Sunday, February 24, 2008

An Alchemical Afternoon

Today's Alchemists at Play

A book page by Janene using "straw paper" and incorporating one of the illustrations in her book

Today's altered book workshop, Altered Alchemy, was energetic and loads of fun! We had lots of materials to work with: paints, mediums, inks, collage images, tissue paper, buttons, ribbon, yarn, rubber stamps, and lots more. Each participant had challenges to deal with in starting their altered book. Janene felt she worked too slowly, but the pages she made were exquisite! She cut a window out of several pages and looped these pages together with ribbon, rather than gluing them. It looked great.

Janene's Window
Janene looks over a basket of images.

Terri had an interesting challenge after she had done a few pages. Her pages were beautiful, but because her book was quite old, they began to come out of the book after they had been altered. We tried gluing ribbon over the join in the pages, but the ribbon was too narrow. We then came up with the notion of using "deli" paper cut to size over the joins to reinforce the pages. This did the trick. Terri decorated and painted the joins so that they looked interesting and blended well with the rest of her decoration.

Terri carefully burnishes her pages.

Nicole wrestles with the goopy medium while Peggy Joyce uses the heat gun to speed up drying.

Nicole also wrestled with the delicate photo transfer process, with good result.

Lisa unifies a page.

We had much laughter about my so-called "Theory of Unification" which is so easy and so effective. Disparate elements on a page can be brought together with a very transparent glaze, sponged or painted on and rubbed partly off with a cloth or paper towel.

Lisa's unified pages. Lisa also found she liked using cold wax medium over some of her pages, rather than acrylic medium to seal them. The wax gives a rich, light sheen.

Another view of Janene's window.

Here is a page of Terri's delightful travel wish book in progress. In the middle over the deli paper join she has stamped an italic French script~tres elegant!

Lisa had begun her book in another Art of Your Life class and today she returned to work on it some more.

She added a button on the right page by making a hole for the knob on the button and then sealing the hole.

Nicole used an old hymn book for her altered book. The right page is a unified blend of her own dyed paper and another image. The wax paper you see sticking out of the books is to keep wet pages from sticking together. Works great.

Another of Nicole's gorgeous hand dyed paper pages.

A travel page full of movement and life by Terri.

Peggy Joyce altered a book of advice for men. She's putting
her own spin on it! The right page is dyed with re-inker
and alcohol. Peggy Joyce has left some of the text showing --part of the spin?

I was inspired to do a few more pages in my own current altered book in progress.
Thanks to all of today's awesome alchemists!

Diptych Finally Completed!

Finally, my diptych is complete! Here's what it looks like when put together. It is called, "What If They Find Out?" and measures 36" x 18".

I've been involved for some time now in The Diptych Project. I wrote previously about this collaboration between East Coast and West Coast encaustic artists. Each of us on the West Coast sent a completed panel and a blank one of the same size to our diptych partner on the East Coast. Our partner completed the pair we started. They sent a completed and empty panel to us and we did the same process. The diptychs will show simultaneously in Portland OR at the Brian Marki Gallery and at the Whitney Gallery in Portland ME. You can find more information about the two groups involved in the Project by googling their eponymous websites: International Encaustic Artists and New England Wax.

I used my versions of my partner's colors and motifs and added a collaged drawing of a mermaid, as her design made me think of an underwater theme.

I've written here previously on struggling some in figuring out how to complete a piece done in a style so different from my own. My diptych partner says she had the same challenge with the piece I sent her. I haven't seen her completed piece yet--I'll post it as soon as I get it. I took the title of the piece I completed from some very small writing that my diptych partner, Dawna Bemis, wrote on her panel. I don't know what she meant by that text, but it intrigues me!
Here are larger images of the original pieces.

I'm still struggling to photograph encaustics well. The luminosity and variations in the surface I find hard to photograph in a way that does them justice. I'll keep practicing!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Emerging from the Shadows

Left, Camille Claudel and friends in their studio
Right, Old Man with Boy, by Marietta

Emerging from the Shadows is the title of the class I taught this weekend for PSU. I realized as I was putting the final touches on this class that the stories of the two artists I'd chosen for this one -credit class were very somber. I've taught several one credit classes which covered two women artists each. Most of the stories carried much joy, as well as struggle.

This weekend's class dealt with two talented artists whose work and lives were overshadowed by a male artist. In the case of Marietta Robusti, the daughter of famous Renaissance painter, Tintoretto, most of her work was absorbed into her father's body of work.

Marietta was known in her time to be a highly talented and skilled portrait painter whose work was as polished as her father's. Marietta was the oldest of 8 children. When she was a child, her father dressed her in boy's clothes so that she could go with him around their city of Venice and visit painting studios. Later, Marietta and her brothers, Domenico and Marco, painted in their father's workshop. Their contributions were then signed by Tintoretto. Because of her own work, Marietta was invited to go to the court of the King of Spain as a court painter, an honored position. Tintoretto was reportedly too attached to his daughter to see her go, and also he likely needed her to assist him. She was married in her late twenties. Her husband had to move in with her family so that Marietta wouldn't leave home. She died in childbirth at 30. Marietta has been seen as a victim of her father's need for her talent. What were her real feelings? Did she want to go to Spain? Did she want to stay home in Venice? These and many other questions were debated in class this weekend.

We also grew to know Camille Claudel, the great 19th century sculptor whose career started brilliantly, but ended when Camille was committed to an asylum for "madness." (If you google the Rodin Museum in Paris, you'll be able to see many of Camille's works and read her biography.) As some of you may know from seeing the 1986 movie about Camille Claudel, her story is very sad indeed. The positive note is that Camille's work was "rediscovered" in the early 1980's after many years of obscurity. Her work and life had been overshadowed by that of the famous sculptor, Auguste Rodin. Now she has emerged in her own right, as her sculptures emerged from blocks of marble. We can see her and Marietta and honor and be inspired by them.

Students of this class were inspired to create the projects you see here--these are just a few.

For the last month, I have been extremely busy. I've taught several classes and workshops, worked in my therapy practice, hung a show that will open the First Thursday of March, made an encaustic diptych, etc, etc.

I love teaching, and the other things I do as part of The Art of Your Life. Now it is time for me to emerge from the shadows. I love inspiring others but I realize I have to have a balance with time for me to have artist's dates with myself and just let ideas percolate. March will be my month for that, I've decided. I have one workshop scheduled so I won't go through teaching withdrawal, and for the rest of Winter Term have my wonderful "Women, Creativity, and Healing" class at PSU. This lighter schedule will allow me to return to the studio to face any temporary creative blocks I've developed. One of the wisest quotations I know about creative blocks is that, "You are not blocked, but empty." It's time to add to the balance in my creative savings account. Time to go out and look at art, nature, get out of town, visit friends' studios, and if necessary, do the "ugly" work that sometimes has to come out before the good stuff starts.

Another quotation I like is "Art is all about starting over." There's a rhythm to inspiration and withdrawal from creating. For me it's like the changing of the seasons. As spring approaches, (yes it does, really) I approach a creative renewal. My commitment to myself and my students is to honor and nurture my own artistic process and theirs.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Jabberwocky for Inspiration

It's still Wednesday, but I forgot to tell of the inspiration found by accident (?) at last night's Art of Life Group. In this ongoing women's creativity group we sometimes have scheduled activities and at other times group members play with whatever supplies and projects they choose. Last night several members were feeling uninspired and needed some kind of prompt to get going. I was coming down with a cold and hence feeling a bit uninspired myself. While we were waiting for the muse to arrive, we started talking about poetry we had memorized. One member recited the entire poem, "Jabberwocky", which I include below in case, you, Dear Reader, have not memorized it.

After the lovely recitation I still felt blank, until I realized that Lewis Carroll's almost-words could serve as our muses. We had discussed how evocative his nonsense words are, and how some, like "galumph" have actually entered the official lexicon. I wrote down the words I could remember on slips of paper and then group members each drew a slip. From this we ended up with amazing pictures of "gyre and gimble", "vorpal", "borogroves' and my own contribution, "mimsy."

I am definitely going to try this exercise again. If any of you, Dear Readers, want to try it, I'd love to post your results!


Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

News and Musings from a Stay Home Day

Today is Wednesday, the day I usually work at home. I think I'm getting the cold that is "going around" as I feel tired and blah physically. Otherwise, I feel good because I am involved in a lot of interesting projects. The first project is to write here--it is such a wonderful luxury to sit at the computer and not have to leave the house today--
that is exciting in itself.

Brian & Katie

Pictures from the First Friday Opening last week at Art of Your Life. The two pieces by Lily Witham are "Risk" and "Two of a Kind".

This was a very fun show, both for the spirited art and
the interesting guests--artists and art-lovers galore!

Laurie & Caryn

I just got the great news that I will be teaching two 4-credit courses Summer Term at the PSU main campus. I have gotten extremely addicted to teaching art related courses with a Women's Studies perspective. This summer I'm starting a new class: "The Illustrated Story of My Life." Students will learn about several famous and not-so women journalists and diarists and how women's and societal issues are reflected in their lives. These journals will also serve as inspiration for the students in starting their own visual and written journals. I'm putting together a slide show of visual journals for the students.

This is where you come in, Dear Reader. Anyone who sends me a jpeg of your journal page or pages to use in the slide show will receive an artistic gifty from me, made especially for you! (Your slide image will, of course, give your name, unless you'd prefer not.)

I'm giving a weekend version of this class in Salem this Friday and Saturday. There are 37 students registered, so it should be challenging and fun. Wish me luck!