Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gobbledygook (or, Katherine's Crazy Is Showing)

I started a blog post earlier today with a clear purpose in mind.  I knew what I was going to write about, and thought it'd be really good to get it out of my head.  Little did I know that I seem to have a condition of some sort.  Let's call it...Abstraction on the Brink of Lineality...??  (I like making up words...)

Here's the problem: I'm crazy an abstract thinker.  I'm an artist, after all, and am constantly pulling ideas together, then apart, and then together again.  (Consequently, I'm pretty good at fixing things, so that's a bonus.)  I can make up stories on the fly, and come up with silly creatures and characters and paint or draw them with some success.  I'm great at brainstorming and finding new ways to do things. 

Linear thinking, though...  Guh.  It's the WORST!!  Who wants to go from A to B to C to D and so on when it's so much more fun to start at W, jump over to L, circle back to O, and end at A?  

Whether or not I want to think linearly, I know I have to in order to get this whole art business going.  I have lists, and lists for those lists, and spreadsheets upon spreadsheets, and reminders on my phone and post-it notes, and still, I feel like my brain is swimming.  I want to make so many things!!!  But I have to think in a linear manner to get there.  I need to have a certain amount of money to buy a certain number of things so I can sell those things and make more money to buy more things to sell.  A B C A B C. **SNOOOZE**  (I need a business manager who works for paintings and high fives.) 

My brain is rebelling against me in this.  The abstract part of my brain is getting nervous, thinking this linear thinking bugger is trying to take over, and is trying to oust the interloper.  As a result, my brain is swirling as the two parts spar (I'd like to think they're fencing) and one tries to gain dominance.  (Hmmm...there may be a painting to come here...)

The odd thing is, I'm actually a fairly organized person in general.  I like to think that the left and right sides of my brain balance fairly well.  I've had a number of office jobs where I've had to think very linearly, I'm good at following a recipe, I read books from beginning to end (usually).  Yet I spend most of my life in the abstract world of an artist.  I feel like it should balance out.  (It doesn't.)

The point of all of this gobbledygook is that the abstract side of my brain is hindering me in many ways as I try to move forward.  (Technology is also hindering me quite a bit, which was actually the orginal subject of the blog post I began earlier and scrapped, because it went in 10 different directions and I couldn't pull it back together.*)  Nonetheless, I'm fighting back, and with the help of friends and family will soon have several ducks in a row (hmm...another painting idea...) and will keep moving forward.  

(As I've been writing the last two paragraphs, a part of my insane brain has still been mulling over what the illustration of my brain parts sparring would look like.  A paint brush vs a ruler?  Jumbled letters vs letters all in order?  The left half of the brain vs the right half?  Ew, no, I don't really want to draw brains.  That's partly why I dislike zombies so much - the whole eating brains thing.  It's gross!! On a slightly different note, my friend Cori once asked the very important question: why isn't it spelled zomby?  Cori also sent me a picture of what she imagined her brain looked like at a very stressful time in the semester.  It was Squints from "The Sandlot" looking sort of crazed right before he jumps into the deep end of the pool and then kisses Wendy Paffercorn "long and hard."  This (Crazed Squints), I imagine, is what my brain looks like on a regular basis these days, as illustrated by this nonsensical paragraph.)

Where was I?  Huh.  If I was thinking linearly, I'd go back and reread this post and make a grand, organized finish.  But my brain's been sparring with itself all day and is pretty tired, so I think I'll skip that and just put a photo here of the painting I did today: Automaton Katherine** thinking of all of the things she wants to create without a care in the world.  

Go to for a better image!
If you want to, of course.  No pressure.

*I'll probably publish parts of that post another time.  I like where I was going for a while, but then it sort of got away from me.  I'll grab a lassoo and pull it back on track for your reading pleasure at a later date.  I mean, it had a great "The 'Burbs" reference!  Can't go wrong with that movie. 
** Why did I end up painting myself to look like an automaton?!?  No one knows.  My brain might know why, but it's certainly not telling me.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Real Artists of Washtenaw County

If there was a reality show about being an artist, I think the action would go something like this:

Scene 1, at a local cafe

Artist 1: Did you submit to that show at the Snuffleupagus Gallery?
Artist 2: Yeah.  You hear anything back?
A1: Yeah, I got in!!  You?
A2: Sorry, my phone's ringing, hang on.
A1: I didn't hear your phone ring...
A2: I really gotta take this.
A1: Are you crying?
A2: Naw, I'm allergic to rejection.  I mean, pollen!  Excuse me...

[Exit Artist 2, weeping into her silent phone.]

Scene 2, later that day, in Artist 2's home

[Phone rings]
Artist 2: Hello?
Artist 1: Hey, sorry about earlier.  I thought for sure you got in!
A2: No, it's ok.  I mean, a lot of galleries are all about big, abstract art, and I'm more of a superrealist who paints small, so I totally get why they rejec...didn't accept me.
A1: Um, yeah.
A2: Right? Which painting of yours got in?
A1: Oh, you know, the one sskdfjddjfiejs...
A2: Wait, what? I think your phone went out.
A1: Oh! I said...the one of the dog park.
A2: What. What? WHAT? The super-realistic mini painting you did when we both went and painted the exact same scene at that dog park and you said Well this isn't really my style but I'll try it and I said Yeah, you should, maybe I'll try to do abstract sometime and you said Ha wouldn't that be funny if we switched styles and I said Yeah, it'd never go anywhere though, and now you got into a show using MY STYLE AND I GOT REJECTED WHEN I DID ALMOST THE EXACT SAME PAINTING??!!??
A1: .....  ......  Um, I think my phone went out again....

[End phone call/scene]

The show would go on in much the same vein.  One artist works her tail off and submits like crazy to shows non-stop, and another only does one or two.  The latter gets in and wins prizes, the former bangs her head against the wall.  She picks herself up again, reminds herself that this is what she loves, that she'd rather be rejected as an artist than accepted as anything else, and moves forward.  And is knocked down again.  And moves forward.  And is knocked down again.

This is the life of an artist, and for some insane, inexplicable reason, this is the life I have chosen.  I've had many different jobs over the years, from teaching to office work to retail and restaurant work, and being an artist is what feels right - it makes me happiest and is what I want to do.

But WHY? I ask myself!!  When the life of an artist is filled with constant rejection, failures, criticism, and anxiety, why is this the life I find myself pursuing?!  Every time I create a piece of art, I put myself up for a little bit of failure. Every painting is a gamble, and it could turn out well and be accepted and loved, or I may hate it and so will everyone else. Or maybe it'll be a mix of the two.  It's a highwire act, and at any moment, I might fall. (I'm blessed, though, to have a net of family and friends to catch me.)

Nevertheless, I keep finding myself drawn to my art supplies.  Art is about problem solving, and I'm a good problem solver.  Maybe it's because I'm a middle child (peacemaker) or a natural teacher, or it's just the creativity ingrained in me, but I love to look at a canvas or a piece of paper or any surface and think, "How can I take this blank expanse and make it into something better?" I'm thrilled when I'm in the middle of a painting! (Don't ask how I feel at the beginning or the end...) I love to think of something ridiculous (balloon animals having adventures...) and be able to execute that idea in paint with the skills I have worked hard to learn and develop. I often just smile when I paint and odten feel a sort of lightness, and almost always some amount of peace.

It's that feeling of happiness and laughter and amusement that makes me keep going back.  And it's the successes I've had, as well.  Not so much the getting into galleries or shows as much (though that certainly helps...), but I love bringing a smile to people's faces.  I like to interact with people and talk about my art and why I do it.  I love that conversation, and the feeling of connecting to others in a way that words alone won't do. 

This is why, against all good judgement, I keep going back and facing that rejection.  I've become MUCH thicker skinned over the years as a result of all of my critiques and rejections, but it still hurts.  (I had a really good comparison to Thomas Edison and the electrocution of thick-skinned elephants here, but it seemed a little too macabre.)

This is also why I'm launching a GoFundMe Campaign in an effort to get my art career moving forward.  I love making art.  I love when other people are brought even a small measure of joy by my art. I would LOVE to make a living doing this amazing thing.  

If you find yourself looking at a painting by me or another artist and smiling, or contemplating, or enjoying it in any measure, please consider supporting that artist.  Many people giving small amounts can make a huge difference, too, so please consider sharing their work, or their crowdfunding pages, and helping give them a boost and maybe a rejection-free day.  Thank you!

To see more of my work, please click this link here: Katherine Downie Fine Art
For my GoFundMe page, click here: Art to Feed Thy Soul
To follow me on Instagram (where I post almost daily updates), click here: Michigan Artiste
To follow me on Twitter or Facebook, click these links: Michigan Artiste, Katherine Downie, Artist

And here's a little video I made to amuse you and show you just how easy supporting an artist can be!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Painting Auction, Take 2!

Welcome back, everyone!

Today we're going to try the auction here on my art blog in the hopes that the commenting section will be less confusing than over on my website!

This is the painting on the auction block today:

The Circus in the Style of Paul Klee, watercolor on paper, 9x12"

The same rules will apply this week that did last week.  As soon as I post this (at ~8pm EST on 10/29/15), the auction will open. Comment below with your bid (bidding will start at $5) - each person should add $5 to their bid and continue on in that manner.  (You're welcome to add more than that to your bid, but I think $5 is a good incremental increase.)  Keep checking back from time to time to see if you have been outbid!

The auction will remain open until 8:00pm EST tomorrow (October 30, 2015) - you'll have a full 24 hours to bid!  At 8pm on Friday I will announce the winner!!  (Payment and delivery methods can be then sorted out between the winner and myself, usually via PayPal.)  

Please keep in mind that this is in good fun and keep things civil and upbeat.  Prints of this painting will also be available in the future if you don't win the auction!  If you have any questions, please email me at katherinedownieartist(at)gmail(dot)com!

And please stay tuned for a big announcement coming from me tomorrow afternoon!!

Bon chance!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Watercolor Wednesdays

In an effort to get me back in the habit of blogging, I thought I'd start a new feature called Watercolor Wednesdays.  Last fall I began teaching watercolor at Two Twelve Arts Center, and in January at the Saline Senior Center.  It was a bit of an awakening!  Watercolor was my concentration in undergrad, and I spent a lot of time in grad school using watercolors, even when I began working with oils.  My graduate thesis exhibition was half watercolors, half oils.  (You can see some of my watercolor paintings on my website, here.)

Even so, teaching watercolor was very different than I'd planned. But then, so was teaching acrylics and oils when I first began that several years ago!  It's one thing to do a thing, another thing entirely to teach it.  I have a friend who is a theoretical particle physicist, and he told me that the further he got into his education, the more difficult it became for him to teach.  He said that he was a much better teacher in grad school than while he was working on his PhD - he got so into the deep stuff, he found it hard to resurface and teach the basics. And as an educator, I have been taught that someone who has just learned something is the best one to teach it - the way they learned it is fresh in their memory, so they can help another person find that same path.  

I mention all of this because I found it immensely difficult to backtrack in my brain to where I first started painting with watercolors.  I tried to rewind back the lessons taught to me at EMU by Maria Ruggiero, the watercolor professor, and have memories of color mixing and still life paintings.  I took those memories, did the best that I could, fumbled through, and finally came to understand what works for me as a teacher, and I hope translates to helping my students.

What has worked for me has been doing small studies rather than large, finished paintings.  I've even done this with my intermediate-advanced students, and they have said that it's helped them a lot to better understand the nature of watercolor paint and paper and how they work together.  That's been my experience, too!  I've never been one who likes to do a painting over again - I do it once, and I'm done.  But with these studies, I've really enjoyed doing them multiple times!

With my senior center students, who are mostly the very beginningest of beginners, I've had to step back even further.  I don't think much about how much water I add to my paint, for example, but that is a completely unknown concept to them, so I have spent many classes encouraging them to add more water!!  I think I may be learning more than my students!

I've enjoyed the process of learning how to teach watercolor, and know it will continue to change.  I'll begin today with a color mixing chart that I did in January - as long as I've been painting with watercolors (10 years?), I still learned SO much doing this chart! I wish I'd done it years ago.

And here's a quick example of what I've been doing with my students - going over step-by-step how to paint things like apples - an insanely difficult object to paint!

Next week I'll share more of the summery things I've been working on with my students!

Friday, February 13, 2015

New Website!!!!

I wanted to put a million exclamation marks in the title, but thought that might be a bit superfluous.  But I'm so excited about my new site!!  I made it using, which I must say is a fabulous site!!  It is so easy to use and there are so many awesome options, and you can make your site perfect for your needs!  (I swear I'm not getting paid to say this - I just genuinely love that site!)  

I've been wanting to update my website for a very long time.  I've used Blogger for the last few years, which is fine, but not ideal.  The finished site just looks too much like a blog in the end, and I wanted my site to look more professional.  I've tried WordPress in the past, too, and it's fine, but Wix is so dang easy to use, that having no programming background is not a problem!

OK, I'm done talking about Wix (for now?).  

One of the things I'd been thinking about regarding my website and my artist "brand" is my name.  I like my name!  However, there is an Australian paralympic swimmer named Katherine Downie, and apparently she's good, because she beats me on Google constantly!  I used to be most of the links on the first results page, but now I'm lucky if I have one or two!  I actually recently followed her on Twitter and commented on a photo she posted, and she followed me back - two Katherine Downies, out to rule the world!  Maybe she and I should start a club?

Anyway, back to my name.  I decided that, with the start of this website, I am going to rebrand myself as Katherine H. Downie.  (If you say that angrily, it sounds a bit like you're swearing...!)  (That's not why I'm doing it, though - I just think that's funny. My middle initial really is H.)  My website is still (I've given out too many business cards to change that now), but everything else from here on out will include the H.  I don't know a ton about SEO stuff, but I know enough to hope that there's no confusion with me and the Australian swimmer now that I've tacked an extra letter on my name. There may come a time when I'm knocking her off Google's search results!!  (No hard feelings, though, really - she seems like a sweet girl!)

I'm excited about 2015 - I feel like I'm getting things done that I've been meaning to do for a while (artistically), and am excited to make some changes this year.  I've been painting a lot more lately (thanks in part to some classes that I'm teaching), and will post more about that soon.  

In the mean time, be sure to go over and check out and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wood Shop Skills, Take 2

Over on my Robot Tuesdays blog, I wrote a post a couple of years ago about my mad wood shop skills.  A few months ago I put those skills to the test to create a masterpiece of utility and practicality...though the aesthetics may have left something to be desired.

In my bedroom (which doubles as studio/craft room) I have a couple of sets of plastic drawers (the kind Target sells every year at the start of the school year).  These drawers hold glue, markers, colored pencils, my light table, crafting supplies, etc.  The problem with them is that the more you stack on top of them, the more difficult it becomes to open the bottom drawers. 

I decided that I needed to come up with a better solution, and my wood shop skills came to my rescue.  (That and my dad's habit of collecting wood and tools and other handy supplies.)  I took some measurements, did a quick sketch, and checked to see if we had the necessary supplies.  We did!  I got everything laid out, measured twice, and started cutting. I used 2 x 4s which, as it turns out, are not actually 2 inches by 4 inches.  Who knew?!  That caused a few re-cuts and some refiguring, but eventually I got everything cut to where I needed it.

I felt like I had a new and uncomfortable
layer of skin after a while.

After everything had been cut, I started assembling the structure.  I wasn't terribly neat about it, honestly - I knew that I mostly needed it to be utilitarian and that it would likely end up in my studio someday.  I used screws on some parts, a nail gun on others, and wood glue to put all of the pieces together.

 This is what I ended up with, before I painted it:

I did a couple of coats of white paint (which we had laying around), and added a touches of silver spray paint for a little flair:

Once the paint was dry, I brought the finished shelving unit up to my room.  I had help with this - it's quite heavy!!  I had measured my plastic drawers so they would fit in the unit, plus I wanted shelves above so I could store all of the things that had been stacked on top of them.

I'm really happy with how it turned out!  I've been using it for several months now and it is exactly what I needed.  The plastic drawers all open, I have places to store a lot of my supplies, and it's nice to have that sense of accomplishment from building something with your own hands!

Once the weather warms up again, I'm hoping to do some more woodworking, including building a couple of frames (for artwork).  I'll post about those as they happen.

Have you ever built or created anything that left you with a sense of accomplishment?  If you got stuck on part of the project, how did you get past that? Let me know in the comments!