1/23/2012 - Asheville artist duo dedicates time each week to sourcing 'newsworthy' inspiration
by Carol Motsinger - Asheville Citizen Times
R. Brooke Priddy is seriously dedicated to the silly.
Every week, no matter how hectic her schedule becomes at Ship to Shore, her West Asheville clothing company, this artist and dressmaker knows she's going to fit in two things: yoga, and her almost-5-year-old Monday night tradition, the Newsworthy Drawing Club.
The club, which is the creation of Priddy and fellow Asheville artist Julie Armbruster, meets every week to render whimsical visions loosely based on curious news events reported from around the globe.
"It's something very measurable," Priddy said of the club's process. "It's very clear and consistent. With other artistic endeavors, there is a big push, and then it's over. ... We both have very busy lives, and I always have projects, but I also always have time for this. I don't even have to write it on my calendar; I know what I am doing on Monday every week."
A collection of the club's best work is up now at Harvest Records, a neighbor of Priddy's studio on Haywood Road, and for the first time, the duo is selling their work online through Etsy.com. All sales will contribute to the club costs and keep them drawing throughout 2012.
Each year, the club has sold out of its annual 'zines and hardcover collections during the opening reception. Members produced more this year and have some left over from the opening sales to market online.
The friends and collaborators stick to a strict process, as well as schedule. They independently scour the Internet, magazines and newspapers during the week for bizarre and beautiful stories. They remove any images and exchange articles, passing the drawing back and forth until a piece is complete.
Priddy notes that each year, the work gets "stronger and stronger" as their complementary skill sets mature. Armbruster, whom I can't seem to pass by The Big Crafty without buying something, conceives wild, expressive characters with emotional depth (This year, I bought a fantastic tank top with a series of very angry kitties on it). Priddy's strength includes refined line work and draftsmanship, and a mastery of shape and movement also highlighted in her sublime dresses.
Priddy's favorite piece from 2011 illustrates the story of an invasive freshwater fish. In her and Armbruster's imagination, this fish is transformed into a bomber pilot dropping babies. Other drawings and watercolors are endowed with similar humor and fantasy, including "Life-sized Actor is a Cuckoo Bird in a Giant Clock" and "The Disappearance of John Wayne Pony."
Their work is playful and yet still somehow thoughtful. I think it's because their dedication to play, to exercising their creativity through mindful moves, is based on philosophy, not flippant fun. They have created an amusing construct, but they pursue this project ultimately to be better artists, collaborators and communicators.
These weekly meetings sharpen the duo's artistic imaginations and force the busy bees to set aside time for creative development. I wish I could be as disciplined; that I could focus on keeping my imagination fit for a few hours a week without the pressure of deadlines or the sometimes black-and-white requirements of journalism.
And just like going to the gym, it helps to have a partner to motivate you, to make sure you show up, and keep it fresh each week.
As Armbruster and Priddy's work proves, this process can also be charming, casual and free -- a lot more fun that running by yourself on a treadmill. And their particular mix of offbeat inspiration with practical applications is nothing if not newsworthy.