Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 2016 Wrap Up Post

Lyle and Shirley Throw a Party
11" x 14" collage/painted papers

Left Field
11" x 14" Collage/Painted papers
(not available)

What it Takes
20" x 24" collage/painted papers

14" x 18" collage/painted papers
This last month I celebrated my 46th birthday. I am happy to say that I am still here and even happier to say that I have some artwork to share! Here goes!

New Work:

Lyle and Shirley Throw a Party: This piece started out with just one large shape. As I started to add shapes I began to think about a book I had as a child called Lyle and The Birthday Party. Things morphed from there and I hope that the resulting collage gives a sort of playful and festive feeling.

Left Field: April is not only my birthday month but is the start of baseball season. While I am not a big watcher of the game, my husband certainly is. Baseball, at the beginning of the season, always makes me think of green fields, crisp white uniforms, and balls rotating through the air! Inspiration certainly comes from many places.

What it Takes: All things agricultural continue to be of interest to me. For this piece I considered some of the machinery that is associated with water used for irrigation of crops. I also wanted to include some very simple images of buildings and fields. I hope the resulting piece both references agricultural elements and reads as a fun design.

Meander: When I was a kid the color combination of pink and green was very popular. I decided to use those colors for this piece. I hope that the more organic dark pink shapes blend well with the more geometric rectangles and circles.

Collage and Process:

It's good when people are looking out for you! My artist friend Julie Ford Oliver suggested to me that I clarify the type of artwork that I make. Many people may not realize that these pieces are cut paper collages and not traditional paintings. This link here to the work of Henri Matisse provides a great explanation of the materials and the process.

For my work, I start with hand painted papers. I use artist grade acrylic paint to paint sheets of construction paper. Colors are selected to create a feeling that I have about my subject matter. I try for a range of light and dark hues and for colors that are bright and for colors that are a little more subdued. Very often I have no idea how things will turn out! I next begin to cut out my shapes using small, sharp scissors. Using scissors to cut the shapes helps me to get a very "clean" edge which is something that I find incredibly appealing. I then use artist grade glue to apply the paper to the board. The whole process is akin to using a brush to apply paint to a canvas. It's really just like painting. 

The resulting pieces can be considered as collages. Per my friend's great suggestion, I have updated my website to more strongly emphasize the term "collage" in my work. I have also changed the labels for this blog and have updated the language here as well. Thank you Julie!

***artist grade materials are those that are considered to be archival, of the highest quality and consistency, and are recommended for use by professional artists (my definition). I try to make quality work both with my materials and with my presentation. 

New Class:
Lastly I'd like to mention that I will be teaching a new class at ACME Art in Mokelumne Hill, May 13th and 20th. This is an outdoor sketch class designed to help intermediate sketchers get back into the swing of things if they have taken a break from sketching. I have some suggestions for how to add writing to your sketches as well as some basic tips on composition. Please join me for a fun morning if you can by signing up with ACME directly on the link given above.

Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting. I appreciate the continued support. Here is to a great new month!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Work: Title Suggestion?

What It Takes
20" x 24" collage on board
New Work:
After arriving back home from vacation, I couldn't wait to get started on some new ideas. After a pile of laundry and sending the husband back to work, I got into the studio. I had a hard time starting though. I then recalled something I had seen earlier on. A while back I watched a video clip about Jon Imber, the late painter. At one point he is outside painting and facing a blank canvas. He is looking at the ocean and he says, "OK now, let's start with a yellow kayak." Or something to that effect. He just needed to get something down to get started and I wholeheartedly understand that idea. So that is just what I did. I got my yellow kayak onto the paper!

The above piece is something I really like. I chose colors that for me are representative of farming: blue for water, green for crops, and brown (red-orange) for dirt. I used the idea of a barn being red (local color) and I made the sun yellow. Why not? I have to laugh also because my little symbolic shapes are just so me. Diatomaceous filters (those are the shapes in the lower left corner)? There is a piece of equipment that tills the field and I included these cement towers that have something to do with irrigation. I see them in many of the fields that I pass by. And of course, I included an above ground pump. I hope it reads as a good design because I am afraid it is like the child that only a mother could love!

In Other News:
Over vacation, I received a rejection email from a show that I had entered. This is nearly it for me. I pay for all of my own art supplies and other art related things. I am not sure that I need to spend money to understand that my art doesn't fit in with the rest of the pieces selected for the show. (I get that all of the pieces need to fit together somehow.) And I am not sure that I want to help fund the show that I won't be in. And I don't buy that I paid for someone's time. Forget it and I am not just being bitter but trying to be practical and reasonable. I'd like the most bang for my buck is all I am saying. OK, all done.

OK, I am open to discussion on the title of the above piece. Any better suggestions?
Thanks for reading and commenting,

Friday, April 22, 2016

Vacation Photos: Hoover Dam, Zion Park and Snow Canyon Park, Utah

Lake Mead

Powerhouse Floor design

Hoover Dam

Colorado River exiting Hoover Dam

Intake Tower
On the way out of Nevada towards southern Utah

Zion National Park/Virgin River

Snow Canyon State Park-Pinyon Trail

Rich and I have been on vacation this week so there is no new artwork. However, I thought I could share some of the photos that I took instead.

We visited Hoover Dam in Nevada and then drove on to southern Utah (St. George area) to hike at Zion National Park. I had read so much about the dam, the Colorado River and all things connected that I wanted to see those things in person. 

The first couple of shots show some highlights of the dam. I am very fearful of heights and so the image of the dam is taken from a distance out on the observation deck. Hoover Dam was constructed during the thirties and opened to the public in 1936. At the time, its construction was considered to be a modern marvel. It still is a great wonder and when you see it, it's impossible to take in the enormity of what the dam really does. I am showing a picture of a portion of Lake Mead which is the reservoir created by the dam. The other picture shows a bit of the Colorado River. The Colorado River is enormous and its drainage basin covers seven US states and two Mexican states. The dam provides electrical power for a number of huge areas. The structure is also meant to provide flood control, water for drinking and irrigation and recreation. All I could think about when I saw everything was how on Earth could anyone imagine building such a structure? The goal was to harness and tame the Colorado River, providing much needed resources for a burgeoning and out of control population growth. The whole thing is very difficult to take in. I enjoyed the tour though quite a bit. During the tour you are forced through a series of points in order to get to the final destination which is the top of the dam. (You walk or drive across it, honestly.) The whole process is very ordered and it wasn't lost on me that it is similar to what happens to the water of the river. It too is forced through some well regulated points in order to arrive at its various destinations. Truly something.

After the dam we drove on to Utah, passing out of Nevada and spending a few brief minutes in Arizona before arriving in St. George, Utah. Much of Nevada is just a vast expanse of flat land surrounded by distant mesas and pointy mountains. That route we took leads through the Virgin River Gorge which is spectacular. The Virgin River flows to Lake Mead and has suffered from the drought, much like the rest of the west, and its flow is greatly diminished. 

Southern Utah is beautiful and the landscape could not have been more different than what I am used to seeing. We have red dirt here of course but not like Utah. The mountains here are completely different: mesas, craggy peaks and rounded, lave flow like forms are all very common. The formations are all different colors too due to the different strata of rocks and other materials deposited over the course of time. We went to Zion Park to go hiking. I have never been in a river canyon before quite like this one. It's long and narrow and you get a real sense of this when you are either up high or down on the canyon floor. The Virgin River flows here too and I was able to put my hand into the water to feel just how cold it really is. 

After Zion we went to Snow Canyon State Park. It's part of a larger park system. This section was very accessible and couldn't have been more different from Zion. Lots of lava flows, black and red rock formations, and huge cliffs that were creamy beige and golden yellow in color. It is Spring time now and so there was quite a bit of greenery.  Of the two parks I enjoyed this one the most I think. Very quiet and we were alone much of the time. 

Prior to the trip, a few people were nice enough to wonder aloud to me about how this trip might influence my art. Truthfully, I don't really know. You would think that the influence would come via color usage or direct imagery. Those things are possible but I won't know for awhile I guess. For now, the memories and photos are enough to enjoy.

Hope everyone has had a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Work: Left Field

Left Field
11" x 14" painted collage

The thing I like best about painting is also the thing that is the hardest for me to tolerate: uncertainty. Uncertainty brings surprises. Surprises can be good or bad. It's this not knowing which will show up, the good or bad, that creates a kind of tension. The tension is physical for the painter as well as descriptive of what happens on the paper or canvas. Being in this state though is where some really wonderful things can happen. Things that make you say, "Gee I would have never thought to do that but look how well it works!" It's this sort of stuff, this tension between knowing and not knowing, that keeps me motivated when painting; this unexpectedness that results in something new and wonderful. 

It's hard to remember this though when starting a new piece. It is for me at least. I tend to come up empty in the confidence department and have to remind myself that in the past, I have done some work that makes me happy. It's a fair bet I can do it again. I also have to accept that I might fail and that failing is just fine too. It's only paper and paint and some time. I don't want to not try. I have the luxury of time and materials right? Why wouldn't I apply that?

The above piece was started with the vaguest of ideas. I have a piece of china that is the same pattern as my mom's china: 

This pattern is called Blue Danube by Royal Doulton. I have always liked it a lot and remember my mom using it during the holidays. The blue and white is so crisp. I originally wanted to combine that crispness of contrast with a kind of totem structure made up of different shapes. Building something and being able to balance the structure visually is of interest to me. I started in with a few shapes and quickly abandoned my idea! I felt I wanted additional colors and to try an allover kind of design instead. Once I headed in that direction I started to be happier. For a long while though I didn't have any ideas in my mind about the piece itself. Telling myself a little story about the shapes while I work is always helpful. It wasn't until about halfway through that I began to see baseball related images. Seeing those images and ideas helped me to keep going and to finish. 

Now, the piece isn't really about anything specific, I admit that. But to me, there is a freshness to things that somehow is tied to the beginning of baseball season. (I don't even watch baseball but Rich does. I like to think I can appreciate the history and lore of the game, however.) The guys play 162 games, give or take, so to me that is an endurance sport. By the end of the summer I can't imagine how they aren't worn out and worn down. Come Spring though, it's a different matter. Spring means renewal and beginnings and a fresh way of seeing things. The colors in this last piece remind me of that so that is my story and I am sticking to it!

Hope everyone is having a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

New Work: Lyle and Shirley Throw a Party

Lyle and Shirley Throw a Party
image size 11" x 14"; painted papers on art board
As a kid I can remember reading storybooks. I inherited quite a few from my brother who is six years older than me. Many of the books pre date my birth year of 1970. The illustrations are dated now of course but the images and the words are still irresistibly charming in their simplicity. There is a real innocence about some of these books that I find to be wonderfully soothing even now. Many years ago my mom collected up what was left of the books and gave them to me. They sit on a shelf in my studio and believe it or not, I look at them fairly often. I find the stories to still be calming and familiar after all of this time. Over the years I have added to the collection with fresh books picked up at library sales or books that I have purchased new.  I find the illustrations to be refreshing and actually helpful in my art practice. 

The piece above wasn't initially inspired by anything. I started with the larger blue green piece on the right hand side. It was already cut into a sort of shape so I simply cleaned it up and trimmed it down to fit the space. That piece prompted other shapes and colors. Several of the shapes had been cut previously as experiments. I decided that now was the time to use them and in they went. Before I knew it, I had a little story going in my head about Lyle. Lyle is the main character in a book from my childhood. The book is titled Lyle and The Birthday Party and was written by Bernard Waber.  It's a lovely little story and as I was working this piece the blue green shape made me think of Lyle (who is a crocodile). I imagined him with one of my favorite contemporary artists, Shirley Jaffe. Together, Lyle and Shirley decide to throw a party. I also experimented with some new acrylic pens by Montana. I made some doodlings on the painted paper and used that for some of the pieces. I didn't really care for writing on the white space though. Give me time I guess.

OK, hope everyone is having a good weekend. Thanks for reading and commenting.


PS-Here is the Lyle story line in a nutshell: Lyle is a crocodile who lives with a family. The little boy of the family has a birthday party and Lyle, normally a fun and generous sort of crocodile, becomes jealous. His jealousy upsets him so much that he becomes ill. Once at the hospital (for humans), Lyle redeems himself by helping the other patients. He feels better and when he gets home, the parents have arranged a surprise birthday party just for him. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

New Work: Meander

14" x 18" Mixed Media
Everything old is new again. This should be the theme of this post. When I was a kid, in the 80's I guess, my mom painted my bedroom pink. We picked out green carpeting to go with everything. Just doing a little research now, I see that those colors were popular during that time, both the neon version and the pastel version. I discarded the color pink some time ago after a stint of working at Baskin and Robbins left me somewhat traumatized! (Our uniforms were a pink polo shirt and brown pants.) Recently though, the color has started to appeal to me again. Go figure!

I say everything old is new again for several reasons. First, those curly bits of bright pink algae are very Matisse right? They are also very quilty! Meander style quilting is one of the most common ways to finish a quilt. Before I stopped with that hobby, I was pretty proficient at overall meander quilting. My hands make those motions naturally because I am a doodler. I used to doodle in school, in meetings at work and certainly while on the phone. So, doodling is what I had in mind when I drew those hot pink shapes. I really wanted to see if more organic shapes could merge and blend with more geometric shapes. Rich didn't care for the colors or the combination of shapes. I am pretty pleased though.

The piece though was difficult for me to put together. I had no plan when I started other than the colors. I had an idea stuck in my head that stymied my progress. Once I abandoned the idea, things started to flow. I learned (again) that contrast is not always about going darker. Sometimes a lighter value is better. Sometimes you need something more chromatic. Sometimes both things are needed. I also learned again about gathering shapes and values to make a larger statement as well as leaving white space to rest the eye upon. I got some good practice too with removing shapes that were already glued down and had dried. It's a little nerve wracking but you deal, do it and keep going. And lastly, I am beginning to see that color itself-pure and simple-is a design element. I hadn't really grasped this before but I found it to be very true for this piece. Sometimes things take awhile to click!

OK, hope the weekend is off to a good start for everyone. I am excited because I have an upcoming trip to UC Davis planned. I love going there-so much learning and earnestness of purpose. It's a very cutting edge sort of place too and I am looking forward to some good people watching as well. 

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March 2016 Wrap Up Post

1. On The Edge
12" x 16" Mixed Media-paint and paper

2. All For One and One For All
24" x 30" Mixed Media-paint and paper

3. Can You Hear Me Now?
11" x 14" Mixed Media-paper and paint

4. Puzzled
11" x 14" Mixed Media-paper and paint

5. At The Gate
11" x 14" Mixed Media-paper and paint

6. Heart's Desire
11" x 14" Mixed Media-Paper and Paint
March is almost over and Spring is definitely here. Our hillsides are dotted with poppies and lupine and other wildflowers. The sun has been out and the weather has been quite beautiful. As we head towards April, I'd like to share the paintings that I have made this month.

New Work: 

1. On The Edge: This piece started as a small paper sketch. I used some new to me color combinations and couldn't be happier with the outcome. In my mind as I was making the piece, I pictured people taking the plunge, making decisions and leaps of faith.

2. All For One and One For All: I have been reading quite a bit about water scarcity and water insecurity. These topics drove me to create this simple piece in which I thought about our society's mutual interdependence both with each other and on water, such a precious resource.

3. Can You Hear Me Now?: The news about our political process makes me cringe. With the upcoming election, I gave some thought to how we relate to each other and how it is apparently OK to engage in name calling and finger pointing on a national stage. My piece was made in response to those ideas.

4. Puzzled: We are all children at heart I hope! I loved puzzles as a kid and apparently still do. Bright colors and fun stripes and shapes were selected to make something that I hope is complex and joyful, just like a puzzle.

5. At The Gate: This started as a study and morphed into a completed painting. I was inspired by a gate painted purple that I see on my drive through the local town of Linden. You never know when an idea for a painting might strike!

6. Heart's Desire: I have been doing a lot of little paper sketches this month. This piece is based on one of those sketches. Believe it or not, that little orange shape was inspired by the containers at Lake Hogan which hold the life vests! To me, their shapes look like people with raised arms and little feet. Crazy but it's the truth!

What's The Story?:

Recently I attended a seminar in Sacramento. The topic was on managing drought in our state. All of the participants were issued tags that stated our names as well as our company affiliations. The man sitting next to me saw that I am an artist and asked me how the seminar (and water in general) relates to my work. I had a hard time answering him at first. I've thought about it since and want to share two things that I learned. The first thing is that when someone shows an interest in something that you are doing, it's a good idea to be able to articulate a meaningful response. This is true regardless of your chosen hobby. The second thing is this: the question provided me with some much needed insight. It's not that the topic of water shows up as a direct translation in my work. In other words, it's not like I was inspired by a reservoir or desalination plant and then painted a direct representation of those things. It's more like my interest provides the fuel for the work. Think of it as putting gas in your car. You need the input to get some output. So, the next time someone asks you why you like to cook or golf or play chess, make sure you have a good answer (the person is interested after all) and make sure you have some clarity on your own response. It really helps!

April is my favorite month and I am looking forward to some fun things this year. I hope everyone will enjoy some beautiful Spring weather. Thanks for reading and following along.