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, March 24, 2017

Wood Turning: Gorgeous Recycle

Much of what is manufactured today has a very short
interest span and only adds to our growing landfill problem.
So when skill and art combine 
to create an heirloom-worthy piece 
which is also a heart and soul swoon.

When I can't be in the woods I like to have the woods around me, indoors.  This gorgeous hickory bowl was made by a friend of mine, Hershel Miller, (Millington, TN) from wood he salvaged from my Uncle's property.  My Uncle, a noteworthy wood turner in his own right, treated me to a class taught by Miller at the John C. Campbell Folk School several years ago.  I have nothing to show for all my work other than a true appreciation for their talents and a love of the art form.

 Hickory Bowl by Hershel Miller

When Hershel was alerted that an old hickory tree on my Uncle's property was dying he loaded up the chainsaws, a camera, some tools and his very supportive wife to take off and harvest some wood.  They were kind enough to document the process for me to share.

Miller knows how to fell a tree starting with a wedge cut and then clearing out of the way

He goes to work cutting pieces he can transport and use.  Hickory, despite being a very hard wood will rot quickly once it is on the ground and unprotected. It will be consumed by insects
and weather rendering it unusable after time.
Please note: no healthy trees were sacrificed in this project!

Shown here is the half slice of the piece cut in the photo above with the chainsaw, split lengthwise.  If you look closely you will see a pencil outline of the round bowl he plans to make.

Using a bandsaw he cuts a bowl blank which will go on the lathe.

Both photos above show Miller shaping the outside of the bowl.  

After the exterior shape and foot are done he removes it from the lathe and
prepares to do the inside.  So that he doesn't power through the bottom and ruin the bowl (easy to do with the high speed of the lathe) he drills a depth hole in the center.

A steady hand, consistent pressure and a 6th sense guide the hollowing out of the inside of the bowl.
Miller is recognized for his glassy smooth surfaces which are indicative of expert cutting 
and a huge amount of tedious sanding.

Here is the 12 inch "blank", shaped and now ready to be wrapped in paper and dried for six months.  After all the moisture is gone it will go back on the lathe and be subjected to more
turning (it may likely warp in the drying process) and then be sanded to a smooth
surface ready for staining and/or oiling.

The bounty: Miller's bowls on the left will be wrapped, dried for six months and be turned again.  The three on the right have been turned much thinner so will dry in two-three months...these he will allow to warp and will not return to the lathe.  All of these are from the same portion of a dying tree but each uniquely fashioned as one of a kind pieces.

I so enjoy the smell of a wood shop altho I have been cautioned about the dangers of inhaling fine saw dust all day long.  As in any artistic pursuit, it is not all romantic progress forward.  There is the wood that splits, the dangers of the equipment, the difficulties of the skill set and the disappointment of projects not going as planned.  But watching folks who choose to see these as challenges to overcome, not obstacles for quitting, always inspires me.  When someone asks Miller how long a bowl takes him I have no doubt he answers "20 years and 6 months," because that is the truth of the answer.  

So I surround myself with hand turned bowls, vases, platters and other objects not only because I enjoy the art they represent but because I know that a tree lives on...a moment in history, its life, the weather and time, is forever captured and preserved for future enjoyment.  Recycling in its highest and finest form.

Hats off to Hershel Miller, my Uncle and the wood turners they represent.  Thanks.

p.s.  if you wish to contact Miller for more information about his work just send me a note and I will forward it along.  At present he does not have a web site although he does do several shows in the TN area and beyond.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Inspiring Colors of Marrakech

...Colored cottons hang in air
charming cobras in the square
Striped djellabas we can wear....
They're taking me to Marrakech, all aboard.

(Graham Nash, - Crosby, Stills & Nash  1969)

Jardín Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent Studio

As I sang my heart out with C, S & N, lo those many years ago,  I had no idea I would actually get to experience the sights that inspired those words.  Oh as I sift through the sensual treats of two weeks of painting in Marrakech I will simply share here a bit of the inspiring color.

street music and intimate concerts

color at every turn

ornate craftsmanship on products used for centuries

 crowded alleys and busy streets in the medina led
to the legendary souks

and contrasted with the serene 

So hold that thought!  I feel some stories emerging and some paintings waiting to come to life.  A city of contrast, of shadow, of color ... filled with the great warmth of its citizens, Marrakech was a treat in all respects.  More to come.

Brimming with Color,

Friday, March 10, 2017

No Room to Hang More Art?

I'm traveling this week in Marrakech, Morocco.
There is no doubt in my mind that I will be tempted
to bring back art in a variety of forms.  I've had to get creative
lately in finding new places to hang my acquisitions
so I thought I would share some ideas which
might help you open up new spots.

The most common reason (or excuse) I hear for not buying new art is the lack of wall space.  Oh come on, do you rotate your pieces (yes, it demands storage room but art can slide under the bed)?  Do you give away pieces you have grown tired of (or out grown)?  Have you tried to find new and innovative places for art?

I am never insulted when someone "confesses" they have hung my work in their bathroom...or the laundry room.  In my life those are two of the most visited rooms and I love gazing upon something beautiful while I "do my business." 

Here is my guest bath, look in the mirror and you will see
a collaged pair of birds by Carmen Beecher in addition to the sculpture by Lisa Joerling
 and the Virginia Greene fiber art; not seen is the painting on opposite wall

That room also has a 3D piece over the toilet as well as one in front of it and two paintings on the wall just over the tissue.  I packed a lot of art into a tiny room...and I love going in to view it all.

I've got art in all the normal places of a bedroom but found I could squeeze in a tiny piece by Margaret Dyer between my bed and lamp table.  It's the last thing I see when turning out the light.

Now how adorable is your closet?  Mine is not huge but I love the explosion of color and art I get
by giving it a little extra attention:

a painting of mine, a framed saying, a pottery earring holder, a felted hat
and a way to hang up colorful beads and necklaces

We even believe in art on our porch.  Weather exposed areas demand special attention but notice two original pieces here, the quilt square  by Heidi Fisher and the bird house.  The opposing wall holds some really cool iron work we picked up which just gets a better patina with age.

And don't forget the motor home if you have one.  Shouldn't it be just as personal and art-filled as your land base? Here's a peek into our Airstream:

over the radio by Lisa MacDonald Pottery,
 (I regret not having current photos of the lovely wall hangings by Virginia Green 
as well as a cool painting by Cheri Glover )

And don't forget your yard and garden...plenty of space for original creations to hang and breathe.  This great sculpture by Paul Glover greets me every day after work and never fails to give me a grin.

Have I mentioned the interior walls of garages?  the storage room or tool shed?  door panels?  kitchen cabinets or refrigerator walls?  And while I would gladly hang my collected pieces floor to ceiling, my husband doesn't share that esthetic, so believe me, we haven't even begun to reach "crowded" status.

Look around.  Pay attention to where your eyes light when you are in different places and spaces of your environment.  Do you see something beautiful and creative?  Why not?

So be careful, the next person who points out something in my studio that they would buy "if they only had wall space" might get a home visit from yours truly carrying a hammer, a nail AND the art.

Back soon...looking forward to sharing my treasures...and maybe where I put them!

Hanging Colorfully,

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sketching in the Big Bend

Mary Oliver (in Evidence: Poems) said something that
often resonates with me:
"Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I 
am to be blessed."
No matter where I stood on a recent camping sojourn
to the Big Bend National Park in TX I felt very blessed.

Painting in plein air does not come easily to me, especially when I am overwhelmed by the uniqueness of a new area.  But I love to seems somehow more forgiving and less frightening.  I took a little time recently to study the incredible mountains surrounding us in the Chisos Basin, an incredible spot of ancient geologic formations and history.

I put a few park stamps in my sketchbook when we entered the park as I thought it would be a unique reminder in years to come.  This is a warmer-up sketch one morning where I was clearly paying too much attention to far too many details. That's what happens to me when I am in a new area.

The next day I singled out the well known formation called "Casa Grande" which reigned over us from our spot in the campground.  It had little else around it which made it much easier to capture the lines of the rocks.  

Isn't this a grand place to work?  Perched on a rock, steps from our Airstream with nary a soul in sight?  Makes one realize what a tiny little blip in time we are.

This is not quite complete but so much better than my first attempt.  Reducing complexity to a simple rendering that still captures the essence is quite a challenge.  I know that working like this, letting my eyes linger on the details and my whole being inhale the aura and the grandeur, will be of great help in painting this from a photo later on in the studio.  Authenticity in painting a place is so much more than replicating every single mark from a photo.  I can't wait to lay out the colors for this one.

Colorfully Blessed,

Friday, February 24, 2017

Painting Flowers in Oil

Specialities abound and not many artists
can claim to paint everything with equal skill.  Some painters
never attempt the figure or portrait, others shy away from
landscapes.  I would like to improve my
ability to portray flowers on canvas using oils.

To that end I dug out this classic book given to me by artist Charlie Velek.

I like Reid's method of painting as he is less concerned with painting every petal of a flower and more determined to capture its essence.  I like the feeling of a flower, or expressed in another way, I want you to believe I painted a flower but not because it was petal-perfect.  

I was satisfied here that the viewer could come close to identifing the blossoms but also that it left a feeling of a hastily arranged wildflower bouquet.  So I began to work on more.

This did not go quite as smoothly.  No idea whether it was the square format or the formality of the gerbera daisies.  I think a little of both as well as an anxiousness out of the gate.  Note that I was also painting from life, not a photo.  I find the former far more challenging as you tend to move your perspective.

With no garden flowers in sight I hit the grocery and came home with an orchid, believe me, if anything else had looked fresh I would not have tried such a difficult bunch.  But I kept it loose and light (high key, right?) and think it again worked out pretty well.

Not to waste a live model, I did this 5 x 7 next of just the blossoms.  I found it quite difficult to capture the "transparency" of delicate petals.  Not an award winner but not so awful either.  So I upped the ante by adding a bit of still life to the scene...

oh dear...
I think I was getting tired...the blossoms themselves are not bad but the cup leaves a lot to be desired. This is the challenge of painting a living scene, unlike a photo which freezes the objects in relation to each other (and to the viewer), in painting from life the artist runs the risk of looking at it from different angles.  Take out the cup and the pot looks ok; take out the pot and the cup is decent.  I'm just not sure they appear to be proportionate to each other or on the same plane.

No worries, there are more flowers (and cups and pots) in my painting future....and I know I will have to tackle roses very soon.  There is not a huge choice of live blossoms in the dead of winter.  

How do you feel about flower art: do you prefer photo-realistic or slightly impressionistic??

Feeling Floral,
p.s.  If you follow my ART FaceBook Page you have noticed that I am scooting around the country, oops...the world, traveling right now.  I'm watercoloring my way through the National Parks of Big Bend, TX, the souks of Marrakech, Morocco and the artifacts of Oxaca, Mexico.  All a painter's dream with sights, sounds and smells to be captured.  To maximize painting time I pre-filed some blogs ahead of time!  Thanks for noticing.  More on the trips soon.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Flow Chart of a Creative Project

One Sunday in church my brain drifted a bit onto the
plain walls.  "What we need here," I thought, "is some color
and warmth."  Before I knew it I heard myself volunteering 
to provide such in the form of a banner.  And furthermore, I suggested,
why didn't we get cloth scraps from church members from
which to build that banner...?

Oh dear...what sounded like a wonderfully creative challenge took on new meaning as I finally had to admit to myself: Cindy, you have no idea what you are about to do, no idea.  I'm a painter, not a fiber artist, heck, my sewing machine is 40 plus years old....

My enthusiasm begin to wane as the scraps came in.  Not my colors...

As an Austin Kleon fan I remembered a page he had in his "Steal Like an Artist" book:

this is a flow chart of a creative project
naturally I started at "this is the best idea EVER"

Shoot, I was already between "this is harder than I thought" and "this is gonna take some work."

My original idea was to make something beautiful from a lot of random parts, the metaphor being that together we are better, the theme being "We are one in the spirit." But little did I suspect that making all the random parts come together would be such a challenge...rather like some committees I have chaired.  So I had to lower my standard from "beautiful" to "interesting."  (Also like some groups I have worked with!)

auditioning letter styles

Precision is not my strong suit (same deficit as patience) and thus I was as wonky a sew-er as I was a cutter.  And while a couple of folk graciously offered their help I was unable to even articulate what we, or I, needed to do next.  So I bumbled along on the floor of my spare bedroom.

I've now bypassed "this sucks and is boring" and am headed smack towards "dark night of the soul."  We are leaving town and I want to depart knowing the worst is over - so I visit a quilt store looking for advice on bringing my ancient machine up to current standards as well as some "glue" or "fusing" to forge ahead.

oh boy, can I make it work?  With the numerous fabrics all different weights and weaves I've had to "strengthen" some which is a very mind numbing process.  I sorta like where this is headed and if I can get this inner border on I think I can return to it with a little optimism.

Meanwhile, all the scraps that did not make the initial design are begging to be included, they need a role and I am hoping to give them one.  I fully expect another dip in Kleon's flowchart as I approach the phase where I actually have to make three huge pieces come together with machine quilting that is functional as well as adds to the design.  And since this will be a first for me, I may lose my religion before I get to the "will be good to finish because I'll learn something" phase.  But I am determined to make it all the way to "it's done, it sucks (maybe not) and not as bad as I thought."  Hopefully I can pull off "interesting" if not "beautiful."

Stay tuned...more to come!

Plodding Along,