Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris, Part 2

My first day in Paris started with a nice buffet breakfast in the hotel. I learned to boil my own soft boiled egg in a portable boiling pot by hanging my raw egg in a nifty little wire egg holder. I sat at my breakfast table with my guide books and maps. It was a rare feeling to have no one else's ideas or opinions to take into consideration. I was on my first full day of deciding everything all by myself.

Knowing that jet-lag was most likely going to arrive by the afternoon, I choose to walk to the two islands in the Seine, which were the first settled area of Paris. As I left the hotel, I kept my eyes open for the landmarks that would be necessary for me to make my way back to my room. It was a short walk to the Fontaine Saint-Michel. Built in 1860, it shows the work of many artists and was largely criticized at the time for its multi-colored stone work.

I was just yards away from one of the six bridges that would take me across the Seine River to Îll de la Cite, site of Notre Dame.

Near the entrance of the Gothic Cathedral is a beautiful statue of Charlemagne (1878). It avoided destruction during WWII because there is a strong connection to Charlemagne in German history.

The fabulous exterior of Notre Dame is covered with such amazing art. I was especially enchanted with the delicate city scapes above the heads of the saints.

Inside there is much unidentified art, but all amazing!

I especially enjoyed the gold leaf religious icons and . . .

the large carved relief that one could walk around to see the entire story of Christ.

The stained glass was actually removed from the Cathedral to preserve it during WWII.

After a long walk around the interior, I sat for some time just trying to absorb the beauty and history of the place. How did they build these amazingly tall Naves in the 1200's? The architecture received quite a bit of destruction in the French Revolution (1790's) but has been greatly restored.

Returning to the outside, I had to walk around to the back of the building to find the wonderful flying buttresses.

Then I simply wandered around the 2 islands which are rare Medieval streets and buildings. The rest of Paris was mostly leveled and rebuilt with its grand boulevards and monuments under the rule of Napoleon III (1850's.)

The Palais de Justice sits on the site where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned and executed.

My guess about being hit by jet-lag was about right. By late afternoon I strolled back to my little hotel on my little street (this time knowing just how to get there) and took a nap before going out to dinner. Lobster dinner was just around the corner!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris, Part 1

So many friends have seemed surprised and impressed that I chose to travel to Paris, France on my own this past February. There are two background stories that influenced my decision to do so. 

Three years ago, my husband and I traveled to Egypt and France with our thirteen-year-old granddaughter. By the time we landed in Paris, we had traveled the Nile, roasted in the desert, ridden camels, camped in the Egyptian desert, ridden horses in the desert, visited the pyramids and much more. On arriving in Paris, my two companions were pretty pooped out. But I was in the city of museums, and I so wanted to spend time in The Louvre. Our visit at The Louvre was quite disappointing. Neither Mike nor Angelica wanted to fight the crowds, nor did they show any patience for finding our way through the miles of hallways to see much of anything. Of course I was disappointed and pretty much brought it up to my husband many times (sorry, Mike) over the last three years. "Some day I'm going to Paris and I will spend as much time as I want in The Louvre!"

Under the Christmas tree this year I found a large envelope. In the envelope was a cashiers check, a proposed budget for an eight day stay in Paris, some travel information, and a gift card reading, " To Margaret Sue, From Her Love."  Needless to say I was speechless and emotional. It was the most surprising gift I have ever received. Mike told me that it was my choice to go on this trip alone or to ask a friend or relative to accompany me.

I mulled over various scenarios for the next few days while searching the internet excitedly for hotels, mapping out the area of Paris I wanted to stay, and looking at the museums and monuments that called to me. All the while, the second backstory that helped me decide to go alone, kept popping in and out of my brain.

When I graduated from high school, I followed a dream to go to New York City. (I had lived my first 18 years in a small town in Oregon with very few adventures.) I applied to several colleges in New York and accepted a large scholarship to attend Mills College of Education in Manhattan. I knew no one there and had no experience getting around in a large city, yet I "cowgirled up,"  got on a plane, and arrived at JFK, on my own for the first time.

So as I quandered the decision to go alone or invite someone, I kept thinking about the courage I had at 18 years old. Could I muster up the same adventurousness I had back then? The personal challenge was one I couldn't say no to, so on February 11, 2018, I got on a plane by myself for an experiential journey.
I found my hotel.

Once landing in Paris I had a decision to make. My hotel, Hotel Dauphin Saint Germain, had sent me an email prior to arrival giving me options for traveling from the airport to the city. The easy ones were cab, shuttle, or Uber. The more challenging was to take public transportation--a 30 minute trip, dragging my luggage through the terminal, through the unknown streets of Paris, not speaking or reading French, to find my new residence for 8 days. I thought about my 18-year-old self charging through the streets of Manhattan, and accepted the challenge. After all, this was in a way testing myself. After a good cup of coffee at Charles de Gaulle Airport I began asking for directions. I was told to walk 15 minutes in a certain direction and I would see a train sign. So for 15 minutes I walked and  kept hoping I was headed in the right direction. The CDG is a huge airport with several terminals and so many ways I could go wrong. But I made it. I figured out how to get a train ticket and boarded the train to central Paris. I carefully watched the stops. I knew where I needed to get off the train. I was able to have a bit of a conversation with 2 men and began to see that all Paris was possible. I eventually saw the evidence of a city, and got off the train at the appropriate stop. But then another challenge--there are many exits from the underground station to the streets, and I did not see the exact street exit the hotel had mentioned.
My 5th floor street view.

I picked an exit sounding close and headed to daylight from the underground. Ah Paris! But where was my hotel? It turns out Rue Dauphine, the street where my hotel was, is only 2 blocks long, so no one I asked knew where it was. I had just an inkling of what direction to walk and eventually found a very small hotel on a very small street. I was home! (At least for awhile.)
Where I had my first meal in Paris.
My French bed--so quaint. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Pear Blossoms: Step by Step

It's been awhile since I posted a "how to" blog. For one thing, I have to have the camera out in my studio ready to photograph each step. Even then, I sometimes forget, as I joyously continue painting only to remember I missed taking a pic of a step later.

This particular step by step includes almost every part of this process. Enjoy!!

Step 1: I begin by creating an interesting abstract shape to break up the rectangular paper. The shape has certain qualities: all corners are different sizes, the lines are a dominance or either curvilinear or straight, the design leaves the paper on all 4 sides and all exits avoid leaving at the middle of the paper. The abstract shape is then cut out from contact paper and applied to the paper

(Here you see the shape attached to the paper and a light wash has been applied. One corner with a cool color and three with a warm color. 

Step 2: I had spring and blooms in mind, so I broke my abstract into some blossom shapes. After outlining those blossoms with a sharpie (on the contact paper) I cut around those to reveal a new shape which I then reapplied to the paper.

(I had two rectangular pieces I was working on at the same time.)

Step 3:  After cutting out my floral shapes, I put my 2 papers on a surface to use my mouth atomizer to spray with a warm color over the warm corners, and a cool spray over the cool corners. 

(I use paper towels to protect the parts as I spray.)

Step 4: Now all the contact paper is removed, and the results of the 3 previous steps is revealed. 

Step 5: The the fun begins! I mix one color with several hues to apply around the left white. Since I'm thinking blossoms, I'm also thinking leaves.

Step 6: More colors are added to the outer portion.

Step 7: More deep colors are added as well as some line work. 

Step 8: Now to add some understanding to the white shapes. I added pale grays to the petals first, then chartreuse in the centers with some lines for stamens, and finally dots of red. 

Step 9 and 10:  The final steps--first to use black ink applied with a small brush to push back areas behind the organic shapes. Then I used both black and white ink to add more line work. 

I'd love to get feedback on both the process and the paintings.

Pear Blossoms I
Mixed Media
11 x 14

Pear Blossoms II
Mixed Media
11 x 14

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

From Demo to Finished Painting

When I left the workshop in Newport earlier this month, I came home with 2 demonstrations that were not yet complete. As always, I needed some time to look at each of them, and determine what was needed for me to feel they were signature ready.

Demo 1

This first piece was exploring the use of hand made patterns to bring the viewer's eye to the 2 women. The patterns were straight from my head and created from a spontaneous energy. The mosaic wall was an inspiration from Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain where I saw beautiful mosaic walls designed by Gaudi. I chose to limit the color to red only and limited its use, so the 2 women would stand out. I am now experimenting with creating more flat spaces, so the eggplant (aubergine) color on the bottom was created with gouache which kept a flatness I could not achieve with transparent watercolor. Most of the painting is transparent, but I used both watercolor pencils and a black sharpie for line work and defining body shapes.

Once I had the painting at home I was able to make decisions I didn't have time to make at the workshop. The faces were left very plain, but once I had time to get to know these 2 people, I knew they needed more defined faces--expressions even. And as I worked on the faces, I started to see their story. Mother-daughter? Sisters? Cousins? They are not at home, perhaps not even in their native country. They have stopped at a cafe or view point and asked a stranger to take their photo. This is a picture for their album to remember this trip.

Traveling with Mom
mixed media
16" x 12"
My class participants were very interested in one of the pieces I brought from my drawer labeled "patterns and collage." They requested that I do a demonstration that would be similar to how I created "Fascinatin' Rhythm."

Fascinatin' Rhythm
mixed media
22" x 30"
I chose to use the same method to start the demo, protecting the large white shape with contact paper. In the demo, I chose to go for an abstract floral. I used a stamp for the flowers centers that a class participant gave me (a circle cut out from a silicone hot pad.)

By the end of the day, I had begun layering leaf shapes and creating some petals in the flowers. I love the spinning of the paper to use the same colors around the outside. This is a great way to ensure color unity in a piece. I made further progress on the second day I worked on this at the workshop, but it wasn't until I had it home in the studio that I could put on the finishing touches. 

mixed media
15" x 22"

Friday, March 16, 2018

Newport Workshop 2018--Playing with Patterns

Natural light floods the classroom.

Can you imagine a more spectacular spot for a painting workshop? The Newport Visual Arts Center provides a remarkable venue inspiring creative spirits to flow.

A sunset view after a day of creating art.

My workshops are all about sharing some of my techniques to help an artist enhance their own unique work. I try to help someone find their voice and paint from their own experiences. By limiting the class size to 15 participants, everyone had an entire table to work on. This is especially important when you start working with collage materials and stamping papers.

This group of artists arrived with great anticipation and a willingness to try new things. For some this required pushing beyond their comfort zone, but each person found ways to make and use patterns. I really enjoy seeing people's eyes open to new creative avenues!  Here are some of the comments taken from the participants' evaluations.

You freed me!  Theresa

I came away with many ideas for the future.   Sue

Most valuable--how generous you are with your time for each person.  Mary M.

I appreciated being able to follow my own direction with guidance from you when needed.  Dian

I'm sorry I did not get photos of every participant, but I did capture this moment from day 2 when master painter John Bradley sold his painting from day 1.

My two demos are now home and I have finished them in my studio. I'll talk about finishing work in my next post--this is how they looked when I came home with them.

Demo 1
Demo 2 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

What's It All About, Competitions?

(I can't help humming the tune to "Alfie" as I write the title of this blog.)

A friend, who is not an artist, recently asked me why I enter competitions after witnessing my jubilation over getting an award at a national show. He continued, "Is that what you paint for?" The answer to the second question is a resounding "No!" But the first question has made me think seriously about why I, and many of my artist friends enter competitions.

I have addressed other competition related issues on this blog in the past, but I don't think I've ever explored why I enter competitions in a post. It is not a simple answer because there are many challenges, risks and benefits involved.

One obvious reason I enter is to get affirmation. When I create a painting that I'm happy with, I will first have the quality of the work confirmed by a critique group or artist friend or two.  (By the way, they may not see the WOW factor I do.)  If I continue to appreciate it's good qualities for a period of time, I might be brave enough to send it off to a competition. When I get a piece of art into a competitive exhibition, I relish the affirmation I get from the juror who accepts the art into a show.

The flip side of that is that rejections are a bit painful. And I have had plenty of those!

Another motivator is building a resume. Getting art accepted into a show, winning an award is one way an artist builds a resume. When I  add Fallbrook Art Center 9th Annual Signature American Watermedia International Exhibition to my resume, I can take off something less impressive, such as Second place award,  County Fair. And then adding an award makes my resume even stronger.

But I think the biggest prompter is to help me measure my own growth and improvement as an artist. Where does my art land in the many levels of watermedia art being created in the United States? I started at the county fair level, then moved on to city, state and regional competitions. As my skills have improved I have sent my art off to more national level exhibitions. 

This past weekend I was able to be in Fallbrook California for the 9th Annual Signature American Watermedia International Exhibition where my painting, Will She Be Allowed was hung along with 99 other beautiful pieces of art. I went to see the show, but also to visit with the juror Ratindra Das who juried a show and taught a workshop in Oregon a few years ago. 

As I entered the spacious gallery, I began a slow walk taking in the beauty of 100 excellent paintings. Some of the paintings are by artists I greatly admire such as Carla O'Conner, Dean Mitchell, and Jeannie McGuire. Many paintings are simply stunning. Eventually I started the search for my own piece. I walked around a corner and saw my painting with an award sticker by it. I was so appreciative to have my art in this company, and astounded to win an award. 

So this painting being chosen by and awarded by this juror lets me think (for awhile) that I am at a pretty good level. 

Will She Be Allowed
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall Award 

You can look at all the art in the exhibit at: (It takes some time to upload all the pieces, so be patient.)

To learn how my friend Ruth Armitage decides which competitions to enter, read her blog:

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Art That Makes an Impact

There are pieces of art that just get stuck in your mind. The artwork is just so beautiful, so unusual, and makes such a statement that you cannot forget it, nor do you want to. When I first saw the work of Northwest artist Mary Carlton, I almost crumbled in admiration.

She was primarily a collage artist who is best known for her figures and landscapes. When I first began to use Pinterest, I put quite a bit of her work on one of my boards. Of all the art I have on my various Pinterest boards, this figure to the right is the image that is most often loved and saved to someone else's board. I see this as a tribute to the power of this artist and her work. Unfortunately, she died in 2013, so there are no more pieces to come from this wonderful artist.

I do not mean to compare my work to hers, but I am including my own piece, Caribbean Cornrows I which is also primarily a collaged piece with handmade patterns as well. I had attempted to paint this scene from a photo I took in Roatan, Honduras several times. I was unsuccessful until I started ripping paper from less successful paintings to create the painting below.

I had so much fun creating the collaged piece, I gave myself the challenge of painting a second version in transparent watercolor (image below). Playing with patterns using both collage and hand made patterns has long interested me as an artist. And I find a pattern often gives a painting a bit of that unique and interesting element I so admire in Mary Carlton's work.

If you are also interested in patterns, I will be teaching a workshop in Newport, Oregon, March 3, 4, and 5, 2018.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Workshop is Just Around the Corner

Born to teach--you know the kid lining up dolls and stuffed animals and teaching them the ABC's. Yep, that was me! If I know how to do something, say how to make patterns and incorporate those patterns into paintings, then I want to share. I find painting and making stuff joyful and that is definitely worth sharing.  I am now seeking a group of other artists to join me March 3, 4, and 5, 2018 at the Newport Oregon Visual Arts Center.

As my workshop is filling up, I am getting excited to teach and explore art techniques in this beautiful venue.

This is the room with the view!
The workspace.

I will be teaching several ways to make patterns and put them into your work. If you like to collage, that is certainly one way to do it, but you can also just create by hand a pattern directly on to your artwork.

Although "Sound Bites" is a painting with collage, all the squares of various sizes were created by hand, directly onto the watercolor paper.
Newport Bay 

Please contact me for more information about Playing with Patterns, March 3, 4, and 5, 2018. $295 for 3 full days of creating art! or 541-912-3400