Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Mr. Sgraffito"

~ Mister Sgraffito ~

I have to say that I've had an idea for an image of myself in my studio.  I've been devoted to ceramics for the last 23 years but ever since I cheated on clay with cardboard I've had thoughts of working large once again.  When I say large I'm talking 4 ft. to 8 ft.   Not impossible to achieve in clay but the reality of firing any clay object of that size has many technical,  practical and philosophical concerns surrounding it.  

Ceramics is not a medium that I have any intention of putting on a shelf, but working in both the clay and the paper medium seems to be where my head is at these days.  I think I will work on smaller clay objects while getting crazy big with the paper works.

Sgraffito is a ceramic technique that involves scratching through an applied contrasting slip clay into the clay body beneath creating marks, designs or imagery.  I LOVE IT!  It's something I can't achieve in paper but who knows....maybe I'll figure it out.  

When it came to realizing the idea for these very unstaged snapshots there was only one choice for who the person would be behind the camera.  The phenomenal Kristin Theiss who has become an amazing photographer over the past couple of years taking probably 200 shots on any given day.  She has a way of putting the fun in "fotography" (or "photografun").  I think she nailed it.  Stay tuned for more adventures of "Mister Sgraffito" in his house of clay and paper.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Art's Alive Show.

~ My Art's Alive Show ~

"All Around the Kitchen", 31"x 18"x 14", whiteware, vitreous slip, sgraffito.

One of my wonderful blog followers mentioned that it would be nice to see more examples of my sculpture that I recently had on display at La Conner's Art's Alive Invitational Show.  I really appreciate the interest in what I make in my studio and  I thought why not just post everything that I had there, an cyber show you might say. The space at Maple hall was limited so it made it difficult to get a smooth 360 degree view of my pieces which in my mind is largely the point of my work but I can understand the issues that faced the venue.  The show consisted of all the ceramic and paper sculptures that I had on hand and they varied in size from small to quite large.  I hope that you enjoy the show.

"Old Tub and Knob", 9"x 6"x 6", whitware, vitreous slip, sgraffito.

"A Bubble Off Plumb", 9.5"x 9"x 5", whiteware, vitreous slip, sgraffito.

"A Change Of Direction", 16"x 13"x 6", whiteware, vitreous slip, sgraffito.

"Shut Toilet", 23"x 14"x 11", paper, acrylic gesso.

"Hutch", 72"x 17"x 16", paper, acrylic gesso.

I would love to hear any of your comments and if you are interested in purchasing any of these works except "Bubble Of Plumb" which sold,  please let me know and I'll give you the price list. My work will be in a number of regional shows over the next few months and I will post the when and where info on my blog if you would like to view it in person.  Thank you so much for coming to my cyber show.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Art's Alive Exhibition

~ Art's Alive Exhibition ~

I've been a real night owl lately burning the candle at both ends and the middle trying to complete a few new pieces of sculpture for an exhibition that opens tomorrow night in La Conner.   "Art's Alive" is an annual weekend to celebrate the Art's and La Conner's reputation as an art centric community.  I was fortunate to be asked to participate this year in the invitational show.  As always I used every last moment to prepare the work and I dropped of the final piece this morning ( Pictured below).

The 6 works that I'm showing are made of ceramic or paper and range in size from 12 inches in height (top picture) to 6 feet in height "Hutch" pictured directly above.

The show will be at Maple Hall, 104 Commercial St. in La Conner and will be open to view Friday, November 4th from 10 am - 4 pm, Saturday,  10-5pm, and Sunday, 10-4pm.  Admission is free but the artist reception on Friday night from 5-9pm will cost you $8.  Maybe I'll see you there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Interview with Karen Henderson

~ Artist Interview ~
Karen Henderson "Textile Artist"

1. What is your name? Karen Henderson
2. What do you do? Landscape inspired wall pieces.
I usually start with hand weaving the fabric, in natural color (beige,
white, lt. grey or lt. brown) yarns. Often, I use an Irish linen warp,
and then for weft I’ll try silk, paper, or mix with a variety of other
yarns. I explore variations in the density of the weave, playing with
textures and transparencies. Basically, I’m weaving my own ‘canvas’.
After weaving, then the dye process(es) begins to slowly build my
image (batik, shibori, dye painting). Other fabrics are
combined...hand-stitching is usually the last part of the process.
Sometimes I also work with fabrics I haven’t woven, using all the
other same processes. Or I combine them, I’m even getting brave now to
sometimes cut a weaving.
3. Do you support yourself financially with what you make?
I wish I were! On a good month I can support myself. But it’s so irregular I
can’t count on it. Currently, I still need to keep a part-time ‘day-job’, and
I also do freelance textile design to augment my income. I was trying to get
established at the higher-end craft shows with my ‘fine’ art, doing them from
2006 to 2009, which was an incredible experience, but with the economic
situation, it’s too costly for me right now. I’ve decided to try other
approaches to getting my work out there. Recently I finished a commission for
a hospital, which was a great process that I’d like to find more
opportunities for. Another avenue I’m considering putting more energy into is
making smaller, quick to make work & wearables to sell at our local farmers
markets, which I tried last fall and it was fun… I think I could also try
Etsy with those but haven’t tried that yet - I need to ask your wife some
tips! Ideally, I’d like to do the textile design freelance as my only “dayjob”
and then pursue making/selling my fine art wall pieces for the other
part of the time.

4. Do you ever think about doing anything else as a profession? Lately, yes,
I think about going back to the textile design work full-time. It’s been a
difficult time the past couple of years due to the economy…so it does have me
second-guessing the practicality of my desire to support myself. But so far I
just keep trying with my art, and am looking forward to a one-week residency
this spring. That will be a nice retreat to focus on some new work.
5. What is your earliest memory of making something? drawing on the walls of
our bedroom with my sister…age 3. My sister would also have these ‘theme’
doll parties for her friends, and we’d have to bring our dolls dressed in
whatever the theme was she chose…it was like a super early project runway for
little girls…that was maybe age 5. I also remember getting my own 70’s style
plastic ceramic wheel…I have always loved making things, and always knew I
was an artist.

6. How do you come up with your ideas?
I respond to the things in nature that resonate with me…and then the
different processes and materials have a lot to do with it too. It’s a
dialogue between intention and reaction.
7. Do you consider what you make to be art? yes
8. What are some of your creative influences (other artists, nature, music,
etc.)? nature, browsing books from the library, reading art magazines… and
last year saw an exhibit that had work by artists who had called themselves
“Luminists” which really intrigued me but now I can’t remember their names or
the time period…but I thought at the time I’d like to join them.

9. Do you ever get emotionally attached to things that you make? Not really
in that sense of “I can’t live without it”. I guess I feel like when you are
a maker, you have to make room for new — so in the end can’t get attached
really. And it’s such an honor when someone else connects so much with the
work that they want to welcome it into their home. It’s surprising, and
gratifying, to hear someone else’s interpretation of the piece, or the
emotions they get from it, and how close it might be to the thoughts I had
when creating it. I love that.
10. Do you think art has a purpose?
Yes. For us to share our humanness with each other in whatever way that
artist is expressing it.

I first met Karen as a first year art student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY back in the Mid 80's.  I remember her best by her fantastic work ethic, great sense of humor and her positive attitude.  She was someone that you definitely wanted to be around hoping that any of it might rub off on you.  I had lost touch with her for more than a decade and one day when I let my fingers do a googling low and behold It turns out she had been very busy creating an impressive body of work in textiles.  No big surprise really considering her work ethic but still always great to discover that artistic perseverance in life.  I'm happy to reconnect with her after so long and I hope that you enjoyed her thoughtful responses to my questions about her creative efforts.  And many thanks to Karen.  To see more of Karen's textile works click here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Clay Demo at Hutch Studio

The magic in a potter's wheel.
"A Clay Demonstration at Hutch"

This April I wanted to have art demonstrations at Hutch that went beyond the makings that occur there every day.  Something that would be extra special or even possibly magical.  The first thing that popped into my head was the Thread drawings of Kristin Loffer Theiss aka my wife, which are amazing beyond words to witness in person.  I really wanted to do a demo myself as well but watching me work on my ceramic sgraffito sculpture is probably like watching grass grow in the desert.  So I thought it would be fun to make something completely different and do it in a way that would be a fresh and new experience for me.  When I think of magic what first comes to mind is a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.  I thought pulling a rabbit out of a potter's wheel might hold a bit of magic as well......if I could pull it off that is.  Kristin was there documenting the demo with about 200 to 300 photos,  making sure that there wasn't any slight of hand trickery on my part.  She later put together a great post for her blog.  I invited her to be my very first guest blogger and she lovingly agreed.   Here it is......enjoy.

A few weekends ago, I had a chance to spend a little time at hutch studio. Chris was giving a demo in clay & hung around a bit to shoot some photos of the event. 

Here are a few glimpses of how he displays some klt:works items. It's always a treat to be able to see my work in that space.

Chris set out to do something that he had never done throw a bunny on a wheel. Sounds cool doesn't it? It was really quite an interesting thing to view. It's the type of thing that only someone with his experience, could pull off with a crowd of people watching. Not to mention, the shop was actually open. So in between working on the rabbit, he was helping customers! 

The atmosphere at hutch studio is really wonderful. It's calm & creative with a sense of wonder in the air of what cool discovery might be around the corner. Chris has created playlists by subjects that are always playing - songs about  water, hands, boats, birds... etc which just adds to the "hutch" experience. 

So this is the final product! He (or she) was just unloaded from the kiln yesterday. Chris literally pulled a bunny out of his sleeve that day. Amazing! What I love the most about it, is the process & that he had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. I admire is my favorite way to work.  Chris has demos & workshops set up all of the time at hutch & if you are in the area, I highly recommend attending- they are quite inspirational. Stop by the hutch studio blog or FB page to keep an eye on what fun new project is being worked on. 

She's a great blogger wouldn't you say?  I would.  I wanted to wrap up this post with a couple of photos of the finished rabbit from that demo and another that I made in later demo for my ceramic class at Skagit Valley College.  They are both at Hutch so stop on in for a visit and some magic some time.

"Wild Hare" sitting, Brown Clay, Slip, Frit.

"Wild Hare" on all fours, Brown Clay, Slip, Frit.

"Wild Hare" on all fours, Brown Clay, Slip, Frit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

CCA Demonstration!

~ Me to do Sgraffito Demo! ~

I was asked if I would be willing to demonstrate a technique that I use primarily in my ceramic sculpture referred to as "sgraffito", a technique that I love and have been doing for a long time.  Considering it was for a local clay group called Cascade Clay Artists and since I never have the time in my life to join the group and go to meetings, I felt that I this was a way that I could contribute.  The challenge for me is to somehow make this interesting to watch.  My process is very slow and unless it is speeded up in a video it could be painful to sit through.  Well, I am going to get some rest and hopefully be a dynamic demonstrator tomorrow evening.  Wish me luck. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Colorful Evening

~ A Colorful Evening ~

Every spring one of the two major tulip growers in the valley hosts a special night for the locals.  It's been a bit of a tradition for the family for the past few years and my father from RI got a chance to join us last year.  The tulips are never absolutely predictable as to when they will be in bloom and this year they are a smidge late.  Not late for the the locals night however.  We got a chance to enjoy a beautiful display variety and color.  Kristin the family photographer was having a field day.

Sayer loves breaking the rules and running through the rows of flowers, sometimes falling head first into the mud.  It was chilly but you never would have known by looking at him having fun out there.

The fun and color didn't end for him in the tulip fields because Grandma and Grandpa suggested a trip to  One Sayers favorite fine dining establishments that just so happens to have an enormous play land to climb.

I was thoroughly impressed by how well he climbed up and through maze of tubes.  He was quick to make friends with an older girl who helped him find his way to the biggest corkscrew slide.  I have to say that the stroll through the tulip fields and the after party were very different experiences but also very typical of the way Kristin and I live our lives.  We try to live very colorfully.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

April Fools!

On this day of jokes and trickery I wanted to share a couple of my springtime feelings.  At this time of year my heart just swims with romantic thoughts.  Feelings that make me want to kiss in public or anywhere for that matter.   Above is a self portrait that I drew quite a while ago.  It was done in graphite, charcoal and pastel no paper and was one in a series of portraits that had emotional significance for me.  Of all the  portraits in that series it is one of the only that I actually care to look at anymore.  The second thing I'd like to share is one of my favorite musicians in his debut television performance on the Conan Obrien show.  I've also been told on a number of occasions that he and I look a great deal alike.  I have to say he is and looks younger.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"The artist with two brains"

"The artist with two brains"

Don't be scared.  I'm not as freaky as this photo makes me look.  I just wanted to visually communicate the fact that I try to utilize both sides of my brain when I make.  Being involved in ceramics definitely requires an analytical and mathematical involvement in order to understand the material, but also an intuitive and tactile "feel" as well.  In my work I do my share of figuring and planning (left brain) but I balance it with the the tactile carving and mark making of the surface (right brain). 

When I was a freshman in high school I was very fortunate that my art teacher was very inspired by a fairly new book at the time entitled "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by the author and art educator Betty Edwards.  He utilized this book for many drawing exercises  and assignments.  What this book did for me was allowed me to let go of what I thought something should look like and simply focus on what I was seeing.  Looking harder and closer than I ever had before at a subject and training my eyes and hand to move a line at the same speed and in the same direction.  As the cover of the book states it enhanced my creativity and artistic confidence.  It also produced some crazy looking images.  "Blind Contour" drawings were and still are my favorite aspect of the books teachings.  I still do them from time to time.  Above right is a recent pen on paper self portrait.  The idea behind the exercise is never to look at the page and never lift the drawing tool off the page.  It creates a continuous line that follows the contours of the subjects form.  If it looks like anything recognizable in the end your doing great.  What I love is that it's not about the product in the end but about the process of "seeing".

A few years ago my designer wife Kristin discovered something pretty special.  I remember the day I came home from work and went up to her studio to see what amazing thing she had created that day.  I could tell she had something fun to show me.  As she handed me this little scrap piece of canvas with black machine stitching on it I knew why she was excited.  It was a continuous line drawing that she had drawn by moving the fabric under the needle of the sewing machine (view here). I was looking for light pencil lines under the thread work but I knew there wouldn't be any.  That's not how she rolls.  BLEW ME AWAY!  She went on to produce many portrait heads in this "free motion" style and it eventually became a significant part of her design process.  You can see many more examples of her imagery at and here.  

I didn't know then but since I've discovered her influences.  One of her favorite makers is Alexander Calder and in particular his wire sculptures of his "circus" and portrait heads created in the late 1920's and early 30's.  At the time it was referred to as the single-line style and was a major innovation.  Whether Calder developed it first, second, or third is hard to say because at the time a few artists, Picasso among them, were working in a similar fashion.  One thing is for sure.  When I look at Kristin's "Thread Heads" it makes me want to get on a sewing machine and when I look at Alexander's wire heads I want to bend some wire.  Thanks for the inspiration you two.  And thank you Betty Edwards for turning my ideas about drawing upside down and backwards. 

Book Cover Image, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards, Published 1979.
"Portrait of Eduard Penkala", 1929, wire sculpture, Calder: The Paris Years, Simon and Leal, 2009.
"View of Massimo Campigli", 1930, wire sculpture, Calder: The Paris Years, Simon and Leal, 2009.
"Edgar Varese" 1930, wire sculpture, Calder: The Paris Years, The Paris Years, Simon and Leal, '09.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A great mention.

Cardboard Man makes yet another appearance today in an interview of Deborah Beau of Kickcan & Conkers by red road design.  I have to say that I've had very warm feelings lately regarding all the support that my work has been getting by so many creative bloggers.  I'm so new to this blog world and it seems like I am being welcomed with open arms.  I should probably waterproof my cardboard suit to hold up to the tears of joy.
Thank you Deborah and thank you all.  And a special thanks to kltworks for taking the photos of Cardboard Man!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Community Passion

A couple of months ago I received a very lovely letter via snail mail.  It was actually a number of cards and clippings from a couple who had both taken my ceramics class at Skagit Valley College more than a decade ago.  The wife, who was writing the letter, wanted to let me know how her husband's passion for pottery was rekindled in that class.  I was touched by the fact that I may have had some part in Mark's decision to pursue ceramics, but even more by the actual letter and gesture.
In teaching at a community college I sometimes get more mature students who have careers outside of the arts that are wanting to explore their creative side or get back to an activity that they used to enjoy.  Unlike the usually younger degree minded student that chances are will move outside the area after graduation,  these folks live here and make up our local community.

I just loved all the hand writing that seemed so exude enthusiasm.  Mark was having his 9th annual pottery sale and pictured above is the front and back of the show invitation.  It arrived a little too late for me to make it but I'm looking forward to going next year.  
I'm so happy that Mark is "doing it".  To often dreams and passions get pushed down or aside in our lives and going after them is never an easy.  It always requires a major commitment.  This is definitely one of those times when I really enjoy teaching at a community college and as a teacher feel quite proud of the impact I may have on the people within that community.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Interview with Bill Martin

Artist Interview with Illustrator/Designer
 ~William David Martin~
1.  What is your name?
    Bill Martin, my full legal name is William David Martin, which I also like and use on occasion usually when signing contracts, writing resumes, or sometimes bios or descriptions of my work. I guess William David Martin is for times when I talk more about what I take seriously, Bill is for social occasions.

2.  What do you do?
That’s a tough question. It implies “how do you see yourself?”, or “who are you”.  Like most people I don’t fall strictly into one role.  I see myself as an artist because it is how I process the world around me, and it is what informs my behavior in the other roles I fill in my life, husband, step-father, friend, student, teacher, thinker, senior developer. It might surprise a number of the people who only see the one role I I relate to them with – but I’m an artist first. It’s who I am

3. Do you support yourself financially with what you make?
Another interesting question.  The answer is “yes” of course, but a piece of art isn’t always the end result, sometimes I’m programming or planning. What I do to make money regardless of the outcome is think and solve problems in the abstract and turn my thoughts into a product.  I guess that makes me a professional thinker.  Its an important distinction for myself and for the art field as well, or it seems, most lines of pursuit these days. It isn’t uncommon for people to want to deal with you as only a skilled set of hands. I’m not really interested in that kind of work.  Don’t get me wrong, I still need to pay the mortgage. However whether freelance or employer, working for a client that isn’t interested in my ideas isn’t my first choice.  I think most people feel the same way.

4. Do you ever think about doing anything else as a profession?
Yes – but all of them a theme on the same thing. I’ve been a lot of things over the years that I have enjoyed.  Taught some college classes for a while, been a creative director, have always freelanced as an illustrator, and since 1996 have made my living online in both the creative and technical disciplines.  I’m still interested in using all of what I do.  Part of that is art, part of that is problem solving, and part of that is helping people.  I always have things I’m working on to keeping learning and growing. Currently I have a great job working at a company that really cares about people and helping them.

5. What is your earliest memory of making something?
In terms of drawing I can’t really remember.  I remember having a subscription to boy’s life as a child and there would always be some amazing stories in there accompanied by drawings.  I would lay on the floor of the living room or in the room I shared with my brother and read the stories and then stare at the drawings and daydream.  Years later when I was flipping through and old annual I was surprised and pleased to find that one (probably more) of the drawings I used to stare at were made by David J. Passalacqua a man I was privileged to study for many years under. The other memory I have is when my sister Cathy brought home a copy of Amazing Spiderman #167.  The artist that drew that book was Ross Andru.

6. How do you come up with your ideas?
I read a lot and draw whenever I can.  Both of those lead to ideas whether it is a visual or a sequence of drawings or a project idea.  It usually starts with the question “what is needed here” or the thought “isn’t that interesting”.  I don’t always have answers, but I find work combined with an interesting problem or idea is a great point of departure.

7. Do you consider what you make to be art?
A lot of it yes – but not all.  I guess someone will come around later and make that call.  I lot of what I’m doing is making pictures and thoughts or even just feeling on paper, I’m just as interested in the doing as in the result.

8. What are some of your creative influences (other artists, nature, music, etc.)?
Master artists, Rico Lebrun, Hokusai, Degas, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt, Ash Can, Futurism, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Art Deco, Disney – it’s kind of tough to limit it I have a ton of stuff I love. I was also tremendously privileged to have studied for many years with David J. Passalacqua who exposed me to these influences. Also been lucky enough to study with Ronnie Lawlor and Margaret Hurst at the Dalvero Academy. All along I’ve also enjoyed the company of some amazingly talented peers.

9. Do you ever get emotionally attached to things that you make? 
Yeah, although mostly I get attached to the memory or feeling associated with when I was making the drawing, or the idea.  There are a couple of pieces I’ve gifted over the years that I kinda wished I still had. But mostly when I’m attached to a piece it’s because I want to extend on it further and haven’t had a chance to yet.

10. Do you think art has a purpose?
For me it does, it is how I solve problems and relate to the world, it is like breathing, it nourishes me and makes the world around me feel a little more sane. I don’t know – maybe a discussion between myself and what is, a pulse, or a thought or a moment of aliveness. It can also be a dream for what could be or a way of calling attention to how I see what already is, sometimes it is just happiness or a visceral excitement. I art therefore I am??  I’m also getting to a point where I have other ideas for what to do with it, maybe how I change things.  Maybe that’s it’s purpose as well – it’s a question and an answer – “What’s next??”.

Thank you so very much Bill for your thoughtful answers and your outstanding artwork.  Your creativity and skills never cease to amaze.  Keep the pencil flying!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The "Funny" in Art

"Clown Painting", A. Dubsky, from book titled "Clown Paintings", by Diane Keaton

Have you ever looked at a work of art and broke out into uncontrollable laughter?  Giggled? Smiled?  I have always been a fan of art that has a good dose of the funny.  A few years ago my wife gave me a great book entitled "Clown Paintings" by Diane Keaton and I loved it.  I realize that clown paintings fall into the low art category of "kitsch" but I think that it makes my appreciation of them even greater. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the MOBA (museum of bad art) in Dedham, Massachusetts, do it. It is a curated collection of "found paintings" that are embellished by very important descriptions.  It is in the basement of the Dedham Theater in a small space before you enter the restrooms.  Somehow the smell of urinal cakes add to the art experience. A big difference between the paintings at MOBA and those in the Diane Keaton book is that the clown paintings are beautifully painted in bold colors and express strong emotions. Good-good-good.  To make this book even better it contains interviews with well known comedians and celebrities known for their humor.  They all comment on their opinions and experiences with clowns.  My hands down favorite is "Steve Martins" essay on the mating rituals of clowns.  I think I actually wet myself the first time I read it.
"A Wild an Crazy Guy", 1978, Steve Martin

Steve Martin is one of my earliest artistic influences.   I thought I was a 12 year old laugh riot when I would recite the comedy routines from his 1978 album "Wild and Crazy Guy". That was a difficult time in my young life and humor and Steve Martin  helped me cope and laugh through it.  Even at a young age I was realizing how much power there was in "funny".
"Klown", 1978, Robert Arneson, Ceramic

As far as my art education goes... I have been so lucky to have studied under some great artists.  When I was accepted into the graduate program at U.C. Davis to study under Robert Arneson I again probably wet myself.  One of the largest figures in Ceramic Art, he was also someone that I admired almost more for his drawings, sketches, and yes his humor.  "Bob" was constantly addressing humor his work and constantly criticized for it.  His sculpture was often referred to as "too jokey" by the serious new york art world.  He always spoke back to his critics in his work and always challenged their notions of what art was? He was a true maverick.
"Romantic Fool", 1996, Chris Theiss, Graphite, charcoal, pastel, on paper.

I'm not in any way saying that art has to be funny although I do believe that art that expresses it has a greater ability to deliver powerful meaning.  So here's to "funny"!
What makes you laugh?