Art Homicide: Is it Common?

We rolled it to the point where it was a 7 foot paper taco and carried it down the street home like that. It was too thick from collage to roll up completely. Once home we put it on top of the wood bed posts on the frame around the posts. Every time I lay on the bed I could see the underside of my masterpiece slowly crumbling from the weight in the middle that wasn’t supported.

Having it there along with another big round mandala piece was not a great idea psychologically. If we had stashed it somewhere it may never have met its gruesome end and the other piece wouldn’t have been collateral damage.

Most people don’t get angry at their apartments to the point of feeling like destroying stuff, but I never was” most people”. One day or week I got so frustrated with the chaotic state of my house, that the feeling kept building more like a fire when it catches on to something and the next minute the whole building burns down. As I couldn’t burn down the building, I decided it was time to destroy the mandala. I’d been eyeing it for weeks wondering how and if I wanted to fix it as it was getting damaged.

Suddenly it was clear how to solve the problem. This huge piece used to hang in my old studio on one wall and took up all the wall space. It was up there so many years I remember looking at it and thinking, “What will I do if someone buys it or if I have to move it? Maybe it will be here until I die.” It felt that permanent. Fast forward to me ripping the whole thing apart and destroying it. I don’t remember it well even though it was probably only 4 years ago. After that, I took on the piece that was my height in diameter, like a lion after a kill who finds an extra dead animal baby and eats it just because it’s there.

Do I regret doing it? Do I miss the piece that I still consider one of the best or at least most ambitious things I have ever made? I don’t know because I had forgotten about it until I recently destroyed something else that I liked. I guess if I could have it back I would and it might be in my studio now or  I would have sold it and been happy it had a place. It did serve a purpose in its short life of being on that studio wall because my clidnts faced that wall when they sat in the chair across from me. I remember one client seeing a person in a wheelchair in the middle of it. It was a completely abstract collage. I can probably find a photo of it to post with this. So when it was alive on the wall, it was serving a purpose and beign seen by lots of people. Back then the Tribeca Open Artist Studio Tour still existed, so for those few days in April annually, I had crowds of people come through my studio and see it as well as the smaller piece.

I know a lot of big deal artists have destroyed their work, but in a very calculated way, not in a sudden fit and not something they thought was one of their best work. Part of the delight I took in murdering my big mandala was that it was really one of my greatest achievements, so it was a really crazy meaningful kill.

I have destroyed many peices before and since which I will write about in another post…

15 Minutes: 2019 Sketchbook Project

Just as I finished my 2019 Sketchbook and have a Tiny Sketchbook to work on, thinking both were due on Feb. 15, they extended the deadline for 2019 Sketchbook but not the Tiny one.

I am currently working on the Tiny Sketchbook. This is the first time the Digital Arts Library has sent out Tiny Sketchbooks. I love making tiny work; I wanted to find a theme that was visually simple and consistent, and finally figured it out, so I’m almost done. Of course this post is abot the regular size Sketchbook 2019 and finishing it.

I’ve been doing these Sketchbook Projects for years. It’s always a black hole of ADHD. Several years ago I had two sketchbooks to fill and ended up filling one and then completely destroying it.

The 2019 Sketchbook was an arduous process and time consumer. My problem usually is that I love sketchbooks, so I spend too much time on it in relation to my “real” art, and it makes no rational sense but it’s a compulsion.

This time round, I think I already wrote about how I filled the entire sketchbook, about 30 pages if you fill both sides. I had already covered several layers of ideas. Finally I looked at it one day and thought, the whole point of this sketchbook was to use it for drawing and keep it simple. It was at the point where I couldn’t really draw a fresh drawing, so I pulled out all the pages and put in my own pages from a drawing pad that has very thick paper. The Pentalic Nature Sketch 7 x 5 inch 130 lb paper. I highly recommend it as a great surface for drawing. I was able to draw on both sides of the paper without it being see through.

So I started almost from scratch besides the cover, back cover, and inside cover. This sketchbook was finally useful in a bigger way to connect to my current work and drawings outside the sketchbook. I used to have a process where I would carry my journal sketchbook everywhere and draw or make collage in it and then eventually force myself to get the work to be made outside the journal on bigger different surfaces. It was a way to find my “series” and then have a launching pad! This year the Sketchbook did launch me into my latest series of work, entitled, “My Cabinet of Unnatural Curiosities.”

Last year I liked my sketchbook while making it but didn’t love it after it got digitized. This year, I already scanned the sketchbook so I know how it will look digitized and I really like it and feel good about it. I also like how the process, as painful as it was time consuming, spat me out at the other end of the creativity tunnel into  my current bigger work.

I am posting some of the images of the sketchbook.  Once it’s digitized, I will post a link to the sketchbook.

Links to see my 2014-2018 Sketkchbook:

This is the one from 2018: Sketchbook Project 2018

Everything Old is New Again…

15 Minutes: Everything Old is New Again

I’m doing very different drawings from when I started “Drawriting” with 15 minutes of drawing and 15 minutes of writing on the back of the drawing. These pieces below do not have writing on the back; I’m not sure if I will write on the back or not. perhaps this post is the writing part for now.

A client of mine once explored a concept she said was summed up as : “Everything old is new again.” Her words. I’ve been thinking about that idea, as I reflect on 2018, and now, in terms of my personal art making as a visual artist, about 30 years into making drawings and paintings, collage, etc. Even last May as I started a daily drawing practice, I noticed I was reprising my 2006 – ? work and had revisited that stuff in my sketchbook last year, coming from the “Inner Landscapes” series. I have the old sketchbook journal where the images emerged that later became buildings and Inner Landscapes, which I have now embraced as “Cityscapes.” Before, when I did these, I thought of them as buildings, but as expressing some kind of inside landscape of the psyche. Recently I’ve returned to seeing that it is my relationship with New York City and how the city is part of who I am…

More recently in the past few weeks, I have been revisiting my drawings of faces and leaves. It started with my redoing my Sketchbook Project, in December 2018, drawing faces and leaves. These faces started many years ago; I can’t even remember when. Then I reused them in my Scribble Drawings Collage series in 2007 and 2008.

A while back I drew two bees in my sketchbook project. For some reason I’ve been drawn to drawing bees, no pun intended. Yesterday, I started drawing hexagon hive shapes, due to thinking about bees and because it’s a great kind of drawing connector. I’ve got faces, bees, and mushrooms, so now I have the hive shapes in and out. I haven’t gotten far with it as you can see in the pictures of these works in progress.

Drawing on smaller paper is very rewarding because I can really do a drawing in one sitting and feel like it’s done. It’s hard to be patient with doing drawing/painting on wood and canvas because it takes a lot more time and the discipline to revisit the work and continue it.

I took some of the wood drawings I did in November, which were moving towards being city scapes, and tried to sort of add in the new imagery with limited success, still using fountain pens to draw with.

For some reason it is harder to add in this imagery. I will paint over the wood with white paint and start drawing on top, like the painting in the photo below. That painting has endured a lot, like an archeological site. I don’t know what the first concept was, but there was collage I pulled off years ago, and then drawings of buildings and white again. That was March 2018. Then I went into it more. Anyway, today I turned it “upside down” so I woulnd’t see buildings in the marks underneath the white paint.

The above wood drawing with oil paint is the only one I saved. The rest I painted on top of.

Writing 101, Day 7. “Hook’em with A Quote.”

I chose this quote because it came to mind right away. Simple sentences are my new mantra. Life without art is stupid. It is true. It is simple. It needs to be said. People take art for granted, degrade it, devalue it, stomp on it, but it refuses to go away. When you use less words you can get to the real stuff more directly. You don’t have an option to pile on words and decorate and embellish. In other words, no bullshit.

Life without art is stupid.

The other important thing about this quote is that Einstein or Van Gogh, the Dalai Lama or Jesus or Virginia Woolf did not say it. I don’t know who said it. I first saw it as a photo on a sign. When you have no person to go with the quote, there is no extra stuff piled on, no association to a great artist. It could have been said by an artist who sold no paintings, had no shows. You don’t get to say, well this person was such and such so blah blah blah. I think some of the best things were said by Anonymous.

If I were telling someone what I’ve learned in the 47 years I’ve been on earth, what kind of wisdom I would impart, etc. I would have this wonderful answer, “Life without art is stupid.”

The great thing is the quote says so much in five words that I have nothing much to add to it. I can say that these are the words I live by, that for the most part, life without art would not only be stupid, it would be unbearable. Imagine having no music, no paintings, drawings, no movies, TV shows, no comic books, no literature, no video games, etc.

There’s your answer to the question, Is this true and what does it mean?. Life without art is impossible. So next time you come across a person making anything, and you know they are going to not get paid for it and maybe nobody will be the audience of it, or that this person or you might make it and throw it in the garbage, just remember that this person, simply by making something that is not useful in any practical way, by making something the world doesn’t need, is contributing to your life having value.

When you see a creative YouTube video and think, wow, only three people looked at it and it’s been up for a year; why do they bother. Remember this quote and know that every person out there has a creative spirit, and without the collective of our creative spirits, life would be unlivable, stupid, impossible, unbearable. You would not be here right now without art. Period.

Small Works Group Exhibition at the 440 Gallery!

It is a great feeling to see one of one’s artworks up on a gallery wall, whether with others by other artists in a group show or in a solo show. This was a juried art show. I submitted multiple pieces. The juror chose the artists and one piece from each artist, which is one way to approach a group show like this where the common thread is Small Works (under 12 x 12 inches).

I am including other work that I liked at the show that was hanging near my piece in the less crowded room. It is also great to be in a group show with others and enjoy other people’s work and get a chance to see what’s going on outside my artist brain!

Here are some photos from the show:
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The Artist Identity: Showing and Selling!

I am happy to have a piece from my “White” Mixed Media series in this year’s 440 Gallery Juried Small Works Exhibition.
It is important for me as a professional artist to exhibit my work on a regular basis, so I am pleased to be part of this juried group exhibition in Park Slope, Brooklyn, at a great gallery. The exhibition runs from Dec. 11, 2014-Jan. 11-2015.
Here is a link to the Gallery website page about it:
http://www.440gallery.com/Exhibitions#upcoming

The gallery has started a Facebook People’s Choice Award on their Facebook page. If you can, please vote for my picture for the Small Works Show. Just go to this link and you will see my art work; click “like” to like my piece! Thank you.

I also continue to sell my work on a regular basis as part of my nurturing my identity as an artist and also, I make my work to get rid of it! As soon as I have completed a piece, it is “available” and for sale. I recently sold a group of works from my “Inner Landscape” mixed media collage series to be installed in the Crafty Kids Studio on their wall. Here are some photos of the pieces of my most recent sale. It is great to sell to businesses, and know that lots of people will see my work. For more info on the Crafty Kids, their website is:
http://thecraftykids.com
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Daily Prompt Post: I picked Nov. 20, 2014, Sparkling or Still? Glue, still and sparkly!

What’s your idea of a perfect day off: one during which you can quietly relax, doing nothing, or one with one fun activity lined up after the other? Tell us how you’d spend your time.

With water, I don’t drink “bubble water”, never liked it. Best straight from the tap, still.

Perfect day off: Depends on whether I am alone or whether my family also has the day off.

If I am alone, it is neither fully sparkling or still. Probably on the “still” end of things, as, if I had a day to myself, I would spend it by myself. Maybe spend a lot of time in my art studio on Franklin Street, working on various art projects. Today when I had time to myself and wasn’t doing paperwork, I was in my studio going a bit nuts with my new favorite art material, the glue gun with colored glue sticks. You don’t use it to glue anything, but for decoration. I had a lot of gold and silver glue sticks, and every color glitter glue sticks. I used so many of them today that I ended up with just green glitter sticks and one black stick. I used up all the gold and silver, the purple, silver, gold, red and blue glitter glues sticks, and I had a lot of them. I used them on everything from altered books to a pair of blue crocs I keep in the studio. So I can have a big party with just three glue guns and a bunch of colored glue sticks. I also took apart a box I had decorated and put parts of it in four altered books.

So my idea of fun is to “think about paint and… think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do” (from Andy Warhol, David Bowie song)

Rest of my day alone would involve doing yoga again by myself in my studio, using my Simply Yoga app, for about an hour.

Then I guess I might meet one of my close friends somewhere nice for dinner and a glass of wine, just one person, as I prefer one on one.

If my family had the day off, then the day would probably sparkle with adventure and maybe a little glitter of some kind, glue or otherwise…

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BLogging 101 Day 9: Inspire Yourself!

This assignment comes from the assignment of the day before, to create an “About Me” page. I just got rid of my boring “Profile”  and substituted a more passionate “About Me” page: https://natashashapiroarttherapy.wordpress.com/about/

I’m pretty satisfied with it, but the featured image does not seem to show up. Anyway I will post some images to this post that reflect the idea of writing a post inspired by my “About me” post.

While writing it, I remembered this great quote from one of my favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois; its from her book, “Drawings and Observations”, which is a great book that I own and used to look at frequently but of course, like lots of things at my house, I can’t find the book!

So from another book of her work, here are some interesting quotes:

My early work is the fear of falling.

Later on it became the art of falling. How to fall without hurting yourself.

Later on it is the art of hanging in there…Hanging in there-the art of living, the art of a lifetime. -Louise Bourgeois

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I choose these three because they also apply to art therapy and the therapeutic process for both therapist and patient. “Hanging in there” sums it up in terms of once you get yourself going; now that I am in my 40’s I have passed the other stages, the fear of falling and the art of falling.

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There is much to say about hanging in there, but for me it involves returning to my basic survival kit, my art supplies and my “portable studio”, doing art anywhere and everywhere including in my current studio.

As the making marks on paper or any surface is mainly a non verbal process, I won’t say too much about it, as I still believe what I discovered over a quarter century ago, that art making was a balm for all the words expected of us all the time, a sanctuary from explanation, a sacred space to make your own without need for verbalizing. Hanging in there is about just showing up every day to your life.

Here is the image I tried to use for the About Me page:

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It’s a page from my journal, from 9/25/2010.

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Here are a few pages from the journal I started this month:

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Is This Art My “Art Therapy” Art or my “Artist ‘Real'” Art?

This post is probably mostly of interest to other art therapists and those who are curious about art therapy and its connection to “Real Art” or “Fine Art”. There is also a big topic of “High” Art vs. “Low” Art and so called Outsider Art vs. “Fine” Art… Labels labels labels. We like labels when they help us define and differentiate, and we don’t like them so much when they limit us…

So, to begin with, for people who don’t know much about “art therapy” or “art psychotherapy”, there are usually two roads to becoming an art therapist, or two “Main” roads. One is the person who majored or minored in Psychology or took a bunch of psychology classes in colleges and got interested in becoming some kind of therapist. This person finds out about art therapy and realizes s/he also has a creative side and is interested in art making and how it impacts psychotherapy, so this person continues on the road to learning more about what art therapy is, and becoming an art therapist. Along the way, this person may have had his/her own personal therapy or even sought out an art therapist to try out art therapy as a patient. Some of these people skip going to therapy as a patient and end up in some art therapy graduate program after s/he has taken the extra art classes that are prerequesites to starting grad school in art therapy. Those who skip being a patient themselves are usually encouraged to go to therapy and at some point in their time as a grad student start therapy with a therapist, art therapist, psychoanalyst or some combination of these… This person may enjoy art making and even have a media s/he prefers working in but has not really identified as an artist before becoming an art therapist… There are many variations of this type of road towards becoming an art therapist, not in the scope of this post, so I don’t mean to have this description seem limited.

Then there is the other road, that of the “Artist” who then becomes an art therapist. Some of these people are what is called a “wounded healer”. S/he may have gone through therapy of some sort at some time in his/her life and had much more experience being a “patient” than some other art therapy students and art therapists. In any case this person usually finds out about art therapy at some point in his/her career as an artist and decides to obtain training to be an art therapist because of his/her experience as an Artist and Patient or as an Artist who is interested in the healing professions for some reason. Perhaps s/he has found art making to be transformative and healing, whether or not s/he has experienced the therapy process. So this person if need be, takes the psychology courses they may not have taken in college as prerequisites for going to grad school for art therapy…

OK. So now you’re in some art therapy graduate program. You might have gone through some training by attending some sort of Art Therapy Certificate Program to see if art therapy is for you or you just dove right into grad school. While in school, no matter what the philosophy of the school is, and there are many different kinds of art therapy programs with many different philosophies, slants, approaches. Where ever you are studying, at some point in some classes, you will be asked to make art. Some might be art directives from the teachers to get across some points on the subject they are teaching. You will probably make art in supervision class, either what’s called “Response Art” responding to your work with your patients at your internship or art work in response to a classmate’s case presentation. In some programs, there is a lot of art making that takes place in your training in the classes themselves. At the program I went to, my favorite class was my first year “Materials” class, in which we learned about all kinds of art materials and their uses with different client populations. The class was a place to do a lot of “experientials” which basically means you learn through experience of using the materials in your own art work in class and at home for class assignments. As a self identified “artist”, I loved the class as it was the class with the most art making in it, and I learned some new techniques and ways of using art materials that I considered useful both in my own personal art work and in the art I made with patients or witnessed patient making.

During graduate school at some point, the phrase “art therapy” artwork or something like it comes up and is understood to opposed to the concept of personal art work or art work that you are in process of making as an artist. I went to grad school many years ago, and a lot has changed since then. At the time, I continued to have my own art studio outside of my home, and I continued to have my open studios and continued to exhibit my work in various settings and to pursue exhibitions to further my career as an artist. I made this same distinction in the sense that most of the time, as far as I remember, I was working on some series of paintings or drawings that were very different from what I made in classes and at my internship. However, I also remember making some things that I thought of as my “regular” art work even though it was made as a class assignment. I also remember being surprised that so many of my classmates did not like making art in our classes. Even in the classes that involved more lectures than actual experientials, I would be drawing in my journal anyway, as I find drawing helps me focus on what the teacher is saying. Even these days, when I attend some sort of Professional event, such as a talk or conference, I usually draw pictures as I’m writing notes in order not to lose focus on what the speaker is saying!

Anyway, at some point in studying art therapy and then beginning to work as an art therapist, I saw there is a kind of division that exists between what people term their art therapy art work and their “actual” art work that they make at home or in a studio in solitude. I did not go to art school, but my first exposure to making drawings and paintings on paper was a very unique class that I have described more in another post, so my first experience of making art was in a room with a lot of people in it, including grad student assistants to the drawing professor as well as the professor. After I graduated college, I had the great fortune of having my first art studio, a very tiny studio but my own. I immediately began paintings that involved having friends sit for me while I painted. These were more than simple portraits, but I think, looking back at my very young beginning artist self, I see that I liked having people in the room while I made my art. Along the way, I eventually developed a taste for solitude and spending time making art alone. However, I see now that I began the process without a need for solitude and that making art among others or with others was very comfortable for me, so making art in classes at graduate school did not seem so different from making art in my studio or at home. I also along the way, probably during grad school, developed a liking for making art while watching TV, even though I always had an art table at home and an art studio seperate from home in which to make art.

As I developped my private practice, I noticed this split between art therapy art and so called more “personal” art, though maybe the art therapy art is more personal as the person is more loose and open while making it. However, I have always had art therapy grad students as patients over the years, as they sometimes want to try out art therapy as a patient, and I very much enjoy working with all kinds of students. With these art therapy grad students, they either had great discomfort making any art in my presence despite what they were doing in classes and would prefer to talk in session and make no art, or they would be quite comfortable making art in session with me, but tended to see the art they made in our sessions as their “art therapy” art, which basically means they would not think of putting any of their “art therapy” art in an art exhibition, while they might have work they were making on their own at home or in a studio that they would consider as art to put in their portfolio or an exhibit. They looked upon the art they made in school and in supervision much the same way.

Probably not everyone makes such a strong distinction in their work. However it is made enough that the topic has caught my interest and brought up questions for me as an artist and art therapist. Is there a difference between the two kinds of art? For me the blurring of the distinction began in my own therapy a number of years ago when I began bringing scribble drawings and other more “unconscious” drawings to my therapist. I noticed that a theme started emerging which I then developed in my “regular” art work. However, I still kept this sketchbook of therapy art work separate from my “regular” art work. At the time I was working with a great therapist who was not an art therapist but who enjoyed free associating with me about the drawings that I would bring in. Many of them I did on the subway on the way to therapy. A while ago with a different therapist I decided to try the same thing, with scribble drawings and bringing them in to therapy. However, this time what happened was quite interesting for me in terms of the complete blurring of the boundaries between these two types of art works that we art therapists tend to make. The sketchbook was started with making traditional scribble drawings, some of which I have exhibited in this blog. I would make a scribble with whatever I had on hand, pencil, pen, sharpie, etc. and then try to find people, heads, animals, fish, or something “representational” inside the scribble. Then I jumped to continuing that process and adding collage from magazines. My first scribble drawing with collage was a kind of bridge between the traditional form of scribble drawing and something new that began to emerge. I think the photos I’ve posted here show some of this transformation process.

Then something new happened. I continued to add collage from magazines, but I started going over the initial scribbles and making them darker and filling them in next to the collages. I think of these as a kind of “meta” scribble drawing, as suddenly the marks of the initial scribble, instead of being deemphasized in service of creating some kind of image with some of the lines, became emphasized on their own as ovals and curved lines which I then began to fill with collage elements. It progressed further to the point where I began seeking two kinds of images in random magazines. The first was patterns that resembled scribbles or marks or other kinds of black and white dotted circular patterned collage pieces that went with the repetitive drawing and filling of the scribble lines with tiny circles. This is what I see as the “abstract” “meta scribble” portion of these new works on paper. The other kinds of images started to develop repetitions, and I noticed I was looking for specific images of actual things, to be very specific: arms and hands disembodied, other body parts, animals, especially elephants, owls and birds, fish, peacock patterns, and also such things as light bulbs, dolls, strangely drawn faces, and I’m not sure what else will join this list. I also brought back a drawing of a face that was used in work I made a few years ago, so that some of these scribble collage works had drawings of this “face” that is probably thought of as a kind of self-portrait. Often I also find figures of females that are put in with everything else and often they seem to be watching the entire image or dreaming it. Words cut out from magazines have also emerged in some of these works.

It is beyond the scope of this post to discuss the ideas of Outsider Art versus Fine Art and other such topics, but I think these works represent the closest I have ever come to merging my “therapy” drawings with drawings I put up in my studio as part of a series of works I am engaged in. In fact earlier today, for the first time, I took a bunch of these Scribble Collages and put them up on my studio wall. In taking them out of the sketchbook and putting them on the wall, I make the leap from the personal to the Personal Art I Want The World To See… The other sign of this transformation was that I went from the small sketchbook to a larger one and challenged myself to do these pieces on much larger paper. This happened in the same time frame that I began to actually work on these drawings in my therapy sessions on the suggestion of my therapist even though my personal therapist is not an art therapist. So this is uncharted territory for me… To be continued…

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