inks and gesso

Meditation Garden and Art at TLR

Once a week for the past month I’ve been entering through the gate at The Living Room (TLR) laden with art supplies for the mixed media expressive art class. Ruth from the Muse Group meets me there, also laden with fun art stuff. This week she found me in the garden sketching a lovely corner of the day shelter compound that I hadn’t captured in sketches yet – the Meditation Garden.

TLRmeditationgarden

I was well into this sketch when the subject I would have liked to sketch – a woman who is the owner of the bike – showed up. In the shade of the arbor she unpacked a loaded backpack, got it organized and repacked before heading out on the bike. There’s always a great deal of packing and unpacking going on here at this place where women come for day time respite and services before heading out again, to manage lives that are often lacking in secure housing.

On the day of our art group the resource room where we meet is a bustling place with women using computers for email and phones for inquiries about jobs, housing and a million other life concerns. As they finish up and file out to the hot lunch which is being served in the dining area, we turn the room into an art room with watercolor paper  and colorful inks and acrylic paints spread around the tables, along with stencils and stamps and squirters and scrapers and rollers for application. At noon the women start wandering in, up to seven or eight of them, and soon the small room is full of artists who have no trouble figuring out what to do with the paints!

Ruth and I quickly realized that what these folks needed was not an art class but an opportunity to play with materials without being encumbered by performance expectations. (Don’t we all need that!?)

This past week the room filled with a happy, raucous energy that was reflected in the paintings.  It was the last of our meetings in this series. (The regular Expressive Arts team returns with their wonderful program this coming week.) I think we were all a bit sad to have to draw our time to a close, possibly even especially Ruth and I.

I’ll be back this week though and probably for years to come, helping out with the meditation group, sketching stories and best of all, seeing my friends.

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Give it a Name

As soon as you see the face, there’s always a name waiting for it. This one became Oscar.

oscar

inks and gesso on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

I was doing a demonstration of expressive painting with ink droppers, gesso, and scraper tools for a new private student. The next day this fellow in the wonderful cossack hat winked at me. All I had to do was paint in the eye, give him some teeth, and name him.

I hesitated at first. I had to reassure myself that it was OK to be so foolish. Surely I’m a more serious sort of artist than that. Perhaps I’ve been sketching so many people that I just can’t stop? But then perhaps you’ve have noticed that I’m having too much fun lately to stop it.

Here’s another one though, where maybe one can see more serious intent. . .

anarray

acrylic molding paste, textured foil collage, acrylic paint and gold leaf flecks

Embossing foil, collaging with metallic flakes and juxtaposing cool greens/blues and burnt orange are some of the techniques I’ll be sharing in the “Patina” workshop coming up next weekend at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. At this writing there is still time to register for the last spot. For more info and to register visit my website. And by the way, there’s good air conditioning in the painting studio there!!

While the poor little studio air conditioner here tries to help me survive the 100 degree heat outside, these lovely blue squares are the tinkling ice cubes in the glass!

 

Election Day Art Musings

wideworld

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

It’s another of life’s storms raging out in the Wideworld with those skyscrapers piercing the air above and sending frenzied messages. Words are flying and landing, votes soaring and crashing and the markets joining in.

We go a bit green from the dizzying motion of it. After today. . .we hope. . .the sky will no longer be that gunmetal gray.

I guess that about says it. It’s a beautiful sunny day in California. We started a new Monday Muse Group session yesterday with a full group and the inks and gesso lesson I love to do. Start with some tape pieces to act as masking when the paint goes on. Do two pieces with the same color scheme and use one as collage for the other. Introduce some other collage or pictorial element if desired. My demo got so very complicated, but of course that’s an accurate perception of life these days.

wideworldpalette

When I removed the tape pieces and put them on my scrap paper where I try things out first, many new ideas arose.

Out of confusion comes breakthroughs, discoveries, if only we have the patience and fortitude. And today, let us have the hope as well!!

Drawing with Sticks

The Monday Muse Group started a new session this week with ink play using sticks carved from drift wood I collected on the beach last week.

youarethetruthHiggens Black India and acrylic inks and gesso on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

You are the. . .bomb. the explosion, the fire and the flame

You are the river that quenches, the tide pools and eddies, the cascades and falls

You are the turns and bends, the back and forth.

Quit looking elsewhere. it’s all here.

You are the bearer of the truth in layers folded in one upon another

You burn and in the burning cool.

sticks

There is one spot open in the Monday Afternoon Muse Group if you would like to drop in and give it a try! Visit my website for more info and to email me.

There’s Always a Way

There’s always a way. . .

alwaysaway

ink, gesso, watercolor pencils on 10 X 10″ w/c paper

there is always a way around or through or behind

a zig and a zag to sidestep an enemy

pointers to show you the way

but look for their subtle shapes

follow them through narrow spaces

make yourself ever so small and silent and inconspicuous

there are clouds to hide in until the landscape clears enough for a bold new direction.

there is always a way

I am a champion of intuitive thinking and decision making, a Piscean, always willing to float in murky waters, swim in different directions, hanging out until an answer presents itself and feels right.

Sometimes of course this is very frustrating. I admire those who seem to know who they are, make well considered plans and carry them out successfully, especially artists who set a direction for their art and stick to it, at least for a while. I am always a bit surprised at my own successes and reluctant to take any personal credit because they seem too external.

The real delight for me is to see what happened on the paper or canvas when I was just busy trying to get the right color on my brush. Ironic then, that I would find myself in the teacher role. But I am willing to jump into the murky waters with other artists and see what shared revelations may occur. That’s what my Artful Muse courses are about, along with lots of mixed media materials and technique fun.

A new Monday Muse Group starts September 12 and there are a couple spots open at this point if you’re interested in joining. In the October 8 and November 12 mini-workshops we’ll be continuing the exploration of the Japanese esthetic Wabi Sabi.

drawwithstick

On October 8 the focus will be finding natural ways to apply inks, graphite and charcoal to paper, making marks with sticks and more.

sepia+ricepaper.jpg

On November 12 we’ll be exploring natural textures and paper overlays. For more information about all my courses visit my website and contact me with any questions!

Black and White hold hands

teeth

inks and gesso on w/c paper 10 X 11″, workshop demo

There’s teeth in this one, a snarl through bared teeth, a jagged fence, a bit of slime. I am dying to get away, but held in place with a fascination at the bizarre beauty of the scene unfolding.

Go ahead and take me to the edge where all the action is, where sea meets land, nature meets city, good meets evil, and life unspools in alternating increments of stress and peace. Black and white are always holding hands and taking turns.

Wet some shapes on the paper, squirt on some inks. Tip the paper. Add gesso and scrape through it, picking up some wet ink with a notched scraper. Move the fingers in to smooth some passages, mixing gesso with ink.  Now meet the image which has appeared.

This was the first exercise in the Wabi Sabi workshop, to let the inks talk.

The Quest for Beauty

chrysalid2

“Chrysalid II”, inks, gesso, pencil, collage on canvas 24″X24″

In his book Wabi Sabi: Further Thoughts, Leonard Koren shares the quest for beauty that led  him to explore more deeply the wabi-sabi way.  In his definition of beauty he writes:

By “beauty” I mean that complex of exciting, pleasurable sensations-ostensibly emanating from things – that makes us feel more alive and connected to the world.  Often these feelings are accompanied by a compelling sense of truth, goodness, and/or love.

I can’t think of a better explanation for why I paint! But it goes beyond that to an honoring of life, with all its natural processes. Wabi sabi is a celebration of the roughness and unevenness of life as it unfolds in bumps and starts, one forward and two steps back. I imagine the gnarled old apple tree in my garden that wears its age with the grace and originality as I aspire to. The rusty garden implements, the grasses draping over my walkway, and in my studio – the torn paper and textured surfaces I love to paint on.