Press on.

Here is a brief list of book artists to explore, most of them are bay area local. If you’re interested in artists books I suggest you go to Mills College and look at their book arts collection or follow them on Instagram (see below)! I can get such weird looks by uttering the phrase “artist books” and then I start researching and it’s a rabbit hole of images and websites and collections. Perhaps it’s not the first art form one thinks of, but they are an art form just like painting or sculpture. I respectfully now point you towards a few folks who will help lead you into the world of book arts:

Alisa golden: My professor at CCA, I literally took 3 or 4 classes with her. Her blog is a great resource for learning about bookbinding. I admire how her work is so considered and well-crafted, and that she not only makes books, but she teaches as well as editng and producing a literary magazine, *82 review.

Julie Chen: These books push form and planning to the next level!

Jungle garden press: I’ve always had a weird soft spot for this press, I don’t know much about it, but here it is!

Rae Trujillo: She has so many books! The collage aspects and layers. Books are a great medium for that, and Rae embraces that.

Mills college: The link is to their Instagram page because I follow it and it’s interesting. Mills College here in Oakland, CA actually has an MFA in Book Arts. That’s the whole major’s focus.

SF Center for the Book: A whole institution with classes and programs and a gallery for book arts in the Bay Area!

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To define an artist’s book.

On my blog schedule, the word “madness” is scrawled beneath March, because I chose to write about assorted topics that struck me and didn’t immediately relate. Before outlining my schedule last month, I had been looking around at my paintings trying to decide which chairs or flowers or coffee to discuss next. Instead, I found myself wanting to shed light on artist books, so April’s posts will be dedicated to artists’ books.

I tend to pretend that bookmaking isn’t an interest of mine when asked about my studio practice because artists’ books are more difficult to explain and they are a huge time investment. Both of these reasons cause my bookmaking projects to be pushed aside and unacknowledged. One goal for 2016 is to make more artists’ books.

When I started writing a post about my most recent artists’ books two months ago, I found myself looking up definitions on Wikipedia to help me! Yesterday, I finally found my personal definition: Artists interpreting the book form.

That is as open-ended as bookmaking actually is. Artists’ books range from what westerners define as a book to sculptural pieces like boxes or scrolls. Coming up with a specific definition is difficult because it’s a personal and flexible range. Though like all books, artists’ books usually have that interactive element: the viewer turns pages or opens a box or flips open a flap or sorts through a pile of papers. The book form is often grouped with printmaking because making multiples of an image of text is helpful for making editions of books.

The Smithsonian has an artists’ books collection, you can check out here. To provide an outside example other than Wikipedia. My partner Colin Andersen (illustrator, comic artist, and zine maker) described artists’ books as, “small batches of well-made books that tell a small story or poem or abstract narrative from simple to delicate construction.” His description adds more specific words to the idea of what these book forms might be or how they might be created.

Because the book arts expression really is personal, I thought I could elaborate some upon my own books more specifically. Mostly I refer to them as, “little poetic books that I make.” Starting with a theme or imagery, I have to find a story, imagery or texture, and a form. I most often make some sort of accordion book because it can be read like a normal book as well as stretched out to be viewed as a whole. My books are very clean and empty like my paintings, some imagery with winding abstract narratives, to borrow Colin’s words. The more I write about these books, the more similarities between my paintings and books become clear. What similarities do you see?

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Rumination, 2012

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Treasured Triggers, 2012

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Postcard Book, 2012

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Tea Book, 2013

 

When I grow up.

People ask what you want to be when you grow up from a young age. In my youth, I recall wanting to be both a Stanford cheerleader and a Cirque du Soileil performer. Instead, the labels that define me are now: artist, business owner, and assistant (of the production, caregiving and artist varieties.)

Thoughts about what jobs I would do if I wasn’t an artist are ever-present in my head. The “go-to” job suggestion for an art school grad is to be an art teacher. Logically if you know about art that means you’ll be a great teacher because clearly that is an easy job that requires no preparation or skills (says my sarcasm!) For a while, I did want to become an art teacher for young children. Nanny gigs and a museum education job later, it was clear to me that being a teacher was not my strong suit. I want those who have the passion and skill-set to be teaching and leading our future generations. But I walked away with the knowledge that behind-the-scenes organizing, brainstorming, building, creating and helping move action items along was my strong suit.

Which brings me back to the other professions, I scrawled as answers to the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up: a secretary or an interior designer. I played secretary at my grandparents house. By setting two large picture books on the suitcase rack, I had created a little desk. Add pen jars, paper, and business cards from my grandparents store and I was in action; I answered the phone, wrote down notes, and even filed papers. Regarding the interior designer gig, I rearranged my room ALL the time. I still do. Finding creative solutions for holding my hairbrushes to how to arrange the furnitue. I cannot get enough of design magazines and Ikea and West Elm and HGTV! As a side note, this may have helped fuel my chair paintings.

For now, I am an artist trying to fill people’s homes with my art, as well as filing papers and answering emails and scheduling life. So it seems I am both of those dream jobs came true in their own way. AND if I had to chose now what I would be if I wasn’t an artist, I would take positions at local businesses that uphold values I believe in or find a career in helping reduce and redirect waste to more sustainable practices. Both of these would just be different forms of what I am already working towards now. This post was based on a prompt to describe what I would be if I wasn’t an artist. I don’t really think I covered that, but it sure put me on a jaunt down memory lane and it turns out, I am actually pretty happy with the jobs I am doing now (except I wish being an artist included health care!) Now enjoy some photos to give you some mental images of me along this journey!

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Looking towards the future (but really checking out Niagra Falls assuming my parents actually gave me quarters for the binoculars…)

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A recent display of artwork at the CCA Holiday Fair

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In production assistant mode at Todos Organics

To the trash.

Sustainability… it’s a hot word. The ability to be sustained says dictionary.com is, “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.”
In my personal life, I am taking steps towards living this way. Educating myself and my partner about what actually goes in the recycling and compost (I literally feel joyful and uplifted when I am able to place things in our compost bin!) Creating awareness in what I am buying and eating; my aim towards buying organic and local. Learning about bath & beauty products. Etc, Etc. As I progressed on the journey, I found myself facing this issue in my art practice about a month or so ago. Based on the waste I create as an artist, I seriously considered quitting art and it was terrifying, absolutely gut-wrenching. Doubts about being an artist run rampant in my brain every day, but this concrete issue hollered HALT, YOU SHAMEFUL WASTEBIN!!! Think about all the garbage: painted paper, paper towels, disposable palettes, the paint tubes, plastic packaging. Not to mention, shipping byproducts and all of the manufacturing processes.

I didn’t want to be contributing to such a mass of waste. So I worked through it: I could become a digital artist. BUT that doesn’t suit my old-fashioned personality, so back to quitting. Slowly, I gripped the reality that I could change the way my studio practice runs; you know, teach this old dog new sustainable art practices. Currently, the “evaluating and brainstorming on my own” phase is in effect (let’s pretend that’s real!) At the studio, I maybe toss a gallon or two of trash every two weeks at the studio and important to evaluate not just how much, but WHAT is going in there. Plus how the supplies I purchase factor in! Writing this blog post causes me to feel accountable and is inspiring me to do more research. On a seemingly unrelated topic, I dislike Twitter, mostly because I can’t figure it out, and also because I don’t think it suits my style of communication. As I was about to delete it the other day, I realized it is where I get a lot of articles and tidbits about the environment and waste. This article on zero waste for example: http://www.earth911.com/living-well-being/zero-waste-really-mean/

I literally found that this morning as I was going to edit this post. It’s an intimidating change, and yes it’s about grocery shopping, and this morning, I found it inspiring, or well, informative. Figuring out my values and goals is important and still haven’t been flushed out, along with HOW to go about it. For now, I don’t have a lot of answers, but I have some ideas.

My “practical” hoarding tendencies already have me employing these creative solutions (Many need to be updated, we all have to start somewhere!)

  • Reusing paper towels with which I dry my hands at the studio. These come in handy for cleaning and for wiping my brushes off. I literally have a drawer full of paper towels… (I do aim to reduce the use of paper towels to begin with!)
  • Using old t-shirts as rags around the studio. Also handy for cleaning and wiping brushed off.
  • Keeping messed up print-outs and paper with room left as scratch paper for to do lists. (Plus recycling!)
  • Buying environmentally friendly packaging and products. My greeting cards come in biodegradable “plastic” bags (from Nashville wraps!) and my shipping envelopes are made from recycled materials (from Ecoenclose)
  • Packing out my compostable items at the studio to take home instead of letting banana peels fester in the landfill.
  • Recycling as much as possible, duh!
  • Reusing paper and panels and materials to experiment with new processes as much as possible!
  • Using a wood panel as a palette (just started this one, I am going to see if I can turn these into artwork, too!)
  • Mixing colors right on the panel with the painting instead of using a palette (this keeps me from using disposable palettes and keeps the unused paint out of the garbage!)

 

 

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A quote I find helpful that I illustrated in my sketchbook

2016

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Ecoenclose packaging products

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My painting with palette included (it remains unfinished yet!)

8 by 10 inches

2016

 

From precious seed to hipster plant.

I’m here to shed further light on Hipster Plant because, well, I take everything seriously and my goofy Hipster Plant Greeting Card endeavor doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense.

First of all, I LOVE making people cards. Homemade cards and presents are very meaningful to me. So if you ever receive a card from me the whole writing area will be full. I see it as an opportunity to share what I think that I may not say regularly. It’s one way I make sure folks know that I care and they can look at it in the future and recall that I took the time to write them that nice message.

A few years ago, I considered starting up a custom greeting card business, but decided I didn’t want to because my cards were all about how personal the cards were, plus I didn’t want to sell that part of my soul. It is still surprising to me that I followed through with the Hipster Plant project. This Hipster Plant collection percolated for a year or two after I crafted my first Hipster Plant birthday card for my brother (after which followed a Hipster Plant Christmas card and a Hipster Plant thank you card for him.)

Some darn devil sits on my shoulder telling me it was an idiotic idea to turn this idea into a line of greeting cards. Probably the part of me that surveying the mound of boxes with Hipster Plant cards and supplies waiting for new homes says I should listen to that bugger. But my sappy side wins the battle! The reinvention of Hipster Plant has a facade of sass and weirdness, but underneath these cards come from my homemade, caring heart. They are my attempt to share some of the messages I send to my family.

Someone advised me to drop the “and I will long after.” portion of the I Love You card that reads, “I loved you before it was cool and I will long after.” As a testament to my sentimental card writing, I kept it. These cards happen to use hipster culture cause it’s just silly to put glasses and a mustache on a plant. Plus an opportunity to play with words and let my boyfriend help me with puns.

Amid the murky brain grumbling about how they’re stupid came the realization the process of their creation has actually had a profound affect on my art path. My friend, boss, and studio peer Angel, was a huge support in figuring out how to make the cards and package the cards. She is familiar with making packaging decisions, especially eco-friendly ones. I discovered that making informed decisions about my environmental impact is important to me and I find myself beginning to address some of these ideas in my studio practice. Can’t wait to share where that path takes me.

Reference my website and Etsy for further pictures and description.

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Thank you and Christmas Hipster Plant drawings for my brother

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The line of Hipster Plant Greeting Cards

Cards from left to right: Congratulations, Happy Birthday, I love you, and Thank you

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The congratulations greeting

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The happy birthday greeting

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The I love you greeting

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The thank you greeting

From the chair lady.

I embrace the title of “chair lady” because it’s my way of participating and owning the humor that comes along with painting folding chairs for 3 years now. When I started painting chairs serially, I despised the suggestions, jokes, and flack people offered. Now, I am willing to smile and nod instead of glare.

Recently, during brunch with my friend Laura, we discussed the trajectory of my chairs and I decided I wanted to elaborate on the “chair thing” that I have going on.

First off, you may look at my paintings and see furniture. I can understand and it’s okay. The one thing I do not know how to deal with is the question:”so you like chairs?”

Pause for a second and ask yourself the same question: do you like chairs? Because I certainly do, they allow me to sit instead of stand and they are often beautifully designed. I have always enjoyed interior design and I admire well-crafted furniture. Who in the world would say they dislike chairs? The most annoying part of this question is the implication that I have some weird chair fetish or that I am obsessed with chairs. I’ll tell you right now, neither of those things are true. I aim to express emotions and tell stories and the chairs allow me to do this. Some people paint fairies, some people paint stripes, some people simply paint colors, and I paint chairs.

I use folding chairs in my paintings because they are ubiquitous and familiar. Perhaps someday, I will paint a larger variety of chairs, but my painting really have nothing to do with chairs. The chairs represent people. Though they may not have started there…

My chair paintings have changed drastically over the years. I began depicting chairs because I was getting back into painting in college after exploring ceramics for a semester and I had no idea what to paint. Once upon a time, someone taught me to draw what was in front of me when I found myself stumped. So I began doing weekly paintings of the studio space before me at CCA. Dripping, sketchy paint illustrated white walls, ceiling fans, soda cans, coffee cups, easels, stools, drawing horses, and you guessed it, folding chairs. (See the first image)

I was simply trying to hit upon a style or a subject that felt right. This took a while. I painted on paper, I let the paint drip down. I painted on show and advertisement postcards that I gathered in different places. I sanded them down, I layered paint on top of my paintings and sanded some more. (See the second image) I stretched paper on stretcher bars instead of canvas. Eventually, I discovered wood panel and settled upon seats and portraits as my favorite subjects.

So I began painting chairs from life based on arrangements that I physically was creating in the studio. (See the third image) Over time, I began to harness the storytelling aspect of these arrangements, first telling stories of my alienated child and teenage years. (See the fourth image) This culminated in my senior show. And then the paintings turned into me telling stories. Dealing with death, observing people in real life, processing issues between my family members. At some point, I stopped arranging the chairs in real life because I had them memorized and then began exploring how I could angle the chair parts weirdly to express body language. The tags were added to express my love of text. And now I still tell stories with the chair’s body language based on personal relationships or arrangements or actions I observe in real life. (See the last image, this painting is mentioned in the previous post Behind the Painting: Search for ordinary wonder.)

And here I am today, still painting chairs. I also paint other objects, I always have. I am probably going to be painting chairs for a while and their purpose or style will continue to change.

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A wall of paintings from class critique in 2012

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An arrangement of paintings in my studio circa 2013

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A chair painting that was painted over circa 2013

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Hips pressed together. 2014

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Independent certainty. 2015

Behind the Painting: Both.

I realized yesterday that while I don’t miss the confusion and effort of gathering blog post content, I miss sharing stories about my work. So I thought I would talk about Both., a painting from my nature series, which consists of seven paintings of flowers or tree branches.

This painting is different from many of my pieces because:
1. There are no chairs.
2. It was done on paper and then mounted on a panel.
3. It is painted in ink and acrylic paint.
4. This piece has a title on its tag as well as a haiku about the piece.

Only two of the seven pieces in the nature series are done on paper, the rest of the nature series are paint on wooden panels. Still, I consider this piece a painting. For this series, I wrote a haiku for each painting, which was tedious and also really satisfying. Writing and words and meranings and implications are really important to me and my work. I also felt relatively proper because haikus are supposed to be about nature. The haiku for Both. was one of the quickest to write because I had already taken notes about the imagery. You can read the haiku by clicking on the second image below.

This tree was found in a friend’s backyard. I plopped down on the back steps and searched for something to sketch and landed upon this fascinating tree. The tree itself is rather simple, hardly any smaller branches until about 10 feet up and yet its body language spoke to me. It told a story of two separate entities splitting early on, but yet still sharing one base. The mounted watercolor paper was originally supposed to be cut up and placed on two smaller panels, but having each limb in its own space emphasized the idea of division, as well as including messy paint edges. But life is messy and imperfect and so it makes sense to have this wonky shaped image. My notes and haiku relating to this image are wondering about why these two grew like that. Do all trees like that do that? Is it necessary? Or were they tired of each other? Why do we grow apart? Why are we not united? And yet, look how much do we still have in common.

Both.
9 x 12 x 1 inches
Ink and acrylic paint on paper on wood panel with paper tag
2015
Both. 
Tag Detail of Haiku
2015
 
Tree sketch
Pencil on paper
2015

From Granddad

Now that the dozen Behind the Painting posts are complete, I’m pondering what to share on this blog next. Today I am posting a poem my Granddad wrote about my chair pieces. This poem serves as a lovely way of wrapping up my stories behind the pieces because it makes suggestions of what else these stories could be about and summarizes my chair series succinctly. I contemplate using it as an artist’s statement sometimes. My aim is to have viewers relate to the paintings or to identify themselves in the scenes and I feel this poem could help lead people to understanding without me spelling it out.

As a little behind the scenes, here’s a tidbit about my Granddad: He has been a great source of support and inspiration. He always believed in me and my art trajectory, even when I was younger and more unsure of myself and making, uh, terrible things. As a geezer, he continues to write poems and submits them to be published (as well as always trying new things, especially artistic endeavors!) Also please note that while this poem is sincere and beautiful, he has the weirdest and best sense of humor you’ll ever find and ever since I decided I like elephants, it is everything pachyderm for me from emails to presents (this fact will help you appreciate the personal note as well as the expression that is the last line.) Enjoy!

HAVE A SEAT
By Bill Dill
 
25 portraits of empty chairs, 
the simple folding kind, alone
to a baker’s dozen – jumbled,
neatly ordered sets, tumbled
on a side. No group has a name.
 
Each one brushed with love,
simple browns and grays, most
clean of dents and scratches –
they stand in sunlit patches,
bare floor and wall. That’s all.
 
Try the palettes of our minds,  
conjure how the chairs have lived
with us and we with them: to meet,
listen, pretend to work, pause to eat;
picnics, pizza, hugs and mugs of beer.
 
Dangled, tangled legs, a restless
child or lover in the dark; debating
art or numbers on a chart; doomsday
waits in fear – what will someone say
about our rights, our health, a job?
 
By the gallery door surmising ways
that each of us might fill the chairs,
the painter chuckles while we ponder. 
Will we share the truth, she wonders
about elephants who share our rooms?