Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Getting Direction

I am currently at Boise, ID taking a workshop with Gerald Brommer.  Yesterday we spent time working on watercolor collages and I was able to complete 6.  We worked on described compositions and had a wonderful time.

Today we worked on a number of other compositions which has been a lot of fun. Working hard all day with a lecture and also critique time sure takes a lot out of me!  But oh, so good to do!

I feel jazzed and excited and back on course.  We have three more days.  So far we have been working very small but tomorrow we will do a couple of 1/4 sheet (of watercolor paper) pieces.  Then the last two days we work on larger work.

I have purchased two of Gerald Brommer's small collages!  Happy dance time!

So I am posting photos of the things I did today.  Today, instead of watercolors I worked with my acrylics and felt much more comfortable as it is far easier to get texture that way.  We have been using a number of different rice papers with lots of different textures.  I am already thinking about how I can translate this type of work into fabric!

Each of these is a different compositional format....they are each about 7 x 7 inches

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Walking through the Creative Process

For many years, I would hit the studio with the expectation that I would create a finished piece that was good...painting, art quilt, collage, whatever. 

As I had mentioned previously, this past year has not been a very fruitful year for me...too many things interrupting my life and not the willingness to let go of a lot of stuff.  Meaning...letting go of doing good, finished work.

So, I have been, for the first time, working on some processes described by a couple of other artists and actually working through their exercises.  This means no need to fear about completing good work.  Of course, this has lifted a big weight off my shoulders. How come it has taken me so long to reach this state of mind?  I will be submitting to shows and seeking places to exhibit but right now I am taking a well deserved break and getting back into my own creativity.  I have been driven before with the need to create new things with new ideas which has put the pressure on.  Now, I can work through a number of fun techniques that others use, try them out, play with them, and see what works for me.

I have been selling my art work since I was in college.  Unfortunately, I have the bad habit of listening to those pundits who tell us what we should be doing.  I have fallen into the trap of not believing that I can work in different styles.  I can work in my very organic manner and at the same time work in a very geometric, hard line manner.  These are two different parts of me and it is time to celebrate these different parts...instead of feeling like I have to chose between one or the other.

Collage, both fabric and paper, are both good ways for me to express myself in either manner.  I can cut the paper or I can tear the paper and achieve very different results.  I am still trying to figure out how to get that torn paper edge on fabric...I have an idea I will be playing with the transfer paints which I paint on to paper, and then iron onto polyester fabric...which can now look like silk or cotton. So, this is something to think about when I am ready to try it.

Meanwhile, I have been using three books to help me through all this process. 

Journal Fodder 365 is a great book about keeping journals.  I have done so for years and I think I must have just about all the books there are on keeping journals.  I have travel journals, I have sketch journals, I have scrapbookie like journals and everything in between.  The books I have tended to look through have either beautiful watercolor sketches or ink sketches in them, with nicely written notes.  I am fascinated by these and will spend hours looking through the work of the Urban Sketchers.  Or, else, I have books that show how to create journal papers but, even through I have tried the techniques suggested, they have never felt like me....they felt too organized, no content and an emphasis on color and funny looking women.

So, Journal Fodder 365 has twelve sections which give you suggestions.  For each chapter, there is a theme for the month and first one Gathers their Forces...images, emphemera, photos, whatever you might want to incorporate to support your theme.  Then there is a section on Strategic Planning in which writing prompts will push you to explore a different concept each month. And finally, the section on Utilizing Your Resources in which they encourage encounters daily with a variety of materials... a few each month.  I have started my first month and am really having fun as I think about the prompts they have given me, which for the first month are specifically about who I am...what a deep question but I don't have to write out a big theses...little lists work just was well...and doodling on the page and not worrying about what the finished page with look like.  What a relief!

I mentioned before Robert Burridge and his working book and studio notes called Loosen Up. This is a collection of handouts that he gives out during his workshops.  But he has tremendous ideas for letting go and doing the work to get where you want.  For instance, I have started doing some warm up painting before I start painting.  Lots of fun.  I spend some time putting gesso on heavy water color paper, cutting it down in size, and then thinking about what I want to do, such as what I want to paint, and then how I want to do it.  So it is all warm ups but there is much to be learned.

For the day I started I used a simple shape--the heart. But I sat down and decided what colors I wanted to use and also brush stroke ideas such as smooth, long, short, loaded with paint, or whatever.  And this is what I got.  Four small hearts, each one done in a fairly short time.  On two I did go back and make some changes which made it more the way I wanted it to be.

 So after that I decided to work on some paper and used a quarter sheet which I had gessoed heavily the day before. Each of the heart paintings had had their substrate done the day before so things were really dry.

Then, working with just a yellow and a red I did a very simple landscape which has a lot of texture also.

I first started out these not using white and then decided I needed to lighten things so in the hearts you can see the difference between including white and not using it.

And then, finally, a little more realistic landscape on a meadow which I am still thinking about. I am trying to decided if I want to add some trees along the horizon...which would need to become more prominent and level.

Still thinking.

But today I have spent time painting on a couple of 1/4 sheets of water color paper which I added gesso to and also rice paper to create something much more three dimensional.  I am using the processes from another book, Celebrate You Creative Self, by Mary Todd Beam.  I have been looking through the book for some time but now I am actually working through some of her lessons and not worrying about it if looks like her work or not.

This afternoon I look forward to finishing the satin stitching on another Triangular Intersections piece that I am doing in color...all solids for right now but I am enjoying the process.

thanks for coming along with me...this feels good!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Working with children

One of the joys of being a grandmother is the gift of time.

When my children lived at home, any free time that I had went into "me" time...time to do my art. I had so little of it that I had no real patience for sharing art with my children...besides, they always were so busy with all of their activities.

However, once I retired I had the gift of time for myself and I made use of it.

Now, with grandchildren, I am finding a love of introducing them to art. Jacob, age 8, loves going to museums with me and he takes his bag with his sketchbook and watercolor pencils with him and will look at masterpieces for a long time and then do it his way.  He constantly reminds me of my mantra--"There are no mistakes in art" and that he should do things his way.  He may work looking at a piece of abstract art and then when you see his finished work, it is truly his own and one can hardly tell that he was referencing some  famous painting.

Of course, since I especially enjoy abstract work, that is where we spend a lot of time.

Now, Ashton, his 5 year old brother, is spending more time with me and art. Yesterday I had both boys for the day and about midday we sat down with one of Georgia O'Keeffe's books (not her book but a book about her) and talked about the work we saw.  This is a book of a lot of very abstract watercolors and we talked about how the picture made us feel, what we really liked about it, what the title was and could we see why she called it what she did.  So then, off to painting we went.

With the book open in front of him, turned to an image he really liked of O'Keeffe's work, he went to work with his watercolors and heavy paper.  I introduced him to the idea of working wet on wet and he just had a blast.  I saw more control from him than I have ever seen before. He was very intentional in what he did.  He was telling me that he learned how to draw a house at school and his art work from school is typical 5 year old work...sun in the corner, grass on the bottom etc.

But with the influence of Georgia O'Keeffe in front of him, he became very excited and proud of what he had done. 

And me too!
With Ms. O'Keeffe's painting in front of him, Ashton went to work on what he saw as a tornado. Working wet on wet he created his own piece.
 And then he began to add his own brush strokes, making different marks with the flat brush and then with his finished product which had become his own.
He began to work with another image, again wet on wet.  This time I watched him and realized that he was incorporating the border in the book in to his painting.  He continued to work
And then made it his own
 And his final painting from the book as inspiration was the blue mountain. He again started to include the border from the book and I explained to him that that was not part of the painting itself.  So then he began to incorporate the entire page.  I was very impressed with his ability to keep his colors separate and his utilization of three different blues in this piece. And the red was pure genius!

When we sit down to look at art work in a book, I spend a lot of time on each picture, pointing out how the artist has done things differently that before, how the use of color affects the feelings we get, how color theory works and how a small piece of bright color becomes even more important when surrounded by toned, darker colors.  We also look at how the brush was used, how strokes were made, if it was wet on wet, a loaded brush, a dry brush or whatever else we can comment on. But most importantly is our discussion about how we see the title fitting with the painting and how the painting makes us feel and what we especially like about it.

This is a process not just for the boys, but for me also. So even though I did not get into the  studio to do my own work, it was a productive time in there with the boys and I, in fact, did do some of my own "work" albeit in my head!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Finding Myself

It seems pretty strange that at 65 years old I am trying to find myself.  Art-wise, that is.

I know I have a voice but I am seeking new ways of speaking.

Art has always been a part of my life and because I do a lot of it, it seems to come fairly easily.  I have been giving a lot of thought to where I want to go.  Too often I fall back on what is known and therefore, easy and not very challenging.  I need to push myself to try new ideas and to work harder.

So, 2013 is the year of me.  No broken bones, no husband with broken bones, time to take some painting workshops and get some of those old art skills whipped back into shape!  The end of January I will be going to Boise, Idaho to take a workshop with Gerald Brommer, an artist whose work I really admire.  I purchased his book when I first began doing serious collages and received a great deal of help from his book.  This workshop is a watercolor and collage workshop with Art Breakthrough Workshops in Boise.  It is a five day workshop and should be lots of fun. I have talked my good friend, Carol Suto, into driving with me so I can afford to go.

I have been getting instructional videos and paying close attention, taking notes, etc.  Feels good to be reminded of things that I really do know!

Another one of my favorite artists is Nita Leland. I picked up one of her videos and she talks about the creative process, which is something that I discuss in my classes.  But she also described five levels of creativity which I feel are important for many of us to understand.

1. Intuitive:  what kids do, simplicity, not trained, the beginning of the learning process

2. Technical/academic: a skill learning and training period when we learn the brush strokes, the stitches, the colors, etc.

3. Inventive: using familiam materials in a new way

4. Innovative: pushing the boundaries beyond the expectations.

5. Genius: with much discussion in the art work about whether one can learn to be a genius or if one is only born that way...her feeling is that with a lot of hard work, one can become a genius in the field of art.

But most importantly, she talks about the need to allow yourself to proceed at your own pace.  Understand the creative process and stay at the level that works best for you.

The process includes several steps:
1. decide what you want to do, what you want to say

2. do the research, find images, look at things from all angles, etc.

3. Rest and incubation time--allowing all that you have learned and thought about to sink in and when everything comes together in your mind you reach that "Ah-Ha" moment of clarity.

4.  complete the project...get the work done.

This morning I woke up with some very clear ideas of what and how I would like to work in a different way.  I especially enjoy gestural painting, expressionism and color work.  I guess that is due to coming of age during the 50's and 60's, a time with a great deal of change going on in the art world. So I got up, fixed myself a large glass of water, and sat down to write everything down that I had been thinking about as I woke up. 

I thought about what, and how and why.  And I started really growing excited.  New ways of doing things. Incorporating more painting with stitching and fabric collage.  So today I started the prep work.