Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year just for me!

I am so happy that the second half of 2013 has come to an end.  It has been a rough half of a year for me and it started out so well. The first half of the year was immersed in my art, taking a class with Gerry Brommer in Idaho, starting a post-baccalaureate certificate program at UC Extension in San Francisco, taking an on line class on working in a series with Elizabeth Barton, and then taking several classes on line with Jane Davies.  Each teacher I have had has helped me to reach farther and farther into myself to seek new ideas and ways of doing things. 

In June my father began declining and fell in the house which resulted in a broken thigh bone at the hip.  He was sent home with a catheter which he continued to pull out each time it was reinserted. He lived in Berkeley with 37 steps from the street to the first floor of his house which means an enormous charge for any wheel chair service to take him to the doctor.  Most of the times he went back to the hospital to the ER via an ambulance since he was not mobile at all.  Finally, after two weeks of spending many evenings and days at the hospital, he was found to have a very low sodium level which resulted in his hospitalization.  However, they would only keep him until his sodium level went up.  However, the urologist didn't want him to leave until they had done some minor laser surgery so he could urinate.  But they couldn't do the surgery until his sodium level was up.

I have had a wonderful caregiver who has been living with my father for the past six years.  I couldn't have managed without her care and support of my father and myself.  We would split shifts at the hospital since my father was pretty deaf, fairly blind and had very short memory if much at all.  One time I went downstairs to get something to eat one evening, told the nurse I was going so she could watch out for my dad, cam back to find three staff trying to hold my father down to reinsert his Iv which he had also pulled out.  Needless to say, I didn't leave his beside again unless Roz was there with him.  I had the day shift and she took the night shift.

He was in the hospital for two weeks. Meanwhile my husband left on a pre-planned vacation in our motorhome with our daughter and family in their trailer up California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and into Glacier National part...finally arriving at Yellowstone.

My father had his surgery and was doing much better at home in his own surroundings. He was no longer continent but we could easily deal with that.  Roz encouraged me to go join my family on vacation since we were also going to go the Michigan for my granddaughter's first birthday.  Spent lots of time on the phone with home health care, hospice, etc trying to decide from a distance what the best next step would be.  Returned home and decided to get him on hospice right away as he was seriously declining as a result of severe wounds to his feet, ankles, and shins from traction when he had been in the hospital with first time.  Within a week of my return home, a died peacefully at home with Roz, my brother and I there with him.  I called the rest of the family and called my priest who came over to say some prayers and be with us and we had a good ole' wake there at the house until we were finally ready for the mortuary to take his body away.

Since that time I have been very busy dealing with the house and all the legalities and working with my brother on things. I am handling the estate and it looks like we might wrap everything up by March or April of the new year.  I am truly looking forward to that. Meanwhile, I have brought boxes and boxes of papers home and have burned up my shredder going through all of his tax returns and cancelled checks and other stuff from the past fifty years. I have vowed now to leave all that to my daughter when my time comes!

I have been going through many different feelings of grief, including feeling overwhelmed (which I have been) to just to sad to do anything.  My art has taken a back seat to the rest of my life.  Christmas was a little low key and much more relaxed as the house never did get completely cleaned up but my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter didn't seem to  mind.  For a week had my entire family, four more adults and three grandchildren here in the house most of the time.  My son and family returned in Michigan on Saturday and now I am just watching my two grandsons for this week while school is out.

But, BUT, BUT I have returned to the studio.  I began doing some work on a piece I had started several years ago and am getting the top ready to paint over it and then do a lot of quilting on it and some more painting.  And I have pulled out a lot of the left over pieces from one of Jane Davies' classes and have started to work on those again.  And, I have set up a bunch of 4 x 4" bristol board all ready to started working on on a daily basis...let's see if I can keep that up for the year! Lots of plans for the new year, including two more classes this winter at UC (contemporary art history and intermediate painting) along with a masters program with Jane Davies for a while as we work on various things.

so, if you have stuck with me all this time, I will include a couple of pieces that I did during the late spring time....they are, however, indicative of the way I seem to be going right now...working in many layers.  Each of these is mixed media with collage and painting, stamping, etc.

Now, I have made a commitment to myself to keep up the blog (especially since I had to delete five hundred spam messages that had appeared!) and to keep up with my work. I finally feel like I am returning to myself again!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ah, the Muse

I have been thinking a lot about "the Muse" and where it goes and when it comes back.  I have decided there is no muse lurking out there waiting for me to come into the studio.  I have only me. And that means I have to feed the soul regularly with ideas, thoughts, images, feelings and lots of work.  The work includes cleaning up the studio, painting papers for collages, searching out new artists, learning new ways of doing things and trying new ideas.  It also means working in multiple media as one media feeds my thoughts into another.

For instance, as I work on painting papers in a new palette of color, I have been thinking about using these colors in my fabric collages.  And, again, as I incorporate more texture into my paper collages, I think a lot about how I can incorporate more texture into my fabric.  The ideas are sloshing around in the back of my brain, incubating.  Some times I take the time to sit down and write the ideas in my sketch book, but many times I just let them free float around in the grey matter.

Taking the painting class has been really good for me.  I am working in a media I really have never worked in before (oil painting) in a way I don't generally work (layers and layers and layers) and learning as I go.  I have been learning, not just with this class, but also the one with Gerry Brommer, that I can take my time to think about what I am doing and why.

I was talking to the instructor last week about how much I am having fun with this process.  And he reminded my that art isn't always fun.  On this point, I absolutely agreed and shared with him my thought that it was work but the work of art is problem solving which I really enjoy doing, therefore, the work is fun. The joy of taking the time to really look at what you are drawing on that canvas. The play of different colors. The multiple colors used in the foundation, none of which will be around at the end of the painting. And knowing that it will change and that how it changes will be up to me.

I continue to do my small paper collages and really enjoy these.  I am getting quite a stack of them and will have to figure out what to do with them.  But, for now, just enjoy:

This 7 x 7" piece is all in neutrals with various rice papers with inclusions.  So far, the tints I have used on it are all neutrals, quite a change for me. I am trying to decide if I want to add some color to this or not

This 6 x 6" piece is created using some rice paper, some stained papers that I have been doing and texture from wallpaper samples.  Again the colors are rather subdued and reflect a big pile of papers I have been painting the past several days.

Again, using the same colors as the piece above, but shades instead of tints.  What fun I am having trying out new colors, new color ways, layers of color and who know what else.  

This one was actually finished a few days ago, again using the quinacridone gold and other paints. I love the depth I have gotten with this and the different textures.
 More work is waiting me on the table.  Collages part way done and a painting that I did some time ago that I am now ready to change into something totally different with a really different way of painting.  Too much fun!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Still organizing

I am still organizing in my studio at home...partly because I still have things to bring in to it from my old home studio.  Ah well.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours doing that kind of work. I had a lot of large sheets of Japanese papers, and other assorted fancy papers that sat in a stack about 4" tall on the bottom shelve of a work table.  It was hard to get a piece from the stack.  So, thought I, why not cut them down?  But, of course, I tear them up into smaller pieces anyway so a-cutting I did go.  Took me about an hour to get them all quartered which then made a stack of paper about 12 inches high.  However, they all fit into three wire baskets for storage in my shelving unit.  Way to go, Liz.  They are out of the way, out of the light and in manageable sizes.  Now why didn't I think of that sooner?

I also took the time to find all of the assorted small pieces of mat board and watercolor paper that had been cut and got them all in to a bin, ready for painting.  I also collected all my large sheets of watercolor paper and got them tucked away.

I did spend several hours working on a couple of collages.  I had received a bunch of new papers to use for collage (didn't I just say I had a 12" stack of papers?) which had wonderful textures.  So I just had to play with them.

Each of these is about 7.5 x 7.5 inches.  I am truly having fun.

This morning I told my husband I had a couple of projects that needed his help and he agreed to help me with them today.  I have also found that if I get my drill out and make noise with it, he comes running up to my studio to see what I am about to do and, of course, he knows how to do it better.  I just need to be sure he does it the way I want.

I had gone to Ikea to pick up some organizing stuff (my entire studio seems to have come from there) and got a shelf and a tool bar which he installed at my prized possession, my commercial sink.  Here you can see it hanging at the sink with the flatware baskets that I use to hold my brushes after I wash them.  

In this picture you can see the entire set up.  There is a metal shelf about the bar, a drain thingy for containers to dry in (lots of washing but not dishes!).  I have set this up so that I can use magnets to hold my stencils from the edge of the shelf after I wash them and they drip right in to the sink...I am just too clever!

And, after years of using a little bitty corner sink at my Oakland studio, I now have this sink which is holding a 5 gallon bucket.  The image above shows the faucet and the rinsing sprayer which really gets the paint off stencils and other stuff.  Just love it...it was probably the most expensive thing in the new studio but so worth it.  To the right and just above the drainer you can see the on demand water heater.

My dear husband also but a shelf up for me over my printing table.  I will get pictures of them to post also because I think that set up is really great too!

Last Thursday I began another adventure.  I had signed up for a UC Extension program in painting and had the first painting class in San Francisco.  It was so great to be back in an academic environment.  There are only 11 students so it is very nice.  The studio has lots of light and looks out over the street and is in the SFMOMA area...the museum is right across the street to I may go to SF in the morning and go to the museum and then have lunch and then to class.  The only down side is that I am commuting home on BART (our rapid transit) during rush hour when I leave and have to stand up the entire way.  holding lots of stuff....oh well, back to school I go.  Spent a ton of money buying oil paints which I have not used for 45 years in college.  When I first started painting, acrylics had come out and that is what I always worked with.  So now, this Thursday, we start painting in layers, the old master way....I just have to find three things to bring in for my still life and am looking all around the house of things I would like to paint.

I am truly on a trip of my life!  I am having so  much fun and am so energized and am stacking up a big pile of new collages.  I am also painting papers to use in my collages and will be making more paper-fabric which I can then use in my fiber art...it all comes back together.

In looking at the two collages above, the one sure looks like my fences works...guess I just can't get away from certain things.  Fences and circles are important symbols for me and do show up very frequently, whether I want them to or not!

Well, back to the studio for the day...papers to paint and collages that are ready to paint are calling me...

Monday, February 04, 2013

Looking Back and finding direction

Carol and I drove home all the way on Saturday, arriving home about 10pm.  Sunday I tried to sleep in but didn't manage and finally last night I slept well and long....

So, what else did I do at the Brommer workshop? I am going to re-post the images I put up on the blag before because I now have better images which show more of the subtlety of the work.

This image is a play piece.  I had done the water color and collage and set it aside the first day.  Then decided on Thursday to play with a pen and see what happened.

I have a collection of practice calligraphy papers from either China or Japan.  They are on washi and are great in collages.  In this picture you can see the layers of papers and paint. This is done in watercolor on the second day.

Another watercolor done on mat board. This was done on the third day.

Another watercolor, also on mat board  which has been enhanced with gold pen. This utilizes old account ledgers. This was done on the 3rd day.

A very simple watercolor collage using heavily textured washi.  This was done on the fourth day.

A collage done in acrylic with a great deal of texture. This was done on the first day.

Another collage, also done in acrylic, this was done on the second day.

This collage utilizes paper from an old map and is also done in acrylic which was done on the second day.

A much more subtle image of trees done in watercolor with a printed paper. This was done on the first day.

A collage done with papers altered with citrasolv and the background is done in macecious iron oxide.

A watercolor collage done the first day.

Another watercolor collage done on the second day.

This is one of my final pieces and is larger done on mat board which was done on the last day.  

A watercolor collage done on the first day.

A watercolor color collage done on the second day with gold ink

What you are not seeing right now is a flower collage and also my landscape collage.  I have altered the landscape again and am still thinking about it.  We will see if it shows up.

So today I got the collage portion done on five new works.  It is really exciting to be hyped up about what I am doing again.

Lessons I learned from Jerry;

Do my own work.
It doesn't matter how many styles I want to work in, do it.
Have fun.
Work on composition first.
Different artists see things differently.
I have the freedom to create.
Some people see things simply and others complexly.
There are lots of ways to paint a rock or a flower.
None of those ways is the "right" way.
Sometimes you have to sacrifice some reality in order to make the painting better.
Painting evolves...don't stop the process.
Explore, try, experiment and  grow.

I spent time talking with Jerry and during this time I realized that I have been striving to do work as good as other people's, you know, those at the top.  I am not at the top and I have decided that I will not end up at the top.  I am a good artist and like what I do and my vision of things.  It is quite alright to do my organic work and my geometric work, both different styles but both still me. I can work in as many styles as I like and it is still my work.  My voice will come through no matter how I work or what medium I work in.  I like to teach and should teach more often.

I don't need to constantly strive to make something new.  Do what I enjoy doing and keep at it. I don't need to listen to other people (a hard thing to do). I can give up all of the goals that other people set for themselves and just be happy with my work and my way.

Best of all, Jerry helped me to see that my work is good and it is my own.  There is room for improvement and that is called growth...onward Liz!

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.