Join me....

I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, April 29, 2016

For the Love of a Pot

I fell in love
with a pot, a particular pot and
it opened all kinds of new doors and led to an experiment or two!

I wandered next door to the pottery studio of Maggie Black and spied this really cool crock.  Love at first sight.  "So you make sauerkraut?" Maggie inquired casually.  "No," I thought, "But it looks like I am about to!"

I made my purchase and inquired of Maggie about recipes and such and left determined to learn the secrets of the kitchen term "fermentation."  Quite simply, before there was refrigeration there were limited ways to preserve crops when the bounty exceeded the table.  Salting was one way to preserve meats, brining or fermenting was a similar process used on vegetables.  See this link and this one for more details.

I enlisted my husband's help, he has an interest in probiotic foods so was willing to find out if this worked.  He finely cut up a cabbage and placed in the largest bowl we had.

We added the correct amount of the proper salt (do some reading please) and began to massage the kraut.  Some folks let it sit a while, others knead it until the liquids began to gather and the cabbage wilts.

We then packed it down in the crock...pack and pack and smush and crush.  We had some left over so we tried the mason jar method (go on line again), the knob you see in the jar is holding down a leaf to keep cabbage submerged.  My beautiful Maggie-made crock came with correct size weights which did a wonderful job of holding it all under the brine.

We put the lid on and began the hard part: waiting!  This is where tales diverge and everyone offers a slightly different version of "how to."  Some prefer the slow-method of using a dark, cool closet (such as our pioneer brethren had to do), others are tried and true warm-environment-shorter time krauters.  Since fermentation is a very scientific method of bacteria development (and mold avoidance) I highly recommend you experience the pleasure and confusion of reading a lot of the really wonderful web sites dealing with the subject.  I found lots of good advice and some yummy recipes that will interest you, as well as ways to temporarily use a jar while you seek your own beautiful crock.

bisque fired crocks in various sizes
Maggie Black Pottery

I am happy to report that our first attempt was a success!  My husband loved the sauerkraut and ate it every day (for breakfast if you can imagine).  Serve it cold or room temp so as not to destroy all those wonderful bacteria you just spent time growing - heat kills them off.  I had added some seeds for flavoring and you can find a wide range of ways to flavor the final product.  I am anxious to try red cabbage with beets as well as a vegetable medley.  I did garlic carrots and they were fabulous.

You just never know what new paths you will travel when you fall in love with a piece of hand crafted art.  Just having this pot was not enough...I truly enjoyed using it and look forward to many more experiments as I learn more about the benefits of fermentation.

Colorfully Exploring,

Friday, April 22, 2016

Painting Snow, then and now.... mother was my biggest fan as I was learning to paint, I am grateful
not only for her support and encouragement but for the fact
that she kept a few of those early pieces around...

So in tribute to those who were our earliest "enablers" I want to share this experiment I did recently.

This piece is dated 1962 and bears my signature.  I am guessing it is painted in "casein" paint as artists were not commonly using acrylic until a few years later.  I was 10 years old and in Ms Barbara Bassett's art class for children.  We painted from postcards, calendars and the National Geographic Magazine.  I was in awe of her and all that she could teach me.  I also had never seen snow before.

My Mamma was tickled with this piece and paid to have it framed.  The "provenance" of the art is written on the back in Mom's handwritting: loaned to Grandmother Manley, 1966-68; and loaned to Grandmother Horton, 1969-70.  

Somehow I could not part with this piece of my childhood and although I did not have the original scene it was painted from I decided to try painting it again.  This time I would start in acrylic and finish in oils.  And this time, 50 years later, I have seen snow...many times!

I decided to stick with the original composition as I had no other guidelines.  And while today I might not choose to paint a huge tree standing in the middle of a field all alone, I guessed there was something that appealed to me about it as a mere gal of ten.

I know as a child, and even today all grown up, I wondered what was in those barns shut tight against the snow.  There is nary a hint (other than a silo) as to what the farmer and his family produced.

I tried an even smaller version of this scene hoping I could loosen up a bit.  But stark red barns against cold white snow stay pretty harsh in contrast even with an artist's eye, especially in 8x10.  

So it's pretty much as it was...late afternoon sun on a cold field of snow, proud red barns under the guardianship of an old leafless tree.  Kinda makes me want a cup of hot chocolate!

Second Verse, Same as the First,

Friday, April 15, 2016

Felting Frenzy Finds Fun

Taking a break from my canvas and oils recently, I ventured with several friends to the Penland studio of Cynthia and Edwina Bringle to dabble in the craft of "felting."  We were to take dyed wool, unspun, referred to as "roving" and craft a hat.  (Edwina Bringle is a widely respected weaver and textile artist and she was game to be our guide.)

Herewith I will give you the short version of a day that included a lot of new techniques, sprinkled with giggles, amazement, laughter and a sense of wonder.  We were decidedly amateurs which made it all the more interesting.

We dove like madwomen into the tubs of gorgeous wool, so soft you could barely feel it beneath your fingers.  Best laid plans went out the door as we were seduced by color.  This was the "roving."

We measured the ounces needed for our hats and were surprised that so much weighed so little.

Edwina demonstrated how to (and how NOT to) separate our wool into small pieces that would be applied to the form of our soon to be soapy rubber ball.  Believe me, this was much harder than it first appears!

The first layer down becomes the inside of the hat, the next layer is filler and the final layer is color and decor...unless, that is, your second layer creeps forward to show...or you add a fourth layer...or you don't alternate the way you apply the several layers.  It looked like a wig shop for a weird mardi gras.

The next techno tool was panty hose!  Really.  Legs removed.  Each "ball" needed three layers of life sucking panty hose applied (with 4 hands) over a delicate wool covered, possibly rolling ball.

My covered hat, note the roving beside it as well as Edwina's "hat" waiting in the wings to be hosed.

Now Edwina demonstrates the brutal method of beating the ball/hat in a tub of soapy bubbles.  We had practiced earlier how the finger pounding marries the fibers together, binds them would be the more accurate term. taking them from fine wool fibers to a thick felted cloth.  Anyway, we all gasped when she said no less than 5 minutes of pounding was required.  And she timed us!

We peeled off the panty hose and immediately began to tug and fold and slap our hat around...really!  We ran it thru hot water and shocked it in cold water.  We sculpted it and then folded again to shorten or lengthen the shape.  Edwina was our expert guide but then again, she kept saying "well, this is your first attempt, just see what happens."

And so we did:

Ta-da!  Were we proud or what?

And yes, we all want another go at that we sorta know what we are doing.  How incredibly satisfying to make a surprise.  I certainly intend to wear mine.  What a fun day in someone else's sandbox.

Playing in Color,

Friday, April 8, 2016

When Painting Becomes Illegal

I just read about an ordinance that has my feathers ruffled and my panties in a twist!  And mainly because it affects one of my favorite towns: Winter Park, FL.  The beautiful town I grew up in and which laid the foundation for my interest in art.

Plein Air Magazine, April/May 2016 issue reports that Winter Park, known for supporting artists in the past, has become the latest city to criminalize plein air painting in areas of its downtown.  It joins St. Augustine which was the first Florida city to do so in its blanket effort to remove street musicians from the business district.

Provisions have been made for special exemptions for special events and/or permits allowing occasional, temporary work to be done.  To paraphrase one objector, "So after weeks of processing a permit, you think there will be good light on my date in my spot?"

Oil, 20 x 30 by Morgan Samuel Price
plein air painter
now illegal to paint en situ

A FB page was started that you can visit here, called Illegal Paintings of Winter Park.  There is also an opinion piece written here from the Orlando Sentinel.  How did I not know this?

Think about it: have you ever been fascinated watching a street painter do their work?  I don't paint a lot outside because it is very difficult and the people issue is just one of the challenges.  But I have taken my easel to the streets of Mexico, to Rome, Naples, Venice...I've carried a sketchbook to Madrid, Paris and all over our National Parks.  It has always been the "job" of artists to record the feelings and street scenes of our daily lives.

Now....could there be a business or liability problem?  Hmm, maybe so.  But I have never seen an artist refuse to move their rig if it was pointed out they were blocking an entry or a fact, most of us try desperately hard to be discreet.  Is someone over-reacting here?  I'm afraid that such an ordinance is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Can you imagine telling the artists of yore that working on public land could get them into trouble with the law?  Nope, me neither.

Well, forewarned.  Unless non-artists stick up for the artists there will likely be a dearth of plein air work (never mind festivals) being done in such charming cities as Savannah, Charleston, Boston or Sedona for that matter.  The next city that is investigating the ordinance?  Asheville, NC.

Sadly Blue,

Friday, April 1, 2016

Losing the Story

sometimes an artist tells a story
within a painting...
do you ever look for it?

I have many strong impressions of the cities I have visited in Italy...and a stack of reference photos I love to revisit.  In anticipation of painting a very large canvas of a street scene I decided to do a 
smaller study first.

 6" x 12"
acrylic underpainting

To save some time I started with an acrylic underpainting just so I could get some basic shapes down on the panel.  This smaller piece has the same height to width ratio as my larger canvas so I will be able to easily transfer dimensions of what I like to the next version.

The acrylic dried quickly so I could come in with the oils and get busy on the next stage.  Now, here is where it went off track.  Yes, this was a piece about laundry day in the neighborhood but there is no focal point...there is nothing really that gives you any clues to the real story I intended to tell.  I got so caught up in the wonky buildings and the itty bitty pieces of fabrics that I failed to convey anything interesting about the scene.  

This is when one breathes a sigh of relief that it was a mere 6 x 12 inches and NOT a 3 x 6 foot canvas.  For all the times i have been told to do a mock-up or a practice first....really, who enjoys doing that?  like homework.  BUT, every now and then it proves wise to to follow old school and invest the time it takes to practice.  Think of the time and the paint (never mind the heart ache) I have saved?

I won't go into the list of errors I see above, you can do that...or not!  And I do not disagree that it is an "ok" little panel suitable for a colorful laundry room hanging.  However, along the way I lost my story and made numerous errors.  I am so very glad that it was not larger than it is and that I now have an example of how I will not execute the larger one.

Living and Learning...ColorFULLY,

Friday, March 25, 2016

Comfort or Curiosity Zone??

This is a followup to my previous blog
on leaving our "creative comfort zones."  With a nudge from
Elizabeth Gilbert we can also call them
"curiosity zones" a somewhat less intimidating phrase to refer to
our immersion in something totally new and different (to us).

I so enjoyed the many responses to my question about what you did this past week that was "out of your comfort zone."  Some of you admit that it was not a voluntary leave taking but that you found yourself out of your element and just relaxed into it.  Others were intentionally trying to engage with new people, try a new food or even jump into a new media.  Great!  and GOOD FOR YOU.

So I return once again to our visit to Penlands Open House for a story about Jaydan Moore:

We stumbled onto Jaydan's studio because he was surrounded by silver platters resembling many I had recently culled and given away, this piqued my curiosity.  We stayed because he was so engaging and enthusiastic and a walking advertisement for what leaving your "zone" can lead to.

Jaydan started his art career in jewelry and metal working.  He had a very prestigious job and could have (maybe?) lived happily ever after making award winning pieces for high end clientele.  But Jaydan's roots (his family was in the cemetery monument making business) had already left an impression on him about what happens to someones objects as they leave this world.  One of those objects being, ta-da, those myriad trays all daughters of my generation are divesting themselves of.

(for more fascinating work go to Jaydan's website here.)

Those trays?  This is only one of the iterations Jaydan has come up with for preserving an impression of the life they once led.  Printmaking?  Yes, he explained that cutting the metal was right up his alley of previous work, printing? not so much.  But never fear, as Jaydan began the slow and careful process of preparing the etched design to print (I imagine) that his brain began asking more what-ifs.  Like what if he cut off the unique bands or collars and used them, what if only certain parts were inked and combined with other printing methods, what if a beat up piece of silver could become a trophey of one's life.....he stepped out of his zone and entered an entirely new world of possibilities.

It doesn't hurt that Jayden is a handsome, witty, redheaded kid (relatively speaking) but just listening to him put all my motors into high gear.  There was no stopping his train of ideas once he started down this path of preserving/reusing/altering pieces which were once a cultural symbol and were now being discarded.  And yes, he is so very patient with the many questions that come up.

American Craft Magazine named him an emerging artist and he has a 3 year apprenticeship at Penland so Jaydan is well on his way to making a name for himself and his art.  Read more and watch his delightful short video here.

Sooooo, the short version of this wonderful story is that the world of art would have been so deprived of this original and authentic expression of Jaydan's regard for cultural iconology IF his mind had not wandered and his self confidence had not dared to play a bit.  I also imagine there were a few experiments that we will never see, some bumps in the road to speak, but no doubt Jaydan took notes and proceeded.  Thank goodness.

So keep dabbling, keep experimenting and don't let the walls of your comfort zone fence you in - so much is waiting to be discovered.

Curiously ColorFull,