Do I want to spend it being afraid taking timid steps? No I do not! Today is my birthday and this morning I asked myself what I wanted to do with my day and this is the answer I received. And this time I listened to it and was rewarded for my willingness to push past the fear, play and experiment.
And hopefully holding onto it for a bit. Hard with my kids home from school all week making studio time scarce. But things are clicking for me right now.
Shelving is up and my printmaking tool pegboard is up. That makes me officially moved in to my new space in England!
I like my newsprint backing paper looks better than my prints! When my watercolor test strips look more interesting than the finished painting.
One more sleep at home in Boston. On Wednesday morning I leave for Maine and will get to spend five days at Haystack. But my art life has been full since before Haystack. Just this past weekend I got to take a Japanese Printmaking workshop at the local Elliot school and it was great fun, intense work going from sketch to block to print all in a too short weekend. But I learned so much and I do want to do more with it now that I understand the basics of the technique. Carving the block was basically the same as I now it, but printing was completely different. Very painterly and flexible which was great fun. But with the ticking clock of the water based inks quickly drying out stressing me out. I came home exhausted both physically and mentally both nights. I have six original prints to show for the weekend and an itch to make more. The woodblock printing that I am much more familiar with is western style printing on various papers with oil based ink and a printing press. No painterly fun like the Japanese moku hanga, but also once I lay out the oil based ink to work with it is good all day long with little risk of it drying out. I would love to print these blocks with my oily methods to compare, but then I wouldn't be able to go back to the waterbased inks.
Now that Open Studios is over with I can start planning for the next big event(s) in my art life. On Monday I completed sketchbook #6 and started sketchbook #7 and them almost immediately felt sketchbook paralysis. Not on the first page since I start the first page the same every time with a collection of colors, my name and number and a quote to inspire me. But after page number three or four I started to feel blocked. The perfect cure was a walk around the Arnold Arboretum here in JP collecting fallen leaves. Now I need to paint them and their gorgeous fall colors in my sketchbook before they all turn brown! Following that is a workshop on Moku Hanga Japanese printmaking workshop at the Elliot School here in JP this weekend. Back to printmaking I go but with a big change in learning a new technique that I have been interested in for years now. In a week I will be in Maine...
The JP Open Studios are this weekend September 20th and 21st all around the JP neighborhood that I and work in. You can find me with my work inside at the UU church by the JP monument in Central JP and some of my work will still be hanging at Hatched until the end of the month. I will be be sketching and painting, will have my woodblock prints along with a couple of carved blocks for demos throughout the weekend. I have been looking forward to this weekend for months now. There will be some fresh prints, including new collagraphs, but this is the year that I decided to teach myself watercolor and became smitten with the medium.
Some artist's seem to attain perfection in every sketchbook page. Andrea Joseph is an example of this type of artist. She hosted the most recent week at Sketchbook Skool and I found putting on her skin and drawing with a ballpoint pen for two days to be too much for me. She's a wonderful and super talented artist but her sketchbooks are far too perfectly composed for how I work. For me sketchbooks are to work out problems, record events and try things out. And for that I need freedom to mess up. Good for her for sure but I need to find my own way. But I can still enjoy her beautifully rendered drawings of often humble objects.
Are weekends supposed to be relaxing? I must be doing something wrong then. This weekend didn't go poorly, but it didn't go smoothly either and now it is gone and I am back to the week where I have to squeeze in time for art. I drew a fair amount over the weekend and the past week. Even went back and finished and fixed up a couple of abandoned sketchbook drawings and got them to a place where I can be happy. Yet I still feel impatient with my watercolor and drawing skills.
The need to print again is growing stronger. I haven't had the chance since summer vacation started. I don't want to work with older blocks I want to take my growing drawing skills to a new block of wood and get lost carving and printing it. Maybe I will try my hand at white line printmaking. I have a few ideas for subjects and I should have blocks of wood that are big enough but not too big hanging around my studio.
As I have gotten more and more into sketching and watercolors finding time for carving woodblocks and printing with my 300lb press has been more of a challenge. But I have a commission to work on and I am not ready to abandon printmaking to become a watercolor sketchbook artist. Printing for an hour or two once a week seems like the perfect amount for me to get things done and leave time for drying and thinking in between. I knew that I wanted to print the color red and that Monday was the best day to do it as the week was already filling up with end of school year commitments. Yet I hesitated and came up with excuses and other things to do with my precious time. The truth was I didn't want to print. Or more accurately I didn't want to start printing. Starting things tends to give me anxiety because my brain focuses on all the ways for me to mess up. This is a tendency that I am fighting. So at 9am I set a timer, put on my studio apron, put on a podcast and got to printing. I was done when the timer went off at 10am. This routine is going to get more challenging this summer in the heat and with the kiddos home with me so I had better get used to using the time when I have it.
It's been a great week here. I printed for three hours on Wednesday and listed one of the prints on Etsy on Thursday. Though I am tempted to keep this beauty because it looks fabulous in our living room. Working on a custom piece for a client that still needs more layers, but this one feels done to me. The schedule of drawing and painting every day and printing once a week is working out super well for me. I hope I can keep it up this summer somehow. If not I can always do it in the fall when the girls are both in school.
Opening up my studio to people on Saturday was a big scary for my introverted side and I nearly send a message cancelling it a bunch of times the night and even morning before. But I went through with it and had a great time. It was a beautiful day so most people were having fun outside, but I got to work and enjoy talking to the people that did come. Thank you! I will be doing this again sometime, possibly in the fall or winter. The most enjoyable part for me was the conversations. Having studio space in my house is so convenient with small children but I miss the conversations that I imagine I would have if I rented a shared spot somewhere. Also, enjoyed giving ATC to the kids that came and getting them excited about making and collecting original artwork.
As an artist I am a natural hoarder as I am inclined to keep all sorts of items for possibly future use and save things like sketchbooks. I make and collect art and books and these take up space. But I have found that life works more efficiently when I have less stuff and spend less time cleaning and more time working on what I care about. How do I find that balance? When do you let old art or art supplies go?
Three fans stopped by the mLee studio to purchase artwork before their big cross country move next week. All three of them seem pretty happy with what they left with. Good luck on your move and try not to gloat too much about the weather come February. While these beautiful people are lucky enough to live in Boston (for now) and visit my studio in person I realize not everybody is so lucky. So I try to bring a bit of my studio online through the blog and on Instagram. To my customers are all over the world; you too could be featured on my blog.
Learning the labor intensive and gorgeous Japanese woodblock printmaking style Moku hanga is high on my artist bucket list. Following Annie Bissett's art is one major reason for this desire to learn moko-hanga and break out of the oily western printmaking tradition. Coupled with my newfound love for watercolor and moku-hanga is a must do for me as an artist. I have enjoyed following Annie's growth as a printmaker over the years. Her lovely yet thought provoking prints are composed and created with great time, thought and care. I am especially loving her current series Secret Codewords of the NSA.
Also known as ATC or ACEOs (art cards editions and originals) when sold. I have been making and collecting these little treasures for years now. I have most of my collection that I traded for back in my Etsy prime framed together and hanging in my studio. It is fun having all those different artists playing together in a single space. Always around to inspire me or just make me happy. Making them myself has also gotten me through many a creative block and helped me try out new ideas in a relatively quick and easy way. When I am printing from a large block I usually find spaces to put a couple of black cards down and voila instant art background. For years I never drew on them and thinking back I must have had some reason for keeping them pure prints but now I can't see a reason why I should stick with that idea of purity. Pen, paint and who know what is next when it comes to these little works of art. No rules. Pick one up on Etsy or maybe if you are in the Boston area and run into me I might just give you one. But not this one.
Block prints on pillows! I wish I had thought of that. Actually I did and so did others asking me to put my work on fabric including pillows, but I never had the time to figure out how to do it. This artist did and the results are quite beautiful. I have been following the prints of Mariann Johansen-Ellis for years now and am enjoying and totally wanting some of these fun pillows. Well done Mariann!
I guess I was in an artistic rut for awhile. Doing what felt comfortable, easy and safe. It was good until it wasn't. Now I am trying new techniques, learning new things and using new and sometimes just old hoarded materials. It feels great. And also totally terrifying. Especially when it is time to put the work on Etsy.
Quicky collagraph of a little house in red and yellow. Concept to print in under a day. Collagraphs are about as instant gratification one can get in the printmaking world. Now I need to give them about a week to dry before I can draw on them without smudging the ink. Good thing I set up a handy drying rack string using some twine and binder clips. Totally out of the way of my work so they can hang there indefinitely. In the meantime I am working on another couple of cardboard collagraph plates to print this week. My art studio is my happy space.
Drawing against the waterfront, inspiring modern art, great projects for families and even shows. Nothing not to love about the free ICA Play Dates the last Saturday of every month. A highlight of my month. I go with my eldest and we have a great time. We wander around the museum and draw by the giant window that faces the water, take in a show and check out the kid focused art activities that they have going on downstairs. When the weather gets better maybe when we are done we can walk somewhere fun for lunch or an early dinner. Just the two of us.