Responding to Rutenberg

ID #103

I’ve recently discovered an artist whose work and words I’m eating up these days.  To say that his paintings are delicious would be correct…the color, movement, and draw-you-in composings on canvas are breathtaking.  His words are equally inspiring.

Brian Rutenberg lives and works in New York City.  His work is about as far on the other end of my own artistic offerings as one might be.  He has an art degree while I have a French degree. He was a Fulbright Scholar and has made his living from his art whereas I have raised kids and worked small odd part-time jobs while my art-making has been stashed in-between every-which-way.  He works in oils on HUGE canvases and currently I work in a sketchbook. He works in abstraction, with his drawings in charcoal being representational; I draw representationally with forays into abstraction.

We do have a few things in common though: born in the same year, southern upbringing, family people (he is married with two children; my husband and I are raising three). But the largest common denominator is a love for articulating all-things-art.  And this is what I want to share with you…my reactions and responses to a few of the ideas and thoughts he presents in his marvelous Documentaries.

There are 18 of these 10-minute videos of Brian speaking to us about his work.  I’ve watched them all, eagerly absorbing and mulling over the concepts he espouses and describes so eloquently.  You really must watch these.  I suggest watching only one or two and then spend a few days thinking about them and letting the ideas seep into your way of creating.

ID #105

I have also been making more of these Improvisational Drawings (as I’m calling them:).  I’ve started numbering them with ID (stands for Improvisational Drawing) and then a number.  I’ve also taken to writing about each of them on the back, or on a sheet of paper placed in an envelope I glue on the back.  I enjoy creating the words that speak to how the drawing evolved, any thoughts as to why, and specifics about approach, or underlying ideas.  The drawings themselves are in no way an attempt to replicate Rutenberg.  The thing I’m going for is to consider the elements surrounding the drawings, the making of them, the impetus behind them…like Rutenberg, as he so wonderfully communicates in his Documentaries.

My next post will be responding to one aspect of one of his talks. In the meantime, see if you can watch a few of his documentaries.  It will be time well spent!

Origami Craze!!

I was recently loaned the video titled Between the Folds, A PBS Independent Lens movie.  I fell in love…again.

When I was a child I had several origami books (which I wish I could find!) and spent hours folding and folding and trying to figure out the diagrams for creating all kinds of animals, boxes, people, etc.  I have continued to enjoy origami as an adult, buying a book here and there to share with my kids.  Currently in my art classes at school, I’m teaching tesselations. To my delight, I discovered in this film that Origami is a kind of 3-Dimensional tesselation!  How cool is that!

I was enrapt from the beginning of this video to the end as it expounded all the heights to which origami is currently taken.  An exquisite art form, a way to teach geometry and other mathematical subjects, a practical problem-solver for industry, as well as huge scientific strides being made through Origami.  If you can get your hands on the full, hour long video, PLEASE DO SO! It is hugely inspiring!!!!

But here are links to a couple of mini segments from the film:

An amazing origami artist who makes his own paper prior to folding it.

My favorite origami artist in the video whose work is breathtaking and whose personality is equally delightful! I’m sad to see he is deceased…what a wonderful artist!

The above photo is of all our creations this past weekend.  Maddie, Catherine, and myself made lots of cool things from butterflies to swans to boxes, to a person and on and on.  This is too much fun!  You should go pick up an Origami book and some square papers (I’ve often seen very inexpensive books with papers in the Bargain section of Barnes n Nobles) and you will have so much fun!!

Sometimes I think I must be as crazy as Eric Joisel about art…sure wish I could say, as he does in the video for his excuse, “…but, of course, I am French!” 🙂

**To be noted: the first three letters of Eric Joisel’s last name, are the French word for Joy.  He indeed brought a lot of joy into the world through his art!

A “Reportage” of My Own


I have long admired the reportage (pronounced re-por-TAJ [french]) illustrators of Studio 1482! I love the whole concept behind drawings made at an event to “report” on the happenings there.  This video is a MUST SEE about my favorite reportage artist, Veronica Lawlor.



I do consider what I’m doing in most, if not all, of my drawings, to be a “reportage” of my world.  It might be reporting and describing what goes on in my home (such as endless laundry), yard, or neighborhood.  It might be reportage of events or trips, such as our recent trip to Michigan, or a day trip to Stoneville with a friend.  My life events are much more rural and domestic than that of Veronica Lawlor’s, but they are just as “draw worthy”!



Your “world” is draw-worthy too! Even the smallest bits and baubles you might draw are mini-stories about you and what you experience. I do love to draw my kids…the breakfast of a nine year old is never lonely (always a friend-or two or three-sitting there keeping her company); lazy summer days playing Wii games, like Harvest Moon; and teen boy searching the internet for Black Ops tips (on the XBox, no less).

Try sitting and drawing stuff while it’s happening. If figures are daunting, just choose something in the event or scene that would remind of you of that moment. Maybe it’s a clock on the wall, or a vase of flowers you just picked from your yard.  Perhaps you’re at a concert or an outdoor event…draw something there to remember the fun you’re having…draw the sign of the event, or the ticket, or a person(s) you’re with.  Splash color around, or not.  Keep a sketchbook just for these “reportage” drawings.

Like Veronica says, “It (reportage drawing) makes me more involved in the world, because I want to know what’s going on, because I want to be there, if something’s happening I want to be a a part of it.  It makes me more curious, it makes me more engaged.”

A la Lucy

There are certain folks whom I think are pros at recognizing and recording the unexpected and unforecasted lovelies in life.  In the drawing world, Danny Gregory is one of my favorites who continues, through his books, to inspire me to chronicle the little things of my world in images.  Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy is another who chronicles the simple beauties of everyday life through photography.  I have visited her blog for a couple of years now and I always enjoy seeing the lovelies in her life, both big and small.  Another gal who inspires me to see the loveliness of every day, is Lucy of Attic 24.  She has a rainbow palette with which she both views the world and infuses into her world.  Everything from the socks she putters around the house in, to her Little People’s artwork, to buttons, to papers, to decorating, to baking, and of course, to crochet.  You can’t help but be infected with the colors!  Infection it is…in such a good way…bright, bold color to cheer up the dreariest of winter days.  You really must visit her slice of the world in England!

So the other day, when I needed a pouch for some 3 x 5 cards, I pulled out all my leftovers whose colors were in Lucy’s palette.  Bits of Noro, Lamb’s pride, etc.  Simple single crochet, a button I made a year or so ago, and voila!  Instant joy!  The pouch sits with my daily writing journal (which is also littered with line drawings) and greets me each morning with its sunny colorfulness.

Isn’t it funny how we affect each other like this?  Even though I’ve never met her in person, her creativity impacts mine.  And my creativity impacts others.  And your creativity impacts those around you.  I continue to think about snowflakes and their individual uniqueness.  Part of what makes up our uniqueness is what we find ourselves fascinated by.  Snowflake Bentley was fascinated with snowflakes. I’m so glad he was, because we have all benefitted from his fascination. We have been enriched by his individuality.  Our individual uniqueness is MORE beautiful in community with others.  So share your unique creativity with others…share what fascinates you…either through blogging or exhibiting or teaching or just showing it to a friend…it is infectious and you may never know what an impact it will have!

A Different Approach…


…or two.  I tell ya, I honestly feel crazy sometimes when I think about how I would like to draw or paint something.  Pastels? Pens? Watercolor? Crayons? Charcoal? My mind races around the many materials at hand and often I end up doing multiple versions.  This is charcoal and pastel from the same photo of Gracie that I did the pen and Caran D’Ache version in the previous post.  And here is yet another approach with marker and Caran D’Ache :


Each is done very quickly…a sketch.  Sometimes I just want to see how each medium would turn out.  Sometimes I’m actually searching for a certain “look”.  If I were commissioned to do a portrait–charcoal and pastel are my favorites.  But for sketching and exploring, anything goes.

I have to confess:  I have this nagging thought in the back of my head that says I should have one main medium as an artist.  The voice tells me that no serious artist bounces back and forth from this to that to the other…but rather has a medium he/she employs for sketching and then a medium he/she employs for “paintings”.  Case in point–Wolf Kahn.  I’ve been re-reading his book of pastels (which I totally recommend).  He seems to sketch/paint with pastels, and then when making larger works, he uses oils.  Straightforward.  No fuss.  No quandary about which medium to play with next.  Even his sketches as a whole have an overall continuity in their execution, and this is easily carried over to his large oil paintings.  My stuff?  It seems all over the place.

But I have to wonder…perhaps many mediums IS my medium.  Maybe I shouldn’t try forcing myself to “settle down” to one medium.  (Indeed it seems a lot of the fun would be taken away.) Perhaps Mr. Kahn actually uses multiple approaches much of the time and the books and exhibits merely assemble works that are within one vein only.  Then again, maybe not.  But I am encouraged by a particular quote in his book.  He says, “I have tried to avoid looking for a single style, trusting instead that every work will by necessity exhibit Kahn-ish elements; after all, I made each of them.”

I think I’ll trust this to be true for all of us!

“Guided Chaos”


I am inspired by some drawings I’ve found through the Urban Sketchers site, particularly those of Veronica Lawlor. I enthusiastically commented on one of her recent postings, asked her a few questions, to which she graciously responded. She calls her drawings, “guided chaos”. Check here:

for the full explanation. I love this thought of our drawings being guided chaos. I’m not sure if the guidance Veronica refers to is a zen thing, or a right brain thing, or just the store of years of drawing expertise, but there is certainly a sense in her drawings of a confident line set free to wander the page. I really like that! I’ve been playing around with this multi-colored line and splashes of color and am having a blast with it.


The key is to let your lines go free and not worry so much about how it will turn out. These drawings are from photos of a recent trip to visit my family. The gang’s all here in this picture as we eat together, and the baby is my sister’s fourth…little Gracie. I’m trying all kinds of lines and colors…they certainly aren’t the lyrical lines of Veronica’s, but they are fun…”guided chaos” indeed!


Sometimes life throws us curve balls. Recent unexpected surgery has grounded me and even tossed the proverbial artistic salad. There’s something about a forced break from whatever trend or rut one might be in (though it never felt like a rut!), but allows you to think, explore, try new things and find unexpected joys in the midst of discomfort, rearranged plans, etc.


It allows you to watch neighbors walk their dogs, try out new(old) art supplies, and find fresh inspiration from other artists. I absolutely LOVE Jerry Waese’s artwork, which I found on the fabulous site Urban Sketchers. When you are trying out a particular artist’s style, one must allow oneself to do so in his/her OWN manner…I think it is impossible to exactly copy them, since we are each so different from one another and that should be reflected in our art. I pulled out my Caran D’Ache neocolor II watercolor crayons, waterbrush, and pen, and I’ve had a ball observing out my window, working on faces, etc.


This will be a very portable way of carrying color around when I’m able to be out and about more. I love the combination of line and sketchy color. Jerry seems to use a liberal dose of black and then limits how many colors he uses. I seem to want to use lots of colors, even blended within the same area. Well, it is fun anyway. Check out his work at  perhaps you too will be inspired…at the very least you’ll be delighted by his drawings.  Here’s a final sketch of one of my son’s friends eating pizza.  I’m hoping to blog again sooner than this last patch of unexpected events.  C’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?


Marvelous Milton

Before I go on and on about another favorite artist of mine, take note of the updates in the Classes section of my website–especially the upcoming art & wine festival here in downtown Kernersville! On Friday, June 5th from 5-8 pm, Arts D’Vine will be happening on Main Street. Come enjoy an evening of wine tasting and art! I will be at Shakespeare & Co. Book Shop with a variety of arts & crafts. Other area artists will be there as well.

BlueChairI love designing shapes! All artists are shape makers, but some of them really want you to see the shapes more prominently than others. Milton Avery is a master at this! He crafts the shapes in his paintings with a nod to being representational, but are all his own as he exaggerates, bends, squashes, and lengthens them. He then masterfully fills those shapes with exquisite color combinations that are much more subtle and sensitive than mine. Avery’s work is mostly figure and landscape…but I was inspired to try designing shapes with chairs, flowers, fruit, and even ice cream. I have quite a bit of work in this style and am recently returning to it with paintings of knitters. (I’ll share with you when they are ready:)

JCarvelloAll of these paintings begin with drawings where I play around with shapes, both negative and positive shapes, and determine how they connect. Once the painting begins, then it’s fun to consider how the shapes will be filled, what colors, the transitions, etc. Other artists who have influenced me and whose work I admire are Bob Lysiak and Skip Lawrence. Both have websites you should visit!

Here’s one last painting for you, titled “I Scream”.

I Scream

Celebrate the Mundane


Soon after my “ish” awakening, an artist friend told me of a book that was really helping her to recapture her love of drawing just for the sake of drawing.  She recommended I read The Creative License by Danny Gregory.  It opened whole new worlds of subject matter for drawings!!  One of the creative “blocks” I had been experiencing was a feeling that my everyday life was separate from my creative life…somehow the exhibiting, hanging and rehanging artwork, thinking up paintings that might be “sellable”, all seemed removed from my da


y-to-day life of laundry, household upkeep, shuttle-bussing kids, helping with homework, and the bazillion and one other things that we do on a day-to-day basis that hardly get any notice, much less make it on our “to-do” lists.  Danny Gregory taught me that ALL of life is drawable and worthy of looking at closely enough to really “see” it and thereby celebrate it!  His books are filled with drawings of the inside of his pantry, medicine cabinet, quick sketches of his child as he grows, of his wife and the day-to-day beauties that are actually there even if tragedy has entered your life.  I now own not only Creative License, but Everyday Matters AND his most recent An Illustrated Life which is a compilation of many illustrated journalers like himself, but who have vastly different approaches and drawing skill-levels.  I have ALWAYS loved my sketchbooks.  I even secretly thought that my sketches were usually better than the paintings that ensued from them.  I used to think,though, that the REAL art was what was produced FROM the sketches.  Now I know the real art is in the sketchbooks.  This is true of how I feel about other artists’ work as well.  Open any art book on ANY artist and I will pour over the sketches and drawings that are usually put in the  margins and reduced in size.  They are the real thing!  The sketches and drawings are a record of the artist’s thoughts, first-blush encounter with his/her subject matter, the “play-around-with-ideas” phase, etc.  You must, must read any or all of Danny Gregory’s books!  Visit his website that I have listed in the Blogroll section…his website has been newly redesigned and is a feast of inspiration.  Grab a cup of coffee, sit down with either book or site.  But be sure to have your sketchbook and pen ready…you’ll be drawing before you finish any of them.

Ishful Art


Continuing in the line of favorite artists who have inspired me…Peter Reynolds, an artist and writer of several “children’s” books and whose blog is called The Stellar Cafe.  (If I was really tech-savvy I would make this a link for you, but alas, all I know how to do is place it in the blogroll for you.)  Anyway, I was given his first book, The Dot, several years ago by a friend, and loved the book immensely.  About two and a half years ago I hit what I now call, a “creative crisis”.  It’s difficult even now to put words to what all happened, but I just couldn’t draw or paint.  So many things, both small and large, converged on top of me and choked out the desire to put image to paper.  Last May, I was at the Downtown Children’s Museum in Winston-Salem waiting for a kid’s birthday party to be over that my littlest was attending.  I sat down on a bench and there beside me was a book titled “Ish” .  I recognized the simple drawings and fresh splashes of watercolor and began reading.  By the end of the book tears were streaming down my cheeks.  It worked like Drano, beginning to move out the crud and gunk that had been blocking my creative drain.  I gathered my youngest, drove straight to Border’s to buy my own copy, and read it over and over the next several days, to my kids, to myself, to anyone who would listen.  I also went home and dug out sketchbooks and began to make “ish” drawings.  Like, Ramon, I “felt light and energized.  Drawing ish-ly alowed my ideas to flow freely.  I began to draw what I felt–loose lines.  quckly springing out.  Without worry. I once again drew and drew the world around me.  Making ish drawings felt wonderful!” (quote from the book except written in first person:)


I continue to keep “ishful” sketch journals of my life.  Lately, I have realized that I’ve been overworking them–getting snared again by the thought that I must make fine “Drawings” in my sketch books.  When that happens, I begin to lose the freedom, the joy, the looseness, and worry creeps in along with all that other baggage that clogs the creative pipes.  This is  also helpful in life–it is so much better to parent ishfully, to love my husband and friends ishfully,  to approach everything I put my hand to, not trying to get it right, but simply BE who I was made to be…simply BE.