Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thing A Day 22 and 23

crow pin, acrylic on stone

Desert Sunrise with Crows, Acrylic on Paper, ACEO

Yesterday and today were busy so I just painted some small things.  The interesting thing to me is that although I've painted a lot of crow pins in the past, I found that I've changed how I do it.  The differences are small, but noticeable.  Since I've been working with all these crows this month, I'm no longer satisfied with the way I used to do paint them.  I added a little detail to the body and a very thin line of paint  in a lighter color to set the crow off better against the background.

Today was a babysitting day which means I have to carry my supplies with me.  Sometimes it's fun to set a challenge to use only a couple of colors.  I chose a dark plum and a pale yellow and combined them to get the muted pigments that felt to me like a desert sunrise.  Then I added a couple of crows, although in the one little painting I think it's a condor- it's big! 

Desert Sunrise 2, Acrylic on paper, ACEO

One of the things I've loved about this event is that it has freed me to experiment and play with various materials.  I'm not so hung up on the outcome - more in the process and what I can learn from it.  And I've learned that I can do this  even with very little free time. 
Desert Sunrise 3, Acrylic on paper, ACEO

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thing A Day 20 and 21

Acrylic on canvas 5" by 4"
Yesterday was really busy.  In spite of the fact that the temperatures have plunged again, the longer daylight and couple of warm days we had last week put spring in my head when I sat down last night to paint.  So I just did this little painting of a jack in the pulpit - it's one of my favorite spring woods flowers - always seems like such a sweet surprise.

Julian of Norwich, Acrylic on Paper 12" by 9"
Today I had more time to paint and wanted to come up with an image of Julian of Norwich for a friend.  I'll do something more traditional of her, too, but liked this simplicity with a background of her own words.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thing A Day, 16, 17, 18, 19

Mary Magdalene Acrylic on Paper  8" by 5"
I'm back.  I took a few days off and removed myself from my daily routines - no phones, newspapers, family, friends - not even much speech.  I took my paints, a journal, camera, and yoga mat and spent three days at Holy Cross Monastery.  It's only 15 minutes away and yet if felt like I was in another country.  I was tired when I left.  It's been a long time since I've felt really well.  But between the final doses of an antibiotic and the rest, meditation, and prayer, it feels like I've been re created.
And I did a lot of painting.
I was assigned to the Mary Magdalene room, overlooking the river.  I had a good desk for painting, situated under the window.  I watched the ice move back and forth on the river, the moon  and sun rises.  My days were silent except for the daily offices, listening to the monks chanting.  Even meals are taken in silence.  I listened to birds, the wind, melting ice, a violent thunderstorm.  I suspect if I'd had binoculars I'd have seen eagles on the ice flows.  And could it have been swans that I saw this morning flying south with the stray snow flakes?  
Here are two versions of Mary Magdalene with pomegranates and crows.  I had been wondering what the link between these two things might be - and here they are with Mary Magdalene and Mary and Jesus, a perfect fit.
The photo is one I took this morning from the cloister walk - a representation of today's thing a day - the re created me.

Blessings on you this day.
Mary Magdalene Acrylic on Paper, 12" by 9"

Mary and Jesus Acrylic on Paper 12" by 9"

Holy Cross Monastery

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thing a Day 14 and 15

Valentine Crow  Acrylic on Paper, 9" by 12"

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and not only have I always loved this day, I usually celebrated it enthusiastically.  But this year I'm just coming round from 6 weeks of not feeling so hot, my energy levels aren't back to normal, I'd been babysitting all day, my husband came home sick, so after supper I retired to my studio to paint something that might address both my theme for Thing a Day and also Valentine's Day.  It was such a windy night that I decided to paint a crow in a tumultuous sky.  I'm still playing with the wet paper techniques.  Once I'd gotten the base down, I just painted the crow right into it with quick rough strokes so it would look windblown.  And I gave it a piece of red thread in its beak - it seemed like the perfect Valentine for a crow to bring to its mate when it was tired.  A small gift.  But thoughtful and bright.

Crow Carrying Valentine  Acrylic on Canvas, 9" by 12"
I'm still drawn to that image so today I went back and did it differently - more stylized.  I like this version, too.  I like thinking about simple gifts, carefully chosen.  If I were this crow's mate, I'd be thrilled to get this cheerful bit of ribbon for my nest.  Forget the flowers, the jewels, the things we're told we should want.  Thought chocolates would be ok, too - I'm sure crows like chocolates.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thing a Day, Days 11, 12, 13

Preparing Paper with Watercolor and Water
On the 11th day, I tried an experiment.  I had been visiting with friends who are watercolorists and they told me about a technique they use to lay down a background on their paper. You know how someone gives you a little tip about how to make something easier - and you are just amazed that you never thought of it.  They mentioned taping their paper to a board so it didn't warp.  So THAT's how it's done?  And then they do swirly things with spray bottles, etc.  I taped my paper, sprayed away, put a little color down - and made a holy mess.  Everything was so wet it had to dry overnight.  And it didn't look very good.   But it was flat.   I'll have to go ask for more details.  That was enough for the 11th day.

Crows Eating Pomegranate Acrylic on Canvas, 9" by 12"

On the 12th day I painted a pair of crows on canvas, eating pomegranates.  Remembering things crows can stand for - in some cultures they are symbols of fidelity, faithfulness; and pomegranates are symbols of indisolubility of marriage as well as fertility or fruitfulness.  So they might want to sit in the same tree together.

Day 13 I chose to illustrate a legend of crows as protectors.  The Buddhist story is that when the first Dalai Lama was a baby the home was attacked by robbers.  The parents were away and couldn't get there in time. Fearing the worst they were surprised to find their son was fine when they got home, being protected and cared for by a pair of crows.  Also, crows have anticipated the births of five dalai lamas, including the present one.  You will notice that the background for this painting is the paper I played with on Day 11 - so it didn't go to waste.

Crows Protecting the Dalai Lama Acrylic on Paper, 9" by 12"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thing a Day - Tenth Day

Crow Brings Lightning, Thunder, Wind
Once a month I meet with three friends - two painters and a weaver, to discuss our creative lives.  I always look forward to these sessions and today when we met and were discussing the insecurities we all face, Peg told us that she'd just come back from a conference on creativity.  One of the speakers had said that there were successes and experiments.  I love that idea.  Because that's the way we need to approach our art - we don't just put out great stuff with every try.  We have to work at it until we get something we're satisfied with.  Diane showed us a painting she'd done - she had completed ten versions of it, playing with colors, tones, arrangement - until she got the serenity she was trying to achieve.  We all agreed that the important thing is create regularly, being gentle with ourselves, learning from whatever we are doing.  And that those lessons carry over into our larger lives, help us to look at the challenges we face in relationships, in day to day interactions.
Today I wanted to play with a roiling sky.  I used the background story that comes from many North American cultures that the crow represents a supreme being, that when it flaps its wings it creates great winds, thunder, lightning.  I also wanted to work on the shape of a wing when the tips are flipped up, either by the wind or the force that occurs when the bird wants to change direction.  This is not my most successful painting since I've been working this month.  But I learned from it and had fun.  There are things I like about it, things I'd do differently next time.  And there will be a next time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thing a Day Days 8 and 9

Crow Eating Pomegranate Seeds - 2" by 1 3/4" Acrylic on stone

Yesterday I got pressed for time and decided to paint a crow and pomegranate on stone.  I found that the practice I've been getting painting both of those things made it come together fairly quickly, even though it's so tiny.  The stone is a smooth beach stone, 2" by 1 3/4".  I haven't come across any stories that directly connect crows and pomegranates, but they have both been used in myth and symbolism for thousands of years, across cultures and religions.  I find myself making up stories that will connect the two, sure that they have encountered each other.

Today I turned to the Pacific Northwest, using a story from the Haida people, a first nation of the islands off the coast of British Columbia as my inspiration.  The story is that the crow stole the sun from the master of the sky and gave it to the people.  Having lived in Washington state when I was young, I have a clue as to what a precious gift that would be.  This painting is done with acrylics on paper and measures 12" by 9"

Crow Giving Sun to the People

Detail of Crow Giving Sun to the People

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 7 Thing A Day

Travel kit contents, palette extra

I was babysitting today so figured I could take a few supplies and paint while the baby was sleeping.  I keep a little travel kit handy for just such times - some water color tubes, scissors, tape, glue, a compass, various brushes, pencils, sharpener - and I took along 3 bottles of acrylic paint: charcoal brown, gray lavender, and black. I packed a palette and my handy eye dropper bottle.  But I forgot paper.  However, I found some blank ACEO cards in the kit.  (That acronym stands for art cards editons and originals - they are popular with some collectors, being a standard 2 1/2" by 3 1/2") 

Crows Roosting

I ended up getting three cards done.  It's a gray day.  My daughter's house has good views of massed trees from most windows.  It was good practice playing with the trees, adding my dear crows.

Crows on Branches

Crow Flying to Tree

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 6 Thing a Day

Roosting Crows 7 1/2" by 6" Acrylic on Paper
Today's little painting is crows coming to roost in the evening.  This is such an intriguing event.  Years ago when I ran I noticed that crows would be flying toward the sun in the mornings, accompanying me along my path until I was ready to return home.  And in the evenings I would see them gather along the river, flying toward the last rays.  They would flock to trees - but not always the same tree.  So who decided where they'd bed down for the night?  Is there a hospitality committee?
Many people find this phenomenon remarkable.  Some think it's frightening.  Some love the noisy raucousness.  I'm in the latter category.  I think of them as crow blossoms.
I read In the Company of Crows and Ravens that in ancient times the Hebrews marked the beginning of the Sabbath by when the crows began to roost.
I have to comment on the quality of this painting.  It is not particularly good.  I grabbed thin paper.  I didn't have a lot of time.  It's not the best that I could do.  It is simply getting an idea down visually.  It is something I'd like to come back to later and work up with more care.  I think the idea of this kind of challenge is not to get bogged down in insisting that we don't show anything until it's "really good".  I've found that there are many things I haven't tried because of that excuse.  At this stage in life, I just want to play more, to experiment more, to take these small steps to discovery.
How about you?  What discoveries are you making?  What risks are you taking?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thing a Day 2011, Days 4 and 5

Opened Pomegranate Acrylic on Paper 4"x 5 1/2"

Day 4 I had limited time so just did a small painting of a single pomegranate that had been opened and some seeds had spilled out.  In Jewish tradition the pomegranate symbolizes righteousnes because of the saying that there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate and 613 commandments in Jewish law.  Greek mythology tells the story of Persephone being abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld to be his wife.  Her mother Demeter eventually was able to bring her back.  But if the rule was that if someone ate anything in the underworld they couldn't leave.  Persephone had been tricked into eating some pomegranate seeds.  Some stories say 3 seeds, some 6.  So she was compelled to return to Hades for the same  number of months as seeds that she had eaten.  This became a legend of how we got our seasons.  Pretty important little seeds.  I just love how jewel like they are.

Day 5 I have a crow pulling apart a pomegranate and feasting on seeds.  And perhaps she'll share them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Playing with Pomegranates TAD Day 3

Playing with Pomegranates Acrylic on Paper, 11" by 9 "
 So here we'll try again to show you what's going on with the Thing a Day event. 
This day I decided to play with pomegranates.  The shape is pretty simple.  But the colorings and subtleties offer lots of choices to fool around with.  Eventually I have more complex paintings in mind, things that I put off doing because I'm afraid of messing them up.  So maybe if I work on components, getting elements down that I like or don't like, it will be less intimidating.  So here are some intact pomegranates.

Are there things you put off doing because you worry about not being good enough?  Can you break them down into smaller pieces?

Thing A Day: 2

I haven't had much success posting my daily work on my posterous site so figured I'd do it over here, in case anyone wants to follow along.  I'm really enjoying the challenge of coming up with something new to work on each day, and more to the point, making the time to do it.  My other activities don't stop for this month, so some days it feels a bit more difficult - but so far rewarding.  So here is what I painted on the second day:
Crow with Pomegranat Acrylic on Paper, 9" by 11"

In the Genesis flood story Noah sent out the raven before he sent out the dove.  It doesn't say what happened with the raven - just that it flew back and forth.  But in other flood stories, the raven returned with signs of land.  I've chosen to give it a pomegranate branch.  Pomegranates are symbolic of fertility, abundance, fruitfulness.  I think most of us are looking for fruitfulness in our lives.

I planned to post day 3 here, too, but for some reason it's not allowing me to add another picture.  So I'll write a new post for that.  Sorry if this means more mail in your inbox.
This day I decided to play with pomegranates.  The shape is pretty simple.  But the colorings and subtleties offer lots of choices to fool around with.  Eventually I have more complex paintings in mind, things that I put off doing because I'm afraid of messing them up.  So maybe if I work on components, getting things down that I like or don't like, it will be less intimidating.  So here are some intact pomegranates.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thing a Day

Winter Crow Flying  6" by6" Acrylic on Canvas
A friend tipped me off to this Thing A Day online event that takes place during the month of February.  The idea is that every day you make something new and then post it at the Posterous site.  This is their 5th year running it - and there are over 490 participants.  The rules are very simple: make something new every day (no old stuff you just want to pull up and share now), and post it.  People do all kinds of creative things - fabric and textile projects, photos, recipes, poems, paintings, etc.  Since it's so open, I figured that I could at least come up with some small thing each day - and if time allows, something a little more involved.  I like the idea of pushing myself a little every day.
I've decided that my theme will be crows.  I love them.  They're right up there with ravens, in my book.  But we have more crows for me to watch than ravens.  In 1982 I wrote a poem about them - and keep going back to it in my mind.  Now that I'm painting I can explore their shapes and habits in other ways.
I may also work pomegranates into some of the work in the days ahead - I'm not sure why, but the combination of crows and pomegranates is very engaging.  I did recently finsh reading Sue Monk Kidd's Travelling with Pomegranates, which certainly brought up some of the imagery of that intriguing fruit - but I've been thinking of doing something with them for awhile, anyway.
I'm excited to see what lies ahead.
How about you?  What are you dreaming up these days?