The New Year is always a time of reflection and intention. While the turn of the calendar year creates an opportunity for new beginnings, it is only a marker of time. The real beginnings start with action toward your intentions. The commitment to doing the work.
With lots of new ideas for the direction I want my business to move toward, I have been overwhelmed with ideas and possibilities. There has been quite a bit of time spent researching areas of interest and ways to move along the path toward new goals. The time planning and researching allows for some distillation to reach the purest form of what I am after. But at some point, you have to stop planning and start doing.
While this can be daunting, it’s important to start the work. It doesn’t all have to be perfectly coalesced before beginning. There’s lots of joy in seeing the progress of a project. And, ultimately, once I am moving in the right direction, it’s easy to go back and fine tune as I move along.
I have a plan for the New Year and I am working to make it a great year. I intend to enjoy every step.
The holidays and year end are jam packed with activities — parties, shopping, cooking, travel and planning for it all. It’s a time of great excitement and reflection and preparation for the New Year to come.
In the midst of all the activity, I try to take a small step back and find something that represents the holiday atmosphere, but is quiet and peaceful.
These antique ornaments are simple and elegant, yet quite fancy. They are heavy iridescent glass with cut snowflake shapes and frosted glass glitter. The smooth surface reflects everything around them and the glitter shapes twinkle. The perfect expression of the holidays.
And hope for the New Year — peace, beauty, simplicity, reflection and a little sparkle.
Personal iconography is an important element in finding a direction for artwork.
This past weekend I was displaying and selling work at a local art show. Lots of people were there and many stopped to talk about the art being shown. One gentleman was admiring my work and mentioned he was an ‘art dabbler’. I was curious about what he did and he showed me some very beautiful leather carving and painting that he created. His work was meticulously executed, but he mentioned that it was not his own design. Then he asked, “How do you come up with your designs?”
I’ve been an artist and teacher for a long time and even experienced artists and students ask this question. It’s common to feel intimated by a blank page or lack of a concrete design idea.
Finding a personal iconography is an important step in creating work that has meaning for you. And it separates the copier from a truly creative artist.
In learning a craft, most people copy designs to learn technical skills and gain mastery of their chosen media. This practice should be just for practice — only to learn skills and never to be sold or viewed as your own design. That leads to the question of how do you create work that is your own?
I always start with what I am comfortable with. I am an avid gardener. Much of my jewelry work is focused on floral motifs. When I am creating jewelry, I almost always begin there. It might be the colors from my garden. Or the shape of a petal. Perhaps the form of a twig. All of the influences from nature are directives in my work.
The influences are played out in many shapes, colors and styles. I’ve created several lines of jewelry based on the same elements. While the underlying inspiration is the same, the visual iconography is different for each. And groupings of visual icons used together help create a visual language that is distinctly mine.
Creating original art from your hand and your mind is what sets artists apart. While many artists use flowers in their work, there’s no mistaking the difference of a Monet flower from a Van Gogh or O’Keeffe or Mapplethorpe. Or a Holly Thomas Stein flower.
Last week I had the very rare opportunity to spend time with much loved friends from long ago. We’ve known each other through boyfriends, weddings, children, divorces and parents. Great joys and great sorrows. And just the everyday stuff of life. We are deeply rooted together by a shared moral compass and set of ethics. We have all been graphic designers and have stayed within the world of creativity as an advertising producer, an interior designer and a best selling author. We’ve moved forward and through life. We still have that great bond that brings us together, however infrequently, and feels as if we haven’t spent a day apart. I am in awe of these friends. They are accomplished and amazing women. Beautiful both inside and out.
The recent months have been both exhausting and exhilarating. We’ve closed our gallery, moved halfway across the country and started a new chapter of our lives in another state. Much of the last couple of months have been about creating a new place to work and live and finding my way in new surroundings.
Despite the boxes that are left unpacked, I have been creating. On a daily basis there has been graphic design, illustration, painting, bookmaking and some jewelry work going on. I am thrilled that it is all starting to come together as a cohesive and related process. Much more about the art than about the media. The work feels unified. And making all of it has been lovely and peaceful.
Lately, I have not been creating much. I am overly busy with the process of selling the house, closing the gallery and studio and getting in as much teaching as possible – all on top of the daily dose of design work and life. A few too many things going on! There has been a little creation. As part of the packing and moving preparation I have found lots of unfinished projects – imagine that! So I have been trying to finish some of them. 20 silver band rings. 5 silver rings with stones. An entire series of silver and resin rings, bracelets and necklaces. A couple of leaf and stone necklaces. All in all, a lot of miscellaneous and varied pieces. It’s been nice to complete some of this work that’s been sitting unattended. While it’s not new work or fresh work, it is satisfying work!
This online class I’ve been taking has got me thinking about color and texture within my work. I tend to like things pretty clean, so lots of layers and embellishments is a hard step for me to take.
Here are two practices. One is taking your hand writing and using it like a font. The other is a play on layers, contrasts and colors.
They’re kind of interesting, but neither is a finished piece. These exercises have offered some insights into possible directions for future illustrations.
I’m finding that for me to just apply paint or media to a piece is not sufficient. Perhaps all those years of being a graphic designer on the computer has offered endless possibilities for tweaking that I can’t keep out of my paintings! I want to keep changing little details. That can be rather tricky when the paint is dry!
The last piece here is a combination of several ideas and lots of different media. It is more controlled because it’s been scanned and layered with more work. I like the results of this and it’s a direction I intend to explore heavily in the future.
This is a project that my Beginning Metals students are doing. The cuff bracelet — made with copper, a brass plaque pierced with flowers and silver rivets — has a retro vibe. The mix of metals is a nice contrast and can be worn with any other jewelry. It’s casual and fun. A good project for a cold winter afternoon!
More advanced students are working on Tube Setting skills. I haven’t done this myself in quite some time, so I thought I’d better experiment and actually do it along with my instruction. It’s good to practice the things you know. And teaching is an excellent refresher.
I love the students I am so lucky to work with. They inspire me every time we get together!
No. 1. since it’s the first in this new exploration of painting and illustration.
Starting a new adventure can be a daunting thing. There are the unknowns, of course. But sometimes, there’s the known entity — me — which makes things a challenge. My natural tendency is to get fired up, fully invested, do things for awhile and then let them fade away. I think it’s a natural tendency, especially if I find that the new pursuit isn’t what I hoped it would be.
So right now, I am working on that aspect of my personality. Make a commitment and stay with it for long enough to make it a habit. My general effort for the year is to be the better part of myself. It’s something I have been working on for quite some time, and as you’d suspect, it’s a challenge!
Anyway, here’s my first illustration.
Some of the techniques and ideas I incorporated from the online class include:
° using under painting to create a basis of color that permeates layers
° being loose — ha!
° working within a set palette from color theory — here, the primary colors
° accepting imperfection as part of the process
° art play as a learning mechanism
Kinda looks like me — maybe the better part of me. So I guess it meets part of the objective. It was a fun painting to do. And didn’t take very long. I like the graphic aspect of it. There are some things I see that maybe I will work on. But as a first step back into illustration, I am happy with the results.
Part of my efforts to create something every day have focused on my desire to get back to drawing and illustration. Art school was more than 30 years ago [gasp!] and a fair amount of the materials have changed since then. Hardly anyone is still using sticks on cave walls anymore.
In making cards and doing collage work, I have started to use some of these new materials, but they tend to be spendy. So, the more informed I can be about the materials before I buy them, the better.
To that end, I have enrolled myself in an online course that emphasizes creativity and looseness, finding your ‘inner voice’ and experimenting with media. It also comes with a lesson [or several] a week to keep you spurred on. The idea is to create a painting a week, bind them into a book at the end of the year and have a record of your creative growth over the course of 52 weeks. Sound like a great creative New Year’s resolution, right?
I hope to use the new techniques and discussion of materials to get back into illustration. Although it sounds like a step way from bringing all my creative endeavors together, I think it will be a great link that unites my efforts. And I am thrilled with this little structured push and inspiration!