RR Square

It was a glorious Saturday at RR Square in Santa Rosa and everyone seemed to be “out”. I was there with so many of my sketch friends for the first meet up since before the pandemic. Local friends, friends from the Bay Area, former students, brand new sketchers . . . and then all those folks who are always drawn to people putting brush to paper out on the street. 

water soluble pencil and watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal

Windy was one of the people who stopped by, and then stayed to pose and tell us about her travels.

I followed friends over to the old graffiti covered brick facade west of the RR track and got that sudden immersion in street traffic noise and pedestrian walk-bys of the kind that one takes for granted as an on-location urban sketcher. A bit of a shock for this pandemic-stay-at-home-and-sketch-from-the computer artist of the past year. Fast and dirty, and it felt wonderful!

I got busy talking to friends though and got behind on sketching. For one, Richard Sheppard, friend of many years who is also moving away, and will be greatly missed by this community! And dear people with whom I share memories. . . Anyway I was too late to try to make out those building structures across the street from the Furniture Depot, so I populated my visual space with friends and got some paint on it. A supremely satisfying day!

If you are interested in joining a sketch group in Sonoma County you can ask to join the Facebook group Ready, Set Sketchers

RR Square’s Charlie Brown, painted by me in 2006

My memories of making art in RR Square go back years. The RR Square Charlie Brown statue I painted back in 2006 still stands at 4th and Davis St. You’ll find more about its creation here on my blog

Mother’s Day Packing

I have now trudged back through three decades of accumulated art, books, and papers, armed with a tape gun, an essential tool these days. Wrap those sturdy boxes up tight, they advise, so even if the movers throw them onto the truck, the contents will land intact.

My flat files are empty, if not flat. My bookshelf is empty except for a cow’s skeletal head, which I want to keep, but haven’t figured out how to pack yet.

And I’m collecting various treasures off the walls, like the art studio quotes which have sustained me through the treacherous narrows of brutal self critique. Here’s one:

When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you – your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics. . . and one by one, if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting YOU walk out.

-Philip Guston

the pink tape will go on boxes headed for my studio

Notice that although the boxes are filled, I have not finished taping them shut. I have a terrible fear that I will forget something important and be unable to locate it on the other end, or even next week. My memory relies too much on things that I must locate, like keys, and sketchbooks and old paintings.

But you’ll want to know if I will have a studio again in my new home in Olympia, Washington. Yes, but it will be a garage conversion and take a bit of time. And it will be quite lovely and spacious and I will find spaces to make art until it is completed. And thank you for asking!

Sunday was of course Mother’s Day and I was blessed to be able to spend it in person with one son and on the phone with the other. It was a packing day, but ended with martinis and sketching in the garden.

yes, it was my first martini, in memory anyway

This is an old game we play and both enjoy it. Sketching each other quickly. The martini loosens the inhibitions. Whether that helps the result is debatable. Here’s Andrew’s of me.

by Andrew

I was very happy with this one. It was flattering and made me look quite pleasant in the way I like to think of myself!

And then today he sent this picture to his brother Ben (who lives in Nashville) with the message “You’ve ben my muse for so long”

Andy draws Ben on the front step of our house, circa 2001.

We all got a chuckle out of that. I hope I saved the portrait he did in one of the mystery boxes in the garage!

Packing is letting your history sift through your fingers again, losing and finding chunks of memory and having to decide which are important enough to keep. Touch decisions, every one. No wonder I’m so exhausted!

Caterpillar Time

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar

My orange spiked beauties are munching their way through the pipevine which carpets the upper studio garden. Their exponential growth is a sobering reminder that my own remaining time here is rapidly dwindling. They are already making their way down the path to their hidden places where they will transform into their paper-like cocoons to sleep until next season.  Meanwhile I am supposed to be packing for my own transition to a new (cocoon)home. 

But there are so many other things to do first! Travel arrangements, insurance, health care, moving boxes and schedules, consultations with owners and buyers and decisions about what furniture to bring/not bring/leave, and more. And then there’s the precious time to sit with friends who I won’t see for a while. 

Sylvester

And time to spend with Sylvester, who seems to know something’s going on, and plops down in my path throughout the day, purring and baring his irresistible tummy, while never allowing me to touch it! This takes time . . . to slow down and talk sweetly to him and not startle him away in my impatience to “get things done”!

Caterpillars, human friends and Sylvester. . .These feel like stolen moments, and maybe that’s the appeal. Like cutting extra thin slivers off the chocolate cake when you’ve already had “enough”.  And then there’s the stolen minutes after dinner, painting portraits.

White pencil and white gouache on black toned paper
White gouache and a touch of watercolor on black toned paper

The more playful I get with gouache, the more I like it! Like what happens with the dry brush in the hair. I’m learning to not smooth everything down.

gouache on beige toned paper

This woman is one of the indigenous Clan Mothers of the Bears Ears southwestern lands that are being threatened by fossil fuel development. You can read about them here. Their voices are powerfully moving. . .

When the land calls — you answer.

When your mother calls — you answer.

I’ll be doing some more portraits of these matriarchs who can inspire us all! 

And now, back to the packing (which I haven’t really started yet!)

Limbo-land

It’s limbo-land for us a while longer, six more weeks to be exact until the moving truck comes. How does one live in the NOW when there is so much planning to do? How will our furniture fit in the new house? What should we leave behind? What about insurance and medical care and internet provider and so much more that we take for granted when we stay put?

I also do a lot of wondering about things like what birds and insects and other creatures will inhabit my surroundings so that I can feed them or possibly discourage them or just merely come into relationship with them. I’m told there’s lots of rabbits. I’m down for that! but what birds and where will they be building nests? and what kind of butterflies?

Questions like these always lead to the art, as in this one. . .

powdered graphite, powdered pigment, collage on w/c paper

Today I asked

pleaded really

for my winged friends to come with me to the new house

to perch on branches, build their nests in bushes, lay their eggs

to fill the air with buzzing chirping fluttering soaring singing squawking cooing pecking humming munching flapping splashing

I asked them to please find their way to my windows

to reassure me that I still inhabit a nature wonderland.

So that I will look up from my table

to meet the eyes of some new bird

who finds me as exotic and revelatory

as I find her/him/them.

This is how I’ll know

I have found my way home again.

 

Mission Accomplished!

We have a new home in the Pacific Northwest! Last week, about ten days into my Washington state odyssey, just when I was feeling a touch of despair at soon being “homeless”, we found an Olympia property that we fell in love with. When I say “we” I mean me, and my husband Bob (at home here in Sebastopol and with me on Facetime), and my dear friend Janet who was with me every step of the way, driving me around, helping me with sanity checks, while we explored the area with walks in the woods and on the beaches. And then there was our tireless realtor Connie, whose energy in this thoroughly nerve wracking endeavor never flagged. Our offer was accepted and we move in June!

My best estimate is that moving takes up 95% of ones mental real estate for weeks/months, and possibly a larger percentage of physical energy! For three days after our offer was accepted I took an average of two naps a day. So in between naps and phone calls to arrange details, I would pick up my brush and paint a bit. One day I even walked to a park across the street to sketch a “living table” for a half hour!

watercolor and pen in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook

And then a couple more portraits. . .

watercolor on beige toned paper

My weariness shows here! I couldn’t bring myself to finish the clothing!

watercolor and white gouache on beige paper

(Both portraits from pictures posted on the Sktchy app)

And now I’m home in Sebastopol again, enjoying the spring garden explosion, looking forward to seeing friends, and little by little packing and clearing. Will it never end? Ah, but yes!  Now I can see the end and am breathing deep again.

Thanks for hanging in there with me! The blog isn’t going anywhere and I hope you’ll stay with me.

Metamorphosis for real

Sitting in my AirBnB in Puyallup, Washington (near Tacoma) where I’ve been for the past week on the solemn mission of finding a new home for us. I was looking forward to some rain! but seem to have brought the California weather with me. Each day has been a mixture of driving around, looking at properties, FaceTiming Bob (who’s back in Sebastopol packing) so he gets to experience the walk through of the houses and ask questions, and then lengthy strategy sessions on the phone with him and the realtor.

And in between all that is adapting to a new environment with curiosities like . . . Massive multicolored statues of farm animals outside a chain mattress store. . .self service dog wash huts. . .jaw dropping views of 14,000ft snow clad Mt. Ranier from MacDonalds parking lots. . . Well named Happy Eggs with bright orange yokes. . .24 hour gourmet grocery and plant nursery (Tacoma Boys) and lots more. 

 

Acrylic and gesso

I have watched a butterfly struggle to be “born”, to wiggle its way out of its paper encasing. I stood by silently cheering it on, impressed by the apparent difficulty inherent in the process and in awe of the determination it takes. In some ways I feel like the butterfly right now, relying on my instincts to find my way into this new life, but then complicating it with constant mind chatter, doubts and fears! 

Yes, we’ve seen some lovely possible homes, gotten attached to a couple of them and are making offers. It’s one of those sellers’ markets and now we’re in the buyer seat. Not much chance to paint,but here’s a couple portraits for sanity sake this week.

 

Watercolor on beige toned paper
On gray toned paper

Loving Gouache on Toned Paper

Catching up on posting some more recent portraits here before I head off for house hunting in Washington on Saturday! I’m taking my toned paper sketchbooks with me to continue Portrait Art for Sanity Sake 

gouache on black toned paper, Stillman and Birn NOVA Trio sketchbook

I never pursued oil painting due to the smell, which I loved but couldn’t tolerate. But gouache is similar to oil in many ways, the viscosity and opacity, so it’s a great way for a watermedia artist to play around with challenging new techniques. While I’m painting with it, it tends to feel wrong, due to so many years now working with transparent pigments, but by the end I’m usually happy I tried.

gouache on black toned paper

Pretty intense looking guy, huh. Pure soul in those eyes. I’m getting these wonderful poses courtesy of members of the Sktchy app who are artists sharing pictures of themselves or others for the purpose of creative portraiture. The most recent 30faces30days challenge/course is finished but there are always new courses coming up, if you want to check it out.

watercolor on grey toned paper finished with w/c pencil

My efforts at this pose were a reminder that, when you’re painting children, you need a lighter hand. This girl is at least five years younger than my portrait! Something to practice. . .

w/c and white gouache on grey toned paper

It would be hard to go back to painting on white paper! So I ordered another NOVA trio book to take on my trip.

When I come back in about a month, the garden will look different, so I’m taking new pictures every day of the garden as it explodes into blooms, each one of which is occupied by a butterfly at least once each day.

a busy spring palette!

Andrew here, holding a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, drying its wings after newly emerging from its chrysalid. Now they are fluttering in dizzy mating pairs and laying eggs in the vine. I hope to see legions of those munching polka dotted caterpillars before we’re gone! 

Toe tapping with promise

I just watched the new movie Godzilla vs Kong with “the boys”. That might help understand how this art piece came about. Some of that creature action worked its way into my art. The image reads in the dream language of paint and paper to reveal aspects of my current state of affairs!

Fluid acrylics, gesso, collage on w/c paper

 

Toe tapping through the city

After Godzilla and Kong 

Got done toppling

 

Here’s what’s left:

an egg rolling

and it’s got passengers

going somewhere

 

They don’t know where . . . yet

But it’s got promise

and a space needle

and bright gleaming places

And those toes keep tapping . . .

 

No earthquakes or tornadoes (or fires or any of the other dries) here where I am in sunny No. California. Not even a storm or even a drop of rain for a while. All’s quiet and familiar, but it’s getting to be time to move on to house hunting in the south of Seattle area. And along with this, there’s a silent and powerful kind of psychic dismantling and reimagining going on. Great for dream action!

A Bifurcated Goddess of Spring

Spring is the time of year when I’m most content with just sitting and staring dumbly at nature’s exuberances. My Piscean March birthday makes me particularly vulnerable to wanting to weep at the beauty of it all.

But this year is particularly poignant because we are about to leave this gorgeous home of ours for the north country. The house sale is pending, and I’m off next week to find our next home in the south Puget Sound area of Washington.

For weeks now I’ve been living in two worlds in my imagination. Were I a more experienced shaman, perhaps I would move more gracefully between the imaginal realms without the upheaval of loss and dislocation alternating with expectation and exhilaration. But maybe not. 

rorschach with ink and gesso, collage and acrylics on w/c paper

Two sides of the same coin

Doppelgangers

Me in two places

North and South

East and West

Sun and Rain

or

A split personality

A here today there tomorrow

A bifurcated goddess of Spring

Dwelling in two regions at once

Traveling the sensory tapestry

Of the be here/there now

A shaman riding the dragon’s tail

Landing softly in two places to

Be ready

        for both

Gaze

      Touch

             Listen

                   Sniff and

Taste!

Portrait Art for Sanity Sake

watercolor on beige toned paper in Stillman + Birn NOVA TRIO sketchbook

I always learn a thing or two from Canadian artist Margriet Aasman on Sktchy. In the demo that inspired this portrait of mine she used red and blue pencils for some strategic lines and then proceeded with watercolor. It just really perked things up! along with some white accents on the toned paper. The hard part, as always, was getting the nose in the right place in this slightly off center pose.

It was easier to draw the second time. Figured I’d try it again, this time with gouache, for me a more difficult medium.

gouache on white paper

Honestly I almost gave up on gouache again, enough to throw caution to the wind with the hair. And that turned out to be my favorite part! The lesson in this, as always, is relax, take a chill pill. Painting is not meant to be torture.

watercolor on white w/c paper

Another of the Sktchy lessons in the 30faces30days March series was with a Russian artist Michael Solovyev. He uses the strangest scraggly looking brushes and makes it look like magic. He kept saying you don’t paint the figure, you paint the light!  By the end I was ready to give it a try. He’s right of course. The other brilliant thing he said was to keep the contrast down in the shadow areas. 

colored pencil, watercolor on gray toned paper

Then Andrew posted a picture on Sktchy and I couldn’t resist painting it. I got this far and it was really looking like him and that scared me. So instead of adding more paint and possibly ruining it, I stopped and photographed it. The look is androgenous and angelic, neither of which I would use as adjectives to describe my son. 

So I kept going, and then stopped again. The values weren’t right. 

So I added darker value to the side of his face and called it quits. It’s always an arbitrary stopping point. I run out of patience, time, skill, whatever and it’s time to move on!

gouache on black toned paper

The NOVA Trio toned paper sketchbook has three tones: Grey, Black, and Beige. For a while the beige was my favorite, then grey, and now black!! I love the drama of it, and by the time I finished this one, I’d decided to go over to the gouache side for a while.

Gouache on black toned paper

And today Andrew and I both decided that gouache is where it’s at. It’s F’in lit! (Can you tell I’ve been hanging out with a 28 year old?) I mean, so much drama at your finger and brush tips! especially on black toned paper.

Meanwhile we’re showing our house for sale, which means vacating the house a bit each day after making everything shipshape. Even a bit of art making helps keep us sane.