Monday, May 31, 2010

The last few weeks have been hectic

I have had a few projects to work on. One is for Art House Co-op. The project was "what do you dream about?" It had to be a small 4x6 and would be on permanent display in their gallery. It sounded like a fun project so I signed up.

I signed up, then I sat on the project for a while. What do I dream about? I dream about being a full time artist/creative person. I dream about living some place wonderful and artsy like Cape May or Annapolis. I dream of living close to my MAPAPA friends again and being able to paint in Chincoteague, Cape May, Annapolis, South Jersey/Delaware Bay area, the salt marshes or even a cow pasture in the middle of the mountains of Virginia. I dream a lot of things, we all do.

I go to a Belly dancing class once a week, for fun and for therapy for my ankle. We share a lot of what's going on in our lives there. A couple of weeks ago, on my way to the class, a song came on the radio, "The Riddle" by Five for Fighting. Tears welled up as I thought of the memories it brought back of my first summer of being independent and freedom from a bad marriage. They weren't bad memories, they made me think of a drive down to Chincoteague with my kids. The radio station we listened to was actually out of Delaware, and it was a summer of great music. I spoke of the song in the class and it stuck with me through the evening. I put Five for Fighting on the ITouch and popped it into my Bose when I got back to the house and sat down at my desk in my studio and pulled out my sketchbook.

I played "Superman" and it made me think of a lot of things, and I came up with the red cape in my sketch book over the lyrics of the song. None of us are Superman and all of us have to find the better part of themselves and be that better person every day. But we all can fly with the clouds between our knees if we are flying high on our dreams.

Then the song "World" came on. And I took my watercolors and painted a big clue world in the middle of the page and wrote the lyrics "What kind of World do you want? Think anything....Let's start at the start...Build a Masterpiece....Be careful what you wish for...History starts now...." Wow. After just hearing more crap on TV about the Gulf oil spoil on the Weather Channel early in the AM, my heart SCREAMED for holding BP accountable. And here was a song that simply said, "what kind of World do you want?" How could I make a statement by building a world that didn't include BP and oil, and all of the bad things that we hear on TV if we mistakenly leave the news on before switching channels.....So the idea grew.

I mulled around and thought of ideas and took the advice of artists that I had been reading about...I thought of the idea before I went to bed, I thought about it when I woke up...when I was in the shower, when I was making dinner...when I was at Physical therapy....I finally sat down after dinner one night and said, OK, how am I doing this? I needed to get this mailed out by Memorial Day Weekend...The first thing I did was print out a postage sized logo of BP and then drew a red circle with a line through it, so the first thing was the World was going to have NO BP....As I worked on this, the ideas came and the work took on a life of it's own...I pulled out 5 x7 sheet of watercolor paper and I was like, OK, now what? Do I paint the world? Then I thought, well we are floating around in outer I'll paint space with stars and stuff. And What if I did the world separately and attached it on.... that seemed ok. I wanted to paint stars...hmm, do I use mask?....mmm hey, what about crayons? So I dotted the paper with some white and yellow dots....then I did a wash of Daniel Smiths, the stars popped. Now what, I needed the perfect size for my round I grabbed a glass in the shape I wanted and drew a circle on another sheet of 5x7 piece of paper. Then I mixed a bunch of blues, Ultramarine, Cobalt and Pthlalo blue until I came up with something that could pass for a new blue world...

OK, I have a postage sized NO BP. What did I want to keep in my world? I opened up my sketch book in green (going Green baby!) and wrote things like Orioles and Chickadees and Cardinals (the bird, not a sports team), the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument (after all, it signifies the beginning of Enlightenment in Dan Brown's latest book), I thought of cats, dogs, horses, mountains majesty (after Gene Hackman spoke about mountains on TV that evening in the movie Birdcage)...what about fantasy animals? we could have dragons (or fire lizards like in Anne McCaffery's books), we could have faeries and mermaids and unicorns (why not, it's a whole new world!!), elves, we could have Magic like Harry Potter's World! We could still have shells and dolphins and grapes, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries...we could still have clownfish and bettas and foxes...we could still have giraffes and other animals...trees and flowers....then I ran out of a little steam, so as I was working on some of these, my husband took the sketchbook into the living room and the kids added their still wanted her peanut butter cup sundaes with mint chocolate chip ice cream and a diamond ring...some wanted singing people, some soccer or plums or bread (ok, the bread was my husband), ice creams cones, sunny days, the beach, bubble wrap??? (ok, I added this one with the intention of an earth friendly version of the little poppers), my daughter wanted No Math...then I sent out an email and texts to other family members and got back no styrofoam...for everyone to be happy and feel love, for kids not to go hungry, for easier shopping selections instead of the 50000 versions of each item in the supermarket....(I just heard this on a You Tube about toothpaste, small world where two women are thinking the same thing, LOL) sister and husband came up with Coral Reefs and sock monkeys?? (what da?) I added more to my list, aunt wanted pasta and bread, NO CALORIES (oh yeah, added that one!) cousin sent back something about chocolate...Holy cow!!! How could I forget Chocolate?!!!

I worked on these teenie little representations of what could go in the new world...the possibilities were endless.....But I had to limit to what I could handle and make sure I could get in the mail....the next problem I had to address was how I was attaching these...velcro would cover up my nice blue I thought of the sticky tacky stuff that you use to attach stuff to walls...but I wanted to put a few things on the world, not cover up all the work I did on each little I put them in a baggie and make it interactive? I liked the interactive art idea but I could see the poor gallery folks having heart failure with these little stamp things all over the I pulled different colored threads through each one and attached them to the back of the piece so they would hang down and they could be swapped out by the viewer...but the watercolor paper was flimsy, so I solved that problem with a hard backing....I also glazed over some gloss to make it more permanent and also used heavy gel to attach the world. So the project was done...I signed it and mailed it out before I went to Cape May for Memorial Day Weekend.

So here is my little 4x6 finished product of "What I dream about..."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Studio Pets

It is my humble belief that animals bring joy into your life. OK, so when the dog pees on your carpet, the joy can go right out the window. But most of the time, it's nice to have that four legged furry companion. Some artists have dogs, some have a cat, others have the interesting household with both, some even have something more exotic, like a reptile or bird.
My little furry bundle of joy, Troy, passed away this past February. He was a 16 year Min Pin. His body was slowly shutting down. My husband took him over to the vet and they proclaimed that he was slowly dying of old age. I couldn't go to be him when they put him down and that hurt. I couldn't even take care of him his last two months because of my injury. Poor Troy. I broke my ankle slipping on ice, going out to bring little his little geriatric butt in the house. (I did this Troy sketch many years ago.)I'd love to have another dog but it's hard to replace a best friend. Troy was a big dog in a small package.

As I mentioned briefly before, for my birthday, I got a Betta fish. It's not Troy, but he's pretty cool and he won't pee on the carpet or lay in a basket of clean laundry. He's PINK and an iridescent purple and boy can he put away those Betta pellets. People don't give fish and parakeets much credit, but both are pretty smart in some way. I have heard of Koi that will allow their humans to pet them and I had a parakeet that was more loving than some people I know. This Betta knows me already after a month. He seems very friendly and happy, I couldn't think of anything more original to name him than Fishy, but he doesn't seem to mind.

So here's a sketch of Fishy the Studio pet.

Fishy also has company now across the room. I found another Betta tank that I didn't realize I still had. I sterilized it, went out and picked up another Betta. He's not as sociable as Fishy, and he's some sort of fancier variety with frilly fins, he's purple and red. His name is Pisces. I will sketch him and attach his sketch another time. He likes the pellets, too.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Plein Air Painters

So what does it mean to be a Plein Air painter? What is Plein Air painting? The term comes from the French en plein air. Meaning, painting in the open air.

I like painting plein air because I like being out of the studio and in the fresh air. I love recording what I see what's in the world around me. Being a plein air painter can be very special. We paint things as we see them and Mother Nature is the best teacher. You learn a lot by painting outside. You have to deal with the elements, changing light, potential obstructions or changes in the environment. Sure, you could take a photograph, but it doesn't have the same feel to it and when you paint on location, you remember everything you see,feel, smell and hear with each mark of the brush or stroke of the pastel. When I sketch on site, I can open the sketchbook later and remember the place like I am there all over again.

Another thing my husband and I noticed when I paint a place and then return to it at a later time, is how things change. Artists, when they paint plein air, they paint time frozen in place.....a memory....We've gone back to places I have painted and have sometimes even been dismayed by the change. A once colorful eatery is now a drab plain jane sandwich shop. A trendy and unique boutique is closing and up for rent, the furnishings for sale, everything must go....a sign of the times, the economy taking its toll. But the memory I painted is frozen in time forever, and it makes me realize that as I paint, I record history as it is, at the time the painting has been completed.

Have I painted a location multiple times? Sure. I've lost count how many times and angles I have painted the Cape May Lighthouse. I love that whole area, the bird sanctuary, the hawk spotters, the beach, the monarch butterflies that fly by in late summer, like they have their own private expressway....I've painted the lighthouse midday, early in the day, several sunsets, from behind the beach grass....the lighthouse has a special place in my heart. There is something special about Cape May, the lighthouse and the Painted Ladies that draws me to paint Cape May.

I also love Chincoteague and Assateague, Annapolis and many other areas up and down the East Coast. I have painted in cow pastures in the mountains and have set up my easel on city streets. But no matter where I paint, I bring home a memory of a place that tells a story that no photograph can match.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

New Studio

Well April and May have been bringing in warmer weather. A welcome change, my Spring flowers are popping up all over the place.

Hubby built me a new studio, well actually, he moved me into a larger space. It's so nice that my daughter loves it and is paying me frequent visits when I am in here, we usually have to pry her away from her computer. The nice studio space makes my confinement a lot easier and more pleasurable to bear, though I am gimping around somewhat better than I was a month ago and I need a cane to walk. I can't believe I am still not able to walk normally yet and it is still very painful.

On the one wall in my studio, I asked hubby to put a cork tack strip up so I can tack brown paper to it. There's a box of good old fashioned Crayola Crayons and some markers so that anyone that pays my studio a visit can succumb to their urge to express themselves on my real wall...Much better than a Facebook wall. I also got a studio easel from my Hubby as a birthday present so I can paint on a real easel instead of one that collapses when I push hard on the canvas. I don't know what people see in those French easels, they are so unstable no matter how hard you try to secure them. My Guerrilla Box is TOTALLY amazing when I use it for painting en plein air.

I have this totally awesome pink chair that I can sit and read in....I mean this chair is PINK as you can see in the picture.

I also have a studio pet, a Betta fish with no name as of yet....he's a really cool color, almost an iridescent purple. I just got him for my birthday. He eats like a pig. Maybe I should name him Pinkie to go along with the pink chair....

I have some projects I have to get back to working on. My studio is now supplied with a footstool so I have a place to rest my foot when I am in here. It's a nice cozy place to create after I get off work. Standing at the easel is still a challenge but I can sit at my desk a little better now.

My usual Plein Air plans are out the window because I can't stand up to paint. Sketching is a little less of a challenge, but even sitting has it's aches and pains. It's amazing how even the simplest tasks still have to be handled delicately. I can't kneel or squat down to get something. It's hard to stretch and reach things up high. There's a constant pain and stiffness that I have to deal with and it gets frustrating because all I want to do is be normal again.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Still going on with the Fake Journal

Wednesday evening I sat in the car (still gimping too much so the car is where I can stay out of trouble and not re-injure myself) and did these two sketches while I was out for sketch night. I used two different techniques. I did the beach scene in ink first, then added the color. I did the tree by the lake with watercolor first, then added the ink. I was showing another member of the sketch club how to use watercolor when you sketch and wanted to show her the different ways that the medium could be handled in a sketch book. It was a nice, although chilly, evening. These aren't the best pix, but they aren't bad for using my IPhone.

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