Category Archives: making

D.I.Y. Residency

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As 2015 came to a close, I decided that I needed to shake up my studio practice. Things had started feeling stagnant. I had a few ideas for how to do this… trying a new medium, starting a new project, maybe finding a bigger studio. I decided the easiest and most immediate thing would be to diversify my practice by working in a new medium, on paper. I spent a few weeks sorting things in my garage, and clearing a space to serve as my “paper studio”. I found a set of flat files to store paper and finished works, and started gathering materials.

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I started experimenting in a sketchbook, tentatively playing with new materials– guache, acrylic, watercolor, inks. I was still having trouble getting started though. This was not new territory, this resistance to starting a new body of work. Breaking into new work is difficult for me, and I usually need a little self-induced push. I decided that what I needed was a residency. I really felt that I needed the kind of dedicated time that a residency affords, and I had applied to two local residencies in 2015 but they are highly competitive and I didn’t get a spot in either one. So I decided to set one up for myself. At home. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.

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I marked two weeks in January as my time, and thought about my daily life and the things that distract me or take up time. I made sure that I did not schedule anything else during those two weeks. I planned some easy meals and did the shopping ahead of time and put some food in the freezer. I did errands or decided they could wait. I cleaned the house ahead of time, and made a deal with myself that I would just let it be dirty during the week. Usually, I’m one of those people that has to have everything in order before she works so this was a big one for me! This is something I’m continuing to work on… my most damaging procrastination habits tend to be getting things clean or done before I allow myself to work. So it was good practice.

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Then, for two weeks, I worked. I worked all day, and tried to exercise discipline by not indulging in distractions. This is the hardest thing about trying to do a self-initiated “residency”. Usually, with a residency, you have a work space far from the usual distractions, and that is part of the appeal and what makes it so effective. So re-creating those conditions at home was challenging, but mostly achievable. I can’t say it was perfect, but I got so much work done! I let myself just focus on process, and told myself that if I came to the end of two weeks without a single finished piece, that was okay. There were times when I just wanted to stop and there were times when I was so caught up in the work that I lost track of time. I had a few moments when I wasn’t so sure about this plan!

But by the second week, things started coming together. I didn’t have a finished piece by the end of my two weeks, but I had a direction. And momentum. And enthusiasm. I was excited about the new work.

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The painting/drawing above was the first piece I finished. I now have about five of these finished, and others started. Jump-starting this new work with a D.I.Y. residency was really effective, and I already have plans to do it again soon. It’s amazing to me what can be accomplished with some dedicated time and space.

What about you? What is your favorite way to start a new project? How do you overcome the inertia of beginning?

Thanks for reading,
~Lisa

 

Meanwhile, in the Studio…

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I’ve created several distinct bodies of work over the last couple of decades, and yet,  when I am making a change, or even just a shift, in my work, it is still both uncomfortable and exciting. It’s easy to embrace the excitement, but I still want to hide the fear and resistance. So here I am, outing myself (and maybe starting a conversation, see below). Sometimes the fear and resistance feels like bees buzzing under my skin, and other times it feels like a dull wall in my mind. But I really think the fear is a good sign, and that I might want to be concerned if it went away completely, because it’s an indication that I’m working against comfort and toward something new.

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The process takes persistence, because usually I try a lot of things that don’t work. Sometimes I rewind and start over again, and other times I keep pushing forward, even if I don’t like it, just to see if something new will come from it. I’ve discovered and refined processes and techniques that came originally from making “mistakes”, too, so I try to not think of it that way. I tell myself it’s all just action. Some of it leads to art I like and some of it does not.

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The detail above is from a painting that is proving elusive. I just don’t know where it’s going, or what it needs next. I’m trying to find new solutions, and let the Periphery Walks influence this new group of paintings, so I’m trying hard not to indulge in old solutions. That is just too easy. I know if I just trust this process and keep going, the new solutions will arrive.

So that’s it–that’s where I’m at in the studio right now. It’s a bit of a mess, and I’m not sure where I’m going, but I’ll get there. So my question to you is: Do you struggle with starting new bodies of work or do you love it, and in either case, how do you approach it?

*All of these photos were taken in my studio this afternoon, and are a typical snapshot of what it looks like when I have new work developing… Lots of things started, a big sprawling mess, and not a lot finished.

*I started this blog post the other day, and have since then finished a couple of these. If you are interested, check out my Instagram account.

Remembering Every Day

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at a college — that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?” 

–Howard Ikemoto

Howard Ikemoto was my first drawing teacher when I was 19. Stroke of luck, that. He was such an amazing teacher, that I didn’t need the passage of time to know just what a lucky student I was; I knew it at the time.  I recently came across some old sketchbooks from then, and realized just how much I carry my teachers voices with me as I go on with my life and my work. I remember Howard telling the above  story one day in class. 

One of the things I love best about making art is the way it keeps me integrated: the four year old me, the 15 year old me, the 19 year old me, the 40 year old me. When I draw or paint, it’s easier to know that part inside that remembers- and I can tap into the same joy of “making” that I felt when I was four, and will feel when I’m 90.

Things to love today

My sweetie back from Thailand and China…I love the tiny Buddah he brought back.

Finishing a sweater for my son…finally.  I haven’t been knitting much, so this has only taken me…uh….8 or 9 months.  Incredibly patient, that’s what Ian is.

Banana bread….

And my new encaustic panels.  I just made two new ones- 28″x28″- out of a hollow core door.  They seem expansive after all of my little 8 inch squares I’ve been doing.  It has been quite a project, just preparing these.  I am trying to work out how to attach a hanging wire to the back .  Since they are made from hollow doors, they are incredibly light and smooth.  I can’t wait to get going on these.

Painting for the kids

It’s that time of year again!

I’m afraid that painting in the studio will have to take a back seat to this…….

and this….

and this…..

Set painting for the Young Actors play here on the coast.  My son is in the group- it’s an improvisational acting group for kids, and every year they all brainstorm a wacky play and all the parents pitch in to help make it happen.  They are led by an amazing and inspiring teacher, Auri Naggar, and they somehow pull together these plays that are so silly and magical that only children, in all of their uninhibited enthusiasm, could make them possible. When people ask me about it, I always describe it as like one of those plays that your kids and their friends think up on a rainy afternoon of raiding the dress-up box and reading too many books, and want to perform in the living room for the grown ups…and they end up embellishing as they go along….only this time, they are given months to work on it, a big stage to perform it on, with lights and a sound system, and live music!  What a dream.  And there is cake afterwards.  What is there not to love??

It’s a privilege to be a part of it, really.  If you are in the area, the play is the weekend of May 16 – 18, at the high school here in Half Moon Bay. 

 

creative potential

One of the things I’ve been trying to do is look at creativity in a more global way….to try to be more aware of  the creativity that is woven into my life and of the way that feeds into more creativity.  As my awareness grows, so does my tendency to plant little seeds of creative potential as I go, and then watch as they build upon one another- sometimes in unexpected ways. The most obvious way is this:

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The first is a stack of cut plywood, waiting for sanding, and the second is same plywood, covered with paper, and waiting for the first coat of beeswax.  A lot of the time I don’t feel like doing the prep work, like this. It’s tedious, or boring. Not nearly as exciting as painting.  But if I don’t take breaks from painting to do work like this, I run out of painting supports, and it breaks my painting momentum.But it isn’t always so obvious.

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Here is a table in our family room…..in all of it’s glorious, messy, chaos. Talk about creative potential! A lot goes on at this table- worlds are created, characters come into being, objects are built…..and having the space set aside for this creates the potential for that. It’s an important part of our home life.  And my creative life.  It’s viral, creativity. It’s essential. And, honestly, does it get any better than this? 

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momentum in the studio

Let’s hear it for shelving!

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I’ve had piles of stuff on every available surface. It’s nice to free up some space for working. And, speaking of working, that is a new piece on the left. 

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A detail.  It was an early bird painting that just wasn’t up to standard.  So I painted over it and started over.  I like the way the painted embroidery looks mixed with the new embroidery.  Sometimes, when I can let go of a painting that isn’t working, great things happen.  It’s the letting go that is hard. Sometimes I try to paint around my favorite part, to try to save something, and that’s almost always an undisputed disaster. It’s better to just see the failed painting as a source of potential. Creative potential. A base for something new.

 I’ve got a lot of new work started- paintings on canvas mostly, but also preparing some panels for some new encaustics.  Back in September, I asked myself what I wanted my creative life to look like, and the answer that came was that I wanted momentum. The most important measure of success for me is not about how many paintings I’ve sold, or how many shows I’ve been in, but whether I’m living an integrated, full creative life. And whether that creativity rolls from one day to the next, carrying itself along, and me along with it.  This doesn’t just happen.  It must be cultivated. Sung to. Nurtured. So this is the deal I made with myself:  I need to get my butt into my studio every day that I can.  Sometimes I’m not home, or I’m sick, but almost every day I go into my studio.  I don’t have to paint, draw, or really be physically productive in any way- I just have to show up. Even if it’s only for a few minutes.  I can sit in my chair and stare around blankly if I want (which I have done!). I can empty the trash or just spend a few minutes looking at the work in progress.  One day I took my book out there and read.  But lots of times I go out there with no creative agenda, just to visit, and I end up staying, fiddling, rearranging something. And next thing I know, I’m squeezing some paint out, or starting something new. Just being in the space, and integrating it into my daily life gets (and keeps) things going. It keeps everything greased and flowing. And yesterday I was in there hanging shelves and looking around at all of the new work, and it occurred to me:  this looks a lot like…..momentum!

I’m off now to do my first creative act of the day- pancakes for my (not so) little one…