Tag Archives: studio practice

Use Your Words… 

Constructive criticism can be incredibly valuable. Critique was one of the worst/best parts of art school. It was the worst because it required a level of vulnerability. When done with a great group who understood the benefits of not just saying something superficial or nice like “You worked really hard,” it was the best. It created a dialogue to help you talk through your ideas, potentially gave you a new arsenal of inspiring artists to look at, and gave you a gauge of how well your idea was being articulated to an audience. 

 
After graduating the regular critiques ended. Sure I have a group of people I know that I can send photos too or video chat with who would talk through something I’m working on but I have to seek them out, put myself out there instead of showing up to the mandatory critique whose attendance and participation is a requirement if I want a good grade. 

When I do seek it out I ask things like: 

“Does this look dumb?”

“How weird does this look?”

“Am I stupid for thinking this works?”

“Stupid right?”

Talk about a meaningful conversation!

And it’s not just with something I’m making, it’s with anything I do. If I’m not sure about something I’m wearing: “I’m not making this work am I?” If I have an idea that I want an opinion on: “I know this idea is stupid but what do you think about (idea)?” It’s annoying just writing about it.

I’m constantly telling my two year old to use her words instead of whining… I need to take my own advice. Those style of questions are basically a grownup form of whining. Whining shuts everything down but your desire to get away from the whiner as quickly as you can. Or at least that’s my reaction. 

I’m trying to be more direct and clear. To ask things like, “I am having a hard time resolving this design aspect. Any thoughts?” Or “Could you give me your opinion on this? Wondering how I am doing with articulating my idea.” It leads to way more constructive dialogue than a pouty, “This looks dumb right?” 

As always thanks for reading,

-r.n.a. 

Tagged , ,

L7 Weenie…

FullSizeRender

Made by the talented Spencer Simmons. 

There is this glorious period of time that exists between the moment you tell someone you can do something and the moment you actually have to step up and do it. It’s also super stressful.

Sometimes it is reveled that I am an artist of sorts, that I graduated from art school with a degree in woodworking and furniture design, that I studied photography, and that I am in the process of setting up a studio in my home.

Sometimes I talk way to much.

And they believe me. Just saying that I went to school for photography and woodworking makes me a great photographer and woodworker in their mind. Or at least one that is more than adequate. The conversation often will include a comment about how they would love to see my work or how they would love if I would do something art related for them.  I hope they never see my work and forget that I ever said anything.

Because until they see my work or give me a task to complete they just go off my word and they believe that I am more than an adequate artist. Once they see my work they may realize that although I call myself an artist I am far from one. Or if I help them with their art crisis I may fall short causing them to realize I am no artist at all, just someone with a lot of art making stuff and a misguided notion that they can do anything useful with it. I don’t know what their expectations are but I do know that I wont be able to live up to them.

I still haven’t convinced myself that I am an artist/woodworker/photographer or figured out what those words even mean or what it even looks like to be an artist/woodworker/photographer. It all starts to lead into this whole existential dilemma that makes me want to say FORGET IT. (Okay it makes me want to say a different  word that has four letters that also starts with the letter f but my in-laws, parents, and sweet people that might not appreciate such vulgarity might be reading this so I edited it.) 

And so I make excuses. I don’t have time, I have my daughter to take care of, my space isnt completely set up to work in yet, I don’t have the right tools, it’s too cold outside while also being too hot, the lighting is off, I ate to much or too little for dinner, I needed to check facebook every 5minutes, I don’t know how to use the equipment in my woodshop, the local lumberyard doesnt have the right wood that I like to use, I was going to work on it tomorrow, my nose itches, I’m probably getting sick so I should just curl up in bed with a book because I do not read as much as I would like, I am to tired and need to just go to bed, i’m just going to go to bed instead because that’s easier and no one will judge me while I sleep for not sleeping good enough.

This past christmas I got a christmas gift that called me on my shit. This gift was so good it called me out right in my excuse making face. To be fair the gift giver had no idea they were calling me out, they thought they were making me a nice gift. And it was a super nice gift. My sister-in-law’s husband made me a wooden beer carrier. He had seen it online, thought it was cool, and figured out how to make it with supplies he got at home depot in his basement where he is not hiding a state of the art wood shop as far as I know.

He thought I would like it so he figured out how to make it. The end.

If it was me I would have spent three months talking myself out of making it for any number of reasons that were not actual reasons based in any sort of reality, and then I would have just bought something while feeling blue about how little time I have to make art and the growing number of projects that I know I will never get too. It is so stupid but I have the hardest time changing my thinking.

But I have to. It has to change because until it does I am just going to be a wanna-be artist that is too much of an L7 weenie to do anything about it.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

An Artist with a Baby…

  A little over a year and a half ago I began research for my Art History Minor thesis. I wanted to look at how society’s pressure on women to become mothers effected women artists. Because it needed to be historical I added ‘and how/if it’s changed over time as society’s expectations of women have changed.’ I began scrolling through page after page of women artist’s wikipedia pages. I know wikipedia isn’t an up standing academic source but I needed to answer two questions very quickly about the artists I was considering for my paper; Did they have any children and when did they live. I had a long list of data that was eventually narrowed down to two women who were raised around the same time, with similar cultural expectations, whose lives led them down two different paths. Georgia O’Keefe, who had no children because her husband Alfred Steiglitz thought it would ruin her career, and Louise Bourgeois, a woman whose anxieties over not being able to conceive actually prevented her from conceiving a child until after she adopted her oldest son. I also included contemporary women artists like Sally Mann and Mary Kelly.

Around the same time Sheryl Sandberg was getting media attention for Lean In. As I was doing final edits, Michelle Obama was being criticized for calling herself Mom-In-Chief during a speech. It felt like everywhere I looked there were more facts, more things I wanted to talk about regarding women in art and mom’s in our society. But the paper had to be submitted and I had already exceed the minimum number of pages required. The semester ended and as my brain tried to shift gears to my second thesis paper for my major (which was on a completely different topic because I never thought to carry on my research and tie it into my studio practice) I found out I was pregnant. I was going to be facing my own challenges of balancing mom and artist. And all that research I had done just made the whole thing even more intimidating.

I remember during a visiting artist talk with a woman who refered to herself as a ‘stay at home mom who is lucky enough to have a studio practice too’, I had asked her how she balanced being both mother and artist. She told me to establish my career first and then pursue being a mom. It wasn’t the response I was expecting. Most artists can’t claim an established career until they are 40, a little late in the baby making game for a girl that wants a few kids. And at 27, the idea of waiting another 13years to have children seemed crazy. No longer are women told that they shouldn’t assure their failure as an artist by having children in art school, but there is still a very real idea spread around that regardless of your gender, kids just get in the way.  I returned to my research notes, I looked everywhere for glimpses of how mom artists were making it work. I read books, watched documentaries, and talked to anyone that would answer my questions. I walked away fearful that for most the pursuit of being a mom and artist simultaneously meant sacrificing their husbands. I really like my husband. I didnt want him to be the price I had to pay for an art career. Other women who seemed to have happy marriages seemed to have had a career established before having children. I was planning on walking across a stage to receive my diploma 5 months pregnant with no established art career other than obtaining a Bachelor of Art Degree with a Minor in Art History. It didnt feel promising.

I had visions of sharing my own experiences. Being open about how I was going to manage my studio practice once my little one arrived. Telling stories of how I gently rocked her with one arm while making brilliant art with the other. I would stay up late to get in studio time if need be and I would look back fondly on it all with a knowing smile.

And then she was born.

This little creature consumed every second of my life. With trying to heal, feed her, change diapers, and getting thrown up on without sleeping for more then two hours at a time there was no time for anything else. And that was with help! Any functioning brain cells were occupied with taking care of my little one. 

Even when I did find time for things, I wasn’t sure I wanted to share anything about what was going on. It all felt to personal and private to share. Despite my own frustration at how very little was said about finding studio time with a little one, I was unsure if I wanted to say anything on the topic. But being a mom has become such an all consuming part of my life, that if I make it off limits I dont know that I will have anything else of any real value to say.

I have started slowly, feeling like I have enough of a handle on taking care of my little one that I could slowly add something else to my plate. Reading Art + Fear during feedings was a great inspiration to get up the courage to get moving. I also started reading an Artists Guide, taking time to journal. I probably spent a month putting things in perspective so I would know what I was working towards. I found a grant and applied. Having to write out what I intended to use the grant money for was an awesome way to shape my intentions. It got the ball rolling. I wanted to be the artist I was talking about in my proposal.

Having spent time journaling and planning allowed me to mentally plan for the lack of time I would have for my studio practice while I prepared to move my family from Maine to Maryland. I knew it could potentially throw off the momentum I was building, but by scheduling it in and having a plan for what the studio practice looked like before, during, and after the move made the event a stepping stone in the grand scheme of things instead of a road block to intimidate me.

I came to the close on our second week in our new place and I finished carving out a space to work. I even found a little time to work. It has only been about 35minutes of hands on studio time but it was a glorious 35minutes. Some weeks that number will increase, and other weeks the number of minutes will get even smaller. But I am working and that is all that matters right now.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

I included links for the books I mentioned in my post but check to see if your local bookstore has them first.

Mary Kelly

Sally Mann

Georgia O’Keefe

Louise Bourgeios 

Tagged , , , , ,

Kindling for the Fire…

On Deck at Pea Patch Island. Diamond State Vintage Baseball Team 2011

This week has been an exciting one for my little studio. After a lot of consideration and months of second guessing I decide to use some of the money I generously received as a graduation gift almost a year ago to buy an Epson Film Scanner. Although nerve wracking, it was inspiring to invest in a piece of equipment that will allow more freedom in my studio.

My goal is to one day have a studio equipped to support my pursuits in various artistic mediums. With an extremely small budget for equipment and materials, my studio will continue to grow slowly. I have a pretty good idea of what I want my studio to look like and have been slowly adding pieces that are making it more of a reality. Things that allow me to continue to pursue art.

Diamond State Baseball. 2011

With a film scanner I feel more encouraged to use my collection of film cameras. Its easy to get the film developed (the next addition on the photography side of the studio will be the chemicals needed to develop my own b+w film) but well outside of my budget to have the film scanned for me. The frames aren’t always consistent on every roll of film because of the type of camera’s I am shooting with so there is the concern that the film will be cut to a standard size which could cut through the middle of one of my frames. So the rolls of film just sit. At least they did until this past week. I’m starting with scanning all the photos I took while attending my dad’s vintage baseball games. I hacked my 120N Blue Holga to use 35mm film to capture one of their games at Pea Patch Island in Delaware. Another game I took my Agfa box camera along and played with the framing options built into the 85 year old camera. I like the diversity of using the various cameras and the lack of control that I have beyond pressing the shutter and hoping for the best. I like that they force me to stop trying to take control and to just focus on what is in front of me. To finally see the fruits of those labors is exciting and rekindles the passion I have for going out and capturing the world.

This is not the start but the rekindling of something great… a fire that my insecurities and fear prevent from burning for to long.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

Check out…

Diamond State Baseball 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sooo…. it’s been a while.

Runny Bunnies and Friends

I could say that I have just been super busy doing all this super busy stuff but the truth is I didn’t know how to follow up after my last post. Somewhere along the way this blog went from a place for me to just ramble about what is going on in my studio practice to me feeling like I needed to write these deep insightful reflections on the deeper issues of the world with every new post. Honestly I don’t have it in me. I don’t know how often I’ll update but I think it’s important, more so now that I am out of school, to keep talking about what I have going on in my studio.

Right now my focus is on getting my Etsy shop going. Making new work and photographing that work is great. Listing the stuff and trying to figure out how to maximize your SEO so that shoppers find you in the gigantic sea of Etsy shops is another story. I think I am slowly getting the hang of it but I’m not getting as many views as I would like. I also find myself getting so caught up figuring out the logistical side and how to best promote the shop to attract more potential customers that I am spending less time on making. I like the business side to a point but half the time it feels so hopeless that I get frustrated and find myself going down the dark dangerous path of wanting to walk away while wondering why I even tried in the first place. If I can’t direct traffic so people can see what I have already made why keep bothering to make new stuff? Somehow I keep turning around with a new sense of determination, wanting to try at least one more time to make it work.

Right now I think my biggest problem is that there is no order or plan. I try to make a point to work on something related to the shop, but lately its just been picking up my laptop to make a few posts on a team board or to post something to our Facebook page. There is no schedule and I definitely need a schedule. My only schedule up to this point has been to work on the shop daily without any specifics. Usually I just grab my laptop, make a few posts to different teams I am a part of, put something up on our Facebook page, and read another article about how to make your etsy shop more successful. At the end of the week I feel like I have nothing to show for all of the ‘work’ I put in. I don’t feel like I have actually done anything useful.

And maybe I haven’t. I spend time doing something shop related but its really not constructive time and it’s usually just to say that I have done something. I certainly am not spending it wisely and balancing the business side and the making side. If I want this shop to make a profit I need to start treating it like a job and put meaningful hours in. That is where I think making a schedule will help, if the schedule says that I am supposed to be working on making new items then I need to be making new items. If the schedule says I need to be promoting the shop then thats what I need to be doing. I really need to make a schedule…

I don’t know why I am so passionate about making this shop work or maybe I do and just don’t know how to articulate it. But I really want this to work. The items that I make to sell in my shop are things I really enjoy making. After four years of art school, where everything you created was embedded with meaning and you were encouraged to look deep in your soul to find the inspiration to make meaningful work, it is nice to be making for the sake of just wanting to make something. It’s a welcomed mental vacation of sorts. There are a few ideas working themselves out in my brain that have deeper meaning but they are going to stay in there for a while longer. At least until I can no longer ignore the little voice in my head telling me to jump in and work on multiple projects at once. Right now I am really enjoying just focusing on one project, I like the simplicity of it.

Alright… I have a schedule to make.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

My shop Don’t Blame the Bacon

Tagged , , ,

Past, Present, and Future methods of building…

While studying photography in Philadelphia, I remember taking a class a few quarters in that was meant to bring us back to the basics of photography, allowing us to revisit the rudimentary exercises we learned in the very first Introduction to Photography class we took in our first days at the school. In the first weeks of the class it felt redundant. We had worked so hard to reach a point where our cameras were an extension of ourselves, to be able to start formulating work that got away from the tell tale signs of student assignments. Yet now that we had more than a basic understanding of how to take a proper photograph, these assignments made more sense. We understood their application in a way we did not understand in the introduction class. Looking through the progression of my own work from the first class to the last class I took in Philadelphia it is fun to rediscover old ideas that were forgotten in the whirl wind of assignments and deadlines. It is also comical to see what I felt like I needed to photograph when I was first learning how to manipulate my camera.

My latest studio project was revisiting everything I learned by recreating the first assignment I have ever did in woodworking. By thinking through the basic process of building a table I was able to take my prior understanding of what it meant to build a functional table and push it further, to explore the many different ways one can and has built a table. This idea combined with my fascination with how adamant different people are about how right their way of building is and all of the contradictions it creates, shaped the outline of this project. What if I built the same table, three different ways, to try to understand if there really was a difference in the final result of three very different ways of making? The assignment of Past, Present, and Future was the perfect space to bring this idea to life since the contradicting ideas can be simplified down to past methods, present methods, and future methods of building.

I set about to build the past table, utilizing methods and technology available before the industrial revolution. I quickly realized that I was not advanced enough in all of these techniques to make an argument about which method was the best, that I was still too young of a woodworker to create three equally crafted tables to allow a viewer to look at them and say, “Oh the (______) table is the most structurally and aesthetically pleasing and therefore that is the best method to use ever.” Instead of trying to solve the debate for the public, I began to try to solve the debate for myself. What did I want my studio practice to look like? What method did I want to utilize and why? Does it make sense to cling to a technique that does not reveal itself in the final product? Can the final table reveal enough about the process to allow the viewer to determine which is the best method?

When all three tables are together, all of their surfaces are equally planed. Yet it took three very different planing process, taking various lengths of time to reach the final planed state. So although it was physically rewarding to spend over 20 hours hand-planing the past table, it looks no different then the 30 minute machine planed present table. Other then physical benefits of hand-planing for 8hours a day for a whole week (by the end of the week I had some serious muscle definition in my arms) it is not practical to waste valuable studio time on an outdated method. Conversely there were plenty of methods from the past table that continued through all three tables. Chiseling was the major one. All three tables required some level of chiseling to be done in order to have well fitted joinery. There of course were other tools or techniques that could be used, each taking various lengths of time, but none of them created the sharp and precise cut like the hand chisel.

That could be a completely personal preference, I am sure plenty would argue that it makes the most sense for them to use something else to create the same effect. That is the beauty of craft, the beauty of life really, everyone does it differently. I fully understand how great that fact is now that I have built these tables. How great it is that there is this full spectrum of how to build a simple table, that I can pick and choice which ways of making I like best from various schools of thought, and put them all together in my own hybrid mutated way of making. And that hybrid mutation will continue to shift and change as I continue to absorb as much about this craft as I possibly can.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As always, thanks for reading.

– r.n.a.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Fighting to put in the hours…

IMG_3306As much as I hate those awful e-cards that find them selves shared on Facebook and re-pinned incessantly on Pinterest, sometimes they have meaningful insight written on them. Insight like, “Don’t compare your first chapter to someone else’s last.” It’s easy to do, especially as an art student when we are surrounded by images of artist’s final chapters. When looking at the volumes written solely about one particular artist it is easy to forget that they, like most artists, did not have their first solo show till they were 40 years old. It’s easy to read about the years these now iconic artist spent being ignored or criticized without accepting that it is a very real possibility that it will happen to you. To forget that still today not everyone likes the work of the great artists whose names have come to represent entire periods of art history.

It is these facts that are often forgotten when we hit those roadblocks, when what we thought was great is met with negativity and disapproval. They are forgotten when we are forced to come face to face with why we are doing what we do, the question of who all of this is for. It is in those moments of self-doubt, when walking away would make sense to anyone looking in at the situation, that determines whether or not you will ever put in your 10,000 hours. Because it is not just about putting in 10,000 hours of practice, it is about putting in those 10,000 hours in spite of the obstacles that will inevitably present themselves.

I write as if I have overcome the desire to walk away, as if I have come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like what I do or who I am. Right now I am inspired, I am looking forward to the future, the fight of getting in my 10,000 hours to be great at what I do. But in the back of my mind is always that little voice that whispers lies that I have to fight daily to ignore. The whispers of all the things I have failed at, the whispers of all the things I will fail at, the whispers of all of my faults as a human. Paying attention, even slightly, to that voice creates a tornado of self doubt that consumes both my brain and heart, leaving me with the feeling that the dream was taken away from me a long time ago and I have only been clutching its memory.

Every time the tornado hits, it becomes easier to get passed it, to see it for what it is. That does not mean that I will not spend the rest of my life battling it, for I surely will, but it means I am ready to battle it. I come out of each battle wanting this dream even more, even more determined to figure out how to make it work, how to be better. In the movie Train Robbers, John Wayne’s character says “You’re going to spend the rest of your life getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, so you’d better start getting used to it.” We have to get used to getting back up, remember all of the times we have gotten up in the past, so the next time we get knocked down we don’t lose hope, we know that we are only getting closer to achieving our 10,000 hours and our dreams.

As always, thanks for reading.

– r.n.a.

To listen to the Malcom Gladwell talk more about his 10,000 hours theory go here.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Blah and boring…

72676_2816055136503_921866651_n

Oh hi there… you may not remember me, I’m Ren and I used to write posts for this blog.  I thought maybe I would clear the cobwebs and make a heartfelt promise, that I may not keep despite really wanting too, to start writing regularly.

The semester ended in a good place. The last three weeks of the semester were filled with lessons on how to improve my studio practice and what type of things I would like to be making in the studio. The studio self discovery has continued into the summer, where I have the opportunity to work in a slower and quieter pace.

One of my biggest problems is my outlook on the whole thing. I found myself making for the sole purpose of just getting the assignment done. My mindset revolved around ‘just finishing this assignment so I could move on’ but then there was another assignment, and another assignment after that. The work wasn’t exciting, just a shadow of an idea that I had, and I wasn’t excited about the work because I was already feeling the pressure of meeting the next deadline.

Now don’t start to think, “Oh, why do art schools demand so much from their students?How does burning them out prepare them for anything? No wonder that poor girl is cranky all the time” Because 85% of the weight and the pressure is all self inflicted, and I’m just naturally cranky.

I also let my ideas intimidate me.

I wont physically start working on a project until I spend an unnecessary amount of time doing ‘research’. I’ll start by looking up imagery for key words surrounding my idea, seeing what other artists have done, and editing my idea to portray what I want it to portray. All necessary to the design process but then I begin ‘researching’ whether or not I have the skill to accomplish the task, if I am willing to deal with the aftermath of not finishing on time, and buying time by claiming to be conflicted about a certain detail when in reality I am conflicted about whether the whole thing is good enough. In my un-rational mind, the longer I wait to start, the longer I postpone the impending doom and despair. When in reality my fear of making the first mark ensures that the doom and despair will come. Then in the final hour, as Im gritting my teeth and trying to get something respectable put together for the critique, I wonder why I am not good enough to make quality work.

It’s like spending the whole car ride to your kid’s little league game telling her that she is the worst batter on the team, and then you are both confused when she gets up to the plate and watches every ball go from pitchers hand to the catcher mitt without swinging once.

Oh the lies your brain tells your heart…

Then to top it all off, if something is too easy or doesn’t lead down the long and windy path of self despair and failure, I don’t believe it should be taken seriously or considered art. I took a Surrealism Drawing class this past semester where the underlying agenda to every project was to not over think anything, just create. So I made a painting, a rather large painting that involved applying paint in different ways to textured wood. It was simple, almost therapeutic in its mindlessness, and dare I say it, fun. I finished well before the deadline, happily installed it, and I don’t think I fidgeted or tried to twist my fingers off my hand once during the whole critique. People complimented me on it, and I brushed them off with comments like, “Oh that, it was just a silly project I did. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Cast Iron Halos, the silly project

Cast Iron Halos, the silly project

Instead of the experience being one of those Ah-ha moments, a realization that this is what art making should and can be about for me, I dismissed it as a little break from the seriousness of real art. Somewhere I created all of these rules for how life is supposed to work, what it means to make art. In the making of those rules I left no room for enjoying anything. There will be no fun, no enjoying, no pats on the back for a job well done. If I want to be taken seriously I need to be serious blah blah blah boring boring boring. All of these blah and boring rules were making me a blah and boring person that creates blah and boring stuff.

And I don’t want to be blah or boring.

As always, thanks for reading.

– r.n.a.

Tagged , ,