.  Then there were days spent getting ready for a 5 hour show.  The matting of prints, reframing certain pieces, going over my inventory, creating and finishing  new work.  After which it was pack for the show, haul to the show, unpack and set up…. do the show then pack up and go home and put it all away. A mighty effort!

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The Winged Chairs got sat on! Thanks to my dear friend, Danette P. who worked on staging with me.

 

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Tot sized chair.

It was fun seeing people’s reactions.  They really got a kick out of sitting in the chairs.  The few times I demonstrated how sitting in the chair did something to the work itself  (by actually sitting down) the reactions were priceless!  Most were surprised at how I had suddenly sprouted wings.  They had to give it a try.

Just give it a try!

Great shirt, adds to the piece!

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Laurie H. makes the chair work.

I do find it hard sometimes to figure out what people want and then weigh that against what I want to create.  As an example, the winged chairs make people happy but should I keep making them?  Do I have room to store them all?  Should I take my friend’s advice and sell them or better still, donate them to a children’s hospital?  Now that the idea has taken flight, where should they fly to?

I’m currently trying not to worry about the big picture.  I think it will come to me eventually.  Having spent much of my art career considering what to create that will SELL, I am forging new pathways in my mind.  I’m now focusing on creating for the sake of my SOUL.  Creating as a form of expression, a link to my self, a personal journey.  And along the way, I’ll be happy to sell a card or print or portrait.  Monetary compensation is a form of appreciation and does much to keep the artist (or anyone for that matter!) motivated.

If you are interested in any art seen on my blog, feel free to contact me of course… I have prints and cards for sale. I’ve done Etsy in the past, but you have to really work that site to keep it going and you have to provide your own materials (prints and shipping).  But soon I’ll be on an art print site where you can order directly the size you want, including frames.  I promise to post that link as soon as it happens.

Melding the artist mind with the business mind is tough.  Right now, all I’m thinking about is getting back to my easel.  I have an idea that needs painting!

The Golden Chair

Chair two took twice as long.  I hope this isn’t a trend.  The last big problem wound up being color… I couldn’t find just the right color for the chair itself.  But after some experimentation and blending, I got it.  So, without further ado, here it is!

The Golden Chair!

The Golden Chair!

So far, here is the family of winged chairs.  For your imagination to play. Fly!!

Fun in the sun.

Fun in the sun.

Winged Chair #2

With the studio finally re-sided, I could get back to work.  I can’t believe how many delays got in my way on this particular project, but I’m in the home stretch now!  I was so excited when I found the “new to me” fabric store in Junction City.  Remains of the Day is a store full of scraps.  Literally!  Ok, they have some bolts too, but mostly what they specialize in are the remnants from the local RV manufacturing businesses that kept Junction City booming before the economic down turn.  Though some of these big RV builders went out of business long before the housing bubble burst, their fabrics remain all cut up and ready for resale at this little hole in the wall store.

 

Remains of the Day

Remains of the Day

Remains of the Day

Goes on and on…

It’s quiet storefront did not prepare me for the Aladdin’s cave of wonders that seemed to go on  and on!  I was pleased to find such a local treasure and the owner, Jeff, was very helpful!  Facebook link here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Remains-of-the-Day-Fabrics/485790398146044

I had a great time choosing many fabrics for the next set of wings.  Once again I walked out with more than I could use on the project, but it was hard to say no to all those fabulous colors and textures.

Helpful Mike! Take note of the fabric he's holding for me.  You'll see it again in a minute.

Helpful Jeff! Take note of the fabric he’s holding for me. You’ll see it again in a minute.

When I finally got a chance to work on the wings, rather than re-use the pattern from Winged Chair #1, I opted to create a different set of wings.  I perused some of my notes, looked at wings on the internet and sketched out some  ideas.  Then I made a pattern out of butcher paper and cut it out.  I traced the top side on one board, flipped it over and traced out the other wing for a perfect symmetrical set.

New set, all cut out and ready to go!

New pattern, all cut out and ready to go!

A woodworker friend suggested a new glue for me to try… the hot glue was ok, but not the best solution for long term integrity, so I gave the 3M formula 77 a whirl.  I was skeptical at first as it seemed like a sketchy hold, but by the next day, the fabric I tested was holding solid and tight!  It took me a few days to hunt down a dealer for this stuff.  Some on-line outlets wanted $25 a can plus shipping and you had to order 10.  Criminy!  Then, while shopping for re-siding supplies at Jerry’s, (our locally owned DIY home improvement store) I found it for the much more reasonable price of $10.  There is no accounting for this difference, but it does serve to prove that it pays to shop around.  It also mystically “proves” that I had to side the studio before I could finish this project.  Hmmmm.

3M magic!

3M magic!

Well the wonder glue has it’s own issues… while it holds well, it comes in a spray can.  I couldn’t have worked with it indoors, but with the weather nice, it wasn’t too hard to step out when it came time to spray.  Of course, now that means we have another problem… overspray.  Sigh.  I really don’t like being so meticulous with my work.  It slows down my ju ju.

Figuring out what goes where.

Figuring out what goes where.

I started to lay down some fabric but was making a mess with all the spray business.  I thought about my handy little glue gun, but damn it, the spray glue works… and it works really well.  So I knuckled under and took the time to cut out and apply an intricate series of masks to each portion of the wing. Then did it again for the other side.  All with a one time use.  Most tedious.

Masking off areas I don't want glue all over.

Masking off areas I don’t want glue all over.

Am I suffering for my art?  YES!

Am I suffering for my art? YES!

I really disliked that part, but adopted a “Que sera sera” approach and just did what I had to do.  Through it all, I was listening to an awesome book on CD, so after a chapter or two, I didn’t even notice the wretched task.  Once the fabric started getting layered, the wings began to take shape!  I was still using the brayer to smooth the fabric, but without the bulky hot glue oozing everywhere, (not to mention burning my fingers from time to time) the profile of the wings were sleek and flat.

Smoooooth!

Smoooooth!

As I began hot burnishing the edges, I remembered that I forgot to paint the wood.  Oops.  It worked out ok, I just painted them later… though much more carefully.

Hot burnish.

Hot burnish.

I propped the finished wings on my easel and took a look.  Hmmm…. something missing.  I didn’t want to add bric a brac, though I did think about sequins or stones or some other fun application.  But ultimately, I am a painter, so out came the paints.

Not exactly fabric paints, but that never stopped me before.

Not exactly fabric paints, but that never stopped me before.

I began letting loose a bit more than the first set of wings.  I’m pretty happy with the results so far.

Dots?  Why not?

Dots? Why not?

The chair itself is waiting for a thorough going over, and I’ll have to make some decisions to paint or not… but until then, here’s where the wings are for now.  Consider this “Stage 1”.  Next post: “Stage 2”.

Snazzy!!

Snazzy!!

 

 

Why would a chair need wings?

When an idea comes at you from the great beyond, you should probably listen to it.  Unless however you are a sociopathic misfit with murder on your mind, then by all means don’t you be listening to those voices!!  But for an artist, true inspiration is a cool thing, so here I am following up on the Winged Chair idea.  Once I had finished the first wing, the second one posed a slight problem.

Wing One is done but for the embellishments.

Wing One is done but for the embellishments.

I took some time to ponder how to cut the fabric feathers so wing two would be an identical mirror image.  I wasn’t concerned about perfect… it just had to look like a mirror image.  Nothing in nature is absolutely perfectly symmetrical.  I solved this small problem by laying out tracing paper, tracing the shapes, then flipping over the paper onto the second wing.  I could then cut out similar feather shapes and push them into place by using the traced paper as a guideline.

Tracing the feathers.

Tracing the feathers.

Lots of gluing, cutting, sticking and various active verbs took over and before I knew it, we were at the point of  “almost done”.  I took some time off for good behavior and other soul searching activities before returning to the studio where the wings awaited my finishing touches.

The columbines are blooming!

The columbines are blooming!

I pretty much solved all the issues, but still faced a couple of decisions.  So, to play with some ideas, I cut out extra feathers and applied paint and other embellishments to try them on for size.  I have a whole lot of metallic paints that I like to get out and wish I could find a use for, so those were employed in the search for how much is too much?

Gold paints, blue metallic inks and a desire to bling it out!!

Gold paints, blue metallic inks and a desire to bling it out!!

Oh yeah!  Liking the blue ink.

Oh yeah! Liking the blue ink.

Next on the agenda was the chair itself.  Painted or not painted?  Hmmmm.

Chair as is.  Too ordinary.

Chair as is. Too ordinary.

 

The chair itself was pretty paint splotched and gummed up, so I got into a little scraping and sanding before the final paint job.  I painted the back of the wings silver and after they dried, I used a couple of clamps to try on the wings and help me decide if painting the chair was where I wanted to go next.

Silvery!

Silvery!

Chair seems to disappear into the wings.

Chair seems to disappear into the wings.

I resumed sanding since the chair still looked like a Goodwill find.  Which it was, but now it is art!  As I was slogging through the doldrums of the creative process I began to think about what my answer to the big question would be.  Why would a chair need wings?

Wings are for flying.  If you are a bird or a plane.  They are for swimming if you are a penguin.  But chairs don’t swim… unless they are on a boat.  By that logic, they don’t fly, unless they are on a plane.  Since these are obviously imaginative wings,  they must be for your imagination!  If you are sitting in a chair and need to escape, but also need to remain seated, your imagination is the thing that is going to fly you the hell out of there.

Which takes me back to grade school.  I used to be a good little student.  And then I wasn’t.  I was always the youngest in the class as my birthday was late in the year and in those days,  they let your parents enroll you in kindergarten if you were going to turn 5 before the Christmas holiday.  As a teacher and a parent, I can’t imagine my 4 year old going off to school, real school… but there I was,  a half year behind my peers at best, a year or more behind them at the worst.  At some point it all caught up to me and when I wasn’t developmentally able to understand certain concepts because of my age, I fell behind.

I don’t recall caring much about my slipping GPA, instead my mind took me other places and I day dreamed my way through 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. There were years where my report card stated unequivocally that I’d be a better student if I wasn’t daydreaming all the time. But I didn’t see it that way.  Day dreaming was a good use of my time if I couldn’t understand why 3 from 5 was 2.  Wasn’t 3 from 5… uh, 3?  I actually used to think that the little shaded box at the end of the equation held the answer to the problem.  All you had to do was count the shaded lines.  That’s how far away I was from the concept of subtraction.  It is here I most likely developed a curious belief that I couldn’t do math.

I think that’s probably the time I needed a chair with wings in my life.  Because I sure as hell was sitting in one whether you could see it or not.

A Winged Chair can transport you to another planet, another dimension, another body.  If you needed a fantasy escape, a winged chair could take you there.  I may have to use it to post blogs… we’ll see if the actual manifestation of the concept ( ideas taking flight) will elevate the activity of tapping keys on a laptop into something amazing.

I’ll let you know how it all works out.  But for now… here is where we stand.  Or sit.  It’s something grander than an old school chair that’s for sure!

Winged Chair 54" x 62" Mixed Medium: wood, paint, fabric.

Winged Chair
54″ x 62″
Mixed Medium: wood, paint, fabric.