I have volunteer tomatoes growing and falling over again in my plastic tub on the balcony. The linden trees have new crinkly bright green leaves. The symmetry of new clover, cropping up anywhere.
Growth and transformation. If I’m to think about the natural world—plants, trees, insects, animals, minerals—I can’t seem to not think of the way it grows, how it transforms through time. I think about this with my slow way of drawing.
If I draw a flower in a representational way, it is all surfaces and planes. But, even by being abstract, growing things slowly with marks I end up with something closer to what a flower does, how it might grow.
Recently, I was invited to contribute to Superstition Review’s podcast, which I was pleased to be featured on! I read, only slightly nervously, about my work. I talked about the starting point behind the drawing series based on snow crystals, what I read, and my thinking process.
Hyphae and Blue Spots and Hyphae and Dark Spots are now available at Kenise Barnes Fine Art Gallery (kbfa.com).
These drawings were inspired by the branching growth of mushroom roots (hyphae), buds of flowers and decay. The drawings were started while I was an artist-in-residence at Lacawac Sanctuary and Biological Field Station.
Art making is strange experience, but not as sexy as it is perceived to be. Recently I was talking with another artist about the embarrassment of having work purchased and receiving over the top blush worthy praise. “It’s not that I think it’s bad or something, it just…I made that in my PJ’s while sick on a bus.”
I spend hours by myself drawing (in my bedroom), wandering, reading, and then worrying if any of it matters to anyone in the world, at all. By that point of ridiculous worry I realize the laundry has been sitting in the washer for an hour or two, and so I go and hang it up.
Ursula Le Guin’s anecdote about housework is comforting:
“An artist can go off into the private world they create, and maybe not be so good at finding the way out again.” Le Guin commented on how housework buoys her through her creative process in a New Yorker 2016 interview, adding that, “This could be one reason I’ve always been grateful for having a family and doing housework, and the stupid ordinary stuff that has to be done that you cannot let go.”
That aside, a few notes from my notebook:
07/08/18 -Be more careful -6AM wake-up -SLOW DOWN
08/06/18 -Pink in-between shapes -Finished the feeling of melting in summer, Thunder-Orange-Thing.
I’m trying to get it all to work. (I’m disregarding my hubs, who tells me that I get TONS of things done and that I work A LOT.)
I think my residency from May at Lacawac spoiled me. The abundance of time to draw and think, the slow meandering long walks I would take in the forest spotting different plants, getting squawked at by falcons while trying to befriend shy turtles, has surely spoiled me.
Now it’s back to the harder marathon challenge of trying to get as much studio time squeezed out of my every day. My day’s trajectory is mainly getting to work as soon as I can and then jetting from work to home to my small corner studio. I manage to incorporate exercise into my commute (and actually get to work quicker) biking to and from work, 12 miles a day. I do it mostly in spite. Traffic jams are excruciating.
During the residency I questioningly prodded how I make a drawing. How do you know if you’re getting something right? Or wrong? When is a drawing slipping into other boundaries that you haven’t fully realized? My experience in art and in life is whether or not I’m missing something. I’m starting to understand that there is a line, slippery and thin, between being critical with your work and self doubt, which is better to move on from. Self doubt isn’t the jelly I want butter a beautiful slice of bread with.
Notebook sketch with notes to self about blogging from a few days ago, and my new fancy-smancy pencil stub holder.
Evening shift at my corner studio
All of my questioning and gentle prodding during the residency has left me with many odds-and-ends type of drawings. I’m only hoping they provide some threads back to different mazes of thought, without too much difficulty.
Excitingly, a few months ago (although I’m writing about it now, ha!) a selection of my drawings were featured in Issue 21 of Superstition Review along with many other awesome artists and writers.
Most of the drawings featured were made earlier this year as commissioned pieces. I was happy to send them off to a home, but miss them. Especially this wonderfully turbulent drawing, Freezing Pine Spike.
Freezing Pine Spike, ink, graphite and colored pencil on paper. 12 x 12 inches. 2018
Last year I began a body of work that used the snow crystal’s growth and form as a jumping off point. I wanted to write and post a bit about snow and its shapes since they are so intriguing. How they are depicted has led me down different rabbit holes of history and nature. But not anticipating all that would happen last year, (see the previous post) it got pushed to the side. (To make a long story short I’m better and feeling great!)
These images I found in Micrographia (1665) by Robert Hooke. They are drawings of snow crystals observed under a microscope. Many famous drawings abound in this book and also Hooke’s famous first use of the word “cell” as a biological term. I was happily surprised to find, while scrolling though the Project Gutenburg’s version of Micrographica, studies of snow crystals. The crystals he draws from were formed on the surface of freezing urine within a vessel, (Hooke even gives instructions on how to recreate this). Even more odd he gives tasting notes, eating one of the crystals formed on the urine commenting that it tasted much like water. Thanks for that tidbit Hooke.
What is enthralling about the drawings were how the details of the snow crystals were rendered. To me there is an intentional, yet unsure way how Hooke has drawn the snow flakes. Maybe my eyes have become too used to incredibly detailed images taken with cameras and Electron Microscopes. Hooke’s drawings are heavily fine lined, one illustration is like a leaf with a shadow, some are small stars. Reading more of what he says about his observations of snow crystals, he thinks they imitate fern leaves, molds, and mushroom growth. The bottom image is so interesting in that the snow flake looks like to be morphing into something other than a snow flake. I think of a flake of detergent beginning to suds, or fungi with ribs. On the bottom right of that last image there is a sort of boulder of black lines folding into one another. I do not know how that related to ice or snow, and I can’t think how. I wish I could ask him.
I was commissioned to complete 3 wall drawings for a Tristan Ursell’s laboratory at the University of Oregon! The lab will be studying bacterial collective swarming behavior, so it was agreed upon that the work would relate to that through visual systems. The three different walls will explore three visual systems inspired by collective swarming behavior; Paenibacillus colonies, slime molds, and murmurations.
The image above is progress from the first day. It is the beginning of a visually inspired Paenibacillus colony.
Reference image below:
Image of Paenibacillus. Credit: Eshel Ben-Jacob and Inna Brainis