Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sunday Meditations, Abstract Landscape, Trip to the South Pole

Sometimes it seems like nothing is happening or changing, but, every moment in the canvas of our lives is painting us towards our unknowable unique future...

The top abstract landscape painting from my imagination is one of my earlier works in watercolor, I still like it because of it's simplicity and the feeling of quiet and serenity even though it appears to be a stormy day. The second painting has the same feeling for me, however it is a real place I painted in British Columbia on a brighter day, and my style had evolved into using more color. Both will be available as prints in the near future in my Etsy shop.

The stunning photography in the video "Surface of Eceon - The Open Sea" below is perfect for several minutes of relaxation, esp., with the hypnotic music. I like the sense of deep calm that seems to emanate out of the frozen world of the South Pole. It deceptively conveys a sense that nothing is happening, but in reality, the wonderful timed photography captures the effects of traveling sun, moon, stars, and northern lights. The video was photographed by scientists from the University of San Diego & the US Government. It was edited By Nick Liveris.
Watch this with your full screen if you can as it better conveys the sense of open space. Or perhaps watch it 2-3 times and let it wash out and replace any negative thoughts you might have lingering in your mind. I have to catch myself up and notice how much of what I am letting in... last week I listened to NPR explain the banking crisis in layman's terms (I actually understood some), read and heard about Mexico (a place I want to revisit) being taken over by violent drug cartels and results could affect the US as it approaches being a failed state, and watched a "nature" show about bear attacks... enough to scare me silly...
....the point is I marvel at the paradox we live in, and remind myself that in my lifetime, the sun will keep shining and the moon and stars will dance in the night sky for me. So I traveled to the South Pole today to remind myself, sometimes I have to listen and look a little harder to hear and see through the dark to the deeper peace and beauty. And that change is happening every second, and every instant that I am being still, I am actually spinning with the earth and moving around the sun...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

African and Mexican Adventures, Blogging Discoveries/Tips

"The universe is made of stories, not atoms." Muriel Rukeyser

African Adventures
Another trip to African Mama's shop this week where I enjoyed using my digital camera again and then playing with photoshop with the images. I love the intense colors, the designs, the craftsmanship, and the masks are fascinating. They all hold a story, a mythology of the people who created them.
And here is a quick African mask drawing I did in my Art-A-Day journal that I started last November. So far, so good, one art drawing or collage done for every day...

I was thinking again of my French cousins who recently made a soulful trip into the now unstable and dangerous Congo and came back with two adopted children. Quite frankly, an adventure that was quite hair-raising (rebel fights with machetes in front of their hotel, interrogations about trafficing children, and more). A story of courage, patience and perseverance with great reward at the end and a return to their home. Their compelling story and wonderful pictures can be found here. The most heartwrenching pictures are those of all the children in the orphanage looking out at you... It is all in French, but after all, I have provided some translators if you wish to read.
Mexican Adventures
I'm beginning to think about getting ready for Artfest 2009 in April where I will be taking another workshop from talented assemblage artist Michael DeMeng. The found object assemblage ("doll" if you will) above I made last year in a class with him. Looking at his blog I read about his adventure at the Island of Dolls in Mexico City (great photos, story and videos). Recently I'd seen a documentary on the travel channel about that very place and thought it looked/sounded creepy, but the story behind it is haunting and quite beautiful in a strange way. I once saw a local museum exhibit where in a very large empty room, 100 vintage, broken, used dolls had been installed all standing (feet glued to the floor) staring straight ahead about 2 feet apart throughout the room, all speechless but communicating. Dolls, like masks, embody the stories of the maker, the owner and the place and time where they were brought to life among the people.

Blogging Discoveries/Tips
Some quick blogging notes on changes I made I thought might be helpful, Im no expert, but....

I discovered a much better version of the Google Translator which was improved thanks to Joel Robinson, and replaced my previous one. Now if you click on a flag it translates to the language indicated right here on this page and so eliminates the step of having to navigate away from my blog and then having to insert url or text. In addition, I've added the Dictionary translator which does navigate away but is handy for sidebars which don't translate with the Google Translator. You can add either gadget to your own by clicking on them and going to that site.

In Case of a Crash
I finally saved a version of my blog template in the dashboard which Blogger advises to do. But even better than that my programmer husband taught me this great easy thing to do that I will also pass on to you. Go to the current page of your blog, then go to the web toolbar, click on view, then source. The window opened up will show all of the codes which make up your blog. Now highlight, copy, and paste it into a word processing document such as Word or Wordperfect and save and date it. Occasionally, you may want to update that with your latest version. Now if your blog disappears (as I've heard some do) or some other blog mishap then you will have a better possibility of reinstating what you had. Additionally, the source codes appears to include ALL the postings that you have set your blog to show when opened.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Meditations

Taking time for a few minutes of artful meditation...

This is a painting I did in 2007 when I was thinking about Van Gogh's style. I like his vivid use of color and line and was trying out more freedom of expression in a bold way.

Take time for this lovely art show of Vincent Van Gogh's work, one of my favorite artists, set to Don McLean's Starry Starry Night song

Friday, February 20, 2009

Experiments: Needlefelting, Needlepunching and Handstitching

How can anyone ever be bored when there is so much to see or play at? No matter what art medium is your favorite, playing with other mediums and experimenting can spur your creative flow and give you new ideas...

Here are various playful fiber experiments, small projects where I was trying out new methods or some different techniques. I would say needlefelting, needlepunching, and handstitching seem to create a rhythm that is quite relaxing and satisfying. These are things easily done in the evening hours with a good lamp and strong reading glasses (magnifiers).

Needlefelting requires a special sharp barbed needle that you use to prod and poke wool roving or yarns into the shapes and designs that you want. I have learned that wool hairs actually have barbs, so any poking or agitating (such as with wet felting) will begin the "felt" process where the fibers begin to get enmeshed and stick together. Needlefelting is done over a thick piece of foam to avoid poking yourself. I had done several flat pieces in the past, but recently went with friends to a class where we all focused on making whatever 3 dimensional animals we wanted (the middle grouping is the class photo). Getting dimension is all about creating a rectangle, triangle, ball, or other shape over which you sculpt whatever you desire to make. I am most pleased with the cat which I patterned after my own little tuxedo you can barely see in the background of one of the photos. You can see my initial beginnings of him in the class photo on the far right - all white and not much face. It takes patience to get small details the way I want them to look. Eyes, mouth and nose require small lines and only a very few hairs of fiber. It will be interesting to try out other dimensional shapes.

I enjoy handstitching now and then, and last year was in a sewing group that self-taught ourselves different stitches from a particular embroidery book. I'm thinking about a goal of going through an entire stitch book trying out each stitch in various ways. The small stitched heart sampler was started to practice applique, couching and French knots - one night at one of the "hooker's" (rug) meetings I attend regularly.

This is a friendly group of very talented women that share conversation and hooking (rugs, dolls, wall hangings, pillows). Now I haven't really taken to hooking, but I did start a small crow wall hanging (designed by a friend) and will show it later when finished. Instead I got interested in needlepunching, what I'd call "micro-hooking" because the effect or technique is similar, the results are just a lot smaller. Having seen examples at a rug show last year, I just had to try it. Here are two examples that I finished - they are commercial pattern kits from a fabric/craft store, however, I wanted to just try the technique to see if I'd like it. I do, so I have in mind to experiment with making a pattern using my own images.

Monday, February 16, 2009

About Starting a Blog, Not Lost in Translation, and Art from a Photo

Sometimes things are "lost in translation", but saying it more than one way seems to help.....

The photo I took many years ago in the small village where one of my French aunts lives and beneath it is the watercolor interpretation/"translation" entitled "French Country Dreams" that I did two years ago. Prints of the watercolor will soon be available in my Etsy shop. Meanwhile I'm thinking I might like to paint this scene again, and I'm sure it would get "translated" differently yet again.

Google Translator
Experimenting with my blog, I located and added the gadget in the upper right corner, a google translator. A click on this gadget takes you to a page where you enter the url address of the page and choice of language translation. This is mostly for the benefit of any of my French cousins who may stop in for a read. I have been thinking of them a lot lately since one of them made a trip into the unstable Congo recently. But, what a great discovery this little gadget, since in past, I've found Spanish and Japanese art sites I couldn't now I'll be able to translate anything! We are all just a click away.

About Starting a Blog
For those looking to start a blog, it has been very easy to use Blogger. Go here to their page and just read and follow the instructions. From our local library I also checked out Blogging for Dummies by Susannah Gardner and Shane Birley. This was after I had already set up and started blogging, but it was useful as a reference on what I had already done and for going a little beyond the basics. A couple more blog books are on order from the library. Here are some concerns and thoughts I had when contemplating a blog, just bear in mind, it's all very subjective, and you must figure out what is right for you. I hope this will be helpful.

1. Why do it? Many reasons are possible, but I think mine is a combo of: self-expression, conversations with others with like interests & expanding my community, presenting my art, business, becoming visible, sharing something that might be of benefit or inspire others, doing it because I really want to not because it might be the trend.

2. Finding Voice: What do I want to talk about, identifying what really interests me, a unique perspective, am I writing for me or the audience or both, who is the audience; It took a bit of reflection but I summarized it in the header and the "about me" sidebar, and for me it's also a bit of a "virtual sanctuary" - I intentionally want an uncluttered peaceful feel, focusing on the positives, and a combo of writing and visuals.

3. Setting my own limits: How much time to devote, how many postings a week. Initially it takes more time, reading and figuring it out, but then my goal is posting a couple of times a week, not so overwhelming for me and enough time for readers to actually see and read something and comment.

4. Privacy: My personal concern about this is that basically what I said could be read by anyone, not just art friends. So, for me, certain subjects are off limits just for ID security, eg., personal info or family/friend info or pix, birthdays, etc. Nor am I interested in using a blog for heavy duty angst or personal problem solving as some are inclined, nor highly controversial topics.

5. Copyright: As an artist I want to show my work and occasionally be compensated for it. So in posting I added copyright statements and on some artwork I experimented and self-taught myself how to add watermarks with Photoshop. And as I respect others work as well, I won't post pictures of other artist artwork or pictures of people without their permission and a reference as to whose it is.

So far it's been a rewarding experiment, serving to help me clarify thoughts or my focus, meeting other artists, sharing art and writing. So, start up a blog if you haven't, and let me know about it.

About Posting
I must confess that until I started blogging myself, I'd been a "lurker" reading them and not saying anything. But now, I find it's very encouraging to hear from others, so now I do post comments here and there. Unfortunately on 3 of my favorites the system of comments doesn't work and I haven't debugged it yet! So if you are secretly reading my blog, I would love to hear from you and what you think... do drop in and say hello.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Local ARt - Baskets, Glass, Quilts

I was quite taken in by the minute detail, patience and attention dedicated by the artists to create masterful works, works that spoke to me without making one sound.

The baskets in the picture are African hand-made baskets in front of a Seattle storefront.

On a recent visit to the Bellevue Art Museum we saw some exquisite and unusual baskets in an exhibit called "Intertwined". Very unique sculptured creations and some very beautiful and traditional such as Hopi and Navaho. An incredible one was a woman's torso and head made entirely of lotus seed pods crocheted together with waxed linen thread and a face made with dried grapefruit peel, you can see her on the museum web. I liked the experimentation of that artist, and the others whose works incorporated unusual and different materials, such as zippers, wire, pistachio shells, horsehair, fish skin,and more. Then there was the life-sized human figure sculpture made up entirely of 1 inch or so tiny twigs connected together...

Nearby in a separate room was an enchanting large installation from a glass artist, Etsuko Ichikawa, a quite hypnotic effect using films of the fire she used to create glass projected on egg-like surfaces... and all surrounded by walls covered with the incredible burn marks of glass on paper (looked to be watercolor paper), a calligraphy of glass-making mark-making. She literally "paints" the paper surface with molten glass creating "pyrographs" or ethereal drawings with the smoke and fire that look like a secret ancient symbology or writing which as I stood looking, made my mind try to interpret while my heart just accepted it. Very beautiful. Interesting to note is that she is making new art out of her basic artform of glass, capturing the process and stretching that itself into becoming works of art.

The third floor holds a collection of antique American quilts from 1800 to 1900's. The workmanship and hours to construct these lovely well-loved and well-used works of art was breathtaking considering that most were all hand done stitching, some made at a time without the benefit of modern lighting. Outstanding applique work on several. And a few astounding examples of extreme patience, such as the quilt that was pieced in 1 inch squares of fabric which were themselves made of 9 tiny patches of different fabrics stitched together...and a quilt called a "string" quilt because the strips of fabric are so small.

I loved the part that "recycling" or "repurposing" played in these various artworks: the basketmakers use of found natural materials and found manmade objects, the glass artist taking a new look at her process and interpretation, recycling that into art, the quiltmakers reuse of clothing or other fabrics into wonderful new quilts that surely rested on someone's bed and wrapped someone up in love. These exhibits are highly recommended. I came away with great respect for the dedication to their art, expertise and creativity of the various artists, and inspired to keep experimenting and think of new ways to use different materials...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Local Art - Columbia City

A day out with a circle of friends looking at art is a day well spent....
I visited the revitalized Columbia City sector of Seattle with a small circle of friends the other day. We enjoyed two galleries and a delicious lunch at Geraldine's on the corner.

Columbia City Gallery is an artist's co-op with a mix of art: encautics, enamels, paintings, jewelry, small fiber works, and some wonderful 3D recycled map-paper constructed figures.

The most eye catching exhibit was in their Guest Gallery, "Retablos: Mexican Folk Art" by three brothers: Daniel, Hugo, Daniel & Luis Angel Vilchis from Mexico City who have international recognition as well as their famous father. Their's was a charming collection of oil paintings on sheet metal (about 10"x10") that depicted ordinary daily problems of living (we all seemed to notice the viagra ones!) and giving thanks to an intervening saint for their help. The miracle stories were captured both in the picture and short summary in handwritten words in the bottom of the paintings. I liked the way the words and pictures blend together and the real stories they tell. Learn more about this Mexican painting tradition by visiting the gallery website, or better yet going to the gallery itself. Go here to see the gallery web page.

Gather is a smaller gallery but had an interesting exhibit called 100 Dresses. The artist, Kumiko Ishida, made 100 one-of-a-kind little girl dresses using reclaimed textiles all displayed on hangers against one wall. I had to laugh and could relate, as I overheard a nearby conversation, one woman saying to another, "now, see! this does justify my 35 years of collecting in my basement... look what she did with recycled textiles."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Patterns and Digital Photography Art

"We sleep, but the loom of life never stops, and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up in the morning." Henry Ward Beecher

Patterns was the subject for a recent challenge swap in an online photoartjournals group I belong to. I have enjoyed the various themes we've had, about one every six weeks. But the most fun part of that venture is receiving the wonderful books created by the organizer, Catherine, and the collection of inspiring and eclectic images from the people who took part in interpreting a particular theme. The books are made more special as each photo must be accompanied by your own writing or a quotation to go with it. It's always amazing to see the uniqueness of each photo and writing just like the artists that created them. Check out this group if you have a passion for photography and prose.

Picture taking with my digital camera and playing with images in photoshop have become very favorite activities for me. I never go anywhere without my camera as opportunities for something interesting seem endless. But then I started very young, as I remember taking pictures (old black and whites that I still have) with my small tan Brownie camera which was earned by selling Girl Scout cookies.

Now I find myself experimenting more with the digital camera than I did with film cameras, knowing I don't have to buy expensive film or bother with developing... It's so easy to see results on the computer and delete what I don't like, or better yet, enhance or change it with photoshop. What to try with the camera? There are so many choices, here are some shots I've tried: unusual angles, odd close-ups, focusing on a theme or a color, shooting directly into the sun (surprising results), night photos, skyscapes... I'm still learning, and I have yet to figure out how to get really really sharp closeups

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Watching Waves, Taking Time to Meditate

"Sit in reverie, and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

On a foggy gray Sunday morning from the Northwest, here is a wonderful video of Powerful Ocean Waves with exquisite music/Gregorian chanting I found on You Tube... it is relaxing to take these few minutes to imagine being in the altar of nature at the beach, breathing in the sea air and just listening and mingling in the spaces between the endless waves... at peace.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Body Electric

"Your body wasn't made just to carry your head around...." Saul Snatsky

"But in my head I still feel like I'm in my 20's...." from my mother in her 80's looking in the mirrorIf you listen and observe enough you can pick up gems of wisdom from everyone. A quotation doesn't have to be from someone famous or published (such as "I sing the body electric" by Walt Whitman). Everyone, including yourself, if you listen hard enough, offers something you can learn. The two lines I used as quotes ran through my head as I thought of posting another recent junk mail collage from my daily art-a-day journal.

I've recently restarted going to the Y for various exercise classes, and feel as though there are muscles re-awakening that I'd forgotten or maybe didn't even know existed. Ouch! I am very sore, yoga, weightlifting and cardio (oh, and tango lessons) has got me moving and re-energized but tired. The paradox of feeling really tired, but better is always a wonder. I am focusing more on building strength and flexibility first.... a good thing to do as I sage into elder age, since I don't want to be rigid in any sense of the word!

Monday, February 2, 2009

African Mama

"What matters is to live in the present, live now, for every moment is now. It is your thoughts and acts of the moment that create your future. The outline of your future path already exists, for you created its pattern by your past. " Sai Baba

Going through my books to read, I recently finally began The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (An Oprah book). An excellent read, and thought provoking. Set in Africa, in the Belgium Congo during it's fight for independence, with the CIA involvement and interference.... it focuses on the lives of 4 girls and their mother tied to a hell-fire preacher on a mission to change the people, the cultural and economic chasms in place which are exacerbated, and how Africa instead changes them over time. A very haunting description of some of the challenges of Africa that continue today, the poverty, disease, and conflict, how to benefit themselves from their rich resources.

This brings me to my African Mosaic created today from pictures I took with permission at African Mama's shop in Bothell, WA. African Mama is the delightful Atieno (second row, second photo from left) who is from Kenya (same village as Obama) and is closing her shop (after having a shop in Seattle area for many years) and returning to her homeland to establish a homestead that will support and send to public school 100 orphan girls... She was in DC at the inauguration and is inspired by Obama's call to service, and so is becoming an inspiration herself. The charming Wambua who assists in the shop is in the photo next to hers. The shop will close end of February, for those in the Puget Sound area who are able to stop in to see the wonderful fibers, art, music and more. I stumbled upon her shop on a day out wandering with a friend. You never know where you will end up......