Friday, May 30, 2014

Contrarian

I have to say I'm especially happy with this little 5 x 5 inch painting.  I spread molding paste through a stencil, then painted blue, then rubbed on copper paintstix, then highlighted with with fine gold paint...over the course of several days.  Love the raised texture.

I finished rereading Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard yesterday.  Great book.  Put me in mind again of earlier times in my life when I imagined trekking somewhere, being a wanderer for a while.  In retrospect I realize that my entire adult life was a sort of wander, that I was a vagabond in many ways, and not just creatively.  Searching for myself.  Until I found myself a few years ago, in my current season of life.

Just some of the things I've learned in my wanderings, all contrary to what we were told when I was growing up ~
  • The less I have, the happier I am.
  • The farther away I venture from the mainstream of modern life, the happier and more satisfied I am.
  • The simpler my life is, the happier I am.
  • The more I trust myself, the happier I am.
  • The more I surrender to what is, the more stuff I let go of, the happier I am.
  • The more solitary I am, the happier I am.

Peter Matthiessen, I'm sad to say, died just last month, at 86.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5 X 5 v.4

5 x 5 inch painting on panel, May 2014
I'm having a Late Spring Sale in my Etsy Shop, now through June 6.  Fifteen (15) percent off everything.  Use coupon code LATESPRING15 when you check out.  Discount will automatically be applied to items in your cart.

If you haven't been there lately, I'm selling off my collections of Chinese turquoise cabochons, Bali sterling silver beads and findings, nylon and silk beading thread and cords, and vintage table linens.  Have a look.

Geez ~ I find myself without anything else to say this morning.  So I'll just big you a good day!  xo

Monday, May 26, 2014

Je t'aime

Art Journal page, May 2014
I'm loving this life of mostly reading and some art making...

I finished Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things on Saturday, and am now nearing the home stretch on Louise Penny's The Beautiful Mystery.  Next up, a reread of Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard.  This will have to last me until my next order of books arrives from the library, later this week.

Another book on creativity that I'm reading now is Julia Cameron's The Sound of Paper.  I've had this in my collection for eons...the only reason it didn't get sold, as nearly all the rest of my once-large personal library did, is that I couldn't get a decent price for it at Amazon.  And yet I never felt good about donating it to the library.  So now I'm reading it, and once I get past page 60 it'll be for the first time.  It works for me now in its inward-focused, Zen-like approach to creativity.

I've also been reading Oxford American and The Sun, which I retrieve from the library's free bin.  Both excellent magazines with wonderful writing.  Oxford American is all writing from the southern United States, and I have to say I have a new appreciation for culture and life in general in that part of the country.  And Tricycle, which I've been subscribing to for years.

The rest of my series of ten 5 x 5" paintings is in process.  I'm thinking about the next small series, probably abstract landscapes.  Mail art continues, at a much more manageable pace than previously.  And other creative endeavors are happening in their own way and pace.

Have a great day.  xo

Friday, May 23, 2014

5 X 5 v.3

Another 5 x 5 inch painting on panel.  This one got a thin slathering of molding paste before it was painted.  The painted circle was cut out of a sheet of deli paper that I did in Jane Davies' ExtremeComp class, then adhered with matte medium.  The gold finish was done with Shiva metallic Paintstix, which is oil paint in big crayon form that dries completely in a couple days.  I love those Paintstix.

I read Dan Brown's latest, Inferno, this week and really enjoyed it.  Possibly even better than his previous books.  Now reading The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert's latest novel.  Loving this one, too.

Have a great weekend (holiday weekend if you're in the States).  It's the official start of the summer season here ~ more people on the road and higher gas prices, which have both happened already, actually.

Anyhow, enjoy.  xo

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Little Something Else

Five by five inch painting on panel, acrylic paint,
Neocolor I wax crayons, graphite, May 2014
In this renewing-my-commitment-to-painting process, I've been narrowing down possible subject matter.  It must be obvious by now that "circles" is at the top of the list.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Little Something

I'm working on a series of small paintings on 5 x 5 inch panels.  These aren't canvas panels, they're 3/8-inch thick wood panels from Blick, which they coat with a canvas-like layer of I'm not sure what.  Even after the two coats of gesso that I applied, there's still a pebbly texture on the panel. 

Anyhow, I applied paint here with a palette knife and then stamped the circles with acrylic paint.  I have 10 of these small panels, and it appears that I have begun my journey back to painting with these. 

Hope you have a great day.  I plan to.  xo

Monday, May 19, 2014

The In-Crowd

Art Journal page, May 2014
For most of my adult life I lamented the fact that whatever work I was doing, and that would be employed work, never felt like it was my work...the work I was supposed to be doing.  This work that never felt like my own would always consist of a good job with responsibility that more often than not paid me enough to live a shabby chic lifestyle.

I can't tell you how many times (five, actually) I imagined getting a Master's Degree or a specialized certificate in something that would legitimize my latest interest in some area of work, hoping an "expensive piece of paper" would buy my ownership of something to hang my hat on.  I even went so far, on each of those five occasions, as applying to various programs in different places, doing all the legwork and the paperwork, and actually getting accepted.  Whereupon I realized it wasn't what I wanted to do after all.

Really, I just longed to be part of the in-crowd ~ which I saw as women who knew what they wanted to do with their lives (and those were mostly artists, in my view), and actually did it.

What I became, instead of specializing in any one thing, was a generalist.  A Jill of all trades.  Literally.  As I took on a variety of tasks in my usually management-level jobs with nonprofit organizations, eventually I could have run an organization completely on my own.

And in retrospect, generalist is exactly what I became in my creative life as well.  I can do it all now, or have done it, and done it competently.  But I've still never felt like part of the in-crowd, despite trying really hard in more than one medium.  Really, I think I've just been trying on different personae in pursuit of self knowledge.

Here I am, pushing 70, and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.  I'm thinking now that this life for me might really be about never growing up, always being a beginner, always starting afresh.  In my heart of hearts, I think my real work in the world is to discover and accept the fact that being alive and enjoying my life are enough.  When this is over, nothing else will matter anyway.  In the recent words of a dear friend, perhaps I do have too high expectations of myself.


p.s.  This weekend I practically consumed Jo Nesbo's newest standalone Nordic thriller, The Son.  Highly recommended. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Colors At My Disposal

Here are the color charts I mentioned in yesterday's post.  What a great exercise this was.  The majority of the colors are Golden Fluid Acrylics.  The next brand, percentage-wise, is Blick Studio heavy body paints.  There are a few Sennelier colors in the mix, a few Liquitex, some Lumiere, and one Artist's Loft (Michaels' house brand).  If you click on the photos you might be able to see the brand and color names.

When I first started buying acrylic paints, I began with Blick's products.  The very first I bought were Blickcrylics, the lowest-priced line they make.  Lots of filler, not much pigment at all, especially in the metallic colors. The next time I purchased paint, I bought a sample set of 36 of Blick's Studio Acrylics.  The reason I have so many blues, above, is that I never used most of what was in that sample set although I quickly went through most of the other colors and subsequently purchased 4- or 8-oz tubes of colors I liked.

Somewhere between there and my love affair with Golden Fluid Acrylics, I bought the Sennelier and Liquitex paints.  This color-chart exercise made me realize I don't especially like Sennelier, although I love their colors, because the paint stays tacky for a long time before drying completely...although they're not "open" acrylic paints.  I have some Liquitex heavy body paint in tubes and a couple of soft body in little jars.  I can't stand those little jars -- would buy soft body in tubes in future.  The color of theirs that I really love is Baltic Green, kind of a gray green that makes terrific colors when mixed with Golden's Fluid Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold.  The Lumiere paints I've had for eons, since I printed on fabric several years ago.

If you paint, you know that the better quality paint you buy, the higher the pigment load.  More bang for the buck, essentially.  The most startling difference between brands of the same color is in the second photo, the red chart, third from the left top row is Golden's Fluid Alizarin Crimson, and bottom right is Blick's heavy body Alizarin Crimson.  Then there are several where one color name in one brand is essentially the same as a different color name in a different brand.

Like I said at the outset ~ an enlightening exercise.  Have a great weekend!  xo

Friday, May 16, 2014

Shelfies Again

More shelfies, this time from my front studio, which I refer to as my mixed media studio.  Not that it really makes much difference.  A couple things, the colored pencils in the next photo specifically, have been moved into my painting studio since I took the photo.  So I can draw, too, once I get started.

The cool calendar at bottom right of the first photo was made by Terry Garrett, of Whisperwood Artworks.  A digitally created page for each month, the year fits in a CD jewel box.  Very cool.

I gessoed numerous substrates yesterday ~ gesso alone on some, and with other goopy stuff on the others...fiber paste, modeling paste, coarse molding paste, acrylic ground for pastels.

And then I made color charts of all my acrylic paints.  It helps so much to see everything together and in relationship to other paints in the same hue group.


Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend!  xo

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Now and Zen

Art Journal page, May 2014
Another wonderful book that I just finished rereading is The Zen of Creativity by John Daido Loori.  Loori was a photographer who became a Zen priest and founded a Zen art center in upstate New York.  Excellent book, beautiful and very resonant for me.  Here's a blurb from Amazon ~

"For many of us, the return of Zen conjures up images of rock gardens and gently flowing waterfalls. We think of mindfulness and meditation, immersion in a state of being where meaning is found through simplicity. Zen lore has been absorbed by Western practitioners and pop culture alike, yet there is a specific area of this ancient tradition that hasn’t been fully explored in the West. Now, in The Zen of Creativity, American Zen master John Daido Loori presents a book that taps the principles of the Zen arts and aesthetic as a means to unlock creativity and find freedom in the various dimensions of our existence. Loori dissolves the barriers between art and spirituality, opening up the possibility of meeting life with spontaneity, grace, and peace.

Zen Buddhism is steeped in the arts. In spiritual ways, calligraphy, poetry, painting, the tea ceremony, and flower arranging can point us toward our essential, boundless nature. Brilliantly interpreting the teachings of the artless arts, Loori illuminates various elements that awaken our creativity, among them still point, the center of each moment that focuses on the tranquility within; simplicity, in which the creative process is uncluttered and unlimited, like a cloudless sky; spontaneity, a way to navigate through life without preconceptions, with a freshness in which everything becomes new; mystery, a sense of trust in the unknown; creative feedback, the systematic use of an audience to receive noncritical input about our art; art koans, exercises based on paradoxical questions that can be resolved only through artistic expression. Loori shows how these elements interpenetrate and function not only in art, but in all our endeavors.

Beautifully illustrated and punctuated with poems and reflections from Loori’s own spiritual journey, The Zen of Creativity presents a multilayered, bottomless source of insight into our creativity. Appealing equally to spiritual seekers, artists, and veteran Buddhist practitioners, this book is perfect for those wishing to discover new means of self-awareness and expression—and to restore equanimity and freedom amid the vicissitudes of our lives."


I'm still going through things.  As little as I own relative to everyone else because I live in such a small space, I still have way more than I need.  As with old books, my earlier enthusiasms, like vintage linens, got me collecting far more than I could ever use during that phase of artmaking.  With the linens, I was dyeing up a storm several years ago, but then I gravitated away into mixed media.  Leaving me with two stacks of linens, half of which, I realized yesterday as I sorted through them, I no longer want.  And so it's been with other items.  I will be posting some of the small table linens at Etsy today ~ the rest are going to Tailwagger's Thrift Shop in Eureka.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Stuff, and Not Stuff

Art Journal page, May 2014
I spent most of the weekend cleaning out and reorganizing my studio.  I swear I love studio reorganization more than art making.  Although it's always inspiring to get tools into better alignment with the intended work ahead.  I'm also gathering stuff to sell early next year, art materials and tools I haven't used, don't need and don't want any longer.  I'm more keen to get rid of stuff than I am on acquiring more.  In fact, some of what I'm letting go of hasn't even been in my possession for very long.  

Now I've got all my acrylic paints in one place, in boxes, close at hand and more likely to be used.  My boxes of collage fodder have been culled and reorganized.  All the recycled library mags I've been collecting have been gone through, the possible collage images torn out, and two shopping bags full are now ready for the thrift shop.

Some of my collected old books (!) are going to the library for their next book sale.  I'm done collecting old books, by and large.  If something totally awesome jumps out at me I'll consider getting it.  But otherwise, collecting old stuff just to have it for a while holds no interest for me now.  And I just purchased two old books last week!

I'd rather be addicted to making than to acquiring.  I'm working on the first part.  I read a fantastic book over the weekend, Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovitch.  Last week I mentioned having ordered it, and now I've read it.  I loved it.  Here's what Amazon says about it ~

"This book is about the inner sources of spontaneous creation. It is about where art in the widest sense comes from. It is about why we create and what we learn when we do. It is about the flow of unhindered creative energy: the joy of making art in all its varied forms.

Free Play is directed toward people in any field who want to contact, honor, and strengthen their own creative powers. It integrates material from a wide variety of sources among the arts, sciences, and spiritual traditions of humanity. Filled with unusual quotes, amusing and illuminating anecdotes, and original metaphors, it reveals how inspiration arises within us, how that inspiration may be blocked, derailed or obscured by certain unavoidable facts of life, and how finally it can be liberated - how we can be liberated - to speak or sing, write or paint, dance or play, with our own authentic voice.

The whole enterprise of improvisation in life and art, of recovering free play and awakening creativity, is about being true to ourselves and our visions. It brings us into direct, active contact with boundless creative energies that we may not even know we had."

Highly recommended.

I'm rereading Diane Ackerman's Natural History of the Senses.  I loved this book 20 years ago and am loving it again.  If you've never read it, do.  After reading Michael Pollan's Cooked recently, I reread his Second Nature, and then read The Botany of Desire for the first time.  All excellent books, also highly recommended.  Just finished Louise Penny's How the Light Gets In, and loved that too.  Also The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony.

Our weather on the North Coast promises to be in the 70s all week.  I'm ready for it.  Enough with the cold wind and rain.  Hope you have a lovely week wherever you are.  xo 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Wonders Never Cease

Yesterday I completed my Neutrals Journal, the latest in my series of art journals.  I had ten pages to fill and I was finished by noon.  The iron was hot...

Collage is something I will not be giving up.  I have a vision for collage, although it is difficult to put into words so I won't try.  I like all my collage work.  I love putting sometimes strange things together to create something else.  Although I don't plan to begin another art journal in the foreseeable future, it's quite possible that I'll return to collage journaling as I did it prior to when I got into mixed media.  Collage journaling goes back seven years for me.  I especially liked the work I did with architectural images.  See photos at end of post.

Completed Neutrals Journal, pages 9x9 inches, May 2014

The thing about my early collages is that they are in my own collage style.  Now that I've experimented with a lot of other styles, i.e. tried to get my work to look like others' work, I'm coming back home.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Catching a Vision

Art Journal page, April 2014
I had lunch with a good friend yesterday, an artist with a capital A.  And got clear that what I'm searching for in my own art (the small "a" kind) is a vision.  It's not that I need or want to pour out my soul in my art, but I want to have a vision...a vivid, imaginative conception of where I'm going creatively, something to focus my efforts toward, regardless of whether I actually achieve it.

In the last two years since I've been working in mixed media, I have experimented with oodles of new-to-me art materials and tools...including craft paint, good paint, spray ink, ink daubers, stamp pads of numerous sorts, graphite pencils, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons, oil pastels, chalk pastels, dozens of pens and various nib types, washi tape and sticker-type things.  

I've tinkered in the realms of book making, book altering, art journaling, Gelli plate and other monoprinting, tag, postcard and ATC making, numerous types of collaging, stamping and stamp carving, and painting.  With everything, with all of it, after doing a bit and liking what I've done, and photographing it and sharing it here or on Facebook or at my Flickr site, and sending a lot of the small stuff off to mail art pals...I think, "Okay, I can do that, I like what I do, so what's next?" or "So where am I going with this?" or "Am I satisfied making stuff manically for the rest of my life, or at least until the next craze hits me?"

No, I'm not.  The addiction of jumping around is not for me.  The addiction of throwing new-better-different stuff to make stuff with into the mix doesn't work for me any longer, if it ever really did.  I want to focus, I want to commit to something purely for my own sake.  I want to see where I can go in one area, work at it, get better at it, apply myself to it.

Painting will be that thing.  When I'm good and ready.

Monday, May 5, 2014

More Shelfies

More small peeks into my world...

A couple readers asked which books I've been reading, especially the ones about women aging.  So here they are:

On the creativity front, I am reading and/or re-reading:

I'm using my time these days for a lot of reading and personal writing, giving my art making a rest for now and letting my creativity regenerate.  I'm finally beyond the guilt stage ~ the guilt of not making anything.  I'd never let myself take more than a couple days off, a week at most, in the past because I was afraid I'd never get back into things.  I'm no longer afraid to stop for a while, because I know I'll get back to it when I'm good and ready.  When my muse has reawakened.

There really is something to be said for a good chunk of time away ~ a real vacation, a sabbatical.  I think I've taken maybe one real vacation in my entire life, and that required a lot of work in its own right.  My current hiatus is well deserved and well earned.

Have a great week.  xo

Friday, May 2, 2014

Shelfies

Amy Duncan posted about the latest craze on her blog recently, to upload photos of our shelves instead of our selves on Instagram.  Great idea.  No Instagram for me, so I won't be playing with the big guys.  Nevertheless here are three shots of my studio shelves.

Largely I don't have room to collect stuff other than my own work, books and art supplies.  Who cares, right?  All of this stuff is photo-worthy.

Lest you wonder, I'm definitely planning to resume creative play soon, with painting in particular, at the other end of my art sabbatical.  There's nothing like clearing the air of immobilizing thoughts and self-created pressure.

I'm not there quite yet, though.  I continue reading a lot, not just novels and materials about creativity.  I'm also reading books about women in our later years, about creative aging, and pondering what it is I aim to be up to for the rest of my life (read: how to productively spend my time from here on out).  Which brings up the issue of commitment.  Which I'm also looking at in light of my life thus far, and the rest of it.

Have a great weekend!  xo


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Art and Anxiety

Recent collage postcard on Gelli print background
Thanks for all your wonderful, heartfelt comments to yesterday's post.  I appreciated every one of them.

Reading just a tad further in Eric Maisel's Fearless Creating, he essentially says that creating art of any kind is a balancing act of one's tolerance for anxiety. 

Artists who are actively working and/or deeply engaged in the creative process experience more anxiety when they're NOT working.  The anxiety of not working keeps these artists moving forward.

People who are in fallow periods, those who are blocked in some way, folks who spend more time thinking about making art than actually making it, experience more anxiety when they DO work.  It's simply less anxiety-producing to not work.

So it's a trade off.  How much anxiety do you feel comfortable with?  I know I don't handle anxiety well in my life in general.  Which is why I shy away from working unless I'm experiencing some out-of-the-blue streak of mojo.  Which is rare these days.

I have a feeling the trait of personally handling anxiety goes way back in our lives.  I think it's a skill we learn early on, or we don't...depending on a lot of things.  Not that we can't nurture the ability; I do believe we can.  The questions become ~ "Do I need to?  "Do I want to?"  "Is it important enough for me to do to put myself through the anxiety of taming my anxiety?" 

Today, I don't think so.  But tomorrow's another day.