Monday, December 21, 2009

A Happy New Year!

This is my older son (now 30!) as Santa at age 6 or 7. We created an "All I want for Christmas card" using one of a series of photographs my husband, the photographer James Cowlin shot of Jeremiah hamming it up for the camera.

An ongoing New Year's Resolution of mine has been to sort out a trunk full of random photos and get them organized. Yes, over the years, I made both of the boys a series of scrapbooks, all labeled and in order. Then there are the literally hundreds of photos, masses of them, all out of order and in a major muddle.

After our move to Oracle, I dedicated one whole table in my studio to my photo sorting venture. Every once in a while, I take a stab at organizing. I suspect that I do nothing but make things worse in these attempts. For one thing, I can never remember what my strategy was the last time I got into the organizing mood. So I end up undoing what I did before. At least I think that's what happens. Either that, or the photographs are reproducing in their piles.

Anyway, I ran across a contact sheet of the Jeremiah Santa series and couldn't resist putting a few into my blog.

Next year, maybe I'll unearth Mathew's Santa photos from the pile and you'll see them on my blog. Or just maybe, the pile will be gone and I'll go directly to a neatly filed box and put my hands right on what I'm looking for.

Stay posted. And meanwhile, I hope you'll enjoy the holidays. And have a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Road Signs along US Route 89

One of my ongoing projects is a collaboration with my husband, the photographer James Cowlin. He got fascinated by US Route 89 about 10 years ago, when he realized that it goes through some of the most beautiful countryside in the United States. The road traverses 1300 miles, from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. He has spent years photographing along the road, developing a comprehensive website, and working to promote an appreciation for the lesser known places between the big cities and national parks along the way.

Because we've spent so much time traveling along this road, it stands to reason that my artwork has become something of a reflection of this long highway. I've spent most of my adult life along 89, married, birthed and raised two children, worked, gone to school, taught school, and made my art practically right smack on top of US Route 89.

When I was teaching Visual Literacy, a kind of hybrid Graphic Design class, I got fascinated with signs and symbols. Road signs are the ubiquitous symbols we all see every day. We don't ignore them, because they are important to our safety, but I'm guessing I've spent more time than most ruminating about road signs.

How is it that a simple silhouette can convey so much information? Who creates these symbols? How are they tested?

I'm sure a bit of research would give me the answers, but I prefer to marvel at the signs and to wonder. What's the story behind the momma bear ushering her baby to safety across the road? Do I detect a gentleness in her gesture?

Is the symbol maker aware of the implications of this curvy arrow. Imagine the many trips with small children. This is truly the sign of impending disaster. Just be sure to have the barf bags handy.

And here we have the intrepid firefighter. A bit difficult to see (above) but I love his determined posture and the dignity with which he wears his firefighter hat.

Here's the farmer on his tractor, slowing travel to a snails pace. It's a great chance to admire the fields with their neat rows of plants, before safely passing this machine. Note the jaunty brim on the farmers hat. I can almost image his satisfaction as he causes a minor traffic jam in the middle of nowhere.

The ultimate symbol, the US Route 89 road sign.

Sometimes I like to take a break from my serious paintings. I like boxes. I like road signs. So what you see are a series of boxes with road signs. I plan to make lots more, as I encounter charming signs during our travels.

If you find these irresistible, you can buy them on our website. Just head to our online store.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Sense of it All: Organizing Records of Artwork

It doesn't seem like it should be all that difficult to keep track of a bunch of paintings and prints. Just another of those tasks artists need to attend to, and that the general public never gives a thought to.

Art work happens, and then it takes on a life of its own. It needs to get photographed so that there is a record of it. It gets entered into shows, sometimes rejected, sometimes accepted. It gets shown here and there. It may get a prize or two. Eventually it gets sold or stored somewhere.

Easy enough. But over a professional lifetime, what seems like data that won't be forgotten, does. I have done fairly well at keeping track. Below you see binders labeled by the year. Inside each are slide sheets with a separate sheet for each painting. There is also a record page for each painting, with the title, size, medium, and other pertinent information.

Some paintings have quite a history of shows and prizes. Others, not so much. Sales are recorded, too.

Along about four years ago, I pretty much gave up on having slides taken of my work and switched to digital images. I still have a professional lab take the photos of the work. It's expensive, but worth it in the long run. This was true of slides, too. Most places accept CD's of artwork now, but occasionally I run into a show entry that still requires slides.

I decided recently that I ought to convert my slide records into digital files. It was getting very confusing to have many years of work in slides and then 4 years in digital form.

It was something of a domino effect. I discovered that I had scanned some older work and digitized it at some point. I discovered a several paintings that had never ever been documented at all. They were lurking about on my painting rack.

I went through all of the slides, and all of the records, and finally figured out what slides needed to be scanned, and made a list of paintings that had never been documented at all. I took the slides to Tucson to Photographic Works for scanning.

The next step was to add the scans to my computer and to update my records into Bento. Bento is a great program for keeping track of art work. It's easy to use (and believe me, it needs to be for me to be able to cope), and has lots of good features built into it.

There is a table that lists all the work in whatever order you choose. It's nice, because you can see at a glance the date, title, size, medium and price of all of the work. Above, you can see how a detail page in the Bento program looks. It has spaces for basic information, and then an area for a description of the work and an area for "notes", which is where I keep track of the records of the painting. In addition, I have added a feature where I can keep track of various online galleries in which I have listed the particular painting.

Was this a lot of work? Well, yes. I'm guessing it took at least a couple of full days to do. Was it worth it? Well, I sure hope so. I guess that depends on how long before some new technology comes along to displace both slides and digital images. Meanwhile, it feels great to have (almost) everything in one place, available a the touch of a finger.

Now I just need to get the work out into the world!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Domino Effect or How to Effectively Procrastinate

For the Docents is one of my completed paintings from my "Nooks & Crannies" series. I am currently at work on several new paintings for the series. Well, I should be, anyway. And I am making some progress.

However, the state of my studio seems to be echoing the state of the inside of my brain–scrambled.

Besides painting, I should be grading. See above. I have a pile of stuff from my Basic Design class at Tohono O'ohdam Community College to grade. I love teaching. I do not one little bit like grading. Consequently, I'll find just about any excuse to put it off. Tomorrow is class. So I need to get with the program and deal with it.

However, somehow there doesn't seem to be a single surface in my studio that isn't piled up with stuff. And I need a surface to spread out the student work in order to do the grading. This table isn't so bad, but it's part of my painting set up, and I hate to mess with it, because then I have an excuse not to jump into painting.

Ouch. This one I wouldn't consider touching. I'm sorting family photos (many boxes of photographs in a big jumble). The idea was to put them into some sort of order. Also, I plan on using some of the images for various projects I have in mind. However, now the mess is much worse than the original jumble. And it's been like this for months. No grading is happening here.

Here is my fun clay stuff. I'm making lots of little gargoyle guys. Not sure why. But you can see that this table would be way daunting to clear off. No grading is going to happen here, either.

Then there are the boxes. I was doing this box thing a couple years ago. I got a wild hair and started making a new series of boxes. Road signs, the yellow and black boxes on the right. These are for the online store for my husband Jim and my project on US Route 89 . Clearly cleaning up this space is too much to tackle right now.

It seems I have the domino effect going on here. I'm not willing to just shove stuff aside. In order to clear up the studio and create a surface upon which to grade my community college students' work, I want to finish what I started. But each table is piled with stuff that represents many of hours of work before it can be cleaned off. That's the domino effect. Nothing gets done because there are so many things that need to get done before the real thing that needs to get done can get done.

And thus, you get a glimpse of the inside of my brain right now. Maybe it's just too scrambled to do justice to grading all of this work right now anyway.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Jumble of Projects: Gargoyle, boxes and painting

This is one of the first "Nooks & Crannies" series of paintings that doesn't take place in the Phoenix Art Museum. I guess you could call it "Nooks & Crannies II". It's a scene from outside the Tucson Airport. I posted it (last week, I think), shortly after I started it. A number of hours of work later, here it is again. Now that I look, it doesn't appear all that different. Clearly, I have many hours to go. A good example of how long it takes to create a painting.

I like to play around with other materials once in a while. If you were to look way back in the archives of my blog, you'd see a number of boxes. I guess you could say that I went through a box phase.

I'm making a few boxes to sell on Jim's and my US Route 89 project website. Above is one that was a gift for a friend. I'm going to make a few more in this style. It's fun, because I do some drawings and copy them onto Lasertran paper. The printed paper is soaked in water, and the image slides off, like a decal. I adhere it to the gessoed box using Golden matte medium, and then paint a design around it.

Of course, nothing is simple. After the boxes are done, they need to be photographed and then go through some mysterious computer process to get them into the shop on the website. Being challenged with all things computer, I pass this part on to Jim.

Here's a gargoyle guy. Front and side views. I like making these little guys. This one is maybe 3 inches tall. Not sure what I'm going to do with them, but they're fun to make. So I'll make a series of them and then figure out what to do with them. I'm lucky to have a friend who has a Wednesday clay group. She's oh, so generous with her time and supplies. Since I'm new to the community, it's especially nice to be able to spend time with some new friends. Thanks, Carol!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sketchbook Dilemna

The sketchbook from Art House arrives.

A blank front cover, awaiting something creative.

The inside cover, complete with pocket for people to check the book out (at least I think that's why). Note blank first page.

Blank inside pages. There are a lot of them.

Inside back cover. See, I get my very own bar code. That's a first for me. Very thrilling. Note the theme above the bar code: Over the top. This is what I need to get creative about.

I love sketchbooks. In fact, I'd have to say that I'm a sucker for sketchbooks. I buy them whenever I see one that beckons to me. I admit, while I love the idea of journaling, daily drawing, filling the sketchbook with wonderful ideas, I usually fill a few pages of my new acquisition and then put it down, never to be picked up again. Eventually it gets shelved with all the other virtually empty sketchbooks.

So when I heard about Art House's Sketchbook Project I just couldn't resist. This company is doing a lot of fascinating stuff. To get involved, first you sign up and fork over $18. Shortly, in the mail, you receive a Moleskine blank sketchbook. You are assigned a theme, and given a deadline in which to fill the sketchbook with something creative relating to the theme. Once it's filled full of fabulous whatevers, it's mailed back to the Art House, where it (along with hundreds of others) travels to a series of galleries and then is housed in the Art House library.

Here the sketchbook looms. I've had it for a month. Thankfully the due date has been pushed forward to January 1. I'm thinking. I've had ideas. Over the top; what does that mean? Am I going to do a series of drawings or am I going to collage, cut, sew, embellish in other ways? No clue. But I need to get with the program pretty soon, because there are a lot of pages to fill.

This is supposed to be fun. It's supposed to get me to actually fill a sketchbook. Stay posted for results!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Series Continues: Nooks & Crannies II

My solo show at the @Central Gallery at Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix comes down next week. October 22 is the last day. Meanwhile, I'm continuing to work on the series. I have 3 or 4 paintings in the works, all from locations at the Phoenix Art Museum.

What you see above is a painting I just started working on. The scene is at the Tucson International Airport. I've put in several days working on this one, and it has a long way to go.

Just started this one yesterday. It's from a parking garage in downtown Phoenix.

It appears that I'm moving out of the Art Museum and into the world at large with Nooks & Crannies.

Maybe I should do a scavenger hunt for the locations of all of these paintings and give some kind of prize to the person who figures out the exact locations of all the paintings?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Doggie Disaster

The overlooked paint can.

What's left after the disaster.

Some of the evidence.

More evidence. (Breena doesn't ordinarily sport white toenails)

Introducing the culprit: Breena

Last Friday evening, we made the trip to the Tucson Art Museum for the opening of the Ansel Adams exhibit.

After some discussion, we decided to put our neurotic black lab, Breena, in my studio for safe keeping while we were gone. In she went, with her bed, water bowl, and the iPod on shuffle mode for her musical entertainment. I carefully opened the curtain on the glass door to half mast so she could look outside. I made sure everything she could destroy was put up out of her reach, or so I thought.

Off we went for a lovely evening of viewing art and dinner out.

My plan upon our return was to prepare for my teaching my community college class that was meeting the next day and in which I was totally unprepared.

Upon our arrival home at about 9:30 pm, Jim went into my studio to retrieve Breena. He called me inside.

What I saw was my beautiful, epoxy painted concrete studio floor, covered with a maze of white doggie paw prints. Over by the window was an overturned gallon of Navajo white paint. Out of the gallon of Navajo white paint had flowed, yes, nearly a gallon of Navajo white paint.

In her hysteria at being left alone while we went out on a "date", Breena managed to knock over the can of paint with enough force to dislodge the lid. She proceeded to race around my studio for who knows how long, stepping through the paint and making paint paw prints literally everywhere.

I spent the next several hours cleaning up. First I used the spilled paint to paint the door frame. That's why the bucket was there in the first place, only I'd never gotten around to doing this little chore. Then I scooped the rest of the pool of paint back into the bucket. Next I put on my trusty knee pads, and got down with a scraper, water and paper towels, and attempted to clean up the mess.

When I had scraped up all that I had energy for, I called it quits and proceeded to my desk where I spent another couple hours getting ready for class. At 1:30 pm, I crawled into bed.

So much for a fun night out on the town.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Another Attempt at an Income Stream

Above is a box I assembled and then painted. I was doing quite a lot of this a couple years ago. It's great fun, a nice change from painting, and I thought it would be a good product to bring in some income.

As it turns out, I did sell quite a few. The downside is that I figured out I was making about 20 cents an hour. I could have made more collecting and selling empty cans!

So, I'm still making the occasional box. But mostly just for gifts. This box is headed to Philadelphia, a birthday present for my son's significant other. (Full disclosure–it was supposed to be her Christmas gift last year. Didn't complete it then. Now it's done, with a few additional actual birthday goodies hidden in the drawers of the box.)

Another view.

With the small drawers open.

Happy Birthday, Corinne.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Income Stream (Trickle), Saturdays on the Reservation

Every Saturday I make the trip from home (Oracle) to Sells, on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, where I teach Basic Design at the Tohono O'odham Community College.
It's a bit of a long drive. 2 1/4 hours, to be exact. Each way.

In the photo above, I'm completing the first 1/2 hour of the drive, as I approach Tucson. The mountains are the Catalina's. They're quite spectacular, if you know what you're doing, and if you aren't shooting while driving.

Freeway driving through Tucson. I got a few shots of just sky. A few of just pavement. And then, well, sort of a photo of some of the big buildings in Tucson. I've now been driving for about an hour. It's 8:15 am on Saturday, not much traffic, so it doesn't matter too much that I'm weaving all over the road to get this shot.

Under an overpass.

And onto the long road toward the reservation.

Approaching the Border Patrol checkpoint.

Taking my life in my hands photographing the Border Patrol as I pass by. (They only check you going the other direction).

Almost through Border Patrol checkpoint.

On the reservation now. About another 45 minutes to go.

Arrival in Sells. You have to watch out for animals on the road. I almost always see at least a few horses and cows wandering about town.

The slow approach is the best approach.

Entering campus.

The studio. Actually, it's a science lab, but we make do. At least there are sinks. I meant to take a photo of my students. But I got busy and completely forgot. They say hi! They are a wonderful group of 12 students. They work hard and are eager to learn. Although nearly all of them do a variety of arts and crafts, only one has taken any formal art classes. A delight to teach.

There's always something posted on this white board. In English and in Tohono O'ohdam. It's always interesting to see what the phrases are. I especially like "watch out for the rattlesnake" and "pass the salt". Two essentials in life.

Three and 1/2 hours later (that's how long class is), I'm back on the road, going in reverse. Approaching the Border Patrol checkpoint, I snapped a quick shot, but didn't dare take a photo of the officer as he stopped to check me out, making sure I'm a US citizen, not carrying any contraband in my Mini Cooper. I was hungry and didn't want to take a chance on being thrown in jail.

Not far from the reservation, I stop at a gas station to get my lunch. Yes, very nutritious. I try not to eat all the Cheetos, but it's hard to resist, after all, I have another 2 hours to drive before I get back home.