Paintings

Solo-Musing

Well, I’ve been sketching a lot lately, and now it’s winter and the rain is keeping me indoors, (along with the holiday bustle which I’m trying to avoid). So what do I do when there’s no one to Muse with?

I believe that abundance is tinder for the creative fire. So today I got out a pile of paintings/experiments I’ve done over the past year in my mixed media Muse group to take a look and get inspired again. It’s a rather big pile.  And here’s a tiny bit.

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There’s everything from sgraffito to tar gel texture to powdered graphite texture and faux (foil) metallics. . .

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And yesterday I visited the new location for Art and Soul of Sebastopol, our art supply store that has moved to a fabulous new location in town with lots of space. Among other treats I picked up a jar of pearlescent magenta Lumiere paint, just because it called out to me. (I certainly don’t need any more paint!)

MuseMix2Sometimes if you’re lucky in your rummaging, you run across something accidental that’s so perfect together.

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Like this paper scrap with the smoke “people”. . .

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And then I look at the works I’ve done in the last Muse Groups, which get clipped in succession on my wall, and remind myself that they all came together from this process of stepping fearlessly into an abundance of visually exciting materials and emotionally charged ideas from life.

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There are some that I want to keep just so, like this combination powdered graphite and colored pigment with gingko stencil piece. It seems like enough just to enjoy the texture as is.

I’ll go into the pile now and see what comes next. . .and share it here. I hope you’ll do the same if you have your own pile?

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Fort Baker/Cavallo Point

The gorgeous fall weather drew me back to the Golden Gate Bridge mid-week, this time on the north side of the S.F. Bay at Fort Baker, an old army post that is now a luxury lodge called Cavallo Point. The combo of the white buildings, golden hills, S.F. Bay adorned with white sails and magnificent city skyline make it a most appealing sketch spot. Cathy McAuliff met me there for the day. We shared a couple of the same views, so you will enjoy seeing her sketches as well!

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Knowing we had the leisure of several hours I brought along my gouache paints and pencils and started out with them. When I work with gouache and colored pencils I tend to just keep working, which is very fun, but it all feels very experimental and I’m very weak on strategy. At some point I just said STOP! to all the corrections and decided just to enjoy the lovely rich colors.

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. . .but then switched to watercolor and a different sort of loose interpretation. Living out in the country, I rarely get the chance to paint interesting buildings like these, so I left out the visitors who were leaving their cars with the valets as well as the cars. Cathy loves to sketch the buildings, so it’s a good opportunity for me to practice when I’m with her.

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Next we headed down to the bay side.

travismarina

What caught my eye at the marina was the iconic cityscape in the background as well as the trees clinging to the side of the hill like a group of bare-legged crew members carrying their boat down to the launch. (The crazy line work in the upper corner was a drawing I started weeks before, while on a bus that was jerking mercilessly!)

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The GG Bridge has become so trite as an art subject that I almost thought I’d skip it, and just sat for a while taking in the real majesty of it, which never, ever grows old. But then the sky did this miraculous thing (no, I didn’t make up that shape!) and I dove in without pen. But not without measuring! A bit of colored pencil and it was done.

The Bouquets Continued. . .

On my visit to the Bouquets to Art exhibit at the De Young Museum last month, my eyes became saturated with the 120 stunning floral displays exhibited with the art they were responding to. I left with a voracious hunger for the floral image. Not surprisingly the fact that it is springtime here and everything that is not in bloom is swelling up with potential, has encouraged more bouquets of art.

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fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook 5.5X8.5″

These Calla lilies, picked from my garden and placed in a lovely little ceramic vase. Not a very skilled arrangement to say the least. But the next morning I saw that I had created a most humble but appealing Bouquet to Art! And so I sketched it to add to the collection in my sketchbook.

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In the living room with my painting “Alvus” in the background.

And then as we started a new Muse Group, we used some fun mixed media techniques to create. . .floral paintings of course!

redsbouquetLots of acrylic paint slathered and fingerpainted on and scraped back to a warm underlayer of paint.

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There should be a way to get inside spring. To walk around first, hop up and grab a stem or branch, and stand up on the rim of it. Look down, and then ??

Secrets are like that. They don’t reveal themselves easily. They wait in the dark, hide behind the flowers and let you get all woozy with the fragrance so you forget to look. Do you really, really want to know what’s there?

Hang out a bit longer, just another minute.  Oh no! There you go again, drifting off. Spring is like that. Those blossoms give no sure footing, especially after a drizzling rain.

Does this part of spring make you a bit woozy? Does it make you want to do everything all at once and then to just sit still, do nothing, breathe it in? We’ve been drenched in sunlight here, watching the apply blossoms pop and the clouds of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies drunkenly imbibing their blossom nectar brew, then swooping down to lay their almost invisible eggs on the vines.

Botanical Garden and Bouquets to Art!

The day after the skyscrapers the weather turned sunny and we headed over to the S.F. Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park to see the last week of the “Magnificent Magnolias” and other spring bloomings.

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watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue Watercolor Book

Who could resist the red of these flowers, which I assumed were poppies, but my friends declared were ranunculus? To get the red in watercolor requires a great deal of red pigment, all the reds and some of the blue!

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Along came two year old Axel with his mom. He unleashed a steady stream of unintelligible commentary on the flowers, no doubt pointing out attributes which I had missed. His fingers were making little squeezing movements while his mother warned “we don’t touch the flowers”. She then handed him a soft ball which he squeezed happily while continuing his monologue, and the flowers were saved! That’s Bob in the background enjoying the show.

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The daffodils blooming under pink budding trees provoked my own kind of frenzy, one of splattering. The result looked best lain on the daisy studded lawn where I was sitting.

Next day was my birthday and our last day in San Francisco. What a treat to celebrate my birthday with a trip to the de Young Art Museum for the annual Bouquets to Art! For one week only, 120 floral designers have displayed arrangements that are inspired by the artworks in the museum. Here are some that I sketched in the museum, and later painted. (Some were sketched with the painting which inspired them.)

 

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fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta spiral sketchbook, 6 X 8″

Arrangement by IM Chan Designs/ painting by Gottardo Piazzioni

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Water Lily Pond Floral Design/ painting by Salvador Dali not shown here

bouquetstoart3‘Arrangement by Orinda Garden Club/ painting by Joe Light

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Arrangement by Donnel Vicente Designs/ painting by Louisiana Bendolph

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Arrangement by Poppie’s Petalworks/ painting by Kara Walker

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Arrangement by Katherine Stuart Floral Art/ painting by John Koch

There are lots of differing opinions about how to enjoy art like this. Some would complain about all the picture taking. And I had to be careful to stay out of the way of the iPhone cameras when I was sketching. I totally understood the need to take the images home and enjoy them for a long time afterward! I probably took 50 pictures and would love to sketch every one of them! When I close my eyes I still see flowers and can imagine their sweetness.

Ah, dear Spring, you are only two days away!

Health Benefits of Coffee!

Have you been reading about the recent studies on the health benefits of drinking 2-3 cups of coffee a day?! Especially great for liver functioning – go figure! But also some of us have known for a while that coffee has some positive effects on our art making, which always leads to more general health benefits.

In Muse group we did a lesson this week using tea and coffee to stain papers, tea bags and to “paint”.

pileupcoffee splattered w/c paper with coffee soaked Masa paper and cheesecloth collage

It starts to pile up after a while, the shorn off pieces with holes in them. As we spin around in space our linings get worn and raggedy. Pieces of skin are rubbed off. New lines and cracks and brown blemishes appear. And still the moon shines brightly, more so perhaps as we realize we are better tuned, lighter, brighter, less encumbered than before.

One of the things I try to do in this group each session (of 6 or 8classes) is to inspire ourselves with the work of a particular artist. This lesson was inspired by Deborah Benioff Friedman, a SF Bay Area artist whose work many of us viewed in a recent exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. She uses tea bags and natural stains in her wall hung and sculptural work in inspired ways!

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For years I’ve used tea and coffee stains to age papers and evoke historical contexts in mixed media works. This one also done on Monday is a bit more in the story-telling style I have often used. At times I’ve used pictures of my own ancestors in the mix. Here are a couple of them: My grandfather Lee Loffswold and his clan and my grandmother Selma Buskerud Loffswold’s family home.

To stain papers I soak them in extra strong tea and/of coffee and then dry them out in a 200 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Mmmm and they smell good too (if you like the tea/coffee flavor that is.)

Let me know if you want to join us in the next 8-week session of the Monday Muse Group starting March 19. There are still openings! Visit my website for more information.

A Muse Lesson on Canvas

We always paint on watercolor paper in Muse Group, but every once in a while I get out my big role of canvas and cut pieces for everyone. I like to take my (loose) canvas paintings and use them as book cloth to make covers for the Muse portfolio/journal books (bound loose leaf with rings).

movingAcrylic on gessoed canvas fabric with canvas collage, 12.5X13.5″

When a figure emerged, rushing along like she was on fire! I recognized myself, dashing through my days in constant pursuit of accomplishing something or other. I must have been thinking of gardening and the blooming of azaleas. . . And I had just read a poem by Pablo Neruda. Here’s an excerpt which starts with the above quote:

Keeping Quiet (excerpt)

If we were not so simple-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.

-Pablo Neruda

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Gesso and black ink squirted on canvas, rolled over with brayer and scraped off with a color shaper.

How easy it is to create fun textures with some fluid acrylics and two tools. . .in less than five minutes! I was thinking I could cut or tear it up for collage, but will probably make it the back cover of a book!

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Two of my mixed media portfolio books, opened to show the canvas covers.

The artwork, mostly done in Muse Groups gets added to the easy ring binding. I have three boxes of these books now, going back to 2005! Before that I just threw my art in flat file drawers where it was forgotten, or in the bin. This has been such a satisfying way to document not only the lessons I learn and teach, but contemplations and writings which are on the backs of the each piece of art (and archived here in the blog!)

(To be continued with more recent lessons and opportunities to join.)

Muse Group Begins Again. . .

The Muse Group is a mixed media painting adventure class that I’ve been teaching ongoing for about ten years or more. On Monday this week we started a new session  with gessoed watercolor paper because it leaves a longer working time with the acrylic. And we employed lots of not-brush application methods like rollers, and toothbrush and fingers and scrapers to “lose control!” happily.

splashdemo: fluid acrylic on gessoed watercolor paper 10 X 11″

I tried demonstrating the alcohol technique but had squirted the acrylic on the paper too thick and only got a trace of the alcohol textural effect at the top here. In my choice of colors and splatter I was definitely still feeling the crashing of surf against the rocks from the beach walks of last week.

In my second piece I was trying to redeem myself and get the alcohol spray to work! And once again still at that beach I remembered my encounter with two ravens. One of them was haughtily pulling plastic (dog poo) bags from the container on the trail. I shooed him away and returned about ten strewn bags to the holder, as the other raven sat on a nearby post cackling in a way that struck me more as laughter, as if to say “You idiot! He’s just going to come back when you’re gone and do it again. Ha ha, caw caw!”

scene5take1 Fluid acrylic and collage on gessoed paper, 10 X 11″

Scene 5 Take 1 and the curtain lifts on a pair of ravens. They’re in cahoots and we’d like to think of an olive branch offering of peace.

But they’re not white doves and the blood red beaks are a tip off. Something more dramatic is a-wing and they’re going to take advantage of it. Survival of the fittest or the loudest perhaps? But only for so long. This scene will end soon enough and the curtain will come down before we know what’s next.

The vine will continue to creep and extend its influence, and no one knows what will transpire as the curtain lifts again in scenes 6 and 7.

If you’re reading something about the current political climate into this last, I’m not surprised. Me too.