Thursday, March 30, 2006

Defining Art

What is art? Who would think such a small sentence was so loaded? Gombrich’s “Story of Art” talks about how the idea of “art” didn’t come around till after the Egyptian paintings. I always thought that was art, but he made me see how it is beautiful but it is also a part of a very intricate ritual with very rigid rules. It seems in the “serious” art world painting is art. At least that is what it would seem when you see what the art history books emphasize and what everyone assumes when I tell them I’m an artist. I always hear, “Oh, what do you paint?” (I do paint too, but that’s not the point.) And if you look at sales, though other art is selling, nothing sells like a painting because the general public has been told that is art. Photography was not seen as art at first either and now it is accepted by mostly everyone as art. Digital photography and manipulation seems to be the new art. This is a very exciting medium that can go in so many directions.

But this is all historical. What this question really means is, “What is art to you?” Of course, there are a lot of galleries and museums out there that are making up their own rules. You have to make up yours. I recently examined this question for myself and found I had two views (maybe there’s more in there, but I’m not going to get into multiple personality traits).

One view is from my perspective as an art teacher. That is that whatever each individual creates is art and we should all explore that side of our personalities. My neighbor who is taking pictures of her garden and blowing it up as a digital canvas is doing art. She is expressing herself in a creative way. I think this is a necessary part of the human psyche that needs so to be explored and cultivated.

My second view is as an artist. Basically, it comes down to one thing. Does it move me? Now, I can break it all down and say why one piece works and one doesn’t according to design and composition rules. I can find the logic and an understanding in any piece of art. But that doesn’t tell you what I’m really thinking. What is important to me is that it makes me feel or think, that it either answers an unsaid question or creates new ones for me to ponder. Craft, art, computerized or hand made are not the ultimate issues for me. I recently said I wanted to see the artist’s hand involved, but now I see these are the wrong words. I want to see their heart and soul. And I want that to somehow touch me, come from their realm into mine.

Can I do this with my own art? Well, I’m trying and will keep trying because I am an artist, a creator, and somehow want to give something to others of what my vision is. I want to touch someone, and I am going to give my whole heart to do it.

And that, folks, is what I think art, at least the man-made kind, is. Now, give me a misty morning with the light coming through the trees kissing the newly fallen leaves of autumn and my breath will stop. That is art too, but the artist’s hand is left to each of us for interpretation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Work in Progress

I have been pondering a lot about this new permission I have given myself to make mistakes. Realizing that up till now I have truly been assuming tht whatever art I do it has to be perfect. When it is not, my back gets all tight and I am frustrated. It is way time to let this go. I realized this even more when I began taking this painting class and for the first time in my life I was afraid, intimidated, to put anything on the canvas! Now how was I expecting myself to paint perfectly when I was only beginning? Silly me. I think it has also something to do with my expectations of other peoples expectations. I have to remember, as Art and Fear so well pointed out, that I am not doing this to please the masses. I may please some people and that is wonderful. In fact I want to do this, but I also want to express myself freely without worrying what impression it makes. Even on myself. I tell my students all the time to leave the inner critic behind when they come into my classroom and yet I've been carrying her on my shoulders all this time. No wonder I have back problems!

So, in line with all this and my personal promise to draw everyday, I drew my breakfast, as Danny Gregory reccommends. It was awful and I wasn't awake. But, I did it and I'm going to continue every day to do the same, not breakfast that is, but drawing. I think this is a true necessity for all artists. Hopefully, it won't be so awful in the future and I will feel more confidence in putting down what I want quickly, without fiddling over the details. I love those details, but there is something to be said for confident, immediate response. Details can come after.

Otherwise, I got back to my batik yesterday and today, yipee! I was missing the texture as compared to the flatness of painting on canvas. I also realized that it is really a good idea to plan for entering competitions/shows. Gives me a solid reason to finish by a certain date other than thinking I would like to show the pieces I make someday...

Oil painting tomorrow and we will be exploring color! This time I am jumping in without checking the water temperature. It might be a bit cold at first, but I'll get used to it. Just have to swim, even if sometimes it is a dogpaddle and not the butterfly.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Later and later

It's late and I should be going to bed, but I'm feeling so guilty about not writing in here for almost a month!! I did take some pictures, so now I have to figure out the download. Again, actually because my husband showed me and I took notes and then the notes disappeared! I might just try this on my own...

Let's see...where to start? Where did I leave off? Painting class. It is fantastic and I am on a huge learning curve. With my teacher and a little help from WetCanvas!, I have been sopping up information. I learned that you can make a linseed turpentine mix to cut down on the turpentine. I learned to scrub in the paint and not use so much turpentine. I was really overdoing it. I learned how to make a grisaille after doing it once in class and twice at home. I was on a bit of a slower learning curve with catching on about tone/value. I know about it and can teach it but doing it myself, another kettle of fish. How strange. First, I needed to accept that I couldn't get all the values of nature in, and second (and this is ongoing and big) I need to not get caught up in the details. I'm working very hard on painting and drawing quickly now to avoid this tendancy. I love detail! Problem is I get so involved in it I am not seeing the whole, the gestalt of the actual tableau. Retraining myself though, with a few pushes and shoves from my teacher. :0)

Drawing everyday now thanks to my teacher again and a little help from Danny Gregory. I just got his book "The Creative License". While I don't really need it for the beginning drawing it is a good book for beginning journaling which is something I've been meaning to do for some time. I think he has some good things to say about it. Plus his drawings are fun. This weekend I went back to the International Art Club for sharing a model. I drew in my studio on Friday and Saturday at the IAC. At the end of Saturday, I felt I was beginning to get something, starting to let go. It's funny how it is so hard to give myself permission to draw for the sake of the exercise and not having to come up with a finished drawing. I need to do this in my painting too. I forgot how to learn and the only way you can do that is by making mistakes. If you are afraid of mistakes, you will never learn. I hearby give myself permission to make mistakes and learn!

Ok, I'm going to go get my beauty sleep, not for my own beauty, but to create beauty tomorrow and every day!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mini, Maxi

Time is slipping away quicker than I can grasp with this blog, but I will persevere to give you my thoughts and actions at times. I've been working at my painting class. I was quite pleased yesterday when Hakim told me that my drawing in charcoal this week was good. I really feel like I'm getting an understanding of placement and volume like never before. This is going to help my work globally.

We began grisaille yesterday and that is another kettle of fish. I was surprised to find I was actually intimidated by the paint and canvas for the first time in a long time. Then I began painting and loved it more an more.

What I don't like are the solvents that you have to use with oils. I'll have to learn to keep that down to a minimum. I want to do this right from the beginnning so I don't get sick like so many other artists I've read about. Some of the warning you read on these things are very scary! This is the reason I stayed away from oils all these years ("ah, yes, now I remember"). Sigh...and yet it draws me back.

There is nothing like the way you can manipulate oils and the depth of field you can create. Why are the best processes the most toxic? I stayed away from batik because of the wax (also for the removal part, truth be known) and I am drawn to that too again this year. Well, I think the key here is to minimize the risk and maximize the beauty.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pricing an Procrastination

Just a quickie today, though I should be getting to this more often. Is there a word for blog guilt? Anyway, this was the last day of my exhibit in Wassenaar showing my boxes and I sold exactly nothing. Huge tailspin. Now that I'm, almost, done feeling sorry for myself I'm doing a major evaluation of my work, pricing etc. All opinions regarding the pricing of art are welcome. Particularly fiber art. Especially labor intensive art. Now I understand minimalism even more.

The procrastination part of this post is to say that I am yet still uneducated in the ways of digital photography and downloading images, BUT, there is talk in this house that it WILL happen this next weekend...

Keep checking, keep hoping, keep creating...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I've been working all week on my painting homework. Mainly, I am struggling with perspective. The main thing is doing it in charcoal. I'm so used to the precision of the pencil. But I understand the purpose of it. It is much more painterly. I think I got something, or understood it rather. My head feels a bit upside down though. Kind of like going from patting your tummy and rubbing your head to rubbing your tummy and patting your head. Or rollerskating and iceskating. Painting is not the same as drawing and it's been so long I forgot the feeling! I'm loving it though, the challenge and mind puzzle of it. This feels like the right road for me now.

In fact, it's giving me lots of ideas about my textiles so I know there is a marriage in there somewhere. Still, I'd like to get this new batik series finished. I originally thought it would be twelve pieces, but now I'm thinking five, or even three. I love the batik too and the different problems it presents. Actually it is not far from painting and I can see where the paintng skills I learn can be used in it. Right now though the images I'm using are rather flat so I've been avoiding it while I've been training my mind this week to see in three dimensions.

I'm learning so much these days, painting, Dutch, yoga...I feel as if I'm morphing into something else, a newer me. For this morning though I am still a sleepy me so Iwill sign off for now. As for the photos promised, that will have to be next week. Morphing has taken a lot of time and that particular element in the new me has been put off till next week, but they shall come. If you blog it, it will come...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Why Art?

Why do I do art? When I was young I wanted to be a vet. I loved, still love, animals so much and felt such a rapport with them. Alas, my concentration wasn’t there for memorizing all the formulas and facts to get through the science class. Of course, then I didn’t realize I was a visual learner. That took years.

When I went to college I thought I had to have a career decision right away, so I thought, well, I’m good wit I went into early childhood education. My concentration was Montessori, which is where I started myself in the education system. I went to a very peaceful women’s college in Indiana. But I became dissatisfied with program. Not wanting to give up being an EC teacher, I transferred to another school. Still I was dissatisfied, but not with the program this time. I just knew that was not who I was in the end. In the meantime I took a drawing class with a graduate student who encouraged me to “just let go.” What a concept. I took to it like a drowning sailor.

Still, I had to graduate and fast because money was running out, or going out, so I chose Office Administration. Well, I might have just cut off my right arm. In desperation I spoke to my drawing teacher and she said, “You could get run over by a truck tomorrow, what are you going to do today?” That helped. I took what I had left of my education classes, combined it with art and, with the help of a few loans and regular cashier’s job, got a degree in teaching art.

Learning to teach art was a great way to have an excuse to learn many art materials, from ceramics to sculpture, drawing to painting. But my love for fiber was drawn out from Barbara Lewis, the weaving teacher at JMU. She taught me the basics of silk painting that started me on a road of exploration that I am still on today.

Upon graduation, I taught for a year, then began working in an office and teaching part time in an art center. I also started teaching Surface Design in the evenings, which gave me more opportunities to play with fiber and see the products available out there. During this time, I met the most important person in my life and married him. Soon afterwards, we bought a house in France. We began a very nomadic life of going back and forth to the States every three months. Obviously I had no way to hold down a “real” job, so I turned to my art, which in truth I had only been doing part time till then.

Finding myself in a different culture, this was often my sanity. I could sit down and lose myself in a design or painting. It gave me a sense of self and security. Then I was given the opportunity to have a show in a local gallery, but I needed thirty pieces! That really set me off. I produced those paintings non-stop, working in a method of applying thickened dyes to raw silk, painting the images, and then quilting them.

I decided to try and be a bit more commercial and began creating one-of-a-kind shawls for retail, which I sold in museums and in New York City. Hanging a show in a dance center, I met Deborah Riley and she invited me to collaborate with her to create scenery for her dance piece “Old Cronies.” That was a whole other challenge because suddenly I was dealing with size and distance. It was very exciting to see her and her dance troupe bring the paintings to life. I felt very lucky to work with her and again created cloth for another piece for the Kennedy Center.

Dimension suddenly changed when I decided to pose myself the challenge of creating my storyboxes. It began as a need to find something that people could fit into apartments and also a search for a unique way to frame. Let me step back a minute and say that my work has always been about telling a story, whether it is from my dreams, or stories I have read, or experiencing nature. I build up my stories from research of symbols of many cultures and the beliefs they have that give meaning to them. Gardens of Eden is a series of storiesabout the garden and the four elements, with a bit of magic added in. It was in “Garden’s” that I began exploring hand-embroidery as embellishment. This idea I carried through to Women in Transformation, or is it that I was carried off myself? I spent over three hundred hours on each “Woman” before I felt they were “done.”

After finishing Women in Transformation, our lives took another turn. We moved to Holland and settled into a less nomadic lifestyle. I began drawing nudes and portraits in pencil. I had already starting drawing more for my last series of paintings in order to discover more about shadow. Now I couldn’t put the pencil down. The pencil led to drawing in pastel, then pastel and pencil, and then a bit of watercolor. I still worked on my textiles, only a bit slower. Then, this last summer I obtained studio space. At last I could get back to doing larger pieces! Since then, I have been exploring batik again. Having only touched on it before I feel I am now really beginning to understand it. It is a bit freer than working with the thickened dye, at least in the way I was working. I am combining my love of drawing the figure and nature into a new series of paintings or art quilts that will use the first batik painting as a “seed”, then, as they grow, paint, printing, and other methods of creating images on fabric that I have been wanting to play with.

In the meantime, I will continue drawing in pencil and other materials and will begin exploring painting in the Realist method. The creative path is a winding one and I don’t know where it will lead me, but I am truly enjoying the journey and sharing it with you!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

And You Learn, and you learn, and you learn...

I'm learning so much these days that my head might explode! I'll send everyone a piece of it to see what you can do with it in your art. ;0)

Just got done with painting class and that was amazing. I'm totally looking at everything differently. He started me out working in charcoal relearning perspective and values. I've really got some bad old habits to break. This class is totally worth it and my teacher is the best! I hope I can wrap my head around all of it. This is definitely my main art priority these days.

I've been showing my work so much lately and learning tons from everyone's comments about it. I love it when people give me their opinions. It gets to easy to see my own work in a tunnel. I've learned about the framing and presentation so much. Also, today a comment from Hakim on the framing and concept really made me think. I love how he sees Realist painting as a way of thinking about so many other media. It really is a good basis to start from. In a lot of ways we are really coming from the same place, only he has gone deeper. I love it when people make me think!

Learning more about how to present my work these days too and that is a biggie. Also a major goal for me, marketing my work. I hate it but there you are, that is how the world runs. (As the child inside me cries, "I just want to play!")

So, thanks to everyone out there who is offering their two cents, it's all priceless to me!

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Sat all day at the gallery yesterday and we had all of three people come in. Sigh... But I was able to have a long talk with Floor about painting and other sundry. Perhaps we will take oil painting together in the fall. Check out her website by googling her name "Floor Fernhout". She does some pretty cool woodcut prints with lots of pattern.

So now I will be taking painting with Hakim Tourdiev on Wednesdays by myself! I feel completely spoiled. Yesterday just confirmed to me even more that this is the right direction for me. I should really be developing my drawing and painting skills and concentrating less on fiber. At first this was a bit sad, but I am really excited now. I didn't think I had much skill in drawing previously, but I've been drawing a lot these last three years and advanced quite a bit. I think I'm ready to commit.

Of course the fiber won't let me go so I will do what I can, just on a little less than the painting and drawing. I still have this series of Eve or woman and the garden to finish. I've barely started as I've been spending the past months figuring out batik and the image I want to develop. Now I'm there though and have two paintings at least that I'm satisfied are on their way. I'll post pictures of them sometime next week. (I hope.) After the batik series is finished I hope to use each of those images to start a whole bed quilt for each. This will involve printing on fabric and any other method I can play with. This will be my play time away from my more "serious" study of drawing and painting. All work and no play...right?

So now I am off to the studio to clean and get ready for this group of people who will come to see what I'm up to. It's headed up by an artist that my yoga teacher referred to me. Should be pretty fun, though being an bit shy, it is always a challenge to me to deal with a group of people. I usually manage and they don't know how terrified I am inside. Terrified of what I don't know, confrontation? Rejection? Anyway, I'll just have to put on my social hat and do my duty. Perhaps I will make some new friends! This is what I love and hate about being a public artist. You meet many interesting new people but at the same time you have to put yourself out there. I wonder if other artists feel this way?

My reward is to go see a performance tonite of a friend of mine who is mixing music with performance and technology and art. Should be stimulating! I'll get her full name here after I see it. Never can remember last names! Trouble enough with the first ones!

Right, I'm off to face the lions, tigers and bears, oh my!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Day One, Again

Good morning one and all! This is the rebirth of blogging for me and new start to let everyone know what I am doing in art, and maybe a little bit of life thrown in. I will be adding photos of my finished work and my work in process and keep you up to date with my exhibits and other artistic doings. This blog was on my list of New Year's Resolutions and, being it is now beginning February, I thought it about time to get it going! So, here are my NYR's for anyone's perusal and for my own reminder:

1) Get a blog going again (check that :0) )

2) Keep my blog updated

3) Update and keep updating my website:

4) Submit to galleries and exhibits

5) Get my work "out there" to share with everyone

6)Get used to using technology (groan...) using the computer and digital camera

Ok, I think that's enough for one year, no? Well, of course I have a longer list, but some of that is between me and, well, me. :0)

I look forward to everyone's comments and sharing ideas.

Today: On the agenda today is going to clean up my studio! I admit to being bit a a slob when left to myself. The impetus is I have two groups coming to my studio this week! One tomorrow and one on Tuesday! I had to move my drawing students from Tuesday to do it but they were very understanding. (Thanks guys!) Then, this afternoon I will be off to the Molen galerie to sit for three hours while it is open. Here's the link to their site:

And yes, they finally took off the "s" on the end of my name. Note to myself in the future: Make sure to EMPASIZE from the beginning that there is no "s" on my last name! I won't get into that rant though.

Thanks to everyone on the Quiltart list for your advice about what to do about the "s" and about how to conduct myself at the opening. Of course, the opening was one big blur for me. I felt like sugar taffy. I must remember faces and names under pressure. The same affect with names happens to me as with numbers when I am put on the spot, complete blank. Not so nice for all those nice friends who came to support me. If I seemed poor on introductions, just know I have this temporary amnesia. If you really want to be nice, just say, "Hi Kim, I'm (your name), we've known eachother for years, remember?" :0) Hopefully, I'll wake up then.

Also, in the future I have to be clearer about how I want my work hung. I was way to relaxed about that and now of course I'm seeing all the ways I should have done it. Sigh...

Also, I really need to reframe those Women in Transformation. I haven't been happy with the frame since I had to give up my first handmade frames when we moved to Holland. Just got a bit of an idea this morning though. Right now, they're in a turquoise blue from nailed around a lavendar canvas. Thanks to Christine for pointing out that they were hanging too loosely and others just for telling me the frames did not "work" with the pieces. I didn't even relize the difference between my first storybox pieces and these till someone pointed it out. The first ones, I didn't put any border on the textile painting and on the second I sewed a border. It works a lot better without a border in the frame. So, nowI'm playing with the idea of another decorative border around that border like in old illustrated books and then I have to think about different framing. It means more work... after already over three hundred hours in each piece, but in the end it must look right! No sense in going halfway down that path!

Ok, I'm off for the start of my busy day, starting with my ritual walk with the doggie, Leon, my muse, my pal, my pot of glue...