Laura Frankstone, whose beautiful drawings and paintings I've admired for a long time, has invited me to participate in an around-the-world blog hop of creative artists. The rules are simple: answer the four questions, and then nominate another artist to follow you. So here goes!
1) What am I working on?
Right now I'm working on two book projects. One is a poetry book that my press, Phoenicia Publishing, will publish in March - it's a "dictionary" of poetic aphorisms and epigrams by Magda Kapa, a Greek writer now living in Germany. Each entry, containing a noun and a definition, or a poetic "comment" - is no longer than 140 characters, and they were originally published as tweets over the course of a year. I felt that the design needed to be different from a regular book to best reflect its content. Magda said that she thinks of the project as a Heraclitian river - a river that is always changing; one can never step into this same river twice. So in my design I've tried to do the same thing. (The cover is described at the end of the previous post on this blog.)
The second project is a much more complex one: a book that will come out at the end of 2015. It will be an anthology of poems about Mary and the Annunciation, and I've invited fifteen women poets from widely varying cultural and religious backgrounds to contribute work. I'll be illustrating the book with original relief prints like the one above (that's a detail; the process of making the full print is shown here), editing and designing the text, and maybe printing and binding a special edition - we'll see! I'm very excited about this project because it is going to push me as an illustrator, printmaker, and book-artist, and force me to learn some new skills, and at the same time I love the collaboration with the poets, some of whom are longtime friends and acquaintances, and some who I'm just getting to know.
Last year I kept a sketchbook and tried to draw almost every day - so I'm hoping to keep that practice up this year too. And I work on personal paintings or prints whenever the urge strikes.
Lupine - a drawing from my sketchbook.
Daylily and Lupine, acrylic on paper.
2) How does my work differ from others of my genre?
It's never been useful for me to think about my work in comparison to others, except so far as I am inspired, challenged, and encouraged by the work they do. I don't know how my work is different - it is simply my work, and I try very hard to be true to my own path, to listen to my intuition as well as my intellect, and to see each project as a stepping stone to the next. I will say that, as someone who started out doing traditional realistic work, it's been a challenge to find my own style(s) and express myself in a way that is uniquely mine. The process of searching and going deeper always continues, and it's very personal.
Handbound book with suede spine and handpainted/handprinted cover papers, 2013.
3) Why do I create what I do?
Again, that's hard to answer! When I look back over my life - I'm 62 now - I can see the threads running through it, but it's much harder to speak about the present, let alone the future. I'm someone who plans, but I also trust intuition and "the muse," and the way one thing often leads to another if you work hard, think hard, then let go and open yourself up, and really give yourself to it. I have a liberal arts education and am almost completely self-taught in art and design. My career has been in graphic design; I've loved the book arts since I was a child, but I'm also a painter who works in many mediums and who loves drawing. I'm doing less commercial design work than I used to, but now I have this publishing venture that is leading me ever further into collaborations with other artists, photographers, and writers. I want to push "the book" farther, using both technology and traditional methods and materials, but I also want to use the time and freedom I have now to do the best art and writing that I can. Having said that, at the base of everything, I'm always inspired by nature and the beauty and mystery of human beings.
The studio with some large charcoal drawings of Iceland, a print of Montmorency Falls in Quebec, and two smaller paintings for a friend in New Zealand.
4) How does my creating process work?
If we're talking about a complex project, usually an idea presents itself - often as an outgrowth of something else - and I think about it for a few days, to allow the initial excitement to settle down and some questions about feasibility to surface. I listen hard to my intuition, and if it tells me to proceed, then I go for it wholeheartedly. If there are doubts, I either wait or move on. The actual process depends on the end product: if I'm making a print, I always begin with a series of drawings, but my large drawings are usually done directly. Designing a book is a complex, picky, and often technical process that takes place mostly on the computer; it may include hand artwork, photography, calligraphy or drawn type, image processing, scanning, and several different software programs.
But in terms of spontaneous work, if I'm inspired by something I see or feel, I try to capture that quickly by sketching or painting something expressively. I've found that the practice of drawing a little, everyday, makes it much easier to work on bigger things when inspiration strikes. When I was sixteen, I took a summer art course where we had to paint for three hours every single morning - that was very good for me, and showed me that you can work in spite of difficulties, lethargy, different moods and physical states. I've always been pretty disciplined, and I'm grateful that since moving to Montreal I've had - for the first time in my life - a large studio with excellent light in which to work. The rest is up to me, and the first step is to show up every single day.
Thank you, Laura, for inviting me to participate here! And now I'm going to pass the baton across the Atlantic, to my dear friend and artist extraordinaire, Natalie d'Arbeloff, in London.