Friday Starts at Midnight

Have you ever heard of Illustration Friday? I have been getting their emails for over a year, always promising myself that once I put up a gallery on a website I would participate. Well, I started a blog about art. There’s a gallery here. I can do this!

Last week’s subject was Yarn and since my wife is an avid crocheter, I couldn’t wait to work something up to submit. I started a couple of digital pieces, but nothing was really clicking. Finally, I grabbed some of the supplies I recently acquired and started to draw by hand. And, I liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but I liked its imperfections. It was almost done late Thursday night so I decided to stop for the evening and finish it up and post it the next day. You know, Illustration Friday. Except…. Before I crawled into bed, I hit reload on the submissions page to see what else had come in, and suddenly there were no pictures of yarn. Apparently the subject of Yarn had been posted the previous Friday and the instructions clearly state you have one week to complete your entry. Whoops! I missed the deadline.

Here’s my poor, abandoned Yarn art:

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So this week, I thought I’d try to get it done a bit earlier. And here it is Saturday and I am done already, yay! The subject is Vintage, and this is what I worked up (any feedback is welcome):

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A Life Left Blank.

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A friend of my wife’s family, a woman that was in her mother’s tight circle of friends in school, passed away recently. Forgive me for saying this, but she was not an easy person to love — partially because she’d had a hard knock life and partially because her world was skewed by mental illness. It was hard to talk to her for any amount of time without her feeling slighted. Sometimes those misinterpreted slights grew into grand conspiracies in her mind. No one was safe to her. Any person who loved her was just another person who was going to betray her eventually. Near the end, she even believed her dearest friend, who paid for her apartment so that she could live relatively independently despite her illnesses and a paltry sum from disability, was going to evict her after decades of this living arrangement.

She lived nearby and she and I had things in common. She loved computers and art and even spoke some German (certainly more than I had retained since my four years of high school German). For a short period of time we tried, despite our differences, to make these commonalities into a friendship. But, like I said, she was not an easy person to love, and so I failed to make the leap from family obligation to friendship. A couple of years ago, after a particularly nasty argument about another family member, I stopped engaging with her altogether.

But last week she passed away and this week my father-in-law asked me to help sort through her art supplies, saying that he didn’t know what was valuable and what was trash, and might I be able to donate the good stuff to my school? Of course I was happy to help, but I didn’t really realize what I was getting myself into. In fact, I thought to myself on the way to her apartment that I was thankful that I was emotionally removed from her passing so that I could complete this task efficiently, without a heavy heart.

As I dug through three small bookcases filled with supplies, I was astounded. Every supply seemed to be of very high quality; she had spared no expense. But pad after pad of expensive, textured paper was untouched. There are at least a dozen pads of watercolor paper that were still wrapped in plastic. The pastels and colored pencils don’t show any signs of wear. As I unearthed more and more supplies, all still nestled safely in their potential, I began to quake. Here was a woman who considered herself an artist, who was very serious about the pursuit of art, who wasn’t actually doing any art. After looking through most of her supplies, I found only one set of thumbnail sketches and one plan based off those sketches for a watercolor painting, set out on tracing paper. It knocked me on my heels. I thought of all of her potential, wasted. And then I thought off all the supplies in my office that have been shoved away since the office remodel last year (and further shoved away when the remodel was abandoned for work on our nursery and then just plain baby craziness).

I have a feeling that our family friend was crippled by her fear of imperfection; I know she had talent, but all she saw in the few works she showed me over the years were the flaws. I don’t want to say I identify with that, but I do, I do. I have an instructor who once told my fellow students that at the end of class that day we were going to throw our canvases in the trash. Some students got disheartened and didn’t try very hard, but others pushed themselves to new limits because they felt free to “get it wrong.”

So, if you’re reading this (and I’m not sure anyone ever will at this point), go get out those art supplies and be imperfect! Art is created in imperfection. Art is imperfection.

 

Artist’s Block

I think artist’s block, for me, might be a different thing than writer’s block (which I’ve had and I would guess anyone who has gotten paid to write has had at some point). Or maybe it’s just that I am so desperately out of practice. Wait. Let me back up.

Yesterday I had time (granted to me by my totally amazing wife) to work on a painting. I really hadn’t painted anything since the mural in our baby’s nursery. Due to a recent remodel of my office/art studio, I first had to dig out my painting supplies. Once that was accomplished, I looked at the time I had left and I made the decision to paint with acrylics rather than oil.

I knew I wanted to further explore a type of painting I’d done while taking my Design class (two years ago — time flies). I called this piece Rick’s Chair, because it was inspired by Richard Diebenkorn:

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It’s not a masterpiece, but I liked it’s rough lines and restricted color palette and it was even accepted into a juried student show. I’ve been wanting to try more “in that vein” ever since I painted it. A photograph of two of my cats cuddled in the sun seemed like a possible subject. Saccharine, for sure, but there was something about the quality of light that I liked. I thought I could work with it.

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Maybe I could work with it… if I was not so out of practice! I stumbled right out of the gate because I tried to duplicate this amazing purple that was in the photo rather than choosing and sticking to a limited palette. I failed to ever get close to that color (I perhaps lack the right blue). Then I found myself falling back into pre-art major habits, like generalizing (“I know I am painting a stripey cat’s fur, therefore I must make stripes with short strokes to represent the fur!”) and, on a related note, not looking at the source material but painting what I think it looks like. I had only gotten a third of a small canvas covered when I felt it was time to throw in the towel.

So, here’s my theory: when you have writer’s block, you are stuck. You can’t get anything on the page. But when you have artist’s block, you get things on the page, but you hate it — everything feels wrong. I know the only way to get through writer’s block for me is to talk it out. I will literally talk out loud about what I want to write and just keep talking and talking until something clicks and I run to my computer to start writing. With artist’s block, I think I just have to force myself to put some marks on a surface. A little bit of art each day and all those bad habits will fall away and allow me to express myself the way I want to. I guess that’s why I started this blog in the first place, to get me working on art every day. So far, so good, even if the result was ugly.

Do you ever get artist’s block? If so, what do you do to get over it?

An Art Adventure

I’m using this blog to inspire me to create and share art every week; my very own art adventure.

I grabbed this blog name on WordPress over a year ago with the idea that I would reboot my old blog where I reviewed downloadable PC games. In fact, the “hog” in the title comes from “Hidden Object Games.”

Reviewing games was something I had done to keep me busy in the time between being downsized out of a job and deciding to go back to school. It was fun, but never really went anywhere. But it did keep me from sinking into a deep depression. Okay, a deeper depression.

Wait, I imagine you asking, what does that have to do with art?

Nothing; but I had learned that writing a blog can keep you motivated. It can keep you doing work even when there is no due date for class, no deadline for a client. Now that I am close to finishing my AA-T in Studio Art (the -T means it guarantees transfer to a state school), and I am co-mom of a 7-month old daughter, I really don’t have time or interest in telling you how cool Haunted Hotel: The Axiom Butcher is (it’s delightfully scary). But I do want to make time to make art for me. Because who are we as artists if we aren’t making art?

Eventually, I hope to put up a gallery of work. But for now, it’s just one piece of art at a time. And today, it’s recent work I did for the Sustainability Committee on campus. Original art will follow later this week!

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