Friday, March 28, 2014

Week 3: Studio Time

I really can't believe that I'm already three weeks in!  It's scary how fast time goes.  Especially knowing all that I want to get done in the next six months!  This week I felt like I got a lot done, though.  I was able to spend a LOT of time in the studio, finished the painting from my last post, almost finished another painting, went back and fixed some things on the first painting (I'm too nitpicky, seriously!), and even framed it!  (Thanks, IKEA, for making awesome, inexpensive, square frames.)

I really do love my studio time.  I've missed having a dedicated studio space the last couple of years, and know now that I need to be sure to always have one - it helps keep me on track!  It's so great to have a space away from home to go create.  If I'm home, there will always be other things to distract me, but when I'm in the studio I'm there to work.  I take breaks and from time to time stare out at traffic on Michigan Ave (mesmerizing!), but I've been accomplishing more in the last couple of weeks than I have the last couple of years (painting-wise).  It's fabulous!

One thing that I've been thinking about more and more is keeping a sketchbook.  I have a couple of different sketchbooks I've been working in, and have gone through periods of true dedication and periods of complete forgetting.  I'll goes days or weeks working in my sketchbook every day and then suddenly a month goes by and I've done nothing in it.  I've realized that I see more progress when I do at least something in my sketchbook every day, so I need to get back on track with that.  

OK, a somewhat dull post, but a very good week!  Well, except for my speedometer deciding it didn't want to work anymore last night.  I was going nowhere near 100mph when this photo was taken (slower, not faster!):

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Painting Progress: Rusty Hinge

As mentioned in my last post, I've been working on a series of watercolor paintings based on photos that I have taken at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.  I finished the first one in the series yesterday, and took photos as I went so I could see the progress.  I thought I'd share them with you, too!  I don't have an official name of the painting yet, but refer to it as Rusty Hinge (too superfluous?).  Maybe I should call it something like, Time Passes, or Bleeding Gate....?  Anyway, don't compare the reference photo and the finished painting too closely...  But I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!  And I'm my worst critic.  (Seriously, I am.) 

Reference Photo
Step 1: Add background color, put masking fluid
on parts that need to stay white and clean
Step 2: Add light layers - use salt to get textures

Step 3: Start adding details

Step 4: Continue to add details

Step 5: Finish!
Step 6: Obsess about certain details
and go back and fix them...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Week 2: Feeling Like an Artist Again

As mentioned in my last (brief) post, I started to feel like an artist again this week.  In grad school, I had papers to write and philosophers to research and presentations to give and all that, but I also had hours in the studio to spend getting really lost in a painting.  I love to watch movies while I paint, and spent a lot of time wandering the stacks at the library finding new things to see.  This week I felt like I was back - back to the library, back to the studio, back to being a real, full-time artist!  

It was glorious.

As well as working on illustrations for the children's book my brother wrote, I'm working on a series of paintings based on photos I took at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.  Greenfield Village is one of my favorite places to spend a day (or an afternoon, or any time at all!).  Historic (Old-Timey!) baseball games on Saturdays are the best, and the village is beautiful, with all of the old buildings, the carriages, the Model Ts, the people in period dress, etc. 

One theme that tends to show up a lot in my work is close-ups of objects or places.  I like to see the details that make up what we see, including in museums and historic places, and have previously done a series based on photos taken at The Henry Ford Museum (click here to see that series).  It's great to be working on a series again, and this one in particular brings back wonderful, warm memories of time spent at one of my favorite places.

The photos below aren't the best - taken quickly in the studio yesterday - but they show some of the progress that I'm making.  It's slow, but it's fun to see the step-by-step process of the paintings as I add layer after layer of paint.  I'll add more photos as I go (there are four other paintings I'm working on now, too - it allows me to keep working - while one is drying, I can pull out another) as well as, of course, the finished pieces!  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Blog to Blog Shout-Out Loop

Speaking of Two Twelve Arts Center, they gave me a sweet shout-out on their blog!  They even included a link to this blog, so if you click here, it'll take you to their post about me; then you can click on the link in their blog to come back here...and end up in a loop that will allow you to travel in time!  (Only forward, though, sadly.)  

I painted for about five hours straight today and got a lot done and was pleased with the results.  (The latter part doesn't always follow the former, I can assure you!)  Every day I feel more and more like an artist again - I'd missed that feeling!  It's wonderful to be back!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Two Twelve Arts Center

Since I'm going to be talking about Two Twelve Arts Center (212) a lot on this blog, I thought I'd tell you a little about it.  You can find out more about the history of 212 on their website,, but here's a basic run-down:

Margie Bovee, who has done more in her life so far than several people put together, moved to Saline in 1995.  After working for a while as a writer and photographer for our local newspaper, the Saline Reporter, she realized that an arts center was needed in the community, and the idea blossomed from there.  As a director of the Cowan Slavin Foundation, a 501 C 3 non-profit corporation, she presented the idea to the board, and the idea passed.  In 2005, they leased a house at 212 Michigan Avenue, and the following spring the first classes were held.  The Arts Center has since moved a few houses down to 216 Michigan Ave, but the classes and amazing creative feel still remains.

One of the great things about 212 is that it's not just classes, it's a local hub for creative people.  The people who work there are some of the most fun and creative people I know, and can take a basic idea and run with it in ways I never would have imagined.  Aside from classes, camps, and workshops, they also have a weekly meeting of artists called Cake Eaters, art challenges, yarn bomb activities (covering tree trunks in knitted yarn) and other fun, local events.

They also have an Artist of the Month series, which allows local artists a venue to show their work, and they do all of the promotional work for you!  I was the showcased artist last fall:

Needless to say, I'm very happy to be a part of this haven.  I got my start here a couple of years ago, after I'd finished grad school and moved back to Saline.  A friend of mine, Val Mann, told me about 212.  She's very involved in the arts community in the Ann Arbor area, and is so encouraging to up-and-coming artists!  (She's also part of the reason I got my first teaching job - a great person to know and a great friend!)  I walked into 212 one day, mentioned that Val had sent me, and everyone's ears perked up and they asked me to sit down.  A few months later I was teaching classes and camps, and have been doing it ever since!  

My new studio space (more on that in another post) is a few blocks down from 212 - seriously, a dream come true!  

My second week momentum is continuing to pick up, so I'll check back in later this week to let you know how it goes!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Being An Artist In Residence (No Pressure)

For the last 5 months, I've had a very rigid day-to-day schedule at my job as a middle school instructional assistant.  Be here at this time, for this long, then go there; help this student with this project, then that one with that homework, etc.  I always knew where to go when, and (for the most part) what was expected of me.

It's veeeerrry different as an artist in residence!  Suddenly I have all of this time on my hands, and I'm the only one telling me where to go.  I have some responsibilities at Two Twelve Arts Center, but for the most part I'm on my own.  It's taken some adjusting, to say the least.

Now, I know that having all sorts of time sounds great, and believe me, it's nice to have the freedom!!  But too much freedom can be a bad thing, too.  I'd like to say that I immediately set up a schedule that I diligently followed, accomplishing more in my first week as A-I-R than I ever could have hoped or dreamed!!  But that would be a lie, and that's just no way to start out a blog.

The truth is, it's been hard not to let myself sleep in just a half an hour longer since there's no one keeping track of when I show up at the studio.  Or to reorganize my paints again rather than get to work right away.  Or to stare out the window at the traffic on Michigan Ave because there are no students demanding my attention.

I've found that time slips by and suddenly it's 5:00 and my stomach is growling and I've been painting lily pads for an hour and I can't remember why.  Ah, yes - practice!  Right?  

The good thing is, at the start of my second week I'm feeling a little more focused.  My new paints and paper are here, I have a plan in mind, the studio is coming together, a schedule with my studio mate is getting settled, and I'm starting to realize that this is real.  It felt like a dream for so long, and here it is!  I'm actually doing it!

And yet... Around Wednesday of last week (a snow day - hopefully the last of the season!), I was feeling really anxious and couldn't figure out why.  Here I am, living the DREAM, and yet I'm feeling out of sorts and stressed!  I paused to think about why that would be, and came to the realization that that's just it - I'm living my dream - creating art for a living (at least for six months)!!  And in the back of my mind is this little, horrible, nagging voice saying, "What if I fail?  What if I don't make it as an artist?  What if, six months from now, I have nothing decent to show for it?  What if my dreams fall flat?"

I hate that voice.

Luckily I have a few very important things: a loving, supportive network of family and friends who always lift and encourage me; faith in God who brought me this opportunity for a reason; and experiences in the past on which I can look back and gain perspective.  I wrote in a blog post once about the importance of Impossible Things, and how looking back on things you once thought impossible but overcame or achieved can help get you through new challenges.  In this case, I've been thinking a lot about grad school - sometimes I still can't believe I did it!  I got a Master's degree in Fine Art Painting!  I did intricate, crazy, complicated paintings!!  And if I did it then, I can do it now.  ...Right? 
An example of one of those crazy,
complicated paintings from grad school

I know that I have a lot to gain and learn from this experience over the next six months, and hope in the end I can add this to my growing list of Impossible Things: I was Two Twelve Arts Center's Artist In Residence, and I nailed it.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

At Last, Here Comes the Sun!

I woke up this morning and while I was getting ready, I turned on Pandora. The first song to come on? "At Last" by Etta James. AT LAST!!! At last here I am, the first day of my Artist Residency with Two Twelve Arts Center (hereafter "212"). It was perfect. 

The second song? "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. With the temps climbing into the 40s for the first time in months and months, it fit!! A perfect second song on this, the first day of the rest of my life!!! (Thought I'd add a little melodrama to get things moving here...) 

I'm going to try to keep up with this blog so you can follow me on my artistic journey over the next six months (and after), and wanted to start right on day one. I even downloaded the Blogger app so I can blog on the go!! 

My first day has been spent organizing my art supplies, moving them to the studio, setting things up, filling out paperwork, etc. Since the studio is right on Michigan Ave, the front windows were a mess, so I spent some time washing them. (Which I didn't mind, since it's so nice out!!) Now I'm organizing my watercolor paints to see what I need to order. It's non-stop excitement! 

This morning I had breakfast with Margie Bovee, the director of 212, and we're both so excited, we just fed off of each other! She has a very catchy enthusiasm and is so full of wonderful ideas-it's great to be around creative people like her and everyone at 212.  

I'll end here with a few photos from the day. I hope you'll keep coming back to see what I'm up to! Later this week I'll give more of an intro to 212, my studio co-habitant, Kat Foley (who's letting me crash in her space!), and to the project on which I'll be focusing during my time here. 

At last, my friends, here comes the sun!!!
Michigan Ave facing west towards the studio
View from the back of the studio looking out
Painting Supplies
Organizing watercolor paint tubes
My table by the window where I'll be spending many hours over the next 6 months!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Welcome to my Art Blog!

I'm so happy to have you here!  I'm looking forward to working on this new blog and sharing my art experiences with you.  I'll be posting about all kinds of art-related things, such as:

  • Art tips I use
  • Websites I like
  • Artists I'm interested in
  • Art supplies
  • Tutorials
  • What I'm working on in my own work
This last one will be especially pertinent as I begin my artist residency with Two Twelve Arts Center in Saline, Michigan!  I'm very excited about this opportunity, and am especially grateful to Margie Bovee, who came up with the whole idea one afternoon when her thinking cap was in full gear!  The most amazing part?  In January I sat and wrote down what I would do if I could do anything I wanted to do, and, six weeks later, unbeknownst to her, Margie delivered to me just that dream.

I hope you'll stick with me on this adventure and many artistic adventures to come!!  If you're in the mood for a lot of random things, including poetry, ramblings, and silliness, feel free to check out my other blog, Tuesdays Aren't Just for Robots Anymore.  I'll bring some of that silliness here, too, on occasion, but will keep the bulk of it there, just to be safe.