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, December 14, 2018

December Challenge

December’s challenge: 
Step outside your comfort zone and 
use various media together or 
use a medium you don’t normally use.

I can’t wait to see what you do!
Pieces of 8

I used to meet weekly with a painting gang that had all kinds of ways to stimulate and inspire us.  Lately they have had monthly challenges and everyone posts their results on the blog.  As an "emeritus" member of the Pieces of 8, I occassionally join in.

My challenge (in addition to the assignment above) was that I was mostly housebound recovering from my knee surgery.  Nevertheless I found a way to use what was laying around.

The two photos above show the results of my "Forest Floor" cards, steam printed on watercolor paper using leaves gathered in the High Country.  They are beautiful but invariably there are some pages that are real "duds" and just don't print well enough to sell.

See what I mean?

But I happened to have some of my homemade ink on hand (no brushes so I used q-tips) as well as a 
couple of colored sharpie-like pens.

I set to work "enhancing the colorations of the leaves by using the acorn grey ink, the tumeric yellow, the hibiscus magenta (which sometimes turned bluish) and the brown ink made from tea.

The leaves were definitely more pronounced but not as interesting as I wanted them to be.  So I dug out my colored pens and set to work doodling tiny scratches, dots and squiggle lines to emphasize eye flow and certain details.  This part was the most fun as I got lost in the mediative feel of making tiny marks and trying to blend colored dots as done in pointillism.  Once I got over the idea of natures colors and felt free to use what I had, I found it hard to quit!

Here are two - can you match them from the start? 

Ta da!  Calling them done.  I think I was outside my comfort zone the minute I took up the colored pens and I certainly used a brand new (to me) medium with the homemade inks from my kitchen.  Challenge completed.  To see what everyone else did you can check this post at the end of the month.

I need to think about what I learned and how it might apply to future work.  I definitely want to play with the inks more (and make a for-real blue ink).  These were good learning pages and were definitely a good distraction from all things medical. 

Have you challenged yourself lately? Moved out of your comfort zone or tried a new product, ingredient, a foreign method or even different radio channel?  Reporting on these prompts makes me more likely to follow through on them so feel free to share with me your latest experiment. I promise to be impressed!


Friday, December 7, 2018

Festina lente

Festina lente is a classical adage and oxymoron 
meaning "make haste slowly" 
(sometimes rendered in English as "more haste, less speed").

This phrase was the word I selected last January to be my mantra, goal, musing etc for the coming 365 days.  Little did I know how apropos it would be!  

We gave up writing new year's resolutions a while back as each year they seemed more and more familiar and each year we had to admit little thought was given them past the writing.  So we elected to chose a word to live by.  Then we discovered we tended to forget the word so my husband started tattooing them on his forearm and I took the less drastic step of painting them and hanging where I would see the word first thing every morning.

This was to be a reminder to me to "stop and smell the roses," to slow down and savor the path even if it felt slower than the way I usually moved.  I had come to a point in my art that I needed to work more intentionally, taking time to stop, analyze and think before making the next move.  By moving slowly I would more likely hasten/see a better outcome.  

But I felt it was important to try and make haste slowy in other ways as well.  How many times have I rushed to judgement with only a portion of the facts at hand? How often did I miss an interesting mushroom as I was logging miles on a hike not wonders? And please stop me if I rush through a visit, a meal or a phone conversation with someone just so I can get to the next one.  It was definitely time to slow the pace and thus improve the progress.

This morning before climbing out of bed I looked up as I always do for my word reminder.  And as I sighed loudly I knew that it was especially applicable now that I was rehabbing from knee replacement surgery.  There is no way to rush the process of healing, no way to condense the needed therapy into one or two sessions.  It is slow, painful but steady progress.  And I have to remind myself that the choice to s l o w   w a y   d o w n and have the surgery was made in an effort to be able to make haste painlessly down the road.  

So what does this have to do with art? A lot.  If you get frustrated: slow down.  Counter intuitive I know.  Breath deeply and look closely.  Slow. Slow. the path to positive forward movement.

And...why not let a piece of art become your trigger for a change?  A certain painting might remind you to savor the outdoors, a special mug may be the mediative catalyst of your morning, music might bring on a moment of escape or relaxation.  Just as I use my artistic version of a word you might find the reminder in a small mosaic or piece of jewelry.

Sometimes its hard to give up a word that has served me well, but since it is a painting all I have to do is move it over and hang the shiney new one in the place of honor - it works!

Just another way that "art" can serve our lives. 
Hoping that this month will see you making haste slowly as you savor the sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday.  Back to the studio soon!


Friday, November 30, 2018

The Root of the Issue

Mr. Eker is not a farmer, not a history prof or even a philosopher...he is a financial wealth motivational speaker.  I probably don't embrace his agenda for fattening my bank account but I do think he has a point here about roots.  I'll explain.

Lately I've been obsessed with "roots."  In every aspect of the word, in every application of the nuance, the symbolism and the short, the word just keeps percolating in my tired little brain over and over again.  I must have hundreds of photos of roots.  Everything I have read, fiction and non, over the past year somehow circles back to a theme involving roots.
What does this mean? I'm not sure.  But the obsession has, of course, crept into my painting and I've decided to ride it as far as it takes me.  Does anyone really want a painting of roots in their living room? I don't know and for the moment I can't care...I need to paint these fascinating twists and turns and see where they take me.  It could be a private project or a fabulous idea.  
These magnificent formations all become anthropomorphic as I paint them.  They are also an excellent exercise in transforming a 2D surface into a 3D visual, it takes a certain skill to make those limbs come out at the viewer or dive back into the ground.
Even my sketches relate to the idea that roots have something to tell us...uptight, snarled root balls don't survive, meandering, exploring ones that graft onto others thrive. hmmm.
In the midst of hardened places you often find hope, there is a lone fern (to be) nestled amongst these (work in progress) roots.  And, and....
And who knows where this will lead or if next week it all comes to a screaching halt.  So bear with me as I dig beneath the surface and see what needs attention.  Or share with me and perhaps I'll discover just why this is grabbing me so.  As always,
Cindy p.s. all of the above illustrations are still on the easel, works-in-progress!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Making Ink

"Fingers are an incredibly calibrated tool 
for understanding our environment....
Stained hands are the reward and mark
of a color pioneer."
p. 64

Wouldn't you just automatically fall in love with the person who wrote that? I did. A virtual ardor.
After I read this article on Jason Logan, artist, forager, father, ink maker, I had to know more.  So I ordered his book, Make Ink, posthaste. Not only was I not disappointed, I was inspired! Swoon.

The book is gorgeous.  The kind of paper you want to stroke and caress; the photos are large, provocative and beautifully shot.  Even the cover of the book begs me to pet it.  It was a good read even if I had decided that the recipes were beyond me.  But of course I didn't, I gave it a go.  Of course.

Because part of Logans "conversion" to natural ink making was due to the realization that his illustration supplies were potentially toxic for his children, his ingredients are often found in the kitchen.  I did hit the art store for gum arabic (a binder to paper):

and the pharmacy for rubbing alcohol (90%).  

My husband believes I am a trash collector....I prefer the title "forager." This skill comes in handy for ink making.  I assembled my acorn caps, tea leaves, turmeric, copper bits, rusty nails...see? what fun!

And what my spouse lacks in imagination he more than makes up for in patience as even though most of this magic is safe to conduct in the kitchen, it doesn't always smell as delightful as one could hope...and it does seem to take over any flat surface.  But I heard no complaints.

Boil and bubble, toil and trouble... Logan says (on p. 24) that "ink making is easiest when you are patient and remain open to everything." (describes me, right?) And (p. 45) "If the process seems slow and moves only a drip at a time, you are doing your job right." Gotta love it.  

All in.  I'll spare you the details but it was everything he predicted ...and more.

(forgive my camera shadows...long story)

As he suggests, I became a "citizen-scientist" and recorded my progress hour by hour.  Above strips are from acorn caps and iron (a silver grey brown, light) top, and the bottom strips are from darjeeling tea (a warm, soft brown).

Tumeric became an alcohol ink as opposed to a water based ink.  I know I will love using this one.

And a bundle of hibiscus flower brought back from Mexico (sold as tea) became a deep alizarin crimson color.

I'm hooked.  On the porch I have a jar of copper becoming a blue ink and from the freezer I'm tempted to get out the bags of marigold flowers I have foraged and see what they offer.

As usual I have my cart before the horse as I have no idea how or where to use these colors.  Some may be fugitive or there may be fixatives needed.  I don't really use ink in drawing but I can paint with them (see his live painting demo here) as he did for the NY Times.

You may imagine this artist/father as living on a secluded farm growing all his natural his ingredients; the surprise is that Logan forages in the city where he lives in Canada.  Drywall, weeds, cigarettes, and even peeling paint get gathered and processed in his goal of color exploration.  It makes me want to order beakers and test tubes and sweet little ink jars.  Sigh.

I could order these inks from Logans website or have him make me a custom blend as others do.  But I really enjoy the making and experimenting part of the equation and, as discussed in this article about his work,  there is a sense of satisfaction in knowing where the product came from and what is in it.  

Now to finding out how I will use these beautiful colors...

p.s. - Hoping that however you celebrated Thanksgiving you were able to take time to be grateful for what is important in your life.  I am brimming over with thanks for each of you who read and respond to my weekly passion of writing on the artistic pleasures of life.  I have gained much from your sharing.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Science, Art or Magic?

There is a great attempt to explain the similarities
and differences between art and science in this 2016
But couldn't we just accept as fact 
that certain things are best explained by

Last fall I played with eco-dying and enjoyed making prints on paper from the leaves I collected on my hikes.  I turned these sheets into covers for notecards and happily sold every one that I made.  But there was a fair amount of "slippage," those attempts that failed, misprinted, didn't make color or for some reasons became a page that fell short of artistic use.

So this year I decided to dive deep into scientific research conducting various experiments and recording my findings.  So out of my nature! But let's eliminate the misprints, ok?

I set up 3 different mordants (the liquid soak that prepares the fibers to accept the color) labeling them and giving each test paper the same amount of soak time.

I divided my leaves by types and included a few I'd never tried. (Not all botanticals will leave a visible print with this steaming method.) Oak was always a challenge but I decided to include it in my attempts.

Three different mordants, 2 kinds of cotton paper, several leaf types (pressed previously), a steaming pot outside and I was in business, er, science lab mode.  

Wow!  Look at that oak, that geranium, that batista and those maples...on a roll: sumac, sassafras and beech.  Dump the vinegar soak, eliminate the ammonia...I was ready to rock the next day with 100% success.  Papers prepped I went to bed exhausted but smiling for the success to come.

I was rewarded, above.

I was disappointed, above.

I was confounded, above.
None of these are ghost prints, the print bleeding through the paper or the mark left by the "top" of the leaf (best prints come from "ground side down" on the paper). And not an oak to be seen.  Whaaaa?

So I made adjustments in pressure (the vise or stones or blocks that hold the bundles tightly together). I varied the timing of the "cool." I stood on one foot and I sang out loud.  Everything STILL came out in about the same ratio of great : good : blah.  

My conclusion? MAGIC.

I did not record where I found each leaf, the soil conditions it grew in, the altitude it lived my heart I know that these are all contributing factors to whatever hides deep within the tannins et al that leave the mark I covet.  I'm not that into research.  And frankly I like the fact that there is a part of this that I cannot control, it makes opening the steamed bundles quite exciting.  Some phenonmena can be explained and some things are best left to magic.  

I rest my case.


Friday, November 9, 2018

Trade Secrets, part 2

I wish I could figure out how to activate the comments section 
of this blog without making folks “join” anything. 
The response to my question last week about which secrets you share, 
and which you protect, was informative and thoughtful...
and definitely the most I’ve ever received on one post.  
I’ll try to hit some highlights:

In general artists replied that they are a sharing group: they recognize that sharing leads to an exchange of information that is mutually beneficial in the long run.  Self confident artists have no desire to exactly copy some one else’s work and good teachers realize that the signature of their own work has taken years to develop and can’t really be duplicated.  (That said, I do know that there are “copy factories” in China where artists are paid to replicate perfectly the works of well known, translate to very expensive, artists in an attempt to cash in.  Not a lot of us fall in that category.)

There was definitely a parting of the ways when an artist considered their work more of a “product” than a one-off design.  For instance, after my buddy who makes candles perfected a method to guarantee a longer than common burn time (having invested hours of time and loads of money in the testing) she was reluctant, understandably, to broadcast the formula.  Meanwhile she was happy to share ingredient sources, label methods etc with fellow “competitors.” But the “sets it apart” factor was her distinction and she shouldn’t feel guilty about not sharing it.

Ditto, for a specific pattern that can be duplicated....I’ve read stories of several ETSY craftsmen who worked hard to make a niche product only to find the exact same thing (again, mass produced in China) for sale in Target the next year.  Sad.  But a fact of life.

One reader opined that wood turners were not a very sharing group, I cannot attest to experience there; another recalled a family story about an excellent baker who happily shared recipes but always left out a crucial ingredient....thus protecting her status as “the best.” Or totally ruining it, you chose!

So, as usual, there are two sides to every issue.   Austin Kleon’s original question asked us to think about this, personally, from both sides (what is shared, what is not) and evaluate the outcome of each. Perhaps my presentation was a bit more judgmental in tone.

The internet has changed the art game on so many levels.  Just as it makes it easy to research technique it also risks passing off unreliable methods or incomplete formulas.  While many craftsmen depend on the WWW to sell their products, it also exposes them to being copied and undersold.  Several experts in the art business even believe that the internet is responsible for many independently owned galleries closing their doors, seen as the “middle man” their services are needed less and less.  

So where does this discussion bring us? At the risk of putting words in anyone’s mouth I will verbalize my own thoughts: I believe artists and craftsmen need to have a sharing attitude, they need to trade thoughts, ideas, formulas and techniques.  It creates energy, it generates new ideas, it becomes a network of support and mutual admiration.  It is give and take. Here is a new-ish clip of Kleon at SBSW in an interview repeating his "share philosophy." Go all four minutes, he uses b-b-q as an example!

pottery by AmyH

HOWEVER,  I also believe that everyone of us needs to recognize the existence of proprietary information...I can respect that.  If you have spent years developing your signature color (glaze, paint, finish etc) and you only smile when I ask how you mixed that, I need to understand that it is "back to the drawing board" for find my own special, secret ingredient.  If it’s already on the internet, well, why not strike up a conversation and make a new friend? Let's not be rude in our artist conversations.

Here's to sharing art: philosophies, ideas and yes, a few secrets!