Sunday, March 22, 2020

Thinking of the Italians

Ten years ago I traveled to Italy. Like most tourists, I took many photos, but some of my favorites were of older Italians sitting in a park, or on a wall visiting with one another. Of course, I painted using these photos as references. The other day, as I dug through my file drawers, I came across this one.

The transparent watercolor painting as it came out of the drawer of shame

Clearly I was in my pattern, pattern, pattern and more pattern mode. In fact, I was embarrassed by how overboard I went on this painting and stuck it in a drawer where it was never seen by anyone until a couple of weeks ago.

When I pulled it out, I saw it with new eyes. Yes, it was overly busy, but I saw a charm to it. I also felt a sadness for Italy amidst this Corona Virus emergency. How the ladies and gentlemen of Italy must miss their afternoon visits with one another!

I sent my friend, Kathy Tiger (who has often praised my pattern making), a photo of it. She immediately responded saying it had some potential if I could only get rid of some of the unnecessary patterning. Following her suggestions, I decided to get rid of the farthest hills and sky as well as the yellow pathway into the painting at the bottom.

I thought of another artist friend, LaVonne Tarbox Crone, who years ago taught me to "take it to the sink." Another artist, Mary Holt, introduced me to Ichiban tape. This tape is semi-transparent and really keeps the water from leaking into areas you want to protect. So here is the images of the taped up painting.

Taping the border, before it goes to the sink
I had no idea just how much paint might lift off after sitting on my paper for ten years. As I worked with water and a natural sponge, I used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to see just how much more I could remove. (I first heard of using the Magic Eraser from John Salminen.)

The painting after scrubbing the heck out of it!
Frank Webb, another artist said that Arches 140 pound paper could take a lot of abuse and this proved him right.

Now the big problem was what to do with the background. Thanks to another artist, Ruth Armitage, I had learned how to use the Procreate App to try out different colors and for the background on my iPad. Using various layers, I was able to try many different colors, some with patterns, some without and settled on a neutral gray. 

When I showed the Procreate image with the neutral background to my granddaughter, Angelica, she suggested that I use a circular pattern in the sky to tie it together with the rest of the painting. So I tried a couple of ideas and finally made a stamp. (Thank you, Betsy Dillard Stroud, for introducing me to making personal stamps.)

Now back in the studio, I gave a try at continuing with transparent watercolors, but as you might guess, there was too much of the color left on the paper. I had to move on to gouache, an opaque watercolor paint. I applied it with a foam roller to get a uniform effect. I then used a very subtle color change to apply with my stamp.

This is truly an homage to the Italians who are currently quarantined. It is also an appreciation of all the artists out there who teach and share their skills with the likes of me.

Now, what is the best name for this piece?

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Photo Apps, To Use or Not to Use

I have two photo apps on my iPhone: Waterlogue and Notanizer.  I was introduced to these this past summer by another artist/friend. I have not used them before as anything more than personal entertainment until this past week. Using an app to create art brought up some real questions about art, originality, and personal interpretation.

Waterlogue allows you to download a photo from your camera and use the app tools to show various ways the image can look with various watercolor vibes.

Some of the 13 options provide you with some really lovely ways to change a normal photo into a more beautiful rendition of the original image.

Then there is Notanizer. This app works much the same way, but allows you to mess around with contrast using its tools. This can be very helpful, especially for artists who find it challenging to get enough contrast from light to dark in their paintings.

original photo
So this past week I took a break from my "Teach Me" series  to try painting using the Waterlogue app to inspire me to loosen up.

Waterlogue's version
I chose this photograph of my daughter (and granddaughter (Auntie Meg and Hannah) because it's is so striped and sweet.

And then I did 2 studies, first highly influenced by Waterlogue, then one painted only using the photo as a resource. (I want to add that I recognize that I am not a portrait painter and there is muddiness that I don't like.) I think I would title the second one "Wearing Reindeer Ears is Exhausting."

I also took another photo to the Waterlogue app and painted two studies from that.

Waterlogue version

So the questions I pose are these:

  • It it cheating?

  • Is it art when you are highly influenced by 
  • a technological product?

  • Is this any different than taking a workshop where a step by step process is offered by the instructor? Usually participants come out with pieces looking very similar to the instructor's.

I hope to have some feedback from my readers.

I do want to get opinions from the "peanut gallery."

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Creating a Body of Work

My blogspot hit a dry spell through the holidays. Not only was there the snowball effect of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, Mike and I tied on a 50th Anniversary Celebration and a "honeymoon" to Costa Rica. However, I have continued to work on my current body of work, Teach Me.

It is hard to know when to release images on a public stage such as facebook or a blog. I have been building on this idea for some time now. First it was a more general topic, women's issues.

Then I zeroed in on the thought that the bigger issue is education.  Education will lead to equality, empowerment, employment and self-confidence. When women have the opportunity to become educated, not only do their lives improve, but the entire neighborhood, country, and world improves.

I started by looking at a list of the ten countries in the world where it is most difficult for the female population to get an education. But then I started opening my eyes to populations in the United States that have less access and opportunities than more privileged areas. (Preachy, but true!) This series can go on and on, but I want to share a bit of this body of work today, starting with the most recent. I am posting 4 of 14!
(Read my last post if you are interested in my artist's statement about these paintings.)

Teach Me: Burkina Faso
Teach Me: Indigenous America

Teach Me: Tibet
Teach Me: Somalia

I have begun to enter some of these works in watercolor competitions. I don't know if they have a stand alone power, but they come from my heart and soul!

Monday, November 18, 2019

No Art Rules for Two Weeks--Just Create

Turning cardboard boxes into art
(this will be finished with many more boxes
when the artist gets home)
Once again I had the privilege of spending two weeks in Southern California working with Katherine Chang Liu, while surrounded by more than 20 other artists creating art. I am always amazed by the variety of art making among this group. Many of the artists paint, but others use found materials, stitchery and fabrics.

Sculpture using insulating materials

Using fabric with paint

Assemblage art in candle trays

There is something very special about being with this group. We all become very productive and focused on creating. With a few prods from Katherine, I find myself expanding my visions for a series. In fact, several years ago it was with this group that I began series work. So after a very slow year of painting, I really was motivated to keep working on my new series, Teach Me.

I worked solidly for the two weeks in Oxnard, coming home with four completed paintings to add to the whole of ten pieces so far. The piece below was done prior to the workshop and I just entered it in a competition.

Teach Me: South Sudan

A few paintings in this series leaned up on the mantle.

A final request from Katherine was to write an artist statement regarding this work. Here is an early draft. 

Teach Me

Education! Girls and women throughout the world have fewer opportunities to become educated. This issue has inspired the paintings in this series. Around the globe (including the United States) girls are reaching for an education. Education will lead to equality, empowerment, employment and self-confidence.

The series captures only a small portion of the countries and cultures that have low rates of schooling among the female population. As a symbolic painter, I have chosen a framework to talk about this topic. Each painting has a fabric pattern which represents the location. Another element in each piece denotes the place itself with architecture, landscape, or cultural symbols. The hands call to mind children in a classroom, ready to learn. All the arms are reaching for the infinity symbol, representing knowledge. Teach Me is a series of hope.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Content: Painting from Emotions

What happens when a painting comes from the depths of your emotions? My artwork "Enduring the Cure" is exactly that--a painting from the depths of my emotions. Five and a half years ago I entered a hospital room to see my younger daughter lying in a hospital bed, bald with umpteen hanging bags with tubes attached to her body. Her beautiful face expressed helplessness, resignation and exhaustion. She had signed up for this experimental treatment for her Multiple Sclerosis, but none of us really knew what that would entail--yet here I was witnessing its toll on my loved one.

My initial reaction was sadness and pity. But my aesthetic soul began to see art: a beautiful face, a patterned blanket . . . Klimpt. And thus my memory of that moment created the painting, "Enduring the Cure" several months later.

This painting went on to win awards and was immediately purchased.

And now it is on the cover of my daughter's book which was published October 1, 2019. "Enduring the Cure: My MS Journey to the Brink of Death and Back."

From that point, I went on to paint several more pieces about her treatment and recovery.

"Recovery" was more cheerful in colors and I put her three children onto the quilt because they are really what kept her going.

Then other parts of her life came into focus for me so I continued painting.

"Without Hair" was inspired by the many times she commented on the difficulty of being a bald woman. I asked her to write down her worries, and included those thoughts into the art.

Her collection of hats captured my imagination and inspired, "Which Hat to Wear."

Rachel had been an athlete all her life and even after her MS diagnosis she continued to jog and run. Eventually she had to give up her running half and full marathons as the disease became more aggressive. Here I painted her surrounded by her collection of shoes.

Taken from the mythological Phoenix, I painted her rising from the ashes with an Egyptian take. "Ma'at" is the title of this one.

And the final painting of this series is "The Journey is Not Done." I went back to Gustav Klimpt to paint Rachel with hair, months after her treatment was over.  In this painting, I placed her favorite Van Gogh painting behind her. In most of these paintings, she is barefoot as a symbol of women's vulnerability. The Klimpt inspired mosaic is not finished because neither is her journey through life.

Some of these paintings have remained in my studio. Some have gone off to competitions. All are full of the content of what it means to be a mother watching a child go through a disease and a dangerous cure.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Why I Love Teaching

Summer sucked, but teaching art workshops helped! You haven't seen a post or new paintings for awhile because of some medical issues. As my husband Mike said, my body was needing a tuneup to go for the next 100,000 miles!

Having the opportunity to share my knowledge and skills with other people interested in creating art is a real joy for me. So between Dr. appointments, melanoma removal and surgery, I was able to share my years of painting experience with a couple of groups willing to have me as an instructor. This helped me breeze through the summer of mending my body.

One thing I have to offer as an instructor is thinking outside of the box of traditional watercolors:

As I have matured as an artist, I have moved away from painting what my eyes see toward painting what my brain sees. The result is paintings that have a mix of abstract and realism, but are full of content. In my workshops with working artists, I bring materials that I enjoy using, such as hand crafted stamps and collage materials. Being able to share my own approach to making art helps me develop further in my own journey. The demonstration below utilized much of my own materials that helped me break free from the restrictions of traditional watercolor.

To create this abstract, I used both stamps and collage material to create interest and texture.

After my demo, I put out lots of collage papers and stamp making materials for the participants. I work with artists encouraging them to break out of their comfort zone, which I believe adds an authenticity to their work.

These two calligraphers have the skill of adding beautifully crafted words to their art.

At the end of this workshop, I challenged these participants to continue to pushing themselves. Keep asking "What If?"

Another way I rock as an instructor is sharing the thrill of applying watercolor paint to paper:

A totally different experience was teaching a group ranging from beginners to experienced artists. It is so exciting to just watch what the paint can do. We explored the fun of blending colors, to adding pen and ink, to working on a sheet with background colors.

I received the biggest "wow" moment when I lifted a cloud from a wet blue sky with a tissue. I went on in this demo to throw on some salt and small pieces of saran wrap.

This quick demo included lifting, salt, and saran wrap.
After that there was a lot of enthusiasm for creating texture.

At the end of the workshop, creating greeting cards as a way to utilize their new found skills, was a fun way to wrap things up.

A special part of this workshop was having my sister, Janice, as an art assistant and roommate. 

So now as we enter the next season of Autumn, I have had my tuneup and am ready to run reliably for the next 100,000 miles.