Art Journals

Notre Dame burns, Ouch!

Our beautiful spring weather turned gloomy and cold for a while yesterday. We were in Muse Group exploring inks and the Wabi Sabi aesthetic and sharing what we knew about the beloved Notre Dame cathedral burning in Paris. The world always has a way of infiltrating art that is made with a spirit open to spontaneity. Here’s what happened to mine, quite unconsciously at first. . .

duckforcover

Higgins India Ink, copper acrylic, paper collage on 10 X 11″ watercolor paper

The ashes are falling as Notre Dame burns today.  A good time to take cover and even burrow. How can this be?

If you’re interested in the kind of mixed media explorations we’ve been doing in these groups for at least a decade now. . .

Here’s the new spring/summer schedule of Playful Muse workshops (on Mondays) in my Sebastopol studio!

May 20, June17, July 15 – 1:30-4:30pm Can be taken as a group or individually!

August 5, 12, 19, 26, a 4 week series – 1:30-4:30

These will be posted on my website soon. Meanwhile contact me to reserve a spot!

 

 

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Ellen’s Centennial

My Mom’s centennial was a couple of days ago. That is, she was born 100 years ago. I don’t get to celebrate her birthday with her in person any more, since she’s been gone seven years now, but it is always an auspicious blossomy day full of memories and the sweet sadness of loss. Sweet because I wouldn’t trade that memory of my loss for anything, even though I sure wish she were still around.

The year she died her birthday fell on Easter. This year it fell on the same day I spotted the first pipevine swallowtail butterfly of the season feeding on the blossoms of the weeping cherry where we planted her ashes. The first spotting of that butterfly is an occasion I always nervously await, because I’ve become quite attached to the subsequent explosion of orange polk-dotted caterpillars that hatch from the butterflies’ eggs.

My Muse Group met the day after the birthday,  and we were doing fabric collage. I used Mom’s favorite colors and embedded her jolly face beneath her tree.

Ellenat100

Listen in the wind to the sighing of the bush

This is the ancestors breathing

(excerpted from Earth Song, traditional Senegalese poem)

This is. . .the mother who now turns 100 in her realm within the cherry tree

that blossoms in its fullness now and leads us with all our senses

into the territory of ancestors,

the heart realm that she never left.

Shower me with blossoms now

as I feel the depth of love

and loss that never grows old.

I wonder, will I still be smiling when I am 92, the age she was in the picture?

On Becoming a Nature Nerd

I spent that gorgeous day yesterday out on the Las Galinas Wildlife Ponds with John Muir Laws and a bunch of nature nerds. It’s OK to say that because Jack (John) told us to approach our nature explorations and journaling like a nature nerd and he should know. In case you don’t know him, he’s the author of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and other nature journaling guides, and the founder of the Nature Journal Club here in the Bay Area.

So what does it mean to be a nature nerd?  Well, it’s things like data collection: location/date/weather. It’s walking along a trail and looking for something weird, something that tweeks your curiosity. It’s not just making pretty colored pictures, but writing down your thinking about what you’re observing.

lasgalinas

What I love about this approach is that you don’t have to know the names of the plants and animals or be able to identify the bird calls. You draw and describe what you see and hear and your questions and guesses, and it’s all in the service of being there in your experience of “the wild”. Like those red patches on the red winged blackbirds that look like military medals or epulets. Or the ole coot dunking his head up and down while fishing, and that sound like an “ow, ow”. Was that the ole coot complaining?

lasgalinas2

If I had been there alone i would have drawn the familiar outline of the sleek black cormorants lined up on the pipe. But Jack and the other bird watchers were there with their fancy tripods and telescopes and I got to see what a truly exotic bird this common bird of California wildlands is, with its hooked beak and orange face, electric blue mouth and lavishly patterned back! And then they were doing the orange gular pouch flutter and double crested fluff-up of the mating dance. All that can’t be seen without binoculars of course, and you can’t draw what you can’t see!

The young night heron however was quite visible from the path and not inclined to move. While sketching him/her I couldn’t help imagining that the mother had given strict instructions for him to stay put until she came back.

lasgalinas3 Here’s the setting where Jack is showing us an example of how to draw a quick map of the area and use symbols to illustrate different types of wildlife. Along with the usual Marsh wrens, egrets, geese, ducks and cormorants there were spottings of otters and maybe even an orange tailed weasel?

If you want to be on the email list to find out about these outings and courses, go to the Nature Journal Club, and maybe I’ll see you there some time.

 

Busy Season

Is your garden growing an inch a day now? or at least the weeds? Mine is. And spring projects, long promised are begging for attention. In Muse Group this week we made monoprints with our acrylic paints, using stone paper for a plate. (More about Stone Paper here. )My first “pull” was a vibrant one that turned into a story for this time of year.

dreamingofapples

the earth is busy sprouting

so here I dream of apples

of birds darting and swooping

on spring’s many errands

 

yet still

there are only buds

plumping up to make pink popcorn

and seduce butterflies

The plum tree has bloomed and leafed out. The weeping cherry, beneath which my mother’s ashes lie, has just bloomed. And I wait expectantly for the apple blossoms whose sweet nectar is an invitation to the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, that lay their eggs on the vine, so that I may daily visit the hungry munching caterpillars with the orange polka dots. Simple pleasures of spring I must make time for.

Many Cooks

Sometimes many cooks can spoil the broth, but not always. We started off the new Muse Group series with a brand new (recently dreamed up) lesson called “Pass the Painting”. It’s a cross between a party game and group mixed media painting experience, an exercise in freedom of expression without excessive ego baggage.

It’s a way to warm up and relax into intuitive painting (mix media style) where you use the following ingredients in layers, like a layered party dip:  black ink, gesso (black or white), image collage, tissue/rice paper collage, acrylic paint (color!), pattern collage, word, and free choice. You pass the paper to the person on the left after each addition.

In a group of eight artists, you finally end up with the painting you began, and it’s yours to keep. Each pass lasts 5-10 minutes and you have total permission to mess up the painting with what you do, (even though you’re hoping to improve it) You will most certainly fail sometimes, but no one but you will know, and you won’t have time to care, because you will pass it on and someone else will have to deal with it. How cool is that?!

I fully expected that there would be some groans, but was delighted by the positive response, and even motivated to share the results. Each of the following pieces contains a contribution by the same eight artists, of which I am but one.

manycooks5

manycooks2

manycooks1

manycooks6

manycooks3

manycooks7

manycooks4

manycooks9

Although this adventure was supposed to be about freeing oneself from ego, we ended by patting ourselves on our back(s) with pride for how it turned out!

Image Transfers – Two Ways

In my Muse Groups rule-breaking is encouraged, so there’s a groove of free thinking which we enjoy. Serendipity is encouraged!

We’d been enjoying the splatter and spray techniques, and then I introduced the idea of transferring a photographic image transparently onto a painting, and suddenly there were some rules! For instance, this method only works with toner copies (not ink jet prints!) and it requires a certain careful handling. There was much to practice.

dragon

The first method I taught uses clear contact paper. You press the image ink side down onto the sticky side of the contact paper, burnish it, and then wet it so that you can rub off the paper pulp, leaving the image on the transparent contact paper. Then you glue it down on your painting in a spot where the image takes advantage of the underpainting showing through!

In the case of this dragon I had a lot of fun painting over the transparency as well, once it was down. I had to give the dragon credit for the inferno, and suggest his jewel-laden body.

mysweetheart

Here I used the dry gel transfer method. First I collaged the music pages, using a Valentine sweetheart theme.

Then I printed out a toner copy of my face – a picture taken in Photobooth on my computer with the comic strip filter. I painted a layer of acrylic soft gel onto the surface of the music and pressed the image, ink-side down onto the wet gel, making sure that it made contact all the way to the edges. After letting it dry for 24 hours, I then wet the paper and rubbed the paper pulp off gently with my finger, leaving the black ink image. See what I mean? Several steps to pull it off.

The rest was glazing with ink washes, stenciling and collage with the doily shape.

And here’s what came out in the writing. . .

Talk to me Baby! Tell me what’s on your mind. Bad Hair day? Watched too much TV news? Wondering what to give the hubby on Valentine’s Day?

Or. . .remembering the good old days, when the Beatles occupied your mind, and your heart was a fresh young thing. Before the glasses. . .Before the thousandth hat worn and taken off again. So many lives in one, until it’s hard to pin down who this is.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Sending love your way!

The Muse Group Splatters

There’s nothing like an ink splatter to activate the imagination. Actually, now that I think of it, this approach birthed Imagine with Art, this blog that’s continued since 2006, and the Muse Groups I’ve been teaching for almost that long. Play around with inks and pretty soon you’ve got a story going, whether it’s the rorschachs or the drips and splatters.

And it’s fun too! In fact when we did the splatter lesson in Muse Group this week we were so totally engaged in what was happening on the paper that I thought we could really do several weeks of this. I can always tell when total engagement happens because you don’t see people staring blankly at the paper and wondering what to do next. (Well that did happen to me a few times, but I think maybe I was the only one.)

The suggestion was to use the splatter and possibly spraying with a mouth atomizer and then see if any creatures or other unsuspecting images appeared.

tangerinos

acrylic ink splatters, sprays, and lines drawn with dip pens on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

He was just minding his own business, doing his usual foraging for vegetarian fare, when they spotted him. . . the dive bombing Tangerinos. He had no time to flee before the first one landed on his back with a big wet splatt! It wasn’t so bad really, as it did smell rather tasty.

Later as he met up with his buddy bucks, they had fun teasing him about his edible “crown” that dripped down his cheeks.

And the creatures keep coming. . .

Squirrel

Actually the squirrel with the rather large proboscis at first seemed to be jumping over the moon, but when the gold paint made an uninvited appearance (and a few expletives came to mind!) the narrative changed. These creatures do have a mind of their own.

If you want to enjoy some more brilliant silliness with inks you might like this short video of Ralph Steadman, my latest art hero.