Progress Blog for December 1, 2018

Well, December is right around the corner. I have finally found a good rhythm for my studio work and my actual job. It’s been a little exhausting, but really rewarding. I’m so excited for what I have in progress and what I have planned for December.

I’ve made some progress on my “big” painting of Anna.  I have the visual aids that I’ll need to paint in the cactus blossoms and succulent plants around her halo, which I plan to fill with geometric forms and designs.

I decided on a color scheme for my piece but I wanted to be sure it had the same feel in paint as it did in my head, so I created two mini poured paintings to test the color set.  They turned out far subtler than I thought they would, with the copper paint almost disappearing or blending into gold when it mixed with the greens and turquoise.  I really wanted the copper to be visible and stand out, so I went over the drying pours with the tar gel I had just mixed up.  Even the tar gel sank into the greens and teals, fighting to stand out and stay afloat.  It confirmed that I’d be using the copper on the whole figure and her halo as outlines, and that her halo will be mostly metallic. 

 The outlining has begun on Anna #1, Acrylic on Panel, 3’x4’

The outlining has begun on Anna #1, Acrylic on Panel, 3’x4’

 Anna Pour #1, Acrylic and silicone on panel, 8”x8”

Anna Pour #1, Acrylic and silicone on panel, 8”x8”

 Anna Pour #2, Acrylic and silicone on panel, 8”x8”

Anna Pour #2, Acrylic and silicone on panel, 8”x8”

Of course, then I ran out of tar gel.  I had bought more, but it was at home and my hands were cramping from squeezing the gel out into lines all afternoon.  I worked for a bit on another life painting of Anna, a large monochromatic portrait.  It’s been so very cold here in Utah the past month, and unsurprisingly, very chilly in my basement studio.  Cold enough that I had ended our session after about 70 minutes of painting time because my hands were not working the ways my brain was telling them to work.  (Don’t worry, I bought a nifty space heater that does a great job) 

So, I began tinkering on the purple piece from the reference photos I’d taken of Anna.  While we were in session her two adorable doggos were either sitting with her or getting some pets.  She would occasionally turn her head to talk to one of them, giving me a great profile. I had her turn for some references of her profile too. I’ still in progress on this one, and I don’t know how I feel about this piece yet, but I did like working on that scale.  I am excited to work large from life again on Monday, and I have bigger canvases now. I just started a new job and so did she, so our schedules are still working at lining up regularly…

 Purple Anna in progress, Acrylic on Canvas, 24”x36”

Purple Anna in progress, Acrylic on Canvas, 24”x36”

The third session with Anna I wanted to try something different- rather than paint her physical description I wanted to let the paint and color dominate the subject matter without being completely nonrepresentational.  There’s a slight figure head, that may be a vessel filling with something, it may be a flower, it may be just lines.  We talked through this session, having a really great conversation about so many random subjects that veered into deep moments, then back to laughable stories.  I felt like we were getting to peek into windows of each other, always circling back to commonalities and similar experiences in our lives. I had a blast painting this with standard acrylics, and once it was all dry, I began to play with my acrylic pens and inks.  I’m learning both the limitations and the benefits of each of these mediums each time I play with them.  If you look closely, you’ll see some of the symbols of the 12 popping up in this piece, because they emerge in my work periodically. 

 Anna’s Colors, Acrylic, Ink, and Pen on Panel, 24”x24”

Anna’s Colors, Acrylic, Ink, and Pen on Panel, 24”x24”

Next, a project I’ve been working on for the past few weeks, in conjunction with a larger project my friends and I have been working on for nearly a year…  Sooo, I play Dungeons and Dragons, like, a lot.  I play in alternating campaigns on Sundays, and on Tuesdays and Fridays we played in a well thought out homebrew campaign.  That’s the project that ties into my art pieces, but I don’t want to give too much away about it, since we’re still working on it regularly. 

Suffice it to say when doing world-building for the campaign we decided to come up with our own system of gods for the world our characters would inhabit.  We discussed the prevalence of monotheistic traditions in the modern world, but for the greater part of human existence gods have been just that- plural.  We went over the fact that gods and goddesses were usually used as ways to explain phenomena that at that point remained unknown (weather, death, etc). While it was a possibility to use this framework we decided to model our deities on different aspects of conscious, sentient living (not just humans, but elves, orcs, and gnomes, oh my!). 

Each deity represents a part of the human condition, a part of the cycle of life, aspects of our relationships with those around us.  Every sentient being will fall under the influence of each of the gods at some point in their lives. We worked as a team for a few weeks developing the 12 gods who would ultimately fill our pantheon, and then it was up to me do come up with a symbol for each of these elements, each deity (we decided our gods aren’t gendered because everyone experiences these, not just one gender.  The deity can choose how it manifests to their followers, so some characters refer to “him” or “her” when referring to their chosen god.)

I started sketching some really basic symbols for the easier gods, but some were harder to come up with an icon for that fit well.  I also wanted to create a sense of cohesion, but was struggling with a way to make them all feel a part of a whole.  My boyfriend Ian suggested that I draw with one continuous line, like I had done in other drawings and self portraits.  It worked.  I found a style that tied the pieces all together and that fit with my personal style. I also incorporated a smaller circle in each design as a linking element, to remind the practitioners of the larger pantheon, and also to reference back to the cycle that we are all a part of, life. 

I drew the little bit of me that fit with each god, the part of me that I could see worshiping each deity, the part of me reflected in each of them. Each symbol is a mini self portrait of a part of my soul, my psyche.

So now, let me introduce you to our gods.  Each has a name, a description, a color associated with their house, and their symbol:

The Primary gods, the ones who govern most of our life-

The Lifebringer (creator god, god of beginnings) Prismatic, the fire

The Deathbringer (death god, god of order) White, the smoke

The Chaotic (God of chaos, destruction) Black, the ashes and steam

 

The Secondary gods, who support the primary gods and have the next greatest influence-

The Guide (nature, wisdom, teaching) Green, the tree

The Builder (structure, law, kingdoms) Blue, the bridge

The Widowmaker (war, ambition, greed) Red, the sword

 

And the Tertiary gods, not lesser, but not quite as predominant as the first 6 gods-

The Nurturer (harvest, hearth, agriculture) Copper, the acorn

The Muse (art, inspiration, divination) Gold, the figure

The Gambler (luck, deception, games) Silver, the clover

The Guardian (protection, sacrifice) Iron, the shield

The Judge (justice, action, athletes) Bronze, the scales

The Lover (harmony, love, altruism) Platinum, the twin fish

 Every day I feel the influence of The Muse as I work in my studio. I feel the warmth of the Lifebringer with every kitty cuddle, and the smoke of the Deathbringer evokes my tears, mourning still. The Chaosbringer fills my days with madness, and at the end of each the Deathbringer puts the order back to the day. The Judge grants me the strength to keep going each day, spurring me to action. The Widowmaker fuels my ambition, my drive, and the Builder and the Guide give me structure and wisdom to funnel it productively. The Nurturer guides my hand as I prepare meals for my family, helping the Guardian in me care for those around me. I see the Lover every time I look in Ian’s eyes, and I feel the Gambler smile on my luck.

 The 12, from left to right, top to bottom: The Lifebringer, The Guide, The Muse, The Lover, The Deathbringer, The Builder, The Guardian, The Nurturer, The Chaotic, The Widowmaker, The Judge, and The Gambler

The 12, from left to right, top to bottom: The Lifebringer, The Guide, The Muse, The Lover, The Deathbringer, The Builder, The Guardian, The Nurturer, The Chaotic, The Widowmaker, The Judge, and The Gambler

The primary gods were some of the easiest to draw out a great initial concept- some of the others were much harder.  I spent hours and hours coming up with concepts, researching symbols and icons, and doodling different designs before I finally settled on each icon that worked within the parameters I had set for myself and that my team had set for me. Next, I’ll be painting these into the symbol of the 12 and collaborating with Christie (one of our group) to create files to 3D print each symbol. 

 Sketches and concepts, thumbnails and redraws of the 12 sigils.

Sketches and concepts, thumbnails and redraws of the 12 sigils.

 Evolution of the greater symbol of the 12, from our first sketched out wheel to final drafts, and how I altered the symbol of the 12 for my bags.

Evolution of the greater symbol of the 12, from our first sketched out wheel to final drafts, and how I altered the symbol of the 12 for my bags.

I even turned the symbol of the 12 (slightly altered) into the design for my holiday bags this year.  I don’t do wrapping paper, so I print on a reusable bag to put gifts in and to use later. 

Whatever you celebrate this holiday season, I hope you do so surrounded by loved ones, with good health and prosperity!

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Crit Responses

Hello

Here are my responses to the critiques I received from my last progress post:

First, thank you for the kind words regarding my dad.  It’s rough, some days more so than others, but it’s getting better.

Peter, it made my heart very happy to be compared to the works of Matisse and van Gogh, two artists who inspire me very much with their use of color.  If you’d be willing, I would love to paint you when we come to NYC in January.  I always love seeing how other artists depict me, how their work translates how they see me.  It’s slightly narcissistic, but mostly straight curiosity.  I think all artists have some level of self-doubt, and I bookmarked the links you sent to read later today.

  I also agree that going bigger is addictive, so I ordered a bunch of canvases that are 3’x4’ for my live sessions with Anna.  I have a session coming up this week and I’m excited to see how the work shapes up. 

I am going to get the book “The Object Stares Back” to read, and yes, we are a little bit of succubi- that made me giggle!  We do feed off the model’s energy in a way, focusing it into the fabric of our work.  I definitely felt like I was more connected to the new paints when I was painting Ian; I’m so used to using regular acrylics so it was a different experience.  I think I’ll be using them with Anna in an upcoming session.

Sheila, I am a huge fan of color, and I like it bright.  Green tends to be a go-to color palette for me, and I often veer into using analogous colors surrounding green.  I do plan to try a completely monochromatic live painting, maybe even solid black and white, in the near future.  I think the black and white is both interesting me and turning me off, so I need to figure out why. 

I am fascinated and scared of the notion that my models are solely vehicles for the paint.  It’s true, at times the model becomes nothing more than lines, forms, light, and shape to me as I paint, but then I try to steer back to the model being a person as well.  That might be a strong difference between my work from life and my “big” pieces which are mainly painted from photographs and sketches.  When painting from life, I am more focused on capturing the physical aspects of the model as quickly as possible, whereas when I work from photos I try to capture more of their personality in the small details and such? 

It brings to light a good question- do the types of paintings I do determine how much of the model shows through, and how much is the artist’s personality? 

Sheila and Rudi, you both had questions about my questionnaire: for Rudi, I have the questions posted earlier in my blog, I’m hoping to get a better idea of my models’ thoughts and experiences with their answers; Sheila, I haven’t looked over her questionnaire yet, I want to get my own impression of her before I read her comments from the first Q.  I do plan to have Anna fill one out after a few more sessions, then a final one at the end of our agreed-upon timeframe.  I also bookmarked your links, I plan on spending a few hours today to go over all the new ideas and info. 

Rudi, I loved “Loving Vincent,” I’m glad you got to see it too.  To totally ruin the illusion, Ian was watching television while I painted him.  He almost fell asleep twice in the hour I worked, so probably not great model-material for the future (hehe).  Unless he sits for a photo session, for a “big” painting.  I really have to come up with a better name for that type of work I’m doing…. Speaking of…

I have just begun working on two of my poured pieces, and one more similar to that of my painting of Joanna.  I am hoping to have progress pics up next week of the first!  These will be more like what you saw in Berlin, but I am happy to be working from life again.  I think I’ll always love using bright colors, unnatural colors, emotional colors.  It’s just what sings to my soul and makes my work feel like my own.  It’s also more challenging to me to work from life first, then from a photograph, because of the actual 3D aspects- than it is to just start from a photo. 

I have done some work where distortions were part of the piece, but I truly struggle with creating them on purpose.  I may have to explore that, intentionally, to see why I’m so averse to painting someone that way. 

I have a lot of new things to consider, so thank you all for your thoughtful insights and sharing new recommendations with me. 

SIDE NOTE:  I am a planner, so what are everyone’s plans for NYC?  I already bought a flight (the prices kept climbing, then dropped) but I’m not sure on accommodations.  Anyone want to go in on a hotel/AirBnb? 

Thanks!

SJ

Progress and Crit Group Post, 10/24

Well, it hasn’t been the most productive month… I’m flying to California this weekend for my father’s memorial service. I spent a huge chunk of the past month grieving, hiding in my bedroom, and trying to muster up energy to get simple things done. But I did manage to get a bit of work done in my studio, and I have a schedule now set up with my long term model, Anna. She’s agreed to be a part of my research, sitting for me each Monday for the next two months.

Anna and I had never met before this past Monday. She was referred to my by a mutual friend so we were complete strangers until she walked in to the studio. I had her fill out some papers, including my model questionnaire and a release form, and we chatted as I got everything set up. We discovered we have a fair bit in common and I’m looking forward to working with her again. I laid out my proposition, explained a bit of what my questions are regarding my research, and shot some photos to use for a “big” painting of her before she sat for a live session.

I should clarify what I mean when I say ”big” painting- My paintings with a live model tend to be smaller in size than the works I do with topographic light. They also tend to have a more detailed background, and more time is spent on those works, so I refer to them as big. When I had a Skype meeting with Mark and Michael, my advisers, they gave me the idea that I may try soon- painting on a very large panel while working with a live model. I tend to work smaller with live models, around 18”x24” or smaller, because it’s easier to complete a piece in one or two sittings that way. They recommended stepping out of that comfort zone and switching the scale of the pieces I work on with Anna next. So I ordered some new panels (hooray for sales, coupons, and free shipping) to try it out.

I also ordered panels to finish up my self portrait series on grief. It seems a little ironic that I’m finishing a series inspired by the death of my husband as I struggle with the grief I feel over my father. Some days I feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train and others I just feel numb. I’m doing as okay as I can, and I have an incredible support system helping me. I am hoping that completing this series will help me process some of what I’m feeling concerning my dad’s passing; I always seem to know my self better after I complete a piece.

So, on to what I’ve been working on…

I painted Anna on Monday. I got tired quickly, so I snapped a few photos and cleaned up the painting the next day from those- but it’s still in progress. I haven’t added in her shirt or jacket yet.

As I sit back and look at the components that combine to create this image, I see a lot of myself projecting on to the portrayal of Anna. I defaulted to my favorite color palette, greens. I love painting in greens. I did a quick sketch in green, then slowly started to add in teal and yellows, then cream, white, and even a deep Jenkins green. Her brilliant orange hair (it’s fabulous in real life, a perfect pumpkin orange) tapered down from darker roots, and I realized that it needed to be as bright and colorful as her, so it became orange and purple. I had originally planned on this being more monochromatic, but I needed to show off the color of Anna. As I kept painting, we had a great conversation, and her eyes sparkled when she would laugh. I realize I made them a bit big for her face, I think because they were so expressive. She kept a slight smile through the whole sitting, like she was in on a secret.

 Anna in Progress, 10/22/18

Anna in Progress, 10/22/18

I think my love for vibrant color is pretty obvious here, but it remains to be seen if Anna shares my predilection to color straight from the tube. I have asked her for a list of colors, symbols, or objects that have significance to her for the larger piece. I’ll continue to work on this and the larger piece, as well as start my final two grief series pieces when I get back from California.

This past month I also finished reading “A Giacometti Portrait,” by James Lord- it’s a great look at the artist/model relationship from the perspective of the model. There were some quotes that stood out to me, regarding my research: at one point, the painting is not going well, Giacometti was lamenting his failure and James Lord felt helpless, “…to be involved but removed…” from the act of painting. I wonder if my models will ever feel responsible for the way a work turns out? As if they could alter the work by the power of their sitting? I don’t know. A separate time Lord remarked that, “The painting seemed at times to exist both physically and imaginatively between us a a bond and a barrier at once.” I like the idea of the connection, but that the roles they are both filling also create a barrier in the relationship, and I wonder if the barrier is lessened when the painting is complete?

I was fascinated by how much Giacometti doubted his own work. I constantly feel like an impostor and it made me feel a bit better, oddly enough, that an artist I admire didn’t have a raging flow of self assurance.

These following images went up in my last blog, but I wanted to include them for the Crit Group blog.

 Self Portrait, charcoal on toned paper

Self Portrait, charcoal on toned paper

 Ian, open acrylic on canvas pad

Ian, open acrylic on canvas pad

Progress Post 10/15

So, it hasn’t been a super productive month.  Our semester officially started on September 15, and I spent most of the past month holding the hand of my dad, Mike, and then grieving him. 

He was dying.  We, his family, knew it, and I think on some level he did too.  I am so grateful that I was able to be there in his last days, reading to him, talking to him, just being present.  And then, early in the morning on the 30th of September, he died.  I knew it was coming.  I had known for a while; it’s why I was out in California.  But it still hit like a punch to the gut.  I don’t know if I fully accept that he’s gone; at some level I don’t want to accept the fact that he is gone. 

I’ve had many losses in the past three years, loss with stealth and loss that I saw coming for miles.  When my husband died it was unexpected.  It was sudden, it was shattering, and I felt my world stop.  I had no chance to prepare for his death, no days or weeks or moths or years leading up to the day- it just happened. With my dad we knew it was coming, that death was waiting patiently for him.  We knew that his body was slowly betraying him, that his quality of life was diminishing. 

Both deaths hurt, deeply hurt, but in different ways.  I guess the pain of Dave’s death was like being stabbed in the back.  It was quick, sharp, startling, and the full brunt force hit just a millisecond before the intense pain took over.  All I felt was pain, with occasional breaks of numbness, for weeks after Dave died.  With my dad, it is like being trapped at the edge of the tide.  I’m stuck, and some moments it seems as if I can breathe, I can see what’s ahead of me and other times I feel like I’m underwater, disoriented with the waves crashing on me.  It hits, and I find myself unable to get out of bed, to work, to do anything beyond cry in the shower.  And then it passes, and I feel okay, or as okay as I get right now.  I know my dad isn’t in pain any longer, that he isn’t trapped in his traitorous body any longer.  I know he knows how much I love him.  But it still hurts, like a brand-new hole in my chest. 

Both of my trips to California were last minute.  I barely remembered to pack my tiny sketchbook and a pen along with the essentials.  I made one small self-portrait sketch, looking in the reflection of the window, while my dad slept. 

When I came home, I went into hermit-mode pretty hard core.  I only left the house to go to the grocery store once in five days.  My exhaustion from sleepless nights in a hospital, the mental/emotional/physical stress, the traveling, it caught up with me.  I spent a week as a hermit, then tried to get back to regular life.  I applied for jobs, I set up my studio, I did laundry.  I began helping to plan my Dad’s memorial service. And then I got sick.  Not the knocked out, I-can-barely-breathe, Nyquil-dependent sick.  I got the sore throat, absolutely no energy, migraines, sleeps too long, sick.  My exhausted mind and body are yelling at me. 

So here is what little I did accomplish this past month. 

A pen sketch:

 I had a single pen and my tiny sketchbook in LA.  This was a partial-blind contour drawing I did in the reflection of the window in my Dad’s hospital room, while he was asleep.

I had a single pen and my tiny sketchbook in LA. This was a partial-blind contour drawing I did in the reflection of the window in my Dad’s hospital room, while he was asleep.

A charcoal self portrait:

 I am getting back into the swing of drawing from life.  Slowly and surely.  I’ve not worked on toned paper in ages, so this was a good exercise.  I’m going to keep working in this sketch book with portrait studies like this one.    Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I am getting back into the swing of drawing from life. Slowly and surely. I’ve not worked on toned paper in ages, so this was a good exercise. I’m going to keep working in this sketch book with portrait studies like this one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

An open acrylic sketch portrait of my boyfriend

 I had Ian sit for me so I could try out my new Open Acrylics.  I usually work with standard acrylics but I picked up a set of slow-drying paints to experiment with them.  I enjoyed the blending abilities, the intensity of the colors, but I still struggled with something different from my regular routine.  Ian sat for about an hour before we were both exhausted from our day.    Thursday, October 11, 2018

I had Ian sit for me so I could try out my new Open Acrylics. I usually work with standard acrylics but I picked up a set of slow-drying paints to experiment with them. I enjoyed the blending abilities, the intensity of the colors, but I still struggled with something different from my regular routine. Ian sat for about an hour before we were both exhausted from our day.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reading

I’ve just finished reading A Giacometti Portrait by James Lord. It’s a fascinating take on the artist/model relationship, presenting me with some new ideas about my research. I’ll post later this week with my ideas when I have them more solidly formed. One quote, however, really stood out to me concerning the contributions that each participant makes to a final image:

“There is an identification between the model and the artist, via the painting, which gradually seems to become an independent, autonomous entity served by them both, each in his own way and, oddly enough, equally.”


A model questionnaire:

I hope it’s clear. I’d love to hear feedback on the questions I’ve presented and any suggestions you may have.

Name_______________________________________________________________ Date__________________________

Model Questionnaire:  As a part of my MFA, I, Sarah Jane Eaton, am researching how the artist/model relationship can influence what the final image represents.  Please fill out this sheet and the MODEL RELEASE FORM while I set up our session.  Please indicate if you wish your responses to be kept confidential or if I may use your name in my writings which are published on my website.  If you wish, I can change names or leave the term “model” in place of your name.  Feel free to write on the back as well.    

Before

Have you ever modeled before?

 

What do you expect from the sitting?

 

Would you prefer a session with or without conversation?

 

Are we friends, acquaintances, or strangers?

 

What do you think the final image will represent?

 

After

Did the sitting meet your expectations?

 

What do you think of the final image?  Please be honest! 

 

Did anything happen that surprised you?  Physically (sleepy limbs, aches), Mentally (bored, new ideas, et), Emotionally (happiness, sadness)?

 

Do you feel or relationship (friend/acquaintance/stranger/etc.) has changed?

 

 

ð       I understand that my responses are part of a research project and will be recorded. 

ð       I give consent that my responses, name, and basic details may be shared on Sarah Jane Eaton’s website, her thesis, and her research.

ð       I wish my name and details to be withheld from publications, referring to me only as “MODEL” or “ANONYMOUS” on Sarah Jane Eaton’s website, her thesis, and her research.

 

Signature ____________________________________________________________


A model release form- I found a simple release form online and modified it to fit my needs. I’m having a friend look it over at her law firm just to be certain it is worded appropriately.

So that’s it for this month. I am working on scheduling my models this week for the next few months, building panels, and a few things for a side project. I’m going to go back to bed now, and pray to the elder gods that when I wake I have more energy.

More Plot Twists, life on hold...

Well, I still haven’t got my studio set up. I haven’t had a session with my new models yet. I haven’t got much of anything done this month. I got home from my last trip to Long Beach on September 17th, after spending the weekend with my dad. He seemed to be doing better, at least well enough that I could come home and take care of life in Utah.

I took artwork to The Red Fox in Logan, Utah, for the Block Film Festival and the Gallery Walk that are happening on September 28-29. I got a load of art supplies ready to take to my studio, and I had my first model set to sit for me. I met -through Skype- Mark Roth, who will be acting as my creative practice adviser.

Then, on Friday the 21, I got another phone call about my dad. His doctors were very concerned and didn’t think he would live through the weekend. I immediately booked a flight for the next morning, and drove straight to the hospital. I slept here for two nights, terrified by every gurgle and moan he made. Miraculously he is still alive, sitting across from me today. Some days he is more coherent and seems comfortable, some days he doesn’t seem to recognize any of us and is in great pain. My family and I made the difficult decision to begin hospice care, to remove his feeding tubes, to medicate for pain relief, and we are waiting for my father to pass. I am glad that I can share his last few days with him, that I can offer some sense of comfort and love by reading to him, holding his hand, just being here.

I haven’t got any art done. I haven’t got much research or reading done. I don’t have a lot of progress to report. I’ve doodled, I’ve tried a bit. All I can say right now is that I am exhausted. My heart, my mind, and my body are heavy with lack of sleep, tears, and uncomfortable hospital beds. I left the rest of my life on hold to be here when my father leaves this plane.

I hope that you never have to watch someone you love steadily diminish. It’s been a terrible, long, unforgiving process, watching Multiple Sclerosis steal my dad from me. I’ve watched helplessly as his body slowly betrayed him, as his mind quietly began slipping away. I’ve watched him lose his independence, his mobility, and lastly, his autonomy. I hate that the disease has stealthily eaten his life away. But it’s never taken away his spirit, his optimism. I have never, in 34 years, ever heard my dad complain about anything regarding himself. He’s never given in to despair, he never wanted anyone to pity him. I hope I learned his optimism, his strength of heart.

I’m going to stop this post, and continue reading to him. Hug your loved ones tight.

Plot twist...

Well, I was really excited to begin moving into my new studio... and then I got a call from my Uncle in Los Angeles.  My dad, Mike, who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis since I was a baby, was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit in Long Beach and I needed to come right away.  He has always had the most optimistic outlook, even when he was moved to a care center in Long Beach nearly 10 years ago.  He never complained, he always had a smile, he always wanted to hear about my adventures, our family, and what I had planned.  It was devastating to see him on a ventilator, unable to communicate, not recognizing his family.  My grandmother, two of my uncles, and I had to make some very difficult decisions concerning his prognosis and his hospice care. 

My life has sort of been in limbo, waiting to see if his condition is improving or declining, whether or not to rearrange flights and when to try to come back to the life I've left on hold in Utah.  My dad's condition was just barely upgraded, so I came back to Utah and I am trying to get the studio set up and an Art Show ready in a week.   

I'll do my best to get it together and get working by next week, but sometimes life throws us curve balls, plot twists, and we just have to roll with them.  Wish my dad health, me luck, and I'll wish you all a great day.  

Busy, Busy, Busy... A quick check in from the chaos of life.

Wow.  The past weeks since returning from Berlin have been a bit of a whirlwind. I've had so many things going on since I got back- I've had friends move to the state, a surprise weekend trip, job hunting, and this last weekend I volunteered at the Anarchy Girls Cospace booth at Salt Lake's comic convention FanX.  There hasn't been much downtime and today is no different- I rented a studio space which I am moving into and setting up starting today! 

No more painting in a cramped spare bedroom, trying to Tetris the works on the floor and my supplies.  I am very excited to have a dedicated space for my art and to begin working with models, hopefully next week.  Look for updates on my new space at the end of the week!

New Research Questions

I began my residency at Transart with a very basic idea- How much of a self portrait is each portrait that an artist creates?  I then spent three weeks with fellow students, advisors, guest speakers, and my conversations led me to expand on my research.  What I plan to do this year with my research will also be a part of my creative practice, so the two paths will be intertwined.  

I will be looking at the relationship of the model and artist and how that affects how the artist portrays the model.  While researching the practices and relationships of other artists, like Picasso and his many muses, I will be cultivating my own model/artist relationships as well creating new connections.  I will examine how artists painted models that sat for them repeatedly, what sort of relationships they had/developed, and if the evolution is evident in the artwork created.  As I am writing, I will be painting as well.  First, I plan to bring in a variety of models, for various lengths and numerous sittings, to see how much painting someone repeatedly can change their portrayal, and what the medium and duration do to the image.   Second, I will be painting a stranger for 6-8 sittings.  I will begin with a portrait similar to the piece Joanna, where the stranger will sit for a live drawing and photos, and they will give me a few symbolic items to include.  Next, I will have them sit for multiple live sessions, and include time to talk.  As the relationship develops, what does it do to the way I depict them?  At the end of the sessions, I will paint them one more time as a large piece and compare the beginning and end pieces.  

I am very interested to see how my blank-slate image and my final image will compare, and what I can see of myself in each of these paintings.  I have found that when I am trying to push to much of myself onto a piece it will fight me.  The painting will sometimes tell me where it needs to go, and sometimes I'm smart enough to listen.  It was recently brought up to me that when Joanna showed a friend my work she commented that the piece painted of Jo didn't look anything like my self portraits.  I told her it's because I listened to the painting and put less of myself on top and let her essence come through.  My initial drawings and panel fought me because I was putting too much of how I wanted to see Jo, rather than how she is.  I am curious to see how I deal with painting a stranger, and how I paint them as I get to know them- will the work fight me if I'm putting too much of myself into a piece? Will I notice that I'm even doing that?

 


What follows were my quickly typed thoughts, trying to grab them all before they left. 

 

Here are some ramblings and thoughts, some questions and tangents on my ideas for my Research Project for my first year…

How much of a self portrait is every portrait that an artist creates? 

How much of how the artist sees an individual tell us about who they are as an artist and a person?  What does the perspective portrayed tell us about the both the subject and the artist?

What do portraits tell us about the artist? What does what they choose to represent in a self-portrait, and what they leave out, tell us about them?  How dysmorphic is a self-portrait?

In my experience, when I am painting a portrait it is usually of someone I know on more than an acquaintance level. 

In my large series I plan to work with individuals who have influenced my life, have shaped how I see aspects of the world, and who mean a great deal to me.  I plan to include items, symbolic references to elements of who they are as a person, who I see them as, and the things most important to them.  Because I am viewing the individuals through our interactions, my opinions, and our connections, there is a filter to how I portray them. 

Does this filter reflect part of me in the work?  A “Sarah Jane” filter…  Which parts are reflections of the artist and which are purely the subject?  Is there a way to make an unbiased, completely pure portrait?  Would you want to create work where your image is completely absent?  I don’t know, I don’t think I would, could. 

I rarely work with strangers, but it may be interesting to explore how the images, the portrayals change over a series of sessions and getting to know someone.  Does getting to know the individual, the subject, allow for a better portrait?  Does the artist’s filter begin to seep into the final products?  Does the rendition of the subject evolve along with the relationship?

Will this line of thinking influence my practice? Probably, now that I’ve mulled it over, I want to see if I can incorporate it into my two tracks of portraits for my creative practice…

A long read... A little about how I got here, built a new life from loss.

I am living a life I never though could happen.  Here I am, sitting on a terrace outside of my hotel in Berlin, anxious and nervous and excited to begin my classes tomorrow.  I am working on my Master of Fine Art, a dream I didn't think I would ever get to realize, definitely not so early in life.  I am lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it, because of loss.  Loss that hurts my heart, loss that requires a fair bit of explanation to understand.

I turned 34 last week.  I gave up my hopes to work on my MFA, to further my art and my career, at age 26 when I moved to a small rural Utah town to work on my failing marriage.  A marriage that had started out wonderful, blissful, and full of possibilities had become a cage, built me and a man who was once beloved.  I don't quite know where or when things began to degrade, but it became a coupling of people who loved each other but were no longer in love with each other. 

We cut each other down with words, never physically, but we hurt anyway.  It took me a frightfully long time to admit that I was in an abusive relationship, a place I swore I would never be, because the abuse was all mental and emotional.  I didn’t fear for my physical safety, but I was afraid to be happy.  I was afraid to reach too far for goals.  Dave had not completed his work for his master’s degree, and I think he was scared that I would succeed where he had failed.  So I was given an ultimatum after I received my BFA: move to Vernal with him or get a divorce.  I was terrified of a life without Dave, as he had conditioned me that he was a huge part of what gave my life meaning.  I was also terrified of the term divorcee, as in my mind it conveyed failure.  I moved.

I realize now that this was a way he could control me, in a world where he felt he had very little control.  I thought I was being the dutiful, loving wife, supporting Dave in his new career and working towards repairing our relationship.  The move was not entirely bad.  While I had stated I would never move back to the small town in which I had despised growing up, I found myself back with family and making new friends.  I found a calling as an educator, teaching small humans all about the beauty of art, the ways to make it, to appreciate it, to speak and learn through art.  Almost immediately my artwork took a backseat to my teaching.  I was overwhelmed.  I had no background as a teacher, so on top of teaching 700 students each week I was taking courses at night to earn my Utah Teaching License.

At the end of the day I had so little emotional or physical energy that I usually ate dinner and went to bed.  But that itch remained, that urge to create, to speak without words, to make art.  I would try to make meaningful examples for my students, but the work always seemed to fall short of relieving the urge.  I got some relief with cosplay, but it still didn’t fill that void.  I also realize now that much of my emotional energy, which fuels so much of my work, was being diverted into David.  His struggles with deep depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bipolar tendencies spilled into my life and well-being.  I will give him credit though; he saw therapists, psychiatrists, doctors.  He took the prescribed medications, and sometimes they worked.  Sometimes his doctors seemed to cycle him through every drug in their books.  Nothing seemed to work for long, though.

Sometimes, he would self-medicate.  Other times, when the drugs were working, he would stop taking them thinking he didn’t need them anymore.  He was embarrassed that he needed medical help for his depression but didn’t seem even remotely worried about his glasses.  In my mind, the two are similar.  They each let you lead a better life, but Dave wanted to be cured.  I think he though if our marriage were what he thought it should be (read: what others told him our marriage should look like) it would be easier.  It wasn’t.  It hurt.  There were moments where it was excruciating, watching a man I had loved to disintegrate, watching him cut himself off from all his support, including me.  He would lash out, hurting most the ones who were trying to help. 

For my part, I had done my best to hide just how crumbled our marriage was from friends, family.  They would catch glimpses of it when Dave would have an episode and look at me with unreadable expressions.  I had a few friends who were honest with me.  They had been there, on both sides of the mental breakdown, and I finally admitted to what I had been pretending didn’t exist.  The abuse.  You see, my mother and sister were both victims of physical abuse by a spouse; I swore I would never let myself be in a similar situation.  I swore I would never let someone hurt me, wear me down, control me.  Abuse doesn’t just start with a bang, it seeps in like an odorless gas, filling the room before you realize it.  I loved Dave and he loved me, surely, he wouldn’t ever intentionally hurt me?

When I had finally come to terms with the fact that this was an abusive relationship I was ready to take a step back.  Dave had had one final, horrendous meltdown, in front of all our friends, that sealed my resolve.  He told me I couldn’t leave, even for the night, or he would kill himself.  It was not the first time, sadly, that he had used this tactic to control my movements and emotions.  However, this time I saw it for what it was, and was tired of him manipulating me with this threat.  I had taken the gun out of his hand, we drove home, and his parents thought they had taken all the other guns out of the house.  I spent the night at my mother’s house and ignored his calls; I told him I needed space to think. 

The next morning I was headed to my classroom to set up lessons and supplies for the next week.  I had ignored phone calls from everyone so far, but then my sister-in-law called.  She never called me.  She said I needed to come to the hospital, that Dave was there.  I could feel the knot of unease tighten in my stomach.  I hoped he was just there for evaluation, or maybe even institutionalization, but he spent a lot of time there. It was okay.  I was wrong.  When I pulled into the hospital I saw my big beast of a brother-in-law crying.  Sobbing.  The back of my brain knew right away what happened, but the front of my brain didn’t register it till the words were said aloud by my mother-in-law. 

David was gone.  He’d shot himself with the last gun, the one I thought we had taken away.  I swear I felt the universe stop spinning, I felt the world hold its breath.  I fell and wretched up bile, as I hadn’t been able to eat since the day before.  I remember the smell of antiseptic and the cold tile under my hands, heat and pain on my face.  I felt like my heart was going to explode and then I would fold in on myself like a black hole.  I had been contemplating a world where Dave and I were no longer married, not one where he didn’t exist.  I didn’t want to fathom a world where he didn’t exist.  I had loved him, and still did in a way, but now he was gone.

I spent the next week in a haze.  There were tears from friends and family, hundreds of questions, and people who stepped up and took care of things because I could not.  I was empty; I was a shell.  I felt untethered to reality and to my body.  I only ate when forced to do so.  Friends gathered our cats and took them to a rescue till I was able to care for them.  My house, where Dave had shot himself, was cleaned of anything offensive so I could go in and gather belongings.  I couldn’t- I had a panic attack just trying to step foot on the porch.  There were so many little things that were huge that I couldn’t bear.  My guilt was enormous and suffocating.  Then there was the funeral.  All I really remember from that day was crying in the front pew while people from a church he didn’t believe in anymore spoke of a man I didn’t recognize.  Then we buried my husband.

When I finally came to, when I felt in my body and mind again, I was scared.  I had bought a house, had student loans, had loads of bills from his hospital stays, the costs associated with his death, the costs of the funeral.  I didn’t know how I was going to survive.  I didn’t think I would be able to access any of our life insurance as his death was a suicide.  I couldn’t bear to be in the house where he made that fateful choice, so where would I live?  What would become of me, my life, in this new existence? 

Thankfully, I had amazing people in my universe who were able to sort all my financial issues out; the life insurance came through just as my friends has raised money for us, there was a safety net.  I was able to pay off all the big bills, settle his debts, repay the family his funeral costs.  I even had a nest egg for the future.  The future.  It was terrifying.  I had never imagined what my life would look like without Dave in the world.

I went back to work eventually, but I felt like I was putting on an old sweater that didn’t quite fit anymore.  I felt completely on display in our small town.  Everyone seemed to have their own ideas on how I should be grieving, how I should or shouldn’t be living.  I felt like my every move was taking place under a microscope, and suddenly things that had been of no consequence were in full spotlight.  It was stifling and enlightening. 

Slowly but surely, I began to live again.  For a long time, I was just going through the motions, eating when expected, teaching what I could, trying to regain some of my old joy, and all the while drinking excessively.  I drank a lot of my sadness, my confusion, my pain.  I felt guilty the first time I felt happy again.  I struggled with his ghost, as so many of my friends were his friends, his family was my family and mine, his.  I lost a lot of friends to his ghost as well.  People didn’t know how to feel, act, think around me, and I am certain that many of his friends distanced themselves from me because it was easier than being reminded of the loss.  I realized that I would never be able to really move on without physically moving. 

I had made the decision to live.  Initially, I had joined support groups to help wade through the anguish and guilt, but I saw so many fellow widows and widowers that allowed their spouse’s death to be the defining moment of their lives.  I wanted more for my life than to be just Dave’s widow.  (I hated that word, that pitying word, and it didn’t help that the first time it was said around me was in a fit of jealousy by my mother, only three weeks after his death) It was a conscious choice to not waste away, to try to see the good in the wreckage of my life.  I think I did what Dave had hoped for me, I lived. 

It’s been a long road, full of twists and turns, bumps and shocks, to get where I am now.  I moved into an apartment, got my kitties, and kept teaching for one more year.  I made new friends, lost some friends, and reconnected with others from my past.  I struggled, but I began piecing together a new existence.  I made the decision to quit my job teaching and to reconnect myself with my art. Just over a year after Dave died I moved to Salt Lake City with the help of countless friends, family, and new love.

I had a giant hole in my heart where Dave lived, the man he once was and the man he had become before his death.  I was certain that my new existence would not involve feeling love again.  I had tried, failing spectacularly, at dating as an adult.  I had no idea how to do this dating thing.  Many of my friends encouraged me to either keep at it or to not rush it, the only consensus being to do what felt right, as it had been just one year since Dave’s death.  You see, I married David when I was 20 years old; we began dating when I was barely 18, so I had no experience at being a single adult.  It was painful, dating.  I had been ghosted, had awkward advances made, been stood up, rejected.  So, I gave up on dating. I had made peace with the idea of being single and began to revel in it.  I was not looking for a relationship at all when one fell into my lap.  A friend from the cosplay community and I had reconnected through his work with medical research.  We kept in touch as I traveled to Ireland and Hawaii, and when I needed a place to crash one night he offered his house up.  It felt a bit like fate.  Suddenly I was feeling things I thought I would never experience again.  It was ridiculously easy to be with Ian, he knew all about my past and my loss and was supportive in ways I could only dream were possible. 

There were days that some small thing would trigger me, and he would help me work through the tears and emotions.  He helped me realize not every disagreement had to be a fight; it was always that way with Dave.  He helped me mature emotionally, where I felt stunted before.  He showed me an unapologetic love and understanding, and listened when I needed it, offered insight and we grew together.  Ian has been so supportive of me achieving my dreams.  He encourages, needles me when I need it, helps me blow off steam when I need to decompress. I cannot imagine a better partner, someone who is willing to discuss, compromise, and develop a life together where we both flourish.  I’m grinning like a fool as I type this bit out, because he really truly makes me happy, and wants to see me happy.  I feel the same way about him.

When I began really buckling down on creating meaningful art, on making works that would help me get back to my center, he was there offering support.  He helped me set up a studio space and a schedule to work and pestered me when I wasn’t on plan.  When I began my self portrait series, The Seven Stages of Grief, I was worried how he might take it.  I mean, I was doing a series of nude self portraits that dealt with how awful I felt after losing my husband.  I had no need to worry.  Ian has always understood that he and Dave are very different people, who each mean different things to me.  He didn’t feel threatened, he saw it as cathartic, which it has been.  His logic balances out my emotionality.  He was so glad to see me making new works that resonated for both of us on many levels. 

Then came the time for me to start applying.  I had researched many different schools, spoken with their advisors, recruiters, and it always came back to my gut feeling that I needed to be at Transart Institute.  So I applied.  I was a mess leading up to and after submitting my application.  I was certain that they’d tell me I needed to work harder, develop more, be a better artist before applying again.  I was terrified, but Ian and my friends had wonderful faith in me and my art.  They could see how much I wanted this, and they rooted for me. 

I thought I was going to throw up before my first interview with Jean Marie, and again when I spoke with Andrew.  When I was finally officially accepted, I thought I was dreaming.  My life is so unrecognizable from March 2016.  I never would have imagined that I would be here, in Berlin, ready to start the next chapter of my life.  I have a profound gratitude for the life I have now.  I know I wouldn’t be here if Dave had not died.  I wouldn’t have the financial weight lifted from my worries if he were still alive.  I don’t know what I would be doing if he hadn’t pulled the trigger, but I can’t imagine being this happy. 

I feel a smidge of guilt while not really feeling it… I think I should feel guilty, but I know somewhere that Dave would not want me to waste the opportunities life has given me. 

Anything we create follows an act of destruction.  Nothing can be made without first destroying something else. A house cannot be built without first cutting the trees for the timber, without digging the earth for the foundation.  My life was destroyed, in a way, by the death of my husband.  But I’m picking up the pieces and creating something new, something worth fighting for.  I have worked to get to this point in my life and I am going to keep working hard, to help building and growing and creating.  I am living a life I never thought could happen, and I am loving it.   

Reading Journal: Elena Marcheveska- Silence/Silenced

I consider myself a budding feminist.  I grew up in a small country town raised in a fairly conservative family.  As I've expanded my life I find so many amazing human beings; people who have struggled to be seen, to be recognized, to be alive.  I am constantly learning from them, trying to grow, to help them grow.  

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Reading Journal- Michael Bowdidge, Metassemblage: Collaging Theory and Practice

 

Edited:

Okay. So upon my second reading, this makes much more sense. I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind, I was too tired, or what was wrong the first time I read through this, but the second time I was able to comprehend much more. The sentence structure and some teems still threw me off a bit, but I got through it much easier.

I feel like the idea of taking art objects, ideas, or compositions and reimagining them, reconfiguring them, reactualizing them in a different frame is how modern or contemporary art is expressing and evolving how we experience art. I liked the reference to a DJ, picking significant bits and pieces of music or audible art, and rearranging them to create a new piece, an elevated, changed experience of the bits.

The idea that we can reinterpret, even fundamentally change the meaning of a work by selecting parts to highlight, parts to obscure, is exciting.

 


Original:

I will not lie- this reading was incredibly difficult for me.  I struggled with the excessively flowery style of writing; I felt like the thesaurus had been abused.  I am going to read this all again on my way to Germany and I am praying to any deity that might listen that the second read-through goes much better.  

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Prepping for Berlin

Getting ready to spend a month overseas is an undertaking.  Not only am I prepping for this adventure, I am taking care of all the things that I will be missing while I'm away.  Now add into that the hustle of homework, creating smaller studies of my artwork that are airline-friendly, and dealing with the illness and distance of loved ones. 

Well.  

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. 

Some moments as I'm reading, or making notes on my readings, my brain freezes.  The words on the page stop being anything but a collection of lines and shapes and I have to take a second to reorient my mind.  These are usually the moments that I pack something up or do a small chore and knock something off my list.  It's a small accomplishment, but it reminds me that it is all doable, if I take small bites.  I remind myself to look at smaller tasks, one or two at a time,  instead of all of them at once.  My anxiety lessens a bit and I can get back to focusing on my reading, on trying to understand, to comprehend and arrange my comprehension into something legible.  

Just now was a moment to let my brain take a break for a few minutes and to test out my nifty new blog before posting my reading journals.  

Taking a nice deep breath, drinking lots of water, and getting back to it. 

Thanks for reading my rambling.  It made my mind feel better. 

Welcome!

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