Monday, November 18, 2019

No Art Rules for Two Weeks--Just Create

Turning cardboard boxes into art
(this will be finished with many more boxes
when the artist gets home)
Once again I had the privilege of spending two weeks in Southern California working with Katherine Chang Liu, while surrounded by more than 20 other artists creating art. I am always amazed by the variety of art making among this group. Many of the artists paint, but others use found materials, stitchery and fabrics.

Sculpture using insulating materials

Using fabric with paint

Assemblage art in candle trays

There is something very special about being with this group. We all become very productive and focused on creating. With a few prods from Katherine, I find myself expanding my visions for a series. In fact, several years ago it was with this group that I began series work. So after a very slow year of painting, I really was motivated to keep working on my new series, Teach Me.

I worked solidly for the two weeks in Oxnard, coming home with four completed paintings to add to the whole of ten pieces so far. The piece below was done prior to the workshop and I just entered it in a competition.

Teach Me: South Sudan

A few paintings in this series leaned up on the mantle.

A final request from Katherine was to write an artist statement regarding this work. Here is an early draft. 

Teach Me

Education! Girls and women throughout the world have fewer opportunities to become educated. This issue has inspired the paintings in this series. Around the globe (including the United States) girls are reaching for an education. Education will lead to equality, empowerment, employment and self-confidence.

The series captures only a small portion of the countries and cultures that have low rates of schooling among the female population. As a symbolic painter, I have chosen a framework to talk about this topic. Each painting has a fabric pattern which represents the location. Another element in each piece denotes the place itself with architecture, landscape, or cultural symbols. The hands call to mind children in a classroom, ready to learn. All the arms are reaching for the infinity symbol, representing knowledge. Teach Me is a series of hope.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Content: Painting from Emotions

What happens when a painting comes from the depths of your emotions? My artwork "Enduring the Cure" is exactly that--a painting from the depths of my emotions. Five and a half years ago I entered a hospital room to see my younger daughter lying in a hospital bed, bald with umpteen hanging bags with tubes attached to her body. Her beautiful face expressed helplessness, resignation and exhaustion. She had signed up for this experimental treatment for her Multiple Sclerosis, but none of us really knew what that would entail--yet here I was witnessing its toll on my loved one.

My initial reaction was sadness and pity. But my aesthetic soul began to see art: a beautiful face, a patterned blanket . . . Klimpt. And thus my memory of that moment created the painting, "Enduring the Cure" several months later.

This painting went on to win awards and was immediately purchased.

And now it is on the cover of my daughter's book which was published October 1, 2019. "Enduring the Cure: My MS Journey to the Brink of Death and Back."

From that point, I went on to paint several more pieces about her treatment and recovery.

"Recovery" was more cheerful in colors and I put her three children onto the quilt because they are really what kept her going.

Then other parts of her life came into focus for me so I continued painting.

"Without Hair" was inspired by the many times she commented on the difficulty of being a bald woman. I asked her to write down her worries, and included those thoughts into the art.

Her collection of hats captured my imagination and inspired, "Which Hat to Wear."

Rachel had been an athlete all her life and even after her MS diagnosis she continued to jog and run. Eventually she had to give up her running half and full marathons as the disease became more aggressive. Here I painted her surrounded by her collection of shoes.

Taken from the mythological Phoenix, I painted her rising from the ashes with an Egyptian take. "Ma'at" is the title of this one.

And the final painting of this series is "The Journey is Not Done." I went back to Gustav Klimpt to paint Rachel with hair, months after her treatment was over.  In this painting, I placed her favorite Van Gogh painting behind her. In most of these paintings, she is barefoot as a symbol of women's vulnerability. The Klimpt inspired mosaic is not finished because neither is her journey through life.

Some of these paintings have remained in my studio. Some have gone off to competitions. All are full of the content of what it means to be a mother watching a child go through a disease and a dangerous cure.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Why I Love Teaching

Summer sucked, but teaching art workshops helped! You haven't seen a post or new paintings for awhile because of some medical issues. As my husband Mike said, my body was needing a tuneup to go for the next 100,000 miles!

Having the opportunity to share my knowledge and skills with other people interested in creating art is a real joy for me. So between Dr. appointments, melanoma removal and surgery, I was able to share my years of painting experience with a couple of groups willing to have me as an instructor. This helped me breeze through the summer of mending my body.

One thing I have to offer as an instructor is thinking outside of the box of traditional watercolors:

As I have matured as an artist, I have moved away from painting what my eyes see toward painting what my brain sees. The result is paintings that have a mix of abstract and realism, but are full of content. In my workshops with working artists, I bring materials that I enjoy using, such as hand crafted stamps and collage materials. Being able to share my own approach to making art helps me develop further in my own journey. The demonstration below utilized much of my own materials that helped me break free from the restrictions of traditional watercolor.

To create this abstract, I used both stamps and collage material to create interest and texture.

After my demo, I put out lots of collage papers and stamp making materials for the participants. I work with artists encouraging them to break out of their comfort zone, which I believe adds an authenticity to their work.

These two calligraphers have the skill of adding beautifully crafted words to their art.

At the end of this workshop, I challenged these participants to continue to pushing themselves. Keep asking "What If?"

Another way I rock as an instructor is sharing the thrill of applying watercolor paint to paper:

A totally different experience was teaching a group ranging from beginners to experienced artists. It is so exciting to just watch what the paint can do. We explored the fun of blending colors, to adding pen and ink, to working on a sheet with background colors.

I received the biggest "wow" moment when I lifted a cloud from a wet blue sky with a tissue. I went on in this demo to throw on some salt and small pieces of saran wrap.

This quick demo included lifting, salt, and saran wrap.
After that there was a lot of enthusiasm for creating texture.

At the end of the workshop, creating greeting cards as a way to utilize their new found skills, was a fun way to wrap things up.

A special part of this workshop was having my sister, Janice, as an art assistant and roommate. 

So now as we enter the next season of Autumn, I have had my tuneup and am ready to run reliably for the next 100,000 miles.

Friday, August 2, 2019

What If Your Friend Calls and Asks . . . Part II

Folks have asked why we rented this big car since it was clear to all the French people that it was "too big" to be driving around in old towns and cities. The answers: we had just flown for many hours from Portland to Toulouse; we heard "upgrade" and thought "woo-hoo"; we were not thinking about the size of streets in comparison to the size of this car; we were a bit ignorant.

There were advantages, however. We had a very quiet, comfortable ride  for the approximately 500 miles we would drive through southern France. I must compliment Ruth for her driving. Her early years of driving huge farm equipment really gave her skills necessary for driving our "too big" car.

Montpellier to Arles

By the time we left the Fabre Museum in Montpellier, we had cemented a plan to go as far east as Arles, then loop back to Toulouse along the Mediterranean. Ruth booked us an Air B and B for two nights in Forques, just across the river from Arles. We found our room quite comfortable and large. 

After finding our room, parking in an almost impossible small space and getting directions, we headed across the Rhone River to Arles. We barely squeaked across a very tiny bridge, vowing to find a different crossing on our way back to Forques.

Ruth enjoying the atmoshere at L'Arlatan
That night we found a fabulously decorated hotel with a great restaurant and had a fancy dinner with drinks and determined that should we venture back to Arles in the future, we would stay at the L'Arlatan.
Fanciest of bathrooms

Roman Ruins of Arles

Arles had 5 Centuries of Roman occupancy before the Medieval times.  After paying a small fee, we were free to wander through the Roman Theater.

I question that our civilization's leavings will be so beautiful. 

Next we moved on to Arles Arena.  

I couldn't help dreaming of creating abstracts with neutral colors, textures and a bit of blue. 

I swear I will pay more attention in my history classes in my next life!

The Skeptical Philosopher

You can't be in Arles without a nod to Van Gogh, who lived there toward the end of his life. Large posters of his work are placed around the city, noting the subjects of his art. We only came across this one, Cafe Terrace at Night.

The Camargue
We began our loop back to Toulouse along the Mediterranean Sea. We hoped to see the white horses and flamingos the area is known for. 
How better to soak up the scenery without the crowds than on a bike. I was delighted to find out that my new knees could peddle along just fine (with a couple of sandy spills).
The flamingos were not quite pink, and the white horses all had humans on their backs, but the day was sunny and warm and we were thrilled to be out on this adventure.

Our trip together was winding down. We had just two nights left and had only two more destinations in mind. A night in B├ęziers put us near the famously restored town of Carcassonne.


This is the very vision I have of a medieval hilltop town.  The protective walls, towers, and walkways are iconic.


This is the view from our B and B in Limoux. Ruth wanted to see this small town where a friend teaches a summer workshop.

Back to Toulouse

So it was back to Toulouse where Ruth would meet up with her art workshop participants and I would have one last day and night in France on my own. After checking in to my hotel, I wondered the city, enjoying the variety of buildings, people and activities Toulouse offered. 

Food and Wine Market

Capitole de Toulouse

A Wedding party in Charles De Gaulle Square

Couvent de Jacobins, known for the palm tree like ceiling

A less than permanent home
Bridge over the Garonne River

After another delicious French meal, I hit the sack. I had a morning flight and early wake-up call ahead of me.

The following morning, as the sun began to hit the buildings of Toulouse, I caught the bus to the airport. What a marvelous and adventure filled few days I had in Southern France. Thank you, Ruth, for the phone call.