“Seven” Graphite on Arches Cover–One of those images I just couldn’t seem to get out of my head!
“Seven” Graphite on Arches Cover–One of those images I just couldn’t seem to get out of my head!
Once in a while, I’ll have an incredibly elaborate dream. I wake with it fresh in my mind, but when I try to tell someone about it, the details swirl away like water down the drain, and the dream falls flat. The vibrant colors, fascinating characters, engaging plot, rich symbolism, and enchanting settings end up sounding more like a bad elementary school production than the “must see movie” that played in my head the night before. Sometimes, the passion just doesn’t transfer from my imagination into the spoken translation of the dream.
And so it is with my art. I can envision an awe-inspiring idea in my head–see every detail with clarity and perfection, but when I attempt to put those details on paper, just like my dreams, they fall flat.
It’s one thing to draw a still life or portrait when the subject is sitting right before you, posing patiently. With perceptual drawing, the environment and lighting are carefully staged, and it’s easy to see where the shadows and highlights fall on the form. Sight measuring and triangulation can be utilized to ensure proper placement and proportions. But when the subject is in my head, it is vulnerable and can be lost or altered due to something as simple as a change in my mood. Perceptions shift as randomly as the scenes in my dreams, from orderly and logical to whimsical and nonsensical. If only my brain could communicate with my wireless printer! Then I could capture the image, print it out, and study every nuance as I reproduce it on paper. Right now, that’s nothing more than another dream…
So until technology can make that ‘brain to printer’ connection, my vivid imagination will just have to rely on my eyes, my hand, and a Faber-Castell 4B pencil.
Artists love to share their work with the world, and unfortunately for me, the best way to accomplish that goal is through the Internet. I, however, would prefer to continue on my ‘artist’s journey’ without being bothered by pesky little things like technology. Pencils, erasers, and paint brushes are the only tools I’m comfortable using, and they allow me to travel light. I don’t think my modest art supplies should have to share space in my carry-on with high-tech electronic gadgets.
I once read that artists should claim their ‘online presence,’ but that’s like asking me to set up shop in a foreign country when I don’t speak or understand the language. I can handle the basic stuff–email, word processing, even Facebook, but other than that, I am embarrassed to confess that I am technologically illiterate. There is no Rosetta Stone for technology, so I try in in vain to decode the mysterious language that younger generations speak so fluently. Alone in a foreign land, I struggle to communicate with the locals.
Luckily, my teenage daughter is a computer whiz who doubles as my travel guide while I stumble through the technology maze. She’s as comfortable with a keyboard as I am with a pencil. She has warned me to steer clear of the back-alley world of ‘virus-infected spam’ and helped me find my way back to files I thought were lost forever. I have only to call across the house and my travel guide appears, map in hand. Like a disgruntled traveler leaving bad reviews on Trip Advisor, my complaints are always the same: “It’s broken!” “I’m stuck!” and “The stupid computer’s not cooperating!” But how can I expect cooperation from my computer when we don’t speak the same language?
Last December, I made a vow to get current in 2012 and make peace with my foreign friend, technology. I traded in my not-so-smart phone for an iPhone, bought an iPad, downloaded photo editing software onto my laptop, and plugged in a tablet. I learned to copy and paste, manipulate images on Photoshop, and scan documents. I downloaded apps, created a “Tamberrino Art Studio” page on Facebook, and most recently, started blogging here on WordPress. I am officially on a technological roll! And the year’s not over yet!
I am no longer afraid of getting stuck or taking a wrong turn as I navigate through unfamiliar territory. I am exploring this strange new world and ‘clicking and dragging’ with unexpected bravery. Now that I am learning the language, technology isn’t so scary. In fact, I kind of like it! Besides, what’s the worst thing that can happen? If I ever get lost on my technological journey, I know a great travel guide who can get me back on track. And even when she goes off to college, she can always email me a map.
Faber-Castell WCP on Arches Aquarelle
In real life, I’m a happily married woman, blessed to be in a fairy tale relationship with my husband of 18 years. But when it comes to my art, I’m a bit of a trollop. I jump from piece to piece like a lustful temptress on the prowl, always searching for the one who can fuel me with those amazing “falling in love” endorphins. For me, working on each new piece is like starting out with a brand new beau. I find myself constantly tending to the ‘relationship’ with pencil and paint, clinging to him like a jealous lover.
When my work just isn’t ‘working,’ I am frustrated. Like a woman scorned, I am ready to end the relationship and deposit my significant other in the nearest recycling bin. My heart is heavy and my mood is sour. I avoid my studio, and specifically, my art.
When a piece is going well, it becomes an insatiable lover, consuming my thoughts, time, and attention. I find myself drawn to his unrelenting demands while basic needs like eating and sleeping are tossed aside with disregard. Engrossed and exhausted, I toil away until we are both completely satisfied.
When my work is finally completed, I sulk like a broken-hearted teenager who is certain that no other can ever compare to her last love. I sift through ideas like they’re potential boyfriends until I come upon one that peaks my interest. Could this be the next great love of my life? Only time will tell. As far as my art is concerned, it seems my relationship status is destined to remain “It’s Complicated.”
The fall semester starts in two short weeks and I can hardly wait. My heart skips a beat when I think about the textbook, supply list, and syllabus. If the fact that I’m a die-hard Trekkie doesn’t qualify me as a geek, my love of school definitely solidifies my status as a full-fledged nerd.
As a life-long student, I am very familiar with the phases of each college semester. Right now, I am basking in the “I can’t wait for school to start!” phase. This will be followed by the frightening “What have I gotten myself into?” phase, the short-lived “Am I going to be able to do this?” phase, the exhilarating “I love this class!” phase, the exhausting “Finals week is killing me!” phase, and then returning full circle to “I can’t wait for school to start!”
Each new semester brings unique challenges, dismal failures, and celebrated successes. But most importantly, it brings growth. I am pushed beyond what I thought I could do and dragged along in exciting new directions. I never want to lose my zest for learning. I guess that’s why I greet each new semester with such genuine enthusiasm. And unlike my younger classmates who might view the next two weeks as a slow march to the gallows, I just can’t wait to get back to school!
WCP on Arches Aquarelle
I was taught to share at a very young age. I was encouraged to share with my siblings, playmates, and classmates. I was told to share my toys, snacks, and crayons–even my brand new box of super sharp Crayola 64s–including my favorites, the metallic ones: silver, copper, and gold.
Group projects, teamwork, and relationships all depend on sharing, but somewhere along the way, it seems people have forgotten that early lesson. Consumed with getting ahead, people’s willingness to share has been buried under self-preservation and heavy materialistic goals. These days, people only share if they can be assured of a significant return on their investment.
In art class, there were plenty of times we were forced to share–tacking a work-in-progress on the critique wall, explicating method and medium. But there were other times, sitting around the studio before class, when creative ideas were volleyed around like balls in a wild, free-for-all game of tennis. Those were the moments I loved. It was like we were back in kindergarten, happily celebrating the exchange of materials, techniques, and ideas.
No one was worried about copyrights, secrets, or stolen plans. Perhaps it was because we knew each artist was unique, and in turn, his work would be unique, too. Twenty artists could gather around the same still life, and twenty different works would emerge.
When we share, we gain opportunities to teach, learn, and grow. So ask me questions, pick my brain, or watch me work. And if you find anything you’d like to use, go right ahead! I will happily share my crayons with you. Even the metallic ones.
Like a proud parent who refuses to find fault in her precious child, I often have difficulty seeing the flaws in my work. I put an incredible amount of time, effort, and love into my pieces, and just like anything that is too close, it’s hard to identify the problems– even when I’m staring right at them. Issues with perspective, proportion, and value are bright red flags, but if I squint hard enough, I can fool myself into believing those “red” flags are closer to maroon or burgundy–nothing to really worry about.
I’ve tried all the artist’s tricks for finding weaknesses in a work-in-progress: study its reflection in a mirror, view it from across the room, look at it upside down–but I’ve found nothing shows the imperfections more honestly than a photograph of the piece I’m working on. Suddenly, the red flags are flying and my drawing issues are undeniably crystal clear. Sometimes I know just what to do to fix them, and other times I realize I need to completely scrap my project and start all over again.
I’ve heard people say “the camera doesn’t lie,” and when it comes to my art, I’ve grown to trust the lens. The camera shows me the flaws I couldn’t see, and those I didn’t want to see. Wouldn’t it be great if the camera could warn of problems in life? A troubled child, a restless spouse, an unhealthy relationship–all showing up in a simple snapshot. Maybe we should study our photographs a little more closely. You might be surprised what you find on the other side of the lens.