Friday, September 25, 2015

here I am

Cairn, pen and ink

The beach at Seward, Alaska, was mostly rocks from glacier retreats centuries ago. I was on a long walk along the shore, feeling the many miles between where I was and where I was from. Those quiet meditative moments are hard to find in the busyness of a normal day. But, this day was different. There was no rush to go anywhere, no pressure to drive someplace new. Just a day at the beach. And my thoughts on a walk.

When a boat left the marina and motored past me in Resurrection Bay, the wake created small waves that lifted the rocks and set them down with muted thumps and clacks before the water sssssss shhh -ed as it pulled back. That sweet rhythm lasted only minutes and then faded again to the silence of the beautiful landscape.

I picked up a few rocks and rubbed my fingers over their smooth surfaces. And slowly, I built a small stack of them along the beach. When I finished, I sat next to the stack and sketched it. Each step of this act, a meditation. A song. A quiet moment of breathing and being. And being fully awake. Sketching, another meditation, felt good and slow, too.

When I finished the sketch, I took the rocks off the cairn and put them back on the beach. I left no trace.

But, for those moments, I was there, on the beach. In Seward, Alaska.

Sometimes a song can put me into a meditative state. This one does.
Lily Kershaw "Maybe."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

plein air in Homer, Alaska

At the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit in Alaska I have had a few days to stare and think about the landscape and a sunny morning to paint it.

I feel a shift in my ideas about plein air painting. I used to feel pressured to paint a frame-worthy piece every time I went out, but now I feel like I'm taking notes. I am catching the rhythm of the land, the high notes of color, the bass part of line and texture. It doesn't need to all come together now. It might at some later time, if/when I rework it or start fresh with the idea of this place in mind.

I watched many people, of all ages, catching salmon here. I watched a man fish (fishing and catching are two different experiences, they say), unsuccessfully, for four hours before he packed up his gear and hiked out of the lagoon. When his back was turned, a fish leaped in the water nearby. In fact, almost exactly where his line had been just minutes before.

I watched a grandfather and 6 year old grandson stand together on the rocky shore. First, the grandfather taught the little boy how to bait his hook, hold his pole, cast his line, and watch the bob for a bite. Next, I watched the boy go through all of the steps on his own, with grandfather nearby for assurance and answers to questions, which the little guy asked over his shoulder. Finally, I saw the two of them standing side by side with lines in the water making forever kinds of memories. When the grandfather caught a fish, the grandson reeled in his own line and stepped aside to be out of the way. Grandfather skillfully pulled in the fish, and grandson helped pull it out of the water, only dropping it once when it wriggled and wrested itself out of little hands.

Best of all, I felt perfectly safe while I painted, even if I felt like I was in the middle of a Rie Munoz painting!

Enjoy "The Fishin' Hole Song" and whistle a little, if you know the tune.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

sketchbook -- mud flats in Cook Inlet, Alaska

The tour books warn to stay off the mud flats. My friend and Alaska native, Roxanne Colyer Clingman, warned me to stay off the mud flats. The newspapers and signs around town warn to stay off the mud flats.

The tide shift here is 30-40 feet, and when the tide is out, the bottom of the inlet is exposed. Glacial silt makes for a quicksand-like surface. Once stuck, a person faces 30 feet of water rushing in on the next tide. I was well-warned to stay off the flats.

When we explored Hope, Alaska, and I was faced with the mystery and beauty of the mud flats, I understood all of the warnings. I had to force myself to only draw and photograph them, because their attraction was strong! Here's what I wrote on the left side of this sketch:

7.1.15 Turnagain Arm from Hope Spur. 
Warnings in tour books (all) and from Roxanne: do not walk on the mud flats! 
Their quicksand siren song is lovely. Come and explore my complex curves and rivulets. 
Look into my puddles to see your future. Linger over grooves and cups, 
hillocks and terraces simple and marvel at the symmetry. 
The unspoken lyric remains that 
the song ends in doom.

Here is a short film of Alaska's landscape and a song that ends beautifully.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

sketchbook -- when plein air painting is not a good idea

Something about the light on Lake Kluane didn't excite me the morning I determined to paint en plein air. I lingered over my morning coffee and looked at the water and the surrounding rocks. I started thinking about how cozy I was inside, how much I was enjoying my cup of coffee, and recalling the visitor information about this area and the large grizzly bear population...

And I decided not to paint.

Not long after, I saw a grizzly bear, favoring one foot, walk right through what would have been my painting space. I was very happy I was not occupying the same spot he ambled through, turning rocks and sniffing at the grass where I had walked the night before.

But a sketch of a bear is a lot of fun. Especially when done from the safety of the motorhome. With a nice hot cup of coffee in my hand.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

sketchbook -- bears

It does not lessen my anxiety to hear a park ranger tell a group of people that the bears in the Banff National Park area of British Columbia are vegetarians. Even when I see them beside the road munching on the abundant dandelions, I am not calmed. Nope. Bears are at the top of the food chain and I, for one, will continue to treat them with respect and hope for distance in all of my encounters with them. My motto for this trip: wildlife from a distance, viewed through a window!

Monday, June 15, 2015

sketchbook -- rest areas

The people I sketched at rest areas were not resting at all. That made them much more difficult sketching subjects. They were walking, sometimes quickly, to the nearby facilities. Just a couple of seconds per sketch and lots of fun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture

"Hero" by Mel McCuddin at NW Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane, WA

Sometimes it's good to go with serendipity, to walk into the museum, and to walk the unfamiliar galleries. This painting knocked me to the floor.

I got much more than I expected at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

sketchbook - travel - leaving home

My sketchbook will get a nice workout this summer as my husband and I travel. I  will share many sketches of the journey ahead.

It almost goes without saying that to travel means you leave home. Before we drove off the driveway, I did this little sketch of home. And, though it's hard to imagine how, I know that when I get back from this trip I will see home differently. I will feel different. My eyes will light on different things. And that's my favorite part of travel: it opens up my perspective.

Already, I can feel the rhythms of life shifting to a less familiar beat. My ears tune in to the new sounds and I lean into it with pleasure.

Sarah Vaughan "Fascinating Rhythm."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

prints for the bride to be

Katie Baker, bride to be, standing with the framed prints made at her bridal shower.

Have you ever been to a bridal shower? I have. Many of them. Long ago, I was even the"bride" and the recipient of the shower. Showers usually have these same elements: cake, flowers, gifts, laughter, chatting, and games.

Today I hosted a bridal shower for a dear friend and lovely young woman, Katie Baker. I was excited to give the shower. Excited for the bride to get the gifts and connect with friends. I just could not face doing games, but I wanted the guests to participate in something fun together.

We made prints!

Sixteen women in my studio and we had a blast! The studio was ready with four printing stations, four aprons, plenty of rubber gloves, paints, brayers, stencils, textures, and paper. After my demo, the everyone participated in making a print. After they dried, people signed their prints.

Those who weren't printing watched the others, or gave advice, or handed them paper towels or other items. From the comments after the printmaking, people had a lot of fun. And no one had ever done such a thing at a shower.

As we left the studio, to get back to cake and presents, Katie and her sister, Courtney, commented to me, "This is like an illustrated guest list of who came to the shower!"

We framed the prints in small shadow box frames I found locally. With four of us working, it took only 30 minutes to frame all of them. Katie is already talking about hanging some on walls, but standing others on shelves and counters.

It was a unique kind of shower. One I would love to do again!

"Isn't She Lovely" Victor Wooten.