Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An Old Family Artform

Digging through a box of family photos recently, I pulled out what felt like a small brick from under a stack of prints from the 1980s. It was a carved, wood-mounted linoleum block for printing I had created around 1975. The edges of the surface were slightly chipped here and there, but generally in fair shape. The image was an intertwined couple, seated on the floor. It took me back to memories of linoleum block carvings my mother and my older sister had done in the mid- to late-'50s, for printing on cards or as indelible identification inside the cover of books we owned. I had done some in my teens, also, and then in my twenties, in the '70s. It was an art form I hadn't continued again.

Coincidentally, a neighbor friend had gathered with other mutual friends to share recently the linoleum block carving techniques the neighbor had learned at a workshop in Canada. I was disappointed I was going to miss the gathering, and was determined to get back some of that block-printing mojo anyway. Another friend heard me express this interest and directed me toward an online class teacher in Lino Block Printing, Tracey Fletcher King. I will be eternally grateful to that friend, as I am enjoying the class, and have learned how linoleum carving tools, materials and techniques have evolved since the 1970s! Don't you just love when things fall together like that?

The prints above are Shaman Woman and Shaman Man artist proofs. Some of my homework from Tracey's classy class. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Red Dog Blue Dog (Effective Muse Traps)

It's been a relief to read from many of the Facebook artist friends I have around the world that my Mystery Of The Missing Muse symptoms aren't unique. It's been painful to be in the studio when she's not there. I settle into the normal routine. The paints, pencils and pens surround me, my favorite Gregorian chants on the CD player, a cup of tea at the ready standby (but not too close to the paint water jar). Birds attacking the bird feeder outside my window like it was the last day before a nuclear winter. All those perfect conditions. After an hour of shuffling collage papers and organizing my paints....crickets. Not a whisper from the Muse. Paper looks like paper. Watercolors look like stuff in tubes. Or a mess on a palette. No magic. 

My dear friend Linda and I have been in long conversations regarding Muse Traps, recently. What to do to tempt the Muse into getting involved again. We've pretty much agreed Ms. "M" doesn't like formality much. She's a sucker for play and novelty. She is a kid in her essence, and quite seductive.  This is why she is so often found in the company of children. I remember that. As scary as my mom or the elementary school principal was, their authority was outranked by the whisperings of the Muse. 

What would a kid do in my studio shoes? I brought down the metal lunch pail I keep my stamping sheets and pads in from the supply shelf. I found recently that these intricately patterned rubber sheets meant for impressing Precious Metal Clay jewelry (you can find them on www.cooltools.us, they have small and larger ones) were perfect for stamping ink. And they are wide enough for some serious (oops, sorry, Ms. M) playful applications. And if I take a sheet of paper towel and carefully tear an opening out of the middle and use as a template to stamp through onto my sketchpad or watercolor paper, I can do multiple images that afterward lend themselves to all kinds of fun and embellishment.

Ms. M is leaning against the door frame of the studio, pretending she's not stealing glances at my stamping fun. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Just Let Go

This morning my husband and I watched out the kitchen window, bemused, while a small squirrel wore itself to a frazzle, defending the hanging new birdfeeder from hungry birds, who flocked from all zones of the frozen forest to restore the calories their little bodies had used up getting through the night. Squirrel can’t even stop and enjoy the seed, as there are so many others who are waiting to take it from him. His poor little brain is scorched from the worry and vigilance and anger. Because Squirrel had become bolder in recent months in asking us to donate to its well-being, to the point it was nearly underfoot as we walked up and down our porch stairs (we did little to encourage this behavior), the squirrel regarded anything we offered Nature as it’s own personal stash. An intelligent and self-serving little bugger, Squirrel had a longer range plan in mind for it’s getting through the cold months. Most seed it gathered was put into the ground as soon as possible. The various branches of The First Savings Bank of Mulch.  This is a tactic that has served squirrels quite well for millennia, I am sure. And not being tribal creatures by nature, their nature is to take care of themselves. Period. Sharing the wealth is not an option. Their future is not the wellbeing of community, their future is stored seed at a time when there is no food, and snow and ice cover everything. 

And so Squirrel has no alternative, with this artificially-provided container of seed, than to chase off all the other creatures that want to share from it also. For Squirrel, this container of seed is likely all that will be, ever. Squirrel can’t remember that somehow, there was always a fresh container of food that magically appeared. Every day. Squirrel can't even reflect on the forest being heavy with fir cones, full of seeds. Faced with accumulated wealth, Squirrel is also faced with the fear it can be taken away.

Squirrel is not evolved enough to have a Faith.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fondly Known As "Archie"

My "sculptural" paintings took a bit of a turn this last couple weeks when I decided to grow the relief images on the surface of my hardboards and actually make the sculptural parts...well, really sculptural.  I spent some time in the back studio, wadding Skratch into a mold I'd made years ago of a small head on one of my existing ceramic sculptures, "David Finds His Soul", which still stands in Art On The Boulevard gallery in Vancouver, WA.  A face that bears more than a small resemblance to my deceased husband, Neil.

I was able to adhere the resulting head to an acrylic and modeling paste painting I'd set aside a few weeks ago, that I was uninspired to finish until now. Using drywall mud on the surface, the Skratch head stuck nicely.  The organic patterns I had planned, that were to trail out from his shoulders, refused to be anything but architectural. Arches grew. And as no title has since come to mind for this piece, I'll just use the name Jim came up with, Archie.

It took a few days to "see" that there needed to be a hand, and that the hand held a tree, so I promptly painted one, before the image in my mind shifted again.  It's like that. Sometimes the image stays for a few days, or a few weeks, waiting for me to put it down on the painting, and sometimes it shifts. Now and again the next image is better, and often it isn't. It can certainly dessert me, and leave me with, "I have no idea what to put there!"

"Archie" has some deep meaning for me, and maybe one day I'll be able to verbalize it. I'll let you know, just as soon as I understand it myself.

I spent the afternoon yesterday with my sweet friend, Linda Tennant, and she pointed out to me how very nice silver Gilder's Paste would work rubbed on the edges of the painting. It brought it all together, giving Archie an added dimensional glow. It's subtle, but dramatic in it's way.  Sadly, the edges were cropped for this photo Jim took with his Lumix, so you'll have to take my word for it.   

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Madonna Of The Muffin Huts

This is another playful use of textural impressions on Hard Gesso, with sculptural details using Modeling Paste. FW Acrylic Inks washed on and wiped off repeatedly, details enhanced afterward.  
Just as I enjoy splashing primary colors onto wet watercolor paper and letting them blend, later creating images and scenes from what is already there, I'm having a great time with troweling on Modeling Paste with palette knife and painting images into the result.  

It took me awhile to locate the baby. The woman's posture and the child's gaze directed me to where there was one missing. It's funny how one little added detail will suddenly give a painting a story!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sculptural Paintings

Despite the ongoing racket and activity of Jim's and my roof being torn off and rebuilt by our handyman and roofing crew this last several days, I still creep along at a steady pace with my painting, whenever I can sneak down to the studio. Often this happens from 6 o'clock until 8:30 or 9PM. Jim and I installed some new lighting in the studio, so now I can see with breathtaking clarity the details and colors of my work! And the mistakes!! Yow.

The Golden Modeling Paste I used on the series of Cuneiform and Cave Painting pieces that now hang at Olympic Cellars Winery, I've started using sculpturally. I mean, painting the paste on with palette knifes to create more than just textures. Certainly a good marriage of my old and my new career skills!  

The above paintings are titled, "Blue Laurel" and "Nomadic Couple". The faces of "Nomadic Couple" weren't exactly easy to whip out with the palette knife, so dental tools were employed to carve and refine their delicate features. 

I love how the initial image on the board flows out like a dream image. And as I've said previously, it's safer to not judge it, and try to "fix" it. Afterward, sometimes after several days, the painting strikes me with a message. Maybe a metaphor that has meaning to me.  And sometimes the meaning eludes me, as it's perhaps intended for someone else.  These works, like my sculptures, are alive. They find their own way through the world, bring something to someone else. Like R2D2. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

"My Father's Sacred Ashes"

Another painting finished, using the Crackle Paste. I see so much online and on Facebook regarding "Intuitive Painting", and wondered what the heck that was.  The funny thing is, I've been working like that for a very long time.  It occurred to me that my sculpture has been that for decades, and now my painting fits that description, pretty much.  If it's what I think it is.  In my case, I simply get into the "zone" and put on canvas, board or paper impulsive imagery. Usually the first thing that comes to mind is the best one. The moment I stop to wonder about whether that idea is appropriate or what it means, or question the impulse and try to make it "better", it goes sour. Looks lame. And usually, when I wait expectantly, I get a title. Or often it will plop into my head as I am finishing the painting. I've given up wondering what the title means, or if others are going to expect an explanation. Years ago at gallery openings, when patrons asked what inspired me to sculpt what they saw on the pedestals, or what a title means, I finally got to the point I would shrug.  Strangely, most were pretty happy with that. Some nodded mysteriously, like we were both party to an intriguing secret. 

Maybe we are.