Welcome to MissouriBendStudio!

This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mapping The Trail, Drawing Lessons From The Moth World

Hi everyone. Back mid-week with some updated images of the latest developments in my mapping endeavors.  Turns out the biggest leaps were made with the inspiration from a recent, quite fascinating post found here on Paper Ponderings, the delightful and highly recommended blog of Fiona Dempster.  The larvae of a certain moth leave a trail as they burrow in the bark of the eucalyptus tree and it looks like the most exquisite line drawing I can imagine.  So many simultaneous thoughts ran through my head as I first looked at the images on Fiona's post. First, a kind of artistic jealously, as I so wish I'd made those marks, immediately followed by a "fall on your knees" kind of humbling, to realize the drawings were made by moth larvae. And then I was struck by the notion of the trail, that we each leave a trail, literally as we walk about and travel from place to place, room to room throughout our day, but also metaphorically in the accumulation of our days. And maps, in a sense, provide a way to retrace the trail...to find our way to or from. In forging new territory, we create the map, the visual trace so that we can see where we've been and share our stories with others.

Below are the same two map drawings that I showed in my last post, now with another layer of line work (in humble imitation of my drawing hero, the Scribbly Gum Moth) further embellished with dots in ink and acrylic paint.

It occurred to me as I was drawing these lines how very convoluted the trails were, if  they were indeed a path from one landmark or rock outcropping to another. But, on the other hand, how appropriate, as it's really about the journey and maybe the most expedient path from A to B isn't the most interesting or the most rewarding.  

I found several larger sheets of really nice Japanese paper in a tube in my studio (much better than the paper I'd started these first experiments on) and began a new piece layered with a teabag in each section....so far, just the line work.  I've been so busy and preoccupied the last couple of days, I haven't gotten back to this piece yet, but tomorrow is a work day!

A big thank you to Fiona for that lovely post....hope you'll follow this link if you haven't already, and while you're there, peruse all the other wonderful entries....you'll be hooked!

See you soon....thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Maps as Metaphor

Hello again....and welcome to autumn (or spring for my friends in the Southern Hemisphere)! Wow, seems it's been a week since my last post.  One of things about my new daily practices and the increased time spent in the studio is that I have become aware how much time I was spending on the computer before...as I'm obviously not there quite so much anymore! Because I am working more on the pieces that will end up on my website, a slower process, I have less to show, so you haven't missed anything! 

I am working on a new series that is still somewhat in development. I began to envision the grid and started folding full pages of inexpensive Japanese paper into  sections, which led me to think of them as maps and that seemed a rather ideal format for many reasons. Maps are tools for exploration, marking a path, charting a territory and, as such, are wonderful metaphors for dealing with the creative process.  Several layers of drawn lines and acrylic paint were laid down and then I began drawing rocks....there are those rocks again. Below are a couple of pieces in progress. More apologies for my terrible photos, but somehow I've got the tripod out of whack and the photographs are quite cock-eyed. I've fiddled with it endlessly to no avail....oh, the trials and tribulations of not being a photographer!  

I haven't got the folds right for a map, so these are just single-sided drawings, but once I begin working on them as maps, they'll be two-sided and will fold up to be held in the hand in their closed form.  Lots of exploration ahead and I hope to have many maps in the future.  This brings me to another bit of good news!

I am very fortunate that this worked out, but I'm going to go to another artist's residency next month....Jentel Artists Residency Program, which is in northern Wyoming, near Sheridan.  This residency will run for nearly a month, from October 15 to November 13th!!!  I'm very excited and will have a nice long expanse of time to explore these new ideas.

I've decided that all the pieces from my Etsy shop, which live in various carefully stacked piles on a long table in my studio, will go with me in a couple easily transportable plastic boxes. As it is getting close to the holidays, I thought it might be best not to put my shop in vacation mode, which would basically take it off-line.  I am planning to check in on things once a day and ship any sold pieces once a week when I go into Sheridan, which is some distance away. In preparation for this time away, I'm offering free shipping now until just before I go, so hopefully there will be less to take with me! If anyone out there is at all interested in a near-future purchase at Missouri Bend Studio, take advantage of free shipping until October 12 with the coupon code FREESHIPPING

See you early next week....with some finished work!

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Dailies

Hi everyone....sorry, for my long absence from the blog...well, a week or so seems a very long time.  Also, big apologies for the trouble any of you had in trying to leave comments here on my last post.  I heard from a number of folks directly and the only explanation I can think of is that I had written that post in a little moment of whimsy when I thought I'd try out that new blogger interface.  After I finished the post, I decided I didn't like it and switched back to the current version....perhaps the two interfaces don't speak to each other yet.  Hope to hear from you with no difficulties this time!

I thought I'd share with you one of the daily practices I've taken up since my time at Brush Creek in Wyoming.  Actually, I started these "morning pages" the morning of the first day at Brush Creek and have been doing it every day since.  I had taken a ream of inexpensive printer paper with me for this purpose and decided to start my studio day with making 10 "non-thinking" meditation drawings....very simple marks on the page, turning the page when the urge spoke.  This practice was taken from an assignment I had decades ago actually, in an art education class with an amazing professor, Richard Loveless, at the University of South Florida.  His assignment called for us to find a quiet place and a simple mark-making tool and do this exercise with a stack of 50 sheets of paper.  Simple marks, made without thinking, without analyzing, without seeing the activity as "drawing" per se.  Letting the hand move as it wanted to.  The class members brought their  pages in and we spread them out on the floor.....it was a very powerful moment to realize that each person had their own "inner language" of mark making....their very own pattern of speech that made itself known through their hands.  I've never forgotten that assignment....even while I was doing my initial fifty pages, I realized that I was certainly tapping into my inner psyche and bypassing the "editor" and the thinking mind.  I've recommended this exercise to any number of people and, almost always, people find it very insightful.....unless they are thinking and working through the pages and making "drawings"....then it's much less powerful.  There are clear threads that will run through 50 pages, some of which may only contain a simple mark on the page, depending on when you felt the urge to turn the page over.  For instance, it will be evident that there is a way that you organize the space, the kind of shapes or lines that come through pretty consistently, as well as an individual sensitivity to touch with the tool in hand.  I recognize myself when I see the ten morning pages I've been making daily for over a month and it is clear that it is the same person as the one who made the marks on those 50 sheets of paper over 20 years ago. This is a very powerful tool to help you find yourself when you are lost and give you back the confidence in your own voice that may have been left behind somewhere in the wilderness.

Since coming home, I've added an additional practice, which I do right after my "drawn" morning pages and this is a shortened version of the actual "morning pages", the practice found in The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  I'm sure many of you know this book and have had it change your lives, as I have. I have taken up the writing practice of just two pages (front and back of one full page) also as a way to connect with my own thoughts and free up the space for the intuitive mind to play.  For a number of years I got up quite early and did three pages of writing my morning pages and found the practice very enlightening.  I wrote things that I had no idea were on my mind and the process of writing also allowed new ideas to develop because I was thinking through my hands.  It's possible that this was the period when I first began to voice the idea that I think through my hands....many of you have "heard" me say that even now.

All this is to say that these practices are part of a daily routine that also includes yoga and reading and art making and any number of other activities, like eating and sleeping.  I'm a creature of routine....I like rituals and rhythms, which keep me grounded and provide a framework for the unfolding day.  This is not to say that there are no more difficult days in the studio, but I'm finding it much easier to get back on track because I have a map and I'm not too far from the path back to the moment.

These aren't too easy to see, but below is a sampling from my daily pages.....10 pages each day for over a month.....this is quite a growing stack!  I keep them in order as I do them and add the date and the sequential number at the bottom of each page.  Pages below are taken at random.

The added benefit of doing this is that many of the pages will give you ideas for new work or compositions and any number of other unfolding possibilities.  And each day may be slightly different, as your mood, your surroundings, etc. may reveal themselves in ways you didn't realize.  The key is to get out of the way and let your hand move across the page where it wants to. And now for a sampling...

August 3

August 9

August 11

August 12
August 23
September 4

September 9

September 15

Book for the written morning pages and a portrait of my
new fountain pen!

If you love to write and draw with a fountain pen, as I do, you might want to go out and gather up whatever supplies of them you can, because we have found that the mighty fountain pen is very quickly becoming a relic of the past.  John and I were in Sioux Falls last week and began looking for fountain pens....I wanted a nice one for my daily practices and he wanted an inexpensive one to experiment with using it for drawing with sugar-lift solution, a printmaking process.  Not long ago, they were easy to find in office supply stores, but not these days.....not when people don't write on paper with a tool such as a nice pen. By the time we got to the third store, I joked that the person we queried would look at us in wonder and ask what a fountain pen was....it wasn't quite that bad, but close.  Fortunately, there is a wonderfully, charming store in downtown Sioux Falls, called Zanbrosz, that sells all kinds of delights...great household items , bath salts, upscale games, jewelry, metal wind-up toys, interesting books and you guessed it, a fabulous selection of new and used fountain pens....it's a good thing we remembered to go there.  I found my beloved blue pen there and now we start our days together.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Striding vs. Striving

Hi everyone...seems I've been absent for nearly an entire week.  The Labor Day holiday threw me off somehow, but here I am now!  Life has been busy....deadlines and lots of plates in the air, as my husband would say!  Anyway, as life has ramped up, I've not only become busier, but less calm...not surprisingly. It is an interesting process to watch and I'm now reigning myself in once more, getting back to the daily practices that keep my inner composure.  One day during the week I began to contemplate the phrase "striding vs. striving" which had come to me in a moment of stress.  I think the differences are key....the more I found myself "striving" the less I felt I was striding....with calmness and assurance.  I've looked up the definitions of these terms and it seems the comparison is quite appropriate.

Each word has multiple definitions of course, but here is a key meaning for each word:

Stride: the most effective natural pace : maximum competence or capability (as in hitting one's stride)

Strive: to devote serious effort or energy : to struggle in opposition

I know I feel the difference and the more I feel myself striding, the easier it is to recognize how off balance I become when striving takes over.  Striding puts me in the moment, striving creates tension as I work frantically toward future goals, real and imagined.  I'm not at all saying that we don't or shouldn't have goals, but it seems to me they are much more easily achieved when we don't try so very hard that it all becomes a struggle.  Let go and maybe you'll realize the goals you once had aren't even relevant anymore....look around, maybe you have what you desired.  Pay attention to the moment, maybe you have new goals not yet acknowledged.  We carry the sources of our needed wisdom inside us....we just have to listen.

Rocks no.8

Today I found myself listening a little closer and made a breakthrough in the studio.
I had finished Rocks no.8 the other day and have been working on a number of others, including ones where sticks have been introduced.  On my website this series is called Sticks and Stones, with the idea that the pieces will contain rocks and the ideas related to rocks, as well as sticks and the ideas related to sticks.  Well, one of the pieces I've been struggling with had started to be about the rocks, but very shortly became much more about the stick and the rocks looked quite out of place.  I've been so used to working on this paper of Johntimothy's in its original size (roughly 12" x 15") that it hadn't occurred to me until a certain moment that the way to make sure the piece was about the stick was to remove the stones....the paper needed different proportions and it was actually quite easy to chop off the bottom few inches that contained the rocks.  This piece will need a bit of refining, but it's much better.

These are just quickie photos to show you what's been happening....once they're properly finished and photographed, I'll post them on my website.  

With my new found freedom, it was only a few moments before I began to see the pieces as just the sticks or the stones without any background, mounted on board and hung in infinitely interchangeable groupings on the wall.  Do you remember my struggles through the summer to make some sort of objects??????  Those of you who are regular visitors here will recall my desperate striving.....it often doesn't happen when you are "striving"....it seems to me it's more likely to happen when you are in your stride.

I hope to see you tomorrow....but it might be over the weekend!  Hope all is well in your world.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Old Works Find the Light of Day

Earlier this week my post was about the very satisfying rearrangements in our studio spaces. Since then, there's been a little ongoing tweaking...I got the hand woven tapestry back up on the wall in front of my little writing area/sewing table and new places have been found for a few things.  But, speaking of finding places for things, this is a little tale about finding things in surprising places.  Most of our items are stored in various sized plastic containers and as I was trying to find space for things, I inspected the contents of a number of the bins.  Well, I came across a number of pieces that I had actually finished quite some time ago....years ago, in fact....that I hadn't been happy with at the time.  These are pretty involved pieces and coming across them again, I had to ask myself why I had dismissed each of these pieces and relegated them to the storage bin.  I didn't get a good enough answer, so they are coming out into the light of day and this odd assortment of works will join their colleagues in my Etsy shop over the next several days.  Here's a sneak peak....

Kind of fun to rekindle the friendships with these works....I offered them all my humble apologies for relegating them to the sidelines for so long and now we're fast friends!  

Also finished up a few more of the pieces I started at Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming and those are going on my website tomorrow (http://www.robertspizzuto.com).  Once again, I am rather disappointed in the quality of the photographs as compared to the actual piece....can't seem to get things adjusted as well as I'd like.  I did some fine tuning, but never could get them quite finely enough tuned, but here they are anyway!

Still have more to finish and I've started some new pieces in this series as well.  Some, like the last one shown here, have a good bit of embroidery on them, which takes a fair amount of time.  I like the slowness of the process of hand stitching....I know I've said this before, but I'll briefly revisit it here, as I've been thinking about the notion of slowness again.  

It occurs to me that perhaps time is like one of those newly styled suitcases....you think it has just so much capacity, but look there, a zipper pocket....what happens when you open it...it expands allowing you to fit in so much more.  Suitcases have lots of those pockets, but they aren't always obvious....time has a way of unfolding too, when we slow down....those pockets of time open up here and there.  The thing is, not only can more happen, that is, there's more capacity, but also experience feels richer and deeper when we slow down. It's fuller....in terms of quantity, but more importantly, in terms of quality.  So why is it that we go racing about so?  

Enjoy the long weekend....see how you can make it fuller and richer!