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The Invisible Line Between Work & Art

ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom began the week considering The Invisible Line Between Work & Art : Finding the Artistry in Day to Day Activity in a fantastic session with Teaching Artist Maraya Lopez.

Maraya summarizes: “When does art stop being work and work stop being art? This conundrum was the basis for my lesson. There is an invisible line that exists between creating and what we know as work.

Is there an artistry in day to day activity? I believe that the act of creating is similar to the artistry that exists in day to day activity, such as brushing your teeth or doing laundry. If one is consciously present in day to day activity as when making art, the spirit transcends the earthy realm into the unknown.

I started the lesson with questions to the class and then we had discussion in small groups.

1. Do you consider art making to be work?

2. Is going to school work?

3. Does labor have to be involved to produce an artwork?

4. Is there an artistry in day to day activities, such as gardening and cooking?

Work samples as inspiration included art made by NYC based artist Whitney Oldenburg, Cambodian sculptor Sopheap Pich and Van Gogh.

Sopheap Pich: A Room Click to watch a video about his work:

Sopheap Pich video still

Whitney Oldenburg writes about their work: “The visual indexes of pilling, building, cutting, puncturing, and destroying, suggests a highly psychological and emotional labor; one that embraces phobia and anxiety as a part of existence.

Whitney Oldenburg, frozen foods, resin, fiber, clay, rock, cardboard, doormat, and ice trays

Vincent Van Gogh, Shoes, 1888

I know this lesson was challenging in terms of the somewhat heavy philosophical notion about art and work. However, the students managed to find the light and airy within the weight. I was very pleased with the various responses!!

Alison’s depiction of her father’s hand alluded to labor and was accompanied by a touching story about his role in her life and a poem.

Alison Guinet, Invisible Line Between Work & Art and poem by rupi kuar

Zeke’s sci-fi looking machine spoke to capitalist society and a humanesque labor contraption. Which Jacob compared in critique to the illustrations in Bini Adamczak’s book Communism For Children.

Zeke Brokaw, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

Drawing from Bini Adamczak’s book Communism For Children.

Assata’s quotidian working life turned into a lyrical composition of color, rhythm and shape with an occasional bird.

Assata Benoit, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

Nayarite’s piece in tones of blues and greens was based on sleeping and mentioned that she believed sleep to be work.”

Nayarit Tineo, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

My own (Maraya) piece was inspired by filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu’s film, Floating Weeds and his use of the color green.

Floating weeds, drifting down the leisurely river of our lives,” has long been a favored metaphor in Japanese prose and poetry. This plant, the ukigusa (duckweed in English), floating aimlessly, carried by stronger currents, is seen as emblematic of our own journey.

Maraya Lopez, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

Meridith’s piece was playfully based on her mousepad that has a Van Gogh image printed on it. I thought her use of the circle was emblematic of balance and a metaphor for the balance of life and work.”

Meridith McNeal, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

Vera’s video begins with the pattern of her uniform from her weekend job as a clown!

Vera Tineo, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

Karla writes: Is art making work? Without further question – YES. After three rounds of re-“working” with my selected materials: Cut paper from recycled photo album pages, graph paper and garage sale log on spiral notebook. After Maraya’s great and thought provoking lesson I Zoomed in Tuesday with Ed’s still life challenges of intentional perspective and translations in local colors. His color addition to Monday’s drawing provided a perfect example! Great lessons!! Thank you!!!

Karla Prickett, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

Jacob had all of us roaring over his description of proctoring tests and an outfit that resembled a potato sack.

Jacob Rath, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

Robin used multiple views to depict her studio desk.

Robin Grant, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

Marilyn’s mixed media piece looks at the work of gardening.

Marilyn August, Invisible Line Between Work & Art (in progress)

Delphine painted the stress of the work of a student.

Delphine Levenson, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

Pat explores the balancing act of work.

Pat Larash, Invisible Line Between Work & Art

And Ed draws the tools of the construction trade:

Ed Rath, Invisible Line Between Work & Art


This week ART YARD Advance Studio usually in-person took place on Zoom (due to a covid exposure in the group). We began the second session with Teaching Artist Ed Rath with a quick review of last week’s question, “What is the Picture Plane?”

Ed reports: “Building on our work with contour line drawing, we segued into a discussion about how to translate a line drawing into a painting. For inspiration we looked at six works by Edward Hopper, including working drawings, and finished paintings which incorporate elements of those drawings. To create these works, Hopper started off drawing the scene from observation; later in the studio, he recomposed the imagery, integrating extreme geometric forms with high contrast color planes to give his mundane subject matter a feeling other-worldliness. This translates to most viewers as a feeling of alienation or isolation. These unique paintings open a portal into a totally Hopperesque world,

Edward Hopper, sketches and Morning Sun, 1952

From there began a discussion on the question, “What is Local Color?” To

address this query each participant set up a simple still life from which they made quick line drawings. Next, we added Local Color, that is, color derived from observation.

The works produced had an unexpected freshness.

Jacob, working from a hostel room in Chicago, used objects found in the room to set up hierarchical space, with a power strip at the top of the page functioning as the horizon line. His restrained color and faint shadows inform us that the local colors are bathed in warm light.

Jacob Rath, Local Color

Likewise, Meridith’s still life objects, viewed from above, glow under the ambient light of the room they occupy. Included here is a small, battery powered table lamp which, as evening progressed, grew brighter, casting its orange color onto the surrounding objects. Borrowing a page from Karla’s lesson featuring the white line lithography of Eva Gilmore, Meridith utilized white outlines on some of her objects, adding to the ethereal quality of her imagery.

Meridith McNeal, Local Color

Utilizing a simple “Drop-off” horizon line, Evelyn’s well observed still life masterfully incorporated ellipses, rectangles, a truncated triangle, and a long tapered wedge to represent dishes, a flower pot, a jewelry box, and a paintbrush. The paintbrush - proverbial symbol of the artist’s hand, is repeated in her picture by its shadow, running below and parallel to it. This shadow literally underlines the importance of this potent symbol. Also notable: her subtle, muted color, resulting from local color immersed in atmospheric light, as perceived through the eye of the artist.

Evelyn Beliveau, Local Color

Like Meridith, Alison viewed her set-up from above. This view implies that the horizon line and subsequent vanishing point is somewhere above the top of the image. Her beautiful set-up incorporates high contrast colors with an interesting sequence of symbols: a red smiley heart emoji, a book, and a pair of glasses, resting on a sensuous dark green silk fabric. My interpretation: A self-portrait celebrating the artist’s love of life, art, and learning.

Alison Guinet, Local Color still life and painting.

Robin’s carefully observed drawing uses contour line exclusively to describe form in a convincing, matter of fact way. With the addition of local color, the picture comes alive, its shadows and accent colors lead the viewer through the space occupied by the objects depicted. Before she was able to finish the color work, her daughter plucked the candy bar from the array and ate it, a poignant reminder to all of us that, Life is short and Art is long.

Robin Grant, Still life drawing and Local Color.

Karla’s deceptively simple image is a marvelous example of deep, deep space. The table top on the foreground pushes the viewer away from the picture plane while the potted plant looks longingly out the window at the faraway mountains, sky and sun, the source of light and life. Karla executed her drawing in colored pencil which lends itself well to atmospheric color. The series of horizontal lines moving up the page takes the viewer further and further outside the picture plane, even as it reinforces the flatness of the geometry.

Karla Prickett, Local Color

Who would have thought still life painting could be so exciting?

To save time, I recycled the still life drawing made yesterday in Maraya’s class. I set the objects up on the same table and tried to match the local colors in front of me. Right away I observed a lot more gray and brown than I remembered. Also, adding local color made my composition feel more static, as it calls attention to the fact that the circular saw blade is positioned near the dead center of the picture. This is something I will rectify in upcoming versions of the image.

Ed Rath, Local Color