Thursday, April 17, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Deadlines.

​Deadlines loom.  There's a photo shoot scheduled for next week and a big ceramics show in two weeks.  i need my new work finished and ready for the photographer and the show.  

As of last week, I had six masks, a small sculpture to finish to meet the deadlines.  There were design decisions to be made.  Painting to be done.  Metal masks to create.   Hanging hardware to be attached.  In addition, there were new greenware pieces that needed triming and underglazing, even though they won't make these deadlines, the process must go on.

I admit, I had my doubts.  But, then, I always do.  

I fell asleep counting things to do and woke up early still counting.  Of course, the list expanded in the night and somehow no matter what I got done in the studio, there was still more to do.  Somethings worked and others, well, caused even more work than I thought they would.  I don't know about you but I always seem to underestimate how long it takes to get somethings done.  

But, I kept working even in my sleep(or so it seemed).

I sculpted aluminum masks.  Mixed up epoxy.  Printed labels. Mounted D-rings and wrapped wire and attached labels.  I re-painted one mask completely due to some mysterious scratches.  Maybe it was the aluminum or maybe I was sleep working.

Magically, things got done.

Today, new masks hang on my studio walls.  
Sculptures, mugs, vases, bowls are stacked on shelves.  

They are all ready for their close ups, Mr. Photographer.  And, hopefully, to delight someone and find new homes.  Once, I get the price labels on, inventory done, pieces packed and delivered and set up at the show...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Digital Drawing: Learning in Layers

I had a cracked mask.  I fixed it and filled it but I could still see the crack.  Instead of looking at the fill line as a mistake I needed to hide, I saw a design opportunity. 
It was time to get out my digital drawing pad and try out some design ideas.
Here's the photo of the mask after bisque and repair.

Here's the mask repair photo with different experiments with transparent colored layers and lines.
Here's the actual mask, finished with layers of acrylic paint.
I learned a lot during this process.  
On a technical level, I learned much more about the SketchClub app.  How to upload a photo correctly to be able to manipulate the layers while keeping the photo the same.  How to paint with transparent layers on my iPad.  How to use transparency, pens and brush tools to design different parts of the mask.  How to translate what I designed on my iPad to the actual mask.

On an artistic and spiritual level, I learned more valuable lessons.  How to accept and own kiln  cracks as part of the clay process.  How to decide which to fix and which to forget(see last week's post).  How to embrace a mistake not as a fault but as an opportunity.  How to let go of the strangle-hold of perfectionism and flow with what happens to happen accepting the new results with happiness.  

Now, that's truly learning in layers.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Not a Bondo-ing experience.

(Picture 1-mask at greenware Picture 2- mask after bisque)

I've used all sorts of adhesives from regular glue to fancy epoxy.  I've soldered copper and done mitered joints.  I've even used escutcheon pins which are tiny, rounded headed copper nails.  So, I'm no stranger to using hardware or hardware products in my art making.  
I've heard about Bondo, an automotive repair material, for years from various artists as a great way to repair or reconstruct or form sections of sculptures.  When the nose blew off my recent mask, I decided it was time to give it a try.  Before getting into a large sculpting job, I decided to start small and I'm glad I did.
This black porcelain mask cracked on the chin in such a way that my normal epoxy would fill it without leaving a shiny bump.  The white mask had a small crack on the right side which I could use one of my normal glues to fill but since I was going to experiment, I decided to use it as another test for Bondo.

It worked.  But I hated it.
The fumes were instant and powerful.  I had to open all the windows in my studio just to work with it.  The first try filled the small crack fine.  The second try on the black mask became an instant bumpy mess that had to be ground down with a dremel tool. 
I decided that using it to fix the cat mask nose would not work for me.  A large area would mean more smell.  It mixed up into a horrible pepto bismol pink.  And the speedy set up did not give me enough time to use it to re-sculpt the nose before it hardened into a bumpy, lumpy mess.
The question from last time was - fix it or forget it?  The answer this time: Forget it.
Bondo and I, regrettably, did not form a lasting bond.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Digital Drawing: Using it as a design tool.

​I've been playing around with Sketchclub on my Ipad using it more like a giant box of crayons than a serious art making tool. When I've used a photo as a base, I feel I'm just cheating or copying.

Maybe, I'm missing the point, here. 

I love my sketchbooks.  I have several around at all times ready to catch thoughts or inspirations.  Inside my big, classic black sketch book lie ideas and designs for almost all my sculpture, masks, and ceramics.  I know the app I'm using is called Sketchclub, but I've never thought of it as a replacement or substitute for my time-honored sketchbook.  But this week, I decided to see if this new technology could give me a new way to work on designs and ideas.

I have to first, thank Terry Howard Grant's( weekly digital drawing days for encouragement, inspiration and helpful information.  Terry and her friend, June, have been exploring a wide variety of techniques and tools as well as using photographs in their drawings.  

With their ideas about using photographs as a layer in mind, I took pictures of two recent masks after they came out of bisque firing.

I imported the photo to Sketchclub as one layer.  I opened up another layer and started playing with painting a base color over the mask.  When I was happy how that looked, I opened up another layer and began to add detail colors.   I only used about three layers and kept my ideas simple but I'm sure you could add more layers to get a more painterly effect.

Here's what the masks looked like after some digital sketching and painting.  

Here's what the masks looked like after underglazing and firing them in the kiln.

Using my digital photograph saved me the step of drawing out my masks, so I could move right into color and design.  I just thought of it as play, at first, but found when I got into the studio to underglaze the masks, the digital drawings could be opened on my Ipad on my countertop for reference while I worked.  I really enjoyed having a design roadmap right there in front of me.  

Maybe, it's not about screens over sketchpads, pens over photography or play over work.

Maybe it's really about using whatever tool works in the moment to explore new ideas, sketch out color and design and find the inspiration that leads to a new piece of art.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Fix it or Forget it.

Sometimes things blow up.  I did 4 new masks in the last month, put them into the kiln to bisque fire and only one came out completely whole.  Three came out with varying degrees of difficulities from small cracks to an entire section in little pieces.  

I was surprised but not devastated.  And curious.

I've been doing clay masks and sculpture for a long time, usually what goes into the kiln comes out intact.  Sometimes there are minor cracks or chips.  Even with my new wheel work, cracks happen, too.  But I have to say that in almost 20 years, I've never had anything completely blow up.  

Well, maybe it was my turn.  

This mask's nose completely blew off.  Shards were all over the kiln shelf and some in the bottom of the kiln.  There were way too many to even begin to piece it together.  One other mask had the nose crack around the edges.  Another had part of a leaf crack off.   The two with the most problems were made with different clay than I usually use.  My porcelain clay had the least damage. 

The question isn't why or how it happened or what I did wrong. The real question I ask myself is: Do I fix it or forget it?

I've fixed many a minor crack along the creative way.  Even in functional pieces, some cracks don't affect the integrity of the piece.  Sometimes, I've had cracks lead me to a new creative techique I can use on other pieces in new and different ways. I've even had teachers show me how to glaze glue pieces back on.  But, with all this support and help, fixing for me has always been about denial and hiding.  So I usually try very hard to camouflage and cover cracks and breaks, to hide what I see as my mistakes. 

I was ready to forget this mask.  Throw it away and make a new one.  But I didn't.

I remembered how others have built blown up pieces back up with modeling compounds like Bondo.  I've never tried it, never had to, but I've always been curious.  Would it work?  How hard will it be to use it?  What will the mask look like with a newly Bondo-ed nose?  I don't know, but I'll post pictures of the process in future blogs.

Maybe there's a new question and answer here: Is artistic perfection the goal? Maybe not.

I've had others point out the cross cultural concept of leaving mistakes or purposely making imperfections in an art piece.  One term for this is Wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic term meaning imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.  Objects with cracks are filled with gold or silver to highlight and give value to the imperfection.  Sometimes cracks are even left unfilled in the edges of a piece valuing incompleteness.  

It's a wonderful and freeing concept but one I've had a hard time embracing.  I usually opt for hiding and camflouging what I see as mistakes.   But maybe now, the universe is forcing me to grow, come out of hiding, into acceptance and seeing value in my imperfections.  

I'll post more here about my imperfect journey, as I always do.  In the meantime, Bondo, here I come!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Digital Drawings: Skies and Wine.

Digital drawing is a great no mess, no fuss, no easel way to capture what captures my eye at any given moment.  I don't have to be home, in my studio or toting a portable art bag like I used to when my kids were little.  
All I need is my Ipad and stylus and I'm good to go on the go.  I have to thank a fellow artist and blogger, Terry Howard Grant, for inspiring me to try digital drawing.  Terry sets up a still life challenge each week on her blog.  Here's a link to her latest digital still life challenge  I've tried but I'm just more inspired by landscapes and skies.  
This is as close to a still life as I got.  My husband poured me a glass of wine while he was cooking dinner.  I didn't drink.  I drew!  I can see the bottle is 'off', but I like the glass and shadows.

Here's what caught my eye in the last few weeks.
The sky was blue with puffy white clouds.  I did a few using different tools.  The clouds in this one felt a bit harsh, not exactly what I was wanting.

It took a while to find a balance with blending colors to give it the watercolor wet into wet softness I was looking for.

Don't  know what happened to this one...the clouds are blurry but not the mountains.

​All in all I learned some new techniques with the tools and layers.  I've got a lot more to learn, of course.  But the best part is this:  when i was sitting on the window seat drawing the sky, the time just flew by.  One minute I was opening my Sketch Club app and the next I was looking at a finished drawing.  When an hour feels like a minute, you know you're in the flow in a good way.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Colds and Creativity.

I jjust got up from my nap.  As I go get myself a glass of water to stop my coughing, I step into my studio.  I see all the pieces that need my attention.  I start coughing and know that today is not a good day to work.  I could push myself as I've done many times before, but I know that I won't make my best art today.  I'm sick.
I'm also sick of being sick.  
It's been a battle I've fought for over 2 weeks, now.  I didn't realize I was sick, at first.  I thought my body aches and headache were symptoms of age and stress.  When my son got it, I knew I had it too and I did let myself rest for two days.  I felt better so I jumped back on my usual life track.  Walking, yoga, jazzercise, errands, throwing, studio work, volunteering.   Then my body hit me upside the head with an earache, sore throat and cough.
I wasn't listening was I? Nope.

So my body made it very clear.  Stop.  Now.  Lie down until you really feel better.  
But, there I was yesterday, up and in the studio because I just had to get handles on a few mugs.  I just had to run a few errands.  I just had to walk the dog.
Today, it's nap time.  And tea time.  Again.   
As a child, I never did anything when I was sick.  No school.  No homework.  Just sleeping and reading and drinking juice, I didn't mind a few days off.   Why then, did I grow up to feel so guilty about being sick?  I could understand it when I worked a highly competitive and stressful job, getting sick and working anyway was a medal of  honor.  But I work for myself now.  You'd think as my own boss, I'd be kind and understanding to myself but, I'm not.  Sometimes, I push myself just as hard as that highly competitive and stressful working environment that I hated so much.  Sometimes, I rebel against it and play hookey.  Maybe there's a good reason my word for the year is flow.
Time to get off the monkey mind train at the rest stop.

Whether I like it or not, I have a cold.  In order to get well, I need to rest not work.  Maybe even treat myself to a good book, movie, game or bowl of pudding.  (Oh, pudding does sound wonderful!)  I need to be a good boss to myself, tell myself to go home, get some rest and get well.  Tell my artist self to have no fear, the work will get done better when I'm well.
But the most important message here: Don't feel bad about feeling bad.  It isn't a creative block, it's a cold.  Who knows, maybe the naps will lead to some new ideas.  Hmmm...maybe that's new way to look at flow.