Thursday, January 16, 2014

Two new pieces - Schmettermaus and Lil' Abby

I feel like I'm on a roll.  I have two new finished pieces to show;

The first I revealed the other day on Facebook, it is called Die Schmettermaus.  This little guy is related to Die Flittermas, however you may notice that his wings are more butterfly-like than fairy-like.  I think he's a different species, though there are very few mystic ethologists in Germany's Black Forest so the literature on these guys is scarce.

Die Schmettermaus, 5x7" Scratchboard/Ink (c) Pam Boutilier
The other piece is called 'Lil' Abby'.  This is a gorgeous little abyssinian kitten based on a reference photo from WetCanvas's RIL contributor Sweet Huia.  I started this little gal a LONG time ago and lost my way with her a bit.  Bringing her out recently for a fresh reboot I softened the shadow under her, added the soft green behind her to let me put in whiskers, a bit of tinkering in other spots and voila!  She looks so much better.

Lil' Abby, 9x12" whiteboard/ink (c) Pam Boutilier 
So the year continues at an encouraging pace!  Next I'll show you the start to finish progress of one of my largest colour pieces to date.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tigers and temporary studios and starting to think about the new year - oh my!

My first finished board of the new year - "Tiger Eyes"  5x7" Scratchboard/Ink (c) Pam Boutilier
Thanks to Just Chaos from WetCanvas for the reference image!
Welcome 2014!  I am currently working out of a 'temporary' studio at my in-laws (from Michigan, where it's cold and much very snow!).  I was perusing the recent post of an artist who I admire and who's blog I follow, Ingrid Schmelter - AKA Kastle Kaos, here.  She spoke of her resolutions last year and what she planned for 2014.  One phrase in her blog that really resonated with me was "So this year I need to always make time for the Art First kind of art.  To do the art that I would do if no one is looking, to do the art that I do when I have no other agenda."  Which I misread as First Art.. because the first art all people do is spontaneous art-for-yourself.  There is much to be said about the art you do when no one is looking... whether that art is scratchboard, dancing, singing, writing, or whatever form of creative expression you gravitate to (and if you cannot think of any then your New Year's Resolution for 2014 should be to foster a creative expression, even if you only do it when no one is looking!).  
I hope the in-laws aren't getting sick of me taking over their dining room!
I must admit that year to year I vacillate between making resolutions and eschewing them.  I hold no illusions that promises made to myself on the first day of the Gregorian calendar will magically change any of my habits, but outlining and defining my goals does help give me a structure and a boost of enthusiasm - especially around this time of year when everyone is doing it (and it turns out there may be something to that).  New Years is also a time to reflect, and when I look back at the past year I am nothing short of amazed.  

When 2013 started I had recently met with my acrylics teacher and he helped me take a lifetime of work and distill it down to what was the best... in terms of my own interests, medium, skill, and also marketability.  Seeing my work through his eyes gave me a clarity that I just couldn't get on my own (which is why I blogged a series of articles about it).  So 2013 was really the time to work on this new insight, and I did, but I was also working at my job in veterinary consulting, and we were very, very busy.  It is a relatively left-brained kind of job and it was difficult to switch from that over to the mindset I needed for developing my art further.  I found that when my job was busier it demanded that my linear-sequantial-fact-based processes be at full force, and during those times my art fell back to what I already knew... formulaic, representative to a fault, and stagnant.  

I managed to schedule some chunks of time, two or three days in a row of studio time spent in an actual studio (I traded studio hours for teaching a couple of youth classes in scratchboard).  One of those days I had a breakthrough - I started doing a portrait in a way that married my desire for detail and realism with some degree of abstraction and looseness.  This is what I've been referring to as my 'new style'.
Initial sketch for 'Gracie'
First layer of ink for 'Gracie'
(more to follow!)
Then change came.  In the middle of the year, for numerous circumstantial reasons my husband and I moved from Ontario, Canada to the Caribbean.  Even more unforeseen was that due to complex legalities I was unable to keep my consulting job.  So for the past few months I have found myself 'unemployed', or as I prefer to call it 'a full time artist'.

I've struggled since around 2008 with what it means to me to be an artist.  Fall of 2008 was the point at which I was first able to actually call myself "an artist" (you know, to other people), and this was about 6 months after my 'rediscovery' of my right brain's skills at drawing.  I have always wanted to sell my art, and I'm not exactly sure why.  Validation?  To avoid accumulating a pile of my own work?  My love of sharing in the human-animal bond through pet portriats? An excuse to spend more time on my art?  A way to avoid blank-canvas syndrome by taking commissions?  Whatever the reason (and it's likely a combination of all of those and more) it was the original inspiration for starting Cat-in-a-Box Studio.

Since the beginning of 2008 when I wrote that blog post I have been more mindful of my right-left brain functions.  Who I'm favoring, who I'm listening to, and most importantly - who I'm using more for certain tasks.  Since rediscovering my art I have been terrified of losing it again.   I spoke way back then about 'waking the sleeping dragon'.  A dragon that I finally realized is intrinsically tied to my own vitality.  A dragon that is fragile enough to wither and die if it is stuffed into a cage again with no light or nurturing.  It feels like if I let myself go back to an overwhelmingly left-brained existence it would be like chaining this guy back up in the Gringott's vault:
(c) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Having the past few months to do art full time you'd expect that I would have a mountain of things produced wouldn't you?  I certainly did.  But I was wrong.  For some reason the going is slow, and for reasons (likely the same ones that got me through vet school) I am frustrated and expect more from my dragon than it is giving.  I want to yell at it and force it to work harder.  I look nervously at what seems like a paltry amount of finished new work, miniscule movements toward developing my art further, and I feel the urge to push the dragon harder.  The whispered criticism.. "this is not good enough".

I should clarify... part of me feels that way, the other part of me is excited just to see the dragon at play.  This other part is like a nurturing mother who sees a deprived and atrophied dragon who will take some time to reach full magnificence, but who has the potential to be awe-inspiring and beautiful if given enough time and space and sunlight.  This is where I think of Ingrid's words "the art that I would do if no one is looking".  This includes art that is crappy (mistakes are important as every inspiring commencement speech that I love will tell you), art that is banal (sometimes the best work to help me hone my basic skills and identify flaws in my technique), art that is my 'old stuff' (because even if my style changes, my older styles are a part of me as an artist and part of my development).  This also includes art that is new, dynamic and beautiful.  The more I think about my agenda (specifically the need to make money from my art) the more I fall into the traps of caution and perfectionism.  Not that having an agenda is bad, but I think every artist who chooses to try to make a living from their work has to remain cognizant of how much that desire is impacting what they do.   They need to never stop making what I'll evermore think of now as 'First Art'.

So I will continue to ruminate on 2013 and what my goals are going to be for this new year.  I think I'll lean on the eastern side of my psyche and use the Chinese New Year as a deadline to set my goals and aspirations for 2014.  This year it falls on Jan 31st, and it will be the Year of the Horse... which is cool, because I just happen to have piece in progress that is a horse!  So anyone who wishes to make New Year's goals but missed the Jan 1st deadline can join me then!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Works (actually) in progress

I like the term 'work in progress'.  Perhaps I like it a bit too much because it can be used as a general term that essentially means 'work that isn't finished but I do intend to finish it...'.  Of course nowhere is it stipulated exactly when... which is where my procrastinatorial tendencies come out.

Well here's a quick shot of WIPs that I actually worked on today... the kitten is close to completion and the other two are ready for ink (which will hopefully arrive tomorrow with my Blick's order).

So after a few weeks of complete and utter inefficiency it seems that I might be back in the swing of things.  Finishing older works as well as a couple of new ones are my priorities for the next month or so. 

I also have another piece that I'm excited to show you - I had to keep it under wraps (quite literally) up to this point as it was a Christmas gift.   Due to Circumstances I decided to fall back on satisfying two of Neil Gaiman's three rules... I'm easy to get along with and my work is good, but in this instance it wasn't on time.

Speaking of which, if you have not seen Neil Gaiman's commencement speech from 2012 you absolutely should watch it!

To be fair, this piece was a gift for the in-laws and working on it covertly while they were visiting over the holidays was just too difficult.  They are cool with it being finished in the next couple of weeks, so I'll post a WIP image of that one here very soon.

Happy New Year and cheers to all!  Here's to getting a good start to the year!

~ Pb