Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sometimes I listen: Before and After

I created this piece, I See You, a few months ago. It was based on my experience sleeping under the night sky on rafting trips where the connection with our ancestors seemed strong, and the waking hours in the middle of the night were comforting. As I watched the "W" shaped stars of Cassiopeia move across the sky, I was interested in what she might have looked like in the eyes of the Greeks. 
Many friends asked why she had a nightgown of with two different colors. To me it represented the figure's connection with both the sky and the earth. But as I had to explain my thoughts, I realized that the painting was becoming more about the nightgown than the connectivity between us and our ancestors, and the peaceful moments under a night sky which I wanted viewers to feel.

Then I put the painting in a critique session at the Watercolor Society of Oregon convention. The juror felt that the green earth conflicted with the blues of the sky. Where is the color unity?

So I brought the painting out this week and let go of the "preciousness" I was hanging on to. If resolving the questions about the nightgown, and questions about the green earth would lead viewers to more clearly see what I was trying to communicate, then I should change it.

What do you think? Have the changes  to I See You redirected the focus of the painting to the relationship between humans and our imagination of the unknown that the night sky evokes?

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Lesson in History: Why Hillary Wore White

So where do paintings come from? Is it an idea floating around until it lands on an artist? That is a bit like I see it. I get an idea and it takes awhile to ferment and brew until I start seeing the painting itself.

This painting started with the big picture of women's issues. It was triggered also by this tumultuous election and campaign we are experiencing. So there are a couple of ideas percolating with more to come.

To add more content, I started reading more about the Suffragette movement. I looked at photographs from both England and America catching women in droves marching for voting rights. I then learned that there were colors woman wore to show sisterhood in the movement. In England, ribbons of purple, white and green were made by Selerfridge & Co. for women to adorn their hats, representing the 3 symbolic colors English Suffragettes wore.

Finally I came across an article about Hillary Clinton's choice to wear white for her Democratic Convention acceptance speech. The choice of white was a nod to the women who marched a century ago to gain the women's right to vote with the 19th Amendment. How could I not paint about that!

The working title is They Marched for Our Future. Do you have a title in mind?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Women: Another Painting

"Lightly Beaten" is my working title for this painting. Being an idea driven and symbolic painter, I could not get the piece I heard on the radio out of my mind. Did I hear right? In Pakistan, a law has been proposed that allows a husband to lightly beat his wife.

That sent me to the computer to verify and read more about this. Here is a brief quote from the Washington Post: "The head of a powerful Islamic council is refusing to back down from a proposal that makes it legal for husbands to "lightly beat" their wives in Pakistan."

My brain started churning. How could I paint this story? I started looking at the attire of Pakistani women and children (my theme in this series). I looked at photos of Pakistan and a painting began to take shape in my mind. The mosque became the backdrop for the figures as a symbol of the extremist religious leaders proposing such a law. The women are in a posture which says, "what can we do?' And the child is jumping away. What will her future be?

I'd like to share the details of the actual painting of this piece. As I took on the large task of simplifying the architecture and decoration of the mosque, I found I really enjoyed creating the detail and patterns in the mosque. It was painted with admiration and respect for the beauty of the building, despite my symbolic use of the structure. 

As I painted the women, I thought of them as gems. The colors they wear and poses as they sit are so feminine. 

And the child--I painted her leaping into an unknown future. But I hope it is a future of more freedom!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Thinking Ahead--Upcoming Workshop 2017

If you are like me, if I don't put something down on the calendar, I miss opportunities. And if the post-holiday blues get you down, here is a great art workshop to brighten up February.

This is a new workshop I'm presenting, so take a look and sign up early, as there is a limited class size. The 4-day workshop will be held in Portland at the Oregon Society of Artists. And feel free to contact me with any questions:

Oregon Society of Artists
2185 S.W. Park Place
Portland, Oregon 97205

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jumping the Gun

Ten days ago, I finished and posted a painting that I felt excited about. My joy was partly due to the fact that I had not had much studio time lately, but mostly because I loved the design, colors, and simplicity of the piece.

But as I lived with it and got comments from various people, I realized that I had missed the mark when the main figure did not read as feminine. Also people were seeing ethnicity in the figures, when none was intended.  One art friend said he thought the top chef was a Swedish man!

Since the idea behind the story is the fact that most top chefs are male. It is a difficult journey for a woman to get the same kind of recognition in the restaurant world. In fact, women represent around 19% of top chefs.

What did work were the colors, the design, the left white, and the idea. What failed was the main figure. I guess it is mostly androgynous. I wouldn't say that the painting failed, because I see it as fun and interesting, but it doesn't say what I meant.

So the last few days were spent with a redo. Let me know what you think. Below is the first rendition of Top Chef.

Top Chef
29 x 22 inches
Transparent Watercolor

And below take a look at version 2, "Nineteen Percent."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Inspiration, Influences, and Interpretation

I've always loved alliterations!

Inspiration:  For a long time I have wanted to create a painting about my older daughter's love of cooking. From the time Meg won the grand prize at the Curry County Fair for a red velvet cake at the age of 10 or 11, until now, she has developed a reputation as a great chef. I have one photo of her where her smirky look really tickles me--it's the smile she has when her dad calls her to get her recipe for BBQ ribs. However, I am not into painting realistic portraits, as you readers know. ( There are so many wonderful painter friends who do that!)

The other inspiration comes from my recent interest in painting about women's issues. I looked into women chef numbers to find that in US hotels only 19% of top chefs are women. Also a woman needs the credentials of a culinary school, as opposed to men who more often climb to the top from experience outside of formal education.

The irony of this amazes me. Think of who prepared the vast majority of food you ate growing up and the generation before you and the many generations before that!

I enjoy the simplicity of Toulouse Lautrec posters or Milton Avery paintings. I enjoy creating a flat painting without shadows and depth. Where the light comes from does not interest me.

Image result for milton avery

I have always liked leaving the white of the paper in a painting. It is so powerful, contemporary and brave in my mind. Last year in the Katherine Chang Liu studio workshop, I painted a piece with left whites and very little detail in a tee-shirt. I really liked the feel of this painting "Run," but I  did not enjoy the hard work and disappointment in creating a likeness of my younger daughter, Rachel.

30 x 22
Transparent Watercolor on Paper
Now the trick is to come up with a simple design that puts the woman in the forefront, shows men's numbers much higher in the profession, captures the cute smirk of my daughter, uses the "19%" and leaves a lot of the powerful white. Add on, using my familiar kimono shape format. How did I do?

Top Chef (working title)
30 x 22 inches
Transparent Watercolor on Paper


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Joys: Small to Large

As June comes to a close, I have a multitude of Summer Joys. Some are small:

Four o'clock flowers blooming in with my Asiatic lilies,

Swallows nesting, flying, and sitting on lines.

Some joys are lifelong: Family.

And some joys come from the fruits of my labor: I am honored and delighted to have my painting Life Cycle Imperative #8 accepted by my mentorKatherine Chang Liu, to hang in the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition. The show will be held in  Foothills Art Center, in Golden, Colorado this fall.