black gesso

The Three X’s

All over Amsterdam you see the image of three white x’s on a black stripe on a red background. One can’t help but wonder what it means. It looks a bit like a pirate flag. But since I was there I’ve learned that the X’s actually stand for St. Andrew’s crosses. St. Andrew was a fisherman who was martyred on an X-shaped cross in the 1st century AD, which is relevant to Amsterdam as the city’s symbol dates back to 1505 when it was a fishing town and all ships registered in Amsterdam flew this flag. (Thank you to a FB and Instagram friend for clarifying)

The only reason I bring this up now is that those X’s popped up in my art demo in Muse Group on Monday. The lesson was painting on a black painted surface. Interference paints are iridescents that only show up on a dark surface where they seem to throw the light around.

3xInterference acrylics and collage over black gesso coated w/c paper

Presenting. . . (drum roll) the three X’s!

Not as in X-out or don’t you dare, or wrong times 3

but as in, this is a riddle. . .

What happened when the 3 X’s went for a walk and suddenly found themselves on stage and had to act out a character?

Answer:

One was dressed in bright stripes and struck a fashion model pose

Another was in black and took a defiant stand

And the third shy one was in blue like the background and happy to blend in.

Which one were you?

Interestingly most of the Muse Group students agreed with me that they would prefer to be the one who blends in. But gosh, it’s fun to get a little bit of spotlight every now and then!

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House of Dreams

I pulled out an older mixed media lesson for Muse Group this week – one of my favorites – “Building” a House of Dreams. The idea is that you don’t have to be an architect to build a house for your dreams, a temple or sanctuary, a place that feels just right. You can start out by picking materials and images that speak to you and allow some kind of structure to spontaneously evolve as you play with them on the two dimensional surface.

houseofdreams_travel

demo: black gesso, acrylic ink and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Small wonder that I found pictures from this harbor scene in Denmark, which echos that of Amsterdam where I’ll be next month for another International Urban Sketchers Symposium. Reminds me of Bergen, Norway where I lived and felt so at home for two years when I was 20-21. I’m not a good sailor and never could handle the North Sea, but the canals of Amsterdam have great appeal!

I started this piece by painting the paper with black gesso, which has good coverage and a lovely mat finish. The white spots I left were random, just to see if they could be useful later on. Some ended up looking like clouds? and the one in the center is an opportunity to let the imagination explore. Is it a daytime scene of the harbor and sea? a symbolic place of rest beyond the turbulence, or a dangerous rock that could sink a ship? What do you see there?

Black and White and Mazes

Getting back to black and white occasionally is like clearing the palette from rich (color) food so that one can taste with clarity again. Ha! Well that sounds good anyway. We did a lesson this week in Muse Group of playing with black and white collaged patterns.

blkwhitecamouflageacrylic, collage, black gesso on 10 X 11″ w/c paper

There are ways to deal with mazes and blind alleys. Make it a game and jump in. Have some paint ball fun; play leap frog and roll down a grassy hill. Stir up some random cyclonic energy. Run round in a circle till you collapse, dizzy and spent and laughing. Do you want your life to play like a comedy or a tragedy?

This was a kind of puzzle I wanted to play with, combining an image of a maze or labyrinth (few of us knows the difference) with a dancing figure, engaging in a kind of hide and seek with aspects of camouflage. The discovery was how amazing these bright colors look on the black and white patterning. Something a bit Halloweeny about it, wouldn’t you say?

Take the Lid Off

For over a month I stopped doing my mixed media paintings. Workshops finished up in July – the trip to Ireland and England with lots of watercolor sketching – the post trip exhaustion and need to archive. How to start up again?

Well, if I don’t know the answer to that question then I must be a pretty big fake, because I’ve been focusing on the movement of creative energy in myself and with other artists in groups for years now.

You can write in your journal about creative stasis. You can read books about it. You can complain to your husband or friends about it or get tired thinking about it and have to take a nap or eat a piece of cake. I have done all of these and more in the past.

So to get re-started I engaged in the most basic-of-all practice of. . .JUST DO IT. (after I’d done some lovely studio clean up first!)

takethelidoff

And while I was painting I started getting those little bursts of energy, like little electric shocks, associated with thoughts about what I could try next.

My wonderful Muse students were not here, but I did the 5 minute free write we always do and here’s what this piece said:

Time has come to take the lid off and watch what comes out. The lid? The false notion that my responsibilities to family and home, personal health and well being, financial necessity and more are keeping me from the Muse.

She has been waiting patiently for me to give her the time and space and the attention. Maybe she has been in some other artist’s studio where there is paint and paper and brushes for her to take up. But the stone has come off the opening and she is flying out. Will I be able to catch her or allow myself to be caught?

My Artful Muse workshops are starting up again this month in Sebastopol, CA. Hope you can join us. The group energy is irresistible! For more information and to register visit my website.