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.
Past and Future Travels of Here Right Now is a collection of 300 pen-and-ink drawings I started in April 2010 and completed in April 2011. To see the full collection and to purchase works from the project, please visit 300drawings.com.
After I graduated college, I was a newlywed woman with an art degree. In the epic post-university scattering of 2009, my community fragmented out across the country. Dave and I wound up in Florida--a state where we knew no one, with foreign streets and monolith clouds and a country between us and the familiar.
The first several months in Florida were a new experience in loneliness. My life had been spent in a large network of dear friends, each supporting and fulfilling different needs and affections; I was a woman created of community, now expecting one other human to satisfy my need for society. It was an unfair, impossible task for me to place on my new husband, particularly on introverted Dave who was deep in his own worries of providing for me despite a heartbreaking career change.
My days were spent exploring the alien city on my bicycle, and at night I created little gifts to mail to faraway friends, crafted needless trinkets for our home, and made art that simultaneously felt wonderfully self-important and utterly insignificant--which, overall, is mostly how I viewed my life.
One evening, I drew two little landscapes that demanded fondness--the style was as foreign to me as the Florida landscape, and the pieces felt like a new adventure. I instantly ran to the store, purchased a stack of cardstock (150 sheets) and a paper cutter, chopped the paper in half, and decided that I would create 300 of these grayscale drawings. I considered myself to be a serial abandoner of large projects, and it was with a deep distrust in my own ability to complete anything truly time-consuming that I committed to the work. I will make five drawings every day, and it will only take a little longer than two months to finish.
It took me one year.
My mom tried extremely hard to instill in her children a good habit of cleanliness and knowledge of how to keep a proper home. Her weekly chore list of "clean the bathroom mirror", "shine the faucets", and "use the vacuum hose to clean the corners of each room" was certainly intended to raise up responsible adults with a flair for tidiness.
Dave and I have lived in this house for over a year, and I don't think I had ever cleaned the bathroom mirror, shined the faucets, or used the vacuum hose to clean the corners of each room a single time.
That changed last week. We are in the process of adopting two sisters, ages 12 and 14, from our local foster care system. We have been visiting with the girls for a few months now, but this past weekend they came to our home for the first time. I spent all of last week trying to channel every bit of cleaning wisdom my mom had ever given me--I wanted the house to be absolutely spotless (because obviously 12- and 14-year-olds really care about clean houses). I even washed the windows inside and out (which, Dave pointed out, I had not done since we moved in, which explains why I had to wash them twice before they were sparkly). Did you know that the little tracks on windows get super gross and full of dead bugs if you don't clean them for a year? Ick. From now on, I promise to clean more thoroughly than my habit of "vacuuming sometimes" and "intermittent sweeping."
I haven't shown off our little home since we first moved in, so I am taking the opportunity of this unprecedented cleanliness to show off what we've done with the place in the past year (other than the kitchen--it looks nearly identical). We have made some pretty big changes as we prepare for adding more members to the family.
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.
Camping is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. Growing up in Colorado, this meant long family drives to national parks with a pop-up camper in tow or treks into the mountains for weekend backpacking adventures, with surrounding views of the Rocky Mountains.
In Florida, most camping I've found is far from those picturesque peaks --overcrowded campgrounds full of satellite-tv-equipped trailers are peppered along alligator-ridden rivers--but the Sunshine State also has a beautiful network of spoil islands. These small, vacant refuges are accessible only by boat and are free for the nightly mischief of camping.
My friend (and adorable flower child at our wedding) Riley told me that I should make a blog about my chicken coop. Riley is really smart; taking her advice is probably always a good idea. I'm taking the opportunity to cover all things backyard chicken-y.
It's been five months since I spontaneously brought three little chicks home from the feed store. Since then Starfox violently "played" with Savannah, our plucky little escape chicken, and killed him (Savannah turned out to be a rooster). They say that one of the rules of having chickens is that at least one will die a horrific death, and we had ours. It was a sad day, but I am thankful for the lesson. We have better secured the chicken area from the rest of our yard, and I am glad that, because roosters are not allowed in my city, Starfox saved me the inner turmoil over sending Savannah (Savannoh?) to chicken heaven.
My friend Ben Weger emailed me a sketch of what he wanted for his King of All Creation album artwork, along with the words "I envision something very creation-y. Birds, sky, earth. I kind of see a starburst frame with a primarily sketched circular center with maybe some water color undertones and the title across the bottom in some handwritten old-school cursivey goodness? I don't know if that even translates lol..."
I love emails like this because although Ben was uncertain if he had effectively communicated his vision for the artwork, the entire picture popped into my head as a finished work--all that was left to do was to actually make the artwork in real life.
I started out by drawing the "creation-y" scene out in pen on paper, then scanning it to add the watercolor effects digitally in photoshop. Creating the entire image on paper would have been risky with a design like this--if the tree needed to be a different color or the sky needed to be a deeper shade of blue, I would have had to re-do the entire piece from scratch. By coloring digitally, I was able to alter hues and textures much more efficiently.
I also don't have a lot of experience with watercolor, and my experiments with the medium usually turn into brown mush-lands of trash. Photoshop watercoloring is much safer with my skill level.
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.
Earlier this year, Dave and I drove up to the historic PAL theater in Vidalia, GA to see our friend Brian Ernst achieve one of his dreams--to record a live, two-disc album. I think that Brian had mentioned his plans for this album literally every single time we saw him for the past four years, and it was always clear that his passion for this project was immense.
When Brian asked me to design the artwork for his first live album Any Given Saturday, I wanted to showcase all of the tools that help make his performances so enthralling. One of the coolest things about watching Brian perform live is seeing him expertly switch instruments like a woogly octopus, stomping on his looping pedal while simultaneously dropping a didgeridoo on its stand and swinging a guitar over his head.
In a very quick hour, the design concept went from a sketch and a conversation to hurriedly tossing a bright green sleeping bag (improvised green screen) in the driveway and photographing each of Brian's many soundmakers. The resulting album artwork features every instrument Brian used at the time of the live recording. As a constantly travelling musician, he tends to have instrument turnover from tour to tour; I love the idea that album captures a unique moment in Brian's collection of tools both through the music and in the design.