Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Studio Notes

Feeling stuck? Uninspired?

You are not alone.

But Artist's Sketchbook magazine might be able to help. Published by the folks at Artist's Magazine, Sketchbook is chock-full of hints on how to feed your creativity. And it can help you to turn your sketchbook into your best friend.

Some recent topics have included: "how creativity can improve your health", "how to be creative in a busy life" and how to find inspiration in the season of winter".

Artist's Sketchbook magazine is available at most large booksellers and is also now being offered by subscription.

Speaking of sketchbooks.....I've always had a hard time keeping a travel journal. To make things easier on myself - and to avoid lugging around unnecessary materials - I've settled on a fairly small kit that will go almost anywhere. Here are my basics:

Arches "Travel Book", 6"x10", cold-pressed water colour paper: It's spiral bound and a good size for quick sketching. Since it is water colour paper, I can use ink and colour.

Sakura's "Micron Pigma Pen", 05, black: This is permanent, archival ink and I can use it for note-taking as well as for sketching. 05 is a fairly fine line pen but not so fine that my handwriting is invisible. The pen is also small enough to slide into the spiral on the Travel Book.

Sakura's "Sumo Grip" mechanical pencil, 0.9: This is a soft-ish lead that smudges nicely for shading. It also has an artist's eraser end.

Strathmore Sketchpad, 3.5"x5", 100 sheets: This little beauty is small enough to stick in my pocket. A good size for discreet sketching, it allows me to do draw almost anywhere. With just this pad and my Sumo Grip in my pocket, I am mobile.

Optional: a few aquarelles (water colour pencils) in colours that approximate my standard paint palette. (I generally use a similar palette in both acrylics and water colours.) These are useful in developing my original sketch into a painting. Unlike regular coloured pencils (which are waxy), aquarelles are water-soluble and are compatible with other water-based media.

To find these goodies, check out Cheap Joe's online. Or go by Studio Supply the next time you're in Chapel Hill. Better still, drop into your local art supply store.

There you have it! A basic and very portable field kit that will go almost anywhere and can make your next daytrip into an artistic adventure.

Really, you'll be surprised what you'll see when you take the time to stop and really look.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Studio Notes

I am an artist.

So, naturally, all I ever seem to do is....write?

Three writing conferences in three weeks, plus all of the essays for grad school. And I usually write at night, just before I fall asleep.

So,anyway.... I've decided that I'm going to spend more time in the studio. And I've also decided to try blogging a bit about art and art-related topics, from time to time.

To start things off: I am pleased to be able to write that I managed to clean off my worktable today. I also put my slide sheets into a binder and began an inventory of art materials that I have on hand. I realized that I need a couple of new full-spectrum light bulbs and another power strip. (I never seem to have adequate lighting!)

Storage is always a problem for me, as well, and I've been daydreaming about some flat storage drawers from Cheap Joe's, to store water colour paper. But, for now, I think that I'd rather put my money into materials instead of studio equipment. Paint doesn't ever seem to get any cheaper and I use a remarkable amount of ultramarine blue!

Sunday, February 13, 2005


I was talking to some folks, after the Blogger Con on Saturday, and mentioned Readerville.

For those of you who have never heard of it, it's an on-line community for readers and writers.

Our friend PC turned us on to the site, a while back.

My fave thread: "I've Read It And I'm Bitter". It's the thread for discussing those books that everyone told you that you just had to read but that left you yearning for those hours of your life that you would never get back.

The one that left me bitter was Kate Vaiden, by Reynold Price. I still get mad whenever I think of the days I spent getting through that thing!

Talking Out Of School

This online grad school thing is going pretty well, I suppose.

It's been a few weeks now. Long enough that I feel I can start to make a few comments on the on-line learning environment. I'll probably write more about the process, in the weeks to come.

One thing that I do miss is the face to face interaction that you get in a live seminar. That, and the way that a seminar discussion evolves around a conference table.

In the online class that I'm taking this Spring, the discussion area is multi-threaded. So, instead of one discussion growing organically and people contributing to its growth and shape, what we end up with is a sort of cocktail party situation where you wander around from group to group, looking for an opening. You say something pithy, or just nod. Then you move on.

The result is a series of incoherent ramblings that never really pull themselves together. So, I think that a better approach would be to not allow each student to create a new thread for each unit. That approach might encourage greater depth in the conversation.

One of the great advantages to the way the class is constructed is that the discussions are not in real-time. So, people can work through the units and the discussions whenever it is most convenient for them (like 2:00am at the kitchen table or at their desk on their lunch hour). As I have a rather unpredictable schedule, this suits me quite well. So, I am grateful that there is not a set class meeting for a real-time conversation.

Another advantage is that it gives a student time to read, research and formulate a coherent response. (Not that they always take advantage of the opportunity to do so. But it's there.) And I can see how that would be a great help to a student who is not outspoken in a face-to-face situation.