A Tribe of Chickens
"Deconstructed Dreamscape" - mixed media on watercolor paper, 22 x 30. Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
My love affair with chalky abstracts continues...this one is my largest yet! Layers upon layers. It was a chameleon, changing its colors, composition and meaning with each layer, following the path of twisting dreams.
Last week, I was reminded again of the deeply satisfying energy of tribe. A workshop of creative souls, willing to cast their cares into the wind and explore new approaches to letting the art chickens out of the hen house. The laughter and camaraderie surrounded us like fluffy mounds of cotton candy, Sweet sticky goodness. The transformative miracle of creative play. If you've never seen a tribe of art chickens, you are living a deprived existence. :)
It takes a lot of personal energy to teach a workshop, leaving me truly exhausted and craving pajamas and tea. But it also refills my bucket of inspiration and joy - the incredible creativity of others, the heart-felt stories of their artistic journeys, their courage...I am in awe. It leaves me more determined than ever to hold these moments in sweet reverence, building a treasure chest of joy pockets. And to cherish each and every tribal connection these moments provide.
Almost half way through Clear Seeing Place, I reached the chapter called "Tyzack" (referring to the British painter, Michael Tyzack, Rutenberg's mentor). Another short one, but it hits home "Take care how you address fellow painters, regardless of their age or resume." Rutenberg is clear that there is no room for being "dicks" to other artists. Respect, good manners and dignity for all, "because painting deserves our best selves." How wonderful, to hear an artist of his stature advocating for niceness within our tribes! I'll make this one my golden rule: "The best artists are also the nicest."
"The Bird Whisperer" - mixed media on cradled hardboard. 12" x 12" , ready to hang. Available on Artfinder.
A return to my irresistible girls and their birds as I prepare for the upcoming "Art & Soul" event here in SoFlo. Whenever I paint one of these lovelies, it is like visiting an old friend, catching up on life and dallying awhile in a wonderland. These girls have stories to tell. But mostly, it's those chatty birds who are causing trouble.
The birds have been talking to me lately. An osprey in a tree near our lake, looking at me as I admired him through my binoculars. "I see you," he said. "I see YOU," I replied. A pair of ducks who kept me company for 90 minutes while I mulched and trimmed the front yard. They stayed within six feet of me the entire time, moving when I moved. "Alms? Alms for the ducks?" they asked in unison. A pair of moor hens, beaks brightly lit with mating season red, high-tailing it over to the shore of our back yard to grab a morsel as I inspected our fruit trees. "We're eating for five now," the male said. The female just laughed. A lone female duck waits for me outside the garage door, her feet slapping the pavement as she scurries over when the door raises. "Treats! Treats!" she exclaims. "Only in the back yard," I reply with a whisper. "Now shoo! Go out back before you get run over, silly." And one more pair of ducks stalking the corner of 13th St and 95th Ave. When our evening walk takes us by their turf, they come flying in like a squadron of awkward winged boats, landing with a thump at our feet and walking along side of us for awhile. I think these two are shaking down all passersby for food. Apparently, some ducks have formed gangs. Beware!
Still reading along in Clear Seeing Place. The chapter on slowness was just two pages long, yet I read it four times. "Art is the intensification of slowness. There is rich poetry in antispeed." Rutenberg praises long lines and delays - "forced interruptions". And then this: "Real awareness doesn't come in long dial tones of looking, but in the moments of clarity when the eye is halted and restarted..." I am using heavy traffic, check out lines and being put on hold as reasons to pause and look around, observing. Interruptions when I am in the studio usually irritate me beyond reason. This week, I am embracing the fractured studio time by noticing what happens when I walk away and come back. Magic, so far. Rebooting my view by stopping and restarting changes the whole perspective. Instead of seeking gracefulness in the process, I am embracing the clumsy, as Rutenberg recommends. Who knows? Maybe a whole new genre of CLUMSY ART will emerge? In the meantime, the ducks are tapping on the back door again...
"Babicka" - mixed media on canvas paper, 12" x 16". Ready to frame. Available on Artfinder.
Monday morning finds me buried deep in personal excavation. Strange dreams, weird happenings, solitude and introspection will cause that. When I was young, I dreamed of being an archeologist. Somehow I never thought that meant excavating the bones of my own existence.
These sentences, from Clear Seeing Place, sent me orbiting my own life and asking questions: "To experience transcendence, you must know your origins. Where do you come from? What place stacked your bones into the shape of you?" The author was referring to his own idyllic upbringing in the South. But for me, the same question of place was more emotional than physical What place stacked my own (now fragile) bones? My first thought was "nuh uh. I don't want to go there." But the muse sent me on this journey, and so I will follow her.
Don't get me wrong...I was never hungry or homeless or sick. My bones were stacked in suburban America, on streets that were safe day or night, in houses that had heat, water and food. But inside the houses were other skeletons - the kind you dare not speak of, old rattling bones that brought fear, sorrow, pain and loneliness. Even as an adult, it feels wrong to speak of the old bones, as if the mere mention of the word alcoholism would wake them.
But in those houses stuffed with dysfunction there was a magic balm - a glue that held my own bones together as they stacked and grew into the shape of me. My grandmother, a woman of the old country, one of the "Texas Czechs", a soft spot of love, old world accents and chocolate cake. In her eyes, I was never the scapegoat that the old bones tried to make me. She saw me as good, funny and lovable. We both had outrageously frizzy, uncontrollable hair. She set hers in pin curls at night; I tamed mine with a curling iron in the morning. We smoked cigarettes together as we talked about quitting. We ate sweets and discussed weight watchers. She read out loud articles from the National Enquirer with a twinkle in her eye, wanting to believe every tidbit, making me laugh with her sincere naivety. She showed me love, and it saved my own bones.
This piece emerged as I wrestled with the question, adding and then scrubbing layers. A hit of frizzy hair and rounded, soft body. A grandmother for the world, a balm for our bones.
"Summation of Dreams" - mixed media on canvas paper, 16" x 12". Ready to frame. Available on Artfinder.
I've been having some wild dreams lately. The kind of dreams that make me wonder what the heck my brain is doing in there. Apparently the muse stays active even during sleep, and she is quite inventive. So I let the dreams flow through my hands into an intuitive piece this week. Incredible, ethereal landscape created by scrubbing away layers of paint, leaving suggestions of buildings, hills and a metropolis. Adding and taking away, time and again, leaves the canvas paper leathery and soft. I am enchanted by this process.
My hubby and I had a Valenversary evening right out of a sitcom last night. Complete with eerie technology snafus, which included a smoke alarm going off randomly for several hours (and the two of trying desperately to disconnect it) and followed by the most awful meal we've had in ages. One thing after another until we were both laughing pretty uncontrollably. Even during a long night of belly aches, we continued to roll our eyes and laugh at the universe, who had apparently decided to throw the kitchen sink at us.
I suppose that's what we want, at the end of nearly two decades. The ability to laugh at life's adversities and wake up smiling.
Fortunately, my daughter called and reminded us of an anniversary long ago, when we danced in the living room and snow began to fall softly outside (in Texas, no less), making her believe marriage was magical. Indeed, it is. And comical.
I don't think there will be any snow falling here in Florida today, but the balmy breeze and swaying palm trees will do. Now where did I leave that bottle of Tums?
"Sisters of the Moon" - mixed media on aquabord, 16" x 20". Ready to frame, or can be leaned upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
What a weekend! A lunar eclipse, snow storms in the north and an incredibly brisk 81 degrees here in Florida. (ok, that last bit was just me rubbing it in) Anyway, there is something about any full moon, but this one seemed full of malarkey . I had a little chat with said moon several nights in a row, as she illuminated my bedroom at 3 am even through the blinds. All she said was "this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine" and went back to keeping me awake. There is just no reasoning with the moon.
Last week I was delighted by the bonds of sisterhood. Not my own familial sisters (though they are the bomb diggity and I wouldn't trade them for the world) but the sisterhood of artists, writers, musicians, dancers and creatives in general. When a gaggle of girls are gathered together, given food, art supplies and a couple of hours, it doesn't take long before laughter and mischief follow. Add a full moon and...well, you can see what might happen, right? A good reminder to make time for group art, as it is often just the balm we need in a stressful world. We leave the group recharged, feeling lighter and more connected. Ahhhhh.
So back in my own solitary studio (well, it's solitary if you don't count the bossy queens, mischievous cattle and a huge pink alligator) it was no surprise when a pair of girl figures bathed in moonlight appeared in an intuitive abstract. They made me smile, and were a welcome, calming influence on the mayhem that is normally my studio
A friend recently chuckled at how I am so often delighted by my own creations (it's true). It was no coincidence then when this sentence appeared in Clear Seeing Place: "A painter must fall madly in love with absolutely everything. The instant that work becomes labor, you're dead." I love my job, because it never feels like work. Now off I go to play - there are worlds to create!
"The Narrow Path to Nuptials" - mixed media on panel
Oh, what FUN! This project, part of the World & Eye Arts Center - Telling Tales: Stories of Home exhibit, was two days and no more. Two days to paint 6 feet of panel, hand print papers and design fabulous clothing for the characters. Well, and to listen to the story and figure out what to paint!
Follow the journey of Gerri Sant - listen to her story of home here.
I was tickled by Gerri's wry sense of humor, so the concept came quickly and the characters came ALIVE for me, demanding exactly what to wear and where to pose. I am gaga over these two! It was sad to see them leave my studio and head off to the World & Eye Arts Center. I've instructed my husband to begin looking for doors or panels at the curb, in addition to reclaimed wood. I can just see a series of these couples hanging out in my house.
"Sowing Hope" - mixed media on canvas paper, 16" x 20". Available on Artfinder.
Is it Wednesday already? As soon as I decided to re-enter the world, someone said "GO!" and the pace multiplied exponentially. This week I am working on a nearly 6' panel based on a personal story recorded by the folks at World & Eye Gallery (check them out here). What's the catch? I have exactly two days to generate a story-inspired piece of art. Ok, so you know me, I launched right into it, came up with a righteous idea, and then decided to hand print papers to collage 60% of the panel. So it has been gelli printing MADNESS in my studio. But I have made huge progress and will get it done. But for now, a lovely pause to reflect on the piece featured here, which I finished a few days ago.
This one calls to me every time I walk past the studio door. It whispers, beckons, gently waves me over. It is an intuitive piece, in the style of Stan Kurth. The figure appeared about two layers in. Everything felt organic, connected and pure. One of those rare moments when a painting feels like an extension of my arm instead of a foreign object which I must tame through aggressive paint throwing. :)
What was the secret to this one? I listened to the painting this time. Tuned out my own expectations and just sat with it. But I was also good and relaxed after a little solitude and rest. I'm sure that is a part of it, too.
I've started the second book recommended by Kurth. You are going to want this one. Clear Seeing Place, by Brian Rutenberg. It's like an autobiography mixed with art philosophy, techniques and career advice. And it flows. Easy like he's sitting right next to you having a casual conversation. But juicy and packed with treasures, like this one: " A landscape by Paul Cezanne isn't a statement but an invocation; it whispers, 'Come closer, let's twist nervous systems around one another and construct a place that wasn't there before.'" Ahhhhhhh.
And now, there is a behemoth panel yelling my name from down the hall. Nothing gentle about that one. I'd best go before it comes looking for me...
"Hearts A-Flutter" - mixed media on wood, 18" in diameter. Ready to hang. Available on Artfinder.
It is lovely to be back in the studio on a relaxed schedule, free to pursue whatever the muse whispers. Several months ago, I picked up this piece of circular wood and sketched out a concept, but hadn't had a pause to paint it until now. I've painted several girls in circles, and find them to be calm, a bit dreamy and always soothing to paint. One more, larger than all the rest, sending little hearts out into the universe. A little love mojo for the world. :)
After a week hiding in my studio and recovering from travel, I am ready to peek my head out and see what's going on out there. It seems many folks have tucked their heads under their wings recently, and who can blame them? Hibernating is good for the soul. But I recently read an article (I cannot remember where) which recommended perhaps we all need the opposite of hiding right now - the author suggested we need to "crash into other people's lives until we connect." Perhaps the wording was a bit startling, but somehow it resonated. I don't plan to crash, but perhaps to gently bump into other humans and find the common ground in a polarized world.
During my hibernation, I finished Art & Fear. It is now dog-eared and highlighted, underlined and starred. I think I could read it ten times over and get something new with each repetition, so this one will go on my "keep forever" shelf. The last paragraph was the perfect balm for fearful, introverted creatives of all kinds: "In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice...between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot - and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice." Holy mackerel! I could apply that to everything I do. And now I can set out into the world this week feeling comforted by uncertainty - words I never imagined saying out loud. I am also determined to give things my best shot, even if it is a little (or a lot) scary.
"Push and Pull" - mixed media on aquabord, 11" x 14". Ready to frame, or can be leaned upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
Ahhhhh bliss. Back in the studio, hard at play! The daily painting discipline instilled by biannual 30 in 30 challenges has taken a firm hold. There are three paintings in progress this week. This one emerged from listening to the art, following the trail of shapes and emotion. Continuing to experiment with the chalky-ness of gesso mixed with paints and the exquisite satisfaction of mark-making and carving into paintings. Aquabord is particularly adaptable for all of these layers and for allowing the little surprises underneath to peek through.
There is a lot going on in the world. Words, emotions, actions...all trying to get a foothold in my thoughts. I am working on manifesting a bouncer in the dance club that is my mind - a big, burly tough guy to give unwelcome thoughts the heave-ho. A little cloistering and hermiting helps, too. Along with hours and hours in the garden.
Moving right along in Art & Fear, now in the chapter called "Conceptual Worlds." Yum. What a fabulous title. It begins with a quote from Henry James (the writer) about how to question an artist's work by asking three questions: "What was the artist trying to achieve? Did she succeed? Was it worth doing?" Ouch! That last one is tough. But it resonates...I will ask myself this last question about my own art going forward.
There was one more sentence in the chapter that truly made me smile: "Where the scientist asks what equation would best describe the trajectory of an airborne rock, the artist asks what it would feel like to throw one." I am not suggesting we should throw rocks today. But if I happen to have a pocket full of them, I might at least imagine the feeling of launching one or two at whatever frustrates me. :)