Art Journals

Holiday Trees

We see the color red in the fall and the effect is of fall leaves or, in our case here in “fire country”, flames. But it’s December now and we are drenched from the atmospheric river and open door to storms from the ocean, and now red reminds us of. . .Santa!

I was thinking of the tree of life here, and later the words Christmas tree popped up unbidden. Recently I was giving a private lesson about ways to work with crinkled Masa paper. I painted on a sheet of water-soaked Masa paper which had been crinkled. And then made collage papers using the same method,  which I then used on the first piece after mounting it on watercolor paper.

The writing is a bit of fun. Take me seriously, but not too much!

flametree

Flame outside, flame inside, each making space for the other.

This world is made of positive and negative holding hands,

sometimes in secret cahoots.

Both want to be noticed,

forever in need of each other.

 

The painting wants to be noticed.

Every part wanting to tell her story.

 

Yet the artist can only think of how she has

yet again failed to make a masterpiece.

How can she be so shallow, when she promised herself

to be free, leaving behind judgments.

“But I wanted to scribble somewhere!” she whines,

ungrateful wretch that she is.

Mixed Media at The Living Room

Ruth and I showed up for the Mixed Media Art play Group we’ve been leading at The Living Room with bags of materials to set up in the dining room after lunch. The group is sort of like the Muse Group I teach in my studio, only with a lot of wild cards. We fill the tables with paints and paper and marking pens and collage packets and watch the women trickle in. Most of them are friends now, known to us through their enthusiastic participation.

V. sits down and starts singing the song she woke up with, her own cheerful song about it being an art-group day. She has brought some aged wood shingles she found and she wants to paint a madonna on them. S. brings all her belongings with her so they will be safe while she paints. She has written a poem about homelessness. Soon the two of them are engrossed in their art and singing popular songs.

mixedmediaartgroup

The tables fill up. We have 11 people and scurry around to get paper and collage packets to all.  Then it gets very quiet as they cut and paste. Later they do a free write, and then share and laugh and appreciate each other’s work.

The following week we are prepared with the template of a profiled face for them to develop a self portrait on. They are able to jump right in with paint and collage, some tackling the work metaphorically and others with some realism.

As they leave the room we are showered with their gratitude. We are excited and a bit tired, but quite certain that our gratitude for being able to spend this time with them at least matches their own.

In Loving Memory of the Child

If you’re my age, chances are you learned to deal with the boredom of long winter days when there was nothing to do except invent something. (in other words, no electronics). And if you were an only child like me, whose family kept moving to different states, you had loads of time on your own. Luckily I had a mom who kept me endowed with art supplies. Scissors, pencils, paper and magazines, and an occasional empty shoe box were enough to keep me busy. Fashion design for paper dolls was high on my list of boredom busters.

But fast forward to my Muse Group, which met last week for the last class in the current series of mixed media lessons. I call this lesson “painting with water”, meaning that you paint a shape onto watercolor paper with water – either a spontaneous abstract shape or realistic one. Then you “charge” fluid paint lightly into the shape, add different colors, tip the paper to blend, paint outside the wet shape, etc, etc.

You can probably guess at my initial wet shape below. I had nothing in mind until I opened up a magazine and found the most outlandish “latest” fashion and started chopping it up for collage. . .just like when I was 6!

cutandpaste

fluid acrylics, collage, gel pen on w/c paper 10 X 11″

There will be a two month break til the next Mixed Media Playful Muse Group starts up again. I’m already missing my fellow Muse-rs who fill the studio with their uniquely creative energies.

Registration is now open for  next six-week series which will be held Tuesday afternoons, January 21-February 25, 2020. Visit my website  for more information and feel free to contact me if you’re interested in joining us.

Mirror, mirror

We tried a new idea in Muse Group this week. I called it “Use What You Get Collage”. Everyone came with a folder/file of at least 10 collage items that they’d picked because they fit together in some way- color, theme, designs.

In class we passed our folders to a person on the left, so we all had a “surprise” collection of collage pieces. It felt like a present and initially exciting!

From the folder we were “gifted” we each picked at least five collage items to which we could add whatever we wanted to make a finished piece. It turned out to be more of a challenge, for me at least, than I’d figured on! It took a lot of design-mind problem solving to make it work. And that’s exactly why it was so fruitful.

mirrormirror

Mirror mirror whatdoyasay?

the world may be ending soon

but I’m still here in this mess

refusing to ignore the beauty 

I’ll wear it in my hair

wrap it round my body

extol it, consume it, remember it

paint it and write it down

till the end of my time

and all without a whine.

A bit of clarification here. My collage gift pieces were all lovely greens and blues: National Geographic pages showing debris in the ocean, jewelry, woven textiles, rubber gloves . .. To have a focus I added the picture of a woman and some mylar for the mirror (which photographed as black).

I also added the following quote from a little book Women’s Wit and Wisdom, which you’re probably not able to read:

“While others may argue about whether the world ends with a bang or a whimper, I just want to make sure mine doesn’t end with a whine.”

Post Apocalypse Self Portrait

Still no rain here in the north San Francisco BAY area, but we’ve just weathered another apocalyptic fire. Everyone’s talking about it – how to prepare for the next one. . .we all believe there will be the next. . .or how to get out of Dodge and go somewhere there will be no environmental disasters. And where is that elusive Shangri La?

It seemed like a good time to pull out the old zany self portrait lesson in Muse Group. To avoid having to look at ourselves in the mirror and trying to draw ourselves, we just clowned in front of the computer to capture our very own comic strip character and went about painting and collaging the marvelous emotional entanglement that is our lives at the moment. Just that. Nothing deep and analytic or prophetic. Just one in an infinitude of selves we carry around all the time.

Here’s what popped out on my paper this time.

bay

Collage on acrylic painted background with a Photo Booth Comic Strip-filtered selfie.

Post Apocalypse Self Portrait

Aargh! What a place to call home.

So beautiful it makes your heart ache

so treacherous…… it makes your heart ache.

I want to move and I can’t bear to.

I want to stay and grow old – er, but can I bear it?

the fires the floods and heaven forbid the earthquakes

But the bees and butterflies, they stay

as do the birds

and our cats

and the flowers and trees bloom and fruit each year

and. . .

we will not leave

War of the Splatters!

There are days when it feels like the wars “out in the world” are being waged internally as well. Those are the days to make splatter art with friends!

That’s what happened in my Muse Group on Monday as we took the lead from the irresistible Ralph Steadman, a Welsh illustrator who uses splatters and other ink irregularities to create irreverent mythical creatures. We started the class by watching this video. I recommend this as a great way to loosen up, lighten up and have a chuckle to avoid taking yourself too seriously and ruining all the fun.

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.00.02 PM

So we loaded up our brushes and mouth atomizers and splattered and sprayed, trying not to lob one on each other. . .

war!

And there was the war of the critters!

By the end of class the room had filled up with colorful, zany critters. Who knew all those creatures were just lying in wait to be liberated by a bunch of mixed media painters!

See some earlier Steadman inspired work here and here.

Strung out and the antidote

Do you ever find yourself in the mood to scribble? What about drip and splatter? Well it doesn’t always end up making for a unified, let alone pleasing piece of art. But it always leads somewhere.

strungout1

I thought I’d look at this recent mixed media Muse painting in pieces. This view turned out to be my favorite, because it illustrated the theme, which I didn’t realize until I wrote this:

Are you a bit strung out? Well yeah, aren’t we all. All bunched up together with our hair electrified, bleeding anxiety about climate and politics (impeachment?). Even  while we’re eating, we’re dreaming starvation And while comfortable in our homes, firestorms and earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes are breaking out in our brains. And we know there’s nothing much we can do now, too little too late…and the strings are knotting up and pulling on us and sometimes we can sort of ignore the discomfort and get on with lives of moving around in cars and on airplanes and discarding plastic and wasting food, and the knots keep getting tighter.. .

(More pieces of the painting here. . .)

Well, that’s one way of looking at what’s going on in our world. All quite true. But the artist has to be more agile, break it down, and look for other solutions.

Like the creature that appeared in Muse Group with an acrylic pour . I walked past it/him/her/them for weeks, until one day some words landed somewhere between my ears, and I was able to finish it, with great satisfaction.

grrblop

So allow me to introduce the excessively silly and somewhat shy Grrrblop! antidote to despair.

A new six-week Muse Group starts Oct 7, and there is one opening left at this writing. I’m thinking we’ll do a “greatest hit” series of mixed media lessons. That’s the best antidote I can think of! If you’ve been thinking you’d like to come, don’t wait, cause we’d love to have you and the window is closing up fast. For more info and to contact me and register visit my website.