Tag Archives: Sketchbooks

Recommence

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I find myself struggling with my art. I don’t know what to draw. Cats, of course, but I feel as if there should be more to it. Should I expand my subject matter? Create more complex compositions? Work larger? Draw in a series? Switch to acrylic? Build little theatrical scenes? Print and sew more fiber-related works? Work in a series? Develop a narrative? I want to do everything, and so, feeling overwhelmed, do very little.

 

Pencil drawing. Woman on Bench.

I made this drawing during a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare airport when I was traveling over the holiday.

The next two months will be consumed with creating costumes for a local high school production, and teaching adult art workshops. I look forward to do both of these things, but they also distract me from the work of my own art. At the same time, these experiences can also invigorate my personal practice. Maybe there something about the costuming that I want to incorporate into the personal lexicon of my art making? And, I always learn something new by teaching what I already know to others.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? I’d like to hear how other creatives work through their less productive spells.

Dog Friends

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After my huge build up to summer sketching a few weeks ago, I have to admit that I have not been spending much time with my sketchbook!  I was, however, inspired by a recent visit with friends where I got to pet the bellies of these two. Meet Boudreaux the Dog and Jodie Foster. Both are rescue dogs of unknown origins. In fact, both of them have such quirky personalities, I wish they could tell the stories of how they came to live with their current people.

Watercolor painting of two cute dogs.

Boudreaux tends to walk a little sideways and has a large vocabulary, while Jodie silently contemplates the world, often from a distance.

If you’re wondering how dogs ended up on my cat blog, I’ll just say that I love all of the animals, I just happen to live with cats. But, I would, if it were even vaguely practical, have my own zoo.

You can follow Boudreaux the Dog on Instagram. He’s just that adorable! Also, any resemblance of Jodie Foster, a dog afraid of doorways, to Jodie Foster, the actress is purely coincidental.

Recording Summer

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I was an art teacher for 20 years, so I always considered summer as the time when I could “catch up” on my art making. I couldn’t wait for my schedule to be free so I could start drawing again. Now that I’m working full time as an artist, I draw with more frequency, but I’m still habituated to the arty pull of summer.

I like to record my travels as I am inspired by my surroundings. Sometimes these drawings are quick sketches, with impressions that are grabbed quickly to preserve a memory, color or thought.

Colosseum drawing, Ancona, and gelato

The Colosseum, the coastline of Ancona, and an empty gelato cup from a trip to Italy in 2011 demonstrate on-the-fly sketches I might collect.

Other times, I rework or create new drawings or paintings back in the studio after collecting sketches and photos. These entries are more complete impressions of my surroundings where I incorporate objects, scenes, and details to capture what has seeped in during my visit. Like with the quick sketches, colors, objects, and landmarks dominate the work resulting in a portrait of the place I visited.

St. Francis, Ganesh, and a wildfire

Top: My homage to Georgia O’Keefe after visiting her home and studio in Taos, New Mexico. Bottom: St. Francis and Ganesh were both images I encountered in the mountains of Santa Fe. I was there in 2013 while a large wildfire raged on the mountain.

I rarely leave the house without a means to record the world around me. I wrote a post about what to include in your portable studio, which you can see here.  I find that having a sketchbook is a great alternative to staring at your screen in the airport or on long car rides. The drawings don’t have to be perfect, just a sincere effort at recording your impressions. You don’t have to travel far to find something to put in your sketchbook, either.

Watercolor landscape sketch

The perfect spot to draw. This small beach is just down the street from my house.

After all, as an artist, it is your duty to find the beauty in the seemingly mundane things around you, to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I’ve drawn things ranging from other travelers to my kitchen serving bowls. I even spent one summer drawing the salt shakers in restaurants in which I was dining. You’d be surprised at the variety!

I hope you are inspired in your own way to record a memory this summer. Happy art, everybody!

This Is Not About Cats

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Today my route to work was dotted with bright yellow springiness. The daffodils have arrived! So, when I got home, I was inspired to make a drawing in honor of the official harbinger of spring here in the North.

Pen and ink drawing of daffodils.

I don’t usually draw flora, but I was happy to see these in my neighborhood.

Spring Cats by EriN Kotosaka

Postcard from Japan!

As I was inking in the values, I noticed the postcard I had received from the awesome Marc-Andre of Katzenworld lying on the table. And….I noticed….DAFFODILS! The artist is EriN Kotosaka. I was unfamiliar with her work until I got Marc’s card. I love her drawings of cats, they’re so whimsical and mischievous. Alas, I digress because I was not going to write about cats.

I hope it’s spring where you are, and that you find beauty in the ordinary, and wonder in the small connections that make life interesting.

 

Finding Inspiration

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I’m gearing up for art fairs, and looking through my current book inventory. Here is a collection of sketchbooks and journals of different sizes and bindings. I have themes other than cats, but I’ve offered images for feline-lovers for awhile. I’m trying to think of some fresher ways to approach the work, including making the whole collection look more cohesive.

Hand made books with cat covers

A selection of cat themed book covers that I created. The fabrics are all hand-dyed and/or screen printed.

On a recent trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, I encountered a few pieces that, while very different stylistically, employ color palettes that are similar.

Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago; Whistler, Balthus, VanGogh

Upper Left: The Artist in His Studio, by James McNeil Whistler; Upper Right: Girl with Cat, by Balthus; Lower Panel: The Parisian Novels (The Yellow Books) detail, by Vincent VanGogh

I love how these artists use the primary colors in muted tones and variation to create a cohesive looks. So, I was thinking I would try to emulate some of these colors in my book covers for spring and summer. I particularly love the gray-blues and gold tones interspersed with pink. I also want some patterns that are more intricate, and  viewable from multiple angles without seeming “upside down.” My current cat designs, for example, only face one way, so I’m thinking of incorporating rotational symmetry, and adding other images and shapes to make them more dynamic. Other possible themes include birds, tea, and geometry.

How do you find inspiration for your art work? What resources to you use? How do you keep your work interesting and fresh? I’d love your feedback!

In the meantime, the books above are still available to a good home. You can check them out here on my Etsy site.

 

 

Your Itinerant Attack Cat

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Handmade Books

Just a sampling of my handmade sketchbooks and journals.

Directly after Drawlloween, I turned all of my attention to production for the Holiday Art Market where I sold my handmade paper goods. Namely, journals and sketchbooks that I bind by hand, with covers of original design. In preparation for the show, I completed 90 books and orbs in just fourteen days! I’ve been blogging about my progress and describe one bookmaking process here, give an update here,  and then discuss my paper orbs in a later post.

Art fair booth set up

Attack Cat Studio at the Holiday Art Market.

I had a successful showing this weekend and visitors to the market seemed to really like my work. Since this was the first full-on beta test for Attack Cat Studio, I feel pretty good about the results. It was especially interesting to watch people interact with the displays. For example, some of the book stands are a little tippy. But, the flow of traffic through my booth seemed to work well. I also collected a few contacts who are interested in taking a bookmaking class with me in the winter.

Attack Cat Studio Logo

In addition to connecting people with sketchbooks and journals, I get to talk with cat lovers who notice my logo. The most frequently asked question is, “Which one is the attack cat?!”

Now, I prepare for another show, this one in December, at the Merry Maker’s Marketplace. I have new images to print for book covers, larger sketchbooks to create, and lots of pocket-sized journals to replace. If you’re interested in seeing some more of my work, you can check meow-t on Etsy.

Cat in a Box

Miss Bean, the original Attack Cat.

A Stitch in Time

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Today, in an attempt to catch up from being totally distracted by Drawlloween (see this you don’t know what I’m talking about,) I sewed together 45, yes, f-o-r-t-y-f-i-v-e, books just waiting for covers. I have an art show the second weekend in November, and I’m a little behind on production as I was having too much fun drawing kitties the entire month of October. Aside from being tired from sitting for 15 hours, I did binge watch about 8 episodes of Grimm, season one. And, while I was flanked by cats both on the couch and in the studio, sadly, there are no felines in the photo of today’s efforts.

Pile of text blocks.

I sewed all of these together today.

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

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I know next to nothing about World of Warcraft. The closest I come to video games is playing Scrabble on Facebook. So, when the Drawlloween challenge was World of Witchcraft, I had to do a little exploring into it’s legitimate and, oh so popular referent. I respect you if you’re a W.O.W. enthusiast, but I just couldn’t embrace the theme and how to impose a kitty. That is, until I found the Pet Battle link. Apparently, in this part of the game, your character collects animals by trapping them, and then turning them into warrior pets. There are also a lot of magical orbs, so… anyway… I expose my ignorance, and give you my version.

Cat and box trap with fish.

Cats love a good fish in any realm.