Category Archives: momentum

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.

Potential

IMG_3481 That’s a tall stack of potential. I’m so excited to dig into this bundle of mini-panels. They measure just 6 x 6 inches. Fifty of them. When I first started writing this blog in 2008 (has it really been that long?!), I started a similar project. I’d taken a break from working with encaustic and wanted to start again. How to incubate the new ideas I had in mind?

We had a piece of smooth plywood leftover from a house project, so I asked a friend if he’d cut it up for me on his table saw. The result was 36 eight-inch panels to experiment with. Over the course of working those 36 panels, my ideas were tried, edited, and developed. A whole body of larger works grew out of that series of tiny paintings.

I’ve been drawing experimentally this past year, and am continuing on these panels. Silverpoint and water media on gesso. I’m going to gesso all of them today, and work on all fifty at the same time, rotating around as intuition dictates, and see what happens.

This is a wonderful way to explore a new medium or idea, to play around without committing very much space or time or materials. I highly recommend this approach. Last time I did it, I went from this….

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To this…

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To this…

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I just never know where it’s going to take me.

Looking Forward 2014

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This morning I walked past my open green waste bin and the discarded flowers that lay at the top caught my eye.  I threw them out last night and they were rained on a bit.

If my last post was about looking backward, this one is about looking forward. January has been such a lovely month.  I don’t really do new years resolutions, but I usually do a big studio clean, take inventory of my life, and make some plans, set some goals.  That sort of thing.  So in that spirit, I’ll share some of my thoughts/aspirations for 2014:

  • Steer myself out of ruts, and try new things.  Small things, certainly.  Large things, hopefully.
  • Draw more.
  • Stay present.
  • Take some road trips with my son.
  • Read more books.
  • Slow down and notice beauty in unexpected places. See above photo.
  • Write more.
  • Experiment more in the studio.

Looking forward…

Double Life, and a Studio Clean-Up

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January is just whizzing by me.  Surely, time moves faster as you chase it.  And I feel as if I have been chasing it, with so much to do, and trying to fit it all in.  Sometimes I have to remind myself to just stop, and breathe.  And slow down the moment.  And pay attention.

For months now, I’ve been simultaneously preparing for war and peace, so to speak. ( I think it’s an Einstein quote, and he actually said, ” You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.”)    For about a year, now, I’ve been going to school part time to complete a certificate in technical writing.  I’ve also been trying to increase my hours in the studio, ramping up my practice, trying to make a go of being a full-time artist.  The sensible fall back plan, and the big dream.  I feel like every day I get up and just throw myself at it all.  There is rarely a sense of completion, because there is always something more to do.  I just keep setting little goals, and moving forward.  Inch. By. Inch.

There are financial pressures.  I don’t know if the artwork can answer them. It seems to be gaining traction, but I have to wait and see how it all shakes out.  I really want to be able to jump in with both feet into… something.  But for now, I must simultaneously prevent and prepare.

Painting and technical writing might seem at odds with one another.  And it does feel like I’m living two lives, or preparing for two futures, or even two potential selves, sometimes. Each activity exploits different parts of my personality.  But the two things also compliment one another in remarkable ways.  When I was working my way through my foundation technical writing courses, I was struck with how the skills I was learning could be directly applied to all of the writing that I am required to do as an artist- statements, bios, website copy, etc.  Active voice, defining audience, elegance, efficiency, specific language, direct style.  My studio notebook has become my constant companion, and I’ve learned to just get it all down, and edit later.  My editing class sharpened my attention and further developed my appreciation for brevity and specificity in my painting practice.

Right now, I’m taking a course in Information Graphics, and I find myself asking different questions in the studio.  Questions like “What is the question that the work answers?” and “How do I shape the data to answer the question?”.  It’s all pretty interesting stuff.

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One of the things I always do in January is clean my studio, and this year was no exception.  I also tried to create a “clean” area, over to the right, for a drawing space.  I’m trying to have a corner that isn’t covered in wax and paint splatters! (I know–good luck!) I’ve also added the memory foam mat on the floor, because all the standing takes it’s toll.  If you don’t have one of these in the studio, get thee to thy computer, and order one.  They are heaven.

Well, then, back to work!  I have a data set to download, and some paper cutting to do!

Long time, no write

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been writing a ton. But I certainly haven’t been writing here, have I?

It’s been a wonderful, yet incredibly busy fall season for us around here, meaning me and my family. I continue to struggle, as we all do, to fit it all into these 24 hour segments we call days… and have yet to find the formula that allows me to do it all and stay present enough to enjoy it.  Such a work in process… and I guess that’s where I’m at these days, trying my best to give myself to the priorities that I’ve set for myself and then seeing the beauty and accomplishment in the messy incoherence that ensues. I figure if I can do that, I’m in pretty good shape.

Well, this is my habit, to take stock toward the end of the year. Not a bad habit, but it can turn melancholy if I let it, so I won’t. A few of my favorite things that I did this year- that sounds more cheerful.

I attended the IEA retreat in Carmel Valley… What a fantastic group of artists. Such a beautiful place.

I developed a body of work that I am in love with… a rare thing for me; I am so critical of my own work. The slow down in sales has facilitated my spending more time on and with my work. So there is a silver lining.

I participated in NaNoWriMo in November… 50,000 words in thirty days, with only a few vague ideas in my pocket- it felt like jumping off a cliff, and I survived! I created my parachute on the way down. Challenging, invigorating, terrifying. I’ve never written that much in my life. My daughter did it too- I couldn’t have been prouder.

So what did I learn the most from? Definitely NaNoWriMo- hands down. I’ll be taking every skill I practiced back to my studio. For example: you don’t always need to know where you are going to get somewhere. Let surprises happen. Let the work take charge instead of bending it to my expectations. Spend time with the work every day. Sit down and work, even when it’s the last thing I feel like doing. Trust that I have something to say. I usually just have to get quiet enough to hear it myself.

I’d love to hear from you- what did you do that was new this year, and what did you learn from it?

Catching Up

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We don’t get a whole lot of fall color here on the mid-California coast. But I am savoring fall, anyway. This is my favorite time of year. 

After a long bout of illness this summer, I “came to” sometime in early October, and realized that my blog (among many other things) had been sorely neglected. So in the spirit of catching up a bit, here are some things I’ve been up to. I somehow managed to pull together my show here in town at Enso; we had a wonderful opening and I received loads of positive feedback. I’m now busy preparing for another show coming up in February. So, I’ve been working in my studio, if somewhat sporadically. Earlier this month, I attended the IEA retreat in Carmel, and got some wind in my sails. The retreat was wonderful, and I met many other artists from all over the country. The speakers were great- hearing Tony Scherman speak was definitely a high point for me- and members demonstrated techniques, which was also interesting. I came away inspired and full. On my drive home, I pulled over several times, because I had to write down everything I was thinking before it got away. Just download into my notebook. Somehow, talking with and listening to other painters helped me crystalize some of my own goals, which have been fuzzy for a while. 

And now, after the buzz has worn off a bit, I realize that it is fine and well to think about painting, but a time comes when it is painfully obvious that I’m doing more thinking than painting. And that it is time to shoehorn painting back into my life, an hour at a time, and re-set some priorities. It’s never ending- the process of picking oneself back up, brushing off, and walking back into the studio.