Fantascapes

Black and White hold hands

teeth

inks and gesso on w/c paper 10 X 11″, workshop demo

There’s teeth in this one, a snarl through bared teeth, a jagged fence, a bit of slime. I am dying to get away, but held in place with a fascination at the bizarre beauty of the scene unfolding.

Go ahead and take me to the edge where all the action is, where sea meets land, nature meets city, good meets evil, and life unspools in alternating increments of stress and peace. Black and white are always holding hands and taking turns.

Wet some shapes on the paper, squirt on some inks. Tip the paper. Add gesso and scrape through it, picking up some wet ink with a notched scraper. Move the fingers in to smooth some passages, mixing gesso with ink.  Now meet the image which has appeared.

This was the first exercise in the Wabi Sabi workshop, to let the inks talk.

The Quest for Beauty

chrysalid2

“Chrysalid II”, inks, gesso, pencil, collage on canvas 24″X24″

In his book Wabi Sabi: Further Thoughts, Leonard Koren shares the quest for beauty that led  him to explore more deeply the wabi-sabi way.  In his definition of beauty he writes:

By “beauty” I mean that complex of exciting, pleasurable sensations-ostensibly emanating from things – that makes us feel more alive and connected to the world.  Often these feelings are accompanied by a compelling sense of truth, goodness, and/or love.

I can’t think of a better explanation for why I paint! But it goes beyond that to an honoring of life, with all its natural processes. Wabi sabi is a celebration of the roughness and unevenness of life as it unfolds in bumps and starts, one forward and two steps back. I imagine the gnarled old apple tree in my garden that wears its age with the grace and originality as I aspire to. The rusty garden implements, the grasses draping over my walkway, and in my studio – the torn paper and textured surfaces I love to paint on.

 

Cityscape

cityscape

inks, gesso, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

What are we saying with the thrusting of our skyscrapers? It’s a dicey brand of supremacy. But nevertheless one which I’ve lately become intrigued with, from my vantage point in the bucolic countryside of northern California. My son, the California boy turned Manhattan based architect, has charged my imagine with structures of consciousness-bending design and detail. How can our structures reflect the designs inherent in nature so that we can live more harmoniously?  Curvy ceilings, living roofs and glass walls that bring the outside in! Oh yeah.

The art lesson here above as my favorite, inks and gesso moved around with water and a sense of adventure. The cityscape came right out of National Geographic and found the sweet spot on the page where it appeared to be either rising out of or being swallowed up by the mountain.  You pick which.

Balance

ropebridge

acrylic, gesso, magazine and cut phone book collage on w/c paper, 10 x 11″

Steps slippery with moss and the green slime accumulation of many days rain. . .

balance with unwieldy load shifting over the falls

Dare I let go?

Will I fall to the patchwork of earth below

or know the liberty of a bird in flight?

The lesson in last Saturday’s workshop was to take pictorial collage, arrange it whole or in pieces on the paper, and then integrate it by painting out, or even over, the pieces to get a unified result.

I started with a National Geographic picture of a native man carrying a heavy load across a narrow rope bridge over a river far below. I liked the edginess of it, but didn’t want to keep the figure or background, so I cut them out, leaving a left and right hand piece of the bridge structure.

I drew a more neutral figure with my black ink dropper onto the white paper between. Using a stencil that mimicked the rope lattice, I sponged in some darks in the bottom left corner, not realizing that later it would look like an aerial topography. The load on the figure’s back became a kind of bird nest as I arranged “phone book hair”.  Very little of this piece was my original intention, but a step-by-step exploration of material and form.

In the next Saturday Afternoon Workshop April 16 we’ll be adding dimension with mesh textures: painted screen, cheesecloth and fabric netting. There’s still space in that workshop. To join us, visit my website for registration info.

Crazy Monoprinting

humantech

acrylic monoprint with collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

make human but don’t try too hard

it should come naturally

even in this tech-y age we are not Bots. . .yet

so make human

there’s no time like the present

whatever excites or worries you

that is human

own it. hash tag it. send it in email.

on its journey around the media sphere

it will make someone else human

even if they forgot they were

We played with monoprinting for a couple weeks in the Monday afternoon group, not with special printmaking inks or a press or even a real “plate” but with what we had on hand. There is such a uniquely appealing surface texture to printing like this, and there were lots of unique surprises that delighted (and at times frustrated) us.

landscapeprint

Landscapes appeared!

landscapeprint2

And sometimes the “ghost” print was the most intriguing. Sort of landscape-y, don’t you think?

crazyeasyprint

This was a “Crazy Easy Transfer Painting”.  I borrowed the idea from McElroy and Wilson’s book Surface Treatment Workshop. You paint on plastic, scraping away a design.  Let it dry, then coat your paper with polymer medium and put the plastic, paint-side-down on the paper.  Let that dry and then peal off the plastic and the paint has transfered.  Voila!  it IS crazy and easy.

This is the kind of art stuff we do all the time in the Monday Afternoon Muse Group in my studio (in Sebastopol, CA).  If you’d like to come in person,  a new 8-week series starts March 14 and there’s still openings! For more info and to register visit my website.

Storming

storm

acrylic inks, gesso, collage (netting)

I noticed this one leaning up against the easel when I came in from the rainstorm tonight. My studio is a two minute walk from the house, but I put my rain boots on to ford the puddles.The (usually dry) stream bed beside my studio is a roaring cascade tonight, with nearby gopher holes spouting water like geysers.  We thirsty Californians have become rain worshipers.

Happy Solstice!

vectorIII[Vector III] “Solstitium”, acrylic, dark wash pencil on canvas, 24″ X 24″

The word solstice comes from the Latin sol: sun, and sistere: to stand still. The image of the sun standing still before change. That image is a powerful one to me which explains the way the feelings, which have been lined up, walking along in a predictable pattern, suddenly stop and bunch up, and wait for a sign of opening into the future.

I just finished this painting, which is the third in a series called Vectors, where I’m exploring the dynamics of shapes and colors determined by lines leading in new directions.

Paintings are unavoidably metaphors for life events. The sun is there. The bunching up of feelings. The openings. . .

. . .and an opportunity for me to send my best wishes to you in this dark/light season as you find your way into expansive openings in the next year.