Friday, September 6, 2013

A Day In The Life of Hannah and Blake Sanders

Today's day in the life of an artist in their studio is a two for one! It makes great sense after not having a post last week. I've written about Hannah and Blake Sanders countless times on my blog because they are great friends and I love their work. They both have an amazing work ethic and their lives seem to revolve around constantly making things.  Hannah wrote up the post detailing the day she and Blake spent together. You can see more of their on their website Orange Barrel Industries and find links to their blog and shop.  Take it away Hannah!

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Today’s Playlist of WTF podcasts:


7:30am Wake up (a little late for me. I love the early morning!) Blake is still sleeping (he loves the late night!). I head to the living room, and wake up my laptop. The Facebook is on, as always.

I see my friend May has commented on the post I made on our Orange Barrel Industries Facebook page yesterday about her upcoming workshop at AS220.

This reminds me that I needed to update her website for her, She sent me the updates a month ago, and I haven't gotten to it yet! So I open up Komodo Edit and Cyberduck and edit her about page. I send her an email about it and think to myself, "well, at least I got 1 thing off my to-do list today!"

Then I go to the fridge and pull out some coffee left over from yesterday. I add ice, almond milk, splenda and voila, ice coffee! Since I'm the only caffeine consumer in the house, it's a constant alternating pattern of making a hot pot of french press and then drinking the remains iced that afternoon or the next morning.

I log onto our Etsy store and participate in the team discussions I'm a part of and renew a few items. I also poke around Facebook some more and check my email.

I post some of my recent sketchbook drawings on our blog, I had actually prepared the post a couple of days ago when I made my last blog post on my Facebook profile pictures summer drawing project, so all I had to do was add some text, links, and tags and then hit "publish."

By this time, Blake is stirring. He comes out of the bedroom with the book he's reading, INFINITE JEST by David Foster Wallace. He reads on the couch for a bit while I go into the kitchen and finish loading the dishwasher. I start the dishwasher, do some other random household stuff, and Blake and I talk about what we should do today.

He can't decide if he should be carving his new linoleum block or working on school stuff on the laptop. He decides to listen to Marc Maron WTF podcasts (he has a subscription and loves to listen to these while he works) and carve his block. He's currently working on a small series of "It Came From the Black Swamp" linocut and letterpress posters to sell at the Black Swamp Arts Festival coming up next month: He combines local Bowling Green landmarks/events with attacking monster gators and dinosaurs and the like.

Normally he might go into the Bowling Green State University printshop, and I might go to the Letterpress shop where I work, but today we’re spending the day together working in our home/studio.

9:45am We take a shower (we always shower together, ever since we lived in Athens, GA during a drought and heard this panel on the local NPR station about “tips to conserve water,” and they all kept joking “shower with a friend!), and then Blake sets up a podcast and lays out his "carving sheet" to catch the little bits of linoleum on the floor. He messes around on the computer a while, grabs a big glass of ice water, and gets to carving.

I venture into the scary "studio room." It is our second bedroom, and it basically ends up being a storage closet for all of our art supplies and all of the art we've ever made, plus our installation tools, woodworking tools, fabric, etc. When you've got two supply-hoarding artists living in the same place, they can sure amass a lot of stuff! I feel like Sisyphus every time I go in there: I'm just moving piles of stuff back and forth, stacking up and down--all to find the one item I happen to need at the time.

The stuff is in Rubbermaids, bags, boxes, tool organizers, stacks, piles and in other random configurations. It has a vague order to it, but we really need shelves and drawers to get everything organized. We just don't want to invest in or move around that kind of furniture until we know we're going to be settled somewhere for more than 6 months or a year. This past year, we moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Murray, Kentucky to Bowling Green, Ohio. And now I'm moving again in just a few weeks.

I'm in there to find my acrylic paints, gesso, paint brushes, and polyacrylic. I need these supplies to finish up a couple of projects I'm trying to complete before I move out of the country at the end of the month. Blake and I are working collaboratively on a series of 10 paintings for Melanie Yazzie of the University of Colorado Boulder's international painting exchange. So far, We've made the "canvases" out of old bedsheets that we hemmed into 20" x 20" squares, and I have treated them with selective areas of white acrylic paint to begin to prime the space. I hung them up to dry on an art clothesline in our kitchen.

The second project I'm working on finishing is called "Gumbo: A Collaboration of People and Pulp." This project is through the group I'm a part of called "Expanded Draught" that has members in the U.S., Ireland and Canada.  17 of us gathered up natural materials (old work shirts, cut up prints, palm leaves, dog hair, old maps, birthday cards from exes, etc.) and mailed them to Megan Singleton in Saint Louis, MO. She received about 10 pounds of this material from us! I sent junk mail, old prints, bits of colorful thread, and tiny scraps of crochet fabric.

Megan then turned all of this fiber into a bunch of sheets of paper and mailed them back to us. We are all creating 4 pages for a collaborative stab-bound book, and we also got 2 other sheets of the paper to turn into a work of art--sculpture, print, painting--whatever we want!

I've done some printing, drawing and painting on the paper so far--but I'm not quite done! Blake is collaborating with me and working on the opposite sides of the book pages as well as doing a piece of some of the larger paper. We are calling it "Ripe When Soft," and are collaging in the produce stickers I love to collect. Whenever Blake and I are apart, he saves all of his produce stickers until we meet again. When together, he loves to stick them to my shirt like gold stars.

While looking for supplies in our "studio room," I find some kids shirts we've printed that I want to list on Etsy, so I quickly pull a couple out and photograph them in various places around the house. I'll edit the photos later and make a listing on Etsy. I'm trying to do a bit of everything before I move and show Blake how I do things, so he can get an idea and help out with the Etsy shop while I'm gone.

11:15am We're both busy at work now. I'm sitting at the big white table in our living room painting and drawing. I also do some work on the fold-out table in our kitchen. I'm struggling with what to do next on this Gumbo project drawing. I have also taped down one of the 20" x 20" canvases for the painting exchange with Melanie. I plan to alternate working on both of these projects while I drink gallons of iced tea and eat snacks.

At some point earlier, I ate a little breakfast/snack: some red grapes and almonds with a slice of sharp white cheddar cheese.

Blake is carving on the floor still and listening to another WTF podcast.

11:30am In-between layers on my paintings/drawings (dry time!) I am researching endangered species from places Blake and I have lived for our painting exchange project. Right now I'm reading about the Spinymussel, an endangered Georgia species found only in the Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers. It uses a lure to attract unknown host fish to carry its larva. It's probably endangered due to heavy metal pollutants, changes in river bottom sediment, and because flathead catfish may have eaten a lot of the mussels' host fish. (

12:19pm I have the feeling that this account might get pretty boring for y'all. I am still alternating work between 2 drawings/paintings. Blake is still carving linoleum. We just started yet another WTF podcast.

I am starting to get a bit restless, so I will probably stop and have a snack real quick. Sometimes I also take a break and play some Mario Galaxy or Wii Sports. Or I'll read a book, clean up dishes in the kitchen, take out the trash, walk to the library (we love to check out movies to watch in the evenings,) tear down fabric for my crochet projects (which are currently packed away in the studio room because we just had people over for dinner a couple of nights ago, and I cleaned up the house AKA threw all of our projects into the studio room, vacuumed, used comet on every surface I could, and redistributed the clutter into various locations.) I also take a break by running to the grocery store, post office, wherever we need to go that day.

12:37pm Okay, I lied. I didn't take a break yet. But I think this drawing for the Gumbo project is pretty much done! I shot some photos to look at it on the camera screen (this helps me get an idea of how well it is working, especially in terms of composition, value distribution, and color palette.)

Next, I'm going to coat the drawings for the Gumbo book pages with polyAcrylic to set the graphite and stickers I collaged on them. I'll wait a bit before I coat the bigger drawing I just finished in case I want to add some more to it. I need a bit of time away from it before I decide is done. It may need some more hatching, and it may also need more lime green. And more cowbell.

1:00pm I'm starting to think about all the other things I need to finish. I have a linoleum block I need to print, for example. We'll go into the letterpress studio where I work, Les Cheneaux Design, to work on that later this weekend.

Looked at Facebook. I try to keep it to a minimum during the day. It would be ideal if I looked/posted just in the morning and evenings. Even when we're on a loose schedule, we try to keep a sort of 9-5 (or in my case 7-4) mentality about the "work day."

The last couple of months--really the last year--has felt pretty weird. Our routines seem to constantly be changing as we balance multiple part time jobs sometimes, sometimes full time teaching (a recent addition to Blake's schedule, and an even more recent one to mine.) Every summer, we travel a lot. First off, our families live very far away from each other, and from where we live now. Plus we're trying to do visiting artist gigs and exhibitions as much as possible. This summer we traveled to Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Florida, Chicago, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and New York City. And we're going to Nashville, TN and Murray, KY next week.

We're pretty much migrant artist workers. I try to keep myself in the mindset of enjoying the fun of this time in our lives. We get to travel a lot (on a budget, but it's still fun! Maybe even more fun that way.) We spend all of our free time together in the living room, listening to the radio, watching movies, and making art. We get to cook a lot of great meals together.

I'm looking forward to the next stage in our life, too, though. It would be great to be settled somewhere--to own our own place and quit throwing money away on rent. We could have a studio room/garage/space that is big enough for the both of us. We can build shelves to organize all of our stuff, maybe get some flat files (all of our prints live in cardboard boxes stacked in a corner right now.)  Maybe family can come visit us more for a change. We love travel, but it'd be nice to be the home base at some point! And one (or both!) of us get tenure track jobs--job security! And to have some kids before we lose all of our energy.

These are our dreams. And I wouldn't say "no" to a dog, either.

1:15pm Put away the dishes. But don't think that I do all the domestic shit around here! Blake and I go back in forth. He did all of our laundry while I was in grad school and all of the cooking. He still does a lot of the cooking. And the vacuuming. I grew up with hardwood floors. I hate carpeting. I hate the sound of the vacuum cleaner.

I clean more because I have a cleaning mania instilled in me. Cleaning up organizes my mind.  And I like bleach; it reminds me of my grandmother. Also, I make more messes. Blake is so clean! I touch something, and it has a scummy stain on it. He can not shower for days and smell like roses.

Now I'm going to work on posting some new items to Etsy: editing photos, writing descriptions, etc. And eat a snack. I’ve had 3 glasses of unsweet iced tea already, so my belly feels all sloshy and empty.

1:30pm Snack/lunch: leftover homemade slaw (red and green cabbage, onion, carrots), cilantro mango salsa, pureed black beans, and pulled pork all piled into a sort of salad with olive oil, vinegar and a few kalamata olives on top. All of this is leftover from a big “pulled pork soft tacos” dinner we made a couple of nights ago for guests.

Loading photos onto my computer while I eat, editing, working on Etsy stuff.

I was just thinking that on a normal “home studio day,” I’d also be involved in some time-consuming cooking process: slow roasting pork loin, baking a turkey, baking bread, cooking down candied peels. Something I could start on and then just keep a vague eye on throughout the day while we work on other stuff. I’ll probably start on some peels later this afternoon.

2:24pm Didn’t get too much done on Etsy. Have been working on my painting for Melanie’s painting exchange. I’m visually narrating a story I remember from when I was a little girl about sitting up in a tree at my friend Faira’s house eating fire ants. They tasted like hot pepper.

I told this story to Melanie when we were visiting with her earlier this summer in Colorado, and she said I should paint some of my stories from my childhood. She said she could picture me up in the tree with the little ants crawling down into my belly. Then I started to picture it, too.  I was going to do something on this panel about those spiny mollusks I was researching earlier, but I just started painting this instead. I’ve been thinking about it for months.

As I paint, I look up images on the laptop in Google image search: “diagram of esophagus,” “ants,” etc. I also have some photographs I pulled out of myself as a child that I’m using as references.

I’m sketching in with black and white acrylic paint. I’ve also used some stencil letters and some orange. Now it’s time for it to dry a bit, and then I’ll go in with a drawing tool like charcoal or a soft pencil or india ink to add some definition.

Blake is eating some Greek yogurt with frozen berries and nuts for snack. Podcasts still going...

2:30pm Using the stove vent as a vent hood to spray some clear acrylic sealer on my Gumbo painting. I painted polyacrylic on the book pages earlier, and as they dried, the ball point pen underneath some ran a bit. I think it looks fine, but I didn’t want it to happen on the larger drawing, so I decided to gently spray it with sealer before painting on a coat of polyacrylic.

Drinking splenda-sweetened sweet tea.

Thinking about how long it has been since I have really painted (other than watercolor, which I think of as a drawing tool.) And I used to paint all of the time. Probably more than I print-maked. Lately, my work has become a sort of fusion of drawing/painting/print. I draw/paint on my blocks with gesso, graphite, charcoal and a poppy color of acrylic paint (red, pink, or orange) before I carve them. I watercolor all of the time in my sketchbook and on scraps of BFK. I love the combination of wet and dry media.

2:45pm Posted something to Facebook from our friend Hope’s Etsy shop. Blake says the house smells like Polyacrylic now. Oops! I have left the vent fans running...

Check the stats on our blog. Up to 45 views today! And here are the search terms people used today so far to find us:

how to make photo booth backdrops
pamphlet binding techniques
"andrew kosten"
Total search terms

I always like looking at those. They crack me up sometimes, what people search for, and how in the world that leads them to our blog.

Other recent search terms include:
human anatomy for artists the elements of form,
cilantro lime cookes,
photo background fabric strips,
sausage tits,
profile pictures for facebook pencil drawings,
neon white met-art,
printmaking contemporary art,
photo booth backdrop,
lloyd menard,
claudia dishon,
4 hole bookbinding stitch,
greek garlic sauce,
diy eraser stamp,
how to book yn rich kids,
diy photo booth backdrop ideas

We pretty much always get some kind of hits off of my diy photo booth backdrop (that I made for your wedding, Ann!) and sometimes for diy rubber stamps or some other art diy post. And usually there is some activity on the food posts. Otherwise, no one really visits the blog unless I post some sketchbook stuff and link to Facebook or we make a post about how one or both of us is moving again.

I love to blog. I’ve been making sites and blogging since high school, and I really enjoy it for some reason. You can probably tell because I’m writing too much information in this “day in the studio life of...” entry. I always wanted to be a writer, but I haven’t ever really been able to develop my skills in that area much. I’ve always drawn, and have been a better communicator through images than through words.

I think these polyacrylic fumes are getting to me. Rhapsodizing in plastic...

3:00pm Starting a batch of candied citrus peels on the stove.

3:18pm Wrote an email to my friend Sarah-Beth. We’ve become email pen pals so that we can stay in touch better. The candied peels smell so good! Time to get back to painting...  Blake is still carving. I envy his ability to focus on one thing sometimes. It would drive me crazy!

3:45pm Alternating painting and reading friends’ blogs.

4:15pm Drawing ants, researching buck moth caterpillars (a type of caterpillar that falls out of the oak trees and stings you in New Orleans.) Peels are still rolling on the stove.

Blake and I are throwing ideas back and forth about this series of collaborative paintings. We are evolving our ideas. I now want to put fire ants throughout all of them. I’m in a fire ant drawing mood!


Constantly drinking tea or coffee and peeing all day. That is what I do. Is it the cocktail hour yet?

4:40pm Read a little bit. Done working on the first painting for now. I’m sure I’ll come back to it. It’s definitely not finished. Starting on a second painting.

5:00pm Painted an ant. Did a coat of gesso around it on the painting. Now it’s time for another little break. Will work on my candied peels (cut out the extra flesh after their 2nd boil down), have a drink, hang out with Blake a bit. Need to plug my laptop in. And take the trash out.

6:00pm More Etsy! Almost dinner time. Blake is having a snack: pretzels & 
peanut butter. It’s gotten hot in the apartment, so I closed up the shades. Someone is moving into the apartment across the hall.

6:15pm Heated up some more tacos leftovers hodgepodge for dinner with an over-easy egg on top. Lots of sriracha hot sauce!

Time to eat and watch some more of Season 3 of Downton Abbey that we got from the library yesterday, and which I mistakenly posted about on Facebook as “Downtown Abby.” Tim Dooley hilariously commented on this, “Be careful, Downtown Abby is likely a story about a hooker, not a melodrama about English high society.” I hope the hooker is played by Julia Roberts’ lips.

I really need to learn how to spell one of these days.

Blake is still carving like a madman. I put a plate of food in front of his face. Hopefully this will entice him to take a break and eat a bit. We’ll finish up this last podcast and then watch some tv on dvd.

7:00pm Downtown Alley time! Finally! And we are playing our turns on Lexulous with my Mom-x-2, Sue. I’m winning 118 to 72 right now! Blake is winning 291 to 194.

8:00pm Dessert of Greek Yogurt with frozen blackberries & blueberries, raw almonds, roasted sunflower seeds, and some tahini. Blake is still carving. I am being lazy. Time for more Downton Abbey.

“It’s your turn in Lexulous again,” says Blake.

It’s still light out, so it doesn’t feel like nighttime yet.

I played “SATIRE” and “WE” for 17 points. Not a great move... and a waste of an “S.”

8:15pm Starting my 3rd and final boil down of the citrus peels to make candy, this time with sugar. Then I will bake them a minute and roll them in more sugar to make candy.

9:00pm  Some strange guys just showed up at our door trying to sell us magazines for kids with disabilities? They weren’t even sure of the cause they were supporting. I hate to be judgemental, but I think it was a scam. They asked me strange questions like, “do you want to go to Wal*Mart with me?” Thankfully, they left after a few minutes. I asked them what organization sponsored their activities, and they couldn’t even remember that fact. I feel a little strange now, though.

We are watching more D.A. Blake is still carving off an on. I am drinking sweet iced tea.

10:30pm Finally finished up the candied peels. Still watching Downton Abbey. Blake is carving. Normally, I would be crocheting, but I put all that away to clean up the house. I know if I get it out again, I won’t be able to focus on the projects I really need to finish before I leave.

12:30am We’re still up finishing this season, and Blake is carving. We’ve brushed our teeth and are ready for bed. This is pretty late for me to stay up. Usually I fall asleep on the couch by 10:30, and Blake has to wake me up when we go to bed.

We got into bed about 1:15am and read our books for a while before falling asleep. I am nearly done reading Working by Studs Terkel. It is all about lots of different types of jobs/lifestyles people have--1st hand accounts of people’s jobs and life philosophy. At first, it was really inspiring, but about ¾ of the way through, it started to get really depressing. It seems like the only happy people in the book are either the really rich ones or the ones who make something with their hands, no matter how poor they are. There were both happy and unhappy teachers. One of the happiest people was a housewife. Most of the doctors/nurses seemed to have their emotions turned off as a natural result of their work--a survival tactic. I don’t remember there being any artists.

Hannah's Follow-up Images
Hannah's Follow-Up Images

Thank you so much, Hannah, for such a great detailed post of your day! To see more days written by artists click on the day in the life label.


Yazzie Printmaker said...

you are amazing and you are very much a writer Hannah:)
Nice paintings I believe you are amazing beyond a fire ant!
Big Love, Yazzie

Yazzie Printmaker said...

I wish you all were closer so we could paint together one day.Have a super evening and --- know that we love your cooking! Hugs & Big Love, Yaz & Bark