Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Art Focus Blog

My interests have some pretty clearly defined splits in interest. There is the crafting side. And there is the painting side.

For my own study purposes, I'm going to start moving my painting/drawing posts over to a new blog: KellyAnnePowers.Wordpress.com. This is where I will post new paintings as well.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Reaching 100

I just hit 100 drawn faces this week. It's the first time I've ever reached the end of a newsprint drawing block. My husband said the words, "You should feel proud." When I thought about those words I realized that I didn't feel proud. I didn't really feel anything accept the aching in my neck that comes from drawing with TERRIBLE posture.

Progress. It's such a nice idea and so hard to actually experience. The word progress makes it seem like you are aware of it. That it's this physical thing you can look at. Progress is this tangible idea we put on a completely intangible thing.

Doing is difficult. Really difficult. So difficult in fact that many of us think that the thing between us and being really good at something is the starting. That once we clear out enough time or sharpen enough pencils or get over enough self doubt and put pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard or voice to mic, whatever) we will have started, and we will be on our way to that big success of our dreams. A huge percentage of could-be-would-be-artists never actually start. Starting is just that hard.

But the frustrating reality is that yes, while starting IS hard, the part after starting might be harder. It just might be. So we clear out enough time, we sharpen enough pencils, and we get over enough self doubt to put pencil to paper, and here we are with no actual skill set. Starting isn't magic. It didn't instill in us the habit of work or create the years it takes to sculpt style.

So now we now find ourselves in this terrible place with a terrible reality: We are bad. And now we face the daunting task of getting good.

One hundred faces indeed.

Image note: This is something like face 80. I'm not painting them all. That goal comes later.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Materials Clean Up Day

I would like to think that my materials, especially my professional quality mediums, will last forever. Occasionally I will open a new bottle of something and compare it to one I've had on my shelf for who knows how long and there is a remarkable difference between them. It's easy for a new product to get lost on a shelf with old products. So today I spent some time cleaning out old supplies. I probably still err too much on the "keep it it was expensive" side but it felt good to clear out some space and make mental notes of what I need to pick up at the art store.

A few things I did:
1. Arrange Bottles By Use
I have two types of bottles. The big 32oz or 128oz bottles that I keep to fill the little bottles and the little bottles that I will actually hold in my hands while painting. The big bottles simply refill smaller bottles but I have them all in the same space. Solution:  I Put big back up bottles in a lower, harder to access shelf and the small bottles of the same materials in the easy to reach shelf. By creating a specific place where I keep second and third bottles or the much larger cartons of a medium, I will know where to look to see if I am truly out of something. This also clears up the easy-to-access space and will mean tripping over multiple bottles of the same thing while trying to grab something else.

Monday, May 06, 2013


I am a huge fan of Pinterest, and just yesterday I saw the poster, "If you're tired of starting over, stop giving up."

Oh and how. After a long vacation and a brutal few weeks of work, I sat down to draw and paint. I hadn't regressed as far as I feared. And the first day I felt absolutely thrilled to have the pencil back in my hand. Maybe I could just start again. But then the next day I felt the oncoming dread. I felt the frustration and anger that I've felt so many times trying to learn to draw and paint. I was angry that my hands couldn't do what I wished for them. And even worse, I was painfully aware that I couldn't even articulate what it was I wanted them to do.

In the beginning, so much of progress is in the mental game of sticking with it. And when we are in the rhythm of doing, we overcome all these screaming voices that tell us we will never create something that will fulfill whatever it is in us that longs. And when you stop for a week or two or three, you have to get past all of those voices again. Maybe the skill in your hand hasn't all disappeared but the steadfastness of your head has weakened. And maybe that's worse. Today, anyway, it feels worse.

So up this hill again we climb. One foot over another.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Baby Shower Art

I put life (art) on hold for a week while I immersed myself into work's yearly auction. I came out on the other side with a baby shower on the horizon and dove fully back in. I was talking with a friend about some of the painting I've been doing lately, and it made me realized that it's been far too long (November?) since I picked up a brush and painted a face. Maybe next week is that week. It's hard to balance all the things we love. But balance we try.

This week though it's less about balancing and more about designing, creating, manufacturing and delivering a baby shower set for my sister. It's been so much fun getting back into party installation mode. I've had very few opportunities to do it to this level, and I need to find more. 

Image note: Attempt one of balloon magnet favor. Cutting magnet is leaving marks on my hand so as to make me appear to be the worse self-cutter ever.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Abstraction: Learning without Judgement

Week two of Jane Davies' Composition class just started, and I'm loving it. It's great to have a group of people holding me to task to get my work done each week. It's also great to have my mind pushed and pulled with the weekly abstract challenge. And to me, abstract is a challenge.

Abstract Art holds a funny place in our hearts and minds. It's the thing non-artists like to mock about the art world. "They just painted it all white. Big deal." So it starts at a disadvantage.

But abstract art is problem solving at it's finest. And for an artist of any level, the lessons found within that problem solving spreads out to all other art forms. Abstract art teaches us to listen to our inner voice. "Should this go here? How about here? Does it look better there? Why? How could I adjust it so it's stronger? Why?" It's a circle of constant inner questioning. We have to trust ourselves but also have reasons for the trust. "It's stronger over here because the balance is better. It's better over there because it draws the eye in and around." It's a questioning without judgment. Whether or not I put a square of color on the left or right doesn't feel like high stakes. I don't declare myself a bad person and an incompetent artist so quickly when it's just a matter of squares. But the lessons I'm learning in that time are invaluable. And I can't wait to see what week two brings.

Image note: The lesson was to stay within a color family in a grid layout but use various values and include a non grid shape (in my case a circle) to focus they eye's attention. My first pieces used hardly any layering, but seeing the beautiful work of my classmates encouraged me to try and slap a few more pieces on top of each other. I still didn't go that deep...but I'll take any progress I can get.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jane Davies Composition Class

The wonderful (wonderful) Jane Davies is teaching an online workshop concerning composition. I had the opportunity to work with Jane when I was at Creative Catalyst and to say she's been an influence is putting it way too mildly. I missed her color class in January and instead of waiting for it to come around again, I'm jumping in to composition.

Am I terrified? Oh yeah. Even more so by seeing all the amazing work done by my fellow classmates. But you know what? You don't get better by sitting in the corner hoping to get better. This is exactly the kind of fear that you feel right before you learn a whole lot. It's the kind of fear we should all be running toward.

So, on your marks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Material Lessons

We learn by doing. And it takes time with the materials on your hands to understand the best way you work. Here are some of the material techniques I've learned. These are specifically for paper painting, although they may apply to the faces a bit.

Tall Bottles:
I have a bunch of 8oz plastic squeeze bottles. They are filled with paints and mediums that come from unwieldy jars. I label them, although sometimes that's not enough like when I grabbed white gesso thinking it was matte medium. Surprise!

I work pretty fast, and I find the idea of putting down my paint brush, using both hands to open a jar, and then somehow transferring that jar's insides to a palette really cumbersome. (Also messy.) Doing the squeeze bottle transfer every couple of weeks (or months) makes life a lot easier. Sometimes the tips get clogged, but it's worth the cleaning time for the time spent not frustrated about jars.

For getting mediums/paints from jars into tall bottles, it's good to have one. At first you'll think, "Oh no. My aim is just fine." If you find yourself thinking that,  at least allow yourself a piece of plastic under your aim. I'll report back on how important it is to have one funnel for clear mediums (matte medium, self level gel, etc) and one for dark colors (like black gesso.) Also, when pouring through that funnel, work in small batches. That is unless you are really really good at translating funnel volume to squeeze bottle volume. I, as it turns out, am not.

Used Up Paint Bottles:
I paint with two types of soft bodied paint: expensive Golden paints and much less expensive craft paints. While I was bemoaning the fact I hadn't purchased more 2oz squeeze bottles at Dick Blick to make glazes, I realized I had a bunch of bottles all ready at my disposal. I just found my craft 2oz paint bottles that were almost empty and added matte medium (or white gesso that time I wasn't paying attention) and suddenly I have access to all those glazes!

Image Note: I put a G on the tops and bottoms of paints I've turned into glazes. The colors inside never match the color that has been stained onto the plastic. I always forget this simple fact.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

A Good Day

When you go into the studio for a day of art and your work space *starts* like this, you know you're in for a good day.

Image note: No I did not have beer for breakfast. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Tuesday Night Trivia (Not Really)

Tonight before knocking all the spare eyes and wings I had carefully organized into a tidy and meaningful stack, I pulled out some of the layered pieces I was working on last week. This week I didn't touch them at all, and it was nice to see them with fresh eyes. The layers felt satisfying in a way I couldn't perceive when I was looking at them day after day. It inspired me to stay up too late and add another level of gel to four of them. It also reminded me that if I had actually been attending to them every day, they would be finished by now. An important lesson: If you do nothing, you make no progress. Hardly anything is waaaaaay more than nothing.

Lesson acknowledged universe. Acknowledged.

Another fun piece of art learning trivia: One of my pieces of material is rusting under the medium. Rusting might not be the correct chemical term but something akin to that process. At first I noticed a few spots at the edges but I thought there might be a chance I was making it up. No indeed good people. No indeed. And isn't it a good thing I used large swaths of this material in a body, a head and a beak of three separate projects. They are all going to turn a strange translucent green, which, lets be honest, wasn't a part of my original color scheme.

Another lesson learned: If you use recycled materials, you'll either need to test how they'll react to chemicals (in this case self leveling gel) or risk that they will once you've started your piece.

Image Note: This is clearly the trouble piece.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Side Note: What the Heck Golden Reg. Gel?!

Just a couple of days ago I was singing the drying-clear praises of Golden's Matte Medium. Well, it's a different story for the Regular Gel. Booooooooo. See the above smudges? That is the Gel Medium fully dried.

I need to do a dry test to see which of the products dry clear and which do not. And I have to remind myself that even though I've been waiting for layers on this particular project to dry over a week that these owls are all in the name of education and the weird smudging, while yes, means that it's a bit ruined, doesn't mean that the experiment has been ruined.

But seriously, booooooooooooooo.

Picture Note: Boooooooooooooooooo.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Horizontal Storage Space

For the time being, I have limited my personal art time to two-dimensional art. But using the word limited is probably a bit inaccurate. In the past few weeks I have found that I can embed almost anything into my collage work and now I have to be careful about filling up my craft coffers with a bunch of material I just got rid of for the sake of focusing on two- dimensional art.

The problem I'm facing however, is that because I have a lot of pieces in progress right now, I'm not painting. I do about 20 minutes of work and think, "Ah these have to dry and I've done collage today. Check!"

Not so fast Artist-Wanna-Be-Me. Just because I've touched an acrylic medium doesn't mean I've improved my ability to draw a cheek bone. Or know how to mix colors any better. On the contrary. I'm figuring out some technical issues but not the bigger deeper issues that allow you to become a better artist.

The solution? Clean up after myself. (Booooooooo.) These collage pieces take hours to dry over various layers. While they are drying, I leave them scattered across my desk and the supplies I use equally scattered. All of this means that if I have 10 minutes to kill, I can't just come into my studio and practice drawing....not without moving a lot of crap around...probably about 10 minutes of crap removal.

I know myself pretty well, and I need to use that knowledge to create systems that give me the best chance possible to practice painting and drawing. That will probably include a night clean up of my work space. Lame? Yes, it feels totally lame. But I'm going to try it for the rest of this week and see how it feels. It means that when I leave my studio for the day, I need to have access to my painting surface.

Image Note: A desk is not long term or short term storage. You would never know I believe that by looking at this.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Finding The Line

(And yes, I'm talking about an actual line. In this case slightly dotted.)

I find acrylic mediums amazing. You can pile loads of matte medium and then it just dries clear. Clear! Like nothing was there in the first place.

Example, on the right side of the figures in the left image, little piles of matte medium. Image on the right? Vanished!

But back to the real point here: Line. I'm always looking for ways to add lines to my pieces. Sharpies, while come in thin points, tend to bleed (waterproof my ass) and also change to a purplish color. If I wanted purple in my pieces, I'd use a purple pen. So obviously I'm venting some of my love hate (hate) relationship with those damn sharpies.

So a few days ago I thought, "I have black stuff around my studio." And I began to pull out anything that could potentially make a line. Cut up black paper. Trimmed ribbon. And thread. The heavy thread worked the best. However, I don't know how well my hands would fair between the close cutting and then the tweezer lifts to the piece. It's a bit of a fight, but oh my gosh the outcome looks so great! I can't help myself, I'm going to have to try it again. (Also, if a piece of artwork involved tweezers in any form, the price should go up. This is why tiny pieces can be expensive. Because, seriously, TWEEZERS.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Self Leveling Gel

It can take awhile to fully implement any new technique. Some are fast, like everything in Anne Bagby's DVDS. Those techniques fit in with what I was already doing. Figuring out how to use true layers and then do it through self level gel (SLG), isn't quite so intuitive. I've tried new styles. I've tried adding more lines and new textures I'd normally avoided (like fabric), and now I can tell I'm looping back around to figuring out how to add it (and additional collage elements) to my cupcake owls. Oooooh the learning curves and decision making curves are a constant tripping hazard.

However, in all of this creative confusion, I am learning a few things about SLG.

What I'm learned (or am learning):

1. Bottle Approach
I currently squeeze the self leveling gel out of a squeeze bottle. This works great. I can create a border and then fill it in. I then run a credit card back and forth over it like I'm spreading frosting.

However, getting it into that particular squeeze bottle was a DISASTER including probably losing a half of cup to spillage that I couldn't scoop up. (And there was a lot of scooping up in this process.) Once it's in the bottle it's fantastic. But because that process is so difficult, once this bottle runs out, I may just try getting it out of the jar with a credit card and going directly onto my surface. TBD.

2. Spreading
If you're using the squeeze bottle method and you have a frame of SLG around your border, start with your edges. Scrape out to the edge to make sure you've got it all the way out. Then begins working left to right or top to bottom. I find it really easy to add more SLG to the center of a piece where maybe it's a little thin. The edges I find a bit more tricky so if the first thing I do is make sure they are set, I can move on.

3. Layering
This may not be true for other artists but by God it is true for me. I can layer SLG and then place something down on top of it so that the two (element and SLG) can dry together. Except in the case of embedding glitter, this is the wrong approach for me. I should pour a layer of SLG, allow it to dry, and then add my element with matte medium or gel medium. Once the element is dry, then do another SLG pour.

Now that this third truth is in writing, maybe I'll remember it.

Image: This is self leveling gel out of the squeeze bottle before I've moved it around. Notice how blue it is. That's a bit because I'm bad at color correction, but also it's because many of these mediums start with a tint of blue and then dry clear. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sketch Practice

Last night I sat at my local coffee shop and sort of stared out into the traffic beyond the window. I was thinking about art and my current frustrations. And then I did something I rarely do in public. I drew. I had my black and white photocopies of faces, and I pulled them out and began sketching with the ballpoint pen on hand. Very quickly I began to feel better. I didn't have any deep insights into what the hell I'm doing with myself or my art. There was nothing profound happening, but sometimes going through the motions isn't just what we can muster, it's also the solution.

In art, as in life probably (damn), sometimes you don't have to have each and every step mapped out before you move. (Although we all would like to.)  Sometimes you know only the step directly in front of you. Sometimes the solution to confusion about your art, is to pull out your crappy photocopies and draw some crappy (but less crappy than before) sketches. And it reminds you that the process is a huge part of what you're enjoying even when you have no idea about any kind of product.

Above: Top left is a sketch I did back in the summer. The other three are yesterday's. The latter three may not look a whole lot different, but they felt very (very) different to draw. They felt better, and that in itself is incentive to keep going.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Art Walls

Today was a frustrating art day. Or maybe an everything day. Or maybe just an art day.

The layered pieces take so long it feels like watching the creative process in slow motion. It's hard to build on knowledge because it takes so long for each layer to dry. (About a day.) One of the things I love about art is that it's dynamic, and nothing about the layering in this approach is dynamic.

I still like starting with the fabric background, but I'm having terrible trouble adding color to the line drawings. Color is so hit or miss for me. Because the layering does take so long I need to have a more complete picture before I start including color. That's what I'm attempting from a pattern standpoint in the workspace picture above but I need to figure out how to plan color ahead of time as well.

All and all, I will try and give it another few weeks to decide if I keep going down this path. Cloudy days are not days to decide direction.

The faces portion of the art was equally frustrating, but it's my own fault for trying to use a face from a magazine. Soft lighting makes everything from magazines useless. They strip away the features that give a face shape. Lesson learned. (And side lesson: I need to start collecting my own face images. The introvert inside me shudders.)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Avenues of Focus

Today was the first day since the start of the show run where I feel truly excited about art again. Apparently, focus takes a little getting back into.

I'm working along two avenues: Small layering pieces and faces. The layering pieces are small and have more elements of hand drawn and whimsy. The faces are larger and acrylic. I'm not sure where either are going yet, but it's still early. The important thing at this point is to keep experimenting with each. To see where it takes me.

A few things I'm running into for the smaller pieces:
-Black lines bleed. This is why I loved the wax. Pen lines don't bleed in wax. With the acrylic mediums they bleed to varying degrees, and it's totally frustrating. Even sharpie bleeds. Some of the inks turn slightly purple in color. I've found that gel pens on paper and then into acrylic have decent staying power. Sharpie on clear sticker does pretty well too. I bought an acrylic pen tonight, and we'll see how unruly that it.

-Photocopies. I photocopied some line drawings tonight at FedEx, and they are in varying stages of acrylic at this point. I forgot to photocopy the *one* that I actually wanted to make into a project, and it's taking all of my self control to not glue it down. Luckily I have a bleeding turtle (see image) to remind me of the repercussions. At times I think the toner copies are bleeding, but it's my paranoia.

-I put down a layer of self leveling gel (my new best friend) and then just sort of floated a pen and ink drawing down on top of it. I think it worked pretty successfully. I won't be able to tell fully until it's completely dry.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Clearing Out the Final Scraps

Layer practice in progress
Most of today was spent cleaning out the art studio. I'm still not to a wholly functioning studio, but I am three trash bags filled with ribbon, fabric, and cookie cutters closer. Oh how we hold on to the useless.

My husband made a really helpful suggestion: He told me to choose an art form. It didn't matter what it was and that I was allowed to change my mind later on, but that I should choose something. Choose a path. He's been telling me this for years, but for some reason it clicked in a new way. Maybe it was his giving me permission to change my mind later on that was the freeing bit. I started to think about my work space and all the things in it that have nothing to do with 2D visual art. I thought of my Mom's studio and how there is a sense of calm inside its walls. How she doesn't fill it with random projects here and there. She fills it with the art she's working on and the things that inspire that art.

I want my studio to be representative of where I'm focused. And for right now for an undisclosed amount of time, it's going to be painting.

This narrowing still leaves a lot open for collection, and I still do have too much fabric. But it's a start.