Friday, May 23, 2008

Mayhem Mojo

These are my guard frogs. Other people have guard dogs. Or noble lions. Perhaps even a bear. Not me!---I'm all about buggy eyes and funny feet. I'm crazy about frogs and about this time of year they start to appear, singing their strange songs of love into the night. The irrigation pond at my parent's house typically rings with a cacophony of little froggy voices and if you're lucky, you can see them chillin' on the rocks along the rim. They have the right idea---hanging with buddies by the pool!

Speaking of chillin' with buddies, albiet not around a pool, but around a pool-sized kiln...Mayhem 2008 was a blast! This annual mudfest is a shameless drench in all things ceramic, splashed with lots laughter and food. Lots and lots of food. We revert to our own inner Emile, dang straight! It's food for the soul, too. Truly, when Joanie, Lesli and Lynn are together, I hear happy cosmic harmonics that rattle my neurons in pleasant ways. Yet like every year, it all came and went in a blink of a buggy eye, and the house is left so quiet and still. There's a tangible feeling my house seems to have after each Mayhem that speaks, "What the heck was that?!"

Same with my brain! mind is still spinning from everything I've learned. There's no substitute for hands-on doings and picking the brains of experts to really jump-start the learning curve and the inspiration to tackle it. Also casting from an unprecedented nineteen piece plaster mold (Stormwatch) does a lot to whittle away any sense of timidity! I think I've finally conquered my trepidation with underglaze, too, since the two pieces I worked on came out so much nicer than I expected, and pretty much what I'd aimed to create, which is new. I suspect because I underglazed them boldly, with total abandon, with no sense of worry or anxiety that typified my earlier attempts. I had nothing to lose. It's alarming how a sense of caution can impede a creative attempt, and there's rarely a less forgiving media than ceramics, which only heightens a deep sense of artistic existential agony! Yet if you're gonna learn to swim in the glaze, you just gotta jump in! There's something to be said about uninhibited chaos in the studio. So my big breakthrough this Mayhem was experiencing the difference between freedom and fretting when working with ceramics, which was the key I needed to unlock my resistance. As anyone who knows me will tell you---I'm impulsive. I'm not a "plan ahead" kinda gal. I thrive in an "eraser situation." Yet ceramics demand a very regimented way of thinking because you have to see each step in perfect clarity, all the way to the shiny end. This is very hard for me to do, which had brilliantly impaired my ability, and desire, to even venture forth. Things are very different now. The ability not to care has unshackled my ceramic mind! So, thank you Mayhem for...well...the new creative mayhem in my mind!

Which brings me to new mayhem with cold-painting. Besides going bonkers with ceramic techniques, I'm also playing with a new cold-painting method for my dapple greys, using charcoal pencils, in white and black. I've been searching for that method that duplicates the graininess of a dapple grey accurately, while also providing absolute control so those dapples look right...and I think I finally found it....after 20+ years! I'm applying this technique in earnest on a wonderful Fraley Bram'll Blue Boy and I'm pleased as punch with how he's turning out! Here's the "before":
Then using a tortillion, I smudge strategic parts and areas to soften it:
Then I spray with Testors Dullcote, and start again, building up layers and effects. Shown here is only the first layer, so you can see I have a ways to go. I also plan to use an airbrush and hand painting to accentuate certain things. The great thing about this approach, what actually sold me on it from the get-go, is that the graininess remains in scale. I'm a big stickler for painting effects to be fastidiously in scale, which becomes increasingly important the smaller the sculpture. Honestly, there are few things more effective to erasing the "believeability" of a paintjob than having its key aspects out of scale to the pattern or the sculpture. So me thinks an article on this method for The Boat is in order!

I'm a believer in sharing information. I like a jumbled sticky sweet mess of fresh ideas heaped in a big communal bowl, tantalizing our artistic senses. Some may think this is confusing, perhaps intimidating, or even foolish, but I think it's enlightening! Exciting! To my mind, the whole point of discovering new artistic methods and concepts isn't to horde them and let them stagnate, but to douse the world with them and watch them grow. The more brains that puzzle on a technique, the more possibilities are revealed! This is why those minds that show a predilection for creative exploration and those spirits that show a fondness for sharing the lessons learned tend to garner my deepest admiration. It creates such good juju. Dessert for the mind and soul. So thank you, Joan, Lesli and Lynn for another year's serving of enriching soul food!

"Anyone who isn't confused here doesn't really understand what's going on." -- Anonymous.

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