Art Every Day Month: Day 19 and the Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project Day 19 Spread

©2010 Leah Virsik, The Sketchbook Project Nov 19 2010 found paper 8 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches

The Sketchbook Project and Art Every Day Month Challenge

This was actually really fun to make, it’s from the squares I punched out yesterday. I haven’t been writing a lot because I’ve been focusing more on the visual work. It’s interesting… I been through different phases with blogging. Most often I’ve written a lot without much visual and lately it’s been the opposite. I prefer it when it’s a mixture of both. I actually enjoy writing but hadn’t thought I was that good at it. Really, I think that stemmed from me not knowing big words… which doesn’t really have anything to do with writing.

ARt Car
©2010 Tom Virsik, ARt car

Tom and I attached these last weekend. This a Scion xB and the other letters are from xA and  tC emblems. I cut the B and the x to make the R with a jewelers saw and a spiral wax saw blade. I took a metal jewelry class at Studio One and Karen Ehrhardt (who I really enjoyed as a teacher) gave me the blade. There are some other really cool modifications Tom’s thought of that I’ll have to photograph: like the big red button on the front and my website on the license plate frame.

Window Dressing

Rose Tile Bathroom Window

I’ve been a long admirer of the inside of beautiful homes and love gazing at Gennine’s posts of her home as well as Design*Sponge’s Sneak Peaks. I put this up several weeks ago after being inspired by a small corner store near Edo Salon where I got to see Ehren Reed’s fabulous artwork.

I do believe everything is connected and yet I forget and then I remember. I’m busy and I have work to do and I feel like I need to get the work done… but then I’m inspired and distracted. This installation is one of those things I did when I was inspired and it really has helped take my artwork into new directions as well as make me happy. I’m working on an another site-specific installation for our other bathroom. Glad my dad suggested we get two!

I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts lately and Craft Sanity is one of my favorites. Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood really does an incredible job of interviewing and definitely enjoys it. Two of my favorites are Wendy from Built by Wendy and the Beerhorst Family. These two made me cry… in a good way.


©8.17.2010 Leah Virsik, Serendipity. Front side. Paper, muslin, acrylic, thread, 6 5/8 x 5 1/4 inches.

Kelly Warren titled her blog post today with the question “What Does Authenticity Mean?” I’ve been thinking about that for the past couple of weeks in my quest to do work that is meaningful to me but also with a desire to do work that utilizes my strengths. In a recent critique, my teacher commented on liking a certain color scheme of mine vs. another and I found myself focusing on that color scheme as I was painting. It was really wierd and I realized I needed to stop that right quick. That’s when I know I’m not being authentic.

I was creating art last night and having trouble deciding what exactly to do. I’m rarely short on ideas but it seems l tend to easily “forget” that terrific idea that I was so enamored with a couple of days ago. Really, I think it doesn’t matter what I make, as long as I’m creating, I’m priming the pump, so to speak. But I think I’m going to work on writing down my ideas and coming back to them on a regular basis.



©8.15.2010 Leah Virsik, Patchwork. Paper, muslin, acrylic, thread, 5 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches.

I’m in a place of discovery… some exciting things are happening. I’m in a critique group with Lisa Kokin with seven other fabulous artists and two of my books are in a show at O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley curated by Donna Seager.

I’ve signed up to study with Nina Bagley at An Artful Journey next February. I’m so curious about going again. I feel like my experience last year with DJ Pettit really changed me in my ways of making and teaching.

This past couple of weeks I’ve been using the technique I learned from DJ. I’m using matte medium to adhere painted tissue paper, clothing patterns and scrap papers on top of muslin and then painting the backside on top of molding paste. Above, is an example of a small piece of that… cut up, rearranged and sewn together. I think it’s way more interesting than the original piece.

Ideal Art Practice and Other Inspiration

Alissa Neglia "Root to Crown" 2006My photo above is Alissa Neglia’s Root to Crown, 2006 at Dejerrassi.

I was inspired by Andy Warhol’s quote “Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it say twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.” This quote is in The Happiness Project I’ve been reading. I try to create every day. And if I don’t… what I do is around creating. I was trying to work on my art for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 when I get home. It does work well for small projects. Discipline can be quite the challenge for me. Do you have a art schedule or certain hours where you work on art?

Anyway, just want to share a bit of what I’ve been up to… Tom and I went on a really great tour of the Dejerassi Resident Artists Program by Dennis O’Leary, Executive Director of the Program. Very inspiring and good exercise! I mentioned I make books and Dennis’ wife, Catie O’Leary (who creates beautiful collages from original engraved illustrations from antique books) mentioned the Bedford Gallery’s show entitled Unbound: A National Exhibition of Book Art Opening July 11 where she’ll have a piece on display. Looking forward to that!

I was at SCRAP on Saturday taking Jody Alexander’s class on Wearable Books. I made “spitballs” from paper. The paper really does make a difference. We soaked paper in water and then rolled it into a ball. When they dry… mine still seem a bit damp, they can be made into beads or whatever. I love Jody Alexander’s work. Very inspiring! She’s teaching at Foothill College over the summer. One of the books she shared that she’ll be teaching is the cross structure binding by Carmencho Arregui. I am super enamored by that binding and very inspired to make it. I will learn it in the near future. In the meantime, maybe I can learn how to make this sweet little “package”.

Now why am I inspired to make that specific book structure and package? That’s part of my next question working though Alyson B. Stanfield’s Relatively Pain Free Artist Statement workbook. I had an emotional response to that book. It was a small criss-crossed leather notebook with embroidered knots, ledger paper and Jody Alexander’s handwriting. It was so precious to me… I asked to see it again. I had never seen that type of binding before. I think I thought Keith Smith was the only book artist making up book structures. I felt a bit obsessed trying to figure out more about the binding. I’m fascinated by construction, structure and three-dimension.

Tonight I went to hear Val Britton and Jeff Hantman (who coincidently did a residency at Djerrasi) give talks about their work at Kala’s Fellowship Talks. I’m went because I’m curious about Val Britton’s work and how she’ll be influenced by her upcoming residency at Recology SF. I didn’t know of Jeff Hantman but I really enjoyed hearing about his process. He started by showing works on paper and then on wood. He then started learning to bend the wood and applies collage and printing to the surface. What seemed the most interesting to me was how important it is for him to create his “surface”. And really it’s not about surface, the whole piece is his art… I felt like I could relate in that I really enjoy the construction of creating a book… the process of learning how to construct, build something. As I’m writing this, I realize my struggle has been wanting to unify the construction of the book and what’s inside the book. Sometimes, after I make the book, I’m not as interested in going back into it with writing, collage, etc. So if the binding is the last thing I do, then it’s more unified. I’ll definitely need to explore this topic more.

A Bit of Variety

A moment to brag…my husband is the best! Tom drew this over a year ago on a pad of paper and I just discovered it this morning! What a nice surprise! It’s fun stuff like this that really makes our relationship special.

I’m enjoying reading Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun”. She quotes William Butler Yeats: “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” As a life-long learner, this makes so much sense to me. I’m coding email campaigns at work and I enjoy it tremendously because there’s so much for me to learn.

In my last post, I wrote about my artistic influences and even though it was extremely long, (thanks to those of you who read it!) I feel like it could be even longer because I’m surrounded by so many things that inspire and influence me. I always love a good story and I’m always inspired by good storytellers. Currently, I’m enjoying reading Lisa Occhipinti’s blog who I discovered via Cloth Paper Scissors. When I think about storytelling, I think about my sister Erin, and conversations of us being verbally challenged. So nice to have other methods of communicating, through writing and visual images. Erin has a very inspiring blog, entitled Butter Badge, where she documents the food projects that have taken over her weekends. She’s very passionate and I’m waiting for her book to come out!

Writing my Artist Statement: Week 2

Mini Fabric Book

Mini-Fabric mixed-media book: (running stitch) beads, fabric, paper, thread, buttons, elastic, metal eyelet 3 1/4″ x 4″ x 1 1/2″ ©2010 Leah Virsik. For image of inside click here.

I’m on my second week of working through Alyson B. Stanfield’s “The Relatively Pain-Free Artist Statement.”

At age six, I wrote that art was my favorite subject. It’s always been something that I’ve been excited about. At age 26, I gave a speech in a drawing class where I feel I first considered myself an artist, at least in a very public way. I took the class with my boyfriend at the time. He drew really well, better than I and he was much more aware. He didn’t love to draw however and didn’t keep up with it. I had a persistence about it. I’m not sure I loved the drawing but the process was enjoyable and it was great to see what came out of me.

Artist is a loaded word. People have different beliefs about what it means. My biggest stumbling block was the fact that I don’t naturally draw realistically. Now, I realize it’s more of a choice or desire than a lack of ability.

One of my favorite definitions of being an artist is in Cay Lang’s Taking the Leap. Cay Lang recalls artist Terry Allen describing how one knows one is an artist: “An artist can’t stop himself. He really has no choice about it.” I can relate to that obsession. I think one can make art but it doesn’t mean one’s an artist. I believe an artist is obsessed, passionate and focused.

I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the meaning of “professional artist”. My own initial definition was an artist who sells work, spends a lot of time creating work, marketing it and getting it out into the world. Looking up the phrase brought up other definitions. One from the Canada Council for the Arts gave this definition: professional artist: An artist who: has specialized training in his or her artistic field (not necessarily obtained in an academic institution); is recognized as such by his or her peers (artists working in the same artistic tradition); is committed to devoting more time to the artistic activity if this becomes financially feasible; has a history of public presentation

No language about making money. Very curious how that was my number one requirement. NAVA (Australia) has a definition as well. So, after all that, yes, I consider myself a professional artist. Having a serious commitment to art and it being a major aspect of my life make me a professional artist.

On a bit of a sidenote, I appreciate Seth Godin’s definition of art from Linchpin: “Art is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person.”

Musings on Perfection

I’m always amazed how one thing leads to another. I’m taking a really great patchwork quilting class with Angie Woolman at Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley, CA who is helping me learn to see color and to talk about it. We were piecing fabric together and she mentioned about not being concerned with the thread color. I have light color thread in my sewing machine now and a black skirt that I haven’t worn for years because it needed to be sewn. I sewed up the skirt really quickly this morning and am wearing it today. It really helps to loosen up and relax sometimes!

Going through my desk today at work I ran across a quote from Martha Graham “Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” I love that. Another quote that I align with is by Richard Bach…”You teach best what you most need to learn.

Best Toes Ever!

Best Toes Ever!, originally uploaded by Leah Virsik.

How do you know you’re taking care of yourself? Some friends have told me it’s when they take the time to have their toes painted. So yeah, my friend Cheryl, helps me take care of myself by making sure we get our our toes painted.

These were photographed by Joanne Clapp Fullagar and painted by Anna’s Nails in Castro Valley, CA.