self portrait

Mixed Media at The Living Room

Ruth and I showed up for the Mixed Media Art play Group we’ve been leading at The Living Room with bags of materials to set up in the dining room after lunch. The group is sort of like the Muse Group I teach in my studio, only with a lot of wild cards. We fill the tables with paints and paper and marking pens and collage packets and watch the women trickle in. Most of them are friends now, known to us through their enthusiastic participation.

V. sits down and starts singing the song she woke up with, her own cheerful song about it being an art-group day. She has brought some aged wood shingles she found and she wants to paint a madonna on them. S. brings all her belongings with her so they will be safe while she paints. She has written a poem about homelessness. Soon the two of them are engrossed in their art and singing popular songs.

mixedmediaartgroup

The tables fill up. We have 11 people and scurry around to get paper and collage packets to all.  Then it gets very quiet as they cut and paste. Later they do a free write, and then share and laugh and appreciate each other’s work.

The following week we are prepared with the template of a profiled face for them to develop a self portrait on. They are able to jump right in with paint and collage, some tackling the work metaphorically and others with some realism.

As they leave the room we are showered with their gratitude. We are excited and a bit tired, but quite certain that our gratitude for being able to spend this time with them at least matches their own.

Post Apocalypse Self Portrait

Still no rain here in the north San Francisco BAY area, but we’ve just weathered another apocalyptic fire. Everyone’s talking about it – how to prepare for the next one. . .we all believe there will be the next. . .or how to get out of Dodge and go somewhere there will be no environmental disasters. And where is that elusive Shangri La?

It seemed like a good time to pull out the old zany self portrait lesson in Muse Group. To avoid having to look at ourselves in the mirror and trying to draw ourselves, we just clowned in front of the computer to capture our very own comic strip character and went about painting and collaging the marvelous emotional entanglement that is our lives at the moment. Just that. Nothing deep and analytic or prophetic. Just one in an infinitude of selves we carry around all the time.

Here’s what popped out on my paper this time.

bay

Collage on acrylic painted background with a Photo Booth Comic Strip-filtered selfie.

Post Apocalypse Self Portrait

Aargh! What a place to call home.

So beautiful it makes your heart ache

so treacherous…… it makes your heart ache.

I want to move and I can’t bear to.

I want to stay and grow old – er, but can I bear it?

the fires the floods and heaven forbid the earthquakes

But the bees and butterflies, they stay

as do the birds

and our cats

and the flowers and trees bloom and fruit each year

and. . .

we will not leave

Practice, practice

Like most of us I like to think that one day I’ll just “get it” and then painting will be effortless self expression. This is very short sighted thinking of course, because it’s the drive to evolve as a painter which motivates me to practice, practice, practice, even when things are not going particularly well. Practice, as in effort. My friends who participate in challenges, like the #30X30directwatercolor2018 challenge which is going on this month, understand this. Paint something every day and you can’t help but evolve, even though on any particular day it may feel like you’re sliding backward.

Suhita suggested doing more than one of the same subject. So after two tries at the pagoda on Stowe Lake, I tried a third, this time from a tiny picture on my phone, direct watercolor. Taking the advise of Marc, to get farther away or work from a less detailed pictures.

pagodanew

A quick and dirty direct watercolor with fewer specifics yet more fresh and appealing. Here’s the first two:

In the first I got mesmerized by the up close detail. In the second I was far enough away that I had to make up details, when I should have left them out!

Another day I was sketching in Sebastopol with a view of Gravenstein Station. My first try, in direct watercolor was highly frustrating! Not having the pen line to rely on, my watercolor application got too tight and descriptive, choking out the light.

gravstation It certainly represents the scene relatively accurately, but I think I pretty much killed it dead. With 10 minutes left til I had to go, I did this less ambitious sketch and liked it much better.

gravstation2

Direct watercolor with white pen line added at the end

Another day I decided to practice figures with no preplanning, just drawing/painting directly, from another phone photo.

trio

I was testing my ability to paint shapes with no drawn or painted line. Great practice but clumsy outcome. And definitely missing the spirit of the music.

selfie

Determined to do a first-thing-in-the-morning direct watercolor I did this selfie in my pajamas while sipping chai (from my computer monitor). It bears little resemblance to me (which haunts me! how to fix it!) but again, great practice.

 

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

 

My Brain Child

brainchild

Acrylic inks, Citra Solved collage papers on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

My brain child is wired for great complexity

all those filaments and fibers conspiring

to make me brilliant one day and a fool the next

to utter great truths or spew wormy banalities

My brain child is a hothouse of growing things

hungry caterpillars chomping on leaves

threatening to break out and run free

Will they embarrass me or

earn me a reputation for a fertile imagination?

Oops! Here comes another!  Look out everyone!

caterpillar

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar, picture taken 5 minutes ago in my studio garden

One never has to look far for the source of the ideas served up by the imagination.  I often don’t see the connection until a day or week after the art is made.  I’ve been visiting our hungry caterpillars each day, touching them on the head so they throw up the bright yellow flags!  I hadn’t realized that they’d become my brain children!

Golden Girl

goldengirl

acrylic, collage, PhotoBooth image, stamping, etc on w/c paper

The Golden Girl Needs Me

such a golden girl

knows how to be siren cool

all gold lame, silver, and diamonds

such an effort to be she

 

but what’s under that platinum hair

appears absent. . .

looks like she’s gonna need some help 

where she’s going

Looks like more clown folly here.  A second week of playing with PhotoBooth (comic strip) pictures to make self portraits.  Yeah, that’s my  face under the nose, but not my bod!  I was never a siren of the screen except in my dreams perhaps.

I’m off for some camping in the redwoods this week.  Back for a mini-Muse workshop July 14.  We’ll be doing debossing and embossing textures.  There’s still space if you can join us! Visit my workshops page for more info.

Up to Monkey Business

monkeybizness

inks and collage on w/c paper, 10  X 11″

up to monkey business

down with grown up’s worries

we’re here to play

pick a plastic flower

do a duck walk, 

pound our chests

and let out a rousing chorus of 

Toward the Fun!

I had to stop wearing costumes when i got home from camp, but I couldn’t stop painting them.  My clown heart is still warm.  So we have been doing kookie self portraits again in Muse group, and believe me, this one is quite tame compared to the student pieces!

The method?  If you have the Photo Booth software on your computer, set it on the Comic Book filter effect and ham it up for the camera – like you did with your friends in those photo booths that printed out a strip of blurry pics.  Size it to fit your paper, print it out and glue it onto your paper.  Then start painting and collaging til you can see one of your many alter egos taking shape.  This way you avoid trying to make pretty with the image and risking one of those uncomfortable self image – reality collisions!

Muse Student Self Portraits

 

 

by Muse Bettina

It’s really quite refreshing to get together and do art with all my Muse sisters.  It makes me realize I’m not the only whacky one!  We did the self portraits without the mirrors, adding humor to the equation and throwing caution to the wind.   Click the picture above to watch the slide show. Enjoy!

Songs for the Oceans and Skies

Photo Booth self portrait with collage and acrylic, 10 X 11″

cheep, cheep, cheep advice
cheep, cheep, cheep tricks
grab a fishphone and join the chorus!

let the chickies show you how it’s done
make fish eyes at the audience
open your beak wide
and turn the volume up high

your song is for the oceans and the skies
and everyone is listening

If your studio or office were surrounded with chicks, chickens and other feathered friends, you might start wanting to sing too. Maybe this is how singers get their start?

Color Me Purple

acrylic on w/c paper, 10 X 10″

Color Me Yellow came first. Then Color Me Green.  And now Color Me Purple.  The process is to pose for Photo Booth on my Mac computer using the Comic Strip filter, print it out in black and white, transfer the lines onto paper, pick a dominant color and paint fast!

I hate to admit it but this one has actually captured a bit of my likeness.  Hmmmm.  Guess that means purple is my color?  I like lavender but generally shun darker purple because it reminds me of those ladies who dress in purple with red hats and call themselves “Red Hatters”.  Find for them, but I’m not ready for that yet (even though I guess I’m the right age).