While the Art Institute of Chicago has been closed due to Covid-19, I have been working from home. This is challenging for me as I work primarily with the collection of Prints and Drawings and I don’t have access to the collection at home. As with most people working from home, I have been to many zoom meetings and taken advantage of many webinars. I’ve also had a few box making projects and created several box making tutorials on YouTube. But this time has also given me many free hours to make art.
As seen in previous posts, I began making a Covid Journal very early in my Stay at Home period. It was an immediate way for me to respond to all that was happening around me and a great outlet for my thoughts and observations. During this time, the clay studio that I work in was closed as a non-essential business, so I wasn’t able to work in clay. This practice of digging in the mud and experimenting is something that feeds the rest of my creativity. I feel it keeps me connected to making, but I don’t usually think of this work as art. These are functional pieces and I often make what I want in my own kitchen. That being said, working in clay keeps my hands busy and my creative mind engaged, often leading to bigger projects.
I hadn’t worked in clay for many weeks, when Joanna Kramer offered online classes at Ware with contactless pick up of materials at her studio. I have often envied her use of a rich dark clay, Standard Clay #266, so I signed on and began hand building at home.
This woven tray was the first piece I made during her class and I continued working on my own afterwards. I love the way the white glaze breaks on the texture and shows the detail nicely.
I bought underglaze colors that can be applied to greenware, before bisque firing, and began making butterflies and moths. I was inspired by a wooden tool I bought in India years before. It looks like the body of a butterfly so I pressed it into the clay to form the center of the Monarch. It felt good to make something colorful, and purely beautiful. The first two trays are quite large.
The next two are brush or chopstick rests and I love the small size. I plan to make many more moth and butterfly varieties.
Sometimes you just have to make what you have to make and this sperm whale butter dish happened. I approach ceramics from the perspective of a printmaker and I love the sgraffito effect. It is similar to carving print blocks and I think the contrast between the dark clay and the white underglaze is beautiful. Although the Pot Shop in Evanston has re-opened, I hope to continue building some pieces from home using this beautiful clay!
Well a lot has happened since my art weekend in early February. We are all dealing with a lockdown due to Covid 19, and while home I am continuing to draw every day. It is one thing that makes me feel good. I’ve also been keeping a journal made with map pages in an Ethiopian binding (to be included in a future post) and creating geometric lettering. I find the measuring and the mindless making of shapes very relaxing. The drawing of the owl above is the first to incorporate this lettering into a composition .
I have been wanting to give the coyote drawings meaning, and although I was moving in a direction my ideas were still unclear, so I let them rest for a while. Now I feel they clearly stand as a pack in support of one another, in contrast to the social isolation of the owl. The hands that I began drawing before coronavirus entered our lives, were suddenly reaching, touching and supporting. We will get to the other side of this and when we do, I plan to do a lot more hugging! We’re in this together.
Every year my husband gives me cash to spend a weekend in a local hotel to make art. Two whole days and nights to myself, to be able to follow my thoughts without interruption and be creative. This year, I spent my time drawing coyotes. I thought about working on another project as well, but I just kept drawing coyotes. I have a vision of hanging them all in a small gallery as if surrounded by a pack.
Since moving to our current home in Evanston, the coyotes in the area have flourished. We used to hear them howl occasionally at night – now we often hear a whole pack yipping and barking, especially when the sirens wail at the firehouse. I love waking up to this sound in the wee hours of the morning. My son and I see them on the golf course, looking lush and happy, feasting on the local rabbits and rodents. People often complain about them on social media (protect your little dogs!) but I feel it’s a good sign that predators have returned and are thriving.
This project is far from done. I plan to do something more with the drawings and add text. I also want to make large ceramic discs (or plates?) with more coyote drawings on them. They will be smaller than the life-size drawings, so perhaps they will form a cluster off in the distance.
I have to say, I hate drawing fur. I usually prefer to draw sea life or birds, the textures and forms are so much more interesting, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do! This is one project I just have to do to get it out of my head.
In the Midwest. I have been working on a stingray platter, trying to perfect the process. Below is the first one, which I’m quite happy with, but the top layer of the head came off in the bisque firing process. I had to rejoin the pieces with glaze and you can still see the cracks. I’m thinking of filling the cracks with epoxy and attaching gold to highIight them, like the Japanese Kintsugi technique. On my second try the head blew up into tiny pieces in the kiln, so I’m now on my ‘third try is a charm’, as my mother would say.
Mum told me that her happy place is Craigville Beach on Cape Cod. In her mind, she walks down to the end of the beach, lies down in the sand and listens to the waves. She is now 90, and it’s unlikely that she will walk the beach again, but thankfully she has her happy memories and this one gives her peace.
Tea bowls – urchin, crab, octopus, jellies.
The Humpback Whale tray is in the green ware stage, awaiting bisque firing. Sometimes I think all is going well and what could possibly go wrong, but then it does. I’m crossing my fingers on this one!
The Plankton book (remember Tinkaminks?) is finished, and I made a drop spine box with a raised circle in the center to keep the key chain from shifting around. I printed the title on my old Vandercook press that now resides in Ben Blount’s new studio. He has generously let me use it when needed. This one is on its way to Vamp and Tramp Booksellers at this very moment.
The wide array of forms in the sea are endlessly inspiring. I feel I could keep going forever – and I will continue to dream of living on the coast once again. The lake is beautiful, but as I’ve said before, it’s a poor substitute for the ocean!
Well the Polar Vortex has reached Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago is shut down for two days, so I don’t have to go to work. I’m spending my days holed up inside my home, cooking good food and catching up on lots of small things that I rarely have the time to do. This seems like a good time to take photos of my new work in the light of mid-morning.
I have gone in a slightly different direction for my Plankton (nickname Tinkamink) project. I decided to make a limited edition artist book before working on the wall installation. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I have had some work accepted by Vamp and Tramp, and they are interested in the Plankton book, so I quickly finished in order to ship to them. Secondly, I have applied to the Whitely Foundation for an artist residency at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island. It is there that I hope to focus, and complete the wall installation of Plankton. Wish me luck!
Plankton artist book
I have also taken photos of some of my recent pottery. I’m getting a bit better at predicting the outcome of some glazes at the Pot Shop Evanston and I feel I’m beginning to develop a personal style.
Ocean gleaming bright, salty tasting, glistening, never ending sea
Batter bowl, honey mustard glaze
Slab built tray at a Ware workshop (Ware glaze)
Sea urchin votive, honey mustard glaze with ash
Venkatesh’s Christmas mug, black underglaze with cinnamon glaze
Meet Arkham, he is a bit larger than the other three octopuses at Friday Harbor Labs and he is a bit bristly. He is the main man in the study being done in Gire Labs, where they are studying navigation and sensing. Because he is a bit darker and moodier, he is more reclusive, but when I manage to take a photo he is quite dramatic. He uses something called papillae in his skin to make the dramatic horn-like bumps.
While here, I have also been given a studio. Ashwin and I spent hours in the studio yesterday, where I draw and he writes in his journal. I knew I would want to do some sketching here, but somehow ‘a place of ones own’ makes all the difference. Now I may want to buy some big paper and go larger! I can’t wait to get back to the studio again today, it’s bright and airy and smells of fresh wood.
In between sketching sessions we go down to the water to scavenge for treasures, the shore is full of driftwood that we take up to the studio. I know I want to draw octopus, but I think I could also get swept into drawing pieces of driftwood, or printing the grain. I’ll just have to come back again for round 2!
This is the story of the bimorphic gynandromorph who couldn’t sing. He/she is split down the middle, with the red side being male and the gray side female.
The following is from a BBC article on gynandromorph animals by David Robson:
‘Unsurprisingly, courtship for these animals sometimes presents difficulties…..The other birds largely seemed to ignore it. This isolation is apparently common for gynandromorphs. Either they are quietly shunned, or actively attacked, by their peers’
Haven’t we all felt this at some time in our lives? There is something so sad and beautiful about this bird with no mate and no song.
A title I have stolen from Patricia Edmonds in the January 2017 Issue of National Geographic.
This is not just a drawing. I feel it says something special, so I have moved it from my last post to this one. To quote the NG article: ‘The difference in appearance between a species’ males and females is called sexual dimorphism. The term implies that there’s a bisecting line between sexes, a clear divide. But in the animal kingdom, a lot of creatures straddle it.’
I thought this ‘bilateral gynandromorph’ so beautiful that I had to draw it. And I post it today in support of the Women’s March yesterday, and the spirit of openness and acceptance that it engenders. Get it? En-genders? 🙂
March on ladies, and the gentlemen who support them!
As it has been almost a year to the date since I posted anything, I thought it might be time to end this blog. But after looking at it again I realize that I still enjoy it. So just a small post for now, of some drawings I’ve done this year and one I finished today
Ellora is a place I have wanted to go to for such a long time, since I was studying Asain art as an undergrad. I don’t know how to describe this experience and it can’t really be explained in pictures either, but here is a taste of the great beauty I experienced. My favorite spot is the Buddhist cave with the ribbed ceiling, and the stupa with Buddha carved into the front. There were very few people when I was there and I was able to sit quietly on the floor and breathe it in. A once in a lifetime experience – the enormity was overwhelming at times. These caves were built by hand from solid rock between the 6th and 9th centuries!
Man from Jain cave
Man blowing into a conch shell on a post in a Jain cave
Three stories of Buddhist monk meditation quarters
Perfectly aligned posts carved from a solid mountain. This cave lacks decoration because it is for meditation. Only the two columns flanking the entrance (halfway down on the right) have carved pots with overflowing plants as a welcome.
Buddhist cave for worshipping the Buddha.
Ceiling of cave
Looking out from behind the stupa
The largest Hindu Temple in Ellora. Carved from solid mountain from the top.
This temple is for worshipping the god Shiva. It is built in the shape of a carriage, but instead of wheels it is carried on the backs of elephants and other animals.
Elephants, lions and gryphons supporting the temple