I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many postive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleaure. 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 19, 2014

What I Learned in Play

 "Everything I Need to Know...I Learned in Kindergarten" was a tongue in cheek book but loaded with wisdom.  I decided in that same spirit to make a list of everything I am learning by painting with an abstract surface that evolves from "play."  I was surprised at the list, here is a share:

LOOSEN UP BABY!  a dear friend made the astute observation that in recent years one of my personal goals was to be more flexible and spontaneous with my schedule.  Ouch...the pain of practice but oh, the joy of the results.  She pointed out that this exercise was no different.  Either way I was giving up control (perceived or imagined) and letting the flow carry me along.

UGLY CAN BE MADE BEAUTIFUL!  This is not a quick process, while the beginning play doesn't seem to take much time, making the silk purse certainly does.  Sometimes I think the play part is so ugly I want to trash it.  But.  Still.  Stick with it, problem solve, define the possible options and pursue one carefully.

OBSERVATION IS CRITICAL TO SUCCESS! Ever gotten somewhere and realized you did not see half the things your traveling partner did?  A keen, observing eye is important when translating the play into a recognizable thing.  Since much is painted out of your head (from memory) you have no backup other than your brain on how a root hits the ground or a road turns a corner.  Making mental notes is a prerequisite if you are to paint believably.  Observe and observe and observe.

FREEDOM IS A WONDERFUL THING!  Painters are often slaves to the photograph, terrified to move a tree or change its size.  But photos don't always offer great compositions.  I have a blank slate here, nothing to refer to means I can build a barn or insert a river where ever Mother Cindy decides.  Wowee Zowee......

SLOW DOWN, SMELL SOME ROSES!  Another reason this style of painting takes a while is that many, many decisions have to be made and the fewer strokes of the brush you use to make them the more interesting the final product becomes.  I want to leave some of this delightful "play" for the viewer to experience, but how I do that takes time and effort.  Never a bad thing to slow down, think, muse, contemplate alternatives.  It's not a race; it is a process albeit a sloooow process.

LEARN (COLOR) CHEMISTRY!  Unless I take copious notes in my prep/play time (and that would spoil the play no?) I now have to go back and reproduce the colors and hues I used to start the piece.  While this takes patience it also takes a learning eye for color mixing.  Like when bakers know the cake needs more baking powder or less flour, I have to be able to look at a color and know not only what it was made from but how much of each...or at least a way to get there.  Eighty percent of the time is spent in color mixing...even for a "little dab."  The better my eye gets the faster it will be....the yummiest colors are never those that just pop out of the tube (sorry Mr.s Winsor and Newton).

It's not a bad list...for painting or for life.  In fact, the list drives home to me how much I can gain from this process regardless of the art I choose to do.  I'll be sticking with it for a bit...maybe morphing it into my own brand of beginning and seeing where it takes me.  I don't know what path you are pursuing right now but if it is a struggle try making a list of how far you have come already, it really helps you see the progress.

Enjoy your weekend, slow down and observe something new!



Friday, September 12, 2014

Sharing Texture

You already know my weakness for color and my desire to be able to manipulate it so that you can really see the subject and its surroundings, not just irreverent hue.  But I am also becoming a slave to texture.  Texture often tells the timeline of a painting as it is a build up of marks and strokes and directional arrows that take time to incorporate into work.  I have a few more finished pieces to share and I really like the texture in these although they are relatively small paintings.

The Shore
8 x 10 oil, framed

16 x 20 oil, framed

I love this color palette - some of my favorite colors all together.  Green has always felt like a neutral to me, perhaps because there is so much of it in nature and that makes it very difficult to work with convincingly.

This is a detail showing some of the texture and layering up close.

The Climb
8 x 10  oil, framed

While I had those juicy colors out I went on to paint a smaller piece pretending that I was climbing the trails in the mountains behind the Homestead.  At the end of the summer season the grasses are really high and overgrown.  The bees are buzzing and the seed heads are drying out and scattering for their germination over winter.  

Here's a detail of The Climb

I'm about ready to declare it fall!  Pumpkins are appearing and the tips of many trees are starting to change color.  Talk about a rhapsody of color...I will be overstimulated for sure.  Might have to keep my head down while driving.

Colorfully yours,

Friday, September 5, 2014

Day is Done, Gone the Sun

Sometimes rest is good.  I finished up several pieces this week and while the photo-gods were not with me I do want to share them.  Actually I have learned that using a particular additive I was experimenting with (resin-gel) causes a huge glare when I photograph the work, even out of direct sun.  Looks like I will be changing my photo process and, once again, adding to the many side tasks one needs to master simply to paint and share artwork!  Until that time comes enjoy these pieces and know that the glare is not really there!

Aspen Trail
24 x 18  oil
from a photo taken by my cousin Tom Willis, thanks Tom 
for sharing your talent

Far and Away
24 x 30   oil

 Rivers Bend
24 x 18 oil

Trail Edge
24 x 18   oil

I'm headed to the framers and then off to a play retreat with my Florida painting gang, the Pieces of 8.  We usually spend 4-5 days each fall out of town together laughing, sharing stories and eating....we do squeeze in some painting but that's the excuse we use for heading out, not really the reason!

Catch up soon.
Colorfully yours,

Friday, August 29, 2014

Creative Chaos as a Starting Point in Paint

Most of us are uncomfortable with chaos...we much prefer the ordered, the organized and the expected.  A chaotic assembly or gathering makes me head to the exit or stifle a scream; chaotic jazz music sets my teeth on edge; staring at Jackson Pollock's chaotic drips and massive spills of color make me feel as if the world is closing in on me.

So you can imagine my sense of distress when Andy Braitman's latest workshop was a continuation of exploring the role of chaos in art.  I was so hoping we could slide on by this chapter!

Remember those chaotic beginnings I shared where we mixed oil and water and literally threw them on a canvas creating spatters of different colors?

Here is an initial mix of darks and thrown-on oil spatters.  (I believe I turned it counter clockwise once to start on it.)  I must have spent hours waiting for some "order" to emerge from this mess.

So here is a pass at trying to decide which parts of the chaos are actually interesting and which parts need to be covered up or disguised in some way.
And here is yet another iteration of same piece...still not complete, there is too much sameness on the right hand side but each layer has to dry or at least become tacky before I can go back to work on it again.

So what is the point of this?  It is multi-fold according to Guru Braitman.  When we start when no end in mind we should (theoretically) approach the canvas with a playful spirit.  Too often we (I) am paralyzed by an empty space, anxious that those first marks we make will not be 'perfect' or usable.  Laying down interesting dark shapes and transparent colors and then brightening them with textures and splashes supposedly loosens us up to enormous possibilities we may not have seen before.  There is also the "interesting" factor.  When you look closely at the water above you will see almost to the bottom of the lake: lots of color, reflections, ripples, things I may have been too timid to add at the last sweep for fear of messing up my "perfect" water.

 Loosening up was not easy for me....throwing expensive paint with no idea of what I would do with it?  Play?  This was a difficult concept to get into and I found myself trying to circumvent the routine or second guess where I was going.  Ultimately that proved useless and after a while I was able to lay out a bunch of white, gessoed boards and just get into it.

Did I enjoy the play or decide it was fun?
Sorta ... I think a few more rounds and I might relax enough to let down my guard and throw all I have into it....

 Here's my effort at bringing the above chaos into
an interesting sense of order.

Poor lonely tree called out for some
company as well as a notation
that it was in the foreground.

Please note that these photos are not true to the piece....I was quickly documenting the process for my own notes so did not take the time to make color adjustments or eliminate glare.  I'm liking the composition of this more, however I think the two additional trees feel a tad scrawny compared to the larger one.  That adjustment is relatively easy to make.  The foreground blue bonnets are not as massive as the photo makes them out to be (blue seems to scream when photographed non-professionally). So I think with a little trunk work and growth the additional trees can easily carry the viewer up and to the right while balancing the interesting effect of the gold bank on the right bottom.

So where would you go with this piece?  Is there an interesting section you would
want to attempt to save?

I'm going to continue to explore this concept and do more work on the two pieces I have shared. Hopefully I will have finished paintings to post (and decent photographs!) and additional thoughts on the benefits of starting with chaos.  This learning curve just never seems to plateau!

Chaotically Colorful,

Friday, August 22, 2014

Azule Residency Five Star Experience


Finding how NOT to proceed is as critical as proceeding

The days following a "retreat" are almost more work than the experience itself.  Unpacking your brain of a zillion new ideas, organizing your thoughts into subject files, rehashing pages of notes and drawings, trying to remember that brilliant scheme that came in a dream or was it during a hike?  All of that is much more exhausting and time consuming than actually going through the delightful day to day routine of no-routine and total dedication to your craft.

Such are my musings after returning from a wonderful 4 days spent with my sister and co-collaborator at AZULE located off the beaten path in Grassy Creek, NC just outside of Hot Springs.  

If you closely on the left middle floor you can see the outline of the original
log cabin Camille and her husband homesteaded in.  She continues, in her seventies,
to dream up projects to add onto the "compound."

What did we accomplish during our artistic residency?  Weeeell.  As Edison was fond of saying, "We discovered 99 ways not to make a light bulb."

Our original intent had been to explore our childhood as fodder for a poetry/art collaboration.  We spent many a chuckle-filled hour revisiting those years and playing the "but do you remember...." game.  However after thrashing and hashing our early years, my word-smith sis admitted that nothing grabbed her senses as intense enough to eulogize.  My visuals were equally uninspiring.  So we then morphed into a long discussion about technique and approach: using 'we' or 'I', feelings now or then, calls and answers or just two unrelated bodies of work, large or small, ....see the problems here?  So much more to decide than first meets the eye.

Amy found a comfortable niche by the front door.  Camille made all the stained glass windows
herself after gathering all the glass from a manufacturers dump site.

We hiked, we sweated, we sat and stared, we dabbled in our craft hoping the muse would take over, we revisited every possibility and we took stabs at producing.

I liked the table under the skylight where the old cabin featured a 
porch that eventually was closed in.  The furniture was crafted by the
husband of a board member.

Sister Poet was in a slight Panic.  Sister Artist said "been there done that."  Both sisters stared like deer in headlights when asked to "share" our progress with the crew on site that evening.  Ah, well, advised the elder, we share our conundrum, we throw it out to the universe of willing listeners and see what comes back.

And here is the glory of Azule: they understood.  no judgement, no disappointment.  A discussion of ways the project could go, a few "have you ever's," and much sympathy for the valley we were in.  Along with a huge dose of faith that we would, we could, climb out!

The common room ready for relaxing, discussions, or reading from the
extensive library.  The kitchen is communal and can be seen
behind the alcove with the round cut out.

Which is the pervasive attitude around Azule: it can and will be done.  We were surrounded by interesting unfinished projects just waiting for the right crafts person to show up.  Camille proudly showed us the difference in the work done by a "finish carpenter" who made amazing fits of things into odd places with an elegance befitting a five star hotel and then turned to contrast that with a woodworker who loved raw edges and did much interior siding which left the bark exposed with a rippled edge.  Both gorgeous and somehow both appropriate side by side here.

Here you can get a sense of the creativity and whimsy of the place.  Camille asked that this '47 Chevy be thrown in when they finally bought the place.  She envisioned it as you see it now warding off any bad "ju ju" blowing in from "Troublesome Gap" off to the left.  
She laughs that some large estates have magnificent rearing horse sculptures to do
the same thing but so far the Chevy has worked fine for Azule.

Camille is an inspirational jewel but she has gathered together an incredibly hard working and dedicated board of directors. We met several while there and they displayed no end of creative ingenuity in progressing the ideals of a gathering place for artists to nurture themselves and each other.  The day before we departed a hearty group of Davidson University students were on site to learn the craft of stone walling.  This eager bunch of laborers were not only building a retention wall for a camping site but they were learning how to move 60 and 80 pound boulders and lift them into place while chipping the smaller pieces to fit inside.  Of course the stone mason was a friend of Azules who fed his hogs with the recycled food scraps saved from our kitchen.  And who, BTW, will be teaching a fall class on how to slaughter, butcher and put up the hog. See how this works?

I hope this is not my last experience with Azule...it is nearly impossible to explain all it has to offer.  Yes, the accommodations are "basic" and yes, you cook your own meals.  But what a small price to pay for a lifetime of inspiration.  Just email me your questions or go on-line if this tempts you in the least.  I can assure you they would love to have you come be a part of what they are building.

Oh...and with a little bit of time and luck I hope to be sharing some fruits of our labors in the not too distance future!

Art Fully Yours,

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Gallery in Your Home

Have you noticed?  Gallery Walls are trending big time!  Yes, they are "back," not that all of us abandoned them the last decade but what is old is once again NEW and if you need further proof just search for "gallery walls" on www.Houzz.com or www.pinterest.com.  Really good news for those of us who love to collect and any of you professing "to be out of wall space."

Very simply a gallery wall is a place you hang multiple pieces of art as opposed to one large piece.  There are many categories of such including a "theme wall" (everything related to a specific topic such as horses), a "symmetrical wall" (using the same size and style of frame in multiples, evenly laid out), the "collection wall" (sort of a scrapbook of art, 3d items, letters, clocks etc.) and the new "around the black hole" wall (a way to help the flatscreen tv wall take on new life).

My favorite of course is the collection wall as I love to take my time viewing such a presentation and piecing together the story it tells about the person(s) who hung it.  The symmetrical wall is a fav of decorators and tends to be more formal. (See presentations of botanical prints hung equi-distance apart).  Either way I encourage you, right this minute, to start planning your own gallery wall....if you never took yours down then why not freshen it up a bit.

I won't waste the space here telling you how to perfectly plan and hang your design.  There are many sites on-line with helpful how-tos in making paper templates with guide lines and taping them up to check the layout.  This assumes you have all your pieces collected and ready to go...which is brilliant.

Here is a simple gallery to get you started.  Four pieces actually.  They are not as uncentered as they appear in the photo but I like the addition of table pieces added to the mix of the art on the wall.  Easy enough.

This is my hallway...we traverse it a million times a day as does anyone entering our home.  And it IS as off-centered as it appears.  Why?  Because it is constantly growing!  The wall started as a collection of pear art done by friends.  They were all lined up and neatly hung in a row -  I felt like I was visiting with the artists every time I walked by. But after a few years I had pieces that were not pears and I started moving things around a bit.

I like the way it is growing: different styles, different frames and notice the 3D sneaking in.  This is the happiest wall in my home because I know every single artist and love them dearly.  My life is not all organized and measured and neat as a pin, and I think this wall pretty much shares that.  Who knows what we will add next?

I already hear the practical of you  moaning about too many holes in the wall.  Well, we have discussed that and know that some day, when the mood strikes and the collection grows, we will "frame out" the space with white molding and paint the interior with a close (impossible to match) new coat of paint...after plugging the holes.  And then we start again.

There is no need to cease buying art (did you know I have some hung for viewing in my closet?)...just get creative in hanging it.  This wall may never make it past Interior Design 101 but if it makes us smile it is well worth every single off centered nail hole!

Here's one hot off the easel....something most coastal dwellers paint often....but my first ever:

Rolling In
24 x 12, oil on gallery wrapped canvas
needs no frame

In Living Color,