muse group

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!

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!

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?