New Work

Fronds 24 by 30 acrylic on watercolor on watercolor paper $1000

Here is my latest painting Fronds. It is an attempt to mesh my illustration with my abstract work. I did not have a specific idea before painting this. I did look through my workbook for elements to inspire the piece though. It is a medley of natural elements with a central figure to bring in the human presence. Clothing is a favorite way for me to tie the patterns of nature into human representation. I began the painting in watercolor which i sealed with clear acrylic then I painted over things that needed more detail or color with fluid acrylic.

Portland Saturday Market

The last month has been devoted to applying to Portland Saturday Market, selling at the market and moving. It’s been busy but I am thrilled with the changes!

In my 20s I lived in a tiny studio apartment on MLK and Couch and walked through the market regularly. I dreamed of selling my handmade books there but didn’t have the wherewithal to work toward such a goal. When I started studying art in school I moved on to dreams about showing in galleries and museums but I had a hard time imagining how this would add up to a meaningful career. I was also put-off by what I perceived as the intellectualism of contemporary.

Over the last year the dream to sell at the market kept coming back into mind. Then I read about how Hilma af Klint supported her spiritual painting practice by selling commercial art and this allowed me to fit the two dreams together.

I’ve been at the market 2 weeks in a row now and I love it. It suits me to set-up a little shop and be part of the community as an artist. I met all sorts of people from all over the country and overseas. Also the regularity is easier for me than when I was doing annual art fairs.

I won’t be at the market this weekend as I finish moving into my boyfriend’s home but I plan to be there August 6th. I hope you can come and say hi!

Below is a video of some workbook pages where I contemplate how to talk about peace and inner beauty without platitudes or becoming patronizing. There are a few other paintings in progress in my new studio also. Thanks so much for reading!

Week Night Studio

This has been my studio during my day job work nights latelyđź’ś I am enamored with simplicity so even though my closet is still crammed full of paintings and my project table is slightly organized chaos I love spending the evening on the couch with just colored pencils, a pen and a journal.

I don’t get to share everything from my workbooks because I journal in them a lot and that’s too personal to post but when I can share pages I will because I love seeing other people’s visual journals, workbooks and sketchbooks.

Art Walk

I was part of Sunday Stories Art Walk on Instagram and wanted to post my part here for anyone who missed it. The art displayed is all conveniently available here. I will be adding more prints to my shop, if there is a piece you would especially like to see available as a print please message me. Thanks!

“Ruby” watercolor
“Two Spotted Towhees” watercolor
“Doug Fir” watercolor

Working for Equality

It’s important to support equality with our dollars as well as our votes and voices so I’m sharing an online list of Black-owned Etsy shops. This list helps black artists and craft people stand out; it did not take me long to find a couple pieces I loved and purchased.

Also, this article is my favorite resource to answer the question for white people of, “What can I do about racism” There are a lot of good ones, this is just the one I found the most helpful.

We all have to find things to do to create equality even if we aren’t activists. My actions are to educate myself and write letters to politicians asking them to support Black Lives Matter and voicing my opinion about more specific issues like defunding the police. If you want to know more feel free to message me.



Little Books Explained

In The Slough, Greeting Card Book by Alexandra Schaefers

I picked up In the Slough from PaperJam Press yesterday, it is now available in my new WooCommerce shop under the “Books” tab. I’m really excited about making more Little Books. It seemed like a good way for me to be able to do what I love most—illustrate my own nature poems into short books—while also providing something useful to others by making them card size and providing a place to write a note to a loved one in it.

These days we are rightfully tired of clutter, wary of collecting and gifting unnecessary junk and we want to reduce our negative impact on the environment. Since Little Books house heartfelt, intimate poems they can be seen and felt as a special gift while using very little extra resources than a traditional greeting card. They are presents for people we love who really don’t want more stuff. They are for people who love to give gifts but want responsible options.

These are printed on 100% recycled paper. I rode my bike to the shop to look over the proof and took the bus to pick up the finished copies. I even rode my bike to the post-office this morning to send out my first orders. I am going to try my best to keep up the alternative transportation theme so these books can have a hint of environmental stewardship added to their value.

I have a 50% off sale to celebrate the opening of my shop and the completion of my second Little Book, it runs through May 14th. I’d love to know what you think of this idea!

Innocence and Intimacy

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alexandra schaefers

I’ve been researching the phenomena of Instagram influencers lately after developing a fascination with the reality that women can make a lot of money just posting photos of themselves online. I’m sort of a curmudgeon when it comes to fashion and beauty. I love clothes and a little make-up but I feel like it’s supposed to be a fun, light-hearted thing, not something that takes over one’s life unless it is one’s livelihood, financial or otherwise. What I found in my research is that women are in fact, making a livelihood of it.

I felt judgemental of people going to locations just to take photos of themselves without actually enjoying the place. Now I realize they are modeling. They aren’t going there to pretend it’s part of their life, they are going there because it’s a good place to take a photo shoot and they are, or want to be, fashion models. This may be obvious to all of you. To me it was a revelation. I could not figure out why anyone would follow an account of photos of one person in different outfits. It turns to be the latest version of looking through the Sears and Robuck catalog which I loved to do when I was a kid.

I feel it’s neat that women have greater access to make a living being stylists, art-directors and photographers. I do wish our culture could move to deeper places of creativity where it’s not about creating the appearance of a perfectly styled, trendy life but about living a deeply passionate, interior-guided life, but this is an antique problem.

My hope on Instagram is to connect with anyone who might enjoy my art, I don’t really need to do fashion shoots for that. I do get wound up more than I’d like to admit about how to best use my account. Sometimes I want to post only finished work. Sometimes I want to post photos of the adventures I have going about my life as an artist. Sometimes I want to post everything I make even if it sucks and has nothing to do with my current body of work.

The photo album I posted above are photos I took when I lived and worked in a tiny studio apartment on NW 20th in Portland when I was in my mid 30’s. This was before Instagram. I in no way considered myself a photographer. I was just enamored with having a little camera on my Nokia blackberry and I was enamored with the vintage charm of my apartment. Being a painter, it was fun to make compositions with the phone screen and no resources were wasted as they were when we used film.

When I look at them now I am struck with the inadvertent intimacy they create as a body of work. I feel nostalgic for the innocence of taking pictures solely for my own pleasure. I never arranged things for the pictures, I just recorded what was already there if it struck my fancy. It never occurred to me to change the decor of my home to improve my photos. I never even edited the photos. I don’t know if I will ever experience that again. It is challenging in the age of social media to celebrate the beauty of our lives without wanting to improve them, without seeing them through the eyes of a judging audience.

I want to do more research on how advertising usurps art and our experience of beauty. I would love to hear of any articles or resources you know of on the subject.


Snow Book

Here is a video of a book I made from paintings and quotes of my last Landscape Diaries post. I used an old watercolor painting and I have to admit I like the random content book I made on repurposed paper better than the themed book but it was still really fun to make a video of it. Next time I need to set up better lighting.

Book Folios

 

In my recent decision to take a break from seeing art as a commercial venture I’ve been excited to get back to making art for the sake of exploration. I asked myself, If art is to be just a hobby what do I want to do? The answer was quite clear. I want to make books! said in a tone that suggested some passionate cursing be added to the statement. I also noticed a yen to make more tactile and less literal work.

For years I’ve wanted to shift from being an artist who writes to being a writer who arts but having invested a lot in my art education and seeing a lifelong pattern of losing interest in things before I’ve explored their full potential I thought it might be wise to question the premise.

Now I have a decent paying job I enjoy, ample time to work on projects, and a great need to stop putting pressure on myself to be a “successful” creative person. What’s wrong with reorienting, making mistakes or possibly being a fool now and then…or even often? We can’t all be CEOs for heaven’s sake.

I prefer Maya Angelou’s definition of success anyway, Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. We can all become instantly successful the moment we read that quote if we have the courage to believe in ourselves.

Currently I’m making folios of little paintings from sketches on previously used watercolor paper. I have a pure blank sheet for one side of the folio and old designs to work with or paint over on the other side. The above slide show documents my efforts so far. I’m going to stitch these folios together but I didn’t create a sequential story with the text, they are just random experiments.

Having Tea with the Artist’s Existential Dilemma

The other day I was perusing the internet when I read this beautiful quote by Courtney Martin on OnBeing’s Instagram, Make relationships that are reciprocal, not transactional. Makes lives that aren’t easy, but rife with good material. Make art that matters.

Inspired I looked up Martin and read a transcript from a commencement speech she made about the challenges of being an artist.

In one spot Martin talked about self-loathing and—not being the first time I’ve heard a creative person talk about self-loathing as a regular part of the journey—I decided to give the issue some thought.

My goal has always been to eradicate negative feelings toward myself. It’s a fight that emboldens it’s own enemy and becomes quickly futile. But what if these feelings are just part of the creative ecology? Not that all artists suffer internally, but that there is a required quota many of us have been assigned to. Or maybe an intense desire for honesty gets transformed into a plague of self-loathing for those that carry even a tiny seed of self-doubt.

It occurred to me to try a different approach. Instead of responding to self-loathing by dismantling my entire life and value system down to bare dirt and intently questioning each scrap of wood and nail as I build it back up, maybe I could just invite the self-loathing to tea as I’ve heard some Buddhists do, inspired by stories of Buddha inviting his own demons to tea as an honored guests.

Hello Self-loathing, it is hard to be an artist today, what would you like to talk about?

Perhaps I could have some influence if I take the time to make friends with this state of mind. Eventually I could level with it: I know you’d like to take this opportunity to scour every thought I’ve ever had to see if I am the real thing but I can assure you that it’s not possible to know and doesn’t matter. I am not strong enough to be something else, you are stuck being an artist and possibly a fraud. Is there something less existential you might enjoy doing today?

In the past I’ve benefited from a similar exercise I learned in one of Cheri Huber’s many books on mediation practice. When I became mired in melancholy I would sit down and write from the voices of the sorry feelings. It was quite amazing. Emotions that seemed overwhelming and debilitating would boil down to very simple issues once I let them rant for a while: You haven’t done anything social all week, do you hate me or what? That’s an easy fix once I see it clearly and then I feel like a human again.

Another example: I am really stressed out about that class I have to teach next week and I am dreading doing the prep.

It is easier to negotiate with a voice than a feeling: You’ve gotten a lot of feedback that would suggest you are good at teaching. But also, I don’t care if you bomb this class, I’ll still be here for you. Remember the last three times I avoided doing class prep but once I got started it was fun?

It’s still hard to get started but it’s easier after airing the discontent and worry. I also have more time to do the prep when I feel I can stop planning how to get a loan to build a tiny house in the field at my mom’s as any good failure would do.

I imagine many healthy people have these conversations in their heads automatically before they bog down without really being aware of it. Also, I’m not convinced this would help someone with clinical depression but it works well enough for me to suggest it.

There is a gift, I’m sure, in a propensity toward self-doubt. All of our challenges have the power to make us compassionate, to make us more resilient and capable. But most of all they are the terrain before us and we have a right to be intrigued with our path instead of worrying about how to get to the place we think we should be.