Friday, September 29, 2017

Summer Celebration

Looks like this will be the last of three paintings in the little fresh air painting series, painted when Portland was covered in smoke and I was craving fresh, clear air and colors.  I started a fourth, but it seems to have a mind of its own and is already starting to attract some fall colors that go in a new direction.

"Summer Celebration", acrylic on paper, 16x20"
 I have really been enjoying these books I found in the library.  They have introduced me to new abstract painters I didn't know about.  This first one is my favorite full of abstract work and gorgeous mark making.

This one contains more realism, but is also full of interesting work.

Asian Traditions/Modern Expressions edited by Jeffrey Wheeler
Asian/American/Modern Art, Shifting Currents, 1900-1970 eds. Cornell and Johnson

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Stitching in Sept.

Stitching away on my 2017 daily stitching project.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A High Tolerance for Failure

One of my favorite games is Bananagrams, a variation of Scrabble where each player works on their own puzzle and can rearrange tiles as they go.  You have to be fast though and use all the tiles before your opponent.  I play with my son, and I lose at least 19 out of 20 times, but I always look forward to playing again.

I was recently telling him about my hip hop class in which I am, without any doubt, terrible.  I can barely learn one dance step before we move to the next one.  And I am so far from having anything that resembles swag, it's just sad.  But I love to go!  After he heard about it, he said, "Mom, you have such a high tolerance for failure.  Most people don't keep wanting to do things they are so bad at."

His comment got me thinking of how important accepting failure is to painting.  I usually work on paintings for days, weeks, sometimes months, so that means there are plenty of days that they feel like failures until I get to that final point where I'm satisfied.  One of the most enlightening books I read about painting was Willem DeKoonig's biography.  I always admired his raw, energetic brush strokes and the spontaneous way he puts paint on the canvas.  I was shocked to learn that Woman I took him 3 years to paint!  He labored endlessly over all of his paintings.  So that means day after day of feeling like they failed.

I'm sure not everyone paints this way.  Someone like Carol Marine, who puts out a very accomplished  painting each day, must end her days with a feeling of satisfaction and success, even if she doesn't love every single painting.  But mine is more a slow process of discovery, changes, trial and error.  Many errors. It's an ongoing reminder to stay focused on the process and not worry about the final product, or I would end each day in frustration.  As long as I keep enjoying the steps along the way, I can use my high tolerance for failure to keep me going.

Here's another I finished in the Breath of Fresh air series, thinking of fresh, clear air on our smoke-filled days.

Untitled, acrylic on paper, 16x20"

I'm liking my palette at the moment, starting to lean a little more towards fall tones.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sept. Stitching

Sept. stitching has some colors softly fading away as new bright ones start to appear.  I always love that time of transition between seasons. Here are some of my bits from my 2016 project before they all get joined together.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Breath of Fresh Air

Because of the fires in the Columbia Gorge, Portland was covered in smoke all last week.  The sky was continually beige, and ash covered our cars in the morning. One of my favorite things to do in summer is to sit out on our balcony, look out into the hills and trees, and stitch.  Instead we stayed inside all week with all the windows closed.

I was craving a breath of fresh air and decided to abandon my black and white paintings for something fresh and clear. 

"Fresh Air", acrylic on paper, 16x20"

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Art Retreat Results

The family all returned Sunday evening and my art retreat came to an end.  It was fabulous!  I really only had 4 days fully alone, but I made good use of them.  Having a little time alone makes me realize how badly I need that now and then.  It was especially nice to get to stay in my own home for a change, but the most important thing is getting time to focus without any distractions.  No stopping to make dinner or talk to anyone.  No leaving the house for errands.  Doing exactly what I want when I want to do it.  Perfect.  I never get as much accomplished as I think I will, but I'm pleased with what I did.

I spent my mornings painting and ended up with two paintings I'm pleased with.  That's pretty much a record for me!  In the afternoons, I caught up with podcasts while I worked on ongoing stitching projects.  In the evenings, I caught up with my favorite TV shows--Project Runway and So You Think You Can Dance, and watched some great art documentaries on Netflix.  I really loved "Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang", a Chinese artist who uses fireworks.  Gorgeous, complicated things.  I also enjoyed "Jeremy Scott," the very wacky, avant-garde fashion designer, and "The 100 Years Show," about Carmen Herrera.  I'm not in love with her minimalist art, but very inspired to see her still working at 96.  The problem with everything I like to watch is it's very visual so hard to get much stitching done while I'm watching.  

I did finish my fall trip journal.  I'm happy with the way this one turned out.  I used variegated threads that I dyed, and I like the spark of color change they add.

Here's my journal collection so far.  They are a really good excuse for some obsessive hand stitching and button collecting.

Friday, September 8, 2017


I've never been much of a collector, well art supplies and fabric excluded of course.  I don't like to shop, and I really don't like many things around my house.  So I had to laugh at myself when I looked around the room recently and saw I had about a dozen vessel shapes all around me.  Some are functional like vases for flowers or bowls that collect little crap.  But many are definitely things I've collected.

There are the little vases that friends gave me.

 And the bamboo bowls I lugged all around New York City, only to find the exact things in Portland a few weeks later.

A little black and white vase I fell in love with in Columbia.

 And this great painted bottle done by Portland artist Trina Hesson.

I found these wonderful yarn balls at a senior center sale.  Each one was carefully rolled and marked with its own price tag of 5 or 10 cents.  How could I not get them and put them in their own special jar?

But if you asked me what I collect, I'd say nothing.  

I guess it's no surprise that I turned to vessels for my black and white series.  Here's the latest called "Escape."

"Escape", acrylic on paper, 12"x12"

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Art Retreat Week!

Rarely do I have my house to myself.  In fact, in the 20+ years since my sons have been born, I have never had my house all to myself for an entire day.  Imagine my delight when my husband decided to go hiking with his friends for a week, at the same time my sons decided to take a trip to CA to visit their grandma!  Oh heaven!

I recently learned when my husband disappears for his rare trip to visit friends that I should use that period for focused art time.  At first I called it my art bootcamp, but that has morphed into the much friendlier (and more leisurely) art retreat week.  I start by entirely clearing my calendar for the week. With the exception of my morning trips to my dance class, I do not leave the house.  I also get all my food prepped as much as possible for the week, so I can have healthy things handy without giving it the slightest bit of time or thought.  One of my favorite things to do is make my salads ahead of time, so they are crisped and ready to dump in a bowl.  Add some chicken for lunch, and turn them into taco salads for dinner.  Done.  No food planning whatsoever!

I made a list of projects I want to work on with painting planned for my more energetic mornings and stitching for later in the day. I also made a list of art-related things that I've wanted to read, watch or listen to that I never seem to get around to.  I have a list of websites to browse, art documentaries on Netflix, old art magazines I want to revisit.  And that will be my week.  My idea of heaven!

And I finished stitching my August 2017 project.  This has not been my favorite palette, so I'm eager to start moving into deeper fall colors.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Starting with a Plan

I've been playing with my little series of black and white vessel paintings.  I don't usually start with such a concrete theme and am still figuring out if I like doing that or not.  It did give me a starting point as I roughly sketched out all sorts of vessel shapes in black and white.

 I allowed myself the freedom to let go of that initial shape if I wanted to.  After some playful early painting, I found myself stuck.  It was really hard not to start painting around that initial shape and hang onto it. It felt limiting.  

About 5 of the 10 pieces are starting to near completion.  Here's one I was happy with that did work very closely with the vessel shape.

"Handmade", 11x11", acrylic on paper

And my favorite painting so far completely let go of it.  I can only see hints of the bowl shape when I turn this upside down.

"Solo Expedition," 11x11", acrylic on paper

So the jury is still out if I prefer a starting point or would rather jump in with abstract marks.