Monday, February 28, 2011

Announcements and Changes

I received some great news today. I was notified that I was selected to be a participating artist in the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour to be held in June. This annual two day event invites the public into the studios of artists living and working in western Loudoun County, and it has grown into quite and event over the last five years.

I have been meaning to get my act together and apply to be part of the tour ever since its first year, and this year I got the application together and submitted everything last month. The main thing holding me back was the lack of a proper studio space. My studio is in the house and doubles as the guest bedroom - not really conducive to the public popping in. But I have a nice one car garage where I house my wood shop, and I am in the process of converting it into a somewhat temporary studio. If I get heat and air conditioning in it, maybe I can move the studio out there on a permanent basis. I know my wife would love that. One day, we would like to add a second story onto the garage and build a proper studio. But in the meantime, it will work nicely for the tour.

If your in the Northern Virginia region, mark you calendars for June 11 and 12. The tour runs from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. each day, and there are a great number of artists to visit. I can't wait, but there's a lot to do before then.

On a different note, you may have noticed that I have tweaked a few things around the blog and added a few stand alone pages (see the tab under the blog title). It is all in preparation for a big announcement and change that I plan on unveiling tomorrow. I'm putting on the finishing touches, and the beginning of a new month just seems appropriate to make it public. I am hoping that this new idea will allow me to have an even greater impact. Tune in tomorrow for the grand reveal.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Now of Artmaking

Over the years I have experienced and witnessed the paralysis that can come with the making of art. It can manifest itself as the staring at a blank page, a blank canvas, a blank whatever. We think about the future of this object, and often we cannot envision what we want this thing to be. We try to have a well thought out, very cohesive idea from the beginning wanting it to spring completely formed from our heads. We sit and stare worrying that we will not be able to think of a suitable use, purpose, or goal. Ideas do flash through our brains, but we quickly dismiss them fearful that they will not live up to the word “Art” with a capital “A”. We get stuck in our heads obsessing over the past and trying to predict the future. We mull over what we have done in the past, what others have done, what art has been, and what art should be. We get caught up in our comparisons and insecurities of the past, and we freeze. We also get caught up in the script of what our art will never be and how it will never live up to the expectations of others and of ourselves. We focus so much on the finished product – what it should be, what it should look like, what it should say, and we freeze.

We need to stop thinking of art as a product – a painting, a journal page, a doll, or a (insert your own thing here). We need to start thinking of art as a process – a line of inquiry – a journey – a series of choices where we really have no idea where we are going or how to get there. We need to focus on what is right in front of us at this very moment. Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and work.” I think he meant that artists have to put in the work. They have to do something. Waiting around for inspiration to strike like lightning, means that there is a lot of sitting, staring, and waiting, and not much making. We must take that first tentative step. We get a glimmer of an idea, or a technique or image for some random reason speaks to us. We embrace that idea, the uncertainty of it. We say to ourselves, “Let’s see where this is going,” and we follow it. Sometimes it leads to something great, often it doesn’t. But we have learned a thing or two, and grown as artists. We then find that next idea, image, or glimmer of technique that will lead our inquiry.

We must stop trying to envision the end result – the product – the project, and simply latch onto an idea and envision the step that we can take NOW. “What do I do with this idea now? Where do I go from here?” These are the only types of questions that we can ask ourselves. We take the step, then ask those questions again, and then take the next step. By focusing on the next step and allowing the accumulation of our steps to take us where the work needs to go, we are making art. By focusing on where we are NOW and not where we want to be, we can continue the journey. We can combat the paralysis, and we can get onto something. Sometimes that something is a pretty good idea. But all ideas come from working through other ideas. It's not magic, and it's not a bolt of lightning.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Be Here Now

How easy it is to let life swing out of balance. It was only a month or so ago that I wrote about how I had been finding more balance in my life, but that quickly, the pendulum swung and I found my life racking to one side with so many things vying for my attention. I had become frazzled, stressed, irritable, and down right pissed off. Little things quickly grew into mountainous things, and everything became a conspiracy to steal away my precious time and sanity. A running dialogue played through my head as I justified myself to my imagined enemies and tormentors. I felt trampled, taken for granted, heaped on, and outright misunderstood. For a few weeks these black clouds hung over me, and I was zapped of energy and zapped of life. All I wanted to do was sit on the couch and zone out or crawl into bed and sleep. I was caught in a mode of thinking that had me spinning and going nowhere – other than becoming more resentful and spiteful. I was not liking this person who seemed to step in my shoes and was trudging through my days bent on venting frustration and venomous indignation.

I caught myself in the midst of all of this lopsided, negative, nearly toppling over mess of inner turmoil. I realized that I was completely out of balance – completely blowing everything out of proportion. So, I stopped myself. I stopped the inner dialogue, the mental ranting and raving, the venting to my wife, friends, and colleagues, and I went for a walk. I stopped the incessant mental ranting about all the slights and misdeeds done to me over the past few weeks. I stopped all the mental justification of my actions to some future naysayer. I pulled on my warm fleece, my hat, and my gloves, and walked out into the cold, fresh air even though my legs were tired and sore form a long day of standing and teaching. I stuffed my earbuds into my ears and cranked up the volume and put The Killers on shuffle. Out the door I went allowing the familiar songs to nudge my weary body into movement. I’ve made a vow to get my body moving at least four or five times a week – not to get fit – not to lose weight – but simply to find balance and to BE PRESENT.

In all my frustration, irritation, and plain crankiness, I was not being present. I was clinging and clutching to that frustration, irritation, and crankiness feeling like I was justified in it – feeling like I had a right to justify it and stay wrapped up in it as if the world didn’t and couldn’t understand, and it was me against the world. I was clinging and grasping and holding on as the dialogue looped through my head – playing over and over. I held to the resentment of the recent past and looked to the future to a time when I wouldn’t have these issues – a matter of “only when” and “only if”. Yet I missed what was happening right in front of me. I was missing the Now thinking so much about what had been and what could be forgetting to live.

But those walks with the music echoing in my skull pushed that looping dialogue of self-absorbed prattle out of my mind, and made me acutely aware of the very moment that I was in. I let the inner dialogue go, and realized that I only had Now to deal with myself. It is not the situations in which we find ourselves. It is our reaction to those situations. And the best way to deal with any situation and life in general is to get present and show up like magic – TO BE HERE NOW – and to let go of the resentment, the regrets, and the frustrations of the past and the imaginings of a future that has yet to be and to be present in this very moment.

Over the last week, I have found time for stillness where I have sat with no distractions and simply tried to be with myself. I have found time for movement through the world in a way that I stay with myself and do not allow my mind to carry me away into the endless cycle of self talk. I have found ways to show up like magic for myself. I feel lighter and more alive. I feel lifted up instead of trampled down. It doesn’t mean that I am always successful in turning off the maddening self talk, and that everything is “peachy keen” but here I am showing up for myself and for others.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Paper Sculpture - Part 1

I have just uploaded two videos about paper sculpture.

Part 1 demonstrates rolling, folding, and curling.

Part 2 demostrates scoring and tabbing.