Posted on Leave a comment

Artistic Medium

Preconceived notions:

In the previous two blog posts, I’ve discussed how I personally work creatively in paper mâché. One of the blog posts concerned the tools and materials I use. While the other one dealt with how I personally go about creating a finished paper mâché piece.

While working the most recent paper mâché piece, I found my mind wandering back to the my own personal artistic insecurities regarding the medium in which I have chosen to work for the last few years. Some of the questions were untangled. But as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim once said, “Answers only breed more questions.”

Research:

I did a little online reading about the history of paper mâché. Wikipedia had a pretty good entry on paper mâché. You can find it here. Paper mâché has been used by many different cultures around the world. Some mummies from ancient Egypt had their outer casings made of paper mâché!

One of the historical points that I found very interesting was that paper mâché became popular in the 1700’s as an inexpensive substitute for plaster moulds that were traditionally used for gilt work in all kinds of decoration from coaches to churches to homes.

Most people are familiar with paper mâché. I lived in the New Mexico for almost twenty years. The tradition of working in paper mâché for important holidays like Dia de los Muertos, as well as religious decoration in churches was well known to me. I have already spoken of my love for the Lupita dolls in blog posts.

It is without doubt that the paper mâché traditions of Mexico have influenced my personal artistic style and expression.

What’s the difference?

Many of the people working in paper mâché, who are utilizing a vast cultural history, are making objects that are devised more for mass production.

The piñata maker that I drove by in Albuquerque several times a week was always making new piñatas. ALWAYS. Many were the same. You could see the rows of Sponge Bobs and Spider Mans and Princess Peaches hanging out underneath the awnings at the front of the business.

The Lupita dolls that I love so much, are created using a mould. This way, many, many dolls can be made utilizing a singular mould. Each doll is relatively similar to the ones made before and after it. (Of course, allowing for variances in the paint and decoration.)

The two aforementioned types of paper mâché art aren’t necessarily meant to last forever either. A piñata gets stuffed with all kinds of goodies and treats, then bashed open at a celebration. Lupita dolls will gradually be loved to death by any little person who plays with them on a regular basis.

I love Lupita dolls and piñatas, and admire the artistic efficacy that goes into their creation by those who are making them. But I need to recognize that what I create out of paper mâché and what they create out of paper mâché are inherently different.

One of these things is not like the other:

One biggest differences between my paper mâché artwork  is that I don’t bash my finished artwork to bits with a stick until candy falls out it. (Pedro Martin, who writes a fabulous comic called Mexikid Stories has an hilarious story about piñatas called Holy Piñata. Read it here on Instagram. Remember! It’s in two parts!)

Another big difference is that the paper mâché artwork I create isn’t necessarily meant to be played with. Or perhaps, just not played with by a child. And when I say “played with” I mean, carefully moving the pieces. Maybe setting them up a little differently than I have. Perhaps sitting the large jointed doll in a different position. On a pillow. In a room where the dog and small children won’t be able to touch it. So yeah, with the door closed. Yeah.

Anyway…

I make one-of-a-kind pieces. I will not make a six-tiered cake doll with drawers and an aurora/halo of smaller dolls around it’s head. There will be one, and only one of these paper máché dolls ever made by me. This doesn’t make the piñata maker or the Lupita doll maker any less by comparison. Just different.

My objective is not to create many pieces that are either similar or the same so that I can sell them to as many customers as I can get. I want to express myself on a very personal level through the creation of my artwork.

Where knowledge and experience ends:

What I find curious is that while there are many, many, many people from throughout history that have worked in the medium of paper mâché, it’s still relegated to a folk art or a craft. Not an art form. Perhaps this harkens back to the 1700’s, when it was used as an inexpensive alternative to plaster or wood.

That seems to me to be part and parcel of the fact that most people, once they leave public school, never practice any kind of art themselves at any point after they graduate. The sum total of their artistic knowledge is book-ended with pre-school and high school graduation. Paper mâché is that messy stuff that a person may have worked with that one time in 2nd grade, or perhaps again in 8th grade. And that’s it.

So when I relay to someone that I’m an artist, and I work in paper mâché, their understanding of what type of artwork I create is somewhat limited.

So, now what?

Well, I don’t think it’s really that important for me to necessarily change around what I’m already doing. The understanding of what may be happening within the mind of the person I’m talking to is more important. This means that I have to be able to discuss my artwork in such a way that the people I’m talking to better understand what the difference is between the paper mâché rabbit they made in the 3rd grade and the pieces of artwork that I create.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again on Monday.

Posted on Leave a comment

Paper Mâché: Beginning the Work

Beginning

I keep a sketchbook for all of my ideas. It’s not expensive. In fact, it’s about twelve pages of A4 paper, folded over and saddle stitched together. Usually, I make three or four with graph paper, and then two or three with inexpensive white drawing paper. This type of sketchbook works well for me.

A great deal of my sketching is more mental than physical. There is a lot of time spent thinking about the ideas. Moving it around inside my head. Looking at it from different angles. Deciding on themes, colors, sizes, etc.. prior to any serious sketches being made. Sometimes, more thinking and more sketches are required.

What I try hard to keep in the forefront of my mind is to allow the artwork to be itself. If I feel as though I’m forcing an idea or a concept, I drop it for a while. Ideas can always be returned to in the future. Describing how I know when I’m forcing an idea is difficult to pin down. I suppose that at this point in my artistic career; I just know.

Once the idea is decided upon, it’s time to start putting it together in real life.

Patterns

Some pieces require me to create pattern to ensure adherence to a specific size or shape. An inexpensive school-grade graphed paper is used for this. One of the pieces that I’m currently working on required me to create six tiered half circled forms. The patterns I created made sure that the finished tiers were uniform from top to bottom.

There are times that a pattern piece needs to be heavier, because it’s going to be traced many times. I transfer these types of patterns to carton board. It’s easy to trace around and stands up to more abuse.

Some pattern pieces are organically shaped. Making patterns for those also helps in construction. Especially if the organic shape is complicated. Or it needs to fit into a very specific place within a larger, paper mâché piece.

It should be noted that as I have continued working in paper mâché, I don’t cut out patterns for every single piece of cardboard and carton board. In the beginning, I measured every tiny little piece and had a pattern piece for EVERYTHING!

When all needed pattern pieces are completed, then it’s on to cutting out the card and carton board.

Cutting it all out

When using patterns, it’s fairly easy to get started. Pencil or ballpoint pen work well for tracing pattern pieces onto the cardboard. When I’m choosing the corrugated cardboard for a piece, I look for the stronger cardboard for the outer portions of the piece. Weaker, flimsier cardboard I can use within the structure to give it more strength.

The weaker, slightly flimsier corrugated cardboard works well for creating curves. For tight curves, I score the corrugated cardboard so it bends a bit easier. For bigger curves, I usually roll the corrugated cardboard over a cylindrical form. It holds the shape just fine.

For the large, six tiered doll that I have been working on, I did have to sit down and do a little math to figure out how tall I wanted the finished piece to be. Would 7 or 9 cm in height for each tier work better? The drawers needed to be taken into account as well as the space around them. Again, my personal time and experience factors into a lot of my decisions. In the end, I go with what I think and feel is “correct”.

Now to the glue!

Attaching the pieces

Once I have the main corrugated cardboard structure the way that I want it, I begin gluing it together. In my previous post, I mentioned the glue that I use, Eri-Keeper. I have a deep and abiding love for this glue. It does exactly what I want and need it to do. I understand that I’m also a person who doesn’t mind getting my hands messy and sticky as well. So I understand when someone might rather use a glue gun!

If you would like to see some of the work I have been putting together using my own paper mâché construction methods and techniques, take a look at my Instagram here. When working with a very symmetrical piece like this one, I made sure throughout the entire construction process, that I kept the center (90 degree) marked so I could see it.

This six tiered doll was constructed in sections. Each tier was completely separate until I put it together using the bamboo skewers and wooden plant stakes. The construction was planned this way, so that I would be more easily able to create the drawers within three of the tiers.

The drawer holes were measured and cut out of the corrugated cardboard. Then the inside walls were added. They’re not hard to create. The space from top to bottom of the drawer space was measured. Pieces of corrugated cardboard (with the corrugation running vertically) were cut. They were put into the space and marked for length. Then cut to fit then glued in place.

Adding stability

Now, I may be just a little paranoid about my finished paper mâché artwork falling apart. So I add a lot of structurally stabilizing corrugated cardboard to my artwork. In the pictures you can see here of a pervious piece, there are so many little pieces of corrugated cardboard!

Remember that flimsy corrugated cardboard I mentioned above? I use a lot of this inside the cardboard structures. Sometimes it’s used to shim-up a wall or to support a very thin dividing wall. Sometimes it’s little rectangles that I glue in between an internal structure (like a drawer) and the outer wall. This is done so that the outer and inner walls don’t buckle or bow while drying.

This buckling and bowing will happen when you begin adding the newspaper and the PVA glue to the outside of the cardboard structure.

Veneering

Corrugated cardboard isn’t the strongest material on the planet. When it gets wet, it begins to come apart. This has a lot to do with the kinds of paper fibers and the way the corrugated cardboard is created. When newsprint and the PVA glue are attached to it’s surface, it will get squishy. Then when the piece as dried, more often than not, the corrugations (ripples) can be seen through the layers of newspaper and PVA glue.

Again, I’m a little nit-picky about certain things. This ripply surface makes me nuts. I solved the problem by using carton board as a veneer over the top of the corrugated cardboard. The entire surface of the six tiered doll was covered in cookie and porridge cartons, as well as some toilet paper rolls.

Measuring wasn’t really required. I just laid the pieces onto the cardboard and traced them. There were some spots in which the carton board didn’t match. It was more important for the thickness of the carton board matched.

And anyway! It’s all going to get covered with newsprint and PVA glue anyway!

Prep that newsprint!

The size and complexity of a piece I’m creating determines the size of the newsprint pieces that I need, as well as the way that I tear them. Any kind of newsprint will work, as long as the paper isn’t glossy. Glossy papers don’t work! Save those for paper collage work and book making projects!

If you’ve followed my paper mâché artwork for a while now, you know that some of the pieces I create have all kinds of oddly shaped elements. Each of them use a differently torn paper. It’s important to note that the newsprint needs to be torn, not cut with scissors or a utility knife.

For the internal parts of drawers, and where legs are attached, I use thin strips of newspaper. They are about .5 cm wide by about 3 cm long depending upon the specific piece. Larger, flat areas I use 2 cm wide by 3 cm (approximate!) pieces of paper. There are some really tiny pieces I’ve created in which I needed a 1 cm by 1 cm or smaller pieces of torn newsprint to work with.

For some pieces that are not flat, I will tear the newsprint into strips and then again, against the grain of the paper. Giving the paper a somewhat jagged looking shape. This allows the newsprint to adhere to an irregular surface better. I used this kind of paper a lot while creating the head pictured here.

Attaching the newsprint and glue

In the previous post, I mentioned that I use an inexpensive white PVA glue to attach the newsprint to the cardboard forms. A little water is sometimes required to thin the glue a bit. I buy Memoris-Precious Askarteluliima (Craft/Hobby Glue) in 500g bottles. The amount of water needed to thin it a bit, is about 5 to 10 ml. for the entire 500g bottle.

I’m not a person who minds getting her hands messy. For large areas, I usually just use my hands. When there are smaller areas, or I just cannot get my hands into a space to attach the newspaper and glue, I use an old #6 watercolor paint brush. First, I paint down a little glue, then pick up a piece of newsprint with the same sticky brush. I place the newsprint where I want it, then paint it down with a little more glue.

This method sounds time-consuming. And it is. Or perhaps I should say, ‘and it can be’. However, it gets me the results that I want. For pieces that I will be adding gesso, paint and sealant to, three or four layers of newsprint and glue are enough. I make sure to alter the direction of the newsprint in each layer. This helps the surface to be stronger.

For pieces like this one, a finished thickness of 1 to 1.5 mm is enough. There will be additional structures placed inside this piece. So the thinness of the surface is okay.

This and that

While adding newsprint and glue to a piece, I do make corrections as I go. There may be a place where it seems a bit crooked, or too thin. Added layers of paper and glue can help to disguise that. You can see in this piece, where I will have to do some creative paper applications to cover this up!

Sometimes, the time it takes for individual pieces to dry makes me impatient. This isn’t surprising. I’m an incredibly impatient artist. Some paper mâché artists use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. Personally, I’m not a fan of doing this. It’s possible to dry out one spot a lot, while another spot may still be really squishy. I prefer to let pieces dry overnight before I continue working on them.

There are a lot of essential parts of my personal creative process and how it interacts with the paper mâché techniques I use. To be honest, most of the time while I’m working on a piece, I’m so focused on what I’m doing that even I may not be completely aware that I’m actually doing a specific thing at a specific time.

An example of this would be how I plan out the sequences of work during the creation of a paper mâché piece. Some things must happen before others. And I just ‘know’ how to do it. There’s not a tremendous amount of thinking done regarding this. Again, this is just time and experience at work for me.

Now what?

Anyone reading this two part blog post now has an idea of the tools, materials, preparations and work (mental and physical) that go into how I create my artwork. As I said previously, I know that I’ve left all kinds of stuff out. If I wrote a totally faithful step=by-step account of what I do, the blog posts would be the length of a book!

Thanks for reading, and I will see you again on Friday,

 

 

Posted on

Paper Mâché

This post became very large, very quickly. Because of this, I’ve divided it into two parts. Part one is this following post and the second part of the post will be posted on 16 November 2020.

In this post, I’ll be discussing why and how I began working in paper mâché, as well as the materials and tools that I use regularly in the creation of my own artwork.

Isn’t paper mâché for little kids?

Prior to moving to Finland, I had never created any of my own artwork using paper mâché. As an elementary art teacher I had taught a few lessons over the years that utilized the art form and accompanying techniques.

My personal use of the paper and glue method is partially inspired by some of my former students with allergies. Specifically, allergies to wheat, requiring me to find a substitute for the flour and water paste commonly used for paper mâché elementary school art projects.

It should be known that I have never had anyone sit down and teach me how to work with paper mâché. What I know is what I learned from personal experience as a child, then as an art teacher, and now as a practicing artist. YouTube, as always, has been instructional, as well as various personal art websites detailing paper mâché materials, tools and techniques.

The remainder of my paper mâché education has been gained by creating my artwork. In the rest of this blog post, I will detail, as best I can, my personal paper mâché tools, materials, techniques, as well as any tricks I’ve found along the way.

Materials: Corrugated Cardboard

Part of the reason I began using paper mâché was because a great deal of the materials are free or incredibly low cost. In addition to being low cost, the materials are incredibly common. The two main materials I use are newsprint and cardboard. Both of these materials are quite easy to lay your hands on most of the time.

Most of the cardboard, specifically, the corrugated cardboard, that I use I pick up at the Lidl. Lidl staff stock the shelves in a particular way, having large rolling bins that they chuck empty cardboard boxes into. The staff at the Lidl I shop at are so used to me picking (neatly) through the bins that I don’t get a second look.

Time and experience has taught me what corrugated cardboards work the best for my own particular creative needs. Corrugated cardboard from cookie box shipments (Sondey brand) are one of my favourites. The corrugation is small and strong. Most of the time, it’s two layers of corrugated cardboard, laminated together. The box usually has a heavier glossy paper finish too. These features make it good for what and how I create my artwork.

I take a retractable box cutter with me to Lidl. Any box or carton that is large or oddly shaped I can break down quickly. Again, at this point, none of the staff at Lidl seems to be bothered with this. The smaller pieces just go in my shopping bags for the trip home.

Materials: Carton Board

Carton board is different from corrugated cardboard. Carton board is the lightweight, kind of grey-ish-brown-ish papery-card-stock used in packaging like cereal boxes or frozen pizza boxes. My husband does all the meal planning and cooking for us, and knows when I might like a carton or box. I trim-off the bits I don’t want from these cartons and store them in a reusable shopping bag.

Most of the carton board is used to veneer the underlying corrugated cardboard structure. Some smaller elements of a larger paper mâché piece may be constructed completely out of carton board that I have laminated together using glue to give more strength to the piece.

I will talk more specifically about how I veneer the corrugated cardboard structures with carton board in the second part of this blog post on Monday. Wood veneer is very common. My technique is similar. I just use carton board instead of wood.

Materials: Newspaper

We don’t get the newspaper, but we do get a small free city newspaper every week or so by mail. They are saved in much the same manner as the cardboard and carton board. Several months ago, while putting the recycling into the bins, I came across several bunches of newspapers (that we don’t receive) still in zip tied bundles. Several of them came home with me.

Materials: Glue

There are two glues that I use. Each having a different purpose at different times during the construction of a piece. For gluing cardboard pieces together, I use Eri Keeper. It’s a Finnish brand of all-purpose glue that has a strong hold, especially with cardboard. A glue gun can be used. I just find them expensive, messy and cumbersome.

The glue I use when applying the newsprint to the surface of the cardboard form is an inexpensive white PVA craft glue, thinned with a little water. I don’t like using this kind of glue for anything other than paper mâché. White, PVA craft glue has a bond I find too weak. However, when used with newsprint, in many consecutive layers, it works extremely well.

Tools

For the type of artwork that I create, several tools are used. But you really don’t need incredibly specialized tools to work with paper mâché. A ruler, pencil, cutting blade and a safe surface to cut it on is enough to start out with. Metal rulers are better than plastic or wood though.

There are also several other tools that I use. A compass, a protractor, a multi-use piercing tool and a self-healing cutting mat are also useful. For small pieces that I’m applying newspaper to, I use an old paint brush instead of my fingers as well.

Tools: Cutting Blade

Since I was a freshman in art school, I’ve used an X-Acto knives. An X-Acto knife and replacement blades even came with me to Finland! The blades are a little expensive here, and frankly aren’t what most people use. Retractable cutting blades, the kind you can snap the dull bit of the blade off, are much more common here in Finland. They’re also much less expensive!

It took me a little time to get used to using this kind of cutting blade. But I like it a great deal. My index finger of my right hand doesn’t ache after using them. Plus, they are retractable, so I’m much less likely to cut myself. Personally, I use the cheapest ones from Flying Tiger and the slightly more expensive ones from Motonet.

What’s important is to find the type of cutting blade that works the best for you. One that you’re most comfortable using. And remember to be safe! Never, ever cut toward anything that might bleed! The latter being a reminder to my students when they used anything sharp to cut in the art room.

Even more supplies and materials

There are other tools and materials that I utilize when working in paper mâché. Bamboo skewers in different sizes, small wooden plant stakes, toothpicks, pens, pencils, erasers, markers, scissors, various plastic containers (recycled) to hold torn paper, glue and other supplies, just to name a few. There will be more about these incidental types of tools and materials in Monday’s blog post.

Hmmm…

Wow. This post got very long, very quickly! And I haven’t even gotten to my personal creative paper mâché techniques! Don’t miss the second part of this blog post on 16 November 2020!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again on Monday.

 

 

 

Posted on

Two Art Exhibits

Exhibiting my artwork:

2021 is going to be a busy year for me.

Not long after I had announced that I would be taking a short break from blogging, something unexpected happened. I was contacted by the Suomen Käsityön Museo regarding my artwork. More specifically, I was asked if I would like to exhibit my artwork in a window gallery that the museum has.

It took me a few minutes to mentally digest the invitation offered to me by the museum. Part of me thought that perhaps I was reading it incorrectly. Another part of me thought that I was sent the invitation by mistake. But it was a real, sincere invitation to exhibit my artwork! Cool!

So, long story somewhat longer, I will be exhibiting my artwork in the window gallery of the Suomen Käsityön Museo in Jyväskylä during December 2021 until February 2022. I know that it seems like a long time off in the future. But from where I see it, it’s right around the corner!

Matara exhibit:

Part of what I think is incredibly cool about the Suomen Käsityön Museo exhibit, is that it is at the end of 2021. I am exhibiting my artwork at Matara in January 2021. My year begins and ends with me exhibiting my artwork! Honestly, part of me is a little scared by both of these exhibits. It’s kind of a ‘put-up or shut-up’ set of circumstances for me as a working artist.

Communicating my ideas:

I have been working steadily over the past few months on the new pieces of artwork that I will be exhibiting at Matara in January. What I’ve discovered that creating a cohesive body of artwork is a much different experience than creating a single, stand-alone piece of artwork.

The Creative Experiment was one in which I worked on one piece until it was finished. Once finished, I started another. No piece of artwork was left unfinished. And no new piece of artwork was started until the previous one had been completely finished. This experiment had many different goals. But focusing on one piece of artwork at a time became increasingly important as the experiment progressed.

A different point of view:

When I sat down and started planning the pieces that I wanted to create for the Matara exhibit, I couldn’t just think about one piece of artwork at a time. A theme needed to be chosen and woven through all of the artwork that was to be created. The theme could vary in the degree to which it applied to each individual piece of art. But it needed to be present.

There was also the interesting creative challenge of creating new pieces of artwork that would be displayed on a vertical surface to consider. How would the themes I had chosen to with translate well in a vertical format? Would the themes be apparent to the viewer?

A big question for me was; what if the themes began to change as I worked on the individual pieces of art? This is an extremely frequent occurrence for me while I’m creating my artwork. Could the changes of theme in individual pieces of art alter the entire exhibit?

Organization:

To make sure that I wasn’t overwhelming myself with the endless possibilities of ‘what if’ questions, I needed to give myself a mental structure to adhere to. Something that wasn’t too confining. That could change according to my individual creative mental requirements.

A book format seemed logical to me. The exhibit is a story. The theme is the subject of the exhibit. Each piece of artwork is a chapter in the story. Additional themes and ideas can be woven in to each individual piece of artwork. A beginning and end of the exhibition are required as well. Even if that ‘ending’ requires a sequel.

Once I had decided on the book metaphor, I just needed to adjust where I wanted to put pieces of artwork in the exhibit. There’s also been some tweaking to each piece of artwork here and there. This was done to make sure that my artwork was accurately telling the story I needed it to tell.

Nothing is set in stone:

The aforementioned mental (and creative) organizational methodology may seem a little rigid. But I don’t see it that way. Changes in how I work creatively are always, always, always on the table for me.  Nothing is ever set or carved in stone for me!

There are parts of my personality that are super-flexible and this helps me to evaluate what working methods are beneficial, and which ones that aren’t. If the book metaphor ceases to give me the creative results and mental security that I need, then I’ll change it.

So, now what?

I will continue working on the pieces that I will be exhibiting at Matara in January 2021. As well as formulating new ideas and exploring new themes, materials and techniques for pieces that I will exhibit in December 2021-February 2022. Along the way, I will continue creating Go Marielle stories and posts. And creating and adding new items for sale in my online shop. And then there are the weekly blog posts…and Patreon that I want to get started.

Yeah. I have plenty to keep me busy.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday,

 

Posted on

How I Create Go Marielle

Why did I create Go Marielle?

I’d been thinking about doing something like Go Marielle for quite a long time. Simply put, I wanted to combine my original doll artwork with a story telling medium. When I began thinking about the idea, it seemed large and kind of un-doable to me. There were so many moving parts to the project.

I worried that I didn’t have the right computer programs or technical know-how. And that my camera skills and equipment were sorely lacking.  To be honest, all those things were true. They weren’t going to change any time soon either. But the idea still wouldn’t leave me along. So I wanted to give it a try.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? No one would like what I made?

Getting started

A central character was needed. The 12 cm tall dolls with boots I’d been making seemed a good choice. Their size made them easy to transport. I had made their faces very simple, so altering the photos as I had planned, would be easier.

Interestingly, I chose another doll for the central character while I was in the planning stages. Malvi was the doll I had chosen initially. But by the time she was finished, I had created several additional 12 cm dolls. Marielle was one of them. She just seemed…I don’t know, right for the role? Marielle had a je ne sais quoi that Malvi didn’t.

My husband helped me to come up with the title Go Marielle! I liked the translation into Finnish, Mene Marielle! as well. It has good alliteration, which is something I like a great deal.

I now had my main character created, as well as a name for her stories. Now to get some pictures taken.

Always taking pictures

I now never leave the house now without Marielle in my bag. Or more often, just tucked  inside my jacket pocket. Traveling with her this way means that I can take pictures on the fly. When-ever and where-ever I feel like. On the bus. Taking a walk. Looking at nature. Reading a book.

I may take a series of pictures for a longer story, or I may just get one or two pictures for a single daily post. There is some longer-term planning done for specific longer stories. In these cases, I need more detailed plans for when and where I will be taking photos with Marielle.

So far, the vast majority of the photos have been taken outside, or in stores and other public places. Natural light is the best for an amateur photographer like me. There are plans for a bedroom for Marielle in the works. I just need to find the time to build it!

Computer based programs

Remember, I’m a one-horse operation with a shoe-string budget! I have two different cameras that I can use to take photos, but the vast majority of the Go Marielle photos are taken using my Samsung mobile phone. It’s just convenient to the way in which I structure the Go Marielle stories. I can take pictures quickly and conveniently.

My computer is an older MacBook Pro. I use the Preview feature for the viewing, sorting, renaming and resizing of the photos. Adobe Photoshop is not something I can’t afford right now, so I’m using GIMP 2.10. There are some parts of GIMP that are less than intuitive. But I’ve been fortunate that there are YouTubers with good tutorials that have helped me quite a bit. It’s an excellent alternative to Photoshop.

To put the stories together, I’m using Canva. My husband had been using it for quite a while. He suggested that I give it a try. There are parts of Canva that I find really, really frustrating. It makes me wish that I could just magically have Adobe Illustrator at my disposal at times.

For me, the lack of finesse with the fiddly bits, like color, text and layering is what I find the most frustrating. But I know that’s because I have experience and training with more creatively flexible types of programs. Canva is a great tool though. With a price that is more easily absorbed for me at present.

Processing photos

I’ve begun to wear a path in the creation of the different daily and twice weekly longer story Go Marielle posts. All photos need to be uploaded to my computer. There are some days that I upload 60 to 80 photos, then others when I may upload 2 to 3 photos. I never completely know how many photos I will take on a given outing.

I sort them into two categories; longer stories and daily posts. I then go through all the photos, discarding ones that are duplicates, or blurry, etc. I resize and rename the remaining photos. Then it’s time to sort the photos into sequences that make sense for the longer stories.

My aim is for 10 photos, as Instagram posts have a limit on how many photos can be posted at once. More often than not, the stories either fall well short (around 6 to 7 panels) or well over (12-18 panels). Instagram has stories that I think I may look into for posting some of these longer stories.

Once the photos are chosen, sized, named and sequenced, they need to be color corrected. I admit, this is something I do not enjoy. My color correction skills are at best a bit ham-fisted. And I am painfully aware of this. Once they are all color corrected, I need to go through and remove the faces embroidered on the doll in GIMP. This can take anywhere from 10 minutes for a couple of photos, to almost an hour for a longer story.

Once the photos are completely processed, I upload them to Canva and begin putting all the pieces (photos, faces, text) together into a cohesive story.

Creating the faces

All of the pieces of Marielles face need to be dropped in and placed individually. Each piece of the face is drawn by hand. I don’t have a printer or scanner, so I photograph them instead. These photos also require photo processing on my computer (Back to Preview and GIMP!). The style in which I’ve drawn them is incredibly simple. So my rather clumsy work around of photographing my drawings doesn’t suffer too much through the photo processing.

Each of the facial elements has the backgrounds cleared, so they can be easily placed into an existing photo. Each of these facial elements are uploaded to Canva. I can then pick and choose from them after I finish writing the story.

Writing the story or text

Once the photos are sequenced in Canva, I drop in the text. I have an idea of what I want the story to be while I’m taking the initial photos, but nothing is ever carved in stone. Decisions regarding the final story aren’t made until I have the sequence of photos finalized. And even then, I sometimes pull out or add photos, as the story dictates.

The rough draft of the story is left at least overnight, so that I can edit it with a clear mind the next day. Usually it takes one or two story edits before I land on the story I want. Even then, I know I’m no great writer. There is a lot that I still have to learn. Fortune has graced me with a husband who’s a writer, so he’s there to help!

I have established days in which I work on the stories and the daily posts, so that I can leave them alone for a while before editing them prior to publication on Instagram. My Tuesdays and Fridays are largely spent working on computer on Go Marielle and other things, like blog posts.

All of the stories so far have been a learning lab of sorts for me. Discovering what works, what doesn’t. As well as finding the direction of the whole idea itself. I feel as though I’m getting closer to figuring out what I want Marielle herself to sound like. But again, I’m still in the discovery phase of this whole creation.

Adding the personality

The story dictates the facial expressions that Marielle will have. Happiness, shock, anger, frustration, surprise, etc. I want to show the emotion without being too complicated in the final product. Eyebrows are essential! So much emotion can be conveyed with an eyebrow!

There are times in which the angle of the photos makes it challenging to add the correct type of face. Especially when it comes to the eyes. I’m just kind of plowing ahead and trying to not let myself think too much about some of the really wonky angles and perspective that some of the finished stories have. I keep telling myself that the fantasy element of my storytelling and art creation allow for some of this wonkiness.

There are times while working that I need a new facial feature. My clumsy ‘draw and photograph’ method makes quick work of this. However, it should be noted that even the most simplistic facial feature usually requires two or three drawings on my part in pencil and pen, then looking at it on computer before I make a decision regarding which ones to keep and continue processing by removing the backgrounds, color correcting and resizing.

Finishing work

Once the photos, faces and story are completed. Then it’s ready to download from Canva. Each of the longer stories and the daily photos are downloaded so that I can give them a last look before posting them. If I’ve forgotten a face, or there is a spelling error. It’s caught at this point.

Now, here is where Canva becomes frustrating for me. I have had difficulties getting the smart phone version of the program to work on my phone. A work-around was required. The longer story and daily Go Marielle posts for Instagram are then sent to myself via Gmail. They can then be downloaded from my Gmail to my phone. I know this a clunky solution. But for now, it works.

I usually ‘batch’ my daily Go Marielle posts, and send myself several daily posts at once. Then I download each daily post as needed. There is a part of me that is always terrified that somehow my files are going to get lost or corrupted. Having a copy hanging around in my Gmail for a little while quells those fears. Yeah. I’m weird.

Hashtags

Hashtags are a bit of a headache for me right now. I’m doing some experimenting with them. They don’t seem to be working the way in which I would like them to. Well, the English language hashtags aren’t working as intended. The Finnish ones are fine. But this is an entirely different post!

The take away

What I have learned so far is that there is a lot more work in creating the daily and longer story Go Marielle pieces for Instagram. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the creative work a great deal. It’s just a lot of work! There are long-term plans that I have for Go Marielle. So I know that the investment of time and energy into building the foundations of the project are well worth the effort.

The take-away for those people who read and enjoy the Go Marielle posts that I post each week is that there is much, much more work going on behind the scenes than perhaps non-creatives know about.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday.

 

 

Posted on

New Body of Work

Why create new artwork?

I have an upcoming art show taking place during the month of January 2021. It seems like a long way off in the future, but it’s much sooner that it seems. Creating new artwork specifically for an art show of my own is an amazing multi-level opportunity for me. On one hand, I get to make new and different artwork. And that’s always a good thing! On another hand, it’s good for publicity for myself as a working artist.

It’s just a jump to the left.

The biggest challenge of the gallery space I will be showing my work in is that the artwork all must be hung on the wall. There are no pedestals or cases for three-dimensional artwork. Everything I display must be able to hang on a vertical wall. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I do enjoy an artistic challenge. The learning potential for me as an artist is something I couldn’t pass up once my brain started chewing on it.

The challenge of creating and displaying work vertically also dove-tailed nicely into some ideas that I had been mulling over for quite a while.  In the physical world, display/storage space within my own flat is at a premium. Some of my artwork has begun going up onto the walls as a result. I’ve not been completely pleased with my results though. New methods will need to be devised

Part of that dove-tailing I mentioned, is also thematic for me in the creative sense. The concept of how we ‘store’ and ‘manage’ those intangible portions of our human experience. Where do those memories reside? How do some remain while others drift away into the ether? What effects do these memories, ideas, beliefs have on our present day existence? Do we need to have a place to put these things?

How I create artwork:

The Creative Experiment series of dolls fundamentally changed how I go about creating my artwork. Until just a few weeks ago, I was still unintentionally following one of the original parameters of the experiment; working on a piece until it was finished before starting the next piece. Even when working on the larger Play Set dolls (paper maché) I was still adhering to this parameter.

This method of working just wasn’t going to be efficient for the creation of this new body of artwork. This being said, I felt as though if I began working on several pieces at the same time, that the quality of the artwork would suffer. Suffer mostly because I wasn’t being completely present in the moment when working on an individual piece. I would lose the meaning of what I was creating in the attempt to make more artwork faster.

One bite at a time:

At first, I was a little confused as to exactly how I was going to create the new artwork for the show. The methods I’d employed during the Creative Experiment have served me very well, creatively speaking. But in creating the artwork for this show, I do not have the luxury of spending a month or more on a single piece.

As I went through my drawings and writings over the past few months, distinct themes began to emerge. The themes began to tell a story. I began to see each separate piece of artwork being a chapter of that story. The thematic structure I’ve begun to create has given me something to ‘hang’ the created artwork on.

When I approach each separate piece of artwork as a small part of a larger whole, my brain settles down. I become less anxious. I feel confident that I can work on multiple pieces simultaneously now. This is taking more planning on my part. I’ve outlined six new large pieces that I will create. These pieces will be using papier maché techniques. I’m also integrating a lot of the smaller dolls that I’ve creating as well.

Work has already begun:

Most of the pieces that I’ve been working on that are specifically for the art show are smaller, sewn components. The six small (12 cm) geometric form headed dolls are for a piece that will be in the show. The skeleton doll (30 cm), as well as another doll (30 cm) are also intended for the art show.

I’ve also been collecting a lot of the free materials I use in my artwork as well. Lidl is always a great source of card and carton board. I stumbled-upon a treasure trove of newspaper a month of so ago, and came home with a backpack overflowing with it! With autumn here in Finland, I can also venture outside for natural elements like wood and stone as well.

So now what?

I guess I would say, stay tuned. Because as always, I will be taking a ton of pictures of my artwork as it progresses to share with you!

 

Links:

How to Eat a Whale, Shel Silverstiein

Let’s do the Time Warp Again!; Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

 

Posted on

Value & Cost

Recap:

If you read my post from on 21 September, you know that the idea of where and how I can best spend my time as an entrepreneur. Social media platforms that are taking up too much of my finite time and creative energies are going to be dropped. Those social media platforms that I feel are worth the time and effort I expend to maintain will continue to be used. With the hopes that my small business will continue to grow.

That all being said, there are adjoining concepts regarding time, energies, costs and value that are never far from the forefront of my mind. Some of these concepts and ideas bleed off into other sociocultural areas that I feel ill-prepared to navigate. In many cases, my personal beliefs are at odds with the current zeitgeist.

Value:

There have been many times in the past in which I’ve stated that being raised in the US has impressed upon me certain beliefs regarding how I personally interpret buying, selling, marketing, consuming products, etc. “Eat quickly, drive faster, and make more money now!” (1) is a lyric that comes to mind when I ponder how being a US citizen consumer has shaped my personal and professional perceptions.

To that end, it’s been imprinted upon me that a thing is valued if it’s popular. If everyone has one, and you’re the only one without it, that’s bad. You need to fall in line and buy those things that will make you part of the larger group. Being a teenager during the 1980’s really hammered some of this home to me.

There’s an initial psychological buy-in that happens. Mostly without a person being completely aware of it. You see a an object (clothing, car, house, toy, food, etc.) everywhere. Advertising via print media, through the radio, internet, television. Even the movies, television and music deliver advertising. Soon, buying these things seem like your idea. And not something that has been put into your mind.

What is the Value of an Object?

The value of an object is determined by a lot of different factors. In fact, it seems like something that is ever-changing, especially when it’s related to the products of visual and performing artists. Trends can make something popular one minute, and out of style the next. Fashion is a good example of that.

The availability of an object also determines its value. This can easily be seen at an auction of fine art at an auction house like Sotherby’s. Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold for $82.5 at Sotherby’s in 1990. Society has decided that van Gogh’s work is extremely valuable. Van Gogh is dead so there are a finite amount of pieces of his work. Scarcity can make for high prices.

What does this mean for me as an artist?

First of all, I’m no freakin’ Vincent van Gogh. I’m not even within the same art-making universe as him. What it does bring to mind is that I’m constantly creating artwork. Constantly. Regardless of whether it sells or not. Does this mean I’ve flooded the market? Too many original Katie Kinsman artistic creations out there in the world perhaps?

No. I don’t think that’s it. I do sometimes wonder if there are people who want to purchase my work, but are just waiting for me to have a  big honkin’ sale. Or, my work may be selling because people just don’t like it. There are also (gestures with hands at relatively everything going on in the world right now) economic reasons why people are not buying things like artwork right now. Many other things are taking precedence over purchasing artwork. Food, clothing and shelter come immediately to mind.

Cost:

The cost gets me coming and going as an artist. There is the up-front costs that I pay to create the artwork that I do. I don’t mean just the cost of the supplies. My time is a large hunk of that up-front cost, as well as my creative energies.

Material and supply costs are easy to figure. It’s all numbers. I keep track of what I spend on my materials and supplies, as well as shipping and handling for any pieces I do sell. Time is another that’s easier to calculate. But as I’ve written about previously, trying to make sure that I get even a US minimum wage from the time I put into my artwork isn’t possible. No for a non-entity like me on the art stage.

When it comes to creative energies, which I will agree is also related a to the expenditure of my time, that’s something that less quantifiable in strict numbers-sense. It’s where the ideas come from, intertwined with my knowledge and experience. Those creative energies are very much part of who I am as an individual. It’s difficult to attach a number to that.

Yeah, but what do I get out of it?

But the important thing is, I will continue to to create artwork even if I never show it on social media platforms. Or if I never sell another piece of artwork. I make the artwork that I do because the value to me, in the form of therapy, keeps me mentally and emotionally spackled-together. THAT is the value of my artwork to ME.

If there are other people who like my artwork and wish to give me money for it. Terrific! If not. Then. Okay. Go on then and do you then. Just not in relation to my artwork.

Then gate keepers determine value:

Gate keepers (2) are everywhere. In every type of work. They make sure that there are qualifications and credentials for professionals that must be attained before being a teacher, nurse, lawyer, architects, accountants, engineers, bankers, etc. In the art world, the gate keepers are gallery owners, shop owners, and museum curators to name a few (I’m leaving out the performing arts for now.). If an artists work doesn’t get past these people, then the art work will not be shown or promoted to the art viewing/ purchasing public.

The internet and the boom of social media platforms that have resulted have given artists a larger platform in general to share and promote their artwork. My artwork has been seen by more people in the past five years on Instagram than in the my previous thirty years of creating my art.

What I’ve come to realize in the past few months is that Instagram is just as much of a gate keeper as any art gallery owner. They just exert their gate keeping through algorithms instead of declining to show my artwork in their gallery. Instagram will show my artwork, but just enough. Then they would like me to pay to get greater exposure.

They want me to pay to advertise.

Back to costs and value:

Okay. I’ll admit it. From the beginning, I was näive as all get-out regarding Facebook and Instagram. As an creative art entrepreneur, I took full advantage of the free-ness of each of these platforms. Over the past three weeks, Instagram has become rather aggressive in it’s attempts to get me to buy ads on the platform. So far, I’ve resisted.

I’ve resisted because I have no money to spend on advertising. Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.(3) Not 20¢. Not 2€. Instagram has been putting a lot, and I mean A LOT of Finnish artists into my Instagram feed that are buying ads. I’ve noticed it. I know what they’re doing. And it’s gonna take a lot more to convince me to purchase ads on the platform.

Do I value the ads? I suppose so. I know that they are worth something. That something being, “more eyes on my artwork”. But more eyes on my artwork can easily translate into more likes of my artwork. The thing is though, likin’ ain’t buyin’. If I cannot be guaranteed a boost in my sales figures, then I’m not biting.

I will admit. I still have a lot of research to do on the subject of purchasing Instagram ads. I will rule nothing out at this juncture.

So now what?

This has been a long and rambling post. Value and cost, related to my artwork and the sale of it, are at times monolithic concepts that tread on an unsound mental and emotional path for me. Separating my personal value as a human being from the value of the artwork I create gets extremely complicated for me.

When a person tries to get me to come down in price on my artwork, it’s as though they are making me as a human being feel as if I’m of less value. In the past, I’v heard a potential customer say, “I could buy four dolls at Walmart for what you’re asking for one doll!” They value quantity over quality I suppose. But yeah, you go be you. Walmart’s waiting.

And on that less than upbeat note, thanks for reading. I’ll see you again next Monday.

 

Links and References:

(1) William Shatner with Henry Rollins, I Can’t Get Behind That, Has Been (2004)

(2) This is really a not great webpage to read, but it gives a pretty good idea of what an art gate keeper does and how they might be thinking. Mihaly Csiikszenmihaly is a good read if you’re interested in creativity.

(3) “Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.” is a line from a drag queen called Jiggly Calliente song called ‘I Don’t Give a Fnck‘. It is NSFW. NOT. SAFE. FOR. WORK. Or children, small animals or little granny ladies.

LA Money Train, Rollins Band, Get Some Go Again (2000) This song is a cutting review of American culture. Henry does not mince words in this song. I love Rollins. He’s an American treasure.

Posted on

Speed of Creation

Recently, I found myself focusing on a group of similar comments centered around the speed in which I create my artwork. The exact reasons for my focus on these comments eluded me. It’s not that the comments bothered me. Instead, they just seemed incredibly odd to me.

Why would the seemingly quick completion of a piece of artwork I’m creating require pointing out? Spending as much time in my own head as I do, the length of time it takes me to complete a given piece of art doesn’t matter all that much to me. The artwork happens at its own pace and in its own time. It’s finished when it’s finished.

But I think there is more to this.

Speed of Creation:

I’m aware of the passage of time. In fact, I have a rather fine-tuned sense of time and its passing. As a single artist building her own brand and business, I work seven days a week. There is always something that requires me to be working on it.

There are online and social media platforms that require monitoring, as well as new additions. Emails that need to be answered. Updates that need to be installed. Blog posts that need to be written. And photos that require processing before they can be posted.

This of course is sometimes lost when I’m in a flow state. This happens most often when I’m in the act of creating my own physical artwork (sometimes when I’m working on photos). Several hours can pass without my realizing it. Flow state just makes the time slip past so quickly. My focus is on the artwork I’m creating. Nothing else matters much outside of that.

I feel as though the perception by others of my ‘speed’ in creating artwork is due to several factors.

Possible Perceptions Regarding Speed:

Those who remark on my speed of creation have much more complicated lives than I do. Children, errands, friends, family obligations, yards, gardens, meals to cook, people to pick up and drop off, and jobs to go to. They cannot quite imagine finding enough time in their busy schedules to do what I do.

I don’t have many of the things I’ve listed above. Those things that require so much time and attention. My life is constructed so that I can use the greatest amount of time to create artwork. I get up in the morning, have breakfast with my husband, then go off to my desk to work on art production and the business end of my entrepreneurial endeavors. There are no kids. No yard or garden. My job doesn’t require me to drive to it.

I have a pesky habit of reading between the lines of statements. Usually this happens when I start chewing on them mentally. As an American, I cannot divorce myself from the cultural lenses in which I view the world around me. Because of this, part of me wonders if what is between the lines of “You work so fast!” is the implication that my work is not quality work and not worth the prices I ask for it.

Quality of the Work Created:

Being told that the quality of my artwork is amazing is very appreciated. Having someone see, and comment on the details that I painstakingly add to each and every piece of the artwork is incredibly satisfying as well.

If the artwork I make doesn’t look ‘right’ to me, then I change it. That may mean that I add several more layers of sealant to a paper mâché piece, or I take apart doll because the legs just are not level. It may mean that I completely change the color scheme, because what I wanted to use is just not making me happy.

The quality of my work is something that I’ve been working on since the first time I picked-up a crayon as a toddler. Each successive piece of artwork helps me to hone my skills. Making each piece of art after that one better. The constant attention to the quality of my work is also related to the speed in which I create. I get better and quicker at the specific artwork created.

Possible Perceptions Regarding Quality:

Here is one of those times in which I run everything through my personal American culture filters. The US is a consumer society. You are advertised to through almost everything that you see and hear during the day or night. There are so many businesses and companies vying for consumers dollars. Many of them using the tactics to get those dollars. Some offer more for less. The more you can purchase for the least amount of money is seen as a good thing. Regardless of the quality of the workmanship of the items being purchased.

When I create a one-of-a-kind 9 cm fairy doll using my own patterns and designs and put a price on it of 65€, there are those who question my pricing. It does not matter how well made or unique the piece of artwork is. What matters is that the consumer is getting a very small thing for a large price. In the eyes of some, their money would be better spent on a mass produced doll for 10€ at a chain store like Walmart or Target.

This does raise some questions regarding the perception of my artwork in general as well. Yes, I make dolls. Art dolls. Dolls that are made by me are not the type of doll that you can or should hand to a small child to play with. So yeah. How my artwork is perceived factors into this as well.

Cost of the Finished Artwork:

When purchasing artwork, there is always the question of what the “real cost” of the artwork is. Again, this relates to time and quality of the artwork. Yes, I can work seemingly quickly. Approximately 30 to 50% of the raw materials I use in the creation of my artwork are up-cycled, recycled and second hand in origin. There are other materials that I find locally in shops that are low cost as well.

This might seem like I’m cutting corners. Or not using the best quality materials to create my work. That’s not the case at all. I work with the tools and materials that speak to me. A large part of the joy I derive from creating my artwork is that I take things that might be seen as less-than, or trash to some, and turn them into something imaginative and beautiful.

And then, there is the time I have spent over almost 40 years of creating, learning and growing as an artist. The price of a single piece of artwork is never, ever just the price of the materials used to create it, or just the time it took to create it.

Possible Perceptions of Costs:

I do take great care in the pricing of my artwork. The prices that have been assigned to individual pieces have been thought about a great deal. In many instances, the final cost of the product for the customer works out to only a few dollars/euros per hour at best.

When it comes to the final cost of a piece of my artwork, the time (speed) and quality come into play within the mind of the customer. “Well, if she can make these so fast, they should cost less!” or “If these cost so much, then the quality should be better!” or perhaps even, “For this price, she should make the dolls bigger!

All of these are questions a customer can ask themselves. The reality is, of the three; time (speed), quality and cost, you can have two, but not all three. There will have to be a sacrifice made somewhere. You want quality and speed? Be prepared to pay more. You want a low priced, quality product, then be ready to sacrifice the speed in which you get the work. If speed and a low cost are what you desire, then the quality of the work is going to be lacking.

So Now What?

I don’t know that there is any easy way to solve this problem. The Iron Triangle (I love that name.) is just one of many different project management and business tools that I can use to gauge my progress as an entrepreneur. Strangely, I’ve taken some comfort in researching the Iron Triangle. A big take-away for me is that sometimes it’s not all about me and my artwork (products). Many times, it’s about the potential customer.

The longer that I work on marketing myself as an artist and on my business plans, the more I realize that there are simply some people who will never be my customer. They will never purchase my artwork. And that’s totally okay. What this means for me, is that I shouldn’t spend my limited resources (time, energy, creativity and money) attempting to make them understand my work and why it’s worth the money. And again, that is totally okay.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.

Links:

Speed is the Key, Sugarcubes – This is the Sugarcubes song mashed with a Commando Cody serial from the early 1950’s. If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you’ve seen quite a few Commando Cody shorts!

Speed is the Key is from Here Today, Tomorrow and Next Week!, 1989 (The year I graduated from high school!)

Good, Fast, Cheap: You Can Only Pick Two!

The Iron Triangle (Product Management Triangle)

Posted on 1 Comment

Go Marielle!

Over the past few months, I’ve devoted a sizable amount of time to exploring various directions in which I could take my artwork and my online presence. Changes have been made to how I’m posting online. These have changes have made me so much more content mentally and emotionally. But, being the type of creative person that I am, I have a rather compulsive need to explore new ways in which to make art. New sets of skills, materials and techniques are always something that I’m interested in!

New Direction Inspiration:

While I was brainstorming, I realized that one aspect of sharing my artwork that I enjoyed a great deal was storytelling. When I was creating my online shop, I spent a great deal of time creating unique stories for each of the dolls that I’ve created. Some of the stories came about while I was in the act of creating the doll itself. Others came about after I had some time to sit with the doll and let my imagination take over.

I could clearly see these little dolls moving about on their own. Doing all kinds of things. Having friends and playmates. Going places. Being independent little creations going out into the world with complete personalities, ready to explore! This may sound strange to those who are not creators. It may sound childish or juvenile to some. But it’s the way my brain works. I tend to lean into it.

If you’ve been following me here or my Instagram for any length of time, you know that I’ve been working on a series of small dolls since the early part of this year. The current size of dolls I’m creating are 12 cm tall. They are the perfect size for 1:12 scale dollhouse furniture. Perhaps this is what pushed me across that invisible line. And made me connect some dots.

More Complicated:

Once I had decided that I wanted to tell stories with my dolls, then I had to figure out how to do it. Honestly, it sounds like a pretty simple thing, doesn’t it?

Create a doll. Write a story for the doll. Make the doll act out the story you wrote. 

Easy-peasy, right?! The more that I thought about it, the more complicated the whole idea became. There were so many small moving parts to my idea. Each of them generated questions that needed to be answered. This was a little overwhelming at first. There were just so many things that I felt could go really wrong.

There were small nit-picky questions like: Was I going to construct the sets myself? How would I do that? What materials would I use? Where would I store them? Could I reuse them in the storytelling? Would that limit the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell? What about the photos? Do I have the right camera for this? How am I going to process the photos?

Bigger, weightier questions: was I going to be able to create the artwork on a reliable schedule? Was the artwork that I was creating going to be good enough to share? Would the work make me look like a talentless fool? How could I utilize my limitations to my advantage creatively?!

There are times in which the fear can take over, and make you backdown. Fortunately, my internal need to create art over-road any and all of my fears.

I decided to take the leap with the little doll Marielle.

Go Marielle!

There are times that I fall completely in love with a doll from the very start. Marielle is one of those dolls. She is just the sweetest little doll! Hence, she was the natural choice to be the face of Go Marielle! Her name is pronounced MAH-ree-ehl-leh, because she’s a little Finnish girl. She’s a little girl who likes going to new places and having adventures! Go Marielle! translates to Mene Marielle! in Finnish, which I like a lot.

Currently, my plan is that I will be posting Go Marielle! stories in parts every Friday to my Instagram to start. Again, I have ideas of where I want to go and what I want to do with this idea. And things may change. It’s important for me to have an outline, but not one that is so restrictive that it’s hard to manage. Or, an outline that becomes stifling to my creativity. That is never good.

Hopefully, those who read Go Marielle! will enjoy the pictures and the stories!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday,

Posted on

Getting Out of My Own Way

Being a part of an art show or showing my work in a gallery setting is something I enjoy a great deal. But seem to do it only rarely. There are two elements regarding the exhibition of my finished artwork that have either eluded me or I have not been able to wrap my head around. Whether by eluding me or confusing me, they have become increasingly annoying obstacles for me as important components of being a (successful) working artist.

An art show in my future:

Recently, I screwed-up my courage and asked to have my work considered for display in a local gallery space here in Jyväskylä. The sage advice of my friend Dubravka was in the back of my head saying, “What’s the worst they can say, no?” This simply question works well within my tendency to try and prepare for all possible contingencies. While my natural tendency can prove to be mentally and emotionally debilitating when allowed to run amok, it works with this simple question. I mean, seriously, what could be worse than ‘No.’?

No. You’re work is stupid and ugly and everyone hates you too.”

No. You’re artwork is pure, unadulterated crap and you should be ashamed of it and of yourself for creating it.

No. Make a bonfire of your work, NOW. Here’s a match.

Believe me, I have more loaded-up and ready, but I think you get the general drift of where I can go regarding my need to prepare for all possible contingencies. In fact, I have a harder time believing it when people say, “Yes! We would love to show your artwork!

Long story longer, I’ll be showing my work in a small gallery space in January 2021. It’s official and on the calendar.

Art show parameters:

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I create my artwork first and foremost for myself. To put it bluntly, creating artwork is my therapy. A healthy Katie is a an art-creating Katie. The idea of taking my deeply personal artwork and altering it to fit within a concept or theme that is completely unconnected to me or my artwork feels odd. Then there is the idea of changing my artwork to fit a physical space. This has never quite computed for me.

When researching art shows to possibly enter, I get mentally stuck on individual art show thematic parameters. One art show may have a theme concerning water life, or oceanic environments. Another art show may have a parameter that dictates that the art work be of a certain size, or a specific art medium. My artwork isn’t easily categorized in these ways. Nor is it made with themes that I don’t wish to work within our around.

Who is it for?

I’m fiercely protective of the hows and whys of my own art creation. It doesn’t seem natural for me to create artwork that is made solely for an entry into an art show. Doing so would make me feel as though I were creating art for others first and myself second. That’s not how I create art.

So it feels as though I am presented with the choice of making artwork the way I want to make it, or to create artwork specifically for someone or something else. All in the hopes that someone will pay attention to me and my artwork. Then perhaps buy a piece of my work. This made me the entire art show/gallery concept seem deceptive to me. I’m rotten at lying too.

Shipping artwork to art shows:

When I’m looking at different art show call for entries, I also have to consider the shipping costs of my artwork. This can be quite costly. And there is no guarantee that my work will sell or win a prize either. So, I may just be out 200€ in shipping (and return shipping) and have nothing to show for it, except an addition to an Exhibition Page on my website.

I do know that the exposure from various art shows can help to build a following of people who like my artwork. These people might buy my artwork from me personally, or through my website. In showing my artwork along side other artists, those artists then see my work and come to know who I am and what I do creatively. There are some definitely great benefits to showing my artwork in art shows. At present through, the shipping of my work, coupled with some of the complexity of my pieces (so, many, moving, parts) is proving cost prohibitive for me.

Around, through or over:

It seems as though I’ve really hobbled myself in regard to showing of my artwork to the public in a gallery type setting. I totally agree with this assessment. And it bugs me big-time. This inability to just shut-up and create artwork to enter into art shows keeps my artwork here with me in my workspace. Or showing my artwork on digital platforms such as my website, shop, and Instagram. These are important places to have a presence, but it shouldn’t be the totality of my exposure to the public. Showing my artwork would give me an opportunity to connect with more creative and artistic people. Being part of a larger community would be great.

The gallery space in which I will be showing my artwork has no space available to display three-dimensional artwork. All of the work is displayed on the walls. On the surface, this would seem like the last type of gallery space in which I would seek to show my artwork. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure about it myself. Initially, I started thinking about ways in which to just hang my three-dimensional work from wires. But that seemed lazy. When I let my mind wander, it began playing around with different methods of displaying my artwork. This was surprising, but it shouldn’t have been.

Creative problem solving:

I sat down and started doing a little list-making. There are pieces of artwork that I have that I’ve not shown previously that I thought could be displayed on a wall. My mind kind of just started working away at the challenge of showing my three-dimensional work in a two-dimensional setting. In short order, I had five separate ideas for display that I like a great deal. Each of these ideas utilizes tools, materials and supplies that I have on hand, or that can be gathered at no or low-cost.

It’s what happens to you when you’re not paying attention:

What I found surprising, especially given the fact that I’m not a person to create art for a space or theme not of my own design, is that my mind began pulling in different un-trodden paths regarding my larger, paper mâché pieces. Not exactly un-trodden. My mind was pulling me back to sets of sketches done for pieces that I have not created yet. The more I looked through these sketches, the more I found that they fit within personal themes I’ve been working on. While at the same time, solve some of the ‘walls only’ display parameters.

Living in Finland has changed the way in which I create my artwork. The physical environment of the city I live in began making its presence known in some of the sketches that I had set aside. Realizing that my immediate environment was coming through in my artwork and sketches for new artwork didn’t seem all that important. Most of my artwork is wrapped up in my personal memories. The thing is, my personal memories are increasingly tied to the people and places in Finland. The sets of sketches that I mentioned are all, in one way or another, pulled from my immediate environment.

In the end:

None of what I’m experiencing with regards to art shows is particularly earth-shatteringly or unique. Everyone, not just creatives and artists go through similar types of personal challenges. And I know that regarding some of my personal problems, I’ve taken the longer, more difficult road. To a great extent, entirely on purpose. But it’s nice to be in a place now where I feel as though I’m figuring out things so that I can be who I want to be, how I want to be and where I want to be.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again soon,

Links:

Beneath Between & Behind:

Rush: Beneath Between & Behind, Fly By Night (1975). I’ve always liked the cymbal work on this particular song. It’s tight when it needs to be, and crashy-splashy when it needs to be. This is also the first album in which Neil Peart was the drummer and lyricist. This song was also the first in which Peart wrote the lyrics and Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson wrote the music. Fly By Night was an important album for Rush. The way in which they worked creatively lyrically and musically changed for them as a group, propelling them in a bit of a different direction than they had been previously. While writing this post, this particular song kept running through my head.

In My Time of Dying:

Led Zeppelin: In My Time of Dying, Physical Graffiti (1975). This is my favorite Zeppelin song. It’s not really a Zeppelin song though. Remember, Led Zeppelin stole from black rhythm and blues musicians with both hands!  It’s a traditional gospel song. Here’s a version by Blind Willie Johnson, under the title, ‘Jesus Make Up My Dyin’ Bed‘. Bob Dylan also did a version of the song as well. Josh White’s version is particularly lovely. ANYWAY. John Bonham’s cymbal work on this song was and is amazing to me. I love how jangly it gets, it’s almost like the entire song is crashing out of a drawer in the kitchen with all the music seeming to hit randomly all over the floor, but it’s just tight as hell!

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

The Police: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. Okay. I know. This song is a little too ‘pop’, but hear me out. Stewart Copeland has this amazing finesse to his cymbal work that I have always found insanely fascinating. He’s not a basher and a crasher when it comes to his cymbals. He plays his instruments with a level of dexterity and musical sensitivity that some drummers will never achieve. Each part of the cymbal is represented in his work. Copeland can transform each of his cymbals into distinct voices within the musical composition. It’s never too much, it’s never too little.