Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Paper Clay Doll

All summer long I've been dreaming of a session with Paper Clay, a product that I was told would be superior to papier mache for making an art doll. With deadlines looming and a Thanksgiving turkey hanging over my head the muse tapped me on the shoulder and drug me into the studio. My name is Judy and I'm an artaholic.

The head was so lame that I almost quit but I'm not a quitter. Sure the next one will be better. But dear little Birdy (that's her name) begged me not to abandon her. And so we made friends and continued to play together.

I formed her head out of a big ball of clay on a stick and I'm sure it's still wet inside. After that I found directions online and found out that a wad of aluminum foil makes a good armature so I used that over a spray can cap for her body.

This is what the body stage looked like before I started smooshing on the paper clay. Those are her arms on the table. I rubbed burnt umber acrylic mixed with medium into the painted face and wiped most of it back off to age the head - naturally I will do that to the body too at some point.

I'm showing you the cap that forms the bottom of the skirt. She might need legs later on but right now she sits on the hem of her skirt.

After I had her all formed I realized I should have poked the wire for her arms through first. Fortunately it went through everything easily. I used copper wire because that's what I had.

After she was mostly done I took a few pictures to share. She has german glass around her collar and shibori silk ribbon for a belt (thanks, Lorri Scott!).

I used lots of iridescent and gold acrylic to highlight her clothes.

I have to think of a way to give her legs or I may just leave her the way she is and move on. To the turkey. Because eep, that's tomorrow that I have to start cooking. Ack.

John kept coming in and looking at Birdy with a look of consternation. Poor girl, despite her dour expression she was a good and loyal playmate. We had so much fun together and isn't that what it's all about?

BTW, I still prefer paper mache. This isn't out of my system yet. ;-D

Saturday, November 22, 2008

IEA, Nature & Sweet Somethings

Last night was our Portland chapter meeting of the International Encaustic Artists Association. It was such a stimulating time that I didn't remember to pull out my camera until most of the members had left and the work was taken down. Our group is growing rapidly and we have 2 shows coming up right after the first of the year. There was a lot to talk about.

We met in Amy Stoner's studio. Pictured above: Karl, Andrea, Linda, Karen and Natasia. Sorry Linda, I always seem to catch you unawares.

Amy is showing us a piece that she made in a workshop with Elise Wagner. In this class, Amy learned how to use a waxed plate as a printing plate by inking the wax with several colors of etching ink and then printing the 'plate' on an etching press, transferring the ink to dampened paper. This is an approach that never would have occurred to me but one that makes unusual prints.

Here is another waxed plate that was inked to be printed on the press. I can tell that the wax was applied with a bristle brush in crosshatched patterns. Intriguing!

John woke me up fairly early this morning for a little hike near our house. The rolling hills were covered with fog and thank goodness he urged me to grab my camera. Of course that made for a slow hike as I stopped to take photographs.

We saw a green heron, some wood ducks and crows. Some racing, happy dogs on our ramble. It was reverent.

Everything was hushed and silent in the mist.

And now for the sweet somethings. The flower cone above was sent to me from Wisconsin by Ruth Wichmann (no website I could find) who actually sent me two of these with instructions to gift the 2nd one to a friend (which I have). I met Ruth at the RaeVn's Nest and heard about her flower cones from others there. Imagine my happy surprise to find this lovely gift on my doorstep not two weeks later. Thank you again, Ruth. It is beautiful and my daughter loves hers too.

And another package of kindness arrived yesterday from Jane Royal, who has a beautiful blog and website. I have the notebook right here beside my keyboard as I type, reminding me of all I need to do today and the cards I will use in the coming days. Thank you, Jane, for thinking kindly of me. These treasures will surround me with sweet reminders of how thoughtful and generous the women are who come to my blog and to the retreats. It is a good world. The bad news is always the anomaly; never forget that. xo

Friday, November 21, 2008

Community of Artists

I'm just feeling happy today. Feeling surrounded by the kindness of people I cannot see. This is why I love blogging. Even though I live outside a city and don't get to see people other than John for days at a time I still feel connected. I read my blogs (over 100 on my bloglines; so many hearts to touch each morning), and I feel included. I want you to have this feeling too and I hope you do. Life is such a gift. xo

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Day of Sharing Words

This post is dedicated to my mother, pictured above, with Nathan, in 1989. She was very brave and I miss her.

Poem: "Wagons," by Maxine Kumin from The Long Marriage (W.W. Norton).


Their wheelchairs are Conestoga wagons drawn
into the arc of a circle at 2 P.M.

Elsie, Gladys, Hazel, Fanny, Dora
whose names were coinage after the First World War

remember their parents tuned to the Fireside Chats,
remember in school being taught to hate the Japs.

They sit attentive as seals awaiting their fish
as the therapist sings out her cheerful directives:

Square the shoulders, lean back, straighten the knee
and lift! Tighten, lift and hold, Ladies!

They will retrain the side all but lost in a stroke,
the spinal cord mashed but not severed in traffic.

They will learn to adjust to their newly replaced
hips, they will walk on feet of shapely plastic.

This darling child in charge of their destiny
will lead them forward across the prairie.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Warm Wax, Warm Heart

Oh, it smells so good in the studio today. I've got the beeswax warmed up and I'm ready to experiment, invent and discover.

I've been moving slowly; November came on all too quickly for my taste. I'm already planning turkey dinner while the sun is shining outdoors and we haven't had a real killing frost yet. I'm all out of sync.

Lost in the forest again. I spend half my time rattling around in the dark, searching for the path. When I am the path. I remember, I forget. If you are a person with a clear destination then I envy you. I am a wandering-in-the-fog girl; a seeker and a questioner. November.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Keeping Cozy

The sun is shining and the wood stove is radiating warmth. All is cozy here even if not much is getting done. Well, John got his garlic in the ground and I did a painting. But things are moving slowly up our way. Fall moves at it's own pace and these golden days deserve to be savored slowly.

I turn into a real homebody in the winter. Not that I fill the house with apple pies and home made bread (well, on occasion I do) but that I just love to stay home and do whatever I choose as the mood strikes. Sort of like I do in the summer too now that I think of it.

I'm nearly up to speed again following my wanderings. Still sorting through a few memories and getting my lists organized. Oh yeah, baby, I'm going to get a lot done this winter. (maniacal laughter)

Shhhh, don't tell Carolyn that I've posted pictures of her new painting here. It's going to be a surprise. I've been looking at it a few days in the studio and it has a very calming effect on me.

Lounging lady surrounded by cats. That's my idea of heaven. Add a little fruit, a little sunshine, some nice scenery. Make life sweet.

The painting is 24"x30" on stretched canvas and the cats are from photographs of her cats. I love to make paintings personal. I added some of my favorite clippings around the border.

Returning to Mexico for a moment; here is a beautiful statue that was in the cemetery at Coatepec. Graveyards have a bittersweet attraction. One cannot really comprehend the mystery of death.

This triptych on wood (large; maybe 5 feet tall) hung on the wall of the restaurant La Sopa in Xalapa. The hands reaching in. Powerful and mysterious.

As one of my readers pointed out, Mexico has a long tradition of printmaking. This is the building, converted from a 400 year old hacienda, that houses the La Ceiba Grafica, a school for printmaking and other arts. We visited there and I took a few pictures and met the Maestro. It's an eye opener to see the support for all the arts in Mexico. In particular we found a large yoga and tai chi community with lots of health food stores, gyms and so on. It certainly goes against the grain of what we hear about Mexico in our media; i. e. crime, poverty, misery. Certainly there are beggars in southern Mexico but in most areas of Veracruz we found a thriving middle and upper class, well fed and well dressed.

There were several litho presses and etch presses as well. Areas to build frames and galleries of art to enjoy. You can come and stay awhile and enroll in classes. There's a website to visit.

Yummy oil based inks. Everything about a printmaking studio is beautiful.

And rolls of leather hides used to recover the rollers when they wear out. These students grind their own rosin, make a lot of their equipment and learn old world craftsmanship.

I'll close with another wood crucifix from the La Sopa Restaurant. This was not a fancy place by any means; just a university hang out for students needing a quick bite. But the level of art! Well, Mexico is the place to visit if you love to look at beautiful paintings, prints, sculpture, architecture and so on. It is a place to which most artists I know are powerfully drawn.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Me and My Journal

My journal contains a lot of dark, autumnal entries this year. Much of it of course has to do with being in Mexico for Day of the Dead. Some of it has to do with losing my companion of so many years, Hermanito. The 200 pound gorilla; time is passing - the sands are drifting down and the pile on the bottom is bigger than the pile on the top.

I want to be one of those people who glide along and do not dwell on dark subjects. Most artists I find are not like that. We dwell on frickin' everything. We are ponderers and seers and seekers and such.

I am searching for my sea legs. Where did I leave off? What have I forgotten? I've been moving too fast and I am someone who loves moving slowly.

In Mexico I tore announcements off telephone poles for my journal pages. They were block printed or more likely silk screened and very fun; picture me running out at dusk and pinching the posters off to the bewildered stares of the passersby. (I only took posters of events that had already passed. I am not a scofflaw.) ;-D

Anyway, some journal pages for your amusement (note the window above which is cut out - I posted it a week ago). I'm lost in the ozone somewhere above the tree line, looking for that kite string that always leads me back home. So far, still looking.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mexico's Cloud Forest

I'm still a little rummy from our trip to the mountains north of Veracruz in Mexico to observe Day of the Dead. I owe e-mails and have a desk stacked with mail but thought I'd share photos before moving on. This photo was taken in the town of Xico, high in the mountains where coffee, bananas and vanilla orchids are grown.

Here is our merry band of travelers; Guy, John, Stephanie and me, chowing down at one of the many colorful restaurants in Xalapa where we stayed. Guy rented a car and drove us all over the area for several days.

This painting was done by a child. I think it's awesome, without exaggeration.

One of the few cemetery shots on Day of the Dead. The crowds were enormous but I tried to avoid taking pictures of families as this is a day of respect for them and the departed.

It's okay to shoot pictures of the many celebratory skeletons though. I loved the variety we saw.

As well as the beautiful restaurants where we ate. This was a place where we had a huge breakfast of eggs and huraches, thick planks of corn masa with black refried beans and cotija cheese. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Coffee from the surrounding plantations. Everything fresh and intensely flavored.

And this was taken at a waterfall in Xico. You can see why they call it a cloud forest. It is high in the mists.

Dear Stephanie and me. She was a great and intrepid sidekick. But as for me, the roads up to Cosautlan were of the hairpin variety with overhang on one side and sheer cliff on the other. You might think the overhang side was the safest until you realized that the mountains are made up of volcanic pumice and are always slipping and sliding onto the two lane roadway. There were crosses in many places and I was a flibberty-gibbet feeling scared until I told myself that many others have to travel the same roads daily. Entire towns have been abandoned there however (in the place they call the Grand Canyon) because the ledge was sliding out from under them. Yikes.

Tarzan vines and jungle. We saw strange creatures with stranger names. One of my favorites was the Caca de Luna caterpillars which I cannot find on the net but which was described in one of the museums we visited. They crawl together in a pile that moves very slowly and they resemble black centipedes. Cool.

This is only the lower part of the enormous waterfall at Xico.

I had Stephanie stand at the base of this tree for scale. Imagine how large the leaves are. We felt very humble in the understory there.

After awhile I stopped photographing food. I was too busy eating it.

If you've been to Mexico you know this street is typical of small towns.

I took lots of photos of stenciling but will only post this one. Most of the subject matter involved the unpopularity of the Bush administration.

On the night of November 4th we gathered around the small television set in Stephanie's room and cheered on our choice for the next President. It was a noisy and happy night.

This shot was taken in a park in Xalapa. The town has many large, beautiful botannical reserves and parks.

And several wonderful markets. Here Guy is purchasing little goodies for the altar we set up for Hermanito.

This night is sort of a blur but I remember something about Cuban food and lots of mojitos.

A lonely marker in the jungle near Xico.

We visited the enormous Anthropology Museum in Xalapa where I took these photos.

Room after room of wonderful sculptures and ceramic art.

The wonderful thing is that so many of the people still look like the figures in the museums. That gorgeous Toltec face.

This shot shows a doll and the press mold used to make it. Imagine this. Not one of these artists had an art degree. Something to think about. (I'm of the belief that we are naturally all artists.)

I think this church was in Coatepec. All my churches are running together.

This was taken in a bakery with two rooms, each housing a wood fired oven. The pastries and breads were smoky and heavenly. The darkened rooms and ovens were like scenes from Dante's Inferno; rich and atmospheric.

We saw and photographed dozens of altars that were set up all around town and in the schools.

I cannot wait to get back into my studio now. I worked a lot in my journal while traveling but my hands and mind are itching to paint in the studio again. I take simple art supplies with me when I travel but nothing is like being in the studio.

It feels like I've returned home to a different America now. There is such an upwelling of hope for the future. The Mexicans we spoke to were thrilled to have a President elect who stood for dignity, unity and peace with others in the world. My prayer is that it will be so and that we will all share and be as one family.