Mixed media workshop

A Regatta in Fabric Collage

The students in Tuesday afternoon’s Muse Group arrive early and unpack their paints and brushes and start enjoying each other’s company. We are mostly women of a certain age. An age of experience, of wisdom one might say. And sometimes the conversation veers in the direction of age itself, which we are mightily involved in understanding. After all, aren’t we all, at any age trying to figure out what exactly it means to be 20 or 30 or 50 or 70?

At my age  the discussion revolves around the question of “how much longer”? Small wonder then that issues around this very question arose as I worked on finishing my demo for the fabric collage lesson.

regatta

fabric and paper collage, stamping on acrylic monoprint, 10 X 11″

A regatta of tombstones. Jump on and they’ll carry you downstream. On your merry way you will pass the others, the ones who have already passed. But don’t worry. They don’t mean to frighten, though they are a gentle reminder to wake up, enjoy the river’s currents, the flowers along the banks, the flags waving in the breeze. This regatta is not really a race, but don’t dally in the reeds. There’s not much time left for this journey.

Another note I must add. The delightful KQED Masterpiece Sanditon episode I watched on Sunday involved a regatta. That’s all it took for black and white striped ribbon cut outs to become flags and the blank white spaces to become a blue river!

Love is the Cure!

My gift to you on Valentine’s Day is Rumi and a painting inspired by his ecstatic poetry. First, the poem. . .

Love is the cure,

for your pain will keep giving birth to more pain

until your eyes constantly exhale love as effortlessly

as your body yields its scent.

loveisthecure

acrylic and collage and gel pens on acrylic textured w/c paper, 10 X 11″

In Muse Group this week we painted larger, on 1/2 sheets of watercolor paper (15X22″), in acrylic and then used cropping borders to find the painting “gems” within the borders. Some of us left the painting whole and others (like me) cut it up.

Here’s the painting before carving.

hearts1

Now I also have an assortment of interesting “remnants” to put together in another painting, which I may share. . . if and when it comes together.

Now enjoy your chocolate and whatever lovemaking of the emotional, carnal, and/or spiritual kind you have in mind for this lovely non-holiday.

Paint the Rhythms

The Tuesday Afternoon Muse Group just started a new 6-week session yesterday after a 2-month break. We really needed a way to get the Muse juices flowing again. So I pulled out a lesson from years ago which I created with inspiration from Gabriella Roth’s 5Rhythms dynamic movement practice, which I have experienced as a powerful and joyful way to tune up the body and mind.

My studio is a tight space so we had to drop the dance part, but we added our acrylic paints and inks, fingers and brushes and scrapers and misters and rollers and etc. and painted to music of the 5Rhythms: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. We had about 10min for each of the pieces (I played the music for each rhythm through twice) before moving on to the next. Here are mine:

RythmsFlowing

Flowing

RythmsStaccato

Staccato

Rythmschaos

Chaos

RythmsLyricle

Lyrical

RythmsStillness

and Stillness.

We held up all our paintings from the same rhythm to see how we had embodied the each piece of music in color and movement of line.

Not many surprises there. They were all different, yet with some general predominant color similarities, like blues for flowing and more reds for chaos. Chaos rhythm was a favorite of course. We all love to feel the freedom to pull out all the stops and let our hair down!

 

Mixed Media at The Living Room

Ruth and I showed up for the Mixed Media Art play Group we’ve been leading at The Living Room with bags of materials to set up in the dining room after lunch. The group is sort of like the Muse Group I teach in my studio, only with a lot of wild cards. We fill the tables with paints and paper and marking pens and collage packets and watch the women trickle in. Most of them are friends now, known to us through their enthusiastic participation.

V. sits down and starts singing the song she woke up with, her own cheerful song about it being an art-group day. She has brought some aged wood shingles she found and she wants to paint a madonna on them. S. brings all her belongings with her so they will be safe while she paints. She has written a poem about homelessness. Soon the two of them are engrossed in their art and singing popular songs.

mixedmediaartgroup

The tables fill up. We have 11 people and scurry around to get paper and collage packets to all.  Then it gets very quiet as they cut and paste. Later they do a free write, and then share and laugh and appreciate each other’s work.

The following week we are prepared with the template of a profiled face for them to develop a self portrait on. They are able to jump right in with paint and collage, some tackling the work metaphorically and others with some realism.

As they leave the room we are showered with their gratitude. We are excited and a bit tired, but quite certain that our gratitude for being able to spend this time with them at least matches their own.

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

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?

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.

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.

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?