muse group

A Lesson in Pouring Acrylics

We poured acrylics this week in Muse Group, using Pouring Medium (Liquitex or Golden) mixed with fluid acrylic paint (about 10/1) poured from cups we mixed it in. The Pouring Medium gives you a leveling paint film with “rheology” or “flow”. So the colors flow together as you tip the paper back and forth. It also gives you spontaneous effects that you could never have dreamed up or accomplished “on purpose”. And if you have a fertile imagination, which I’m sure you do! the image which results might even have something to say!

pianogrief

fluid acrylics mixed with pouring medium and moved with a rubber spreader

I’ve been hanging here a long while. Not at all the budding musician I was at eight when Mom would drop me off at the piano teacher’s house, until I’d endured three years of mediocrity and dread about recitals. . .and learned to play a bit, Fur Elise and all that. . .and then quit.

Fast forward 60 years and another try at it. . .for fun this time. . .until it seemed that the bit I could play had only shrunk.

And so our lovely piano is on its way out now, for sale to someone worthier. No longer will I own that bit of cultural cache. My chin sinks, along with those early dreams of musical excellence (WHICH WERE MY MOM’S, NOT MINE!)

You gotta love moms. I mean it’s great the way they root for you, tell you to hang in there because you can accomplish something great. My mom actually thought I would be an accomplished pianist (like she wished she had been).

fishies

Once again this was fluid acrylics mixed with pouring medium, dripped from a cup onto watercolor paper. The marbling effects spontaneously appeared as the paper was tilted! The hungry fish that appeared was so engaging that I created some other fish from acrylic skins. It’s easy to make acrylic skins with the leftover pouring medium mixture by pouring it onto plastic, letting it dry, and cutting out shapes! I glued the little fish down with gel. Now the big kahuna will not go hungry!

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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.

Honor Them

After so many years it’s become a habit. . .picture first and then the words follow. It’s a kind of ekphrasis. According to the Poetry Foundation, “an ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art.”

Sometimes this occurs as the art is being created, as in this case, when one pillar appeared and then more.

thosewhogrow

monoprint, collaged monoprinted papers, acrylic, China marker on w/c paper

Those who grow our food are the pillars of our world.

Honor them.

Perhaps you would agree. And if they come from other countries, willing and eager, welcome them!

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.

Notre Dame burns, Ouch!

Our beautiful spring weather turned gloomy and cold for a while yesterday. We were in Muse Group exploring inks and the Wabi Sabi aesthetic and sharing what we knew about the beloved Notre Dame cathedral burning in Paris. The world always has a way of infiltrating art that is made with a spirit open to spontaneity. Here’s what happened to mine, quite unconsciously at first. . .

duckforcover

Higgins India Ink, copper acrylic, paper collage on 10 X 11″ watercolor paper

The ashes are falling as Notre Dame burns today.  A good time to take cover and even burrow. How can this be?

If you’re interested in the kind of mixed media explorations we’ve been doing in these groups for at least a decade now. . .

Here’s the new spring/summer schedule of Playful Muse workshops (on Mondays) in my Sebastopol studio!

May 20, June17, July 15 – 1:30-4:30pm Can be taken as a group or individually!

August 5, 12, 19, 26, a 4 week series – 1:30-4:30

These will be posted on my website soon. Meanwhile contact me to reserve a spot!

 

 

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.