Tools of the Trade.

August 25, 2011

Funny thing about us Artists, there’s not much we won’t try to do. We are generally a jack of all trades, an expert in a few, and crazy enough to say why not?

This weeks adventures resulted in a glass tiled kitchen back splash.

Tiling projects require lots of math checking.

Today’s project was a more “labored” sort of project in the Home Improvement. I was helping lay out tiles for a friends kitchen.  Lots of people take on these sort of DIY projects every weekend. There are lots of YouTube demos and TV episode showing what to do. But It’s funny to consider how much real math goes into doing just that.  Once in a blue moon everything adds or divides up evenly with little headaches.  But most often you encounter something that just doesn’t work like you planned. It’s Murphy’s Law.  So then you have to resort to a bit of imagination to solve the problem with grace and elan.  Easier said than done.

Turns out, it’s a good thing I’m a fearless artist, and I know how to cut glass, measure and divide fractions, and remembered to bring along my trusty bucket of favorite tools. Inside it you can find a small level, framer’s square, shims, box cutter, chisel, putty knife, trusty cordless drill, 2 pairs of work gloves, vice clamps and safety glasses.  There are other items in there, but can’t recall everything off the top of my head.  Having access to a Dremel tool and pastry bag made it even better.  The Dremel cuts glass tiles very well with a steady hand.  The Pastry bag pipes small spots of thin set into tight spots the trowels just won’t go.

The trick is a willingness to learn something new, apply the knowledge you have, put some time and thought into it and you usually end up with something pretty darn good.   Yes, I’m bragging a bit.  But it really comes down to knowing your tools and how to best use what you have to do the best job.

So here is some thoughts for those thinking about a career as an artist or contractor… know your math.

Each year I hear these questions along with why are you an artist?  That much like asking Why do you breathe?

  • What do you do?  I create / make stuff.  I just have to do that. 
  • What materials do you use? Depends on the project and scale of the job.  But I have several buckets of tools for various projects. One for Framing art. One for house projects and several more for specific to each Art area I work in.
  • What did you have to learn?  That’s a bit harder to answer, see I have lots of applied knowledge (learned).  I have to know lots of math, fractions, proportions, some chemistry, more science, history, more color theory, basic construction, basic mechanic principles, economics, book-keeping, marketing, computer programs & languages, and researching. I’m sure I missed something in there.
    • Just when I think I have it together the game changes and I find myself heading back to the books.
  • What is the most important parts to my process / career?

Imagination, Discovery, Planning, Education and believe it or not lots of Math!

In the Midst. (part 2)

July 19, 2011

No painting today or yesterday.  Life is that way.  Some days are tapped out, catch up, or just sick days.  Other days I am in the studio doing what I know best. Painting.  -and rambling.

Most the time I am just trying to see through all the garble and muck that is my life.  I have a full Masters, 15 years of painting, 10 yrs of managing offices, teaching classes and coordinating organizations.  I am posting multiple resumes and paintings every week. Double checking my budgets weekly sometimes daily.  I am still effectively unemployed.

Yes, I know the job market changed, more like crashed without a parachute.  I still have to provide for my child. Still need to eat. I am reminded of the depression era when so many were out of work and remember the many groups of artists that were hired out to “improve” the communities value by painting murals. But wonder how did so many other artists make it through similar times?What does it say of our commitment to our future when we have devalued education and the fine arts so much in favor of the next electronic gadget addiction?

So I keep painting while I try to muddle this out, find my place.

Defining one’s career is much like the evolution and birth of any painting.  You start with a simple idea that you can’t walk away from because it’s actually Good.  It could work.  It will need to grow.  So you learn more to grow it, nurture it.

You start with simple black & white ideas and sketches. Work out a plan. Lay out your materials find resources and work at it.  Rework the plan, edit, edit, re-evaluate. Push and pull the paint.  Scrape if needed, rework the transitions between the vague and the tangible…. eventually it’s close to the intended vision you can actually let it go.   To become the flame of hope to lead to a modest life and career.   There is no set path or format to getting it done.  Each stage is new. Each painting is different set of complex challenges just the same in life.

I paint with the understanding that it is a means to ease the tension and frustrations I have with the world.  Yes, I know my paintings are more a part of my psychosis than I like to admit. If you look beneath the surface of a very writer or artist you will see they are reflected in their work just the same.

So I paint.