All posts by Barbara Hranilovich

Lifelong artist, teacher, learner. Free-lance illustration, graphic design, fine art.

The Chaos Phase

in search of the golden mean

I know the exhibit is not till January, but fall is a very busy time, so I was hoping to have work finished by the end of this month…didn’t happen. I’m not worried, but the buffer I always allow myself will be used.

This is the stage in preparing for a show when everything is chaos and confidence is low. I’m in the edge of the hurricane and just functioning…can’t quite get the clarity to see the whole. There’s a lot of work, but does it work together? Is it good enough? Can I finish the last pieces in time?

I do have the faith from experience that in the end some thread of style will hold things together. I’ve seen Deb’s work (Deb Cholewicki and I are exhibiting together) and am excited to see how our works play off each other. From what I’ve seen, yes! It’s so nice to share this experience with her.

So, fingers crossed, I’ll just keep keeping at it, one piece at a time, frame ’em up, and hope…the usual drill.

 

Focus, Grasshopper!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here. That means there’s been a lot going on. Spring was nuts with setting up a new on-line course at MSU, doing my first Potters’ Guild Sale, teaching at Interlochen, learning and working at the Potters’ Guild as a VP (apprentice), and creating work for the January exhibit at Lansing Art Gallery. Too many hats to focus well on any one item.

Last week I realized that the Potters’ Guild work and the exhibit work were becoming a muddle in my head. I was trying to create work that would work for both the LAG exhibit and the VP exhibit, both of which take place in January. A little AHA moment helped separate the two…focus on one area at a time…I don’t have to do everything with every piece I make.

So…for the Guild work I want to focus on form…getting basic shapes and skills down. Lids that fit, handles that stick, shapes that are elegant, glazes that enhance those shapes. Seems simple, but it’s still an almost overwhelming puzzle for me. So many options. So little understanding of what happens when I use which glazes together and in which order and on which clay. Such a crap shoot till some systems get down, but I do love the mystery and the exploration.

The LAG show is starting to fall into place.

Deb Cholewicki and I are doing this exhibit together and we have been comparing notes. It’s exciting to see the cool things she is doing and have those trigger thoughts of what I might do next in response. This is why the exhibit is called “Echo”.

I love that in nature there are nooks and crannies everywhere and that things find their way into them…stones, bugs, nests, pine needles. These are intimate little places that take slow and close observation to appreciate. Below is a little ceramic piece of such a space. There will be more.

acorns.jpg

This summer will be the big push for the LAG exhibit. I can’t wait to get down to it and stay in that zone for awhile…be able to look at the big arc as well as the individual elements.

Pivoting at the New Year

2016

Last year was quite nuts…the usual story of too many hats (but they were all such fun to wear).

• Exhibit of Porkies artwork at Grove Gallery

• 4 10-week ceramics classes at the Potter’s Guild of Greater Lansing, working toward applying to be a Visiting Potter, so that I can learn much much more

• First chance to include bowls in Empty Bowls, something I’ve always wanted to do

• Several pieces in “On the Edge”, a members exhibit at Grove Gallery

• Teaching at Interlochen in summer and fall

• Entry in Art Prize (interesting to do, but would not do again)

• Marketing and finances for Grove Gallery

• Creation of countless items for various galleries and holiday shows

• Illustration assignments

• Teaching and creating a new course in the College of Communication Arts at MSU

As I write this incomplete list I no longer wonder why I was whipped and stressed a lot, (though excited and content).

2017

What I learned last year was that I can keep up with that schedule, so I don’t have to worry about whether it’s possible. Next year will be equally busy, but I’m working to streamline things…make the hats at least go together.  I hope to remember to just stay calm, so as not to pull energy from the tasks at hand.

There are three main priorities:

• Teach my MSU class, honing it to make it better and creating an on-line version for summer terms (I think I’ll relax a LOT once that has been developed…it’s the unknowns there that make me nervous)

• Continue at the Potter’s Guild with as much participation as I am allowed

• Continue work on pieces for a January of 2018 Lansing Art Gallery exhibit with Deb Cholewicki

The rest will fall into place around these.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have too much on my plate. I’d rather be busy than bored. Still, I want this whole year to be working toward what matters most and brings the most satisfaction…for me and in light of doing some sort of good. It’s a perpetual balancing act and learning curve.

All I know is that I’m really looking forward to this year and all the creative opportunities it promises.

 

 

 

I Am You Are We

The piece below was done ages ago. It’s titled “I Am You Are We” and addresses how we are all more alike than different.

It’s time to revisit that, so I’m starting to work on a series with that title. The first new piece will be exhibited at Grove Gallery in East Lansing in the September member show (if it survives…so far so good).

In light of many shootings in recent months—some targeting individuals, some singling out types of individuals, I am dumbfounded, for lack of a better word. We all want such simple things: safety, opportunity, love. It feels sometimes like that’s too much to ask. Can we not have empathy for one another instead of focusing on the peripheral and fundamentally inconsequential differences? In the biggest sense we are all one.

I am you are we…together. I hope I’ll be able to honor that with some work.

i am you are we 2

 

Finally There

It’s been a lifetime coming, but I think I’m finally where I was headed all along (though there’s more to the trip, I know).

A few months ago, after much much brewing,condensing,gut-checking, I made my simple plea to the universe…that I be able just make art and sell it as fast as I can make it.

It’s working.

That means that my work day now consists of going to the studio and doing my work…the work everything in my being says I should be doing. Sometimes it’s clay, sometimes encaustic, or glass, or acrylics, or…. The work may be for an exhibit, or just some whimsical items people seem to enjoy…whatever the mood or the current gallery needs may indicate. As long as I’m there with all of my toys I’m happy…make that blissful.

I’m learning to streamline processes for some things. I’m now able to attack larger pieces when I’m at peak awareness/wakefulness. I sometimes work 7 days a  week and may be cleaning off raku-fired pieces right before bed because I can’t wait till the next day to see how they turned out. I’m on vacation every day at work. I also know how VERY lucky I am.

I’m hoping to pursue just one more gallery outside of Lansing, just to keep the pull for work, since I always do best when I know where the work is going. Still, things are selling at a rate that is validating my choices The lower price-point items still keep the boat afloat. As long as I can average my self-proclaimed hourly rate I’m ok.

It’s such a great gift to be able to feel like myself, to know where I’m going every day. My basement studio isn’t much to look at, but it has everything I need and that makes it beautiful to me.

In Transition

Still Life with Yellow Mushrooms_SM

It’s done. The work for my next exhibit is completed,framed,inventoried, and packed up (well, one more frame to order). I think I’m happy and look forward to seeing how things work as a whole at the gallery.

Now I can jump fully into work for the next exhibit.

People often ask how artists come up with ideas. The truth is that once you start to get ideas they just breed more. It’s always easier when there’s a story to tell.

For the upcoming exhibit I’m talking about Michigan…the simple rustic beauty of the woods of the north and how it made me feel to be there. The artwork is pretty and not highly conceptual. My goal was to get viewers to feel just a bit of what I felt—the peace and wonder of it all. I hope that it may evoke some sense of home or longing that will help us all preserve what we have here, that they may look at things a bit differently.

Of course I have to think about whether things will sell. Will I recoup my expenses? Will I get paid for my time? I never know till it’s over. It may take months before all the work has found homes, if they do at all. Earnings will promptly go toward supplies and frames for the next show.

But those thoughts will fall away quickly because I have the work to consider. I’ve done the first piece for the September exhibit and can’t wait to get to more. And thoughts are already straying to the exhibit after that. I’ll try to hold those at bay for now, though momentum will be building deep inside and that bubble will rise in due time.

Life it at its best when I’m pulled forward toward the next idea. What could happen? I won’t know till I get there. It’s the easiest sort of adventure to have and as good as any I’ve ever experienced.

MSU Wine Lables…the project from heaven.

I can finally talk about it…

I was so lucky to be asked this summer to create wine labels for MSU Hospitality. The wines are coming soon. Bottles will be served at the State Room, given to special guests and much more. It’s just an honor and fun to be part of such a project. This is the first time MSU has had it’s own wine labels.

Each label is based on a Spartan notable…Cynisca and Leonidas. I have to admit, I was not up on my Greek history, so I learned a bit on this one. The red wine is from Black Star Farms, and the white from 45 North, both in Michigan. I’m looking forward to that first taste.

This project was fun from beginning to end. You never know, when you get a new client, just how it will go. I know when I’ve gotten a dream job and this was definitely one of those.

CyniscaFA Leonides_front

Porkies Residency

For the last two weeks I’ve been effectively off the grid in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s upper peninsula for an artist residency…15 miles from then nearest Verizon service. The residency is defined as the opportunity to stay in Dan’s cabin, get to know the park, then make art about the experience, either during the residency period or later. Here’s the cabin—a work of art built with historically-correct methods and hand tools of red oak and cedar. It was tucked in a little spot, not high, not low, at the corner of a creek and a river.

cabin path

   cabin back 2

The weather was perfect, just post-black fly season and almost at the end of the mosquitoes (they bit, but it never itched). I took lots of walks in various areas of the park to get to know the area while I adapted to the isolated surroundings. The area was indescribably quiet. Just a little burbling of the creek nearby and the ringing in my ears…until the mouse got in and made quite a ruckus at night (got him out the door!). Light came through the tall trees, so tended to be vertical and dappled…ever-changing. One hike took me to my limits…up almost 1,500 feet in a shortish span. Coming down things seemed much steeper and I had my Bob’s shoes with NO tread. Still, it was worth it for being in this old and gorgeous forest. No bears for me (not that I wanted any on that walk, though at peek at one from the cabin window would have been fun).

It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t like painting out of doors, so I’d spend mornings gathering information, then come back to the cabin to work. The table became the studio and I had my dream home of studio/bed/kitchen. This photos shows about as much light as the table ever saw, but I got used to it and read by the window till the last bit of light allowed.

work table 2

For art supplies I took water-miscible oil paints, gouache, clay, sketchbooks, and a book on writing poetry a friend had given me (“A Poet’s Companion”) that helped me work on some writing.

The artwork is pretty straightforward…capturing the feel of the environment and facts. I’ll be curious to see how new work, using the reference I have, will change when I come back to it in my home studio. I have lots of sketches for clay pieces and can’t wait to get going on those!

It was pretty amazing to be on my own and have this uninterrupted time to work. I slept more than I could even admit to…long DARK nights (so black there was no waiting till eyes adjusted!), and not much sense of time. One night I looked up and the stars were deeply layered—the smallest being brighter than our brightest. I SO wanted to get down to the beach to see the whole sky like that, but just didn’t have the nerve to head out into the woods with it that dark. I prepped to be able to do it later in the week, but the skies were never clear enough again. I’d go back just for that!

On Thursday I did a presentation (gouache demo) and got to meet several of the people who built the cabin. What a great crew! It was a real pleasure to meet them all. They are dedicated Friends of the Porkies, and supporters of the Folk School there.

From October 9-18 I’ll have the work (including subsequent related work), sketchbooks, and journals at Grove Gallery in East Lansing. On Sunday the 11th I’ll be there to talk about the experience to anyone who is curious or may want to consider applying for a residency for next year. 10% of any sales of any work will be donated to Friends of the Porkies.

Here are just a couple of pieces and a poem.

2015-08-09 16.46.57 

2015-08-09 16.49.20

Trail’s End

The weightless red dragonfly darts jaggedly

ahead on the dusky trail through ancient hemlocks.

This way, she beckons, then disappears

returning suddenly like an anxious child.

Follow me.

The wind, a constant compass, races through

treetops turning to rubber

as they sway against his stream—

here below barely a breeze.

Trust me, he whispers.

The path, like a new marshmallow

beneath my torqued arches

curls through rooted terrain

mossy, fern-flanked, and at times

barely discernible from all the rest.

So, I cede my fate to the dots.

Flat. Blue. Paint.

In succession

appearing just as confidence turns to doubt.

Gratefully I follow their lead

And wend my weary way home.

Here are a few photos to show what the park is like. I saw only a small fraction, each area as beautiful as the last, but the area around the cabin was my favorite.

clouds  falls to paint  clear superior river to superior  looking up  woods

Porkies…so much to consider

PackingScrapFest is over and this week I can finally focus on getting ready for the artist’s residency. Two weeks, a cabin, no running water or electricity, and an outhouse—all in exchange for two uninterrupted weeks of making art in one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the state. Fair game.

Piles are piling up—clothes, food, art supplies, safety equipment (including every imaginable format of bug spray, bear, and people spray). Art supplies will trump all if I can’t fit it everything in my car. I’ve never been to summer camp, but this looks like it’s about right.

So, what’s the point of all of this? I’m honestly not sure yet. I’m hoping to really SEE the upper peninsula and capture some essence, larger or small. I’m hoping to sketch, write, paint, notate and just see where these processes lead. I’m hoping to crack through to some deeper level—one that really speaks about the area, but also to where I find my motivation, my true connection with art, my justification for the choices I’ve made my whole life in favor of a lifestyle and pursuit that feels genuine and, I’ve always hoped, valuable in some degree. Might be a lot to ask, but two weeks alone seems like a good way to start.

I am taking water-based oils, poetry books/notebooks, gouache, pencils of all sorts, and some clay, canvasses and sundry substrates. I have NO idea what I’ll be drawn to observe or record/interpret. I just can’t wait to get to work.

Finding Voice

A lot of artists struggle with finding/recognizing/developing their style. Style is all well and good. It may help others differentiate one person’s work from another. But, in my humble opinion, style only goes so far. What transcends style is voice.

This has become clear to me as I’ve been working in clay of late. It’s still all relatively new to me, so I’m trying out lots of shaping techniques and surface treatments…and REALLY trying to concentrate on craftsman ship. It’s been really fun and interesting to find a good fit here and there. Like Cinderella’s slipper, when something fits, things get a bit magical.

I’ve found one stoneware clay that meets all my needs, so for now I’m not looking further. Working with this clay is not a constant battle, but rather a letting go to the medium—knowing what I can expect, naturally making my kinds of marks, and all with happy hands (that part is REALLY important…I hate greasy clays). To my own surprise, I’m not much interested in surface decorations that involve painterly techniques or lots of layering and sgraffitto. You’d think that as a painter I’d be all over that, but I just find it tedious and boring, even when the piece turns out nicely. What I prefer are finishes that enhance shape and surface. I have a really long way to go till I’m happy with what’s coming out, but I can check off a number of techniques as not-a-good-fit for having tried them. That’s progress in its own right.

Choosing materials and palettes, and making certain types of marks that come organically from preferences applied to work over time creates style. Voice is more about how  such choices support the story behind the work (this might be narrative, symbolic, or simply an expression of form).

What makes an artist get up and go to the studio over and over? It could be meditative, or escapism, or it might be to change the world. Whatever it is, when that motivation starts to drive the work itself, there’s voice. That’s the magic…when the materials, techniques, and story all resonate together.

Looking for that magic is a life-long quest. I’ll think I have it figured out, then might lose it again. This week I had a hint of it when I remembered to come back to trusting my hands and the clay to know what’s best for me. Suddenly the work changed. Now, please, let me hang on to that for at least a little while (dare I ask for longer?), not get sidetracked, and take it further, one piece at a time.

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