Saturday, June 28, 2014

Week 16: Nightmares

In all my years of painting, I don't recall ever having a nightmare about a painting I was working on.  I've certainly lost sleep over them, worrying about how they were going to turn out or how I could fix a problem or how I could get over the Yips.  But my art has generally stayed out of my dreams.  

Technically, my art has continued to stay out of my dreams - it's someone else's painting that has entered my nightmares of late.

I need to back up a little, though.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from a lady who had some questions about a painting she'd ordered on Etsy.  Very long story short, she brought it to my studio, told me she didn't like the way it had turned out for various reasons, and despite my protestations, convinced me to "fix it" for her.  

Next time I need to be more vehement with my "No."  

The problem, according to the owner of the painting, is that it doesn't match the rug in the room where she had hung the painting.  Also, it's too pink, it wasn't painted to the edges, and she spent a fortune getting it framed and still doesn't like it.

In the end, she emailed me photos of the rug (which is very abstract-ish), and asked me to eliminate much of the Pepto Bismol Pink (my description), paint it to the edges, get rid of the drip marks, and make it match her rug.

Let the nightmares begin.

It's been featured in my nightmares twice now, and while I don't remember much about the content, I know the painting was there, taunting me.

The problem for me is threefold:
First, I feel really weird "fixing," or painting over, someone else's painting.  The owner insisted it was ok, it belonged to her now, so I could do with it what I wanted.  Still.  Weird.
Second, the abstract floral style of the original artist is very dissimilar to anything I would do, so "fixing" it has proven tricky.  
Third, trying to make the painting match the fancy rug has meant adding colors that weren't part of the original theme, so it's become overwhelming and without a theme to tie it together.  

It taunts me.  

Also, this keeps popping into my head:

I took a break from it for a week and a half, and my goal for this coming week is to be miraculously inspired, finish the painting in a blaze of glory, and be rid of my nightmares forever.

And then never ever ever to agree to "fix" someone else's painting ever again.  Ever.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Week 15: Young Architects Camp

Last week I spent very little time in the studio, but a lot of time in the classroom.  For the past four or five summers I have taught a camp called Young Architects, where we spend a week designing houses and buildings, and then choose a design to build at the end of the week.  On the first day, I teach them basic architecture vocabulary, and we go on a walk around town and see what we can find from our list.  This year I had a few repeat students, so I changed up an old project and we made crazy house facades after our walk:

A lot of the week was spent on our house designs - I have them do a few different ones: One for the facade they made, one for their own dream house, one for a fictional character, and one for a character I make up. The made-up character is to give them a little bit of practice at designing for the needs of an unknown client, such as:
Name: Skip Roper

Profession: Professional Jump Roper
House needs:
-Big indoor gym for jump rope practice (including trampoline room for increasing bounciness)
-Extra rooms for friends who come for Double Dutch competitions
-Storage closets for jump ropes
-Trophy room
We also spend some time on a website called, where you can design a house and take a virtual tour.  It's a lot of fun!  It also shows them the steps of house design and experience designing for a client.

Someone asked me if I have a background in architecture, and I had to confess that this camp approaches architecture from the point of view of an artist, not an architect.  (The camp is geared towards 8-12 year-olds, anyway, so we're not doing anything too advanced.)  I don't make them do a scale (though I had one student who did anyway!) or be too precise.  It's just an intro to the idea of designing your own home and then building a maquette (small model) to see what it would look like.  

I also worked on a design for my dream house while my students worked.  I didn't have time to work on building it, but will share it with you when I do!  It was immensely satisfying to take ideas I like and combine them into an awesome house design!!  I highly recommend it.  It felt therapeutic.  Just grab some paper (graph paper if you have it), a ruler, a pencil, and your Pinterest boards (well, if you're like me...), and start laying things out!!  Kinda feels like being a kid again.  

Anyway, here are some photos from the week:

It got a little messy! Also, their faces aren't
really tan circles...

One student's house design for Lionel Messi: 

Another student's house - the top floor is a parking garage:

He has a glass elevator on the side

Another house - we use cereal/cracker box cardboard because it's easy for small hands to cut, and if you keep the brown part on the outside it looks fairly uniform.  I used to have students paint their houses, but the cardboard doesn't always fare well...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Week 14: Progress

This week was a week of progress!  I finally got the three main characters of the children's book to a point where I am happy with how they look!  (That rhymed!  Nailed it.)  Once I reached that point, I was able to move forward with storyboarding.  It's fun to bring the book to life in this way.  With my time as Artist in Residence quickly slipping away, I'm trying to kick it into gear and get things done!

I spent one day working on the book while having a cartoon movie marathon (thanks to the library!).  I watched "An American Tail" first - I haven't seen that movie in years!!  Fievel is so adorable, and the song "Somewhere Out There" brought back so many memories of my younger years!  We sang that song all the time.  I had forgotten how tender the ending is, too!  I got all sorts of misty-eyed!  

Next on the agenda was "Kiki's Delivery Service," one of Miyazaki's films I hadn't yet seen.  There were two DVDs in the box, one with the movie, and one with the movie done in storyboards only.  The disc with the movie wasn't working, so I ended up watching the storyboard version!  It seemed appropriate.  It did make me really want to see the colors of the movie, though, so I'll have to borrow it from my sister sometime.  

Finally, I watched "Sleeping Beauty."  My brother is not a very big fan of that movie, since my sisters and I watched it incessantly when we were kids!!  It's just such a fun movie, with great songs.  The prince's singing voice is like delicious melted milk chocolate...why doesn't he sing more?!

I didn't mean for this to become movie review time...but it's fun to watch cartoons!  Made me feel like a kid again, which is maybe also why I was able to be so creative!

Speaking of creativity, I was finally able to work on a violin project I'd been meaning to do.  A woman stopped by my studio a couple of months ago and asked me if I'd take an old, beat-up violin and turn it into art to be auctioned off for a fundraiser for the local Fiddlers Philharmonic group.  I like the way it turned out!  I still might add something to it, but like it as it is, too.  I used my metal letter stamps to stamp part of the poem "The Weary Blues" by Langston Hughes onto it - they are echoing through his head...!  

Speaking of progress and music, I've noticed lately that my ukulele playing has improved greatly as well.  It might have something to do with the fact that I'm actually practicing every day...  We've had my grandfather's uke hanging around the house all of my life, and it's nice to finally be carrying on the tradition! I brought it in to Two Twelve on Wednesday to accompany us singing "Happy Birthday" to Margie, our fearless leader! We also had these cupcakes that look like her adorable dog, Molly. 

In other news, I finally got my sign up in the studio window!  Yay!  Just in time for all of the traffic heading down Michigan Avenue for the race on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.  This weekend is always a bit of a pain for us locals - all of the traffic heading west now, then back east to the expressway starting on Monday.  They change the timing on the traffic lights so the traffic on Michigan Ave can get through easier, which is a pain for getting from one side to the other!  There was a couple sitting at the light when I finished putting up my sign, and they shouted that it looked good.  Ha! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Week 13: Artist Reception

I honestly don't have a lot to post about this week!  I've been working, getting organized, got back in the studio after the pipes got fixed, got a little head cold,  slept, watched "Royal Pains" on Netflix while I rested, and had some majorly weird dreams all week long! 

The biggest thing this week is the Artist Reception for my exhibit at "My Favorite Cafe," a nice cafe downtown Saline.  It's Saturday the 7th (tomorrow if you're reading this right when I post it!) from 2-4pm, and my awesome family is making some delicious baked goods for the event.  There will also be beverages available through the cafe!  If you're around, you should come check it out!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Beautiful Oops

As mentioned last Friday, I was able to go back to the school where I used to work and do a brief art lesson with some of the sixth and seventh grade students.  I only had around 45 minutes, so I didn't want to do anything too labor-intensive or that we couldn't finish.  Thankfully I've been teaching art for so many years that art lessons spring into my mind fairly quickly for any situation!

I decided that, despite the fact that they were middle school students, I would share with them a wonderful children's cook by Barney Saltzberg called Beautiful Oops.  The book shows examples of things that might be thought of as mistakes - a torn piece of paper, a drop of paint, a hot chocolate stain - and how they were turned into something beautiful - a drawing of a dog, a rabbit in a car, and a frog.  

Before I went to teach this lesson, I prepared some "oops" papers with scribbles, diet Pepsi circles, tears, etc, and then I had the students choose one of these papers to transform.  I gave them free reign to do with the pages what they wanted.  I then asked them to be prepared to share a story about what was happening in their drawing when they were done.  

Here are some of their drawings: 

I feel like it's easy to make up a story of some kind for each of these drawings, even without knowing what the students' ideas were.

It's harder for adults to let themselves go and just create!  We're too caught up in "reality" - paying bills, working, being a grown-up.  But being creative is so important - it's such a wonderful outlet and way to find clarity and peace.  So, the next time you tear the newspaper, or spill on your to-do list, or leave a coffee stain on a magazine, see how you can make that "oops" into something beautiful, and then share it here with us!