Monday, May 26, 2008

First Friday Coming Up!

by Cynthia Tierney

Join me at The Art of Your Life Studio for the debut of a talented painter, Cynthia Tierney! Cindy has been one of the wonderful weekly participants in The Art of Life women's creativity group for several months now. She is a registered nurse and is currently taking a break from working as a supervisor, allowing herself time to rest and re-connect with her art.

Hope to see you First Friday, June 6!

When: 6-9 PM
Where: 1210 SE Oak St., Portland
Why: Great art, conversation, food, and drink
Contact: 971-404-7664
Member: Central Eastside Arts District

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spring Inspiration

It seems like everyone I know is bursting with inspiration this spring! I've been working simultaneously on small abstract pieces with acrylic paint, re-inkers, and medium, and on larger pieces for my upcoming show at Onda. I'm also thinking about new workshops I'd like to teach. One I plan to debut in the fall is called, "Tear it Up!" and will involve creating torn paper flower collages. Here's a new one I created with limited supplies available.

Zeitgeist Mixed Media on Wood Panel 8" x 10"

I started this while I was out at PCC Sylvania. I was a guest speaker for a class there and had a couple of hours with nothing to do before I was destined to "go on." I went to the college bookstore for a novel and found little but textbooks. I did find a kind of wood panel that was new to me. They only had a few in this size, so I bought them all. The panel I used in the above photo was made by Art Advantage, a local company that brings us good economy acrylics and canvases. I had never seen their art panels before. They are very sturdy and economical so I'll be investigating where they are sold. (Not online, apparently.) I didn't find the medium I'm used to, but found a Grumbacher gloss medium and varnish. I found two freebie magazines at the bookstore, one newsprint and one glossy. Armed with these items and a newly purchased paintbrush, I decided to see if I could make a torn paper collage.

The first thing I did was glue down a page from the newsprint mag. to use as a background. When a small piece came off, I found that the gloss medium had made a nice transfer, so I took off the paper and used the transfer. The poppy petals were torn from the glossy magazine, as were the stems. I originally had a sentence in Italian taken from the glossy mag. The wood showed through the background. That night, back in the studio, I added bright re-inker color with glaze medium to the background and poppies, took off the text, leaving a nice ghost image, and added a vintage postage stamp from SCRAP.

I love how limits can bestow freedom to experiment!

I'm also thinking about children's classes. My grandson agreed to "play-test" a children's version of my "Not Just a Pretty Face" class. Below is his first portrait painting. He chose to work from a painting by Van Gogh. His attention span was better than I had hoped, and he got into learning to see lights, shadows, color, and shape. He and his grandmother are very proud of his achievement. In the fall, I plan to offer this to more kids!

Portrait of Lt. Milliet, after Van Gogh
by Dexter, age 8

I want to show off some of the exciting work my Art of Life group participants are doing. We have "show n' tell" each week where group members bring pieces they've made outside the group.

Emma has been experimenting with acrylic inks. (I must get some!.) The ink made these crackle lines in this piece on canvas--very cool.

Emma made this collage in group last week. I love the way the art papers, paint, stamps, doily, fabric, and photo work together in "Abrogated Destiny"

Cindy brought this piece for show and tell. She used unexpected colors to show the phases of the moon.

Our brand new group member, Ruth, started an altered book. This is her first-ever visual art! An incredible start!

Cindy did this piece in the group. She had just the background for a while but wanted to add something. Someone suggested a chair. And what a chair! Adding the empty chair makes a totally evocative work.

Jody made this diptych in group. She ransacked the studio and came up with all kinds of elements, including, stamps, matches, various art papers, and a repro. head from one of my paintings. I love how she put it all together.

Hot off the press: I cannot recommend too highly the new book out by Linda Womack and her husband, Bill. This is an expanded version of her previous book and is full of information about exciting encaustic techniques and inspiring examples of work by accomplished encaustic artists. I can't wait to try some of these techniques and spend more time looking at the pictures. Whether you are a beginner or experienced in encaustic, you'll find so much to love in this book. (Linda's site is on the left of the blog--you can order this book from her directly--you'll be glad you did.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Starting, At Last

I'm finally getting a start on work for my August show at Onda Gallery. I guess I started officially a few weeks ago when I made this assemblage. The title is "Straw Into Gold". The collage refers to Veronica Franco's status as an "Honored Courtesan" in Renaissance Venice, as well as her career as a brilliant poet. Here the assemblage is hung on the wall, but it can also be freestanding and open or closed. The outside shows a reproduction of the frontispiece of her collection of poems with clear encaustic medium over it.

The assemblage was fun to create. I started with a trusty wooden cigar box that I painted with ochre ink mixed with encaustic medium. On the right side is a reproduction of a portrait of Veronica by the master painter Tintoretto, for whom she posed.

Veronica here sports a real earring from my collection of mateless earrings. This side of the assemblage is embellished with hand decorated paper, straw-like paper, cotton, dried roses, gold glitter, a pink feather, a broken piece of tile, ribbon, and a small scroll on which I've copied a fragment of one of Veronica's poems. Veronica's image is fused with clear encaustic medium.

Below: A close up of the left side of the assemblage. The image in the middle is from a watercolor done of Veronica during her lifetime. Behind this is hand decorated paper, paint and ink, "straw" paper, a reproduction of one of Veronica's poems, ribbon, small scrolls of vintage paper on which I've copied some of her poems, and some potpourri I bought in Italy.

Below are two parts of what I think will be a diptych. The image below will be the left side. The background is many layers of re-inker mixed with medium and sprayed in some areas with alcohol. I later scratched into the surface for a ray-like effect.

The collaged figures are from an old engraving of a Venetian courtesan. I didn't like the face in the engraving, so I substituted a black and white reproduction of one of my paintings for the faces. Under the courtesan images is an inkjet transfer of a page I typed of Veronica's writing. I had placed a net fabric with stars over the lower part of the picture. Later I decided to rip it in places--not sure why, but I like it. (Someone else suggested this was symbolic of the undressing of the courtesan--makes sense.)

In the background I stamped: "La Cortigiana Onesta", or "The Honored Courtesan."

Below is the other side of the diptych. I made Veronica's dress from hand decorated paper; her ruff and fan are from paper doilies. She holds a 3-D book with the title of her poetry collection. Veronica's face is collaged from a small reproduction of one of my paintings. Her hair, face, and hands are painted with acrylic and ink. The background is stained with re-inker in mustard, russet, and butterscotch.

The writing says, "Veronica, ver' unica poeta." When Veronica Franco was in her 30's a jealous rival poet had written cruel verses about her. They started with a pun in Italian: "Veronica, ver' unica puttana." In English, "Veronica, a truly unique whore." I changed the last word to poet!

I'm not satisfied with the photo I took of this side of the diptych. I'll take another in daylight--who knows, I might still make some changes...

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Stayin' Alive by Messin' Around

As you can see from previous posts I've had a lot of fun teaching lately. I haven't spent tons of time on my own work after having several shows from February through April. I've learned that I have to keep some art making going, no matter how busy I am with other projects. I've taken the last few weeks to mess around to keep my inspiration alive.

The other day I was visiting my daughter, Jane Kearney. She is a collage artist, jeweler, and photographer. She had in her possession something I hadn't seen before: Golden's Digital Medium for Non-Porous Surfaces, or some such. "Huh--whatsis?", I asked my progeny intelligently. Apparently this is some new-fangled medium for allowing us to put all kinds of stuff through our printers and get good results with the images printed on said stuff. Well, I had to get some the next time I was at the art store.

Today I confidently called my daughter, sure she could tell me how to use this new acquisition. She informed me she hadn't had time to try it much yet. So I was on my own. I went to the Golden website where I got more information. They advised that I not use this medium with a printer with pizza wheels. Or I could remove the pizza wheels. Well, I kind of know what the pizza wheels are inside the printer and I'm sure I have them. I'm certainly not going to perform any kind of major surgery on my third hand workhorse of an oversize printer. I asked my daughter what she did about the pizza wheel issue. She said, "Oh, I just ignored that." Wise child.

I did a few experiments. Here's a coated print on a page from a 1930's typing manual. I think it did come out brighter than if I had not coated the paper with the digital medium first. You have to put on two coats, letting them dry throughly in between coats. I speeded things up with my hair dryer. The directions didn't say you could do that, but they didn't say you couldn't..

then tried aluminum foil as suggested by the Golden company. I attached the foil to regular paper before putting it through the printer, then removed it after printing. It turned out interestingly, which you won't be able to tell from this scan. No way to reproduce the refection of the different tones.

My final experiment of the day was on (blush) part of a fast-food sandwich wrapper. I ironed the reverse side after giving the wrapper the two coats. It went through the printer just as it was. I think it looks pretty cool. I'll try other papers, but this was what was "to hand."

Has anyone else out there tried this new product?

This experiment came about last week when I visited Diane Havnen-Smith in her studio. She was experimenting with painting using a restricted palette, which included Payne's Gray. I don't know about you, but I have to admit I rarely spare a thought for Payne's Gray. I'm so crazy about warm earth tones that I had forgotten the value of this clever color. Below is a journal page I made at Diane's. Each color shown is mixed with Payne's Gray in it. The palette I used had no blue or green in it. I used: Hansa Yellow, Quinacridone Crimson, Titanium White, Zinc White, and Quinacradone Nickel in addition to the Payne's Gray. Thanks to Diane for this palette and for reminding me about P.G.

I tried similar experiments at my studio with the basic paints I use for classes. I get them two for the price of one at a local art store and they are generally quite good. Their Payne's Gray, however looked like a mix of black and white, without the special blueness found in Diane's Golden paint. So I had to get the real thing. (I'm not working for the Golden company, really.)

I've enjoyed and learned from messin' around. I hope my next post will show that I have plunged into preparing for my August show at Onda Gallery. The theme for the month at Onda will be Europe, so you can imagine I'm going to town with that! One inspiration will be the poet and courtesan Veronica Franco, one of the subjects of a recent PSU class I taught.

One last thing--23 Sandy Gallery has an incredible show of photographs made using antique methods. This stunning gallery has some of the most interesting and quality exhibits in town, in my opinion. Check them out!

(Note: I have to admit I don't know how to put in the links to people and places mentioned in this post. In the absence of a technologically adept family member, I will have to add the links later. Work by Jane Kearney can be accessed by clicking a link on the left of this blog. Diane's business is Innerstandings, and Golden and 23 Sandy can be found easily.)

Veronica and I will see you soon!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Creations for the "Common Woman"

This PSU student's first painting ever, done in honor of her mom!

For Vera)

"Solemnly swearing, to swear as an oath to you
who have somehow gotten to be a pale old woman;
swearing, as if an oath could be wrapped around
your shoulders
like a new coat;
For your 28 dollars a week and the bastard boss
you never let yourself hate;

and the work, all the work you did at home
where you never got paid;
For your mouth that got thinner and thinner
until it disappeared as if you had choked on it,
watching the hard liquor break your fine husband down
into a dead joke.

For the strange mole, like a third eye
right in the middle of your forehead;
for your religion which insisted that people
are beautiful golden birds and must be preserved;
for your persistent nerve
and plain white talk--
the common woman is as common
as good bread
as common as when you couldnt go on

but did.
For all the world we didnt know we held in common
all along
the common is as common as the best of bread
and will rise
and will become strong--I swear it to you
I swear it to you on my own head
I swear it to you on my common


--Judy Grahn
from “The Common Woman Poems”, in "love belongs to those who do the feeling"
Red Hen Press, 2008)

This poem was part of the curriculum for "Women in My Family", a PSU class I taught Friday and Saturday.

When I was a child in the famous 50's, we learned little in school about women's lives. The history books mentioned Pocahontas, Betsy Ross, Martha Washington, Sacajawea, and, maybe Mme. Curie. Women were mostly invisible and took no part in history or even in daily life. What they did was not important unless they gave birth to a famous man or led white male settlers to further colonize Native lands. Even then, the women involved got barely a mention.

was lucky in that I had access to Eugene, Oregon's excellent public library and was able to check out a series of books about famous women. Through these books I was able to grasp that women could make a contribution to society and could be interesting to learn about.
Still, the main message from school and the culture of the time was that women were of secondary importance and spent their days as beasts of burden or as wealthy airheads wearing fancy dresses and doing embroidery.

The second wave of feminism, that of my generation, began to discover and compile "herstory". Feminist scholars discovered women of high achievements in art, science, mathematics, athletics, and humanism whose lives and works had been obscured or ignored by male-dominated
historians. What is even more interesting to me is that for the first time the lives of the "common woman" began to be studied and were found to be fascinating and inspiring.

I developed this past weekend's one credit Women's Studies class to encourage students to ponder the stories of women in their families, past and present, and to create visual art projects to honor these women and illustrate their stories. We discussed how important it is for women to feel they have a history and are not mere adjuncts or "extras." We looked at the strengths and inspiration offered by our ancestors, the obstacles they overcame, how they were shaped by their time and culture, and how our lives are shaped by those who went before.

This class was one of the most enthusiastic ones I have taught! I want to share the work they did and also the sense of community we established over
the course of the short class. Some of the students had done collage and/or painting before, while for others this was a new experiment.

This student creates a collage for several women in her family. She hadn't liked the first stage of her collage and decided to rip off some of the paper. She then kept going and made some delicious layers that included her earlier "mistakes".
The final effect was richer for the earlier struggle.

This really isn't the floor of a sweatshop. This is our class hard at play. We were lucky to eventually get into a room with lots of tables to work on. We covered the area with art and craft supplies--a glorious mess!

This collage is a 2-and 3-D tribute to the student's mother, daughter, and grand-daughter. The theme of resemblance and continuity is evoked by the organic greens and siennas and by the circular pattern of the photos.

This student was about to trim the edges of her collage honoring her sisters, when I took the picture. I thought it looked cool the way it was,
but it looked great after the trim also.
The tissue paper colors she chose were those of the dresses worn by her and her sisters in the color version of one of the photos.

The same student made this assemblage for her grandmother. Several of us were almost weeping from the evocative power of the piece and how it made us think of our own grandmothers. All the items in this assemblage belonged to the grandmother: books, gloves, a perfume bottle, spices, thread, a tatted handkerchief made for the student, and (not shown) a piece of the grandmother's quilting topped the assemblage. The white jar contains a braid of the grandmother's hair, cut off when she was 33. This assemblage was not permanent, given the nature of the contents, but it certainly affected us while it lasted!

This student made a delicious collage for her Calabrian grandmother. The joys of Southern Italy permeate this
piece: food, family, saints, and gorgeous colors. The student also started a piece for her German grandmother. This one will be quite different when finished. I wish I had a photo of it as the background was rich with layers of color mixed with pearlescent acrylic glaze.

I was pleasantly surprised how many students chose to create a piece honoring their mothers, often their
daughters as well. We talked about the complexities of mothers and daughters and how often those of us who become mothers or are close to others' children, gain new insight into the layers of our mothers' lives.

This lively collage includes, dried flowers, scrabble tiles, tissues, images of trees and flowers and a layered background of various glazes.

This student's work (above right in progress) honors the assertiveness and flamboyance of her mother's Mexican heritage. Her piece has strong colors and textures. The student eventually used the red string to suspend pictures of her mother's youth from the collage support, giving the piece life and movement.

Left, another student carefully affixes lace to a vibrant tribute to her grandmother.

This piece honors a grandmother who survived a difficult life, including a painful marriage, through her unwavering spiritual faith.
The collage honors the handiwork her grandmother created and the love the student and her grandmother shared.

The same student chose to honor her daughter. She noted that her daughter has choices that no woman in the family has had and that she does all she can to instill self-respect and confidence in her daughter.

From the look of this piece, I'd say the student is doing well at this!

A warm and colorful tribute to a grandmother who loved birds and nature. The student included the piece of old-fashioned writing to represent her grandmother's penmanship which was always difficult for the student to decipher. The student said she is grateful for the many letters she exchanged with her warm-hearted, generous grandmother.

This group was amazing. One student brought coffee for all, another cupcakes, and two more brought donuts! I talked these two into letting me take their picture by our food display.

Thanks to all who fed our bodies while we fed our creativity!

This picture is blurry, but I wanted to show the gusto with which this student created her collage, her first ever. This is a tribute to her mother who lives with the rest of the family in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. I found this picture of her home island on the net. I hope she will make lots more art to express the beauty of her home.

This pair of collages was done by a student to honor two grandmothers. She said both are wonderful mentors to her. She was able to show the differences in style and personality of the two women she portrayed. One collage is bold and full of primary colors, while the other is more muted and soft. What a great example of how people's personalities can be shown so clearly in a visual way!

This is a first-ever collage by one of the students. She did a great job of combining colors that look great together and of adding the 3-D flower on the left. The cup of tea refers to the mother's Arabian cultural legacy which includes the consumption of many cups of tea a day! The affection this student feels for her mother and the security the mother has provided come forth vividly.

This tribute to a grandmother is perfectly set off by the addition of the green stamps in the middle. Does anyone else remember S & H Green Stamps? I sure do--one of my favorite jobs as a child was sticking the stamps into their booklets, knowing interesting gifts were ahead when the booklets were "redeemed." In this collage the student used the stamps to symbolize the care and non-wasteful attributes of her grandmother and of society in general 50 years ago.

This dreamy mixed media collage includes scrabble tiles, netting, painted doilies, and transferred photographs. Here, the work is in progress as the student tries out various effects.

This collage shows the age progression of the student's grandmother from a fifties woman dancing in her kitchen to an older woman surrounded by family. In all the pictures the grandmother is seen to be a vital and enthusiastic person. The student used a lace border which was "aged" with a sienna glaze. The background is tissue paper which was wrinkled and then glazed with acrylic medium. The effect of the texture speaks to the richness of the grandmother's spirit.

I hope I have not missed representing any of the students' work. I wanted to show how many different concepts, colors, media, and design can arise from the same assignment. My thanks to all the students for a wonderful experience of teaching!