Boom. (Day 0)

One thousand one hundred days ago I started a blog focused on a milestone of a birthday. I can’t say I had a clear idea of where it was going, but I expected some benefits along the way and maybe at the end. Mostly those good things were to be artwork-making related, with some other tangential things thrown in for good measure.

Well, the eleven hundred days ended on December 19, 2012. Some of what I learned about the work of making art:

  1. Ideas require execution, or they are worth absolutely nothing.
  2. If you shut up, it’s easier to keep listening and looking.
  3. Teaching art to elementary-age students is about as rewarding as it gets.
  4. Distractions kill productivity.
  5. Avoid negative people.
  6. Wichita is a pretty good place to build a body of work.
  7. Follow a schedule.
  8. Do your best possible work; raise the bar every day.
  9. If you skimp on supplies or effort, it shows.
  10. 60 is the new 40.

That is not all, but it is a start.

A View of My Studio. (Day 42)

Lee Shiney studio

What’s the source of inspiration? Sometimes it’s just having a decent space to work. I’m fortunate to have a studio that encourages a daily workflow. I’m also fortunate to have this space in my basement, so anytime I feel the urge to make something, I can.

If I were to have a signature style, it would involve circles and tools. There is a turntable that measures 2.1 meters in diameter, with a scaffolding over it so I can reach the middle of paintings. It’s mounted on a big base that had a previous life as something that held motorcycles. Yet, it seriously is motorized with 5 volts to one small floppy drive motor. There is a ceiling mounted laser pointed at the exact center of the turntable (and another mounted the same way over the workbench); you get the picture of where the circles might come from. Lots of things are movable with casters like tables and paint carts, even a large trash can.

I work in a basement, so good lighting is critical. I make some light fixtures from Utrecht gallon plastic paint buckets that hold two screw-in fixtures with one each of a bright-white and cool-white CFL, for good color balance. A central workbench is used for building about everything, and painting smaller paintings. Shelves along one wall hold over 100 Boulevard beer boxes repurposed into storage boxes with labels. I have an air hose for tools and staplers. In a far corner is an encaustic area with a fan modified with a charcoal filter.

In the right foreground you see a board with clips to organize my projects and commissions. In the connecting furnace room is a 1×3 meter sink I built with a foot-controlled faucet for washing brushes. In the left foreground you even see a dedicated photo-strobe-softbox for photographing and documenting artwork. This space is still evolving, but it achieves the goal as an inviting place that encourages getting work done. Plenty of tools make work enjoyable, rather than a struggle.

I welcome studio visits. If you’d like one, just get in contact with me. Seriously.

Secret Identities at Tangent Lab. (Day 54)

Authority

“Authority” 13x40in, Montana 94 spray paint and acrylic on corrugated board.

I am dead serious about art making. And sometimes, serious means needing to have fun. A comic book show? Well, sure, I can do this.

“Authority” (>>) is one of three works I researched from comic book illustrations and painted on corrugated board.

Secret Identities is one night only at Tangent Lab, 910 E. Douglas, 6-midnight.

Secret Identities

Fusion at Exploration Place. (Day 60)

Bridging Art and Science at Exploration Place
Featuring
Fusion by Susan de Wit and Lee Shiney
Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 – Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013

Encaustic from "Fusion" at Exploration Place, Wichita, Kansas

Show statements and details from the Exploration Place website:

In this linear exhibit space located on Exploration Place’s indoor bridge, enjoy pieces by local artists that illustrate the intermingling of art and science.

Artists will debut their works three times each year during a family-friendly opening event. The next opening is Friday, Oct. 26 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Admission is free. Light snacks will also be available at no charge.

In this all-new effort, Exploration Place is collaborating with Arts Partners. Two professional artists will be featured — Susan de Wit and Lee Shiney – who work with Arts Partners in its mission to integrate arts into Pre K to 12 curriculum, in collaboration with local institutions like Exploration Place.

You and your family will also get a chance to create your own art pieces with the help of Exploration Place educators. Use similar techniques as those used by the featured artists and take your creation home.

About the Artists

De Wit is a long-time Wichita artist who works in various media. During the past three years she has found a love for felting fibers and specifically creating objects out of wool.

The unidirectional scales on the wool fibers, when softened with water and rolled, bond together and form a dense mat.

As an Arts Partners teaching artist, De Wit uses existing school curriculum of math and science to introduce art and artistic creation to children.

She maintains a private studio and enjoys working with organizations that work for social change through the arts.

Lee Shiney is a full-time painter and kinetic sculptor whose art and “art-making-art” machines are responses to high-art, art accessibility and personal illness.

His current project uses machines and encaustic media – a wax-based pigment that requires heat to fuse the pigment to the canvas. Recycling and repurposing is an ongoing theme, as is constant experimentation with non-traditional painting surfaces.

“My approach to artwork, including these works, is a balance of science and art,” said Shiney. “I work in a problem-solving mode and test ideas in a scientific method-type of process. Examination of physical characteristics of materials is key to my experimentation, and failure is embraced as a key part of the learning and creative processes,” he said.

Cancer and Victory in the Valley. (Day 63)

Rubicon, LS12-48

“Rubicon,” 36x36in, acrylic and spray paint on canvas.

In December 2000 I was diagnosed with cancer. I rang in the new millennium by losing a body part and getting blasted with radiation. Those events have shaped a lot of my artwork, including the decision to become a full-time artist in 2008. Where am I today? In a word – thankful.

Create for the Cure, a benefit for Victory in the Valley, Wichita, KansasVictory in the Valley in Wichita, Kansas provides cancer support services at a time when patients and their families are at their most vulnerable, physically and emotionally. When I learned about Create for the Cure as a benefit for Victory in the Valley, I knew it needed to move, pretty much, right to the top of my list.

This work, “Rubicon,” will be auctioned off on October 26, 2012 at T & J Studios, 144 N. Emporia, Wichita, KS. As you make your Final Friday rounds, please stop by to view and buy from the donated artwork contributed by numerous artists for this very deserving organization.

 

105 Horizons. (Day 91)

105 Horizons, at Artworks, 7724 East Central, Ste. 300, Wichita, KS. Opening Final Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, 6-8pm and continuing through October 2012.

Unintentionally coinciding with Kansas’ propensity to shoot itself in the foot, I decided a short while back to look at our state differently. Ah, Kansas. “Everything looks the same,” if you aren’t looking. My wife and I, having grown up in rural Iowa and Kansas respectively, felt the need to look further and reconnect with our roots. The 105 Horizons project was born.

Butler County 2012-08-02

Coffey County 2012-08-05

Sedgwick County 2012-08-07

We resolved to travel to all 105 counties of Kansas, spend time in a county, photograph the vistas, but mostly, simply wait quietly and soak in the essence of just being. Kansas, with its “miles and miles of miles and miles” begins to take on a new look when we take the time to really see. And from that experience, acrylic on canvas abstract paintings are made that are inspired from that waiting and seeing.

Prototypes of those paintings are currently being shown at The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs in Matfield Green, KS, and the 5.4.7 Arts Center in Greensburg, KS. These experiments have led to the first of the 105 counties paintings, which are now being shown for the first time at Artworks, 7724 East Central, Ste. 300, Wichita, KS. The opening reception for that show is Final Friday, September 28, from 6 – 8 pm.

It’s not a good idea to wait for inspiration. Instead, roll up your sleeves and look for it. It was there all along, waiting for you.

105 Horizons is sponsored in part by:
Lawrence Photo, Wichita KS
Happy Shirt Printing, Lawrence KS

Build A Better Mousetrap. (Day 93)

You were expecting a metaphor? No. It’s fall, and I found myself needing to “build a better mousetrap,” for real. This DIY mousetrap hack is so effective – true story – I once caught two mice at the same time in one.

Build a Better Mousetrap

Take one standard issue mousetrap (this one is from Menard’s.) I prefer the ones with a metal food clip instead of plastic, but that’s only because I found plastic to be a bit trigger-happy. Drill a small hole in the food clip and from underneath, screw on a small electrical alligator clip. I drilled a hole through the wooden base for a small screwdriver to fit through, to make it easier to attach the alligator clip. You’ll see the screw sticking through on the left side of the alligator clip.

In the jaws, in the photo on the right side of the clip, you’ll see it is also wired on solidly. In lieu of that, you could glue the clip on. Experiment and be creative. When all of this is done, I like to glue the whole mouse trap onto a length of yardstick or cardboard to make it easier to position when it’s set, and to retrieve. Add a piece of hard old cat food or dog food in the jaws. Blammo.

The trick to building the better mouse trap, of course, is in the alligator clip. It holds a chunk of hard food they have to really get their teeth into, and by then it’s too late. Humane? Discuss amongst yourselves. Me, I don’t like mice running around the house. The end.

The Merc. (Day 141)

I was asked by The Merc in Lawrence, KS to display art in their eating area. This is no big white box, but a small, intimate and well-lit room. People using the space are right up by the art, and I liked the feel of the space. These are photos of the show, titled Kansas, Abstracted (click for artist statement.)

Tallgrass 22x64" $1200

 

Buffalo Grass 30x48" $1200

 

Updraft 30x48" $1200

 

Center Pivot Horizon 22x36" $700

 

Opportunity Window 30x64" $1500

Nocturne 16x44" $900

 

Tilting Windmills. (Day 147)

Tilting Windmill 1

"Tilting Windmill 1" shown at the Go Away Garage Gallery, July 2012

In 2008 I was fortunate to be included in a three-person exhibition at the Wichita Art Museum entitled “InterACTIVE,” a show that was popular enough to run for two years. Integral to the artwork developed for that exhibit was the site-specific “Moiré Wheels” kinetic sculpture, made from 50 bicycle wheels.

Drive mechanismBorne out of that concept is the freestanding “Tilting Windmill” series of kinetic artwork utilizing bicycle wheels and off-the-shelf hardware. What took me two years of experimenting was finding a robust method for powering the wheels. Bead chain, like the kind found on keychains, was the solution to issues of reliability and tensioning in the drive mechanism. The first of these new sculptures was shown at the “2 Wheel Cheap Thrills” show at the Go-Away Garage Gallery in July 2012.

S5 Title System. (Day 151)

Named with the S5 Title System

Cubicle Art named with the S5 system

A while back I developed a little system for naming certain artworks I make. Everyone seems to want titles for artwork…except me. On some work, like the recent landscape series, I have seen the light and put some thought into representative titles, like this piece titled “Tallgrass”. But this is not about those titles.

I would prefer, of course, for artwork to stand on its own two legs. As a compromise, what I’m doing is titling small work that used to simply be given a catalog number. I located a Scrabble word list for all five-letter words, then printed it off. As I use a word, it gets crossed off. With 9,200 words, give or take, it will last a while.

It was something of an inside joke. This whole story probably doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but it took a small jump forward today when I officially named it the “S5 Title System” (Scrabble-5-Words.) Creating some new, small work segued into artist statement sheets to go with them, which segued into needing to explain the titles. It’s a marketing exercise. And now it’s official.