RozWorks.com Visit my website to view journal selections, paintings, and book arts projects. For the most recent information on classes and workshops please click on "Classes" in the categories list of this blog.
Danny Gregory and I Discuss Visual Journaling Sadly a two part podcast from May 2008 made with Danny Gregory, author of "An Illustrated Life," is not currently available. We talked about journaling, art media, and materials…If this becomes available again in the future I will let you know.
Finding Bits of Time Ricë Freeman-Zachery, author of "Creative Time and Space," talks to me about finding time to be creative. (Taped October 23, 2009.)
Monday, February 17, 2014 photographer and artist Mary Jo Hoffman spoke at the MCBA Visual Journal Collective about her blog Still, her creative journey, making time for creativity in her life, and building a community of artists through the internet.
Mary Jo’s successful blog won a design award within months of launching. It has been recognized by several prominent bloggers each with a large fan base. She’s even been the subject of a Martha Stewart Magazine profile. All in the two years since she began her blog.
Mary Jo became interested in photography at college, but trained to be an engineer. It was her career for 15 years. She divides her life into phases. That first phase of school and work, followed by 12 years raising her two children, followed now by a focus on her own artwork—in which her children and family still play a crucial participatory role; her son has become a great help as a "finder"; her daughter is now taking her own photographs.
Mary Jo explained her creative journey by saying she experienced two a-ha moments after 2000. The first was going to see the exhibit of journals from the Journal Project 2000 at MCBA. Looking at the cases of journals made by the 50 participating Minnesota artists documenting their lives during the course of 2000 Mary Jo was inspired and encouraged. “I saw really tremendous illustrators and artists at work,” she said, “but I also so how casual and authentic they could be, sticking receipts and other ephemera in their journals. ‘I can stick down receipts; I can do that,’ I said to myself.”
She started keeping a visual journal full of sketches, experiments, and of course receipts. (She works in Coptic stitch journals made for her by a local book artist. She favors that format because she likes the way the journals open completely flat.)
Next she started curating art shows, meeting more artists, reading more books like “The Artists Way,” by Julia Cameron.
Her second a-ha moment came when she found herself surrounded by and hanging out with artists. “I realized,” she said, “That I wasn’t making my own art.”
In the meantime she had also been working on her photography skills taking photographs of houses for her husband (a writer and real estate agent). “It’s really difficult to take attractive photos of interiors and make a house shine,” she said. She kept perfecting her skills.
That’s an important point in Mary Jo’s journey. She kept working at her craft, perfecting it, learning. When she decided to start a blog focusing on her found-nature photography she had laid the groundwork by developing her photographic skills.
When Mary Jo started her blog she was conscious of expressing her aesthetic and hired a designer to code her wishes into being. She was so pleased with the results that she submitted the designer’s work for an award—and he won. That action led to being noticed by a design blog and immediately bumped up her readership in the design community. Next she was asked to provide photos of her living space by a design blog. “It was a lot of work, without any expectation of success,” she said, but she put the work in and was gratified to see how out of the 60 photos she submitted the editors at Design*Sponge crafted a story using 15 of them.
And then her blog received a substantial bump when that feature led to recognition by, and a print feature in, Martha Stewart Magazine.
But in all this it is important to remember that Mary Jo kept producing her work and publishing her blog. It’s obvious to anyone who looks at the photographs on Still, that the attention Mary Jo has received is justified by the charm and beauty of the work.
“I started the blog with the idea that I would have to do something manageable within the confines of my day. Something that I could do 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. I walk my dog several times a day in a nature reserve and I have always enjoyed being in nature, so it was natural to start making photos of the items I found.”
She collects items on her walks, sets them on white tag board, arranges them as she goes through her day and passes through the kitchen where she sets her arrangements up. Later she shoots and publishes one photo each day. She has just started her third year of daily photographs.
Some photos contain single objects, other photos capture collections.
After two years of doing this she admits she has “run through all the obvious stuff.” As this third year starts she has found herself looking more and more closely at all the objects she finds on her walks. "February is the most difficult month," she laughed to a group of snowbound Minnesotans who made it out after a snowy morning to hear her talk, "everything is buried."
She also has started to plan ways in which she can build on what she is doing and take the next creative step in the future.
She was inspired by Austin Kleon’s quotation: Do good work, then put it where people can see it.
“I had all this work in my journals, on my shelves, but no one was seeing it.” The blog allowed her to reach out into the world.
Having created a large body of work and put it where people can see it, with her mind set to future projects, she is also looking at “earning her place at the table,” by establishing herself as an expert through teaching and writing.
I encourage you to go to Mary Jo’s blog now and take some time to look through the wonderful images she’s posted there. It may be difficult to find the different layers, but there are layers for comments and layers for brief explanations of what she was trying to do in each photo. Take a moment to investigate.
You'll also find her on Instagram and Pinterest. (But not on Facebook.)
Additional recommendations from Mary Jo Hoffman:
Keep the same user name on all platforms so that people can find you.
Make use of keyword indexing and hashtagging whenever available—to drive people to you through searches.
Take time to “like” the work of others (“It doesn’t cost you anything, just click a button”) and join in dialog with other artists when you can.
Read Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” for inspiration even in small doses.
If you want your work to be licensed put the money and time into creating quality mock ups of the products you think your work would be suitable for. Then take the time and money to take great photos of those products and publish them on your blog to give designers and artists clear ideas on how they might use your artwork on products they might create if they license the work.
Be willing to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
UPDATE: 2.21.14— Artist Christine Mitzuk (who teaches gesture drawing and illustration at The Atelier) attended the meeting on Monday and posted on her blog about the insights and inspiration she received. Go check it out.
Above: Sketching from a mugshot, front and side views. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (with ink cartridge running out) in a 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia Journal. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Today's Project Friday is about seeing dimensionally. One of the easiest ways of seeing dimensionally is to exam all sides of a "form," whether it's a pear, pepper, or person. If you're working with the first two you probably have a couple subjects you brought home from the grocery store. If you want to study people you might have to wait until the next time you go to life drawing.
However, you can also study people by drawing from mugshots. Most historical mugshots have both a front and side view so you can practice sketching the same person from more than one angle—imagining the connection of the relationships as you move around the head. (Obviously drawing from photos isn't going to be your primary tool for seeing form, you're going to have to go to life drawing, or go out and sketch.)
Below I list sources where you can find mugshots and suggestions on making your own mugshots of your friends.
Your project task is simple. Find a set of mugshots you want to work from and sketch both the front and side views in the same drawing session.
Ask yourself as you draw the second view how the shapes you're seeing and drawing relate to the shapes you saw and drew moments earlier. You're training yourself to anticipate how things rotate in space.
In the example I put up today I used a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen because it was something I had handy and had been using to sketch portraits with. Also I wanted to work large. You could elect to work smaller and use a fine-tipped pen. Use whatever medium you want to work in.
I work directly with ink, without any pre-sketching with graphite. I also tend to start with one eye and work my way out. If I had been thinking about creating the best possible example for a post about sketching from mugshots I might have taken more care to line my two views up on the same level, e.g., so that the eyes were at the same height. If judging those types of relationships across your paired drawings is important to you take a moment to carefully consider your placement of the second drawing. You might find it helpful to arrange them that way for proportion and length comparisons.
I recommend that you do at least three pairs of sketches.The first pair of sketches is a warm up and you might not feel you have the right medium or that you haven't warmed up sufficiently. The next two sets are to build your concentration, focus, and just to have more fun.
Sketch carefully and deliberately, capturing the details that are important to you. (For me that's always ears and hair.) But don't feel that you have to get fussy with every detail. I think it's more important that you get the sense of a pose from two views and move on to your next set. You'll find a pace that is comfortable to you. You'll find a level of editing and simplifying that makes sense to you. Just keep going.
Before each session set goals for yourself:
1. Which medium will you work with and why? For instance, you might decide to work in pen and ink because you want to work on your line quality, your shading, or/and your values while working with a particular tool. You might find that painting with gouache or acrylic paint will allow you to work on color blending, or using non-natural colors.
2. Select a paper that will accommodate the drawing/painting medium you've selected.
3. Consider the size you want to work on. This will be influenced by poor reference material, and by you final desired result in item 4.
4. Decide if you want to get crisp detail or gesture or whatever.
As usual I suggest that after you complete your drawing session you take a moment to debrief yourself and write down what worked and what didn't work. It might be as simple as you picked too fuzzy and out of focus an image from which to work. You might have felt rushed because of other demands on your time. Adjust for these factors the next time you set up a practice session.
If you can spend additional time on this sketching project over the weekend I recommend that you set up sketching time on Saturday and Sunday to do three more pairs of drawings at each sitting.
Note:Drawing criminals can be distressing to some people. Perhaps they frighten you, perhaps you're offended by their crime (if one is listed). Perhaps your study of history has told you that the underprivileged are often unjustly arrested so seeing mugshots of minorities whose only crimes were a desire to steal bread or mugshots of women who tried to eek out a living as prostitutes can be distressing. Mugshots can tell us as much about the culture and time in which they were taken as they do about criminals.
I find the human face, even ravaged by disease (alcoholism, syphilis, etc.) beautiful, stunning, and humbling to study. But there are some faces even I have to take a pass on. Let your curiosity guide you. I find it easiest to work with photographs taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, anything from 1890s through 1960s.The hairstyles and black and white photography help set up a "distance."
If you just can't stomach it, read below about alternatives. Of course you can always go to life drawing co-op and move from one position to a second position during a long pose, as I wrote about in Wednesday's post.
My goal is to get you drawing, not slam you up against an emotional wall. No excuses. Just draw.
Sources of Mugshots
I've been collecting police procedural books and crime histories my entire life (yes, since I was about seven) so I have a lot of out of print stuff, but you can search your bookstore (online or off) for titles related to mugshots. A quick internet search will bring up enough mugshots (historical and modern) to keep you busy for quite some time.
Last week I was talking with Danny Gregory, who also enjoys sketching from mugshots, and he told me about the Sydney mugshots. Google "Sydney Mugshots 1920s" or anything similar and you'll find lots of blog posts where people discuss this incredible early 20th century archive and show some of the images. These mugshots create a stunning photographic reference of Sydney's past and the people who inhabited it. Shot in large format on glass negatives,the detail in these photos is dazzling. If you're interested in those mugshots I recommend you go to the source. I tracked the archive down at the Sydney Living Museums site—just click to open the archive and set your search.
Start looking on the internet and you'll find another dozen sites immediately.
Make Your Own Mugshots
If working from criminal mugshots is off-putting to you enlist your friends. Stand them next to a solid colored wall to pose for you. (Arrange the lighting so that you get some cast shadows that create definition in the face—you'll have an easier time sketching.) With your digital camera take a front and a side view. (Take both side views and a rear view while you're at it!) Then open those images to a useful viewing size on your computer, sit back, and sketch and paint.
Dictionary of American Portraits
If you just want to work with one view, but don't want to use mugshots, get a copy of Dover's Dictionary of American Portraits. Once photography became popular in the 19th century the portraits shifted from paintings and drawings to photographs. (Of course some of these folks are politicians so you might not totally escape the experience of sketching criminals.[And no I'm not saying that all politicians are criminals.])
How I Incorporate Mugshot Sketches into My Drawing Practice
For other examples of how I use mugshots for drawing practice sessions see the posts listed below with links. Typically in a post I'll say something about pen and paper choice and the decisions I made during the session. I like to start each session with sketching goals, then get the subject and have at it.
If you seek out mugshots on the internet you'll also find some marvelous oil portraits made from mugshots by artist Karin Jurick. You can check them out at the link. I love the way she handles color on skin. She understands how light defines form. She just uses a single view—but she already understands about modeling form! (I keep meaning to buy one of her table top easels for painting on panels. Going back to her link while writing this post reminded me of it. Check it out while you're there. It looks ideal.)
Maddie is a rescue dog, a Coonhound who likes to balance on things. When Theron Humphrey discovered this in his travels with her he started taking photos. "Maddie on Things" is a collection of these photos. The author/photographer and Maddie are going to be at Subtext Books on July 28, 2013; at 3 p.m. I don't know anything else about it. This is all I heard from a friend who thought I'd be interested because I love dogs and physics. I'll write more closer to the date, when I find more out, but for now, keep your eyes and ears open! And watch the short video about the book. (According to the video she drove right by my house but didn't stop! You'll recognized other Twin Cities locations if you watch the video.)
Above: Looking out the side porch door, down the handicap ramp to the yard fence. In the distance you can see the houses across the alley, and of course, snow everywhere. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
On Sunday, December 9, 2012 a snow storm came through the Twin Cities. When it was over we had 12 inches of fresh snow (other areas had varying amounts). It was a weird snow for December—warm, wet, a definite spring type snow.
Of course I was worried that the weight of the snow would bring down electrical wires (and cable access) but that didn't happen in our area, so overall the storm was uneventful for us.
I'm not going to complain about the snow. We haven't had a lot of snow in Minneapolis the last couple of winters. I know we need moisture as we are in a drought. The river (that's the Mississippi) is very low.
Left: Looking out the side porch across the yard. Click on an image to view an enlargement.
But I will complain about the fact—evident everywhere on Monday—that people here have forgotten how to drive in the snow. I hope they get a clue soon!
On days like this looking at the yard I wish I were a landscape painter and could make something of the values, recesssion, and overlapping shapes. Instead I can show you these two photos, shot in the middle of the day (yes it was that dark).
I did sketch one of our trees the next day, the first in this year's series of snow piles. (Several years ago my friend, artist Ken Avidor, got me interested in sketching snow piles. It keeps my mind off the fact that I can't be outside riding my bike!)
Left: My first Winter 2012-13 snow pile sketch. Pen and watercolor in an approx. 8 inch square journal made with Magnani Pescia light blue paper. I started the page by placing decorating masking tape in a frame. It was my cagey way of eliminating the need to draw any of the pine trees and fence behind the apple tree. (This sketch was posted on Facebook.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.
On days like Sunday I immediately remember how much fun it was to walk and train in such weather conditions with the girls. Snow storms like this, as long as the power doesn't go out and everyone stays home safe, are actually happy times for me.
I always loved the winter even before we had Malamutes. The memories of the girls help me recall all the things I loved about winter (no mosquitos is high on the list). And those memories in turn help me feel a little more balanced when I go up stairs to ride the bike on the trainer instead of the roads.
Above: View of the Mississippi River looking south from the Franklin Avenue Bridge. Fall colors from September 25, 2011. The sky was even more blue. Click on the image to view an enlargement—Better yet, come and visit Minneapolis in the fall!
Yes the river is a bit low, let's just get that out of the way. I think it was about noon when I took this. It was about 60 degrees and I had just just been on a 20 mile bike ride. I finished my ride and got my camera and came back to the bridge to take this photo to show you how lovely it is here.
We've had some cooler mornings and I keep thinking that "Today I'm going to have to get the tights out," but that just doesn't happen. I keep riding in a short-sleeved t-shirt and cycling sorts. (The first mile is a little brisque, then it's easy-peasy.)
Last Monday, riding down West River Road (that's on the right bank in this image) I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest (not just because I was working hard, and I was, but) because it was so beautiful. Leaves were all different colors and golden trees glowed next to dark purple foliage, and everywhere dropped leaves were being scattered by the 20 mph gusts. There were still enough leaves in the trees that the sun filtered through making everything look like Maxfield Parrish had just painted it.
This is THE Mississippi River. The river Mark Twain wrote about. The river Indians, fur traders, and settlers traveled along. The river along which thousands of birds migrate very year.
I live near THE Mississippi. Every day I'm grateful that my mentor Bob suggested I come up here to go to graduate school. The second day here, my second day running in my new neighborhood (I was a distance runner back then), there was a temperature inversion and a foggy mist held close to the river. As I ran along the parkway I could see down the banks to the river. I had a visceral understanding of the Impressionists on that day. "I get it," I said to myself as I ran alongside colors I'd never seen before.
I've been getting it every day since.
p.s. This morning and a couple days last week the tights finally came out—it's still stunningly beautiful here, just a little bit too cool for me to wear shorts when I cycle.
If you can't get to the Fair I thought I'd give you a little taste of what you would see. I have a new camera that has a panoramic "mode." You can get some interesting things. I took these today handheld.
One of the things that will be immediately apparent—the crowd of people. However I hope you'll take a moment and look at these and enjoy the architecture. I rarely draw scenes or buildings at the Fair because I'm too busy drawing the animals—I want to make the most of my access to them. (OK, and I don't really draw buildings much anyway—if there weren't animals to draw I might work on my buildings.)
Above: A look at a portion of the swine barn. This is the northwest corner of the building, looking 180 degrees. Sheep and goats are in this part of the building. Look at the kid in the tie dye shirt and paper hat at the bottom left. By the time I got around to the end of the shot he was walking down the row perpendicular to my starting point. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Above: Inside the Cattle Barn. Look at the ceiling and the tall windows on the sides. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Above: Another view inside the Cattle Barn. This time I stood in the center aisle and started at the left, which is the northwest corner and panned so you could see the windows, fans in the roof, banners, and of course the other end of the building with the high entrance. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Above: Here I am on the corner near the Grandstand (center right). People everywhere here stop to eat corn (the roasted corn stand is to the left). There are a bunch of roads and walkways that meet here and take people off in different directions. It looks like there is a lot of space between people, but it was jam pack crowded today! Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Above: I'm walking out of the Fair and I do this by walking down towards the Midway (where all the games and rides are—I don't do games and rides). (No I won't tell you where my secret parking place is.) It's about 2:50 p.m. in this image. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
My friend Tom sent me a link to Darren Rowse's blog post on Ben Heine's work. Ben Heine creates pencil drawings which he overlays onto scenes that he is photographing—i.e., he holds his drawing in front of the scene. The resultant composite is really not only clever but stunning. I recommend that you go and look at the post to see images, an animation of the process, and learn more about Ben Heine.
Left: Photos of me from when I was in graduate school! Click on the image to view an enlargement.
A couple weeks ago things got rather tense around here. We were missing some rather essential paperwork. I never had it to file, or so I believed. But it was so critical to have that I got Dick to drill out the lock on my two-drawer, fire engine red, legal-size file cabinet (which has followed me around the world through family moves and transitory digs in dorms).
The paperwork wasn't in that cabinet (I didn't think it was) but I did reconnect with a couple interesting things from my past.
All my journals from college were in those drawers as well as correspondence from my high school mentor. Your first reaction upon finding a folder containing letters from a comforting soul and influence in your life might not be to bury your nose in the contents. I got along well with scent dogs because that is my first response. Even after all these years I was comforted to find that I can still smell Thom on the paper of that correspondence. It isn't a cologne, it's Thom. Smell is very important to my amygdala.
My diaries were in that drawer as well (from age 6 through 18 I kept a diary, until Thom convinced me I might just as well keep everything in my journal since it afforded me much more space and try as he might, by introducing me to all sorts of modern writers, he couldn't knock the "Victorian" verbosity out of me). I was too stressed looking for the missing paperwork to pay the diaries more than a passing glance.
Ditto the collection of hair, including my long, long pony tail from when I first had my long hair cut off as a child at about age 9. I was a blonde! I'm thinking of making a box to hold all the samples because the typical hair trim now is 6 inches and I keep them just to see how my hair is changing over time; in other words, how much gray does it contain as we go forward?
The scramble for the elusive document also turned up these two photos of me, mounted on a mat board. I had to think for a moment who had taken the photos. I've got several friends who are photographers, but their photos are technically better than these. And I printed and mounted these photos, so they were shot with my camera.
At first I thought I'd taken them myself, shooting into a mirrored building (I'd done that as a joke when I was an undergraduate). But my mole on my cheek is where it should be if someone else were looking at me. (I had to do some mental gymnastics about this because the mole is gone now, removed in 2006.)
I realized later that night that the photos must have been taken by the young man I'd dated before I met Dick. I think I printed and mounted them as a memento for him, because for a short while we had a long-distance relationship. He returned the photos when we broke up. (He was a very proper young man on a five-year plan: get out of school, get a job, get married, have kids. He wasn't happy that I ran road races on Sunday while he was in church. Obviously it was a mis-match from the start [since I'm a pantheist and I'm arguably not proper]—and a very short relationship.)
When I look at some of the other photos people have taken of me in the past I think immediately about my relationship to the person who took the photo. When I found these photos I had only one thought, "I still have that vest! Damn, I love that vest."
No actually, I thought about how odd it was to be so young. At that time I felt so old, so "mature." Certainly I felt certain of what I was going to do and how I was going to live—and it was going to include running in road races on Sundays, so I'd already moved away emotionally from the young man taking my photo.
But life changes us in odd ways we don't expect. Sometimes there are dramatic and tragic changes. Yet for everyone there are simple changes that build, accrue a little bit every day, until one day you aren't blonde any more and you don't run because of an ankle injury that in turn sent you down a different path (for me, towards dogs).
With the dramatic and tragic changes you have to step in and respond, often just slog forward and get through things. With the small changes that creep up on you it might just be that you don't recognize more has shifted than you intended or thought possible.
I think change is inevitable. If someone looks at a photo and says she hasn't changed since she was young I'm not going to argue with her about whether or not that's a good or bad thing. If he says he has totally changed, well only he can look into himself and analyze what he finds.
I have my journals to correlate. They are filled with my twice yearly self-evaluations which are sort of personal performance reviews (I too had a plan, but it stretched longer than 5 years).
What struck me, upon seeing these photos of my younger self, was how much I had changed (and I don't just mean the outer package), while at the same time fundamentally I hadn't changed at all. I believe there are essential things that happen to us when we are young which form who we always will be. We can use the core created by those events in a positive or negative way. We can make adjustments.
Without dwelling on the past I believe it is helpful now and then to examine, not just your memory of yourself, but actual "hard copy"—contemporaneous documents so to speak. So I'm grateful that I have all those journals. They are useful to me when moving forward.
The photos also remind me that I have to keep choosing. Even though now I am supposedly as mature as I thought I was then.
It's good to have a reminder that life is about choice. We can't always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond to life's events.
We have limited time. It's better to choose. Otherwise you just might end up not recognizing yourself.
Note: We never did find the papers we needed, but we were able to replace them. Somethings are replaceable—choice isn't.
I just found out that my cousin, photographer Rolf Hagberg, has been shooting chicken portraits! Imagine my complete delight in this knowledge. (Anyone who has read my blog for more than a few days will know I'm absolutely crazy in love with chickens.)
And finally, if you want to see the charming and delightful chicken portraits that resulted you can follow this link. (Prints are available for purchase. And while I'm related to Rolf I'm not financially connected in any way; the images are just plain cool.)
One of best things about Rolf's recent images…they take the heat off of me in the family for loving chickens. Next time my folks roll their eyes and shake their heads at the new chicken painting on the easel I can just say, "Rolf loves chickens too." (They adore him. Bingo, Bango, Bongo—what can they say!?)