work in progress
I took my first botanical watercolor class about two years ago. Marilyn Garber, founder of the Minnesota School of Botanical Art, is an exceptional instructor who pushes me beyond my comfort level, but not so far that I panic. The image here is what I'm working on right now as a part of her "Tulip Mania" class. It's about 3/4 finished. There are parts of the work that I like, but a whole lot more that I'm dissatisfied with. But then I'm never happy with my work.
• a piece of gauze cloth that appears opaque until lit from behind, used as a screen or backdrop.
• a thing that conceals or obscures something : a thin scrim of fog covered the island.
It was when I first started teaching junior high that I became gut-wrenchingly aware of the scrim that kids put up. That was more than 30 years ago. SInce then I’ve learned that it’s not only adolescents who protect themselves behind a self-manufactured curtain; we all do this, some more than others.
Are you aware of the scrims the people in your life create?
How do you get behind them? What are the scrims that you erect -- and more importantly, why?
My new series deals with this question. The work will be ready in time for Northrup King’s celebration of its 15 anniversary of Art Attack. Over 200 artists working in nearly every art medium open their studios for this weekend long event. The event is free, and so is the parking. For more info go to www.northrupkingbuilding.com.
What a remarkable country, what a remarkable trip! I went with some vague questions about my ancestry and the post-WWII Slavic northeast Minneapolis culture in which I grew. I came back with some answers...all of which went a long way to heighten my pride in my Polish heritage.
I'll not bore you with a narrative of my trip but I would like to share some new work which is the direct result of that trip. The piece above is a water color adaptation of a photo I took in Warsaw's Old Town. It's one of a number of paintings in a similar style that I'm working on.
Comment on or Share this Article →
As an aside...if you're thinking about a visit to Poland, I highly recommend StayPoland. Excellent service, excellent tour (small groups!). Best part (from an American dollar point of view) is that Poland is quite affordable. (We paid more for our flight than we paid for the tour.) Warm, friendly people, amazing history. Go!
I received a disturbing email a few weeks ago. I've been unable to erase it from my thoughts. To paraphrase: "I love your work, I love your website. But I notice you post very few blogs. For only $XX per month, we will write your blog entries for you and publish them under your name."
My reaction: How is this any different from out-and-out plagiarism? To have someone write my entries, even though I've paid for them, is still "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own" (iMac Dictionary definition). I deleted his email but I'm still dismayed at the idea that more and more people are claiming someone else's work as their own.
This happens in the art world, too, as it's so effortless to download a photo or painting, print it out, and use it without permission. As a mother, a teacher, and now an artist, I can't begin to describe the anger this behavior evokes in me.
Enough of the rant; thanks for listening. As for my most recent work including the image above, I need to credit California artist Myrna Wacknov and her Creativity Journal for inspiration and instruction.Comment on or Share this Article →
I used to meet monthly with a writer. The idea was that by summarizing our work and stating a goal, each of us would inspire the other to do more and better work. Our collaboration fell apart but there are a number of benefits that came out of it, not the least of which was the awareness of how important a clean workspace is. In other words, a lack of clutter makes it easier to get to work. No more random paint tubes lying around. Piles of paint covered rags are periodically banished. Color trials and scribbly sketches that I tossed onto random piles I now periodically either file or trash. The result? I’m creating more work and wasting less time. More importantly, I’m eager to get to my studio.
I was showing my newly cleaned spaces with a friend who said, “Your studios are so functional.” (Note: read “basement” and “upstairs bedroom” for “studios.”) “You really ought to post some photos. There lots of beginning artists who might benefit from seeing how you made use of your available space.”
So, here’s a quick run-down of how I made an attic-cum-bedroom work for me. It’s where I do my dreaming, planning, and watercolors. I hope you can use some of my ideas for your own workspace.
I collect lots of art books. When our daughter moved out, she chose to leave behind her book case. I turned it on its side; result: more horizontal shelf space.
No water? No problem. A recycled plastic gallon jug for fresh water and a pail for dirty works well for water-based media. I keep a pump bottles filled with miniscule amounts of liquid soap with water; beats running downstairs when I need to wash my hands. A basket of old towels is nearby.
Peg board is uber cheap, uber handy.
The room was originally a bedroom. The knotty pine panelling absorbed light so I stapled an old white sheet to the walls. True color lamps on the ceiling (not in photo) and on the table give me a lot of light.
The room was originally a bedroom. The knotty pine panelling absorbed light so I stapled an old white sheet to the walls. This is also where I pin ideas, sketches, etc. True color lamps on the ceiling (not in photo) and on the table give me a lot of light.
My one splurge: a drawing table with storage space for brushes, pencils. (OK...the secretarial chair was a splurge, too...but I waited ‘til it was on sale. If I were more patient, I’d’ve scoped out garage sales, etc. But for comfort, height adjustment, and ease of movement, you can’t beat these chairs. Look for one with good back support.)
My basement “studio” is where I work on my oils and store paper, canvasses, and props. I’ll post pix of that in a week or so.
I just finished reading Jonah Lehrer's Imagine: How Creativity Works. He's got me thinking hard about the how and the why of this challenging subject, particularly about the importance of the right blend of collegiality and adversity among people. It turns out “the right blend” isn’t always the most soul-soothing blend.
This in turn got me thinking to the how and the why behind the upswell of work I've been creating over the past months. A lot of it hasn’t been viewer-worthy but the resulting ideas have resulted in some artsy experiments that I’m eager to develop.
If what Lehrer proposes is true, this spate of work is the result of my frequent meetings with three friends, each of whom is quite different from the other and yet each of whom brings a part to what becomes an incredible whole.
Mindy is a professional actor, a painter, and -- although she'd likely deny it -- a philosopher. We meet in coffee shops and museums. Our conversations start out with the usual catch-up stuff: husbands, kids, books...but wherever we start, it's mere minutes before we're into solving problems, probing our pasts and how they may or may not have affected our work. I've been collecting "Mindyisms" for years. She has an ability to jolt me into looking at something from a whole ‘nuther angle.
The first time I saw Sharon, I was on hall duty. She was sitting on the edge of her desk, leading her high school juniors in an intense classroom discussion. What I overheard through her open classroom door told me that this was a woman I wanted to know better. Our shared love of literature became the means that turned her into a dear friend. Sharon's only a couple of years older than I am. She reads voluminously and insightfully. We talk about education, families, books. Very often our talks -- usually in bookstores -- turn to what it means to be "women of a certain age." How can we best spend what statistically is likely to be the last 20% of our lives? "I'm content," she recently said in response to my expressed restlessness. "I've done what I've wanted to do and a whole lot more. I think I've made a difference in some areas that matter to me. I'm struck with how fortunate I am when I'm able to spend a day gardening, reading, meeting a friend and talking with a grandchild." Sharon and I have even talked about our funerals, a subject that most people don’t want to talk about. I am blessed to have someone who is neither threatened nor maudlin about subjects like this. Sharon brings great comfort to my life.
Donna is an old and dear friend whose path diverged from mine some years ago. She's a published writer and a world traveler. A few months ago we reconnected with the goal of meeting once a month to help each other work past our respective writer's/painter's blocks. Unlike the time I spend with Mindy and Sharon, meetings with Donna are structured. We’ve talked about what blocks us and the ensuing guilt we each feel when find ourselves cleaning the pipes under our bathroom sinks when we should be at our respective computer/easel. We spur each other on with promises to fulfill a particular goal before we meet again. We analyze what worked when a goal was met, and what prevented the same. Donna challenges me to remember Woody Allen’s comment that “80% of success belongs to those who show up.”
What these three women have given me is "knowledge spillover...a constant churn of ideas as (people) learn from one another."* With the knowledge that I get from Mindy, Sharon, and Donna, I've found the courage to try new things. I hope I bring the same to them.
*Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonas Lehrer, page 182
I sat at my easel this morning, utterly stuck. Not for lack of ideas but for lack of confidence. I idly thumbed through some old writings of mine and came across this one that I first published a couple of years ago in another venue. Maybe this is a good day to pay attention to my own advice.
My husband and I returned a couple of days ago from a two-week road trip to New Mexico. Along the way we realized our 3500 mile drive would become our own personal American Icon trip. South Dakota’s Wall Drug, Corn Palace, and Mt. Rushmore saw us checking off three “gotta see” stops that, as kids, our respective parents didn’t have the money, patience, or air-conditioned cars that would have allowed them to tolerate even a Minneapolis to Mitchell drive. With a nod to those good folks, we motored on.
Carson National Forest shared its buffalo, wild turkeys, and wild burros; we saw more wild life in one hour’s drive than we’d seen in the past 40 years.
Following the mountain road into Taos on a gray, drizzly day was breathtaking. I apologize for that cliche, but there’s really no other word that best describes the glitter of lime-green aspen against rain-darkened firs and deep sienna rock faces.
But as much as I enjoyed those icons, it was the art artists in Taos and Santa Fe that captured my imagination. Weavers, potters, sculptors, oil painters, water colorists...inspiration and excitement and eagerness to wet my brush dominated my thoughts.
Now I’m home. The washer and dryer are finally quiet. My camera has finished regurgitating 150+ photos into the computer. The Oaxacan hand-woven rug is hung on the wall. And I’m ready to paint.
But I can’t. All that inspiration and excitement that captured my imagination only a few days ago have turned on me; all I feel now is intimidated. I’m certain that even on my very best days, I could never hope to come close to the quality of the work I saw.
Do doctors and lawyers feel this way, too? Do politicians and clergymen look in awe over the colleagues’ abilities to solve problems judiciously and elegantly?
When I’m not feeling sorry for myself, my guess is yes; they probably do. This sense of inferiority is part of the human condition and, since I’m human, I guess the only way to conquer it is to get off the computer, go to my studio, and wet that damned brush.
I've struggled for such a very long time with the idea of "finding my voice" that I had given up on reading any more on that subject, figuring that, for me at least, it was a hopeless search. Nevertheless, I gave it one more try when I found an article that offered this idea: "Before you sit down to (paint, sculpt, write), jot down a few words or phrases about what it is about your chosen subject that grabs your attention."
I've completed three paintings after following that tip; it seems to work! I painted "Getting to the Punchline" from separate photographs. But before I even picked up my brushes, I stared long and hard at the photos. Recollections of parties last summer intensified my memories. I wrote down words that flashed from my imagination to my hand: 'sunshine/shadows', 'triangle implies relationship', 'affection'; and yes...even 'dirty jokes.'
I've learned that struggling to find my voice is indeed a means of getting to the punchline. Now if only I could recall the source of that article; I'd love to credit and thank the author.Comment on or Share this Article →
I don't make resolutions for the new year...but I do think about (and sometimes even accomplish!) a few goals. One of my left-over goals from 2011 was to try to move away from realism in painting into something a bit freer, a bit more experimental. While I've done a number of things that would fit the general category of "a few artsy experiments," only now have I finally accomplished something I think is worth bringing out in public. I'm not sure that this new voice of mine is completely tamed yet, but I like where it's going. I'd love to hear what you think.
"Abandoned" is reproduced with permission from a photograph by Karen Doody, award winning underwater, surfing, and nature photographer. Her website is well worth a visit! http://www.karendoody.comComment on or Share this Article →