An Artist’s Diary

Stack of Sara's SketchbooksSketchbooks are interesting to look through whether they’re old ones of mine or someone else’s. It’s captivating to see where my artistic skills were on a specific day, or recall what mood I was in, or why on one day I drew something that looked quite brilliant yet the next page contains something I could have drawn when I was five.

I find it astonishing how in many instances I can recall exactly where I was, who I was talking to, or what was going on around me while I was sketching. To me my sketchbooks are like coded diaries that utilize images rather than words to act as little flags in my memory to cause recollections. (Seems like a pretty crafty way to keep a diary’s contents safe and keep your mind sharp!)

So, why am I talking about sketchbooks? Well, I ran out of room in mine the other day and had to go out and buy a fresh one. Having crisp, new supplies is almost as satisfying as coming to that final page and seeing that I’ve developed my own little story book. I may not look through my sketchbooks for several months on end, but when I do I’m always left feeling accomplished knowing I have enough creativity to fill an entire book.

Sadly, I have not come to the end of a sketchbook in a long time. I have been neglecting to keep my skills sharp with diligent practice. Finishing this one reminded me not so much that I need to practice drawing (because forcing myself to do something when I don’t want to turns it into an unlikeable task), but instead it reminded me of the enjoyment I used to get out of sketching. I’d create something new almost daily, and I liked doing it. It was part of my day and I want to have that relationship with my sketchbook again.

You should flip through your old sketchbooks and see how much you remember about each day and why you were working on each sketch. It’s a time-sucker though so make sure you have at least an hour to kill! There are some drawings in mine that just make me laugh and laugh. . . I think you’ll find your own book to be a real page turner 🙂

The difference between finding time and making time for art.

Can you agree that you are usually the hardest on yourself most of the time? I certainly am. Recently, I’ve been disappointed in my neglecting to work on any of the “masterpieces-to-be” that are chillin’ in my garage. And yet with that disappointed voice nagging in my mind, I sit here typing out this post. Though I did tweak my back last night at work (twice). So, I don’t really want to move around too much, but I digress because there are always a million reasons NOT to do something.

The point I’m getting at is one I read in “Art & Fear ~ Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.” I’ve read it twice and thoroughly enjoyed the motivating – yet brutally diminishing – theme of the book. It had a key message that stands out in my mind at this time simply due to the situation I’m in now. There is a passage discussing the difference between finding time for artmaking, and making time for artmaking. I can’t find the exact passage at the moment so I’ll do my best summarize it.

As artists, we make excuses about why we can’t sit down for a few hours to work, probably more often than we realize. There is an  endless river of “obligations” and “plans” that prevent us from reaching our serene garden of essential creative time. The issue is not the lack of time, it’s that we don’t make the time, either for fear of failing, rejection, or whatever. Unless you set aside time to do it, you may never get it done. How do you know whether you will succeed or fail if you don’t ever get around to trying? I feel it’s a struggle I share with a lot of people.

The idea of sharing struggles with millions of artists is one of the many humbling points made in the book that makes me feel less alone as an artist and part of a community, but at the same time, less unique and more “common.” It’s a good book if you want a reality check and an ego boost all wrapped into one concise read.

The book also contains quotations from various artists and historical figures at the head of each chapter. Here’s a suitable one for the end of this post. . .

Artists don’t get down to work
until the pain of working is exceeded
by the pain of
not working.
                         –Stephen DeStaebler

P.S. – Does taking the time to talk about my lack of time to create art count towards making time for creating art?

Visual Art + Music = :-)

Do you listen to music while you draw, paint, doodle, and sketch?

I do.

It may seem odd, but sound plays a huge part in art for me in the sense that I either need complete silence, chatter, or most often, music. The music I choose to listen to is both influenced by and influences the visual art I create. For example, while I was working on this drawing, I almost solely listened to Lynard Skynard, 70’s and 80’s rock, and metal.

Custom colored pencil drawing by Sara Kerr of four Harley Davidson motorcycles with American flag background.

Music sets the mood and inspires the feeling I’m trying to portray. [However, sometimes certain songs are distracting and it’s hard to concentrate on the work when I get too focused on singing along.] What music do you listen to? For you, does the drawing you’re working on dictate the music you play or is your ipod set on shuffle? Do you always listen to the same type of music for everything you work on or are you like me and setup a playlist with a specific style of music for a piece?

Here are a few more examples of my ‘music-influenced’ art:

  1. I listened to classical music during this one [because I was forced to, not because I chose to] and as you can see it’s somewhat bland and “dusty”. No offense to classical music lovers, it’s just that not all classical music has the same pizzazz that modern music does, therefore it doesn’t get my blood flowing or inspire me as well.

    Acrylic painting by Sara Kerr of a still life containing a candelabra, blue glass bottle, a ball, and a couple bowls, titled "Irony."

  2. You might remember seeing this painting from an earlier post about the band Epica. To summarize, they were looking for artists located in the cities along their tour route to create art inspired by their music. After listening to song after song, this is what I came up with.

    Oil painting by Sara Kerr for Epica of a still life with a candle on a piano and violin in the background.

  3. Many of my blog followers will recognize this piece without a doubt. 😉 For those of you who haven’t seen this before, may I introduce you to an abstract piece [of crap], I call “The Turd.” I’m not 100% sure I should admit this, but Lady Gaga and the Isley Brothers helped me finish this one.

  4. This piece was 100% influenced by one song that whenever I listened to it, I had this image in my head – A man performing on stage, completely engrossed in the music, unaware of who is watching him, not caring about them, only the sound he’s making. A high school classmate saw it and said the guy looked like he was having an. . . orgasm. I was slightly offended and embarrassed at first thinking that I drew something like that unintentionally, but I thought about it for a while and in a way he was correct. The portion of the song that had the biggest impact on the scene was the climax in the song. So, in a way the performer is having an orgasm from playing a song that makes him feel this amazing!

    Pastel drawing by Sara Kerr of a man playing piano.

Are there any other environmental factors affect your work?

My First Art Showing in Portland!

I can’t remember the last time my art was shown in a public place. The good news is, my art’s hermit streak is over!

Starting tomorrow night, I will have three pieces on display at the Back Door Theater in Portland. I kind of fell into this opportunity thanks to my man-friend, Ryan. He’s starring in a production about the struggles of injured Iraq veterans (a very suiting part for him since he is a veteran). The production company wants to infuse other art forms with each play they put on by providing a space for artists to display their work that relates to each play’s primary theme. In the case of this show, Costa Rehab, the theme is war, and war-related injuries.

Ryan asked me if this would be something I’d be interested in and I figured, why not?! For me it may be that step into the Portland art scene I need to take.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much art related to war in my portfolio other than a cubistic painting of my cousin Ben in his dress blues that I painted during my freshman year in high school. However, I managed to create two other pieces in time. . .

If you happen to be in PDX from May 24th – June 23rd, you should watch the performance. Not only will you be able to enjoy a comedy that pays tribute to our war vets, you’ll be able to see Ryan perform, AND  you can view some of my art up-close – maybe even buy it!

You can find all the info you need about the location, dates, and time of the shows on the Costa Rehab facebook page, as well as the production company’s website – Book of Dreams. Just keep in mind that the show runs for an entire month and there are four performances each week so there are lots of opportunities to see this! (I’m saying there are no excuses NOT to go! 😉 )

I hope to see you on opening night!