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Posts Tagged ‘Art studio’

Surprised to hear from me again so soon? I was on hold with the employment office and thought, why not write a blog post? Funny what goes through your mind after listening to repeated pre-recorded messages and disturbing muzack for an hour. That’s right, an hour.

In my last post I sent links to the print-on-demand books The Theory and I created for Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly. Two of those books (One through Nine and The Observatory at Jaipur) documented exhibitions Lee had at his gallery in Portland.

The books contained:

  • Photographs of each piece in the exhibition, captioned with names and dimensions
  • Photographs of earlier pieces that are related in some way to the new work
  • Critical discussions of the new work
  • Brief introductions explaining why we thought a book was a good idea
  • Biographical information about the artist

I’m going to discuss each point in turn but right now let’s talk about why a book can be an important tool for an artist and another way to direct the messaging about your work.

Exhibition catalog
I’m not speaking for every commercial gallery, but here most galleries don’t produce exhibition catalogs for their artists. Public museums and collections often do, as a matter of course. But most of us wait years to be included in a major collection or even (gasp) get a career retrospective exhibition. So what happens while we wait? We mount important shows in commercial spaces, the work sells or it doesn’t, and a month later it’s as if the show never happened.

Documentation
You probably document your new work and exhibitions on your web site. A web site is the most important tool you possess because it contains everything and is easy to update. But speaking as a user, I know how quickly most people click through web sites. And getting people to read anything longer than a caption online? Whew!

Old tech like a printed book can place images in context with writing and give depth and insight into the artistic process. Or allow a critical thinker the ability to write about your work at length. And because the book is available online (through whichever online publisher you choose) you can buy copies of the book at cost to give away or provide a link so that people can buy it themselves. It’s always there.

Preserving a body of work or important period in an artist’s life
I was talking to my father about the book we wrote called One Through Nine which discussed an exhibition of paintings he did in 2013. It was his first exhibition of paintings on canvas since sometime in the 1960’s. He said, “I didn’t realize until I saw the book that the paintings all related to one another. Without the book, the paintings and the ideas would be gone.”

All that said, this is not a get rich quick scheme unless you are a genius self-promoter.

A book is another way to take control of the messaging and presentation of your work.

Next time I’ll try to channel The Theory about why having a smart guy or gal write about your work is a good idea.

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When we last spoke (regrettably, almost a year ago), my studio needed a new roof and our bee hive had died.

So let’s catch up. The roof was replaced, but not without further adventures in dry rot, wet rot, basically all sorts of rot. The Theory and I had to lie down with warm compresses on our foreheads and whiskey in our coffee cups after writing that check. The good news is that the roof doesn’t leak anymore.

On a beautiful day in early May, we welcomed a new box of bees to the hive. We learned so much after last year, such as don’t let paper wasps set up shop anywhere near your girls. Don’t let your hive get wet and moldy (see paragraph above for rot). And keep feeding those girls into the fall months. We had favorable weather through November, and even when winter set in, it hasn’t been cold or rainy for long. We have our fingers and toes crossed.

The summer months were taken up with a new project. My father built an archive building to house and preserve his and my stepmother’s artwork. When I say build, let’s keep in mind that professionals (Meng-Hannan Ltd) were involved. Check this: the archive building is the first new structure on the property since 1923 and the only one that is up to code. I just get shivers.

And no year of ups and downs would be complete without someone losing their job. And that would be me. After 19 years and 11 months, my stint as a kept woman came to an end. I know about doors closing and windows opening (people say the darnedest things…over and over again). But what I came away with, along with my wheelie chair and a box of binder clips, was admiration for the people I worked with for all those years.

What will I do next? I believe a nap is in order. But I have one interesting factoid from the land of the unemployed: there is just as little time in the day when you don’t have a job as when you do. And here I thought I would get so much done!

The Theory has some encaustic research goodies to pass on, which I will do in a couple of days. In the meantime, happy new creativity, everyone!

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The snow shown in my last post (February 7th)? That’s long gone! So many un-wonderful things have happened since that peaceful snowy day that I haven’t had the heart to post anything.

Where should I start? Oh, right. Let’s start with the money. My studio roof is leaking. Actually it is pouring, flowing, dumping and flooding. I have five buckets set up inside but the water is sloshing around on the floor, free-flowing and unrestrained. I had a scary moment when I realized that rain was actually coming in THROUGH the light fixtures. How did I know? Because I had just turned the lights on. Believe me, I walked carefully back to the light switch and turned them off.

We got a bid for a new roof. As you can imagine, this is the part that really hurt: a new roof is going to cost two bills. Let’s all join hands for a moment of silence.

Here are some photos:

OMG. There's a quart of water in that globe.

OMG. There’s a quart of water in that globe.

 

Inside the studio. My wintering geraniums are in the back, getting lots of water.

Inside the studio. That’s my work table under the tarp. Wintering geraniums are in the back, getting lots of water.

Another work area with a water-catching device on top. My heat gun, torch and many jars of dry pigment are under there. Did you catch that? DRY pigment. Ugh.

Another work area with a water-catching device on top. My heat gun, torch and many jars of dry pigment are under there. Did you catch that? DRY pigment. Ugh.

For anyone who wants to get all sentimental, here’s a photo of my studio before the blue tarps descended from heaven to ruin my life:

BEFORE: Here's what it looks like under the blue tarps. Bet you see the problem: moss.

Bet you can see the problem: moss. I thought it was picturesque!

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For Christmas this year (no doubt as part of his therapy), The Theory made me a little book of pictures entitled Caprice. The images are from our kitchen renovation and show details of old wallpaper, textures and other strange follies we found under the wall board. For instance, we found newspaper pages glued to the wall as insulation, which looked like photo transfers in contemporary mixed media art. In other places, we found layers of paint (probably lead-based) dripping and flowing over one another in fantastical shapes. In other places, someone patched holes in the original walls with old Folgers coffee tin lids.

You can just make out the words “drip grind” along the upper edge. What were they thinking, those farmers?

The Theory photographed these occurrences as they came to light not just to document the reno, but also in stunned amazement at the activities of our house’s previous owners. Who were these people?

About the title
A caprice is a kind of architectural fantasy tableau made up of buildings, statuary, archaeological remains such as columns, arches and  broken sculptures looted from ancient sites, all combined in a landscape setting to tell the story of some fantastical, imaginary past. Merriam-Webster also defines caprice as a sudden, impulsive, unpredictable and seemingly unmotivated notion or action. I’m not sure which definition I like best to describe what we found under the walls of the kitchen. Evidence of a mysterious world long gone certainly, but also it was just so random, so… capricious.

Some of the images in Caprice seem like art waiting to be made. I can see building up a dense layer of impasto on a board and working in layers of wax and sand and charcoal to make a grid of squares and circles like what we found under our kitchen tile. And if it caught my imagination, others might want to try it too.

Detail of counter substrate.

Detail of counter substrate.

So I asked The Theory if he would make a pdf copy of Caprice (with all the private bits removed; use your imagination) that I could share with other artists for inspiration. So here it is, take it and use it. I also have a link to the file in the Free Box on the upper right side of this page where it will always be available for download. Keep in mind that it is a large file, over 8 mg, and might be slow to transfer.

And before anyone asks (by anyone, I mean John) why I didn’t just save a step and keep the grotty old 1979 plywood and call it art, I confess, it did cross my mind. But what’s the fun in that?

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Hello! Yes, friends, I’m back from the Reno Recovery Unit at Bellevue Oregon. This is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. When last we spoke, I had petrified albino rats on my mind and not much hope that the renovation of our kitchen would never be finished. I wasn’t far wrong on that last one. Still need to do some touch up wall work and some painting.

We moved back into the kitchen in late September, after the rains started—September was one of the wettest months of the year. There’s nothing like grilling in the rain, or washing dishes on your knees in the bathtub. Whoa, flashback! The doctors at RRU said there’d be days like this. [BTW, there isn’t any such place as a recovery unit for crazy DIY-ers, it’s just wishful thinking on my part. If it did exist, The Theory and I would still be there, eating soft-boiled eggs and watching daytime television.]

I offer some before-and-afters as proof that it wasn’t all a dream:

Under that pretty blue tile was a gooey, fungus- and bacteria-rich plywood of the 1979 variety. We salvaged as many of the tiles as possible. My mom made them.

Sink wall before. Under that pretty blue tile was a gooey, fungus- and bacteria-rich plywood sheet of the 1979 variety. We salvaged as many of the tiles as possible. My mom made them.

Here's the same wall after demo. The shovel is pointing to the place where The Theory found the petrified albino rats.

Here’s the same wall after demo. The shovel is pointing to the place where The Theory found the petrified albino rats.

Ta-da! Took this photo just this morning and you'll note the lived-in look.

Ta-da! Took this photo just this morning and you’ll note the lived-in look.

Before. Trapped between two doorways, the appliances were constant traffic stoppers. We saved the blue splash behind the stove. It's acrylic paint over stainless steel, made by my dad. Free to a good home, if you have a truck.

Stove wall before. Trapped between two doorways, the appliances were constant traffic stoppers. We saved the blue splash behind the stove. It’s acrylic paint over stainless steel, made by my dad. Free to a good home, if you have a truck.

Stripped down to the wallpaper of previous owners.

Stripped down to the wallpaper of previous owners.

After. This simplified footprint makes it darn near impossible to incinerate children and pets as they walk by. Some might say that's NOT an improvement.

After. This simplified footprint makes it darn near impossible to incinerate children and pets as they walk by. Some might say that’s NOT an improvement.

Where’s the art?

To be honest, it’s taken me three hours to write this post. That’s how un-creative DIY has left me. For instance, I spent my xmas vacation curled under the duvet watching Wallander and developing a weird crush on Kenneth Branaugh. I think it was because he cried during season two, which is something The Theory did often during the reno. <sigh> Now that I’ve seen all the Wallenders I’ll have to think of something else to do. Art, anyone?

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I hate blog posts that start with excuses for why I haven’t been in the studio or haven’t blogged. It either sounds like I can’t manage my time very well (true dat) or have vastly more Important Things To Do. To prove that isn’t so, here’s a sampling of my activities for yesterday that prevented me from getting out to the studio:

  • I slept late every day for the last MONTH and it felt great. I may never get up early again.
  • I visited an art resale gallery in Portland that has some of Bonnie Bronson’s (my mother) art for resale. This place is chock full of great Oregon art gems and the owner is very nice. There is so much work on the walls that I couldn’t immediately see if she had any encaustic work. Here’s the link: Resale Art.
  • Then I went to some friends’ very clean house where someone told a story about a cat litter box that was so funny I peed my pants.
  • Then I had to go home and bury my head under a pillow, unable to face the world.

As you can see, no time-wasting there!

Martin Drölling, “L’intérieur d’une cuisine” (1815), believed to have been painted with Mummy Brown (via the Louvre).

Martin Drölling, “L’intérieur d’une cuisine” (1815), believed to have been painted with Mummy Brown (via the Louvre).

Obsolete Pigments

The Theory sent me a link to an art blog called Hyperallergic: Sensitive to Art and its Discontents which I at first thought was a blog about asthma. Anyway, this two-part article talks about the origin, composition, risks and other odd tidbits about such vanished pigments as Dragon’s Blood red, Tyrian purple and white lead. Read the updates and comments because those are good too. Here’s sample about Mummy brown:

The pigment, a favored shade of the Pre-Raphaelites, was first made with Egyptian mummies, both cat and human, that were ground up and mixed with white pitch and myrrh. It had a great fleshy color, but due to the actual fleshy components it would crack over time. [Artist] Martin Drölling reportedly used the mummies of French kings dug up from Saint-Denis in Paris. According to a 1964 Time story, the Mummy Brown pigment didn’t last due to a shortage of its name defining ingredient. Managing director of the London based C. Roberson color maker told the magazine: “We might have a few odd limbs lying around somewhere, but not enough to make any more paint.”

Read part one here and part two here.

And just to prove that we (and by we I mean The Theory) have not been idle, here’s a photo of a lovely seating area that we hacked out of the wilderness and inaugurated with gin and tonic just this weekend:

Charcoal-mica flagstones are the setting for a Lee Kelly outdoor table called "Welder's Table" circa 1975-76. I cleared the underbrush in the background while the The Theory did the actual work.

Charcoal-mica flagstones are the setting for a Lee Kelly outdoor table called “Welder’s Table” circa 1975-76. I cleared the underbrush in the background while the The Theory did the actual work.

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As of yesterday afternoon, I am an official beek… a bee keeper. By “I” I of course mean “we” because The Theory did all of the actual work from building the hive to bonking the bee package and dumping the little guys into the hive. No one got stung, which is probably a comment on our weather more than our awesome beek skills since it was raining all day and about 49 degrees. These guys traveled up from Chico, California just a day ago. Right now, they are probably sitting in their hive asking themselves how the heck they got to this rainy planet and when is the space ship going to come and beam them back to sunny California.

A question I have often asked myself. Here’s a photo I took this morning of our occupied bee hut:

A rainy Sunday morning on Planet Oregon. Can't you just imagine the ladies inside this beehive asking the eternal question, "Does it rain here ALL the time?"

A rainy Sunday morning on Planet Oregon. Can’t you just imagine the ladies inside this beehive asking the eternal question, “Does it rain here ALL the time?”

Making your own conte crayons and pastels

I’ve been trying to reblog a great post about making your own conte crayons from Pistrucci Art Works.  I can’t get the reblogging thingy to work on WordPress, so I’m hard-wiring it here. Conte crayons are a great example of an art supply that seems to have been born in a factory somewhere without human intervention. And yet, this product had humble DIY origins. Pistrucci Art Works often posts recipes like this, recipes the author developed herself. So click on over and enjoy!

Exploring Conte Crayons – Experimental Recipe for Fine artists and Clay artists

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