Erika Allison's Artastic Blog

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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Jill Of All Trades

Posted Monday, April 19th, 2010


“Can We Get There From Here?”


Oil/Mixed Media on Panel

Yup, JILL.  That would be the feminine for…you got it – jack of all trades.  I suppose I shouldn’t focus on gender.  All of us artists are up against the same thing:  the need to be able to do it all.  It seems that ALL is getting bigger and broader and more demanding.

I wish that being an artist meant that one would CREATE ART.  That’s all.  Times  have changed.  Our needs have changed.  And, there’s more than ever to do as an artist.  There’s so much preparation.  There’s promoting oneself.  Showing the work.  Being a good salesperson.  Keeping accurate records.

Before I can begin a painting I have to come up with a painting surface.  Sure, surfaces are available to buy.  But, there are many things to consider.  What kind of surface do  you want?  Can you afford to buy a prepared surface of the quality you want?  Or, if you want a “custom” surface that isn’t manufactured, you will need to create it yourself.  This is where the “fun” begins.  A knowledge of building materials and tools comes in handy.  Tools needed to build the surface are  needed.  And, a place to work at building is needed.  Time is spent building the painting surfaces.

The best part, for me, is the actual creating of the artwork.  I get the most joy out of painting and whatever else is involved in the creation of my work.  I work rather quickly as far as the actual painting goes.  But, I can spend a lot of time thinking, viewing, coming up with ideas of “what’s next”.  Do I want to include this or that, do I want to add this or that found object, do I want to add marks in pencil, oil stick or spray paint?  This is where I really enjoy the process.  These are the decisions that truly affect the final outcome of the work.  The answers to each of these questions make or break the success of of the work.  I love it when I feel like I’ve made the right decisions.

Now, I need to be able to promote myself.  In the past that meant being able to photograph your work well (or hire a professional photographer), keeping your resume up-to-date and searching for opportunities to show your work.  Opportunities to show your work is still the goal today.  But, there are so many more opportunities for promoting yourself.  Hello, computer!  If one has the skills to create one’s own website and keep it up-to-date and photograph and photoshop one’s work – that One is in good shape!  Hooray for you!  If, on the other hand, one (ME) is a bit of a dinosaur in this area – there is a lot of frustration.  I feel like I’m spending all my time learning how to do everything that needs doing.  And, where is my painting time?

Well, I’m not giving up!  I’m still plugging away at it all.  This painting, “Can We Get There From Here?” shows how making one’s own painting surface contributes to the end result of the painting.  I’ve altered the shape of the rectangular surface by cutting out three semi-circles with my handy-dandy electric jigsaw.   I photographed the finished work.  With help from my fabulous webmaster, Trillian, I’ve come up with an image of the work.  She’s still working with me on how to do all this stuff.

I’m always looking for opportunities to show and sell my work.  I watch for competitions that I feel are worthwhile to enter.  And, when things go well, I have to get down to good record keeping!

I woke up thinking about this painting I did at the end of 2009.  It has been titled and shown already.  But, I’m still thinking about it.  It’s not truly finished.  It’s missing something.  I think I realized that all along.  And, yet, for some reason, I showed it anyway.  Shame on me!

The painting, “Don’t Suck Me In”, is missing pizzaz, the final touch.  It needs that one more thing.  I remember thinking about it as I was “finishing” it.  I just never came up with what that one final touch should be.  There are so many options at this point in a painting.  That final touch could be a paintstroke, a mark of some kind, a found object…  The hard part is figuring out which option will be the coup de grace.  It’s a critical time in the process of making a piece of art.  Is that last touch the coup de grace or the disastrous mark that makes the work OVER worked?  It is critical that an artist knows when a work is done.

Many times I have made my final mark and been so pleased with myself.  Aha!  The perfect mark that adds just what was needed.  Without that mark, the painting just isn’t finished.  Then, it seems that I will forever remember that final touch that made a particular painting.  Maybe I even get a little too impressed with myself!

Well, I would like to find that perfect mark right about now!  I could use something to gloat over.  The truth is, I’m struggling with this one.  Like I said, I actually woke up thinking about this.  That’s a good start.  I  had the idea of what to do next.  And so….I headed into the studio right after getting the coffee brewing.  The idea I had come up with had many possibilities, as usual.  Now, it’s time to pick one and JUST DO IT!  And, so I did.  I did not have to change the title of the painting.  I have perhaps added some depth to the meaning.  We’ll see.

I’m still not certain that it’s finished.  I will keep it up on the easel and pop in and study it.  At some point I will decide that I’ve come up with a good finish…or not.

“Don’t Suck Me In”, 25″x31″x2″, is still in progress.  The painting posted is the “Before” version.  I never understood why artists sometimes dated their work to include more than one year.  I’d think – it took that long?!  Now, I get it.  I will have to add 2010 to the date on the back.  It says 2009.  So, now, it will read 2009/2010.  It didn’t really take me 2 years.  Well, I’m not done yet.  Who knows?

I will photograph the work and post my progress in another post.  Who knows how long this might go on?


Found Objects

Posted Tuesday, March 16th, 2010



Found objects. What are they? I guess you could say that they are anything that you find! They can be interesting to add to your artwork. It’s not a new concept. Many artists have included found objects in their work. I use them sometimes. Not every painting calls for their use. I don’t want to overdo the practice. I don’t want to be known as the woman who ALWAYS includes found objects in her work! If they add something to the work I like them.

Finding found objects can be fun…or frustrating. I always have my eyes open looking for them. You have to know a good found object when you see it. It can be anything and it can be anywhere. I happen to appreciate old, very used and textural objects. I also appreciate “weird” objects, things one wouldn’t even think of using. Those are the best! One needs to be continuously collecting these found objects. They may not get used for quite some time…or maybe never. But, a good collection is needed. All you neat, tidy, organized people will be cringing about now. But, a good trash pile is like manna! When a work “needs something” you go to your collection of found objects and pick through it, looking for just the right thing.

Sometimes these found objects serve more than one purpose. I have a couple of great finds that have ended up being used for printing textures onto painting surfaces rather than being added to the work. I also have a great piece that I use for a “stencil” of sorts. It has lots of round holes that I use to spray paint through. I also have found objects that I use both for texture on a painting surface and as a stencil. You just need to keep your eyes and your mind open. One of my favorite finds is the plastic netting used on the outside of a Butterball turkey. It’s the perfect example of a find that I’ve used on my surface as texture…AND as a stencil to spray paint through.

It’s time to go on a treasure hunt. I happen to have two paintings in progress that I feel need found objects to complete them. And, sadly, I don’t seem to have the right thing in my treasure pile. It seems like I’m trying too hard to find the perfect found object. The better way is to have found great stuff and have it waiting for the perfect opportunity.

The painting I’m showing, “Downsize” is an example of using found objects. The painting surface itself is a found object: a small pallet. And, there are several found objects added to it at the end.


Posted Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Zoning Permit Required

“Zoning Permit Required”

I love titles! Titles may give me a clue as to what a painting is about, or, at least, the artist’s thoughts on the work. I hate to see untitled w

orks. When I see a painting that really intrigues me and I look for the title I am SO disappointed when I see “untitled’. I feel like the artist hasn’t finished his/her job when it’s left untitled. True, each viewer finds his/her own vision. But, it’s nice to get a clue about the artist’s vision as well. Don’t you wonder WHY an artist created a work of art – or what he/she was thinking while making it?

I work in the abstract so “what it’s about” is really up for grabs! I feel like most of my work is about whatever the viewer thinks it’s about. And, what I think it’s about can often be more than one thing. I actu

ally enjoy coming up with titles. Sometimes they come easy. And, sometimes I really labor over them. I may study the finished work for days on end before I come up with something that I like, that seems to fit, that could work. Usually, when I finally come up with it, it seems to be perfect…for me, anyway. I enjoy titles that make the viewer wonder. It seems to me that if the viewer wonders what the title means, he/she must be thinking about it. That’s great! I like to think I made someone think!

So – what do YOU think? Do you like titles? Or, are they not that important to you?

Some artists swear by the sketchbook. They maintain it’s important to keep one, to be constantly sketching, and wouldn’t go anywhere without it. That’s not me. I’m not much of a sketcher. I never have been. I love to draw…and I’m decent at drawing. I just don’t have much use for sketching, if that makes any sense.

I can remember my freshman year in college. We were supposed to keep a sketchbook for Drawing 101. The night before it was due to be turned in I was in my dorm room scrambling to fill it up. I did numerous drawings of my left hand, feet, tennis shoes, loafers, whatever I could find to draw at the last minute. I wonder if the prof could figure that out? Surely, I wasn’t the only last-minute student!

Recently, I came across my “current” sketchbook in my studio. I opened it and was somewhat appalled to find that my first entry was dated 2002! See? I told you…not much of a sketcher. And, there’s still plenty of room left. I leafed through the whole sketchbook, curious to see what I’d sketched a few times over the years. While I didn’t have sketches of paintings-to-be, I DID have lots of IDEAS jotted down (with a few hastily scratched in sketches to help me remember how the ideas were to work). I was actually amazed at all the ideas I’d had – and had sense enough to jot down lest I’d forget. Some ideas I’ve already implemented, and are the backbone of my current method of working. Others are still waiting for me to try.

I’m glad I decided to thumb through the sketchbook. It reminded me that I come up with lots of creative ideas. And, it reminded me that I should be TRYING some of these ideas. It’s always good to inject new ideas and new methods into one’s work. An artist shouldn’t get too comfortable with one way of working…which reminds me of a good Picasso quote: “Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”

I’m sure I still won’t keep a sketchbook the way many artists do. But, mine is every bit as valuable – to me, anyway!

Kewl Kinetic Sculpture

Posted Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I found this amazing video about Theo Jansen’s kinetic art that I’d like to share with you. Enjoy!

palette and tools 090I haven’t painted for a couple of weeks. I have a doctor’s excuse…honest! I sliced my right ring fingertip – and had to get three stitches. I have had to keep it dry. It is logical that if it shouldn’t get water on it, oil paint and mineral spirits are not a good idea, either! Since the finger tip is quite sore I haven’t been too interested in doing other things in the studio, either. A slight bump of the finger is good for a few yowls from me. I got the stitches out a few days ago, but I’m supposed to keep the area dry for another week. The hand is a tough place to get an injury. It’s very easy to bump and split open again. Don’t want that!

It’s quite frustrating to be put on the bench, so to speak. It feels like I’m wasting precious time. I want to be painting. I need to be painting. I need to build panels for painting. I need to be preparing surfaces. The list goes on. Deadlines are looming. Self-imposed deadlines, but, deadlines nonetheless.

The upside to being on the bench (I always try to find a positive) is that it has given me some time to really think about things I want to be doing in my work. I like where I’ve been and where I am. But, we don’t stay in the same place forever. I feel like I’m going down a path and searching as I go. I’m searching for new things, new ideas, new ways to express them. It’s a creative journey. It’s exciting because it’s not static. You don’t “find” what you’re searching for and then the game is over. Each find is like opening a new door. And, each new door that is opened is an invitation to keep going down the path. It’s ongoing and unending. That’s why it’s so exciting. The possibilities are endless. And, that’s why it’s hard to be on the bench. It’s like being at a standstill or treading water or running in place. Boring.

I don’t like to be bored. I am rarely bored. I came across this great quote awhile back. I can’t remember who to attribute it to – and it may not be quite accurate, but…it said something like -” If you are bored, perhaps it’s because you are boring!”  It sounded logical to me.

I’m ready to get my hands dirty again…

Sometimes it seems like life gets in the way and interferes with my ability to make art… when I want to.

It’s hard when I’m  “inspired” to paint and all kinds of things interfere with my plans. It tends to make me angry and/or frustrated. I have ideas. I want to paint. I NEED to paint. But, I have to do this and I have to do that. And, the car needs to go in for some repair …and ends up taking all day …and into another day.

Why me? Aaaaaagh! I try to remain calm and just go about doing what I have to do. I know that getting angry and grumpy isn’t going to help. As a matter-of-fact, that usually makes everything worse. That makes the people around you angry and grumpy. It’s not their fault that everything isn’t going smoothly.

So – the Big Irritator this week is the car. It needs to go in to see what’s wrong – and get repaired.

I went “prepared” for a long wait. I took my crossword puzzle book and two pencils. I never work crosswords in ink. It’s guaranteed I’ll be doing some erasing. I forgot to mention that I like crossword puzzles that are HARD – ones I’ll most likely not be able to finish completely. I took along my Washington Post crossword puzzle book. I used to have the New York Times crossword puzzle book that I loved.

I also took along my copy of Julia Cameron‘s Walking In This World. I have read it through several times. I can’t remember how many times. But, I get something from it every time. When I finish it, I will either go back to The Artist’s Way and read that again, or I will re-read Walking in This World again. The books are full of reminders about what it is to be an artist, what one should be doing, the pitfalls to watch out for, and all those wonderful quotes.

So, while car problems got in the way of my plans to attend a holiday coffee and to spend a day painting, maybe it was meant to be. It provided some probably much-needed time to slow down, think, and think some more.

I could read a lot more than I do. I used to read a lot. But, it takes away from my painting time. I tend to think in terms of creating time and other things that interfere with creating time. Perhaps I need to expand my horizons and remember that all those other things fill the well. Where does one get the experiences to paint about if one isn’t “experiencing”?

So, maybe life doesn’t get in the way after all. Life is what it’s all about!

Wasting Time

Posted Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Hmmm…wasting time…

Is there really such a thing for an artist?

I often feel guilty about “wasting time”.   I could/should be doing something worthwhile. I should be painting, cleaning the studio, building painting panels, learning how to use the computer better, learning how to use my camera, and on and on and on…
There’s ALWAYS something that could be done.

But, is doing “nothing” really a waste of time? Maybe I’m filling the well.

Actually, I’m not really doing NOTHING. I’m just not doing the things I listed. And, when I think about it, I’m really doing more than one thing. I’m MULTI-TASKING!
Hey, I like that! It’s true…I AM multi-tasking.

While I think I’m wasting time cruising around on the computer, I’m actually researching and fueling my creative thoughts. I might check out facebook, which is heavy on art friends. So, their links are often art related. I follow several favorite artists’ blogs. Those are full of thoughts, inspiration and information. I check out current events. That alone is fuel for my art. I say my art is about the obvious and absurd in life. The news is my best resource!

And, if I haven’t rationalized my way to it’s okay to “waste” time now and then, we truly do need some down time to re-fuel.


Posted Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I don’t walk into the studio to find inspiration. It’s not that it can’t be found there. It can be found anywhere and everywhere. Inspiration comes from living life. Any little thing can trigger a thought, an emotion, a visual that makes me want to create. I’m especially vulnerable to textures. And, they’re everywhere! Shiny, smooth, rough, cracked, polished, jagged, crumbly…the list goes on. I can see patterns in the textures. Sometimes a certain texture will evoke a memory, a fleeting thought, an idea…inspiration to start creating. It can be frustrating when all these ideas start cascading in my head and I’m NOT in the studio and probably won’t be there for some time. I guess the ideas go into a storage module somewhere in the brain. Hopefully, they will come out again when called upon. That’s what I mean when I say inspiration comes from living life. These experiences are constant and unending. They get stored somewhere…in the experience bank?

When I go into the studio I often DON’T have an idea of what I’m going to do. I go in because I LIKE it in there. It’s my favorite place. It’s where I do what I love most to do: paint and create. So, now, I NEED an idea. I NEED inspiration. Where is it? Stored somewhere in the brain. And, how do I get it out here where I can use it? Turn on the music, start putting paints out, look around the studio…Anything can trigger a thought, a memory, a visual. Oh, yeah, remember that beautiful rusty stain? The patina on the copper gutter? The crackled ice on the puddle in the street? The rough bark on the tree? The colors in the sunset last night? The change of color from the sunny spot to the shady spot? The dancing light on the lake?

Then, of course, I have to decide what I’m going to DO with that inspiration. The fun begins…