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.

 

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Nob Hill with the Urban Sketchers

Last Saturday the SF Urban Sketchers met at Nob Hill to sketch Grace Cathedral and top-o-the-city scenes. The icing on the cake was a visit from our Australian friends Liz Steele and Jane Blundell who perched alongside us on the streets sketching and enjoying a near perfect sunny day in San Francisco. The group swelled to 83 sketchers and there was plenty of socializing with old and new sketch friends.

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fountain pen and watercolor in Hand book w/c sketchbook, 8 X 8″

While we perched on our stools across the street from the Cathedral we enjoyed the photo shoots of several brides dressed in the romance of white and bouquets.

nobhill06I might have to sketch this one from the picture! I was too lost in the arches and hangings and intricate architecture of the cathedral to catch on in time for a live sketch of this.

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Sitting next to my friend Cathy McAuliffe, who always finds an elegant way to simplify a scene I thought I’d try her approach for a quick one. Maybe I should have slowed down a bit? But sometimes on the street sketching with friends that accuracy ceases to matter. It’s about the story of the moment I will definitely not forget.

At 3:30 we met in the park across from the Cathedral to share sketches and welcome our guests. I took a bit of video on my phone to capture a sense of the day. (click image to play)

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At this point some of us were a bit fried! Many sketchers would think this rather strange, but my default relax-a-sketch mode is people, especially when it’s people relaxing in parks on a lovely sunny day with their dogs.

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This is what some city folks do when the day is not the usual blustery cold SF summer weather;  hang out on park benches with their newspapers and kids and dogs. Sketching a scene like this ways feels like a fascinating expedition into other peoples’ lifestyles, and with the advantage of no electronic screen in between!

nobhill08We ended the day with a picnic on the hill at Lafayette Park overlooking the bay, with the city spread all around us below and the trees above. At the picnic table I sat next to a sketcher from Russia who’s a scientist living in the city now and doing cancer research. . .and sketching! If I ever get to Russia I’m going to contact their UsK group and sketch with them! Sometimes it feels like we’re a little United Nations of sketchers. Do you think maybe if the Sunnis and Shiites sketched together there would be more peace in the Middle East? What about democrats and republicans here?

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While the urban sketchers (and family members) tackled the landscape of trees and bay and distant hills (they never seem to tire!) I sketched the sketchers and then it got dark and we headed home.

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.

Apple Press and Petaluma Sketching

If you live in Sebastopol there’s still time to bring your apples over to the free apple press and enjoy the nectarian pleasure of your own fresh apple juice. The volunteer crew will help you out and even clean the press after you and all with enthusiastic smiles. I guess I was too busy with art and such this season to bring my own apple harvest in, so instead I harvested some sketches last Saturday morning.

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The sponsor of this is the Slow Food Russian River group. For those of you who don’t know, the term Slow Food refers to “an alternative to fast food and strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.” Slow however is not how I would refer to the folks doing the apple press procedure. So my pen was moving pretty fast!

And then I got totally distracted by a little girl who was washing apples and then feeding them into the press. When she came over to check out my paints I couldn’t resist loading up a brushload and handing it to her. She knew what to do with it of course. Here’s Adeline’s version of the activity.

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Then last week we were checking out the scene for the upcoming Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher workshop in Petaluma on October 14. We were delighted to find the most appealing spots for sketching, not to mention eating, easy parking etc. So I’m quite looking forward to offering this workshop. For instance there’s the Great Petaluma Mill and the backdrop of those, are they grain shoots?

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and the cutest bistros, bakeries etc to go for the lunch sketch which is always assigned.

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Check out the meal I had. And yet even so I was tortured by the men sitting across from us who ordered a spectacular gluten free chocolate cake and only ate a bite or two! They were so friendly that I know they would have given me the rest, but truly I was already full. I’m quite impressed with these urban sketchers who draw and paint their food when it comes. I’m always too ready to dig in.

There’s still one spot left in the workshop. If you’re interested, visit my website for more info and to contact me.

Mix Those Media! Workshop

Here’s the flyer for a new weekend workshop I’m offering in November ! 

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 1.44.02 PMFor more information check out my website. Feel free to contact me with any questions and to register. Hope you can come!

Back to Muse-ing!

Over the weekend I was busy cleaning and organizing my studio for the influx of Monday Muse Group students. It’s been a four month break in Muse Groups, possibly the longest break since I started teaching them nine or ten years ago! I’d forgotten how things get stirred up when I prepare. While dusting and sorting, my brain was suddenly popping with ideas and excitement and that feeling of nervous anticipation.  I know better than to try to get things all planned out. It’s more about clearing the way for the creative energy of a room full of people who are ready to break out and do something new.

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One new feature in the studio is a wall dedicated to the experimental pieces which are lesson demos in the group. It’s a thin metal rod attached to the wall with tiny bulldog clips for the art.

The lesson for Monday was to use clear contact paper or artist tape as a masking method and then have fun squirting and splattering and smooshing inks. Then to peal off the contact paper or tape, with paint on it, and apply it as collage. I was dying to use my (unused) eclipse glasses in this piece, which turned out to be for all of you who missed the total solar eclipse or even the partial.

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Oh you Luna, you divine representative of the cosmos! You set up such a longing in me that day when you eclipsed the sun and left me out of your totality party. What happened as I watched (on my cell phone) the excitement across the country? Nothing here but overcast skies. We got stiffed! My special glasses remained unused. The sky kept its metallic blue gray color and as the minutes ticked by, my heart sank lower and lower. To be left out so cruelly! A cosmic snub. And so today I cut up my unused, never to be used, eclipse glasses and made up my own totality. Ha!

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Here’s another recent example of masking and using the painted tape for collage. This one also follows the eclipse theme, as I found a place for the eclipse stamp I received from a student in the mail.

National Heirloom Expo

This “urban sketcher” headed to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds this week for an agricultural extravaganza, the National Heirloom Expo, otherwise known as the World’s Pure Food Fair!

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I appreciate beautiful organic produce as much at the next person, but I have to admit that the draw for me was the color! The House of Flowers was filled with such diversity of texture, color and just plain outrageous and sometimes alien forms of fruits and vegetables that it took a long time until we could sit down to sketch. Even then my eyes were bigger than my sketchbook and I overdid it! I decided just to go for it with a brush loaded with color and to keep painting for dear life! Fun!

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This is bitter melon. Its health benefits are legendary if you can survive the bitterness. But get a load of those colors and textures! If I could imagine it as a sugary treat I might actually be able to eat it!

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The dahlias next to me here were a tiny portion of the total display, some of them measuring a foot or more across and with layers of multi colored petticoats. A young mother approached me and asked to take a picture of me for her 5 year old daughter who likes to paint. Reminded me that that’s one of the reasons I like to expose myself to public sketching like this. It was a very friendly crowd, and I made some new friends and at times abandoned the sketching to talk or show off my paints or hand out cards.

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Carole and I realized at some point that people considered us part of the display and soon we had some folks camping out with us, watching the brush dip into paint. A bit distracting, but well worth the interruption!