Sunday, September 16, 2012

The importance of sketches

      The above is a watercolor sketch of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I think it nicely captures the vibrancy of the French Quarter particularly found at night. I'm not sure what I will do with this yet, but I think that represents the importance of making sketches and getting your ideas in some sort of tangible form.  I don't think one has to have a specific plan  when making art and sometimes random experimentation produces amazing results. 

      My sketchbook is never very far from me, and I will very often pop-a-squat and start sketching a random building, scene, or natural object. Sometimes, if I am in a very crowded location, people will stare and look at me funny. I have yet to be confronted or told to stop, however. This practice of random sketching has resulted in a number of sketches that I have later used in finished works and is good for brainstorming various ideas for further development.

      My sketchbook is more a sort of mini studio which has a compartment for the sketchbook itself, but also has pockets, and storage for pencils, pens, erasers, and a portable watercolor set. It is made from scraps of canvas I had and is pictured here:

      Some other sketches that I have made and later used include the image below of a cathedral in Shreveport, LA which you may recognize from this painting. 

And this sketch of a garbage truck:

for this painting:

      One other thought before I go. As I was scanning my sketchbook, the scanner actually picked it up upside down. After seeing it from this point of view, I think it is just as interesting as right side up!

     So that gives me something else to think about.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Knitting/fiber arts and t-shirt designs

      This week's post is about a recent exhibition discussed on NPR this past Sunday, and an interesting Web Site I discovered that allows artists to submit and sell their own t-shirt designs. The discussion on NPR was titled "Are All Young Artists "Post-9/11 Artists?". In it, Neda Ulaby discussed the possibility that the events of September 11, 2001 have shaped our culture to such an extent that all artists under 40 are influenced by these terrorist attacks. She profiled three artists from the "40 under 40" exhibition at the Smithsonian, and described how each artist drew inspiration from or about 9/11.

      I'm not sure I agree with her thoughts. I certainly think that the terrorist attacks early in this century have influenced many things, including how art is made and what it is about, but I don't think you can say that all artists under a specific age are "9/11" artists. What struck me most after hearing/reading this article, other than the fact that I was not included in the exhibition (Haha! Just kidding. Sort, no definitely kidding...maybe...heh heh), was that these artists largely seem to be working with fibers as a medium. Olek and Cat Mazza, in particular are using crocheting or weaving as their vehicle for expression (hence the photo above. It's the only woven piece I could find, but it was hand made in Greece so I think it counts). But even the other artists profiled (the folds of Erik Demaine, or the quilts by Anna Von Mertens) used some kind of fibrous material in making their art.

      I think the fact that these artists are using fibers along with such trends as Yarn Bombing, speak about the art being made today as much as the fact that it is produced post 9/11. Why all the fibrous art? I don't know. Perhaps in an increasingly technological world, filled with cold and impersonal machines, people are expressing an inherent desire to return to natural materials. I think this aspect is something the author overlooked, or possibly didn't really think about. It might be interesting to investigate. What do you think?

     The second thing I wanted to mention was the Web Site

      This site allows artists to create and submit their unique tee shirt designs. When I was in college I won the tee shirt design contest for my dorm. It was great fun. I especially enjoyed seeing the project go from sketch to reality. This site makes it possible to experience that concept with each submission. I think it is an excellent opportunity, and one more way to get creative.

      Well, that's it for now. More will be posted next week.   

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


      One week ago today I got to experience my first hurricane. I didn't really know what to expect, having only read and seen images from hurricane zones on the news. In the hours leading up to the storm when everyone announced closings, people were stocking up on fuel and supplies, and there was a feeling of expectation, I found the whole experience  be very similar to the moments before a big snowstorm in the Midwest. The storm itself was noisy and unpleasant. Afterwards, when the damage could be surveyed it was the total opposite of a snowstorm (no frolicking or fun here). The image above was taken near my apartment.  Here are some more damage photos:


  I live on the high ground, so I didn't really have to deal with the flooding issues that many others had to deal with. The power went out during the storm and was out for days. I didn't really know what else I should be doing, so while it stormed I made art. I finished the self portrait I started the previous week:

Then I completed two other portraits.

I think that these second two look a little strange. Mind you, I painted them after the electricity had gone out and it was difficult to see. So that may explain why they seem a little off. In addition to these paintings, I sketched out an interpretation of a dream I had this past winter. I thought it would be a good idea for a painting, but now that it is sketched out I'm not so sure. What do you think?

If rain makes for creativity, then that seems doubly so for hurricanes.