Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bright and Gaudy

May daily stitching has plenty of color!  This one is a little bright for my taste, but it is cheerful.

 I started using a fun app on my phone called 53 Paper to capture new mark making ideas on my walks.  You can see the rough sketches of these 3 stitched bits here.  The sketches are crude which works out perfectly for getting to the essence without getting too caught up in realistic details.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Labyrinth

One of my favorite parts of our Menucha retreat is walking the labyrinth that is tucked in the woods.  I've walked a few others, but this one is my favorite.  Made of natural stone with little plants sprouting in between, it's quiet and surrounded with greenery.  It's a little breathing space in the middle of all the activity.

Walking it this time, I couldn't help but make the connection to painting.  The purpose in walking the labyrinth is to stay focused on the process with no concern about getting to a final destination.  There is a part at the end of the labyrinth that always amuses me.  You think you are at the very end, and it does another turn back into the path.  It surprises me every time, and it makes me aware that I am thinking about getting to the end.  That's so similar to painting.  As hard as I try to stay in the moment and focus on the process, it seems impossible not to think about getting to a good finished painting.

Then as soon as you resign yourself to walking back out into the path again, the labyrinth does a final twist and you are all at once at the center and done.  When I am moving towards the end of a painting, I sometimes stiffen up.  I start over-polishing and it loses its energy.  At that point I have to do some strong messing up.  Big bold brush strokes or lots of scribbles to get it lively again.  It feels like I'm taking it back to the beginning mess, but just when I think it's never going to turn into a decent painting, it seems to resolve itself and is done.  Lots of twists and turns along the way, and so hard to just focus on the process.

  This painting developed in exactly that way, needing lots of scribbles to give it that final bit of life.  I was playing with more hard edges here on larger paper.  I titled it "Mousetrap" because it reminded me of that favorite childhood game.  Maybe I should have called it "Labyrinth."

"Mousetrap", acrylic on paper, 20"x26"




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An Introvert's Retreat

My art group has been going on art retreats twice a year for ten years now.  We go to the beautiful Menucha Retreat Center in the Columbia River Gorge for a weekend in May and again in Oct.  This weekend, Menucha was in its May glory with freshly budded trees, huge rhododendrons, irises and lilacs.  The grounds are reason enough to attend.

The company though is even better.  18 creative artists in one room, each working on her own project and sharing her expertise and new discoveries.  The room is full of a huge variety of media and tools.  There are new books and websites to explore.  People volunteer to lead mini-workshops.  This time Suzie took us through some very fresh approaches to making paste papers, and Paula taught us a fun little journal made out of file folders.  The room is full of individual interpretations, ideas, recommendations, and lots of laughter.

And the introvert in me is completely overwhelmed.  Over the years I have found myself taking fewer and fewer art supplies.  Only this time did I finally realize that that's my way of controlling an over-stimulating environment.  Some people crank out all sorts of different projects over the course of the weekend.  I sit and do a straight running stitch, over and over.  I work slowly.  I have one simple bag of materials.  And I'm perfectly happy.  I enjoy absorbing what others are doing, but that leaves me with very little energy or focus for my own projects.  I can't even dream of ever painting in that environment.

So slow stitching it is.  Calm and meditative.

I finished a journal for an upcoming trip to Scandanavia.  I started this at the last Menucha and just needed to add the inside pages and the perfect little vintage button from my aunt.

Inside there are pockets and lots of blank watercolor paper.

Most of the weekend was devoted to the slow kantha stitching on the beginnings of this new journal cover.

On this one, I used my hand-dyed variegated cotton threads, and I like the flickers of color they give.

I never get much done, but I do come home in a whirl of inspiration and possibilities.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Blob Paintings

I love blob paintings!  Maybe there's a more elegant term for them, but I don't know what it is. They're paintings that look like like paint was poured on the page and some scribbles quickly added.  They are fresh, playful and spontaneous.

I adore Heather Day's work.  I always wondered how she got such loose, fluid paintings.  Don't miss the video on her site that shows her process.  She works large and very wet using buckets even.

Heather Day

Heather Day
I also love Therese Murdza's work.  Again they are so playful and free.

Therese Murdza
This piece of multiples is especially fabulous.  Such gorgeous colors and I love the added bowl-shaped lines.

Therese Murdza
While I had my pinks and oranges out, I decided to do a little brush cleaning and play around with some blobs.  I also used charcoal which mainly left a mess.  Mine still leave a lot to be desired, but it's a fun way to loosen up and use the bits left on the palette.  I'll keep playing with it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mark Making Blitz

This has been my week for mark making.  I wanted to freshen up my mark making vocabulary, and this week gave me plenty of new ideas.

I've been taking an online class with Dionne Swift called Drawing for Textiles.  The first week is focused on abstract drawing and the second on interpreting those drawings into textiles, which I haven't done yet.

Without giving away too much of her class, here are some of my drawings from week one.  We were instructed to choose about six items that are meaningful to us and use them for a different approach in each drawing. I chose some of my favorite jewelry to use, not that you would know it from the drawings.  We were instructed to scale everything up as large as we could, so I did all of these on big pieces of newsprint.

First came blind contour drawings switching media along the way.

Shadow drawings.

Straight line drawings using only 12 " lines.  Oh my!  I don't know that I got this assignment at all.  I found myself so unable to draw anything resembling the objects that I started paying more attention to density of placement.

Finally drawing from 4 ft. away.

I think it's fabulous practice to take the same objects and rework them so drastically.  It's a really fun way to get some fresh marks.  We will now isolate small areas to work in fiber.

Dionne's class happened to coincide with a Mark Making class I had already signed up for at Oregon College of Arts and Craft with Jason Berlin.

The day got off to a fun start.  We explored all sorts of fountain pens, bamboo pens, and quills with ink.

My favorite assignment of the day was a layered charcoal drawing in which we explored different weights of charcoal and different erasers.  I could do that all day.

Unfortunately, the afternoon exercises were more about exploring mixed media and drifted away from mark making.  Not as inspiring but it's always nice to spend the day in OCAC's beautiful drawing and painting studio.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Last in a Series

This is the last painting in my Nia series, at least for now.  I am drawn to the idea of joyful moments suddenly appearing out of the darkness, so I have a feeling I'll be returning to this.  I'm keeping up a list of more titles from bits of Nia songs that I may want to use in the future.  Dancing in Nia class always lifts me out of any funk I'm having.  Even on days when I have to drag myself to class, I never leave in a bad mood.  In painting I often like to start off with dark underpinnings and then do some brightening on top to shift the mood from darkness to light playfulness.  In this case, I even added a little neon pink on top, which really popped up the cheer.

"In the Land of My Dreams", acrylic on paper, 11x14"

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rhododendrons Bursting

And lilacs, and wisteria, and dogwoods.  Spring has come full force to Portland after all our rain, so my May stitching project is starting out with loads of bright color.

One of the good things about this daily stitching project is it forces me to work with colors that I normally wouldn't touch.  Spring is challenging for me with all those pinks and lavendars, and sunshine and happiness.  I'm much more comfortable in the somber tones of fall and winter.  But a little cheerfulness is probably good now and then.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Nia Series

My pink and orange paintings are now officially my Nia series.  Title of this one is from another Nia song--Happiness Floats.

"Happiness Floats", acrylic on paper, 11x14"

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

April Daily Stitching

Finishing up my daily stitching for April and still been wrestling a bit with this project. I think I was trying to make it head in too many different directions.  I wasn't sure if it was a daily journal, a daily recording of the shifting seasons, or a collection of marks.  I knew I wanted to start with a small bag of scraps and threads for each month to keep it focused and portable, but that meant it really didn't represent everything I wanted to include.  My fabric choices for the month were the yellows, greens and pinks which are the beginnings of the blooming season in Portland, but when I spent a week at the beach, the blues and grays all around me looked nothing like the fabric I was stitching on.

Walks on the beach helped me discover my focus.  I'll still pull a bag of scraps and threads for each month to help the piece hold together, and my marks can be inspired by whatever is around me that day.  This piece, while still looking like April in Portland, has marks inspired by sea stones, shells, and eucalyptus pods.