muse group

Sfumato, Fumage, Smoke Painting

Whatever you call it, it happens when you touch a flame to paper, just enough to let a ghost of ashy, charcoal-y gray/black touch the paper. It’s hard to stop once you get started.

You can fix it with acrylic spray, workable fixative, and then paint over. You can take an eraser and remove it in places, as I did with the teardrop shapes here. You can burn the edges of the paper or even burn wholes in the middle. But watch out! The firebug may take over.

smoke1

candle smoke, collage, stainless steel acrylic, screen and paper collage on w/c paper

Smoke alarms! The embers dance a crazy dance of not caring.

It is so very thrilling, this dance of life and death.

But only when you are perched on the high wire

Or immediately after when you’ve survived and can see that your feet are still there,

Hands still clutching each other.

You’ve just seen the spirits.

That will haunt you forever.

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Expressive Drawing/Painting

We painters all need to get over ourselves and take a break from trying to get our paintings to “turn out”.  Every now and then anyway. So on a Monday when the class was small I moved the Muse Group out to the garden for some expressive drawing and painting with abandon and without technique or rules, on big paper and and holding the sticks, pencils, charcoal, and ink droppers loosely by the end, and in the stance of a matador, lunging forward and back. It was really too much fun!

Here’s a couple of mine.

expressive2

pencil, ink (dropper), watercolor crayon and gesso on 20X30″ paper

expressive1

When we’d run out of steam we brought our paintings inside and used mat board corners to see what abstract gems we’d unwittingly produced and were impressed with ourselves.

A few days later when I was in dire need of an art fix (I’ll spare you the details) I thought I would play around with “finishing” this one and see what it had to tell me. With some cutting and pasting and more paint the above painting became this. . .

expressive3

. . .and as I kept trying to make sense of it, a little demon slipped out!

The Self Critic puts her foot out to trip me.

Then as I fall, screams LOSER!

Aha! So the A is for A Loser!

I drew in the word Loser and knew I was done.

Do you know an artist who doesn’t feel like a loser sometimes?

 

Texture+Paint+Cut+Paste

Sometimes the greatest successes in mixed media painting are repurposed “experiments”.

We were doing the gesso texturing method called “decalcomanie” in Muse Group. Slather gesso on the paper, put another paper over it to “pull” the wet texture out to create a rough painting texture when dry. Then paint wetly over it.

shroomsr2 acrylic over gesso texture with collage on 10 X 11″ watercolor paper

A rush of golden energy punctuated with silver whisperings. It’s not time to lie down. This is the ‘shroom dance of spring, the spores rising and settling in a fine mist. It’s time now to wake early and watch the birthing of these golden days.

This painting was not the beginning. It started with various textures painted on two pieces of paper. The first (below) was a class demo/sampler of different acrylic textures, with pumice and sand and molding paste. It got very confused the more I tried to “finish” it.

shroomsrough

See what I mean? I liked the mushroom (‘shroom) theme and cut this painting up.

Can you find the mushroom (later modified somewhat) that landed in the first painting when this one (above) was cut to pieces?

shroomsr3

Now I have such an abundance of choices to collage into yet another painting in the series.

I also went through my collage file to find other elements that could be added.  Can’t wait to work on this some more. It’s an invitation to “build” another painting with the most interesting materials.

Health Benefits of Coffee!

Have you been reading about the recent studies on the health benefits of drinking 2-3 cups of coffee a day?! Especially great for liver functioning – go figure! But also some of us have known for a while that coffee has some positive effects on our art making, which always leads to more general health benefits.

In Muse group we did a lesson this week using tea and coffee to stain papers, tea bags and to “paint”.

pileupcoffee splattered w/c paper with coffee soaked Masa paper and cheesecloth collage

It starts to pile up after a while, the shorn off pieces with holes in them. As we spin around in space our linings get worn and raggedy. Pieces of skin are rubbed off. New lines and cracks and brown blemishes appear. And still the moon shines brightly, more so perhaps as we realize we are better tuned, lighter, brighter, less encumbered than before.

One of the things I try to do in this group each session (of 6 or 8classes) is to inspire ourselves with the work of a particular artist. This lesson was inspired by Deborah Benioff Friedman, a SF Bay Area artist whose work many of us viewed in a recent exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. She uses tea bags and natural stains in her wall hung and sculptural work in inspired ways!

laundry

For years I’ve used tea and coffee stains to age papers and evoke historical contexts in mixed media works. This one also done on Monday is a bit more in the story-telling style I have often used. At times I’ve used pictures of my own ancestors in the mix. Here are a couple of them: My grandfather Lee Loffswold and his clan and my grandmother Selma Buskerud Loffswold’s family home.

To stain papers I soak them in extra strong tea and/of coffee and then dry them out in a 200 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Mmmm and they smell good too (if you like the tea/coffee flavor that is.)

Let me know if you want to join us in the next 8-week session of the Monday Muse Group starting March 19. There are still openings! Visit my website for more information.

Self Portrait in the Wild

My bird feeders are busy stations these days. There’s the mixed birdseed one, the Nyer seeds for the smallest birds and the blocks of suet laced with seeds and fruit. They swing with activity throughout the day. Oh and then there’s the hummingbird nectar as well. So small wonder that when we did the crazy self portrait lesson in Muse Group this week, my own went over to the feathered side, yet again.

netted

Photo of self at Photo Booth using Comic Strip filter, printed in black and white, cut and collaged onto w/c paper with other collage and paint, etc. etc.

I am captured, captivated, taken over by dreams of those feathered ones who have been whispering in my ears for years. I am captive to my earthbound ways, my rootedness and groping for stability. Though I fluff my hair and imagine wings stretching out, open, ready for flight, I never quite make it into the air, but stand and watch as my feathered relatives soar and dip and perhaps look down on me with compassion for my flightless state?

(Can you tell which eye is mine?) I’ve been teaching wacky self portraits in Muse Groups for years and it always gets us laughing! How different it is from what happens when you look in the mirror in the morning, trying to get your hair right while noticing some new puffiness or wrinkle.

In the next series of Monday Muse Groups which starts March 19 I’ll be teaching Smoke Painting, the esthetic of Wabi Sabi art featuring textures and patina, and painting with water shapes charged with pigment. There are still openings at this point, so I hope you’ll be able to join. For more information and to register visit my website.

Here’s an old video I made of student self portraits, which I’ve watched so many times with giggles.

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 5.27.40 PM

 

Asleep in the Woods

Last week in Muse group we did that strangest of art techniques. To start you wet the (Masa) paper and crinkle it til it’s wadded up in a ball! Then spread it out and paint on it.

sleepinthewoods

Oh to fall asleep in the woods

But on a soft bed with pillows and down comforter

After all, does the fox not have a preferred bedding

And what of my cat Phil (who prefers dry dirt)

Oh to fill the nostrils with pine and damp wood

and let the breeze cool your cheeks

and dream of streams running with fish

and skies pulsing with birdsong

and even worms tunneling through earth (just not in my sheets please)

Break down the barriers between inside and out

Let night in

Let nature in

Muse Group Begins Again. . .

The Muse Group is a mixed media painting adventure class that I’ve been teaching ongoing for about ten years or more. On Monday this week we started a new session  with gessoed watercolor paper because it leaves a longer working time with the acrylic. And we employed lots of not-brush application methods like rollers, and toothbrush and fingers and scrapers to “lose control!” happily.

splashdemo: fluid acrylic on gessoed watercolor paper 10 X 11″

I tried demonstrating the alcohol technique but had squirted the acrylic on the paper too thick and only got a trace of the alcohol textural effect at the top here. In my choice of colors and splatter I was definitely still feeling the crashing of surf against the rocks from the beach walks of last week.

In my second piece I was trying to redeem myself and get the alcohol spray to work! And once again still at that beach I remembered my encounter with two ravens. One of them was haughtily pulling plastic (dog poo) bags from the container on the trail. I shooed him away and returned about ten strewn bags to the holder, as the other raven sat on a nearby post cackling in a way that struck me more as laughter, as if to say “You idiot! He’s just going to come back when you’re gone and do it again. Ha ha, caw caw!”

scene5take1 Fluid acrylic and collage on gessoed paper, 10 X 11″

Scene 5 Take 1 and the curtain lifts on a pair of ravens. They’re in cahoots and we’d like to think of an olive branch offering of peace.

But they’re not white doves and the blood red beaks are a tip off. Something more dramatic is a-wing and they’re going to take advantage of it. Survival of the fittest or the loudest perhaps? But only for so long. This scene will end soon enough and the curtain will come down before we know what’s next.

The vine will continue to creep and extend its influence, and no one knows what will transpire as the curtain lifts again in scenes 6 and 7.

If you’re reading something about the current political climate into this last, I’m not surprised. Me too.