Friday, April 28, 2006

Spring Fever

What does the dreamy, dazed artist do when her head is filled with cotton and the sun beckons? If she is me she counts the budding figs and peaches, checks out the blueberry blossoms and moves on to the roses to see if any of the buds have popped yet. She reads her favorite blogs; Dooce, I Blame the Patriarchy, Finslippy and Fussy. She takes pictures in the garden to put on the blog which she wonders why she has started since she is a boring writer and it just gives her one more thing to obsess over instead of heading for the studio. But in addition these are the things that fill out my life and keep me from being a compulsive painting machine. My love for John, our little created paradise and the love we share for our family and friends. Here is the man I love doing what that man loves to do.

Last night we visited our oldest daughter and her family. They left for Hawaii this morning and we all gathered for a Birthday celebration. I took the pictures of the violets and bleeding hearts in her garden.

The violets grow in Oregon as a groundcover. I have them in front of my studio instead of grass and alongside Corsican Mint. The mint is the kind the monks use to make Creme de Menthe and it smells like heaven when you walk on it. Try it in your bare feet when the ground is dewy.

My youngest daughter's family has adopted a new puppy from a dog rescue. He was so sick a week ago that he collapsed into his water dish and didn't bother to move. He hadn't eaten and seemed to have given up. After a week of force feeding by the talented dog whisperers in her house little Cooper was strong enough to take a walk on a leash. Steff says he is part Lab, part Grrrrr-man Shepherd and part something else that herds sheep. But he is all cute and very smart. He joins a house with 2 female cats and so far they are getting along splendidly.

I'll finish up with some more pictures from our place that I took this morning. Then I am headed for the studio - NO KIDDING.

The peony is covered now with enormous pom pons. This is the color they turn when they fade. Eek, there's a weed in the background!

We have pansies and chives in a tub on the deck. Handy for those morning eggs.

We have dozens of varieties of rhodies but these pink ones are my favorite.

The apple trees are covered with blossoms. The mason bees and honeybees are busy helping us pollinate (actually, they do all the work with no effort on our part. That's a pretty good deal for us.) I hope we'll have a bumper crop this autumn so we can borrow Will & Sue's cider press again and make a party out of it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Carriage Lane Primavera

Yesterday I took my camera with me on my daily walk to the mailbox. I live halfway down a dead end lane at the edge of a small town and this is the brilliant green pasture across the street from my house. Spring has finally come to our neighborhood this week after months of drenching rain and we are very happy.

Here are twin baby goats, so young they still think they’re in their mama. She stood up and eyed me warily as I made cooing noises to get close enough for this shot. Maybe she remembers me from last fall as the lady that brought the grapevines for her and her siblings to eat. After that the entire herd would come running to the fence whenever I stepped outside my studio door.They became my new best friends.

These guys were playing a private game of keep away on the picnic table. They play together like clumsy puppies with joy and vigor apparent in every movement. Ah, youth!

Their mother uses the table too when she wants to get away from them. She climbs up on top and dominates the area while they try to scramble up to get at the food supply. She rolls her eyes piteously and looks as harried as all new mothers look.

I took a few shots of the mamas too with their beautiful faces and delicate little beards. They love to be petted and scratched, especially the little spot right between their horns. They take on the look of the ecstatic buddha and each of us has a moment together that is out of time.

After I’d picked up the mail I shot pictures of my neighbor’s cherry trees in full bloom and of my Peony that John planted for me several Mother’s Days ago. For many years after I moved to Oregon from Arizona Peonies were my favorite flower. I still love them but have switched my allegiance to roses because they bloom all through the summer and fall and fill the air with fragrance. This peony was supposed to be a deep blackish magenta which I love but instead starts out like this and fades to pale amethyst. But then, why wish for the stars when you have the moon?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Nervous Things

So did you see the Sopranos episode with the post-it note on the wall of the hospital room ? Oddly enough, in 1993, with these words on my mind, I carved this little frightened rabbit with her protective spirit hovering above. It was not at a happy time in my life. The frightened rabbit does not realize she is safe. She is poised between a dead tree and a cactus. She is living in darkness but she wants to believe and to feel safety.

I found the David Kenyon Commencement Address for 2005 on the web recently and it was the best piece of writing I’ve come across on why we should cultivate our minds to work for us instead of against us. We each possess the power to create our lives by what we believe and what we expect. We have the power.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Botts

Here is a photo of a large etching by Bruce Botts that hangs in my office. It was printed by hand off of two separate plates laid side by side on the bed of the press. I think it is marvelous and I love Bruce's unique style. His method is interesting too. He draws all his lines by arranging salt into the resist and then washing it away before placing the plate in the acid. So instead of a thin skritchy line he gets a wide line with lots of dots and false bite that takes my breath away. He is the etcher's etcher.

Since it was impossible to get a good shot of mine, I filched a couple off his website for you.

I love the way he draws his animals. Check out the haunches on that zebra!

And I offer this one too; so that you can see my etching without the reflections. These prints are very large; my guesstimate is 54" wide.
If you love etchings (and you should!) be sure to treat yourself to Bruce's site.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Dorena Beta

Here is a freebie for you on tax day. I learned about this Mac program at a recent Users Group meeting when the developer, Craig Hickman, came and spoke to our group. Craig is a brilliant program writer and what this program does (among other things) is give you images and tools to generate collages. Go to his website at Dry Reading and read all about it. Then download it and have fun. You will love the old engravings and copywrite free images and I hope you'll share some of your creations with me as I can think of so many things to do with this program and I am sure you will too.
Here are a few of my collages. If you have Photoshop or Elements you can also export the images to use as stand alones.

OK, I gotta go now. I have some checks to write to my Uncle.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Desktop

The junk on my desk just keeps closing in on me so that I can hardly find room to work. Every so often I have to scrape everything back to the edges so I can lay my journal down to write. I've noticed the same thing happens in the studio too. The bottles and jars of paint and the brushes creep closer and closer until I realize I am completely hemmed in and can hardly move. So I have to crack the whip and push everything back to the edges.

I looked out the studio door this morning and saw my little tulips blown sideways by the wind and rain. That's Easter in Oregon. I hope the sun is shining where you are.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Calacas y mas

The ingenuity of Mexican artisans never ceases to amaze me. With wire, springs, discarded metal objects, paper mache, sugar dough, solder and paint they create the most delightful objects. I love skeletons and have managed without trying to collect quite a number of them. They may seem repellent to some but I grew up in the desert southwest (Arizona) at a crossroad of cultures; native american, hispanic and white refugees from the dustbowl or families like ours who had moved there for health reasons. At any rate, it was a wonderful stew of humanity. When our midwestern relatives came to visit we would all load into one car and drive to Mexico for a day trip where we could cross the border and bring home souvenirs. I remember a pair of azure blue maracas that were made out of dried gourds and had wooden handles. I had never seen gourd in my life, dried or ripe. How novel to me then! And so our beige lives came to be filled with riotous color; crepe paper flowers the size of dinner plates, hammered tin trays, nested earthenware casserole dishes with glossy (lead) glazes and beautiful designs. The beauty of the Mexican culture seeped into our pores.

You could tell the houses on our street that were lived in by our neighbors from the south. As a general rule they grew more orange trees, more grape vines, more flowering vines and pecan trees. The screech of pet birds came from cages nested within the tiny jungles they'd created. I remember looking out the window of our house and seeing them lounging in chairs on their porches in the evening and wonder about that. To sit outside. But of course our porch was not a fragrant, cool oasis. We stayed in the house to avoid the heat of the evening and missed the brilliant sunsets.

There were so many differences in our cultures but it was decades before I had the time to think about those days and to reflect on them. Now that I am older I realize that the Mexicans had been living in Arizona for a lot longer than we newcomers and that they had learned how to be comfortable in that climate. But I digress.

Back on topic: clever handcrafts made of simple materials. These are sugar skulls and objects that I brought back from San Miguel Allende after a visit there several years ago to observe the Day of the Dead.

The small items are formed in molds and made from a sugar paste. I have googled instructions for them in the past and you can purchase the molds too if you are interested in a little Day of the Dead of your own. They are painted and piped with edible embellishments and although I haven't eaten them myself that is their use. Very fragile but I was determined to bring them home. Behold the clever little lamb in the shadows off to the right. So sweet.

This calaca of the gold tooth is paper mache held together with cotton twine. I just love paper mache and will do a post on that one of these days and show you some of the things my friends and I have made that are among my most prized artworks. If you haven't played with paper mache, I will try to tempt you.

This little juggling calaca in the box was a gift from my daughter on my birthday a year ago. We had just shared a muy sabroso lunch together at the excellent La Casa Del Tio Guero in Oaxaca when we came upon a park with street vendors relaxing under the shade trees. I love not only skeletons but also jugglers as they remind me so much of my own life and perhaps the lives of all women - the children, the lovers, the work, the cooking, the art making - so when we saw this little guy with his juggled skulls held in place by an invisible wire it was fated to go home with us.

If you get a chance to visit Mexico, especially if you love art, if you love to eat, if you have curiosity about the world and its people, by all means go there and delight your senses. It is the Italy our hemisphere, or maybe the India.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Artist at play

Two years ago I painted my worry wart on a lightbulb. The lightbulb was burned out, was "used up", was a surface to play with. She is painted in acrylic and then dipped upside down in verathane and hung out to dry. Now she stares out at me from one of the many brush containers on my painting table. Eventually I think she will find her way into an assemblage of some sort. She frets for me so I am free to play.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Monotypes and making a difference

In the late 70's I took classes at the Oregon School of Arts and Crafts (now the Oregon College of Art and Craft). While a student there I formed a close friendship with another printmaking student, Susan Rostow. We were both at crossroads in our lives and found support and comfort in our friendship. Susan was etching and making collographs in those days and I was experimenting with drypoint and etching. All of our inks and solvents were oil based and you could always tell the printmakers from the other students by the crusts of black ink in our fingernails and on our hands. In addition, the materials we used for photo etch, grounds and acids were based with benzene and other toxic materials. We etched with nitric acid and cleaned up with paint thinner. Rumor was that these materials were among the most toxic used by artists (next to those used in the ceramic studio) but we crossed our fingers and we were young.

This is an oil based monotype I created during that era. The oil based printer's ink was painted onto a plexiglass plate and then printed in an etch press onto black Arches paper. It measures 20x24 inches and I like the effect of the translucent ink on the black ground.

Recently I took a one day workshop here in Portland from Gail Ayers to learn the basics of water based printmaking. For several years I'd been hearing rumors of a water based product that was superior to others on the market and when I went to art fairs and spoke to other printmakers it was invariably the product they used. It was kind of a secret that it was so beautiful and without the traditional hazards. The inks were named Akua and those were the inks we used in the workshop. The next group of monotypes are from the Akua inks.

Akua makes inks for both monotypes and for intaglio. I have tried both and they just amaze me. This is such a boon to artists; safe materials that perform as well as the toxic ones did. Well, when I went to the Akua website the thing I discovered was that the inks were developed by my friend Susan during her pregnancy to solve a dilemma for herself and other mothers-to-be who wanted to continue working in a safe environment. She lives across the country now but we've connected again via phone and internet and I am so proud to call her my friend. She has accomplished something in her life that will help countless others and she has done it by following her own artistic path and being a caring person. So Susan, this one's for you.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Keeping Journals

I am a writer. I've always loved making marks on paper and having them mean something. My mother urged me to keep a diary when I was very young and I have kept up that habit through the good times and bad. It has often been my muse and consolation when grief has visited. When I have a difficult decision I find that just writing about the problem usually leads to a resolution. Writing opens the door in me that leads to what I can only describe as a higher intelligence. So I go there daily to immerse myself for a half hour or so in that pool of tranquility. I emerge refreshed and with a clear direction for the rest of the day.

I am regularly asked to teach painting but the one activity that I consider of greater worth than painting is journaling. It is private, safe and leads directly to the source.

These are my journals for the past 23 years. As a student at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (formerly the Museum Art School in Portland) one of our first requirements was to post regularly in a dedicated journal. I just added the journal to my daily diary writing habit and was off and running. The thing I loved the most was how we were considered "busy" during the day if we were madly scribbling away in the journal. I used that book to hide all my anxieties about being among so many students more gifted than I. Whenever I felt blocked I just whipped out my journal and it was like walking into my own private world where no one could touch me.

The reason I am thinking about journals so much today is because I have just finished the last page in number 16 and will start a brand new one now. For me this is like New Year's Day; I say goodbye to a part of my life that is over and welcome what comes next.

I wonder what will happen to these books when I am gone, filled with my deepest aspirations and my most personal art. I know they will change, drift apart, get lost, be destroyed, join the detritus of the world. I like to imagine them doing that.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Treasure from Artfest

This is my precious matchbook shrine from the talented Michael deMeng . I adore everything about it and have wanted one of his creations since the moment I discovered him.

I love that it is dark, foreboding, mysterious. That the woman's face is surrounded by flames (passion? persecution?) and that the life force has been burnt out of the objects. Yes, Michael regularly sets his work on fire! Kewl. I think this piece has great power and I will put it in my collection of madonnas and shrines from Mexico.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Everybody has a blog but me

This is a book I made at Artfest in a class taught by Albie Smith.

Why blog? Well, because it is the easiest way to share my art investigations with my friends who live far away. That is the main reason. My tribe of friends keeps expanding wider and wider. We no longer live within driving distance; posting to a blog is a way of sharing with my friends in distant states and countries.

My hope is that I can post a small bit a chat each day and a photograph of what is in my studio. I have no idea how to work the technical parts of this yet so no doubt I will learn as I go. No one knows I am here yet so that is good. I like to fall on my face when no one is watching; then I can pretend I am perfect.

I have a saying that I love (and probably plagiarized from someone so don't sue me) and so I will start with that. It is, "Often wrong but never in doubt". That is me. And this is my story.