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.  😭

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Margaret the Fixer

Working with watercolor paint is often intimidating to folks because there is the misconception that you can't fix a boo-boo. While recently teaching a workshop at Menucha, I got the nickname of "Margaret the Fixer."

Watercolor Bloom

When doing a demonstration for a class, one can't take the time to start over. The instructor (me) has to move along by fixing, or incorporating the error into the finished painting. So Day 1 I was moving along creating a very nice, smooth wash on my first "Fighting Zebra" painting when I got careless and a drop of water hit the still damp paint. This is known as a "bloom." In this closeup, you can see lots of blooms. This is because I decided to just make them a part of the painting. Why not?

The larger ones I just turned into some cultural patterns similar to patterns I saw in South Africa. And so, just like that, this became the painting I've now titled, "Fighting Zebras: Cultural."

Fighting Zebras: Cultural

Next, I wanted to make the sun behind the animals more interesting and related to the foreground circular designs. I also wanted it to have an authentic design, so I took off an earring I bought while in South Africa and used that to add interest to the orb.

South African Earring

Next demo painting included the fighting zebras on a vertical paper. the lower portion was painted yellow with a collage piece of an old watercolor painting down the middle. To me it has a very geographical feel to it. Next morning, I came in looking at the piece and realized the yellow had to be toned down, so I put a wash over it. By the end of the day, the two yellow sides had become gold with rocks scattered through it.

Fighting Zebras: Geographical

Next demo featured the fighting zebras again, but not center stage. I moved them off to the "golden mean" upper right. This was primarily done with a watercolor washes and collage materials. When I had finished the gluing, I felt like the Zebras were floating. Now how to ground them??  I took my brush with a matching, but darker green and with just a few strokes they were attached to the earth.

Fighting Zebras: Botanical

On the last day, the class participants requested a demo of watercolor washes, so I thought of a simple landscape with sky, clouds, mountains and grasslands with wild flowers. Somehow the Zebra patterns found their way into the mountains. Every once in awhile a simple watercolor is just satisfying.

Zebra Mountains

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Out of Africa

Yes, I love the movie, but my "Out of Africa" is about my art. I took hundreds of photos on our trip to South Africa so the next step was to think of ways to talk about the amazing trip in my art. 

I did not paint or sketch much while we traveled with one exception. I painted a small portrait of a lovely woman we met at one of our stops on the east coast of South Africa. I left it with her and now regret I did not take a photo of the painting.

How to Begin Talking (through art) about African Animals

But back to my photos and getting home. I started looking through the pictures and chose to use one of my favorite elephant shots. As we were driving through an animal reserve, this lovely beast suddenly appeared out of the brush a few feet from our car, eating away at the thorny 10 foot tall bushes. I took my pens to the paper and drew her then decided that the bushy brush was an important element to the scene and pulled out my collage containers. Pasting down collage papers really finished this piece for me, conveying the African brush pretty well.  Next I drew a small portrait of a giraffe sticking her head out of more brush. These animals are really gigantic, and often have to lean down to eat--even the ten feet tall brush.

Both of these pieces have sold

On to Menucha

I was not home for long before teaching a workshop at Menucha Retreat and Conference Center. This was my first time at the Creative Arts Community event and how happy I was to be included as an instructor. My week long workshop was titled "Playing with Patterns," and what better subject matter could there be than the animals of Africa? Below  are the 3 demos I did using the same fighting zebras which I  embellished with the colors and patterns I saw in Africa.

Besides the opportunity to teach and work with art, Menucha sits on the cliffs of the Columbia Gorge offering spectacular views of the river, the gorge and the city lights of Portland to the west. 

And then there are the participants and fascinating classes offered by the Creative Arts Community. I had such a delightful group taking my workshop. We laughed, played and used our creative juices for five fun-filled days. 

My Own "How To" Comes to the Rescue

Once I settled in back home I had the three fighting zebras to frame. Somehow the mat, frame and plexiglass I typically use didn't seem to fit these pieces, so I ordered cradle boards to mount them on. I haven't done this for some time, so I went back to the "Step-by-step" blog I posted in 2013.  (My own posts can be so handy in such a situation.)

Here are steps #1 and #2. Tomorrow I will paint the cradle edges and move on from there.

Travel, creating, teaching and sharing good times--my life is wonderfully full!!

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Three Weeks in South Africa

Noah and Mike looking for animals from a "hide."
This summer we were able to take the trip to South Africa that we had planned for last year. Because of the world wide pandemic, the trip got moved to 2022. It was a dream trip chosen by our grandson, Noah.

The big goal of the trip was to see animals in the wild, but we also wanted to learn a bit about the country beyond the game reserves. Flying to South Africa involved 2 ten hour flights: one to Amsterdam and the next to Johannesburg. That's definitely an achy joints sort of voyage. 

A photo for a tip.

Our time in Johannesburg was brief (2 days), but we managed to see quite a bit of the area. Mostly I was interested in learning about pre and post Apartheid. (I highly recommend Trevor Noah's book, Born a Crime.) We hired an uber driver to give us a tour of Soweto, the township originally set aside by the South African white government for residence by Blacks. Nelson Mandela lived there for a time so there is a bit of tourism going on.  As I write this, I want to be clear that I am not making judgements about S. A., but just imparting facts as I experienced them. S.A. is still a developing country.

We were fortunate that our black driver was open to share so much about the current situation of living in South Africa. There is tremendous poverty among blacks (80% of the population). The wealth of the country continues to be primarily among the white population (20%). The original homes still stand--4 room houses on a very small space. Along with the houses are shacks made of corrugated metal and plywood. 

The Airbnb where we stayed was in a wealthy white neighborhood where all the houses have 8 foot walls topped with razor wire and electric fencing. One has to believe that the crime rate is high in the city. We experienced the loss of a wallet and passport while there, and later had our credit cards cloned. The passport was replaced in one day at the American Consulate and our credit card companies immediately let us know of the fraudulent use. 

Dabbadoo and Noah changing a flat.
We were not unhappy to leave Joburg and fly down to Port Elizabeth where we rented a car and began our drive from Port Elizabeth to Kruger National Park where we would spend our last week. Once away from the big city, we found the people of South Africa very friendly and helpful. The country was happy to be opening up to travelers as that is a big source of income for the country's businesses. Mike did most of the driving on the "wrong" side of the road, shifting a stick-shift vehicle with his left hand. Miraculously there were no wrecks and only a couple of honks along the way, but a great deal of sweating in the driver's seat.  We did find an amazing amount of potholes which caused a flat tire. Noah learned about changing a flat for the first time in his life. 

We planned our trip ahead of time, making all of our reservations in advance. Kruger especially is a very popular National Reserve for South Africans as well as travelers, so those spots had been reserved months ahead. I use the term travelers rather than tourists because we almost always do our own planning and driving in our foreign visits. Signing up for safari's would be much easier, but we would not have had nearly the adventures we did being out on our own. As we drove from Port Elizabeth to Kruger, we stayed in a variety of inns, lodges, and airbnbs with only one hotel in the city of Nelspruit/Mbombela.

The first two game reserves we visited on our first week of driving were Addo and Hluhluwe. All these parks allow the visitor to drive throughout the park during the daylight hours. Addo National Elephant Park has a "hop-on" guide service where a guide will get in your car and travel through the park helping the travelers to spot the animals. Our guide really helped us develop our vision to sight animals. 

Male Ostrich

Greater Kudu

It is unbelievable that an animal as huge as an elephant can be hard to see in the brush. Suddenly the animal appears just a few feet away from your car.

One of my favorite photos!

After several days of wild animal viewing, we stayed at an old ranch at a higher elevation. This cattle ranch was at one time a dairy farm that has converted the cheese factory into guest rooms. We spent 2 nights there resting up, getting laundry done, and seeing a different part of South Africa.

Did I mention that it is winter in South Africa?

And, yes, you can see cattle in Oregon, but . . .

We helped feed the cattle up on the hills.

There is such a softness to the African skies.

So on our last week we made it to Kruger National Park which covers an area of 7,523 square miles, the size of Wales. There are around 20 different bushveld camps and rest camps. We stayed in four different areas of Kruger where you could hear lions roar and hyenas howl at night. We did see the "big 5" while there: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. Why giraffes aren't included, I don't know, but when a giraffe crosses the road in front of you, it is amazing!

Every day in Kruger we spent hours slowly driving around on mostly dirt roads. It was an easy enough drive there that I braved driving some of the time. Our necks got pretty tired of craning from left to right. There were dull times and then other times when we would come across a herd of 20 to 30 elephants with young. Those moments were stunning. Over time we learned to stop and enjoy looking at the animals for as long as we could rather than driving on to see as many different animals as possible. Our check list of species grew. We saw only one lioness from a great distance. That was Noah's greatest wish, but she was so far away, we weren't quite satisfied. Then on our last night in Kruger, we took a sunset drive which is a guided group trip. Not only did we see a lion, we saw six lions lying on the warm road right in front of us. They were in no hurry to get up and move, so we had many minutes of watching them. We also saw a pack of wild dogs feasting on an impala that evening. It was the perfect climax to our stay a Kruger.

Here are some of my favorite photos.

One last piece of our trip is what Noah brought home from South Africa: infected spider bites which he is still dealing with 10 days later.