I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many postive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleaure. 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, August 29, 2014

Creative Chaos as a Starting Point in Paint

Most of us are uncomfortable with chaos...we much prefer the ordered, the organized and the expected.  A chaotic assembly or gathering makes me head to the exit or stifle a scream; chaotic jazz music sets my teeth on edge; staring at Jackson Pollock's chaotic drips and massive spills of color make me feel as if the world is closing in on me.

So you can imagine my sense of distress when Andy Braitman's latest workshop was a continuation of exploring the role of chaos in art.  I was so hoping we could slide on by this chapter!

Remember those chaotic beginnings I shared where we mixed oil and water and literally threw them on a canvas creating spatters of different colors?

Here is an initial mix of darks and thrown-on oil spatters.  (I believe I turned it counter clockwise once to start on it.)  I must have spent hours waiting for some "order" to emerge from this mess.

So here is a pass at trying to decide which parts of the chaos are actually interesting and which parts need to be covered up or disguised in some way.
And here is yet another iteration of same piece...still not complete, there is too much sameness on the right hand side but each layer has to dry or at least become tacky before I can go back to work on it again.

So what is the point of this?  It is multi-fold according to Guru Braitman.  When we start when no end in mind we should (theoretically) approach the canvas with a playful spirit.  Too often we (I) am paralyzed by an empty space, anxious that those first marks we make will not be 'perfect' or usable.  Laying down interesting dark shapes and transparent colors and then brightening them with textures and splashes supposedly loosens us up to enormous possibilities we may not have seen before.  There is also the "interesting" factor.  When you look closely at the water above you will see almost to the bottom of the lake: lots of color, reflections, ripples, things I may have been too timid to add at the last sweep for fear of messing up my "perfect" water.

 Loosening up was not easy for me....throwing expensive paint with no idea of what I would do with it?  Play?  This was a difficult concept to get into and I found myself trying to circumvent the routine or second guess where I was going.  Ultimately that proved useless and after a while I was able to lay out a bunch of white, gessoed boards and just get into it.

Did I enjoy the play or decide it was fun?
Sorta ... I think a few more rounds and I might relax enough to let down my guard and throw all I have into it....

 Here's my effort at bringing the above chaos into
an interesting sense of order.

Poor lonely tree called out for some
company as well as a notation
that it was in the foreground.

Please note that these photos are not true to the piece....I was quickly documenting the process for my own notes so did not take the time to make color adjustments or eliminate glare.  I'm liking the composition of this more, however I think the two additional trees feel a tad scrawny compared to the larger one.  That adjustment is relatively easy to make.  The foreground blue bonnets are not as massive as the photo makes them out to be (blue seems to scream when photographed non-professionally). So I think with a little trunk work and growth the additional trees can easily carry the viewer up and to the right while balancing the interesting effect of the gold bank on the right bottom.

So where would you go with this piece?  Is there an interesting section you would
want to attempt to save?

I'm going to continue to explore this concept and do more work on the two pieces I have shared. Hopefully I will have finished paintings to post (and decent photographs!) and additional thoughts on the benefits of starting with chaos.  This learning curve just never seems to plateau!

Chaotically Colorful,

Friday, August 22, 2014

Azule Residency Five Star Experience


Finding how NOT to proceed is as critical as proceeding

The days following a "retreat" are almost more work than the experience itself.  Unpacking your brain of a zillion new ideas, organizing your thoughts into subject files, rehashing pages of notes and drawings, trying to remember that brilliant scheme that came in a dream or was it during a hike?  All of that is much more exhausting and time consuming than actually going through the delightful day to day routine of no-routine and total dedication to your craft.

Such are my musings after returning from a wonderful 4 days spent with my sister and co-collaborator at AZULE located off the beaten path in Grassy Creek, NC just outside of Hot Springs.  

If you closely on the left middle floor you can see the outline of the original
log cabin Camille and her husband homesteaded in.  She continues, in her seventies,
to dream up projects to add onto the "compound."

What did we accomplish during our artistic residency?  Weeeell.  As Edison was fond of saying, "We discovered 99 ways not to make a light bulb."

Our original intent had been to explore our childhood as fodder for a poetry/art collaboration.  We spent many a chuckle-filled hour revisiting those years and playing the "but do you remember...." game.  However after thrashing and hashing our early years, my word-smith sis admitted that nothing grabbed her senses as intense enough to eulogize.  My visuals were equally uninspiring.  So we then morphed into a long discussion about technique and approach: using 'we' or 'I', feelings now or then, calls and answers or just two unrelated bodies of work, large or small, ....see the problems here?  So much more to decide than first meets the eye.

Amy found a comfortable niche by the front door.  Camille made all the stained glass windows
herself after gathering all the glass from a manufacturers dump site.

We hiked, we sweated, we sat and stared, we dabbled in our craft hoping the muse would take over, we revisited every possibility and we took stabs at producing.

I liked the table under the skylight where the old cabin featured a 
porch that eventually was closed in.  The furniture was crafted by the
husband of a board member.

Sister Poet was in a slight Panic.  Sister Artist said "been there done that."  Both sisters stared like deer in headlights when asked to "share" our progress with the crew on site that evening.  Ah, well, advised the elder, we share our conundrum, we throw it out to the universe of willing listeners and see what comes back.

And here is the glory of Azule: they understood.  no judgement, no disappointment.  A discussion of ways the project could go, a few "have you ever's," and much sympathy for the valley we were in.  Along with a huge dose of faith that we would, we could, climb out!

The common room ready for relaxing, discussions, or reading from the
extensive library.  The kitchen is communal and can be seen
behind the alcove with the round cut out.

Which is the pervasive attitude around Azule: it can and will be done.  We were surrounded by interesting unfinished projects just waiting for the right crafts person to show up.  Camille proudly showed us the difference in the work done by a "finish carpenter" who made amazing fits of things into odd places with an elegance befitting a five star hotel and then turned to contrast that with a woodworker who loved raw edges and did much interior siding which left the bark exposed with a rippled edge.  Both gorgeous and somehow both appropriate side by side here.

Here you can get a sense of the creativity and whimsy of the place.  Camille asked that this '47 Chevy be thrown in when they finally bought the place.  She envisioned it as you see it now warding off any bad "ju ju" blowing in from "Troublesome Gap" off to the left.  
She laughs that some large estates have magnificent rearing horse sculptures to do
the same thing but so far the Chevy has worked fine for Azule.

Camille is an inspirational jewel but she has gathered together an incredibly hard working and dedicated board of directors. We met several while there and they displayed no end of creative ingenuity in progressing the ideals of a gathering place for artists to nurture themselves and each other.  The day before we departed a hearty group of Davidson University students were on site to learn the craft of stone walling.  This eager bunch of laborers were not only building a retention wall for a camping site but they were learning how to move 60 and 80 pound boulders and lift them into place while chipping the smaller pieces to fit inside.  Of course the stone mason was a friend of Azules who fed his hogs with the recycled food scraps saved from our kitchen.  And who, BTW, will be teaching a fall class on how to slaughter, butcher and put up the hog. See how this works?

I hope this is not my last experience with Azule...it is nearly impossible to explain all it has to offer.  Yes, the accommodations are "basic" and yes, you cook your own meals.  But what a small price to pay for a lifetime of inspiration.  Just email me your questions or go on-line if this tempts you in the least.  I can assure you they would love to have you come be a part of what they are building.

Oh...and with a little bit of time and luck I hope to be sharing some fruits of our labors in the not too distance future!

Art Fully Yours,

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Gallery in Your Home

Have you noticed?  Gallery Walls are trending big time!  Yes, they are "back," not that all of us abandoned them the last decade but what is old is once again NEW and if you need further proof just search for "gallery walls" on www.Houzz.com or www.pinterest.com.  Really good news for those of us who love to collect and any of you professing "to be out of wall space."

Very simply a gallery wall is a place you hang multiple pieces of art as opposed to one large piece.  There are many categories of such including a "theme wall" (everything related to a specific topic such as horses), a "symmetrical wall" (using the same size and style of frame in multiples, evenly laid out), the "collection wall" (sort of a scrapbook of art, 3d items, letters, clocks etc.) and the new "around the black hole" wall (a way to help the flatscreen tv wall take on new life).

My favorite of course is the collection wall as I love to take my time viewing such a presentation and piecing together the story it tells about the person(s) who hung it.  The symmetrical wall is a fav of decorators and tends to be more formal. (See presentations of botanical prints hung equi-distance apart).  Either way I encourage you, right this minute, to start planning your own gallery wall....if you never took yours down then why not freshen it up a bit.

I won't waste the space here telling you how to perfectly plan and hang your design.  There are many sites on-line with helpful how-tos in making paper templates with guide lines and taping them up to check the layout.  This assumes you have all your pieces collected and ready to go...which is brilliant.

Here is a simple gallery to get you started.  Four pieces actually.  They are not as uncentered as they appear in the photo but I like the addition of table pieces added to the mix of the art on the wall.  Easy enough.

This is my hallway...we traverse it a million times a day as does anyone entering our home.  And it IS as off-centered as it appears.  Why?  Because it is constantly growing!  The wall started as a collection of pear art done by friends.  They were all lined up and neatly hung in a row -  I felt like I was visiting with the artists every time I walked by. But after a few years I had pieces that were not pears and I started moving things around a bit.

I like the way it is growing: different styles, different frames and notice the 3D sneaking in.  This is the happiest wall in my home because I know every single artist and love them dearly.  My life is not all organized and measured and neat as a pin, and I think this wall pretty much shares that.  Who knows what we will add next?

I already hear the practical of you  moaning about too many holes in the wall.  Well, we have discussed that and know that some day, when the mood strikes and the collection grows, we will "frame out" the space with white molding and paint the interior with a close (impossible to match) new coat of paint...after plugging the holes.  And then we start again.

There is no need to cease buying art (did you know I have some hung for viewing in my closet?)...just get creative in hanging it.  This wall may never make it past Interior Design 101 but if it makes us smile it is well worth every single off centered nail hole!

Here's one hot off the easel....something most coastal dwellers paint often....but my first ever:

Rolling In
24 x 12, oil on gallery wrapped canvas
needs no frame

In Living Color,

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Road to Collaboration

This is a work in progress...(taking a photo really helps to pick out the spots that need attention).  I share it because of the road...I love photographing and painting roads and I am certain there is something very revealing about my personality in that.  Most of the roads I paint head off in some windy direction to who knows where?  Yep, that is a great description of the path I am on these days...following the road, to...who knows where.

Here's the latest jaunt.  After one too many glasses of wine my sister and I made a commitment to do a collaborative project; she would write her fabulous poetry and I would paint.  Well, we both like to travel so why not get a trip out of it....one thing lead to another and we landed a residency at "Azule" just outside of Hot Springs, NC.  Please check out their site but most of all give yourself a ten minute treat and watch this video about the place.

Now of course we had to have a creative proposal to present to the selection board so I tossed out the idea of childhood memories and my multi-talented sis ran with it.  In beautiful lawyer language she explained how we would be working from the: 13 pieces that constitute Robert Schumann's Kinderszenen for piano (Scenes from Childhood), Op. 15 (1838) which showcase their creator's musical imagination at the peak of its poetic clarity.  

You can listen to Kinderszenen here played by Horowitz.

Each movement has a title such as "An Important Event," "Pleading Child," "Dreaming," and "Almost Too Serious."  We will somehow end up with 13 creative pieces, 6 from her, 6 by me and one we do together...I believe.  I have been trying not to think about the proposal so that my approach will be fresh and off the cuff and not over-thought as I am wont to do.  Actually, I am a bit timid to even go back to my childhood and reveal for all the world to see what a crummy older sister I was.  Ahem....

Anyhoo. she mesmerized the committee and this Monday we leave for 4 days away from the world to listen to the music (did I mention that my sister will be playing the movements on the piano they have in the listening/dancing room?).  We will recall our shared past while looking for visual and poetic threads with which to weave a collaborative project.  Somehow it seems more daunting in the light of day than when we first noodled around with the idea!

So I will be following that yellow brick road once again with absolutely no idea where it will lead the two of us.  I anticipate a lot of fun (like I said, watch the video!!) as we work our way around the "compound" finding the perfect mix of solitude, inspiration, networking and creation.  I'll look forward to sharing the results with you...

Meanwhile, look out for new and interesting paths....

ART Fully yours,


Friday, August 1, 2014

Flowing Down Stream....

....more notes from a workshop
Andy Braitman had nudged us to begin a painting in a new way, with no regard as to what it might eventually become!  We threw paint onto a dark shape and played with spatters.  We limited our palette and mixed oil and water.  I was not totally comfortable with this lack of structure and I doubted as to whether I would ever do this again.

All I could see was a goat, or perhaps a white unicorn and I was certain I had wasted not only a great deal of paint but a lot of time as well.  Then he challenged us to "find" some interesting parts (of the mess) to "save" as we looked for a subject somewhere in the chaos and energy of the canvas.

I studied the results for days, turning the canvas around each morning with my coffee.  Slowly I began to "see" one of my very favorite subjects: rocks in a stream.  

Little by little I began picking out the stones and rocks with additional paint.  As I studied what was emerging I realized that the painting was much too "cold" and needed some "warmth."

My little stream was starting to take shape even as I tried to preserve a lot of the energy and movement of my earlier work.  Here, the white paint seems a bit sterile and a tad contrived.  So I set it aside to ponder before continuing.

Down Stream
18 x 24, oil on canvas

At the risk of overworking the experiment, I am finally calling it done.  Will I try this again?  Never say never, ever!  It does force you to pull out all the lessons you have learned about painting since there is no reference photo to guide you along.  Stay tuned.

MEANWHILE.....  lend me your thoughts.  I am at the very early stages of a possible series for a gallery under the theme of "Sanctuary."  Do you have a 'sanctuary' or an oasis or a place that calms your heart and fills your soul?  How do you define the word and what do you picture when you think of it?

I would so love your input....regardless of whether it is an ideal painting in your mind.  Please take a moment to think on this and share with me your thoughts.  There is a lot of planning involved in a series that evokes feeling and I hope you can help me put this all together.

thanks a heap.  I remain

Friday, July 18, 2014

Failing is an Art

Last week I gave myself permission to play...play to learn, play to move forward, play to try new things. This week I have been thinking about the permission to fail.  Permission to fail means not always taking the same route home, it is permission to get lost and perhaps, just perhaps discover something new. (It could mean being lost for hours and needing to call for help.)

This has been a hot topic amongst the members of my creative think-tank/inspirants lately.  We have all been facing mountains and have had to decide whether to go big or go home.  Sharing this discussion with like minded artisans has been helpful.  My favorite phrase of the week was coined by Patti the Potter: audacious failure.  She decided that if she ran the risk of failing, then please o please let it be big and audacious; let the failure count for something.  In other words, even the act of failing can be an art.  Savor that thought with your morning coffee.

So, oops, where was I?  Here's an audacious failure:

This is a detail of what happens when you do not allow gesso to dry more than 24 hours!  In a hurry for the workshop I covered the canvas with two layers of gesso and set to work on it 18 hours later.  We were in the middle of layer after layer when instructor Andy Braitman had us mixing oil and WATER and throwing it on.  The water gave me away!  it seeped under the gesso and bubbled up detaching large swatches from the canvas.  Andy barely blinked....pull it back he instructed, open up the bubbles and let it dry.  oh yuck.

This was my canvas after it fully dried: a failure for sure.  Not only was the canvas showing, I had huge peels of gesso rippled all over the place and the water had washed away all of my vibrant color.  Again, the master shrugged, "you can work with it."  I had to push the "audacious failure" button on my mindset.

We were to see something in our beginnings and let the joy sing.  Many cups of coffee and all I could see was this mocking white goat or a unicorn if I were so inclined.  Not my genre.  Turning the canvas each morning I tried some more.  Hey? what did I have to lose?  that's the great part about failing audaciously...as a learning piece there is always more to gain.

Here we go, it is a start and I was hoping to have more to show you but I could not add another layer until this portion dries (learned that lesson the hard way...).  Do you see anything emerging?  Can you see that I really, really wanted to save that interesting turquoise blob slightly to the left of center?  I had to commit to "using" the folded gesso and eliminating some of the fascinating spatters to get this far.  More sacrifice ahead but also more additions.  I hope you can see what I see....if not stay tuned.  Going big or going home!

I leave you with a finished piece.  I seem to have sand dunes on my mind.

Summer Walk
24" x 30", oil on canvas

Enjoy your weekend.  I wish for you the comfort of friends who not only allow, but encourage, you to fail and fail audaciously!  

Boldly yours,