February's Books: My Current Inspiration

I admit I’m a book-a-holic with a tendency to read many books at one time, but this works pretty well for me, depending on the books. I thought I’d share some of my current trove with you and a few tantalizing bits of wisdom from each one.

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February’s Books

My Current Inspiration

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This book is well-worn (notice the cat scratched cover). I have been looking at some of the chapters recently, especially this one on the idea of failure. As I learn how to use different art materials, I treat everything as an experiment. Failure in art is subjective, and I find it so important to be self-compassionate with yourself and know that some days are going to be days when it is hard to create anything at all.

The best failures are the private ones you commit in the confines of your room, alone, with no strangers watching. Private failures are great. I encourage you to fail as much as you want in private. It will cost you a little in terms of efficiency—the more you fail, the longer it takes to finish—but no one has to see this. Private failures are the first drafts that get tossed in the wastebasker, the sketches crumpled up on the floor, the manuscripts that stay in the drawer. They are the not=sgood ideas you reject en route to finding the one that clicks.
— Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
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One of my new favorite watercolor artists is Fabrice Moireau. He is elusive on the internet. I have been searching for any tutorials he might have on mixing his delicious mixes of colors for rooves, buildings and skies in this book on Paris written with historian Mary A. Kelly. I am learning so much from the way he composes each picture and his linework. He manages to create a mood in each illustration by subtle washes of light in the shadows and in the skies.

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Fabrice Moireau

Palette of colors used in his rooftops of Paris Sketchbook

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This timeless gem is one I pull out throughout the year.

Your materials are, in fact, one of the few elements of artmaking you can reasonably hope to control. As for everything else—well, conditions are never perfect, sufficient knowledge rarely at hand, key evidence always missing, and support notoriously fickle. All that you do will inevitably be flavored with uncertainty—uncertainty about what you have to say, about whether the materials are right, about whether the piece should be long or short, indeed about whether you will ever be satisfied with anything you make.
— David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
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I have been searching for a system of organizing my thoughts, tasks, ideas, calendar all in one place, and this method seems to be exactly what I’ve been looking for. What I love about it is that it is all based on a handwritten book which has an index you create as you go, and it not only provides all the practical needs of a calendar, to do list, gratitude journal, idea list, brain dump, it is also a way to reflect on your day, your week, how you spend your time and what is important to you.

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I am devoting the winter to learning how to draw with graphite, charcoal and on toned paper. Part of the homework for the class I am taking is to copy drawings of the old masters as a way to learn hows to shade and create light and the right proportions for the human figure. This book is a terrific new resource.

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Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way, has become a classic for anyone searching for a way to enhance the creative muse and find community in art. She has compiled useful exercises, inspiring quotes in all the margins and reminders to do your morning pages, take your weekly Artist Date with yourself, take a weekly walk to work out things that come up.

All actions require creative energy. We seldom acknowledge this. As artists, we must learn to think of our energy the way a person thinks about money—am I spending my energy wisely here, investing in this person, this situation, this use of my time? As a rule, artists are temperamentally generous, even spendthrift. This natural inclination must be consciously monitored. An artist must return enough to the inner well to feel a sense of well-being.
A phone call with a tedious creative colleague is draining. What is getting drained is our creative bank account. A phone call or conversation in which our feedback is asked, used, and unacknowledged is like coaching someone on their stock market investments and not getting a thank-you for their big win.
— Julia Cameron, Walking in this World
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In reading this little book, I am reminded of the freedom that comes from few extraneous possessions - fewer choices, less time managing things, more money for experiences and peace of mind. I am also struck by the conflict inherent in producing physical artworks that often stick around the studio, need to be stored and protected from dampness, sunlight, mice, etc. Making art means producing a thing which is probably not practically useful and is not necessarily aiming to be wabi-sabi. Yet it is appreciating the wabi-sabi which is this conflict that adds to a sense of value in deciding how to change a color here or there, provide balance between negative shapes or add more texture to a painting I am working on. I also have a fascination with other artist studios and how they organize materials, artwork and pieces of inspiration. That leads me to the next book in my February pile.

The simplicity of wabi-sabi is probably best described as the state of grace arrived at by a sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence. The main strategy of this intelligence is economy of means. Pare down to the essence but don’t remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don’t sterlize. (Things wabi-sabi are emotionally warm, never cold.)
— Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers
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An extension in some ways of the wabi-sabi ideals, this book is mainly eye candy and idea surfing for me as I think about ways to display artwork and creative ways to pair textures and textiles. I am lucky to own my own apartment and to have the ability to make changes to it, but sometimes I think being an armchair designer is the best because it is free! Many of the interiors in this book are a bit too micromanaged and austere for my taste, but it’s fun to peruse anyways, and today I discovered in one photo that a designer has the same tea set I have of dragons which was a consignment impulse buy last year.

I spotted a this full dragon tea set at a consignment shop for a song.

I spotted a this full dragon tea set at a consignment shop for a song.

Stay tuned for March’s book pile!

miranda loudComment