Sunday, January 23, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another

I've been painting for nine years.  And over that time I've learned to appreciate how one thing leads to another.  

Chickadees in Spring 7" x 7" Acrylic on Stone and Paper

When I began I let the shape of the stone dictate what I was painting - and came up with some neat pieces.  But after a while I had a whole bunch of "neat things" and needed to turn them into something people could use.  So that led me to making them into pins and pocket icons and framed pieces.  Gradually my painting evolved so that I was telling larger stories.  I took up iconography and began more formal training in that discipline.  I found that I could combine my love for using egg tempera and painting on stone, discovered ways to work on larger stones - and came up with the standing stones. 

Through the Hudson Valley Artisan's Guild that offered yearly challenges around a particular theme and the requests of customers,  new ideas and techniques developed.

Recently someone asked me to make a feather pin for her - but she had a particular type of feather in mind.  As I worked with her on the feather, I began to think more seriously about how much I love crows and ravens and my mind started playing with how I could work up  a series of paintings about these engaging birds.  Years ago I had an experience with crows that I want to paint - but I haven't got the skills down yet to do it justice - so this will be a path that I hope will bring me closer. 
Guinea Hen Feather Pin  Acrylic on Stone
One of the best experiences I ever had at a craft show was when a family - a middle aged couple and their older teenaged son, came into my booth and spent a lot of time looking very carefully at my work.  She read my artist statement that mentioned how I'd started painting later in life.  She was almost in tears.  Her husband encouraged her to talk to me and find out more about my process.  I'm not sure what her story was - but it seemed that she was at a crossroads and her husband and son were encouraging her to follow some thing that she needed to nurture.  We talked about starting small and gradually learning how to take the next step.  You don't have to know it before you start. 
I hope she took that first step.  I hope she has found fulfillment and satisfaction in her work.  I know, for myself, that I just need to maintain my practice.  As I work in good faith, I will progress - and I'll get that painting done yet.
What kind of steps are you taking to fulfill your dreams?

Study of Crows

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Standing Stones

Sketching design with suggested colors

Last year I wrote about the process of painting icons using the traditional methods: gessoing boards, applying gold leaf, mixing the dry pigments into egg yolk medium, oiling.  And on occasion I've posted pictures of how I've taken those methods and applied them to painting on stones.  While I enjoy painting on paper, canvas, wood, and glass, I am also repeatedly drawn back to my dear rocks, finding new ways to use them in my art.
Here's a brief description of the process I use for my standing stones:
I select stones based on their texture and shape.  People find it surprising that it takes me as long as it does to find the right stones.  But envisioning what I want to do with it helps me decide whether it's worth carrying off the beach or not. 

Gluing cotton or linen with gelatin

I have a friend who drills a hole in the bottom of the stone and inserts a threaded receptacle so I can bolt the base on.

Sanding gesso

Initial preparation includes gluing fabric to the stone and applying about 8 layers of gesso.  After letting it dry for a few days, I sand the stones, till I get them as smooth as possible.

Usually I trace the outline of the stone on paper and play with the layout of my design.  Then I sketch this drawing onto the stone itself.  Next comes the alternating layers of floats and highlights till I've got the look I want.
Instead of oiling the finished stone as I would a board, I use an acrylic varnish.  Working on the curved surfaces requires some changes in technique, and the varnish is much easier to apply in this instance.

The last step is to attach the base.

Finshed Virgin of Guadalupe Standing Stone

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A New Year

A friend gave me a lovely calendar for Christmas this year entitled Simplicity, with stunning photos by Deborah DeWitt.  The quote under January's image is from Hans Hoffman: "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."  How perfect is that for the beginning of a new year?
A Stufy in Chaos
I don't usually do a lot with resolutions but I do use the beginning of the year for reflection, thinking about what might need more attention, what might bring more to my life that is in line with my values.  On new years' day it struck me that I would like to include more time for meditation.  And since something has to go to make room for that, spending less frivolous time on the computer might be a good trade.
I like to journal.  But I'm dissatisfied with the way I go about it - somewhat haphazardly, often thinking about feelings  and thoughts, but instead writing tediously about so many details in my day that I lose momentum for the interior work I'd like to be doing there.  Part of what gets in my way is having a good place to write regularly.  My desk, which is in a perfect corner of my studio, gets so cluttered I can't use it.  Whenever we have company and I want to clear up the dining room table, I bring everything up and dump it on my desk.  It becomes such a pile that I plan to get to for filing, tossing, etc. that it becomes overwhelming and months go by. 
Post Excavation 2011
Today I decided that I would excavate.  I sorted, assessed, stored, discarded down to the very bottom - which I discovered took me to a year ago!  Arghh. 
But, oh my!  How delightful to have my desk back, to lay out my journal ready for new thoughts, sketches, plans!  I anticipate this feeling of organization to help me eliminate the unnecessary, so that the necessary of my life doesn't have to flail around, wasting energy, trying to survive the clutter.

How about you?  How do you invite the necessary to speak?