Friday, May 31, 2013

the open studio sale

A quick preview of some of the things you'll find for sale at the open studio sale on June 15:

 Framed drawings, unframed drawings on paper, old and new steel sculptures, some steel flowers and some decorative steel bowls and containers.  

 There are about 10 steel roses in red and yellow.  Some are large (about 12") and some are smaller (about 8").

I think there are about 12 of these Black Eyed Susans left.  These are about 12" tall.  

Each item is handmade and is one of a kind.  You should plan to come early for the best selection.  The details are below if you need them again.

Doug McAbee’s Open Studio Sale is Saturday, June 15, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.  The address is 6815 Hwy 49, Laurens, SC 29360.  For more information contact Doug by email at, at his website at, and at his blog

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I feel like I've surfaced.

Almost as if when I go into a concentrated period of creative work that I go under....something.  Under water, under consciousness, under ground.  

I still have to cut the grass and deal with the a/c going out and try to play kickball with the kids and train the dog to stay in the yard, but when I go to "work", I go under and stay there as long as I can or until I am done.

I'm sorry of this doesn't make sense.  It's clear in my head.  

Summer is my prime creative time, especially for sculpture.  When school is out for me I have about one month before Blue gets out for the summer.  That month is precious work time.  I've had a few meetings and several other normal distractions like those mentioned above, but I've used my time wisely and I've made serious progress.  My goal was to make a few small things for the upcoming sale and to complete 2 new sculptures before Blue's last day of school.  I've made tons of things for the sale and I've completed 5 new sculptures as of a few hours ago.  And now I feel like I'm back in the world again.  

I found out I got into a couple of juried shows recently.  I'm pretty excited about that.  One is a national exhibit at the SECAC conference in Greensboro, NC.  I've been trying to get into this one for years.  I think the acceptance rate was something like 20% so I was really lucky.  That one is not until fall.  The other one is the Festival of Flowers exhibit June 3 - July 12 at the Arts Center of Greenwood.  A few former students also got accepted into that one which is pretty great.  Oh and I have a small drawing in another exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art that opens June 7 or so.  I think it's called OneX100.  That little drawing has always been a favorite of mine for some reason.  

We saw the Avett Brothers again a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta.  I should put the "saw" in quotation marks because we were about a 1/4 of a mile away from the stage.  We saw them years ago at the Handlebar in Greenville where there were about 50 people in the room.  We also caught a couple of performances at the record store there on Stone Ave and saw them with about 10 other people in a tiny room.  Going from that kind of atmosphere to a giant venue with thousands of people is strange.  The concert was great but I long for the days of small shows.  Old Crow Medicine Show opened for them in Atlanta and it was my first time seeing them.  Great show.

The other big thing to happen recently is we ditched our TV.  That's probably not the most accurate way to say it, especially as it turned out, but that was the initial plan.  For the last 15 years we've payed about $12,500 to the satellite dish company.  For a couple of those years with crying babies to appease, the DVR was worth every penny but now we find ourselves not wanting to throw away $70 each month when we dont really even get to watch TV.  So we sucked it up and cancelled the service.  We talked about signing up for Netflix and I thought I'd watch zero TV this summer and just work all the time.  At night I could read since I'm a few books behind.  Sadly, Netflix is awesome.  Every night this week I've watched some sort of movie.  The inspiring movie still up top is from tonight's documentary on Gerhard Richter.  It might make me less productive eventually, but we're saving a ton of money each month.  

And dont forget the big studio sale on June 15.  Soon I'll post some images of some of the things that will be on sale.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Open Studio Sale !!!

That's right.....I'm having an  Open Studio Sale and you're invited.

For the first time ever (and maybe the last time ever) I'm inviting people into my home studio.  You'll get a chance to see where I create sculptures and drawings and you'll have a chance to purchase all sorts of creative things

There will be lots of my sculptures, about 12 decorative steel flowers and about 12 decorative steel vessels for you to see.  There will also be an assortment of framed drawings, unframed works on paper and wood as well as several other interesting drawings for you as well.  Almost all the artwork is for sale and prices begin as low as $1.00.  That's right, there will be some tiny drawings for $1.00.  There will be some $5.00 items too, so you'll want to make sure you bring some cash.  Seriously...this may never happen again.

And sure, the really good drawings and sculptures will have higher prices, but they'll be priced lower on this day that you'll see them anywhere else.  If you've wanted to pick one up, this is your best chance.

The Open Studio Sale is Saturday, June 15, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.  

The address is 6815 Hwy 49, Laurens, SC 29360.  If you need more information you can email me at or you can leave a comment below.

Hope to see you here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

a good week or work, work, work

Friday afternoon we hit I-385 to go walk around Artisphere in Greenville.  It felt a little odd pulling out of the driveway and by the time I merged onto the interstate I realized why.

I had not been in a car or out of our driveway in 6 days.  

That means last week was a good week, creatively speaking.  I got up early everyday and after a nice run and an excellent coffee, I worked on creative projects all day every day.  My back hurt every night and those sculpture muscles were all a little sore from being neglected during the school year.  

Near the end of the week the internets sent me this article: titled "Creative People Say No" by Kevin Ashton.  The way my week worked out, I didn't have to say no this time, but the article really hit close to home with me.

From the article...

"Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes."

"Creators do not ask how much time something takes but how much creation it costs. This interview, this letter, this trip to the movies, this dinner with friends, this party, this last day of summer. How much less will I create unless I say “no?” A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph? An experiment? Twenty lines of code? The answer is always the same: “yes” makes less. We do not have enough time as it is. There are groceries to buy, gas tanks to fill, families to love and day jobs to do."

There are probably many reasons why I am a hermit but this is certainly one of the big ones.  When it comes to creative work, I work best when I'm alone.  That's not to say that Dr. Tom Pitts and I haven't made some really awesome collaborative drawings during meetings for the last 3 years, but when it comes to my work...I need to be in my fortress of hermitude.  It is when I can concentrate completely and wholly on the questions that I find the best solutions (or the best questions as answers to the questions).  

Another idea the article alludes to lightly is the idea that creating things is what the artist was created to do.  When we neglect our creative responsibilities we are not completely ourselves.  We all function best when we are used for our intended purpose.  Cars are terrible boats.  Lions suck at being lap dogs.  Artists are best when they are allowed the freedom to be artists. This whole creating thing is not just a hobby.  It's not something we do just because we've learned how. It's not to help us pass the time.  It is who we are.  It is how we were designed to function.  

When I left the house on Friday I was a better human because I had not left the house the previous 6 days.

Last week was a good week because I was able to work, work, work.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

a good year

A few weeks ago, in the blur that was the last week of school, Lander held it's Academic Awards Ceremony.  Faculty were asked to attend and to march in with their academic regalia.  In the hours before the event, I had a final critique in one of my classes and as soon as it was over, I helped a few advanced sculpture students put the finishing touches on their bug sculptures that were to be installed the next morning.  

Thirty minutes before the Awards were to begin, I was helping Sam move her giant steel dragonfly so she could touch up the paint.  During the delicate moving operation, the sculpture broke.  The kind of broke where big, important parts fall off.  

Fifteen minutes before the Awards and we were dragging the sculpture back inside to the welding area for repairs.  At some point in all this we tripped a breaker and I had to sprint down the hall to get a key to unlock the room with the all important electrical box.  It was at that moment that I thought I might not make it to the Awards.  

My Dean saw me sprint past her going in a direction that was not toward the faculty line up and she quickly asked if I would be able to make it.  This, of course, meant I needed to make sure I was there.  I flipped the breaker back and sprinted to return the key before giving Sam the bad news that our sculptural surgery was going to be delayed.  I swabbed the sweat from my head and ran upstairs to grab my gown and still had a couple of minutes to spare before the faculty line moved inside the auditorium.  

Lots of students were recognized for various achievements and Dr. Pitts and I cut up a little.  I think we were both in mid laugh when they announced that I had won the Young Faculty Teaching Award.  I was apparently shocked.  As I found my way up on the stage to grab the plaque I was later told I had a mean look on my face.  I guess that was my surprised face.  All I could think of while I was up there was, "it's a good thing I didn't skip this".

Sam's response was appropriate.  "Oh, you won an award?  That's great, now hold this."  Minutes later I was covered in sweat again, holding up a very heavy dragonfly while Sam burned tiny holes in my skin with the sparks from the welder.  

And yes, I've already been told that this is the last time I'll ever be referred to as "young".

Jeff Lagrone from PR was nice enough to write an article about the award.  He does such a good job of helping us let the community know about our art events.  The article appeared on  I've copied and  pasted the article below.

5/7/2013 2:45:00 PM

Doug McAbee: Spreading Sculpting Fever at Lander

Thanks for reading GwdToday - Everyday!

GREENWOOD — Students who believe it’s possible to take a sculpture course from Doug McAbee without developing an interest in the subject don’t have a hope.

“I love sharing what I know about sculpture with my students because I think it’s exciting, and my excitement rubs off on them at some point,” the Lander University assistant professor of art said. “They begin to get excited about their new skills and the results of their hard work, and it snowballs through the semester.”

Proof of McAbee’s ability to generate excitement in the classroom can be seen in the Young Faculty Teaching Award for 2013 that he recently won.

The Spartanburg native, who joined Lander’s Department of Art in 2010, expresses the view that learning can — and should — be fun.

“I’m a big believer in using humor in the classroom,” he said. “It lightens the atmosphere and makes difficult tasks easier to bear. It also allows me to create a rapport with my students that allows me to push them farther and challenge them more.”

McAbee, who earned an M.F.A. from Winthrop University in 2003 and taught there as an adjunct for eight years before coming to Lander, believes that learning is a two-way street.

“I watch my students and learn as much about their personalities as possible. This helps me know how to move them forward,” he said.

Moving them forward is often challenging, as some of them have never laid hands on a table saw, chainsaw, plasma torch or welder.

McAbee acknowledges that transforming a sheet of steel, his material of choice, into three-dimensional objects like flowers and insects is “something that is not easily accomplished.” He believes, however, that it is a very worthwhile thing to do.

“The struggle that results between the artist and the medium teaches the students determination and creative problem solving, and allows them to experience a hard-won success,” he said. 

“When they see that they have accomplished a daunting task with their brains and their muscles, they realize that with hard work, determination and creative thinking, they can do just about anything they try.”

McAbee’s own sculptures have won widespread acclaim. His works were displayed at the South Carolina State Museum as part of the Triennial 2004 exhibit and the 20th Anniversary Juried Exhibit in 2008. Two other works, which he sold to the Carolinas Medical Center in 2007, are installed on the grounds of the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C. A sculpture he named “The One With The Hole In It” earned a “Best in Show” award at the North to South Juried Exhibit in Charlotte in 2010, and he won an honorable mention award at the National Outdoor Sculpture Competition in North Charleston in 2011.

He’s also proud of the 2nd Place Award that his student Brandy Cessarich, of Greenville, won this year at the 1st Annual Collegiate Invitational Art Exhibit in Spartanburg for her steel sculpture, “Abstract Abode.”

McAbee favors steel not only because of its strength and durability, which makes it ideal for outdoor sculpture, but also because it finishes well, allowing him to obtain glossy, smooth surfaces that are aesthetically pleasing. There’s an emotional reason, too, that he’s drawn to steel.

“My dad was a welding teacher, and I grew up welding with him in his metal fabrication shop,” he said. “We always had a connection in that we both made things out of steel, and that connection became even more important when he passed away in 2012. Now steel reminds me of him and makes him seem close by.”

Associate professor of art Jim Slagle, who chairs Lander’s Department of Art, said that there were several reasons why he and the other members of his department nominated McAbee for the Young Faculty Teaching Award.

“Doug has a very calm and easy manner that relaxes students,” he said. “The difficulties in his area of expertise are plentiful, and Doug is able to manage all hurdles with class and grace. The students visibly gravitate to him when he is teaching his craft. Many have fallen in love with sculpture when they had no interest in it at all when arriving at Lander.”

McAbee said he was “beyond honored to have won the Young Faculty Teaching Award. Lander is known as a teaching university, and I get to work with some of the best teachers around. To be recognized among that great group of teachers means so much to me.”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

a brief defense of instagram

I discovered Instagram about a year ago.  This was probably about 5 years later than everyone else in the civilized world, but I’m ok with that.  Instagram is a website that hosts images uploaded from users.  Users have pages that store their images and friends or strangers may view the images and “like” them and leave comments.  When I learned of the existence of Instagram, I did not join for a couple of months.  I was curious as to why people would use this site to post photos and why they would want to connect with other users. 

For many social networkers Instagram is simply an extension of their internet powers.  Their Instagram account is tied with their Twitter account and their Facebook account.  A photo is snapped and it instantly appears on all three networks.  Other users only have the Instagram app on their phones and their photos instantly appear on only one site. 

First I wanted to know what kind of images people desired to post.  The images I found seemed to fall into a few categories.  There were the moms who took only images of their precious children.  There were the not-yet-moms who posted only images of their precious dogs/cats.  There were the youngsters who posted only images of themselves, usually head shots.  There were the life documenters who uploaded a photo of every place they went (think mall, bathroom, bank).  And there were the naturists who took mostly images of clouds, sunsets, bodies of water and flowers.

Like pretty much everyone else in the world, I first thought of these photo posters as self centered.  The photos were all about them and their immediate worlds.  It seemed that they would post a photo of their choice in an attempt to let the world know what they were doing at that moment.  Of course, with the assumption that the world was waiting on the edge of it’s seat to know what they were doing at that moment.  Our internet population seems to suffer from this idea that their life and their opinions are so very important that they need to keep us all updated every few minutes.  It’s the idea of being small scale celebrities.  If we have 1,423 friends or followers it must mean that people like us and if people like us, they’ll surely need to know what our breakfast looked like, right?

But that argument is way too easy.  Anyone can be cynical about society.  The more interesting question is:  Could there be a different explanation?  Maybe there could be.  What if Instagram is not about self absorption?  What if Instagram is about beauty?

Yes, beauty.

Consider that the moms who took images of their precious children first saw the image or the moment that drew them to reach for their camera.  That image was so adorable, so moving, that moment was so warming that they instantly felt they would want to preserve it.  And the not-yet-moms with their pets?  We all know that our animals do the most bizarre things when no one else is around to enjoy it.  When the Labrador nestled his nose under the cat’s belly and went to sleep, perhaps that image resonated deep within the camera holder.  Regardless of where the image took the viewer in her mind, that beautiful moment needed to be saved and shared.  The youngsters with their endless self portraits…maybe it’s self image, maybe it’s seeking outside validation but there’s something, if not within the image then within the search that is beautiful.  The need for human connection.  And the images of the mall, the cafĂ©, the river and the shoreline, sure these are documentation of everyday life but aren’t they also evidence of a search for beauty in that everyday life? 

Think about why you take photos.  What moves you to reach for the camera?  Isn’t it some definition of beauty?

I have a bit of a camera problem.  When I was introduced to the iPhone 3gs a few years ago one of the conveniences was having a camera with me at all times.  Need to remember exactly what item to get at the grocery store?  Take a photo.  See the outrageously dressed lady in line at the grocery store?  Take a photo.  Notice the rainbow of oil floating on the puddle beside your car?  Take a photo.  I quickly maxed out my phone memory with my photos.

When I considered Instagram I considered what sort of photos I would choose to post.  Would I fall into one of the categories?  And who would I be sharing these images with anyway?  As I scrolled through my photos on my phone I saw so many different things.  If anything, I would need to create a new category for what I would Instagram.  There would be art, some kids, some dogs, some nature, but there might also be the Oscar Meyer Wiener-mobile.  There might be a lady in a bikini riding a small chicken.  There might be an image of my jeans on fire…while I was wearing them.  Maybe a dead hummingbird, Honey Boo Boo’s mom and drops of maple syrup on the table.  And maybe a peanut butter cookie burning like charcoal.  What could all these images possibly have in common?

Beauty is a quality that gives pleasure or enjoyment to the brain.  Beauty is the electrical impulse in our brains that we verbalize as “I like it” or “it’s pretty”.  When you are forced to think about the elements and principles of design and how they quietly work behind the scenes to manipulate the brain’s response, you begin to see them at work every day and in every circumstance.  These formal qualities are always important but the conceptual qualities also play a role.  Beauty is also my dad’s pocket knife that now belongs to me.  Nothing especially pretty about the photo but the emotional impact can be profound.

Beauty is a quality that can be shared.  I’m pretty sure it’s one of the big reasons why artists make art, to share the beauty they have found with others.  Since joining Instagram I’ve found a handful of people who for one reason or another choose to consider beauty with me.  Our photos mingle on the home photo feed.  A painting, a concert, a boston terrier, a sketch on a piece of notebook paper…all very different takes on locating and documenting beauty in everyday life. 

On a good day there are enough sunsets and fluffy clouds to balance out my photos of dead mice.