My sister, Shenandoah Davis, released her third album, Souvenirs, earlier this year. Shenandoah (or Shenni, as she is known to her family and past acquaintances of her pre-20s) asked me to create an illustration inspired by the lyrics from her album; she sent me all of the words to her songs and left me to sort through the poetry and see what image I would pull out.
The studio build has been consuming my spaghetti brain for well over a year now, and look! I built this! With the help of a few lovely friends, my backyard art studio is finally complete.
Originally I had planned to keep posting detailed progress updates throughout building my new studio, but, oh man, life. It has its own ideas about things.
If you are hoping to build a workspace on your property, I would be happy to give you more step-by-step thoughts and instruction--just shoot me an email email@example.com or comment here. Otherwise, continue reading for process pics and good times.
PERMIT was this monstrous, scary word I had avoided in all of my previous home projects. At our home in Florida, I would research residential code and skate just underneath the requirements for permitting (or, in the case of running electrical to my backyard shed studio, seek help from genius friends and plan to claim official idiocy if the need arose). My permit-avoidance strategy worked until my current big project: designing and building a backyard artist studio from the ground up.
When we bought our lovely little brick home in Arvada, the backyard was outfitted with a rusting metal shed flanked by gnarly tree bushes and lined with diagonally-embedded bricks. Now a spoiled backyard artist, I knew this metal tetanus heap was sitting on the hallowed ground of what would one day be my new den of creative wonders. I also quickly discovered that in order to create this palace of art, I would need to get permits.
While I am sadly without an art space (I can only do so much at the kitchen table), I've been seeking creative ways to put out some work and still feel productive (instead of just depressed that my paints and brushes are literally in a crate marked "ART: IMPORTANT STUFF" in the garage).
This time with no studio space has been equally just as terrible as I thought it would be and not nearly as terrible as I expected. It's so frustrating to be hit with a sudden inspiration for a creation only to write it down as one more concept on my long "to make in the future" list, knowing that as the list grows, the probability of ideas coming to actuality dwindles. I am actively creating an archive of IDEAS NEVER REALIZED, and that is depressing.
Without my usual mediums, I'm turning more to my computer and fleshing things out more as "brands" than art pieces--my semi-recent creation of Ironic Baby is a good example of this, where I had this idea spark and was able to bring it to the world with nothing more than my laptop. I had to get creative and think of ways to continue towards my artistic goals without actually creating any new art, so I've been using some old pieces of mine with new methods of promotionby sharing it on Instagram and/or Etsy under different "brands," like Scratch Encaustics and 300 Drawings.
It has been a good stretching of the ol' creative muscle to work on these projects that are more related to branding than anything else (and I've had a schedule packed with all kinds of graphics work in a wide spectrum of fascinations), and while I have no interest in being some sort of social media wizard, I've learned a lot about how to successfully promote my work to these online communities.
Oh boy, I have been gone for some time, haven't I? In November, our family moved to the Denver area, and in January we moved into our new, absolutely darling new home in Arvada, Colorado. I plan on staying here for a very long time. Moving sucks.
One of the most wonderful things about returning to Colorful Colorado is that I've been able to spend time with many old friends from college and earlier. One of these lovely classmates, Royce Roeswood, cohosts (with comedian and all-around neat person JD Lopez) a monthly live edition of the podcast Left Hand Right Brain. The year-old podcast is a light-hearted discussion with local creative types, and Royce asked if I would be the guest for February's live recording. I said yes! Now you can listen to me talk to other humans about art and other things.
I think that JD might regret telling me "don't feel like you are talking too much. That's what we are here for, to promote you" before recording--I just talked and talked and talked.
Crazy-working bees provide me with an abundance of beeswax to use in my encaustics, so I got back in the studio and started experimenting with some variations on my technique.
In my previous encaustic works, I did an augmented monoprint technique of melting the wax together with pigments on a heated surface into a thick puddle, laying the vellum on the wax, and pulling the piece up slowly. The stratification effect comes from removing the vellum with a sort of dipping motion--as the wax is pulled onto the paper, it begins to cool, but the dipping motion allows sections of the wax to stay heated for a longer period of time resulting in less wax hardening on the paper. For this round of prints, I expanded on that technique with multiple pressings of the same piece into the wax in an effort to achieve more advanced layering of the translucent material.
These works bring up so many nostalgic wonders for me--I think of the ghostly textures that misused dark-room chemicals left on my photographs in high school; of my grandpa's sand art that sat in the front window and mesmerized me for hours; of eroding lands and terraced hillsides and melting skies; of the art direction for the Nine Inch Nails album With Teeth (as well as my general sense of being when I am listening to Nine Inch Nails). As my eyes move across the works, some also remind me of the pathways of the bees flying through the air heading straight from bloom to hive in a direct zip or meandering through large circles of breeze to reach their home.
Mountainous landscapes come into my works often--doubtlessly due to growing up on the Rocky Mountain foothills in Colorado--and two recent visits back to those familiar peaks greatly inspired my use of texture and composition in my latest work, Ancient Story. I find the stacking of elements in atmospheric perspective so interesting, and it is a beauty wholly missed here in flatland Florida (although there are, of course, other wonders of loveliness). Seeing a valley, then hills, then the clustered monoliths of city architecture, then a mountain range, all staggered up to the sky is such an expansive and finite experience.
I have often used my technique of applying heavy texture in other pieces, but this is the first time I have used such sculptural elements in a work of such a large scale. Because of the size, I applied the texture (which was created using flexible moulding paste) in enormous piles using a large bamboo spoon and my hands. This new technique of application added greatly to the organic nature of my shapes, and it allowed for larger areas of texture which could then be chased with smaller tools. The result is striking when viewed from a distance, but it also holds enchanting details of metallics and eroding color when examined at nose's length.
Red paint always enchants me--the color seem to change so drastically as the eye adjusts to the intensity of it, and the minute complexities between tones seem to emerge from deep within the work. Slight alterations, hints of contrasts, color context, and layered washes heighten the red's playfulness with the eye.
I've been doing a few little experiments and studies with mixed medias lately in hopes of discovering weird new ways to combine materials. Sometimes the studies turn into piles of mushy garbage art. Sometimes they come out pretty cool.
These studies aren't really regimented or thought-out--when boredom strikes and I am trying to procrastinate cleaning the house, I go hang out in my studio and start grabbing things from a pile of project scraps next to my desk. There were a lot of fun-sized mat board bits hanging around from matting some pictures. Aching to stay away from sweeping and vacuuming, I began tossing a bunch of different media onto the boards.
These three studies are all efforts to explore ways to control the textural medium, enhance a sense of depth with the texture, and to use colored pencil, marker, and pen to add interest and color on top of the acrylic paint.
Vast experimentation with alternative and unconventional mediums helped to achieve the sense of depth in the details of my latest painting, Salt Fingers. Made up of four 14"x14" canvases, this tetraptych features heavy texture, translucent layering, metallics, interference colors, sheen variety, and eroding swaths of color.
Admittedly, these are not entirely new. I created the drawings for this Artist Trading Card Print Pack series quite some time ago, but I only recently motivated myself to compile the drawings into a neat little set of prints. Artist trading cards are something I create often; the originals are perfect little gifts to include with thank-you cards, and because they are baseball-card-size I don't feel awkward about burdening someone with a piece of gigantic art that they might not like. Oh, thanks, it's...so great...I will allow this to take up space in my closet forever and feel obligated to never throw it away. No one wants that, and no art is for everyone.
Although normally I just draw whatever comes into my mind at the moment my pen touches the paper, many of these cards were intended for specific people or to capture an exact observation. Here are my three favorites:
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