Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Morning of Making Snakes

Could you say no to this little guy?

Last spring, when Mike and I were traveling back and forth between home and Seattle, trading off grandparent duties, I did a lot of crafts with Hannah (4) and Noah (6). We saved toilet paper rolls to make animals. We cut up and colored shapes out of milk jugs. We made spring blossoms out of popcorn. Pretty much anything that could be done by both a 4 and 6-year-old was on my radar.

However, late May brought wonderful weather. Rachel (Mom) came home, big sister, Marin, and Josh (Dad) all gathered next door to us in Blue River. The days of crafting went by the wayside.

I did make a promise to Noah, way back when, that we would make a stuffed animal , and as you probably know, kids never forget anything.

After assessing my age group, 4 to 10 years, I thought snakes would be pretty easy. I needed to get some fabric and stuffing in town and quickly eliminated the idea of buying a stuffed animal pattern at the price of $17. I found a really easy idea on the internet: I'm pretty sure I could have done this on my own, but it was really easy to just follow someone else's idea.

We used some wide craft pattern to make our pattern. Marin was old enough to cut out her own snake pieces.

Both Noah and Marin got a little bit of sewing machine experience. The stuffing of the snakes was perfect for all the ages. Marin continued to learn more about sewing making scarves out of the scraps.

Of course, everyone can play with a snake--at least these stuffed ones!

My guilt has been assuaged, since I eventually followed through with my promise. Believe it or not, all three snakes were done in 3 hours and the cost was under $20.

This was a great way to spend a Saturday and I love that it created wonderful memories. Marin said it was one of her favorite days ever!

We only have 2 1/2 weeks until Rachel and her clan move to Arizona!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pele Reaches Into My Blog

As many of you know, my husband and I lived in Hawaii for two years several years back.  I painted many pieces about the volcano we were living near, Kilauea. My abstracted landscapes were an important part of my artistic development. At that time the lava was actively flowing into the ocean, making for some very dramatic scenes, which I'd photograph and later use as inspirations for my art.

I was fortunate to be represented by the Volcano Arts Center in the Kilauea National Park, where my art sold quite well. But when we moved away, I closed my connection with the gallery, as well as ended my volcano series.

Back in 2010, an elementary art teacher who has her own blog, featured my blog post as a reference for teaching art using a volcano theme: Over the years I have noticed quite a few blog hits on my blogspot through her site. but since the latest eruption is heading toward a town on the Big Island, the traffic has greatly increased.

Recently, Pele has changed the route of the lava flow, endangering Puna and the small town of Pahoa, Hawaii. Interest in teaching about volcanoes has increased, consequently, there has been a lot more activity looking at my 2010 post.

I am fascinated by what this says about our internet interconnection. I have had so many people looking at my art and my words, indeed my life, through this connection with Holly B., art teacher in Maryland.  I love knowing that my blog and Holly's blog are still active and I hope all these wonderful teachers are inspiring students to weave science and social studies with art.

I still have a number of my Volcano Series paintings. Contact me if you would like a little Pele on your wall!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Small Works on Paper

Yesterday my good friend, Ruth Armitage posted a link to to a book "Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist." You know how something said, or an article you read, or (in this case) a book title is just what you need to spur you on?

Seeing that book title was a good reminder to me that I don't always have to go to the studio and create a masterpiece. Sometimes it is just a wonderful thing to experiment and paint for the fun of it. The idea of having fun with some small works on papers really appealed to me. As I was searching through my file drawers, I came across some pieces that had not been successful, but already had paint and collage on them.

Sometimes I find it easier to work on "stuff" rather than start with white paper. So I tried to capture some more successful parts of these 12 x 15 inch papers.

Old Work

So this was reduced to

Cropped Old Work

Ponds #2,5 x 7 inches
Which became this finished small work on paper.

Ponds #3, 5 x 7 inches
Here are a couple more examples of the small works on paper I did today.
Ponds #1, 8 x 8 inches
I'd love to hear your comments about these works on paper!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

No More Denying--Fall Is Here

Hannah, Queen of the Hay
There are a few things that emphasize the fact that the season has changed from summer to fall. One is getting over to the Eastside of Oregon to bring home hay before the rain starts. Early this week the weather predictions stated that we could expect rain on Tuesday, continuing through the week. So on Monday morning, Mike hitched up our raft trailer to go over the mountains to get hay.

We've been going to the same farm between Sisters and Redmond for the last few years, so one call gave us the thumbs up for picking up a ton of good Eastside hay for Little Bit.

Mike was back home in the early afternoon, ready to hoist the bales into the barn loft. In years past, we would use a horse to pull the bales up (true horse power). But this year Rachel stepped up offering to do the pulling.

Here is where I have to add a note that one year ago Rach would not have had the stamina, strength or coordination to do this task. It was just a year ago that Rachel and her husband, Josh, along with Mike traveled to Chicago to try to get into a stem cell transplant study for Multiple Sclerosis patients being done there. After the rejection from Chicago, she eventually was accepted into the program being done in Seattle. 

Now, just 6 months after treatment, she is so much better, and the recovery will continue for the next 6 to 18 months. How fortunate that she was given this treatment and the outcome is simply hard to believe! Dare I use the word "miracle?"

With Mike in the loft stacking the hay bales, me on the trailer pushing the bales to Rachel, and Hannah cheering us on, we had the whole task done well before dinnertime.

The loveliest part to the day was getting the gorgeous vine maple leaves into a vase on the mantle. Mike never forgets to bring me some!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Artwork on Paper--Making it Small

Artwork on Paper--Small vs Large

I recently attended the Watercolor Society of Oregon's Fall Convention which is a wonderful way to connect with other artists, get inspired by other's artwork, and have a weekend of fun. Although I did not have a piece in the show, it is a great showcase for Oregon artists and the larger artwork usually stands out. Because I like to enter my art into competitions and I find it very comfortable to paint on a full sheet (30 x 22 inches), I most often paint large.

However, when I got home from the conference I learned that one of my small paintings had sold at Excelsior Inn Ristorante. I currently have a group of framed 7 x7 inch pieces, so I wanted to replace it with the same sized work. It seemed like a great opportunity to continue my salmon life cycle series and see what I could do with a small square.

Salmon's Journey
7 x 7 inches
Artwork on Paper
There are several neat things about doing a small piece.
  • I can use it as a study for a larger piece
  • I can hone my skills with acrylic
  • It is easy to use fixative (varnish) and mount without mat or glass
This painting will be framed, placed on the wall Friday and sell at Excelsior for under $100--affordable artwork on paper!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Limiting Elements and Subject Matter

One of the most important things I learned at the Ventura workshop I attended in August is that the more I limit the elements and subject matter of a painting, the more creative I become. A smaller focus really forces me to think of new ways to "talk" about a topic.

A couple of years ago, when I started my River Series, I limited my work to abstraction of nature and Oregon wildlife. This focus lead me to a higher quality of paintings and greater rewards in the competitive field of watercolor.

Life Cycle Imperative #3
30 x 22 inches
The series, Life Cycle Imperitive, that began in Ventura has limited my work even more. The elements of the last few paintings are rocks, salmon and salmon eggs/smolt/fry. The question I face with each new painting in this series is, "how can I express something new and different with these three elements and symbols?"

The last works I did in Ventura were very minimalist. The colors were subdued and they had an ethereal quality.

The new painting I am posting today has veered away from the delicate. I wanted to continue using the kimono composition, but make it more organic. I used rocks to form a redd (a spawning nest) with the salmon swimming above in an almost robotic fashion. The painting started with another water-like wash above and below the fish. When I was close to the finish, the painting had a very pastel look. It lacked drama and interest. Also, I was a bit surprised by how much realism I had put on the paper. I am much happier with a more stylized and abstract look to my work.

After some contemplation, I decided that getting rid of the pale background would make the rest of the painting "pop." It takes a bit of courage, but I took a pure black gouache (opaque watercolor) and painted the background a mat black. To me it created a much more dramatic and less realistic painting. It went from pale and pastel to eye-catching. Sometimes it pays to take risks and do something different.
Life Cycle Imperative #5
30 x 22 inches

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ventura Adventure--Part II

Life Cycle Imperative #1
After my introduction of salmon eggs into the first painting of the workshop, Katherine gave me an "A+" for a unique idea she'd not seen before. She is very much about setting an artist's work apart from others. She wants her workshop participants to find ways to set their work apart from other artists and be recognizable as their art.

So after my first painting and some angst about where I would go next, Katherine met with me again. We looked at Life Cycle Imperative #1 and again I was given a challenge. How could I take 3 symbols and make a painting out of that? Katherine suggested I use the salmon eggs, rocks and an unusual shape as a format for my work. The term "surrealism" had come up in my first day's talk where Katherine said my work was slightly surrealistic.

Life Cycle Imperative #2
Watercolor 30 x 22 inches

My second painting started with the idea of a kimono. I wanted to paint again my open-winged heron that had been subject of an earlier less successful painting. How could I make that surrealistic? My roommate/art friend Kathy Tiger and I discussed it at some length, throwing ideas around. Finally it came to me that the real heron could walk from it's realistic landscape into the fabric of the kimono, joining it's partner who was already at home in the kimono shape. I included the falling salmon eggs again, and put five subdued stencil images to indicate the brocade fabric a kimono might be made of.

The more I worked with the salmon eggs and used my iPad to look at images and read more about their breeding habits, the more I realized that the life cycle of the salmon is very representative of all living creatures' journey, including humans. The eggs struggle to hatch, the smolt and fry dodge nature's predators to mature, swim out to survive in the ocean for a few years, take the swim of a lifetime to return to the river and very spot where they hatched, lay their eggs/fertilize their eggs and then provide their offspring the nutrients to thrive and grow by dying. So in a very symbolic way the salmon egg epitomizes life and death itself.

With much greater thought, I began to strip my paintings to a very minimalized image: rocks, eggs/smolt/fish, water/air. I made a smolt stencil to decorate my stylized rocks. Katherine called this one a poem and used the word ethereal.

Life Cycle Imperative #3
Watercolor, 30 x 22
My last piece came home a bit unfinished, but again it is quiet and mindful of one message. We all answer to life's imperative commands. In this one the salmon is leaving her eggs behind, seeking the end of her life cycle.

Life Cycle Imperative #4
Watercolor, 30 x 22

I came to Ventura with the notion that I would begin a series of paintings of and about my daughter and her last year of struggle, treatment for MS, recovery and my parental grief, support, and effort to make it all happen. At the end of the two weeks I realized that I had done just that in a deeply symbolic way.