I wanted to send you all a quick update about my new shirt designs. I am going to be running a one-week promotion as I release each of the new designs this month, starting with the Manatees tee. Beginning today and ending next Thursday, if you type in the coupon code: MANATEEPROMO you will receive 20% off your purchase.
I keep my favorite Micron drawing pens in an old cigar box along with some India ink and my watercolors. Screen-printed and stenciled, the larger of my two sketchbooks features a vintage snake-and-bird pattern that I glued to the cover, and wouldn’t you know, creatures big and small crowd the rumpled pages. When I start making sketches, I usually don’t have anything specific in mind and what happens is very much influenced by my mood and concentration on any given day. I keep a stockpile of photographs to pull from and usually sit down with the intent of creating something representational.
On a good day, I’m completely dialed into the photograph and my pen and paper (I never draw with a pencil); the lines that are created are deliberate and fluid. Usually a pattern will emerge. Other days my sketches are impatient; the lines are fickle, loose, and chaotic. I can tell immediately what kind of day it is, depending on my focus. However, even on those days when my focus wavers and my work is not up to my own standards, the information that I gather from the exercise is useful. So when I sit down to sketch out a new design or drawing, I have to grant myself the freedom to explore the idea or subject fully and without expectations. The biggest challenge is my own fear of failure – the failure to create something good or beautiful. I have to work through it.
Once I have a solid design or work of art, then it is time to work on the actual design. There are three things that I focus on to begin with: composition, color, and placement. Obviously many of these issues have already been dealt with on paper or canvas, but when designing for a shirt, there are certain additional restrictions to keep in mind, such as size of the design (it has to fit onto a screen), placement on the shirt (you can’t print over a seam!), and the number of colors (anywhere from one to four). Preserving the linework in my sketches can be a bit tricky, especially since I often use crosshatching techniques to create shadows and tonal range in my drawings. It takes time and adjustment to get it right.
Here are a couple side-by-side comparisons of new designs and the original sketch, watercolor drawing, or painting from which they are derived.
I hope these get you excited about my new designs for the spring. I can’t wait to burn these onto screens and print up some test shirts!
Upon Viewing the Forces of Nature Exhibition, Halsey Gallery, Charleston, SC October 2006
A white wall illuminates a centered slice of tree. Concentric rings coil out to infinite ranges; warping, with each, age and might. The heavy brown and knotted bark deepens to story. Thread winds freely, tracing the solid rings – it spirals out like the spider’s web, mapping the meat of the tree’s life. In dark bindings, a book with gaping holes of measured circles waits. The black print, missing in chunks, fades into the design. The knowledge peels away – layered. The words, their pressed meaning, hold no more truth for the tree. There is a projected picture, a c-sectioned tree, one with red marker, stepping stones of eroded plaster – white squares – more thread. My mind is like the thread. It twists delicate in a breeze but holds tight to the needle’s eye, driving into the fibers, griping and hemming – Or like sand, sifting & sinking as it conforms itself to the print. The weight of my body rolls heel to toe as I walk among these thoughts, each successive ring between my teeth, eating away at the bone.
The blog destroyed my formatting, but I think it’s actually easier to read this way. To expand on the thoughts of my last post, I felt I should include an example of a poem that I wrote about an art exhibition I found to be particularly compelling and insightful. This poem and the photograph pictured above (which is one of mine) have been instrumental in creating Forest and Fin and also inspired my wood panel painting series back in 2009. I think it gets to the heart of what I mentioned in my last post: the interaction of imagery included in this particular art exhibition paired with descriptive language generated a new idea or association (the thread being like my mind or me chewing on my thoughts as I try to get to the heart of my ideas) that I found inspirational. I found the photos pictured below of the actual exhibition on Flickr here to give you a little context. The Halsey Gallery has this to say about the exhibition: This unique exhibition was a grand collaboration between seven institutions in North and South Carolina and ten contemporary Japanese artists. The artists lived in the Carolinas for six-week residencies, creating work using natural materials or processes and were installed at their host institutions. You can read more here.
These three photographs from their Flickr gallery show some of the specific detail that I mention in my poem below:
*These three photographs are from the “Force of Nature: The Exhibition” Flickr group.
Nothing like a clean studio, freshly painted bare walls, and an empty canvas to release a burst of creative energy. I’ve been spending about six days a week in my new studio. Even though I feel like I am behind on everything, I am definitely getting a great deal accomplished in my new space and it feels wonderful to be painting on canvas again. I am like a kid at Christmas staring at a freshly stretched canvas; the possibilities are endless and exciting. I used my first painting to stretch my hand-eye coordination and put my skills to the test. I chose to work from a photograph that I took a few months ago at the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw, SC. A good friend of mine volunteers out there every weekend and took me inside some of the cages to get a closer look at the occupants. This baby owl is imprinted, meaning she is familiar with humans and cannot be released into the wild. She is a Savigny’s Eagle Owl (Bubo Ascalaphus), and I thought her fluffiness would be a great challenge for me. I am not quite finished with her (and this is an early photograph of the work), but sometimes it is good to let a painting sit for while and see what it tells you.
Another reason to let this painting sit a while is because I’ve been feeling a great need to use my work as a vehicle for expression, but I haven’t found my own personal style quite yet, at least not in regards to my works on canvas, and I am not even sure of what I want to say. Up to now, I’ve been working straight from photographs with little deviation, and while it is a completely acceptable way to work, I don’t think that it is particularly insightful or enlightening for me. I have always been drawn to works with elements of abstract or surrealists qualities, as long as there is some recognizable context for the work. I think this urge springs from my creative writing background: I have always loved to write poetry and feel that the process allows me to come to realizations that are both enriching and enlightening. Modern poetry is particularly appealing because it has become acceptable to combine words, ideas, and concepts that are seemingly different, but doing so in such a way that the contrast falls away and a new meaning is formed by subconscious associations within our brain. This new understanding may not even be explainable within the context of language. The best analogy that comes to mind is foreign language translations. We all know that there are phrases in all languages that do not translate well, but sometimes they can be conveyed when combined with a gesture or by associating several related phrases.
When I am writing a poem, I never know where it will take me or what phrase will bring me enlightenment; it is enough to know that, when I find it, I will know. This is what I hope to achieve through art. I want it to bring me closer to these unexpected realizations that are completely unpredictable. After discussing this concept at length with Brian, we both decided that it might be a good exercise for me to write some poetry about my new paintings as I create them, then perhaps I will find the enlightenment that I am looking for. It will also give me a context for my work and hopefully even more direction. Additionally, if I discover something worth sharing, I could consider including it in the actual piece in such a way that it alters the work in a positive manner, giving the viewer some idea of what I am thinking. We discussed screen-printing a phrase, line, or even several lines of poetry onto some of my future paintings or allowing myself a little more freedom with my imagery — a la my sketchbook. In my sketchbook, I often overlap images and draw seemingly unrelated subjects on the same page. In this way I am able to create new associations as I do within my poetry. Perhaps it is time to carry these experiments over to my larger paintings and see what happens.
Also, expect to see more birds! I am on a bird kick, because I have some great photos to work from (from both the Bahamas and from my visit to the Center for Birds of Prey)!
It’s usually not the easiest thing to do, even when it becomes obvious; there are time constraints, the necessary need for money, and societal standards to “live up to,” but when it comes down to it, you just have to take the plunge. It’s amazing how, when you follow your dreams, things seem to magically fall into place as they should. Life becomes more exciting and also more fulfilling. Suddenly you have more to contribute to the world around you; you meet the right people, or stumble upon the right opportunities at the right time. You may be poor (or not if you are lucky!), but for the most part happier and healthier. For the past few months I’ve been doing just that (what I love), but I’ve been working out of a room in our rented house. Although I have been meeting so many new wonderful people in Savannah, I’ve also been somewhat isolated. And not only that, but I’ve only been working on the half of it. I love screen-printing, but I am very much looking forward to partaking in an artistic community and working on my painting again. I feel the need to be in close proximity to other people who are doing what they love, whatever that may be.
So you can imagine how excited I was to finally see the Wooden Sheep Wood Shop in Savannah today. This space is amazing! You may have heard me mention Wooden Sheep on Facebook, because they also have a beautifully curated shop that promotes local artists and sustainable practices (and happen to be carrying my shirts). The “shop”, opened by two SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) grads with degrees in sustainable architecture, is a two-part operation. Eric makes beautifully crafted furniture out of recycled wood in a warehouse and Ben runs and curates the boutique/gallery on Liberty Street, which features Eric’s furniture along with a whole slew of other amazing artist-made objects — anything from jewelry to art to ceramics and of course clothing. Brian says that I am their target market, because if I had the money I would seriously buy one of everything in there. Anyway I mention them here because I find what these guys are doing quite inspirational (and at a time when I could use some extra inspiration!). Not only are they doing what they love, but they are also giving back to their community. They have developed a sustainable business that takes waste and creates beautiful useful items; they are supporting local artists and small businesses; and they are participating in community fundraisers such as a project to build doghouses out of recycled materials for animal shelters and rescued pups. Can we give them a high five?
Brian and I have been wanting to visit their wood shop since we first got to Savannah, but we’ve just been too darn busy! So today, as we are preparing to move to Charleston, we decided it was the perfect time to run by before it was too late. The space is huge and, as one might expect, filled nearly floor-to-ceiling with random scrapes of mismatched wood. However in addition to all that lovely wood, they found space for all sorts of cool tools and toys. For starters I saw a pool table; couch; part of a skate ramp; I got to experiment with a wood burner; and oh yeah, they share the space with a couple of commercial screen-printers. Of course. Eric tells us how there are some film-makers in the next building over, another wood shop, and a space that they are trying to turn into a garden. Plus they are also working on building more artist studios. Serendipitous? I think so.
This weekend I’ll be moving into a new art studio in Charleston — one with many similarities to what I just described above. Tivoli Studios and Gardens is located on Upper King Street and offers affordable studio space to a large number of emerging and working artists. They, too, have converted a large warehouse space into a functioning artist community centered around a communal space and a garden. Did I mention that they built a geodesic dome inside (I kid you not!)? It sounds like artist heaven to me, especially as I am trying to get out of my shell a little bit more these days — being shy doesn’t get you very far in the world of art and craft! So I am very excited about the prospect of surrounding myself with other artists that are working hard at what they love. I have much to learn about “making it” in this trade, but I know beyond a doubt that I am an artist — I have that need to create — and it is so inspirational to see other people who are doing it too. If there are other artists that can succeed in following their dreams, then so too can I.
So without further ado, I present you with some images of the Wooden Sheep Shop, but you should really check it out for yourself.
I recently began working on sketches for a couple new design projects, and it got me thinking that maybe I should include a few posts about my creative process. As you know, most of my ideas are taken from plants and animals that I encounter. I can usually find a nice place to sit while I sketch the vegetation, but drawing moving animals is not an easy thing to do. My camera serves as a way to record those fast moving critters or to remind me of specific details that I want to record. Often I will pull from several different photos to put together a full composition, but I usually just start by sketching one subject in many different positions and poses. About half of the time, my first sketch turns out well enough to use in a project, but other times it is the process of drawing a particular form over and over that allows me to figure out the best way to present my subject. If need be, I will turn to images on the internet to find an animal in a particular position, but only if I can’t get a good photograph myself or, if part of my photograph is blurry, I will supplement to fill in an important detail.
When I was serving in AmeriCorps *NCCC in Washington, D.C., I used to take the metro over to the Botanical Gardens with my sketchbook. This was back when I first started drawing, and it was a great place to practice. I loved sitting among diverse varieties of lush flowering plants. The air was fresh and moist with the smell of the damp soil; I easily spent hours in there. More recently though, I had the great opportunity to take my sketchbook with me around a beautiful island in the Bahamas (easily the best place I’ve done art research!). While in Georgetown, Brian and I made friends with the owner of the Kevalli House and his girlfriend (who happened to have grown up in Savannah and then lived in Charleston while we were living there!), and they graciously allowed me to explore the area around the house and up at their gazebo, which overlooked the beach on the east side of the island. It was a two-day scouting mission to see what sort of plants and animals I could find for future painting subjects.
I am always drawn to interesting organic shapes, so some of the vegetation really drew me in. I drew the big green leaves of the sea grapes, the thin curling leaves of the seven-year apple, and the tropical red flowers that were in full bloom. The environment was composed of mostly shrub bushes, the tallest trees being of the palm variety, but the place was alive with the sounds of scurrying lizards and buzzing bees. Small birds flew from tree to tree over head, and as I sat sketching a red flower, a bananaquit flew over to sip nectar across from me. Later, I captured a tiny green hummingbird doing the same. I don’t know beforehand what I will be inspired to draw, often for me it is the experience that informs the decision or a connection that is made during the initial observation. In the final stages, the drawing itself will inform the design aesthetic.
My shop is officially open for business! — Phase one has begun. Or maybe this is phase two? Regardless, I am taking orders, and I can’t tell you how excited I was to package up my first few shipments today. Thank you to those of you who bought one (or two!) of my hand-printed tees this week! It’s so exciting for me to finally deliver on this goal. Hopefully this endeavor will pave the way for future sailing trips and art projects — and provide fuel for future blog entries.
Speaking of projects: the next phase of Forest and Fin is going to involve some environmental non-profits and a few new t-shirt designs, which means it’s back to the drawing board for me. Although I mean that in a good way, of course. Time to bust out the dusty old sketchbook and grab my pens and watercolors. I am going to be designing some new tees to promote a couple amazing people and organizations that I know, and I can’t wait to tell you more about it.
It’s been important for me from the beginning to come up with a collaborative way to support non-profit organizations that are pertinent to the ideals of Forest and Fin. Why? Because the work they do inspires me, it informs my artwork, and enriches the environments that surround me. Forest and Fin is not just a blog, although it started out that way; it’s not just about my lifestyle or the art that I produce; and it’s certainly not simply a way for me to make money selling my t-shirts. But it has become an integrated platform for all of these outlets. Forest and Fin is multi-faceted; none of these things work by themselves, because they only identify with one aspect of my personality at a time.
When I am true to all of the different facets, it all comes together in a circular way that makes sense. Forest and Fin is about lifestyle, conscious sustainable living, art, and the appreciation of the nature that surrounds us. But why stop there? It’s time to take action. I want to donate my skills as an artist and t-shirt designer to organizations that protect, preserve, or conserve the environment. I am putting together a non-profit line: shirts designed specifically for a particular environmental non-profit. I will donate a percentage of my profits to the organization and the organization will be able to sell the shirt themselves to raise money for their projects. I am just getting started, but I have at least one organization on board already. I will be posting about it soon I hope!
And last, but not least (of course), if you know anyone at all (individual, shop, boutique, environmental non-profit, etc. etc. etc) who would be interested in a Forest and Fin shirt, please send them a link to my shop. Thanks everyone, and have a lovely weekend!
Brian and I have been in Savannah for two weeks now, and I am still learning my way around. We decided to document our summer here through a Tumblr called Savannah Summer. This is just a little side project that Brian started to document our time on land and encourage us to get out and explore this new city as much as possible while we are here. He (we) will try to post one new photograph of Savannah everyday until September. These preliminary photographs were taken in the neighborhood around the house we are currently renting. You can click on the link to check out a few more with captions!
That’s what I’m calling myself this week. After some trial and error (and a few setbacks), my press is now in operation. That’s right, friends, I am really and truly, finally printing t-shirts again. Whew! It’s certainly felt like an uphill battle for a long time, so I am excited to have reached this point. Here is a little peek at my setup in Savannah. It’s been overwhelming, because I am learning everything as I go, but as with the boat, I’m slowly making progress and growing by leaps and bounds. Even though I know it takes time to gain experience or build a business (even a small one), sometimes I get a little impatient. There are so many “tricks of the trade” to learn! I’m taking lots of deep breath, working towards establishing a yoga routine in the morning, and attempting to take every mistake with a grain of salt. It reminds me of working on the boat in so many ways, especially when I compare the number of trips to the hardware store! But with a little more experimentation, I hope to be offering my Forest and Fin tees through the website soon! Oh, and I should probably mention that I am working in a little boy’s bedroom (hence the random toys in the background).
In honor of the fact that I am gearing up to print t-shirts again and that I just bought a 4-color, 4-station screen-printing press, I thought I’d share a page from my sketchbook along with a few art-related tidbits that have been at the front of my mind. I am particularly fond of the page pictured above; not only are hummingbirds amazing creatures, but this little guy seemed to be begging to have his portrait made. After several days of wandering around Stocking Island (Bahamas) with my camera and my sketchbook, I captured him on camera sucking nectar from a red flower. Later, as I was making this sketch, a hummingbird flew onto a nearby porch, becoming trapped among the rafters. Obviously in need of a little help, Brian and I aided another friend of ours in offering the trapped bird a little assistance. With his tiny heart beating at hyper speed and his chest heaving, he evaded our first attempts at capture. Finally as he began to tire, we managed to trap him in a soft laundry hamper with which we were able to carry him outside. All told, it took three people, a straw hat, a tennis racket, and a laundry hamper to set him free. I’m quite sure we looked ridiculous in the process (as one can imagine), but hey, mission accomplished!
On another art-related note, I’ve been quite busy since we got back trying to get my ducks in a row as far as my art career is concerned. Over the past year, my life has been a little unbalanced in the artistic respect, the boat taking first priority in most cases. It was great to be sure, but now it’s time to shift gears. After much deliberation about how to find a better art-boat balance, I’ve come up with a goal for myself. It seems to me that something like six-eight months of intense art immersion in a year followed by a period of extended travel would be ideal, allowing me time to generate a large body of work in one go and maintain the aspects of the life on the boat that I’ve grown to love. The idea is that once the work is created, sales can trickle in over the course of the rest of the year through various avenues (i.e. internet, gallery, and boutique sales) — while I am searching for new inspiration for my next body of work. Of course, that is simply the ideal (something to work towards), and the split could always be a little different, etc.
In the meantime, I am furiously working to jump start this whole process starting with the further development of my small line of Forest and Fin t-shirts (which I plan to offer through this website soon!), and then expanding into a new series of watercolor drawings and paintings inspired by my trip. Hopefully, the former will support me for the duration of the later! I’ve rationalized it, talked myself into and out of this plan several times, but am determined to support myself with my art. If screen printing allows me to paint and painting allows me to screen print, then I will be a very happy girl.