Sunday, August 28, 2011

Medley of Music and Art

16x20 inches, acrylic with elements of collage

The Janesville Art League is very lucky to have gallery space available at the Janesville Performing Art Center. Members hang their work there for several weeks, and it can be seen by audiences of a number of performing groups who use the facility.  The Art League recently decided to make each exhibit have a theme, and the first one, which will be hung on Monday, is Medley of Music and Art.  

That's pretty broad, but I realized that I had nothing new to put in the show that fit into the theme's requirement.  I did a watercolor of a fiddler for a Joe Fettingis workshop three years ago, but that painting has been shown several times, and I donated it to a silent auction fundraiser last week.  So, I decided to work on a version of a photo I took at the Madison Farmers Market last fall.  I always carry my camera, and there was a group of ladies all decked out in dresses, fancy flowered hats, and anti-war buttons.  One of the rather large group held a picket sign that read "War is a Racket," and they were singing their hearts out.

I decided to give this subject, singing war protesters, a go.  This is pretty large for me, a 16x20 inch canvas.  I started by ripping up some pages of an old paperback of front pages of New York Times with coverage of several wars.  Then I layered over bright colors that I imagined would be the complements of the main colors I intended to use.  Then came a sketch with charcoal pencil, more acrylic, more layering of prepared collage papers - this time sheet music as well as news coverage.  Then I decided to add some flowers from a calendar for the ladies' hats.  I didn't add their picket sign, but I did include the peace sign necklace that one singer sported that day to suggest the nature of their songs.

The results are bright and decorative.  Not all the figures turned out as well as I hoped, but a couple of the women had the feel I was trying for.  I am rather fond of the two figures in red hats because I enjoy their expressions.  The poor dear on the far left caused me no end of grief, so I minimized her as best I could.  

I'm looking forward to seeing what other people came up with for this show.

Post Script

On Monday I delivered and hung the painting with the others at JPAC.  Another artist looked at the image, and said, "Oh, those are the Raging Grannies." She had also seen them at the Madison farmers market, but told me that the group is international, that there are chapters all over the US and Canada.  They dress up in stereotypical "granny" hats and dresses, then sing about a variety of social justice issues.  I did a Google search and enjoyed reading about their activities highlighting peace and environmental issues around the country.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Just Ducky

The days recently have been glorious here in southern Wisconsin, pleasantly warm, sunny, and not too humid.  So yesterday we took off for a day trip to the Wollersheim Wintery, rode the Merrimac ferry, and saw a wonderfully entertaining flick (8 MM) at Budget Cinema in Madison.  I took lots of pretty pictures of the vineyard and the Wisconsin River, but this was the most surprising and fun sight of the day.  Parked at a strip mall on Odana Road I was this older Toyota, covered all over, fore and aft,  with rubber ducks.  I convinced my husband to slow down and cruise by so I could capture this duck-mobile.  Someday I will have my camera with me when I see the car here in town covered with livestock.  One never knows what shape creativity will take!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Go Figure

I returned to figure drawing studio after taking a couple weeks off for travel, and recovery from travel. Getting over to Whitewater takes about a five hour commitment by the time I pack up, drive there, clean up and drive home again.  Still, I always have a good time, and I am getting fond of the quick draws in particular,  I find that the longer I labor over a drawing the less I enjoy it, and that shows inthe results.  This is an initial five minute pose, done with conte crayon.

I arrived late, so found myself off to the side, with lots of foreshortened views.  Still, I like the challenge.

Our model Linda always poses in yoga outfits, and I find that drawing a clothed model is just as interesting as an undraped one, and perhaps the atmosphere in the room is a bit more relaxed as well.

I spent a little longer on this, though it really doesn't look it, except for the addition of watercolor to the conte crayon.

I asked and got permission to photograph some of her poses.  I figure next winter when I am too chicken to drive over I will have some of a favorite model to use.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Unkindness of Ravens

My raven painting/collage is almost done, which is a good thing since it is larger than our dining room table.  The process has been interesting and fun, and I keep trying to not fall in love with various layers as the images progress, so that I can proceed without guilt.  More than once I thought I liked what I had well enough, but then forged ahead with another layer of acrylic color, or tissue paper, or bits of doily or vintage papers or maps.  Each new layer makes the previous layers recede and become less visible, which sometimes was exciting, and sometimes was distressing. At this point the papers I am adding are black, dark blue or charcoal gray, pages from clothing catalogs or old black and white National Geographic pages, just to suggest texture.  I want the piece to make an impact from a distance, but also be rewarding for anyone who gets up close to really look. 

I wonder why the collective term for a group of ravens is an unkindness?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: The Way West, by A.B. Guthrie, Jr.

In the few years since I retired from teaching I've gotten deeply involved in researching family history, tracing the movements of an extended set of families as they moved westward from North Carolina to Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri, to Oregon, Washington and California.  At the same time my husband and I traveled to Washington and Oregon as tourists, and I took time to locate some of the living people from my family tree, and got some sense of where they lived and what their stories involved.  All that made reading this good book, The Way West, even better.  I would have read the book anyway, since I already liked historical fiction, and have enjoyed most of the Pulitzer prize winners I have tried.  But knowing that some of my ancestors came west over pretty much the same route that Guthrie describes here made me all the more interested.

This well-researched novel tells the story of the On-To-Oregon wagon train that left Independence, Missouri in 1845, headed for the head of the Willamette River, the Oregon Territory, where there was free land for homesteading.  There are many characters, so many in fact that if I had it to do over I'd start a list to keep as a book mark. Some of the major characters in Dick Summers, a former mountain man who is hired to guide the group on their way west.  There's Tadlock, an officious and difficult man who is the group's first leader, though he doesn't last - his place is taken by steady Lije Evans. There's Curtis Mack, whose wife is fearful of having a child along the long and difficult journey.  There is a family who choose to leave their Midwestern home because they want a healthier place to raise their young son who is prone to the fevers common in Missouri.  There is a preacher - handy for funerals and weddings.  Some folks are strong, some weak, some honest and forthright, others not. I found the shifting relationships among the leaders and followers to be fascinating, and I was caught up in the groups day-to-day struggles along the trail.  This is neither a cowboy and Indian shoot-em-up novel nor a history text.  Instead it is a heartfelt look at  how real people might have acted and felt during the epic journey along the Oregon Trail.  I also appreciated how much time was devoted to and credit given to the women characters. 

I wish I had found this Oregon Trail website before I started reading, because the maps, explanations, and photos would have helped me to visualize the group's journey more clearly.  You can see the site here: The Oregon Trail

I think I saw that a Kindle version of the book, with this website included is available for 99 cents.

Looks like now I need to check out the DVD of How the West Was Won, the Hollywood version of the 1949 book.  The last time I saw it I was a child at the movies.

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Old Photo Finds

I spent last week in Door County, bumming around, staying with my aunt and my brother and sister-in-law, visiting galleries.  Since I've gotten home I haven't accomplished much except reading and working on family history.  But I did find some good things at my local consignment shop.

These two photos are are people I do not know.  They were photographic postal cards that I found in the big drawer filled with mixed cards.  Sometimes I buy old photos of strangers just because I like their expressions or their clothing.  I store them mixed in with my other photo reference pictures in a file box, and perhaps they'll make their way into a painting.  My first preference is family related imagery, since I get twice the enjoyment; I can think about the people and I can use their attitude and costume in my painting.  But sometimes I find photos like these that speak to me on another level.  The young brothers wear clothing that seems very strange and formal, and their expressions are so serious.  The men appealed to me because they seemed to be enjoying something together, something amusing, and I like their similar postures.  Two very different representations of men I only know through old postcards, bought for next to nothing.