Being ready by Design

Whenever I am in the notion to work I do not want to have to struggle with tools, find things I need, clear off messy work surfaces and do double work type work to make something. I am a one person shop-studio- en plein air Artist. It is up to me to give myself every advantage I am able.

Junk in Plastic Boxes

Containers on a shelf. Like things with like things. 

On the bus I have my tools in a neat vintage Lands End™. One zipper and a snap I am ready to read or sketch. The other places I create are fairly organized, but just. I can wander between projects and return to the easel over many days. Tools line the drawers and parts and pieces fill bins, containers, and the occasional peanut butter jar.

I make it a rule to finish projects– they may not be perfect, that doesn’t matter, I complete my work. Work I’ve promised by a deadline gets to the person before the deadline. If something is needed by Thursday and I get it Monday the piece is ready on Wednesday before 5 p.m.

Because I’m cool? Nope. Because I don’t like things hanging over my head. Besides it’s my word that is worth more than the project I’m working on. If I lose my good name, even if it’s not my fault, then I cannot buy it back.

Brushes cleaned and ready

A process of brush care at the end of a session.

So I keep tools, materials, and work spaces ready for work. I won’t win any awards from minimalist decor folks. I can find anything and I can usually remember where I have filed most of my stuff. That’s my test. Keep like things with like things; label the drawers; use clear containers with labels; put up things as I go and simple processes like that. This keeps something like a mess from hanging over my head.

As I typed before, I admit I won’t win at perfection, zero mess, just a bit of wisdom in the seeming madness. I have a shop-vac, several brooms and dust pants, even a magnet on a rope when needed.

Note I didn’t say “rules”. When things are ‘supposed to be’ done a certain way, or controlled this way, or filled with judgment I usually baulk, or “buck-up” as the Aunties used to say.

Rules are fine but if I make a process that functions well, it will not be perfect. I might leave my acrylic paints all out, in trays that go into a cabinet when I’m finished, but I want to see my materials. It’s like when I get new color pencils–that excites me. I can’t wait to use the new pencil. I’ll even start a new page just to incorporate it into the composition or just go crazy mono-chrome.

Leaving an organized neat area dedicated to acrylics, or oils, or wood-block, or just my easels helps me organize my day-week-month. It’s like my “visual-control” for my project management. I can manage what I see and I “go-and-see” continuously as “walk-around-management” of myself. Big job.

Raygun Build Parts

Selected items ready for  a project.

I know by working with materials on a daily basis, seeing them regularly, and monitoring my progress what I need to replenish. I don’t have duplicated materials, nor do I run out of 20% gray pencils at 3:00 am Sunday morning. I don’t waste time looking for materials and resources; I don’t have waste in duplicated items–6 pounds of “sinker” nails is more than I need for this project–and I keep a re-order list and make a time to order as needed. I also keep a list of items to trade, give away, or sell.

These concepts help me keep my spaces ready to work. Organized for production is what I like to call it. It’s also a fun way to engage with the materials, to bring an idea or inspiration to the front and spring-board into the work.

I have to make the most of every opportunity I make or every time I get the chance to make something that I think is cool. When I’m ready to get busy I am more motivated to do just that.

Going to the shop or to the studio not a struggle, it’s a pleasure.  By design.

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Art, Getting Busy

There are those days when someone passes by me whilst I’m at my drawing pad and exclaims, “I can do that!”

graphite-cat-wary

Graphite on card stock

I smile and keep drawing. After about a second, because I don’t want to lose the moment, I give them a pad and some pencils.

“Oh, no I couldn’t.”

But you just said your could. Give yourself this little gift, this precious time. Draw!

Some of the materials I favor are readily available at most office supply shops or even pharmacies. I chose them for that reason–wide availability.

Among my supplies I have A4 (8.5 x 11)  paper in white and a few colors, some A6 (4 x 6) plain index card stock, a few color pencils, #2 pencils, and blank journal books.

Then I scoop up my satchel and get busy.

I can do that.

Everyday Art

If I want my Art to become more refined, more pleasing, more interesting I must coax a little pencil or paint brush into action.

oct-01-ladybug-on-paper-airplane-paint

Ink on card stock. Prompt was “Fast”.

Art and action are inseparable.

I was reminded of a pretty much universal objection to hitting the sketch book: “But I get tired of doing the same thing all the time.”

Well, then don’t. You’re not being forced into Art are you?

If I get bored I can

  • switch from pencils and brushes to pens
  • charcoal and newsprint
  • draw with your “weak” hand
  • try some new ways to lay down lines

just get going and make it like play.

oct-07-lost-paint

Ink on card stock + color pencil. The prompt was “Lost”.

Make a prompt list and stick with it all during the month.

Just keep going and you will be glad to see your progress. Punch through that boredom with switching out media and an attitude of playfulness.

Serious play. It’s the way…

  1. To make good Art
  2. Stick to making good Art

 

oct-03-collection-paint-ver

Ink on card stock + color pencil the prompt was “collect”. Sorry Charlie Brown.

 

Mallory, First Year Teacher, Makes a Chair

Colorful Chair

Mallory you are already extra-ordinary as first year teacher in a new school– that kind of new as in it has just been built new. How do I know you are already exceptionally impressive, because you are seeking to make your own brand, something recognizable and memorable, and most telling, your trademark has meaning.

You looked at me and started the conversation with a question, “Are you a painter?”

I was in the art supply part of a big box store. I had brushes and paints in my basket.

I thought, being a painter is what I used to hear around the holiday dinner table when the folks referred to how someone in the family earned their daily bread. I smiled at the old-timey reference.

I said, “I am an artist.”

“That’ll do.” You were emphatic and asked me about painting a chair.

Painting a chair? A 3-D chair you sit on or one in a painting?

You smiled that teacher smile. You are good, very good.

You wanted your classroom chair to be special, to stand out. It was a rescue from a thrift store and you knew you could make it sparkle.

Why?

Because you will love what you will be doing, teaching, so much in a chair that is full of colors and shapes. It will engage the students’ imagination. It will also make a statement that the learning space is a special space. Therefore, you pupils must be so special too.

It’ll give you a certain dignity too.

Dignity and charm, two good allies for those who dare to teach others.

Mallory, I see you sitting on a stage in your special colorful chair in fifty-years surrounded by your pupils and former pupils. They will be honoring you for your service as a fantastic teacher, a role model of the highest quality.

You will begin your speech recounting your years as a teacher by telling your admiring audience, “Let me tell you about my chair and how I made it.”

You will tell them about your fabulous chair and your extraordinary life.

And they will marvel at you all the more.

I am pleased I was able to marvel at you when we had our brief conversation and how we searched for just the right colors for your chair. I enjoyed your vision and your ideas. How creative you are.

Thank you, Mallory. You touched something in my soul.

Art is a Verb

Recently I heard a critical response to a fellow artist’s use of some vintage wood in a design. They used 100 year-old wood in their art which was deemed a “waste” by the responder.

lumber4

 

I wish only to explore what “stops the creative process” at this point.

Why was it a waste to use that rare wood?

“If the wood could be used in a more ‘worthy’ application, then it would be a proper use of the material.”  If the wood were made into a fine altar piece or carved doors to a crypt, then it would be something more notable.

Nope.

I wonder in this manner sometimes when I make something new, even one-of-a-kind piece from found objects. Certainly few recycled things I have come a provenance or even an estimation of age. None are any sort of rare things other than they had been “lost”, they piqued my interest, and I re-defined them.

Paint remaining in tubes for fear of waste might deter me if I allowed. The costs of paper, canvas, and brushes do frighten me when I order materials.

But, what if I do not get “it” right?

Do I feel guilty when I fail the materials and decide to start over? Does starting over prove I am un-wise?

Nope and nope.

If every time I failed I stopped the process and cleaned up the materials and placed everything back where it belongs and quit I have only accomplished only an exercise in studio cleaning, and turning off the lights.

Do I fail often?

Yep.

I simply begin again, almost out of reflex. I have yet to understand why starting over is such a “horrid consequence”, a waste. [I’m thinking maybe also stay ahead of deadlines, because missing them qualifies as a “horrid consequence”.]

Why is “waste” such a driving concept?

I think it is rooted in fear of failing. If I mess up this cut, then I’ve ‘ruined’ a piece of 100 year-old wood and the wasting wood cops are sitting in a van outside.

Yep, it is the same with anyone who might mess up vintage lumber or a box of nails.

If the piece of  100 year-old wood rests on the shelf for another hundred years perhaps it will be a buffet for termites.

If and if and if must end. It stops the creative process.

Art is verb, it is about doing.

Carrying Notebooks

Field Notes

I use Field Notes for sketches or to scribble a line I want to remember. The thing is the notebooks help me remember.

The notebooks are well-made and thoughtfully designed. They have withstood rain torrents, sawdust, oil, sweat, and dirt in magnificent fashion. Well designed indeed.

The hazard I have discovered that eats them is the washing machine. I suppose I need to keep two notebooks: one for sketches and scribbles, another to remind me to remove the notebooks from my clothing before I throw them into steamy sudsy water for a robo-wash.

Funny thing, Field Notes did fine in “white-water” when I quit the raft. I suppose I didn’t hit enough rocks to do it any damage.

Need to work more on ‘being aware’. Washing machines are dangerous to notebooks.

I need a label.