Tonight I discovered that a couple of boxes of art supplies and art objects in my studiospare bedroom art room were infested with the carcasses of many, many small larvae-type bugs. EW. I thoroughly grossed myself out picking thru to see what was salvageable. Unfortunately, a hand-felted wall hanging, a felted rock made from my friend’s dog’s fur, and possibly some wooden boxes were among the objects that were beyond repair. Bugs eat natural fibers, who knew?
This is actually not the first time I’ve had an art bug problem. Let me recount for you the times I should have learned my lesson.
1. Honey is Sweet
In the first assignment of the semester for Fiber Arts class, our professor gave us three yards of muslin and instructions to use ONE other material to create a sculpture. I cut my muslin into 5″ squares and chose honey as my supplementary material, stacking the fabric one piece at a time like a honey-muslin lasagna. It turned out pretty awesome, but then the honey dripped onto the floor and the local ant population moved in.
2. Peter Paul Reubens and The Gathering of The Beetles
Later in the Fiber Arts class, our professor took us to see the Peter Paul Reubens cartoons at the Ringling Museum and asked us to recreate an aspect of the paintings out of fiber materials. I chose Gathering of The Manna, recreating the burlap bag held by the crouching figure at the bottom. My twist, though, (and I can’t believe I did this) was to fill the bag with manure that I dug out of the New College compost pile. Ahem. Do you know what lives inside manure that has been decomposing in a compost pile? Lots and lots of beetles and creepy-crawlies.
3. Regina and the Resin
Another artist who shared my studio space was doing awesome casting work with resin and soaps, embedding things like hair and My Little Pony parts. She had a bunch of pieces curing — or so I thought — near the sink in a tupperware container, so I lifted the lid to take a peek. The objects which had not fully embedded in the resin this time were chicken hearts. Upon exposure to light and air, squirmy little white creatures (I will not say the name) that feast on rotting, non-fully embedded organic matter swarmed out. SHUDDER.
4. Frog Tonics
I did a whole series of small bottles with linocut labels. They were filled with various odd objects such as teeth, wool, hair, and well, a frog skeleton I found in the library parking lot. Let’s just say there is a reason that people bleach bones before making art out of them. Luckily, this issue was well-contained in the bottle, and the bottle is now well-interred in a landfill somewhere.
5. You’re Bringing What in Here??
In my New College senior thesis show, I used hay bales in lieu of sculpture stands to display my work. I remember Gail, my advisor with whom I had a love/hate relationship, questioning me with a frown. “You’re bringing what in here??” she asked. Three weeks later, I was battling ant colonies and beetles as I cleaned up. (Oh and yes, that is a giant horse hide shown below).
As much as I hate to admit it, Gail’s and others’ concerns about the materials I used in my art were warranted, and not just from a bug perspective although that is certainly an issue as I discovered today. I have multimedia pieces where I used wood glue to attach materials to the surface, and the glue has yellowed in an unpleasant way. I have paintings that incorporate latex rubber which is now dry and cracking. My encaustic pieces have suffered a good deal of damage over the years being moved from one house to another, and while some are reparable, others are not. And some have clouded due to sun exposure.
I don’t know that I would have done it differently, entirely. I embrace the idea that art, like life, is temporary and fleeting and prone to decay. Joseph Beuys, who is my most inspirational artist of all time, talked about how his sculptures are not fixed and finished such that “everything is in a state of change”. I’m not interested in having a legacy as an artist (so, like, the stuff doesn’t have to hold up until 2179 or anything). Part of the reason I am no longer much of a practicing artist is that I can’t bear to keep bringing things into the world and to become responsible for where they go and how they last. But, in some small way I want to acknowledge that Gail was right, and that she was not just picking on me or being mean like I thought at the time. I made that felt piece with my hands, first carding the raw wool for hours and hours and then felting it on the driveway outside the sculpture studio with a hose and a lot of Dr. Bronners soap. It had to stop existing at some point, but at the hand (mouths) of bugs? That just kind of sucks.
research how to make pancake tutus buy one million yards of tulle in rainbow colors comb out my tutu dreads from last year be excited interrupt john learning david lowery songs to ask tutu length order EL wire for bikes
I am working on a new comic, but it’s taking a while since I’ve been busy at work (fortunately I’m playing with markers there as well but in a much larger size).
My process is starting to get a little more deliberate so I thought I might try to describe it here.
My kit of equipment is really really specific. I use letter-sized paper specifically for drawing comics that I get at Meininger, because I have found that normal printer paper (which is what I started with! so easy! so accessible!) has too much tooth and the ink is more bleedy. The kind I have is Canson Fanboy Manga & Comic sketch paper.
I have a deep love of markers and my favoritest most awesome wonderful kind are made by Staedtler: the Lumocolor permanent pens in black in B, M, F, and S sizes. I think they might actually be for writing on overhead projectors so I am a little worried they won’t make them forever. Dear Staedtler, if you are listening please make sure to keep manufacturing your pens!
I have also found myself in need of smaller tips as I get better at drawing, so I have a set of the Itoya Finepoint System pens in .5, .3. and .1 and I like them pretty well. I have never been a huge fan of Micron pens but I did need an even smaller size so I got one in 005 and I got a brush pen as well.
For my drawing surface I use a hardcover book about branding from when I was in school for design at RMCAD. :D It’s not even a good book but it’s the perfect size to hold on my lap (I draw sitting on the floor with my back against the couch). I always put 5 or 6 sheets of copy paper under the sheet I’m drawing on, which gives the perfect “squishiness” to the surface and helps manage bleed-thru.
Other important parts of my kit are a big chisel sharpie (terrible not-true blacks but sometimes you need a really wide marker), a Sumo mechanical pencil, and a 16 inch metal ruler. Oh and my laptop and or phone for image reference. Finished or in process stuff lives in a folder (upon examination it appears to be a Mead Five Star folder labeled Psych from when J was undergrad).
I think one of the things I like best about drawing comics is that they aren’t hard to write since they are usually based on something real: a dream, a memory, or an event. Though I originally just drew them in real time, making them up as I went, I have started actually storyboarding them out in pencil first on a sheet of copy paper. This way I can figure out what the words are, how many cells I need to say what I am trying to say, and what images would go along to tell the story.
When I actually start making the final comic I start by drawing the blackened edges and masthead area with my ruler and the B marker or the chisel Sharpie. I started doing this because my scanner can’t scan all the way to the edge, but I like the look of the heavy border. I then letter the masthead (is it called a masthead in comics? I think that word might be a holdover from my newspaper class days).
Finally, I draw each row of cells (with the B Staedtler marker denoting the borders), moving from the top of the page to the bottom, lettering in the story as I go in the Itoya .5. For more complex visuals I sketch lightly in pencil first and then erase the lines once I ink. Oh yeah! Part of my kit is a big white eraser. I would say about half of the pictures are drawn in pencil first, but I would prefer not to have to do this because it’s slower and I hate pencils. :)
I always have my computer nearby to look up photographic references for whatever I am drawing. Okay and now the secret part. For images with perspective I will sometimes put my paper over the bright computer screen and trace some guiding outlines in pencil! I cheat! It’s true! But I am getting better at perspective in general and who cares anyway, it’s how the whole thing comes together than really matters.
Well, that’s about it, tried and true at this point. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my process and look for a new comic soon.
Well, really it was last week that I had 3 spills…
This is my most personal comic yet. It was this time last year when we lost Mr. Kitty to lymphoma & kidney disease. October 17, I think. I don’t even care if half of this is drawn one way and half the other — we really miss him and it was super hard to draw about it but also very meaningful to try.
My friend recently wrote a blog post in which she shared what she dreamed it would be like as an artist vs what it’s actually been like.
I was in a pretty serious band for many years and have a background in fine arts (with a focus in painting and sculpture) and I definitely wrestled with some of the same issues while trying to figure out how to actually live out a creative profession* (the ideal vs the reality). There are two aspects of the how-to-be-and-be-happy-and-even-be-successful-as-an-artist issue that I want to address here: art vs craft, feminism, & the cult of the amateur, and the current trend collapsing art/craft & consumerism/consumption.
Your Mom’s a Fiber Artist**
(the art vs craft debate from 3rd wave feminism to the cult of the amateur)
In the past 8-ish years, there has been a huge mainstream resurgence in a category of creative activities traditionally considered more “craft” than Art. Knitting, crochet, sewing, etc are experiencing a post-modern renaissance where it has become cool to play with fiber (and knitting has possibly even jumped the shark since everyone and their mom does it). Outside of the realm of fiber arts, activities like paper/printing arts, jewelry/metal working, home craft, and cooking have gained a degree of legitimacy that even 3rd wave feminism couldn’t have imagined.
[As an aside, it is worth doing some reading about the art vs craft debate (or even just on women and art in general) from the perspective of feminist writers. I am not going to pretend that I am academic enough anymore to do this topic justice, but suffice to say that the association of many crafts (and especially fiber crafts) with women’s work/domesticity has historically relegated them to a lower position in the hierarchy of all-things-aesthetic, whereas fine Art-with-a-capital-A enjoys a legitimized (and historically largely male-dominated) position at the top of the aesthetic pyramid.
Back to the explosion of popularity and subsequent mainstream legitimization of the craft-y arts. I am certainly not here to criticize the proliferation of craft-as-art-and-even-Art on the whole, but I do want to point out an unfortunate side effect: much like we have seen with music over the last 10+ years, we are in a period that J sometimes likes to call “the cult of the amateur.” It has become incredibly accessible to become a creator, a maker, someone who concerns themselves with the practice of aesthetics. In a world where you can buy Garageband for you iPad for $4.99, a search for knitting patterns turns up over 8.3 million results, and Urban O*tfitters has a DIY section, how do you determine who is actually Good? What is actually Authentic? How is value/meaning/significance assigned to art now that the angle of participation has widened significantly? I don’t have the answers to these questions (nor am I trying to suggest that we resurrect the cult of Genius). However, I think it is important to acknowledge that as we swing away from the myth of artist-as-special, we risk swinging too far to the other side, where we value the amateur over the professional, the casual over the serious, the mediocre or even crappy over the skilled. And that is not a world that supports and values cultural production by Artists.
(or why Etsy is not all that it’s cracked up to be)
This brings me to my second topic. I have refrained from mentioning Etsy thus far but it is obviously a result of the value of handmade entering our mainstream consciousness. Etsy encourages people to buy items from what they term small-small businesses (“human-scale economies”) and places an emphasis on authorship and provenance in the items marketed there. In theory, Etsy is really, really great and I am wholeheartedly happy that it exists and especially proud of my awesome friends who have shops here, here, and here. But (yes, I just did another “yes, but”).
Here’s my problem with Etsy. It’s cool that it’s rooted in ideas about alternative economies. In practice, though, I see a race to the bottom (after all in capitalism cheapness wins). In an effort to compete (or perhaps out of ignorance about their value as creators or even in spite of their value), sellers must succumb to market pressure and the premium for artisan and handmade gets thinner and thinner. Sara Mosle wrote about the false feminist fantasy peddled by Etsy two years ago. The NYT ran an article questioning the effort required to run an Etsy business as well. Since then, I haven’t exactly seen things get better. Searches turn up a proliferation of listings made with questionable materials (cheap & made in China), questionable authorship (everyone copying everyone else… owls and deer anyone?), and even questionable sellers (is it really a small-small business and is it really handmade if you are clearly outsourcing your labor and production?). I mean, it’s not like all of Etsy is like that, but it’s definitely there as the dark underbelly of the indie commerce machine. At the end of the day, I think that the market pressures you see in play on Etsy might be the undoing of craft-as-Art, and ironically of handmade as a viable creative profession. It’s very disappointing because it’s so tantalizingly Almost.
Finally, let’s not forget that even for the best that Etsy has to offer, it’s still about CONSUMPTION. I’m going to go way out of my league here intellectually and academically and say that my gut reaction is that when Art/art/craft/Craft seeks its validation through consumerism, artists aren’t really coming out ahead.
It’s my bedtime but I plan to read more about this last point (this, this, and some good old marx seem like decent starting points), to make sure I’m not being full of sheep. Please call me out if you disagree, I’d love to have the conversation or some links to read.
*It turns out that I became a UX designer, which was a good fit for me creatively, but trying to figure out how — and whether — I wanted to “make it” as a musician or a fine artist took a lot of soul searching.
** Dear Mom. I don’t mean this as a dig against moms.
And I am currently procrastinating at packing up our final stuff for Burning Man (I’ve broken the family pattern of packing neuroticism), drinking beer that was made by Sethotron, and eating grilled cheese sammiches made with bacon and heirloom tomatoes (yum), and kind of just kind of a little tiny lot bit freaking out about leaving for Burning Man in the morning.
I’m putting on my ethnographer hat (er, in this case a pink turban — no, really! I have unfeministy hair to protect!) and I’ll report back in a week, hopefully with some pics of me wearing a tutu and covered in playa dust. Godspeed us Black Rock City!
the last time i did something of the sort i was 15 and i made it with a kid named MK who was somebody i met from the aol punk message boards and my screenname was orangesid and i am pretty sure i wrote about the propagandhi riot at the VFW (that i didn’t “get” to go to).
so then fast-forward many years and i am a designer by profession and let me tell you how challenging liberating it was not to get sucked into doing this thing on the computer. cos at one point i was trying to pick out what font i was going to use and a little voice at the back of my head told me “no, no, no you are missing the point entirely.” and so i picked up some tape and a marker and 3 months later once i was done procrastinating less busy with work i finally had 26 pages to scan on my copymachineprinterthing. and oh did you remember that when you make real physical printed things the pages need to be in multiples of four? ha ha, yeah, that’s embarassing. so i added two more pages.
so, here it is. issue one of my zine called ‘animal/people’. the theme is love & loss and in it i process a bit about losing mr. kitty and other things. there are some great contributions by colleen, jenna, and heather. and i am really proud of it.
if you would like a copy, then please harken back to the way zines worked last time i did them and send an SASE and $1 to… wait, i am not going to post my address on the internet. i wonder how much P.O. boxes cost?
so, just email me at lindsdotmooreatmedotcom (you know the drill with the dots and stuff) and i will send you some snailzinemail. and if you would have sent me a dollar in the mail maybe you could donate it to the boulder humane society instead. thank you lovelies.
I’ve been listening to some SARK audio bits where she talks about micro-movements. Today my micro-movement was 5 minutes on my loom, which I prefer to call my weaving machine. Look at my progress!