Order + Disorder: A Love Story

Painting PatternsEarlier this year, I embarked on a kitchen refresh that’s become lengthier than projected (read: it’s just now wrapping up).  A cabinetry and appliance swap-out morphed into months of living in limbo amidst plaster dust, taped floors and washing dishes in my bathroom sink.

And I’ve struggled with it.

The has question nagged:  how can I keep a sense of order while living in disorder?  I like structure and I crave organization.  (Just ask my mother; apparently as a kid, I couldn’t start my homework until my room was spotless).

The experience has been an exercise in flexibility to say the least, letting things go and being at peace in the moment.  That being said:  sitting around waiting isn’t my style.
Closet BlankEnter new project: my 2nd bedroom closet.  What once housed Christmas decor, class projects and suitcases is being transformed into a desk nook ready for writing and designing.

So far the essentials are in place:  my contractor blew out the interior, my millworker PHAW fabricated an oak desk to provide lots of workspace, and I’ve installed sconces from Schoolhouse Electric for a classic look. But the white walls begged for some visual interest, so I committed to doing an accent wall, something I’ve thought about for years.

To plan, I pulled inspiration from everywhere: wallpapers, tile patterns, furniture.  I wanted a bold geometric look, which can done in a small space with little risk.  Inspo 3But I wanted it to be all mine, original.  So I sketched some patterns and opted for a triangular geometric repeat, which I eventually transferred onto the wall (about a gazillion times?) via a stencil I made from scratch (scroll for more details).

Once the wall was fully covered with my pattern, I got down to the business of painting, filling in each geometric shape with varying mixtures of greens and blues and teals, diluting the acrylics with enough water to mimic the look of watercolor.

At this point, my sanity was surely in question.  But the whole thing was a blast.  As I progressed, I got lost in the painting – in a good way – not thinking about the outcome, but enjoying the way the paint soaked into the flat white walls.  My mind could wander as I focused on the task, distracting me from whatever was ailing me that day:  heartbreak, self-doubt, you name it; this proved a perfect antidote.

I was suddenly a 14th century frescoe painter, feeling what they must have felt placing watery paint on chalky plaster.  And then a flash of connection to my grandmother, who painted ceramics for years.  I now understood the satisfaction she had putting paint on blank figures all those years in her quaint little kitchen.

As I worked to fill each tiny shape, the paint dried to a finish beyond my power.  While my pattern itself was rigid and controlled, inside each shape lie a bit of crazy, a little bit of kismet: fate determined how each stroke would dry.

Turns out, my wall is a little bit controlled, and a little bit wild.  Like me.  The two can indeed coexist, and that can be a beautiful thing.

For more scoop on the step-by-step, see below.  lastpic1 – Gather inspiration.  See above!

2 – Pattern development.  To get started, I sketched out simple grids, experimenting with repeats and ratios, using my ruler and triangles. I opted for a 1.5″ x 2″ repeat.  You get the drift.  #mathWall Sketch 1

3 – Paint Testing.  I played around with acrylics on poster board that I could place in the closet to stare at for a few weeks.  Mostly so I could nail the blue-to-green color ratios.  BUT also so I could stall.

Standing Desk

Makeshift art table!

When I had a good pattern going, I photographed it and drew up a mock in Photoshop.  (Can you see how far I got in Photoshop class?) It gave me the green light to move forward.Wall with watercolor pattern4 – Stencil creation & application.  I transferred my finalized pattern onto a blank plastic stencil sheet.  I then cut out key lines in the pattern with a straightedge (without cutting all the way through at the ends of each shape).  I taped it to the wall and traced  until the wall was filled.  Tip:  A long level is key here each time you tape up the stencil).  Stencil 15 – Painting.  I put “paint to wall” in an inconspicious place to see how things would look.   Using the inexpensive acrylics was somewhat freeing, as I didn’t worry too much about messing up – and they also mimix the look of watercolor when mixed with enough water.

The final result?  If only I had one!  Stay tuned…

Advertisements

The Joys of Unplanned Time

Radishes 1.jpg

Radishes, 2016

There’s nothing like a city snowstorm to really slow you down, in a good way.  This piece over the weekend said it best: blizzards have a way of punishing the ambitious and rewarding indolence.

I took the cue and planned my own un-planned weekend (yes, I understand the irony here), starting with an old-fashioned sleepover with two of my closest girlfriends.  Our agenda items: 1) wear sweatpants 2) be cozy in said sweatpant, 3) catch up with each other. (Carbs and Moscow Mules may/may not have been involved).

So you’re wondering about the above radishes?  Well, when the girls left on Saturday to avoid a snow-in situation, I took to my watercolors, facing hours of (yay!) time at home.

I returned to watercoloring this past year as a way of practicing my rendering, but also because I just really enjoy it.  Fast forward, and my little furniture studies have given way to winter veggies.  I started with a red onion, and while I still won’t eat them, I now I see them as beautiful, with just one of them showing several shades of some of the prettiest purples in nature.Red OnionI moved on to sweet little bunches of baby carrots, then radishes, first putting down a light sketch before getting into the painting action.  Note:  time is not your friend when painting fresh produce (I now know).  These puppies will wilt and change in front of your eyes if you don’t paint fast enough – a lesson in decisiveness and speed, both essential when watercoloring, which rewards both.Carrott Vignette

I’ve learned that painting, for me, isn’t about filling up free time with a hobby.  “Totally” free time can be hard to come by when most days are composed of working, playing, learning, schooling, commuting, socializing, chore-ing, errand-running…and so on.  So for me, it’s quite the opposite:  painting is about loving something so much that I carve out the time to do it, often casting aside my to-do list in order to spend an hour or two brush-to-paper.  So I chose to enjoy the swaths of free hours this weekend at home.  While many of us were inconvenienced, I was – in fact – convenienced*.  Lucky me.Carrot Comparrison

 

*not a real word

Watercolor Chairs

20151031_091424 (1)

I made a promise to myself this summer to spend more time creating, doing, immersing myself in some of my old, favorite hobbies I loved as a kid.  If you remember, this summer I talked a lot about the passions you have as a child and how they never really go away – and they’re a great indicator of what you should do now.

Enter the watercolor thing.

I started doing these watercolor exercises two years ago in a Rendering class, where we learned how to paint the textures and nuances of furniture.  We traced chairs and other pieces from old design magazines, then rendered them in color however we chose.

It was a blast.  There was something exciting about how different each rendering can appear based on how the paint dries on the page.  And for a non-committal soul like me, there’s something gratifying about placing color on paper, letting it dry into its final form without playing with it too much, watching different shadows and textures take shape.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, how much I enjoyed creating these little studies and thought, why don’t I do this more?  Well, I know why.  It’s obligations, chores on my to-do list, and the ebb and flow of life in general that can pull one away from something that’s so simple but can be deeply gratifying.

20151031_091447 (1)

But I just realized I’m not OK with that, and here’s why.  I just finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which serendipitously talks about living a more creative life.  We’re all creators, she hypothesizes, and we come from a bloodline of people who have made things with their hands for thousands of years.  Just because we don’t use those gifts everyday doesn’t mean they’re not there, waiting to be acknowledged and put to use.

The advice struck me, hard.  The fact that you can live a more creative life solely because it feels good, is liberating.  That you can pursue it not for career change, not for fame or recognition.  But for you, the artist’s sake, exploring your curiosity and creativity solely because of the joy it brings you.

My favorite morsel from Gilbert is this:  “You might spend your whole life following your curiosity and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end – except one thing.  You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble human virtue of inquisitiveness.  And that should be more than enough for anyone to say that they lived a rich and splendid live.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So selfishly, I’m creating these studies for the sheer enjoyment they bring me, posting them here to hold myself accountable.  Chairs are fun!  But so are landscapes, trees, and hell, maybe vegetables.  I hope you enjoy them.  But most importantly, I enjoyed creating them.  And that’s what matters most.