Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Egypt Painting

Content and symbolism are components I work hard to put into my paintings. This is making me more aware of the process I use for creating a painting. This recent Egypt-inspired piece is a good example. Here is list the list of influences, thoughts, and sources that proceeded and were gathered while working on this painting.

  • A trip to Egypt last April--think hot
  • Several photos from that trip: columns, hieroglyphics, temples, me coming out of a tomb
  • A stamp of hieroglyphics I made for an earlier painting
  • Ideas for making the walls look ancient
  • Two small paintings (one of a figure, another of columns) I did in a Ratindra Das workshop in October
What I do over a period of time is gather source materials and envision what I want I want to say in a painting. The content and ideas I hope to communicate in this painting are: heat, the amazing architecture and art, ancient Egyptian communication, contrast of modern with old, and the transitory nature of being a tourist. All of these pieces are part of telling "my story" and my own experience of visiting this ancient culture.

To develop the aged walls, I used the following technique. After sketching in my composition, I tore up small pieces of paper towel, drenched them in watercolor pigment, applied them to my watercolor paper and let them sit for awhile. I was careful to remove them while still damp so they wouldn't stick to the watercolor paper.

I decided on a red sky and a dominance of warm colors for the painting to imply the heat of the Egyptian desert and to reflect the actual colors of the landscape. The painting began coming together as I used hieroglyphic symbols on the background building and left pillar shapes to be worked on later.

It was only after the painting was finished that I saw the connection of the small figure in the relief and the modern figure coming out of the tomb.

Once I got the painting to this point, it stayed like this for quite awhile. I was so in love with the figure being so 'Milton Avery-esque." After getting personal critique from Jeanie McGuire, emphasizing the importance of a paintings unity (how a painting must look like it was all painted by the same artist) that I let go of the white hat and coat.  I did a minimalist job of painting the suggestion of a face and a few clothing details.

I'd love to hear your comments on this painting and how well it communicates and resonates with you, the viewer.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

How Much Can I Fit Into One Crazy Week?

   The week started with a 2-day workshop in Brownsville, Oregon. The class participants  made unique stamps and collage papers. They then applied these new skills to their art work. A lot of good starts and ideas came out of the workshop.
Click for Options

There were creative forces swirling around the Brownsville Art Center!

After the workshop, I headed north with my husband to meet our younger daughter in Seattle. She had flown up from Arizona for her 2-year medical evaluationWe spent two days meeting with the medical staff working on this phase 2 study. Rachel had received a rather drastic and experimental treatment for her MS two years ago. This yearly check-up showed no disease activity at all. She is apparently cured, an unheard of thing with MS until a few years ago. Can you see the joy in the faces of Rach, docs and staff?

Our plans were to stay in the area until Thursday to attend the Northwest Watercolor Society reception for the International Exhibition. While traveling, I got the word that my painting was to receive an award! To celebrate and unwind, we spent a couple of days in Port Townsend.

Then it was back to Seattle where I was delighted that my painting, "Enduring the Cure," had won 5th place! I am so honored to have gotten an award among such strong paintings.
Getting a personal critique from the juror,
Jeanie McGuire.

After the crazy, full and amazing week, Mike and I finally put Rachel on the plane at Sea-Tac sending her back to her home and family in AZ.  We then stopped by Camas, WA to see our older daughter, Meg at the rock yard she manages. Then back to Blue River.

The last two days I've been unpacking, doing laundry, and unpacking my art supplies. New paintings are floating around in my mind. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"I See You" Step by Step

29 x 22
Mixed Media
Earlier this month I posted a painting of a woman lying under a starry sky. Although I really like this painting--the idea, the feeling of being mesmerized by the night sky, I wanted to improve the design elements.

I visited with an art friend, Geoff McCormack, who is not only a great artist, but also a computer whiz. He put together a few images to help me figure out a less static figure and a way to make the painting less divided into half.

I took photos throughout the process of creating the second painting, so I can share my process with you.

Steps 1 and 2: First I determined the curve of the earth and blocked that edge off with tape. You can not see my drawing well in this photo, but the figure has one foot above the horizon line, so I have used masking fluid to protect that and all the stars.

Next came many layers of a blue mixture (transparent watercolors) applied with a sponge to get the depth of color I wanted. After those layers were done, I added one last layer applied with a mouth atomizer to make the blue as consistent as possible.

Step 3: After removing the tape and masking fluid from the stars, I outlined the figure with masking fluid to protect the edges from the texturing of the earth.

Step 4: I took a thin rice paper and applied it with white gesso to the earth area. I ripped up fairly small pieces and crumpled them as I applied them.

Step 5: While the rice paper/gesso was drying, I worked on the sky. I colored some of the stars and added the constellation Cassiopeia. By creating a figure in the sky the painting shows a deeper connection between the human and the universe.

I was perplexed about painting the constellation without a drawing (graphite doesn't show up on deep blue paint). It came to me that I could draw it with a white chalk pencil, then go over it with white ink.

The Milky Way was added by spraying gouache with a toothbrush.

Step 6: I started painting earth with transparent watercolors. The first layers of color really show off the roughness the gesso and rice paper can create. Of course, it was too much contrast with the sky, so I moved on to painting layers with acrylic paints to unify the texturing.
Step 7:  Because I am most comfortable painting with transparent watercolor, I moved back to my W/C palette to paint the figure. As that moved along, I starting thinking about what color to paint the nightgown. A color that was harmonious with the sky would connect her more to that, a gold would connect her more to the earth. Decision time!
Steps 8: Now on to the finishing touches. The sky figure got a second outline of a turquoise chalk, because the pure white ink did not have enough impact. The figure ended up with a split colored gown (thank you, Ruth Armitage). She is not stuck to the earth, nor is she floating up to the sky. She is connected to both. The earth's edges got darkened with the gowns lavender color, enhancing the curvilinear line and breaking up the shape a bit.

Is it done? I'm thinking of adding some more sprayed stars on the right of the sky, but I'll sit on that idea for awhile.

I See You
29" by 22"
Mixed Media

Friday, April 15, 2016

Priming the Pump

My followers know that I was on a trip to SE Asia not long ago. Traveling to another part of the world filled my eyes, brain and emotions with many images and ideas. In a way, being over-saturated with images and ideas can make it hard to sort out what I might paint and how I want to express it on paper.

"Priming the pump" this past week meant doing some small, crisp, and realistic paintings. I started with one drawing which I thought I would incorporating into a large piece. When I finished the drawing, I fell in love with the simplicity and lines. I decided to let it become a work on paper using pen and ink and acrylic paint. I was so happy with that first piece, that I chose two more images to treat in a similar fashion.

Here are the first three 8 1/2" x 8 1/2" paintings. I have matted them with a light grey mat with black liner, which gives the colors a chance to "pop." The final simple black framed piece  is 14 1/2" x 14 1/2."

Vietnam: Laundry Day

Vietnam: Woman Sculling on the Mekong Delta

Vietnam: Old Friends in the Garden

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Fine Art vs Decorative Art

fine art
  1. 1.
    creative art, especially visual art, whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content.
    "the convergence of popular culture and fine art"
  2. 2.
    an activity requiring great skill or accomplishment.
    "he'll have to learn the fine art of persuasion"
decorative arts
  1. the arts concerned with the production of high-quality objects that are both useful and beautiful.

Many years ago, in the beginning of my art journey, a world renowned instructor told me that a painting I had created in his workshop was a nice "decorative" piece. Being a self-educated artist, I had a pejorative idea of what that meant My interpretation was that it was cute, sweet, something you'd hang in the bathroom. It was not the thing I was striving for.  And I did not have the guts to just come out and ask what he meant. 

Over the years I have learned that it was not a condescending remark. I have attempted to get a better grasp of the meaning and difference (if there is any) between "fine" and "decorative" arts.

When I google famous artists considered "decorative" artists, the names of Klimpt, Matisse, and Tiffany come up. Many items considered decorative art are both utilitarian and beautiful. (I guess a painting could cover up a hole in the wall, making it utilitarian!) Decorative art is often associated with the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. "Artists drew inspiration form both organic and geometric forms, evolving elegant designs that united flowing, natural forms with the more angular contours." As always, art was moving in a different direction, letting go of some of the more traditional ideas of art--making room for modernism. 

In any case, I now feel fine creating art that is more decorative. Who wouldn't want to be in the same category as Klimpt and Matisse?

Most of my studio time is spent doing what I would call fine art. I am going for that "imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content." I have an idea or story I am trying to incorporate into my paintings. I am typically more content oriented. This is the more cerebral me. 

Other days I am just happy to create something more spontaneous and decorative. The two pieces posted here were done on previously marbled paper. Being springtime, I felt compelled to create flowers and used collage materials made with deli paper and gelli plate. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Telling My Story in Art: Titles

My friend Ruth Armitage recently created a post "My Art Means Something." Among other things she talks about choosing a title for a piece. I often wrestle about finding the right title for a painting myself.  As Ruth states, "I feel that the meaning of a painting can be one thing to the artist, and something different to the viewer." Although my work is not abstract like Ruth's, I do debate about how much information I give my viewer with a title, because I want them to connect to the painting. I want the art to bring up their own memory or spark something in their imagination.

This painting was one I struggled with trying to find the right title. Although the memory that inspired this was about being lost in a department store, looking for my mother, it really uncovered and suggested so many deeper and important ideas. I do not want to have the title limit what the viewer might feel or conceptualize.

She's Allowed
28" x 21"

The title that has struck the right chord for me is "She's Allowed." It doesn't really matter what this child is doing, she is just a child who is allowed to be herself! Thanks to my art friend, Sandra Neary and Elizabeth Gilbert via her book on creativity,  "Big Magic," I have come up with a title that allows the viewer to make up their own story about this painting. Please wander in and think about a time when you were a child and what memory this brings up for you. You are ALLOWED!

So now I am looking for a title for my recent painting capturing a memory from this last summer. I could tell you the story of laying out under the stars on the Rogue River, but I'd rather you think of a time you connected to the Universe via the night sky. Do you have a title for me?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Telling My Story in Art: "the rest of the story"

This has been an interesting painting to put out to the viewing audience. It has stirred up many stories and evoked many ideas and feelings in viewers. Before I tell you what inspired this piece, I'll share some of the ideas and comments I've received. I have been amused, touched and surprised.Best of all, I've discovered of many ideas that were not present when I began the painting. Sometimes I get deeper meanings from my own paintings as time goes on.

Because the main figure in the painting has her back to the viewer, her emotions are not revealed, yet she is a powerful little person. Most people interpreted her as happy. Many people thought of her as leading a choir, which makes sense because the women I borrowed from Gustav Klimpt are in a choir. Some comments were about her self confidence: every woman in the painting is accepting of her, and she is drawn to all the figures.

One of the most interesting ideas is that it elicits a political theme because of the red, white, and blue. Is it the "Year of the Woman?" Will the young voters put the first woman into the White House?

Some people wish they could have been that little girl. One of my sisters thought it was me running toward my older sisters. Another friend thought the little girl might just take a 90 degree turn and run another direction. She's a little teaser.

I purposely chose to put a uniform undemonstrative face on all the women. I thought about the 1950's and all women wearing dresses off the rack. If you lived in a small town, you might only have one or two stores to shop in. It would be likely you would see your friend wearing the very same dress.

Some of the painting was done from an artistic viewpoint, such as the red shoes. The repetition is very pleasing to my eye. Some clues were added as afterthoughts. The red shoes were confusing, so I added the sale sign and dollar signs to the shoes to indicate the women were shopping.

So here is the memory that sparked this painting. When I was three-years-old or so, my mother and I were in town shopping at the "Golden Rule" department store. It had a lot of sections to it, because it sold everything! It was easy for a little kid to wander off and loose sight of the parent and visa versa. So I did wander off and started to feel lost. My mom was wearing a navy blue polka dot dress, so when I spotted her dress, I ran up to her and grabbed her around her legs. When I looked up, to my dismay, the face at the top of the dress was unknown to me--it was not my mother, but another woman in a navy blue polka dot dress!

I find it totally amazing that one moment, one memory from over 60 years ago inspired this painting that has so many layers and deeper meanings. Thank you to those who have looked and shared your thoughts. So far, the painting goes untitled.