Ramblings

Future = Present & Signs

It's been awhile since I have rambled on the blog so I thought this cloudy Friday was as good a day as any to do so. This post is a peek into thoughts on the past, present and future of my art. 

 A sneak peek at new San Jose totes that will debut at the  SubZero Festival

A sneak peek at new San Jose totes that will debut at the SubZero Festival

The Present

These last few weeks have been really busy and productive. I have a commission in the queue, I just finished three new tote bag designs, I'm getting ready for May's SoFA Sketch, for June's SubZero Festival (framing, printing) and finishing art for upcoming group shows. Whew. That sounds like a lot when you say it out loud.

 

 A basket of strawberries painted on a postcard for a friend

A basket of strawberries painted on a postcard for a friend

I also snuck in a strawberry swap with a friend. This entails making a postcard with a strawberry theme and exchanging by mail. By posting it on Instagram, it led to an out-of-state friend messaging me to ask if I would do one with her and of course I said yes. I find it necessary to mix in fun stuff like this with paid work.

 

The Recent Past

What prompted me to write this post is all the overthinking I've been doing this year. I'll start with how the year has gone so far. I had a couple of art shows in January, then adopted a dog in February and visited Costa Rica for a couple weeks in March. The art shows overwhelmed me (due to the post-Christmas rush), as did the rescue dog who needed time to adjust and get training. The time in Costa Rica, on the other hand, was incredible. I only get to visit that side of my family every four or so years. Spending time with them, exploring achingly beautiful beaches and jungles, along with a marriage proposal made me feel elated for weeks. Still, it left me questioning all things art when I got home. Travel does that to you. You are reminded that the world is bigger than what you know, wonder about your purpose and all sorts of existential thoughts. 

I felt off track during the months of February and March. And it wasn't until maybe early to mid-April that I started feeling momentum again. I was thinking about how making paintings didn't feel "big enough" or "maybe painting isn't relevant" or I have "been there, done that" or "shouldn't I be challenging myself more?" or "should I continue doing portraits?" or "maybe I need a new medium". These kinds of questions ultimately led me to wonder about where I am going with my art. By April, I started realizing all I was doing was giving myself a headache and not getting anything done. I got back to work and have been working better than ever lately. I'm productive, not stressed, prolific and full of ideas. Sometimes you need those blackout periods to get back on track. 

 

 Installation view of my BFA graduate show  Mere Existence  in 2006 (10 years ago?!). These mixed media room paintings were 6 feet by 4 feet and used graphite, charcoal and inks on a special absorbent surface I made. 

Installation view of my BFA graduate show Mere Existence in 2006 (10 years ago?!). These mixed media room paintings were 6 feet by 4 feet and used graphite, charcoal and inks on a special absorbent surface I made. 

The Further Past

I have been thinking about my artistic past as I get myself into the present. I started with art shows in alternative spaces and galleries. At that time I painted with oils, screen printed and made mixed media work. I moved on to sell art on Etsy, which helped me venture into shipping my art internationally and feel more comfortable with handling commissions. There was also a downside to Etsy. It had me kind of lost and floundering for a few years as I felt I was making work I thought would sell or making small work only because it's easier to ship. Still, it was a good learning experience and taught me how to say no to work I don't want to do and yes to work I do want to do.

  We Have Overcomplicated Things  - sumi ink, paper, cardboard, chair, light bulb - The Citadel, San Jose, CA, 2014

We Have Overcomplicated Things - sumi ink, paper, cardboard, chair, light bulb - The Citadel, San Jose, CA, 2014

  By This River,  Sumi ink, cardboard, color paper and canvas - Espacio de Creación Contemporánea, Cádiz, Spain, 2014

By This River, Sumi ink, cardboard, color paper and canvas - Espacio de Creación Contemporánea, Cádiz, Spain, 2014

  Inside/Out,  acrylic on canvas, 4 feet by 6 feet, 2015

Inside/Out, acrylic on canvas, 4 feet by 6 feet, 2015

When I look back on work that has made me happiest, it is often large. I loved working on my BFA show (pictured above), I loved assisting Jen Stark with her Facebook mural in 2015, I loved assisting artist Darren Waterston with his mural installation at the SJICA in 2006. I loved making the A-Frame paper room installation at The Citadel, the installation at a museum in Spain. I am realizing that I need to continue making larger art and installations. There's a reason why some of the above work is among my favorite. 

 A paper A-frame house with my studio window view in Cádiz, Spain

A paper A-frame house with my studio window view in Cádiz, Spain

Not that I don't love small work. The 3-inch A-Frame house above is one of my favorite things I've ever made. Not to mention the 100 Day Project artwork, which mostly measured 6 inches or less. That project has had a huge impact on my work in terms of defining themes and colors that mean something to me.

I am also thinking about running themes in my work: interiors, mysterious or comfortable places, nature, blues, water...there's a reason why I am drawn to these things. I don't need to make myself always try new things. It's okay to revisit these.

 

 Homer laying like my art. See below for why I included this photo

Homer laying like my art. See below for why I included this photo

The Future = Present & Signs

It has taken me awhile to get to the mindset of the future=present. The less I focus on what is to come, the better everything goes. While it is smart to start designing another calendar for the holiday season now, there is no point in thinking about bigger, longterm goals. As long as the work is coming in, and I say yes to the right opportunities, I think I will go where I need to go.

As I sat with my fiancee over coffee this morning, he told me he had a dream I sold a huge stack of paintings. Curious, I asked him if they were canvas or otherwise. He said they were on wood. I thought this was really interesting since lately I have been wanting to get back to painting on wood and I don't think he knew that. So, I am taking that as a sign and will be painting on wood again in addition to paper.

Lately, I have been digging into old materials and tools from my studio. It's been awesome rediscovering things like my nib pen, different types of paint (gold!) and even materials that suck (I used old varnish without testing it and totally ruined a painting by putting an opaque cloud over my image). This summer I'm going to paint on wood again and use gouache, oil and even try out egg tempera. Egg tempera is something I have never tried, but after listening to a recent Art for Your Ear podcast interview with Joël Penkman it reminded me that back in 2006 an MFA student thought that I used egg tempera for my BFA show (pictured above). I also love that egg tempera is natural (you mix pigment with egg yolk). I am often thinking about how I can be more environmentally-friendly with my art materials. By paying attention, you start seeing signs point in a certain direction.

This brings me to the photo of my dog Homer above. He was laying on my sketchbook page. I had this page open on the floor because I wanted to remind myself that I like the way I sketched this couple. Then I saw that his legs were positioned very similarly to the man in the drawing. These kinds of meaningful coincidences or synchronicity are what I live for. I think when you stay present and keep your mind and senses open, you can make these connections. With the photo of Homer, it caused me to laugh (humor is equal to artistic insight in my book). With the case of egg tempera, I'll be trying a medium I have never tried before.

When I think of my favorite artists, past and present, they do a variety of creative work: book publishing, installations, fine art, design work, commissions. I love that I can make tote bags, original art for a gallery , a personal commission or a wedding invitation. I don't need to be limited by one material or type of work. I don't need to worry about being a commercial vs. fine artist. I can do it all. 

2015 End of the Year

This year was a great one overall. I tried new things, spent a lot of time outdoors and felt a tremendous amount of growth. As this year comes to an end, I am super happy as I have spent a lot of time catching up with friends and family. Normally, I don't have New Year's resolutions, but this year, I want to make more time for reading books and less time for awesome TV shows like Fargo Season 2

As I look back on the year and write this, I do feel like not every year goes quite like this one. There are always good and bad years. I know I like to travel, spend time outdoors and make art, so I try to spend as much time and energy doing those things as I can. This means I don't have a normal job, I don't have my own car (though I share one) and I don't have lots of new clothes or fancy things. My savings account is small. And 401k? What's that?? Maybe I haven't really "grown up", but oh well, I like my life.

Here are some highlights from the year...

 

100 Day Project

Ah, the 100 Day Project. If you aren't tired of this phrase yet, I'd be surprised:) This project was awesome in so many ways. It pushed me to think differently and work when I didn't want to. Although I didn't stick to doing it daily, I feel accomplished. The support I had through likes, comments, purchase of original artwork, to calendar orders, really blew my mind. There will be a separate post about it next week. 

 

Assisting

I assisted Jen Stark with her mural at Facebook headquarters. It was quite an experience being at the not-quite-open new building. Jen was amazing to work with, as was the crew of artists above. Facebook also treated us so well offering us anything we needed. 

 

Camping

 Sunrise visit to a hot spring near Mammoth Lakes

Sunrise visit to a hot spring near Mammoth Lakes

 Mono Lake

Mono Lake

 Armstrong Redwoods sunset

Armstrong Redwoods sunset

 Sunset at Maggie's Half Acre in the Ohlone Wilderness. We were so tired here. 

Sunset at Maggie's Half Acre in the Ohlone Wilderness. We were so tired here. 

You can probably tell from my art that I am really inspired by nature. I just need to get out and see trees and open land without other humans, probably because I live in the crowded Bay Area. I camped with my good friend Kelli at Armstrong Redwoods, with another group of friends near Mammoth Lakes and with another few good friends in the Ohlone Wilderness. So many gorgeous sunsets, some grueling footsteps and quality time with good friends. Sometimes I think I should be a park ranger rather than an artist. 

You can find the original posts on these trips:

 

Cruising

 Mayan ruins Altun Ha, Belize

Mayan ruins Altun Ha, Belize

I went on my first cruise, which was an interesting experience. We went with good friends and saw so many incredible sites in Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Grand Cayman Island. It was a dream to be out at sea, though I guess my original dream involved a sailboat. Still, the cruise ship was a great way to see so many places in a week. I swam with dolphins, cruised through a river with dolphins and sharks, watched a lightning storm at sea, worked out at sea and on and on. It was surreal. 

 

Dream Painting

Probably one of my favorite art jobs, I painted people's dreams for the New York mattress company Casper. They gave me a station to paint guests' dreams on cocktail napkins. You can read more in the original post here

 

Jiu Jitsu

I started training jiu jitsu in May of this year, right after I got back from the cruise. I have been working really hard at it, going 4-5 days a week when I can. I have made amazing new friends that inspire me with their skill. I competed at a small competition and surprisingly won gold. I prepared and trained hard for it, but I have never won anything athletic in my life. In fact, I was a pretty clumsy kid and always one of the last running around the track in P.E. I never played on team sports and although I like being active, I don't know that I push myself as much as I should. With jiu jitsu, you have to push yourself. You want to get better because you don't want to be smashed or submitted by someone else. Plus it's fun and you just want to be good at it. I'm excited to see where this goes this year. 

 

Live Painting

I think I have a little fear of painting live in front of people. They can see your awkward starts, your rough drafts and I learned they like to make a ton of suggestions. Although I have done public art on the street before, this was different. I had a lot of fun painting at the Cinequest Film Festival earlier this year. Being in a window where an audience watches you and votes? Needless to say, it was a great experience. It also prompted me to be more comfortable sketching out in public at coffee shops and other art events. I believe doing this also lead to the above painting project for Casper. You can read more about this even in the original post.

 

Saying No

If you know me well, you know my frustration with tabling events. Don't get me wrong, it's fine to do if you have products, but if you are selling art, it's not always the greatest experience in my book. Or maybe I'm not great at selling at these things? Whatever the case, I decided to stop doing these this holiday and I have to say I loved it. I will likely still do occasional popup shops, but I am over the 2-day events. 

The other way I have had to say no is to friends and sometimes family. I hate to do it, but in order to get my work done sometimes I have to skip out on the fun or seeing friends or even going to events that I feel I should be going to. It often feels bad on my end, but it has to happen if I have a tight deadline on a portrait or proposal. On the bright side, saying no has helped me get things done.

 

Working Very Small and Very Big

The smallest art I made was this one-inch square galaxy, seen above. The largest art was the 4x6 foot painting for the Cinequest Film Festival. I like working both ways and hope to continue to do so in 2016. 

 

2016 

Who knows what will happen in 2016? Every year I do this and it's interesting to see how many things get checked off the list. I suggest you try it! So far, this is what I can think of. 

  • Dig into the more mysterious, subconscious and dreamy side of my work
  • Submit book proposal(s) 
  • Do another art residency
  • Make ceramics again
  • Submit portfolio for editorial work (I'd love to illustrate for Lenny Letter)
  • Continue SoFA Sketch
  • Complete the second half of my sailing classes for certification
  • Attempt to hike Half Dome again (hopefully not closed due to fire this time)
  • Backpack at Wildcat Camp in Point Reyes
  • Train hard in jiu jitsu