As some of you know I’m back in college to finish my graphic design degree. This semester I’m taking Art History and this week we had a field trip to the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). Our assignment was to find one piece of artwork that spoke to us and write a paper about it. After touring the gallery entitled “Tour of Italy” I thought I’d picked my artwork. (I love Italy and want to visit one day, so a painting of Rome and Tiber River seemed perfect for me.)
But then I came across the New England Landscape by George Morrison in the Native American Galleries. (Wood 1965-67)
Notice the way he seemed to carve around the natural knot in a piece of wood to create a new shape. I don’t know for sure if that’s what he did or if that’s how the piece came to him. But see that piece in the lower left corner – there were several of those types of pieces in the artwork.
This wood collage assemblage took my breath away and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. I wanted to see it close up and far away. I wanted to run my fingers across the texture of the wood (I didn’t though). I wanted to take it down off the wall and see how it was constructed on the back. I stood there in the hallway for a long while. Getting close. Then backing up and standing far away. Looking at it from an angle or straight on.
(Warning: the following pictures are horrible – but it’ll give you an idea of how majestic this piece is.)
What strikes me so much is the way the individual wood pieces are fashioned together. This pieces is dated 1965-67, so we know it took him a couple years to assemble it. But it almost looks like Morrison picked up scrap pieces of lumber off his shop floor and started nailing them together, jigsaw puzzle fashion. Each piece fits so perfectly against the next piece like they were born that way and Morrison reunited the pieces in his collage.
A view of the side/back reveals that the collages were build upon scrap lumber – obviously used since you can see paint splatters on the base wood.
I came home last night and searched for information about George Morrison. He’s one of very few Native American artists who is recognized as an American Modern Artist – without the Native distinction. He even says about himself: “I’m an artist who is Indian.” He is known for his painting, sculpture and wood collages. There are many in the series of assemblages like this one at the DIA – they are scattered all over the country including Minneapolis and Washington DC. The first photo above appeared on the DIA’s annual financial report for 2007 and it is one of the very few photos I’ve been able to find of it online (there are photos of other wood collages he made, but the one titled “New England Landscape” seems to be elusive).
I was especially drawn to the Native American Galleries because of my own Native heritage. My grandmother tells us that our family is from the Blackfoot Nation, but we have no documentation to trace our ancestry. But still, I’m often drawn to anything having to do with Native Americans.
The wood pieces he used were collected from all over the country… and the world. He would bring boxes of wood home with him from trips and people from all over the world would send him pieces of interesting-shaped wood. He used driftwood and lumber and reclaimed pieces from barns and homes along with pieces from broom handles or other hand tools. He made dozens of these wood collages, although I haven’t yet found an exhaustive list of just how many he’s done, but imagine how much wood was required to do all these. I’m still searching for information about him and have several webpages bookmarked to read. He’s got a book about his life that I want to try and find too – I’ve read small excerpts from the book on Google Books (which is where I read about his wood collecting adventures).
Unfortunately I did not take my camera with me to the DIA yesterday. I wish I had. After reading the photography policy on their website, it appeared I wouldn’t be allowed to bring my SLR camera in with me, so I just left it at home. But once I arrived I realized there were many, many people wandering around with their SLR digital cameras and the photography policy was not strictly enforced except in select areas of the museum (mainly where artwork was on paper or fabric). So the poor photos you see here were taken with my camera phone in a semi-darken hallway.
So even though this was a school field trip, it is something that fed my creative soul this week. I saw very little of the DIA in my 2 hour trip there and know I need to go back to spend an entire day. The photography gallery wasn’t open and I’d love to see what they have in there. And I didn’t even get to the contemporary galleries with more modern works of art. I’d also like to spend more time studying the big name guys — Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, etc. And of course, I want to go back and see this George Morrison piece again.
I had less time during the week than normal. (For the boring details you can read them here.) So I haven’t had time to play much during the week. And this weekend has been packed with errands, obligations and homework. But early this afternoon I knew I needed to spend at least a little bit of time in my art room (notice I’m no longer calling it my “scrapbook studio”).
I did FINGERPAINTING today! WooHoo! How fun is that?
Figured I’d do a page and see how it turned out — started with the blue/yellow page — but then I got on a roll and ended up doing three pages. Just laying down some paint and background color basically. Getting my hands dirty and just playing around.
This one is my favorite — pink and burgundy paint.
Blue and yellow do not always make green, sometimes it just blends into a bluish-yellow.
I was surprised I liked the orange and red combo so much. Very bright and energizing.
The pink and burgundy one remains my favorite. But now that I’m doing these I’m not sure I love the idea of using a spiral bound journal — I can see what people mean when they say they want something without that obstruction in the middle of the page layout.
Next weekend maybe I’ll actually go back and start filling in some of these backgrounds with collage and words and doodles and stuff.
Seriously… this obsession has been going on since mid-week. On Thursday night I made a little “doodle book” and I’ve been filling it up. So here’s the deal. Since I agreed to teach this doodling/drawing class to the ladies at my mom’s church in March I realized that I’ll need to have some examples to have on display during class sign up. To this point all my doodles have been in my Moleskine along with my journaling and stuff. And there’s no way I’m giving that up for several weeks. So I needed a little book to fill with doodles and drawings so the ladies could see what this class is all about.
So this little book is super simple to make. I used a sheet of Basic Grey cardstock and backed it with coordinating paper (can’t remember the brand) — just using my ATG tape gun. I newly created double-layer of cardstock to 8.5×11 and folded it in half. Then for the inside pages I just pulled 6 sheets of paper from a drawing pad I had laying around and cut those to 8.5×11 too. Fold that in half (then trim off the excess on the end from the way the fold lays). I used my corner rounder to round all the corners (cuz I love that feature in my Moleskine). Punch some holds down the spine and use thin ribbon to sew it together. I left some long ribbon tails and added beads. The book tended to flop open when I wanted it closed, so I added a clasp to secure it. The clasp is just a closure from an interoffice envelope I had lying around and attached it with brads.
The front cover will eventually have more doodling, I think. I’ve done a little bit around the letters and numbers, but I’ve been eyeing up my red pen thinking it needs some color. But the inside is already filling up fast too!
I’ve been experimenting with pens too. The Sharpie Fine Point is fantastic and I love it. But I’ve also been using this other pen…. totally generic and literally has no name on the barrel of it. I bought a pack of these gel pens at Big Lots and I really like the flow of ink and the dark coverage. I need to get back to Big Lots to see if I can find them again and buy a bunch. I’ve also used my Micron pens and the Unibal Micro – both very good too.
Here’s another couple pages I finished. I made the mistake on the first page (above) of outlining the solid lines in sharpie marker (not the Fine Point I mention above, but a normal fat sharpie) — it bled through to the other page. UGH! So I copied the pattern on the second page and it’s an exact copy of the first page – then the blank spaces are filled in with different doodles. I’m also excited to be including some mandala flowers too.
And my favorite one so far? The circles! I was totally inspired by Miriam and her gorgeous circle doodles. I can’t get enough of her website and just keep going back over and over all her amazing artwork – the carpet doodle? OMG! can you seriously believe that masterpiece? So after pouring over Miriam’s circles, I decided to make my own big circle doodle page. I started out drawing a bunch of circles all over the 2 pages using a template, then filling them in with doodles. This is how my first circles turned out.
So that’s what I’ve been up to this weekend. I’m definitely obsessed at the moment. But I also know I’m under a bit of a deadline to fill up this little doodle book — I need to turn in my project sample in about 3 weeks. Not sure that I’ll actually fill up all 24 pages by then, but I’d like to have a big chunk of it done. I’ll also need to prepare a sample that will be given away as a door prize at the event – but I definitely won’t be giving this book away. So I’ll probably pick my favorite page from the book, scan it and reprint it for framing. Maybe even color the print with color pencils or… if I’m good enough by then … watercolor.
There’s a bunch of stuff I want to do. And sometimes when I write things down and put them out to the world, I actually work harder to get ’em done. So here we go…
- FELTING — I’ve got several knitted bags/purses that are all done and ready to be felted. Just need to pull them together and get them in the washing machine then get them blocked so they can dry.
- KNITTING — I’ve got a scarf in the works that I’d like to finish. I actually had it nearly done but decided I didn’t like it so pulled it all out and I’m using a larger needle this time. Plus I’ve got a new purse idea milling around in my head, so I’m sure a new project is coming soon too.
- BOARD BOOK — I want to make another one of those mini board books I did last weekend. My mom “took” the one I did, so now I want another one. This time I’d like to actually add photos or quotes or something, so it’s actually a mini scrapbook album. The first one I made was 3×3 but I think I want to try 4×4 and see how that turns out.
- PHOTOGRAPHY — My photog club’s assignment this month is “silverware” — yes, taking pictures of silverware in some creative way. Even though my school schedule conflicts with our next meeting, I still want to do the assignment.
- DIA — Detroit Art Institute … so this isn’t something on my creative to-do list … it’s actually an field trip with my Art History class coming up next week. I’ll think of it as a creative venture and look for inspiration to incorporate into my artwork. I think we have somehow gotten permission to bring in our cameras, so I’d like to see what fun things I can find.
- DRAWING — at the moment I’m obsessed with these doodles. I had to stop this morning because my hand is cramping up. I’ve made a mini doodle book (I’ll show you soon) and I’m trying to fill it up with lots of different doodles so it can be used as a display for the class sign up.
- PURSES — So I’m inspired again to make a purse or small tote bag out of a recycled wool sweater that’s been felted. I’m a big thrift store shopper and I’ve got a big box of sweaters, just need to pull out the sewing machine and give this project a try.
I think that’s enough for a to-do list. LOL! It’s going to take me a while to tackle all of these, but at least now you know what’s on my mind. I want to do them all right now. I’d love to neglect all the obligations and chores and just play all day. I wish I could!
As I said the other day, I’ve been carrying my Moleskine around with me lately. I’ve been working on some zendoodling – I find it so relaxing and calming. Last night just before bed I put on some soft gospel music and started these new pages. And I worked on them a bit more today at lunchtime.
Just thought I’d share some of my Creating In Progress stuff…
Instead of putting up my Christmas tree this year, I bought a huge poinsettia plant for my fireplace hearth. It lasted for a couple weeks, but I didn’t do a good job of watering it. Apparently poinsettias like lots and lots of water. So it died before Christmas. BooHoo! But the spent leaves made for some beautiful photos.