My Norwescon Schedule

This Easter weekend, I will be a talking head at the following panels at Norwescon:


5 pm, Branching out with your art


10 am, Business of art

11 am, Art Show tour

(this is listed in the program as talking about my art; I actually intend it to be an art show tour using my mad art criticism/art historical/art theory skills to discuss pieces the attendees are particularly interested in anywhere in the show)

2 pm, Poly Parenting

6 pm, Queer Voices in SF/F

At which I am the only non-writer and the only chick. No pressure. 🙂


11 am, Finding time to make art

1 pm, A print by any other name

I will also be showing digital and mixed-media work in the art show.

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Getting back on the horse

I finally feel like I’ve gotten a chance to sit down and engage with making new work for Norwescon. I still don’t know exactly where things are going, and my ideas involving blending genre with encaustic so far have all been waxy messes, but there will be a new Alchemist’s Orchards piece and there will be Space Beluga.

(I went to SeaWorld. I think I took 100 photos at the underwater beluga viewing tank. And then the mantas, and the turtles, and the dolphins….)

And who knows what I’m going to cook up with the supplies that arrived from Freestyle Photographic and Dharma Trading today (insert maniacal laugh here)… wearable art with tentacles?

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opinions on drawing supports?

I’ve been thinking about finding a way to replace my drafting table with something that doesn’t have a floor footprint. I found this:

Blitz Translucent Drawing Board

but would love feedback from anyone who has used such a thing about how well it works; in particular, I am worried because I keep my drafting table at a very high angle (probably 60 degrees?) and I am pretty sure they don’t make drawing boards that go much above 30 degrees. (I think I work so steep because I am used to the horses from my life drawing classes. Maybe I should just learn to work flatter…I work primarily in charcoal and ink&brush)

It also seemed like you could rig some kind of bench hook with an upright for a plain drawing clipboard thingy to rest against, but if such a thing exists, I don’t know how to find it. (I do not have the skills to build it at this time.)


I don’t know if I will actually get rid of the drafting table; more likely lower it and re-purpose it for kid stuff. But I can’t figure out how to get the painting table and the drawing table into the space I want to make my artmaking space; right now they are in separate rooms.


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Book Reviews: Green Guide for Artists & Abstract Painting Concepts and Techniques

Since I have not had a lot of energy to actually make art, I have been doing a fair amount of reading about art (well, and looking at art on tumblr, probably too much of that, really)  So in lieu of art, you get book reviews. 🙂

Green Guide for Artists
by Karen Michel and Kristen Hampshire

Green Guide for Artists

I requested this book from the library after seeing it referenced on a blog about artmaking with your kids, and thought it was going to be a very “simple projects good to do with little people, with bonus treehugging” kind of book. It isn’t. It is far more useful than that. (And hey, I like treehugging and doing art projects with my kids. I would have been down with that.)

Here, Green materials and practices are approached from several angles; most notable are the two emphases on earth-friendly, and non-toxic, which in this case means more generally not health endangering in manufacture OR use.  The author’s suggestions are both extensive and practical; while there are easy-looking recipes for those who want to entirely make their own paint, there is also advice for how to just choose better materials at the art store, or adapt more “re-use” techniques into your artmaking. She also covers how to do your own investigations into what environmental and toxicity concerns might be present in art materials that haven’t been certified through the major organizations.

As someone who used to work with blatant disregard for dangerous chemicals (why use tongs to fish prints out of the fixer when fingers are faster?), which might be part of why I have become so incredibly sensitive to things like plastic off-gassing smell, I liked the reminder that there are a lot of choices out there for materials that are neither bad for you *or* the planet.  (I am terribly glad I never got interested in oil paints. The solvents sounds worse than darkroom chemicals were/are.)

I never thought I would want to try making my own adhesives, but she makes it sound fairly simple. Also, if you want to make your own paint, she has instructions for a wide array of kinds of paint: Gelatin Gesso, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Glair (which I had never heard of before), Milk, and Casein, with some notes about what kinds of applications each paint is good for.

I like that when she is discussing different materials, she examines not only toxicity, but issues in manufacture, including whether it is animal cruelty free/vegan-friendly. Also, there is definitely something here for every kind of 2-d (and some 3d) artists, it isn’t, say, just for collage artists or pure painters, or anything so focused. (I’ve been declining to review — or finish — a lot of books lately that have very general titles, but turn out to be entirely about, oh, art journaling with collage. It’s become a pet peeve.)

When we get to the Projects section, it does get pretty more mixed-media heavy, which I think is partially becuase when you put an emphasis on reusing, repurposing, and using what you already have, mixed-media is a very natural place to go. I found the bookmaking projects the most intriguing, although I was surprised that it made me interested in trying paper-mache again, which I don’t think I’ve done since elementary school. 🙂

The Gallery section, which was handled by the other half of the author team, is very nicely done. Here, Green artmaking means several different things; artist’s specifically working with earth-friendly materials (particularly the no-electricity involved papermaker and the woman who invented an eco-friendly copper etching method), artists focusing on found object and re-use techniques, and artists whose concern is environmental is subject matter, including some really stunning conceptual work by Basia Irland, which I thought was as exciting as the first time I saw Andy Goldsworthy’s work, while being in no way derivative of it.

I think this is an excellent reference, and will be adding it to my collection soon. Sure, I could look up those recipes on the internet — once I remembered what I was searching for. But I’d rather just look at my shelf. (And it is a pretty book, with pretty pictures.)

Abstract Painting: Concepts and Techniques

by  Vicky Perry

Abstract Painting Concepts and Techniques

This is a very thorough book on abstract painting. I am impressed with the depth and detail of the author’s explanations of the technical requirements of oil and acrylic abstract painting, particularly for modern applications that go beyond traditional substrates, sizes and techniques. She discusses the concerns of conservation-friendly methods as well as some of the reasons artists have needed to/chosen to disregard archival practice in order to further the work.

While the examples shown cover a wide range of media, including encaustic (in particular the work of Jasper Johns and Joann Mattera), the discussions of technique are all based in oil and acrylic paints. As a beginner to acrylics, and a more casual painter, it was a bit over my head. (I have no desire whatsoever to paint in oils. Ever.)

Once outside the realm of oils/acrylics, however, I appreciated the extensive discussions of the problems of form, color, and texture (a full chapter on each), which are well grounded in historical discussion and examples from past and current masters. The examples throughout the book are taken from the work of major artists, contemporary and past; the obvious folks you’ve heard of  (Abstract Expressionists, for example) and many less known outside the art world. It’s definitely a “dig deep” approach; there are no projects, tutorials, or hand holding (which I think is what is appropriate for this book, frankly.)

I would recommend this book for the serious painter interested in abstraction, especially working in oils or acrylics. I suspect it is intended as more of a textbook, though I just happened upon it while trawling the art shelves at the local library.

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bodies and change.

I think one of the themes for this year is going to be reconciliation with my body. We don’t have the best relationship right now; it doesn’t like the cheap fuel I substitute for meals at times, and desk job. I don’t like that it has become weak, damaged and soft.

Some of this is fixable — more yoga, more gym, less caffeine.

Some of it I just need to get used to.

The body I had at 30 isn’t coming back, and while I am all about the HAES, it has become clear to me that part of the reason my photography has gone all to hell is that my most convenient subject – me – isn’t something I feel comfortable shooting anymore, not so much for the shooting but the inevitable editing. The Happy Pill Project was a long time ago, now, but when I try to put together figure-based work, that is the era I still source from; and I have lost too much confidence, especially after the failures of my sofobomo project, to try working with someone else.

I am going to try and address some of that by doing a portrait session with a friend who works from the philosophy of “you’re already beautiful, let’s just show it” which I think will be fun, and a lot less …. performative? than Modeling as part of the process of making Art, even though I still want to do that again. And yeah, doing the weightlifting should help, too, because even before it starts to change how your body looks, there is an emboldening experience to committing acts of strength.

My head is clearer, and quieter, which is a goodness.

But my eyes… I realized today that I can now easily see the cataract in the mirror. The idea of putting off surgery until the improved lenses are available, while logically sound, is becoming emotionally less appealing, even though eye surgery still terrifies me.  And since visual creation is what I do for both Work and Fun, it is particularly… fraught. I am trying to open up my ideas about art to things that are less sharp and precise, but there are so many pieces in my head which require precise execution that I still want to make. Imprecise is Not an option professionally, although I do have the Photoshop skills already to compensate for the “dreamy glow” my left eye imposes upon the world.

I am beginning to feel physically old, and I am not ready for that.

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This is not a “Best of”

New Year’s does not feel like a point of closure to me right now. (Also, Christmas/Yule really did not feel like much of anything.)  Maybe 2012 will feel like a new year when the kids are actually back at school, but I’m guessing not, I suspect my personal rhythms have just fallen far out of sync with the nominal calendar. Maybe year’s turn will come soon, maybe it happened at Samhain when I wasn’t paying enough attention. All I know is this feels like a middle, not a door.

From a strictly counting perspective, there was not a lot of art to recount this year, although the kick start to my mixed-media path that Encausticamp kick started was certainly nice. But really, this was the calendar year in which à la carte albums went from being the mostly larval baby you can just lug around everywhere in a sling to a very demanding infant, and the fact that almost all my energies went into my human children and work baby shouldn’t be surprising.

I made fewer photographs in all of 2011 than I did in the average month of 2003. My self-identification as a Photographer is really starting to waver, which is a bit disconcerting after 20+ years.

But today is not the day to pause and reflect. Today I have an abundance of things to DO.

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Hello, holidays

I have finally come out the other side of my holiday rush at a la carte, and begun to have a few moments to think about my own holidays. (Yule is TOMORROW. How did that happen?)

We did start our Christmas shopping yesterday, acquiring musical instruments for the kiddos. Their Christmas will be epic. We are so not letting Santa take credit for the electric guitar:

Mini electric guitar

though it is totally giving me Stryper flashbacks.

The question of  “What do I want for Christmas” has not been an easy one this year.  Stuff is easy to acquire, and I am mostly more interested in getting rid of stuff right now. I want time, and space, and tranquility, and perhaps a momentary absence of responsibility for anyone other than myself.

A bit of that is starting to translate into my art-making. More and more, I am working on things that are for no one but me, that don’t fit with anything I have done before. I have no real plans to show them anywhere, maybe not even here; it’s all about the process. It feels very Action Painting, and I certainly never thought I would be making art in way that Clement Greenberg would approve of.

I will need, in the time between now and Norwescon (where I will be talking on several as-yet-undetermined panels (well, Poly Parenting is pretty much a lock), and exhibiting in the Art Show) to make some work that is genre relevant again. The thought of showing all the same work two years in a row really makes me cringe, but I cannot leave it to the last minute, because encaustic takes time to cure and wax is really where I am focused right now.

I do have one early resolution for 2012; it is time to stop denying myself the “good” art supplies and working bigger “until I am ready.” Because when am I actually going to feel ready? Also, painting/drawing small is incredibly hard for me. I need to just accept that and work  where I can be comfortably gestural, and not be so frustrated trying to contain myself to a 6×6 board.

Also, I am writing this post from a coffeehouse while using their wifi; I feel like I have unlocked a new achievement in the “self-employed” game.

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Incredibly slow painting

In 5-20 minute chunks over the last 4 weeks, I have been working on a series of small encaustic paintings. 2 might be done. A few more are interesting enough to show “in progress” (well, interesting to *me*)

In Process #1, encaustic

This is the painting I was talking about in the post about watercolor layers:

In Process #2, encaustic

In Process #3, encaustic

In Process #4, encaustic

In Process #5, encaustic

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Wednesday’s unexpected encaustic tip: watercolor layers

I continue to learn through mistakes in my current “encaustic painting in 15 minutes a day” method of working. Today, I spent most of my energy (in my three 5 minute breaks to paint) on a piece where I am:

  1. incising
  2. filling the scratches with watercolor or oil paint from the tube
  3. scrubbing off the excess
  4. layering a coat of clear medium
  5. return to step 1

And it has gone from good, to bleah, to ok, to good, and so forth. But this is the interesting part

If I apply the watercolor/oil to the piece when completely cool, it’s easy to just wipe off the part that goes outside the sgraffitto.

If I apply the watercolor/oil to slightly warm wax, the wax surrounding the incised part will hold on to some of the color as a fairly even layer of transparent stain. Which, as a way to continue adding depth to the color, is fantastic.

Also, it’s a fairly easy way to completely mess up your intended color balance if you do this unintentionally. This staining effect can be scraped off, but I think I just spent as much time removing unwanted red from my mostly green-teal painting as I had on the previous 5 layers, and I couldn’t quite get it all off.

But I am hopeful that this is turning into a painting I will actually be happy to show the world, eventually.  Other experiments on the table including more including of pieces molded from impasto wax, and my first forays into encaustic over photographs glued to panel (I fear glue, though less than I fear exacto knives. And I now have official “painting pants” since PVA doesn’t really want to come out of denim.)

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Today’s useful studio tip

If, like me, you didn’t clearly label the “encaustic medium” and “pure beeswax” tins on your palette, head your palette up to not quite 200 degrees; the beeswax will become liquid enough to paint with well before the encaustic medium.

No, I didn’t figure this out on purpose, but it is handy.

Yes, am painting. No, still nothing to show.

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