Sunday, August 30, 2015

Artistic Inspiration & Appreciation

I was very flattered when I was contacted recently by the folks at Patience Brewster  to ask if I would be interested in participating in a series of artist appreciation posts on their blog. I'm sure you know Patience Brewster's artwork, even if you don't recognize her name. She creates the most whimsical creatures, both on paper and in sculptural form.  You've undoubtedly seen her card, figures, and ornaments -- they are very charming.  Oh, how I love that moose figure!  And the pearl girl mermaid ornament!  And the Christmas black lab!  I've given the ornaments as gifts occasionally and I have several myself, and one is more adorable than the next.

In any event, the fact that Patience Brewster has asked me as an artist about my artistic inspirations brought me up short.  I forget to think about myself as an artist -- I tend to see myself as someone who plays and creates and makes for the love of making and exploring.  I guess that's an artist!  

I have been inspired by a lot of different artists.  But as I was thinking about this post, and thinking about the art I make, I realized that I tend to work in three main areas these days (quilting, sketching, book making).  So I want to highlight several people who have taught me and given me tremendous inspiration in those three areas.  

First, quilting.  I have been deeply influenced by the work of Freddy Moran and Kaffe Fassett.  And yes, they have their similarities, even though their bodies of 
work are quite different. 

When I returned to quilting in the early 1990's, Freddy introduced me to making traditional quilt blocks in very nontraditional ways.  She gave me the freedom to use as much color as I wanted, and then to add even more.  

She gave me (and a lot of others) the freedom to loosen up on precision, and to appreciate the personality of wonky shapes. 

She showed me, in quilt after quilt, how beautifully joy and fun can be expressed in fabric.

Kaffe Fassett, also, taught me a lot about how mixing color and pattern and scale can work to create a riot of color and texture as beautiful as any garden.  As Freddy does, Kaffe uses color and pattern with exuberance.  

I love how his quilts create such complexity even with simple shapes and simple structure. 

The world of sketching and painting is newer to me, but I am soaking up inspiration from all directions and learning a lot as I follow my favorite urban sketchers.  Several stand out.  First is Danny Gregory.  

His books, especially The Creative License, Everyday Matters, and An Illustrated Life, introduced me to sketching as a way of experiencing the world. 

 He's shown me and so many others that sketching and painting aren't about painstaking precision or perfection; they are about seeing and the process of translating what you see through your own artistic process.  It's drawing, and drawing, and drawing more -- even the most ordinary things -- that build skill, that cause you to see the world differently, and that create an artistic habit.

I've been a regular student in his online course, "Sketchbook Skool," which has helped me see that different artists do things differently, and that's okay!

Another sketch artist who inspires me greatly is Liz Steel, from Australia.  I took to Liz's story right away -- she trained and worked as an architect but eventually her passion for sketching and watercolor took her in directions she never imagined.  

I've learned a lot from following Liz's stream of sketches on Flickr, and I am inspired to try to get looser and paint the essence of something, rather than getting bogged down in the details.

Liz's sketches of food, her teacups, and her art supplies have taught me a lot, and I end up sketching food and dishes and art supplies often as well! 

 The other sketch artist whom I admire tremendously and study with intensity is Gay Kraeger.  She was a graphic designer before she began keeping watercolor sketchbooks, and her graphic design training shows in her work. 

She incorporates all of my favorite things in her sketchbook spreads -- beautiful images, a well-composed layout, and attractive typography and text.  I have learned so much from seeing the different ways she sets up a page. 

And in the world of book making, two artists immediately come to mind.  First is the woman who was my teacher and mentor for a number of years, Shereen LaPlantz.  

I'd been enthralled with her book "Cover to Cover," which had inspired me through showing innovative book structures, easy techniques, and so many beautiful photos.

When I moved back to Northern California and discovered that Shereen lived just a few hours a way, I was thrilled. That discovery led me into a 3-year master class on bookmaking with Shereen.  Along the way, I learned so much from Shereen about things beyond book-making -- how to embrace one's creativity, how to move past mistakes, how to be proud of one's own uniqueness, and eventually, even, how to accept a terminal illness with grace and dignity and a zest for living up until the very end.  I treasured my time with her and miss her.

The other artist who has inspired me in the book arena is Mary Ann Moss, of Los Angeles.  I first met Mary Ann through her blog Dispatch from LA, and I was drawn to her humor, her willingness to explore and just be silly with art, her happy and colorful artwork, and her love of reading and learning.  She's a woman after my own heart, she is.  But I was totally excited when I discovered her series of online classes that involve bookmaking -- Remains of the Day, Ticket to Venice (travel journaling), Full Tilt Boogie (visual journaling), and Sketchbookery (sketchbook making and painting).

Mary Ann reminded me that it's okay to sew on paper, and it set me off on a renewed book-making obsession that holds me enthralled even today.  She's inspired me to mix papers and junk mail and old stuff and photos and all sorts of ephemera  -- it's that permission to be free and creative and just bask in color and pattern and texture, with and on paper.  (Are you seeing a theme?  If Freddy Moran made books, I bet she'd make them like this.)

Mary Ann has changed the way I think of book making -- she's brought me back to it, actually, after many years away -- and she's freed me up to have fun making whatever sort of book I want, with whatever bits I have around, and to use them for whatever purpose -- most importantly, just for fun.

So there you have it -- the artists whose inspiration is affecting me most immediately these days.  

Thank you, Freddy, Kaffe, Danny, Liz, Gay, Shereen, and Mary Ann.  The work you've shared has become a part of me, and has affected everything I do. 

I'd love it if you'd share in a comment who inspires you! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

And then the summer got away from me...

Oops, how did that happen? I see the last entry was in early July, and here it is nearing the end of August.  Somehow the summer just slid on by.  I hope yours was fun and that you have some lovely memories.

Me, I did a bit of this and that.  The biggest "This" was a trip up to Washington.  Wanna see some pictures? 

First stop, Rogue River, Oregon.  It's just outside of Grants Pass and is about halfway between my house and Seattle.  So I cruised through Oregon listening to "Go Set A Watchman" read by  Reese Witherspoon. I loved it and it was the perfect accompaniment on a long drive.

Along the way, I stopped in Eugene to stretch my legs -- and stumbled onto Voodoo Doughnuts which I'd always heard of but never visited.  That called for a purchase of doughnuts -- 2 to eat, and a few more to sketch.

Next stop, Seattle where I stayed with my friend Dori.  I didn't take a ton of pictures, but I did do a sketch of her backyard.  Her home is right on Lake Washington with a view across the lake of Mercer Island.

We had a lot of fun while I was there.  We went to a wonderful art show in Bellevue, we went to the Seattle Center to see the Chihuly glass museum which I've been wanting to do FORever, and we saw Snoqualmie Falls and had a lovely lunch at the lodge there.  Oh yeah, we talked the whole time too, as good friends do.

From there, I went up to Whidbey Island which I'd always wanted to see. I drove up the Seattle side, and entered the island at its northern end, via Deception Pass which was stunning.

On Whidbey Island, I'd rented a little cottage via VRBO, and it turned out to be perfect.

 It had one tiny bedroom, a "just right" kitchen for making sandwiches to take to the beach and pouring wine and cleaning crab, and a cozy living room that had just the space I needed to read, gaze at the water, and sit at the little table and paint and stick stuff in my travel journal.

Oh yeah, I sketched that too.

I spent my week there exploring, taking photos, sketching, poking around, driving on backroads, walking on the beach, picking up odd bits of driftwood, seashell, and rock.  

 I fell in love with the charming little towns, and oh, those lush hanging baskets of flowers that I found all over the place!  


My dear friend Paige took the ferry over from Port Townsend one day, and we had a very fun day chatting and poking through thrift stores.
 One afternoon, my landlady texted me to ask if I wanted some fresh caught crab.  Yes, please!  I came home to find an ice chest with two big cooked and cleaned crabs on the front porch.  Dinner for several days! (this wasn't it, but I did take this picture of a crab on the beach.)

And speaking of the beach, I Sketched some of the treasures I found on my travels.

 One evening, as I was perusing my Ipad researching options for the next day, I stumbled onto the Whidbey Island Sketchers' website, which announced that they had a sketching meet-up the following day.  I emailed, asked if they allowed visitors, and was told to come on and sketch!  So next afternoon found me in Freeland at a wonderful home and garden for a peaceful afternoon of sketching with some very friendly sketchers.

At the end of my week, I ferried over to Port Townsend to stay at Paige's and explore around there some more.  After Whidbey Island, PT felt like a bustling city.  But really, it was the same charming, quirky town it always is.  I had a wonderful dinner at a favorite restaurant, Sirens, sitting out on the deck.  I didn't mind the service being slow -- I had time to sketch.

 One of the things I love most about PT is my friend Paige's home, and how she has charming installations everywhere.  This Buddha watches over the favorite shady spot of her sweet departed dog Annie.

So, there you have it.  I drove home by the same route, listening to the 2nd half of Go Set a Watchman, and marveled (in a bad way) at the smoky haze that covered the sky from Portland all the way south to Healdsburg.

Aren't summer trips the best?