collage

Reflection in the mirror

Each day lately I learn more about what it means to have black skin in this world. It seems more important than ever to have eyes and ears open, and to take an honest look at what is reflected back in the mirror.

As I was finishing this piece I ran across a cache of small mirrors I had bought many years ago when teaching a workshop where we sketched parts of ourself seen in the mirror. I realized that I needed to put myself into the picture, but also to invite us all in to see ourselves reflected back in the truth of the images.

The trick was to get my reflection as I was taking the picture with my cell phone! It took a good ten minutes of gyrations to pull it off. Finally I was able to at least get a corner of me.

manyvoices

Credit here to my husband Bob who is always wowing me with his printmaking. I was in his studio lately, and was looking with such greedy eyes at his gelli prints, that he let me walk away with some unfinished ones, with his blessing to do with them what I wished. Lucky lady! The rest here is collage, stick dipped in inks and the mirror.

Mirror, mirror

We tried a new idea in Muse Group this week. I called it “Use What You Get Collage”. Everyone came with a folder/file of at least 10 collage items that they’d picked because they fit together in some way- color, theme, designs.

In class we passed our folders to a person on the left, so we all had a “surprise” collection of collage pieces. It felt like a present and initially exciting!

From the folder we were “gifted” we each picked at least five collage items to which we could add whatever we wanted to make a finished piece. It turned out to be more of a challenge, for me at least, than I’d figured on! It took a lot of design-mind problem solving to make it work. And that’s exactly why it was so fruitful.

mirrormirror

Mirror mirror whatdoyasay?

the world may be ending soon

but I’m still here in this mess

refusing to ignore the beauty 

I’ll wear it in my hair

wrap it round my body

extol it, consume it, remember it

paint it and write it down

till the end of my time

and all without a whine.

A bit of clarification here. My collage gift pieces were all lovely greens and blues: National Geographic pages showing debris in the ocean, jewelry, woven textiles, rubber gloves . .. To have a focus I added the picture of a woman and some mylar for the mirror (which photographed as black).

I also added the following quote from a little book Women’s Wit and Wisdom, which you’re probably not able to read:

“While others may argue about whether the world ends with a bang or a whimper, I just want to make sure mine doesn’t end with a whine.”

Post Apocalypse Self Portrait

Still no rain here in the north San Francisco BAY area, but we’ve just weathered another apocalyptic fire. Everyone’s talking about it – how to prepare for the next one. . .we all believe there will be the next. . .or how to get out of Dodge and go somewhere there will be no environmental disasters. And where is that elusive Shangri La?

It seemed like a good time to pull out the old zany self portrait lesson in Muse Group. To avoid having to look at ourselves in the mirror and trying to draw ourselves, we just clowned in front of the computer to capture our very own comic strip character and went about painting and collaging the marvelous emotional entanglement that is our lives at the moment. Just that. Nothing deep and analytic or prophetic. Just one in an infinitude of selves we carry around all the time.

Here’s what popped out on my paper this time.

bay

Collage on acrylic painted background with a Photo Booth Comic Strip-filtered selfie.

Post Apocalypse Self Portrait

Aargh! What a place to call home.

So beautiful it makes your heart ache

so treacherous…… it makes your heart ache.

I want to move and I can’t bear to.

I want to stay and grow old – er, but can I bear it?

the fires the floods and heaven forbid the earthquakes

But the bees and butterflies, they stay

as do the birds

and our cats

and the flowers and trees bloom and fruit each year

and. . .

we will not leave

New Mixed Media Group Starts Jan 21!

I’ll be starting up a new 6-week mixed media Muse group in my studio in Sebastopol, CA on January 21. Hope you can join us! It’s a six-week class exploring painting and collage methods like the ones shown in my last post, but it’s honestly so much more. Excellent supportive company of the artist kind for one. Meditation and writing and even some poetry thrown in. Whatever it takes to tickle the creative nerve. For more information and to register visit my website. Limited to 7 participants. Students of all levels are welcome.

postcard

class demo: embossed acrylic medium textures, antique postcards, acrylic glazes and ink on w/c paper 10 X 11″,

The post now is rarely of personal nature. Your name on the envelop is computer generated. Cut it up and rearrange it any way you want. Dye it different colors and glue it back together. You can only improve on the boredom of the daily mail.

Or try to imagine yourself in times past, even before your parents were born, when script was elegant and letters could verge on poetry. Go back to the time when the pen danced in loops and swirls and Miss Eda got a hand written card from Sis. 1915

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?!

season

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?

Sfumato, Fumage, Smoke Painting

Whatever you call it, it happens when you touch a flame to paper, just enough to let a ghost of ashy, charcoal-y gray/black touch the paper. It’s hard to stop once you get started.

You can fix it with acrylic spray, workable fixative, and then paint over. You can take an eraser and remove it in places, as I did with the teardrop shapes here. You can burn the edges of the paper or even burn wholes in the middle. But watch out! The firebug may take over.

smoke1

candle smoke, collage, stainless steel acrylic, screen and paper collage on w/c paper

Smoke alarms! The embers dance a crazy dance of not caring.

It is so very thrilling, this dance of life and death.

But only when you are perched on the high wire

Or immediately after when you’ve survived and can see that your feet are still there,

Hands still clutching each other.

You’ve just seen the spirits.

That will haunt you forever.

Make Your Own Story Here

I was inspired by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts”Marvelous” collage and assemblage exhibition as well as the artists showing in Gallery III, John Hundt and Sherrie Parker. So last week we did a lesson in my Muse group combining various images to create anthropomorphic and surrealistic “figures”.  I tried to keep mine simple – images on white paper background with little if any paint added. The result was images that tell their own story, so I’ll show two here without my own story so that you can find your own.

goat

Here I am trying to be refined, like some collage artists, and finding that it is preferable to use Yes paste for this sort of collage rather than acrylic gel medium because it is tackier . Consequently I found that even the heavy body gel made the paper curl up and I had difficulty with placement. Lesson learned!

theworld

Images like this are so political these days. . .

butterflies

I needed this one to clear the palette, so to speak. Here are the words that came:

Innocence. Ah, it’s all coming back now! – the spinning whirl of each day – the knowledge that nature belongs to us in the same way our hands and feet do – the doorways that open to exotic new countries – the stairs we rush to take because the world is a continual treasure hunt – the butterflies we follow into their worlds of fragrant blooms and dizzyingly nectars.

I’m starting a new Monday Afternoon Muse series March 6 in my Sebastopol, California studio.  Visit my website for more info and to contact me if you are interested!

Channeling Bruce Conner

Last Saturday we took the family to SFMOMA to finish off our Thanksgiving festivities with  a visit to the Bruce Conner exhibition “It’s All True” and others.

As you walk into the Conner exhibition you are met with his words:

MY WORK IS DESCRIBED AS BEAUTIFUL, HORRIBLE, HOGWASH, GENIUS, MAUNDERING, PRECISE, QUAINT, AVANT-GARDE, HISTORICAL, HACKNEYED, MASTERFUL, TRIVIAL, INTENSE, MYSTICAL, VIRTUOSIC, BEWILDERING, ABSORBING, CONCISE, ABSURD, AMUSING, INNOVATIVE, NOSTALGIC, CONTEMPORARY, ICONOCLASTIC, SOPHISTICATED, TRASH, MASTERPIECES, ETC.  IT’S ALL TRUE.

His assemblages, collages, and ink blots in particular evidence the kinds of techniques we explore in Muse Groups all the time. Add in the rest: the films, the photography, the music, the social commentary and explorations of identity – it all made for an intensely satisfying museum experience.

So in an effort to share it with my Muse Group on Monday we did a “channeling Bruce Conner” lesson. We got out the inks and the nylons and old lace and antique book illustrations and metallic ephemera, and it was an explosion of wonderful weirdness. The first piece here is mine.

conner

She’s getting her hair done and mind blown. She can’t stop thinking about the clothes she’ll wear and who will see her and what they will think. But what does she think? She struggles with this a lot. The voice of her grandmother rises up and twines around her like the ivy outside her window.

“Pay attention” says granny in her thin raspy voice. “Care for your loved ones and most of all love yourself. Take the time to find out who you really are, dear.”

conner3The tables in my studio groaned under the weight of it all.

conner2Fibrous paper encased in polymer medium. . .

conner4Layers of paper, lace and even some button and alphabet blocks.

conner9bettina

by Muse Bettina

conner5

by Muse Carole

conner6muriel

by Muse Muriel

conner8diana

by Muse Diana

conner7bonnie

by Muse Bonnie

Bruce Conner is no longer alive to be either delighted or appalled by what we have done. I like to think he would smile. In any case I have forwarded a full measure of gratitude for his artistic dedication and brilliance (and all those other adjectives) throughout his long life. Thanks Bruce!

Yeah, right

peace

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

Call me Mr. Pepper.  I am not your Santa man!

Peace on Earth.  OF COURSE one must pray for this. But some days one is just a bit too out of sorts, like Mr. Pepper here, to believe in it, and the world news at least, provides ample evidence of not-peace.

But this was an art lesson on Monday: to add words or start with words, painting and collaging to some finish. I started by playing with my favorite Daler Rowney acrylic ink colors, Antelope Brown and Flame Red, drawing shapes with the droppers and letting colors bleed for soft edges. It reminded me of Santa Claus. But then there was the part of me that always wants to swim against the current of the commercialized Christmas that seeks to entice us all. I guess that side won out here. My husband refused to let me put this one on the refrigerator door.  I wonder why?

Fire in These Rooms

fireburnswithin

acrylics and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Fire burns steadily within, from tiny embers to raging flames. What choice have we but to walk through these rooms each day and face whatever glows and with courage?

Another yellow painting, in the Saturday Muse Group.  The yellow got very hot.  It does that sometimes when there’s too much of it.  The blue comes in to cool it, the black becomes the ashes from the hot fire.

A shack appeared on the wharf, and then one of the students saw the clothes rack.  Lover of surrealism that I am, I couldn’t resist.  It’s so important not to take it too far though.