Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's one of those embarrassing 'aha's that hit me. You know, the thing everyone else sees as obvious, but you miss because you're breathing it? For me, the obvious thing is that I am rolling in creative clover.

We have an art supply store. We have a yarn shop here too. I am in a loving and supportive relationship with my husband who regularly encourages me to play. I have time and spaces available for my play. And I have no constraints (clients, designers, specs, whatever) on how I do the creating.

It doesn't get much better than this.

For me, listing what we have right now is a figure/ground shift. I have been warding off attacks from conventional viewers and creators, the mainstream of what is "art." We have been in economic uncertainty with the shop for a long time now. These external influences had colored my perceptions to the point of blacking out the general background that now makes me jealous of myself. The background has come to the fore.

In this new perception's light, my painting is taking on new light as well. I am free! I have materials with which to play. I will play.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Screen printing!

I took a two day workshop this past weekend to learn silk screen printing. It is the latest "thing" for our customers, and I knew so little about it that I wasn't even sure what to supply. Now I know enough about it to have a reasonable supply. I cannot, contrary to my hopes, instruct customers in all the methods of using the media during their visit to the shop... it's pretty involved.

In the class, I went nuts printing because... you can. You can whip out copy after copy of the image until you've had enough of it and tried it on every surface you can think of and your classmates start to give you room just in case you find them sitting still long enough to print them. At least, that's how it was for me.

In order to stockpile prints to collage, and repurpose later, I printed on cardstock with and without designs, a canvas, watercolor paper, tinted pastel and charcoal papers, and velvet. I didn't print on clothes only because my designs were faces, and that seemed unclothing-like.

Today at the shop I prepared a screen with photo emulsion. This is the one technique we didn't learn in class, and the method that most of our customers are using. So, I'm going to try it on my own in the coming days. Right now the screen is drying.

I learned that with silk screens you can:

  • paint your design directly on the screen, do some mojo, and print it
  • paint directly on the screen what you don't want to print (reverse process)
  • use black markers, sumi-e ink, or whatever you want to draw and then reproduce that image
  • use ready made stencils or cut your own out of anything, including just freezer paper
  • print through a plain screen to print a colored background (and you can mess with that too)
Honestly, I was hoping that I'd learn the techniques and then be able to say, "This is nice, but it's not for me." Instead, I found I loved doing it, despite the messy, involved, cluttery thing that it is. So, you can expect some prints to be showing up in my images here in the future.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm still painting, but in an unusual phase. Mostly, I'm working small, quietly, like water trickling from a stream. Eventually I expect the bits that I've done to end up as lakes, rivers, and oceans. Time will tell. I'm doing the little stuff because I can't seem to bring myself to do the big stuff.

If there's anything I've learned about creating so far, it's to keep going, keep doing, regardless of my feelings. If I keep the momentum going, it's much easier when the flow grows to keep going than to get started again.

So, my recent mantras are:

Work quickly
Use what you have already
keep the momentum going

I'll show you the results of these thoughts as they form visually.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This is a finished painting "Listening" which is hung over a sculpture my dad just finished for me title "Limu" (Hawaiian seaweed.) It's fitting that my father/harshest critic/fan/medici has stretched to a work of semi-abstraction and given it to me.

This is a new favorite I just started (mentioned in the previous post as delicious greys). I've titled it "Tales from the Alhambra" since I just finished reading the book and this underpainting and initial sketch seemed very Moorish.

Two of four paintings re-created out of a larger work that I vivisected and am now finishing with a breath of a sine wave in the overall design. This will be able to be hung in a long arrangement with some longer/narrower elements, or a square format with the same assymetries. I'll show you the possibilities when the foursome is complete.

Some more delicious greys from the previous week. I have since put in a haze of warm red. I don't know what this one is about yet or where it's going. It is rooted in fear: the barrage of outside voices opposing abstraction got focused onto this canvas. I did that same transmutation of feelings of aggravation at "life's little irritations" and ended up with my highest-paying painting yet. We'll see what this fear will turn into...

Jack and me napping: with some new layers of color washed onto it. I don't know what to do next with this one.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mona Lisa Smile

We borrowed the DVD and watched it for the second time. I didn't know we'd seen it until part way through and I said, "This is the one with the paint-by-numbers."

I had to wonder why that detail, of all things, stuck in the brain that couldn't remember seeing the movie in the first place. The PBN (paint by number) scenes turned out to reveal the thesis of the movie, to wit, that an artist is popularized by the masses and never by the critics. (I wanted to add that popularity rarely comes in time to put supper on the table, a table in the house, or the house around the artist. But that isn't true, nor is it the premise of the movie.)

So, the idea is that if we are going to remain true to ourselves, that will make sense later in life. I'm thinking that what I'm doing might not make sense until later in someone else's life... if ever.

Today is my painting day. I'm writing this blog between canvases. I could hardly get started again after the poison of judgments that have flown about my head lately. So, I set aside my head and let my heart paint. I was afraid to paint. I got some greys on the canvas. Some delicious sweet and savory greys. I made some marks. I was about to freeze on marking the next canvas when I saw drips from the first splotching the surface. That freed me to make whatever mistakes I will proceed to make. So, I'm on with it then.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My dad decided to buy the abstract painting that he has been baby-sitting for me. It is titled "The Space Between" and is full of computer components and painted entirely in 0's and 1's. I was thinking of our techno-busy lives and how it is such a breath of fresh air when the computer goes down, the electricity off, and all our conveniences let go of us. Then there's just space.

When dad first saw it, not knowing the title, he said, "I see that you painted my brain." I laughed, told him the title, and said maybe I was thinking of the space between his ears. He has since re-named it "My Brain Headache" as a play on words for migraine headache.

Dad's purchase of the painting is very strange because of my receiving from him two emails saying that Picasso was an abomination. The last one said that Picasso should have been stoned to death. Then I got dad's opinion that I was smart to sign my abstracts with a nom de plume (Kala Kale: Sarah Charles in Hawaiian) in order to hide my real identity on that sort of work. The painting that dad purchased was one of my first abstracts, and I was embarrassed to think at the time of creation that he might ever see it and know I did it.

I have some things figured out about all of this. First, the purchase is a mercy mission. Dad knows that the shop is slow, and it's his way of giving us some money. Second, a part of dad actually likes the painting, although he hasn't said that and probably never will. Just by sitting with it for these weeks, it started to have a conversation with him and asked him some questions he hadn't previously entertained. Third, I did a good job protecting my developing abstract-artist self from a mean man. I am now more immune to his scathing opinions, but not entirely. If he had hit me with "this is trash but I'll buy it from you" when I was starting out, I wouldn't have painted again.

I don't know how to help my dad to creative freedom. But I can see now that his criticisms are much more painful for his life than they could ever be for me. My job, if I choose to accept it, is to keep from holding my opinions and beliefs so solidly that they become my prison.

It's my blessing to dad that the painting will continue to converse with him, and give him permission to open the non-existent barriers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yesterday I painted during my 3-6:00 dedicated time at the shop. The Critic showed up (my internal editor) and said a few things about my efforts. First I heard, "I've forgotten how to paint." Then I heard a sneer and, "As if I ever knew how to paint in the first place." I recognized these unkindnesses for what they were (fluff and fear) and painted anyway.

Later, an ole guy came in for airplane parts (he's known us for three years, now) and observed that I knew how to paint. Yup. He asked if any of my work was in the shop (oh, just on all the walls here), so I showed him the portrait of David.
He harumphed and said that he guessed I just about nailed a likeness. Then I showed him the abstract in process that was right in front of him. He violently turned away and said, "oh no, no, that's not for me. I never figured out what that's all about."

Apparently, for this man, if you can't figure it out, it doesn't exist in front of you. Even for three years.

A customer came in and looked at the works in progress and gave me his opinion: "Well, you just let it all hang out, don't you?"

The next blow came in an email from my dad, who is babysitting one of my paintings. Dad intended to compliment it, but ended his comments with

I never thought Picasso had the right idea,

even as successful as he was!

So, in one day, I had been told by myself, a curmudgeon, and my father that abstract painting is impossible, invisible exhibitionism, pointless, and just plain the wrong idea.

Phew. That's a lot of creative poison. But leave it to my really old friend Lao Tzu to have the antidote. My translation from the Tao Te Ching says:

A good artist lets his intuition

lead him wherever it wants.

This was exactly what I needed to hear. The intuition (no wonder I call it intuitive painting!) gets to take the lead. It's not about what I want (acceptance, popularity, big bucks...) It's about wherever the intuition leads me.

Well, that's a relief. Now if I get the wrong idea, I can blame my intuition.

Said another way, here is an alternative definition of the Law of Attraction from the blog The Compassionate Eye:

instead of trying to attract something to ourselves, we are invited to surrender to the Presence that is seeking to make itself known in and through us

So, yes, I guess I do let it all hang out. And maybe that is exactly what is needed of me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


about 8"x10"
oil on canvas

This is one of Dede's favorites... I think because it is of him when we're finally doing our rocking chair and meatloaf for dinner thing.

The canvas started out as purely abstract, and then I went through my cabbaged photos from the internet. This gent's presence was so compelling that I doodled him onto the abstract.

He seems to be pretty much at home.

Rubber Ducky

about 12" x 14"
oil on canvas

Well, really: which way would you have turned it before signing it?

These are pieces which I am working on currently. The "Shower Tree" and "Out o'the Box" are two stretching exercises I gave myself to try working differently from my usual style. They both make me very uncomfortable and leave me wondering what I am to learn from them. None of us are done yet, so the story awaits further light (and darks).

Shower Tree

11"x14" or so
oil on canvas

Out o'the Box

11"x14" or so
oil on canvas

Jack and Me Napping

oil on canvas

The above is a just-started piece inspired by nap time before class. The canvas is a "breakage" unit because something tore the surface (not captured in the shot) a wee bit. I had to curb my enthusiasm when a customer came down reporting a torn canvas upstairs. My mind raced with what I could paint next!


oil on canvas
approx 38"x44"

This was a primo canvas stretched for me by Ed and Verna as a gift. It is huge, and it is lead-primed linen (claussens). The canvas itself weighs a good bit. The painting is almost done... as in only a gazillion more hours of dry brush work to go to get it to where it's a zinger.

The most interesting thing about painting this piece has been working with the backlighting. Ed suggested that I paint the face highlights in lavender, and the shadows in peach, all of a light hue. This taught me about using cool and warm to create form instead of the usual light and shadow.

This one will be a keeper because the canvas was a gift and I like the gist of the message.

Also shown in an earlier post, this painting is now complete after its sale and exchange for another...

... It was almost a preemie

Being a purveyor of the stuff of art, I make samples from time to time with materials that we sell so that people can see some possibilities. Product R&D accounts for a good percentage of our sales: to ourselves.

This canvas is linen (lovely bounce) primed with a clear gesso, so that the color of the linen can become part of the scheme in the piece. I chose to do a sketch with oils, putting down only the shadows and highlights so that the tan of the linen would provide midtones:


We also sell tiny canvases/canvaii. These are popular items, but I had to give them a go just for fun. The last picture is of the tiny things on display so you can get a sense of proportion:


Blue Squares

oil on canvas

This piece has appeared in previous posts because I had the canvas tacked to the walls of the shop as a painting, although I've known it isn't finished yet. A customer who purchased The Source (aka Zeus) asked me about this painting, and when I told him I didn't feel like it was complete, he said it needed turquoise pyramids. Just spelling that slowed me down. Hearing it quickened my inspiration and sounded like a wacky enough idea to do it.

Now the canvas is stretched properly upon bars and ready for the next whatever, probably a suggestion of something in turquoise.

You have to love it: turquoise pyramids! Oh, and he said they should be the three-sided ones. I didn't know pyramids had different numbers of sides...

For Where's Waldo fans, the painting has two elements from actual photos: the highlights on a baseball cap and the highlights on a rippling evening gown. All of life is merely abstraction made into preconceived patterns...

or something like that

Mermaid's Smirk

approx. 14"x18"
oil on canvas

Yes, portraiture.

I'd like to use this post as a venue to open up a discussion:

Upon seeing this image, you may have said something like "oh, wow" or thought something like, "oh, she CAN paint". I'd like to ask you to think aloud in the comments section here and help me to understand what it is about a recognizable picture that catches us so instantaneously.

This is more than mere curiosity. I would like to get that same "ah!" from my abstracts, but I don't know yet what is the Ah-factor.

Penny in the Fountain

oil on canvas
approx 30"x48"

I think it is now done. The glass bits I added to the painting this morning came from a birthday gift assortment of doo-dads from my sister:

This canvas was originally prepared as part of a mixed-media class, where we contrived to add as much stuff as possible to the creation in progress. My results were the equivalent of an attempt in throwing a wad of pizza dough into the air along with string and copper wire. The conglomerate never made it to the prepared canvas, and I used this surface instead for one of the paintings done in my accustomed manner. This is the first undamaged canvas I have worked on in some time.

Here's what I've been up to, on Mondays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the parking lot. I paint, and people come to learn and end up just painting. I get nervous just before class wondering what I have to offer any other person who wishes to create. After each class I realize that I offer a space and time, to myself and others, where we can show up and paint. It's the best scope and sequence I've come up with in my teaching career: just painting.

I'll show the works in a series of posts so that each one doesn't get too image-heavy, and I can talk a lot about each idea without sounding as windy as I am.

The two recent paintings "Root Children" and "Penny in the Fountain" are hallmark works in that I think they may show the direction my work will take from pure abstraction into adding two elements: recognizable forms, and attachments or inclusions.

Root Children:

oil on masonite panel
approx 22"x30"

The inclusions are plant material found by Jack's lua, and on a hike to the end of the world. I didn't alter the shapes of the bits at all, only adding a bit of coppery gilding to them in places:

Monday, June 02, 2008

Well, twist my proud trumpet into a tuba.

After celebrating my overnight success, David and I joked that the woman might return the paintings as flawed (I paint on the damaged/rejected canvases from the shop*) or "the wrong color" for her decor. David went so far as to suggest that we tell her, in such an event, to repaint the house to match her new paintings.

How intuitive are we? Next morning, she calls, asking if she can exchange all four paintings. Eegads. There was a distinctive hiss as my spine deflated, and then I had to figure out what would be fair to all of us. Oy, the dismay I felt at such a short moment in glory.

I was reminded of the Tao Te Ching:

"Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance."

I have been saved by a near imbalance...

Whether the colors worked for her or not, I am reminded that this woman was touched on a different level by my paintings, and for a moment, my voice was welcomed into someone's (a stranger's) home as beautiful.

* in preparation for my defense against the "flawed" claim, I came up with the following shameless self-promotion: Yes, I used damaged goods for my paintings. This is part of my trademark, rather like the distinctive flaws that identify a diamond. This is one of the ways that I create my work so that giclee's and reproductions will be clearly less than the original... Take It Or Leave It (TIOLI).

Friday, May 30, 2008

Koi Pond:Gestation:
Today a woman purchased four..... count 'em, four of my original oil paintings. I am so thrilled, I don't even know what to say about it except, Phew. She bought the above two paintings (gestation wasn't finished, but then I guess that's right for the title...) plus two others pictured in previous posts: "Life's Little Irritations" and "Bambooish".

I signed Gestation while she ran errands, and then told David I was treatin' for dinner. I ordered three entree's and a pizza, for the two of us.

I am greatly encouraged. And it's really nice to have the spaces on the wall that now need to be filled. Flow!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I've started a painting "class" at the shop.

On Mondays, from 3:00 until closing (6:00) I sit at a table out in our parking lot and paint on the projects I have going, or start some new paintings.

It's amazing, but that short period of time has given me a bit of a creative perk. I feel like I can do all that I need to get done, as well as be creative, just because I've set aside A Time to paint.

I've invited others to come and paint with me. Some have sounded excited about it, but none have shown up so far (just started this last Monday). My idea is to make the class like the yarn-working classes: everyone brings what they're working on or an idea of what they want to make, and then we work together to get there.

I like the informal format. I'm not charging, so I'm free to work on my stuff, not show up, or not care! How's that for lessez-faire instruction?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Clearly, I haven't been painting... but I've been blogging. Thank goodness for the dual nature of my creative outlets. When I can't paint, I can write. When I can't write, I can paint. Knitting is the thread that rides through all of it.

I read Virginia Woolf recently and was sent into a reverie about women being involved in Great Movements. I realized that I wasn't at all involved in anything great. I have stubbornly stayed in my own little world, trying to be great in my consistency of doing something, anything. The greatness of my movement is in getting my rear to steer toward a blank and to put a mark there.

It may be, years from now, that I am a woman involved in the Great Movement known as intuitive painting (or whatever name we are given by those we can only talk to and not hear from.) It's also possible that I have delusions about being part of something other than my small grinding efforts at a creative existence. My grandeur, it seems, may be simply in my steering: tiny adjustments in course that, over time, determine the direction of something bigger than me. Illusions? Sure, why not.

In the mean time, I must stay with my most powerful question: What's next?

A friend of my husband's is in education, mostly with writing courses. They have a technique that is working and the administration is formalizing it. I hear the death knell. Only when the forerunners of the experience are willing to ditch the good ideas for better will we progress. It is not in refining an old process that we get to the new. We have to be shallow enough to say that our brain children are "so yesterday" in order to get to tomorrow and its needs.

What works is the act of showing up. It is not a matter of technique or skill levels or teachable/learning moments. It is a matter of sincere engagement with whatever is in front of us and finding the way to give voice to our experiences.

The great movements, to me, are the ones that Ask. In retrospect, they may look like great movements with Answers, but they started and grew as questions.

Probity is the key. Oh, I looked up that word and it wasn't what I wanted at all! Probity: complete and confirmed integrity; having strong moral principles; "in a world where financial probity may not be widespread..." Or maybe it was the right word, but I was thinking about probing questions, and being a questioner. Doesn't that sound like probity?! My definition of the key: sitting with the integrity of questions.

My thanks to Julia Cameron for giving me the "What's Next?" question out of "The Artist's Way."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I took a six week painting course for using mixed media and collage in my work. It was heavenly the first day, setting time aside to be creative. It got stressful after that.

Some Saturdays I couldn't make it to the class because we didn't have enough people working the shop. Turned out most the time that was fine: One of the days we were doing encaustic (which is not my favorite in both the fumes and the results I get). One of the days was our final day, for which I would have rushed a finish and not been satisfied. Another day that I thought I was going to miss, I got to go. It turned out to be helpful in keeping me going rather than just hanging it up and going back to my thing.

So although the class didn't really work out for me, I gained several insights:

  • keep the momentum going
  • work with what you have already
And I remembered an agreement that I'd made with myself to put inclusions into my paintings that would make giclees clearly less than the original: bits of tile or gadgets or 3D something so that a photo doesn't do it for the painting.

I also learned that saying I'm going to paint every Saturday morning isn't a real life thing. I can hope to paint Saturday mornings, and some of them I will get to do so. But as with all that I've accomplished so far, it's mostly going to get done in the space between, in the time that is the gap between real events. That's when I get the really important stuff done.

I need to clean my studio, to make the space and have it available for when the time comes. I have learned that the time comes when I show up. Not being able to show up at a class taught me something about doing things another's way. I cannot.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Okay, Soul Level. Thank you for reading about my little corner of the world.

I took a weekend painting class from a successful abstract painter. The workshop was called "Intuitive Painting." I thought I had made up that moniker, but obviously not. I had also taken the man's class years ago, so maybe I got the name from there. I knew pretty much what to expect. Mostly, the class would crack me open and get me flowing some more.

Sure enough, it was as wild and creative as ever. Several students didn't return the second day. They probably would have broken rather than cracked with more prodding, and they may have gotten enough of a peek at creative freedom to develop a taste for it. One woman, a very accurate watercolor botanical painter, was uncomfortable with the silliness. Art, apparently, is serious stuff. Work, not play. She was one of the artists who got one day's worth of creative fiber and started cramping.

The instructor was in a different place in his life than years ago, too. He was "on strike" from painting himself, stating that he needed paintings to sell before he would paint any more. Dang, if I did that, I'd be done. But that taught me something too: make sure I paint in a way that makes it possible to store or transport. And to continue my practice of giving away paintings if it seems like the thing to do. I like giving paintings away because it keeps that dollar crapola out of the mix; a dangerous specter in creating is the idea of profiting from it financially.

Mostly I learned that from the first class I had gotten outside the box and gave myself permission to paint abstracts, come what may. And then I drew around me another box: the this-is-how I do it box. I also judged the box I'd left as old or not for me. Instead, maybe I can look at all these layers of boxes as a scaffold, building the creative in me, and making all levels and skills available to me at any time. I told the instructor about my thoughts, and he nodded knowingly, saying only, "There's always a prejudice somewhere."

So, I came home and painted some more in my box style. Then I started a painting trying to not do it in the box. And I considered adding some images into paintings I'm finishing (the old box: photorealism).

I want to have compassion for the artists who left the class. I want to say I understand the discomfort (which I do). If I were in a stuffy exacting class in using triple 0 brushes to paint eyelashes, I'd run screaming. So, we all have our thing. There's always a prejudice somewhere.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I was going through my photos and backing up data the other night when I came across the source material for two of my recent photorealistic paintings. I was amazed at how accurately I had reproduced the original photos onto the canvases. Well, that got me thinking about the non-photo-based painting that I do: the abstracts.

With the photorealistic stuff, people look at it and say, "Wow, you really can paint." They say that because they can compare the accuracy of my representation. And let me tell you, we all value an accurate representation. How do we evaluate a painting of the unseen? How do we compare it?

In answer to these thoughts, I gave myself a powerful "what if?" What if my abstract paintings are as accurately representational of what I'm rendering as the photorealistic paintings? Only, my audience can't evaluate that, so I'm going to have to trust this to be true. This "what if" is very freeing for me. It also helps me to realize how badly I want approval, still, for my efforts and intentions.

Another cure-by-words came to me today. The popular opinion is that artists don't really get famous until they die. How about I pretend that I'm dead, and then paint as if I'm popular? It's freeing to think this way. When I'm dead, I have nothing to gain or to lose. I don't need approval when I'm dead, and popularity helps me not at all. There's a freedom in dying, and I intend to use it to it's fullest extent while I am useful.