Blog Posts 3.0: Reading, Learning, Trying, Seeing

I love blogging, but my approach to date has been a bit inconsistent. I began with writing little anecdotes related to the writing practice. These contributions were short-lived. I returned to posting after about five years of parenting and getting through the demands typical of infancy and toddlerhood. My inspiration for Take 2? A renewed sense of creativity upon reaching middle age—a more profound attention to and appreciation for art in all of its forms. 

I fell off the grid again last winter. I don’t really know why. I didn’t check out from engaging in creative pursuits and adventures. I didn’t stop reading and learning and trying and seeing. Aha! Perhaps the method to my creative madness is method indeed—that intrinsic method of how I ride the current of my creative flow. Reading. Learning. Trying. Seeing. This revelation gives me new motivation. So, today, I’m going to recommit to blogging and to posting regularly, probably weekly, on those very topics:

What I’m reading
I fell in love with the non-fiction work of Madeline L’Engle over the past several months. I discovered other authors, books, periodicals, instruction manuals, etc., that have enlightened my artistic knowledge and experience. My nightstand always features some kind of art-related read. 

What I’m learning
Earlier this summer, I invested in a three-month ninety-nine-cent Creative Bug membership. Through that resource and other online videos, I’ve watched people paint watercolor landscapes, stretch canvases, make collages—you name it! Such learning prepares me for the things I eventually take the time to try…

What I’m trying
Over the past year, I’ve dabbled in pour painting, poetry writing, graphic design, woodburning, etc. It’s fun to try new things and, as a result, I further discern my creative calling. I look forward to sharing my experiments here. 

What I’m seeing
I’m blessed to live in a city with such a rich offering of museums, exhibits, performances and all things creative. Such visits often spur what I read, learn and try next! 

I’m excited about picking up the ball of blogging again and approaching it with some more intentionality. Thank you for joining me on the journey!

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An Artist’s Bookshelf – October 2018

Once again, I’m traveling the “mixed media” route when it comes to my learning more about artists and artistic practices. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf, screen, etc., this month:

“Abstract: The Art of Design” series on Netflix
In short, this series is so cool! The first episode is about Christoph Niemann, a German illustrator who has many New Yorker covers and several books to his credit. I love the observation he makes at the beginning of the episode: given how it’s produced, the show is both by and about him; Niemann’s illustrations actually sew the documentary together. It’s hard to explain but so worth a look. I can’t wait to follow Niemann’s work from now on and to check out the next artists featured in the series. 

The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer
This book was described to me as The Artist’s Way for Christians. It promises “creative renewal” through readings, journaling, and other exercises focused on getting closer to God and, at the same time, discovering what He designed me to be and do. I look forward to seeing how this book will speak into my artistic endeavors and their intersection with my faith.

Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity by J. Scott McElroy
Like The Creative Call, this book and study guide duo is focused on harnessing the spiritual capacity of art. “Collaborate with God,” reads the back cover of the study guide. What I specifically like about this collection is how it offers real-life examples of other people who have attempted this and, by all appearances, who have done it well. I can pray to add myself to their number.

 

An Artist’s Bookshelf – March 2018

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My art-related book finds for the month ahead

I can’t get enough of them: books, be them about art, about artists or for artists. So I got to thinking… Why not offer a monthly account of my favorite reads and resources here? Again, I’d love your suggestions to possibly add to my list—I’ll be sure to give you a shout-out if your recommendation makes it to my bookshelf! As for now, I am reading…

Creative Time & Space: Making Room for Making Art by Rice Freeman-Zachery
What first drew me to this book was its vibrant photos of a variety of works by 14 different artists. From sculpture to collage to fashion, it’s all in there. Much more than that are the stories about and insights gleaned from the artists’ different routines, studio spaces, creative processes, etc. How they are inspired and how they work are now inspiring me in my work—even down to making sure I have on hand a good supply of tea, a “real” artist’s beverage of choice apparently. 

Painting Accessible Abstracts by Laura Reiter
As I continue to dabble primarily in mixed media, this book intrigues me when it comes to layering all of the elements of a piece, employing color and meaning, considering degrees of abstraction, and making the most of different materials and their unique effects. Fantastic photos and graphics once again enhance the content of this book.

Pastels by Mari Bolte
Children’s books about art are the bomb! Children’s authors don’t have to convince kids to make art and to cut through years of personal fears and doubts—most kids are ready and eager to experiment and create without reservation! I picked up this children’s book as a refresher for my pastels skills; my husband and I took a course several years ago, and I loved playing around with blending. I’m particularly taken with the exercises that produce a more abstract result: “Triple Rainbows” (pages 14-15), “Perspectives” (pages 16-17), “Batik Heat” (pages 20-21) and “Pop Warhol” (pages 26-27).

The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art by Sebastian Smee
Society often thinks of artists as reclusive types, rarely engaging with other people and the outside world. This book proves quite the contrary by showcasing the relationships between four well-known artist duos: Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon. Smee defines “rivalry” not as “the macho cliché of sworn enemies, bitter competitors, and stubborn grudge-holders slugging it out for artistic and worldly supremacy.” Instead, she says her portrayals of the artists reflect their “yielding, intimacy, and openness to influence.” I look forward to developing more of my own rivalries—by this definition—as I continue to pursue inspiration, productivity and growth as an artist!

 

Not So Pumped

I love my book club. I love the other women who make up our group, and I love the variety of books we read. Sometimes we read some big winners. Sometimes we read some big duds. Sometimes we read something in between, like our current book.

Later this month, my book club will gather to critique Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger. Krueger is a local author known for his tales of suspense and the recurring character of Cork O’Connor. In Northwest Angle, Krueger takes O’Connor to an adventure on Lake of the Woods, a large body of water bordering Minnesota and Canada. As its name implies, the area is very “woodsy”–a great place to escape from all civilization and to experience unblemished nature.

My Coleman camp stove has two fuel options: “pumpable” liquid and “nonpumpable” propane.

So it makes sense that the likes of a Coleman® camp stove would make its way into the story. After a devastating storm, one of the main characters happens upon a cabin stocked with food and equipment, including a Coleman. Early on (page 35), she uses the stove to heat some water… and, unfortunately, that’s where I get hung up on the whole credibility of the book.

The scene reads, “She lifted the Ball jar, unscrewed the lid, and pulled a kitchen match from the supply inside. She pumped propane into the Coleman stove, something she’d done a zillion times with her father on camping trips…”

I put the book down. I couldn’t read any further. Pump propane? That’s not how my Coleman stove works!

My husband and I have gone round and round over this in recent hours. Is “pump” really the right word in regard to using propane? Is propane ever pumped? Or perhaps the author got his fuels confused. Did he actually mean liquid versus gas? I’m stuck! What really happened with that blasted stove?

What really happened? I realize that Northwest Angle is purely fiction, but before I encountered this stove issue, the story was real to me. I enjoyed the characters. I was intrigued by the plot. I think it just goes to show that even the smallest questionable detail can remind readers that they’re being taken for a ride, and the magic is lost.

Are you the kind of writer who acknowledges the importance of fact checking, or do you dismiss it as a painstaking step unnecessary to your “art”? Whatever your approach, remember that your readers will notice.


WRITING PROMPT 1: Have you ever encountered a questionable detail or error in a book you’ve read? What was it, and why did you stumble?

WRITING PROMPT 2: Pick a piece of equipment (a stove, car, bicycle, drill, clock, etc.). Research the details behind how it works, then write about it.