Friday, January 29, 2010

Dare we discuss?

Do we dare discuss procrastination?

Does this even apply to us?Really, one would wonder that artists ever wish to procrastinate. I mean don't we just absolutely love what we do - getting to be creative and all?

Well, what about that commission you know you should be working on, or that last one in your latest series that isn't really too exciting for you these days? You get the idea...

So what leads you to procrastinate and what things do you do when you attempt to avoid your work?

Me, I am apt to start procrastinating when a piece is almost finished. I have spent a lot of time on it and I am liking how it looks. I know that spending a few more hours to bump up values and such will really add to the piece but I start to get bored and I get itching to work on something fresh. I am also prone to put off working on a piece if I hit a technically difficult part or an area in which I have done the fun stuff and only the other stuff remains (like the background on Neptune's Leaves, many, many inches to cover and lots of pigment to get down).

I tend to put off dealing with the non-art part of the business. I receive many emails every week from arts organizations. They are advising me of conferences in other cities, opportunities to participate in charity auctions, would I like to participate in their art in the park exhibition this summer - that sort of thing. I need to think about these opportunities and see how they fit into my plans so unfortunately I cannot just delete or file these items as they appear. Also, if I am teaching, I tend to procrastinate setting up my studio as a teaching room (because I love it as a working studio) and I tend to put off printing off the material for the students and cutting the paper they need, etc. Dead boring...I also put off framing in a big way! (Simply because it is a lot of work.)

So that is what I procrastinate and now for what I do when I wish to procrastinate. Well, if I am at my drafting table and I start to get fidgety, my first act of diversion is to head to the kitchen for a cup of tea or something. Or I can suddenly need to get out of my chair to change the CD. I just might select a CD that requires some singing along and dancing... :-) I might think of something that I had been meaning to look up on-line and well gosh if I don't do it now I might forget later. I can be overwhelmed with a desire to check my email, or check for comments on my latest blog post. I will also start going through my reference images - I'm working, just working on my next piece. :-) Finally, I can procrastinate by sorting and organizing the stuff in my studio - this one is rather a last resort.

So now it is your turn in the discussion. Do you procrastinate? What are you avoiding doing and what are your preferred acts of procrastination? (I'm sure someone will mention chocolate!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

display grids, preparing to create, winter pics, risotto recipe

Ah, the beauty of winter, when ice crystals cover everything...I have more pictures below.

I recently ran into a great deal on display grids. A local art club that I belong to announced that they had 20 used grids they wished to dispose of. These metal grids were 2 feet x 7 feet, white and just $7.00 each! Woo-hoo...I wasted no time in snapping up eight of them and they are now in the garage.

You might recall from the photos of my recent studio tour that I already use white metal grids to display my work. I purchased these new several years ago at $36.00 each. The ones I have just picked up are not quite as sturdy but they will be very useful. I have an idea to use a couple of them sideways, in front of my storage closets. I could use coloured clothes-pins to hang some unframed mixed media pieces done on paper...Heck if all else fails, I can use them in the barn as shelves for drying garlic and onions!

Are you a member of a local arts group? There is much value in getting connected with your local arts community and sales like this are just one example. To read more of my thoughts on this topic, check out my 'finding support' button in the sidebar or click here.

I have been going through a phase of preparation. I am preparing to create! I have big plans for February (more on that in a later post) and right now I am setting the stage so to speak. I have been a busy gal dealing with a mountain of paperwork on my desk, I have worked on my accounts from 2009 and I am now ready for tax time and I have been sorting stuff in my studio, going through my pencils and papers to see what supplies I need. I have even removed everything from my drafting table and I gave my Borco a very good cleaning (Borco is the brand name of the vinyl covering that goes over the surface of a drafting table). Cleaning the Borco is the final clue that Teresa means business - a big, creative endeavour is about to be undertaken!

Ah, but I have to be careful that all of my acts of preparation are indeed just that and not acts of procrastination. I have been slowly working on creating a new still life - one that I will have enough faith in to proceed with. I am cautiously dancing my way around this as I am on unfamiliar territory. My next piece is going to be an abstract that suggests something real. At least that is where I am at now. I know I am sounding mysterious about it all but honestly things are still rather vague. Yesterday afternoon I had a breakthrough and I am hoping that playing with my new photos will yield the 'that's it' reference. It feels like I am holding my breath, suspended in that moment before breathing resumes again. When it does resume, things shall be full steam ahead at the drafting table. I can't wait.

The other day our outdoor world was covered with ice crystals. Here are some photos starting with a close up of a bee balm seed head.


Aren't these seed heads gorgeous?

Finally, milk weed looking rather ghostly...

I replied in the comments section of my last post that I would give the barley risotto recipe. So for those of you who might be interested, here it is:

Barley Risotto

The basic part of cooking a risotto with barley in a slow cooker is that you will need 1 cup of barley and 3 cups of stock (vegetable, chicken or beef stock). I like my grains as unrefined as possible (and organic) so I use what is referred to as Pot Barley. It is brown in appearance and like other less refined grains, it has a nuttier, richer flavour. Pearl Barley is the more refined version and is more common. Generally speaking the pot barley usually takes longer to cook and requires more liquid but I find that using the slow cooker works very well. If you are using the pot barley, just check it in the last hour to make sure it has enough broth.

Cooking Time: set the slow cooker on either high for 4 hours or low for eight hours.

Start the risotto by heating fat in a skillet (can be olive oil or butter, don't have your heat on too high). Add whatever risotto goodies you wish - such as chopped onions, garlic cloves, mushrooms, leeks, peppers, tomatoes, some squash or sweet potato, simply whatever you wish. Pick a couple of veggies that you have on hand in the frig. I used onions, a bit of celery and asparagus in my last dish. Chopped carrots and corn make a nice combination. Anyway, saute up the 'goodies' for a few minutes in the pan. (Don't fret about amounts, just use what seems reasonable.) Add your cup of barley and stir. Toasting the barley gives off a lovely aroma! Add whatever spices you wish. I usually like to add a bit of Worcestershire sauce, garlic, pepper and some drops of a Louisiana style hot sauce. As mentioned in the last post, I also tossed in the chopped chili from the still life.

I like to warm my broth but it isn't necessary. Once I transfer my skillet contents to the slow cooker, I add my broth to the pan and leave it on the heat for a moment or two. Add your broth to the slow cooker, put on the lid and walk away. You are done. I check on the risotto after three hours (I use the four hours on high method). If you have added celery or mushrooms or some other veggie that has a lot of water content, things should be fine even if you are using pot barley.

You can finish off the risotto by topping with freshly grated Parmesan cheese or some other cheese. As I mentioned last time, once the risotto was done, I added soft goat cheese slices to the top of the risotto. I put the lid back on and the cheese melted in the time it took for me to plate up the smoked salmon. I hope you have fun with the recipe and that you enjoy eating your barley risotto!

My next post will have a new question for us to dare to discuss. I hope you will join in. I shall leave you with this gorgeous clump of tree roots.

Friday, January 22, 2010

distracted by chilies

I have another still life that I should be working on but I have been distracted by some chilies. I spied these in the grocery store the other day and I couldn't resist. I take rather a long time in the produce section as I gaze at and admire the patterns on the cabbage leaves, the deep rich colour of eggplants, the shapes and curves of artichoke leaves...

I have been patiently waiting in my studio for some sunshine. Well the sun is shining bright and the photo shoot is complete. The above photo is an example of where I was playing with the grouping as well as trying to capture the shiny highlights on the side of the chilies. I was less concerned about the shadows. I have other photos where getting just the right shadow shapes were important. Perhaps we never outgrow playing with our food! :-)

I now have oodles of pictures on my camera waiting to be sorted through. I don't plan on doing a chili piece soon but it shall be waiting in the wings. In the meantime, one of the chilies has already made it into a dish for supper. One of the wonderful things about being self employed and working from my home is that I can be here during the day to get soups or stews simmering on the woodstove. This afternoon I have assembled the ingredients for a barley risotto into my slowcooker - with a red chili added for some extra flavour and heat. I am thinking of the smoked salmon in the freezer to eat with it, cooked with some capers and sundried tomatoes perhaps... Did I mention the goat cheese that will be melted on top of the risotto? :-) Smells are starting to waft up to my studio! My tag line on the header of this blog says 'add beauty to your life' - well my eyes have feasted on beautiful chilies and my nose is enjoying the smell of toasted barley, garlic, chili and onion. My taste buds get their turn later!

Talk about adding beauty to life - gosh this morning was my favourite sort of winter morning for a walk. There had been a hoar frost and everything was coated in sparkling ice crystals. We had also had a skiff of snow and there were fresh animal tracks everywhere. Both prey and predators had been out and about in full force in the wee hours of the day. Being able to track animals is just one of the many reasons I love winter. This morning I could see where all of the snowshoe hares had been. A fox had been out as well as coyotes. There were so many tracks crisscrossing all over the place, I don't know how they didn't all actually bump into each other! :-) Of course my dog has to reassert his position as the top canine in the 'hood' (foxes are members of a tribe under the Canidae species) and he wasted no time in executing some strategic peeing maneuvers over his territory.

If you have never tried tracking animals, why not grab an animal tracking book and head out to your favourite wild place this weekend? I can recommend Olaus J. Murie's book Animal Tracks (a Peterson Field guide, note this is for North American animals). My copy is old and while it has been revised a few times, I am sure it is still a fabulous resource. The book also helps to identify scat (animal poop for the urban readers).

Time to get back to that other still life. This one isn't edible (more about that later). So, have you eaten a still life this week?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dare we discuss?

Welcome to the first post in my new "Dare we discuss?" series. My hope is that you will choose to be part of the conversation by sharing your thoughts and ideas. As artists we often work in isolation. My goal here is for us to have a chance to chat about all sorts of art related topics. There will be thought provoking questions as well as ones that will require some true confessions! I am looking forward to this series and remember the more the merrier - don't be shy, please join in and leave a comment.

Today we dare to discuss what we wish we had known. Yes, that's right, what are some of the things you wish you had known when you started your art career? Humm...

I guess I need to go first here...

I wish I had known how much time it would take to become a 'player'. I found that I could do all of the right stuff, hand out business cards, run ads, do shows, have a website etc. and many people would still not remember who I was nor what I did - at least not initially. Business experts say that your name has to be before someone 7 times before they start to notice you. I would start analyzing my efforts, tweaking my ads or my business cards when the truth was I just needed to be patient and stay in the game. Successfully breaking into an established arts community can take a lot more time than one might imagine. I think artists need to know that they need to be determined and they need to persevere.

I wish I had known how much time the business side of my art career would take. Of course I knew I wouldn't get to do art all of the time but I confess my expectations were not in line with my current reality.

I wish I had known I would need storage. It doesn't take long for the stuff of art to pile up. I naively started out working in a spare bedroom, using the closet as storage. I had no idea... :-)

I wish I had known how friendly and welcoming other artists are. In my early days, I held back from getting involved in arts groups because the folks involved seemed to me to be the local pros. I was waiting until I was 'good enough' to join. I missed out on commaraderie and support.

Enough from me. Time to hear your thoughts on this. What is it that you wish you had known when you started your art career? See you in the comments section...and I thank you in advance for joining in!

Monday, January 11, 2010

New coloured pencil practice kit!

Apple Kit image, 5" x 7", coloured pencil on Stonehenge
copyright Teresa Mallen

Last week was my first week back at work in my studio following the holidays and it was great to be there. I had a productive time too which is always good. I created a new cp practice kit! This has been on my to do list for 'someday' for a very long time. Heck, you can see from the photo below that my reference photo was taken back when I used a film camera! Okay, I was one of the last folks on earth to go digital (I was waiting for a digital camera that would accept the macro lenses that I used on my 35mm SLR camera) but still...

Now I work directly from a digital image that I view from my lap top (which I perch on my slanted drafting table - fortunately the weight of the computer keeps it from shifting). I like how my computer image is large (compared to a 4 x 6 inch photo) and I can also click back and forth to other pictures and zoom in as required.

You can also see in the photo below my sheets of notes. Creating a piece for a kit requires me to stop and write down what I am doing and why and also to note the colours used. This definitely disrupts my flow!

If you don't know what I am taking about when I mention practice kits do visit the practice kit page of my website (to get there click here). I have shown the contents of the Moth Kit below. Included in each kit is a reference photo, a detailed line drawing, a sheet of Stonehenge paper to work on, you get detailed step by step instructions, pictures of the piece as a work in progress as well as a final image. All you need are pencils! All of the kits are created using the 48 pencil set of Prismacolor pencils (Premier line not the Lightfast line). If you use a different brand of pencil, I can email you a swatch list of colours so you can match the Prismacolor colours to the ones you have.

If you are interested in purchasing kits and you are not sure what the Canadian prices would convert to in your country's currency, just do a google search on 'currency converter' and you will find a site that will do the conversion from Canadian funds for you. Please note that when you use the on line shopping buttons provided on my website, your currency will be automatically converted by PayPal. If you are interested in the Apple Kit, please be patient - I still have to type up the instructions and I also have to add the info to my website. I shall let you know when it is ready to be purchased.

I also worked on the letter D last week. As you can see, I used a very sophisticated graphics software program...ha ha, I confess I am rather a Luddite :-) and the D is a close cousin of the Motivation Monday M.

So what is the D for? Well, I am starting a new series that will involve audience participation so I do hope you will help the series along by leaving comments. That's all I shall say for now and with that teaser out there, I shall head back to the studio. I am working on creating a new still life set up for my next piece. I am venturing forth into new territory on this one so I hope the photo shoot goes well. Stay tuned and oh, the D series will appear in a couple of days...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Motivation Monday

Goals are great but don't forget to dream!

These days it seems hardly anyone makes new year's resolutions but goal setting appears to be all the rage. And why not? Establishing specific, measurable, attainable objectives is a good thing to do. Ah, but there can be a downside to goal setting. The downside is that we can become so focused on the goals that we lose sight of our dreams.

In the past few months I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about what I spend my time on and why. I began to realize that some of my goals had become disconnected from my dreams. In fact my goals had become more like items on a to do list. I realized it was time to reconnect with my dreams. To remedy the disconnect, I have consciously spent time pondering the visions that I have for my life, my art and my business. I discovered that some of my dreams have been realized (yeah!) and that some of my dreams have changed. No wonder chasing after certain goals no longer inspired me. These thoughts have led me on an interesting journey of self discovery.

So how about you? Are your goals connected to your dreams? Are you sure you know what your dreams are? How about your motivation level? Did your motivation wane during the past year? If so, maybe it is time for you to reconnect with your dreams too. Reconnecting with the why behind the what of what you do will take your motivation level to new heights.

Dreams can and do change. That's because we change and grow. As you look ahead at this new year and you prepare to set goals, I encourage you to take the time to get reacquainted with your dreams. What is your vision for your life and art? Where would you like to be a year from now or five years from now? Perhaps you will find that your answers are somewhat different than what you would have come up with a few years ago. That's okay. Celebrate how you have changed and dare to make new goals. Just remember that it is a lot easier for us to reach our destination if we actually know where we are going. :-) I wish you all the best on your journey!

If you are new to my blog, please note that there are other Motivation Monday posts. You can locate and read them all by clicking on the Motivation Monday button in the right hand sidebar.