February 24, 2012


This week I was to start the online class I've been excitedly anticipating for months offered by Susan Sorrell.  The supplies list was provided via email, and I was off to the shops!  How frustrating that so many of the items that one would expect to be readily available are nowhere to be found in my area!  I've gone to the fabric store (only one within 12 miles) and Michael's looking for a size 2 or 3 embroidery needle and specific brands (two suggested) of beading thread.  It's SO frustrating to have such limited merchandise available in actual brick and mortar stores.  I'm the first to admit that I love shopping on the internet for a lot of things, but I don't want to spend a fortune to ship a $3 item.  Argh!!!

I wish I'd had access to the photos in the tutorial prior to shopping.  The items I bought for embellishment, the fabrics I selected and the batting would all have been very different.

Once I got the lessons and photos downloaded, I looked at the images of the fabric Susan uses and was happy to see that she incorporates a lot of batiks as the base fabric.  Yeah!  I have a lot.  However, the big fat needle with the big fat (full six strands) of embroidery floss have to easily pass through two layers of fabric and a layer of batting in between.  Ugh.  The batiks were all too tightly woven or had too heavy a coating of who-knows-what that made me look like I was wrestling an anaconda trying to pull it through.  That and I must admit to a little cursing while I wrestled.  It's not like I'm a novice at embroidery or sewing.  I've been doing this stuff since I was ten years old.  But double argh with the walls I'm hitting.

So I've cut different fabrics, different batting and am on a mission today to try to find the elusive embroidery needles in the proper size.  If nothing else, I'll sell a kidney and pay for a needle to be shipped.  Sheesh.

February 21, 2012

Noise, Noise, Noise

Having promised myself more studio time, I ran around cleaning like a mad woman this morning, working to the point that I would not die of embarrassment if someone came to the door unannounced (and closing the bedroom door because that room would NOT pass the test).  I raced off to the nearest fabric store to find the last few items I need for an online class that starts tomorrow, then prepared to get to work.  That's when the lumberjacks down the street set up their line of orange cones in the road and starting taking down what I think is an oak tree (city slickers are never sure of much more than that it's a tree) that is twice as high and as wide as the house in front of which it sits.  We have the most marvelous sunny and warm weather today, and I can't work out there without ear plugs.  Argh!!! 

Maybe it's time to whip out the iPod and just do what I can.  I only have an hour and a half before I have to step into the mom shoes and zip off to school.  There isn't enough time in a day.

February 13, 2012

More "Self Taught" Mess

On the art front:  Today I was reading an article about one of my favourite artists, Chris Roberts Antieau, appreciating that in addition to being self-taught, she collects the art of primarily self-taught artists herself.  Something tells me that my work will never make it to her house.  There is nothing more frustrating than just flat out not knowing what I'm doing, sure that somebody, somewhere, knows exactly how to do what I'm trying to do, just not me.

The ever-evolving figurative piece is currently the bane of my existence.  Art isn't supposed to be this frustrating.  Either I sit here with a blank brain, or I just start doing "stuff" to it to try to make it better, often just making it chaotic.  Arghhhhh!  The artists who say, "Just do something!" are putting me in a bit of a slapping mood.  So I've tied wire, cut the wire off, removed the working stand, tried incorporating paper (it looks cool, but too much like a dress on a masculine-faced piece), took off the paper, tore the paper, stitched the paper, shoved it up the caboose of the piece again (it was good for a chuckle, but not a good look), and finally started cutting heavy wire to create a modern base.  This paragraph makes about as much sense as the pile of debris on my desks looks like art.  Not much.

On the Mom front: I woke up in the middle of the night, stressing that I've missed not one boat, but an entire fleet in getting my #2 child prepared to go to college in less than two years.  Child #1 was the most self-directed academic-minded child I ever knew.  She was obsessive about doing well in school, thinking about college when her age was still in the single-digit range.  Child #2 says to me when he got a D on his report card a couple of years ago, "Hey, at least it wasn't an F!" as if I should be thrilled with that little bit of information.  Because, hey, I should have known a "D" wasn't all that bad, right?  I feel wicked wondering if I invest in one of those pricey classes to help prepare him for the SAT exam if he'll even study or care.  When I ask, I get a hint of the right answer, but no sense of commitment.  Right now, I'm obsessed with pointing out sad jobs (like the poor blokes that do nothing but throw suitcases on airplanes, and often the wrong plane at that) and tell Kevin that THEY didn't go to COLLEGE.  He chuckles, I keep looking for more examples and hope it will inspire him to care one tenth as much as I do.

February 9, 2012

Moving on to Plan C

Today I made up for dodging housework yesterday, though I had an ulterior motive.  The mom in me is hosting yet another party here tomorrow, providing an opportunity for all the kids going to Europe with the German teacher during spring break (five each from two different schools) to get to know each other prior to meeting up at the airport for departure.  I was determined to find my lost (incomplete) art journal while I cleaned. 

I found more than I bargained for - old chocolate.  Thinking the journal may have been tucked under a cushion of one of the sofas (having been last spotted in the living room), I lifted the cushions, knowing I'd be sure to find something scary along with the usual treasure of coins and maybe a pen or pencil.  What I found were two full-sized candy bars in one sofa, along with a few other remnants of Halloween.   Now I'm trying to figure out how someone unwittingly managed to get TWO big, fat candy bars under a couch cushion without realizing it, or what goober thought this would be a nifty hiding place and just forgot to retrieve their loot.  When I picked up my son from high school today and told him about the gruesome discovery, he lit up like a Christmas tree and asked with great excitement in his voice, if I had brought them with me.  Seriously?  Did I bring the butt-imprinted, likely months-old candy bars in the car on a hot day to offer as a snack?  What's more gross?  Finding logs of candy in the furniture, or having someone eagerly anticipate the snack?  As predicted, my son made a beeline for the candy when we got home and (gag) ate one of the bars.  Now I'm just curious.  Will my 26 year old daughter, the world's #1 chocolate addict, lunge for the other candy bar?  Now it's just a freakish experiment in bizarre human behavior and addiction.

Anyway, I looked absolutely everywhere for the journal for hours.  The house is ridiculously clean, but there was no journal.   As I was about to throw in the towel (followed by a fit of frustration), I found it!  One last look inside the books that had recently been moved to the studio revealed the journal tucked in for safekeeping, I assume.  Whew!  Now I can get to work and finish the pages before I ship it off to my sister for the final step in our swap.

The figurative project I'm working on continues to make me think harder than I want to think.  After working on it for a while and then setting it aside, I really took a long and hard look to see if I could figure out what was making me most nuts about it.  Primarily, it looked too much like a shepherd with the ever-so-wrong fiber mixed in with the wire.  After plucking out all of the fiber, I knew I had a lot more wire to add to fill the empty space.  I have no finished look in mind.  I just know I don't like what I see and start changing it.  Several hours, a few coats of paint, several feet of copper wire and some faux-gold leaf later, I was a bit more satisfied.  I worked without thinking much, just letting it happen.  My husband was happy to hear that I'd spent such a good chunk of time in the studio and I was eager to show him the product of the hours committed to trying to improve the piece. 

This was Plan A in progress.  The stand and dowel are simply "holders" while I work, not intended to be part of the finished project.

The first words out of his mouth were, "Oooh!  Mardi Gras!"  Sigh.  This was not what I expected.  As I look at it, I understand his comment.  Now what?  It's NOT supposed to look like anything mardi gras.  Here's the before and after.  It's time to move to Plan C.
This is the current state of affairs for this piece.  The photo is messy, taken on the studio desk in frustration and without the proper and tidy backdrop.  I'll have to work on that.  Again, the dowel and stand are just to support it while I work.

While I allow myself to get frustrated at times and critique more than create, it really felt good to just make something.  Rereading the quote I posted recently, I am reminded that I'm not at this to create a masterpiece.  I'm creating for the joy of creating, learning as I go (things like don't have the big garage door open while working with leafing foil, especially if it's windy) and trying new techniques.  I won't get any better if I don't try and try again.  Regardless of the finished product, getting my hands dirty and playing again matter more than whether or not I need to move on to Plan C or D or even W.  I have succeeded just a bit in quieting my inner critic.  She's whispering as opposed to yelling.  I'll take what I can get.

February 8, 2012

Trial and Error

Yesterday I managed to dodge afternoon housework, pretending I didn't see the woolly mammoths begging to be vacuumed, and got into the garage for a little studio time.  It's still hard for me to call it a studio as it still feels so foreign.  My efforts at organizing when the studio was in the house have all been undone with supplies now wherever they'll fit as opposed to their proper place.  I've tried replicating the storage as it was indoors, but have had limited success.  Every day feels like a scavenger hunt, but I resist spending time trying to bring more order to a chaotic and temporary work space, knowing I'd end up doing more organizing than creating.

The figurative piece I'm currently working on is making me a little nuts.  I am taking one step forward, then two steps back every time I sit down to work on it.  My friend Debbie's cyber voice is whispering in my mind, reminding me to just let go and see what happens.  When I start working on a piece, I don't have any preconceived notion of the final outcome - no sketches, no mental picture of the finished piece - and so I wing it as I go.  This piece sat for a long time, and one afternoon I just picked it up and started adding to it.  Now, it looks like it.  I add wire, remove baubles, add paint, rub off paint...I can't put my finger on it, but it just doesn't feel right.  When I look through art magazines or books, I find myself mentally criticizing assemblage work in particular that appears to have just been created by throwing stuff together until the artist figured it was time to stop.  That's what I'm afraid this is beginning to look like.  Sigh.

This is when the business of being self-taught bites me in the caboose as I realize how much I haven't learned.  I work on this piece and worry about how it will be finished, how it should be displayed when complete.  What kind of stand should I build?  How can I hide the inside/under the skirt?  Is it supposed to be a skirt?  I hadn't intended it to look like a skirt or dress.  The face appears masculine, but the garb suggests feminine.  Arghhhhhh!

On the mom front, I am finding my two worlds colliding these days.  I brought the art journal I'm working on into the house to show the family what I'm working on when I'm squirreled away for hours.  Where is it now?  Who knows.  Someone has moved it and no one takes credit nor remembers having seen it recently.  Really?  I need GPS tracking on everything that is mine.  More sighs. 

So today I'll take another whack at the figurative piece and try to shut down my over-thinking brain.  Maybe something miraculous will happen and it will look less like a craft project and more like art.

February 5, 2012

Success Short Lived

I chuckled when I looked at the date of my last post.  My success was short lived, not having been back in the studio since.  It really is hard getting out there because it IS a garage, after all.  It's a nice space, but every time I'm out there I think about something I need in the house.  When I'm in the house, I think of stuff I need that's in the garage.  A bathroom, a sink and a mini fridge would be great in the garage (and is not going to happen).  My bookshelf with all of my artsy reference books is still in the indoor studio/now daughter's room, but I suppose that's good.  Too often I peruse the books for inspiration (note to self: remember the quote from the artist that says we need to just get out there and do it and stop waiting for the inspiration bolt of lightening).

The other issue I have to deal with is a tricky one - how do I manage solicitors?  Some guy actually came to the house trying to sell me meat, MEAT, from a fancifully decorated refrigerated truck.   It didn't take me long to get rid of him, assuring him that I'm not a vegetarian, but I would never, ever, ever buy meat from a truck and nothing he could say would change my mind.  But what a pain in the patootie to have to deal with this stuff.  I need a sign on an easel that reads, "I'm at work here.  No soliciting!  Chatterboxes interested in art are welcome."  Well, something along that line, but more clever.  Clearly I need to work on the concept.

Today is the big, stupid football game that most of America is slobbering over, so uninterrupted art time shouldn't be a problem.  While I will be doing some cooking and turning the kitchen into a meatball factory, I intend to work on my art journal and have some tunes cranking and will NOT fold any laundry or clean any floors today.  Before I get started, I'm going to glance at a couple of the blogs I follow for my daily dose of inspiration (Mary, I'm thinking of you!) and previous notes of encouragement and advice from my best artsy friend Deb. 

Let's get messy!