Secret Garden Series -#5 CAT AND FOUL

18 x 24″ watercolor on 140lb Arches Coldpress paper

Happy November! I’m still struggling to get back to a normal life during this crazy 2020 pandemic. Slowly but surely I’m getting there. My kids are back to school –sort of. I’m painting again –an hour here and there. I have rejoined my pottery studio –in a mask 6 feet apart from all the other potters. I’ve fallen in love with a new jewelry concept – But I have no holiday shows to sell them…. Yeah, (eye roll) things are sorta getting back to normal.

I was just checking. I posted my first declaration to create 8 paintings in what I am calling my “Secret Garden Series” on December 3, 2019. Boy, when I made that declaration, I had no idea what the world would look like 3 months later. And yet, here we are. A month from now will be a year. Something tells me I won’t have the next 3 paintings completed by then, but hey, I HAVEN’T QUIT!!! Even though I’ve wanted to ;)

So let’s get to it. Let’s talk some art. With the presidential election tomorrow, it will be a pleasant distraction!

The painting Cat and Foul is my 5th painting in the series:

My concept was to take things I am passionate about and put them all together. Each of these paintings feature: plants, gardening, animals, fabrics, pattern, architecture, a Latin phrase, and a bunch of random objects hidden throughout. If I were to complete this series, there would be 8 paintings that tie together visually and symbolically and they would be fun to glance around to see what you could find.

I haven’t had many pets in my life. My mother definitely was not into it. But as an adult, I have had two cats. Let’s just say I LOVE MY CAT. I credit my cat with teaching me how to be present and give love without any expectations. When my cat slinks by and generally plunks herself down on whatever painting I am working on, I always make it a point to drop what I’m doing, take a deep breathe and hug that little kitty. I feel her purring. I let her rub her slimy little nose on my face, I give her a couple pets and get back to it. That’s my spiritual practice. I bring myself back to the “Now” and I feel blessed to have this little reminder visiting me every couple hours.

So let’s just say I LOVE cats.

I also added a guinea hen because I adore them for their graphic nature. Who can resist black and white polka-dotted feathers? I have a jar of them I’m always adding to.

There is no white paint in watercolor. So you can’t take white paint and make dots on top of the black. You have to take the black paint and paint around every single white dot. This would make your eyes cross, so using a little trick like masking fluid goes a long way in keeping your painting sanity. Masking fluid is similar to rubber cement. Here I painted masking fluid every place I wanted a white dot. Then I painted black watercolor over it. When dry, you rub the masking fluid off and it reveals the nice crisp white paper below it.

Here is a time lapse of how I decided to tackle the painting:

A lot of times I don’t know where I’m going. So I always begin my painting with the things I am most sure about. I knew the plants would be greens and the animals would be browns. What I didn’t know was what color I wanted the walls, wall paper and wall mural. I take baby steps adding one major color or pattern at a time trying different variations before I officially paint them.

Let me list the objects I hid throughout the painting and see if you can find them.

There is: a wooden arrow, moon phases, a key, raspberries, a penny, an alarm clock, a nod to RI with an ocean wave and anchor, Princess Diana’s sapphire ring, and a scurrying mouse. The Latin word Modero means SLOW DOWN. I intended this to be a spiritual message like “stop and enjoy everything around you” but I also thought it was fitting because the guinea hen is wizzing by.

The sapphire has a funny story behind it too. When I was in kindergarten, I used to complain to my mother that I wanted to change my name. “Mary” was just too boring in my opinion. Brushing me off, she told me if in one year, I still wanted to change my name, she’d take me to town hall to change it. Being the little bugger that I was, of course I never forgot. Months later I told my mom I was ready to change my name. She said “Alright, what did you come up with? What name do you think suits you better?” I looked at her with all seriousness and pride and blurted out “SAPHIRE”. She looked at me, burst out laughing and flat out said “Nope -go play!” My six year old self was so mad, but adult me thinks maybe I wouldn’t have made such a great adult Sapphire. My family still gets a kick out of this one, so now I kind of get called Sapphire any ways ;)

The other day, a company was thanking me for using them by giving me a free gift. I could put whatever I wanted on a mouse pad.

I chose this recent cat. In fact, it’s sitting with me as I type right now. You know, it’s the little things, they totally make me smile. I’m enjoying this painting :)

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.

squirrels

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…

An Artist’s Journey -Creating My Own Fantasy

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For the next couple days I am going to share what I have been working on since September. The photo above shows the “concepts” for a painting series I am working towards. It is going to be a series of 8 large paintings called My Secret Garden.

This is a very big deal for me. For almost seven years now I have been floating and experimenting without direction. I’ve asked so many questions of myself: Who am I as an artist? What is my style? What do kind of art do I want to make? Who am I making it for? What is the message I want to communicate?

The universe is kind of cruel like that. The more important something is to you, the more time it takes to get to the answer. I’m not a very patient person, so this journey has been brutal.

I’ve dug deep.

When I first started on this personal journey, I did not have the answers. I’ve tried everything: quilting, polymer clay, jewelry, wood crafts, painting with acrylic, watercolor and goauche, printmaking, teaching, graphic design, and pottery to name a few. I haven’t been able to commit. I like them all yet I’ve always felt like I’ve been getting nowhere.

Seven years later. I’m feeling a bit older, more mature, I don’t know that I can sustain that crazy chaotic creative energy anymore. I’m tired. What took me so long to figure out is that I had to try everything and that this is ok. It’s the type of learner I am ; an experiential learner. I’m the kind of kid that has to touch the stove to learn what hot means. I can’t take anyone’s word for it –ever. I’ve beaten myself up for this because it has taken so much time, but in trying so many things I have figured out what feels right and what doesn’t.

Another concept that has plagued me is the for who? Do I paint subject matter that suits me? What does suit me? What do I like? Do I try to figure out what’s trending? What other people might want? Go where the money seems to be? I’ve spent so many hours trying to figure out the balance between my own personal interests and making others happy.

So this September my soul said ENOUGH. Time to answer the questions. You are ready.

The seed had been planted in this painting I had done in the spring:

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This painting came from my stream of consciousness. I started with one blackbird, then a flower, then another, then another. The painting isn’t of something real. It is a fantasy. It comes from my own world that contains the things I love. In painting this, the answers came.

I LOVE color.

I LOVE flowers and gardening.

I LOVE the animals I find in my backyard.

I do 100% what I LOVE because there in lies my uniqueness.

When I stop apologizing for such simple concepts, beautiful things begin to arise.

This September I felt the strongest sense of clarity I have ever experienced. I now can answer the question – what do I like. I decided to be as disciplined as possible and create a vision through art that represents my LOVEs.

The discipline part will come from the many stages. I usually paint something and never think about it again. For this project I am asking myself to research, sketch, try things out, analyze what works for me and what failed, and do it again.

My thought is to create these small 8×10’s (which I just completed). Analyze them. Try it again. Fix the colors. Fix the contrast. Fix the layout. Then I am going to do 8 more small studies again. In hopes of creating a stronger vision before I embark on 8 LARGE watercolor paintings. I won’t be done then, because when I am through with those, I am going to do the entire series again but in a more abstract style.

8-8×10’s studies

8-5×7’s studies

8- 20×24’s finals

8-16×20’s abstracts

That’s a doozy right?

What you will see through the coming months is the same concept -but in a metamorphosis. What I like will stay. What I hate will go. The end product should be as strong as I am currently capable and in my wake I will leave evidence of my process.

There are a few more things that I love which I will incorporate in the larger paintings as well. These small studies were just too small to add this type of detail. However, I also plan on incorporating my great LOVE of fabric and mysticism. I am fascinated with the symbols of all cultures and what they have come to mean. So, I plan on hiding intriguing things throughout the paintings.

This is a big undertaking for me. It is the journey I have created for myself. It’s the path I’m choosing to take and I actually have the answers. Boy does that feel good!

WATERCOLOR – BACKYARD ANIMALS – GARDEN FLOWERS – FABRIC – MYSTICISM

My other hope is to put on my big-girl-pants and try selling this work online. Through Etsy or something. In the past, I haven’t felt “good enough” or “ready”. But it stops here. It’s time. And hopefully after all of this work I plan on doing, my art will be something I am proud of and ready to share.

I hope so. Because on a soul level, it will be the first time I feel like I’m sharing a real piece of –well, –me.

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.

compass

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!