(This is late, it’s the middle of March, I know that, but it’s SPRING now okay so there are no rules, including rules about comma splices!)
Here we are again at the start of a new year. It happens every year, but it always feels special.
First, I want to reflect on 2017’s goals. Hosting an art show hasn’t happened…yet. Pitching a picture book went about how I expected — the silent treatment. Didn’t stop me from printing off some paperbacks myself and sharing them with the world! The one goal I blew out of the water was finishing a polished piece of artwork for every month. I used streak.club to form the habit as well as to look back on and recognize my progress (which I’ve always struggled with).
Having practiced month-long processes for a year, I’m ready to take on a bigger project this year. I don’t want to say too much just yet, but I’m just crazy about this idea and hope to keep you updated.
I’ve fallen off (yet again) in posting to social media. I have been drawing, though, and not even anything very secret or un-sharable, I just haven’t been showing anybody anything. Maybe it’s important to do that sometimes? I don’t know. It’s just what I tend do — fall off the map intermittently.
Goals for this year: Finish a major project. One goal. Gotta do it. Very excited.
I’ve never met anyone who didn’t decorate their space to some extent. Whether we realize it or not, the things we look at have a way of seeping in to the things we create.
Make rules, not copies.
The objects that catch my eye are often unexpected. Each thing is different and seemingly unrelated until you see them all together. There’s an invisible thread running through them all. Hard to identify and even harder to articulate, but if you can and when do, you get a much clearer idea of what you like. Maybe you can even identify why you like them. If you can understand why you gravitate toward certain things, you don’t have to copy them but instead make something that follows the same rules.
Who’s driving the bus?
I like old things, offbeat things, sincere things like folk art, and silly frivolous things.The reason I like an item may be unclear until it is next to the plethora of other items in my studio. Most objects from childhood disappear with time, but what I’ve kept follows a lot of the same rules as the newer additions. How formative are our first possessions?
How much do our surroundings in early life inform our aesthetic preferences? Do we produce art based on those aesthetic preferences? Or do we choose our surroundings according to the art we strive to produce? Maybe, like most things in life, it’s a push and pull.
As humans we are always seeking patterns even when we don’t consciously identify them. By identifying these patterns, we can better understand ourselves.
First, I want to thank all of you for filling 2016 with good times and laughs. Now it’s on to another 365 days of messy mistakes and minor successes!
I want to have goals for 2017, but I like to keep my goals flexible. I never want to get tunnel vision while I’m working toward them.
1. Host an Art Show
I had so much fun with the Spooky Show last October, I’d love to organize something like that — a show hosted by artists for artists!
2. Pitch a Picture Book to a Publisher
Last year I joined SCBWI and attended the Summer Conference in LA. I learned so much about the publishing world, and while I’m sure there’s oceans more to learn, I want to jump in! What’s the worst that could happen?
3. Make at Least One Polished Piece of Art Every Month
This one sounds super do-able NOW, but I know once I get swamped with projects and life’s odds and ends it’s going to be a real challenge. It’s easy to draw every day, but it’s not so easy to commit to a sketch and give it a nice finish.
So how’s that for a start? At the tail-end of last year, I discovered the super lame¹ magic of planners/calendars, so I’ve recently been making monthly or weekly “resolutions” which have increased my motivation and productivity by a factor of at least nine.
Best of luck to everyone in this fresh new year! Let’s all have a happy orbit.
¹ This is in no way meant to disparage the noble world of planners and planning, but I think we all know it’s a bit frivolous.
So there I am, sitting at my desk with a pencil in hand. I begin to draw. I draw a Thing, but it looks familiar. So I draw another and another. Everything I draw feels like I’ve done it before.
So that’s it. I’ve done it. I’ve drawn everything there is to draw. There’s nothing more I can do.
I’ve never been one to express my life through art. My inspiration comes from what I see and wonder about, not from emotion or circumstance. So if at times I find that I’m repeating myself in my work, I have to go somewhere else.
Art is about looking. If I’m in a place where I’m too familiar with my environment, I’m not looking — I’m knowing! Imagine only talking about what you know all the time. Nobody is going to listen to someone after they’ve spewed the same fifteen facts eight times in a row, so you have to learn something new. Travel is a great way to learn.
Although it would be awesome to cross an ocean, even the familiar can be new. I try to put myself in situations where I’m not on autopilot. I’ll go somewhere and be around people I’m not used to, smell new smells, taste new tastes. Then I have plenty of new things to draw, and when I come back I see things I was ignoring at home!
So if you feel like you’ve drawn everything in the universe and there’s nothing left for you to draw, you’re wrong. There’s so much stuff on planet Earth, and so much is happening to that stuff all the time. It’s great and horrible and amazing and it begs to be put down on paper.
Whether it’s for a weekend or a month, get on a bike or a bus or a plane, shake the cobwebs out of your eyes, and draw!
To those out there who use art to express your feelings: do you ever find yourself artistically “stuck” because you’re caught in an emotional loop? What do you do to break out of a repetitive emotional cycle?
Portraits are not meant to be photographs. Between cameras and Photoshop filters, anyone can make a stylized copy of their pet. That’s why, when I do a pet portrait, it’s important for me to get an idea of what each animal’s personality is and what the client loves about their pet.
The thumbnails (quick little sketches that come before the rough sketch) help me feel out what’s going to “fit” the dog. At this stage, there are no wrong answers. I try everything. Different angles, moods, orientations, and shapes.
After I’ve filled a couple pages with ideas, it’s time to edit. I consider the pet’s personality and the client’s personal taste. I settle on one or two compositions, clean them up enough so they’re understandable (thumbnails tend to be very small and very messy), and send them to the client for approval.
From there I make a series of small drawings to get a feel for the form. Once I have a sense of the subject, I can draw it in whatever pose I need.
I make sure the marks I make are intentional. The style of drawing should reflect the animal. When I drew Bunter, a quiet old Westie, I rendered him softly. This wasn’t a yappy, bouncing-off-the-walls terrier. Last year I posted a portrait of a German Pinscher, Cinnamon. Cinnamon is a bold little dog — she would not be recognizable in soft graphite!
Pets have personalities, and so do their owners. A pet portrait requires a unique mix of the animal’s nature and the owner’s personal style. So many factors go into a successful portrait, it’s important to be mindful of why I’m making the drawing as I draw.