Saturday, October 24, 2020

How to Become a Floating Nomadic Artist

It has been nearly two months since our home burned down in the Holiday Farm Fire. We first stayed with family, which was nice and comfortable, but not practical as a long-term solution to our situation. 

And there it is, Long-Term!

"This has been a great little adventure, but now let's go home."

We have moved into a very comfortable, fully furnished rental for at least two months, but we are making plans to rebuild on our property. That is more like a two year process. My original thinking after our evacuation was that since "by the grace of" the studio didn't burn down, I would just drive up to Blue River to return to being a productive painter. However, the reality of doing that is not that simple nor practical. 

  • Currently my studio is also home to tools since it is the only locked space on the property.

  • The only way to get light is to haul the generator out of the studio, get it started, hook it up to the barn's electrical breaker panel. 
  • With winter coming, it will be darn cold to work in there.
  • Plus it is an hour drive each way.
  • Did I mention that Mike is having double knee-replacement surgery next week? Nurse Margaret will be on duty for quite awhile.
I have to put together a creative spot for this current rental and where ever we end up after that. Yesterday I went up to our property and started seriously thinking about my new pop-up studio. It may not make sense to other people, but I pulled a tarp over two picnic benches, and laid out Arches hot press 140 lb. watercolor paper. Next I got my gold gesso I had tucked away in the studio and got to work. 

And why does this make sense you may ask?  Preparing a full sheet of gessoed paper is messy and I don't really want to do a messy prep like this at a rental. 

Enduring the Cure (Sold)
And can't I paint on just plain white watercolor paper? Yes, but some of my most successful paintings have been done on gold gessoed paper. (Thank you, Carla O'Conner!)



Heron's Winter Dreams (Sold)

Now I am ready to begin a new painting routine in a new spot with folding tables on gold gessoed watercolor paper. 

Stay tuned, as they say! 
Find the wren. There is beauty in the Ruins.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Three Days at Menucha--Refreshing

One might ask, " How do you get your life back on track after your house burns down?" For me, teaching a 3-day workshop at Menucha Retreat and Convention Center was a good start. As this beautiful spot struggles through the pandemic, they are offering us artists a spot to create safely.

View of the Columbia River the evening of arrival

Teaching and sharing art with other artists is one of the joys of my life. Menucha's ability to create a way to stay safe with social distancing made this the first in person art event I've been part of for months. Six other artists joined me for the workshop and I am thankful.

I had been struggling to get photos organized enough on my new laptop to present some slideshows during the workshop. * tip:  If a fire is coming your way, grab your computer!*  Fortunately, my blogposts were so helpful. Once again I realized that blogging has documented my life since 2007. Retrieving posts from past blogs allowed me to access photos of paintings and presentations of designs and techniques.

Untitled, 14 x 22, Mixed Media

On the first day I started this floral to show one way of using watercolor, collage and patterns to create an interesting floral painting with a cruciform (cross shape) beginning. As the day ended, I began adding the black here and there, then almost everywhere. I soon realized I had brought the fire and broken pieces of my life into this painting. The last thing I did was carefully cut two burned leaves to float in from the left hand corner into the blue skies--which I hope will be ahead of me.

Because I do not teach in a step by step method, I delight in seeing the various ways participants express themselves in art making.

One thing I like to promote is the idea that a painting that has been "put in the drawer" can be taken out and given new life. It may not become a masterpiece, but there are always ways to fix and improve a painting.

On this day we created stamps, which I enjoy because a stamp is a way to add a personal touch to any painting. For this heron painting I made a stamp with a branch and leaves to extend the willow tree idea further into the painting. I also lifted some of the heavier colors, improved the shape of the heron, and put some yellow behind the heron and the tree. I think the heron and his feathery self stands out more now, and after all, he is the star of this show!

On the last day of the workshop, the sun came out and Menucha appeared in its finest, where things are green and blooming!

I am very thankful for the place, the people and the respite.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Picking Through the Ashes and Finding Art Inspiration

A bit broken, but life goes on.

A month has passed since the Holiday Farm Fire burned down our home. The greatest save was to our barn which houses my studio. The rest of what Mike and I have is just bits and pieces of our 50 years together raising our family.

The first few trips to our property were blurred by shock and sadness. It is so unbelievable that my home could be leveled by a fire in such a wave of burning east winds, and that we could be so unprepared to save things of importance. But then, what is important? Human lives, animal lives, and apparently my latest series (the only art I threw in the car). If only I could go back in time!

But life goes on and becomes full of hard decisions, dealing with insurance, buying underwear, and on and on. Looking forward, we will rebuild. We will have trees downed. We will have house remains hauled off. We will have ground leveled. We will meet with architects and builders. We will meet with friends and acquaintances and retell the stories of our escapes through the fire. Occasionally we will cry and moan.

My desire to create is deep and continues. I truly am an artist! Art is where I escape the worries of my world--it always has been so. Early on in our visits to the property, I would leave the pulling of the roofing, sorting through ashes and retreat to the studio. 

Before the fire, I had prepared a piece of watercolor paper with matte medium (a transparent liquid) to create some texture before applying paint. I had in mind (a month and a-half ago) to try an abstract based on a photograph of a crack in my husband's rowing dory. It was a sad event for him, but from that came an intriguing photo. That is what I was thinking about as I started to apply paint, but before I knew it, it was about the fire.

This part of the painting was done in a fairly small time period taking a break from pulling and sifting.  This version of the painting sat in the studio for a couple of weeks.

On the 3rd weekend post fire we had a great work party with wonderful turnout and support from family and friends. With much help, we got off all the metal roofing so we could begin the serious sifting. Not much was even recognizable.

My friend Kathy Tiger suggested I put some of the ash into my artwork. I didn't think much about it until we returned to the property a few days after the work party. I went back into the studio and found the painting very simple for the complicated event it represented, so I decided to try Kathy's idea. I like to use framing in my paintings, so I mixed the charred ash with matte medium and "framed" the painting with the ashy liquid. Since matte medium becomes transparent when it dries, it became a gray frame hugging the center. I also added a few chunks of black to the horizontal line.

In sorting through the rubble, a few burned pages were found around the property. I do not know where they came from; not from our assortment of books that burned. But oddly they appear to be out a textbook or encyclopedia and this one page discussed the art of illustration. It was a perfect addition to this piece using some blue from the illustration and some appropriate verbiage. The collage gives even more meaning to the painting. 

Here are the words I chose from the burned paper. "Emotional" and "drama" stand alone on either side of the words below.

The Day His World Cracked
22" x 30"

Life on our property is not all bleak. Our younger daughter and son-in-law have loaned us their camper trailer where we sleep quite comfortably. And we sit at the front of the trailer and look at the pasture's green willows that saved the horses. We are in the outdoors that we love so much and dream of what will come next.