The Art of Subtraction

Don’t worry, there’s no math involved here!  In a previous post, I mentioned that I had the opportunity to take a class with famed author/illustrator Floyd Cooper.  He taught us the art of using negative space to create a painting.  His well-known technique involves painting a surface first and then wiping it away with a kneaded eraser until an image appears.  If it sounds a little bit magical, that’s because it is.  Especially when you watch him do it for the first time and then see the amazing results in just a few short minutes right before your eyes.  You feel like you’re watching a magician perform a magic trick.  But in taking the class I realized it comes down to some of the most basic elements of drawing.  Working with shapes and blocking out space.  Only in this case, you start with the negative space and work backwards.  I think the organic nature of it is somewhat freeing.  You don’t have to stare at that dreaded white paper in a total panic trying to figure out where to begin.  Of course, part of the reason Cooper makes it look so easy is because he’s been practicing this technique for  a long time, so he’s got it down to a near science.  A highly creative science that is 😉

Here are some of my attempts at using this technique.  The first two use charcoal (an old favorite of mine, though messy).  The last one uses paint, similar to what Cooper uses.  I was not able to finish it at the conference.  Later I found that the dried paint was hard to remove, so I added charcoal.  But this is also in keeping with Cooper’s style.  He showed us that sometimes you can start by initially subtracting to create light and shadow.  Then add in contour lines to create definition.

You can practice this style with writing, as well.  One of my favorite exercises for creating a poem involves starting with an old magazine article and then blocking out portions of the text with a black marker until you create something new.

How can you practice the art of subtraction in your art?  Writing?  Life?  Please share!

Goodbye Summer… Hello Fall :-)

To celebrate the end of summer, I’ve included a sketch I did almost 12 years ago (where does the time go?) while at my favorite Michigan lake with one of my best friends.  Looking at it reminds me of long swims, picnics at the beach, and summertime.  I recently gave the picture to my friend as a gift.  The best memories are shared 🙂

Fall officially begins Tuesday, September 23.  What do you plan to do on the last days of summer?  Or have you already welcomed the fall weather that’s slowly creeping in?  I’m personally hoping for one more swim!  But I have to admit, my husband and I have also already been to the cider mill three times!  I guess I love summer and fall.  Now winter, especially Michigan winter, that’s another story…


Beyond Words Art Exhibit in Toledo


I’m excited to announce that some of my artwork and poetry are being exhibited in an art show at the McMaster Center gallery of the downtown library in Toledo, OH from now through Sunday Nov. 2. There are over 200 entries by 72 artists.

The exhibit features paintings, poetry, short stories, mixed media, photography, sculpture, and even jewelry.  What makes this show unique is that it’s a collaboration, so each piece of art is paired with writing by a different artist.  In other words, one piece was inspired by or created in response to another.

At the opening reception last night, the master of ceremonies mentioned that this show is one of the only collaborative exhibits of its kind in the nation.  Ben Malczewki, one of the jurors for the art show, gave a statement about the exhibit.  “This exhibit wonderfully captures what diversity and voice and community means to art, and that together, we are more than we could be alone.”

I have four pieces of art and three poems in this exhibition.  The most exciting part for me was to see the artwork and writing paired with mine.  As an artist, you don’t always know the impression your work makes on another person.  It’s especially gratifying to see that response depicted through art.

If you’re in the area, you should come check it out!  And if you’re in the market for a new piece of art to decorate your home or office, you’ll find many of the pieces are for sale.



Practicing Confidence: My Summer Trip to Japan

Greetings everyone and sorry for the mostly quiet summer on this blog!  Obviously, I was out and about.  I hope you were, too!  One big summer stop for me was in Japan.  What can I say?  It was hot!  Think Florida times 10.  But I had a lot of fun sightseeing and visiting my in-laws.  I also had many opportunities to practice my word for the year: confidence.  Let me give you a list:

1.  I took my first solo flight, about 12 hours, to Japan.  I was quite nervous, as I’m prone to getting motion sickness.  But I’m happy to report that all went quite well.  I watched a lot of movies and even had a chance to lie down.  My advice to anyone who suffers from anxiety or motion sickness on airplanes, bring a calming tea and play soothing songs on your ipod or smart phone.

2.  I took many hot spring baths while I was there.  Surprisingly, they cool you off in the summer the same way they warm you in the winter.  This was not my first time to take the hot spring bath, but it was my first time to take a public bath!  At one of the hotels we stayed in, that was the only option for taking a bath or shower.  As you know, this is not a common practice in the U.S.  Swimming pools and hot tubs are about as far as we go here.  I’m not going to lie, it was a little awkward!  Me trying to cover myself with a small towel and avert my eyes wherever possible.  But I did it!  And luckily the Japanese are known for their modesty and politeness.  Would I do it again?  I honestly don’t know…

3.  I’m getting more and more adventurous with the food there.  It was like one taste of sushi and off I went!  I think I’m at the point where I can eat anything from the sea.  I’ve also tried raw egg over a cooked dish.  My newest test was eating really fresh squid that was dead but still moving and changing color!  We were told to chew it very carefully because it might stick to our mouths 😉  But I can tell you this:  It tasted wonderful and I loved it.  Word to the wise:  don’t think about it, just try it.  Then decide.  So it turns out I’ll try anything… that is until my mother-in-law suggested raw horse meat…

4.  Two words:  Japanese baseball.  It looks like baseball.  But it sure doesn’t sound like it.  Ironically, Americans like their baseball quiet and the Japanese like their baseball rowdy!  We were given plastic sticks to hit together and long balloons to blow up, wave, and set free.  Talk about culture shock!  But by the end, I started to get the phrases and motions down.  And to tell you the truth, it was quite fun!  Definitely more action packed from where we were sitting 😉  And the best part?  The Fukuoka Hawks hit a home run AND won the game.  It turns out baseball is baseball when it comes to winning.

Practicing confidence isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it if it means you get to try new things and have new experiences.  It helps when you have supportive friends and family cheering you on.  In my case, there also happened to be a couple bright spots waiting at the end of the journey.  My sweet husband was nice enough to give me his business class seat on the way home.  I also got to make an official artist seal (stamp) for my sumi-e paintings.  See the photo below.  It reads from right to left using old Japanese/Chinese characters.  It means “Quiet Storm.”

How will you practice confidence in your daily life?  Will you be quiet like American baseball?  Instead, try making a little noise!