Monday, December 14, 2015

Back to the River

I feel I am in a transition period in my artwork. I've focused mainly on my River Series for the past several years, but now I am searching for other ways to express myself through art. It isn't easy.

As I've worked with figurative paintings and experimented with different media, I'm often frustrated, stressed and struggling in the studio. It's a good thing to stretch, expand, and experiment; but as I said before, it isn't easy. So while I'm struggling to refine another direction, why not pull something familiar out of the drawer?

I found Catch, No Release II unfinished in my "starts" drawer a week or so ago and pulled it out. I was drawn to the comfort of its familiarity. The background was perhaps half done, and the lovely water and heron called to me with a soft voice, "You can paint us. You know how." And so I have completed this piece while working on a couple of new ideas. As much as it is good to stretch, it is also good to have control of a painting, knowing where it's going.

This piece may look familiar to my viewers. An earlier version was purchased by Umpqua Community College.

Catch, No Release II
Mixed Media
22 x 18 inches

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Painting Driven By an Idea

More and more I find my art ideas settling into my mind and refusing to leave until they become a reality. So it is with "Ma'at" (working title). Since the summer I have been thinking more about figurative work and this idea has been there since July. It began as a phoenix, symbolic of rising from ashes. The vision I held in my head  combined Klimpt, with Egypt, with stem cell transplant recovery, along with beautiful heron wings. Since I paint with lots of symbolism, I had plenty of material for envisioning this painting. The more I read about the Egyptian goddess Ma'at, symbolizing justice and truth, I felt comfortable following the symbols given to her in Egyptian mythology.

Of course, months after the idea was born, when I began to put something on paper, it was not as easy as you might think. I decided to put it on a full sheet of watercolor paper (30" x 22") that I had previously covered with metallic gold gesso. I sketched out a basic plan using watercolor crayons. As you will see, my sketch started in one way, and the painting developed in another.

I've painted many heron wings, but this is the first time I've attached them to a human body. Thanks to the internet, I had some inspirational wings to work with.

At this point, seeing the diagonal coming in behind my subject seemed wrong. I also struggled with the dark background. As the force of Egyptian art took over, I decided that a perpendicular line to form my kimono shape really worked much better. But I had to try to use repeating curvilinear lines, only to find that didn't work for me either.

As I let go of worrying about design elements, I just began to enjoy the process of creating this figure and the space around her. The curved lines of the background had to go, as did the first try at a face. The great thing about putting gouache paints (non-transparent watercolors) on this surface, that it is easily removed with a sponge or q-tip.

I had been hankering to use some hieroglyphics in this piece, so I needed to take half a day to carve some symbols on a block of Moo Carve. Of course I do not expect this to have any meaning other than supporting the Egyptian theme. I did, however, learn how to use mirror image on my printing so that the symbols would have the correct orientation when I carved them.

So after allowing myself full reign of pattern making on the dress, and a little repetition of that in the background, I see a painting of ideas. I see beautiful wings, Egypt, Klimpt's art, and a strong woman. What do you see?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fall 2015 Wrap-up

As I look back at the last 3 months, I am about even with days spent in Blue River and days away from home. As much as the travel and workshops have been invigorating and inspiring, I am now looking forward to a number of solid at home days before Thanksgiving.

View of the Rogue River from
Horseshoe Bend Camp.
September brought one of our annual trips to the Rogue River with most of our favorite rafting friends. Much of the rest of that month was art related. As a Co-chair of the Western Federation of Watercolor Society's 2017 Exhibit to be held in Eugene, Oregon, there were several organizational meetings during the month. I also spent time and energy preparing for the Watercolor Society of Oregon's Fall convention in Hermiston, Oregon.

October: I feel so fortunate to be a part of this large organization where the creation and appreciation of art is nurtured. We also have a heck of a lot of fun!
WSO held a Murder Mystery dinner at the
Hermiston Convention.
The Last Hurrah

After the three day convention and exhibit, where my painting "The Last Hurrah" was accepted for the show, I took the week long workshop taught by the very talented transparent watercolor painter, Ratindra Das. One should never expect to do their best work at a workshop, so I am not disappointed that I came home with only one painting I am willing to post here.
Add caption
I liked the simplification and flatness
of this piece.

Ratindra Das is not only a great painter, but a generous
and dedicated teacher as well.
The week in Hermiston was an opportunity to get back in touch with transparent paints. Mr. Das is a master of that method of painting. I spent time outside of class with other class participants and Ratindra trying out the restaurants in the area. Again belonging to WSO is an enriching experience for a multitude of reasons, but developing friendships and meeting some great painters is among the best benefits.

Enjoying rafting on my friend Toni's birthday.

In the middle of the month, my friend Toni came up to Blue River for a visit. Luckily we were able to raft on her birthday. It will truly be the last rafting of the season, I'm sure. For one thing, our raft trailer was stolen right off our rig (our 4-Runner). We'll have to replace it before next summer. I hate events that make me more skeptical about the world we live in!

My sister, the actor!

Later in the month of October, I taught a workshop myself in Menucha on the Columbia River Gorge. I covered that event in my last post.

Breaking the Surface
In the last week of the month, I traveled to McMinnville, Oregon with my sister, Janice, to film her annual Haunting Video. This time it was filmed in a cemetery near where she lived years ago when her children were young. You can watch her video here on youtube.

All About That Vase

November: The month began with an artists' reception held at the Excelsior Restaurant and Inn where 3 other artist and I share hanging space. I was able to put up some of my newer work and enjoy the company of friends and family on a Sunday afternoon.

We just returned from a week's visit to Arizona, where we visited our younger daughter and her family. Among the highlights were birthday celebrations, a trip to Sedona, and a morning at Butterfly Wonderland. Mostly, it was wonderful to see Rachel, Josh and the grandkids. I'll end my post with a photo essay of our visit.

The Birthday Girl, Marin!

Hannah in her Anna from Frozen

Making accordion books at the birthday party.

Our trip to Sedona. It is such a spectacular place.

This looks like they are standing in front of a painting!

Rachel, the kids and I visited Butterfly Wonderland, where there are many butterfly varieties from around the world.

Hannah with live butterfly barrettes.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Magical Menucha Workshop 2015

Our cabin in the woods
I was fortunate to be invited to teach a workshop at Menucha Retreat. The Watercolor Society of Oregon arranges for two art workshops at Menucha each year. The venue is really beautiful; and with the meals prepared for us and comfortable sleeping arrangements, all I had to do was teach and think about art! What a great way to spend four days!

The workshop space--The Greenhouse
The view of the Columbia Gorge

One of many water features
on the grounds.

Trying our a new stamp
The ten participants were so willing to try new things and add what they learned to their own unique art making. I was inspired by their enthusiasm and creativity. The workshop title was The Bridge Between Abstract and Realism, so everyone attending came with the hope to learn more about combining these two aspects to their own art. We made stamps, stained papers, created art material from newspapers; all new materials were then used in paintings. For some people, painting on a full sheet of watercolor paper (22 in. by 30 in.) was a new challenge, but I encourage painting big!

A demonstration by yours truly
Carving a stamp

Working on a full sheet

On day three, I asked everyone to share and talk about their art making. You can see the many directions each artist took with their new tools. Most of these paintings are in process.

One last photo: every night we had a slightly different, but equally beautiful sunset to watch as we ate dinner.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

One More Warm Day on the McKenzie

Here's a post to share with you one of the last warm days to raft the McKenzie River. Enjoy the photos.
Getting ready to launch.

The vine maple and dogwoods are saying fall.

We saw one heron and were followed
down the river by an osprey.

It became harder to see the rocks
as the sun sunk closer to the horizon.

Belknap Covered Bridge--love the shadows.