I Was Busy Surviving
Here I am still. Communing with this poem and the wild god at my door, in my studio, in the paint. And this bit of the poem - oh and oh. Why did you leave me to die? asks the wild god. And how often have I left my inspiration, passion, interests and sparkle to die while I was busy surviving? For much of my life, I fear. But, I didn't know how.
How do we feed what makes us thrive when we are busy trying to survive? How do we exist in the world of should and musts and responsibility and busyness and yet nourish, protect, inspire, infuse, inhabit the wild god of our passions and explorations? It is, by far, the thing I most hear from other artists and creatives - how do we live in the world and yet create?
I know how I have learned to do it. And how I am still learning to say yes and yes and YES, HALLELUJAH when the wild god knocks at the door (and yes even when the muse is not present - show up and often things happen) But what I'd love to know is how do YOU inhabit your passions, dear reader? Perhaps your secret techniques will be just the whisper another creative needs in this very moment.
Both Wonder Mike and Lilly think this is an important question - and will reward one lucky commenter with a piece of original art! Yep, it's time for the MARCH READER GIVEAWAY (not giving away a reader, nope nope! Giving away a bit of original art!! Leave a comment below to be entered.
About the art: beginning with an inspiration image generated by the A.I. bot responding to written prompts. Note the bot decided the woman did not need an arm!!! I used a grid on this one to keep myself from veering too far from the composition. After toning the Arches oil paper with oil paint and liquin (several days to dry), then a grid and sketch with colored pencil. Working from the inside out, applying layers and glazing the requisite 80 million times. I pulled the man forward in my rendition, deciding the interaction between these two characters needed a spotlight. And that she needed an arm. :)
Hymns to Enchantments
About the art: this piece, a full sheet of Arches oil paper, was a dance in itself. Wanting to capture the essence of the inspiration image, but lighten the ominousness of it a bit, I began with a background of layered oil paints thinned with liquin and applied with a rubber wedge and paper towel. A light sketch in colored pencil and then working methodically right to let (I am largely a southpaw, so trying to keep my arm from dragging through the paint) and from top to bottom. Using negative space to define the figures. Building layers with brushes and wedges, then drawing back into the paint with a bit of paint thinner on a brush to create the delicious runny "swirlyness" that the bot does so well.
You might notice the bot does not do hands well - take a look at the inspiration image. It's good to know artificial intelligence has creative limits. :)
Exults and Weeps at Once
March finds me still in thrall with the wild god.
Hiron's poem nudges and prods, demands and whispers, pushes and dares. Let the wild god not find us, dear reader, wondering how we got so old and where our passion went. Instead, let us listen to the foxes and otters and snakes and live on the edge of our eyeballs whenever we can. And so, in witnessing what is emerging in the paint while the wild god prods, I both exult and weep at once.
About the art: beginning with an inspiration image provided by the A.I. bot, who seems to very much like ballet (oh yes, even monsters, villains, goats, rabbits and demons might be wearing tutus when you ask the bot for things), I set out to create a deeply colored piece with an air of thoughtful wistfulness and contemplation. Beginning with a light sketch in color pencil, laying down thin washes of oil paint with rubber wedge, brush and paper towel. Allowing the paint to do things on its own, resisting the urge to perfect, overly clarify or define. This one is on Arches oil paper, which remains my new favorite.
The Wondrous Dance of it All
Over the three weeks following that message, I met Valerie for the first time, and then said goodbye for the last time. The incredible artist Valerie Thomson passed away in her own home yesterday.
She was a fount of knowledge, sharing her passion for plastic-free art and environmentally-gentle packing materials, paints, substrates (and even tape!) with anyone who was curious. And she painted like the muse was in her own two hands. Her entire home was her studio - no space was left for anything other than art and the creating of it. She collected art from around the world (including many of mine) and sold her paintings around the globe.
During the last visit, I asked her what she wanted the world to know. She said, without hesitation, "there is always room for more kindness." And then she proceeded to give away her entire studio of art supplies and her entire collection of art. To me and to others who responded to her messages. This amazing woman, who had been reclusive and hermit-like for the last decade, found herself in tears over the people who said "YES!" and rushed over to meet her and help in any way possible. And there I was, on the end of her bed, crying with her. Over bagels with scrambled eggs, just the way she liked them.
My studio is packed from floor to ceiling now. Canvases, boards, oil paints, oil sticks, papers, pigments, brushes and wedges. Including several of her unfinished paintings, of which she said "finish them. Or paint over them. You'll know what to do." It's a daunting thought.
From her diagnosis to her final day was just a few short weeks. Once again, the brevity and fragility of life overwhelms me.
About the art: beginning with an A.I. prompt asking the bot to create a "killer robot samurai dancer in the style of Degas" and the bot's response image below, I created a notan and a notanized grid, sketched the composition onto some Arches oil paper (a new favorite) with colored pencil. Thin washes of oil paint to rough in the shapes and the background, then increasing thicknesses applied with brushes, rubber wedges and paper towels. Veering away from the inspiration image to create my own version of this strange little one. Oh, the wondrous dance of it all...
The Wild God Asks for Whiskey
You will not let her see the strange guest at your table... and yet here it is, the strange guest, the wild god which is A.I.
Last week we took a look at what A.I. can do with a painting. When you're stuck, seeking different ways to view your work, it is a mighty valuable critic. This week, let's wander into generating inspiration images from photographs.
Using a photo taken by a creative mischief-maker (my husband), the bot was asked to interpret it as a painting. It first wandered down the path of illustration and moebius. This is a good prompt to allow a bit of chaos and dystopian scenes. After many prompts and meanderings, it ultimately landed on the second image below. It was photorealistic, but that works when you're just looking for a jumping off point. Goodbye Unsplash and license-free reference photos. Hello wild and wonderful photo wanderings.
The bot can do some things with landscape photos as well. We will take a gander at that in a future post.
My favorite technique (moving the wet paint with a rubber wedge) created some fabulous texture and highlights in the abstracted hair. A little splatter of red on the left side of the antlers was the final touch. Oh oh OH!
Thanks to all who commented on A.I. last week! Wonder Mike and Lilly are thrilled to announce the winner in the reader giveaway. Gail P., your name was selected at random by the pooches! Email your shipping address to email@example.com to collect your piece of original art. Hooray!
It is time to face the wild god's dragon, and that dragon is A.I art.
Dear reader, if you are feeling a huge emotional revolt against the surge of A.I art and what it means for creatives (and how damn good some of it is), you are not alone. And as with all things I set my jaw against, I know that I absolutely must go there. So I got to wondering, is there an upside to this thing?
Like any new technology, it was wildly frustrating in the beginning. But then (but then) little glimmers of oh and ah and hmmmmmmm. And two months later (the amount of time it has taken me to be mildly proficient) it has become a cyber version of the wild god - inspiring, pushing, challenging, stuck-in-my-thoughts-all-the-time and making me leap off cliffs.
It is an unapologetic critique group. I load my own paintings and photographs and sketches and scribbles and demand its feedback - what would the bot do? I give it a composition and it demands I look at it with fresh eyes - as if I had centuries of art experience and exposure.
Here is the story of one painting.
I was inspired by a fashion photo of a woman who seemed part cyborg, part future samurai (below) and images of samurai with arrows as I browsed the google machine. And also my own whimsy. So I combined the concepts in a painting (second image, below) and it just fell flat for me. Something was missing.
Using Midjourney, I put my own painting in the prompt and asked it for a whimsical female samurai with arrows based on the image I provided, and then specified it to be in my own style (since I have images on the internet, I presume the bot pulls from my catalogue just as it does for other, more famous, artists). The bot spit out an image that was a big improvement - deeper colors, better composition and more abstracted versions of "arrows". Whoa! It was like having my own group of savvy critics point and advise and critique.
I am standing in my studio at the intersection of art robots and inner dragons. And somehow, it seems the wild god knows exactly what it is doing when it coughs up foxes. Oh and OH!
What are your thoughts about using A.I. as an art tool? Or about A.I. art in general? Leave a comment below, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Wonder Mike and Lilly think someone needs a little original art in their hands, and will choose one commenter at random to receive something sweet. xo
Blood on the Paintwork
In the studio this week, I continued an exploration of Hirons’ poem and trying to capture some big emotion. I didn’t know until I knew, but the wild god was at the door.
A random post I read. A text or two. And then, the knowing.
The knowing and then the heaviness. The weight of loss: of one of the great painters, art instructors and encouragers, Dianne Nance. She was the one who pointed me in the direction of the peculiar - she said "go there." She opened my eyes to artists I’d never heard of or imagined, and infused me with the courage to dare try anything. She shrugged her shoulders when I presented her with something bland and said “so what?” Her eyes sparked with surprise when I brought in something boundary-nudging (or pummeling). Oooooooh yaaaaaasssss.
She was too young and vibrant to be gone already. Life feels exceptionally fragile and brief.
This piece is for her - the daring, the baring, the boldly sharing.
A new month and a new direction to explore in the studio - some strong emotion, some tenderness, some deep vulnerability. Inspired by Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons and allowing the muse to tug at my heart and hands. This month we'll explore the poem side-by-side with the art and see what awaits us.
I don't know about you, dear reader - wild creative being that you are - but sometimes a wild god appears at the studio door. He grabs me by the shoulders and demands things: heart-cracking, wound examining, stirring the pot and letting its aroma saturate the room. And so the art those days in uncensored, unfiltered and without apology or explanation. The inside of me reaching out to the inside of you, because a wild god insisted.
About the art: beginning with an old painting covered in gesso and carving into the gesso with a chopstick while it is wet, creating deep texture in the underpainting. A quick sketch in colored pencil and then diving in with thin layers of oil paint. Keeping the face soft and gentle but allowing the remainder of the painting to become rough and guttural in its emotion as thicker layers of paint are added.. Carving back through the wet paint with rubber wedge, chopsticks and brush ends to expose colors underneath and create even more texture. The "dress" is made with quickly sketched flowers, saturated with paint thinner to allow the blurs and drips. When I stepped back from this one, she grabbed my heart. Oh.
Whatever Lola Wants
The Fully Complex Scope of Being
About the art: beginning with an old painting covered in white gesso, a notanized photograph and the images of heavily sculpted paintings in my mind, thickly sketching the darks of a face in colored pencil and then adding thin layers of oil paint mixed with liquin. Using only palette knife, rubber wedge and fingers, adding thicker layers and stepping WAY back between them. Does this look like a face from 10 feet away? Yup. Ok, keep going. Resisting the urge to overly define. Resisting the urge to add colors other than my pre-selected limited palette. Letting the highlights speak. Letting the darks anchor. Walking away with a smile.