Thursday, January 15, 2015

Uncalendar Review

I have a type of dyslexia that affects my perception of time (because if my husband gets to chalk everything up to ADHD, then I get to have time dyslexia).  So me giving advice on time management is like a blind man giving advice on interior decorating.  But this planner is the closest I've ever gotten to fitting in with normal grown ups who effortlessly serve dinner at the same time each day.

The "Uncalendar" is a flexible, all-in-one planner for people like me who have a schedule that is all over the place and a huge variety of tasks to complete.  I think it was designed for students and business owners, but it's ideal for artists (in spite of the less than beautiful colour palette).  As you will see, each page has an assortment of blank fields for you to enter your information into, allowing you to make sense of the chaos in whatever way suits you best.  And, since you fill in the dates yourself, you can start one at any time, even half-way through January.

I start off my Uncalendar by writing up a list of goals for the next three years.  I have many more goals written for 2015 than for 2016 and 2017, as can be expected.  These goals have to be measurable and specific.  "Teach more workshops" is unachievable.  "Teach three workshops in the US and four out of my home studio" is.

The Uncalendar has all sorts of advice on how to use the different fields in the planner.  Some of it is kind of useful, but after a year of use I've developed my own system.

1.  My To Do List.  This is the backbone of my day.  I usually write this out the night before or the first thing in the morning.  As I complete each task, I get to cross it out and, if it's something that I might want to remember, I enter it in area 2, which is the weekly schedule.
2. Weekly Schedule.  In addition to entering appointments here,  I might want to keep track of when I made that phone call to my gallery, or when I mailed out that parcel.  I LOVE that there are no hours printed out for you.  Not everyone's day starts at 8am and runs until 6pm.  Mine doesn't.  You can see that there are five bands of colour going across the weekdays of the daily log.  I can use these to enter specific information.  The yellow across the top is where deadlines go.  The blue near the bottom is planned meals for the week.  You can use them however you want.
3. My Weekly To Do List.  These are tasks that need to be completed this week.  I take items from here to put into my daily to do list.  I will often put items in this box several weeks or months in advance.  If I know that a competition deadline is coming up, I might write "Enter competition" a week before the deadline.  At the end of every week, I sit an brainstorm what to put into next week's to do list.
4. Goal Action.  Every weekend I think about what I can do in the coming week to act upon my list of the year's goals (the one I glued in).  My goals are numbered, so I place my action for the week next to the corresponding number in this box.  This is where I break down my goals into baby steps and make small but steady progress.  I don't work on all my goals in the same week, but I usually make progress on about a third of them.
5. Daily Habit Graph.  I use this graph to remind myself to perform small tasks daily.  Ideally I would like these tasks to become habits, and I don't want to have to waste time and space rewriting them every day.  These habits include: taking my vitamins, practicing my French, and exercising everyday.  Last year my list of habits was longer but I successfully ingrained some and now they are being left off.
6. Main Focuses.  I use these three fields to list my three main focuses of the week: my main studio project, my main office project, and my next blog post.

There are some unused fields in this picture.  I do come up with other uses from time to time.  And yeah, I colour code everything.  Green ink for financial stuff, pink for personal, turquoise for studio, purple for office...

Above is a week from last year's book.  I think the most useful thing I do with my Uncalendar is I use little pagemarker post it notes (the pink ones above) to write out the next ten or so steps of any given painting project I'm working on.  These steps will say something like "Mass in background," "First pass left hand," "Fix hair."  After I write them out, I place them on the days of the week in a realistic fashion, making my plan of attack for the week.  If I'm working with a tight deadline, I will make post it notes for every single step of the painting and figure out a way to fit them all in before the deadline (it's taken a lot of self-awareness to get to a point where I can reasonably predict how long a step is going to take, and how many different steps the painting can be broken down into).  Once the task has been completed I tape it in place (FIST PUMP!), but if I come into the studio one morning and realize that I can't complete the day's task for unforeseen reasons (the paint is still tacky, my house is on fire) then I can reshuffle my post it notes, still keeping my eye on the deadline.  If you take anything away from this long navel-gazing planner-porn post, it's the post it note trick.  It.  Works.  Take it from someone who was never able to meet a painting deadline in her life.

Towards the back of the planner is a regular grid calendar so that I can see my month in a glance.  This is the repository of birthdays, vacation dates, and deadlines.  I also like to use the blank column on the left to jot down my big projects.  I use post it notes to notate anything coming up that as of yet does not have a specific date.

One of my favorite aspects of the Uncalendar is the list/graph section in the back.  There are pages and pages that you can turn into just about anything.  I kept a reading list and a new recipe list.  Above in the top left box is my list of painting that had to be completed for The Uncanny.  As I completed each one, I entered all the relevant information (pricing, dimensions) so that it would all be in one place for the fifty times I need to drag it out.  Below that is a progress bar in which I kept track of my online sales, comparing them against a goal I had set for myself (I reached it, although I stopped filling out the graph.  I ended up getting one big sale that took me over the finish line.).  I found using the progress bar to chart my progress so helpful that this year I'm using progress bars to help me with six of my yearly goals.  On the right I was supposed to be keeping a master list of all artwork I created in 2014, but then I got bogged down with existential questions about what actually counted as a finished piece of artwork.

And yes, Time Dyslexia makes me like that guy from Memento, except instead of trying to piece together my past with photos, I'm trying to piece together my future with post-it notes.
I don't know if I'd say the Uncalendar has helped with time management, per se (that is, I will never be able to stick to a schedule to accomplish anything, hours and minutes are still meaningless units of measurement to me, and supper is still being served sometime between 4pm and midnight),  but it has enabled me to have a clear outlook at all times on what is happening in my life and in this way it has allowed be to be far more productive and effective.  It has given me a huge sense of control over my days and, by acting as a measuring stick, a profound sense of accomplishment.  Because at the end of the year, a good planner is really just a tabulation of every kick ass thing you did that year.

(Because people have asked: as far as I know, the only place to get an Uncalendar is directly from the website.  If you are in Canada there will be an absurd shipping charge automatically calculated in checkout, so call them up on the phone to get a more reasonable rate.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to Make the World's Sexiest Brush Rinser

Say hello to my brush rinser:
Hay guyz!
I never used to use much Gamsol while painting.  I would go through about a teaspoon a day while painting, and then use a little more at the end of the day to wipe my brushes clean before soaping up.  I never needed a rinser.  Instead I would grab a new clean brush when necessary.  It wasn't unusual to have twenty dirty brushes at the end of a day.  But I was modelling for Tara Juneau last year and I noticed she uses her brush rinser more than Bob Ross himself.  Now, I love Tara's paintings.  Therefore, I decided to make a brush rinser so that I could make like Tara and Bob Ross it up.  My paintings still don't look like hers, but I am addicted to my rinser.  I use it constantly while working and sometimes get away with as few as two dirty brushes a day.

Why not buy one?  Most brush cleaners I've seen only have about an inch of room underneath the grill, and then about five or six inches of unusable space up top.  That's stupid.  I want to fill that nasty jar full of toxic gunk and not have to get myself a new one for several years.  I need, like, four inches.

Don't, Dave.  Don't.

I used an old mayo jar the first time around and it was a headache to get the grill in.  I recommend you get yourself a sturdy tupperware with a screw lid.  No snap lids and NO GLASS.  This isn't a BPA-free snack hour at the local Pre-K.  You want something sturdy and smash-proof.

Cut out a square of 1/4 inch avian steel mesh.

Mark off the height of your "shelf" on an old plastic bottle.

Cut up that bottle and stick it in your rinse jar.  I like to cut out a couple little teeth that will stick up through the grill to keep it from shifting around too much.

Now push the grill down over top.  Fill up with mineral spirits to about half an inch above the lowest part of the grill and get ready to rock and roll.  Stay sexy, readers.

Addendum:  Now I know you all collectively lost your heads when we discussed how to make panels but didn't give a detailed list of every Dibond provider in North America so that you could all quickly look up your nearest provider.  Avian mesh is also challenging to find.  You will want to find someone who breeds birds (Craigslist is a good place to start).  These handy folk make their own cages and have scrap avian mesh lying around, theoretically.  Or you could get some half-inch chicken wire, which is probably easier to find, but I like the quarter inch aviary stuff pictured above best.  Or, cannibalize an old mesh strainer (50 cents at Goodwill) or ask your local hardware store if they have something appropriate.  I don't know.  You're all brilliant and smart and resourceful.  When you figure something out, share the results in the comments so that others can benefit from your smarts.

And, heeey, did you notice we now have bylines?  Thanks Amanda for suggesting that.  When you've been sharing a toothbrush with someone for seven years you forget that other people actually view you as separate beings, and that they might want to know which half of the borg is narrating a post.

Friday, December 26, 2014

First Workshop in the New Studio!

My first workshop at the Center for Kids Who Can't Paint Good went swimmingly.  The workshop was four days long and three of the days started off with slideshow.  We focused on getting a feel for the medium, starting off with a couple of drybrush exercises before moving onto monochrome painting and colour mixing.  I believe that proper oil painting depends on a heavy-duty foundation in drawing, but in a beginner's oil painting class, ain't nobody got time for that.  Instead we learned some oil transferring techniques and for the final exercise in colour we used a grid to help us out.

I'm offering this workshop again in March, so get in touch if you're interested!  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cheating in Art?

I remember when I was in art college (referred to as the dark times) I was working on an oil painting of figures in a desert landscape. My roommate was in the illustration program and worked primarily with the software program Maya;  though he had an extensive drawing background.  I would often ask why he had put down his drawing tools for the computer, often inferring that he had given up something more valid, more challenging, and something that was more "art" since computers could do some of the work for you. He said to me one day "Art is about creating a window into a world, would you agree?" I did. He then said "in your painting, it's only one view from one angle, one time of day, one feeling... in mine I can literally go anywhere. My possibilities are endless and that is my goal." This opened up my mind a bit.  If his means of executing his art meant he could accomplish his goals, then was it really cheating or in any way less valid.  Of course, we all know that computers are just a trend and most likely won't stay around long.

Which brings me to the question, is there cheating in art?  For me, "cheating in art" now seems like a childish thing to say when someone doesn't like how someone else does things.  "You cut in line, you cheated" or "no peeking, you cheated" or "you had access to insider trading for the frozen orange juice concentrate industry, you cheated."  I find so often that people discredit art and artists after they learn of their process.  So the question is, should it be the end product that speaks for itself?  Should process be considered and where is the line drawn?  That being said, here is a list of aids I use to help create my work.  I would wonder why some are considered cheating and some are not depending on who you ask.

1) a black mirror
2) a knitting needle for measuring
3) photography
4) a mahl stick
5) color studies
6) drawing transfers
7) my wife's advice
8) coffee
9) ADD meds
10) viewfinder
11) hiring models

For the sake of the article and reader sanity, I will only touch upon a couple of these.

First up, photography.  So is photography and hiring models cheating?  Some artists feel you should be able to make up everything from imagination for it to have any real originality.  However, as we know from history, very few people "make up stuff" out of their heads, including many fine artists and famous illustrators, including Parrish, Rockwell, and Frazetta. Reference is integral to making anything look realistic, at least it has been for me. Even many fantasy illustrators will sculpt miniature dinosaurs, ships, etc, just to insure...ensure......make certain the lighting is correct. But again, this leads the question, should you only work from life as reference, or are photographs ok?  As many of us know, models are pricey, and their time is limited.  I use photos when I have no other choice, and defaulting to nothing but self portraits even though I look exactly like Ryan Gosling is not always what I want to do.  I use photos at times because I want to make the art I want to make, and often it entails figures that cannot pose for me for long sittings.  Many people however don't feel that way.  I wanted to show a couple examples of some paintings I liked that utilized photographs, and in my opinion, did it well.

Second on the plate, is it ok to reference the past in your work?  Is it derivative?  Is every idea expected to be completely original?  If so, I might be screwed.  Pretty sure everything that can be done in art, has been done, and legend has it people have painted fisherman, hunters, and still lifes before me.  However, there is a lot of bad info on the internet so it might not be true and I invented the genre.   I am doing a piece right now that is completely inspired by Raeburn's "Archers", both in subject matter and some compositional elements.  I wanted to include some examples of artists who I admire who utilized the past for inspiration, and in my opinion, still bringing something new to the table.

Is having help from other artists cheating?  If Kate points out a mistake, does that discredit my efforts.  (And I am referring to a painting mistakes in this case and not how she hates how I use the sink as a mop buckets instead of filling up the real one.  Seriously, try it, it's awesome.) Now, I am not saying that everyone needs to follow the path of the professional student, but if I have two colors studies and I don't know which to choose, then I get  a second opinion. I know there is a stereotype of the lonestar artist genius, but art is much more of a community than that I would hope at least.  Bottom line is, everyone is going to have an opinion, and sometimes these opinions help you out in your work.

Lastly, is memorizing all the words that use an "X" cheating when you play scrabble.  Kate's family does this and I say, damn right it's cheating. Which brings me to the main point of this article;  how much I hate playing scrabble with Kate's family.  They are so much more literate than I am, and will never let me use works like "turdify" or "spazztastic" because they aren't in their little dictionary of English "words."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beginners' Oil Painting Workshop: December 6,7,13 & 14

Amazingly enough, our new studio is done.  It's been a long ride and I can't wait to share some pictures of the process in my next post.  This post is all about my upcoming Beginners' Oil Painting Workshop.  I'm throwing it together short notice because up till a week ago I wasn't even certain when my teaching space would be functional.  But low and behold, one Friday morning four days ago, it suddenly was.

This four-day workshop will cover some oil painting basics--materials, colour mixing, step-by-step process for approaching a still life, plus some handy exercises that will expose the beginner to the concept of paint quality and edge quality.  You don't have to be an absolute newb to fit in.  If you've been painting casually with oils but would like to firm up your foundation and fill in some gaps, or if you've been using acrylics but want to switch, this workshop would be a good fit.  The good news is that I can keep my class size small (3-6) since I'm not paying a hosting fee to someone, and small class size means that I have more time for each individual student to meet their needs on a one-on-one basis.

Fee is $450 +GST, including materials and it runs from 9-4pm with an hour break for lunch.  Come, grasshopper.  I will teach you.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Contemporary Realism" at Gallery 1261

Dave and I have three paintings in Gallery 1261's new show opening on Friday, October 24th in Denver, Colorado.  Among them are this new painting, "Cod Fish," by Dave:

Give a man a fish, and he can do a passable alla prima.  Teach a man to fish, and he can catch a fresh fish every day and make a proper painting.

I have my own two lovely ladies from the Women Painting Women show last year:

A complete catalogue of work can be seen here.