02 January 2017

Artist Interview Series: Featuring Brian Michael Flue . . .

Before anything else happens in our collective lives, I want to send a shout-out and a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my boyfriend, Josh. He is an awesome human and the luckiest person to have his birthday fall on the first day of the year! Yay! Happiest first week of the year to Josh!


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I found the following image yesterday on Pussy Hat Project's Instagram and I instantly reposted it.


2017 is set to be an interesting year, if for nothing else (which there is actually plenty else happening in the world), impending leadership of the United States. This is why artists and makers and doers are creating some of the best work of their careers, now, in this time of uncertainty and disillusion.

Making and looking at art is one of the greatest ways to gain perspective and take a look at the bigger picture. Making artwork can give you a "voice" where maybe you didn't think you had one to begin with. It can help to pose questions, open up conversation, engage communities at large, and bring about awareness and change.

That's why I have decided to devote a good portion of my blogging in 2017 to interviews with fellow artists.


To start off this Artist Interview Series, I have chosen to interview someone I have only recently had the pleasure of meeting. His name is Brian, and he lives in Georgia. Brian is Josh's brother. In early December, I went to Atlanta for a conference. And, I stayed with Josh's parents and got to meet Brian. I was only there for roughly 24 hours, but I was able to view some of his work and it was incredible, and--quite frankly--mind-blowing. The amount of detail and time put into each piece was hard for me to comprehend. And, it was all materials that I am not used to looking at. I know very little about wood, paper, leather, and paint. The way that Brian puts everything together is absolutely contemporary and magical, beautiful and cosmic. He has trained himself in his artistic practice, not by a formal education path, but by perseverance and dedication to his craft. He is extremely prolific. I think I ended up viewing close to 100 or 150 pieces made over the course of several years. 

The goal now is to get this work shown, either in galleries or alternative spaces. Seeing all of his work together, as one collection, is truly striking and would wow even the most reserved viewer. This past weekend, he brought me close to 30 pieces (wood, paper, and walking sticks) to show around to a variety of galleries in the Southeastern region of the United States. I'm thinking of starting with Asheville, Savannah, St. Petersburg, and Nashville. And of course, a website is coming soon! Please contact me with any suggestions, though. Brian is excited and eager to make things happen!

While I was in Atlanta, I took a few snapshots of the work presented to me. And over the last few weeks, I sent him a list of questions via email. Here are his responses. Enjoy! 


LB: Please tell me your full name.

BF: My name is Brian Michael Flue, and I work as a sterile processor for Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.


LB: How long have you been making artwork?

BF: I started to draw around the age of 8. When I was younger, I found that that I was interested in abstract art. And the way that form, style, and color were all subjective to different interpretations. (See below, beyond Brian's walking sticks, an oil pastel of a fish that his mother said he made when he was in 1st grade.)


My favorite artist is Wassily KandinskyI started to draw like him before I even knew who he was. I felt--in a way--I was channeling his spirit. (See the similarities below: top is Wassily Kandinsky and the bottom is Brian's work.)



LB: Since you work full time at a job other than making artwork, when do you devote time to making your art?
BF: Working on my art while holding down a 9 to 5 job does not coexist well. My artwork demands my full attention. So, weekends and vacations are my real chances to connect with it. 


    


LB: I have never been a woodworker, but I quite enjoy the look of wood. Especially when it's smoothed out and filled with color. There is something so celebratory about your work and using wood as your chief material. Have you always enjoyed working with wood? How did you first come to using wood as a platform for your designs and colors?
BF: My 2 main mediums are wood and paper. Wood is my preferred medium. Wood seemed an unusual material for abstract art. 
I want to show that heavy abstract themes could be displayed on it. Wood is durable and strong. I wanted something that would last for generations. Wood is natural and organic, while my style is brutally symbolic. Graining in the wood will sometimes trip me up. Sometimes I have to be spontaneous and change direction. You must be willing to make changes as you go. That is the fun of working with wood. 

My main tools are a rotary tool, flat sanders, and a wood burner. My paints are acrylic. I use drafting instruments and freehand. Also, walking sticks are important to me. Walking sticks take us places, and I like to put my journeys into them. 


LB: I know that you also have a lot of drawings on paper. In fact you are quite prolific. I think I thumbed through hundreds of drawings in your collection. I presumed these were preliminary plans for wood pieces. But do you consider these drawings to be artworks that stand on their own? Finished pieces?
BF: I always sign and date my works. If it does not get signed or dated it is just doodling.
I do not think I have hundreds of pieces. Thanks for the compliment. I think my work contains a depth and intricacy that makes the viewer feel as if he or she is experiencing more than is actually there.


LB: As I look at the pieces you’ve made that I have photographed, I see hints of tribal patterning, Blue Ridge and Appalachian-style woodworking, technological symbolism, science fiction, religion, history, and imagination. Can you tell me more about how you come up with your surface decorations? How do you decide what shapes go where? How do you decide if a shape or pattern is working, or if it is not. And how do you decide when enough is enough, and the artwork is finished?
BF: I grew up in Arizona. There was always a lot of Native American art around me. While my work is not Native American, it uses similar themes. Structure and spiritualism runs through many of my pieces. When I am creating, I feel more connected with the earth. I am an intuitive artist. I rarely measure my designs.
There must be a randomness in the placing of my shapes and ideas. It's great when i just start drawing and it flows out of me. My work has its quirks, though. But that is what makes it mine. I believe a piece that has a hand drawn look is more pleasing. While I could use a computer to design my work. I believe it lacks the human touch.

My work also has an architectural quality. I like to think of some of my designs like a topographical map looking down on a building or place. Again, I feel like my work provides an escape from the normal.


LB: What kinds of things do you look at for inspiration? Tell me more about the movies you like to watch, the music you listen to, and the books you read. Are you inspired by the nature surrounding your home?
BF: I guess I could be considered an geek when it comes to movies and music. I love science fiction, thrillers, and any blood-pumping films. As far as music goes, I like everything from Phil Collins to heavy metal.  

LB: I see all of your art making that is stashed away in your home with you, and I think, “My goodness! This work could fill the walls of a small museum in New York City!!” How do you see your work being viewed by the public? Do you see it someday being viewed in a gallery or museum? Or do you want to make work that goes straight from you, the maker, to the buyer, art collector, or a family friend?
BF: It is true that I have stockpiled most of my work. I have made some work for friends and family. It would be a lifelong dream to have my work displayed so that people could enjoy it. To have my work shown to the public would be a creative catalyst for me. 
Lindsey, you are the first artist to have seen my work and wished to share it with others. Thank you. I have a lifetime of art experiences, but no exposure. To one day be able to live off of my art would be bliss. To share and improve my technique while being nourished by other creative souls would be a tremendous gift.

LB: How important is it to you that your artwork be used? I am thinking primarily of the walking sticks, now. Do you see these pieces as being an active part of the buyer’s life? Do you design them with their specific use in mind? 

BF: My walking sticks are made to be be used. However some of my more detailed sticks could be hung and displayed. It would be a shame if they were dropped and damaged, though.  


LB: Tell me about your studio space. What kinds of tools do you use? What does your set up look like? Where do you scavenge for wood? How do you know if a piece of wood will be good to use as a walking stick? Do you whittle or laser cut your wood pieces? Or do you just use the burning tool that you mentioned before? What about the additional materials that you use? In a few of your walking sticks, I noticed leather straps. In some of your wood wall hangings, I noticed sequin or metallic looking pieces. These are quite unlike the wood, especially the metallic pieces. How do you incorporate these types of materials into your work? What is your decision making process like?
BF: For the time being I work out of my garage. Its not fancy. I have made some of my better wood projects down there. My last piece contains different elements than I have used before. I have been experimenting with different planes of wood to create a more 3D appearance. 
One tip if you are going to harvest wood for walking sticks: pick a spring sapling, then strip it with a good sharp blade while it's green. Then, let it cure in a dry place for 6 to 8 months. Then, when it's dried, sand it until it is smooth. I am particular about smoothness, and it gives my sticks a slick look

My metal materials are upholstery tacks and foils. I use leather strapping for grips. My paper works are done with pencil and ink.


LB: Finally, let’s talk about color. Color is very near and dear to my heart. I look at color as a form of celebration, showing honor, and beautifying an object. How do you look at color as it relates to your artwork? Some of your walking sticks have less color on them then the others do . . . Some of your drawings are far more colorful than the wood pieces. What are your favorite colors? How do you see the role of color in your art making?
BF: Black and white art works well on its own merits, but my art can not live without color. Artwork on paper is more detailed then most of my wood simply due to my experience. 
Color is a personal experience. Sometimes it is not being transmitted in words, but is more emotional. I prefer vibrant and expressive color, something that can catch the eye from far off. 

I always hope that somehow we could get a whole new set of colors introduced to humanity.

I have been enjoying your work and do see that color is a large part of your style. I am impressed how you use it along with motion. It makes your work feel alive and full. 


Above is a drawing that Brian brought me this past weekend. He said that it is about travel, with bird wings and mapping. I absolutely love it. A huge thank you to Brian and his family for sharing his work with me and if you have any remarks or questions for him, please leave them in the comments section below . . . HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! WAHOO!

29 November 2016

Art For Kids Hub! YAY!! YAY!! YAY!!


On occasion, I use a video series on YouTube to guide my students with drawing in their sketchbooks. The channel I use is called Art For Kids Hub and contains hundreds of videos of a dad and one of his three kids drawing various things in a step-by-step manner. My students absolutely love doing drawings with Mr. Rob, who hails from Utah.


The channel lets you search subjects by holiday, seasons of the year, drawing level (age), or cartoon character name. Generally speaking, I use videos like these on days just before a big holiday or during testing, when a large group of students may be gone from class.


I believe that art class is not for only heightening creative skills. There is so much more that goes into teaching creative skills to students! In my art classroom, I aim to enhance a young person’s listening skills, observing skills, and hand/eye coordination. Doing these video step-by-steps help students to become aware of what shapes are needed to create specific things: how does an owl get drawn to really look like an owl? They have to listen and watch to see how a drawing is realized. It’s not a quick process. So, these videos also help to establish patience in my students.


And, Mr. Rob is awesome!! He’s really great at explaining shapes and lines, and how to create texture with shading and layering. He always draws with a Sharpie marker. So, occasionally I give my students an added challenge, and take away their erasers. Can they listen and follow instructions and turn their *perceived* oops into a wow

My students love him! Absolutely LOVE him!



13 November 2016

2015/2016 . . . A Year in Review or, The Year That Got Away. Changes.



I began writing this blogpost last weekend, in a much more different emotional state than I am currently in (you will see dated statements below) . . . I have not lost hope, but I am definitely feeling disheartened and not unlike someone has punched me in the gut. The only thing that I have read in the past week that has made sense to me came from an email I received from Figment, a forum for the creation and display of participatory and interactive art by emerging artists across disciplines.

"Art enables us to imagine alternate possibilities for ourselves and our society, and to create and test them. When we invite everyone to come together to co-create, we start the process of imagining a future that serves everyone, that meets everyone's needs. Creativity is a universal asset, with many benefits. We need to empower everyone to create in order to build mutual understanding and imagine a better future . . . Let's fight to bring that joy, that spirit of inclusion and understanding, to everyone."

I shared this quote on FB and IG, and will refrain from saying much else about the outcome of November 8th. 


It is two days away from the most bizarre presidential election, the best offshoot being the amazing Saturday Night Live skits that accompanied each of the debates. They are brilliant, really. I am planning a fun game to play on Tuesday night as the numbers roll in, but I really have nothing else to say about the election. God bless America, peoples. The future looks female.

For the past several months I have been trying to get up the courage to start blogging again. It’s been hard to keep up with things lately. Too much has been going on over the past two years, and not all of it has been positive. But now seems as good a time as any to begin writing again . . . And so I will.


On July 31st, at 2am, I arrived in Lakeland,Florida to begin a new teaching job. For those who don’t know (as I did not before I moved here), Lakeland is sort of centrally located between both coasts and quite a bit further down into the dangling part of the state of Florida than I had realized. It is a small town, nestled equidistance from Orlando and Tampa. Like a typical US citizen, I am now dependent on a car and have to drive everywhere. This annoys me greatly, but I have borrowed a car from a magical person. So at least the cost is minimal.

The school where I teach is located roughly 25 minutes away from where I live, on the outskirts of another small town called Winter Haven. It sits on a cow field surrounded by protected wildlife. We have an alligator on campus and lots and lots of birds. Two Sandhill cranes spend their time milling about in our parking lots and around the football field. I generally arrive on campus when it’s still dark out, sometimes sitting on the edge of one of the surrounding cow fields to watch the sun rise. I am about 45 minutes away from some fabulous beaches. I’m not a huge sitting-on-the-beach person, but I do like walking the beaches and I absolutely love looking out into the ocean. I spend a lot of time in Tarpon Springs, which is about an hour and a half away.

I accepted the position here in Florida, after accepting and turning down a position in Armenia with the Peace Corps and a middle school art teaching position in Beijing. The jury is still out . . . I took quite a pay cut to come back to the United States. And I miss traveling a whole heck of a lot. But my students are awesome, here. And the classes I get to teach are incredible! We’ve started on a big school-wide mural, which I’m really excited about. All I can say about everything is: stay tuned!

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Qatar  Living in Doha was a huge learning experience. The heat did not bother me. It was just like living in Texas. It turns out that I do not do well in environments where religion and government are mixed. This may not come as a surprise to most, but it was a surprise to me. I also do not want to live somewhere where I need an exit permit to leave, anytime I need to leave. I believe you should never feel trapped in a country, whether you are visiting there or living there. I also really like trees and plants, and being surrounded by things other than sand. It is good to have opinions. And it is good to know what you like and what you don’t like, what you will put up with and what you will not put up with. I learned all of those things in Doha. I will not go into details here. But the long and short of my time in Doha is this: I moved to Qatar from Singapore, I made a lot of great friends, I had an amazing apartment, I got sick on-and-off for 5 months, my beautiful dog Charlotte died, I illustrated a clown book with fabric, I adopted a bizarre, dual-language cat named Rigby, my heart got broken, I learned 3 words in Arabic, and then I moved back to the United States.










 


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Switzerland  My first trip out of Doha was to Switzerland to visit my friend Dhivya. It was autumn at the time and absolutely gorgeous. I went to Zurich, Lucerne, and Basel. Basel is where Dhivya teaches. She lives in a lovely little flat with two nice balconies and some great bars right around the corner. Visiting Dhivya was just what I needed . . . And hilarious. She was working late on the day I arrived, so when I got up to her apartment with the key she left me, she had covered my bed with balloons and chocolate and train tickets. It was so fun! We went to a carnival and rode lots of crazy rides—some of them more than once. We went to a restaurant devoted to blind and partially sighted people called Blindekuh. Our waiters and waitresses were blind and the meal was absolutely incredible. We ate our food and drank our drinks completely in the dark, elbowing it up with strangers and laughing hysterically. It’s really amazing how intensely my four other senses were working when my eyes could no longer see. Switzerland was such a beautiful country to visit. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since this trip, and was invited to go skiing with Dhivya for the holidays. But, alas! I am now somewhat trapped in the good ol’ isolated US of A.



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Sri Lanka  For Christmas and New Years of 2015, I went to Sri Lanka. I stayed just Southwest of Colombo for two weeks, traveling out only for a few days. I saw wild elephants up close, drove through the hills of gorgeous tea plantations, stopped at family-operated temples, hung out at the beach, played with sea turtles, drove a Tuk Tuk, and tasted the incredible flavors of local foods prepared for me by my host family. The seawater was the most powerful I had ever seen of any ocean. And the people were some of the nicest I have ever met. My host family took me to Christmas mass with them, where we all stood outside the church because it was too hot for all of us to stand inside the church. So the priest gave the mass to an empty church with about 300 people standing outside. Afterwards, we went down the street for cake and sparklers. It was enchanting. Sri Lanka remains to be one of my most memorable and cherished places I have ever been. I will be making plans to go back very soon.






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India  My heart was broken in India. But not before I got to experience the most incredible country I have ever been to for a third time. Hyderabad was vastly different than Delhi. It had offices for Google and Facebook right downtown. And there isn’t this sort of “old-world” feel to Hyderabad, like there is in Delhi. There was a section of town called Tollywood, where the movie industry is just as big as that in Bollywood. The food was to die for: dosa with mounds of butter heaped on top, flavorful biryani, and I found a little bakery that made the most amazing biscuits (cookies). I hiked around an old fort that seemed to be on top of the world, and I visited numerous temples. My favorite part of my trip came while visiting an art center. We ate kulfi before sitting down to watch a traditional Indian dance performance. The first dance was a man dancing alone, and the second dance was a group of several girls of varying ages. The dance moves themselves are amazing to watch, especially when keeping up with the live drumming. But I most enjoyed the costuming and eye movements: such expression! I will definitely visit India again, and soon. But next time, I hope to be at an ashram studying meditation and devotion.








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Nepal  In May, I took my last official break of the school year to Nepal. I spent 5 days at Sadhana Yoga Meditation Retreat in Pokhara. This was probably the most organized and brilliant trip I have ever taken. Each day started at 5:30am and ended at 9pm, with 3 yoga classes per day, 3 meditations, chanting, reflexology, clean eating, tea breaks, steam or mud baths, and neti kriya. There was only about an hour or two of free time per day, which is really great for me (the busier I am, the better). During my breaks, I would do small drawings, go on walks, or take a boat trip to the middle of the lake, downtown, where there was a temple. The most interesting and new type of meditation that we practiced was candle meditation, where everyone sat in a circle and stared at the flickering of a candle in the dark. We did this for one hour before going to bed. At the end of my time there, my body felt amazing and my skin looked so young and dewy and fresh. I can’t imagine what I will feel like after 21 days this summer! The goal is to be there for the whole month of July. I’m excited! “Think only good thoughts of others; speak only good words of others. Do only good deeds to others; give of your substance to help others.”




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Oman  The last trip I took out of Doha, Qatar was to Muskat, Oman with a group of good friends. Normally I travel alone, but I had such a good time with these people over the past year, that I thought, what better way to leave Qatar? So we took a fun weekend away. We flew to Oman and rented a car. We stayed at a hotel, hung out by the pool, drove around to see the landscape (drastically different than Qatar), went to markets, and had some amazing Turkish food. It was a quick trip, but super fun!! Oman seemed less rigid than Qatar, which was a nice break.


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In August, I graduated from the Maryland Institute Collegeof Art with an MFA in Studio Art. This was a four summer/three year multidisciplinary program. I started it during the first summer after I moved to Singapore. So I would fly back and forth every summer and MLK weekend to make work and present work. During the fall and spring semesters, I would read various assigned things and write papers analyzing these readings. There was lots and lots of jet lag experienced during this graduate program, and about $15,000 spent on plane tickets. But the friends I met during this program have been absolutely priceless! Such wonderful people that I still text almost weekly! Now that I’ve graduated, I’m having a bit of a hard time sitting still. I’ve been in school consistently since January of 2007. So, I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do with myself. Looking at PhD programs as we speak! Wish me luck!!





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In the coming weeks, I will begin to reveal more and more about my new teaching post in Lakeland. I hope to interview some of my students and co-teachers, and give readers a more complete insight into where I live. I’m trying to look at Florida like it’s a new country . . . In some ways it is. And in some ways, it’s just the US being the US. Anyhow. Have a great weekend, and keep in touch!

See also *this article* on my recent artwork and moving to Lakeland written by my good friend, Caitlin . . . More creative fun coming soon! In the meanwhile: stay active, make friends, discuss things, build community, and love our great earth!! XOXO

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-- Rest in peace, my lovely Charlotte-girl. --