Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday Fun Day

The Forgiving Medium, an acrylic painting workshop, met Sunday at The Art of Your Life Studio. In the picture below, Helen works on her second piece of the day, a picture of two cherubs. She goes to Da Vinci Arts Magnet School and is one of several students chosen to commandeer one of the school halls for a show of her work. I first knew Helen through her mother, whom I met at the Buckman Art Show and Sell several years ago. When I gave up weaving for painting, I gave Helen my loom to work on as she was into textile arts. Now she has joined me in abandoning weaving for painting, and her painting ability shows her passion for this medium!

Helen, foreground, and Nell, right, hard at work

Nell is an abstract painter, but was willing to experiment with her first figurative piece in order to try out the palette knife and impasto method of acrylic painting. This cell phone photo doesn't do her pear justice, I'm afraid--her pear is vibrant, loose, and meaty!

Nell's first representational experiment

Nell decided she was still devoted to abstracts and tried out several of the mediums provided to make them. We used molding paste for impasto and palette knife work, gel medium for smoother work, and glaze medium for building up thin layers of color.

Nell's glowing abstract

Kaira had never painted before. She produced some amazing pieces and found her style right away!

Kaira at work on her magic tree

Below is Kaira's first painting ever, of a leaf. Again, the phone picture (forgot real camera) is but a shadow of the Real Thing. Kaira did a richly colored, antiqued looking background and then created her leaf with thick impasto, scratching the details in the wet paint.

Kaira's Leaf

Here's one of Nell's richly layered abstracts (detail).

Helen's Cherubs

Helen used an existing painting from a book for her inspiration for this piece, but the rendering, composition, color, and style are all her own!

Helen's Pear, done with short, thick brushstrokes

Nell worked on the abstract below but before adding the white, felt the work was too dark. I suggested she "fling" some white paint on it. Nell developed her own method for doing this, with great results. Apparently in a past incarnation she used to smoke, and she used the ash flicking technique to great advantage in getting the white onto the circular canvas. This just proves that even former bad habits can make a positve contribution in the service of art! Her piece has lots of movement and power!

Nell's Circle Abstract

Below is Kaira's "Magic Tree" (title mine.) She worked on it for a long time. At first it looked like a very lovely realistic representation of a tree. We all loved it and urged her to stop at several points. She kept saying, " I just want to do one more thing." It is fortunate that she didn't listen to the rest of us, as her tree became a more and more stylized, magical, dream of a tree!

Kaira's Tree

This was a wonderful day with three delightful and courageous painters!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

First Thursday, First Friday x 2

SB: Oil on Canvas 40" x 40 "

First Thursday of April--next week, April 3, will be the official reception for my solo show at Souk. This event's date has changed a couple of times due to circumstances beyond my control, but I am delighted that it is finally happening!

This is one of the paintings I'm showing there. It is called, Waiting for the "All-Clear". Seeing a WWII bomb shelter sign in Bologna, Italy inspired this painting. The arrow in the sign was stenciled to look like a rocket bomb. It was weird to think that those were "our" allied bombs that people in Bologna had to shelter against.

For those who aren't old enough or have not read enough novels involving bomb shelters, the "All-Clear" is the signal that it is safe to leave the shelter. It took me two years and two canvases to paint this. The first canvas ended up as something quite different. Of course much of the painting's theme has to do with what was going on in my life at the time. Finally I reached my "All-Clear" and I was able to complete the painting!

Here's the information about the First Thursday Opening:

Where: Souk
322 NW 6th, Suite 200

When: April 3 from 6:30-9 PM

Thanks to all who offered suggestions to my plight of double-booking myself for First Friday this coming month. On April 4th I'll be showing work at The Art of Your Life Studio by Yelena Matusevich and also some of my recent work. Cindy, an amazing artist and loving person, offered to stand in for me at that show while I attend part of The Diptych Show at Brian Marki Gallery. I will be at Art of Your Life during the latter part of that show. This is a great solution. (I had looked into cloning, but couldn't find anyone on craigslist who offered this service.) Thanks, Cindy!!

SB: Teatro Mixed Media on Claybord--from The Art of Your Life Show

Yelena Matusevich is a Russian who now lives in Alaska with her family. She is an energetic, intense, brilliant, and diverse artist who also has a life as an exemplary professor of French Literature. Here are a few of her bona fides:

Usibelli Teaching Excellence Award, 2007
UAF Outstanding Advisor Award, 2003
CLA Excellence in Teaching Award, 2002

in 2005 - Visiting Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (India).

Main research interests: French and European late medieval and early modern periods, history of European thought.

Major Publications:
Books: The Golden Age of French Mysticism, in French (Paris-Milan, 2004)
Writing Medieval History: Essays in Memory of Aron Gurevich, (Brill Academic Publishers, forthcoming in Summer 2008).
Book chapters in: Spirituality in the Age of Cusanus, (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2002), pp. 237-265; Joan of Arc and Spirituality, New Middle Ages series, (Palgrave/St.Martin’s Press, 2003), pp. 167-183; A Companion to Jean Gerson, (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2006), pp. 357-400

17 other articles.

Can you believe she has time to do this and paint also, as well as run after a young child? Come see the show and enjoy her gifted, unusual work! First Friday, The Art of Your Life Studio, 1210 SE Oak St., 6-9 PM.

Yelena Matusevich

The Eternal Easter by YM

Provencal Mandarins by YM

I've written at length already on this blog about The Diptych Show which opens on two coasts April 4. The West Coast group, International Encaustic Artists will show here in Portland, and our collaborators, New England Encaustic Artists will open at the Whitney Gallery in Portland Maine. Part of my job for the show as a participant has been to collect and compile artist statements about the process of collaborating on the diptychs with our diptych partners on the opposite coast. The consensus is that the process was challenging, demanding, and utterly wonderful! I am really looking forward to seeing many diptychs created by artists who have never met each other. I've seen lots of gorgeous pictures of these, but encaustic always looks tons better in person.

What: The Diptych Show
Where: Brian Marki Gallery
2236 NE Broadway, Portland
When: 6-9 PM
Who: International Encaustic Artists from Oregon and California, together with artists from New England Wax

All too soon my double duty will be over and it will be time to get ready for the Buckman Show and Sell on April 11. More on that later!

Happy April!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Huge Goof--Got Advice?

Anguished Guy after Velazquez SB

I can't believe what I have done. Some time ago I arranged for a Russian artist who lives in Alaska to show with me for the April First Friday Show at The Art of Your Life Studio. All this time I've also been planning for the Bi-Coastal Diptych Show, which opens on the West Coast at Brian Marki Gallery--guess when the opening is--right April 4, First Friday.

Auuuuugh, as the Peanuts characters used to say. I can't not hold the April Show at AOYL. I promised the Alaskan artist. I can't not show up at the opening of the Diptych Show. Of course both events are held from 6-9. What to do?

Ok--I'll close the Art of Your Life show early and rush over to Brian Marki. Or I'll go to Brian Marki for the Diptych opening early and open the Art of Your Life show late.

Dear Readers--What Would You Do?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Diptych Mystery Solved and Upcoming Workshop

I finally have an image of my diptych partner's completion of the diptych I initiated. On the left is "There's Always More Time". The top panel is mine and the bottom one is by Dawna Bemis, my East Coast counterpart from New England Wax. On the right is "What If They Find Out?" In this piece Donna initiated and I completed. Mine is the mermaid piece on top of Dawna's abstract piece.

Dawna and I were each challenged by completing a piece to complement the other's style. I am thrilled with what she came up with!

Here's some more information:

Artists of the
International Encaustic Artists (IEA) pair up with artists of New England Wax (NEW) to create collaborative works in encaustic. Each artist in the pairings created one half of a two panel painting or “diptych” and then completed the dialogue as the work was then sent to the partner artist to create the other half.

Two Parallel Exhibition April 2008

Works completed by IEA artists will show at Brian Marki Gallery in Portland, OR from April 4 - 30. Works completed by NEW artists will show at Whitney Art Works in Portland, ME from April 4 -26.

To see more of the diverse and innovative work done for this project, visit The Diptych Project.

Here's what I wrote for my artist statement about creating art for this project:

Participating in the diptych project has been exciting and challenging. I have definitely been nudged out of my comfort zone. I’m not a gambler, but I did enjoy the risk of the unknown in signing up for the project. Who would my East Coast partner be? What kind of work would this person create? What size would it be? What would she think of my work? Would I be able to match her style?

When I found out that Dawna Bemis was my diptych partner I immediately “googled” her. I was delighted with what I saw of her work and glad to have such an able partner. Her emails were warm and encouraging. I liked the size of the original work that she sent me. But, oh, dear, her encaustic piece contained some straight lines and exact circles. I am not an exact sort of person, so this gave me pause. I decided to work on my original to send Dawna before attempting to complete hers. What I sent her was very much in my own style. It included a woman’s face, hand-decorated paper, and various other elements. In our emails Dawna and I admitted to each other that our styles were very different and the completions would be challenging. In the piece Dawna sent me she had written in very small letters, “What If They Find Out?” I decided to use this as the title and a guiding theme for the piece I would make to complete hers. It seemed to fit the feelings I had putting my work “out there” to my encaustic artist peers. The title added a note of humor that reminded me not to take myself too seriously.

I will admit it, I struggled. I put off completing my piece. I wanted to pick up themes of Dawna’s piece but had to stay true to my own style. I used colors very close to hers and incorporated her circles and vertical stripes. As I started working I began to loosen up and have fun with my piece. I decided to add a collaged drawing of a mermaid as Dawna’s piece made me think of being underwater. My mermaid is smiling slyly as she holds her apple and wonders if she will get away with the daring act of being herself. I finished the panel rapidly once I started and wondered why I had waited so long. As of this writing, I have not seen the panel Dawna made in response to the piece I sent her. I can hardly stand it—I am so curious!

Now that I have been involved in the process once, I would love to do it again. My original fears have been laid to rest, partly because of positive responses to my piece, but even more, because I rose to the challenge of doing work in a way that’s new for me. In the end I found the limitations of the assignment freed me to try something different and to enter into a dialogue with another style of work.

I am so appreciative of all the love and hard work put into this project by the organizers and participants. Let’s do it again!

If you've always wanted to paint but haven't started yet, or if you know someone who just needs a little nudge...

"The Forgiving Medium" is coming the end of the month!

No, I’m not talking about a compassionate clairvoyant, but a fun and supportive acrylic workshop for beginners! We’ll cover many ways to use acrylics and we’ll experiment with mixing colors. Bring two canvases or canvas boards in a size you’d like to work in: everything else is supplied. You'll be proud of the two original paintings you take home!

March 30 12-4

Tuition: 65.

The Art of Your Life Studio

1210 SE Oak St. Portland


Monday, March 10, 2008

Student Show and Flora, Ernest and Alvah Ride Again

The 2nd Annual Art of Your Life Student Show was held last Friday night. It was fun to show friends and new acquaintances the variety of creative work produced by workshop students and group participants.

Janene: "Alterations in Progress"

Jean: "Roscoe" Jennifer: "Blue Brinnie" "Brinnie Engima"

Work by Jennifer and Andy

Jean and Mary Stilwell and The Art of Life group.

Students in my workshops are often amazed at their own abilities to paint faces for the first time. I am a big fan of copying from the greats and learning by looking for lights, darks, and shapes in the originals. I think our hands learn from emulating great art and soon we are moving into our own styles after learning the basics. When I taught myself to paint, I really was taught by some excellent instructors. Copying is a time-honored way to begin painting and is always useful as a means of learning more. Picasso is supposed to have said, early in his career, "I copy now so I won't have to copy later."

Last Tuesday, members of The Art of Life group produced portrait studies from old master paintings. They did these in about 45 minutes. These were a high point of the student show.

odi's "Mary, after Guercino"

Emma's "Sibyl, after Michelangelo" (Emma's first-ever portrait)

Jennifer's work from an unknown photographer. We call this portrait, "Narcissus." This is Jennifer's first portrait. We all agreed it was easier to work from paintings than from photos, but we all still love this abstract guy.

Cindy's handsome courtier, from a work by Titian (we think.)

Jodi and Emma at the show with the World's Largest Sketchbook

And now for the continued saga of Flora, Ernest, and Alvah. As some may remember, a couple of months ago I posted several pictures of a painting in various stages. I was working on a picture of three children, inspired by an old family photograph. (My great-grandfather is the one in the high chair.) One of the challenges I faced was not losing the liveliness of my original sketch on the canvas while I worked on finishing the painting. Well, wouldn't you know that the painting I put on my blog to share my process turned out to be the one I wasn't at all happy with. I was so unhappy with it that I painted it out in white and began again!

One thing I realized in configuring the new version was that in the photograph that inspired me the children's buttons were on the wrong side. Then I remembered that early photographs were reversed images. I reversed the image I'd been working from and it looked much better to me. So when I redid the picture, I reversed the design of the painting as well.

Left, the image I had in the original. Right, the reversed, "correct" image.

To start over, I did a quick sketch in charcoal and then a monotone undercoat in acrylic on the "new" canvas. I began this at my friend Diane's studio as I had before. It already looked good to me at this point, but I was wary of "ruining" the painting again. Why the ruining issue was coming up I wasn't sure. I usually use a lot of layers on my paintings and don't ruin them as I do so. What I think is happening is that my style is going off in a new direction, at least for the present. The figures are more stylized and less proportional. I wasn't able to keep to this vision in the first attempt at the painting.

This is the undercoat. Diane and I liked it a lot, but now what?

While at Diane's I got as far as the second stage. I took the painting home and let it sit for several days.

This is the 2nd stage. (upper portion)

I took a deep breath and went on. I worked some more, concluded that I had not yet wrecked the painting and again let it sit. My partner saw it and said, "You might think
this is weird, but I think it's finished." Could this be true? This isn't how I paint--is it? Finally I decided she was right. It is finished. I just did a couple of touch-ups to the background and decided I like it a lot! I'm so glad I did it over again! I still don''t know what the heck is happening in my work but that's how it is sometimes and you just have to go with it.

Flora and Her Brothers (Oil, Acrylic, and Graphite) 30" square

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Three Sisters and Student Show

Rosco by Jean

I've been having a wonderful time working with three sisters. They are nothing like the three sisters of Chekov's play by the same name, who lie around and dream of going to Moscow yet do nothing to make it happen. The sisters I speak of, Mary, Jean, and Susan, do a lot!

"Fresco al Dente" by Jean

They gathered at the Art of Your Life studio to paint together for the first time. Mary was the subject of my first blog entry and has been coming for painting coaching for over a year. She now lives on a farm outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, but comes by to paint whenever she comes back to visit. Jean lives in Corvallis and Susan in Lincoln. Jean has been to several workshops at the studio. I met Susan for the first time last week. She has not painted for many years but was game to take it back up again.

For her first portrait study Jean chose this adorable dog. She did a great job of capturing his liveliness with loose palette knife work. Her second portrait turned out to be reminscent of an ancient fresco--hence the humorous name.

Mary studied Van Gogh's daring brushwork and line. The old fellow looks totally alive in her work. Mary also did her first landscape while the sisters worked together.

I regret that I didn't get photos of Susan's work but she produced two lively still lifes.

These sisters are smart, witty, and full of life. I'm so happy I was able to work with them.

After Van Gogh
by Mary

Mt. St. Helens by Mary

This Friday is the 2nd annual Art of Your Life Student Show. We're having our usual First Friday celebration with wine, food, and lots of art to see. I am so proud of my students and group participants. They are enthusiastic and not afraid to take risks. I am looking forward to seeing their lively work on the walls!

Come by and join us from 6-9 PM Friday at 1210 SE Oak St.

Week before last we
experimented with encaustic
collage in the Art of Life group. In this example
you can see the incising Jodi
added to her wax collage, which
gives extra dimension and
interest to the piece.

Encaustic by Jodi