Mixed media workshop

Nests and Eggs and Musings

The eggs that are hatching in my garden now are the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly larva. But for many years I had chickens behind the studio. And I’ve always been a bit enthralled, especially in spring with the way nature reproduces itself with the wonder of eggs and nests. My own wonder has led to incompetent to efforts to make nest-like constructions in my art. I suppose this one is the spring 2019 version, “hatched” in my Muse Group last month.

suspension

Suspension

hanging on by tendrils

threads woven of plant fiber

married with that animal matter of fertility

eggs colored pastel in dyes for the season

warming under feathered bodies before their big break.

mine are remembered each year in flat painted form

they have no smell, no thickness even,

but they will never crack

frozen in memory, always perfectly as they were/are

reminders of tadpole hunting in ponds

with little boys two decades ago

Ah, over two decades ago I haunted ponds in Tilden Park with two little boys who loaned me their wide open eyes each new day. Pollywogs and chrysalids came home with us from those expeditions, and frogs sang to us at night from our small backyard pond on Albany hill.

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Ellen’s Centennial

My Mom’s centennial was a couple of days ago. That is, she was born 100 years ago. I don’t get to celebrate her birthday with her in person any more, since she’s been gone seven years now, but it is always an auspicious blossomy day full of memories and the sweet sadness of loss. Sweet because I wouldn’t trade that memory of my loss for anything, even though I sure wish she were still around.

The year she died her birthday fell on Easter. This year it fell on the same day I spotted the first pipevine swallowtail butterfly of the season feeding on the blossoms of the weeping cherry where we planted her ashes. The first spotting of that butterfly is an occasion I always nervously await, because I’ve become quite attached to the subsequent explosion of orange polk-dotted caterpillars that hatch from the butterflies’ eggs.

My Muse Group met the day after the birthday,  and we were doing fabric collage. I used Mom’s favorite colors and embedded her jolly face beneath her tree.

Ellenat100

Listen in the wind to the sighing of the bush

This is the ancestors breathing

(excerpted from Earth Song, traditional Senegalese poem)

This is. . .the mother who now turns 100 in her realm within the cherry tree

that blossoms in its fullness now and leads us with all our senses

into the territory of ancestors,

the heart realm that she never left.

Shower me with blossoms now

as I feel the depth of love

and loss that never grows old.

I wonder, will I still be smiling when I am 92, the age she was in the picture?

Busy Season

Is your garden growing an inch a day now? or at least the weeds? Mine is. And spring projects, long promised are begging for attention. In Muse Group this week we made monoprints with our acrylic paints, using stone paper for a plate. (More about Stone Paper here. )My first “pull” was a vibrant one that turned into a story for this time of year.

dreamingofapples

the earth is busy sprouting

so here I dream of apples

of birds darting and swooping

on spring’s many errands

 

yet still

there are only buds

plumping up to make pink popcorn

and seduce butterflies

The plum tree has bloomed and leafed out. The weeping cherry, beneath which my mother’s ashes lie, has just bloomed. And I wait expectantly for the apple blossoms whose sweet nectar is an invitation to the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, that lay their eggs on the vine, so that I may daily visit the hungry munching caterpillars with the orange polka dots. Simple pleasures of spring I must make time for.

Many Cooks

Sometimes many cooks can spoil the broth, but not always. We started off the new Muse Group series with a brand new (recently dreamed up) lesson called “Pass the Painting”. It’s a cross between a party game and group mixed media painting experience, an exercise in freedom of expression without excessive ego baggage.

It’s a way to warm up and relax into intuitive painting (mix media style) where you use the following ingredients in layers, like a layered party dip:  black ink, gesso (black or white), image collage, tissue/rice paper collage, acrylic paint (color!), pattern collage, word, and free choice. You pass the paper to the person on the left after each addition.

In a group of eight artists, you finally end up with the painting you began, and it’s yours to keep. Each pass lasts 5-10 minutes and you have total permission to mess up the painting with what you do, (even though you’re hoping to improve it) You will most certainly fail sometimes, but no one but you will know, and you won’t have time to care, because you will pass it on and someone else will have to deal with it. How cool is that?!

I fully expected that there would be some groans, but was delighted by the positive response, and even motivated to share the results. Each of the following pieces contains a contribution by the same eight artists, of which I am but one.

manycooks5

manycooks2

manycooks1

manycooks6

manycooks3

manycooks7

manycooks4

manycooks9

Although this adventure was supposed to be about freeing oneself from ego, we ended by patting ourselves on our back(s) with pride for how it turned out!

The Muse Group Splatters

There’s nothing like an ink splatter to activate the imagination. Actually, now that I think of it, this approach birthed Imagine with Art, this blog that’s continued since 2006, and the Muse Groups I’ve been teaching for almost that long. Play around with inks and pretty soon you’ve got a story going, whether it’s the rorschachs or the drips and splatters.

And it’s fun too! In fact when we did the splatter lesson in Muse Group this week we were so totally engaged in what was happening on the paper that I thought we could really do several weeks of this. I can always tell when total engagement happens because you don’t see people staring blankly at the paper and wondering what to do next. (Well that did happen to me a few times, but I think maybe I was the only one.)

The suggestion was to use the splatter and possibly spraying with a mouth atomizer and then see if any creatures or other unsuspecting images appeared.

tangerinos

acrylic ink splatters, sprays, and lines drawn with dip pens on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

He was just minding his own business, doing his usual foraging for vegetarian fare, when they spotted him. . . the dive bombing Tangerinos. He had no time to flee before the first one landed on his back with a big wet splatt! It wasn’t so bad really, as it did smell rather tasty.

Later as he met up with his buddy bucks, they had fun teasing him about his edible “crown” that dripped down his cheeks.

And the creatures keep coming. . .

Squirrel

Actually the squirrel with the rather large proboscis at first seemed to be jumping over the moon, but when the gold paint made an uninvited appearance (and a few expletives came to mind!) the narrative changed. These creatures do have a mind of their own.

If you want to enjoy some more brilliant silliness with inks you might like this short video of Ralph Steadman, my latest art hero.

Uprising of the Shrooms

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how this painting started. Somewhere at the beginning was a smoke painting that later got covered up, when the irresistible  mushroom shapes I’d rescued from another painting took over.

shroomrising

smoke, inks, acrylic, collage, acrylic texture on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

the uprising of the ‘shrooms from darkened earth

the lizards and voles and birds

even Phil the cat, in their nature shrine

have grown accustomed to the exotic air

spiced with herbs and decay

while we worship at our manmade temples

and hope for salvation there.

citadel

“The Citadel”, inks on acrylic gel coated w/c paper 10 X 11″

geltexture

inks, acrylics coarse pumice gel on gel coated w/c paper 10 X 11″

All of these are demos in the Monday Muse Group were we experiment with a myriad of mixed media materials and techniques! These last two were from a lesson where we started out with watercolor paper coated with three dry layers of gel medium. The surface becomes more slick so that the paint/ink does unexpected things!

Think you might want to join us? There is one spot left in the session that starts June 4 and runs weekly for the month of June. For more info and to register visit my website!