Ariel Bowman is an amazingly talented sculpture artist. You should really check out her work: arielbowman.com, follow her on Instagram: @ariel.bowman and attend one of her workshops if you can. I’m always grateful to those artists willing to share their techniques. Ariel so generously shared techniques she’s developed over the years, essentially gifting to us her years of hard-earned work.
Following her solid block carving technique, I am freeing this rhino from his clay dungeon.
By the end of the two-day workshop, held at Roadrunner Ceramics in San Antonio, my guy is almost free. We all get to go back in three weeks with bisqued ware when Ariel will return to share her glazing techniques with us. So generous!
Part of the solid block method is allowing the sculpture to get leather hard with the bottom support of the clay block — seen in this video. I won’t remove it until he is hard enough to cut in half and hollow out, along with the head support there under his chin. Oh! And he needs ears, and some legwork.
This artistic journey continues to surprise me! I’m so grateful to be on it.
I am discovering that the Texas Hill Country is rife with amazing artistic talent. And those talented artists like to get together! In the last few days, I have attended a local lecture on Old Masters and egg tempera paint at the Hill Country Arts Foundation. I also learned that they have a full studio of wheels, kilns and eager and talented potters who gather there–even those who have their own studios at home often work there for the community. So of course I joined right away. I am taking my own lumps of clay up there tomorrow for the first time.
I also attended a fabulous presentation at the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, another arts center that hosts events and has gallery space for all manner of exhibits. The Guadalupe Water Color Group held its bimonthly meeting, and Austin-based watercolorist Jan Heaton gave a demonstration of some of her personal techniques. Jan’s work is stunningly gorgeous in its simplicity, with a focus on form and color. You can see her work at an upcoming show “The Market,” held in San Antonio at the Hunt Gallery September 29 through October 22, 2016. These images are from Jan’s website, and I cannot wait to see them in person.
The artistic ambience in Kerrville, Texas is simply wonderful. And I have yet to explore nearby Fredericksburg, which has at least 13 galleries and many amazing artists as well.
I was greatly encouraged during Jan’s presentation when she told us that she became a full-time artist (and is amazingly well-represented across the entire country) after a 25-year career in Advertising. Ahhh! Reinvention! This is my path, and it was wonderful to hear her story.
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” –Chuck Close
Chuck Close (born July 5, 1940) is a painter and photographer who continued to work after becoming paralyzed in 1988 from a spinal artery collapse. He mainly utilizes a technique referred to as “hyperrealism” which means he creates paintings that are so detailed they really look like high-resolution photographs. That’s hard!!
CBS This Morning has a segment they call “Note to Self,” where artists and others read a letter to their younger selves, full of the wisdom of years. You can watch Chuck Close read the entire letter he wrote to his 14 year-old self, while he is still painting from his wheelchair, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=milXH-433vs
Though I do think we can be inspired by various things, what he means here is that if we WAIT to be inspired, we are not truly professional artists. The habit of working regardless of whether or not one feels inspired to do that work is what ultimately produces good, and sometimes, excellent work.
Close goes on to say, “Every great idea I’ve ever had grew out of work itself.” Meaning that the doing of the work is actually the inspiration for more and better work. Here’s more of his wise advice: “SIGN ON to a process and see where it takes you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today you will do what you did yesterday and tomorrow you will do what you did today. Eventually you will get somewhere.”
This is so true! Even if one has talent, one must have an appetite for work. With an appetite for work, plus curiosity, plus some passion and heart, one can create. Who knows where that journey will go!
Potter Ben Carter produces a wonderful podcast series titled “Tales of a Red Clay Rambler,” where he produces thoughtful and interesting interviews with potters and other artists. This past week, he interviewed Linda Fahey, whose work is wonderful and imaginative. Linda is a self-taught potter living and working in the Bay Area, where she also runs a a fabulous shop called Yonder. The shop is located in Pacifica, about 15 minutes south of San Francisco (find it online at Yondershop.com).
In the interview, Linda talks about her journey of becoming a potter and full-time artist–and her new role now as shop-owner of Yonder. (The tag line of her store is “discover beautiful things every day.” Indeed!) The whole interview is great, but I was particularly struck by her words about being self-taught. I am also on a self-taught journey, so I find her words (and work) very inspiring:
34: 54 I’m not confident enough to think I’ve arrived, ever. it is what fuels me to get better. We talked earlier on going through an academic program and what that entails, versus someone like myself, who is essentially self-taught, worked under people, but self-taught. There are gaps there that you have to find and then you have to figure out how to make it better. The academic environment is designed for you to not have a lot of blank spots. You are going to come out of that program and be pretty tight, right?… So this over here, me, working in the dark sort of, I mean I’ve gone to a million workshops and I have a very curious mind so I’m out there trying to find the information, but I don’t know what I don’t know. I still have a long way to go.
Though Linda may feel that to be true (that she still has a long way to go), it’s clear by her body of work that she is quite accomplished at making the world a more beautiful place:
In Ben Carter’s podcast, she also talks about what she’s learned from working with Anthropologie, being a store owner, incorporating her environment into her work, and her future goals. Play her interview while you are in the studio–it’s wonderful inspiration. You can read her blog and see her new work here.
I often think and sometimes write about gains and losses. In my life, globally, as God’s people, and even across the breadth of human history. Maybe especially across the breadth of human history, and specifically post-Industrial Revolution, when oh so many things have radically changed.
I suppose, as one who engages in centuries-old handcrafts, it’s only natural to compare the ancient and the modern. In any case, I just spent a wonderful weekend of creativity and learning at Mary Berry’s Fiber Retreat, and the whole experience brought me once again to these thoughts of gains and losses.
While I am quite glad that spinning wool for yarn and thread is my hobby and not a daily necessity (gain!), the weekend reminded me of the need to purposefully seek out groups that nurture us and foster excitement to learn and create. We can be so isolated in our lives (loss!), and the handcrafts that used to be so very necessary for survival and function are all automated now. Come to think of it, not just handcrafts, but so many other vocations have all been industrialized–from barrel-making to horse-shoeing to iron forging to silver smithing …the list could go on and on.
It’s the slow leaching out of daily creative efforts and the benefits we lose when that happens that gets me. And I do mean slow–such that we might not even notice. The progression has a frightening end, as we are now witness to and a part of — the elimination of the arts from school curriculum and the resulting general neglect of creativity and artistic expression. Which reminds me. Go see The Monuments Men, the WWII movie about the art scholars/architects who became soldiers and went to Europe to protect and restore stolen art. During the last year of the war, they recovered and then returned over 5 million pieces of art that had been stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. This movie will remind you how important art is to the world and to each of us.
Creativity is a fascinating concept. Once unleashed, you don’t know where it might take you. I’ve been fortunate to bear witness to my mom’s amazing creative journey since her retirement from teaching. I wrote about my mom’s creativity a couple years ago when I started this blog. I commented on the way being in her house in the hill country makes me feel, because her artistic expression is everywhere. Read this post and you’ll see what I mean.
Since she retired, she’s been able to turn her attention full-time to her artistry. Her journey has fascinated and inspired me. She started making mosaic art pieces to place in her garden. It’s wonderful! Here’s one of her amazing stepping stones:
Then she started making “waterers” for the garden–fabulous dishes that could supply water to the garden creatures:
Even she didn’t know that she was only beginning to discover her artistry. She bought a kiln (yes!) and started creating “Cottage Tiles” in her workshop, grouting them mosaic-style onto pots. Her work is original and inspiring to me, as I am on my own creative journey.
The 41st Cottonwood Arts Festival was held this weekend in Richardson, TX–close enough to Dallas city line to be confused as Dallas–at the beautiful Cottonwood Park. Art folk from all over the country come to this event, and this year was another spectacular year with amazing art on display. There were something like 241 artists, and three caught my eye above all else. The first one was Gabe Leonard, www.GabeLeonard.com, with his Wild West paintings. His card says, “oil paintings of outlaws, musicians, & drunken poets.” Awesome. This guy is not painting your typical yellow rain slicker or your running horses. Go to his website–he paints what you’d recognize as “western,” but in a style that…hmmm…I just don’t know. Fabulous. You’ll have to go to his website. He also paints historical figures such as Lincoln, Hood, and Robert Johnson, but in a way you’ve never seen before!
The second artist, Hanan Ingel of Silver Mind had created the most stunning jewelry–rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces that each featured an ancient coin–Greek, Roman, Byzantine, even a “widow’s mite” coin all from very early AD. Amazing!! You could be walking around right now with a ring with an inset bronze coin imprinted with the image of Constantine. Maybe a spinner in 324 parted with this hard-earned coin to purchase more wool!
The third artist, Tres Taylor, was my favorite of all three. His website says, “His subjects are usually monks, couples, and houses, but always the subjects are symbols of love.” His art is the best of folk art–using materials at hand (tar paper and house paint)–and creating images that make you stop and stare, truly invoking a sense of wonder and feel-good-ness.
Hats off to artists who are pursuing their art and creating beauty for us!