Stephanie Hansen is this week's interviewee at the Artists Loft of Soul Food Cafe presents The Self Portrait Challenge. The challenge which appears easy at first glance, but could offer lots of opportunities for artistic growth.
"How about, when you have nothing better to do, you lie on a big sheet of paper and get the girls to trace around you and then do a self portraiture using the body shape. I am doing this with some Grade 6 kids and I am about to get my Year 12's to do it as well. It is a real hoot!
Once you have the shape hang it up for awhile - answer some of these questions and then go for it using all your favorite mediums - language, collage, whatever takes your fancy..."
In her interview, Stephanie talks about her work and the importance of language to the visual arts. "My work is filled with the articulation of unpopular truth. A mirror on which I painted, "I am the most important person in my life. I am more important than my parents or my children," was actually fought over by two women in their forties, each one determined to take it home. But first, each one gasped and declared, 'I can't believe you said that!'"
For more of Stephanie's work, visit her website at: http://worthworks.com/
Any volunteers to coordinate an art quilt challenge around this??
What is style?? That is a question that seems to return year after year. We can understand Impressionist style versus the Cubist style. The big swings in style are easy to grasp; stylistic variations that happened years ago seem obvious in hind sight. What is harder to understand are the small variations in style and as well as contemporary stylistic variations.
Matt Madden is a comic artist who investigated differences in contemporary comic style by having himself and several friends execute "Exercises in Style": visual variations on the exact same content. How many ways can you visually express the same 14 words and related actions?? Start with the template, and work your way through some Exercises in Style.
"Exercises in Style was inspired by a work of the same name by the French writer Raymond Queneau. In that book, Queneau spun 99 variations out of a mundane, two-part text about two chance encounters with a mildly irritating character during the course of a day. He started by telling it in every conceivable tense, then by doing it in free verse and as a sonnet, as a telegram, in pig latin, as a series of exclamations, in an indifferent voice... you name it.
The goal of this project is to apply the same principle to comics by creating as many variations as possible on a simple one-page non-story: different points of view, different genres, different formal games, and so on.
One additional variation on the project is that a group of cartoonists have been given a brief script of the one-page piece and asked to create their own version of the comic." All this and more will be released as a book Chamberlain Brothers, a new imprint of Penguin Books, in 2005.
Style: 3. expressive style, style -- (a way of expressing something (in language or art or music etc.) that is characteristic of a particular person or group of people or period; "all the reporters were expected to adopt the style of the newspaper")
Jose Luis Martinez' Visual Journal web site contains a dated entries for the past 18 months (more or less), each with a digital photo and some commentary. A favorite entry of mine is titled Humma, and features a woman who looks like your average American retiree, but with the Buddha shining out of her eyes. Jose Luis writes: "She has gone through several heart and eye surgeries, has a bad hip and she is hurting most of the time, that particular night in which the picture was taken, she had a crazy itch that would not leave her alone. What is amazing to me is that regardless of how worn her body is and how much she complains about it, her spirit is young and when engaged in a conversation she transforms in to a little girl filled with excitement about practically everything."
These photos capture daily life around San Francisco. Suburbs in paradise and Suburbs on a collision course; babies on buses; an extraordinary view from the interstate; city streets; a ray of light. Life is not what we expect, but we can always find more than we deserve. These photos are proof of the visual riches abounding.
Advice - go to the archives, pick any date with a line under it and browse. Use the before and after arrows to move from one photo to the next.
image: Trees, Treasure Island by Jose Luis Martinez
Access Art in the U.K. has produced a series of online art workshops for teachers and learners. Right now I am working my way through the Draw! unit. The first part asks the learner to think about what drawing is (and isn't). "What is a drawing? At its most basic, a drawing is nothing more than a series of marks made on a surface by one human being, which another human being can understand.... Believing what you see. Drawing is about forgetting what you think you know, and believing what you see. Never assume you know what the thing you are going to draw looks like. Take your time before you begin to draw, and make sure you are really looking - try seeing the object as if for the first time."
Then the tutorial moves on to some intriguing exercises for the practice of drawing: "To get round the worry of the white page, give yourself something else to think about. Set some restrictions on your drawing. Make a number of drawings of the same object using different restrictions, i.e. "I'll only make calm marks" "I'll only use angry marks", "I'll only use four lines". Work with extremes!" I like the idea of just making marks that express my mood. I spend far too much time worrying about depicting visual reality - time for some emotion!
Right now I am working on a series of landscapes using thread painting. That's from my sketchbook (left). I'm trying to extend a painterly vision into a new realm. This has me struggling with the basics: how to create a realistic landscape within a hard-edged medium. To be specific: how to get the distant hills to move into the background and stay there (where they belong!) and at the same time, how to create some crisp edges (my piece is looking a bit mushy)
The Smithsonian has two resources:
first - a tutorial on landscape painting that they created for use in the classroom. (see below)
second - a virtual tour through American landscapes, giving lots of insight of how these principles are applied.
From Landscape Painting: Artists Who Love the Land
1. A winding path.
A path or river that winds through the landscape from foreground to background can make us believe that the picture describes a deep space.
2. Changes in size.
A tree that is close to us appears much larger than a tree of the same size that is far away.
A boulder that is close to us overlaps and partially hides a much larger cliff behind it.
4. Changes in clarity.
A distant mountain range appears more hazy and less distinct than a mountain that is closer.
Land that moves away from us on the diagonal appears to move back into space.
Hannah Hinchman is the author of several books on visual journaling, two of which are significant to me: A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place, and A Life in Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal. For years I have read and re-read both of these books. Growing up, I spent every summer in the back roads of Montana, so Hinchman's drawings crystalize those magical memories of my childhood: lying in tall grass, watching bees slowly explore each flower. Hinchman is a master at illustration. She doesn't just replicate the look of what she see, but she captures and conveys its essence. Her drawings have a naturalist's notation of the strict reality of the situation, but her pen strokes capture the moment's glory of being alive.
Both books are full with hints and points of inspiration on how to become a better journal keeper, as well as how to learn and grow from what you record. Lately I have been struggling with the balance in fiber art with "cuteness". "Cute" is an all-too-easy path to follow, if you are working with fabric and thread. I find myself returning to A Trail Through Leaves, Chapter Four: The Power of the Ordinary. "The trail of words and pictures that I'm leaving is more complete than most people's, but its still a trail of tips and icebergs, little slices of light and color that are all that I can capture of the big masses moving underneath. But threading through, in fact, floating on top of all this matter like sea ducks among the icebergs, are moments of the ordinary-made-extraordinary by the simple act of choosing and isolating them"
images: from A Trail Through Leaves by Hannah Hinchman.
Stretch your imagination with a series of online art challenges thrown to the general public. Learning to Love You More "is both a web site and series of non-web presentations comprised of work made by the general public in response to assignments given by artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher and various guests." Simple directions; they give out an assignment and anyone who wants to takes up the challenge.
My favorite of the assignments (to date) is probably: Assignment #6:Make a poster of shadows. Christina Ory has created some shadows that have lives and tales of their own to tell just with expressive detailed shapes. John VanBeers has created a compelling series of hard-edge abstract forms laid out on a grid.
The assignments are being shown at art museums internationally, including The Whitney Biennial, Seattle Art Museum, and the FACT Center in Liverpool, England. The exercises are intended for all media, possibly video and photography being the most common. But many of the ideas could be used as sparks to charge any design dead end. How about a gridded quilted, embroidered shadow study?
Danny Gregory's Illustrated Weblog Journal is a regularly updated blog with pages from a wonderfully inspiring artist's journal! He jumps freely from medium to medium and pushes the box, trying a variety of styles. Best of all were the words that greeted me today about being fearless about committing to drawing in your journal: " January 01, 2004 - Do not fear mistakes
Marybethd sent me an email asking how she could go about finding her own voice. She also said she was reluctant to draw in her journal because "if I make a bad drawing, I am stuck with it...Forever!"
I wrote: Isn't it interesting that everybody has their own style of drawing and making visual things? It almost suggests that we actually see things differently. Perhaps each of us is looking through our own lense that has particular scratches and distortions that come from the years of accumulated experience. We may all be striving to capture the same reality in front of us and yet, despite skill and practice, end up with very different marks on the paper and the same sense of satisfaction that we have actually captured what was in front of us. Even if you change media and techniques or look at your work over a lifetime, it is still you."
Gregory also has a homepage with links to many of his books and interviews.
image:December 27, 2003- Destuffing my Life by Danny Gregory
Art Journal by Kristi gives us a glimpse inside an artist's art journals and how she has risen to the challenge. Lots of photo collages that tie experiences together. Some sketches; some interesting experiments in red - this might be a good theme to follow. Kristi also has an interesting series of altered books.
Teesha Moore's art journals are on display in a magazine, play, that she published for a year. Play folded "due to high publishing costs", so back issues are available. Better yet - there are pages available on the internet that let us take a quick glimpse into her journals. A sample of play pages reveals intricate pages that combine painting, realistic drawing and photographs with some writing.
image by Teesha Moore
Individual journal pages are for sale online. These are more of separate works of art than a flowing monologue. Each piece is colorful with a central focal point. There are some delightful collages - really original ones, not just the pastiche of rubber stamps that seems to be sprouting up everywhere. Lots of symbols and imagery to explore - and striped legs!
They also offer something called "artfest" out on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Too bad it is so far - sounds very fun! "Artfest is a unique, camp-like experience where artists come together to create, share, learn from, and be nourished. We find the coolest artists to come teach the latest crazes along with fresh and original ideas and techniques. New friendships are formed and ideas are revealed, renewing your sense of self, your talents, your own creative vision, and a deeper understanding."
>Michael Bell - Visual Journaling for Life's Sake!
Four exercises in visual journaling:
1 - Field Observation
2 - Memory walking
3 - Meditative Sketching
4 - Listing
The goal is that the artist is the storyteller. through practice and exercise, one can become adept at telling the stories inside. There also is some work suggestions for those of us who have some pain from the past to sort through.
Michael Bell is an incredible illustrator, evoking emotion with layer of paint and the use of exaggeration and expressive emotion. HE's also involved in art education at the secondary level (6th -12th grades). Now, think what we all could be if we had had teachers like this!
image by Michael Bell
Sketchbook/JournalingThere is not a huge amount of information for the general artist on this site. This page is written for elementary school teachers as starting point for incorporating art into language arts instruction. But the snapshots of the journals are inspirational; lots of examples of sketching, experimenting and working through the process, rather than focusing on the product.
image from Jeffco Visual Arts: Sketchbook/Journaling
I'm always looking for little crafts; things that can be done easily and add some color and festivity to the year. These seem perfect. I think that I could even get my in-laws involved (and they like to think of themselves as totally non-artistic.)
4 strips of ribbons or paper
length is proportional to width 20:1
(1" wide ribbon = 20" long)
Another variation is depicted on the web at the Danish Patriotic Star site. That site give phtotgraphs of the process and of the finished star.
image by Nagle Design
The point of this exercise is to work creatively against time (and thereby defeating the self-criticizing syndrome that makes a blank white page seems to endless.)
The queen writes: "Self Portrait Creativity Exercise
Feeling like you are in the artistic doldrums? Try this great exercise to spark your creativity or escape artists' block. I modified this from an actual test I took (easiest test ever!) in a mixed media design class.
stack of old magazines, old books, or a pile from your collage collection
kitchen timer "
paint, markers, colored pencils or other coloring implements.
Question: do you want to go to the site and read the full directions - or be really creative and make up your own?
Each day for a year, Luna Jaffe created 'image cards' - small quick encapsulations of that particular day. At this page, she give examples and materials, as well as describes the process: "Imagine spending ten minutes a day creating an image of some detail from your life or experience. On the table you have watercolors, pens, markers, pastels, gouache, charcoal, rubber stamps, old magazines, brushes and glue. The small 4x6” watercolor paper is taped to create a frame, and secured to the table. You sit and think over the day, reflecting on conversations, concrete details, words, and feelings. Perhaps life is moving so fast you feel like a blur on the screen, or you had lunch with your mother and she was wearing her signature red scarf. On that day your image card might be “The Red Scarf”, drawn, painted loosely or collaged onto the paper. Or, you may take 2 or 3 pastels, swipe them across the page, wipe your hand across it and name it 'Life as a Blur.'"
A regularly updated series of journals on collaborations between British and Japanese fiber artists. One collaborator is experienced; one is emerging. The journal entries are illustrated with images of materials, sketchbook pages and finshed projects.
image: Jeanette Appleton - August journal page
Art Escapes is a book of exercises to build creativity by practicing being creative. The exercises include daily journaling (with suggestion for subject matter and inspiration.) as well as larger specific exercises.
"The freedom I feel in my journals reminds me of the innocent way I entered the world of art. When I was 8, I discovered the miracle of mixing red and blue paint. The self-portrait ... shows me making finger outlines of horses in the night sky with my newly discovered purple."
Images by Dory Kanter.
j a n e f e s t From artist, Jane Wynn, a workshop on creating a shrine. Her advice on selecting the "object of devotion:"
In the next several months before our class begins, be searching for an object of devotion. The object that you will search for can be anything that holds a special meaning to you. It can be historic, like you’re first baby shoe, your child’s first tooth, a photograph, or a romantic love letter. It can also be an object that has visual appeal, like a vintage key, a little figurine, or a seashell. Keep in mind that an object no matter how unusual or even ordinary can have a special meaning. I will help you to learn how an old doorknob, placed just right and embellished with your inner creative voice can take on a powerful meaning of transcendence! So be listening and be searching.
(Important: In this case, when searching for an object, size does matter. Since we are working in a somewhat small to medium size range of about 8 x 10 – your object should be on the small side. However, if you really wanted to use a large object, like your pet or the house where you grew up- then you might want to find a photograph or something symbolic of your object.) . She has examples and materials listed at the site.
Visit Wynn's galleries to see her paintings, prints and three dimensional collages.