February 27, 2011

Sunday's pick of the week from the Ephemera Project.

I hit a snag building my stretcher bars yesterday. The corners. Maybe I was too tired. Maybe I didn't have the right tools.

I am not a carpenter. However, speaking of carpenters, I found this in a box of ephemera. Jesus had a good eye for landscape design.

I'm guessing this was a Sunday School activity during my pre-school years. 

February 24, 2011

I might be falling in love with my mitre saw again.

Never a dull moment.
I had to call the manufacturer to ask how to release the safety lock. It's been at least 5 or 6 years since I fired her up. Maybe longer. Intuition told me to pull down and press the trigger (perhaps that was the old Black & Decker) at which point a tiny piece of black plastic fell out of somewhere. I gently tugged on what I thought were all movable parts to no avail, but after the shard of plastic fell out, I was wary. Mech support helped me discover the pin and voila, release. Unbelievably, I have no scrap wood, so I raided the yardstick collection to do some test cuts. Everything works though I am slightly disturbed by the broken plastic shard. I suspect it has to do with the trigger mechanism in the casing.

It's pouring down rain today. I installed the second set of track lights after rediscovering the joy of mitre cuts. I may dash over to Home Depo to buy just enough lumber to make a small stretcher and hone my shop skills this evening. Part one of my taxes are done, so I feel rather useless without something to procrastinate about. I haven't been to the choodio this week, but did get some painting done in the garage studio, and finally unpacked a box of used paints that a friend had shipped me last fall. At this rate, by the time I get settled, it will be time to move again.

February 23, 2011

The latest post from Little House on the Suburban Prairie.

Warning: really trivial post about stretcher bars. yawn.

Short of going door-to-door looking for a stretcher builder. I have tried to research the best and most economical options for making large paintings again. And hint, "fast" is not going to be part of the equation. First off, the two local art supply stores have sold out of canvas and supplies thanks to the local college students, and second, I'd rather not buy storeboughts for large scale.

I have an order on hold with one of the mail order companies. It is on hold because they emailed me the cost of making dado cuts on my cross-braces. $5.50 per cut. I need 24 cuts. That's $132 for just cuts. As it stands, I've probably wasted $132 in hourly wages trying to come up with a cheaper solution, but that's besides the point. Perhaps $132 doesn't sound like much, but I am building my own. When the cost of building my own (materials only) sneaks over the halfway mark to the cost of someone building them for me, I begin to question the whole thing.

More research.
I love aluminum stretchers. When I was slightly more flush, I used aluminum stretchers. I swore I'd never go back to wood. I watched a video about a company that makes and ships aluminum stretcher bars, and saw how frgiggging simple and painless it was to assemble them. They are pricey, even unassembled. Then there's the whole shipping from California thing.
Evaluation: Not doing aluminum without grant money right now.

My order for pre-fab stretcher bars is still on hold. The woman in charge of the order is nice. It's not their company that's charging the mark-up; it's the stretcher bar supplier.

I looked around for other brands of precut stretcher bars and precut crossbraces. They exist. Some are cheaper, but they don't carry my size, or are out, or look to be more way more complex than my needs. I am stretching canvas, not a sheet of lead.

I looked into what equipment I would need to make my own dado cuts. Two trusted sources gave me some relatively inexpensive leads:
Option 1) a table saw costing in the $150 range.
Option 2) a router or a laminate trimmer. Roughly $100.
Option 3) a handheld circular saw. (already own.)

I watched a video about making dado cuts with a circular saw. I tried to imagine how many passes I would have to make to get one cut. I made a diagram on paper, in order to simulate my experience. I grew weary, and that was just the simulation.

I looked online for local wood shops and found someone who offers classes. Tomorrow night in fact. I spoke to the shop and asked about dado cuts. They wouldn't be covering that in class, but he gave me some info:
First off I'd need a 800 contractor's table saw to use a dado blade, otherwise, I'd burn the motor out.
Second, If I chose to make umpteenthousand cuts with a 1/8" blade....
(See above paragraph on simulation.)

He suggested I get a Porter Cable 690 router with a 3/4" wide straight cut bit. The whole contraption would be under $200, which would pay for itself within a reasonable short period of time.

But wait there's more.. I asked if one of the employee at the wood shop would bid me the cost of making stretcher bars, from scratch.

Then I remembered the old school way I used to make my own, using either finger-joined brick molding or 1" x 2" with quarter round, which got me rethinking everything, except the cross braces. I mean, shoot, if I have to assemble my own, why not just go all the way and build from scratch? Tomorrow I price out lumber.

February 18, 2011

Get ready.

My posts aren't really happening in real time anymore. I let them marinate.

I am almost finished with my storage inventory, part one. Part two involves a database system so that I do no have to reinvent the wheel every time someone requests a list of available paintings.

Big (literally) news is that I ordered materials needed to build (6) SIX stretchers. And not just any 6 stretchers, but whoah... 66" x 54" and 60" x 48". I haven't built my own of this scale in ages. AGES. Not to wax nostalgic endlessly about my former life in the big city, but it was almost cost effective to have them built for me. In the LA area there were at least 4 people/businesses devoted to making stretchers and/or stretching canvas. Even the art school kids bought custom made stretchers. Supply and demand. Fine Art Stretcher Bars and Lucius Hudson were my favorites, but I fell in love with the aluminum bars at Lucius Hudson. After I started working small, I built and stretched my own again. It's not that difficult, just time-consuming and maddening if something doesn't square up. Maddening, if something doesn't square up. I said that already. I also tend to scuff my knuckles when stretching the canvas, and I still can't get them tight enough. Unless I use Rabbit Skin glue, which I no longer own, so there. And since I'm not a shop set up for this, I scramble around on the floor making this magic happen. This bit of prep work is a bit nerve wracking for me, and I vaguely remember swearing it off for canvases larger then 16" x 20". I wait with baited breath for my materials to arrive.    (Um, not so fast. My order is on hold due to technical difficulties. Why did I leave LA?)

I was on the phone with Nova Color yesterday. I'm switching to acrylic for a bit. Not really sure why, just a lark actually. Oh wait, I remember- the new studio is for water-based works and I'm feeling manic. While on the phone, I imagined I was there in person, looking at all the jars of pigment. Nova Color's sales room is about the size of my kitchen. The cat was usually asleep on a shelf under the counter. I miss my suppliers.

Build it and they will come.
A few inquiries about my paintings always make me feel good- like I'm on the right path. You'd think after X number of years I'd have figured that out, but part of my charm is that I'm dreadfully insecure a few minutes each day. Sometimes it goes away and I get down to business. Other times, I spin an alternate reality in which I am normal and do normal things like listen to the Today Show as I cock my head and clip on an earring while grabbing my imaginary briefcase and commuter mug, or clock in to my factory job at the local factory which is shutting down.

I talked to Matt the other night and came to the sudden realization that I had displaced some grief over the last couple of years. Poignant, and a little too weird to try and explain. Slightly related and quite a bit funnier, the essay, "Why You're Not Married," by Tracy McMillan on the HuffPo made me laugh. Pathetically, I recognized bits of myself among the various descriptions. For instance, according to # 2, I am shallow. It's true, I do want someone who knows what an Eames chair is. Matt was practically a poster boy for midcentury modernism. So much so, that when I discovered the shabby chic sofa he had in his apartment in LA was nothing like the minimalist sofa in our office back in Chicago, I almost felt gypped. And yes, good design is one of the reasons I fell in love with him. Every year for our anniversary I would scan craigslist looking for an affordable Eames lounge chair and ottoman to give as a gift. I never found one in my price range, which was probably for the best because as #5 states, I am selfish, which means that in the divorce, I'm quite sure I would have demanded the chair go with me. I hate when pop culture is so smart.

February 17, 2011


Oops, found this as a draft. I think I was waiting to take better pics before I posted. 

Done. I like the one of the left the best. The clusters are declusterizing.

I added blue today. I'm beginning to call this hue, "Save My Ass Blue," aka cobalt. Not that it does, but for the moment I pretend like it does- save my ass that is. It probably won't. I had a full length down coat this shade of blue when living in Chicago. I couldn't stand the color, but I was desperate. I ditched it after the harshest winter. I'm guessing I will continue to work this painting into the ground, until calling it a watercolor will no longer be appropriate. I'm amused that the other day I thought I was digging myself into a hole with this painting, when in fact, that's exactly what it looks like to me. I'm also amused that I wrote, "work this painting into the ground." I'm easily amused by accidental metaphors. 

Of relevance, Carla commented:
"Have you seen "the mystery of picasso" film?
I was amazed by how much time he spent digging himself into holes. I remember thinking "whoa, let's just call this one a dud and move on". You could tell he knew how awful it was too. He kept working it, even when you knew it would never be a great piece. These were in ink, so everything was additive, and limited in what you could remove and change. It seemed he kept working it when he knew there would not be a great outcome. And there wasn't per se, but he would always take it somewhere and not give up. That was an eye-opener for me, that Picasso wanted to continue following the process when all hopes of a great outcome were lost."

The anti fatigue mats. Huge difference. I'm surprised, really. 

The saw horses are form IKEA. I love them. If I could, I would have every flat surface in my domain resting on these. They're adjustable. Only casters could make them more perfect, but the feet are too skinny for casters. I need to install gliders.
The Antechamber, prepped and ready to caffinate. Only a remote control button and casters could make this more perfect. Here, boy. Sit, pour, stay. Good boy. 

February 16, 2011

February 11, 2011

Form over Function

As I'm now in the third season living with a non-functioning pool, I am aware that it provides me with more visual pleasure than were it a functional pool. Although I've been documenting the pool in different conditions, I haven't been doing it methodically or with any kind of eye for composition. Maybe I will try to get better at both of those things and overcome my anti-formalism MO in the process.

Before the freeze, there were 2 bullfrogs and a turtle living in there. 

On a separate note, I've been doing artwork inventory slowly, very slowly, for works stored back in LA. Office tasks are incredibly tedious for me and I wish I had an assistant to do them. Then again, I was so tired after working the other day, I wished I had someone do yoga for me. I finally bought an anti-fatigue mat for the studio. That should help.

February 07, 2011

Wintery Mix. How I'ce Come to Loathe That Phrase.


Yeah, that 'c' in 'I'ce' was a typo. It was supposed to read, "How I've Come to Loathe That Phrase."

Today marks the beginning of my 14th consecutive week of running. According to my schedule, today is an off day, no run, but according to the weather foref*ckingcast, we're supposed to have more snow, and temps in the teens, twenties, and even single digits this week, so I'm debating whether to get a couple of miles in today, should I decide later this week that I would just as soon be eaten alive by fire ants than run in the cold one more day. Some days I lace up, walk out the door and think, I cannot do this. I am sick of the windchill. I am sick of fumbling with 3 layers, my headphones, my gloves, my hat. Sometimes I make tiny muffled scream sounds into my motorcycle balaclava. Sometimes, I come back in after 1 mile. Then I go back out. And come back in. Nonetheless, I have shaved a minute off my pace and am consistently doing 3-mile runs without injury, so all is good. Running helps me soldier through quiet days when I feel like nothing noticeable is happening professionally. Running is a physical reminder that stuff is always happening of course. I have a piece of paper tacked to my wall telling me as much, as long as I show up and do the work. An artist friend gave this to me a few years ago after it played an important role in her studio for many years.  She has nice handwriting, the kind you might associate with an accomplished artist. Sometimes I have nice handwriting. Other times I look like I could be writing ransom notes.

Thanks to a screwdriver, I managed to break down some studio furniture and magically transport it to the new space. I love the new studio. There are aspects of it that feel like prison...

but it's actually an interesting view, and rather safe. The new studio is for water-based works.

Next up: I'm in an invitational auction this week back in L.A. Online biding is available. Check it.

Drug Policy Alliance 4th annual art auction and cocktail benefit
February 10th, 2011
Honor Fraser Gallery
2262 S. La Cienga
Los Angeles, CA 90034

[later that very same day]

After a brief visit to the studio, I am back. I was just getting ready to exalt the separation of studio life and personal life  when it started snowing. I reluctantly cleaned my brushes and came home. 

Other than obsessively documenting my view, 

I worked on a couple of watercolors. I am venturing out of my safe zone. One of the new watercolors is 20 x 16 inches and stretched old school style with staples to a plywood board. So far, I'm making do with my current brushes. Over the years I have figured out that I am righteously in love with ridiculously expensive watercolor brushes such as Escoda and Isabey. I used to be a DaVinci fan, but notice that they are not holding up as well (the ferrule loosens, and I'm almost certain they're losing their spring.) Thus far, I own only a few elite brushes in modestly ridiculously expensive sizes (read small) along with a decent arsenal of working class bushes. The largest really nice brush I own is a size 10, maybe a 12.  If I continue working large, I might fantasize about the Escoda Kolinsky Sable size 20 pointed round or a huge cat's tongue by Isabey. [pant, pant.]

I'm too lazy tired to discuss the courtship phase I am going through with the watercolors, but to be honest, there's something rather taxing about it. There's mostly adoration and true love, but there's also the insane feeling like I'm running out of color, shapes and composition. I have mentioned that the focus of these watercolors is to be as abstract as possible, referencing nothing inasmuch as I can remember. They're all strategy. You'd think they would get easier, but they're amazingly more difficult after a few. I'm going with the flow so to speak. Totally process. 

I'm so sick of the weather. I tried to think of something nice to say as I was driving home. I had that odd feeling of being almost repulsed by beauty. My studio is not very far from home and yet, I felt as though I had traveled a continent based upon how heavy the snow was falling by the time I reached my driveway. 

Tomorrow is a running day.

February 03, 2011

Thorazine Thursday: a Flashback

I ripped the post title from Carla, but what else does one do when feeling unoriginal? Why, post images of art from the early days, that's what. I don't think I posted these before, but if I did, indulge me. I may have stated this before but out of about 75+ artworks, only 3 or 4 paintings and a handful of watercolors still exist from that period (1987-1992). Not that I can do anything over again, but I remember standing in my basement with my then boyfriend > husband > ex-husband, (a painter whose paintings were drastically different from mine), who while looking at my stack of paintings told me he would NOT help me move them to his > our loft, that I could NOT store them in his  > our loft, and that I wouldn't want to keep any of the work I did before grad school anyway because I would make MUCH better work in grad school and that's the work that would define me as an artist. I remember that moment clearly. I know where I was standing in the basement. I remember thinking, I really don't want to move all these paintings again by myself. I didn't really believe him, but it seemed like a huge amount of work to haul around for the rest of my life if indeed I wasn't going to ever show them to anyone. I only vaguely remember destroying them by myself, but not really. I only remember the walk from the basement to the trash can in the back alley. I forgot how long it took to purge them. I hope, of course, that as a painter my work has matured in 20 years, but looking at this work digitally is like having amnesia and slowly recognizing bits of who I was, and where I was, not only as an artist, but as a person. Obviously there was a bit of a conflict. I try hard not to destroy works now, since sometimes I've been dead wrong and since sometimes the ugly ones are the best, but most of all, I think destroying paintings is an akin to being an enfant terrible. My current position is to try and remove words like  "good" or bad" from the decision, though yesterday I ripped up a watercolor as I was sinking into a bad mood.

These are oil on canvas and oil on panel,  60" x 48", c. 1990.

I also found a color photo of the bench, so I reposted it.

As I mentioned in another post, I not having a stellar studio day. I may never be able to paint anything worthwhile again. For as long as I live. crap.

grrr brrr grrr brrr grrr brrr grrr.

I'm going to sound like a wimp, but I tried to run today and gave up after my eyelashes froze and I had a tear duct freeze up due to the wind. It's not even that cold. I'm guessing in the teens with windchill. I'm just sick of it. If I were snowbound, I'm not sure how I'd be coping. Possibly related, for the first time in forever, I completely gave into making angry gestural paintings. Those meditative watercolor clusters  gave way to acrylic paint and awkward strokes. Scribbling scrawls, scrubbing dragging  and misanthropical stokes. Grays, dark blues and black. Aimless and half-ass. I'm not sure if it's just the weather causing my foul mood or if there are other nefarious forces lying in wait, ready to spring in action, but either way, the work took a temporary turn toward the dark side today.

REPOST: Old Works or I Make Benches.

I found some old photos of some offshoot works circa 1990. I was into Arte Povera and was scavenging materials from abandoned and torn down buildings in Chicago. Anselm Kiefer was showing at the Art Institute and Christian Boltanski had shown at MCA. I wasn't really into sculpture, but was simply following the materials. The art bench no longer exists. If I come across a color photo of it, I will re-post. The found wood had been painted and was weathered naturally. I embellished very little, more or less just matching what was already there. Note my love of casters is just beginning. I categorized this as art. REPOST: Just found it in color:

I may have posted an image of this bench a few years ago, but due to a engineering flaw I discovered when a heavy-set neighbor sat on one end, I had to shorten the bench. I made it from scrap wood. I categorized this as furniture.

Sometimes, or who am I kidding, most all of the time, I am conflicted about holding an MFA in art. I can't give it back. The art bench was made while living in Chicago. In the interim between receiving my BFA and my MFA, I worked in my studio, visited museums, and for the most part thrived through self-education. Everything was exciting and possible.

I think the core of my work is still the same no matter what I do. I like to make things from nothing.