Sunday, January 28, 2007

Katie's Feminine Icon Workshop

This is one of the images I created in Katie's class at Diane's all day retreat. It was a wonderful day with a room full of spirited women. The atmosphere at this workshop was unique; perhaps because of the subject matter these women seemed unusually sympatico and enthusiastic. The work they produced was incredible; I didn't get photographs of their creations because I was trying to stay out of Katie's limelight (oh, yes, good try Judy, you big loud art smartie pants you!). I am hoping either Katie or Diane will post work on their sites for you to appreciate.

This is a second image I created. So now I will take you through the weekend with me and share our experience from my point of view. Beginning with Friday night when I arrived arm in arm with Katie. Diane had the libations all lined up for us.

Diane was chopping up a stack of mangos when we arrived, making the mango chutney for our noon meal on the following day. To the mangos she added chopped ginger, garlic, golden raisins, cider vinegar and 20 minutes over the flame. Oh my mama mia was that ever awesome with curried rice. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We were up into the wee hours catching up and sharing. Awesome good time.

After a night on Diane's featherbed with the down comforter I was greeted with this plate of oatmeal dressed with bananas, blueberries and walnuts. Yes, it was soooo good.

Katie was meanwhile out in the studio preparing for the arrival of her class. She was wearing these charming knitted slippers. She is a gal who knows a thing or two about shoes. Thought you'd like to see them too. Doesn't she look surprised in this next shot? Hee hee, she was.

Soon she had us all slaving away over our projects. Gel, paint, sandpaper, gesso, oil pastels and more. She showed us how to let go, to live in our right hemisphere and to follow our intuition. She has little tricks and they work. Every time we visit I learn more from her about letting go. She's done her homework and she can teach what she knows.

Following a morning of high energy work the studio is deserted for the banquet table Diane has prepared for us. Yum yum. What will we have?

(Quiet scene of chaos in the studio during lunch break.)

Rice Banquet! Curried rice (very mild) with dozens of bowls of toppings and greens. Very healthy, good for people counting calories, good for people not counting calories and for dessert a coconut cake. Oh, and chocolate. I ate more chocolate this weekend than I do in a month at home.

After lunch we continued to work on our projects and at the end of the day we gathered again to share our thoughts and intentions. It was so good. I got so much out of the workshop. Katie is such a skillful teacher and she showed me ways to work that I had never experienced before.

This is a quiet corner of Diane's studio that I love. The log cabin quilt is one of dozens she has made. The sofa is set in a little window nook in a quiet area; I wonder if she occasionally curls up under the blanket with a good book and just relaxes there. I know I would. I bet Simon her cat does too.

The last photograph was taken this morning. Good strong lattes to get the conversational ball rolling again as we shared ideas for future gatherings and art making getaways. Diane has a house at the beach that she is considering letting out for art retreats for one thing. One of the women who came to the workshop yesterday spoke with excitement about holding art gatherings in her studio in Boise, Idaho. We laughed about sowing the seeds of art love all over the place; of countering the bad mean people with our joyful spirits until they just lay down their war games and learn how to play nice. Pray for this if you have a kind soul. That we can some day soon learn to cooperate and celebrate each other and live in harmony.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My 100th Post

"The moving hand has writ" as the old poet said and our journals prove it. Capturing time; the moods, thoughts, worries and joys. All summer I work and play hard and then winter comes and I shut down as much as possible and go inside. I dream, piddle around, read everyone's blogs, dream I am a great cook and someday will create a giant chocolate ganache to make my poor deprived husband's eyes bug out with wonder but no; it is only the castles I build in my imagination. If wishes were fishes.

Getting the ideas to materialize is so much work. I will put the finishing touches on a big 30x40" canvas today. I paint with the canvas tilted on a flat table because the big easel makes my arm hurt after awhile. A vertical canvas is so much trouble; I can never get back far enough to see what I am doing. I feel like a bug painting a mural. And the painting. It is weird. John came in last night and made the wrong kind of noises when he saw it and then tried to back peddle. It's okay. I know it is an odd one. But what is an artist if not a person who crawls out to the end of the limb? If you think about the risk you will be doomed. Silenced. And so you go on and paint the occasional weird canvas.

I've been wholly absorbed in the idea that I must gather the materials to (1) hook a rug out of strips of wool and (2) learn how to knit a sweater. I think the painting I will show you in a day or two would make a good hooked rug. Maybe that is where my mind is right now.

Thanks for hanging with me. I am feeling indecisive today but also accepting of that. More so than I usually am; I am usually bipolar-ish and unable to find the middle. How about you? Winter compared to summer? Do you change with the seasons? I really want to know.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Make Lemonade

My daughter gave me the idea for the painting of lemons. (24x30") She was having a really hard day on Saturday and telephoned for support. At the end of our long conversation I said, "I'm going to start a new painting when I get off the phone. What shall I make it about?" She immediately answered "Oh, in winter, lemons. Nice, yellow lemons." So I put her sad mood together with the lemons and got "Make Lemonade".

One of my pet theories involves warm and cool colors and their various effect on mood. In the winter I crave the color yellow even more than I do chocolate; when my eyes are bathed in shades of it I experience a soothing, energizing effect and all signs of depression float away. It banishes the blues, get that? Several of my artistic friends have noticed the same thing and we love love love to paint with yellow and especially in the winter.

In this week's New Yorker magazine there is an interesting article about a woman whose career is choosing color for the paint and siding industries. She describes a color based on wasabi; a cool green with a yellow undertone. I like that color. I like the word wasabi. I like the image that comes to mind; that little dab of green paste that explodes on the tongue and reminds you that you are very much alive.

This is what I put in the frame I showed you in the last post. Both the collage and the frame are coated in a nice layer of encaustic; satiny and fragrant, it has the softest feel.

I got up today meaning to start another painting but got hung up reading the blogs of people who bake things, especially this lady here, who is half my age and does more in a day than I do in a week. I saved a half dozen recipes that she made and pictured on her site (she lives in Portland too) - like my mother before me I collect recipes and dream of yummy food all the time but seldom cook. I did all that while my kids were growing up and now I seem to have just run out of enthusiasm for it. If I had hungry teenagers to feed I might be more motivated but now I'd rather paint and cut and paste.

BTW, another good novel just finished - "Digging to America" by Anne Tyler. Just a wonderful, easy read that I finished in 2 days because I couldn't put it down. It is about cultural differences among other things and I think one of Anne's best.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Snow in Portland!

It's coming down in huge bundles of flakes we call bedsheets. A lot of it. It's like someone shook up the snow globe and we are inside it. Oh, it is so beautiful. I just had to share it. Inside the house we have a cozy wood fire and coffee with cream and chocolate. Winter is kind today.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Salmon Dreams

My mind keeps wandering. I started this painting meaning to paint a salmon underneath a sky map for a gallery show. I was thinking about navigation, intuition and the salmon's life: how it begins that life in a small stream, swims out to the ocean to live for several years and then returns through a rigorous journey to the very place of its origin. It travels so far from home and yet it somehow finds its way back to that exact spot, many years and a lifetime later. It is a wonderful mystery and one I like to think of as I explore my own origins and how I've wandered so far from "home" and yet how I know that place like nothing else. Well, instead of a fish and its internal guidance system I ended up with this wistful child and her salmon. She is listening to the heart of the universe - trying to absorb its immense mystery and beauty. Above all, she loves that salmon. She IS that salmon. And she loves the watersheds, the rivers, the ocean it has called home.

Many years ago I went fishing from a chartered boat off the waters of the Washington coast. My friend Susan from the east coast was thrilled to catch her first salmon, a big, honkin' silver, that she proudly displayed for the camera. She had just recieved an art residency in Montana and was moving away from Portland so I did this woodcut (15"x 21") in her honor showing us hot tubbing, Mt. Hood in the background, the rain, the happiness, the being in love with life. I wrote about Susan here and in her defense I must say that she is pretty and looks nothing like a Robert Crumb character. Anyway, since I had posted some early work of prints I thought I would continue here and show early work opposed to mature work for whatever that is worth.

I have a friend who I encourage to paint. He is advanced in all he does and yet he has been reluctant to jump in on this challenge although he has expressed the wish to get started. I told him last night that he might as well go ahead and start painting, that if he was waiting to acquire the mastery needed to love everything that came from his hand that he would be waiting forever. No matter how long you practice you are always reaching fore something beyond your grasp. That's how it is with all the artists who have shared their thoughts with me. So dont wait for perfection. Just start. Always try to learn more and improve. My guidance system tells me that is the way to go; to do it. Listen quietly to your heart, accept your imperfections, and begin the journey that will take you home.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Following up on the etching theme; I thought I would post some of the etchings I did many years ago. These hand pulled original prints were pulled from zinc plates that were etched with nitric acid and then inked a la poupee (with little wads of fabric), relief (with big rubber or gelatin rollers) and intaglio (ink wiped deeply into the incisions). The plates were in many cases cut apart with a jeweller's saw and re-assembled on the press like jigsaw puzzles after the individual pieces were inked. All of the inks I used were oil based so that all the plates had to be cleaned with paint thinner. It was a stinky, yucky mess and I had black ink under my fingernails for about 12 years. Yuk!!

I printed on many kinds of paper but mostly on Murillo which is an ivory colored paper that took embossment very well. You can see the paper pillowing up around the plates which were quite thick. The paper had to be soaked for about half an hour and printed on while damp.

I think the script on the plate above is called Carolingian (my calligraphy memory is rusty) and in latin reads: "Everything that lives is holy." I looked at wrought iron gates for the embossed white-line imagery. I've always loved the flowing lines and grew up in a place where I saw a lot of it. The imagery was transferred to the plates by a photographic method that involved Photo Resist, exposing the plates to a bright light for a certain amount of time, washing it out in a chemical and then cleaning the plate before multiple acid baths to add aquatint and deep embossment. Are you snoring yet?

Cicada Song was the follow up to Chrysanthemum Page. (Those were the titles of the two prints directly above.) On this page I wrote in Persian the same quote as above and in addition it says, "Every Creature Loves It's Life". I found an Iranian student at PSU who did the translation for me. That was before the days of Babelfish.

I am doing some painting for a commission and ramping up a bit for the season but not very ambitious yet. Today it hailed outside for about 20 minutes so I put my brush down and stood outside to marvel in the sounds and sight of the weather. It was cold, noisy, and enchanting. There is something I do love about dramatic weather.

See you again in awhile.

As an afterthought I decided to add this close-up so you could see more of the detail in the etching. Click on the image to see it up close.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Studio Visit

For 12 years I worked solely making etchings and selling them at art fairs and to galleries. My first love of making art is inseparable from my love of etchings and I am lucky to have a connection to that world through my friend Gene Flores. The beautiful press pictured above belongs to Gene and on Saturday John and I visited his new studio where we christened the new space with good mojo and wine toasts.

This photograph shows a copper plate etched with the drawing Gene put on it and on the right is a print pulled from the plate. It is a very old and laborious technique that is challenging and when done well, thrilling to admire. Gene does it well.

I love this funky corner of his new studio where he has drawn a huge music speaker into service as a table leg. Typical. You gotta have the music and you gotta have a table leg.

Gene is pulling prints out to share with us from the stacks that he has produced over the last 15 years or so. He is tremendously prolific in spite of his teaching schedule at Portland Community College and his responsibilities as the Gallery Director there.

This is a shot of a great idea for storage and framing. He has stapled carpet onto the walls and floor area of cubbyholes that hold his framed work. Above that is a platform that is covered with the same carpeting where he frames the pictures, washes glass, etc. Very efficient.

This shot shows the same storage area from a different angle. It is roughly in the center of the picture. To the left is vertical storage where he keeps booth standards and hand carts, etc. The studio is located in a building with easy access to his vehicle so that loading up for art fairs will be easy to do. Our cherished friend Joan is on the left side of the picture and she helps Gene at the fairs just as John helps me. I could not do it without my side kick and I'll bet Gene would say the same about the help he gets from Joan.

This archaic piece of machinery is a guillotine that is used for cutting heavy slabs of metal. It is heavier than it looks and a good friend to the printmaker. I used to sneak into the metal department at the School of Arts and Crafts to use their guillotine; the head of the department would look daggers at me for the liability I represented. Few printmakers are lucky enough to have their own metal shear.

Following the studio tour we shared a magnificent meal that Gene spent the day preparing; Chili Colorado, Chili Verde, refried beans, spanish rice, green salad, tortillas, homemade apple empanadas and homemade ice cream. Cooked entirely by Gene; is that not awesome? One other time he cooked for us he followed up another memorable meal with Tres Leches Cake (my favorite) which is a real production to create. I bow down to the genius of the good cook. It is the most useful of all the arts (sez me).

Sorry I didn't get good pictures of the main dishes. Here are the tortillas and the dessert. Mmmmmm, perfection.

It is New Year's Day today and I am tying up loose ends in preparation for a return to the studio. If past experience serves me, it will be a slow re-entry after nearly 2 weeks excess. I didn't make resolutions this year but instead wrote down words to consider. I will share them with you.
  • Fearless Exploration
  • Confident Re-Invention
  • Utilize Your Time Wisely
  • Greet Change
  • Respect Strangers
  • Help Everyone
I guess in a way they are resolutions; to keep pushing beyond old boundaries and to utilize my hours well. To keep improving. To reach out to others so that we can all be our best together. To recognize that if each of us uses our energies for good changes in the world, the entire world will change. And even if the world does not change, that the world we experience changes when we become porous and loving.