Saturday, August 29, 2015

Linoleum Printing. I Hope.

In my middle school classroom I inherited lino. printmaking supplies.  I resisted learning this art in school because, of course, I was going to be a painter, right?  Sigh... I just can't stand to see all of those beautiful tools and materials sit and languish.  Besides, the kids will probably love it. There might be a future printmaker in the bunch.  Guess who's learning to cut linoleum?  The lesson here is never to pass up learning something cool, folks.  You just never know.

The building that inspired the painting "Old Patches."  This old place got under my skin.  
The first step is finding the right image.  Did I choose a simple turtle or celtic design?  Of course not.  I spent an afternoon going through my photos, increasing their value contrasts and converting them to black and white.  There were simple ones, of course, but I chose this one.  In my defense, it looked pretty straightforward on the computer screen.  It was only after I started drawing the tree branches and deciding where they should be dark and light that I began to see just what a fun idea this was.  Yep, that's me.  Jump right into the deep end.  Then remember I haven't had lessons.

Drawn onto the linoleum, ready to begin cutting.  Of course I've already made the first mistake; I didn't make it a reversal of the photo, it'll print backwards.  Good thing I didn't add words!! 
This process seems to require thinking from light to dark, then removing the light areas first.  The watercolor painting process is similar, so I am hopeful that it will aid me here.  To tell the truth, I'm pretty excited to try this whole process.  If I can pull one or two of these off I might even try the reduction process where I can use more than one color.  If not, I promise I'll try a cute turtle, and I hate 'cute.'  So here we go, off on a new tangent.  Still not using the gouache, but planning to go back to it any day now!  Yeah.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Paper Junkie

Vellum, book end paper, Yupo, Japanese papers, Mi Tienes, sketch books of all varieties, tracing paper, laid papers, papyrus, waxed paper, brown paper bags, even plain old printing paper...  I have a thing for it.  The most important paper in my world, though is watercolor paper.  Cold pressed, hot pressed, rough, 140 pounds, 300 pounds, bright white, natural, tinted- you might say I'm an addict.

Treasure disguised as a plain, brown package- just sitting on my front porch waiting for me.
Yesterday I came home to find a large, flat package on my front porch.  The UPS man is my enabler; every time I get a hankering for paper he delivers!  Dick Blick is having a sale on watercolor paper and the chance to get 300lb. Arches for $10.00 a sheet couldn't be missed.  Running low on the very best watercolor paper I've ever used was making me nervous.  I've been all aquiver just thinking about what to use it for.  The smell of it, the vast, white possibilities of all that paper -together with the toothy feel- well, it makes a girl giddy.

With two sheets left in my old watercolor block, I have no excuse to tear the wrapper off of the new one yet.  I'll save it as a treat although I'm tempted to open it just for the fun right now.  I know- I'm weird. 
Do they make a 12 step program for people like me?  If they do, I don't want to know about it.  Keep it to yourself.  I'm busy putting paper away as I count how many sheets I have in my flat file and figuring how long they'll last me.  After I'm finished putting the new paper away, I'll open the other paper drawers and think of things to make and projects ahead.  Like a miser counting coins.  You could say I have a problem, but you'd be wrong.  I have paper!  And it makes me happy.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice    

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Daily Feedings

Yeah, I know.  I've been pretty irregular on my posts lately.  My intentions are the best, but the learning curve I'm on right now has taken possession of me, body and soul.  You think I'm absentee around here; think about how my house looks!  However, I'm getting my feet under me at school.  I have by no means learned as many names as I need, but the classes are beginning to work smoothly and projects are flowing.  Mostly.
Painted by Leconte Stewart (1892-1990) "The Smith's, the Jones' and the Brown's" was painted in 1936.  

The rub is this- I feel a real hole in my life where studio time fits.  There has to be a place for that part of me and I'm puzzling and scheming to get it worked back in.  In the meantime, I keep my creative self fed by looking at the work of others. You know, kind of like keeping your sourdough start alive by little feedings; when you're going to bake again, it's dormant but ready to activate as soon as you are. I hope.
"Yellow Socks" is part of the museum's collection of Russian paintings.
Yuri Stanislavovich Podlyaski, 1953.

These two paintings were hanging in the art museum in Springville, UT this summer while we were there. I took photos of them (With permission, of course!) because in different ways they each left deep impressions on my mind.   Both spoke to me of simplicity and peace and gave me a bit of nostalgia. I'm learning from studying them: the artist's techniques and palettes, along with composition styles inspire me. As for the blog- I am still here, I'm just a bit dormant for a short time. 

Thanks for taking time to stop by!  Alice

Friday, August 21, 2015

Create With JOY!

If someone assigned me to paint a self-portrait and display it in a prominent place, I suspect I'd get uptight.  I imagine I'd begin to wonder how honest it should be, you know, do I have to paint all of the wrinkles?  Maybe I'd worry that it wouldn't really look like me and people would think I was not much of a painter.  Or, what if it did look like me and I would be shocked at how ugly I've gotten! 

This young man was having trouble being good in his regular classroom today, but as soon as the art supplies came out, he was on them like a duck on a Junebug. No problems behaving in art.  
This week, I've been watching my students work on their self-portraits.  They don't seem too worried about how they'll appear OR what people will think.  They've been giggling about not having any clothes on their pictures yet and admiring each other's pieces of art.  To tell you the truth, it's been pretty refreshing- a great reminder of why I make pictures.    

The older girls are much more concerned with how their clothes turn out than the boys.  Big surprise there!
I make a living teaching art to children.  I don't make a living painting pictures for customers.  If someone doesn't like my work, it's really not my problem.  Now there's a thought! I can just make things with the abandon and joy my students show.  Well, you know, as much as my head will allow.  

Sweet face, sweet girl.
There is a verse in the Old Testament that I love.  Isaiah wrote it.  He says, "With JOY, draw ye waters out of the well of salvation."  This post is certainly no sermon, but the message is clear to me; have joy, be joyful, do what you need to do, but find joy in it!  I should find joy in my art.  

Okay, this one had me looking for the school counselor till I realized there were vampire teeth on the lower lip.  Then it made perfect sense!! LOL
Well, okay!  I'm on board. Thanks, class for teaching the teacher a great lesson.  One I already knew, but need reminding of now and then.  Or... everyday in my case!  

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Finding My Tribe

Living in the  middle of nowhere has its benefits, but having a peer group of art-minded people is certainly not one of them.  I was thinking of this today after my daughter called, discouraged because the homeschool group she is trying to belong to has been a bit exclusive.  You know the gig, the popular girls set the rules and anyone who doesn't strictly conform gets to hang around the fringes on sufferance.  Because of the isolated places we have lived, I have dealt with this attitude in several aspects of my life.  Let's face it, being different may be liberating but it can get lonely.
The old Cloverdale Store, south of us along the Mexican Border.  This photo is a good illustration of the sparse population and far distances we drive.  

I've tried joining things like art guilds in distant cities or working to fit in to the local social hierarchy, but trying to participate from hundreds of miles away or be someone I'm not has never worked.  Now, lest you think this is a pity-me party, let me assure you that it's not.  It's just a reality that I've had to work to get around over the years.  I love wide, open spaces and choose to live here.  My neighbors are very kind and generous people- we just don't feel the same way about art.
The view from my yard.  Our cloudscapes can't be beaten!  There are about 12 neighbors between us and those far distant hills.  Room to breathe. 

My answer to the problem is this: I try take the people around me just like I find them, find common ground and make friends- and I have some wonderful friends here- but make a community of my own where I can feed off of and share ideas with like-minded people.  We live in a wonderful age where one can find all of that in the comfort of one's own studio.  You, dear reader, are part of that for me and my daughter will find her own version of this.  Just in case you are in the same boat for whatever reason, here are some great links to internet resources that feed my inner artist:

This isn't even a drop in the bucket.  I have blogger friends who I have come to care about and who's work I learn from, not to mention the support they give to me.  I email with others and even have a phone friend that I send and receive texts with photos of our works in progress.  If I moved to a more populated place and had artistic people to surround myself with, I would still keep the connections I've made over the years online.  My tribe is right here, on my computer.  

Thanks for stopping by, tribe!  Alice

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Portrait, Inside and Out

It has been a whirlwind week, with my approximately 370 students coming to school with full gusto, vim and vigor.  I will get into a groove soon and this won't be so overwhelming then, I hope.  (Where have I heard that before?)  In the meantime, my art has had to take a backseat to working out projects for my classes to make.  While I confess I haven't ever really cleaned out the studio since the last grandkid invasion, I have found it in me to work in it as it is.  There simply isn't enough time to do otherwise!
Interspersed between the homes, abandoned homes like this one dot the streets of town.

My students are from a small, isolated town with few jobs and scant opportunities.  They are exposed to little art or culture and the highlights of most of their summers has been playing in the town swimming pool.  However, they are beautiful, smart and sweet.  Even in middle school.  (Didn't see that coming)  They are eager and open to learn and are chomping at their collective bits to get going on an art project.  They touch my heart and often I have to be careful not to allow them to see the tears their sincerity brings up in my eyes.  These children are remarkable people.

Me. The assignment is to made a self-portrait using words only about yourself.  Harder than it sounds.  I can hardly wait to see what they come up with.  
I found a project on Pinterest for self-portraits that will help them- and me- discover more about who they are.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be the opening project for the older students.  Today I made an example piece so they can see what I am trying to get from them.  A picture of that teary-eyed, wobbly kneed antique they call "Miss."  It's a local term of respect, and I am not correcting them.  I can answer to Miss happily.  And I do.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Like a Marathon..

One more day in this race to have lesson plans, classroom rules, first day procedures and art supplies all ready for the first day of school.  I'm tired.  However, I am almost finished and looking forward to seeing what the children create.  Won't that be fun?  I hope...

Plenty to read on the board while the students sit quietly (we can hope) and wait for class to start.  
Sunday evening, my husband and I went for a drive to the mountains.  There were black clouds gathering there and lightning flashing, a guarantee of beautiful views.  We hiked around for a bit, then parked the truck and watched a gully washer overtake the canyon we were sitting in, obliterating any sight of the cliffs and peaks.  It was exactly what I needed to give my mind the rest it needed and calm for the week ahead.

What is so restful about watching and listening to water?
Tomorrow I will finish up all of the little things I've been saving for the last minute and fret.  Nothing is perfect...

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Let's Evoke!

Evocative.  Now there's a word for you.  Do you ever hear it in real conversation?  I've read it plenty, but can't remember anyone much using it.  What a shame, maybe we should.  Artists, of all people have the power to evoke.  Webster says of the word: "bringing thoughts, memories, or feelings into the mind."

Maynard Dixon may never have been in my county before, but he has managed to capture a scene from my childhood.  He always does.  My top, number one go-to for inspiration.
I think when someone looks at a painting, or sculpture or other piece of creative work, they can connect with it in some way.  I have connected with paintings done in styles I didn't think I could relate to because they struck a chord in my memory or emotions.  I always hope when someone sees a work of mine, it will evoke a feeling in them for a moment or more that will create a connection between us.  Pretty lofty goal, but someday I will be able to create that way.  I hope.

Shadowed Walls, by Ed Mell- I love the lowlight.  Here in the southwest, it is familiar with its dark shadows and vivid light areas.
In the meantime, I continue to look at the images of other painters, ones who I hope to gain influence from.  Even though I may never paint like they do, I can learn from their color palettes, their painting styles and brush strokes, even from what they chose to paint.  It's that way in everything; we can learn from those who have mastered what we are choosing to make.  We aren't borrowing or even copying with all of the weak connotations those words give.  We are incorporating and trying to pick up where they left off.  It is a chain and can be a  powerful tool.
Canyon Riders, by Edgar Payne.  This piece takes my breath away.  I can look at it over and over again and never tire of it.  It makes my heart ache not only for the country he portrays, but for the amazing audacity it took to paint this dramatically.  

I am preparing to start a landscape binge again, looking at art from the southwest to gain insight on how different problems were handled.  So far my landscapes have fallen short of my vision; however, one of these days, it will all come together and I will see my work reaching what I dream of it becoming.  In the meantime, I keep coming back to the word evocative and asking myself how these masters managed to evoke my responses.  The quest continues...

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Saturday, August 8, 2015

El Modelo

In an obscure part of Albuquerque, down by the tracks, is a wonderful Mexican food place.  Not a restaurant, not a taco stand- it's more like a food factory with a customer counter.  My grandpa used to work downtown and go there to get his lunch.  Now his kids and grandkids love to go to El Modelo for a stuffed sopapilla or a burrito and some chicharones.  He has 62 grandkids and a gazillion great grandkids and great greats...  Yeah, there's a bunch of us.  And those of us lucky enough to live where we can get to this place now and then are carrying on the tradition.

Just looking at the menu makes me hungry..
Last week we were there, standing in a very long line (lunch time gets pretty crazy) and up ahead of me I swore I saw the back of my Uncle James head in front of me.  When he turned around, it WAS my uncle James.  The one from Utah.  Standing next to him were my Aunt Mary and Uncle Clay- from Tucson.  Aunt Pat was waiting out of the crowd behind me.  Okay, I hadn't seen them for years and years, lots of years, and there they were.  Home, getting their genetically programmed fix.  Same as my husband and I.    

Only 5" x 7," Lunchtime at El Modelo makes me happy.  I rarely work this small, but it was fun to do.
We ate at a table under the trees outside and caught up on family news, took pictures and got panhandled while we ate.  All part of the experience.  It was a lovely lunch, one that I'll remember for a long time.  I started this little painting as we got on the road, but it was too detailed to work on in the car.  Today, I took an hour or so and cranked this little thing out, a memento of a great time.  Sometimes, you just have to do that.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice


Friday, August 7, 2015

A. Webb, Reporting In

Been a crazy week- working on classrooms and sorting supplies.  The kids haven't even arrived and this old gal is already pooped.  I've been trying to make the Jr. High art room a little less typical school-classroom and more studio like.
Taken with my cell phone which doesn't know from different light sources.  Curtains made from an old bed sheet and paper stained glass worked out for just the right touch.  

The community where I'll be teaching is a very poor one.  The kids have likely never been to a museum or gallery before and so for me this is a great chance to expose them to the wonderful world of the arts.  State standards require me to find the places in the community which display art and help the students visit those places.  That one had me laughing; in this town only the bank has a few paintings hung.  That's it.  The medical clinic has some monochromatic weavings hung from a very high ceiling that might be considered art if one were desperate.  It's obvious that nobody in the Department of Education has ever left Santa Fe to come check out rural New Mexico lately!!  LOL
When we talk about color mixing we will have examples over the windows to remind us of what we are learning.

One of the principles I want the kids to learn is color, so I made some tissue paper 'stained glass' this morning to put in the dreary metal windows above the doors into the classroom.  What I'd like to do before classes start next week is fill the room with different kinds of art to fuel discussion and let the kids see something besides photos of art.  Then, I'll remove it all and we'll get busy filling that room with color and design made by them.  I can't wait!

Thanks for stopping by-  Alice

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

3:30 a.m.

The new job begins tomorrow. Classes will start next week.  Today I have to finish putting all of the art supplies away and filling out the order for the things I'll need this semester.  And I am awake.  Wide awake.

We will begin with self portraits of different levels.  Love this eye idea.  
It is possible I am too tired to sleep.  I've been hard at it for days, going through boxes, moving into my classrooms and trying to have everything ready so the first weeks aren't any more crazy than they have to be.  My legs ache and my mind is spinning with the things still left to do.  Making plans, making lists and making sleep impossible.

This makes me happy, an idea from my files that includes a frame.
Although this is a little stressful- becoming a school teacher with plenty of art experience but no real classroom management training- it's not as scary as it is exciting.  I am looking forward to sharing my love of art with young people.  I have worked with kids all of my life and they are enthusiastic about making things usually.  Meeting the ability levels of 9 grades and around 400 students will keep me hopping; maybe that's why I am awake...
Fabulous!  Thank goodness for Pinterest.  

So, for a few days my posts will be a bit sporadic.  I'm running as fast as I can and learning as I go.  But not sleeping.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Painter of Gardens, Jo Reitze

I came across this lovely little clip of painter, Jo Reitze on Youtube while looking for instruction on using gouache.  Her style captivated me and I knew I wanted to learn more about her and her paintings.  The loose, flowing way she handles the paints looks deceptively simple; I would love to follow her around and watch her process for a few weeks.  Here is someone who could teach me about gouache.  I knew I had to send her an email.

In response to my email asking if I could use a photo of one of her paintings, Reitze sent me a beautiful image of one of her succulent paintings to share here.  Warm and friendly, Reitze works are as vibrant as I can see she is.  She captures wonderful light and texture, but the thing I feel most from her works is movement.  I love her technique. The blending is done in the viewer's eye with the colors laying on the paper next to each other.  

Jo Reitze, painted with gouache.  And style!  

Although she doesn't have a studio, she has found a wonderful and creative approach to solving that issue.  She paints in people's gardens.  To be more precise, she paints people's gardens.  Working on commission from the garden owners, she has beautiful places to work and a never ending supply of subjects.  It's a brilliant idea and suits her painting style to a T.  

If you'd like to see more of her work and read about her experiences, you can visit her page HERE.  I suspect you'll be as drawn to these works as I have been.  

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Harvest Begins

Every year we put 3 or 4 sacks of green chile into the freezer and food dryer.  New Mexicans as a rule use a lot of chile, and we are as addicted as the rest of our neighbors.  Growing up here, we both consider having a year's worth put up as normal a an Idahoan would feel about storing potatoes.  You just gotta have em.

A 40 pound sack of chile
Today we stopped on our way home from Albuquerque at our favorite farm store for a sack of mild and a sack of hot chiles.  If you aren't familiar with the food of New Mexico, I'll tell you this- we eat it green and we eat it red.  We argue about which is best and we usually like it hot.  This is not a casual treat.  This is serious food, folks.  

First batch going into the roaster basket
To preserve the green, it has to be roasted and peeled.  My husband built us a roaster a few years ago so we can take care of it ourselves.  Commercial roasters work great, but often the operators are rough with it while it cooks and tear it up.  Besides, it's a fun job.  

We turn the handle to keep the chiles moving while they are exposed to the flames.  
Some of my best memories of growing up are chile roasting day.  Mom would make a pot of pinto beans, bake bread and she and I would start roasting early in the morning.  We would make rellenos to eat with our bread and beans for lunch, then start packing the freezer.  It was hot, long work, but the food was worth it.  

Blistered and mostly cooked, it's time to take them out.
When our kids were home I kept that tradition going.  The kids still want to be in on roasting and putting up the chile.  It's one of the best parts of Fall approaching.  The harvest has begun.  

We'll cover them with a moist dishtowel and let them steam for an hour to two to finish cooking.
Although I don't bottle nearly as much food as I did years ago, I still love the feeling I get as the pantry and freezer begin to fill up. It makes me feel secure and like I have some control over something!  

These chiles are peeled, stuffed with cheese and ready to dip into the batter.

Rellenos are one of our favorite dishes.  Basically, you stuff a roasted, peeled chile with cheese, dip it into an egg batter and fry it.  A simple thing to make and eat, but they taste gourmet. 

Ready for supper.  Some freshly picked corn on the cob will round the meal out.

If you haven't ever tried them, here is the recipe.  Hopefully you can get chiles of some variety in your supermarket.  

Chile Rellenos-
For every four chiles:
1 large egg, separated
1 T. hot water
2 T. flour
A bit of salt

Whip the egg whites till stiff. Stir the hot water into the yolks then add the flour and salt. It will be thick. Fold the yolk mixture into the beaten whites. Dip the chiles into the egg batter and fry on both sides till golden brown.  I hope you love them as much as we do!  

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice