muse group

Fences

When life seems to be turned on its ear, as it has with this pandemic, I cling to this practice of expressive art like a life raft. The process of making the art takes precedence over the accomplishment of a masterful outcome. The intuition about what materials and tools to use takes precedence over any kind of well thought out plan or design. The sensation of mark making becomes more important than the mark made. I try to dive in and not come up for air too quickly.

Of course this leads to questions about how to finish. So in this piece even my idea of adding the hands didn’t quite finish it. The blue reminded me of the bluebird couple that sits on the corner of the roof we can see from our dining room table. So I painted one of them and collaged it on. . .then needed the eggs. And finally as I wrote, even a garden scene like this turned out to be about the pandemic. . .in a helpful way.bluebird

acrylic inks, gel pen, drawn with a stick, splattered and scumbled on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

We try new ways to live with each other,

with masks and gloves and zooms,

The same fences that keep us in

are those that keep us out.

Nature topples those barriers we make,

finds a way around or between them,

Its winds dry our lonely tears

and sun warms our tender hearts

Birds share their freedom of air travel

without passport, mask, or elaborate protocol.

Inks and Gesso: Another Free Lesson

Ready to try another free Muse Group lesson?! I’ve taught this one over and over for at least 12 years now. It’s a foolproof way to get excited about making art and to activate creative fancy. You’ll need watercolor paper, inks (preferably with droppers), gesso, and optional: scrapers, rollers, and rubber stamps.

inks_gesso

Click here to watch the video demo. But don’t stop there. Give it a try!

 

The Muses

We all have a Muse, whether we know it or not. And I have at least 7 or 8 all the time these days! They come to my studio out in the country bearing bags filled with art supplies. They let me share a mixed media technique and give them full permission to make it their own.

And my goodness but they do! Each person’s piece reflects her own Muse style. We are often in awe of each other and the way the creative energy flows through us. So I wanted to share some of the students’ work from the last series of Tuesday afternoon classes of lessons like fabric collage, color mixing and more.MusePat

Muse Pat

MuseMuriel

Muse Muriel

MuseRuthMuse Ruth

MusePamelaMuse Pamela

MuseBrigitte

Muse Brigitte

MuseNyna

Muse Nyna

MuseNancy

Muse Nancy

MuseJudy

Muse Judy

Of course now we are all in Shelter in Place mode, but trying to continue making art on our own and sharing it on the internet. It’s not easy.

This morning I wrote out all the art activities I want to engage in, both to keep myself sane and to build skills. I sketched buds in my garden and my car for a drawing challenge on the S.F. Urban Sketchers meet up, and I played with my new Fude fountain pen. It got me out in the glorious spring garden where everything is coming to life and nothing reminds me of a virus.

And then I listened to the evening news and realized that the art was not frivolous time-filling activity. It has become an essential activity almost up there with hand washing!

A Regatta in Fabric Collage

The students in Tuesday afternoon’s Muse Group arrive early and unpack their paints and brushes and start enjoying each other’s company. We are mostly women of a certain age. An age of experience, of wisdom one might say. And sometimes the conversation veers in the direction of age itself, which we are mightily involved in understanding. After all, aren’t we all, at any age trying to figure out what exactly it means to be 20 or 30 or 50 or 70?

At my age  the discussion revolves around the question of “how much longer”? Small wonder then that issues around this very question arose as I worked on finishing my demo for the fabric collage lesson.

regatta

fabric and paper collage, stamping on acrylic monoprint, 10 X 11″

A regatta of tombstones. Jump on and they’ll carry you downstream. On your merry way you will pass the others, the ones who have already passed. But don’t worry. They don’t mean to frighten, though they are a gentle reminder to wake up, enjoy the river’s currents, the flowers along the banks, the flags waving in the breeze. This regatta is not really a race, but don’t dally in the reeds. There’s not much time left for this journey.

Another note I must add. The delightful KQED Masterpiece Sanditon episode I watched on Sunday involved a regatta. That’s all it took for black and white striped ribbon cut outs to become flags and the blank white spaces to become a blue river!

Love is the Cure!

My gift to you on Valentine’s Day is Rumi and a painting inspired by his ecstatic poetry. First, the poem. . .

Love is the cure,

for your pain will keep giving birth to more pain

until your eyes constantly exhale love as effortlessly

as your body yields its scent.

loveisthecure

acrylic and collage and gel pens on acrylic textured w/c paper, 10 X 11″

In Muse Group this week we painted larger, on 1/2 sheets of watercolor paper (15X22″), in acrylic and then used cropping borders to find the painting “gems” within the borders. Some of us left the painting whole and others (like me) cut it up.

Here’s the painting before carving.

hearts1

Now I also have an assortment of interesting “remnants” to put together in another painting, which I may share. . . if and when it comes together.

Now enjoy your chocolate and whatever lovemaking of the emotional, carnal, and/or spiritual kind you have in mind for this lovely non-holiday.

Holiday Trees

We see the color red in the fall and the effect is of fall leaves or, in our case here in “fire country”, flames. But it’s December now and we are drenched from the atmospheric river and open door to storms from the ocean, and now red reminds us of. . .Santa!

I was thinking of the tree of life here, and later the words Christmas tree popped up unbidden. Recently I was giving a private lesson about ways to work with crinkled Masa paper. I painted on a sheet of water-soaked Masa paper which had been crinkled. And then made collage papers using the same method,  which I then used on the first piece after mounting it on watercolor paper.

The writing is a bit of fun. Take me seriously, but not too much!

flametree

Flame outside, flame inside, each making space for the other.

This world is made of positive and negative holding hands,

sometimes in secret cahoots.

Both want to be noticed,

forever in need of each other.

 

The painting wants to be noticed.

Every part wanting to tell her story.

 

Yet the artist can only think of how she has

yet again failed to make a masterpiece.

How can she be so shallow, when she promised herself

to be free, leaving behind judgments.

“But I wanted to scribble somewhere!” she whines,

ungrateful wretch that she is.

In Loving Memory of the Child

If you’re my age, chances are you learned to deal with the boredom of long winter days when there was nothing to do except invent something. (in other words, no electronics). And if you were an only child like me, whose family kept moving to different states, you had loads of time on your own. Luckily I had a mom who kept me endowed with art supplies. Scissors, pencils, paper and magazines, and an occasional empty shoe box were enough to keep me busy. Fashion design for paper dolls was high on my list of boredom busters.

But fast forward to my Muse Group, which met last week for the last class in the current series of mixed media lessons. I call this lesson “painting with water”, meaning that you paint a shape onto watercolor paper with water – either a spontaneous abstract shape or realistic one. Then you “charge” fluid paint lightly into the shape, add different colors, tip the paper to blend, paint outside the wet shape, etc, etc.

You can probably guess at my initial wet shape below. I had nothing in mind until I opened up a magazine and found the most outlandish “latest” fashion and started chopping it up for collage. . .just like when I was 6!

cutandpaste

fluid acrylics, collage, gel pen on w/c paper 10 X 11″

There will be a two month break til the next Mixed Media Playful Muse Group starts up again. I’m already missing my fellow Muse-rs who fill the studio with their uniquely creative energies.

Registration is now open for  next six-week series which will be held Tuesday afternoons, January 21-February 25, 2020. Visit my website  for more information and feel free to contact me if you’re interested in joining us.

Mirror, mirror

We tried a new idea in Muse Group this week. I called it “Use What You Get Collage”. Everyone came with a folder/file of at least 10 collage items that they’d picked because they fit together in some way- color, theme, designs.

In class we passed our folders to a person on the left, so we all had a “surprise” collection of collage pieces. It felt like a present and initially exciting!

From the folder we were “gifted” we each picked at least five collage items to which we could add whatever we wanted to make a finished piece. It turned out to be more of a challenge, for me at least, than I’d figured on! It took a lot of design-mind problem solving to make it work. And that’s exactly why it was so fruitful.

mirrormirror

Mirror mirror whatdoyasay?

the world may be ending soon

but I’m still here in this mess

refusing to ignore the beauty 

I’ll wear it in my hair

wrap it round my body

extol it, consume it, remember it

paint it and write it down

till the end of my time

and all without a whine.

A bit of clarification here. My collage gift pieces were all lovely greens and blues: National Geographic pages showing debris in the ocean, jewelry, woven textiles, rubber gloves . .. To have a focus I added the picture of a woman and some mylar for the mirror (which photographed as black).

I also added the following quote from a little book Women’s Wit and Wisdom, which you’re probably not able to read:

“While others may argue about whether the world ends with a bang or a whimper, I just want to make sure mine doesn’t end with a whine.”

Strung out and the antidote

Do you ever find yourself in the mood to scribble? What about drip and splatter? Well it doesn’t always end up making for a unified, let alone pleasing piece of art. But it always leads somewhere.

strungout1

I thought I’d look at this recent mixed media Muse painting in pieces. This view turned out to be my favorite, because it illustrated the theme, which I didn’t realize until I wrote this:

Are you a bit strung out? Well yeah, aren’t we all. All bunched up together with our hair electrified, bleeding anxiety about climate and politics (impeachment?). Even  while we’re eating, we’re dreaming starvation And while comfortable in our homes, firestorms and earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes are breaking out in our brains. And we know there’s nothing much we can do now, too little too late…and the strings are knotting up and pulling on us and sometimes we can sort of ignore the discomfort and get on with lives of moving around in cars and on airplanes and discarding plastic and wasting food, and the knots keep getting tighter.. .

(More pieces of the painting here. . .)

Well, that’s one way of looking at what’s going on in our world. All quite true. But the artist has to be more agile, break it down, and look for other solutions.

Like the creature that appeared in Muse Group with an acrylic pour . I walked past it/him/her/them for weeks, until one day some words landed somewhere between my ears, and I was able to finish it, with great satisfaction.

grrblop

So allow me to introduce the excessively silly and somewhat shy Grrrblop! antidote to despair.

A new six-week Muse Group starts Oct 7, and there is one opening left at this writing. I’m thinking we’ll do a “greatest hit” series of mixed media lessons. That’s the best antidote I can think of! If you’ve been thinking you’d like to come, don’t wait, cause we’d love to have you and the window is closing up fast. For more info and to contact me and register visit my website.

Tread Lightly

Flashy orange butterflies have been frequenting my studio garden lately. They flutter by so fast that it took me a few days until I could see them holding still enough to identify them – as Gulf Fritillaries. Of course! Their host plant is the eye catching passion vine which reaches out brazenly across the walkway in front of my studio. Why have I never noticed these Fritillaries before?

They also appeared in my recent Muse lesson demo (not content to only populate my studio garden). The lesson was drawing with long oak and redwood sticks from the garden, dipped deeply into Chinese ink so that the ink would keep dripping and extend the mark making time.

treadlightly

We started our mark making on brown craft paper and translucent washi paper, then moved to watercolor paper, using some of the other papers for collage. That’s when the butterfly shape appeared. I also used the stick to write the words “tread lightly” across the watercolor paper, no doubt thinking of the near collisions that day as I made my way across the Fritillary path!

treadlightly2

Tread lightly.

No clomping along heavy footed in iron shod boots with the weight of the world in your backpack.

Be Butterfly and flit lightly from one nectar soaked blossom to the next.

Become Bee and make drunken stops along your way.

Or Hummingbird and leave no foot prints. Be ephemeral. 

Tread lightly and you won’t miss a thing.

 

Mixed media play and a little bit of meditation and five minutes of writing. That’s what we do in Muse Group. I teach it in my studio in Sebastopol, CA in sessions of around six weeks. A new session starts October 7-November 11. There’s still a couple openings at this writing. For more information visit my website and by all means contact me if you have any questions or would like to register. We’d love to have you!