All my sketchbooks in one place… Well, not all of them, but how about 32 Sketchbook Page Turners?
As I understand it, Irwin is an artist who mainly worked with light and it’s affects on the viewer. He actually wanted to paint a painting without making a mark or a line. He wanted to teach people how to “see.” He was constantly figuring out how to make what he made look like nothing and still something.
Imagine spending a lifetime attempting to figure out how to teach people to look deeply, notice, engage, and see… what would you make to do that? How would you help people to pay attention? What would you want people to pay attention to?
A portrait artist wants people to see people (usually). A landscape artist is portraying the world, land…in some form. Irwin wanted to make people curious about what they were seeing.
I was able to see some of Irwin’s work, while studying for my MFA. What I saw defies description, because as soon as I move or blink or breathe what I would see would be different from the moment before. This is sort of like the breath of yoga during poses, no breath is ever the same. No moment in life can ever happen again. The moment exists, until it doesn’t.
Irwin began his career as a painter. He is described as a conceptual artist and yet I do not think he thinks of himself as a conceptual artist at all. What he wants is for people to figure out the figuring out of what it is they are looking at. The art world is full of art-speak and philosophical mambo jumbo—Irwin’s work moves beyond these explanations.
Conditional art, with a capital “C”, is what you might think conditional might mean—does art look and say the same thing in different situations, at different times, with different people’s eyes? Personally I wonder, isn’t all art conditional? For example, a piece of gum that I chewed and my dog peed on and the car ran over and that I then pick up and I place it in a gallery on a wall in a frame—can this be art? Sure. Is this true only if I say it is art? I don’t know. But can saying that a chewed-peed-smashed-piece of gum is art really make it art? What is art? Who says it’s art? I say it is, when I make this thing.
Many times Irwin kept working during his career and made nothing of value. Nothing that he felt he could share with an audience. He literally worked so hard to figure out how to change people’s perception that he sometimes “painted” himself into “nothing.” He called it a corner, or devastatingly “the end of his career.” The end never came to pass, he is 92 years old now, because he kept being curious, kept asking questions, kept figuring out ways to show us what seeing can be. At times he was not able to produce work that helped people to see, but he kept at it, and at it.
Art generally has a frame—you can walk around it, figure it out, there may be a literal frame, or you can study the artists intent. In Irwin’s world, art is all about seeing what you see… and then seeing what you see in a next moment… Each moment changing the last because when you see you learn something, even if you don’t know that you are. I cannot really say more, he is taking his lifetime to say what he needs to say and he is asking us to see, to notice, to pay attention.
This philosophy of noticing, of seeing, of paying close attention—we need this right now as a country and as humanity works our way through COVID-19, global warming, racial injustice issues, human issues, political land mines, and more.
Thanks for reading. Please take the time to pause and see. There might be some extra meanings in what is is I am trying to say here. Think for yourself, make art. Be curious. Make good decisions. Namasté.
Have you ever wondered what goes on inside an artists studio or better yet, have you wondered where artists get their thoughts and ideas, how the research is conducted, and what decisions are made for the subsequent output?
I have decided to share as much of what I do and how I do it as possible. In fact, I have already been sharing my story on this blog for years. I have been giving away my time, ideas, and research energy in blog posts for 10 years now!
Ten years is a long time and a lot of blog posts (and videos). Over 550 posts on this website.
The time for change has come! I have found a platform online that allows me to cater to my audience (you) and also supports the work I do to make sharing my journey possible.
The thing is… blogging these days is not like years past. Having a steady and consistent presence on the internet is not free (it never was, but it has gotten more expensive). I am ready to go out on a limb. I need your help. I am searching for a two-way street. One where you get the information you have come to enjoy and trust, and one where I get paid to do the work I love. Are you with me?
There is a way for me to share blog posts, images, stories, video, have chat rooms, and more…
Patreon is a site where art lovers like you can support the work of creators you admire and artists who make work that matters—to you.
Let’s stop for a little video break! Just because! 🙂
OK, back to regular programming and the Ever Wonder… theme of today’s post. For many years now, especially when sales were slow or non-existent, I self-financed my art career (many artists do this). Did you ever wonder how I did and do the work I do? Of course, I am prepared to keep financing my own work if I have to, however the power of patrons, supporters, and fans—whatever you’d like to call YOU—would make a tremendous difference in what I could create and share.
Being a financial fan goes way beyond a dollar amount… way way beyond. You see, a single dollar or five thousand dollars a month tells me:
Suzanne, your work matters to me, you’ve touched my life, I have loved watching your career, I am excited for you, I want to be a part of your success, watching you has been an inspiration to me, and I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next!
I am an artist. I share my vision of the world and what the world could be like with the ideas we imagine and discuss, together. Patreon can help us.
Thing One—In 2011, my father asked me a question about my blogging. At the time I was writing 2 or more articles per week; including artist interviews with photographed, curated studio visits and researched essays. He asked me: “How do you get paid for all the work and hours you put into these articles? It is clear to me that you are not rushing through the writing, the research, and your ideas. What is your plan for income.” I could chalk this up to a “Dad comment,” but he had and has a good point. How DO creatives get paid?
Thing Two—In 2016, a friend and collector told me that it was hard to follow and understand my work on social media and my blog because she wasn’t sure what I was focusing on (we met in 2012). She felt like even though she loved my work and cared about my success, she wondered why my projects were all over the place. Ouch! She, like my father, had really good insight for me!
It was really hard to hear this feedback and harder yet to change. You’ll notice the 8 and 3 year gaps until today in 2019! I’ll be honest, when I dug deep (the problem was hidden) I realized that I was scrambling to find and make that “thing” that would sell. I thought that shear hard work and constant blog and social media posting would be enough to get “found” and my work would fly out of my studio and off my gallery walls. I had some growing up to do.
I had to face facts. I was chasing the elusive carrot and the brass ring on the merry-go-round. Hoping for easy sales and growth of my fan base.
If I were to continue on the path I had created, not only would my work never improve, neither would my income or my reach. My passion for making visual statements through painting insisted that I find an alternative.
Ever Wonder… how I came to the conclusion that my integrity as an artist matters? I started with the idea of doing less. I had only one goal for 2019. Make better art.
If you have followed me this year, you have watched me make better art. I wish you could see the work in person, because I have made really solid work. Visually exciting from far away and even more interesting from up close! Plus a whole lot of research and craft going into the work.
Also, I still write blog articles and make video of my work. This can be shared via Patreon just as easily as it has been here on my website and in your email box.
Now back to Thing One and Thing Two.
Thing One, My Dad still reads my blog, and comments, and reminds me (along with my Mom) that I have been making and sharing the artists path since I was 6 years old. When he thinks I have forgotten my way he’ll say: “remember when…” and he’ll share yet another story of a time when I led our immediate and extended family through art projects that were my own, and I included them in the process. Wow, we sure have had fun throughout the years! And about my friend, Thing Two, hopefully the next time I see her, she will have a different nugget of savvy business feedback for me. And she will not be telling me that, “you are all over the place.”
So, dear reader, this blog post has been long and heartfelt. I have written to say:
This is my last blog post from my website (unless things change, as we all know they always do). To follow my journey, and to get inspired on yours—join me on Patreon.
Look for this button (it will be smaller). Click it to support this artist. Thanks!
PS. There will continue to be a tiny bit of free content on Patreon, to get your free content follow the link to Patreon and use the follow button instead of the green become a Patron button.
This is a super short blog post. Perfect for people looking to connect directly with artists around the globe.
Foundwork is a new community online that showcases artists work. This is NOT a place to buy art. This is not a place for looking at random feeds of art and scrolling along. Foundwork IS a place to go for original art—searchable by artist Suzanne Gibbs), format (painting, collage, mixed media), attributes (abstract, figurative), location, and schools.
And of course, eye candy from me to you.
PS. Wish me luck! I applied for a $10,000 grant from Foundwork. If I am chosen, this would be a game changer! What would I do? Rent a space and show my work! Make a catalog and solicit galleries and art agents! I will still do all of this, but of course money can make things happen faster.
For those of you following my journey, you’ll know that in late June I embarked on a personally created artist residency (typically artist residencies are about going somewhere else to make art in a new community, I reversed the idea and focused in from home-base).
I am pleased to report that I have nearly 20 paintings finished. I found so much joy while working 8 to 16 hour days painting, thinking about painting, preparing and finishing paintings, imagining the next painting, mixing colors, and having a photographer come to my studio to take professional images.
Now the time has come to venture out of my studio and bring the work to my community—you and others!
This new series began to take root last summer. I was re-purposing envelopes. Specifically, the inside patterns from security envelops to create art for Art-O-Mat. The more envelopes that I cut open and tore apart the more I began to think about the use and meaning of a product as banal as an envelope.
Security envelopes are taken for granted. They do their job of hiding critical information. The envelopes gave me entry to a question I have had locked inside of me for years. Are social norms that we all, and especially myself, take for granted working like security envelopes?
I questioned the function of the product—and by extension, my role in social norms. For me, my new series: “Shhh, Say Nothing” is about stories hidden inside ourselves.
Below, is an image of one of the first collage pieces I made when I was in the development stage of this new body of work.
The work is challenging me in new ways. Instead of painting spontaneously and with great emotion, I am slowing down. Creating tons of drawings in my sketchbook leads to many more ideas than I could ever execute. Spending at least a half hour early every morning morning—before coffee, before the sun wakes up—writing in a notebook I sift out and capture what I wish to say visually.
Below is a video of one of many full sketchbook of faces and character studies.
Each larger painting begins with a fully realized smaller study. Using collage, I cut up security envelopes and assemble them into abstract faces. This satisfies my fascination of how we use pattern to obliterate information.
After sizing up the study to fit the new format on a cradled wood panel of 14 x 11 inches, I begin to lay down the paint on the new larger size.
Seeing the work larger has me thinking of so many new ideas. I now have more visual problems to solve, based on what I want the painting to communicate.
Somehow the idea of a zipped mouth came to me. Maybe during a brisk cold morning walk? Anyways, once the idea came I knew that the execution needed to be flawless. The paint I use and the message I want to communicate has no room for “do overs” or layering of paint to make it right. I want the work to BE just so and correct on my first try. This required drawing studies of zippers, over and over again.
When the pieces are fully complete, I include a great deal of detail on every piece. With that comes the need for just the right sized brush!
I add details over the flat surfaces of paint. I have skipped discussing my color choices in this blog post for brevity sake.
The final work made me feel really excited about this new direction. I have since completed 4 more pieces that I will unveil soon. And this morning I began a sixth in the series.
In Nothing To Say, I have combined faces or characters, household objects, and flat areas of color juxtaposed with painted patterns. The deliberate creation of detailed patterns represent repetitive labor that goes under-appreciated and often unpaid.
My inspiration came from the insides of security envelopes—a product made as protection for the contents within. However, in actuality they obliterate the message, and usually the contents are related to financial affairs.
The zipped mouth alludes to the unheard voices of the unnoticed many. And, once again, I am finding I do have something to say.
My entire life has been about creating connection with others, typically through my creative pursuits. I use my unique visual voice to create, inform, delight, teach, and coax curiosity in others. I share of myself generously with all kinds of people because this really matters to me.
Each of the people most dear to me in my life seem to choose to live outside of a ho hum ordinary existence. The thread that I see is creativity and curiosity. Not the “draw a straight line” creatives! No, what I mean is the people that do what they love, and find meaning in menial or even repetitive work.
I live my curiously creative life by constantly asking questions. I add play into every week—usually outside or in my sketchbooks. Laughing and crying become fodder for innovation in my work. On a good day, I know that what I feel and think matters.
I want my art to help others to see the world differently— I whimsically initiate curiosity.
Every single day I write in my journal to capture barely awake before coffee musings. I ask myself questions over and over again. What is it I wish the world to know? What matters to me so much but I am afraid to tell anyone?
How do I want to brighten the existence of other humans through my creative voice?
When did I first realize I have a unique vision of the world? Have I realized my unique vision and voice yet?
How can I best help myself to express my most prized and dearly held ideas, innovations, love and angst?
I pursued a graduate degree in both communication and fine art, that’s how much the idea of sharing my gifts with the world matters to me—4 years in classrooms and library study + studio time beyond college.
In my lifetime, my dream is that I can bring about positive change through my and our collective voices. The world is full of too much information these days (and not all of it is positive or helpful). I can post on social media like crazy and reach no one at all or millions of people!
It makes sense to me to know my deepest core values and artistic voice so that I am getting heard for what matters most. The rest is useless extra noise.
My new work is challenging me to dig deeper into my artistic visual voice. Below is the first of a new series of work.
Recently I had to move out of my studio. While doing so I found two sketchbooks that I had started, but never finished. Determined to not let the pages go to waste, I began filling the back half of the sketchbook(s). Shared here is one of the two books.
In the beginning I found that a few pages were not as complete as I wished so I went ahead and drew on top of what I had created in 2017 and then also moved forward and filled the book.
Filling an older book is not nearly as much fun as taking out a new book to fill and imagine the rules and possibilities for the pages. However, I did find that by following through on the idea of filling what had not been filled I was forced to look back at my work. With that came some self evaluation. A good step in a solid studio practice.
The pages did get filled, but the more important part was the lesson I taught myself.
Keeping promises can be tough when there is no boss, no one clamoring for the work, and what I promised to myself felt dull once I started. Still, I did the work. So, without further explanation I bring to you my March 2019 plus previous work from 2017, sketchbook page turner!
As always, if you like the work and even if you don’t feel free to comment. Let’s have a dialogue about keeping studio promises!
My March 2019 sketchbook is a different size than February’s book. Due to travel, I worked in a smaller sketchbook that I could carry in my bag.
Represented in these pages are drawings made in several locations. Dinner guests in Eugene, Oregon. Railroad museum in Portland, Oregon. Lunch in Arcata, California. And I even stopped in the Redwood National Forest in Del Norte California to draw elk in the wild.
Interested in more sketchbook pages? Please visit my blog (and use the search feature to find sketchbooks). You may prefer to visit my YouTube Channel. When and if you do, please hit like or subscribe to follow the work as I make it, thanks.
The following video is made for you. Contemplate whether you have room in your life for your creativity and visual voice.
In February, a friend sent me a handmade mini-book. In return, I made one for him. Then I filmed the pages before I sent the work.
Sharing a Suzanne Gibbs original Mini-Book here, brings me joy. I believe that we can live our best life when we open up to our creativity no matter how small the project, no matter how trivial that work might seem.
In my studio practice, I hope to always have room for even the tiniest of projects, because little sparks of joy make room for larger good work.