Monday, April 14, 2014


I've been hesitant to post this painting (8 x 8 inches on canvas panel)...because it's rather pretty.  And pretty is something I've consciously tried to veer away from, for years.  Nevertheless, a couple weeks ago I felt the urge to paint something with green, pink and gold.  And this is what I got.

What is it about the word "pretty" that feels so creepy?  It's kind of like "nice," another word that sounds like a catchall, just something to say because you don't know what else to say, or you don't have the vocabulary to be more specific...or because you really don't like something at all but feel you would be offensive if you said anything besides "pretty" or "nice."  So I've actually come to think of both these words themselves as a pretty nice way, of course.

But here's the other thing ~ I enjoyed painting this pretty little piece.  As I'm enjoying all the painting I'm doing.  Although it always seems to be difficult for me to actually begin painting, I enjoy it probably more than anything else I've done over the years.  Which is very interesting to me when I fully consider what I just wrote:  It is difficult for me to do things that I enjoy.  Hmmm...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Slathering Paint

Acrylic painting on canvas, 16 x 20 inches
British blog pal Margaret Cooter wrote an interesting post yesterday about how and where to begin something new...issues with which I completely resonate.

My paraphrased comment on Margaret's post ~ "Beginning is difficult for me, too, and I feel flummoxed usually before I even start.

My experience has been that once I get good enough at something, art quilting for instance, then it's time to move on to something else. I do think it's about the urge to branch out, try new things, challenge oneself.

Frequently I've disliked that I'm virtually always a beginner with a specific medium, and wish I had a lifetime body of work in one arena like so many artists in every medium. Alas, that's never been my way. It's always been about moving on, new challenges, learning new skills, etc., even though that's been very difficult at times.

In every facet of life, though, I've started over so many times that I now think of this as my karmic path in everything. To begin anew."

Developing a personal style is a related aspect of often changing one's medium of creative expression.  In looking back at my body of art quilts, I can see certain stylistic elements that run throughout.  For instance, that I almost always quilted on the pattern lines of my shiboried-painted-printed-batiked fabrics.  A number of other quilt artists told me that they came to recognize my work when they saw it. 

With beaded jewelry I definitely had a style that was mine.  Definitely my handspun yarns looked like mine alone.   With weaving, I'm not so sure.

At this point in my nascent painting career, I'm trying a lot of different things, learning from input (books, DVDs, online classes) from other artists whose work I admire.  Slowly, hopefully, building some level of skill experimenting with a wide variety of techniques.  My unstated (until now) goal is to become proficient enough over time with a select range of options that I will eventually develop my own style...(if I stick with it long enough, I say to myself).

For years I've been building digital folders with images of others' work in all the media that interest me (my own personal Pinterest), and adding to those folders regularly, for inspiration only.  I love looking at what other artists do, but primarily I think my doing this is to get ideas for my own work, certainly not to try to replicate anyone else's.  Inventive ideas is where I feel that I'm lacking.  This harks back to Margaret's dilemma about not knowing where to begin when facing a blank canvas of any sort. 

And I think perhaps this is why I've rarely made art with abandon ~ because I'm just not sure what to do next, not sure where the piece I've just finished is leading me to next.  I didn't have this problem with quilting, because I set out numerous challenges for myself during my active years in that medium ~ like 2009's 10x10 inch weekly quilt challenge, and others.  With beaded jewelry, I was actively selling my work, so it was easy for me to build an inventory of designs, although each piece was individually unique, and to keep myself stocked, as it were. 

Even with weaving, although there, too, I tried a lot of different things, much of the work was mechanical, design decisions made at the outset regarding yarns and loom setup.  The actual weaving was about following that plan.  Few decisions needed to be made along the way to producing the result.

With painting however, very few decisions are made at the outset, except perhaps type and size of substrate.  I think the creativity of the art of painting (at least for me) is in THE DOING itself.  There's very little that's mechanical about it, if anything at all.  There are no rules to follow, no formulas, virtually no guidance at all.  Which is a huge freedom...but also an enormous responsibility.  That I often wonder whether I'm up to. 

I can see why it took me this long to get to this medium, why I worked in so many more craft-like media ~ because I didn't have to pull ideas out of my head on demand.  And this precise spot is, I think, where the rubber meets the road.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Flea Market Finds

I went to the monthly Flea Market in Eureka yesterday.  This is what I bought ~ three issues of Little Folks magazine from 1924 and 1925.  And a nearly full bottle of Shaffer's ink, in a color that I needed anyhow.  How cool is that.  Total outflow ~ three dollars.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New Attitude

Acrylic Painting on watercolor paper, 9 x 9 inches
I'm still working in my neutrals art journal, still have a signature to go, and I'm still loving black and white and grays and shades of tan and otherwise subdued colorways.  The wild side of me, though, feels like it's been on the paleo diet.  So I'm venturing into more color to satisfy that part of my soul.

The most recent book that I'm high on is Flora Bowley's Brave Intuitive Painting.  Flora's thing is that you have to get out of your own way, tuck your thinking mind away somewhere else and let your intuition guide your painting.  And your life, of course.  What a fab metaphor.  Totally apropos for me at this point.

I've started painting some bigger pieces, or have begun several at any rate.  The biggest canvas I have on hand is 16x20, and I'll order some bigger ones soon.  But I can't go TOO big because of space considerations...although I dearly wish I had the room to work on B-I-G canvas, so I could really express that bottled up body energy with large brushstrokes.

So while one part of me really likes working small, another part of me is venturing into bigger work.  And that's just fine.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Blue Fish

This is a recent postcard I made for my personal collection.  I don't think it's visible from the photo, but the fish is glossy on the matte background.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


These are two 8 x 10 inch paintings on stretched canvas, that I did this week.

I'm going for grunge at the moment, facilitated in large part by the Lyra graphite crayons I've recently begun using.  I'm liking them a lot.  I have two that are water soluble and two that aren't, and to be honest I can't tell the difference.  The non water-soluble ones actually seem to dissolve better than the ones that are meant to.  Whatever.

I've also used graphite pencil and Neocolor I wax crayons.  The Neocolor IIs are water soluble but the Neocolor Is are not.  I love that elementary look you get with crayon and pencil.

The greenish piece had a few collage elements adhered to the canvas before I began painting.
The second piece began as a grungy background on which I decided to try a few other things.  I dripped paint horizontally and vertically, with Golden High Flow acrylic paint (tiny samples provided by Golden), with Liquitex acrylic ink, and with Bombay India ink.

I was testing different media to see which dripped best for my taste.  Frankly, I liked the High Flow the least, it had quite a bit more viscosity than I imagined it would, thicker than ink.  I'd definitely thin it with a bit of water the next time.

At any rate, after letting the drips dry I painted over them, then enhanced the drip lines with graphite crayon and smeared that.

In their original, simpler incarnations, I liked both of these pieces.  But I decided I needed to push them further.  My modus operandi is to want to be finished with things quickly.  I've seen this mechanism at work in many areas of my life, not just art.  It's about my being uncomfortable with uncertainty, with open-endedness, and with my seeking quick resolution and completion, and wanting to be done with something so I can say "I did it" and move on.  It's also about not wanting to "ruin" things, and therefore not trusting myself to go farther.  Just putting this situation into words is bringing up a lot of stuff for me.

Anyhow, I've concluded that when I have the feeling that a painting is just fine and dandy the way it is, early on, that that's my clue to take a step back and then push the piece farther forward.  I've also decided that it will be a far better strategy for me to work in series than on individual pieces.  Two or more pieces using some of the same elements will flesh techniques out better than doing piecemeal work.

Friday, March 28, 2014