2018-08-06T14:48:18-04:00

Preppin’ the Woodblock

Preppin’ the Woodblock

I spent most of my weekend prepping two large cut pieces of  birch plywood. Each block measures 24×36″ and is 3/4″ inch thick. Both sides of each block will be carved so I went ahead and prepared all sides. Below are pictures of the process. Not pictured is  my regular trip to Lowe’s where I carefully examine each piece of birch ply in stock and obsess over wood grain and knots. I also take advantage of their complimentary lumber cutting service on site so I don’t have to make any unnecessary sacrifices to the Lumber gods via hand saw.

First, I have to have my ideas worked out in my sketchbook before I even think about prepping my blocks.

I stain the blocks a warm hue. This helps me in the later stage of carving so I can better see my mark making.

Once the stain dries, I sand them with a fine grit sandpaper and thinly coat them with polyurethane to help prevent splintering while carving.

After the polyurethane is dry, I freehand the image onto the block and adjust as needed. I then proceed to block in the design with black sharpie.

Two of the four designs ready to be carved.

Two of the four designs ready to be carved.

2018-07-08T23:53:23-04:00

Church on Sunday

Church on Sunday

I spent the better portion of this slow and warm Sunday venturing the largest natural preserve in Pinellas County. Brooker Creek Preserve is a gem and provided much inspiration and photos as sources of reference for my new work. For hours, my husband and I explored it’s underrated forested wetlands and pine flatwoods, only accompanied by the music of cicadas and bullfrogs. We took turns with the camera, capturing the tiniest of creatures & flora. We witnessed at least 6 gopher turtles, one of which was feasting upon clovers, and more giant Orb weaver spiders than I could keep count of. We were chased by a horse fly and tried to navigate a trail that was mostly flooded. We eventually turned back in fear of encountering a pygmy rattler since we were continuously venturing too far off the trail in an attempt to avoid soggy shoes. I felt nothing short of elation by the fact that it wasn’t until we ended our little journey and were back in the parking lot, did we finally encounter another person.

I relish days like today.

       

 

2018-08-06T14:46:46-04:00

Corners of My Studio

Corners of My Studio

I’m very fortunate to have a studio space in my home. Compared to many of my peers, I’m very privileged to have such close access to a creative space and it’s not something I take for granted. Not only does this space function as a working print studio but it also serves as a space where I can retreat and find inspiration and solitude from an increasingly chaotic and noisy world. Every corner of my studio is specially curated and serves a special purpose in my process as an artist.

My desk and a cozy green chair, which is also one of the first pieces of furniture I acquired on my own, are flanked by three bright windows. Above, shadow boxes hang and are filled with winged specimens. A dream catcher my grandmother hand-made for hangs above stacks of books on the floor. Many of these, hardcover, are artist biographies/portfolios, historical narratives, biology, and graphic novels. Books have always served as an essential part of my research and I are tools I often reflect upon throughout my creative process. 

Apart from books, I also use natural specimens as a source for reference in my art. I have a book shelf completely devoted to various species of insects, sea-life, and bones of fauna that were either gifted to me or found on various hikes–all died naturally and thoughtfully collected. 

The other side of my studio is the ‘working’ section, where the press and bench are ready for action. The bench, an antique piece, came from an estate sale four years ago and has since been a sturdy staple in the studio. It’s where I prep my woodblocks and roll out ink during printing. Next to the bench is another antique piece I procured while in Maine and it serves as a wood shaving bin where I can safely degrease my woodblocks. On the wall hangs prints from other artists that I admire and look up to. Some of them include: Camille Rose Garcia, Veronica Fish, Bob Camp, and Snow Seychelle.

I recently had to rearrange this area to accommodate for the new press ( a medium Richeson press) which was purchased with money I received with the Emerging Artist Grant. It’s certainly a dream come true to bring this machine home and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Creative Pinellas–so thank you! It’s because of this latest addition i’m able to be completely self sufficient and work within a space that will make all aspects of being an ’emerging’ and soon to be professional artist more than possible. 

 

2018-07-15T13:55:30-04:00

“Florida on My Mind”

“Florida on My Mind”

“In February, one day, I found myself sad to the bone. A man had been appointed to take care of the environment even though his only desire was to squash the environment like a cockroach. I was thinking about the world my children will inherit, the clouds of monarchs they won’t ever see, the underwater sound of the mouths of small fish chewing the living coral reefs that they will never hear.”

    Last night I finished “Florida” a collection of essays by Lauren Groff. Her newest literary work doesn’t so much highlight a literal setting but instead imbues an atmosphere filled with looming feelings of a dystopian future. The above excerpt from the passage “Snake stories” is a perfect example of how Groff has successfully captured a portion of our societies current sense of solastalgia and dread—especially mine.

     I’m a big fan of ‘The eden of dangerous things’, otherwise known as “The Sunshine State”. Some of my best childhood memories include romping through a key lime and mango grove that we lived nearby when I was 8 & 9 years old. This was the same property where wild orchids and tree snails lived abundantly. It was also a period of time when my father was a Park Ranger in the Florida keys, which enabled us to spend almost every afternoon biking through the mangrove trails and snorkeling above the coral reefs. I learned about plant identification. My dad showed me how to chew on sugar cane and I watched my mom grow an assortment of native Florida plants in our back yard. I had a collection of insects I carefully curated, all being insects that many peers and adults labeled “gross, ugly, and creepy”. Some of the insects (which were kept in old medical jars my mother brought home from the Dr.’s office she had worked at during that time), included: Spiny orb-weavers, Palmetto bugs, & Centipede’s. I was an amateur entomologist and empath in training. I often drew these creatures from observation and many of my drawing included an alligator or two. Those years molded me and my appreciation for ALL living things—especially the unique creatures that make up ‘Southern most’ state.

    In Lauren Groff’s “Florida”, she often revisits the feelings of fear and danger by incorporating creatures such as snakes, cougars, and alligators into her various female narratives. She does this thoughtfully, by not so much as alienating these creatures or demoting their worth, but instead using them as useful symbolism, especially during a time when life feels very uncertain and menacing. She’s also developed characters who often refer to the state of Florida with contempt. Some of which are tired of the culture of Vacationland and the seclusion of living in the suburbs that once used to be swamp land and/or cracker style houses. Each exhausted by the complexity of what it means to be a Floridian– a title proudly owned by those that feel a magnetic to pull to a time that no longer exists. A time when walking through miles of quiet pine flatwoods wasn’t an hour drive away. A time when swimming in rivers meant swimming side by side with manatees. Before the algae bloom. Before Roseate spoonbills and Storks became imperiled. When Osprey nests outnumbered the porches of condo’s. When the scent of orange blossoms and jasmine owned the night.

    I spent most of this past week feeling my feelings. I sat. I ruminated. I read. I felt hopeless. I became one of Groff’s subjects. I felt myself disconnecting from the “social world”, i.e. Facebook, instagram, the internet… all things electronic. I spent my lunch breaks taking walks through nearby parks, trying to reconnect through nature and its fractional amount of acreage this county has set aside for such. I sat in a field under an oak and became lost in Groff’s “Florida”. I was filled with nostalgia and an equal amount of hopelessness. It was an ‘off’ week.

   In hindsight i’ve come to appreciate all of this. The pessimism. The melancholy. The heaviness of what it means to truly love a place for its natural allure, but at the same time mourning of the destruction of its heritage. I’m anguished over the fact that the things that make it beautiful have become a target of destruction for those who view it purely as a real estate commodity—those with money and status—all in the name of tourism. No matter how much it hurts to lay witness to this—too see so many species become threatened, I will use my art as a tool for advocacy against this prevailing consumerism culture.

    For the past two years, since returning “home”, i’ve been challenged by the desire to create art that properly expresses these observations and feelings, and why this is all important. I’ve been creating a variety of studies of Florida’s creatures and ecosystems, but grazing the surface of what i’d really like to say. Reading Groff’s book helped put a lot of these things in perspective. The core of all this being: that the natural world which is all encompassing & all important is being relegated to the past—a place of memory—at an intensifying pace. We are witnessing the demise of unaltered nature. We are disconnected.This is the direction I will be taking my newest body of work in the following months.

2018-07-15T13:53:34-04:00

Creative Manifestation

Creative Manifestation

I’m currently in the process of brainstorming new narratives for my new body of work for this summer. This period of “manifestation”, as I like to call it, requires a thoughtful amount of time devoted to research, self reflection, and experimentation.

    For many years I struggled with accepting the fact that the most important part of my process didn’t entail the actual part of ‘creation’. Instead, my rumination period was the most crucial component. It’s even more so important following the completion of a piece, especially as the process of printmaking is so intensive from start to finish. I was caught up in this idea that artists have to be making 24/7 in order to be successful. So when I did not ‘fit the bill’, I felt anxiety ridden and seemingly less productive. All I wanted was to fast forward to the “good stuff” and omit the preceding period of ambiguity. 

“Searching for home”, Multiple plate woodblock print, 8×10″,2015

Over time I had to be more realistic and change my perception about ‘process over product’. I wasn’t getting anywhere by trying to change my cognitive habits and I certainly wasn’t doing myself any favors by resisting my natural tendencies to ruminate and reflect. So instead I taught myself that creativity isn’t attached to an hourglass. I slowly realized manifestation is tied to intent—both being mutually exclusive. And once I learned to respect my process and cater to my creative mental needs as an artist, the self-loathing stopped and new ideas became innate thus action could naturally occur. This re-awakening also entailed spontaneity and freedom to explore other art forms as essential tools for developing creative epiphanies.

Most recently, I was awarded first place at the Dunedin Fine Art Center’s “Souvenir” themed (Guest juried) art exhibit. This particular piece is a departure from my usual work as it’s assemblage. This is a medium I’ve always been intrigued by and frequently utilize as an internal ritualistic process but not something i’ve ever formally pursued or publicly shared.
Initially, I submitted two prints to the “Souvenir” show. Later, I came up with an idea to submit a vintage suitcase to hang in congruence with my second print. The print itself being my first multi plate print, a self-portrait with a brown suitcase.My idea for submitting a vintage suitcase quickly spiraled into a pursuit to fill it with personal artifacts that would create a narrative about my creative journey thus far.

“Suitcase no.9”, Assemblage piece incorporating personal artifacts, 2018

The process of putting the suitcase together was innate and just the right amount of rekindling of curiosity I needed to start this summer’s print work. The objects inside the suitcase are symbolic of my process of rediscovering and the power of vulnerability. The suitcase in and of itself is a result of periods of transition and contemplation—it would not have been possible without acknowledging the resounding importance of creative ambiguity and the paradigm shifts that occur as a result. Until my intent becomes more clear, I will thoughtfully be working through this stage of manifestation and gleefully look forward to the tactile process of creation.

2018-06-24T11:04:12-04:00

A Personal Reflection: My Artist Allies and Process of Empowerment

A Personal Reflection: My Artist Allies and Process of Empowerment

   

   First, I would like to thank the folks of Creative Pinellas for making this opportunity possible. I’ve aspired to be a grantee of such a prestigious arts organization since the Emerging Artist Grant came to fruition last year.  It’s truly an honor to be one of ten awardees for the 2018 cycle and I look forward to bringing my ideas to life through the upcoming months.

   There is a widely accepted perception of artists as being very introverted and solitary individuals. When many of us think of “The Artist” we often visualize the Lucian Freud type. You know, the type that is locked away in a dusky studio with piles of paints and rags towering around them as they work through the late hours of the night with little to no human contact. Albeit this is very accurate depiction of many us, especially as we work through deadlines, but this narrative omits the essential roles that mentors, peers, and teachers play throughout our creative endeavors. These particular relationships are not only essential towards helping us pave a way through a very non-rudimentary career, but they are also incredibly beneficial to the process of empowerment.

A corner of my studio

   Lately, I have been reminded of how crucial these creative relationships have been, especially in the past ten years of my life. For as long as I remember I wanted to be an artist. Although, this was a path I always felt deeply passionate about pursuing, I did not have the fortitude or confidence to pursue such an ambiguous endeavor when the time came to choose. Instead, I chose to wait.

   I was 17 years old when I graduated high school a year early and I had a full scholarship to attend a New Mexico State University of my choosing. Instead, I joined the United States Coast Guard for four years. At that time I felt incredibly lost and insecure about my capabilities as an artist. Much of what I was feeling was a result of an ongoing conflict I had with the high school art teacher. To this day I am still unsure as to why she decided to target me the way she did. What I do recall are a series of remarks inciting her distaste with my family and lineage. There was also a time I had visited the High School art exhibit at the local Chamber of Commerce and noticed my pieces were the only works without name tags. Long story short, I was in her class for just a year and a half and I decided to walk out. At the same time, she also made the decision to refuse my presence in her class. Until this point, the art room was a safe space. It was a place I knew I could seek refuge as well as excel in my creative abilities. I’ve attended fourteen different schools K-12 and it was during high school that my refuge in the art room was completely overturned.

   Shortly after I was expelled from the art room, the school reluctantly sought out an independent art teacher to help facilitate my artistic endeavors for the remaining part of the school year. After a series of rejections from local art teachers who were disinterested in working with me, my mother finally made a connection.

    Her name was Liz, she was a adjunct art professor for the local engineering college, as well as a talented oil painter. She became a catalyst for my ambition to continue creating art. It wasn’t until years later would I come to appreciate the empathy and understanding she unselfishly afforded me. Not only did she accept me into her home as a welcomed guest, but she helped me believe again, for a tiny moment, that I was a artist. A title I only recently started owning. I remember feeling my inner conflict come to rest when I traveled to her home once a week for my independent study in art. She had the patience of a saint—listening carefully as I would ramble on about my aversion towards our small town and the inclusive community as a whole. I was very negative and angry but she taught me the various ways I could use my art making as an outlet for those emotions.

   Both of those experiences resulted in my later ambition to pursue a degree in art education. Because, without those two people, I wouldn’t have come to appreciate the role art education plays not only in creativity within our lives, but more importantly in empowerment.

Drawing from 2010

   During my four year enlistment with the Coast Guard I barely produced any art. I can count on both hands how many drawings and paintings I completed during that period of time. This fact is still a huge failure on my part. If I said I was lost before, I became even more disillusioned then. Despite everything, I was still trying to convince myself I wasn’t worthy of a life creating art. I did everything I could to try and repress that inner voice telling me otherwise. Thankfully, that wasn’t possible and soon found purpose behind the lens.

   It was during my last two years of enlistment that I heavily pursued photography as an outlet and shared that passion with one of my closest friends, Trish. Both uninspired by our “9-5” admin day jobs, we would devote many of our weekends to setting up various photo shoots and alternate roles as the subject and art director. It was also during this time I met my husband, who’s had unwavering support for my art from day one. When we sought out our first house, he diligently looked for a two-three bedroom house, one in which I could have my own studio space. We’ve been together eight years now, moving four times and my studio space still takes precedence—something he’s never compromised.

Self portrait from the “Long black coat” photography series, 2011

   After I was honorably discharged from the U.S.C.G I became a full-time student- a path I was determined to take regardless of the bleak state of our economy. It took a year to finally ‘dive in the deep end’ and commit to Art Education. This was a decision I made in retrospect to what happened in high school also due in part to the professor of my first college art class. June, an intuitive abstract painter, warmly welcomed into her highly acclaimed landscape painting class. There, she offered incredible insight and encouragement. She quickly recognized my talent as well as my ‘eye’ to assist others in the class who had never taken art before. She has an incredible ability to tap into people’s true and unseen potential. Maybe this was due in part to her personal journey to becoming an artist, a path also not clear cut. Originally a microbiologist,  she had switched careers (shortly after a trip to Paris) and became an artist and art educator. It was during that year and being June’s student that I finally harnessed the confidence I needed to pursue my art wholeheartedly again.

One of my paintings made during the Landscape painting class, 2012

   I transferred campus’s and began the University of Maine’s Art Education program in the Fall of 2013. This was also the same year I met my best friend Hattie. The friend that I would soon be able to share my insecurities about art with. The friend who would tirelessly support me. The friend who has believed in me even when I couldn’t. Also a printmaker ( a gifted intaglio artist), she is someone I can still call up at any moment and bounce ideas off. She has the innate ability to keep me grounded and call me out on my bullshit when necessary. She showed me the power in vulnerability.

   Semester after semester I became more confident in my abilities. My vision as an artist flourished and my fears became subdued. I have a long list of professors from those four years that I am indebted to, especially my academic advisor, Connie, who is the most fearless woman I know. She not only was my mentor for four years, but also a confidant who nurtured my desire to explore and resolve personal trauma in my art. I truly relish my time spent with her and fondly look back at all the epiphanies resulting from our deep and meaningful conversations about grief, process over product, and the importance of creative play.

“Rage”, 2013

   Primarily a printmaker, I relish the intensive commitment the printmaking processes require of me from start to finish. It was during my sophomore year of college that I took my first printmaking class and I remember feeling a true sense of purpose as an artist. Susan, the universities printmaking professor, and person responsible for the largest and most environmentally friendly printmaking studio in the state of Maine, was someone I quickly grew to respect. She taught me the importance of dedication and details—two essential values that new printmakers absolutely need to incorporate in to their repertoire as early on as possible. It was then I knew I had found a medium that would exploit my OCD tendencies and keep me focused and driven.

One of my first large scale woodblock prints, “Welcome my son, welcome to the machine”, 2016

   My husband and I relocated to Clearwater in the summer of 2016. Eager to to become acquainted with the local arts community after a long year of teaching art at a private school, via “art on the cart”, I visited The Dunedin Fine Art Center during its yearly ‘Open Studio’s’ day in late 2017. I made a bee line for the printmaking studio where the incredible printmaking connoisseur, Holly Bird. She was enthusiastically in the process of pulling a print from one of her magical copper plate etchings and I quickly knew “I was home again”.

   Holly has since been a huge support and infinite source of information and advise—i’m thrilled to find out she will be my official mentor for this grant process. A month after I stumbled into the printmaking studio, I was hired on to the DFAC team as the education assistant, a place I never thought i’d be in a million years—and boy am I glad I am. Not only does DFAC offer an abundance of opportunities and support to the community and local artists, but it’s operated by some of the most passionate and committed people I have the privilege of working alongside—all with a shared love for the arts.

A recent intaglio print I made in the DFAC printmaking facility, 2018

   None of my recent achievements would have been possible without the long process of rebuilding my confidence as an artist–which certainly wouldn’t have been possible without my army of artist allies. My art is a product of my experiences and the artist I am today is partly credited to the talented and incredibly divergent artists I have encountered thus far. Life is challenging, and my spirit has been tested time and time again, but i’d be remiss if I didn’t regularly count my blessings. My blessings primarily being the people who have helped carry me through. Thank you.

P.S. I promise the rest of my blog post won’t be this long.

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