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.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Explorer's Notebooks

Explorer's Notebooks, no.1

I've started a new series of drawings inspired by a delightful book I recently checked out from our local public library, Explorer's Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure.  A delicious feast filled with wonderful images, narratives and biographical information, this book makes you want to get off your duff (is that still a word or is it too old fashioned?) to explore the world....from far flung locations across the globe to your own backyard! There are sketchbooks and writings from familiar names such as James Cook and John James Audubon, but countless folks I'd not heard of....such as Ranulph Fiennes, Vivian Fuchs Henry Walter Bates. Curious and often fearless, these men and women explored the unknown and left us the record of their treks.

While this book presents the sketchbooks of explorations into all corners of the globe, it occurred to me that it might also be an inspiration to explore the frontiers of the imagination and inner worlds that lurk deep inside each one of us. Everything is ripe for discovery and the best news is that even if it has been discovered and/or claimed by someone else, it hasn't been discovered by you and seen with your eyes.

Part of what I'm drawn to in the pages of this book and the pages of other such journals of uncharted territories (I'm thinking of Lewis and Clark and Maximilian de Wied and their journeys up the Missouri River, for instance) is the actual beauty of the layout of the words on the page...often just lines of handwritten text interspersed with drawings. Attempts at capturing something novel, the unknown, a revelation...all while the perceptions and the visions are fresh. Writing and drawing serve as ways of processing. Someone from another far distant future may no longer be able to read and decipher these words, but they will appear in the abstract as marks on the page, interspersed with images. I'm not so sure why I find that fascinating, but I do....and worth exploring.

I'm not a sketchbook keeper myself, but am inspired enough that maybe this is the impetus I need as I explore my own locale. Though I have a series of grumbles about where I live (and who doesn't!?), I cannot deny the beauty and history that flows across my path each day as the waters of the Missouri River make their way down south to join the Mississippi on the journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

Missouri River, looking southeast, from our backyard one recent evening

But, back to that delicious book, now laid open on my lap as I type. I want to share just a snippet from an introductory bit by Wade Davis looking back on his early explorations and what it means to be curious and delight in the many worlds we inhabit.

"The work you do is just a lens through which to view and experience the world, and only for a short time. The goal is to make living itself, the act of being alive, one's vocation, knowing full well that nothing ultimately can be planned or anticipated, no blueprint found to predict the outcome of something as complex as a human life. If one can remain open to the potential of the new, the promise of the unimagined, then magic happens and a life takes form." -- Wade Davis

We are the lens....each one of us sees and experiences the world in a unique way....there are countless ways to explore those worlds. Cheers!


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Finding Home; or A Sense of Color

This post has a rather odd title, mostly due to the fact that I couldn't quite land on exactly the right words....but I'd like to share some recent thoughts with you about my color palette. Actually, its about more than that, as these are larger thoughts that relate to coming to terms with who we are and finding a balance and a trust in ourselves. Maybe these insights will strike home with you, as well.

In the studio and in life, sometimes we just need to shake things up a bit! Feeling trapped, we might feel the desire to break loose and do something radical....or even slightly radical....which, for me last week in the studio, meant pulling out the watercolors to change up the daily drawing practice. I'm swimming in daily drawings around here....only a small number of them are listed in my Etsy shop and I was beginning to feel like the process was becoming a little rote. So I thought I'd make a shift in materials and scale them up a bit. For some time now, they have been done with pencil and ink on small sheets of rice paper 6"x4" and then dipped in beeswax. So...I pulled out the watercolors, found some watercolor paper and made the size 7"x5" instead. That was on April 27th and you can see the drawing I made that day. More time was spent with details and I liked the drawing pretty well, but something didn't seem quite right. That color, while lovely and bright, felt a bit strange and foreign.

A couple of days went by and I didn't make a drawing. When I did return to the daily drawing practice on the first of May, I found myself almost back where I'd been....on small sheets of 6"x4" rice paper. I still had the paint to add color, but it was much more muted....more the subtle color palette that I know expresses my sensibilities. I recognized it immediately when that deep blue green hit the paper....a sense of coming home. I suddenly felt at home again.....like when you've gone on a little journey and come back, slightly larger from the experience and more in tune with the place you call home.

I realized that I had felt the compulsion to change things up and the need to step outside of my usual routine in order to remind me to trust my own being as a maker. I love color and often bright color, but the work I make with my own hands, the things I want to express, are best said with subtle tones. The watercolor paper is made to take watercolor, but it felt cold and unyielding to me...and lacked the tactile qualities that the Japanese paper has....and so shockingly white! I was happy to be back to my tiny sheets of rice paper. And well, the beeswax, what can I say? It creates a layer of richness....deepening the tones, even of pencil marks, and adds a surface quality that I just love. 

So, all this is to say, sometimes we need to learn the same lessons over again and again. I've spent decades as an artist, learning to trust myself and find the place inside me that is true. Sometimes the voices outside of us and our perceptions of what we should do lead us in new directions, but the truth is in each one of us. We each have our own marks to make, we each have our own sense of color and our own voice. If our work is going to be honest, it has to come from a place deep inside of us.....and we must remain true to that and trust it. That alone is a lifetime of work.