Friday, August 31, 2012


"The Spice-Tree lives in the garden green,
Beside it the fountain flows,
And a fair bird sits in the boughs between,
And sings his melodious woes.

That out bound stem has branches three,
On each a thousand blossoms grow,
And old as aught of time can be,
The roots stand firm in the rock below."
~The Spice-Tree, John Sterling~
(The quote at the top of the post appears on this work.)
 The majority of the time my creative process is pretty willy-nilly.  I don't set time constraints or limits to when I need to get projects finished unless they are for a specific deadline, hence the drawer in my studio filled with half baked works in progress.  Through working on this series I learned a really valuable lesson in setting artistic goals, keeping sight of them, and eventually meeting them.

I confess that at one point I got completely lost, not in a good way, during the creation process and it was a total road block.  I could not see the next step or figure out where I was going.  I found myself forcing ideas that did not feel right.  I stepped away from the series and began a small side project that helped me to clear my mind.  I had an "aha moment" when I asked myself exactly what my beginning goal(s) was when I started this project.  Once I had firmly defined that it was like a breath of fresh air that revived my creative spirit and took the pressure off.
 (I used lots of layers of paint to create depth and texture to the flat fabric surface.)

 My goal was to try and see if I had the staying power to complete a 3 piece 16x20 canvas series of work based on the same subject matter, using the same color palette, exploring fabric, paper, and paint techniques that incorporate stitch and typography.  My goal was not to create something that would be the next big thing or trend.  Nor was it my goal to create something that was for publication, presentation, or profit, although that might be a future goal.  This was supposed to be a simple exercise in finding, defining, and refining my artistic style.

This is what I learned:  A clearly defined set of artistic goals can and will help you to move forward with your work.  They are also, at least for me, a liberation or freedom to create within a set of perimeters that take a lot of guess work or angst out of the process.  In the absence of a clearly defined goal you can get lost in the execution.
(Paper, paint, wire, beads, and resin create unique leaf elements.)

TIP:  Work SMART(er) not harder!  Chris Brogan simplified goal setting by using the acronym SMART:

Specific: Be specific and straightforward about what your goal is, why you are pursuing this goal and what you hope to accomplish, as well as how you are going to do it.

Measurable: Choose your goal with measurable progress in mind, setting small goals for process steps during each phase of your artwork, this will ultimately lead you to achieve the large end goal you have set.  Measuring your progress helps you to stay on track.
 (This piece also contains a kiss of metal to contrast the hard and soft of the materials.)

Attainable: Don't set your goal too far out of your reach or you will lose heart and not commit to follow through.  It's kind of like saying you are going to lose 20 pounds in 7 days before your high school class reunion, it is not obtainable or even possible.  A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it.

Realistic:  This means "do-able."  A realistic project may push your creative skills and knowledge but it should not break you.  You want to set the goal high enough that you have to obtain it with some effort but not so difficult that it sets the stage for failure.  You want a healthy balance of satisfied achievement.

Timley:  You need to set a time frame for your goal.  Putting this end point to your project will give you a clear target to work towards.  Sometimes when we don't have a time limit the project tends to not happen because we get in the mentality of needing to be inspired to work, or there is no sense of urgency to start or take action,  or you begin to feel as if you can do this at any time.  Case in point: my drawer of unfinished works in progress!
(This background was woven with the intention of a vertical stripe pattern.)

I am a very strong starter but a not so strong finisher, these guidelines really helped me in setting clear, reasonable, and obtainable artist goals.

Confession number two:  This was not always a fun or enjoyable process, hence the emphasis on the "work" part of artwork!  I was just about out of mind by the time I got the weaving done for the third canvas.  I really truly seriously wanted to quit.  This opportunity to stretch myself was, "...dressed in overalls and looked like work!" (Thomas Edison quote)   Trust me, there were some melodious woes being sung during this process. 
 (Various hand stitches were also use to enhance this design.)

I also confess that this style of working, in a series with set goals and perimeters, was extremely hard for me.  It truly was an exercise is self-discipline that stretched me just enough that my "won't give up, won't give in spirit" kicked in and helped me bring this project to completion.  The end result brought about an immense sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, the reward was worth the effort.  I now know I can discipline myself to setting, executing, and accomplishing my artist goals one step at a time.
(Part two of the series complete!)
I am off to set my sights on a new goal.

Do you have a goal setting process to getting your artful dreams accomplished?
Do you have an tips or secrets to share?
I'd love to hear them!

PART 1: Thoughts on Working in a Series can be found HERE

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


"The wind comes creeping, it calls to me to come go exploring.  It sings of the things that are to be found under the leaves.  It whispers the dreams of the tall fir trees.  It does pipe the gentle song the forest sings on gray days.  I hear all the voices calling me.  I listen.  But I cannot go."
~ Opal Whiteley~
(The above quote is the text used on this piece)
When I set out to do what I thought would be a simple three piece series of artwork I had no idea of the depth of discovery I would make about myself or the art making process.  I thought I would share some of my thoughts, impressions, and frustrations along the way.  In a former post I described the "how to" of working in a series, over the next couple of posts I will be revealing each piece in the series individually and sharing what I hope are some helpful tips and thoughts on working in this manner.
(Stray fibers and scraps found new life as bird, egg, and nest)
Each piece of work you create was or is wrought from inspiration and inspiration can be be found anywhere.  This series was inspired by nature, one of my favorite subjects to mimic, thoughts of kindergarten, and my inability to waste something that would normally be tossed into the trash.  

The nature part of my series is obvious, a bird, branch, and an egg appear in each piece and is kind of self-explanatory upon viewing. 
 (A handmade "branch" with fiber "moss" supports the dimensional nest)

The background technique for each canvas was developed by both thoughts of kindergarten and some trash I was about to toss.  I am a notorious note taker and love to use colored legal pads.  I had scribbled several pages of no longer needed notes on a blue pad and was tired of flipping the pages to find clean paper.  I tore a hunk of used pages from the tablet and started to toss them but the color of the paper struck my eye as that of complimenting the artwork I was doing.  I used some paint to slightly obscure the writing.  This became a portion of the piecing for the background.

My little grandson has just started kindergarten and he called me to tell me all about his first day of school. I was instantly catapulted back to my first day of school where I remembered the teacher getting us ready for open house.  We were allowed to choose two colors of construction paper and taught to weave a mat that would sit on our desk where we would serve our parents cookies and kool-aid using our best manners.  The background technique was developed from the triggered memory of that little woven paper mat.
 (A bit of metallic lettering gives the piece an unexpected shine and interest.)

TIP:  Inspiration truly can be found anywhere.   When contemplating a series, work with a subject, thought, feeling, or idea that inspires you.  This will ensure that you will stay interested in the work and bring it to completion. 

Continuity of color is key when working in a series.  You do not want your work to look disjointed or too disconnected.  There is a lot more to color than meets the eye.  Color plays two roles in the creation of your artwork: description and composition.  The spectrum of color you use will set a cool or warm tone to your work.  Saturation of color can make your work look either vivid or soft.  
 (The torn edges and burnished edges of the hand painted background fabric gives the piece a rustic textural appeal.)

Color also affects your composition.  It can harmonize or contrast your series.  It unifies your work, sets a visual path, produces rhythm, and creates emphasis.  Strategic placement of color can draw the eye exactly where you want the viewer to be pulled in and have their interest piqued.
(Hand stitching adds additional texture and interest plus provides the appearance that the  fabric has been stitched onto the woven background.)

I chose the colors for my series based on nature to compliment the theme.  Blues to represent the heavens and greens to ground the sky to the earth.  Contrasts of hues in grays and browns, that mimic the tones of wood and stone, were highlighted with white and ivory to bring in a balance of  light.  I kept the tones of the paint complimentary to those in nature but with a softer more gentle palette wanting to evoke a peaceful feeling to each work.  

TIP:  Thoughtfully choose the colors you will work with to set the tone, mood, and feel of your work.  
 (Piece one of three complete!)

I hope you have enjoyed watching this series come to completion.  
Thank you all, as always, for all your support and encouragement along the way.
Have a wonderful day!

Part 2: Setting Artistic Goals can be found HERE
 Part 3: Tips for Titling Your Artwork can be found HERE

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


 If you leaf me alone for very long at all...
 While waiting on something to dry, I will begin to sing melodious woes...
"Glue, despair, agony waiting on thee!  What excessive misery!   If it weren't for slow dry time I'd be havin' a ball.  Glue, despair, agony waiting on thee!"... or some such nonsense tune as that.  If you leaf me alone for very long at all, I will inevitably wander over to pilfer through a pile of this...
 And if you leaf me alone a little longer I will pick up things like this...
 Leaf me alone even longer and I will pile it all on a tray...
 Leaf me alone long enough and my fingers will begin to play...
 Then I will once again begin to hum a happy tune!
" Put on that grin and start right in to whistle loud and long
Just hum a merry tune
Just do your best and take a rest and sing yourself a song

When there's too much to do
Don't let it bother you, forget your troubles,
Try to be just like a cheerful chick-a-dee

And whistle while you work
Come on get smart, tune up and start
To whistle while you work"
(from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)

So, if you leaf me alone for very long at all while waiting on something to dry, I will inevitably start another project!  At least this one is small and portable, a couple of custom lace and fiber cuffs.

What happens if you a left to your own devices during the project process?

P.S. In case you are wondering, I am waiting on resin, glue, and paint to dry oh my!  I am starting to think I am never going to finish my series pieces!  Patience, perseverance, and a new project are helping the process along.

Monday, August 20, 2012


 Not quite... 
Very nearly...
 All but...
The end of this series.
Finally coming soon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Meaning:  To gain specialty for the performance of a service, labor, or work through accumulated experience and hard work; a recognition for accomplishments; to do something to prove that you have the skills or ability.

 Example: She earned her stripes by serving for 30 years as the World Vision coordinator.  

Origin: This 1800s expression initially referred to a military promotion or award, indicated by strips of chevron or braid added to the recipient's uniform and known as stripes.
 The other day I was bitten by the green eyed bug of jealousy.  I am totally not proud of my reaction to another persons success, in fact, I firmly believe in applauding others success and cheering them on.  I had the whiny thought of "Why does all the good stuff always happen for her and not for me?"  I was abruptly brought up short by a gentle whisper of a thought as it flitted through my mind, "She has earned her stripes." 
 It is true, her success is based on her hard work, not by happenstance or luck of circumstance.  She has labored over her artistic process and accumulated experience and knowledge proving her unique skills and abilities as an artist and is now receiving the reward of recognition for her accomplishments.
 Creatively speaking, I am not heading where I want to go and obviously I need to work on my character flaw as well as my artwork.  I had to ask myself some really hard questions, one of them being, "Have I really earned my stripes?"  The answer to that is a resounding, "NO!", at least not to the level where I will obtain my own creative goals and not covet those of others. 
 Ephesians 4:32 says that we are to be kind towards one another.  I believe this applies in both thought and deed.  I am to strive to possess a good or benevolent nature or disposition as a kind or loving person in my actions, words, and thoughts. I have a really long way to grow.  So, I have began from the beginning with a repentant heart, a note of sincere congratulations, and earnestness in earning my stripes of humbleness, humility, and creative growth.  Kermit the Frog said it best, "It's not easy being green."  
 I and my art skills are still very much a work in progress... 
 But, we are both back on the right track of earning our stripes.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I am trying to decide if I am making a more of a mess than progress on the third piece in my small series collection experiment. 

 Paint and fabric...
Progressed to a tangled mess...
 Of experiments gone awry...
 Mounting up to a pretty good reject pile.

Back to paint and fabric...
Still playing with the design...
Much less mess and more progress!
This experiment is series-ously harder than I thought it would be.

I will keep you posted on the progress, thanks for dropping in!

Friday, August 3, 2012

SERIES-OUSLY ? (Tips for working in an artistic series)...

I have recently been trying to get back in the swing of many things and getting serious about my art making is one of them.  I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-create-whatever-happens-to-catch-my-fancy-at-any-given-moment kind of gal, disciplined working in not my forte and creating an artistic series requires just that.  This willy-nilly way of working has worked for me in that it has allowed me to play with a variety mediums, techniques, styles, and genres finding what I like to work with, what I like to create, and what I don't.  What has not worked for me is the inability to settle in and take myself or my art seriously.  Thus came the question of if I could have the stick-to-it-tivity that pays off in the end. 
Did you know that some, not all, but some publications will not accept art submissions unless you show them a series of 3 or more pieces?  Series-ously!  Did you also know that if perchance you were to have a gallery showing of your art that a gallery might require you to have anywhere from 15 to 20 pieces of work in a series?  Series-ously! Did you know that most art competitions require a submission of a series?  Series-ously!  Did you also know that by working in a series with set guidelines and a fixed list of supplies it forces you to be more and more creative with each new piece you add as you reinterpret the design yet keep it cohesive so it is recognizable as part of a collection?  Series-ously!  It is also a great way to instill some discipline in your artistic pursuits.  Series-ously! 
Working in a series will help you to hone your skills, define your style, and demonstrate your abilities to potential publications, galleries, or buyers/collectors.  This helps your work to be recognizable.  This does not mean you have to forever work in that same style, using the same medium(s), or with the same theme or idea.  A series is meant to be a complete body of work, once you have explored all avenues of that idea thoroughly then you can be free to move on to a different work.
So, what is a series?  A series of art consists of several pieces created around a single theme or idea.  This is not a piece of art that is duplicated over and over but a group of pieces that are connected, similar, or related through a common characteristic that pulls the body of work together even though they singly differ in some way.  To create a series you need to pick a theme, subject, or idea, a genre, medium(s), and it is helpful, but not necessary, to have a color story or repetitive technique for the foundation pieces as you build your collection.
I decided to try and discipline myself to creating a small 3 piece series of mixed-media work (baby steps!  you can't turn a grasshopper into an ant over night!).  I revisited a partially complete piece that has been hanging around the studio for quite some time now thinking it was high time it be finished.  I used it as my jumping off point to create a small collection of 16x20 canvas based pieces. 
The theme or the subject is: birds, this was chosen for me since I was using a previous unfinished piece and that happened to be the subject matter.  The genre here is a little hard to specifically define since it crosses more than one creative style so we will keep it simple and give it a broad label of: mixed-media.  The meduim(s) I chose are: fabric, paint, stitch, stamp, stencil, and typography.  My color story was inspired by colors that are particularly soothing to me: Wicker White, Wedgwood Green, Jamaican Sea, Drizzle Grey, Medium Grey, Old Parchment, and Coffee Bean.  I also wanted a repetitive technique to further link the pieces into a series.  In this case, I used weaving in one form or another to appear in each body of work.
For a grasshopper like me, this was a good discipline of learning that there is a time for work and a time for play.  Both are necessary and needful in the art making process but there needs to be a healthy balance of the two.  The playful side lets you experiment, discover, and explore.  The work side propels you forward in your artistic goals.  It is a series-ously hard lesson for me to learn.  I find repetition in any form boring and tend to subscribe to the one-of-a-kind art making principle.  But, if I want to series-ously take my artwork to a new level or playing field I have to put in the work, dedication, and discipline it requires to achieve that goal. 

I will keep you posted on the progression of these pieces and my little experiment in discipline.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin