I thought I would share a video of one part of the 100-Day project. I have four projects that I am currently working on (in addition to several at school); this book, a collapsible artwork based on a Victorian Sewing Box, a painting, and a block print. This will be a six signature Coptic bound artist book. It’s has very few words, but what’s there is part of the artwork vs. a storyline. The book has been an exploration of “home” and our political times and how the two have interrupted the lives of all of us in ways that we shouldn’t be. Division, financial insecurity, insecurity of our freedoms, etc.
I’m a little over a month in on the 100 Day project and through the course of generating more and more houses using materials on hand (including old print proofs, telephone books, and patterns) One of the old print proofs was titled, “What’s behind Door #23?” That’s when “#” stood for a number, not a way to “tag” a name or a term. Anyway, I’ve worked through a lot of what is unfolding in this story and I seem to question the saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Not sure if that always applies in ways we think it should. What if the heart is where a home was?
Moving forward, I have a few more pages to complete for the inside of the bound book and then will need to start “building the house.” I tested a plexiglass print using the laser engraver for the students. Go figure it was “the tree.” But I am extremely happy with the results of that using my Ravi Press.
The pink houses have now taken on more variety and I’ve allowed other colors to join in the fun. However, I’ve kept the palette limited but the additional colors have started generating enough ideas to create two projects. One will be a hand bound book using a bookbinders board without any covering. I have laser engraved on the cover with the theme, but I may change that as I am not sure about the raw look of the cardboard. I’m not opposed to it, but it feels like it should be more polished. When I used some gouache on the prototype, it curled quite a bit and despite trying to balance the tension I’m hesitant to use any significant amount of paint.
For the inside of the book, I am using old prints proofs and drawings. The process of repurposing them for the foundation pages and for cutouts of houses is extremely satisfying. I’ve been needing to clean my flat files for a while and they are providing an arsenal of suitable materials. It’s a fairly free exploration and it will be a one of a kind artwork that is probably more therapeutic for me than anything.
I’ve also been looking at a book that was withdrawn from some library called “Politics in Art.” Written by Joan Mondale probably in the 70’s, Mondale is a Minnesotan and the daughter of Walter Mondale of political fame. This project is less subtle in terms of a political viewpoint, but the idea of Pink Houses connects and so there it is, nonetheless.
The other project is based on some boxes I have made in the past. One was designed for a graduate level Graphic Design class and the other was designed with a friend in mind who recently passed away. In that box, I included the poem Desiderata which he introduced me to. It’s a lovely poem and you can read further down on this page. Using the Victorian Sewing box pattern, I’ll be using tar paper (a reference to a phrase my dad would say to my mom about tarpaper shacks) and will use the simple house form. I’ve used tarpaper before for a mural I created for a theatrical backdrop for the play “AH” written by my friend Jen Gerhadts.
written by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.
I have no clue why I signed up to do the 100 Day Project again. I didn’t even think about it, I just did it. I left a vague description of my project but basically, I said something about “pink houses” and “spirit trees.”
I’ve been signed up for about 5 days and during that time I’ve been looking at old artwork and toying with upcycling works that I’ve saved for some unknown reason. While I have been playing, the idea of creating and the need to create kept rearing its ugly head. Why the strong need to create art? Why are the images I am exploring have such a strong hold on me that they have resurfaced and been so insistent for over 20 years? What’s the point of it all? And what power do they have over me that I feel the need to connect the dots between them?
At the onset of this blog, I posted an artwork from when I was 6. The funeral of President Kennedy. I misplaced the work and have been searching for it for some time. I finally attacked my flat files where after two days of carefully sifting through and sorting, I found it placed between two large drawings (probably for safekeeping!). I know that is one of the dots.
I also came across several drawings from my younger years (junior high, high school and my early 20’s) of trees. The Spirit Tree I’ve currently adopted is another dot.
The pink houses have returned. Or should I say, I guess I am not finished with them? Another dot.
Scribble mark making and tornadoes. I’ve often thought the scribble mark making was a recent technique, but the contents of the flat files prove otherwise. The tornadoes, I get. Chaos. Tons of chaos. The spirit trees I figure are a calming presence to balance out the chaos and a bit of a guiding force for my art (along with my Fisher Price doll). And the pink houses bring me full circle back to my first political piece that depicts the death of John F. Kennedy as the houses are symbolic of the people of America and the lost hope of the American Dream.
I have an in-progress piece of pink houses with a political pig (not pictured). It’s a work in progress, but maybe it’s the map to connect the dots.
Part 2 and edited to add: after writing this, I was listing to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons and I heard this, “I’m not going to leave you alone until you make me.” I’m thinking that’s a sign.
The images below are some test prints using soft-cut blocks and Garmin Relief Inks. I laser engraved the images to test out the machine and the material and then using my Iron Press Print Frog (the glass printing baren shown in the picture below) the results were fabulous. I have to find a source for some additional colors so I can run an edition, but I am excited at the prospect of this possibility. The good thing is that I am focusing in on creating and fulfilling my personal art addiction.
Apparently, my muse is telling me to continue with the Pink Houses. They have returned, but I have been working with digital images because frankly, the house has been too cold to work with other materials in the studio area. The temperatures have been sub-zero for a couple of weeks and my house until a couple of days ago, was probably in the low to mid 60’s. So I thought I would play with them digitally. I have also been using a iPad and digital sketch app to see if I can enhance those skills. Challenging to say the least. I find the biggest difference is not being able to use the tooth of a good drawing paper to “drag” the pencil or drawing material to slow down and have control over the marks. The surface of the iPad being glass is so slick and smooth, that controlling the line is one that will take some time to learn.
I’ve never been much of a digital artist, even though I have worked with Photoshop for close to 20 years, it’s been more on the photo editing end, where I remove something from an image or enhance the image for publication. Creating these collage-like images is fascinating, but I think I will research some effects and see where it will take me.
In terms of the Pink Houses, there’s a lot more to explore. I have some pink pigs that may work well with this. We’ll see.
Recently, I invited Laura Grisamore into my art classroom as a guest speaker. Laura is a photographer/photojournalist that does some incredible work. She’s vibrant, engaging, and sucks you into her infectious personality.
During the course of her presentation, she showed a photograph of a tree that she called her “Spirit Tree.” It is a tree that catches her eye and she talked how she thought she needed to capture it with the right sky conditions and finally one bleak day, she finally did, much to her satisfaction. When she mentioned where it was, I knew the tree. It stands strong and alone.
I mentioned that I had adopted a tree as my inspiration for some recent work. I’ve painted, drawn, painted again and even used seeds for a crop art entry into the State Fair. It is well known to many of the locals, as it also catches your eye as you travel by it. It too stands alone, separated from its kin some few hundred yards away. Some folks have different names for it, but the “Spirit Tree” moniker seems to be fitting.
When Laura mentioned the Spirit Tree, it reminded me of another artist friend of mine, Ti Besonen, who shared her experiences during a workshop with Hazel Belvo, a painter who often depicts a well known, but protected tree near Grand Marais, called the Spirit Tree. As Ti relayed some of her experiences, I researched Hazel’s work and lo and behold an etching of the Spirit Tree came across my screen that I found to be striking in its similarities of the shape and form of a block print I had done back in the mid 90’s while still an undergrad at BSU (Bemidji State University).
In my print, I had embodied a figure in a tree, as myself, without roots because I would be moving again once I finished my degree at BSU. The print was for a print portfolio exchange titled “Women’s Self-Image” and at the time, having no roots to ground myself represented what my life had been up to that point. (I’ve been a bit more grounded and have not moved for 21 years, but things change, right?)
What’s fascinating is how Laura’s work, takes the two living things and embodies then into her Photo Fusions. Maybe it’s the constant exposure to Mother Nature that we start to absorb its grace and generosity. I’ve been drawing trees since time began I think and have always been connected to them a bit more than even the typical tree hugger would. I cried when they took down a 60-year-old healthy Elm when they did the water and sewer project that required the city to turn the once lush boulevard into a barren wasteland. I was glad I wasn’t home when they made the cuts to the stately structure. It would have been like watching an execution.
The top part of my Spirit Tree is dying, and I imagine within a few years it will crumble and I will feel heartbroken when that happens. Maybe that’s why I’ve adopted the noble white pine that stands along Highway 71 as my artistic muse – it’s spirit needs to live on. I will be honored to take on that responsibility.
Both Laura and Ti have blogs and links to their work can be found under the links.
I’ve exhausted the idea of continuing the Pink Houses for now. I am sure it will return and I did create two acrylic paintings that are located at the Serendiptiy Gallery in Pequot Lakes, MN. Over the summer months, I explored that and then managed to cross off a bucket list item, which was to enter the Crop Art competition at the Minnesota State Fair. I won the blue ribbon for the Novice category and now will I continue? Good question. I have an idea, but will have to start laying it out if I want to enter again.
The subject matter for the crop art was a beautiful white pine tree that is located between Menahga and Park Rapids along Highway 71 in Minnesota. I took a photo of the stately beauty a few years back and during the course of my adventures with the crop art, I found that is a favorite landmark among many locals and tourists of the area. It’s notable because it stands out as the sole pine in that section and has such a beautiful shape. Unfortunately, the top portion of the tree is stressed or diseased and may have completely died off.
The tree continues to be the subject matter of the various media I am playing with which includes acrylic, oil, and some printmaking methods. What I am finding interesting is the media and my hand respond so differently with each different ink or paint I explore that I am embracing the higher power of letting things emerge on their own. I am reminded that I too am always learning just like my students who teach me more than I will ever teach them.
Yesterday, was a prime example. I have students blog and draw weekly sketchbook assignments. As I was working with a student, I used his sketchbook to render a small sample of how they might approach the work. I noticed that they had two of the recent assignments completed in the sketchbook, but failed to turn them in. When I asked about that, they replied with, “I didn’t think they were good enough.” We had a long conversation related to that and I finally said, “if it’s your drawing it will always be good enough.” Now to heed my own words. The top image is an etching on a handmade paper using Akua inks, followed by an acrylic painting on paper. The rest are beginning stages of two oil paintings.