As I write this I am more than 1/4 of my way through my #100daysofmetals challenge for the 100 day project. While I haven't missed a day it is still a struggle and I have had to accept that I am not going to love every piece I do and that's okay. That's not the point. Growing as an artist, making connections and following through with your plans and commitments are the ultimate goals for me.
I am a social media/ Instagram challenge addict. I know I have a lot going on but I could not resist joining in on #the100dayproject for the third year in a row. I would like to thank Elle Luna for creating this inspiring challenge and I hope to participate for many more years to come. Take an action and repeat it for 100 days in a row and document your progress. Since I am enjoying my metallic watercolors/gouache paints so much I decided to base my theme around them and other metallic art materials. I am looking forward to seeing what this next 100 days brings me creatively as I know it will challenge me in unexpected ways as it progresses. I'm also very interested in seeing what other creatives are doing. How many new voices are participating in 2017 and how many are returning like myself. Say hi in the comments and let me know what action you plan on repeating over the next 100 days. It's a long time, but we can do it!
A new challenge for 100 days? On top of my 365 creativity challenge but with a narrower focus. And the 30 days of blogging. Sure, why not? But only if I can roll it into my main challenge.
1) self portraits - 100 of them in a row, ouch! Not medium specific. Challenging to keep it interesting and not get terribly sick of myself.
2) drawing - probably too broad of a theme
3) painting - same problem as above
4) daily floral - another good option. Good chance to practice florals.
5) daily portrait - like #1 but with more flexibility.
A week ago we were winding things down in Boston, now we are getting settled in Oxford. Jet lag was rough and I am only now feeling mostly recovered and sleeping properly. Missing my art studio, especially a couple of bottled inks for fountain pens and dipping. But mostly the dining table in the temporary apartment is working well. Spent my first day exploring by myself and was frankly too awestruck by the amazing buildings to sketch them. But soon. Very soon. Right now I am busy taking it all in.
Collaborating with my six year old daughter is pure magic. Printing with her is less than magical, at least with the three year old around getting ink all over herself and anything she touches. But I just couldn't wait until the weekend! Note to self need to plan printing time more carefully without the three year old around or with her at least contained and covered with a smock. My fashionista three year old does not wear smocks without a serious fight.
Big changes are in the work for next fall when my littlest goes off to preschool four full days a week. But this month she is starting preschool four mornings a week and that is the perfect amount of change for right now. So lucky to have the rest of this winter and spring to ease into everything. And four mornings is just enough for me to give myself the gift of work. Morning meetings with myself contained within my daily Morning Pages, followed by walking both kids to school together. Then I have about an hour to run any errands or get a coffee or do some laundry before I start my core hours in the studio with my printmaking apron on at ten and work until lunchtime at noon. Then it is time to pick the littlest one up at school. Two hours four days a week is sounding pretty fabulous after six years of cobbling time together and never having enough time to tackle the big projects.
There is a lot of art in my home, yet very little of it is hung up on our walls. Most of what I took the time to frame and hang is art from other artists that I have collected over the years. And mostly I hang work in my studio because it makes the room seem bigger and it inspires me. In the living areas of my home we tend to not have a lot of wall space or sense of permanence to hang art but that is starting to change. Today I hung some of my art in the hallway and in my bedroom. I almost never hang my own artwork but it seemed silly to have ready to hang pieces that I love just sitting in a bin unseen in my studio. Another thing to make our apartment feel more like a cozy home where we can stay and to inspire myself and my children with art every day. As soon as the little one came home this afternoon she asked about the artwork in our hallway and told me that she loves it. Thanks sweetie!
This is a question I ask myself a lot as I get back to writing and blogging. After all I am not a writer I am a visual artist. That is the script that I formed for myself long ago and it can be hard to break out of that mold even when doing so is so obviously the right choice. By nature I am insecure about my words. Rather shy and reserved by nature I prefer to let my art speak for me. But writing my morning pages every morning (except once) these past two months and blogging on a regular basis has been changing me. And changing my art as well. It creates feedback with myself and causes me to consider things that I wouldn't necessarily consider if I wasn't forced to write all the time. Seven hundred and fifty words for my Morning Pages every morning is a lot of page filling. But I do it and stuff comes out and I learn how to write while doing it. Blogging is a lot. Instead of just going on with my busy life with my family and making art whenever I can I am forcing myself to stop and think about what I'm doing, why and what's next. I blog because it is changing me and I like it.
I'm a printmaker. Sadly a lot of people out there don't know what that means. But people that I meet are generally pretty eager to learn and that is why I do things like being carved blocks of wood to shows. The internet is a little trickier but I aim to show what I do rather than just the end result here on my blog. These days being a printmaker and a mom means squeezing time to draw, carve and print in during nap times and the precious few moments I have alone during the week. Earlier this week I had two hours to print, but today that time was taken by errands and other family obligations. And nap is not happening. Printing is the hardest activity to plan for because I can't just pick it up and I can't just drop it at a moments notice. It's messy. I pull my hair back and wear an apron. And I still end up with ink smears all over. There just aren't enough hours in the day. In life and in art I do what I can with the time that I have.
I am a relief printmaker and my material of choice to carve is wood. I've carved linoleum, potatoes in grade school, rubber and tiny erasers for stamps. But I always come back to carving blocks of wood. There is so much to love about the material. It is strong and durable and easy to take care of so I can buy in bulk and store them flat in a drawer if they are smaller or their sides in a corner if they are larger. I can print from a carved block for many years. Wood is a fun surface to carve and I like seeing how the personality of the block shows up when printed. That lovely wood-grain pattern is oh so nice.
From a blank surface of wood with endless possibilities to a carved and ready to print woodblock that can be printed from for years. A good design can last for years carved on a block of wood so it is worth it for me to take the time to get the design right and carve it with plenty of care and attention. I pour over reference books and my own sketchbook brainstorming for a woodblock design. Once I have one picked out and ready to go the first thing I do is stain the woodblock with some sort of light watercolor. Just enough to change the color of the surface then when I start carving I will be able to see my marks. Then I draw or transfer an image onto the block and seal it was varnish. Once that dries I am ready to carve. Mostly I use Japanese and Western carving tools designed for wood but I also use nails, scratch art tools, wire brushes and power tools to make marks in the surface of the wood. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to sixty hours depending on the size of the block and the amount of detail in the carving. This one was a moderately sized block with a good amount of detail that kept me engaged for about a week working an hour or two a day. Then I give it a final varnish before it is ready to print.
Getting geared up to carve a large woodblock this winter and getting inspired by the patterns from the Textile Designs book that my inlaws got me for Christmas last year. So many awesome patterns to sift through it is such a great book for any artist. I am especially drawn to the page of black and white textiles of "half-mourning" from the late 19th century and early 20th century used to cover widows who had passed through the early morning period but not quite ready to wear colorful fabrics. Interesting but I am not sure where I am going with these just yet.