Tag Archives: Arts

Report From the Trenches: On Craft


I would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize to my university 2 Dimensional Art professor. He was a young grad student, teaching a pre – requisite to a class of excitable undergraduates. We had to make a color wheel. I went to the school bookstore, bought a pack of origami paper, and got to work. The result was okay, in retrospect. Circles of paper on plain white mat board cut out with a pair of scissors. I’d been doing collage for a while by then, I was hot shit. Totally developmentally appropriate for any 20 year old art student.

He said I needed to work on my craft. I was deeply offended (although I didn’t say anything, thank goodness).

Twelve years later, I get it. I’m working on my craft these days, all the time. I want my lines to be as smooth as the famous comic inkers of the 1960’s, I want my edges to be perfect, I want my mats to be cut perfectly square. It’s not as though I need all art to be perfect everywhere – for there is beauty in the imperfect – it’s that I realize that I can do better. I can get closer to the idea I’d had that drove me to make the piece in the first place, I can make the picture in my head more real in the work I do. It’s a process of learning to keep pushing to be better, even when it’s frustrating. I didn’t get it then – that even though you can be a good artist without paying attention to your craft, it’s so much more fun to be better than you thought you could.

So for this, I apologize, Professor. My cuts are a lot cleaner now, you know.

Inking by Adriano Benedetto – check out his work here, beautiful stuff.

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Inspiration Friday: Crowdsourced Creativity


There’s something to be said for art emerging from the masses, from a group of people making something beautiful together. So sayeth the solo artist, anyhow. I’ve been intrigued by this for a while, and wanted to share a few big projects that came off really well.

Virtual Choir – Most people like to sing, even if it’s in the shower. but most of us don’t have a chance to sing in public – we don’t have time to join a choir, or we’re embarrassed that we can’t stay in tune. Virtual Choir brings together individual people to sing, by patching together clips of hundreds of people singing into their webcam.

Birdsong remix – The other option is to release the same source material to a big group of artists and see what grows out of it. Studio 360  had a show introducing a database of bird songs collected and archived by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology  and released to the public. Everyone was invited to download the clips and remix them to create new music. Check them out – and maybe you can make your own remix.

Book by tattoo – On the other end of the spectrum, there is the idea of including lots of people into a project who won’t ever see the finished product. Author Shelley Jackson wrote a book, “Ineradicable Stain,” and published it by tattoo.  People signed up for the project, and were given one word of the book to be tattooed onto their skin. Members of the project never saw the final book, unless they could find each other and assemble them in the right order.

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Poetry Sunday: Jennifer Boyden

They Have a Point
by Jennifer Boyden (via Orion Magazine)

When the gods gave us all the holes
leading into our darkness, they planned
on our needing a mystery. It amuses them
that what is inside the body
is more body. The same body, but different.
They first said the bodies should be mostly moss
inside. But they kept coming back to the mystery.
Moss, they said, can be seen outside,
and what is outside can be accountable.
Though they liked that moss would have kept
everyone soft and green, they decided it was best
to fill each thing with itself, which would then be hidden
within the other. Look at stones, they said.
Look at water, which is like the throat of water.

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Studio Update: Custom Orders

This summer, I’ve been working on a few custom orders. Someone hears about the work I do, and out of the ether, I get the skeleton of a new project. We might not admit it, but for crafters and artists, this is the best thing ever. See, the hard work is getting the inspiration to get something new started. We spend days and days scribbling, erasing, procrastinating, and at the end, something might or might not work out. When it’s good, it’s super fun, but when you get stuck, it’s the worst.

So when this new idea comes out of the ether – either a teal and black themed thank you card set, or a patriotic congratulations card, or a floral design in hot pink and orange – it’s a huge gift. All of a sudden, I have some limits on what I’m trying to create – a deadline, a size, a color palette – and all the little decisions seem a lot quicker and easier.

The best part is when the order is filled and it’s time to come back to the studio and get to work on my other projects. Something about having the cycle of finding an idea, doing the design, and getting it done and out the door always seems to smooth out the bumps between me and a new idea. Maybe it’s the bit about doing the work that does it – something about just getting the knife moving through the paper gets everything else moving too. The best thing ever.

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