Beauty

This Monday each time I looked up from my painting to check on the Muse Group students, they were working intently and without pause on their paintings. No one had questions. There seemed to be a host of silent advisors in the room (the ones we call Muses) directing the activity. In the lesson we were using opaque passages to sculpt and design shapes on transparent under paintings. Rivers of inks and fluid acrylics were flowing onto the pages. Next day I rescued the paper towels from the trash and made a corsage.

corsage

I would like to wear this or make it wall sized. Spray it with shellac to preserve it. Make tiny ones to put on pins or hair clips. Design sheets and mugs and T-shirts. And I will probably do none of these, but go back to my delectable acrylic paints for more stunning combinations, which seem endless!

We’ve been enjoying the poetry of John O’Donahue to inspire our own understanding of Beauty. If you want to partake of his insights you might enjoy his interview on the podcast On Being.

This week we contemplated color. In his book Beauty: The Invisible Embrace O’Donahue wrote “Color is always reaching toward us. The eye is the secret destination of color. A color is never alone for each color arises through the interplay of other colors. Color is always a dance with invisible partners.”

The interplay of complementary colors is just such a dance. Once you know that its the red that makes a green landscape vibrate with green-ness you are gaining access to the secret kingdom of color.

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(class demo using semi-opaque green passages glazed over a red background)

Some Beauty is sharp and cutting, pricking into areas long hidden, letting the air out of bubbles, lurking and then jabbing and hiding again behind blooms and pretty smiles, this floral guise designed to lure and then strike at that which needs cutting down.

Its all in the plan, this poke that teaches even as it hurts, then swabs the wound with its beguiling beauty.

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Apple Press and Petaluma Sketching

If you live in Sebastopol there’s still time to bring your apples over to the free apple press and enjoy the nectarian pleasure of your own fresh apple juice. The volunteer crew will help you out and even clean the press after you and all with enthusiastic smiles. I guess I was too busy with art and such this season to bring my own apple harvest in, so instead I harvested some sketches last Saturday morning.

applepress

The sponsor of this is the Slow Food Russian River group. For those of you who don’t know, the term Slow Food refers to “an alternative to fast food and strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.” Slow however is not how I would refer to the folks doing the apple press procedure. So my pen was moving pretty fast!

And then I got totally distracted by a little girl who was washing apples and then feeding them into the press. When she came over to check out my paints I couldn’t resist loading up a brushload and handing it to her. She knew what to do with it of course. Here’s Adeline’s version of the activity.

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Then last week we were checking out the scene for the upcoming Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher workshop in Petaluma on October 14. We were delighted to find the most appealing spots for sketching, not to mention eating, easy parking etc. So I’m quite looking forward to offering this workshop. For instance there’s the Great Petaluma Mill and the backdrop of those, are they grain shoots?

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and the cutest bistros, bakeries etc to go for the lunch sketch which is always assigned.

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Check out the meal I had. And yet even so I was tortured by the men sitting across from us who ordered a spectacular gluten free chocolate cake and only ate a bite or two! They were so friendly that I know they would have given me the rest, but truly I was already full. I’m quite impressed with these urban sketchers who draw and paint their food when it comes. I’m always too ready to dig in.

There’s still one spot left in the workshop. If you’re interested, visit my website for more info and to contact me.

Mix Those Media! Workshop

Here’s the flyer for a new weekend workshop I’m offering in November ! 

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 1.44.02 PMFor more information check out my website. Feel free to contact me with any questions and to register. Hope you can come!

Back to Muse-ing!

Over the weekend I was busy cleaning and organizing my studio for the influx of Monday Muse Group students. It’s been a four month break in Muse Groups, possibly the longest break since I started teaching them nine or ten years ago! I’d forgotten how things get stirred up when I prepare. While dusting and sorting, my brain was suddenly popping with ideas and excitement and that feeling of nervous anticipation.  I know better than to try to get things all planned out. It’s more about clearing the way for the creative energy of a room full of people who are ready to break out and do something new.

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One new feature in the studio is a wall dedicated to the experimental pieces which are lesson demos in the group. It’s a thin metal rod attached to the wall with tiny bulldog clips for the art.

The lesson for Monday was to use clear contact paper or artist tape as a masking method and then have fun squirting and splattering and smooshing inks. Then to peal off the contact paper or tape, with paint on it, and apply it as collage. I was dying to use my (unused) eclipse glasses in this piece, which turned out to be for all of you who missed the total solar eclipse or even the partial.

luna

Oh you Luna, you divine representative of the cosmos! You set up such a longing in me that day when you eclipsed the sun and left me out of your totality party. What happened as I watched (on my cell phone) the excitement across the country? Nothing here but overcast skies. We got stiffed! My special glasses remained unused. The sky kept its metallic blue gray color and as the minutes ticked by, my heart sank lower and lower. To be left out so cruelly! A cosmic snub. And so today I cut up my unused, never to be used, eclipse glasses and made up my own totality. Ha!

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Here’s another recent example of masking and using the painted tape for collage. This one also follows the eclipse theme, as I found a place for the eclipse stamp I received from a student in the mail.

National Heirloom Expo

This “urban sketcher” headed to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds this week for an agricultural extravaganza, the National Heirloom Expo, otherwise known as the World’s Pure Food Fair!

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I appreciate beautiful organic produce as much at the next person, but I have to admit that the draw for me was the color! The House of Flowers was filled with such diversity of texture, color and just plain outrageous and sometimes alien forms of fruits and vegetables that it took a long time until we could sit down to sketch. Even then my eyes were bigger than my sketchbook and I overdid it! I decided just to go for it with a brush loaded with color and to keep painting for dear life! Fun!

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This is bitter melon. Its health benefits are legendary if you can survive the bitterness. But get a load of those colors and textures! If I could imagine it as a sugary treat I might actually be able to eat it!

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The dahlias next to me here were a tiny portion of the total display, some of them measuring a foot or more across and with layers of multi colored petticoats. A young mother approached me and asked to take a picture of me for her 5 year old daughter who likes to paint. Reminded me that that’s one of the reasons I like to expose myself to public sketching like this. It was a very friendly crowd, and I made some new friends and at times abandoned the sketching to talk or show off my paints or hand out cards.

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Carole and I realized at some point that people considered us part of the display and soon we had some folks camping out with us, watching the brush dip into paint. A bit distracting, but well worth the interruption!

Color Mixing

I have another on-location sketch workshop coming up October 14, Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher! In preparation I got to thinking about all the obstacles to painting with watercolor on location and worrying a bit about this promise of “simplifying” it. From experience teaching these day-long workshops I know that some students will open up a freshly bought and previously unused palette on the day of the workshop. Many of us know this is a recipe at least temporary dismay!

So I’m asking all the students to make a color mix chart with their paints before class. I’ve done quite a few of these over the years and there’s no better way to get acquainted with your palette while learning the subtleties of mixes. You learn how to make black and gray and brown without having them in your palette to muddy things up. (Of course palettes with manufacturer supplied pigments may have those colors in them and then you can choose not to use them!)

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Simply put, you mix each pigment on your palette with each of the other pigments. This chart helps. I picked the eight pigments I would have most difficulty parting with at the moment and made a grid of eight squares. Then I painted squares of those colors across and down in the same order. Next I mixed the colors of each square according to the grid, the vertical with the horizontal. It takes focus, and there’s some value variation based on how much water gets in the mixture and the amount of each pigment in the mix. (The camera has distorted the colors here a bit, but you hopefully get the idea. )

And now I know how to mix an olive green and a brick red and the prettiest violet and deepest forest green, and a purply dark and a mauve. And by doing this I also know which pigments are so intense that they overwhelm the others, and which ones will never give me a dark. I’ve been painting for 23 years and I still learned something from doing this today.

I actually have more paints on my palette, a couple more blues (DS Cerulean Blue Chromium and HB Horizon Blue) and an orange ((DS Pyrrol Orange) that I wouldn’t want to part with. But I think I’ll jetison the Payne’s Gray and Ivory Black. We sketchers just can’t stop futzing with palette colors. It’s too much fun.

So now back to figuring out how to live up to the promise of Watercolor Simplified! Email me if you want to sign up for the workshop. There are still two spots left at this writing.

Music, Photography, Nature

It was so hot today that the yellow jackets took cover in our breezeway, alighting in the shady wall and going comatose. Seemed like a good idea. Sleep til this heat wave has passed.

Last week the weather was kinder and one evening we headed over to Montgomery Village for one of their free concerts.

escovedo2Pete Escovedo and his Latin Jazz Ensemble was heating up that Thursday night in the Latin groove way.  The outdoor mall was so crowded with people dancing that it took a while to work my way up to where I could see the band and do a standing sketch. I’ve decided this may be the best way to sketch musicians. . .while moving to the music! (color added later).

escovedo

I went around behind the stage where there was space for some real dancing! The guy in the middle here really had the moves. And the big guy with the pink head scarf? It really was bright pink, and he didn’t move at all but looked like he wish he knew how!

Then on the weekend Bob and I went to visit our friend Todd Pickering, photographer, musician, and naturalist, (and more!) in Point Reyes and at his gallery in Inverness Park. When Bob and Todd got all technical about the photography, I sat down and tried to capture my favorite parts of Todd’s work and the gallery.

todd

It’s a tiny gallery that somehow makes you feel like you just walked out into the woods, a great place to stop on the weekend when you’re out at Tomales Bay and Point Reyes Park. I was totally mesmerized by his bird photography, especially the barn owls.