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Five Days of Focus

(my discoveries at art camp)


For the past month, my energy has been consumed by creating websites, teaching classes, and cranking out jewelry and reproductions for art fairs. In the first week of August alone, I did 3 fairs (in Portland, Sellwood, and on the Oregon coast, in Yachats). Summer is the time for this and I’ve met lots of wonderful people through it, but production work is exhausting, so when the time came for my week of art camp at Menucha, I was ready for five days of focus on nothing but art!

menucha-view

I had learned about the Arts at Menucha programs through Susan Schenck, a student from last semester.  She was solving a color theory assignment with a remarkable collage technique that she said she learned from a class with Linda Berkley.  I knew Linda some 15 years ago when we were both “artists in residence” at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, in Colorado.  I decided to take Linda’s collage class offered through the Arts at Menucha program.  The workshops are located along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, in Corbett, Oregon.  The name Menucha has Hebrew roots, meaning something similar to “place of still waters”, and the motto of the Menucha community is “Sacred Space, Purposeful Work”.  The place lives up to its motto, as the environment encourages both creative and spiritual growth.

tree-womb-thumb tree-womb-bw-collage

One of my primary intentions in working with collage was to use it as a means of working out compositions for my paintings.  My first experiment was to try to resolve a nearly completed painting of a woman curled up at the roots of a mossy tree. (I’ll share more process photos of this as my painting reaches completion in another  post, since there were many steps involved in its creation before the collage exploration).  One of my dilemmas was that I felt that the painting was too similar to the photograph I had taken for its inspiration.  I wanted to add some more abstract elements, but didn’t know which direction to take it.  Linda suggested that I create a small thumbnail drawing of the painting, then do a quick collage using black and white paper, followed by a color collage of magazine scraps:

tree-womb-collage tree-womb

The operative word here was “quick”, as she wanted to push me towards my own expressed intention of making more spontaneous choices.  When she said I had “5 more minutes” to finish my color collage,  I hadn’t even found all the colors I needed to complete it.  It was partly from the frustration of not finding the right color that I ended up creating the purple branch that surrounds the shape of the figure.  This part of the painting originally had more grayish tones.  When I changed the branch to blue-purple in the painting, there was an “AHA” moment, in the realization that what it needed was a more saturated color in this area.  I feel that it brings out the yin-yang relationship between the upward-reaching (cool) blue branches vs. the downward flow of the (warmer) mossy green branches.

On the second day of class, it was suggested that we create a collage based on a thumbnail sketch of something drawn from observation.  Linda gave the example of using a plant in the room, looking out the window, or going outside into the landscape.  I decided to go outside since we were in such a beautiful natural setting.  I found a tree that interested me and made a few small thumbnails, followed by a longer study.  I then went about painting papers in the color scheme that I’d conceived (instead of hunting for specific colors in magazines).  Originally, the tree was going to be in blues and purples, with a reddish sky.  I started with the sky but was disappointed when I tried to build the tree with the blue papers.

tree

By the next morning I had another idea when I saw some textured paper sitting on the top of my stack of collage materials.  It was actually a monoprint made with inked aluminum foil.  I didn’t have enough of this texture to complete my design, so I brought it to the copy machine, creating a range of values and magnifications of the texture.  I tinted the ground in green, to differentiate it from the roots somewhat.  I later added a photo of an owl (after creating another collage which included an owl).  It seems to complete the piece, suggesting more of  a narrative.

Our next assignment was to collaborate with a student in the writing class.  We were asked to give one of our collages to the writing department, where it would be randomly paired with a student. We were also given a randomly selected piece of writing to respond to.  We had 5 students, whereas the writing class had 4, so the teacher also participated.   I later found out that the poem that was given to me was by the writing teacher, Ann Staley.

“Ars Poetica” (on the nature of poetry)

It was all fading,
the dream hitchiked to Kansas.
Hot water, eyes closed -
everything too fast.
Six unknowns,
the refrain.
Lovefest in a sacred place.
But, of course,
the fragments in the desert:
broken down truck &
3-legged table,
bicycle tires, mismatched:
what is abandoned,
reclaimed by attention
and her cousin, purposeful work.

I took my direction from the dreamy feeling, and particularly the phrases, “eyes closed”, and “Lovefest in a sacred place”.  I had brought an image of a painting by one of my favorite artists, Odilon Redon, so I decided to quote it in my collage.   The suggestion of a desert prompted me to create a turban from magazine fragments of cloth.  I then made use of my painted papers and xeroxed fragments of my monoprint texture.  I played with putting a pressed flower in the corner opposite the face, but couldn’t commit to it, so off I went to the copy machine again.

dream-collage1

At this time, I discovered that the laser copier was also capable of making color copies and reverse images, so I decided to play with a symmetrical composition.  The idea of adding an owl came from the fact that I had a dream that an owl flew at my face.  The dream occurred the morning I left for Menucha, and since I had a difficult time removing the owl from my face, I decided she had a strong desire to be included in my experiments.  I first painted the owl on vellum, then photocopied it in a few sizes to find the right relationship with the composition.  This is, for me, one of the most wonderful aspects of  using collage: the fact that you can choose to move things around, which is not possible once you’ve committed to an image in painting.

owl-dream2

The pressed spray of Queene Anne’s lace flowers ended up being a “nest” for the baby owl crying for its mother.  (I realize that I need to add some color to differentiate this from its textured background). If I end up making a painted version of this collage, the 2 dreaming figures will have clasped hands holding the nest. They may transform into a man and a woman with similar features.

On the fourth day, we displayed our collaborative collages and writings where the rest of the Menucha community could see them, in the cafeteria.  My collage was placed underneath Ann’s poem.  Coincidentally, I found that the collage that I gave to the writing class was paired with a response by the same writer (Ann Staley).  Since my collage was not signed, she had no indicator as to its orientation, and ended up responding to the image on its side.  Once I saw it totally divorced from its relationship to my painting, I also saw it with new eyes.  I’ve included her poetic response below:

tree-womb-collage2

what-about-wind

I was particularly struck by the fact that my absent figure became a rock, and that she even made mention of “who is missing from this collage, and why are they missing?”  I also contemplate the scraps and bits I didn’t use, and the fact that they might be reincarnated into yet another collage or painting.  Perhaps I’ll continue the process and create another collage based on her poem.  Maybe this time I’ll consider the presence of the wind.  Perhaps this is just another new beginning.

dreaming-muses1

With 1/2 day of my class remaining,   I decided to make use of the leftover copies of the dreaming faces.  Again, I played with symmetry, this time creating a triangular composition.  The effect is a bit more abstract.  It takes a moment to even recognize that these are mirrored fragments of a person (it’s difficult to discern the gender, which is my preference).

owl-dream-dtl-orange

Now home, I continue to play with my collage experiments by cropping and changing the hues of some of my compositions in Photoshop.  I went with the intention to finish some unresolved paintings, but instead came back with more ideas to generate into new paintings.  I also feel that I have found a new way of working, and a few more tools to explore.

On the morning that I left for art camp, there were a couple other dreams that bear mentioning.  In the first place, I knew within the dream that I was at Menucha , as I was surrounded by a group of people when the owl flew at me.  Although the owl would not get off of my face, I wasn’t horrified by it.  As I struggled to remove it, I told the others to throw some water on its head (I have a vague memory that someone at the center had instructed me to do this if ever the situation should occur, as if it were a likely possibility).  I then went out to my car and found a blue bird flying in it.  At this point, I remember  that that earlier in the day I’d seen a bird on my palette, on the table next to my easel. It was a dream within a dream… not too disimilar to the process of creating in collage.  I still ponder what it all means and what the birds have to say to me.  Rather than answering the question, I prefer to suggest the mystery.

a few updates

An artist named Belinda Subraman recently combined my artwork with poetry and music in this video that she produced, titled “Whose Cries Are Not Music”

Poetry by Linda Bennbinghoff, music by Ken Clinger, with reading and production by Belinda Subraman.

Rate and/or comment this video on YouTube


Also, my work was selected to grace the cover of a new book!

ghost_symptoms

Ghost Symptoms: Break The Spell And Be Well (Paperback)
by Kelly Kiernan Ray

Amazon Link

Ghost Symptoms explains how experiences such as emotional trauma and spirit interference affect the human energy field. I enjoy the personal tone of Kelly Ray’s story-telling of personal transformation. I wasn’t very open to the idea of spirit attachments before reading this book, but now understand that it may very well be a common occurrence.  Even without this interest, the personal stories, case studies and historical perspectives makes this a very good read. I especially find the “Claim Your Space” technique very helpful for grounding and clearing my energy field.


Other things on the Horizon:

If you are in Portland, check out my upcoming art classes on my events page. It also includes local galleries where you can see my work in person.


Showing Off My Students!

I’ve finally figured out how to get the pics off of my camera phone, so I’m waaaay behind in updating some of my students’ artworks!  Here’s some samples from current and past classes.   (I’m so proud of everyone!)

Intuitive Painting and Collage

These are from a class that met for 4 sessions.  Students combined textural painting techniques, image transfers, stencils (and gold-leaf in some cases)

donawhite-sacredheart donawhite-madonna

donawhite-grace

“Dynamic Still-Life Painting” (Spring Semester)

apples-marty

martyvase christine-flowervase claire1 chris-flowervase

“Get Started Painting” (Spring semester “In Process” Shots)

reyna-girl-ptg reyna-girl-w-flower

douglas-baby-ptg betty-crocker1

changdias-ptg-babe1

allison-manportrait

paul-catpower



“Interpretive Landscape”

Winter Semester (”Get Started Painting” class)


Simple Still-Life, Winter Semester “Get Started Painting” Students


Portraiture, “Get Started Painting” (Winter semester)

I forgot to bring my camera the day that my class played with the subject of portraiture.  Tony  (a student who is an experienced watercolorist, but new to acrylic painting), sent me this photo of a painting he began in class, but finished at home.  The assignment required working from a small photograph, making artistic choices to alter the original.

Mixed Media Inspirations

My blog entries have been a bit sparse lately.  I went through a period of being overly busy with creating websites, then with planning classes, now I’m building walls in my basement studio, and won’t be getting much done in there until the building and re-organization is through.  When I find myself overwhelmed with clutter, it’s time to make some drastic changes, and Spring is a good time for this.

I’ve decided to share some images of mixed media artists whom I find inspiring.  I look to other artists when I’m needing a little jump-start on ideas, so I hope my students and web visitors might find some inspiration in these as well.  I’ve included the website links so that you can feast your eyes on more. (You can also click on images for a larger view):


Teesha Moore: www.teeshamoore.com, teeshascircus.blogspot.com

I just can’t get enough of Teesha Moore’s art!  She creates her collages primarily within the pages of her journals.  She details her process on her website.  To simplify, she first lays down a wash of either watercolor or acrylic, then adds collage elements, then uses water soluble artist crayons. Finally, she draws and writes with markers and gel pens.  I personally love the way the words become a visually important part of the work.


Anahata Katkin: www.anahata.typepad.com, http://www.anahataart.com

Anahata is the creator of my favorite note card company, PaPaYa!.  She explores painting, collage, and digital media in her personal artworks.  I love what she says within her statement on her bio page, so I’ll include it here:

“To me the beauty of so much of the mixed media and journal arts movement is the personal quality of it. How it is often born out of necessity in ones life and continues through a series of impulses, triumphs and challenges. My own artwork is gritty and often unripe. And I like it this way. I like that what I want to do feels just out of reach. That there isn’t a pressure to perform and yet there is great satisfaction in the making of things…and the sharing of things. I guess that’s my own little irony. I try very hard to create artwork for myself and nothing more. And when I succeed in getting out of my own way- I share it with the rest of the world. That’s my formula.”


Cheri Lee Charlton: www.cherileecharlton.com

I “met” Cheri Lee on MySpace, and was immediately taken by her seductive use of materials in her mixed media artworks.  In particular, she has a series of paintings created on doileys (using watercolor, acrylic ink, graphite, charcoal and markers), which integrate fairy-tale like images with slightly erotic connotations. Of her work, Cheri says, “The surface of a painting has the capacity to seduce.  I seek to make art that addresses that very human desire to be seduced; art that provokes the viewer to acknowledge that sensual place between desire and fulfillment”.


Erica Steiner: www.ericasteiner.com

Erica Steiner is another artist who seduces viewers with the surfaces of her work.  She uses her painting to explore her “affinity for beauty, for ornamentation, for excess, and the more turbulent psychic territory that lies beneath”.  She is influenced by a wide range of contemporary, folk, textile and religious art, including “traditional Indian and aboriginal painting, psychedelic art, graphic design, Japanese landscape painting, medieval Catholic illuminated manuscripts, Victorian imagery, art nouveau and more. The work is rendered primarily in oil and gold leaf on canvas, in series of thirty to forty paintings, painted in many layers, over time”.


Patti Brady: www.pattibrady.com

Speaking of rich surfaces, Patti Brady wrote the book (literally) for creating surfaces with acrylic paint and polymers.  Patti is the Working Artist Program Director for Golden Artist Colors. As such, she has had the opportunity to thoroughly explore all of the gels, pastes, and mediums that the company offers, and she’s developed curriculum for acrylic classes for artists and art educators world-wide.

Patti’s book, Rethinking Acrylic: Radical Solutions For Exploiting The World’s Most Versatile Medium covers contemporary uses of acrylic.  It’s richly illustrated with her own and other artists works, and includes much technical info which should be helpful for the experimental artist.


Darleen Olivia McElroy: darleneoliviamcelroy.com

Darlene was also featured in my previous blog entry Acrylic Image Transfers, where I included a video of her demo of how to create a gel transfer.  Also check out her blog, The Queen of Glue!  She has recently posted about her inspirations with rust, background surfaces, and links where you can find vintage images to use in collages.

Darlene states that, “creating an art piece is like reading Turkish coffee grounds - a story becomes revealed as one looks at the surface, texture and color. Moving around the canvas, one can see the past, present and future of the creation.”

Heads up: Darlene (and co-writer Sandra Duran Wilson) is currently writing a book, Image Transfer Workshop, that will be published by Northlight Books. It is suppose to hit the shelves in July 2009.


Gary Reef: www.garyreef.com

Gary Reef is an Australian contemporary artist, who explores mixed media to learn about textures, patterns and layering, and the exploration of his own symbology.  The images above were created primarily through the use of multiple stencils.  “Scratching, carving, digging, sanding, hammering, multi-layering, rubbing, dropping, burning, splattering would be some words used to describe my art practice….the rest, well it comes from the Heart!”

Click here to see a video of Gary working on one of his stencil paintings.

(To view some more artists who work with stencils, please visit my post, Stencils, Stencils, Stencils!)


Kathryn Kendrick: www.katiekendrick.com

Kathryn considers herself to be intuitive/folk artist. She combines painting, collage, and assemblage in her mixed media artworks.  Of her process, Katie says, “I don’t have any clear ideas where I’m going when I begin a painting or project and I feel most comfortable with that. Doing projects that have a theme are challenging for me as they come less naturally. I feel most connected to higher self when I am in the process of creating, and am more interested in the process that the product.” There’s lots more inspiration to see and read on her blog.  Looking back through her pages, it reminded me that I could not complete this post without including Jesse Reno!


Jesse Reno: www.jessereno.com

Jesse Reno’s is a very prolific Portland artist.  His many-layered artworks combine acrylic, oil pastels, charcoal, and pencil on wood or canvas.  Entirely self-taught, Reno decided early in his career to forego formal training. “He generally works on five to ten canvases at once, apportioning equal time to each, in the interest of allowing the thematic content to germinate organically. Open as the artist is to the unfolding of subconscious content, his paintings emerge as pieces of a dreamlike mythic narrative.”

Paula Snyder: http://paulasnyder.biz

I discovered Paula Snyder when she commented on my last blog post, On Being an Artist in a Bad Economy.  Of her process of working with mixed media, Paula says, “I jokingly think of myself as a multiple personality.  If I had to use the same materials and the same techniques with every piece of art I create, then I feel I might as well be making sandwiches at the local fast food place.”


Anastassia Elias: www.anastassia-elias.com

Her site is in French, so I confess that I don’t know much about this artist.  She several series of paintings and collages, but I was particularly impressed with the way that she is able to create pictures from torn pieces of colored paper and text (click images to enlarge them so that you can see the text in these collages). To view more of these, go to her website, linked above, and visit the “collages dechires” section of her Portfolio.


Susan Tuttle:
http://www.ilkasattic.com

Susan Tuttle recently published a book on mixed media called, Exhibition 36: Mixed Media Demonstrations and Explorations (Amazon link).  “Within the pages of Exhibition 36, readers will enter a virtual art exhibit featuring thirty-six mixed-media artists whose collage, digital, assemblage, altered and repurposed art adorn the walls and pedestals of this unique gallery. The artists are “present” throughout the exhibit, answering questions, sharing their thoughts, talking about their work and offering instruction.”


Sara Renae Jones: sararenaejones.com//drawings.php

I was particularly interested in Sara Jones’ series, “Outwitting Our Nerves”, which incorporate watercolor and graphite on vintage psychology book pages printed 1921 (if you click to enlarge the images, you can read the text, which is well-paired with the somewhat eerie imagery).

Please respect the copyright of the artists.  These images are provided for inspiration only.  I’ve asked for permission from all of the artists (a few haven’t replied yet, but I’ll remove their images if not allowed).  If you borrow an image for your own site or blog, please also ask the artist for permission.

On Being an Artist in a Bad Economy

An Intimate Interior, by Robin UrtonI just found out that I sold this painting, “An Intimate Interior” at the local “Love Show” (the 4th annual show of this theme, put on by the Launchpad Gallery).  It’s not a new painting, but it fit the theme perfectly.   I’ve had little time to paint in recent months, given my multiple-hat approach to eeking out a freelance career.  I’m generally more attached to my newer works, so it’s easier for me to let go of a painting that’s been with me for a while.

Pricing is one of the more difficult aspects of an art career because no one wants to sell themselves short, nor do they want to out-price the market so that no one can afford their work.  I’ve never heard a really good explanation for how to price one’s work, and I don’t create the kind of art that can easily be priced by the square inch (or square foot, if I were creating large-scale works).  Nor can I price according to time spent on a piece (as if I could actually keep track of that, since I’m in an altered state when the work is flowing… and when it’s not, no one can pay me for the time spent thinking about and mulling over ideas).  The truth is that I have pieces that I spent literally months creating and others that came pretty quickly, but sometimes after a dry spell.  For me, it’s always a matter of emotional attachment, which is a hard thing to quantify.

The main thing I ask myself when I price my work is “what is the lowest amount that I can feel okay about selling this for”… and then add whatever percentage the gallery takes.  And since galleries typically take a 40-50% cut, I always feel better if I can give the customer a good deal by not having to outsource.  But I’d never get any exposure without public walls to hang my work on, and some venues (such as the Launchpad) are really something to support.  They’re the good guys, are also struggling to keep their doors open, and I’m glad to be a part of this group effort.

As much as I try NOT to be affected by all of the bad news about the economy, it’s hard not to be nervous as an artist trying to make my way on a completely freelance career.  Not that it was ever easy, of course.  It takes courage to even think about making a living as an artist in a good economy.  Perhaps that’s why I wear my three freelance hats as an artist, teacher, and web designer.  I’m not brave (or crazy) enough to rely on just one.  These days, I think it’s important to have several marketable skills to survive in a creative field.

When I went to art school, no one really bothered to prepare us for the cold facts of making a career in the arts.  I went into it in a completely naive manner, knowing that I wouldn’t be happy pursuing anything else.  In retrospect, there really isn’t that much that they taught me that I couldn’t have learned on my own.  At least not in terms of technique.  I think that I had the assumption I was going to get some kind of mentoring.  That didn’t happen.  No one told me how to mix color, what mediums to use, or much of anything about the practice of painting.  Nor did they prepare me for how to present myself to galleries, how to professionally photograph my work, apply for grants or residencies… in short, how to be a professional artist.

Fortunately, I’m a self-starter and figured out my own way with the materials.  Whether I intended to or not, I always found myself working against the grain.  In undergrad school, most of my teachers came out of an expressionist background, so the best advice they had to offer was to “let mistakes happen” and use big brushes.  This ran counter to my nature.  I painted carefully, painstakingly, with small brushes.  For the most part, they congratulated anything that was abstract and bold and warned against creating “illustrative” art.  Representational art had a hard time unless it had the bold brush-stroke to go with it.  That simply wasn’t me.  For whatever reason, I simply couldn’t let the paint drip.  I had a need to tightly control my expressions whether this was a good or a bad thing.  It’s only now that I realize that I am no less expressive because of my particular orientation.  I’ve made it work for me, and now that I’ve formed my own style, I can let it loose when I need to… and sometimes I REALLY need to drip paint!

I entered a completely different universe when I started graduate school. I wasn’t quite ready for the level of art theory and intellectualism that spewed the halls of Cranbrook.  I simply couldn’t get what I was doing to fit neatly into any of the current post-modern theories.  I hadn’t developed enough artspeak to defend my thoughts about what I was doing through my art. My ideas about “art, nature, and personal archetype” seemed nakedly naive, and I felt completely vulnerable when faced with critique dialogue.  I can’t say I produced my best work at that time, as I felt too vulnerable express myself fully.  It was only later that some of my chains fell off and I’ve started to really step into my own identity.

So what does all of this have to do with the tough economy? Well, it’s hard to feel courageous about creating art in an economy that few of us have faith will be able to support us.  I spend a lot more time in front of a computer these days than I do in front of a canvas (or plexi, panel, or whatever substrate I’m working on).  And let me tell you, I know it is sapping the life out of me.  This is a bit of a confessional post, but sharing my feelings helps me to exorcise my fears when I’m in the midst of a non-creative slump.  I have stagnant months where it’s very difficult for me to create because I’m too preoccupied with doing the things that are more reliable for paying bills (especially in the winter, when the bills are higher, and my basement studio is a cold and unwelcoming place).  For me, it’s always better to express something than to silently allow these feelings to grow.

There’s a huge part of me that would love to throw away my computer and live in some third-world country where I can live cheap, preferably in a warm climate.  Wherever I go, I’ll meet a new set of challenges.  There is no escape from the need to support oneself.  Anywhere else is not a better place than where I am right now.  Wherever I am, I want to be of good use, to provide services that are needed.  Art is only one of my skills, no more elevated than teaching or producing web designs.. though it is the one that provides me with more of a sense of inner ease (or to put it another way, if I don’t create art, I am not at ease).  I think this is true for most artists.  Whether we can find a way to make a living through it or not, we simply need to do it.  For most of us it’s enough to create and to surround ourselves with our creations.  For myself, I also need to let those creations go, preferably making part of my income from the endeavor.  There’s a huge part of my self-identity that is wrapped up in that equation of making my living through my art.  Perhaps this needs to be evaluated further, but there is satisfaction in knowing that it’s of enough value to someone else that they are willing to pay for it.

Here’s my prescription for any artist who wants to sell art during bad economic times:  Don’t equate how much you are able to sell your work for as any kind of qualifier for how good the work is.  In general, it might be best to paint more small artworks that you can feel okay about selling cheaply (if this works for you), or to sell only your reproductions if the originals are too prescious for you to part with (if that works for you).  In general, it’s a good idea to let your creations go so that someone else can enjoy them, and give yourself some mental space to create more.  Most of all, enjoy what you are doing.  The myth of the “suffering artist” is certainly one to let go of.  Let yourself be a channel for the creative spirit that moves through you, and don’t concern yourself too much with what the current trends are.  First and foremost, be yourself.  Know that art is needed as much now as it ever was… whether people are buying it or not.  If you put your heart into your creations, it will always have a positive effect…. on you, as well as those around you.  It’s all part of the Love… Feel it, and reel it in!

Posted by on Mar 2nd 2009 | Filed in Portland, art, art community, creativity, selling art | Comments (1)

Acrylic Image Transfers

Transferring images can be done with photocopies, some magazine images, inkjet or laser prints.  I suggest using a high contrast laser image for your first efforts because I think the results are more reliable, but the options are open for trying practically anything.  In regards to imagery, try whatever you have a strong connection to.  Winter skies hold a fascination for me, with the filigree of naked branches against a sky.  Many people have an attraction to vintage photographs, or ephemera that comes through their hands regularly through magazines. Other ideas: family photos, scientific illustrations, clip art…

I’ve been intending to do some videos of the acrylic gel transfer that I’m using in my mixed media class.  I’ve noticed that there’s already plenty of artists doing this on YouTube, so I’m including some of the best ones I’ve viewed here. There’s so many ways to do image transfers and I haven’t tried all of them yet.  It can be a little tricky, so practice, practice, practice! .. and have fun!!

Gel Medium Transfer
In this demo by Darlene Olivia McElroy, the artist uses a magazine image, transfered with gel medium, a brayer, and water spritzer. You can also do this with a laser copy (high contrast recommended). The brayer can be substituted with the back of a spoon, and water can be sponged on if you don’t have a sprayer.

Check out some of Darlene’s amazing artwork on her site: http://darleneoliviamcelroy.com

Injet Transparency transfer onto fabric (Quick Method!)

This one uses gel medium with an inkjet transparency, transferred onto interfacing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pcbkbOKplQ

Inkjet Transparency Transfer Onto Acrylic Painting

This method takes more drying time than the one above. Artist Jane DesRosier adds transfer images to her acrylic painting  using her inkjet printer, transparency film, and matte medium, but discovered later that her gel medium transfers worked best (see part 2, linked below)

Part 2 of this process shows that drying time is very important: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQtUIW66dPQ

Jane’s website: http://grittyartstudio.wordpress.com

Thick Acrylic Gel Transfer

Here’s another way to do a gel transfer that requires a thick slather of gloss gel or soft gel medium, dried face down on glass.  Takes a bit longer, but very effective!  (Hint: you can probably speed drying time with a hair dryer)

Part 2 shows the completion of the process, the cleanup and lifting stage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTxfYS8pFSc

Posted by on Jan 17th 2009 | Filed in art, art classes, creative process, mixed media, photography | Comments (3)

thoughts on teaching / collage inspirations

The image above is a painting created by Jutta Reichardt.  It illustrates the use of an acrylic image transfer, acrylic surface techniques, and stenciled gold leaf that I introduced to my Mixed Media class, taught through Portland Community College last semester. Jutta produced some really amazing work during the class, and I wish my camera didn’t keep running out of batteries every time I wanted to photograph my students works! In this particular piece, Jutta was inspired by learning about a pioneering woman journalist, Nelly Bly, who was famous in her day for traveling around the world in 72 days.  She also revealed the conditions of the working class around the world, and exposed mistreatment of people with mental illness.  It seems to me that having an intense interest in a subject (any subject) can propel the work to its own successful conclusion.

I’m sort of relieved to be on a teaching break til mid January.  It’s good to have some time to get back into my own work more fully, to listen more carefully to what drives me personally… which in the end, I think will make me a better teacher.

I love teaching, as it re-awakens my passion for disseminating information about art.  After all, if making art were just for myself, it would be a pretty selfish thing, wouldn’t it??  The truth of the matter is that the desire to create is both selfish and selfless.  I create because I must, because I am an endlessly frustrated human being if I do not have an outlet for all of the images and thoughts that pour through me.  Whenever I give myself to my creative expression, I return to the most sane aspects of my self.  I become more grounded in my experience of practically everything.  It improves my relationship to myself, to others, and the world around me.  Teaching can also be a very connective experience, and it gives me great pleasure to see anyone grow in their confidence in expressing themselves.

The catch-22 about teaching is that creating art is not merely about having a handle on technique.  Yes, techniques are important.  They are the tools we use to express ourselves visually.  But it’s having a connection to our personal vision that’s most important, and that’s a very difficult thing to teach.  To some extent, we can learn it from example.  I give my students a lot of examples of what other artists are doing, in terms of both subject matter and technique, which I hope might be inspiring to their own works.  This is the reason I’ve posted so many articles on this blog related to various art inspirations (see index for these articles here).

I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of what the class experience is about is providing a space where students are given permission to allow their creative selves to emerge.  I give specific assignments related to using colors, surface techniques, image transfers, etc… but it’s mostly a matter of giving the students a place to create where they feel encouragement, gentle direction, and the immersion of being with others who are also creating, which becomes a large part of the learning experience.  I think that artists need a combination of experiences which include the isolation of working alone, the creative atmosphere of learning from others, as well as a number of other life experiences that provide the ideas that feed their work.

I strongly suggest some form of journaling to record one’s thoughts (both visually and verbally).  Sketching, doodling, or photographing things of interest to you are all helpful in gaining access to your personal sources of inspiration.  Your process of journaling and what to include in it really depends on what ignites your creative furnace.  You might also enjoy gathering things from walks in nature… or gathering ephemera from old magazines, thrift store finds, etc.  If you enjoy textures and patterns, you might collect cloth, lace, or decorative papers that can later be collaged into your works.

Susan Tuttle, Exhibition 36: Mixed Media Demonstrations

I personally enjoy a mixed media approach to creating art, simply because it opens up the range of possibilities.  Practically anything can become fodder for creative exploration.  I enjoy books that provide lots of ideas for how to bring ideas together, giving the reader permission to try anything.

I occasionally check on the blogs of other artists to see what they are creating, and I just found out that an artist I’ve been following has just released a book about exploring collage.  I’ve just checked it out on Amazon, and this looks like a really good one to get my hands on, so I’m spreading the word:

Susan Tuttle’s new book is called Exhibition 36: Mixed Media Demonstrations (Amazon link)

Susan is offering a free book in her contest for those who mention the book on their blog.  I could really use this book to add to inspiring ideas for my own art as well as teaching, so I’m hoping I have a good chance of winning the book! (see this page of her blog for details on this, if you’d also like a chance at this).  While you’re there, check out some of Susan’s amazing mixed media art.  Here’s an example of one of her assemblages, titled, “I Went to the Woods”:

(Update: I didn’t win the book, but trying for it gave me the idea of occasionally reviewing art books that I think are particularly inspiring.  Look forward to seeing some art book reviews in the future).

Posted by admin on Dec 15th 2008 | Filed in art, art classes, art community, creative process, creativity, mixed media | Comments (2)

the fruits of solitude

I’ve been craving a bit of solitude lately.  Speaking of this need to a friend, she offered me her place for the weekend, while she was out of town.  After sharing houses for years, this small break was like heaven for me.  I decided to make it into my own little creative/spiritual retreat.  The focus was to read, write, walk, paint and meditate… and nothing else.   I highly recommend this to anyone who feels overwhelmed by the pressures of the everyday.  Whatever it is that engages you with your higher self, focus on nothing but this for a day, a weekend, a week… whatever you can afford to give yourself.

At the outset, I decided not to judge whatever I produced.  This is time for me, not for pumping out salable artwork.  Sometimes the pressure of that is itself debilitating.  I wanted to flow with whatever came up for me.

I started the painting above a little before the retreat, but brought it along to have at least one thing that already had a beginning.  It was the freshest thing in my studio.  It began with star-shaped flowers…. then the swirling sky.  I started to see a bird in the sky, so I painted that.  Then I saw the woman.  It’s not finished, but I sort of like it this way right now.  When I come to a place where I don’t know what to do next, I stop.  I feed my senses with something else until the next step announces itself.  I read, walk or I paint something else.

I was at a loss about what to paint next.  Mostly, I give myself too many choices, so my biggest dilemma is making a decision.  I got up to make some tea and looked at Joy’s walls for a little while.  I found myself staring at a madonna image.  Mind you, I’m not a religious person (in the traditional way, at least), but when a little voice in my head told me to “paint myself as the goddess”, I decided to do it.  The result is less goddess than peasant, but there’s something I like about it.   One problem I had was that the only mirror I had with me was a two inch magnifying mirror, so I can’t see my whole face in it.  I can see one eye, a nose, my lips in isolation… but could not see the whole at once.  So I decided that was my challenge, to figure out how to make them work together. I struggled with the proportions.  I’ve finally come to a place with it that I recognize myself, though there is some odd distortions.  It still needs some work, but I don’t want to overwork it. I want to leave it partly unfinished.

(When Joy came back, she was surprised, and told me that she put that madonna image up for me, and wondered if I would see myself in it).

I started a couple other little paintings which are still in their beginning stages.  In both, I started with a textured background by pressing plastic wrap into wet paint.  It was easy to see trees, branches and leaves in this, so I took out my oil pastels and started to define these shapes.  Not too surprisingly, a river formed in both of these paintings as well.  The image of water and trees is something that bubbles up in meditation frequently these days.   I visualize this body of water (a stream or river more than an ocean).  At first, I am only aware of the reflections on the water.  The water reflects the sky and shadows of trees above.  I feel gently pulled into it.  It’s like I am on an invisible boat.  I don’t have a body, but I sense myself being pulled along the river.  I am lost in the motion of ripples, the reflection, the shadows.  This is the archetypal landscape of my soul: water, trees, sky…

I realize that I want to paint from the source more frequently.  To go outside and paint what I see in the reflections of the water.  But it was a rainy weekend, so I decided “the source” was whatever I could pull out of what I saw in the paint.  These are timid beginnings so far, but I see the potential already.  Again, I like looking at the work before it’s been fully realized.

Another thing I thought about painting (but didn’t) was a pomegranate, based on images that have come up in both meditations and dreams.  But when I opened the fruit, I was confounded by the complexity of hundreds of seeds.  I decided to do a photographic study instead, to help me decide how I wanted to approach the subject before I try to paint it.  The night before I went out to purchase the pomegranate, I burned a candle that overflowed.  I picked up the wax and realized that it also resembled the pomegranate, so I posed it with the fruit, which seemed to emphasize the sense of oozing.  I ran the image through some Photoshop filters to see how different colors affected the image.

In my dream during this retreat, I was eating the pomegranite seeds (sharing it with Joy, who was sharing her home with me).  I looked down on my plate and was surprised to see that the seeds were glowing like little light-bulbs.  I knew it was about embracing the feminine archetype… to learn about and hold this power… and to realize that my connection to this world is through the senses, to embrace that also.


Masters of The Dynamic Still Life

Early in my art career I had a resistance to the still-life genre, perhaps because my college professors created pretty boring set-ups of mangled mannequins, bicycle wheels, broken chairs and all sorts of uninspiring material. I’ve always been more inspired by working from my imagination or a symbolic narrative.  However, since I’ve started teaching art, I’m forced to acknowledge the fact that (1) it’s difficult to teach imagination; and (2) learning to “see” and paint what you see is of great value.

A still-life is also a great starting point for the imagination to interpret what it sees.  Setting up objects creates a perfect situation for studying the effects of light, shadow, and color… and the fact that you have the opportunity to arrange and rearrange the composition allows for more freedom and control than practically any other subject.

Before beginning on a still-life, I feel that it’s a good idea to look at the masters of the genre… those that were able to transcend the subject of “objects on a table” into a work of personal and subjective relevance.

Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906): “Apples and Pears”

Cézanne was interested in the simplification of naturally occurring forms to their geometric essentials. He is one of the first artists to be spoken of when referring to the idea of the “dynamic” still life.  If you look closely at almost any of his paintings, you will notice that he chooses a rather precarious balance to his themes.  There are a few things to notice in the example above.  First, the horizon line is only slightly tilted, so that there’s a feeling of stability, yet not quite stable.  The plate is also tilted, and the fruit look like they might easily fall off the table.  This isn’t completely obvious to the casual observer, but even these slightly unstablizing factors prevent the composition from becoming totally static.  I’ve added a detail of the painting to help the student see the texture of the paint.  It also serves as an idea of abstracting the image further.

Cézanne’s explorations of geometric simplification later inspired Picasso, Braque and others to experiment with ever more complex multiple views of the same subject, and, eventually, to the fracturing of form (cubism).

To view more works by Cézanne, visit this link.

Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903): “Still Life Fete Gloanec”


Paul Gauguin’s artworks are frequently characterized by an intense color palette.  His most famous artworks were interpretations of an idyllic life of peasants in Tahiti. His still-life paintings are less known, but were consistent with the rest of his work in that they tended to simplify the subject and key up the colors into somewhat unnatural hues.

A Post-Impressionist, Gauguin’s bold and colorful paintings significantly influenced Modern art, especially artists Matisse, Picasso, Braque, and Derain (including the movements of Fauvism, Cubism, and Orphism among others).

To view more of Paul Gauguin’s artworks, visit www.paul-gauguin.net


Vincent Van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890): Sunflowers, Irises, and Lemons

Vincent Van Gogh’s artworks span the subjects of landscape, portraiture and still-life.  He worked at a feverish pace, producing almost 900 paintings between  a span of 9 years (1881-1890).  He painted quickly, deliberately, and almost always from live subjects.

“I can’t work without a model. I won’t say I turn my back on nature ruthlessly in order to turn a study into a picture, arranging the colors, enlarging and simplifying; but in the matter of form I am too afraid of departing from the possible and the true.”

Van Gogh firmly believed that to be a great painter you had to first master drawing before adding color. Over the years he clearly mastered drawing and began to use more color. His early works were shadowed by the dark color themes of Dutch realism, but after viewing the works of the French Impressionists, his color scheme shifted to the tints and tones of a brighter world.  In time, one of the most recognizable aspects of Van Gogh’s paintings became his bold use of color.  The energetic use of line and brushwork is also a trademark of Van Gogh’s work.

To view more of Van Goghs drawings and paintings, visit www.vangoghgallery.com

Georgio Mirandi (Italian, 1890-1964): the muted still-life

Morandi was the master of monochromatic compositions of subtle power.  He tended to emphasize the shapes and profiles of his objects with gentle shifts in color, unified with an even-handed, brushy application of paint.  He preferred matte surfaces and neutral colors. Boxes and bottles were stripped of labels and sometimes painted white or gray to destroy reflections and homogenize the materials, reducing them to essential forms. In this way, his still life paintings became studies in abstract geometric archetypes.

To view more works by Giorgio Morandi, visit this site.

Georgia O’Keefe (American, 1887-1986)

Georgia O’Keefe’s studies of natural forms are generally viewed less as still-lives than powerful expressions of abstracted realities.  She did occasionally set up objects on a table, but more often there is no reference to man-made forms in these paintings.  Sometimes (especially in the case of her bone-studies) she would float the subject agains an expansive sky.

Wikipedia says, “O’Keeffe has been a major figure in American art since the 1920s. She is chiefly known for paintings in which she synthesized abstraction and representation in paintings of flowers, rocks, shells, animal bones and landscapes. Her paintings present crisply contoured forms that are replete with subtle tonal transitions of varying colors.”

Patrick Chi Ming Leung (born in Hong Kong 1953; resides in Canada)

I actually know very little about this artist.  I discovered him by wandering the web, researching artists of the still life.  I immediately recognized something very powerful in the way that he abstracts natural forms into circles, lines, textures, and shapes.  It makes me realize that it’s possible to push the possibilities of each, simultaneously !   I’ve enlarged a section of the above painting in order to focus on what is happening, at a spatial level.

I’ll soon write to the artist and see if I can gain any insight into his process and thoughts (and to obtain permission to use his image).

For more images by Patrick Chi Ming Leung, visit gallery site.

Joseph Plasket (Canadian, 1918- ):

Another discovery from browsing the web, Joseph Plasket actually has quite a renowned reputation and I’m surprised I hadn’t come across him before.  Joseph Plasket comes to us from Canada.   He’s a gem (and I want to meet him!)

What I appreciate most about these compositions is that the still-life subjects are rendered in a lively attention to detail, seeming fairly realistic, yet slammed against the plane of rectangles, squares and octagons.  It’s as if two planes of dimensional space have intersected or collided with each other.  Brilliant!  In some ways it goes further than the discovery of Cubism by Picasso.  Picasso smashes space up into a bucket of glass and puts it back together into a less recognizable form.  Joseph Plaskett has performed a trick on our perceptions also, but it seems a friendlier place to me.  It’s the kind of world that I would like to step into, with all of its pure hue, elegant shapes, and colored light.

I love how he can take the same basic forms and, combining each with a different light and temperature, creates completely different atmospheres!

Reflections on Turning 90, by Joseph Plasket:

“The ecstasy I feel as I survey  work I have done I want to share with the world – not the whole world  which couldn’t care less, but my private world, which is my country, Canada. An aged painter cannot help but accept the fact that his work belongs in the past. Younger painters have leaped into the phenomenon called contemporary, where it would be foolish of me to try to enter. But I can claim my own phenomenon, the existence of a public that loves and is moved by what I do, and this public even includes my peers some of whom are young and contemporary. I now paint works that I would previously have not been capable of painting, works that take me by surprise and leave me in a state of wonder and amazement. When I see older work that has stood the test of time (not everything I do does) I cannot recall how I have done it. At a certain point the painting seems to have painted itself without my help – what I have called the “eureka” moment when a sudden daring intervention has worked a miracle.”

In my personal opinion, the worlds that Joseph Plasket has created is just as contemporary as anything else I’ve seen.  I see that he has fractured the world into 2 planes: the receding objects on the table, and the flat plane of the table, which has a shifted perspective.

To view more paintings by Joseph Plasket, view his gallery webpages.  Here’s another, with more : www.gallery78.com/jplask.htm

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Note: Most of my posts related art instruction, art history, and classes are being posted on private pages, instead of within the main frame of this blog.  Here’s an index of the class-related pages I’ve created so far. You can also view them on the sidebar, under “Pages” (between categories and blogroll), arranged in alphabetical order:

Painting Subjects

Staging a Simple Still-Life

Masters of the Dynamic Still-Life

Contemporary Botanicals, Mixed Media

The Interpretive Landscape

The Interpretive Portrait

Mixed Media/Painting Techniques:

Textured Backgrounds

Acrylic Image Transfers

Combining Pattern and Realism

Color, Space, Repetition

Golden Inspirations: Gold Leaf Painting

Stencils, Stencils, Stencils

Color Theory:

Mandala Color Wheel

Color Wheel Masking

Creating Harmony in Color

Color Shift from a Photographic Source

Posted by admin on Nov 9th 2008 | Filed in art, art history, creativity, modern masters, nature, painting process, still-life | Comments (1)

Combining Pattern and Realism: Thaneeya McArdle

For some time, I have been interested in ideas related to mixing abstract elements of pattern with more realistic interpretations of subjects. Perhaps the most famous artist to be successful at this idea is Gustav Klimt. Almost any appreciator of art will be familiar with his iconic painting, “The Kiss”.

Thaneeya McCardle, Vamoos
For a more contemporary inspiration, I turn to an artist whom I discovered online, Thaneeya McArdle.  I find it interesting that Thaneeya divides her creative focus between completely abstract pattern paintings, photorealism, and what she terms “composite realism”, which combines the worlds of abstraction and representational painting.

The painting at left is part of her ZenPop series. The abstract background is actually an archival giclee of one of her original abstract paintings. This series relies heavily on a stream-of-consciousness method of allowing images to arise and suggest themselves. After selecting an abstract starting point, she chooses a specific image and builds the painting around the image (in this case, a fluffy white sheep). After meticulously painting the sheep in a photorealistic style, she added a decorative abstract border to the top and bottom of the painting.

Thaneeya divides her composite realism works between her “spiritual” and “animaux” subjects.  For this post, I’d like to focus on the animals, which provide the main focal point for the composite image.  I’m including a number of her images here for inspiration (click to view enlargements).

Thaneeya is very generous in illustrating the steps that go into making some of her paintings.  Her Iguana is a particularly good example of mixed media techniques, since she utilizes a collage of book pages, gold-leaf, and acrylic paint.

To view more of her artworks and learn more about the artist, please visit her website at www.thaneeya.com

Posted by admin on Nov 3rd 2008 | Filed in art, creative process, mixed media, painting process, pattern | Comments (1)

Cerulean Song

I recently finished a new painting, which I’ve decided to title “Cerulean Song”.  Cerulean is the variety of blue that dominates the piece, and since it was created specifically  for a “blue themed” show, it seems appropriate to give some reference to that.  It also seemed significant for music or sound to be a part of it’s title, since it feels like the pregnant woman is being called by the owl’s song.

The ideas for my artworks are always generated by the process.  I didn’t even know that this would be my blue themed piece at the beginning, as I started with a red background.  I did a photo transfer of a collaged face as a demo in my painting class, then started painting the rest of the figure from imagination.  The red hair is the only element of the background that still exists.  (I painted an umber over it, then scratched back into the previous layer with my palette knife).  Here’s a side by side of the photographic image that inspired the face, with the one that materialized when I applied layers of paint.  The image became reversed because of the gel medium transfer:

I generally begin by priming my panel with a lighter color (in this case, orange), then use a darker acrylic glaze (burnt sienna).  The photo collage of the face was adhered with acrylic gel medium, then the paper backing was removed to reveal a mirror image of the face.  I worked on the figure enough that I decided to preserve it once I changed my mind about the color scheme.  For students and other artists interested in the process that goes into a painting, I’m including a few photos of the next steps that brought the piece to completion (click to enlarge):

(1) I created a stencil to protect the figure.  I then proceeded to drip various shades of thinned blue oil paint from the top of the panel.  If you look closely, you’ll see that there is also a plastic bag pressed into the painting.  When pulled up, this reveals some of the underground painting. This step gives me some patterns to work with.  (2) Since the drips started to resemble trees, I decided to go with that idea.  I clarified the tree structure first by removing some of the paint with my palette knife (again, revealing the red layer beneath).  I uncovered the figure and had to remove some paint that had seeped in below the tape.  Oil dries slowly, so I knew that as long as the paint wasn’t completely dried, that I would be able to easily remove any seepage. (3) I further developed the blue tones, but at this point, the dress is green. (I later decided to move it even further into the blue range by covering it with turquoise).  The foreground tree (with owl) is painted on a second layer, on plexiglass.

Because the image is somewhat static, it was important to get some vibrating colors to liven up the theme.  So I created lots of dots of color graduating down from the sky into the foreground.  The patterns in the trees also helps to activate the space, as does the expanding rings that float on the top layer.

This painting will be part of a show titled “Blue Square”, at Vina Paradiso (located at 417 NW 10th in Portland). An opening reception is planned on Dec. 3rd, 6pm – 9pm.   30-40 artists are involved, and, in case it’s not obvious enough, all paintings will be square in shape and blue in theme.

Lucid Awakening

This is the artwork I am entering into the “Dreams” show at the Launchpad Gallery, located at 534 SE Oak Street, in Portland. The opening is this Friday, October 3, from 6-10 pm. There’s expected to be over 60 artists showing work in the “dreams theme”.

It’s been a while since I’ve created an artwork that was strictly related to the interpretation of a dream, but since I almost always begin and end a painting without knowing my next step (preferring to start with one image and free associate til the painting completes itself), I think of the painting process as one which is very similar to a dreaming process, anyway. In this particular case, I began with the image of the bird, then added the plants. The semi-transparent woman and swirls decided to materialize at around 2 am the night before the deadline to get this painting into the gallery. Deadlines sometimes help to get the painting from dreaming into actualization… and off the easel.

Posted by admin on Sep 28th 2008 | Filed in Portland, art, art community, art jewelry, creative blocks, dreams, home, process painting | Comments (2)

Hoping for an Indian Summer

Summer is a busy time for me. Between creating websites, creating art, and doing art shows, I manage to keep myself pretty busy. The summer weather is extending through September, for which I am especially thankful. I recall that last year around this time I was already lamenting summer’s end. Fall is gorgeous in Portland also, but I don’t pretend to absolutely love the amount of rain we get in the winters. I’m hoping to hold onto summer for as long as I can. The only really good thing I can say about foul weather is that it might make it a bit easier to get more painting done, with less distractions.

The painting above, “Summer Parade”, was completed about a month ago. It’s a rather small, sweet painting, which was inspired by a photo I took of a child some months back, snapped during a walk through my neighborhood (the original photo is this earlier post). In the original photo, the child bends down a large flower in order to smell it, so I exaggerated the size of flowers to give it more of a fantasy effect. I never figured out whether the child was a boy or a girl, but I like the ambiguity in the painting. It’s a rather smallish piece (8×10 image size), in a recycled frame that I painted.

Posted by admin on Sep 12th 2008 | Filed in art, art community, art jewelry, artisan markets | Comments (0)

Pathways to Transformation

It’s been a long haul this summer. After the three month limbo which finally led to the move to my current home and studio, I had a long process of settling in. Such things are difficult for someone of my Canceran temperament. Since my home is central to all aspects of my expression, I felt the need to immediately get everything in order. As soon as my studio was set up, I wanted to hit the ground running. I made a stab at starting some new paintings, but I was too exhausted to feel creative enough to finish them. I wanted to see some progress in my career, so when I was invited to show at a metaphysical fair on the Oregon beach (Pathways to Transformation, in Yachats), I decided that, if nothing else, it would get me rolling and introduce me to a niche I’ve been wanting to discover. So I confined myself to the studio for a while to crank out some affordable art to sell at the coast.
I’m happy to report that the show went pretty well. It met my expectations of what I needed to make to recover my investment, and I got a lot of great feedback. The most amazing moment of the weekend was when two women discovered me and started buying out all my stuff, making nearly half of my sales within 20 minutes. I was so overwhelmed by the fact that people loved my work so much that they wanted to give a little something to everyone they knew. Whenever I have any doubts about my ability to manifest abundance through my art, I’ll remember this as a defining moment.

Above is a pic sent to me by Jackie Brown, a photographer who also had a booth at the fair. Incidentally, the fair was advertised primarily through New Connexions magazine (which featured my art on its cover for its May/June issue in both 2007 and 2008).

Posted by admin on Aug 8th 2008 | Filed in art, art community, artisan markets, home | Comments (1)

Her Favorite Bonnet

Whenever I get into a period of time when I’m not in a completely regular painting habit, it takes a while for the ideas to begin to emerge. During these times, I feel it’s best to stay open to practically anything my mind wants to entertain.

So why am I painting a lady with a funny hat? Something about painting faces gives me an immediate sense of grounding. I don’t know who this woman is, but she feels oddly familiar to me. Yet, painting a simple portrait feels pretty boring to me. I need some element of fantasy or outlandish detail that keeps me entertained. Now I’m amused by the idea of creating a whole series of people wearing funny hats… or perhaps things that aren’t supposed to be hats (like animals and flowers and birds-nests).

The content aspect of my work often trips me up. The first question is always WHAT to paint. And if I’m feeling stuck, the question becomes a painful deliberation between numerous prospects. Sometimes I have too many ideas. The best thing is just to start with something… anything that I feel I can commit to for the first 10 minutes, and then the creative pixies keep the juices flowing.

The artist’s cooperative gallery that I belong to (”Six Days”, on Alberta Street in Portland) are having a group show related to the theme of Las Vegas. We are calling the show “Six Days in Vegas”. I came home from a meeting on the subject, complaining to my partner that I had to come up with a painting with a Vegas theme, and I’m pretty anti-Vegas in my aesthetics. He pointed out that I already had a painting on my easel that would do the trick. So I added some feathers, changed her blouse to a silky spaghetti strap, reversed the orientation of the background panel… and, Voila!… she’s a show-girl! I renamed the piece, “Vegas Night, 3 a.m.” I’m still contemplating whether I should add a cigarette danging from her mouth.

Posted by admin on Mar 2nd 2008 | Filed in art, creative blocks, creativity | Comments (2)

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