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.

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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.

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.

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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.  

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

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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.

Ballerina “Degas Style”

As the social distancing continues, we are finding other ways to connect.  It’s not easy.  I took a walk with a friend for the first time in two weeks.  We stayed six to eight feet apart.  If anyone was approaching on the trail, we split further apart to allow the person(s) to pass.  I have alcohol wipes with me when I shop for groceries.  The checkout clerk wears plastic gloves and a mask.  When I get home, I wash the packaging that my food comes in, the fruits and vegetables, etc.  These are some of the precautions that I take at this time.  It is difficult.  And I do believe that deep inside each one of us is something that knows how to be with what is occurring at this time.  I have no answers…except to give myself something to show up for every day.  Blessings.

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I don’t know the names of the variety of ballet positions.  Except for one, plie.

Being in the phase of painting ballerinas,  I was leafing through a magazine and came across an image of a ballerina stretching towards her toes.  I believe it was by Degas but I could be wrong.  He certainly painted a plethora of ballerinas!

Regardless, I wanted to try and paint her.  In my whimsical style, with a touch of collage around the hem of her tutu.  I remember how challenging it was for me to get her form close to being true.  The arch of her back, the tilt of her head, her fingers that touched her ankle.  The proportions.  The angle of her face and neck.  Even the color of her skin and the tonal values.  Urgh.  I wasn’t entirely pleased with it.  But after a lot of tweaking and fussing, I called it done.

I named this painting The Sugar Plum Fairy as behind her is a fanciful forest of perhaps, trees of a sugar plum variety.  And doves that form a heart.

Ballerina2

Then there is the famous Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker.

 

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Today is a good day to STRETCH!  Being homebound for now,
don’t forget that your body loves to streeeetch.

 

 

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.

Ballerinas.1

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.