Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Studio/Art Space

I was up until two in the morning last night caught in one of the rarest of all artistic moments--I cleaned up my studio! (Raul refers to these nocturnal bouts of energy as "hamster mode", after his childhood pet hamsters Nietzsche and Einstein who would suddenly decide in the wee hours of the night that it was the perfect time to shuffle their shredded paper and woodchips from one end of the cage to the other) I wish I had "before" pictures, but I think I'll make the clean studio the "before" and then take some pictures a few weeks later after an artistic episode and that will be the "after." :)

I'm really proud of my studio. It's a small room in the back of our old craftsman home--I think this room must've been added on years later or it was once a sun porch or utility room. It's kind of lopsided and two of the walls consist solely of windows. When we first moved in, I claimed it as our room and the kids were in the front two rooms. I like having windows for walls. It's actually something I had wished for once! (More proof wishes come true!) Later, everyone switched rooms and Zach ended up in the back and the girls shared the middle room. After Brielle moved to Washington to live with her mom, I had another major cleaning/re-organization frenzy and moved Maya into our room, Zach to the middle room (where he started off) and the back room was cleared out and used as a storage room for my art stuff. Target had a sale that week on storage items (coincidence???) and I picked up two 3x3 cube-like bookshelves, colorful storage bins, and smaller drawers to keep the little things in.

The next week I started wishing for a large drafting table or work table and, like magic, my friend down the street had a whole bunch of extra tables sitting in her garage and let me pick TWO out to take home! :) One of them was a very large, very nice drafting table that I use as my workspace. The other was a long table I use as my "office" area. The drafting table even came with a very comfy, tall swivel chair. Awesome.

As soon as I started moving art stuff into the room, my daughter, Maya was right there, asking questions, offering opinions ("I think the table would look good over there, mom. It would maximize your exposure to the afternoon light."), and encouragement. After everything was in place, I moved her special table and chair (a gift from Grandma Jo and Grandpa Cort) into the studio and arranged all her art supplies at Maya-height. She loves her own special art space and you can often find us in there working side by side on our own little projects. This totally keeps me sane, too, because if there's one thing an artist mom knows, is that it is almost next to impossible to get anything done with a toddler/small child around...unless they have their own art studio to play in! :) (Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princesses DVD works, too.)

The lighting in the back room is great. It goes through all kinds of different phases throughout the day. The afternoon is when it gets the best light, and the view couldn't be better--ok, it could be of the ocean, but let's not get picky--(or spoiled! Wishes take time...I'll have the ocean view soon!) I really do believe wishes come true. Some people call it praying or asking the universe or putting intentions out there to achieve some goal or realize a dream. I believe it's all of those. If you have a dream or goal start small and big things will start to happen. It sounds totally cheezy, but I think it's true. My art studio was there all along. I just had to start thinking of it as a reality and I made it happen. I don't know what we'll do once Maya gets too big to share a room with us...My wish is that we'll have our own house by then. But if we don't, I'll find a new artspace. It's all there right in front of me.

Friday, October 19, 2007

This Has Nothing to Do With Art

Sometimes when I'm in line at the grocery store, I look at the people in front of me and try to imagine what would happen if we were all suddenly thrust into some kind of emergency situation: disastrous earthquake, robbery--I've even imagined the Target where I shop being hit by an airplane and trying to figure out what exit strategy would keep me and my 5-year-old alive. (The Target on Coleman Avenue is right under the landing flightpath of the San Jose International Airport--so it's not THAT far-fetched of a thought)

These disaster plan fantasies are not the result of parent-paranoia that sets in once you reproduce.
And it's not some kind of post-9/11 thing either, nor the result of watching too many bad LOST epsiodes. No, it's more like I just wonder what these strangers would be like in an emergency situation. Like, who would take the reigns and guide the people to safety? Who would be the one to curl up into the fetal position screaming, "We're all gonna DIE!" Who would comfort the child separated from his family?

I've imagined disaster/emergency scenarios since I was a kid. I remember driving around San Jose all day with mom or Grandma on some endless errand-run, bored out of my mind and I would pretend that I had been kidnapped. I'd try to pick out landmarks and figure out if I could find my way home. I'd look for people in the store that seemed trustworthy, and try to figure out how I would tell them, in code, that I was being held against my will.

I imagine these scenarios most when I'm on an airplane, of course. I look around at the people squished into their economy class seats, wondering, first, "Does this look like a group of people that are destined to die together"? And, second, who are the heroes, the complainers, the MacGyvers, and the one most likely to get us all killed? Not that airplane disasters ever discriminate between one plane full of people over another--It's pretty much random chance. But I still can't help thinking I'd be able to tell if this particular group of people looked like the cast from a plane crash movie. I'll know it when I see it, but then, it will be too late. And I won't be able to tell anyone about it cuz, well, I'll be scattered in a cornfield somewhere amongst the wreckage and rubble. But I (hope) I would've been the one to comfort others, the one who was the voice of reason.

I think I'm just totally fascinated by the thought of strangers turning into totally different people right before our eyes--shattering all stereotypes or judgments we might have made on their behalf. The people you wouldn't make eye contact with in line at Target suddenly become your surrogate grandma and the guy you thought for sure would run for the exit, all George-from-Seinfeld-like, pushing old ladies and babies out of the way, turns out to be the one to stay and help to the end.

In your disaster daydream, who would you be?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Art's a Family Thing

One of my favorite games to play as a kid besides "school" (big nerd!) was "art gallery." I had a book of famous paintings and I would make my own crayon versions of Picasso's sideways faces or Degas' dainty ballerinas and tape them up all over the walls in the storage room off the kitchen. I would make posters to advertise and give my family hand-written invitations to my show. I think they humored me for a few minutes and then went back to whatever else that grown ups had to do. I always wished that we could just sit together and make art for hours.

I have some memories of making art with my family. I remember coloring in Japanese coloring books with my aunt. While I was mostly concerned with staying in the lines, she would add wings and glittery eyeshadow and tatoos to the ordinary black and white ladies. My mom once stayed up with me until midnight when I had to make a time line for an English assignment my Sophomore year of high school. The theme was South Africa from the 60s to the 80s and I still remember gluing down photocopies of significant events while she colored in parts of the time line with fruit scented markers. When I was six, my grandma drew the most perfect butterfly and flower with my nickname, "NIKI" on a tag for my back pack. My aunt Michiko, my grandma's sister, made amazingly lifelike porcelain dolls. She would take real lace and cloth to make the dress for the dolls--the dresses looked soft and flowy but were treated somehow to be as still and statuesque as the dolls. I regret never taking a lesson from her before she passed away. My stepmom and I would spend every summer on some kind of new art project--one summer it was all about tie die and print making another summer it was Dia De los Muertos paper mache skeletons.

My idea of heaven is to sit with all of these women at a large table filled with paints, glue, stamps, ink, oil pastels, fruit scented markers and make art to our hearts' content. As I've started to make art again, I've infected my mom and aunt--they now join me at my stamping workshops (my mom lives a state away, too!). Sunday we sat and stamped and chatted at my dining room table. We made a card and a gift box each. I get together on a pretty regular basis with my aunt to try new stamping techniques--mostly we just spread out all the stamps and supplies all over the table (see previous messy table photo) and laugh.

I hope to keep art alive in my own home with my daughters. I remember one Christmas, I saved a Charlie Brown tree (twig like, emaciated branches and all) and propped it up in the living room of the blue duplex on St. John Street. It was a week before Christmas and we had no ornaments to speak of! (Me and Raul had just been living together for a short while and Zach and Brielle only came to visit every other weekend at that time--"home" for us was a weekend at Raul's mom's in Modesto with the kids!) So Brielle and I spent an afternoon making ornaments out of plastic plates and bowls with glitter glue, sequins and ribbon. Maya has said that she'd like to be an art teacher (like mom!) when she grows up. We spend many afternoons making art together (or side by side working on our own projects). She has a passion for painting ceramic animals in all sorts of strange color combinations. Whatever mom's into, she's gotta have her own version, too (beads, paints, brushes, pastels, paper, stickers). Art moms know this very well--to keep the peace and your own sanity, you've GOTTA have your own supplies and the kids gotta have THEIR supplies--less worries, less arguments...more time for art!

So if you've always wanted to make art or make a big change in your life or make your life more like you wish it was...well, it's possible. As a kid, I wished for an artsy family and as an adult I wished for more time to do art like when I was a kid.

It seems that my wish is slowly coming true.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

It's getting easier...

It's been a while but what's the saying? Better late than never. I've started journaling again. Keeping an art journal this time. With drawings and artings and pictures and stuff. Been making more art, too. I can hardly keep up with all of the new things I want to make and techniques I want to try. So now instead of getting lost in People magazine, I often find myself getting lost in collage art and jewelry magazines. And instead of dreaming of one day making cool stuff, I've decided to just pick a project and try it. Even if it's material I've never worked with before. Inspired by an article in Somerset Workshop by Lisa Guerin, I decided to try shrink plastic charms. I'm sure I've lost a few braincells in the process of melting the plastic with my heat gun, but the results were worth it, I think.

I have a studio in the back of the house, but I find myself taking over a small table in our dining room. I fight for space with my 5-year-old daughter who likes to play with her toys on the floor and mostly under the table at my feet! I watched her play this evening among what looked like total chaos to me--piles of ponies, porcelain plates lined up in a row, a crowd of little animals corralled within a plastic courtyard. I tell her to pick up her toys all the time, and she replies, "but I'm playing with that." Well, what about that pile of ponies over there, and those blocks and dolls? "I'm playing with ALL of that." Then she explains how the ponies are all sleeping and the dolls are coming to visit soon and...So everything remains scattered all over the floor.

I just realized today, that's exactly how I play! I try to put stuff away when I'm done but I never feel done! Right now on my table I've got a pile of rubber stamps and ink, several boxes full of beads and trinkets, collage sheets, paper punches, glue, current works-in-progress, pastels, shrink plastic, heat gun, hammer...I just never know when I might need one or all of these things!

I need a bigger table.


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