Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Approximately every two months, I travel down to Roanoke, Virginia, to visit family and friends. Each year I attempt to time a visit with the Artists Open Studios Tour. It was last weekend and, unfortunately, we were unable to go this year. This tour always gives me the warm fuzzies. Artists often permit you to cruise through their entire house or studio. The tour takes you over a great deal of territory, so driving is required, although some studios are within walking distance of each other. They have put together a great website and brochure.

Has anyone out there been involved in such a tour? Has anyone organized one themselves? I would love to know what is involved.

Roanoke, Virginia is a Southern town. You definitely get that southern hospitality on the tour. I would love to be part of such an event; however, I am no longer a resident of Roanoke. Roanoke is becoming a great art town, yet it is an exclusive art town. The galleries there show local and regional artists. It is becoming a great community for the artists and their customers.

The art "community" in State College, Pennsylvania, seems a far cry from the Roanoke art scene. I have met a few local artists at our huge summer arts festival & when attempting to discuss our local art scene with them (I do not attempt to talk to them when they have customers to deal with), I feel I get the cold shoulder. Our local art "community" seems to be so exclusive that it is nonexistent.

I remember about 6 or 7 years ago, some artists here did put together a studio tour. I was unable to attend and the event was only attempted once and never mentioned again. I don't know if lack of attendance, lack of promotion, lack of organization, etc., was the issue. I have been unable to find any info. about the event to learn which artists were involved. Perhaps it was a dream.

I have come across a handful of artists with attitude here. At a gathering of women I met an artist who lives quite close by. I put in a word here and there, but much of what I heard during her "side" of the "discussion" was how necessary it is to have an extensive art education. I heard many other high and mighty thoughts and crawled home discouraged.

Perhaps it is the northern climate that keeps artists holed up in their studios. Perhaps all the local artists are superior to me and I should never approach them. Perhaps there is a network here, as invisible and delicate as a spider web.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Down in Round Two

So, I have purchased some self-help and inspirational books lately. Not a lot. But a few have had so many recommendations from bloggers that I have broken down and bought them.

I am now reading Living the Artist's Life, by Paul Dorrell. I have not gotten very far. As a matter of fact, I have only read chapter one. I am still on the ground and I cannot get up. I'm down for the count.

I had read many, many, many recommendations for this book. I expected to have to do some deep thinking and work diligently on myself. I didn't expect to be knocked down. Twice. In chapter one. A few pages into chapter one, a subtitle reads "Now, Let Us Begin." I'm excited. ". . . so you're soon to graduate from art school, if indeed you haven't already." Uh, indeed not. "Assuming you've acquired the necessary background in painting, sculpting or printmaking . . ." Hmmmmmm. O.K. right in the gut. Now I'm in the fetal position. Time to get up, curse, and breathe. Round one is done.

Next, I have to go to Europe and see everything I can. Well, can't do that now. Seen a few things there, but no doubt, not enough. If I can't do Europe because of lack of funds then I must do America. O.K. Be back in a little bit. . .

(Two years Later). Back to the book. Oh wait. I'm supposed to be young and fresh out of college (art school). Damn. Dorrell lets us know that it's ok if we can't afford to travel Europe as recent college graduates. Why doesn't the cover of the book state I must be young to begin. O.K. Down again. Should I bother to get up for round three?

So, should I keep reading this thing? Should I continue to call myself an artist? My business cards say I am. I'm not going to change them now. Am I being too sensitive? I thought that this darn book would have me climbing toward success (obviously will be a long climb), but I really didn't think it would have me curled and bleeding the the corner of the ring.

BTW, the photo is "Luiz". SOLD. So there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yes We Can . . . Vote

I spent the day yesterday volunteering at my local polling place. From 6:15 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. It was quite exciting.

I even got chills when my ballot came up on the voting machine. CHILLS. I've been voting for over 20 years & I still get excited about the process. I must say I was more excited this time than I have been in the past.

My precinct is very close to the Penn State Campus. There are loads of students living in my neighborhood & there were several dozen first time voters that I assisted yesterday. One beaming mother photographed her daughter as she cast her first ballot. All of these "kids" were thrilled about what they were doing. I know some of them may not be as thrilled this morning, but I'm hoping they are able to dust off their britches and look forward to doing this again in November.

I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Flow With It

There has been a deep, dark void. Then there was a shaft of light. Now I feel as if I am flowing along with things. It seems as if I should say a door has opened. But I have seen no door. Just felt a flowing. Right now, I will assume that flow is going in the right direction.

Two more Planting Seeds have sold (VII and XII). Also, another Baroque Artichoke has sold. It has been a slow season for sales lately. I will assume things are looking up as far as sales are concerned. And whether or not sales improve, I will still be creating.

I may be out of my orange phase (somewhat). I feel the need to do more greens and browns. Now that I am clearing my garden of last years leaves, branches, and bits, I can see green showing through the brown. After a season of gray, gray, gray, these are two very welcome colors.

I am still working on a commission. The "sandwich" has been quilted, and I am ready to start the decorative quilting. Just waiting to see if I will get any input from the client on that matter.

I am now reading one of those blasted self-help books. Getting Things Done, by David Allen. This book was recommended on Lisa Call's Blog. I am not one to read such things. I see a book with a guy in a suit on the front and the word "productivity", and I just want to vomit and wash myself thoroughly. HOWEVER, I had read about one quarter of the book, have not paid too much attention to the first flow chart, and yet, how I get things done has improved immediately. I just need to consolidate my thoughts and papers and bits and broken things better, and I know my life will change beyond all recognition. In the first pages of the book, I was instructed to write down one important thing that had to be done (redo upstairs bathroom). Then I was to write down one thing I could do to get the ball rolling (measure the bathroom). Well, the next day, I went and measured the bathroom. Seems logical huh. Not for me. It is helping me plan for one of the next things I have to do. . . . hang some artwork.

Through blogging, I have met Emily Dimov-Gottshall. Emily is the new director of the Quaint Corner in Altoona, PA. This is a children's museum, gallery, teaching venue in a beautiful, old Victorian house. I will be showing some of my work there starting in May. I need to create new business cards, put hangers on many pieces, rewrite my artist statement & other such plans. I am expecting that GETTING THINGS DONE will help me get things done.

Some logjams in the flow, however. We are leaving town early tomorrow to visit family, so I'll have to pack for me, my daughter, the dog, set up catsitting, etc. No working this weekend. Tuesday, I will be working at the polls all day for the Pennsylvania primary. Hope there are no fistfights. My daughter is out of school, next Thursday and Friday, little to no work on those days. More home improvements the following weekend. So, with these things ahead, I will go and get busy on something. Must find that book so I can get things done. Hey, I don't have time to read do I?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Stick It

I recently purchased Ruth Isett's
new book Print, Pattern & Color. While much of her work is a bit too "cluttered" for me, I did get a few worthwhile ideas from the book. Her section on block printing was just what I needed to get over the blues from my MagicStamps not working the way I wanted them to.

One such idea was to affix shapes cut from kids foam sheets onto a piece of foamboard using carpet tape or double-sided tape. As I was clean out of carpet tape and my double-sided tape was "missing", I somehow located a couple pieces of Crescent PerfectMount self-adhesive mounting board. I cut some stone-shaped pieces from a sheet of kids foam (I did happen to have that sitting around), I removed the release paper from the board and stuck the stone shapes to the board. I used the other board to adhere the remnants of the foam after the stone shapes were cut out. To make the boards thicker and easier to use, I glued them to pieces of foamboard cut to the same size. I then spread white paint over the new stamps to cover up the sticky parts. Pretty quick and easy.

I think I will explore some more with these foam sheets. I have already been using them for sun dyeing fabric. I have cut some squiggly shapes, circles, and spirals & used them for sun dyeing, but I want to use more of these stone shapes. I feel a series coming on.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Narrow Shaft of Light

Just when I thought I was lost in that deep, dark void (see post below), I see just a glimmer of light.

This piece sold this week on Ebay "Baroque Artichoke III". Now 5 of 8 pieces of this series have sold.

The commission I have struggled with for approximately 6 weeks (and that was just getting the colors worked out), is well under way now. I have the top sewn together. Now I just have to get some fabric for the backing today & then next week I will quilt the "sandwich" and make some decisions on what kind of stitching to do.

It also seems I might be having some work displayed in the near future. More on that as it develops.

And, to top it all off, central Pennsylvania also had a shaft of light yesterday. More than that, actually. It was a whole day of sunshine and warmth. That was yesterday, however. Today there will be rain. Tomorrow there will be rain. Sunday there will be rain. Monday there will be precipitation. Did I hear someone mention snow?!?!?!?

And today, for just an hour or so, I will PLAY in the studio. I have purchased a new book & have been doing some experimenting. I will find out today if these exeriments have worked & will soon publish the outcome.

And, another day without workmen in my home. I do wish they would come back, however. My living room is a mess (see photo below). It will stay pretty much this way for the next month until my shelves are ready to be installed. The hubby will spend the weekend in this room painting the NEW ceiling. Then there will be another weekend of wall painting. Then we will move a bit of furniture back in. The other rooms are filled with bits and pieces from the living room, and, as I am a klutz, I am right tired of bumping my shins on these things.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lest anyone believe I am attempting to have my home show up on MTV cribs, I would like to give a “brief” description of what is going on in my home.

I have mentioned recent renovations once or twice lately. No, I am not having a granite quarry emptied for my personal satisfaction. I am not having a foyer enlaid with marble. Foyer? Ha!

Perhaps renovation is the wrong word. That might give the idea that I am installing a whirlpool in my marble bath, hanging Baccarat (sp?) chandeliers above my marble dining table, and installing French doors so my library appears symmetrical. NOT. Perhaps I should call this a restoration. But then one might think I am restoring a historically important manse on the Hudson River.

What my husband and I are doing is slowly putting back together a simple frame house. We live, with good and bad results, one-half block from the Penn State campus. When we purchased the house in 1997, it was in rough shape. The kitchen was a joke. The toilets pretended to flush, but only regurgitated. The full bath was a disaster (still is). Parts of the dining room ceiling hung down and flapped in the breeze. The furnace leaked oil (if you turned it on, it could have burned the house down, said one contractor). The house was heated by a woodstove (if you had lit a fire, you could have burned the house down, said another contractor.). We had emergency wiring done (if you had turned on this or that, said yet another contractor, you could have burned the house down).

The house burned partially down just a few years after it was built in 1937. I do hope that is the last time it burns.

Being a stones throw from campus, our house had been one of many that had fallen under disrepair from slum-lords. Our smallish house (1600 square feet + attic when we purchased it) had been divided up as a duplex. Much of that had been set right by the previous two owners of our home, but so many scars and deficiencies remained.

Within two weeks of “living” in the house we had . . . .

A new furnace
Removal of oil tank (they had to cut the sucker out – messy)
A new dining room ceiling
A water softener – the furnace guys would not install the new steam furnace unless we had a water softener
Asbestos abatement
New copper plumbing in basement and 1st floor.
Some new wiring to replace that old knob-and-tube.

At one point, we had three groups of contractors in the basement laughing at the situation. I cried at night, terrified my house would collapse, burn, or give me cancer.

All of this work (except the wiring) was a surprise.

Then there were those pesky cosmetic issues. The coffee stained walls. The previous owner had gone through a divorce. I assumed they threw coffee at each other. Windows that were broken (many still are). Windows that would not stay open. Windows that did not open. The remains of the flammable woodstove. The ceilings and walls throughout the house that were covered with soot. Broken cabinets. Holes cut into the ceiling so heat from the woodstove could flow upstairs. Other holes in ceilings. Rotten decking. Carpenter bees.

During the first two cold September weeks after we moved in (yes, often central PA can be cold at remarkable times) I sat on my front porch (which was fairly functional) and planned for my new kitchen, while workmen repaired the emergency items. (The outdoors was the only place that had lighting). I told my husband before we purchased the house, that the kitchen was a no go. It was to go the following year.

Well, I lied a bit about the lighting issue. There was a light in the kitchen. It was an old, wooden tool box hanging from a chain. Four holes had been drilled into the sides, and lightbulbs were screwed into these holes. There was no wall switch. There was a rusty knob at the bottom of the box, almost impossible to turn. But, before one could turn it, one had to get a cloth to grasp the knob with. Since I could barely reach the knob, I could not reach the lamp to prevent it from swinging away from me. A spatula, cooking spoon, or other handy utensil was necessary to hold the lamp still. The rest of the kitchen was on par with the light. It had to go. Along with the rotting deck and the carpenter-bee-damaged enclosed back porch.

What a joy it was, six months later, to have kitchen drawers that opened. Cabinets that were actually cabinets instead of false fronts for upstairs plumbing. A countertop. A back door that actually opened.

The former kitchen was gutted, painted, and used as an office as is, until three years ago when we had saved enough money to have some shelves built in. The present job is making the living room useful. My goal is to have some more shelves for books, a place to put the stereo (other than on top of a picnic bench), some reading lights, a couple of chairs to sit on to read, and finally, enough heat.

The next job will be to finally fix the upstairs bath. We were going to wait until we had saved enough for the job, but since the tub is leaking, the shower is leaking, the sink faucet is leaking, etc., I think it is going to be another emergency situation as the water damage is now showing up in the office and kitchen.

Our house means a great deal to us. We understand the economics of paint and slipcovers. We enjoy putting our lives, our books, our art into our home. 10.5 years down. Hopefully only a few more to go before the house is what it could and should be. It was a simple house to begin with. It still is. It just looks and performs a whole hell of a lot better.

While I do enjoy a room that is “finished” (ceilings, walls and floors intact, attractive and non-wobbly furniture), I would not call this process fun. I do feel it is important, though, to keep up our homes, neighborhoods and communities. I hate seeing a house allowed to disintegrate.

Who needs the Taj Mahal?!?

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Great Dark Void

This piece is entitled "Elis", named for the popular Brazilian singer Elis Regina. "Elis" was created in 2006 (considerably aged for many show jurors). It is part of my series called "Women Singing". Also in this group is "Janis" for Janis Joplin, "Nina" for Nina Simone and "Astrud" for Astrud Gilberto.

I still have these 4 pieces at home. I would like to get them out in the world. They have been on Ebay and at a solo show at a gallery in my town that has since closed. They are all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Is it time to do the gallery search again? The last gallery search was miserably disappointing. I know there are fiber art galleries out there that I am not ready for yet. They are filled with works by well-known fiber artist that sell their artwork for several thousand dollars. I must find other places to "begin".

I do not live in a city of galleries. I live in a town of gift shop. Yes, I intended for that to be singular. We do have a "gallery" that sells jewelry, ceramics and decorative art (still lifes and landscapes). Yes, I know all still life and landscape paintings are NOT merely decorative (no doubt some of these landscape and still life artists are in my blog list and I covet work by them). Yet the gallery in town selects only those pieces they feel will appeal to a broad range of people. It is a long way between my town and a reasonable concentration of galleries. I live halfway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. I have done research on galleries in those areas. I will do more. I have yet to find a suitable one in those areas.

I grew up in Virginia and lived there for 33 years. I visit there every two months. I would love to have representation in a gallery there. The "important" ones are not suitable for my work (or perhaps I should say my work is not suitable for them), and the smaller ones represent only local artists. Simply having been a resident of the state at one time is not good enough.

I feel as if I'm caught in some kind of invisible art trap. I'm getting quite discouraged. I don't think the "recession" is going to be of any help either. I know, I know, I know I'm not supposed to waste time complaining. Those damn art self-help books want us to always be positive and always be working to promote our work. Somehow, somewhere, I silently stumbled and fell and when I stood up, I realized I had no idea which direction to go.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Grumbly Day

My house has been full of workmen and workwomen for several days. I have a break today from the noise. I now have a living room full of dust and nothing else. Oh, and new outlets. Some of you may think, "new outlets, big deal". Well, when you live in an old house, outlets are hard to come by. Electricity is scarce.

The days of turning on the dehumidifier in the basement, turning on the hairdryer in the upstairs bath and blowing the power on the entire front of the house are going to be over.

I have mopped the plaster dust from the living room floor three times. And today, sigh. I have to mop the walls. They are dustier than the floors. I expect it will take all day.

Tomorrow, the painting begins. I hope I like it. My living room will be chocolate brown. MMMMMMMMM.

And I'm supposed to be working on a commission.

And its raining. And chilly.

But, I know. I'm lucky to have a living room to renovate. And lucky to have a studio that I can't get into often enough.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Read Less, Exercise More

After a couple months of debate (with myself, of course), I finally purchased Jane Dunnewold's book Finding Your Own Visual Language. It ain't cheap, yet it is one of the most used books in my collection of art making books. I felt is was time.

For years, I felt that I did not have an artistic style. I now realize that I have been refining my style for years. The process of refining is not done. It never should be. But I have now come to a place where I feel comfortable with my "style", and instead of growing out of this style, I wish to dig even deeper.

There are other fiber artists out there whose work I love. I have tried to emulate them, but have discovered that 1) I am nowhere near as good as them, 2) I do not wish to do the same things that they do. I want to do my thing. I want to do more of my thing.

What is my thing. Well, it's squares. And rectangles. And abstract.

I have tried to do realistic work after seeing art quilters work in realism. I have to laugh. I cannot do it. But what I had to realize is that I did not WANT to do it.

The book consists of numerous visual and writing exercies. Let it be known that I am not an exercise person. I have purchased many books on the subject of art making, and I have yet to follow an exercise in any of them. I have been inspired by many, including the Art Quilt Workbook. Yet, I am beginning to become an exercise person.

In the Getting Started section of the book, the reason that I have gotten little constructive inspiration from most other books is brought to light. I will quote (and hopefully not get into trouble):

How many times have you bought an instructional book and absolutely loved it? Looking endlessly at the beautiful pictures? Reading and re-reading the text? Hmmm. But you never got off the mark in the studio. Reading and looking became the activity rather than the making the book was written to inspire? It happens.

I don't know about the rest of you, but that paragraph was all about me.

Shown here is my attempt at Visual Exercise I, Splitting Shapes. Yes, the square person chose a circle. I enjoyed this exercise & will do it again using a rectangle.

Visual Exercise 2 consists of carving 30 stamps. I have done a bit of experimenting with that & will have more info. on a later post.

So, yes, right now I will try to read less and exercise more.