documentating art in caves and on the street

Feb 29, 2012

I like to watch documentary films.  This past month I watched two documentaries about art- Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Exit Through The Gift Shop.  If you haven't seen these films, check out the trailers. 

Initially, the two documentaries seem to have very little in common.  One film is about ancient cave paintings and the other, street art.  But, as I've had a few weeks to reflect, I realized that Cave and Exit share a number of common themes regarding art.

The first theme involves the permanence of art.  The cave paintings of Chauvet [in France] are noted to be the oldest pictorial works of ancient time.  Scientists date the images to as far back as 35,000 years ago! Although some have questioned the dating methods used, we can all agree that the paintings are really old.  I find it fascinating that primitive art [essentially natural pigment and charcoal on rock] can last for thousands of years, and artists today are challenged with the integrity of modern art materials. 

Permanence has always been a core issue for artists.  Ironically, one modern form of art, street art, finds relevance in impermanence.  Exit testifies to this increasingly popular and very temporary art form, showcasing footage of notable street artists at work.  Like the early cave artists before them, street artists choose to display their works on walls.  But, these works are usually created in public urban spaces, so they are either promptly removed or left to decay with a dilapidated building.

Banksy, Los Angeles, 2011.  [image source:]

Another prevalent theme in both Cave and Exit is anonymity in art.  In both films, the identities of artists are passionately pursued. Even the director of Exit, renown street artist Banksy, remains anonymous today.  Anonymity is a way of life for many street artists, which is increasingly harder to achieve in today's very public culture.

Street artists choose to be anonymous, whereas the primitive artists of Chauvet are anonymous by the lack of a written language.  In Cave, the work of one cave artist was distinguished from the others by the repeated use of his hand print.  Archaeologists were able to track his work throughout the cave because of the imprint of a crooked pinky finger on the right hand.  This particular story struck a chord with me because I have a crooked pinky on my right hand as well [thanks to flag football].  Although we will never know the name or face of this early artist, his hand print with the crooked finger is his signature and identity.

Both films, Cave and Exit, document the creative nature of man.  When the first shots of the Chauvet images came across the screen, I was mesmerized by the beautiful details and craftsmanship of the line drawings.  Some of the animal drawings were layered or repeated, as if to show movement and action.  Clearly, the prehistoric art in Chauvet Cave is evidence of man's innate creative ability.  We are wired as humans to be inventive, inspired, and expressive. 

Exit celebrates the unique art and passion of street artists, but the film is really about one man's fascination with street art and his emergence as a street artist himself.  Although the self-proclaimed artist mimics the style of other artists, his debut in Los Angeles is a big success.  By the end of the film, Banksy leads us to the age-old question, what is art?  And is a penchant for art enough to call oneself an artist?  The featured artist even states at the end of the movie that only time will tell if he's a real artist . . . perhaps in another 35,000 years. 

New works, "Canopy" and "Gold Moon"

Feb 22, 2012

Remember the demo in my last post?  That vibrant red background was used as an underlayer in my lastest work, Canopy.  With most of my works, I start with warms colors and finish with cooler hues, like blues and greens.  Even though the layer of red isn't very noticeable in the finished painting, the subtle hints of it underneath is what keeps the painting from looking really flat.

Sometimes I find that the blues I use in my art don't translate very well in print form.  With Canopy, the blues turned out a little greener than the original, but I still liked the end result.  I placed the print in an old frame and temporarily hung it on the reclaimed wood headboard in my bedroom.  Is it just me, or does the framed print give off a black velvet painting vibe?

I also finished this piece- gold moon.  This is an original work on maple wood panel.  Both Canopy and gold moon are currently available in my Etsy shop.

My Etsy shop is going through some changes at the moment.  I'm sure many of you etsy sellers have already heard of direct checkout.  My shop is part of the initial rollout, so now transactions can be made without leaving the Etsy site.  Hurray!  This means that those without Paypal accounts can now shop with convenience on Etsy. 

Starting March 1, I'll be paring down my print collection.  Many of the items that I'll be discontinuing have been moved to the second page of my shop.  Additionally, I'll be instituting a price increase on select prints [first time since opening my shop].   Most prints will go from $20 to $25. 

With all this change, I thought it was time to revamp the header in my shop, too.  Here's what I came up with late last night:

My Etsy shop was not the only thing that saw changes this week. I think spring fever has hit me big time! We dropped off a trunk load of stuff at Goodwill, pawned off other unwanted items to friends and family, and even tackled a few mini projects around the house.  My current domestic focus is the bedroom.  This past weekend I painted yellow chevrons on the door to add a bit of cheer in our room. 

working with water soluble crayons

Feb 20, 2012

A few weekends ago, I picked up a set of water soluble crayons at an estate sale for $1.  They are the Neocolor II crayons from Caran d'Ache.  I've been a fan of Caran d'Ache's oil pastels for over 20 years now, so I was curious to see how the aquarelle crayons compared. 

When applied dry, the crayons act a lot like wax crayons, except they are denser and richer in color.  The magic happens when you add water.  Just look at the vibrancy and easy blending of color when a wet brush is applied! 

The Neocolor II crayons work beautifully on canvas panel, and I've used them on wood panel, too.  Here is a work in progress.  I used the water soluble crayons for the yellow moon.  I like that I can layer other mediums on top, which is a little trickier to do with oil pastels. 

I keep my crayons sorted in a metal slide storage box that I found at the estate sale.  I already added some new colors to my collection. 

Aquarelle crayons are a wonderful material for kids, too.  My daughter used them to make her valentine's card design. 

my week

Feb 13, 2012

new painting // lost lake

found these sweet and tiny vessels by elycia camille at tender loving empire
just a few dollars apiece!
i gave them to the girls as earring holders

i was happy to drop off more of my art prints at tilde this week
so that I could take another look at the beautiful paper creations of
katie kulper [friend and fellow portlander]

i've mentioned her work before here
her latest paper sculptures are part of curves + lines: a papercraft show at tilde

utter and complete guilty pleasure
my favorite >> monkey muffin, top left

my eight year-old made this for valentine's day
and we turned it into cards for her classmates


new painting, "Legend has it"

Feb 10, 2012

I have to say that it's nice to work on a painting and not have a daily deadline looming over my head.  A pending deadline can be a much needed motivator for creative professionals, but it can also limit one's ability to further develop ideas.  For my 30 in 30 project, by the time I was finished with one work in a day, I was ready to move onto exploring other materials and concepts the next day. This is basically what my sketchbook is for, but, ironically, I didn't have much time in the past month for sketching. 

My latest original work is called Legend has it.  The snowy mountain top and starry skies are expected features, but the addition of [running] horses is a rather new interest for me.  I don't actually have an affinity with horses- I didn't grow up on a farm or follow the equestrian sport.  But, I do find horses to be stately, utilitarian, and mystical creatures.  Humans also have a connection with horses that seems to be more significant than with other large animals.  Is it that horses and humans alike yearn to break free from the confinements of our lives?

In the painting, there are phantom horses running on water.  I imagine the racing apparitions as part of a legend, which has been passed down from one generation to the next around the bonfire.  The legend isn't well formed in my mind yet, but I figure each viewer has their own legend to tell.

The latest art print in my Etsy shop is morning fog.  Initially, it was going to be one of my 30 in 30 works, but I realized I wanted to keep the original for myself!  So, I stayed up late that evening formatting the new art work and getting it ready to print. 

Morning fog is a mixed media work over a photograph I took of the Columbia Gorge.  If you've never been to the Gorge before, imagine an idyllic spa experience- soft misting, the scent of evergreen forests, and the sound of a waterfall.  It's a lush and divine place that brings endless tranquility to its visitors. 

For the month of February, I'm running a special promotion of my new print.  Regularly $20, morning fog is priced at $15.  For more details on this print, go here.

I still have some original works available in my Etsy shop from the 30 in 30 project.  In about a week though,  I will be taking a number of my originals out of my shop to prepare for an upcoming show in New York [more news to come].  A few folks have inquired if I'll be making any prints of my new originals.  For now, I don't make art prints of my originals for sale or sell the original works of art prints in my shop.  Just a policy I've had since opening up my shop. My plan, however, is to add a new art print or two in upcoming weeks. 

client project- julie nolan jewelry

Feb 8, 2012

In addition to creating an original work every day for the last four weeks, I took on a client project.  If you are an Etsy regular, then you've most likely seen the beautiful collection of jewelry designer Julie Nolan.  Julie is currently redesigning her website, and I was honored to be asked to create an art work for her landing page.

Based on Julie's likes [deserts and tribal patterns] and elemental designs found in her jewelry line, this is what I came up with:

While I was working on the new design, Julie was busy working on a major order for Anthropologie! Her pieces are expected to land in stores any time now, so keep your eyes open.  You can always find her full collection in her Etsy shop, too.

Working on client projects has been an exciting part of my fall and winter, so I added a new section to my website.  Check it out here

30 works in 30 days- the homestretch

Feb 6, 2012

Yesterday was the last day of my 30 works in 30 days project.  It feels good to have completed a personal goal, and I'm looking forward to my creative pace easing up a bit.

As expected, I learned a few things along the way. 

1.  There is time in the day to create more art.  It really comes down to time management and priorities.  I've had to say no to a number of things the past month, but I realized that that's not a bad thing.

2.  It's all about balance and perspective, especially for an artist who works from home and has children living at home.  If I was 25 years-old and single, a 50 - 60 hour work week would be expected.  But the schedule I maintained the last four weeks is not sustainable for where I'm at in life (with a busy family schedule) . . . and I'm okay with that.

3.  I'm tired, but I'm not burned out.  Just more affirmation that I love what I do.  In addition to the 30 in 30, I also worked on a new client project this month.  I'll share more about this experience in the next post.

The one downside of kicking out so many works of art in a short period is not having the time to talk about each work that I've created.  The above work, Bouquet, is the last piece in the series and the most personal.  Several days ago, we learned that a teenage girl in our church community had taken her own life.  She was just fifteen. 

So, late Saturday night, in a cloud of sorrow, I painted this piece.  I included outlines of japanese anemones, which are some of my favorite flowers.  They are delicate and sweet, much like children. 

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