Friday, March 28, 2008

Revisiting a Friendship

I've had a house guest since Sunday and we've had a great time together. We knew each other in the 60's (college) and 70's (marriage and children) but then after divorces for each of us lost track of each other for some 35 years. We found each other again after Emma saw my photograph and feature article in Cloth Paper Scissors and tracked me down via the internet.

We talked on the phone and I was reassured by her voice. We arranged a visit. It was amazing. The same 2 people but 35 years of experience and change behind us. As a sociology experiment nothing could be more interesting. Each of us showing the signs of age and yet the same sense of humor, the same sharp observations of life, same political positions, same - same - same.

We romped around Portland visiting Powell's Books, the Goodwill Bins (oh goodness did she load up! We had to UPS her treasures home as there was too much for the plane), lots of restaurants, home cooking, art making, plaster smearing and chocolate eating. She loved John and he pronounced her "a good soul".

During her time here I created the painting on plaster in the photo above. I'll have it at Artfest but not a whole lot else. What can I say? I'm not spending enough time in the studio. But that has been my choice. People first. Honor the goodness of wise women and men who surround you.

Of course there was a lot of Mexican food involved. Emma and I knew each other from Mesa, Arizona, where we both attended school and where her father was a teacher. We have some stories between us.

She looks pretty innocent, doesn't she? You would not believe what is behind that little look of innocence. She's the live wire she ever was.

That was then. Both photos taken around 1967. We had matching haircuts and somehow she got me in a 2 piece bathing suit at her house.

She's one of the few people that can talk ME hoarse. We stayed up late partying and kept busy in the studio. She deconstructed a stack of tins with wire cutters and was game for every kind of mayhem; she's been antiquing and arting all these years while I've been painting and whatever it is that I do.

We each made an altered book to commemorate our reunion. This is mine. She found the cutest little skeleton transformer that I coveted so I made a mold and cast mine in plaster off of hers and painted it to match as well as I could. So we had sister momentos. The little fence is a piece of train track that someone gave me in a trade at Artfest one year. Everything else is plaster, paint, the usual suspects.

After I took Emma to the airport I spent the day going from art store to art store gathering supplies for my classes at Artfest. Since I am driving I have the luxury of hauling 3 gallons of gloss medium in addition to a load of other weighty stuff. Now I have a few days to organize and pack everything. I haven't had time to read blogs or feel caught up but that's where I am right now. Calmer days are coming but not very soon.

More than ever before I feel like I have to do all the things I put on hold to have a family, security, and to prepare for this moment. Now this moment is here but alas! time has moved on. It is a poignant truth; we only have so much time. So in this pensive mood I leave you; thanks again for honoring me with your presence here. Ciao.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

IEA Meeting and Demo

Last night we met at the studio of Andrea Benson and had a wonderful demo of how she builds up her dimensional figures in wax. Notice the clever clips she attaches to her tins of color so that she can lift up the cans and move them. Gotta get some. And the trim sealing iron - a new goody she got online that allows you to melt a line of wax directly on the substrate much as you would with a tjanting tool only letting you use hardened wax instead of melting it first.

Here is the new tool. I have a tacking iron and think I can do the same with that. It was a revelation to me to see the process in action.

We had a discussion of the fragility of frozen wax so Andrea froze a waxed board so we could do a drop test on it. We'd all heard a horror story of a shipment of encaustics that sat outside a gallery overnight and how all the wax had frozen and fallen off the boards. So Andrea dropped the waxed board 3 times in a very abusive manner.

Et viola! Only surface chipping on the corners where the board landed on the cement. Really, your work would never be subjected to this kind of abuse. We all felt better about the durability of our work after that demonstration.

Sorry, guys, candid camera - but I thought the walls of Andrea's studio were nice and you can see a few pieces of her work hanging. She is a huge inspiration to me and she teaches too so if you want to learn how she does her marvelous work you can contact her through her website and set up a date for a workshop in her studio. She even does individual tutoring.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Student Work in Encaustic

I just have to share the work these kids are doing with someone. Their inventiveness amazes me; they jump in and work, they love the wax and pigment. The work they are producing is wildly successful.

To really appreciate the rich detail of the textures you have to make the images larger. The secret ingredient in the one above is apple cider powder and 2 coats of amber shellac mixed with black pigment over green and red wax, fusing after each layer. Shazam!!

The board above has a tea bag on the left side dunked into colored wax or waxed with color after (I'm not sure). Two of the students have set up a home studio already and did this piece there.

I like the 2-D effect of the thick wax on the flags in the piece above.

I wish I knew the names so I could give credit where credit is due. Lots of different techniques on display.

Cut and fill wax technique above. Great spatial depth and contrasting textures.

Tiles and colored wax in the grid above.

Tissue paper, colored wax, bronze or copper pigment, drawn images in ink.

Detail of a large piece showing amber shellac, texture achieved with sprayed water and heat, melted wax, pigment and the ground burned completely through.

Did I mention that these kids can draw? No? Well, these kids can draw. What an experience for me this has been. I just circle the room and watch what they come up with; fresh ideas, brilliant approaches, original solutions. I'm inspired.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stream of Consciousness Journaling

Doodled this page while listening to Obama's speech this morning on racism in the USA. Had watched a wonderful video the night before on Betty LaDuke's work with to help supply cattle to the impoverished people in Africa. Her work was so inspiring to me; how artists can use their influence to help others who profoundly need it. The beautiful healthy faces of the children who just want to eat. The mother's look of relief that her child has a meal. We're just people here. Some of us nice, some of us dreadful, independant of race or religion. It's simple, isn't it? Why are some of us so afraid?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The 3-D Kids

Friday I worked with the students in the clay studio. I wanted to give them a grounding in mixing pigment with wax on the hot palette as I did the other groups. For me, this is the foundation for working in encaustic - to be able to achieve the colors you want instead of trying to control the highly saturated colors that you purchase pre-mixed.

I think once you work with your own color mixes it is easier to switch to the commercially prepared colors and to use them judiciously; in other words, lots of clear wax and small amounts of the brilliant color.

After the portraits, I introduced the fun stuff that everyone can't wait to try. Collage, intaglio, cut and fill, transfers, scraping, using clay tools and dentists' tools, all that fun experimenting with photographs and found images.

It was a week that left me feeling changed and strengthened. It was really great watching the successes and course-corrections that come with any new skill.

Overheard conversation:
Boy 1 - "I love it" (my painting).
Boy 2 - "Yeah, like a mother loves her baby" . (implying a face only a mother could love)
Boy 1 - "Yeah. Me and the teacher; we're the only ones who love it."

It was so obvious that the kids were proud and knew they'd made something beautiful. They were so excited about the process, the whooshing torches, the fragrant wax and esoteric history of the medium. All the same things that I love come to think of it.

One more week with the kids. Journal pages coming as soon as I catch my breath.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Quickie Post

I have newfound respect for you who do art after a day at a 'real' job. I've never been more tired at the end of the day, even after a nap. Where is the time for the journal, the painting, the self-focused indulgence and daydreaming? I eked this out this afternoon through a haze of exhaustion. Yes, every little bit of paint and glue helps me feel grounded. If you have managed to go to a job and do any art at all you are my heros and bless your fortitude. I think the government should fund artists like they did in the 30's. Imagine the blossoming of beauty and mental health. Ahhh .......

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

High School Adventure Pt. 2

We're back at Lakeridge High with Group 2 of the students that are learning encaustic. There will be 3 groups, just so you know. These guys only had about 20 minutes to complete their paintings. In addition, they shared brushes and torches just like the first group. But they were much more rushed. Not that the portraits suffered one bit. I believe sometimes it is good to have the wolves snapping at your tail; you don't have time to overthink what you are doing.

You see, we know how to do it. Every one of us knows how to do it. We just have to get out of our own way and let ourselves proceed.

Are you gasping in amazement yet? Gosh, I think these kids are awesome.

Imagine the distractions. Like me walking around the room saying "5 minutes! Pick up that burnt sienna and get those mouths drawn on."

And then the little things that invariably slow us down; spilled pigment, a torch that won't light (oops, turning the knob in the wrong direction) - these guys never touched torches before Monday. So they're trying to pick up everything at once.

Of course they are teenagers. Dont even try to think as fast as they do. They sponged up the directions and listened attentively.

There is so much life in these faces; such tender expression. I'll bet they wonder themselves how they pulled off such mature paintings.

This is every single one; I was diligent about leaving no one's work out.

There is nothing in the world more thrilling to me than watching someone 'get it'. We are all creators. We can make awesome things and paint pictures that astonish ourselves. That's pretty cool.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My High School Adventure

Working with these kids is a huge privilege. At the end of each session I am dumbfounded at their sweet willingness to sign on for anything; they are the bravest, happiest art-makers around. I remember the confidence and joy I felt at that age too before art-school-doubts set in. And the work these kids produce reflects their joie de vivre . You'll see.

We're at Lakeridge High School and for two weeks several art classes are working with me on an encaustic intensive in the artist-in-the-schools program. It requires me to get out of bed earlier than usual but it has been a worthwhile adventure; working with the teacher and her students has been great. I'll be showing you more of their work as the weeks progress.

These are the portraits from day 1 of painting with wax and dry pigment on the hot palette. If you've tried it you know it is a challenge; that first time firing up the torch is rather breath taking.

But look closely at the portraits they created using only 4 colors (ochre, burnt sienna, titanium white and black). I was frankly amazed.

I dont know how closely you can examine these but they are very moving in person. It was wonderful to watch what came out of the class.

I shot the individual paintings quickly at the end of class so didn't get many of them and wasn't picking out my favorites; this is just a random sampling. Pretty amazing, huh?

Gosh, I can't help beaming with happiness as I look at this work. The last one, "Cadaver Cove" is a poster for a movie one of the kids is making. Uh, yeah. These guys are pretty amazing.

Not a small class either. Today I think we had 28 and yesterday 48 in the class. So we have been painting in wax - pretty wonderful stuff. You are looking at the people who will be showing their work in galleries in the next few years. They are bound for art schools all across the country; futures bright.

Last night when I came home from teaching I was so tired that tears sprung to my eyes as I opened this Birthday-Pisces gift from Ro. Life is so full and so good right now. I just try to take huge bites of everything because I want to do so much in my time here. My heart is full to bursting with love and appreciation for the kindness others show me. Maybe some day I'll talk about worse times in my life or again I may not. Maybe I'll just say that I'm glad I made it through those times to finally arrive at a place where the world looks so beautiful.