I completed sewing the 25 daily squares of the Coral Reef series on Sunday. The final piece is in My Shop.
Here is how I describe it. Imagine the feeling of swimming underwater and seeing the coral reef healthy, colorful and full of life. This is the feeling I evoke with the Coral Reef series. This series is inspired by the documentary Chasing Coral. The documentary is available on Netflix and is a wonderful movie to watch with family over the holidays. If you are curious about how I make each piece, I sew all the daily squares in consecutive order from Day 1 to 25 into one big square and then wrap that around a 24 in.² stretched canvas frame. The impact of the blues for the water in the top row and the natural colors for the sand on the bottom row are a little subtle because of the edges being wrapped around the stretch canvas frame. But there are enough little hints of the water blue and sand color that I’m still pleased with the outcome. The Coral Reef series is now for sale my website. Click HERE to see he finished piece in my shop.
Last week I finished sewing together the Forest. It has become one of my favorites because this series taught me about the power of emotion evoked by the art and the idea behind the art. As I state in the article below, "Art evokes an emotion. Then what does this Forest series say? The calm greens and blues remind you of the peace you feel in nature as you are standing in the forest yourself." Consistent with my new way of presenting my art, I wrapped the sewn pieces around a stretched canvas frame. Since this was a larger piece, I was not quite sure how it would turn out. Happily, it all worked out. The Forest is now for sale on my website just in time for holiday gift giving. If you know someone who loves to be among trees and feel that calming presence, consider giving them the gift of original art.
It is this that time again. December is my month to think about what went well this past year and what did not go well. I wrote about this last year in the article, Why do an Annual Review? This review and planning time is like a combination of a spa and brainstorming session smashed together. Everyone needs to feel relaxed to come up with good creative ideas. So I’m going to be figuring out that balance over the next month of December.
Another question I’ve been asking myself is how do I want to spend my time? One of my favorite creative business guys Paul Jarvis posed this question in one of his newsletters. His idea is to figure out this question and work backwards as to the kind of things you want to do to fill your day. Play to your strengths and focus on those type of activities. You will do them better anyway than forcing yourself to do something you do not really even want to do. These guiding questions will help me figure out my 2018 focuses.
Most people have heard by now about the power of gratitude. It’s almost a cliché. People say "Yeah, Yeah. I know I should write a gratitude list or be grateful for all the good things that I have in my life. " As with all ideas that become clichés, there is a profound truth embedded in them.
When we live in a state of gratitude you begin to see the good all around you. When you start looking for the good around you, you see even more and more good in your life. The power of gratitude is that it appears to magnify the good in your life. Perhaps the good in your life has always been there and it’s a question of seeing and acknowledging it
Many people attribute the quote “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” to Albert Einstein. Based on my research, there’s no substantiation for this actually being said by him or in his writings. But it is true none the less, whoever said it. As an artist, it is easy to be overwhelmed by feeling we have either too much creativity or too little creativity. It can feel like a pendulum swing between two many ideas and creative block.
This week I’m highlighting two additional Every Day Project series that are available for purchase in my online shop. It’s true as the title suggests. They are in a rectangle shape. Here is the link...
I mentioned last week that I have thought about using a non-square stretched canvas frame for my art. Well, here are the series I chose to display on a rectangle, to be precise a 16“ x 20“ rectangle. When I was deciding which series to use for this new rectangle form, I went back to one of my favorite series from 2015, Fractured Blue Sky. I wrote about it in this article . This was one of my most simple designs with the strong contrast between the white and the blue or green with the diagonal dark brown insert. This design takes on special meaning since yesterday we received an emergency phone call from our son’s college about a tornado warning and lockdown at his college. We were able to talk to him and he got to a safe space. All was well. Now I can add this to my list of worries about your children being away at college. Who knew that there were tornados in that part of the upper Midwest? When I originally made the series I wasn’t really thinking about actual storms per se but it was more about the sense of calm with the horizontal lines being disrupted and offset more like a metaphorical storm in your life.
If you’ve been following along with my Every Day Project for the past two and a half years, now is your chance to own a piece of it for yourself.
This week I am introducing small 10 inch square pieces of my Every Day Project series for sale in my redesigned shop on my website.
If you or someone you care about loves nature-inspired, colorful art and modern design, this might be a good fit for you.
I am using the daily squares from three different series. I picked the Green and Purple series, the Blue Square series and the Compassion series. Each small piece includes four daily squares sewn together. I selected these series for the small pieces because of the simpler color palette and/or design.
Last week I talked about the challenges of Time and Focus in my Studio Notes. The majority of the responses to my previous Friday Question ”What are your top two challenges?” revolves around these two issues, Time and Focus. Not enough time to do everything you want to do. Difficulty in finding your focus and maintaining that focus. Last week I listed some potential solutions I have tried and ones I have been meaning to try. As I wrote last week, if you solve the challenge of time by deciding upfront to do less things, then the focus issue becomes easier because there is less to distract you. In my Friday Question series last week, I asked, "What is one solution for your top two challenges?" I am looking for ideas from people to add to this Solutions list. The more potential solutions the merrier. In this article, I add the responses I received last week from readers to the Solutions list.
One of my questions for my Friday Questions series on Instagram was, ”What are your top two challenges?" The responses came in quickly. It occurred to me that these challenges are issues that are "top of the mind" issues. It was easy to respond because everyone knew exactly what their challenges are because it runs like a loop in the background of your thinking on a daily basis.
There was plenty of overlap on the top two challenges by many of the commentors. People said it in different ways but it boiled down to Time and Focus were the top two challenges...too many things to do and not enough time to do them and difficulty in deciding what to focus on and maintaining focus on what you eventually decided to do. People said things like self care and choosing how to spend my time, wandering eye for new art forms, filtering ideas to get to the best ones, planning too much for one day, making a decision on a direction and then following through. Time and Focus are really related sequential topics. One causes the other one which causes the other one. When we feel overwhelmed by too much to do, by definition it is hard to focus. Just like it is hard to be kind when you are angry or feel grateful when you are complaining. So the one thing that would help is to not feel overwhelmed. Easily said, but hard to do.
Last week, I started a new series called Coral Reef, Lizard island. The inspiration for this idea is a documentary on Netflix called Chasing Coral.
The documentary tagline from their website is... "Divers, scientists and photographers around the world mount an epic underwater campaign to document the disappearance of coral reefs."
I highly recommend this documentary. You can see a trailer in the link above. It is powerful. You see people who love and study coral reefs documenting the effects of warmer ocean temperatures.
This documentary hits close to home. The last part of the documentary was filmed at Lizard Island, a research station on the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia. Our daughter spent 10 days on Lizard Island in 2014, the year before the coral bleaching events that occurred in just 30 days and are documented in this film. Watching her see the damage done to a place that she loves was heart breaking. A significant portion of the coral died, along with the ecosystem that relies on it.
Last Friday I started a new thing. I asked a question to people who see my art on Instagram. I really want to engage in more conversations about art, so I thought I will just post a question. I asked "How does my art make you feel?" At first I couldn't decide on the best question to ask, but then I remembered this whole past month in my Studio Notes I've been writing about emotions evoked by Art. So I just went with the first question that came to my mind... how does my art make you feel? I added the image of the completed 100 days series, Trees and Windows from this past year. At first I thought this question was too selfish and I really didn't want it to be all about me. But then I realized all these questions are really a way of giving people a chance to think and talk about art which includes my art. It's about dialogue. It's about connection to someone else who thinks about art and color and design as a creator or a consumer of art. It's amazing how quickly people responded and how thoughtful their comments were. I was blown away and very grateful.
People said my art made them feel happy, joyful, energized, motivated, serene, and alive when they saw my art. It doesn’t get better than that. Mission complete.
As a follow up to my article two weeks ago, Questions for Artists, @ we had a wonderful Open House and Meet the Artist event last week. This event is for artists in our annual Public Art Program...
It was a pleasure to get to know the artists in person or by their written submissions to our three questions for the night. The good new is that the questions really just provided a structure for a conversation with the artist since once they got rolling, they talked about things that were important to them as artists.
My job as the interviewer for the Meet the Artist event is to help the audience get to know more about both the artist and their story.
I have reread the recent article on David Hockney by Deborah Solomon in the New York Times, "David Hockney, Contrarian, Shifts Perspectives," several times. He's being interviewed because there's a massive retrospective of his life and art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City scheduled for November 27, 2017. I was surprised when I read the quote that earlier in his career he thought he was a painter on the fringes. He said ,“I thought I was a peripheral artist, really.” You see he was doing figurative somewhat realistic art when it was fashionable to only create abstract art. This article pointed out that now he's probably the most celebrated artist in all of England. He is designing a stained-glass window for Westminster Abbey in honor of Queen Elizabeth. The author of the New York Times article went on to say that nowadays artists can choose their own medium, figurative or abstract. There are no rules. There's no exclusion. You are not better or worse if you do one or the other. I hadn't realize what a liberating thing that is. If a great artist like David Hockney felt like he was a peripheral artist because of the way he chose to express himself, we are lucky that he had the courage and perseverance to do it anyway.
I have been interested in David Hockney and his art for years.
In March 2015, I joined the Fine Arts Commission in our community. The Commission has a mission.
"This Commission has served to provide a forum where enthusiastic supporters of the arts can meet and discuss innovative new strategies to promote art in order to improve the community."
I was asked to submit an application to this Commission because my art was selected the previous year for the Public Art Program. I have included images of both pieces to show how my art has changed over the years. These are the last pieces were i used printed fabrics as now I exclusibely use Kona solid fabrics. It has been a rewarding tenure so far as the Commission is up for new ideas and committed to promoting a diverse array of arts in the community from large public murals to community theater and local arts programming at the public library.
This week I need to think of three questions to ask the artists at our Open House next week.
My current series the Forest has been getting some attention in my Instagram account. Even people who have followed me for years said there was something special about this series with the multiple greens and the varying compositions. When I was trying to describe it to one of the commenters the thought came to me I really imagine standing in the forest looking up at the trees with dappled light all around and seeing the blue sky peeking through. I captured the emotion that I use to create the Forest series into words. Sometimes it is hard for me to capture that essence into words and I am practicing doing it. This time I felt like I succeeded. I shared this with one of the commenters and they got it.
Many artists inspire me. I decided to highlight some of them in my Studio Notes in an ongoing series called Artist Stories.
I have been listening to TED talks lately while I have been in the studio. I listened to such an inspiring one this past weekend. I listened to it 3 times and kept pausing it to rehear what Laolu Senbanjo was saying.
His first powerful statement is...
"Every artist has name. And every artist has a story. "
I provided the link to the TED talk because you are going to want to see his art as well as hear him speak.
"The Sacred Art of the Ori"
He starts at the beginning, how he saw the world as a child.
After spending time on lakes in the woods this summer, I decided to focus more on landscapes in my upcoming series. As an artist I have used the natural world for inspiration for many of my series over the past years. As I told one of my artist friends, I am really a landscape artist.
For some reason, this was a very clarifying moment for me. So what does this mean and how will it change my creative practice? I plan to focus on the geometric elements of the natural world that inspire me to help inspire others to see the beauty all around us.
I am reading a book called The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe. It is a very detailed comprehensive book about the years from when the Impressionists started learning how to paint in Paris, through the years where they found other people with similar interests in new painting styles, up through when a dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, brought the Impressionist art work to New York for an Exhibition in 1886. It took me a while to get into the book because Roe writes about many different artists all at the same time because she goes in chronological order and the artists all converged on Paris around the same time. You learn about their backstory, where they came from, how their families had to support most of them for decades, how some married their models and hid that fact from their middle class parents. I just didn't realize how persistent these artists were. They wanted to break from tradition and not just copy the old masters and be limited to traditional subject matter like portraiture or classical myths. They wanted to paint outdoors, plein-air. They wanted to paint contemporary subjects, every day people doing every day things.
As I go on another holiday up into the Northwoods with spotty internet service, I thought I would repost an article from last November 2016, Lessons from Working in a Series. One of the best ways I set myself up for success completing the Every Day Project every day is by setting up 25 day series with an engaging theme. I decide the color palette and design parameters for each 25 days series. It narrows the options to some degree but makes the every day part more do-able with less decision fatigue to wear me out. Each series has a lesson waiting for me. I added more images of the daily squares to illustrate my point in this revisited article.
After spending a week on a small lake in the Northwoods, I realize that most of my inspiration for both color and design in my art comes from the natural world I see around me. I feel like a landscape artist even if my art may seem abstract to some. This vacation brought me new insights into the importance for me to be immersed in nature on a regular basis. I do some of my best thinking in nature.
This week finds me in the Northwoods with no internet service. So I decided to repost my article from January 2017, One Year Anniversary of Studio Notes describing why I continue my weekly Studio Notes. As I write at the end of this article, my goal is to help people honor their creativity and...
"...Find a form of self-expression that feels good to them so then they can be good to others.
In the past two 100 Day Projects, I have created a four part series around a theme. In 2016, my theme was the Four Elements. I created a 25 day piece sewing together 25 daily squares for each of the elements; Fire, Sky, Water and Earth. This year's theme was Trees and Windows. Since I just finished the 100 Day Project last week, I decided to give some insight into my creative process by sharing, and maybe rambling a bit, about what I was thinking for each piece in this four part series.
This year I was inspired by the art of Elizabeth Gourlay. In particular, I was drawn to her geometric art with color strips around the outside of a square and pieces with vertical and horizontal lines made up of small strips of color within the line. I envisioned the vertical strips as trees and the square piece as a window frame. Hence the name of the series is Trees and Windows. I knew I could have these two pieces compliment each other with the design. For the other two pieces in the series, I thought I could just reverse the design concept and call them Inverse Trees and Inverse Windows. Instead of color strips on the edges of a square like a window frame, the second piece would be full of color strips on the inside of the window and then grey as the window frame. For the tree series, the inverse would be a grey vertical strip amongst strips of fabric as the background.
I always get a little wistful and sad at the end of the 100 Day Project which officially ends on July 12, 2017. One of my favorite things during the 100 days is to look at #The100DayProject list of Instagram posts and see all of the unique creativity. I spent five minutes before writing this article and saw amazing posts in that short time. I saw an artist, Christine Hilbert (@ChristineHilbert) who takes heirloom jewelry and adds her whimsical illustration around the jewelry. I saw an artist @tangibleculture who is cross stitching the planets. I saw an artist, Joe Mills (@JoeMills2) who is spending 100 days coming up with very creative topography for Chicago icons, buildings, and sports teams etc. This was the first two minutes of looking at this page of hashtags from the 100 Day Project. One of my Studio Notes readers, Chris Raymond (@ChrisARaymond) has been doing the most fascinating art with a theme of architecture in her project #100daysofreimaginedarchitecture . It can lift your spirit when you see so many different forms of creativity and people willing to share it.
Not sure why it inspires me so, but it really does help me get into that studio every day. However, in some ways, social media can be a trap of the comparison game where it can paralyze you into thinking, "I can't create anything that looks as good" or "I don't know what my unique style is yet." Those are not reasons to stop creating. In fact, they are reasons to create more.
In order to keep creating, we need to seek out new life experiences that inspire us, make our energy levels go up, get us excited about something even if it is unrelated to our own creativity. It is called filling the well of inspiration. This past month, I went on a walking tour of the public art in our home town organized, researched and led by Dylan Zavagno who works at our local library. He did so much research and found out the most amazing things about this public art that I have driven by for decades. It felt so very different seeing the sculptures and paintings up close from all different angles while hearing the stories about the artist, their style of art, and how our village ended up with their art. Dylan touched on all the things that make me love art history; the sometimes quirky stories and the reason behind why the artist makes art. In other words, what motivated these artists to make art and what are they trying to say with their art.
Our home town is lucky in that we had some wealthy captains of industry who lived or had a business here.
This past month I decided I wanted to really know how much time I was spending on different activities. I have read Laura Vanderkam's Blog for a few years. She wrote the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. The idea of 168 hours in a week (24 hours x 7 days) Is intriguing when you realize at the same time it seems like many hours as well as a limited resource. At first it can make you feel a little guilty about how much time you may waste in a day let alone a whole week or month. But then I decided to look at it from another vantage point. You track your time in certain activities and see it as knowing what you actually accomplished during the day which then allows you to relax knowing you have done enough. You get a sense of completion for the day. Then the good news is that the rest of the day is for whatever you feel like doing.
Some days you feel like you have worked all day with very little to show for it. Other days things just seem to get accomplished with little effort. Everyone wants days like the later. I am thinking tracking my time might help me get some data to help figure out what days feel effortless in their unfolding of productivity and what days feel like a slogfest. Maybe there is a pattern.
In my experience, it can be just as confusing and just as challenging to learn a new skill within an established broader skill set. My dad has played the piano for most of his life. He has a unique style he learned from his second piano teacher when he was in high school. He uses chords to play a rolling rhythm with his left hand and alternates between octaves and chords to play the melody with his right hand. He can play by sight just by reading the melody notes in this way. It has always seemed like a miracle to me because the song sounds like he has practiced the song for weeks when he really is just playing it for the first time. This summer my children asked my dad to teach them all how to play this way. I sat in on the lesson because I always wanted to know how to do it as well.
I took nine years of piano lessons in my youth. I was taught how to play the notes on the page. It's a logical approach where you are just learning the notes and then putting your own emotion on top of that. This is a whole new approach of playing the piano for me by learning chords and playing different variations of them as you play the melody. Honestly, it was kind of mind-boggling. And a little overwhelming. As I was figuring how to approach this new learning of an old skill, I thought about my tried-and-true method of just putting in the time. I can do this for a half an hour a day. It takes the pressure off of focusing on how quickly I will learn or if I will understand. I just put in the time.
I have always been fascinated by artists and their studios. Recently, I saw classic photos of an almost belligerent Pablo Picasso standing in a power pose in his studio and Henri Matisse reclining in a chair with his artwork all around him. I even researched "artists and their studios” in google and found an article 100 Artists and Their Studios. I guess I am not the only one interested in this topic. As I looked at them I thought the people who have the most minimalist abstract art also have the most minimalist studios. Perhaps uncluttered spaces allow for uncluttered ideas to come forth in your art. I know this is a oversimplification but it is an interesting correlation. I love this picture of Helen Frankenthaler with just the tools she needs: canvas, paint, and brushes. But my all-time favorite artist in the studio photo is of Helen Frankenthaler sitting surrounded by her colorful canvases in her bright uplifting color palette.
So I started down this rabbit hole of looking for images of artists in their studios since I am on a simplification mission in my own studio. I started by asking myself, what do I really need in my studio? It became very simple. I need a sewing machine, fabric for my current project, a rotary cutter, cutting mat, scissors, an iron and ironing board. Just like Frankenthaler’s canvas, paint and brushes. Then I looked at all the other stuff I had around me. I had supplies I only used a few times a year like sewing machine oil, print fabric which I no longer use except for my quilt backings, dozens of spools of thread. All these things can go in storage until I need them.
I thought this physical clutter is affecting my mental clutter.
I wrote this essay 2 years ago in the Spring of 2015 and published it on the medium.com website. The ideas in this essay are the foundational reasons why I started my Studio Notes in January 2016. I write weekly to inspire others to connect to their creativity and reap the benefits of an active creative practice in their lives. After writing over 70 weekly Studio Notes, I find the ideas in this essay to still ring true for me and hopefully they do for you as well.
Explore Your Creative Voice and Speak Up
Imagine your life if you follow your desire to speak up and create more. Ponder this for a minute. Imagine your day, every day, includes some form of creative self expression. Reading the title of this essay, you probably thought this was about singing or acting. Well, maybe, if that is what you are inspired to do. I am referring to any type of creative activity that lights you up. It could be spoken word poetry, singing the blues at an open mic, knitting intricate Norwegian mittens, cooking the best lasagna from your own recipe, sharing photographs on Instagram of your cat, sewing improvisational fabric art like me or creating a body of work for a solo show at an art gallery.
The point is not what you create particularly. It is how you feel when you are creating. This feeling of self expression and speaking from your unique creative voice is the good stuff of life. Creative expression helps us step out of time and enter the creative flow.
Often it is the articles I am not quite sure about that have created the biggest resonance with readers and compelled them to write comments or email me their thoughts.
It makes me wonder sometimes if my judgment is a bit off. How can I really know what my readers will find the most helpful and relate to the most? After writing about 70 weekly articles in my Studio Notes so far, I think it's the articles that come right from my heart that resonate the most. The articles that show more vulnerability and openness about universal topics we all share, like fear and overwhelm, are the ones that I question myself most about even posting on my Studio Notes. Is this relevant to people reading this? Should I share this? Ironically, these articles that I doubt the most are the ones that connect with my readers the most. It has happened so many times. I think this article may be too specific to what I am just thinking about right now. It may feel too vulnerable to share. I post it anyway and then I hear from readers who said they get it. Vulnerability and honesty foster true connection.
What makes a good long-term project idea? I've written a little bit about this before. However, I decided I would dedicate an article to this topic since it will be helpful for people interested in starting the 100 Day Project or a similar type of challenge project of your own design.
The two words I will leave you with are Constraint and Freedom. You need some limits to reduce decision fatigue but you need some freedom to explore. This tug and pull of artistic freedom within self-imposed limits is what I create for myself every 25 days with each new series I create. If I looked at the realm of possibilities without reigning in some of my wild ideas, I would get nothing done. Guaranteed.
The main parameters for a project are the size or scope, materials, colors, design, and a framework.