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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Drawing Blanks–How To

twilight-forest-vi-oct-26-2016-paint

Ink & acrylic on stretched acetate

Many times I look at a blank page and have a curious thought: “what’s in there

that I need to find?” Have I trained myself to think that way? Yes and no. I go

that way mainly because I rebelled against blank pages (and walls) so I drew

some shape or made a splotch of color or scribed a word or a sentence. So I kept

the habit as I lived. It’s like giving a horse a little nudge in a wide open field

with no one else present, just a friend, the wind, and wide open spaces.

So what is the “how-to” of this?

Move forward and try.

See how far you can take your day-dream. Better yet see how it can take you.

All it needs is a little nudge.

A Second Look

V-8 Blue & Red 1

A photograph shows clearly what I needed to do.

Taking the Second Look™

By fortunate accident I found a way to find out what needs my attention in a painting. I call it the Second Look™.

It takes some form of “taking a step back” practice to get my critical eye on the piece. Sometimes three steps back will give me a better perspective.

Other times I use various lenses to get a close up to better determine how I can make my work better. When I am unsure of what the “problem is” that is getting stuck. Stopped trying to determine what needs to be “corrected”. Time is valuable.

Preparing photographs of several pieces in progress showed me immediately and very clearly what was in need of “fixing”.

I trust my senses but also realise I can be misled.

So I darkened the shading on the inside right arm of the “V”. That is the first improvement.

My improvements began with taking a photograph.

It may take more than two “looks” to get this piece to its optimal representation.

Any project can be one more for the “finished” category or it can remain “a work in progress”. It is not a good feeling to have a lot of unfinished panels to finish.

Getting “it done” is a great feeling. It makes getting back to work every day a joy.

Surprise! A Second Look helped me to see what I needed to improve.

Improve every day.

 

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.

Art Maketh the Man

Sometimes a person needs another person to be whole. The sweet life.

One more round of billiards is a cool end to the weekend. Fine good friends.

Run one more mile before calling it a workout. Stick to it.

Nail bent1

That won’t do.

Art requires much of me. On one side,  I am filling my notebook with reminders to correct errors. In that book I record the blunders, the almost-but-not-good-enoughs, all the lessons I am learning are in there. “That’s one for the Notebook” is a common phrase around me.

I started over each time.  Ate the mistakes, went around the breakdowns, and overcame the log-jams.

That is design. The stylish well-pressed clothes and perfect hair under the lights, well, that is glamour. I hope someone else is paying for that.

On the other side, I am stocking my toolbox with tools that will help me to continuously improve over time, every day.

Attitude is part of my tool box, it is a mental process of improvement. Improvement makes me more efficient and less likely to blunder (so much).

The Fundamentals have been banged in to me from first memories:

  • Show up to work
  • Do the Beginning
  • Stick to it through the Middle
  • Be there for the End
  • Turn out the lights, day is done

Marketing is essential, but I must have something to trade on, something to grasp someone’s imagination and I must communicate clearly and simply.

 

Nails Just Right1

Just right, those nails have held well.

Talk is cheap. I must rock my art.

That is why I work every day. Art makes sense that way to me or else it is a hobby. Nothing sideways about that, go for it if that is your gig.

Art is my Fire.

Art makes me whole.

 

If you would like to comment feel free.  I usually respond within 24-hours during the week. 

A Study in Green

I will reduce the number of my unfinished projects.

The reasons I fall back on for why I fail to finish a project are killing my creative drive. I realize the explanations I use for not finishing must stop. I need a plan for improvement.

I will get better at finishing projects.

Staying on task is the objective of this Study in Green.

Sometimes I use a reference. This time I did not use a picture but I had a person in mind, so to say.

Materials

  • Old bristle brush, customized
  • Cedar shingle
  • Nearly dead acrylic paint, mix blue green (teal-ish), Phthalo green, cool gray

 

The Experiment

This was a test with minimal parameters, leaving judgment aside. Doing my best in the time allotted. Stay loose. Finish the assignment.

Parameters

  1. Portrait
  2. Make the eyes “vivid”
  3. Limited pallet – two greens plus a cool gray
  4. Twenty-five minutes

no flash 5

Results

  1. I put the brush down when the timer rang
  2. I cleaned up my mess
  3. See the photo

What can be Will Be

My usual method to assemblage starts with some kind of “ground” or what receives all the pieces. Then comes the parts arrangement. Take a picture; then, re-arrange the components, and finally take another picture.

Flow of the Cosmos2

“Star Fountain”, wood, metal, acrylic paint, varnish, April 2016

I’ve  mixed it up a bit.  I take a picture of the parts and cut them out, then arrange those cut-outs on a backdrop.

I thought, “Forget the pictures.”

Designs?

Where am I?

I’m stuck is where I am.

I have to do better. Don’t give up.

Opportunity to re-start.

 

I was jammed. Run hard a-ground.

What I used to make this project was one word: altered.

I altered the plan.

It worked. Same parts different approach. New concept.

I got un-stuck.

New tool for my tool box.

What can be will be.

Eventually.

Stay in the hunt.