You guys, April pretty much picked me up and threw me against the wall. Then May stomped all over me to make sure I didn’t get back up in a hurry. It’s been All Systems Go for weeks and weeks until the physical system decided to shut right down for a good long while and is only now sputtering back to life.
I have a new favourite podcast and it is called Stuff Mom Never Told You. Best part? Their archives go back years and years (seriously). I love when that happens. It means I have plenty to listen to when I’ve burned through everything in my “most recent” playlist. Although, truth be told, that’s not happening as much lately since I am now subscribed to thirty podcasts. Oof. Bit reminiscent of those early, heady days of RSS when I subscribed to everything then felt utterly shamed by my RSS reader every time I glanced at it. You know what I’m talking about, I know you do.
Hey, speaking of Instagram, looks like they launched a browser-based option to explore hashtags. As in hashtags are now linked in your browser, not just in the Instagram app! Like, here, check out everything everyone’s posted about #the100dayproject. This is a big deal, you guys!
And finally (potential spoilers ahead). Is anyone else bereft about the end of Mad Men? I am bereft. I’ve read everyarticleabouttheseriesfinalethat’scrossedmypath. I just don’t want to live in a world where I don’t get to find out how Don and Peggy and Stan and Joan and Betty (poor, Betty) and Roger manage the rest of the 70s (or not). And the 80s. Part of me was totally hoping for a flash forward (à la Six Feet Under) even though I knew I wouldn’t get it. I just… UGH. I am bereft.
Here’s a happy note to leave you on: I’ve been sitting on a couple of Sunday Artist interviews and I’m now finally carving out some time to work on them and get them published. First one is coming up on a Sunday very soon. Anticipate!
Meet Cary Knapp. Cary is a librarian/artist who lives in Georgia, where she creates brilliant, vibrant art out of wood bowls, acrylic paint, and a whole lot of skill and patience. Cary was generous enough to take some time to share more about her work and her art in this edition of Sunday Artist, Monday Librarian, so pull up a chair settle in for more on Cary’s art and adventures!
Let’s start with your day job, Cary. Can you tell me about what you do?
I’m a Public Service/Reference Librarian at the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick. It’s a small (and new) four year college located about an hour’s drive from Savannah. There are about 3000 students and I’m one of five professional librarians. I’ve worked here about 5 years. Prior to that I worked at the public library in Brunswick for 20 years; before that I worked in libraries on US military bases overseas. I could retire but I love the job.
Now I want to hear about your work! How did you get started painting bowls?
I was visiting a relative in Vermont in the mid 1990s and saw some painted bowls at various galleries. My cousin said that the Bowl Mill was close by and I went there and purchased a few. I enjoyed painting them and the business of “Bowled Over” grew from there. I have a BA in Art and have always done something “arty” as a pastime.
Your work has so much colour and variety! Do you have any favourite themes or motifs? How do you decide what to paint on any given bowl? What inspires you?
I love the colors of Latin art. I went to school and studied art in Mexico and was heavily influenced by that country’s energy, design, and vibrancy. The ideas of what to paint on a bowl usually come to me from “doodling” or pictures I’ve seen. Also, I’ve noticed that each year a certain design will sell well. For instance, one year everyone was buying my frog bowls; another year it was the roosters and chickens. Lately I’ve sold a lot of fish designs and sun flowers.
I’m really interested in the creative process and how artists come to create what they do. Can you tell me more about your practice? How do you fit it into your life? What does your creative process look like?
I have always loved art and wished I had gone to an art school, but my parents believed in a liberal arts education. I have a degree to teach art and that’s how I met my husband, who was teaching art in the same school system I was working for in San Diego. Once we were married we decided to teach overseas on military bases with the Department of Defense, which was only hiring one teacher per family. So, when I realized that he would get the teaching jobs wherever we went, I returned to school to earn a Masters Degree in Library Science, because I also loved books and literature. That way, wherever we worked my husband could teach and I could work in the base library. We did this for many years living in places such as Iceland, England, Germany and Cuba. We now live on St. Simons Island in Georgia. My husband retired from the DoD and is a fulltime potter and glassblower and I work at a college library but still paint my bowls whenever I can. We started a small art business called “The Whole Gamut Studio,” and we do some art shows and have a gallery at our house. I enjoy painting but I also like working, so the “creative process” is really just trying to budget my time so I can do both well.
Understandable! I think we all struggle with that. Which brings me to my next question: do you have other media or creative outlets that you work in? Or is it all wood bowl painting all the time?
In the last few years I’ve started to paint on canvas, which is a lot of fun, but I always seem to go back to bowls. Perhaps this is because when I’m painting a bowl I can work at an art table and watch a Netflix or listen to music or a book. And the bowls are fairly unique whereas paintings are much more prevalent (especially at art shows).
And finally, are you happy with the balance you’ve struck between working your day job and your art practice? Do you ever dream of quitting your librarian gig and becoming a full-time artist?
I’m content with the balance although sometimes trying to paint and work can be a little overwhelming. I’m also on the board of the St. Simons Literary Guild, an organization that mainly supports our local public library. I manage the author programs and the foreign and independent films we show. That, too, takes up my time. Certainly I have days where I’d prefer to stay home and paint all day, but staying busy actually helps me manage my time better. Ideally I’d like to work with a gallery—just paint bowls and have the gallery sell them—but I doubt that will ever happen.
Can we start by talking about colour? It’s been on my mind lately. I enjoyed reading this article about a study that found that we are more likely to share images (on places like Pinterest) with certain colours in them (pinks, red, purples) than others (greens, blues, yellows, black). And this one, about why the reds in Van Gogh’s paintings are turning white. Poor Vincent. The header image on this post is fade-proof red in his honour.
The newest addition to my podcast app is Call Your Girlfriend. Two episodes in, I’m enjoying it. BTW, Podcast Thing is a fab resource for finding good podcasts (something that’s way harder to do than it should be).
Let me leave you with a fun little diversion by the name of Sans Bullshit Sans. Generally not safe for work but thoroughly entertaining if you are as annoyed by current buzzwords (let’s create value and authentic engagement in the social media space, you guys) as most of us are. (via Meighan O’Toole)
One of the best things about this interview series is that the more I talk to librarian artists, the more I learn of other librarian artists out there in the world, doing their awesome library/art thing, with total dedication to both the people they serve and their art. It’s brilliant. Case in point: Virginia Alexander introduced me to today’s librarian artist, Andy Finkle, whose paintings have that charming ability to put a smile on your face, no matter how bad your day has been (it’s March in academic library land; the crazy-making days are many). Pull up a chair, grab a cup of tea, and let’s get right to Andy Finkle.
Let’s start with your day job, Andy. Tell me about your library gig.
I’m a reference librarian at a mid-sized public university in South Carolina (5,500 students). If I’m at work then I’m on the reference desk. I help students in person, on the phone and via online chat. If the desk is slow I work on compiling stats from the online reference questions or work on various projects, but always while at the reference desk.
For the most part, enjoy the direct interaction with patrons. I get to see how my input (hopefully) helps the students. My first library gig was behind the scenes as part of a cataloging department at a different university. Behind the scenes work needs to be done and is essential to a functioning library. I can see the advantages of both types of work, but I am happy with my current job.
Thanks so much for checking out my artwork! Like most people, I started making art as a child in the form of drawings. Art was always my favorite subject in school. I didn’t enjoy high school, but I was fortunate enough to go to a school that happened to have a very good visual arts program. If I remember correctly, my senior year I had gotten most of my required classes out of the way. Five (out of seven) of my classes were electives that year and all of them were art! I wasn’t the most traditional student in college and had a false start or two before completing my Bachelor’s. The school I went to didn’t have a BFA at the time but I fit in as many art classes as I could. While I appreciate the art classes I took, I don’t think my current work reflects much education. I think it can be good to learn classic practices of art even if you’re going to end up ignoring them down the road.
I typically get started with absent-minded doodling. I draw when I’m on the phone, watching TV, or doing other things that don’t require 100% attention (apologies to people I speak on the phone with. I’m listening, I promise). When I end up with a drawing I like, I paint it. Acrylic is what I use most commonly, but I often use enamel paints and spray paints as well. What paint I use usually depends on what surface I’m painting on. I use canvas a lot but will paint on other surfaces that become available. You can call it re-purposing or you can call it cheap. I paint on wood, metal, granite, whatever.
I think I’m mostly inspired by cartoons. I enjoyed the aesthetic of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons I watched as a child. I think I was also influenced by the bizarre toys that made it to America by way of Japan in the 1980’s. Does anybody remember M.U.S.C.L.E.?! Currently I paint a fair amount of monsters. I’m interested in folklore as well as cryptozoology.
Your monsters! I’m intrigued by them. Tell me more.
I am probably more interested in making characters than making paintings. I often give names to the figures in my paintings. I sometimes assign them complicated back stories that viewers never know about. It is fun for me. Occasionally I have had customers tell me the names they have given to the characters in the paintings they’ve bought from me. I am flattered when people take the time to think about my work enough to name the creatures. Some of my characters have bad habits. I think some people don’t like my mix of cartoons (typically a form of drawing for children) and bad habits, but you can’t please everyone.
Indeed you can’t — I’m glad you’re just doing your own thing! Which leads me to your art practice. How do you fit it into your life? What does your creative process look like?
I’m adjunct. I think universities came up with that word so you wouldn’t feel bad about going to graduate school just to have a part-time gig. I sincerely like being adjunct though. I recommend it to anyone who has a wonderful wife that can get you medical benefits from her job. I work afternoons and some nights. That means mornings are prime time for art. My wife leaves for work around 7:15 AM. That means from then to 1 PM is free. Not saying I utilize all of that time to the best of my ability, I don’t. But I always have a few art projects in the works.
So many artists I know work in multiple media or have more than one creative outlet. Is it all painting all the time for you, or do you enjoy other creative pursuits?
Painting is my primary creative outlet. I do dabble with other forms of visual art though (printmaking, junk sculptures, whatever). When it comes to non-visual forms of creativity I like to goof around with music. Depending on who you ask, I can play guitar and bass. I have fun with it but am not disciplined.
Speaking of discipline, here’s the question I usually like to end with: do you feel like you’ve struck a good balance between your librarian work and art-making? Do you ever dream of becoming a full-time artist?
Perhaps I should say that being a librarian is not a job but a calling? It isn’t though, not for me. It is the best job I’ve ever had, but it is a job. I wouldn’t do it for free. I am sincerely happy to have the job I do. I get to be in a nice environment and enjoy the challenge of finding resources for a tricky question. I am a librarian and I am happy to be one. But if I could make enough money from my art to concentrate on that, I would.
Huge thanks to Andy for sharing his time, work, and candour on what it’s really like to be a Sunday Artist, Monday Librarian (or, in this case, a weekday morning artist, weekday afternoon librarian. Doesn’t have the same ring to it, sorry Andy!). You should definitely check out more of Andy’s work on his website and follow his process/progress on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.