Monday, October 31, 2011

New Piece in the Works

"In the works" is a convenient multi-purpose phrase which encompasses anything and everything from "floating around somewhere in my brain like blobs of that stuff inside of a lava lamp" to "partly finished and coming along nicely."  In this case, I guess both of those descriptions apply to some degree.

I think about language a lot, because I teach kids who have language deficits, mostly in the areas of reading and writing.  They also have poor vocabularies, and generally don't express themselves well in any context.  And I was wondering what factors influence the development of the parts of the brain that process language, which led me to pondering the original development of language in early humans.  I've also been thinking about the word "palimpsest" lately, sparked by Robyn's recent post on Art Propelled; before that, I had read about the "The World is a Town" mail art project, based on the Novgorod Codex.  It occurred to me that there are parallels between my work and the concept of the palimpsest, since my pieces often involve applying layers and scraping them off, leaving traces of each previous layer beneath the next.

These were some of my lava blobs.  Eventually they began to bump into one another, combine, and take on a form, which at this point looks something like this:

Palimpsest: Language

It is the cover of a typing text book from 1938.  So far, it has been scratched, scraped, and painted; many types of writing, printing, and maps have been glued on, scraped off, and transferred.  This is the bottom part of the piece, and it still has a ways to go.  More progress will be posted as it comes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday's Featured Favorite: Artist Kathleen Piercefield

Each Friday, I thought it would be fun to feature a different artist whose work inspires me.  Yeah, I know it's Saturday, but I only missed it by a day, right?  Maybe I should just change the name of my blog to "Slower Than Molasses in January", but that's another subject entirely.

I'm so excited that Kathleen Piercefield has agreed to be my first featured artist, because I can't think of anyone whose work is more inspiring than hers.  Not only is she a master of many media, she is a genuinely kind, generous, and intelligent person.  Though we met only recently, I already consider her a close friend; we share many interests besides the obvious.  Enough from me; I'll let you hear from Kathleen in her own words.

Ask the forest  collagraph & monotype     15" x 22

Why do you make art?  How did it all begin?  
It all started with that first box of wonderful smelling Crayola crayons in 64 luscious colors!   Really, I make art because I absolutely love getting my hands on art materials -- seeing them, smelling them, feeling them, and then getting caught up in that timeless state of being completely absorbed in a process.  Some of my earliest memories are connected with drawing.  I was an only child, and reading and drawing were the ways I would entertain myself.  I could sit in my room or outside in the yard and be happy for hours, absorbed in that world I created with my books and my drawing.  My father was a paper salesman for Mead Paper Company in Chicago, and he would bring home lots of paper samples -- different colors, different textures -- so I always had a fascination for paper, and for the different kinds of marks I could make on it.  I think like most children I started out wanting to imitate what I saw; then later drawing and painting became more of an emotional response and a way of thinking about the world around me.

Look and look again
collagraph & monotype     15" x 22"

Who or what inspires you?  
First and foremost, nature -- I'm fascinated by everything that walks, crawls, swims, flies & grows; the process of learning about these things is deeply enhanced by drawing their forms, and then the drawing in turn generates other visual echoes to explore.  Reading frequently inspires me; I pay attention to the images popping into my mind as I read; sometimes they lead to very fruitful ideas.  Also, as mentioned above, the materials and processes are their own inspiration.  Specifically with printmaking, I'm in love with the smell of the inks and the feel of the paper, and with seeing the gorgeous marks that result when ink meets paper under the pressure of the press.  The pleasure of these things is not only aesthetic but sensual and extremely addictive.  

Looking at the work of other artists, of course, is a tremendous inspiration -- impossible to name them all but a few that come immediately to mind are  Paul Klee, Andrew Wyeth, Rembrandt, Ben Shahn, Odilon Redon, Munakata Shiko, Mary Frank, John Tuska, David Blackwood, Lynd Ward, Hayao Miyazaki, Emily Carr ...I could go on and on.  Reading about how other artists approach their work and think about their processes -- Ann Truitt's books Daybook, Turn, and Prospect for example -- can also be a tremendous motivator and makes me itch to get into the studio and start working. 

From the Headwaters of the Eternities
etching and aquatint 12.5" x 17"

Do you have a work space or studio? How would you describe it?  
I do!  It's far from ideal, being several areas of basement space with small windows and low ceilings, but it's my space, where I can leave work-in-progress out on the table.  I would like it to be clean and beautiful and light and airy, but in truth it is cramped, cluttered, always in a state of chaos -- but work is happening in it so that's what counts!   My husband has, over the years, constructed storage shelves and work surfaces for me that have made the studio more efficient, and has patiently put up with the fact that, as children moved out and rooms were vacated, more and more of our house has become an extension of my art-making space.  Of course the pride and joy of my studio is my Takach etching press -- I feel extremely fortunate to have access to a press whenever I want.

collagraph, intaglio & polyester plate lithography 15" x 11

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore in your artwork?  I try to access --and hopefully communicate -- the roots of my love for the natural world.  One of my deepest concerns is how we humans relate to our environment -- or increasing don't relate -- and a lot of my work revolves around an impulse to say -- wake up!  look! see what's around you with awareness and appreciation...and consequently, value it and take care of it.  With that in mind, recording what I observe in nature is part of the work, but there's always an interplay between observing and evoking a personal response.  I try to keep in mind Paul Klee's words: "Art does not reproduce the visible; rather,  it makes visible."  Sometimes natural elements occur in my work as metaphors for human relationships -- what we share and what we keep secret from one another are recurrent themes; so are dreams and the imagination.  I'm fascinated by the idea that the world we create inside our head is as varied and complex as the physical world around us, and in some ways just as real.  Things I read give me ideas to explore -- the visual and metaphorical elements in Moby-Dick have been a recent topic -- and finally, sometimes I'm just discovering where I can go with a particular process; in that case, the work is all about the visual interaction of the materials.

A Bosom Friend collagraph and monotype with hand coloring

What is your typical process for creating a piece?  
If I already have an idea of where I'm going, it usually begins with a lot of doodles.  Sketchbook pages (I always have multiple sketchbooks going), scraps of paper, book margins, envelopes, & junk mail on the table get filled with little sketches and doodles that relate to an idea that's percolating in my head.  Eventually I collect all the doodles together and start making larger sketches until I have a rough drawing of the desired size, and can transfer the basic shapes from that to a plate (or a sheet of watercolor paper, if I'm doing a painting.)  I sometimes make "idea boards", on which I pin color swatches, pieces of different papers, magazine clippings and photos that relate to something I'm trying to bring together.  And sometimes if nothing else is generating ideas, I'll go down to my studio and do some purely physical task, like coating a piece of board with gesso for a future collagraph, or filing the edges of a plate; doing that physical work will often clear my mind so ideas can start to flow. 

 Prairie Music 1  collage    6" x 4.5"

A lot of my recent work has been a combination of collagraph and monotype.  Typically, I start with a collagraph plate, created by gluing shapes and textural elements to a board coated with gesso and acrylic medium.  Once that is sealed and completely dry (which can take several days) I mix up some ink and apply it to the plate, then burnish it off with newsprint and tissue paper.  I then lay a dampened sheet of printmaking paper on the collagraph and run it through the press.  Depending on what I see, I may further develop the plate with more glued elements, or go on to enhance the print with layers of monotype -- created by rolling out a thin layer of transparent ink on a sheet of mylar and then wiping off selected areas before laying it on the print and again running it through the press.  A typical print goes through the press at least five or six times, and maybe more.   

In any case, once a work is begun I try to let the medium have its own voice, so what happens as the piece is coming together is partly what I planned and partly what happens of its own accord.  I really like the fact that many of the processes I use -- collagraph, monotype, watercolor -- are unpredictable.  I value the surprises that occur and find that many of those unforeseen results can lead me in good new directions.

The wise fool's tale  collagraph 9.75" x 6.75

What goals do you have for the future?  
To keep exploring; to never run out of new ideas; to grow; to become more proficient in the processes I use, and more productive in the amount of work I create. Art-making has not made me materially rich, but has greatly enriched my life; I'd like to continue sharing that richness with others. 

To see more of Kathleen's art, go to

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Same Thing, Only Different (Rust Never Sleeps)

I thought I'd share these photos I took at an old abandoned 'tractor graveyard' near our place in Lewis County.  Maybe it's because I feel a bit rusty, myself, these days, that I find these so interesting.

There is beauty in every thing, if we can only learn to see with the right kind of eyes.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


6 in x 4 in
ingredients: vintage book pages, magazine cutouts, watercolor pencils, Koh-i-noor pen

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Give Away Winner + KMAC Show

As usual, I'm a day late and a dollar short, as my granny would say.  I tossed all the entries onto the floor, and my dog Scout was again imposed upon to choose the winner, primarily because she is stuck to me like glue 24/7.  The first slip of paper she sniffed was the one with the name (drum roll, please)---

 Egmont (The Artist Within Us)!  Congratulations to you, Egmont; I hope you will enjoy your prize!

As you can see, this chore was extremely tiring for Scout; she had to rest up for several hours.  OK, not really- this is what she did when I tried to get her to hold still for the photo!

A couple of weeks ago, when my son came to visit, we went to Louisville to the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, to see the show "Moving Forward, Circling Back: Celebrating 50 Years of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen."  I was so excited to have my work chosen for the show, but was not able to go to the opening reception because it happened right at the beginning of the school year. 

                    In the lobby of the museum, there is a wall covered with "hubcap art", which I thought was very cool.

           On one of the gallery walls was this signed poem by Kentucky writer Wendell Berry...

Above: digital art "Metamorphosis" by Bruce Robert Frank; wood vase by Paul Ferrell; ceramic plate by Wayne Bates.

I was greatly impressed by the quality, beauty and scope of the exhibit as a whole, as well as the way it was displayed.

Above: Fused glass by Ann Klem.

Colin viewing some of the pieces in the show.

Ceramic and mixed media "Too Tall Voodoo Doll" by Gayle Cerlan.

Above: ceramic vases by Amelia Stamps; "Green Crystalline Bottles" by Satian Leksrisawat;  "Black and White Cream and Sugar", porcelain "Teapot on Tray with Cup" by Linda Bowman

"Things I Love About the New York Subway", silk, by Rebekka Seigal;  Hickory chairs by Brian Boggs; "Seventeen 1934" fiber by Alma Lesch";  "WABI: Living with Solitude & Simplicity" handspun wool by Dobree Adams; "Dysfunctional Spoon: Bird's Nest" forged steel by Roberta Elliot; chenille throw by Churchill Weavers


Quilt "Chasing the Rainbow" by Janet R. Serrenho

Above: ceramic plate by Patrick L. Dougherty; metal sculpture by Dave Caudill; wood sculpture by Gregory K. Williams; glass by Brook F. White Jr.

Above: "Spring Parrots" dyed papers, by Carolyn Whitesel; draped weaving by Philis Alvic; "Prayer" monotype with mixed media by Sharmon Davidson

I've shown only a small sampling of the wonderful art in this historic show.  There's still time to see it if you're in the area; it runs through October 15th.

Below, a peek at a few pieces from the museum's permanent collection.  If you like folk art, you'll definitely want to see it!