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.
Master of the skEYES
Master of the skEYES
How do you SEE the bounties of land and sky?
My eagle eyed friend, oh master of the skies?
When my winter musings grow dead weight
May I hitch a ride
Borrow your eyes
See that magnificent
Place where Above meets Below
And a tiny mouse makes his way
Through the blades of grass
May I stow away in your backpack
Cozy while fresh winds nourish
And cleanse my overheated mind
There’s more to seeing than eye balls, I know
I close my eyes and see worlds
Of strange and wonderful folk
So much light, even eyes closed
I will build myself an armature like yours
Not to keep others out, but to carry the weight
Of what destiny will serve up
Then leave it to my pen and brush
They will not fail me.
The last Muse Group lesson of this series last week was the drama of Black and White. We started out making lots of lines and shapes on practice paper using all the fun paint application tools, including fingers of course. As often happens when I’m just trying to demonstrate these techniques without any content in mind, an image jumps out.
The figure. The eye. The choice was to get rid of the eye in the picture, or let it emerge. During the free write session that followed the art making in class, my own writing was aborted when my phone rang. It was a call to move my cataract surgery up a month sooner. By the next day I realized the image of the figure with the eye had something to say. Once again the saga of my failing vision continues. The surgery may or may not help much in my case. So I look to once again adapting myself to what may come. . . as the Master of the skEYES steps in to offer me my brush and paint and remind me of the xray vision. Haha!
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
There’s More to Sight Than Eyes (again)
I was just sitting down to figure out what I would teach for the first lesson of The Playful Muse workshop starting this week. I always like to start a mixed media series with fun paint application techniques to loosen us all up. Drip creatures is one of my favorite lessons because it’s silly and profound at the same time! So I looked up past blog posts on the Drip Creature theme and found this one from seven years ago. Lo and behold, it revealed my uneasiness about recent murky vision. Turns out that once again this is exactly my concern today! So here I am reposting it and letting it both speak to my fears and give me a much needed prayer of hope.
(from the 2016 post) I thought I was just being playful with this one, picking up an old class demo of a kind of ink drip creature. And then, no kidding, it started to talk to me about something I needed to hear!
I can see you sitting there, thinking about your eyes, one clear and one struggling to see through spots and threads and the murky patch.
Look me in the eye and repeat after me: I can see just fine. This cage of one eye is translucent and does not a prison make. I have three eyes to take the place of the one
and the world keeps opening.
Drip creatures tend to be a combination of many species and so they exist outside the realm of waking mind where we have convinced ourselves that things are a certain way that we can explain.
Yes, my left eye has a retinal occlusion for which there is treatment. . . of sorts, and yes I must be reminded not to worry, but to notice all the ways my other senses and brain fill in the blanks, giving me for the most part decent sight. I won’t soon forget this colorful and bizarre image, like something right out of a dream, or perhaps a prayer. (end of 2016 post)
And now (2023!) dealing with cloudy vision again, I feel so comforted, remembering that I have three eyes, and the world keeps opening!
If you want to try your own (prophetic!) drip creatures, look at this post for some simple instructions and give it a try!
The Arctic Bomb Cyclone, oh my! I hope you’re escaping the worst of it, and on target with holiday plans? Yesterday my trip out to the icicle-bedecked bird feeder, where starving birds were grabbing the very last of the seeds, became a daring rescue mission. The driveway was a sheet of glass ice, and my footprints decorated the lawn, as I crunched my way across with the fresh seed.
I warmed up the studio and hunkered down to try out some crinkled masa paper painting. But I kept getting visions of homeless people trying to stay warm on the streets of downtown Olympia, of refugees fleeing humanitarian crises stalled at our border in freezing temps and without shelter, and of Ukrainians facing a winter of power outages and genocide from Russian invaders. My first painting got very dark and I found myself cutting out skeletons for collage! Luckily I also ran across a print-out of one of my favorite Rumi poems, The Guest House.
So I want to share the paintings and the poem that inspired them, turning the black funk that had settled on me into hope.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I was enjoying painting our snow covered Pacific Northwest forest scene, when a storm-tossed body of water appeared, and I thought of these folks at our border. . .all the hazardous crossings; mountains, jungles, desserts and dangerous bodies of water. Fear alone could not make it possible for them the survive the cruel journey. In interviews with refugees one hears that in the midst of all that sorrow there is hope, that “the crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house. . .may be clearing you out for some new delight”.
I’ll be sharing more about crinkled masa paper soon. I’ve cycled back to it several times over the years and am aways delighted with the textures one achieves with such ease.
At home here our Christmas plans have become more modest this year. Ben is staying in North Carolina and braving the sub- freezing temperatures. Thank goodness he didn’t try to get on an airplane! And Andrew is recovering from one of the not-Covid other viruses going around. So it’s just the two of us to stay warm and watch the birds mobbing the feeder.
Sending Christmas blessings for you and your family and good wishes for the new year! Thank you for being here with me. It means a lot.
Asemic Writing with a Folded Pen
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!
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?!
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.