Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 66

I get email alerts when people comment, even on old posts. I got a comment from an anonymous:

"what's this...It's just a little piece of ceramic clay painted on. It's not living! They don't have feelings. They can't see you or hear you it's just an inanimate object."

I know this.

I know this is true about every piece of art I've ever made. Of course I think about this---what it is that I'm making. And why.

How could I do this nearly every day of my life without examining it?

I answered the comment with this: "right. A book isn't a living thing either, but words have great meaning. If you can't see this, look again."

or something to that effect. After all this time I still haven't figured out how to cut and paste within Blogger.

Likely I don't have to defend Poppets, or my other art, to you. If you're here, reading my blog, you probably already know what I'd say. But just to be clear, and to think about it 'out loud...'

A Poppet is an object created by an artist. Art is a conversation between an artist and those who view her art.

Art (and Poppet) is an idea. And ideas are very powerful.

The comment is on the post "What we know about Poppets so far." I should update this page, because in truth, I know a little more about Poppets now than I did then.

Poppets gave me a unique way to look at myself and at other human beings and, stepping way back, a look at humanity in general. They became a language for me that explained things better than I ever could without them. At least to myself.

I stand by the little fellows. My life is better because of them and I plan to continue to learn all I can about them. And to learn what they can teach me about being human. For me, they truly are a sort of language, an alphabet I can use to cipher things I can't grasp otherwise.

And, like any language, they are changing. I see this. Possibly you don't so much, because there's always a bit of a lag between where I am creatively and the art that goes to shows and into the shop. I'd like to think they're changing because I understand them better. I'd like to think they're changing because I understand being human better.

What I do know is that as an idea, Poppets are very much alive.

Now I want to know what you might say, or what you have said, to someone who wants to know what you could possibly see in this tiny little figure with two little black eyes. Or why you think they caused such a reaction from the commentor. What is it about Poppets that scares some humans?

I'm off to read with Orion. We have finished The Hobbit and are beginning tonight, The Lord of the Rings. We are two lucky humans.
Poppets tell me so. I believe them.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 65

Gaia's Tidings


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 64, ghost of 63

I've skipped a day. What a slacker. It just sort of went by in a blur, yesterday. I painted poppets all day, in a cocoon of sorts--the work table, me and the cone of light shining down from behind me. Aubrey bustled about, packing orders, taking photographs and doing all the sorting and putting away of supplies. I heard her in the background but she was quiet. She knows me so well, this daughter of mine, knows when I'm lost in thought. Our quiet together is a comfortable one.

Today is cold and rainy. There's a winter storm for the area. The higher elevations are getting snow. The mountains are shrouded in clouds, pure white against the dark skies. Tonight will be cold for the desert--around 38 degrees. Yesterday Orion went to school in shorts. Things change fast. Last week I got an automated call from his school telling me that there would be no more salads served for a while. The lettuce crops were lost because of the previous cold snap.

I've been following the aftermath of the quake in Christchurch. It's all unsettling. The extreme weather this year on top of the base of unrest caused by the recession. We've changed. This family has. I look back and can see how different we are from four years ago. That seems like another life. I see myself, in my bikini by the pool, talking animatedly to the factory that was to cast poppets for us, looking over applications for new painters. Everything was moving fast and forward, up and up and up.

I look at us now. We're sober, but not solemn. We're smaller but stronger. We're more careful, but not fearful. We value laughter and each other and we appreciate what we have, knowing that things could get much, much worse.

You'd think it would be hard to make art when things seem so uncertain. To me, making art, or doing anything that you would normally do, is more important than ever. It's a show of faith to go on doing what I love. It's my stubborn belief that human beings need to keep trying to figure things out.

These are my thoughts this gloomy, rainy Saturday morning. My coffee is gone, so I'm off to make some art.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 62

I begin today's work with the sculpture painted in a flat lamp black undercoat, fully dry.
I begin the dry brush over the black. I want this sculpture to end up with a warm green color, so I'll dry brush with a warm shade of off-white or antique white. Pure white over black tends to cool the colors over it, which is great for blues, but not so much for a piece that's meant to look like the forest in morning sun.

Dry brushing is sort of magical. You have this black surface, then you pass the brush over it and all these complex and beautiful textures are revealed. Sometimes you can even find faces and other accidental creatures. This texture is very woody and rich. I would like to do a video of dry brushing so you can see it in real time. I'm not there yet, but I have a piece coming up that would work well, so hope to make a video then.

Here's the entire sculpture with the first coat of dry brushing. Remember that dry brushing is just that. Dry. It's really easy to get impatient and work with too wet a brush. It's always better to put on thin layers. You can always add more, and you will, with more coats. If you mess up and accidentally paint a big white streak or glob, don't worry. Just let it dry, paint black over it and try again.

This is the head, dry brushed. The color doesn't look as warm as it would in natural light, but I'm working at night. Other things ate up the day. Sometimes it goes that way. What can you do? If you want the work to be done, you must work when you can.

I mix Evergreen acrylic paint with a little black, to make Charleston Green, a favorite of mine. I thin the mix with water. If you want a wash with more control, you can substituted floating medium for the water. The only drawback is that floating medium is whitish, so the color you see isn't completely true until it's dry.

I write my name in pencil on a piece of scratch paper. I'll use this to test the transparency of the wash I just mixed.

A single stroke painted over my name tells me how well the writing shows through. If needed, I can adjust the wash.

I brush the wash over the dry brushed surface. It's thin enough to tint the highlights and still let the dark areas show through.

I brush the wash toward the face all the way around to create a soft frame. Later, this will serve as a background for painted details.
Less slogging today. More enthusiasm. I'll take it!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 61

I started work on the papier mache sculpture by gathering what I'd need for vines: wire, wire cutters, brush, toothpick and beads (though I don't end up using the ones shown.)

I string three beads onto a length of wire, then twist them. These round cobalt beads look a lot like berries.

I use the end of a toothpick to twist the end of the wire.

And the handle of a brush for the other end.

Then I make more, in different lengths, about 20 in all.

I twist them onto the branches, letting some of the ends hang. They aren't any particular sort of vine. They remind me a little of grapes and a little of moss.

Here's where we are now. I'm working cross-legged on my bed, with The Wolfman on TV quietly. I can hear Orion laughing with Zoya and Max, who are visiting this weekend.

That was yesterday.

It rained again during the night, but this morning there was sun through the clouds, so I put her out for more to make sure all the inner layers get baked through.

After several hours I take the sculpture in to hand-sand the face. I didn't take a photo because I forgot. I was thinking about sanding. Actually, I was thinking about time spent sanding. Sometimes it works best if someone else does this step while I do something else. But not always. Hand sanding used to be the sort of step I felt I needed to rush through to get to something more interesting. That is a stupid approach. It took me a long time to figure this out. Now, when I must sand something by hand (and faces require this) I use the time to work on other projects in my head. Or, I use it just to think about things. Or, I listen to music or watch a video. Or, I simply sand. I tune out and enjoy the process, from rough to smooth, and I let my mind rest or wander freely where it will. Once I figured out that this time is quality time, everything changed. Ideally, I should be able to apply this particular rubric to always.
But things are not ideal. I make it work for sanding. I'll take it.
So finally, smoothly sanded, she gets a light coat of primer and several coats of brushed on acrylic paint in lamp black.

Soosi interrupted several shots.

While the undercoats dry, I've sculpted a tiny poppet fairy figure on a piece of the wire I used for vines.

I used translucient sculpey because this type is particularly strong and flexible making it very reliable for tiny figures. It looks like amber against the lights.

I made four wings using the process I described HERE several months ago.

I used an Exacto blade to cut two small slots for the ends of the wings.

I shook the camera accidently, but the effect is sort of cool.

And here I've secured the wings into the slots and added a drop of plastic cement, aka 'airplane glue.' Crazy glue works too, but will dissolve some plastics, so be careful.

And that's where I stopped today. It's really very close now, to coming together.
wishing you a good night.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 60

Everything is wet. The tiles are shining in the gloom, the greenhouse plastic dripping, even the bowl I leave food in for the Tortie is full of water. Last night I slept on the sofa in the den where I could hear the rain falling all night. It was glorious and strange and not at all like the desert.
Good, because I need to be somewhere else.
I haven't mentioned the Tortie in some time, but she's still around. She comes very close now, right up to the bowl as I fill it. We have a routine--she appears at one of the windows or another, looking for me. Then I go outside and feed her. She has begun to trust me, but still she has her invisible boundary. I don't attempt to cross it for fear it will set us back.
First and foremost I must get well. I'm better enough to function, but not better enough to function at the level I'm familiar with. My voice is returning to normal, but I still have a bit of cough. This makes me feel powerless. When I'm well, I tend to feel I can handle whatever comes up, and inspiration comes easily. Possibly I've taken that for granted. If I did, I'm not now.
But there is some inspiration. This weekend I'm working on the papier mache sculpture and in between, painting the wedding dress. For this I've cleaned the painting room and spread clean sheets on the table, forbidding anyone to enter the room.

This is how Saturday begins. My coffee is gone, mostly. What's left of it is cold. I'll go and get dressed. I'm aware of the sounds of the rain last night, although it's gone now. There are still lots of clouds and promises of more rain and still just a little hint of the otherness I so needed. I can take that little bit, like a bit of clay, and turn it into something that will get me through.

Off I go, wishing you well.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 59

Still slogging along, though more productive. Can't tell if I'm feeling better, or adjusting to a level of discomfort. More nastiness from the x, seemed to roll off this time. I can't say I'm comfortably numb. Or even that I'm numb.
Mostly I'm putting one foot in front of the other, trading slow for stumbling.
It will have to do for now. When things improve, I'll cheer and I know you'll cheer with me. Thinking and typing that helps.

So, here is the sculpture as I found it.
(I'm not going to bother numbering the photos.)

For texture I'll use tissue paper. I have black on hand. I've torn it into strips that are roughly the length of the body.

I have pste left from yesterday. I brush a thick layer onto the body. It's cold and smells like bread. I realize I'm hungry.

Now I crinkle the strips vertically---sort of like a broomstick skirt.

I attached these crinkled strips onto the body.
I brush them with paste. I flatten as I go, to remove any air trapped underneath, or thick spots of paste. The flattening adds a lot of wrinkles that will make the texture more interesting and wood-like.
I use the same process for the sleeves, tucking the wet ends inside and smoothing them.

After the body and sleeves are covered, I move the sculpture outside to dry. Again.
A lot of papier mache is waiting. I had some tissue and paste left over, so I covered a small rubber ball to use in another piece.
Now I'll work on other things while this dries.
And look for something to eat.
Hope your Friday is good.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

57 and 58

are two days nearly indistinguishable from each other, in that I slogged through them both. I actually don't remember a lot about yesterday, except Aubrey taking photos of three new poppets and I proceeding along with the papier mache sculpture. (photos up tomorrow.)

This morning is clear though, as I'm driving into Palm Springs proper, the view directly ahead of me looks like a page out of a story book. The mountains, green in the morning light, partially shrouded in misty grey clouds with a rainbow arching right through the center.
I didn't like it. Not this morning, because mostly all I can think about is how much I didn't want to get out of bed, how tired I am of slogging through. I'm in possession of a bad attitude. I know why. It's simply because I'm still feeling shitty from this bronchial thing. It's essentially gone, but I'm not recovered. So I feel outside of the rainbow, not invited and not even in the species of the joggers and dog-walkers stopping with camera phones or simply pointing and admiring.
Bitter, grouchy, bitter.

This too will pass. And it did.

In the evening, I found myself driving Orion through an older area of the city at dusk. We rode with the windows open, enjoying the smell of the rain behind us and watching the full moon emerge from the clouds ahead. We were on the way to the game store to fulfill a promise I made him---that if he kept his head at the dentist I'd take him there to spend his Valentine card money from his grandparents. He chose couple of games and I kicked in a little extra so he could get both. On the way back we played guessing games and counted punch-bugs and looked for bats taking off in fluttery bunches between the trees.

I don't know that I learned anything in particular these two days. Just slogged through, reminding myself the bad moments would pass and making the most of the good.
Now I'm off to read the last of our Hobbit adventure, beginning with an unexpected and very unpleasant appearance of goblins.
I am reminded that things could certainly be worse. At least there are no goblins. Hope you don't have any either.

a good night to you all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 56

Today's work started with a roll of paper. But the day started with a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift in the truest sense, in that this new vision casts everything else in a warmer light.
It was the discovery that I love someone more than I knew. It's only an accident that this discovery was made on Valentine's Day. As far as I'm concerned, it happened on a Monday.
Understanding came in quietly and without ceremony, like morning. And it seems, though I'll never know for sure, it came just in the nick of time.

So there was the rest of the day, which seemed very ordinary but was not. Not in the least.

So the work for today began with a roll of paper.

Shown here in Photo 1: Painters masking paper found at any hardware store. Comes in various widths and thickness. This one is about like newsprint.

Photo 2: Soosi watches over all, waiting for paper to pile up, her cue to attack.

Photo 3: I tear the paper into smallish squares, with no cut edges. There's really no technical reason for torn edges. I think they look better.

Photo 4: The flour, glue and water. Again. Yes, same photo. Making papier mache means mixing paste as many times as needed.

Photo 5: The mix. Again.

Photo 6: Where I begin layering the masking paper over the first layers of phone book paper. I'll add three to five layers of masking paper.

Photo 7: I begin to shape the sleeves with masking paper. Here it helps that the mix is thick and plastic.

Photo 8: I use crinkled lengths of masking paper to build up the angle.

Photo 9: I cover the addition with smoother strips and shape to form a neat crease.

Photo 10: ( I just realized I started the photo numbers over instead of continuing. I decide it doesn't matter.)
I choose parchment paper for this particular type of ruff. It will be a crinkly one with lots of shaping. Parchment paper is tough and can take a bit of pulling without tearing.

Photo 11: I smooth a layer of paste onto the parchment. The surface is a little resistant, but brushing will yield a smooth layer of paste.

Photo 12: Folding the parchment into thirds, it ends up twice as wide as I want the ruffle.

Photo 13: I gather and secure the ruffle on with wire.

Photo 14: Now a tricky part--separating the layers. It has to be done quickly before the paper dries. It has to be done gently so as not to tear it. It has to be done without overworking, because over-pulling will weaken the paper.
This part has taken a lot of practice. Today I got it right the first time, thanks to many other do-overs.

Photo 15: close up of the ruffle. I'm fairly happy with it. It's ruffled, not wrinkled.

Photo 16: Where I left off today.

And now it's evening and I'm very glad to have experienced this day, which may have looked like any other day, but was so much more and full of promise, bigger inside than out.
Hope yours brought you happiness.