Saturday, March 29, 2014

Art Life Takes a Back Seat

If you are a regular viewer of my blog, you may have noticed a lack of activity. I would like to give you a brief explanation of why my art life has taken a backseat for awhile.

My younger daughter has MS, which those of you who know me, probably know. She was diagnosed in 2000 and had about 10 years with few symptoms, although we now know a lot was happening to her brain. About 2 years ago she began a rapid decline with many periods where maintaining her normal life needed days of extra support, mostly from Mike and me. We are separated by 3 hours of driving, so it was not so simple as running next door.

Six months ago, Rachel learned about a stem cell transplant that was being done in a few hospitals around the US, as well as in Italy, Germany, Canada, India and Russia. (There could be more countries doing this treatment.) Mike and Rachel's husband, Josh, began an energized research effort to get Rachel into one of the studies in the US, with backup plans overseas.

(There are many places you can learn more about the treatment if you want more details, but I am going to concentrate on the changes in my own life.)

As we planned this as a team, Mike and I offered all that we could to make this happen. With the hope of a complete cure, and the success rate of 80% for stopping the progression of the disease, Mike and I dedicated the time it would take to cover the needs of Rachel's family for the months the treatment and recovery would take.

Josh's family has provided a temporary home to Marin (9) where she can attend school with her cousins and participate in sports and activities. The two youngest children are living in Blue River with us. Noah (6) is attending kindergarten here, and Hannah (3) goes to preschool twice a week.

Mike and I are trading places every couple of weeks, to have one of us in Blue River with the little ones and one of us in Seattle as Rachel's treatment goes forward. Josh goes to work everyday and travels to Seattle on weekends. It takes a lot of people to cover all the bases when Mom is out of commission!
If you are interested in following Rachel's treatment and progress in Seattle you can read journal entries on http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/rachelcarter.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Personal Challenge--Focus on Strengths

Herons' Winter Dreams
Accepted into the NWWS' 74th Annual International Open Exhibition to be held at the American Art Company, Tacoma, WA, Juror Donna Zagotta
Another "Surprise."

In my last post I quoted Alice Walker, "Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise." As I said in that post, the ups and downs of entering competitions and receiving both acceptances and rejections can keep an artist in a state of self-doubt and insecurity. Rather than letting the voice of a juror determine my perspective of my art journey, I can choose to keep focused on what I know about my own creativity and the art I produce.

Today I am challenging myself to bring to mind the strengths of my artistic efforts. And looking at this painting that was just accepted into the Northwest Watercolor Society's International Exhibition can help me focus on those assets.

  • Over 20 years of painting, I have learned to apply and manipulate paint in many different ways. I have a full tool belt!
  • I have found a topic I can discuss in my artwork over and over--my (humans) relationship with nature and the timeline of our existence.
  • My viewpoint is unique.
  • I have a whimsical side that comes through in my artwork.
  • I have a lot more fun creating a backdrop for my subjects rather than painting reality. (It's a bit like creating a setting in a stage production.)
  • Painting allows me to experiment and explore and find my art language.
  • My design and composition skills come more naturally.
I challenge you, whether or not you are an artist, to concentrate on your strengths today. We all need a good dose of exploring our own self-worth.



Monday, February 24, 2014

The Artist's Insecurity

Class IV, Aquamedia, 22x30

This painting was accepted into the Watercolor Society of Oregon's Spring Show--Juror, Robert Burridge

Insecurity:  this is a consistent theme of many artists' blogs/writings, and if an artist doesn't admit to insecurities--don't believe them! As hard as we fight to paint only for ourselves, listen only to our own opinions, find our own truth, and learn to wear a thick skin; there are so many moments of self-doubt. 

This past year I had a string of acceptances in some bigger, national shows, which really set me up to have greater expectations as I sent off my competition entries. Naturally, this made getting the "sorry" letters and emails a bigger let-down than usual. And as things go, after my upswing, came a downswing. I got more rejection letters than acceptances.

So what is one to do? I love this Alice Walker quote, "Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise." I should put this on every prospectus that comes my way. I should prepare my images, fill out my forms, send my entry fees, and as I hit send or mail my envelope say "expect nothing." I want to "live frugally on surprise."

If I could reign in my expectations to the things I have control over, like what goes on at the end of my paintbrush and what I put on my sheet of paper, I'd have more energy for the creating.






Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shake Off the Winter Doldrums With My Workshop

I have an upcoming workshop at Emerald Art Center in Springfield, OR. On March 1 through 4, 2014, from 9 am to 4 pm class participants will be creating--creating textures on paper to paint on, creating compositions that incorporate reality with the abstract. We will paint rice paper for collage work as well as mine old paintings to find little gems to enliven a new painting. I also intend to introduce folks to making stamps and using them to enhance the interests in a piece of art.

Below is an example of using many techniques to turn the left image into a finished piece with collage, stamping and calligraphic marks.


I will also help class participants combine  reality with abstract design, one of my favorite ways to present animals.

Here are some of the kind words class participants have said about my workshops.
"Margaret’s relaxed, easy manner creates a comfortable environment for the beginner or advanced student.  Her instruction includes many different ways to work with watercolors which has opened up a new world for me."


"Margaret encourages her students to stretch their imagination and skills beyond the ‘comfort zone.’ There is no such word as failure in her classes, only opportunities to experiment and try, try again and find a measure of success. With her help I came to appreciate my own style."


"The best mantra Margaret uses is, “It’s only paper!” Her fearless approach allowed me to be creative and try larger and looser paintings.  After taking classes with Margaret, I was encouraged to apply for membership in the Watercolor Society of Oregon, which I did and was accepted in September, 2007.  I have gone on to sell paintings and exhibit in shows."


"I love Margaret’s demos and the way she encourages ‘loosening up.’  I appreciate the way we stop along the way and evaluate our work.  Her critiques are so valuable.  She can find something good in every painting."


Monday, February 3, 2014

Framing Decisions

I just spent time choosing the framing materials for my painting Catch, No Release which is going to the permanent art collection of Umpqua Community College. Keeping in mind that this is a museum piece, I wanted to mat and frame it with a traditional watercolor look.

First thing to be decided was which mat to use. Of course I wanted a white, but if you've never looked at the array of whites and off whites, you'd be amazed at the many options. Mostly I think of them as cool white or warm white, and then try to choose one that presents the painting best. The mat color I chose is a creamy white called "White Wash."

Next I looked at the simple black wood frames and settled on one that is contemporary, measuring 1 1/2 inches.

Finally, for the first time ever, I bought museum glass which greatly reduces reflected light. This is a wonderful product that I think may be worth buying for future paintings as it was not as expensive as I thought.

So what do you think of the presentation? Have any of you purchased museum glass?

If you are interested, here is the list of accepted artists for this UCC Art Purchase Project. I enjoyed googling these fellow artist to see their work. It is an honor to be included with them.

Holly Andres, Portland, Oregon
Rich Bergeman, Corvallis, Oregon
Clint Brown, Corvallis, Oregon
Kathleen Caprario, Springfield, Oregon
Renee Couture, Glide, Oregon
Tallmadge Doyle, Eugene, Oregon
Sarah Fagan, Portland, Oregon
Sally Finch, Portland, Oregon
James Florschutz, Portland, Oregon
Margaret Godfrey, Blue River, Oregon
Yuji Hiratsuka, Corvallis, Oregon
Jenny Kroik, Eugene, Oregon
Jon Leach, Winston, Oregon
Ann Lindsay, Winchester, Oregon
Barbara Benedetti Newton, Renton, Washington
Ryan Pierce, Portland, Oregon
Daniel Robinson, Fossil, Oregon
Paul Xavier Rutz, Portland, Oregon
Nancy Watterson Scharf, Oakland, Oregon
Pat Snyder, Coos Bay, Oregon
Gena Lee Tharp, Roseburg, Oregon
Paul Zegers, Roseburg, Oregon


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sometimes It's Easy

Every once in a while I find having a studio out in the barn has its advantages. For this start, I wanted to wet parts of my full sheet of watercolor paper and pour diluted acrylics into the wet parts to give it a transparent look. Setting up outside my studio is easy--one horse mounting step, a bucket of clean water, 3 containers of paint and plenty of earth to absorb my mess.












My initial idea was to create a water backdrop for another "River Tapestry" painting. The beginning of those paintings always start with some good water rapids, so after the first pouring had dried, I put a dark background at the top to make the biggest splashy parts pop.


Next, I started to add the white acrylic and ink to create splashing and action and movement. When I stepped back to look at where I might place the window or windows to weave my tapestry around, I found that I loved it all, as is. I even called my husband (the rower) out to verify that I had really captured a wonderful rapid, and that it would be a shame to do away with any of it.


If you read my previous blog, you'll know that a finished painting can take a year, so to have one come out successfully in a couple of days is a rarity. Now all I need is a name.



Monday, January 27, 2014

One Painting: A Year of Tweaking

After meeting with a critique group last Friday, I found myself once again adjusting and adapting Taken Under the Wing in preparation for entering it in yet another competition. As I looked at past images of this painting, I was surprised to see that the first version of Taken Under the Wing was posted on January 22, 2013, just a year ago. I really liked this painting and had so many positive remarks from friends and viewers, that I thought it was pretty much perfect.

Taken Under the Wing - 1/22/2013
I can't remember when I first sent the image off to a competition, but I remember getting a national level juror's critique and suggestions last April. At that time I worked on the bottom of the painting, adding more color and eliminating the gold underpainting. I really thought this painting was my ticket to a show at the national level.

Taken Under the Wing April - October 2013
But it wasn't . . . Another big name in watercolor told me the main reason the painting didn't make it into a big show was that the dark wing on the left led the viewer out of the painting. ( This just leads the judge's eye to the painting on the left of yours!)

After softening the dark edge of the wing, I sent an image into yet another competition and, you guessed it, another rejection.

That led me to conclude that this painting was way to precious to me. I needed to step back and stop looking at it as "this is as good as it gets," but rather, "how can I take this to the level I believe it can be?" So I took it to two different groups this month and asked them to look at it with a really critical eye and help me bump it up. And then I truly listened. 

(A side note: your friends and fellow artists can tell when you aren't open to suggestions. When you have that "too precious" attitude about a piece of work, they aren't going to pick apart a painting.)

Here's the iteration after meeting with group 1. I moved where the wing meets the bird's body in the left hand side heron. I added more true darks and enhanced the birds' details. I also added some lights to the tree's needles.
 
Taken Under the Wing  1-18-2014

And below you can see the changes I made after meeting with group 2 on this past Friday. I did three things: I lifted some passages on the dark wing to give it variation and bounce from the other wing, I defined the legs a bit more, and (the most dramatic change) I darkened the lower right-hand area of the painting. Now I see that the earlier version has no change in the bottom 1/3 of the painting which makes it pretty uninteresting. As I look at the image below, I see that the painting is much more resolved and my eye is led in the through the painting. What do you think about this painting's evolution?

Taken Under the Wing 1-27-2014
I'm about to enter it in another competition. Wish me luck!