Creating Art to Color

Deciding to make an adult coloring book was more about process than concept. Every step of taking my doodles, drawings and paintingoddbird_sketchs and transforming them into a coloring book was enjoyable. I loved the whole process. I started by going through my hoarders stash of files, journals and sketchbooks looking for images that seemed like they would be fun to color. Once I collected a big pile (I even found an envelope of doodles that go back to my high school days) I wChickenent through it again and again, winnowing it down to the ones that got scanned.   Once the images were in the computer I brought them into Illustrator one by one and carefully traced the lines as vectors. it tool an average of two hours per drawing. I listened to great audio books and podcasts while I worked. It is very rewarding to click back and forth between the layers and watch a sketchy, perhaps even ragged, drawing turn into a smooth consistent one. I must admit that being able to use the computer’s precision to find the “perfect” line in the midst of several penciled attempts gives me a thrill. The next step was to print, review edit, print, review, edit until each one seemed to be finished. Some got there fast. The swirly profile on the last page of the book needed no revising, others, like ‘Breezy’, needed to be almost completely reworked before they seemed right. When I shared my progress with friends and family everyone was supportive, but almost to a person they wanted to know what my marketing plan was. I kept answering that my first focus was to get the book finished. I was honestly worried that if I thought all tbreezy_1he way to how I would get the finished books into people’s hands I would get distracted and never actually complete the book.

But now it is finished. I have held it in my hand and seen it on amazon. Some have been ordered and they are being delivered. The creation part of the project is done. Now is the time to be think13_breezying about getting them into as many hands as possible. But I have founded myself much more interested in thinking about what people will do with them once they have them and how I can get them to share their finished images with me. It is now that the coloring book as art form has become more of a concept to me. This is not visual art to just be looked at for a moment, possibly commented on and then likely forgotten. This is art to be participated in. By taking my pictures and stripping out their color and then inviting others, friends and strangers alike, to reapply it I am asking people to really engage with my art. I am hopeful that my lines and shapes will be just one step in a creative process as people take them and by their choice of medium, hue and manner of application change the mood and even the meaning of images and make them their own.

God is -LOVE- wins

I am a Christian and I support the right of gay people to get married, however I have not been especially happy since the Supreme Court decision last week.  As pleased as I am that we are getting closer to our country’s promise of all people being created equal I feel like we are headed towards an even deeper division in our country and that neither side will be content to agree to disagree. As an individual that for the last decade or so has been spiritually very conservative while politically liberal I have grown skilled at smiling and nodding and keeping my opinion to myself, but the time for that has passed. I think it could become dangerous if we allow those with the most extreme views on either side speak for those of us whose thoughts and opinions fall somewhere in-between.

When I first made the decision to be an intentional Christ-Follower I was afraid to let my closest friends know. Though there were many complicated layers to that fear I think it boiled down that I didn’t want to them to think I was stupid or that I was no longer able to think for myself. In the years that followed as our family settled in Georgia and got more and more involved in the church I think it was more lack of energy for conflict that kept me from letting the good people that I worshipped with that my reading of our Lord Jesus’s words brought me to an exact opposite place politically than it brought them. I may have also been afraid they would question my love for Jesus, but mainly I just wanted church to be a peaceful place. I thought the best thing was to keep politics and current events in the secular world completely separate.  (The only consistent exception being issues of immigration. I have spoken my truth without fear on that issue as we are a family of mixed citzenship.) However in today’s world the issues of racism, sexuality and nationality cannot be ignored by the society or the church. The extremists on both sides will continue to be vocal, but they do not speak for all of us. The rest of us also need to have the courage to speak out and be honest about what we believe.

We need more than courage though. We need grace and discernment and of course love. If on one side we can say “Love wins,” and on the other read “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” it does not seem like we should end up so far apart. Love should unite, but here we are, divided, Christian/atheist, gay/straight, liberal/conservative, and so many other categories and names that serve to further separate.  Fear, resentment and self-righteousness have become our only common denominators. It hurts my heart for all of us. I fear what we will become.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about asking God to reveal the places within ourselves that need to be changed. I still think this is very needed. We all have blind spots, very large blind spots. I think this is especially true for Americans when it comes to the Bill of Rights and our freedom of expression. No matter what side we are on in an argument we all seem to think that our side should have freedom of expression but the other side needs to shut up. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say we are all hypocrites. We all think we are right and therefore our side is the side that needs to be heard. We all seem to think, as my grandfather likes to say, that the other side is ‘dumber than dirt’ for not seeing it the way we do. And very very few of us are willing to step out of the security of being surrounded by people who think just the way we do. We insulate ourselves. The channels and stations we listen to, the organizations and churches we belong to, the friends we hang out with, we pick them all because they tell us what we already believe. It is comforting to be told what you already know to be true. It is a natural human response to flock to those like us, but sometimes we need to fight against it. I think our country (and our world) desperately needs us to really make an effort to understand where our neighbors are coming from, especially our neighbors that are different from us.

I do not think I will be able to change anyone’s mind about the core issues. It is just as likely I am as wrong as you are, but I do think I might have a unique position to talk about how we view and interact the people we disagree with.  My immediate family and closest friends have very varied political, cultural, racial, economic and spiritual backgrounds.  Because of the fact that I am a politically liberal Evangelical Christian living in the South I have not been able to find a clear group of people that think like I do.  Maybe if I did I would be so pleased I would want us to just circle up so we could tell each other how right we are. But that has not been my reality. I have had the choice to sit by myself and pout or build relationships despite deep-seeded differences. Sometimes it is incredibly hard, issues like religion, sexuality, race and nationality are core to how we think of ourselves and invoke extreme and emotional reactions.  Finding a way to bridge all the gaps that divide us will not be easy, but it is imperative that we try. There are people I love and respect on all sorts of sides of all sorts of issues and I feel called to try and help them understand each other.

The world is not just black and white, and it is not just a bunch of muddy grey places between them. The world is full of color, vibrant brights, delicate pastels, clashing complementaries and muted variations. Just as our homes and wardrobes can be made more visually beautiful and interesting by adding different colors, so can our minds be enriched by opening ourselves up to different thoughts, opinions and beliefs. As I share my own I do so not to try and win you to my own point of view, but to entreat you to open yourself up to the possibility that it may not be a matter of right or wrong, but just varying perspectives and as crazy as this may sound, not everyone who disagrees with you is evil or out to get you. They are human, flawed and fragile, and even when it may not seem obvious, probably motivated by love.

 

Prayer for Change

According to the Pew Research Center 70.6% of American adults describe themselves as Christians, and more than half (55%) of Americans say they pray every day. This week, after the tragedy in Charleston, even more of us will be praying. We will be praying for the victims, for their families, their community and our nation. We will be praying for comfort and healing and peace. We will be praying to know how to forgive the unforgivable. But even though so many of us pray to the same God and profess to follow His Word from the same book we are still incredibly divided. As a nation and as followers of Christ we are not all on the same page. We are divided by race, politics, economics, social issues, and much more. We read the same scripture but come up with vastly different interpretations of what it means and how we are supposed to apply it.

In Thoughts on Solitude Thomas Merton writes, “the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.” That could be the case for any of us. And we could be following God’s will in one part of our lives while completely missing it in other parts. We are all human. We all have places where we are wrong. We could be joyfully serving and seeing God work miracles in our lives yet still have thoughts and believes in other areas that are in contradiction to His teaching.

I know we cannot go around pointing at the splinters in each other’s eyes. I do not have firmer ground than anyone else to say that the way I read scripture is right and their way is wrong. However, those of us who profess to follow Christ, those of us who pray, we can ask for our errors to be revealed to us. Each of us can privately ask God to convict us of our own biases, our ignorance, and the ways we misunderstand and judge not just our fellow humans but our fellow Christians. The over 150,000,000 of us that say we reach out to God every day can ask to see people and situations not through the lens of our own prejudices but as closely as possible to His perspective. He will answer this prayer. He will show us the hard parts of ourselves that we need Him to soften, the wrong beliefs we didn’t know we had, and He will help us change.

Those of us who follow Christ are to be His light in the world. We are supposed to be known by our love for each other and for all His people. If we can acknowledge the shadowy places within ourselves and prayerfully ask to be changed individually then we can truly come together as brothers and sisters to pull out the dark roots of hate and anger that divide us. Through His strength, power and love we can unify our families, communities and country.

 

 

 

 


 

The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. -John 1:5

This Little Light, Acrylic on Paper & Frame, 2014

This Little Light, Acrylic on Paper & Frame, 2014

Sweet Potato Sprouts

The past two weeks I have done better at spending at least twenty minutes working on little still lifes. I have been sketching my sweet potato sprout as it grows as well as Sophie’s hyacinth. The hyacinth did not turn out so well, but I am pleased with the sweet potatoes. The pink stems seem almost surreal in their brightness, and the leaves grow and change so quickly that each day’s study seems new.

SweetPotato001

Sweet Potato 1, Colored Pencil

Sweet Potato 2, Colored Pencil

Sweet Potato 2, Colored Pencil

Sweet Potato 3, Graphite

Sweet Potato 3, Graphite

Sweet Potato 4, Acrylic  & Colored Pencil

Sweet Potato 4, Acrylic & Colored Pencil

SweetPotato005

Sweet Potato 5, Acrylic on Dark Paper




Seasons Greetings!

I just barely finished the painting I used for my Christmas Card before we left for our holidays visits to NC. I had gotten so frustrated with it that I had considered starting over completely. That was a good thing because it allowed me to make dramatic changes without fear of ruining it. I had to use a company that offered overnight printing for pickup in my hometown so the color on the cards I managed to send out is not quite right, but it is close. Overall I am pleased with the image and the message.

Merry Christmas!

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Mixed Media on Paper

Still Life for Fajitas

 

My small daily paintings with just the four tubes of paint continue. This past week I replaced marigolds with a bell pepper and an onion.

 

Myriad of Marigolds

I have been painting marigolds all week.

Marigold 06I now have seven small paintings, ranging from 3.5×6 to 8×11″, on different grades/textures of paper but using the same four tubes of acrylic paint. None are frame worthy, but even though I have not created any single piece of great merit I have made great strides as an artist this week. I feel pleased. I feel like I am starting a transition that has promise.

There are three things that have come together to inspire the creation of these mundane yet momentous little paintings: a thick book on SQL programming, an anti-climatic Old Master’s Color Theory class, and an evening spent with one of my very oldest friends.

The SQL book has actually been sitting here next to my bed for almost a month. Starting to learn remedial Structured Query Language has been one of my favorite parts of my current job. Managing to put together a few lines of code that make the database give me the information I want (and from different tables even) gives me a satisfying sense of accomplishment. I like the puzzle of it. I also just generally like it when I can do something today that I didn’t know how to do yesterday. Whether it was learning Spanish or learning to cut a case of lettuce to the right size in the right amount of time I enjoy the process of turning something that seems bewildering difficult if not impossible at first into something manageable. The strides I have made in understanding a small bit of what the programmers are doing has kept me from getting bored or discouraged in what many would consider a very deary job. I have fantasized of surprising everyone by being able to not just keep track of tickets in a queue but actually work them as well. Neither the thrift store nor the public library had any books on SQL so I was thrilled to find a used copy of what is supposed to be a good text on it at a greatly discounted price. I ordered it without hesitation and when it arrived I read the prologue immediately. It was when I started exploring the server where I keep this site to see if I remembered correctly that it offered the opportunity to create a MySQL database that I realized how neglected poor Azulita’s had been. I ended up spending several evenings updating images and trying to incorporate old posts instead, but the plan was still to read the book and learn to read and write the language.

The Old Masters’ Color Theory class was 3 weeks ago. The blurb on it in the Georgia Art League’s schedule was tantalizing. “You will need to bring 1 average sized brush and three primary colors plus white: Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Medium and Cadmium Yellow Medium. You will learn how to use the old masters’ painting techniques of Sfumato and Michael Angelo’s Cangiante and Raphael’s Unione.” I joined GAL, paid the yearly dues, and went and bought tubes of the required colors. However, despite my anticipation, no great Renaissance secret was revealed. Though the old masters’ panting techniques were defined and we got a nice handout of terms, what we actually were shown was how to create a color wheel.  I have known for as long as I can remember that ‘yellow and blue make green.’ There was no sense of accomplishment in mixing the colors together and filling in shapes around a circle. I was disappointed at the time (you would think that by this point in my life I would have learned about the dangers of high expectations) but I found myself thinking about one of the instructor’s paintings. It was a large still life packed full of carefully rendered objects that held no particular allure, but she did the whole thing with just the four tubes of paint. That seemed an interesting challenge. I put the color wheel and my new tubes of paint on my art table with the plan to give it a try when I had the time.

Last weekend I went to Boone. Being at my father’s house always makes me want to make art. This visit the desire was magnified by the figure drawing session I had been to the week before, the quality work we saw at the Turchin Center opening, (Andrew Abbot’s strong showing deserves a post of its own) and just the particular high that comes from being around artists and people who appreciate art. By the time I sat down to catch up with my dear old friend I was a bit giddy. I didn’t just want the good feeling of drawing, I wanted to be an artist, an artist period. I wanted my own exhibit at the Turchin. As I listened to Anthony tell me about his life and work I wanted a gallery in New York and international collectors as well. I wanted to be an artist like I had when I was twelve and I first met him on a trip to the Mint Museum. And just like way back then he was so enthusiastic and encouraging and he made me feel not just like it was possible, but that it was required. We had a wonderful time, great conversation about the past and the present, art and life, but it was a sentence in a facebook message that he sent me once I was home that made the difference. “I make it a strict policy to paint or draw at least 15-30 minutes a day, it is blissful and great therapy,” he wrote me on Monday evening.

I was tired and stressed and laying on my bed mindlessly scrolling through fluff would have been my evenings main activity, but I read his message again. “I make it a strict policy to paint or draw at least 15-30 minutes a day, it is blissful and great therapy.” 15-30 minutes, surely I could manage that. I got off my bed and went to the art table. I looked at the in-progress pieces I had laying around, but each was in a stuck place I did not feel I had the energy to face. I needed something less strenuous, more like the color wheel, and there were those four new tubes of paint, just waiting. I considered putting together a complicated still life, maybe with some symbolism or irony, but instead I just went out front and picked two marigolds, one fresh and bright, the other withered. I found a piece of thickish sketch paper under the table that my daughter had just barely started painting on then discarded, tore it in half, and then squeezed out a bit of each of those four tubes of color. The painting that resulted was pretty awful.  Tuesday I tried again on the other half of the paper. Wednesday I tried on a smaller but much nicer scrap. Thursday I mixed things up by painting on dark paper. Then I left off the withered flower and added a fresher one. So tonight I have six small paintings of marigolds, each one a marked improvement over the last. I plan on doing other tomorrow. I don’t know yet if Monday I will let myself move on to a new subject or make myself stick to the marigolds, but the plan is to keep painting.

Rather than try and learn a new skill just because it is new and different or unexpected it makes much more sense to spend my time and energy improving on the skill I already have and know I love.  40 is not too old to learn a new trade. If I retire at 65 I still have 25 years to go in the work force. If I really had a passion to be a software developer I could make that my focus and probably have a decent second career. But do I really want to spend the next 25 years sitting at a desk staring at a screen trying to figure out what line, or what character, is blocking all the rest from producing the desired report or graph or invoice? I think it is very likely that by the time I was proficient I would be bored. I have been a proficient artist for a while now. I am not bored, but it is time to stop painting the things I know how to paint in the way I know how to paint them. It is time to challenge myself to take my art to the next level in both quality and quantity. If I can make this much progress on a marigold in a week, imagine what I could be painting this time next year. What if in two years when all the lingering restaurant issues have been taken care of I have developed a reliable habit of studio time, greater technical ability and strong body of work? It seems entirely plausible that then I could be an artist, period.