Monday, January 28, 2008

Spirals on Green and a new baby

This has been one of those weeks with very little to show for all the time I’ve spent here in my studio. I’ve done lots of painting, even more thinking and postulating, making starts that go nowhere and wondering why it just isn’t working for me right now. Part of it is that I’m battling a cold, and part has to do with waiting for an overdue grandson who arrived today, only a few days late. This is my daughter’s fourth and he’s really a pistol. Surely those long thin fingers will make beautiful marks in this world. After spending today at the hospital, I’m spent, but nowhere near as tired as my lovely daughter. I want to tell the world how proud I am of her and her dear husband… so I’ll tell you and you can tell the world for me.

I did finish another work in my Sermon Notes series… this one is called Servant. It came easier than the one last week, perhaps because I’ve finally made a color plan of sorts for the series. I started with bright colors 3 weeks ago… yellow orange and a blue green, added spring green and blue to the mix the next week, and now this one has mostly blues and very little of the yellow orange. My plan is to continue inching around the color wheel, dropping a color and adding a new one to each piece. All of them will be a vertical format, and all are 9” X 12”. It’s difficult to come up with the basic compositions for these pieces but I just start sketching formats and something eventually clicks. Some are better than others but it really doesn’t matter because these are personal journal entries and not meant for display, though that may happen some day.

One of the papers I used in week 2 was from an envelope lining, spring green printed with black spirals. I ran out of that paper, so while sitting in a meeting last weekend I drew dozens and

dozens of spirals on a piece of bright green handmade paper and used that paper in my work this week. It will appear again. I’ve used spirals in my work for a dozen years. To me the spiral represents life passages. It’s a natural form seen everywhere in the created world we live in and reminds me of the spirit of God within me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Making art is always a struggle for me. Most of the time it just doesn't come easy, no matter how good an idea or plan I have. Take this week... I've gone upstairs to my studio every day but have been diverted from paint or collage many times. Now that I'm blogging I find myself spending more time reading other blogs than I used to... so lots of good studio time was used reading. I started a painting which quickly degenerated into an amateurish rendition of a vase of quite ugly flowers. Where did THAT come from? So I ran back to my journal and tried to sort it all out in my mind. I prefer to work in the abstract... not pure non-representational abstract, but abstraction taken from the created world, and yet I return to realism when I don't intend to. Another day I sat down to do another of my sermon notes and what came out was a barn! And not an abstracted barn but a BARN, brown with a red roof! That didn't work at all even though I kept struggling to give it life. I finally gave up and started over.

Early in the week I assembled 3 groups of papers in colorways that pleased me, with the intention to use each group as a separate collage. I chose a group of colors, found a thumbnail composition drawing , and set to work building a collage to be used for a sermon note. It went together in minutes... no struggle this time. Of course then comes the cutting, glueing, drying time, and then adding text.

The completed collage looked so nice that I was afraid to add the text using rubber stamps and handwriting. There was already some photocopied verse on colored papers that was part of the collage, but it felt a bit scary as I was poised, inked stamp in hand, ready to put the first black mark on the work. Yikes. But it worked out just fine... clear and definitely with a hand-done look. Then I needed to test several pens on similar papers to be sure that I chose ink that wouldn't bleed and line width that was right for the piece. It all came together, though not without mistake. It's done; this one is finished, and I am satisfied with my work for the week.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Perhaps you'd like to see what my Compost piles look like, the ones in the studio, not the big one in the garden. The first photo shows the contents of one of 3 large plastic Compost-to-go boxes, 10" x 14" x 4" boxes with a hinged lid.

The second photo is looking down into one of the large drawers in my work table. You'll notice that there aren't a lot of magazine pages or ephemera in my boxes other than those that somehow relate directly to my life.
Although I once worked with appropriated images torn from whatever books or magazines I came upon I didn't find that to be very satisfying for my more serious work, and I felt that the resulting work could have been done by anyone. So I started preparing my own collage papers and using my own photographs as well as those of family and friends. I do love using ephemera in my travel journals; these bits and pieces of papers collected on location add so much about the place I'm visiting as I work in my journal.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Who Are You?

When I began this blog my intention was to post once or twice each week and show you some of my weeks worth of work. I'm finding that's easier said than done. I've been IN the studio, working quite often, but most of the results aren't what I want to show the world, but I'll show you a couple of works.

Blue Door is more realistic than I usually paint but I had a photo I liked and gave it a try. I like doing little watercolors like this in my sketchbooks or journals but as an acrylic painting it just doesn't work for me. I'd like to be more abstract but this is what came out that day. Mother would like it! I didn't; so I quit trying and we took off for a couple of vacation days the beach where I played with my collage papers and had some fun. I turned one of the collages into an illustration that fits into a continuing series which I call Sermon Notes. Here's Who Are You?

I usually take copious notes during the sermon on Sunday mornings because our pastors' messages often speak directly to my heart. Some time back I decided to turn these notes into art. This is number 32. All are done on a 9" X 12" 140# block of smooth watercolor paper. I use a block for a substrate for this series because it stays nice and tight while I add the layers of paper, glue, paint,ink, stenciling, stamps, and lettering. Otherwise a loose sheet of paper would buckle with the glue and water and because of the tension exerted by the papers as they dry. When I cut the finished piece off the block my rough edges are preserved and the finished piece is flat. Of course this means that I had to buy several blocks so that I can have more than one collage going at once. That's just for the Sermon Notes; other times I work on stretched canvas, board, or heavier watercolor paper.

I prepare collage papers ahead of time, often during dry spells when I feel uninspired to work on a specific project, or in the evening when my energy lags, or even when I'm working in a room with other people and can't concentrate on making art. I use all sorts of paper for collage: art tissue, text-weight paper, various washi (Japanese rice paper), unwaxed sandwich paper, or other relatively thin papers. Color is added to the paper in many forms: fabric dye and paint, acrylic paint for crafts and artist grade, watercolor, ink, pastels, watercolor crayons and pencils, and anything else that has color.

I keep my papers in drawers and in portable tubs and refer to them as my Compost. I continually stir the pile of papers, tear them into pieces, and generally keep them well mixed because the juxtapositioning of color against color often suggests a new direction and feeds the growth of my work.

My favorite adhesive is acrylic medium mixed with PVA applied with a plastic palette knife. The finished work gets a finish coat of acrylic medium and acrylic varnish.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Text on Green

Text on Green is a full sheet acrylic and gesso painting on gessoed Arches 140. I mixed the last half cup of gesso in the bucket with some Chromium Oxide Green, a splat of yellow and just a hint of a strange leftover red and got a nice soft green which I squeegeed over the surface of the paper. The black lines were applied with the edge of a piece of cardboard that I pulled through some dark paint, and then I used a small squeeze bottle to apply curvy white lines and dots. I let it dry overnight.

In my journals I do lots of what I call "writing that can't be read" so I used that technique to balance the straight black lines. Using a Zig marker I started writing on the painting using big loopy letters that soon lost any resemblance to actual writing as I let line after line swirl and loop over and around the previous line. My scattered thoughts became painted lines, meaningful to me but concealed from the viewer.
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