Author: Susan Cornelis

This Is My Story: Women and Homelessness

I was recently invited to show my portrait sketches of women from The Living Room on a Santa Rosa public art site called Inside OUT There. I’m happy to announce that you can now see the on line exhibition of these portrait stories. This project provides an intimate look at the lives of women who are or who have been homeless. During my year and a half of volunteering at The Living Room, I made friends with the women and children, led art and meditation groups, and sketched stories of the activities.

As women got to know me, they talked about their lives, let me sketch their portraits, and helped me to tell their stories. When the pandemic hit and the doors were shut on indoor services, I sketched the transition and switched to portraits of women wearing masks as they came for the food and other services at the outdoor location.

Please take a few minutes to visit the exhibition on line. You can look at the portraits full screen, read the stories, and navigate through them like a slideshow.

Eve

I would love to know your reactions to these picture-stories. Please share your thoughts in comments here, where they would be greatly appreciated.

Expressive Faces

Oh I do love to draw and paint people. Here’s the latest. The Sktchy app is so great for finding really expressive faces.

BigAl

watercolor, black pen and white gel pen on gray toned paper

day3

There’s a new month of Sktchy’s 30faces30days challenge. This gentleman totally charmed me with his picture. I mean can’t you imagine all the years he spent out in the sun? And I do hope that now he’s a jefe, a boss man with his own ranch.

day5

And Mr. Nakashidze, what a face you have! I can’t guess what country you’re from.

Look Who Crashed My Party!

I went to a friend’s birthday party last weekend. The four of us sat at the four corners of an 8 foot square table outside in the garden. It was a party without some of the usual trimmings but nevertheless it did us all a world of good. . .safely. Not at all like the party that came onto my paper on Monday, a kind of no holds barred bacchanalian feast.

It started innocently enough when I got out some inks I haven’t used in a while: the highly fluid, gorgeously pigmented, transparent and permanent Higgins inks. The black granulates when it mixes with enough water. I used a big flat brush to make some random wet marks on the watercolor paper, then started dropping inks on and moved the wet pigment puddles into each other and out in skinny fingers by zapping them with Air-In-A-Can pressurized gas (my husband’s, he used it to remove dust from film). Blowing through a straw also works. I just kept going until the party was going pretty well and then found the ideas for the visitors in a National Geographic issue.

aparty

Look who just crashed my party!

Might as well make friends with them

the biotics team, pro- and anti-

the bacterias and the god-help-us viruses

the microscopic streps and ebolas and covids 

that rival the colorful characters in children’s books.

To my child self I say,

Don’t let them scare you!

Give them names and offer them a piece of cake.

 

On consideration however, I might have gotten it wrong. At the moment it looks more like a July 4th party!

Trees and tombstones

Some sketches from last week. Late afternoon is a magical time in the garden, and one day I enjoyed some time before dinner, sketching the entrance to our home which is on a private road.mailboxwelcome

Mr. Frog used to spout fountain water, but later was retired to the garden. I found him under some plants which were towering over him, and invited him to pose for the sketch, which needed an accent at the bottom.

tombstones

Another day I met Cathy and Bettina at the rural cemetery in Santa Rosa. My first sketch was a study of the various shapes of the old tombstones from the 1800’s. I put them close together to make a single shape, since none of the them were particularly interesting in themselves.

cemeterytree

Then I became mesmerized trying to sketch this tree. Nothing like a beautiful tree to lose oneself while painting!

Fences

When life seems to be turned on its ear, as it has with this pandemic, I cling to this practice of expressive art like a life raft. The process of making the art takes precedence over the accomplishment of a masterful outcome. The intuition about what materials and tools to use takes precedence over any kind of well thought out plan or design. The sensation of mark making becomes more important than the mark made. I try to dive in and not come up for air too quickly.

Of course this leads to questions about how to finish. So in this piece even my idea of adding the hands didn’t quite finish it. The blue reminded me of the bluebird couple that sits on the corner of the roof we can see from our dining room table. So I painted one of them and collaged it on. . .then needed the eggs. And finally as I wrote, even a garden scene like this turned out to be about the pandemic. . .in a helpful way.bluebird

acrylic inks, gel pen, drawn with a stick, splattered and scumbled on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

We try new ways to live with each other,

with masks and gloves and zooms,

The same fences that keep us in

are those that keep us out.

Nature topples those barriers we make,

finds a way around or between them,

Its winds dry our lonely tears

and sun warms our tender hearts

Birds share their freedom of air travel

without passport, mask, or elaborate protocol.

More on location sketching, yay!

The agapanthas, those tall lacy clusters along our walkway, are just starting to bloom. They’ve been here for longer than our 20 years in this home. And this afternoon I sat down to try and figure out how to sketch them, and the rest of the scene. . .agapanthas1

As I was sketching the birds and the bees were checking me out, or so I thought. I like to think I’m accepted by the plant and animal kingdoms even though I spend the majority of my time in my house/studio with frequent and all too brief forays into the outdoors. The hummingbirds, whose feeder is to my right, did that suspension in mid air thing as if to say, what are you doing here? And Sylvester the cat, who has never let me pet him, talked to me in that soft kitty way that I wish I understood.

agapanthas2

It ended up being more about the red geranium because, of course, it’s a scene stealer.

farmersmarket

Yesterday I made another trip to the farmer’s market and had a different vantage point than last week. Turning my head in a 180 degree arc I found enough subjects of interest and just piled them up to make a single scene. The conversation I overheard was yet another typically local one which included the remark “I can’t believe my brother is a Trump supporter!”

Venturing out a bit

I donned my mask last Sunday and ventured out to the Sebastopol Farmers Market, not necessarily to shop, but to enjoy some on location sketching. This setting never has disappointed me!

SebastopolFarmersMkt1

I’ve been sketching from pictures alot lately, but this one was done on location, growing out from the center as things happened.

SebastopolFarmersMkt2

Not only did I have my mask on, but my invisibility cloak as well, which I draw around myself when sketching people in public without their permission (you never want them to pose for you and ruin it). At some point the old woman on the right showed up and started talking to the guy on the grass playing guitar. Not only was she colorfully dressed, but I caught snatches of conversation about vibrations and karma and the third dimension, all of which are probably common discussion topics on this strip of lawn in the shade in the Sebastopol plaza.

I had to look up third dimension and here’s what I learned. . .I mean if you’re interested:

“The third dimension is a theoretical realm of space and time in which the particles and dark matter of this parallel, alternate reality bends light to collide with the electrical charges of the subconscious mind. What is light becomes dark. What is dark becomes light. Some look into the third dimension and see nothingness; others believe they see the very face of God.”

I wish I’d heard the whole conversation to learn which one she saw!

Another day I attended a Sketching Play Lab with urban sketchers Suhita Shirodkar and Paul Wang on Zoom. These guys are so fun to hang out with, and FUN was the operative word. Playing with watercolor. Making colorful wet “caterpillars”, while learning powerful watercolor techniques.

playlab1

And then we tried it out, playfully still! on whatever we’d put on the table in front of us. You’ll have no trouble guessing what I had brought out, from my refrigerator.

playlab2

I think my eggplant was trying to gobble up the lime.! If you want to learn something new while playing, try registering for a Sketching Play Lab.

Welcome to my studio! (video)

We built my art studio when we moved to Sebastopol, California from the SF Bay Area 20 years ago. It’s a simple building where my creative spirit has taken flight and supported me for these many years through the many vicissitudes of modern life. It has been the home for my workshops and the setting for many ongoing friendships with students. And for years I opened it to the public for open studio events twice a year.

Since the pandemic and sheltering-in-place began three months ago, it has become a kind of hermitage. I have had to cancel workshops and rethink the ways I use my studio, as well as find new ways to encourage myself and others to actively pursue art. In that spirit I invite you into my studio to imagine with art with me.

Since the video here has no voice over, let me just orient you. As you enter you will walk counter clockwise around the room, looking out some windows as well. Those of you who have been here for classes will notice the more open floor. I took down one of the tables to make room to move for streaming Jazzercise classes! The comfortable chair is an addition as now I have the space to read. The paintings on the wall are mostly mixed media acrylics. There are tables to do Muse painting/collage, watercolor illustration, a wall section to clip Muse pieces up as they are “born”, a section for portrait stories of homeless women, and of course birds, birds, birds and then the garden where they live outside.

Enjoy watching the video, while I enjoy imagining meeting you here in person!
welcometostudio

To watch, click on the picture or see it here.

Reflection in the mirror

Each day lately I learn more about what it means to have black skin in this world. It seems more important than ever to have eyes and ears open, and to take an honest look at what is reflected back in the mirror.

As I was finishing this piece I ran across a cache of small mirrors I had bought many years ago when teaching a workshop where we sketched parts of ourself seen in the mirror. I realized that I needed to put myself into the picture, but also to invite us all in to see ourselves reflected back in the truth of the images.

The trick was to get my reflection as I was taking the picture with my cell phone! It took a good ten minutes of gyrations to pull it off. Finally I was able to at least get a corner of me.

manyvoices

Credit here to my husband Bob who is always wowing me with his printmaking. I was in his studio lately, and was looking with such greedy eyes at his gelli prints, that he let me walk away with some unfinished ones, with his blessing to do with them what I wished. Lucky lady! The rest here is collage, stick dipped in inks and the mirror.

Police Riot Fashion

I’ve been quite impressed with police riot fashion. It seems to be a cross between Darth Vader and giant murder hornets, don’t you think? When I got done with the drawing I realized that I left off a lot of things – walkie talkie, tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades, a rifle that shoots the rubber bullets, and those plastic ties they use when they arrest people. Did I leave out anything? riotfashion2