“As the coffee was being poured, the Count wondered whether this was the beginning or end of the old man’s day. Either way, he figured a cup of coffee would hit the spot. For what is more versatile? As at home in tin as it is in Limoges, coffee can energize the industrious at dawn, calm the reflective at noon, or raise the spirits of the beleaguered in the middle of the night.” A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel – by Amor Towles
Read this passage the other day and immediately it made me think of some of my artworks.
A series I am working on (slowly but somewhat surely) is simply called the “Coffee Cup Series”. It is based on travels, people, food, and conversations with friends and family. The common thread is coffee and how people connect over the sharing of this beverage.
These works are mostly based on photos I took during these conversations with friends and family and as with most of my work, has a sentimental attachment. So, I paint what I know. That doesn’t mean I can’t part with the paintings if there is an interested party, but there is always a story behind each painting.
When I began the series there were only a few recent photos (which had been taken with vague intent of painting). But when I went through my stored photos in the quest for something else I found LOTS of coffee cup photos! Now there are more photos/memories than I have time to paint!
The Cupcake painting was the pre-cursor to the series, done after not painting for a while and needing to get back into the swing of things. So, in a way it is connected to the series.
While looking for the pics of the new works, I came across older pieces. I’d like to think my work has grown since these were created (although I do like the brushstrokes, which are still an integral part of my work – most of the time).
Last assignment of the semester in Communications Design (aka Intermediate Digital Arts) was to design a logo for our own art business (future or existing). What have I discovered doing this assignment? One, I like digital art and doing design. Keep in mind that years ago I worked in sign design and for t-shirt printers, before all that computer design stuff came out, but to me digital is another tool (and/or media) that needed to be explored and learned. That brings us to the second aspect about this subject: I need to learn Adobe Illustrator. Time didn’t allow this in the now completed semester.
And even though I’ve done PowerPoints and Keynotes for years, I learned even more about creating them. Call me, I’ll whip one up for you. For a price, of course, lol!
So, this is the final design (subject to changes as needed – color, layout, etc.). Part of it shows a whimsical side (“Joy”) and part a more serious, yet stylish side (“ART”) and the simplicity of the large M catches the eye of the viewer. I won’t go through all of the changes that brought me to this point but I did want to show how the design looks on various items. Today a t-shirt, tomorrow a storefront sign?
So this semester I’ve been in the Intermediate Digital Arts course, also known as Communication Design. In the introductory class I began learning how to use PhotoShop, in this course that knowledge is being put to practical use (Thanks, John and Margie!). A recently completed assignment was in conjunction with the music department: designing a t-shirt (front and back) and a poster for their upcoming Honors Jazz Festival. We met several times with the client, a music professor with a good eye for design, and the sessions were conducted in a very professional manner. It might be an understatement to say that I really got into it, I submitted three (four if you count variations) designs, and that was after culling others out.
And one of those was chosen for this year’s festival!
It’s times like this that I wish my dad was on the other end of the phone line, he would be proud!
The Wacom tablet my family gave me for Christmas was utilized in all of the designs in some way or another (thanks y’all!). It’s a great tool and will be used a lot more in the future.
For the record, there’s no money involved but I do get a t-shirt with my design. Plus, my name is on the program, and all of the students received nicely printed copies of their poster designs.
Current assignment: RE-designing an existing product’s packaging! Yes, THAT one will be fun, too!
Last fall I began a new adventure: going back to college! I enrolled in a traditional painting class and something completely new for me, a digital arts course. A friend recommended the digital class after he and I discussed flyers I had made using MS Word. He made the argument that if I could do that on Word, that I would love PhotoShop. He was right! The current semester finds me in the next level of digital arts: Intermediate (also known as Communication Design).
Between these two courses I received a graphic tablet as a Christmas present. I was advised that there would certainly be a learning curve as I jumped in to develop my hand-eye coordination (and there was!). My first self-assigned project was a zentangle doodle. My thinking was that using a “no-brainer” subject would free me to concentrate on the technique of using this new media. I concentrated on simple lines and shapes, adding shading as I approached the end of the project. For the record, it was not easy!
The next self-imposed assignment was to try brush strokes and other techniques (smudging, etc.). This project was a realistic “painting” using a photo of one of my cats. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it, while questioning the authenticity of this media compared to traditional methods. Yeah, guess I was kind of old-school in my thinking.
But an old dog CAN learn new tricks! What’s the difference between traditional media (usually oil pastels, graphite or paint for me) and digital art? For me, traditional is more tactile and I love the actual texture that ensues from the application. But digital has many advantages, including the ease of correcting mistakes (you didn’t think I was perfect in my artworks, did you?). There are many aspects to compare and I am in the process of studying these and will discuss in the future. Besides, I am not terribly fond of reading long posts on blogs and think I’ve exceeded my limit.
Don’t laugh, but tonight I sent a friend request to one of my favorite living artists. Peter Doig the painter. Around ten years ago I had a chance encounter with one of his paintings Gasthofzur Muldentalsperre. It was in the Art Institute of Chicago and the painting had a major impact on me (this is not the first time I’ve written about it). The two figures in it were unsettling to me, and while I loved was the big sky, the trees are what knocked my socks off. They looked as if they’d been painted and then wiped out. Paintings with layers of paint applied were not unusual to me, but a painting with wiped out parts? Incredible. It affected me on so many levels.
Will I geek out if he answers me? This shouldn’t be a problem because I’m really not into the celebrity thing. He’s an artist, I’m an artist. He’s famous and a millionaire, I’m…well, not. I already follow his work on Instagram, although I’m not faithful to that particular mode of social media. During the same trip to Chicago, I met several contemporary artists at the workshop I was in. Do Ho Suh and Kara Walker were two of my favorites, but I found myself tongue-tied when face to face with Walker. Yep, geeked out. I once sent an email to the estate of Alice Neel and got a wonderful response from one of her daughters-in-law. Just so you know, that was for a class assignment, because you know I’m not into that celebrity thing.
So why contact Mr. Doig? Because I’m in a painting class at the local university, working on a new series. I hope I’m expanding my horizons, and pushing the envelope, stepping out of my comfort zone (sorry for all the cliches) with my new pieces. It takes courage – for me, anyway. But that painting in Chicago gave me the opportunity to think about how artists can take chances, break the rules, make others think. Maybe I should thank him for that, along with others who have been so supportive.
Sneak preview of one of the new pieces. The series (one of two – aren’t I ambitious?) is of portraits based on selfies and other photos of friends, family and other strangers (just kidding) on social media.
This painting found a home last week and that made two people very happy! I’ve always felt that a work of art should be bought if it makes the prospective owner happy, thoughtful, or evokes other emotions. This painting has been so close to finding a home before but I suspect the size (3′ x 5′) was a deterrent. The owner has the perfect spot, in fact two perfect spots!
The inspiration for this piece was a cell phone photo taken by friend Shirley as she took her grandchildren to school. It is oil on canvas with an underlayment of tissue paper for texture and an overlay of oil pastels. The current series I’m working on also include various applications of texture and of course, the oil pastels that I love so much.
University classes are challenging me in multiple ways and it’s all good! When I retired I said I wasn’t doing anything if it wasn’t fun, but fun can be challenging, too. Learning new things and developing old skills are great for keeping the brain supple and in shape.
So, I will take this opportunity to share some of my latest pieces from the Digital Arts class. No, they are not perfect and I have much to learn, but I AM learning. Baby steps. These pieces were for a “mandela” assignment. Each one should have three different items that are related in some way. These pieces are the something new. Note: since this is an educational exercise I have used any images necessary, and that means ones with watermarks.
The painting class finds me working on two series (one at home and one in the university studio). As tempting as it is to show the works in progress, I will wait until the series are complete. That’s the secret part.
Did I mention I’ve gone back to school? University. Art classes. Loving them!
One class is Intro to Digital Arts. This old girl is learning PhotoShop (thanks Melvin!) in baby steps (thanks Margie!). Going home like a little kid: “I learned how to make PATTERNS today!!!”. Already planning my first “real digital art” piece, just have to learn some more.
The other class is Advanced Painting (III). I wanted to take it to get back on a schedule and have deadlines. I need structure. The professor and I have had discussions on where I want to go with my art. So I brainstormed, researched, made mind maps. Now I feel more focused and decided to create a series, a body of works that are connected to a theme, style, etc.
There are two series in the works now. One is portraits, based on friends’ FaceBook photos, selfies and otherwise. (the other is coffee cups, the theme connections). I always ask people if I may “borrow” their photos because I’d never take them without permission, and people have been so generous. The paintings will be close-up, mainly neutral colors (but not always), combining the mixed media of texture, oil pastels, raised stencils and oil paint.
Photo shows Dottie on a dry painting although last night she walked across a wet gessoed one.
I had a delightful day in Raleigh yesterday with a friend. We went to the Farmer’s Market and scored big time with tomatoes (salsa coming soon), peaches and plants. We also went to the NC Museum of Art, not the first time this summer.
We took a docent tour at the museum, met people from Eritria and Holland, and learned a lot. One of the paintings we paused at brought back an explosion of memories. I was in high school and our wonderful art teacher Mrs. Tyner took us to the art museum. Back then it was in downtown Raleigh, and it was my first trip to a “real” art museum. The artwork was a feast for my young eyes, but then I went around a corner and came upon The Seine at Giverny, Morning Mists it knocked my socks off! It was my first aesthetic experience and for years every time I visited the museum I would look for that painting!
So after the tour we wandered over to the West Building and checked out the African art (I love Benin pieces and the contemporary artist El Anatsui). There was a display that reminded me of pieces from the recent “You Are Here” show that was comprised of interactive video, light and sound works of art. It was lot’s of fun, but I digress. So this sign showed the African art in a changing grid pattern AND it included the viewer in multiple ways!
Final thoughts: People often times like a work of art because of a combination of elements, one is that it reminds them of something in their life experiences (that could be positive or negative). They see something of themselves in the work. In the older Monet work one of the things that I related to was the serene view of water and trees at a certain time of day and it reminded me of a lake my family frequented. But now, in the new world (to me, at least!) of digital and video art, the artist can include the viewer IN the artwork and encourage their physical participation.
I have just recently enrolled in two university classes, painting and digital arts. I’m pretty sure that my horizons are going to expand.
Take a trip to an art museum soon, it could be life-changing!
Walking through the campus I had attended many years ago found me comparing familiar buildings with new ones, admiring the improved landscapes, and marveling that there’s a Starbucks now. The art department was the same in some ways but there were many improvements. Sitting in the lobby I ran into a former student and it was such a pleasure to see her. Another student came up to ME out of all the other people camped out in the lobby to ask where a certain room was. Yep, he thought I was a professor. With a touch of glee I told him I was new and didn’t know. Because, like him, I am a new student too.
Now, it’s not like I haven’t been here since my undergrad days (I also got my masters here 16 years ago) but it was different today. Or was it? I loved being in classes learning new things, maybe it was that old time feeling from years past. I found myself briefly reminiscing about my professors from the early days but looking forward to the new ones in Advanced Painting and Intro to Digital Arts.
It IS different this time. This time my work will benefit from my life’s experiences and my (hopefully) improved skills. There’s an abundance of ideas to explore while pushing the envelope in my work. Spending time in a studio and having the pressures of deadlines and critiques will be also be a boon to this all-too-often undisciplined (retirement is too much fun, y’all!) artist.
Stay tuned to see the fruits of this new endeavor grow!