Workshops

Fire Flow

firepourDemo for Monday Muse Group: acrylic, Pouring Medium, collage (paper, netting, “medallion skins”)

Such beauty, red, color of sunset, of ripe apples, of rosy cheeks and

Color of flames blowing this way, color of monster chewing up homes, melting down metals and tossing cars like those evil midwestern twisters.

And that Hollywood Oscars-night glow on my horizon. Dumbfounding.

A couple of days after the Tubbs fire (since anointed as the most destructive fire in California’s history) began and while it was still raging on, I tried painting the horizon in flames in the night sky as I viewed it from our living room window on that night of October 8. It didn’t work. There was no way to paint it “on purpose” because this fire was the essence of random. Add to that rampant, unconstrained and unpredictable.

Those same adjectives could be used for acrylic pouring medium which is formulated to make acrylic paints flow and level out and keep moving as you tip and turn the paper, and to keep moving until they dry, which takes a while. Pouring Medium is the name for the Liquitex brand, but Golden has their own version called GAC 800. Mix a few drops of fluid acrylic paint with the medium and you’re ready to pour, either onto your painting surface (paper here) or onto plastic in order to make “skins”, or as I like to call the more circular pools, “medallions”. Here are some of the other medallions I made.

medallionsWhen they’re dry, after a day or so, you peel them up and use them as collage pieces. The one on the lower left was made by marbling with a stick and tipping the surface. The others were made on a level surface with pouring and dropping the paint, all mixed with pouring medium.

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These involved more tipping of the surface to cause more random occurrences as in the painting at the top. You never know what’s going to happen. . . like that fire.

I’ll be teaching “medallions” and other mixed media techniques in the upcoming workshop. Contact me if you’re interested!

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Watercolor Simplified Workshop

Yesterday I held the Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher workshop in Petaluma, CA under sunny skies with lovely cool temperatures, and best of all, fresh air! We all seemed to shed the mantle of recent fire storm woes and enjoy dipping brushes into color in the excellent company of other artists.

In planning this workshop I was acutely aware that “watercolor simplified” is indeed a bit of an oxymoron. Watercolor technique is decidedly NOT simple as anyone who is even moderately proficient at it will tell you. But there are certain strategies one can learn to make it easier to capture a scene quickly,  with less fuss and more fun.

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We started out in a park by the riverfront in Petaluma where there was a symphony of morning birdsong. The students all had good drawing skills but about the watercolor part they made comments like;  I want to get beyond painting by numbers. or I want to get more comfortable with sketching outside. or I want to learn how to punch up a sketch with watercolor. or I want to be freer with my painting.

So we practiced making decisions about what to leave white, painting quickly, dashing off a sky and ground shape with a wet application of at least two colors and a splash. And at lunch we took a wet-splash beginning and did a sketch on top of it.

petalumawkshop08It’s easier sometimes to start drawing on a page with some fun color already there. Instructions were to incorporate the under painting in the sketch design.

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It helped that we had such good eats on Petaluma’s riverfront at the Water Street Bistro.

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Phyllis’ hat was hard to resist. This is my sketch over a splatter-wash under painting.

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The old Petaluma Mill was the perfect setting for the afternoon lesson which was the old One-Two-Punch method.

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(above from my handout)

Paint just the shadow shape first using interesting mixed grays. When that’s dry, come back in with the local color of the objects/buildings, exaggerating or inventing color if you want! The Punch is where you define the darkest areas like windows and deep shadows with your darkest pigments. This will often rescue a pretty but timid sketch.

petalumawkshop07There was not time in this busy workshop to sketch entire scenes, so the students focused in on gem-like parts of the scene.

petalumawkshop04and drew borders around the focal point to further simplify.

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It was nice to have someone to sit with when sketching out in public. Different sketchers doing the same scene always makes for interesting variety. We get to see through each others’ eyes.

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Petaluma is such an enticing location for sketching with a combination of riverfront, older architecture, bridge, railroad tracks, old mills and granaries, and even an abundance of ducks under the tracks! I’m looking forward to another day of sketching there soon.

This was my last sketch workshop of the season, but there are more ideas formulating for new workshops in the series next year, so stay tuned! And let me know what you’re interested in.

Ashes

Staying on the outskirts of the burned areas, not wanting to get in the way of recovery efforts, not wanting to see the devastation of our beautiful Santa Rosa neighborhoods, parks, vineyards. But the images are already burned into our minds and hearts.

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Muse Group demo: acrylic, gesso, fabric collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Crow lands on a burnt out tree, ponders as he watches ash float down.

Nothing familiar here. In the ashes nothing looks the same, a world upended.

And yet, shapes of people’s lives, of things one time possessed, then not. Shards of things, zippers without the pants. Paper gone, words gone.

Yet in someone’s yard five miles away a restaurant menu piece floats to the ground and a bill as yet unpaid.

 

Fire News

Everyone here in Sonoma County wants to know “Are you safe?” So first of all yes, and so is my family and home and neighborhood and town of Sebastopol. And that doesn’t go very far to describe what it’s like to live in this county on fire. Scary and sad is more like it. The air was too dense with smoke to go out and sketch it, and the first responders wanted people out of the way anyway. So I did the next best thing and sketched from our paper, the Press Democrat.

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Sketched from a photo by Kent Porter in the Press Democrat newspaper.

You get the picture here. What’s left of a house and yard and buried car. We’ve been tuned to this kind of picture since Monday morning. Or rather Sunday night when I was awakened by the ding of my cell with a message from a friend “Where are you? Are you packed?” Groggily I looked out my living room window to a view of a horizon on fire. (I’ve tried sketching this from memory but the image I remember is not reproducible).

We packed the car and waited. The fire was visibly distant enough from us to wait, meanwhile realizing we were not nearly prepared for this. Over the next two days conversations ensued about what to take, how to stay informed, how to be responsible to others. It was exhausting and humbling and scary and sad, especially as the stories of evacuations and lost homes unfolded.

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Meanwhile we were marooned inside where the air was filtered. Bob got a call from his sister and tried to fill her in. Our sons kept texting and calling for updates. For a couple days we had almost no phone or wifi. I was desperate to sketch to get a handle on that anxiety. I got out my new Hahnemuhle Nostalgie Sketch Book and grabbed a couple pens and colored pencils. This paper is so sensuous to draw on, smooth in a way that invites a pen to flow.

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Finally we had Comcast cable again and the distraction of TV, Masterpiece and Poldark! Costumes and romance, and that predictable Poldark dark-browed scowl! Perfectly suited to the anxious sketcher in need of relief.

So the Sonoma County fires burn on. But you’ve heard that in the news. My sketch workshop this Saturday has been cancelled due to unhealthy air quality from the fires. I’ll regroup and try another date.

We have our minds on so many things right now. The mind actually collapses when confronted with this sort of thing. But one thing I know. Art restores.

 

Mixed Media workshops this fall!

There’s always ideas percolating for mixed media lessons I’d like to teach in my Monday Muse Group and weekend workshops. For instance, inspired by Gustav Klimt, whose gilded paintings will be shown this fall in an exhibition at the Legion of Honor in S.F., we’ll be working with metallics. . .then a simple form of monotype printing and the very popular “stick painting” where we make expressive mark beginnings with carved sticks. . .then exploring color transparencies to get that eye saturating sense of depth.

If any of these interest you, you may want to reserve your spot in either the weekly Muse Group in my studio or the weekend workshop at Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Here’s the scoop!

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At this writing there are two spots left in the Monday Afternoon group. For more info and to register visit my website.

And if you like a whole weekend to develop your paintings, the following workshop may appeal.

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For more information and to register contact me. I hope to be painting with you this fall!

Inside-Outside Nature Art

We combined the elements of fire and water in Monday’s Muse lesson of powdered charcoal. For fire we had the charcoal residues of fire and the scorching solar heat. The water was washed streaming over the charcoal to make it move beautifully across the paper. In previous years when I taught this lesson 2014 and 2016 it was similarly in hot-hot weather, the better to quickly dry the sopping wet papers!

Here’s my finished demo:

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acrylic and collage on powdered graphite texture, 10 X 11″

The world is divided by borders; mountains and rivers and oceans and lines to keep people separate. Would we know who we are without all the borders or would we stand in confusion looking up at the sky in hopes of getting directives there?

I vote for color that streams across borders and makes a rainbow sky, a rainbow country, and a rainbow world. 

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Sprinkle some powdered charcoal on the dry paper. Here I added some iridescent pigment powder as well. Pour water over the surface and watch the spontaneous dispersion. When dry you can come back in with an eraser, which I did in this, erasing through a stencil.

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I love the way the charcoal granules pattern the paper surface. When this stage is dry and before adding paint, spray workable fixative or mat medium diluted with water and let that dry to seal the charcoal.

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We went outside in the shade to do the charcoal sprinkling and water pouring.

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The charcoal is in the salt shaker in front.  The stencils and iridescent pigments were particularly popular and now my garden sparkles in the light a bit more than usual!

MuseGraphite-03_edited-1The splatter screen served as a kind of sifter for the charcoal.

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I always love to see nature art in the context of the nature that inspires it. Here it is just leaves and mulch.

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. . .and tree trunks and garden green and the beginning of fall leaves, and the golden glow of light spreads across the painting making it a part of it all.MuseGraphite-05

. . .and here, in anticipation of what this fall season will bring!

Thanks to the Muse students for once again taking a lesson beyond its previous borders. These beautiful beginnings made their way back into the studio to be developed with more color and some collage.

 

Beauty

This Monday each time I looked up from my painting to check on the Muse Group students, they were working intently and without pause on their paintings. No one had questions. There seemed to be a host of silent advisors in the room (the ones we call Muses) directing the activity. In the lesson we were using opaque passages to sculpt and design shapes on transparent under paintings. Rivers of inks and fluid acrylics were flowing onto the pages. Next day I rescued the paper towels from the trash and made a corsage.

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I would like to wear this or make it wall sized. Spray it with shellac to preserve it. Make tiny ones to put on pins or hair clips. Design sheets and mugs and T-shirts. And I will probably do none of these, but go back to my delectable acrylic paints for more stunning combinations, which seem endless!

We’ve been enjoying the poetry of John O’Donahue to inspire our own understanding of Beauty. If you want to partake of his insights you might enjoy his interview on the podcast On Being.

This week we contemplated color. In his book Beauty: The Invisible Embrace O’Donahue wrote “Color is always reaching toward us. The eye is the secret destination of color. A color is never alone for each color arises through the interplay of other colors. Color is always a dance with invisible partners.”

The interplay of complementary colors is just such a dance. Once you know that its the red that makes a green landscape vibrate with green-ness you are gaining access to the secret kingdom of color.

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(class demo using semi-opaque green passages glazed over a red background)

Some Beauty is sharp and cutting, pricking into areas long hidden, letting the air out of bubbles, lurking and then jabbing and hiding again behind blooms and pretty smiles, this floral guise designed to lure and then strike at that which needs cutting down.

Its all in the plan, this poke that teaches even as it hurts, then swabs the wound with its beguiling beauty.