You should see my husband Bob’s studio! Every month he’s playing with new materials to add to his already prolific printmaking repertoire. With the frigid weather lately I avoid a trip outside and instead go through his studio to get to mine. With his tantalizing array of paints, inks, pen and tools, occasionally I find something to borrow.
Knowing that I love words Bob had turned me onto the word asemic. Applied to writing it writing that is unreadable but makes the reader hover in a state between reading and looking and is therefore highly attractive to the reader’s eye.
We tried it out in a Muse Group lesson last month. Then in playing around with Bob’s new calligraphy tools I paired it with an abstract ink pour using a folded pen or ruling pen.
Ruling pen rules
Curves round and cups
Spills in brazen
No words here
Just an up in your face
Look at me!
Can I rule like you?
To my humble
Piece of parchment
Gather up awe
Drink it in
If your Muse-mind is making up a story about this piece, I’d love to hear it! And you may have just come up with another idea for something to put in your Christmas stocking. These folded pens are inexpensive fun!
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!
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?!
Over the years I have taught several different lessons on adding words to mixed media works. You can add words at the beginning, middle or end of a painting, starting with them, inserting them into various layers and ending with them, often after you’ve done a free write to discover embedded meaning. In these ways the art becomes a palimpsest, like the early manuscripts, which were covered over so that successive entries could be made. It contains the history of layers of creation as you see visible traces of earlier forms. Don’t we all love the mystery of embedded secrets and surprises? We want to stay a while, looking and puzzling it out.
For this lesson I suggested starting to get ideas by going through a magazine and finding text that intrigues and cutting it out. I quickly found the words that intrigued me in a bold title Object as. . . and later in the article cut out fit in and unpack. That was enough to get started picking a color scheme and applying paint wetly with brush and a linoleum stamp before drawing in the letters O-B-J-E-C-T in various random ways using brush, alphabet stencil, upper case, and lower case letters.
While the group got started with their word play piece I dried the demo, which seemed more like a random doodle sampler. But it looked like it might be a fun challenge to make it into “something”!
Is this a riddle? Then I object! This chaos is too absurd for me. and so I must deduce that I do not fit in? Surely too round for the square, too tall for the medium, too clever for the mediocre, too mediocre for the brilliant, too soft for the hardy, and too hard for the sensitive.
If the object is to fit in then I object!And yet. . .
Unpack this a bit more. . . .unpack it letter by letter, and give it some space. There may be a way to be an object without objections. A single breathing human specimen who survives the storms of life with no objections, like the Buddha himself, being subject and object in blissful union.
Ah but still . . . I object . . .as . . .(you figure it out!)
Is this just a bit of word-silliness? Perhaps. But then maybe this kind of play dislodges some part of brain sludge that makes room for, at least, the next attempt at original thought! One hopes.
Stay tuned. Tomorrow I’ll share the WordPlay of the other Muses this week.
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
Have you discovered The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig yet? It’s a marvelously readable “dictionary” for word-lovers, described as “a compendium of new words for emotions, its mission to shine a light on the fundamental strangeness of being a human being – all the aches, demons, vibes, joys, and urges that are humming in the background of everyday life”. I thought I might make use of it in my Conversations with the Muse, for obvious reasons.
I never like to get all heavy at the beginning of art making, preferring the looser, playful, wait-and-see-what-happens approach. So first I did my painting, cutting up pieces of an old painting and and collaging them on. Then found the word to match.
Mithenness: noun, from Middle English mithen, to be hidden away
The unsettling awareness that the rest of the world happily carries on in your absence, that although things only ever seem to change when you check back in for an update, they’re unwilling to wait for you, and undergo massive shifts while your back is turned – your mother getting older, your old friends becoming different people, your hometown losing some of the hallmarks that made it feel like home. . .
To these examples I would add so many garden examples. Like when you go away on a trip of even three days during the growing season and return to riotous growth that seemed to wait on purpose until you went away. Like when your lettuces bolt before you get a chance to pick them and the bugs sneak into the folds in the cabbage in the middle of the night and make holes. These things, and many more about the people who you let out of your sight for a while, these things are unsettling even though you know it’s silly to feel that way.
So, Mithenness is the word of the day! and somehow just knowing there’s a word for it is better than a relief. It’s a bit of a thrill!
And by the way, don’t try to find it in Websters. You’ll have to get the book.
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!
It’s so easy to lose the spark of creation when you’re an artist who’s always trying to improve skills at your craft. For many years now I’ve engaged in this practice I call Conversations with the Muse. Periodically I peruse my archived books of lesson demos and experiments in radical eccentricity, and chose a mixed media entry point to launch myself into the realm of the bizarre which always lies beneath the surface of an otherwise socially appropriate personality. It just feels so freeing!
So this time I got a big bottle of Liquitex Pouring medium to mix with my fluid acrylics- four colors in little bottles – knowing that there is no point in trying to control the paint because it just keeps moving, and you’re along for the ride. And the characters emerged as they always do.
My hair’s been running wild lately
Or maybe it’s me. . .running . . .wild
Taking on the animal nature
The hair, a pelt or fur or mane
Think lions or horses or little pink ponies
Unicorns on little girls’ beds
Or think huddled under a blanket fort hideout
Made of pillows and the living room sofa
And two small children peeping out of the dark wide eyed
While their feet give them away
Not much room for me here
No space to stretch out
Something might crack.
Better to sit still
Not attract attention
But this heavy coat
I’m dying for a good scratch
If you want to try pouring acrylics, there are so many youtube videos to instruct, and here are some previous posts of mine that might help: