What’s in a Doodle?

doodle drawing

Note: The flying squirrel-doodle to the left (12″ x 20″) is the subject of this blog and is the doodle that I refer to throughout. Other images are from my sketchbooks.

 

What’s in a doodle? Curly do-dads, texture, funny wings, big long tails, emotion, practice, improvisation, new ideas, new media, spilled tea. Even the sound of the word doodle suggests spontaneity and flow. Doodling is the quintessential imaginative drawing, and imaginative drawing is the theme of a new drawing class I’m planning for adult learners this Spring at the Lawrence Arts Center. This class is the reason I’m thinking about doodling at all and about the place of doodling in my own creative process.

 

toy horse sketchI keep sketchbooks but often begin my explorations with writing.  So when writing gives way to sketching, doodling, and drawing, a ballpoint pen is in my hand and is often what I use. I learned recently that ballpoint pens are the medium of choice for entire on-line communities of artists. And the January 2014 cover of ARTnews shows the work of ballpoint pen artist  Toyin Odutola and inside the magazine is the work of other ballpoint pen artists, too. Inspired by these, I decided to explore this medium in a large-scale doodle-drawing to gain a better understanding of it not just for sketching but for “finished” work as well.

So already through the pen, art and life are connected in a doodle. Or maybe life itself is a doodle because in a doodle, everything feels connected. For example, the first time I saw a  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was at the soccer fields in Overland Park, Kansas, and that little piece of history is in this doodle. It isn’t in it literally, but that experience led Scissor-tailed Flycatcher sketchto something that led to something that is in it. When we returned from Overland Park that day, I looked for this beautiful grey-blue bird with the extravagant tail  in my Kansas bird book and found it, “one of the most well-known birds in Kansas.” Ha! I was surprised and wondered what else I have never heard of. And perhaps more interestingly, what might be all around me that I have never seen?

 

birds sketchThe Scissor-tailed Flycatcher eventually led me to backyard birdwatching. When I was scribble-writing some ideas for this blog, I looked out the window at a zillion Starlings at my suet feeder and seconds later two Downy Woodpeckers were there, and then two Goldfinches and then a slew of Cardinals. The feeder is constantly churning with comings and goings and then, of course, there are squirrels. And there are squirrels in my doodle. It was several months after seeing the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers that I decided to get 600squirrelsketchsome bird feeders. I got the cheapest feeders I could get — small, plastic and ugly — and a waterer too, and hung one at the side of the house and one in front. And the birds came! And the squirrels came too, lots and lots of squirrels. My husband gave me bigger and better bird feeders as gifts but also grumbled about the cost of feeding a whole neighborhood’s worth of squirrels. But he was the one to notice the littlest and cutest squirrels on the coldest of days saying, “We gotta keep those little guys alive!”

 

SquirdsI began reading Bert Dodson’s book, Keys to Drawing with Imagination, and drank in his encouragement to doodle, to stretch your doodles in new directions, to noodle the doodles, and to mix them up. I joked about getting a bird-proof squirrel-feeder. Or how about a Squird feeder! Of course there are Flying Squirrels. But what if flying squirrels had actual wings? What if they had cicada wings?

 

 

Doodling odd flying squirrels made me think of those strange prehistoric creatures that surely should not be able to fly but surely did. Amidst my listening to jazz and “All Things Considered” on the radio as I doodled,  I heard Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” interview author Elizabeth Kolbert. Kolbert talked about her new book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. In it she explores the fact that species are dying off so quickly due to the impact of humans, that it is a time of mass extinction, and is considered the sixth mass extinction on earth.

 


My flying squirrels will never exist but imagining that they could provided a moment of levity as I listened to Kolbert’s dark accounting of the extinctions of species now taking place as I doodled. I wrestled with the ugliness of it all in the vigorous marks I made in the tails of my flying squirrels. And that’s not all the bad news I was hearing as I worked. At this same time the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill to preserve “religious rights,” a bill really intended to take away the rights of gay and lesbian people should they ever be allowed marriage equality in Kansas. I explored the absurdity of it all as I doodled.

 

Flying squirrel sketchI went to KU’s Natural History Museum on the day I took my computer in for repairs. Little squirrels had been nesting in there, slowing it down and giving me that interminable spinning pie wheel. It had been a long while since I’d been to the museum, and I wanted to scope it out as a possible destination for my drawing students. There were old bones and taxidermied creatures. I came across a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and a flying squirrel (a dead but real one) and made a quick sketch of the squirrel. And I decided that I would like to make some art about animals that are gone.

 

doodle detailAnd then the doodle was done. I liked some of the things that were going on in it, especially the bottom-most squirrel. The shape and pattern of it had a visual integrity that the more cartoon-like squirrels seemed to lack. I liked working with a Bic ballpoint but wasn’t fully satisfied with it either. I couldn’t get the darks dark enough. I figured out that the basic Bic has a twin, the Bic crystal and with it I could eke out a slightly better black and darker blue. I wondered how this image would look in scratchboard, a medium I’ve used a lot. But in scratchboard, how could I  keep the sense of spontaneity that I liked here, when I find the application of lines in Scratchboard to be more cumbersome?

 

The doodle helped me ask questions and forge other kinds of professional connections, too. I wanted a better-than-Bic pen for a blacker black and went on-line to find out how I could un-clog my old Rapidograph technical pens. Happily I found an on-line community to help me. When I posted my doodle on my Facebook page, a friend shared about an interesting  on-line doodling community. And the doodle may have suggested a path forward on an illustration job that I’m working on. It even helped me process the beginnings of a collaboration with  a composer-friend in New Jersey.  We hope to explore a music/visual art collaboration and our point of departure will be nature, climate change, and extinction. For her part she will begin composing about a river. I will start with birds or frogs. Then we’ll trade our work and see how the other person’s art inspires a second round and hopefully many more.

 

never coming back doodleBert Dodson’s book, including his chapter on doodling, has helped me to push my work in small but significant ways. One key to drawing creatively is to simply draw at all, and through the process of making and working, ideas come. “We tend to think of imagination and creativity as qualities that people have. But in reality these qualities show up only in action–as something you do. Simply put, imagining is what you do in your head; creating is what you do on paper.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Make More Love” show at the Perolator opens Jan. 31 for Final Friday

DeclarationsCome see Declarations, a mixed-media on scratchboard piece at the opening reception for the exhibit “Make More Love!”

 

Lawrence Percolator

Final Friday, Jan. 31, 2014

5 – 9 pm

The Percolator is between 9th and 10th Streets and half a block east of New Hampshire St. It is in the alley behind the Lawrence Arts Center, Lawrence, KS.

Thanks to all who helped with the Free State Brewery mosaic!

Nearly Spring is complete! It is a seven-foot mosaic mural installed on New Year’s Day at the Free State Brewery in downtown Lawrence, Kansas.  The mosaic was a wonderful project and I am writing to give thanks to all of the people who were in one way or another a part of its creation.

 

Foremost I want to thank Chuck Magerl, proprietor of the Free State Brewery. He was wonderfully supportive throughout this project. He invited me to discuss the possibility of creating a mosaic for a particular spot in the brewery. Our first meeting was in December of 2012 and, while I was hesitant to take on a large-scale mural and had never even used mortar before, I left the meeting excited about the possibility and hoped to get the job.

 

The ideas for the mosaic grew out of several conversations with Chuck that meandered through broad topics, among them birds, water, and the Lawrence area’s landscape. These themes became core elements in the mosaic. Once we finished the design work I worked intensively on the mosaic for about five months. Chuck provided a place for me to work at the Free State’s eastside brewery, and also hosted an open house there so that friends and brewery patrons could see the mosaic’s development. Thousands-of-tiles-cut-from-ceramic-plates-and-adhered-to-panels later, I am grateful to Chuck for trusting me with the project and for his kindness, generosity, encouragement and help throughout the entire process.

 

A number of people greatly helped, too. Conrad Snider, a ceramic artist and friend in Newton, Kansas, provided extensive and detailed advice on everything from concrete board, mortar, and grout to how to build sturdy panels that would hold heavy tiles and yet be light enough to move and install.

 

Todd Pederson and Jim Lewis of Independent Woodcraft in Lawrence built panels for the mosaic that would fit exactly right in that stairwell spot. Todd and Jim also installed the finished panels with what struck me as remarkable ease.

 

Brit Kring of Kring’s Interiors in Lawrence contributed tiles for the mosaic and in his good-natured way, advice on mortar, grout, and how best to use them in a somewhat unorthodox application. Jana Flory of Krings Interiors also provided information and assistance.

 

When I first moved into my brewery-studio I felt like an interloper in this industrial setting. But the folks who run the brewery and the brewers and bottlers who work there were friendly and welcoming and soon I felt at home. They helped me in ways large and small with things like holding the door open while I hauled stuff in, raising my work tables onto blocks so that I could work standing up, tidying the place for the open house, designing and building a brace for the largest of my panels so that it would travel in the van safely, and on. So thank you Steve Bradt, Brad Scott, Eric McClelland, Lucas Hachmeister, Matt Luna,  TJ Campsey,  Rick Berger-Munson, Luke Otter, Patrick Raasch, Steve Rold and anyone else from the crew who might have assisted with the mosaic even without me knowing it.

 

600IMG_6053Carolyn Coleman, also of the Free State Brewing Company, made a lovely display about the forthcoming mosaic that was posted in the entryway of the downtown brewery.

 

Thanks to you friends for your conversations with me about the mosaic and for your support (especially Sara Stalling who got the first peek at my design ideas and Lokelani Braisted who sent all kinds of interesting mosaic process information my way), for your social media “likes,” comments, and encouragement, and for attending the mosaic process open house and making it a fun and successful event.

 

Thanks to Catherine Bolton, Nicholai Jost-Epp, Kathi and Randy Masten, Kristi Neufeld, Kamala Platt, Christy Dersch Schneider and David Schneider for giving me ceramic dishes, pottery, glass, porcelain shards and other special things to incorporate into the mosaic. In addition, Eric McClelland gave me a mussel shell and access to the Brewery’s hardware drawer for me to pick out a few small things to include, and TJ Campsey gave me a bottle with the Free State’s Prairie Falcon beer logo on it — so be sure to look for that little glass piece.

 

Lastly, I would like to thank my family. My parents, father-in-law, and brother never failed to ask me about how things were going on the mosaic and always expressed their excitement about it. And to my husband Chuck and son Nicholai, thanks for all your support and for picking up the slack especially after school, and for keeping me laughing during a few tough times — you two are the best.

 

For photos of the entire mosaic process, go to Free State Mosaic Process Pics on my Artist Facebook page

 
UPDATE: Please see Dave Loewenstein’s blog about the recent comings and goings of murals in Lawrence, KS, including murals by Stan Herd at the former Tellers Restaurant, KT Walsh at the Poehler Building, and me at the Free State Brewery.

Mosaic Process Open House on Final Friday

I would like to invite you to see the seven-foot mosaic that I’ve been working on for the main stairway of the Free State Brewery (downtown) in Lawrence, KS. I would love to share my process and celebrate my progress with you at my eastside brewery-studio!

 

This is a one-time only Final Friday event so I hope that you can add it to your Final Friday evening. The event is open to the public.

 

Friday, October 25, 2013
6 – 8 pm, Free State will serve refreshments

 

Free State Eastside Brewery
1923 Moodie Road

 

Directions: from 19th St. and Massachusetts, go east on 19th and turn right on Moodie Road. (Moodie is on the right side between Delaware and Haskell). The Free State Eastside Brewery is the second building on the right. It is also just off the Burroughs walking/biking path. Enter at the far west door.

Free State Brewery Mosaic

With my design-sketch as a guide in the background, I began the tiling process by placing colored tiles around the surface as a way to think about color combinations and placement.

After months of planning, the  large-scale mosaic that I am making for the Free State Brewery is in full swing! Follow my process in photos on my Facebook Artist Page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are my first tiles adhered to the Hardibacker board -- cattails gone to seed.


Opening at the Lincoln Art Center and other news

You are invited to an art opening in Lincoln, Kansas!

 

Cut, Scratch, Smash, Stack featuring the work of Hanna Eastin of Newton, KS, and Angie Pickman and me of Lawrence, KS, opens on Saturday, May 11, 5:30-7:30 pm at the Lincoln Art Center in Lincoln, KS, and runs through June 28, 2013.  (Lincoln, KS is 45-minutes northeast of Salina, KS.)

 

This exhibit is free and open to the public Tuesday through Friday noon to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Lincoln Art Center, 126 E. Lincoln Ave, Lincoln, KS, 67455. For more information call 785-524-3241 or visit the Lincoln Art Center website for more information.

 

In other news, the new Lawrence Magazine is out and I have an illustration in it about catfish! Flatheads to be exact. Check it out — the story is about Thomas Burns, one of the regions greatest fisherman on the Kaw.  Lawrence Magazine is available free at many Lawrence businesses, the visitor’s center, and on-line.


UPDATE: We had a lovely crowd and a great opening at the Lincoln Art Center! Here’s a photo of the installation. My work hangs on the wall with Hanna Eastin’s sculpture in the foreground. (Angie Pickman’s cut paper art is on the opposite wall):

 

 

 

 

Tea With Robin

I’ve just completed the second in a series of two mosaics for my sister-in-law.  A relative of hers had given her an antique children’s tea set to give to her daughter — my niece.  But in a freak accident my sister-in-law dropped the dishes and they broke into lots of little pieces. So she commissioned me to use the pieces in two mosaics. The process was loads of fun, and I enjoyed the chance to work with these special little dishes — the shards that are patterned with flowers and designs. (Scroll down my Mosaics page to see the other one in the series called Blue Moon.)

“On the Bias” and “Postpartum”

UPDATE:  Photos from the exhibit Working on the Bias

 

My artwork will be included in two forthcoming exhibits opening in February and March: Working on the Bias in Salina, Kansas, and Postpartum in El Dorado, Kansas. Both are projects of the Kansas branch of the Feminist Art Project.

 

Working on the Bias

Watson Gallery

151 S. Santa Fe, Salina, KS

Feb. 22 – Apr. 21, 2013

 

I decided to make a banner for this exhibit after re-visiting a book I found years ago at a library book-sale called Banners and Hangings: Design and Construction, by Norman Laliberte and Sterling McIlhany, published in 1966.  The book was musty and plain with no dustcover, but the banners in it by renowned artist Norman Laliberte, and his banner-making process, were exciting and of their time in a good way.

 

I remember banners as a child growing up in the 1960′s and 70′s, some political and others religious.  My mother taught me rudimentary embroidery and sewing skills back then too, and these were the basic skills that I brought to my banner project.  The passing on of sewing skills from mother to daughter is relevant for Working on the Bias because the exhibit is framed as a feminist art show intended to link needlework and “identity”.

 

My banner’s themes also relate to my memory of the banners I saw in my youth because the words and images fall somewhere between  political and spiritual, calling for action on climate change. The angel in my banner is both a mother and a farmer, and a blazing sun and cracked earth of a drought surround her. The text is a plea, but not to a spiritual being for help. Instead the plea is directed to our own better selves or better angels and reads: “It’s too hot!” and “It feels wrong.”  And then, “Listen to our better angels, heed the warnings, and act!”

 

I learned from working on this banner that needlework, at least for a novice like me, takes time.  After working on the piece for several hours a day for numberswiki.com

a number of weeks, I began to develop a repetitive motion injury and a badly strained back.  It seemed a bit ridiculous to become injured by simply hand-sewing and yet why not? A friend whose mother is a quilter told me that this kind of injury is common among quilters. Think of our grandmother’s gnarled hands.

 

Rachel Epp Buller, regional coordinator of the Feminist Art Project, and Carolyn Wedel, director of the Watson Gallery in Salina, KS, are curating the exhibit. They will include artwork that explores gender and identity by either physically or conceptually incorporating stitched, embroidered, or woven elements. The exhibit will serve as an accompaniment to the nationally touring exhibit, A Complex Weave: Women and Identity in Contemporary Art, opening this month (February 2013) at the Salina Arts Center.

 

Postpartum

Erman B. White Gallery, Butler County Community College

901 S. Haverhill, El Dorado, KS

Mar. 1 – Apr. 5, 2013

 

Postpartum explores the postpartum experience of women through art, including such themes as the postpartum body and mind, the lactating body, maternal loss and grief, the reevaluation of family gender roles, and more. I will have two small scratchboard pieces in the exhibit: Steamed and Blessing.

 

I sometimes joke that even ten years after giving birth to my beautiful boy, I’m still processing his colic! Trying to console an inconsolable baby every evening for three months was stressful indeed, but in this piece I was considering a different kind of noise and stress. In Steamed (2011) the screaming baby, chattering squirrel, and steaming tea-pot are metaphors for what sometimes feel like a clamorous, confusing, out-of-control world crying out for attention and comfort — with a bit of whimsy thrown in, too.

 

When my son was a baby, I carried him around in a sling. When I was walking downtown on one of those days, a Native American man who seemed to be experiencing hard times or was maybe even homeless called out to me and said, “Don’t let those angel’s wings get scraped nowhere.” These words were a blessing for me, a reminder of the great responsibility that I was taking on as a new mother and a reminder that raising children really is the work of an entire community.  I call the piece Blessing (2003).

 

 

 

 

 

“Song In My Heart” at the Percolator

I made this new scratchboard drawing for the Lawrence Percolator’s forthcoming exhibit Make Love. The show opens on Final Friday, January 25, 2013, from 5-9 pm.  Please come — you’ll have a lovely time!

UPDATE: I included this piece in the art auction to benefit the Lawrence Arts Center, 2013.