Random Act of Art

Well…I didn’t make a painting today, or the day before that, or for several days before that (though I have made a few since I last posted.) I did draw one of the students in the class I subbed for, though.

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I’m still here

Hello fellas and gals in internet land!

Now that you’ve caught your breath and are no longer gasping with shock over the return of fresh content to Ink, allow me to tell you what’s been goin’ on:Key West

1. I took an internship with the Department of Defense that has me on a military base for four months providing daycare/after school   youth services for service-members…in Key West, FL! They offered me a position over the summer in Bamberg, Germany so I will be trying to add a fourth language to my linguistic arsenal ovebambergr the next few months.

2. Today I applied for the credential program at the university near my home in California, which I would begin in the fall as a first step toward becoming an official (rather than substitute) teacher. I have wanted to teach since I was nine years old but both of my parents spent a lot of time trying to convince me that it was beneath me/not prestigious/not a path to a swimming pool full of money. Mom wanted doctor or lawyer, dad pushed for engineer. Nearly two decades later the fact remains that, much like Albus Dumbledore found, my greatest pleasure lies in teaching. Also as in the case of Albus Dumbledore, pursuing a career in teaching does not mean an end to my other creative/intellectual pursuits. I am really excited, and already planning curriculum in my head.

3. My sister had demanded a cover for the novel she wrote, and I finally finished and delivered it just befravenclawedore I left for Key West. She is quite pleased with it and that pleases me. She is looking into self-publishing.

4. I got to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando (what a mouthful)! It was everything I could have dreamed and more, you guys! The butterbeer, the wands, the awesome rides! I spent way too much on souvenirs.

5. If you are a regular reader, you may remember that I was part of a group show in a gallery back in December. The gallery informed me that I had sold a piece, and then didn’t send my work back to me for almost two months because after the show closed I sold a second piece! Which means that total on my “about” page gets to go up by a hundred buckeroos (the gallery took a fifty percent commission).

I apologize for allowing the blog to languish during this very busy time of packing and flying and working 40+ hours on base every week, but I do have a Mix-Tape Monday and Random Review planned for this week. I am hoping to retcon the weeks that I missed in Mix-Tape Mondays as well, but we will see how this week goes. Thanks for sticking with me, and if you haven’t stuck with me I’d like to say:

Other Types of Writing

Today I had to take a little time out to prepare an artist’s statement and resume for a show I’m a part of in December. It will be at Eureka, CA’s First Street Gallery, the “Giant Squid Exhibition”…we printmakers just love our ink. I had never actually written an artist’s statement before, my university art curriculum was not particularly rigorous, so with a lot of time and a little guidance from fellow artists Megan Moore and Blake McAdow this is what I came up with:

                  What is the role of nature in an increasingly regimented society? My current work explores the way biological phenomena such as competition, consumption, growth, and renewal manifest on personal and systemic levels within our industrialized nation.

                Printmaking is a process which allows me to marry mechanized production with organic formal elements, questioning the way contemporary American society rejects the lack of predictability found in nature in favor of uniform standards of performance. In my serigraphs, I bring nature into a highly uniform, reproducible medium by using hand-cut stencils and painted representation of organic forms such as fibrin and birds. Collagraph is an imprecise process in itself, which produces a more painterly effect and introduces an additional natural element of entropy into the work as plates destroy themselves in the course of printing. The conflict created by using nature as a standardized part is central to my work.

                The collagraphs I created in 2012 draw from the natural abundance of my new home: included on the plates used to print them are hundreds of new leaves I collected from local trees and pressed during spring, and the tree forms are from sketches made during my wanderings in Chico. As this agricultural community renewed itself so did my work, introducing new themes and brighter colors than those that characterized my earlier work in Humboldt County.

What do you think? Is it too packed with artist-speak, or does it make you want to see the work I’m referring to? Let me know in the comments. 

How Do I Write?

In exploring the blogs of some of my new followers (I picked up 8 the day that I posted for Next Big Thing, personal best), I found some great questions on personal process. Blogger Shannon A. Thompson had gotten them from a friend, and I enjoyed reading her responses so much I thought I would borrow the questions and answer them myself. It seemed like a nice warm-up in these last days before NaNoWriMo, where you will likely hear from me more sporadically than usual.

How long do you spend writing each day? 

Every day is different, any sort of routine feels like slow death. Many days all I write are a few comments over on Tom and Lorenzo, a few Facebook statuses, and a blog post if I’m feeling ambitious. Sometimes a poem. I’m a bit of a binge writer: when I write, I really write. It’s all I do until whatever I’m writing is finished. If I try to work on other things, I feel a pull back to the writing. It’s the same way with my fine art. Whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it all the way until it’s done. I know a lot of people can’t work like that, but it’s the only way I can.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

Night. I am useless in the morning. I really hit my stride around ten p.m., and ten to two is my magic window of maximum brainpower, so if I am planning my writing at all I aim to work during that window. The few times I tried to write before the sun went down I wrote a lot of half-sentences and kept deleting them, and eventually wandered off to greener internet pastures.

Do you set yourself a time limit or a word limit? No limits?

I just write until it’s done. With projects I do try to set an end date, like I want to be finished with this piece by December 10th, but it’s mostly to help me get started. If it’s not done by December 10th, I keep writing right past the deadline until I finish.

Do you write with music on? If so, what music do you like to write to?

Yes, absolutely. Music is such a valuable tool when I’m writing. It helps me drop into the mood of a scene or climb into a character’s skin very quickly. My playlists evolve along with my writing, I move songs around in the play order or add/delete as the narrative changes. I also tend to view a piece of writing as something akin to a song or symphony, the rise and fall of action act like the dynamics in a piece of music. Structural knowledge of music helps me with pacing and knowing when to add the tiny percussive beat that will act as a counterpoint to the later action crescendo.

How often do you check the Internet? Do you fall into Internet black holes? Or turn off your WiFi completely?

I actually have a two-monitor setup that I use for graphic design work, and when I’m writing I will often have a style guide or research resource open on one monitor while I write on the other. I am a huge research nerd, so I have to have access to the internet to look up whatever unexpected minutiae pop up while I’m writing.

Are you a basher or a swooper? Kurt Vonnegut characterized writers into these two camps: “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter any more, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

Hands-down a Basher. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that the tight deadline forces me to move on and not fuss, but that is so contrary to my nature. I have a very strong memory, which means I will remember all the little bits that didn’t quite work or words that weren’t the exact one I wanted…and they accumulate over the course of 50,000 words. I feel like I am dragging all of that behind me, so I usually try to fix it as I go.

Do you eat when you’re writing? What snacks/drinks do you go to?

If you are a health nut, please avert your eyes. This part will only upset you. I have this absolutely enormous cup from AM/PM that holds something ridiculous like 64 oz. of liquid, and if I’m working on anything longer than a poem I will fill it with Dr. Pepper so that I don’t have to move again until I’m done writing. I got into the habit during long nights in the print shop during college. I don’t drink coffee or alcohol, so I think of that as my vice. Sometimes I will have popcorn or goldfish crackers around, too, but not often. They tend to just annoy me because I am using my hands to write/type and I don’t want to stop just to eat. My husband thinks that mentality is completely insane. He often has to stop me and remind me to eat when I’ve been working for four hours straight and I’m getting cranky. If I’m really into what I’m writing I will sometimes forget to drink from my giant cup and it will go flat by the time I remember.

What’s your biggest procrastination tool? Or are you a freak who never procrastinates?

I procrastinate up to a point, doing whatever crosses my mind, usually to the point where I have exactly the amount of time left I will need to complete my project before deadline. Then I turn into an unstoppable freight train of accomplishment. While procrastinating I research, make lists of names, fiddle with playlists, read books…I have baked as a way to procrastinate in the past.

How do the people (roommates/partners/children) who live with you fit into or around your writing schedule? 

My husband is a semi-serious gamer, but he is extremely good about always putting real-life things before virtual gamer things. In return, I try to choose the moments I ask him to do things, so that I’m not interrupting him every five seconds and messing up what he’s working on. When I am deep in a project (art or writing) our roles flip. We can go a very long time sitting in our office together, using our respective computers and not talking to each other, and remain quite happy. If one of us states “I need some attention” the 0ther drops what they are doing. It works for us.

Do you find yourself tied to the place you’ve grown accustomed to writing? Or can you just pick up and go?

I am semi-tied to my home office, for three reasons. One, I am very easily distracted and a new venue provides too many people to observe and conversations to overhear…I can’t focus. Two, I like to have my computer available for research. I find it difficult to half-ass a fact and move on, promising myself that I will go back and fix it later. Three, my husband is in my office. I like to bounce bits of dialogue or pieces of scenes off of him, or ask him questions for authenticity. Plus, I just like being near him. His presence calms me and I feel it enhances my work. He’s my muse (a fact that he will proudly share with anyone who will listen :))

That said, on occasion I will take a notepad and a pen out to the park or forest and find a quiet spot to sit and write. Those occasions just aren’t very often. The smell of coffee makes me ill so I have never done the cliché “hunched over a laptop at Starbucks” thing.

It was really interesting for me to answer these questions about my own process. A few of the answers surprised me, my knee-jerk response wasn’t actually the truth of how I work. What about you? How do you work? Feel free to respond in the comments or answer on your blog (just leave a link so I can read your answers)!

**Believe it or not, I scheduled this post. Such are the depths of my contrariness that the moment I said I would never schedule one, I knew that a scheduled post was in my future.**

Stuff and Things, Ltd.

Here are some things that you may or may not be interested in, as a sometime reader of Ink.

1. I currently have a print showing at the YeeTee Gallery in Illinois. It is part of a video-game themed exchange, Your Printshop is in Another Castle, exploring how video games influenced artists in our formative years. My print is a diptych engraving with hand-color, entitled “Red Valkyrie Needs Pipe Badly”.  If you have questions about process or content, I would be delighted to answer them in the comments!

2. I am readying some work for a show at the gallery related to my alma mater, Humboldt State University, in December. I will be sending over five pieces: two collagraphs, two serigraphs (screenprints), and an engraving. Readying them involves a lot of Photoshopping photographs of the work so that they somewhat resemble what the pieces look like in real life, cutting mats, framing, and doing any touch-up the pieces need before I send them over to Arcata. The show is at First Street Gallery, the Giant Squid Exhibition, if anyone is interested in checking it out in real life.

3. This morning, as I was complaining about the limitations of the rating system on Goodreads, my Muse (who is a real person) provided a brilliant flash of inspiration. I have often thought that Ink could benefit from a visual rating system, for the visual learners out there and those who are inclined to say “too long, did not read”. All reviews will now come equipped with a chair-rating! A photo of a chair whose comfort-level/sit-ability reflects my impression of the novel’s quality/readability. I think this will make more sense once I start to implement it.

4. Still working on my 2013 Sketchbook Project submission. It is looking like it will involve a lot of paper weaving, cutouts, and tatted embellishments.

5. My official NaNoWriMo preparations have begun! I spent awhile last night putting together my starter playlist in Spotify, and gave the playlist the working title of the manuscript I intend to write: Starsand. Riveting. At this point I have concrete ideas for about four scenes in the novel, and a general idea of how they might link up. I expect that I will be mostly winging it, like last year. Can’t wait to get started.

6. Because I have moved since last NaNoWriMo, I got on the website and changed my region. Last year’s local WriMos were a very disconcerting group, and brought out the introvert in me. I can’t wait to see what the Chico WriMos are like at this year’s FroYo kickoff.

I will leave you with the first song on the Starsand playlist:


Andain – “Promises”

Tough Days Require Excellent Pies

The difficult thing about being a very analytical person with strong opinions, with enough conviction to share those opinions publicly, is the thing that “nicer” people often don’t understand. I am just as critical of my own work as I am of anyone else’s, more critical actually because I don’t often have to tell other people what I think of my own work. The opinions I post on others’ work publicly are tempered by the knowledge that I am talking about a person with a soft squishy heart who may have poured that heart into their work, and the knowledge that others will read what I write and form opinions on my character based on that sole piece of writing. I am free to beat myself up as hard as I can inside my own mind. Today is one of those days.

Over the summer I made the decision that I definitely want to pursue grad school, specifically to earn an MFA in Printmaking (or broader Studio Art depending on the program). Looking at my work from undergrad and what little I’ve done since, I don’t have much I’d be willing to commit to a CD and send off to represent me to selection committees. Luckily my husband is still finishing his undergrad, and I am not terribly interested in the program at his school, so I anticipate having at least a year before I apply. This gives me a year to get together a portfolio that doesn’t produce anxiety attacks.

Not so easy. Printmaking in general requires a decent amount of equipment. Given my living and financial situations I am limited to screenprinting on the porch and hand-printing woodcuts with a wooden spoon. However, plenty of amazing art has been produced from limited circumstance. Sometimes a lack of equipment and materials equals a push in a new direction.

It can also be hard to remember that a lot of the printmakers I am measuring myself against, in terms of technique and cohesive vision, already have their Master’s degrees (or are in the process of obtaining them). They have had three years to focus intensely on a body of work. Those at Frogman’s are some of the most ambitious in the nation. That may not be a just yardstick for a gal with a B.A. from a school with one room and five presses for printing (only three of which we actually used).

I am having some drastic ideas for my old work, and since I’ve quite honestly got nothing to lose at this point, I think I will get cracking.

More work from undergrad, clockwise from top: double-drop etching, wood engraving/letterpress from my first Frogman’s, 18″x24″ woodcut, my first wood engraving, collagraph.

Work from undergrad (and a little after) clockwise from center: 6′x4′ woodcut Zoombies from Steamroller Woodcut Event, woodcut for 2012 calendar, bookmaking project for brother’s Christmas present, woodcut for 2011 calendar, collagraph/collage/stencil piece, my first etching, woodcut for 2012 calendar.