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, September 22, 2017

Foundations and Values

Analogies and metaphors have always played 
an instructional role for me to understand something new.
Lately I have come to think of "value studies" in art like
 underwear, or perhaps even the footers, of a painting.
In other words, a critical part of making the final effort hold together.

Recall these value studies done in the Andy Braitman workshop:

The two pieces on the left were both started from the same photograph and done in three values: dark, middle and light.  From this foundation I had a recipe for making the final effort hold together and flow as I had predetermined I wanted it to go.  Let me show you how each piece took on its on look.

Using the same color palate I decided to take one piece towards the cool and the other much warmer. Putting away my reference photograph I got bold and let the rocks and water take on their own forms.    Even the background trees and skies began to be different in each painting. The key was to keep the darks in the black zone, the light colors in the white areas and tie them together with mid tones of different colors.  

I love the idea of layering colors as I build the piece overall.  It takes a lot of patience to paint, sit back, think, let dry (while I literally write down notes so I don't forget them) and then start again.  I found that the slower I went the more I had a cohesive plan to execute.

This piece is 30" x 24" and definitely has a cool, closed-in feel to it.  I think I have "been here" many times on my hikes.  The water moves gently and has lots of colorful reflections in it and the rocks have a mossy feel to them.  On the other hand...

This version feels more exposed to the sunshine to me.  The water is moving fast and furious and I can hear the water falling as the sun heats up the rocks.  At about this stage I set it aside and my kind husband gently informed me that my crashing waters had no discernible other words, they did not read true.  And I agreed: water flows downhill, not up!!  

I thought about the changes and, not losing the energy of the foreground, was able to paint a more believable flow upstream.  I still feel the sun in this version although there is very little sky to confirm it.  I feel like I have been here as well.  Both locations are clearly different although they started with the same reference photo and then took off in different directions.  As long as a landscape is reasonably believable and touches something we can relate to (moss, heat, cool, sounds of water and such) it can be "of" any place you want it to be.  

I like both equally but you might prefer one over the other.  Can you articulate why?


Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 Eclipse Revisited

OK, I'm a tad disappointed, I thought more visual artists
(and poets and dancers) would be documenting their
creative reactions to the 2017 phenomenon, the eclipse.
Maybe makers are still processing and digesting; maybe
there is work yet to be created.

Gene Smith prepared with filters to capture the event

I am often accused of being overly-enthusiastic.  Guilty.  But in checking around with all my arty friends as well as on the web, I am not finding too many others who documented our recent eclipse.  Many for-profit organizations produced tee-shirts and posters but I was looking for artist reaction.

However family-DNA proved strong as, unbeknownst to me (and totally unprompted by me), my sister did choose to make a mark on the occasion producing one of her clay bowls in commemoration of the event she experienced at the Washington DC zoo.

AmyH, Washington DC potter
untitled, thrown bowl, 2017

Cool, huh?  And I called my photographer buddy, Gene, to see if he got creative that day.  He did not disappoint:


just a few of the pieces he did
Gene Smith, photographer

There is/was a quilt ART project spearheaded by NASA which is really open to all media (not just quilting) but will be displayed as a collage or quilt when finally assembled.  Pretty nifty idea and I hope folks respond.  Check out the link to read more about it.  And then I found this:

Isn't this pretty?  It's a quilt square designed by Susan Davis from Bozeman, MT.  You can see her work and/or order a pattern for this commemorative design here.  It is part of her Awareness & Special Days collection.

My Uncle is a woodworker and alerted me to this:

This is a mirror crafted by John Lucas, a wood turner from East TN, a part of his galaxy series and done especially to commemorate this years eclipse.  I tried to get a link here about him and his work.

My search efforts were meager at best, and yes, I am still processing and wondering how to work the event into future art pieces of my own.  If you missed my blogs, Eclipse I and II, find them here and here.  So I guess I should promise now to drop the subject?  Three blogs? O.K., I'll let it rest a bit.  

How are you going to spend this glorious, last week of official summer?  My heart goes out to those in TX who are still sifting through the aftermath of Harvey, so much to remind us that Nature is still in charge.  


Friday, September 8, 2017

Creative (and Empty) Bowls

Deal-makers aim for "win-win" as they believe
that means both parties get a benefit.
Sometimes, the stars align and a particular project
turns out to be a "win-win-win-win..."
Such was this year's fundraiser for "Feeding Avery Families."

Our quasi-official clay group (from 3 different states) scheduled our second annual Mudfest to coincide with our leader's (Mother Mud's) favorite community project: Empty Bowls.  Since the indefatigable Patti Conner-Greene spearheads the construction of clay bowls in the Avery County High School art classes she had also challenged us to each make one or more bowls to donate to the fundraiser.

The Mudpuppies
pottery support group and creative muses

Opening business included lunch, catching up and a birthday celebration.  While we were prepared to spend some time experimenting with "pinch pots," we first wanted to present our wares to the "Head of Pottery," Ms. Conner-Greene, the bowl collector.

I show you first my humble piece as I don't consider myself a potter and was really flummoxed by the task at hand.  It would not have taken too much for me to hide it and not "go public".  Live and learn.

Amy bravely unwrapped her efforts and began discussing techniques used and what she learned.  She talked about certain pieces that did not meet her "standards" and might be held from donation.

Lisa began sharing her work and soon we were all laughing and oohing and ahhing and trading "secrets" for how to get certain results.  We giggled over how much better the potential rejects looked out of their home studios....

Patti convinced us that despite our initial reaction to appearance she really loved, but even more, wanted, needed each and every bowl.  There was little time to hem and haw so back into the boxes and the bowls were off to the next day's event.

I'll save our pinching experience as well as our field trips for another time.  Fast forward to the day of the event and we see three (non-professional) potters arriving to volunteer for the event.  

 Barbara assisting a donor select a bowl

a view of the many bowls donated and Amy answering questions

Attendees make a donation to the organization in exchange for selecting a handmade bowl and then they sit down to enjoy a range of soups, breads and desserts.  Craft it and they will come: donors poured in to support the cause.  

Are they aware of what else they did?  

They gave a handful of fledging crafters the greatest high a maker can receive: they valued the product.  Professional pots mingled with first-ever pots, wondrous bowls cohabited with the humble, earth tones sat in harmony with wild colors.  But each one was lovingly picked up and handled with respect.  Our Puppies gave up guessing which one a donor would finally choose; each and every bowl seemed to ring the chimes of someone.  It is an understatement to say that the newbie potters saw their own work in an entirely new light.  The love of a stranger made a huge impact.  The adoption of one's potential reject changed its status forever.  Watching someone willingly select something you made provided a rush of adrenaline that is rare and wonderful.

Lisa rearranging the display as inventory diminishes

Long before the event was to serve its last bowl of soup the available "empty bowls" dwindled.  For the first time there was not a single hand-made, donated pottery bowl to pack up and store: they were all in new homes.  And, before even adding in anticipated funds from a silent auction, the event organizers were counting over $10,000 raised towards helping feed needy families in Avery County this winter.  Certainly a huge benefit for the organization and the citizens its serves.

Patti has often shared the generosity of high school students donating their first bowl as opposed to keeping it, and she told stories of the classes at the senior center making and giving a generous amount.  But she could not have predicted the numerous benefits participating in such a project would hold for each of us.  I'm not sure any of the Mud Pups have touched ground yet.

Take away on paper?  #1- When you compliment someone's art you are giving them a priceless, precious gift and encouragement to continue. #2- Never, ever underestimate the ability of your work to please, get it out there, let it will find a friend.

win-win-win-win-win....such a deal!


Friday, September 1, 2017

Eclipse - Part II

Every experiment leads to something!
My challenge to paint of, about or from the eclipse was
an interesting process.  I know my next documentation of
such an event will roll out a bit differently.

happy eclipse viewers

After posting last week's blog explaining what I was trying to do, I got back to business in the studio.
I'm happy enough with the results to move along to something new.  BUT, I did learn a lot about myself and my approach to a more abstract piece:

* I need to give it a lot more thought as opposed to merely diving it, planning helps even when one diverts from the original plan,
* for me, less is more!  More is congestion.  Stop while I am ahead,
* don't feel constrained by a literal interpretation, narrow the message,  
* get back on the horse before I forget how to proceed!

Here are three of the pieces I worked on:

"Ain't No Sunshine"
mixed media on board, 3.5" x 16"

"Moon Shadow, Moon Shadow"
mixed media, 8" x 6", framed

"Just Passing By"
mixed media on paper, 12" x 9" framed

I was absolutely thrilled to discover that my sister had been moved to glaze one of her pottery bowls with a tribute to the eclipse (but neglected to send me the photo) and that my photographer friend Gene, of Gene's Scenes, had done some gorgeous work of it.  There's no time limit for reacting to this phenomenon so get your art on and share the results.  I'm betting that we will benefit in the near future from poets, musicians and dancers who also feel moved to react in some way.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse - Part I

I've been thinking a lot lately about how art reflects
the times in which it was created.  It often documents
historical events or records emotional
reactions to the news of the day.  That seems to be the work
that survives the test of time.

To that end I felt it necessary that I make a mark related to the recent eclipse.  Yes, I had eclipse-mania and really looked forward to enjoying the phenomenon.  We were not in the zone of totality but good enough to make it an "event."  It was wonderful, I enjoyed it on so many levels and tried to soak it up through all my senses hoping to be inspired towards paint.

No one, no one had a better picnic than we did!  We even had a playlist of moon and sun related music!  I decided that the least I could do regarding a painting of the event was to try.  So I began to make some sketches in my book of possible designs for an abstract layout.

This was merely a brainstorming style exercise as I was going to use color, collage, markers...whatever it took to convey some feeling about the event.  And I had to question myself carefully to articulate what those feelings were.  Gosh...more difficult than just throwing some paint around.


I chose several supports in various sizes, and got started.  I knew I needed a "hill" (we were on the top of a friend's mountain) and I knew I needed a wonderful blue sky with all shapes of lovely clouds.


I wanted a lot of layers and a variety of media...a very hard assignment for someone who gets impatient to see the final result waaaaay before it is ready to present.

wood panel

This is definitely a "push/pull" exercise as I put things down and then I cover them up.  The bad news is that if I fall in love with a part, it eventually gets covered; the good news is that when I make a mistake, I just cover it up.

I'm not happy with the sun and the moon....they feel too heavy.  Or perhaps the colors need repeating elsewhere.  But as today's sun was setting and I was still engrossed in my studio, I decided that these would be finished another day.  It's always a surprise to return and see what transpired....after a good nights sleep work always looks different.

So hang on...I will finish and post. Who knows where they will go or if I will ever share them beyond this post. I wanted to try....thats what it is all about.

And I'm curious, have you felt a need to document your eclipse experience in some way?  Please share....


Friday, August 18, 2017

Back to Basics & Beyond

Why is it that no matter what we do (tennis, paint, draw, pottery)
it takes a professional to remind us that
when we get stuck, the best course of action is to
return to the basics, those key pillars we
learned waaaaay back when we were
just beginning?

I had one of those "I've heard this before" moments when I spent 3 days in an Andy Braitman workshop this past month.  I love his work, his teaching style and what he is able to coax out of my
"stuck" brain.  And while we had been told to come prepared to paint clouds, in true Andy-fashion he changed up the entire syllabus (as such) while driving in.

Where did we start?  With tonal paintings, like notans in a sketch book only larger.  We spent a great deal of time discussing eye moment, the golden mean and all the old standbys but Andy added his special elements including a spiral inward, a progressing formation of rectangles proportionate to each other....and so much more.  But when paint came to the canvas we started with a basic 3 tone underpainting full of movement and texture.  The thickness and texture is hard to see in this photo, I was clearly too enthralled to remember to document my progress (heck, I can't even decipher some of the notes I took, I was so filled with info and excitement.)

But here are 3 beginnings, three values each.  The two pieces on the left and middle both started from the same photograph I had taken in for reference.  See how they change depending on the preceding discussion.  Note the shoreline on the right.  Thats the one I will show finished (or almost) below.

White, mixed black and mixed grey.  An underpainting which will serve as a roadmap for the next stages as well as a base of some texture which we pushed with rubber nibs, brushes, rollers....whatever floated our boat.

Then we chose 3 analogous colors (beside each other on the color wheel) and the complement to the middle color.  I had a deep purple, a deep blue and a pthalo blue with a yellowy orange.  We could also use a mixed black and a white.  Then we got to mixing color....that part was incredibly fun.  How many different colors could you get with your combo and how could you get at least three values of those colors.  For the first time in a long time I really enjoyed playing with the mixing...I am pretty sure it was because being forced to limit the palate at the start reins in the overwhelming feel of it being too much to deal with.

Here's my finished marsh piece.  Or at least finished while I decide what else it might need.  Andy kept emphasizing that we needed to spend twice as much time looking and mixing more as applying paint.  Thats an excellent rule of thumb for someone like me who tends to go just over the edge....ruining a painting quickly by acting in haste.  

So the Back to Basics was a very sound lesson....and leave it to Andy to push us Beyond.  I am having a great time working on my other starts.  I can't wait to share them.