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In Between

My artwork never travels in a straight line. The way in which I’ve been creating since the completion of the Creative Experiment has been the greatest influence upon that. I would also add that I’m a fairly impatient artist. Wanting my artwork to ‘get done faster‘! This is especially difficult when working with glue and gesso.

Half of the artwork that I’m currently working on seems to fall rather neatly into the above description. At times, I need to remind myself that completing my artwork quickly isn’t the main goal. My artwork needs to take the time it needs to help me create it and myself.

Bottles:

My fascination with Erittäin Heino Suomalainen bottles has been documented several times in my blog. They were used for the legs of Blue Doll #10. There is just something about them that speaks to me on a creative level.  Perhaps it’s because they are so distinctively shaped?

About a week ago, I decided to cut one of the bottles I had on hand in half. Then add paper mâché and gesso to the surface. One bottle, cut in two, became two bottles cut in two. Part of the reason for my doing that is because I wanted to have options for the artistic ideas I wanted to use.

Here’s the interesting thing; what these pieces are becoming is not exactly what I initially had in mind for them.

Between:

Just as it’s difficult to satisfactorily describe how I “just know” what do create as an artist. It’s equally as difficult to explain how I change the direction of a piece of artwork mid-creation. Again, it comes down to something similar to “I just know“. Which, even as I type it seems as if I’m not being truthful. Because I don’t always know.

Between the “I know” and “I don’t know” for myself as an artist is the place in where the creative decisions are made. My knowing and not knowing exist simultaneously. With a lot of space between the two, linking them. This in between space is where every artistic outcome is completely possible. Being ability to navigate this strange space is where the artwork is created over and over and over again. Each time with a different end product. My job as the artist is to choose one final shape and bring it in the physical world.

For anyone looking at the final, physical artistic creation, this is what the artist wanted to make. For me, it is only one of infinitely different outcomes. Knowing this propels me as an artist to go back to that in between space to explore more options for the artwork that I create.

Evolution:

The original idea I had for these bottles didn’t seem like it was ‘enough’. The imagined finished piece wasn’t what I felt it needed to be. Within that in between space, is so much stuff. By ‘stuff’ I mean basically everything. There are portions of this space that I actively attempt to bypass too.

There are hard and fast reasons for bypassing some of these places within the in between space. Some of it has to do with styles, some with design. And there are some things that are too emotional. So I just bypass them. They aren’t locked away. I see them. They are acknowledged. I just choose to leave them floating around.

One of the designs that I had been bypassing were fixed, rigid legs. From what I can understand about myself creatively, this comes from a deep childhood desire to have some of my own toys have articulated heads and limbs. These design elements are ones I find so satisfying to look at and manipulate that they have become fairly standard in my doll design.

What’s in that bypass?

The fixed, rigid leg construction for the four bottle dolls just would not let me go. No matter how much I thought about it. This type of leg was the answer. I let go of my fear and just decided to go with it. Then, I started looking at how I would design and create the heads for the dolls.

The “I know” part took over. Each of these dolls would have geometric forms for heads. Period. No more thinking about it. It’s just how they much be created. I made a few sketches to see if I really, really wanted to make heads like this. And the answer was yes.

As I began creating the arms and legs. Then the heads. Some of the bypassed places in that in between space began to come to the surface of my thoughts. That’s when it hit me. What I was beginning to create was similar to the memory of a doll-like toy I’d had when I was very young. The toy kind of freaked me out a little bit. But I liked it a great deal. I was cheap and plastic. More than likely, it was tossed out before I was 10 years old.

Sticky thoughts:

I knew this had to be true, because I had the “I know” feeling. Again. I cannot explain it well. It’s a physical sensation. It’s mental too. Ha! While writing this, I gave it all a test. I thought about the pieces I’m working on. Pulled in the bypassed plastic doll memory, as well as the bypassed rigid, fixed legs. And yep. Totally got the “I know” feeling.

For quite some time, I have believed that the reason I make the artwork that I make, specifically dolls and toy-themed artwork, was because I was making them for the child I was. That somehow, I would have chosen them as my toys instead of mass-produced dolls and toys. But I think it may go a bit deeper than that.

Why specifically would I spend so much time in an extremely specific and short period of my childhood? While the above reasons are true. I think that a greater portion of my rationale may have to do with control. Control of who and what I am. How I think. Where I go. Who I interact with. Perhaps control is too limiting a concept. Perhaps autonomy is a better descriptor.

New meaning:

All of the above being said, and to make a long story just a little longer, I feel as though I’m working in the correct direction with regard to the four bottle dolls (as I’m calling them right now). Working on them is helping me to create myself. Or perhaps know myself in a greater sense. Man. That in between space is wild. I never know quite what I’ll find in there!

Abrupt change of topic:

Gesso. While I’ve been working on the four bottle dolls, changes have been made to my homemade gesso recipe. I decided to try using chalk instead of plaster in my mixture. I’m quite pleased with the results so far. It’s far easier to sand than the plaster based gesso. There are still places in which the paint surface is bumpy. But I’ve found some solutions to this problem that I will be trying in an upcoming batch of gesso.

I’ve also added some talc to the mixture. I like how it gives the gesso added body. And it makes the gesso smoother to paint onto the surfaces worked on. I’ve also finally realized that I need to actually create a recipe for my gesso that can be replicated. Presently, I’ve just been creating the gesso from ‘feel’. As in, it needs more water, it’s too thick. Or I need to grind the chalk a little more, it feels to lumpy.

So…now what?

The concepts and designs of the bottle dolls are working well. And in a direction that I find extremely satisfying. I’m getting my gesso recipe closer and closer to what I want and need it to be for my artwork. OH! And of the four boxes for 12 cm dolls and the 10 tiny doll brooches have been painted! I’ve set them aside so that they can dry completely (five to seven days) and then I can add more paint and drawing to the surfaces of them.

So…yeah. My work is progressing. In the physical world and the emotional world.

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

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Material Challenges

Long time readers of my blog know that in addition to being an artist, I’m also an art teacher. As an art teacher with a finite budget, I almost never turned down anything that I thought could be used in my classroom. Either as a tool or a material. It could become quite challenging to store them. Most being of irregular shapes, sizes and amounts. And even more confusing, of unknown usability.

There is a large swath of my inner-being that, through nature and nurture, collects all manner of supplies and materials that some people might think of as needing to go into the recycling or trash bin. Keeping it even remotely organized is difficult most of the time. Extremely challenging at other times.

So, how do I try to keep it all in some semblance or order?

What do I use?

In reality, just about everything I come across in any given day is something I could use to make art. There are some items that I’m always on the look-out for. Fibers and fabrics, newsprint, product packaging, plastics, corrugated cardboard, carton board, wrapping, containers from food and other purchased items (for storage and for usage in art making) plastic bottles and liquid containers.

Really, anything that I would have included in my “crap bags” I had as an art teacher. I kept glue stick and marker caps, because it was useful to have an extra one on hand in case one was lost or misplaced during an art lesson. Sometimes, the contents of a crap bag were just interesting bits and bobs. Paper scraps, wire, beads, caps from different art supplies (paint, glue, etc.) Again, it was always handy to have them around.

Then what?

These crap bags were just extra-large resealable, clear plastic bags. Every time I came across something interesting, or a stray cap from a glue stick or pen, it went right into the bag. When they were filled. I sealed them and put them into a larger cardboard box. Most of the time, I would go through the bags myself. Sorting the contents into categories. Then re-bagging them and placing them in the correct art supply category.

I had art lessons in which many of these found crap-bag objects would be used. Most of them were collage and sculptural lessons. As a working artist now, I employ this same technique for choosing, sorting, storing and using of the objects I collect. Instead of going into cardboard boxes, the sorted, clear, plastic bags go into a large reusable grocery bags.

How about larger things?

To keep my corrugated cardboard and carton board stored in a fairly organized manner, I also use large reusable grocery bags. Using these bags keeps me from having stacks of cardboards sliding all over the place. And it keeps me from collecting too much cardboard.

In fact, I really need to go through both of my bags of cardboard soon. They’re both a bit clutter with scraps I cannot use. And which take-up too much valuable storage space. The storage space of which I speak is directly underneath and to the back of my desk area. Right next to my feet.

Other larger objects that I’ve decided to keep and use in the creation of my art are stowed and stashed where-ever I have space left. To be honest, most of my personal closet space in the bedroom is devoted to materials and finished artwork storage.

Deck chairs on the Titanic:

Never do I feel as though I’ve gotten myself as organized as I would like to be regarding my materials and supplies. The problem being that I am always getting in and out of the supplies while at the same time working on a piece of artwork. Some tools, supplies or materials have to be out an on my desk to use. This all results in a lot of clutter.

Presently, I’m working on finishing up the gesso on several small pieces, and adding the base paint coats to several others. Because of this, my desk area is a total mess. When I’m painting or working with anything wet, I do not do any sewing. Because I don’t want to ruin a cloth project.

This is all part of creating artwork in a very confined amount of space. In the home studio I had prior to moving to Finland, I had multiple work areas set up. Paints or clay could be left out in one work area, while I sewed or embroidered in another. Someday I would like to have something similar to that again. But for now, I work with what I have and am thankful for it!

So…now what?

The methods I use to store tools, materials and supplies for my art-making isn’t perfect. It’s just the way that I do things. Hopefully there is something here or there that I talked about that you can use for yourself. Or perhaps something that I mentioned that gave you your own good idea!

I had hoped to have done some spring cleaning and organizing by the time of this blog post. But I didn’t quite get there. The Midden has begun to grow more around my desk and work area again. To the point where it’s beginning to bug me. Which means that it must be really bugging the crud out of my husband!

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

 

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Important Parts

There are a myriad of components, mental and physical, that I enjoy during the creation of my artwork. The interesting part is that not all of these parts are enjoyable. But that’s life, isn’t it? To me, what’s the most important is that I learn something valuable during the creating my art. The physical artwork may be sold. But the experience is mine.

No one likes to make mistakes. They are time and materials wasted. As an artist that posts a lot of art-in-process pictures on my Instagram account, showing a failure is embarrassing. It’s humanizing, but still embarrassing.

(To see pictures of my work in progress, you can check out my Instagram account here.)

Brooches:

If you’re a reader of my blogs, you know that there is a certain amount of creating that I do mentally. The ideas go back and forth between paper and my brain until I sit down and begin creating. A great deal of the materials I use are ones that I’m very familiar with. So it’s not difficult for me to mentally turn the piece around in my head; creating it virtually.

My problems with the design were three fold. First being that I didn’t take into account how small I was working. Methods of laminating carton board with glue work well when creating larger work. Lids for the brooches were 5.5 to 6 cm long with a frame of between .4 to .6 mm. The laminated carton board was so difficult to cut cleanly with an X-Acto knife. And it wouldn’t stand up to sanding either. It just smushed-up and fell apart.

Second, the super-simple peg hinge was just not robust enough to handle having the lid slid back and forth repeatedly. This movement also highlighted the fragility of the laminated carton board. Two of the lids simply tore at the hole made for the peg hinge. And there was no way to mend them satisfactorily.

The third and last design problem was that I hadn’t taken into account what the finished pieces were intended to be. Brooches are meant to be worn. And they will get a certain amount of jostling around when worn. My original lid design was not secure enough to prevent the tiny doll inside from potentially falling out and being lost.

Fixing the brooches:

For a while I toyed around with ways in which I could repair the flimsy lids and peg hinges. All of them would result in creating more work to cover for the mistakes I made. To make matters worse, these cover-ups were just not any good. From a design and engineering perspective.

I had some book board left-over from a class I took last autumn. It’s .2 mm thick and stands-up to sanding. Cutting the board was a bit of a challenge. So many curves! I made sure to take my time, as well as several breaks when I found myself getting frustrated. I added a lip around the outside edges of the lids as well. So in the finished product, the lids will stay put. No little lost dolls will occur!

Large rectangular boxes:

Yes. I made a mistake with these four pieces as well. While the mistake won’t require a tremendous amount of additional work. Part of me is just angry that I made such a stupid mistake. Especially since it was one of the very first of the lessons I learned working with cardboard and carton board!

I use carton board as a veneer over the corrugated cardboard in my work. The reason being is that when corrugated cardboard gets wet, it begins to break down. It gets ripply, and stays that way even after drying. My theory is that the gesso I make kind of freezes the rippling into place when drying. Seeing the rippling surface is distracting.

Adding the carton board veneer just keeps the underlying corrugated cardboard from getting too wet. And it preserves a (relatively) flat surface to paint and draw on. My plan for these four boxes is to line them with felt. Veneering them seemed a waste of time and materials. Long story longer, I should have veneered them.

Why? Because in addition to being ripply, they took twice as long to dry than if I had veneered them. Each of the boxes has around eight layers of newsprint and glue on top of the cardboard. The glue saturated the un-veneered corrugated cardboard and took twice as long to dry completely. Around 48 hours.

Fixing the boxes:

Well, there’s nothing much to fix at this point. I still intend to cover the insides with felt. There will still be a plastic window over each of the fronts of the boxes. I have several different designs I want to try for the boxes. These boxes are meant to protect and display the doll. But I would like to make the doll removable as well.

My bigger problem with these pieces is what to call these specific types of boxes. The design of the box is influenced by action figures (dolls) that can be purchased at stores. The hang tab isn’t meant to be used as a hanger. A separate hanger will be added to the back of the finished piece.

Are they shadow boxes? Box frames? Just frames? Display frames? Packaging? It really bugs me that I can’t settle on a name. They are an integral part of the finished piece. Not simply a frame to display it on a wall. Even though that is one of the things it can do. Weird.

New gesso recipe:

I’m also trying out a new gesso ingredient. Chalk. To be specific, ground-up sticks of chalk I purchased at the store. The reason I’m experimenting with chalk is because I’ve been having problems with the plaster forming nodules within the liquid gesso. I tried sieving it. I also tried squeezing it through cheese cloth. Both had limited success.

The nodules that the plaster formed made sanding miserable at times. I couldn’t quite get rid of all them either. Meaning that I had to figure out how to either make it part of the surface texture, or minimize it through the painting and surface decoration.

I’m still trying to get the chalk ground the way that I want it to be. A mortar and pestle has been cobbled together, utilizing a thick, clear glass container and an empty bottle. The coarsely crushed chalk is added to the glass container and ground finer with the bottle. Any small nodules of chalk that do make it through the process can be easily crushed with my finger while wet. Or sanded off when dry, leaving little evidence of their existence on the surface of the art.

Now what?

Well, I’m at that monotonous stage of adding layer after layer of gesso on each piece. It’s not a whole lot of fun. Usually, it takes about ten minutes before I find a working groove, and can just pick-up, paint, put-down and repeat over and over again. The lessons I learned with regard to the brooches will be very helpful to me in the future. Especially considering that I’m having a lot of fun creating the teensie-tiny, itty-bitty dolls. And see more of them in my immediate creative future.

(I kid you not. I just got an insanely cute idea for these teensie dolls. Damn. How did I NOT see that idea before!)

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

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A Place for Everything

There are several times during any given day in which I find myself muttering, “Now where did I put that…

It’s been said that artists and creative types of people require a certain amount of mess, clutter and decrepitude in their environment to adequately be able to make their art. I don’t know that I totally agree or disagree with that statement. What I know for sure is that I have A LOT of tools, materials and supplies to keep organized. And relatively easy to locate.

My training:

When I was working as an elementary art teacher with a pretty large staff of visual art teachers, mine was one of the names given to new teachers who wanted to learn how to better organize the tools, materials and supplies that they had in their inventories. Organization of a visual art classroom can seem a bit overwhelming. Creating a system for organizing everything just made the job a little easier.

Part of my organizational methodologies regarding tools, materials and supplies had to do with categories and frequency of use within the art classroom. Another part was containers and labeling. It’s a simple and flexible way or getting as little or as much organization to suit your own personal needs.

As a working artist, I rely on the aforementioned methods to keep my personal studio space as organized as possible. These methods feel more important for me at present, because my “studio” is actually just a portion of my living room. Less space requires a few tweaks to my methods. But they still work.

Categories:

My artwork is comprised of several different mediums, with accompanying tools. Storage and organization is required for painting, sewing, paper mâché, wood carving, drawing, jewelry, collage and embroidery just to name a few! There are some categories that have overlap with others as well.

When new materials and supplies are used. And the amount of the supply small. I usually store it with an overlapping category. An example: wire. Until recently, the wire that I was using was simply stored with my jewelry supplies. More wire has been acquired, and now wire has its’ own storage container.

To create your own categories, just stop and take a look at what you have. Break them down into specific categories. This can be done easily during a cleaning of your work area or studio space. You may discover that you have a lot more of some materials and supplies than you thought you did!

Frequency of use:

The more I use a tool, supply or material, the closer it is to my immediate work area. There are eleven containers on my desktop holding pens, markers, pencils, scissors, knives, measuring tools, etc. But the two to my right, containing specific pens (ballpoint and permanent) and a craft knife, small ruler, bodkin (x2), needle nose pliers, a bone folder, a doll needle and a plastic spatula type tool are the ones that I use dozens and dozens of times a day. The other nine  are a little further away.

My paints are stored off my desk. All of my newspaper (for paper mâché) are in a small cubby of a bookcase, as are my buttons, part of my beads, intaglio supplies and empty water containers. Each of these tools or supplies is used at a specific time. Meaning that I need to have something that I need to use them on to need them on my desk. My eleven containers of drawing materials and tools are better kept on my desk than on a bookcase further from my work area.

The right side of my desk is ‘temporary housing’ for some supplies. Right now, I need to have some larger bottles of white glue and paint on my desk while creating some new work. When I finish with them, they go right back to their storage places.

Labeling:

Paint is a large category that requires subcategories. I have acrylic, watercolor (pan and liquid), tempera paints that I use. Each of them is stored slightly differently. Acrylics in cardboard pallets (trays) that can be easily stacked in a storage shelf by my desk. The watercolor and tempera paints are housed in little cases. The liquid watercolor tubes are in an old cookie tin. Each are labeled with what they contain. All are kept in close proximity to one another.

I have an extraordinarily large collection of buttons. They are each stored in second hand metal tins. The buttons themselves are sorted into subcategories of color, material and vintage. Each tin is labeled with what they contain, not just on the top, but on the side so I can easily see them.

The types of labels needed need not be complicated or expensive either. Use whatever small piece of paper I have at hand, including sticky notes. What remains the same is that I use a black permanent marker to write with and I tape the label to the container.

Containers:

With the exception of a few containers, the vast majority that I have are either second hand or recycled. For smaller bits and bobs, like all those buttons I mentioned, second hand metal tins are used. I also have quite a few second hand cookie tins as well. They’re rigid and stack nicely.

I like using clear containers to store my supplies and materials. When I was teaching art, I used the largest clear plastic tubs with lids for most of the supplies for my classroom, as well as my personal studio. One look and you know what’s inside! My work space is much smaller than my previous studio. So large plastic bins just are not practical.

However, I do have dozens of clear plastic bins with lids holding a lot of my art supplies and materials. How did I get them? Easy! Bin candy is very popular here in Finland. The candy is shipped to the stores in clear plastic cube-like, lidded boxes. These boxes are left by the stocking people at the fronts of the store. They’re free for the taking. At most, they require a washing in the sink with some dish soap. The labels are just ignored, or covered with paper and the contents written on with a black permanent marker.

Conclusions:

I’m not perfect. In fact, as I type this blog post, the area around and under my desk has become what my husband calls a “crap slide”. This occurs when my recycled art materials (mostly cardboards and plastics) over-flow their containers (flat bottomed recycled grocery bags) onto the surrounding floor. And yes, I really need to do a major cleaning of my desk and workspace. As well as my supplies and materials. Sorting needs to be done with regard to my supplies and materials. A lot of sorting. So. Much. Sorting.

Guess what I’m doing later this week?!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday!

 

 

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Working Tiny

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on tiny dolls. The Tic, Tac, Toe dolls (10 dolls) were completed. Then I began creating some tinier dolls (3.5 cm). And then some even tinier dolls (2.9 to 3.3 cm). At some point in the future, I will create even tinier dolls (2.5 cm? 2.2 cm?).

It could appear to some people that I have a compulsion of sorts. Scratch at an artist or other creative makers and you’ll find something similar. Calling it a compulsion sounds a bit uncontrollable. Admittedly, there have been times that even I feel an uncontrollable need to create. But it’s more complicated than that.

So, for people looking at my artwork, and for myself. I’ll outline my creative rationale for the teenie-tiny doll army I seem to be creating.

Where do they come from?

My fascination with tiny dolls started very young. Liddle Kiddles and Flatsie dolls in particular. There was a line of Liddle Kiddle Dolls called Jewelry Kiddles. For the Jewelry Kiddles, you got a teeny-tiny doll that was housed inside a little locket like container. This was attached to a necklace, pin, ring or bracelet.

Some of my earliest memories of are of these dolls. I was so young when they were sold, that I have a feeling that they may have been hand-me-down toys from my older sister. She never seemed to really be into dolls as a kid. So this scenario is a likely one. Well..I also had a rather nasty habit of simply claiming things I wanted as a toddler. So I suppose I could have simply pinched them from her as well.

These dolls absolutely fascinated me. They were just so absolutely tiny! They seemed so incredibly precious to me too. It very well could be that my twin loves of dolls and miniatures was born through them.

Not a recreation:

As you might suspect, teeny-tiny dolls in the hands of a three to six year old child have a way of getting lost. Only two or three of my Liddle Kiddle and Flatsy dolls are around today. Their clothing long lost. And their hair a total mess.

As a visual artist, I have no interest in re-creating those dolls. You won’t see me making moulds of their faces. Or painting them on canvas nine meters tall. It doesn’t interest me creatively to simply make another Shirley Strawberry or Cleo Cola. What those dolls do is inspire me to create my own tiny dolls.

The teeny-tiny dolls I’ve created recently are the dolls that I so achingly wanted to make when I was a little five year old girl and lost my last Jewelry Kiddle doll. I’m soothing that part of me that knows that I’ll never see or hold that tiny little precious confidant doll that I would talk to and share all my little kid problems with every again.

Entrepreneurial POV:

After all of the personal (emotional) intrinsic motivation is laid-out. From the standpoint of a small business, my main objective is to sell my artwork to obtain money so that I can pay my bills. It’s a pretty simple equation. As an art-creating small business entrepreneur, I’m not marketing a labor-saving device, a tasty new food product, or even a novel new service.

What an artist offers is an object that is purely ornamental. Even superfluous. And while there are customers who do purchase my dolls simply because they find them attractive and want to have them. There are other potential customers that see the purchase of a doll as not making sense. This may also have something to do with thinking of a doll as a toy as well.

The potential customer may like my artwork, but feel it has no place within their lives. Creating an object that serves a specific purpose, like a brooch or pin (to start with) may entice potential customers to purchase a piece for themselves, or for someone they know. This might also result in additional referrals from people who do not purchase my work, to people they feel may wish to purchase my work

Resistance:

It’s been about a year now that I’ve been pushing around an idea in my mind. Creating some kind of pins, or brooches that have my small and tiny dolls as a major component. The major reason for my resistance is that the concept removes the component of play from the doll itself. It becomes an accessory.

I was gifted a doll pin when I was little. It was so disappointing that I couldn’t actually play with the doll. It wasn’t a doll anymore. My frustration pushed me to remove the pin back. In fact, I had to destroy the pin back in removing it. But the doll was free. That was all that mattered to me.

The appeal of the Jewelry Kiddles for me was that the doll was removable. The doll could also be returned to it’s little protective plastic see-through locket for safe keeping as well. There was something kind of magical about that for me as a little kid. As an adult artist, I wondered if I could create something similar.

Is this giving in?

Creating tiny dolls, actually teenie-tiny dolls that are specifically for pins or brooches — I think what I have in mind is more along the brooch type of description — is that ‘giving in’ to the market? There isn’t a hard and fast, yes or no type of answer to this question. Perhaps it’s simply better to say that my views have evolved.

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you will have seen some of the artwork that I created for the Matara Käytävä Galleria. This exhibit space pushed me as an artist to create artwork that could be displayed vertically, instead of in the round. I began to experiment with how to integrate my dolls into frames and shadow-boxes. The whole experience opened up many creatively interesting ideas for me to explore.

I realized that part of my fascination with placing my dolls behind glass (or plastic as it were) stirred-up all kinds of different emotional responses within me. Some of which could be traced back to those Jewelry Kiddles dolls. To be honest, I was disturbing myself with my own art. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

Now what?

Well, for starters, I’ve begun the brooches themselves. As with all my artwork, they seem to be equal parts planned and highly experimental. The brooches are being made from recycled materials and will be paper mâché. Pictures are of the various stages of my progress are posted daily on my Instagram.

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

 

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A Place for My Brain

(Update: I have created an Instagram Highlights containing photos with captions of my Daily Journal, as well as my sketchbooks and gallery notebooks. You can find them under the title Sketchbooks.)

Using a sketchbook is something that I’ve done since I was in high school. The way in which I use them has changed as I’v changed at a person, as well as an artist. A sketchbook, in my view is like any other tool that an artist might use. My use of sketchbooks has been is something I keep flexible, so that it can continue to be functional for the ways in which I create my artwork.

The type of book:

To be honest, expensive sketchbooks, filled with lovely white paper make me extremely nervous. There is something about them that just makes my brain shut itself off. I can never seem to relax and just draw in them. There is this feeling that I’m going to somehow ruin them by using them.

For many years, I used a small, spiral bound Mead brand notebook. It had lined pages and a few pockets that I could put things in. The large spiral was handy for keeping a pen clipped inside. So I always had something to draw or write with. The covers always had to be dark green too.

I filled these sketchbooks with an endless stream of sketches and ideas. My sketchbooks became even more personal as I also used them for a tremendous amount of personal diary-type entries. The writings fed the artwork, and the sketches fed the writing. Showing my sketchbook to anyone was far too risky a proposition. So it was off-limits to everyone. Even my friends.

Evolving tool:

After becoming an art teacher, I began keeping separate sketchbooks. One for my personal artwork. And another for the ideas I had for potential student art lessons. Dividing the sketchbooks into two distinct entities kept my personal artwork a personal expression of myself as an artist.

The sketchbook for potential student art lessons was something that I could easily share with fellow teachers. Most of the time, this art teacher sketchbook was also crammed full of articles, snippets of this or that, sometimes even partially completed art lessons.

My personal artwork has been greatly influenced by my work as an art teacher, and vice versa. There were ideas that migrated from my art teacher sketchbook to my personal sketchbook, and the other way around as well. I didn’t want to limit myself. Sometimes ideas died after transfer. While others found a creative place to grow.

Currently:

After moving to Finland, money was a little tight. I was surprised at how much the type of notebooks I wanted to purchase to use as a sketchbook cost. Loose-leaf, gridded notebook paper was much more affordable. My knowledge of book binding, as well as some rudimentary sewing tools, went a long way in helping me to create my own sketchbooks.

My sketchbooks aren’t complicated. They’re simple saddle-stitched, pamphlet books. I found an inexpensive brand of large-format, colorful card stock to use for covers. Recycled carton board is used to reinforce the front and back covers. Each of the sketchbooks I make have around 30 pieces of loose-leaf paper folded in half (A4 folded to A5). If I use an inexpensive white drawing paper, 15 pieces of paper are used.

Multiple books:

I have several different small books, some for sketching, some for writing and yet another daily journal. At this point, I’m in the process of figuring out how I want all these books to work together. Presently, in addition to my sketchbook, I also have a book of the same size that I’m using to plan exhibits of my artwork.

Most of the time, I use a few large rubber bands to hold these books closed and together. Especially when I take them outside of the apartment. Making some sort of folio-type cover, perhaps with some elastic bands inside of the folio, is something that I’ve been wanting to make. It seems a little more professional than the wad of rubber bands alone!

The design for this imagined folio isn’t anything extremely fancy either. A cover that will protect the enclosed books. As well as something that allows me to easily swap in and out different books is what I want. Because I like using as many recycled and up-cycled art materials, I’ve been looking around at the second hand stores I frequent. Hopefully I will find something before long.

So, now what?

It’s important to have a place to put your thoughts and ideas. The older that I’ve gotten, the more I believe this to be true. Being able to write and draw and be alone with your own thoughts is important. Writing and drawing allows an individual to reflect, as well as react to the events occurring in their lives. It’s can be quite therapeutic, as well as possibly a lot of fun. The drawing part I mean!

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

 

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Exhibition Art for Sale!

My art exhibit in the Käytävä Galleria at Matara in January generated an increase in the interest in my larger pieces of artwork. And by generated interest, I mean, I sold some of my artwork! It was an instance in which the ‘happy dance’ was done in the privacy of my own living room. Well away from anyone I might blind with my Elaine Benes-like dance moves!

It’s different for a reason:

I’ve added four of the pieces of artwork that I showed at Käytävä Galleria to my shop. These pieces differ a great deal from the artwork that I have in my shop currently. A big reason for this is because the artwork that I created required that it be hung on a wall, and not displayed in a case or behind glass.

Each of these pieces of art have metal hanging hardware so that they can easily be placed upon a vertical surface. Well out of reach of a little person or pet that might find them an irresistible attraction. Adults who may want to touch the artwork are something that will simply have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

New art:

I’ve added y Tragedia, Point of Conception, Sister Bougainvillea and Blue Doll #10 to the shop. Click on their names and it will take you directly to their page in the shop! There has also been additional video added for each piece in my Instagram Highlights. I’ve had to abbreviate the names a little bit though! Some of the titles I chose were a bit verbose I suppose.

If you have any questions regarding these four pieces of artwork, or any of the artwork that I have for sale in my shop, please feel free to contact me!

Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday!

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Time and Organization

I’ve been wanting to have a dedicated series of blog posts that talk about making art for quite a while. There just hasn’t been enough time. Well, actually, there was time. It was just being used up on other endeavors. But that’s just life I suppose. Having lots of ideas of what you want to do. And discovering that allotting the time do accomplish them two very different things.

Time and organization:

Those two terms may not be ones that one would naturally attach to an artist. Or for that matter, any kind of creative person. But I can tell you from personal and professional experience, my ability to manage both of these concepts have proved incredibly beneficial to me.

Part of my genetic inheritance from my father is a fairly good sense of time. I’m one of those annoying sorts of people who can look at the sun and tell you what time it is. As well as being able to basically tell myself what time to wake up in the morning. While my intrinsic sense of the passage of linear time is a handy ability, it does nothing to help me manage my time during any given day of the week.

Keeping track of my time and my artwork is done using a daily journal.

Daily journal:

My daily journal isn’t fancy. And it didn’t cost a lot of money. It’s a small, spiral bound A5 (5-7/8 x 8-1/4 in.) notebook that I picked up cheap in a store bin somewhere in town. The paper is graphed. Which I like quite a bit. As a right handed person, the spiral binding doesn’t bug me like it can bother a left handed person.

Each page is a day. The date and day of the week I write at the top. Each page is divided into three sections. Computer based work, art production and blog. Within each of the three sections, I write it the tasks I want to accomplish that day. In addition, I write in any tasks that get accomplished that I hadn’t intended to do that day.

I’ve used this particular break down for about a year now. And it’s worked well. However, I’m going to be making some small changes and creating additional sections to better fit what I will be working on during the coming months.

What’s included in ‘Computer Work’:

This section contains the most regular daily tasks. This is where I list the platforms that I need to post on daily, like Instagram. I also post to Imgur, but on a weekly basis. My website also needs to be checked on daily. If not several times a day. Staying on top of website updates and shop sales are very important.

Keeping track of my website traffic, as well as my other platforms I frequent are tallied in this section as well. I can track what is working and what’s not working. Sometimes, I get a surge of traffic seemingly out of the blue. Having this section to my daily journal is going a long way in aiding me to discover what works and what doesn’t work from an advertising/social media platform kind of way.

Email and DM information is also noted in this section. I make sure to note when and to whom I have communicated. This may seem a little over the top. But for me, it helps me keep track of what I’m doing and on what day. When I write something down, I remember it. It’s just how my brain works.

What’s included in ‘Art Production’:

Art making, of course! I tend to reference this section in the mornings and evenings the most. In the morning, when I write down what I want to accomplish during the day. And at the end of the day, so that anything I haven’t finished can be moved to the next day.

In recent months, I’ve been working on several different pieces of art at the same time. Having this section of my daily journal helps me to plan out what I’m working on and when. There are times when clay, glue or paint requires time to cure thoroughly before the artwork can be worked on again. While waiting for pieces to cure, I can work on other parts of the piece, so time isn’t wasted.

A new section I’m going to add to this section is computer-based art production. In the past, I tried to accomplish all my computer-based art production on one day. It never worked well. There are several times during the week that I need to work on photo processing, advertising creation and the like. It’s simply easier to include it in the Art Production section. And track it like the other artwork I create.

What’s included in ‘Blog’:

More often then not, it’s a lot of notations about what I might like to blog about. Presently, the way that I’ve been utilizing this section has just fallen incredibly short of what I want them to be. It’s as if I’m throwing jello at the wall and hoping something sticks. I don’t like that. So I’m going to change it.

The first change I’m making is adding a second blog post to each week. Tuesday blog posts will be about the nuts and bolts of being an artist. Something as mundane as how I organize my days to take full advantage of my time is a blog post that will be published on Tuesdays.

In addition, I would also like to write blog posts about materials and techniques. As well as my personal methods of creativity, and/or the methods of other artists and creative people. This will include artists like myself, artists I find inspiring as well as artists from an historical standpoint.

So what does this have to do with Time?

A lot. Working from home requires me to be incredibly aware of on what and how I spend my time working. It’s easy for me to refer to an earlier date(s) to see how long it took me to accomplish a particular task. Or if I had problems with getting something to work the way that I wanted it to.

Journaling has been something I’ve done since I was in high school. It makes sense to me to have a book to keep all of my thoughts and ideas together in. For me, the idea occurs. Then it’s written down, and sometimes elaborated on. And THEN it’s either created as artwork, or made manifest. Mine is just one of many different ways of working.

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

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Inspiration

“Where did you get that idea from?”

“What was your inspiration for this artwork here?”

Inspiration:

I’ve always felt incredibly fortunate as an artist to never run out of ideas. There always seems to be something I want to try or explore. Fortune has seen fit to grant me with far more things that I want to create, than things than I have time to create.

Part of any perceived fortune is completely by design. I have structured my life around the creating of my artwork. Right down to choosing a husband who recognizes how important this is to me. And leaves me to do my own thing, as it were.

For several months, I’ve had this itch to create a larger, paper mâché piece using a chess and/or checkerboard as a base. Both literally and figuratively. I started putting those ideas down onto paper and fleshing them out last week.

Combined ideas:

This may not sound intrinsically interesting. Big deal. I want to create artwork with a checkerboard pattern. Whoop-dee-doo. But inspiration for my artwork is never neat, tidy to to the point. Ever.

Thought processes:

Most of the time, while I’m working on a task, my mind is wandering all over the place. Thoughts and ideas rise and fall in my consciousness. Some stick around for longer than others. There are some that are quickly sketched down, for fear they might be lost. Some of the ideas just will not leave, for whatever the reason.

Everyone does this. Letting your mind wander isn’t uncommon. It’s not some ultra-special, unique ability. People who are not artists might not pay a whole lot of attention to where their mind wanders off to. Or take the time to write down interesting inspirations. They may feel no need to do so. You could say that paying attention to what your mind is getting up to is a thing that a lot of many creative people do.

Dada has had a great deal to do with how I process my ideas and inspirations regarding the creation of my artwork. Nothing is disregarded. I mentally sift through all of the information I come across. Odd juxtapositions have always fascinated me. Couple that with my constantly asking “WHY?!” and it’s no wonder I create art.

Different ideas; same container:

What begins to happen, is that different ideas and inspirations start mixing and mingling with one another. Those that that I might think wouldn’t necessarily ‘go together’ do in fact, go together. They morph. Growing larger and  become more plastic. And before I know it, they’re all smashed together into a final idea for a piece of artwork.

Chess:

Let me walk you through this chess/checkerboard piece I’m currently working on. I couldn’t creatively shake the pattern of a chess board from my thoughts. Ignoring it simply made it far more insistent and even a little angry at me. So, I started sketching.

By sketching either the idea is purged from my mind. Or it becomes a full-fledged piece of artwork that needs to be created.

Many, many years ago, while I was in art school, I had used checkerboard patterns in my lithographs, etchings and woodcuts. It was nigh-on one of my most consistent visual themes. Like any imagery utilized by an artist. It ran it’s course and I stopped using it. That is, until last week.

I found myself returning to some of the ways in which I had drawn those checkerboard patterns. But this time around, I knew it was a chessboard. Not a checkerboard. Huh. I’ve never played chess. I know nothing about it other than the names of the pieces, and Bobby Fischer was really good at it. Oh, the queen can move anywhere in a straight line on black. So I know a teensie bit.

Dolls:

Part of the reason I think I’d been thinking about chessboards or checkerboards, is that the miniature dolls I make, each have their own stand mounts. They do resemble chess pieces. So…I did a little research about chess. (Thank you Kathy for teaching me to do research as an illustrator.)

I now know more about the regulation sizes for chessboards and chess pieces. Again. I still cannot play chess. Nor do I have any inclination to learn to play chess.

Getting messy:

Okay. This is where things start getting messy and weird. And hard to adequately describe. Anyone who has seen my artwork knows that I have a distinct style. Not so much creepy-cute, but weird-cute. To put a finer point on it, it’s really Dada-cute if you ask me.

My ideas and inspiration so far are chessboards and chess pieces, my own miniature doll creations, as well as my own particular style of artistic expression. Enter inspiration #3E, The Yes Album.

The Yes Album was released in 1971. When I was one year old. Some of the songs were recorded the year I was born. It’s easily one of my favourite albums of all time. It’s one of those albums that I can turn on and off in my head at will. Perhaps I’ve burned it into my synapses?

Your Move‘ and ‘Perpetual Change’ were running through my head while I began my sketches for this piece. I’m not an idiot. Your Move has a chess theme in the lyrics. So, I suppose that this is where the chessboard/chess theme may have come from. To be honest, it could be something completely different that inspired the imagery.

Then it all gets way more confusing:

My personal artistic style is very much influenced by objects and toys from my early childhood. Fisher-Price toys, Liddle Kiddle dolls, paper dolls, etc. Sesame Street, The Muppets, The Electric Company, were also major contributors to my artistic style.

Once I had the main two basic visual themes — the dolls and the chessboard. I started to mess around with the three-dimensional visual expression of that. Because, honestly, a chessboard with my dolls isn’t at all interesting to me. It doesn’t make me want to learn to play chess.

I started adding things. Creating recesses. Round pegs. Square pegs. Then I added some cake. And some flesh. Then some dirt. And grass. Flush parts. Hidden parts. Wheels. A pull string. A drawer to store the pieces in.

And still weirder yet:

This part is the hardest to explain or describe, because I don’t really know exactly what it is I’m attempting to recount. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So, I’ve started adding all these extras, drawers and cake and grass and dirt, and so forth and so on. Two questions come to mind: why am I doing that, and how do I know what to add and where?

The short, snarky answer is, “Because I just know. That’s why.” Another somewhat less snarky, and even less adequate answer is, “Because I feel it’s right.” Insinuating that there is some semi-emotional component to these additions. Each of these answer dance around the real reason. I’m basing my choices, all those additions to the main visual imagery, on a fleeting pre-language, non-visual ‘sense’ of contentment/pleasure.

Here’s the even weirder part. The ‘feeling’ that I’m taking about isn’t in any way attached to any known memories of mine. But I can physically ‘feel’ it. I know when I’m feeling it. I know the sensations. And I have absolutely no flippin’ idea what is is, where it comes from or what it’s related to.

My working theory is that the ‘feeling’ must come from when I was an infant. My own memories only become fairly solid around the time I turned three. Prior to that, it’s choppy and blurry. There must be some kind of psychological explanation for this ‘feeling’ that’s the result of some study of individuals.

So…?

This piece of artwork that I’m creating isn’t just one thing. It’s many different ideas and inspirations that reach back to when I was a toddler. All of the things that I have named as inspiration are part and parcel of my personal identity and the culmination of my fifty years of experience on the planet. I’m a single, solitary person, with a never-ending stream of conflicting ideas and thoughts. All of whom are smashing together to create new meanings for myself and those who view my artwork.

To merely identify the individual parts that make up the whole piece of artwork is to deny the artist the uniqueness of their own lived experience. These objects as metaphor are alive inside of me. All at the same time. Working in unison to make me who and what I am at this moment in time and space.

In my artwork, a doll is never, ever just a doll.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

Links

The Yes Album (1971 Original Recording) I love the way that the bass is recorded on this album. There is something about the way that the bass dovetails in with the drumming, especially the snare drum that I just totally floats my boat.

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Discount on New Artwork in Shop!

The Berry Little Ladies!

Oh boy! The name for this limited group of teensie-tinsie dolls came to me while I was working on their little dresses and hats. They just turned out to be so incredibly stinkin’ cute that I thought their name should be just as cute as they are!

I’ve added the ten Berry Little Ladies that I’ve created to my shop. These very special dolls needed a very special debut!

Special Price:

The Berry Little Ladies will have a special price compared to other dolls of this size. For a limited time, each of the Berry Little Ladies will be specially priced at 29€ with specially priced shipping to boot!

These special prices and shipping are only for the Berry Little Ladies!

Thank you all for your continued support! I know that you will adore these Berry Little Ladies as much as I do!