Thursday, December 26, 2013

Raven: Memory & Dream

A few weeks ago I found a bunch of my old sketch books, particularly from RISD (my college years). So I got lost going down that rabbit hole, finding sketches and ideas I hadn't explored in over 12-15 years.

But I actually on a quest to find a particular sketch that's been at the back of my brain for a while.  It was a quick sketch I had done of some ancient Celtic art - that either was on exhibition at the RISD Museum or some other place I had visited - of a raven holding on to a circle. And I found it.

I have long been fascinated with crows and ravens - and their roles in myths across the world.  These ideas had blended in my head with the more modern interpretations of author Charles de Lint in his work. One of the key connecting threads is that the Raven is a keeper of memory and dream - or a transporter of such.

In the last 8-10 years, I have explored the subject more through dance than visual art, so it was time to get back to that drawing and see where the painting would take me.  I worked on it over the course of several days, on a 5" x 5" panel of clayboard with a mixture of first ink, then acrylic.  I'm pretty pleased with the result, but I'm going to explore it again on a larger scale with more mixed media soon.

This piece has already found a new home in a private collection. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

"I Am Freer Than You."

I spent most of the Fall being on tour, then getting married, actually going on a real vacation for our honeymoon, and then recovering from it all - so not exactly the right environment for making art and blogging about it.

However, I was deeply inspired with everything I saw on our travels - in the South, New Orleans, Monterey, CA, and Arizona - and now we are mostly home for the next several months, which means time to make art! And write about it!  And in the last few weeks, I have been busy reacquainting myself with my studio and making paintings.

One of the first pieces is a portrait of a barn owl, sporting a set of antlers.  It is a 5" x 5" acrylic painting on clayboard masonite.

While in North Carolina, Nathaniel and I got to visit with our friends Kambriel and Curse, who took us to a raptor sanctuary - which was truly wonderful. There were ravens and magpies, vultures and hawks, and of course - owls. Including some of my most favorite - the barn owls!

So when I sat down to paint, I knew one of the subjects had to be a barn owl. And as I started work on this little painting more, she asked me for antlers.  Perhaps a strange request (and as other people pointed, perhaps impractical?) but when an owl asks you for horns, you don't say no.  This is how I roll.

Interestingly, while teaching a myth-based workshop on Saturday, I remembered a dream I had about 2 years ago, where I was being taunted by a large owl (something of a mix between 3 breeds, it kept shifting) with antlers - who, as he flew away said, "I am freer than you! You will never be as free as me!" or something to that effect.

Well, a lot happened in my life since then, so perhaps he was just trying to push me, versus being a sort of annoying soothsayer.  However, I don't believe this owl lady here is of the same ilk.  There's something more peaceful and knowing in her gaze, and the background is calming.

And she is the first piece I have decided to finally put on etsy...only have had a store sitting empty for a couple years if she speaks to you - you can take her home!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cardboard Box Magic

Not letting this blog lag!

I've been pretty busy lately doing custom work for clients, so I haven't had a lot of time to focus on my own artwork. And the studio got really messy, so last night I got it back into shape, and now I'm ready to work.

But what I need to actually work on doesn't involve the more usual 2D formatting...I'm in the midst of a special secret project that is very much 3D...and involves a very large cardboard box. I don't think I've worked magic with cardboard since college.  My freshman year, in 3D class with Eddie Oates, we had to make a violin out of cardboard - however we couldn't use tape or glue, and it all had to be a single piece of cardboard if you took it apart again.  Sounds impossible, but it's quite a fantastic challenge for using your brain and strengthening craftsmanship. (I ended up making a miniature violin out of watercolor paper, because I'm crazy.)

Luckily I can use tape and glue and attach pieces as needed with this, but I need to it to break down easily as it has its challenges.

Alas, no pictures yet, until the secret is revealed.  Which will be on October 4th, at the Columbia City Theater, at this show!  And yes, I did the art for the flyer :)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Illustration vs. Fine Art vs. It's Just Words

The above photo is a shot of my studio space, junior year of RISD, 1999. It was set-up for an open-studio kind of event.  And yes, there's a lot of yoni and breasts in that there photo. All of the large work on the right side wall sold, somewhere between 1999 and 2012.  I majored in Printmaking and loved Intaglio processes - but I did a lot of mixed media work, often involving monotypes and transfers.

After 2001, I didn't do a lot of what I consider "fine art."  I made a lot of dance-inspired pieces, which have sold (and continue to) sell very well - but would I show them to a gallery or museum? Probably not.  They're exercises in playing with line, color, movement. But I would believe that most of the people who have purchased the originals and prints would consider them to be art, for sure. Why don't I? That's disconcerting, to me at least.

I got started in the art world very young.  I started formal art lessons in first grade, at a prestigious arts center in New Jersey, and then traveled across the Delaware River to study at Fleisher Art Memorial most Saturdays of the year until I was 14.  When my family moved to South Carolina, I was very active and competitive in the high school visual arts program and won a spot in the Governor's School for the Arts Summer Program.  Through all of this, my artwork was exhibited frequently and won numerous awards.  I can't even remember a tenth of all of the places my art has been and what it has won.

And all throughout this process, I would always hear about the division between "Fine Art" and "Illustration" - usually with a disdain towards the latter - especially by Fine Arts.  Illustrators would occasionally roll their eyes toward the whole Fine Art deal, alluding to flakey, touchy-feely, procrastinators.

I chose to major in Printmaking because it seemed to be one of the few options that allowed for both Fine Art and Illustration. It was about the process of Printmaking more than what you did with it.  You could use a lithography press to make fine art, or illustrate a book, for example.  But that didn't stop the debate from cropping up at critiques.

And I sit here, preparing to start promoting myself as a visual artist again, focusing on creating new work, artist statement, etc, I am faced with the question of - what genre is my work? Does it fit into some sort of "-ism"? And would the mythical and looming "they" consider my work illustrative or fine art? And lastly, why do I even care?

Illustration, at its core, is about giving visual life to some other form of art - such as a story, poem, or song. And there within, that suggests that the art, without the companion, lacks meaning. Fine Art is supposedly about making art, for art's sake.  But so much fine art lacks a "deeper meaning" - what of the pretty florals and landscapes that hang over couches? Portraits of ancestors? If it tells a story, does that make it no longer fine art, or do the mythical elite consider it not art at all?  When I make art, I am often telling myself a story in my head, whether I planned it, or not.  Do all artists do this when they make art? Or does that guy making squares on squares, just do it without thinking?

And I think of my favorite artists: Frida Kahlo, Andrew Wyeth, Alphonse Mucha, Jean Gerome', John Singer Sargent, William Blake, and countless others....some of which have been called illustrators, and some certainly did work as such, but also made fine art, and hang in museums all over the world. They have been inspirations for me for as long as I can remember, and they all thought deeply about their work and the stories behind it.  How is their work defined? What "'ism" do they fall under?  And if my work harkens back to them, what does that make my work?

So maybe I should just say "Here's my work....define it for yourself."

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I'm very excited about the artwork I have been creating...and I would like to start focusing on getting the new work out there - create enough of a body of new work for a show, get it out in galleries and such, get new prints made, submit my artwork to publications - the whole kit and kaboodle.
"Baladi II Series: Backbend" Mixed Media on Paper

But we're also going to be on the road for dance-and-music projects for most of October, and busy with
personal stuff in November, so not much time for art-making...and the dance aspect is definitely another variation of art-making for me....the costume creation, the performance concept, the movements and presentation.

But there's not quite the same satisfaction in the result of that process as a tangible piece of artwork. You can capture photos and video of dance...but it's not the same as seeing the dance live.  A piece of visual artwork....while it's not quite the same to see it on a website or in a print magazine, I believe it holds its power more.  Dance for me, relies more on that physical manifestation of energy between the dancer and the audience....and I have yet to see a video of a performance that comes ANYWHERE as close to the energy transfer as the live performance.

On the upside, as long as I can see, as long as I have hands....I will be making art.  Heck, I'd paint blind and with my toes if I had to....

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I have had a life-long obsession with labyrinths, and a fascination with Minoan culture & when I faced the other half of the sheet of paper that was the pair to "What She Knows" featuring a Sphinx, I contemplated showing the Sphinx from another angle, but my mind wandered to other half-woman/half animal creatures....and so the Minotauress was created:
Again, the paper is 12" wide by 22" high. (The original sheet was 32" x 40", but I had torn some off to make some smaller works for a friend.) Base layer is walnut ink and colored pencil.  Then my hibiscus-rosehips tea made an interesting proposition, so I added it in - which turned from magenta to indigo after sitting on the paper in about a minute, which was cool.  Additional layers created with acrylics, more colored pencil, and pastels. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Starting a pattern...

 One of the most difficult things for a self-employed designer/artist is scheduling. I'm a workaholic, so I can easily do a 70-90 work week between dance, art, and design. But I also tend to over-focus on one area - whatever feels most pressing. Which may get things done, but throws me off-balance and makes me resent whatever I'm working on - NOT GOOD.

 So now we're trying a new schedule that gives set times for design projects, for working on dance, and for working on art. And art is getting the largest time-slot, with the most amount of play. Why? Because I need it. I'm still going to be working probably 10 hour days (except when traveling of course), but I'm splitting up the work load and my brain processes, which makes things go faster, and makes me FEEL better. So I'm going to try and post in this blog 3-5 times a week on the average, documenting whatever I'm working on, art-wise (or design if I can share it).

 First off is 3 photos of a mixed media piece I started on Sunday, September 1st. It is a work on heavy rag paper, 22" by 12". Media includes pencil, charcoal, pen, ink, gesso, acrylic, iridescent medium. I did not start with anything specific in mind, and I let the shapes create the subject, which took the form of a Sphinx.

At the moment, the title that comes to mind is "What She Knows"