A Painting Odyssey

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Embarking upon a journey is one way to look at creating a painting.  The artist begins with inspiration!  Inspiration can lead to action or non-action.  Preferably, it’s action.

When I take a class, I am provided with the inspiration and instruction.  And, of course, at some point, my own inner guidance takes over.

This abstract is prompted by fine artist, Sherry Lynch Woodward’s expert and fun lesson.  It is the beginnings of a landscape painting.

Sherry makes brilliant use of color and she enjoys mark-making and using tools that add texture and interest to a piece.

When I look at this abstract today, I can imagine going in many different directions with it.  I see a shoreline, an ocean, or a lake, maybe a building.  What do you see?

I also decided not to go any further with this piece…the journey concluded early because I liked it as is…the inference of images gives me a pleasing feeling.  I like the way the colors work together.  I don’t need to define anything further.

I don’t paint many abstract paintings.  When I first started painting in 2014, I searched for recognizable images in a mishmash of colors and marks on a canvas, I wanted to define an image…and quickly.  Today, I’m beginning to feel a bit differently about that.

I think that abstract accesses a different part of the brain.  The part that can’t quite see what the future is going to be.  And with that, there is a way of meeting what is to come with curiosity, acceptance and yes, grace.  Abstract, the unknown, have a unique appeal for me at this time.

Ocean in Abstract

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This abstract was done in a class with artist, Laly Mille.  I divided the 9″x12″ 140# watercolor paper into four triangles.  They can be cut into individual paintings if I so choose.  When I look at this abstract painting today, I think I would leave it as an ocean study.  In my thinking, abstract equals the artist’s impressions of a subject.

There are the colors that I’ve associated with the ocean.  There is, perhaps, a horizon line.  There could be rock formations not far from the shoreline.  And there is definitely sky.  With clouds.  A mood is created.

When I present an abstract painting, I don’t like to discuss it very much.  I like it to stand alone, to represent what it represents and to allow the viewer to be drawn into it and have their own interpretation.  To encourage the viewer to fabricate a story around my impressions of the ocean.

 

Collage 2

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What I like about collage is that while there is an element of play, there is also a sense of a hidden meaning.  The subconscious is directing the show from its off-stage balcony.  You could look at this piece and see it as pure abstract.  Or a compilation of scraps of paper with a bit of integration through the central figure.  But it doesn’t really matter how anyone else sees this.  The artist is taking disparate parts and making them work together.  In that way, she’s also reassembling things in her psyche that she didn’t seem to know how to sort.  Collage is similar to dream work.  The work of dreams, in my humble opinion, is to help integrate complex elements that you can’t work out with the conscious mind.

You don’t even have to consider yourself an artist to do collage!  Anyone of any age at any time can create a collage.

Here’s how you go about it.

  • Gather papers.  Magazines.  Some of your writing.  Anything that speaks to you that can be glued on a substrate.  Tear or cut images or words that appeal to you in the moment.  I like to tear a paper as I prefer  the uneven edge.
  • Choose your substrate.  Heavy cardboard, cereal box panel, canvas, mixed media paper, watercolor paper (140# weight), whatever you have.
  • Matte medium is a good paste.  Or YES brand of paste.  Or Mod Podge if there is nothing else.
  • Brushes that you don’t care about.
  • Water to clean the brushes.
  • A paper towel.
  • Paints, I prefer acrylics…but gouache works or oil pastels.  I like Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water soluble wax pastels.

Give yourself time apart.  Put on some music if you like.  Arrange the torn or cut papers on your substrate in a way that is pleasing to you.  Take a picture with your camera.  Remove the papers and then glue them on the substrate according to your photo.  Splash or brush on color as you are inclined to (or not).  Let yourself get lost in the process.  Don’t hurry it.  Don’t let anyone or anything infringe upon this time and space.  Getting lost in this process is part of the benefits of this collage journey into yourself.  Don’t be afraid of it, surrender to it.  Let it take you deep and deeper into the unknown.  It is like walking into one of your dreams, only it’s a waking dream.  Trust yourself to go there.  Trust that you’re going to return.

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/

 

Abstracting

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This painting evolved from a fun process developed by artist, Basia Zielinska.  It involved a large canvas or sheet of watercolor paper.  Acrylic paint in colors that play well together.  Spraying water and dripping paint.  Line work.  Layering and allowing to dry between some of the layers to avoid making mud.   And then, I wanted the image of cairns.  It seems that I typically want to bring an image into an abstraction.  I’ve always been attracted to cairns, so cairns it was.

“A cairn is a man-made pile of stones. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic: càrn. Cairns have been and are used for a broad variety of purposes, from prehistoric times to the present. In modern times, cairns are often erected as landmarks, a use they have had since ancient times.” (Wikipedia)

We occasionally see cairns while hiking in the mountains here where I live.  They signify that you are on the right track or if there is a fork in the road, they mark the correct trail to follow.  Basically, they are trail markers guiding you in cases where navigation becomes difficult and the trail may easily be lost.

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Wouldn’t it be cool if we had cairns along our life path as signposts to the best way to proceed when faced with a life choice?  In a sense, we do.  But we don’t always listen to our intuition, do we?  What is that strange human capacity, like the Vasilisa Doll story as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book,  Women Who Run With the Wolves“Go left, go right, don’t go that way, do go this way”.  Why are we so suspicious or doubtful when it comes to our own intuition?  Do we associate it with the occult or witchcraft or is it so demeaned in a rational patriarchal system that we don’t trust it?

I remember a film with Brendan Fraser, Still Breathing, where he created cairns.  It’s also very much about following one’s deep intuition and guidance.  It’s a quirky and  captivating film.  It’s one that I’ve seen several times.

That Feeling of Spring

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Splashes of color,
drips, droplets, dabs,
sprinkles, sprays
–marks, translucents,
opaques, frivolity, whimsy,
abstract, realism,
imagination, fantasy,
figures disappearing
into a mist…

When making art, you can create what you desire, design and allow.
The artist can choose to be detailed, intricate and precise.  The artist can choose to be abstract as heck and expressive.  And there is everything in between.
That is why I believe that

EVERYONE IS AN ARTIST!

As I also believe that everyone has a hidden poet (because everyone has a voice), I also believe that everyone has a hidden artist.  Perhaps one who has been shamed into
hiding, but she’s there just the same, waiting to be invoked, invited, induced to come out and play.

That is what this painting was to me.  This was painted at the beginning of my discovery of art as a possible way to express myself.  Playing on Aquabord, a substrate that was new to me, the paint flowed in a surprising way.  Yes, substrates make a difference as to how the paint behaves.  Substrate is the surface on which the artist paints.  There are many types of substrates these days!  Sometimes, any substrate works.  I’ve painted on gessoed cardboard.

With so many online opportunities to learn while playing–that is the perspective to take when you are beginning to paint or painting after many years of not painting.  Or at any level of experience.  Play and learn.  Make many mistakes.  And carry on playing, learning and practicing.  Like any practice, you have to do it daily.  Best to plan it into your day.

 

Following a Feeling–Home

This abstract collage painting…inspired by a feeling of what it is to come home.  I shelter at home now.  And my home is also inside of me.  I leave home, walk a path in the world.  There is a sense of the path unfolding as I take the next step.  Walking into what isn’t known.  I go so far and then, I turn around and return home.

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Home is a word that evokes strong feelings for many of us.  The home of my childhood, the home of my body, the house or dwelling where I live now.  The home of my community, the home of my state, the country…the neighboring countries, the earth, in this galaxy, universe.  Home is both provincial and expansive.

I crafted and facilitated a creative writing workshop on homecoming in order to deeply explore this theme.

One story goes that Winnie the Pooh was lost in the woods with Piglet and Rabbit.  They wandered in circles for quite some time.  Rabbit got impatient and left Winnie the Pooh and Piglet to find their own way home.   Winnie the Pooh had a north star sort of experience.  He heard his twelve honey pots calling him…when things got very quiet (rabbit’s incessant talk had ceased), Pooh heard the calling and followed it home to the sweetness in his cupboards.

pooh, piglet, rabbit

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We’re in a state of suspension with sheltering at home.  There are times we experience anxiety, stress, frustration, impatience.  There are many levels of  coming home.  How do you bring yourself to a deeper level of homecoming (the home within) when you are compelled by challenging thoughts and uncomfortable feelings?

Clarissa Pinkola Estes says that returning home “is not necessarily an overland and arduous journey.“  Some ways of going home are mundane, some are divine.  She cites a few examples “…Rereading passages of books and single poems that have touched (you).  Spending even a few minutes near a river, a stream, a creek.  Lying on the ground in dappled light.  Being with a loved one…Sitting on the porch shelling something,  knitting something, peeling something.  Walking or driving for an hour, any direction, then returning.  Getting on a bus, destination unknown…”

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What are five things that call  you home or return you to your center when you are lost in the woods?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Ballerinas

In these uncertain times, we strive for balance, meaning, purpose.  We hope for the safety and health of ourselves and those we love…and we extend that prayer for our entire family, neighbors, community, state, country, neighboring countries, the earth.  We are in this together.  We always have been.

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I honestly don’t know why I started to paint ballerinas.  Perhaps it is their perfection of form–the way their bodies stand tall and poised, their mastery of graceful movement.  Perhaps it was the memory of a fleeting girlhood fantasy of being a ballerina.  Perhaps it is their delicate beauty.

I began painting ballerinas, several of them, one after the other.  This first painting was a total surprise to me.  It’s one that started out as something else, a compassionate feminine Buddha portrait, and then, it turned into the ballerinas.  At first, the central ballerina was a flower, the bleeding heart.  However, all around her, other ballerina figures were developing.  Suddenly, the bleeding heart no longer fit.  The flower became the central ballerina and she too changed over time.

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Sometimes, the way in which the paint or acrylic ink  “dripped” prompted a new figure.  I limited the color palette.

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Today is a good day to notice beauty.

These Times

This is truly a strange way to realize that we are united, as one.  Through a virus.  I’ve been thinking about what I want to contribute at this time, through this blog.

For now, less words and more images.  Starting with earlier paintings.  I took up the paintbrush in 2014.  Words had served me well.  Suddenly, I felt entrapped by them.  The same circle of thoughts.  I needed something different.

There was an online class called Brave Intuitive Painting taught by artist, Flora Bowley.  I think that it was five weeks long.  That was the beginning of my painting journey.  There is an abstract quality to this style of art.  And you definitely are lead by your intuition…which color, what symbol, what emphasis.

When I look back at the first paintings , I didn’t have a sense of what my style was.  For many of them, I can’t remember why I went the way I did with them.  While I don’t dislike the abstract, I seemed to always want to pull a recognizable image from the background that was emerging.

I’m going to post the art I created, one at a time, from 2016 forward.  If I can remember the prompt, I’ll share that.  I hope this uplifts you and tunes you into your own creative nature.  I want to encourage you to pick up a pen, pencil, paintbrush or use your fingers in paint and find and follow your inner creative being.  We all have one.

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This painting is called Lanterns and Fans.  It’s painted on a 12″x12″ canvas.  It was one of my first paintings to sell.  Looking at it now, I see that it is too busy.  And I would find a way to tone it down.  As with many paintings, they are best appreciated in person.  That said, any painting has an energy that comes through it.  And I do remember somewhat the space that I was in while painting this mixed media piece.  I have a feeling for some Japanese symbols, i.e., lanterns and fans.  Colors self-determined and the collage materials were sifted or cut from earlier paintings.

Because I gave myself the freedom to express myself, I think the viewer was able to tap into that sense of freedom.  And a bit of frivolity.

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Perhaps, today, you can consider some symbols that have spoken to you in your life.  The ones that you come across regularly or feel drawn to.  Take some time today, to draw them.  Draw them several times.  Repetition has a place in art.  It’s practice.  Artists practice a lot!