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Voices and Visions, Artist Statement

It’s been several weeks since I have blogged, and the reasons are many. Some new responsibilities as my mom’s caregiver, due to her shoulder replacement surgery in October, lots of hours at work, and a new custom order, among other things. Also, I keep trying to think of the perfect topic that will be entertaining to my audience and informative. And yet, when I do that I feel like I am not being my genuine self, and that leads to more inertia. So instead, I decided to share my artist statement for my new poetry illustration series, Voices, and Visions. So here it is.

Desert landscape with pregnant woman and plants
This is an oil painting which depicts the feeling of creative block. It is symbolized by the desert landscape and the pregnant woman, as well as the bean plant growth cycle.
Two figures in a barren landscape with a teddy bear and leaves.
This oil painting is an interpretation of Robert Frost’s poem, The Secret Sits. It is also inspired by a music video by the Cranberries, called Ordinary Day, in which the main character chases her younger self to try and resolve unfinished business.

Voices and Visions

 How does an idea for a painting get born? For me, it’s sometimes a memory being re-played, hearing a song lyric that resonates with me, reading a poem that lends itself to telling a story or visiting an inspiring art exhibit.  This series focuses on the connection between stories described in the written word, such as poetry, song lyrics, and quotes and the visual narratives that illustrate these works. The works may describe a feeling, a memory, a season, or some universal truth described in color, metaphor or symbols. Perhaps this series has been percolating in me for years, since 2005, in fact, when I graduated from McDaniel College with an art degree. My art mentor, Steve Pearson, who is now (Assistant Professor at McDaniel College), sparked an interest in me about how to make artwork that communicated personal truths and ideas.

To facilitate the creative process, he recommended that I keep a sketchbook and collect artwork that inspired me. This process would help me to identify the themes that mattered most to me and to write a content-based artist statement. Lastly, I created a series of work that described these themes through color, symbols, composition, etc.  It’s been several years since then and I have had a lot of experiences since then, read books, listened to music, attended concerts, had different jobs, and pursued different artistic subject media, such as the portrait, and more recently still life and landscape. But I keep coming back to artwork that has a meaning or a story to tell in my artwork, and especially to the portrait which was the first subject that ignited my interest in art. One significant event that sparked this recurrent theme, and they are: 1.) A drawing class that I took at Frederick Community College.

In January of 2015, I took a drawing course at Frederick Community College in Frederick, MD. One of the final assignments I tackled was to illustrate a poem using pastels.  A major challenge in this assignment was to find a poem that had some concrete images to illustrate and not a poem that was too esoteric and abstract. I chose Robert Frost’s poem, Ghost House, which has an abundance of concrete imagery. The first lines, “I dwell in a lonely house I know, that vanished nearly a summer ago and left no trace but the cellar walls…” (Frost) gripped me with a strong visual picture.  I immediately thought of a derelict house and tried to create a narrative about this haunted house.

Slowly different images popped into my head, a derelict house, a ghost bride, a tree, a path, and some crows. To facilitate this process, I collected artwork that inspired on Google image searches and checked out library books on vampires and fantasy creatures. My next step was to create a Photoshop file collage with images based on this poem. I completed the artwork by creating a drawing based off of the collage and finished with soft pastels. To create this current body of work, I have followed this same process of creating a notebook of images that inspired, and piecing them together in PhotoShop to create my own unique compositions. I also did searches on Pinterest for the artwork of interest and looked for examples of poetry illustrations to see how other artists have tackled this subject. And I read books on poetry or did Google searches to look for poems that lent themselves visual depiction. Some of the poetry that has inspired these works is verses written by Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, and T.S. Elliot.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my artist statement! Have a wonderful week!

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Blog

Do What You Love, and Make it a Habit

I started this blog late this week for a variety of reasons. One of which was that I wasn’t sure what to write about this week and how to connect that theme to last week’s theme. In the meantime, I have been taking my own advice from last week and doing what I love to do most, which for me is to draw and paint portraits. This week I have been working on a mixed media portrait of Emily Dickinson, to illustrate her poem, Hope is the Thing with Feathers. Here are a few lines to give you an idea of what this poem is about:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm – (Source: Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/42889.
The two main themes of this poem are the personification of hope ( as a bird), which lives in the soul and a metaphor for life challenges, which is the storm  (Source:http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/dickinson/section2.rhtml . In my portrait, I painted a stormy sky with a rainbow shining through the break in the clouds. The former symbolized hardships, while the later symbolizes hope. Other symbols of hope I included in this portrait are the soaring doves in the upper left clouds, and the author herself, Emily Dickinson, who has written about what it means to hope. I am planning to submit this painting to a juried art show at the Crestwood Women’s Center this April. If all turns out well, I will post about the opening night and art exhibition details.
Okay, so back to my main statement of Do What you Love…It sounds good, right? Kind of like the phrase, Follow Your Bliss. Let’s say you really enjoy, cooking every day, but want to get better, or you enjoy painting, but find it difficult to make time to finish your artwork. And lastly, how do you maintain the motivation to do that thing you love most in the world to do? I got curious and started doing some research about how to be a better artist, and that led me to an article by artist, Noah Bradley. The article is called:   21 Days to be a Better Artist (even if you’re terrible), by Noah Bradley and is available on https://medium.com/@noahbradley/21-days-to-be-a-better-artist-48087576f0dd#.fj77c5nel.
According to the artist, Noah Bradley (2015), if you want to get better at something you have to practice it on a daily basis (Source:https://medium.com/@noahbradley/21-days-to-be-a-better-artist-48087576f0dd#.fj77c5nel.)  Bradley (2015) recommends that if you want to get better at drawing that you should draw 1 hour for 21 days with no excuses, (ibid). And finally, he references a Ted Talks youtube video that explains the power of habit, which is based on “cue, behavior, and reward” (ibid) and  (The Power of Habit: Charles  Duhigg at TEDx Teachers College, http://www.youtube.com). Charles Duhigg, an author and Pulitzer prize winner, states that a cue is anything that makes you ready to start the behavior, while the behavior is the habit you engage in, and the reward is any action that you take after you complete the behavior which reinforces the habit (Source: ibid). For me, to start off my day of painting or drawing, I will play my favorite music by Coldplay or listen to a book on cd on youtube, set up my art supplies and set up the coffee maker to brew. Then I set my timer for 30 minutes and get to work setting up my supplies, photo references and start painting. When the timer goes off, I do something relaxing like reading a book to reward myself and reinforce the habit. Most important, I pencil in studio days on my calendar and try to do artwork before all the other to-dos on my list compete for my attention. So here’s my challenge, I want to start working in my sketchbook on a daily basis for 20 minutes, 5 days a week to get better at drawing. I will be posting the results on my Instagram account and on Facebook if you want to view them, and of course, here on the website. If you want to learn more about Duhigg’s Power of Habit speech

, you may watch his presentation on youtube by conducting a search on the power of habit, or you may look up the book, The Power of Habit your local public library or on Amazon. For this week, I am posting my progress photos of the mixed media portrait, Hope is the Thing with Feathers, featuring Emily Dickinson.