Budgeting for food, and art supplies

P1060675Leaving work today, it was an art night. I could feel it. Even during my stay in California art had failed to surface as an outlet, and I could feel the lack of creativity in my life suddenly reach an immediate and painful boiling point.

Tight budget, and tonight it’s going towards art supplies. Some nights I feed my belly, tonight I feed my peace of mind. It’s a fair trade, and a healthy one in the long run.  I headed to Alpha, the art store around the corner from my house. Thinking it was just full of the usual nauseatingly cute Korean stationery that is everywhere, I stumbled in a few days ago and was surprised to find a fairly decent collection of art materials, supplies, handmade paper and, of course, cuteness. The back half of the store is basically Emmy paradise. I got lost in the shelves the first time I was there and had to literally make myself stop and walk out the door. Dangerous. But at least I know where to go if I want to do a project.

Giving myself the 8,000 won I would have spent on food today was a great exercise in self control, but it stretched. Origami paper, a length of ribbon, some craft wire, two big pieces of handmade printed paper and a calligraphy pen accompanied me out of the shop. Score.

At home, determined to not spoil my creative evening by just eating ramen, I cooked up a sweet potato and scarfed some white rice mixed with cheap packaged curry powder. Sort of a fried rice stir-fry, and it did the trick. A few moments to eat and practice Hangeul (the Korean alphabet). To work! To work!

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Although completely incorrect, I’ve been playing with Hangeul  initials drawings. Mine, ESH, for example, looks remarkably like a winking face. I love it. Thanks calligraphy pen and my mediocre knowledge of Korean! I can’t wait to explore this further. Too bad it is grammatically incorrect for most combinations. Still looks pretty cool.

All I knew I wanted to do with the art paper was decorate my walls; they are painfully bare. Luckily, I brought along some watercolor pencils and a watercolor pen. We’ll see what the painting turns into over the next few days.

In all, dinner rations well spent. It’s a whole different kind of satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

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Chuck Close, Up Close

This morning at my uncle’s house in Marina, just north of Monterey, I woke to the smell of coffee. This must be a common Harris thing: wake early, brew a strong pot, catch up on what’s happening in the world. A family morning ritual I can stand behind. This particular morning, Rabobank mug in hand, I watched footage of a major tunnel collapse in Japan, political stirrings in Egypt, heat-mapped weather projections of the storm raging outside. Good to know what’s going on over the horizon. It starts to make sense towards the end of the first mugful.

I had planned this weekend to take some ‘me time’—perhaps a jaunt in the Freedom camper into the redwoods, or a night camped by the beach. California had other plans in store for me. The storm that raged up the coast was enough to make outdoor activities less than desirable. Luckily, the Saturday I spent touring Monterey with my Uncle was relatively clear, and what fun we had!

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I learned about Chuck Close during my studies at University of Washington. It’s difficult to learn about twentieth-century artists without his name popping up, and for good reason. His large and dynamic portraits, specifically the ones made up of hundreds of colorful tiny abstract squares, have always appealed to me with the sheer depth of creativity taken to produce them. Yes, yes, he has a huge team assembled to help him. Yes, yes, the inspiration for leveling a face into a two-dimensional image may come from a learning disability preventing him from recognizing faces. No matter. Even if you’re not ‘into portraiture’, it’s easy to see why these works are genius.

In contrast with his contemporary Andy Warhol’s famous stylized images of celebrities (e.g. Elvis, Marilyn Monroe), Close chooses subjects unknown to the general public (at least at the time of the portrait) and breaks the images down into grids of abstract color. In my eyes, the true talent of Close’s work becomes apparent when the viewer examines the image up close, noting the grid-like systemization of color, then falls back to a distance and is surprised to see that as a whole these many abstractions combine into something like photorealism. It’s amazing. A video played on a projector in art school does them absolutely zero justice.

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The exhibit included more than Close’s large paintings. Huge wall sized portraits of men and women done entirely by thumbprint were scattered through the exhibit. By thumbprint, you ask? Yes, by thumbprint.

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There were also some amazing pieces involving a mirrored cylinder surrounded by a drawn-out image. This process completely blew me away. The angle of the cylinder to the paper produced a reflected face that was completely indistinguishable on the surrounding paper. Amazing.

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SO, you can understand my excitement when Uncle Greg mentioned the Chuck Close: Works on Paper 1975-2012 exhibit at the Monterey Museum of Art. A day to visit with my Uncle AND see Close’s work up close? (buh dun chhhh) Yes, please.

The Monterey museum has two locations: one in downtown Monterey on Pacific Street, and the other, La Mirada, in the surrounding hills. I love the separation of spaces allowing for a more intimate viewing experience, but I had no idea what a gem the La Mirada location was. An old Spanish-style building surrounded by gardens, rough-hewn beams sprouting from ceilings, whitewashed walls catching the sun and echoing sounds… even if it wasn’t filled with fantastic contemporary art I would feel at home here. The intimate, elegant space flowed easily from one room to another, and the deep colors of the polished hardwood floors brought out the rich hues in the artwork. It is definitely a place I will be visiting again.

More photos from our day of fun:

a poor (wo)man’s printing alternative…

Contrary to my usual opinion of forced creativity, I often find that holing myself up and waiting for inspiration to strike has its benefits.  Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes before I know it, I’ve been in the studio for twelve hours and have a prolific amount of work to show for it.

As is the case with this image. While unemployed a few years ago I got into a printing phase. At a local art store I found some foam printing sheets (a smooth, dense white foam with adhesive backing) that provided a cheap, easy alternative to the laborious wood blocks I seemed always to start and never finish. It was cheap enough (about $2.50 per 8.5″x11″ sheet) that I could experiment without breaking my budget (aka the change in my drawer), but also so versatile that I soon began using it to print on fabric and other materials.

Best of all, the only tools required are the foam sheet, a piece of cardboard (or wood for durability) and some sort of writing instrument to draw on the foam. A ball-point pen works fine; depending on the thickness of the line you desire. Because the foam is so pliable, it is easy to create multi-layered/ colored images by just cutting out the part you want to change (the feather, below) and using that as your new print block.

In this image, On the Wind, I was inspired by a feather that kept catching the wind so it looked like it was floating upwards.

Title: On the Wind
Inspiration: nature; wind currents
Medium: Foam block print on paper
Dimensions: 4″x6″
Price: $20; multiple available. 

ICON

ICON is one of my largest works of art to date. Inspired by… those who inspire.

Top row, left to right: Prince, Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, Mic Jagger, Jimi Hendrix

Bottom row: Jackie O., Georgia O’Keefe, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela

Billie Holiday

Bottom right: Bob Marley

 

Title: ICON
Inspiration: those who inspire others
Medium: Acrylic paint, paper on composite board
Dimensions: approx. 2’x3′ unframed. 
Price: original has been gifted; reproductions available $100, 20×30″. Smaller reproductions available. 

Concentric Life Equation… none of this linear mumbojumbo

As a self-proclaimed ‘child of nature’, I am drawn again and again to the image of concentric circles as a delineation of time. For some reason, this visual approach makes much more sense to me than a standard linear illustration, especially when used to portray the development of a specific individual. In one concise image you can see the beginning and the end and, in every artist’s dream, it also fuses the subject directly into the message.

I’ve often thought about tree rings as a visual metaphor for the phases of my life. Thinking back, certain years, phases, influences, relationships, interests, living situations, etc., fall into groups and make comprehending my own passage through time a visual affair.

What would you put in the empty boxes to represent your own life?

… His way of coping with the days was to think of activities as units of time, each unit consisting of about thirty minutes. …” –About a Boy, Nick Hornby.

Full hours can be a little bit intimidating and most activities take about half an hour. Taking a bath: one unit, watching countdown: one unit, web-based research: two units, exercising: three units, having my hair carefully disheveled: four units. It’s amazing how the day fills up, and I often wonder, to be absolutely honest, if I’d ever have time for a job; how do people cram them in?” – Hugh Grant as Will, in About a Boy the movie.

Title: In Tree Years

Inspiration: a late-night talk with my mom; nature; Nick Hornby’s idea of life as a series of units of time 

Medium: Foam-block print on paper

Dimensions: 6″x9″

Price: $40; seven (7) varied prints available. 

This item is available on Etsy! http://www.etsy.com/listing/83813118/in-tree-years-foamblock-print

Riding the Sine curve

I often find myself riding a sine curve through life. How to explain…

 Consider the x-axis (horizontal) as time stretching into infinity and the y-axis (not shown here, vertical) as a measure of positive or negative (successful or unsuccessful) creativity. As time progresses, I am swept through periods of creative success and failure, always hovering around the median line of equilibrium.

As an artist, my creativity follows this sine curve. I will go for a week without rest to complete a project, all the while starting new works and recording inspirations constantly. At the height of the curve my creativity is insatiable, almost to the point of detriment to actual progress. I am overwhelmed by ideas! The world around me teems with inspiration and while ideas flow freely, it is next to impossible to stop and focus on just one.

Conversely, when my sine curve dips below equilibrium, I can be thrown into bouts of boredom, restlessness, insatiability, frustration and severe lack of motivation. It is during these periods, despite the multiple projects sitting half-completed on my desk, that I find myself watching whole seasons of Arrested Development. I recognize what is happening, yet to pull myself out of my dip of boredom and lack of inspiration is beyond my ability.

Soon, however, the motivation comes back. I finish the season of Arrested Development, and instead of starting season 2, I think of alternate plot endings and start writing them down. The duvet cover on my bed that I’ve grown so familiar with (after a whole season of tv) seems too simple and I find myself sketching designs to alter it. I go through my bookshelf and select a book I’ve yet to read. And I read it. Gradually, aided by the time axis, I pull myself back above equilibrium.

Yet equilibrium is where I am most definitively productive. Right between creative ineptitude and over-stimulation, I find I am able to think most critically while maintaining the stamina and interest to complete more difficult projects.

And thus, my creative cycle played out yet again, my inspiration and abilities continue to grow and expand.  Recognizing the cycle has helped me to both overcome and accept it: If I recognize that I am in a state of boredom and am feeling uninspired, simply acknowledging my place on the curve helps put things into perspective. No, I haven’t lost my passion for art, I’m just at the bottom of the curve. Likewise, I have learned that in a time of intensive creativity I must write everything down. Notebooks overflow, and when I find myself looking up from the bottom of the curve again I have projects to assign myself to get the ball rolling.

Creativity is organic; inspiration is everywhere.