After years of periodically attempting to use Photoshop for the odd project here and there, being completely baffled by the user interface, sitting through bizarre DIY youtube videos, then finally after hours of grueling work, figuring out how to pick up an image and move it, only to forget everything I'd learned by the time I needed to use it again, I signed up for ART 210 at North Seattle Community College. Here is some of the art I made while learning how to use Photoshop and Illustrator with Bo Choi.
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If there's one thing you can learn from Daniel-San, it's Beginner's Mind, exactly what I needed for learning how to properly use Photoshop.
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A self portrait, our first big project-
Riffing with the idea of a self portrait as a looking glass. Also, the wonderful people in my class, sharing about all kinds of unexpected things in our critiques, and my awesome seat buddy, remind me a little bit of the delightful characters in Alice's Wonderland. Our teacher was definitely the white rabbit, who I was always trying to catch up with!
(I did this is Illustrator before we started using Photoshop. It would have been MUCH easier to do in Photoshop.)
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Exploring the universe as an ongoing collaborative act of creation, energy seeking energy in different forms.
For this one, I digitally completed an unfinished oil painting. So, I guess this is my first 'Tradigital work." I combined three photographs of my painting, one was a negative, one was desaturated, and one was unaltered. Then I added in pictures I'd taken of birds flocking around the Denver Zoo during Jazz in the Park last summer, a heron from Greenlake in Seattle, graffiti from Post Alley outside of my theater at Pike Place Market, a photograph I'd taken of the shadow cast by one of my IKEA glasses that has music notes on it, and a picture I'd taken of a display about flappers from the Cartier exhibit at the Denver Art Museum this winter. I felt like a bird building a nest.
There's a love story hidden in this one, too. Can you find it?
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A poster featuring type-
I used Illustrator and Photshop to play with a poem by Marta Anex-Schnauss
three up two across (the checkerboard of fate)
a square lit up above the street
one "do we have a winner?"
in silence a canvas
will succumb to the box of colors
three in the morning
two window paned uncurtained
one man traces his shadow
in the room of quiet watching
There is no quiet anymore.
when days and tempers are stretched
the sky in fits of anger
washes away our hopscotch game
moments of respite when cherry blossoms fall
like snowflakes in sunshine, scattered petals
like feathers in the wind
we drift in slow migration to a place of light and warmth
this is an okay place to be break glass only in case of emergency emerging an act of revealing break me only through honesty level spirits climb their ladders in measured ascent sharing treasured space this is an okay place to be break glass only in case of emergency emerging an act of revealing break me only through honesty share the treasured space this is an okay place to be
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Speaking of Marta, she's one of my favorite training partners at Quantum Martial Arts. A huge bonus of finally taking a Photoshop class is that I was able to make this add for our website upgrade with no hair pulling at all!
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(Illustrator and Photoshop)
I'm not sure who built the sandcastle, but I really like these little guys.
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Pattern #1: Some of you might recognize this from Doodle #94: Sky Bouquet
I turned the watercolor into a pattern using Photoshop.
Pattern #2: Cosmic Puzzle made in Illustrator and Photshop
Pattern #3: Skeleton Friends
I made this pattern in Illustrator. I think it would make a pretty adorable pair of pajamas.
Pattern #4: Waves
Adapted from Waves on Wood, an oil painting on wood.
And finally, we learned how to make animations using Photoshop...
Introducing: "Mom, where do baby bears come from?"
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Final Thoughts from ART 210:
If there's a fairy godmother reading this..... I'm yearning for a big shiny apple desktop and a Wacom Cintiq tablet.
I'm also yearning to get my hands on actual art materials again!
After a little bit of a break, (YAY SUMMER!) I'm really excited about being able to combine the digital skills I've learned with some oil painting and watercolor collage to do the final illustrations for my children's book, The Last Gift.
Even working digitally, I still prefer using an improvisational process:
...beginning with a single gesture of line or color, or now- a photograph, and then asking, "Is there a story here? A poem? What is this about?" It's a little like hunting for pictures in the clouds. When I see something that intrigues me, I play a little more in that direction, and then step back again, observing, interpreting, imagining.
Being an improvisational artist means there are no mistakes, just whatever there is now, and whatever can happen next. When I commit to a project through all of the ugliness, doubts, and messy middles, I discover whole new worlds, ideas, and ways of making art.
Oliver, just over a year old, can be described as bright, loving and curious, or alternatively (usually by his parents) as a force of destruction taking out everything in his path.
So, here's the sweet version in paint, and the punk rock post-apocalyptic version in print.
I finally met the one year old son of my oldest friend in the world.
This is Oliver, as you can tell, he's a bright explorer.
Oliver and his parents came to Open Art Studio on their visit to Seattle. Someone else had been building a table, so there were lots of leftover scraps of wood lying around.
Elyse picked a few sizes she liked, sanded and painted them, and then sewed an adorable bumble bee colored bag to contain Oliver's brand new set of blocks!
I started playing with the leftover wood, too, and before I knew it I was cutting and gluing, and creating the fun little wooden toy box below. It's only four separate pieces, but you can make all sorts of different towers and boxes with them. They're good for exploring stacks and also fitting pieces together.
On the road again, Oliver playing with one of his new toys, as he and his parents set off on Highway 101 to explore the Olympic Peninsula.
14/48: The World's Quickest Theater Festival is one of my favorite Seattle theater experiences. It's been going on for over 10 years, I first participated as an assistant director when I was in college, and was floored. A bunch of playwrights, designers, musicians, actors, directors, and stage managers show up on a Thursday night at 7:30, tap a keg, write some themes down and then draw one out of a jar, lottery style. Seven playwrights scurry home, each one writing a ten minute play on the chosen theme, and emailing it in by 8am the next morning, when the rest of the party returns to the theater to direct, rehearse and design seven brand new original plays and perform them that night at an 8pm and a 10:30pm show for a live audience, before doing the same dang thing again for the next night! LOVE THIS FESTIVAL!!!
This is the first year, they've asked visual artists to come play, and I got to be one of them!
Here are the two paintings I did, and some of my thoughts about them, and what it was like participating in the festival as an visual artist.
Night #1: "Last Stand"
The first thing that came to mind when I heard, "Last Stand" was the Wild Wild West, and then a toddler, and then, as I was walking home with my 18" x 18" blank canvas, beneath the trees still decked with twinkly white lights lining the streets of downtown Seattle, I thought, "What would a tree's last stand be against winter?" and I had an image of a tree holding a bundle of green glowing life, staunchly displaying it's leaves against the cold winter winds, even as they turn rust red.
It was a detailed idea, and I was concerned that I might not have enough time to complete it by the 6pm drop odd deadline for the silent auction. I got home at about 11pm, to discover I had no white acrylic paint, oil it was then, drying time be damned. I painted until 9am, and am quite pleased with the result.
I think the secret to painting quickly is being generous with materials, making strong decisive choices, and prioritizing where to spend the time. The most trying part of this painting for me was the winds, which I painted AFTER the branches, having to carefully go between them. This however, was followed by the delightful surprise that the smudges actually helped build the effect of the snow flurries, which I painted last. In some ways, I prefer the painting before the snow, but that wouldn't have reflected the "last stand" as well. You can see the painting in it's different phases by clicking through th slideshow below, and see what you think!
(click through the slideshow to see the painting in process)
Night #2: "Over Indulgence"
My first thought on hearing "Over Indulgence" was that it wouldn't be a very pretty painting, not a painting I'd want in my home, because over indulgence feels too-full, and at the same time empty, grotesquely sickened by something once desired, not something I want to feel when I look at art. I didn't really start usefully musing on "Over Indulgence" until I was snoozermeditatercising in bed the next morning. To me, over indulgence is about a lack of balance, scales being tipped too far, sometimes a catalyst for change. I thought about too much sun, too much water, and mostly I thought about humans as the only creature in our ecosystem that routinely over indulge, threatening the delicate balance of our biosphere. Where is the lifeguard as we break all the rules in the pool and threaten to destroy it for everyone?
Aha! -I would paint extinct creatures drowning in an abundance of bubbles at the swimming pool, while the life guard slumps dead on her stand, shot by a film noir villain in a bowler hat!
Turns out, I didn't have time to get to all that in six hours; the bubbles look more like balloons; I cut down on extinct and endangered creatures, and just painted a drowning dinosaur and a threatened polar bear (sinking-but-not-quite-drowning-yet in our over indulgence of all things powered by fossil fuels) to represent them all; and instead of the full film noir background scene, the life guard just went MIA. Yet, somehow, it all still works, simultaneously cracking me up and making me sad, achieving that weird emotional place of over indulgence, as well as symbolizing the too-full and emptiness with too much color and not enough.
(click through the slideshow to see the painting in process)
Overall Thoughts on my First Time as a Visual Artist for 14/48:
14/48 was a new challenge, and I discovered and realized new possibilities for myself as an artist. I can't believe how quickly I painted two fairly detailed quite successful 18" x 18" oil paintings! Painting so quickly pushed me to be more painterly, more generous with paint, and less careful. I realized I've achieved a certain level of mastery that I set out for years ago- to be able to paint ideas from my head without needing to use precise visual research, because I can actually build a scene in my head, from the structures, to the light, to the color. Painting from a theme was a bit like solving a puzzle; it engaged me more intellectually, and I really enjoyed it. I think I may continue this practice in the future, maybe requesting themes from my fans...
As usual, I hate letting go of pieces before I've had sufficient time to appreciate them in person myself. I felt like a too-attached-new-mama, coming up at intermission to see my paintings one last time. There doesn't seem to be a fix for this, besides painting more.
It was so inspiring to see so much variety in the exploration of the themes; People played with them using different mediums, techniques, styles, and perspectives, and each opened up the themes for me in a knew way. My mind is full of sunsets, imaginary friends, the moments we haven't unpacked yet, spelling out lives, witty-laugh-out-loud-to-remember-physical-comedy and so much good music! All of the artists in all of the mediums who participated this year, blew me away. There are moments and visions and songs created and shared this weekend that I will remember and play with for years to come. I can't wait for the next 14/48! Next time, I think I'll pack up my stuff, and go make art in the same space as everyone else, to see what that's like...
A friend of mine commissioned me recently to make a piece of art for her new nephew, Gavriel. He's half Israeli, so I wanted to use his name in both Hebrew and English, and hopefully make something he'll enjoy as he grows.
I still have my first piece of art, which was an embroidered tree with animals all around it, made for me by my mom. Do you remember your first piece of art?
My favorite thing about this painting is the sense of a world untouched by humans -sky and waves that have existed before humanity evolved on Earth, and will exist long after we have gone. It captures something eternal for me, which is why I didn't sign the front or the sides. I wanted to keep the illusion of being "untouched" intact.
I painted "Waves on Wood" as a commission for a sailor friend of mine,
who requested a panel of my "pointy waves," after seeing Adventure at
Sea and A Friend at Sea.
I'm so glad he suggested the idea of painting on wood, which I hadn't done artistically before.
I was immediately excited by the idea of playing with the grain to
create the effect of
clouds being kissed with fiery sunlight, and spent some time choosing
the piece of board I wanted to work with, based on the grain lines,
before cutting it to size, and then layering on the paint.
I didn't gesso the wood because I really wanted to use the grain, so it sucked up quite a bit of oil paint, but was totally worth it. I'm looking forward to more painted improvisations on wood soon!
(You can see a bit of my process below.)
It's Wednesday night rush hour, stand still traffic between I-90 West and I-5 South. I feel like a hockey player stuck in the pen, wanting to get where I'm going as quickly as possible, frustrated, helpless, hating this moment of my life.
Then I notice the sloping curves of the highways, the way they cross and become an archway over the traffic. Suddenly, I am sitting in a beautiful space. I'm imagining the cars as a school of fish, moving through coral archways, towards a glowing blue and green dome in the background. I am a scuba diver experiencing wonder and awe. It occurs to me that fish probably don't get frustrated trying to get somewhere; they're just feeling the water on their scales, the swish of their fins, the colors of the sea. I am in a beautiful space, and loving this moment of my life.
I believe that any moment can be transformed by a willingness to unwrap it like a present, with childlike anticipation and a certainty that it will surprise and delight. -This is the work I undertake as an artist.
I use an improvisational process to unwrap my art pieces. I choose a medium, and then I give myself a suggestion. This could be as simple as a line of ink wandering across a blank sheet of paper, a smudge of yellow oil paint on canvas, or a stack of broken boards. I might also have a pattern from a sheet of origami paper, a glimmer of Ancient Egypt, or some physical motion in mind when I begin.
Once I have made a movement that leaves some sort of visual imprint in the space around me, the conversation has begun. My job is to stay present, be curious, and listen.
"What does that line look like?"
"Hmm...A little like an elephant ear."
And then I might draw the rest of the elephant.
"That Elephant looks a little sad. I wonder what he's sad about."
"Maybe he has a friend in jail."
And then I might draw a cage with a bird in it, and then I might want to free the bird, or wonder who the jailer is, or muse on whether anyone can be truly free when others are imprisoned, and on it goes...
Being an improvisational artist means there are no mistakes, just whatever there is now, and whatever can happen next. It is important to be fully committed to each piece because there will be ugliness and doubts, and it will probably look like a mess in the middle, but there will also be discoveries and learning, and the sheer delight, the tickling surprise, of staring back at something I never could have imagined when I started unwrapping the present.
I am participating in Avanti Art & Design's 30/30 show this July, which means that I'll be painting 30 new canvases in the next 30 days!
Here they are, 30 blank 4"x 4" canvases on my table:
I'm excited about the challenge and opportunity that painting EVERY SINGLE DAY presents. I've gotten into the habit of having one very long interrupted studio day a week to work on larger, more involved pieces, and I'm curious what it will be like to shake up my art schedule, and instead paint something small, daily.
Two thoughts come to mind about this:
One is the story about two ceramics classes who conducted the following experiment: One class was told that their goal for the semester was to create a single superb piece of art, while the other class was told that their goal for the semester was to create as many pieces of art as possible. At the end of the semester, all of the artwork created by the two classes was displayed together. Not only did the class going for quantity over perfection create way more works of art than the other class, but each piece tended to be more stunning, unique and skillfully executed.
The other thought inspired by this next challenge, is found in the words of artist, Faith Ringgold, that I've hung in my studio space for years:
"My dream was to be an artist, one who makes pictures for a lifetime, as a way of life. Every day of your life you can create something wonderful, so every day is going to be the same kind of wonderful day that every other day is -a day in which you discover something new because you are painting or creating whatever it is you are creating, you are finding new ways of doing it."
These 30 blank canvases on my table, resembling little wrapped presents to be opened one by one, day by day, where will they take me? What worlds will emerge? What will I discover about myself as an artist?
1) Start with a “What if____?”
“What if I took a line for a walk on this page?”
“What if I painted the evolution of the universe on thread being knit by lightning-cloud-hands in the sky?"
"What if Medusa's head emerged from the sand?"
2) Choose your materials.
Wood, clay, bronze, stained glass, light, sand, fabric, ink, oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, origami, sound, words…
3) Set any restrictions of time, money, and space.
Will it take you ten minutes or ten years?
Do you have a budget of $20,000 or do you need to use sand from the beach, and cardboard from the recycling bin?
Will it fit in the palm of your hand or hold a capacity of 300 people?
1) ART is an improvisational game.
That means there are no mistakes. Just whatever there is now, and whatever can happen next.
2) ART is a conversation; don’t do all of the talking.
Make a move, then step back and listen, look, observe. Where is the piece NOW? What does it want NOW?
3) ART must be played with full commitment.
There will be ugliness and doubts, and it will surely look like a mess in the middle, but there will also be discoveries and learning, and when you play to the end, you’ll have the sheer delight, the tickling surprise, of staring back at something you never could have imagined at the start of the game.
THE OBJECT OF THE GAME:
1) Have fun.
2) Create something that inspires wonder and awe for humanity.
Partially painted for my friend, Aubrey, who loves seahorses.
Cool seahorse facts: the name is from the Latin, hippocampus, meaning horse sea monsters; the coronet on the sea horse head is completely unique, like a finger print or a snowflake; the seahorse mating dance is beautiful!-they spin around each other, and in tandem, sometimes they change color; the males carry the eggs to gestation, which can take from a week and a half to 6 and a half weeks; the female visits the male daily while he carries the eggs; many species of seahorses are monogamous.
Also, Project Seahorse is a very cool marine conservation organization, check it out: http://seahorse.fisheries.ubc.ca/
This painting is a few firsts:
1) It's the first successful improvisation with oil paints; I finally crossed my process over from my more line oriented work.
2) It's the first painting in a series of abstract oil improvisations that focuses on the forces beneath the stories, instead of the stories themselves.
3) It was also the first time I used my ART JAR. I tend to have so many ideas for projects that I get overwhelmed. So, I'd started writing all of the ideas down on slips of paper, folding them, and dropping them in a mason jar. Then on a day that I have cleared to just be in my studio, I go in, unscrew the jar, pull out a piece of paper, and begin. This slip of paper was to make a painting using only 2 colors.... and yes, I broke that rule when it was time to do so in the painting.
I won't be able to paint the ENTIRE history of the universe of course, so I've picked out bits to represent larger categories. I chose Pompeii to evoke a large scale, unpredicted, catastrophic, inescapable human tragedy.
The figures, lacking color or detailed facial features, are simply human. There's a softness to the way they've collapsed, a lingering connection between each other in their last moments of experiencing life as themselves, that I like. They also represent for me, a sense of history; only we humans cling to our ancestors, seek out our roots, go digging to find out more about our past.
Japanese macaque live farther north than any other non-human primate, perhaps because they've discovered the bliss of winter hot springs. They have a strong folk tale, astrological, and prehistoric pottery presence among humans, and they're matrilineal. Perhaps these are some of the reasons that the snow monkey got to lead the way onto this creation painting, or maybe it was just those pleading eyes...
The hands may be knitting the yarn into a pattern, but where does the yarn come from in the first place?
The actual lighting bolt that crackles out of the storm clouds and transforms into the yarn of the universe is yet to come....
The universe emerges in sharpie as a long thread being knit into a pattern by two mysterious hands in the sky. It evolves along the thread, with faces and buildings peering out, and empty spaces for more things to appear.
Meanwhile, Zaza Fearless has somehow escaped the constraints of time and space, the ordinary perception of reality. She's packed her gear, hopped on her bike, set her destination as the origin of the universe, and taken off!
Zaza Fearless is a character I invented over a game of pool with Thorn Michaels, this is her first appearance. It is also my first attempt to take my line oriented improvisational process from small surfaces, using mostly ink, watercolor and acrylics, to a larger canvas. I started with a sharpie, and Zaza appeared.
Where did it all begin? I could say, when my mom put a crayon in one of my hands, and a cookie in the other (so I wouldn't eat the crayon). I can't remember a time in my life that I didn't love to create, with whatever was around- fabric, sticks, clay, sand...
What I really love about being an artist, though, is the improvisation: starting with nothing, and doing SOMETHING, having no idea where that line, or form, or color will take me, but also knowing that mistakes don't exist in my art, and that I will ride out whatever happens, through the ugliness, the doubts, and the discoveries, until something completely unexpected emerges! Then I have the pleasure, the sheer delight, the tickling surprise of staring back at something I never could have imagined or planned at the onset.
And THAT began at least 15 years ago when I made a deal with myself that I'd never give up on a piece, it could transform as much as necessary, until it found a form that worked, even if that process included cutting it up and reassembling it or burning it and recording it, but no crumpled up art in the waste basket! No mistakes. Just whatever there is, and whatever can happen next.
This is an example of one of my improvisations. If you look just a little northwest of the center of the image, you'll see an abstract colored shape nested around the forehead and braids of the ocean. That was the origin of this drawing. I was on a plane, flying back from Israel, with my paper and colored pencils, and pens, and I made that shape. I don't remember the exact order of everything that happened next (this was in 2003) but I know that as I drew, the experiences that I'd just had, moved through me, into this story and image. So, I'll tell you a little bit about it:
I remember seeing this wall out in the water, immense, yards thick, made of stone, and just this little part of it was left, the rest having been, I imagined, washed away by the sea. That trip was one of many experiences where I've been disturbed by the boundaries we humans put between us, lines on maps, fences, designations by race, religion, gender, economics. I've seen it in the borders between countries, and around reservations in the United States, I've seen it in the groups of kids and teenagers who separate themselves into categories outside of their schools, the list goes on, and I'm sure you have your own examples. It occurs to me like an amputated humanity, a painful and agreed upon separation between self and self.
So, as I was musing over this on the airplane, I drew. I placed all of these amazing things we've created in our civilizations on top of a wall, and they're burning: the planes, the apartment buildings, the teepees, the columns, the stoplights... because ultimately it's all built upon an amputated humanity.
The thing is, I'm an optimist at heart, so I saw too, that every wall, can be worn down, and destroyed, and there will be someone, some refugee from the world of separation that we've created, to take a little treasure box, out into the world to try again. Maybe she'll build a world, or find one, where humanity knows itself as oneself, and we care for each other without consideration of whether we are in the same tribe, religion, nation, group, or family. Or maybe the treasure box is Pandora's box...
And in all of my images, there are some surprises I myself can't even fully sum up and justify: perhaps the kites fly as a reminder not to take it all so seriously, that it might not be so hard to dissolve walls between humans; sometimes it can be as simple as sharing the experience of flying a kite, or the common inquiry into the divine... I'm pretty sure that's what the eye in the sky is about.
There is so much room for exploration and inquiry within my improvisations. You can play with the fire and water imagery, the breath of the ocean, the sunset (or sunrise?). I love hearing what discoveries other people make out of what spills from my hands and mind, from who knows where exactly. There are connections I can't see myself, thoughts I can't generate from my own mind.
So, I hope that sharing my work here will be the origin of something even greater, that once again, I can't see from the beginning: a new improvisation- a collaboration! This is the origin of my new project, where the images I create are just the beginning of what we (that includes you, dear reader) might create together, when we dissolve the walls between artist and art viewer.
So, please, leave a comment! Share what you see in my art or my writing (it's very likely that I haven't seen it yet), share a poem, a story, a thought, share another image! Share what you want me to start a new creation with (I really might do it), share what you want to create, or what you are creating! Come play with me! Collaborate, co-create, originate!