Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Artist and the Engineer Find a Solution

It has been almost a year since we moved into our new home. Most everything was done at that time by Rainbow Valley Design and Construction, with a few small projects left for Mike and me to do. One of those projects had us thinking for all the next eleven months to come up with a good solution. 

The walkway leading to the studio from the house had need of a permanent bridge to go over the small creek we created during the rebuild of our new home. For the last eleven months we walked over these 2 by 6 inch boards which took a bit of carefulness to go the 51 inches from one cement walkway to the other.

What to do? So many ideas along the way, but none seemed just right. 

And then one day Mike threw out the idea of making cement planks. As an engineer, he had figured out how to make the two planks strong enough using rebar and metal mesh inside the cement.

And the the artist (me) said okay, but plain cement is, well, plain. 
Let's color the cement and figure out way to decorate the slabs.

Before you could say Jack Robinson, Mike showed up with bags of cement, cement dye, rebar and mesh. For me he included a bucket full of shiny black rocks.

After Mike built the forms (measuring twice, thrice, and once by me for a backup) we began a day of cement mixing, smoothing and decorating.

We borrowed a cement mixer from our local Blue River Tool Library (thank you, Antony). Mixing one bag after another, we dumped 900 pounds of dyed cement into the perfectly sized forms.

As one side settled, the second plank was poured.

 Mike smoothed the cement and I started placing and pushing in the decorative smooth black rocks.

Then there was the wait period, letting the cement strengthen for almost 4 weeks. Just before moving the 2 planks into place, they were sealed with a product designed to protect and add gloss to the cement.

But how in the heck do you move 900 pounds of cement the distance of a football field? No where was there room for a vehicle, so . . .

Remember that the Pyramids and the Great Wall were built by human labor!

Our granddaughter, Angelica called some young strong friends. Mike used straps with handles to create 3 spots on each side for a total of 6 carriers. With 4 young (stronger) people, Mike and me, we miraculously  managed to move not one, but two 450 pound slabs across the not quite flat terrain of our property.

The second miracle was that they fit like a glove.

We celebrated with a chili feed!


Sunday, February 19, 2023

From Blank to Beautiful

We are now approaching an entire year in our new house, and we are feeling more and more "at home" here. "At home" means that it has things unique to Mike and me, particularly things we've created or built. Some of the examples of those unusual things at our old abode were bathroom walls I painted creating a bamboo garden or the bedroom painted in Egyptian tomb colors. Mike built a privacy fence using a Japanese design and so much more that made our home ours.

So this week was the start of really personalizing this new home and here's what happened:

My good friend Ruth Armitage arrived and . . .

We drew on the wall.

And began applying paint.

At the end of the 2nd day, this beautiful mural was complete.

As if that wasn't enough to ask of a good friend, Ruth tackled a little skinny piece of wall ending separating the home entrance from the kitchen. The white mini-wall had bothered me, but now I love the art it holds.

World's Skinniest Mural

Ruth Armitage with her creation!

What the world needs now,
Is love, sweet love,
It's the only thing that there's just too little of.
What the world needs now,
Is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.    
Burt Bacharach.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

When Two Ideas Mesh

In the past few months I've been doing what I think of as my "serious work." My serious work is concentrating on a body of work-- creating paintings that are all related to one another based on a central idea. Often the series will go on for several years.

But I needed a break!

Idea #1

As I was looking through my photos, one that I've thought of painting came to the forefront. In 2020, just before Covid shut down the world, Mike and I were on vacation in Costa Rica where I took this picture. This photo has stuck in my brain for the last 3 years as having the potential for an interesting painting.

What I love about this is the large bovine sitting next to a cement water catcher. But what could I do with all that grassy hill? That is just not my sort of pleasurable painting. 

Idea #2

Two artists I've admired over the years came to mind. These two women, one now dead and the other in her late 80's, found ways to make landscapes much more exciting than just a green hill. Their work is powerful enough to stay in one's brain for years.

Mary Carlton's landscape

Mary Pym's landscape

And so a three day break from "serious work" began and the meshing of ideas #1 and #2.

Because I enjoy working with collage materials, my first step was opening up my collage containers. I sorted through these papers, searching for matching colors. My hope was to find enough golds, grays and olive greens to create the long stretch of ground I envisioned. 

Breaking up the big space in interesting, somewhat geographical ways was a challenge. I used watercolor along with collage pieces to quilt together the landscape.

The final step was to paint the building and the cow. Once that was done, I used dark line work for 2 reasons. I felt that joining the pieces together with lines, helped create a fields and farming feel to the painting. Also the dark lines help connect the darks used in the top of the painting to the rest of the piece. 

Beneath the Cow
Mixed Media
22 x 15

Workshop coming up! I will be teaching a watercolor class, "Adding Texture" on May 5,6,7 in McMinnville, OR at the Currents Gallery. The space is limited, so signup early by calling 503-435-1316.

Monday, January 16, 2023

A Long Time Coming

Way back when--August 2020--I was very near launching a new website. This new one would have a "buy button" making it so easy for art lovers to click and buy a piece of my art. Then I said to my web designer that we'd wrap it up once I got back from my Rogue River raft trip. Woo-hoo! 

Then, as my followers know, our house burned down on September 7, 2020. And, of course, in the house was my computer. That was the end of focusing on a new website, since I had a whole new segment of my life to put back together. But guess what . . .

My long time web designer Judy Taylor, my husband Mike and I have all worked together to get this new website up and working. There is much more to this than meets the eye!

But here it is  My New Website

Please take a look and send me comments if you wish. Also you can push a button, go to Square and buy a painting from me.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

When Color is More Important

 Recently I have been working mostly in black and white. It started with my pen and ink pieces. For those small pieces, a bit of orange or red  behind the trees or creature was enough. The ink work told the story.

 Color As the Background

Now I am painting humans using black and white gouache. With these paintings, I am finding creating a background color quite challenging. It sets the mood for the portrait. Is the face excited, or sad, or anxious, or happy, or . . . there is such a wide range of human emotions. I now look at a wide range of colors for the backgrounds trying to capture the emotion of the human.

Take these two reds for example. They are both reds, but one conveys many thoughts to me: excitement, high energy, fear, happiness. The darker one speaks of seriousness, intellect, age, sophistication. 

Mixing colors can be a challenge. Some darker colors are harder to adjust to "just right," as the night blue I was looking for recently. 

Colors are taking on a whole new meaning and importance for this new series. Now as I mix up colors, I am keeping them in old face cream jars and labeling them--they may be needed again.  

I am not ready to put out my completed work right now. It seems like a wintery thing to just hole up in my studio and paint. I am not marketing much these days, but I am close to having a spruced up website so stay tuned for that announcement.

Although I will not put an entire painting here, I have a couple of teasers (not my favorite word) for you to see. 

             Happy Safe and Healthy Holidays to all!! 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

My KLC Art Diary 2022

"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary." Pablo Picasso

Our big dinner out to reunite and create art under the mentorship of Katherine Chang Liu. 

My first 2-week adventure in art with this group was 2014. I traveled with my good friend Kathy Tiger who was a veteran of this art retreat. She already knew most of these artists who traveled from all over the US and Canada to work with Katherine Chang Liu. As a newbie, I arrived with art supplies and grand ideas of what I would paint.

My idea was to paint about my younger daughter Rachel, who had just undergone an Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) to stop the progress of Multiple Sclerosis. For several months my husband and I had been a part of her support team, so I came to the art retreat with plenty of ideas. At the beginning of the retreat, I met with Katherine and showed her 8 pieces of my art and began to share my stored up ideas about the last 6 months. As tears welled up, she put her hand over mine and said something to the effect that my recent experience with Rachel was perhaps too raw. "Looking at the work you just showed me, you do a lot with round shapes. What else could you do with circles?"

Salmon Leaping

I returned to my chair, looked at the art supplies I was surrounded by and thought about round things. I thought about my home on the McKenzie River, thought about some paintings I'd done with herons, frogs, rocks. Suddenly salmon eggs jumped into my head. Beautiful orange, perfectly round shapes. And that led to thinking about the life cycle of the salmon which oddly related to the last few months of my life as a parent. So here is the first painting I did in September of 2014. That began my Life Cycle Series.

But then next year, 2015, I painted about Rachel. Her illness, her hospital stay, her recovery.

Katherine commenting on the paintings done in those 2 weeks.

The Hour-glass Figure

2016's topic was Women's Rights. 

And on it went. Every year I went with an idea of what I wanted to spend the two weeks creating, yet rarely was what I ended up painting. So why would I be surprised that this year turned out to be the same. Somehow my new series idea, "Web of Worries" ended up being more about the humans in my life than the abstract creations I intended to work on. I am sharing some of the drawings that led to a few finished pieces over the two weeks.

It should be no surprise that the faces of loved ones would end up in my "Web of Worries." These drawings led me into working on the concept behind the new series. I'm not ready to put out the finished work right now, but I'm sharing these faces as a demonstration of the hard work I did during the art camp. 

Thank you for your encouragement Katherine.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Life Keeps Changing: Rafting the Deschutes

River Hair

For over 20 years (with the exception of a handful of years) we have floated down the Wild and Scenic part of the Rogue River with a group of wonderful folks. Unfortunately forest fires prevented our planned trip this year. Our group had a zoom meeting a few days from our Rogue launch date, and within a few minutes of exploring possibilities, we had a consensus that three nights on the Deschutes River was a great alternative to not having a raft trip at all.

Here are some photos of a great trip.

Launching from Warm Springs

Hooking up a 4 burner propane stove. (Luxury camping!)

Take a seat, then we'll push off.

After breakfast getting ready to launch.

Year after year: My chauffeur.

Unexpected scenery, horses on the Tribal side of the river.

There was an abundance of osprey, one on every dead tree!

Friendly geese and gorgeous rocky cliffs.

Family kayakers.

All that has to be loaded up on the last morning. 

We returned to the west side of the Cascades to find the skies full of smoke from the Cedar Creek Fire and to learn of evacuation orders for the small towns of Oakridge and Westfir. It certainly brings up emotions for folks in the McKenzie Valley!Just two years ago it was our community hit by the Holiday Farm Fire. Our hopes are the fire will be under control before reaching the towns.  😭