The Playful Muse workshop series returns for a Spring Session starting April 10! If you’re an Olympia, Washington local, I hope you can join us. If not, I’ll be posting about the lessons here as I’ve been doing for the past, gulp, sixteen years.
mixed media workshops
Sometimes when I approach a painting in the Muse fashion. . .starting with a relatively empty mind, being playful and unconcerned with outcome. . . I enter an unknown territory and I am clueless about what to do next. The fun part is messing with the paints. I could do that all day. But then making it into a work of art that I can relate to comfortably can be like groping in the dark on a messy floor. And when I write about it, there’s no telling what’s liable to leak out. I’m stumbling through dream awareness where anything bizarre could and does happen. And then comes an insight like oh yeah, that’s exactly how it is, I have always known that!
Like this piece which, after the free and easy play with color and crinkled Masa paper, I found myself in a chaotic realm.
So I just started writing. (Five minutes usually works best.)
We walk together navigating
barriers, seeing fences
wandering through face-scapes
wondering how They live
on this shared planetary home
Am I one of Them or a different species?
Do we chart our journeys by the stars and planets
or on animal trails through woods?
I am we are in perpetual motion
in a cosmos too old to care.
I am I and we at the same time. Whatever I am or we are is perpetual. It doesn’t work to say Stop the world, I want to get off! It will just keep spinning in unpredictable ways and we’ll look out at it through the bars of our own perception. Different bars for each of us, but we’re still in it together.
If you got this far, thank you for hanging in there. The main thing is to get back to playing at your art spot. It’s the best antidote I know to a perpetually spinning planet! We’re all a bit strange, or at least I hope so. It makes for more interesting art!
Home for Your Dreams: This Bear
This bear, this mossy bower,
this light filled understory and celestial guardian
This rush of stream and floating scaffold
This river sweeping us up, carrying us on
But for now at least
Spectatorship is recommended
And in a soft nesting spot
And preferably with Teddy
Later, in the sun exposed and excited
Earnest to catch memories on light beams
Riding those wave horses in
You don’t have to be an architect to build a home for your dreams, a temple or sanctuary, a place that just feels right. We did this week in Muse Group using paint and textures and collage building materials. That day one student’s home was a wheat field, another involved interplanetary travel and a third placed a lighthouse on the plains. All elicited powerful feelings and memories.
My building materials included the gesso texture from the demo of the week before, pictures from National Geographic that spoke to me, and a scaffolding of textured papers and more clippings, all held together with paint.
I’ve done this lesson many times over the years. If you’d like to give it a try, you might start out by remembering a special place where you felt safe, contented, joyful – a place for your dreams to take hold and grow,- a room, a garden, a temple a forest or beach. Then let it all go and see where your art materials bring you as you explore them playfully!
If you want to see other examples, visit these blog posts, here and here
Join The Playful Muse in January/February!
If you are local to Olympia, Washington, I hope you can join me in the new year for another Playful Muse mixed media painting series! The banquet of new lessons this round will include acrylic textures, crinkled masa paper, creating patina, transparent glazing, and lots more to tickle your creative spirits. If you type any of those terms into the search window on the right you will find examples of the lessons from previous years, as well as student work. All levels of experience are welcome!
For more information and to register contact me here by email or phone.
And if you’re not local, I hope you’ll join me here where I share the lessons on the blog!
World on the Move!
World on the move
In peaceful flight or famine and plight
Through nourishing rainfall or missiles in skyfall
Expulsion, Exodus, Ejection
Dispossession, Displacement, Dispersion
Extinction. . .
Watch out! This is what can happen when you cut up an old painting that’s going nowhere. It starts to find kinship with this moment in history and acquires a mind of its own. Or so it seems.
Process: I liked the textures and colors of the “old painting” and started cutting out some bird shapes and then one turned into a building and another a kind of avian-human that requested a colorful hat.
The first underpainting was this one, and a storm developed. Not surprising, since we are in the dark stormy part of the year when you’re liable to freeze or blown, or get very wet if you go outside.
It was the scene I needed for the creatures I’d cut out. Some were simply pieces left on the table in the jumble of cuttings. They became a kind of graveyard or decomposing of organic matter, benevolent in itself, but slightly disturbing in context.
I have lived with these pieces for part of a week and am ready to put them to rest now. But you never know what might come next?!
Muses Do WORDPLAY
Last week was class three of a three-week series of The Playful Muse mixed media group. We’re adjourning for the holidays and I will be teaching a six week version of (always new) mixed media lessons in January and February. I wanted to share the students’ Wordplay pieces here since each one is not only totally original and unique, but a rich palimpsest of its own! (See yesterday’s post for more on that lesson)
I hope you’ll try it too and would love to hear your experience!
For more on creating a palimpsest as an intention for mixed media pieces, visit this blog post for more.
Brown paper and marks
Here we are in the studio with lesson two of the Playful Muse series: making marks on brown paper with sticks, bamboo pens and strange nibs, fingers, etc. My Muse Group friends in Sebastopol will recognize this lesson from my visit last March! We in the Olympia Muse Group chapter had fun with it too! Just getting started with it in this picture.
Everyone got a long sheet of brown craft paper to make random expressive marks on, the idea being that interesting things would happen spontaneously, and could be cut out and used as collage pieces in another work.
One suggestion was to try writing, preferably with unusual implements, in an invented style. This practice has been called asemic writing, defined as
a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content”, or “without the smallest unit of meaning”. With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret. [Wikipedia]
In other words, Asemic writing is sort of a tease. In wanting to make sense of it, because it is, after all, writing or appears to be, we go out on a limb and come up with some sensation at least, that feels like meaning and we like it!
In preparation for the class I tried a number of mark making approaches with Chinese black ink, charcoal and gesso. I just love the combination of those three. Included is asemic writing. And the general effect is, well, very Wabi Sabi!
Here they are laid out together with some other possible collage pieces tucked in. This shows step two, which is to find some other collage pieces that may interact in some way with the exploratory beginnings on the brown paper. The linear thinking part of the brain goes into overload trying to make sense of all this confusion and blows a fuse.
Now you’re free to cut things out, move them around, and reassemble, still holding off trying to make logical sense of what the poetic pictorial mind, heedless of logic! is constructing.
She speaks with two voices in song
One a night creature on transparent wings
Sprinkling stardust and hooting
The other appearing as a saint
Or a goddess made of saplings and mist
Both writing their names in ancient
Tongues on the forest floor.
I always stick to the 10″X11″ size watercolor paper format for the finished pieces and put them in a loose book format. This archives them with the writing. At this point I have 48 books worth or 760 pieces I call Conversations with the Muse! and all of them archived on this blog. But this format is not for everyone and my students have adopted many different formats.
Here’s some more of the Olympia students’ mark making play. Wouldn’t you love to have at it?!!
Step by Step Muse-ing
If you’re up for it, I’ll take you through the machinations of a mind steeped in the mysteries of Muse-ing, which is no other than common ordinary imagination set free with almost unlimited art supplies at hand! I’m tuning up now to teach my first in-person Muse Group since the pandemic started, and at the mere though of it the wild horses of imagination are off and running at breakneck speed. Woooo boy!
Starting with no brushes here. They are way too left brain for a spontaneous start. The aim is to cause something unexpected to happen. Squirting ink from a dropper, dropping gesso in tiny blobs, smooshing with fingers, spritzing with water, scraping with a cerated tool and a palette knife. Letting it dry and then gazing and free associating. What forms do you see here? A sun god, an octopus, a barking dog or wolf? But don’t get too attached.
I could have stopped there, but wanted to have some more mixed media fun. In a magazine I found a vessel and wanted to fill it with something. The underpainting was not cooperating with this new plan, so I unearthed some acrylic “skins” (dried poured acrylics) and started cutting and finding shapes. I wanted a story to evolve, but this took some time, moving pieces around, discovering the lucky accidents of small pieces which could be put together into abstract bird shapes. Then I got stuck again and decided to try to write about this evolving story and see what it was about.
Finally I had my story but needed the separate parts to hang together and talk to each other visually. So back to the collage to find some screen material, one of my most favorite collage materials! The bottom needed anchoring with more black acrylic, but in a way that harmonized with the circular swirl of marks on the page. Some of the black screen needed painting with the white gesso to show up against the dark segments. I was in pure design mode.
And finally the voice said, you can stop now. And there you have it. You may have stopped much sooner, and that would have been “right” too! Here’s the final version of my writing, tweaked for external consumption. Although it’s not specifically mentioned here, you may find yourself making the connections with things going on in this time of proximity to election day. I certainly did.
A cart upset
And cargo released
These eggs of questionable parentage
Now rumbling into
Bewildering atmospheric haze
Their wild permutations defying
Sanity and Reason
Even the solitary high flyer could not make sense of it
Too weird he shrieked, dropping feathers
In his haste to exit the scene
He could not help but catch sight
Of the curtain rising
On the most bizarre show of all
New Muse Group starting!
The Muse Group is not something I could keep to myself. For sixteen years this mixed media practice I called Conversations With the Muse was a staple of my art life. Emphasis on group here. You can’t have one if you paint alone. The creative energy is far stronger with the muse energy of a group. And I just couldn’t wrap my mind around teaching in front of a computer and camera. So finally next month I’ll be offering The Playful Muse: Mixed Media Painting, a three week series before the holidays ramp up. It will be live, in-person for people in the Olympia area, but I will also be blogging about the lessons if you want to follow along! Here’s the flyer and information about how to register for those of you in the area.
For more information about the workshop and to register visit my website. Or contact me by email or phone.
I’m ready to push some boundaries with you and get that intuitive art voice talking!!
Demo at Jubilee
I was invited by some new friends to do a demo at the meeting of the Jubilee Art Club last week. They had a beautiful set up with space for social distancing and an overhead mirror so that everyone could see. I knew they were a group of mostly experienced artists who would appreciate the focus on creative process and expressive painting, so I shared my experience with the Muse Groups.
I brought my inks and gesso and demo-ed that fun way to short circuit the left-brain thinking mind by squirting inks and gesso onto wet shapes and moving them around with a scraper, a roller and fingers. The results always lead to a group hallucination which is a hoot and makes people realize that art making can be fun and profound at the same time!
You’re invited to the Jubilee you know.
Your presence is requested.
So wear your finest top hat.
Come roaring up in a race car
Or astride a steed with matching hat.
This party requires your presence
Inaugurates your next fifty years (more or less)
So no regrets to the host.
Take a nap, eat a hearty meal
Get yourself tanked up and ready.
Because this ship will be leaving and
You must be on it.
Preparations are arranged.
Destination will be discovered.
Your presence is required.