My Motivational Reading List

The last two years have been transformative in my creative practice. Having been out of school for a few years, I see that the professional practices taught by my professors are only a few avenues to take toward a thriving creative life. Using the tools they taught me as a starting point, I decide how to live my life as an artist.

That’s an overwhelming and scary idea. If the whole world is your oyster, where do you start? I tried different things and started to figure it out. In the last year, I’ve uncovered where my creative desires are guiding my work and rethought assumptions that were keeping me from dreaming big.

Through a lot of introspection and creating new art, I’ve worked to reshape my thinking. There are four books that have been important to me at various points in the last two years. They are all hopeful books that encourage both contemplation and action. They’ve helped me immensely, so I’m sharing them with the hope that they will help others too, hopefully you!

 

The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer

Professor and metalsmith, James Thurman recommended this book to me a few years ago when I was still teaching. I sensed it would be an intense read for me and indeed it was. I checked it out from the library on three different occasions before I could garner the bravery to start. The book itself isn’t intense. In fact, I found the writing very gentle and heartening. It was my reaction to the words that was forceful.

I’d started The Courage To Teach hoping that it would help me be a better educator, but the more I read, the more it gave me the courage not to teach. At that time I’d felt drawn to the studio full time, but I was afraid. Afraid of letting people down and afraid of the unknown in the life of an artist. Parker’s words resonated with me deeply although they didn’t describe my experience as an educator, but rather how I felt as an artist. By the time I finished the book, my desire to work on my art full time rather than continue teaching was affirmed. I enjoyed teaching, but haven't looked back since making my decision.

 

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Myrna Keliher, proprietor of Expedition Press, told me about her incredible experience with this book, so I decided to check it out. It’s part book, part workbook as there are tasks to do in every chapter. When I started reading I was skeptical that I would get anything out of it, but I read the chapters, did the tasks and by the end of Chapter Two I was hooked. I rediscovered passions of mine that I’d lost hold of over the years, worked through self-imposed limitations I didn’t realize were impeding my creativity, and learned to nurture a full life, not just an artistic one.

Julia’s suggestion to ask, “What’s next?” instead of “Why me?” ignited a big shift in my thinking. That simple question resulted in a lot of changes in the studio, around the house, and in how I approach my artistic practice. It’s led to me making plans to go on a “selfie residency” in the next few months. “Selfie residency” is my mental shorthand for planning my own residency rather than applying for a traditional one. When I was thinking about applying for residencies, the only place I wanted to go was the Olympic Peninsula, a ferry ride away, so why couldn't I do it on my own? I’m renting a place on the Peninsula for a few days so I can draw up new ideas and get inspiration from its gorgeous landscape. I won’t have to stick to a proposal and staying so close to home will be inexpensive. I don’t think I would have come to a self-made solution as easily prior to reading The Artist’s Way.

 

Making Your Life As An Artist by Andrew Simonet

My friend, Julia Owens, told me about this book. It is a quick, easy read. It’s a good book for the practicing artist needing a little encouragement to overcome obstacles or burnout. My favorite snippet that was just the right advice in thinking about setting up my own studio:

“ Apply the skills, creativity, and resourcefulness of your art practice into the rest of your life.”  - p. 41

I bought a hard copy of the book (you can read it free as a PDF) and I’m glad I did, because it is a lovely little book in real life!

 

Encyclical Letter Laudato Si of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home (AKA Pope Francis’ writing on caring for the environment and our fellow humans)

Pope Francis is kind of a rock star right now. Reading his encyclical supports his rock star status. He knows how to say the hard truth yet make you feel like you can make a difference. He also explains issues of environment, poverty, human rights, and integrity so they are visibly connected. He makes these issues our responsibility and challenges us to solve them on small and large scales, in all venues.

Reading his encyclical added validation to the efforts I’m making in my artistic practice to minimize its impact on the environment and to attempt to make helpful contributions in the world. It can feel impossible to make a difference, but his words are full of hope and possibility. You can read the encyclical as a free PDF here.

 

What books have helped you? Any recommendations?

Cat

 

What Being Injured Has Taught Me

A week and a half ago I injured my arm. It's hurt in such a way that limits my day-to-day activities including my time in the studio. The doctors aren’t sure what the issue is, so they sent me to physical therapy in the hopes that it will help target the problem and heal me up.

Being hurt is frustrating and not knowing why even more so, but in trying to be hopeful, I’ve found some positive notes despite the pain:

Slowing down

My "normal" life isn’t jam-packed busy to begin with, so it wasn’t like I was stressed out, running on all cylinders at all hours. I’ve done that before and it isn’t a sustainable lifestyle for me. I’m happier and more productive focusing on a couple projects at a time with time to enjoy a full life and rest and I’m lucky that I can determine my life’s pace.

Even so, this injury has forced me to slow down even more in both my physical movements and daily activities. I’ve been able to do small things that often get overlooked at a faster pace, such as savoring my entire cup of coffee in the morning, taking time to fully explore ideas I have for my studio, getting a new work chair, and listening to new albums from artists I’ve never listened to from start to finish.

Prioritizing my days

If my body can only physically handle doing a few things today (including getting ready in the morning), what will they be? What is absolutely essential that I do?

There is no, ‘pushing through it’ here. I can do what I can do and then that’s it. In this I’ve learned how much of what I view as "Must-Do’s" are just fluff.

Focusing on one thing at a time

Since it is my dominant arm that is hurt, I need to do tasks gingerly or use my other hand entirely. This requires a new sense of focus on simple things that usually get done on autopilot, like writing with pen and paper, binding journals, even brushing my teeth. I must say, not getting distracted by Instagram, texts or the little pop-ups I get in my mind while I work has been a relief.

Prioritizing my health

I’m fortunate that I’m healthy and this is the worst ailment I’ve experienced in a long time. I not only have a new sense of gratitude for all my body can do, but I’m reminded to take care of it!

It can’t be a coincidence that being hunched over a smartphone or slouching in a chair brings a lot of pain right now. It’s motivated me to address the areas that will best promote an agile life after recovery, such as incorporating more exercises that will strengthen posture and mobility and finally making my studio an ergonomic workspace.

I will find ways to create

My initial visit to the doctor ended with orders not to engage in activity or work on my art until I saw the specialist. I was surprised at my reaction- tearing up in the exam room and crying in the car as I was leaving. The tears then and the few days I was in a sling and unable to work on art reaffirmed my calling as not only an artist, but also as a creative person. My mind was still imagining ways I could create without working in my typical ways.

So that’s why I think this is the first time I felt motivated to write a post like this… I’m limited in my time I can spend in the studio, but I will find ways to create and express my ideas. I'd prefer not to go through an injury to learn this, but it is certainly uplifting to know.

Here’s to healing!

Cat

Fall Update

Happy October! I hope you're staying dry and safe in some of the wild weather out there. After a busy and hot summer, I’m looking forward to retreating to the studio in cooler weather here in Washington. Here’s what I'm up to:

New journals in stores
I am in production for new hand printed and bound woodcut journals that are going out to stores soon! There will be 6 different designs total in 3 sizes and 2 color schemes. Watch my progress on Instagram. You’ll be able to find them in the following shops:
The Lion’s Nest, Austin, TX
Bookmark It, Orlando, FL
The Orlando Museum of Art Gift Shop, Orlando, FL

This weekend, October 10 - 11, 2015
Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair
My artist books will be on display and for sale at the Book Arts Guild table this weekend at the fair. We are the only table focused on artists’ books, but the fair includes all forms of books- antique, specialty, fine press, zines, etc. I’ll be at the table for a couple hours each day, come say hi! 
Saturday, October 10: 10am – 6pm
Sunday, October 11: 11am – 4pm
Exhibition Hall
Seattle Center
(Aim for the Space Needle!)

Mid-December
Article in The MAPC Journal
An article I wrote for the Mid-America Print Council Journal will be in the Winter 2015 edition. I interviewed two Puget Sound letterpress printers, Myrna Keliher of Expedition Press and Lynda Sherman of Bremelo Press, about the edition’s theme, Evolution: From education to occupation.

Friday, January 8, 2016, 6 – 8pm
Opening Reception for Pressing West at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts
A few pieces of my letterpress work will be included in the group show, Pressing West, at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts on Bainbridge Island, WA (a 45-minute ferry ride from Seattle). Pressing West is a contemporary letterpress exhibition featuring work by new and established letterpress artists from the Western United States. 
Show dates: January 2 – 31, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday, January 6, 2016, 6 – 8pm
Bainbridge Arts & Crafts
151 Winslow Way E
Bainbridge Island, WA
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10 – 6, Sunday, 11 – 5 

Residency at the Southwest School of Art

Back in July I completed my artist residency with collaborative partner, Nicole Geary, at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, Texas. Over two weeks we wrote, printed and assembled our artist book, Fossils & Whispers. I printed our imagery on the letterpress and Nicole typed all the text for twenty books, one at a time, on her typewriter. She took on a grueling job! It was an intense but immensely fulfilling two weeks and it totally rocked getting to work with a kindred spirit like Nicole. The result is SO worth it! We still have some things to wrap up before we’re ready to share all the details with you, but in the meantime one of the edition will also be available for viewing at this weekend’s Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair.

And lastly…

Mid-production in the studio with my new drying rack.

Mid-production in the studio with my new drying rack.

Studio Upgrades

Building your own studio from the ground up is simultaneously exciting and challenging. On the one hand, you get to build it yourself, but on the other hand, you have to build it yourself. Ha! So a few weeks ago, with the help of my husband, Mike, I built drying racks to fit under my etching press. We built a rack and frames out of wood and I wrapped the frames with fiberglass window screen. They have totally changed how I work in the studio when I’m printing and inspired me to build a few more things for the shop.


Until next time, ☺
Cat

April 2015 Update

The last few months have been busy and fun with my time in the studio broken up by periods of travel. Since December, I’ve traveled as a visiting artist to Idyllwild Arts Academy in Southern California and just returned this week from Houston, Texas for my current group show at Hunter Gather Project, Progressions. It’s always rewarding to engage with others through art and to spend time with close friends… both trips provided an abundance of both!

For the next few months I’ll work on finishing up current prints, starting some new ones and building some much-needed equipment for my studio.

Visiting Artist at Idyllwild Arts Academy

Day 1 of my screenprint workshop at Idyllwild Arts Academy. Photo credit: Linda Lucia Santana.

Day 1 of my screenprint workshop at Idyllwild Arts Academy. Photo credit: Linda Lucia Santana.

Before I trimmed them down: The three screenprints I printed with the help of Linda's students at Idyllwild Arts.

Before I trimmed them down: The three screenprints I printed with the help of Linda's students at Idyllwild Arts.

Invited by Linda Lucia Santana and the Visual Arts Department, I was the printmaking visiting artist March 3rd-8th at Idyllwild Arts Academy, a high school for the arts in the San Jacinto Mountains. During my week there I gave an artist lecture to the senior seminar and printmaking students, taught a two-day screenprint workshop and with the help of Linda’s printmaking students, created three small screenprint editions. I was tremendously impressed with the talent and commitment of the students at Idyllwild. They are an inspiring group of motivated, creative minds and I’ll be excited to watch them as they move forward after graduation.

 

 

 

Hunter Gather Project & My Houston Activities

  Photo credit: Hunter Gather Project

  Photo credit: Hunter Gather Project

My work is currently in a group show, Progressions, at Hunter Gather Project in Houston alongside the work of Arielle Masson and Samara Rosen. I attended the opening on Thursday, March 26th and gave an artist talk with Arielle and Samara on Saturday, March 28th. I’ve followed Hunter Gather Project’s exhibitions for about a year and was excited at the opportunity to show with them. The people that run the gallery are top-notch and I love the gallery’s mission to present art in a high quality, professional manner while simultaneously making art accessible and engaging.

The exhibition will be up until May 9th, 2015. If you’re in Houston and want to check it out, visit Hunter Gather’s site for gallery hours and location!

During my time in Houston I also gave two artist talks to Art Appreciation students at Lone Star College-Montgomery in The Woodlands and screenprinted parts of a current print-in-progress at Burning Bones Press. In the next few weeks I will be cutting out the shapes and collaging them onto a larger woodcut.

At Burning Bones Press: Screenprints for collaging.

At Burning Bones Press: Screenprints for collaging.

In my studio: Inked up woodblocks for background.

In my studio: Inked up woodblocks for background.

In my studio: Background proof with photocopy shapes to get an idea of placement. I reprinted the background in a lighter, paler yellow.

In my studio: Background proof with photocopy shapes to get an idea of placement. I reprinted the background in a lighter, paler yellow.

Upcoming: July Residency at Southwest School of Art

For the last few months, Nicole Geary and I have been collaborating cross-country on an artist book edition. To help us complete our project, we submitted some applications behind the scenes and were awarded a Paper & Book Arts Residency at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, TX. I’ll head to San Antonio July 17th-31st to meet up with Nicole, print and assemble our book, and soak up some Texas heat (aka, wilt under the sun).

My work out in the world

Re-Riding History

Setting type for the print at Penland School of Crafts, 2013. Photo credit: Emily Arthur

Setting type for the print at Penland School of Crafts, 2013. Photo credit: Emily Arthur

I don't understand., 10 x 12 inches, relief: letterpress with lead type and photopolymer plates, Printed using the Cherokee syllabary at Penland School of Crafts.

I don't understand., 10 x 12 inches, relief: letterpress with lead type and photopolymer plates, Printed using the Cherokee syllabary at Penland School of Crafts.

A variation of my letterpress print, I don’t understand., is one of 72 works included in the Re-Riding History project, curated by Emily Arthur, Marwin Begaye and John Hitchcock. The project “metaphorically retraces the history of seventy-two American Indian peoples who were forcibly taken from their homes in Salt Fork, OK, and transported by train to St. Augustine, Florida.” Each artist was asked to respond to this painful period of our American history with a work on paper in the same dimensions as the historic ledger drawings made at Fort Marion during this time of unjust imprisonment.

The project is traveling over the next few months and can be viewed at the following institutions:

Crisp-Ellert Art Museum, Flagler College, January 16 - February 27, 2015

Wright Museum of Art, Beloit College, March 13 - April 6, 2015

The A.D. Gallery, University of North Carlina - Pembroke, Aprill 22 - June 10, 2015

To view the artwork included in the project or to read artist statements and press, view the Re-Riding History site.

 

Mondo Tondo Portfolio Exchange

Mondo Tondo portfolio exchange on display at SGCI Knoxville. Photo credit: SGCI Knoxville, Instagram.

Mondo Tondo portfolio exchange on display at SGCI Knoxville. Photo credit: SGCI Knoxville, Instagram.

The mountains saved my soul, 14.5 inches diameter, screenprint on paper.

The mountains saved my soul, 14.5 inches diameter, screenprint on paper.

My screenprint, The mountains saved my soul, is included in the Mondo Tondo portfolio exchange, organized by John Driesbach. The prints are all 15-inch circles, the portfolio was accepted into SGCI Knoxville and was on display during the March 18th-21st conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to everyone who's made the last few months happen:

Ben, Diana, Florence, and Heather for assisting me with my print editions at Idyllwild.

Linda Lucia Santana, Gerald Clarke and Idyllwild Arts.

Margaret Smithers-Crump, Laura Rossi and Hunter Gather Project.

Delaney Smith at Lone Star College-Montogomery.

Carlos Hernandez, Christopher Wallace and Burning Bones Press.

 Emily Arthur, Marwin Begaye and John Hitchcock of the Re-Riding History Project.

 John Driesbach, organizer of Mondo Tondo.