Bark and Garden Center

various pens and watercolors in w/c hand.book journal

It was a day of “wintry mix” precipitation last week and we sketchers were not to be deterred. A wintry mix forecast on the weather apps, I’ve learned, means an unpredictable and freezing mix of rain, sleet, and snow with a similar mixture involving some ice on the ground. In all cases it means lots of layers of clothing to put on and take off throughout the day unless you just stay inside. 

Wintry mix does not mix well with sketching on location outdoors, obviously, so the always resourceful Jane Wingfield suggested the perfect solution: the enormous indoor plant nursery at the Bark and Garden Center with its endless (still life-) displays of plants and statuary. And it was a balmy 50 – 60 degree temperature!

Of course the nursery was in full-on Christmas tree, poinsettia and reindeer mode, and I probably go back there to do at least one Xmas card illustration sketch! The owner was so welcoming to us sketchers.

But there was something about this Greco-Roman mother figure that attracted me to sit with her for a while. She seemed powerful and indrawn, and so at one with the enveloping plant life, that the sketching of her became my own afternoon meditation. 

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Asemic Writing with a Folded Pen

You should see my husband Bob’s studio! Every month he’s playing with new materials to add to his already prolific printmaking repertoire. With the frigid weather lately I avoid a trip outside and instead go through his studio to get to mine. With his tantalizing array of paints, inks, pen and tools, occasionally I find something to borrow.

Knowing that I love words Bob had turned me onto the word asemic.  Applied to writing it writing that is unreadable but makes the reader hover in a state between reading and looking and is therefore highly attractive to the reader’s eye.

We tried it out in a Muse Group lesson last month. Then in playing around with Bob’s new calligraphy tools I paired it with an abstract ink pour using a folded pen or ruling pen.

Chinese ink on gessoed paper with asemic writing using a folded pen

Ruling pen rules

Curves round and cups

Spills in brazen

Bold black

No words here

Just an up in your face

Look at me!

Can I rule like you?

Draw attention

To my humble

Piece of parchment

Gather up awe

Drink it in

If your Muse-mind is making up a story about this piece, I’d love to hear it! And you may have just come up with another idea for something to put in your Christmas stocking. These folded pens are inexpensive fun!

Join The Playful Muse in January/February!

If you are local to Olympia, Washington, I hope you can join me in the new year for another Playful Muse mixed media painting series! The banquet of new lessons this round will include acrylic textures, crinkled masa paper, creating patina, transparent glazing, and lots more to tickle your creative spirits. If you type any of those terms into the search window on the right you will find examples of the lessons from previous years, as well as student work. All levels of experience are welcome!

For more information and to register contact me here by email or phone.  

And if you’re not local, I hope you’ll join me here where I share the lessons on the blog!

Thanksgiving Moments

My thanksgiving holiday was pretty much like many people’s with lots of cooking and eating, visiting, getting out to see some sights around town. Ben flew in from North Carolina and Andrew and Holly joined us from Seattle. I snatched some pictures and decided to do so quick sketches from them after the holiday, using the same kind of technique I would use in on-the-lap-on-location sketching/storytelling. 

dip pen and ink in hand.book journal

I rarely take an inkpot out with me because of the chance of spilling it! But this was done in my studio and I didn’t spill it! That’s me at the end of the table. Can you tell?

The day after Thanksgiving Ben wanted some Pacific Northwest nature drama, so we drove out to the ocean at Westport and lucked out by arriving at high tide, a King Tide crashing against the sea wall in 15 foot vertacles, spraying onlookers and flooding the nearby streets. We stuffed ourselves on fish n chips watching the water creep down the road out front.

Afterward we took a walk above the dunes, not wanting to be ON the beach where the tide sometimes drags people out to sea! A very dapper looking pheasant was not to be deterred from his walk on the trail so we followed him for quite a way. And later stopped for coffee at a coffee shop with unique decor. The mannikin at the window seemed to be inviting visitors to come and sit a while with her!

Back home again, Drew (Andrew) took up his favorite spot in the living room. My boys are masters of comfortable poses!

World on the Move!

acrylic inks and paint, collaged textured paper on 10 X 11″ w/c paper

World on the move

Mass Migration

In peaceful flight or famine and plight

Through nourishing rainfall or missiles in skyfall

Emigration, Resettlement

Expulsion, Exodus, Ejection

Dispossession, Displacement, Dispersion

Evacuation, Banishment 

                    Extinction. . .

Watch out! This is what can happen when you cut up an old painting that’s going nowhere. It starts to find kinship with this moment in history and acquires a mind of its own. Or so it seems.

Process: I liked the textures and colors of the “old painting” and started cutting out some bird shapes and then one turned into a building and another a kind of avian-human that requested a colorful hat. 

The first underpainting was this one, and a storm developed. Not surprising, since we are in the dark stormy part of the year when you’re liable to freeze or blown, or get very wet if you go outside.

It was the scene I needed for the creatures I’d cut out. Some were simply pieces left on the table in the jumble of cuttings. They became a kind of graveyard or decomposing of organic matter, benevolent in itself, but slightly disturbing in context.

I have lived with these pieces for part of a week and am ready to put them to rest now. But you never know what might come next?!

Love Oly Winter Fest

Fountain pen and w/c with gesso splatter in hand.book w/c journal

I just went grocery shopping to replenish the larder. Our two sons, home for Thanksgiving, had left after working their way through the stash from Thanksgiving. By the time I got back to the car with, once again, heavy bags of groceries, it was snowing. Real snow. First of the season? 

But the snow in this picture from yesterday was courtesy of our newly redecorated and updated Center for the Performing Arts and their snow machine effectively created a winter scene on the sidewalk and road. Once again the four blocks downtown were closed off for another Love Oly celebration, this time called Winter Fest! with all the cozy touches of lights, hot cocoa, high school orchestras and choirs leading carols, candy canes and fun kidstuff. I didn’t see the horse and buggy rides but heard they were there too. Lots of happy holiday shoppers.

pens and watercolor in hand.book journal

We sketchers lined the window seats at Ember Goods clothing store and coffee shop indoors to stay warm as the crowds ambled by and wandered in for some of the best espresso in town. Meanwhile we chatted, tried out a new pen and sketched whatever came into view for a moment or two. It made for a pretty disorganized sketch, but hopefully one that is full of the holiday season cheer! 

Wallingford Center in Seattle

Saturday was a perfect day to head to Seattle for a Seattle UsK meet up! The Wallingford Center was the setting, a shopping mall housed in a historic school with the headline act of a colorful Trophy Cupcake and espresso cafe. When Jan and I arrived, the sketchers were lined up on the benches in front of the cupcake showplace, because after all, who could resist? so we joined them.

fountain pen, watercolor in 8 X 8″ hand.book watercolor journal

There was time for one more so I perched outside this very festive women’s clothing store to sketch and later paint in. 

This is the “throw down” where everyone shares their sketches from the day. Many people chose to sketch out in the neighborhood. Some of the contributors to the new UsK book titled: The World of Urban Sketching: Celebrating the Evolution of Drawing and Painting on Location Around the Globe – New Inspirations to See your World One Sketch at a Time by Stephanie Bower, were in the group, inviting people to the book signing on December 5 in Seattle.

Seattle sketchers!

Muses Do WORDPLAY

Last week was class three of a three-week series of The Playful Muse mixed media group. We’re adjourning for the holidays and I will be teaching a six week version of (always new) mixed media lessons in January and February. I wanted to share the students’ Wordplay pieces here since each one is not only totally original and unique, but a rich palimpsest of its own! (See yesterday’s post for more on that lesson)

by Muse Jan
by Muse John
by Muse Nancy
by Muse Helena
by Muse Lorna
by Muse Lorna

I hope you’ll try it too and would love to hear your experience!

For more on creating a palimpsest as an intention for mixed media pieces, visit this blog post for more.

WORDPLAY

demo for Muse Group last week

Over the years I have taught several different lessons on adding words to mixed media works. You can add words at the beginning, middle or end of a painting, starting with them, inserting them into various layers and ending with them, often after you’ve done a free write to discover embedded meaning. In these ways the art becomes a palimpsest, like the early manuscripts, which were covered over so that successive entries could be made. It contains the history of layers of creation as you see visible traces of earlier forms. Don’t we all love the mystery of embedded secrets and surprises? We want to stay a while, looking and puzzling it out.

For this lesson I suggested starting to get ideas by going through a magazine and finding text that intrigues and cutting it out. I quickly found the words that intrigued me in a bold title Object as. . . and later in the article cut out fit in and unpack. That was enough to get started picking a color scheme and applying paint wetly with brush and a linoleum stamp before drawing in the letters O-B-J-E-C-T in various random ways using brush, alphabet stencil, upper case, and lower case letters. 

While the group got started with their word play piece I dried the demo, which seemed more like a random doodle sampler. But it looked like it might be a fun challenge to make it into “something”!

fluid acrylics, gesso, black ink on 10 X 11″ watercolor paper.

Is this a riddle? Then I object! This chaos is too absurd for me. and so I must deduce that I do not fit in? Surely too round for the square, too tall for the medium, too clever for the mediocre, too mediocre for the brilliant, too soft for the hardy, and too hard for the sensitive. 

If the object is to fit in then I object!  And yet. . . 

Unpack this a bit more. . . .unpack it letter by letter, and give it some space. There may be a way to be an object without objections. A single breathing human specimen who survives the storms of life with no objections, like the Buddha himself, being subject and object in blissful union.

Ah but still . . . I object . . .as . . .(you figure it out!)

Is this just a bit of word-silliness? Perhaps. But then maybe this kind of play dislodges some part of brain sludge that makes room for, at least, the next attempt at original thought! One hopes.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I’ll share the WordPlay of the other Muses this week.

Center for the Performing Arts

Our Washington Center for the Performing Arts downtown Olympia has been closed for months for renovation. When it reopened recently, three of us sketchers joined the public for the tour of the new digs. Everything had been refaced and upgraded, from walls to seats and carpets, to lighting and sound systems!

I chose the Loge section to take on the challenge of perspective and the fun of the new multicolored seat covers!

fineliner pen and watercolor in hand.book watercolor journal

The “trick” to being able to convert the wide angle 3D experience of the human eye to a flat 2D on paper is to take a picture with your phone and use that to anchor the major lines on the paper first. Even so, this was a particularly gnarly scene in its detail and complexity. Good practice, if not much fun!