Posts Tagged 'Artists'

In the News – InkGeek / ArtGeek Version

» 50 best blogs for watercolor artists (via Web Design Schools Guide)

» The Lost Art of Letter Writing (via The Guardian)

» Reading, Writing and Revelation (via Ode Magazine)

» I’m utterly infatuated with the watercolor-calligraphy hybrid on this wedding invitation. I think I want to get married just for the crafting possibilities.

» The New York Times came out with their 100 Notable Books of 2010. Yummy reading.

» Um, On the off chance that you someday need to know how different types of paper affect the waterproof-ness of waterproof inks, read this thread!

» General Inquiry: Has anyone ever bought a fountain pen from Etsy? They’re always so beautiful; I just want to read a review first…

» Also, look at this beautiful watercolor!*

» Russell Black is a watercolor artist based out of Utah. I love the way his bright, blocky style works with the softness of watercolor.

Russell Black

» I’ve been seeing Marion Bolognesi linked a lot around the internet over the past week. (I wonder what caused the sudden jump on the hip-meter?) I first caught her work a few months ago; she’s got that great fashion-vibe.. and super technique when it comes to facial features.

Marion Bolognesi

Can you tell I spent a few hours on Etsy yesterday? As a rule, I rarely let myself browse Etsy because I can easily waste an entire day browsing instead of oh, say, actually creating something. But it’s good to indulge every once in a while, and thus the linkage love.

Sigh, I should open up a shop myself one of these days… it can’t hurt to try, right?

Notes on Hot Press Paper (Mainly: It’s Weird)

 

"Blue Skirt" - watercolor on HP Fabriano Artistico - 8.5" x 12"

 

…And by “weird,” I mean “a paper that I have not adjusted to yet.”

I’m mainly confused about why it’s labeled “watercolor paper” when it’s primary used for drawing. The smooth surface is ideal for pen and ink or pencil, but the slightest bit of water will make hot press paper buckle in minutes.

Very few professional watercolor artists use hot press paper – I know because I spent an entire day scrounging the internet, searching for tips about painting on hot press paper. Most of my results were tutorials in which artists explained the different types of paper (hot press, cold press, and rough) then announced their own reasons for using cold press or rough.

Here’s what I did find:

  • This archived thread on WetCanvas, in which watercolor artist Susan Harrison-Tustain explains her technique for painting on hot press.
  • … which of course led me to Tustain’s website, where I was understandably impressed by her photorealistic paintings, but had so much trouble navigating her website that I gave up trying to find any information on technique.
  • A general consensus across various websites that HP is 1) better for lifting paint off the page, but 2) much worse for creating smooth washes, and 3) great for very controlled/detailed painters because HP paper is unforgiving, i.e. every brush stroke will be visible.
  • A page from Watercolor Wisdom on Google Books that notes “HP is often chosen by painters who use bleeding (sometimes called ballooning) as a technique”
  • This interview with Elizabeth Pratt where she talks about applying paint to HP paper through crushed tissue paper and then removing the tissue

Anybody want to point me in a good direction?

A Sprinkling of Watercolor Artists

This week I’ve been discovering some beautiful watercolor artists. I’ve been sharing a few on Twitter as I come across them, but wanted to compile in one place. Please note that I don’t own the rights to any of the images below; all credits go to the artist. Click on the artist name to visit their website!

Z.L. Feng

Silvia Molinari

Mike Bailey

June Young

How to be a Starving Artist (with a Full Belly)

So, the Carnival of Pen and Paper is an ongoing series of… well, of pen and paper articles. It’s super-nerdy, and it’s hosted by a different super-nerdy blog every month. This past month, hosted at Daydreamers Welcome, JoniB departed from the typical nerditude for her “Editor’s Pick” choice, and featured an article by Caitlin Burns called 10 Money-Saving Tips for Starving Artists.

I really enjoyed reading an article with a more accessible subject– so much, in fact, that I wanted to assemble my own version. Caitlin Burns’ article had some great ideas, but I want to elaborate some new suggestions and guidelines that incorporate this blog’s specific focus on rurality, art, and technology… and, you know the topic-drill by now. So here are my guidelines, to be customized as you see fit.

1. Don’t be picky.

I’m right there with Caitlin on this first tip: don’t ever think of yourself as “too good” for any art supply. Great art can be made from anything. In fact, you may accidentally say something really profound by using crayons and construction paper instead of oils and canvas. Probably something about childhood, if I had to guess.

2. Do It Yourself.

Hooray! The importance of DIY for artists has been a focus of mine on this blog for a while. And this will absolutely save you money (until you cross the line of too-many-mistakes, where you keep having to buy more supplies and surpass the original cost of the pre-made item). But just as important as saving money is the fact that DIY will connect you to centuries of trades-people and crafts-people, to times where an “Artist” was just another type of tradesperson, like a carpenter or a blacksmith. Plus, learning skills like bookbinding, carpentry, or glassblowing will absolutely enhance your artistic skills. There are some mind-blowing artists out there (like Micheal A. Cummings’ art quilts) who are breaking down the barriers between “Art,” “Trade,” and “Craft.” And you can be one of them!

Here are suggestions for DIY projects for artists: Stretch your own canvas. Bind your own sketchbooks from your favorite paper, and customize them in your preferred dimensions. Learn to mix your own paints. Create a travel palette from a mints tin. Learn how to use a table saw and start making your own frames. Buy some padding compound and make your own watercolor blocks.

3. Invest Strategically.

Here’s where I depart a bit from Caitlin’s list. Because unfortunately, I can’t advocate shopping at Wal-Mart with a clean conscience– but wait! I swear this isn’t a privileged “fuck the corporation” rant. This advice will actually save you money in the long run. Here’s the thing: Wal-Mart will never give you a discount on anything. Even if you build a great relationship with a Wal-Mart employee, they still can’t violate corporate rules and let you try a pastel sample for free, or order a special supply for you. Building a relationship with the folks at your local art-supply store, on the other hand, will totally pay off.

For the times when quality really doesn’t matter (for example, as Caitlin writes, when a black craft paint is equal an expensive acrylic black), there are far better options than going to Wal-Mart (see Number 4). Plus, I have a suspicion that those fluorescent lights can actually drive you insane.

Most importantly, make sure you know the difference between when to invest and when to buy cheap. In many cases, cheap art supplies will lose you money in the long run. Not only can they can hold back your skills as an artist (cheap paints will blend into a muddy mess, and cheap brushes will quickly shed bristles into your painting), but replacing cheap supplies will eventually cost more than the nicer version in the first place. I think fashion magazines are always giving this advice as well: invest in a few staple items that will never go out of style (like well-fitting jeans, little black dress, rain boots…). So, the same goes for your art supplies: investing in a nice palette or high-quality brushes is totally worth it, when you make them last a lifetime. Which also means take care of your supplies when you have them. I’m totally guilty of forgetting to wash my brushes, and that will shorten their lifespan.

Here are some situations to opt for cheaper: Caitlin mentions that art board is the same thing as masonite, which can be bought for much less from any hardware store. Drafting tables, which are super-expensive in art stores, can often be found at salvage yards, on Craigslist, or from architecture firms who are updating the furniture. In fact, most storage and containers, from palettes to pochade boxes to shelves, can be found for less money in different markets: try looking in hardware stores, beauty supply stores, gardening centers, or browsing the medical supplies category on ebay (you might have to explain that last one to your spouse/friend/parent). You can use any large piece of hard material as a drawing board, provided that it does’t have any sharp edges, so browse the hardware store for plastic laminate or search for  scrap construction materials. This post is full of more suggestions like this from various alternative sources.

4. Dumpster Dive.

Yes, that might mean literally. I’ve found some beautiful old cigar boxes in dumpsters that now house my paint tubes. But in a more general sense, this just means learn how to scrounge. So start browsing Craigslist and join your local freecycle network. Another benefit of this method is that you’ll become hyper-aware of how wealthy our society is, and how oblivious we must be to throw away perfectly useful things. Talk about building character.

5. Mailing. Lists.

Two words that artists should never forget.

I once heard an artist say that she would wait until Jerry’s Artarama or Cheap Joe’s was having a big sale, and then stock up for a supply that would last her several years. You can’t really do this with paints, which will go bad after a certain point, but this is a great method when you can’t afford to invest at your local art supply store.

6. Share/Collaborate/Commune.

Needless to say, the benefits of being in a community go far beyond sharing art supplies. If you’re able to live in an area with a thriving artists’ community– where they really do hang out together– that’s great. Opportunities to share and trade are at your fingertips. If you live in a more rural area, take advantage of the online opportunities for community. You can start an artists trade with somebody across the the world who has access to different types of art supplies (I’ve always wanted to do a trade with someone in Tokyo, personally), or you can get instructions on how to construct your own pochade box. You can also search sites like Zapp and Art Fair Calendar to see if an art fair is coming to your area. Instant community!

7. Be a networker.

I know that many artists (including myself) can have some anti-social tendencies. Or, to make a more general statement, artists tend to be really bad at marketing themselves. But here’s a good reason to exercise your social skills: it will save you money (at least, indirectly). Last summer I worked for a guy who would often let artists stay on his farm for a few days, join the family barbeque, and paint the beautiful area. The more you network, the more likely you are to meet people like that. Another good tip is to have a computer geek friend, especially one who works for Apple (hel-lo, discount Adobe).

8. Get your paycheck from within the field.

Until your art takes off and makes you Super Rich And Famous, it’s a good idea to work somewhere that benefits your cause. Working in an art supply store or a hardware store will get you some super-helpful discounts. Working in a gallery, on the other hand, will help you with the whole networking thing (see previous note). And don’t rule out working a different trade– working as a glassblower or in a print shop will also help your career in the right direction.

9. Live Simply

or, “Starving Artists Can’t Go Clubbing Every Night”

This is a hard tip to write without sounding preachy… but hey, I already bashed Wal-Mart, so it can’t hurt now! Plus, I know this one from experience: if you’re a college student and an artist, don’t expect to be able to pay for drinks/concert tickets/karaoke every single weekend. You never be able to invest in that Winsor & Newton palette you’ve been drooling over. And despite the (greatly-exaggerated) myth of the drunken and/or insane artist, living a crazy, elaborate, high-maintenance life will take your energies away from making art.

10. Practice over Theory

or, “Put It All to Use”

All the supply-collecting in the world does you no good when you can’t decide what to pack on a weekend trip. The biggest waste of money is letting materials go bad because you’re not using them. Which will happen, especially with things like paints or mediums. Plus, if you’re not using your supplies, you’re missing out on the opportunity to make money off (gasp!) your art.

I Keep Coming Back to the Figure

Sure, the face looks a bit stiff. There’s some problems with the proportions of the head. And I wasn’t expecting Quinacridone Burnt Orange to stain as much as it did… but I’m getting back in the game.

One of the things I’ve been angsting about this summer is how I have yet to develop a signature artistic style. Not having a unique style can really hold an artist back. Without it, you can’t create a unified show to submit to galleries, and you can’t really gain an online following if you’re always spazzing out in a new medium. If you take a look at my portfolio, it looks like five different artists contributed to it. I admit: when it comes to art supplies, giddiness and experimentation often trumps stylistic consistency.

I’ve also given myself a hard time about how often I draw women. Because c’mon, every bloody male artist since the Renaissance has made his career off of scantily-clad white women. And the feminist in me does not want to make money off of naked women. (Not that I’m against naked women…or even making money off of your own nudity. But I am against making money off of other naked women, I think).

Anyways. So that anxiety has caused me to wander through a wide range of styles and mediums, thinking I’ll magically stumble across my strength—my artistic niche—like Jackson Pollock drunkenly spilling that first drop of paint on a canvas.

And yet I keep coming back to the figure. Figure drawing is my strength. It’s what I unconsciously doodle in the margins of my notes. It’s most satisfying to me to figure out how bones and muscle create shadows and curves. Drawing/painting the figure is also a way for me to explore social and political questions about gender, about self-presentation, and about how we view ourselves and each other.

Looks like the ol’ Nature-versus-Nurture debate strikes again. What do you think– do we make our own creative niche?

Rurality in the News

Some of this blog’s overarching themes have been all over the news lately:

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*For the record, a “Western Diet” was defined as one that relies heavily on takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products, and confectionery.

Tell Me, What’s An Artist To Do With A Gift?

No matter what the “answers” are, a good place to start looking is in Lewis Hyde’s “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.” This book, along with Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” is one of the two foundational texts for my ever-evolving ethic of Rurality. Not to mention, it changed my life (you know, how beautiful it is to say that about something without any irony!)

Brief summary, before moving on to the topic of this post

The Gift was published in 1983, and on its journey to becoming a “modern classic” (as described by the back cover), it has been recognized by writers like David Foster Wallace, Margaret Atwood, and Zadie Smith. In fact, (before I ever attended Kenyon or took a class with Lewis Hyde,) I remember Foster Wallace being a bit giddy in one of his essays about Hyde…

Basically, Hyde argues that art (in today’s world) exists simultaneously in two economies: a gift economy, and a market economy. Art’s natural economy is the gift economy– something that emerges from a gift to the artist, and given away by the artist. The gift economy is one that is constantly moving (instead of accumulating, as it happens in a market economy). And of course, because art is a gift and not a commodity, this means that there is nothing in the process of making art that assures an income. Which brings me to…

Act III. The Artist Graduates.

…by which I mean, of course, me. I’ve been trying very hard not to let my angst about graduating seep into this blog– which might explain the lack of text-based posts lately, and the proliferation of image-based posts. In any case, my angst is no different than any student who has chosen a major that doesn’t exactly buy into the market economy. My resume looks something like this:

English Major concentrating in Creative Writing, with a Women’s and Gender Studies Concentration. General Rural Academic has experience in nonprofit work (i.e. Habitat for Humanity) and nonpaying work (i.e. being a Woman Farmer). Also has experience being a freelance artist, but that was before she had to pay her own health insurance. Knows how to buckle down under The System (waited tables in high school) but would rather not do it again. Seeking a creative, collaborative position after graduation, and not in the euphemistic Human Resources sense.

So. What I’ve noticed (as graduation creeps ever-closer) is that even a small liberal arts college like Kenyon is fostering doubts about the legitimacy of a creative person in today’s world. First of all, I’ve never been so busy with meaningless work in my life, which has left almost no time at all for me to research post-grad options. (And to think that college is supposed to help open up options for life after graduation! Sigh.) Second of all, Kenyon functions, at a very foundational level, as a good ol’ boy network– one with strong ties to Wall Street and “old money” alums. As a lower-middle-income woman student, I’ve consistently felt excluded from this networking system. And yet, despite all the evidence that this network would only connect me to corporate positions, I still have a lingering jealousy of the possibilities that rich alums can offer.

What I want is alternatives— the “third option” between selling out and living in poverty –that I know exists, but that the Career Development Center hasn’t been able to help me explore. In fact, the Career Development Center is fairly mystified as to why I would want an alternative path.

Not Quite a Solution

So I am spending this spring break writing, and reading, and making art– and flailing around the internet for futures. It’s funny how I feel so open to a thousand different possibilities, and yet researching job websites on the internet is making me feel closed-minded. Wanting to do something subversive? Something creative? Something that I might feel passionately about? …Well that’s just unheard of.

…but if you do hear of anything, drop me a line.


Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

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