Workshops

There’s More to Sight Than Eyes (again)

I was just sitting down to figure out what I would teach for the first lesson of The Playful Muse workshop starting this week. I always like to start a mixed media series with fun paint application techniques to loosen us all up. Drip creatures is one of my favorite lessons because it’s silly and profound at the same time! So I looked up past blog posts on the Drip Creature theme and found this one from seven years ago. Lo and behold, it revealed my uneasiness about recent murky vision. Turns out that once again this is exactly my concern today! So here I am reposting it and letting it both speak to my fears and give me a much needed prayer of hope.

 

(from the 2016 post) I thought I was just being playful with this one, picking up an old class demo of a kind of ink drip creature. And then, no kidding, it started to talk to me about something I needed to hear!

I can see you sitting there, thinking about your eyes, one clear and one struggling to see through spots and threads and the murky patch.

Look me in the eye and repeat after me: I can see just fine. This cage of one eye is translucent and does not a prison make. I have three eyes to take the place of the one

and the world keeps opening.

Drip creatures tend to be a combination of many species and so they exist outside the realm of waking mind where we have convinced ourselves that things are a certain way that we can explain.

Yes, my left eye has a retinal occlusion for which there is treatment. . . of sorts, and yes I must be reminded not to worry, but to notice all the ways my other senses and brain fill in the blanks, giving me for the most part decent sight. I won’t soon forget this colorful and bizarre image, like something right out of a dream, or perhaps a prayer. (end of 2016 post)

 

And now (2023!) dealing with cloudy vision again, I feel so comforted, remembering that I have three eyes, and the world keeps opening!

If you want to try your own (prophetic!) drip creatures, look at this post for some simple instructions and give it a try!

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Asemic Writing with a Folded Pen

You should see my husband Bob’s studio! Every month he’s playing with new materials to add to his already prolific printmaking repertoire. With the frigid weather lately I avoid a trip outside and instead go through his studio to get to mine. With his tantalizing array of paints, inks, pen and tools, occasionally I find something to borrow.

Knowing that I love words Bob had turned me onto the word asemic.  Applied to writing it writing that is unreadable but makes the reader hover in a state between reading and looking and is therefore highly attractive to the reader’s eye.

We tried it out in a Muse Group lesson last month. Then in playing around with Bob’s new calligraphy tools I paired it with an abstract ink pour using a folded pen or ruling pen.

Chinese ink on gessoed paper with asemic writing using a folded pen

Ruling pen rules

Curves round and cups

Spills in brazen

Bold black

No words here

Just an up in your face

Look at me!

Can I rule like you?

Draw attention

To my humble

Piece of parchment

Gather up awe

Drink it in

If your Muse-mind is making up a story about this piece, I’d love to hear it! And you may have just come up with another idea for something to put in your Christmas stocking. These folded pens are inexpensive fun!

Step by Step Muse-ing

acrylic inks and gesso on 10 X 11″ w/c paper

If you’re up for it, I’ll take you through the machinations of a mind steeped in the mysteries of Muse-ing, which is no other than common ordinary imagination set free with almost unlimited art supplies at hand! I’m tuning up now to teach my first in-person Muse Group since the pandemic started, and at the mere though of it the wild horses of imagination are off and running at breakneck speed. Woooo boy!

Starting with no brushes here. They are way too left brain for a spontaneous start. The aim is to cause something unexpected to happen. Squirting ink from a dropper, dropping gesso in tiny blobs, smooshing with fingers, spritzing with water, scraping with a cerated tool and a palette knife. Letting it dry and then gazing and free associating. What forms do you see here? A sun god, an octopus, a barking dog or wolf? But don’t get too attached.

acrylic “skins” and collage added

I could have stopped there, but wanted to have some more mixed media fun. In a magazine I found a vessel and wanted to fill it with something. The underpainting was not cooperating with this new plan, so I unearthed some acrylic “skins” (dried poured acrylics) and started cutting and finding shapes. I wanted a story to evolve, but this took some time, moving pieces around, discovering the lucky accidents of small pieces which could be put together into abstract bird shapes. Then I got stuck again and decided to try to write about this evolving story and see what it was about. 

Black and turquoise acrylic and screen collage added

Finally I had my story but needed the separate parts to hang together and talk to each other visually. So back to the collage to find some screen material, one of my most favorite collage materials! The bottom needed anchoring with more black acrylic, but in a way that harmonized with the circular swirl of marks on the page. Some of the black screen needed painting with the white gesso to show up against the dark segments. I was in pure design mode.

And finally the voice said, you can stop now. And there you have it. You may have stopped much sooner, and that would have been “right” too! Here’s the final version of my writing, tweaked for external consumption. Although it’s not specifically mentioned here, you may find yourself making the connections with things going on in this time of proximity to election day. I certainly did. 

A cart upset

And cargo released

These eggs of questionable parentage

Now rumbling into

Bewildering atmospheric haze

Their wild permutations defying 

Sanity   and     Reason

Even the solitary high flyer could not make sense of it

Too weird he shrieked, dropping feathers

In his haste to exit the scene

 

He could not help but catch sight 

Of the curtain rising

On the most bizarre show of all

New Muse Group starting!

The Muse Group is not something I could keep to myself. For sixteen years this mixed media practice I called Conversations With the Muse was a staple of my art life. Emphasis on group here. You can’t have one if you paint alone. The creative energy is far stronger with the muse energy of a group. And I just couldn’t wrap my mind around teaching in front of a computer and camera. So finally next month I’ll be offering The Playful Muse: Mixed Media Painting, a three week series before the holidays ramp up. It will be live, in-person for people in the Olympia area, but I will also be blogging about the lessons if you want to follow along! Here’s the flyer and information about how to register for those of you in the area.

For more information about the workshop and to register visit my website. Or contact me by email or phone.

I’m ready to push some boundaries with you and get that intuitive art voice talking!!

Lakewold Gardens

pen and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook

I finally got to join the Tacoma Urban Sketchers for a meet up at the lovely Lakewold Gardens on Gravelly Lake in Lakewood, a suburb of Tacoma, WA , actually only 35 minutes drive from my home. The grounds are spectacular with giant trees like the Copper Beech that you’d like to live in, formal gardens and meandering trails through the woods with views of the lake below. And more! 

Since I had already begun the Wild Wonder Nature Journal Conference, I was inspired to find a place to look closely and learn. This “pollinator house” drew me in with its shaded slots for nature materials, like a Home Depot for building supplies for bees and birds and mice and such. One stop shopping! As I sketched the contents I tried to imagine which creature would make a shelter here. 

It was situated under a leafy canopy whose branches partially blocked my view, so my interest was drawn to them. My Leaf Snap app identified the tree from the pink flowers: a Harlequin Glorybower! No wonder I was so attracted to the spot. I was in a Glorybower, entertained by a Harlequin. When I stood up I saw that I’d sat on a white star and then found the last of them, the ones that had not yet blown off, on the same tree. 

By the way, the Wild Wonder Nature Journal Conference is blowing my mind, and if you haven’t joined in, it’s not too late. The classes you missed were recorded and you can catch up at your own rate. Gotta go now. A challenge for today was to listen to the song [nature sounds] of the place where you are, and get that down in your journal. Sign the bird’s song back to it in order to learn it?

Salal

w/c pencils,ink, and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook

My friends at Jubilee retirement community invited me back to lead a nature journaling workshop last week. We met at their shaded pavilion next to the woodland trail that leads to the beach on Puget Sound. It was a welcome opportunity to meet up with other artists who are nature lovers and share the desire to make more art IN nature.

There’s always a barrier to sitting out alone sketching on a trail or anywhere else where you may feel exposed. So no matter how appealing this kind of nature/art making is, it tends to not happen without a group of friends. 

To prepare for this workshop I went back to “the source” of nature journal practice, John Muir Laws, otherwise known as Jack and his website and books for inspiration 

No one speaks more eloquently than Jack about taking a sketchbook out with you in Nature.

“The process of attention is what makes you fall in love with the world. It’s through attention that we create memories. A sketchbook helps you to preserve the integrity of those memories.”

We practiced his three very simple tools in the form of verbal questions:

  1. I notice. . . .(where you observe what interests you, focusing here on sense perception, not label or concept)
  2. I wonder. . .(asking questions out of curiosity with no need to have the answers)
  3. This reminds me of. . .(making connections as memories surface).

And then we took our sketchbooks out on the trail with the instruction to observe and record our interests including at least one of each: a sketch, a word, and number (date, time, measurement, etc). The Salal was abundant on the trail and eye catching in all its variations. In preparation I had brought a small ruler with me, wanting to be a tad more scientific than my usual approach. We were so absorbed that I regrettably forgot to take pictures. The resulting nature journal entries from this group of artists were inspiring! And I definitely felt the wonder factor of our nature-filled afternoon reach a high point.

If any of this sounds intriguing to you, or perhaps serves as a reminder, you might be interested in the upcoming Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference coming up September 14-18. It will be live streamed so it doesn’t matter where you live. I’ll be attending and posting my favorite moments!

How to Hang (your unframed small art)

There were enough blog readers wondering how I hung my gallery wall of Muse art, that I thought I’d devote a brief post to what is actually a do-it-yourselfers dream. Even I could have constructed it, though I lean heavily on Bob for such things and he always comes through with good solutions.

For years I have been doing these expressive art pieces and they tend to pile up! After I’ve done about 20 of them, they go into loose leaf books, like the ones you see stored in boxes on the right. But it really helps my creative courage to give them a bit of air for a while first. (By the way, the writing I do about each piece is on the back). I think it’s too easy to forget we are creators if we can’t see the fruits of our art time. So here’s how to make your own:

First thing is to find the dowel you can use. We purchased these metal ones (3) at a hardware store. They are 6′ long and about 1/4″ diameter.  The dowel must fit through the eye screw which goes into the wall. We used three eye screws for each of the 6′ dowels. The clips fit over the dowel. That’s it.

And the clips we used: (Sorry about the disturbing safety reminder here!) but if you’re like me you want specifics, so you know what you’re looking for on line or locally sourced. 

I’ve never had a problem with putting holes in my walls to hang art. Best not to be squeamish about that. Trust that the art will always upstage the wall surface! And let me know how it goes if you try this.

Humans in Action: Pedro Loureiro on Etchr

More of my student work today, this time from Etchr Studios workshops where a lot of my favorite urban sketchers are offering classes. I met Pedro Loureiro a few years ago during the International Symposium of Urban Sketchers in Portugal. He’s a master of reportage (visual journalism) and capturing people in lively scenes. One of his Etchr courses, which you can watch on demand, is Humans in Action: Figures and Gestures in Ink and Watercolor.

(The artwork posted here is my student work)

Humans Action with Pedro Loureiro: fountain pen and watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed media sketchbook

This is a scene I probably would never have tackled, but Pedro breaks it down into foreground, mid ground and background; simplifying, suggesting rather than detailing, and sticking to more neutral color choices to unify. No pencil here. Students were asked to just pretend we were actually on location with all the movement and visual/kinesthetic/auditory/aromatic inputs and keep the pen moving! Watching his pen move across the paper in flowing motions was ample inspiration to give it a try!

Urban Sketching, Painting Crowds with Pedro Loureiro: fountain pen and watercolor

In another workshop with Pedro I discovered my achilles heal. My perceptual capabilities break down when I have to switch from foreground figures to tiny people in the distance. (Only part of that can be attributed to my poor distance vision, haha!) Surely it’s a matter of practice. I didn’t recover from the urge to toss this paper in the trash until I added watercolor. Focusing on patterns of light and shade on the figure is the speediest way to render a figure in motion.

Urban Sketching, Painting Crowds with Pedro Loureiro: fountain pen and watercolor

This scene is the sort I love to sketch. With such a clear figure as star of the show the question is how to include figures in the background as supporting actors.  By simplifying them with simple line, no detail and neutral color washes they add interest without distraction. 

Some other watercolor teachers I enjoy on Etchr are Eleanor Doughty from Seattle and Bianca Ryala from Phillipines. But there are so many intriguing short workshops to try!

More Sparks Lit on Spark!

A busy city scene is probably the most challenging subject for an urban sketcher, especially for one like me who has lived in the countryside for the past two decades. But oh, I can’t resist the challenge. It would be marvelous to go out each day and practice in a busy location, but winter temps here in the Pacific Northwest are not amenable to on location sketching, especially in the time of Covid. So what better time to learn some new skills, sketching along on Zoom with people who excel at capturing the lively city! 

(The art shown here is my student work.)

Jedidiah Dore is a New York City artist and passionate urban sketcher/reportager who teaches a series now on Sketchbook Skool’s Spark platform called Creative Urban Sketching

Creative Urban Sketching with Jedidiah Dore: a street scene in New Orleans

One lesson was about editing a complex scene – deciding before putting pen to paper what should be included and what left out. And the scene was one I remembered well and loved from a sketch trip to New Orleans almost two years ago now!

Let’s Figure it Out with Jedidiah Dore

In another class titled: Let’s Figure it Out: Drawing People, we were timed and coached in a way to simulate live action scenes and draw decisively. Continuous line gestural drawing, while looking more at a subject, who will move at any moment, than at the paper. This is from Jedidiah’s photograph, but in the spirit of live action.

We all want to “get it right” and know we can’t possibly succeed at that with a moving scene. So it takes a certain practiced surrender to let go enough to set the hand loose from the thinking mind.  A lifetime of practice surely. Works for me, because it’s such a high to be able stop the mind for a while. Most sketchers would agree.

And I took another fun urban sketch class on Spark with someone whose style many of you will recognize instantly – Ian Fennelly! Lots of patterned pen work and zany watercolor washes which I dutifully tried. It’s not my style, but I wanted to play with different pens and was happy to go wild with it and even get tangled up in all the patterns. Such a fun way to tell a story of a time and place!

In the Home of the Beatles with Ian Fennelly

So much of what I’ve learned about drawing and painting and dancing and playing music has been a process of imagining myself in the body of the master . . . trying to hold a pen or leg or hand in the same way, watching and feeling and listening from the inside. Almost an Alice in Wonderland leap into another perception.

One of my current master teachers is a two year old boy across the street who soaks up everything in his environment, interacts with it, seeks to understand it with all his senses, and never seems to worry about getting it wrong. So I’ll take my cues from him, and above all keep it fun!

Enemy Combatants

When you want to know what a rorschach is trying to tell you, just pick up a pen and take dictation as it begins to talk. It’s usually nonsense at first, but just keep going and you might be surprised! The rorschach painting I demo-ed in a quick video a couple weeks ago (see here ) talked to me and here’s what it said.

fluid acrylics and gesso on w/c paper

Enemy Combatants

They didn’t know how ridiculous they looked

these strutting enemy combatants

nor how much alike they were

. . . twins really

Passionately they cared for their towering headwear

their voluminous feathered capes which

simultaneously raised to reveal

chests with medals won in [internet-only] battles.

Little did they realize (giggle giggle)

that their precious manly parts would

thus spill out for all to see

and measure and compare and

(much worse) to snigger

These combatants, trapped on the paper as they are

pose no threat to readers here

Yet we are reminded of those who

in their manly posturing

do great injury to innocent souls

Remind you of anyone?