Thursday, January 30, 2014

Drawing digital: A surprising new art tool.


I've had my Ipad for 4 months.  I love it.  I didn't think it would be anything but a toy, an accessory with which to access email and the web when I was away from my laptop.  
This small little device has crept into my life and taken it over.  I start the day with my Ipad in my lap, sipping coffee while checking my email and playing WordFeud. I end my day reading a book on it using my nook app in bed.  In between, it travels with me from office to studio to kitchen and now, even to meetings where it has, on occasion, replaced my beloved pen and paper.  

I have always loved paper, pens, pencils, paints, pastels...ok, anything that makes marks on paper.  I have journals and notebooks and paper collections, too.  I love to write and draw.  

"Where is the world headed?" squeeks the old granny critic in my brain.  The world is in a new era and it's sitting in my lap, now, as I write this blog.  
Now,  my IPad has become my latest sketchpad. 
Thanks to the experiments and help from fellow artist, Terry Grant, on her blog, And Sew It Goes. Here's the link to her blog.   I've discovered two drawing apps and drawing 'pens' specifically for Ipads that are amazing and fun.  One app, Artrage, is dense and multi-layered. I think of it more like a combo of painting and photoshop.  I like painting better than photoshop, so I'll see how this shakes out.  Another app, Sketchclub, is easier and much more fun for me.  

Sketchclub felt like having all the paper, paints, pens, markers and crayons I'd ever wanted all in one place.  There's no set up.  No clean up.  Just doodling to my hearts content.  I can save it or trash it with the touch of a button.  
Here's a sketch I did while my husband and I watched the Seahawks game on last Sunday.  It was a challenge to get the shading by using the color slider tool instead of my hand or eraser.  
The one at the beginning of the blog, I did playing with one of my favorite landscape formats.  I loved the discovery of blending colors using the layers provided which I've never used before.
I used a stylus as a drawing pencil rather than my fingers on the screen.  It gave me much more control and felt more like drawing with paper and pen.  It's a New Trent Arcadia stylus.  My favorite tool from the program is the sketchy pen.  I love the quality of the  line and the movement of it. My challenge is learning to find the colors in my mind's eye from the selections on the color wheel program rather than being able to use a pastel pencil or mix a color up in paint.  
I thought my iPad would be a toy, but I'm finding out it's a great new tool. And, although, I still love the feel of pen on paper, I have to admit digital drawing is a great for on the go especially when my iPad is already in my lap.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Firing and yoga.

I loaded the kiln this week.  It's a full glaze load.  This is always wonderful and scary.  

It's wonderful that I have a kiln filled with colorful new work.  Big purple bowls.  Ruffled black and white mugs, bowls and plates.   Two new porcelain masks done in black under glaze.  Several bigger bowls with experiments in sgraffito and under glazes.  And a lovely jar with a lid that fits which started out as a mistake and turned into a success.
Oops, that's the scary part.  (Yoga pose:  Downward facing dog...Breathe in and out)
Because when the pieces come out of the bisque stage, they are colorful and whole.  Yes, a few had small hairline cracks which I repaired but all in all, they looked wonderful.  They have the look of the finished piece shimmering in them.  They are hope. Or what I hope they will look like when they are finished.  But, they are not finished, yet.
I had to glaze each piece.   Then load each one into the kiln and fire them again at a much higher setting.  Turn the kiln from low to medium to high.  Inside, the clay and heat and glaze must do their work.  The glaze has to melt right into a smooth clear finish.  The clay has to move all its molecules together to form the solid porcelain piece.

All I can do is wait.  (Yoga pose:  Shavasana...I lie awake with hands and feet and body at rest...breathing in and out.)
I won't know for two days if the pieces reached completion because I have to let the inside temperature of the kiln lower from 2,260 degrees farenheit to the outside temperature of my garage 36 degrees.  Opening any sooner could cause the pieces to crack and be ruined.
Patience and confidence.  (Yoga pose:  Dancer's pose...breathing in and out)  
Firing is a lot like yoga.    Strength, stretching, tension and release are all necessary.  But especially balance.  Balance in loading the kiln shelves, positioning the pieces, timing the temperature changes and, most of  all, in myself.
Balance is essential in body, mind, spirit, fire and clay.  

(Yoga pose:  Salute to the sun...hands to heart center...namaste)

Friday, January 17, 2014

As the wheel turns: Throwing or glazing?

(Freshly bisqued pieces just unloaded from the kiln.  All pretty and no cracks.)

After a month off, it's time to get back into the studio.  Flow is my word for the year, and I want that in my studio as well as my life.  But I'm feeling eager and overwhelmed all at once.  I want to get going and throwing and creating(flowing) but there's a lot of work sitting there waiting to be finished.  
I don't know about you, but I can keep myself very busy without getting a whole lot done.  It's tricky and sometimes, I don't always catch myself at it.  

It goes something like this:  enter the studio and examine all new pieces, put aside the few with cracks to be fixed, check thrown pieces to see if they're ready for trimming, decide to wait on trimming till all are ready, leave studio for office,  answer email on ipad, go to my laptop to file emails in folders, make copies of specific, important emails, file those in color coded files, delete non-essential emails from laptop, make a list of all duties from various committees that need doing, avoid doing them while I let the dogs out and eat lunch, eat lunch while surfing the web, order a pair of shoes, print out the order, clean the kitchen, do revisions needed on committe document, write email for upcoming class, file those emails, go past the studio and feel the guilt of not working in there.  Make a cup of tea hoping the caffiene will cure my feeling of tiredness.

Busyness and futzing equal frustration. This is not flow.  This is fear of completion and failure.  The longer the pieces sit there in their colorful, bisque-fired beauty, I don't have to face the glaze that went wrong or the crack that appears out of nowhere. This is me being the rock in my own stream.  Flow is really where I want to be.  Desperately.  Honest. 

I sigh and see and accept the rocks are part of my river.  They cannot be avoided.  They are there for a reason, I'm sure.  I'm  just not sure today, what that reason is.  I do see one thing though that those stones in the form of emails and dishes and the web allow me to avoid crashing into my rock of endings all at once.  Instead, I flow around that big mound of work to be finished, look at it in passing and getting up more flow that's needed to make it over the top.  

So, maybe these tasks are stepping stones leading me into the flow after all.  Ah ha...time to put my tootsies into the river, after all and get glazing.  
(Freshly glazed pieces...pretty color covered with clear glaze.)

I have to admit, once I got going, it all just flowed ...just fine.
​(A close up of clear over black under glaze...the clear dries making these cool webbed lines which will disappear when the glaze melts in the kiln...kiln gods willing.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flow defined.

Flow is my word for 2014.  I think I know what it is, but I wanted to do a little research anyway.  I’ll admit I like doing research especially when it involves googling around the web and reading lots of articles.

Here’s the dictionary definition:
verb 1.  Move along or out steadily and continuously in a current or stream.  2.  Go from one place to another in a steady stream, typically in large numbers.  noun 3. The action or fact of moving along in a continuous stream. 4.  A steady or continuous stream of something.

Wikipedia defines it:
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, this positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.

Ok, I admit I’m not familiar with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist and professor.  He’s written many books and articles in his 79 years on this planet. He's known for his studies on happiness and creativity and his research on flow.  He's call the world's leading researcher in positive psychology and his work has transformed the perception of human activity from athletics to art to scientific invention.

Here’s a quick look at his work on flow from Wikipedia: 
According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task, although flow is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one's emotions.

Flow is described using these phrases:  to be in the moment, present, in the zone, on a roll, wired in, in the groove, on fire, in tune, centered, or singularly focused.

The Urban dictionary defines it:
The style and essence of a True Lax(lacrosse) Bro. Is usually referred to as long, wavy or curly hair, which can give someone flow, however, flow can also be attained by the equipment and uniform of a player (calf socks, knee length shorts). More importantly flow comes from the style of a player's game; if a player always makes sloppy plays or is a ball hog they are lacking flow, but if a player can make plays and pick corners he has flow.  Example: "Chad has sick flow"

I had to laugh at that one, at first.  But then, I realized it's just another way to describe flow.  And I do know when I'm in the flow at the wheel, in the studio or writing.  Time melts into movements of creation and creation becomes an extension of me in those moments.  To me, it's like magic, things just emerge or tasks and errands all get done with a feeling of effortlessness.

I may not have long, waves hair, but I do know how to play, so, maybe I have 'sick flow', after all. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Flow: the word of the year.

For the last five years, I’ve had a word to guide me.  I didn’t consciously start collecting words, it just seemed to happen.  Part of my long habit of yearly reflection, I’d be writing in my journal about the past year, events and emotions as well as hopes and visions for the future in the New Year to come.   But what really got it fired up and melted into a more concrete form was my friend, Patrick’s yearly burning ritual.  For the past five years, Michael and I have happily shared in a wonderful ceremony that embodies creativity, art, heart and soul.   You can read more about the burnings here and here.

Patrick Gracewood sculpts and creates all year round, but in the days after Christmas and before the New Year, he has made a sculpture that somehow embodies not only his own year, but magically reflects the years of others, too.  On New Year’s Eve, all are invited to gather, share food and quiet conversation.  As we sit and savor, we share Patrick’s sculpture constructed of wood and found objects that bring together the bits and pieces of his life.  As time gets closer to midnight, the sound of conversation gives way to writing.  Each person is encouraged to write their goodbyes to the old year and hellos to the new on small pieces of colored paper.  Then each paper is placed in, on or around the sculpture before it’s rolled outside and burned.  As the flames catch the sculpture, there is silence broken only by the pops and crackles of the art turning into ash.

I didn’t have a copy of all the words I wrote onto each year’s paper, so when I got home, all I could remember was one word.  And that word became my anthem or banner or inspiration for the year.  Here’s a list of the words.

2011 TRUST
2013  ENJOY

What’s so amazing about this process is how it really reflects not only my needs for that year, but progress I made in my life.  In 2010, I needed freedom from fear, sadness, situations that were holding me back, people making unreasonable demands and open space, time and spirit to move forward in my art.  In 2011, I needed to trust that the changes and learning were leading me to the right place in my life, art and relationships.  In 2012, I needed strength to move ahead in my art and find new opportunities.  In 2013, I needed to let myself enjoy the progress I’d made in my personal and professional life.  These words were not just marching orders for my mind, they became inspirations for my soul.

This year, sadly, Patrick did not do a sculpture and there was no burning party to celebrate and consecrate the New Year.  But I have come to love the gathering and ceremony as well as honor the strength and wisdom that comes from it.  With that in mind, Michael and I held our own small one.  Using Flying Wish Papers, we each wrote things we needed to let go of from 2013 and words for 2014.  We burned the 2013 papers at 11:45 pm and the words for 2014 at 12:01.

My word for this year:  FLOW.

I’m not sure how this will manifest in my life this year.  But I do trust this is a word I need in my life this year.  That's going with the...FLOW.