Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Welcoming 2010


One of my favorite Christmas gifts, a wonderful garden “junk” sculpture by area sculptors John and Dorie Mitchell, who have a studio in my building.

The first decade of the 21st century is drawing to a close and a new one is about to begin. A marker like this gives us an opportunity to reflect on the past and consider the future. From personal and family milestones to world news and events,  the majority of us recognize at these endings and beginnings how quickly time passes.

And each January 1, we have an opportunity to review, revise or reconnect with our desires and dreams, then  launch 12 new months of new exploration and experience. Some people make resolutions – most often quickly broken – but others take a gentler approach to welcoming a New Year, setting up an attitude of positive expectation and welcome without making it too specific. A much wiser choice for most of us!

In my previous blog I invited readers to e-mail your names and addresses for a “goodies drawing” to help you launch a creative New Year.

Thirteen of you entered the end of the year “goodies giveaway.” When it came time to draw winners’ names, what I didn’t anticipate was discovering that I couldn’t just pick a few and ignore the rest (maybe I’ll get better at that by next year!). I truly feel a desire to share my good fortune this year with those of you who faithfully read my blog. So – surprise! – you are ALL winners! First thing this morning I’ll  head down to the post office to mail out 13 small gifts, one to each person who entered.

The goodie drawing feels like a metaphor for what it takes to live an artistic life. Part of being a maker is having the courage to put ourselves and our work out into the world, to take  risks of exposure without any assured outcomes–  trusting that good will emerge from those actions in some way, even if the results aren’t immediately apparent or what we had hoped they might be.

Thirteen of you entered this little drawing without any assurance that the outcome would be positive, but perhaps with just an inkling of hope that your name would be picked. In my book that’s a winner’s attitude that we all can cultivate as artists and makers for 2010. What do we miss out on when we don’t step out on that limb or put our hat in the ring???

This afternoon we’ll head out for the rehearsal dinner for my stepson’s wedding tomorrow in Buffalo, NY – Bob and Sarah love the idea of getting married and celebrating their anniversary each year on New Year’s Eve – and then my husband and I will drive up and spend the weekend in Toronto. We’ll visit an exhibition of Alexander Calder’s circus while we’re there (can’t wait to see it live), view a Cape Dorset artist exhibition and stop in at IKEA on the drive home to check out new furniture for my office, which will get a makeover in 2010.

So I’ll look forward to resuming art blogging when I return to my studio and my work  next week. In the interim, may all your hopes and wishes  bring you wonderful adventures in 2010!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gifts of the Season

After a successful and enjoyable open studios event at my building two weekends ago, my attention has shifted to readying for the holidays AND preparing for a New Year. I treat this final month of each year as a time for reflection and appreciation as well as celebration. So in addition to decorating, buying gifts, sending cards and baking, a great deal of cleaning and clearing has continued. Now I've moved on to my office, sorting accumulated files and folders of paperwork relating to writing, teaching and exhibitions from as far back as 2002.

These acts of clearing are having an amazing effect on me. I am letting go. In 2010, I won't be teaching, I won't be developing new lectures, I won't be writing magazine articles. I will truly focus my energies in one direction, adding to my body of work.

The holidays are a time to be more intentional, allowing ourselves to indulge in appreciative thoughts and generous actions that warm us and all those whose lives we touch. So, it is in this spirit that I offer all of you who read my blog some gifts for the heart this holiday season.

#1 --Take a few moments to watch this video about Martin Neufeld, aka The Hugger Buster. This street performer practices Artful Hugging. May we all follow his example and open our arms more often to share caring touch with our fellow humans.

#2 - To return a smile to your lips and peaceful appreciation to your heart, try listening to this short guided meditation from Australia to practice loving-kindness. I woke up hearing these two words in my head this morning and when I googled them, found this lovely short loving-kindness meditation audiotape from the Buddhist Education and Information Network.

#3 - I appreciate every one of you who take the time to read my blog, so please enter my end of the year "goodies" drawing. Just e-mail your name and snail-mail address to me at I will draw several names and mail out happy surprises to start your New Year with a smile!

Most of all, I wish bright and happy holidays to you and your loved ones -- may you hug and be hugged extravagantly and well!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A-MAZE-ING Hungerford Open Studios

DSCN4909 Notice that I’ve been way too quiet?!? It’s because I’ve been working on these lovely little 9” x 12” matted compositions ( the 9” x 12” ones are a mere $30!!) for this approaching weekend’s open studios in the Hungerford Building in Rochester, NY. That’s where I have my surface design studio.

Artists in our our newly formed Hungerford Artisans Association will be opening our studios for two days and sharing our work and processes with any and all who come to visit.(When you click on this link you will see a beautiful photograph of our building done by resident photographer extraordinaire Lou Allen)


LOCATION: Hungerford Building, 1115 East Main Street, Rochester, NY. Enter Door #2 or #5 to get a map that will guide you through the building. My studio is #366, third floor.

DATES AND TIMES: Friday, December 4, 5 – 9 PM; Saturday, December 5, 10 AM – 4 PM.

I will be selling original cards and matted works for $10-$30, along with special "Inspiration Packs", clear zip-loc bags each filled with one pound of fat quarters and half yard pieces of dyed , painted and surface designed silks or cottons ($15) to inspire new creations. Taxes are included.

While you stroll through the artist studios on three floors, you can listen to musicians playing and have a bite to eat at the Red Osier booth inside door #2. Maps will help guide you through our winding corridors and lead you on the treasure hunt to find the artist studios.

To reward you for finding us all, there will be drawings for a number of handcrafted prizes. All you have to do is visit the studios, fill out your entry form and deposit it on your way out. Hope you can come join us for A-Maze-Ing Hungerford!

It will be a busy weekend in Rochester with lots of great art events, from the Rochester Contemporary member exhibition opening (yes I have a piece in it!) to the Alternative Fair at the First Unitarian Church on Winton Road – so gallery hop on First Friday or spend all day Saturday in the city and enjoy all the wonderful events taking place this weekend!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mid-Career Retrospective?!?

I’m doing an archeological dig in my fabric storage area, unearthing dyed, printed and painted pieces I haven’t really SEEN for years.



At first my goal was to fill garbage bags to bulging and donate them to Goodwill. I love the idea of one person’s discards becoming another person’s treasures and hoped that art students would find them and transform them.


But as I sifted through piles of dyed, painted or printed silks and cottons, ideas started popping in my head – the old marks, patterns and combinations began to inspire me.


It occurred to me they might inspire other textile artists, too. I decided to weigh and bag assortments of these pieces and sell them as “inspiration packs” for $15 each.


I’m viewing this as very own “mid-career retrospective” as I fill plastic zipper storage bags with one pound assortments of fabrics from my explorations of mark, color and pattern over the past 7-8 years.  Some are dyed solids, some are patterned and all of the packaging is totally random – the one unifying factor is that they all weigh one pound.

At the December 4th and 5th A-Maze-ing Hungerford Open Studios event (announcement about that soon!), I’ll be selling these for $15 each (includes tax), along with some wonderful cards and matted pieces that I’m making as well. You’ll see some of those soon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Uncork the Bubbly!

I received a wonderful letter in the mail yesterday from Fiberart International, one that started with “Congratulations!”

After a brief pause to shed a few happy tears, I read that my “Seeds of Compassion” piece has indeed been accepted as one of 87 pieces that will be exhibited at Fiberart International in Pittsburgh, PA in 2010.

Seeds of Compassion full

The letter says: “Jurors Mary Ruth Smith, Rebecca Stevens and Vibeke Riisberg met in mid September to evaluate over 1,600 works of art by 703 artists from 30 countries – the largest and most diverse groups of entries ever in the history of Fiberart International.”

Arrangements for the traveling exhibition currently include the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (hey that’s MY Rochester!) and the San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design.

Am I proud and thrilled and beside myself with joy?!?!? You better believe I am!! This turning 60 is starting to shape up into a spectacular year!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Return of Quiet

Several people wrote to ask me about my SOFA experience; I’m finally settled back in from the trip and have time to write.


Nope I didn’t get a ride on the express train to fame and fortune! I had a wonderful time, met terrific people and enjoyed six days in one of my favorite cultural cities. I presented a talk about my work on Saturday morning and was interviewed by a Chicago reporter for the Art Enquirer.

Here’s a link to the article in the Chicago Fine Arts Examiner. At the bottom of the page there’s a link you can click to a slide show that includes this one of me standing by my work.


On Thursday I toured the fiber department at the School of the Art Institute with Friends of Fiber Art , enjoyed seeing the facilities and students in classes learning felting in one studio and improvisational screen printing with cut paper resists in another one. We followed that up with lunch in the new contemporary wing of the Art Institute.

Thursday evening was the VIP opening of SOFA, with plenty of free wine and hors d’ouvres and mingling. Artists stood by their work in the various booths to meet and greet and answer questions.


On Friday I attended the lectures sponsored by Friends of Fiber Art, where a panel of artists represented by Snyderman or Jane Sauer galleries spoke about their work, including Barbara Lee Smith, Carol Shinn, Jon Riis, Geoffrey Gorman, Marilyn Pappas and Marcia Docter. On Saturday morning the Surface Design Association presented Jan Hopkins and Lesley Richmond, who spoke about their techniques.

I finished up my live SOFA presence on Saturday afternoon and spent Sunday in the Contemporary Museum of Art and the Art Institute. There was an amazing retrospective of outsider artist James Castle’s work at the Art Institute – it was a real highlight of my weekend to move from the totally commercial, sales-driven atmosphere of SOFA to Castle’s completely private world of play and exploration. Read more about James Castle here.

Now that I’m back home, it’s time to get ready for a building-wide studio open house with the Hungerford Urban Artisans on December 4th and 5th.

I’m tired, happy and ready to go back to my quiet studio and return to work. Whatever new opportunities and adventures may lie ahead will present themselves and unfold in their own right and perfect ways. I can’t control or predict how my life as artist will continue to develop, just know and trust that it will.

In the interim, I get to return to the quiet, contemplative world of my studio, where I feel most centered and at home.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Countdown to Chicago

Two more days until I leave for Chicago. The opening VIP reception for SOFA is 5-7 PM Thursday and my talk is Saturday morning at 10:30 AM.

Preparing this lecture for SOFA has challenged me to consider the intentions and ideas that fuel my work, the meaty whys. Previously I spoke more about the hows, the techniques and tools that I use in making.

Artists’ techniques and tools will always intrigue us, but considering other artists’ ideas and the inspirations that fuel their work stimulates us on another level. Hearing other artists speak hopefully opens a window to seeing the world through that person’s thoughtful eyes. Listen carefully and it can reward our attention with new insights and connections; a dynamic ripple effect.

In contrast to the intense activity to prepare for this trip, my own studio practice evolves more slowly.


This Relics piece is 20” x 44”. It will be mounted on a 24” x 48” stretched canvas frame painted black.


Here’s a detail where I’ve screened subtle additions of vertical columns of text and added more layers of paint to the surface.

The previous Relics piece has been framed and is now on display at the Rochester Print Club Annual Member Exhibition, where it just won a Jurors Choice award.

For the next two days I’ll revisit the images for my talk, revising and honing the content. No one could possibly gain more from listening to my lecture than I am receiving in preparing it. Working to articulate the ideas that inspire our work – and it is a hard process for every person, no matter how well they write or how articulate they may appear -- helps to coalesce our focus and directions.

Being thoughtful and slow is a choice, just as are the times we choose to play with ideas and processes and be totally spontaneous and experimental. Both have value. It is worthwhile to learn to be comfortable moving back and forth between them both.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Slow Art

My enjoyment in working light over dark continues as this new work above ( full view) slowly develops. It is a contemplative process that doesn't lend itself to exciting blog posts. I may post less frequently but all this slowness -- including posting less often -- is a calming tonic and becoming more contemplative may well be the "next step" for me as an artist.

Although I am working into this surface one small area and very light layer at a time, I decided today to add some language details to a few areas using black paint. The next text may be screened on in light gray.

Yesterday I worked into the piece with some washes of yellows, golds, and light browns over some of the lighter gray areas. I have not yet decided whether I will add more or stop here. They do seem to be adding some interesting highlights.

You can also see where I am fleshing out some details by painting on black lines to heighten the contrast and accentuate some of the smallest shapes. Working this way continues to be thoroughly enjoyable and unhurried. I am surprised to find I feel totally open to allowing this to develop as it chooses.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rapt Attention

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says the definition for "rapt" is "wholly absorbed." That describes these past two studio days. I have been wholly and totally absorbed in working. Now that I'm ready to stop for the day, it's time to sit quietly for a bit while some paint dries enough to pack up these pieces and take them home for the next stage -- stitching.

This fabric ground has been up on my design wall for a while as I questioned what direction to take it. When clearing up at home, I found letters that had been abandoned on an earlier project and started to experiment. After weighing the results for a week, I've decided the composition is complete and I can start the process of stitching it.

I thought the above piece was finished. It's the third piece in the "Seeds" series, titled "Seeds of Awakening." But the original piece, with just one value of bright yellow/gold centers, seemed flat and lacked movement. So up it went on the design wall for contemplation.

When my friend Betsy visited, I asked her for feedback. She suggested that I add some seeds in varying values on the surface. She was totally right -- and I spent today cutting and applying painted papers that will be permanently stitched to the cloth surface. Don't you agree there's a lot more depth and movement on this piece now? -- I'm enjoying the idea of combining paper and fabric, something I haven't done before.

So Seeds of Awakening will rest quietly at the studio over the weekend and then get one more critical review on Monday. If the composition still seems resolved, then it can get stitched and completed -- again! I've also worked on several other pieces today, and hope to get them far enough along by next week to share them with you soon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Romancing the Mark

Perhaps this is an unintended pun, since it could refer both to my studio mark-making explorations yesterday and to my current interest in painter Mark Tobey’s works.

Yesterday I returned to the soft, quiet work of exploring new ideas inspired by Mark Tobey’s “white writing.”


White Writing, 1951, by Mark Tobey, gouache and watercolor on paper.

Tobey, 1890-1976, an American painter who spent many years in the Pacific Northwest, loved to experiment and his abstract, calligraphic work now is considered to have influenced subsequent art trends, especially Abstract Expressionism. It reassured me to discover that he was more interested in experimentation and exploration than self-promotion of his work.

Tobey studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and worked for a time as a fashion illustrator and portraitist in New York City. He converted to the Bahāʾī faith in 1918 and from that point on explored non-Western spirituality. (Must mention here that I consider my own artmaking a spiritual practice, one that deepens and connects me more and more to a universal force and presence of creative energy)

Tobey’s mature painting style evolved after a visit to East Asia in 1934, during which he spent one month in a Zen monastery in Kyōto and studied Chinese calligraphy in Shanghai. (Another note here, I love the calligraphic, painted mark and it is a dream of mine to go to Kyoto as an artist-in-residence some day.)

The influence of calligraphy first became apparent in the tangled brushwork of his cityscapes of the 1930s, and Tobey went on to develop a unique style consisting of a web or network of calligraphic marks painted in white against a gray or coloured ground. This “white writing” soon displaced all realistic representation in his work.  (excerpted from the Encyclopedia Brittanica).

While my own efforts are not imitative of Tobey’s signature all-over, abstract linear network of calligraphic marks, I am learning from them.


When I began applying opaque paints, particularly white, to the surface of this darkly dyed, subtly patterned silk, I felt as though I was absorbing and responding to Tobey’s experimentation with my own.


Building lighter layers over dark is proving to be an interesting study. I spent yesterday working on the above sample – it’s about 11” x 24”. I worked slowly, growing more comfortable with size 00 to size 2 round and liner brushes and focusing on how much opacity and what kinds of marks I want in the areas where I apply the opaque colors. Yesterday on this sample I used varying dilutions of opaque white textile paint, comparable to Tobey’s gouache.

It is hard to maintain the softer hand and keep the white paint from becoming too thick and heavy. You can see above that where the white is applied more thinly and has softer edges it feels more integrated than the areas where the white is fully opaque. Still, some fully opaque spots over the larger surface might be interesting.

Varying the pure white to tints of ochre and tan and gray is next on a new practice piece and then I will begin working on the full size one again, which is about 44” x 50” right now.


Here’s the sample piece pinned to the larger piece. It seems to me at this point that there’s already a shape on the surface of the larger piece that I can work into and define with the opaque washes around printed or hand painted text. There are also some subtle hints of browns, golds, and lavender grays already on the surface that can be accentuated. I want to be careful not to cover them with the white and lose the interest they add to the surface, so the white may need to be more confined in specific areas than it is on the sample.

The whole process is an absorbing experiment and although I keep trying to move away from this to start working on new fabric grounds and other experimental ideas, the light over dark painting keeps pulling me back.

If I can manage to calm my impulsive nature and move forward mindfully, I believe this could be a very interesting piece when complete. It certainly is fascinating to consider and work on.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What A Week!


Have you missed me? Wondered where I’ve been and why my blog has been so quiet?

First, the deadline for my Powerpoint presentation and written lecture – titled, “Written: Word as Image” --had to be electronically submitted to SOFA by 5 PM on Monday, October 5. I have around 3,500 images in my files, so reviewing, selecting and organizing 90 or so was dizzying.

Writing the accompanying text was also. I have never focused so intently on trying to distill down and express ideas about my inspirations.

Happily, I made the deadline -- at exactly 5 PM on Monday evening. Somehow writing that presentation triggered hard, soul-searching work that churned up a lot of emotions, memories and personal questioning. In part because that intense self-reflection coincided with another milestone event in my life.

I turned 60 on October 6th. How did I get here so quickly?!?!?

Delving into the evolution, meaning and directions in my creative life, summing it up and putting it down in writing at this particular milestone in my physical life felt significant. A rite of passage. But to what?

When I woke up on the morning of The Day, instead of the gloom and doom I had been feeling about getting older, I felt energetic and excited with possibilities. Surprise. Gone was anxiety and back was the optimistic me.

A new decade ahead. Ten bright, new years to explore, experience and express – for me to envision and create as I choose. In short, exactly the same as before.


Front of my new business card – it’s been almost eight years since my last one! Isn’t this lovely?

As I prepared and shipped the pieces that will be exhibited by Maria Elena Kravetz Gallery, finalized my new business card and portfolio page designs with my (absolutely wonderful) graphic designer Ian Caspersson, there was one more important activity I needed to include to launch this new decade.

Yepper, this birthday girl went shopping! My studio wardrobe doubles as my exercise wardrobe, if that gives you any idea of its level of sophistication. Kind of like my own line of Garanimals – all the tops and bottoms interchangeable, loose and stretchy!

Definitely NOT what I want to wear in Chicago (OK I do want to, but I won’t).

In between all my SOFA preparations, I spent this whole week living my own personal episode of What Not to Wear, trying on – and buying - clothing and accessories way outside my comfort zone.

So if you come to SOFA Chicago and see a more stylish version of me, don’t walk by – it really IS me.

What a week and what an exciting launch for a new decade.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Another Experimental Friday

For a while now I've had the idea to cut some stencils as a tool for creating language marks. So I purchased some lovely 18" x 24" oiled stencil board at my local Hyatt's along with a #4 stencil cutter. Rather than use those for my first effort, I grabbed a piece of watercolor paper and began a practice session in cutting with the X-Acto.

My skills in this area are nonexistent, so I started by basically drawing a shape, cutting it and then drawing another shape and cutting that, paying close attention to the negative spaces which become the more dominant linear patterns. Focusing on those became almost hypnotic and very enjoyable.

Once I got the hang of cutting and started to relax, it turned from work to fun. The cutting creates interesting, but very strong, defined lines. But what would it look like printed?

Of course, I had to find out! I couldn't resist trying it out on the piece of fabric stretched on my print table that was SUPPOSED to be for a whole different type of composition.

I printed the stencil using three variations. First, I placed the stencil under a blank silkscreen and screened a colored acid dye paste called "paprika" on it and let it dry. Once the dye dried, I removed the stencil and screened clear paste through the screen. This created different patterns as the dye on the screen broke down.

Second, I took the stencil, laid it under the screen and printed through it with more paprika dye.

Third, I took the wet stencil, turned it over and direct printed the dye from it onto the fabric surface. Each print varied this way and yet formed a repeating pattern.

Then I dappled or brushed other colors onto the surface into the wet dyes before I left it to dry. The piece of cloth above is about 44" X 70," to give you an idea of the scale.

THIS piece of cloth was soaked in a citric acid solution and dried before it went on my print table to increase its acidity and help the dyes fix to it when processed. In addition, the dyes have the auxiliary ammonium sulfate also mixed in. According to my Pro Chem technical experts, Nancy and Vicki, the two will not interact unfavorably, since one has been soaked into the fabric and dried before applying the dye and print paste with the other auxiliary.

If this all sounds way too technical for you, take heart, it's really fairly simple. Acid dyes need additives that increase their acidity and heat for these particular dyes to bond permanently with the silk.

Now all we need to have happen is for the dyes to remain true to what they look like on the dry piece above once they are steamed and washed.

Whether they do remain as saturated as they are now or not, the possibilities of the stencil as a tool for adding partial or repeating elements to my compositions is definitely appealing.

So at the moment the fabric is steaming. I'll rinse it, wash it and dry it and cross my fingers that it will look good once it's done!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Filling the Well

Last Friday I drove to Buffalo for an Artist Day. Don’t you just love the days when you treat your artist self to new experiences and perspectives?

First I visited a fellow artist and friend, Barbara Murak, who has has been exploring working with a new embellisher as well as with encaustics. We discussed how she is working with these tools and how they’re helping actualize some of her  ideas for new work.

Barb is an amazingly creative and giving artist who is currently an artist-in-residence at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, where she uses art play to provide a respite from cares and concerns for patients and families in chemo waiting rooms and ICU units.

We both have busy lives, so our visits are few and far between, but whenever we do get together it seems we could talk on and on about art and making and life for days!  Around lunch time, we headed off to a terrific little cafe in the Buffalo neighborhood where I used to live 40 years ago. It has become a flourishing creative community with the vitality and energy that I’m seeking to find on a smaller scale.

After lunch we drove to the new Burchfield-Penney Art Center, a huge space where Barbara currently has two pieces in their Craft Art Western New York 2009 Exhibition. Ah-hah! A venue to put on my list to enter next year if I can use my studio address to apply (it’s a county specific opportunity).  It offers the diversity of mediums that I find so stimulating together.


Image #297 Drawing (Tracings from Buffalo, NY), by Ingrid Calame, 2008, colored pencil on trace Mylar, 18” x 26”.

Next, we  walked across the street to the Albright Knox Art Gallery, one of the finest contemporary art museums in the country,  to see a new exhibition of work by Ingrid Calame. Read about her work and process in this New York Times article link. You’ll understand my fascination when you read about her inspirations and ideas for drawings and paintings through this link.

Ingrid spent three weeks in Buffalo in 2008 as the first artist-in-residence at Albright-Knox. During that time she visited Buffalo buildings and chose three sites to use for her work.

Ingrid traces cracks, spots, stains and other markings in public spaces. Once Ingrid identifies a space she wants to record, she and her team of assistants roll out large rolls of clear Mylar and painstakingly trace the exact lines of the marks below.

Back in her studio the artist uses these tracings to compose layered Mylar colored pencil drawings like the one above, as well as oil paintings on aluminum from details.

Because I am so process-oriented, the consideration of how Ingrid is drawn to certain sites and and the histories these marks suggest all help inform my own work.  It also validates my fixation with old walls, decaying surfaces and the cracks in my cement studio floor and hallways throughout  my building!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Desires List

I’m taking back the steering wheel! While Mercury and the movements of other planets may influence a general trend of feeling and experience in our lives from time to time, I have to jump back up on that rock of my belief system that we are co-creators of our existence. It’s up to me to employ all that I know about the law of attraction to manifest the life that I desire through all the influences that are happening around me.

In short, when I respond, I feel dis-empowered. When I take positive action, I feel that I am actively creating the life experiences that I desire. So I am taking charge again, with or without Mercury’s assistance!

Sometimes the hardest part of “revisioning” is getting the clarity to figure out the right questions to ask that will shift my awareness. Rather than allow my focus to linger on all the sorrows and frustrations of life, the challenge for me is getting my mind to channel energy into identifying what I truly desire. That direction of thought helps me be forward looking, expansive and open to new possibilities and connections. Which is a state of awareness that is so fertile that what I seed as intentions attracts results amazingly fast.

So you may be asking yourself, where is she heading with this?

I am developing a list of desires that I can take immediate, positive action to actualize. How exciting!

Desire #1. Find an artistic community where I can live and thrive and enjoy lasting friendships. I am envisioning loading up my own Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria and setting sail for a “new world”,  finding a wonderful and reasonably priced culturally-rich and diverse community that welcomes artists -- and relocating there. My husband retired this year and we are completely free to live wherever we choose (although our children want us to live someplace desirable to visit!)

As soon as I identified this desire, a google search presented me with an article from Art Calendar magazine titled “10 Great Towns for Working Artists” by Kim Hall. A definite starting point.

Do you have suggestions? A place for us to put on our list of possibilities for a visit? I don’t want the stress and congestion of a major urban area, so the biggie cities are out. No Chicago, Metro NYC or LA. Forget golf courses and outlet centers and fast food restaurants – we want open, clear skies and the pleasures of the natural world nearby, not suburban sprawl. A walking town -- where a car is optional, not mandatory.

I’m not rushing this process. I want to drive into a small city or town and feel a surge of excitement, an “I love this place and can see myself living here” reaction. So there will be some travels ahead.

In the interim, I will make more time to absorb and appreciate the cultural offerings right where I live. Maybe the community I’m seeking is right in my own backyard and we just don’t know each other yet. I’m open to any and all avenues for this desire to begin to attract options into my life!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Have Mercy, Mercury

Now, granted, I don't follow or practice astrology but that doesn't mean I don't acknowledge that the interactions of the stars and planets have an impact on me. So when I received a newsletter from Carolyn Myss this morning written by astrologist Richard Ohotto explaining that Mercury is in retrograde and what that actually means, I found it quite interesting in view of all the flukey mishaps my studio work has been plagued with for the past four to six weeks.

I've felt a bit like a penguin trying to fly. Or a squawky chicken trying to soar like an eagle. Misreading directions, frequent lapses in memory, focus and concentration and very drawn into myself. A serious case of the "RE's":


Obviously these are exceptionally valuable practices and normally I would welcome them. But my fantasy was that I'd be a high-kicking, leaping artistic NINJA these past two months. Surprise, instead of feeling sharp and focused and productive and high energy, I've felt very inward and contemplative and almost deer-in-the-headlights dazed.

Yesterday, when two more pieces of steamed, dyed cloth didn't work out AGAIN, I just gave into the RE's. Restoring order. I've cleaned the studio and moved my computer to a quiet, cooler area away from the glaring morning sun. I've washed out containers and mixed new dyes, washed all the dye rags and steaming sheets and folded and put them away.

I'm also Revisiting processes and Revising my efforts. I put another layer on the small lutrador composition and now will add some stitched details before framing it that will vary the weight of the lines. While it's a lovely piece, it drew my attention to expanding my vocabulary for painting cracks and fissures. On this piece as well as my previous one, the cracks have been somewhat uniform in weight. The real cracks that I adore on the cement floors all over my building are definitely more irregular, with wide and narrow areas.

In my now wonderfully clean and uncluttered space, I've quietly been using this silk sample to explore painting cracks by working with opaque paints on a dark surface. There are three thicknesses of pigment on this surface. I'm slowly, quietly testing out laying down lines with thick paints and thinned ones. It's small, quiet work that doesn't require me to compose surfaces or contemplate layers of meaning and the relationship of design elements.

I'm noticing that laying on a thick line right from the beginning feels much denser and less appealing than building up successive layers using thinned paint. The small rectangular shape on the sample above is thinned opaque paint. Thinning with water makes it semi-transparent. The shape below it, the larger triangle shape, is a bit less diluted.

A simple endeavor. It's what I feel I can handle at present!

So, if you too have felt a bit "off" this past month or so, and are open to the idea that your life could be influenced by the movements of the planets, then take heart. According to Mr. Ohotto, this inward, slightly unbalancing (my word for it, not his!) period of time when Mercury appears to be traversing backwards instead of forward will end on September 29.

And then, perhaps, my inner Ninja Artist may surface!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another Day, Another Layer

There are some good things happening on the surface of this piece that I showed you last week. I have more work to still do before it is complete, but it's getting more interesting than it was earlier. It's drying for the day and tomorrow I'll come back and decide what happens next. I do know there will be areas that will get darker. That hopefully will increase the value contrast and create more dimension. The cracks and surfaces around them are still looking two-dimensional.

The mini-vacation from the studio I took over the weekend seems to have refreshed and revitalized me. I'm just stopping for lunch at 2:30 -- it seemed from the moment I walked into my studio this morning I was filled with purpose and energy and ideas, so much so that I had to force myself to stop, sit, eat and write this.

Here's a detail from a new piece of silk that just got a first layer of dye screen printed and painted onto it. I tried experimenting with brush work marks that may not prove successful, but I will keep on working with the ideas until I get them to work. It's still too wet to move so I can't hang and photograph the whole piece to show you. On this piece, I'm starting the first layer with two new neutrals that are warmer toned. I'll get a feel for how they work once the piece is steamed and washed out tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Welcome Return of the What-Ifs

After two sluggish days recovering from a flu shot, which I KNEW I didn't want to get (but yielded to the persuasiveness of my well-intentioned physician), I feel healthy and energetic again. It's great to be back working in my studio; that internal burner is heating up again as one what-if after another starts playing through my mind.

For my reentry warm up, I painted the 24" x 48" canvas frame above and laminated my silk composition to canvas to hold it flat. I'll add some machine stitched details to it, and if all goes well, can mount and complete the piece by Saturday.

I also just painted some silk screens, shown above on my work table along with the drying frame, to try out several what-ifs for layering new surfaces with language imagery. One screen has a light gray patterning on it for monoprinting, the other has dark gray marks and drizzles and lines that have a more painterly quality to them. I'm hoping the results will be helpful in developing some new ideas I have for building layers ; I'll print them when I return on Saturday.

Here's another what-if in process that may or may not prove successful -- painting and printing on lutrador. I want to see what happens as I layer and collage a variety of materials, from silk gauze to rice paper and gel medium transfers, to various surfaces. I have felt inspired to experiment more with mixed media collages recently. I had learned a number of collaging techniques from a wonderful area artist, Alice Gold, at the Memorial Art Gallery many years ago. It was rekindled when I taught next to Fran Skiles class at Fabrications last year-- I loved the results and realized how much more I can do with layers on fabric.

One last experiment is underway today that is a variation of the process that I learned from my first screen printing class with Jane Dunnewold.

Here's a fast print on cotton with aquarelle crayons and acrylic medium that Jane demonstrated in that screen printing class long ago. I'm also trying another screen using conte crayon and will trying overprinting this. I'll share the applications of these experiments with you soon, hopefully.

Of course the ideal outcome will be for each of these techniques to be successful as one layer on multi-layered surfaces and expand the types of marks I am able to make on fabric.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Endless Persistence

This morning I received a thank-you email from a fellow New Yorker. She wrote, “Best of luck ( the kind that comes from high intentions, hard work and endless persistence!) for all your endeavors.”

Luck has always fascinated me. I believe in it, the random happy accidents and good fortune that come our way and delight us.

I also believe in focused, daily work to achieve goals. Suzanne’s note suggests that the BEST luck may just come from setting our sites on the target we desire most and taking good aim before we start pulling triggers. And if we miss the first time, to try again.

Is it any accident that this little note found its way into my inbox to cheer me up after I have spent a number of days working on details, details, details until I wanted to throw my hands up and holler “uncle”?

It reminds me that all the work I do, no matter how small or inconsequential or tedious it may seem, all revolves around my VERY high intentions about my art and creativity.

DSCN4697 As I worked last week on idea after idea after idea to try and knock back the shiny gold lettering on the long vertical piece I’m working on, I knew I would eventually find an answer. Using what had originally been the other half of this piece, I tried overpainting the letters in numerous ways, spraying black on the lettered areas – even tested layering a dark sheer over that area --- but in the end, an application of raw sienna and deep berry metallic Shiva paintsticks provided just enough of a matte overlay to dull the sheen of the gold a bit. This gives it a bit more of an antique feel and helps integrate the letters better into the colorations of the aged surface.

Today I’m adding some machine stitching to the silk – those all important cracks and fissures to punctuate the surface - which I’ve backed with canvas. I’m debating some additional hand embroidery. In addition, I’ve purchased a larger canvas wrapped frame (thanks to a good sale at Michael’s on the gallery wrapped frames) to paint and possibly age and will try to complete and mount this piece on it by the end of the week.

Completing it and liking the results would feel extremely satisfying. Completing it and SELLING it would be extraordinary.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Adventure Fridays

I met Betsy Hoefen at our first building-wide open house in March. After retiring from teaching art, Betsy rented a two-room studio on the other end of my floor. We've been talking about getting together for a while and today we launched our first "Explorations Friday," sharing our respective techniques with each other. What fun it is to work with another artist! I shared some foiling and gold leafing techniques with her in my studio and then we shifted to hers, where she introduced me to watercolor. Painting with watercolors is something I have NEVER studied or felt at all comfortable doing -- my own efforts have been horrible. However, once she showed me how to do it correctly, I truly relaxed and enjoyed it. It has a soothing, quieting effect on me.

This is the larger of Betsy's two rooms. She works in many mediums, from three dimensional sculptural pieces and watercolor to bookmaking and furniture painting. Evidence of all types of works in process can be seen here.

It's in this second, smaller space that Betsy displays and sells her completed works. She has also set up several tables here that are perfect for working together with watercolor.

Here's a closeup of the under-painting and several additional layers that Betsy has started applying to the surface. She is very detail oriented and is working on loosening up a bit.

I'm at the other end of the spectrum and am working to slow down and pay more attention to detail and planning, so we complement each other quite nicely. We also are both drawn to organic shapes, although she loves cool colors and I'm drawn to warmer ones.

You can tell by my grin that I'm enjoying myself and not at all as awkward as I thought that I might be. Betsy suggested I try a small piece of her 300 lb cold pressed Arches watercolor paper because my 140 lb hot pressed paper was buckling, and would need to be soaked and then taped to a a wooden board before starting. It made a huge difference.

Voila, my very first layers at beginning a watercolor painting. Excellent teacher that Betsy is, she made me feel good about what I did but also corrected my brush work initially because I wasn't getting the "water" part of water color and wasn't loading my brush enough. Once I understood what she was talking about, I enjoyed it greatly. I'm excited about getting together again. We hope to meet and do this again in two weeks and have even chosen our experiment for the day in addition to more watercolor painting-- collaging and painting with aluminum foil!!

Meanwhile, back in my studio, the first layer of dye and flour paste resist have been steamed and washed and yielded a piece that I believe I can develop further with additional layers of dye, paint and lettering. But for today, it's resting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Studio Reentry

After a full week away, returning to the studio today was quiet but purposeful. I stretched a new piece of cloth on the print table and mixed some flour resist paste. I'm revisiting the idea for one of the last pieces I made (using ripped paper resists) that lost so much color once processed; I really liked the shape and wanted to give creating it another try. This time instead of using paper for a resist I brushed on the flour paste resist and carved some Etruscan letter forms into it, then filled a needle-tipped applicator bottle with more resist and drew some letters and cracks on the rest of the piece. A beginning. It needs to dry completely before I layer over it.

Another one of the three pieces became a testing ground for letterform ideas. I cropped the whole piece to a tall vertical, about 22" x 48", and decided to see what gold lettering would do to the surface. It has possibilities. The letterforms along the tops of some of the shapes almost appear to be marching. I wish I had stopped sooner, but it is a practice piece.

I am enjoying applying the letters by hand rather than screen printing them on the surface. It seems more direct and gestural to do it this way.

Either tomorrow or Thursday I'll return and print the first dye layer and start building a textural surface over the dried flour paste resist.

I'm moving back and forth between working on my lecture for SOFA and this type of studio experimentation. It's an interesting process to study other artists who have explored the visual potential of written language and then consider more deeply what I am trying to express in my own work. I have no idea where the research and experimentation will lead, which gives the whole process just enough of that hint of mystery to make the search all the more intriguing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chicago -- Painting and Layering Class

When we set up the room for the class in this spacious, comfortable facility, Shelley said to forget about the chairs at the tables, this group would be on their feet working all day anyway -- and indeed they were! In addition to exploring a variety of painting, printing and layering techniques, I asked each person to select a reference image of a painting that "spoke" to them from a pile of possibilities. This image became a reference that each person could use to structure their explorations in color, mark and pattern over the course of the two days. Or,they could set it aside to play and explore.

The class is basically about creating elements for collaging. Painting, printing and layering components, each person chooses the degree of texture on their completed surface.

It is important to me to create a classroom environment where people can work individually. Some people spent their class time observing and recreating many of the colors and textures on the reference painting they had chosen; others worked with varying dilutions of paint and layers to compose layered surfaces. Still others focused on painting and printing a variety of pieces of cloth.

Here Kathy is working with painted fusible, a sewing product. Once painted, this product makes an excellent underpainting on which to layer other fabrics. Once it has been fused to a ground fabric, you can work back into it with additional layers of printing or painting or even more layers of painted fusible.

Stacy produced a wonderful textural pattern on dyed organza by adhering the painted fusible to the back of it; the pattern, although slightly muted, comes through the sheer fabric beautifully. Because the fusible retains its tack when painted, she can layer this on a fabric ground.

Here's a closer view of the fusible attached to the organza. I am eager to see how this idea will evolve as Stacy works with it at home.

Val really "stretched" by working with an image painted in a wide range of NEUTRAL tans and grays with hints of lavender and pale blue -- a definite challenge for a lover of more saturated colors. She painted a variety of components that truly captured the tone and feeling of the original painting. Hopefully, next she will translate what ended up to be a beautiful color palette into an original composition.

Everyone did such wonderful work in the class and I so enjoyed the creativity and laughter and willingness of everyone in the group to work with new and unfamiliar materials.

I had to leave a bit early to catch my plane, so we didn't get to really do a walkabout and have the type of closure that I normally get to do in my classes. I do hope those of you who attended and are reading this will e-mail jpg images of some of your favorite samples from the class to me. If you do, I promise that I will post them along with your comments about how you developed the surface!

Important P.S. -- I have scheduled no classes for 2010 so I have the year to prepare new works for solo exhibitions. I've agreed to teach three classes in 2011 and will be creating a new design-based painting class that will allow students more time to work with developing ideas and content in their work, so look for an announcement early next year.