wabi-sabi

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!

 

 

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What Kind of Creature

If you’re asking what kind of creative this is, then maybe you don’t know about animal spirits.

whatkindofcreature

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

What kind of creature is that? you ask, as if animal spirits confine themselves to only one specie. These spirits are known to take the form of imagination and keep you guessing, to move with stealth and vigor across the page even while standing still. 

This one looks you in the eye and knows you, as the mirror does. . .only more. Knows your mental undergrowth to be a brambles and yet is comfortable there.

. . .even as you in your waking state find your hair standing on end to confront that gaze.

Look, I don’t dream up these creatures. They appear out of somewhere/nowhere. This one was (partially) a demo of various ink splotchings, stick drawing etc. for the Wabi Sabi workshop two weekends ago. It needed to be liberated from a piece that was going nowhere, so I cut it out and found a home for it/him/her on another underpainting of crinkled Masa paper.

It was a real Halloween character, this pregnant bunny/deer dancing creature. Isn’t this the way we often put together a costume, feeling free to mix metaphors.  Mine this year was a combination ballerina (tutu) and pirate (hat) and probably some other elements when combined with Jazzercise leggings and shoes.

Poetry of Wabi Sabi workshop

Last Saturday I taught the mixed media workshop, titled The Poetry of Wabi Sabi, in Ukiah for the Mendocino Art Association . Wabi Sabi, the quality of things that suggests a natural process, vulnerable to effects of time, weathering, human treatment, yet still possessing poetry, poise and strength of character. We explored this esthetic by making textures, and moving inks and paints in spontaneous ways, collaging papers and more, keeping in mind the words of some favorite poets/artists such as:

Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.  -Salvador Dali

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. – Lao Tse

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.  -Crowfoot

In the following painting I was demonstrating gesso texture and using a stencil with sumi ink. In the Monday Muse Group this week I had time to finish it and write.

lightgesso texture, sumi ink, acrylic inks, stenciled patterns, cricket stamp, on w/c paper

This piece was prompted by the poem:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

                  -Leonard Cohen

and how the cricket gets inside the house and calls to his comrades on the outside.

We live indoors in imagined compliance with the world outside, forgetting to notice the glory of light shining through the cracks. Nature’s sanctity beckons steady and true, even as we pursue the folly of perfection. (my response)

yugenInks on dry gesso texture, writing with a stick dipped in Diamine Silver Fox  ink

Another workshop demo that I later finished. The word yugen, yoo-gehn, is Japanese and means, “an awareness of the universe that triggers feelings too deep and mysterious for words”.  Enough said!

The Quest for Beauty

chrysalid2

“Chrysalid II”, inks, gesso, pencil, collage on canvas 24″X24″

In his book Wabi Sabi: Further Thoughts, Leonard Koren shares the quest for beauty that led  him to explore more deeply the wabi-sabi way.  In his definition of beauty he writes:

By “beauty” I mean that complex of exciting, pleasurable sensations-ostensibly emanating from things – that makes us feel more alive and connected to the world.  Often these feelings are accompanied by a compelling sense of truth, goodness, and/or love.

I can’t think of a better explanation for why I paint! But it goes beyond that to an honoring of life, with all its natural processes. Wabi sabi is a celebration of the roughness and unevenness of life as it unfolds in bumps and starts, one forward and two steps back. I imagine the gnarled old apple tree in my garden that wears its age with the grace and originality as I aspire to. The rusty garden implements, the grasses draping over my walkway, and in my studio – the torn paper and textured surfaces I love to paint on.

 

Chrysalid

crysalid

inks, gesso, pencil, and collage on canvas 24″ X 24″

A continuation of my contemplation of the Japanese esthetic of wabi sabi that treasures the passage of time and a sense of impermanence. I was going for the patina of rustic, aged surfaces, and in the process called forth an image which honors the natural cycle of birth and death.

Where do images come from? There is an obvious answer when I am out sketching people and events, doing the pictorial storytelling or reportage which I’ve come to love so much. But when I explore the surface of the canvas, and something appears, I find that I am at a loss to answer. The painted surface has its own life then.

There is always some thread I can follow back to the circumstances of my life at the moment. I have this spring been witnessing the colorful life cycle of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly in my studio garden. And in the past two weeks I have lost count of the number of people known to me who have passed. It gives one pause, and that gives one paintings I suppose.

Later this month,June 25, 26,  I’ll be teaching a weekend workshop: Mixed Media Painting: The Visual Poetry of Wabi Sabi  at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. We will be accessing this rich esthetic with mixed media painting techniques, poetry, meditation and writing.  There is still space if you want to come! For more information or to register, please visit my website.

Wabi Sabi: Imperfection

Ring the Bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

-Leonard Cohen

WS1

Inks and gesso on 10 X 10″ w/c paper

Today I immersed myself in a contemplation of the Japanese esthetic of wabi sabi. In particular, the beauty of imperfect things, like cracked pottery and gnarled old trees.

My instructions to myself read something like: Strive for simplicity. Get in and out of the painting in 15-30 minutes. Allow the murky and undefined, the random and the clunky. Breathe deep and try not to overthink it.

WS2

I had fun dripping inks on this gesso textured surface.

WS3

and scraping out and toweling off and rolling on, with a bit of charcoal line suggestion. The title of this one will be “What is that growing on your roof?”

WS4

And when I was done, I had such a lovely torn piece of paper towel. In celebration of imperfect beauty I glued it onto another piece of paper for another start. I might break the 15 minute rule and play with this one some more. These “cracks” are letting a lot of light in!

If you’d like to join me in this pursuit of wabi sabi, on June 25 and 26 I’ll be teaching a weekend painting workshop at Sebastopol Center for the Arts in Sebastopol, California titled “The Visual Poetry of Wabi Sabi”.  For more information and to contact me, visit my website.