Friday, September 20, 2013

Creative Changes

The Artdog is leaping into a new, combined blog.
For several years, now, I have been trying to maintain two personal blogs--this one, and also "Artdog Educator"--as well as write regular posts for a third, which I manage for the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (KaCSFFS).

And make artwork.

And pursue writing projects.

It's time to re-balance the load.  I will continue (for now) writing posts as needed for KaCSFFS, but because of a massive new project--a science fiction novel-in-progress--I have decided to consolidate my blogs.

For now, at least, "Artdog Observations" will cease to be a separate blog.  I plan to continue making art, looking at art, and commenting about art and art-related topics, but I'll be doing it on my "Jan S. Gephardt's Artdog Adventures" blog, as part of blogging about the creative life.

I know it's a short-term pain, and I may lose some readers.  If we are parting ways here, I wish you well.

But I hope it'll be a longer-term gain, when I'm able to post somewhat more frequently.

See you on the other side?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

At Long Last! A Rosebush!

I suppose I could write "At long last! A blog post!" too. I apologize--it's been a REALLY BUSY last-two-months.

But I'm back, and I hope to begin posting regularly again.  It seems appropriate to celebrate my return to blogging with completion of a milestone--the titular rosebush.

"Rosebush #1" is actually just one part of a larger work.

There it is, in a closeup. I am kind of boggled, myself, at how long it has taken to achieve one finished rosebush. More than a year ago in the spring, I was taking pictures of neighbors' roses, with a plan to "plant" several rosebushes in my seemingly-eternal work in progress, Paradise Garden. (How "eternal"? Well, I started on the double colonnade more than two years ago.  Thank goodness that part's done, now).

From source photos I took, I developed three ink drawings of rosebushes (did you ever stop to think how many LEAVES are on a rosebush?). I scanned the drawings into my computer, and used Adobe Illustrator (more intuitive for me to use than PS.  I know: I'm weird) to add color to each leaf and blossom.  Every leaf has at least three greens on it.  Every rose has three or four different reds, plus yellow.

Took for freakin' ever, even with my Wacom tablet and stylus.  I am not above bribing myself with British detective shows on TV to incentivize sitting that long painting tiny, tiny leaves.

This is what I mean by "tiny, tiny leaves." Here it is with my hand for scale.

At long last this week, I was able to finish color work on the last of the three.  Then it was time to cut them out, sculpt, and assemble them.

Compared to painting seemingly-endless tiny, tiny leaves and flowers, cutting them out went comparatively quickly!  One episode of "DCI Banks," and I was almost done cutting the bottom layers for one and a half of the three different rosebush designs.

There are three--in one place, four--layers to the first rosebush. The top two layers on the finished one shown above are repositioned parts of the bush, not the whole thing.

The finished one is at lower left.  More are in the works, as you see.
Here are my essential tools for the cutting-and-sculpting phase. Fingernails also are invaluable.

People always ask, "do you use an X-Acto knife?" Well, yes--but those handy-dandy little scissors on the right are my primary tool.  X-Acto cuts are very straight, the puncturing risks tears, and the blades get dull really fast. I'm all about intuitive tools, so the scissors are my weapon of choice. 

The other items in the photo above are a small corkboard for cutting and sculpting against, lab-quality tweezers (worth their weight in gold), and a clay-modeling tool with different-sized balls on each end.

I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse of working on my Most Impractical Artwork of the Decade (so far, anyway--the decade is young), and the reanimation of "Artdog Observations." 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Great Evening With the InterUrban ArtHouse

As I described in last week's post, a good critique can be valuable and energizing thing for an artist. 
Here's my presentation at the InterUrban ArtHouse's ArtMatters Critique Night.  My audience includes, L-R: fellow artists Lori Sohl, Dora Agbas, Adam Finkelston, and Nicole Emanuel. Nicole founded the InterUrban ArtHouse.
I deeply value the insights of a weekly gathering of artist friends which we simply call Art Group.  I also had an opportunity recently to participate in the first-ever ArtMatters Critique Night, conducted May 1, 2013 by the InterUrban ArtHouse in Overland Park, KS.

Elizabeth Berkshire's paintings are inspired by metal surfaces and rust textures. Her viewers, L-R, are sculptor Deron Dixon, JCCC's Larry Thomas, Lori, Dora, me, and Adam, as above.
This Critique Night was held at a quaint, small-group gathering place called the Vintage House, and artists went through a process of submitting samples of work and applying to be invited.
L-R: That's me (red sweater) lurking in the background, listening to Larry Thomas discussing Deron Dixon's sculptu.
Kelly Seward comments on Linda Jurkiewicz's artistic quilts.  Also visible L-R: Deron, Jerry Stogsdill, Larry, Alex Hamil, me, the quilter herself, and (far R) Nicole.
Linda Seiner discusses her torn-paper paintings, while Larry and Lori look on at R.
Alex Hamil answers a question about his work, while (L-R) Lori, Dora, and I look on. You can see some of Dora's work in the background at left and some of Elizabeth's in the background at right.
Ten of us were included in the first Critique Night, while two designated experts, Larry Thomas, chair of the Johnson County Community College Fine Arts Department, and Kelly Seward, Director of Business Programs for ArtsKC, took the lead in each discussion.  InterUrban ArtHouse founder Nicole Emanuel was originally planning to offer comments as well, but a scheduling difficulty kept her away until the latter part of the event.

I recognized the work of Alex and Linda, as having also been displayed at the Arti Gras show, which I blogged about in February.

IMAGE CREDITS: I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the InterUrban ArtHouse and its Facebook Page, and to the multi-talented Nick Carswell, for the photos used in this post.  THANK YOU!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Value of a Good Critique

In your creative life, how often do you seek out an honest and knowledgeable critique? 

Most artists are vulnerable creatures.  We make up new things out of assorted sources, imbue them with our personal vision, and then place them out into the harsh glare of an uncaring and often hypercritical world. To think of seeking a critique is always somewhat fraught with pain and fear.

I present my work to the group at the InterUrban ArtHouse's ArtMatters Critique Night on May 1, 2013 at the Vintage House in Overland Park, KS.

We do the best we can, but many times we just can’t figure out (or don’t realize we haven’t figured out) the Ultimate Best Possible Solution to the creative problem we have decided to tackle.

We can’t “see the forest for the trees,” because we are too close to the subject.  In my dog-show circuit days, we called that being “kennel blind”: you can see the problems with other people’s dogs, but you are blind to the problems in your own dogs.

Recently I have participated in several, extremely helpful critique sessions, focused on either my artwork or a science fiction novel I am writing. Different fields, different media, and from different sources. The photo above is from a notable recent evening (more to come).

But in each case I not only discovered solutions to problems I’d been having with the work in question—I  also became highly energized to leap back into the work with even more focus than before.  If you noticed I hadn’t been posting here recently, that is why.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

FINISHED (Part One, anyway)!

Last week, late in the day before a trip out of town, I thought I possibly had finished a project I've been working on for quite some time.  It took some living with it, but I think--yes--this part is finished.

This is Nine-Part Herbal Fantasy--Light Cycle. Stand by (but don't hold your breath) for Dark Cycle.
The project began with a series of line drawings, first sketched in pencil, then finalized in ink.  I scanned them, assembled them in an Adobe Illustrator file, and began applying color.
Here's an ink drawing for the "Flower Arch" section.

An early view of the original Adobe Illustrator color build of this piece made an appearance on Artdog Observations in January.  I showed pieces of it in the works in February. At the time, I actually thought the Dark Cycle would be finished first.

I shared this image in February.
Why two cycles?  It's actually not that complicated.  

As I was doing the color builds, I realized that some of the sections were coming out considerably lower in overall key than others.  I couldn't decide which version I liked better.  Yes, I confess: indecision actually was the inspiration.

A comparison of two sections, built on the same "base drawing" and adjusted one each for the two variations, may offer a glimpse.

Here are Light Cycle and Dark Cycle variations of the "Herbal Arch" section (mirrored, you may note).
One of the developments that came up very late in the process of putting the piece together was an idea that developed at my newly-resumed Monday night Art Group.

Corners and sides are tilted inward.
Toward the center, everything lies closer to the base level.
The bases of the sections do not lie flat, except for the "rootball" center.  The others are tilted: higher toward the outside, down to base-level farther in.

IMAGES: All artwork and photos are copyright (c) 2013 by Jan S. Gephardt. You may re-post them without alterations and with attribution and a link back to this blog post; otherwise, all rights are reserved.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ernie Button's "Vanishing Spirits"

Visual experiences are where we find them--and they can literally be anywhere.  Part of "seeing the world through the eye of the artist," (one of my mother's favorite phrases), is to pay attention to the visuals around us everywhere.

I'll give you a case in point: Ernie Button.

When was the last time you were inspired by dirty dishes?
Ernie Button is quite a wonderful photographer, as you can see if you wander through his website (I recommend it!).  But he didn't get picked up by National Public Radio until he neglected to do his dishes.

As Audrey Carlson described it, in her piece The Wonderful World of Whiskey Art, "Ernie Button was putting a Scotch glass left out overnight into the dishwasher when he noticed something — a white, chalky film on the bottom of the glass. He held it up to the light and, upon closer inspection, could see a series of fine, lacy lines running along the inside of the glass."

Having spotted (sorry) this interesting visual effect, he did what artists do: he explored it. Photographers, as their name suggests, work with the medium of light.  

Button shined different colors of light through the residue, looked at it from different angles and with different backgrounds, and--being a photographer--got out his macro lens and took pictures of it.

Dalwhinnie 122
As you might imagine, a scotch enthusiast could find this project irresistible.  While he seems, from a quick overview of the images posted in his Vanishing Spirits portfolio, to favor Aberlour (at least for his photos), he has documented his willingness to try other brands, such as Balvenie, Dalwhinnie, or Glenfyddich.

This admirable broad-mindedness has yielded a growing trove of images that range from the celestial to the otherworldly to the weirdly interesting.  Since he only posts the ones he considers most aesthetically successful, it has taken him about 6 years of drinking scotch (it stretches my credulity to think he'd buy top shelf scotch and not drink it) to amass the current collection.

I wish him many more happy years of photography . . . and a stout liver.
At L: Balvenie Double.  At R: Glenfyddich.

IMAGE CREDITS: The photo of the dirty dishes is courtesy of a Real Clear Science blog post by Ross Pomeroy, "A Scientific Argument for Cleaning Dirty Dishes." The images for Aberlour, Balvenie Double, and Glenfyddich are from the "Whiskey Art" post (although they also may be seen on Button's portfolio, along with Dalwhinnie 122.  Many thanks to all these sources!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fun in the Freight House Neighborhood-Part II

I had a wonderful day, between lunch with a good friend at Lidia's Kansas City, and a stroll through two of Kansas City's great small art galleries on Baltimore St. near the Freight House, in the southern part of the Kansas City Crossroads.

Julia Fernandez-Pol's Lily Pad Light is rich with texture.
The two galleries are similarly named near-neighbors, the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, and Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art.  This entry focuses on my visit to Sherry Leedy's gallery.  In an earlier entry I talked about some fascinating artwork I found at Leedy-Voulkos.

The Texture Tour
The artwork that really spoke to me at this gallery all seemed to be playing with texture in one way or another. 

In the artwork of Julia Fernandez-Pol, it is the actual, physical texture of the oil paint, which I'd guess must have been applied with a palette knife, that is the most riveting aspect.

For me, the rich colors and textures in these images added up to a delicious visual feast that rewards the eye on many levels.

Mark Lyon's Michael Rees
The textures of Mark Lyon, on the other hand, are created as two-dimensional visual texture, and created in a most unusual way.  Lyon describes his evolution into using the "machine-assisted" "humidrawer" technique in an interesting essay on his website.

The artwork appears to be a large photograph, from a distance.  Move in closer, however, and you'll discover the amazing patterns within. 

My favorite, I think, was the portrait of Michael Rees (shown at right), because when I looked very closely, I realized the areas inside the eyeglass frames had been rendered like a spiral moving in from the frames to the center.

To give an idea of how these textures work, I pulled a couple of examples from Lyon's site.  These are two different renderings of an eye, one using only black lines, as in Michael Rees, and the other using both black and white lines on a toned surface.

Mark Lyons 2-D texture created with mechanical help: Left: black and white lines on a toned surface; Right black lines only. 
IMAGE CREDITS:  Many thanks to the Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art artist pages for the images of Julia Fernandez-Pol's Lily Pad Light and Mark Lyon's Michael Rees (click on the artist's name for images; the image pages themselves don't seem to have a URL).  The "eye detail" images are from Mark Lyon's website.  Many thanks for all!