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 21, 2018

Cone Flower Truth or Dare

Sometimes artists will paint from the same reference
photo over and over again.  Perhaps a few know
they have a winner for sale but others, like me,
want to see just how differently they
can render it each time.

And so it goes with these pinky-purple cone flowers...something I find very difficult to render.  I'm still deciding if the outcome of the latest was a win or a loss but I can say honestly that I took the dare not to stick totally to the truth!

This is a basic rendering of the lights and darks and I tried to make a few notes as to where my blossoms were to end up.  I think I was using up the tail end of a day's left over paint so I knew I had a long way to go from here.

A little more definition of a rock and a much better flow of color in the background.

Now this is when I am so tempted to quit: drab, drab, drab.  I like the little yellow-green leaf near the bottom right hand corner....that's all.  But "tests" should be pushed until they are beyond salvage and the optimist in me thought I could maybe, just maybe keep on.

Here is a detail of one flower...not too much to brag about but definitely an improvement from above.

Cone Flowers, 12 x 16, oil

Done.  At least done for me.  Agony in the home stretch and almost wish I had quit sooner and used my time elsewhere.  But that's not the point, is it?  

Here's a bonus note: take some time, zoom in and find some small spots you do like in this painting: a certain petal, a color contrast, a splash of texture....just look carefully and state a couple of things that you like.  There.  You have just widened your ability in appreciating art...a very useful technique at a gallery or a museum.  You don't have to like it en toto....but try to find something that intrigues you and you will begin to define your own taste.  


Friday, September 14, 2018

Step by Step...a Heron

Sometimes you know exactly what
you want a painting to look like when done;
sometimes you just go with the flow
and see what happens...

And while the subject of this painting (or the object) was to be a white and grey heron slightly off center, I was much more interested in seeing how the surrounding foliage and foreground waters were going to take shape.  Here's the step by step, over the course of several days and one vacation!

blocking out the lights & darks
establishing some texture & motion

playing with the colors
stating the direction of energies

pushing the "hole" back further 
placing the bird
establishing the patterns of reflections

Sacred Space, 16 x 12, 
oil on canvas

detail of texture and color

This is a rather large "test tile" for me as I usually try to do experiments on an 8 x 10 canvas.  However I am finding that with a large, flat brush it is much easier to work on a larger size support...there is much more real estate to play with and for me that means more color gradations which is what the experiment is all about.  (Now what will I do with all those 8 x 10's I have stacked up and ready to go? hmmmmm)

p.s.  I am making too many experiments to frame them all.  Someday I will get the best ones loaded up onto my website for purchase "as is."  Meanwhile if you find one that rings your chimes let me know; the "test tiles" are an inexpensive way to enjoy original art.  email:

Friday, September 7, 2018

Life is "Riveting"...Revisit Rosie

I titled it "Unfinished Business"
when I first posted a portrait I had done of my 
building friend Mo.  Little did I know how 
unfinished the story really was...

Off on another Habitat for Humanity build, this time to Goldendale, WA, I was looking forward to seeing my friend Mo who had appropriately posed for this photo when we built in James Island, SC.

Our gang loves the "Rosie the Riveter" theme and uses it informally when we build.  This photo went into a calendar we made and then I painted from my photo:

Unfinished Business, 24 x 18
oil on canvas

But apparently that was not the end of the story!  Life (and art) has a way of circling back when you least expect it.

We were tickled when The Dalles Habitat affiliate gifted us with blue tee shirts featuring Rosie on the back and our build date - they even made poka-dot neck coolers we used as hair ties.  So of course we were happy to oblige one day when they asked us to wear the ensemble for a "photo op" promoting the build.  What we did not expect was this:

The opportunity to meet and spend time with the REAL Rosie, Ada Wyn Parker, seen above with our enthusiastic team.

Ada is 95 years old and every inch the fashion maven she was in her day.  For a long history lesson on how she and her sister Naomi were eventually identified by a researcher as the inspiration for the iconic poster "We can do it" read this NYTimes story.  There is so much interesting information about how the poster came to be (for in-house use at Westinghouse to discourage absenteeism or striking by newly hired women) and the many other representational (even Norman Rockwell) uses it spawned.  

Ada was adorable...and inspiring.  She shared that she was the first female, several days after her 18th birthday to be hired at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, CA.  Her sister Naomi, two years older, was uninterested until she realized that making a whopping 65 cents an hour entitled Ada to buy new clothes....she immediately headed down to apply.  More here.

Women did not own work clothes and were having accidents with long hair, high heels and skirts, so when told to tie up their hair the Parker sisters shunned the plain white head scarves and brought in their own for a little more panache...thus the inspiration for the now well recognized red and white dotted bandana.  Ada retired after 7 years of repairing planes that had seen combat while her sister went on to waitress for many years following.  Naomi passed away several years ago but Ada is newly enthused about doing her part to inspire women today to leave their comfort zone.

Ada, aka "Rosie," stopped by our build site to drive a symbolic nail into the header over our front door, signing her name and best wishes for the new family.

As Mo and I helped her back up I realized that I don't need to wait to age 95 to encourage younger women on their path...I should get going on that mission right now.  And I loved that this intimate experience with an icon: the history, the poster, the women behind the war effort, the strides made since then and the miles yet to be covered - became so alive and real to me because of a "chance encounter." Chance?  Maybe, maybe not.....the power of art still amazes me.



Friday, August 24, 2018

Not So Fast At the Finish

I'm trying hard to practice a fast, energetic start.
The kind where bravery and confidence just
pour out onto the canvas and the paint oozes enthusiasm for
the subject at hand.  BUT such
a beginning requires a careful, thoughtful finish, 
a very critical eye and a lot of patience.  
As I said: I'm trying!

30" x 24" oil on canvas

I was fairly certain this piece was finished.  But how does one know?  Perhaps I was tired of it.
It's hard to tell but when you are left with a "something's not right" feeling it's best to stop work and take a loooong break.

Staring at it at this stage I made a specific list of "to-do's" needed.  The scene was fairly believable and after some lightening (see first illustration) and color enhancement, I was just plain stumped.  But again....that gut feeling....

I had to be away from the studio for about four days so put it out of my mind...or so I thought.  Apparently my subconscience was working overtime as one night I woke right up with a possible solution: lighten up the foreground trees.  I could hardly wait to get back to the easel and experiment.

"Lay Me Down Like a River Tonight"

Subtle, very subtle.  The rationale that came to me slowly is that when we view a scene from life that is back lit we still see plenty of colors in the foreground.  They are darker than the directly lit areas but it is the camera that forces those objects to appear almost black.  It just didn't "read" properly in my mind.  While I had wet paint I cranked up some of the colorations in the lightest areas, organized a few limbs and did some pruning.  

detail close up showing texture and color

For the record there is no black per se on this piece.  I mix the darkest areas (as opposed to using the color black) so they are more interesting...but again, sometimes in a reproduced photo on a blog, the darks read black.

Whew boy....this is not to say that I might not find something that needs correcting next week.  A fresh eye is the best way to spot what's needed after spending such intensive time on one piece. In fact, I recently added a little glitz to the painting I shared last week before popping it in a frame.  

So when people ask how long it takes to make a painting, do they really want to hear about those hours spent in self-critique or the nights my asleep-brain grapples with a problem?  Probably not.

Slow and Easy,
p.s.  This week I am in Oregon working on a new form of art: house construction!  A gang of fun ladies is spending the week on a Habitat for Humanity Build learning all kinds of new skills.  My husband comes out to join me at week's end and we are headed to explore the wild coast of Oregon.  So I won't be sending an art update next feels odd as I love the discipline of not missing a week.  But let's change it up.  Enjoy your weekend and I'll be back soon with, hopefully, some new thoughts.

Friday, August 17, 2018

That Easy, Peaceful Feeling

Some scenes you never tire of.  Such is the
path in the reference photo I used below.  I have painted
it numerous times.  I have had several students
take it on.  It's never the same and the story always
unfolds slightly differently.

I think I took the photo on a hike out west but I wouldn't swear to it.  It's one of those personal yet generic photos of a path in the mountains.  It offers foreground, middle ground, background and sky.  There's a rhythm to the path and it's my go-to when I need to visit a familiar place while painting.

I started this in oil using a lot of medium to build up some texture.  You can easily see the wide brush strokes left from the first layer of paint.

I enjoy starting several pieces at a time so that I don't overwork them and have something to do while the first ones dry.

I refined my colors a bit using the texture of the first layer and adding more where I could.  

And slowly I tightened things up, softened some edges and planted the flowers.  By this stage I was meandering slowly down the path thinking it might take a downward slant just around the bend.  I was looking forward to seeing if the flowers would blanket a meadow below or if more rocks might show up so I could sit on them and breath a bit.  Sometimes painting is a bit like watching the travel channel, you can visit wherever you wish without leaving home.  Doesn't that mountain air smell good?

"That Easy, Peaceful Feeling"
oil, 12 x 16, unframed
on canvas

Hiking the Easy Way,

Friday, August 10, 2018

Real Magic

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the
mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and all
true science.  Whoever does not know it, who can 
no longer pause to wonder
or stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead."
Albert Einstein

I admit to an insatiable curiosity.  I love to find out how things are done...not that I intend to do all of them, but I love learning about the twists and turns it takes to master a variety of skills.  EXCEPT, except...when I don't.  Magic is a wondrous thing and too much curiosity can kill the cat (as they say).   Read Here is Real Magic by Nate Staniforth and you will understand when I say that some things are best not understood: leaving some explanations as "magic" is rapturous and exciting feeling.  Can't we all use a bit of magic in our lives?

That is exactly how I feel about indigo dying.  You fold and clamp or sew and pull and then dip and oxidize and then dip again....and, and...unfold, rinse: MAGIC!  You know from my past blogs on shibori that the entire process has amused and delighted me every step of the way.  What I do not want to know is the why...or the how....or the because.  When I get too scientific the fun flies out the window.

So why do I rant now?  Probably rationalization or self-defense. 
My intrepid dyeing buddy, Barbara, and I took off for the Asheville Local Cloth Indigo interest group this week where we would share a "community dye vat" and trade ideas with fellow dyers.  Before leaving we took time to fold and clamp and, in Barbara's case, sew and pull, our designs.

The group was delightful but I admit to an impatient itching to get to the was fine but I was like a kid wanting to unwrap the presents.  The community dye vat is huge:

 The leader would take buckets from this massive container and add a mixture to it and then warm it (for animal proteins, i.e. wool and silk) and leave another cool (for cellulose, i.e. cotton and bamboo).
Then it would stabilize, get pH tested and yadda, yadda...yawn.  This is where my mind drifted as others took copious notes.

The pH test (above) and the wait for a green tint and the production of a "bloom" on the top of mixture had me dancing side to side.  Oh yes, I do admire the patience and the knowledge of those who knew what was really happening chemically, I do, I do....but I was ready for magic.

Finally we could slowly, slowly lower our fabrics into the correct pot, set the timer, hold the floaters down and wait....The excitement was fever pitch.  Timers rang and gloved hands extracted wads of fabric (without bubbles, and no drips) from the pot.  We squeezed out the dye and watched as green fabric oxidized into blue and ran them into the alley to drip further.  

We could double (even triple) dip and repeat the process all the while taking notes (not me I confess) on how long the dips must be, how to neutralize with vinegar, which fabrics needed further...blah, blah...blah.  I kept checking my dripping wads unable to contain myself.

Finally we could open, rinse and neutralize.  And the magic revealed itself.  At least it was magic to me.  Kudos to the souls who continued making notes and comparing test pieces.  God love them.  

discussing a particular sewing and pulling technique

I was ready to see the result and not give a care how it happened:


Now, do not misread here: I am not dissing those who want, need, search and study to know more.  I admire them.  It's just that there are some things that need to be just enjoyed and not understood and this, for me, is one of them.  Cool, no?

and my buddy Barbara?  She is well on her way to understanding the alchemy of dye and I salute her pursuit and pledge my support in every way.  I will call her when I need to know if it is vinegar or salt I need to add and I won't bother her to understand why.

Barbara's gorgeous work

And before I forget let me share with you the results of a previous magical dye day here.  My friend Ellen Lindner, a renowned textile artist paid me a visit and was kind enough to share my project in her blog.  Enjoy.

I hope there is something in your world that is magical, something that you choose not to understand for the simple reason that it would spoil the excitement or the surprise of whatever happens.  Sometimes we have to protect our "magical moments" - the world of google and its endless explanations can be helpful - but don't let it rob you of the magic.

Magically Ignorant,
p.s.  For those deep divers who wonder how a green plant gets harvested and made into a magic blue dye check out this blog by Catherine Ellis.   (lots of links today!  hope you enjoy them all.)