Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review

So, a lot of folks are eager to kick 2011 to the curb, and some of them have good reason to feel that way, but this was a pretty good year for me.
It started off with a trip to Kauai with my wonderful husband, pictured here. We stayed in Princeville, had a marvelous time just being lazy and happy and warm. Good thing, too, because almost as soon as we arrived there he got a call from a recruiter asking if he could start a new job the following week. Yeah, that made it so much easier to relax and enjoy the pool. the ocean, the food and each other. It also made coming home just a little bit easier as well.

Just before we left on vacation (Christmas day of 2010), I learned that a photo of one of my art journals was going to be published in a major art magazine, Cloth Paper Scissors. After we got back, I got busy making art for my first-ever one-woman show at Cafe Luna on Vashon Island. I also hosted a travelling exhibit, Leaving Dakota, a collection of photographs by Kyle Cassidy, and started an exhibit of my own, Art on My Door, which now stands at 175 pieces of art, each displayed on my office door for a working day during the past year. You can see all of those pieces on Flickr.
The Cafe Luna show kept me busy throughout the spring and was successful enough to encourage me to try showing my work more. At the end of May, one of my pieces was shown in the Seattle Erotic Art Festival. In June, I participated in 30 Days of Creativity, a wild ride of art-making that had me trying new things and really having a great time in my studio. Around this time, I noticed that there was no art hanging at our local coffee shop, Cafe Ladro and asked if they were looking for artists to exhibit. As it turns out, they were, and they asked me to hang a show in September.
The Seattle summer was mostly "meh," so I had plenty of time to work on pieces for the September show. We did manage to have some fun and go camping with friends. I also walked in the Komen 5K with some of the best people I know, among them my dear friend Allena who was undergoing chemo at the time and is now, I am happy to say, cancer-free.
The last few months have been busy and blurry and mostly filled with all the ordinary stuff that makes life good. Highlights included a week in November when we saw Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer in concert together at the Moore Theatre on a Wednesday night and then went back to see the amazing and wonderful Jason Webley in the most magical and strange concert I have ever seen on 11/11/11.
We are warm and safe and generally happy. We have love and chocolate and art and music. That's usually more than enough.
I hope 2012 is every bit as good for me as 2011 has been. If you're one of the folks whom 2011 treated poorly, I hope the New Year will give you some special treats to make up for it.
Happy New Year.

Book Review: Personal Geographies

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Berry's approach to maps and mapmaking as both art and spiritual exploration devices is full of enthusiasm and the genuine excitement of discovery. The book is well-written, richly illustrated, and includes ideas and projects that are inspirational for artists and explorers at any level. I read this book on my Kindle Fire and found that format perfectly suited to this sort of book.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Speak Out With Your Geek Out: Origins

As a self-described nerd, it's sometimes necessary to point out that I am also a geek, a wonk, and -- on occasion-- a squint. Yes, I'm a word-nerd. A definer, a refiner, a picker of nits. It should come as no surprise that I write both poetry and prose, that I taught English grammar and composition (and enjoyed it), that I delight in a well-tempered sentence and thrill at an apt metaphor.

I started out on this path to nerdliness innocently enough as a child, learning to read long before I went to school, simply by hanging out with adults and paying scrupulous attention while they read to me. Once I'd mastered the art of adding letters up into words and words into sentences, I developed an insatiable appetite for the printed word.

Stories, poems, comic books, magazines, cereal boxes, you name it, I was reading it.

Somewhere along the line (before I got my first pair of glasses in third grade) I picked up on the fact that these cool sets of books in my grandparents' den contained a little bit of information on just about every topic in the known universe, arranged alphabetically by topic to ensure a thorough and well-organized coverage of all that knowledge. I was all over it. Funk and Wagnall became my new best friends.

Fortunately for me, my grandparents lived next door, so my mother took little notice of my frequent disappearances when I started sneaking off to read my way through the collected knowledge of human experience. On Saturday afternoons and weeknight evenings after dinner, I'd grab my tablet and pencil, mumble something about homework (both my grandparents were teachers, and could always be counted on for first rate homework supervision and advice), and head off to climb the dark staircase that ascended into the realm of the formal living room, fancy dining room and den that comprised the upper floor of my grandparents' home.

Once there, I would pull my current volume from the shelf, locate my carefully placed bookmark, and continue my orderly quest for enlightenment, sitting or (more often) lying on the not-entirely comfortable hide-a-bed sofa that ran the length of one wall in the den. On days or evenings when the complexity of the subject matter commanded greater attention, I would slink off to recline in my very first carel, the softly blanketed bottom of the guest-room closet. It was there --half-way through Volume 4, Berli to Bugle-- that my grandfather discovered me one Saturday, concluding with laughter a frantic search for me throughout the neighborhood after I'd failed to respond to my mother's summons home to dinner.

Almost as soon as my practice of reading through the encyclopedia became common knowledge in the family, it also became something of a joke. When friends or strangers remarked on my extensive vocabulary or unusually detailed knowledge of "earwigs," say, or "maple trees," my sister and brother would nod and explain, "Oh, she's just been reading the encyclopedia."

Years later, my mother told me that she was amused by the alphabetic progression of my topics of conversation. She confessed as well a sense of relief when I started talking about wombats; she expected I'd soon finish the set and move on to some other strange way to pass my time. 

And I did soon after finish the last volume of the Funk & Wagnall's set. 

Then I dived right in to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years After

As the anniversary of that day approaches, I struggle to find the right words to express the complex jumble of thoughts and emotions I now associate with the events of 9/11/2001.
Last year, I wrote simply and honestly about what I remember. And, yes, in doing so I was making a characteristically sardonic observation on the miserable state of un-civil discourse that paints much of American politics and the so-called news.
This year, I want to be more direct.
I want to be less cynical and, perhaps, a bit more radical.
I want to ask everyone I know to dig deep into your memories of that day and the weeks that followed and remember just exactly how you felt about other Americans, regardless of their race, religion, or politics.
Can you do that?
When I think back to that day and to the days that followed, one image rises in my consciousness more than any other. Not the moment of impact. Not the plumes of smoke filling the sky. Not even the mangled steel and rubble. It is the sky above us all, blue and cloudless. Limitless, endless blue sky, unmarked by clouds or contrails, a powerful symbol of hope and possibility.
For a while, under that sky, we Americans showed the world and ourselves that we were made of better stuff. We came together as a nation to repair and to comfort, to salvage and to rebuild. Those weeks following 9/11/2001 may well have been our finest hours, the best America we could ever be, if only because we stopped fighting amongst ourselves over petty, political differences and focused our attention on getting the right things done.
Can you remember that?
If you need a reminder, take a moment to watch President Obama's Weekly Address "Coming Together a One Nation to Remember."
Now, can we come together as one nation again to get the right things done? Isn't that really the best thing we can do to honor those who died and those who served?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ready to Show

I got my art on tonight by hanging 30 pieces of mixed media art at the local coffee shop, Cafe Ladro. Thoroughly exhausted, but also excited to see my work on the walls. Really looking forward to seeing some friends tomorrow night at the "opening."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
So, I've decided the best way to save a few bucks and lose a few pounds is to increase my activity level and to be more deliberate about making healthful food choices. I'll be packing my lunch every weekday in September as part of the Food Network's Healthy Eats Brown-bag Challenge.

I'll be tweeting my lunch updates (How's that for compelling user-generated content?) and logging my activity (if my fitbit ever arrives).

Want to join in, check out the links below.

Brown Bag ChallengeWe’re teaming up with fellow food bloggers to host a Brown-Bag Challenge, a month-long initiative to eat consciously and save money by packing a lunch each weekday instead of eating out. Join us here and share what you're eating on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #brownbag.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Assemblage in progress

Assemblage in progress by LA Smith
Assemblage in progress, a photo by LA Smith on Flickr.
All I managed to do for 30 Days of Get Your Art On today was paint the background inside the box for the assemblage I'm working on.

I'm hoping to make some better progress with this piece if I leave it on my work table instead of shuffling it off to a side shelf. Tomorrow, I plan to work on the "set" pieces: the next of twigs and bones and the cracked egg shells.

Then I'll be able to work on the central figure, the little baby harpy, and finish the outside of the piece with legs, a pediment, and some other decorations.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chicken of the Sea: finished piece

For 30 Days of Get Your Art On, I finished a piece I created last month during the 30 Days of Creativity challenge.

The Altoids tin washed in a lovely faux deep-sea tone contains my "Chicken of the Sea" plastic animal mashup of a chicken head and a whale's tail. I gave her a little nest of sparkling green algae and a brood of little pearlescent eggs.

Today, I mounted the piece "properly" in this swanky frame I found at St. Vincent de Paul and gave her a label with her name in both English and Latin.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

GYAO Day #3: Art Journal Page

GYAO Day #3: Art Journal Page by LA Smith
GYAO Day #3: Art Journal Page, a photo by LA Smith on Flickr.
I spent a lot of my creative energy today making an awesome dinner of brown-sugar and balsamic vinegar glazed salmon on the grill and then having dinner and excellent conversation with my husband, Damon, and our friend Claire (who is one of my favorite artists).

Still, I managed to get another of the "mini flap" pages in my art journal done.

The page is about strength. I wonder sometimes, what it really means to be strong and how we can tell the difference between being strong and being stubborn. Not that I have a problem with that. Heh-heh.

GYAO Day #2: Assemblage in progress

Assemblage in progress by LA Smith
Assemblage in progress, a photo by LA Smith on Flickr.
I don't usually post process shots, but since I'll be working on this project for a couple of days, I figured I might as well post some images to document the work during Traci Bunkers' 30 Days of Get Your Art On challenge.

Just before Easter, a friend and fellow artist, Randy Widmer, sent me a box of fun that included some ridiculously cute doll heads mounted atop some very stiff wire. Almost immediately, I dipped my hand into the jar of plastic animals and extracted a rubber bat. I just knew that little dolly was going to sprout wings and become a sweet little baby harpy.

The rest is the future, at least the next day or so, as I paint and assemble the pieces.

Good fun, huh?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Art Journal Page

Got off to a good start on Traci Bunkers' 30 Days of Get Your Art On challenge with this little "flap" page in the 16-page "Teesha Moore-style" art journal I made last winter.

My rules for this challenge are pretty simple:
1. I will work on art in my studio at least 30 minutes each day
2. The little pieces I make for my Art On My Door Project don't count
3. I will post photos and some blah-blah-blahgging about each day's effort here.

I've been tossing this journal in my bag from time to time, but never really getting to into it, mainly because the style hasn't really felt like it was mine. One of my challenges this month will be to finish the pages of this journal, reclaiming the book and making it mine-all-mine, even if I end up covering every page with a fresh coat of Gesso and starting over from scratch.

This page started with a pair of lips I'd cut from a magazine ad ages ago and a collection of exotic frogs featured on some of my favorite gift wrap. When I saw them, all I could think of was that old French fairytale about the two sisters who meet up with the fairy at the well. The one who is mean to the fairy gets cursed with snakes and toads leaping out of her mouth every time she speaks. The one who is nice drops pearls and gems from her lips when she talks. Not really sure if the latter is a blessing or a curse. Anyway, I like this page enough to call this challenge well-begun.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

30 Days of Creativity

Chicken of the Sea

Well, I completed the 30 Days of Creativity Challenge and, boy, is my brain tired!

Actually, I'm feeling excited and stimulated and ready to keep on rolling with another 30-day challenge tomorrow. But more about that later.

Right now, I'm just very happy that I (mostly) kept up the pace, flagging a little at the end of the month as the dual challenges of 30 Days and my Art On My Door Project got a little too much to handle. Originally, I hadn't wanted to let my AOMD projects count, but I realized that creativity is what counted.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Only With The Heart

Only With The Heart by LA Smith
Only With The Heart, a photo by LA Smith on Flickr.
Today's effort for the 30 Days of Creativity challenge. It turned out rather nicely, I think. The quote is from The Little Prince.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Art journal page

Art journal page by LA Smith
Art journal page, a photo by LA Smith on Flickr.
I worked on several projects for the 30 Days of Creativity challenge today, but this is the one I finished, an art journal page that expresses one of my fondest wishes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Maid of Orleans

Maid of Orleans by LA Smith
Maid of Orleans, a photo by LA Smith on Flickr.
I've decided to take on the 30 Days of Creativity Challenge this month. Here is tonight's effort, a 7"x7" mixed media collage.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Birthday Thoughts

This is an ancestor nicho I made a while back. It features my mother's high school graduation photo from 1939. She was born on 5/15/1922 and gave birth to me 38 years later on 5/15/1960.

That makes me 51 today, and my mom would have been 89. She passed away on December 17, 2003.

Every year on our birthday, the first thing either of us thought to do was wish the other a happy birthday.

"Happy birthday, Mom," I would say to her.

"Happy birthday, Baby," she would reply.

I miss you, Mom. Happy birthday.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Art on My Door

Art on My Door: Day #54The frameArt on My Door: Day #1Art on My Door: Day #2Art on My Door: Day #3Art on My Door: Day #4
Art on My Door: Day #5Art on My Door: Day #6Art on My Door: Day #7Art on My Door: Day #8Art on My Door: Day #9Art on My Door: Day #10
Art on My Door: Day #11Art on My Door: Day #12Art on My Door: Day #13Art on My Door: Day #14Art on My Door: Day #15Art on My Door: Day #16
Art on My Door: Day #17Art on My Door: Day #18Art on My Door: Day #19Art on My Door: Day #20Art on My Door: Day #21Art on My Door: Day #22
Art on My Door, a set on Flickr.
I haven't posted anything lately because life has been busy and crazy and little too stressful, but I did want to take a moment to say how amazed I am when I look at the whole set of Art on My Door on Flickr. It makes me ridiculously happy to know that I've made all these little piece of art and that sharing them with others makes them happy sometimes, too. Click the link to see all of them, and feel free to leave comments. I love getting feedback.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: Altered Curiosities

Altered Curiosities: Assemblage Techniques & ProjectsAltered Curiosities: Assemblage Techniques & Projects by Jane Ann Wynn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Author and artist Jane Ann Wynn offers inspiration, insight, and step-by-step instructions for turning common objects into uncommon artifacts. Even more importantly, she provides advice and lessons for artists looking to find their own voices, their own styles, and personal mythologies from which they can derive endless opportunities for interpretation and storytelling in their art.

This book is almost as good as taking a class with Jane (which is an experience I am happy to have under my belt and one I look forward to repeating some day).

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Constructive Criticism

I don't usually feel the need to accompany my poems with photographs or illustrations, but I wanted to share this shot, taken from my office window, of one of the more offensive sounding machines associated with the new construction taking place nearby.

I've had a relentless headache for a couple of days, and my massage therapist has his work cut out for him getting the effects of the noise this beast generates out of my shoulders and upper back.

And now, today's poem:

Constructive Criticism
All day it droned and chirped
beneath my window, producing
from time to time a shrill,
metallic grinding and sharp
reports like cracking bones
destined to become some giant's bread.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bad Hair Day

Some days are better than others. Today was not really one of them.

Bad Hair Day
Starting early,
somewhere east of the snap-crackle-pop
of dawn, I rose
to an aching head, itchy eyes,
and the dry scratch
of something sick
just a little deeper
than I wanted to dive
before I choked
on the smell of snow
and forced myself
to care enough to catch
the bus, man
my desk, and make
the work that makes
me feel like I make
a difference
most days.
But not today.
Not when rain, hail, and snow
all fell in equal measure
along with tender cherry blossoms
and my spirit,
drifted to the the cold, wet
ground, and I didn't even bother
to reach down
to pick it up.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sad Haiku

Okay, maybe more silly than sad, but it's been a long, tough day for us both, and we seem to be having little luck getting what should be easy comfort at the local cafe. I even had to turn to my writing prompt app to inspire me today.

Sad Haiku
Some things should never
disappoint at day's demise:
like bad diner pie.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, April 4, 2011

African Violets

Ironically, the orchid our friends Jeff and Ron gave us for our wedding last year has actually started to send out new shoots. It gives me hope, despite the tone and subject matter of today's poem.

African Violets
My mothers' windows bloomed
purple, pink, and white,
explosions of color nestled
in dense mats of soft, succulent
green leaves.

I try to do her proud,
time and again, hopeful and hapless
and never intending things to end
the way they inevitably do.

How long does the terra cotta
pot of dirt sit dormant
on the sill before I admit
the uncomfortable truth
about the color
of my thumbs?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pushing It

My husband, Damon, and I went for a walk on the beach today down at Golden Gardens Park in Ballard. Despite the chill, dozens of hearty Seattlites were out enjoying a mostly dry day, walking dogs, flying kites, even grilling and picnicking at the beach. You might say we're hungry for spring.

Pushing It
Stumbling over tumbled
stones, gasping
into a chill wind,
we persevere, cheered
by the soft crush
of waves beating
rhythms on the shore,
whispering encouragement
and flimsy promises
of a spring that never comes
soon enough.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Discovering Florida

Ponce de Leon "discovered" Florida on April 2, 1513, looking for the fountain of youth. Florida's current population of people over 65 years of age is more than 4% higher than the national average.

Discovering Florida
He set foot on tropical sand,
so sure he'd find the fountain,
the elusive elixir of immortality.

Instead, he got a mortal wound,
a painful death in a place very far
from home.

Now his fountain feeds the Rat King's realm,
entices wrinkled, shivering refugees
who grow no closer to youth
than Botox® will allow.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Out of Practice

Kicking off National Poetry Month 2011 this morning with a new poem on an old theme. Ironically, I was just going to write one line, but once the image took me, I couldn't stop. Now, gotta get to work!

Out of Practice

The door creaks
on rusty hinges.
Flimsy webs flicker
at my cheek, ghost
kisses shivering me
in the cold
April half-light.
I reach for the cord,
and pull, illuminating
dust. (My lord, so much
of it. Where does it come from?)
Beneath the dull mantle
of disuse, I spy (perhaps)
a familiar tool
or two.
I clumsy up my fingers
in gloves stiffened with mud and time.
Grab a spade, a rake, a set of shears.
Knock it off.
Shake it out.
Shine it up.
It's time.
Things need to grow.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Art Journal Page: Trust Your Own Instinct

I finally got around to starting work in the fabulous Coptic bound journal I made last year.

I decided to begin with a reminder to myself that in times of great uncertainty, it's always best to trust my instincts. I will not let myself be motivated by the fears or doubts or others or even by my own healthy skepticism.

Instead, I will trust myself to make the best choices by listening to my inner voices, the ones that have delivered me into this life of joy and wonder that I live today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Technique Tuesday: Plastic Wrap Backgrounds

Nothing makes me happier than having a fellow artist or crafter ask me, "How did you do that?" I'm always more than happy to explain or illustrate the techniques I use to make my art. That said, I'm going to try to build a few step-by-step tutorials for some of my favorite techniques. I'm starting today with a fairly simple process for creating backgrounds using acrylic paints and plastic wrap.

What you'll need
  • background material (I used watercolor paper, but any dry surface that will take paint will work.)
  • liquid acrylic paints in two contrasting colors
  • water
  • paintbrush
  • plastic wrap (I used blue wrap here to get better contrast in my photos)
I started by applying a coat of Gesso to the watercolor paper to give it more tooth and let that dry completely. Then, using a wet brush, I covered the paper in the lighter color of contrasting paint (yellow). Allow that layer to dry completely. If you're impatient (as I am), you can use a blow dryer on low to speed the drying.
Once your background material is dry, use the same very wet brush to apply a layer of the darker shade of paint (red). It's important that you make the layer very wet because you're going to want to move some of that color around in the next step.
Working quickly, before the red starts to dry and turn your background solid orange, tear a sheet of plastic wrap about twice the size of your background and lay it on top of the wet paint. Now, use your fingers to push the plastic wrap around, forcing the darker paint to move into the folds and creases of the plastic.
Let the plastic wrap sit on top of the paint for a minute or so, then carefully peel it back. If you like the result you got, toss the plastic and let your background dry.
If you want to add more texture, simply drop the plastic wrap back onto the background material and push it around a little more. Feel free to bunch it up in places and flatten it out in others until you are happy with the patterns you see developing on the surface. You have about 5 minutes to move the paint around before the darker color starts to dry.
You can be as subtle or as bold as you like with this technique, making soft, swooping shapes or tight, angular spikes of color.

I use this technique often when I'm preparing papers to use in my visual journals. I hope you'll give it a try and let me know if this little tutorial was any help.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Pi Day

"Love is like pi -- natural, irrational, and very important." --Lisa Hoffman

If you don't know much about Pi and can't fathom why people get all excited and passionate about it, check out Pi Across America.

A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to a video of some kid playing a song he'd composed by using the digits of Pi. I countered with this one, which I find hauntingly beautiful:

Enjoy the day, and don't forget to celebrate appropriately by having a piece of pie.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Art on My Door: Day #32

Art on My Door: Day #32
Art on My Door: Day #32,
originally uploaded by LA Smith.
I'm loving the daily commitment to make art for my office door. To be fair, I have skipped a few work days because I was sick or working from home, but for six weeks now I've slipped a new piece of art into that little frame.

What I love almost as much as making the art are the connections the art is facilitating with some of my co-workers. People stop by every day to see what's new. Sometimes the art leads to conversations about art, creativity, current events, things that connect us in way that work cannot.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: Print & Stamp Lab by Traci Bunkers

Print and Stamp LabPrint and Stamp Lab by Traci Bunkers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I reviewed this excellent book a while back on & decided to share my thoughts here as well.

"One of my superpowers is that I can turn just about anything into an interesting stamp, printing block, or tool," writes Traci Bunkers, author of this thoroughly enjoyable and highly creative how-to manual that lays out cool printmaking projects for every week in the year. Each project comes with clear instructions, detailed materials lists, well photographed examples, and expert tips. Perhaps the most important thing that Traci brings to this book is a spirit of adventure, an artistic license that offers the reader permission to have fun and get funky with colors, textures, and patterns.

As an experienced printmaker, I was a bit skeptical whether this book was right for me, but I find Traci's projects engaging, her instructions clear and precise, and there's a little something on every page to inspire me to kick it up a notch and have some fun. She offers practical tips about foraging for materials in every unlikely "art supply" store you can imagine --from Home Depot to the Dollar Store-- and provides excellent suggestions for upcycling tired, old items into beloved art pieces.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Art Ninjas and Other News

So, I didn't manage to blog much while I was getting ready for my show at Cafe Luna, but I sure had a great time making the art. I also had fun at the opening, watching people leaning in close, almost aching to touch the pieces. That's precisely the effect I was aiming for.
"Just My Type" from the Cafe Luna show

Anyway, I found the experience delightful and intoxicating. I can't wait to do it again, so I'm marketing myself to all the cafes and galleries I think would be a good fit for my work. If you know of any venues in the Seattle area looking for artists to show their work, please let me know.

In other big news, I've had a piece of sculpture accepted into this year's Seattle Erotic Art Festival. I can't even begin to describe how surprised and honored I am to have a piece in this show.

I've been inspired lately by a couple of people I think of as "Art Ninjas," artists whose work and worldview I greatly admire.

First among these is Traci Bunkers, whose 30 Days of Carving blog adventure and excellent book, Print & Stamp Lab, have really put me back in touch with everything I love about carving, printmaking, and working in my visual journal.

The second Art Ninja inspiring me lately is Mark Montano whose latest book, Pulp Fiction: Perfect Paper Projects, is providing me with inspiration for a much-needed break from the world of metal tape and ink.