Saturday, May 26, 2012

Home from another wonderful retreat ...

Just back from another art retreat and thought I'd share a few photos ... clockwise, from top left: a freshly-minted muslin Gypsy King enjoys the "reading" table ... a fun little stamped banner was hung over a vintage photo by the front door... a *very* cool set of thin alphabet stamps ... an aerial view of my caran d'ache crayons and my washi tape collection ... the "paint table" was in full swing ... even the "freebie" table looks beautiful without trying ... and in the center, someone's well-loved and well-used palette.

At midnight the day before we left, I was literally sitting in my studio without a clue what I would take with me to work on. Having just finished two sketchbooks for the Sketchbook Project, and a few other big projects, my head was unusually empty of inspiration and ideas. I've learned in times like those to go lay down on the bed with a notebook nearby and breathe deep for a few minutes - imagining the future stretching out like a prairie road in front of me and see what looks like it might be coming over the horizon. A half hour later I had near-enough to a brainwave to start packing ... and things went much faster after that.

And (of course) what happens is that when I get there and start seeing what everyone else is up to, the creative gears start turning. I spent the first evening bringing the Gypsy King to life. I discovered him on the "freebie" table with just enough paint in just enough places that he wasn't a blank slate, so to speak. His hair was already half orange/half blue, his eyes were drawn on and he had a heart. Somehow the presence of these merest of markings were enough to set me going. Throw in my recent readings on the history of Gypsies and Travelers, and I soon enough found his character taking shape and colour. I wish I'd had the smarts to take a before picture, but you'll just have to take my word for it that he was nothing like he is now.

In lieu of paints, I used sharpies and caran d'ache crayons to add all the colour and pattern. That's the funny thing about *not* having a plan ... if you don't have a plan, you can't not be following it, if you catch my drift. But I quickly discovered that drawing on a soft muslin doll with hard crayons is not so easy, and this led me serendipitously to a new way to use caran d'ache crayons like watercolours by scribbling a "puddle" of colour on glossy card and using a wet paintbrush to soak up the pigment and paint the muslin. Not only did I get the full range of colours I already had, but by scribbling two colours together, I could really control the palette. I went on to use this technique to do some "real watercolours" later during the weekend (which I'll share in another post) and I have the unplanned Gypsy King to thank for it.

After having spent a few good hours bringing him to life, he looked a little bored when I perched him on the windowsill behind me ~ yes, I know, he's not real ~ but I still felt compelled to give him something to keep him occupied while I continued on with my creative weekend, so I tore out some pages from an old stamp catalog and made him a book filled with postage stamps of places he can dream of visiting. And once he had a book, the reading table was the logical place to be. Happily, he also joins a growing list of "interesting things I didn't know I was going to make when I got there". I love these retreats. I wish everyone in the world could go off and do what we go off and do ~ be creative, supportive and spontaneous. It's really amazing what comes out of it.

Friday, May 04, 2012

And here's a little more from the Science of Story ...

 Here are two more spreads from The Science of Story. As you can imagine, I had quite a bit of fun combining scientific charts, graphs and diagrams with text about writing. I've always been fascinated with "infographics". Not sure why that is, although I've heard that women are strong visual learners, and we very much like to see the relationships between things rather than just absorbing masses of information. I'm no expert, but I do know I often feel a bit at sea learning something new till I have a visual framework to hang all the info on, so it makes sense to me.

The Science of Story is part of the Sketchbook Project - Limited Edition, which means that at least one of my pages will be chosen for publication in a series of books the Brooklyn Art Library plans to publish. When I signed up I saw that the range of topics for the Limited Edition was quite a bit shorter than  previous projects they've launched. I'm hoping this means they'll be publishing a book for each topic and someday I can look forward to seeing an entire book on The Science of Story through many different artists' eyes. And wouldn't that be fun? Oh yes ...