muse group

The Latest Drip Creatures

I started a new Playful Muse workshop series yesterday with an enthusiastic group of artists. As soon as they introduced themselves I realized that they would have no problem with the Drip Creature lesson I’d planned!

My demo consisted of the usual; painting a water shape and dropping in inks and gesso and then moving it all around with fingers, rollers, splatters, scrapers, etc. making sure to get some dripping off the paper to suggest possible legs. The only thought in my mind was to not make it look like yet another bird. No problem. Mr. Hiveskeeter appeared after a few minutes.

Do you sometimes get a glimpse of something shining with possibilities? I mean an idea, that is not clear to you yet, but holds enough promise to make you want to fly with it? Well Mr. Hiveskeeter did! I wonder what it was he really saw. You can always ask your critter to talk to you and they will answer. Or just speak for them!

painting with water shape, acrylic inks, gesso and collage on watercolor paper, finished with fineliner pen

Looks like you just got a bright idea, one to stick in that beehive of yours to keep for later. And you are so pleased with yourself, so utterly delighted that your bizarre attire is coming to life as well. Soon those buttons will pop and wings sprout and that stick of a body will become exotic and fly you off to not-yet-known locales where your Heaven Bank Notes are worth more than here. And the sages will be sharing the secrets of life, longevity, and more. . . 

I know, sounds a bit like a fortune cookie, but that’s what happens when you find a pack of Chinese blessing money in your collage file!

One of my favorite poet philosophers, John O’Donahue wrote that “The imagination is drawn to what is awkward, paradoxical, and what’s contradictory. For the imagination contradiction is interesting. The imagination can dwell with contradiction and deepen it because it has a loyalty to the deep unity where everything comes together.” So I always suggest to students that they let themselves search out and find that which is a bit strange, in collage or word and see what they can do to find a place for it in the art. Sometimes the stranger it is, the better it works.

Each creature yesterday was different and each spoke to us in the writing with unique messages, blessings, and perspectives that the group could enjoy.

This was my warm up drip before the class. Yet another bird, I thought at first, til I saw the dog face emerge! Nothing profound here, just a character introducing herself as Birdog.

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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!

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!

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)

by Muse Jan
by Muse John
by Muse Nancy
by Muse Helena
by Muse Lorna
by Muse Lorna

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

Olympia Muse Group, session 2, Mark Making

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!

Chinese black ink, gesso, charcoal, photo copies, bamboo stick, parallel pen nib, brown and translucent washi papers

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. 

Chinese black ink, gesso, charcoal, collage on brown paper and washi paper on w/c paper!

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?!!

Muse Group in Olympia

Demo: inks, gesso, collage on w/c paper 10 X 11″

The Playful Muse group met Thursday morning for the first of a three week series. All seats taken in this first in-person workshop I’ve taught since moving to Olympia! And I couldn’t be happier to have these fellow travelers exploring mixed media fun, riding the waves of that shared creative energy. They all came prepared and plunged right in. The art studio I’m renting from a new artist friend is cozy and well appointed with a big table for each person. After the holidays I’ll continue to offer these Muse Group series. If you’re local to Olympia and interested in Muse workshops next year, let me know!

The first lesson was inks and gesso applied with a variety of tools. In the picture above, can you see where the acrylic inks and gesso were dropper/dropped, spritzed, finger blended, rollered, scraped with a serrated tool, drawn into with a rubber color shaper, stamped with a custom-made soft linoleum stamp, and squirted with a water streamer?

I’d forgotten to bring my brushes and had to borrow one just to wet a shape on the paper first so that colors would shoot into rivers blending like the salt and fresh water in our rivers here. As usual and by design I had no plan to start out with, just a lingering sense of awe from the short drive to the studio, past trees and bushes of flaming, out-of-gamut color! I was not the only one in the group who couldn’t resist the warmest colors in our palettes.

The second step in the painting was to add some collage, and I grabbed an old music book with Roaring Nineties music and picked the lyrics When the Robin nests again!

Because even with the glorious colors of fall, I am already longing also for spring. Fickle thing, the mind. Here’s how it came out when I finished the piece and did the free write (edited version here)

I claim to be at peace with all the seasons
Each color in my palette there to celebrate

This week I am blazing fall foliage
Dancing sizzling salsa

Next week I am the winter strains of melancholy
Blues and wooly grays

And when the robins nest again
The bunnies, bees, blooms, butterflies

. . . the greens of peace again.

 

Step by Step Muse-ing

acrylic inks and gesso on 10 X 11″ w/c paper

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.

acrylic “skins” and collage added

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. 

Black and turquoise acrylic and screen collage added

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!

inks and gesso on w/c paper

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.

 

Night Creatures

India ink, gesso, acrylic glaze and acrylic skin, white gel pen, collage

When you toss and turn and horrible 

Thoughts hold a parade in your mind

And sleep runs for the exit

Ask for advise from the night creatures

Say – Why do you like the night hours?

The answer will no doubt involve food.

So stop your fretting.

You like food too, right?

Get up and have a bowl of

Lift your spoon in a toast to

Those who know

The secret to happy thoughts

at night

Hoot! Hoot!