Secret Garden Series -#2 OWL

18 x 24″ watercolor – Secret Garden Owl

My second painting is complete. I don’t know if it’s the distraction of the pandemic, but it feels like it took forever! I’m very happy with how it turned out. I feel like it conjures up the feeling of a secret garden.

Here are a list of objects to find within my secret garden painting:

A Dharma wheel, a Mayan temple, a chrysalis, an evil eye, a praying mantis, a potion bottle, the queen of clubs, fire flies, a fiddle head fern, matches, and a ladder.

Also, I am adding a Latin quote in each painting. This painting says “ALIS VOLAT PROPRIIS” which means “She flies with her own wings”.

Here were the three little studies I created to come up with ideas and the comparison to the large final painting:

So that’s it. Next I will begin part 3, the rabbit!

2nd Set of Secret Garden: Squirrels

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This little 5×7 inch study is a rapid departure from the initial idea.  Take a look. The one on the bottom was the first attempt.

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I like the addition of the rooster, but the vegetation/garden aspect is missing.  I will try again.  I need to really play up the floral aspect and come up with an interesting setting…

Still working on this one…

Compass School Commission

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For the last 5 years the principal of the Compass School has commissioned me to create a piece of art that celebrates the past year’s accomplishments.  The art piece is revealed at the school vision night and parents write new wishes or goals on the matting.  In this way, the artworks have become time-capsules.  We can see what we have envisioned and what has actually come true. Here are the past years:

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What’s kind of funny is the randomness of the things I am asked to incorporate in a painting.  Things that have been asked are could you combine a new garden, new farmer, a walking path, a soccer field, goats, sheep, a new basketball court, a family dance party and bank funding for a potential building?……   umm… I guess so?  Every year I have no idea how I am going to illustrate it, but somehow something comes out.

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This year the principal wanted to celebrate the completion of a new garden high tunnel, two calves named Fuzzy and Bulls-eye, a new soccer field, and the beginning of a new middle school that is being renovated from an old seed-mill.  This required incorporating, diggers and cement trucks which have become part of our everyday existence at the school.  I added a beautiful dahlia garden the 7th and 8th graders maintain and chickens.  The school always has chickens.  How could you not add the chickens?  Next is figuring out how to communicate these concepts when they are stretched out of acres of land?  This year I literally painted each idea separately , cut them out and then collaged them together.  I think each objects separateness, coming together, summed up the chaos of an elementary school!

So next year should be the unveiling of a new building, the new middle school.  This will be my son’s last year at the school, which in turn,  will be the last painting I contribute.

These artworks will be a nice legacy of the time spent at this school.

We can see how far we’ve grown literally and figuratively.

Another Autumn Another Art Studio

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I have avoided this for many years mainly because I crave natural sunlight, but it was inevitable.  Eventually, I would wind up in my basement.

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I have this giant extra room in the basement.  It’s where they built an addition on the house years ago.  It’s concrete and unfinished but, it’s dry and there is electricity.  Did I mention it’s free?

yard sale

In order to make the space to create, I had to have a yard sale.  15 years ago I wrote “wicked huge yahd sale” on my signs to kind of poke fun at the New England accents where I live, but now it’s kind of like I’ve branded my yard sales.  I always write this and people know who’s sale it is without even looking at the address.

Long story short, This sale was a LARGE HAUL.  It took me three weeks to unload 20 years of art supplies out of my basement.  Mostly because I taught art lessons and art camps to kids for decades, so every time someone wanted to unload materials – I said yes. I had boxes and boxes of fabric, yarn, paints, paper, tools, printing press, photography prep, art books, craft materials…  You name it.  It accumulated in my basement.

And now it’s gone.  I have made the decision to end that chapter in my life.  I teach adults art now and I have them bring their own materials :)

My new art space will be devoted to painting.  I have a big project in mind.  It’s a painting series.  It’s going to take me forever and my goal for making it happen is to stay away from rabbit holes.  Rabbit holes?  What’s that you say?  It’s the multitude of paths that lie underneath the surface to get you to your destination.  Rabbits dig tons of paths.  If you are a practical human, you create one path to take you from point A to point B.  If you are a rabbit, you might have ten paths to point B and you could get distracted or lost along the way.  I’m a rabbit.  I say I want to paint, but along that path I elect to create and sell jewelry at a Christmas show, I create and sell pottery through-out the year.  I teach 1-4 art classes a week.  These are my rabbit- holes that keep me from ever accomplishing the goal I set forth.  Sure I have tons of fun along the way, but at the end of every year I also feel a great sadness for never really pushing myself to the serious goals I have made for myself.

Sigh…  here I go again.  Fall.  Back to school. Time for fall-cleaning.  Time to reassess. I’ve made some good head-way.  I’ve said no thank you to teaching kids.  I said yes to teach only one adult art class this fall and no to 4.  I emptied my home of all of the art supplies that were unnecessary.  I am journaling, meditating, and taking baby-steps to formulate the art project in my mind.  All good things…

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But there are a few rabbit holes I just don’t want to give up, as time-consuming as they are.  Pottery is one of them.  I haven’t figured it out yet.  Maybe stop teaching and continue with pottery? Try to paint, teach and do pottery, which isn’t working very well from a productivity perspective?  Maybe devote 6 months to painting, then 6 months to pottery and only do one at a time?

Ugh.  If  you can’t tell, my heart is torn.  Clearly in writing the last few sentences, I can take teaching out of the mix…  but that involves a lot of people I feel terrible letting down…I will have to sit with this for a bit.

I’d love to hear from those of you with rabbit holes and what you do to clarify and simplify your life.  Or maybe you just don’t and you live a crazy hectic life.  That’s a story in itself!  But I am really craving focus. On a soul level.  And I’m finding it very difficult to find my way.

So here’s to another Fall and trying to find my place in the world.  It’s a deja vu moment…. but with the autumn there always comes hope ;)

The Sunniest of Flowers

    • In my acrylic painting class, I created a lesson on how to paint a sunflower.

I had two focuses. The first was to encourage the painters to use large paint brushes and the second was to get the painters comfortable with their paintings being UGLY in the first few stages.

Using larger paintbrushes forces the painter to not be able to paint in the details. In turn, the artist gets a looser more impressionistic painting. With the cameras we all own, it’s my opinion that us painters need to offer a different perspective than complete realism.

Next, was allowing the painting to be ugly.  I feel like so many beginning painters try as hard as they can to tackle the subject matter in one layer, as best they can, for fear of judgement on how ugly the painting might be. The ego needs practice allowing for a painting to look strange and in bad colors. However, all those ugly layers create a wonderful foundation, so my mission was to get them to let the painting be. This is why I called this lesson the yellow lollipop. When their paintings were finished, I said remember the ugly yellow lollipop?

This was my tutorial and the sunflower starts off looking like a yellow lollipop. As the steps progress,  artists use a negative painting technique to create the flower petals. This means instead of painting each petal with yellow paint, they simply have a large section of yellow on the canvas to which dark green is painted to create where the flower petals would be. Look in the tutorial. The sunflower looks like a lollipop until the green background color begins to define the petals.

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I always do a complete painting at home and then I do the painting again in the class with the students.  Doing the painting before my class allows me to jot down any ideas or observations that come up which I think makes for a better teacher.  Doing the first painting before class also allows me to make the tutorial of the stages of a painting. I know when I started out, I loved looking at painting stages.  It helped me understand the process.

The left painting was the first painting and the right was during class.  There is something about doing a painting the second time that I love.  It’s like, as an artist, you get to synthesize all your discoveries and reapply them differently. It’s the same subject matter but totally a different experience.  I always wind up loving the second painting more.  I’ts like catharsis.  I got a do-over and made the changes I wanted to see.

 

I say it over and over again to my students.  I tell them go home and try it again.  Not many do.  But occasionally a student will take me up on it and the results are phenomenal.

As we speak, my sunflowers are a mere 3 feet.  It won’t be for another month until I can start painting my own sunflowers :)

Shadow Box Collages

SHADOW BOXES

I’ve been working on these forever.

Mostly because there are so many stages.  I work on them, forget about them, pick them up again, have to get the ceramic elements fired and glazed, forget about them and then have to paint the boxes and assemble all the elements.

They take a lot of time, but it feels like play so I just try to have a little bit of amnesia about the whole thing.

In a nutshell there are few components to these:

  1. Spend countless hours walking beaches picking up trash.
  2. Beg cigar stores for empty cigar boxes.
  3. Create pottery elements to tell a little story and compliment the found objects.
  4. Sand, paint, nail, string and glue everything together.

The boxes above are at the pottery stage.  I have to fire and glaze the components, then I will do step 4.  They look radically different after the ceramics are glazed so I will post again when I get to that point!

Garden of Grackles

__2019-05-08 09.31.15bGarden of Grackles -watercolor 18″ x 24″

This painting is very special to me.

I have been blogging about my art journey for almost 8 years now.  Can you imagine that?  -8 years.  In that time I have complained A LOT. Sorry about that :)  My almost decade frustration has been not knowing what my “message” as an artist would be.

First, as an artist,  I had to figure out what art medium was best suited to me and which best expressed my talent. Second, what style felt right?  abstract? illustration? graphic design? botanicals? landscapes? still lives?  and Thirdly, most importantly, what is my message as an artist?

Eight years later I can safely and proudly say I am an experiential learner. Meaning, no one could ever tell me me the answer, I had to learn the hard way.  I had to learn by trying EVERYTHING and I’m sure I will keep exploring.  No one could say “Hey, you seem to shine when you do xyz” or “You really should stick to xyz subject matter”. I have painted with acrylics, gouache and watercolor. I have tried printmaking, pastels and mixed media.  I have painted still lives, landscapes, abstracts and everything in between.

I really struggled with my message as an artist.  Some artists don’t care. They are just happy doing what they’re doing.  But inside me all the existential questions lie.  Why was I born?  Why am I on the planet earth? What is the point of  being alive and dying?  Is there a point? What will I do with the life I have been given?  I have gifts how will I use them?  and most importantly, what can I give back to the world?  

As an artist I have always taken this last question to heart.  I was not born with a scientific brain to cure diseases.  I wasn’t born to be a world leader that will guide future generations. I wasn’t born with a medical mindset to nurture and heal others.  I was born with a particular gift of creating images.  I haven’t really seen a society who value’s this gift.  Not like they value notoriety, wealth and technology.  How do you answer the question of giving to your community, your planet and the world at large as an individual?  As a human, I can care about the earth, be politically active, raise responsible children, pay my taxes and do no harm.  But a give to the world by making images?  I’ve struggled for years with the guilt of feeling frivolous, redundant, obscure, voiceless and insincere.

With age comes reason.  Again it comes back to experiential learning.  I had to experience and search and search…. and continue searching.  And the answer is that it was always with me all along.  The school of hard knocks. I would not accept any other way than to search, knock on hundreds of doors, open hundreds of doors and close a hundred doors. I can say I’ve tried on one hundred hats and I think I’m at the point of finding one that fits.

This is a bit long-winded, I know, but now I’ll get to why this painting is special to me. It has taken 8 years of trying everything else to be clear in what is special to me.  Artists that gleam the attention of the world’s mainstream express their strong feelings about death, suicide, mental illness, sexual identity, war, human rights, activism, ant-capitalism, tribalism…. all sorts of -isms. I’ve tried them all, but I never felt true to myself.  Again, like I was wearing someone else’s hat.

My message is a lot quieter. It’s really quiet actually.  My loves are very simple and I can’t change that.  Lord knows I’ve tried.  I love my gardens, the critters that crawl within them, my bird-feeder, staring out the window, smelling nature, feeling it underneath my feet and I am obsessed with recreating it in COLOR.

This painting is special because I am owning this quiet little message.  It may not be loud, it may not be flashy and it may not get a ton of social media hits, but it’s still a message.  It’s a message to my tribe.  My tribe of flora, fauna and everyday backyard enthusiasts.  I for several years, have tried to run as far away as I could from this concept.  But  I have to own that inwardly, I am very quiet. I’m a bit of a dork actually.  I don’t mind sitting in my driveway for hours watching squirrels and listening to the birds.  And they don’t have to be fancy animals either. Blackbirds, robins, cardinals and seagulls, insects, woodchucks, skunks and bunnies – they do it for me.

Forever, I have painted what I see ( ie. a gorgeous bouquet from my garden or a beautiful scene from a vacation). This painting above is one of the first explorations from my imagination.  I simply thought about all the things I love and assembled them into a composition that does not exist anywhere other than my mind. That is very scary.  I think it’s why I haven’t really done it before.  I can’t blame the image on the circumstances or the environ. It’s on me.  I am telling the world what I love and it’s incredibly personal.  There’s the fear of what if people don’t like what they see?  But again I think that age and time give you the confidence to care not. There is so much freedom in not caring.

I made a painting and  “I”  love it because it has all the things special to me within it.  It’s colorful and happy and strong and unapologetic – in a very quiet way.

Bingo. That’s the direction I need to move in.

I’m feeling very comfortable in this hat.

LOL. So now I’ll get off my soapbox and show you the progression of the painting and some of my favorite parts:

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Thank you so much for being on this journey with me :)

 

 

To Paint like Shirley Trevena

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The students in my watercolor class are fabulous.  I throw so many challenges at them and they take them and run with it.  This challenge was no exception!

Shirley Trevena is an amazing water colorist from England.  When you look at her work, there is so much going on, you can barely figure out how she does what she does.

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Luckily she is a giving enough artist that she shares her process in her many books.  I grabbed two of them, studied them and created a lesson plan to try some of the painting techniques in our watercolor class. Below is a word doc explaining some of her painting techniques.

TECHNIQUES TREVENA LIKES TO USE

Here are two paintings I used to demo in my class:

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If you are interested in trying some fairly unconventional watercolor techniques or you simply want to enjoy some absolutely gorgeous artwork, check artist Shirley Trevena out.  She is a master.