Monday, October 16, 2017

The Art is Up


Just 6am here on the northern California coast...the sun isn't up yet and already I feel the chaos of the week's impending work beginning to chip away at my weekend calm. I'm stealing a few minutes though from my horrendously long "to do" list and tapping out this post so you all don't think I've disappeared for good.

This year's show is up on the wall and it looks amazing (if I do say so myself!) In years past, I reserved the main display wall for all new work and kept any older pieces separate on other walls around the store. This year, however, I combined the 27 new pieces I created in the past 12 months with nearly 30 older works which produced a huge, full display representing seven different series I've worked on in the last six years including Figmenta, Sparks of Madness, The Motley Menagerie, Ornithological Oddities and the three newest series The Lost Aesops, Class of '25, and Figments of the [Scientific] Imagination. 
The official "opening" was last Friday and it went well. Someone anonymously left flowers and several co-workers came out to support me. Lots of people came and looked at my art. I'm not a lover of limelight but it feels nice to be seen every so often and it is healthy to make an effort to be seen every so often as well. Art teaching & art making are my life's purpose and passion. This annual show is my opportunity to really shout that out to the world.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Patience, Dear Readers

Every time I think "OK...now I'll sit down to blog" something comes up that drags my body and attention away from the writing desk. This week, I'm traveling with the entirety of my school's 5th through 12th grade student body (about 75 kids) to Ashland, Oregon for our annual pilgrimage to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Next week, it is a return to the classroom for the last three weeks with the Wildlings as well as a frantic final push in the studio as my show has to go up onto the wall by October 7th. Forgive me, dear readers. I have emails to respond to and lots of posts to write but time eludes me. (And if the past is any sort of reliable resource, sleep will be in short supply the next four days as well.) Rest assured that I think of you all often and that I will send out some smoke signals from Lost Coast Post as soon as I can...

EDIT: I'm going to give blogging-on-the-road a try for the next four days via my Instagram account which is @lostcoastpost 

Not promising anything monumental (or even consistent) since my first attention is to work & the students but I think Instagramming could be a interesting supplement to the more long-winded approach to my art life that you find here at LCP. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Adventures in Teaching: 11 Wildlings, 1 Fair-Haired Girl-Child, and Me

There have been so many fun & exciting (and yes, utterly exhausting) changes in my work life beginning with the onset of the new school year just a few weeks ago. First of all, I am now an official "artist-in-residence" at my school, Laurel Tree Charter School. Essentially, this means that I not only teach art to students but also provide workshops and/or individual assistance for staff members who want to infuse lesson plans with a bit of art. I float around the school grounds, inside and out, looking for ways to add art to beautify & inform. Right now, this mostly manifests in the form of bulletin boards but in the future, I'd like to create a sculpture & fairy garden walk as well as bright, colorful, whole school collaborative art projects. Basically, I get to add "professional art fairy" to my resume. So awesome!

In addition, this year's art program is substantially different from years past. I began teaching art at Laurel Tree Charter School 12 years ago as a volunteer when the school's art program was entirely on Friday mornings. Each year, I developed two or three art classes, as did three or four other teachers in other subjects (such as music, crafts, and dance) and the middle school students signed up for what they desired. (You could call it a "required art elective" day.) After a few years of that, I moved into the regularly weekly schedule by integrating art into the middle & high school English curriculum.

Around January/February of this year, Laurel Tree began development of a forest kindergarten program and that seemed to simultaneously trigger a new concept for our first through eighth grade students. We've long operated with the twin guiding principles of social justice and environmental stewardship. We've worked hard to get students outside and into the surrounding community, fostering connections to each other and the world-at-large. So by the end of the 2016-2017 school year, a new yearlong program had developed that features five different class offerings to fill our afternoons: Edible Education, Community Classes, Theater/Music, Watershed Adventures, and my contribution: Elemental Art. All students, first through eighth grade will attend each of these classes (in 7-week rotations) at some point in the school year. The program name? "Laurel Tree Wild," something I had started calling this concept early on in order to create a bulletin board. The name stuck and now, here we are as Laurel Tree Wild is in full swing.

For me, this means several new things: 1) art at Laurel Tree now has its own stand-alone class during the main school week, 2) I get to share (and decorate) an actual classroom, and 3) I am teaching art to primary grade students on my own (for more than just a one time class) for the first time ever in my teaching career.

So...Elemental Art...what does that entail? First and foremost, I wanted to develop a program that taught the elements of art - line, shape, value, form, space, texture, & color - for younger students and the principles of design for older students. I also wanted to incorporate some sort of connection to the outside world in keeping with the main focus of the Laurel Tree Wild mission. After a lot of brainstorming, note-taking, and lesson gathering, I decided that each of my five rotations would use one of the four elements of life - water, fire, air, earth - as the central inspiration for art projects and materials. (The fifth and final rotation will incorporate all four elements.) For example, in my first rotation, "Water," which runs until October 20th, most of the projects feature some sort of water creature, from purely imaginary to inspired by real life. We are also using watercolor a great deal. Whenever possible and appropriate, all rotations will have projects & lessons outside. The school garden is right outside my classroom door so it is easy to connect to that natural inspiration when we need it.

The student groupings change every seven weeks, alternating between "littles" (1st through 4th) and "middles" (5th through 8th) with the last rotation made up of a mixed age group of littles and middles. I began on September 5th with my first group, "Water" and 12 primary students: 11 boys and 1 girl. Let's pause just for a moment and consider that...a dozen young, ever-in-motion bodies and minds, who need to be wrangled for almost two hours to focus on art projects. 11 of those wild creatures are boys (my "Wildlings",) who, at the elementary school level are a fascinating and frustrating mix of vulnerability and fearlessness with a rousing dose of stubbornness tossed in for good measure. And then there is the lone girl-child - appropriately named Daisy - who is fair-haired, delicate but strong, tiny but mighty, especially in her ability to hold her own amongst a pack of Wildlings. 

These past few days have been challenging and not without some rough spots. The first week always brings boundary-testing and button-pushing (no matter the age group.) We spend a lot of time learning about each other: the students learn my classroom do's & don'ts and I learn where each child is in their art interests & abilities. After my first day, I came home at 4pm, utterly exhausted, sat down on the couch, and woke up the next morning. Even if I do manage to stay awake after work, not much else gets accomplished including chores, cooking, appointments, my own art, and blog posts. I hope as time passes, I'll be able to find a better balance between exhaustion and all the other things I want & need to do on a daily basis. For now, I basically teach and sleep four days a week (or alternately, stare blankly at the television screen.)

Teaching art to primary students is vastly different than teaching middle and high school-level kids. Attention spans are shorter, bodies are busier, emotions less in control, fine motor abilities still developing. We work in small chunks of time - no greater than 20 minutes in one shot - with lots of breaks. Halfway through class is what I call "intermission," in which I open the door to our school garden and let the horde run wild. After 10 minutes, they have let off just enough energy to return to their art and finish up their work. Once the weather turns more inhospitable for outdoor time, I'll need to have indoor activities planned but for now, I can turn them loose into the sun & fresh air.

While I am bone tired almost every day now, I am also incredibly inspired. It is so lovely to work with littles, to witness their ability to simply dive into a project without hesitation. One Wildling likes to doodle "I love art!!!!!" (liberal exclamation points included) inside whatever image he is creating. Another Wildling can't sit down when he works so he stands instead and bounces along with every mark on the paper, providing a constant singsongy tune for good measure. Every student colors with wild abandon and yet, can thoughtfully describe their drawings, weaving elaborate (and extensive) explanations and narrations that are spellbinding. Ultimately, I know that all this inspiration will weave itself into my own work. I can't wait for the energy to make that happen!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Back to Posting Soon...

...I promise. New posts are coming...I just have to survive this first week back to teaching with all the changes it has brought. Ditto on email replies...if you've emailed me in...oh...say the last month or two and haven't heard back...yep...that far behind...maybe more. *deep breath* I haven't forgotten about you all...it is just that 12 primary boys (1st grade through 4th) and one tiny, quiet, sweet-as-pie girl child thrown into that chaotic mix have my undivided attention at this moment. Will report from the trenches once I dig my way out.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Only a Matter of Time

If you've been following along over the last four years with my ongoing series inspired by vintage yearbook photos, you probably knew it was only a matter of time before those characters leapt from the sketchbook to the wall. I could feel it too. Mesmerized & enchanted, I keep returning to these greyscale faces, reading their descriptions, examining their clothes, looking into their eyes after their gaze toward the future was frozen on film. I've rendered those visages of yesteryear in many ways and I have yet to grow tired of their inspiration. As time passed, I began to wonder about elevating my efforts from playful doodles to more formalized paintings that I could show.

A little over a year ago, I made my first foray into bringing these portraits to canvas. At that time, I thought maybe I would also use vintage mug shots as reference. Combining portraiture with my enduring love of monsters resulted in this first attempt. While I personally love this painting (and others encouraged me to forge ahead,) ultimately I let fear still my brush. At the time, I was preparing for my 2016 show and I needed to build an inventory of work suitable for sale. I didn't think this particular idea would have much market value. That, by the way, is a terrible reason for giving up on an idea. Art doesn't have to match the couch or always be pretty and/or suitable for mass consumption. I confess, though, to occasionally forgetting this rule-of-thumb when time and courage grow short. However, all in all, it is always best to create for yourself first and the walls of others second.

I didn't return to canvas until this past April when I experimented with Dura-Lar Wet Media Film attached to canvas. While I had previous used and loved this technique on index card-sized portraits, I wasn't as enamored with it on a larger scale. So again, I set aside the notion of canvas portraits.

Fast forward to the present: My annual show is  due to hang the first week in October. Up to this point, every canvas I've completed features some sort of animal. A couple weeks ago, it seemed obvious that the show would, in fact, center around animals. I tend to be very rigid about my shows: all the pieces are rendered with the same technique on the same type of substrate and have a unifying palette and subject matter. I've always done it this way even though I actually love shows with a diverse - even eclectic - variety of pieces.

And then, a lightning bolt of inspiration struck. I looked at these small, 5x7-inch oval canvases I had bought - once destined for small animal portraits - and knew exactly what they needed to become instead. I made one and there was no going back.

Behold my new series "The Class of '25":

I have zero idea how they will mesh with everything else I've already painted and even less idea about how they will be received at the show. This time around, I don't care. I am making them because I love them. Others might love them as well. I hope they love them enough to purchase one or two. However, if the entire Class of '25 comes back home with me at the end of October, it will be fine as they already have a lasting place in my heart.

NOTE: To see my previous yearbook portrait work, simply type "yearbook series" in the "Search" box in my blog sidebar (Look for "Find Buried Treasure!" right above my photo and "About Me" link.)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

This One's For You, Peggy Jo

Back in April, when I debuted my series "Alley Cats & Junkyard Dogs" for my October show, dear reader Peggy Jo emailed to say she'd like to send me pictures of her beloved dog Tuff as painting inspiration. I, of course, said "Yes, please!" and soon, the sweetest photos of Peggy Jo & her companion popped into my inbox. I held on to those pictures and in recent weeks, finally got to use Tuff as my model for an 8x8-inch canvas. Now, bear in mind that Tuff is not bright orange; in real life he is all sorts of shades of lovely gray and he is also much more congenial-looking...not a snaggletooth or irritable glare in sight. However, Peggy's photos were an incredible reference for painting a truly hairy dog, something I had not attempted up to this point. And I will always carry with me the story behind this piece. Thank you Peggy for reaching out and sharing your devoted companion!

UPDATE: Apparently Tuff does have a snaggletooth! So funny that I couldn't see one in his photos but just assumed he needed one. It is also important to note that Tuff was paid in Greenies for his modeling gig. Fair pay for a fair day's work I always say!

(Note: In this photo, I was still working on detailing the hair so he's almost but quite complete here.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Elephant and the Songbird

Here's the final version of the latest Lost Aesop painting I previewed last post: "The Elephant and the Songbird." This was a fun one to paint and I am in love with this color scheme.

The original Aesops' fables were mini morality plays starring all sorts of animals, birds, and even insects. At the end of each story, a summarizing, one-sentence moral was provided (in case the lesson wasn't already clear.) For all of these paintings, I have a moral in mind but I am keeping that secret; I want each viewer to find his/her own moral in the painting. I'm curious...what moral do you see here? (Just for fun, try to encapsulate your moral in a single sentence.)

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Mad Scramble

Now is the time when a return to work, prep for the October show, and continued healing from surgery come crashing together with a great flurry of activity inside the studio and out. As summer winds down, I scramble madly to utilize the uninterrupted free time available to me. I am woefully behind (can't actually remember when I was ever ahead) and sometimes I feel the pressure and stress like a smothering weight upon my chest. I juggle lesson planning, sample & step-out making, painting, doctors' appointments, and physical therapy, all while trying to fit in some down time before school resumes.

The show goes up the first week in October and I know that when I go back to teaching, I'll only be able to manage small pieces so I have been working on a few larger canvases since the beginning of August. After moving rather happily and briskly through the first two works in my "Lost Aesops" series, I stalled on completing the third with the intervention of surgery recovery into my daily life. Once I was able to sit with my foot down for more than 15 minutes at a time, I got back to painting. I finished that third canvas (which I'll share in the next couple of days) and surprised myself by launching into the fourth canvas I had visualized in my sketchbook. Titled "The Elephant and the Songbird," it has a bit of exotic flair with lots of rich teals, warm quinacridones, and golden yellows. As my Parkinson's tremor is progressing, I painted much of this sitting on my left hand to minimize the impact of its constant shaking on my right/dominant side. It is getting harder and harder to manage this type of high detail work and I think perhaps in a year or so, I might not be able to do it at all. However, no sense in mourning that which I haven't yet lost so I continue to plunge onward through life, flinging paint and wielding pencils. My days are often hectic, sometimes frustrating but always rewarding in some way.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Blind Contour Yearbook Friends

Last week, Tammy of Daisy Yellow did a live stream on Instagram, demonstrating blind contour portraiture on index cards. I was subsequently inspired to do a few of these portraits myself using my old friends from Hughes High School's Class of '25 as subjects of my wonky portrait play. I actually do blind contour drawing almost every year with my middle school students as a drawing warm-up/"getting to know each other" game and it always generates smiles and giggles. However, I forget to do these myself so I was grateful to Tammy for the reminder to relax and get silly. 

These are in a Stillman & Birn hardcover Beta sketchbook; I finally finished Volume 1 of Sparks of Madness so it's time to start Volume 2! I drew from the reference photos (mostly without peeking,) colored with Tombow markers, and then added a few more details with a fine point technical pen.

Quick, fun, and betcha can't do just one!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

One-Day Sale at Society 6

Heads Up: 

Society 6 is running a 1-day sale Sunday July 23 starting at midnight PST and running all day until 11:59 pm PST. This is probably their best deal: 20% off everything AND free shipping. There are many fantastic artists at Society 6 offering their art printed-on-demand on a wide variety of products. Society 6 handles printing, shipping, and payments and artists get a small cut of the sales generated. I'm there too with my mixed media owls on a small selection of items and as of today, this pretty, energetic flower print as well. I particularly love the canvas pouches but you can find all sorts of gift and home decor items. Interested in supporting Lost Coast Post? Click here to beam on over to my Society 6 shop. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Studio Beckons

I didn't mean for so much time to lapse between posts but I am, for once, trying to let my body's [irritatingly slow] healing process take the lead. I've had much more fatigue, pain, swelling, and bruising with this surgery; three weeks post-op and my foot is still not ready to come down off the elevated pillows for long periods of time. I am returning to the studio by degrees though and dabbling in a little bit of everything for as long as I can tolerate it. There's not much time left now in my summer break and I am overwhelmed with preparations for a brand-new art program and teaching focus at work come September. (I'll write more about those exciting developments soon.) In addition, my annual October art show is looming so there is certainly no shortage of stuff to do. 

Healing from surgery has its ups & downs and some days, it's more down than up. However, if I manage to spend even 15 minutes at my studio table, I remember that art makes everything better. Life isn't perfect but it can be colorful, playful, and creative. I can't wait to get back to doing and teaching art at my usual pace.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Road Bump, Not a Road Block

So I lost a lot of sleep last night over this stupid Photobucket screw-over but this morning, I woke up with ideas and resolve. Sometimes what feels like a dog pile needs to be interpreted as a kick in the ass from the universe. I've been dithering over creating a website for years, mostly because I felt leaping from a blog to an official website meant I was taking real ownership of my "artisthood" and deep down, I wasn't sure I was worthy of such a designation. Enough already: it is time to set aside reservations and claim my space in the wider world of professional artists.

The real anxiety-producing issue is that this new challenge is really poorly timed: I am still early in my post-op recovery (not able to drive so that makes life extra inconvenient) and I am in the middle of preparing for huge, exciting changes in work this fall. Somehow I am going to have to fit in preserving my blog archive, pulling 1550+ photos off of Photobucket, and building a website from the ground up. Cue hair-pulling and sense of overwhelm! Luckily, I had already been dabbling in Wix for work. It is mostly drag & drop designing so it might not be as difficult as I fear.

In the meantime, I'll be uploading photos directly to Blogger. There are size & storage limits and Blogger has an annoying "auto resize" feature but it'll do for now. I'll have to find a different option for hosting videos...maybe I'll just post to YouTube and temporarily drop the idea of a more formalized online class. I think the best solution will be a central website where I can have a blog (hopefully with all my past posts,) photo gallery, and shop/class site. It will just take time which is in pretty short supply right now. *breathe*

I deeply appreciate all your love and support! I have tried to live as if obstacles thrown in my way - whether they are health issues, financial restrictions, or crooked corporations - are just annoyances to be conquered, road bumps rather than road blocks. The ride might get rough and but I will continue onward.

PS: Here's another great article on what Photobucket is doing to its customers.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Photobucket Issues & How This Space Is Affected

For the eleven years that Lost Coast Post has been a blip on the internet, I have used Photobucket to host my photos. I upload my edited photos to the service, get a link, and then when I write a blog post, I embed that link in the post so the photo shows up. In short, Photobucket stores the pictures and allows 3rd parties (i.e. Blogger) to access those photos.

Well, as of July 6, 2017, Photobucket has decided to deny 3rd party hosting/linking to all but the most expensive plan. My account was up-to-date and in good standing before the change so I can continue to link to Photobucket until May 2018. At that time, I will need to pay $400 per year (due in one lump sum) to have Photobucket host my photos. If I don't pay, all photos in my blog will disappear and be replaced with the Photobucket logo and a "Unable to View" notice. And in case you were wondering, no warning was provided to customers; I was made aware of this issue via another blogger and had to go digging through Photobucket's site to find information on this issue. I'm sure they buried this huge policy change because they knew it would anger a great many people.

As you might imagine, I find this situation outrageous and financially impossible. Photobucket is going to cut off access to my photos, even ones I uploaded and linked to under plans that allowed 3rd party hosting when I paid for them. I will have private access to my photo library (theoretically) so I can download them but there will be no links available. There was zero heads-up on this policy change. In addition, in recent months the Photobucket site has been riddled with technical difficulties. Just today, when I tried to log into my account to upload pictures for a fresh blog post, I got stuck in an endless log-in loop. Half the time, I cannot even access the service I paid for.

Bottom line, this change means two things: 1) I need to find another way to store/host photos for the blog and 2) I will have to go back through almost 1000 blog posts, replacing blocked photos. I will need to download the original photo from my Photobucket library (if I can't find it in my archives,) re-upload to another site, and then replace the disabled link with a working link. Often times, this will mean restructuring the post itself. In addition, if you read through the endless pages of users' angry comments on the Photobucket site, a vast majority are having difficulty simply accessing and downloading their photo libraries. I have each and every one of my 1500+ photos on Photobucket saved elsewhere but it will be intensely time-consuming to dig through all my archives. I have some time to do this but it is a tremendous amount of work to add into my already chaotic life. I will just have to work on the problem bit by bit.

I am asking you, my beloved readers, to please be patient when this whirlwind hits. I am, in this very moment, trying to find an alternative to Photobucket (Google Photos?) so I can stop uploading to Photobucket immediately. (There's no point in continuing to use the service - even though I just renewed my plan a month ago - if access to those photos will be cut off eventually anyway.) I am looking into creating a website, purchasing a domain etc to see if perhaps that would be a better option. I am also considering Patreon.


I love Lost Coast Post and will continue as long as I am physically and financially able.
Please understand that I live on a shoestring budget and I cannot, in any way, add huge new bills into my budget just to be able to blog. Give me some time to see if I can figure out alternatives but be prepared for changes. I treasure your support of my art life and hope you will continue to show up for my art and ramblings wherever they may be found. This particular space will NOT close up shop unless I simply cannot find an easy, reliable, and affordable way to host photos for my posts.

How You Can Help:
1) Suggest photo hosting sites. Photo sharing sites that have reliable, affordable 3rd party hosting rules are hard to find.

2) Suggest alternatives to having a blog here at Blogger...website perhaps? Has anyone ever used Wix to build a website? (Keep in mind I am not super techno-savvy nor do I have a lot of extra time/energy to get that way.)

3) Check out Patreon...would you be interested in supporting me on Patreon? (For say $2 - $5 per month to read blog posts/see art...more for access to how-to/videos etc) It is totally OK if you can't but it would be nice to get a feel for what people think of Patreon. I have considered it in the past but always assumed I wouldn't garner much support in that particular format.

4) Tell me to breathe and not panic...

5) Stick close because I have more art to share and will do so as soon as I find even a temporary fix.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Art Always Finds a Way Through

Taking stock,
Leaving a digital post-it note
To reference later
When things get tough:


I've had 11 benign masses removed to date
(All but two from my feet.)
No guarantees that a 12th won't arise.
I've lost three bones from my right wrist
And subsequently had that wrist completely fused
With bone dug out of my hip.
My left radius has been shortened.
Two tendons have been released via scalpel,
One in my wrist, one on a toe.
I've gained two titanium plates
And 12 screws.
For variety,
April 2013 brought a diagnosis of
Young Onset Parkinson's,
Solving a decade of mystery symptoms.
Sprinkle in a few migraines each month
And I am a limping, shaking, painful mess.
And yet,
I am still standing.
(Not right now
But soon.)
Art always finds a way through.

And with the art comes
Joy, 
Fulfillment,
Connection,
Communication,
Triumph.

From their sick beds,
Fragile & failing
But fearless,
Henri & Frida showed me the way:
I will tremor,
I will hurt,
I will be constrained
But as long as I reach for my art
I will always be free.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Home Resting

Home from the hospital this morning after my foot surgery on Tuesday. I have three separate incisions on my left foot as my surgeon had to work on three different issues. He encountered some abnormal tissue deep in my foot surrounding the largest fibroma (in my arch) and was unable to do any internal stitching there. So only the surface of my foot is stitched together.  This means I have to be extra careful with weight-bearing as the wound is more prone to bleeding and opening. Of the six foot surgeries I've had now, this is easily the most painful and just might be in the top five most painful of the 13 procedures I've had so far.

I'm giving myself a little time to spend mostly sleeping and watching TV and then I am going to try and get back into the swing of life as fast as my foot healing allows. I might have to take things a bit slower than in the past but I just need to keeping reminding myself that I always get through.

In art-related news, I actually managed to film 3/4ths of a class before the surgery! I filmed how to gut a book and recover it. It isn't perfect but it is a start. Once I can climb a chair again (so I can focus the tripod-mounted camera above my head,) I'll film the last part on how to bind in your own signatures. What I did record will give me some footage to edit. I also took more pictures of my journal pages so I'll have images to pair with posts in the coming weeks. So give me a little time for a few long naps and I'll be back more regularly in this space.

Note: The picture here was taken at my staff retreat in Junction City, CA. Lots of oddball issues with the vacation home our school had rented for this event as well as a week of 100+ degree weather but it was definitely pretty to look at.
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