Sunday, July 12, 2015

Heading Back to Ventura

As I plan for the upcoming 2 weeks in Ventura with Katherine Chang Liu, it seems like a good time to assess what has come from last year's art retreat. There is, of course, assembling my art supplies and shipping them, packing clothes, planning transportation. But as I assemble the eight photos for Katherine's viewing where she'll help guide me on my journey, some of my own ideas come to light.

It was in Ventura last August that I started the Life Cycle Imperative Series. It was based on a simple question--what can a circle become in my paintings? Now I can't even recall how a salmon egg came to mind, although it fits with the river themes I've painted for years. However, the eggs, the salmon, the journey from river to sea and back again, all fell into place this past year as a wonderful analogy to my own life. The more I learned about salmon, the more I connected with the relentless drive within these creatures.

And so my paintings this year have been driven by the Salmon's journey from beginning to end. Oddly, I've felt that my last painting or two is the end for this. There may be another idea or two there, but I feel it's time to go on. I've felt both inspired and trapped in this series. A year later, as I look at the 10 large paintings (there are several more small ones), I see that I became more realistic than I want to be long term. My true artistic leaning is more toward the abstracted view of the world.

This seems to be a very good spot to be in right now. I'm ready for a new challenge, a new path. I expect the last 2 weeks in July to be full of creativity, fun and hard work. It is never very easy to change direction, but it usually leads somewhere unexpected. Just like last year's question about a circle led to a year of learning about, admiring, and painting salmon.

So in celebration of the end of the salmon series, and looking for a connection to my more creative and playful side, I painted a companion piece to one of my heron paintings. This gives me two new paintings in the last 2 or 3 weeks. And I have to add that I've truly enjoyed the challenge of painting these athletic fish in motion!
The Last Hurrah
29 x 22, Transparent watercolor
Life Cycle Imperative #9: Digging the Redd
29 x 22, Transparent watercolor

Here is the companion piece for The Last Hurrah, Blue Moon Heron.

Monday, July 6, 2015

New Additions to the "Life Cycle Imperative" Series--#8 and #9

Most of my time this last month has been spending time with family. This is a wonderful gift, of course, but it does take away from my time to paint. Ahh, the choices: the river not floated of the painting not painted.

However, I did find some time to get out to the studio where I added two new salmon paintings to the  "Life Cycle Imperative" Series. Number 8 is telling the story based on the Native American belief that salmon was a gift of the Salmon People in the river. Tribal members were careful to return all the skeleton remains to the river after feasting on the salmon. The failure to do so could bring harm to individuals or the entire tribe.

There is also a very practical reason to return the salmon parts that are not eaten, and that is to provide nutrients to the stream and to the salmon eggs.

Life Cycle Imperative #8: Returning the Gift

Life Cycle Imperative #9: The Spawning Redd 
Step by Step

The painting I finished today started with a loose sketch, a test color strip, and a couple of new stamps made for this particular piece. 

I then prepared a sheet of watercolor paper by saving the white of the paper with contact paper in the appropriate shapes and securing the edges with masking fluid,
(I have learned the hard way that contact paper allows color to bleed under the edges.)

Once the white paper is saved, I can really go to town preparing the background. I like to know that once the background suits me, I can take off the contact paper and work on the subject.

Poor color, sorry
After the first washes were on, creating a water and gravel separation, I wanted to add a warmer tone to the upper part of the water and added a wash of yellow. Over several sessions, I added pigment to and deepened the colors of the background.

Once I had the background washes, I added the rocks and pebbles, ripples above and worked on the sand and gravel that the spawning salmon stirs up making her redd (nest).

After that was done, I peeled away the contact paper and masking fluid and painted the salmon and reflections. Today I altered the fish a bit and added a rock ledge to the right and a piece of wood to the left. I walked away from the studio feeling quite happy with this one.

Life Cycle Imperative #9: The Spawning Redd

Monday, June 22, 2015

Menucha Retreat Workshop: Sign Up Early to Get Your Discount

I am so looking forward to the Fall Workshop I will be teaching at Menucha Retreat. The workshop is scheduled for October 18 through October 22. 

I will be sharing many ways to combine abstract work with realism. We will make stamps, stain and stamp papers, add interest to the beginning paint surface, hone design and compositions skills and much more. This will be an exceptional experience for us all where art is the focus in a beautiful retreat setting where meals and beds are just a few steps from the art studio.

I want to let people know that there is a discount for early registration and there are just 12 more days to get that reduced rate!  

Early Bird Bonus: register by the 4th of July and get $100 off!

To sign up, go to the Menucha Retreat and Convention Center Space is limited, so be sure to register early to save your spot!

Below is the description of my workshop.

Abstract to Realism

Blue Moon Heron IIMargaret will teach a four-day workshop exploring abstract design in combination with representational subject matter. By building surface textures using gesso, rice paper, scraping and adding marks, participants will add dimension and interest to their art. This workshop will expand your experience with representational shapes united with abstract form using watercolor, acrylic paint and collage. All collage materials will be created by the participants using old paintings, newly created pattern paintings and stained rice paper. In this workshop you will learn:
  • How to start a painting with a textured surface.
  • How to create collage papers.
  • How to compose a dynamic abstract design.
  • How to combine abstract design with representational shapes.
  • How to use color and shape to unify a painting.
  • How to build a painting using an intuitive process.
Here’s what class participants have said about Margaret’s classes:
“Margaret encourages her students to stretch WEbsite photo revisedtheir 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.”

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Consumed with a Two Bedroom Redo

Twenty or so years ago, I put my marks on our guest bedroom and master bedroom. We had been back East, visited the home of Louisa May Alcott in Concord, Mass., where I was charmed by the art left on the walls by her sister. I came home with the desire (and nerve) to go crazy with paint in my own home. (This was before I ever had the courage to call myself an artist.) Thus, our bedroom became the "dragon room" which was a nod to my summer in China. The guestroom became the "sunflower room" because of my admiration of Van Gogh.

Our closet
After twenty years, both rooms were ready for both a thorough cleaning, new flooring, and fresh paint--no radical change. But, oh boy, did it bring upheaval to the household. Where the heck do you put all the stuff in two bedrooms while you spend "a few days" giving two bedrooms a face-lift? Well, after pretty much filling up our garage and carport with the furniture, our living room has become our bedroom/dressing room.

Of course the "few days" have turned into two week so far. Even the tile guy underestimated how long it would take him to lay the slate in both rooms. This has given me even more time to think up small side projects involving more work, more trips to town, etc.

First of all, for me, even picking the right wall colors is not easy. I tried out five different colors and didn't like any of them. I was looking for a calm and welcoming color for the guest room, but none of these did it for me. The next time I went to town, I cleverly took the quilt that will top the bed and matched the soft yellow of the quilt. The winning color even has a warm feeling name if you are a dog lover, "yellow lab."

Here is a sneak peek of the fresh paint and slate floor of the new guest room. further decor changes there are coming. I have ordered stencils to put on the walls to give this makeover a woodsy feel. Yes, that is one of the small side projects I was talking about earlier. I have more time to think therefore more creative things pop into my mind.

Beyond fancying up the walls with stencils, we gave one of our daughters our old chest of drawers, so I had to come up with more furniture. Mike, the voice of reason, said there was no rush because it would be awhile before we really needed it. But to me, having all this time being tossed out of my bedroom seemed the absolutely perfect time to find new furniture.

On the internet, I found and fell in love with a chest, but I really needed a matching nightstand and I didn't want to pay big $$$. So I called up my sister, Janice, and invited her to lunch and a used furniture hunt. I figured that with paint and my artistic skills, I could turn used pieces into the look I'd been tempted with online. By the end of the afternoon, I had found and purchased two pieces of furniture.

This large chest on the left and nightstand on the right are being transformed into


All you DIYers know this: all it takes is elbow grease. Yesterday I spent the day out in our very crowded (full of our bedroom) garage learning to used "Bondo" to fix a lip on the nightstand, sanding all items thoroughly, and putting the initial coat of oil based enamel paint on two chests and eight drawers. Oh yes, I also spray painted our ceiling fan from the master bedroom and painted its blades blue, but I saving that room for another post!

If you follow my blog because of my art, you are now seeing a sample of what happens when I don't get out into the studio to paint! I just get into more creative projects and drive my husband a little bit nuts. In fact, he banished me to the studio today just to keep me out of more trouble!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Gold Beach Workshop--Surface Texture and Collage

The first weekend in May, I taught a workshop in Gold Beach, OR. It was two days of tinting rice papers, making stamps, texturing a watercolor paper surface, and reviving older paintings. If this sounds big and messy, you're right! It was, plus so much creative fun!

I supplied the materials for everyone to make a stamp out of Moo Carve, which was new to all the participants. These blocks are easily carved with linoleum cutters. These artists created beautiful and intricate carvings that were later incorporated into their artwork. 

I have to thank Paul and Pat Renner as well as Curry Art Association for putting together this great workshop and thinking of me as an instructor. Paul and Pat were just the best hosts and the workshop space was excellent--lots of light and plenty of space for 16 artists.

Along with group instruction, I tried to fit in one on one time with each participant. I really encourage being brave enough to try all sorts of new techniques. When asked what was the most meaningful part of the workshop, one artist said, "Learning something totally new and feeling comfortable enough to do it."

If this sounds good to you fellow artists, I'll be teaching a workshop this fall titled, The Bridge Between Abstract and Realism , October 18-22 at Menucha Retreat on the Columbia Gorge.

Here are some of the inspired works that was generated over the weekend. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Trip of a Lifetime: Part IV Goodbye to Egypt and a Week in Paris

Dear Viewers, I hope you will tolerate looking through one more photo album of my trip to Egypt and France. The end of our time in Egypt continued with more adventures--riding camels at the Pyramids, riding horses in the desert, seeing Whirling Dervishes, learning more about bartering, and soaking in as much of this interesting and exotic culture as possible.

We saved the most iconic sights for the last days in Egypt. Our trip to Sakkura where the oldest step-pyramid stands, proved to be both historically fascinating as well as presenting its own mystery. As is typical at the tourist attractions throughout Egypt, there are many men waiting to tell you about the ruins and show you especially interesting details, etc. for a baksheesh (tip). These people may or may not distribute the true history, but it can turn into an adventure. 

Sakkura and Giza

When we entered Sakkura, we paid for an additional ticket to go into a special tomb, one that features the tomb of two brothers. As we wandered through the ruins, we could not see any signs or indications of where our special ticket was going to be of use. One fellow took us into a tomb where we had to hunch over for 50 yards, climbing down a steep slope to finally arrive in the tomb. He even talked me into letting him take an illegal photograph, as photography is not allowed in the tombs. (He was very insistent!)

But this was not the tomb we had a special ticket for, so on we went on our quest.

Finally, one fellow seemed to understand what we were looking for. He told us to wait, while he found the man who had the key to open the tomb. Several minutes later, he reappeared with the man who did indeed have the key and we did indeed get into the tomb of the two brothers, which was the frosting on the cake for me. (But I enjoyed the hunt for the tomb almost as much.)

After the morning's trekking around ruins in 100 degree searing sun, we were ready for a lunch break. This restaurant is renowned to have the best chicken in Cairo, and I would not argue. It was delicious.

Chickens roasting on quite the mechanical set-up.
After lunch we went on to the Pyramids of Giza, and I finally lived my dream of riding a camel by a Pyramid.

The Sphinx through the haze of Cairo.

Whirling Dervishes

Entering the Wekalet El Ghouri Arts Center which was built in 1504 which is the venue for the Whirling Dervishes in Cairo.

A Desert Horse Ride

Something our granddaughter loves is horseback riding, so our hosts, the Rutherfords, arranged for a ride in the desert. It was an activity they had not done before, but everyone was game to try. The expat woman who created her own piece of paradise in Egypt rescues both horses and dogs, with a few goats and water buffalo she has quite a menagerie. 

L to R, Sam, Wayne, Maya, Yoshiko and Angelica
This was another great experience. As we rode along pyramids, we found that there are many lesser pyramids all through the desert, and no one could identify them for us.

Six Days in Paris/Versailles
(It's not enough!)

We had one day and night in Paris before meeting our friends in Versailles and we made the most of it, eating our first French croissants, visiting the Louvre, and taking a night tour of the Eiffel Tower.


We met up with our friends Anna and Rose who joined us for their school break in Versailles.
They taught us that bread or croissants are the go-to breakfast in France and you must buy it that morning!

Château de Versailles

is so glitzy. Apparently there was never too much gold, too many chandeliers, or too many paintings for the Louis (plural).

When Marie Antoinette got overwhelmed by the glitz, she would retreat to her small chateau, built purely for her pleasure. No wonder the French rebelled!

After a day of touring the Castle and it's grounds, we attended the horse show at the Equestrian Show Academy - Palace of Versailles. This was an impressive display of what horses can be trained to do.

Back in Paris, we tried to fit in as much as possible into our short stay.

Musée d'Orsay

Outside the Musee d'Orsay

Inside the fabulous gallery
Wow! Van Gogh 
Gorgeous view from the roof.
Monmartre, Paris

Basilica of Sacre-Coeur
Angelica got a charcoal portrait done in the square full of artists selling their skills. We had a yet another delicious French bread sandwich on the sidewalks. 

And a visit to the Dali Museum was mind-bending! Below is a quote of Dali's that I couldn't resist!

We eventually had to pack up and head home. Thank you to our friends and family for making this a Trip of a Lifetime!
Anna and Rose made our last dinner in our Paris apartment.
We were well worn out by the end of the 3 weeks!