Saturday, January 05, 2019

Did I say that? Can I take it back?

Above: 1985 - Book with no beginning or end.

Years ago when I was a student, second time around, in my late 30's - I had to give a talk to the art department. I had recently started doing a lot of collage. Small things that eventually became books. I was struggling to explain the appeal of collage. Someone in the audience said "of course collage is fast." I agreed! What? Wait! Even later that day I regretted agreeing. The person who said collage was fast was a sculptor, I don't know if he had collage experience or not. I suppose if you need a car and don't want to spend time drawing one, collage might be faster. Especially if you have some car magazines around.

But every time I work on a project, papers spread all over my studio, searching for just the right little bit to put in the corner, I deeply regret saying collage is fast. The first studio shot is maps I'm auditioning for a book I'm working on. I had to spread them all out to compare.

More bits of maps and other things I may need to add.

And the most important small bits are right in front of my work area.

Collage is not fast, in fact it can seem very slow. I do it because I love those bits of paper. So many things pass thru our lives, so many go into the recycle bin and are forgotten. But they are each interesting and have some kind of history and a message to convey.

It is also physically satisfying to take bits of paper and stick them down. As they come together in odd ways, they take on new meanings, one that feels very personal to me.

Above: 2007 - Purple Mountain Observatory

I still struggle to convey my feelings about collage - when I am doing it I am absorbed and happy. Maybe that's the most important part.

Do you have regrets about something you said about your art in the past? Or maybe you have changed how you see some aspect of your work?

Above: 2005 - The Findings of the Expedition to an Unknown Land

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas on Mars


This post is Christmas oriented, but related to my collages. I am a sucker for the lights at Christmas. When I was a kid we used to drive around in the "nice" neighborhoods and look at the decorated houses. My mom loved doing that, and I think it was a way to get us kids to sit down and not bounce off the walls for a bit. My dad was a career army officer, so we moved a lot. With four kids, we never lived in a nice neighborhood. Luckily Mom had a strong preference for a tree that touched the ceiling, and we had a nice collection of ornaments, many were hand made by us kids and my grandparents. That made Christmas special wherever we were.


I am sometimes amazed at how well my parents did at managing four kids. They started young and had four in seven years. They seemed to mostly enjoy it, although there were plenty of ups and downs. So of course Christmas is a time for me to remember my childhood, and family connections since then. It's a time that is both happy and very sad. I miss the people who aren't here.


How does this relate to art-making? I love starry backgrounds in my collages. Put in some stars or a bunch of lights against a dark background and a collage looks just right to me. Aside from a nostalgic sadness, they also often give me a feeling of awe at the beautify and immensity of the universe.


The things that leap out at me in these memories are, of course, the lights, also a love of handmade things, and family connections. In general I think it's important to figure out what moves you. What things do you remember from your childhood that still evoke strong feelings? How do those things show up in the art you make? Can you use that more? Is it serving you well?


Have a wonderful Holiday, how ever you celebrate. And if you are sad, please remember that many other people are also sad this time of year. They often hide it because they feel weird, but it is there. Recognizing our common humanness can bring us together and help people to feel compassion for each other, even those we don't agree with.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Using dreams as content

I wrote this post years ago - before doing a workshop on using dreams to inspire imagery. For some reason it doesn't seem to have been posted, or I can't find it. I have been thinking a lot about dreams lately, in part because it's harder for me to remember them now. It's a sad fact, as I have gotten older I more often wake up with some kind of ache. Nothing serious, but enough to make me roll over before I am completely awake. Moving before remembering dreams makes them harder to remember. So I am revisiting all my tips for remembering dreams.

Remembering dreams:
*Keep a dream journal and pen by the bed. Keep the journal open to a blank page. I prefer a ball point pen and those cheap Mead 9.5 x 6 notebooks. They are not too big when the used pages are folded back. I sometimes keep mine on the bed next to my pillow.
*When you go to bed, as you fall asleep, say to yourself "I want to remember my dreams" and "I want to write down my dreams." It helps to repeat this several times.
*It also helps to read thru your old dream journals.
*When you wake up, don't move. Or go back to the position you were dreaming in. See if you can remember a dream. If nothing comes right away, make your mind blank, an image may arise. If that doesn't help, make a mental picture of people in your life, one at a time. Visualize a person and say their name. Think of it as a question to your dream self.
*It may be hard at first to remember dreams. Try to think in terms of valuing whatever comes up. All images that come into your mind could be regarded as a gift from your subconscious. You want to send a message to your subconscious that you are listening and value whatever comes up. Jot down even the smallest fragments of dreams.


Writing the dream down:
*Go over the whole dream in your mind before starting to write it down.
*Also write down those odd words and phrases that pop into your head as you wake.
*Don't turn on lights and move as little as possible to write down the dream.
*To write in the dark: write large, and leave a fairly big space between the lines of text. You can use your hand to sense where you are on the page and keep your place. Try to complete each letter before going on to the next. Dot your i's and cross your t's before going on.
*Later when you are awake you can go back and read the dream. In the spaces between the lines clarify words that may be nearly illegible.
*Write it all down, whether it seems important or not. Your dream self may tell you it's not interesting, but an hour later your waking self may be amazed.
*Try to not judge the content of the dream.
*Sometimes writing the dream will remind you of more dreams.
*It's very hard to put dream imagery into words at times. Those elusive moments when things shift from one state to another, when a car becomes a bicycle, are hard to describe. Do your best. You will probably improve with practice.
*Make a quick sketch or two. This is not fine art - just get the gesture, size relationships, whatever strikes you as interesting/odd.
Above: Dinosaur Wave, 2010. This copper and brass book more or less illustrates a dream.

How to use your dreams:
*You might want to keep your dream notebooks private, that makes it easier to write whatever happens in your dreams. Sometimes dreams are too weird for public consumption. I take a "middle way." Occasional dreams go into books word for word. Mostly I use parts of dreams. But my real goal is to be more in touch with my dreaming mind.
*When working on a significant project, around birthdays or other anniversaries that are meaningful, be sure to note dreams.
*It may help to keep lists of images that seem important or repeat, or to list what you have been or have done in dreams. These are clues that lead you to the more "important" dreams.
*You may find it's useful to have your most interesting dreams typed into the computer. It's time consuming but useful to be able to search for words.

Should you use a dream dictionary?
I would say "No." Images have meanings, but they are very personal. As you write your dream, you may think you know what the dream means. That's okay, it may be an important insight. But don't lock in any one definition. Dreams can have many meanings, all at once. For example: According to online dream dictionaries going up stairs can mean being ready for success or change. Going down is supposed to be always bad. I can't agree. I have dreamed multiple times of going down stairs, into the earth. I read that as a dream about going deeper into myself - exploring a level that is not easily accessible. Which is a very good thing. And I have dreamed of going up stairs to an all white room where I see important things. I wake from those dreams feeling very good.

The meaning of the image can change and grow over time. Many artists have the experience of thinking they know what a particular piece of their art means, but a year later, or 10 years later, they come back and find a whole new meaning. I don't think they were wrong in the first place, they just didn't see all the meanings. Images and dreams have a life of their own.

If it seems important to find the meaning of your dream, free association is better. What does this dream person or object mean to you? What images or thoughts arise? Be gentle with your dreams. Have a conversation with them, as you would with a friend. Listen to what they say. You don't have to interpret them at all, they can just exist.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Before the post - I want to add this note about my last post about Procreate and buying brushes online.
Added to previous post 12-10-18: I recently had my credit card hacked somewhere on line. I hesitate to recommend small online businesses anymore. (In my previous post I suggested a place to buy more brushes for Procreate. I'm not implicating them in anyway, I have no idea where my credit card was hacked.) I imagine large businesses like Dick Black are safe, but smaller sites may have trouble keeping up with security measures. I have started only shopping where I can use a large, recognized method of payment. Many places will accept PayPal or an equivalent. Our bank caught the fake charge immediately, so we were not affected. Except for having to go to every web site where I have recurring charges and change my credit card. Not my idea of a fun afternoon.

Now, how about some entertainment? Here are some drawing videos:
Thomas Fluharty draws Chuck Close - very nice loose style. Fun to watch

Also check out Alphonso Dunn. He has a ton of drawing videos on YouTube. He is clear and very detailed in his explanations.
In this video he talks about drawing what you see versus drawing what you know.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Follow Up - More on Drawing in Procreate

Since my previous blog post I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook about Procreate. I should have mentioned that every new major release is accompanied by a free handbook, available in iTunes and as a pdf here. You can view the entire handbook before purchasing the app. It may look intimidating, but you can open the app, select a pencil or pen brush, and begin to draw. As you find the need for certain things like layers or masks, you can learn more.

The sketch above was done by scribbling with various brushes until I saw something - the dog face. Then I collage on some teeth and the landscape which was a pinhole photo I took years ago.

The Procreate website is here.

The basic Procreate app has many brushes, possibly more than you would need. Users also offer free brushes, I think they are on the Procreate website, in the discussion area. Some work better than others, as you would expect.

However, you can also buy brushes from a number of places. I have purchased brushes from TipTop and like them very much. They have many brushes, including nice pencil brushes, ballpoint pens and watercolor brushes (I think these are the hardest ones to re-create in a digital format). Other brush brands I have tried have too much smoothing, which makes the random shake of my hand smooth out. That might be your preference. Procreate brushes are all adjustable so you can edit any of them or create your own. Be sure to make a copy first so the original isn't changed. Mostly I don't edit mine because there are so many available. I have been testing the TipTop brush pack I bought and move them to a Favorites folder as I find the ones I like best. I also bought a texture pack from True Grit. I haven't played with that much, but they are fun. I often scribble all over with various textures and then begin to see faces in the random grit, so I do enjoy all the grit, splatters, bird poo, etc. (-: An example would be the Sad Dog image above. PLEASE see the note below about using credit cards online. Use caution.

There are also many tutorials online. Do a search and you will be overwhelmed. I have purchased a few courses from Nikolai Lockertsen. He was one of the first online with courses. He has a loose-ish style which I like and is pretty clear about what he is doing. You may need to pause the video and look up a technique in the handbook occasionally. There may also be some free things on his website. (People change their content or sites and I'm not always familiar with the newer versions.)

It's also worth mentioning that there is an iPhone version of Procreate - I think it's called Pocket. I have it but don't really use it.

Edit: 12-10-18 I recently had my credit card hacked somewhere on line. I hesitate to recommend small online businesses anymore. I imagine large businesses like Dick Black are safe, but smaller sites may have trouble keeping up with security measures. I have started only shopping where I can use a large, recognized method of payment. Many places will accept PayPal or an equivalent. Our bank caught the fake charge immediately, so we were no affected. Except for having to go to every web site where I have recurring charges and change my credit card. Not my idea of a fun afternoon.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Behind the Scenes - Drawing with Procreate on an iPad

I resisted the idea of an iPad years ago, thinking it was just a big phone. My son and husband bought me a second generation iPad for Christmas one year, based on my son's thought that I would enjoy it. It was such a big hit I bought another, with lots more storage, the following year. Ever since I have been drawing on it, mostly with an app called Procreate. At first my drawings were very basic. The screen is slick and it's a very different experience from drawing on paper. However there are layers, undos and erasers that work well. In the last year I have been practicing hatching, both on paper and on the iPad. I am finding the iPad more and more useful.

It's very handy to bring a partially finished drawing into Procreate and to test out ideas. Here I took a photo of the finished drawing and added the blue in the sky and a shadow in Procreate. I can also try out different backgrounds.

I can insert a photo onto the page to draw from - that's the photo of the hand front-on. I have it on a separate layer and have erased most of the image to just focus on the hand. Having the photo the same size and orientation as the drawing makes it easier for me. I can also pull Procreate up from the menu bar below and have it open side-by-side with an image in my Pictures app - that's the image on the left of the hand holding a key.

For some reason I feel freer on the iPad - I can try things out there, like this very scribbly sketch. I realize scribbling may be a more natural style for me - I love to scribble.

The pencil tools in the app have improved a lot - I plan to experiment with printing a drawing down in "pencil." It's very hard to scan a real pencil drawing and then print it to look like pencil. Maybe a digital version will work better. And yes, I do have an Apple Pencil now, and think it's wonderful. It is also possible to buy very reasonable packs of brushes from independent sellers. The last one I bought had pencils, ball point pens, oil and watercolor brushes and a bunch more.

And I can merge all kinds of photos into one canvas. I know you can do this with PhotoShop, but using the Apple Pencil seems much more intuitive to me. The above image blends together five or six photos.

Several photos merged together provide drawing inspiration.

The downside - the cost of course. And I seem to fill up memory pretty quickly. My old iPad is so full I have to delete things to make room for the newer stuff. And beware - be sure to back up a lot. If the app seems to "stutter" or not work well in some way, they suggest you delete it and download again. I lost some things I hadn't backed up yet doing that. There was no warning that I would loose all my data. That may have changed. Procreate is updated frequently. And aside from the one time I haven't had an issue with the app, just my mistakes and occasionally the Apple Pencil tip gets loose and won't work.

I have no affiliation with Procreate or Apple. Just a fan.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Summing up Inktober

My earlier post says most of it. I would add the selfie ring light was handy, it was a little quicker to get the photos into my computer. I suppose if I blogged from my phone I could be even faster. The blog is a good record for me. Next year I may remember to read it and see how things went. The biggest problem was my internal resistance to any outside pressure. While I draw almost every day I just don’t like to have a schedule or expectations. Toward the end of October I took an online class for drawing on the iPad which was a distraction. Since the second lesson on hatching I have been drawing some in Procreate, a drawing app.

I do feel burned out right now. And it wasn't horrible, just a little bit of pressure. Still, it's supposed to be fun, right? Next year I may do a drawing a week, working on it a little every day. Some people make drawings that span the month on one page. The second drawing by Jake Parker on this page may be an example. I can't find a lot of information.

Since I always like to have at least one image to illustrate blog posts, I'll leave with this digital drawing, done in Procreate with a tweaked 6B pencil tool. The proportions are not right, but I liked the effect.