mixed media painting

Fences

When life seems to be turned on its ear, as it has with this pandemic, I cling to this practice of expressive art like a life raft. The process of making the art takes precedence over the accomplishment of a masterful outcome. The intuition about what materials and tools to use takes precedence over any kind of well thought out plan or design. The sensation of mark making becomes more important than the mark made. I try to dive in and not come up for air too quickly.

Of course this leads to questions about how to finish. So in this piece even my idea of adding the hands didn’t quite finish it. The blue reminded me of the bluebird couple that sits on the corner of the roof we can see from our dining room table. So I painted one of them and collaged it on. . .then needed the eggs. And finally as I wrote, even a garden scene like this turned out to be about the pandemic. . .in a helpful way.bluebird

acrylic inks, gel pen, drawn with a stick, splattered and scumbled on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

We try new ways to live with each other,

with masks and gloves and zooms,

The same fences that keep us in

are those that keep us out.

Nature topples those barriers we make,

finds a way around or between them,

Its winds dry our lonely tears

and sun warms our tender hearts

Birds share their freedom of air travel

without passport, mask, or elaborate protocol.

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.

Are you keeping your distance?

We in this multiverse society seem to be ranting at each other a lot lately about the right and wrong way to do everything now from proper mask wearing and social distancing to proper cleaning of vegetables and doorknobs. Meanwhile we are wishing we had more face to face contact with others.

So of course this issue popped up in my latest conversation with the muse, when I pulled some pieces of previous mixed media demos and experiments off the pile I keep in my studio. I put them together, and they started to tell a story of current relevancy.

socialdistancing

masking tape, acrylics, collage, pen on w/c paper 10X11″

Is this enough distance? or am I crowding you?

Actually I was here first, so you’re crowding me. And I can see that you’re not wearing your mask properly. You’re probably one of those people on the news protesting the shelter-in-place rules, because you want to be able to go to the beach or to work when it’s not safe, and you don’t care if people die because of it!! Murderer!!!

What does 6 feet look like anyway?

In my neck of the woods anyway we are moving in jerky ways in public, rushing to get done with our shopping, then halting suddenly when someone gets too close. We avert our eyes in an effort to avoid contact when someone needs to get down the aisle past us. Or someone quietly hovers just out of range, waiting until we finish picking our avocados. It’s nerve wracking. We apologize and accept apologies. However because we are starved for any person to person contact, even that satisfies some of the need.

At this writing I’ve tried different kinds of masks, and am learning to breathe better while wearing them, though I wouldn’t be able to carry on a longer masked conversation without passing out from the exertion. But the glasses still fog up a bit with each exhalation. So I hope if you run into me in public, and I don’t recognise you, I will be forgiven, because it might be right at the moment when I exhale and the world blurs over. It’s just another one of those adjustments.

 

 

 

Earth on Tilt

OK, so the earth is seriously on tilt. Wouldn’t you agree? I’m finding this to be a particularly fruitful time for contemplation, and I don’t just mean the specifics of how we will get life back to “normal”, whatever that was. Sometimes that means plunging in for a peak at the darkness. But then I recommend taking a piece of paper and your paints with you as a companion.

earthontilt

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

It’s all flowing downstream, but at some point starts to back up.

The Doctors get called in to treat the damage.

The epidemiologists sound the alarm. Chaos ensues.

What the global warming crisis has not yet demanded,

This microscopic virus now  accomplishes, bringing everything. . .to a . . . halt.

Sit up and pay attention, It declares.

The earth’s axis is on tilt and you’re sliding off.

You may have a chance, if you sit still in your chair at home, for months.

Pull in your feet. The jagged teeth of this monster threaten.

And you elders beware!

Count your days.

Breathe deep.

If you can.

I read this to some Muse friends and they gasped a bit and were silent. If that is your reaction, I recommend one of those comedy clips you find on Facebook or Youtube to clear the palate.

I find that one of the most effective ways to navigate each day is to open the mind and heart to the tragedies playing out, and then to clear the palate with humor and a massive serving of natural wonder. (that and good food and music and. . .fill in the blanks)

Sheltering

As I closed up my studio last night I thought that I had let another day end without completing the various art projects I have going. Common enough. Then I remembered that there are no longer appointments, gatherings, events, classes to compete with my free art making time, and I added this to a growing list of much needed silver linings in these anxious times.

Yesterday I got out a pile of unfinished Muse Group demos, hand made papers and more and started putting things together. There was something about the “leftover” shape of the blue piece below that suggested house so I made it more so, but not overly literal, and here’s what came.

shelter

Powdered graphite patterned textures, acrylic and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11

What would you find if you pried the roof off any house now?  No, no, best not do that!

Come up to the door and knock softly. Carry a rose to show you care.

Be ready to say “Your lawn is so beautiful and green, your landscaping so artful, your windows so cozy.” Be ready to say “hope all is well with your family.”

Be ready to step back as the door gets closed in your face because you stepped too close.

Go back to your own Place and don’t cry. The people who loved you before still will, but only if you keep your 6 feet, or is it 10 now?

A friend brought her laundry over yesterday to use our machines. We managed a clever hygenicly safe protocol dance to protect both sides from the virus which, most likely, neither of us has, but we suppose could have. Then we stood a good 15 feet apart to chat for a while before moving on with our days. I’m sure others are as curious as I about how other people are coping, hence the desire to “pry off the roof”.

piles

A peek here at the unfinished pile of mixed media work from which I drew to create the piece above. I just measured the pile at 4 inches tall. It’s really a gold mine from which I shall continue to extract gems. The serendipity of the raw occurences ends up being the most satisfying to me.

If you’re a mixed media artist you doubtless have hoarded treasures galore. Now is truly our chance to play with them, and to realize that we may actually be afforded lots of time now to do so. And it costs nothing.

Stay tuned for another video lesson.

War of the Splatters!

There are days when it feels like the wars “out in the world” are being waged internally as well. Those are the days to make splatter art with friends!

That’s what happened in my Muse Group on Monday as we took the lead from the irresistible Ralph Steadman, a Welsh illustrator who uses splatters and other ink irregularities to create irreverent mythical creatures. We started the class by watching this video. I recommend this as a great way to loosen up, lighten up and have a chuckle to avoid taking yourself too seriously and ruining all the fun.

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.00.02 PM

So we loaded up our brushes and mouth atomizers and splattered and sprayed, trying not to lob one on each other. . .

war!

And there was the war of the critters!

By the end of class the room had filled up with colorful, zany critters. Who knew all those creatures were just lying in wait to be liberated by a bunch of mixed media painters!

See some earlier Steadman inspired work here and here.

Tread Lightly

Flashy orange butterflies have been frequenting my studio garden lately. They flutter by so fast that it took me a few days until I could see them holding still enough to identify them – as Gulf Fritillaries. Of course! Their host plant is the eye catching passion vine which reaches out brazenly across the walkway in front of my studio. Why have I never noticed these Fritillaries before?

They also appeared in my recent Muse lesson demo (not content to only populate my studio garden). The lesson was drawing with long oak and redwood sticks from the garden, dipped deeply into Chinese ink so that the ink would keep dripping and extend the mark making time.

treadlightly

We started our mark making on brown craft paper and translucent washi paper, then moved to watercolor paper, using some of the other papers for collage. That’s when the butterfly shape appeared. I also used the stick to write the words “tread lightly” across the watercolor paper, no doubt thinking of the near collisions that day as I made my way across the Fritillary path!

treadlightly2

Tread lightly.

No clomping along heavy footed in iron shod boots with the weight of the world in your backpack.

Be Butterfly and flit lightly from one nectar soaked blossom to the next.

Become Bee and make drunken stops along your way.

Or Hummingbird and leave no foot prints. Be ephemeral. 

Tread lightly and you won’t miss a thing.

 

Mixed media play and a little bit of meditation and five minutes of writing. That’s what we do in Muse Group. I teach it in my studio in Sebastopol, CA in sessions of around six weeks. A new session starts October 7-November 11. There’s still a couple openings at this writing. For more information visit my website and by all means contact me if you have any questions or would like to register. We’d love to have you!

Windows

I pulled out all my dry media materials last week for Muse Group; pencils of all sorts, pastels, crayons, charcoal. Lots of those things which I normally stay away from so my pieces don’t get all smudgey when I put them in the loose leaf books.

But there’s something so satisfying about delineating with texturey marks or coloring in, not to mention, smudging on purpose. I pulled out a piece I’d begun weeks ago, and then played around on it with a charcoal pencil.

handsup

acrylic, photo transfer by Bob Cornelis, collage, charcoal pencil on w/c paper

Windows have eyes on the world

Everywhere. Stand still and gaze out. Or

Stand outside. Pick a window that has movement beyond it. Now

You’re a peeping Tom, a busybody. So

Be discreet and tell yourself you’re just an artist, a storyteller,

A poet, a blogger looking for “material”.

Privacy no longer exists.

Perhaps it never did

For the artist.

Ah! such a one am I. Not a snoop by nature. But there’s something about looking closely at things, people, landscapes, animals – looking at the details – which leads to a growing fascination and a curiosity. And that leads to words and paragraphs.

Oh dear please. I am not a busybody, am I?

A Lesson in Pouring Acrylics

We poured acrylics this week in Muse Group, using Pouring Medium (Liquitex or Golden) mixed with fluid acrylic paint (about 10/1) poured from cups we mixed it in. The Pouring Medium gives you a leveling paint film with “rheology” or “flow”. So the colors flow together as you tip the paper back and forth. It also gives you spontaneous effects that you could never have dreamed up or accomplished “on purpose”. And if you have a fertile imagination, which I’m sure you do! the image which results might even have something to say!

pianogrief

fluid acrylics mixed with pouring medium and moved with a rubber spreader

I’ve been hanging here a long while. Not at all the budding musician I was at eight when Mom would drop me off at the piano teacher’s house, until I’d endured three years of mediocrity and dread about recitals. . .and learned to play a bit, Fur Elise and all that. . .and then quit.

Fast forward 60 years and another try at it. . .for fun this time. . .until it seemed that the bit I could play had only shrunk.

And so our lovely piano is on its way out now, for sale to someone worthier. No longer will I own that bit of cultural cache. My chin sinks, along with those early dreams of musical excellence (WHICH WERE MY MOM’S, NOT MINE!)

You gotta love moms. I mean it’s great the way they root for you, tell you to hang in there because you can accomplish something great. My mom actually thought I would be an accomplished pianist (like she wished she had been).

fishies

Once again this was fluid acrylics mixed with pouring medium, dripped from a cup onto watercolor paper. The marbling effects spontaneously appeared as the paper was tilted! The hungry fish that appeared was so engaging that I created some other fish from acrylic skins. It’s easy to make acrylic skins with the leftover pouring medium mixture by pouring it onto plastic, letting it dry, and cutting out shapes! I glued the little fish down with gel. Now the big kahuna will not go hungry!

Travel on the Brain

I guess I have travel on the brain these days. Meaning that I’m thinking a lot about my trip to Portugal next month for the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Porto. I’m determined to be prepared for everything, which is of course impossible, but I’ll try anyway.

We started a new month-long session of the Muse Group this week, painting with water shapes and inks. And here’s what came of it for me.

travelspecsinks and collage on w/c paper, 11X10″

So you want to sell me a postcard? Thanks anyway. Sunglasses? you say. No, thanks anyway. Got my sketchbooks and paints, got my shades and backpack and travel umbrella and comfortable shoes. .  . but hey, will you pose for me? or better yet, tell me about yourself. Tell me something I will never get from a guidebook. Look into my eyes and let me see your lifetime of struggles and triumphs. Let me sit for a few moments and be with you. Soon enough I’ll fly off, but I won’t ever forget. Promise. (It will all be found in my sketch.)

It is hard to explain how this works, how the complete sensory experience of some moments in time gets stored in a sketch made at that time. Frankly it doesn’t even matter if the sketch is simple or poorly executed. Any travel sketcher will tell you that. It makes you realize that most of the time we’re living in our heads, not particularly noticing what is happening around us in the moment. And that translates into not having memories of those moments!

And we think we have such important things going on in our minds. Ha! (Sorry for the rant)

Back to the 30X30Direct Watercolor challenge next. Are you doing your watercolor-a-day? Need inspiration? check out these folks, Marc and Suhita.