Wednesday, April 30, 2008

. . . striped and circled

Heavy Equipment II, mixed media on canvas, 16 x 16"

Had another good day painting. These are small and quick and down and dirty, with no expectations and no worries about their saleability. . . just for the sheer pleasure of seeing what I can come up with. This painting is another based on photographs I took of earthmoving equipment at a nearby construction site, and really looks a lot like a bunch of other paintings I have done. Maybe that's called "finding your own style." I continued to evaluate and experiment with the painted paper towels, and carved a couple of stamps (including the single circle stamp shown at the bottom on this piece.) Okay, carving a circle is pretty easy, but still satisfying in the results. I have another piece set up and ready to go, the base coat on it and ready for texturizing. I have also continued to experiment with other residue of my art-making (which is a fancy way of saying I've been going through the trash) to create random works of art, which is the most fun of all. You'll be amazed to see what I have come up with.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

. . . got after it

Heavy Equipment I, mixed media on canvas, 16 x 16"

I got busy today . . . no more moping around. I vacuumed the downstairs floors and mopped the bathroom, kitchen and hallway (they are always a mess after our Sunday night family dinners); made the beds, cleaned the bathroom, and did a load of laundry; paid all my bills; called and arranged for the plumber to come and fix the heater and the outdoor water faucet that froze over the winter; called the exterminator about the ant invasion; listened to the plumber at great length about why my heating bill ran about $500 per month this past winter (including the politics of oil and the wisdom of investing in mutual funds); called the gas company to ask for an analysis of my bills and discovered that gas had increased in price from $0.66 per unit a year ago to $1.04 per unit today; did some math and figured out that my bills had increased almost exactly in proportion to the price of gas, and I probably didn't have a leak somewhere; pulled some weeds and checked on the garden's progress; visited with my neighbors; AND YES, I PAINTED the above picture. Inspired by a picture I took a few weeks ago. It's small -- got me back into the groove. There's a lot of texture, but the surface is as smooth as Joey's butt. And I've got another canvas set up and ready to go. Still playing with the used paper towels, too. I discovered (duh) that if I use one to put more paint on another, I'm creating new pieces all the time. I know my daily minutiae has to be just so intriguing to everyone. . .

Monday, April 28, 2008

. . . considered humble beauty

Cardboard in the field . . . random orderliness

With my new camera slung around my neck, I set out to find inspiration. As I explore, I snap indiscriminately . . . anything that catches my interest . . . it's okay if it's not good because I can simply delete it . . . a digital camera is as close to magic as I can get on a daily basis.

Stacked fenceposts . . . even in the chaos of a site of destruction, all point in one direction

Then the next step. . . more magic. . . editing the photos

A rock

only to discover that the simplest items, the most humble, have beauty too: a color, a texture, unexpected symmetry. A lesson for me, philosophically challenged that I am: don't overlook the simple in the glare of the glitz. Apply liberally. Repeat as necessary.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

. . . admitted it, okay?

I haven't done anything substantive in the studio for a week -- maybe more. I feel like a real slacker, and I don't have any excuse. . . except for hormones. I blame everything on hormones.

I ventured out with my camera yesterday and shot these pictures, but even that was an effort and I really didn't get very many interesting shots . . .

I resolve to make some art this week. I know I must set my goals, define how to achieve them, step by step, and then take those steps. I think I'll just lay down for a bit and think about that.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

. . . had to pick

which plant is my current favorite . . . the ranunculus above. . .

or the aster. The aster will last longer than the ranunculus but I love the exotic nature and paper-thinness of the ranunculus. I can take no credit for growing these two specimens. I just bought them the other day and they now live in two small planters on my porch and deck. The ranunculus is paired with something lacy and rampant that will bloom vivid blue and the aster is teamed up with a lovely white begonia. I have two huge hanging baskets in metal holders that look like upside-down onion domes that I will fill up later and those are all the baskets I plan to have. It gets too hot here later in the summer and I don't do a good job of keeping the baskets watered. Of course the weather "forecasters" are predicting freezing temperatures and even mentioned the "s" word (snow), but since those prognosticators get positively orgasmic over any aberration or severe weather, I will hold off my disappointment and panic until the freeze and/or snow actually occurs. Is gardening an art?

Friday, April 25, 2008

. . . fought off invasions

of various types of pests, the latest being ants. Home ownership is becoming a problem . . . I never know what will go wrong next, and it's all going bad at one time, it seems. I'm sick of it. I'm ready to move somewhere, anywhere, except who can sell a house nowadays, especially one that is falling apart? Whoever built this house was lazy, incompetent and insane. . . and out to make a quick buck, or actually a great many quick bucks. It won't be long before the house will resemble the picture above, which is actually the art-related part of this post. Wonderful colors and textures, on a tree, not so good on a house.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

. . . searched the trash

for more paper towels. . .

to varnish and use . . .

in some art-related manner.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

. . . varnished paper towels

I discovered a cool trick. . . it's new to me, anyway. Part of the clean-up after I finish a painting is to throw away all the paper towels that I have used to clean brushes or to wipe paint onto the surface of a painting. These are usually just wadded up, dried and crusty, on the table, on the floor, everywhere. Yesterday for some reason I unfolded one of these pieces of trash and found these wonderful color combinations.

Some of these paper towels are crusty and impossible to unfold; some have holes in them. I tried to imagine how to use these papers, disguising their humble origins. I had just put the finishing layer onto my painting that I showed you yesterday, and had a very wet sticky sponge brush full of the residue of the polyurethane. So I varnished the paper towels and here are the results.

The varnish I used is not water-soluble, so I usually just use a very cheap sponge brush and throw it away when I'm done. Also, since these are paper towels that supposed to be absorbent, obviously they absorb a lot. And they take a long time to dry. And you need to put them on a trash bag when you do it, or they are stuck forever. The prettiest side is the back side, the side next to the trash bag. The varnish makes the paper towel a bit brittle and transluscent and shiny. This also works on tissue paper, by the way -- I tried it on some that had been painted with a coat of white gesso, then stained and stamped with other paints and inks. Came out great, and doesn't take as long to dry as the paper towels. I will use these with other papers to make small collages.

There is something wrong with my camera -- everything is coming out blurry. I took at least 10 shots of the top photo and not one of them came out right. I must check on the "ultrasonic image stabilizer" option . . .

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

. . . painted kindergarten colors

on this big piece that I started Saturday. It's painted flat on unstretch canvas, and I can't get far enough away from this piece to take a good shot of it. But you get the general idea. Quite frankly, I don't like this piece much. . . it's nothing like I anticipated it was going to be. . . but I guess that's quite common among artists. Sometimes the unexpected comes out better, and sometimes worse, than what you pictured when you started. I take solace in the fact that I can always cut it up into small pieces if I can't get it to work out right, or crop out and save the good parts into one smaller canvas.

I promised myself that I would put the good, the bad and the ugly on this blog when I started it. There is always something to be learned from trying, if only what not to try again. It's getting hard to put up a new piece of art everyday, because I'm in the doldrums. I should probably be experimenting which something new to get inspired again. . . small collages, small paintings, setting up my mom's etsy store. Some of the best pieces happen, for me anyway, entirely spontaneously and unexpectedly; everything goes better when I'm not trying so hard. Painting has recently become more like a job, like I must be in the studio, not like I want to be in the studio. And I really want to be outside in the garden, but even the weather has been entirely cooperative. I'm not bitching here, just the facts, ma'am.

Monday, April 21, 2008

. . . peeled a palette

This is one of those happy accidents that happen when you're really not trying. . . it's the blobs left over from an experiment. I will have to keep experimenting. Had a busy weekend, beautiful weather, lots of family, neighborhood birthday party for Stella, my 4-year-old friend. Stella makes beautiful art, too, very abstract swooshes full and pinks and purples and blues. She and my sweet Betsy are friends, and Joey is Stella's "favorite boy."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

. . . mixed some media

I was browsing through my flickr site and found this piece. It is one of the very first paintings I created. I painted it on an old piece of wood and textured it with tissue paper, letting some of the wood grain show through. It used to hang in my house, but honestly I don't know where it is now. I do remember it was pretty heavy, and I framed it myself (badly.) It's interesting to me to see how much (or how little) my paintings have changed in the relatively short time I've been doing this.
My mother used to tell me that everything improved with practice. This was when she was forcing me to take piano lessons. I never could play worth poop. In my first few jobs, I was a typist (back in the day before even correcting selectric typewriters). I would plug into my dictating machine (even then, it was rare to take shorthand) and the words would flow from my ears to my fingers, without stopping at my brain, for eight hours a day. Of course, I became a terrific typist. If you did anything for eight hours a day for years, wouldn't you almost have to become proficient?
Maybe I should paint for eight hours a day, but I can't. I have to step away, think about things, let the painting sit while my mind percolates, or something totally incongruous inspires me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

. . . painted construction zones

I had started this painting earlier this week, but was stuck and didn't know how to go forward. As I was driving home yesterday, I passed a place where construction was just beginning on some rather large project just north of the highway. The heavy equipment, trucks and all the linear elements just strucks me as inspiration, and I came home and finished this one. The picture isn't very good. . . I was in a hurry to post this because I have to call my mom in about one minute.

Friday, April 18, 2008

. . . experimented with saturation

The above picture is a close-up crop of one of my photographs taken a few weeks ago while I was exploring Kansas City, Kansas. It's a color photo, but it's all blacks and white and grays, which is good. . .

and then I experimented with saturation on Picasa. I am amazed and I think I can use both shots for inspiration for paintings.

Note there are four pipes pictured in these photos. Reminds me of a conversation I had yesterday with my son Matt. We were picking out shrubs to plant in his front yard. I told him it was conventional wisdom to plant in odd numbers, three or five. Being Matt, he questioned me and conventional wisdom. I said that in art and in nature, odd numbers were more interesting than even numbers. He told me that he didn't like odd numbers; when he played basketball, he would always be nervous if his team was ahead or behind by three points -- he said he felt like someone should make a free three to make it two or four points.

As we were plotting the new configuration of his planting area, I suggested a swooping curved edge. His idea had been to square things off in box-like plantings. I opined that there were no straight lines in nature. While he didn't dispute this, I could see his mind working to come up with an exception to this theory. It has only taken me 27 years to find out that Matt is an orderly, even, box-like person. I would have thought he preferred riots of color and chaos. I wonder what other revelations will come to light about this wonderful son.

Wild Kingdom update: I saw a coyote slink out from under my deck yesterday afternoon not five feet away from me. It really did slink, throwing a frown back over its shoulder at me. I must have disturbed him in the middle of something that I don't want to know about. I'm all for the coyote -- it will be a natural deterent to the bunnies and deer that feast on my garden. (Kind of a natural deterent to me, too.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

. . . did some birdwatching

Birds are pretty cool when they are perched on a birdfeeder outside or soaring through the air or sitting in their nests tending their eggs or babies. Birds are pretty creepy when they're inside your house. I went outside yesterday intending to sit on the back porch and read for a while. For a change the weather was beautiful. I left the screen door open because there aren't any bugs, and because it was off its track and hard to close without falling out, and because I was going to be right there anyway. But I got sidetracked out to the garden and started cleaning up, which lasted longer than I realized. When I got back to the porch, I realized that the door had been open for over an hour. I anticipated perhaps the neighbor's cat wandering around inside; however, a frantic wren was in there, wretchedly beating its wings against the window, trying to get back outside. Of course, the closer I got to it, the more frantic it became. Finally I managed to get both windows open, and it flew away. It couldn't have been inside very long, thank goodness; it left no evidence behind. Up close and personal, I think there is something deeply prehistoric about birds.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

. . . worried about Florida

The newspaper reported today that scientists have made extraordinary advances in the accuracy of the measurement of time and space. They report that "Florida is getting closer to Canada by about 1 inch every 36 years." What does that mean? Enticed by the detail, I am left to consider the implications of this statement without any clarification. I guess it demonstrates the precision of the measurement, but is Florida moving north or is Canada moving south? Or is the entire landmass of the world shrinking and the writers just decided to depict this fact in these terms? And what happens to that inch? In a couple hundred years, the real estate records are going to be in chaos. Six inches will have disappeared, I guess, defecting to Canada.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

. . . loved without rules

oh, not really. . . it was a message on the inside of a Dove's chocolate wrapper . . . I'm not even sure what it means, except it sounds kind of dangerous. . . other messages were "Remember your first everything" and "Whisper in the dark." Sometimes I have trouble coming up with verbs to head these postings.
I didn't really do much art yesterday except work on this painting a bit. It's 12 x 12 and still in progress. I did, however, start cleaning up the studio. I only finished about half of it. I have a huge supply of paper, both the kind that I made myself and the kind that I purchased. I devised a cunning way to store it. I hung the papers on metal hangers from the laundry, the kind that Bette Davis objected to so strenuously, with old-fashioned wooden clothes pins. Bed Bath & Beyond, by the way, does not carry wooden clothes pins. The Dollar General had 100 for $1. I used a clothing rack that I already had in the basement and sorted the paper by sizes and kinds. Now they are visible, close at hand, and organized, at least for a while. I don't want to get the place too organized or cleaned up because then I won't want to mess it up again. Mess can be an aid to my creativity.

Monday, April 14, 2008

. . . endured Monday blues

My mom says she has to be "in the mood" to sew. . . otherwise she loses interest, or she doesn't take the time to make whatever she's sewing perfect, as she normally would. . .

I understand. . . I have to be "in the mood" to paint. . . and I fear that the recent intense period of experimentation and creativity that I have been experiencing is coming to an end. . . and I can't force it. . . so I will try all the usual things to keep me going:

1. my own photography and editing (like the pictures above)
2. reading about and looking at art by others
3. trying out new techniques inspired by other artists in books or on the web
4. cleaning up the mess in the studio
5. concentrate on getting some art on Etsy and completing a portfolio

Speaking of my mom, who is 80, and Etsy, I suggested to her this weekend that she and I collaborate on an Etsy shop of her own -- she is so talented and makes amazing things of the highest quality. A couple of years ago I gave her some velvet and silk crazy quilt squares I had in my fabric stash, along with some antique silver purse frames, and she made the most beautiful heirloom purses. Over the years, she has constructed everything from prom and wedding dresses to little boy sailor suits and little girly dresses and pinafores. She also forced all three of her daughters to learn to do a lot of handwork. She and my aunt taught us to knit, crochet, embroider, sew, needlepoint. I can do it all -- not well, but I can do it. One of my sisters is a knitting fanatic; she takes classes and makes amazingly cool stuff. My other sister inherited the perfection gene; she can sew like a professional, but she doesn't do it much any more. She used to makes tailored suits for herself that were phenomenal. Even my two brothers are skilled -- they are carpenters extraordinaire and can fix anything (including complete overhauls of a couple of houses). One of them paints cars, the other paints rooms. I am hopeful that some of this talent has made its way to the next generation: my daughter is a knitter, no thanks to me. My son is interested in gardening and landscaping.

Anyway, stay tuned here: I will be posting more details about Etsy stores.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

. . . freaked -- it snowed

even for Kansas, snow in April is ridiculous (well, not really, apparently it happens more than we remember) . . . it was serious snow, too, not just pretty little flakes drifting around in the air. Then there was a bit of sunshine for about a nanosecond, then sleet, then nasty drizzle. I did nothing art-related other than talk about it. . . with my sister, for whom I made the above black circles on white paper, which she will have to mat and frame. . .

and speaking of mats and frames, I put this experimental piece in a mat and now I love it . . . remember, put a nice mat over just about anything and it looks better, I think. . .

well, okay, I tried to carve this stamp, roughly based on a rug pattern I saw in a design magazine. Fun to do, hilarious to see the outcome. (Oh, guess what . . . it's freaking snowing again. . .)

I recently purchased the special issue of "Cloth Paper Scissors" about studio spaces of artists. So many organized and decorated spaces for creativity. Maybe you can see a small portion of my "studio", also known as my unfinished basement. Picture #1 above: see the paint splatters on the concrete floor? And Picture #3, immediately above: the stamp is resting on an old plastic shower curtain that covers what used to be our ping-pong table. Nope, no one asked me to share my studio space. I am so glad, though, that I don't have to worry about cleaning it up every time I used it; I'm grateful that I can close the door and walk upstairs to relatively clean and organized living space; I'm glad I don't have to worry about spilling paint on beautiful carpet or floors. But I would like to have a sink and running water down there, as well as a bunch more electrical outlets. All in due time.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

. . . finished my taxes

instead of finishing any art . . . this is the start of a small 12 x 12 piece that was inspired by photos I took a couple of weeks ago of the grain elevator in Kansas City, Kansas. I don't know where it will go from here. . . then, to "blow the stink off", I went for a drive with my camera . . .

and found the above shot of a sack or cover for something that had obviously rusted . . . looks kind of yummy in the picture, if you're a fan of rust, like I am. . .

and some more rust and texture. . . on ground near a huge set of railroad tracks where there was actually a stopped train, but it was a boring train of coal cars, all one color, nothing that interesting. . .

but I did like the green-turquoise colors in this piece. It wasn't one of my better photography outings, mainly because it was cold and windy and uncomfortable, and because the city cop in this little village kept following me around.

Friday, April 11, 2008

. . .thanked The Altered Page

for the Arte y Pico Award my first blog award. Thanks, Seth, at The Altered Page You have been helpful beyond my wildest dreams.

The following 5 rules are attached to this award:

1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and that also contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her/him the award itself.

4. The Award winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte Y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. To show these rules.
Here are five blogs that I won't miss, both for their inspiring content and superb writing:
An Artist's Journal (Martha Marshall)
Contemplating the Moon

. . . copied spring colors . . .

I painted this specifically for my dining room. I deconstructed and then reconstructed an old framed painting that I never really liked very much, inspired by the contents of the urn sitting on the table. Last fall I had the dining room walls painted with Benjamin Moore's new Aura paint in wenge, a rich deep brown. It is especially nice with all the white woodwork in the room. But it needed a pop of color, so spring green was the theme. And despite a forecast of snow tonight, the daffodils & magnolia are blooming and the grass is greening up, so spring is imminent.

This is a picture of the entire painting up close. . . lots of texture, lots of different shades and tones of green and yellow . . . kind of a blurry picture. . .

and here's a real close up of one of my favorite sections of the painting. It's a little dark -- it's a dark and gloomy day here and the lighting for this close-up was tricky. I used a self-made leaf stamp (made out of plumbing gasket material) in some places. You can see just a bit of the stamp in the upper left corner of this shot. I also added a bit of bronze here and there for a glimmer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

. . . indulged in silliness

Sometimes I surprise myself. Here's an example that I want to share with you. I apologize in advance if I offend anyone with these photos -- just remember, it's all in the imagination. . . The picture above was from my walk in the park last week. I suppose just this picture conjures up several associations and maybe that's what led to what follows. Anyway, I can spend hours blowing up and cropping these pictures to find inspiration for art, which, honestly, I was doing when I discovered:

isn't that just the juiciest red . . . by itself, probably not too suggestive, but I have to say, pretty sensual. . . and then, not far away, was this:

Aw, c'mon, it's kinda funny, right? The yin and yang of heavy equipment (oh, jeez, pun wasn't originally intended, but now that I think about it. . . )

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

. . . dithered in circles

for my sister. . . she wanted black and white circles . . . perhaps a set of three. . . so I tried various methods of creatively making black circles on white paper. I tried monoprinting . . . blech. Then gesso-covered tissue paper and black gesso. . . okay, but not great, not like she showed me. Regular old paint on wet watercolor paper. . . the paper was too wet. Again with watercolor paper squeegeed. . . better. Now on dry watercolor paper . . . the result is above, shown with a too-small mat. If I had ever taken any art classes I probably would have known exactly how to do it right the first time. But then I wouldn't have had any fun experimenting. My sister's house is ultra-contemporary and very, very beautiful. A set of three of these will looking smashing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

. . . waved the wheat

which is what KU fans all over the country (world?) were doing last night and continue to do today. KU: Champs in overtime. What an exciting game. This picture shows my two favorite Jayhawks: Sasha Kaun, the tall guy in the middle, and Sherron Collins, the guy on the right. Aren't they cute?
A few years ago, I was able to attend a championship game in St. Louis. KU wasn't in it, but North Carolina was, I think -- they might even have won. I took a book with me, which was a good thing, because I couldn't see a thing on the floor. We sat behind some school's student section and the kids stood up for the entire game. I didn't. What was fun and amazing was the partying in the streets before the game. The only traffic that could get through the packed crowds of people were the trucks carrying the additional beer supply.
Okay, I promise, no more basketball until fall. However, I must warn you that I really like those Kansas City Royals. They are so young and try so hard -- I feel like they could all be my sons, so I want them to win. I have cheered for them even when they were awful, which has been most of the time.

Monday, April 7, 2008

. . . texturized using plaster

and an idea I got from Martha Marshall about using mattboard squeegees. Love how it turned out, although the picture here isn't as good as the real thing in person. I am always on the lookout for new texturizing tools. I was in a convenience store the other day and there were cardboard sleeves sitting on the counter to be used with cups of hot coffee. I asked the young lady there if I could take one, and she told me to take as many as I wanted, after I explained that I was an artist and wanted to use them for painting. (I took only three.) She asked me to bring the painting in to show her how I used the sleeves, which I promised to do. I opened and unfolded the sleeves and there were parallelogram-shaped pieces of cardboard with holes. I used one of these shapes three times in the above picture, although only two places are evident in this shot, one at the top left and one in the middle near the bottom. I laid down the piece of cardboard and smeared plaster on top, then lifted up the carboard piece and left raised circles. Other coffee sleeves have a fine corrugated cardboard piece on the inside. I plan to use the cardboard itself, with the dried remains of the smeared plaster on it, in a collage. I am back to using the venitian plaster instead of the molding paste -- it's way cheaper and I just like it better. I've learned to apply it very thinly -- the squeegee helps a lot -- and built up the texture in layers so that it won't crack. Then I scribbled with various tools, pressed in some cheesecloth and screening material, stamped with homemade stamps, before painting, again with the squeegees.
Just two more things:
(1) I heard this weekend that I had sold another three paintings and "the check is in the mail."
(2) My team, the KU Jayhawks, is in the national championship basketball game tonight. As my brother's t-shirt says, "Fear the Bird."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

. . . kept working on

a highly textured painting that isn't quite ready to see the light of day yet. Sometimes I think it is done, ready to go, nothing more I can do. Then I stand back and, oh yeah, there, put some dark, adjust the light, tweak the midtone. So in the mean time, I will post another picture, highly tweaked to saturate the colors, of my walk in the park and my commune with heavy dirt-moving equipment. I used to feel guilty about dramatically altering a photograph -- I wanted it to be perfect just the way I took it. Then I figured out that I am not much of a photographer, and it's okay to use the photo-editing software any way I wanted to. I'm not trying to portray anything realistic with these pictures. I just want inspiration for my paintings, and if that inspiration comes from my own photographs, all the better.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

. . . found a park

tucked away in a pretty neighborhood, under a new overpass built to allow traffic to go over one of the many railroad crossing in my town. I like to take pictures of urban, gritty, grungey stuff and I was hoping to encounter a stopped train in the park. There were trains, but they didn't stop and I despaired of getting any good pictures of junky stuff suitable for editing into abstract inspiration. . .

but look at this rock -- it looks like one of the paintings I recently completed. . .

and this photo and the next one, up close and personal with a Caterpillar dirt moving machine. . . how delicious is this bulging globular something-or-other. . .

and this one, too -- and many more to share with you. Thank goodness for Picasa.