I would like to take the opportunity to recap the year, and thank those of you who followed the year with me.
Thank you to everyone who supports me, in what ever way. Everyone who comments, likes and shares my work, online or in real life, that really means something to me.
So in honor of the last day of 2017, here’s a short poem review. God bless you, and Happy New Year!
Grateful for new places and faces, new cultures and more
Uganda. Albania. None of it asked for
Old challenges, redone. New versions of old
Masks in a new form
Some illustrations and paintings
And stories told.
All work and worry
All sickness and joy
Feeling strong, yet lame.
These are all part of the game
Where to? God knows
And I know he does
So I thank him
for all that was
And move forward
And trust him with all that follows.
Soap Sale: Fundraising for Uganda
Cinque Terre, Italy
Straw Figure Workshop
Illustrations for “Mai’s Journey” (Comission)
Art in Church
the picture from the church service
I finally finished the elephant mask! I originally made it as a birthday present for a good friend of mine, but since it took so long, it will now be a big birthday/christmas present. I think it’s the largest mask I’ve ever made, but considering that, it’s quite comfortable to wear. :)
A few days now, and Christmas is upon us. I am happy about this time of year, but honestly, I am also stressed. The demands of school are high. My health is unpredictable at times, which drains me physically. And in all of this, the expectations I place upon myself as an artist put me under more pressure: There are different issues, but most of all, I don’t know “what I am doing” in a creative sense.
I work on projects and enjoy the process, but if you’d ask me “where I’m going”, I couldn’t really tell you. I could tell you what I want to reach, but not how to actually get there.
As is, I feel like I’m in a fog, which blocks me from “moving”. I don’t know where I’m going, which in turn leads to self-doubt.
This doesn’t stop me from creating. But it could make me think I’m “not creative”.
I know that this is a phase that will pass. I also know that self-doubt is part of being an artist. But the process obviously doesn’t feel that great.
I know this isn’t the most uplifting post, but I felt it was important to be honest about this. Especially during Christmas, a holiday where we remember that God was born as a human, as the baby Jesus: Jesus didn’t stay in heaven, but was born into a chaotic, imperfect world, so people could from then on say that “God is with us”. So I can admit that I don’t have it all together, but I know that God is with us, anyway.
In that sense, whether you feel great or not, have a blessed Christmas season, because “God is with us”.
I have been working on a cowboy costume for the past few weeks. And on Sunday, it got to present itself to the world of the student costume party! :)
The motto was “Throwback Thursday”, and the best costume got a prize. Quite a few people showed up in costume, including a fighter pilot, a dutch maid, a hippie, and a knight in chainmail armor. I personally liked the hippie the best, but I also liked the knight costume a lot. It was not surprising to me that he took the prize in the end.
(Unfortunately, I don’t have good pictures of the party itself, but I can say that the hosts did a great job, and that it was fun!)
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon creating a collage sign.
Today, that sign was out on the annual Christmas market down in the village: I, and a few other students set up a booth there, so we could get in touch witht the locals a little. We sold cotton candy, handmade soap, and handmade paper-beed necklaces. New for me: It isn’t often that you get to make cotton candy or see so many people in one spot around here!
The money raised from the soap and the necklaces will sponsor a group of young mothers in Uganda, to help them learn a trade and to support their families. They are learning things like sewing and gardening and soap making. Their lives are often times very hard, but they have hope, because they will be able to stand on their own feet someday. My mom is in direct contact with them and works with the local leaders. Check out the her blog to read more about this project:
Now, a few hours later, I’m in my room with a hot cup of tea and a blanket. Christmas market work leaves you cold!
I wish you a great weekend, and that you get to try something new! :)
Soap Sale: Fundraising for Uganda
It’s cold and rainy these days and it gets dark before 5 PM. This is not the kind of thing to encourage a person. But luckily there is a lot you can do indoors, like studying, or reading, or making costumes.
I finally could bring my mannequin out from the art room in the basement to my dorm room on the top floor. Eventhough it’s hollow, it’s heavier than you might think. It now stands at the far end of my room and lightens up the costume corner:
I put my mannequin right to work by modeling my costume for the party next week. I have been getting a cowgirl costume ready and could see the pieces coming together for the first time. I really like how the pieces are working together and just prepared some final details like the holster and some fringe. Soon, I will have it done!
I also got some work done on the elephant mask. It will be a gift for a friend, so I want to get it done really well. I seem to have trouble with the painting techniques, though. I get the procedures of oil painting and acrylic painting mixed up, meaning that I apply the colors in the wrong order and intensity at a time. This can result in kind of a mess. But I had the same issue with the rhino mask and it turned out just fine. So this will work out, too.
I’ve been working on this mannequin project over the course of the last month. I will use it to design costumes and display them once they are finished.
A couple of days ago, The mannequin got its burlap “skin” coat, and today I painted that coat light grey. When that dries, I can consider this project done!
I also put some base layers of paint on the elephant mask.
And I did some more work on my cowboy costume by braiding and heatsealing a lasso. I had salvaged some plastic “rope” from an old seat and did a simple french braid. I used simple office clips to keep the long strands of rope from tangling while I was braiding them. That way, I could make a long rope within just a few hours.
Since this was old rope, it was frayed up on quite a few spots. Some hot air from the heat gun melted those loose ends and made the rope more stable.
rope braiding setup
rope before heat treatment
after the heat treatment
first layer of cloth
burlap with patterns
Plastic covering, to draw out the pattern for the burlap layer
part of the gun
first gun in rough assembly
I’ve been working on my mannequin and adding new layers to stabilize it. I will add a final layer of white-painted burlap to finish it off.
The reason I made this mannequin is to use it in making my costumes. And for starters, I will be making a cowboy-costume for a christmas party (costume party with the motto “throwback thursday”). I could probably put together a good costume as is, but I wanted a challenge. So I will take it to the next level with some custom parts: two gun props, a customized hat, a lasso, (maybe some leather gloves) and a leather skirt. I’ve finished parts of the first gun and the weathering on the hat.
How did you fill your day? I had a day off from school and several options to act upon. And though I did do several things, the most noteworthy among these would be a spontaneous build: A mannequin to hold up and display my costumes.
I built it out of reclaimed materials I had lying around the studio: wire mesh, wood scraps, screws, string, and papermaché. The frame will probably need some more reinforcement, but the basic structure is in place. I’m actually surprised at how well it is turning out and can’t wait to dress it up! :)
I haven’t done much in terms of art in the past few weeks. I’ve done little things here and there. But overall, there isn’t much to show for it.
Does that mean I am “no Artist”, or that I am somehow lesser than those who do more? Would I be “better” if more people saw and approved of my work? Or, to put it in philosopher’s terms:
“If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?”
At first, this question by George Berkeley seems silly, but if you think about it, it actually raises deeper questions about perception and about the way we value things: What meaning does something have if nobody sees it? What worth does a work of art have if nobody values or appreciates it? What are you when nobody likes your newest profile picture on Instagram? Who are you apart from other people’s opinion?
Don’t get me wrong, I wish I had more time to do more creative projects. I consciously make time for that sort of thing and I greatly appreciate the positive feedback. But as much as I love to get creative and get compliments for it, I know that that’s not who I am. Those things are things I do.
And for me, my value in life can’t come from stuff I do, because those things are not lasting. (e.g. I could get sick and lose my abilities, I could move away and lose contact with friends, etc.).
There are many attempts to deal with this, whatever values a person might have. But for me, the one things that remains is Jesus Christ and the assurance that I am part of God’s family because of what Jesus did for me. This basic assurance gives me the “power” to just “be” without having to prove myself to anyone. Because no matter what: God is.
Everyone is back from vacation and school has started again. The new class of freshmen is finding their place and the rest of us are getting back into studying routines. With all of this, I am excited for what lies ahead. But I am also excited about what is going on right now. Like, the art projects that are coming together more and more:
- The painting of tomato plants is (mostly) done. I might add some small touch-ups, but that would be it. It was an experiment that turned out differently than expected, but that’s ok!
- I had two shipping box units that were sitting around unused, so I made a simple, small kitchen shelf out of them. The paint job will be similar to the palette shelf. I will add 1-2 layers of light blue on top of the brown and dark blue. So it won’t be as patchy as it is now ;)
- I met another artist on Tuedsay! She is from the area and does sculptures. I was excited to meet her and talk to her. Turns out she’s the mother-in-law of a friend of ours. Who knew!
There are also some creative people among the freshmen class. We’ll see what ideas and possibilities come from that :)
While writing this post, the rain is pressing in on the paths and houses. Grey light, cold, strong winds, and brown leaves dominate the landscape. But I won’t be depressed about it. After all, we are watching “Singing in the Rain” tonight. One of my favorite movies, fitting for a day like this.
I am a few days late with this, but here are some pictures of the dorm living room. It’s still missing some pillows and some new pictures on the wall, but apart from that, this project is basically done. :)
Also, the rhino mask is now varnished and done. I think I like it as much as my old mask, if not more :)
And finally, I did some more work on an elephant mask for a friend of mine. Today, it got the ears and some more wrinkles on the trunk. I think it’s the first time I’ve tried to cover such large free-hanging spaces with paper-maché. I used cloth, which seems to be working well. Excited to see how it turns out!
It’s 2 weeks before the next semester begins and we are taking the time to renovate the dorm living room. It probably has been in it’s before-state since it was built over 30 years ago. The room was just asking for a make-over!
I have been working with another student on this project. so far it’s day 4.
We started by sanding off all the chairs. That took us 2 days -or 8 hours.
Then we put a coat of wood finish and some clear varnish on them. The chairs look so much better now!
We also painted a little coffee table and started painting some patterns on the table tops. I will hopefully finish the paint jobs by tomorrow, then the bulk of the work is done!
I was able to go and do some work in the art studio, for the first time in a few weeks. I am painting my rhino mask and an oil painting of tomato plants. Both of these will need more work, but not until they are dry.
I’m also doing a drawing class online. One of the assignments was to draw a boot/shoe with mainly lines and to then add in some basic shading.
And I mounted the door knobs on the little grey cabinet. I purposely went for a variation of knobs to make it look more eclectic. Things are fun when they are not all uniform all the time :)
warm-up exercise: draw objects without looking at the paper
warm-up, day 2
Just now I got a text message from a friend asking how my paintings were coming along. I haven’t been at the studio for weeks, so I had to tell her that they were not coming along at all right now.
This got me thinking: When people picture an artist, they imagine a talented superhero of a person who effortlessly whips up one masterpiece after another.
But this is a problem, for two reasons:
One, it places unrealistic expectations on the artist.
Two, it makes the “laymen” intimidated, thinking they can’t be “creative” in their own right.
Neither of these are true: Being a professional artist requires a ton of practice and a ton of failures. For every good piece of work, there will be at least 10 bad pieces behind the scenes – and insecurities to go with it. It’s not easy.
And no, there is no monopoly on being creative. It’s not a “professionals only- zone”. You don’t need to feel lame when you copy your craft ideas off of Pinterest as a hobby. It’s allowed. :)
So if you are a “laymen”: Don’t compare yourself to me, or to any other artist. If your art turns out good, cool, but even if it looks crappy, you created something new, thus having sucess.
The same goes if you are working toward being a professional artist, only add this: don’t think you can loop out of the work it takes to get better. You won’t get great without the inglorious warm-ups and failed sketches. Even if those are not the finished product that everyone sees, take them seriously and enjoy those steps. Success comes from work, so consider every step of work a form of “success”.
I am on vacation and am relaxing a little. But to prepare for a new season of art and studying, I am also taking some online drawing classes. You can always learn something new.
I also found a gourd that we had in our guest room. My parents grew it last summer and dried it, I got to paint it. I went with an African-inspired pattern, though I am aware that there are many different “African” art styles from different cultures. Not trying to copy a particular look, just having fun with patterns here :)
And I also am getting further along in designing the characters for my book “Somehow Something is Missing!”. I did some work on the king character, trying to figure out his colors, shapes and facial expressions. I have a clearer idea what he will look like, but it’s not 100% set yet. They say that you should draw at least 100 versions of your character before settling for a design. I think that’s pretty accurate. I did about that much, maybe not quite. But I’m getting close. :)
And for good measure, here are some pictures of the finished palette shelf and of a hawk mask that I made. (Because, hawks are awsome ;) )