Friday, November 23, 2012

Pear Prompt

To get warmed up for creating larger cold wax pieces I worked on one of my favorite images, the trusty pear. When I first started painting I made a lot of still lifes, with pears as prominent features. Now, when I want to explore a particular medium, I find that creating the rounded shapes of the pear is a great a way to get started.

Other favorite images or symbols for me are the cup or bowl, the suggestion of ships at sea, and mountains.  What symbols crop up in your work? 

Prompt for the week: Use one of your favorite symbols in a medium that is new to you or that you haven't used in a while.

Renaissance Pear    Oil/Cold Wax on Board

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Using the inspiration square

In the previous post I described how to use small squarish (or oblong) shapes cut from magazines for starting points in your work. This is one of my favorite ways to get un-blocked. I used an oblong piece cut from a home decor magazine for a starting point for a cold wax piece. Before I decided which piece to use I put a couple of layers of cold wax mixed with oil paint on a wood panel. It took about a day for the first layer to dry.

The first layer of oil paint/cold wax in Indian yellow and ochre

The second layer of buff.

As you can see, some of the first layer shows through. I used a faux finish comb, a brayer, and I incised into the wax. Then I selected the cut out oblong below as my starting point. I looked at the piece for composition and color and did my best not to think about what was actually pictured. (A chair?)

The oblong piece I used for inspiration.

The next segment of my piece looked a lot like the inspiration cutout.. I added a half circle on the right side for balance. (In the original oblong, there was a dark brown circle on the upper left. It got cut out in the above scan.) The picture below was taken indoors with my phone camera, so the color is off and it's a bit blurry.

At this point I felt free to diverge from the starting point oblong from the magazine. I loosened up the lower part of the piece.

For the final (?) version below I added a little gray blue for more interest. I could go on to add more layers, but for now I'm eager to go on to another piece using a magazine cut-out prompt.

Through trying this exercise and through sharing with you, I feel like I've moved past my block! I think changing to a medium I'm currently excited about is helpful also. There's something soothing about moving pigment and cold wax around with a painting knife and in discovering new tools to create effects in the wax.
I hope some of you will try this exercise and let me know how it went.

I'll be back with more prompts! I'm so grateful for my art community.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More on Project Re-inspiration.

I really appreciate the comments on the previous post about the creative process, blocks, inspiration, etc. Right now my progress is sidelined by a head cold, but I was able to complete my assignments from Lesley Riley over the weekend. I did the three pieces she assigned and journaled about the process. Here are a few excerpts:

"I enjoyed the process of this first piece a little. I was also aware of wanting it to be finished in a hurry. Since my settings are "high" and "off", I had to go into "high" to do the assignment..."

"I notice that the second piece is less tentative and more vibrant than the last. I felt more positive when I made it...I realize I have let myself get so caught up in the business aspect of art that I forgot about the art itself. ..I keep learning that I have to be myself and any attempts not to end badly..."
"For the third piece I found myself wanting to work in collage. I decided to take a break for the assignment and collage this journal's cover. In the middle of the process I decided that the cover would be the third piece. It went fast and intuitively and was more fun than the two previous pieces."

"It's such a strange experience to make art for my eyes only, as Lesley assigned. I want to show it off: "Look what I did..."

After I did the assignments I tried one of my favorite prompts. I cut a stack of rough squares at random from the middle of a magazine. (Home decoration magazines work well.) Then I went through the stack, looking for images that could be a jumping off point for an art piece. I tried to look at shapes and colors and to ignore what the square might actually depict. I glued the squares on the back of my journal. I will pick one to inspire my next piece. Try this at home! You could use one of my "squares" from the picture below if you like! I'll let you know later which one I pick for my inspiration.

I'd love to see any results or read any reports from your trying this technique!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


As an artist, counselor, and art instructor, I am fascinated by the creative process. I just finished Seth Apter's book, The Pulse of Mixed Media, and found it to be an unusual and helpful book. Seth, who is a psychologist as well as an artist, asked a hundred mixed media artists about their process and feelings about creating. I felt very connected to my tribe after reading this book. I felt connected regarding the joy of creating and also the obstacles and setbacks.

One of my specialties is helping others out of their creative impasses and I think I'm pretty good at it. But that doesn't mean I don't run into my own blocks, just the same. I've felt at a crossroads with my art lately and have had difficulty making myself go into the studio and create. ( I call it Practicing the Fine Art of Studio Avoidance.)There, I've said it. I think almost all artists get blocked sometimes, or maybe it's that we are empty. 

For me, I love teaching and consider it one of my greatest joys. But maybe I've been doing a little too much of it. Maybe I'm reluctant to deal with feelings and issues that will come out in my art. Maybe new creativity is percolating and hasn't come to the surface yet. Maybe I haven't been having enough new experiences or haven't looked at enough inspiring art and nature. This is for me to figure out and the first step is getting all the icky stuff out and containing it in my work. 

When I realized I was really in a slump regarding my art itself and my art career, I scheduled a consultation with my friend and mentor, Lesley Riley. Lesley has given me an assignment to do just for myself. My observing self watches me vacillate about getting started. I know I'm not alone in this.

I'm going to share the "getting it out" pieces with you. I'm striving not to criticize them for lack of artistic merit, but rather to rejoice in how I have expressed to myself what's going on inside.

 Burning Bridge   Pigment, Cold Wax, Collage on Panel

Watchers      Pigment, Cold Wax on Canvas

Where it Happened   Pigment, Cold Wax on Panel

In my next post I'll share some of my favorite methods of unblocking creativity and I'll let you know how I'm doing! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please contribute your thoughts and experiences. We're all in this together.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On the Brink  Cold Wax, Oil, Pigment on Wood Panel

Back in the studio after a hiatus. As David Bayles and Ted Orland say in their book Art and Fear, "art is all about starting over".

Monday, November 5, 2012

Enjoying the Quiet Days

Now that retreat season is over for the year, I'm enjoying everyday things like hanging out with my 13 year old grandson, cleaning and sorting, and oh, yeah, dealing with the remodeling of two water-damaged bathrooms. Okay, that last isn't everyday, thank goodness.

Dexter and I went to his local coffee shop recently where we spent several happy hours playing a card game he invented. This game is humorous, fast paced, and at times cutthroat. He won. One feature of the game is that when you draw a blank card you can create your own card on the spot.

Dexter makes a new card.

Just a few of the many cards in the game.

My Art of Life women's group met recently. Here are some of the cool things created there:

Cindy painted these three lively dogs as a present for their owner

Kelly's encaustic icon

The "Winter Wax" encaustic show opened last Friday at Milepost 5. The show features work from the International Encaustic Association's Portland Chapter, of which I'm a proud member. Check out the link to see who's in the show and to see a sample of the work shown! I am continually amazed at the variety of effects encaustic can produce!