Let the Beauty of what you Love be what you Do...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's a Looooong Post!!!

Well, back to school for me this week. I have been coming to some conclusions lately in terms of continuing with a "Formal Art Education" versus just going it on my own in terms of creating. One of my huge concerns was going into debt at this age for an Art degree, and what exactly I could do with it anyhow. I know successful artists that have advanced degrees, as well as successful artists that are self taught. No matter how I decide to go about it, I HAVE A LOT TO LEARN. And everyone learns differently, at different paces and in different settings. While I have enjoyed immensely the exposure to different mediums as is presented by an Academic Art Program, I am beginning to realize there are aspects that don't necessarily fit with my learning style and approach to life in general. I think I'm better suited to community level classes & self study. I admit, I am a bit disappointed... after years of searching... I thought "this is it, this is what I want to do..." and now finding that perhaps it is not. I still want to create, of course... it's just the degree in Art that I am not so certain of. Part of me is thinking "just finish what you've started..." but 2 more years would take me that much farther away from the home I dream of ( the other loooong post in this blog), and like I was saying, there are things about that just don't feel right. BUT! It certainly was not a waste of time... this is something i tell myself~  sometimes we learn in life what we want to do by finding out what it is we don't want to do. Years ago, I sat down & made a list of things I thought I may like to do, & explored various avenues. I did a ten day Wilderness First Responder class through the National Outdoor Leadership school... thinking I may want to do search & rescue or be a park ranger- but nope! After the course I decided not, but the skills I learned could help someday in an emergency backcountry mishap! In 2008, I attended a 16 day residential Yoga Teacher Training at White Lotus, thinking maybe I wanted to teach yoga. Then decided... no,  I don't really want to teach, I just like doing it! The only difference here, is one year of classes has cost a LOT more money!! But what's done is done & I just have to let that go. ANYHOW!! I have decided to stay through this quarter... partly because I wanted to take a Photo Etching Printmaking course, and Functional Ceramics... and partly because I just cannot fathom at this current moment packing up all my things, returning them to storage & going back to my travel job. (Someday I may write about my "real job"... but that's not what this blog is about... it's more about the journey... so I'll just leave it in the back ground for now.)

Now that I've put you all to sleep with my ramblings (it does say various ramblings of a non-traditional art student, does it not?) I am going to post what I was originally going to post when I sat down at this computer! Sometimes my fingers have a mind of their own... and off I go on another (though related) tangent. So, CERAMICS! YAY! I love ceramics, I really do! I like just playing in clay~ that's all there is to it. So here I go, posting my beginner work. (oh, on our class critique paper work, it says we should not say beginner as it is just a "passive-aggressive way of getting others to go easy on you.") BUT! I am not in the classroom, I am right here on my very own blog, so let me be honest & say this is my BEGINNER work!! Honest truth it is!

My first real exposure to clay was being lucky enough to find a community level class right here in southern Oregon when I was working here on a travel assignment in 2007. It was a six week course of basically just playing with the clay & seeing what came out. Instruction, of course was provided.... but no deadlines, no critiques, no conceptualizing. I made tons of stuff and it was a lovely creative outlet.
This little bear was one of my first creations. Very rudimentary, but I gotta say, I love this little guy and he has travelled thousands of miles with me... and no matter where I am, I keep him by my bed as a symbol of my creativity.

The next one, I just sat down to make who knows what  & I came up with an elephant. I love this sort of creating. No thought, per say... no conceptualization- just pure creating... and it's FUN!

Then I made this cute little salsa dish. My mom uses it as a garlic holder. (Mom, I never did really get that! :)

During the time I was taking this class, a friend of mine had just finished this amazing trip~ hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, so for her birthday, I handbuilt a coffee mug detailing her Journey in the sun, over mountains & to the sea- she called it her "pilgrimage for peace" as she raised money for the Central Asia Institute.
Shown here unfired, then glazed below.

In 2008, I was working in Santa Fe, and found just what I was looking for~ an entry level wheel throwing course! It was at Santa Fe Clay~ they have tons of classes and workshops, from beginner to advanced, along with specialty classes taught by renowned clay artists. Do not judge their level of instruction by the work you are about to see! Throwing on the wheel for the first time was quite challenging~ but also quite fun! Most of my early results looked like this!

I had a hard time getting centered, to say the least! But by the end, I was just starting to get the hang of it, and made a few decent mugs & a few bowls. The one below I was going to toss when I was moving things out of storage last year... but my friend Laura said "I'll take it!" The last time I was at her house, I saw it was being put to good use.... as an outdoor ashtray for guests! I thought that was great~ functional Art! :)
Then, when I arrived here last year for school, since I got here a little early for the spring quarter, I took a class out of the garage of Penelope Dews, a wonderful ceramic artist here in the valley. (incidentally, she was the same woman who I took the first course from... that studio is now closed, so she opens her home to lots of lovely people who have a passion for clay.) At that point I was kinda hooked on wanting to get better at my throwing skills, and here are a few of my results.

So, that about brings me up to date! I'll be posting throughout the quarter... hoping to come up with some good work. Today we just practiced our centering... so I have nothing to show for that, except for one filthy pair of jeans & some random specks of clay in my hair... Oh, and a smile... just for getting my hands back into that lovely mud!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"The Mountains Are Calling... and I Must Go."

                      ~John Muir

And go I did! My soul was longing for a little recreation... so I headed off to one of my favorite mountains.

Looks like no shortage of snow!

After a bit of a trek, I arrived at the Sierra Club Hut... it's almost completely buried!

Time for a break~ snowshoe bliss!

A curious bird approaches...

somehow I caught him in mid-hop...

then he just poses for me... what a character!

Climbing higher... an open expanse of whiteness  & solitude... the only sound I hear is the crunching of my snowshoes as they meet the windswept snow.

I sit quietly... and take in the view from above tree line.
I am very happy :)... and remember I need to do this more often.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Note to Self... Pay Attention

"For Lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us everyday..."

                          ~Evelyn Underhill

I once dated this guy who used to say to me, "I love how you see the things that I would miss."
I'd like to think, in general, I'm pretty good about appreciating the small things, and finding beauty in the world. I have to admit, though... sometimes I get a bit too worried about the future, about how I want my life to be... that sometimes I miss where I am presently. This is simply my "note to self" to pay attention, so as not to miss the loveliness that is present everyday.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Have a Dream...

"Dreams are illustrations...from the book your Soul is writing about you."
~Marsha Norman

 I took Drawing 1 during my first quarter of returning to school last year to study Art. I've always thought that people had an innate talent for drawing, or they did not. I did not. My professor, however was brilliant about encouragement, insisting that drawing skills could in fact be learned. I never took to it much... but I felt it was certainly a good exercise for me, to show up for class each session & continue to work at something I felt I had simply no talent for. Notice that I have put LOTS of other beginner work on this blog- but no drawing... until now. For our final project we had to do a series of 3 drawings that represented something about ourselves. For one of those drawings, I chose to draw my dream home. As you can see, it is nothing special... a simple home with open space, (although in reality it would have a couple more rooms & an extra bath for guests!) I'm posting it now, because it has been on my mind for at least the last 5 years or so.... but even more so now that I am back in school. If anyone has been following this blog... you know that I have been struggling with my decision to return to school in terms of financial output. Each quarter I go, my savings is depleted more & more, and the further I am financially from some day having a simple little home somewhere out in the country (with a little Art studio- funny how I didn't draw in the extra bedrooms, but managed to draw a rather large studio!) I just question a lot lately if I am making the right choice at this stage in the game. It's not that I question going to school at this age (42)... who cares how old you are, & I really enjoy learning! I love making Art & exploring the different mediums & techniques to see what it is I'm good at, and what I totally suck at. It's just at this age, I think, "O.K, this'll cost me around 25-30 grand in tuition by the time I finish, not to mention throwing away money on rent..." (since I've been schooling more & working less, I seriously doubt I could get financed if there was anything I could afford anyhow!) I've already paid back the Government 32 grand in previous student loans which took a long time to pay off... sometimes working at jobs & locations where I was miserable... just getting through. I'm just trying to figure out if I'm making the right decisions for myself at this point in my life, or if I should go back to the drawing board as it were. No, I don't need a degree to make Art. And a degree does not by any means suggest I could actually make some sort of living from it. Honestly, I'm thinking I need to shift gears on what is really important to me. Having a home is so important on so many levels. The feeling of security, a sense of place, a place to rest & call your own. Having traveled for work the past 5 years, moving stuff in & out of storage every 2-3 months... I just long for one place where I know where all my things are! Even since arriving here last year to pursue school- I've packed up & left twice during summer & winter breaks to return to my travel job to make cash to continue. Damn if I don't want it all. A home, the chance to continue my Art Education, time to pursue my other dreams, (long distance hiking, traveling...) but for now, I'm just reevaluating & hoping that I can come up with some new idea on how to make it all work...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mount Shasta

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
                                            ~Frank Lloyd Wright
No matter how many times I drive past this mountain, I am always compelled to stop, to look, to breathe it in, to photograph it. This is not the best photo & by no means captures the absolute beauty of this powerful mountain. I've been lucky enough to climb to it's summit twice, to hike & snowshoe on it's flanks a handful of times... and to just sit & contemplate more times than I can remember. There is just something about the beauty of mountains, this one in particular, that gives me that warm feeling of peace in my heart.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Just Something to Think About...

Wind Energy & Wildflowers~ Along Highway 58, near Tehachapi, Ca

I know some people think these are a blight on the landscape. I just don't feel that way. Let's face it- we live on a very populated planet...  and growing by the day. While some people believe our natural resources are limitless... the  simple scientific fact is that they are not. I don't believe enough is being done to explore renewable energy. I have a little bit of conspiracy theory going on in my head with Big Oil, the government, and why the exploration of, and transition to renewables has been slow to catch on. If you haven't already- watch a few documentaries on the subject, & you'll see what I mean. So when I see these, it makes me smile... because things are at least starting to be done... you know, baby steps. Plus, I just think they are kinda cool looking. Land sculpture, if you will. Also, they are really a lot nicer to look at than massive urban sprawl & tracts of Mc Mansions.

I was also greeted by a lovely display of California Poppies in bloom on the green hillsides!! It's funny, because I used to always drive the Grapevine (very large freeway that drops into L.A.) in & out of Southern Cal... I only found the "back way" through Tehachapi a couple years ago. A much prettier drive, and far less traffic!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Anza Borrego Desert Photos

Just a few pics from a day trip to the Anza Borrego Desert. The Rainfall this year is above average (over 7 inches~ the past 2 seasons have seen only 4 1/2) promising a wonderful wildflower display. Well, we went about a week early... so did not see the valley blanketed with flowers, but there were some patches of brilliant display as well as a preview of what's to come with the early bloom.

Look closely at the photo below. Notice anything? Probably not... look a little closer... a great hiding place for what's inside...

This nest appears to be well protected from potential predators, not to mention the excellent camouflage! I wasn't able to identify what type of bird built this nest~ but from the bird identification book, it appears to be some sort of sparrow.

Seems such a hostile environment to be born into!

Last but not least... 'cause we all need a little love....

Monday, March 8, 2010

Life's Even Littler Surprises!

I've never seen a hummingbird's nest before! Way too cute! My nephew spotted this one in his back yard in an orange tree. The size of the nest is smaller than a golf ball, and the eggs are about the size of those little jelly belly jelly beans. I wish I was going to be here to see them hatch! Life really is full of little surprises!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Life's Little Surprises

I do love catching a good rainbow. I saw 3 separate rainbows on a 1 hour section of my drive today. Unfortunately, I was driving on the freeway in Riverside (Southern California,) which makes photographing said rainbow before it disappears challenging. This section of the drive back into Southern Cal always kinda bums me out... it is always sooooo crowded and I can feel my anxiety rise with the speed of I-15 traffic. I always wonder why it seems like everyone is in such a hurry around here. I pulled off the freeway... and right into urban sprawl & mini malls. Following my intuition, I made a right turn down a random suburban street & after a short distance, came to what seems to be one of the few remaining open spaces in the area. I'm thinking I may have been the only person to pull off the freeway to check this out...

Friday, March 5, 2010

What Makes an Artist?

Awhile ago, a friend of mine posted a question on her blog, "What is Art Anyhow?" To which I responded without thinking much... just what I felt at the time. This is what I said~

"Hi melanie. well, that's a tough question. I feel sometimes, in school, Art is what your instructors say is Art. Back in the days (according to art history) Art was really what the Academy said was Art. To me, it is different. Art is something that we create because we are drawn to create it. I don't feel that Art is only Art when it is validated by others... yet in academia, that appears to be exactly what it is. To me, Art is having the freedom to create, stemming from a desire to bring forth what is inside. Sure it is great if others like it, or if you could make a living from doing it, but I don't feel that's the point."

My opinion hasn't change much, and I have done much more thinking about that question. Yes, I would love to make a living from being creative... but I create, because I enjoy the process of creating. I've always been drawn to photography, ever since I was a child & I received my first little kodak 110 camera when I was about 10. My camera has been a constant companion ever since. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to start playing with clay. I found a couple of ceramics studios, and took a few entry level classes... and fell in love with clay. Somewhere along the road, I decided that once I payed off my first set of student loans, I'd return to school to study art.

 That was a year ago, and since then I've taken entry level classes in Drawing, Sculpture, Ceramics, Digital Media, Art History & Printmaking. I have really enjoyed my classes, but I have to say, the push toward 
Fine Art really bothers me sometimes. It is not my dream or desire to be a Fine Artist. This is not to dishonor those who are... if that's your dream... that is great! If I ever did become a Fine Artist, it would be more a fluke... or just from my continued desire to create that that would ever happen. This, (and the enormous financial output) is where I have difficulty with "formal art" education. The push, by & large, is to create Fine Artists. I understand that there is a Bachelor's in Fine Art Curriculum at the school I am attending, but there is also simply a Bachelor's Degree in Studio Art... and it would be nice if art for arts sake was talked about, rather than Fine Art, Fine Art, Fine Art.

I love making cards from my photographs, bookmarks from scrap printmaking supplies, and so forth. I use the widely outdated method of snail mail, and send them to friends & family that love to receive something hand made & thoughtful. A discussion ensued during a Printmaking Critique  yesterday on how doing such things (making cards, bookmarks, t- shirts...) "devalues the art." I listened to other peoples opinions, and chimed in with my own. After the discussion was over, I felt very emotional (not unusual for me... although in general, I try to keep tears from streaming down my face in public... and no, dammit, I'm not always successful.) I think the reason I got so emotional, is that I really love creating, for the sake of creating... and to say that what I enjoy doing (and for that matter what all the people who sell their work at arts & crafts fairs enjoy doing) "devalues art" really devalues my ideas, thoughts & work as a fledgling artist. It also made me really question whether or not this is where I belong.

Here's my opinion. When something becomes "Fine Art," and it is hung on a Gallery Wall~ in the opinion of most artists... it is then "Valuable." In the course of becoming valuable, it becomes unattainable for the average person to purchase. Therefore, a person who is economically challenged (poor or middle class) would never have access to such art. It seems to me then, to create a division in socioeconomic class. If you have money, then maybe you are 
deserving of such art. Do you see what I'm getting at? There seems to me to be a certain snobbery involved. In even the most basic of Art History classes, it can be found that there were many artists that defied such snobbery, but they were often labeled as outcasts... but the fact of the matter is that some of them wanted to create for the sake of creating & challenged the rules of the Fine Art community.  While I can walk through a gallery & appreciate Fine Art, and the devotion of time & labor & skill involved... I could never imagine walking out with such a piece... because I could never afford it.

There are so many lovely, talented brilliant Artists that function at a Community level. They sell their art at craft shows, art booths, even on Etsy. They put effort, skill & heart into their work. Yes, maybe they are wishing they could make a bit more money for their efforts. I have made & sold my photo cards for a while, and if you break it down... the money per hour is quite small! But I'll tell you what, the feeling of knowing that someone liked something I did enough to purchase it at all really made me feel good.  And when I've spoken to the local artisans selling at these craft fairs, by and large I find it is a labor of love.

And that is what art is to me. A labor of love. And in my humble opinion, it should be fun!!! It shouldn't be riddled with the stress of trying to fit in, or trying to achieve a certain status. For me, it is an exploration... playing with ideas & shapes & forms & different mediums... trying to get out what is inside, or trying to capture beauty that I see in the world... enjoying the process along the way. I feel the push for 
Fine Art can have the potential to take us away from the very reasons we began to create in the first place. Again, all the humble opinion of a fledgling artist.

As if I haven't said enough (yes, this is my longest post 
ever... I guess I just had to get it out)... I'll leave you with this simple quote, by an artist you may have heard of.

    "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."                                                                                                           ~Pablo Picasso