Adrift

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2018 was the year that if anything in my personal life could go wrong…it did.

I had my first tooth pulled in January.  One sister began chemotherapy in January.  A month later, a second sister started chemotherapy.  My best friend became gravely ill.  One of my daughters faced a serious issue that took months to resolve.  We experienced a summer of smoke and encroaching forest fires in the surrounding mountains where I live.  I took a short trip and ended up in a hospital away from home with a kidney stone.  My ex-husband had a major stroke.  My sister and best friend died in December.  There was more but you get the gist, right?

I painted this piece in my journal as this torrent of challenges was only starting.  Already, I was feeling lost at sea.  Without a paddle.

Seeing this painting, one of my daughters thought I should call it The Bell Peppers…as their clothing is the color of bell peppers.

I appreciate when my art gives me an outlet for feelings.  Sometimes I’m overwrought and life is just too much for me to even consider putting brush or pen to page.  Most of the time, it’s the best elixir for the despair or trauma or whatever is at hand that seems too big to handle.

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These days we feel things coming at us right and left.  Top it off with a pandemic!  Yet, there has always been an undercurrent of unrest with social injustices, political and corporate greed, economic inequities, media manipulation, repercussions of climate change.  The list goes on.  What’s been undercover is now on the surface.  I’m told that this is good because now we know what we’re dealing with.  Now, we can begin to address these inequities and other imperative issues.

What is your way of dealing with “TOO MUCH?”

 

Mystery

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It was strange to see this cat girl emerge.  She was painted just before the time that women were donning knitted pink cat hats.  They were called “pussyhats” and worn in the 2017 Women’s March on Washington DC.

A little recent history lesson from Google:

A pussyhat is a pink, crafted hat, created in large numbers by thousands of participants involved with the United States 2017 Women’s March. They are the result of the Pussyhat Project, a nationwide effort initiated by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, a screenwriter and architect located in Los Angeles, to create pink hats to be worn at the march for visual impact.[1]

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As an artist, have you noticed this…not only does your art respond to the political and socio-economic climate, but sometimes it is almost predictive.  Artists, poets, writers, creative beings have a heightened sensitivity.  It’s no surprise that they can tune into something before it hits the press.  And express it through their art.

Obviously, my girl’s hat isn’t pink–but the concept of woman merging with cat, with her wild nature–and yes, she has magic–are reminders to myself.  A woman is an enigma to the male of our species.  Rather than men fearing and trying to dominate what they don’t understand, why not honor her?  Why not seek her out for wise counsel?  Why not be curious to know her more deeply?  Why not recognize that she has gifts to share (that he does not possess) and lend value to them?

That men are making most of the rules, guiding the politics of our lives, belies the fact that women comprise over 50% of the population in America!  2019 census shows 168.08 million women versus 161.48 million men!  When are women going to realize that they have more power for change than they are exercising?

There are so many things in place in our society (and world) that we know are morally wrong and socially unjust.  Women know this deeply…if they could gather their courage and unify their voices, change for the good would occur.

What is something you, as a woman alive today, are called to take a stand on?  How are you going to align yourself with what you know to be true and correct?  Is there an action you know that you need to take?  One step at a time…dare to take the first one.

 

 

 

The Ugly Stage

When painting a portrait…you soon arrive at THE UGLY STAGE!  That is when your mettle as an artist is tested.  You don’t see how you can possibly convert this ugly piece into a thing of beauty.  This is the time–you’ve been working on this for awhile already–when you want to walk away and abandon the piece.  It’s hard to imagine something
“pretty” coming out of this.

That said, experience has taught you that this is only a stage.  Stay with it.  Don’t give up too soon.  So you go forward in conversation with the piece to see what’s next. Then, what follows that?  You step back and then forward and bring this being forth to become who she is determined to be.

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Sometimes, often or always, there is a message in a painting.  The artist may have a clue  before she begins painting.  Then again,  it could emerge during her process with a piece.  Blending words with art is often an intriguing way of stating the message.  The word that sits in the lower right corner of the piece is “STORY.”  Like each one of us, the subject of this painting has a story to tell.  While we may not have a sense of her exact story, we get the idea that she has a depth of experience.  Those eyes convey something.  The mouth, neither smiling nor smirking, shows determination.  There is character in her chin…and so on.

If she were the heroine of your short story, who would she be?  That’s the thing about art, each person views a piece and then their imagination begins to conjecture a story.  We do that when we meet someone new also.  “Who are you?”  “Where are you from?”  “What brought you here?”  Then our judgments and old information come in and create a story before we even really know who we’ve actually met.  Interesting that we do this.  Make up stories all of the time.

Dream It Better

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How do you care for our earth?  As an individual, I steward a small piece of earth.  I’m grateful for this little plot of land with its variety of fruit trees planted by someone else, perhaps over fifty years ago.  They probably had no thought of me.  But they gave me a gift all these years later.

We are facing a time of global crisis.  The way that we’ve been “using” the earth isn’t sustainable.  The Native Americans believe that we have a responsibility to consider seven generations to come.  They and some others realize that the earth is on loan to us now and to be conserved for future generations.  But most of the world hasn’t held this as a value.  We’ve taken from the earth’s resources and not given in return.  We’ve used and abused our earth, our oceans, our air quality.  Now we see disruption across the planet and we wonder how can that be?  As if it came out of nowhere.  As if scientists hadn’t been warning us.

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This painting is inspired by the animals that live along the Rio Grande River, the fourth longest river in the USA.  Beside a large portion of this river, there is a “wall” being built to define a boundary between the US and Mexico.  This particular area, along the Rio Grande bordering the state of Texas, is considered to be one of those invaluable riparian habitats.  Jaguarundi, Pronghorn, Ocelot, Javelina, Mountain Lion, Fox, Birds, Beetles and Butterflies are some of the animals and insects that inhabit this area.  The “wall” would disrupt the natural navigation patterns of these animals and insects. Some of these species, like the Ocelot, are already endangered. The Rio Grande River itself is in grave danger.

I call this painting “DREAM IT BETTER.”

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We are touched by things that we hear or see.  We know that some things, as the disruption of a riparian habitat, are wrong.  We feel bad about it.  It may even arouse our passion!  Instead of stopping  at feeling bad or sad, consider, “What is an action step that I can take to make a difference?”  One step would be to do some research.  To find some legitimate organizations that are opposing such destruction.  Get informed.  Then see how what you learn can be shared with others.  Take the leap from helpless observer to active participant.  One small step towards change.

Blue Hair!

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Artists take liberties!  Artistic License, like Poetic License, the artist’s choices reign on the canvas.  Artists are creators on a substrate.  They have the power to paint blue hair and put a cardinal on their subject’s shoulder.  And, once again, to capture an expression.

This class was taught by another amazing artist, Sara Burch.  With this painting, Sara addresses a common artist’s fear, the looming blank canvas!  Believe it or not, there are those of us artists who feel frozen in front of a fresh canvas.

“How or where do I begin?”

Sara Burch’s remedy is to jump right in, laying splotches of paint on the substrate where the facial features might be.  She uses a soggy brush that drips paint and it’s all so casual, playful and easy.  No predesigned face, neither a pencil-drawn face nor a photo of a face to work from.  The artist’s memory of a face begins to lend form to the painting as she crafts the face from the colors she’s laid down.  And then, she mixes up new colors finding a skin tone.  The background color adds more definition to the portrait, popping it forward.  This was a fun and original approach.  Some painters desire to be looser in the way that they paint.  This isn’t easy to achieve believe it or not.

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That idea of perfectionism gets thrown out the window when you paint in this way.  Perfect is not the goal.  There is art that is precise, realism, and I absolutely admire that.  Sara’s approach has to do with letting go in the beginning and then defining and refining the face later.  Any artist finds her own style.  Sometimes by exposing herself to the style of another artist(s) and/or through experimentation.  Being curious is a key element in developing your artistic range.

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Were you someone who colored outside the lines as a kid?  Did you feel shame in that?  Art is an invitation to continually color outside the lines.  To discover the land that lies beyond the defined lines.  Sometimes it could mean giving your subject blue hair.  And other times it could be dripping paint down a blank canvas.  And then, you may have discovered another approach that no one has even dreamed of yet.

A new day is sort of like a blank canvas.  You begin somewhere.

 

 

 

Look Up!

Living in the mountains, I have an opportunity to see the stars at night.  This is an advantage over living in a big, artificially lit city.  When I lived in San Francisco, beside the ocean and not the inner city, I could occasionally see the stars at night…when it wasn’t foggy.

Looking up at the night sky, I get a sense of both my smallness and my connection to something greater.

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Ever since I learned Nikol Wilman’s technique of painting a sky, I adapted it to create the background for a few of my paintings.

Drawing and painting a face looking upwards proved to be very challenging.  Yet it was what I envisioned and I forged on to make it happen.

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How often do you look up?  While walking in nature, I’m frequently looking down in order to see where I’m stepping especially if the terrain is rocky or has tree roots.  On such walks I find that it’s important to stop and take time to look out and to look up.  Expanding my field of vision in this way, I get out of my small mind thinking.  It’s certainly not all about me!

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I love this creation story as told by Wilfred Buck.  We have such a connection to and longing for the stars.  This story is not so far-fetched.  Our lives here are more mystery than certainty.

 

Wilfred is from Lake Winnipeg in rural Manitoba, Canada.  His tribe affiliation is Cree, also known as Ininew, one of Canada’s largest First Nations groups. He is an amazing storyteller.  If you have six minutes to listen, I think you’re going to appreciate this lovely creation Story.  Try closing your eyes as you listen and imagine.

“We come from the stars,” Buck says.

Standing Rock

Remember Standing Rock?  That protest was the inspiration for this painting.  Across the world, many were outraged when reading the news about the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline that would run beneath the Missouri River and through reservation land.  This was a direct threat to the region’s drinking water, as well as to the water supply used to irrigate surrounding farmlands. The construction would disturb ancient burial grounds and cultural sites of historic importance.

When I was 16-years old, attending an all-girl Catholic High School in San Francisco, we were required to choose a research project.  I chose to investigate the status of Native American Tribes across the United States.  I sent letters off to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and various tribal affiliates.  I received lots of mail in return.  And reading material.  I was shocked to realize the poverty that our First Citizens were living in.  And to read about the high rate of alcoholism was upsetting.  Also, it struck me that a salesman would visit a tribe and sell them refrigerators when he knew full well that they didn’t even have electricity!

Doing this research, the Native American Peoples found a place in my heart.

How many times do the powers that be violate a treaty, withdraw support, move tribes around, encroach on Native American lands and lives before they realize that it’s morally wrong and stop doing it?  Here is one question to be asked in such instances:  “How would I feel if it was happening to me and my family?”

If your answer is something like “I would protest!”  Or “That’s not right!”  Then, why should it be different for the tribes of Standing Rock (or any other group of people)?  Don’t they want to protect their families like I do?  Don’t they deserve respect like I do?  Why do their rights matter less than mine or yours?  Is it too late to make amends?

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Today, I read a recent article on the present day state of affairs around the DAPL–Dakota Access Pipeline…

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Prevails
  as Federal Judge Strikes Down DAPL Permits

This is a victory, but the battle isn’t over.  One cannot assume that once a right is won, it is forever sealed and held sacred.  But for now, a victory.

A dear friend traveled to standing rock and stood with the people in solidarity in opposition to DAPL.  She expressed that there were other benefits of being there.  To witness the tribes who had once opposed each other, here, standing together for a common cause was powerful in and of itself.  Something for all of us who find ourselves in such oppositions today to learn from.  The expression “United we stand.  Divided we fall” was directly experienced.

“Pray under the sky
bare feet on the ground, 
humbly.  That you may 
feel the connection with
all that is and live from
this understanding.
It is so.”

I believe that this prayer is from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Red

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The story of Little Red Riding Hood wasn’t one of my favorites…however, it did impact me.  Early on, I rewrote the ending…the wolf was a good guy and everyone sat around together having tea in my final scene.

This painting was inspired by a class called Barn Painting, taught by Alissa Millsap in Paint Your Heart and Soul, 2017.  Entering the realm of this piece, it was painted on an 8″x8″ birch panel, I quickly decided that it wasn’t going to be a barn.  It was going to be  grandma’s cottage in the woods.  And then, in the forefront, I placed Little Red Riding Hood and her companion/friend the wolf.  I just realized that here I go again, making the wolf an ally.

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Taking a class from a fellow artist, I am presented with a formula of sorts.  This artist showed me the techniques and tools that she used to create a barn on a substrate.  I was guided through her process.  While I borrowed techniques and used the tools, I diverted and made different choices, incorporated my own style and personal perspective to create an original painting.  I was relatively new at painting faces, so this Red Riding Hood’s face is rather juvenile.  Yet, I like her and think that she works with the piece.  I love the wolf…a friendly fellow (so long as he’s well-fed).  The wolf is made whimsical and less frightening with the wisps of pastel colors in his coat.

In direct contrast, the color RED is dramatic and immediately eye-catching.  Some artists love the drama of red while others hide from it, modify it or use it sparingly if at all.  I’m learning to have a liking for a true red.  Used without apology.

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If you are familiar with the chakra energy system, you probably remember that red symbolizes the root chakra located at the base of the spine.  The root chakra can represent our origins, our quality of feeling grounded in present reality, living in connection to the earth and our core self.  We cultivate this connection by the choices we make in our lives.  Many people have a need for healing their family history–yes, root chakra taps into that.  To support this energetic healing, a person might eat red foods, wear red clothing, carry a red stone or crystal, write or make art around their family history, and if necessary, see a therapist and work on that early family bond.

When I wear red, it seems that I want to be noticed.  Red is not for wallflowers.

What’s your experience with the color red?

 

 

She Has No Name

IntuitivePainting1When I began painting faces, I found it very challenging.  What I painted didn’t resemble the image I had in mind at all!  How my mind and hand translated a photo portrait onto a canvas was juvenile art.  Features–especially matching the eyes–were they the same size, at least close to the same size?  The same shape?  How much space between them? How far down on the face should they be?  Where is the nose in relation to the eyes? And the mouth?  Did I mention mixing a realistic skin tone?  And then, there is value contrast!  Yikes…the map of the face is an art that isn’t easy to master.

Several years of practice has improved my facility to draw a face with some degree of realism.  And, I can see that I need years more of practice before I feel accomplished in this area.  If ever.

And, so, I allow the whimsy that has been part of my artist’s signature.

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I do like the background in this painting.  The soft colors and images that sort of arise from the mist.  I also think about painting over the whole thing and discovering something else.  Remembering that it’s all part of the learning process, I have compassion for my newly formed artist self.  Compassion versus criticism.  Practice versus procrastination.  

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Remember the old adage “Patience is a virtue.”  It really is.  Making art–it can’t be rushed.  It can be…but the depth of what an artist gets from the creative process won’t be reached unless she is patient enough to be fully present with the work in process and with herself (himself).  Any work of art is always an inquiry.  With that, an answer won’t be forced but rather surfaces.

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These days, things are very serious.  I feel it in my body.  It’s easy to forget my body.  To relegate it to last place even though I have more time to tend it.  Yesterday, I came upon this little video by Elizabeth Gilbert.  What I love about it is that there are no words…

And now for something completely different,

LET’S DANCE!

https://www.facebook.com/GilbertLiz/videos/235717154471860/

 

Who Are You?

A journal page is meant for exploration.  Yes, you can explore the existential questions in your journal.  It is a place to explore techniques as well as for self-discovery.
I wonder, at times, about the influence of place on person.
Having grown up a few blocks from the ocean in San Francisco,
how did that form me?  I lived there, beside the sea, for forty-nine years before moving to the mountains.  Who was I then “living beside the ocean?”

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Moving to the
mountains, what in me has been influenced and changed by this place?

This journal page was inspired by a class taught by Ivy Newport, Sacred Landscapes.

The consideration of the placement of a horizon line is an interesting aspect of a painting.  A decision is made where to place the figure in relation to that line.  Dividing the page into three sections, the horizon line is in the top third on this page.

The figure is placed in the forefront of the study…she could have been standing, reclining.  I chose sitting.

Figure drawing is a whole other form of artistic expression.  I took one other class in sketching figures.  We also practiced drawing figures in relation to one another and intimated body language between the two figures.  In drawing and painting, there are lifetimes of worlds to be explored.

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Perhaps a larger and more expanded question is “Who am I during this pivotal time in history?”  or “Who am I in the light of a global pandemic?”  It is astonishing, really, to have such a cataclysmic, unifying event across the planet.  It’s hard to put the proverbial head in the sand at such a time.  It feels to me like we are being called to take a stand on behalf of our earth and the unsustainable ways that we’ve been living up to now.  What are your thoughts?