Gazing

This painting feels like something we’re getting accustomed to as we shelter at home.  It’s such a challenging time for many of us, each for our own reasons.

I call it Gazing…living in the mountains when the snow is heavy on the road and there really is no place you can go, you look out from the inside.  The snowplow hasn’t come and you can’t get your car out of the garage.  Time fades away…what day is it, what time of day?  Where was I supposed to be?  This might be comparable to some of the feelings that you’re having now.

The painting is mixed media.  It began as a copycat painting following the style of the Japanese artist, Yoshiro Tachibana.  I love his art!

Over time, this painting morphed into something that made it more my own.  An online artist/teacher invited us to look at other contemporary artists and to choose one of their paintings to inspire our own art.  It was fun for me to emulate his style…and challenging.  I had difficulty getting the window frame looking correct.  And her hands, and elbow…the candle sitting on the ledge.  Afterwards, I set the piece aside as it felt like it didn’t belong to me.  A year later, I revisited the painting and made it mine with collage and whimsy.

 

Gazing.

As a beginning painter, studying the art of other artists, copying is a way of learning about colors that work together, the placement of objects and other creative design details.  Through initial imitation, you can then branch off into your own style.

****
Find a contemporary artist whose art you like.  Choose a piece and copy it to the best of your ability.  Spend time with it.  Don’t rush it.  Walk away, return, walk away.  Once you feel satisfied (not looking for perfection here), stylize it to make it more your own.

Always, always give credit to the original artist.  

Duck Whimsy

I love this painting even today.  It touches me in a way that I don’t expect.  The original image was in a nature magazine.  I portray it in my own whimsical style.  The black and white of the duck, the furry duckling going for a ride, the shadow on the water and the background of total colorful whimsy–I find them entrancing…and fun.

When you enter into a painting, when you are so engaged that everything else in your life and the world falls away, if only for a few moments, you are in the creative vein.  What a special timeless place to dwell.  What a gift.  This is something artists and writers share and understand deeply.  Everyone has the ability to enter, but not everyone does.  It saddens me to hear someone say that they don’t have a creative bone in their body.  I know otherwise.  I truly do.  Many of us over the course of our lives stand on the precipice of our own creative vein.  But we don’t take the leap.  Why not?  “I’m not an artist,” is the refrain.  Or, “I’m not good at that.”  I disagree.

duckfour (1)

****
If you dare to take my dare…find a magazine with images.  Choose one that you like.  Start with something easy.  Trace over the image a few times.  Get a sense of what it feels like to trace this particular image.  Then, draw the image on a piece of paper, in a notebook, whatever you have.  Draw it today, draw it tomorrow, draw it everyday for one or two weeks.  Notice the lines in the image.  See if you can spot shapes.  Notice the lines and shapes in relation to one another.  Let your hand practice drawing what you see.  For it is in showing up and practicing that we get good at something.  Don’t strive for perfection.  Let it be your perspective, the way that only you see it, that guides your hand.

Engage with it and notice where you go.

Stay safe and healthy.

Deer Medicine

Once upon a time, I was walking in San Pedro Valley Park in Pacifica, California.  It’s a beautiful park that retains a wild flavor while being on the outskirts of a big city.  I was hiking along a trail with a lot of switchbacks, up the mountainous terrain.  Suddenly, from above me, a buck (male deer) with a full set of antlers came thundering down the side of the mountain.  He wasn’t so close as to be dangerous, but he was close enough for me to witness his magnificence.  What impressed me most was his power!  My tendency had been to think of deer as gentle, grazing creatures.  Almost fragile!  However, this was no wuss.  There was strength in the body, the muscles, the legs, the form, the energy.

****
This painting came from a photo I took of another deer, a tamer version of deer.  This one was within a few feet of me, comfortably foraging.  I painted it in my own naive style around Christmas time.  I added collage.

deeri

According to author, Ted Andrews,
“When you have the deer as spirit animal, you are highly sensitive and have a strong intuition. By affinity with this animal, you have the power to deal with challenges with grace. You master the art of being both determined and gentle in your approach. The deer totem wisdom imparts those with a special connection with this animal with the ability to be vigilant, move quickly, and trust their instincts to get out of the trickiest situations.
The meanings associated with the deer combine both soft, gentle qualities with strength and determination:
• Gentleness
• Ability to move through life and obstacles with grace
• Being in touch with inner child
• Being sensitive and intuitive
• Vigilance, ability to change directions quickly
• Magical ability to regenerate, being in touch with life’s mysteries”

****
In Native American Tradition, the energy of deer is described as “gentle.”  It takes both courage and strength to be gentle in these times.  Both with ourselves and with others.

Do you have an animal that you are particularly drawn to in these challenging times?
If you want to find out what your animal guide signifies, you can Google Ted Andrews and the animal of your choice.  See if what he says feels true for you.

Haiku in Turbulent Times

What I’ve appreciated about Haiku is the command to be present.  It is in the observation of the present moment that makes Haiku timely now.

Four years ago,I wanted to paint a piece that integrated Haiku.  I found this Haiku from Gyodai, an early Japanese poet…I couldn’t find his time period.  I let the Haiku inspire the painting.  It’s a busy painting, but in the moment, it felt right.

“Snow is melting
Far in the Misted Mountain
A Cawing Crow”

Gyodai

 

crow

Here’s the thing about Haiku…it’s accessible to everyone.  You could be anywhere, for instance sheltering at home.  Grab a pen, pencil, piece of charcoal, crayon, whatever…and follow the formula.  Here it is:

A brief introduction to haiku.  So far as we know, haiku originated in Japan.  Short poems, usually three lines long, haiku has a total of 17 syllables…5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line and 5 syllables in the third line.  Traditional haiku usually contained a season word that indicated in which season the haiku was set.  The season word isn’t always obvious.  Haiku are little philosophical gems, sometimes with humor.  They can describe almost anything.  Often, they describe daily situations in a refreshing way–creating a new experience of something familiar.  It is always amazing to me that some poetic forms, such as haiku, endure.

I invite you to write haiku.  You choose the time of day.  Sit in your most comfortable chair or go out into the forest, up a mountain or by an ocean or lake.  Whatever is permissible where you live.  Take a few deep breaths and settle in.  Deeply notice something in your surroundings.  Honor it by writing a haiku.  Truly–nature, the things we use and take for granted, animals, other people, everything, everyone likes to be noticed and honored.

In writing your own haiku, strive to “give a new
experience of something familiar”.  Try to adhere
to the 5-7-5 syllables (or as close as you can get to
it).

Blessed day to you.

Calico Cat

I remember painting this piece–the discovery of images, shapes, making designs and loving the colors, the whimsical cat and dog that appeared.  I was following the flow of what wanted to be seen next.  I was certainly a beginner when I painted this piece.  I would do it differently today.  And yet, there are people who really love it.  So it sits in a little gift shop waiting for the just right person to adopt it and take it home.

I see the naivete of myself as an artist.  But this piece, any piece, is important to one’s development as an artist.  Recognizing images, finding ways to enhance those images, blocking out images with color, learning about design, placement of objects in relation to one another and so much more.  Each is a necessary step in the learning process.  We can’t know something before we know it in life or in making art.

CatFish copy

I recollect that I painted the initial background in an abstract way.  Following the intuitive painting process taught by Flora Bowley.  But then, as I typically do, I see an image or two and leave abstraction for images.  The cat, the dog, the fishbowl with swimming fishes.  Flowers…this piece was pure play.  I think that comes across to the viewer.

****
Today, with the necessity of sheltering in place and social distancing, when I can approach the day as I did this painting, I do better.  I ask myself what the next step is, what can I do in this one moment? Paying attention to my feelings and when I need to pause, step back, observe and wait and let the wisdom of the moment inform my choices.  Then, I’m in conscious conversation with my life as it is right now.

****
For those of you who want to explore your creative side, there are many online art classes and teachers.  They typically offer free tutorials on their websites.  A few of my online instructors:  Flora Bowley, Tracy Verdugo, Olga Freeman, Lucy Chen and Galia Alena.  Check out their websites and see if something calls to you.  We start somewhere.

Be safe, stay healthy, find your calm in the midst of the storm.

Printmaking for Beginners

Printmaking is not one of my fortes.  Nor do I claim to have studied the history of printmaking and the very fine artists who have taken this art to a high level of expertise.  However, I appreciate this art form.  And I can say that I’ve dabbled in it on a very introductory level.  Using scratch art scratch foam, I created the following print by etching a chosen design into the foam with a pen.  If you don’t have access to scratch foam, try using a styrofoam plate or the styrofoam packaging that some foods come in.

cafea

Above is the initial print pressed onto a piece of paper.  I could make several prints from the original press.  I used acrylic paint.

cafetime - Copy
Then I painted one of the prints with the colors of choice.  I could further embellish the print if I so choose.  

****
This video explains the process quite well.  Give it a try.

****

Years ago, in school, if it was raining outdoors, we had “rainy day session.”  By that, it was meant that we would stay indoors at recess and at lunchtime.  We were given an art project to do.  I remember that time fondly.  Art wasn’t given much room in the curriculum…so this was a fun break from the norm.

In these days of social isolation, you might try your hand at basic printmaking.  If you’re at home with several people, each one can make a print, color or paint it in their own unique way and then share the outcome with one another.  You can also do it individually and share it with your friends or family over Skype or through Facebook.

Take good care of yourselves.

 

Ethereal Butterfly

For me and others, butterflies are a symbol of both hope and transformation.  At this time, perhaps we are being invited to transform something in ourselves that hasn’t been working for a very long time.  This is such an individual thing but it can make a collective difference.

One thing that I learned about the butterfly a few years ago.  The butterfly can remain in the cocoon and won’t emerge until the conditions are right.  So the  butterfly stays in a state of suspension for an indeterminate period of time.  My daughter had a direct experience of this.  She had moved, for one reason or another, to several apartments over the course of a few years.  Each time she unpacked, she placed a little cocoon that she’d been carrying with her on the mantelpiece.   One morning, she got up and above the mantelpiece was a beautiful, fully formed swallowtail butterfly–the cocoon broken open.

According to Jeremy Hemberger, “Most butterflies and moths stay inside of their chrysalis or cocoon for between five to 21 days. If they’re in really harsh places like deserts, some will stay in there for up to three years waiting for rain or good conditions. The environment needs to be ideal for them to come out, feed on plants and lay eggs.”

butterfly1

This painting evolved from an online class.  Sometimes, you have an intention for your painting…I want to paint a butterfly.  Then the unfolding happens.  In that single moment in time, that butterfly painting expresses something inside of me that wants to be seen by me…and perhaps recognized by another.

It seems that right now we are asked to be in a holding pattern.  We are living then in a suspended state…this isn’t easy, is it?  We are so action-oriented, busy, busy.  And now, we wait until conditions are right before we emerge once again.

What can you do for yourself to foster those right conditions?

Your Own Butterfly

On an 8×10″ piece of watercolor paper (140 lb. weight), drip and spray acrylic inks or dab paints to cover the paper (what you paint on is called your substrate).  Choose either cool colors or warm colors for this first layer.  Some cool colors are blue, green and purple and the warm colors are yellow, red and orange.  Let the first layer dry and then come back in with the opposite colors to make designs of your choice.  Let that layer dry.  Finally, add dabs of white in strategic places across the substrate.  Once that is dry, draw a butterfly shape in the center.  You can use white charcoal or white colored pencil to draw the outline of the butterfly.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Don’t forget the body in the center.

Choose a favorite color and paint the background around the butterfly shape.  You can let some of the background peek through outside of the butterfly.  You can use a more transparent paint so that the under layers are visible yet don’t compete with the central butterfly.  Look at an image of a butterfly noting the symmetry on each side.  Design your butterfly.   You can use markers for this.  Don’t strive for perfection.  Get lost in the creative process.  Your butterfly is unique to you.

Dance, Ballerina, Dance!

I love to dance.  To follow the inclination of the body and to get lost in the dance.  Dance has the capacity to release what has been stuck through movement.  The dance can be flowing or chaotic or anything in between, depending upon what I need in the moment.  In fact, dance seems to be an imperative in these times.  It helps to release stress and changes things up a bit.  And guess what, the command to “dance like no one is watching,” might actually be true for some of us these days.  So do, dance like no one is watching in the privacy of your living space.  Move the furniture aside, put on your favorite dance music…and dance.  Skype with your siblings, friends, children and grandchildren, choose some favorite dance music and dance together.

Make it happen!

****
This ballerina looks sturdy to me.  She reminds me of a very staunch Russian ballerina.  From the countryside perhaps.  I can make up any story I like about her.  Creating this piece came from a place of “letting go”.  I found the freedom to follow my instincts.  Try this, try that.  Yes, you can place gold leaf circles within circles beside a ballerina.  And why not add a little bird in the upper corner!  Let go.

 

Ballerina.a

Perhaps that is the message of this painting “let go” of what isn’t necessary to make room for what wants to be expressed.  We don’t always have to strive for perfection and follow the rules of what is allowed to co-exist on the canvas.  We can step outside of the box of thought around what good art is and discover the emotion, the feeling from which art arises.  Express it.

****
I began painting for the first time in the year 2014.    I didn’t go to art school.  I began with online classes.  The way you get better at anything, as I’ve said before, is to practice.  I stopped comparing myself with other artists or wondering whether or not I had any talent.  I painted for myself.

So, you’re not an artist…really?  You can FINGERPAINT!  Make your own paints.  Here’s a recipe from Martha Stewart…I’m sure you can find others online.  Then paint away those pent up emotions.  Notice how you feel afterwards.

MATERIALS

  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of cornstarch
  • 2 cups of cold water
  • Containers
  • Food coloring   Instead of food coloring, one viewer used used paprika, turmeric and matcha.

STEPS

  1. Stir 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch together. Add 2 cups of cold water and heat over medium heat until the mixture is thick (the mixture will further thicken as it cools).

  2. Divide into four or more containers, and add food coloring to achieve desired colors.

    ****
    At the least, dance it out today!

     

Balance

Aren’t we always striving for BALANCE?  Was it the Buddha who first named “the middle path?”  If we go too far in one direction, we can overcorrect and go too far in the other direction…but the ideal, like a pendulum, is to strive for balance.  I’m sure that I needed balance when I painted this piece.  Honestly, I can’t remember a time when things weren’t ruffled, shuffled and needed reframing in order for me to go forward.  Imbalance desires balance in the body, mind, emotions and spirit.

Balance

In this painting, I started with an 8″ by 8″ birch board.  I painted half of it with black gesso and the other half with white gesso.  Then began the journey as I explored the theme of balance.

I placed this painting on a wall in my kitchen as a reminder that I desire balance.

****
How do you bring balance into your day?  Exercise is a powerful way to encourage balance.  One yoga pose, the mountain pose, reminds you to stand tall, grounded and steady on your feet.  Try it.  How long can you hold it?

Can you think of an image that suggests balance to you?  Find an image in a magazine that supports the idea of balance.  On a sheet of paper, write down the word, BALANCE…throughout the day, notice things around you that support your own balance.  List them on the paper as a reminder to yourself.

Alone Doesn’t Have to be Lonely

I don’t remember exactly what inspired this mixed media painting.  Except that it was another intuitive journey and continued to shift over time.  Putting down colors that I was drawn to, seeing images within the evolving piece, deciding which ones to elaborate on and which ones to let go.

****
It was a cold, winter’s night in the mountains where I live.  There was the early dark of winter and a blizzard outside.  There was nowhere to go and no friend to meet.  An existential loneliness settled in around me.  Resistance is the first response when an uncomfortable feeling presents.  Feet dug in…”I don’t want to go there.”  But it persisted and I needed to be with it.  I’d been working on a painting of a polar bear in the Arctic.  I’d been trying to paint the aurora borealis.  Good luck with that!  That sky went through so many changes.

aurora

What prompted me to paint a polar bear in the Arctic, that I can’t really say except that as I created the background, his image hovered in the painting.  I brought him forward.

polarbear1

That night of extreme loneliness, staring at this painting in process, imagining the polar bear as his world disappears, I wrote the poem that I’ve already shared in this blog earlier.  It begins like this…

It’s cold and I’m alone again at night
The stars so far away, no comfort there
Is the polar bear aware of his plight?
Ice floes are melting, does anyone care?

Painting this piece, writing the poem, helped to shift my energy.  The poem and painting connected me to something outside of myself, bigger than my small life and this moment of loneliness.

****
To be human is to feel loneliness at times.  In this time of the pandemic, social isolation and uncertainty, find a way to either write, draw or paint or any other creative activity.
One exploration could involve color.  Color crayons, watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils…any of these work.  On a piece of paper, put down colors that you feel particularly attracted to.  Place them side by side, at different angles to each other.  If you are using paints, notice which colors make other colors “pop” forward and which colors recede.  Let yourself play with color.