Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making Color Hum

Moss and Wild Phlox, 5 x 7", watercolor on Arches paper

      You always hear teachers say that they learn a lot from teaching, and this is true for me as well. Every time I teach a class or workshop, I know that I will gain new insights from participant-students. At my last workshop, we were talking about using only the three primary colors to mix up all the colors in our watercolor layers. Jule suggested that I check out Making Color Sing: Practical Lessons in Color and Design, by Jeanne Dobie. So I did, and it is a marvelous book. I couldn't wait to try out the particular colors that she especially values. I ordered a couple of colors that I had not tried before and set to work on painting exclusively with the recommended three primary colors.
      I love mixing colors, but there was something amiss for me. It was too high key and not nearly "murky" enough. I was itching to reach for my preferred colors--and even more than that, the "used" palettes from my classes and workshops. I always encourage my students to take their palettes with them, but they often leave them behind and I then use them for my paintings. They are actually, quite splendid, with all sorts of amazing colors premixed. They provide the same deep and indescribable colors found in nature. Then my only task is to bring out the pure and bright in spots. It really works for me. I guess I prefer my colors to hum, and even at a low register, than to sing!
Pre-prepared palettes that make my paintings hum! The bottom painting on the right is  made with the three primary colors suggested by Jeanne Dobie. Above that is a painting filled with my pre-mixed, preferred palette paints.

Monday, April 14, 2014

3.5 Leaf Clover

Sometimes you find what you need
Today, everything is bursting out, and all at once. Maybe the blooms want to have at least one day of glory before the freezing temperatures claim their brilliance and buoyancy. The clover was looking bounteous as well, as I set out on a walk (and in the back of my mind, looking for a sign and guidance for a little dilemma.) The clover is my totem plant. I don't consider extra leaf clovers to be good luck, so much as signs that I'm on the right path. So, it was interesting when I turned the corner, admired a lush bunch of clover and thought I spotted a 4-leaf clover. On closer inspection (I plucked it) it had three leaves. The top leaf was a super leaf with two major veins.
        What sort of sign was this, I pondered. Here is what I came up with and perhaps this might apply to you as well. I seem to have been given all the raw materials I need (okay, want). It is just that it has arrived in a different form than I was anticipating. You know about this, too. Life is much more curious, interesting (and sometimes frustrating) than we ever expect it to be.  Our job is to use the raw materials we've been given and create the life that we want and even appreciate the unexpected form that life has taken.
4 veins and 3 leaves

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Enchanting April

Enchanting April, watercolor on Arches paper
April is a most welcome month, especially this year. The drabness of winter is at its peak, as all the green things have given up after blast after blast of arctic air. Even the ivy has had it this year. Then, all of a sudden, green happens anew. I love how the daffodils burst forth energetically, even as the trees are bare. Hope returns.
     I've always liked April, but infinitely more so for the past twenty five years after a very special person arrived. She is rather like April herself, full of enchantment. She can play the Waltz of the Flowers cadenza on the harp and run a marathon. She arrived in France and got on the phone to arrange for renting La Maison Rose and made Thanksgiving for twenty in that same house's tiny kitchen (the meal  included 4 pies!) She cares about the huddled masses and was the only one who knew how to firmly, yet lovingly, train Carly. What a gift she has been and she was given to us in April!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Be Still

Psalm 46, 12 x 12", mixed media
My father died in a tractor accident over twenty years ago. It was March, in the middle of Lent. At his service, Psalm 46 was read. My mind had been in overdrive for days trying to comprehend what had happened and what the future would be like with this sudden loss; but it was dumbstruck at these words: "Be still, and know that I am God!" Just the words I needed to hear, and within the context of turmoil and suffering. These words, along with "Remember that you are dust and  to dust you shall return" are comforting words to me.
       I appreciate the perspective correction; particularly these days with the escalation of rant and the extreme need to be right. I am guilty of this type of thinking. This causes me to miss out on the bigger picture and the beauty of our world and our lives. So, this Lent (Spring) I am going to quiet my mind and sharpen my senses to watch the season unfold. It is going to be pretty glorious to experience Spring!
      And there will be a visual aid for this journey: St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Paris, KY is displaying a special exhibit for Lent titled, Be Still. It will have work that evokes stillness or a sense of calm. My offering for the exhibit is a painting inspired by Psalm 46 (shown above.)The exhibit goes up Sunday, March 9, 2014 and will be on display through Sunday, April 13, 2014.  St. Peter's is located at 311 High Street in Paris, KY (right behind the courthouse.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to be Lovely--Henderson Style

absorbing the  loveliness 
I have just arrived back from teaching a two-day workshop in Henderson, KY and it was a lovely experience. My lodging was a charming cottage near downtown and just two short blocks from the Ohio River. In the bedroom was a large photo of Audrey Hepburn and a book on Audrey's wit and wisdom lay prominently on the dresser. The title of that book, by Melissa Hellstern established the theme for my stay in Henderson, How to be Lovely. 

      I knew I would be learning a lot this weekend when I opened the book to this quote from Audrey:  "There is a Dutch saying, 'Don't fret: it will happen differently anyway.' I believe that."  Naturally, I had been fretting for several months about this workshop; traveling by myself (Adventure is not my middle name), would I be an effective teacher, would I forget to bring something really important, and on and on. My experience from the past is that the workshops always turn out very well, because the participants are so interesting in their lives and in their perception of the world. It never ceases to amaze me. There is a lot of beauty out there just waiting to be expressed.

But even before the workshop began, I was impressed. Henderson is a river town of about 25,000 people, and they have 4 art galleries! I went to two art exhibit receptions the evening before the workshop began. Though we had been worrying about bad weather of the snow variety with the timing of the workshop, this evening, there were sirens going off warning of severe weather of the tornado variety. Even so, a very healthy crowd turned up for these receptions. This was clearly a town that appreciated artistic expression. My being there was mainly due to a Wonder Woman named Jule McClellan, who is the founder and director of the Ohio Valley Art League (OVAL). She had attended one of my workshops in Lexington and wanted to share that experience with her artistic colleagues in western Kentucky.

     The next day broke in a beautiful fashion as we gathered at the Henderson County Public Library. Henderson is one of the spots where Audobon (there is a wonderful Audubon Museum at a state park just outside of Henderson) alighted and so all around town, there are sculptures created from Audubon's lithographs. Appropriately, there were owls at the museum. There was plenty of intelligence in our workshop as well, and a lot of stories. One woman had just moved to Henderson from California, and she signed up for the class even before she moved. As it turned out, she was seated near a native Californian whose family had owned land in the redwood forests when she was a child. I had already seen the work of several participants the evening before and knew there would not be a lack of creativity. Another participant had set a goal to write, illustrate and publish a book and had accomplished that. Everyone had been to beautiful places and they had beautiful minds, too! We set about working to express our visions.

     It turns out that using watercolor and pastel to create paintings does allow for individual creation, no matter how much experience the painter has. Within our group the experience level ranged from absolute beginner to thoroughly accomplished in multiple disciplines and media. The qualities of watercolor and pastel are complementary, so that each artist's strengths are allowed to shine. And shine they did:

We all learned from one another. We were able to revel in each other's color sense and exuberance or tranquility. We had a beautiful day along the Ohio River, but we also enjoyed Hawaii, California, Maysville, and Maine. It was like being in a Pete Seeger song!

     Thank you to Jule and OVAL for this lovely gift!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Workshop Prep

In a couple of days I will take my teaching show on the road for the first time. I have been invited to give a two-day workshop through the Ohio Valley Art League in Henderson, KY. There is some prep work! For my workshops and classes, I provide all the materials, so there is watercolor paper to cut and brushes to collect and clean. Are the watercolors in order and do I have the pliers to aid with the stubborn tube caps? And the pastels must all be organized by color (figuring out the color categories is interesting.) I prepare a watercolor underpainting for demonstrating my approach.
      I want to keep everything loose. This is the main premise: first I have an idea of what I want to create. That idea is what directs my technique, rather than the other way around. That will be my approach with workshop participants as well. We will start with their vision of what they want to create and then figure out how to achieve that using watercolor and pastel. My big goal is to help artists to develop their own voice by sharpening vision and honing the work of our hands.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Eat an Apple Today!

I did not attend the big debate on creationism yesterday (February 4, 2014) or watch it live-streamed. I did read about it in the papers this morning and hear about it on the radio. It was pretty predictable that no twain was going to be met. Admittedly, I am more of the Bill Nye the Science Guy camp and why wouldn't I be? I love the wonder and awe of our world and the universe. To me, that is what is missing in Creationist, Ken Ham's approach (you could say his ham-strung approach.) The main point seems to be having all the answers, now and forever.
      I am no theologian or bible scholar, but  listening to creationists, I wonder, what is the point of humanity? If the story stops almost 2000 years ago, what are we here for? Does humanity not have anything to add to narrative of creation? And what is the point of that tempting fruit in the middle of the garden? We humans are curious and creative. We are mortal, too, so that as we return to dust, humanity might be refreshed by future humans. Evolution is pretty refreshing, too. Sure, life isn't always a stroll in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, but it is always interesting and often amazing if your eyes are open and your senses alive. Thank you, Eve! I think I'll have an apple now.