Sunday, January 13, 2013

A New Muse

How did it get to be almost the middle of January? I guess I've been too busy to notice the time whizzing by. The last week of the year is always a favorite for me: celebration season coming to an end and everything calming down, exercise classes on hiatus. Fewer social expectations means time to clean up the house and clean up my to-do pile in a more relaxed way, and always, make plans for a new season of learning and excitement.

As the light of day materializes, I contemplate my creative life.

This year the Strathmore workshops aren't scheduled to begin until March, but I had an alternate New Year's Day creative jolt: after starting the day with a very "rah! rah!" Weight Watchers meeting I came home to begin, in earnest, "2013, The Year of the Giraffe, An Experiment in Creativity" with the most excellent of creative cheerleaders, Carla Sonheim. I have taken numerous online workshops with Carla over the last two years, as have others of the giraffe class, and we were so ready for this new concept. Rather than being an actual drawing class, we are expanding our vision about the meaning of creativity by having one basic muse, the giraffe, and twelve monthly assignments in various forms of creative expression. We will design assignments of our own choosing, we will communicate through word and image, we will talk on the phone, we will create a group e-zine, we will make friends around the world, and best of all, we will share an understanding of what it is to be a person who needs to, who must, create as a part and parcel of daily life. Rather than have a goal of finished product, the goal is to be present for the process.

January's assignment is to draw the giraffe, in any manner, as few or as many as we choose, largely from life or from photo reference, and then some from imagination. I began with three "realistic" portraits in conte crayon, and have moved on to ink and warm-up exercise type drawing. This week I hope to go back to portraits in pencil and maybe charcoal. I am not adding color yet. I want to study features and lines for a while.

A classmate's husband took the photo reference for this drawing while on safari.

This is a new baby and mom who live at Chicago's Brookfield zoo (drawn from a photo.)

Inaugurating my new journal with three versions of each animal (drawn while looking at the reference photo, but not the journal page.)

These "cool dudes" were the happy accident of drawing with water soluble marker with my eyes closed entirely, then adding water to spread the ink with my eyes open.
It occurs to me, faithful readers, that for a bit of a while now, even though I have been quite busy with classes and learning and trying many new things, what I have been sharing with you are photos and tales of my recent travels (still more installments to come!), and that I have quite a backup of this and that to show you. After two and a half years with my very first artist's journal, more of a practice book, plus some coffeehouse doodling, some travel drawing and a few "good" pages, I have come to the end of it, and chosen two others in my possession with which to move forward. One I bought as a lovely souvenir of Spain, which will suffice for my year of the giraffe, and for mixed media I am finally committing myself to my first Moleskine from Melanie Testa's class in 2012, and I think I will need to buy a new "everyday" book for scratching in.

This is one of my proudest doodle sketches in the old journal because I did an interesting piece based on a real art drawing strictly from memory. The two drawings are very different, but related, and I like how one begot the other. (I don't think I ever showed you the more formal one, and I will try to do that next time.)

This highlights my love of lettering and trying to develop ways to fill space with meaningful texture that is not a standardized doodle.

Many times in this short journey, partly due to excitement with learning, and partly due to the reality of the scheduling of online offerings, I have had to take classes at less than optimal times or overlapping with others, so that I may not have finished all the assignments or lessons. I have decided that the exposure to what I do have time for is better than not taking them at all. In most cases there is printed material to return to later, or even archived video lessons to use at my leisure. Such was the case these last six months, too much, too complex, but what would I be willing to lose? None, really. In some cases, I will return to finish these classes on my own, in others just the exposure to new ideas is welcome and will carry over to other activities.

In November, I had the opportunity to take a six week introductory class in the use of a FREE digital editing and drawing program called GIMP. It is something like Photoshop, quite complex, and will take much more study and practice, but it was a revelation to begin to understand "layers" and "brushes," and other tools of the trade.

I enjoy photographing the flowers in my summer garden, so it was fun to work a little color magic on this clematis, and the iris below.

My favorite garden ornament becomes ethereal with a color punch.

I started to learn about the ability to "capture" areas of the image (here a part of a garden pot,) and then layer them on interesting backgrounds.

Capturing areas, adding filters, emphasising parts. The artistic choices are endless.
Learning to "cut" a piece of a photo and make a frame for it.

Drawing by creating shaped areas to fill will color gradations, using brushes to make patterned lines (or stamp with) to add or erase color.

These are basically doodles with brushes drawn or stamped through defined areas. So much fun, and you can create your own from any cropped bit of a photo or drawing.

 I continued my Alabama Chanin wardrobe with a long sleeve bolero with bead and sequin embellished cuffs. Although I am generally not a "sparkly" kind of dresser, this piece works well with jeans, and will be a versatile cover up for cool times or just for adding a little special kick to a simple outfit.
This is my fabric and bead choice showing the instructions page in the book  "Alabama Studio Sewing and Design."

The finished cuffs, and the garment below. (Of course, there are pants involved when I wear it!)

 I had to try a pair of the hand warmers. They were a bit difficult to sew with the two layers creating eight in the flat felled seams in tight places. Not sure if I'll make them again.

My first journal page spread of the new year summed up the completion of my biggest goal for 2012: being able to have clothes shopping be a fun experience again, and giving me a reason to put all that time and effort into making artistic handsewn garments.

My favorite blogging artist at "Smallest Forrest" gave me a wonderful idea for capturing creative ideas before they flee in a small (this is really small) journal called a "Seed Book", named for the seeds of ideas.
 And finally, after months of it sitting idle on a shelf, I decided to get out my hand-me-down iPad and use it for:

       1. a Weight Watchers online cookbook source,

       2. a (Pandora) radio on my kitchen island, and

       3. an electronic sketchpad from the inspiration of another favorite blogging artist, Pat, at "Reclinerart's Posterous".

Here I am playing with brushes for the first time (in a controlled manner.)

Here I am playing with brushes like a kid (or someone who doesn't mind calling the giraffe her muse.)

And here I am actually attempting to draw with it . (The program is "Sketch Club".) Let's just say there is going to be room for improvement, but I do expect to have some fun trying.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Slice of the (Holiday) City

Faithful readers will know that about twice a year I journey to the nearest big city for an overnight stay, to feed on all the color and energy I can, and bring it back home for inspiration. Now we are speaking of a place just one hour away, a place that many neighbors commute to daily for work. Because we don't have close by public transit, that repeat drive would wear away the charm. The traffic, the parking, the cost. For me, though, it is that special stash of somethin' I keep in the back of the closet, to bring out when I am feeling low and need a treat, some extra dose of color, noise, and surprise. It never fails to deliver. And yet, I am always glad to get in the car and return to my peaceful place. I bring with me the inspiration and the bigger picture of what is possible, and I try to fill my life with its glow.

We had a quiet stretch of holidays this year. No close-by family, just a few events with friends. We did put up a tree and lights, dress up on occasion, eat some wonderful food. But what I remember most about December are the sights and smells, the walks and talks of two married people out on a date on the town. Come along and share the memory. (And if anyone ever asks you to come visit them in Chicago, find a way.)

Christkindlmarket 2012.
 Note the "balmy" temps indicated by the ability to take off hat and gloves, if only for a little while.

It's a sort of family friendly, drunken good time with fatty foods and Christmas ornaments in the middle of of the day in the middle of Daley Plaza.

I think Elphaba was there in disguise!

This year's souvenir mug was pretty in white, and even cooler in "negative" camera effects.

The Man was a little scary this way, so I cropped him a bit. You'll just have to imagine an entire green Dave.

Taking a break from street walking with a pizza lunch at Cafe Baci, across from Millennium Park skating rink.

Refreshed we take on the wonders of the Chicago Cultural Center, always grand and beautiful...

...but accessible to the people like the library it once was.

There are always wonderful exhibits of thought provoking contemporary art, but sometimes I just enjoy photographing the beautiful galleries with the glorious views.

Finally back to the room for a rest. Our "Fiona" was waiting for us.

The first of several journal pages for the visit. I am trying to start a more regular practice of both drawing and journaling. I am starting to see some amazing improvements, and it makes me want to do more.

Friday morning breakfast, and what would a day off be for the man without a work call or several?

I got this one laid out in a jiff, took a couple of photos, then finished it  at home. We wouldn't want that egg and bacon "sammich" getting cold!

A return to Macy's to just wander, though we found some incredible bargains and made a few purchases. No, not that hat.

The basement level has a large busy food court with some rather fresh and tasty sushi.

The bargains may be on State Street, but a visit to the Mag Mile is always required. This is the controversial new Burberry Store, kind of pretty, but a rather flashy, "look at me!" neighbor.

Just getting ready to begin his "set" as I walked by and clicked.

Always some new angle to fascinate the visual palate.

Sadly this was the same day something terrible came to pass in the history of violent senseless behavior. I drew for a while while we listened to the news.

Wine hour number two, and many attempts at a self portrait in front of the fire and holiday tree.

Some great and scary masks line the stairwell to the restrooms at our Mexican restaurant, "Dos Diablos" on Hubbard Street. We chose not to ride the mechanical bull out front, but did have some excellent dinner and drinks.

As tragic and sad as the news of the day, the weather was outrageously  balmy and demanded a long and relaxing after dinner stroll, including one last walk through the late opened stores. Reflections on the Chicago River.

A truncated view of Marina City from the State Street bridge.

Watching the traffic go by.

It felt more like a summer evening (for those of us used to Chicago winters, that is.) Normally if we were walking in December we would be running to get inside a next destination.

My favorite clock at the corner of Wacker and Wabash. 

So many movies about Chicago use shots of this elevated "L-turn" on Lake Street. Sometimes we have a hotel room that looks down on this scene. I never tire of watching the trains round the corner.

The color of the city was gold, and red...

and glowing green.

Whoosh and clickety-clack.

They glow and change color, and are almost impossible to photograph realistically, so a little color editing doesn't hurt.

When you get them up close, the color washes out. I still like the way they frame the street scene.

I washed the color out of this one to turn gold to silver, and a more wintry mood. The trumpets of Macy's blare.

And of course, we had to find some Christmas red.

Oh, and this is the special "Chicago" stash I'm keeping in the closet right now. Some sinfully expensive and exotic chocolate from Vosges.
I'm all filled up and ready to begin a winter of new classes and art adventures. (Don't be surprised if you start hearing something about giraffes!)