From Boston to Denver: Exploring a New City Through Coffee Shops

recent watercolor illustrations done at different coffee shops (and one from home, too)

The move from Boston to Denver is certainly a change. I miss Boston, but also love having the chance to explore my new city. Denver's coffee culture is much more vibrant than expected. There are tons of local roasters and many superb local coffee shops. I've been slowly making my way through this article/map on the 25 best coffee shops in Denver and am learning my way around the city slowly in this way.

I've also been drawing some of my teacup collection at home, especially when I just want tea. I never attempt to make coffee at home since I pretty much only want it if it's an espresso drink. Maybe someday cold brew could happen at home. In the meantime I am more than happy to get my caffeine high from places like Quincessential Coffeehouse, and Bellwether (which also serves whiskey and an amazing coffee cocktail all day long). 

Can't wait to sip more coffee and see more of Denver. Let me know if you have any recommendations! And if you'd like me to paint a cup for you, check out my Cup Portraits page.

Universality- the spirit of a circle

my less than perfect circles, but mimics still

my less than perfect circles, but mimics still

“The spatial knowledge of things- expanding awareness”

I was knitting on the commute into work when I thought the previous sentence. It seemed that was a core of what knitting had been teaching me about the world, about observation. After some additional thinking however, I realized that being attuned to spatial connections and threads was more deeply present for me in drawing.

Learning how to draw is learning how to see really. How to end assumptions and begin understanding. Concentration is deeply involved in this, necessary for reinforcing the knowledge that becomes many building blocks for a practice.

My grandfather used to draw perfect circles- I can’t remember if I witnessed the phenomenon, or if I was just told he could and know it now to have been true- but I remember being so amazed by this mastery. Just the thought of being able to harvest this most base shape from the expanse of the universe and bring it into being at will. What power, to know that shape so well. Now I play with the idea, find these little circles fascinating, reflective, comforting.

 

What makes art/not art?

What makes something ART or Art or art? What is art is the first question tackled in an art history survey. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now, and my best answer is just another question: What ISN’T art?

I once annoyed everyone (but most effectively my science major friends) by saying that really art should be called “biology,” since it is the real study of life. Hubristic statements aside, maybe we need a new term for art, something that can properly encompass all the mediums and ways and iterations of art out there.

Most recently, I’m thinking about what zines are- are they a medium, a method, a platform, ephemera? To me they’re art, but so is everything, so how to distinguish between what is an Art Object, what is Printed Ephemera, and what is just a xerox? I can see that intersectionality is the way to the best answer, as usual, but I still want my taxonomical questions addressed. Everything seems to demand iteration.

Is there anything that is definitely not art at all?

Creative Muscle Memory

The 10,000 hours principle is the first thing that comes to mind when I try to think about what drives muscle memory. It comes in spurts though too- it’s possible to get on a roll with something, and if you continue that roll of short term muscle memory, it seems to become long-term eventually. Maybe even permanent.

I have a ways to go with the 10,000 hours, and the muscle memory, when it comes to book binding. I love the craft, but I’m still so new at it. In the interest of making a little interim journal to get me from now to September 3rd when I go on my UK adventure, I sat down to make a somewhat improvised single signature hardcover book. Shortly, it became a VERY improvised single signature hardcover. Simple structure- but apparently that doesn’t mean you can completely make it up as you go and expect it to adhere to bookmaking standards. Now it’s a matter of SMFA professor Ann Pelikan’s mantra, “If you can’t fix it- feature it.”

The vintage bias tape I used as “bookcloth” for the spine is so far not so happy being soaked in methyl cellulose glue and then mushed onto already slightly soggy rescued calendar page cover paper. At the moment, there’s a lot of glue, a lot of paper, some calendar page butterflies and some good layers of wax paper sitting under 3 of my heaviest books. Hopefully the butterflies can do their work in there during the stasis period and help a beautiful little book emerge! Perhaps too hopeful for this stage- but next one! I see a decoupage cover in my future.

What’s the most lost cause project you’ve ever saved? I would love to hear about it for inspiration!

To Break or Not to Break? Segmentation of Creative Outlets

It’s time for a new journal. I’m getting to the last few pages in my last one and I’m writing less because I know I have less space and no replacement yet- no good! So it’s time to bind another book. Or multiple books?

Like I do when starting a project for someone else, I started by assessing what the end goal is. Aaaaand got very confused. The broad goal is to express myself- ahh how cliché and seemingly easy! The trouble is that I want too many things from one product (again, clichéd but real). My new journal is for writing. And visually brainstorming. And also for *hopefully* doing adorable watercolors while on my upcoming trip to the UK. And I would really like it if it had a little folder in the back, and if the covers were made with that green cloth I made into bookcloth…

journal_brainstorm

 So here’s what the beginning of my brainstorm for the new journal/travel journal looks like, plus ideas for the teeny tiny altoids tin travel watercolor kit I’m working on (more on that later)

Building a new book- or any new artwork, happens in stages for me. The first is all small arrows and notes- brainstorming visually by hand, on paper. Then I take out materials, and I hem and I haw. Digging around through saved bits of paper and treasures helps a lot. Tonight I was briefly entering into this stage of the process for the new journal, but I kept running up against deciding on whether to break things up or not. Will this be the one journal to rule them all, that I use every day until my trip, use as my travel journal and continue to use after, or should I make smaller books of different types of paper- some watercolor, some drawing, some toned, and use them each for different drawing or watercoloring purposes while writing in a purely text journal?

Would it be possible for me at all to do a text-only journal?

Part of the package with this journal is designing how it will function in its completed state. I’m shying away from the scrapbooking aesthetic of assembling everything once I get back from the trip. I’d really like to be able to do pages that incorporate multiple elements, especially writing and watercolor- but I want different paper for those things. And what if I run out of room if I only bring little snippet journals of specific paper? I would be hosed! Do I feel like bringing an every-day writing journal, a watercolor sketchbook, and a drawing or travel-specific journal too though? No. Definitely no.

So with notes from bookmaking classes and How to Make Books by Esther K. Smith out on my desk, I’m searching for a livable answer. The travel journal example in that book, based on a concertina spine that signatures are sewn into, could be a great structure for me to use, but how to structure-or segment- the signatures?

Is this just what happens when working in multiple mediums? Or can there be a pleasing way to unite all of them? Any suggestions super appreciated!