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Sketchbooks and Art Journals – New Year, New Start

Travel Sketchbook – “Handbook 5″x 8”

I always start my new year with 2 brand new sketchbooks. A travel sketchbook that I take with me everywhere and a studio book. I wanted to share the books I use because it seems most artists pass over that part. I have tried many, believe me! I like the Global Arts Handbooks for my travel book because they can handle light watercolor and the pages are more matte than the Moleskine books. They also come with the handy back pocket to stash paper in.

Studio Book – “Stillman and Birn – Gamma Series 7″x 10”

I prefer a spiral book for the studio, as it lays flat. I can open it up to sketches and ideas for my paintings and try color combinations out in it easily. I like the Stillman and Birn because the paper is sturdy – 100lb. The Gamma series had ivory paper – the Alpha has bright white, depending on your preference.
My first order of studio business each January is to decorate the covers. Every year, every book is a different expression and document to my continued growth as an artist. I love looking back at my progress and getting excited about old ideas that I can make new again. When I first started this process, I had a lot of blank pages left in the books, but felt it was important to start with a clean slate each year. Now I pretty much fill them up, as they have become a part of my artistic process. I am a big believer in documenting my journey with each piece of art that I make. Most of my ideas for larger paintings come, in some part, from these books and my art journals.
My new favorite art journal to work in is the simple kids books with a stapled spine. You can purchase them for pennies at libraries and used book stores. They lay flat because of the staple binding, are easy to slip into a bag to go to the coffee shop and do not require page removal because they are soft covers. I buy clear vinyl by the yard at Jo Ann’s to make a simple protective cover. I just cut it out, make flaps, tape the edges and slide the book cover in – same way we made covers for our school books (back in the “old” days) If my pages become loose or un-stapled, I just poke holes in the center and bind it with waxed linen. 

The pages wrinkle a bit, but once you add collage to each side and put your book under something heavy over night, they flatten nicely. 
I hope this gives you some ideas for making a creative start in the new year!

Another way to start out the new year would be to join me for :

Unearthing Imaginary Characters

A whole weekend of exploring different ways to “find” your own imaginary characters!

March 10-11, 2018

Way Art Yonder Studio  – San Diego, CA

Going with the flow

Michael Dorman in Patriot

When I put the last mark on a painting, it’s almost never what I expected it to be during the first brushstroke. And I’m usually surprised several dozen times while getting from start to finish by what I’m required to do. So I can identify a bit with the protagonist in Amazon’s original series, Patriot. It’s a funny, poignant, and whimsically Kafkaesque series built around the personality of a sad-sack folk singer whose day job is working in Special Ops for the CIA. Actually, he has two day jobs. The other is his NOC, his non-official cover, as an industrial engineer working in a bleak Rust Belt factory in Milwaukee where he specializes in the “structural dynamics of flow.” In layman’s terms: piping. His company, McMillan, builds conduits for anything and everything, creating perfect circles in a world of epic imperfection, both planetary and human. These indispensable imperfections are what drive the story forward through one entertaining absurdity after another.

The theme of the show is “the structural dynamics of flow,” the principles of moving anything from Point A to Point B, that could apply to both McMillan piping and counter-intelligence. Likewise, Lakeman, with the help of his family and a co-worker, attempts to get $11 million Euros through airport security into Amsterdam and then on its way to Iran via a courier in Luxembourg. (His family cohort includes Cool Rick, Lakeman’s Beastie Boys-obsessed brother, and his father, who presides over most of the action as a seasoned but compassionate “control” who is professionally imperiled by his son’s mistakes.)

Nothing and no one in the show gets from Point A to Point B as planned. McMillan is going bankrupt. The covert payoff is making the rounds of Luxembourg as more and more people try to get their hands on it. The show’s surreal silliness reaches a pinnacle when its protagonist attempts to retrieve the stolen garment bag full of loot from a Brazilian baggage handler. The man has high-tailed it back to his apartment, where he’s rooming with what appear to be half a dozen South American wrestlers. When Lakeman breaks in to steal the bag, the wrestlers, bare-chested and bald—like mutant clones of Vin Diesel—emerge from various doorways and impassively pile atop Lakeman, which evidently is their go-to jujitsu move. The vignette is more like an avant-garde Busby Berkeley number than hand-to-hand combat. There are no Jason Bourne tussles in this show. Lakeman has to stab one of the fighters to get away and finally delivers the money to the Iranian agent. But the Iranian loses the bag to a thieving puppeteer who then gets arrested for stealing a dog collar, and the money ends up in something like a casual evidence room while the puppeteer serves her five days in jail.

In his spare time—yes, he actually has enough of it to write music—Lakeman performs his own folk songs in the manner of Sun Kil Moon, long rambling confessions (I kept waiting for him to say blue crab cakes) that don’t rhyme but are as sad and funny as the show. He appears to be too depressed to recognize or care that he’s doling out highly confidential state secrets as ironic confessional poetry. The dry tone that runs throughout the show’s intentional absurdities becomes most acute when characters start riffing in pipe-speak. It’s the inside gibberish of their profession, which is often hilarious—a nerd’s version of a rapper’s own sort of flow. Here’s an excerpt from one episode’s transcript, the moment in Amsterdam when John’s boss, Leslie, introduces him to the audience assembled in a grand theater, as if for a performance of Beethoven’s late quartets:

And now to explain the core of Donnely nut plate spacing and cracked reconfiguration, my associate, John Lakeman.

(Light applause)

Lakeman: Hey, guys. Hey. Ready to talk plate processing and residue transport plate funneling? Why don’t we start with joust jambs? Hey, why not? Plates and jousts? Can we couple them? Hell, yeah, we can. Want to know how? Get this. Proprietary to McMillan. Only us. Ready? We fit Donnely nut spacing grip grids and splay-flexed brace columns against beam-fastened derrick husk nuts and girdle plate Jerries, while plate flex tandems press task apparati of 10 vertipin-plated pan traps at every maiden clamp plate packet. Knuckle couplers plate alternating sprams from the T-Nut to the S. K. N to the chim line.

Stunned Euro guy in audience: Whoa.

One of the story lines is that Lakeman, the protagonist, has to compete with Stephen, a bright and cheerful Asian applicant for a job at McMillan, which Lakeman must land since McMillan does business in Iran—where he needs to go in order to help stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Lakeman doesn’t stand a chance against Stephen, since Lakeman never quite gets his piping in order, through most of the showSo he leans back on his special CIA training and decides to shove Stephen in front of a bus. As a result of his head injury, Stephen can still do his work at breakneck speed on a laptop, but he needs someone else to actually open the laptop for him, at which point he begins typing furiously and far too productively for Lakeman’s comfort, prompting Lakeman to quietly shut the display, putting both computer and Stephen back into sleep mode.

Stephen’s most serious injury is the loss of his sense of humor. He no longer can make jokes or recognize irony. His therapist is determined to rehabilitate his sense of humor. What’s amusing about this conceit is that the pretty young therapist could just as well have devoted herself to getting Lakeman himself to lighten up. He rarely smiles and never laughs in the series. He executes his mission in a somnambulistic funk, which at times actually becomes useful as a badass numbness, enabling him to kill whoever needs killing, as occasion warrants. The lead actor, Michael Dorman, has a face that looks designed by Gary Trudeau, locked into a rueful, stunned melancholy at the duplicitous life he’s chosen.

In this world, the life of an intelligence operative is hardly romantic, rarely satisfying. Budgets are lean. An administrative aide from Langley can’t even come up with the scratch to buy a chair for Lakeman’s flat. Screw-ups abound and when the agency issues Lakeman a fake Social Security card, there are ten numbers for McMillan HR to choke on, so he nearly loses his job because of one too many digits. There is no Aston-Martin with turrets for headlamps here. He has his wits and a knife, some duct tape and a guitar string, to accomplish his mission.

It’s a beautiful show, full of dolorous slow comedy. Sometimes, the movie’s mannerisms become too whimsically Wes Anderson. One stylistic tic is to present a character’s face in the center of the screen, staring at the camera, often with an architecturally symmetrical backdrop, a practice that grows a little old as you get deeper into the episodes. By the end of the season, Lakeman has achieved deep wisdom in the structural dynamics of flow. As he tells the detective in the final scene, “Wherever you’re going, you’re not going to be able to get from here to there as easily as you think.”

One of the best things about the show is the opening title sequence. As is true of many shows, it’s at least equal or even superior in emotional power to everything in the story. It has the same delicate balance between humor and sadness, a similar wry take on human endeavor as a whole, sending you into a timeless dream state for the semi-pitiful goofiness that ensues. In the case of Patriot, the opening number is a folk song from the 60s, The Train by Vashti Bunyan. It’s lyrics are a kind of simplified version of The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter, the Chinese poem Ezra Pound translated. It plays behind a medley of home-movie clips, which feels like a quiet salute to the opening of The Wonder Years. You see Lakeman—the character’s real name in the show is John Tavner—as a little rambunctious kid risking his health and safety again and again, doing a jig after dismounting from a miniature dirt bike, riding a sheep in a rodeo until he gets slammed into a wall, showing off a missing tooth for the camera, and finally, taking aim at a target with a scoped rifle, maybe steadying himself to shoot a gun for the first time in his life. The sequence ends with the kick of the rifle as he fires, nearly knocking the boy onto his back as the song enters its poignant chorus. The poetry of it is moving and perfectly done. Everything in the story follows from the spirit of that shot.

Artist’s Studies And Day 19 #StradaEasel January Challenge

Its About Doing Studies.

What I’d like to do with today’s article is talk to you about why I do studies.  You might have noticed that I’m called my drawings and paintings for the Strada Easel challenge “studies”.  I’m doing that for a reason: I’m studying!

With this article, I’ll also be current in posting my challenge artwork to date.  They are also posted to my FB page, (personal and professional).

Studies: Day 19 Tea Time-R V2
Day 19 #stradaeasel challenge.

Day 19: Tea Time-R V2.

Today’s study is another version of my Tea Timer-R still life.  I rearranged the objects and lighting.  And, then, I took the composition up a notch by being more deliberate in the placement on the page.  

To explain, with my previous studies for the Strada Easel challenge, I took a simpler approach to placement.  In the back of my head I figured I might crop the study if I wanted to.  Put another way, I was just concerned to get the subject on the paper and complete my painting in a day.  

However, today, I took some time to frame my composition, consider where I wanted space and where I wanted to touch edges.

And, then, I went to it, drawing and painting from life.

Timer: Focal Point.

You might notice that the arrangement made it so the timer is the most important object in the study.  By being the lightest and warmest shape, your eye goes to the timer.  It also has the area of greatest contrast.

So, what if I wanted the teabag to be the center of attention?  Well, I think that might be a good idea for tomorrow’s study.

Studies: Day 13 Lemons
Day 13 #stradaeasel challenge.

Study By Intention.

What is it with all these studies?  Aren’t they paintings?  Well, yes, they might be small paintings.  However, my intentions have been to study.  That is to see, to try things, to experiment, and to discover.

So, how is this different?  Well, I’m not concerned about mistakes.  I allow myself to ask the “what if questions”, then try something out.  Its sort of a free-wheeling, intuitive way to explore subject.  Potentially, some of these studies could lead to a more deliberate painting.

The Difference Between Studies and Show Paintings.

When I do a study, I carry out the drawing or painting only as far as I want to.  When I do a more deliberate painting, something that might be show worthy, it takes a LOT of thought, planning and problem solving.  And, the painting is not complete until I achieve unity.

Picasso Did Studies.

I have had the privilege of seeing Picasso’s painting “Guernica” in the Museo Reina Sofia, Spain’s museum of 20th century art in Madrid.  What struck me was the number of studies that Picasso did in preparation for the grand mural.  Plus, he altered the composition during the painting process.  

The point?  That’s when I realized doing studies was a natural part of the artist’s process.  Its sort of like a musician doing scales or practicing.

Further Reading.

About Picasso’s Process For Guernica, from PBS.

Artist Steve Mitchell’s blog article on doing studies, What Exactly Is A Painting Study.

About Today’s Studies.

I thought I’d catch up on my daily “from life” studies for the January Strada Easel challenge.  

One final thought about doing studies: you can do them pretty much anytime, anywhere!  Isn’t that wonderful?

Studies: Talent Post Office
Day 12 #stradaeasel challenge.

 

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The post Artist’s Studies And Day 19 #StradaEasel January Challenge appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Artist’s Studies And Day 19 #StradaEasel January Challenge

Its About Doing Studies.

What I’d like to do with today’s article is talk to you about why I do studies.  You might have noticed that I’m called my drawings and paintings for the Strada Easel challenge “studies”.  I’m doing that for a reason: I’m studying!

With this article, I’ll also be current in posting my challenge artwork to date.  They are also posted to my FB page, (personal and professional).

Studies: Day 19 Tea Time-R V2
Day 19 #stradaeasel challenge.

Day 19: Tea Time-R V2.

Today’s study is another version of my Tea Timer-R still life.  I rearranged the objects and lighting.  And, then, I took the composition up a notch by being more deliberate in the placement on the page.  

To explain, with my previous studies for the Strada Easel challenge, I took a simpler approach to placement.  In the back of my head I figured I might crop the study if I wanted to.  Put another way, I was just concerned to get the subject on the paper and complete my painting in a day.  

However, today, I took some time to frame my composition, consider where I wanted space and where I wanted to touch edges.

And, then, I went to it, drawing and painting from life.

Timer: Focal Point.

You might notice that the arrangement made it so the timer is the most important object in the study.  By being the lightest and warmest shape, your eye goes to the timer.  It also has the area of greatest contrast.

So, what if I wanted the teabag to be the center of attention?  Well, I think that might be a good idea for tomorrow’s study.

Studies: Day 13 Lemons
Day 13 #stradaeasel challenge.

Study By Intention.

What is it with all these studies?  Aren’t they paintings?  Well, yes, they might be small paintings.  However, my intentions have been to study.  That is to see, to try things, to experiment, and to discover.

So, how is this different?  Well, I’m not concerned about mistakes.  I allow myself to ask the “what if questions”, then try something out.  Its sort of a free-wheeling, intuitive way to explore subject.  Potentially, some of these studies could lead to a more deliberate painting.

The Difference Between Studies and Show Paintings.

When I do a study, I carry out the drawing or painting only as far as I want to.  When I do a more deliberate painting, something that might be show worthy, it takes a LOT of thought, planning and problem solving.  And, the painting is not complete until I achieve unity.

Picasso Did Studies.

I have had the privilege of seeing Picasso’s painting “Guernica” in the Museo Reina Sofia, Spain’s museum of 20th century art in Madrid.  What struck me was the number of studies that Picasso did in preparation for the grand mural.  Plus, he altered the composition during the painting process.  

The point?  That’s when I realized doing studies was a natural part of the artist’s process.  Its sort of like a musician doing scales or practicing.

Further Reading.

About Picasso’s Process For Guernica, from PBS.

Artist Steve Mitchell’s blog article on doing studies, What Exactly Is A Painting Study.

About Today’s Studies.

I thought I’d catch up on my daily “from life” studies for the January Strada Easel challenge.  

One final thought about doing studies: you can do them pretty much anytime, anywhere!  Isn’t that wonderful?

Studies: Talent Post Office
Day 12 #stradaeasel challenge.

 

Share

The post Artist’s Studies And Day 19 #StradaEasel January Challenge appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Experimenting Day! Two Horse Studies: Day 18 #stradaeasel January Challenge

Experimenting With Paper and Paint.

Greetings! Strada Easel challenge day 18 studies are about experimenting.  For my first piece, I decided to try Daniel Smith‘s “Moonglow”, a lovely blend of pigments that make a nice neutral grayish tint.  The experiment?  Getting a feel for how the blend of pigments handles.

This first study was done in a Moleskine Watercolor Notebook.

Experimenting With Daniel Smith Moonglow

Using Horse Models.

My model horses are good for experiments.  That is to say, they’re fun to draw and I never get tired of them.  

Stillman & Birn Nova Series.

Then, an idea struck!  I was recently gifted a sample pack of Stillman & Birn’s new Nova series of toned papers.  And, in the sample pack is black paper that I had yet to try.  

Experimenting with Stillman & Birn Nova Series

Black Paper; Opaque Paint.

Hmmm.  Time to experiment with black paper!  I drew a different model horse “from life” using white colored pencil first.  Then, I used Winsor & Newton gouache and watercolor.  It was great fun!  You see, I am a “newbie” working with gouache and I am still getting a feel for how the paint works.  

I decided to leave the horse shape the black of the paper.  In which case, I needed to do “negative” painting.  That is to say, I painted around the horse shape.   I added a little bit of blue watercolor and opaque Naples yellow watercolor because I’m experimenting, naturally!

Positive and Negative.

So, one horse was painted “positively” – that is I painted the horse and left the background the “color” of the paper.  The other horse, I painted the background and left the horse shape the paper’s color.  Sort of a positive and negative experiment! 

Experimenting: Horse in Acrylic
Day 8 #stradaeasel challenge

Strada Easel Challenge Days 8, 10 & 11.

I’d like to share with you some of the earlier studies for the Strada Easel Challenge.  As stated before, I like experimenting with my horse models.  The possibilities seem endless.  Plus, I have a seemingly life long affection for horses.

Experimenting: Stepping Out Two
Day 10 #stradaeasel challenge.

Note, the first version of the particular horse model is day 7 of the #stradaeasel challenge.

Experimenting: Another Horse Stepping Out

Please enjoy!  And, now, on to day 19!

 

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The post Experimenting Day! Two Horse Studies: Day 18 #stradaeasel January Challenge appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Experimenting Day! Two Horse Studies: Day 18 #stradaeasel January Challenge

Experimenting With Paper and Paint.

Greetings! Strada Easel challenge day 18 studies are about experimenting.  For my first piece, I decided to try Daniel Smith‘s “Moonglow”, a lovely blend of pigments that make a nice neutral grayish tint.  The experiment?  Getting a feel for how the blend of pigments handles.

This first study was done in a Moleskine Watercolor Notebook.

Experimenting With Daniel Smith Moonglow

Using Horse Models.

My model horses are good for experiments.  That is to say, they’re fun to draw and I never get tired of them.  

Stillman & Birn Nova Series.

Then, an idea struck!  I was recently gifted a sample pack of Stillman & Birn’s new Nova series of toned papers.  And, in the sample pack is black paper that I had yet to try.  

Experimenting with Stillman & Birn Nova Series

Black Paper; Opaque Paint.

Hmmm.  Time to experiment with black paper!  I drew a different model horse “from life” using white colored pencil first.  Then, I used Winsor & Newton gouache and watercolor.  It was great fun!  You see, I am a “newbie” working with gouache and I am still getting a feel for how the paint works.  

I decided to leave the horse shape the black of the paper.  In which case, I needed to do “negative” painting.  That is to say, I painted around the horse shape.   I added a little bit of blue watercolor and opaque Naples yellow watercolor because I’m experimenting, naturally!

Positive and Negative.

So, one horse was painted “positively” – that is I painted the horse and left the background the “color” of the paper.  The other horse, I painted the background and left the horse shape the paper’s color.  Sort of a positive and negative experiment! 

Experimenting: Horse in Acrylic
Day 8 #stradaeasel challenge

Strada Easel Challenge Days 8, 10 & 11.

I’d like to share with you some of the earlier studies for the Strada Easel Challenge.  As stated before, I like experimenting with my horse models.  The possibilities seem endless.  Plus, I have a seemingly life long affection for horses.

Experimenting: Stepping Out Two
Day 10 #stradaeasel challenge.

Note, the first version of the particular horse model is day 7 of the #stradaeasel challenge.

Experimenting: Another Horse Stepping Out

Please enjoy!  And, now, on to day 19!

 

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The post Experimenting Day! Two Horse Studies: Day 18 #stradaeasel January Challenge appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Muddy Colors: Day 17 Tea Time-R*

Muddy Is Good.  Day 17, #stradaeasel Challenge.

Greetings!  Today’s muddy color study is Day 17 of the #stradaeasel challenge.   I was pleased with the grays I used today and thought I’d share with you how I achieved these subtle colors.

Muddy Color: Tea Timer

The Set Up.

To begin with, today’s still life set up was gray.  What to do?   Just thinking; all that gray.

Muddy Color: Gray Still Life

 

Dirty Palette.  

As I pondered what colors to combine to create my gray, muddy color, I looked at my palette.  It is rather dirty and probably ought to be cleaned off.  

Dirty Palette = Muddy Palette

But, wait, why not find my gray here?

So, that’s what I did: touch paint here, mix paint there and, voila, I have warm gray (brownish) mud or cool, bluish gray mud.  

Mud next to mud can be lovely, I think.

Still Muddy Palette.  

I must say, it was fun.  However, my palette is still not clean; it rarely is.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll give it a clean.  Or not.  I may need a muddy palette again!

Catch Up Time:  Day 9. 

Keeping with the theme of tea, I’d like to share the study for Day 9 of the #stradaeasel challenge.

Teabags

  

*Tea Time-R

The title reminds me of a computerized tee time call in system for golf courses my husband developed back in the 1990s.  It was called the “Tee Timer”.  

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Inspiration: Hot, Sweet And Sour, Days 16, 15 & 14 #stradaeasel January Challenge

Greetings!

Its Day 16 and I’d like to talk about inspiration!  To explain, I have been plugging away at the Strada Easel 31 Days in January Challenge.  Looking at all I’ve done, I thought it might be a good idea to start grouping some of the paintings together in order to eventually post all 31 works.  

With today’s grouping, I can share a bit about where I find inspiration.

inspiration: sweet and sour version 2
Day 16, #stradaeasel challenge.

Variations On A Theme.

“Sweet and Sour V2” is today’s piece.  As the name implies, I did a version 1 as well, that is what the “V” is about.

Inspiration: Sweet and Sour
Day 15, #stradaeasel challenge.

Ideas Inspire More Ideas.

What I’d like to tell you about is how I am coming up with the more recent pieces.  It is case of one painting inspiring the next.  In this situation, I have been thinking of phrases or titles that match the items I have available for still life set ups.  

For example, “sweet and sour” popped in my head while I was doing “hot and sour”.  Regarding “hot and sour”, I really don’t remember what I was doing in the kitchen, but, again, the idea struck me.  I think its because I am in the groove of pairing odd things and am receptive to inspiration.  Its sort of an on-going brain storming of ideas.

Inspiration: Loosey-Goosey Thinking.

This all seems sort of loosey-goosey, so I think I’ll try to explain this in a different way.  When one is working in a series, you seem to create conditions that encourage ideas and inspiration.  

For me, I’m almost constantly thinking about my little still life set ups.  So, its natural that one would lead to another.  I just have to look at an object and then I try to figure out how to get it to fit into my series of still life setups.

In any case, I hope you enjoy these three paintings.

Inspiration: Hot & sour
Day 14: #stradaeasel challenge.

 

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Assessing the Impact of Artistic Activism

Based on nearly a decade of interviews with nearly sixty artistic activists, and a thorough review of the critical and organizational literature, the C4AA is proud to present our extensive report on Assessing the Impact of Artistic Activism.

Download pdf Summary: Assessing the Impact of Artistic (Summary)

Download pdf Full Version: Assessing the Impact of Artistic Activism

Kay Myer Illustrates New Book, “Toadface”!

Toadface, cover art by Kay Myer for book by Sandra Phoenix

Kay Myer just sent us the lovely and endearing cover art she created for Sandra Phoenix’s new book, “Toadface.” She has also created illustrations which appear throughout the book. We do not have those illustrations, which does make the book that much more enticing to purchase. Congratulations on a great job, Kay!