Workshops

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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Reportage with Oliver

On weekends Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is a three ring circus, a place I would probably avoid if if were not for the superlative sketching possibilities! Last Saturday I was there for a Reportage sketching workshop with my good friend and fellow flaneur, Oliver Hoeller and a small group of “advanced” students wanting to learn his delightful illustrative style of storytelling journalism.

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Working in a 9 X 12″ spiral bound Canson Mix Media sketchbook I did a warm up here before the workshop started.

You can sit on one bench on the Wharf, as I did here, and turn your head to see all of this (that’s Alcatraz at the top) and catch a performance while watching the tourists and sailboats and being tempted by food. Here I’m going fast and trying to fit the elements together, something which I know Oliver will be teaching.

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First warm up in the workshop was to draw a composite figure using different subjects to complete it. Why? Because in a place like the Wharf everyone is moving, so unless you want to finish the figure from memory (not recommended) you may need to wait for the next subject to come along. I made it easy on myself and sketched what I could see from where I was standing, David’s head (another student) and Oliver’s body. We referred to this sketchy form of laboratory science as the Frankenstein man.

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The next exercise (my favorite!) was like a scavenger hunt! Oliver would tell us what category of subject to add to the drawing and give us five minutes to complete it. Then we would move on. (this only works in a small group!) I added color later and might have overdone it.

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In this one I’m focusing, with more concerted effort and the encouragement of Oliver, on varying and exaggerating the size of the various elements and connecting them in a “designed” way. It’s so liberating to pick and choose the story telling elements based on interest and the needs of the sketch rather than struggling to get perspective and other pictorial aspects to match the scene before you!

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Sketching within cells, graphic novel style – another great way to capture aspects of an otherwise overwhelming scene. I lasted inside the Musee Mecanique arcade for about 15 minutes before the noise drove me back outside!

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At the end of the workshop Oliver led us into the bowels of commercial Fisherman’s Wharf where the stimulation level reached a screaming pitch. But the great thing is that there is so much to choose in a setting like this.

This is not my favorite sketch of the day –  too locked down and closed up with no lost edges. And I was trying out Oliver’s grey felt pen and overdid it. But this is the kind of sketch that teaches the most. . .when you have that if-only-I-had. . . experience, because there’s always a next time, and a next. I can’t wait!

And a big thanks to Oliver!

See more of my Fisherman’s Wharf sketches here.

What the season holds in store

I got out the cheesecloth in Monday Muse Group and realized I would have to learn all over again how to make interesting textures with it. I was still refreshing my memory when I did this one before class. God awful bright,  I know, but this is the season of rich colors, so why not?!

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Skies aflame and birds circling. They know what the weather signifies, what the season change holds in store for anyone who pays attention to the timber of the light, to the patterning in the fields, to the leaves and seed pods in dense clusters of writing that black birds comprehend as they follow their own flight patterns and land in choreographed formations designed to satisfy the hunger of bellies so long aloft.

You English teachers might be annoyed with the run-on sentence, but the leaves don’t pause for you to notice them falling or the river slow down so you can freeze action. This season is coming on us in glorious and unsettling ways that doesn’t allow for regular punctuation. Are you getting into some spookiness?

New Mixed Media Group starts Oct 29!

A new 6-week session of Muse Group fun starts at the end of the month and you’re invited to join!  We’ll be doing more lessons like this one, applying acrylic inks and gesso in abstract designs, adding textures and collage, and words. For more information and to register visit my website.

Two weeks ago we started out with a familiar Zen concept, that of enso, a Japanese word meaning circle and symbolizing the absolute, enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, the void. . .the expression of the moment when the mind is free to let the body/spirit create! enso1

If I were to step into this ENSO, there might be repercussions. Well, I hope so. There’s got to be a something in the white nothing. I can stand here forever on the outside, weaving my wreath of inks and collage, but the inside is where the ad-venture starts. . .the journey to the center of a swirling mass of colors and shapes, the bottom of the well. . .the ____ ?

The circle shape does raise the question of “what’s inside?” It points to what often cannot be seen or even if seen, words may fail to describe it adequately.  Of course that’s the business of the image, to suggest without spelling it out. In Muse Group we write for five minutes after the image making, not to describe or define the image, but perhaps to go deeper into the mystery of it.

In another enso piece, exploring the radiating form of the circle shape, the appearance of crickets led to more disturbing thoughts.  . .

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What attracts them to the maelstrom which may be their oblivion? Is it the march of their species rising out of a wrong turn by some of its members, with the inexorable pull of primitive tribalism?  (Are we only talking crickets here?)

Who do we follow in life’s march, the one who we recognize as most familiar, or the wise one(s) who takes off down a new road that we cannot yet see the end of. Either way oblivion is terrifying, but also inevitable.

 

Sketching Fire Stories

If you’ve been following along here then you know that, along with a small group of urban sketcher friends, I’ve been doing reportage sketching of our firestorm aftermath since last October, telling the visual stories of the scarred landscape, the first responders and the people who lost so much.

In the process I’ve experienced an increased feeling of connection with my community. Ironically, even though we are told that firestorms are now “the new normal” of weather patterns, I have a greater sense of security as a result of hearing stories of such bravery and the loving responses of communities of friends and even strangers. Even though I didn’t lose my home, the “fire news” has become a personal thing for me.

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On Saturday I attended a round table discussion of artists whose art in response to the fires was in the From Fire Love Rises exhibition now showing at the Sonoma Valley Museum. Listening and sketching I felt intimately connected to their pain and loss, but also to their experience of the healing and redemptive aspects of art making. You may have noticed that almost every art venue is showing fire related art right now!

For all these reasons I decided I wanted to share this experience with others like yourself and see if our group can’t grow into a larger reportage effort called “Sketching Fire Stories”. If you think you might be interested, please read further.

If you’ve taken any of my workshops, you may be ready for one form or another of this reportage sketching! You can learn about it “on the job” so to speak. And here’s the invitation.

If you are an artist, illustrator, sketcher, writer, and/or friendly good-listener, please join us for Sketching Fire Stories at the Wildfire Anniversary Event: Community Healing Together on Sat., Oct. 6, 11am-2pm at Shiloh Regional Park in Windsor, CA We will have a table set up with information about how you can participate. The “stories” we collect will be posted on social media and wider, including pop-up art shows in the coming months.

You may wish to sketch the many activities at the event, the people, or the nature areas recovering from the fire. We will also be pairing up into interviewer/sketcher teams to do portraits of people who wish to share how the fires affected them, and what has given them hope in the last year. (see examples of this from Sketching Climate Stories) You might prefer to interview and take notes to be added to the sketches.

If you’re interested, please contact me and I’ll give you more information! Or visit the Meet Up posting about the event and sign up there. This is such a satisfying way to connect with the community, to help with the healing, and to participate in socially conscious art making!

Light-footed

A new Muse Group session started up last week. I’ve taken the summer off from teaching and it’s great to be back doing this intuitive painting/collaging work. I like to always start the class back up with acrylic inks because they can be squirted onto the page with droppers! Meaning that we can throw caution to the wind, at least initially, and then develop a piece with the part of the brain that embraces serendipity.

lightfootedclass demo: acrylic inks and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

She is light-footed, buzzing with the bees and nesting with the birds, throwing herself out in a string of tags – one day a mother, another a star on a stage, and yet another a winged creature.

Her blessings are cast everywhere, yet she remains at the center of it all, animated and relaxed, energetic and focused. Sometimes she wraps the strings around her for protection, like shields, pulling the birds and the bees with her into a cocoon.

It can be daunting to tackle a painting like this which begins with “ink play”, so I got out my rubber stamp collection, which is considerable at this point. Some of them were purchased and many were carved into soft linoleum blocks.

The class exercise was to wet portions of the watercolor paper with water, squirt on some inks (3 colors max!) and let them mix a bit, and then add some gesso “worms” and run the roller or other tool through them to mix. I like to put some gesso of the lighter weight variety into an applicator (like a mustard container) and squeeze it onto the paper.

Then, while the paint was wet, press the rubber stamp into it and then stamp that on the paper as well. Voila! You’re already halfway to a finished painting that is harmonious and has interest!

Sketching Climate Stories

Next weekend I’ll be participating in “Sketching Climate Stories” at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The Bay Area urban sketching groups are joining together to document the  Climate Summit and the people who are coming to it. We’ll be doing portraits in pictures and words, telling the stories of how individuals and their communities have been affected by climate change—and how they’re working on solutions.

2 Interview/sketch pieces, 8.5X11″, pen, water soluble pencil, w/c on w/c paper

So I got together with my sketch buddies this week to practice interviewing and sketching in pairs. The three of us had lots to relate about how Global Warming is affecting our community here in the post-Tubbs fire era.

Bettina’s comment: “The threat of fire was always more theoretical before . .now the danger can’t be ignored. It’s right on our doorstep!” could have been made by just about anyone here in the Santa Rosa and other areas. And when asked what she is working on, Carole responded that she is using her art to “bring awareness to social issues like Climate Change”.

And if you’re looking for ways to do the same, read on here.

We’ll be starting at the Rise for Climate march on Sunday and dropping in on different events and actions during the week. We have applied for press credentials to do sketch reportage of the GCAS events in the Moscone Center.

The main groups involved are the SF Bay Area Urban Sketchers, a chapter of the international Urban Sketchers organization, with 220 chapters around the world, and SF Sketchers, a San Francisco-based meetup group with nearly 3,000 members.

We will be posting our sketches online in the blog SketchingClimateStories.org (currently under construction), a Facebook group, Sketching Climate Stories and on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #sketchingclimatestories.

The sketches themselves will be shown at several locations during the week, including a popup show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on their Green Thursday evening. We are planning a larger show of all the sketches after the Summit and are considering ways that the climate stories could evolve into a long-term project, documenting the effects of climate change on frontline communities. (I would add here, that one of the frontline communities will be here in Sonoma County where we’ll be commemorating the first anniversary of the Oct 2018 firestorms this year with events by many local groups.)

Here are Inks to currently scheduled events (this will change as more events are added)

Practice session at Arch Art Supplies, September 1

Reportage sketching at the march on September 8

Popup show of the sketches at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Green Thursday, September 13

It’s all pretty exciting and constantly evolving. Feel free to contact me if you wonder how you can get involved, either in the S.F. event or in October for our Sonoma Co. events.