Monday, November 30, 2015

Lone Rock

The colors around Page, AZ and Lake Powell vary from deep reds and pinks to orange and yellow.  It's a pretty great variety.  While there I was taken with this rock formation peeking above the lake and had to get color notes.  

Lone Rock, Lake Powell, AZ in my Moleskine watercolor book, gouache, pen and ink- the streaks in the sky are from dried paint bits getting stuck in my brush. Oh well!

I love working in my travel journals because it's fun to dash a little painting out willy-nilly and not worry too much about precision.  More relaxing than a hot bath!  I think this spot in the world would transfer to a larger painting pretty well.  May have to go for that.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

The Perfect Bag?

I do not know if I will ever find the perfect art supply bag, but like a trooper, I keep on trying!  If you could see the cupboard I keep empty bags in, you would see an embarrassment of riches and a record of years of my quest for the perfect art bag.  I reached into it to pull a few out and grabbed three for your viewing pleasure.  Maybe it'll make you feel better about your secret stash.

From top left, a Just Stow It bag, North Face backpack and a Woodcraft duffel bag- proof that I'll look anywhere for a good bag, or as it usually turns out, a not so good bag.
This past week, my daughter was emptying her current art bag- dissatisfied with it she was switching to a different one.  Now, I have had my eye on this bag for a long time.  In fact, I knew I had to buy one just like it at Ikea as soon as she showed it to me!  However, my husband came along on the shopping trip and really, I just couldn't take the raised eyebrows I would have gotten if I spent $25.00 on yet another "this-one-is-the-perfect-bag-I-just-know-it" bag.  These things are better purchased where nobody can interfere.

With a smooth, grey linen fabric, this bag just looks like the person carrying it has it all together.  I'm hoping it'll rub off. 
However, things worked out in my favor as she was wanting to dig through my paper stash to find just the right paper for her Inktense pencils and we promptly traded.  I now own the bag I was lusting after.  Of course, I emptied the retired laptop bag I was carrying and handed it off to her.  I am sure she will tote it around for awhile to see if it's just the right one.  We do this.

The inside is large, but not a gaping hollow cavity calling out to be stuffed with good junk. There's a zipper on the bottom to adjust for size and keeping it zipped helps reduce the temptation to go find another sketchbook or two to put in there to a minimum.
If you get a huge art supply bag you will feel obligated to fill it up.  If you are like me, you have oodles of good stuff from all of the times you bought art supplies that were going to change your artistic life that you can stuff in there.  Now you have everything you may ever need to sketch in the field but you can't pick it up.  If you drag it to the car, chances are you won't use it because it's overwhelming to dig through all that junk.  It's easier to pretend you forgot it at home.

The bag has a pocket on the back to drop things into, but unzips to reveal snazzy little pockets inside; who could resist?
On the other hand, if you get a bag that's too small you will be able to fit your water cup, paints, brushes, pens and paper towels into it, but it won't hold your sketchbooks.  None of them.  So you could carry them separate, but where's the nifty feeling that you get from making a travel art kit that is just right?  Besides, that's a great way to lose a sketchbook, believe me.

It even has pockets on the carrying strap, including one with an elastic cord and carabiner to keep your keys from being lost.  My daughter says she never took her keys off of it, just put them into the ignition still attached to the bag!  Now there's a key chain.
You can see my struggle here.  There aren't any art bags that are just the right thing for a travel journal lover.  Well, maybe there aren't.  My new Ikea bag may be just the right thing!  You may even thank me for pointing it out.  In the meantime, I will tote it around for you, giving it a good tryout and report back if I've hit the jackpot.  I'm just that nice.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Value of Contrast

Coming home from anywhere is always a relief.  Don't mistake me, I love going on adventures, but after being away for a week, the home country is a welcome sight.  We get what I call 'golden light' just before sunset now and then.  The setting sun turns the world an amazing shade of gold, lighting up details in the far hills that one might not normally notice.
Fall evening along the playa- welcoming us home

As we drove down the long, lonesome highway on the last leg of the trip, the sun welcomed us back with a golden evening.  The canyon country where we have been is dramatic and filled with light and color and deep shadows- I often long to be there, but the more subdued beauties of my own little place in the world were a lovely contrast to the eye-popping color of the Navajo lands.  There is beauty in contrast and often times subtle colors and shapes are made more interesting when compared with the drama of more intense ones.  I think this is true in many aspects of life- contrast gives us perspective.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving, 2015

Something in the red sandstone of the southwest grabs me by the throat and speaks to the wildness in my nature every time I get to be out in it. We took a flying trip to explore camping spots for a family gathering we are planning and got to see some of the most magnificent country anywhere. I feel privileged to have access to such places. The week has been an oasis in an intense time in my life. 
I've been soothed once again by nature. The patterns and shapes in the sandstone may show up in a project one of these days after my mind processes them. They were all across the Navajo nation from Many Farms to Page, AZ. Formed in concentric rings that suddenly meet lines coming from a different angle, the designs they make are complex and fascinating. They were like tides frozen in time. 
Although I've seen photos of goosenecks in the Colorado River, getting to see one in person filled me with awe. I did get to make some sketch and color notes but haven't had a chance to do the painting work I want to start. That's okay, though, it will happen. There were other priorities to take care of this week. 
Today we hiked with the grandkids and their parents along the edge of bluffs overlooking part of the painted desert. The chance to be in such an amazing place with my precious family trumped painting. Watching the children pick up rocks or stop to look over a strange plant reminded me that we can share our love of the outdoors with them, passing on the joy and peace nature can bring.  It was a sweet reminder of how much I have to be grateful for. A family to love, a beautiful land to live in and work to do make me rich beyond money. Tonight my heart is full of gratitude for all of this. And more. 

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Nicolai Fechin Lithographs

The art community of Taos seems to show work collectively.  The days I was there recently were a celebration of printmaking, so I got to see quite a few great prints.  At the Taos Art Musem/Fechin House were two lithographs by Fechin that I wanted to share with you.  Hanging on the wall in the living space at the museum, they caught my eye immediately.  I really need to learn more about printmaking.

Mexican Grandmother, Lithograph
15 1/4" x 10 3/4"

Born in Russia and an immigrant to the U.S., Fechin moved to Taos because of tuberculosis.  He painted the Native Americans, among other people, along with renovating his house.  I didn't know of this artist or his work until I visited the Taos Museum, but his style has caught my imagination.  

Bearded Old Man
14 1/2 x 11

These two prints are not only skillfully done, they emit emotion.  They also give me a feeling of history, time and space that surpasses the technical skill they show.  This is an artist to learn about.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Monday, November 23, 2015

Piñon and Juniper Trees

The Western New Mexico hills are covered with piñon and juniper trees, trees I've loved all my life. Sunday afternoon we took the time to explore a new dirt road up into hilly country. The fall light was golden and intense as the evening approached, casting long shadows from the vegetation across the grass. 

It was nice to sit in the cool air and sketch out a gentle slope and catch the colors I saw before we headed back to the highway. We'd rather do that than go out on the town any day. The only camera I have available today is my phone camera, but hopefully you get the idea. 

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Friday, November 20, 2015

John Hutson Pottery

While in Taos recently, I wandered into a shop, Coyote Moon.  Drawn in by the vibrant colors and fun display in the window, I was quickly pulled by my eyes to a corner filled with ceramic pieces done in a style unlike any I'd seen before.  At first, red is the main color one sees in these dishes, but on closer inspection the layers of color under the glaze dance around each other.
A photo of Hutson's work from Instagram

Created by potter John Hutson, the pieces are pure eye candy; the designs giving them movement.  I knew if he had a crow design, I would be taking a dish home in my suitcase.  As he and I visited, he told me he puts the colors down in layers with black being the last.  He then scratches down with varying pressure into the color layers to create his design.  Lo and behold, the last plate I looked at had a crow on it! I knew that plate had been made just for me and I bought it happily.

My plate, complete with crow design.  Perfect!
Although Hutson doesn't have a web page, you can find him on Instagram.  To purchase his work, call Coyote Moon at 575-758-4437.  I'm SO nice giving that quaint little shop free advertising.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Taos, NM, a Matter of Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I got to go to Taos, NM for an art teacher conference.  What a place to have a meeting for people who love, teach and live art!  It was a hard choice each day between going to the galleries and museums and the classes, although both were very helpful to me.  I needed to water my spirit and water it I did.  The workshops gave me the ideas I needed to see my new job in a way that helped me understand my teaching role.  Finally.  What a boost.  The trip eased out the wrinkles in my spirit and helped me come back home ready to make the changes I needed.

The Rio Grande River comes out of its gorge between the towns of Taos and Espanola. Cold and crisp, the mornings there in the fall are delightful.
Even though we lived in Santa Fe for a year, we never got around to exploring Taos much.  I was excited to see what was around the plaza because the one in Santa Fe is so rich to me.  The galleries there never fail to inspire and the plaza itself is exciting, with the air full of history and creative energy.  I was disappointed in the plaza in Taos- the feeling wasn't the same.  The shops were even more over-priced than Santa Fe's and I couldn't find any mystery in the air.
Great music just off of the plaza in Taos

I needed an attitude adjustment. Taos is a small town, and I should have known better than to compare it to a larger city.  I needed to see it for its own sake.  On my second day exploring I looked at it with a different perspective and found the charming place I had hoped to find.

The Rio Grande River Gorge, a place that is calling my name. Summer destination? Perhaps..  
Beginning with the Rio Grande River Gorge, my tour began in the early morning.  This is a place I need to come back to at some future time.  From the bridge above Taos to the canyon outlet below it, the scenery is magnificent.  Coming in the Fall, I got to see it at its best.  New Mexico shines in the autumn.  The cottonwood trees along the Rio are magnificent in the changing season.
A doorway off of the patio at the Millicent Rogers Museum

The Millicent Roger's Museum was very interesting, and particularly so if one is interested in Spanish Colonial History.  However, the place where I caught the magic was the Taos Art Museum.  I went hoping for paintings, but the whole community was concentrating on print making during my stay and prints were the main item on the menu.  What I did get was a house, remade by a world class artist, that was filled with creative light and and some of the finest New Mexico-flavored architecture I have ever seen.

Inside the Taos Art Museum, a fantastic example of New Mexican architecture 
Renovated by artist Nicolai Fechin, this place is something special.  Perfectly preserved and lovingly maintained, the artistic spirit that designed this home and carved the fantastic woodwork, including furnishings, is worth seeing simply for itself.  I came away inspired to live a life more centered on home and artistic endeavors.  I may have to earn a living right now, but work should never be the focus of one's life.  What a great reminder, and at the time I needed it most.

Hand carved by Fechin, the wood work in the museum is nearly perfect
I don't believe much in coincidence; this trip came along just in time.  I was hanging on by my fingernails by the end of October.  The conference made such a difference in my thinking, getting me back on top of life again and inspired to adjust my course.  Course adjustments are necessary now and then!
The living room in the Fechin house

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Painting Formerly Known as Under The Fir

I think it's finished.  Of course, I won't know till I get it out and look at it again in a couple of weeks, but for now, this painting is done.  And it was fun.  And I like it.  Not sure if I love it, but it does feel good to paint again!
Detail of my favorite part

22" x 28"

The name I thought it would have was Under the Fir, but that's not the right one.  Maybe it'll occur to me in my sleep one of these nights, who knows?  I'm not worried about it.  I'm thinking about what comes next.  Well, you know, besides fixing supper and throwing some laundry into the washer.  Whatever it is, I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Saturday, November 14, 2015

For the Fun Of It

Finally, another day in the studio.  The best way to increase painting ability is to paint, of course, but what if one can't realistically do that?  I guess the next best thing is to paint as often as possible.  I got to spend the afternoon in my studio today and play around a bit.  About time.

Under the Fir, still in progress!

Although I didn't intend this piece to become a limited palette exercise, it has taken that characteristic on all by itself.  Very limited palette, too!  Pthalo Blue and Cadmium Yellow Medium are almost the only colors in it.  A tiny pinch of Naphthol Red and Zinc White are the only other paints I've used.  While it doesn't appear to be turning out to be a masterpiece, it has been relaxing and interesting as I remember how to use oil paints.  The important thing here is, I love to paint.  When the stress of deadlines and the expectations of others are absent, it becomes something that feeds my spirit.  Poor little spirit, it was needing fed- was getting skinny...

Thanks for stopping by my sadly neglected blog! Alice

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Under the Fir

There aren't very many days anymore that I get to stay home all day.  This day, though was a stay at home sort of day.  The first thing in my mind when I awoke this morning was what colors I wanted to use in my latest painting.  It has been weeks since I got up raring to get out into the studio.  I must be getting adjusted to teaching to have the creative spark finally light a bit of a flame.  It was a satisfying day, putting paint on the canvas and playing with the values.  No pressure to perform, just letting the piece tell me what to put up next.
Under the Fir
Using the value map I already added, it's time to start laying in the color.

I have been fascinated by the work done by Canada's Group of Seven for months now.  I love the style they worked in and the colors they used.  This painting is very loosely inspired by their work.  If I can pull it off I'll be thrilled.  If not, I'll have learned something.  However it goes, I am determined to enjoy this, to have fun with it and see where it takes me.  One good thing about having a day job is the pressure seems to be off to impress with my studio work.  What a relief!  It is enough to paint for my  own creative pleasure- a very nice spot to be in.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice