Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Road Trip! Day 1

Day 1 of a road trip. New sketchbook. New ideas. Yay!

Even in the middle of the day, people drive with their headlights on.
Once we reached southern Oregon, the skies started to brighten. Hooray!
It felt great to drive off today, the beginning of a new adventure. Leaving behind dark winter days of rain. Looking for some sunshine.

I am enchanted by the beginning of an adventure. The road stretches out ahead, the long and winding road.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and lights and stuff

this charming scene featured palm tree and pink flamingos

and a crocodile disguised as a Santa

these lights were synched to Christmas music on a local radio station
Like any child, no matter the age, I love Christmas lights. Tonight, on a great drive down Lakemoor Drive in Olympia, WA, we saw spectacular displays like the ones above. 

Oh, the lights are very special this time of year. They remind us that the dark days are numbered and we are past the darkest day.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I appreciate every one of you who read this blog! Thank you!!

Have you seen this display on YouTube? Christmas Lights for over achievers!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

taking stock of 2011

the keepers

the non-keepers
Usually, it's on New Year's Day when I take stock of what I have painted for the year. This year I did it today. Out of the drawers and off of the shelves came all of the 236 paintings I painted this year. Then, one by one, I sorted them into the "keepers" and "non-keepers."

Some of the "keepers" I will frame and put in upcoming shows. Some of them will become launch points for exploring new ideas. Some of them will become "non-keepers" as 2012 unwinds.

What to do with the "non-keepers"? Some of them I throw away. Some of them I wash off and paint over. Some of them I may use in collage or other mixed media pieces in the future. They are my compost heap. They may even generate some warmth and new ideas as I look at them again and mix them up.

2011 ... it's been a very good year, with wonderful moments, and a few weird ones! Hope you can say the same!

This always cracks me up! Maybe it falls in the category of weird moments in a very good year!

But no one does it like Frank. What a voice!

Monday, December 19, 2011

figure it out

"I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle. " ~Frederick Franck, The Zen of Seeing.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

keep it abstract

In designing a painting, it's hard to hold onto the abstract structure without making it into something concrete. But, it's so nice when the shapes just hang together, in their abstraction.

'Tis the season for listening to Handel's "Messiah." Here's one of my favorite songs! 
Do you have a favorite?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

sketchbooks in my suitcase

Whenever I start to pack for a trip, I make sure that I pack books that inspire me to sketch more, to sketch better, and to sketch smarter. Danny Gregory is an all-time favorite of mine. This book, "The Creative License," is already in my suitcase, along with two blank sketchbooks, various drawing supplies, watercolors, and colored pencils. 

I had to pull out my new set of Inktense pencils. Roz Stendahl, of the wonderful blog "Roz Wound Up," rates the Ink Tense pencils as non-archival and states that they fade in a closed sketchbook.That left room for some Prismacolor Pencils.

I looked on YouTube for more from Danny Gregory, and found this video. It's Gregory introducing his book "An Illustrated Life." As soon as I watched the video, I ran to my bookshelf and packed this book in my travel kit!

Friday, December 16, 2011

departure point

The sketch is a departure point.

The photograph is a departure point.

Speaking of photos as departure points, have you seen or heard of this book?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

summary and overview of my monotype class

My first monotype became a self portrait of my feelings about becoming a grandmother. The yellow fields become a pathway that connect the figures. 

With an inked plate and a scraping tool, I drew this figure from a live model. It felt like juggling a bowling pin, a machete, and something on fire.

Artist teacher, Joseph Mann, suggested that I consider the design of my next plate, so I drew the live model with graphite and charcoal onto paper and then came back to my work station to design my print. I created this piece with an eye toward making a sense of depth for the model to stand in a three dimensional space and to contrast straight planes of the color blocks with the model's curves.

Wheat paste and carefully torn mulberry paper created the dress in this print in a process called "Chine Colle" which means "Chinese collage" in French.

We had a live figure model again on the night I printed these two pieces. The model posed some of the time in a knee-length dress and some of the time nude. I like how these pieces go together. I used buff colored Arches to soften the "white" figure. 

I have no answer for the question: why did you paint your vocalist friend without a mouth? I'm sure that there's some weird psychology going on here!

 From copy paper stencils I cut out prior to class, I arranged various figures to create what finally became this print. I inked the plate and then used the stencils to block the ink from coming into contact with the paper. I am intrigued with the way multiple figures in a composition entices the viewer to imagine how the figures relate to one another. Does this arrangement suggest a story to you?

 More work with stencils. First, using the stencil to block the ink from the paper, creating a white figure. Second, inking the stencil black and using it positively (and reversed) in the bottom photo. I enjoy a lot about these last two prints. I like the color, use of light/white, and shapes. It was not until I picked them up from the drying rack that I realized how much they looked like certain designs on trucks' mud flaps. The whole class had a nice laugh over that.

I hope to take more monotype classes in the future. As with anything new, the first order of business if learning how to use the materials. After that, the fun can really start. Let the games begin!

Monday, December 12, 2011

who knew?

Penelope, 24 x 24, pastel on prepared board
Who knew, while she waited for (some say) 20 years, if her husband king would come back from his adventure in Troy ...

Who knew if he would return while she held off suitors by  working her loom by day and pulling out all of the work at night ...

Who knew if the kingdom of Ithaca would stand after so many years without leader or king ...

Long after Homer wrote about constant and wise Penelope, Tennyson wrote these words on behalf of the old king Odysseus (Ulysses):

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race
That hoard, and sleep, and feel, and know not me.

And so,  I have painted Penelope, in the fresh dew of her youthful beauty, looking out through the gate of Ithaca, to the sea. Her eyes are on the horizon, hoping for her first view of the sails of the great trireme or the sound of the call for the oarsmen to pull. At this moment, all is unknown. Who knew? Not even the gods.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

short straight strokes

As an exercise, I decided to use the edge of my General's Charcoal to make short, straight lines when I drew this figure. The drawing became a series of choppy marks which eventually were pretty close to right. When a section looked close to right, I drew a curved line to indicate the actual form. It pulled together nicely and 15 minutes was just the right length of time for this drawing experiment.

Straight No Chaser "12 Days" reminds me of my days of singing in small mixed groups. Oh, the fun! Especially when things went sideways but everyone was game to go there, too. If you enjoy Christmas music, and you're not too much of a purist, you just might enjoy this!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

nothing to lose

Sometimes the best results come from those times when I use a surface I don't care about. Since I have nothing to lose anyway (paper I would have trashed if I didn't use it), I experiment and splash and let it rip. In this case, BFK with fine grid of Artist's Tape and a great figure model.It doesn't matter what they tell you, you don't have to stay within the lines!

That reminds me of this old Isuzu commercial. Do you remember it?

Monday, December 5, 2011

some kings come with balloons

"King of the Rock" was a game my sons played until they were off to college. Wherever we went, if there were rocks, they climbed to the top of the highest one, well, the highest one they were able to reach, and declared themselves "King."

Just last week I watched many little boys, and girls, attempt to climb a large rock in a park in Poulsbo, WA. Some teenagers didn't need help but quickly reached the top and then posed like rock stars. Younger kids pulled off rubber boots and jackets to gain purchase on the rock's irregular surface.

I only looked away for a short time, but when I looked back I saw this little guy, with his balloon. This little king came with a big, red balloon. I think he was the best king of all.

Simon and Garfunkle "I am a Rock."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


In these shortening days of fall, it's pretty easy to catch the sunrise and the sunset. Today's sunrise was at 7:30, and I watched the landscape slowly awaken from black and white and gray to full color. At 4:30 this afternoon, I watched the colors leak out of the day back to blue/black and white and gray.

Aperfect day for observation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

No matter that it was just 40 degrees out. No matter that the wind was blowing about 10 kt and the wind chill blew through my coat and wool scarf as I walked the boardwalk trail at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Just about 6 miles north of Olympia, WA, this refuge is under construction in the site of an old farm community. Two barns, built in the 1930s, mark the history of this land. In this rich delta soil, the farmers grew apples and raised cattle and pigs. In the 1970s, the National Wildlife Refuge got the land and began reclaiming it as protected wetlands.

I was at the refuge and I was happy. What a perfect place to walk off some of the Thanksgiving indulgence calories!

Osprey. Canada Geese. Chickadees. Pintail Ducks. Glaucous Gulls. I was in great company.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

post Thanksgiving talk of Christmas

Abstract Tannenbaum, 30 x 22, acrylic on prepared BFK
It was still October when a few of our Portland radio stations started to play Christmas music. I couldn't believe it! Where is the person whose job it is to hold back every mention of Christmas until after Thanksgiving? Slacking off, I tell you.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Christmas music. I even like a lot of it (just look at my drawer full of Christmas books ranging from Handel's "Messiah" to Mannheim Steamroller to David Lanz to Fake books to Vince Guaraldi). But not in October.

Even though I quickly scanned past the Christmas music stations, I was impacted by those fragments of songs I heard. Christmas songs in October. Sheesh. And before I knew it, I was humming those tunes and painting a Christmas tree. Well, sort of a Christmas tree. A weird, Dr Seuss kind of swirly Christmas tree.

And that's okay.

It was inspired by Christmas music in October, so I held off posting it. The way I figure it, even if the person whose job it is to hold back every mention of Christmas until after Thanksgiving was asleep at the wheel, I just couldn't put anything vaguely Christmas like up here on my blog until after Thanksgiving. And here it is. After Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite versions of the timeless song "O Christmas Tree" or, if you prefer the German, "O Tannenbaum"is this one by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

7 x 11, pastel on BFK
I just took it out of the oven and my house is filled with the rich smells of the pumpkin cheesecake. Tomorrow I'll bake the blackberry cobblers. Yum! I like bringing desserts!! So much better than the salad.

What are you contributing to your Thanksgiving feast and celebration?

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Sixteen Tons" and how music connects

Yellow Sky, 22 x 30, watercolor
Because I love music and playing with other musicians, I invite guests to bring their instruments when they come over. Many people don't. Not because they don't play instruments, but because they feel self conscious, unprepared to play, or just plain don't want to.

But one time, I planned a dinner party for just a few friends. One couple called to cancel because the husband's childhood friend surprised them by dropping in for a visit. Of course, I was happy to invite him to come to dinner, too. Even happier when he came with a trumpet case! Yippee!!

After dinner, John and I went into the music room and rifled through my books. We bluffed our way through some old show tunes with him playing horn over my shoulder. The other guests gathered nearby to enjoy the laughter and fun (surely not to enjoy the music because that was filled with blunders and false starts and stops). We worked through some Frank Sinatra hits and, after a while, John said he needed to quit because his lip "gave out."

But, we continued to talk about music and he confided that he and his long time buddy from second grade (the very stern guy sitting in the room, listening to the music) used to sing, too. In fact, he said, in their younger years the two of them sang to keep a cadence when they hiked.

Really? Like what? I asked.

And John began to sing "Sixteen Tons." And, our stern friend in the room nearby joined in. They stood and sang the entire song from start to finish. The rest of us just sat there and smiled. Or teared up. I did both.

Two guys. Friends since the second grade. Now in their 60s. Singing, with harmony, all of the words from this song. We were all connected in that moment.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

the answer is lime green

acrylic on gessoed paper
I have forgotten the question, but I'm pretty sure of the answer. Lime green. It's the color of voices in tight harmonies. It's the color of water that trickles between the rocks to awaken the seeds.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo seems to know the answer. "Swing Low Sweet Chariot."

Friday, November 18, 2011

fall clean up and Vivaldi!

It was a mess! My studio was filled with boxes and stacks of boards and canvases and frames and I had less and less space for walking around and thinking. I guess thinking (for me) takes a lot of space! I had to do SOMETHING and fast before thinking stopped altogether! I bought a rolling canvas cart from Jerry's Artarama and moved a lot of the chaos of the studio into my garage. What a difference! (Only time will tell if the thinking will start up again!)

While I was cleaning out the stacks of stuff, I came across this unfinished painting. There's something going on with it that I really like, so I may work on it more and see if I can bring it up to a more finished place.

Fall is a good excuse to listen to Vivaldi's "Autumn," but I confess that there were snowflakes on my window as I drove home late last night. Sheesh. This is fall? Seems more like winter to me!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

stencils in monotype

Arranged for a story, here I used the stencils to keep ink off the paper
Different stencil, same idea, except I worked to get lots of texture in the inked part
Here I flipped the stencil from above and inked the stencil
It was a full evening in the print shop. I really enjoyed the added interest of the stencils and the possibility of creating stories with the shapes.

The two "cartoon characters" are sketches I did from a live college production of "Cinderella." The bustles made me laugh!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

prep for monotype

Last week in my printmaking class, Joseph Mann showed us several prints he made using stencils. I was intrigued with how a simple stencil allowed for more freedom with the ink on the rest of the monotype. Using stencils is not a new idea, but since it is a new idea for me, I feel like someone has gunned the engine of my creativity.

Above you see some of my stencil ideas. They are cut from copy paper, and I will use them tomorrow when I do my prints. Oh, the possibilities!

Speaking of prints, today I went with a friend to see the Portland Art Museum exhibit of Japanese prints. Some of these treasures date back to the 1600s! The exhibit will be on until January 2012. If you can, come and see it! Some of these prints were in the show, enjoy this video on Japanese prints by master printers, Hokusai and Hiroshige.

Monday, November 14, 2011

art and MY music this time .. YouTube debut!

In the last few weeks, I have been having a blast collaborating with my friend, Dann Parks, on some music. He wanted to experiment with  "Prima," a vocaloid digitalized voice. I wanted to do something musical.

And, after he picked out the song and programed her vocals, he had me write/arrange and play the musical accompaniment. I played a synthesizer keyboard hooked into his computer program and then we manipulated the sounds. Thought you might enjoy hearing the result. 

The next piece is already in the works, without Prima,  but, I'm sure she'll be back to sing more tunes. I hear that she is especially good at Italian and Spanish pronunciations!! What a kick!

Listen here for "Deep Peace" or play the video below.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I won't shed a tear

It was a wonderful experience in fearlessness. BFK with splashes of gouache. A shape that emerged in the yellow ochres and danced into the composition. Layers of gouache, Acrylic Pastel Ground, charcoal, pastel, water, and this song in my head. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

monotype 11

The print studio is a creative space. Music is on, people mill around, someone cranks the press, blankets pulled back, the prints revealed, everyone gathers to look, comment, more pressure, run it through again.

Texture, color, line, shapes, and rhythm. Feels new and old at the same time. Like a jazz man playing Celtic tunes. My ideas thin and spread just when it's time to clean up. Now I look forward to next week.

Monday, November 7, 2011

blah, blah, blah

In the film, "Joan Mitchell: Portrait of An Abstract Painter," the interviewer presses Mitchell to describe the meaning behind her paintings. Mitchell, in her pithy way, says this:

"When you add the blah, blah, blah to it, you've ruined the whole thing."
 Need I say more?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

monotype 8

monotype 8 on buff Arches 88

inked plate

my work station, did not use the yellow ochre that night
I was playing with the Gamsol and I discovered that when I "painted" Gamsol on my inked plate, I could use a brayer to pick up the ink in the area with the Gamsol. Not a clean wipe like a paper towel or rag would have given (or a Q-tip with alcohol), but a lift nonetheless. 

In the end I was very happy with the textures and lines and inexactness of this print. Oh, it's a figure all right, but loose and expressive. Precious learning in this monotype class!