Sunday, April 27, 2008

We Assemble for Assemblage

Today the participants in "Assemble Yourself" met at SCRAP at noon, just as the store opened. We found lots and lots of very cool stuff and carried much of it back to The Art of Your Life Studio for a workshop on assemblage. Participants chose a cigar box from my collection as a support and base for their assemblage. Penny decided to use a scavenged cork bulletin board instead.

Assemblage is a collection of lots of different kinds of stuff, usually united in a container or on a support. It's kind of a 3-D collage, but each assemblage turns out to be unique to the creator. It's amazing how a bunch of junk can be put together into a beautiful and meaningful work of art.

Two of the participants had taken my classes before. They each brought a new person to the Art of Your Life. Janene brought her friend, Jodi, and Nell brought her mother, Penny, who is visiting from out of state. Penny said the day was a great mother-daughter bonding activity!

Penny wanted to celebrate a dream she and her husband are in the midst of achieving. They are creating a small farm where they will have cows, chickens, and pigs. This was Penny's first assemblage. She experimented a lot with placement and rejecting some items she had chosen and adding others. Like I have, she found that an assemblage can be more powerful with some pruning of elements, difficult though it may be not to use some of your favorite items! (The answer to that is, of course, to make more assemblages.)

Below she works on her assemblage, trying out different placements. She used a barn red background, straw-like paper, and a colorful design of chickens, which was part of a napkin set I found at SCRAP a few weeks ago. She found a vintage picture of a girl with a huge straw hat which I think represents herself becoming a "farm girl" at last. She "floated" the picture of the girl on a small piece of soft foam to make the image stand out from the background.

Penny tries out placements

Janene chose a palette of soft pinks, ochers, and black and white. She combined text, images, and paint treatments, to make an elegant statement. She also included a piece of a vintage dress pattern.

Janene's work in progress

One aspect of art creation we discussed today was the need for contemplation in the midst of the process. Participants found it was helpful to see their work at a distance periodically. It was also helpful to sit and stare at the work in progress, letting their minds relax and look into the work.

Janene ponders

Jodi contemplates

Nell lets her intuition guide her

Having had Nell as a participant in a previous workshop, I knew that she prefers abstraction to representation in her own art work. I thought this would be an interesting challenge for her in terms of assemblage. Most assemblages I've seen have a clear theme, so I was curious to see what she would come up with.

Jodi's theme was "Hatching Hope." She built an exquisite nest out of many elements, including Easter egg grass. She wanted to age the grass and was curious to see if she could do this using re-inking liquid. She dabbed some "Espresso" onto a wet paper towel and used just the right amount of color to age the grass believably. She wondered a few times if part of her assemblage was too "busy" but fortunately, she went along with the rest of us when we shouted, "No, it's perfect!"

Here's Janene's piece, almost finished. If you've ever been in her shop, Paperdoll, you know that this looks "just like her." This is so magical.

Here's Jodi's delightful nest, just waiting for its occupant. She's going to add a bird image she has at home.

A close up of Jodi's assemblage

Here's Penny's completed Farm piece. I think she should hang this in her farm office when she and her husband get things up and running. It's a whimsical, vintage looking work, full of fun and children's dreams of farm life.

Detail of Penny's assemblage, showing the farm girl, straw, and "eggs." The eggs are a piece of costume jewelry with rounded white globes in a nested bezel. Penny wrapped these in straw to represent the eggs her hens will provide.

Nell pulled off an evocative abstract assemblage with rich colors and a dreamy quality. She used transparent starry fabric in the upper right of the piece. The horizontal and vertical accents on the right side are colored with rich re-inker liquid and medium.

Detail of Nell's assemblage, showing the many complementary layers she used.

Some of the materials used today were: acrylic paint, re-inkers, mediums, old postage stamps (SCRAP), tissue and other decorated papers, reproductions of old letters, wood, fabric, old book pages, old jewelry, scrabble tiles (from Goodwill), alphabet stamps, old containers, feathers, twigs, colored stones (SCRAP), broken up tile (SCRAP), found objects I can't identify (SCRAP etc.), foam packing material, buttons, polished stones,and vintage sewing patterns.

Thanks to all the participants for a creative and joyful day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Helpmate and the Courtesan

Veronica Franco

Judith Leyster (Self Portrait)

What do these two women have in common? The top watercolor is of a Venetian Renaissance poet and "Honored Courtesan". The woman below is a Dutch painter of the Baroque era who painted, taught pupils, and ran a painting workshop with her husband, also a painter. The two led very different lives but have in common their creative and technical abilities and also that they successfully competed in the marketplace of art and life at a time when few women were able to do so.

These women came together this past weekend in a 1 credit PSU class that I was privileged to teach: "The Helpmate and the Courtesan". Despite having to give up much of their weekend, the students were alert and enthusiastic.

We studied Leyster's paintings as to style, meaning, and context. Leyster was unknown from a few years after her death in 1660 until the end of the 19th century. Several of her works had been attributed to the great Frans Hals and other male painters. It is a pleasure to make her life and work more known.

We also studied the poetry and letters of Veronica Franco who expressed the wish for equality between men and women as well as her concern for women of all strata of society. Franco left an unbearable arranged marriage to become a courtesan. The courtesan occupied a unique place in Renaissance Venice. Only the most educated, witty, and determined reached the highest level where they were considered "Honored." Of women, they alone had access to libraries, literary salons, and discussions of art, music, and philosophy. They alone could travel independently and make decisions regarding their own lives. Veronica published two books and mingled with the Venetian nobility. She aroused the envy of some male writers, one of whom published horribly insulting verses about her. Here is an excerpt from her response to his cruel accusations:

"When we too are armed and trained, we can convince men that we have hands, feet, and a heart like yours; and although we may be delicate and soft, some men who are delicate are also strong; and others, coarse and harsh, are cowards. Women have not yet realized this, for if they should decide to do so, they would be able to fight you until death; and to prove that I speak the truth, amongst so many women, I will be the first to act, setting an example for them to follow."

The class did creative projects based on the lives and work of the two artists studied.

Collage of Veronica Franco

An assemblage for Judith and Veronica

A collage for Veronica: The courtesan side with a silk and flowered background; the writer side with a 3-D scroll of the frontispiece of one of her books

A drawing in beginning stages of Veronica Franco

A collage for Judith Leyster. The background references the tiled floors she used to show perspective in her paintings of interiors.

Judith Leyster and Veronica Franco side by side in this collage

One of three imaginary diary entries for Veronica. Here is the text of the entry shown:

The life I have made for myself is an interesting one. It is as though I live between worlds, my wealth saves me from being a woman of the streets, yet I am not allowed to enter the society from which I came. It is a times a lonely life, yet one of supreme satisfaction, not in body, but in mind. I do not always enjoy the overtures of my male acquaintances and the scorn from the women of my past is at times unbearable. Yet, I am free. To have a hand in my own future is worth whatever I must endure. to converse, to share with wit my thoughts and ideals...This world of words and wit and knowledge is life.

I wasn't able to get pictures of all the projects, but they were all well thought out and delightful--I hope those who didn't get to finish in class will do so at home. Many thanks to Angela for the pictures and to all the class for their fervent participation!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Class Announcement

What have we here? An electric fry pan, check. (Skip the vegetables.) An electric griddle, check.

This is no ordinary crayon. We need this Lyra crayon.

The whitish stuff above is damar resin. Okay.
Then we need some powdered pigment--this gold is beautiful.

A heat gun and a propane torch.

Let's see, have I forgotten anything?

Oh, yes, the most important ingredient of all...

If this looks intriguing, come join me for:

Mind Your Own Beeswax!

This is your chance to fall in love with the aromatic, luminous, and versatile properties of beeswax in the form of encaustic painting! We’ll cover basic techniques such as building up layers, fusing the wax layers, adding color, including collage elements, and incising. We’ll explore various heat tools and many design elements.

No previous art experience needed—just lively curiosity and a willingness to risk addiction to painting with wax!

Sunday, May 4

1-5 PM

Instructor: Serena Barton (Member of International Encaustic Artists)

Workshop held at The Troy Studios

221 SE 11th Ave
Portland, OR

Tuition: 75.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Eureka, Eureka!

The Annual Buckman School Show and Sell is coming up this Friday evening and Saturday. I'm madly getting ready for it and wanted to do some small affordable pieces to go with the larger pieces I already have. I went to Muse Art/Design and got some 4" and 5" square art panels (by Ampersand.) I hadn't tried these before and was delighted with the texture and weight of them.

I was planning to use acrylic and or collage on the panels. For some reason I started thinking of the brilliant colors in the re-inkers I have and decided to try them on the art panels. At first I used the re-inkers with alcohol as I learned to do with paper decorating. This made some interesting effects but didn't seem to be a substantial way to lay down backgrounds. I then tried the re-inking liquid with gel medium. This worked great!

The colors stayed brilliant and went on smoothly. I used paper towels to lift up excess ink. I soon abandoned the idea of collage and went on to play with the re-inkers and medium until I had several abstracts I really liked. I used my glass pen to scratch away at the surface of the design which made for interesting and bright detail. I found I didn't need to add any white at all.

When it came to titles for the pieces, most of them sprang to mind right away, based on the objects or emotions I saw in each painting.

This is a re-inker bottle. (To look for them online, spell it "reinker.")

This is an Ampersand 3/4" cradled panel, which is what I'm using. They also come flat or with a wider cradle.

Here are some of the pieces I came up with. Have I invented an new technique or have lots of folks come up with the idea of re-inkers and medium before me? Either way, it's my obsession of the week!

"I Keep My Word" 4" x 4"

While I was working my partner mentioned something about artist and poet William Blake. That may have influenced this piece...

"Motion Study" 5" x 5"

This reminded me of an old film strip of motion studies of movement. This piece took form really quickly.

"Celestial Treasure" 5"x 5"

This looks like an old map of the heavens. This one had several incarnations before I got it where I liked it.

A few times when I didn't like the several layers I'd laid down I held the panel under a gentle stream of water from the sink faucet. This got rid of much of what was there and let me start over, with no damage to the panel. After each panel had completely dried, I sealed it with an acrylic gloss sealer.

I showed my new work to the members of my weekly Art of Life group. They were eager to try the method of ink/medium on panel. These images are quite different from each other and from mine. It's always so exciting to see what different people will do with the same tools.

Cindy's dramatic, yet humorous take on what the Eiffel Tower may look like in the year 3015. 5" x 5"

(Note to self: get an inexpensive digital camera to keep at the studio so you don't keep taking pictures of artwork with lousy phone camera...)

Emma's luscious, fluid abstract painting. 5" x 5"

Now I'm going out to get more panels--yee-ha!

Before I do, here's a reminder about the Show & Sell:

Friday, April 11, 2008, 5 to 9 pm
Saturday, April 12, 10 am to 5 pm

The Buckman Art Show & Sell features the work of more than 100 Pacific Northwest artists – everything from paintings and sculptures to ceramics, jewelry, fashions, photography and toys – in a festive atmosphere filled with music, food, and fun. A student art gallery showcases the talents of Buckman's young artists, and hands-on kids' art activities keep the little ones busy while their parents shop!

This vibrant, beloved community event benefits the arts programs at Portland's Buckman Arts Focus Elementary School.

Buckman Elementary School
320 SE 16th Avenue, Portland

How much?
Friday $5 per person; Saturday $2 suggested donation per person
Free for kids age 4 and under

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bi-Coastal Diptych Show

At last, the long-awaited Diptych Project Shows opened Friday night, one here in Portland OR at Brian Marki Gallery and one in Portland ME at the Whitney Gallery. We diptych participants of International Encaustic Artists- Portland OR were thrilled to see how strong the show looks up at Marki Gallery. From the pictures of the Whitney opening the same is true there. Both shows were well attended and well received! Hooray!

I recommend the show highly, because it illuminates how many ways encaustic medium can be used and the amazing variety of visions the Diptych Project engendered.

Wax On!

Portland OR: Innana McGraw describes her process

Portland OR: Eager Viewers

Portland OR: Some of the artists in the IEA Group

Portland OR: Andrea Benson discusses the show
(To the right you can see the diptych by me and East Coast artist, Dawna Bemis)

Portland OR: Prime Organizer and Hero Natasia Chan takes a well-deserved break

Portland OR: More of the viewers

Portland ME: At the Whitney

Some of the Whitney artists from New England Wax
(My diptych partner, Dawna, is the tall redhead in the back row)

Portland ME: Whitney room with Dawna's and my diptych on the far right