Monday, June 27, 2011

Spaniel Collage Finished

11x14 inches, paper collage on fiberboard

The paper collage of a friend's Brittany spaniel is finally finished.  I wanted to capture the animal's expression, but also to use materials that make the viewer want to stop and look closely.  There are all sorts of vintage papers here, old receipts, pages from a vintage dictionary, cancelled stamps, a Wisconsin map, Japanese rice paper, even bits from a local telephone book.  Click on the image to see details more clearly.

I tried something new for my collage work.  Instead of using 140 watercolor paper and doing a complementary under painting, I did a quick painting in local colors on medium density fiberboard, then used gel medium to add papers over the painting.  I like the effect and the way I could keep adding torn and cut papers without buckling the support.

Now I can move on to another project.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Great Day for Berries, and a Poem

This morning we hiked downtown for the local farmers market.  Saturdays so far this season have been cloudy, cool, rainy, or all three, but not today. Today is clear and sunny, and promises to be warmer than the week was.

Our market is a relative newcomer, smaller than the one in neighboring city Beloit, and certainly not in the league of the venerable Madison markets.  But this one has the charm of being close enough to walk to, and I like seeing people I know, and getting tips on what's good.  Today a retired teacher friend sang the praises of a vender's organic beef, and early season cauliflower.

We were in search of fresh strawberries, cheese curds, fresh bread, and Kettle Corn. I wanted some strong coffee too, since ours at home tends to be on the weak side.  How did I get through my life so far without kettle corn?  The combination of salty and sweet is irresistible to me, and apparently to lots of others as well, based on how many bags I saw being carried around.

There were several vendors with strawberries, but we tend to favor the folks at Skelly's Market.  Today one of the ladies was there to show off a huge and weirdly shaped berry.  She took time to explain to a disappointed buyer that their berry pies from the farm are flying off the shelves so quickly that they didn't have enough to send to the downtown market.  We took home a pint of warm strawberries, and could smell the scent of all the way back to our house.

I found this poem on my Poetry Foundation app last night, and liked it well enough to share here. There is as much truth as poetry in these lines. You betcha.

Ode to the Midwest
By Kevin Young

The country I come from
Is called the Midwest

—Bob Dylan

I want to be doused
in cheese

& fried. I want
to wander

the aisles, my heart's
supermarket stocked high

as cholesterol. I want to die
wearing a sweatsuit—

I want to live
forever in a Christmas sweater,

a teddy bear nursing
off the front. I want to write

a check in the express lane.
I want to scrape

my driveway clean

myself, early, before
anyone's awake—

that'll put em to shame—
I want to see what the sun

sees before it tells
the snow to go. I want to be

the only black person I know.

I want to throw
out my back & not

complain about it.
I wanta drive

two blocks. Why walk—

I want love, n stuff—

I want to cut
my sutures myself.

I want to jog
down to the river

& make it my bed—

I want to walk
its muddy banks

& make me a withdrawal.

I tried jumping in,
found it frozen—

I'll go home, I guess,
to my rooms where the moon

changes & shines
like television.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Collage Work in Progress

Unfinished projects - don't like 'em.  I started this collage version of a friend's pet dog over a month ago, and it sat on top of the DVD player in my little studio making me feel guilty.  This week I decided to push the pup further toward completion, although I still have a large painting to finish for a local gallery.  I've shown this work in progress to a couple people, with a lukewarm response.  I don't know - the vintage papers, and bright colors appeal to me.  He's not finished.  His right eye is only painted; no paper has been applied yet, and I want to fine tune the straight lines on his forehead.  He needs a suggestion of whiskers as well.  I hope he gets a warmer response when he's finished.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday Evening Figure Drawing

Monday evening's figure drawing model

Three years ago I started seeking out figure drawing studio sessions so that I could improve my ability to draw and paint from direct observation.  The first year I drove 40 miles to Madison, and took a class at the university.  It was good, a nice group, helpful instructor.  My problem was the timing - 7-10:00 PM.  With an hour drive each way, I found myself being very tired driving home, which sometimes was downright frightening.  So, I asked around and discovered the group I have been working with at UW Whitewater on Monday evenings.

The Whitewater studio group meets earlier - 5:30 - 8:30 PM in the summer, which works better for me.  It's also a shorter drive than to Madison.  This group has a small core of people who have been drawing together for a long some, some of them since the 1970s.  Some are local, while others drive in from area towns, and occasionally a university student or staff member joins us.  People are very welcoming, and everyone has his or her own way of working.  Some use draw media, graphite, pastels, charcoal, while others paint.

Some sit to work, other stand.  There are easels, and there are a couple tables.  The university has a studio with a raised platform and theatrical lights, though recently several of the lights are out of order. There never seems to be anyone else around to ask for help in the summer, though it is a bit easier during the academic year.

During the session we play music, and the atmosphere is relaxed.  We have both male and female models, some clothed, many not.  But there is always a feeling of camaraderie, a refreshing lack of competition among the people who show up to work. The cost is very reasonable, $5.00 per session.

If anyone in the area want to join in, let me know and I will get more details to you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Virtual Paintout: New Zealand

5x7 inches, acrylic on paper

I took a break from ravens this afternoon to participate in this month's Virtual Paintout.  I realized once I virtually "drove" all over the southern island, that (1) lots of the country is very rural, (2) most of the coastal areas get lots of rain, clouds, and fog while the interior is sunnier, and (3)  there are vast areas that are much flatter than I ever imagined.  I had some sort of Hobbit-land in my mind when I went searching for something to paint.  

I was interested in this month's paintout in particular because I know a little about a fellow reader who lives in Christchurch, where she and her husband have suffered through months of earthquakes, seemingly every week.  I pay attention to the news from there now, which is one good way the internet is bringing people of the world closer together.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Last Raven Study for a While

5x7 inches, acrylic and collage

This is really fun.  I've been reading about ravens in an interesting nonfiction book by Bernd Heinrich called The Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures With Wolf-Birds.  I've been looking at smart and talkative ravens on YouTube, and I've been painting the big black birds on scraps of mat board.

These little mixed media studies are designed to help me decide what to do with a 2x4 foot canvas the owner of Raven's Wish Framing and Gallery gave me.  This canvas is a radical departure. I have a small studio, and a small house, so I tend to work small.  I was tickled today when I took her this last study to learn that someone had already bought the other two.  She has recently reopened at her new location in downtown Janesville, and is still unpacking and arranging her store. I look forward to getting going on the large work for her new showroom.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Another Raven and a Poem

5x7 inches, acrylic and collage on mat board

The weather here has finally decided to play nice.  The sun is shining, the sky is blue with only a few clouds, the breeze is comfortable.  No fierce winds, no pounding rain, no sauna-like heat and humidity.  I have a high school friend coming to visit, and a figure drawing studio this evening.  The world looks a little better today.

I've been reading a book of poetry by Linda Pastan called Traveling Light.  I got it from out library, but may need a copy for myself.  She speaks to me in the same way that Mary Oliver does, about nature, family, thoughts of mortality.  I thought I'd save one before I return the volume.

After a Month of Rain
by Linda Pastan

Everything I thought I wanted
is right here,
particularly when the sun
is making such a comeback,

and the lilac engorged
with purple has recovered
from its severe pruning,
and you will be back soon

to dispel whatever it is
that overtakes me like leaf blight,
even on a day like this.  I can still
hear the remnants of rain

in the swollen stream
beyond the house, in the faint
dripping under the eves,
persistent as memory.

And all the things I didn't think
I wanted, cut like the lilac back
to the root, push up again
from underground.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Life Lessons: Humbled

5x7 inches, acrylic and collage on mat board
In mythology Raven is often seen as either a Creator figure, or a Trickster

Sometimes the universe sends you a message.  Get over yourself.  

I work pretty steadily on my art, but try to balance the time and psychic energy I spend on it with time and energy spent on my family and friends, my health, and upkeep of our house.  OK, so the housework has suffered.  And I occasionally think that just because I participate in a show, occasionally am recognized for my work, I will get my ego fed every time.  It ain't so.

Much of the winter I worked away at painting  a series of miniatures based on vintage family photos, and I liked the results.  After I was invited to put them in a Door County gallery I decided to drive 200 miles north to attend the opening of the show (and visit relatives).  First I couldn't find my little paintings, then I realized that the gallery owner had placed them in the entryway facing in, so the only time they can be seen is when customers are headed out the door.  In addition on the day of the reception she stood in the entry greetings people and having friendly conversations with people she already knew.  That wasn't me.  I introduced myself, but had the distinct impression that an impression hadn't been made.

This spring I decided I wanted to improve me skills in direct observation, and also wanted to lose some of my fear of people coming up to me to talk when I work outside in public.  So, I bought a second hand French easel for working outside.  Practiced with it.  Upgraded my collection of acrylic paints and brushes, and went to work at painting en plein air.  I cleared my obligations for the week of the plein air event in Beloit, paid the entry fee, and drove there and back about eight times.  The weather was challenging windy and hot, but I persevered and came up with two paintings done is a simple and bright style that I thought was eye-catching, had them framed, and entered them in the show.  I was told the show's sponsors wanted to meet the artists, to come early.  I did.  I never figured out who the sponsors were, so I didn't introduce myself to any of them.  When I saw the obviously professional quality of many of the other paintings I knew my goose was cooked.  It was.  Well done.  When the judges got up to explain their choices I didn't disagree that mine were not among the best.  They weren't.  But I couldn't see why some other paintings, some drop-dead gorgeous, were ignored.  So, not only my artistic skill, but my judgement was called into real question.  I did enjoy a glass of wine and some tasty appetizers, and I did sit and chat with some other artist friends. Looking for the silver lining here.

To be clear, I paint because it challenges me.  I paint because I enjoy painting.  I paint because it keeps my mind and heart engaged in the pursuit of interesting and beautiful things.  I paint because it is fun. But sometimes I just feel like a retired lady who paints as a hobby, and that isn't so fun. In my heart my art is more than a hobby. I don't have to win a prize every time, or sell every painting.  But I'd sort of like to be able to pay for my materials, and sort of like to be valued as a creative person.

It's a nice day.  Maybe I'll grab a paint brush and work on staining the deck.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Edge of the Rock Plein Air Entries

11x14 inches, acrylic on canvas

Later today I am headed back to Beloit for an artists' reception for the plein air event that is wrapping up today.  We get to meet the sponsors, vote for a "people's choice" award, and hear who won the purchase award prizes. After that the paintings will be displayed for sale for a month, with a commission on any sales going to the Friends of Riverfront, who organizes the event.

It was an interesting week.  Thee weather presented real challenges.  The day I painted this tree it was sunny and nice enough, but the wind buffeted my easel, the palette, my hat.  The acrylic paint I brought dried almost immediately, event though I misted it over and over.  Still, I was happy enough with my "Fauve" tree. The shape was simplified, the colors exaggerated. 

11x14 inches, acrylic

Later in the week I decided to try another view of the park, this time featuring more trees and a bit of downtown Beloit in the distance.  Once more I went for simplified shapes and intense color choices.  Most of the colors were straight from the tube, or mixed with only a couple colors.  The day I painted this was actually pretty nice, though it was the start of very hot weather that continued until yesterday.  Monday through Wednesday it was in the 90s, and very humid.  I tried painting Wednesday morning, but gave up at noon and returned home to my air conditioning with little completed.  I turned in both completed framed paintings yesterday. 

Whether or not the paintings win awards or sell, I did gain some confidence in painting outdoors.  I have better equipment than before, and a better sense of what I need and what I can get along without. I also have lost some of my initial fear of people casually coming up to chat while I work.  I also enjoyed reading about the Fauve painters, and had fun trying out my interpretation of their painting style, so I count the experience as a success.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Community Mosaic Project Submission

6x6 inches, acrylic on canvas

When I stopped at the Hardy Gallery in Ephraim over Memorial Day weekend, I picked up a little canvas for their 4th annual Community Mosaic Project.   The gallery gives out 300 little canvases to whomever wants to participate,  then when the finished miniature paintings are returned, they are assembled into a huge mosaic.  Viewers purchase a number, and at the end receive the painting with the corresponding number.  The trick is that each painting's number is hidden, so that the purchaser doesn't know which painting he or she will receive.  The event is a fundraiser for the popular non-profit gallery. I plan got get mine in the mail today.

The old car in the painting was doe from a photo I took of a rusted out automobile that sits in the grass behind the Edgewood Orchard Gallery.  I took some pictures last summer, thought about painting from them, but then never did.  The small format of this project seemed like a good way to give painting the car a try, and I like how it turned out.  I wanted a subject that might be a little different from barns, flowers, and lighthouses. I hope someone likes it.