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!

 

 

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.

Wabi Sabi: Nature’s Poetry in Black and White

wabisabi2

Higgins black india ink, gesso, collage, acrylic ink tones on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Wabi Sabi. Keep it natural. Keep it sensual. Let the mind flow and spirit rise. 

Black ink bears witness to the natural processes: the melting of snow and slow trickling through ice lattice into underground streams that feed rock beds deep within the layers of the earth we walk,  the passage of time until that melt-off emerges “magically” from faucets.

For eons this one has soared above, witnessing the elemental exchange, silently raising the question of . . .but forever?

wabisabi

Higgins black india ink and Daler Rowney Antelope Brown acrylic ink on paper collage surface, 10 X 11″

In Saturday’s workshop we explored painting with black and white in the context of the Japanese esthetic, 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.  For more about Wabi Sabi you can go to this post from two years ago.

Often even we lovers-of-color feel freed up by the exploration of black marks on white paper, free to enjoy the added drama of it, but also the subtlety and balance of soft passages with hard edged counterpoints.  We’re not copying nature here, but allowing the ink to flow in natural ways that illustrate the movement of water or texture of stone or flight of wings.

Art Camp for Adults

student3-5_13

Three Muse Students do the Wabi-Sabi with inks, textures, Citra solv collage. . .wow!

(My husband Bob just gave me a new lesson in Photoshop Elements, so now that I know how to put jpegs together, you’ll probably be seeing more of this!)

When I turned 50 my husband Bob asked me what kind of party I would like to celebrate.  My choice was to have my friends over and play art together with loads of paper, paint, collage, pens and more.  Their gift to me was the artwork they did together around our dining room table.  A perfect way to celebrate my mid century mark by being kids together again.  The art pieces hung around the top of the walls of my little studio for a long time, until we moved.  Now they’re stored reverently in a box.  Little did I know that my birthday would serve as a model for later Muse Groups, which always seem like a kind of celebration when we get together to explore art and end up getting to know ourselves and each other better.

I teach the Muse Groups now, with loads of mixed media fun to share.  But invariably it’s the discoveries of the individual students which get us all so turned on.  Our credo is that it’s OK and even encouraged to steal ideas, techniques from each other. The artistic ego gets checked at the door so we can relax and let the creative juices flow.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area you may want to come and try out a Muse session this summer and call it summer camp.  A new weekly Monday afternoon group is starting up June 3.  Or you can sign up for one or more Saturday (or one Sunday) classes:  June 1, July 14, August 10, September 7. For more information and to register visit Imagine With Art.

Windy Art

crescendo

acrylic, ink, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

there’s a crescendo building

notes blowing on the wind

hard to capture

but the fingers keep moving

to try and keep up

 

life is a play

where the judges 

stand in the sidelines

miss out on all the fun

they count and categorize

make rules and record 

success and failure

 

life is in the play

in the dancing notes 

and splattered paint

the failed tries

and the triumphant re-tries

Monday was a windy day, an almost howlingly windy day, blowing away any thought that tried to take root. In Monday Muse Group we all got to see what the wind blew in.  For me it was the keys on my piano which had been tuned in the morning and my wild yearnings set loose after a piano concert attended on Sunday.  Along with the blowing of blossoms and the large branch broken off from the redwood tree that came to rest on the apple tree right above the bird feeder. . .All this gets strung on the threads of an art piece.