A Lesson in Pouring Acrylics

We poured acrylics this week in Muse Group, using Pouring Medium (Liquitex or Golden) mixed with fluid acrylic paint (about 10/1) poured from cups we mixed it in. The Pouring Medium gives you a leveling paint film with “rheology” or “flow”. So the colors flow together as you tip the paper back and forth. It also gives you spontaneous effects that you could never have dreamed up or accomplished “on purpose”. And if you have a fertile imagination, which I’m sure you do! the image which results might even have something to say!

pianogrief

fluid acrylics mixed with pouring medium and moved with a rubber spreader

I’ve been hanging here a long while. Not at all the budding musician I was at eight when Mom would drop me off at the piano teacher’s house, until I’d endured three years of mediocrity and dread about recitals. . .and learned to play a bit, Fur Elise and all that. . .and then quit.

Fast forward 60 years and another try at it. . .for fun this time. . .until it seemed that the bit I could play had only shrunk.

And so our lovely piano is on its way out now, for sale to someone worthier. No longer will I own that bit of cultural cache. My chin sinks, along with those early dreams of musical excellence (WHICH WERE MY MOM’S, NOT MINE!)

You gotta love moms. I mean it’s great the way they root for you, tell you to hang in there because you can accomplish something great. My mom actually thought I would be an accomplished pianist (like she wished she had been).

fishies

Once again this was fluid acrylics mixed with pouring medium, dripped from a cup onto watercolor paper. The marbling effects spontaneously appeared as the paper was tilted! The hungry fish that appeared was so engaging that I created some other fish from acrylic skins. It’s easy to make acrylic skins with the leftover pouring medium mixture by pouring it onto plastic, letting it dry, and cutting out shapes! I glued the little fish down with gel. Now the big kahuna will not go hungry!

Advertisements

Duncans Mills with the Ready, Set, Sketchers

Duncans Mills is a “tiny hamlet” along the Russian River one encounters on the way to the beach at Jenner. It’s colorful in an historic and commercial way and immensely sketchable. The Ready, Set, Sketchers were meeting up there on Saturday and I happily joined them.

Years ago I did several “watercolor paintings” of the area, but wanted to do some quicker sketches in my book that told some part of the story of the place this time.

duncansmills2

For some reason it’s always easier for me to sketch a building if I can put a figure in front of it. Luckily I could see this fellow in our group from my spot in the shade!

duncansmills1

Duncans Mills is really all about the shops and gardens in between. I was fascinated by the rusty filagree of this gazebo and the fact that you could see through it to the garden and seats behind.

duncansmills3

This was a quicky I got in just before we shared our sketches. Sitting under a tree across the street I thought I’d be less likely to make my usual mistake of overdoing the details. What happened was a reliving of the happy memories of the times we were invited to join the camping club on the river when the boys were young!

If you’re in the Sonoma County or northern San Francisco Bay area you may want to join us on one of these regular monthly sketch meet ups on the second Saturday of each month. Check it out on Facebook here. You would be most welcome!

 

Meditation Garden and Art at TLR

Once a week for the past month I’ve been entering through the gate at The Living Room (TLR) laden with art supplies for the mixed media expressive art class. Ruth from the Muse Group meets me there, also laden with fun art stuff. This week she found me in the garden sketching a lovely corner of the day shelter compound that I hadn’t captured in sketches yet – the Meditation Garden.

TLRmeditationgarden

I was well into this sketch when the subject I would have liked to sketch – a woman who is the owner of the bike – showed up. In the shade of the arbor she unpacked a loaded backpack, got it organized and repacked before heading out on the bike. There’s always a great deal of packing and unpacking going on here at this place where women come for day time respite and services before heading out again, to manage lives that are often lacking in secure housing.

On the day of our art group the resource room where we meet is a bustling place with women using computers for email and phones for inquiries about jobs, housing and a million other life concerns. As they finish up and file out to the hot lunch which is being served in the dining area, we turn the room into an art room with watercolor paper  and colorful inks and acrylic paints spread around the tables, along with stencils and stamps and squirters and scrapers and rollers for application. At noon the women start wandering in, up to seven or eight of them, and soon the small room is full of artists who have no trouble figuring out what to do with the paints!

Ruth and I quickly realized that what these folks needed was not an art class but an opportunity to play with materials without being encumbered by performance expectations. (Don’t we all need that!?)

This past week the room filled with a happy, raucous energy that was reflected in the paintings.  It was the last of our meetings in this series. (The regular Expressive Arts team returns with their wonderful program this coming week.) I think we were all a bit sad to have to draw our time to a close, possibly even especially Ruth and I.

I’ll be back this week though and probably for years to come, helping out with the meditation group, sketching stories and best of all, seeing my friends.

Afrolicious

Another summer concert at the plaza in Healdsburg this Tuesday. Afrolicious, as described on their website features:  inspiring lyrics, funky bass lines, and a powerful horn section while retaining the soul and feel of classic funk, disco, Latin, and Afrobeat melodies.

Carole and I immediately spotted the visuals and scoped out the possibilities of positioning ourselves so that we could have an unobstructed view. It’s the age old problem of getting close enough to see, let alone draw, without getting trampled by the dancers or blasted by the amplifiers. The volume was turned up to ear splitting levels that even our sound dampening ear plugs couldn’t handle.

afrolicious

But the side and back view sometimes works well enough. And the group was engaging with their music and audience appeal. They invited the little kids on stage to “help” them drum and the grown ups to sing along on the chorus. Another warm summer night of music and community spirit.

I finished it up at home with a bold glaze of underpainting and a few accents of color to finish.

A True Tree Friend

There are those trees that end up being old friends. I have lunch with this well-worn apple tree each day lately. I’m watching for birds in its boughs as I munch my salad, but it’s the tree memories that are revealed.

It remembers the day after we moved in over 19 years ago and a neighbor boy arrived to play with our boys of the same age. The boy climbed the little tree and landed on the ground as one of the major limbs broke off. The little tree kept growing and giving shade and shelter to animals in its hollow core ,and fed many generations of goldfinches and Jays and doves and even some flashy Orioles. The occasional squirrel noisily raided its stash. The cats climbed into its arms to see why the birds were getting fed before them! And then there was the time when an errant rooster, that was terrorizing the neighborhood with its untimely crowing, could be found returning to the tree each day.

appletree2

So after lunch I responded to the tree’s need to have it’s story told. It wasn’t the first sketch I’d done over the years. There’s somehow more feeling in it each time though – a kind of bitter-sweetness as we age together.

Yesterday we went around propping up the leaning towers of hollow apple tree trunks. It would be too sad to lose my old friend and the others which are bending under the weight of Gravenstein apples right now.

appletree1

My friend, twisted and bent, a bit like I feel sometimes – I study the beauty of your curves and knots. It’s my way to pay homage to your grit and endurance. . .I’m always listening for your complaints, but hearing none but my own. Stay with me a while longer dear friend.

Sierra adventure continued:

Laurie had done some pretty good scouting in the area and found a spot with one of those barns with the gorgeous weathered wood, and nearby a dried up bog with clay the color of the barn! Apparently it was an old Basque sheep herders’ camp.

So we followed her out to the spot where she dug up the clay, and adding gum arabic and glycerine (which she had brought along), proceeded to make watercolor pigment for us to paint with! Gotta love that enthusiasm for connecting with nature in our art.

Laurieintheclay

I took my little sketchbook out to the field to get a quick sketch of the barn and the wonderful cement? oven in another small building – kiln or bread over, we couldn’t tell. It would have made a great pizza oven too!

CarmenValley

Practicing sky, weathered barn, distant hills and grasses here. Greener and lighter blues on the horizon and warmer/darker ones higher up.

passthepainting

The last morning we drove out to the wide open expanse of grasslands with the backdrop of mountains and constantly changing cloud formations. The lesson was to go BIG! BIG brushes and paper. So that we wouldn’t get all attached to getting it right, but rather feel free to be more expressive with our brush strokes without fear of screwing it up, we played the pass-the-painting game.  With each new step of the painting a new person added their personal touch! Skies, distant mountains, nearer mountain, trees on the near mountain, grasses, fence, etc. Here are our creations all laid out before we said goodbye to our wonderful teacher and new friends.

LemonCanyonRanch

Before Bettina and Anni and I headed over to Sierra Hot Springs for an afternoon soak, I added this one to my travel sketchbook.

SalmonLake

Next day Bettina and I went to Salmon Lake for a bit of hiking and sketching. Sometimes even on a gorgeous day, there are times when it is almost impossible to get comfortable enough to focus on sketching a scene. Can you relate?  For some reasons the mosquitos were quite hungry – for me, not Bettina! – and the sun was so bright I couldn’t see my colors, and when I finally got enough bug spray on I could still see the mosquitos circling over my head as they cast moving shadows across my paper! And then I got numb-butt while sitting on granite. But hey, it was great.

FrazierFalls_Bettina

Later we headed up to Frazier Falls and took the trail out to the overlook. The sign read that the falls is at 6500′ and has a 248′ cascade. Here’s Bettina tackling the falls while standing. I found a little spot for my stool in the shade next to her. Meanwhile groups of sightseers looked over our shoulders as they arrived.

FrazierFalls

As we left our spot we passed 2 or 3 groups of men who asked “Did you put me in your painting?” Unbeknownst to us they had been watching us from the other side at the top of the falls.

So we headed to the spot at the top, where you can’t see the falls, unless you bend over the granite edge (no thank you). A fellow sits down at the edge for just long enough for me to sketch him and later build the scene around him.

He noticed me and came over to take a look and was delighted that I’d sketched him. (It’s interesting that it never seems to matter to people that it doesn’t look like them.) Soon we’re talking and I find out he’s a local physician who is writing a book about the mind/brain/spirituality or something and dictating it into a microphone while walking, as well as doing video for his vlog.

FrazierFalls_Paul So the caption here is Vlog meets Blog.

And that completes the bird’s eye view of a week in the Sierras.

Hope you’re enjoying your July 4th celebration! I’m delighted to be home, eating fresh picked plums off the tree, and leaving the roads to other people.

Last week at Sierra Camp

Have you ever chased a sunset with your brush? Mixed paint for an old weathered barn from clay dug up in the woods? Dipped sticks found on the ground into ink to draw trees at twilight while the mosquitoes swarmed?

If you’d been with fifteen of us at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus in Laurie Wigham‘s workshop titled Rock, Wood, Water, Sky you would exclaim Yes! and so much more.

SNFCtent

It’s been a while since I’ve “roughed it”. Some might consider this glamping. I mean, a big tent on a platform, hot showers and all meals provided. Bettina and I shared the tent which was named for a not particularly dangerous snake, the Rubber Boa.

A fork of the Yuba River ran right below us in a roar that drowned out our voices as we spoke to each other across the tent. That, combined with the birdsong in the morning and the stars at night. . .ahhhh!

SNFCdirectorscabin

When I wasn’t in class I collected memories in my little sketchbook.

inktrees

This was no painting -botanicals- in- detail- workshop! Laurie encouraged us at every turn to use new materials and capture the essence of the forest and sky.  We were encouraged to do practice paintings on 5″ tall accordian-folded watercolor paper. I did these trees at dusk with sticks dipped in black and brown inks. Later I practiced sunset colors over the top.

sunsetatthebridge

One evening we had a picnic by our cars to paint the sunset by the wetlands where there was more birdlife than I’d ever experienced in one place! Note that all the black marks on the photo above are not dust, but birds. Swallows, yellow headed and red winged blackbirds, Ibises, Sandhill Cranes, a Harrier or two, Grebes, singly or in massive flight patterns in the skies; all adding their melodious vocals to the night air. . .along with the bass notes of the bullfrogs.

sunsetwithsketch

We lined up with our stools on the one lane dirt road to paint the changing light on our 5X5″ pieces.

sunsetsketch

Suddenly it really was sunset and the colors changed so rapidly that each painting was about 3 minutes worth of trying to capture the impossible chromatic changes.

chasethesunsetsketch

And then it was over, and  on the drive back we kept calling out colors that we saw and the watercolor pigments that would express them.

groupsunset

Next morning we spread them out on the table to share.

groupaspens

Another morning we were up at Yuba Pass (6700 ft) painting the aspen trees with their white trunks and shimmering leaves. The lesson was to try many different ways to save whites. Here we are sharing masking fluids, gouache and special brushes (have you tried the eradicator?)

aspens2

Here’s one of my 5″X2.5″ test pieces with a combination of negative painting the white trunks and painting branches in white gouache.

aspens1

And here’s the woods with a combination of techniques.

janetwithtortouseshellbutterfly

And did I say that one of the best parts of the week was the people; our wonderful teacher Laurie Wigham and the other students? Here is Janet with the tortoiseshell butterfly on her hat. Happily, we had some nature-nerds along who could identify birds, bugs and plants!

lazybones

And although the days were filled with activity from breakfast til nightfall at 9pm, some of us found some time to relax. Like my friend Cathy McAuliff, Laurie’s trusty assistant and veteran nature/urban/etc sketcher.

If this learning scenario sounds appealing to you, you can sign up for Laurie’s workshop nest year or one of the other wonderful workshops later this summer. Check out the workshop calendar.

Stay tuned for more sketch stories from my Sierra week.