Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Of Note: Truitt, Manley, and Masko

Here's what tickles my fancy this week:

1. Anne Truitt, Working documentary by Jem Cohen. It was extra on the DVD for his film Museum Hours and it is only 13 minutes long, so I watched it twice. Truitt's descriptions of colour and her work are what make the documentary. The documentary was made in two parts: an interview in black-and-white film with Truitt at Yaddo on November 10, 1999 and a colour film of her Washington, D.C. studio in January 2005, just after her death in 2004. I found the filming to be very frustrating. In the Yaddo interview, Truitt is mixing colour and is describing various colours and their functions of either sick, dead, or lifting colours, BUT Cohen filmed this riveting interview in black-and-white. Also, I really wanted to see footage (in colour) of Truitt's sculptures in gallery and museum settings. The more I read her Daybook: The Journal of an Artist, the more of her work I want to see and learn about. 


2. A Little Sole-Searching? The Story of a Pair of Boots by Claudia Manley, of the blog Proper Tension. It's a well-crafted essay about boots and relationships and it has stayed with me the almost six weeks since I read it. I hope she writes more of these.


3. A Flowering Snowball class, taught by Johanna Masko. Masko is a friendly, patient teacher who explains each step clearly and has developed several hacks and techniques that make piecing curves and installing zippers easy. This week I  made my first stress-free zipper installation. I was apprehensive about the class because I had heard about her rigorous safety stance on rotary cutters. Once you get past that, she's really worth learning from.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Quote: T.S. Eliot

"The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that which it was torn." –– T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), American-born, British author

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Studio Series: B&W collage 7

BW Collage 7 © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Today I finished my income tax preparations and earlier this month I completed a whack of professional writing and now there is less to stand in the way of long uninterrupted stretches in the studio. Office work is not my favourite activity but I feel a profound sense of relief that I've followed through vs. avoided it.

On another note, this year I am challenging myself by relearning how to sew my own clothes. I'm taking classes at my local indie sewing store and I'm loving it. Now, I just need to overcome my fear of making buttonholes! I'll write about the significance of sewing clothing again means to me in another post.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Quotes: William Barclay

"There are two great days in a person's life: the day we are born and the day we discover why." –– William Barclay (1907-1978), Scottish theologian

Friday, April 15, 2016

Anne Truitt, Daybook: Journal of an Artist

Anne Truitt Daybook: Journal of an Artist; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Since January, Anne Truitt has kept me company a few pages at a time –– it's a book worth savouring. Truitt (1921-2004) was an American-born sculptor who initially trained in psychology. She is known for her spare forms that are painted and read like three-dimensional Minimalist canvasses. She writes frankly about her work and her life: about raising three children as a single parent, her precarious financial situation, and about the vulnerability of putting one's artwork out into the world. I don't know how she did it. 

I've only read the first half of the book so far and I highly recommend it. The writing is exquisite and honest. Here are a few quotes that resonate with me:

The distinction of joy vs. fun:
"Yesterday intuition fell back briefly before instinct. My hand wanted to  draw, to run free. Colors overran, lines tilted, and with about the same degree of effectiveness as Don Quixote going at the windmills. For one whole day I entertained the notion, which had been creeping up on me, of turning my back on the live nerve of myself and having fun.

"This morning I am sober. I would be a fool to sacrifice joy to fun (Truitt, 34)."

It takes fifteen years to become an artist
"For me, this process is mysterious. It's like not knowing where you're going but knowing how to get there. The fifteen years David Smith thought it took to become an artist are spent partly in learning how to move ahead sure-footedly as if you did actually know where you are going (Truitt, 35)."

Routine of an artist residency at Yaddo:
"The protection of the regular routine –– the studio hours, the silent days, the naps, the evening reading of Henry James and George Eliot and E.M. Forster, the delicious and balanced meals, the lack of responsibility –– has cradled me, and I am recovering from last winter (Truitt, 37)."

Anne Truitt. Daybook: The Journal of an Artist. New York: Scribner, (1982), 2013.

*my thanks to Brain Pickings, where I learned about Anne Truitt's Daybook.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Of Note

Here are a few things on my radar right now:

1. Is Mending the New Shopping? via Surface Design Association eNews

2. Angela Holland's collages!

3. Design Matters Podcast with illustrator extraordinaire Maira Kalman.

4. I just finished reading Ray Bradbury's semi-autobiographical novel Dandelion Wine (because of Sandra Brownlee's textile that I photographed in May 2014). It's a book about twelve-year old Douglas Spaulding's summer of 1928 when he woke up to the world around him. Basically, it's a book about wonder, awareness, and taking notice.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Quotes: Albert Einstein

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." –– Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born American theoretical physicist

Friday, April 8, 2016

Studio Series: Dartboard pattern screen-print

Dartboard pattern screen-print © Karen Thiessen, 2016
My winter printmaking class has finished and the spring class doesn't begin until the end of April. Fortunately, I have a significant stash of screen-printed as well as found papers with which to collage. The dartboard pattern is one of the first designs that I created in Photoshop (about eleven years ago). It's an image of a dartboard in my family room that I put into repeat and then layered. In early March I decided to see how the design would look screen-printed and I like it very much. I printed an apple green ink over a dark green paper that my friend Bob gave me (on the other side is one of his print rejects).

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

April snow!

Oak leaf in April snow; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Here in Ontario, Canada we were blessed with an April 3 snowstorm. This oak leaf landed on the snow and the sun warmed its dark surface enough to melt the snow beneath it. Isn't the leaf crater beautiful?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Writing and the business of art

I'm finally in the homestretch of writing my various artist statements, bios, and support material and I feel great! My studio work has slowed to accommodate the research, writing, and endless rewriting and this feels okay for now. Unfortunately tax season is upon us here in the great white North (yes, we had a snowstorm on April 3) and more office work calls my name. The studio spirits may not appreciate this.

For most of my career I kept weekly office hours, but over time I've moved away from this routine because the new work demanded all of my attention like a needy child. The work has now developed enough that it's in that independent adolescent phase and it is time for me to review my work routines. Today I just finished reading David Usher's Let the Elephants Run and in one of the final chapters he talks about operational infrastructure. I'm on it, David! By the way, it's a great book–– I even did most of the exercises in a new notebook, a first for me.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Quotes: Jussi Adler-Olsen

"Somewhere behind Florin's armour a reaction flickered. Carl had just given him what everyone wishes for. To hell with caressing people, flattering them, and showering them with gifts. The only thing people really long for is respect. Give your fellow humans respect and they'll dance, his teacher at the police academy had said. Bloody right." –– Jussi Adler-Olsen (b. 1950), Danish author

Source: Jussi Adler-Olsen. The Absent One. New York: Dutton, 2012; p. 70.
* Special thanks to my aunt Irene for recommending Jussi Adler-Olsen's Department Q series.

Friday, April 1, 2016