This week I found out that I will have to wait on painting the twins' portraits due to some challenges with getting reference photographs. Their portraits will come eventually, but they won't be part of the six week time period. I anticipated this happening last week and added another portrait (Abigail) and officially decided to include Matthew's portrait in the group of six.
During week 5, I added more details to Savannah's and Penelope's portraits. I also finished or mostly finished Henry, Matthew, and Abigail.
Here are some detailed photos of the six portraits at Week 5.
All of these portraits will get wrapped up during week six. Then I'll photograph them and I'll reveal the completed set in a week. I'm excited to show you!
Side note: I've added more finished paintings to my portfolio page. Take a look at them here.
My studio is filling up with faces and loads of color! It is truly a joy to be in this space during this snowy-white winter we're currently experiencing in Minnesota.
This week I changed my plan a bit since I wasn't able to start the final two portraits of my Portrait Project as I had hoped. So, while waiting for photos of the twins to arrive in my inbox, I added more details to some of the portraits I already have in progress.
I also chose another subject to add to the project since I was getting antsy without a portrait to start! So, here's my progress on Abigail this past week.
What comes next?
I'm also considering what my next step will be after this Portrait Project comes to an end. I definitely don't want to stop making portraits. I think I'm learning quite a bit, discovering my style, and getting into a groove. I especially love to see the faces as they emerge from a black page.
Please let me know if I can make a portrait for you!
I'm halfway through my Portrait Project! I've discovered that one of my favorite parts of creating a portrait is working out the contours of the face. It's like putting together a puzzle. I feel compelled to keep working on it until all the pieces come together just right -and click!- I've created the likeness of the person. It's very satisfying and challenging all at once.
This week I started two portraits! The two girls are sisters and I want to be sure their portraits work together as a set. It's been a fun challenge to be sure their color schemes jive and their compositions work well as a pair when placed next to each other.
Penelope (and Savannah)
As I mentioned last week, I'm going to hold off on finishing each portrait until the final week of the 6-week long Portrait Project. I want to be able to bounce from one to the next and back again, so I can learn from each one as I go along.
This coming week I'm hoping to start on Jonah and Noah, another pair of portraits! This time the duo is not only siblings, but they're identical twins!
Yes, I'm taking commissions!
Sometimes the pieces just seem to fit together so well. That’s when I know I’m on the right track!
I started my 6-week long Portrait Project just as I was figuring out a new routine that would allow me to include both pastel painting and textile art in my daily schedule. It really was the ideal time for me to get to work on a pastel project! Was it kismet or am I getting really good at hearing my intuition? Whichever it is, I’m glad it’s working for me.
Two weeks into my project of 6 portraits in 6 weeks and I’ve started two. My goal for this project is to use it as a learning experience, a way to discover how I want to work as a pastel artist. (By the way, thank you to the participants who are allowing me to create portraits for them as part of this experiment!)
Since beginning, I’ve already determined that I want to keep each portrait unfinished until later in the 6-week process. It seems to me that the portraits should work together as a group. I want to be able to bounce from one to the next, so I can learn from each one as I go along.
Here’s where I am now.
Other Pastel Work Continues
In the meantime, I continue to work on other pastel pieces to learn, grow, and refine my techniques. Here are some of the other portraits I’ve completed for practice - and because it's so fun!
In the next two weeks I'll start on Savannah and Penelope. Check back for my progress!
I broke things.
It didn't seem like something I'd do. But it felt right.
Since late summer I've been experimenting. Drawing and painting, trying new things, and reveling in the freedom of it all. I've felt this amazing ability to let go of the guilt one usually gets when not doing what one is "supposed to be doing".
I’ve felt taken over by creativity, and I’ve allowed myself to let it happen. It's been a gift.
But, I've got responsibilities, timelines, goals, and a Fiber Art Project Grant. The free-wheeling can’t continue indefinitely. Which, I'm not going to lie, has been a tough fact to face.
Fitting the Broken Pieces Together – in a New Way
For a while I actually thought I would have to give up on my textile art. It was simply too hard to pull myself away from drawing and painting with pastels. That amazing feeling of flow that I’ve been experiencing when I draw and paint, has been a true siren call.
I reminded myself that it wouldn't be in my own best interest to not complete what I had set out to do. Also, did I really want to give back the $5,000 I received for the Project Grant? Did I really want to tell the wonderful people who awarded me that money that I was giving up?
Not at all.
What I needed to do was pick up all the pieces I broke and figure out a new way to put them together. A way that would work for me now, in my new place.
I got serious and wrote down a daily routine for myself that would allow me to fit in all the parts.
The Ah-ha! Moment
Writing it down was the easy part. As I struggled to start my new routine, I realized something huge. The fiber work was feeling really hard. Not because I didn’t like it anymore. No; but because in my mind it felt scary. Unlike when I created textile art in the past, this time the stakes are high: I have a Grant, an upcoming Exhibition, and Very Important People to please and impress.
The pastel work, on the other hand, is just for me. It has an experimental feeling and there are no stakes.
I realized that I needed to take the pressure off my textile work. I didn't want to get started on it again because it felt so risky and I was having a fear of failure. So, using what I learned from my research on creativity – in fact, exactly what got me started on pastels – I decided to re-frame things in my head.
I told myself, the next textile piece I made would be a warm-up. Like when you’re learning a new card game and the first round you play is just to get the rules figured out. No pressure; just explore. Plus, you know that Picasso quote: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” I needed to get to work.
And what do you know. For two weeks now, I’ve had my new routine working. That first week, I created a piece of textile art that I don’t know how I feel about. It’s not so great – but who cares, it was only for practice. The real point of that piece was that it helped me get into the new routine.
I’ve started to realize these seemingly disparate undertakings are all part of my year-long Jerome Project Grant. All of it: researching creativity, breaking my routine, experiencing the freedom of the pastel work, the challenge of getting back to textile work, discovering the necessity of a new routine.
Actually, sorting out all of this has accomplished exactly what I wanted when I originally wrote my grant proposal last May:
I’ve gone through all of this to discover my new studio art practice. Wow.
I'm starting to settle into my new routine. It includes both textile art and pastel painting. Things are flowing easier. I’m feeling inspired by both mediums. In fact, every day I feel like pinching myself because I can hardly believe I got what I wished for: a studio art practice.
It feels good.
How is it possible that I started working with soft pastels just a short five months ago? I feel such an affinity for this medium. I've been drawing and painting almost continuously since I first asked my son if I could use his broken pastels!
Starting a New Habit
When I began, I decided I'd try to spend about an hour a day getting into the habit of drawing, just for fun, nothing serious. But, silly me, I had no problem starting; instead there were many times when I felt that I couldn't stop. I felt this incomprehensible urge to just keep drawing. It was an amazing feeling; like coming alive again.
Click on the photos below to see each finished piece.
I love this line I heard a while back: "There are no mistakes, there's only data collection." If you look at life as a learning process, you're simply collecting data with each thing you do, and there is no such thing as a mistake. Use what you learn and build upon it, one step at a time. Step one isn't a mistake, it's just the necessary foundation for step two.
So, after creating many scenes of nature, a subject I've always felt comfortable with, I decided to keep an open mind and try drawing people. In the past I never felt comfortable drawing people, but, when there are no mistakes, just learning, there's nothing to lose in trying!
A Commissioned Painting
After my return from the One of a Kind Show in Chicago, it was wonderful to have a commissioned painting waiting to be started. This particular request was very meaningful: it would be a very special Christmas gift for a woman who is honoring her 50th wedding anniversary, five years after the passing of her husband.
What a feeling to be trusted with such an important task. My heart was filled with gratitude and I couldn't wait to begin. The photos I received of the couple showed them dancing at their son and daughter-in-law's wedding nine years ago. I could see such love and joy between the two of them in the candid photos, I immediately knew the painting should impart those feelings.
To accomplish this, I decided the dancing couple would be the whole focus of the painting. I did this in two main ways. First, I highlighted the dancing couple by having the two of them be the only element in the painting that continues into the foreground. Everything else fades away into the background.
Secondly, I decided to include a photographer who was off to the side in one of the reference photos. Including her in the painting worked to my advantage. The viewer's eye first gazes upon the dancing couple at the center, then the viewer's eye is drawn over to the photographer with her camera, which in turn leads the gaze right back to the dancing couple. I love the effect.
The blurry twinkle lights, the guests clapping and watching the couple dance, and the dark night outside the windows, all offer an ambiance of magic to the painting.
I'm pleased to report that the gift was well received! The daughter-in-law sent me this note, "I wanted to let you know the pastel was a success! There were lots of tears, mostly good ... We got a text after everyone had left [on Christmas] letting us know that she will treasure it forever. Thank you again for everything!"
I already have two more commissioned pastels to work on in January. What fun! I will also continue to create textile art, as I am working toward my Jerome Grant Project exhibition in May.
I am really looking forward to the New Year ahead. It is promising to to be a year filled with art and learning! I hope your New Year is wonderful, as well!
Human beings are a confusing species. There is such a duality to us. Consider the two opposing human desires of predictability and exploration. How is it that a species can desire both? They are opposites. But yet, they must be two sides of the same coin, because we do.
On one hand, we love to fit things into boxes. We want simple explanations; we want there to be absolute answers, we want things to be black and white. We like predictability. It makes it easy for our brains to process information if we can quickly name it and file it away.
It is comforting and comfortable to live with the known.
Contrast that with the human desire for exploration. Humans crave the new. We love to learn, make discoveries, and explore the vast unknown. We like a challenge. We are curious beings. We strive for creativity and originality.
There is joy to be found by stepping into the unknown.
So, there’s a dichotomy. We want to feel comfortable; comfort is such a warm and cozy feeling. As for the unknown, there is discomfort there. There is fear: of uncertainty, of failure, of insecurity; there is stress.
It doesn’t make sense to always be outside of your comfort zone. It would be utterly stressful to never have the comfort of the known. It also doesn’t make sense to always be comfortable. Boredom, perhaps even regret, is sure to follow.
It can’t be one or the other. In fact, I think it’s actually the contrast between the known and the unknown that is most beneficial to us. We can’t have one without the other, because it's the contrast itself that provides the enjoyment. If there is too little contrast, what is life but monotony?
We need to allow ourselves to go through the uneasiness of the unknown, so that we can find the delight of discovering new things; about ourselves, about our world. Once we push ourselves through this discomfort, the unknown is unknown no longer. We will find our minds expanded and we will become comfortable with this new way of being.
Then we can begin again. Push and expand, understand and relax. Both, and.
My latest work of textile art “Two Views” got its start back in September when I had been making an overabundance of sharks and I needed a creative break. It wasn’t in my schedule, but I pulled out some fabrics and decided to work on something different for the day.
I do a lot of ruminating on philosophical ideas. I like to consider things like: what makes us human, how society works, and the intricacies of human relationships. I also love to learn about the latest science on the human brain.
When I took out the two blue patterns five months later, I had been thinking extensively about the concept of reality. Everyone is different. Our upbringings and our unique life experiences are like filters, and it is through these filters that we understand the world. I like to ponder if there is an actual true Reality when we are all looking at the world in so many different ways.
In his book The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen wrote, "Life has a kind of velvet luster. You look at yourself from one perspective and all you see is weirdness. Move your head a little bit, though, and everything looks reasonably normal." I find this idea fascinating. I frequently notice that I hold two seemingly contradictory feelings or thoughts or views at the same time. I decided to explore these ideas further as I worked with the two slightly different blue striped patterns.
Most of the time, I don’t have a predetermined design that I’m working to create. Likewise, for this project I used the process of cutting and arranging to lead me to the final design. This way of working can itself be a contradiction since it's both exciting and nerve-racking to work when the outcome is unknown. I have to do a lot of stepping back and looking and thinking during the process.
I think this artwork would look wonderful framed in a modern white float frame. Its complex, yet soothing pattern, simple straight lines, and beautiful blues will bring a sense of calm and interest to any space.
You can see this piece in person at the upcoming American Craft Council Show in St. Paul, April 20 - 22, 2018. I'll be in booth 510.
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions.
I started last year with intentions of spending a whole lot of time exploring my new love: wall art. I got through the winter and the spring creating new works and exploring new ideas. It was thrilling!
I made my first sale of wall art at the American Craft Show in April, where I was also awarded the Award of Excellence in Booth Design. Things were looking good! Then, my handbag line got picked up by the prestigious Walker Art Center's gift shop, as well as the UptownMN shop in the MSP Airport. I was so happy!
And then came mid-summer. Unexpectedly, the year turned into (cue the Jaws theme music: dun dunnnnnn, dun dun dunnnnnnn... ) The Year of the Shark.
At the end of July, with a single day's warning, Etsy chose to feature my 'Out to Sea' Shark Bite Pouch on their front page.
This launched a tidal wave of orders!
Only a few weeks into the feature, I was booked with 12 weeks worth of work! At that point, I removed all Shark Bite pouches from my Etsy shop to stem the tide of incoming orders.
As Autumn rolled around, I was ready to stop making sharks and get back to my explorations of art.
My favorite retailer, Uncommon Goods, was looking to get in on the shark action! After a smattering of small orders, they suddenly placed an order for 120 sharks (!) in November. I almost told them, "No thanks, I've had enough of sharks for the year." But, I challenged myself to take the order and completed 120 sharks in just three weeks.
That comes out to about 5 months worth of working on sharks full-time!
What got me through such an intensive amount of time creating sharks? Well, it was helpful to have a vacation to look forward to!
I ended the year with a much needed break: a family dream-vacation in Maui, Hawaii.
Although, I didn't see any sharks, I did see: humpback whales, eels, an octopus, sea turtles, manta rays, and loads of fish and coral!
I went scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling, whale watching, and spent plenty of time swimming in the sea and exploring the island. It was wonderful.
Now I'm back in my studio, thinking about the year ahead. I plan to make some changes. I'm ready to make this year The Year of Exploring Textile Art. And so that it doesn't get away from me again, I'll have to do things a little bit differently.
I think sharks will need to take a back burner if I want to make progress on my art.
First, however, I have an order of 30 sharks to complete...
Happy New Year!
I didn't do anything with that one piece at the time, and it fell to the bottom of the pile on my side table. But the idea of creating wall art grew on me. Throughout the fall my mind was full of ideas. Color combinations I wanted to work with swirled around in my head.
I couldn't take action at the time; holiday shows and orders took precedent and I had to wait until the new year to start exploring my ideas. But once my time freed up, I went all in -- and for the past few months, I've been wholeheartedly enjoying the process of assembling textiles into arrangements of pattern and color.
Creating larger works, without the constraints of turning them into handbags, has allowed me to explore so many ideas.
I've been able to think about how to create the look of movement with arrangements of fabric.
I've been enthralled with exploring the idea of opposites, especially at a time of such polarization in our country.
There is a lot more that I want to do. In fact, it seems that I have an over-abundance of ideas for color combinations and patterns that I want to work with. I especially want to think more about how opposites can work together. And I don't want to stop making more.
I hope to see you there!
I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.
I also enjoy reflecting on the human condition.
In my blog, I write about my musings and my art.
Find my bio here.