Tag Archives: creative exercise

Origami Lotus Candy Wrappers and Other Beautiful Trash

From the scraps of a bulletin board (I think it must have been last winter's lantern design) I idly constructed a magical paper landscape for two little sisters to enjoy.

From the scraps of a bulletin board (I think it must have been last winter’s lantern design) I idly constructed a magical paper landscape for two little sisters to enjoy.

My dear old friend, the artist Jeffrey Woods, went through a period when a great deal of his work involved covering glass with tiny vinyl dots, painting the glass, and then peeling off the dots. As a result, his entire property (I’m talking the inside of the washing machine, the cat’s tail, the artist’s feet) to this day remains infested by colorful, sticky, vinyl dots, forming their own patterns across the landscape. There’s a metaphor in there about the persistence of art, I think. If you ever visit his workshop (which you wont; you can’t; he doesn’t let people in) you’ll notice that his trash is gorgeous. Picture paper plates which have sat on turntables inside an airbrush booth, sporting rings of complementary colors, crammed beside gracious curves laser cut from clear blue plastic, stuffed stuffed alongside sinewy white stencils into a plastic bag with the remains of yesterday’s lunch. Splashes of color on the walls and floor from which those prone to pareidolia cannot help but search for meaning: constellations of random mess.

As a child, I spent a fair amount of time folding origami. I used to have a decent repertoire: shrimp, cranes, swans, boxes. Now the only thing I remember is the lotus blossom, which somehow looks more like a water lily than a lotus to me. Anyway, these were folded from chocolate wrappers. Endangered Species Chocolate is my favorite.

As a child, I spent a fair amount of time folding origami. I used to have a decent repertoire: shrimp, cranes, swans, boxes. Now the only thing I remember is the lotus blossom, which somehow looks more like a water lily than a lotus to me. Anyway, these were folded from chocolate wrappers. Endangered Species Chocolate is my favorite.

When I was little, I was always intrigued by artist’ palettes, the random smears of color sometimes more lovely than the finished works. I seem to find patterns spelled out on a piece a paper that I’ve used to blot my paintbrushes or wipe my fingers.

Testing markers on this sheet of paper, both sides. Paint pens always jam on me. The doodles on this paper came out way better than whatever it was I was actually trying to do with the paint pens.

Testing markers on this sheet of paper, both sides. Paint pens always jam on me. The doodles on this paper came out way better than whatever it was I was actually trying to do with the paint pens.

I’m the kind of person whose hands sometimes go on without her, particularly when it comes to small, malleable pieces of refuse. I remember once, years ago, picking a twist tie off my cousin’s counter and, without really thinking about it, curling it into an elaborate butterfly. Her son took an instant liking to it and, shades of Hawthorne’s Artist of the Beautiful, smashed it into a wad. My cousin was horrified. I laughed. It was perhaps beautiful, but it was also a bit of trash.

I'm just as likely to curl paper as to fold it. With the right material to hold their form, these scraps could easily be beads.

I’m just as likely to curl paper as to fold it. With the right varnish to hold their form, these collaging scraps could easily be beads.

Challenge yourself to find something pure and shining in the discards of your life and watch the world made magical.

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The Trickster’s Hat Part 12

People never listen anyway

People never listen anyway

Some of what Bantock strives to communicate in The Trickster’s Hat is the need to tell your inner critic to shut up. He’s quite right; it was that voice constantly insisting that my work wasn’t good enough that robbed me of the pleasure of intensive visual creation for big chunks of my life. Art is subjective, and I have to believe that it’s better to create something flawed than not to create anything at all.

Exercise 44 is intended as a visual reminder. Paint two parrots, one green and one red. Simple enough. My parrots were born in the space of under a dozen brushstrokes each. But then, the directions continue: paint a big, black X over their beaks. How sad! I was rather pleased with my parrots and did not want to obliterate their little faces. Rules are rules, but, engaging again with the spirit rather than the letter of the law, I poked some holes in the paper and tied their beaks shut instead, a much more elegant solution, and the parrots are silenced just the same.

The text just came to me then; it’s a bit of a joke. I have a few thousand books in my office, and while I had envisioned the room as my personal space, my husband and stepkids would rather hang out in here than in the other public spaces of the house. When the kids (and sometimes my husband) get rowdy, I’ll tell them, “Quiet in the library!” My stepdaughter protested at first, “It’s not a library.” “Oh, really?” I said. “Look around.” When my stepson saw the parrot poster, he said, “OK, that’s hilarious.”

The Trickster’s Hat Part 10

blueirisespc

Van Gogh’s iconic painting of Blue Irises in a Yellow Vase

It’s a really striking image, and much-copied. I love the thickness of the brush strokes, the boldness of the color.

My Blue Irises in a Yellow Vase.

My Blue Irises in a Yellow Vase.

Exercise 31 involved learning from others: pick a famous work, study it, learn from it, duplicate it, and then expand the project in some logical way. The example in the book suggested visiting a ballet school if, for example, your famous work was one of Degas’s.

Drawn fast, larger than actual size.

Drawn fast, larger than actual size.

For my extension, I visited the nearby Tucson Botanical Gardens and sketched flowers.

This is a hibiscus that lives in the greenhouse.

This is a hibiscus that lives in the greenhouse.

I like the rougher look to Van Gogh’s work, how it seems sloppy, but it’s not. The colors weren’t really available to me with the materials at hand, but some of them made a nice showing there, anyway.

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Orchids are hard; I’ve been trying to draw a passable orchid for years. I sketched this one slowly and then took it home to use the pastels. Somehow it looks meaty, rather than delicate, and I’m afraid there’s something the slightest bit obscene about it. Orchids are complicated.

Sketching in the gardens was so enjoyable. It’s definitely the sort of thing I want to incorporate into my artist’s life to a much greater degree.

 

The final flower

The final flower

 

 

The Trickster’s Hat Part 4

Postcard from the Idyllia Public Library

Postcard from the Idyllia Public Library. Yes, this imaginary library in an imaginary country houses a lovely Chilhuly chandelier. The building itself is based on the architecture of the dorm I live in all four years of college.

Exercise 7, to create a country, was among my favorite prompts in this book. A rather involved set of instruction suggested details to imagine about the place, and, as I have created many, many imaginary countries in my life, it was easy to build something huge and fanciful and fulfilling. It was possible to flex all the creative muscles in a serious fashion but to withhold judgement, giving reign to creativity.

postcard edited

Postcard home: I blanked out my parents’ address, because you know there are some weirdos on the Internet.

The second part of the exercise involved creating a postcard from the imaginary country, writing a message home on the back about a vacation in the imaginary country, and then adding a stamp from the imaginary country. I drew the postcard 8.5 x 11 and made that stamp proportionally larger just because it’s easier to work in that format. I used two kinds of markers: Crayolas and Sharpies. Some of the themes from this exercise echoed in later works.

Especially proud of this stamp. The economy of Idyllia is based on semi-precious stones. It is a island founded by dragons and covered with banana trees. I am the queen.

Especially proud of this stamp. The economy of Idyllia is based on semi-precious stones. It is a island founded by dragons and covered with banana trees. I am the queen.