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 – April 2018

img_1161As always, my plunge into all things art includes some notable books on the topic. Here’s what I’m reading in April…

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Every book that I’ve read about art so far either refers to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron or this one (or both). I’m about two-thirds of the way through it and have gleaned some practical insight on how to make sure my creative ideas make their way to real endeavors. Each chapter comes in two parts: 1) Tharp’s narrative on how she’s invented her own creative habit in the world of dance and 2) exercises to apply in our own creative lives.

Creativity: The Perfect Crime by Philippe Petit
I have no idea what to expect from this book, which is by the guy who may be best known for his illegal tight-wire walk between the Twin Towers in the 70s. It was this teaser that intrigued me to check it out: “With the reader as his accomplice, Petit reveals fresh and unconventional ways of going about the artistic endeavor, from generating and shaping ideas to practicing, problem-solving and ultimately pulling off the ‘coup’ itself—executing a finished work.”

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman
It was through an invitation to curate an exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City that this book came to be. Not only does Kalman pay tribute to all the items she chose for the exhibit, but she also weaves in some fantastic autobiographical writing and artistry. It makes me ponder the items by which I am fascinated: the five-dollar rummage-sale quilt that my family used in our camper during my growing up (my mom recently gifted this treasure to me), handmade bowls, yarns of striking hues, and books, books, books. Kalman’s is a delight!

Artist Date: Weisman Museum – March 3, 2018

Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis

Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis

Last Saturday, my husband and I went not only on a “date date,” but also on an “artist date,” as Julia Cameron defines it in her famous book The Artist’s Way. Our date destination was the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

The objective of an artist date? To receive, says Cameron—to open one’s self “to insight, inspiration, guidance” and to nurture one’s “creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion…”

I’m finding it difficult to sum up the many ways that my experience with the Weisman exhibits spoke to my inner artist; after all, I took two pages of copious notes and no less than 25 unique photos. But there’s no time like the present to create a simple and somewhat systematic way to encapsulate the highlights of such excursions. For now, I’ll try to share my #1 top finds when it comes to a “new-to-me” techniques, terms, artwork and artists. Perhaps I’ll also include ideas inspired by my artist dates that I want to try or topics that I want to learn more about—I’ll call this part my “assignment.”

Without further ado, here are my favorite takeaways from the Weisman:

Technique: Pixelation
“Pixelated Bromide” by Richard Barlow involved taking a sepia photograph and using  36,000 spangles to replicate the image in humongous shiny golden form; the piece measures more than 10 feet tall and almost 20 feet wide, and it’s best to stand back about 30 feet to see the picture take shape. How fun would it be to emulate Barlow’s method in both small and large scale with a little help from Photoshop!

Term: “Synchromy”
It was in reading about “Cañon Synchromy (Orange)” by Stanton Macdonald-Wright that this cool word came to my awareness. It’s defined as “a symphony produced with color.” To Macdonald-Wright, that meant creating “color harmonies around a central color,” in this case, orange. A leaflet about the piece offers a short bio on him crediting him as “the founder of synchromism, an art movement that emphasizes the importance of color.” Fancy that!

Artwork: “Green Woods” by B.J.O. Nordfeldt
The colors are vibrant. The depiction of a tall forest of trees is whimsical but recognizable. I fell in love with this oil painting immediately. Despite its so-called simplicity and playfulness, “Green Woods” carries a multi-dimensional quality that pulls me deeper into the woodsy scene’s center.

Artist: Marsden Hartley
There were about half a dozen works by Hartley that caught my eye for their richness. I also noticed his various techniques and subject matter, from vibrant still lifes to foreboding oceanic landscapes to light Southwestern scenes. His “Painting No. 2” also captured my attention. Embedded in it are numerous spiritual symbols related to his transcendental beliefs. I do not share in those beliefs, but I resonate with faith and spirituality offering much inspiration and energy in the quest to make art.

Assignment: A “synchromous” pixelation of an abstract
There’s a lot to try and I’m tempted to merge a couple of my learnings into one “synchromous” (I’m not sure if this is truly the right adjective) pixelated piece of art. I feel inspired to load an abstract painting like “Green Woods” into Photoshop to see what kind of pixelated instructions it reveals. I’m eager to experiment with the materials at hand—fiber and magazines in particular—to see what emerges.




An Artist’s Bookshelf – February 2018

IMG_0729Procrastination… The struggle is real.

My kind of procrastination is often disguised as “research” or “inspiration”—after all, “Learner” is my number one strength according to StrengthsFinder 2.0. Despite my ill motives, the practice of reading does bear its fruit. As a result, I’m exposed to some great books and many thought-provoking ideas and philosophies as I slide other endeavors to the backburner. Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Letters to a Young Artist: Building a Life in Art by Julia Cameron
Yep, this is the same person who wrote the bestselling The Artist’s Way, which also makes its home on my bookshelves. In Letters, Cameron responds to a fictitious but relatable young artist “full of turbulent self-doubt”—relatable in the sense of apprehension, but rather annoying when it comes to the extent of his/her resistance to Cameron’s insight and advice (remember, the mentee is fictitious, so who should I really blame for this flaw in character?). I’m “young” in the sense of this new adventure as an artist, so I’m digging the read.

Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
Photographer friend Tami Sojka recommended this book to me, and I finished it this morning. In less than 100 pages, Koren tries to put words and pictures to “the quintessential Japanese aesthetic.” He describes wabi-sabi as “a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete… modest and humble… unconventional.” Such a definition of art, then, gives a rookie like me some hope.

This insight in particular continues to play in the corners of my consciousness: “While the universe destructs it also constructs. New things emerge out of nothingness. But we can’t really determine by cursory observation whether something is in the evolving or devolving mode. If we didn’t know differently we might mistake the newborn baby boy—small, wrinkled, bent, a little grotesque looking—for the very old man on the brink of death… In metaphysical terms, wabi-sabi suggests that the universe is in constant motion toward or away from potential.”

A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon
I discovered Lisa Congdon a couple years ago through an online art class she teaches through CreativeBug. Talk about someone who embraces the beauty of imperfection—she really encourages me in my attempts at art by speaking this truth over and over again. When it comes to her work, I so admire her playful use of pattern and color, as well as her whimsical approach to everyday objects.

Her signature style graces the pages of A Glorious Freedom, a biographical delight about women who found or are finding new identity or purpose as “late bloomers.” I feel a certain kinship with these women as I discover the glorious freedom that comes with age and some long overdue self-acceptance and celebration.

If you feel so inclined, I’d love to receive your recommendations of authors and books who have made a difference in your creative life. Please share in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!