07 June 2014

Practicing with an Index Card Challenge

I've been very productive this week, making small 4 x 6 inch pieces everyday for the past seven days.

June 1 is the beginning of an annual challenge for artists called ICAD = Index Card A Day. The Mistress of Ceremonies is Tammy Garcia over at Daisy Yellow.

Tammy is a-mazing at watercolor and drawing techniques and her index card challenge is so simple that children can follow along -- just find an index card and paint, draw, glitter, sew or do whatever visual art you do on it's surface. Just one card each day from June 1 to the end of July, or 61 cards.

There are prompts for each day and weekly themes if you need inspiration. Sometimes I'll use them and sometimes I may go off on my own.

I am still trying to discover if I have a "style" or what makes my particular art unique.

An abstract watercolor background becomes the sun and a beach.
I have been dabbling in rubber stamping, collage, drawing with pen and pencil for several years. More recently, I've explored acrylic paint and tried to be more serious about watercolors.  Now I'm trying to figure out which techniques work best for me. The only way to do that is practice.

My favorite ICAD that I've made so far. Prompts: Text + Puzzle.  India ink, pen and watercolor over a page from an illustrated edition of The Arabian Nights.  I decorated first, then cut up the paper into puzzle pieces and arranged them so that you could see the spaces in between just a bit.
The idea with this art challenge is not to make "finished" works of art, but just to make art.  I am working on figuring out how to make the idea in my mind manifest on the paper.  If this ends up being messy: fine. If this results in something that looks good: great!

Prompts: Text + Galaxy. I made dots and circles on this card, way before I thought of turning them into planets. When I got to the prompt "galaxy" I thought of a watercolor resist painting that I made a few years ago.

01 June 2014

Turning My Face Towards the Light

Last winter was a long and cold season. I had to fight hard in order to keep the winter blues away.  I am now fully aware that I experience a dramatic shift in mood and energy once autumn rolls around. It has been a struggle to educate myself on how to deal with this mental roller coaster.

I bought a blue light box in late November and began using it every morning at the recommendation of a medical practitioner. I reminded myself to take walks outside in the sunlight on my lunch breaks whenever the weather wasn't too bitter. I sat near any windows I found. My daily routine included opening the shades in my apartment early every morning (I know, it seems obvious that the shades should be open, but I like it in my cave when my winter mood is upon me.)

The one fully-realized painting I did was of a sleeping girl and her guardian wolf in the winter woods. I was actually quite pleased with how the vision in my head was realized on the page. The painting is actually proof that I managed to gather some energy for art-making even in the darkest month. Too late, I realized that I had already planned another project to distract myself again from art-making.

Fearing the mental stagnation that I felt during the winter 2013, I had enrolled myself in an intellectually challenging, paralegal class that began in January. It was a test, really, to figure out if I wanted to expand my career horizons. I worked hard all semester, and did well in the course, and the information will be useful. I also learned that I don't want to go in that career direction. A useful thing to learn.  I had a sinking suspicion that as easy as it is for me to do well in a field where brain-power is key, focusing on adding facts to my brain at this point in my life is kind of like running on a treadmill. True, it is good exercise, but it is at odds with a need to expand and vary my training. Especially, if I have a goal to think beyond the boundaries of my life as it has been until now.   Taking the law class helped me to decide that making art is what I need to be doing with my spare time.

I recognized this because as I began the climb back out into the full light of day, my mind and my mood cleared again. Slowly I was able to push the cobwebs away.  I discovered that I wanted to be outside. I wanted to do something more active.  The old me would have found engaging in class work productive, but studying did not give me the same feeling of satisfaction as painting or mixed-media creating. While being engaged mentally in a class did help me mentally, it dawned on me that I was craving something not purely about filling my mind with facts.

April rolled around and I was using my weekend time to draft legal briefs and memoranda, when there was something inside me nearly bursting to create visual art.  Just as soon as my class began to wind down, began to include painting in my routine again.

I am part of a year-long group working with artist Effy Wild on imagery relating to the lunar cycles. I'm very glad that I chose to begin working again on journal paintings on her May flower-themed prompts. I learned a great method for creating idealized feminine faces from Effy's online tutorials.  I find faces so difficult, but when the prompt came, I took the plunge and worked in acrylics to create this Forest Sprite surrounded by blooming flowers, with inspiration from the iconic gold backgrounds with spirals and halos of blossoms favored by Gustav Klimt.

 I look at her and still see all of the problems, the lines that didn't quite go where my mind willed them.  I am trying to also see that my practice is leading somewhere, I only I am brave enough to continue trying to draw and paint.  The violet tucked behind her elfin ear, just felt right to me.

It is clear to me now that the work I am doing in attempt to be more balanced and creative year-around is slowly happening. I have no idea how I am going to keep my creative juices flowing during the darker months later in the year, but I realize now it is the path I'm on.

I don't have any difficulty with it at all in the warm months, and now the height of summer is coming.  And now my face is turned like a flower to soak up those sunbeams.