Boy with Toothache

Doodle of my Mother’s painting. It is one of my most treasured things, she speaks to me through it.

I was listening to the On Being Podcast Episode (12/17/21) where they discussed the wonderful poem “i’m going back to Minnesota where sadness makes sense,” by Danez Smith:

“o California, don’t you know the sun is only a god
if you learn to starve for her? i’m over the ocean

i stood at its lip, dressed in down, praying for snow.
i know, i’m strange, too much light makes me nervous

at least in this land where the trees always bear green.
i know something that doesn’t die can’t be beautiful.

have you ever stood on a frozen lake, California?
the sun above you, the snow & stalled sea—a field of mirror

all demanding to be the sun, everything around you
is light & it’s gorgeous & if you stay too long it will kill you.

it’s so sad, you know? you’re the only warm thing for miles
the only thing that can’t shine.”

– Poem by Danez Smith

In the episode I also enjoyed this insight by Pádraig Ó Tuama:

“In Irish when you talk about emotion, you don’t say, “I am sad.” You’d say, “Sadness is on me” — “ta bron orm.” And I love that because there’s an implication of not identifying yourself with the emotion fully. I am not sad, it’s just that sadness is on me for a while.”

ShopBot

The ShopBot has arrived, and it’s been exhilarating getting up to speed on how to use it. I plan to use it to refine a prototype of a retail display for eyewear, then hopefully go into production.

The computer-controlled router head will cut along shapes I created in Adobe Illustrator. I think of it as a pattern for a sculpture; it starts cutting flat material then assembles into a three-dimensional form.

In my first week, I was able to get the ShopBot set up and cut my first project utilizing a pocket and profile tool path. This tool is so powerful, my head is spinning from all the possibilities.

Dem Bones

Jonni at Ultimate Paper Mache has been an incredible teacher to me thru her website and youtube videos. Her work is so fun to look at, and her sculpting templates are a helpful tool for beginners like me. I purchased the giraffe and the skull pattern, but I know I’ll be back for more.

The skull pattern comes human-sized, but I wanted a giant one, so I enlarged it 350% and it ended up 24″ tall.

I printed the enlarged pattern at Staples on 11×17 paper. Then, following Jonni’s detailed instructions, I glued each pattern piece to the posterboard and taped the seams and darts together. Assembling the GIANT pattern took about 5 hours total.

I rigged some internal supports and a paper towel holder to get the skull to stand up. Next, the hollow form will need a layer of paper mache strips sealed with Flex Seal to make the shell rigid to handle my subsequent layers. I hope that this will be a reusable form for several sculpting projects.

On a side note, a shoulder injury keeps me from getting my hands in the clay. So, it will be 6-8 weeks before I can continue with my polymer clay and sculpture painting projects. In the meantime, I will continue to make art using lighter paper materials and drawing.

Sample of a James Lake Sculpture

Paperman

A video I discovered on Wired Magazine with James Lake, a cardboard sculpture artist from England, ignited some new creative ideas. He works exclusively in cardboard because of the material’s ease of availability and low environmental impact. It was mesmerizing to watch him build the armature out of the rolled and double corrugated card, engineering a solid undersupport. Then, he adds the outer layer of thinner chipboard pieces in small curvy shapes like cladding on a house. The result is magical. The small pieces of card remind me of the fluid brushstrokes from van Gogh paintings.

His work has truly inspired me, along with the fact that he has dyslexia and lost a leg to illness in his late teens. In learning about my dyslexia, visualizing 3-dimensional shapes and space are our strengths. Yet, there is a soul to James Lake’s work that reflects an understanding of human struggle and pain. He takes an everyday, forgotten material and transforms it – softening the hard straight edges into something with heartfelt meaning and substance.

Coincidently, this week I also learned of an upcoming call for artists at Studios on the Park for works that are “Reimagined” – artists are encouraged to use refurbished materials to create new pieces of artwork. I sensed a strong message from the Muse to attempt a sculpture from cardboard. My vague plan is to make an enlarged version of the skull template from Ultimate Paper Mache. Then build out the muscles and skin layers with cardboard and chipboard. One idea I want to try is to punch consumer packaging into circles with my AccuCut machine, then apply these in layers for the colorful skin part — the colors of the packaging as my color pallet. We shall see how much I can get my hands on. I’m open to allowing it to evolve as I go.

The Other Side of the Page

Cute drawings are my comfort zone, so it’s an excellent place to warm up the creative brain. Today I drew four foxes, each with a little different personality but all the same basic shape. A simple tick or line can affect the whole mood with a comic-style drawing. Comics art is subtraction, removing superfluous marks till reaching the essential expression. Look at Charlie Brown; his face is two dots and the letter C for a nose. This simplicity makes room for the reader’s imagination to join the story.

I also like Lynda Barry’s wisdom that the life of the image world happens inside the frame. She recommends drawing the frame first as a place for the image world to present itself to you; the frame is a portal to a different dimension. When I color in their world with my markers, I hear the foxes come to life with voice and personality. Truly magical and transporting.

Get Out of the Way

Unprocessed experiences will rear their ugly heads and work their way into the front of your mind. Old memories were nagging for attention taking me away from the creative project in front of me.

It’s amazing how swiftly the past can pull you out of the present moment—like a needy child repeatedly crying your name until you stop what you are doing and address them.

When I’m stuck in the past mentally, I can’t be absorbed in my creative work. Replaying old events drowns out the subtle clues the clay and paint offer. It’s deafening quiet; the Muse will not be present until I am.

I insisted on forcing the situation, foolishly thinking I could work thru it. Instead, my brushstrokes were jerky and awkward while my mind chaotically chatted away.

I should have gone for a walk. The demons hate fresh air. Instead, I painted this mess. Eventually, I will learn this lesson.

Doing my morning journal pages

Morning Pages

Daily journaling is when I process the open loops. I absorb images, videos, books, ideas and distill them down from the head to the page. It’s where things get flushed out and harvested into new projects. I like Austin Kelon’s reference to a compost pile. All these scraps and odds and ends that don’t fit together or make sense sit for a bit on my daily pages, and the process makes firtle soil for new creations.

Today’s reflection was about stress and anxiety. Re-framing stress as a cue that the body needs to exercise. Going back a step and asking how does stress manifest in the body? For me, I notice lifted shoulders, clenched teeth, bulging eyes, listening shut down, and hands close in guarding the body.

what does anxiety feel like in the body

R. Ruggles sculpture in progress, Scuba-saurus tube and hand pose

Floaty Ring

Using aluminum foil, I made the armature for Bubbles intertube. In working with polymer clay, one wants to avoid making the clay over a 1/4 inch thick. Anything thicker than that tends not to cure while baking in the oven.

I made a doughnut shape out of foil and covered it with clay. Keeping the ring open so I could slip it over the neck, the head is too big to slide it thru the opening. After seeing it in place realized I wanted it to sit lower down the body and needed a larger ring diameter. I temporarily posed the arm to see it rest on the intertube and be happy with the composition.

The silly flippers on the feet began to take shape too. But, of course, scuba flippers always look ridiculous on land. You may also be wondering why is there a hole in her belly? I had wanted that to be an area that lights up like a lamp with a heart inside. Now that the piece is taking shape, I prefer to fill it in and make it a chubby belly.

Procreate drawing of enchanted wood house

Enchanted Woods

When unsure what to do next, I think of the advice in Austin Kleon’s book ‘Keep Going’ … make gifts. We had such a lovely time in the Smokey Mountains in September; I wanted to commemorate the time by drawing some of the images I took. So I decided to draw and color their dreamy home among the trees to thank our hosts.

Using Procreate on the iPad, I brought in the photo and traced the house on a new layer to quickly get the scale and perspective in order. Then, I add my textures and lines to enhance the composition. They are planning a new pond in the front yard, so I took a creative license and added one along with some delightful woodland animals.

Scuba-Saurus Doodle and Color Test

Dino Doodle

I find it easier to draw or sculpt things when I’m not forcing the agenda too much. Keeping things loose, allowing for improvisation makes the whole process more enjoyable. It leaves room for surprise and experimentation. As the Scuba-saurus evolves, she begins to speak to me and tell me about her personality. For example, she told me her name is Bubbles and that she wants a pink and yellow floaty. As things progress, I get little bits of the story, and I need to be quiet to hear the specific requests.

I made this doodle because the information was zooming at me, and I could not sculpt fast enough to capture it all. So I did a quick sketch to capture the details, then my sculpting will follow along.

Acrylic Painting Practice Robot 3-Up

Robot 3-Up

I’ve been enjoying the challenge of these painting exercises. Painting the same image on three canvases simultaneously forces me to keep the brush moving and not dwell on perfection with each stroke.

I was layering the paint and seeing how this affects the colors—blending in dark and light to make edges and highlights. Watering the paint down into a wash made it behave like a watercolor. My brush control and confidence are improving; this exercise helps me shed the perfectionist mindset and play with the paint.

Lighting Tracks

I’m making progress with my studio setup. I found 48″ long steel flat bar with punched holes at Home Depot. Three of these bars will be mounted to the ceiling with screws into the studs, but I wanted to paint it black installing. All my lights, cameras, and cables are black, so this should help everything match and look professional.

Thankfully it’s been raining in California, which had made the simple task of spray painting a challenge. I had to be patient and wait for a break in the clouds to paint my bars.

Tip: clean the steel bars with a soapy rag and then alcohol to remove the cutting oil used in the manufacturing process. I also used spray paint with a primer designed for metal.

Painting with acrylics practice.

Create to Connect

Artists are not like athletes. We can’t win gold, beat other creatives, or come first. Sport is objective; our craft is subjective. Creating to be the best is a waste of energy. Instead, create to connect to the people who need you because they are out there. Create in your way because there is no right way. Take the pressure off, and focus on your unique brand of magic.

I have struggled to find a solid objective in my artistic practice. What is the payoff for all this time spent sculpting and painting things? Does it have value if there is no commercial value? What is the point of all this? My mind wanders down an existential thought trip, and I’m pretty sure this is resistance objecting to my new habit of making and sharing art each day.

I come from an athletic and business-minded background. I am a planner and a goal setter; there is always an objective path to follow. Pursuing art has been entirely different. I set the objective to make and share art every day for one-thousand days, but I did not define a monetary goal. I could get to the end of one thousand days and make any money. Would time spent still be considered a success? How do I define success in this case?

Thirty-Eight days in, and I can see changes in me happening. I’m managing to be very consistent and keep this as my top priority. I’m getting more comfortable deciding what to share. The daily posting helps me focus, and I’ve been able to draw some insights from reviewing and writing about my artistic endeavors. I know no one else is reading this blog, and that’s okay. I’m reading it, and the process of making each day is already teaching me many things. I hope to develop into a better documentarian along the way. I have faith the people who need my creations are out there; this website is one way they can find me.

Today, I repeated the ‘keep the brush’ moving exercise for my painting practice shared by Lynda Barry. I painted a woman with a mind blooming with bright, colorful things. Painting the same image on three canvasses keeps me from judging brushstrokes and keeps things loose.

While doing this, I had to fight the urge to quit multiple times. Instead, I kept adding layers of color and shapes, trusting the quiet instinctive voice inside telling me what to do next. It was not until the end that I stepped back and felt sincerely delighted by what was on the page.