Monday, 30 March 2015

Quotes: Charles Bukowski

no leaders, please

invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
don't swim in the same slough.
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself
stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.

invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
change your tone and shape so often that they can
categorize you.

reinvigorate yourself and
accept what is
but only on the terms that you have invented
and reinvented.

be self-taught.

and reinvent your life because you must;
it is your life and 
its history
and the present
belong only to

–– Charles Bukowski (1920-1994), German-born, American author
* While in the poetry section of an out-of-town bookstore I stumbled across the work of Charles Bukowski because of a sign. It said: "For Charles Bukowski books, please ask an employee." I'm curious, so I did. The bookstore clerk was knowledgeable and helpful. He told me that all the Charles Bukowski books are stored out-of-reach because they are of the most-stolen books in the store and that they resell for prices higher than the listed price on the books. Haruki Murakami's books fit into that category too. The clerk grabbed a tall ladder and kindly selected a book for me to explore from the secret stash.  He told me that Bukowski's writing was accessible and that blue-collar workers would read his poems on the bus home from work and laugh. I was intrigued. Then I opened the book at random and 'no leaders, please' was the first poem that I read. Wow.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Studio Series: Squeegee Marks Pattern 2

Squeegee Marks Pattern 2 © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Squeegee Marks Pattern 2 began with Bob's elegant red squeegee marks. I scanned the newsprint, cleaned it up, scaled it way down, put the marks into repeat, played with the colours, and then layered them. Fun!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


My beloved and I just returned from a mini-retreat in the city where we met and fell in love. The weather gods gifted us with crisp, cold, sunny days which were perfect for walking five hours at a time. We walked, talked and recharged. I treated myself to the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo (a very interesting, thought-provoking book on more levels than tidying house) and read it each evening after I did my Lenten mark-making and fed my sketchbook. I unplugged for three days: the lack of clutter afforded me time and space for clear thinking.* An idea for a new project began to germinate: a creative and beautiful response to a frustration. In my own life frustrations, problems, and disappointments are catalysts for innovation. I was recently reminded of this again when I read about Tom Kelley's Bug List in Creative ConfidenceI need to sit with my new idea for a while, mess around with it in my journal, make a mind-map, brain-storm. It's possible that I've already begun.

*This is a prime example that good ideas come to you when you relax, are open, and are free of distractions. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Quotes: Jan Guenther Braun

""I want you to promise me that you will pick one small, seemingly insignificant thing in your life that you will care about passionately as a craft. It doesn't matter what it is, but I want [you] to promise that you'll pick one thing. Whenever you are feeling uninspired about your own life, you will turn to this art that you've chosen and do it with as much passion as you can muster.""–– Jan Guenther Braun, Canadian author, from Somewhere Else: A Novel, 2008, p. 74. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Studio Series: Squeegee Marks Pattern 1

Squeegee Marks pattern 1 © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Here's one of Bob's beautiful squeegee marks put into a repeat pattern and then layered. 

Happy first day of spring to you all!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Eric Cameron, Gerhard Richter & me

Eric Cameron Another Brushstroke 1990-1999; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Another Brushstroke 1990-1999; acrylic gesso and acrylic on a single brushstroke of black acrylic paint (3704 half coats) from Eric Cameron's Thick paintings series.

Eric Cameron, Canadian, b. Leicester 1935, taught at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design from 1976 to 1987 and it was during this time that he began his Thick paintings. This blog is named after his practice. Image of Brushstroke, Another Brushstroke's sister. Another Brushstroke was difficult to photograph. Its shape is that of a flying saucer.
Eric Cameron Another Brushstroke 1990-1999; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Recently I came across an article about Gerhard Richter called "The Halifax Connection" (source: Canadian Art, Cathy Busby & Garry Neill Kennedy, Spring 2012, p. 136). Naturally, I was curious since I lived in Halifax while I attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. What caught my eye was a mention of a daily drawing practice that Richter began while teaching a summer term in 1978. Walther K├Ânig states that "it was in Halifax that Richter began his ongoing practice of making one drawing a day."

To connect the dots, Richter and Cameron were both at NSCAD in 1978. Richter began a daily drawing practice during the summer of 1978. Cameron began his Thick paintings (a daily practice) in late April/early May of 1979. Textile Museum of Canada curatorial director Sarah Quinton graduated from NSCAD in 1982 and taught the day in and day out practice to my textile investigations class on August 30, 1993. It is possible that Richter influenced Cameron. Quinton definitely was impressed with Cameron's daily practice enough to share it with her students. Since 1993 I have maintained an almost continuous daily practice. In 2008 I started formally documenting the practice. I am curious to know who, if anyone, influenced Richter to begin a daily drawing practice.

To learn more about Eric Cameron, I highly recommend Cover and Uncover: Eric Cameron.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Quotes: Paulo Coehlo

"It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn't matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments that are over." –– Paulo Coehlo, The Zahir 
found via Free Will Astrology by Rob Breszny (Virgo, December 25, 2014)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Studio Series: Screen prints

Four screen print over Lent drawings © Karen Thiessen, 2015
More than a year has passed since I began my Lent 2014 intuitive mark-making practice and I'm still at it. I amassed piles of drawings using a variety of media and those that weren't interesting, I painted over with acrylic inks and paint. Of the painted drawings that didn't work out, I screen printed. The above image started out as a bleed drawing using Chart Pak markers. I then painted over it and still not satisfied, I printed four different patterns in four different colours over it. The orange dots saved the day! Orange wasn't on my radar until another student had some left over. It was already mixed and ready to go, so why not? I had nothing to lose.
Three screen print over drawing © Karen Thiessen, 2015
The above three screen print is over a drawing using Prismacolor pencil crayons on paper. Unfortunately, I only have a small piece of this print, so I may be a bit precious with it when I go to use it in one of my collages.
Crosses screen print over Lent drawings © Karen Thiessen, 2015
The Crosses print is over an acrylic painting which is over a Chart Pak marker bleed drawing. This print resolved fairly quickly.

The Lent 2014 mark-making practice had a much larger impact on my studio practice than I ever imagined. It has revolutionized my work and continues to have a positive effect. I highly recommend durational practices, especially when they are paired with reflection (documenting what you are doing, what you are learning, and paying attention to where the most energy is and where the work is leading you).

Monday, 9 March 2015

Quotes: Lee Krasner

"I need to be alone for certain periods of time or I violate my own rhythm." –– Lee Krasner (1908-1984), American abstract expressionist painter

Source: All is Not Lost, January 30, 2015

Friday, 6 March 2015

Studio Series: Screen prints!

Dots, etc. screen print © Karen Thiessen, 2015
For the last few weeks I've come home from screen print class a tad frustrated. This term my prints are taking longer to resolve which means that they look pretty ugly for weeks at a time. This term the school decided to reduce our usual ten week classes to eight weeks and I'm feeling the pressure to get as much done as possible in 20% less time. Two weeks ago only two of my thirty or so prints worked out and here they are. As you can see, I'm obsessed with dots right now. Dots, etc. is a three screen print. Although it looked fine as a two screen print, the yellow adds a nice punch. I've already cut both prints up into two inch squares for my durational Day In Day Out project that I began on January 1, 2008.
Dots & Dots screen print © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Dots & Dots is pretty darn happy. Just looking at it made most of my frustrations melt away.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Found marks

Two sets of Bob's squeegee drippings; Image © Karen Thiessen, 2015
The other day I saw a salt encrusted van whose back window had the most amazing drip marks running through the salt (in snowy Canada, we salt our roads). Sadly, I did not have a camera with me. To make up for this oversight, I grabbed my friend Bob's newsprint when I saw the marks that his squeegee left behind in our screen printing class last week. Thanks Bob! My squeegee drippings never look this good. Above are two newsprints that I took. The lines are fantastic and I plan to see how they look in repeat. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Quotes: Tibor Kalman

"I am interested in imperfections, quirkiness, insanity, unpredictability. That's what we really pay attention to anyway. We don't talk about planes flying; we talk about planes crashing." –– Tibor Kalman (1949-1999) Hungarian-born American graphic designer. 

I just finished reading Debbie Millman's book of interviews How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer. Time and again designers would name Tibor Kalman as an influence, a luminary design rebel who died too young.