Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Treasure Chest , "Modernostalgia" and Student Work

Here's another garage find. Roy, Dale, and Trigger on the Chow Wagon.

week I bought a present for myself, something I'd been coveting for several months. Near my dentist's office is a store called AM Living that contains eye candy galore, much of it with a European feel. I made a point of stopping in there to comfort myself after a series of deep gum cleaning sessions. It's hard to describe the contents, so I suggest you stop by this downtown store and feast your eyes and imagination.

Not mentioned on the website are several old writing or jewelry chests found in India. Mine cost less than some, because it had more restoration, but there's still plenty of original charm. And it was on sale: 40% off!

Here's the outside of my wooden treasure chest with metal inlay

Inside view--that's the old mirror in the center in the inside lid

Of course, this chest fits my aesthetic perfectly. My rationalization for purchase is that it would inspire me to create and to work steadily on the garage-to-studio-project. (How about GASP for short?) So far this reasoning has worked. In the chest now, I have inks, pens, sealing wax, old postcards, acrylic ink, pen nibs, a few marbles, and stamps (rubber and postage).

All the lids come off and the sectioned compartments all come out. No secret compartment found yet.

Glass pen, ink, sealing wax, and seal

Can you stand more pictures of my treasure chest? Hope so.

Acrylic inks

Rubber Stamps

Inlay on front

Speaking of my aesthetic, I have just discovered Rebecca Purcell, a talented artist, writer, and lover of what she calls "Modernostalgia." I recommend her site and in particular her article here. She has interesting viewpoints on the importance of vintage everyday artifacts as design and art elements and in affirming women's affinity for the personal and well-used. Rebecca is the author of Interior Alchemy. I am saving up for a used copy of this book. It is not inexpensive, but Must Have It!

From Interior Alchemy

From Interior Alchemy

Rebecca's spaces and work appear in the new issue of Where Women Create, a quarterly magazine full of delicious pictures of women's art studios and shops. I got my copy at Paperdoll, where I'll be soon be teaching Altered Alchemy (there's that word again) and Assemble Your Muse.

Student Work Photo Gallery

Lisa's second encaustic piece--intricate carving and painting! (Art of Life Group.)

Jodi's encaustic combining movement and stillness in a harmonious way. (Art of Life group.)

From the PSU class "The Helpmate and the Courtesan." This student dressed herself as a woman of the past in her collage of Veronica Franco, poet, and Judith Leyster, painter.

From the PSU class: A student's fictional diary entry for Veronica Franco.

Student working on a collaging her personal journal for her creative project.

A fictional diary entry for Judith Leyster. I think this student was channeling her, the language is so perfect for the time in which she lived!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Trash and Treasures in the Garage

Tuesday I worked for several hours on The Great Garage Cleanup Project, and managed to throw away and recycle tons of stuff. I also organized items in boxes to redistribute somewhere else. I felt so energized and excited to have made a beginning toward studiohood for the garage. I was surprised and pleased to discover several items of sentimental value that had been missing or forgotten for years.

Organization begins

My friend Julia came over today and we threw away a bunch more trash and I found a few more treasures. Going through the stuff in the garage is like reviewing my whole life, but randomly. Here's the first membership card I ever had, though I'm sure it was not safeguarded by me when issued. The Cradle Roll refers to the baby care at the First Congregational Church in Eugene where I was deposited when my parents attended services.

Am I still a member?

I've been wondering for years where the next two items had gotten to. They're photographs of my great-grandmother, Mary Belle Denhart, and her cousin Carrie.

Great-Grandma Mary. I love the leg o' mutton sleeves. She was an excellent seamstress, and probably made this dress herself. I remember her a little bit. She used to call me "tweety heart". I thought she meant I was like Tweety Bird in the cartoons. That was okay with me.

Cousin Carrie

I found another missing picture of me with my first baby. I'm so happy to have found this!

Me with Baby Karuna

Here's an old Fifties dollhouse that I bought years ago because it was the same as the dollhouse in my first grade classroom.

The dollhouse interior. I also found "Prince Albert in a Can", a leaving from former owners of the house.

To explain the Prince Albert reference to those not as ancient as I, in the "olden days" kids would phone a store and ask, "Do you have Prince Albert (tobacco) in a can?" When the owner said he did, the kid would say, "Well, why don't you let him out?" Great yuks in olden times.

The dollhouse nursery. Wow, a soldier. Just the thing for a nursery...

I found this poster from the old Portland Women's Theatre Company, whose boards I trod back in the 80's. This is a timely find as the PWTC is about to have our first reunion in many years. This came about due to the efforts of one of my students at PSU. I had told her about the company as she is doing a project on Social Change Theater. She was excited to know about this piece of Portland women's history, and tracked everyone down for a reunion next month.

Pretty good poster for the pre-computer cut and paste era. I think Laurie Vail was the artist.

I also found a bunch of my kid's drawings and school papers. My son had done an exuberantly colored tree. The teacher's written comment was, "Take More Time." Pooh. Fortunately my son's creativity and dash still flourish.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ah, Sweet Miscellany of Life

The Horror, the Horror!

am I publishing these frightful images that should stay locked in a chest at the bottom of the sea? Maybe because the more I desensitize myself the easier it will be to start clearing out the garage-to-be-transformed-into-a -studio. (I need to think of a shorter name, or an acronym.)
Maybe the more I share the truth the more courage and motivation I'll have to start the purge. And maybe I hope the studio fairies will take pity on me and do it in the night while I'm asleep.

The Horror # 2

How Did This Happen?

Besides all the c--p, there are a few cool things in the garage. There are a bunch of vintage doors and window frames, a WWI footlocker (I'm keeping that), a bunch of vintage glass light covers, old stretcher bars (come an' get 'em), squirrels, a hula hoop, old nails, geegaws and doodads, and who knows what else.

This weekend I taught a PSU class, "The Helpmeet and the Courtesan" about Dutch painter Judith Leyster and Renaissance poet Veronica Franco. My camera battery gave out. I then went to my phone camera and one of the students took photos also. It seems my camera battery charger has gone walkabout, but I have another on order. So here a just a few photos of class projects with more to come as soon as I can liberate the images from my camera. This was a very lively and involved group and I had much fun teaching the class. The projects included: painting, assemblage, poetry, fictional diary entries, and collage.

Lisa's first portrait painting on the inside of her assemblage. The image is of Judith Leyster.

Katrina's assemblage, view 1

Katrina's assemblage, inside view

I tried equalizing this seemingly all black picture I took at The Art of Life group several weeks ago. Here are Sarah, left, working on a project, and Jodi, consulting her muse. The image came out yellow, but at least it isn't just a blank anymore.

Sarah and Jodi

I was thinking this is a pretty disjointed post, but it occurs to me there is a theme: Transformation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Beginning, "The Forgiving Medium", and Next Month's Workshop

Extreme Makeover Needed

This doesn't look like an art studio, does it? It is the first "before" picture of my project of turning our freestanding garage into my new studio. A momentous step occurred today when a man from Cascade Auto Auction removed the old Honda which has been sitting in the garage, since 2002. (Embarrassing but true.) I was happy to donate the car to the "All Classical" local radio station in return for their broadcasts of glorious music. Next step, clean out the rest of the junk that's accumulated for the last 18+ years. I'll keep you posted on the progress of the makeover. It's pretty daunting, but I'm trying to keep focused on one step at a time and on the vision of a spacious new studio where I can work and hold classes with plenty of room and the tools and supplies I need (including an exhaust fan.)

Last Saturday I held "The Forgiving Medium" workshop at The Art of Your Life Studio. Originally I had five students, but due to schedule conflicts and family emergencies among the participants, I was left with two. I held the class despite the low number, and I'm delighted that I did! Robin and Lisa were wonderful class members. They experimented with various techniques and produced some fascinating work.

The two came to the class from different painting backgrounds. Robin is an experienced painter and teaches classes herself. She said she likes to be back in the role of student sometimes and experience how others teach. She also likes to put herself in what writer Natalie Goldberg calls "beginner's mind" in order to work differently than she usually does.

Lisa brought the one acrylic painting she had done before taking the class. She didn't think much of it, but Robin and I noted that she has a good eye for color and brushwork. Lisa comes from a creative family and it didn't take her long before she was coming up with bold and colorful work.

We started out just painting strokes on canvas paper using a variety of mediums for different effects. I had faux and real pears available as models. Lisa admitted to being a perfectionist so I suggested she start out using a painting knife and a heavy body medium. She was able to let loose and produce this brightly colored pear.

Lisa's second painting ever

For her second project, Lisa used a drawing gone over with glazing medium.

Robin experimented with a metallic gold paint and a transparent iron oxide paint mixed with glazing medium. She produced what she decided was a lovely background. After we put it on the wall, Robin said she saw the shape of a woman in the design. After she pointed this out, I saw the same thing. Robin then defined the shape she saw into an image. It was brilliant but a bit tricky. She wanted to define the image just enough, but not make it too tight. It worked out wonderfully. I love it when images seem to appear by magic and inspire us with what we need to complete the work.

Robin's mystery woman emerges

Lisa's still life in progress

Lisa's third project was a still life. Below are a couple of closeups of this piece.

Lisa's pear close up. She used glaze medium blotted with a paper towel to get this rich texture.

For the grapes, Lisa added a bright red over a dark purple.

Robin's layered, fascinating plant piece.

Robin decided to work from life on this piece, as she usually works from her imagination. It was a challenge for her to stay loose as she painted using a plant as a model. When the painting seemed a little stiff, she added broader strokes and more color. She then scraped away some of the paint, making the image more and more interesting and complex. We were all thrilled with the resul

Robin's small pear--it seems alive!

Robin painted a pear on a 4" square canvas using a painting knife. It's not easy to work that loosely on such a small canvas, but she got a lively and beautiful result.

Robin with today's paintings in the background

Today's work. At the bottom you can see part of Lisa's first painting that she brought. She may add to it later, now that she's experimented more.

Thanks, Robin and Lisa for a great workshop!

Cindy's window to the world

At the Art of Life group last week Cindy shared this painted window frame that she did for her windowless office. We're eager to hear what her office mates think when they see it--our group is certainly impressed and delighted with the new "window."

The next workshop at The Art of Your Life is one of my favorites. It actually starts at SCRAP and then moves to the studio. Hope to see some of you there! (You can register online here.)

Closeup of Jodie's assemblage from the last assemblage class

Assemble Yourself!

We’ll meet at SCRAP (School & Community Reuse Action Project) as it opens at noon. Your goal is to spend no more than 10.00 collecting all kinds of found objects, paper, fabric, and valuable junk.

When we go to the studio, you’ll create a 3-D collage that expresses your dreams, using the supplies you found at SCRAP. More supplies, including cigar boxes, will be available in the studio. You'll leave with a unique assemblage, perfect for a special gift or cherished keepsake.

February 8, 2009: 12-6 pm

Tuition: 75.

The Art of Your Life Studio


Last assemblage class at work (or play)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Theory and Practice

Right and left brain pages in my journal

I've been inspired lately by a book by Lisa Sonora Beam, called "The Creative Entrepreneur." The book guides the reader through a visual journaling process focused on making your creative business a success. If you work for yourself in any creative field, I recommend this book! It's made me think, given me useful tools, and has gotten me to work in my journal even when I didn't think I felt like it. Lisa really nails down ways to give ourselves credit for our strengths and to work with the areas that we could improve.

Part of being a creative person is that the process involves emotional highs and lows. One minute we think we rock and the next we feel like a worm. This book is helpful because it encourages us to use visual means to explore these emotions and beliefs, and also offers tools to identify and combat destructive tendencies and turn them around. Above are pages that illustrate my brain process, which is to see a vision of the forest first, and then break it down into trees. Sometimes that's a lot of trees!

The pages in this post were done with a few paints, a pen, images from three magazines, and the contents of a bag of papers to throw out. Sometimes when I don't feel inspired, having limits helps me focus. Lisa Sonora Beam emphasizes that we're not doing the journal as a work of art, but as a tool to help us grow. I struggle with self-expressive art sometimes, because I want it to look good. A couple of nights ago I did these pages (mostly) without needing them to be "art."

Destructive feelings and beliefs page
Having fun with our "monsters" always lessens their power

After I contained the destructive stuff on the page, I felt a positive shift in my emotions and thoughts that allowed me to create the constructive pages.

My positive pages--the images and text all mean something to me personally

Sometimes it helps me to look at work I've done in the past, just to remind me I did it before and I can do it again, in many venues and many ways.

Lavinia reminds me I'm cool

The hardest question the book has asked me so far is how some of my current business limitations could be turned to opportunities. I left the question unanswered in my journal for several weeks. Now I feel ideas percolating and it will be essential not to interrupt this process with my own judgments. My partner and I have often discussed how early conditioning can lead us to reject what might be wonderful ideas, by labeling these ideas impractical or even stupid. We've come up with a term for our new ideas: "Urinetown ideas", based on the hugely successful Broadway show Urinetown: The Musical.

Who would ever write a show called Urinetown? If I'd thought of that I'd have dismissed it as a dumb idea. It wasn't a dumb idea. The show was a great success and has been performed all over the country. My friend Lori even won a "Drammy" award for her role as the evil controller of the public toilets. (The Drammy is an award for outstanding work in Portland theater.) Using the term Urinetown Idea gives me permission to brainstorm an inspiration without deciding it's a terrible idea that should never see the light of day. It also signals my partner and me to listen and not judge the ideas one of us is sharing.

One of my all time favorite books is called Art and Fear. The authors, Ted Orland and David Bayles, explore in a humorous and compassionate way the link between the two emotions of the title. They note that "Artmaking can feel dangerous and revealing. Art making is dangerous and revealing." Combine that with the dangerous and revealing process of making one's livelihood revolve around artmaking and it's no wonder we creative entrepreneurs get the heebie-jeebies sometimes! We need the support of writer/artists like Beam, Bayles, and Orland and we need to have our local support networks too, to remind us that we can do it. We are doing it.


The Art of Life group played around with encaustic last week. Some members had explored encaustic processes before and others hadn't. Jodi contributed some fascinating ideas that were new to me. She brought dried and opened large teabags which had great texture and a lovely aged appearance. I can think of lots of uses for these! Another technique she introduced was using roofing tar in incised areas of the wax to accentuate them.

Sarah's warm and wonderful encaustic collage--her first!

Cindy used the teabag and the roofing tar techniques in her encaustic collage, creating a sense of mystery and depth. You can see the effects of the teabags in the left and right sides of the piece.

Jodi decided a few weeks ago that she wanted to use the reverse side of this wood panel. She used it to make this encaustic assemblage. What a great idea!

Emma made this textured collage by embedding faux stones in wax and incising and filling the incisions with roofing tar. She wasn't sure how to make it work at first, but she kept at it. Good thing!

Jodi used the roofing tar to add depth and interest to this encaustic collage. After applying the tar, she cleaned off the extra tar with linseed oil.