Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Herons and Art a Day Journal Pages and Art Critiques

I love watching birds, so graceful as they dance in the sky... transporting me to imagined places with the flutterings of their wings and charming songs...
Herons and Art a Day Page
The quick sketch above is from my Art Page a Day journal I started last November. I sketched from this picture which I took...
The local herony which boasts probably 30 or more nests in the Swamp Creek area is visible from the Park and Ride in Kenmore. Herons are beautiful large birds with 7 foot wingspans. Their babies have just recently hatched and huddle under or near the parent while others bring in food. For the sketch I experimented with a new pencil I picked up while on my Pt Townsend art retreat, a Stabilo CarbOthello (available at many on-line art stores). It is an opaque erasable water-soluble pastel pencil. I had never heard of water soluble pastels, but you can use these like watercolor pencils, very fun.

More Birds - Art Page a Day
These 2 pages are a bit of whimsy created from junk mail advertising... you can find good color combination and interesting patterns in catalogs, good for playing and recycling into collage. I seem to have quite a few pages with birds on them. I think I will have to do Flickers.

Art Critiques
I have joined yet another group... I was invited to be in a group of women painters where we will be critiquing 1 or 2 art pieces at each monthly meeting. So off I went with 2 experimental pieces in hand last week wondering what to expect. There are 10 of us, some I already knew, a friendly group with different styles and mediums. Of course, I love looking at other's art, and the socializing so am thrilled to be joining this group. And the feedback I received on my 2 pieces did seem to confirm my own feeling about them. I took the acrylic mixed media portrait in the upper right corner of my April 15 blog post. I was told not to touch it, just frame it! The other piece was Pearl Rises Above the Monsters of the Deep acrylic/mixed media piece blog post of March 31. This one I have continued to feel needs more, possibly something at the bottom... and that is precisely the feedback I received as well as suggestions as to what might be done. I haven't worked on it yet, but am considering possibilities and will probably use Photoshop to test out possible changes before applying real paint or more collage...

I looked up art critiques on The Painters Keys (a good resource for painters, by the way) site and found an interesting story from Robert, the site owner, about how he posted a painting and asked for critique. He was inundated with all kinds of opinions, including many conflicting opinions of how to improve his painting. Here's my favorite comment on that experiment from a reader, Karl Leitzel about art critiques:

"The many contradictory responses you got, and these mostly from actual artists, vividly illustrates why we can't get hung up on one negative review of our work, or one rejection notice from a juried show.
.." "I always try to keep a lot of irons in the fire and applications and entries out there, so that the rejection letter one day is often followed by a glowing acceptance the next."

I think that's where I am these days... I paint or make what I want and I know some will love it and think it's good art, and others not. It's important for me to continue to paint or make what pleases me, or else, why do it? However, that said, I am excited to take a journey with these painters in this critique group, as I have been experimenting with many other media these last few years. So this will motivate me to paint more often again and continue my experimenting with mixed media, as well as my traditional media of watercolor. The value for me may be in the inspiration of a group and reminders to myself to think about the typical elements of design, unity, balance, etc., but not getting so lost in those to be formulaic and lose the passion of just throwing on paint if I want to! Share your thoughts on this if you wish.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Meditation - Poppies, Birds and Pulling Weeds

another lovely NW day...a little of this and a little of that... enjoying flowers, colors, and birds Poppies and a Special Friend
Aren't these colors just eye-popping, well it is a poppy!
I was SO thrilled yesterday when my dear friend Sharon Baker gifted the beautiful wall hanging on the right to me... she hand hooked it with those gorgeous wool colors and modeled it after the poppy picture I had taken on the left... and totally surprised me at our local art club meeting with it. Isn't it wonderful to see a different (and stunning) interpretation from someone's else's point of view... all the more reason to try out collaborations perhaps. Or at the very least take a piece of artwork you've done and do it again in another medium. I will be enjoying this special wall hanging for a long long time. I was focusing on taking pictures of poppies last year when I took this photo, as they remind me of my favorite artist, Georgia O'keeffe.

Birds and Etsy
Today I worked on updating my Etsy shop and listed quite a few items I've had ready for some time. For those of you who make art, I do recommend trying it out... you probably won't get rich but it is nice to make a sale now and again to fund the art supplies. I played with Photoshop making a mosaic of these bird and floral/fruit pins. And following up on our Northern Flicker, here he is at the Honeymoon Palace peeking out at us from on high. You can see the patches to our house over the holes he drilled in our house. But he looks happy now and my husband managed to catch this photo. He's on the lookout for a female roommate...Meditation
My thought for today on a meditation... or practice... is merely to take time out. Look out your window like the Flicker above, go walk in your yard or neighborhood and appreciate the songs of the birds, the gentle breezes, the blossoms. Today I did manage to do just that for a little bit, pull myself away from this computer and the laundry, etc. Stop and breathe in that fresh air. Be still. Or pull a few weeds in the garden... something so satisfying about that, hands in the dirt, drifting, letting go of the to-do lists... Namaste

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tulip Fields and Art Quilts, and Woodpeckers and the Honeymoon Palace

Mother Earth painted with a full palette today, Earth Day... cloudy, rainy, then sunny and blue skies, fabulous blossoms in the trees and masses of tulips and daffodils in the valley...
Tulip Fields
This is a watercolor painting I did several years ago from a photo I had taken in the Skagit Valley. Prints will be available soon in my Etsy shop.

Wednesday finally I was recovered enough from the flu, and we ventured out for a day trip to the Valley again to enjoy seeing the farms and countryside and the annual tulip festival. Luscious color blanketing the fields... and we saw several bald eagles too.
We stopped in the LaConner Quilt Museum (one of only 12 in the country), housed in the 1891 Gaches Mansion a National Historic site... a wonderful old 3-story house. There were 3 different exhibits, but one in particular I found to be just breathtaking. Karin Franzen's "Birdscapes" were exquisitely executed on filmly layers of organza and other transparent fabrics and appeared to be attached only at the top instead of traditional quilting through all the layers. This gave them an ethereal quality capturing movement of the cranes and ravens very well. Unfortunately no pictures allowed, but you can get a hint on the museum web (but only a hint, as the picture does no justice to the quality, texture, movement and light of the actual pieces. Well worth a visit.

Woodpeckers and the HoneyMoon Palace

And speaking of birds... this is a local Northern Flicker which I was lucky enough to photograph 2 years ago looking out one of our windows. They are a beautiful variety of woodpecker.
Families of northern Flickers have come back year after year near our house, and I believe nested in back in gigantic cottonwoods adjacent to our property. Occasionally they would drill a hole in the side of the house and hubbie continued to patch them over. This year the owners of the 3 giant cottonwoods took them down as they were becoming a people and house hazard, esp. during storms... So this year our returning Flicker has hammered at the same side of our house with a vengance, several holes... no sooner was a patch done and hubbie turned the corner, than the determined Flicker was drilling another hole.

To prevent dire consequences for our bird friend, I researched and found plans for a nest box and another one here, just the right size for the Flicker, after all they lost their habitat cottonwoods and needed a home. So here's our celebration of Earth Day this year... that's my husband installing the "Honeymoon Palace" on the top south side of our house. No sooner was it installed than the flicker moved in, and we heard and saw him happily widening the door a tiny bit. Then hubbie says the Flicker was rearranging the furniture, as he found a few shreds of some of the newspaper on the ground (kind of like the requisite moving the sofa around in a new place). I hear these tiny taps at 6:30 in the morning now, but we're so glad he has a home and soon there will be a bird family in there. I think I'll name him Ralph looking for his Alice, suitable don't you think, for the Honeymoon Palace...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Meditations - Imitating Lomo and Painting like Pollack

Imitating something is a good way to learn, but in the end my own hand begins to reveal itself and steer in my own direction... and it's better that way... Imitating Lomo Photography
I have been playing a lot with Photoshop (PS) lately while recovering from flu... I decided to try imitating Lomo photography, because I don't want to buy a Lomo camera and deal with developing film too, but I love the funky pictures. The first truck picture is after PS altering, the second is the original photo. Isn't that a great picture - taken at a garlic farm in Sequim, WA - the truck had the Superman icon on the side panel and was parked next to the chicken pens. Who knew, Superman hides out in a tiny sleepy Washington town at a garlic farm.

Aaah, what is Lomo? Here's what Wikipedia says: "...Lomography is the commercial trademark of Lomographische AG,Austria.... As the company states, they were 'charmed by the unique, colorful, and sometimes blurry" images that the camera produced. Lomography emphasizes casual, snapshot photography. Characteristics such as over-saturated colors, off-kilter exposure, blurring, "happy accidents," and alternative film processing are often considered part of the "Lomographic Technique.' Users are encouraged to take a lighthearted approach to their photography..." There are groups for Lomo lovers too, just google and you'll see.
Meanwhile, here's my second try, Lomo effect on the left, original on the right. This is the Kaslo, BC City Hall, circa 1906, a wonderfully charming town we visited on a Canadian road trip last year.Painting Like Jackson Pollock
Another fun thing to do while recouperating... yes, another computer thing, paint like Jackson Pollack.... Here are my creations, I love the intense colors (maybe why I like the super-saturated Lomo style too.....

So here is the meditation, go to this site and take a few minutes to play... with colors and lines and splotches. Painting and drawing (even virtual) can take you into that soothing place where you lose track of time and enjoy the moment.... The site is owned by Milton Manetas, original design by Stamen and lets you virtual paint a la Jackson Pollack style. I ran across this site a couple of years ago and had forgotten about it til I saw it mentioned somewhere recently.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

After Artfest, Looking for Diamonds, and a Word about Browsers

"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans." John Lennon
After Artfest
A few words about my Artfest retreat with 3 workshops since I have been so busy upon returning home... As usual, it was refreshing to be surrounded by so much creativity, wonderful artists, the cool crisp sea air and magnificent scenery. Above you see 4 paintings I completed in Misty Mawn's class where we worked on portraits with sepia or earthtones... a very satisfying class and reminds me of how much I love paint and paper. Misty is a very fast and talented painter and excellent teacher with lots of techniques to share. Having done only a few portraits in the past, I am encouraged enough by my results that I intend to do more portraits.And here are pictures of layouts for my 2 assemblages in Michael DeMeng's "What a Relief" class in which we used old picture frames to build upon, and assorted recycled junque to make them into art pieces. They evolved a bit differently and I'm not finished yet, may post when I complete them. Michael's a wonderful teacher that shares a lot of info on tools and how to get that aged look, and his creations are a wonder to look at... this was my "challenge" class, as I haven't typically considered myself an assemblage artist... but this was much fun.
Sas Colby's class on Transparent Books was a relaxing mix of experimentation with all manner of materials (I used an old plastic see-thru pouch with a grid pattern, x-ray film, transparencies, rice papers, fabrics and other odds and ends... a bit of drawing and binding. Pictures to be posted later.Looking for Diamonds
After Wed through Sunday filled with art and lots of people interactions, I craved alone time, and on the advice of a local artist, found a wonderful quiet beach at a different location to explore. I was told there would be lots of beach glass. I naively walked along thinking of quarter sized pieces until another beachcomber showed me they were more pea or smaller sized. My treasures from that walk are in the pictures above - wonderful wonderful shapes and colors for my camera here at home. I told my sister (who lives in another state) that I had practiced using my eagle eyes to find those small glass treasures and was practicing for the day that she and I idly dream about a road trip to the diamond fields in Arkansas. No, I'm not kidding, a real state park where anyone can keep what they find and do. I told her last year I dreamed I found a 3 carat yellow diamond. Now I don't really need one, but I suppose it's the thrill of the hunt and finding a treasure whether it's a diamond or a shell or pea sized sea glass. I've always collected those and have little assortments laying here and there. Maybe they are alters to nature and memories.Now a word about John Lennon's quote, life catching up with you.... I missed posting a Sunday meditation this past Easter week and we've had a rash of "challenges". Mother always said bad luck comes in 3's or more.... We are trying to resolve audio issues, so I'm unable to hear any YouTubes, etc. And we had a big leak in kitchen sink, which turned into problems with removing the faucet and/or the sink... it made my husband get creative about our water supply! That's the garden hose from our new deck... Meanwhile the truck clutch also went out a couple of days ago which will completely eat our tax refund that I found after finishing taxes on the 14th, the downstairs toilet leak was just fixed, and we had an invasion of tiny tiny black ants going crazy over the cat food. We finally got rid of them today but I swear they were coming from another dimension right through the walls.... And to top it off yesterday I came down with a sore throat/flu and will probably miss my artist's reception tomorrow night at the Rose House... oh well, hubbie just made fresh strawberry jam, hot tea tastes good, and I'm going to keep looking for diamonds...

A Word About Browsers
Barely a month ago Yahoo decided to upgrade their mail system and at that moment, my emails ceased to be available for 3 days. We checked firewalls and everything else possible to no avail, so we called a Yahoo technician who had us install a new browser, Mozilla Foxfire. Aside from our own checks and those with the Yahoo technician that revealed no problems, we are fairly certain my mail system wasn't working any more because of the browser. The Internet Explorer browser that we've used forever simply doesn't work with the Yahoo upgrade, while Foxfire worked instantly. Mozilla seems to work faster and some other things that I had to make a work around with Explorer, work fine with Mozilla. And a friend who still works for one of the local Federal agencies says they switched to Mozilla... it is touted as safer. I still have Explorer as a backup in case I need it. The upshot is, I've learned that some browsers apparently don't interface well with certain sites, they have different features that may be related to how secure your system is, and they work at different speeds... and they have different versions. All very confusing. I wish I'd saved an article I read in the Washington Post about this. But, anyway, I'm mentioning this in my post, because perhaps if all else is ok with your system and you have problems getting into a mainstream website, maybe your browser is a problem. Mozilla was free and is well known. Now I use that one, but keep the other, just in case...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Plum Blossoms, New Deck, Rose House Art Show

...a lovely cloudy/sunny day here in the Northwest and our plum tree is bursting with creamy white blooms... while our nearby vegetable garden stores up energy for the bounty to come....
Taking Care of the Homestead
Finally our new decks are completed along the upper back of the house replacing the old crumbling one. Instead of a long narrow one the length of the house, now we have a larger more usable one near the kitchen dining area and a small one on the other end. The contractor, NW Custom Deck did a terrific job. I always appreciate the lovely view and now I will even more so.

Rose House Art Show
How exciting, I'll be in the Edmonds Art Walk this month.! Yesterday I was pleased (though tired) to hang 16 of my paintings in the 102 year old Victorian Rose House at 555 Main St. The show will be there til about May 18 and will feature 4 other artists, including my friend Sharon who designs and hand hooks rugs/wallhangings and plays in other media as well. The link is to a previous post that has pictures of her art, as well as before pictures of our deck. Here are some of my paintings below..... I hope you can stop in for a visit. The opening night is April 16 from 5-8pm when the artists will be there, as well as wine and a bit of refreshment...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Meditations, an Art Doll, Trip Tip, and Laughter

I had the pleasure of enjoying art camp the last 5 days, surrounded by much joy and laughter... and wildly creating people...This is a doll I call "Road Trip Lizzie". I created her in 2007 for Artfest from a preformed doll body with a face drawn by Teesha, the organizer of Artfest.

Lizzie went on our family vacation on our road trip to Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota where I found some of the beads she wears. She still makes me smile and remember this great road trip. Here's a creativity tip for you. On your next car trip, pack up a small bag of fabric, stuffing, needle, threads, a few beads (a gallon size bag), in addition to your art journal, as I do. There's lots of free time when not my turn to drive, an art opportunity to create something special as a memory of the trip. I have several special "trip" dolls. And my journals always contain details and drawings of our journey.

Here is a wonderful short You-Tube video called "Hahaha" that has been around a while, so you may have seen it, but it is worth pulling up once in a while and letting in that sheer unabandoned joy and deep belly shaking laughter. No, it's not a meditation in the strictest sense of the word, but it's a reminder to take a little time for fun and laughter as it is so soul satisfying...