Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Wild and Wandering Webbs

And they're off!  Every now and then I get a wild hair and need to get out and about.  My sweetheart has the same affliction so it works out pretty well.  Otherwise he might think I was trying to get away, and then where would we be? If you think this is a good time to come visit us and take off with our valuables, good luck to you!  Please start with the dishwasher and don't forget your new cat.

Three travel palettes.  Only one can come; I'm working to pack light, remember?
Before I hunt down the camping gear or even begin the long process of deciding which shoes get to come along, I pack my art bag.  You never know, we might break down and I'd have several hours to crank out some fun work!  We have been trying to master the art of packing light since the kids left home and are getting pretty good at it.  We can stuff a tent, bedding, food, water and clothes into our little old Toyota Corolla with room to spare, which is a good thing because as lightly as I try to pack my art supplies I will still need more space for them than my shoes.  It's a burden for my poor husband.

An embarrassment of sketchbooks, my hoarded treasure.
As I decide which paint box to take along, I'm trying remember where my tiny #2 travel brush got used last.  How many sketchbooks will I need? Really need??  What if I take the wrong one and regret it later?  The really irritating thing is this- what if I don't use them at all?  Okay, I'm obsessing here, but this is important stuff, folks.  If we get spray cheese and saltines for supper what is that against forgetting a pencil?  A trifle.  Which actually sounds pretty yummy right now..

Thanks for coming to visit- stop by again soon!  Alice

A Spoonful of Sugar..

Yep, helps the medicine go down.  A little time in the studio can make a big difference in an otherwise mundane day.  Of course, a LOT of time in the studio can make for an awesome day, but in real life, those are not a steady diet for me.  (There's also the factor of: too-much-time-in-the-studio-can-wreck-a-week-all-to-heck, but that's for another day)
You can see in this photo how I've under-painted the blossom area, creating what will be the lightest value in that section of the piece.  The yellow bits will help with the appearance of sunlight on the petals.    

However, life is a grand adventure and I'm happy.  Even though the past day or so has been filled with putting-out-fires sorts of activities, there was a little bit of time to paint.  Every little session will add up to a painting eventually.  I'm not sad to be making slow progress on this; I feel like it needs careful thought and planning to keep it from getting so busy and filled with detail that I ruin it altogether.  Those red blossom areas need to stay the stars of the whole show, with the thorns adding a subtle contrast.  So, off I go to put out more fires.  And hopefully finish another piece of this painting.  Till tomorrow..

Thanks for stopping by and happy creating!  Alice

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Alternative Creativity

Kind of like alternative medicine...  sort of.  When I was raising a pile of starving children I found very little time to paint.  I learned to satisfy my creative needs through cooking and baking huge quantities of pretty foods that also kept the ravenous hoards at bay.  A twofer.  Since they've all left home I don't need to cook much, in fact learning to cook for two has been a trial; I still can't think of stuff to make that isn't designed to feed an army.

6 dozen doughnuts raising on the counter.
Today I found myself in need of a gift to welcome new friends to the valley and plenty of pent up energy, so I made a batch of doughnuts.  We ended up with enough of the cursed things to haul to lots of people, so now we are in good graces with our neighbors.  The downside of this is I over ate and feel like the Pillsbury Dough Girl.  I won't get the urge to make doughnuts again any time soon!

First batch in the oil, anticipation building!  
When I make things like this, I remember the satisfaction of lining 24 loaves of bread down my table and looking at them before I froze them.  They were beautiful and nutritious for my family and made me feel like I was still creating, even though I knew it would be devoured before the week was out. In my current life-season I don't have to make piles of food, but it's nice sometimes to make love-food for friends and family.  Even nicer to get the kitchen cleaned up and know I don't have to get up tomorrow morning and make a whole new mound of food!

Icing dripping off while they cool..  
Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Middle Thingy

As I mentioned yesterday, today was go-to-town day.  Around here that doesn't mean leaving the neighborhood and driving to the Target down the street.  Today it meant a 2 1/2 hour (one way) drive to town and all of the errands one saves up for the next "trip to town."  Fortunately, my husband didn't come along so it didn't include the usual 2 hours in a lumber/hardware store.  It did include trying on shoes, so there were fun parts to the day!

The center of the blossom with the layers all on and the mask removed.  
Last night I finished the center of the first blossom, which means I have a plan worked out for the others in the piece.  That is all the progress I've made.  I could post pictures of cute shoes, which of course I bought, but this is a blog about art and creative process and shoes don't figure into that very smoothly.  I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out and want to show somebody.  Red and pink are not colors I would put together, but nature did in these flowers and they actually go pretty well together.

The flower in context of the whole composition before the center was finished.
I'm also including a photo of the blossom as it fits into the composition.  In photos it's hard to tell size by looking, but this painting is 22" x 30," my standard size.  They look good enlarged that much.  Super-sizing stuff makes me really notice details and appreciate the beauty that I might otherwise overlook.  So, here it is and that's all the news for this day.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Assembling a Cactus Blossom

The new cactus painting finally filtered it's way through my cluttered little mind this afternoon.  With a vengeance.  My husband just came through the studio on his way in the door after work.  I had no idea it was this late.  In the three or four hours I've been working I got one blossom finished.  I can see this is not going to be a fast process!  

All masked and ready to go.  

The palette for this one so far is Cadmium Red Medium, Gamboge Yellow, some unknown pinkie thing in the corner of my tray and a touch of Pthalo Blue.  

Watercolor holds endless fascination for me, the transparency and opaque qualities are so much fun to play with.

A bit of mask added to the center area to reserve the texture and values of that bit.

Starting to add more greens.

I have to keep moving back from the thing to keep from over-painting it.

The center, with another layer of mask and where I stopped to burn, um I mean  make supper.  

I had better go before I burn supper again.  I find I am starving and the man says he is, too.  Drat.  I am possessed by this process and would rather gobble a piece of bread and get back to work.  Tomorrow is go-to-town day.  The timing is terrible, but there it is.  So, I'll say a distracted adios and stumble my way out of the studio.  Chances are I'll be out here again before bedtime..

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

And I Wait...

Sometimes I don't feel like painting.  Not very often, mind you, but sometimes.  Today I had the whole day to myself.  I guess the cacti painting I have on my table isn't fully cooked in my mind because I sat down twice to start dropping in paint and walked away.  I guess when it's ready, it'll flow.  In the meantime, my loom has been patiently waiting for me to come meditate there for a bit.

Wonky and amateur but fun anyway
I spent the morning weaving.  Except for the part where I started a pattern and had to take it out multiple times it was a lovely way to work today.  The piece is beginning to pull in at the edges slightly, but I am going to keep on going.  If I wait till I make something perfect before I complete it, I'll never finish a thing on that loom.  So.. imperfect it will be.

The patterned bits just before I pulled them out.  Again.  Sigh...  
Hopefully, while I was weaving today the painting had a chance to work itself out so I can be ready to start soon.  It's funny how that happens.  When I leave an idea alone long enough it will usually resolve itself sooner or later.  When I push it and try to force it along I make a mess.  Thank goodness I am learning that lesson finally; it took enough years.  In the meantime, I am happy to have something else to work on so I don't get impatient.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Life Just Happens

Today was finish-the-drawing-masque-the-thorns-do-the-laundry-water-the-garden-bake-bread-and-make-lesson-plans-for-school day.  After we finished supper we remembered it was our-turn-to-clean-the-church-day, too.  Some days are just like that.  I must tell myself every single day of my life, "Alice, you need to work in the studio just as though it was a regular job."  No matter how often I say it or how much I mean it, life still happens.  Regularly.

The drawing done.  Maybe...
So.. between letting sections of masque dry on my painting I ran outside and moved the hose.  After hanging out the laundry, I mixed up bread dough.  You know the drill.  We have to eat. The garden needs tended.  Dirty undies only get you so far in life.  Dang it.
Garlic and mushroom pizza, unbaked, and enough for supper tonight and lunches all week.
Baked and smelling delish!

However, any time spent in the studio is worth the effort.  What is surprising is not how much household stuff I got done today, but how far I got on my project.  If I hadn't spent 30 years raising 6 kids I would never have been able to pull off this many projects in one day.  That was organizational training by fire.  Do or die.  However, now I am ready to take a cold shower (105 degrees here today..) and fall into bed.

Bread dough rising.  One of my favorite things to do when I am feeling the need to 'nest.' 
Done and ready to share a loaf.  Funny thing is, one loaf will last Tom and I a whole week.  
Tomorrow will be here bright and early and since I got so many chores done today I can really concentrate on what I want to do then.  I hope.  Unless life decides to happen again.  However, if it does, chances are, I can handle it.

Masking the needles.  The network of thorns on this one will be pretty complex- I hope it's not to busy to be effective.  
Tomorrow I might get a chance to start putting color down.  Cross your fingers and thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Monday, June 22, 2015

Photos: Tools of the Trade

There is a debate among painters now and then over whether to use photos.  Some artists are strictly anti-photos, although using technology is becoming not only widely accepted but admired in many artists' work.  There is a sense of snobbery towards those who paint from photos; 'if-we-wanted-a-photographic-work-we'd-take-a-picture' sort of attitude.  I've been guilty of that.

After being scanned, enlarged and printed
In taking college classes and giving private lessons I have been a 'work from life' promoter.  I also do a lot of work from my imagination- most of my cacti are pulled from my mind and not from life or photos.  I really do still hold to the belief that learning to draw from life rather than photos is the only way to go, but...

Arizona Hedgehog, endangered species.  I think.  Either that or Claretcup Cacti.  I can't tell the difference...
There are times when a photo is an important resource.  For example, on our camping trip to Arizona's White Mountains a couple of weekends ago I was taken by the tiny cacti we found growing up in the cracks of the rocks.  I should have sketched them and taken notes about how they grew, ect.  I was too tired/lazy and took a heap of photos instead.  Now I want to make a painting about those little gems and have no idea how to draw them true to their real-life habits.  This is where my 'cheater' tools come in handy, with apologies for ever being a snob.  What can I say?  

Ready to be transferred to my watercolor paper
As I began drawing the blossoms about twice their real size, I found that they were still not as large as I wanted them to be for my painting.  Enter my scanner.  After scanning them into iPhoto, I can make them as large as I want.  I print them back off larger than I drew them and then arrange them onto my full-sheet of watercolor paper.  Kind of like playing paper dolls.  Love the scanner.

Graphite paper, a dear friend!  
A graphite sheet placed under the print-outs makes transferring them to my paper a snap.  When I have used this sheet all up, I will buy another.  Or four.  This one has lasted me for a couple of years now.  I love the stuff.  It's still my original drawing, it's just been 'adjusted.'  Hooray for only figuring out all of those petals once!

I'll bet Rembrandt would have LOVED a computer to draw from.

Sitting with my full sheet on a board for support, I can sit by my computer and enlarge details on the screen to help me see how these blossoms grow, how the thorns project and what patterns they make as they intersect each other.  They don't have to be arranged just like the photos, but knowing the angles they lean at as they lift away from the cacti, where their thorns are placed and where they emerge from the little round bodies of the plant gives me the power to make my composition my own.
Now that the blossoms are transferred onto the paper, I can draw in the plants and thorns freehand. It's getting more complex and I'm getting more excited!

So, I'm not a total purist.  In the debate over using photos vs. not using them I am a fence sitter.  Those who feel that using photos is leaving 'art' and entering 'pretty picture' territory will be shocked. Oh well, I'm actually just me.  How I produce my work, the processes and inspiration I use are my own and the tools I utilize to get me there are, in my opinion, not nearly as important as what I produce.  So there.

Come again!  Alice


Friday, June 19, 2015

Sustenance and Countenance

Having a home filled with original pieces of art has been a lifelong dream of mine.  Not because I feel a need to live in a "look at me" sort of house, rather because I believe in the atmosphere they help create.  Frank Lloyd Wright said, "

"Whether people are fully conscious of this or not, they actually derive countenance and sustenance from the 'atmosphere' of things they live in and with."  

I have posted this before and likely will again.  I first read it when we were visiting the Phoenix Art Museum where they had an exhibit on Wright's work.  It said in a few words what I had been trying to express all of my life.  I can feel it in my own space and in places I visit that contain thoughtfully selected things.  It is a palpable energy. 

Oliver Parsons painted this watercolor.  I love the washy sky and his palette and I love the place it was painted in; Nauvoo, Illinois.  
Besides the woodwork of my husband, there are pieces made by myself in our house.  Along with these, though, are treasured works of other artists.  They have personal meaning to us, reminding us of memories or emitting a peaceful spirit to our rooms and lives.  These things are part of what makes 'house' into 'home.'  In a world of mass-production, particle board and plastic, home is where we can close the door and escape from the stress we people-types create.
This little painting makes doing the dishes less boring.  Genevieve Cardon Klingler, farm wife in Idaho, painted this little piece.  I love it.  

In his book, "The Forgotten Arts and Crafts," John Seymour says, 
"When we think of civilization we tend to think of people like Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Beethoven and Einstein. Well, all praise to such people, their works have enriched our homes, but what use would their endeavors have been without the basis of a civilized home; of what comfort would their works be to us if our homes were brutish and boring, if we lived, like Nebuchadnezzar, like the beasts but without the beasts' natural grace and dignity? Everything that people do outside the home-  on the farm, in the forest, in the factory and counting-house, down the mine or out at sea- is done to provide the essentials of a seemly and comely human existence: to sustain and embellish the home. If the home itself is allowed to go to pot then what is the use of it all? Whatever an honest man [or woman] is doing, always somewhere in the back of his mind is the thought of his home."   
I love home.  I love walking into a space filled with beloved books.  I love sitting in a comfortable chair next to a table made for me with care, reading or just listening to good music while I let an idea grow and develop.  I need this, need it to give me substance beneath me when I go out from this place. Chances are, you do, too.

I wasn't the model for this, but I could have been.  The keeper of the home, the last one to bed, this woman has likely checked the doors, tucked in little ones and had a few minutes of peace and quiet before she goes to bed.  Painted by Oliver Parsons, this speaks to my heart.  
Have a sweet and peaceful day and thanks for stopping in.  Alice

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Big Lesson From a Small Person

A small incident that happened at work has been playing over and over in my mind. Earlier this month, my boss brought his little son to work with him.  I love this boy and enjoyed the days he came into the dealership. This particular day, he was having a hard time.  His dog, his buddy, had been run over and killed by a car and his tender, young heart was breaking.

I asked if he'd like to work with me to keep his mind busy and he took my hand.  As we met the people I worked with, they would ask him what was wrong and he would begin to sob anew.  I didn't know how to comfort him.  He asked me if I believed that dogs would go to heaven and we talked about what we believe, but he was still struggling.  While we were walking back to my office, the idea of having him draw a picture of his dog occurred to me.  When I asked if he would like to do that, his response was quick and excited.

The dog.  
He sat at my desk and drew his dog.  He drew grass under her feet and sky above her and he asked me to help him spell the date she died.  He took a lot of time on it.  He felt that he was doing something for her by drawing her in the sunshine with flowers by her feet.  We slipped the drawing into a page protector when he was finished and he took it to show his dad. He talked about the dog off and on during the course of the day, but the tears were gone.  In some way, creating something to express his love for his dog helped him move past the first shock of what had happened.

The "Goodbye" card made for me by my little friend on my last day of work. Children have a huge capacity to love; we would all be better off if we kept that within us as we age.
That's it. That's the whole story.  My small friend will probably never think about drawing that picture as he grows up.  I, however, will think about it often.  As I am preparing to teach about the arts to my new students, I am wondering how I can structure my classes to have meaning in their lives.  I don't have lofty visions of eternal impact on every student, but I do feel that just as drawing a picture of a beloved pet gave comfort to a small boy in a hard moment, art has the power to help my students process the world they live in, letting them make sense of the things they experience.  They may never know this on a conscious level, but then again, they may- either way, that makes sense of what I am doing.  It's a sweet circle and I am excited to be part of it.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Arizona's White Mountains

My husband and I ran away from home this weekend.  Bless him forever; he realized I needed to detox from the past few months of stress.  I didn't figure it out till I was swinging in my hammock under tall ponderosa pines in the cool breeze.

This guy wandered through our campsite, totally unconcerned about us.  
Tom played around the east fork of the Black River with his fishing pole while I climbed the hillsides and sat on a rock in the middle of the water watching the light play on the ripples. I took along my travel painting gear, but never even opened the bag.  It was enough just to soak up the quiet and see beauty everywhere I looked.

Now and then in the White Mountains you pass out of the pine and aspen forests into high meadows.  The antelope wander there while herons feed in the streams that cut through the grass. 
Although I know I need to have time in the wild places when I get out of balance, I can't put into words why that is.  I do know that by the time we got home last night I was chomping at the bit to get into the studio and begin to process what I was feeling.

Even the places where the fire burned here a few years ago have beauty to me.
While climbing around the rocks Monday I discovered a variety of cacti I had never noticed before and this weekend was the perfect time to see them in bloom.  A tender mercy meant just for me?  It felt like it.  Little round jewels of color placed right where we camped, set to catch my eye and water my dry creative spirit.  Today, while I work on lesson plans for the upcoming school year I will be drawn back to my art table to tweak my drawings, mix up reds and lay down masque in anticipation of the moment the creative energy is ripe and ready to take over the piece I am working on.

The best part? Finding these little beauties growing out of the rocks in out of the way places.  
It feels so good to be feeling the pull of my real self again, going to sleep with ideas swirling around and waking up with solutions ready to put into action.  I've missed myself terribly.  Thanks for stopping by Whatercolorit today!  Alice

Drawing of a blossom, getting a feel for the patterns the petals grow in and how I want to compose a painting. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fibers for My Health

I'll bet you thought I was going to post about eating fiber, huh!  Well, I'm finding fiber is good for my mental health, too.

Recently I dressed my loom for the 4th time.  It wasn't a fight this go-round, however.  Instead, I felt like I was finally doing it naturally and not faking it. It didn't take a whole day and the weaving is going much faster with less pull in at the sides.   I suspect any real Navajo weaver would take one look at my progressing rug and smile to herself at my obvious inexperience.

My project.  Taking the photo from above made it look narrow at the bottom, but the edges are very nearly straight up this time around.  Whew!
That's not what matters, though.  I have found that coming home after another crazy day and sitting down next to my loom soothes me.  My weaving fork has been quietly waiting, leaned against the frame, ready for my hand to pick it up and beat the weft into place, ready to make that satisfying 'whump, whump' as it pushes the yarn firmly into place.  The yarns accept my troubles and give me peace and a sense of quiet in return.  The repetition of passing my shuttle through the open shed is hypnotic, letting my mind work with emptiness until the swirling thoughts of the day have stopped and no longer affect me.  I am coming to love my loom and tools.

Fiber therapy.  Not only does it make me feel better, I'll have something that my hands have made at the end of the process, something I can look at and remember how it helped me through a hard spot along the road.  Now, that makes me happy.

Thanks for stopping by Whatercolorit today.  Come again,  Alice